3 new deaconesses/home missioners contribute to rise in MN

May 04, 2023
Eighteen individuals were consecrated as deaconesses and home missioners in New York City last month. Three are from Minnesota.

By: Christa Meland

As The United Methodist Church has grappled with a notable decline in clergy, one order of leaders is growing: deaconesses and home missioners. Last month, 18 deaconesses and home missioners from across the nation—including three from Minnesota—were consecrated in New York City. Within the past two years, the number of deaconesses and home missioners in the Minnesota Conference has grown by 150 percent from four to 10.

These individuals are laypeople who are called by God to be in a lifetime relationship in The United Methodist Church for engagement with a full-time vocation in ministries of love, justice, and service. They function through diverse forms of service directed toward the world to make Jesus Christ known in the fullness of his ministry and mission, which mandate that his followers:

  • Alleviate suffering
  • Eradicate causes of injustice and all that robs life of dignity and worth
  • Facilitate the development of full human potential
  • Share in the building global community through the church universal
So what does this designation mean to those who hold it? “My full life is in service to God,” said Nicole Weydt, a member of Wesley UMC in Winona. She finished her studies and was commissioned at last year but consecrated this year. “I’m fully assured of God’s love for me and for all people, and I want to love and serve others for the common good through the power of Jesus Christ.”
Weydt, a registered nurse, is part-time director of community-based justice ministries at her church, and director of health services for Home and Community Options, which serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

She has been able to live out her call as a deaconess in a variety of ways. For example, she helped her church house a Honduran family when they had nowhere else to live, worked with parents and allies of LGBTQ youth, and started a small creation care initiative.
Jak Henderson is an active member of Peace UMC in Shoreview and was consecrated as a home missioner last month.

Jak Henderson, a member of Peace UMC in Shoreview, was also among those consecrated last month. “I love serving others and helping our communities be a better place for all,” he said. “[Being part of this order] means I am part of a bigger community of people who support me on my faith journey.”

Henderson volunteers for his church in various ways and enjoys filling gaps within its ministries. He plans to stay flexible and be available to help wherever needed.
Amanda Zbacnik, meanwhile, is a member of Northwoods UMC in Esko and works as associate professor of special education and program director for undergraduate, graduate, and early childhood special education programs at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She’s committed to living out her call as a deaconess both in and beyond those roles.

“In my ministry of education, I am committed to addressing inequities that individuals with disabilities face in society and when trying to access education,” she said. “And, for the aspiring teachers that I work with, it means walking alongside them on their journey throughout the teacher preparation program.”

She will also continue to serve her local church as worship chair and by offering musical leadership.

To become a deaconess/home missioner, individuals must take a variety of courses from a United Methodist-approved seminary in areas such as worship, evangelism, Old Testament, New Testament, mission of the church in the world, United Methodist polity, United Methodist history, and United Methodist doctrine. Both Henderson and Zbacnik said they loved interacting with, learning from, and building relationships with fellow students.
Amanda Zbacnik, a newly consecrated deaconess, celebrates with her family.

Each of the Minnesotans consecrated this year hope to make a tangible difference in their unique contexts.

“I hope to show others they too can be deaconess or home missioner,” said Henderson. “I also hope to be representation for the queer community within many communities.”

Zbacnik, meanwhile, wants to “bring hope to a hope-depleted world.”

“When students feel that they are facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, with God’s guidance, I want to be the one to help break down barriers to their education,” she said.

Weydt is excited to see more lay people answering the call to serve The United Methodist Church and usher the denomination into a vibrant future. “I want to promote the dignity and worth of every single person and break down systems of injustice that don’t allow people to be fully who they are for the glory of God,” she said.

Weydt experienced a call to ministry at a very early age and at one point began seminary, but she eventually discerned that she wasn’t called to be a clergyperson. When her pastor talked with her about the order of deaconesses and home missioners, something clicked and she’s never looked back.

“This feels like home to me,” she said.

Could this be your calling? Deaconess and home missioner discernment events will take place virtually June 1, Aug. 12, Oct. 5, and Dec. 2. Learn more and register for one here.

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.


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