on being a deacon now

I can’t remember the last time I posted a non-sermon post on this blog. I keep thinking about resurrecting this site as something more than a storage system for sermons and articles, but of course, life gets in the way. Until it doesn’t.

On March 7th, I was ordained to the transitional diaconate in my diocese. The next day, I served as a deacon for the first time, in-person, at my placement parish. Just a few days later, my seminary moved all classes online, I went on self-quarantine due to contact with a COVID case (*I am fine, as is my friend who had it), and life changed dramatically, as it has for much of the world.

What does it mean to be a deacon? What is my role? A few weeks ago, I could have told you the liturgical roles a deacon has. I could have told you that my work was to serve, to connect the church to the needs of the world, to joyfully welcome all who enter.

A few weeks ago, I had no idea that I’d be waking up on Sunday morning, putting on clericals and grabbing a cup of tea before sitting down at my computer to read the Gospel off a screen and greet congregants through chatbox conversations at virtual coffee hour. I have no idea what I’m doing. But what I do know is that some of the needs of the world are virtually the same needs my congregation has right now: social isolation, loss of employment, kids at home, and a terrifying number of screens to juggle in order to “function”.

It’s a learning curve… for all of us. From providing instructions about Zoom, to calling parishioners on the phone, to recording audio for podcasts, and video for Holy Week, this isn’t what I thought my diaconate might look like. The “tools” I need for ministry are now the same ones that I learned fooling around on Blogspot.com in high school in the late-2000s, doing HTML work-arounds and producing written and visual content every day.

Perhaps one of the people I research for described it best when she thanked me for my ministry as a deacon of technology. And that is the truest description of my ministry right now: the call to serve in this moment looks like connecting members of the church to one another, facilitating spaces for prayer and connection, patching technology together to make this new format work for as many people possible.

It’s not glamorous. It’s mostly emails, and conquering my very millennial dislike of talking on the phone. It’s “being loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them” by following diocesan directives around everything from gathering sizes to abstention from ‘new’ or ‘innovative’ (and unauthorized) ways of doing the Eucharist. It’s making “Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example” even when the boundaries between home, and work, and worship meld into one unwieldy list of Zoom meetings. It’s being “faithful in prayer, and in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures” even when that’s the hardest thing to do, when days and the concept of time no longer seem distinct.

I refuse to end this with platitudes or some pat way of describing what life and ministry is like in an unfathomable time. We aren’t ready for takeaways yet… or at least, I’m not.

But my “other duties as assigned” as a deacon of technology are showing me one thing: that sometimes waking up, getting dressed, and doing the next right thing–be it an email or a phone call or a troubleshooting session–are all good and holy things. Grace must be found in the minutia, when our national narrative is one of fear and unknowns.

And perhaps, as we enter into Holy Week where things change so very quickly… where we go from lauding Christ with palms to shouting “crucify him!”… where Christ goes from supper to torture to death and astoundingly, to life… perhaps we may find ourselves surprised by the hope of doing the next right thing. The hope of my present, and perhaps yours too, is in knowing that no one actually knows what they’re doing right now, but that we must get up and serve, and trust that the road to Golgatha leads to the tomb, which leads to Resurrection.

A blessed Holy Week to you, my friends.

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