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by Rev. Victoria Rebeck

Since deacons lead the church’s ministry to the world–and most especially to people who are usually overlooked or disdained–we are challenged to find new ways to minister alongside them. The old assumption that “if you build it, they will come” to a worship service or church building has long been proven outdated.

Deacons, with our emphasis on building relationships with the oppressed and sending the faithful out into ministries of justice and compassion, are the forerunners of the Good News and the church’s mission (should the church choose to accept it!).

Deacons find they need to develop ever new ways to meet and serve the marginalized, and send God’s people to do likewise. And United Methodist deacons are creating some inspiring new ministries.

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry provides Emerging Ministry grants every year to new ministries developed by deacons to reach an underserved community and empower laypeople for ministry. We receive a number of excellent proposals and struggle to choose finalists. The agency wishes it had the funds to assist all applicants.

This year’s recipients:

Multitudes Food Truck Ministry
Deacon Christina Ruehl
New Hope Covenant UMC, Savannah, Ga.

Rev. Christina Ruehl

Drawing on the popularity of food trucks, New Covenant UMC will prepare meals in the church kitchen and transport them in a food truck to food-insecure neighborhoods. They aim to feed people where they are and build community among the guests. Christina, along with the church’s elder, will empower laypeople for leadership in the ministry.

They are inviting local chefs, the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless and the Savannah Food Truck Association to partner with them. They will also invite unchurched neighbors who would not enter a church but who want to help others to assist the ministry.

“We hope to create hospitable environments for sharing a meal together with dignity, a value not offered to the homeless population, and with others of different socioeconomic status, also a rare occurrence in modern-day society,” Christina writes in her application. The church anticipates serving 300 meals per month.

The typical soup-kitchen model, Christina notes, “sets up an unfair, patriarchal system that forces participants to obtain transportation as well as swallow their pride in accepting a free meal. I believe the Multitudes food truck ministry can offer compassion and justice with every meal, thus restoring the pride and hope of every homeless person we encounter.”

Reconciler Addiction and Recovery Advocacy
Deacon Adam Burns
UM Church of the Reconciler, Birmingham, Ala.

Rev. Adam Burns

Church of the Reconciler (COTR) assists its impoverished neighbors, including those with substance addiction, to transition from the streets to self-sufficiency. The more well-to-do in the area consider the ministry participants to be “dirty, lazy, and violent,” Adam notes. The Addiction Recovery and Advocacy ministry will use an appreciative inquiry approach to train those in recovery to lead presentations about addiction and teach neighborhood organizations how to support recovery programs.

“The purpose of the ministry is to reveal the beauty, intelligence, and creativity of the COTR community while meeting a need of our local community,” Adam says in his application. “By empowering the men and women of the COTR community to address the hurt caused by addiction and to share the love of God and hope found in Christ Jesus, I will continue to fulfill my call as a deacon.”

The ministry will work with a representative of the National Institute on Drug Abuse to create a 30- to 45-minute presentation that will accurately define addiction, reveal effective treatment options, and identify local services that can help. COTR community members, particularly those in recovery, will receive training to deliver the presentation to churches and downtown businesses.

“I can think of no better messenger of hope than the men and women of COTR,” Adam says. “Through the very act of presenting they will not only educate their audience but the will demonstrate the grace of God and hope found in recovery.

“It will also give purpose to homeless and low-income men and women of COTR who are desperately looking for ways to give back.”

Naivapeace
Deacon Jerioth Wangeci Gichigi
Trinity UMC, Naivasha, Kenya

Rev. Jerioth Wangeci Gichigi

Kenya’s elections are marked by profound conflict that can erupt into violence. This is particularly true in the Naivasha District. Deacon Jerioth Wangeci Gichigi of Trinity UMC is one of the leaders of Naivapeace, which send church leaders to preach and teach peace and reconciliation to gatherings in conflicted neighborhoods.

Though the elections were held on August 8, 2017, Naivapeace has a two-year strategy to reach every ward in the district. Given that on Sept. 1, the Kenya Supreme Court ruled the election invalid and in violation of the constitution, Naivapeace’s ministry continues to be urgent.

“Naivasha constituency has 42 tribes represented, and we all vote differently,” Jerioth says in her application. “In 2007, it was the area affected most by violence–1,300 were killed and many displaced. This year’s election is similar to that of 2007 and the country is as divided as it was.”

Jerioth will be preaching in the wards and training leaders to extend the peacemaking ministry further.

*********

Emerging Ministry Grants are offered annually, Applications are available after Jan. 1 and due July 1. Provisional and full-member deacons as well as diaconal ministers may apply. After Jan. 1, write to the office of deacons and diaconal ministers to request an application.

Victoria Rebeck is director of deacon ministry support, certification programs, and provisional membership development for the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016 Book of Discipline has just become available in print, in Kindle format, and a free online version. Now is the time to renew your acquaintance with some key passages.

If you are an ordained United Methodist clergyperson, you should be familiar with The Book of Discipline. Some parts of it may not be of direct relevance to you. However, there are sections you need to know well in order to advocate for your ministry and educate others about the diaconate.

Here’s your guide to reviewing the Discipline.

Paragraphs 301-304: Ordination

Like many deacons, you may be asked why you don’t become a real minister or why you have to be ordained to do your ministry, or are told that the order of elder is “above” the order of deacon, etc. You need to be able to explain to people (and this may include your district superintendent, Board of Ordained Ministry, and elders) the meaning of ordination in the United Methodist Church.

The Discipline section on the origins of the diaconate is limited, so I recommend you read up on the history of the diaconate. You should also read the ordination ordinal–particularly the vows and the theological and liturgical introduction–which does a fuller job of presenting our theology of ordination. Among other things, it points out that ordination is significantly about the relationship of the ordained to the church:

Ordination of elders and deacons is both to an office and, when the ordained are later elected into full membership, for a lifetime of service. Ordination confers a new role in the life of the church as well as authority for leadership in specific forms of ministry. The new role of the ordained in the life of the church is claimed in relation to Christ and his call to leadership and service among the baptized for the life of the world. The authority given is exercised in stewardship of the mysteries of the gospel and of the church’s mission in the world. Ordination itself is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit. . . . Upon ordination, ordained elders and deacons become accountable to the whole church, to the community of the ordained, and to the order of elders or deacons of which they are a part. [Services for the Ordering of Ministry in The United Methodist Church, 2017-2020, as Revised by Action of the 2016 General Conference (The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016), p. 7; emphasis added]

As you read, identify key words and phrases that define ordination. That will help you in your interpretative work.

