Sermon at the Ordination of Julia Bradshaw to the Diaconate, Sunday 30th June 20
Deacon Christine Saccali, Anglican Parish of St. Thomas, Kefalas, Apokoronas, Crete, Greece.
Spring Cleaning and the Ordination of Deacons
I speak in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is an enormous pleasure, privilege and a time bursting with pride to be present with you all here today and to be invited to preach at the ordination of Julia to the Distinctive Diaconate. Indeed it is such a day of joy and jubilation due to the fact that I feel as if my ministry and that of St Thomas here in Kefalas has been intertwined along with that of Julia’s path. Also, Registrar, folks gathered here – this could also be a historic occasion in the Diocese in Europe since we have three distinctive deacons present – Deacon Frances, myself, and Julia to be ordained today.
Forgive me if I introduce myself to those whom I don’t already know and I hope to chat with you all later over refreshments. Next month is my fortieth anniversary of being in Greece. I am married to a Greek and we have one married son and a granddaughter.I was present at Frances’ ordination in Cologne just over 10 years ago [Frances Hillier is the Suffragan Bishop’s Chaplain and Personal Assistant, and was present at the ordination, serving as the deacon of the mass]. I was ordained in St Paul’s Athens three years ago on the feast of St Thomas 3rd July, the patronal festival of this church, by Bishop David; Julia was there to support me and Frances preached a sermon that I remember well all about the calling of a deacon, based on scripture. As a Reader and active in ministry I was present during a consultation in Pendeli monastery in the mid noughties when Tony Lane stood up and said “I will build a church” – this very church, and the then Archdeacon of the East was rather taken aback, I seem to remember. Here we are today in that church – your church, St Thomas. Tony your vision was mighty and we thank you for that, dear friends, and wish you and Suzanne all the best in the UK.
I attended Tony’s licensing as reader here, on a day or rather overnight boat trip rather like the voyage acting Archdeacon Adele [Keham] undertook to get here today. Tony’s Deaconing was in Izmir by Bishop David when we were attending Archdeaconry Synod there. I had the honour to be Bishop’s Chaplain for Tony’s priesting here again by Bishop David. I recall it all well and the priests and their spouses who were subsequently appointed. But today is not about me or the history of this church although some of the latter may explain Julia’s emerging vocation to the Diaconate among you the congregation and the wider community. And let it be clear there can be no ordination without a community to emerge from. The word in Greek koinonia is one and the same for communion and community after all, to embrace and serve. It is a two way and liminal process so deacons can then take the gospel message out into the world.
Deacon Frances follows my ministry in the church and I have been closely following what Julia has been up to, in a supportive way I hope. But let us remember that all of us disciples here have a calling and a collaborative ministry as the body of Christ wherever we serve. For we do not follow each other as Master but we follow our Lord Jesus Christ wherever he calls us, and there may be a persistent call running through your life, a holy niggle as I call it, just as we heard in the passage from 1 Samuel. And it may mean leaving family and friends to devote yourself to that call. Certainly it means having good support structures around you as you care for others, as, in order to do that you must try to practice self care.
And don’t doubt that the path to ordination is a tough call – just to go through selection on a diocesan and national Church of England panels and then study for three years going back and forth between darkest Norfolk and this sunny Isle of Crete is a huge commitment, challenge and undertaking. And I am just talking about the travelling, let alone the academic and spiritual side. Sometimes I think the only thing in common between ERMC [Eastern Region Ministry Course], the college where most ordinands from Europe train, is the capital E at the beginning of each title although in our case we also belong to the Archdeaconry of the East, (don’t forget, Capital E). Seriously Julia, I admire you tremendously for the resources you have found within you to pursue and support your calling. You will need to draw on these admirable qualities as you go forward into your ministry and life to flourish with all God’s given potential in you as a deacon. I would like to remind you that you have remarkable attributes of resilience and practical talents that will be required in your diaconal ministry. So do not neglect the dusting. Yes, I did say dusting. Deacon Frances, I think you may have missed out on one aspect of a description of a deacon’s role. That is diakono the verb to minister in Greek is originally from diaskono which lies at the root of the word skonizo to dust. We deacons need to dust within and without and give our spiritual selves a good spring clean and bring that freshness and light to Christ’s church as we minister.
So, Julia, enjoy this day, remember the charge given to you yesterday by Bishop David, the words of the ordinal and store it up in your heart and stick the words on your fridge or above your desk to always remind you of your calling and job description. There is more training and travel to follow but we will not dwell on that now. You have Bruce as your training incumbent at your side who is so supportive of the deacon’s role. Learn to lean on his wisdom.And going forward in your ordained ministry may you always be open to where God and the Holy Spirit are leading you.
Matthew 25 sets out some of the marginalized places where a deacon is to be found on the edges often pushing at boundaries and furthering God’s kingdom on earth. I know you have already identified some local initiatives of which you may feel called to be a part of during your curacy. But be prepared to be called by some surprising names in your ministry. I have become and am known as Deacon Chris but I have also been called Rev, reverend, sister, mother all good things but the most startling and unusual epithet came from the lady in the coffee shop which we frequent over the road from St Paul’s Athens and where a lot of my ministry takes place after services. She is Armenian and upon seeing my clerical collar, which she noticed for the first time, she exclaimed in Greek : “Ah den ixera egines patera.” “Oh, I didn’t know you had become a Holy Father.” Now I know ordination confers many things but that was jaw dropping”