Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: deacons

Wait. What’s a Deacon?

This was originally published in the April 2016 issue of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate. The focus of this issue was the 20th Anniversary of the Order of Deacon. 

A group of church leaders had gathered for a meeting. The district superintendent mentioned the possibility of hiring a deacon to help the congregation reach beyond the church walls. A woman sitting across the table looked back at the DS with a quizzical expression. “Wait,” she said, “What’s a deacon?”

It’s not the first time that question has been asked. For twenty years, the United Methodist Church has been struggling to articulate the answer, “What’s a deacon?”

I welcome these questions. When I first experienced my call to ministry and I was told about the ministry of the deacon, that was my response. I had never heard of an ordained deacon. While I felt a strong call to ordained ministry, it did not look like the pastor of a church. But, I had no words to express what it did look like.

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Deacon’s Call: Barbara Ward

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.  In this post you will hear from Barbara Ward who is an ordained deacon, retired, in the Virginia Annual Conference.  Here are Barbara’s words: 

Standing before the Bishop to be ordained as one of the first Virginia Conference Deacons in Full Connection was, for me, the answer to an impossible dream.

I was just sixteen years old when I received a calling to ministry. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I sat alone in the choir loft of my church, waiting for others to arrive for the Youth Choir Rehearsal. I was gazing idly at the empty church balcony when I was drawn to what looked vaguely like a blue cloud.

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Deacon’s Call: Laura Douglass

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 Laura Douglass who is an ordained deacon currently serving as  Minister of Music at Asbury United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Here are Laura’s words: 

The journey into music ministry began as a child surrounded by a loving Baptist family and lots of hymn singing. My early piano lessons did not bear much fruit until I discovered hymns, and it didn’t take long to figure out that I could delay washing dishes by practicing them immediately after dinner. Before age ten, hymns became a path to the Spirit in the midst of many emotions. I remember praying for my Methodist cousins who “hadn’t seen the light.”

As an undergraduate majoring in music education I concentrated on piano, but also studied voice, strings and organ. During my final semester I took lessons with the new organ instructor whose energy and support were to open unimagined doors.

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Deacon’s Call: Brenda Laws

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.  In this post you will hear from Brenda Laws who is an ordained deacon currently serving as  an ID Case Manger for the Eastern Shore Community Service Board on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Her secondary appointment is at Horntown Charge UMC on the Eastern Shore District. Here are Brenda’s words: 

When I saw her on stage with the bishop I heard a voice within my spirit say, “You will be where she is.” Ha Ha I thought that was a good joke. “I am a 19 year old single mom and that will never happen,” I thought. That day was at Annual Conference of June 1980 in Richmond. It changed my vocation in life. It changed who I was and it redefined who God was in my life.

I didn’t even know who that lady was on the conference stage, I just know she had set an example for me when she was consecrated a diaconal minister. My new quest in life was to find out about the diaconal ministry.

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Deacon’s Call: Heesung Hwang

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.  In this post you will hear from Heesung Hwang who will be commissioned as a provisional deacon this June at Annual Conference. Here are Heesung’s words: 

My journey to ministry and theological study started from the conversation with my father when I was at the age of fourteen. He used to give me a ride to my school every morning and we shared lots of stories and thoughts. It was such enjoyable moments for both of us. One day, he talked about what he wanted to do in his life. He said he had wanted to set up an organization in order to help orphans because he also faced and experienced the misery of the Korean War and wanted to do something to improve the society as well as his own life.

However, it just did not happen in his weary life. In that morning, he said, “But I still want to do something for lonely children. Although I cannot afford to build an organization or an orphanage, I am about to start donating a small amount of money every month whether it is 5 dollars or 10 dollars.” Those statements just struck me. I said to my father as I got out of the car, “Dad, I will do it. If you don’t make it happen in your life, I will do it.”

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Deacon’s Call – Joanna Dietz

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.

