In the comments section of my last entry, Derek Parker (Watch and Pray) asks:
In your polity quest, have you found any references to the office of deacon? I found that my own congregation's by-laws have a provision for deacons. A deacon by the by-laws is defined as a consecrated lay person, under the authority of the ordained pastor (or church board when there is no pastor), charged with assisting with communion and the care of the congregation. I was told it was mostly an office used in the times when the church was under the care of circuit riders.
To me it sounds like a very good lay ministry to have around in small and rural churches that lack full-time ordained ministry. If I would be at my current church longer, I would definitely revive the office of deacon.
I thought this needs to be "brought to the surface," especially since I know there are at least three UNMC deacons who read this blog. (Are you inclined to make a comment?)
But when I get around to answering this question not now, and probably not today I'll be working from ecumenical and Universalist generalities, past and present.
But for the moment, there are other options than deacons for a church in need, and there is plenty for a deacon to do without this portfolio.
Until later . . . .
[Later: I owe Derek an apology for reading his comment too quickly. I think he answers his own question correctly in the comments, and this is what deacon might well do in a rural, sometimes pastorless, situation. I was reading more quasipastoral roles added to the diaconate, for which licensed ministry might be a better division of ministry.]