I have been just over a year in ordained ministry as a vocational deacon in the Anglican Church. The main thing we know about deacons is… they “serve.” It’s that term “serve” that may need a little work because I think it may have atrophied.
These are some initial thoughts and very much in process.
In some contexts (Roman Catholic and Episcopal alike) I have seen some pockets where “serve” means only something in context to the Table. It is to prepare the Table on Sunday.
“Serve” may branch out to taking consecrated communion to the home bound.
Often it is not thought of as “leading” in hardly any context. Yet, there are some things about deacons that call for “serving” in a broader context.
For instance, did it not serve the Hellenistic widows in Acts 6 that someone advocated for them? Yes, the deacons were appointed to “serve” the widows food, but there was the step before that. Raising awareness. It served the widows to have someone take their need to the apostles.
Stephen served the Kingdom by taking on obstinate Jewish leaders in his teaching, to the point of martyrdom.
Philip served the Samaritans and Gentiles by going first to Samaria (while the apostles hung back a bit because… you know… Samaritans!)
Is there not a leading aspect of serving in this way? Am I not serving my friends of color when I step up to demand racial justice?
Am I not serving the unreached as I advocate for better missions strategies? Am I not serving the marginalized as I work for better education and housing resources?
“Serving” is not simply giving out a box of food or setting the table at Eucharist. We will better “serve” the Church if we will continue to step up in new ways to lead the Church in connecting to the world.