bon voyage!logo

Deacons in Ministry

Office of the Bishop Img3

Blue Arrow LeftEpiscopal Church USA
Blue Arrow LeftEpiscopal News Service
Blue Arrow Left
News & Upcoming Events
Blue Arrow Left
Association of Episcopal Deacons

Blue Arrow LeftCommission on Ministry
Blue Arrow LeftLeadership Boards
Blue Arrow LeftCycle of Prayer
Blue Arrow LeftClergy Resources
Blue Arrow LeftReligious Education

Deacons Img1

In the Episcopal Church, deacons are called to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. They serve directly under the bishop of a diocese and help to carry out the bishop's ministry. Bishops normally assign deacons to special responsibility for mercy and justice.

A deacon has the ability to articulate the proclamation of servant in the Gospel and has leadership skills and the willingness to lead others into servant ministry. Deacons are not simply those who exercise servant ministry as baptized Christians. Rather, deacons are those who call and empower the laity to exercise servant ministry. A deacon has the courage to be a prophetic voice to the Church concerning the needs of the powerless and voiceless in the community. She or he has the mental ability and competence for ordained ministry, and understands that the diaconate is a life-long discernment of ministry. This process involves continuous prayer, openness to change, willingness to study, and the active quest for personal growth.

The diaconate is a distinct order and is not a stepping-stone to the priesthood. Likewise, the diaconate is not to be seen as a reward for faithful service as a Reader, Eucharistic Minister, Warden or member of the Vestry. Nor is it to be seen as a reward for a pre- existing servant ministry. The individual aspiring to the Sacred Order of Deacons must clearly articulate and demonstrate that he or she is called to the order of ministry which is integral to the church leading the laity into lives of servant ministry, diakonia.

Once ordained, deacons exercise leadership among the faithful, encouraging, training, and organizing them for various ministries. To learn more, read on or call the Diocesan office at (269) 381-2710. If you prefer, you may click here now to send an e-mail inquiry.

Blue Arrow LeftOffice of the Bishop
Blue Arrow LeftDiocesan Staff
Blue Arrow LeftEDWM Video
Blue Arrow Left
Parish Locator
Blue Arrow LeftContact Us

Blue Arrow LeftCustomary for Deacons (PDF)



Becoming a Deacon

From the Catechism (BCP 856)
Q. What is the ministry of a deacon?
A. The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.

Blue Arrow LeftClick here to go to the Commission on Ministry page for full resources and contact information for discerning a call to ministry in our diocese.

A person interested in the Diaconate will want to review the process for discerning a call to the diaconate in our diocese.The first step is meeting with the priest in charge of your parish to explore your sense of call. If you decide to proceed with discernment, your Rector/Vicar will register your name with the Commission on Ministry and then call together a Lay Discernment Committee (LDC) who will meet to join you in discerning using the handbook for discerning ministry in our diocese. Your LDC will then create a Discernment Narrative and send it to the Bishop’s office. If, at the end of that process, you believe you have discerned a call to the diaconate, you will request a certificate of support from your Vestry or Bishop’s Committee and a letter from your Rector/Priest-in-Charge/Vicar recommending you for the process. This makes you a nominee for ordination.

During postulancy you go through your diaconal formation program, forming (postulating) your conception of and gifts for diaconal ministry. During this time you also write quarterly letters to the bishop on the Ember Days, remaining in close relationship with the diocese and ensuring your formation is going well. 

Near the end of your formation, you will apply for aandidacy, submitting the required materials in the ordination checklist. The COM will interview you again, attesting that your formation has indeed gone well and that you are approaching preparation for ordination in the way that is needed for this ministry. The Standing Committee also meets you at this time to give their recommendation. The Bishop then determines whether or not to admit you as a Candidate for Ordination.

At the conclusion of your formation, after the report from your program of formation has been submitted, you submit the final materials required on the ordination checklist. The COM meets with you one final time to determine if they will recommend you for ordination, as does the Standing Committee. The bishop then decides whether to approve you for ordination and, if he does, he schedules a date for your ordination to the diaconate.

What is involved in Deacon Formation?

A deacon's formation involves an in-depth program including academic and experiential components, in addition to spiritual formation. Study areas include Scripture, Church History Theology, Liturgics, Ethics, Issues of Contemporary Society, and Practice of Ministry. 

The Diocese of Western Michigan works with the Diocese of Eastern Michigan and the Diocese of Michigan to provide a 3-year formation program called the Academy for Vocational Leadership. This program uses proven curriculum developed through the Iona Initiative developed by the Diocese of Texas with the Seminary of the Southwest.

The program’s format seeks to make formation as convenient as possible by condensing the class times into 11 retreat weekends per year. Participants gather on Friday evenings and attend class and participate in worship on Saturday and Sunday. Each retreat also includes time for the group to develop community.

The cost for the Academy for Vocational Leadership is $3,600, with a third of the tuition being covered by the individual, a third by the sponsoring congregation and a third as a scholarship from the diocese.

