Lay members might traditionally think of deaconesses as being conventional, quiet, older women dressed in white, whose duties are merely to fold the communion cloth and make the communion bread. For the past four years, the deaconesses at Philadelphian church have been revolutionizing the church’s idea of their office, following the model of the amazing impact the first deacons had on the early church.
These courageous women have been encouraged to be part of a true ministry and to join all the church’s ministries in helping others to begin a saving relationship with the Lord.
In 2015, head deaconess Willie Mae Lightcsy wanted to encourage all of her deaconesses to minister and witness in the Long Beach community. She contacted the Royal Care Skilled Nursing Center (RCSNC) for permission to bring Philadelphian church’s worship service to the residents in the facility. Once a month, the deaconesses, the pastor, and other church members witness to the residents through song, praise, and Scripture.
After four years of ministry, the program has been so successful that the deaconesses have been able to not only encourage dozens in their spiritual experience but also conduct multiple Bible studies and baptisms, including that of former RCSNC Activities Director Elizabeth Lopez and her daughter, Ellesse Lopez.
“Philly has been a prayer answered for both me and my daughter,” reflected Elizabeth. “This is where God led me, and this is where I’m happy to be. The deaconess ministry is like a pillar of fire, the pastor is like the fuel, and the church is like a refuge of hope for me and my family.”
Word about the success of the program spread throughout the community. The Santa Fe Skilled Nursing Facility contacted Lightcsy and asked if she could pioneer the deaconesses’ innovative program at their facility. The deaconesses were happy to serve another center, and now these dedicated women of God are sharing the love of Jesus with another group of residents once a month.
“I believe this ministry has changed the way our church members see deaconesses,” said David Zaid, pastor at Philadelphian church. “However, I believe the greatest transformation is in how our deaconesses see themselves as partners in ministering to the community.”
Today, the deaconesses and deacons at Philadelphian are committed to engaging with their community through a variety of methods, including providing encouragement to sick and homebound members through home and hospital visitation and sending get-well cards, church bulletins, audio CDs, and other Christian literature. These faithful servant leaders have taken to heart the exhortation of Jesus Himself: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, KJV).