What God OrdainethPosted: January 10, 2011
So, this is what it feels like to take over a cathedral. I wouldn’t call our curate’s ordination to the priesthood on Saturday a “hostile takeover.” But as Bishop Tom Shaw ordained Anne Emry along with six other transitional deacons, St. John’s certainly made its presence known at the Episcopal Cathedral in Boston. We sent a bus-load of parishioners down from Hingham to pray and root and celebrate with Mother Anne on this exciting and uplifting occasion.
But did we stop there? Of course not. Among those serving in the liturgy from St. John’s were two ushers, three chalice bearers, and both crucifers. Why were there even two processional crosses? Because our verger, former Coast Guard captain Tom Daley, who went down to help out, insisted on it. You can take the verger out of the liturgy but you can’t take the liturgy out of the verger.
Alas, we couldn’t control all things liturgical considering that we were guests. If we had our druthers we would have (skip over this part if you have no patience for liturgical minutia) vested the new priests in chasubles rather than just alb and stole; had the ordinands prostrate themselves; used permanent deacons to read the gospel, set the table, and serve as the bishop’s chaplain (as opposed to the cathedral’s own clergy and dean); sped up the pace of the hymns; and actually held the ordination itself at St. John’s. All of which, presumably, would meet the high standards of the irascible Father Oscar Late, my role model in all things liturgical and sacramental.
None of which is to diminish what a glorious day it was for all of those in attendance. Anne was positively radiant. I’m not sure if I also took on an aura (it’s not my general style to do so) but after 10 years of ordained ministry I finally have a full-time assistant priest. Woo hoo! Perhaps I’ll going to Tahiti for the next three months. (What’s that? Um, of course Bryna’s invited. School? Oh, right. I guess my tropical shangri-la will have to wait).
One of the nice things about being so close to an ordinand is that it brings back so many memories from my own priesting. What a heady, emotionally charged, spiritually thrilling time. I was priested by Bishop John Rabb, who just retired this week as Bishop Suffragan of Maryland, at Old St. Paul’s in Baltimore where I served as the curate. In order to keep me spiritually focused my rector, David Cobb, offered to offered to take care of all the service logistics. Which was a wonderful gift to me since the ordination liturgy started to become increasingly complex. As the date approached, I wasn’t sure who was more excited, me or David. He was having just a little bit too much fun. And as I got more and more terrified about the impending liturgy and the ensuing responsibility of priestly ministry, David, I swear, started to glow. I remember just moments before the ordination as David was barking orders at the acolytes and perhaps even the bishop, he paused, looked right at me with a big smile, and said “I feel like the father of the bride!”
In the ensuing years his daughter Emily got married so he did get to experience this with a much more attractive bride. But there’s also a connection here — Emily missed the ordination to stay home with Ben who was throwing up that night. Talk about an act of mercy! This allowed Bryna, who was seven months pregnant at the time, to get there.
Now that Anne has undergone the requisite ontological change (Google it), I’m looking forward to engaging in ministry with her in the years to come. We at St. John’s are privileged to have her serving in our midst and I look forward to working with her as she lives into her priesthood. If I can help her half as much as David helped me in those early days of ministry, hers will be a fruitful priesthood indeed.