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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hands On


Last Saturday evening, I sat with my family, and some long-time friends, in a large meeting room at a retreat centre in Port Elgin, on the shore of Lake Huron. The room had been transformed into a worship space. There were hundreds of people there, many from United Church congregations from the 6 regions within our Hamilton Conference, which stretches as far south as Niagara Falls, and as far north as Tobermory. The occasion was the Celebration of Ministry service, at which 6 people were ordained to serve as ministers in the United Church, and one minister was welcomed from another denomination. We sat near the back, and watched as the room filled. I can usually distinguish the regular crowd from the guests, who may be relatives, or church friends of the people being ordained. They are often better-dressed, and they seem to glow a bit with love and pride, anticipating what is about to happen.

I have been to more than 20 of these services, including one where I was ordained, which took place in a hockey arena in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, in May of 1990. Each time I attend, I am reminded of that day. When I hear the candidates answering the formal questions, and making their promises, I silently re-affirm my own vows. It is an encouraging, and re-focusing moment.



There was a married couple being ordained this night, with 2 children close to the ages of our kids. Joel and Naomi spent the weekend with these kids, who are named Andrew and Naomi. So they had a big Naomi, and a little Naomi in the program for children and young teens. I found it quite emotional to be sitting with my family, while we witnessed these parents making their promises of faithful service to God and God’s people.



When a candidate is ordained, they are allowed to choose some of the people who will lay a hand on them, for the blessing and ordination. You can see what that looks like in this photo from an ordination service from a few years ago.  The person being ordained kneels, and is surrounded by people who each place a hand on them. Some of those hands belong to official representatives of the United Church. But each candidate also chooses people who are important in their lives, and in their faith journey, to take part.



When the married couple were each ordained, they chose to have both of their kids take part, by laying hands on them. It seemed a powerful acknowledgement that God is at work in our lives through the people closest to us. It also seemed right to involve their children in this next step in a process that has already changed their lives, and will continue to do so. Lynda and Gordon and their children, Andrew and Naomi,  will be moving to rural Newfoundland this summer, to begin a new adventure in a community very different from the one they have known.