What does a Deacon do? Is this ministry still timely? What are his concrete tasks in the congregation?
Deacons are a very active part of our congregations in Africa. District Apostle Charles Ndandula from Zambia reports, “Our Deacons are very busy. They visit sick members and families on a regular basis. They look after the members in their congregation. They look after everyone.” District Apostle Michael Deppner reports that the Deacons in his area of the Congo are very proud to represent their congregation, especially also outside of the Church, “We don’t even have to delegate work to them. They automatically look after everyone.” In the region looked after by District Apostle Tshitshi Tshisekedi, Deacons often go to see families still on a Sunday morning to mobilize them and pick them up for church. We want everyone to feel that they are part of the congregation.
Deacon: a servant of God
“The word Deacon has its source in the Greek and signifies ‘servant’. Deacons help in various ways in the congregation. It is also their task to support the Priests in their pastoral care work,” it says in chapter 7.9.2 of the Catechism. We also read there that today no one is ordained into the Sub-deacon ministry any more, because this ministry corresponds to the Deacon ministry in nature.
The Deacon ministry is the first of three levels of ministry within our Church. The Deacon is at the beginning of the hierarchy, so to speak. But careful! This hierarchy is not to be understood as a ladder one climbs one rung after the other. The Deacon ministry is a distinct and independent ministry. It is a ministry that supports and practices Christian love, that cares and is defined by nearness. In the letter to Timothy, Apostle Paul writes that Deacons must be reverent, “not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money”, and “holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.” They should first be tested to see if they are found blameless, Paul adds.
The Deacon ministry has thus had a concrete place and function in the congregation from the start. It is not a mere transitional stage on the route to become a Priest. Although the name has its source in the Greek διάκονος (servant, helper)—and their care of and commitment to the neighbour is certainly the central element of their work—Deacons as ministers of the New Apostolic Church today provide pastoral care.
They support the Priests in the congregation. They can even conduct divine services, although without any sacramental acts. This is specified in more detail in the Liturgy of Divine Services of the New Apostolic Church, where it says, “If a priestly minister is unavailable, Deacons can conduct word services at the regular time of a divine service. This should not take place without previous agreement with the Deacon concerned and the responsible Apostle. If the priestly minister unexpectedly does not arrive for the divine service, a Deacon should conduct a word service.” Thus a Deacon can also assume liturgical duties (Divine Service Guide, Special Edition, Liturgy of the Divine Services of the New Apostolic Church, Volume 2, Special Types of Divine Services, 2013).
* Article adapted from nac.today