Diakonia Berlin 2013: The margins are at the center

Deacons —  March 19, 2014

By Rev. Jim Kraus

I first heard about the Diakonia World Federation assembly back in 2001 when it met in Australia. I was intrigued that a world community gathered every four years to encourage people in diaconal/deacon ministry. I was finally able to attend the 2013 gathering, in Berlin, and was moved and inspired through the programming, the discussions and connecting with so many from around the world.

Those in the diaconate from around the world meet at the historic Berliner Dom for worship and singing.

Those in the diaconate from around the world met at the historic Berliner Dom for worship and singing.

I loved hearing the daily chapel bells calling us to worship in the morning and the evening. I was moved to hear those bells peel as we all prayed The Lord’s Prayer in our own tongues. It was as if the bells agreed with the prayer and carried it over the community, first on the Johannesstift campus and then at the Berliner Dom.

We gathered twice in small groups, where I loved meeting people from all over the globe who serve God in so many ways and shared from their experiences. My view of ministry was widened by hearing others share of the work they are called to: a Presbyterian deacon pastor of a three-point charge from Canada, a mother superior from Tanzania, a surviving spouse who runs a ministry for the poor in Australia, and others from all types of ministry from nursing to education to administration. God’s hand is active and moving in the world.

How impressive to meet in Berlin, a city that has been destroyed by war, divided by ideology and politics, and yet has been reunited and is under constant renovation and rebuilding. This is a picture of the Church in many ways. We are separated from others only to be reunited and reclaimed by Christ and then remade. Even as Christian workers across denominations we are united in Christ.

As we exited the Berliner Dom for a final group picture the conference members and friends numbering near 500 spontaneously began singing “We Are Marching in the Light of God.” People in the park across the street ran over to see what this big group was about. Soon there were as many people looking at us as there were on the steps singing, witnessing to the goodness of God.

A presenter who spoke about Bonhoeffer included this memorable quote: “Wherever you serve God, even if you feel you are serving in the margins, you are serving in the center of God’s will.” Another speaker said, “When you are serving God, you are living your call and this service is a privilege.” How great to join with others from around the world at that moment and demonstrate the love and community of God to the world.

Rev. Jim Kraus is director of music and leadership development for First United Methodist Church in St. Joseph, Mich. This is a contribution to a series of reflections on the World Federation of Diakonia Assembly held in July 2013 in Berlin.

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