The Ordination Paradox

Amanda Kersey just got ordained and is singing I'll Fly Away

“How does it feel, Rev?” “What’s it like?” “Are you used to it yet?” These are just a few of the questions I have been asked within the last couple of weeks after my ordination. To be honest I feel a mixture of emotions and think I will for some time. After the first week at the surface I felt relief, excitement, happiness, contentment, confidence and to be honest a little sadness. However, after my second week there was new deeper emotion and I couldn’t name it. It was bothering me so badly I actually had to stop blogging to figure it out. To put it simply, I feel that a wrong has been righted. And with that there is new found stillness in my mind, soul and body. A stillness that in some way feels distantly familiar.

Listening to all of the human interest stories from the Olympics helped me articulate what was going on for me. Hearing some of the inspiring stories and sacrifices the athletes made over the years—something I can halfway understand as a former USS and collegiate swimmer. However, for me the swimming analogy is a little deeper. I’m still not really sure what happened to me as a swimmer and to be honest I’m not sure it was just one thing. It’s more like it was a perfect storm. It’s not something I totally regret, because I truly and deeply feel like I am exactly where I need to be in my life and the bad and the good attributed to me being where I am. I do, however, feel that what happened to me as a swimmer had a good chance of repeating itself in my professional career and calling. I felt that old urge to settle, buckle under, back off because my drive upset others (having moms of my teammates yell at me in the locker rooms) and do “just enough.” I gave in for a while allowing myself to be walked over, overworked and underappreciated in my marriage and in the church. As a kid I was at the mercy of others, but as an adult it was all me and this time enough was enough. I thought about the words of Christ that we are to forgive seventy times seven. I also recalled the biblical examples of where people parted ways without cross feelings, but with an understanding that it just wasn’t working. For me I worked hard to forgive not only others, but myself for allowing myself to be used in those ways. I had to make the decision to walk away from my spiritual tradition in 2008 in order to do what I know I am supposed to do now and set myself up for the future. It was an excruciating and yet beautiful process, one I have both hated and loved.

I ignored the pulling in my life towards ordination for years for many different reasons. I knew my life would have to drastically change—I knew it would expedite the end of a significant relationship, bring some dissension within my family and force me to break ties with a religious community that once loved and nurtured me and I it. However, the scariest part of ordination was the internal dialogue I had to engage with myself and God as I had to consider what it meant to follow a God that I felt was calling me out of and against everything I had been taught and believed for so long. When God lives in a box and Gods actions and motivations can be surmised in a nice tightly wrapped systematic theology it’s easy to get comfortable and dare I say arrogant. This process broke me in new ways as I had to come to the realization my two degrees in religion speak more to the fact that I enjoy academia than my understanding of God. God has once again shown me that the truth of the words of Isaiah, “God’s ways are not my ways and God’s thoughts are not my thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8). I was once again reminded that when God calls us out into new places there are critics on all our sides, encouraging us to doubt and question and even at times suggesting our faith is immature and misguided. However, I have once again been reminded to claim the truth that the voices of the many do not outweigh the whisper of the One. I’m not saying I didn’t listen to others. In fact I believe others are a way in which God speaks to and through us. However, it felt too reminiscent and I had given in before, but not this time.

July 22, 2012 I was ordained in the UCC after having hands laid upon me both literally and figuratively affirming the call of God on my life and having a church promise to support me. This public affirmation for me once again brought a deep sense of healing making visible something I had only been able to imagine. I have known the call on my life since I was 17, but to have it confirmed in front of witnesses transforms the internal into the external causing something mystical and supernatural to happen. The wrong had been righted. After years of being denied job applications, having to have checks from the church written to my ex-husband instead of me for the work I had done and even having churches offer to pay for his seminary and not mine all that injustice has been righted. Now, I am not one of those who believe that the past is somehow magically erased, but I do believe it can be shelved. I don’t want to forget, because it is what drives me to look for others who have had similar experiences and creates in me a new found sensitivity.

There is no anger or resentment (anymore). I am truly grateful for a religious upbringing that introduced me to God, taught me so much about spiritual discipline and gave me a love for scripture. I’m forever thankful for the roots, but sometimes plants are uprooted and replanted in order to fully grow. The sadness of ordination has been that there has been very little acknowledgement from people in my past—the tradition which I left. I’m sure it’s because some think I have lost my mind or at least temporarily gone insane. Perhaps some think maybe if it’s not acknowledged it does not exist. However, the support I have received has been amazing and for right now that is enough. It’s already opened up some interesting opportunities to meet others. All in all I’m pretty excited about the future, but also feeling grounded in the present.

Ordination on YouTube

Here is the final playlist of videos from my ordination. There are five videos that will play straight through if you let it, or you can use the advance button to get to the next video.

  1. Thoughts before the ordination
  2. Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas’ sermon
  3. Special music: Lois Myers sings “Be Strong, Take Courage”
  4. Ordination liturgy including laying on of hands
  5. Unedited complete service

Ordination for Another WWSIC

We’ve just gotten word that Karen Clark Ristine, one of our Advent Contributors, and a woman highly gifted by the Holy Spirit will be Ordained to Christian Ministry in the United Methodist Church this Saturday in a service at Redlands University in Redlands, California! Karen is currently the pastor of Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California.

