I think in the barest of senses I finally get a small inkling of what my LGBT(QXYZ and other letters) friends have been saying about coming out all of these years. There are some things which are fundamental to the core of our being, and while true without question, they can be scary to talk about. Such was the feeling when I came out to family and friends (which seems to be a daily occurrence now) about my sense of calling to the Diaconate.
First was myself. I had to admit to myself that this is who and what I am. I am diaconal whether ordained or not. Previously I have described myself as a service person. Whether in my career choices or personal ones, or my simple convictions I am a servant, raised by servants, in a family of servants. Teacher, volunteer, foster parent, counselor, these are a few of the names by which this diaconal persona has been a part of my daily walk my entire life. And now, through calling, a future in ordained service seems to be where God wants me.
Next was my husband. My darling husband has been with me for nearly 2 decades, and professes that he is less religious than I. He is a Christian, but feels less of a need for church and certainly less of a need for liturgy. So my taking on this role, I was terrified of what he would say. After all we had already left the Episcopal church for a period of years because he considered it altogether too much. I should have trusted more, God chose him for me, and did an awfully good job. Both my husband and children have been incredibly supportive. My father, who found Christ in his 60s, is also supportive of this next chapter.
Some members of my family on the other hand, have shocked me with being upset. Episcopalian, I thought they’d be happy. They aren’t and I can do nothing about it. One’s bothered as a feminist by my calling to a diocese with a bishop who does not ordain women. One’s bothered as a liberal at my calling in a diocese with a bishop who defends a male-female marriage definition. One’s bothered as someone who prefers low church that I enjoy moderate to high church services. Moreover she’s bothered that I feel this call so strongly to a life of servanthood. I think one’s also bothered that my sense of calling is not to the priesthood and other areas of the church which have “upward mobility” to use a corporate phrase. As if calling had aught to do with ambition. Another’s bothered by the school, Nashotah House, that my bishop prefers to use to educate. She considers it an affront to women. I even overheard her and a parish priest in another diocese refer to it as offering myself to be “tarred and feathered.” We are family and I will say that each of these things have given me pause as well. But I know that I am the sort to work from within. Perhaps I am called right here, right now for a reason that has to do with rectifying and resolving these concerns, or at least wrestling them a little. They don’t see it. They’re mad at me for pursuing this and tell me so at every opportunity. Or worse avoid me and pretend it isn’t happening.
Of my friends, some have been excited and others have retreated. Many treat me differently, as though I’m not allowed to be fun or have fun now, and in some cases as though I’ve sprouted horns and they’re afraid I may eat them or something. These also surprise me, as I’ve always been quite honest about my faith and it’s role in my life. Is there some for of clerica-phobia? At least this reaction I understand, I’ve been around enough pastors, ministers, and priests to know that some have turned me on to God and others have been a flat-out turn off and even abhorrent. But I haven’t grown a fire-and-brimstone mentality, and I’m unlikely to thump a bible at anyone who doesn’t ask. So, I hope with time these folks will realize I’m still me.
Regardless of the reaction, the reactions have been strong, and I’ve had to be strong. That’s not a bad thing, as articulating this calling a part of the deal. It’s practice well used. Maybe I should have been prepared for it. I had no idea.
Learning as I go