Episode 113: The Rise of Deacons with Nina Joygaard

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In Methodist, Episcopal and Lutheran traditions the deacon is a specific ministry in the church. Their ministry is different than pastors, focused more on acts of service whereas pastors are focused more on preaching and the sacraments. The word deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos which means “service.” This understanding of the role of a deacon which adheres more to the original understanding found in the book of Acts and in the early church is not always easily understood by people in the pew who might wonder when deacons are going to be pastors. I talk to Deacon Nina Joygaard about the importance of deacons in the local church, what led her to her call as a deacon, the struggles deacons face and the future of the diaconate in the church. Nina the Deacon for Adult Ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake, MN. 

Show Notes:

DOTAC -(Diakonia of the Americas & Caribbean)  https://dotac.diakonia-world.org/

Deaconess Community of the ELCA - https://deaconesscommunity.org/

Lutheran Diaconal Association - https://thelda.org/

Diakonia World Federation - https://diakonia-world.org/

churchandmain.org 

Oh, the Rise of Deacons. This is episode one thirteen of Church and Mainey. Well, hello, and welcome to Church and Maine. This is the podcast that is at the intersection of faith and modern life. And I hope that you're enjoying these early wonderful days of autumn here in Minnesota. It seems like it went literally from nine one day to about sixty the next, but that is life in Minnesota, and I hope that you are being a great time of autumn as well. So Church and Maine is a podcast where we talk about religion and um public affairs, and I am Dennis Sanders, your host. So in the Baptist churches of my youth, UM and even now today and many of the congregations of my own denomination and Disciples of Christ, when you think about a deacon, they tend to be the people who are the ones that collect the offering and help with communion and maybe in some cases they'll help with some form of church government. I can remember my my dad was actually ordained a deacon into his Baptist congregation back in Michigan, and he was there he was helping with comedian offering and he did provide some governance in that local congregation. When I got older, especially as I went to seminary and got ordained um, I started to see that other traditions had a very different understanding of the role of deacon than what I grew up with. And not that the role that my dad did or or others weren't we're somehow bad or anything, but this but I was seeing in these traditions was different. In Methodist and episcople and Lutheran traditions, I started to see that the office the deacon was it was an office, was kind of a role in the church, just like a pastor, except that their ministry was a little bit different from pastors. It was focused more on acts of service, whereas pastors were focused on preaching and the sacraments. In fact, the word deacon comes from the Greek word the akanos, which means service or to serve. Now, this understanding of the role of a deacon, which in some ways actually adheres more to the original understanding that you would find in the Book of Acts and in the early Church, it's not always so easily understood by people, especially people in the pew, who, frankly, they see a deacon who does some similar things like pastors and wonder, well, when are you actually going to be a pastor? So today I am talking to Nina joy Guard. She is a deacon UM in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that is one of the traditions that does have UM deacons, and she's currently the deacon for adult ministry at Faith Lutheran Church and Forest Like Minnesota. Now I happen to know Nina actually because we work together. We are on staff at Faith together. I'm the communications manager there, and I've been fascinated for a long time about the how Lutherans and other traditions view a deacon and I really have been trying to and wanting to talk to her about this for a while and so um thankfully she agreed and we had a great discussion a few days ago, and in this interview we talk about the importance of deacons in the...

...local church, what led Nina to her call as a deacon, the struggles that deacons face, and the future for the dak in the church. I think that you will enjoy this discussion and hopefully it will expand your understanding of the different parts on and aspects of the local congregation. So let's listen to this discussion with Nina joy Guard. So thank you Nina for taking the time to the chat today. Of course, it's a pleasure to be here. I think probably the thing we want to do is kind of define the term of deacon. Um. I think first maybe just to ask how, um, what is the role of beacon kind of historically in the kind of the wider church. But then what does it mean within um um the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Yeah, well, UM, I always joke that deacons are are set aside in the Bible, but pastors aren't. Uh. In Acts six deacons are called to wait on tables, for the for the widows, for a foreign speaking foreign news. Um. So the call to deacon in the in the Lutheran Church, we talk about word and service ministry, um, really is to like the outsider, those on the edge, the periphery, whatever that looks like. Um. Yeah, So I mean it goes back to Biblical times, right, um. And it has looked so many different ways, um A lot. You know, early on there is folks set aside to kind of do that caretaking. Um. And it has been an official office of the church. You know, since the church existed, basically every iteration of the church interprets it a little differently. UM. So it's really it's really an interesting kind of topic. I think everyone who's connected to the church or even you know in a culture that has a lot of Christianity, like has a very good sense of what a pastor is, um, that's pretty accurate. But what a deacon is who I mean, it's it's the guy's the limit kind of you know, um. And so there really is there really is so many interpretations and understandings of it. The church I grew up been we had deacons and deacons who were lay volunteers who delivered communion to the homebound. So still that same um, it's that same vein, right, it is that those on the periphery, those who have a special need, um. But it didn't require like going to seminary or going through a candidacy process, um through a local synod, which is you know the kind of deacon that I am. So there there's just such a different um. There's so many different understandings of it. It's very interesting, I think, And I think what ties it out together is that service that UM really like a lot of times it's sort of humble service on the outskirts of things. So, UM, yeah, I don't know if the answers all your questions. You have a compound question. Well, the second half...