Paragraphs 305-309: Clergy Orders

In the United Methodist Church, clergy orders are not just categories, but also covenant communities. Read these paragraphs to learn how you DeaconDiscipline2.best.smare accountable to your order and what your order could be doing to support the ministries of its members.

Paragraphs 310-314: Candidacy

Are you a certified candidate, or pursuing candidacy, for ordination? Are you a candidacy mentor? Read these paragraphs to better understand the process. Do not passively wait for someone to define it for you. They may be mistaken. And you may have to advocate for due process for yourself or the candidate you are mentoring.

Paragraphs 324-327, 330: Education and Provisional Membership

If you are in process toward ordination or are a clergy mentor, read these paragraphs to understand the educational requirements for ordination.

If you are a provisional member, read these paragraphs so you understand the process, how you may be appointed, voting rights, and ordination requirements. Again, do not passively wait for someone to define this for you. They may be mistaken. And you may have to advocate for due process for yourself or for a provisional member you are mentoring.

Paragraphs 328-329: Deacon Ministry, Authority, and Responsibilities

These paragraphs spell out our roles of clergy leadership in church and community as well as voting rights. While elders order the life of the congregation and church, deacons lead the faithful to live out their baptismal vows in their communities, workplaces, etc.

Note that the process for requesting the responsibility to preside at communion or baptism has changed a bit (see paragraph 328). The bishop in the area where the deacon is appointed is responsible for deciding on a deacon’s request for such responsibility. (Note that presiding is a responsibility and not “a right” or “authority.”)

Paragraph 331: Appointment Settings, Pay, Benefits

Read through this paragraph so you are clear about where and how deacons serve in primary or secondary appointments, in congregations or beyond the local church. You’ll find here:

  • Places of appointment
  • Requesting appointment
  • “Secondary” appointments
  • Initiating a ministry
  • Pay and benefits
  • Charge conference membership
  • Process for termination from a church appointment

Paragraph 349: Evaluation Process

General Conference 2016 approved a new evaluation process for clergy. It’s rather detailed so it is worth reading paragraph 349 in its entirety. Your annual conference has three years to develop and initiate a plan, so it may not begin until Jan. 2, 2020. You will want to know, however, what lies ahead.

Paragraph 350: Continuing Education

You have rights and responsibilities to take spiritual growth leaves. Learn how to request and account for fulfilling these opportunities.

Paragraphs 351-356: Leaves

There are a number of voluntary and involuntary leaves. Before you request one, find out what they entail and ask for the one you need. General Conference 2016 limited Transitional Leave to just one year. If you are between appointments, you may want to request a Personal Leave (paragraph 353.2a) instead.

Paragraph 356: Retirement

If you are approaching retirement, read this paragraph to learn when and how to ask for this relationship with the conference.

Paragraph 359: “Ineffectiveness” Remediation

If a bishop believes you are ineffective in your ministry, the bishop is required to follow a process to identify what she or he sees as your shortcomings and develop with you a plan for improvement. Know the process so you can fully understand the steps and make sure they are not overlooked.

Paragraphs 361-362: Complaint Procedures

There is a fair process for discontinuance of provisional membership, involuntary leaves or retirements, and administrative location (paragraph 359–see above). Likewise, there is one for complaints that a clergyperson has violated the sacred trust of the people. Even if you do not anticipate facing any of these situations, it is still worth the time to read through paragraphs. You may one day be on the Board of Ordained Ministry, or find yourself counseling a colleague. Again, know the process so you can advocate for your or others’ rights.

The Social Principles (Part V)

Given that the deacon’s ministry is one of compassion and justice, the Social Principles are among our key resources. It is worth reviewing these to refresh your memory as well as noting if there have been changes since you last read them. Many claims are made about what the Social Principles say; know how to check the facts.

Carve out a couple of hours to read these paragraphs. (It probably won’t take even that long.) Don’t be in the vulnerable position of asking others what The Discipline says and risk being told something inaccurate. And by knowing the Discipline, you will be a helpful guide for others as well.

 

by Victoria Rebeck

This year (2016), The United Methodist Church is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the full-member clergy deacon.

But’s it’s not just a 20th anniversary. It’s really more like a 2000th anniversary.

In 1996, The United Methodist Church joined an ecumenical movement by clarifying that it has two distinct orders of ordained ministry: deacon and elder. You might think of deacons as diaconal ministers who transitioned into ordained ministry. However, the diaconal minister and the deacon are different. When the UMC determined to have two orders of clergy—deacons and elders—it recovered the ancient diaconate.

New Testament through Fourth Century

The diaconate goes back to the New Testament. The two offices in the church were bishop (overseer/pastor) and deacon (server/emissary), who worked closely together (see Phil. 1:1, Rom. 16:1, 1 Tim. 3:8-13). Women and men made up the diaconate.

From the first to the end of the fourth century, the diaconate grew and was very active. Historians refer to this as the “Golden Age of the Diaconate.”

  • Number of deacons increased significantly
  • Importance enhanced
  • Functions more clearly delineated
  • Ignatius describes the bishop in terms similar to today’s parish pastor. The presbyters were a council who worked with and advised the bishop in congregational governance. Deacons assisted the church in fulfilling its ministry and at times assisted its leading officer.

Toward the end of this period, deacons could administer communion or baptize in grave or urgent circumstances.

As happens throughout church history, the church became enamored of secular forms of organization and order. In the late fourth century (post-Nicene) era, the church started to restructure similar to Roman government. Bishops became regional. Presbyters became priests. Deacon became a stepping stone “up” to presbyter and then “up” to bishop; it was an apprenticeship to the “higher” role of priest. Deacons no longer formed the bishop’s personal staff as they had up to this point. (Church hierarchy succession became doorkeeper, lector, exorcist, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon, presbyter, and bishop.) The role of archdeacon started to appear; the archdeacon performed fiscal, judicial, legal, and charitable work.

United Methodist elders who were ordained deacon first are thus part of the “medieval” diaconate.

Revival: 16th through 18th centuries

Despite this reduction of the diaconate to the role of junior priest, church leaders and reformers saw in the ancient diaconate such an important ministry that they promoted its renewal.

Some recovery of the early diaconate was proposed during the Reformation. Martin Luther urged returning deacons to what he thought was the biblical function–caring for the poor. John Calvin saw deacons as “ministers of the word” who administer the finances of the church and gather and distribute alms. John Wesley organized some women into “deaconess” roles of ministry among the poor and the sick.

