“You’re just a pastor wanna be.” The first time I heard those words, my blood began to boil. My call to ministry; to word and service ministry is so much more than that. It is not a yearning to be a pastor, but is in fact a different call to ministry. It is a call to “word and service,” rather than “word and sacrament.” It is a call to be the bridge between the church and the world.
The night before Jesus’ death and crucifixion, Jesus sat around the table with his disciples. He broke bread and poured wine. He even communed Judas who would soon betray him and Peter who would deny him three times. In this holy act, we see the power of God’s redeeming love and grace. Not only did they take part in a holy meal, but Jesus took on the role of the servant and washed his disciples’ feet.
As a woman called to word and service ministry, to be a deacon in this church, it is the foot washing that reminds me that God calls me to pick up my basin and towel to wash the feet of all God’s people. As the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness, God calls me to wash my mom’s feet, but also the feet of all God’s beloved especially the down-trodden, the marginalized, etc.
Like the waters of Baptism, the water poured out on Maundy Thursday calls deacons to share God’s love with the world. This water also reminds us that in Holy Baptism we all have been gifted with different gifts and abilities. It is a reminder that there are many members but one body.
Since the first time I have read about “word and service” ministry, it has spoken to me; to my call to ministry. I do not feel called to administer the sacraments but rather to be the bridge between the church and the world. I feel called to work alongside the pastor and share the message of the Gospel in new and innovative ways.
Deacons serve in various ways in this church. You will see them serving in congregations like I do. You will see others focusing on community organizing, disability ministry, and in so many other ways. As deacons, who are called to share the word, you will also sometimes see us preaching to the gathered community. As a colleague reminded me many years ago, my sermon has a different focus than his. I see it through the eyes, ears, and lens of word and service ministry.
There is a beautiful depth and gift that comes when congregations realize that there are new ways for churches to think about calling rostered leaders. With the clergy shortage, perhaps more congregations can and will be open to calling a deacon; an individual with seminary training who is called to this specific ministry of word and service.
For me, the call to “diakonia” (service) has always been captured in these elegant words from Frederick Buechner. “The place God calls you to be is the place where the world’s deep hunger and your deep gladness meet.” Deacons are called to be that place between the world’s deep hunger and our deep gladness.
I am in no way a pastor wanna be. I am a woman called to be the bridge between the church and the world. I am a woman called to carry God’s love to all the world. I am a woman who is called “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with her God.”
And my deacon friends and colleagues are called to do the very same. We simply have a different call to ministry; a different call that, I truly believe, can and will change the church as we work together with our Word and Sacrament colleagues.
May our hearts, ears, and eyes be open to the calling of the Holy Spirit as the church learns more about what it means to be called as a minister of Word and Service in the church.
I am linking up with Kelly Balarie and the Ra Ra linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley, Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.