Since my ordination to the diaconate in February 2018, I have been learning what it means to be a deacon. Finding myself at the interface between the flock gathered and the flock dispersed, I look back into the church, and also out to the community. That feels like a good place to be; the support and nourishment from worship in the congregation gives me the strength and grace to venture out onto paths unknown. More than that, the grace of ordination overwhelms me sometimes. God does not call us for small things.
I am attached to St Paul’s at Manuka, where, pre-COVID, I had a liturgical role in the services. The Vicar understands and supports the role of the deacon, and employed me fully in that capacity, including preaching. Operating on the edges of the gathered, I led services at aged care facilities, administered home communion with reserved sacrament, attended parish council meetings, liaised and met with families to prepare them for the baptism of a child, met with families to make funeral service arrangements, and participated in wedding services. I also led a weekly Bible study group, mentored the EfM program at St Paul’s, and assisted with the children’s choir.
I am also a casual chaplain and warden with Anglicare, attached to St David’s Close in Red Hill, and Brindabella Court in Dickson. This involves meeting many elderly people, and their families — I spend a lot of time talking, visiting, praying, sitting with people in their grief or anxiety, or accompanying them on shopping expeditions and concerts. It has also involved considerable ‘mediation’ in cases of conflict between residents, replacing light bulbs, finding lost cats, and sleuthing activity to detect who/what was making all the noise at night, or who was stealing the grapefruit off someone’s tree. I enjoyed that work very much; it’s wonderful to hear all the different stories, and to see the examples of faith in action under joyful, trying or sad circumstances.
Since COVID, of course, different ways to ‘be a deacon’, to occupy those liminal spaces, have begun to emerge. Apparently, in the practice of permaculture, the most fertile places, and the best places for cross-pollination, are on the edges. I have become a ‘digital deacon’, riding the boundaries in a virtual world. Zoom services, Bible study, daily office, reflection/study days, training programs, aged care services, ‘coffee catch-ups’ are now standard daily activities. Many more phone calls, speaking with people, hearing stories, and in lots of ways getting to know people better. As I work through the parish roll, ringing people, I have made contact with many who have not been to a service for years, but who are now back in contact, getting our weekly newsletter and zooming in to Sunday services or the weekday Office. I have travelled in time and space, revisiting the saints as we celebrate them week by week in the Lectionary, and writing articles for St Paul’s weekly E-pistle. The cloud of witnesses is ever present.
As we prepare for people to return to the building, I have learned about cleaning products and COVID plans. And brushed up on maths … what exactly does the 4-square metre rule mean? Measuring the church … working out where people can sit …
And the wonder of ordination, and the gift of serving, continues to fill me with joy and thanks.
by Reverend Kay Pendlebury