Believe it or not, our roots go back to the 1950s when some of the first “Diaconal Conferences” were organized by deacons for deacons.
From the Maritimes to British Columbia, deacons formed “conferences” and met to share experiences and resources, develop workshops and training events, and find ways to assist each other and their congregations. In these early years, World Renew (CRWRC at this time) worked very closely with diaconates on both sides of the border, having direct conversations between deacons and World Renew’s Church Relations Department and speaking heavily into the diaconal work churches were doing.
In 1959, the deacons of Mount Hamilton (ON) Christian Reformed Church were inspired to invite 128 deacons from across Ontario to come together and discuss various diaconal ministry issues. This meeting led to the formation of the All Ontario Diaconal Conference (AODC) on October 15, 1960. Its first board members included representatives from the six classical diaconal conferences in Ontario.
In Western Canada, diaconates also organized diaconal conferences during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Northern Alberta Diaconal Conference (NADC) was formed in Northern Alberta and the Paliser Triangle Diaconal Conference (PTDC) was formed in Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. In British Columbia, a regional conference (BCDC) covering the two classes was organized.
Over time, and with the help of the Canadian arm of the CRWRC (now World Renew), the number of Diaconal Conferences expanded and contracted as the various local organizations merged and/or folded. Two other diaconal conferences, Canadian Midwest (covering western Ontario and Manitoba) and the Maritimes, later joined the Ontario organization, AODC. In order to reflect this geographical expansion, the AODC was renamed Diaconal Ministries in Eastern Canada (DMEC) in 1993.
In each region, these Conferences were funded via a “Ministry Share” model, with a cost per professing member to help support their Conferences. The leaders of all these conferences met together during the late 1980s and early 1990s to seek greater levels of cooperation. As a result, Team Canada was formed in 1998. This team was composed of representatives from DMEC, the three western conferences, and staff members Rick deGraaf (then CRWRC), Ben Vandezande (DMEC), and Henry Bosch (NADC).
Then one day, in 1998, at a Classis Renewal Gathering in Chicago, Canadian folks representing the various Diaconal Conferences, along with representatives from Home Missions (now Resonate Global Mission) and CRWRC, met over lunch and began dreaming about pooling their Diaconal experiences, resources and training materials nationally. They dreamed about forming a Diaconal “umbrella” organization which would oversee the training of deacons right across Canada. Soon the napkins on that table (the only paper they had available) were filled with circles, triangles and arrows pointing from east to west and west to east. Leaders’ names were written in the various provinces and before long, a committee was formed with hope that one day their dreaming would evolve into reality.
It was an exciting time and, after a few more years of discussions (and maybe some more napkin drawings), the boards of DMEC and the three western conferences jointly approved the formation of a new organization: Diaconal Ministries Canada. All of the individual conferences in Canada (except one in Northern Alberta) were merged and in 2001, Diaconal Ministries Canada was formally constituted. A new Board was formally organized on May 25-26 of that year and consisted of one (1) representative from each of the twelve (12) Classis of the Christian Reformed Church in Canada.
The Board approved a vision and mission statement and identified a number of strategic goals. Diaconal Ministries Canada soon hired a National Director as well as other staff, and began organizing training materials, a robust website and timely regional events. At the same time, the funding model which had served each regional conference so well for so many years was approved to be adopted by the national organization.