Settling into Harmony & my chaplaincy residency

Today it is raining and coolish and feels like fall.

It also feels like we are here living, working, MINISTERING … We are not so much in transition now, but rather we simply ARE. We are as settled into our home in Harmony, MN as we are likely to be this year. At this point I consider it an accomplishment to not think about the next move (back to Dubuque for our final seminary year at Wartburg), and to instead simply be and live in each moment. It is equally an accomplishment not to be obsessed about my future calling in ministry — to set aside the questions about what type of institution I could best use my particular “chaplain gifts” and to simply exist in this present moment and give that gift to those around me, and to myself.

Shawn has settled into his pastor internship here in the Harmony area, and thankful finds it energizing. Nessa has settled into 3rd grade at her new school and we thankfully hear very few complaints, fear, etc. And I thankfully find a new appreciation for my time at Mayo almost every day.

Mayo Clinic, and its hospitals, is a unique place to minister for many reasons including both the diversity of individuals that come to Mayo and the diverse hospital units one can minister on. The site is also unique in my experience in that there are still protestant chaplain-led worship services each Sunday. All of this and more works together to create a unique culture as well as unique opportunities for ministry. I am thankful to be a part of this … To be here in this place and time.

Although some days I can’t help thinking it would have been nice to be led here when I was younger and could go without sleep easier … I especially think this on my post-call days. Leading worship in two chapels after being on-call all night is certainly a unique challenge. Yet, even on days when I am tired or when chronic pain flares in one way or another (more often than I would like this fall), I realize that it is only now that I am prepared to use the gifts given to me by God to be fully present with others in their pain, grief, doubts AND hopes (there is much hope here) … To listen, to offer the few words that come to me, to give voice to scripture, to pray AND to BE.

Love and belief,


Beloved, let us love one another

As part of my class Text to Sermon, we were all assigned to preach on one of the texts in the Fifth Sunday in Easter (May 7th this year, 2012; lectionary year B). My text was 1 John 4.7-21. We were told to preach “no more than 8 minutes.” My first draft was well over ten minutes, but as you can see I cut drastically (and I think it is a better although very different sermon because of it).

Fifth Sunday in Easter

1 John 4:7-21

Let us pray:

(Psalms 19:14)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

be acceptable to you,

O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.


“Beloved, let us love one another”

God calls us to love and care for others.  Martin Luther tells us that the needs of our neighbor, or those we are in community with, should guide us, and that we should think of what Christ has done as we let our works and whole life serve our neighbor.

Beloved let us love one another.

Let us be present and give presence to Christ’s love to one another.

Jesus teaches us about love — God’s love, forgiving love, agape love, love for those the world doesn’t think deserve to be loved, love for those we may not think deserve to be loved, love for those who do not know Christ and may never accept Christ, love for those who will never love us back, and yes love for those in our communities — our churches, our clubs and groups, our neighborhoods, families and work places — love for those we live closet to and with and those we may never see again. God’s love is love in its purist form.

Beloved let us love one another.

To love is to embody God’s love as shown in Christ on the cross.  God shows God’s love by sending Jesus, God’s one and only son, into the world so we could have life through him. This is love!

Our love is the testimony of our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – as the one from whom we have life. True love follows faith.

We are called to love those that God places in front of us. Yes, God is sending the people God loves to you!

Seeing each other as children of God can changes our lives. God is sending God’s beloved children to us — and we are called to love them and share Christ with them.

How can we proclaim the gospel if we cannot live it out in our lives and within our communities?

Jim Wallis in his book Call to Conversion: Why Faith is Always Personal but Never Private,  shares the story of how he was unsuccessfully evangelized by almost every Christian group on campus. His basic response to their preaching was “How can I believe when I look at the way the church lives?” and they would answer “Don’t look at the church — look at Jesus.” Wallis still sees this as a sad statement in the history of the church. He reminds us that people should be able to begin to know something about what the gospel is about by the way we live. Our lives and the things and people we care about should reflect what and who Jesus cares about.

Beloved, let us love one another.

Love is action — and it is also being. In love, we are called to be something, and often that is the hardest part. And the being comes first — before we can love as Christ we must be in Christ — we must be over flowing with Christ’s love.

