Changes are underway for a shift in the ministry of the deacon in the Diocese of Eastern Michigan.
Most familiar to us is the model of deacon functioning liturgically on Sunday, providing pastoral care, visiting the sick, being involved in outreach in some way and from The Ordination of a Deacon, “…interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” Book of Common Prayer p 543. Bishop Ousley and Archdeacon Anna Leigh Kubbe intend to refocus the diaconate, “…not to minimize the importance of liturgical functioning and congregational pastoral care, but to recognize that deacons are called primarily to equip others for ministry, identify community needs and mobilize the faithful for action.” (Bishop Ousley’s November 1, 2013, letter to diocesan leadership)
Two notable shifts are:
- The primary ministry is in the community and or the diocese
- Diaconal ministries must have two components, mercy and justice.
Mercy is reflected in ministries of compassion and caring as found in Matthew 25-36,” …for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
We know of numerous ministries of mercy described in Matthew, soup kitchens, food giveaway, emergency fund, housing, thrift shops etc. However, justice ministries seek to eliminate the causes for hunger, thirst, homelessness, incarceration and numerous other life diminishing circumstances, racism generational poverty addiction and violence. Justice is about advocacy and changing the systems which allow such degrading human conditions. Jesus was all about Justice! Without justice there is no peace, without peace there is no Kingdom.
September 7, 2013, the Diocese of Eastern Michigan sponsored a Tent Revival—Revival of the Spirit. On that day, Episcopalians throughout the diocese sought to expand new diocesan social ministries to include poverty, anti-racism, food justice, literacy, violence, healthcare and recovery ministries; these are justice ministries. This is the time in the life of Eastern Michigan for deacons to lead us in justice ministries. To this end, which is really a beginning, we are looking for people to serve as deacons, individuals who have the capacity to be in the community and throughout the diocese looking for needs which have not been addressed, individuals who have the gift of leadership with a passion for mercy and justice and who are able to lead the Diocese of Eastern Michigan in the ministries to which we have already committed ourselves.
If you or someone you know has the capacity to be such a leader, I invite you to contact me for conversation about the diaconate.