His Grace Bishop Youssef spoke to the “deacons” (term used loosely, see here for more on this) at our parish regarding his vision for the future of deaconship.
He recognized that the structure of framework of deaconship today in the Coptic church needs improvement. In his view, subdeacons, deacons, and the archdeacon, should really be much more involved in administrative activities to assist the clergy, as was the deacon’s role at their founding as indicated in the Book of Acts (Chapter 2), where their role was created for the purpose of “serving tables” while the bishops focused more on the “word of God” (Acts 6:2).
The “triangle” drawing you see that he drew on the board in the image above shows how His Grace views the hierarchy of roles. The bishop is responsible for shepherding the flock and teaching the word. Priests report to the bishop and are in charge of pastoral care. Deacons report to the priests but also ultimately report to the bishop, and they are supposed to be servants rather than simply chanters as seems to be the quintessential role of deaconship these days.
His Grace is aware that over time chanters leave their role and stop dressing and participating in chanting as they were originally assigned. He mapped out a typical example of what happens: at 6 years old a person is assigned to be a chanter, by 16 how many of those chanters are left? What about when they turn 30?
He also sees the issue of the diminution of the reverence of the altar by allowing any ranks of the minor orders to enter, when in the past it was relegated usually to just “full” deacons. As a step in the right direction, His Grace did express a wish that in the future more sub-deacons are appointed and that there be a requirement that only sub-deacons may serve in the altar.
In the end, I was quite pleased to see that at least this is on His Grace’s mind and heart. I think we all need to press our bishops more and request improvement to deaconship.
There really should be a centralized Global Deacon Committee that is under the direct guidance of the Holy Synod or some Synodal committee or member. They should be responsible for things such as:
- Communicating with all minor orders and the diaconate,
- Setting guidelines,
- Emphasizing distinctions in roles, with a focus on service and not just chanting
- Improving upon our understanding of the services rendered
- Informing of changes/variations to rites,
- Fixing deviations of rites or other matters
- Offering spiritual resources,
- Alerting to upcoming events, etc.
In today’s day and age, this can be easily accomplished. Anyone close with any members of the Synod? Share this idea with them!!!