The diaconate experienced a significant revival in Victorian times, particularly in Europe and to some extent, the United States. Victorian era diaconia took the form of lay orders of people in servant ministry—mostly women in deaconess orders, though there were some male communities of deacons as well. It coincides with the social worker-movement and Jane Addams’s settlement house movement. Many of these lay diaconal communities remain active in ministry to this day. The Methodist Episcopal Church participated in this movement in 1888 when it approved the creation of a deaconess office. This branch continues via United Methodist Women’s lay order of deaconesses and home missioners.

20th Century Recovery

The World Council of Church’s Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry document (1982) noted a movement in many churches to “restore the diaconate as an ordained ministry with its own dignity and meant to be exercised for life. . . . By struggling in Christ’s name with the myriad needs of societies and persons, deacons exemplify the interdependence of worship and service in the church’s life.”

Episcopal Church established a permanent diaconate in 1950s, for people who would retain their secular vocations. Vatican II also established a permanent clergy diaconate in the Catholic Church (just for men). These days some are providing pastoral care in Catholic churches where there is not a priest available or assigned. The Methodist Church in Britain established a full member order of deacons in 1993.

The United Methodist Church followed suit in 1996 by establishing two orders of clergy in full membership: elders and deacons, and direct ordination to both. That General Conference also spelled out in the Discipline more explicit expectations of an order, as a Wesleyan community of support and accountability.

This diaconate recovers the ancient/New Testament meaning of the term deacon. While lay diaconal ministers could pursue ordination as deacons, the transition was not automatic.

Diaconal ministers are trained lay people doing important ministries of compassion and justice. Many had served in the office of lay worker as specialized leaders of education, youth work, children’s ministry, music ministry, and others.

In contrast, deacons, as ordained clergy, take ordination vows. The vows are virtually identical to those taken by elders, other than each promises to participate in their respective order. Just before the vows, the distinct ministries of each order of ministry is delineated. The Holy Spirit is invited to pour through the ordinands, to empower them to keep their baptismal and ordination vows and live out the ministry of their order.

It is the taking of ordination vows that sets ordained clergy apart amidst the baptized. Ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church is described by The Book of Discipline as representative. The role of clergy in the United Methodist Church is to enable and support, not assume by proxy, the ministry of the baptized.

The ordinal and the Discipline are clear about these aspects of the ordination and deacons:

  • The diaconate is a lifetime ministry of service and is not a stepping-stone to elder’s orders.
  • The United Methodist understanding of ordination returns to the early church practice in which baptism was the only sacramental prerequisite for ordination.
  • Deacons have worship leadership, congregational leadership, and community leadership responsibilities.
  • As clergy members of a conference and of an order rather than a congregation, deacons and elders have leadership responsibilities and accountability across the connection.
  • The ordinal expresses the equality, connectedness, and distinctiveness of our historic orders and ministries.

The deacon’s ministry is not the justice and advocacy ministry that she does as a baptized Christian. It is the leadership and training she provides to baptized Christians to live out their baptismal vows in the world. It is also a prophetic leadership of the church across the connection—not just in a local setting—that calls the church to the Godly requirements of loving mercy, doing justly, and walking humbly with God.

That’s the ancient diaconate recovered. Those of us who are deacons in full membership are part of the ancient/New Testament diaconate.

It was the wisdom of the early church that we needed leaders to oversee the life of the faith community and leaders to lead the faith community into the world in ministry.

The Diaconate and the United Methodist Mission

Research by Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, found that “the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus.” Churches that have an inward focus don’t do much to reach neighbors. Church meetings become arguments about personal preferences. The past is the hero. Culture is seen as the enemy instead of a medium to share God’s love.

The leader who has particular responsibility to help the church focus outside of the church is the deacon.

One way to look at this is to recall the Great Commandment: Love God and love your neighbor.

When Wesley said that “there is no religion but social religion,” he was saying that we do not fully follow God if we try to do so by ourselves. Following God is a group activity and entails group support and accountability. That is why we need the church: to be the gathered community that helps us worship God as a community, clarify our beliefs, hold each other accountable. Ordering that community of faith largely lies in the order of elders, as do the roles of ordering the wider church (district superintendent and bishop). That’s leading the commandment of loving God.

Jesus did not stop there. He said in the same breath that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our gathering as a faith community also should be preparing us to leave the church walls to share God’s love with those we meet, particularly people who are neglected, ignored, disparaged, oppressed. Preparing and leading the faithful into ministry in the neighborhood and largely lies in the order of deacons. That’s leading the commandment of loving neighbor.

The early church was right. We need both kinds of leadership.

Of course, there is overlap in these areas. The lines are NOT drawn in indelible ink. We lead where needed. These overlap with the ministries of the laity as well.

At the same time, when there is clarity of responsibility, it is more likely that those responsibilities will be met.

Just as these two focuses of ministry are intertwined, these two kinds of leadership must be closely collaborative in order for the church to love God and neighbor to the fullness of its ability.

We have an opportunity to bring renewal to the church by exemplifying the collaborative ministry of elder and deacon. Instead of buying into the hierarchical view of ministry, we have the opportunity to adopt Jesus’ teaching that all ministry is humble service. Deacons and elders in partnership can give birth to a renewed expression of a worldwide church that does justly, loves mercy, and walks humbly with God.

Resources

The Diaconate: A Full and Equal Order, by James Barnett. Trinity Press International, 1995

 “The Office of Deacon: A Historical Summary,” by Charles Yrigoyen Jr. Quarterly Review, Winter 1999 (General Board of Higher Education and Ministry)

“Deacons as Emissary-Servants: A Liturgical Theology,” by Benjamin L. Hartley. Quarterly Review, Winter 1999 (General Board of Higher Education and Ministry)

“Ordination, Pneumatology and Ontology, Part 3: Ordination and Sacramental Authority,” by Rev. Dr. Taylor Burton Edwards. United Methodist Worship blog.

“The Most Common Factor in Declining Churches,” By Thom S. Rainer. Lifeway/Pastors blog,

By Rev. Beth Galbreath

I’m happy to share this liturgy, written in concrete terms for children but in the traditional United Methodist format of the Great Thanksgiving. I am passionate about celebrating sacraments fully, joyfully, richly—and often. I don’t believe that shortening or dumbing down the ritual is necessary, even when Communion is celebrated weekly. The key is to use the official and traditional format with legitimate versions that connect that day’s liturgy with the theme and scripture of that week’s worship service.

