DeaconThe New Testament identifies the office of deacon with the Greek word diakonos, from which the English “deacon” is derived. The Greek word is variously interpreted as “servant, minister, writer, attendant” and in Christian circles has acquired the specialized meaning now attached to “deacon.”
The work of deacons involves a wide range of services for the church, including:
1. Assistance at Services and Meetings—Deacons are usually responsible for welcoming members and visitors as they enter the church and for assisting them, where necessary, to find seats. They also cooperate with the pastor and elders for smooth functioning of all meetings.
2. Visitation of Members—In many churches visitation is arranged by distributing membership by districts and assigning a deacon to each district with the expectation that he will visit each home at least once a quarter. 3. Preparation for Baptismal Services—Deacons make necessary preparations for baptismal services.
4. Assistance at Communion Service— At the service of foot-washing, the deacons or deaconesses provide everything needed, such as towels, basins, water, and buckets. After the service they see that the utensils and linen are washed and properly stored. Remaining bread and wine should not be consumed, but disposed of in a respectful manner by deacons and deaconesses following the Lord’s Supper.
5. Care of the Sick and Aiding the Poor and Unfortunate—Deacons and deaconesses are charged with assisting the sick, poor, and unfortunate and should keep the church informed of their needs and enlist the support of members. Money should be provided for this work from the fund for the poor and needy. The treasurer, on recommendation from the board, will pass over to the deacons or deaconesses whatever may be needed for use in needy cases.
6. Care and Maintenance of Property—In churches where the responsibility for the care and maintenance of church property is not assigned to a building committee, deacons and deaconesses have this responsibility.
Deaconesses were included in the official staff of the early Christian churches. Deaconesses are chosen for their consecration and other qualifications that fit them for the duties of the office.
Deaconesses serve the church in a wide variety of activities, including:
1. Greeting and Visiting Guests and Members—In many churches, deaconesses assist in greeting guests and members at meetings and in visiting members in their homes when they cannot attend services.
2. Assistance at Baptisms—Deaconesses ensure that female candidates are cared for both before and after the ceremony. They also give such counsel and help as may be necessary regarding suitable garments for baptism. Robes of suitable material should be provided. Where robes are used, the deaconesses should see that they are laundered and carefully stored.
3. Arrangements for the Communion Service—Deaconesses and deacons arrange for everything needed for this service and see that everything used is cared for afterward. Before the communion service begins, deaconesses set the communion table, including preparing the bread and wine, pouring the wine, placing the plates of unleavened bread, and covering the table with the linen provided for that purpose. Deaconesses assist in the service of foot-washing, giving special aid to women visitors and new members.
4. The Care of the Sick and the Poor—Deaconesses assist deacons in caring for the sick, needy, and unfortunate.
5. Care and Maintenance of Property—In churches where the responsibility for the care and maintenance of church property is not assigned to a building committee, deacons and deaconesses have this responsibility