My parish cannot afford an assistant priest but I need help. May I request a deacon?
Expectations for a deacon are quite different from the expectations for a priest or even a transitional deacon engaged in parish ministry. The deacon’s primary ministry is to inspire and engage others in participation in God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation. This primarily involves inspiring others to ministry in the world, which often involves serving the poor, sick, weak and lonely, usually outside the church. The deacon’s role in an assigned parish is to encourage and model the ministry of service that every Christian promised at baptism, and to represent the service of all Christians through the deacon’s liturgical role.
How do I request to have a deacon assigned to my parish?
A request may be made in writing to Bishop Ahrens’ office. A conversation will take place to explore the parish’s expectations vs. the expectations of deacons in this diocese. The bishop’s assignment of deacons depends on geography, special circumstances and demand and is usually a 3 year assignment.
Who supervises deacons?
Deacons are directly accountable to Bishop Ahrens. In a parish, the deacon is supervised by the rector or the priest in charge. Expectations for the deacon’s assignment are detailed in an agreement signed by the deacon, priest and bishop. (See sample Letter of Agreement) Priest and deacon meet at least monthly for supervision. Deacons report to Bishop Ahrens in writing at least twice a year.
Do deacons preach?
Deacons are permitted to preach occasionally on subjects related to servant ministry and the needs of the world. Some deacons are more comfortable than others with this role.
May a deacon lead worship when I am away?
Deacons lead prayer offices, as lay persons may also do. “Deacon’s masses,” where the deacon serves communion from the reserve sacrament in the absence of a priest (BCP p. 408), are not permitted in this diocese. Deacons do not preside at weddings or baptisms, but may preside at burials.
Are deacons always assigned to a parish?
While deacons are typically assigned to serve in a parish for three years, in CT we have had several different ways that deacons seek and serve those in need in our communities. Deacons have been assigned to healthcare rehabilitation facilities such as Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford CT, at Seabury Center for Successful Aging in Bloomfield, Church by the Pond at Bushnell Park Hartford.
Most recently a deacon has been assigned as a Regional Deacon for Naugatuck Valley serving three parishes helping to build food security in CT. There is now a Deacon Ambassador who will travel to any church requesting to learn more about the service of the diaconate. This ambassador will also travel with the Bishops for Regional and Parish Confirmations which do not have a deacon in service. This ambassador will proclaim the gospel, bid the confession serve at the table and dismiss the congregation. He/she will not be chaplain to the bishop, but will talk about seeking and serving justice in the world.
In other New England states deacons with special training serve in residential and daycare addiction facilities and have worked with prison ministries.
If a parishioner wants to know more about becoming a deacon, where should I refer him or her?
Adapted from an article written by Deacon Jan O’Leary in the December 2001 issue of Fanning the Embers.