...of that is kind of what um, kind of the what is being a beacon in the Lutheran tradition about? And how did that come about? Yeah, so you know, I I don't know the history super well, I'm just gonna say that I'm not like a history buff. But in the in the United States, UM, communities of deaconesses from Germany and Norway kind of came here and transferred the work that they were doing in their country of origin to this place. And at the time of that great immigration from northern Europe, UM, women couldn't be pastors. Um. If you were Protestant and you felt a call to religious life religious leadership, being a deaconess was what you could do as a woman. UM. But it's very interesting that a lot of that work. UM, A lot of the history of the deaconess community in the United States is that it's hospitals, it's social service outreach. UM, it's working with marginalized communities, people in poverty. That sort of thing. UM. And over the years, I mean I would say, in the last thirty years, what the diacon it has looked like in the Evangelical Lutheran Church has changed like three times. So there's there's a constant UM. And I just actually I just read that there's like a task force to look at candidacy in general and reevaluate what that process looks like for people. So UM, there's a there's a constant reinvention and reflection on what what it is and what it should look like. But UM, for us here in the United States, the most the most recent iteration is UM. Taking all of these word in service little buckets, you know, UM, fifteen years ago, we had the deaconess community, we had associates and ministry, we had diaconal ministers, UM, all with the same call toward and service that all had to do a different checklist to get UM, to get through the candidacy doors. UM, and just unifying all of those onto one roster of the church with the title of deacon because because the call is the same, ye. So and with that, you know, now, knowing that kind of history within the O c A, I'm kind of curious what what led you to become a deacon. UM. Obviously, probably the answer you've been asked a lot of times is why not a pastor? So I'm kind of just curious, what what made you think deacon? UM? So when I, UM, my first like a real job, My first real job was doing youth ministry. I had no training to public school, studied science, had never taken a religion or theology class at all. I didn't even ever attend a church that had a paid staff person to youth ministry. UM. But I had that job, and I sort of thought, you know, I really like this, I'm really good at it. I should probably learn what the heck I'm doing. And and I knew at that time that UM, there was like other things you could be in the church besides a pastor UM. And I just thought, well, okay, I'll start the candidacy process, not really fully understanding what it was UM and UM for me, the the I wouldn't I don't know, I just hushold I say this.

One of the sort of cruxes of discernment around it was that I, UM, I did CPE, which I did not have to do, but I wanted to do for the learning. And I worked in Um, a children's home with middle school kids who were doing residential behavioral treatment. That was where my chaplaincy was. And it was hard. It was really hard. I mean, um, there wasn't. I came in one day there had been an exorcism before I got there. One of the kids had requested an exorcism from the staff chaplain. Um. I yeah, I was trapped in a room with a kid who was spitting and throwing desks at one point. You know. It was just a very tough emotional place and it was so good to be there. Um. I really felt called to that edge, to the edge place. Um. It wasn't standing behind the altar that I felt was like the really important thing to do. The really important thing to do was to listen to these kids tell their story about just the incredible pain that they had looked through. Um, and to see them and be with them as they tried to process and make sense of that. So UM, for me, that really was a really big discerning moment of like, this is hard, this is really hard, and this is a really important place to be as a as a church person. Um. Yeah. I always felt that being a pastor would hold me back from the ministry that I am, it is called to do because there is such a tight box around pastors. You you have to lead worship, you gotta preach, you've got to lead Bible study, you gotta visit the elderly, and all of those things are good. Those are all good things. Um. But I felt for me that that would hold me back from like what God really wants me to be. So it was hard. We we live in a world that that loves pastors and and uh and I you know, I love pastors are great, It's fine, but um, it was hard. It was difficult to get through seminary and sort of stick to my guns because I had classmates and professors and you know, all kinds of people say, oh, but you're a good preacher, why would you be a deacon? You know. So it's like, well, word and were you're not listening to the word and service. The whole thing about being a pastor in the in the Lutheran Church, at least our understanding is about sacraments, it doesn't you know, Uh, it's it's not a special gift of the of the pastor folks only so, um, which I hope that that's I hope that pressure is changing. Um, because for being being able to serve as a deacon is a great joy. So well, that kind of leads to the question, I mean, what have been the challenges of you know, following that path of into the dack and it because it's you know, I would think that one of the things that would be thought of is that it's considered a lesser path as opposed to being a pastor and of other things, and not seeing it really as a unique, um and important ministry of its own, right. Yeah.

