As many know, I’ve been discerning whether I should become a deacon or not this year. The “19th Annotation Retreat” I participated in was very central in helping me think more deeply about this and allowed me to be centered on where God is leading me at this time.
But the biggest factor in helping me decide was the experiences I had with several of the UB students this year.
Some students on the alternative spring break were helpful on both ends of the decision. Two of the students, Amanda and Matt were very excited at the prospect of me being a Deacon.
“Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh My God! Mike you’d be so great. You’ve got to do it.” Amanda shrieked. “I want you to do it just so I can call you Deek!”
Matt followed up with, “Well, maybe we need some kind of word that combines Deacon and Mike together. I’ve got it…
If ever there was a deterrent …
Zach, along with Ryan and Lauren (who recently got engaged), were more sedate about their feelings. “No matter what you choose, Mike, you don’t make a bad choice here.” Ryan astutely pointed out. “The fact that you’re a married man who even GOES to church is a big help to a lot of us already.”
Zach, who sees me for spiritual direction (Or do I see him?) also pointed out that being free to be who I am is what is most important. He asked me pointedly if I thought “being a Deacon might change (me),” make me less open or more open to others? Would being a Deacon make me perceived by others as different? Am I already perceived as being different simply because I am a campus minister and so, would being a Deacon matter? Does it change my ministry for better or worse?
These students sure give me a lot to think about.
But one of the sticking points for me came from one of the medical students, CJ, who is really bright and always enthusiastic. I had thrown a small “after finals party” in the med school lounge for the first year’s who just finished their gross anatomy final. We began talking about his classmates and the test they just took. Most admitted to me that they thought they did OK. Nobody thought they rocked it or had miserably failed. Most were simply happy it was over and they were happy to share a few fleeting moments over pizza and wings with their classmates and even with me. A side note: Most of the medical students aren’t regular church-goers. Yet, I have found all of them (and I do mean all of them) to be profoundly aware of their own spiritual experience. How they express that or choose to express that is vastly unique, it’s different for every student.
But back to CJ, I mentioned to him that just about every member of the class came over and talked with me and spent some time saying how grateful they were for the meal and some even thanked me for my presence throughout the semester.
“It’s just part of my job,” i said to CJ.
“Mike,” CJ sharply said, “This is NOT just part of your job. You’re here because you like being here and because you’ve become concerned about us and who we are becoming as doctors. You got up super early before our first test just to make sure we got a stress guy (pictured right)! Not everyone would go out of their way to do that!”
I blew him off, “I suppose so. You guys have made it easy though! You’re pretty open to having me here. The faculty is also really helpful and I’m glad I can just help them out. It’s kind of helping me decide whether I should go deeper with my ministry and study to be a Deacon.”
“REALLY?” Cj replied.
“Sure, what do you think about that.”
CJ stroked his chin and said, “I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here.”
Mind you when someone says that, they may actually become the Holy Spirit’s advocate!
“Mike, look around. This room is filled with an entire section of medical students. We let them know that ‘Mike Hayes’ from Campus Ministry was going to provide this party and everyone showed up. Why? Because they know you don’t have an ulterior motive. There’s no hidden agenda.”
“Right.” I said.
“But if I had told the class that DEACON Mike, or even FATHER Pat, who they KNOW was throwing the party, I’d bet good money that half the people would show up. It’s just a different vibe.”
“Never thought of that.” I sheepishly remarked.
That moment didn’t make or break my decision. But discerning about that for the next four months surely did. Deacon or not, my ministry doesn’t depend on that.
My ministry depends on me being myself and how I can be an expression of Christ for others. I don’t need to become anything more or anything different unless I think that would actually help me do that.
And becoming a Deacon might actually hinder that for some, but others would argue that my openness wouldn’t bring others to shun me because of my clerical state. I would agree with both statements actually. Some will want no part of me, others wouldn’t care.
But C.J. would later say something that clinched things for me.
“Mike, maybe being a Campus Minister is just enough? You’ve got an important job and you do it well. Just do that and you’ll be fine.”
That doesn’t mean that I won’t ever be a Deacon. Nor is it a slight to anyone else who chooses to be a Deacon. But it does mean that I won’t be one anytime soon. God isn’t calling me there now. But there’s good news…
Sometimes being a Campus Minister is more than enough.
And that’s where God has called me to be for at least another year or two.
So, we have much to decide this year and much work to be done. It is exciting and I am thrilled to really get into the coming semester’s work. Gross Anatomy starts in August and retreats and Alternative Breaks begin not long after that.
It is with gratitude that I remain a layman, a husband, a campus minister and God’s servant. It is all grace and gift and wondrous and I am in the midst of the Holy Spirit with every step I take.
And God’s grace is more than enough for me.