Diakonia en Christo Award

Do you know someone who serves Christ in their everyday life? Perhaps it is a friend, a fellow congregation member, or even a family member. The LDA wants to help lift up the ministry of everyday Christians who live diaconal lives. The Diakonia en Christo Award is one way in which we do this. Diakonia en Christo – service in Christ – is part of the calling of every baptized child of God. That service takes as many different forms as there are Christians. Through the ages, deaconesses and deacons have had a special concern for those whom society might forget, cast out, or undervalue. That is also the spirit at the heart of the lives of all who seek to follow the Servant Lord into Christian service.

This award was created in honor of Deaconess Martha Boss and Deaconess Martha Eber. Through the Diakonia en Christo Award, the Lutheran Diaconal Association seeks to thank God for the varieties of diaconal service by celebrating the lives and ministries of Lutheran laypeople who, in following Christ, reach out in care and compassion to a hurting world. The service of these two deaconesses especially exemplifies the service to which Christ calls us all.

Deaconess Martha Eber
Deaconess Martha Eber
Deaconess Martha Boss
Deaconess Martha Boss

Deaconess Martha Eber was consecrated in 1924, following her graduation from the Lutheran Hospital Nurses Training School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. From 1924 to 1940, she served as a parish deaconess at Immanuel Lutheran Church in New York. After a leave of absence to faithfully care for her invalid mother until her death, Martha took a year’s “refresher” work at Valparaiso University, and then resumed her parish diaconal ministry in 1957 at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Martha continued to volunteer her services at St. Luke’s “when and where needed” until her death in 1991. Humility and faithfulness in service were the hallmarks of Martha’s ministry.

From her consecration in 1938 until her premature death in 1973 in an automobile accident while on furlough in the U.S., Deaconess Martha Boss fulfilled her life’s calling: spending herself in Christ’s mission and in service to people in need. She served at the Lutheran Orphan’s Home in Addison, Illinois, from 1938 to 1941, helping children from broken homes. From 1942 to 1945, while waiting for clearance to enter China as a missionary nurse, Martha served at the Gospel Center in Cleveland, Ohio, a mission among the poor and forgotten in inner-city Cleveland.

Martha arrived in Enshih, China, in January 1946 to serve as superintendent of the mission hospital there. She departed on one of the last planes to leave China in 1949 following the Communist takeover. She settled in Hong Kong to continue to witness to God’s love through a multitude of services – medical, spiritual, and physical – to refugees in need. The Lutheran Church-Hong Kong Synod’s multipurpose community center in Hong Kong is called the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod–Martha Boss Lutheran Community Centre. It was “named after the sainted Martha Boss, in memory of her untiring service to her Lord among the Chinese people, first in China, then in Hong Kong, for 23 years. Martha Boss represents to many Chinese Christians a faithful messenger and example of the love of Jesus … .”

Purpose of the Award

  • To encourage the whole church, diaconate and laity, to greater service in the name of Christ, the One who came to serve.
  • To hold up a witness and example of faithful diaconal service for the whole church, diaconate and laity, to follow.
  • To foster and honor the diaconal ministry of laypeople.

Award Criteria

The nominee should be a Lutheran layperson, who:

  • In daily vocation and/or in volunteer activities, serves “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) in a significant way.
  • Responds to human need in service, without seeking recognition or reward.
  • Is engaged in a “foot washing” ministry in either parish or community, serving as an advocate and meeting the direct needs of those whom others forget.
  • Has a diaconal heart that reflects the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-8) and honors the life witness of Deaconess Martha Boss and Deaconess Martha Eber.

Click here to nominate someone for the Diakonia en Christo Award.

Artwork: Deaconess Sarah Fertig-Johnson

Young Heart for Service Award

Every baptized child of God is called to a life of service – but what does that mean? Service in Christ is difficult to define because it takes on so many different forms. One form of service is diaconal service, or in Greek, diakonia.

