Frequently Asked Questions
As we live into the changes brought by the Word and Service roster of the 2016 Churchwide Assembly and a new formation process for future Deaconess Community candidates, some aspects of this section may not be applicable. Check back in a few weeks for updates.
What is a Deaconess?
What is Word and Service Ministry?
Individuals called to Word and Service ministry proclaim the Gospel through their words (sometimes preaching) and their service to their community and world. Word and Service ministry brings the needs and gifts of the world to the Church and the gifts and needs of the Church to the world through specialized professional ministry.
Word and Service ministry has Biblical roots in the stories of Mary and Martha, Stephen, and Phoebe, were called to care for the poor, the lonely, and the hungry. Word and Service ministers serve in specialized areas of ministry such as social work, pastoral care, education, congregational ministry, pastoral support, community organizing, outreach redevelopment, youth ministry, healthcare agencies, community non-profits and advocacy, and so many more!
In addition to their specialized calls of service, Deaconesses and other Word and Service ministers are called and accountable as public leaders to work alongside pastors in equipping the church to meet the needs of the world.
What is Word and Sacrament Ministry?
Individuals called to Word and Sacrament ministry are Pastors, are also called to preach the gospel and specifically called to administer the sacraments. The ELCA/ELCIC believes Word and Sacrament ministry is a call to gather the people of God around Scripture (Word), the Communion table, and Baptismal font (our two Lutheran Sacraments) as a primary way to nourish us for the work we are all called to do through our baptismal callings. While pastoral ministry takes place mostly in congregational settings, pastors are called to serve alongside Word and Service ministers in equipping the church to meet the needs of the world.
What is the difference between a Deaconess, a Diaconal Minister, and an Associate in Ministry?
Leaders on all three rosters work in similar roles in the church and community—roles of service, outreach, community engagement, advocacy, spiritual care, health and education. The distinction between the three has to do with the individual’s understanding of their call, the roster’s organization, and the different training/formation requirements.
The ELCA is currently in discernment about the possibility of creating a unified “Word and Service” roster that would have consistent training and formation requirements.
If I am already in a service ministry/occupation, why should I become a Deaconess?
Becoming a Deaconess allows you and the church to explore, celebrate, and affirm your call to ministry in a public way. It will give you an identity that continues to form your spiritual and vocational practices, and a community that encourages you to learn and grow throughout your whole life. Additionally, the call to become a deaconess includes a call to be part of an engaged and deeply intentional community of persons who affirm, challenge, pray for, and accompany one another daily and in regular community gatherings.
Why should I become rostered? Why should I become a Deaconess?
What is candidacy?
The candidacy process takes place while individuals prepare for their call to a specific ministry (before and during seminary and after fieldwork/internship). This process reminds all candidates that they are part of the larger Church. The Deaconess Community continuously seeks women who live and serve as courageous, committed witnesses to the gospel. Our Director of Vocation and Education can give you more information and answer any questions you might have (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What education and formation do you require?
Do Deaconesses take vows of celibacy and poverty?
Today, Sisters are able to marry and have families. As a part of the promises Sisters make in the Rite of Consecration, we uphold the value of being good stewards with all the gifts in our lives, including relational, monetary and spiritual gifts.
In the Rite of Consecration , we promise to….
• Accept the ministry and service to which God has called us
• Confess that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God and the norm of the church
and the Community’s faith and life and study them as such.
• Accept, teach and confess the Apostles’, Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds.
• Acknowledge the Lutheran Confessions as true witness and faithful expositions of
the Holy Scriptures
• Be faithful with our use of grace and prayer
• Witness in word and action as an example of faithful service and holy living
What do Deaconesses do?
Sisters are called by congregations or other expressions of the Church (Synod or the Churchwide offices) to a wide range of ministries such as social work, pastoral care, education, congregational ministry, pastoral support, community organizing, outreach redevelopment, youth ministry, healthcare agencies, community non-profits and advocacy, and so many more!
Why would a congregation or ministry consider calling a Deaconess?
What gifts/qualities should I look for in someone (myself or others) who might be called to be a deaconess?
There are many qualities befitting a deaconess. Primarily, a deaconess is a woman who has love for Christ and God’s children and who feels compelled by that love to engage community and work on behalf of the church.