I mean a month ago someone asked me if I was going to go into the ministry, meaning are you going to become a pastor? And I had to explain, oh, I'm I'm a deacon. And they said, well, aren't you going to go to seminary? And I said, I already went. I already went to seminary. So, um, you know you kind of I think I'm Some people say stubborn, I say determined. I mean I think that's a great quality to have in this field because because people often don't get it, and so to just be able to say Nope, this is me, this is this is what God has called me to. Um, there there is there is a lot of that, like that you're not there yet, You're you're still trying to figure it out if you're a deacon, and UM, it doesn't help that there are many denominations where that is actually kind of how their process works, that if you want to be um ordained pastor, you have to become a deacon as like an intermediary step UM, which you know, on one hand, Scripture doesn't lay out how to have church offices and how you know, how they should relate to one another, UM. But on the other I feel strongly that that having deacons who have been called to that work specifically is really good for the church in the world. So um yeah. And the other thing I would say, you know, when I first so I was UM, oh gosh what two thousand and twelve, I think I was consecrated as a diaconal minister UM. And diaconal ministers did not have titles. So if you were a deaconess at that time, you could be referred to a sister. I could have been Sister Nina UM. And pastors obviously have a title, and I did not have a title UM. And so in some of the places that I served, a title would have been very helpful. I think, um, it's just a language that that clicks for us. Even though when you say sister Nina, you're probably gonna picture like a Catholic woman in a habit, you at least have a picture, uh. And if you said diaconal minister Nina, you're gonna just probably furrow your about brow and say, h m hmm, I'm not sure about that. And you know, I used to joke with people like, if you don't know what a diaconal minister is, that's all right as long as you're not Greek speaking, because I mean to expect someone to know it a Greek word is and that we don't use in our language except for this one place is, you know, is not fair. So once the e l c A unified the rosters and had the title of deacon for everyone, that has um for me, at least in my experience, that has really changed how people understand and even if they don't have a perfect idea of what it is, they they at least know that there's there's a title to go with it, and they have they have some sense of it, even if it's not totally accurate. They have that sense of service hopefully from there understanding or seeing it in scripture. Um. Yeah, And I mean in my current UM congregation. When I first started, people didn't really weren't really sure. And one of the things that we were very intentional about is that my colleague, Um John, people call pastor John. So...

I'd say, well, what, you know, what do you call him? Because if you call him, you know, johnny boy, well you probably don't need to be really you know, really formal with me. But if you call him pastor John, then you should refer to me is And so that has really um, that is really clicked on. And people almost always called me decanina um, so, which I think it is really helpful. I'm not a super formal person, but um, it means something. It does mean something that clicks in people's minds a little bit, that that I have an official role that I have been trained and called to do in their midst. So one of the when you've talked about this, and I know that, UM, I've always noticed this when it comes to deacons as opposed to ministers, is that what we would call ordination you're calling consecration. How would you explain the difference. Yeah, you know, and so now and the l c A Deacons are ordained. UM. My bishop when when that first first happened and they made the switch, she she called all the deacons together and said, you're as good as ordained in the system now. But when I went through the process, they had different language and different rights for each of the four sort of tracks. UM. And and I think that was confusing. I think that was confusing to people. And I don't know, you know, that was set out in three um, and I'm not I am not familiar with what the thought process or reasoning was behind that. UM. If I was going through seminary today, I would be ordained rather than consecrated. Um. But when I was, uh, you know, got my magic sprinkled over me, it was it was a consecration. So what has been um, your experience in churches when people kind of um encounter you. We've kind of talked about this a little bit, but UM have they have? There been a lot of cases where people just don't know what to how to how to deal with you. Yeah, I mean, UM, the most helpful thing is when people actually just talk to me or ask questions about it. UM. So you know, there we kind of mentioned before, Like there there are people who there's some confusion. I've people have thought I'm an intern before. It was like you're a pretty good preacher for an intern, thinks, um, you know, or they think that I'm like on on a step and then when you think about the hierarchical thing to to maybe hopefully I'll be a pastor one day, which is not what I hope. UM. So you know, sometimes there is that sort of preconceived um idea or just a misunderstanding about what the deacon is. UM. But I think what works best is just you know, to name it and claim it and talk about it. Um. And so you know, um, we Pastor John and I now we've done some fun like dialogue sermons for Mandy Thursday talking about foot foot washing and how that's you know, a symbol of the diacon it and what it means. Um. You know what you...

