By Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation & Congregational Resourcing
The year 2015 has been a year of ordinations in Franconia Conference. We’ve been celebrating and marking commitments and calling nearly every six weeks . . . Mike Ford at Blooming Glen, Joe Hackman at Salford, Donna Merow at Ambler, Angela Moyer at Ripple, Kris Wint at Finland, Josh Meyer at Franconia, Samantha Lioi at Whitehall and Ubaldo Rodriguez at New Hope Fellowship in Baltimore for mission work in the Philippines.
Ordination is an ancient process of setting apart leaders for public ministry in the way of Jesus. Within Franconia Conference, we follow a set of procedures that seek to honor both the individual and the community while respecting the work of the Spirit within both settings. There is coursework for completion, interviews, paperwork that intends to keep our communities both safe and accountable, mental wellness assessments, varieties of continuing education and varying levels of mentoring. Some of our pastors breeze through the process at a steady and assured pace in the two year minimum waiting and working period of licensing. Others take much longer to plumb the depths of call both personally and communally and to wrestle it out. Personal disclosure, it took me six years of working, waiting and wondering in Allegheny Conference before I could wrap my head around the commitments and calling that ordination entails.
We take this process seriously yet the days of ordination have a more celebratory tone. There are few times in our lives when we make commitments that will shape our life like ordination. In front of a gathered congregation at the request and affirmation of a particular Christian community, we make commitments to serve, lead, pray, study, turn from evil and live into the role of Christian leadership as long as God sustains.
Many of us wrestle with the meaning of ordination. I’ve found this human and historic process of calling, recognizing, working and wrestling and receiving becomes quite holy. Somewhere in the wrestling and symbols, the questions and the mundane of the paperwork, the Spirit unfailingly shows up.
In this flurry of ordinations in the midst of a turbulent time, I am confident that the Spirit is still at work with us, trying to bring life. Each person who says yes to the invitation of God and the community strengthens the possibilities of future “yes” responses into the next generation. This round of ordinations represents our first millennial generation ordained ministers, our first Italian American woman, our first ordination for mission work in the Philippines. We’ve called at some of our most historic congregations and our newest. The churches are rural, suburban and urban. We’re recognizing the sons and daughters of historic Franconia Conference families, as well as persons who were drawn to Mennonite congregations by conviction, relationships and call. We’ve held events in Episcopal and Lutheran facilities and even at a Lancaster Conference church in Baltimore. (Interesting side note, a Lancaster Conference African congregation recently used the Towamencin meetinghouse for an ordination worship).
It’s definitely a different time. The ordination process isn’t what it used to be. There’s no somber ceremony with Bibles or hymnals and a slip of paper as in Mennonite history. But the holy moments remain, those wonderful spaces where community and Spirit commingle to cultivate surprising invitations toward ordination and wonderfully amazing continued responses of “yes I am willing.” Every time we ordain, it’s a sign that the church will go on. And in these days of turbulence and questions both in the church and in the culture around us, every yes somehow feels miraculous. And I’m grateful to get to witness it as the Good News still breaks upon us. . . this year about every six weeks.