We are called in Christ to love on another — and, we cannot give what we do not have. Love is not an merely intellectual exercise. It is a human reality: we can not give what we do not have. If we are to give God’s love, we must be filled with God’s love, — over-flowing with God’s love.

I was recently blessed with a clear image of what this means. During the spiritual practices portion of my Diaconal Ministry Formation event this past January we were called to think of ourselves as reservoirs. Yes, reservoirs.

Reservoirs do not just happen — they are intentional and created for the community. A community does not feel guilty for creating a water reservoir to draw on as needed — and we should not feel guilty for creating our own reservoir. Reservoirs must be filled to over-flowing to give to others. Picture your reservoir — is it full? is it over-flowing? We can not give what we do not have.

Beloved, let us love one another.

We are called to be radically countercultural both in our care for others and in our care for ourselves as we live centered in Christ. We are called to resist being assimilated by the world’s unhealthy ways and habits. We are called to center our lives in Christ.

What does intentionally creating and nurturing a reservoir look like? What does it look and feel like to fill one’s self with Christ’s love? How, in the midst of our broken world can we be reservoirs of love and faith?

The answers are as varied and diverse as those asking. For some it could mean finding a mentor — someone that is Christ-like to others. For many it is participating in honest prayer life, and balancing active and contemplative time. For all it is hearing God’s Word.

Our actions — how we actively live out God’s love is part of our baptismal call, and so too is our very being.

Beloved, let us love one another.


Additional Notes (as required for the written assignment)

Works Consulted

Althaus, Paul. The Theology of Martin Luther, 1963. Translated  by Robert C. Schultz. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966.

Carter, Jimmy. Sources of Strength: Meditations on Scripture for a Living Faith. New York: Times Books, 1997.

Forde, Gerhard O. On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997.

Mannermaa, Tuomo. Two Kinds of Love: Martin Luther’s Religious World, 1983. Translated and Edited by Kirsi Stjerna Irmeli. Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, 2010.

Wallis, Jim. The Call to Conversion: Why Faith Is Always Personal but Never Private. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005.

Background Work:

In addition to the text study we did in our small groups for class, I studied the text by reading and reflecting on the text itself many times, including listening to multiple audio versions and comparing multiple English translations of the text. I then turned turned to the resources connecting to my response to the text. Some of these initial resources were books I was reading for other classes that due to timing became conversation partners for this text. Additionally, I turned to a couple of books from previous group studies that I had done because I immediately thought of something from the book that tied into my response for the text. I spent a great deal of time taking notes from all of these book and brainstorming where to go with the thoughts that came from those notes. I created a couple of outlines that I didn’t use at all because in the end they were too academic for my speaking voice. Additionally I looked through the notes and journalling I had done throughout my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event since many lectures and sermons there were very poignant to me.

Most of the notes from all of the sources did not make it directly into the final sermon. I also did not directly use any portion of the “verse by verse” interpretation of the text that I did. And, although I spent a great deal of time studying Luther’s Interpretation of 1John 4.17a from Appendix Two of  Paul Althaus’ The Theology of Martin Luther, I did not use any of it in the sermon. The first draft of my sermon did include a quote pertaining to loving “the one in front of you” from Jimmy Carter’s book, but it was cut during editing, and I did not use any part of his study of “God is love” based on portions of this text. Additionally the first draft of my sermon had more personal stories inspired from personal groups that I have been involved in; however, I cut them out because originally I ended up too long time-wise and it became clear that the lengthy set up for the stories were not adding any meaning to the text. In the end the sermon was much shorter and more focussed, possibly too much so.

Final note: in order to get this post to publish I needed to remove all formatting

Gluten free and inclusive communion / eucharist / Lord’s Supper

Earlier I hinted at the beginnings of a research project, and this past January I gave thanks for experiencing, for the first time, inclusive communion that included me. During the last few weeks of the semester I became very excited about my Master’s research project — in short, “inclusive communion.” I will be researching and writing about inclusive communion both in regards to the elements being inclusive to all, including those with a variety of allergies or health issues (with my main focus at this point being gluten free bread and alcohol-free wine, but I invite readers to share about other issues as well), as well as being inclusive in terms of those invited to commune at the table.

