This is just a hint of what my afternoon was like:
I was invited to participate in an ordination today with our Sudanese sister congregations. The service was full of music–from groups from several congregations and sung in at least five different languages. There was nearly an hour of special music, shared by groups from several congregations. It was beautiful to watch as women from at least three different South Sudanese tribes were moved by the music and joined in the singing and dancing. There is no question that the Holy Spirit was at work!
I was one of about ten pastors participating in the service. As we laid hands on the ordinand, the retired moderator, himself nearing ninety, of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan prayed over him, “Father in heaven, for Jesus sake….” It was emotional and beautiful and all of the things that I love about an ordination. After the prayer and laying on of hands, the other pastors went to work, buttoning the top button of his shirt and inserting a tab into it, slipping his black pastoral robe over his head, placing a stole on his shoulders. Once he was properly dressed, the moderator introduced him for the first time as pastor and the congregation erupted in applause and ululation. It was a beautiful moment of community lifting up a brother and a leader and celebrating the work of the Holy Spirit among us.
Yesterday, my brothers and sisters in South Central Wisconsin elected a new bishop, the Rev. Mary Froiland. In an article in one of the Madison papers this morning, she recalls how her father told her she could be the first female bishop someday. During the service today, I watched as a young boy, no older than two, climbed into the elevated pulpit and shut the door. I couldn’t see him once the door was shut, but I like to pretend that he was “preaching.” As I watched this little boy and thought about Mary’s election and the story she shared and celebrated with this newly ordained brother pastor, I thought about the ways God calls us in so many different ways. Perhaps this little boy will someday grace that pulpit as a pastor and perhaps he will feel called in another direction. But no matter where he goes, where any of us go, we go with a promise that there is no where we go where our God has not already been. As I listened to the praise of Jesus’ name in the singing today, it was readily apparent that these people know and believe and trust that there is truth to that promise that this God goes with us where ever we go. That God meets us there and promises never to leave us. That’s a powerful promise, and now more than ever, it carries me.
I give thanks for this opportunity to celebrate, to pray, to lay on hands. I give thanks for the opportunity to be reminded of our partnerships within a wider church. I give thanks for the promise that where ever we go, God is right there with us.
An ordination is always a special event and it was a particular honor to be present at this one today and to be reminded, once again, of the ways the Holy Spirit comes, how she surprises and nourishes and makes new. How she blows in our midst, sometimes in whispers and sometimes in the sounds of clapping and dancing, singing and ululation. And no matter how she makes herself known, we find ourselves refreshed, renewed, and reminded of the promises that carry us where ever we go.