A local woman became the first female lawyer-deacon in the Lutheran tradition when she was ordained to the public ministry roster of Word and Service in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America during the Sunday morning service held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco on July 25, 2021.
Newly-minted Deacon Cora Rose grew up attending Trinity Lutheran Church in Brookings and credits the teaching and example of its pastor (then Rev. Dr. Gordy Myrah) and members for instilling values of service and compassion from an early age.
Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar of the Oregon Synod (a synod is a regional division of the ELCA denomination) presided at the service; Rev. Elizabeth Ekdale, lead pastor at St. Mark’s, preached. Also in attendance were Bishop Megan Rohrer of the Sierra Pacific (northern California) Synod; Sister Noreen Stevens, Directing Deaconess of the Deaconess Community of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and friends, family, and congregants at St. Mark’s. Episcopal Deacon Linda Lee from St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Brookings traveled to participate in the service and to represent Brookings and the special bond between the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Oregon Synod called Rose to a special ministry of Poverty Alleviation and Faith Formation. Within this call, Rose continues her work as a legal aid attorney in underserved rural communities and will be available to strengthen local congregations in their public witness for peace and justice.
Christians believe that all baptized members share in Christ’s ministry of love and service. Within this context of the “ministry of all the baptized”, the church calls some for specific professional, authorized (“rostered”) ministry. The ELCA has two rosters of professional leaders: 1. ministers of Word and Service (deacons), and 2. ministers of Word and Sacrament (pastors).
Rose was ordained as a deacon into the ministry roster of Word and Service.
The two rosters are co-equal in the Lutheran tradition, but they have different emphases: pastors serve in congregations within the church and are responsible for the sacraments, while deacons usually minister beyond the church with particular attention to hurting places and people on the margins of society. Deacons are often described as “bridges” connecting the church and the greater world, and equip others to live into their baptismal vocations of caring for our neighbors and creation.
Preparation for either of the two roster types includes graduate-level theological education (seminary), an internship or fieldwork, and specialized training for working with people in crisis. Rose attended graduate school at University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (class of 2012) and at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (class of 2020). She completed her fieldwork and crisis accompaniment practice through St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco and at Bay Area non profit community organizations.
The diaconal ministry of word and service has New Testament roots in the ministry of diakonia: Stephen, Philip, and five others oversee the distribution of food within the church in Jerusalem; Phoebe and Priscilla are identified with diakonia in Paul’s letters. Although this ministry has taken different forms throughout the church’s history, its emphasis has been to speak God’s word to God’s world, and in turn they speak also for the needs of God’s world to the church; they give leadership in the church’s mission to witness to God’s love through both words and actions.
Rose and her spouse attend St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Brookings. She is in candidacy toward reception into the Deaconess Community of the ELCA, an intentional community of women deacons on the public leadership roster of Word and Service in the ELCA (USA) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Sisters in the Deaconess Community serve as chaplains, pastoral associates, spiritual directors, nurses, missionaries, teachers, environmental advocates, social workers, and wherever people’s needs call for loving service and advocacy. If you would like to learn more about the Deaconess Community, please feel free to email email@example.com or call 773-380-1705.