Thursday, September 24, 2020

Dn Shaila John Wesley (13.2.53-14.9.20)

Shaila will be known to many in DIAKONIA World Federation through attending Regional and World Assemblies. 

Sadly, Shaila passed away suddenly on 14th September 2020. Shaila had served as the Executive Secretary of the All India Women's Work in the Methodist Church in India. It was my  privilege to spend time with Shaila in Bangalore, and then in Chennai, and to meet other MCI Deaconesses. I wrote about my visit in 2014. Shaila is pictured below, fourth from the right. 

Deepest condolences to her family, and to the MCI Deaconesses. 

Romans 14:8 - If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. Rest in eternal communion with God, good and faithful servant.

Monday, September 21, 2020

WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - Brazil (20-26 September)

The World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle this week focusses on Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Peru. We hold in prayer the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil, IELCB) and those who serve in diaconal ministry. We uphold in prayer the diaconal sisters in Brazil (Diaconisa at Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil), and also give thanks for the faithful life of Ingrit Vogt.

The Deaconess Motherhouse was established in 1939 by Lutheran Deaconesses working in Brazil. German immigrants had felt the lack of someone who had knowledge in the area of nursing and pedagogy. That is why they requested that Germany send Sisters with training in these areas. Soon Brazilian women desired to work as sisters. In the Women’s Congress in 1938 the foundation of a Deaconess Mother House was approved to be built on Brazilian soil. On May 17th each year the Convention of the Sisters takes place to which all the sisters are invited from close and from afar. It includes women who feel themselves called to diaconal service, who have concluded a professional secular program, without theological formation, when they do not wish to work as ministers in congregations. These women are called diaconal Sisters. Likewise pastors and catechists are accepted into the Sisterhood. 

The Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (IECLB) added ordained diaconal ministers to establish a fourfold ministry, which also includes pastors, evangelists and catechists. All four ministries are considered equal in status in the church’s life, share the same salary scale, and require the same basic seminary education with special courses for each distinct ministry. The IECLB established the Department of Diakonia, which encompasses the diaconal ministers, the deaconess community and all the church’s health care and social service agencies and institutions. It also has a commitment to help mobilize people in congregations to do diaconal work. (from a paper by E. Louise Williams)

In 2016, the DOTAC Assembly was held in Porto Alegre. The theme was, Jesus’ Diakonia – From Crumbs to Whole Communion, inspired by the biblical text of Mk 7.24-30. Despite economic advancements, there are many people who still live under the table and feed from crumbs. Who are those people and why they are kept from participating on reflections and decisions that are taken around the table? What are the signs for hope and transformation? What are the chances for changing places: from crumbs to the table of whole communion? Through action and reflection, diakonia intends to promote people’s ascension from under the table to around the table. Diakonia is about "constructing tables at which all people may sit." (Rodolfo Gaede Neto)

WCC Intercessions

We are thankful for:

* the distinctive rhythms, music, dance, food and natural medicine in this area

* the beauty of the region, forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and ocean coastlines, and especially indigenous peoples’ relationship with, and care for, the natural environment

* churches who witness and work both ecumenically and with those of other faiths to build relationships of trust and commitment amid ongoing injustice and oppression

* the diversity of languages and cultures flourishing in the region despite disruptions that have occurred through colonization, and political and economic turmoil.

We pray for:

* Christians to have the courage, imagination and energy to build bridges of peace and understanding against conflict and division, and to pursue justice for the poor, marginalized and dispossessed

* an end of corruption in all levels of the society, including economic exploitation which impoverishes and hinders economic growth from benefitting all.

* immigrants and refugees seeking a new home, and those who accompany and support them

* cocoa farmers to find sustainable incomes from other crops, for an end to drug trafficking, and effective assistance for those who are addicted.

God of Life,

prepare our hands for a touch,

a new and different touch.

Prepare our hands for a touch,

a touch of encounter,

a touch of awakening,

a touch of hope,

a touch of feeling.

