The Diakonia of the Americas and the Caribbean (DOTAC), an international and ecumenical group of deacons, diaconal ministers and deaconesses, gathered from August 14 to 20, at the University of British Columbia on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples. The one hundred and sixty in attendance came from Australia, Brazil, the Caribbean, the United States and Canada. A colourful family of Musqueam dancers welcomed us to their territory.
The theme “Respecting Covenant – Risking the Journey toward Reconciliation” was portrayed by our speakers through three lenses.
- Indigeneity - Carmen Lansdowne, member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, Executive Director of First United Church, Vancouver; Melanie Delva, Anglican Church of Canada, Reconciliation Animator.
- Eco-Justice - Albert Bicol, engineer and advocate for the environment; Laurel Dykstra, an Anglican priest, activist and scholar in the Salal and Cedar church plant/watershed discipleship community in Vancouver.
- Global Migration - Dan Hiebert, UBC professor, international scholar in the area of global migration; Jennifer Mpungu, Migration, Resettlement and Newcomers Program at Mennonite Central Committee in BC, who had immigrated to Canada 16 years ago from Kenya.
Archdeacon John Struthers (retired) was one of two delegates to attend and subsequently invite the assembly to gather in Vancouver during the meeting in Brazil four years ago.
At the Vancouver conference, Portuguese was the second language spoken and worship services were bi-lingual. Most participants were met at YVR by volunteers wearing blue baseball caps with the DOTAC logo and on departure day the group departed over a span of 12 hours. During the conference we were guided to the various events with big smiles of encouragement. On Thursday we wore black clothing and the “Thursdays in Black: Toward a World without Rape and Violence’ button.
The tightly packed schedule included the aforementioned theme speakers, two workshop slots with many choices, three Bible Studies, a Blanket Exercise led by Indigenous Elders, three entertaining business meetings and two sets of site visits (the morning on campus and afternoon off-site available by public transit). There were also opportunities on some mornings prior to breakfast to engage in spiritual exercises. We had a Spiritual Room and three chaplains. At most meals we ate together cafeteria style. This gave us time to mix and mingle with others, and to communicate more deeply our areas of service outside the twenty table groups in our main meeting room.
On the Sabbath day we were invited to visit churches and tour Vancouver. This was capped off in the evening by an amazing cultural event back in our main meeting room with dancing, drumming and a vocal performance.
Archbishop Melissa brought greetings, as did the leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Reverend Paul Gehrs, Assistant to the Bishop and the United Church of Canada represented by the Reverend Dr. Richard Bott, Moderator.
Our last day of official programming concluded with closing worship led by the Methodist Deaconesses from the Caribbean and a choir leading the singing and a soloist performing a spiritual. Worship was followed by a reception where we began our goodbyes.
Delegates from the Caribbean invited us to attend the 2023 event which they will be hosting.