The Story and the Feast

This liturgy for children is part of my digital resource of Communion liturgy connected to all three years of the Revised Common Lectionary texts, “The Story and the Feast.” “The Story and the Feast” is not the only RCL-based liturgy resource available, but it is unique in being a digital resource and story focused. But non-lectionary churches can use it, too! It’s a simple matter to look up the right entry using the online Scripture index at The Text This Week.

Each week’s entry provides a confession and declaration of pardon and a Great Thanksgiving. There are multiple offerings where

Rev. Beth Galbreath

Rev. Beth Galbreath

the lectionary has multiple story suggestions, and extra liturgies for special days of Lent—Holy Week, Christmas Eve, etc.

The Great Thanksgivings are shaped in the official ancient-future Trinitarian format, and can be used with your own preferred wording or music for congregational responses. Slides (Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 format) that can be copied and pasted into your own presentation software are also included for every liturgy, along with text documents that can be copied into your bulletin document (in both Microsoft Word 2007 and Adobe Acrobat formats) or into slides in your own format. No retyping necessary!

And, of course, it includes notes for the Biblical Storytelling team as they prepare to tell the texts! The resource comes on three CDs, for year A, B, and C of the lectionary. If you’re interested in the full resource, please email me for more information.

Now, your “free sample”! Continue Reading…

This event has reached capacity. We regret we cannot take more reservations.

The following information is for those who have made reservations.

Date: May 10, 2016

Location: Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, 1535 NE 17th Ave., Portland, Ore.

Schedule

6:30 p.m.: General Conference plenary is scheduled to adjourn for the evening.

6:45 p.m.: We will meet at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry display booth in the exhibit area. Please make your way to the booth as soon as session adjourns. We will make adjustments if session adjourns late.

Once we believe most have gathered at the booth, we will break up into groups that will be guided by Oregon-Idaho Conference deacons.

We will move by groups to public transportation to Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, 1535 NE 17th Ave, Portland. Some groups will move by bus (smaller groups, less walking). Some will take the Max train (seven blocks of walking at the end; ease of train travel.) Choose your route/group based on your interest in walking.

7:30 p.m.: We hope to all have arrived at Grace Memorial and will start dinner soon thereafter.

Return travel

Since everyone will be returning to various hotels, please make your plans for public transportation or taxi to your hotel. You may meet someone at the dinner who is going to your hotel and you could plan to travel together. We will try to facilitate those connections at the dinner.

We recommend downloading this app for ticket purchases and trip planning: TriMet Tickets, by TriMet.

Directions

Directions to Grace Memorial Episcopal Church from the Oregon Convention Center
Grace Memorial Episcopal, 1535 NE 17th Ave
For those driving, the church has a large parking lot.

Option A: Max train plus an approximately 7 block walk
Exit convention center and catch either the Blue, Green or Red line trains East at the corner of MLK and Holladay
Travel 2 stops to Lloyd Center/11th Ave
Exit train and walk left towards Multnomah Ave (one can walk through Holladay park)
Turn right on Multnomah and walk 2 blocks.
Turn left on 15th Ave
Turn right on Wiedler
Church is at the corner of 16th and Wiedler. Enter fellowship hall through entrance off of parking lot.

Option B: Bus 77
Exit Convention Center and walk to the corner of NE Multnomah & 2nd
Board bus 77/Halsey to Troutdale
Exit Bus at NE Wiedler & 17th
Church is on this corner. Enter fellowship hall through entrance in parking lot off of 16th.
Trip should take about 10 minutes.

Option C: Bus 8
Exit Convention center and walk to the corner of NE Mulnomah & 2nd
Board bus 8 Jackson Park/NE 15th
Exit Bus at NE 15th and Halsey
Walk along 15th North towards Wiedler.
Turn right on Wiedler. Church is on the corner of 16th & Wiedler
Enter fellowship hall through entrance in parking lot off of 16th.

Phone numbers

In case you get separated from the pack:
Rev. Jeff Lowery (chair of the order; knows the area): 541-654-1878
Rev. Victoria Rebeck (does NOT know the area, call if you have to cancel): 612-327-0187

If you like to look at these things on a map

Oregon Convention Center: 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland
Grace Memorial Episcopal Church: 1535 NE 17th Ave, Portland

by Victoria Rebeck

Facing the delegates of United Methodist General Conference 2016, meeting May 10-20 in Portland, Ore., are a few legislation proposals that could affect deacons. Most significant is the proposal from the Study of Ministry Commission that ordination take place earlier: at the time of election to provisional membership rather than at the time of election to full membership.

A few groups and individuals have submitted proposals related to the conditions in which a deacon might preside over the sacraments. I’ve grouped these together at the end, to make comparison easier.

It’s worth reading the Study on Ministry Commission report, to learn the reasons and commitments that inform their proposals.

You can read all of the legislative proposals related to clergy (including those below) in the Ministry and Higher Education Legislative Committee section of the Advanced Edition of the Daily Christian Advocate, Volume 2, Section 2, pp. 1078ff.

Following is an overview of legislative proposals that could affect deacons or those aspiring to be ordained deacons. (Arguably, other proposals could also affect deacons, to a lesser degree. I leave that discernment to the reader of all of the thousands of legislative proposals facing General Conference delegates.)

This is just an overview; readers are urged to read the petitions in their entirety and in their contexts to consider the nuances.

Paragraph 305

Petition 60484, from the Study of Ministry Commission

This proposal would adjusts some of the wording related to the ministry of the deacon and the ministry of the elder. Changes are not profoundly substantive and would not change the ways in which deacons minister or are appointed.

Paragraph 324

Petition 60507, from the Study of Ministry Commission

Perhaps part of the most significant legislative proposals that could affect all who are pursuing ordination, this proposal would move ordination to the time of election to provisional membership rather than the time of election to full membership. This would apply to candidates requesting ordination as a deacon or an elder. Election to full membership would take place after a two-year minimum appointed service period. This is foundational to several of Study of Ministry’s legislative proposals.

Paragraph 324.5

Petition 60716, from J. Miles, Arkansas

Would remove the age 35 minimum from the education option that allows candidates for deacon’s orders to take the Basic Graduate Theological Studies courses plus earn certification, but not complete any kind of master’s degree. It retains the phrase “in some instances,” but removes the definition of it (which currently is the minimum of age 35). This proposal relates to the level of education expected of ordained clergy.

Petition 60507, Study of Ministry Commission

This lengthy petition that reshapes the ordination process would also remove the age 35 minimum in the option that would allow a deacon candidate to forego a master’s degree.

