Deacon Formation Program
"O Lord, we are the clay,. and you are our potter;. we are all the work. of your hand." ~Isaiah 64:8
How is a Deacon chosen?
A person called to minister in deacons' orders will be a faithful, worshiping member of an Episcopal congregation in Maine. Such persons will exhibit spiritual maturity, compassion, and flexibility; they will exhibit a servant's heart and spirit, and will work well in a supervised context.
Those desiring to explore a call to minister in deacons' orders will participate in both phases of the Circles of Light discernment process, which generally takes 9-12 months. Should such a call be discerned, the next step involves a meeting with the bishop, documented support from the priest and vestry of the sponsoring congregation, an interview with the Committee on Holy Orders and additional application procedures. Once a person is named a postulant, he or she enters the Deacon Formation Program (DFP).
The diocesan Handbook for Ordination: Deacons offers clear guidelines, beginning with discernment and going through and beyond ordination.
What is involved in Deacon Formation?
A deacon's formation involves participation in a communal program (the DFP) that includes integrative academic and experiential components as well as ongoing spiritual formation. Study areas include the canonical requirements of Scripture, Theology, Traditions of the Church, Diakonia and the Diaconate, Human Awareness and Understanding, Spiritual Development and Discipline, and Practical Training and Experience.
Because of the varied backgrounds each Postulant brings, there is considerable flexibility in meeting all the requirements. Deacons-in-training are required to attend all-day meetings approximately once a month, as well as three overnight weekend retreats a year. They are also expected to meet regularly with a qualified spiritual director or companion.
To fulfill the academic canonical requirements in Scripture, Theology, and Traditions of the Church, participants in the DFP take part in an Education for Ministry (EFM) Program or its equivalent, such as seminary classes , online courses , or tutorials.
To address the canonical requirement related to Human Awareness and Understanding, postulants complete a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). (Because of the geographic size of the diocese and the employment situation of many postulants for the diaconate, participation in a traditional CPE program is not always possible, in which case an alternative Education for Pastoral Care program can be arranged.) A postulant's community-based Field Education provides additonal insight andundersatnding through intentional servant ministry. All of these experiences help deepen the postulant's pastoral skills.
Additional exploration of Diakonia and the Diaconate takes place during the monthly DFP sessions, as does ongoing attention to Spiritual Development and Discipline. The opportunity to gain Practical Training and Experience is also woven into monthly DFP sessions and deepened through participation in Congregation-based Field Education.
Basic Components of the DFP
An Initial Assessment identifies the background a postulant brings to the DFP. This is accomplished by:
* individual meetings between the newly named deacon postulant and the DFP Coordinator
* written assessment materials (a review of the postulant's spiritual life, education, experience, and community participation, as well as a few exploratory questions related to the required canonical areas)
The deacon postulant and DFP Coordinator then craft the postulant’s Individual Formation Program, which provides a way to organize the steps needed to move the postulant through formation to ordination. The IFP is incorporated into the Letter of Agreement between the Postulant and the Sponsoring Congregation, and consists of:
* written learning and formation objectives for that particular postulant
* requirements for further study between monthly Saturday DFP meetings
The monthly Saturday meetings are the heart of the Deacon Formation Program. These gatherings of all deacon postulants and candidates are held from September through June. What to expect at these meetings:
* an experiential focus each month on one or more of the canonical areas
* guest teachers, reading assignments, written assignments
* three overnight retreats each year
* companionship among others in the DFP and with members of the Community of Deacons
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is required of all deacon postulants. Currently in Maine, CPE is a hospital-based chaplaincy training program that provides "a method of learning pastoral practice in a clinical setting under supervision" (The Standards of The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education 1999). The purposes of CPE are to foster growth in personal and pastoral identity and to facilitate the development of pastoral skills.
Education for Pastoral Care (EPC) is intended for those deacon postulants in the Diocese of Maine who are unable to participate in a traditional CPE program. EPC is based on the purposes and essential components of traditional CPE. EPC may be implemented in any location with the necessary human and organizational resources.
Community-based Field Education and Congregation-based Field Education provide deacons-in-training with on-site experience in diaconal ministry and liturgy.
* Community-based Field Education provides deacon postulants with the experience and education to understand and develop their diaconal ministries in the world.
* Congregation-Based Field Education provides deacon candidates with the experience and education to understand and develop their diaconal ministries within the church.
To find out more about diaconal ministry in the Diocese of Maine, ask a deacon!
Helpful Deacon Links
Circles of Light discernment process:
Ongoing Education and Formation
The Community of Deacons in Maine and Beyond
New England Deacons Network http://www.province1.org/calendar/new-england-deacons-network
Presiding Bishop’s 2007 Address to Deacons: http://www.katrinasdream.org/books/evangelism
Holy Women, Holy Men online: https://www.riteseries.org/brain/hwhm/
Calendar of Deacon Saints: http://www.oplater.net/deaconsaints.pdf