Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Becky Louter

March 16, 1970 - September 16, 2016
It is with deep sadness that the diaconal community has learned of the passing of Becky Louter on September 16th, 2016, after a courageous battle with breast cancer for several years.

Like her mother, Becky was a Deaconess in the United Methodist Church. Consecrated as a Deaconess in 2001, she served as Executive Secretary of the Deaconess Home Missioner Order of the United Methodist Church, which oversees the lay order of the church dedicated to workers in vocations that alleviate suffering.

The United Methodist Women's website reports, 'Ms Louter was a tireless advocate for the lay office, and the community grew. During her tenure, laymen were added as home missioners by the 2004 General Conference, and the 2016 General Conference recognised the deaconess/home missioner community as a lay order of the church'.

Harriet Jane Olson, chief executive officer of the United Methodist Women says, 'I am profoundly grateful for Becky's life, for her commitment to following Jesus and for her leadership. She was a model of committed lay leadership focussed on love, justice and service'.

Becky's mission was to help share God's love through service and social justice. In a 2006 interview she said, 'I had always felt a sense of calling. I thought I was looking for a job but I discovered I was called to be in ministry. As a deaconess, I may have 30 jobs in my life, but one calling, one relationship...God does the calling'.

Becky is survived by her husband, Michael, and their four precious children, John, Andrew, Hanna and Elizabeth. Our thoughts and prayers are with Becky's family.

Becky's gentle and deeply rooted faith and confidence in Jesus, her strength, courage and love, and her tireless advocacy for diaconal ministry will continue to inspire those who knew and loved her, and those whose lives were touched by her presence.While there is deep sorrow at Becky's passing, we can all affirm together: well done, good and faithful servant.

And we can have confidence Becky is indeed held in the embrace of God, as she has given testimony to all her life.

(A GoFundMe appeal has been set up for Becky's family and you may consider making a donation). 

Monday, September 19, 2016

DOVE: Diakonia Overcoming Violence Experience

Please remember the delegates as they meet for the 2016 gathering of DOVE: Diakonia Overcoming Violence Experience, September 19-23, 2016 at Crieff Hills Conference Center, Punslinch (near Toronto), Ontario, Canada. 

This gathering builds an international team that will participate in a multicultural, hands-on, action-reflection experience related to overcoming violence in the world 

Participants promise to:
  • find ways to initiate action/reflection experiences in their own countries
  • write reflections to share with the group, their own community, and DOTAC (Diakonia
    of the Americas and Caribbean)
  • seek ways to provide leadership and develop networks to assist others in overcoming violence.

    Learning about... 
  • Overcoming Violence through Empowerment & Being a Strong Ally
  • Restorative Justice Approaches
  • Toxic & Healthy Masculinities
  • Advocating For & Empowering Sex Trade Workers
  • Residential Schools and Relationships with First Nations People

    DOTAC attempts to select three people from each region (Brazil, Caribbean, United States, and Canada) to attend. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A reflection on 9/11 (15th anniversary)

The sculpture consists of an iron beam pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center held up by two stainless steel hands. The hands holding it up are constructed from 2,976 individually crafted stainless steel doves – each representing a victim of the attacks.

Fifteen years after 9/11
what is worth remembering?

How fragile we are.
How deeply we need each other.
How little our differences matter.
That in our vulnerability
we are most human.
That we can always respond to violence
with violence or with peace.
That violence begets violence.
That in danger, chaos and trauma
we can choose to come together.
That you always have a choice
to contribute to the world's hurt
or its healing.
That we are one.
That entering into the world's suffering
is divine.
That the world is not ending yet.
How beautiful it is
when we care for each other.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Remembering Warruwi

On Wednesday 27 July, 2016, over 60 people from across the country arrived in the Warruwi (South Goulburn Island in Northern Australia) community to mark the centenary of mission activities that commenced in the region in 1916. It was a significant day for many people who worked in Warruwi and Arnhem Land mission communities over many years.
Warruwi is a small island north east of Darwin and across the Coburg Peninsula, and is home to a mostly Indigenous community of approximately 500 people (more information here). The traditional language of the local community is Mawng, with a number of other languages also being spoken. Several Mawng community representatives took part in the centenary event, along with other Warruwi locals, and ex-mission workers from locations across Australia.
Amongst those who gathered were a number of ex-mission workers from South Australia and members of their families – including Rev Deacon Bill Harris, his wife Margaret, and daughters, Michelle and Anne). Other South Australians passed along their greetings, while still more were discussed as making significant contributions to mission work.
The Warruwi site was chosen by Rev James Watson in 1915. He had been sent to the Northern Territory by the Methodist Church’s Board of Missions to survey possible sites for mission work in the area. As a result of his survey and report South Goulburn Island/Warruwi was selected as the most suitable site to commence mission activities. James arrived to establish the mission on 22 June 1916.
Those gathered for the event recalled many aspects of the Warruwi mission’s history. Attendees also took part in a re-enactment of Rev James Watson’s 1916 arrival by boat. 

