They’ve been around in the Methodist Church for quite a while, these women called Deaconess. With roots traced to Phoebe in Romans 16:1, in our Methodist tradition the office of Deaconess was officially recognized as an office in 1888. It was in 2004 that the office of Home Missioner, which provides an opportunity for lay men to serve in a lifetime relationship in the UMC, was established at General Conference.
Deaconesses, home missioners and home missionaries from across the U.S. and the National Association of Deaconesses, Home Missioners and Home Missionaries (NADHM) gathered in North Carolina at Lake Junaluska in early November. A carefully considered decision reached during this meeting was the vote of affirmation on affiliation with the Reconciling Ministries Network. This subject had been under consideration and studied by a task force in preparation for this November vote. A recurring theme during pre-vote discussion was the comment, “it is time…”
Joined by the executive staff from New York, NADHM spent four days sharing in dynamic worship, instructive plenaries and workshops, and experiencing ideas for that all-important ‘self-care’. Pictured here are our Missouri deaconesses, Mandy Caruso-Yahna, serving in Kansas City; Gail Davis and Shay Blackwell, retired, from St. Louis. Also pictured are the members from the South Central Jurisdiction who could be rounded up at photo time. Meeting highlights included recognizing fellow members who have been serving for 50 years, honoring recent retirees as well as the installation of officers.
Deaconesses (lay women) and home missioners (lay men) form a covenant community rooted in scripture; this is a community of laity who have answered the call of God in their lives and have been commissioned by the UMC to full-time ministries of love, justice and service. It is important to understand that this is not an employment opportunity; their positions in a helping profession or church-related vocation are self-identified which may or may not be compensated as they carry out works of love, justice and service. You probably would be amazed at the wide range of professions represented in this office: musicians, attorneys, teachers, nurses, IT folks … Currently, the office of Deaconess and Home Missioner is the only active office in the UMC for laity called to full-time vocations in servant ministries in a lifetime relationship. Current Deaconess/Home Missioner stats are: