The Changing Face of Diaconal Ministry

Diakonial ConferenceWhile kangaroo tails are cooked and smoke billows above an inner city church courtyard on a balmy summer’s evening, stories are told by Indigenous people. During morning worship, chairs are stacked in a haphazard pile to express sorrow over injustices experienced by the marginalised. Encouragement is given through Biblical stories of women and men who show their faith in Christ by listening, serving and forming new worshipping communities.

These are a few examples of the diverse and enriching experiences of the Deacon Intensive (for candidates) and the national DUCA (Diakonia in the Uniting Church in Australia) Conference that has been recently held in Adelaide, based at Pilgrim Uniting Church over two weeks.

Two indigenous leaders, an Irish pastor, two Australian aged care chaplains, a Filipino journalist and social activist, two Australian congregational leaders and an Afro-American woman comprised the group of UCA Deacon candidates who met in the first week to learn more about diaconal ministry and the Ministry of Deacon.

They participated in worship, Bible studies, discussions, and immersion visits to Yatala prison, Hopes Café at Clayton Wesley and The Grove community garden. Evening sessions, facilitated by Rev. Dr. Steve Taylor, further extended their engagement with mission and community service.

During the second week, forty deacons and deacon candidates from diverse settings around Australia participated in the National DUCA conference. After a traditional Welcome to Country by Dr. Alitja Rigney, Rev. Prof Andrew Dutney’s opening address was a catalyst for conversation about the current reality and future possibilities in the Uniting Church. During the week, panels of speakers presented on relevant issues, electives were offered, and visits were made to sites to hear and see inspiring community engagement.

The most valuable part of the week for many was the encouragement and learning received from conversations with each other, as they heard how God is working in their lives and the lives of those with whom they journey.

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