I believe that the greatest calling in life is to be a Servant for God. We are active members of the Central Carolinas Emmaus and Chrysalis community, where adults and teens spend time with God to discover his or her gifts to spread to The Kingdom.
I am also in the process of becoming a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. In the UMC, there are many ways we recognize people called to ministry. There are certified lay speakers, certified lay ministers, local pastors, ordained deacons and ordained elders. The first three require a class of some sort and/or a seminary degree. Local Pastors are able to perform sacraments as they are often appointed as lead pastors at churches with no elder present, but they are connected with an ordained elder to provide advice and oversight.
That leaves the 2 ordained orders in the UMC: Elders and Deacons. For those who grew up in the UMC, pastors used to be ordained Deacons and then Elders. This was the process for quite some time. In 1996, the General Conference, our denomination-wide meetings that happens every 4 years to set the Book of Discipline and make changes accordingly, decided to follow our Episcopal and Catholic brothers and sisters and recognize 2 orders of the ordained. This follows Scripture in multiple places. No longer would pastors be ordained Deacon and then Elder after a time of further study and training for effectiveness, but a person desiring ordination would choose one order or the other. Then he or she would apply for commissioning as a provisional member of the respective order. This takes the place of the former time spent as a deacon. After the provisional period of at least 2 years and gaining approval of the Board of Ordained Ministry, these persons would then be ordained in their respective orders.
So then, what is the difference between the two orders? Well, when the permanent order of Deacon was created, the book of Discipline set forth specific differences that set them apart from Elders. Most notably and what I get asked most often, is the change in appointment. Whereas Elders itinerate—appointed and sent by the Bishop and the Cabinet for technically 1-year terms, but usually are maintained for more than that, Deacons do not. This primarily is due to the idea that the order of Deacons is seen as clergy in specialized ministries. So a deacon finds a position, goes through an interview and hiring process, and if employment has been offered, the deacon then sends a letter to the bishop for approval as an appointment. The bishop cannot reappoint the deacon, but he or she can suggest another opportunity for the deacon to examine. Deacons not only serve in the local church, though. There are deacons serving in prison ministries, as counselors, in financial institutions, etc. These deacons still need to connect through a local church as a secondary appointment through which they participate in the life of the church.
Additionally, Deacons are not ordained to Sacrament. Therefore, a deacon can assist in baptisms and communion, but they cannot bless the elements themselves unless they have received written permission from the bishop. Deacons are ordained to Word and Service, and so their primary charge is bridge the gap between the church and world. They seek to equip the church to reach out to the least, last and lost. Deacons are not ordained to Order, as Elders are, and so there are no Deacon District Superintendents or bishops. Rarely, do they serve as lead pastors, but it has happened on a rare occurrence.
So there you have it: the ministry of the deacon. This is my calling as I seek to teach and equip others as my specialty. Down the road, I do believe I will get into teaching at a university or seminary, which would require some additional education. However, that will have to wait until the family has grown up a bit. Until that time, as long as Linglestown Life and I desire to continue our ministry together, I will be here, and I am looking forward to what awaits us.