Yesterday (among other things) I ordained six new non-stipendiary deacons at Croydon Parish Church. I was struck again by the charge given to them during the service:
Deacons are called to work with the Bishop and the priests with whom they serve as heralds of Christ’s kingdom. They are to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God’s purposes of love. They are to serve the community in which they are set, bringing to the Church the needs and hopes of all the people. They are to work with their fellow members in searching out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible.
This is a powerful reminder that the Church of England organises itself on the basis that we are ‘present’ in every community, attempting to fulfil the charge given us. (Bishops and priests do not cease to be deacons and their ministry must surely always be exercised in a diaconal way.) This means that we are present in some of the places of this country that have been abandoned by others. When other professionals leave the communities in which they work in order to return to their homes elsewhere, our guys stay and live (often with their families).
So, if you want to know what is going on in our communities – especially our poorest or most challenging communities – it is often the Vicar who knows the reality of being there with the local people 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And because of the nature of the clergy role and vocation, they are often privy to experience of local life and lives that others do not get to see.
This is one of the reasons I am immensely proud to be associated with the clergy in the Church of England. And it is a reason they ought to be listened to more by politicians who pronounce on matters such as poverty. Poverty is not an issue – it is about people with real lives, real hopes and real fears.
In a discussion last night with health professionals, their consensus was that you only change people’s lives and aspirations one at a time. It is slow, hard and often disappointing. Policies might set a framework, but if the policy suggests that the policy will change people’s lives, it is mistaken. It is slow, grinding, regular, costly work with people – day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year – that brings real change.
But who is going to pay for that?
Anyway, we get a further reminder about the Christian connection to poverty, disconnectedness, immigration, exile and fear in the new Christmas campaign from ChurchAds.net. Here is an article about it and here it is: