Just over fourteen years ago, the OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries had an idea. At the time, Rev. Lendall Smith was the president of the OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries and pastor of Bethel OPC in Wheaton, IL. The Committee wanted to attempt something no one in OPC history had ever tried. They wanted to host the entire OPC diaconate for a three-day conference. Ambitious, to say the least. Chris Sudlow, deacon at Bethel OPC, was unofficially commissioned by Pastor Smith to explore this potentially unwieldy idea and help bring it to life.
In a recently recorded, soon-to-be released episode of The Reformed Deacon, Sudlow remembers, "Lendall has a way of kind of cajoling you into doing things and getting you excited about it, and to be honest, it [was] one of the great mentoring experiences for me to help him codify and launch the first Summit in 2010." Fast forward to 2022 and three highly attended, edifying Summits later, Chris is still planning, but this time, for National Diaconal Summit number four.
"Our idea for the summit was that it would be interactive," David Nakhla, current administrator of the OPC CDM told the audience the first night of the first Summit in 2010. "A lot of deacons don't know other deacons in their presbytery. We want you guys to meet each other and discuss things. You're going to find that other deacons have the same issues you do." Over the years, the goals haven't changed. The CDM hopes that with each Summit deacons will get to know and begin to rely on each other; to work together using the resources of the nearly one-thousand-man OPC diaconate they are. The Summits have proven to help accomplish this.
Since the Summits first began, each Summit has been a bit different than the last, and this year is no exception. Instead of just one plenary speaker, three plenary speakers will address the group; ministers with years of experience, on a variety of diaconal themes. In addition, each deacon can choose three workshops in which to participate from an extensive list of topics, led by pastors, elders and fellow deacons. Workshops include topics such as, "Mercy Ministry in a Social-Justice World", “Strategy and Guidelines for Diaconal Ministry” and “Ministry to, and with, People with Disabilities” just to name a few.
Past participants seem to have grasped the CDM’s intended goal, "All in all, an excellent conference. There is great benefit to meeting other deacons and hearing firsthand of their experiences." "As my first summit as newly ordained deacon, I greatly appreciated every talk, the free time for networking and fellowship, the experience and love displayed in all the speakers and hosts." "I wish to express my thanks to everybody who made this summit possible and warm fellowship of the participants/brothers."
The National Diaconal Summit IV 2022 is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, June 2 and will run through Saturday morning, June 4 in Wheaton, Illinois. Deacons, deacons-in-training, elders and pastors are all welcome to attend—free to those in the OPC, when registered before April 1. Registration includes room, meals, snacks, and materials for each participant—everything but travel expenses. (If your church is not able to cover the cost of your flight and that's the only thing preventing you from coming, please reach out to the CDM to explore ways to make your attendance a possibility.) Go to our website: OPCCDM.org for more information or to register.
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