The diakonia program will be graduating its 10th class on June 10. diakonia is a theological education and spiritual formation course led and organized by local congregations in regions of the synod, with oversight from a steering committee. Students meet regularly with instructors over a two-year period, gaining a basic foundation in the classic seminary disciplines of practical, systematic, biblical and historical theology. Additionally, diakonia students actively seek to apply their learning to their active involvement in life and ministry in their local contexts. For some, the diakonia instruction nurtures a vision to serve as a synod parish deacon. For others, the intentional season of spiritual formation supports and sustains an ongoing life of faith. diakonia is a faith formation resource for all levels of faith development—for those who are ‘seasoned’ in their faith and are interested in going even deeper to those who have a lot of questions and aren’t sure where to start. Many students experience diakonia as an opportunity to develop a more complete, well-rounded faith experience.
Michele Hilton, Assistant to the Bishop for Administration, was in the first graduating class of diakonia. She has served as a synod parish deacon in her congregation, and was actively involved in a variety of aspects of synod life and ministry before joining the bishop’s staff in 2014. Michele now serves on the diakonia steering committee as treasurer, and offers the following reflection on the impact the program had on her life and faith as it nears its 10-year anniversary.
I walked into a room where 13 strangers sat waiting. As I joined them, I asked myself, “What on earth am I doing here?” I mean, it’s not like I planned to attend every one of the 5 week sessions over the course of two years…and give up my Saturdays…and travel an hour each way…and do lots of reading. But I figured I would “just try it out.” It turns out all of us were thinking just about the same thing that first Saturday morning.
We were in the first class of a course called diakonia, offered for the first time in 2007. Our location was Apostles Lutheran Church in Brandon, and over the course of two years that group of 14–with the guidance of gifted instructors–grew into a tightly knit faith community. As we journeyed together in learning, questioning, growing, and sharing, we each were forever touched. I would not hesitate to say most of us were forever changed.
All 14 of us who were there on that first Saturday completed the course and graduated two years later. Since our time together, one person went on to complete seminary and is serving as a parish pastor. Several are serving as synod parish deacons. All of us, and many who have been through the program since, are serving God better equipped to share our faith.
This year’s graduation ceremony will be on June 10 at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Jacksonville. Students and instructors from programs in Ft. Myers, Tampa, Jacksonville, Winter Park and Miami will gather for a time of reflection and learning that culminates in a worship service in which 22 students will graduate.
If you are interested in learning more about the diakonia program, check out the diakonia page on the synod web site, or email Sr. Michelle Collins (firstname.lastname@example.org).