Last Saturday, December 20, I was ordained for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. On Christmas Eve at 11pm, I presided for the first time at the Eucharist. Not to mention the move to the parsonage and Christmas celebrations, and it's been a wonderful two weeks. A few thoughts.
The ordination was a profound moment, personally and spiritually, but especially personally (not that the two are distinct, but . . . the spiritual high came a few days later, to be honest. More on that in a moment). From the presence and participation of old friends (both pictured here; my best friend Josh – friends since 5th grade – read from Isaiah, and my dear friend Meredith – friends since 6th grade and an Episcopalian priest – offered the Prayers of the Church),to the surprise appearances of my (now retired) college pastor and his wife (who drove 3+ hours to get to the ordination) and also of a young man who was a youth in a church I served as a youth director 9 years ago,to being surrounded by the church in prayer, and by clergy colleagues in the laying on of hands . . . it was a special moment, one that I will not soon forget.
I got weepy twice in the evening – when I saw my college pastor walk through the church doors just moments before the service began, and when the Bishop declared, "Let it be acclaimed that Christopher Thomas Krey Duckworth is ordained a minister in the Church of Christ."
An extra little special element in the service was the little Bible I held in my hands. We recently learned that my grandfather's grandfather was a Methodist pastor in Philadelphia. Upon my grandfather's death two years ago, my dad and step-mother found a small Bible among his possessions that had been given to his grandfather on the day of his ordination. My step-mother had the Bible rebound and gave it to me for my ordination. I held it with me during the entire service, connecting me with this man of faith whom I never met yet whose work I now share.
In the middle of the ordination rite itself I was on my knees for several prayers and for a hymn invoking the Holy Spirit, all the while surrounded by clergy. The hymn, however, was not printed in the bulletin, and most the clergy standing around me had not brought their hymnals to the chancel. So here I was in the chancel, kneeling before the Bishop and indeed the whole church, surrounded by clergy in red stoles . . . mumbling through the hymn! It was both a high spiritual moment and a comfortingly down-to-earth moment, all wrapped up in one. Perfect.
All this – from my great great grandfather's Bible to the clergy to the great outpouring of friends and clergy and church members – demonstrated to me that in this ministry I am not alone. I am surrounded and supported by a broader body of God's people, a body of which I am part, and for that I give thanks to God.
I presided at the Eucharist for the first time on Christmas Eve at the 11pm candlelight service. I was just as nervous for this as I was for the ordination – actually, moreso. As I processed during the entrance hymn, I could hardly sing . . . so nervous, so anxious, so overwhelmed by the ministry I was about to offer.
At my church the presiding minister wears a chausable throughout the entire service. From the moment I put on this massive – almost suffocating – cloak-like vestment I felt as if I were carrying an extra burden, a new responsibility. This extra layer of liturgical garb even further reinforced to me that I am a minister of the church, bound by and dedicated to a tradition much larger than me or my personality, gifts, or skills. Wearing the chausable was incredibly humbling.
I had practiced the presider's prayers and gestures much during the two days leading up to Christmas Eve, and I'm glad I did. Everything went smoothly. Well, almost everything. I forgot to do the fraction (breaking the bread after the Lord's Prayer at the Invitation to the Table), but overall it did seem to go well. I'll preside again on Sunday.
Much more to write, but that's it for now. I am still in active contemplation about the future of this blog . . . discerning everything from the personal/professional divide and the wisdom of blogging about personal matters, to the do-I-have-time-to-blog? issue, to the thought of developing a blog intentionally focused on my ministry, an endeavor which would draw time and energy away from this blog . . . We'll see.
Thanks for checking in. A blessed Christmas season to all.