Ordination is less than three weeks away! Next month at this time, I will be an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, a member of the Missouri Annual Conference, and beginning my fourth (how can it be?) year in full-time ministry, my eighth year in pastoral ministry, and my thirteenth year in professional ministry overall, counting my years in music ministry.
The latest step in the process was to choose the two elders to come forward and lay hands on my head as a part of the ordination moment. My bishop and my grandfather (retired bishop) and the ecumenical representative and probably a few others I’m forgetting will all be up there already.
My dad, Rev. Jim Bryan, was choice number one, of course. When Erin and I got married, I did not ask Dad to be in the ceremony, so that he could just be Dad instead of “the pastor.” But this is different. For ordination, he not only comes up as Dad, but also as the pastor who was the first and still the biggest influence on my spiritual life. He was my pastor from age five through eighteen, for goodness sake! And so I invited him, not just as my dad, but as one of my most formative pastoral role models.
With my first choice made, I turned to the decision of whom to invite to be the second elder. (A second elder is not really necessary, but each ordinand is allowed two additional elders to stand with the bishops and other big cheeses up on the dais.) I did what I do every time I have a big decision to make – I made a list. I listed all the pastors I knew growing up, and as a PK, I know plenty! I listed pastors who were helpful in my process of candidacy. I listed pastors I consider mentors. I listed a few pastors I just think are cool!
And then I noticed something about my list – all of the pastors I had written down represent another generation. To be blunt: they were all old. :) I hope no one reading this takes offense, but it is what it is. And so it goes. I value their wisdom and the years of dedicated service they have given God through the church, but what came to mind was that perhaps an elder of my own generation would be appropriate for this role. The more I thought about it, the more that made sense to me – to be ordained by a younger elder, so to speak.
And once I came to that realization, it took me like two seconds to decide whom to invite – my dear friend and colleague, Rev. Sarah Evans. We have worked closely together on Missouri Ministers’ School, and the two of us seem to resonate somehow, thinking alike, communicating easily, working well in harmony with each other. However, there was another little bump in the storyline. When I called to invite her, Sarah said that she was touched and honored, but she also told me that she was not intending to go to conference this year, since she is on maternity leave. She wanted to talk it over with her husband and get back to me.
When she called back, though, they had decided to accept the invitation and be a part of my ordination, and I am so grateful. I am humbled to consider how Sarah and Frank changed their plans so Sarah could make the trek all the way south to Springfield just to put her hands on my head along with a group of other people for a few seconds. Well, she does get to participate in the big Ordination Banquet earlier in the evening, so maybe that’s why she agreed! Whatever the reason, I am truly happy that she is a part of it, not only for what she represents, but also just for who she is.
So, check that off the list. Elders selected – check. Hmm, that list is getting shorter and shorter, isn’t it? Pretty soon my ordination to-do list will be down to: Walk up to the stage. Kneel. Receive.
Wow. I’m going to be ordained … this is really going to happen. I want to be able to express how that makes me feel.
It's just that sometimes words don't quite make it, you know?