Sunday, June 29, 2014

Both sides now

One way and another, for the past 15 years or so I've spent the last weekend in June attending ordinations.
Most of these have been in Gloucester Cathedral, as you'd expect for one whose public ministry emerged in that diocese, - though I've also managed Hereford, Winchester and St Paul's too along the way. Every time, the service has been splendid - beautifully put-together, with words, music and symbols all combining to underline the power of the sacrament and the awesome reality of a group of people committing themselves to the ministry of God's Church. I've always appreciated the way the Cathedral "stages" the event, in such a way that those coming to celebrate the ordination of friends or family have been convinced that it was really quite effortless, just part of what a Cathedral does - and that the Cathedral would carry the whole proceedings, come what may. 

Several times at Gloucester I've found myself with a job or two - for new priests and deacons are always involved in Communion, as are their training incumbents. I've never quite known what I was doing - whether I was really in the right place or what I would do if my chalice ran out before the line of communicants - but have comforted myself with the thought that there were always Cathedral clergy, as well as an army of servers and vergers, on hand to rescue me if things went wrong.

Now, suddenly, I'm one of those clergy - and, though I was deacon of the rite I was all too aware of just how little I really know and how very dependent I am on the expertise of others! As the Cathedral geared up for the weekend, the Precentor's office, where I have a desk, was the hub for all sorts of comings and goings as he and the Director of Music, organist, Head Verger, Head Server, Church Wardens and more planned and revised and planned some more til all was as good as it could be. And it was very very good - most particularly the way the team swung into action to ensure that little things (and not so little - the failure of the radio mic system springs to mind) would not interrupt the proceedings but all would be done not just decently and in order, but with devotion and delight as well.

And the good news for me was that, though I now know exactly how swanlike the proceedings really are (calm on the surface, paddling like crazy beneath), there was no sense of de-mystification, no "Wizard of Oz" moment when knowing the workings spoiled the wonder. Instead, I found myself moved almost to tears by the privilege of reading Matthew 16 to those about to be ordained priest.
"On this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven".
For me, reading those words in that context - and conscious of the ways that the "power of the keys" has been transformative in my own life and my own ministry, the words were electric and I would not have wished myself anywhere else in the world. 

Today's deaconings were overflowing with joy. 
The congregation were so full of conviction as they responded to the bishop's question
"Is it your will that these candidates be ordained deacon"
it was impossible not to smile broadly - and there really was no need to try.

A wonderful weekend - and a privilege to be part of it.
Maybe by next year I'll know enough to be useful!


Crimson Rambler said...

ahhhh, now you've made me cry...

UKViewer said...

I've been to two ordinations, both in Canterbury Cathedral and as someone whose involvement (outside Church) in organizing major Army events, know how much planning and preparation is needed. Particularly knowing the intentions of those in charge and than implementing those intentions in a measured and dignified way, with due ceremonial when needed. Think of a Major parade, getting all the things in place, rehearsals, liaison with all the necessary authorities, ensuring that traffic will be stopped etc, down to the white gloves for the standard or guidon bearers needs a head for logistics, a head for people and the ability to fit the whole jigsaw together on time and in a professional manner - after all, you're representing the Queen in public and the honour of the Regiment is at stake.

I suspect that there are real similarities in arranging an ordination, probably with set protocols of how things need to be done, but with the imagination to see how it was last done, what went wrong and what needs to be done to avoid it next time around. The wishes of the Bishop will no doubt have primacy, but the Dean and chapter will be responsible for putting those being Ordained at the forefront along with God, so that their experience of their ordination/commissioning/sending out to make disciples resonates with them, their families and those members of their future (or current) parishes and people.

It must be a singular privilege to share in such services and to see God's future public representatives here on earth, having answered his call, being sent into the world of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care, as partially formed ministers to grow and blossom in the sunlight of God's grace.

Prayers that next time around, you'll feel equipped to do more in collaboration as a full faculty member of the Cathedral Chapter.