Paragraph 326

Petition 60188, from the Alabama-West Florida Conference

Would remove the two-year-minimum service requirement for provisional member deacons or elders. The provisional member would need to complete the conference’s residency program.

Paragraph 328

Petition 60508, from the Study of Ministry Commission

This would remove “In Full Connection” from the headline. This accompanies their proposal that ordination take place at about the time of election to provisional membership.

Paragraph 329.3

Petition 60497, from the Study of Ministry Commission

Would clarify the membership rights for ordained deacons in provisional membership. This is part of the committee’s broader proposal that ordination will take place at about the time of election to provisional membership.

Paragraph 324.9 K

Petition 60363, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Would require candidates for deacon or elder ordination to explain their understanding of the distinctive vocations of the order of elder and the order of deacon as well as answer, “How do you perceive yourself, your gifts, your motives, your role and your commitment as a provisional deacon or provisional elder in the United Methodist Church?” This would require candidates for either ordination to be able to describe the ministry focuses that are distinct to elders and deacons.

Paragraph 330

Petition 60189, from Alabama-West Florida Conference

Would eliminate the minimum two-year service requirement in provisional membership. It would allow conference Boards of Ordained Ministry to approve the colleges from which a deacon candidate could earn a bachelor’s degree. It would further remove the expectation that a deacon would have a master’s degree or even any graduate-level education.

Paragraph 330

Petition 60366, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Would require three-fourths majority vote at clergy session for deacons to be approved for full membership. It is consistent with other GBHEM proposals that all clergy session affirmative votes require three-quarters majority (for consistency and clarity).

Paragraph 330.3

Petition 60365, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Would clarify that all Basic Graduate Theological Studies courses must be completed before ordination.

Paragraph 33.04

Petition 60367, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Would re-order the list of requirements for ordination so it is consistent with para. 335 (requirements for elder’s ordination) and clarify that “the candidate’s reflections and the board’s response” refers not just to the “making disciples for the transformation of the world” project but to all of the requirements in the list.

Paragraph 330.5(a)(5)

Petition 60638, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

The question in this part of the paragraph is redundant with the question in para. 330.5(a)(f). It asks how one’s experience in ministry has affected one’s understanding of the meaning and significance of the sacraments. This proposal would remove the repetition of the question.

Paragraph 330.7

Petition 60232, from the Council of Bishops’ Office of Christian Unity & Interreligious Relationships

Would remove the phrase “bishops in other communions” and replace that with “judicatory leaders from full-communion partners and other communions” in the list of those who participate in the ordination of deacons.

Paragraph 331

Petition 60498, from the Study of Ministry Commission

This is part of the committee’s proposal that ordination will take place at about the time of election to provisional membership. This would, in the description of where deacons can be appointed, remove “and provisional deacons.” If their broader proposal passes, all deacons and elders, whether in provisional or full membership, will be ordained. Thus this phrase would be unnecessary.

Paragraph 331.1

Petition 60653, from Rebekah Miles

This would clarify that deacons could be appointed to attend school in research doctoral programs or as instructors, professors, or administrators in UMC-related colleges, universities, and schools of theology.

Paragraph 331.4

Petition 60369, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

This would move the section about deacons’ being eligible for endorsement by the UM Endorsing Agency from the elder’s appointments section to the appropriate deacon’s appointments section.

Paragraph 337.3

Petition 60373, from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

This is the companion legislation to 60369 (above).

Paragraph 331.4d

Petition 60190, from Alabama-West Florida Conference

This would change the language about how General Board of Higher Education and Ministry may assist Boards of Ordained Ministry and cabinets in validating whether a proposed setting beyond the local church is appropriate for a deacon appointment. This simply removes the requirement that GBHEM prepare guidelines. (Note: guidelines are suggestions and not requirements.) It would retain the current Disciplinary requirement that the cabinet be the initiator of consultation from GBHEM.

Paragraph 351.3

Petition 60720, from Nelson-Clarke Dice, N.J.

Proposes that every year, at least one clergy person in each district be granted a “formational and spiritual growth leave of up to one year.”

Paragraph 354.2-3

Petition 60377, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Would limit Transitional Leave to just one year, non-renewable.

Paragraph 357

Petition 60656, from Laura J. Barlett, Ore.

This would require that clergy on medical leave identify a charge conference relationship.

Paragraph 358.6

Petition 60502, from the Study of Ministry Commission

Would clarify that a deacon or elder could receive an appointment in retirement, when so requested by the bishop or cabinet.

Paragraph 363.1

Petition 60803, from John Lomperis

Would institute a specific complaint process and penalties for clergy who officiate a same-sex marriage ceremony (one year suspension for first time found guilty; removal of credentials for second time).

Paragraph 363.1c

Petition 60804, from Bethlehem UMC Social Action Committee

Would require a specific penalty for clergy found guilty of officiating a same-sex marriage ceremony (suspension without pay for one year).

Paragraph 350

Petition 60493, Study of Ministry Commission

Would require clergy serving congregations to engage with the district superintendent in a process of annual evaluation. Deacons appointed beyond the local church would have an annual conversation with their district superintendent about their ministry. Some of the details:

  • Personal and professional assessment would take place every eight years.
  • The process would take 6 months to complete.
  • The Cabinet, Board of Ordained Ministry, and order and fellowship chairs would design and implement the process.
  • The process would include a formal review and a renewal opportunity, like a retreat or coaching or mentoring sessions.
  • The formal review would include a self-evaluation and metrics appropriate to the appointment setting.
  • Conferences would have until Jan. 1, 2020, to develop a plan for this process.

Paragraph 351.1-6

Petition 60494, from the Study of Ministry Commission

Would require each annual conference, through the orders and fellowship, to provide spiritual enrichment opportunities and covenant groups for deacons, elders, and local pastors. Would require (rather than recommend) that clergy to take continuing education and spiritual growth leave at least one week each year and at least one month during one year of every quadrennium.

Deacons & sacramental leadership

Paragraph 328

Petition 60489, from the Study of Ministry Commission

Would permit deacons to preside at the celebration of the sacraments (baptism and Holy Communion) where “contextually appropriate and duly authorized.” Would change the authorization process to entail the bishop only and removes “a pastor-in-charge or district superintendent” from the request process. Would clarify that the bishop, and not other elders, makes appointment decisions related to deacons.

