Wednesday, March 3, 2021

DUCCs are meeting

DUCCs attending Chicago Assembly 2017

DUCC (Diakonia of The United Church of Canada) is meeting March 3 and 4, 2021, 12 pm—3 pm CST. That’s early morning in the DAP region and evening in the DRAE region. As you start the day or end the day in DRAE or DAP, or wherever you are in the DOTAC region during the day, please remember in prayer our brothers and sisters in DUCC as they meet together (virtually). 

Statement of Vision:
God calls us to diaconal ministry. 
The gospel of Jesus invites all to this ministry:
to offer compassion and accompaniment,
to work for liberation and justice,
to act as advocates of creative transformation.
Diaconal ministry, as a recognized order, is rooted
within our faith tradition and history,
and it is continued and embodied
in an ecumenical, world-wide community.
This vocation is a journey
involving Spirit-filled enrichment and learning,
requiring humble offering of self,
demanding prayerful discernment and courageous risking,
exercising visionary and communal leadership,
promising joy and meaning,
and daring to imagine God’s abundance
in a world of love and respect.
Through education, service, social justice, and pastoral care,
diaconal ministry in The United Church of Canada,
encourages a growing faith,
speaks truth to power,
seeks mutual empowerment,
proclaims prophetic hope,
nurtures life-giving community,
fosters peaceful, right relationship,
within the church and the whole of creation
wherever the Spirit may lead.

Adopted at DUCC National Gathering, April 2009.

Canada continues to have public health restrictions to deal with COVID19 and variant strains that are causing concern because they spread more easily, cause more severe illness, or current vaccines may be less effective against them. It’s been a long winter in largely lockdown conditions. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Foundation of the Diakoneo Community Neuendettelsau

Foundation of the Diakoneo Community Neuendettelsau

The diaconal communities in Neuendettelsau are setting out on a common path into the future

The Neuendettelsau Deaconess Community, the Diaconal Sisters and Brotherhood and the community of employees in the Diaconate have joined forces to form the Neuendettelsau Deaconeo Community.

Within a year, the "Working Group Future of the Communities", consisting of representatives of all three communities, developed a future-oriented concept and sustainable structures.

At the beginning of October 2020, the new Diakoneo Gemeinschaft Neuendettelsau was officially founded in a meeting of the working group. "I am very pleased that this truly historic step for Diakoneo has been successful and wish the new community a bright future," said Rector Dr. Hartmann, Chairman of the Board of Diakoneo.

On October 23rd, the Board of Trustees of Diakoneo KdöR approved the foundation of the new community, which will in future be led by a council consisting of three members from each of the previous communities. This council will be headed by Rector Dr. Mathias Hartmann until the new leadership of the Diakoneo Community is appointed by the council. A selection process has recently been underway. 

Until the new leadership takes up its duties, Sister Erna Biewald, the former superior of the deaconesses, and Sister Roswitha Buff, the former head of the Deaconical Sisters and Brotherhood, are members of the transitional council in an advisory capacity. They will retire next spring.

Different roots and yet the same intention

"All three communities have the task of shaping and helping to shape the diaconal profile of the work at Diakoneo," emphasized Dr. Mathias Hartmann, even if the respective roots are different. The Deaconess Community has existed since the founding of the Neuendettelsau Deaconess Institute in 1854. The almost equally old brotherhood and the sisterhood founded at the beginning of the 20th century merged in 1995 to form the Deaconess Sisters and Brotherhood. The community of employees in the diaconate was newly founded in 1999 as a supplement to the historical communities. The new Diakoneo Gemeinschaft Neuendettelsau has about 350 members, most of whom work or have worked for Diakoneo.

Re-Di (Research Diaconia)

Re-Di (Research Diaconia) is the International Society for the Research and Study of Diaconia and Christian Social Practice. 

In September 2020, Re-Di offered a conference with a far reaching range of presentations from around the globe. (The 8th International ReDi conference original planned to be held in Oslo was replaced with a virtual online conference due to COVID-19)

Diaconal Minister Ted Dodd (DUCC) reports: The wide variety of the understanding, practice and theology of the diaconate broadened my outlook. The rich sharing of ideas deepened my diaconal identity with intellectually stimulating ideas and studies. Two keynote speakers shared their understanding of the conference’s theme: Diakonia as Gamechanger?: Leadership of Service in Times of Crisis, Complexity and Transformation - from an Asian and from an African perspective. Clearly, this organization is working hard to expand its horizons beyond its European origins.

