The ‘deacon heart’ on full display
By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.
2022 is a banner year for Deacons in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. On June 3, at Annual Conference, three Deacons will be ordained in full connection and three people will be commissioned as provisional Deacons. One or two people are typically ordained and/or commissioned as Deacons at a typical ordination service, but this year multiple people have stepped forth to proclaim the words, “Here I am, Lord.”
These people are witnesses of God’s call for the church’s need for servant leadership. Besides displaying Christian witness in their commissioning or ordination, their faith and commitment are certainly recognized as they come before the bishop and the annual conference during the ordination service. Each of these persons bring another set of gifts and graces to support the church’s mission and ministry. Areas of ministry among those being ordained and commissioned are social justice, Christian education, Christian discipleship, parish nursing, and among others. The Order of Deacons is excited in welcoming these persons.
They include: Marjorie Hurder Buhrman, Matthew Sichel, Kristin Weschler as provisional Deacons and Megan Blanchard, Kathleen Grace Charters, and Tara C. Morrow as Deacons in full connection.
This group joins more than 34 other Deacons serving in the BWC.
When the Rev. Martina Efodzi, a Deacon in full connection, was ordained in 2019, she affirmed her commitment to leading the church in its servant ministry to the world. For Efodzi, her specialized ministry in her primary appointment is service in the area of counseling and art therapy where she supports individuals and groups towards healing. At the same time, Efodzi, who considers herself a soul care navigator, helps to lead and raise mental health awareness in her secondary appointment at Emmanuel UMC in Laurel, so its congregation is sensitized to these conditions as it serves the wider community.
Another deacon, Rev. Jennifer Kokoski, serves as a clinical chaplain in her primary appointment, standing in for the church with the offering of counseling and assistance for answering end of life questions when people transition. Her secondary appointment as a pastor to Union UMC in Baldwin, a rural congregation, is an example of how deacons are nimble by supporting the church with pulpit supply.
I am also a Deacon in full connection, using my gifts of servant leadership in the areas of Deaf ministries and pastoral counseling. I also lead a pilot program (a group mentorship program) that was created to lead and support 16 individuals (churches) across the conference to explore, support, and/or implement Deaf ministries in local churches.
These are just a few examples of how ordained clergy are living out their call as Deacons.
Deacons help lead the church in its work and mission. Diakonia, which means to serve, was a term used in the New Testament. In fact, Jesus marked the character of apostolic ministry with diakonia when he emphasized the washing of feet to his disciples on the night of his arrest. It’s the reason why the Deacon’s stole resembles a towel wrapped around the waist like Christ did.
In the early Church, Deacons were recognized leaders that served under bishops while working alongside presbyters (Elders) in ministry settings. In fact, the three early orders (bishops, Deacons, and presbyters) were prescribed in the Didache, an early church manual that was shared toward the end of the first century. There have even been more than 30 Deacons who became popes.
The early deacons serving under bishops often did administrative work who, for some, supervised clergy, helped to lead worship, oversaw the church’s charity work, they baptized with permission from their bishop, and provided pastoral care. While the church’s view of the diaconate evolved over the first few centuries, even to the point of making the Deacon’s office a transitional order (ordained a Deacon and then ordained a presbyter/Elder), the permanent order still remained but in smaller numbers.
Like other denominations, who ordained Deacons for servant leadership, The United Methodist Church also reorganized its orders of ministry in 1996 with the passing of the Order of Deacons at General Conference. By doing this, the church affirmed the important role Deacons have in leading the church in its mission and ministry.
Initially, Deacons were called to Word and Service, similar to Elders; but this was amended in 2012. The 2012 General Conference provided further understanding that Deacons are to live out their calling by Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice. Unlike an Elder, who may exclusively serve in extension ministry setting, the Deacon may have a dual appointment with a primary appointment that is “beyond the local church” (like those described above) and a secondary appointment connecting the Deacon to a local church (one foot in the church and one in the world).
Certainly, some Deacons serve in a full-time primary appointment within a local church or a charge that supports the church’s work in living out its mission. John Wesley’s understanding of ordination can be partially seen in the requirement of seminary education amongst the church’s clergy, for both Elders and Deacons alike. Some Deacons have additional education due to their specialized ministry or area of expertise.
Like Elders, Deacons serve at the pleasure of the bishop and work with the bishop and the Cabinet to be appointed to their ministry. While there are similarities among Deacons and Elders, the clear distinction is the “deacon heart,” where the Deacon feels a spiritual calling toward servant leadership. The church needs both orders and both are a gift from God.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Deacon, contact Rev. Yates at .