To those that know me or have read much of what I publish via social media it may seem obvious that this is a very personal issue for me since I have been restricted to a gluten-free diet for about 4 years now. What some may not know is that inclusive in the sense of who comes to the table is also a very personal issue for me. I grew up in a church that practices “close communion.” I no longer share the belief that the practice of “close communion” is what Christ intended communion to be (in spite of taking proof text quotes from scripture). However, I have been uncomfortable talking about it openly outside of my seminary community. After all I many friends and family members that still practice close communion (or other beliefs I disagree with). It’s time that I learn to talk about these differences. It’s time I own my own beliefs. It’s also time that I dig *deeply* into the theology of the sacrament of Holy Communion.

I won’t go into many details here at this point, after all I have years of research and writing ahead of me (graduating Spring 2015). Yet, I will share brief points along the way, and I want to invite readers to comment here —

I am especially looking for stories, including specific places I can contact or visit, that do practice inclusive communion in some form (gluten free or in an open invitation to the table or in another way meaningful to participants). I also invite those of you that have felt excluded (intentionally or not) to share your stories. If needed I will open an additional forum to do so.

Please also share stories of how your or other congregations you are familiar with have begun to address this even if it is baby steps — how is gluten free communion handled? do you use alcohol free wine? is it easy for those with disabilities or other physical impairments to participate in communion? Any other thoughts?

Love and belief~

Today … take my life and let it be …

Today is the last Thursday of the academic year. It was also the end of our academic chapel year, the last Thursday of my first year at seminary, and the day we have our sending service — a service of special importance to those graduating from Wartburg Seminary this Sunday as well as to the rest of the community. A day of gratitude, praise, thanksgiving, and also of grief. Grief in the sense that we will never be with this community again. The graduates move away to their first call parishes or service work, and the 2nd year students move on to internship and other field work experiences, while those of us ending our first year complete our Clinical Pastoral Experiences (CPE) over the summer (generally somewhere away from the Wartburg campus and Dubuque) and return to campus next year as the current Interns return to become Seniors and an entirely new class enters as Juniors/1st year students. The community, as wonderful as it is, is continually changing.

And for some there is added grief and loss in that things did not turn out as they expected or planned in some way. There is always loss. Here and everywhere.

Yet, God is at work.

The Sending Service in chapel today was powerful in many way as the community came together in symbolic and real unity to worship with each other. We sang a hymn I hadn’t thought about much recently until today. It’s one of my favorite hymns, and now that I look forward to serving as a consecrated diaconal minister I love the words to this hymn even more (the tune is great too).

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
*Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

This song in the midst of grief and loss of any type seems to take on even more meaning. I admit that when it comes to the transitional community here I find myself just trying not to think about it and instead looking ahead to the new friends and new experiences (I am so looking forward to this summer!). Yet, there are so many losses that that doesn’t work for.

After finishing my Pauline Letters final I came home debating between a nap and a snack with a glass of wine (I am awake writing so you guess what I opted for). And then again I was jolted to the reality I seem called to — minor in my life this time but so much of a huge gap in others’ hearts — the death of a child, a son, a 15-year-old vibrant boy known for his concern for others. My heart aches knowing the gap in his parents’ hearts.

And I sit with the reality that loss is. It just is. One/We cannot deny it or hide from it. We can try to pretend otherwise and be shocked at it when we encounter it, but that is us — humans in denial — and not reality. There is continual decay and loss in this great creation we live in.

And yet, as a classmate reminded me this afternoon, God is at work. He is at work in my life each time I share in some small way the journey of loss that so many encounter regularly here in our earthly life. God is at work in the joy and in the sorrow.

I have a peace that passes all understanding — that I can not always adequately describe — that I can always share.

Thanks be to God!!!!

Today I take a moment to honor the joy and the sorrow, the transitions, the life given to us by God. Today I pause in a holy moment of reverence and prayer. Today I say to God “take my life and let it be … ever only all for thee.”

DMFE Response 6: future plans

What are your plans — related both to academics and to candidacy — as you progress toward consecration?

I am currently about to start my second semester in the Master of Arts in Diaconal Ministry program at Wartburg Seminary. I plan to extend this two-and-a-half year program out over three years, and additionally include a year-long chaplain residency or other internship experience so that I will graduate in May of 2015 (at the same time as my husband, currently an MDiv student at Wartburg). In addition to meeting the requirements for my degree program, I plan to take classes that support my speciality in grief and loss.

