On the 28th June, I was ordained a deacon in the Church of England. St.Paul’s Cathedral, normally crawling with tourists on a summer Saturday, was filled with some 3,000 friends, family and well-wishers of 35 candidates for ordination in the Diocese of London.
The occasion felt a bit like a wedding. It represented the culmination of a lot of thought and prayer by others and by ourselves. We were wearing unfamiliar clothes, saying important promises and enjoying the solemnity and joy of a great occasion surrounded by loved ones in an impressive setting.
In one sense, ordination itself is nothing special: it is not a magical ceremony for super-Christians. As the words used in the service make clear, all Christians together form a “royal priesthood” but some are called to serve the church in specific ministries. For me, this has meant ordination.
All 35 of us went away together on retreat from the Wednesday. This provided time for quiet prayer and individual focus, but it also allowed us to get to know one another. This helped us see Saturday as a meaningful communal and not just individual affirmation of callings. It was a delight to share in the ordination service with these new friends.
At 3pm, the great West doors of the cathedral swung open and in we processed, escorted by 2 supporting friends. I was flanked by Mark, my best man, and Liam, a friend from our sending church in N London.
A moment I will not forget was standing at the front looking out across the congregation. The Bishop asked all the people present, “will you support and uphold these candidates in their ministry?” The response comes back strong, reverberating through the cathedral from several thousand voices: “we will.” It was an occasion I will cherish and never forget.