Where It All Began
The Diakonia program was started by the Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Bouman in 1977 when he was pastor at Atonement Lutheran Church in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. Atonement, along with a church in Connecticut (First Church in Stamford) and a church in Harlem (Central Methodist) received a grant from Union Theological Seminary for a one-year study to determine what each needed to do to reach out to the community.
As a result, Pastor Bouman developed Diakonia to take the message of the font and the altar out the front door of the church into the community. This would be a program of spiritual formation and theological education of the breadth, but not depth, of theological education pastors receive in seminary. To maintain the grassroots emphasis of the program, local parish pastors were invited to teach the courses, and the courses were offered locally. The first classes were held in Queens, New York and 6 students completed the two-year program of study in 1980.
Through the efforts of graduates who have relocated, Diakonia has been planted in other ELCA Synods. The Diakonia National Board continues to be engaged in expansion and publicity efforts in a number of additional ELCA Synods. In almost 40 years of the program, more than 2000 persons have completed the diakonia Program course of study.
After over 40 years of success in providing quality lay education in 11 synods across the ELCA, the national board has taken on the monumental task of re-designing the program to meet the needs of our 21st century churches and students. The new program consists of a 2-year program with flexibility to suit the interests and needs our students. Our new name is “Growing in Faith” and we have an updated curriculum and more options including online courses. Visit the Curriculum and Find a Program sections for more info