Later this month I will celebrate the seven-year anniversary of my ordination. What most people remember about that day was that I was very pregnant. I confess that my large belly in an alb and a stole were rather extraordinary. But what I remember about that day was a brief, but profound encounter. I had gotten to the Cathedral early to make sure everything was in place and everyone knew where to go. I was bustling around, managing logistics, when I ran into my boss, who was the rector of the church where I was serving. She saw that I had my clergy shirt on but that I had not yet put on my collar. You see, although you are not technically ordained until midway through the liturgy, you put your collar on before the liturgy starts. The idea seemed strange to me to put it on before the bishop laid hands on me. And if I am really being honest, I was really nervous about the whole endeavor. My rector put her hands on my shoulders, looked me square in the eye, and said, “Jennifer, it’s time. Go put on your collar.”
When we talk about ordination, we talk about the newly ordained experiencing an ontological change – a change in who the person is and in the nature of her existence. It sounds rather dramatic because the change is dramatic. When we ordain someone, we forever set them apart for a specific role in the church.
This Saturday, we will join our new curate, Charlie Bauer, as he is ordained to the transitional diaconate. Charlie will be facing a similar ontological change – committing the rest of his life to this new way of being in and for the church. Ordained persons do not simply start a new job. Their whole person and existence is changed. That is why an ordination is so special – because it is a day set apart for honoring this tremendous change.
Of course, all people in the church have access to ontological change. Both baptism and confirmation are considered similar ontological changes – something profound happens in those moments, moments that only happen once in a lifetime. We are marked as something different, and the way that we live our lives changes forever. Because that change for all of us is so profound, the church sets apart days that we reaffirm our baptismal covenant and ordination vows. We want to remember those tremendous moments when we put on a collar or stole, when water was poured over our heads, when a bishop placed heavy hands on our heads, and when we felt the Holy Spirit whisk through the room. I hope you will join us as we celebrate this ontological change with Charlie. But I especially hope you will take a moment to remember your own change and how the Spirit invites you to reclaim your changed identity.