The ministry of deacons, which was virtually inactive for a time in the Diocese of Atlanta, was re-established by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Frank Allan, eighth bishop of Atlanta, on the Feast of St. James of Jerusalem Oct. 23, 1993, with the ordination of five deacons.
Also referred to as the diaconate, this is a ministry of the bishop, who has appointed two deacons to oversee and support the deacon community as archdeacons. They are the Venerable Janet Tidwell and the Venerable Carole Maddux. ("The Venerable" is the formal way to address archdeacons.)
WHAT IS A DEACON?
A deacon is one of three distinct orders of ordained ministers (bishops, priests, deacons) in the Episcopal Church. Within the Anglican Communion (as in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches) an individual becomes a deacon by being ordained by a bishop after having completed a course of study and formation. This is in contrast to other traditions that use the title for lay persons elected to responsible governing positions in their churches.
The Charge to a Deacon at Ordination
|God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood directly under your bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely. As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God's Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ's people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.
From The Book of Common Prayer, page 543
WHAT IS THE MINISTRY OF A DEACON?
The word deacon derives from the Greek Diakonos meaning servant or minister and the biblical concept of diakonia is commonly defined as service, particularly to the poor, sick, and oppressed. The deacon's service is a sign or sacrament of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. Jesus is the model for the servant leadership a deacon is called to exercise in a variety of ways, including encouraging and enabling others to serve. A deacon has "one foot in the world and one foot in the church." Although deacons also serve in specific roles in the liturgy, their liturgical roles are merely symbolic of their real ministry in the world.
HOW DO DEACONS IN THE DIOCESE OF ATLANTA SERVE?
Deacons in our diocese have served or are serving in a variety of ministries. Some of these include working with feeding programs including food pantries, homeless shelters, transitional housing, hospital chaplaincies, hospice care, indigent health care, prison ministry, domestic violence programs, mental health programs, HIV/AIDS ministry, assistance to international student families, and missions in third-world countries.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VOCATIONAL AND A TRANSITIONAL DEACON?
In accordance with the canons of the Episcopal Church, a person called, prepared and educated for the priesthood is first ordained a deacon and usually after a minimum of six months is ordained to the priesthood. These persons are referred to as transitional deacons.
Those called, prepared and educated for the serving ministry of the vocational diaconate receive training that focuses on the servant nature of the diaconate. They are referred to and addressed as Deacon.
For more information about deacons, see the website of the Association for Episcopal Deacons.
Above: Archdeacon Carole Maddux greets the community for Church of the Common Ground, a ministry among the homeless that includes 1 p.m. Sunday worship at Woodruff Park in Atlanta. All are welcome to participate. Photo: Bill Monk