The Path to the Diaconate

Deacons empower others to name, claim and engage the work God gives us all to do. They interpret to the Church the needs, concerns and hopes of the world. Through baptism, all Christians are called to make Christ’s redemptive love known through servant ministry. Deacons are ordained to exercise this ministry, particularly to the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely. Deacons model servant ministry in their daily life and work, and are icons of servant ministry through their roles in worship. At all times, by their life and teaching, deacons are to show Christ’s people that in serving others they are serving Christ himself. 

Formation for the Diaconate

In this diocese, deacons are formed by the St. Phoebe School for Deacons, a partnership between the Diocese of Virginia, the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP). The inaugural class of the St. Phoebe School began in summer 2020. The next class will begin with an opening retreat on June 18-20, 2021 at Roslyn Retreat Center, Richmond. 

More on the Vocational Diaconate

Applying for Postulancy

Before applying for postulancy, seekers in the Diocese of Virginia spend time in community discerning what God is calling them to and how they might best answer that call. On vocational discernment.

Once the seeker's parish discernment committee completes its work, the seeker may begin applying for postulancy with the support of his/her presenting priest. The presenting priest should email Ed Keithly and Vicky Bickel ( to request a contact from the Committee on the Diaconate. The contact will assist the seeker in applying for postulancy. 

Postulancy Interview Dates

Aspirants will be scheduled for an interview after the aspirant's contact to the Committee on the Diaconate affirms the aspirant is ready to go forward. 

  • Wed. February 24, 2021 (10a-12p, approx) via Zoom
    or Wed. March 3, 2021 (1:30-3:30p, approx) via Zoom
    • Complete application for either date due January 24. See below (esp. Postulancy Application Checklist) for details on the application.
    • Aspirants hoping to interview Feb. 24 or Mar. 3 are asked to hold both dates, but will be scheduled for one of the two.
  • Wed., April 14, 2021 (10a-12p, approx.)
    or Wed., April 21, 2021 (1:30-2:30p, approx.) 
    • Complete application for either date due March 14. See below (esp. Postulancy Application Checklist) for details on the application.
    • Aspirants hoping to interview April 14 or April 21 are asked to hold both dates, but will be scheduled for one of the two.

More about the Interview: Click here to see the "Memo to Aspirants Preparing for a Postulancy Interview." An agenda and this document will be emailed to the aspirant two weeks before the interview, but aspirants should read the memo earlier than that. See especially the note about the support team (#4), as the aspirant's supporters may need more than two weeks notice in order to attend. 

About Beginning Formation: Those who interview for postulancy on the dates above calendar year will all be on track to begin formation in the St. Phoebe School for Deacons in summer 2021. All students accepted as postulants for the vocational diaconate are automatically accepted to the St. Phoebe School; there isn't a separate application process. The second class of the St. Phoebe School begins, God willing, with a retreat at Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond, scheduled for June 18-20, 2021.

Postulancy Application Materials

  • Postulancy Application Checklist
  • Initial Application to Commission on Ministry
  • Personal History & Reflections template
  • Medical Examination Form
  • Psychological Evaluation Cover Letter
  • Vestry Letter of Support for Postulancy
    • Signing the Vestry Letter during Covid-tide: The Vestry doesn’t have to meet in person, or run themselves ragged passing around a paper copy. The vestry should hold a Zoom meeting or conference call. At that meeting, a Vestry member offers a motion to have the vestry support your postulancy, the vestry votes, then the Senior Warden signs the document and writes on the document the names of all who voted in favor. The Senior Warden can then scan a copy of that form and email it to Vicky Bickel ( Then, at a later point in time when the Vestry are able to meet in person again, all can sign another physical copy for the file. (This method has been vetted and approved by the Chancellor and the Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Virginia.) 
  • Background Check
    • Request: Please email Vicky Bickel and include your full name (include maiden if applicable) and mailing address. 
    • Payment: The cost of the background checks is $110. Payments may be paid by the aspirant or presenting parish, but it is ultimately the aspirant's responsibility to ensure payment after receiving the invoice from the diocese. 

Applying for Candidacy

Postulants apply for candidacy about midway through their formation process. Whereas postulancy interviews are primarily concerned someone's call to and innate gifts for the priesthood, candidacy interviews are primarily concerned with the progress a postulant has made in formation.

Some months prior to an interview, Ed Keithly and Vicky Bickel will email the class interviewing for candidacy to convey information about the application, interview dates, due dates for the application.

Candidacy Interview Dates & Sequence

  • Committee on the Diaconate: Postulants will be scheduled for an interview with the Committee on Diaconate, receiving information about their application some months before the interview date from Vicky and/or Ed. 
  • Standing Committee: Postulants will be scheduled for an interview with the Standing Committee, typically learning of the date of that interview at the same time they learn of the date for their interview with the Committee on the Diaconate. Standing Committee interviews are almost always at St. George's, Fredericksburg. 
  • Bishop: Postulants will be scheduled for an interview with the Bishop who, with a recommendation and the consent of the Standing Committee, officially accepts postulants as candidates. Interviews are typically scheduled by the Bishop's Assistant for within a month after the Standing Committee interview. 

Candidacy Application Materials

Please send electronic copies to Vicky Bickel. Postulants should maintain a copy of all documents for their own records. 

  • Candidacy Application Form
  • Vestry Letter of Support for Candidacy
    • Signed by the postulant's presenting parish, the parish that supported their application for postulancy. 
    • Postulants should see that this gets on the agenda for the vestry meeting two months prior to when the candidacy application is due. E.g., if the application is due in December, the Vestry should sign the letter at their October meeting, allowing another month's grace if it falls off the docket. 
  • Deacons' School Evaluations: Evaluations provided the by Dean of the Deacons' School. 

Vestry Support Letters for Later Stages