As I prepare to enter seminary and pursue candidacy with the ELCA next fall, I realize it might not be clear as to what I will actually be doing once I complete this course of study. I will be pursuing a Master's of Divinity degree, which is the same level of education as an ordained minister, but I will not become a pastor. I have started the Entrance phase of the Candidacy process, this is a parallel process to my education and consists of three phases, Entrance, Endorsement and Approval. Following Approval comes Call. Candidacy is a communal discernment and vocational development process involving the candidate's congregation, Synod and seminary. It also involves lots of essay writing, meetings, interviews and spiritual direction. The idea is to find and nurture the candidates with an authentic call who will serve the world and the church.
Diaconal Ministry is a type of rostered ministry, that exemplifies the idea of diakonia, the Greek word for service. Members of the Diaconate serve the wider Church in many settings, seeking to connect the Church with the world through vocations of service as varied as chaplaincy, social work, education and nursing. Diaconal ministers also work in parish settings and synod offices. My eventual hope is to become a hospital chaplain.
The Masters of Divinity degree provides the necessary academic foundations (church history, theology, liturgical praxis and Lutheran formation), while the candidacy process and associated requirements will prepare me for the actual practice of ministry. It seems overwhelming (and trust me, it is!), but I am taking it one step at a time and there is plenty of support along the way. The articles below describe the Diaconate.
Overview of Diaconal Ministry
Diaconal Ministry in an evolving church