Petition 60636, West Ohio Order of Deacons (4 other similar)

This proposes that the deacon “may” administer the sacraments within the deacon’s primary or secondary appointments. It would remove the need for a bishop to authorize this on a case-by-case basis. This is similar to the limitations on local pastors for presiding over the sacraments. It would not give deacons blanket responsibility for presiding in any ministry context (as is the elders’ responsibility).

Petition 60637, from G. Williams, W.Va.

Would change the situations in which a deacon might preside over the sacraments. It would adapt the “in the absence of an elder” limitation to “within a deacon’s primary appointment or if the primary appointment is to a local church, in the absence of the elder-in-charge.” This would retain the current requirement that a pastor or district superintendent must ask the bishop to allow a deacon to preside over the sacraments. However, it would change “pastor-in-charge” to “an elder-in-charge.”

Petition 60638, from Rocky Mountain Order of Deacons

This would remove the permission-asking process for authorizing a deacon permitted to preside over the sacraments. It would retain the current limitation that the deacon “may administer the sacraments in the absence of an elder, within the deacon’s primary appointment.”

 

Again, this is merely an overview. Read the legislative proposals in full to determine your understanding of them. Discuss them with your order and your conference’s delegates to General Conference.

Victoria Rebeck is director of deacon ministry development, provisional membership, and certification programs for the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. This blog post represents her understanding of the topics mentioned therein and does not represent the opinions of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

By Rev. Susan Mullin

Rev. Susan Mullin is a Minnesota Conference deacon and a member of the six-person United Methodist Creation Care Team. Mullin represents North America on this new team, created by the General Board of Global Ministries.The group represented the international United Methodist Church at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris, Nov. 30-Dec. 11, 2015.

Our Global Creation Care Team had the opportunity to travel to Paris the first week of December to participate in the civil society events surrounding the climate talks. We are a team of six United Methodists from around the world, including representatives from the United States, Argentina, Switzerland, Liberia, Fiji, and Cambodia.

Susan Mullin (second from right) meets with people from around the world at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Susan Mullin (second from right) meets with people from around the world at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Members of the team have powerful stories of what is happening in their countries as a result of climate change. Jefferson Knight from Liberia talked about returning last year to a village along the Suakoko River, where he grew up, and finding that the tree-lined river he remembers is completely dry and the trees have been cut down. He was shocked. Another member, Sotico Pagulayan, shared that in 2015, 13 (out of 24) provinces of Cambodia experienced crop failure. Extreme drought and flooding have combined to threaten the livelihood and food security of farmers.

As a team, we are committed to energizing local churches to take action on climate change and other environmental crises. This was only our second opportunity to meet together, so about half of our time in Paris was devoted to discussing how we can best work in our own regions and with the General Board of Global Ministries.

Highlights of our time in Paris included a round-table discussion on the intersection of faith, race, and climate and a conference devoted to women on the front lines of climate change that included powerful, passionate indigenous women leaders from the U.S., Canada, Ecuador, Sweden, and the Maldives.

How many lives are we willing to sacrifice?

Thilmeeza Hussain, founder of Voice of Women, told us that the Maldives “might be a small group of islands, but our lives are not small.” She pointed out that for her people, food security, clean water, and housing are all impacted by climate change. “Climate change is not distant,” she said. “People are dying. How many lives are we ready to sacrifice?”

Meanwhile, Josefina Skerk, vice president of the Sami Parliament in Sweden, also said that her country is seeing the effects of climate change. If the earth warms an average of two degrees Celsius, it will mean an increase of eight degrees in her northern lands. “We are not white strawberry jam,” she said. “We don’t want to be preserved: We want to guide our own development.”

Eriel Deranger, communications manager of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation of Canada, reiterated what many poor and endangered peoples have said: “Our voices are left out of the discussions.” She added, “We are people of the delta. Our entire system is threatened.”

Worshipping and sharing a meal with the members of Resurrection United Methodist Church was also a powerful experience. Most members of the congregation immigrated to France from Ivory Coast, and both their worship style and the wonderful meal they provided reflected their cultural heritage.

We met with the team from the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) on multiple occasions. This team was credentialed to enter the blue zone, where the actual climate negotiations were taking place. The feeling from the team was cautiously optimistic throughout the negotiations. They worked very hard lobbying leaders from the U.S. and around the world to make sure there would be adequate financial provisions for countries that have not contributed significantly to the problem of climate change but increasingly will suffer loss and damage. They recorded daily videos of their work that are available on the GBCS Facebook page.

The final accord is worth celebrating. For the first time, we have a worldwide agreement with a goal of limiting global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures. Nations also agree “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius” (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). These goals are much more ambitious than many people expected to see in this accord. But…this is only an agreement! Now we have to actually achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.

Climate change exacerbates all injustices

If there is one thing that I take away from this experience, it is the many ways that climate change intersects with issues of social and economic justice. After hearing the pain in the voices of sisters and brothers from all around the world, after learning how their ability to provide food, housing, and water for their families is threatened and disrupted by climate change, it is no longer a matter of facts and figures, or computer models that predict the future. Climate change exacerbates all injustices, including race, poverty, gender, and age. As United Methodists, we say that our task is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our team reflected on the vision of Ezekiel (47:7-12): a river of fresh water flowing from the sanctuary, bringing life where there is no life. We challenge ourselves and all United Methodists to look for places where the waters of God are bringing life where there is no life, and to join in the healing of our world.

Rev. Susan Mullin is a deacon who serves as minister of faith formation and community outreach at Faith United Methodist Church in St. Anthony, Minn. This article is reprinted with permission from the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, which initially published this reflection.

By Rev. Rick Tettau

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy.—Psalm 16:11

Porto Alegre, Brazil, hosted the 13th Diakonia of The Americas and Caribbean (DOTAC) conference. Porto Alegre means “Happy Port” or “Joyful Harbor” in English. According to the Portuguese translator on our bus tour, the city was named after a couple who were happily married.

Extending a joyful welcome to visitors is a characteristic of those who live in Brazil. After we got settled on the bus, our guide said, “Welcome to Brazil!” His welcome to us was sincere and authentic. He went on to explain that when somebody welcomes you to Brazil it means you are always and forever welcome in Brazil. I found his words to be true throughout the conference. I gratefully received a joyful welcome with lots of hugs everywhere that I went.

Rick Tettau (far left) examines the Bread Workshop facilities in Brazil, a site that educates at-risk youth.

Rick Tettau (far left) examines the Bread Workshop facilities in Brazil, a site that educates at-risk youth.

