This past week was the most amazing week of my life.
Perhaps that’s a bit of hyperbole – there were certainly some down moments – but it was filled with events that I will remember my whole life long.
Before I get into this week and its specifics, let me back up a bit. In March, I was called as a pastor to two churches in New Mexico, to begin in October. In my denomination, Ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament (which I’ll refer to as “Ordination” from here on out to save pixels!) has a number of requirements, one of which is the “call” of a congregation. As a result, I had not been ordained on graduating from Seminary, or even being examined by one of many Committees on Preparation for Ministry. After receiving this call to New Mexico, though, I could be ordained. And I knew that I wanted to be ordained at my home church in Orchard Lake, Michigan, whom had supported me throughout high school, college, and Seminary, as a way of being connected to my religious past.
So far, so good. I could schedule the ordination after my time at KNOM ended, and all would be well. But, my friend Eric threw a monkey wrench into the equation.
He told me that he and his fiancee Liz wanted me to officiate their marriage. And that the date for that wedding was August 10, and it would be held in Michigan.
Well, that meant that I had to move up the ordination service, and find a way to be in Michigan for both. Luckily, I had many months to fill out the required paperwork, choose and contact the commission who officiated the ordination service, and look for plane tickets from Nome to Detroit. The four-hour time difference made for some interesting phone-tag… but in the end, it all worked out.
The ordination service was held on Sunday, August 4 at my home church – and it was incredibly beautiful. Leading the service were the moderator and vice moderator of the Presbytery, the present and past pastors of my home church who had influenced my spiritual upbringing, the Seminary professor who had helped guide me at the Chapel, the music director (a close family friend), my parents, and my beloved, Elana. Gathered together were many church members, my extended family, and friends from all parts of my life. In fact, someone was present who represented every aspect of my life since high school.
My former Seminary professor gave the message of the service, focusing on Barnabas, whose name meant “Son of Encouragement”. The actual moment of ordination took place as part of a ritual known as “laying on of hands”, where ordained Ruling and Teaching Elders put their hands on me, representing the long and unbroken chain of ordination stretching back to the Disciples. Later in the service, I officiated communion for the first time. It was an incredibly powerful moment, singing the words of institution and recognizing the Spirit’s presence in the elements of communion, actions that are reserved for ordained clergy in my denomination.
I’m going to skip over much of the rest of the week to talk about officiating the wedding on Saturday. Eric and Liz and I had a chance to sit down and chat about their plans, and do some pastoral counseling before the wedding earlier in the week, and we worked out much of the liturgy at that time! The entire process was quite easy-going, and I felt blessed to be able to officiate. In Seminary, I’d written a generic wedding message, but never really cared for it, as I felt it more important to know the couple personally and tailor the remarks for them and their context. Since I’ve known Eric and Liz for years, it was much more satisfying to write their wedding message (which referenced the board game “Settlers of Catan” and how their personalities were revealed in how they played the game together).
It is really strange to me to be able to claim authority based in law – and even more so to be able to “proclaim” people married in the context of the wedding service. But proclaim the marriage I did – and as this blog is posted, they’re legally married, and heading off on their honeymoon!
And, like most things, the week had to come to an end – and I left incredibly early on Sunday morning for parts northward. So, though the week wasn’t in Alaska, it still forms an important memory of my life, tied in with my time at KNOM.