The election of Deaconess Ibironke Oremade-Oworu as the new President of Diakonia Region Africa/Europe (DRAE) in Germany has brought to the limelight the richness of the Deaconess Order of the Methodist Church Nigeria. Deaconesses Oworu, at the just concluded Diakonia Region Africa-Europe Assembly in Germany, was presented as the 1st African President of DRAE since it was established 29 years ago.

DIAKONIA Region Africa Europe is one of three regional groups of the DIAKONIA World Federation of Diaconal Associations and Diaconal Communities. Membership consists of associations, organizations, and communities of deaconesses, deacons, diaconal brothers and sisters, diaconal ministers, and other church workers. DIAKONIA REGION AFRICA EUROPE (DRAE) stands for Spiritual encouragement, Empowerment for diaconal commitment and work, Advocating for the dignity of people and social justice, and Mutual exchange.

The Deaconess Order of the Methodist Church Nigeria is a part of DRAE (Diakonia Region Africa Europe) which came into being at Stirling in 1994. The DIAKONIA World Federation was established in 1947. As Europe divided in post-war, deacons sought to forge a way of working and sharing ecumenically across the World. It is on record that ‘as the federation developed and grew across the World, three regions were established. In 1994, in Stirling, the European and African members met to inaugurate DRAE (DIAKONIA region Africa, Europe). The other regions, DAP (DIAKONIA Asia, Pacific) and DOTAC (DIAKONIA of the Americas and the Caribbean), soon followed. The regional meetings occur every four years.’ DRAE, one of the World’s largest ecumenical organisations, has representatives in 24 countries across Africa and Europe.

The election of Deaconess Oworu offers Methodist Church Nigeria the chance to find out what other diaconal groups in the ecumenical partnership are doing, their underpinning theology, and the opportunity to worship and share fellowship with others who work diaconally. The findings would go a long way to reposition our Deaconess Order for effective ministry. 

Deaconess Order, Methodist Church Nigeria has played a key role in the Church’s life because they come to serve. By how they live and what they do, they put flesh on the gospel. In so doing, they are a visual aid of the difference Christ can make to a person.’ The Deaconess ‘often goes to the margins to reach people where they are. They are active listeners and practical in the help they offer. They help the lonely into communities and the hurting to find healing. They can show robust love where necessary and are not lacking in wisdom and its companion, gumption.’

Methodist Church Nigeria Deaconess Order is a visible expression of grassroots holistic service and ministry through specialist skills with the primary missional purpose of working collaboratively to enable others. Methodist Deaconess order is ‘authorized by Conference to be public people representing God-in-Christ to the World and representing the World and Church before God. They constantly seek to serve the needs of the Kingdom in the power of the Spirit through who they are and what they do.’ 

Born on July 26, 1959, Deaconess Ibironke Oluyemisi Oremade attended St. Jude’s Primary School Ebute Meta Lagos. Her father, Pa Joseph Abiodun Oremade from Isote-Makun, Sagamu, who died 40 years ago, worked in the Administrative Department, Nigeria Railway Corporation, while her mother, Mama Christiana Abimbola Oremade nee Keripe, a retired Nurse Midwife is from Ayegbami, Sagamu. 

Deaconess Oworu attended Yejide Girls Grammar School, Molete, Ibadan, for her secondary school education. She studied Psychiatric Nursing at the School of Psychiatric Nursing, WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Training Aro, Abeokuta, from 1980-1983. She studied General Nursing at the School of Nursing, Lagos University Teaching Hospital Idi-Araba Lagos. 1989- 1991. She is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse. She studied Genetic Counselling at the Sickle Cell Foundation, Idi-Araba, Lagos.

Deaconess Oworu got married to Mr. Abimbola Oworu on April 20, 1985, and the marriage is blessed with three boys who are all grown-ups.

Deaconess Oworu received the call to serve and proceeded to the Methodist Theological Institute, Sagamu, for training. She was ordained at the Methodist Conference in Kaduna as a Tent Deaconess in 2004. The Methodist Church Nigeria employed her as the Project Development Officer- Women’s Work through the Nationals in Mission Appointment of the Methodist Church Britain.

When Methodist Church Nigeria separated the Education Department from the Health Department, she was appointed as the Health Secretary, and in that capacity, she has been working with our partners, the Nigeria Heath Care Project (NHCP), to ensure that Methodist health facilities deliver quality service to the communities where they are situated through the training program to prevent maternal and neonatal death.

Deaconess Oworu has been outspoken about the need to develop a new curriculum of studies for the Deaconess Order, for the Church to make maximal use of Deaconesses in the community and to recognize the importance of vocation in the Ministry of the Deaconess. According to Deaconess Oworu, vocation and service make effective ministry. As the new and 1st African President of DRAE since it was established in 1994, Deaconess Oworu is positioned to promote the nature and task of Diakonia in the biblical context shaped by a living experience of ecumenical relationships. Let us remember her in prayer in this missional task.