The group then gathered at the site of the original church, where a replica now stands (pictured) and serves as the base for the current Warruwi Uniting Church congregation. The old church building is no longer suitable for many of the community’s worship services. A large external stage has been built facing into the town square and this is used for larger worship gatherings.
As part of the celebrations, visitors were welcomed by local pastor Billy Nowaloinba, who later preached at the centenary service. Music was provided by the church band, and dancers performed a smoking ceremony and welcome dances. 
The event also provided a platform for Rev Dr William Emilson to launch his new book, Fighting Spirit: A History of Christianity at Warruwi, Goulburn Island, and for the handing over of the Mawng translation of the Gospel of Mark. The latter work was started in the 1960s and finally completed in time for the centenary celebrations.
The Warruwi centenary event served as a reminder of the history of the Methodist Church and the Mawng people, and how their past dedication and faith has helped to shape the Warruwi community today.
This article has been edited from the original sent by Rev Bill Harris and appears in the online version of New Times, a publication of the Uniting Church in Australia (SA Synod). The article contains his own reflections and understanding of the Methodist Mission on Warruwi and the recent centenary celebration.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

News from ‘ABAJA BA Kristo’ Rubengera, Rwanda

News from ‘ABAJA BA Kristo’ Rubengera, Rwanda
Communaute Diocesses Abaja Ba Kristo-Rwanda (established 1984)

There is regular contact between the Sisters in Rubengera, and the Sisters in Amerongen (Netherlands). Visitors have been received from the Netherlands and Germany. 

Janny Oorebeek (Netherlands)
The Sisters
Five young women have started their probation and are doing well. They feel at home and take part in the community life. They are given lessons connected to the life as a Deaconess. Their accommodation is in a house in the former orphan’s village, and Sister Domitille takes care of them.
There are concerns for the ongoing health problems of Sister Evodie; she endures her illness bravely and is nursed by the Sisters.
Several of the Sisters have undertaken studies and achieved good results. Good education is seen as significant. 
Sister Anysie and Sister Emerthe have been seconded by the Anglican Church to support some young women in their call to diaconal work. The new community’s name is ‘Esther Sisters’. The sisters pray that more young women will join this service. 

The Orphan’s Village
The Orphan’s village operated for 21 years, but since March 2016, the houses in the Orphan’s village have been empty. The children are now being cared for by relatives or have been adopted into families. The foster families are under the supervision of Sister Emilienne, who visits the children regularly and monitors their well-being. Most children have settled in well to their new situation. With the support of the Dutch ‘Godparents’, they are able to continue their schooling or their professional training. The official closing of the Orphan’s village will take place during a visit by Sister Doren and Janny Oorebeek on November 16th, 2016. It will be holiday time in Rwanda, enabling many children to participate in the celebrations, including former residents.

New Project
In the coming months, a new project will be initiated: the Family Centre. This project will support the poorest families in the neighbourhood close to the Sisters. About 40 families have been selected to form self-help groups, in order to improve living conditions for their families. As well, a day care centre will be opened for children between 3 and 6 years, to prepare them for elementary school. The now empty buildings of the Orphan’s village will be used for the new project. It is anticipated the opening of the project will be January 2017. 

Rubengera Technical Secondary School (RTSS)
In March, certificates were presented to the first group of schoolboys trained at RTSS. The great news is that every graduate gained employment, and that is extremely unusual for young people in Rwanda. The rate of unemployment is high in the country, but there is a big need for craftsmen and artisans. In this way, the school plays an important role!

Sr Epiphanie cutting with the grain on precision framesaw

Agriculture project
In July, a new group of farmers, men and women, started a theoretical and practical training course. 

Please uphold in prayer the work of the Sisters of ‘ABAJA BA Kristo’ Rubengera in Rwanda. 

(The original report was prepared by Sister Dorien, Amerongen)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

New 'Worship and Service roster' in ELCA

Deaconess Louise Williams
preaching at ELCA Churchwide Assembly, August 2016
A recommendations on ‘One Roster of Word and Service’ was presented to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. In essence, the Assembly was asked to consider a recommendation to transition the three current rosters of Word and Service – Associate in Ministry, Deaconess, and Diaconal Minister – into one, new, unified roster of Word and Service, to be called Deacon. This recommendation has been many years in the making, and Louise Williams (past-President, DIAKONIA World Federation) has served on the ELCA task forces and teams that crafted it. 
Louise reports: 'The great news is that the ‘Word and Service roster’ passed overwhelmingly at the Assembly. Deaconesses, associates in ministry and diaconal ministers received a rousing ovation'.

(You can watch a video of the voting process for this recommendation here, starting at 17.50. I love the voting machines - very innovative)

(You can watch a video of Louise Williams' preaching at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly here). 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

RIP, Ormonde Plater, author of Many Servants

[The Association for Episcopal Deacons] The Association for Episcopal Deacons is saddened by the loss of Archdeacon Ormonde Plater, Diocese of Louisiana, to the worldwide diaconal community. Ormonde died aged 82 on Aug. 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, after a long illness.

Ormonde Plater, Sept 6 1933-August 6, 2016
He devoted much of his life to the church and was a mentor to many during his time as deacon. IT would be hard to overestimate Ormonde’s contribution to the development of the Episcopal Church’s restoration of the distinctive diaconate in ordained ministry, and his theological leadership extended around the globe.  His book Many Servants: An Introduction to Deacons, provided a historical overview of the Episcopal diaconate and a rationale for the renewal of the order.  He also authored The Deacon in the Liturgy and Intercession, as well as other volumes which continue to play an essential role in the education and formation of deacons in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
Ormonde’s leadership extended to the creation of the organizational infrastructure needed for the renewed diaconate to prosper, as well.  He was an early member of AED’s predecessor organization, the North American Association for the Diaconate, and he served faithfully on our board and as our president.  In his last appearance at one of AED’s assemblies, he provided a sage and comprehensive overview of the history and development of the Episcopal Church’s diaconal movement.  An early adopter of internet technologies, for over 20 years he has hosted the anglodeacons and archdeacons Yahoo groups, a modality of communications which has enabled deacons to communicate around the world and vastly expand their ability to collaborate in both diaconal action and in reflection on the renewed order.
Ormonde was ordained a deacon in 1971 at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church in New Orleans and retired in 2007. Over the years he served the Episcopal Church in parish, diocesan, prison and hospital ministries.
We know he rests in peace and are certain he has risen in glory.  Well done, good and faithful servant!