Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of The Order of Deacon in The United Methodist Church

This year the West Ohio Conference joins The United Methodist Church and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in celebrating the 25th. anniversary of the Order of Deacon. 

On this silver anniversary, we continue to share stories of deacons serving in West Ohio.

Teaching Youth the Power of Locally Sourcing Food

A year after being ordained a deacon in 2017, the Rev. Jessica Stonecypher launched an agriculture program for Zanesville City Schools. This seemed a perfect way to merge her favorite things: working beside church laity while teaching agriculture and supporting at-risk youth. That’s what she loves about being a deacon.

“God has called me to work alongside the most vulnerable members of creation,” Stonecypher said, “humans and non-humans.” She has witnessed God moving through farm-to-cafeteria initiatives in her community. Such initiatives bring locally grown and sourced foods to local cafeterias.

Stonecypher’s primary appointment is to Zanesville City Schools while also serving Zanesville and Faith United Methodist churches as her secondary appointment.

A teacher of vocational agriculture, Stonecypher teaches students how to grow their own food. Topics include the science behind healthy soil for healthy crops. 

One summer, students planted and harvested lettuce that was added to the school lunch menu. The school also served locally grown apples donated from a local framer. Currently growing kale, the students are proud to see their personal work and contributions to the school.

When Stonecypher felt her call to be a deacon, she had a conversation with her pastor, the Rev. Jim Sands. “He gave me space to discern and was not pushy,” she recalled. “It was a relaxed and informal discussion.”

Last summer, she traveled to Columbus to stand for justice during the social unrest. “Ordained deacons are often not paid,” she said, “so they have the ability to say the difficult things when our elder colleagues are more limited.” 

The well-being of each student remained a priority to Stonecypher during the pandemic. She checked on students and supported them through the unique experiences a pandemic will bring, including death. “I gave the students extra time to enjoy nature and relationships with peers,” Stonecypher said. “They needed the support of one another and space to rest their minds and hearts.”

As she continues bridging the world and the church, Stonecypher said, “With many societal challenges we face right now, deacons are key to bringing these realities to the church. We have unique skills and connections to take a church community from seeing the problem to taking part in the solution.”