I wrote this explanation for people coming to my ordination especially for those unfamiliar with some of the complexities of the Church of England. Feel free to adapt and share this yourself if you are about to be made deacon!
I will be made a deacon by the Bishop of Durham (by praying and the laying on of hands). A deacon is the first of the three historic ‘orders’ of ministry: deacon, priest and bishop. The word deacon comes from the Greek meaning ‘servant’. All priests and bishops start their life as a deacon; this is because of Jesus’ charge to his disciples to be servants to all as he washed their feet:
‘So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’ (John 13:14).
In fact, you never stop being a deacon once you’ve been made one. I will serve as a deacon for one year – then next year, God willing, I will be ordained Priest in a similar service at the cathedral.
Deacons wear a stole – a special scarf – as a sign of their role in the church. A deacon’s stole is worn diagonally across the body and represents the towel that Jesus wrapped around him as he washed the disciples’ feet. This is as a constant reminder both to the deacon and to the people they serve that we are all called at our baptism to serve one another, following the pattern of Jesus Christ. My dad has generously designed and made my ordination stole – you can ask me about the significance of the design on the big day!
So as deacon, from 29th June 2014 I will:
- Be a ‘clerk in Holy Orders’
- Be known as the Reverend Bryony Taylor
- Wear a dog collar (clerical collar)
- Be able to conduct funerals and baptisms
- Read the gospel, preach and assist the priest at Holy Communion
- Work in the community to seek to make Christ’s love visible, with a special care for the poor and needy
I will also be known as a curate (from the phrase ‘cure of souls’) – which has come to mean ‘trainee vicar’ (technically I’ll be Assistant Curate) – and my training period at St Michael’s in Houghton Le Spring will be for 3 ½ to 4 years with the Rector Sue Pinnington who will be my ‘Training Incumbent’.
Once I am ordained priest (God-willing) in 2015, in addition to these things I will:
- Be able to lead a service of Holy Communion (consecrate the bread and wine)
- Be able to conduct weddings in the Church of England
- Be able to pronounce absolution (forgiveness of sins)
- Be able to give Blessings and anoint people with holy oil for healing/the last rites