I am planning to do a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education this summer at Gundersen Lutheran in La Crosse, WI, and recognize that that experience will be part of my discernment process in what additional field work I do as I prepare for specialized ministry within the Diaconal Ministry roster. Discernment within and after the CPE experience as well as additional conversations with church leadership will help me decide on a chaplain residency or another type of internship experience in addition to specific Diaconal Ministry field work requirements.

As I continue to prepare for candidacy and beyond I plan to begin creating a ministry portfolio containing items describing and reflecting the my ministry work. I will share items from that portfolio as I talk to those involved in my candidacy process as well as those I may be seeking to work with or for after approval.

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **

DMFE Response 5: Spiritual Disciplines

What are some (at least three) spiritual disciplines, which seem particularly well suited to support you in your ministry and life of faith?

The time we spent focussing on spiritual practices while at the DMFE did not introduce me to any new specific spiritual practices or disciplines; however, it did give me a greater understanding of their importance and history within Christianity. The metaphor of being a reservoir that needs to be full at all times because we cannot give what we do not have helped to underline this importance to me at a time when I had been struggling to maintain my commitment to practicing spiritual disciplines. I also appreciated using another “spiritual type” test to assist in recognizing disciplines that may feel more or less comfortable.

At this point I see a commitment to a few core practices being essential while also leaving time each week to try additional spiritual disciplines. The practice that I start and end my day with is a combination of centering prayer and Ignatius’ Examen prayer as I begin with thanksgiving and intercessory prayer as well as looking back over the last several hours or day and praying through that memory, and then I simply take myself to a sacred space and continue in centered prayer. I also enjoy doing a similar contemplative prayer while moving (generally a “prayer walk”) in the middle of the day. As a result of the appreciation I have gained both for monastic ritual and for setting a rule for one’s life, I will be implementing a personal rule that includes these contemplative prayer times as well as other practices and attitudes that I am still discerning.

In addition to the specific prayer disciplines, I see the disciplines of spiritual journaling and of slowing down and listening to be useful to me in both my ministry and my faith. I have journaled inconsistently in the past, and look forward to creating a disciplined way of incorporating journaling into my faith life. And while the practice of slowing down to notice and listen isn’t entirely new to me, I have not practiced it regularly in the past. In addition to practicing listening as a part of ministry, I plan to implement it simply as a regular practice both in solitary and within my family. I also plan to continue lectio divina or dwelling in the word on a regular, although not daily, basis. I also now realize how important spiritual discipline mentors are, and I will be seeking them out.

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **

DMFE Response: Personal Formation Journey

Formation Journey Continues

I cannot consider a reflective paper on the Diaconal Ministry Formation event compleat without including something on personal formation, and my reflection on this journey, past, present, and future. While the theology and historical background are an essential part of my formation, they are only a part. The DMFE as a whole (worship experiences, small group discussions, spiritual practices, lectures, time in community, and developing relationships) also helped me to uncover the layers of weights that I need to either leave behind or transform along this formation journey.

I am just beginning to be able to articulate that my call to ministry is inseparable from my life experiences. I have resisted connecting my daughter’s death to my call to ministry and yet if I had not called out in agony asking why I was here when she is not, if I had not felt totally abandoned and forsaken, and if I had not felt truly dark and broken and utterly “of this world” I would never found the sacred silence that beckoned me out of the shadows and into the love of Christ as demonstrated in God’s clear love for this world in all its brokenness. I may never have been able to recognize that sometimes we do the things we do not because we really want to, but because, through the strength of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can.

Additionally I realize that to truly live out this call I need to get myself out of the way (as we were reminded during the DMFE, it is not about us). In part this means that rather than holding on tightly to my remaining griefs, I must embrace them and that, as needed, let them go. This has been most challenging as I realize that some of the deepest grief I still hold on to are exactly where loss and theology meet. I am not sure I can even articulate this fully yet, but not only did my “Sunday School” faith not sustain me through my losses, the church body I belonged to at the time was not able to minister to me appropriately though that time. Every response I received was framed in terms of black and white with concern only to the next life with no ministry offered for our life on earth. I do not believe God abandons us in the present with merely a promise of future reconciliation. Rather, what Christ did on the Cross is for all eternity (our time and the next life). I continue to take this to God in prayer daily as to fully partner in reconciling ministry I must let go of my personal “chip on my shoulder” that has seemed to accompany my background of former identity with a earthly church with this understanding and seeming lack of diaconal ministry.

