Deacons: Called to Word & Service Ministry

Deacons: Called to Word & Service Ministry

Savannah Olaphson (Phelan), Deacon Intern

Immanuel welcomes Deacon Intern Savannah Olaphson (Phelan) to our staff (pictured on right)!  In her role as our Coordinator of Service and Justice Minstries she will concurrently be fulfilling the requirements for her Deacon Internship. Following the completion of her internship (about 1,000 supervised hours) Savannah will be ordained as a Deacon, a Minister of Word and Service. It is great to have her on staff and we're excited to journey with her to her ordination!

Read Savannah's brief bio.

Contact Savannah: 

Welcome to our Deacons! Wait, what? What’s a Deacon?

By Carol Schickel, Deacon

God calls human beings to participate in a divine mission in the world. We each discover or are called to our own way of caring for the earth and its inhabitants. People of God are aware of the many needs of the world and may ask from time to time: “Is this how God is calling me to respond, to act, to speak or to serve?

The church has created an order for affirming particular calls to serve in the interest of that divine mission. When the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was formed in 1988 it established three rosters: pastors, deaconesses, and associates in ministry. In 1993 a roster of diaconal ministers was added, and the first were consecrated in 1995. These rostered leaders are called through the ELCA to serve congregations as well as through other officially called ministries. Some on each of the rosters of the ELCA are chaplains, therapists, musicians and cantors, seminary faculty and administrators, social workers and churchwide and synod leaders.

At the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly changes were made to the three rosters of lay leaders. As of January 1, 2017, those who have served on the lay rosters as associates in ministry, diaconal ministers and deaconesses are now part of one unified roster of ‘Ministers of Word and Service,’ and are called deacons. The other roster of the ELCA continues to be known as “Ministers of Word and Sacrament,’ called pastors.

The ministry of the diaconate, that is of deacons also called ministers of Word and Service is recognized by churches throughout history and around the world. The earliest deacon of the Bible was Stephen.

The ELCA continues to seek to honor the significance of deacons serving at the intersection of church and world, bringing a sharper focus to the ways the church responds to the needs of people. Our new roster more closely aligns with the global church, providing clarity and empowerment to those the church calls to serve.

Congregations, synods, and other places where these deacons now serve are encouraged to recognize this significant transition and affirm their ministries. There is a welcoming rite to help recognize this transition on the ELCA website under worship We are all invited to welcome those called as deacons and to ask any questions we might have about how the church works to carry out its mission to the world.

Come greet a Deacon! It’s a new day for all of us in the church as we are sent out to serve.

Official definitions, roles and responsibilities of Deacons

Definition of this Roster

Ministers of Word and Service provide a ministry exemplifying the life of Christlike service to all persons and creation: nurturing, healing, leading, advocating dignity and justice, and equipping the whole people of God for their life of witness and service within and beyond the congregation for the sake of God’s mission in the world.


  1. being rooted in the word of God, for proclamation and service;
  2. advocating a prophetic diakonia that commits itself to risk-taking and innovative service on the frontiers of the church’s outreach, giving particular attention to the suffering places in God’s world;
  3. speaking publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, calling for justice in and proclaiming God’s love for the world, and witnessing to the realm of God in the community, the nation, and abroad;
  4. equipping the baptized for ministry in God’s world that affirms the gifts of all people;
  5. encouraging mutual relationships that invite participation and accompaniment of others in God’s mission;
  6. practicing stewardship that respects God’s gift of time, talents, and resources;
  7. sharing knowledge of the ELCA and its wider ministry of the gospel, and advocating for the work of all expressions of this church; and
  8. identifying and encouraging qualified persons to prepare for ministry of the gospel.

The Deacon's Stole

Whereas a pastor’s stole, marking ordination is like a yoke that goes around the neck and on both shoulder’s, a deacon’s stole crosses one’s heart, and rests on the left shoulder, while being held together near the waist on the right side. It is a public reminder of the calling that a Deacon serves, not just for their own benefit but for others. It’s a sign of affirmation of the church, but also a sign of the responsibility for word and service ministry. 

Read/Learn More About Diaconal Ministry

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