REFLECTION FOR TRINITY 10

“As you and I grow in our relationship with God, our minds and hearts will become more like the mind and heart of God. We will find ourselves praying in the way of Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision: “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” In our grief, we will call out to God for mercy, for ourselves, for others, and for our world. In his grace, God will reach out with his healing love, not only comforting us but also using us to comfort others and to extend the peace of his kingdom.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What things in this world break your heart? What difference does this make in the way you pray? In the way you live? Are you willing to pray in the mode of Bob Pierce: “Lord, may my heart be broken by the things that break your heart”?

PRAYER: Lord, how easy it is for me to go about my life and neglect the pain and suffering of the world. I can forget that so many people don’t know you, while others have rejected your kingdom. Forgive me for my hard heart. Forgive me for getting so wrapped up in myself that I fail to see and feel as you do.”

(From The High Calling)

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Coptic Christian weeps over the massacre of Christians by Isis

LAURENCE, DEACON AND MARTYR

Today the church celebrates the martyr, Deacon Laurence.  In our intercessions,  Christians like him are to be remembered,  still being captured, unjustly tried, robbed of possessions, and made to suffer ghastly deaths.

Lord, have mercy:  and grant us the grace, courage and humour of Laurence.

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Laurence or Lawrence (about 225-258) was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred under the persecution of Valerian (emperor 253-260) in 258.  After Sixtus was elected bishop on 31 August 257, he ordained Laurence a deacon and placed him in charge of the administration of church goods and care for the poor.

In the persecutions under Valerian, numerous presbyters and bishops were put to death.. Sixtus II was one of the first victims, beheaded on 6 August 258. According to a legend cited by Ambrose of Milan, Laurence met Sixtus on his way to execution, and said: “Father, where are you going without your son? Holy priest, where are you hurrying without your deacon?”

Sixtus answered: “I am not leaving you or forsaking you. Greater struggles yet await you. We old men have to undergo an easier fight; a more glorious triumph over the Tyrant awaits you, young man. Don’t cry; after three days you will follow me.”

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Laurence turn over the riches of the church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Laurence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. Laurence worked swiftly to distribute as much church property to the poor as possible, to prevent its being seized by the prefect.

On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect. When ordered to give up the treasures of the church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, “The church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.” This act of defiance led to his martyrdom. It is said that Laurence was burned on a gridiron or “grilled” to death. According to legend, at the point of death he exclaimed, “I am done on this side! Turn me over and eat.” (More likely, he was beheaded like his bishop and fellow deacons.)

(From Deacon Ormonde Plater’s Calendar of Deacon Saints)

SPIRIT OF DIAKONIA

“Like most Christians, I suspect, I have tended to think of service in purely moral terms–a matter of good works. I now see, however, that it is much deeper than that. It is the whole orientation of one’s life. Those infected with the spirit of diakonia live in prayerful gratitude for our servant Lord, whose own life calls us to service in his name. And if our service is in imitation of Jesus, then it must be incarnational–a participation, including through prayer, in the life, including the suffering, of those we serve. ”

Rev Dr Michael Kinnamon, at the DIAKONIA world assembly 2017

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WHY I WILL BE A DISTINCTIVE DEACON, NOT A PRIEST

Andy Farmer (second from left, back row) is to be ordained this September.  Here he sets out his vision for being a deacon in the workplace.

You can read more about Andy’s understanding of the diaconate as a model for servant leadership here:  https://deaconstories.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/deacon-in-the-workplace1.pdf

SPIRIT-FILLED: developing a further understanding of diaconal ministry

Canon Rosalind Brown has given permission for this draft of her article for Ecclesiology to be published here.  In it she argues for a further development of the theological underpinning of diaconal ministry which recognises that the ministry of Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit and that he sent the Holy Spirit to empower his followers in their proclamation of the gospel. Strengthening the pneumatological foundation of diaconal ministry gives it a more secure Trinitarian foundation and an impetus for mission that could help to transform the mission of the church.

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It’s an inspiring read!  rbrown Diaconate, for submission to Ecclesiology

If you subscribe to the journal Ecclesiology you can find the final version of the article here:  http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/17455316-01302005

DEACONS AT THE HEART

‘It is a movement from diaconal ministry as something Deacons undertake on behalf of the church ‘out there’ to Deacons equipping and empowering the laity, the whole people of God, for diaconal ministry, and Deacons collaborating in collective action with others in the community, beyond the four walls of the church’.

DIAKONIA President Rev Deacon Sandy Boyce, in her final presidential address to the Chicago delegates this month, poses a profound question.

Sandy Boyce - Deacon

‘what kind of model for (diaconal) ministry is required in our time and place, for our particular context?’

