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
Our diocesan strategic plan calls us to “engage [equity and justice] issues such as racial justice, gun violence prevention, LGBTQIA+ equal rights, and immigration reform through on-going trainings, workshops, pilgrimages, and public witness.” This year, we’ve done notable work engaging in each of these areas and making progress on our Year Three measurable objectives.
In January, we offered a 6-week course on LGBTQIA Humility and Competence through the School for Christian Faith and Leadership to raise awareness of the experience of LQBTQIA persons in our communities and identify key theologies and practices to welcome and affirm them.
Also in January, at Diocesan Convention, Bishop Mariann commissioned the Creation Care Task Force. The call to this work was met with much enthusiasm and the Task Force set about the task of surveying the congregations about their creation care work. They have prepared a report which will be shared soon. Their next steps will be to look at possible initiatives for us to adopt regionally or as a diocese.
In fulfillment of General Convention resolutions mandating that all congregational leaders take anti-racism training, we have continued to offer anti-racism training twice a year, now online through the School for Christian Faith and Leadership. Watch for fall dates. This Spring the anti-racism course was offered for the first time in Spanish, an offering that will be repeated in coming years.
A change in name to the EDOW Refugee Response Team helped to reflect that this group is engaged in welcoming all refugees and migrants, from those coming from Afghanistan and Ukraine to the more recent migrants arriving on buses from Texas and Arizona. You read more about the work of the RRT in this article by Nancy Stockbridge, interim chair.
The Prison Ministry Task Force continues to provide welcome home bags to returning citizens along with phone and transit cards. They also provide short term mentorship to returning citizens.
In May, the Reparations Task Force offered “Repairing the Breach: Reparations as Healing,” an evening with Dr. Catherine Meeks and other leaders, as they continue to do the work of laying the foundation for EDOW’s commitment to remembering, reckoning with, and reconciling our histories pertaining to racism. This event is part of the lead up to the October 1st event Repairing the Breach: A Symposium on Reparations with a keynote address by the Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas. This symposium, as well as a curriculum for congregations to learn about the work of reparations, will lay the groundwork for a resolution publicly acknowledging these harms to be presented and the 2023 Diocesan Convention. Register for the symposium and download the flyer for the curriculum.
Earlier this month, members of the Diocese celebrated at DC’s Pride March and, for the first time, the Diocese hosted a booth at the Pride Festival the following day.
In June parishes also participated in March for Our Lives, calling for an end to the country’s rampant gun violence crisis and the enactment of sensible gun safety laws, and the Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March, calling for the restoration of voting rights.
We are pleased to welcome Rudy Logan as our interim missioner for Equity and Justice who will continue the good work of Hazel Monae, our former missioner.
Christ has no body but ours, no hands, no feet on earth but ours. Ours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Ours are the hands with which he blesses all the world (adapted from Christ Has No Body, Teresa of Avila). In the Diocese of Washington, we are committed to living Jesus’s Way of Love by leading with compassion, blessing our communities, and striving for equity and justice in our words and deeds.
The Rev. Dr. Anne-Marie Jeffery
Canon for Congregational Vitality
“…I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
Parishes and individuals throughout the Diocese have a long history of stepping up to welcome the stranger as displaced people from around the world arrive in this area. Beginning last August, after the President’s announcement of the end of the war in Afghanistan, the influx of refugees has reached record numbers. In response to this increased urgent need for assistance, what had been an informal sharing of knowledge and resources among those congregations with established refugee ministries served as the basis for the creation of the Afghan Refugee Response Team (ARRT) with Bishop Mariann then urging parishes and individuals to participate in responding to this humanitarian crisis.
As co-chairs of ARRT, the Rev. Anne Derse, deacon at St. John’s, Norwood and Hazel Monae, then the diocesan Missioner for Equity and Justice, provided the opportunity for parishes to gather regularly on Zoom, learn from those who had been supporting refugees for years, hear about the current situation and need, build partnerships, and take action to begin graciously ‘Welcoming the Stranger’.
Our Diocesan Strategic Plan calls us to “partner in ministries of equity and justice for greater impact in our communities” and “strengthen our collective witness…and shared resources to meet the needs of our regions.” Over the last ten months, parishes have done exactly that, cultivating collaboration among parishes in the Diocese, across faith communities, and with other aid organizations in the work to support arriving refugees. Based on the needs in the DMV, parishes have:
- sponsored newly arriving families,
- furnished and set up apartments,
- provided housing,
- fed those in hotels,
- gathered needed supplies such as coats, gift cards, socks, toys, and
- advocated for immigration reform.
