Ordination

Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Belief, Mormon women | 5 comments

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.

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5 Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about similar things lately, especially this idea that in other churches being part of the ministry is something you don’t just ‘get’…like you said, it is a vocation people feel like they are called to, and they put in a lot of work to be ordained. I understand and embrace the value of lay clergy, but I wonder if it doesn’t make it easy for us to not approach things like ordination with as much reverence as we should.
    As far as what ordination of women would actually look like in the church…wow, I hadn’t even thought about the specifics of it…
    Really great, thought provoking, post. Thank you!

  2. It doesn’t make it easier for you to imagine? An interview with your Bishop, the same way that baptismal and temple recommend and patriarchal blessing interviews are the same for male and female members. A bunch of relatives or important people in your life who are already ordained, forming a circle around you (when I imagine the process, I can’t help but put myself in the central position), laying their hands on your head and speaking a blessing and conferring the ordination, much the same way as baby blessings, or receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost (or the way boys and men receive the Priesthood currently). The way that it’s exactly the same for every member makes it easier for me to imagine how it might be if I was the one receiving the Priesthood, though I am a woman.

    I would assume that, much like with the lowered missionary age, there’d be a period of “increased activity” with many, many women being ordained in the first few weeks or so.

    I find a lot of other parts hard to imagine – on a practical level, the number of people to be considered for many callings effectively doubles. There would probably be issues with mixed-presidencies of men and women meeting together (has anyone else heard the story (possibly true) of the man and woman members of Ward Council ending up cheating on their spouses with each other, because of one giving the other a lift home every time?). I can think of a lot of things that would be more problematic than the event of a female’s ordination.

    (And I’m sorry that you felt like an impostor, attending the ordinations of your family. Perhaps it’s only my unrelenting narcissism that made it easy for me to feel that I belonged there for my brother’s, but I’m sure nobody gave me as much as a strange look. I also freely acknowledge that my home ward is practically perfect.)

    As for the experience that you recounted, I think it’s beautiful to focus more on the larger picture, and it is definitely easy to lose sight of the holiness in commonplace events. But just as baptisms are common and can also be extremely sacred experiences, I think there is room to bring more of a sense of the divine. Thank you for your reminder to do exactly that.

    (sorry for the long comment! I think a lot about women’s ordination to the priesthood, and I always talk too much)

  3. In celebration of the RS birthday, the women spoke and sang in our ward on Sunday and I gave the last talk. I am the RSP so I sat on the stand (and I’m single so I wasn’t worried about kids/husband). The bishopric went to sit in the congregation so I was up there alone so maybe I was “presiding”. I should have moved into the “hot seat” (where the bishop was sitting). :)

    • Ellen, I wish you had! (And I’ll bet your bishop would have encouraged it.)

  4. This is beautiful, Kelly Ann. You bring up some good points about the difference between our ordination practices and other Christian denominations.

    I do like the ritual and effort other denominations make surrounding ordination. I wonder how our views of the priesthood might change if we treated it in this way.

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