Distinctive deacons

Deacon speaking in public

A deacon’s ministry is marked by mission through service. Deacons are outward moving and community minded.

Deacons prefer to be out and about, building relationships, identifying and meting needs, and creating stepping-stones between God and the world.

Deacons are radical in their outlook and ready to try new ways of serving God in the community.

Deacons have a particular concern for poverty and justice, seeking to be the voice of the voiceless, advocating for those on the margins, and loving those in need.

As ambassadors, deacons take the gospel into the community, bringing its needs back to the church for intercession and practical action.

Deacons read the Gospel, assist the priest, encourage intercession, and send out the congregation, going with them as we all play our part in God’s mission.

How do I become a distinctive deacon?

Do you believe God is calling you to serve as distinctive deacon? To be become a deacon, you must first be ordained.

Training for ordination is unlike any normal recruitment process. It is best seen as a time of discernment, and is therefore more like a journey or pilgrimage than an examination.

Your starting point is to meet with your own vicar, chaplain, or equivalent, to talk with them about your sense of calling. You should also arrange to meet with the vocations team in your diocese. If you don’t know which diocese your church is in, you can find out on A Church Near You.

It is important you continually pray about your vocation throughout the discernment process.

I see myself standing at the door, not the altar

From quite a young age people have said to me ‘you should be a leader or vicar’. I somehow knew I was never going to be a priest. It didn’t fit me, so I didn’t think much about it. I worked in PR, becoming a Bishop’s Adviser for communications.

Whilst working for the Bishop I became very interested in the diaconate, as a concept. I felt we should have a hundred deacons in the diocese! I left when I realised I should come out of PR, stop giving my voice to other people and develop my own voice. I trained to be a teacher, and there I realised I had a call to become a deacon myself rather than talk about it to everyone else. About a year later I was training!

I now minister at St Peter’s, Hall Green. I have three focuses: working with people from different faith backgrounds, working in the parish, and working with the bishop as an adviser.

On Wednesday mornings I’m in the parish, we have a communion and a place of welcome. It’s an initiative that started in Birmingham offering unconditional hospitality. There’s now about 200 across the country serving those who are isolated.

I will often spend my afternoons writing a sermon or meeting someone who is exploring their own vocation. I spend a lot of time with people going through difficulties. I am part of a women’s leadership programme, and a faith group trying to respond to the needs of refugees locally. I visit the hospital, sometimes I take funerals.

My calling became clear to me when I was asked where I saw myself standing in church. I said I don’t see myself standing at the altar but at the door. I see my calling as enabling people to come into church, but also enabling people to go out into the community to build relationships that are mutually transformative.

We’re now starting a bread service, where we come together to bake bread and reflect on our faith. It began after a Muslim women asked our vicar how to bake bread. It brings people together across faiths and generations. I love seeing what happens when you put down your own agenda and pay attention to God. For me I’ve loved every minute of it and feel I’m in the right place. There are lots of different ways to serve God. I’d advise someone considering vocation not to try to do something that isn’t the right fit. Jesus came that we might be free, and if you’re not free, if you’re not excited and liberated then maybe you’re not in the right place.

Jess Foster