She quotes Methodist Deacon David Clark‘s vision for the whole church to become diaconal in its outlook and movement.  At a time when we Anglicans are seriously considering unity with the Methodists, maybe this is the question we should be asking ourselves.

Here is Sandy’s whole address:

Chicago 2017

DIAKONIA World Federation Assembly

22nd Assembly: Shaken by the Wind

Visions for the Future

Address by President Rev (Deacon) Sandy Boyce
During my term as President of DIAKONIA World Federation I have learned just how diverse are the expressions of diaconal ministry around the world and how diverse are the structures in which diaconal ministry is couched. There is no one way – but we have found we can all learn from each other. And that’s the great work, I believe, of the DIAKONIA World Federation, that within and between the member associations we can all learn from the experience of the other, to affirm as well as to be a catalyst for change when need be.

It is worth briefly pausing to look at the development of the Deaconess movement in 1836 under the leadership of a German Lutheran pastor, Theodor Fliedner. It was a response to the challenging contextual issues of the day, especially with the rise of industrialisation, the movement from rural areas to the cities for employment, the subsequent rise of the urban poor who lacked the community support they might have enjoyed in rural communities, the rapid spread of disease, the end of the Napoleonic wars that left society in upheaval, and so on. It was into this particular context that Fliedner established a deaconess motherhouse and a diaconal community that would enable women in the 19th century to find a meaningful vocation and that would respond to these challenges in society.

Now, I want to suggest that this direct correlation between the context as the catalyst for the shape and ordering of ministry may at times be disconnected. It is necessary from time to time to step back from the immediacy of ‘doing’ ministry, to reflect on the pressing challenges for our time, and how may we together to respond through releasing lay and ordained people to exercise ministry and mission within the church and in the community.

You know the many current challenges in the world – globalisation, the unjust distribution of resources, weapons of mass destruction, the rise of terrorism, increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, complex inter-faith relations, accelerating climate change, the worldwide refugee crisis, to name but a few. The pressing overarching question may be, how can we live together in peace as a global community? The particular question for the church may be, how do we respond most effectively to this particular context in which we find ourselves?

Using the example of Theodor Fliedner and the development of the deaconess movement, the question may be, what kind of model for ministry is required in our time and place, for our particular context? (We have heard this morning some thoughtful insights about that)

David Clark in his two books, Breaking the Mould of Christendom and Building Kingdom Communities, offers very compelling arguments for a new way of thinking. He provides a comprehensive vision of church and ministry from a diaconal perspective. The movement is away from what is ‘done to’ people, and towards collaborative and collective action – what people do together to address the issues and needs of the day.

It is a movement from diaconal ministry as something Deacons undertake on behalf of the church ‘out there’ to Deacons equipping and empowering the laity, the whole people of God, for diaconal ministry, and Deacons collaborating in collective action with others in the community, beyond the four walls of the church.

It places Deacons within the heart of the congregation – visioning, animating, equipping, empowering, sending.

It places Deacons within the heart of the community – building relationships, standing in solidarity, drawing alongside people and groups, committing to collective and collaborative action in cooperation with community groups to work towards an outcome that will enable flourishing for all.

‘The role of Deacon is not so much a personal vocation lived out in the community, but a vocation that releases all members – the whole people of God – to live out their baptism in service in the community, ‘to recognise, encourage, develop and release those gifts in God’s people which will enable them to share in the ministry of caring, serving, healing, restoring, making peace and advocating justice as they go about their daily lives.’ (Report on Ministry in the Uniting Church 1991 Assembly)

The role of the diaconate is very much a live issue for Deacons in the Methodist Church in the UK, where there is currently a debate about the future of the Methodist Diaconal Order.

David Clark suggests that the kind of leadership required for a church that orients its life towards diaconal ministry requires new understandings about leadership. He suggests that Presbyters (Leaders and Pastors and Ministers) take responsibility for the renewal of the gathered church through accessing the kingdom community’s gifts of life, liberation, love and learning.

The diaconate as an order of mission would assume responsibility for furthering the ministry of the laity as the church dispersed in the world, educating and equipping lay people for their task of building communities which make manifest the gifts of the kingdom community throughout the whole of society.

David Bosch’s definition of mission picks up this idea of ‘participation in the liberating mission of Jesus, the good news of Gods love incarnated in the witness of a community for the sake of the world.

What flexibility do we need in how we are church together in order to respond to the particular context and challenges of our time? What ways of organising ourselves as church will best enable a collective response to a particular context – social, political, economic?