Panel presentations that I attended continued the diversity of perspective:

* a Norwegian researcher studied the impact of a program active in churches through Africa - Use Your Talents. The program focuses on the Parable of the Talents as a key scriptural image but one woman quoted in the study pointed to the David and Goliath story saying for her context, “Goliath is poverty”;

* German understandings and expressions of diakonia are dominated by their massive social work networks that grew out of the deaconess Motherhouses. Currently, these agencies are staffed by a majority of people who are not Christian, so one researcher from Heidelberg was outlining various ways to address pluralism in these faith-based institutions;

* An Australian originally from China outlined the vast network of social agencies in the Uniting Church of Australia. He also upheld a theology of incarnation for diakonia (Matthew 25 - the least of these is where we see the Christ);

* A professor from the Philippines explored the biblical roots of gratitude as a paradigm for practising diakonia;

* A researcher in Germany shared her study of an organization that reclaimed an abandoned industrial site and was using the facility to locate many social enterprises; 

* A historian shared the lives of three women who were “firsts” in the church of Norway and compared their leadership styles with male models. The women tended to stress communal approaches and idealistic principles; 

* A Cuban championed the inclusion of indigenous traditions and anti-colonial reconciliation for a diakonia based in a socially committed spirituality; 

* A Filipino studying in South Africa examined the fear-based dehumanizing and othering tactics of the Duerte government’s “war on drugs”;

A Swedish congregational study suggested diakonia would be enhanced by an alliance of learning-oriented deacons (there is at least one deacon in every church) and strategic vicars (pastors).

* From South Africa, a presentation on a Christian theology of migration used the Abraham and Sarah and Lot stories from Genesis to understand the work with displaced peoples; 

On Friday, September 18, DOTAC offered a Zoom de-briefing session. The attendance was small but the discussion indicated that the conference was highly appreciated. Two issues emerged in the conversation:

* Diaconal Formation - support and networking of ecumenical and international educational programs for those training for the diaconate; 

* Diaconal Scholarship - sharing of resources and encouraging writing about the diaconate. 

Because of the hour for North America - mostly in the middle of the night - participation was hampered. Most people took part in segments of the conference. And we selected different panel presentations so we were in different breakout “rooms”. I counted 20 people who used the DOTAC institutional registration to participate.

Ted Dodd, President of DOTAC

(Note: Ted is convening a Zoom meeting on Feb 11/12 with Re-Di and DIAKONIA World to explore an intentional partnership between the two organisations). 

Monday, December 28, 2020

TELC Deaconess Board (India) Christmas letter 2020

News from Sr Grace Padma, Deaconess Mother of the TELC Deaconess Sisters in India, Deaconess Homes in Thanjavur (Bethesda, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Lydia Deaconess Home and Bethania Deaconess Home).

Please pray for Sr Grace and the Deaconess Sisters, and the work they do with destitute women and orphan children

Greetings to you in the Holy Name of our Jesus Christ. 

Every month we experience your prayer blessings from the prayer letters we receive by email. 

‘I will be with you to protect you and keep you safe’. (Jeremiah 15.20)

God of Immanuel is with us, protected from all dangers and disasters, and provided the basic needs for our orphan children, destitute women physically, mentally handicapped, old age and all sick people, helpers, co-workers and sisters of our Deaconess Homes in these challenging and fearful and worried days. God cared for us in helpless situations. 

The fearful Corona virus pandemic affected casual lives of people and educational lives of children. God is with us, protects us and provides for our needs in all these difficult days. When we were unable to for Church programs for any income, no sale of products, God fed our people and more than enough for us. When we were unable to take our patients to hospitals and doctors, God gave health when sick, God strengthened when we became weak, God gave courage when we were fearful. God upheld us. 

As per the Government official instructions, all our residents from our Homes underwent Corona tests. We made face masks, and sold to all our churches and people in our area. 

Churches were closed. Our Witness Prayer House and Bethesda chapel were open for worship services and Friday fasting prayer. We interceded on many prayer points. Regular monthly communion services were held by our local pastor. 

We received very sad news that our former Administrative Mother of Deaconess Board, Sr Gunhild Stahle, went to God’s Kingdom on 6th October in Sweden. We conducted a thanksgiving prayer meeting in our TELC Holy Comforter Church Thanjavur, with a memorial stone and memorial souvenir. Our Home inmates, children, sisters, and her foster children and well known friends participated, and glorified God for her fruitful service. 

On 10th November, the Deaconess trainee Nagomi was consecrated as Deaconess Sister by our Bishop Rev Daniel Jeyaraj in the TELC Cathedral Church Trichy. 

The next day, on 11th November, the 123rd birthday of our founder Lydia Vedanayaham we offered prayers and reception thanks for our sister Nagomi. 

On 20th November, we arranged a marriage for Mercy Nazrin, who had been brought up at the Home since she was 6 months old. She studied graduate Nursing and served at Bethesda Home for two years with patients with mental and physical patients and those with old age. 

For all these program functions, our local Pastor, Pastorate Committee members, friends and donors, helped us and we thank them for it. 

We also provided food commodities for children who went to single parents and poor relations homes, as they have no income during this Corona pandemic. 

