The Ven. Kyn Barker is the Archdeacon of Toronto and coordinator of the diocese’s Community of Deacons. He is a deacon at St. Matthew the Apostle, Oriole.
At the start, one should explain what a deacon is. From the Association of Anglican Deacons in Canada, based on the ordination rite: “A deacon is a Christian person whose ordained ministry is within a servant community, living and proclaiming the Gospel in the world. The deacon’s presence, bringing the needs, concerns and hopes of the world to the Church, is a living reminder of the community’s call to servanthood. A deacon is to enable the Church to be justice-makers, truth-tellers, advocates and reconcilers in the world.” A deacon, then, is a servant minister, doing work in charity, social justice and pastoral care, but really doing that work as an example for others. Essentially, a deacon is to enable everyone to carry out their baptismal promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons.”
The Community of Deacons is all 50 deacons from across the diocese. We support each other and share ideas and information to carry out our callings. Almost all the deacons have been raised up by their parishes and continue to serve in their communities.
I assist the Community members to make connections with each other and with others in the diocese. We meet with our area bishops at least once a year. We also have a retreat; this year, we will be meeting with Bishop Andrew. I assist parishes that have a calling to raise up a deacon, and mentor candidates through diocesan screening and formation. Three deacon candidates, God willing, will be ordained in their parishes this spring. Twelve parishes have potential candidates and are in discernment.
At General Synod 2016, a report was received containing draft competencies for deacons. I was part of the writing team and continue to be involved in publicizing, using and revising them.
The best part of my job is being involved in the ordination service of a deacon in a parish, where all are enthusiastic and excited. I also enjoy teaching a class for potential deacons in which they uncover their calling. Another highlight is my diaconal work on the front desk at Community Information Fairview. A difficult task is walking with a deacon in a parish where a newly arrived priest-in-charge does not appreciate, understand or support having a deacon.
I worked for the York Region District School Board for 36 years, as a classroom teacher and as staff in Curriculum and Instructional Services, supporting teachers to improve their assessment and evaluation practices. Way back in university, some of the best times were being the stage manager for big theatre productions, responsible for all the lighting and sound cues, set changes and actor entrances so that the plays came alive. In a sense, a deacon “sets the stage” so all can live out their callings to be servant ministers.
As a cradle Anglican, I’ve always had some involvement in the Church. Once an Anglican, always an Anglican, but I appreciate that there were opportunities for questions, growth, learning, serving and being. I’ve always been drawn to outreach and social justice. I am easily tempted to more doing than praying. I am blessed to have a patient spiritual director – who helps me recognize that the Trinity are all patient!
A profound experience for me was the diocese’s 150th anniversary service at Skydome. My family and I were in the 500-level and the view was oppressively big and grey. But then the music began, the cross came in and singers, dancers and worship leaders came in from all directions. The Spirit called – and keeps calling – me to the diaconate through my family, my parish family, and several mentors, including the late Tom McQuiston, who undertook the “raising up a deacon” process at our parish, and Mary, a colleague at work who encouraged me just when I was discouraged.
My favourite passage of scripture is Ephesians 2:10: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” We do not choose to serve, to work for social justice or walk alongside our neighbours to earn points with God, or be thanked by others, but because that is what we are already.