Have you ever simply just ran out of steam? I’m guessing there are days when we all feel like that. Today I especially am feeling it. For quite awhile now, a taskforce was put together in the ELCA to talk about Diaconal Ministers, Associates in Ministry and Deacons/Deaconesses as they look toward their future.
When I went to seminary, I knew that God wasn’t calling me to be a Pastor. I went to seminary with no idea what I was going to do. Would I get a degree in Youth Ministry? Would I become rostered? And what would it mean to be rostered? When I arrived at seminary, I went in thinking I’ll get my Master of Arts degree. But that is pretty much as far as I got!
During those first months of seminary, I was taking an MA colloquoim class. In that class we read a book titled “From Word to Sacrament.” (A book about the history of the Diaconate!) As I read through that book, I heard God’s call for my life. Phrases simply began jumping off the page for me; “bridging church and world,” “picking up basin and towel and washing the feet of all God’s people”; and “Word and Service.” These were words the author was using to explain Diaconal Ministry.
I’ll be honest I grew up in North Dakota and had never heard of this roster, but as those words jumped off the page to me, I heard God saying “T, this is your call in life.” The next week, I had a session with my Spiritual Director. I walked into her office, with a smile on my face, proclaiming, “I think God is calling me into Diaconal Ministry.” She looked at me and asked a simple question, “What makes you say that?” I don’t remember the exact details of that conversation but I remember talking about my mom, my mom’s illness, the stigma associated with it. I closed by saying, “I think God is calling me to wash my mom’s feet and all of those who are seen as outcasts.” She looked at me and said, “Yes, that is Diaconal Ministry.” From that day on, I never doubted that God was calling me into this new roster.
I went through seminary….which was not an easy journey. In fact, there were days I wasn’t sure I would make it. I remember sitting in a candidacy meeting and being asked why I struggled with a class. I recall my advisor saying, “It would have been really easy for her to walk out those doors, shut those doors, and never look back. It’s taken her more guts to stick with it.” I held those words close as I walked the journey through seminary; knowing they would help sustain me as I walked toward my consecration as a Diaconal Minister in the ELCA!
After seminary, I spent almost an entire year before I received a call. People didn’t know what to do with me and the roster. The Holy Spirit continued to work and I finally received a call. On April 23,2006 I was consecrated into Diaconal Ministry. I was the 108th (if I am remembering my number correctly)Diaconal Minister of the ELCA! Two of my dear friends from seminary drove through the night to share in that day with me. Many of my family and other caring adults in my life also were gathered that day. My sister was teaching in Arizona and surprised me. She said she couldn’t come but she showed up. She said, “I would never miss this day.” They saw as I was presented with my basin and towel. They laid their hands on me and promised to support me. They heard me make the promises in the consecration rite that are engrained in who God has called me to be. That day is one of the most holiest and special days of my life!
Like seminary, it hasn’t been easy. I have always had to educate about Diaconal Ministry but it is who I am so it didn’t phase me. I have continued to teach congregations and leaders about it because I knew there were others who would follow behind me. I am a persistent advocate for Diaconal Ministry yet I’m weary!
As I stated earlier in this blog, a taskforce has been convening to talk about our future and the future of the other rosters. I appreciate all the hardwork that has gone into this but I’m also sad that I and many others have been continually educating and I wonder if that has all been for nothing…and is lost! I’m tired…tired of fighting for what God has called me to do.
So no matter what happens, I will continue to reach out to those outside the church walls and will continue to equip those in the congregation to do the same. I will FOREVER carry on with my Diaconal heart. It is engrained in me and who I am! And in my opinion,that can never be taken away!
(Sorry for such a lengthy blog post friends! But it has been heavy on my heart today. These are my views and not necessarily the views of other Diaconal Ministers or even the ELCA! And on a lighter note, this is my 550th blog post!)