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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

In an earlier post I listed most of the significant legislation related to deacons facing the delegates of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference. Following are the delegates’ decisions about them.

The adopted items are listed first, in order of anticipated reader interest.

This is not an authoritative report. The authoritative disposition of legislation can be tracked here.

Paragraph 328

Petition 60489, from the Study of Ministry Commission

ADOPTED AS AMENDED IN COMMITTEE

This permits deacons to preside at the celebration of the sacraments (baptism and Holy Communion) where “contextually appropriate and duly authorized.” It removes “a pastor-in-charge or district superintendent” from the request process. Like all legislation (unless otherwise noted), this goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

Anticipated new wording (pending final version in printed 2016 Book of Discipline):

¶ 328. The Ministry of a Deacon—From among the baptized, deacons are called by God to a lifetime of servant leadership, authorized by the Church, and ordained by a bishop. From the earliest days of the church, deacons were called and set apart for the ministry of love, justice, and service and for connecting the church with the most needy, neglected, and marginalized among the children of God. This ministry grows out of the Wesleyan passion for social holiness and ministry among the poor. It is the deacons, in both person and function, whose distinctive ministry is to embody, articulate, and lead the whole people of God in its servant ministry. Deacons fulfill servant ministry in the world and lead the Church in relating the gathered life of Christians to their ministries in the world, interrelating worship in the gathered community with service to God in the world. Deacons give leadership in the Church’s life: in teaching and proclaiming the Word; in contributing to worship, in assisting the elders in administering the sacraments of baptism and  Holy Communion, or in presiding at the celebration of the sacraments when contextually appropriate and duly authorized; in forming and nurturing disciples; in conducting marriages and burying the dead; in embodying the church’s mission to the world; and in leading congregations in interpreting the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. For the sake of extending the mission and ministry of the Church and offering the means of grace to the world, the resident bishop of the annual conference in which the deacon is appointed may authorize the deacon to preside at the celebration of the sacraments. Presiding at the celebration of the sacraments involves taking responsibility to lead the gathered community in celebrating baptism and Holy Communion. As members of the Order of Deacon, all deacons are in covenant with all other deacons in the annual conference and shall participate in the life of their order.

These related petitions were rejected in favor of 60489: Petition 60636, West Ohio Order of Deacons (4 other similar); Petition 60637, from G. Williams, W.Va.; and Petition 60638, from Rocky Mountain Order of Deacons.

Paragraph 350

Petition 60493, Study of Ministry Commission

ADOPTED

This requires clergy who serve 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 354.2-3

Petition 60377, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

ADOPTED

This limits Transitional Leave to just one year and makes it non-renewable, unlike other voluntary leaves.

Paragraph 351.1-6

Petition 60494, from the Study of Ministry Commission

ADOPTED

This requires each annual conference, through the orders and fellowship, to provide spiritual enrichment opportunities and covenant groups for deacons, elders, and local pastors. Clergy are now required (as of Jan. 1, 2017) 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.

Paragraph 330

Petition 60366, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

ADOPTED

Deacons will need the three-quarter majority vote of clergy session to be approved for full membership. (Elders will need the same.)

Paragraph 330.3

Petition 60365, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

ADOPTED

This clarifies that all Basic Graduate Theological Studies courses must be completed before ordination.

Paragraph 330.4

Petition 60367, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

ADOPTED

This reorders the list of requirements for ordination so it is consistent with para. 335 (requirements for elder’s ordination).

Paragraph 330.5(a)(5)

Petition 60368, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

ADOPTED

This removed a question in this part of the paragraph that was redundant with the question in para. 330.5(a)(f).

Paragraph 330.7

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

ADOPTED

This removed 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 324.9 K

Petition 60363, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

ADOPTED

In addition to answering “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?,” candidates for either ordination will need to demonstrate to the Board of Ordained Ministry their understanding of both deacons’ and elders’ ministry focuses.

Paragraph 305

Petition 60484, from the Study of Ministry Commission.

ADOPTED

This proposal 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 331.1

Petition 60653, from Rebekah Miles

ADOPTED

This clarifies that deacons may 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 and 60373, from General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

ADOPTED

These moved 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 324

Petition 60507, from the Study of Ministry Commission

NOT SUPPORTED

This proposal would have moved ordination to the time of election to provisional membership rather than the time of election to full membership. Because this proposal was not accepted, the process toward ordination and clergy membership remains the same as in the 2012 Book of Discipline.

