“Prophetic Diakonia”—what is that?

“Prophetic Diakonia”—what is that?

Sr. Carol Weaver

Attending my very first Deaconess Assembly in 2004, an older sister answered my question concerning the “call to serve” by saying, “If you’re not doing ministry on the edge of society, you’re taking up too much room in this community.”

It was made pretty clear that justice and advocating for those with little or no voice was not only the central theological understanding of diakonia, but also the heart and soul of service for my sisters in Christ. This is a direct outcome of confronting the pain and suffering in our world with compassion and healing in many forms.  Keep in mind that diakonia is the Greek word for service in Jesus’ name, but the prophetic part is not as easy to understand or live into as a servant in the church of Jesus Christ.

It can get pretty lonely out there on the edge; dirty and dangerous sometimes also. The love of God is not always welcome and sometimes you are struggling just to survive. But that is the call of Jesus in prophetic form, speaking the truth even when it hurts, but always ending with a statement of hope, forgiveness, and love.

Prophets are not naysayers—they are truth tellers: identifying the weaknesses of our words and actions—imploring us to repent, and then entering a metanoia (turning back to God) relationship in order to live out our lives as followers of Christ. In the words of the ancient Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

In the recent Seeds for the Parish—ELCA, the Deaconess Community was featured as practicing Prophetic diakonia in their selection of mission support grant recipients. The article is titled: “Deaconess Community stretches church boundaries” (click here to read it on the ELCA’s website).

Sister Dottie Almoney is featured as living out the African proverb:  “When you pray, move your feet.” Acting Bishop Thomas McKee of the Lower Susquehanna Synod says, “In advocacy, she not only prays for change but also gets her feet moving to educate the unaware, awake the slumbering, inspire and prod to action the people who can and should make a difference.”  Amen!

Prophetic Diakonia also means not to be afraid of conflict, but enter it with integrity, always working toward reconciliation so members can recognize the various gifts of the body of Christ and learn how to communicate and work with each other for the sake of the greater whole. It takes a community to do this work, leaders and laity, whether it is the Deaconess Community or my home congregation of Cross of Christ!  And never forget, repentance leads to forgiveness and reconciliation—thanks be to God!

In closing, let me say that even though I am retired, the call to Prophetic Diakonia is still active in love and service.  A recent prayer from my community’s morning devotions captures this beautifully:  “Wrapped in your love, O God, turn our feet toward justice and grant courage as our voices and hands advocate for your burdened people and creation. Amen.”