Over thirty parishes and countless individuals have been generously involved with the efforts.
The capabilities developed and information gathered through the initial efforts of the ARRT apply to all arriving refugees and this spring, the ARRT community entered the next phase of work, renaming itself to the Refugee Response Team (RRT) to better reflect the wider scope of its mission.
The RRT community will continue to serve as a resource for parishes called to this ministry, so they have a place to start. To carry on the work, the RRT will remain a place for accessing and sharing information, provide ongoing support for parishes involved in the ministry, and carry out the vision of ‘Welcoming the Stranger’.
If you or the people of your parish feel called to this ministry, please don’t hesitate to email me.
Interim Chair, Refugee Response Team
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
As we work together to revitalize our churches to grow the Jesus Movement, one of our primary Strategic Plan goals is to “become a spiritual home for our children and grandchildren.” We’ve been active on a number of fronts in 2023 in supporting that vision.
A major part of our focus has been on reaching rising generations. This effort kicked off with the Diocesan Convention Friday night event, Listening to Rising Generations , where we heard powerful testimonials from four young adults of the diocese and Mark Yaconelli cast a vision of what’s possible when elders take the time to make genuine connections with the youth and young adults in our communities (watch the video). We have also invited congregations to read the book, Growing Young, which shares research about churches that attract and support young people and the practices that facilitate that work. We hope to have a cohort of churches that embark on a learning journey of Growing Young with coaches from the Fuller Youth Institute.
A key part of this revitalization effort will beto launch/relaunch three worshiping congregations, and we have begun laying the groundwork for this work for the years to come by identifying possible geographic areas and leaders interested in this work. ACS Technologies is assisting us, beginning with a demographic MissionInsite study, to help us discern areas with the most potential to reach rising generations.
Another important piece of our revitalization work is being done by the Task Force on Black Ministries. Formed following the adoption of a resolution at Diocesan Convention, the Task Force is called to identify recommendations to enhance, revitalize, and empower Black churches and Black parishioners in the Diocese of Washington. The Task Force will report its findings and recommendations to the diocese in September.
The first cohort of 12 congregations completed Year One of the Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations Initiative–our flagship revitalization program. In Year Two, they will begin to address specific strategic goals. This fall, a second cohort of 12 congregations will begin their journey, focusing on getting into their neighborhoods and reconnecting with their mission to discover where God is leading them. Throughout the initiative, the activities that participating congregations engage in are being offered to all the congregations in the diocese, multiplying the impact of the initiative throughout our diocese.
The Seven Vital Signs of Parish Health continue to be the foundation of our vitality work. The signs ground parish visitations, transition work, the Tending our Soil Thriving Congregations Initiative, and the work of congregations in Canon 54. Earlier this year, an Introduction to the Vital Signs course was launched through the School for Christian Faith and Leadership.
Join the work of revitalization with a July 30th workshop — Connecting with your Community — an opportunity to practice going out and interacting with those outside our church wall.
The Rev. Dr. Anne-Marie Jeffery
Canon for Congregational Vitality
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12
The School for Christian Faith and Leadership, birthed at the beginning of the pandemic, continues to hold this proclamation by Paul to the Corinthians as a core driving principle. Every baptized person is a full member of the body of Christ, with gifts to fulfill the mission of the Church.
The School for Christian Faith and Leadership offers both online and in-person events as well as curriculum for congregations. Since September 2021, we have offered 25 courses to equip more than 500 congregational leaders across the diocese for their ministries of administration, justice, stewardship, formation, pastoral care, and parish vitality with both online and in-person events. More than a dozen congregations have used our curricula, including CREATE and A Faithful Life, resources developed for the Diocese of Washington for both youth and adults to learn more about The Episcopal Church and the Christian life.
You can view our offerings at www.edow.org/school. Fall 2022 offerings will be announced soon.
In addition to courses, the School for Christian Faith and Leadership has developed a Path of Discipleship with a suite of resources to help members of your congregation grow in faith.
The Rev. Jenifer Gamber
Director for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership and the Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations Initiative