Once a deacon always a deacon? What understanding do priests in the Church of England have of the diaconate, and their identity as a deacon.
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The Church of England is proud of its threefold ministry. The sentence “once a deacon, always a deacon” is regularly used. Reports have been written on the diaconate, agreements with Porvoo and the Lutheran churches have been made on the diaconate. And every couple of years someone writes about deacons in the church times. But the visible diaconate in the local churches seems absent, there is no talk about the diaconate in the local churches. The diaconate seems to be neglected in daily life. This research was designed to find out how Church of England priests at parish level think about their diaconate. What is their understanding of their first ordination? The context is the Church of England. Eight priests were interviewed to find about their knowledge of the diaconate, what their own understanding is on the subject. Do they still have a deacon identity after their ordination to priest and can we find the diaconate at grass root level in the Church of England. The priests interviewed were all first ordained after 2001, and had all been in the ministry for more than 5 years. Through literature the doctrine and the theology of the Church of England were researched and this was used as a theoretical framework to set the interviews in a context, as well as to gain insight in the current understanding of the Church of England of the diaconate. The diaconate has gone through changes since the first deacons were appointed in the early church. Understanding of the Greek diakon-words have changed, especially in the last 20 years. Has the church changed its views and understanding as well? The method used was qualitative interviews. Eight interviews were held and the answers were used as data in the research, seen in the background of the literary framework. This is a limited research, but the findings showed a lack of understanding and knowledge of the modern diaconate. There lies a great opportunity for the Church of England to work towards change. There was however proof of the diaconate in the church. Many of the activities in the churches can be classified under diaconal activities, but an awareness around the subject is lacking. It is my hope that this thesis will help open up a dialogue and further research on the subject of the diaconate within the Church of England. With better training, education and more awareness on the subject of the diaconate, a priest could truly be a deacon for life, as well as a priest.