In diakonia, there is no east or west

Deacons —  March 19, 2014

By Rev. Rick Tettau

 In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north; but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.—William A. Dunkerly

The Berlin Wall was erected on August 13, 1961. The wall divided streets, families, friends, and whole communities. The wall cut through the heart of Berlin, dividing the city, and on a much grander scale symbolized the division of Germany and all of Europe during the time of World War II.

Our tour guide on the bus told us a story about how a community that was divided by the wall worked out an agreement to swap church buildings in an effort to maintain their congregations who were living on opposite sides of the wall. It was a solemn experience for me to attend worship at the Chapel of Reconciliation at the memorial of the Berlin Wall, where they hold service every Tuesday through Friday at noon to remember those who were killed trying to get over the wall. It broke my heart to the read the names of peaceful men and women whose lives were cut short at the Berlin Wall. To the delight and praise of the world, the Berlin Wall was opened on the night of November 9, 1989. On this day thousands of people streamed like water through the boundary and the work of healing in Germany began.

“Healing and Wholeness for the World” was the theme for the Diakonia World Assembly, held July 1-8, 2013, at Evangelishes

Rick Tettau (second from left) confers with other United Methodist deacons and diaconal ministers on the Johannesstift campus.

Rick Tettau (second from left) confers with other United Methodist deacons and diaconal ministers on the Johannesstift campus.

Johannesstift in Berlin, Germany. The Evangelishes Johannesstift is a diaconal training and ministry center that serves older adults, families with children, and people with disabilities. Evangelishes Johannesstift has served the Berlin community for over 150 years. Their purpose is based on 1 John 3:18: “Let us not love with word, neither in tongue; but in deed and truth.” Nearly 350 deacons and diaconal workers representing 37 different countries gathered for the assembly, which meets every four years.

Throughout the week we were engaged in a variety of activities. Each day opened and closed with worship. There were multiple presentations during the mornings and afternoons. Presentation included “Life is Flowering for Us All,” “God at the Margins,” “Healing and Salvation in the Work of Hildegard van Bingen,” and “Healing and Community.” Each participant was assigned to a small group of about 10 people to discuss the presentations and share experiences. The small groups were intentionally mixed by region so one received a global perspective of diakonia. World and regional meetings uplifted the ministries in which participants were engaged back home. There was a German cultural night and plenty of opportunities for sightseeing.

This was my third Diakonia World Assembly. The 2001 World Diakonia Assembly was a critical part of my spiritual formation as a deacon and it helped me prepare for my ordination interview with the Board of Ordained Ministry. Since then, I continue to make the World Assembly a part of my continuing education as a deacon. There is much to learn by attending and many great people to meet and get to know. Needless to say, it is refreshing to be around people who share a common call and vocation. You will not need to explain to anybody the purpose of diakonia or the function of a deacon, diaconal minister, or deaconess. You are among friends who understand!

Overall, I plan to keep the World Diakonia community in my thoughts and prayers until we are able to meet in person again. In the meantime, having a computer that translates different languages will help me stay connected to my colleagues and friends from around the world. I leave you with the prayer below. Use this to guide your prayers as you offer healing and wholeness to the world.

Prayer from the Chapel of Reconciliation at the Berlin Wall Memorial:

“Let us praise the Lord, who lifts up the low and tears down the mighty from his throne. He alone knows how to judge rightfully. To him let us pray, “Lord have mercy on us!”

“For all those, murdered at the Wall and its line of death, in the prisons and camps, we pray, “Lord, have mercy on us!”

“For the dead, who died of sorrow because of their destroyed families; for all, who lost their home and homeland at the boundary, we pray, “Lord, have mercy on us!”

“For all who have public responsibilities for justice, freedom, and virtue of every person, we pray, “Lord, have mercy on us!”

“For all, who influence public opinion as testimonies of truth; for all, who educate the coming generations, we pray, “Lord, have mercy on us!”

“For all, who are not able to take advantage of freedom, we pray, “Lord, have mercy on us!”

“Lord, our Father, let us take up the task of reconciliation, which you ordered us to fulfill by being free in Jesus Christ our Master. Amen.”

The next Diakonia World Assembly is scheduled to meet July 3-10, 2017.

Rev. Rick Tettau serves Faith Community United Methodist Church in Xenia, Ohio. This is the first in a series of reflections by deacons and diaconal ministers who attended the gathering with the assistance of a United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry grant.

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