Many are the worn-out gestures.

Many are the movements frozen in time.

Many are the useless excuses just to repeat attitudes.

Give us daring

to create new titles of community,

new kinds of affection,

breaking away from old ways of relating,

encouraging true, meaningful ways to move into closeness.

(Ernesto Barros Cardoso, Brazil. Gifts of Many Cultures: Worship Resources for the Global Community, Maren C. Tirabassi and Kathy Wonson Eddy, United Church Press, Cleveland OH, USA, 1995, p.4.)

And the waters will flow from your altar, Lord

and flood the earth.

And we will be like a garden watered,

cared for, exposed to life. 

Oh! let these waters come,

impetuous and pure,

and destroy the powers

and clean the paths

which my people will take,

singing and rejoicing

in an endless celebration,

the Word, Life, Freedom

and the Resurrection! 

And the waters will flow from your altar, Lord,

and clean away the debris

and we will have courage to act,

to serve,

to change the world. 

And the waters will flow from your altar, Lord,

life will be rekindled,

and we will see the new creation,

act of your love.

(Simei Monteiro, Geneva, Switzerland. English transl. Colleen Reeks. Whole Life, Holy Life, Ernesto Cardoso, ISER, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

#IECLB - Masks of Hope

Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil

We can not provide all the care we would like.  Time does not permit it; always someone else is in need of some compassionate service.  In these difficult times, many people have had to interrupt their professional activity or lose their jobs. For this reason, Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil (IECLB) Diakonia, in its various locations, has motivated organizations and faith communities to initiate diaconal campaigns, emphasizing the necessity that Diaconia must move on, even if in different ways, with care and hygiene, in the fight against the coronavirus.

The involvement of IECLB Diakonia and diaconal communities was great in the campaign for making masks. Several individuals, families, and communities of faith have been working hard, whether in sewing or in the donation of material. This activity is just one example of what so many people have done in the IECLB: placing their hands at the service of the diaconal Gospel of Jesus, assisting people in their sufferings. It is estimated that more than 20,000 masks have already been made and donated. 

In addition, there is a lot of love being donated: clothes, food distribution to promote human dignity, hygiene materials, information about prevention, listening to the tired people who needed care and comfort.

A diaconal action can save someone or minimize their suffering!

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10.10

May the diaconal love of Jesus transform lives through these beautiful acts.

Diác. Dionata Rodrigues de Oliveira

Diác. Ma. Carla Vilma Jandrey

Coordenadora de Diaconia e Programa Diaconia Inclusão

Secretaria da Ação Comunitária

Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

COVID 19 lockdown and community connections

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown, social isolation, financial stress and insecurity about the future, have taken a toll on mental health and emotional well-being. Rev Christa Megaw, a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia, invited her congregation to consider ways to support people in their neighourhood. The responses were creative, and addressed the need for community connection despite the requirement for ‘social isolation’. 

After conversation with a local café owner with overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed customers, the church responded with donations to a Pay it Forward program to supply coffee to people through the café. 

The teenage shop assistants who continued to work, despite the stress caused by abusive customers and the threat of COVID-19, were so appreciative to be acknowledged with the gift of boxes of chocolates provided to local supermarket staff. 

School teachers and other school staff who were expected to continue to work, despite the lockdown, were experiencing stress as they tried to juggle face to face learning and the challenges of transitioning to online learning. The church gave packs of ‘Wellbeing’ cards to the teachers of four schools, to help them focus on caring for themselves, as well as their students. 

The church also delivered activity kits so families could do crafts with their children at home, which were then displayed on the glass windows and doors of the church buildings. 

While there was no ‘church in the building’ with the churches also in lockdown, the church found creative ways to be in the community, bringing some joy and welcome respite to those living with stress, anxiety and financial uncertainty due to the disruption brought about by COVID-19. 

