A week and a half ago, I attended my first ordination. It was awesome. It was a beautiful mix of music, sermons, and the act of ordination by the Unitarian Universalist congregation itself. I couldn’t help but feel that the young woman I knew was answering her call to ministry. I was particularly impressed how the congregation participated in the recitation of the act of ordination as well as the ceremonial laying on of hands. As a minister pronounced a blessing, the new minister’s family and friends came forward, followed by all the ministers present, followed by the choirs, and anyone who wanted to participate. It was rather beautiful to see the mass of people in front of the church extending down all the aisles connected by hands – supporting and blessing the new minister.
After the ceremony, a friend asked me what I thought of my first ordination. Then she backed stepped a little, clarifying what did I think of the Unitarian ordination, saying I probably had attended other ordinations in the Mormon church. I answered no – it wasn’t the same. That I considered this indeed my first ordination. That yes I had sat feeling like an imposter in the back of the Priesthood session where my brother was ordained an Elder and later when my step-dad was ordained a High Priest. But that given all men were ordained to the Priesthood, it simply wasn’t the same. She then asked me if going on a mission might be more comparable. I answered that yes I was set apart with a small group of friends present, that I gave a talk to the ward expressing my enthusiasm for the calling when I left and when I returned, but again that it was simply not the same. I expressed to her how I found it moving that the congregation participated and that it really was an event. If anything, I would compare it to the temple in some ways.
Having visited churches with female ministers, when I attend Sacrament Meeting, the maleness of the leadership strikes me. I hope for the day when there will be women leaders in front giving more than prayers and talks. That women will someday be on the stand presiding and offering ordinances and counseling other women. I believe that women should be ordained to the Priesthood. But I am also struck by the differences in the ordination process between different faiths. And while I enjoy discussions between faiths (there was a panel at Sunstone West this weekend about dialogue between Catholic and Mormon women who want ordination in their Patriarchal traditions), I can’t help but wonder about the fundamental difference between our religion and others. The Priesthood being given to all men in our faith is fundamentally different than when someone feels called to the ministry and is ordained by their congregation. It makes it hard for me to envision what the ordination of women would look like in the Mormon church.