A series of essays exploring what the church, considering its ongoing reformation begun 500 years ago, will look like in the next decade and beyond: A futurist’s snapshot of the Christian Church.
Today, April 16, 2017, is Easter Sunday. “Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!” is typical if not a traditional congregational greeting on Easter morning. It is the highest of Holy Days in the Christian calendar. And so, I greet you, Christ has risen!
Today almost, but not quite, marks the half way point in this year-long endeavor to imagine the Reforming Church as it continues to make itself relevant in light of the teachings of Holy Scriptures, witnessing to an ever-changing world. What I imagine is not necessarily as the church is or will become, but exactly what I set out to do – describe as if I had a snapshot, if you will, of the Reforming Church seeking to be faithful amid the cultural clamoring of the 21st century into its later decades.
In six month, plus one week, to be exact, the Christian Church in many parts will commemorate the 500th year since Martin Luther notably began the Reformation movement – notably, since there were others already stirring a mood of reformation for more than 100 years before Luther. Celebrations are being planned by the Lutheran and Reformed – and Roman – families of churches worldwide, to commemorate this anniversary beginning this summer. Certainly, this is not a triumphal celebration, as the Roman church describes it, remembering that it marked a division in the unity of the church, but it is a looking forward to what the church may become, providing a faithful and unified witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.
There are four offices in the Reforming Church. They are Deacon, Teacher, Evangelist and Elder. The Office of Deacon in the Reforming Church is dedicated to service providing pastoral care to the congregation. Those who serve in this office must have demonstrated in their lives the disciplines of the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), have experienced a personal sense of calling to service, and have been selected by the congregation of Followers of the Way.
The responsibilities of the Deacons are to be present with Followers of the Way during times of need and personal or family crises. They are to visit the sick, assist and comfort the bereaved, and to mobilize the entire congregation to assist in these efforts. They are also to provide leadership for couples desiring to marry and to serve as celebrant for the liturgy of marriage. Deacons also serve to counsel and prepare Followers of the Way and their children to receive holy Baptism, serving as celebrant for the rite of Baptism. Similarly, they provide leadership and holy rituals for families during times of grief.
The Reforming Church seeks and provides appropriate training for individuals called and selected to serve in the office of Deacon.
Next week I will describe the responsibilities of the Office of Teacher.