Period of Discernment

People who enter the Period of Discernment (POD) will be familiar with the particular model of ministry expressed as Minister of the Word. PoD mentors are strongly encouraged to explore with PoD candidates ALL the specified ministries – ordained as well as lay, and the way members and adherents in a congregation also contribute through the congregation and in the wider church. 

A Deacon brochure is available (see below). There are also videos by Deacons reflecting on their ministry on the DUCA vimeo channel. There are also resources on this website that will be helpful including Prof Rev Andrew Dutney’s article on the difference between the Ministry of the Word and Ministry of Deacon. 

Spending time exploring Ministry of Deacon provides a good foundation for further discernment. For those who go on to candidate for Minister of the Word, this exploration of Ministry of Deacon will help them to see the complementary roles that each has in ministry – in the gathered church and dispersed church. 

Please don’t hesitate to make contact (see details on brochure) if you need further information. 

The Ministry of Deacon (from Andrew Dutney’s blogsite

When the ministry of Deacon was formally established in the life of the Uniting Church by the Sixth Assembly, in 1991, this renewed specified ministry was described like this:

Deacons in the Uniting Church are called:

  • to be, along with the scattered members of the congregation, a sign of the presence of God in the everyday world;
  • to be especially aware of the places in the community where people are hurt, disadvantaged, oppressed, or marginalised and to be in ministry with them in ways which reflect the special concern of Jesus for them;
  • to recognise, encourage, develop and release those gifts in God’s people which will enable them to share in the ministry of caring, serving, healing, restoring, making peace and advocating justice as they go about their daily lives. (Report on Ministry in the Uniting Church, 1991 Assembly)

When I look at what Deacons actually “do”, a lot of it is similar to the daily work of ministers of the Word but with this particular focus on the wider world which “God so loved”. If the ministry of the Word has a focus on leadership of the gathered body of Christ, Deacons are focussed on leadership of the dispersed body of Christ – in the daily life of the world and especially among the vulnerable and hurt.

So even Deacons in congregational placements generally have a ministry specialising in some particular aspect of service and witness in the community. Many other Deacons serve as chaplains in, e.g., education, health care, or the defence forces. Some serve in one of the many community service agencies of the Uniting Church.

The Duties of a Minister

It is significant that the “Duties of a Minister” listed in the Regulations (2.2.1) are identical for ministers of the Word and for Deacons.

DUTIES OF A MINISTER (See Para 3, Constitution)

2.2.1 (a) Within the ministry of the whole Church, Jesus Christ calls men and women to proclamation of the gospel in word and deed through the ministry of the Word and the ministry of Deacon. This calling is exercised by:

(i) preaching of the Word;

(ii) presiding at the celebration of the sacraments;

(iii) providing for other persons to preside at worship and/or preach within the pastoral charge in which the Minister is in placement;

(iv) witnessing in the community to the gospel of Jesus Christ;

(v) guiding and instructing the members of the Church and equipping them for their ministry in the community;

(vi) nurturing candidates for baptism and confirmation;

(vii) pastoral oversight and counsel wherever needed;

(viii) serving in the community, especially among those who are hurt, dis-advantaged, oppressed or marginalized;

(ix) careful attention to administrative responsibilities;

(x) due observance of the discipline of the Church;

(xi) the enhancement of the Minister’s own gifts for the work of ministry;

(xii) pioneering new expressions of the gospel and encouraging effective ways of fulfilling the mission of the Church.

(b) Every Minister shall participate fully and regularly in the public worship of God and the mission and fellowship of the Congregation with which the Minister is enrolled (See

Reg. 2.9.3).

(c) Every Minister shall report annually to the Presbytery with which the Minister is enrolled on the ways in which the duties of a Minister as prescribed in Regulations 2.2.1(a) and (b) are being exercised.

The duties may be the same, but they are fulfilled in very diverse ways by ministers of the Word and Deacons. However there is a difference of emphasis, or orientation, or focus that helps the church discern whether a person is called to the ministry of the Word or to the ministry of Deacon:

The person called to the ministry of the Word has a particular passion for the gatheredchurch, the body of Christ. He or she loves the congregation and longs to spend their whole life serving Christ as Christ personally gathers that body, attends to its health and uses it in his own mission in the world.

The person called to the ministry of Deacon has a particular passion for the dispersedbody of Christ, scattered throughout the neighbourhoods and workplaces and institutions of the society. He or she loves the world that Christ loves and gave himself for. The person called to the ministry of Deacon longs to spend their whole life serving Christ by leading the dispersed Christian community in the daily life of the world and by meeting Christ in the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick, the prisoner, and in any of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46).

Of course these are not mutually exclusive passions. You can love the church and love the world. (We know that Christ does!) But there is an emphasis or focus which distinguishes whether a call is to the ministry of the Word or to the ministry of Deacon.