On June 6, the clergy session of the Kansas East Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to ordain me. This was on the recommendation of the Board of Ordained Ministry (our accrediting and credentialing body). On June 8, the Bishop Scott Jones, and many other clergypeople, ordained me by laying on of hands.
I am a person of words (many, many words), and yet I struggle to put language on what I was feeling.
Ordination was both a culmination and a commencement. At six years, this is the single longest effort I have undertaken. In that six years, yearly rounds of interviews, papers, conversations, being-taken-to-task. Three years of seminary with colleagues and professors who taught me more than I thought possible. Working with three variously fabulous and unique senior ministers. Working with two amazing churches. Having three mentors show me hugely different models of women in ministry. Getting engaged, married, and having a girl child. Moving to Tennessee, back to Kansas, and now back to Tennessee.
The fact that this process is sealed and finished is beyond relief. It is a confirmation that what I have felt for half my life is truth.
But it's really just a door that opened. I walked through, and now there is a lifetime of winding road before me.
In our Ordination Service, Bishop Jones outlined our most basic duties.
"An elder is called to share in the ministry of Christ and of the whole church: to preach and teach the Word of God and faithfully administer the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion; to lead the people of God in worship and prayer; to lead persons to faith in Jesus Christ; to exercise pastoral supervision, order the life of the congregation, counsel the troubled, and declare the forgiveness of sin; to lead the people of God in obedience to Christ's mission in the world; to seek justice, peace, and freedom for all people; and to take a responsible place in the government of the church and in service in and to the community. These are the duties of an elder."
My heart thrilled to each phrase as I recalled instances of these duties in my ministry thus far. Preaching, teaching, blessing, pronouncing forgiveness, counseling, leading, freeing, and serving. I have done these things and will do them for my whole life.
When I knelt before the bishop and heard him whisper "okay," then I felt that circle of fellow clergypeople and family tighten around me, then I felt the weight of all those hands laid on my head and shoulders and back, my eyes screwed shut and the tears poured down upon the Bible that was placed under my hands. I felt the power of all those in the congregation gathered that night who stood in support and solidarity of my journey. Those who had known me from my birth at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, all the way up to those who walked with me through the last two years of Residency. I felt spirits hovering in the room. Spirits of my mother and grandmother and granddad and Jeff's Pawpaw and so many others seeing me and acknowledging me. It could possibly have been the most powerful moment in my life. The moment Vicki Jo was laid, tiny and peering, on my chest is the only competition.
Many special and memorable things happened that night, but a couple of them will stand out for me as time unspools. The fact that my daughter got to be there, standing up with me and for me in her father's arms, and that I get to tell her about it in years to come, the same as I will tell her about her baptism . . . that is amazing. And, of all the certificates and pieces of paper I have to commemorate the day, this one is the coolest and best:
I'm saving it just in case I ever get the grand privilege of ordaining someone someday . . .