Inga Bengtzon served 65 years as a Deaconess, and served for 13 years as the President of DIAKONIA World Federation. She was a visionary. Referring to the General Assembly of the WCC in 1983, she argued for the inclusion of a self-critical dimension of the diaconal role that challenges the church’s “locked, frozen, static and self-centred structures” in order to turn them into a “workable, living instrument for the church’s task of healing, reconstruction and sharing with each other.” Diaconia, she said, cannot be limited to institutional forms. It must “break through the already established structures and demarcations in the institutional church” in order to act, heal, and build in the world. (Bengtzon, 1984, translated from Swedish).


David Clark casts his vision to what he calls the kingdom community and suggests that in order to be able to undertake a kingdom-focused mission, the church has first of all to break the mould of Christendom, and become a diaconal or servant church, where all the ministries serve that purpose, and all the ministries orient themselves to servant leadership.

The diaconate should be responsible for encouraging and equipping the laity to exercise their ministry of kingdom community building in every sphere of the life of society.

What will enable us to most fully respond to God
s mission in and through the church? Its a question for us all, and particularly how we orient what we name as church to be a kingdom community with a kingdom-focussed mission.

And I return to the question I asked when I introduced Theodor Fliedner’s initiative to establish a deaconess community in 1836 in Germany: what kind of model for ministry is required in our time and place, for our particular context? How can the church best shape ministry so that the diaconal mission of the whole people of God can be best equipped?

It is a continuing conversation and perhaps calls for a conversion of how we ‘do’ church.

4th July 2017 

[David Clark is a member of the British Methodist Diaconal Order]

References

Clark, D. (2005, reprinted 2014) Breaking the mould of Christendom – kingdom community,

diaconal church and the liberation of the laity. Peterborough: FastPrint Publishing

Clark, D. (2016) Building Kingdom Communities – with the diaconate as a new order of

mission. Peterborough: FastPrint Publishing

[Available via Amazon]

David Clark has a blog at http://www.diaconalchurch.com

 

DIACONAL VISION

The global DIAKONIA conference which has just finished in Chicago, comprising more than 400 deacons worldwide, was addressed by Rev Dr Michael Kinnamon in an outspoken critique of  current American politics, and the essential place of the diaconate in the fallout of these policies.

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This is the second half of his address.  You can find the whole thing here:  file:///C:/Users/gmk/AppData/Local/Temp/Michael%20Kinnamon-1.pdf

or here under ‘Plenary Presentation’:  http://www.diakonia-world.org/2017/Chicago2017_Presentations.shtml

