I’ve been collecting call stories from my friends who are serving in diaconal ministries – ministries of service – expressed in the United Methodist Church through the provisional and ordained deacon, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, and home missioners. This post you will hear from Joanna Dietz who is an ordained deacon currently serving as Minister of Mission and Service at Braddock Street United Methodist in Winchester, Virginia. Here are Joanna’s words:
As a third generation clergy person, I’ve never known life outside the United Methodist Church. But I never thought I’d be called to serve as an ordained minister! I began teaching elementary music right out of college, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. However, it seemed that something was missing.
One Sunday, a new program was announced that was designed to help elementary children grow in both personal and social holiness. Every time it was mentioned, I began to feel deeply emotional.
So, I joined the team and began teaching our children in church. When I stood in front of them, I’d wonder what would happen if I had the same depth of education to lead in the church that I had to lead in the music room. At the same time, I was reading many books that shared the joy of serving in the local community and I felt an unrest in my spirit, that I was being called to something different than teaching in the local schools.
On an Easter visit, my mom encouraged me to look more closely at the booklet from Wesley Theological Seminary, explaining the difference between deacon and elder. As I read, I felt a longing in my soul leaning into the role of the deacon. I decided that maybe I was called on a path different from teaching in the local schools.
This was in 2000 – just 4 years after the ministry of deacon had been changed from a step toward elder to a call of its own. Fortunately, I was blessed to have a deacon in my church to guide me along the way. Rev. Shirley Wang talked with me about what a deacon was and how they bridged the gap between the church and the world. As an educator, I loved the idea of focusing on justice issues outside the church walls.
Learning more, the longing in my soul swept me on to seminary and into ordination. It was as if a piece of me was made whole as I followed my call and accepted where God equipped me to serve. Still, my call is a shifting path, leading me and guiding me in new directions to unexpected places.
Following God is not an easy journey, and sometimes it leads to uncomfortable places. It’s in those moments, however, that I hear God whisper that our discomfort with the world is where God most desires us to share compassion and justice. And when I step into the unknown, I am humbled and blessed by relationships and encounters that may be unexpected, but always make my life much more rich.