Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Diaconal Ministry

What the HECK is it?

As I continue preparations for my consecration on November 4, I am getting a lot of questions about Diaconal Ministry. People receive my consecration announcements, and they inevitably have 2 questions:
  1. What's a Diaconal Minister?
  2. What's a Consecration?

So, I am off to "God's Country" for the next two weeks (My grandfather was from Minnesota, and he always swore it was "God's Country" - that and "The Land of the Sky Blue Waters"), and I thought it might be nice to answer those questions before I leave.

NOTE: This is not the "controversial" post I have been working on; it's just a little something to tide you over until I get a chance to write again.

First of all: If you are reading this post, then you are welcome to attend my consecration. So, before I tell you what a consecration is, let me officially invite you to one! Here is the invitation:

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
--Jeremiah 1:4-5

You are cordially invited to the Rite of Consecration of

Rebecca Hanson Kolowé

to the Ministry of Word and Service as a Diaconal Minister in the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

November 4, 2007 at 4:00 P.M.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
1000 West Main Street, Lansdale, Pennsylvania 19446
(Corner of Routes 63 and 363)

Reception immediately following
Rostered leaders are invited to vest and process. The color of the day is white.

Please come! I hope to see you there!


Now, to answer those two questions! Here is an excerpt of an article that was originally published in Trinity's Lansdale Lutheran. It should answer all of your questions about Diaconal Ministry, consecrations, and perhaps some other things! I wrote it, and have made some changes here to better suit my blog.


Rebecca Kolowé, Trinity's Pastoral Assistant in charge of adult and young adult education, is about to become a consecrated Diaconal Minister.

What is Diaconal Ministry?

Diaconal Ministry is a ministry of Word and Service. One way to explain it is to compare the ministry of a Pastor with the ministry of a Diaconal Minister: Pastors are called to a ministry of Word and Sacrament. This means that Pastors preach the Word and administer the sacraments (Holy Communion and Baptism). Diaconal Ministers are called to a ministry of Word and Service. This means that Diaconal Ministers preach the Word and focus on serving others.

What is a Diaconal Minister?

A Diaconal Minister is someone who is consecrated (or “set apart”) by the church to perform ministries of Word and Service.

What is a consecration?

A consecration is a rite of the church in which Diaconal Ministers are set apart for their particular ministry. It is very similar to the way a pastor is ordained.

What do you mean by a ministry of service?

The church says that Diaconal Ministers are called into a ministry of service at the place where the church meets the world. This means that Diaconal Ministers are called to serve the poor, afflicted, unlovely, and anyone who lives at the fringes between church and world.

If your ministry is a ministry of service outside of the church, then what are you doing working in a congregation?

The official website of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) Diaconal Ministry community (Please visit the ELCA Diaconal Ministry Community online at www.elca.org/diaconalministry) states, “Diaconal Ministers work to seek wholeness in the world and to help the people of God to live out the Gospel… [Diaconal Ministers work towards] equipping others for healing and justice in the world.” One aspect of service to others equipping the people of God, the people in the church, to be in service to others.

What kinds of jobs do Diaconal Ministers do?

Diaconal Ministers serve in a lot of different areas. Some of them, like me, work in congregations, encouraging and equipping others to serve. Other Diaconal Ministers may work for social service organizations, as chaplains, in campus or youth ministry, as counselors or spiritual directors, or in other areas.

How do you get to be a Diaconal Minister?

Diaconal Ministers must attend an ELCA seminary and complete the required degrees and requirements. Candidates for Diaconal Ministry also undergo a candidacy and call process before they are consecrated to service.

What is the difference between a deacon and a Diaconal Minister?

Diakonia is a Greek word taken out of the New Testament that means “service.” A deacon, therefore is a servant. Diaconal Ministers and deacons are both servants and are both the same thing. “Diaconal Minister” is the term that the ELCA has decided to use to designate its deacons.

As a Christian, I help serve others, too. What's the difference between me and a Diaconal Minister?

In many ways, we are ALL called to be deacons, and all of the various ways we minister to each other are important. All Christians should be in service to others. Jesus called us all to be deacons when he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). The difference between an ELCA Diaconal Minister and other lay people is that a Diaconal Minister has attended seminary, has gone through the church-wide call process, and has been consecrated (“set aside”) by God and the church to a specific ministry. It is similar to the way a Pastor is educated, called, and ordained to a specific ministry.

Aren’t you a deaconess?

I am not a deaconess. In the ELCA, deaconesses are women who are a part of a deaconess community. Although our call to service is very similar, only women who are a part of the deaconess community are to be called deaconesses. I am a Diaconal Minister, and you may call me a deacon.

Why have I never heard about Diaconal Ministers before?

Deacons have existed in the wider church for hundreds of years. However, the term “Diaconal Minister” and its recognition as a consecrated ministry of the ELCA only became official in 1993.

Why haven’t you told us earlier about you being a Diaconal Minister?

I am actually not a Diaconal Minister yet. I graduated from seminary in 2004, but was still working to complete the candidacy and call process when I began working at Trinity. I finished those final requirements in April. I will officially become a Diaconal Minister on November 4, 2007, when Bishop Burkat consecrates me as a Diaconal Minister. That service will be here at Trinity, and I would love for you to come and be a part of that special day!

