An ordination liturgy

Mundane Appreciation

In my perpetual hunt for liturgical resources that are theologically judicious (which means, among other things, being grounded enough in the earth as it is so as not to be spouting liturgical bullshit) – something which is not as easy a task as one might hope – I happened across this ‘Ordination Liturgy’ from the Methodist Church of Singapore:

We are not ordaining you to ministry; that happened at your baptism.

We are not ordaining you to be a caring person; you are already called to that.

We are not ordaining you to serve the Church in committees, activities, organisation; that is already implied in your membership.

We are not ordaining you to become involved in social issues, ecology, race, politics, revolution, for that is laid upon every Christian.

We are ordaining you to something smaller and less spectacular: to read and interpret those sacred stories of our community, so that they speak a word to people today; to remember and practice those rituals and rites of meaning that in their poetry address human beings at the level where change operates; to foster in community through word and sacrament that encounter with truth which will set men and women free to minister as the body of Christ.

We are ordaining you to the ministry of the word and sacraments and pastoral care. God grant you grace not to betray but uphold it, not to deny but affirm it, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Well put, Methodists!

 

7 thoughts on “An ordination liturgy

  1. I know where you’re coming from, Jason – and where it’s coming from – but I dunno … Maybe “Could do better”?

    We are not ordaining you to be a caring person; you are already called to that.
    A “caring person” – isn’t that a bit twee? And “called to that” – “that!!: what terrible diction.

    Is para. 3 really necessary? Or, indeed, wouldn’t Heaven forbid! be more apposite than that is already implied in your membership? ;)

    to read and interpret those sacred stories of our community …
    Well, yes, but the Bible, while of course narratively shaped, is more than stories. Why not just say “the Church’s scriptures”? Too archaic an expression, perhaps?

    those rituals and rites of meaning that in their poetry address human beings at the level where change operates …
    Only “in their poetry”, even assuming (as I’m sure is meant) imagery, gesture, etc. (the “visible Word”)? Are the sacraments reducible to poetry? And is it only poetry that “address[es] human beings where change operates”? And “change operates” – isn’t that a rather infelicitous expression?

    I appreciate the laudable attempt at a grounded, vernacular – and “relevant”? – liturgy, but I think it may have tilted towards the fashionable and fuzzy.

    On the other hand (as someone who has worked on several URC liturgies, and on a Commission of Covenanted Churches in Wales Communion Service), it might just be me being pernickety – or, indeed – a grumpy old git!

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  2. Kim, I think you’re right and fair to call attention to some of its shortcomings – grammatical, theological, and the tilt towards ‘the fashionable and fuzzy’ – but even a grumpy old git can concede that it’s a good nod in the right direction. Yes, we could do better, I agree. Wanna give it a go?

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  3. but even a grumpy old git can concede that it’s a good nod in the right direction.
    He can. He does.

    Wanna give it a go?
    Far be it for a (Barthian) Calvinist to rewrite a (Wesleyan) Arminian liturgy. But you could send my comment to their Faith and Order Committee with my humble and fraternal greetings – and my apologies for Dort. ;)

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  4. I wasn’t suggesting a rewrite or an edit of the current liturgy. I had in mind a Reformed (i.e., ecumenical) effort at one. Something like Uncle K’s The Word of God and the Word of Man (recently retranslated as The Word of God and Theology) but in under 150 words.

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  5. For those who contacted me to ask about the Uniting Church in Australia’s services of ordination, induction, and commissioning, I understand that the UiW2 project is working to revise the current liturgy, but ‘The Charge’ as it reads currently (and I’d be happy to be corrected on this from those who may be in the know) is as follows:

    My brother/sister in the Lord,

    in the Bible readings and the preaching of the Word we have been reminded of the dignity and importance of the office to which you are called. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we exhort you to remember that the church sets you apart to be a messenger of good tidings, a steward of sacred mysteries and a guardian of the Lord’s family. Take up this office with humility of spirit and gratitude of heart, and always have printed in your mind how great a treasure is committed to your care.

    We exhort you to be a faithful ambassador of Christ, and to remember that you have a duty to save souls by proclaiming that Jesus is Saviour and Lord. In all your associations with people who have not as yet come to faith, you will respect their opinions, honour all that is worthy in their lives, and love them as God’s children. But you will remember that they are Christ’s sheep who are scattered abroad, the sheep for whom he shed his blood, and by your faithful discipleship and christian grace you will seek to bring them safely home to the fold of God’s love.

    We exhort you to take good care of the people committed to your charge in the congregations which you will serve. The holy catholic Church which you love is the body of Christ. And if it should come about that any member of his body is hurt as a result of your negligence, you know how much it will grieve the Lord Jesus. Accordingly, you will recall constantly the holy purpose of your ministry to the people of God, and you will continue your work, your care and diligence, until you bring them to the fullness of the knowledge of God and to maturity of faith in Christ.

    We are confident that you have considered these things already, and that you have decided, by God’s grace, to devote yourself completely to this ministry for the rest of your life. Because your office is of such excellence and such difficulty, you will need to call upon all the gifts and graces that God offers you.

    We exhort you to be a faithful student of the holy Scriptures; you cannot perform the difficult task of leading people to salvation without God’s teaching and guidance, so you must read and study the Bible well. The Word of God not only will control your teaching and inspire your exhortation of God’s people; it also will nourish your own mind and sustain your own spirit, so that you may grow in your ministry.

    We exhort you to be constant in prayer to God our Father, by the mediation of our Saviour Jesus Christ, asking for the daily assistance of the Holy Spirit. Pray for God’s world and its peoples; pray for the holy catholic Church, and especially for those congregations committed to your care; pray for your family and loved ones; pray for yourself, that your personal life may be a godly example for the people to follow, and that you may be saved from being preoccupied by the shallow opinions and false values of this world.

    This ministry will make great demands on you; but you will not be alone, nor will you fulfil it in your strength alone. God will give you chosen people to share your life and ministry; you will be surrounded with the love and encouragement of God’s faithful people; most of all, God gives you the Holy Spirit to be with you for ever.

    And so we charge you: love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength; proclaim that Jesus Christ is Saviour and Lord; rely on the Holy Spirit to stir up the gifts and graces within you. May you faithfully fulfil your ministry, and at the last may you receive the unfading crown of glory, and come, with all God’s people, to the joy of our promised inheritance.

    Again, it’s not all entirely kosher (e.g., most obviously, I’m not sure how many still buy the ‘for the rest of your life’ clause, although I lament the time when more did) and it’s very wordy (even for the reformed!), but there’s some good stuff there, and picks up on and/or expands upon a number of important elements (notably, being a student and interpreter of the Word) mentioned in the Methodist liturgy above, and recalls some glaring omissions (like prayer).

    In reflecting on both of these statements, one thing that strikes me as odd is the omission of the language of reconciliation (2 Cor 5 comes to mind here, as does its illustration in Paul and Timothy’s letter to Philemon), something which is, as I understand it, of the esse of pastoral ministry.

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