By Sister Michelle Collins
An important part of formation for Deaconess candidates is a year of internship. Deaconess candidates can do an internship in a variety of contexts: congregations, social service agencies, hospitals, and community organizations. The internship is an important opportunity for professional training and formation, but more importantly for the candidate’s identity as a Deaconess. Sister Tashina Good, a current Deaconess candidate, recently completed an internship that was a partnership between Lutheran Volunteer Corps, ELCA World Hunger, and the Deaconess Community. I sat down with Sister Tashina to talk about her experience.
Sister Michelle (SM): Tell me about the context of your internship. What was intriguing to you about it? What were your hopes and dreams about what it would do/be for you?
Sister Tashina (ST): I worked in the Churchwide offices for ELCA World Hunger, a signature ministry of the ELCA. Most of the work I did was based out of the office in Chicago: social media, monthly communications, and event planning. Specifically, I worked in the area of constituent engagement, so I was often on the phone or emailing congregations members from across the ELCA as they engage in ministry around hunger awareness, education, and alleviation. An exciting part of my work was traveling to events I helped to lead. This included regional gatherings, the ELCA Young Adult Cohort attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the ELCA Youth Ministry Extravaganza and more!
I was intrigued to learn more about how the church functions outside of the congregational context and to learn more about the ministries that take place around the world. I did not know much about what I would be doing, but I learned so much about how the church strives for justice, how some of the details of the church-wide organization function, and how amazing it is when congregations and parishioners across cities, states and countries work together. I expanded my gifts and skills in speaking and leading, and I have a whole new toolkit of resources to bring into a congregation from the Churchwide perspective. There are so many amazing opportunities out there for congregations to participate in that I am so excited to see lived out!
SM: Tell me about the partnership between Lutheran Volunteer Corps and ELCA World Hunger that you were part of for the year. what were the gifts and joys of that partnership? What was inspiring or interesting about it?
ST: I lived in a Lutheran Volunteer Corps house in Chicago and ELCA World Hunger was my placement site. Both organizations are committed to social justice, and this internship really strengthened my awareness and commitment to social justice myself.
SM: How did your identity as deaconess grow or change through your internship? How did your understanding of what deaconess ministry looks like grow or change?
ST: During my internship, one of my goals was to learn more about my own voice and to lean into that. I had the opportunity to lead and grow in ways beyond what I would have ever expected. I also had the opportunity to do my internship in the same building as the Deaconess office. As a result, I had many wonderful conversations and lunches with so many of our community members who came through the office. I learned about their lives, callings, and understanding of what it means to be a deaconess. While I believe that my identity as a deaconess is constantly growing and will always be, this year I saw how, being a part of a witness of women who have served throughout the years in powerful and amazing ways, I, too, have similar abilities within me. God sees it, the church sees it, my mentors and colleagues see it. There are times when I do not, but I always know there are those around me to lift me up and remind me. This means being a part of something far bigger than myself.
I love telling folks how we do community while so far apart from one another–how there is so much joy in the ability to know the ministries of my sisters and pray for them while knowing they are doing the same for me. Deaconess ministry is largely about pointing God out in all spaces, accompanying others through all parts of life, and so much more. This year was a joy of growth and exploration. At every corner, I am learning new things, and I am saying, “yes, God is calling me to be amongst these people.” I cannot wait to see where the next step on this journey will lead me.
SM: What were the greatest gifts of your internship year?
ST: This year has taught me much about patience–patience with others, with myself and with God. I have also learned what it means to take up space in a room or meeting. I’ve learned that silence can be good, but my opinions and ideas are also just as good. I have learned that there are amazing people in this church who are excited about what can be, and who work effortlessly toward that goal. What a joy to see these dreams, as well and to join that journey!
SM: What were the greatest challenges?
ST: Much of the work I did during my internship was far different than work I have done in the past. Learning new things and having patience with myself made for a challenging start to the year. I feel that the most challenging aspect of working at the Churchwide office is understanding the structures and practices of the larger church, and working within that system. Through my experience with Lutheran Volunteer Corps, I have learned a lot about what it means to live alongside those who are very different than you.
SM: In what way will this internship year influence your ongoing ministry? How do you see incorporating what you’ve learned into your first call?
ST: I am so grateful to have had this opportunity! Having worked at the Churchwide office for a year, I now know that there are countless resources available for congregations and individuals—many for free! I know where to find these resources, and I know how to ask the right questions when there is a need for a resource. There are individuals in many areas of the Churchwide office who are available and willing to work with individuals in their contexts to help ministry take place. I have also learned that “Churchwide” is not some far-off place making decisions for the rest of the church but instead is a bunch of people I have laughed with, cried with and eaten countless lunches with–people following their call in this world as we work together in faith. I cannot wait to bring this knowledge and perspective into a congregational context.
My internship really influenced my vision of and awareness of the broader expression of the church, and now I know that the fire for greater church work is burning in me. I imagine in whatever my call is, even if it is a congregational position, my experience on internship equipped me to encourage a broader engagement with and connection to the broader work of the church in the world. I am now more confident in encouraging people to be involved in social justice, to be connected to what God is doing through other congregations and church organizations, and to continue to seek ways of being church together through intentional relationships, conversation, and action.