I would like to introduce you to a few good women, actually a few great women, in our church. I have a hunch that many of the people at AAC may not know about these wonderful women and their service to our congregation. Have you guessed who I’m referring to? It’s our Deaconesses! How many of you know who a Deaconess is? Or exactly what she does?? I’d like to fill you in a bit. Deaconess is from the Greek word “diakoneo” meaning “to serve.” The job of the Deaconess in her service to the people of the church more than fulfills the meaning.
Deaconesses are the female support team of the Appleton Alliance Church Pastoral Care Ministry. A Deaconess is an AAC member approved by both a nominating committee and the church congregation. Her resumé must include the qualification of I Timothy 3:11, “ In the same way, Deaconesses are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”
This explanation seems fairly straightforward but what does a Deaconess do?
According to Sue Solberg, lead Deaconess at AAC, our deaconesses assist with the James 5 healing services, help prepare and serve at the communion services and assist with baptisms. Additionally, these fine women visit shut-ins, organize and provide meals for those recovering from hospitalizations or illnesses, and run a card ministry that expresses care, concern and encouragement to our church family. They are also part of a vital ministry to grieving families by helping to prepare and serve free luncheons for funerals held here at AAC. Conversely, they are also involved in hosting a social reception for families as part of Child Dedication services.
Phew! That is quite the list! Especially when you realize that we have a congregation of over 4000 men, women and children and only 16 Deaconesses! When I titled this “A Few Good Women” I was not exaggerating!
Once someone has been identified as a potential deaconess Sue Solberg calls them to gauge their interest and explain the importance of their role. After prayerfully considering the request and agreeing to serve, the potential candidate must be approved by a congregational vote and a nominating committee. It is an intensive process because we really value and respect the character and role of the women who take this on as they are on the front lines of representing AAC to our members.
Nevertheless, the group could use a little more help, so Women’s Ministry plans to be more intentional by partnering with them to help provide interested and qualified women through our Discipleship Program. (More on our Discipleship Program in another blog post!)
I spoke with our Lead Deaconess Sue Solberg and asked her the following questions:
What is your favorite part of being a Deaconess?
“My favorite part of being a Deaconess is the joy I experience by serving our Lord and his church family with sisters in Christ who have true servant hearts. The fellowship, care and concern for our church and one another is a blessing! These women uplift our church family and one another! It is a privilege and an honor to serve our church. I know each Deaconess considers her service a God-given purpose. Getting to know these caring women has greatly inspired me; I admire each one of them! Serving helps me and the other Deaconesses feel more connected to our church family and allows us to meet many more people in our ever-growing AAC congregation.”
Do you have any funny stories about being a Deaconess?
“We have all heard how challenging it can be to function when there are “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Imaging having twelve to eighteen cooks in one kitchen at the same time! That’s how it is working together to prepare funeral luncheons.
One day during lunch prep, I caught a Deaconess standing at the end of the buffet table laughing and shaking her head. I walked over and asked her what was so funny. She said, “Stand here and watch for a minute.” Each Deaconess who walked along the buffet table reached out to ‘tweak’ it by moving something to a new position. The next one would come along and move something else, or even the item that had just been re-placed. It got to be quite comical and the three of us watching soon got the giggles!
Even though we are many women with many differing ideas and abilities, we are always able to approach one another with a sense of humor and enjoyment. We tease and cajole in a friendly/sisterly fashion and are not afraid to laugh at ourselves!”
Do you have any touching stories about being a Deaconess?
“Recently I was privileged to go with two other Deaconesses to visit a woman who has dementia and lives in an assisted care facility. My two partners had known this woman over many years but had not seen her in quite awhile.
When one of her old friends opened her door and she saw her two dear friends, her face lit up! With wide eyes and open arms she eagerly hugged each one exclaiming, “Oh my, Oh my! It is so good to see you – and YOU!” She was truly overjoyed by their visit. It was a joy that was simultaneously imparted back to each of us. It was an extremely poignant visit that blessed us as much or more than we blessed that sweet woman.
But we don’t only serve those outside of our group, we are also an encouragement and support for one another as we go through life’s difficulties as well. We care for each other as a family, as strong caring sisters demonstrating love to others as well as to one another. It truly is a rewarding and precious ministry. “