The Daily Prayer of the Church continues with the Acts of the Apostles where we hear about the selection of the first deacons of the Church:
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.’ What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.’ And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:1-15).
The “Hellenists” were Greek speaking Jews, and it appears that they were treated differently than the others who were Jewish because their widows were being neglected during the food distribution. The remedy for this was the appointment of 7 people who would make sure that there was fair treatment across the board. The Greek word διάκονος, which in English we call “deacon”, means a servant or waiter. In effect, the first 7 deacons “waited tables.” The role of the deacon, as it developed over time within the Church, was the person who took care of the poor and needy making sure they were treated equally. They also continued to be “waiters” at the Lord’s Table during the celebration of the Eucharist. Those functions continue today. The permanent or vocational deacons in the Diocese of Texas serve at the Lord’s Table and they also continue to care for those who cannot care for themselves, and they continue to speak out for those who have no one to speak out for them. They also call us to do them same and direct us to those places where service is needed.
Let us pray: Through your Spirit, heavenly Father, give these your servants, our deacons, grace and power to fulfill their ministry. Make them faithful to serve and constant in advancing your gospel in the world. May they follow the example of Jesus Christ your Son, who washed the feet of his disciples, and set the needs of others before his own. May their life be disciplined and holy their words declare your love and their actions reveal your glory, that your people may walk with them in the way of truth and be made ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom, with you and your Holy Spirit, belong glory and honor, worship and praise, now and for ever. Amen.
Your servant in Christ,
The Rev. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550