Congrats Karen! Come Holy Spirit Come!

SHE Will Be Ordained

We a WWSIC are happy to announce that our co-founder Amanda Kersey has been approved for ordination by the Southern Association of the Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ!

We must say it was a historic day. Amanda presented her faith journey and theology to the gathered clergy and lay persons, and when the time came to question her so as to further examine her fitness for ministry….there was utter SILENCE!

No question about it, she is fit for ministry, she is called by God, and SHE will be ordained!

Congratulations Amanda!

UPDATE: Amanda’s Ordination service is set for 3pm, Sunday, July 22, 2011 and will be held at the Mission Hills United Church of Christ at 4070 Jackdaw Street in San Diego, California. Ya’ll come!

Thoughts on Being Ordained

So I have been ordained for nearly three weeks now. Some have wondered why I haven’t written about this sooner. Well there is the rub. Ordination, while often seen as a destination along the journey to that point, is really just a beginning—the beginning of the work of ministry; the beginning of trying to keep up with God. I was trying to keep up with God before, yes, but truly the last three weeks have been a whirlwind seemingly stuck on fast forward, as it’s going to be a while before things re-approach “normal” speed. God seems to be running a marathon with me as of late! And that’s all okay with me!

God is not only difficult to define or describe, but God is beyond all our definitions and expectations! Just when you think you understand God, God shows God’s self in ways and what you can not understand. God is ineffable. This is part of what I tried to convey in my ordination paper when I termed God a Trickster. I’m so glad Rev. Jerry Lawritson mentioned that in the sermon at my ordination. Ever hear of the yoke of Jeremiah? But, I digress. Or perhaps not.

There are some things about being ordained that I did not expect, and some moments in being ordained that carried great meaning. I’ll speak to the latter. I have to say that one of the unexpected moments of my ordination that continues to carry great meaning was the laying on of hands. I am not going to go into the politics of ordination here, but suffice to say that after all the trials one goes through in “proving” they can meet the requirements of ordination and early ministry, for me—particularly as a disabled woman, reared in poverty, who has been made to feel “less than” most of her life—to hear the congregation say “Yes she is worthy, let us ordain her” and then to see local clergy immediately get up, hover over and encircle me was overwhelming! It was empowering. It was a confirmation that boosted my confidence. And at a certain level it was also a great relief for here I was exactly where I had known for so long I was meant to be AND the community and the clergy acknowledged it! Even if, at the same time, it seemed at some level that it was late in coming, it truly felt meaningful, a moment of awe for me. It was not the confirmation of my call—for what human acts, no matter the ritual history or intent, can confirm the call of God? But it felt as if God was jumping up and down, celebrating because the community “got” the call. It felt like an act of God. And I still feel the awe.

Ordination is worth struggling for. I understand this now in a much more profound way. In churches where women, GLBT, persons with disabilities are not eligible for ordination, ordination is worth struggling for because the call to ministry is not a call of the Church, but a call from and an act of God. For my friends who continue in the ordination process, to friends who have newly received their Masters of Divinity and seek to serve, to the Rev. Elvin Harrison who seeks privilege of call in the UCC tomorrow, to seminarians with disabilities who faithfully struggle to follow their call when the possibility of ordination still seems a hazy dream come to oppress them from a heavenly land let my ordination be an encouragement to you…yes, your ordination is worth struggling for, especially when it seems it might require an act of God! God is with you.


You can call her “Rev.” now.

Kelli beaming with ordination certificate finally in hand.

One relieved girl!

We just got back from the festivities following Kelli’s ordination today—long awaited, and taking just a bit over six years since she was accepted to seminary in April 2005. You can imagine this is a huge victory to claim. After our dinner, she was wiped out, so here I am, ever the journalist for the family…

Held at the church where we both were born into and where we have been baptized and married in, this is a particularly notable day in the history of CCCPB, as Kelli is the only of that congregation to have started so young and followed the long and winding path of faith and formation, all the way to this point.

In attendance were members of CCCPB, Mission Hills UCC (where she interned), other churches in the local UCC Association, friends from United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, and Presbyterian worlds. Friends from the world of chaplaincy, poetry, and plain ol’ good friends were there to support her too. (A few of the ladies might not know it but they might be contributors to this very site, once the dust settles here!)

For the week, Kelli’s mom Kay Taylor was in town, and brought her autoharp with her. She sang a heart melting rendition of God’s Eye is on the Sparrow for the offertory in the ordination service. We just happened to have a mic on her too!

Over 100 images from the day are now on my Facebook page, and concurrent with all this, we are starting the WomenWhoSpeakInChurch page on Facebook too.

To save you a trip to YouTube, check these out:

Kelli in the midst of the clergy laying hands.

Laying on of hands, clergy and lay folks

Kelli looking sharp with robe and stole.

Kelli after being robed, and having just distributed the bread in her first communion

Kelli serving communion for the first time.

Kelli serving the wine at her first communion as "the Rev."

Off to dinner with MHUCC friends and mama Kay.

Kelli and a number of us from Mission Hills Young Adults, out to dinner to celebrate

Kelli's new chalice and plate for communion

Kelli's new chalice and plate for communion, made from solid stone from Pakistan

Thanks to Phil, Tara, Margie, and Amanda for heroic help.