A Life Less Ordinand

6 Sep

Last weekend I was involved in the induction and ordination of the new pastor-cum-chaplain at my church. Events like this always make me irrationally nervous. I’m afraid I might stray onto the stage at the wrong moment and accidentally become a priest or something.

It was the first ordination I had ever been to, but it was similar to a lot of other formal ceremonies of that type, like a mixture between a christening, graduation, wedding and funeral – all the stages of life, really. It began with a minister speaking the words “We are gathered here together…” like a wedding, involved promises from the congregation like a christening or child dedication, had a eulogy like a funeral (much weirder when the man is sitting listening to how wonderful he is), and, just like a graduation, there was a moment when the ordinand (person to be ordained) knelt down as one thing and rose up as another, going from layman to minister the way a student goes from graduant to graduate in a few seconds.

Actually, it was a lot more than a few seconds at the ordination, because the poor man had numerous prayers spoken over him while he was kneeling on what looked like a very uncomfortable step. By enduring that he has already demonstrated a significant committment to his calling. At my graduation from St Andrews it was far, far grander of course (it was all in Latin, for a start) but it was over very fast; a quick tap on the head with John Knox’s breeches while the Chancellor said the secret magic words (“et super te” – or Superted, if you prefer), and you get up a Master of Arts (in my case), then shuffle off into the wide, cruel world.

The ordination and induction is the opposite of that, really. It marks the start of something, not the end, and while it involved the new pastor saying goodbye to his old church (most of whom seemed to be present – the place was heaving) he won’t be leaving behind all of the people who were at the ceremony. In fact he will be working very closely with some of us in a new, exciting and sometimes rather daunting project – being the minister of a church while simultaneously supporting, as a chaplain, the business community that surrounds the church.

I was glad when the ceremony was over, not only because of the amazing buffet (tables groaning with salmon, prawns, cous cous, pasta salad, potato salad and any number of cakes) but also because, as I said, these things make me unpleasantly nervous. Now we can look forward to the unknown and exciting future of our church, about which I’m also nervous, of course, but it’s a much nicer variety of nervousness.

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