Another very important part of my formation throughout the event is my understanding of the mutual accountability relationship created by being a rostered and called leader within the ELCA. Prior to attending DMFE I knew that the ministry I was called to was diaconal ministry and was thankful to have a degree and approval process to be sure that I was trained well for the ministry I would do. However, I was not entirely sure it was necessary to be a rostered and called leader in order to do that ministry. I even said to others that if I could do the ministry without being rostered, I would be OK with that (thinking I was emphasizing the importance of the ministry over the importance of a church designated position). I no longer feel that way. I value the importance of mutual accountability implied by consecration, and I feel that the Diaconal Ministry roster in the ELCA is a very important roster that is vital for the ELCA to fulfill its mission. I am also grateful for those that forged this path creating a very specific and well-defined roster, including the Six Marks of a Diaconal Minister.

And finally attending the DMFE brings me an appreciation for the candidacy process. It was sobering to be reminded that the minute we were granted entrance we became a part of caring for the baptized of the church. I now have a better understanding of the importance of the approval process, and what it means to be a rostered leader in the ELCA.

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **

Additional links some may be interested in (I try not to assume readers know my background and yet cannot address this myself in my posts):

ELCA Candidacy Process

History of Diaconal Ministry Community (and from here a link to Together for Ministry (PDF file)

Rostered Leadership (ELCA)

DMFE Paper Response 4: Diaconal Ministry and Theology of the Cross, Vocation, and the Two Realms

How does diaconal ministry relate to two of the following important confessional concepts: the theology of the cross; vocation; or the two realms?

The theology of the cross is the foundation of justification by grace through faith, and if we want to understand God we have to start where God is most fully revealed–the cross. Since diaconal ministry is a ministry that embodies the cross of Christ it is crucial that we are able to relate it to and articulate the theology of the cross, including contrasting it to what we refer to as the theology of glory. Ephesians chapter two reminds us that we do not DO anything to make this relationship come into being: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2.8-10 NRSV). Faiths origins are worked into us. God decided this on the cross and what has been termed ‘decision theology’ is not a theology of the cross, but rather part of what we call a theology of glory.

We embrace the cross and its paradox of being the center of God’s power, wisdom and glory, and yet at the same time being the height of human weakness, foolishness and shame. It is on the cross that God embraces powerlessness and those on the absolute margins of society. Our call as diaconal ministers is totally entwined with the theology of the cross in part because we are called to minister to the marginalized.

The cross is the epitome of of the enactment of divine live as God seeks to deconstruct human wisdom and all ideas of what God is and isn’t about are tipped upside down via the cross. Theology of the cross informs our ministry in three particular ways: first it gives us the proper evaluative point of view and work out pattern for ministry, second we minister as servants of Christ and to God’s agenda for others and not others’ agenda for others (we are called to do more than just help people), and third we are called to a ministry of love as we cannot embody the cross without love. To love is to make the cross real to another and embody God’s love as shown in Christ on the cross (Romans 5.6-8; Galatians 2.20; 1 Corinthians 12.31-13.13) . We are reminded that God so loved the world and God is sending the people God loves to us!

As explained when discussing the Biblical background for diaconal ministry Jesus came to serve (diakonia), and as a ministry that embodies the cross of Christ we also come to serve. Our call is to serve from Word and Sacrament (as well as to Word and Service). Every time we celebrate the eucharist we are celebrating diakonia, and as we carry out our call to diaconal service we are enacting eucharist. Our call to enact Jesus’ service is embodied in the Eucharist and now embodied in our service.

When thinking specifically about vocation I turn to the story of separating the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25.31-46) and am reminded that we find Christ in the hungry person (not in the sheep), and that the “sheep” do not feed the hungry and perform other service ministries in order to find Christ, but rather they just do it. The sheep in the story as equally as surprised as the goats are. The people we serve in our ministries cannot become simply vehicles for doing our “religious thing” but must be an end in itself. In order to keep this perspective I return again to finding Christ in surprising places on the margins of our world, and look through the lens of Christ’s love for each person as demonstrated in Christ’s death on the cross. When I look at an individual as someone Christ died for I am able to let the Spirit guide me in that love and in my ministry.

