after nine years of (admittedly non-traditional) pastoral ministry in new england i have finally decided to get ordained, or officially set apart, for ministry. since i come from a tradition in which each congregation can choose who to ordain, and, for wholly unmerited reasons, my home church has always supported my ministry, ordination has long been an option for me. however, i have not pursued this sacrament until now.
for that reason, i suppose i shouldn't have been surprised when scott zimmerman, the pastor of christview christian church, and the board of elders at the congregation completely bypassed theological questions in order to ask an imminently practical one: "why are you pursuing ordination now?"
my first inclination was to tell scott that until now the ordination process really hasn't been all that important to me. i am a strong believer that, as st. peter states, all Christ followers are "chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" that have been called to "declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." based upon this passage, i follow luther and the anabaptists (talk about odd bedfellows...) in declaring that Christ has created a priesthood of all believers and commissioned all of his followers to go forth in wholeness and try to wrestle life out of death. thus, i haven't sought to be ordained because i am confident that i already am ordained.
and yet, for utilitarian and sentimental reasons, the ordination path is one that i have decided to take.
since securing ordination in my tradition is relatively simple - in my case it took one vote of the elders and "6 to 8 minutes at the end of the service" on sunday, august 9 - it makes sense to publically confirm my calling to ministry and receive the affirmation of my church so that i can legally marry more than one couple per year in massachusetts and forego the $25 unlicensed officiant (i'm tempted to say untagged dog) fee. as scott also reminded me when we spoke, ordination could potentially produce tax benefits since renumerated ministers are not required to withhold social security from their income if they so choose. but since i score my bread with "secular" wages, i doubt that uncle sam is going to let me off the hook there.
lest i come off as too pragmatic, i am also pursuing ordination because i truly appreciate the mercy and grace my home church has always lavished upon me and want to recognize the instrumental role they have played in my life. moreover, since my papa preston was an elder at our church for over thirty years, and has continued serving in that role, albeit without title, since, i want his hands upon me when the prayers for my ongoing ministry and passionate petitions for the poor souls who have to walk beside me are offered within that 6 to 8 minute slot.
since this process is shaping me in other ways that i'm not quite ready to confess, i'll admit that i'm being a bit glib. for some reason i wanted to share a fragment of what's going on in my heart and mind. i'd also like to invite you, if you live anywhere near, to participate in my ordination, and perhaps wrestle with yours, by attending the 10:30 a.m. sunday morning worship service at christiview christian church in tulsa, ok on sunday, august 9th.