Deacon

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Deacon is a role 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 (and deaconess) is derived from the Greek word diakonos (διάκονος),[1] which is a standard ancient Greek word meaning "servant", "waiting-man," "minister" or "messenger."[2] 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.[3]

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.[4][5] Deaconesses are mentioned by Pliny the Younger in a letter to Trajan dated c. 112. The exact relationship between Deacons and Deaconesses varies. In some traditions a deaconess is simply a female deacon; 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 his household, can be found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

Among the more prominent deacons in history are Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr (the "protomartyr"); Philip the Evangelist, 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.

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