A Deacon Reflects

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A little story just for fun.

Night. Fireflies fell through the atmosphere at a furious pace, energizing the darkness. Dust covered the streetlights, lending a syrupy patina to the town. Lizards flicked their tongues in subtle expressions of curiosity and rage. Somewhere a deacon lay abed, not dreaming, but sighing yearningly. The moon stumbled over the window sill, fell on to the floor, and rolled slowly across the painted boards. The deacon ignored it. What was she to do? How could she sleep? Tomorrow night would be her second deacon meeting. It would be numbing. She’d try to hide in the woodwork again. It might not work. Too many others were trying to fit in there too. Last time the pastor led with a devotional and prayer. The pause that came next was portentous. So was his voice. She felt sleepy already just thinking about tomorrow’s meeting, so why couldn’t she sleep now? How could you be tense and wakeful imagining a boring and soporific meeting? Where was the joy? The praise? The celebration? Where was the beef?

Crickets tuned up; they played dirges and laments. Wolves howled. The Christian Reformed Church down the street sat silent, waiting. The deacons were coming. Tomorrow they would come. They would meet. They would turn on lights; they would talk and drink coffee. They would follow the agenda. They would turn out the lights and go home. This is what the church was waiting for. The church would settle back into the darkness and the quiet. There would be some interruption of the evening’s slow progression toward night. The floor creaked; the deacon sighed; somewhere angels were fighting. On this street the deacons were only a small disturbance in the gloaming. The church waited ….

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Ho Hum

Karl, your poetic and flowery verbiage obviously didn't register well with the first respondent.
Since I know you well (we are out of the same green house/flower bed) I worked through it, and you have a point. Here is mine:

For quite some time I've had the feeling that our deacons - and here I have to say that the focus is Classis Holland - are good at starting and maintaining institutional type responses
to specific needs (example, My Brothers/Sisters houses) but less so at equipping themselves for the very concrete one to one needs around, both in and outside the congregations.

What does deaconal leadership at the denom level have to help overcome that?

Community Builder

I wonder if you've put your finger on a "polarity" in our culture.... seems to me that we are very good at building organizations and institutions that embody our values. And maybe we are less adept at the personal relationship building that expresses those same values. Peter Block, in his book Community, talks about how institutions tend to be very efficient and good for providing "service", but for caring and compassion, not so good. For that he talks about "associations" which are much more relational, less heirarchical, and totally voluntary in their most basic DNA. It is (only) thru associations, he claims, that true and lasting change happens in people and communities. What tools do we have to help us better manage this "polarity"? I think that at the personal level we need to improve our "personal discipling" capacities and at the neighbor/ community level we need to moderate our passion for programs and increase our capacity for being "Kingdom community change agents". There are lots of resources in both these categories, but we often don't think of them in connection with "deaconing". Am I on your wave length? am I in your same garden patch?

Hi Karl,
You know that posting comments to others' observations are not my cup of tea, but I want to make a remark on the previous. From my observation more and more deacons are willing to step into a helping relationship with people in need. They are indeed getting better at developing holistic "institutional responses" - and by doing so find themselves face-to-face and heartbeat-to-heartbeat with people they can help. Many deacons I know are active in a personal way. By walking along with people in need, assisting in basic needs, advocating for just solutions, they often find their actions are of mutual benefit. Whether sitting down with folks to share a community meal, or finding congregational partners to provide free tax preparation, or finding an apartment for a hard-to-house immigrant family, or mentoring a refugee family, or weeping with a family who lost a loved one, I am so very grateful for the deacons who serve with love and integrity. Up here north of the 49th, we spend a considerable amount of time encouraging and equipping our deacons. There's lots of good written materials, electronic and otherwise, for deacons to equip themselves.
Henry

Karl,
The picture your story painted in my head is; sad, wonderful, inspiring and powerful. The responses to your story sheds some light on the difficulties for the "church" to be that joy filled, standing on your tip toes in celebration and praise kind of church.
The question your picture raises to me is how to make it different? When a person becomes a deacon they need to or are expected to complete the tasks set before them. In order to do that they need to continually be seeking to be fed in their own life by the Holy Spirit. The deacons are now committing their time and resources to many people in and out of the church.
Now they are expected to go to seminars, workshops and small groups to learn how to be a better deacon. Talk about overload.
What about training potential deacons? Training on top of an already huge commitment seems too much, the straw perhaps, which can and often does create a negative atmosphere.
If the churches looked ahead to their young adults or new members and started with a serious educating process focused for potential deacons this might help to build a solid frontline of Deacons who are ready and equipped to serve.
The military sends all of it's new soldiers to "Boot Camp" for training, then they send them to the battlefield. Can you imagine dropping a person into the battlefield without teaching them how to use their weapons for defense or attack?