...know, all of our call is wrapped up in that one holy day, right, So having that conversation about sacrament and the service component of that holy gathering of disciples um, and that like one isn't more important than the other uh, and both of them are really valuable and holy. Um. So that kind of thing is just I think it's really helpful for people just to hear it again and again and again and anytime, UM, I get a chance to preach, just because that's a one of the most public things um, you can do in congregational life where there's a deacon involved. Um you name it, right, like the Bible doesn't always say and then Deacon Philip did this, but to name oh yeah, remember this is Philip who is a deacon. Um, is really helpful for people to hear that or be reminded of the history or the story that's that's in our um sacret text. So, so expand on what you just kind of mentioned Monday Thursday. And I think that this is crucial um to the role of deacon. Could you kind of expand on on why that day is so important um for the deacon. Yeah, I mean the symbolism on the diac and it is the basin and towel. Rights who think of mony Thursday Jesus humble getting on his knees and washing the nasty feet of his disciples, um and wiping them off with the towel he wrapped around his own body. Right, So, UM, this is this is not glorious UM, prideful work. And UM. You know one of the things that that the the symbol of the of the deacon it worship is the is the deacon stole which goes cross cross ways. Not every tradition has this UM this this is a newer UM, newer symbol in the E. L c. A. But it's a much more well known symbol across denomination. Um. You know that the way that that hangs is supposed to mimic the way a towel would hang a person who was washing feet, right, Um, whereas the stole of a pastor is to mimic the yoke that um uh a beast of burden would wear. So um. So yeah, that that night is really it is really beautiful. And I would say, for me, I connect very much with those texts both Monday Thursday in the text of UM, the woman washing Jesus feet being just incredibly beautiful Um. Acts of of service and love that that are so um, so humble and so shocking that we must stop and take note. Mm hmm. Yeah. I think one of the things I find interesting about UM. You were talking earlier about Philip um as a deacon. Of course, the other well known deacon and acts as Stephen m and his witness which basically got him killed. Um, which seems to be mindful of It's at least from what I've noticed observed from deacons um, both in Lutheran and other traditions, is in some ways they do very much resemble what Christ did on Monday Thursday, or the washing of the feet with the woman's hair, in that it kind...

