January 23, 2018
Minutes before the 5 pm Christmas Eve service, Soul Choir gathered on the chancel with newly hand-crafted and pressed stoles in hand. At 4:55, amidst frenetic last-minute sound and light checks, and the joyful buzz of folks gathering, Rev. Donene Blair led Soul Choir in quiet prayer. She blessed our new stoles, brought them and asked that we wear them more formally into the service and life of our church. Given the noisy, happy chaos around us, and approaching 5 pm, I thought this stole-blessing would have been a 1-2-3 “Bless these stoles amen.” prayer. Nope!
I peeked at Donene reading a lengthy written stole blessing. A stole blessing…Who knew?! Amazement quickly subsided to comfort. “Of course, there is a formal stole blessing…of course there is a ritual for this: it’s church!” There are probably a million stole blessings. There are probably a million more blessings for this, that and the other thing.
During a box-checking, data-saturated and immediacy-prone world, we – God’s people – stretch time and widen space. We welcome process and intentionality for the smallest (and biggest!) of things. We invite God and invoke the Holy Spirit. We honor mystery, joy, change and loss.
We participate with God in ritual. And for this we are grateful.
One ritual I had been completely unfamiliar is the ordination process. As a design professional, I’m very familiar with the lengthy secular (and legal) process of becoming a licensed architect. I know a bit, too, what it takes to be a CPA, attorney and social worker. But an ordained minister? I suppose one starts with seminary. But what is seminary? My naïve imagination conjured images more like Hogwarts or a monastery; both exotic and unfamiliar.
Of the many things I’ve learned about the ordination process in the few short months of participating in Laura Robinson’s ordination discernment committee, two things rise to the top. They relate to the stole blessing described above.
Stay tuned for Part two, when some of our current and past ordinands answer how we, the congregation, can support current and future ordination processes. –Tom Maul