Interview with Archdeacon Anne Russell-Brighty (2010)

Taken from Anglican Life magazine, Issue 7 of June/July 2010.

Dialogue: Anne Russell-Brighty

10 Jun 2010

Most of us have probably heard of deacons – we’re just not sure what they do. As the Archdeacon of Deacons in our diocese, Anne Russell-Brighty has been leading a quiet revolution by breathing new life into our diaconate. Spanky Moore caught up with her to find out more.

So, what is a deacon, exactly? And why does the Church need them? Deacons are one of three ordained ministries of the Church. Ordained leadership roles have been part of the structure of the Church since earliest times, when the followers of Christ realised that some aspects of Church life were so important, there needed to be a deliberate process to appoint people to them. As deacons, our particular focus within Church life and mission is the responsibility to ensure that people in need are cared for with Christ-like compassion and humility.

For some reason the role of deacons in the church dropped off the radar – why the sudden resurgence now? A number of historical and political reasons within Church life in the latter half of the first millennium led to a hierarchical approach to ministry which devalued both lay and diaconal ministry. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church is gradually recognising the value of many aspects of early Church life which have been overlooked or diminished. We live in challenging times, and are learning to draw on some of the wisdom of the early Church as we seek to strengthen the Body of Christ for the future.

What drew you personally to the idea of being a deacon – especially since you were pretty much flying solo in New Zealand New Zealand when you started? Short answer – God. I realised that so many of my life experiences had been leading me in this direction and the Church recognised that, too. I have a passion to see people be all that God created them to be, each one uniquely valued and able to be fully in relationship with God and one another. Being a deacon has helped me direct that passion.

Our Diocese has been leading the charge in seeing the diaconate have a comeback in New Zealand – what sorts of things are our Deacons doing? Our diocese wasn’t the first to ordain deacons within the renewed vocation, but we have certainly been guided by bishops and diocesan staff to be very intentional about training, formation and support. This has resulted in a strong diaconate, currently with twenty-three men and women from many different life situations exercising this ministry. All of these deacons work within their local communities as well as their parishes, exercising ministries of compassionate care, social service, and leadership.

What do you love most about being a deacon? There are many challenges and difficulties and frustrations, of course, but sometimes when you witness just one person becoming closer to the presence of God in their life, one person experiencing the healing of belonging again, of finding new life – or when you know you have the privilege of being part of the way God is working to make all things new – then nothing compares with this.

WORDS: Spanky Moore