The June Pastoral Letter from the Rector and Message from
Christian Mitchell future Curate of Uckfield
The ordained ministry of the Church.The Church of England along with the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of the East and the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands has retained the ancient three-fold ordained ministry of BISHOPS, PRIESTS and DEACONS. As it is some time since the parish had a deacon, and as the order of deacon in the modern church has to some extent been renewed, I thought it might be helpful to say something about the Deacon before Christian Mitchell comes to us on Sunday June 29th after his ordination as a Deacon by the Lord Bishop of the diocese on Saturday 28th June in our Cathedral Church at Chichester.
The Deacon For a number now, the diaconite is a permanent order, but still the overwhelming majority remain in this order for just one year before being ordained as a Priest, and this is what is planned for Christian Mitchell. The duties of the Deacon as outlined in the ordinal are:
‘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.
Deacons share in the pastoral ministry of the Church and in leading God's people in worship. They preach the word and bring the needs of the world before the Church in intercession. They accompany those searching for faith and bring them to baptism. They assist in administering the sacraments; they distribute communion and minister to the sick and housebound.
Deacons are to seek nourishment from the Scriptures; they are to study them with God's people, that the whole Church may be equipped to live out the gospel in the world. They are to be faithful in prayer, expectant and watchful for the signs of God's presence, as he reveals his kingdom among u.’
In the sacramental life of the Church the deacon normally assists rather than presides. They may not preside at the Eucharist, they cannot reconcile the penitent in the Sacrament of Forgiveness and they do not normally bless marriages. The key word in the ministry of the Deacon is ASSIST. In the early Church they assisted the Bishop (hence today’s Archdeacon who is the Bishop’s principle assistant), and now they assist the Priest, and as a sign of this they wear the stole at worship over only one shoulder instead of both like the Priest and Bishop.
The function of the deacon in the parish How, in practice, will what has been said above work out in this parish? The one year as a Deacon is the final year in training for the priesthood, and arguably the most important year in the whole of their ministry, and so I am most concerned, as you will be too that all will go well for Mitch. He is not to be seen as just another pair of hands, for he is on loan to be trained. That training, as well as involving learning with me and working with me and the other clergy and Readers (and all of us) also includes the Diocesan Ministerial Training Programme which will take up approximately one and a half days each week along. In a recent Church of England House of Bishop’s report it was stated that the Deacon’s need for training and not the parish’s need for further help must be the main consideration.
Part of that training will include much practical work and real pastoral responsibility, and Mitch will be given specific areas of responsibility under me. In the area of worship he will take those services that he is permitted to take – Morning and Evening Prayer, (matins and evensong), Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament, funerals and baptisms – and he will preach occasionally and assist at the Eucharist. At the Eucharist the deacon’s special ministry as assistant has always been to proclaim the Holy Gospel, to lay the Lord’s Table (see Acts 6.2) and to distribute Holy Communion. Mitch will assist at the Eucharist for the first time at Holy Cross, the day after his ordination – i.e. Sunday, 29th June at 9.30 a.m., and I hope you will be there to welcome him as our curate. In the evening we will be holding our annual ‘Hymns & Pimms’ evening where there will be an opportunity for us all to get to know him and the family a little better
I have been here long enough now to know what a very encouraging and supportive congregations we have and I know that you will give Mitch, Vicky, Hugh and Charlie all the support they need and plenty of encouragement.
What do we call a deacon? When I arrived I said:
What’s in a name?
Call me brother if you will
Call me Padre better still
Though the plain Mister fits the bill
If the title lacketh thrill
Even Father brings no chill
Parson, Rector, Vicar Friend
Titles almost without end
Do not grate nor yet offend
But how that man my heart doth rend
Who merely calls me; ‘Reverend’.
In line with me, the preferred honary title, if you want to use one, is ‘Father’. This style of address is technically reserved for those in Priest’s orders, but as Mitch will (God willing) be ordained to the priesthood in June 2015 I will always refer to him on the more formal occasions as Father Mitch.
Mitch and the family will be moving into the curate’s house towards the beginning of June and he will have just a short while to settle into the house with the family before going on his pre-ordination retreat. Please keep them all in your prayers at this time We wish him well and assure him of our prayers and are greatly looking forward to having them all with us.
Your friend and priest.
A Message From Christian Mitchell – Soon to be Curate of Uckfield.
My family and I are very excited about our move to Uckfield in a few weeks’ time. We lived in Forest Row before moving up to College in Oxford, so it’s great to be moving back to East Sussex, especially being near to the Ashdown Forest, the Downs and the coast again (well, relatively speaking compared with Oxford!) Vicky is a Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor and is hoping to continue her work when we move to Uckfield. Hugh, our eldest son (11) is a chorister at Chichester Cathedral and so boards there full-time. Charlie our youngest, (7), will be starting at Holy Cross CofE Primary School in early June.
Before training for ordination I used to work in the horseracing industry, based initially at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, and then at Newmarket Racecourses in Suffolk before moving to Lingfield Park Racecourse in 2008. I was responsible for the operational aspects of the racecourses, and for the project management of various construction projects, including most recently the new Marriott Hotel and Leisure Club at Lingfield Park.
I first felt called to ordained ministry when I was at school but didn’t pursue it then. It wasn’t for another 19 years that I felt called again, and this time I just couldn’t ignore it! It’s been a very rapid but exciting journey from initial enquiry to ordination, and I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone and serving my curacy with Fr. Martin and the team at Uckfield, Little Horsted and Isfield.
Thank you for your prayers as my family and I prepare for this new and exciting chapter in our lives.
Mitch, Vicky, Hugh and Charlie.