Service of Commissioning and Ordination
By Rev. Robin D. Dillon*
The provisional candidates, ordinands, their sponsors, representatives from the Board of Ministry and over 100 other clergy gathered in the rear of Hoover Auditorium and processed to Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The dimensions of God’s Spirit were ablaze during the opening hymn as the gathered community -- of “all persuasions” – sang “God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar; we your people, ours the journey, now and evermore.”
After a greeting and prayer, Bishop Tracy S. Malone ceremoniously sprinkled the waters of baptism, recognizing our common ministry and reaffirmed that through the sacrament of baptism, Christians are called by God to the priesthood of all believers.
Conference Lay Leader Greg Rentsch, Board of Ministry Chairwoman Cara Stultz Costello and others from the Board presented two candidates for commissioning as provisional deacons, eight candidates for commissioning as provisional elders, one candidate for ordination as deacon, and 10 candidates for ordination as elders. The Bishop examined these persons and all affirmed their commitment to the work to which they have been called “with the help of God.”
After the Gospel lesson, Matthew 28: 16 – 20, read by Bishop Abraham Allende, resident bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Malone prophetically preached a message titled “A Credible Witness.” She noted that after the resurrection, when the disciples were told to go to the mountain, they were set up and positioned to be in the presence of Christ. Some were fearful and doubting, but they showed up. Even in the midst of their fear and doubt, Jesus still trusted them with this sacred task: being Christ’s witnesses by making disciples, baptizing and teaching. Though this mandate seems straightforward, we make it complicated. Too often in the church we make members, not disciples who are “ever learning, ever growing and who fall in love with Jesus and the things Jesus is in love with.”
Malone shared that there are many “nice” people in the church, but that “being nice won’t tear down walls … won’t eradicate hunger … won’t confront violence … won’t push us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Gospel doesn’t call us to be ‘nice.’ It calls us to a bold and relevant faith.” As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be credible witnesses. When people examine us, there should be proof that we are walking in grace and love, and the same light by which we judge others. We should be a source of reliable information about Jesus Christ.
“We cannot have faith-full and vital churches without faith-full and vital Christians.” The Bishop noted that the word “Go” is found 1,542 times in scripture. We must “go,” but we must also be intentional about how we show up. We must not show up in judgment but proclaiming the wideness of God’s mercy. How we show up for God and Jesus Christ in the world matters.
After the laying on of hands and prayers for those being commissioned and ordained, congregation members reaffirmed their professing membership in The United Methodist Church to uphold it by their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness and affirmed their support of those clergy who were commissioned and ordained in this service. Malone then extended an invitation to those who might be feeling a nudge from God to explore ministry. Several responded to this invitation to ministry and went forward to meet and pray with representatives of the Cabinet and Board of Ministry while the congregation sang “The Summons.”
The service concluded with a benediction by newly-ordained deacon Lori Stevens and newly-commissioned provisional elder Luigi Perez.
1 “In the Midst of New Dimensions,” Julian B. Rush, 1985.
*Robin Dillon is the pastor at LeRoy UMC in Westfield Center.