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Deacon’s Call: Lyn Harding

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 Lyn Harding who is an ordained deacon currently serving as Clinic Manager & Chaplain at CrossOver Healthcare Ministry in Richmond, Virginia. Here are Lyn’s words: 

I was baptized as an infant in July of 1962. While I don’t remember my baptism, it was the beginning of my life in Christ and in the church. My parents were regular church-goers when we lived in Northern Virginia, and we participated fully in the life of the church; serving on and leading various committees, singing in the choir, ushering and counting the offering. I was active in the junior high group, Sunday School and youth choir until we moved to Williamsburg, Virginia in 1976 when I was thirteen years old.

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Quote: Diaconate Reality

Diaconate quote

Diakonia

washing_feet_011At the core of United Methodism is diakonia, the servant ministry of the church. We, like the prophet Isaiah and the teenage girl Mary, can sing, “Here I am, Lord.” Jesus’ primary form of ministry was diakonia. Despite his disciples’ cries, he allowed the little children to come to him. He talked and shared the Way with the Samaritan woman. He sat at table with sinners. He washed the feet of his disciples. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and touched the leper. As diakonos (servant) Jesus was the bridge between Word and world; between the Healer and the broken; between God and humanity.

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My Call to Ministry Part 2

College was great! I had excellent professors who were mentors to me. B. J. Seymour, Steve Tuell, and Ira Andrews opened my eyes to the Bible and to the faith way beyond anything Sunday school had ever taught me. They also nurtured my call to ministry. They saw within me something that God was doing that I was still trying to get okay with.

My first semester at Randolph-Macon, the education class I took had us placed in classrooms to observe. We were to also teach one class. I was placed in a 7th grade civics class. Other than my limited experience in the youth ministry at the time, I didn’t know what to do in a civics class. Give me some marshmallows or a few rolls of toilet paper, and we can play some crazy games. But civics?

Part of the project was to interview the teacher of that class. We used his lunch break as our time to talk. I spent most of my time talking with him about faith and religion than I did about education. One day he flat out told me that if had it to do again, he wouldn’t teach. The amount of time he actually got to spend on just teaching wasn’t in comparison to the amount of time he spent doing all the other stuff.

Drs. Seymour, Tuell, and Andrews all encouraged me to go to seminary. They also encouraged me in making connections between pop culture and our faith.

After graduating from Randolph-Macon College in 2004, I went straight to seminary, attending Union Theological and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, now called Union Presbyterian Seminary. My time in seminary would send me into another whirlwind of discernment. I spent a lot of time struggling with whether or not I was being called to ordained ministry. There was no doubt in my mind that God had called me to ministry, but did my vocational calling fall under the heading of “clergy?”

My mentor at the time, Mary Sue Swann, and I spent a lot time discussing this. She would recommend that I read the book A Deacon’s Heart. Margart Ann Crain and Jack Seymour’s words were telling me who I was in a way I had never experienced before. These words affirmed my calling to ordained ministry as a servant leader in the life of the church, being a bridge between the Word and the world.

UMC Order of DeaconMore importantly, it introduced to me the Order of Deacon in the United Methodist Church. Mary Sue introduced to me that the image of clergy that I had – the solo pastor who preached every Sunday and “ran” the church – was not the only image the church had of clergy. I learned that I have a deacon’s heart, longing for the healing of creation, plus mutual and connecting ministries that reach the poor and the hungry; the sick and the imprisoned; the lost and the lonely.

My last semester in seminary, however, was a tough semester. All my classes were tough and demanding classes. My work load was the heaviest it had been in all my time in seminary. After graduating in 2007, I took a year to discern if ordained ministry was indeed where God was calling me. I felt in that last semester that I had not heard much from God on this. I audited a class that spring with Dr. Katie Cannon, whose words of wisdom helped me put things in perspective. That fall I enrolled to take three seminary courses that were required by the United Methodist Church, but were not required for my Masters in Christian Education.

The rest, as they say, is history. I was ordained as a Deacon in Full Connection at the Virginia Annual Conference in June 2013.

Ordained!

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