UPDATE: I am currently under the provisional episcopal oversight of a Bishop of the Anglican Church in North America, while I seek to discern God’s will for my future life and ministry. I am in Deacon’s Orders at present, having been ordained in the Traditional Anglican Church of America, but am in process toward the sacerdotal priesthood – may God grant it! We now continue with the original post…
I have been strongly affected, today, by the fact that, God willing and in the absence of some catastrophic event, this will be my last Sunday as a lay person. I was initially struck by this realization while saying Morning Prayer, and again at Evening Prayer.
Next Sunday, June 28th, at 8:30 a.m., at Calvary Baptist Church in Newton, North Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Rick Aaron Reid, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of the Southeast of the American Anglican Convocation of the Good Shepherd – a small but classically-Anglican jurisdiction – will ordain me a Deacon in Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
If you believe, as Anglicans do, that ordination is a sacrament – an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, and that it effects what it signifies – then being an ordained clergyman is not just something you do, it is something you are. An ontological change occurs with the laying on of the Bishop’s hands: more dramatically, of course, with the imposition of the sacerdotal office of priesthood, but a deacon is the first of the “major orders,” and one who is a deacon is indeed a member of the clergy.
Perhaps it took so long to sink in because this has been such a long time coming. Future posts may recount the specifics, but for now, suffice it to say that it has been more than a quarter of a century since I first felt the stirrings of a sense of vocation, back in the fall of 1989, while kneeling in the holy space of the Church of the Ascension, Episcopal, in Westminster, Maryland: a beautiful Gothic Revival stone church built in 1844, and hallowed by the prayers of the faithful ever since, imbued with the scent of old books and old wood, and the feel of sanctity.
My road since then has been both long and winding, but as with many long journeys, since seeing the light of an open and welcoming door, its final leg has been accomplished with almost startling rapidity. It is both a metaphor and a reality that I see friends waiting for me within that warm and welcome space, both old – such as Father Ron Fisher, rector emeritus of Ascension, and my long-time friend and mentor, as well as priest and pastor, who will be accompanying me to North Carolina for my ordination – and new, such as Bishop Reid, and Father John Taylor Brantley, who introduced me to the American Anglican Convocation.
In less than a week, now, the Bishop will lay his consecrated hands on me and I shall be… changed. Not to outward appearances, and most likely not to my ability to perceive on any ordinary level. But on a spiritual level, I will be… other… than I was before. Not better! I will still be both a child of God, and a sinner in need of redemption. But I will be in Holy Orders, with a mark on my soul as irrevocable as that of baptism. And my spiritual responsibility, before God, will be vastly greater…
It has indeed been a long and winding road, to this stage in my vocational journey. I am deeply grateful to God, and to all of those who helped me to arrive at this position. As I look forward to next Sunday, I confess, there is an exhilarating quality to my anticipation: after so long, it’s finally going to happen! My vocation has been recognized, and I will be able to begin serving God and His people as a member of the clergy within His Church. But it is also a somewhat daunting prospect, as well, and one which is deeply humbling.
Lord God Almighty, make me, I pray, worthy of this office and ministry which I am about to undertake, and on which I am about to embark. Forgive me my sins, strengthen me in my weaknesses, and help me to help others as you would have me do. In the precious and powerful Name of your Son our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.