DOTAC is one of three regional organizations in the World DIAKONIA Federation. World DIAKONIA is an association of diaconal communities around the world. At our conferences brothers and sisters in diakonia from different countries come together to share stories about servant ministry, to learn from leading educators, share best practices, and fellowship in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The regional meeting of DOTAC is a smaller version of our world gatherings.

The DOTAC Conference in Brazil opened with a worship celebration at Igreja da Reconciliação (Church of the Reconciliation IECLB). I was honored to carry the banner for the United Methodist Deacons and Diaconal Ministers. Our theme for this conference was “The diakonia of Jesus—from crumbs to full communion,” based on the story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30. The conference aimed to help us see those who are feeding off the crumbs under the table and welcome them into full communion at the table of abundant grace, where Jesus Christ sits himself.

We had three speakers for the conference: Dr. Felipe Gustavo Koch Buttelli, a professor of religion at the Municipal University Center of São José, who studied in Brazil and South Africa; Dr. Rodolfo Gaede Nero, a professor of practical theology at the Faculdades EST in São Leopoldo; and Deaconess Irma Schrammel, who serves at the Heliodor Hesse Social Center in Santo André.

Overall, the speakers spoke about how Jesus’ ministry is shaped by the heavenly banquet. At the heavenly banquet we will share table fellowship, food, and an abundance of blessings. At the heavenly banquet there is a seat at the table for all. Since an open community meal is indicative of the heavenly banquet, Jesus acts accordingly in his ministry on earth: God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Since the heavenly banquet makes sharing at a table one of the main characteristics of Jesus’ ministry, it is no surprise that Jesus relates to all sorts of people at the table. There are feeding stories, dinner parties, weddings, breakfasts, and suppers noted in the Bible. All are welcome at the table with Jesus. Jesus is so closely associated with eating and drinking with people the Pharisees accuse him of being a glutton and a drunk (Matthew 11:19). On example of Jesus’ teaching on the heavenly banquet comes from the story of a father who throws his prodigal son a party upon his return home.

A challenge in Jesus’ time was the struggle against those who wanted to privatize the table. In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Lazarus begs to eat at the rich man’s table, but the rich man denies him the opportunity. Likewise, the Pharisees want a closed, private table (Luke 7:39). In the early church the apostles worked to deconstruct the barriers to the table, so the blessings of the kingdom of God were not particularized. The Christian church became a place where Jews and Gentiles could eat together (Acts. 10).

The speakers pointed out how the Syrophoenician woman in the story was different than Jesus. She was a woman, non-Israelite, and a pagan worshiper. Yet, Jesus heard her story. He heard the pain in her failed attempts at receiving healing for her daughter. She admitted as much that the crumbs of Jesus’ abundance were good enough for her. Through his conversation with the woman Jesus comes to welcome her to the table and grant her request for the healing of her daughter. In this act of mercy Jesus unites the community. The community is made whole when those who eat from the crumbs under the table enter into full communion at the table with Christ.

The speakers encouraged us to consider those who survive off crumbs under the table today. They pointed out that people who feel marginalized, suffer violence, are abandoned, and hunger and thirst are all living off crumbs. Each speaker challenged us to seek a new paradigm of sharing God’s abundance. Mark 7 is an example of how an open table overcomes the fragmentation of human community. At God’s table there is plenty to care for the well-being of all people. Jesus eats with all and all are satisfied. This is authentic reconciliation. Diakonia works toward authentic reconciliation. An open table overcomes a fragmented human community. When all sit at the table of grace in the midst of cultural differences and diversity we will gain a wholistic perspective.

I saw the practice of an open table in action at two mission sites in Porto Alegre. The first mission site I visited was St. Luke House (Casa de Pasagem São Lucas). St. Luke House provides free housing to those waiting for medical treatment. Porto Alegre is recognized for being a leader in health research and services and this attracts from the countryside and even from other states in Brazil. Many of these people do not have a place to stay while they are waiting for medical treatment. For these people, the Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELCB) created in 2002 this residence alongside of a church. All are welcome to stay, eat, rest, and recover from their medical treatments at St. Luke House.

The second mission site I saw was the Bread Workshop. The Bread Workshop was created by St. Mark Lutheran Church in 1993. Its goal is to educate at-risk adolescents coming from local and neighboring communities offering them the possibility of generating income through working in cooperative and commercialized bakery production. The Bread Workshop teaches the art of baking bread while promoting faith and citizenship.

To help us unwind after a busy week we enjoyed a cultural celebration at the Churrascaria Galpão Crioulo, a Brazilian barbeque that offered live entertainment. The celebration of this culture night was dedicated to Nazgul “Naz” William, a United Methodist lay deaconess who was tragically killed in a random act of violence in China two years ago.

Brazil is a wonderful place with many wonderful people. From the beginning of the conference until its close after Sunday worship I felt the warm welcome of the Brazilian people. This experience of hospitality along with the teachings on our theme reminded me of what it means to be fully included as a guest. As we are all guests of Jesus at the table, this conference gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for hospitality in the church. As our tour guide explained about the meaning of “Welcome to Brazil,” we need to live into a vision of the church where all are forever and always welcome, because the church is a place where all are loved by God and God’s love never changes. The church is a place where those who are living off the crumbs can enter into full communion with Christ at the table of grace.

Rick Tettau serves as a deacon at Faith Community United Methodist Church in Xenia, Ohio. He is an alternate on the DOTAC central committee.

 

By Rev. Gregory D. Gross

On Nov. 2 I joined the latest Moral Mondays Illinois rally and action. Over 1,000 people gathered for a rally at the state building in downtown Chicago and marched through the streets of the Loop to the target of that Monday’s action, the Chicago Board of Trade.

Moral Mondays

Rev. Gregory Gross takes a stand for the poor in protest of a proposed Illinois state budget.

For over four months, we have been rallying, protesting, and acting while the state of Illinois has been without a budget since July 1. The Illinois General Assembly has passed a deficit budget, which the state’s new governor has vetoed because it is not a balanced budget. The General Assembly has suggested balancing the budget with additional revenue but has not yet approved any new taxes. The governor has refused to even discuss new revenue unless the General Assembly passes his pro-business legislation, which restricts union bargaining. In short, state bills aren’t being paid.

In the meantime, the most vulnerable in our state are suffering the consequences of all this political maneuvering. State programs serving those on the margins, like subsidized childcare program, have been cut. Social service agencies with state contracts aren’t being paid—if they still have contracts. The new governor had already ended other contracts that were awarded under the previous administration.

