by Bishop Bill Gohl
The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve… –Matthew 20:28 On Sunday evening, I pulled into the parking lot of the Maritime Institute in Linthicum for the Lutheran Deaconess Association Conference Anniversary Recognition Banquet. My invitation was to “bring a brief word of welcome.” My internal sense of purpose after a long Sunday of crisscrossing our synod was to “get out of here as quick as possible.”
Three and a half hours later, I was on my way home from one of the most refreshing evenings I’ve spent in quite some time!
The LDA is a pan-Lutheran community of deaconesses who serve in a broad and diverse variety of ministries that bridge the gap between the church and world. Some are serving in very “traditional” diaconal ministries that are congregation-based or church agency related, but many others serve Christ through their work in secular agencies. While some are on the rosters of their respective church bodies, the LDA is its own community for formation, accountability, and encouragement. That sense of community was genuine and encouraging. In was seated with nine members of the LDA Valparaiso class of ’71, all of whom began in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Two of those folks are still LCMS and have served happily and productively in LCMS-related ministries; the rest are now affiliated with the ELCA, three are ordained, two are former synodical Assistants to the Bishop, one is a seminary professor. Just the privilege of their company was well worth the sacrifice of an evening.
Add to that the testimonies of those celebrating anniversaries – from five years to 60 years of consecrated ministry, every last of which lauded the richness and importance of the LDA community, I was totally hooked. These sisters have something that the larger church desperately needs: relationships that allow them to have respectful discourse where they sometimes agree to disagree, and a koinonia where they hold one another in love, community, and accountability. Whether they are in formation, in service, on leave from call, or retired, they live in community and expect one another to participate in cultivating that community. A member of the class of 1958 was present to celebrate her 60th Anniversary of Consecrated Service – and she has not ever, in 60+ years including formation, ever missed an LDA community gathering!
Locally, members of the LDA in our synod include Pastor Kati Kluckman-Ault, serving as pastor/developer of Rejoice Fellowship (Glen Burnie), and Jean Warren, recently retired executive director of Lutheran Community Services in Delaware, a member of Grace (Hockessin). Each has brought that diaconal spirit and curating of community as foundational to their ministry. LCMS members of the LDA serve in our local LCMS schools, through the work of the Lutheran Mission Society and on the board for the Lutheran Home and Hospital Foundation, to name a few.
There is something quite special about the LDA, and I invite you to know more about their important work and their noble commitment to building Christian community. I am inspired to think with you and others about how we could cultivate such a community among the people of God serving Christ in our Delaware-Maryland Synod.
“It will not be so among you; whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” –Matthew 20:26-28