Deacons from around the country gathered at the School for Deacons, headquartered at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, in late August to learn how to help each other, and their congregations, to live out their baptismal ministry.
Workshops centered on proclaiming the Good News, seeking and serving Christ in all persons, and striving for justice and peace among all people. 'The premise is that ministry does not cascade from above, in a hierarchy, but flows out of the baptismal font,' said Rod Dugliss, dean of the school.
Deacon Susanne Watson Epting, past president of the North American Association for the Diaconate and one of the workshop leaders, noted that 'it's important to recognize the ministry that already takes place in the lives of God's people.' She explained that deacons have a 'hunger for real skill building' in being 'effective companions with others as they discover their gifts and skills to be offered for the good of others, ways to articulate how we're all called to diaconal ministry as God's people.'
Deacon Phina Borgeson, another past NAAD president and workshop leader, agreed. She said she sensed a 'real hunger' for more such continuing education opportunities for deacons, and the chance to network with each other. Deacons can feel isolated in their parishes, and that there is 'precious little to help deacons become more effective at being deacons' in their work of calling people 'into the baptismal work of proclaiming the Good News in action in the wider community, serving Christ among the poor and those who have pushed to the margins, and working for peace and justice.'
Dugliss said the School for Deacons would plan more such events. The conference, which he described as this year's only continuing education opportunity specifically for deacons in the Episcopal Church, drew participants from every geographic region of the country. Most were from smaller congregations, he noted. It was sponsored by the school, the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, the Roanridge Trust, and the Center for Anglican Learning and Life at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific.