Called to Serve

United Methodist deaconess: Irene Demaris

Deaconess Irene Demaris. Photo courtesy of Wesley Theological Seminary.
Deaconess Irene Demaris. Photo courtesy of Wesley Theological Seminary.

For Irene DeMaris, associate director at Wesley Theological Seminary’s Center for Public Theology, embracing her call to the ministry of deaconess in The United Methodist Church has been a long and winding path.

Wesley Theological Seminary is one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries supported by the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment of the United Methodist Church.

“I always knew I was called to do good in the world, to make a difference. I just wasn’t sure what that would look like. I began thinking about ministry in high school after attending Exploration 2002 in Chicago where the elder track was pushed. I left the event not seeing myself in the ministries that were promoted, but something stuck.”

“The UMC has two ordination tracks: elder and deacon. Deacons do not administer the sacraments but, like elders, have the title of Reverend. Since I never felt the call to be a local church pastor, I thought I should be on the deacon track in order to be out in the world doing ministry, since vocationally my path seemed to line up with the work of the UMC deacon.  I later discerned that ordination was not the path for me.”

“Instead, I became drawn to the UMC Order of Deaconess/Home Missioner (DCM). This order for laity within the church has been in existence for over a hundred years and is called to Love, Justice, and Service.”

In May, DeMaris was commissioned as a deaconess/home missioner, marking her commitment to a lifetime of love, justice, and service as a laywoman in the church.

Her passion for walking with others as they recognize and grasp their God-given agency led her to Wesley. In her role at the Center for Public Theology, DeMaris works to create and implement academic programs that revolve around public theology and its application in the nation’s capital.

DeMaris graduated from Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry with a Master of Divinity degree, then moved to Washington, D.C. for a fellowship at Faith in Public Life. She previously worked for The Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church as the program assistant for Ministries with Young People. While there she was able to help equip and embolden youth and young adults in her home conference.

“A life of Love, Justice, and Service takes many forms. I see my role at the Center for Public Theology as more rooted under service yet love and justice are vital pieces. As a staff member at a seminary I am helping to train the next generation of leaders to follow the gospel of love and justice.”

Along with her role at the Center for Public Theology, DeMaris is known for advocacy work in maternal health issues and laity inclusion within The United Methodist Church. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking for friends, taking spin classes, searching for the best coffee in D.C., and snuggling with her Chihuahua-Corgi mix named Leo.

Adapted from the Wesley Theological Seminary website; published on UMCGiving.org


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One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Ministerial Education Fund is at the heart of preparing people for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The 13 United Methodist seminaries help students to discover their calling through the challenging curriculum. The fund enables the church to increase financial support for recruiting and educating ordained and diaconal ministers and to equip annual conferences to meet increased demands. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment at 100 percent.