My friend and Divinity School colleague, Jeff, recently informed me of his new blog Rekindling the Gift. The blog is full of rich reflections, I hope you’ll take a look at it and enjoy his wonderful, engaging writing. The reason Jeff let me in on his blog secret was because he had recently reflected on his experience at my ordination service. His words warmed my heart. See his post, “Scripture in a Sitting: 1 Thessalonians.” The questions which his reflections generated–about how we cultivate and foster genuine love for people in ministry through the ordination process–are great food for thought. The ordination process can be cumbersome, sometimes life-draining, sometimes life-giving. The requirements and safe-guards are necessary–psychological examination, papers on polity and theology, meetings with a committee. However, they might often (and probably do) miss the important stuff of ministry like attentive, compassionate care for the people of God. How do we foster this when tests and meetings can only expose our minds and our ability to engage conversationally in formal settings?
I believe that ordination processes require, nay demand, partnerships with a member of the committee; someone who can learn more about a candidate. That is, how she loves and learns, not just what she submits on paper or knows. Of course, this is not a simple thing to implement. It requires committees, many of which are volunteers with limited time and resources, to immerse themselves in the ordination process. The ordination process would need to be seen as a church priority–a ministry and practice worthy of significant time, energy, and attention. In some judicatories, with large geographic areas and few staff, clergy and available laypersons, this may be nearly impossible. Still, I think there are ways in which we can move toward more faithful and life-giving ways of doing ordination–ways that engage the relational, embodied dynamics of ministry. Ways that reflect God’s own love and life in the person of Jesus Christ–the Word made flesh.