Profile: Deacon Pat Johnson

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Emily on 15-12-2011

Mass Comm. 208

December 12, 2011

Profile Assignment

The Reverend Patricia Johnson

                Patricia Johnson may not know what her future looks like, but she is certain of one thing: “In God, we are continually being remade.”  She has been remade from being an everyday mother of two daughters to being an ordained deacon and community leader.

                Pat was raised in a Missouri Synod Lutheran church. In the early 90s she began the process of taking a new direction in her life. At St. Thomas Episcopal Church, she enrolled in a formal 3 year program called Education for Ministry, created by the University of the South Episcopal Seminary. The program is an intensive study of the Bible. Pat decided that she was being called to be a deacon in the Episcopal Church.

The formation process, which involved regular trips to Des Moines for instruction at the Diocese of Iowa offices, took more than six years to complete. She was ordained as the Reverend Patricia Johnson in 1999.

                Her family was very surprised about her decision to become a deacon. At first, her mother had a difficult time accepting the idea of her ordination, because the Missouri Synod Lutheran church does not accept the ordination of women. Eventually, she came around. Her two daughters had thought of her as “just their mom”.

                While she was training for ministry, she had the added stress of going through a divorce. She described the formation process as a period of self-discovery. She was forced out of her comfort zone while learning about preaching and praying. “I was being remade into someone I couldn’t imagine.”

                Being a deacon is servant ministry. The deacon assists in Sunday worship services, reading the Gospel and attending at the altar

                The deacon also takes the church out into the world. One of Deacon Pat’s first experiences was visiting a nursing home. At first she thought it was depressing, but then she connected with people who she visited for years.

                When she talked with a critically ill person, she felt that the hospital room became sacred space.

                Father Torey Lightcap, the rector of St. Thomas, said that he has a lot of admiration and respect for Dn. Pat. He recognized that she has faced a lot of adversity in her life. “Most impressive is how she continues to stand up for those who are not being treated fairly. As a deacon in the Episcopal Church, her job is to provide a voice for those with no power. She has done that faithfully.”

                Deacon Pat has worked for social justice both in her employment and in community involvement. She has been very active with the Council on Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence for 20 years and has served as president of its board. She talks with women at the CSADV shelter and still sees women she has referred.

                She has worked with people with drug addiction and mental illness. In the past she was a probation officer. She still serves as a drug court officer, helping to keep people on track so they are not sent back to prison. She has spoken out for the rights of gay people and for the humanitarian treatment of immigrants. She has traveled to Swaziland and has spoken out about the terrible effects AIDS has had on African women and children.

                One year during Lent she conducted a “Stations of the Neighborhood,” a walking tour of homes on Douglas Street near St. Thomas church. The tour stopped at several homes and Dn. Pat discussed the history of the houses, usually owned by a slumlord, and the struggles that people in the neighborhood face on a daily basis.

                Currently, Deacon Pat works as the director of a transition center for workers displaced by the closing of the John Morrell packing plant. The center is funded by a federal grant which runs out in March 2012. So Dn. Pat, who is approaching age 60, will soon be unemployed, with no clue what the future holds for her.

She remains hopeful that she will find work that lets her continue to be the voice for those who have no power. Deacon Pat is inspired by Revelation 21:5, “See, I am making all things new.”  She is confident that God will continue to remake her and she will still find ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

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