It was so 2020 that 14 men and women were ordained on November 28, with St Andrew’s Cathedral decked out with Christmas decorations. 

The “Making of Deacons” service, as it is officially known, normally takes place in February as the ordinands start their ministry for the year. But the 2021 list of ordinands was split so services could accommodate their families, friends and parish supporters while still being COVID-safe. 

Fourteen candidates were ordained this month and another 13 will be ordained in February. 

Candidates Leah Blake and Dan Butler outside the cathedral

The service and the promises the ordinands made were the same, but everything else – from a soloist singing the hymns to a COVID-safe marshall ushering the congregation – was very different. The ordinands sat in social distanced seats, with roped-off sections in the congregation for their friends and family.

“Having those people come along is a great reminder of just how generously God has provided for me through such a great network of people who support me in so many different ways,” said the Rev Lauren Mahaffey, the assistant minister of children and youth at Summer Hill. 

“To be frank, certain friends and colleagues have shown a deeper excitement about this day than me at times – which has served well to give me those reminders that it is something significant, worth celebrating and being excited about!”

Jesus wants all of us to be striving to be the very best servants we can be, not a church full of bland mediocrities.

The significance of the event was marked by the Bishop of South Sydney, Michael Stead, as he spoke directly to the ordinands in his sermon. Preaching from Matthew 20 where the disciples were arguing over who would be greatest, Bishop Stead reminded the 14 candidates that Jesus calls them to aspire to greatness as servants. 

“Jesus does not say to you, ‘Make it your ambition to have no ambition’,” Bishop Stead said. “He does not say to you, ‘The pursuit of worldly greatness is bad, so you must not pursue greatness’. Rather, he says to you, ‘Pursue a different kind of greatness’. Jesus wants all of us to be striving to be the very best servants we can be, not a church full of bland mediocrities.” 

Archbishop Davies and the preacher, Bishop Michael Stead

Multicultural ministries

The ordinands come from a variety of backgrounds, with three of Asian descent. “I'm so grateful for such a blessing of serving the Lord and his people, especially for this public opportunity of confirming my response to his calling and commitment to following Jesus,” said newly minted deacon the Rev Simon Pei, who ministers at North Ryde. 

“Thanks for the great support from Sydney Diocese and North Ryde parish to embrace multicultural ministries. With my background growing up in China, I'd like to share the gospel of peace with more Chinese people.”

The Rev William Quach of Cabramatta echoed Bishop’s Stead’s words about humble service. “I know that I am utterly inadequate but at the same time I'm confident it is Christ who works in me,” he said. 

For the assistant minister at Artarmon, the Rev Tim Hu, “Signing the promises was a great reminder that Scripture sits at the centre for our Diocese, our doctrine and our lives. To be formally ordained to this office with the responsibility of teaching God's life-changing word and upholding his truths is a weighty charge – but what a privilege as well.”

Bishop Koo, Tim Hu, Bishop Lin, William Quach and Simon Pei

Friends and family support

Perhaps appropriately, the new CEO of Anglican Deaconess Ministries, the Rev Jo Gibbs, was also made a deacon at this year's service. 

“Having just started as the CEO of ADM, I’m really looking forward to encouraging and equipping women, activating them for gospel ministry – whether in their churches, their work or their communities,” she said. 

“ADM has such a rich legacy of women serving in Bible teaching, practical ministry and missionary work. I’m looking forward to building on that history with a new generation of women.”

Like the other candidates, she was not troubled by a COVID-safe service. “I’m so thankful that we’re able to have loved ones there today, even in limited COVID numbers. They are the people who have loved and encouraged us, and who have trained and discipled us over a lifetime. This service really represents all those many years of discipleship invested in us.”

Support from friends and family, the Rev Jo Gibbs after the service

The full list of ordinands is

Dan Butler, Cherrybrook

Rob Conway, Castle Hill/Anglicare

Angus Courtney, CCIW

Chris Donald, West Pennant Hills

Jo Gibbs, Anglican Deaconess Ministries

Leah Blake, Jannali

Andrew Hartman, Menai

Tim Hu, Artarmon

Josh Lewis,  Wahroonga - St Andrews

Lauren Mahaffey, Summer Hill

Tom Owen, Macquarie Anglican Grammar School (Dubbo)

Simon Pei, North Ryde

Kurt Peters, Eastgardens

William Quach, Cabramatta