Meet Your Fellow Deacons: Shiloh OPC, Raleigh, NC

 

Pictured: Shiloh Deacons: Leo Barcley, Brandon Gershman, Art Allen, Tim Hopper, McRay Simmons, Pete Tola

 

We asked a few of the deacons at Shiloh to share their thoughts about the diaconate. Here’s what they said:

Deacon Brandon Gershman has also been serving Shiloh OPC for about a year, and says that as a new deacon, this time has been incredibly sanctifying. He has been blessed by the godly example of his fellow deacons who have been serving longer and are showing him a deep compassion for God’s people. He is married to his wife Shasta and they have three children, Judah, Josie and Olive. Brendan says he was drawn to diaconal ministry because his family had been recipients of care by their deacons and saw how it affected their view of the church. “It opened my eyes to the fact that there are many people within Christ’s body who are poor and needy that we would never know are in that state. Deacons are able to approach people and ask questions in a way others are not.” Later he shares that he’s learning that “there are far more people hurting and needy than I ever suspected. Some have financial burdens but many have spiritual, emotional, and physical burdens that could easily go unaddressed. Christ, our prototypical deacon, sought these people out specifically, as we also should.” The diaconate at Shiloh offers financial education for its members, which Brandon sees as one of their strengths, along with quickly responding to those with obvious needs and direct and persistent interaction with those receiving assistance from the church. As a diaconate they continue to grow in ministering to the needs of the Session, reaching outside of the church to the needy and the stranger in the greater Raleigh area.

 

Deacon Art Allen has been married to his wife for twenty-five years, and they have one grown son. He has been serving Shiloh OPC for eleven months and shares that he sees that the Lord has gifted him with many abilities that seem compatible with diaconal ministry and that he loves working with his fellow officers in the church. When asked what is one of the greatest lessons he’s been learning in his time as a deacon, he says, “I think it’s very important to know your flock. Often there is limited time to interact, especially on the Lord’s Day so I try to make the most of these brief interactions to gauge where people are and find out what they may be dealing with, in order to help, if needed.”

 

Deacon McRay Simmons has served as a deacon in two OP churches for a combined total of sixteen years and says that one of the greatest joys of working as a deacon is seeing families changed by God’s grace. He and his wife are empty-nesters now, but have two grown children and ten grandchildren. He speaks warmly of the closeness of the brothers on the diaconate and of their unified desire to serve one another and the families they are called to minister to, sharing personally that, “As I have worked alongside my fellow deacons in serving others, the Lord has used those opportunities to show me my own sin and need for His grace and helped me focus on being an agent of His grace to others in more meaningful ways.” He desires growth in discernment with difficult situations where the best way of helping is not always clear. He shares that one of the ways that they are growing is in recognizing that there are very capable people in the congregation who are willing to serve if given the opportunity. “An example of that is the organization of our Safety Committee that was commissioned to put together a plan for nursery safety, evacuation plans for emergencies, etc. The members serving on that committee did an excellent job!”


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Meet Your Fellow Deacon, Faith OPC, Grants Pass, OR

Robert Kunda and his wife, Aja, grew up in Southern California. They met in middle school and were friends all through high school, getting married after Robert returned from a four-year stint in the US Marine Corps. They had two children while living in California, and then relocated to Oregon in 2013 where the Lord has blessed them with a daughter by birth, and just days ago, a daughter by adoption!

Robert has served on the diaconate at Faith OPC since 2019. He says that he was drawn to serving as a deacon because he desires to help the church in whatever way he can. For him, one of the greatest blessings of this office is having a front-row seat to members of the congregation as they serve and share in one another’s burdens—without the need of the diaconate. 

Robert serves alongside two other deacons at Faith OPC: Clyde Petty and Steve Carmack.


