I attended an ordination today - a friend who has been on this journey for many years was ordained an Episcopal priest and I was one of her "presenters," representing in the liturgical poetry of the service the role of the people in raising up and supporting leaders for the church. The ordination service, if you read the words, is really a wonderful celebration of the church as a community of people who are open to the power of the Holy Spirit and committed to carrying the love of God into the world -- with the priests as nurturers and supporters of this effort, but it's really about the whole community. I am very sensitive to the words and also the symbolism of these grand liturgical gatherings -- this one was in Washington National Cathedral. All the priests who were there to lay hands on the ordinands were wearing red stoles, symbols of the Holy Spirit. Red is the liturgical color for Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Spirit coming on the first disciples - the "birthday" of the church. In my home congregation, we make a point of wearing red to church on Pentecost. Inspired by this, I always wear red to ordinations, and I wish that the custom would take root -- if all the people (the laity-laos-people of God) were to wear red to an ordination, it would express what seemed so palpable to me in this service-- that we are all clothed in and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and our ordained leaders are there to be symbols of this-- metonymies -- parts standing for the whole, and we're the whole.
The prayer at the beginning of the ordination service (also used on Good Friday and at the Easter Vigil - at the heart of our church year) is one that I often quote when I teach and lead retreats about the vocation of all the people. It goes:
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and knkow that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. "
I love this prayer: to me it expresses what it is to be called to participate in the divine life, at work in the world -- to respond to the central mystery of our faith - that God has come among to be one of us, and now calls us to participate in the transformation of the world from the heart of Love. It isn't just about priests, or Episcopalians, or church "stuff" - it's about God at work in the world, in human life, working with a power that is beyond what we can ask or imagine. Sometimes a good liturgy brings us close to experiencing the mystery and joy of that call -- for all of us who are followers of the Word made Flesh, and empowered by the Holy Spirit in Baptism. That's where I am with this today.
- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.