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Home  >  Features  >  'A Real Honour and Privilege'

Features

Mark Evans DCS. Picture by Craig Steedman Photography
Mark Evans DCS. Picture by Craig Steedman Photography

'A Real Honour and Privilege'

Wednesday December 18 2019

Jackie Macadam meets the newly elected President of the Diaconate Council, Mark Evans DCS.


“My call was always to be a Deacon.

"I never saw myself as being the person upfront, leading the way – it wasn’t a role I was comfortable with. I saw myself very much as walking with the people of God rather than leading them.”

Mark Evans DCS is the newly-elected President of the Diaconate Council and works as Head of Spiritual Care with NHS Fife.

Born in north Edinburgh into a large extended family, Mark always felt drawn to the church.

“North Edinburgh in the 1970s and the early 80s was notorious as a centre for drugs and gangs. However, my childhood was really happy. I grew up in a large extended family, which was based around my gran and granddad who were a huge influence in my life.

“My grandparents had a strong faith and were members of the church and brought their family up within the Church. Our home church was the Old Kirk, West Pilton. The teaching of ‘PaPa Reid’ (Iain Reid, who took over from George McLeod as Leader of the Iona Community) created in my wider family a great respect for the Kirk. It had a huge effect on my family, and whilst I was the only one who attended church regularly, the Old Kirk remained central in my family.”

Mark struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia and found school difficult and frustrating, excelling only in music. But he had a deep and heartfelt call to the ministry – and that meant going to college. Teachers told him not to waste his time and to apply for work at some of the local factories like many of his peers. His parents were not happy and his mum pushed the school to allow him to try for the two Highers he needed.

“Teachers Kate Ballanytne and George Meldrum were impressed by my mum’s determination that I should get qualifications, and the next thing I knew I was sitting Higher English and Higher Geography – George promised my mum that no matter what it took, he would make sure I got my two Highers.

“After school I was accepted as a student at St Colm’s College – the Church of Scotland College in Edinburgh. It was at college I was diagnosed with severe dyslexia and that helped me make sense of my experiences at school.”

Mark now has a degree in nursing, a masters in healthcare chaplaincy and spiritual care, and is an honorary lecturer at St Andrews University – ‘not bad for a boy from Pilton with dyslexia!’ he says.

During his second year at St Colm’s, he applied to become a candidate for the Diaconate.

“I always wanted to serve God and enter into full-time work with the Church. Deaconesses had played a huge role in nurturing my faith and supporting my calling – growing up in North Edinburgh there were Deaconesses such as Maureen Hutchinson, Morag Crawford and Lynda Wright who were involved in cutting edge outreach and pioneering ministry. However, I had assumed that the Diaconate was only for women. It was only when I went to St Colm’s that I realised I could be a Deacon – and then everything fell into place.

“The office of Deacon had been open to men since 1979, but no man had actually ever applied. I was called to a meeting to discuss my application. I was crushed when over coffee and scones I was told I did not have the gifts or skills to be a Deacon. Then I became aware that the topic of conversation had changed – and that it was being suggested that I should apply to be a ‘real’ minister, because the Church needed young men like me with my background and experience.

“I went back to St Colm’s and spent a number of days considering what to do next.

“As I sat in the college chapel looking at the stained glass window of Christ with the words: ‘They calleth his own by name, and they follow him for they know his voice’. I was more certain than ever that God was calling me to be a Deacon and I had to follow his call. So I reapplied and my application was accepted.

“On leaving St Colm’s I started working with the Board of Social Responsibility (now CrossReach) as a residential care worker in the old ‘People’s Palace’, a hostel for homeless men. As a Deacon I found myself in a ministry which was practical and pastoral, displaying the Gospel of Christ through Service and in Word.

“After a few years, I went into parish work where my main area of ministry was in pastoral care and children’s and youth work, before going into healthcare chaplaincy.”

Mark has been working as a Deacon for 30 years and reckons he’s seen just about everything. It’s a mission he has never once doubted.

“Over the past 30 years, it has been a privilege to share with people the highs and lows of human life. Standing at the bedside in a hospital, laughing with young people on school camp or standing at the graveside of a teenage boy – in all these situations, on all these occasions I have sought to display the accepting and healing love of Christ. It is a real honour and a privilege for strangers and church members to invite you in to share with them their pain, their hurt and their tears.”

Mark feels that the Diaconate can offer that very special gift – being present with the people they serve.

 “Deacons by their very calling stand beside people and communities, holding the space and proclaiming the simple truth: you are a child of God made in his image and you are beautiful and unique. They hold the light of Christ in the darkness of people’s fears, affirming that tears and laughter, pain and joy are all part of human life. Building bridges between the sacred and the secular; the seen and the unseen; the known and the unknown.”

Mark was elected President of the Diaconate in June this year.

“The Diaconate has a crucial ministry within the Church and in society,” he says. “As the Church of Scotland wrestles with strategic plans and seeks to find a way forward,  the Diaconate offers to the Church a ministry which is radical and collaborative. A ministry which works outside the normal structures and processes, a ministry which stands with people and says: you are loved and you are redeemed.

“Over my three years in office, I hope to raise the profile of the Diaconate within the Church. I want to see Deacons recognised as vital roles within Presbytery Plans. I would also like to see the Church review and consider the training, and employment of Deacons as part of the new structures so than when Candidates are undergoing the discernment process the Diaconate is seen as just as appealing and worthy as the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.”


A longer version of this interview appears in December's Life and Work. Subscribe here.

Read more about the Diaconate on the Church of Scotland website.