Holston welcomes two new deaconesses

Donna Camper, left, and Mitzi Sadler-Thorne were welcomed into the Order of Deaconess Home MIssioners on May 11.

COVID-19 has changed a lot of things and many events have been cancelled. However, it did not stop the United Methodist Women from moving forward and welcoming 32 new Deaconess Home Missioners to the Order. Four deaconess relationships were also transferred from the Philippines.
 
On May 11, the candidates were dedicated in a special Zoom meeting. All the retired and active Deaconesses and Home Missioners, as well as family and friends, were invited to join in the online event. 
 
Candidates were scheduled to be consecrated at General Conference in May 2020 in Minneapolis. Due to the pandemic, General Conference was postponed until Aug. 29-Sept. 7, 2021.
 
When General Conference was postponed, the Deaconess Home Missioner event had to be quickly reorganized, according to Megan Hale, executive for the Deaconess and Home Missioner office, based in New York City.
 
“We went from nearly booking our flights to Minnesota to everything coming to a complete halt,” she said. “We created multiple contingency plans – and the candidates always responded with positive words even though I know it was an emotional roller coaster for them.” 
 
Among those dedicated were Mitzi Sadler-Thorne is a member of First United Methodist Church in Narrows, Virginia. Donna Camper is a member at First United Methodist Church in Bristol, Tennessee.
 
Sadler-Thorne learned about the Order by being active in the United Methodist Women. She went to St. Louis, Missouri, for a training event and found a class discussing what it was like to be a deaconess and home missioner. 
 
“I just started to think about it that it might be something I would be interested in,” Sadler-Thorne said. “Everything I read, I believed in. I was always somebody who wanted to help the underdog. It seemed like every time I went somewhere there was someone talking about it.”
 
As a schoolteacher and someone who does ministry in prisons, Sadler-Thorne met one of the main requirements to be a deaconess candidate. Her vocation focuses on love, service, and justice. 
 
“It’s a big commitment to serve my fellow man, however that is, and making sure that people get the things they need,” she said. “I just feel that for several children, God needed me to be there to help these kids. A lot of them have gotten the shaft because of their situation.”
 
Camper agrees, noting how life can be difficult for people and we need to help and show God’s love. A retired teacher, Camper’s current ministry is running a recovery house for women trying to get their lives back on track after incarceration and rehabilitation.
 
At first, Camper thought she was being called to be a minister, although she had some doubts. "When I heard about ‘love, justice and service’ with being a deaconess, it just fit,” she said. 
 
Camper explained that deaconesses answer a higher calling into ministry. She likes being part of the community the Order offers.
 
“I feel like there is a support system beside me now. And in front, behind, everywhere with me with the community,” she said. 
 
Hale said that the dedicated group will be consecrated in the future.

“The act of consecration is a holy act where a bishop will formally lay hands on each individual and consecrate them ‘to a lifetime of service under the authority of the church,’” Hale said. “Circumstances beyond their control prevented the consecration service from taking place on the day that was planned, but as soon as it is safe for us to travel and be together, there will still be a formal consecration service.”
 
Sadler-Thorne and Camper will also be commissioned into service for Holston Conference at a later date.