As a result, social service agencies providing services for Illinoisans have begun closing their doors, some permanently. The most vulnerable, those experiencing poverty, severe persistent mental illness, unstable housing, chronic disease, and homelessness, many of who are children and people of color, are bearing even more of the brunt of the state budget than they already are.

This summer a group of clergy and community activists began organizing Moral Mondays Illinois to draw attention to the budget impasse and to raise awareness of those most affected. Our movement is based on the Moral Mondays social justice movement that started in North Carolina as a response to actions of their state legislature. Moral Mondays Illinois has focused upon inequality in taxation and revenue for the state.

And so we rallied at the Chicago Board of Trade. The governor and others have said that there is no alternative to the state’s fiscal problems other than to make further cuts. They say there is nothing else that that can be done than to eliminate these vital services.

We went to the Board of Trade to say otherwise; to bring attention to other options. We chanted, we raised signs, we yelled. We gave voice to the voiceless. Services don’t need to be cut. Instead, the state can tax corporations and big banks that do business on the Chicago Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange. We called for the governor and state legislature to support the “LaSalle Street Tax,” which would be a $1 to $2 tax on every transaction done at these entities. This translates to a .002% tax on these financial transactions, but could in turn generate an estimated $10 billion dollars for the state each year. Since the chairman of the Board of Trade had failed to respond to requests to meet with him, we went to him.

Once at the Board of Trade, I joined a group of 60 clergy and other community leaders in engaging in civil disobedience. We split up and covered all 25 doors leading in and out of the trade building. We then blocked them, stopping people from leaving or entering the Board of Trade. For over an hour, we shut it down to bring attention to this unjust system. Some people sat in the revolving doors. Others of us stood in front of the doors to stop others from trying to enter. When traders and others approached us seeking to enter the building, we explained that the building had been shut down in order to get corporations to pay their fair share through the LaSalle Street tax.

Moral Mondays 2

Rev. Gregory Gross sits in a police wagon after being arrested for blocking entrance to the Chicago Board of Trade, as part of a demonstration for justice for the poor.

Traders who were prevented from entering were not happy. I was pushed and shoved. Some taunted us to, “get a job” or “go back to your parents’ basement where you live.” One trader kicked in and shattered a glass door to get inside. A group of seminarians had hot soup thrown on them. The love of money makes people do shocking things. But we did not back down.

As a deacon, I am called to serve those on the margins of our society; to use my voice to advocate for those who have no voice; to use my whole self to call for justice. And yes, to call for a fair and just budget, for we know a budget shows what we prioritize. It is a moral document, and when it is immoral, we must speak up. Is this not what the incarnation calls us to do?

I stood my ground. I did not move. A trader asked me, “What makes this legal?” I said, “No one is saying our actions are legal. That’s what makes it civil disobedience.”

I stood my ground, chanting, until the Chicago Police officers told me I was under arrest. I was handcuffed and led to the paddy wagon. And as a police officer helped me into the back, he said, “Thank you for being here and doing this.” To which I replied, “Thank you for doing your job.” This was the common refrain throughout my twelve hours in police custody. As I was booked and processed, fingerprinted and mugshot, one by one the officers asked me what the protest was for and then thanked me for raising awareness.

I used my whole self to call for justice and compassion, even risking arrest. As I sat in my cell I wondered if it were worth it. But then I looked around at who else was being booked: all were young African American men and women. They are the ones who will continue to be most negatively impacted by our states policies. Just before midnight, I was released and given a court date for Dec. 21. What better time to stand before a judge for advocating for the forgotten: mere days before the celebration of the one who was told, “There’s no room for you here.”

Rev. Gregory D. Gross is the chair of the Order of Deacons in the Northern Illinois Conference. He was elected clergy delegate to the 2012 and 2016 General Conferences. His primary appointment is as the community health manager at The Night Ministry, a social service agency that seeks to provide housing, healthcare and human connection to those experiencing poverty, housing instability or homelessness in Chicago. His charge conference is Berry United Methodist Church in Chicago.

By Rev. Betsy Hall

When I went to seminary in 1985 I had no intention of going into local church ministry.

I had become a Christian three years earlier through a campus para-church organization and was convinced God had left the church. Imagine my surprise while in a field education placement in a church I felt God say, “Yeah and you thought I’d left church.” It was then that I changed directions and explored church ministry.

The first call was to full-time ministry in a suburban megachurch. After eight years and burn out I quit. I found myself working in an agency in a new town, attending a small membership church. Our little church merged with another church. Over the years I found myself doing what deacons do—bridging the world with the church and the church to the world.

An opportunity to help with a new church plant came up and I jumped at the chance. What I didn’t realize at the time was this was the first of two new churches I’d help plant!

Why a deacon?

I think deacons can thrive in new church planting because many of us are used to jumping in and getting ministry done. Many of us have had to work with what we had and make it work, with limited resources. We can be a colleague for an appointed elder—a safe, listening ear and a fellow clergyperson “who gets it.” I personally like being part of a team but not having to be the pastor-in-charge.

Three things I’ve learned

1. What I know became what I had to relearn or unlearn.

I have been challenged to think in new ways—what works in one setting may have to be tweaked in the other or changed completely. However, compassion and love are timeless.

2. What I did is not necessarily what I do.

I found you do what needs to be done. That phrase I learned in seminary, “servant leader,” got practiced in new ways—at times cleaning bathrooms, mopping, and taking out the trash.

3. What I thought was needed to ‘do church’ became less cumbersome.

The new-church-start where I currently have my secondary appointment, Providence United Methodist in Mount Juliet, Tenn., has a plastic tote box with “Worship” written on the top. It contains everything we need to set the table for communion. A church that was closing gave us Providence.tote.webtheir altar table—a simple table that holds the essentials of bread, juice, a cross, candles, and a bowl and pitcher. At East Bank Church the table is a recycled packing skid. We used something we had to create something new.

Rewards of working with a church plant

I’ve gotten to see what “church” is becoming and serve alongside younger clergy who give me great hope for our denomination! Their love of God and for the people in their communities drives them outside the walls, leading us along with them.

I’ve felt great joy in seeing new people come to believe in Jesus Christ and find healing and wholeness. I’ve gotten to see what God can do through a small group of committed Christians using spiritual gifts with love and compassion.

It’s hard work, it’s hectic, messy, at times even chaotic but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s as if God says new everyday “Yeah, I’m here—watch what happens next!”

Betsy Hall is project manager for Congregational Resource Development at Upper Room Ministries, Nashville, Tenn. Her secondary appointments are to Providence United Methodist Church in Mount Juliet and East Bank Church in East Nashville.