What’s with the Ordination thing?

my commissioning in 2006
my commissioning in 2006

Not everyone who knows me is a church-going Methodist-loving nerd.

I know, strange, but true.

So some have been wondering, what is the ordination thing all about, and if I attend it, what should I do? What should I wear? Can I make cat calls?

No on the last one, please. Clothes on the second one.

What is an Ordination, in non-theological language?

It’s a little like graduation. It’s partially a recognition and celebration of the preparation and work my colleagues and I have undergone these past three, five, heck, ten years or so. The preparation was not just academic, but spiritual, psychological, practical, and deeply personal, and in this ceremony, we conclude that portion of the work, and like a commencement, turn to the beginning of the rest of our careers in our ministries, whatever they might hold. Also, this year is the last of our Annual Conference’s ordinations, and so there’s some saying goodbye involved too. Kind of like graduation.

It’s a little like a wedding. I don’t want to take the metaphor too far and say I’m married to God or to the church to the exclusion of my actual spouse, but it’s one of the closest examples we have. This is both a personal and a communal recognition of a sacred commitment, a commitment that doesn’t start with the ceremony, just as the relationship between two people doesn’t start on the wedding day, but is celebrated in a worshipful setting and vows are spoken, and the covenant is witnessed and therefore in a way, pledged to be upheld, by all present. More on this in a second.

It’s a little like a healing ceremony or a prayer circle. This is the least familiar metaphor for my non-churchy friends, but you can still get the idea. As part of the ceremony, each person being ordained is prayed over by the Bishop, by supervisors in their ministry, and by mentors or friends chosen by the ordinand, who have supported them in the process. To be prayed for– touched and prayed for– is a pretty powerful thing. I’ve been on the receiving end of similar things a few times, and it can take your breath away. My theology of prayer is a little wobbly sometimes, but I believe that so much focused intention, love, support, and prayer to God can’t help but be a wonderful and uplifting thing. I never fail to feel moved and goosebumply when I see it; I can’t imagine what it is to participate in it in this context. It is, for me, every time I watch it, a true God moment.

At that moment, when the Bishop and mentors are placing their hands on the ordinand, something that I think is truly special happens in the room. Everyone there in support of that person, everyone who has been touched by that person and her or his ministry, everyone who would affirm the blessing of this person and pray for God’s Spirit to continue to work in and through their ministry, stands. Just silently stands up. No clapping, no cheering, but with the movement of the body says, Yes. Me too. I’m praying that prayer (or the equivalent in my own personal belief) too. I too affirm God’s work in this person and I want their ministry to be blessed. I bear witness to this committment, and I pledge myself to support this person and their commitment to God and God’s ministry in any way I can.

At least, that’s what I mean when I stand up.

I hope you mean it too.

If you want details about where and when the ceremony is, there’s an event page on my facebook, or let me know. Come if you can, or think of me around 10:30 and following next Saturday, and you’ll be standing up from afar.

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