Concerning the two realms or kingdoms I relate diaconal ministry to this concept because it teaches us that God’s work is not confined to church. God is at work in the world. The two realms are not defined as church and world, but rather two modes of governance: gospel or unconditional love and promise) and compulsion or force (conditional). While force and compulsion have no place in the Gospel, God is also at work in places where governance needs to be exercised in other ways.

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **

Additional links some may be interested in (I try not to assume readers know my background and yet cannot address this myself in my posts):

Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms (Realms)

What do Lutherans Believe?

DMFE Paper Response 3: Diaconal Ministry in Relation to Theology of the Trinity and the Incarnation

How does diaconal ministry relate to such important theological concepts as the Trinity and the Incarnation?

The Trinity as we express confessionally as God the Father, the Son incarnate in Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are the very foundation of any ministry, and I think especially of diaconal ministry. We are called to the boundaries of church and the world, and to minister with our perspective always on that boundary and those living on the edges or marginalized in our world. This call means that we minister neither fully within the church nor fully outside of the church. These are the same places we continually find God.

We don’t create the communities within we minister, rather God creates the community, and our call is to nurture and give expression to that community, and to extend community into the world. Yet, the world’s needs, those needs we find throughout our community of context, are not our prime motivation for ministry. Rather diaconal ministry addresses the hurts and needs of a broken world through the divine love manifested on the cross. As Diaconal Ministers we must discern, integrate and articulate how, within a particular context, our call embodies the cross of Christ. Diaconal ministry as an embodied reality of the cross of Christ must also remember that the Cross of Christ is about Christ’s whole life brought to the cross, and not only what happened on the cross. The particular life that Jesus lived is important and it can be dangerous to assume that others are remembering this life of Jesus that brought him to the cross. We need to tell the stories of Jesus, and not only the abstract theology. These stories of Jesus include Jesus going out into the community, and can be of particular use within our diaconal ministry contexts.

I also think it is very important to remember that Diaconal Ministry is a call to ministry of word and service (not just to service). A ministry of the word includes a ministry of Jesus Christ incarnate; John 1. 14 says “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (NRSV) As ministers we must be prepared to share the Word of God as we find it expressed in and by Jesus Christ incarnate, the Word of God as proclamation of God’s message to us (the living word), and the written Word of God as found in holy scripture.

Looking at the Pauline Epistles the foundation for Diaconal Ministry are found not in Paul’s linguistics, but in Paul’s Pneumatology. The Holy Spirit is at work in all Christians, and is at work in each person, including diaconal ministers, the same way the Holy Spirit worked through the Apostle Paul (and other scripture writers). This also means that there is no hierarchy in who is doing the work of the Spirit. Having no hierarchy between rosters holds us accountable for our ministry.

The pattern for ministry is found in Paul’s Christology. Looking at what Jesus had done forms and shapes our ministry. As we intentionally engage in cruciform leadership we remember that above all Christ acted in faithful obedience to accomplish righteousness (right relationships), redemption (liberation), and reconciliation (end of enmity). We are ministers of God’s reconciliation. This cruciform leadership must always be formed by the cross and in the form of the cross.

The Holy Spirit gives us gifts, grace gifts, for ministry in order to empower us to bring the reality of the Body of Christ into the world. Romans 12.6 tells us “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith.” While the Holy Spirit, in helping us discern our gifts, can harness our human talents as gifts these are not synonymous. Rather our gifts for ministry are given to us (we do not create them) to build the body of Christ and take Christ out into the dark and messy world. As diaconal ministers we embrace that role and acknowledge that our call to word and service is going to be more intentionally messy.

I am reminded that these gifts of grace are not given for our sake, but to help the body of Christ function. Also that justification by grace includes the gifts of the spirit for ministry, and that faith is that which the Holy Spirit produces through Christ crucified. It is through the cross of Christ that we are transferred from sin’s dominion to Christ’s dominion, and that my cruciform leadership began at my baptism. Through this message of Christ crucified the Spirit forms faith in us. I am reconciled to God and others in order to be given a ministry of reconciliation. I am no longer in charge of my life; Christ is in charge.

In addition to being gifted by the spirit we are fruited by the spirit:

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5.22-26 (NRSV)

While the gifts of the spirit are intended for this age only in order to build up the body of Christ and its mission, the fruit of the spirit is eternal and meant for both this age and the next. Every Christian receives this fruit of the spirit as it is holistic and inclusively worked by the spirit in each Christian.

