Katie Hayden

Deacon, ordained 2009.

I grew up in the Presbyterian Church, in a pretty “normal” and supportive family.  I have been blessed to always feel love, support, and encouragement from my parents, extended family, and church family.

I have been attending the same church since I was five years old.  I continue to attend, along with my family, because I want my children to experience the love of God just as I have throughout my life.  I have always felt my church was a second home.  It’s been a place where I could praise, make friends, care for others, and be cared for.

I joined my first choir in elementary school, and learned to love singing by participating in musicals, concerts, and choir tours with my friends and caring adult leaders.  I learned what a gift music can be to others—how comforting it can be to those who feel alone, rejected, or in pain.  When soothing my own children, I often fall back on songs I first heard in elementary school.  I learned what an amazing bond music can build—those praise songs I learned in middle school connected me to people all over the country, and still connect me to our youth today.  In my brief stint in our adult choir, I saw that a common love of music brings people together, but it is love for each other that enacts prayer chains, throws baby showers, and brings home cooked meals to the door.

That’s the kind of church I belong to.  Not the largest in the denomination, but one of the most giving and supportive.   I can’t imagine attending anywhere else.  Sitting in the congregation as a child, watching a beautiful bride walk down the aisle, I always imagined myself exchanging vows.   Standing holding the baptism banner, I would imagine seeing my own babies baptized.  When meals were brought and visits were made when my parents were sick or in need, or watching my mom be a deacon, I thought about being a deacon myself one day.  Note: a deacon, not an elder.  My brain is just not built for session meetings!

I was in college when I met the love of my life.  As love sometimes does, for me it unfolded slowly.  We were friends for several years before falling in love, but when I fell, I fell hard.  She is just the right person for me.  I can’t imagine loving anyone else.  I don’t know if it was because I’d never really thought about being lesbian, (as I told my wife early in our relationship, “I just always assumed I was straight!”) or if it was because I had such confidence in my family and friends, but “coming out” was not that hard a process for me.  My parents and family were supportive and loving, our friends were happy for us, and my church embraced my wife just as they had always loved and cared for me.  A few years into our relationship, we were blessed with the opportunity to be foster parents.  Our church family has loved every child who has come through our home.  They’ve rejoiced in our two adoptions, cried happy tears at our son’s baptism, and blessed our union as we stood at the front of the sanctuary, just as I’d dreamed I one day would.

During the time we were building our family, I was asked to be a deacon.  Our church has always been on the forefront of the equality issue, so I would not have been the first openly gay person in a committed relationship to be ordained, but it was still an intimidating thought.  I didn’t want to be the cause of any more strife in our church family.  I didn’t want anyone to be “in trouble” for supporting my ordination.  I did want to be a deacon, however.  I felt I deserved the right to serve my congregation just as anyone else did.  I knew I would serve the office faithfully and to the best of my ability, and that my sexuality had nothing to do with what kind of deacon I would be.  If my church family was willing to have me serve, and session was willing to approve my nomination, then I would be honored to be a deacon.  My nomination was approved and passed without much fanfare, just the same support shown to all new deacons by the congregation.  I did attend session when we were examined and was touched by the love and supportive words of the elders, particularly one gentleman I had known well, as I frequently babysat for his children when I was a teen.  He is more the “strong, silent type” but the statement he made on my behalf brought me to tears.

I truly enjoyed my chance to serve as a deacon and hope to do it again someday.  I applaud the churches across the country that are opening the doors so that all may freely serve.  I hope that, by the time my children are adults, marriage equality will be an issue for the history books.

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