Being a Part of World-Wide Community: What a Joy

What a joy it was to be in Berlin for the 21st Assembly of the Diakonia World Federation under the theme: Diakonia – Healing and Wholeness for the World.  The assembly met at St. Johaness Stift in the Spandau region of Berlin from July 1-July 8.  The schedule was intense and the speakers were outstanding.

The real joy, for me, was to be with 400 deacons and deaconesses from around the world and to hear the stories of their various ministries.  Youth ministry, Christian Education, Health Care, Social Service are just a few of the ways in which diaconal ministers serve in the name of Christ.

I learned that each denomination has its own way of recognizing and supporting the role of the diaconal ministry.  The support varies from country to country, but, those present all join in community of support to and with one another.

Each day was filled with prayer.  All presentations focused upon diaconal aspects of healing and wholeness and additional workshops provided some very concrete understandings of diaconal service.

Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches brought greetings to the assembly and laid out the priestly call of the church which is a call to alleviate pain through prayer and service.  He laid out the role of the diaconal minister for prayer, pastoral care, prophetic voice, and professional service that leads to transformative service.  Dr. Tveit stated that the diaconal person provides service that allows for celebration.  The diaconal person lives a radical spirituality and proposes alternatives to the secular way of life. 

Cornelia Coenen-Marx, Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Zehlendorf diaconal institute spoke of the diaconal role bringing the creative power of God when people are facing death.  She stated that ministry to the dying is a liberative ministry of the church as the dying person is able to embrace life in its fullest and then complete life by dying.  The diaconal role of caring for the dying shows that in the death and suffering of Jesus we see that we are not alone in our suffering.  We have one who has gone before us.

Prof. Dr. Ralph Kunz, Professor of Practical Theology in Zurich, spoke of God in the margins and identified the diaconal role as one of bringing God to the margins.  It is the diaconal person who is called to bring hope into the midst of a culture of caring that at times is overburdened with the task.  The diaconal person invites one to listen to the one in dementia as one who lives in the 4th dimension of life.  The task of the diaconal person is to advocate for those who are on the edges of life.


The Diakonia World Assembly brings into the focus the diaconal role give to the Church and to those within the Church who are called to leadership in that role.  All ministry is diaconal and is conducted in such a way as to bring hope and healing.  The diaconal ministry lives out a calling of service bridging church and world and embracing those who are left in the margins of the culture.

I came away recognizing that the role of the diaconal minister is both clear and unclear in the way in which the world-wide church conducts ministry and service.  I came away with a strong affirmation of having lived diaconal service as a life-span teacher of the faith, even though called by a name other than diaconal.

I am thankful to be connected to a world wide community of diaconal persons.

Related Posts