” … there are signs that we are being shaken by the wind of the Spirit, for which we should give thanks. God is at work, calling us to participate in divine diakonia. But we are also being shaken by turbulent social-political winds, both new and persistent, both in the US and around the world.
* * *
What does all of this suggest for the practice of diakonia in this era? In one sense, diakonia is diakonia in any era. Serving those in need is essential, no matter what political winds are blowing. And our focus on the margins, rather than the center, of society will likely be at least somewhat at odds with most governments.
As I see it, however, there are particular emphases that are especially appropriate, especially needed, right now. I will name five as a way of inviting discussion. These are not new ideas, but I believe they deserve even more emphasis in the way we undertake our ministry in this era.
1) Emphasis on global solidarity, including our ties as DIAKONIA within the world-wide ecumenical movement. Trump’s slogan, as you probably know, is “America First.” Seen in Christian perspective, this is nothing short of idolatrous, an exaltation of artificial boundaries that divide God’s one human family. The noun that defines us is Christian. I am an American Christian, not a Christian American–which means that Chita, not just Jan, is my sister in Christ, a bond more consequential than national citizenship. And because we are followers of One who died for all, there are no boundaries, either national or religious, to our service.
I have no doubt that you practice this kind of global solidarity already, but I am arguing that it needs to be highlighted even more in this era of nationalist fervor. The cross of Jesus undercuts the pretensions of any group that declares its self-interest to be pre
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eminent, and especially the pretensions of any rich nation that seeks to preserve its prerogatives and resources at the expense of the poor. Global interdependence is a key theme of Christian living, and I hope we emphasize it in the coming years.
2) Emphasis on welcoming the stranger. The President’s immigration policy proposes to close this nation’s doors at a time of a global refugee crisis because, as he repeatedly says, American safety comes first. Seen in Christian perspective, this is nothing short of idolatry–a denial of the hospitality due to any person who comes to us in need.
I have a friend, a biblical scholar, who argues that the most persistent commandments in scripture are have no strange gods and welcome strangers. The Hebrew people saw the latter as a mark of covenantal faithfulness: Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt, and treat others as God treated you. Christians confess that through sin we have made ourselves strangers to God; but, in Christ, God has extended a gracious welcome even to us–and calls on us to do the same.
You know, of course, that such hospitality is not a matter of politeness or distant charity. We have not necessarily done it by giving money, since the issue in welcoming someone is relationship. A genuine welcome also doesn’t mean inviting the stranger to become like us. White churches in this country often put “All Welcome” signs on the door, without changing anything inside, and then wonder why people of color don’t join. No, true welcome is not absorption. It simply enables the other to feel at home.
Welcoming the stranger, while not formally a sacrament, is certainly sacramental: an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual bonds that connect all who bear the image of the Creator. I hope the whole ecumenical movement will emphasize it in this era of threatened exclusion.
3) Emphasis on what we might call a “diakonia of resistance.” I realize that this is familiar territory for many of you who have lived in situations of overt oppression. Here in the United States, however, where oppression gets swept under the rug, ecumenically-engaged churches have tended to stress the importance of incremental change, of speaking truth to power as the way “to get things done.” Before becoming head of the National Council of Churches, I was the chairperson of the Council’s Justice and Advocacy Commission, which maintains a regular presence in Washington, DC in order to lobby (we don’t call it that!) for particular legislation. But such a strategy may not be what is needed in this era.
The churches that make up Church World Service signaled a new approach, following the executive orders aimed at stopping refugees, with a powerful statement of “strong
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opposition.” A number of congregations, including my own in San Diego, are preparing to resist, making plans to harbor persons threatened with deportation.
There is a time, obviously, for patient, long-term advocacy. But surely there is also an appropriate time to resist policies and systems that are fundamentally at odds with the gospel. As I see it, that time has come for this country, and perhaps for others, as well.
4) Emphasis that following the servant Christ is inherently risky, and that we welcome such risk. Security, as I suggested earlier, has become a one-size-fits-all justification for policies that all of us, I suspect, find troubling. Indeed, there are days when I think “security” is the most dangerous word in the English language. Increase the military budget at the expense of dollars for health care and education–in the name of security. Relax gun laws and promote gun sales–in the name of security. Deny entry to refugees fleeing violence–in the name of security. Step up deportation of immigrants and build a wall against Mexico–in the name of security. Justify the use of torture–in the name of security!
Christians know that, because human community is interdependent, true security can never be achieved through unilateral defense, but through attentiveness to the injustice and anxiety that afflict other children of God. South Korea will be insecure so long as North Korea feels threatened. Israel, in the words of one of its former defense ministers, “will have security only when Palestinians have hope.” European security, as recent events make clear, is intertwined with that of North Africa and the Middle East. US security depends, among other things, on reducing the economic disparities that understandably fuel global resentment.
The Christian vision, however, is even more profound, because, as the United Methodist bishops put it, “following Jesus leads to radical insecurity.” If scripture is our guide, then we are called to live vulnerably as participants in God’s risky mission of serving and welcoming those in need. To borrow a formulation from the Russian Christian philosopher, Nikolai Berdyaev, security for oneself is a material issue–not necessarily sinful, but also not a highest value. Security for one’s neighbor, however, is a spiritual issue. Protecting persons who are most at risk, even when doing so is risky, is the calling of those who follow Jesus. This needs special emphasis in our era.
5) Emphasis on hope. The opposite of fear is not invulnerability; people in guarded, walled communities (or nations) are often afraid. The opposite of fear is hope in God’s future, both for ourselves and for life on this planet. In fear, people live in anticipation of possible danger. In hope, they live in anticipation of promised fulfillment; and this frees us to risk a life of service, welcoming those unlike ourselves. To say it another way,
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scripture provides us with a vision of life as God would have it. And we show our trust in God by acting to help make it so.
It takes intentional effort, however, to live hopefully rather than fearfully. Hope is a conscious, cognitive activity; fear is a more automatic, spontaneous emotion–which means it is not easy to live hopefully when the cultural narrative is one of fear. That is why we need the reinforcement of one another, why hope needs to be emphasized over and over, why we need to insist that promoting hope is a crucial part of the church’s diakonia.
There may be some of you who feel that I have not been hopeful enough in this address! Of course, as you know, Christians are not often optimistic. We know too much about sin for that! But Christians are always hopeful because we trust that, in God’s mercy, the future does bend toward justice. And, friends, I am hopeful because of you. You, as a globally-connected community of diaconal ministers, committed to welcoming strangers, are in the front line of the church’s risky, hope-filled resistance to the winds that now shake our world. This morning, let us acknowledge those negative winds, but let us also proclaim together that they are not the most powerful wind in our lives!
And so I pray to our gracious God: May the wind of your Holy Spirit blow through this assembly! May we be shaken and directed and empowered by this wind! And may all we do and say in these days together be to your glory! Amen.

Michael Kinnamon