The Diaconate: Supporting and Empowering Ministry

by | May 27, 2021

The hopes of the diocesan strategic plan are dependent on the raising up of transformed leadership, both lay and ordained. And all of the leadership of the diocese are responsible for this work. We make that promise each time a person is baptized or confirmed and every time a person is ordained. 

At a baptism or confirmation, all present are asked a very serious question: Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ? Our response: We will. We do a similar affirmation at ordinations, following the ordinands’ commitments to ministry. We are asked if we support them and then if we will uphold them in ministry. Those responses of — It is — and — We will — are followed by prayers. 

The work we all do in forming committed Christian leaders is so important to the health and future of our congregations and diocese. If we are really teaching and embedding the truths of our faith in the parents of those being baptized and the young persons and adults we are presenting for confirmation, we will have transformed leaders willing to both share their faith and work for equity and justice. This was my commitment when I worked at the parish level. Now as I do ministry at the judicatory level, we seek to do this as we form and empower leaders in ordained ministry and provide liturgies that we hope are both inspiring and affirming. 

Over the last six years this diocese has raised up 30 new deacons. While each one is a unique person with different passions and gifts for ministry, all of them are committed to empowering congregations and individuals to live out our baptismal promises to tell the story of faith and do the work of the church. That is, to proclaim by word and example the Good News of Christ, to seek and serve all, and to strive for justice and peace. The work and ministry of every Christian. 

Over the last months:

  • Nine new deacons have been deployed to 11 congregations in every region of the diocese, increasing the collaborative work for justice ministry.
  • We are forming ten more deacons in our diocesan Deacons School, including persons from our Latino congregations.
  • Our Deacons School is the only formation program in The Episcopal Church doing bilingual formation of deacons. And we are sharing our learnings and materials with the wider church. 
  • The deacons have gathered with Hazel Monae, our new Missioner for Justice, to share information about the various justice ministries of our congregations. 

We are just beginning to see the fruits of our diaconal work and the hope that our churches will be seen and heard in neighborhoods and in places where we are most needed. This is not easy ministry and it confronts our congregations in ways that are new. We have been very comfortable in our pews and buildings for too many years. The deacons’ call and ministry are to push us out of our comfortable places inside and move us outside. Outside to learn about where we can make a difference and partner with those in need. 

In the next months:

  • We will form a Deacons Council which will be focused on helping our diocese learn about the ministry of deacons. 
  • We are continuing our conversations with the wider church about Spanish language formation of deacons.
  • We will be meeting with persons who have been discerning their call to the diaconate and determining possible next steps. 

There is so much work to do and we need every one of us doing this work to create God’s reign now. Where are you willing to go, to learn, to partner and to do justice? 

The Ven. L. Sue von Rautenkranz
Archdeacon and Diocesan Liturgist