As I continue in life transition, I reflect on  my decision to affiliate with the LDA and feel that I am taking the next step, building upon my 40+ years of service and leadership as a Director of Christian Education (DCE).  Affiliation with the LDA is a next logical next step in the process of role clarification and journey as a minister of Word and Service.  The community offered through the LDA brings a richness to my ongoing service as DCE, teacher and chaplain and offers a theological grounding to my servant ministry role. 

At a recent gathering of diaconal ministers, I was asked an interesting question, “Why are you drawn to community?”  I thought that this was a great question.  I gave an initial response but I have also been thinking about it ever since  and, quite frankly, I am still thinking it through.

I do believe that God has created us to be in community and calls us to live out our lives in relationship to others.  We are made for community and it is in community that we find our authentic selves.  The current trend toward individualism is rather off-putting to me and,  to be honest, I  believe that individualism is  both dangerous and idolatrous.

One of the values of Benedictine community is a sense of being grounded that comes in and through the Word of God expressed in Jesus Christ.  As the community is centered in Christ, the community lives and moves and has its being in the way of Christ.  Each member supports the other in living out the Call.  In community, I have those who share in vision, those who support, those who pray and those who understand, as, together, we live out our Call.

Those who know me, especially former students, know that for 25 years I tried to instill and foster a sense of community amongst Directors of Christian Education (DCE) while I served as Director of the DCE program.  Every student seeking to be certified as a DCE through Concordia, St. Paul sat with me, and other students, as we explored the concepts of community using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, Life Together.  Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is, in my opinion, a Lutheran rendition of The Rule of St. Benedict and reflects who he became after living in Benedictine community while writing his doctoral dissertation and then his attempt to apply the principles of community at the seminary.  My interest in community is nothing new.

I experienced a sense of community amongst DCEs when I was serving a parish in Phoenix, AZ back in the 80’s.  As DCEs and DCE-types (the one pastor joining us was considered a DCE-type because of his work in youth ministry) the time together was an extremely positive and supportive experience.  We gathered every Thursday morning for Scripture study, book study, care and share, followed by Eucharist.  After the rich morning experience, we joined in table fellowship at lunch.  I felt a place to be understood and supported and experienced our gathering as a place of prayer.  This is what I have sought and continue to seek.

I have been, and continue to be, a diaconal minister of Word and Service for for over forty years.   I am still a Director of Christian Education and I am still a Lutheran Teacher and I am still a Professor and I am a Chaplain.  These are professional roles that I haveand continue to cherish.  However, I am joining the LDA because I desire to be in a community of Word and Service ministers who are committed to supporting one another with words of encouragement and prayer.  The LDA as one community has many expressions of diaconal calling.   Some are DCEs, some teach, some are chaplains, some are in public settings and some are in church settings.  The beautiful thing is that one has the opportunity to be grounded in diaconal community regardless of where one serves.

By joining the LDA, I am not turning my back on 42 years of DCE ministry.  Rather, I would hope to model how DCEs, Lutheran Teachers, Chaplains and other Word and Service ministers can find a community for shared vision and values.  The LDA is also a place for diaconal ministers who serve in public settings and are not rostered through any denomination.  The LDA is not, for me at least, a professional organization.  The LDA is a community that grounds me for ministry.

I continue to have professional affiliations with The Lutheran Education Association, National Association of Directors of Christian Education, and Spiritual Directors International.    These professional groups help me live out my professional roles.  The LDA provides a community, offering a place of values, ethics, prayer and vision for ministry.  Membership in one does not preclude membership in another.

I continue to meet with DCEs and I continue to meet with Chaplains, but, as part of the LDA I have been in contact with a man who was the first Lutheran Deacon in Australia.  I have opportunity to connect with a man who is a Deacon in the Canadian Lutheran community.  Next summer, I have the opportunity to go to Berlin to gather with Deacons and Deaconesses from around the world who share a common ministry of Word and Service, while living out that ministry in a variety of ways.  But even more powerful for me, I have my Community of Lutheran Deacons that gathers on Skype every Monday night at 10:00 p.m. for prayer and support.

This call to Word and Service community is not new, rather it is another chapter in the ongoing journey of ministry.  I  invite you to join me.  If you are a DCE or Lutheran Teacher or a lay person in a Word and Service role in the public sector and are interested in affiliating in community, please feel free to contact me and we can talk.  This process is not for everyone but for those who are called to it, the experience is powerful.

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