Magazine article The Christian Century

Ordination Season

Magazine article The Christian Century

Ordination Season

Article excerpt

SUMMERTIME IS a season of blessing, not least because so many ordinations happen then. Strung like jewels through the Sundays of June, July and August, ordinations shine out of the summer calendar like appointments highlighted by hope.

This summer I was fortunate to be able to attend and speak at the ordinations of three former students--one a Unitarian-Universalist, one a Presbyterian and one a new minister in the United Church of Christ. All three young women are exemplars of the "learned ministers" my school was founded to prepare. They know how to learn wherever they are--in a classroom or a hospital, a church or a rape crisis center, a library or a retreat center or a prison, and they know how to keep the boundaries between the knowledge produced in these diverse contexts fluid, so they can use what they have learned in one place to minister in another. I have benefited from their intellectual and pastoral agility in my classroom. I have been blessed by their preaching, their pastoral presence in worship and their leadership in our community.

Since I know these young women pretty well, I told stories of them as students, as young ministers in training. The wonderful thing about an ordination, though, is that the teacher's story is not the only story--not by a long shot. We set our story down next to the story of the youth group leader who made a safe space for our student as she struggled with her faith as a teenager, the teaching pastor who invited our student into his pulpit, the friend who slept on our student's couch during a rough patch, the parents who know just how complex a road has led to this moment. It takes all of us to narrate the story of a life reached by God's call. We tell it in our prayers for and our charges to these new ministers, in the sermons and the music, in the stoles we embroider and place around their necks, and in the conversations that happen once we've all dried our eyes and said Amen. It's the story of one life, but through it we can hear the steady beat of God's call to all of us.

Ordinations illuminate for a moment the threads that link us to each other: school to congregation, teaching pastor to home pastor, parishioner to professor, parent to friend. When these threads light up on an ordination day, we suddenly remember how much we depend on each other, how much we need each other and how much we have to learn from each other. …

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