Upon a successful completion of the oral examination under a panel of watchful eyes and learned examiners, it is with a serious heart that I report a ceremony ordering me to the Diaconate still on the schedule. Of course I was pleased with the outcome, and the approval of such godly men, as a prerequisite for serving in the Church with those responsibilities and duties assigned for that office. For the person committed to the work of the Church, whether seeking that career or not, the satisfaction gleaned in being useful to it's mission is a generous reward. However, it is precisely because this is not a "career move" that the many "congratulations" I've received seems just a little strange to me. The new black shirt and white collar that will be donned henceforth for my church involvement, beginning on the 17th, does not feel like an achievement that would invite such interjections. On the contrary, it's a weighty matter to wear the uniform of one entrusted with the responsibilities of a Deacon, and frankly some jubilations appear nearly inappropriate.
I might liken it to congratulating my daughter that she now not only has the responsibility to clean her room, but to do dishes and laundry as well. Sure we could claim that we congratulate her based on the positive step of accepting more responsibility, but to her it's bittersweet. I can relate to her right now. On the one hand, there's a sense of graciously receiving those congratulations because it is no small matter for the Church to receive another "servant" in the tradition of "Stephen" - first martyr for Christ following his Ascension. On the other hand though, long gone now are the days of remaining the nominal churchgoer content to just do little parts here or there without any real, tangible commitment. In addition, it creates a new realization that being responsible regarding one's writing and conduct are matters than can reflect on the Church in now a different way than before (I'm already growing sparing with my Facebook comments). Certainly it is true that all Christians should think this way, but the uniform just creates a heightened awareness that can impact everything.
These sobering thoughts cast a clerical "shadow" across the "congratulations" offered by some when hearing that I'm being received into the Diaconate. It's a milestone, to be sure, but not necessarily an "achievement." I'm not trying to advance a career, and this step does not move me closer to goals for which I have been ambitious at all. On the contrary, it's a heavy matter to have such a label ("Deacon") placed upon you by those to whom you would submit yourself. It's weighty and laden with responsibilities not previously expected. If someone says "congratulations," I'll thank you them for their kind encouragement; however, to me it still sounds a little weird.