Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ted Dodds reflection on the course, Diaconal History and Spirituality

In January 2014, Rev (Deac) Dr Ted Dodd attended a course on Diaconal History and Spirituality at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.  It is SO GREAT to see the exchange of learning happening across and between denominations. It would be great to see more intentionality in these kind of exchanges, be they learning opportunities or ministry placements or observation.
Here are Ted’s reflections on the event…
ted_dodd“I chose this course because I wanted to consolidate my understanding of the two thousand years of diaconal history. While I do not claim to be an expert, I now feel that I have a rich understanding of the significant eras in the timeline of the diaconate.
Through the centuries, this ministry has taken on a variety of forms and functions. No one definition of diakonia stands as decisive or irrefutable. No single model delineates diaconal ministry finally or categorically. Over the ages, the diaconate has moved with flexibility into areas where they are needed, where service is required. Further, diaconal ministry is more than an office or the people who were called deacons or deaconesses; the whole church is called to diakonia.
While I do not believe history needs to be seen through a deterministic lens, I do feel that we are shaped by the past. The diaconal story begins before one is commissioned, consecrated, or ordained, and one is moulded by it, often without knowing the details or without articulating its assumptions. I deeply valued this opportunity to learn who we are by studying the past. Immersing myself in the content of our diaconal tradition offered me a broader comprehension of my vocation and will enable me to share this knowledge and insight with our students.
A second goal of the course was to ground the process of diaconal discernment and formation in spiritual practice. We read texts related to community: Brother Roger and the TaizĂ© community, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic work, Life Together. We participated in daily public worship, kept journals, and entered into a private, daily lectio divina reading of the Psalms. Additionally, we studied an excellent short history of Christian spirituality, Bradley Holt’s Thirsty for God.

participants in the Lutheran diaconal ministry course in South Carolina
Ted at far right with the neon yellow shoes, at the Diaconal Ministry Course in South Carolina
Being immersed in the Lutheran culture for a week proved to be very rewarding. My sense of their theology and values grew exponentially. I delved into their rosters of ministry, various denominational documents and core writings, and some of their divisions and theological influences. As well, this experience offered me the chance to visit in an area of the US where I have not really been connected previously. I ate barbeque and biscuits, collards and fried green tomatoes. One evening we were invited to attend “Beer and Hymns” at a local pub. The bar was packed with Southerners singing songs of faith in what would normally be a very secular setting; I had read about such endeavours of the emerging church; I was happy to witness such an initiative in person. On the weekends bracketing the course, I visited Savannah and Charlotte and managed to see four art galleries, a historic plantation, a restored mansion, and the Museum of the New South. I watched the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade, attended a service at First African Baptist Church, and also went to a Centre for Afro-American culture. This exposure intensified my commitment to diversity and broadened my perspective.

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