Deacons welcomed to Scotland from across Africa and Europe

Around 160 deacons from across Africa and Europe are meeting in Scotland for their 25th annual conference.

DRAE has representatives working in 24 countries across Africa and Europe
DRAE has representatives working in 24 countries across Africa and Europe. Photo © Craig Steedman Photography. Used with permission.

The Diakonia Region Africa Europe (DRAE) assembly, which first took place in Stirling in 1994, is being held at Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh until Monday 24 June.

With a total membership in excess of 16,000 made up from representatives based in 24 countries, DRAE is one of the world's largest ecumenical organisations.

Marion Stewart DCS, who is the current Scottish Diaconate President said: "We are delighted to be welcoming DRAE back to Scotland for this celebration.

"We have an exciting programme in the planning and look forward to welcoming many friends new and old from around Europe and Africa to Scotland.

"At this uncertain time for Britain and Europe it is great to be organising a conference to show the world we are still working together."

The theme over the coming days is 'for such a time as this' (Esther 4:14).

Previous assemblies have been held across the two continents, including gatherings in Moshi in Tanzania and Basel in Switzerland.

Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, Mrs Ruth Sinclair and  Scottish Diaconate President
Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, Mrs Ruth Sinclair and Marion Stewart DCS, Scottish Diaconate President. Photo © Craig Steedman Photography. Used with permission.

Right Rev Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: "Deacons have always played a key role in the life of the church because they come to serve. By the way they live and by what they do they put flesh on the gospel. In so doing they act as a visual aid of the difference Christ can make to a person.

"They often go to the margins to reach people where they are. They are active listeners and practical in the help they offer. They help the lonely into communities and the hurting to find healing. They can show robust love where necessary and are not lacking in wisdom and its companion, gumption.

"During their time together they will share stories and experiences and laugh and enjoy being together. They will also worship and listen for God’s word for this time and his leading for whatever lies ahead.

"Inspired and encouraged they will return to the countries where they serve and continue to be a blessing wherever they are."

This year's event will include panel discussions on how climate change affects ministry and on emerging styles of ministry.

Visitors will also have the chance to take part in Bible study groups lead by hymn writer and Iona Community member John Bell, worship together and even attend a ceilidh.

A formal dinner will celebrate the quarter century of work that DRAE has carried out.

There are currently around 30 deacons of word and service in the Church of Scotland.

Mark Evans DCS will take over as the next Scottish Diaconate President after the conference and will be the first man to hold the position.

Find out more about the Church of Scotland Diaconate