Being a deacon, of course, is not just a one-year transitional period before being ordained a priest next year. A session we had in our Leavers' Course at Cuddesdon was called: 'Once a deacon, always a deacon', and it is true - priests and bishops are all deacons as well. We don't stop being a deacon on ordination to the priesthood - it is a lifelong call.
I have already been reflecting on what is distinctive to diaconate ministry, based on some of the words the Bishop will say during the service next Saturday. I reproduce a few of them here, and leave them for you to reflect upon, as I prepare to reflect on them again over the next few days:
Deacons are ordained so that the people of God may be better equipped to make Christ known. Theirs is a life of visible self-giving. Christ is the pattern of their calling and their commission; as he washed the feet of his disciples, so they must wash the feet of others...
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 us.