7 Factors in a Strong Diaconal Assembly . . . Again!

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Occasionally, I take a look back at previous contributions and existing resources on The Network for Deacons . . . especially if I'm considering posting something that might already be available. Today, while looking for something else, I discovered the following post from November 2010 contributed by Karl Westerholf regarding the thoughts of Jay Van Groningen. I think what Jay shared in 2010 is especially timely and worth re-posting at this time. It relates very well to some of the key recommendations made regarding the office of deacon both from last year's report to synod (Diakonia Remixed) as well from this year's report by the Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon. (Note: Jay uses the term diaconal "assemblies" in place of the more commonly used CRC term "conferences.")

When deacons gather, what makes those gatherings powerful?  What makes them relevant?  What makes them really hum? Some deacons' assemblies have faded into oblivion.  Is resuscitation possible? Advisable? Here are some thoughts from Jay Van Groningen.

Diaconal Assemblies that work the best are those:
1. Where deacons voluntarily assemble (not under duress and not by some externally imposed mandate)
2. Where they share a geographic presence because ministry is always done in a time and place. Ministry partners share geography.  
3. Where the meeting is designed for learning and exchange of ideas.
4. Where the meeting is designed to work together; What can we do together that we cannot do alone? What is our shared ministry context and work load?
5. Where the meeting is ecumenical and a gathering of the "deacons" from all interested churches that share the geography because ministry is geographically rooted and not a denominational story (regardless of whether they have the title deacon or not)
6. Where some of the focus is on community formation and community strengthening, because ministry is a give and take activity, not one directional; It is reciprocal when done best. 
7. That go beyond the scope of "one at a time" mercy and benevolence ministry; together they address root causes and they conspire and act together to change the systems perpetuating poverty in our community.
 
The Canadian context is so different than the US. It may be more helpful in the US to talk about a conference or an assembly focusing on relief, development and justice ministries. 
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What would it take to get the assemblies rolling again? Were they at the classis level?  Thanks They sound usefull.

Community Builder

Yes, usually at the classical level.  Some classes have deaconal coordinators or coaches, and they could help explore how to create or recreate an assembly.   OR, a church could write to the classical  interim committee to request that this be considered.   Some thought will need to be given to how to make this fresh since it's an old idea, and classical reactions could easily be, "we used to  do that, but we don't anymore" and then give it no more time.  

There are deacons' conferences that still exist, though in quite different form, for example in Kalamazoo, MI. http://www.kazoodc.org/

Another good resource would be the Deacons Ministry Conference in Canada.