The Deacon’s Bench: Other Duties As Assigned

by The Reverend Deacon Roderick McDowell

During the Ordination of a Deacon, the Bishop addresses the Ordinand in a section called the Examination. Part of it is as follows: “and you are to carry out other duties as assigned from time to time.”

By the time this occurs, the Ordinand will have gone through a rigorous assessment process. The person will have shown, among other things, a serious commitment to and involvement in social justice. In my case I was, at the time of my ordination, a lawyer specializing in immigration and refugee law. My involvement in this and other issues of social justice has continued since that time and I assist in worship in my parish, St. Paul’s (Ft. Erie). 

As Bishop Ralph Spence laid his hands on my head I had no idea of the implication of the words “other duties as assigned”. I want to tell you about such occasions when I was given “other duties”:

A few years ago Bishop Michael Bird called me on a Monday. Clergy have been known to fear these sudden calls from a bishop. He was calling from a meeting of the House of Bishops in Niagara Falls. He wondered if on the following day I could spend the afternoon taking their guest speaker, Archbishop Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, shopping in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The Archbishop had been there at their outlet mall several years before and wanted to go again. 

I said yes and when I picked up the Archbishop, Bishop Michael said the meetings of the bishops had been very difficult and everyone needed a break. Archbishop Barry and I had a delightful time and I think I helped him get that “break”. 

The second occasion was the result of a call from Cathedral Place. A wealthy elderly widow, whom I shall call Mrs. C, was going to leave a large bequest to the Diocese. She wanted to find an executor since her adult son was not well enough to act. I met with Mrs. C, her son and daughter-in-law for lunch wearing my collar and shared my experiences as a lawyer. Mrs. C agreed to appoint me and I promised to waive any entitlement to executor fees. About a year later Mrs. C died and left a substantial estate with half going to the Diocese and half to her son. 

An executor has enormous power in any estate matter and the responsibilities are largely financial and legal. However, as a deacon, I felt I had an important duty to minister to the son and his wife. In the almost two years it took to wind up the estate I had to do the usual stuff including hiring lawyers and accountants, keeping records, making decisions about property, etc. But I tried to take time to be with the son and daughter-in-law and make the entire process as smooth and easy as possible. 

The son and daughter-in-law are now friends. The Diocese and the son have now received substantial amounts of money. But more importantly, as I carried out these “other duties” I tried to act as Christ would have me do.


The Deacon’s Bench is a regular feature in The Niagara Anglican. Each month we will hear from a Deacon serving a parish under a Bishop’s Letter of Permission. Each will inform us about the ministry s/he conducts in their parish and the wider community. This month’s columnist is The Reverend Deacon Roderick McDowell, of St. Paul’s (Fort Erie)