...of shocks people both with and without the church. And I think that that's an interesting it's an important witness in a way that I think a pastor can't do. Yeah. Yeah, And I mean to be there, there are a lot of pastors who do diaconal work. I mean you think about the work of advocacy working for justice, I mean, um, there are you know, I think it comes to mind that poor Peagable's campaign is hit up by two pastors, I'm pretty sure. But that work is so diaconal to me, you know, I look at it and say, oh, this is this is such diaconal work. It's you know, Um, it doesn't mean it pastor can't do it right, um, But but for me that that's it's and part of I would say, part of my calls like that's where my heart is, right, Like, um, I joked with people in seminary when when we have new new students coming in that I helped helped sort of welcome, like, oh, I don't think sacraments are important, which it's that is not true. But for me, my heart is not at the basin and at the table. I think those things are important. My heart is out in the world with people who are hurting and um. And there's probably a lot of pastors who would agree with that statement, honestly, but for me, I felt like, no, this is this is where I'm called to be. Is this is this weird diac and all stuff. I was just rambling, so I don't remember your questions anymore. Actually it wasn't a question. It was more of just an observation of what I see kind of in the role of beacon than that. Um. Like I said it, I think it is. It is out in the world. It is in some ways also very as you said, advocacy is one way of doing it. But I think whatever it does, it's it's always kind of pushing the church into the world. And it's not that pastors don't do that, but you know, I think the role has as as it has grown, it has established itself over centuries, is really to pull the church into remind the church where it's mission field is. Right. Our mission field is not to keep the members who are already coming to the church. Yes, exactly, that's not it. The Yeah, I like the way you said that the diaconal ministry when you know, when I was going through my formation had a cross that had the Infinity symbol as the crossbars, and so I have my old investments are towels with that symbol on them, and that simple represents that that deacons take the needs of the world and bring them to the church and bring the needs of the church into out into the world, so that it's the instant going in and out of the church, crossing boundaries, crossing bridges, building bridges, that sort of thing. I mean, I think that that image is really helpful in terms of UM, it's not a stagnant thing UM, and that you know, as the church, we don't have all the answers UM, and we're not a place that you know, we have we have problems that we need, we need the world's help onto. So UM, that symbolism can be really helpful if you know what it what it's about. Mm hm. So I'm curious, well, does your denomination have a diacon it an official diet in it or a lay diacon.

We have a congregational diaconet and that so there are in most disciple congregations deacons and elders um. And of course the I mean elders, that's very much a holdover from our Presbyterian roots UM. But the deacons um it depends, I think on the congregation. But they served certain terms. But I think the problem, the thing that I've always I've always been more fascinated by the actual kind of for lack of a better term, office of a deacon, is that we don't do a good job in helping people understand what the biblical role of a deacon was. So in UM a lot of churches they end up being um ushers um at will to the offering and do things so that time. And that's nothing wrong with that, UM, but it it kind of veers a way of think of what was the original meaning of a deacon um. And you know, knowing that I know what the word deacon means, it's kind of like, yeah, that's not really what we're doing right now. I would love to see more of a I'm kind of established um, either a lay or um whether it's lay or not, that was more established in that way um of service you think about, I mean, I think about being an usher is like the most one of the most core ways to serve the church itself. Yeah, exactly right. It's just like good order and worship UM. And there's nothing wrong with that. But I don't yeah, I don't see that connecting to that that living on the margins and and um connecting with those who are kind of on the edge and on one ft out. Yeah. So I mean I've always kind of appreciated the traditions that do actually have a specific um office of a deacon because I think, I think the church and we still need that office, we still need to have that role that reminds us of, you know, where our mission is, um. Yeah, And I think and I think it's well, I know you've you've talked and thought and reflected a lot about like where's the church going? And the more that we serve ourselves, the more down we're going, right, And so I have great hope for the future of the church. UM. When when we have deacons rising up because I wouldn't say that I don't care about the institution of the church. That's not exactly true. But I really care about the neighbor. And I think that's where Um. I mean, telling the good news to someone who really needs, who really needs good news matters, and being good news to someone who who needs it matters. That's what I think transforms. That's where transformation happens. Yeah, I think the role of pastors, I think as important as it is. The temptation is sometimes that we can get very insular because we're kind of called to an institution, and you know, there's I don't say that as being against intituos, but um, it's just that that tool is very internal,...

...and there needs to be kind of a counter force that is external that can push out and remind the people. Because I think, especially in my tradition, but I see it in others, it can be so easy for the pastors just kind of just work with who's there inside and not really venture out. I think every I think that's an ever. I think that's in every denomination right. Um. In fact, I served a congregation as I was getting to know them and learn their history and that sort of thing. Um, they basically had a big split and they they chased when their pastors out because they had spent too much time in the community, right, like they weren't serving us the church, and that would cause caused a huge conflict it um. Which the people who are telling this story didn't see it that way, but for me, it was like, oh, my goodness, that's kind of horrifying, um, because how awesome is that that your pastor spending all this time out in the neighborhood and you know, with community leaders and organizations and all that kind of stuff. Um, And that that was a problem. And you know, I think for most churches that pastors have to kind of write the edge of that. We do be involved in the community, but not too involved because we're paying your salary. I mean, I don't I don't mean to be cynical about it, but I think there is that sort of reality. No, I think it is the reality. It's it's very much the reality is something that I feel and I know probably a lot of other pastors feeling. Sometimes they can't deal with that, and I think that's why some people end up leaving the ministry. It's just they want to be able to reach outside of the congregation and hopefully have the congregation come with them, but too often they don't want to, right. Yeah. And I mean imagine imagine a world where every congregation had a deacon. I mean what I think it would change a lot, the church would change. What would that what would that Holy Spirit do with us? Um? Yeah? So that kind of brings up one thing because I have one thing, I because I'm and for those who don't know, we are coworkers work at the same congregation at least I do during the week. Um. Is. But I'm starting to see more UM Lutheran congregations with deacons on staff that it seems to becoming more common. Um. Is that just something I know? Is I mean, is that is that actually a trend or is it just some just kind of seeing it? But um, that seems to be growing that people are more accepting or are willing to kind of take on the deacon. Yeah, you know, I don't I don't know if like I don't have like statistics about UM people who are on the word in service roster UM anecdotally, what I can say is that I think as time goes the more the more deacons there are, the more deacons want to be more people want to be deacons, you know. I mean, um, when I was going through Canadas, see, I had never met a diaconal minister until...

