Deacons are ordained to Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice. They have been living out their call to connect the Church and the world for the past 25 years.
Director of Connectional Ministry, Michigan Conference
2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of the United Methodist Order of Deacons. This month, I have the privilege of participating as a panelist in a celebration organized by Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. In the spirit of this celebration, I want to take a moment to celebrate deacons in Michigan.
I celebrate our founders – especially those who were diaconal ministers and became deacons in the first years after the creation of the United Methodist permanent diaconate. These founders embodied and grounded the fledgling Order of Deacons. I am personally grateful for two of our founding mothers in Michigan — Judy Mayo and Terry Gladstone. Both were central in the discernment of my call to be ordained a deacon.
Judy served as the Director of Christian Education at my home church, Livonia: Newburg UMC. Judy is a gifted Christian educator who made the Bible come alive for me through her creative lessons and storytelling and instilled in me the importance of compassion and justice in Christian discipleship as my Confirmation leader. Terry served for many years on the Detroit Conference staff before her death in 2011. I first met Terry when I served as a Mission Intern; she later served as my mentor through the ordination process. From Terry, I learned what it is to be a Christian leader and how to dream up new ideas and make them realities courageously.
I celebrate our current Deacons — the creative and diverse ways they live out their callings in Michigan. While all deacons are ordained to Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice and are called to connect the Church and the world, each person’s ministry is also highly personal and contextual. Gather 12 deacons together, and you are likely to hear 12 very different forms of ministry. In Michigan, we have deacons who serve as Christian educators, youth and young adult ministers, worship leaders, chaplains, digital communicators, and non-profit leaders — to name a few areas. Many of our Michigan deacons are trailblazers who start new ministries, create and pilot new staff positions, and found non-profits. We are a tenacious lot who, at our best, faithfully embrace ambiguity and uncertainty with a hope inspired by the assurance of God’s abundant grace.
I celebrate the Deacons yet to come — I truly believe God is in the midst of calling the leaders the United Methodist Church will need to face the challenges and realize the possibilities of the coming years. Among those called will be deacons who will lead us in proclaiming the gospel with passion. Some who will struggle mightily for justice and authentically engage our neighbors, deacons who will creatively form disciples and build beloved communities. Others who will offer healing ministry for our hurting denomination, our hurting communities, and our hurting planet. I pray the Church has the wisdom to recognize, the fortitude to support, and the humility to follow these leaders God is calling and will call in the years ahead.
I celebrate the United Methodist Order of Deacons — its past, present, and future. I am thankful for the impact deacons have had on my life. I am thankful to find a place to live out my calling as a deacon. I look forward to learning from and following the deacons of the next 25 years.
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