Just how does one make a deacon? Like any recipe, it takes a drop of this and a dash of that, from academics to service internships to parochial internships. For the deacon, the emphasis is on service.
The deacon in formation must successfully fulfill two nine-month internships before ordination, one in a social service agency and the other in a parish. Why would we have them do all that?
Let’s take a look: The social service internship serves a couple of purposes. One, it creates a network of connections among deacons and service agencies so that we know where the resources of a community lie and how they work. And two, because the social service internships must be in a line of work in which the Deacons School students have no previous experience and where they have no friends, the internship stretches students to establish themselves with new people and helps them to develop new skills. The agencies are vetted by the Supervisor of Internships before any placements occur making sure that the ministry would be valuable to our students and that they will be supervised by a member of the social service agency’s staff.
The second internship occurs in a parish setting where a deacon is deployed. Under their supervising deacons, the student sets goals for the internship, learns the rubrics of the altar and how deacon and priest work together. Parish internships include learning the ministry of the deacon both in the church and in the world. Through regular supervision with both deacon and rector, the student learns the proper roles and responsibilities each order carries. The result is a student who knows the value of collaborative ministry and can carry these skills into ordained life.
In both internships the student is evaluated at the halfway mark and then once they have completed their service. These evaluations seek information about how the student interacted with the community, whether or not they were helpful and responsive, and if they were valuable to the agency or parish. Students also provide two written verbatims, one from each internship, as part of their course work for the Deacons School. These verbatims are presented to their cohort for discussion and serve as another learning opportunity.
So, these are two crucial ingredients in the making of a deacon!
The Rev. Terri M. Murphy
Supervisor of Internships
Deacon, Episcopal Church of the Ascension
Silver Spring, MD