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Ok, I know I have been a bit remiss in my blogging duties recently. The truth is, with all the fall programming starting up at church, I have been swamped! Plus, Pierre and I are planning a 2-week vacation at the beginning of October, so I have to get all my work done before then!

In reality, I do have a blog I have been working on, but I am a little nervous about posting it. I think some people I know might not like it, and I am not sure if I am ready to deal with that. I know that some of you who have known me for a long time might think this is a little out of character for me. But, this particular blog is about an issue that is very close to my heart, and that makes it harder to put it all out there on the line for the whole world to see and critique.

How's that for a teaser?

Anyways, I promise to get something good posted as soon as I can! In the meantime, enjoy the change of seasons, the cooler weather, and all the wonderful things God has given you!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Pura Vida: "Pure Life" in Costa Rica

Part 4

(Scroll down to read parts 1-3)

This is my last blog about my trip to Costa Rica with the synod at the beginning of August. I have been thinking a lot about Costa Rica the last few days. When I came home I went right back to work and really didn't get much time to process the trip. Now that it is the holiday weekend and I have had some time to myself away from the busy-ness of work, some things are clearer to me than they were immediately following my return.

First of all, I should make it clear that I had a really good time. I definitely had issues with the mission theology and teaching methods of Pura Vida Missions, but that doesn't take away from the fact that we were there to love and serve Costa Rican children, and we did that successfully and with great passion. In many ways the theology of Pura Vida Missions doesn't even matter, because those children (and our youth) had a great time and learned a lot about God's love for them through our service. The Holy Spirit was there, and she was working! A wise missionary once said to me, "The Holy Spirit doesn't work because of us, the Holy Spirit works in spite of us." Even though I heartily disagree with the theology of evangelism that Pura Vida practices, that doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit was absent. God can do great things, even in the midst of us sometimes doing not-so-great things.

Secondly, I feel really blessed to have been able to be a part of the lives of such wonderful, interesting youth. The young people who went on this journey with me are all intelligent, interesting people with futures full of hope. Some of them really touched my life, and that makes me feel very blessed. It was neat to see these young people blossom as they discovered a culture different from their own. Some of them really came out of their shells--they were discovering new things about themselves, too! Others revealed that there are things in their lives that they are really struggling with right now. Throwing people who don't know each other together like that in a different cultural environment can lead to wonderful realizations about ourselves and each other.

In particular, today I am thinking a lot about Jenn, Holly, and Candice. Each of them had their own very personal experiences, struggles, and revelations on this trip, and each of them taught me something about myself. There are others, too, who I have not named. I hope that they all continue to grow into the fabulous, enlightened young adults they are becoming.

Probably the last thing that I need to say is something that I learned about myself toward the end of our time together in Costa Rica. I have always said during my travels around the world that I will always try anything once (except for fried termites--a girl has to draw the line somewhere!). Well, towards the end of our time in Costa Rica, that mantra was severely tested. On our last full day in Costa Rica we went out into the jungle to participate in a canopy safari (You can visit Canopy Safari's website here). For those of you who don't know what a canopy safari is, let me explain it to you. You are attached to a harness, and you literally hang in this harness from a carabiner that is attached to a cable suspended between trees, high up in the air (otherwise known as a zip-line). But, you are not just attached to the cable--you actually move through the air between the trees by "zipping" along this zip-line. It is cool in the fact that you get to see the canopy from within the canopy. It is NOT cool in the fact that you are flying through mid-air 150 feet up (or some such crazy height) with nothing holding you up except this cable, harness, and carabiner. Like this:

And this:

I have to tell you, I was scared to death to do this! We were all told that we didn't have to do it, but that the entire group would be participating and that we would regret it and disappoint everyone else if we didn't do it. As a leader on this trip, I really felt like I had to. I was one of the people setting an example for the rest of the group. But, I really didn't want to, and I was scared! It even made me cry. However, one of the young people in my group, Holly, really encouraged me and I was able to overcome my fear and participate in this experience (but not without some swearing on my part). After having processed the day, I would probably even say that I had fun (something I was not willing to say immediately after the tour was over and I took off my harness and kissed the earth). I might even be willing to do it again someday. That is definitely growth for me.

My overall experience that day was awesome--I learned that I could do something I really thought I couldn't. I swear I thought I might die, but I came out OK in the end. It wasn't that bad and was actually kind of fun. And Holly really ministered to me and gave me the courage to do it. I wonder if she knows how important and powerful that was?

I also owe a lot to Big Al:

He seemed like a rough guy (he was telling jokes about some guy's "woody" on the way to the safari site) but really helped me be brave and didn't mess around because he knew I was scared. All in all, the staff at Canopy Safari was awesome. They took good care of us, and made sure we had a safe, positive, and fun experience.

The Canopy Safari was a good cap to an awesome week. I am proud of our youth for being such awesome young people--they did great work with the Costa Rican children, and ministered to me and to each other, too. I can only hope that I made a similar impression on them. During our time in Costa Rica, we all discovered more fully what it is like to live in God's Promise, as Children of God.