Paragraph 324.5

Petition 60716, from J. Miles, Arkansas

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

Would have removed 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.

Paragraph 326

Petition 60188, from the Alabama-West Florida Conference

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

This would have removed the two-year-minimum service requirement for provisional member deacons or elders.

Paragraph 328

Petition 60508, from the Study of Ministry Commission

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

This would have removed “In Full Connection” from the headline. It was related to the commission’s proposal (petition 60507, not approved) that ordination take place at the time of election to provisional membership.

Paragraph 329.3

Petition 60497, from the Study of Ministry Commission

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

Would clarify the membership rights for ordained deacons in provisional membership. This was related to the commission’s proposal (petition 60507, not approved) that ordination take place at the time of election to provisional membership.

Paragraph 330

Petition 60189, from Alabama-West Florida Conference

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

This would have eliminated the minimum two-year service requirement in provisional membership, allowed conference Boards of Ordained Ministry to approve the colleges from which a deacon candidate could earn a bachelor’s degree, and removed the expectation that a deacon would have any graduate-level education.

Paragraph 331

Petition 60498, from the Study of Ministry Commission

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

This related to the committee’s proposal that ordination take place at about the time of election to provisional membership (petition 60507, not approved).

Paragraph 331.4d

Petition 60190, from Alabama-West Florida Conference

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

This would have slightly changed the description of how the 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.

Paragraph 351.3

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

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

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 357

Petition 60656, from Laura J. Barlett, Ore.

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

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

Paragraph 358.6

Petition 60502, from the Study of Ministry Commission

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

This would have clarified 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

NOT CONSIDERED (due to time limitations)

This would have instituted 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

NO PLENARY VOTE (due to time limitations)

The legislative committee amended the original petition, but time ran out before the plenary could address it. The original would have instituted a specific complaint process and penalties for clergy who officiate a same-sex marriage ceremony.

 

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.

They dress and look like their neighbors. But within their human appearance, deacons are empowered by the Holy Spirit to help transform the world into the realm of God.

They are more than meets the eye.

The Rev. Nick Nicholas never tires of seeing the result of combining his love of ministry and a passion for justice.

“You just know you’ve done something right when God, through the Holy Spirit, opens a person’s eyes to see things they ordinarily would not see,” he says.

TransformeriStockBrendanHunter

@iStock.com/Brendan Hunter

Nick is a deacon residing in Philadelphia who serves as coordinator of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (VIM) in the Northeastern Jurisdiction. His secondary appointment is with at Arch Street United Methodist Church.

He is one of the deacons featured in the article “Deacons show Christ to a hurting world” in the Sept.-Oct. 2014 issue of The Interpreter magazine (the source of the above quote).

A number of other deacons are featured in this issue, which focuses on ministry in the United Methodist Church. It shows the breadth of ministry leadership that deacons provide.

Dr. Margaret Ann Crain speaks in another article in that issue about the ways deacons lead United Methodists in the denominational mission of transforming the world:

“One of the gifts of the order of deacon is that they have permission to stay focused on the ministry of all Christians and the transformation of the world,” says the Rev. Margaret Ann Crain, professor emeritus of Christian education at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and author of The United Methodist Deacon (Abingdon, 2014). “Because deacons are not focused on ordering the church, they have the freedom to focus elsewhere, specifically on the transformation of the world—or, to put it another way, to participate in bringing to fruition the reign of God. Deacons are always looking for opportunities to connect resources and people to needs in the wounded creation.”

Check out the issue and consider ordering extra copies for your ministry of helping people discern their ministry callings (whether those are lay or clergy callings).

Mission to vs. mission with

Deacons —  September 16, 2014

By Erica Koser

In ministry, I am passionate about two things: social justice and youth ministry. As I journey toward commissioning as a deacon, I find that these two passions continue to define my call to ministry and have pushed me to ask some important questions about how we serve others and how we attempt to be in mission with others. What is our driving motivation? Are we offering compassion but forgetting to continue on toward justice? Are our acts of compassion firmly rooted in a life of discipleship?

Erica Koser cropped

Erica Koser

In my ministry as youth director, one of the cornerstones is the short-term mission trip. I start receiving glossy fliers in my mailbox about this time of year, encouraging me to gather my youth and jet off to a tropical locale to serve others while having the adventure of a lifetime. The brochures are full of pictures of happy teens beaming at the camera and holding paint brushes, next to headlines that proclaim that these youth are changing the world.

Oh, were it that simple! What the brochures don’t show is the impact that our invasion may be having on the local community.

An old proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” An issue with many short-term mission trips is that we spend most of our time handing out fish. Week after week a new group brings fish—sometimes brightly colored fish, sometimes fish presented with a song and dance—but it’s always fish. The people receiving the fish smile and thank the givers of the fish only to turn and throw the fish in to the trash because nobody took the time to discover that the community can’t use fish. Robert Lupton, in his book Toxic Charity (HarperOne, 2012), lists these misperceptions of many mission trips:

“Contrary to popular belief, most mission trips and service projects do not:

  • Empower those being served
  • Engender healthy cross cultural relationships
  • Improve local quality of life
  • Relieve poverty
  • Change the lives of participants
  • Increase support for long-term mission work

Contrary to popular belief, most mission trips and service projects do:

  • Weaken those being served
  • Foster dishonest relationships
  • Erode recipients work ethic
  • Deepen dependency”
A short-term memory

Handing out fish can challenge us in the moment, but later, after we have washed the fishy smell from our hands, it is too easy to resume life as we know it, and the time, the money, and the effort we have spent on our short-term mission trip doesn’t have the effect on the community or on the youth that we desired.

As deacons called to a ministry of word and service, I think we are uniquely equipped to shift this paradigm and find ways that we ground our acts of compassion in a life of true discipleship.

I studied this issue intently as I wrote my graduate thesis. How do we engage in mission in such a way that we go out and make disciples in the world while also deepening our own discipleship? How do we live out John Wesley’s three General Rules to do no harm, to do good, and to stay in love with God (as Bishop Rueben Job words it)? I have found that if we shift to an attitude of accompaniment and ground it firmly in the cornerstones of covenant discipleship, we can facilitate and nurture the kind of discipleship we are called to in the great commission.

This past year I began using the cornerstones of covenant discipleship with our confirmation class. As the youth became more comfortable with working their way around the Jerusalem cross each week, sharing their acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion, they began to see how each strand wove together to deepen their understanding of discipleship. Compassion could not happen without also looking towards justice and understanding how mission and service were thin without practices of worship and devotion. They began to see that as they accompanied each other, they learned from one another as well as challenged each other. The seeds that were planted in the youth room were ready to be harvested and re-sown on the short-term mission trip.

Working alongside

For the past three summers, our youth group has traveled to Harvest Farm in Colorado. Harvest Farm is an addiction recovery farm on the plains of Northern Colorado. They serve a population of men who have been homeless or incarcerated and have lived a life of addiction. The men come to the farm to work the land, learn about the unconditional love of God, and begin to see a different way to live. And while it may seem an odd place to bring a group of youth for a mission experience, it has been a place that has changed us all for the better. This year, the youth arrived with a clearer picture of mission. They were not there to simply hand out fish. They were there to stand in the water with the other and to fish together. The water we stood in took the shape of dairy barns and pastures, corn fields and goat pens. The youth worked alongside the men, listening to their stories and sharing some of their own. Issues of homelessness and addiction began to take on names and faces—and acts of compassion led to ways to address injustices.

As we have returned home, we have continued to accompany the men from the farm. We have exchanged letters, held each other in prayer, and shared the ways in which we saw God at work during our week together. Our trip certainly wouldn’t have made a glossy brochure but God’s work often isn’t glamorous.

As deacons we are called to take the church out into the world, and in so doing we are called to ask the hard questions. Who are we serving? How are we serving? Is the work we are doing weaving together the threads of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion? There is a rich tapestry waiting to be woven as we accompany the other as Jesus’ hands and feet in the world today.

Erica Koser is a certified candidate for ordained ministry (deacon track) in the Minnesota Annual Conference. She is director of children, youth, and family ministry at Centenary United Methodist Church in Mankato, Minnesota.