On Friday, November 7, 2014, I was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church. A few days later, my friend Christie asked me about what it was like since she’ll be ordained in a few weeks herself. I started typing her my response and this is what I came up with:
First off, many people will tell you congratulations. These people clearly have no idea what a deacon is. Of course it’s a new role that you’ve worked hard to make it to, but this role is about service to the poor and marginalized and obedience to ecclesiastical authority. “Congratulations” just feel wrong. The only way you can make sense of this entire event is through a generous, creative, and funny God and ‘congratulations’ seems to be giving you too much credit. That said, say ‘thank you’ for that card that might have a gift of cash that you plan on buying shoes with.
You will expect to arrive at the church and receive the attention and concern of your bishop and his staff. You won’t. They are stressed with last minute preparations and only want to make sure everyone is hitting their marks. But seeing their stress, you become that much more thankful for their work.
Vest carefully. Or at least hope that a kind colleague will point out that you forgot to button your alb on the inside. When clergy gather like this, the vesting room is weird. Some people know and love you. Some people size you up. Some people will give you advice on becoming clergy but be careful what you listen to. Some people’s advice says more about them than about the church.
During the procession, look solemn. That is, until you notice a cousin in attendance who you weren’t expecting but so happy to see. Now you can’t not smile. The service will go by in a flash. All you need to remember is to say your lines and don’t lock your knees. Be aware that heels plus a lacy alb might mean some tripping so be careful when you kneel.
After the service, it won’t really hit you. You won’t feel different, except for a little. There are way too many hands to shake and too much gratitude to express, but try anyway. Smile for the pictures. Breathe.
That evening when you check your phone, you will have 200 facebook notifications. Facebook notifications trigger a release of dopamine in your brain so this will make you giddy. That is a scientific fact.
On your ride home, you will be alone with your husband and he will ask you earnestly “What can I do to support your ministry?” and you’ll nearly cry because he’s already written seminary tuition checks and helped proofread papers at the last minute and spent his first wedding anniversary volunteering at a church strawberry festival and so so many other things that make him a supportive partner that you don’t deserve. “Please just remind me to laugh.” you respond to him. He then makes you laugh. These inside jokes will be your marriage glue.
You’re a deacon now. And I have to tell you, because there’s really no better word, CONGRATULATIONS!