For more forms and documents regarding becoming a deacon, visit the diaconal section of the Commission on Ministry page by clicking here.

commission on ministry image 3

Special Functions of the Deacon in Liturgy

At the altar, which is the heart of the worshiping congregation, Deacons liturgically dramatize the servant ministry of the whole Church. In the Eucharist, the Deacon assists the Priest, proclaims the Gospel, organizes the prayers of the people, attends the table before and after the communion of the people, and dismisses the congregation. Under the direction of the Bishop, deacons often exercise leadership in other liturgical services. In many cases, Deacons serve to train and coordinate the liturgical ministries of lay people. Circumstances differ as to Deacon's opportunity to preach, but all Deacons will be trained in preaching. The Archdeacon is appointed by the Bishop to assist in the formation, pastoral care, and oversight of the community of Deacons.

What is the Ministry of a Deacon Today?

Deacons exist as models of servant ministry within the church. They are a full and ancient order, established first by the Apostles in the book of Acts to assist with the distribution of food to those in need. Though they assist bishops and priests in their ministry, their fundamental call is not to the altar, but is instead to stand at the door of the church, proclaiming the needs of the world to the church and inviting the church out to meet the needs of the world.  They are most particularly extensions of the bishop, serving directly under her or his authority to the ministries where they are sent.

The Customary for the Diaconate (PDF) offers guidelines to enable a vibrant ministry of the Diaconate in our Diocese. Those interested in discerning a call to this order of ministry should familiarize themselves with this Customary as a way of understanding the way the Diaconate functions in Western Michigan.

Customary for Presbyters Concerning Diocesan Deacons Visitations Concerning Their Missionary Work (PDF)

Deacons Currently Appointed to Diocesan Missions in Western Michigan

diocesan staff image 16

The Rev. Marilou Schlotterbeck, Interim Archdeacon, Deacon for Liturgy

Marilou was ordained in August of 1994 at St. Philip's Church in Beulah, and is the appointed interim archdeacon in charge of deacons. She has served on the Commission on Ministry, Diocesan Council, Council of Deacons, treasurer and vice-chair of the Traverse Deanery, and has gone on two mission trips (to the Dominican Republic and New Orleans). Marilou's ministry is serving families in need. This includes her ministry as director of the Benzie County Baby Pantry which was started 10 years ago and has just recently built a new building. Marilou serves on several committees in her community: president of Children's Trust Fund, chair of Human Services Collaborative, member of the Food Coalition and volunteer at the Department of Human Services. She has also worked with Women's Resource Center, helping women who are abused, and as a doula, helping women who are pregnant. She has also facilitated a bereavement group out of hospice. She has been married 45 years and has 3 children and 9 grand-children. (Send an e-mail)

Diocesan Staff Img12

The Rev. Cindy Nawrocki, Deacon for Domestic Mission Trips and Jubilees

        1. Cindy was ordained a deacon in the diocese in Sept. 2003. She is currently assigned to the Bishop as the deacon for domestic mission trips and Jubilee Ministries. She also works as a hospice chaplain for Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. She is a Peace and Justice Officer for Province V, and is on the Executive Council's Committee on Anti-Racism. She was elected as a delegate to the General Convention in 2015, and also serves on the Standing Committee and the Commission on Ministry.

          She retired in 2002 from a job with the State of Michigan. She has been assigned to the Bishop for about 2 years. She has 5 children, 12 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. She is currently training to be a spiritual director. Phone: (269) 381-2710. (Send an e-mail)

Diocesan Staff Img10

The Rev. Karen McDonald, Deacon for Health Ministries

Karen was ordained a deacon in 2001, having worked as a registered nurse since 1960. She has a bachelor of science in health from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Western Michigan. Her passion for community health began in the 1980s and 1990s when she worked with the elderly and disabled, as well as the HIV AIDS population. In learning more about people with chronic conditions, she discovered her gift for compassion and combining spiritual health with physical health. She received the certification of health minister through Faith Community Health Ministry’s 49-hour training, and began working in the diocesan office regularly in January 2011.

Karen organizes foot spa and blood pressure clinics for a subsidized apartment complex which houses vulnerable elderly and disabled persons, and is located right behind the diocesan office, which serves as a model for others in health ministry around the diocese. She has also been instrumental in forming a coalition which seeks to open a new health clinic in Kalamazoo County, the “United Interfaith Free Health Clinic.” She has three grown children and four grandchildren, and has been married to her husband Jim for 52 years. Phone: (269) 381-2710 (Send an e-mail

Diocesan Staff Img11

The Rev. Beth Drew, Deacon for the Millennium Development Goals and
the Dominican Republic Companion Diocese Program

Beth was ordained in 2008 and was one of the first graduates of the David Oakahater Schools for Deacons. She is assigned to the Bishop to promote knowledge and support of the Millennium Development Goals and also serves as the deacon for Western Michigan's Companionship initiative with the Dominican Republic.

Beth also serves as the Bishop's representative on the board of the Dominican Development Group in his absence and coordinates Western Michigan's mission project in San Marcos, Dominican Republic. Currently we are committed to a 5 year project building a church and school facility with the members of San Simon mission. She is charged with traveling the Diocese to call forth, empower, and inspire the baptized in Western Michigan to look for their role in fulfilling their own call to servant ministry.

Beth has been a Registered Nurse since 1980 and currently is employed with Borgess Research Institute as a Certified Clinical Research Coordinator. She has 2 grown children, 4 grandchildren and actively supports her husband, George, in his sports work with young people. Beth welcomes all opportunities to speak at your Sunday services, vestry or group meetings. She is liturgically assigned to St. Mark's in Coldwater when not traveling. Phone: (269) 244-9908 (Send an e-mail)

Parish Administration