Since the early church, there have been Christians with a heart to live out their faith through service to others. They show a special concern for those who are forgotten, outcast, and undervalued in the church and world. People who reach out to others in this way – with care and compassion in a hurtful world – are practicing diaconal service. Some people desire to do this as a professional in ministry and enter a more formal training and formation process to become deaconesses and deacons.

The LDA is an independent, multi-Lutheran organization that forms and trains people to become deaconesses or deacons through a process of education and formation. LDA students study religion and theology, practice hands-on ministry, grow in their own spirituality, and become members of a lifelong community of other deaconesses or deacons. Education and formation looks different for each person.

The LDA is also called to serve, even as we prepare others for ministry. We seek to recognize and honor the work of young people who are practicing lives of service to Christ in the church and world. To do this, we offer the Young Heart for Service Award. This award is given to a young person who practices diaconal ministry in their own life, their community, and their congregation.

Purpose of the Award

The diaconate is vital in accompanying the church through drastic societal and religious change. Teaching our young people about diakonia helps equip the larger church.

  • Honoring young people’s service promotes diakonia in congregations.
  • To help congregations and individuals understand the role of diaconal service and the ways in which they already practice it.
  • To encourage congregations to better understand and participate in the ministry of their youth.
  • In an age where fewer young people are involved in worship and congregational life, recognizing the young people who are living lives of service in Christ both supports them and furthers the mission of the church.

The LDA strives to be diaconal to its own church bodies and members; recognizing and honoring diaconal service in others is part of equipping the church.

Award Criteria

Nominees:

  • Must be between 16 and 22 years of age.
  • Must be a member of a Lutheran congregation.
  • Must be involved in both community and congregational service. Service should be focused on social justice, those who are marginalized, voiceless, or in need of care within the congregation and community.

Click here to nominate someone for the Young Heart for Service Award.

Artwork: Deaconess Carole Ford

Light Bearer Congregational Service Award

The Light Bearer Congregational Service Award was created to highlight faith communities that exemplify the LDA’s vision: “Following Christ, people of God serve those across the street and around the world.” This award recognizes a faith community’s witness through service to one another, their local community, and the world.

The Bearer of the Light image comes from the traditional role of deacons to light the paschal candle during the Easter Vigil and bear this sign of the light of the risen Christ to the waiting congregation. This rich image embodies the role of all Christians to carry the light of Christ’s love to the world through loving service (called diakonia, from the Greek word for service).

This kind of diakonia is about having the light, bearing the light, being the light and shedding light. This kind of diakonia is about hope and knowing that what we see is not always what we get. The night does not have the last word. The light shines in the darkness and is not overcome by it.

This kind of diakonia is about having a vision … that seeks to see with the eyes of God and to speak with the voice of God. It is to see the shalom, the wholeness of creation restored. It is to live from that vision, and it is to live toward that vision. It is to take the risk of exposing and calling into question anything that is contrary to that vision. And it is acting to make that vision more and more visible in the realities of human life.

Sometimes we teach, equip, empower, and liberate others for doing this ministry in the world. Always we are signs, living reminders that God calls us all – all the people of God – to diakonia. This diakonia spans the whole spectrum, from washing feet on bended knee, to standing on tiptoes and prophetically challenging the principalities and powers. And the Spirit, the one Spirit that is upon us all, gives us differing gifts for this rich variety of ministry.

Purpose of the Award

  • To encourage the whole church, diaconate and laity, to greater service in the name of Christ, the One who came to serve.
  • To hold up a witness and example of faithful diaconal service for the whole church, diaconate and laity, to follow.
  • To foster and honor the diaconal ministry of congregations.

Award Criteria
The nominee should be a Christian congregation that:

  • Engages in diakonia through bearing the light, being the light, and shedding light on others.
  • Teaches, equips, empowers, and liberates people for diaconal service in their everyday lives.
  • Responds to human need in service, without seeking recognition or reward.

Click here to nominate a congregation for the Light Bearer Congregational Service Award.