This is my final week of reflecting on Ralph Kee’s brief, but thought provoking book, Diakonia: The Church at Work. Find previous articles here: Cooperative Diakonia: Serving or Sharing, Deacons: Harbingers of the Kingdom, Diakonia and the Neighborhood.
In his 26 page book, he argues that diakonia (service), is much more than a religious word. It’s a movement—something that is “the word being done.” And it’s something still critical for the church today. You can download Ralph Kee’s book, Diakonia: The Church at Work.
While attending Boston University for my MSW, I wrote a paper on the church and community, not realizing I would be working in this unique field years later. One of the key things I wrote about was the collaboration of churches both with each other and with their neighbors for the transformation of the neighborhood.
Ralph Kee focuses a whole section of his little guide to Diakonia Between the Churches. He argues that, “the nature of diakonia is such that it is carried out not only by one local church, but by many churches.” He calls for a comprehensive, organized and sustainable way of churches to work together, not just on a program, but on a collaboration between churches.
In this model, the resources of several local churches (not necessarily from the same denomination), network together to address mutual concerns. In order for this to be sustainable, he says a Diakonia Coordinator, someone to collectively work with deacons of the churches located near one another, would be necessary.
Three years ago, I facilitated 8th grade students through learning about and assessing their community’s response to homeless residents. In the process, these students discovered that oftentimes church resources were focused on their own members and the services offered by churches duplicated one another or other local organizations. There was an overall lack of coordination and communication between one another when working with the community. They wondered, “Why can’t churches all work together?”
In their final report to church and organizational representatives, they proposed ways for churches to network with one another and collaborate with citizens and organizations as they worked with the community.
Sometimes I also wonder if we (congregations) could be better at working together? Are we working in isolation rather than in coordination? How about your congregation?
Are your deacons coordinating well with other churches in your community, not by giving away the diaconal responsibilities to another organization, but working together for the good of the neighborhood?
Are you working across denominational lines? How? And are community members leading the process?
What are the challenges in working together?
How would working together contribute to a more equitable distribution of resources?
What would congregations learn from each other?
One of the goals of my work is to see churches in a neighborhood working closely together along with residents of the community. I’d love to hear your thoughts and to learn more from each other!