by Debora Koepke | Florida diakonia Steering Committee
The Synod’s School of Lay Ministry – diakonia program – celebrated groundbreaking changes over the past 18 months which culminated with a graduation for five of the first students to participate in the self-study program. Gathering at Hope Lutheran Church, The Villages, the students, their friends, families and visitors enjoyed a day retreat and ended with the program’s first ever graduation worship to be held in a regularly scheduled congregation worship service.
The five graduates, John Baskin, Carol Dunn, Kathy Smith, Peggy Torda and Diane Ward were given a beautiful cross as a memento to wear for wherever they serve in the future and a certificate for their completing the 12 courses offered as part of the diakonia Faith & Service path.
Grateful thanks for all the support given from the Florida-Bahamas Synod including our Bishop Pedro Suárez, who took the time to have conversation and give a Synod update to the students and their guests before their professional pictures were taken. Bishop Pedro encouraged the students, letting them know they were “beacons of future leadership.” Bishop Pedro presided over a Communion Service giving an enthusiastic sermon on being a “follower of God, not just a fan” when doing God’s work and the importance of serving. Thank you to Deacon Connie Schmucker, who gave a presentation on healthy leadership, which inspired the students to be not just a leader but a “healthy leader” as they use what they learned, wherever their faith would take them in the future.
Appreciation and thanks are given to Hope Lutheran Church main campus and Pastors Jon-Marc, Bruce and Rani, the hosts for the Florida diakonia program and the graduation. These pastors also taught classes for the diakonia program. There were so many at Hope Lutheran willing to give a hand for diakonia – people such as, Jeff Dundee, events coordinator (who helped make this event come together); Marina Ernst, photographer (taking the professional pictures to preserve this moment in time); Debbie Bennett, head cook (who provided a morning array of fruit and pastries and then a lovely lunch for all the participants of the graduation), Loretta Franceski (who put the bulletin together for the service); Ken Wood, music coordinator and bulletin (who provided amazing music by the Strings Attached group of musicians under his direction), Jime Eversole, audio visual (who made sure all the audio visual components of the gathering worked perfectly); and a grateful thanks to all the other wonderful people, behind the scenes, who do God’s work at Hope Lutheran, and who helped make this special Florida diakonia graduation such a success and blessing to the graduates and those who attended.
Many thanks go to the Florida diakonia Steering Committee, especially Pr. William Hamilton, Executive Director of the School of Lay Ministry and a fierce advocate of the diakonia program, as he helps keep everyone in line and on one page and Pr. Bruce Dillman, an awesome instructor for the program. A heartfelt thanks is due Michele Hilton who is the Chair of the Steering Committee. Michele has devoted considerable time and tireless efforts to make this the most beneficial program to grow the faith of lay persons everywhere in Florida. Her input and work are refreshing and inspirational as she keeps the diakonia Steering Committee focused and dedicated. A grateful thanks for the dedication and efforts of Ed Borman, the diakonia Treasurer and especially for being our online creator extraordinaire. He puts all the diakonia pieces together into a useable construct online. And thank you for the rest of the Steering Committee: Carolyn Stanton, Lisa Gomez, Pr. Bruce Dillman, Cindy Kamp and Debora Koepke for all they do to make this a successful program.
Now, YOU are invited to become a part of this inspiring program by being on the Steering Committee, helping to hone this wonderful program into a legacy for the future of God’s church; or as rostered minister, using your ministry skills for teaching students to grow their faith; or as a layperson, discerning how God would use you in your local community, when you graduate as a student; or as a Christian-at-large, praying for the Florida diakonia program and all the lives it touches. Be God’s diakonos (servant)!
For more pictures – go to www.diakoniafl.org/January, 2023 graduation