Two women in the New England Conference, Tracy Tarver-Weisel and Wanda Winnicki, were among the deaconesses and homemissioners who participated in a special online service of welcome on May 11, 2020.
The service of consecration of deaconesses and home missioners traditionally takes place at General Conference; the 2020 General Conference has been postponed due to COVID-19 until sometime in 2021.
The online service on Monday welcomed these individuals to the Order of Deaconess and Home Missioner with full rights and responsibilities of deaconesses. Watch the recorded service.
As soon as it is safe for an in-person gathering to occur, a formal service of consecration will be held.
Deaconesses and home missioners are laity who are called to be in a lifetime relationship in The United Methodist Church with a full-time vocation in ministries of love, justice, and service. The modern deaconess movement was born in Germany in 1836 and was added to the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1888. (Click the link above for more).
Tracy Tarver-Weisel, CT/Western MA District, is from Enfield, CT, where she and her family attend Hazardville UMC. She has been a special education teacher in the New Visions program in the Hartford Public Schools for the past 17 years. New Visions is the district’s program for students in grades 6-12 who have been expelled from their school. She writes:
“My very first teaching job was in a maximum-security, male prison where I taught people in the hopes that they would earn their GED. I loved that work but as the years went by, I found myself more and more distraught. I worked with young men who were funny, respectful, and kind to me, but they had committed horrible crimes with many of them facing a lifetime behind bars. I began to wonder that if they had felt successful in school as children or teenagers, if they had felt valued and heard would they still be sitting in my classroom within those prison walls?”
“The small voice I heard inside got louder until I made the decision to leave state service and apply to be a special education teacher. I work diligently to create strong bonds with my students and their families, to be their advocate and to ensure that they feel seen, heard, valued, and loved. I want to help them realize their worth and the possibilities available, to help them find their voice and overcome obstacles, all while celebrating the successes with them along the way.”
“Now as a Deaconess, I plan to continue that work, working as an interrupter, to stop the school to prison pipeline which robs our society of the possibilities that so many of these brilliant young people possess.”
Wanda Winnicki, Tri-State District, serves as facilitator of the Holistic Health Ministry at St. John’s UMC in Dover, NH. Wanda describes her ministry as one of “healing and maintaining a healthy body, mind, and spirit.”
She leads “God in Yoga” classes that incorporate breath prayers, scripture in yoga movement, and anointing during meditation.
“I have come up with movement (poses) that I feel go with a particular scripture. I teach the yoga movement; the class then says the scripture as we do the movements together,” she writes. “Participants are learning scripture as they are doing the movements.”
Wanda has expanded the "God in Yoga" ministry to include chair yoga and relaxation yoga and is bringing the ministry of yoga to the marginalized in her community. She is the coordinator of the prayer chain.
Wanda is also a member of the Healing Touch team; “this uses energy healing to help relieve pain and heals the body while calming the mind and spirit,” she writes.
Please join us in congratulating New England’s newest Deaconesses.