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Meet Your Fellow Deacons: New Hope OPC, Green Bay, WI

Some of the New Hope OPC Deacons: Mike Spronk, Jim Wilke, Rick Cohler Todd Kirsteater and David Schoeneweiss. Not pictured: Josh Agen and Bill Knoespel
There are currently seven active deacons at New Hope OPC. Representing the New Hope OPC, Green Bay, Wisconsin deacons:

Deacon Josh Agen
 grew up attending New Hope OPC after his parents discovered orthodox preaching on Christian radio and left a mainline church. He left the Green Bay area for about 20 years for college and career but moved back in 2017. He is now beginning his fourth year as a deacon at New Hope OPC and sixth year as a deacon in the OPC.
He began serving at a very small OP congregation simply because there was an acute need for men to serve. He says, “I didn’t think I had gifts that were particularly suited toward serving as a deacon. However, I have found serving as a deacon to be a great blessing as it gives me an opportunity to be directly involved in one of the ways God extends mercy to those in need, and to share the gospel with individuals seeking help from outside of the church.” New Hope has a food pantry and distributes grocery and gas cards to individuals who request aid from the community. They are also actively involved in assisting and advising people within the church family who have continuing needs. They have a separate Mercy Ministry committee that deals with more outward focused ministry such as a Bible study at a local jail, fundraising to support various local organizations, and nursing home ministry.
Josh says that the diaconate sometimes struggles to know how best to help or motivate individuals who seem unwilling to take positive actions to improve their situation. He would like to grow in that area, but he says that one of the greatest strengths of the diaconate is, “the care and servant-heartedness of the other deacons [which has been] a wonderful testimony [to him] of the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.”
Deacon Rick Cohler says, “I have been a deacon at New Hope for more than 30 years and currently serve as head deacon. I was drawn by the ministry of assisting our members and others who are in need. My late wife, Fran, and I have two adult children, a son in Evanston, IL and a daughter in San Diego, each with their own family. Fran went home to the Lord in 2015. After being alone for four years, God brought a lovely woman named Charlene into my life and we’ve been married a year-and-a-half. She has two adult children with families. Between the two of us we have seven grandsons and one granddaughter. 
New Hope offers a small food pantry, and gas and grocery cards as an outreach. Our monetary aid is usually for members only, though we have made exceptions. Our greatest strength is our unity in Christ. A frequent challenge is working with someone who just sees us as another source of income. After several times of assistance we ask the person to come speak with us about their needs. That rarely occurs and we tell them we can no longer assist them without a conference. There have been several people, however, who have been brought to Christ through their interaction with the diaconate. We provide a moving ministry to members as a demonstration of Christian brotherhood.
We issue a call for additional volunteers and are always blessed with the large crew which shows up. Each deacon takes his turn as “Deacon of the week” and handles any calls which come into the church office.  This keeps the responsibilities spread out so they don’t become burdensome. Occasionally as a term nears its end I consider not running for reelection, but God always puts it on my heart that He wants me there to keep me humble.
Deacon Dave Schoeneweiss has been a deacon for six years. He and his wife were active in their previous church, but when the church split, the Lord led them to New Hope OPC.
Dave says that he was particularly drawn to diaconal work because of the coupling of witnessing opportunities with serving and giving to physical needs. He says that humility and service have been the greatest lessons the Lord has taught him as a deacon.
When he reflects on the diaconate’s strengths he says, “I like when we can debate suggestions on how to help people, with everyone having some input. By opening decisions up to debate, it gets people thinking before they vote. I like that we can all agree to disagree and come together in the Lord’s name in the end….seeing the results of the deacons’ service in people’s lives with the Lord’s blessing [has encouraged me the most as a deacon.]” 
Deacon Mike Spronk has been serving as a deacon at New Hope OPC for about 8 years. Prior to being at New Hope he was a deacon in a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Minnesota. He was a pig farmer for many years before moving to the Green Bay area.
While in the CRC he was involved in Volunteers in Ministry, which is an organization associated with the CRC that provides furniture to families in need. He says he enjoys being a deacon: “It’s fun learning about other people and having lunch with them.” He would like to see the diaconate grow in their work of sharing Christ, but is thankful for the congregation’s generosity in recent years which has enabled them to serve and give much more freely to those in need.

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