Fiji - COVID 19 and Cycle Harold

 The Methodist Deaconess Order of Fiji had to manage both COVID-19 and Cyclone Harold in April 2020. They were able to support 2 Deaconesses serving in the outer islands with the provision of groceries. Houses had been blown down, and some neighbouring families had taken shelter with the Deaconesses. The Deaconess Order also provided food for vulnerable people on the street. In addition, the Deaconesses learned that children in most of the Methodist Schools had come to school without lunch due to the fact that most of their parents had been laid off work. The Deaconesses serving in schools were encouraged to work with teachers and parents to recognise the plight of the students, and to provide lunch packs.

(Deaconess Meresiana Kuricava is President, DIAKONIA Asia Pacific - DAP)

ELCIC and the pandemic

Here are two examples of how the ministry that two of our ELCIC deacons are involved in has changed due to the pandemic situations here in Canada. Deaconess Pam Harrington is a psycho-therapist from Ontario, and Rev. Karen Wedman is a diaconal minister serving in an administrative role with the Good Samaritan Society in Alberta.

Pam writes: I am doing therapy with people who have high anxiety due to Covid-19, trying to soothe their fears and anxieties and focus on what they CAN control in such an out-of-control time in history. People who are isolated sometimes lose touch with reality and are caught up in mixed messages on the media and can be easily manipulated, coerced and exploited. They also lose hope. It is helpful to have a community of support, so helping them build connections and find people they can relate to, either in social bubbles that are safe or by virtual means, is really important. 

Karen writes: I am serving on the EOC (Emergency Operations Committee) working on pandemic plans for the whole of our organization.  We meet each day and discuss current staffing issues, PPE (personal protective equipment), extra legislative requirements, employee support, etc. that is required in light of COVID. My role is still administrative, however, I send out a weekly devotion to all employees to lift them up in prayer and in gratitude for who they are and the work they provide. 

Karen works with another ELCIC deacon, Sarah Rudd, and says this:  Sarah is heavily involved at our care home that has over 75 cases of COVID. Unfortunately, the virus spread quickly and Sarah is assisting the care home, arranging extra shifts, meeting with residents and families, sitting with the dying and dealing with families who are grieving. As manager, Sarah is also coordinating the ministry of the other chaplains that have been brought into the care home to help at this time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives and ministry. It is encouraging to see the ways Deacons are responding to the needs of those they serve, as those needs have changed during this pandemic. 


COVID responses in British Columbia

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of the least of these” Matthew 10:42

In a hot climate, a cup of cold water must have been a rare treat. I wonder what is a cup of cold water in the Pandemic in my context? I am a Canadian Anglican Deacon in Victoria, British Columbia.

Here, COVID has caused 195 deaths. Yet overdose deaths have climbed in the pandemic reaching a peak of 710 deaths as of June 2020. In June alone there were 175 deaths. We have more than one crisis. We have learned to social distance, wear masks and sanitize/wash our hands, but when the topic of a realistic, non-prohibition style response to substance use is raised, there is great resistance.  Might the cup of “cold water” be legal safe drugs? Could the cup of “cold water” be free alcohol to prevent painful nerve shattering withdrawal?

Hope and recovery walk hand in hand but the battle with addiction in times of isolation is difficult. Recovery at the best of times is complex. How can we offer nurture? People need the basics, safe secure housing, food security and respect. In recovery this is crucial along with access to treatment, supervised injection sites, safe available drug/medication supply.  They need supportive relationships as do their families who are further isolated by stigma.

We offer trauma informed yoga, online weekly meditations on scripture and the AA 12 steps, prayers, 5th steps, education/awareness, conversation, advocacy for change, information on community resources; from online AA meetings, to agencies who specialize in substance use needs. Our staff and volunteers from the congregation participated in the 3rd overdose prevention Naloxone training. We are working to offer a cup of “cold water” in Pandemic times.

Rev. Canon Nancy E. Ford, Director of Deacons

Deacon to the City out of Christ Church Cathedral,