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I’m sure it isn’t just me that has those moments when I have to say to myself, “What am I doing here?” or, “You want me to do what?” Over my few years of being a deacon there have been, and probably will be, quite a few occasions when this has happened. Times like: delivering a homily in the Town Square to a few hundred people on the Good Friday, Churches Walk of Witness; Being at the scene of the Grenfell Tower fire as a Fire Brigade Chaplain; Having the privilege of ministering to a family as their father passed away; and Leading the 30th Anniversary wreath laying service of the Kings Cross fire live on television, to name but a few.
I don’t remember that I had thought those were the kinds of things that I was signing up for when I was accepted to start the formation process to become a deacon. And now, as if by some strange twist, I found myself last week leading the session where a new group of potential deacons started the process of formation in their own journeys. Ten years after sitting there as an aspiring deacon, I’m now leading and guiding others in the process.
The first year is called the Aspirant programme, but it might be better to be entitled a year of discernment. The purpose of this first year isn’t to become immersed in the academic programme that follows, but rather spending the time concentrating on trying to discern if they do have a call towards a life as a deacon.
But, why should this just be someone who wants to be a deacon be doing this? As everybody in the Church has a vocation of their own, shouldn’t we all be trying to discern what it is that God is asking from us? Ask the majority of deacons why they have chosen that particular path, and most will tell you that they can’t give you a precise answer other than, they didn’t choose the path, it was chosen for them.
So what is discernment regarding our life in Christ in real terms for both them and for each of us? Well it comes in three parts:
* What am I currently doing?
* What do I need to do to meet the challenges for me to change my life?
* How am I going to do this?
The interesting thing is that we often try to separate our life in Christ and our day to day life, but they shouldn’t be seen as two individual parts or entities. Our whole life should be lived as our one life in Christ that encompasses every moment of what we do. If we are open, then things happen. The more that we are prepared to open our lives up to the challenge and accept where it leads us, then the more we are surprised. The challenge is whether or not we want to be in complete control, or are willing to let God lead us?
Some might say that they already know what God is calling them to do, and that may be true, but God doesn’t stop asking us, and the opportunities and ways of living the life in Christ don’t stop either. Discernment of what we are being asked to be and do, is an ongoing part of our relationship with God.
Our knowing what is being asked of us must be rooted in a life of prayer, a life of trust and a desire to have Christ at the centre of our lives. We also need the prayers and support of those closest and around us. Please keep our aspiring deacons in your prayers.
If we are wondering if God actually needs me, then we can turn to the words of St Teresa of Avila:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which Christ looks out His compassion to the world.
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
Are you prepared to be challenged?
Are you willing to say Yes, to what God wants you to do?
Deacon Ian Black