He is regarded as the founder of modern diaconia: Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808 - 1881). His passionate appeal for social help in a speech at a church congress and the founding of a "Central Committee" in 1848 is a reference to Diaconia Germany, which is celebrating 175 years of diaconia this year. This anniversary was the motivation for the event "#outoflove: How works mercy?" in Bonn-Beuel at the Versöhnungskirche, hosted by the Regional Service of the United Evangelical Mission, Region Cologne/Bonn. The focus was on an Asian and an African perspective on diaconia - and the question of diaconal awakenings.
Mercy works... when diaconia is community-based, answered Tioria Sihombing from Indonesia; when it consists of very few large institutions, such as hospitals, as in her home church HKBP*, the largest Lutheran church in Southeast Asia with six million members, as Sihombing reported in the Beueler Versöhnungskirche. The diaconess and graduate of the international Diaconic Management Master Course, IDM, called for a transformative diaconia to be able to solve social problems. What she likes about the diaconia of her Indonesian church is that it "does programs without a budget, that help works well spontaneously, and that the diaconia is integrated into the church organization." Sihombing, who is working on a dissertation in Bethel, has appreciated a diaconia in Germany that is professionally managed and acts innovatively.
Mercy works... when "diaconia is church and church is diaconia," explained Godwin Ampony from Ghana, also a graduate of the International Diaconic Management Master Course, IDM, and co-worker of the UEM in Wuppertal. Structurally, however, he sees the diaconia of his church on the right way: It is being transformed from a church development and social department of his church into a non-governmental organization. In order to "bring love into structures," to make aid effective, as he explained.
Mercy works.. when church and diaconia are under one umbrella: "We keep church and diakonia together, but as professional diaconia. We combine both," said the chairwoman of the board of Diakonie An Sieg und Rhein, Superintendent Almut van Niekerk, in the further discussion. This corresponds to the Protestant identity.
This is not the case everywhere in Germany, Godwin Ampony remarked. He had already experienced church and diaconia separately, in parallel worlds, diaconia as a kind of social company. Tioria Sihombing emphasized that diaconal work must include the Holy Spirit, faith must be shown and the conversation must be able to focus on Jesus Christ. For her, diaconal work must be linked to proclamation and witness of faith. Diaconia and church need each other, Ampony agrees. The gospel must be proclaimed to people in a holistic way.
In the work with refugees and in the commitment against poverty in Germany, he experiences a very good cooperation between volunteers and diaconal workers, explained Helmut Müller, pastor in the Regional Service of the UEM, who had invited to the event. Together with the Protestant congregation of Beuel, whose pastor Dr. Christoph Melchior explained Wichern's impulses. Wichern's flaming appeal at the time in the Wittenberg Castle Church, which was the starting point of the Reformation a good five hundred years ago, was for "saving love". And so Diaconia is celebrating its anniversary this year. With the hashtag #outoflove.
Author of this article is Anna Neumann, public relations officer of the Evangelical Church District An Sieg und Rhein, of the EKiR* a member church of the UEM. Many thanks!
EKiR* = Evangelical Church in the Rhineland
HKBP* = Batak Protestant Christian Church
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