Dear Beloved Community,
I can hardly consider ordinations without feeling the invitation to consider blessing. My own ordination nearly 15 years ago was one of such affirmation, that the gifts of those blessings carry me even still. With every hand that pressed my head or shoulders, every word offered as encouragement and gift, every presence that bore witness to the communion of saints around me, I felt layers of generous and steadfast love gird me for the seasons ahead. And when the seasons have grown rocky or wearying, I remember the faces of beloved Sunday School teachers, seminary professors, friends, ministers, family, and companions on the road who said, “God is with you, and you are never alone!” Blessing, blessing, all blessing.
The language of blessing is what anchors our Baptist tradition of ordination. For within a community of followers, we Baptists profess in the “priesthood of all believers,” meaning, any person is themselves a “priest” – receiving and giving witness to the movement of God’s Spirit in the world without interference from a “higher up” along the holy ladder to God! So what of a “minister” when every member is one in a sense? What of ordination when every Christian receives a sacred calling in our baptism? This is, for me at least, where blessing finds sacred root.
Of blessing, John O’Donahue says this:
It would be infinitely lonely to live in a world without blessing. The word blessing evokes a sense of warmth and protection; it suggests that no life is alone or unreachable. Each life is clothed in raiment of spirit that secretly links it to everything else. Though suffering and chaos befall us, they can never quench that inner light of providence. …
In an ordination like one we’ll share together this Sunday afternoon, we will lay our hands on our dear friend and Pastoral Resident, Zack Jackson, and offer him our blessing. There’s not a one of us who hasn’t received the warmth of Zack’s blessing in our lives; now will be our chance to return a measure of blessing right back to him. We’ll offer encouragement in our words and belonging in our presence. We’ll tell him how we’ve seen the gifts of God in him. We’ll offer gratitude to the living God who has pursued Zack through all the changing seasons of life. And in so doing, blessing will unfurl, as John O’Donahue says, clothing Zack “in raiment of spirit” for the Way ahead.
Together in God’s work of Love,