Thursday, November 26, 2020

Honouring the work of Susanne Watson Epting

Bishop Alan Scarfe at the 168th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, paying tribute to Susanne Watson Epting:

...has been a leader within this diocese for decades, promoting baptismal ministry and the fullness and distinctiveness of the diaconal order. She was an original visionary on what the diocese could do with a place strategically placed like Old Brick [on the campus of the University of Iowa] and is now seeing the fruit of that vision as the Beloved Community Initiative [of which she is co-founder] develops in that very place. God's Spirit has been at work through Her servant in a profoundly prophetic and timely way. Susanne says that she is now officially retired. No one believes her. You will never stop serving in God's Name. And so we thank God for you, Susanne, at this time. 

(Susanne’s husband Bishop Chris Epting was a keynote speaker at the Chicago World Assembly in 2017)

Unexpected Consequences: The Diaconate Renewed by Susanne Watson Epting

"Times change, and the Order of Deacons in the Episcopal Church has not remained static. While the book seeks to update contemporary knowledge about deacons, it also shows how the diaconate may be well positioned to lead the church into change that cuts across governance, formation, and ministry. While the institutional church struggles with its structure and purpose, working to change its reality and perception, the book suggests that there are diaconal leaders who have been working all along for this kind of change. The book chronicles ways in which one church order has grown, matured, adapted, adjusted, and is as effective as it is because of its dynamic nature. It is hoped that other orders might learn from the importance of being adaptable, contextual, and baptismal, while highlighting the primary lens deacons look through as they seek to fulfill what the church has called them to do."

Thursday, November 19, 2020

World Toilet Day - November 19

November 19 is World Toilet Day. It’s a United Nations observance to highlight a serious problem that 4.2 billion people in the world living without safely managed sanitation options. More people in the world have access to a mobile phone than a toilet. More than 840,000 people die every year from diseases related to lack of access to water and sanitation. It's the reason why the Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the UN’s Global Goals is clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

This year the World Toilet Day 2020 focuses on sustainable sanitation and climate change. Climate change is getting worse. Flood, drought and rising sea levels are threatening sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. Everyone must have sustainable sanitation, alongside clean water and handwashing facilities, to help protect and maintain our health security and stop the spread of deadly infectious diseases such as COVID-19, cholera and typhoid. Sustainable sanitation systems also reuse waste to safely boost agriculture, and reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.

So, what does a sustainable sanitation system look like? Sustainable sanitation begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible and dignified setting. The waste then gets stored in a tank, which can be emptied later by a collection service, or transported away by pipework. The next stage is treatment and safe disposal. Safe reuse of human waste helps save water, reduces and captures greenhouse gas emissions for energy production, and can provide agriculture with a reliable source of water and nutrients.

Learn more about this year’s theme and how to engage in the World Toilet Day 2020 campaign here.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats the King says to the sheep: ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Perhaps today we could add ‘I was without a safe and private toilet and you helped to provide me with clean sanitation’.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The World Council of Churches asked Carolyn Winfrey Gillette to compose lyrics for a hymn for World Toilet Day. Great lyrics. 

More resources on the Pilgrim Uniting Church website

Prayer: Lord for people who have no access to clean sanitation today we pray. May we who have everything take one small step today to aid those who have nothing, Amen.

DOTAC Board meeting

DOTAC Board - representing the 12 communities/associations of DOTAC, met via Zoom in the week of November 16-20. They all agreed that it was not the same as meeting in person but as a second-best meeting via Zoom enabled them to connect, make some decisions and stay safe.

Some highlights:

The representatives from the region's 12 communities and associations shared updates about the effects of COVID for their groups.  Nine projects related to the region have been funded by special DIAKAID grants; everything from food security pressures to addictions recovery support, from educational technology to sick bay construction, from resilency training to mental health first aid, from an on-line women's community to aid for migrant workers.

In preparation for Advent worship and check in times focused on Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  

A new Social Justice Committee is being initiated.  And for one of the sessions Board members attended the second Racial Justice learning and discussion group with almost 30 participants.

A task group to examine and imagine the future of DOTAC was commissioned.  The Board hopes to have a final report with ideas and concrete recommendations by July 2021.

DOTAC Monthly Prayer gathering has been happening on the first of every month since June.  Other ideas were shared and considered for supporting the spiritual practices of our communities.