I was like three years into seminary two years into seminary, and I so, how do you imagine being something you've never seen? And the poor diaconal minister I met at a conference, the first one I met, I just sort of like lost my mind and went out tot of like, oh my goodness, you're you know, you're like this unicorn I've been dreaming of. UM. And she did really cool ministry with like disaster preparedness for congregational for congregations to be like um, beacons of supplies and all this kind of stuff. When that kind of thing happened, I mean, just really cool on the edge ministry. UM. So yeah. And I think the other thing is that the unification of the of the rosters into one role of deacon in the e l c A has UM put all this um. You know, now we have the same language. We have instead of referring to three different things, we just say deacons. You hear that a lot more, There's that many more people in the roster um. When I went through my formation, I mean, people actually would say like I was the hundred and first diaconal minister, like they knew their number because there are so few of them. Um. And when I went through there like please don't refer to your number. We want to stop that sort of trend of um of identifying yourself that way. So so there's a lot more deacons than there were deaconesses or diaconal ministers or whatever when those were all separate entities. And also it just um, it connects with I think because of that sort of um publicity lack of a better word, pastors know what deacons are now. At least I have had. I'm just trying to count to four calls to be a deacon since I graduated seminary. Only two of those were through the official church process where they were um and one of them was maybe not even that because it was like the Senate Office asking me to look at something, but um, where they were intentionally looking for a word in service person they wanted a deacon to fill that role that the carregation was looking for. The other calls that I found have been jobs, they've been they've been looking for a lay person. Um, and I've applied for and said I'm a deacon. If you want me, you have to go through the call process and work with the syate so um, which is a challenge. And you know, every denomination this is like a a field of landlines navigating this process. But you know in the e l c. A for a for a pastor to do that is is very frowned upon. But for for a deacon too sort of advocate for themselves, I think is is pretty normal. You kind of have you have if you're going to be a deacon, you have to sort of know how to walk that line because the world is still trying to figure out what to do with us. So there isn't necessarily at this point of a formal call process for deacons. There is, there is, and it mirrors it...

...mirrors the pastor call process. Um. Every every congregation must follow their constitution about how to call a rostered leader. Um. So. But the I two of my jobs I have specifically applied for with like a resume which the church does not use h and said I'm a deacon. If you're committee decides you want to hire me, it won't be a hiring process. It will be a call process. You need to refer to your constitution about what that looks like. How did they respond? If you need help, talk to your Senate office? Well, um, you know two of the congregations Faith where I served now is one of them said okay, cool, like we'll figure it. We'll figure this out. And I'm trying. I honestly, I don't think I've interviewed for a job with that sort of um speech that that I, uh, since I've become actually become a deacon, that that I didn't go on to be called into that place. So so usually there's a confusion, a little bit of confusion. But but people figure it out because I mean, as I'm not one who thinks reading church constitutions is fun, but it is helpful when you need you need a process, you need to know. Okay, how how does this work? I mean, the Constitution just lays it out, and if that formal language is too much for you, your Senate off as can usually help guide it hopefully. So. Um, a few more questions before we wrap things up here is what has UM support been like for you? I know, are there groups of where of other deacons where you can kind of talk and UM does the cit it offer things to that extent. How has that helped you in your ministry? Yeah, I think it's very like local or very regional. It tends to be. There is UM. There are Facebook groups, there are like international UM right organizations for the dack in it UM for those who are involved in the deaconess community or the Lutheran Diaconal Association. There's sort of those community things you can elect to join UH separately. But for me, honestly, the most, the most sup what I've gotten in the process is you know, during seminary there were a few Word in Service UM students who said, let's just start a group. So we we started a group called Exploring deacon EA and we I mean it was open to anyone. We had speakers, we talked about different issues, We had people who are doing interesting ministry come and share. I mean it really was helpful UM to do that. And then and now I would say the most UM helpful and supportive thing in the in the St. Paul Area Synate of the e l c A, we have a we have a deacon group. Our bishop actually brags we have the most deacons in our Senate, which is one awesome and two so great that our bishop knows that and brags about it. But so that group we you know, we've gotten together and UM, the worshiped and service projects had different people...

