Europe: Diaconal actors prepare on-line learning materials

22 Sep 2022

Diaconal actors in LWF’s member churches in Europe are developing a learning program for congregations, church organizations, teachers and trainees in diakonia and other ministries.

Europe Diaconal Process

Since its inception in 2010, the LWF European Diaconal Process has generated various outcomes, including resources on diaconal life in diverse societies in the region. Photo: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash 

Diaconal practitioners design materials for churches, pastors, and students 

(LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member church representatives coordinating the European Diaconal Process are working on a framework for a “Learning Program” to support Christian social service (diakonia) that is responsive to needs in societies that are increasingly diverse. 

The program is designed for use by a variety of groups including congregations, diaconal organizations, church leaders, teachers and trainees in diakonia and other ministries. Planned for completion in early 2023, the program will be made available online, with flexible learning schedules to allow different interest groups to participate.  

This is an important phase of the regional diaconal process that started 11 years ago, which though led by a small group, involves hundreds more where church diaconal work is implemented, said Rev. Katariina Kiilunen, LWF Program Executive for Capacity Building and Leadership Development. “The aim is to support LWF member churches in their engagement with the growing divisions in society by sharing a vision of how to develop and practice convivial life together in each context,” she noted.  

Four key themes will guide the learning program: experience, reflection on conviviality and diakonia, conviviality in practice, and working for change.  

Individual experience has been identified as a critical aspect since encounter with others, storytelling, faith and spirituality shape perception and relationships in the community. The focus on conviviality and diakonia considers the importance of political and economic structures in creating an enabling context for community life together. It is also essential to assess the implications of diaconal life together for deacons, pastoral workers, and wider society, and to envisage the potential changes for the church itself, its related organizations, society and the economy. 

European Diaconal Process - service

Diaconal actors in LWF’s European regions, during the June workshop, held at the Sofia Cultural Center in Helsinki, Finland. Photo LWF/Rebecca Daniel

Seeking solutions together 

At the last in-person workshop in Helsinki, Finland, in June, the diaconal actors analyzed their collaborative work online, elaborated the framework and developed concrete approaches and methods for each of the four thematic aspects. They will continue working online through a combination of small working groups and a day-long workshop for the entire group until the next in-person meeting in Tallinn, Estonia in January 2023.  

Participants in the Helsinki workshop included Deacon Rose Matthias from the diakonia unit (Diakonisches Werk) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg, Germany. While he still finds the word ‘conviviality’ difficult to translate, he noted, “it is important to translate it really simply” and not gloss over it in a world that “is so out of balance with the climate crisis, inequality, and war. It precisely has a place in our diaconal church.” He added: “Conviviality for me is respect, mutuality, empowerment, mindfulness - a place of being seen and sharing.”  

For Ms Anna Nagy Panka, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary, “We all have to work for an inclusive and accepting community every day, overcoming our own fears and caution.” There is an “endless list of people who are missing or invisible in our communities” she said, referring to refugees, the Roma, those who are homeless, under-educated, non-religious, and with physical disabilities, among other categories.  There are questions “outside of our comfort zone that we cannot avoid thinking about.” She added: “Through the conviviality working group, the LWF provides a place to work on solutions that promote the experience of valuable togetherness.”  

“Through the conviviality working group, the LWF provides a place to work on solutions that promote the experience of valuable togetherness,” Ms Anna Nagy Panka, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary.

Referring to the context of war in Ukraine, Rev. Avo Üprus, Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, said “Looking for ways to realize conviviality in practice is also a path to overcoming violence and healing communities.” 

The European diaconal initiative, which the LWF launched in 2010 places emphasis on the core concept of conviviality —the art and practice of living together —as the basis for diaconal actions that lead to transformative change for individuals and communities. It has generated various outcomes including resources such as the recent booklets on diaconal life in diverse societies in Europe. It is carried out in collaboration with the Czech Republic-based International Academy for Diaconia and Social Action (interdiac).
Editing, LWF/P. Mumia

LWF/Rebecca Daniel