The Board brainstormed in the area of the Theology and Scholarship of Diakonia, Diaconal Formation and Membership Connections

Gathering God, 

you call the DOTAC Board members 

from their individual lives and their separate communities

to be your people meeting online. 

May your Spirit presence refresh and renew them. 

Affirm in each one the good that you have created in them. 

Remove all those things that seek to distract from the tasks at hand. 

In all the tasks before them, 

enable them to listen to each other,

that they may discern your leading, 

and thus join in your transforming mission in the world. 

May all they do be in response to your challenge: 

to 'love God, and to love your neighbour as yourself'. 

This we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - Indonesia (15-21 November 2020)

 The WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle focus is on Indonesia (and Timor Leste and the Philippines) from 15-21 November. 

Our member association in Indonesia is Ikatan Diakoni Wanita Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (IKADIWA). A recent post spoke about the contribution of the Principal of the Deaconess School, Deaconess Dr Serepina Sitanggang, who is retiring in 2020. 

The HKBP hospital at Balige is run by the deaconess community IKADIWA. It was from this hospital that three young nurses travelled to Germany 67 years ago, to receive their education as a deaconess. After returning to Indonesia in 1961 those sisters founded the deaconess community and afterwards a deaconess school. Since 1995 they have had their motherhouse at Lumban Pisang-Siborongborong. (the video below is of a HKBP church in Siborongborong). 

Recently, IKADIWA received a DIAKAID special COVID grant for "Food support around Motherhouse in Siborongborong". We look forward to hearing more about the way this grant has enabled compassionate care in the community.

Deaconess students at Deaconess School HKBP

Deaconess students at Deaconess School HKBP
Deaconess Theological College, Balige

Silhouette of church in Balige, North Sumatra

Market day, Balige, North Sumatra

We give thanks for the diversity of ethnicities, cultures and religious beliefs in Indonesia, and especially those who have built bridges between them, and pray for ecumenical and interfaith cooperation to bring justice, peace and sustainability to the country.


We begin our worship in the name of God the Father

who has chosen us to be the channels of blessings;

in the name of the Son,

who became one like us;

in the name of the Holy Spirit,

who has given us wisdom and strength.

Creator of the Cosmos, of eternity and time:

Be with us in this time.

Saviour of the world,

healer of the nations:

Be with us in this place.

Breath of all that lives,

of people near and far:

Be with us in our hearts.


God of here and now:

Stir within our lives. Amen.

(from WCC AGAPE meeting, closing prayer, 2012, Jakarta/Indonesia)

Some photos taken from blogsite.

WCC Ecumenical prayer cycle - Philippines (15-21 November 2020)

This week the WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle has a focus on two Asian countries where we have Deaconess Associations - Indonesia and the Philippines. This post has a focus on the Philippines including prayers provided by the Deaconess Associations in the Philippines (scroll down to video)

Prayers of thanks

* the vital witness of churches in this region;

* those who have resisted bravely and worked for human rights, justice, peace and reconciliation, especially the National Council of Churches in the Philippines;

* those who protest exploitative mining, deforestation and other environmental damage.

We pray for:

* government to eradicate corruption, establish justice and peace, and work effectively for the wellbeing of all their people;

* victims of violence, torture, drug and human trafficking, and human rights violations, that those responsible might be held accountable;

* all those affected by earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters, and for the rebuilding of communities afterwards;

* ecumenical and interfaith cooperation to bring justice, peace and sustainability to these lands.


The following information has been provided by DIAKPhils (Deaconess Associations in the Philippines). 

PHILIPPINES : Typhoon Rolly (International name Goni) has left massive destruction to infrastructure, agriculture, animals and has taken people's lives. Bicol Region was the the center of the strongest winds and rain that brought about flood, lahar (a destructive mudflow) in the Typhoon belt area. This was  recorded as the strongest typhoon in 2020, worldwide. According to reports, damage to infrastructure and livelihood reached Php5.8Billion. Damage to pthe ower facilities in the area affected is Php300Million.  

But relief and aid efforts stepped up and Philippines “Bayanihan” (helping out) culture once again provided help in this difficult condition.  

Our  misfortunes bring out the best in us, helping others even if we too needed the same help; anchoring  our faith to our known God, so that no matter how strong the typhoon that will come, it will only weaken the things that surrounds us but will strengthen the faith that is within us. The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7

We seek help of prayer to God for protection and mercy for those who are deeply affected by Typhoon Rolly.

