Friday, May 8, 2009


. . . Into the church of their fathers,
the place they had all felt the call,
the old home church
where thousands of hands had pressed
on the bowed heads of new preacher boys,
of sun-reddened young men called by the Lord,
called from the cotton fields to preach the Word.
They had felt the hands,
these old preachers,
felt those blunt-fingered, work-hardened hands,
felt them like a blessing,
like an offering,
like a burden. . . .
And now the old preachers come to lay their hands
on the head of a new kind of preacher,
a preacher from the seminary,
a preacher who studied the Bible in Greek and Hebrew,
who knew about religions they never heard of,
who knew about computers
and memory banks full of sermons
and many other modern things.
A new kind of preacher,and yet,
a preacher who still would feel on her head
the hands like a commandment
from all the preachers and deacons who ever were.
(James Autry, “Ordination,” from Life After Mississippi)
On Tuesday night I had the honor of sitting on the Ordination Council for a dear friend who has presented himself for Ordination by our church. It was a tender and holy time, begun by Cindy's reading of the poem above. We were indeed there to affirm and love a new kind of preacher, a person who in another time or another church might not have ever been a candidate for ordination.
This type of ordination by a local church with a council and so on is not a part of my faith tradition, but I have come to love the tender process of helping a loved one frame up their faith story. This friend has a story of brokenness and redemption and full out grace, and we all felt honored to sit in that hushed circle as he pieced it all together for us.
At the beginning of the gathering we had each given a word as an offering to him; words like peace and joy and audacity and subversion. I liked audacity, although it was not the word I offered. My heart kept being filled with the thoughts of people who have never been invited to sit at that table as a candidate for ordination, either because of their race or gender or sexual orientation or a myriad of other unspoken exclusions. People who are ministers in every sense of the word, people who have not the strength or audacity to push their way there.
My friend will be ordained- not one of us had any hesitation in recommending him. It will be a day of great celebration. His ordination is the product of not only his audacity but of the church who calls him, and I believe God will dance in joy as we lay our hands upon his head.


donna said...

Thank God for the audacity of your church and your friend.

ArtCricket2 said...

Amen and Amen!

Suzanne said...

God's commandments are full of so many more "dos" than "don'ts". My word for him is: