Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. In many traditions the "diaconate", the term for a deacon's office, is a clerical office; in others it is for laity.

The word "deacon" is derived from the Greek word diakonos (διάκονος), which is a standard ancient Greek word meaning "servant", "waiting-man", "minister" or "messenger". One commonly promulgated speculation as to its etymology is that it literally means 'through the dust', referring to the dust raised by the busy servant or messenger.

It is generally believed that the office of deacon originated in the selection of seven men, among them Stephen, to assist with the charitable work of the early church as recorded in Acts 6. Female deacons are mentioned by Pliny the Younger in a letter to Trajan dated c. 112. The exact relationship between male and female Deacons varies. In some traditions a female deacon is simply a member of the order of deacons; in others, deaconesses constitute a separate order; in others, the title "deaconess" is given to the wife of a deacon.

A biblical description of the qualities required of a deacon, and of their household, can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.

Among the more prominent deacons in history are Phoebe, the only person actually called "deacon" in Scripture; Stephen, the first Christian martyr (the "protomartyr"); Philip, whose baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch is recounted in Acts 8:26-40; Saint Lawrence, an early Roman martyr; Saint Vincent of Saragossa, protomartyr of Spain; Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the mendicant Franciscans; Saint Ephrem the Syrian and Saint Romanos the Melodist, a prominent early hymnographer. Prominent historical figures who played major roles as deacons and went on to higher office include Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, Thomas Becket and Reginald Pole.

The title is also used for the president, chairperson, or head of a trades guild in Scotland; and likewise to two officers of a Masonic Lodge.

Read more about Deacon:  Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Deaconesses, Other Traditions, Cognates, Scots Usage

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Famous quotes containing the word deacon:

    Deacon King was tried for violating the Sabbath, and so hot was the debate that it was referred to the church council, which ultimately decided, after long and grave debate, that the deacon had committed a ‘work of necessity and mercy.’
    —For the State of Massachusetts, U.S. public relief program (1935-1943)

    In a Kelton church, when a heated argument once began at morning services, a devout old deacon arose from his seat in the ‘amen corner’ and announced he was going to do for the church what the devil had never done—leave it.
    —Administration in the State of Sout, U.S. public relief program (1935-1943)