Friday, July 31, 2015
Greetings from Pietermaritzburg on a cool but pleasant winter day. My body is still adjusting to both the temperature and the time zone as I just returned from a few weeks in the United States this past Wednesday. While the reason for my planning the trip was to attend the ELCA’s Diaconal Ministry Formation Event (more on that below), I also enjoyed visiting friends in San Antonio, TX and my parents in Payson, AZ, where my sister who lives in Iowa joined us. In addition, I was able to catch up with a YAGM alum in Phoenix and make several new friends along the way. I jokingly refer to these three weeks as my 2015 Hot Cities Tour. Humid Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (the site of the ELCA event) was the clear winner, though Phoenix had much higher temperatures.
While two years ago I returned to seminary studies with Luther Seminary—I am definitely one of their longest-distance learners and benefit from online offerings!—a fairly recent development is that I’ve transferred into an M.A. program. In addition, I will be seeking rostering as a diaconal minister of the ELCA. Participating in the week-long Diaconal Ministry Formation Event (DMFE) hosted by the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg is a requirement of that rostering process. ‘Rostering’ refers to a way in which the national church of the ELCA enters into mutual accountability with church leaders, including both clergy (aka pastors) and non-clergy. Currently there are three non-clergy rosters: diaconal ministers, deaconesses and associates in ministry (AIMs). One aspect of rostering is the process through which the ELCA accompanies people in discerning calls to rostered ministry. I am currently in the middle of the rostering process and won’t be fully rostered until I’ve accepted a call into particular work.
Perhaps you’ve never heard of diaconal ministers and that would not be surprising. There aren’t that many of them: according to the ELCA’s website, as of September 1, 2014 there were only 192 diaconal ministers compared to 16,543 ordained clergy. And while the development of diaconal ministry is ancient—some consider Stephen and the other six set aside for ‘table service’ in the book of Acts the first diaconal ministers—the actual ELCA roster has only been around for about 20 years.
But what is a diaconal minister, you might be wondering. Stay tuned for a future blog post!