We pray for consolation, Lord. Create in us a heart to 'have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be our confidence and will keep our feet from being snared'. (Proverbs 3:25-36)

When disasters have left a trail of destruction in people's lives and property, we are reminded that human wickedness is becoming extensive and that we need to be disciplined from our dreadful actions. 

We acknowledge our wickedness, Lord, when your creation is destroyed because of our own doings. Be merciful to us , O God, be merciful to us , for in you our souls take  refuge; in the shadow of your wings we will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. (Psalm 57:1-2)

We know you are not an angry God. You love your creation and you will replace everything that was lost. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Psalm 46:1-2


Sunday, November 8, 2020

WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - Australia (8-14 November 2020)

Along with New Zealand, the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle has a focus on Australia this week. (see previous post on Diakonia Aotearoa New Zealand Association, DANZA). 

There are two member association of DIAKONIA World Federation in Australia - Australian Anglican Diaconal Association (AADA) and Diakonia Uniting Church in Australia (DUCA). 

Rev Christa Megaw and Rev Judy Knowling are members of the DIAKONIA Asia Pacific (DAP) Executive Committee, and Christa is also on the DIAKONIA World Executive Committee. Rev Sandy Boyce is President, DIAKONIA World Federation and remains in close contact with DAP EC to support and resource. 

Deacon delegates from Australia to Fiji July 2019

A creed for Australia

We believe that this ancient land

with its unique creatures

is a precious gift from a loving God

whose mercy is over all creation.

We believe in God’s care for the people who treasured it

through un-numbered generations;

the One who grieves in their suffering

and rejoices in every noble aspiration.

We believe in God’s compassion

for the patchwork of refugees

who for two hundred years have come to this continent

looking for a place to call their home.

We believe in God’s steadfast love

for this nation and all its children;

that he is creating a new people from many races,

colours and gifts, to fulfil a high destiny.

We believe that the best way forward

is the way revealed by Christ of faith, hope and love,

where no needy person is neglected

and no bidding of the Spirit ignored.

(Source: Bruce D. Prewer)


We have wilderness and dry land at the heart of Australia.

We may not venture into it very often

but we know it is there,

it has its place on our maps.

More familiar to us, however,

is the wilderness in our own hearts,

the empty spaces in our own lives,

the desert of longings that engulf us.

Wilderness is a hard place,

but also a place of beauty and grace,

revealed by its sunsets and sunrises,

the glow of ancient rocks,

the moon shining on the sand.

Do not be afraid

of the desert places in your life,

for it is here

that the Good News

may be heard most profoundly.

May it be so.

(Source: adapted, Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Spirituality Centre)

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - New Zealand (8-14th November 2020)

The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle for this week has a focus on New Zealand and Australia. This post will focus on New Zealand, and our member association Diakonia Aotearoa New Zealand Association (DANZA), which includes those serving as Deacons in the Anglican and Methodist churches. Their website is here

Rev Anne Russell-Brighty is a member of the DIAKONIA Asia Pacific (DAP) Executive Committee, and also DIAKONIA World Executive Committee. 

Anne (on left) and other DANZA members

You will probably know about the horrifying mass shootings that occurred at mosques in a terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019. The Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, held the country together with the idea of 'they are us' (speaking about the Muslim victims) and 'let us be the nation we believe ourselves to be'. Her speech unified the nation together.  In May 2019, PM Adern unveiled the well-being budget, where she gave priority to societal well-being, not just the economic well-being of the nation. She said, “We're embedding that notion of making decisions that aren't just about growth for growth's sake, but how are our people faring? How is their overall well-being and their mental health? How is our environment doing? These are the measures that will give us a true measure of our success.” There set five priorities for 2019: aiding the transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy, supporting a thriving nation in the digital age, lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities, reducing child poverty, and supporting mental health for all New Zealanders. Adern's government created a NZ$50bn Covid response and recovery fund to address both the immediate response to the pandemic and the longer term economic damage left in its wake. New Zealand is free from COVID-19 cases. Her newly formed cabinet represents the diversity in New Zealand - of the 20-strong cabinet, 8 are women, 5 are Māori, 3 are Pasifika and 3 are LGBT.

The Deacons in the New Zealand Anglican and Methodist Church continue to offer important ministry in a nation that aspires to live with diversity, to honour cultural difference, and to focus on building community well-being as well as sustainable growth. 


