New Zealand is a small country “at the bottom of the world”. Over the past 30 years, the Methodist Church in New Zealand has ordained 33 deacons – 7 men and 26 women. At the present time, there are 6 active deacons, with many in retirement who continue to be involved in ministry. There is a strong sense of the heritage of the Deaconess Order.
Deacon Edna Evans writes:
Up until 4 years ago most Deacons were self-supporting and covenanted to their Home Parish. More recently there has been some development in appointing a Deacon to another parish through itinerancy. The development of different ministry roles has increased connections between church and community, and continues to raise the profile of the church in some community groups. We are proud that a few deacons have received New Year's Honours or Queen's Birthday Honours for services to their communities.
The New Zealand church has many Pacific Island members integrated into its life and slowly some are acknowledging a call to ministry as deacons. We are excited that the work of deacons is continuing with the ordination of 3 new deacons in the last 3 years. The support of Trinity Theological College is appreciated, encouraging people to consider the Diaconate as a ministry option, with specific papers offered where appropriate. The Mission Resourcing Unit is responsible for support and ensuring Ministry Covenants are current. While working in the community, the deacon is also an integral part of their local church, and district synod, often taking on leadership and committee responsiblities.
The Diaconate Task Group is our national body which supports deacons, oversees tasks that need doing, as well as regularly reporting to the annual Methodist Conference and ensuring that the church understands this vital ministry. It also organises our bi-annual national Convocation – with 10 people recently attending in April.
To conclude, here are some words from NZ poet Joy Cowley from Aotearoa Psalms -
There are times in life when we are called to be bridges,
not a great monument spanning a distance and carrying loads of heavy traffic,
but a simple bridge to help one person from here to there over some difficulty
such as pain, grief, fea, loneliness,
a bridge which opens the way for ongoing journey.
When I become a bridge for another, I bring upon myself a blessing,
for I escape from the small prison of self and exist for a wider world,
breaking out to be a larger being who can enter another's pain
and rejoice in another's triumph.
I know of only one greater blessing in this life, and that is,
to allow someone else to be a bridge for me.