Often when we think of deacons, we connect them with ministries of equity and justice, and rightly so. After all, the role of the deacon in a congregation is all about developing relationships between the community of the church and the world outside the parish doors. A deacon assists parishioners in discovering where their passion for service may lie then helps connect the parishioners to ministries in the wider world.
But another aspect to diaconal ministry that is a joy for the deacon to nurture comes as those new relationships in ministry form. For as the faithful open themselves to new ministries of service, they are changed by the Holy Spirit in a way that allows them a deeper understanding of faith in action. God shows up because we show up. And as deacons and parishioners together grow these ministries and grow in these ministries, together we are motivated to share our passions with more people, develop more relationships, and continue deepening our faith. We become more like God’s Beloved Community, our lives and the lives of the ones we serve enriched and transformed.
This is how the service of formation and transformation shows up in our local communities and around the globe:
Welcome the Stranger: Many of our congregations are active in supporting and resettling Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. From clothing drives and settling up apartments to sponsoring families and walking with them as they get children in school to helping them cope with paperwork for government and social service agencies and connecting them with resources to learn English.
Feed the Hungry: A large number of our congregations coordinate food ministries such as weekly meal programs and food pantries. Some instead provide sandwiches, meals, workers, and supplies in partnership with existing ministry agencies like Martha’s Table, Loaves and Fishes, and Shepherd’s Table.
Blessed are the poor: Reaching out to those who are unhoused is primarily a ministry of presence and pastoral care. A number of our congregations prioritize weekly walks in their neighborhood to talk with individuals, provide food and personal products, and with at least one parish, ask for desired prayers that are then added to the prayers of the people just a few hours later every Sunday morning.
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also: Many of our congregations support ministries through financial means by providing educational scholarships and school support in Honduras, Haiti, Ecuador, and other places around the world. We also have groups from congregations sending short-term mission teams to learn and support these different international and domestic opportunities for service and building relationships.
Therefore encourage one another: Deacons also show up and take others along in ministries of presence and advocacy. Marching in the Pride Parade and working booths at the Pride Festival, participating in the March for Our Lives and other Gun Violence gatherings, and the Poor People’s Campaign Moral March. The Diocese is present in almost every possible advocacy initiative in the DMV area.
Baptismal ministry includes the promises to seek and serve all and to strive for justice and peace. Deacons empower the people of God to “walk the talk” in their everyday lives, putting Jesus’ hands and feet and eyes in the world and happens in different ways through time, effort, and gifts. Deacons also assist congregations in leading these efforts through the complete cycle of addressing the hopes, needs and concerns of the world by responding in charity, service, advocacy, and justice. The Diocese of Washington shows up and does what needs to be done and you can too. Just ask one of the 30 deacons now serving in our congregations about how you can be involved.
And if this ministry intrigues you, come to the Workshop Day on the Diaconate to see if God is calling you to be a deacon.
The Ven. L. Sue von Rautenkranz
Archdeacon and Diocesan Liturgist