When the ‘Nivar’ and ‘Burevi’ cyclones were announced, we made candles and sold them in our area. It has been pouring with heavy rain, especially this month. All food crops and paddy fields have been ruined, and village huts were floating in water. We killed two snakes and caught a big snake which entered our compound through the drainage system. We sent it to the forest people. 

Medicine prices are high. We need to buy medicine for our sickly residents and elderly sisters.

God has sustained us when we were helpless during the pandemic, and also sustained for 82 years this faithful, prayerful, God concerned ministry through generous faithful supporters. 

With Jesus’ love, we thank our donor friends and convey our loving greetings with prayer for a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year 2021. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion awarded Doctor of Divinity

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion (Deacon, Uniting Church in Australia)

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion, an Adnyamathanha woman of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and an internationally respected theologian, author and speaker, has been awarded the Doctor of Divinity (Honoris Causa). The Degree of Doctor of Divinity is a senior degree that is awarded only for work of considerable distinction, where the nomineee has made an original and substantial contribution to the advancement of theological learning and services to theological education, the Church and the general community. She was honoured for her accomplishments as a scholar and leader, and her life’s work in reconciliation, rural and remote advocacy, education, and inter-cultural dialogue, and her extraordinary efforts towards the betterment of society. Aunty Denise is known for her generosity with her time, graciousness with her dialogue, and wisdom in her teachings. Her nomination for the award received unanimous support from the Adelaide College of Divinity Council.
October 2nd, 2020.
Aunty Denise's has published a book, Yarta Wandatha, and her second book is about to be published.
(Elders are highly respected Aboriginal people held in esteem by their communities for their wisdom, cultural knowledge and community service. They have gained recognition as a custodian of knowledge and lore. Aboriginal people refer to an Elder as 'Aunty' or 'Uncle'). 

DIAKAID COVID grant - Indonesia

The IKADIWA Deaconesses responded to the COVID pandemic in their local area in the following way: 

* Helping people in need to survive from economic impact of Covid19 by distributing staple foods to 200 children’s parents and teachers of pre school around Ikadiwa’s mother house in Siborongborong;

* Public awareness campaigns to sensitize the community about the danger of Covid19 and to prevent the spread of the virus. 

* Strengthening the people in faith and action

The Indonesian economy is now in a precarious position. Many factories are closed and many workers are laid off or at least on unpaid leave. The situation makes many of these individuals face a higher risk of contracting and subsequently spreading the virus. As Deaconesses, we are responding by helping people in need, particularly people from low economic income background. 

On November 11, 2020 the IKADIWA Deaconesses distributed the DIAKAID grant to the children's parents and teachers of Preschool/Kindergarten, in the form of staple foods packages to people in communities in Pematangsiantar. We took them to Siborongborong and Tarutung by cars, which took 5 hours. The journey, and the distribution at 7 places, went very well. The people came to assembly points and used face masks and hand washing. They were so happy to receive the packages. The DIAKAID packages have brought joy to the people.

We are so thankful to the Lord and to DWF Executive Committee and the DAP Executive Committee for placing trust in Ikadiwa to offer practical diaconal ministry to the people around our mother house.

May the Lord bless all of our ministries.

Blessings, Deac. Risma Sihombing


Thursday, December 3, 2020

December 3 - International Day of People with Disability

December 3 is the 'UN International Day of People with Disability'. There are many Deacons and Deaconesses who work with people with disabilities - physical and intellectual. (Would love to hear about your stories and experiences!)

Rev Andy Calder (Deacon) is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister, in the role of Disability Inclusion Advocate with the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. Andy has be​​en an ordain​ed Uniting Church minister for 22 years. Prior to ordination in 1995 as a Uniting Church Deacon, Andy worked in a range of community and government contexts in program delivery, policy development and advocacy with people with disabilities. His current role is to broadly encourage and promote inclusion of people with disabilities within the life of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.

Andy has undertaken social action research as part of Ph.D. studies, exploring the spirituality of adults with intellectual disabilities. He has partnered with the Victorian advocacy body VALID (Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with a Disability), and interviewed 14 people. His recently completed doctorate is titled: ‘Adults with intellectual disability and their spirituality: voices to be heard by faith communities and the disability services sector in Victoria, Australia’. 

Arising from Andy's research, he developed a ‘Statement of Spirituality’ which has been adopted by VALID. It reinforces the importance and value of people's expression of their particular spirituality, which includes participation in religious communities. This is the first known time a non-faith based disability organisation has proclaimed such a public statement. 

In 2019, Andy was honoured with the Henri Nouwen Award in recognition of his work with people with disabilities. The award is named after Catholic Priest Henri Nouwen, who served as a pastor at the Canadian L’Arche Daybreak community for people with intellectual disabilities and their carers and loved ones.

Andy is the first person outside of North America to accept the award, which is given by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) Religion and Spirituality Division.