Both-And Community with Lutheran Deacons

Ted Dodd writes about his recent time with a newly forming community of Lutheran deacons in Minnesota:

Ted, Elliott and Jack at the Lutheran Deacon retreat
Ted, Elliott and Jack at the Lutheran Deacon retreat

November 14-17, I was invited to join in the second annual retreat of the newly forming Community of the Lutheran Deacons, held in the beautiful, contemplative atmosphere of the Benedictine monastery of St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota: home of the St. John’s Illuminated Bible. The five members of the deacon community are all students in deacon formation and anticipate consecration over the next few years. Within their small band, they represent a flexible range of diaconal interests: education, spiritual direction, gerontology, youth work, nursing, music and liturgy. They hail from Minnesota, Indiana, and South Dakota.

These men are in the process of initiating a parallel community with the Lutheran Deaconess Association (LDA). During our time together, we pondered the nature of community. This new group wanted to discuss the kind of values and assumptions they brought to community life. In one of my presentations I asked them to consider a series of “both/and” polarities as marks of community. I hoped these tensions would not just denote dualistic thinking or competing tensions but rather opportunities for finding ways of balancing, or perhaps ideally  integrating, these points usually seen as opposites on a continuum.

Members of the Lutheran Deacon community along with guests and hosts
Members of the Lutheran Deacon community along with guests and hosts

I invite you to contemplate the communities you are a part of – small study groups, large congregations, professional associations — in light of these dialectics:

“BOTH/AND” POLARITIES FOR COMMUNITY
How integrated is the community in relation to each of these “both/and” polarities?

Individual

  • Personal needs are met

Community

  • Relationships and connections are strong
Initiative

  • Responsible and appropriate leadership and facilitation

Making Space

  • Monitoring and sharing of participation, privilege and power
Support

  • Expression of affirmation and encouragement

Accountability

  • Voicing of evaluation and challenge
Action

  • Accomplishment through work and service

Reflection

  • Assessment through prayer and worship, stillness and contemplation
Feel

  • Emotion allowed and explored

Think

  • Intellect honoured,, ideas studied
Broad

  • Expansive and inclusive in process and content

Deep

  • Profound and wise in exploration and concepts
Intense

  • Purposeful level of conversation

Playful

  • Spontaneous sense of fun
Justice

  • Focus on social issues beyond selves

Compassion

  • Attention to pastoral needs of group