...speak. I mean, we've done some different things like that, but just that collegiality and camaraderie UM is really helpful. The same Paul Send a couple of years ago also offered a UM preaching cohort for deacons UM, and so I participated in that because I just thought, well, Barbara one Blood was leading in I could Barbara blone Blood. I'm totally going to do that UM. And that was awesome because because one of the things that I think we all shared in common is that, like, I don't preach every other week or every week, so when I do preach, I feel like I got to hit it out of the park. And so UM, how do you you know, how do you sort of show up? How do you show up as a deacon when you you know you don't you're not always the friend center person preaching UM. And so again that kind of learning together was UM really really wonderful. But I think it really is so localized and not you know, not every synod has enough deacons to make a group like that work, but there there are a lot of places. I mean, if there's people who are in the daconet that are listening or UM, there are a lot of places to find that that kind of thing. There's the yeah, the Lutheran Diaconal Association, the Deaconess Community. UM. There's no TECH. I can never remember what that stands for, but UM there's I think I think it's Deaconia of the America's and Caribbean or something like that, is what do TECH is? UM, And there's there's similar organizations around the around the world actually, so UM. And I'm trying to make sure I put some of these organizations in the show notes. I can't get to some of that like links and stuff. So where do you see the future of the act? Do you see it expanding? Have you? Have you seen it expanding? You know that is a hard question. I think the the thriving of the dacine is imperative for the thriving of the church and UM. At the same time, I also see denominational bodies who are fearful of good decline and they're fearful of the reactionary maybe to the need for pastors, particularly in rural areas who have who focus a lot on developing m pastors for leadership out of that fear. And I don't think that that's that's a that's a hard thing. I don't know that that's right or wrong, but I do grieve the focus on developing pastors only because of that fear of decline, of closing church doors kind of um, because you think that deacons could also be one of the signs of renewal where that could help, you know, churches turned around, right, Yeah. And part of the issue in the in the e l c A UM And and again that's where I serve, and that's what I'm most familiar with, so it's hard for me to speak of other denominations. But um is that in the e c. A. Deacons um are not permitted to preside of sacraments. So you know, in rural areas where...

...there's not enough pastors, if a deacon is called into that place, they they either have to get special permission from a bishop to reside over sacraments or that community is limited in its ability to celebrate sacraments. So that's a that's a hard thing, right, UM. And I think it depends on the again locality, UM, it depends on the bishop and what sort of their take on things is UM. And also, I mean it's funny that, you know, three or four years ago, not being able to have a communion every week would have horrified many a congregation. And then we went for how many you know how long without community and the way we think communion should be because of the pandemic, and and it was okay, it was fine. So yeah, I'm really curious, you know, the seminary closest to us as luther Seminary, and I'm really curious about their enrollment and what that when that looks like UM in terms of UM students seeking the diac in it and those seeking UM sacramental ministry. Yeah, I really don't know, mm hmm. I don't know that they published that information either. I mean, I'm sure it's somewhere. But I do know when I was going to Luther, and this was in the late nineties, M I did not know any people who were becoming the guns of any type. UM. My guess is that that has changed over the last years, UM, that there's more people being called into ministry that that's where they're going. But I also know if I look at seminary tracts and all of that stuff, there is not of a focus the echono focus. Yeah. Yeah, and it's interesting that. Um. And when I was in seminary, there was a lot of us. I mean, there was enough that we had like a group, right, um. And yeah, so that that did change, you know, seminary enrollment. Who knows what that graph looks like. It's probably kind of a mess. But um, yeah, there was enough. There was enough, and I was probably there ten years for you, um, for people to know to know someone. We weren't. We weren't silent and invisible um on campus. Yeah. The other thing too, I think is kind of interesting. So I remember, UM, when I did this, part of my information had to go to Gettysburg into a class or January, and folks went to other seminaries. Some of them they had to they had to do a diaconal like degree, whereas UM at Luther you just chose a master's program. Any master's program was fine. I mean, um, one of my friends did it and did that's the master's program. She chose to do diac canal work. Um. Where others did you know, a master in attention it um masters and children thinking like whatever your focus was is that's what you're...

