6 February 2023

Distinctive ministry dates back to biblical times

Ordination at St Paul’s cathedral. Picture: Janine Eastgate

By Dr Philip Williams, Reverend Christine Barren 

20 August 2022

How you’ve always thought about ordination might be wrong. We often think about ordination as a deacon as merely a step towards becoming a priest. But, there’s another type of deacon that doesn’t get a lot of attention.  

The Diocese of Melbourne has ordained men and women to the Distinctive or Permanent Diaconate for many years. “Distinctive deacons” are servant leaders in the diakonia – ministry of service – of Christ. On ordination they are licensed to a parish. However their paid work is generally outside the parish, at the boundaries and in the ditches of society. 

Angus Monro and Cathy Turnbull have been recently ordained deacons in the Diocese of Melbourne and each, in very different ways, exemplifies their calling to ongoing diaconal ministry. Diaconal ministry is often described as a ministry to the “scattered” in contrast to priestly ministry that is seen as a ministry to the “gathered”. Their stories very much reflect this. 

Angus has an engineering background and currently works as a data analyst for a large multi-national bank. He finished his masters of divinity in 2003 and during his study he started to look at the nature of his ministry. He was ordained last year. Much of his ministry takes place in his workplace. He has always sought out fellow Christians in this environment and feels that it is important to explore what it means to be a Christian working in the finance industry. A group of Christians now meet at the bank to pray and support each other. Angus has also discovered similar groups within the bank meeting in other locations, and so has fostered a global worshipping and serving community that stretches from India to China and Fiji. 

Read more: Strength and peace for 17 new deacons

Cathy came to seek ordination following her work after the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. She felt the Church should do something to help those who were suffering as a result of the fires. Initially working as a volunteer, she began a four-year journey which included establishing a support group for women and publishing a book of their stories. 

When this work was finished, she felt strongly that God had shown her that she had gifts that she should use working in the wider community. She felt called to ordained ministry and after conversation with a priest, realised that her calling was to diaconal ministry. After ordination, she continued to support people in times of crisis. Early this year however, Cathy accepted a part-time position as Deacon in Charge of the Parish of St John’s, Nar Nar Goon. With the support of her Bishop, she is exploring what this new work might involve. However it might develop, she is sure it will still involve working at the interface between Church and the wider community. 

As deacons, Angus and Cathy are ministering to the needs of a modern world in a way that dates back to biblical times. Their calling will continue to take them out of the church door and into the wider community. It is there that each of them will develop a style of ministry that is appropriate to the workplace and to themselves. 

If you feel a calling to the ordained ministry, or would like to know more about the Diaconate, we suggest you read “The Distinctive Ministry of the Deacon” available on the Diocesan web site and start by speaking with your parish priest.  

Dr Philip Williams is lay representative on the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne Committee for the Diaconate. The Reverend Christine Barren is chair of the Committee for the Diaconate. 

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