Along with Peter Prime, our new Associate, I recently was privileged to participate in a historic ordination service, the first-ever on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.
The conference president, Jansen Trotman, and his team constructed a meaningful program that demonstrated high spirituality and careful planning. They did it right!
Sufficient time was allocated for the program so that no one felt hurried, yet thoughtful attention to various details avoided a marathon. This well-planned service was unlike another ordination I recently endured that lasted almost four hours. Other elements that contributed to the success of this high day included:
Preparation. Advance planning was evident throughout. Items such as certificates, flowers, printed programs, etc., were in place so that the spiritual atmosphere was not ruined by a hurried rush of last-minute details. Rehearsal of various parts of the program assured a smooth-running service.
Examination of candidates. Rather than a theological investigation which young pastors might remember more as inquisition, the conference leadership took time to affirm the candidates in their ministry. Noting that the decision to ordain them had already been voted, the leaders emphasized the serious undertaking of ordained ministry plus joy in service. Sharing of common-sense, practical ideas for success in ministry was emphasized much more than attempts to "trip-up" the candidates in theological briar patches.
Inclusion. Emphasis was placed on pastoral spouses and family. For example, during the examination, a group of pastoral wives joined the spouses to discuss their role and privileges in team ministry and to affirm their value. Spouses and children were also introduced as part of the ministry team, and their needs and potential were included in the sermon. A warm welcome to team ministry from the Union's shepherdess coordinator, appropriate gifts, and flowers recognized the unique ministry of each spouse.
Tone. A reverent atmosphere was evident as all the pastors in the conference, along with their spouses and other guests, were led in solemn procession through the auditorium to specially-designated seats.
The large crowd of members, many who were experiencing their first ordination service, clearly understood that this was a solemn and deeply spiritual occasion. The platform was prepared in advance to function effectively for the various elements of the service.
Worship in music. Appropriate, well rehearsed musical presentations enhanced the beauty of the service. The pastors had joined together to form a chorus which sang at the time of welcome. Likewise, the conference's pastoral wives prepared a musical feature emphasizing God's call to take the gospel to the world. Carefully selected hymns involved the audience.
Presentation of the candidates. A brief biography, coupled with a special escort for each couple by another pastoral couple whose ministry had impacted their lives, highlighted the introductions. Expanded biographical material was presented in the printed program.
Sermon. Pastor Prime's message was spiritual and relevant; it emphasized the privileges, challenges, and high calling of ministry, and it was concise. He demonstrated the fact that a sermon need not be everlasting in order to be immortal.
Prayer. The ordination prayer included all the ministers who gathered around the candidates to affirm the Lord's calling in the lives of their colleagues. As hands were laid upon the pastors, emphasis was placed on the church's recognition of heaven's call much more than on any mystical conveyance of status, privilege, or authority.
Charge and welcome. Both of these elements in the service utilized some of the resources available in the Seventh-day Adventist Ministers Handbook. However, the presenters wisely selected from the resources rather than incorporating every item and unduly lengthening the program. The spouses were also charged and welcomed.
Candidate's response. Rather than preaching another sermon, which is too often the case when candidates are asked to respond, the emphasis was on joyous anticipation of service and appropriate recognition of parents, teachers, mentors, and others whose influence had led the candidates to this special event. Again, brevity and appropriateness were evident.
Presentations. Certificates and gifts were presented to the candidates and their families along with flowers and tributes from those who best knew their ministry. Even the various churches where each ordinand had previously served were included. Some churches presented a meaningful testimony, plaque, or letter describing the positive impact made by the pastor in their midst.
Celebration. At the conclusion of the program, following the greetings extended by pastoral colleagues, anyone who wished to greet the newly-ordained pastors and their families were welcomed to join a receiving line in which joyous reunions mingled with happy recollections and plans for the future.