...your academic work was. And the the um diaconal call just was a parallel process. Um. So, I mean, at least in a Lutheran tradition, even different seminaries handled it differently. When I went through, I would guess that's still the same today, um, And I'm not. Yeah, I'm not sure about in other places. But I liked it that way because it let me do academic work based on my my interest, not just like, oh, here's the class for the diaconal people. All of my classes were with a whole you know, there was mdv MT. I don't know. I mean, everyone who was doing a degree was in the same classes. It didn't matter what. Obviously some of them attracted you know, family classes usually were people who were doing that degree program or that concentration alongside their endia, but not not exclusively. So the final question I want to ask is, let's say that there's someone out there listening that is maybe in their early twenties, and they are they feel a call to MI industry, and they're feeling a call maybe to the to the the accadant Um. What advice would you give them? What words of encouragement? Mm hmm. I would say, listen two your passion, um, because you're a unicorn and the world doesn't quite always know what to do with you. But but you knew who God. You know who God has created you to be, and and trust that God has a place for you. Um. And I would also say that you know you you have to find people who who get it to journey with you. M because at least for me, there are a lot of voices saying you can preach, be a pastor. Just be a pastor. It will be easier. Become a pastor. Then you know, you'll be able to get a job. You know, there was Um if you get if you become a pastor, then people will respect you. I mean, people who who cared about me said these things right, um, because they they were real about the about the way the world works, um. And I didn't listen to them, And I'm glad. I'm glad that I didn't. I'm glad that I didn't. It's definitely, Um, there's definitely been challenges, but I mean, it's not like being a pastor you're not challenged. Also might just be a might just be different challenges. So yeah, and I would just say don't be afraid to ask questions. And because every you know, whatever your denomination or your church quality is, it's going to be different and probably confusing, and especially especially in denominations where there's not a lot of deacons, like the people you ask might not even know the answers. He and they have to keep digging. So yeah, God has...

...called you, and I think that's a good way to end it. Well, thank you so much. You know, this has been a great discussion and I think a hopeful discussion, um, and I hopeful hopeful message for people out there, UM to to learn a bit more about this important role in the for the church. Yeah, I think so too. And UM yeah, I'm grateful for the conversation. It's been fun. All right, Well take care, thank you, all right, bye, thank well. I hope that you enjoy today's episode. Um. Nina was um great in leaving giving me a number of links to the ACHNOL organizations and the show notes if you are interested in learning more about what it means to be a deacon. Um. I also want to just take a reminder, I try every so often to share a podcast that I listened to that you may want to listen UM, And so I'm gonna be a bit selfish in that today I am actually uh hoping that you will look at another podcast that I do. UM. That is, the podcasts that I do is called electionary Q UM and Q in that in this case stands for questions and so what I do here UM with lectionary Q is that I spend UM usually about ten to fifteen minutes talking to people about electionary text from the revised common Lectionary UM and then UM discussing it, discussing just asking some questions questions that I have when I look at the text UM that people might have, and I think it's a great way for pastors to prepare for the Sunday. But I also and really really hope that it will be something that UM people are in the pews also find engaging and UM and we'll be able to take part in and trying to figure out what are those answers to those questions UM. So you can find out a little learn a little bit more about lectionary Q by going to the website which is luctionary Q dot sub stack dot com and I'm um kind of contemplating trying out adding an additional episode each week that has the narrative lectionary as well. UM. Hopefully we'll see it. Depends on how much time I have in a week to tractually trying to do that, but I do want people to be aware of lectionary q UM and consider downloading an episode and listening to it and hopefully making it a weekly habit. So UM. The final thing I want to let people know about is um that if you are interested, please consider making a donation and you to help support Church and Maine and you can do that by going to our website at Church and Maine dot org. That is it for this episode of Church and Main. My name is Dennis Sanders. I'm your host. Thank you so much for listening to take...

...care, God speed, and I'll see you soon.

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