Steven Charleston. work and diaconal ministry

Charleston work and diaconal ministry

 “This is not our first day on the job. I know many of you have been here for a long while and even more of you have been working overtime. I wish I could tell you that it is time to take a break. I wish I could say that the job is almost finished. But that's not the case. In fact, it looks like we have even more work to do. The task has gotten bigger and the stakes have gotten higher. That means we must all work harder to create a culture of inclusion, clear a path to peace, develop a sustainable ecology and repair the bonds of justice that hold us together. And one last note, we still get paid the same: zero dollars, but more smiles and hope than we can spend.” Steven Charleston


Deacons know about zero dollars since ours is a non-stipended ministry. There is something very rewarding, however, for working for free if you can do it. It means often the deacons are retired people or people with another income from a well reimbursed job that allows them to work without compensation in their second job. The diaconate is a ministry that keeps you in the world because that is where you are monetarily compensated. The best recent book about the diaconate is Unexpected Consequences, The Diaconate Renewed by Susanne Watson Epting.

Among other things, the deacon stands beside others in ministry, cheering them on as they are helped to find their “deep gladness” and the “world’s great need” as Frederick Buchner tells us is the place we all find our ministry. The deacon stands beside the priest at the Eucharist. The deacon stands beside those working for inclusion, peace in this world, justice for all, and care for our ecology.  The deacon stands for and supports others in servant ministry. When people are in in discernment about what kind of work they should go into, they are often told, “Choose the job that you would do even if you were not paid for it.”  This also is a thought process the deacon and a spiritual friend suggest to others trying to decide on their ministry.