The first new deacon we meet this year is Rev Izzy Schafer, who will serve at Ashton in Makerfield St Thomas and St Luke Stubshaw Cross.
On June 30th, eleven new deacons were ordained to serve in the Diocese of Liverpool. Many of them have been kind enough to share their stories with us. This week we meet Izzy Schafer, who will serve at Ashton in Makerfield St Thomas and St Luke Stubshaw Cross.
Izzy has worked as office manager of her family’s architecture business for the last 25 years and will still do some part time work at the firm alongside her new duties at St Thomas and St Luke. Izzy has two daughters with husband Bill, and has used a wheelchair since the age of 32, after contracting polio as a child.
Izzy and her husband Bill have been involved with church since their daughters joined Brownies at their local church, but over time they began to explore their faith in more depth, “Going to church became part of what we did as a family, and eventually my husband and I enrolled on an Alpha course. That was when we really came to faith and asked the questions we needed to ask.” Izzy was received into the Church of England and Bill was confirmed.
Izzy and Bill eventually began helping to lead Alpha courses in prisons, including HMP Risley and HMP Kennet. Izzy says of her time in prison ministry, “I learned very quickly that we all have pre-conceived ideas of what prisoners are like. They face the same problems, have the same flaws and ask the same questions as us all. The only difference between those on the inside and us on the outside is in many cases just a brick wall.” Izzy hopes to use her experience of prison chaplaincy and the associated issues to inform her future ministry.
Izzy’s call to ordination was a gradual one – and one that she admits she ignored for at least 18 months. Izzy first trained to become a Reader, which allowed her to preach and teach. Izzy said: “A congregation member asked me how my ordination training was going, and when I said that I was going to be a Reader and not a Deacon, they said that it was great pity, and that I should be training to be a Deacon. I ignored it – I thought to myself that God couldn’t be calling me!”
However, the idea of ordination kept coming up, through conversations and various experiences, and Izzy’s calling began to get stronger. “It got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it any longer, and I went to see my vicar to talk about it. It started to feel right and I knew I was being called. When I announced that I was going to go forward for ordination, a lady from my house groups said ‘I knew you were going to say that – she then gave me a bookmark which had a picture of poppies and the words “blossom where you are planted” which I took to mean OLM (Ordained Local Minister). When I had my scarf made I included poppies in the design."
Izzy was adamant that she wanted to practice her ministry at St Thomas where she had been going to church for 27 years.
"It was at St Thomas where I really found God’s calling, and through my own ministry I hope to help others find God in their own lives and situations. I thank the communities of St Thomas and St Luke for never making my disability an issue, and for being incredibly supportive throughout my training. I look forward to journeying together as we explore what God has in store for us as a community.”
Ordination in the Church of England
Ordination is a two part process. The order of Deacon enables them to perform certain key duties within a parish, including the baptism of new Christians. Deacons will then normally spend a year working as an assistant to a vicar before the Bishop ordains them to the priesthood when they are also able to celebrate Holy Communion.
Those ordained have all felt a strong call to offer themselves to God’s service. This call has been examined and tested and the Ordinands have then undergone rigorous education in biblical and theological studies as well as the practicalities of being a minister in today’s Church of England.