Following is an educational piece and final installment of a three-part series offered by Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld on the role of Deacons in this synod and in God’s church.
Deacons offer a ministry of Word and Service, sharing the hope of Christ, helping where there is need, and equipping others for healing and justice in the world. Deacons are spiritual lay leaders of local, synodical and churchwide contexts. They hold a theological masters degree and training or degree work in a professionally focused area. Diaconal ministers serve under call through agencies, institutions, synod councils, and traditional church programs. Whatever the particular role or context, deacons are responsible for some form of service ministry. The biblical basis of the diaconate is rooted in Jesus’ emphasis on service and ministry of relief to the poor, care for the sick, and justice for the oppressed. This servant ministry was of great importance in Hebrew culture and practice.
Some proclaim the Word through preaching and teaching in congregations. In addition to modeling Christian faith at work, many have a stated responsibility to empower, equip and encourage others like themselves to be the church in mission, living out their own daily baptismal vocation of service to the neighbor and care of creation “This last responsibility of deacons, to empower and equip others, is a keystone for the emerging ministry of deacons of the ELCA. Whatever their particular role or context – whether deeply engaged in proclamation and service in non-ecclesial contexts or serving in congregational or other “church” settings – every deacon of the ELCA has a two-fold focus to serve the neighbor and to empower, equip and encourage the people of God for their daily baptismal vocation of service to the neighbor and care of creation. This ministry is understood to be distinct from, alongside, and in mutual complementarity with the ministries of pastors of the ELCA.”
Deacons are persons who have answered the call to stand on the front line as spiritual leaders in the church, modeling for others the necessity and the dignity of laity in ministry. Deacons in this synod do exactly that – they model what it means to answer the call of God to servant ministry in this church. They witness to that sending with which we leave worship; they go out to serve the Lord!
Do you know a Deacon? How does that person serve? For example, our synod is served by the ministry of Deacon, Vicki Hanrahan, leading our equipping ministry. Triangle Ministry is served by Deacon Judy Nolde, Chaplain and Deacon Meg Nielson, Outreach Development Manager. Bethel Lutheran Church (Madison) is served by Lisa Huber, Director of Pastoral Ministries. First Lutheran Church (Janesville) is served by Deacon Peg Haeger, Ministry Associate to name a few. Other deacons have served as parish nurses or faith formation coordinators. Might your congregation be well served by the ministry of a deacon? As we walk into the future, remember there are two ministry rosters in our church – Ministers of Word and Service and Ministers of Word and Sacrament. Deacons serve alongside Pastors as valued co-workers in a ministry team. Do you need someone to walk with your congregation in ministry? Might you be well served by considering calling a deacon?
Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld