The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Amphibious Life: A Deacon's First Weeks

(Photo by Fred Bivetto; used by permission)

There I am, the day after ordination, proclaiming the Gospel for the first time, at my home parish of St Bartholomew's Church in New York.

I remember one day at my field placement, St. John's in the Village, when a very experienced acolyte asked me if, in the absence of our deacon (she was on vacation that day), I, as a soon-to-be deacon would read the Gospel that day. I demurred, pretty sure that was not the case, but was hesitant. I asked the Rector who would read the Gospel. He answered, "The only person present who is qualified to." He paused, and then, seeing our lack of understanding, added: "Me." And so he did.

So when I was invited to proclaim the Gospel at St Barts, that next day, it was brought home to me that my life had changed forever. I was clergy, a deacon. I was now qualified to proclaim the Gospel.

And so I have, for three Sundays and counting.


(Photo by Fred Bivetto; used by permission)

There's the baptism I wrote about earlier, my first. The family sought me out after to be photographed with them. I had become an integral part of their celebration of their daughter's new life. I had functioned as a sacramental minister in a whole new way.

Life has changed in some very real ways.


But here's the thing: I'm still living the life of a lawyer, too. At Church, I wear a clerical collar; at work, a tie. I'm in the world, and in the Church, and travel from one to the other by turnsn. But still, the collar--it changes you a bit at a time. I find myself trying to live at work and at home more in accordance with what I profess in my diaconal role. And that's a good thing. I'm listening more. Progress not perfection, of course.

A deacon's an amphibious creature, you know. We swim in the sea of the world, and then return to the solid ground of the Church. We need to be in both, and be a bridge between them.

Funny, that's been a major aspect of my life since graduating law school.

I've always written and taught--on the side. I'm a novelist--on the side. My death penalty work, my First Amendment advocacy--almost all of it on the side, not as part of my day job.

In some ways, my secular life feels like a long preparation for Holy Orders.

My beliefs are what they have been since the mid '90s when I was received into the Episcopal Church. It's just that they matter more, and have led me to a different expression of the valuesI have always held. Neither work nor the diaconate is "on the side." They are side-by-side.

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