We are thankful for:

* the beauty of the land and waters of Aotearoa New Zealand and the special relationship that people enjoy with the natural environment

* the identities and cultural practices that indigenous peoples long have maintained, and for their increasing political voice

* how the people have welcomed new immigrants

* how churches have witnessed and worked together ecumenically, especially amid challenges of apathy in highly secularized societies.

We pray for:

* churches to have the imagination, skills and energy to build bridges of understanding in increasingly multireligious and multicultural contexts

* those who work tirelessly on issues of justice for the poor, the marginalized and the dispossessed, especially indigenous peoples

* those seeking refuge and a new life in these countries, and those supporting and providing for them

careful preservation of the fragile land, sea, and resources.

Deaconess Serepina Sitanggang, Principal, HKBP Deaconess School

Acknowledgement of Deaconess Dr Serepina Sitanggang, Principal, Christian Protestant Batak Church (HKBP) Deaconess School (LPD), Balige, North Sumatra, Indonesia, on her retirement. 

(Member association: Ikatan Diakoni Wanita Huria Kristen Batak Protestant)

The General Synod of the HKBP had the foresight to establish the Deaconess School (LPD) in 1971. 

Under the faithful leadership of Deaconess Dr Serepina Sitanggang, many women have been trained for diaconal service in the community. They have developed skills in order to provide spiritual, physical and emotional support in the community. They offer comfort and care. Their ministry has lifted the lives of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the community, those suffering from illness and disease, those living with poverty, and given hope when hope has been scarce. The challenges are great! 

The Deaconesses have received education for diaconal ministry, and in turn provide education in many ways in the wider community. Through the LPD program, they have been exposed to areas of injustice including child trafficking, migrant workers, fraud and corruption and children’s rights, and learned the positive role of advocacy.

The ministry of the Deaconess in turn inspires and empowers women in the wider community to address issues of concern to them and their communities.

It has been said that the most important qualities of a good leader include integrity, accountability, empathy, humility, resilience, vision, influence, and positivity. Deaconess Serapina has led by example, displaying very fine qualities of a leader, and inspiring, encouraging and equipping hundreds of women for diaconal ministry. A true leader understands the hopes and dreams of others. Serapina has encouraged students to embark upon post graduate study opportunities and internships in other countries, enriching their lives and strengthening the education offered at LPD.

Deaconess Serapina’s steady and unwavering leadership has been a blessing to so many and had a significant impact on the wider community through the Deaconesses who have taken their learning far and wide. Christians are the minority in Indonesia, and still the Deaconesses boldly embody Christ’s love with courage and compassion. They pray for each another, and help and support each other.

I send greetings on behalf of DIAKONIA World Federation and acknowledge with grateful thanks the inspiring and faithful ministry of Deaconess Serapina Sitanggang. I know that the DIAKONIA Asia Pacific Region would also wish to send greetings, and to value her leadership.

I pray God’s blessings on Deaconess Serapina. I am confident God will continue to lead her steps in the future and that her life will continue to inspire others.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - Fiji (1-7 November 2020)

The World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle focus is on Fiji (and many other oceania nations), 1-7 November. 

Our member association is the Methodist Deaconess Order, Methodist Church in Fiji. 

Deaconess Meresiana Sadrata is the Regional President of DIAKONIA Asia Pacific, and a member of the DIAKONIA World Executive Committee. 

Deaconess Meresiana Sadrata

The Fiji Methodist Deaconesses' hosted the DAP regional assembly in 2019 in Nadi, Fiji. A very special time, with participants from Fiji, Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, and New Zealand (and the U.S. and Germany). 

Participants at DAP Regional Assembly, 2019

Consider incorporating prayers from other countries into your church services

WCC Intercessions

We are thankful for:

* the amazing diversity of people and cultures living on the islands of Oceania

* the magnificent natural scenery and sea life

* the strong, faithful presence of churches in these lands

* the stories and bold witness to the impact of climate change, reminding the rest of the world that we are all in the same ‘boat’ on this planet, 70% of which is covered by the ocean.

We pray for:

* efforts to preserve these island nations in the midst of rising seas

* those adversely affected by earthquakes, volcanoes and cyclones

* those dealing with the legacy of past nuclear weapons testing and with garbage dumping today

* good governance – especially in preserving indigenous cultures –which effectively serves those who are impoverished, hungry, lacking education or unable to make a living.