Years ago, as I was just starting out in ministry, I read an article in which a veteran pastor suggested that one of the best practices to keep one’s sense of calling fresh was to attend the ordinations and installations of others. I think I was in the New Jersey Synod at the time, so that was an easy suggestion to follow – ordinations usually happened en masse at the Synod Assembly.
It’s still a good suggestion, but one that is harder to follow in this Midwestern church climate, where everything is much more congregational and, since Lutherans are so dense, one could spend an awful lot of weekends attending such services. I tend to go only to the services for people I know really well, and even then the demands of parenting often take precedence over an extra church obligation on a Saturday or Sunday.
Today was a reminder, though, of how true that pastor’s advice was. I suited up for an “extraordinary” ordination, meaning one that the ELCA roster will not recognize because the person in question is in a same-sex partnership. She is extraordinary in many other ways as well, particularly her commitment to mission and her grace under pressure. Unlike most Minnesota ordinations, which can feel very much like small family affairs, this one had pew after pew of clergy from many states attending, all of us decked out in albs and red stoles, including many people who are not connected to the daily life of this particular pastor or congregation. But we were there, because a sister’s ministry is being recognized by her congregation for what it is – Word and Sacrament for the sake of the world.
Since the first “extraordinary” ordination I attended about ten years ago, these services have become less unusual, which is, on the whole, a very good thing for the church. On the other hand, I think it is voices from ‘outside’ the sanctioned roads to ministry that are reminding those of us who are called how precious this calling is, and what joy it is to share in it. I hope that, one day, it will be “no big deal,” if a GLBT person is ordained to ministry; and yet I hope it will still be a very big deal because God has called, and they have answered, "send me."