How I Became a Deaconess

20130319-043432.jpgBeginning in my ‘tweens, once a month members of my Lutheran congregation on the hill would lovingly cook a big meal and drive from our little suburb to the big city of Columbus, Ohio. We served the patrons of Faith Mission, a homeless shelter in the inner city. The cooking part was fun, but I especially loved interacting with the patrons and seeing “the hungry” as real people.

During my Junior year of high school that same Lutheran congregation gave me the opportunity to teach a 3rd & 4th grade Sunday school class. I loved opening up God’s Word with them and talking together about it in ways that made it come alive. I particularly remember teaching about Noah and the big flood shortly after our suburb had some major flooding.

I cherished these experiences in my church growing up and as early as middle school, I knew I wanted to be in ministry somehow. I knew I was dearly loved by God and my church family and I wanted to spread that love to others. I wanted to be always a part of what God was doing in and through the church.

I felt called by the Holy Spirit into a life of ministry.

There was only one problem, the only ministry role I knew of was that of pastor. I didn’t want to be a pastor and I didn’t feel that was my calling exactly.

My vision was to study Lutheran theology and church-work on an undergraduate level. Then I would go serve in a congregation.

I wanted to partner with people to reach out beyond the church walls (like I had done at Faith Mission). I wanted to share God’s word with people in Bible classes and informal conversations, encouraging them in their faith.

When it came time to choose a college I looked for something like a theology major or a non-pastor, church-worker study program. The Lutheran colleges I looked at during that time had nothing of the sort.

I drifted for a while, starting college with no clear plan for a major or career path. After my first year of college in Kentucky, I married a pastor and moved to Indiana where he was pastoring his first church.

It was early in our marriage that I found out about the Deaconess program at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran university in Indiana.

In a pamphlet from the Lutheran Deaconess Association I learned that through:

  • theological study,
  • hands-on ministry experiences,
  • and being in community with other Deaconesses and Deaconess students,

I could become a trained church-worker!

The pamphlet also talked about a variety of settings (churches, social service agencies, hospitals, etc) in which a Deaconess could serve. I read that regardless of the setting, the common bond among Deaconesses is a “servant’s heart,” the willingness to love and serve others as Jesus loves and serves us.

The more I read about the Deaconess program, the more I knew this was a fit for me.

Becoming a Deaconess was the perfect blending of everything I felt called to do:

  • Serving God in and through the church,
  • Making a difference even beyond the local congregation,
  • Studying and teaching theology and God’s Word,
  • Not being required to be a pastor to do the above!

There were some logistics involved with being able to enter the Deaconess program, but eventually I got in! Then I got my Lutheran theology major, did my required practical ministry experiences, and lived into the “sisterhood” of Deaconesses and Deaconess students around me.

Finally, on August 19, 2001, at our second church in Indiana, I was officially consecrated as a Lutheran Deaconess. Between the beautiful worship service, the hog roast, and the family and friends who came from out of state, it was a grand celebration. It was both the end of a long-awaited goal and the beginning of a whole new journey.

What about you? Have you ever had a vision for something you wanted to do but you didn’t see a way to do it? What obstacles have you overcome to do or be what you felt was meant for you?

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ramona on March 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Love this! I long to be in a church that does that type of ministry work. Once we finally got our previous church to that point of truly ministering in the community beyond VBS, we moved on to help another church and are starting from square one.

    re: overcoming — I’m still working on some of those obstacles. But, God did call me to get involved in our denomination’s pure water ministry and I had a frustrating time of it at first. My excitement at the calling was dismissed twice in a fairly short time. But, because of that and because the call wouldn’t stop aching in my bones, I sought out training with another clean water ministry outside of our denomination and was able to get that training done before we left Texas. I know that God has already and will continue to use that training even more at some point. When we moved up to Wisconsin, the people in our denomination up here were excited for me to get involved and everything finally made sense! It’s so important to affirm those callings and share in the excitement of others when they hear from God.

  2. Posted by Angela on March 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    I love hearing that full story in all of it’s context, not sure I’d ever heard you share it like that. Just have one bone to pick. What about the family that came all the way from Florida ;P.

  3. Posted by Anthea on March 24, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Excellent explanation of a call to something more, specific and full of God size possibility. My husband was ordained a deacon two years ago, and it has been awesome to watch him walk boldly into his calling. This is not a second prize for priest or pastor want to be’s or a self proclaimed position. While our denomination(Anglican) has its own unique take on the deacon and deaconess, I think Lutheran may be similar in the path to this ordained clergy position. Seems ultimately a higher calling and equipping to serve. Hope that makes sense?

  4. […] year I was on a task force for my Deaconess community to improve understanding of our decision-making process. A few years ago we took a bold step to […]

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