New Jersey Synod ELCA

The Diakonia Program was started by the Rev. 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 the Diakonia Program to train lay people to be servants of the Lord. As he has frequently said, “to take the message of the font and the table (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 seminary.” To maintain the grassroots 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.

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Introduction to the Old Testament
An overview of Hebrew scriptures and the relation between the Old Testament history and present practical theology.

Christian Doctrine
Introduces students to Systematic Theology as well as other foundational doctrines and their scriptural foundations, to gain under-standing of orthodoxy and heresy, as well as how disciplined thought and faithful confession is crucial for church leaders.

Faith in the American Context
A look at history of religions to understand basic developments and schism. Students will become more informed about the evangelical faith.

Christian Worship
The course provides a practical understanding of words, actions and items involved in worship, and ties the content of services to their Biblical roots.

Communicating The Gospel
Underlying the course is the perspective of each student’s developing discipleship and understanding by exploring gifts and strengths and ways these gifts are communicated in today’s world.

Basic Themes and Issues in Christian Ethics
An introduction to concepts and systems by which Christian tradition has taught personal and public morality. An opportunity to reflect on ethical issues.


Introduction to the New Testament
Students will learn how the Gospels, as reflected in the New Testament, have shaped our Christian lives.

Church History
The First 400 Years – Students will study the development of Christian tradition in the first 4 centuries and the role of the theology and practice of this period in today’s church.

Biblical Images in the Life of the Church
Studies the four major images of the Church, their biblical basis, theological uses and implication for the life of the Church and our individual daily life.

Creeds and Confessions
The Book of Concord is the basis of this course, looking at topics of God and Sin, Justification by Grace Alone, Sacraments, and others.

Students will have an opportunity to make supervised visits to the homebound and/or hospital. Class sessions deal with the needs of patients, the grieving process, as well as the practical issues related to this ministry.

Daily Life of A Christian
This practical theology course explores the meaning of discipleship in everyday experiences. Students will gain an under-standing of balancing family life, vocation in work, and ecclesiastical service.