From left to right starting with front row: Gail, Victoria, Zoe, Matthias; second row: Rev. Bastiaan Baan, Cheryl, Luis, James, Sarah, Joan, Rev. Patrick Kennedy
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In a Word, Yes.
Reflections on the Ordination of Emma Heirman
“What makes a priest a priest?” asked Rev. Laurens Hornemann at the opening of his talk on Saturday night in Stuttgart. The answer, in a word: the Priest Ordination. Well, in German it’s one word. But then again, so is Traumneustartversuch – the (usually futile) attempt to resume a dream after having been roused. In many ways I find writing this reflection on the ordination of Emma Heirman to be a similar effort, for there was a certain dream-like quality to the whole affair, which I cannot attribute solely to jetlag.
Before the candidates for ordination enter, the already ordained priests file into the chapel dressed in their vestments. It is unusual in North America to see more than a few priests assembled at one time. To see them en masse is indeed a unique experience, because pictured before your eyes and soul in that moment is the priesthood itself.
I think back to the first ordination I ever attended, that of Rev. Carol Kelly in 2001. In beholding the group of priests seated together, a resounding yes arose in my soul, which was surprising, because I was unaware of any question being asked. That yes, upon further reflection, was a yes that the priesthood exists; a yes that it is a true picture of a spiritual reality; a yes to those souls who offer themselves in order to make that picture manifest for the rest of us.
Yes is a powerful word. Add so be it, and it turns magical, bringing a new reality into existence. The candidate for ordination speaks these words in relation to her own feeling of the seriousness of the future part of her becoming. The celebrant and assembled priest circle speak these words in an act of consecrating that candidate. As one in attendance, it is not uncommon to feel shut out in a certain way as the celebrant later processes with the chalice around the priest circle. A clear line of demarcation is drawn; the new ones are encircled into the fold; there is an inside and an outside.
And yet this inside would be meaningless without the outside, without the communities into which the priests are sent. Towards the end of the ordination, it is made clear to those in attendance that we have a yes to speak also, albeit inwardly. This yes is the recognition of those who have just been ordained. Without this recognition, their work as priests would be in vain.
At the close of the service, after the newly ordained have left the chapel, the priests all file out just as they had filed in. I recognized so many faces in that group this time around, other priests whose ordinations I have attended, souls I have come to know and am thankful for. And now I could count Emma as one of them. I could not wipe the smile off my face. Nor could I wait until the first time that I am able to attend a service that Rev. Heirman is celebrating, to add my yes to the chorus.
Contributed by Kate Kennedy
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