Remembering that I am ministering as part of the larger body of Christ and being led by the Spirit makes me bold as I minister on the edges of community and church and address the needs of the broken and hurting world. It especially makes me bold when I think of my ministry to those carrying grief and broken with the weight of loss in this world. There is not a cure in this world, and yet there is healing.

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **

DMFE Paper Response 2: Diaconal Ministry throughout history

How has the church ordered its diaconal ministry in different ways at different times and places?

As the church began to form in new testament times the work of diaconal ministry was done by many within the church, and there was not a specific set of ministers set aside to do this work within church hierarchy (there was very little hierarchy). There were however specific communities that did set aside specific individuals to do specific ministries that were diaconal in nature. This community-based example did give some history to the orders of deacons that developed in the early church. There seemed to be no distinction regarding men and women serving as deacons in the church during the time of the apostles.

The three-fold ministry of bishop, presbyter, and deacon developed as early as the 100s, and although the office continued to evolve there is evidence that deacons duties included: liturgical responsibilities, assistance to the Bishop, service to the poor, and administrative oversight. In regards to this three-fold ministry Ignatius wrote that the Bishops are like the God the Father, the Deacons function as Jesus himself, and the priests function like the apostles. The order of the deaconess also began to emerge in the early church as separate from that of the deacon because the role of women within the culture of the early Christian church dictated a different role for women. Deaconesses evolved from the orders of widows and virgins and were responsible for ministry to women.

At the time of the early church the Deacons had many important roles that varied over time and within communities. Deacons were the eucharistic ministers, including taking communion to shut-ins, and some preached and administered communion within worship services in church as well. Additionally most direct pastoral care was left to the Deacons, and they had so many responsibilities that they required sub-deacons. Their service to the poor included ministering to those that were about to be martyred.

Between 312 and 325 C.E. the role of deacons changes as Christianity moves from being a religion that is persecuted to one that is of political value. The diaconate becomes primarily traditional as a stepping stone to becoming a priest, and the order of deaconess disappears. However, the work of diaconal ministry is still being done, but it is done by those in monastic orders.

At the time of the reformation additional changes regarding the diaconate occur as many monasteries empty, and others must do this important work. Luther’s theology of the “priesthood of all believers” removes a strict hierarchical pattern and no higher or lower order of Christians exists. The implications of removing the hierarchy include developing a new understanding of religious vocation, emptying the monasteries and nunneries, and disrupting the organized form of charity. Luther did express a preference for deacons who provided service to the poor. For women at the time of the Reformation the only way to serve in a public role was to become a “Pastor’s wife” because there were no other option for public ministry. And while Luther raised up the role of family, this still left a gap of no place to serve for many women. The role of who did diaconal ministry varied throughout the various traditions that came out of the reformation, including many protestant roles for deacons. At this time in history the Roman Catholic tradition continued to view deacons as a stepping stone to the office of the priest. Because there was much service needed at this time organizations outside of the church also formed and started doing such ministry to the poor and marginalized.

The rebirth of the modern diaconate occurred in the 19th century in response to the growing needs of the changing European society. A modern deaconess movement evolved with an emphasis on teaching and nursing as those were great needs at the time, and the deaconesses underwent rigorous training, including an emphasis on spiritual formation, in order to do the work. Deacons as service ministers also came from answering the great need at the time including the “Bruderhause” movement started by Johannes Wichern (1833) as the brothers in the house that sheltered, educated and cared for boys in need, were eventually called Deacons.

Meanwhile in the United States there were different needs due to the unsettled circumstance in the 18th century, and two main types of deacons emerged. There were deacons that had primarily administrative duties and there were deacons that were part of a graded ministry and were ordained as clerical deacons. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the modern diaconate slowly emerged in America as well as each ethnic group formed their own diaconal ministries beginning, in most cases, with mother houses and deaconess communities.

There are many legacies of these early communities in America including the creation of institutions of service, such as hospital, and of service agencies. Specifically the ELCA Deaconess community is a direct descendant of the historical diaconate in America, and the ELCA Diaconal Ministry roster is an indirect result of this history. Historically the modern rosters are united with their predecessors by their ministries of Word and Service.

Note — a few quick links on the History of the Diaconate:

The Deaconness: A History

From Word and Sacrament

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **