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Columbus woman welcomed into UMC as a deaconess

6/14/2020

Micah 6:8 resonates deeply with Linda Laye.

“Do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

It’s a fitting verse for Laye, who was welcomed as a deaconess into The United Methodist Church in a virtual ceremony Monday, May 11. 

“When you are consecrated as a deaconess you commit to a lifetime of service,” said Laye, who serves as chaplain of the Fellowship at Rose Hill in Columbus.

Laye was to have been consecrated as a deaconess during the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis, Minn., but the ceremony was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. On May 11 Laye and 31 other deaconesses and home missioners were welcomed into the order during a virtual service of dedication. Watch the service, and learn more about the order of deaconess and home missioner.   

A retired teacher, Laye has long had a passion for serving others. Growing up near Dothan, Ala., during high school she served on the Alabama-West Florida Conference’s council on youth ministry and as a youth delegate to Annual Conference. She also served one summer at Blue Lake Camp in Andalusia, Ala. and another as a camp counselor at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island.

“My father instilled in me love and service, and that’s important to me; I want to do what I can,” said Laye, a lifelong United Methodist. “John Wesley has said do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, and that’s what I want to do. And I want to do it for God’s glory, not for my glory. I want to be humble and I want to show other people that God loves them and that they matter.”

Rev. Lynn Meadows-White has known Laye for three decades and wasn’t surprised when she began the deaconess process. 

“Ever since I’ve known her, she’s had a passion for serving, particularly for serving the marginalized in the community,” said Rev. Meadows-White, who serves as associate pastor of Pierce Chapel UMC in Midland. “She has a remarkable way of relating to people, of helping people feel noticed and cared for and loved.”

It was her passion for service, her heart for justice, and her deep love for and desire to be officially connected with The United Methodist Church that led Laye to begin the formal discernment process.

Within The United Methodist Church and under the umbrella of the United Methodist Women, deaconesses, who are women, and home missioners, who are men, commit their lives to full-time ministries of love, justice, and service. Beginning in 2016, deaconesses and home missioners were considered an official order of the UMC. Deaconesses and home missioners must complete a rigorous application and a course of study that includes the New Testament, Old Testament, theology of mission, history of the UMC and polity and doctrine of the UMC.

After being approved as a candidate for deaconess in March 2019, she completed coursework in theological education at the Brooks-Howell Home in North Carolina and at St. Paul School of Theology in Oklahoma City as well as multiple weekend in-person training events and online meetings and classes.

After completing all educational requirements, Laye was recommended by the Committee on Deaconess and Home Missioner service and approved by the United Methodist Women Board of Directors for consecration and commissioning as a deaconess.

Sandi Hortman, a retired deaconess who served at Open Door Community House and Rose Hill, encouraged Laye, a member of Pierce Chapel UMC, to explore and pursue becoming a deaconess.

It’s is a perfect fit for Laye, said Rev. Meadows-White.

“There are three words that characterize the deaconess role: love, justice, and service. To me, they describe Linda’s priorities and her heart and that’s why I think being a deaconess fits her perfectly.”

The Fellowship at Rose Hill is an extension ministry of the Northwest District and Laye coordinates the weekly meals and programming in partnership with several local United Methodist churches, said Rev. Steve Patton, superintendent of the Northwest District.

“Linda leads a committed and enthusiastic team of volunteers who provide love and support for the Bibb City and midtown Columbus community,” he said. “We are blessed to have Linda in the Northwest District and we celebrate her consecration as a deaconess!”

Laye is grateful to have the opportunity to live out her calling to serve.

“I’m very grateful to the United Methodist Women, to my mother who was very supportive, and to the leaders at Pierce Chapel. My Pierce Chapel family has been so supportive,” she said. “I’m grateful to the UMW globally that have funded this and that make this program available to people like me who want a connection, that feel this calling.

“All are called; few answer. I was lucky enough to get placed where I can serve.”

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