For Revd Isobelle Shortreed
delivered by Revd Professor Bill Loader at Bridgetown Uniting Church, 26 June 2004
We have ordained you to the ancient order of Deacon.
This order has been renewed and given distinctive shape in the Uniting Church in Australia.
All who turn to Christ are turned by him to ministry,
that is, to share God’s restoring and renewing compassion in the world.
All, in this sense, are ministers.
But they exercise their ministry not simply as individuals scattered across life,
but also as people belonging to a community, the community of faith.
That community treasures resources of nourishment
passed on to it from ancient times by those close
to the events and experiences from which we take our bearing.
These include the ministry of Jesus, his death which brought it to its climax
and his resurrection in which God affirmed it,
but also those encounters with the
sacred which preceded and followed these events,
now reflected in the witnesses of the Old and New Testaments.
That community, the church, which treasures such resources
also seeks to celebrate them
and itself be a place where the Spirit of Christ continues to move.
Part of that movement entails caring enough to organise community,
so that people, together and cooperatively,
can celebrate the presence of God more effectively,
both within that community of faith and out in the world where we all belong.
So that community needs structures and it needs leaders.
In our tradition we affirm it also
needs people to be set aside for particular roles,
especially those of Ministry of the Word and Ministry of Deacon.
The scope of their activity appears at one level to be identical,
but the focus of each differs,
with Ministers of the Word carrying a
larger responsibility as bearers of the tradition
and Deacons carrying a larger responsibility for leading people
to bear its fruit in the world.
All fruit bearing is ministry,
but some must exercise particular leadership roles.
All share in the harvest of the ocean,
but some must take responsibility for steering the boat and helping it keep on course.
there will be times when the seas are calm and the path straightforward,
with scarcely a ripple on the surface around you.
The ministry of reaching out and caring will be the right thing to do
and will be greatly appreciated.
These are moments to treasure.
At other times the swell will rise
and you will need to set the bow into adverse winds.
Then you will need great courage to hold the wheel
and keep turning to maintain a direct course.
At times you will wonder if you are all alone as others flee the lashings of the spray.
You, too, could retreat out of the church or into the church,
to the safety of agreed and fixed dogmas, religious or secular,
and die in the calm of compliance with those who deny change.
Have courage to stand at the wheel.
Let yourself be drenched by the spray.
It can also be invigorating.
At other times, you will need a harbour.
You will need to know where to find it,
to ensure its moorings are safe,
be able to drop anchor and renew your supplies.
Log your movements reflectively and plan your course.
Don’t sink your own boat by skimpy maintenance or misjudging the weather.
Set out with joy and ride the swell.
Christ the dolphin leap by your bows,
sometimes disappearing out of sight,
but then surprising you as he matches your movements.
The Spirit encompass you like a flock of gulls rejoicing in your presence
and pointing to new schools of possibility.
God smile at you from the depths
as you pass over the face that bears the joy and the pain and knows your soul.
We have not ordained you to a life of faith and work,
for that is the life of Christ in all the baptised;
We have not ordained you to become engaged in the struggles for justice,
that light may shine in darkness,
for we are all to pray, ‘Your kingdom come!’
We have not ordained you to hold the hand of the needy,
sit with the dying, weep with the bereaved,
for the Spirit everywhere urges the fruits of compassion.
You will do all these things.
We have ordained you
to lead the people of God in caring service,
to equip the people of God for their ministries,
to enable the people of God to discern the spirits of injustice and oppression.
We have ordained you to sound the trumpet of jubilee in the world.
We have ordained you as a Deacon in the Church of God.