All that wears white isn’t deacon
Have you ever played an intense game of broken telephone where the sentence gets hilariously transformed by the end of the turn? Well, I sometimes feel like we play a long game of broken telephone with some of our church traditions – one that spans generations.
What’s the word?
The word deacon gets thrown around regularly – and is quite often misused. Let’s start with the basics; the word itself, “Diakonos” in Greek, by definition means servant. Literally, “dia” means “thoroughly” and “konis” meaning “dust”. It’s used to say “the one who kicks up dust”, describing servants coming and going in a hurry thus stirring up dust.
The word itself doesn’t help much in understanding how it’s used today. There’s quite a disconnect in who we qualify as deacons and what the service was intended for – so I made the handy dandy infographic below to outline how things ought to be.
Note how I said ought to be. I realize that sometimes the need to bend the rules a little arises especially in small congregations – but the exceptions can become the norm and the actual tradition gets lost in time. Which is totally happening right now. We ordain 6 year old “deacons”, confusing them as to what the word means, how much weight it carries, and what’s expected of them.
This visual just scratches the surface (and is a work in progress)– for more in-depth articles check this one, and this one OR check this one out specifically for readers, and this one for details on subdeacons. For now, let’s look at what we’re supposed to be teaching our children so they can understand their service and do their parts during the liturgy with respect and diligence – not just kickin’ up dust. 😉
Note: I will be updating this with a few more orders – priest, bishop…etc.
Again, I get that this isn’t how things are in our churches today. If you want to take one thing away from this, it’s that the Church held altar service to the highest standards (i.e. celibacy if the sub-deacon/deacon isn’t married before ordination) and that the term deacon we throw around today is being severely misused. Understand that these ranks aren’t ones of prestige – but are different functions of service that are needed by the church. Know the difference, call chanters chanters and readers readers, teach our children the expectations of each service – and we’ll be one step closer to putting an end to this not-so-fun game of broken telephone.