Sorry to disappoint, but this post will NOT be about the ongoing issues of ordination of GLBT folks in the Presbyterian Church (USA) nor will it be response to so many who thing ordination is just plain silly.
Nope, this is about one day: October 29, 1995, 13 years ago when I took my vows of ordination at my home church, Trinity Presbyterian Church in Stockton, CA and became the “Reverend” Bruce Reyes-Chow. And while it is one of the few dates that I actually remember, I still do remember it every year. With that said, kind of like a birthday or anniversary, there was no immediate shift in my understanding of who I was. Same guy just with a robe, stole, new title and a pension. At the time it was a powerfully moving experience, but it really has been over time that I have come to appreciate the depth and breadth of our practice of ordination. Again, I realize that I sit in a position of power when it comes to this, so am fully aware that I participate in the perpetuation of a practice that can sometimes be abused . . . still, it is my day 😉
And while I obviously do not stake my salvation on ordination, as I talked about in my post, Ordination: Right, Privilege of Delusion, I think that the process and practice of ordination is a vital part of who we are as Presbyterians. The very nature of our process of communally discerning the mind of Christ about someone can be daunting and for that someone – possible the most powerless time in one’s pastoral life – but it also allows one to be pushed, prodded and dare I say, vetted, in a way that I think can help one to better define one’s beliefs and subsequent life in ministry.
Sure at it’s worse it becomes a gatekeeper party hell-bent on playing politics strife through the life of each candidate, but at its best, each person who comes through that process has been cared for, trained and empowered to fulfill a role in the church body unlike any other. The very privilege and responsibility that the pastor holds in peoples lives compels us to take this process seriously.
In any case, today, I am a 13 year veteran of being a Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA). In so many ways it seems like a blip in my life, but in others a lifetime full of grace.
So on this day I give thanks to God for the following folks who made that October 29, 1995 day possible:
- For those saints of the faith who paved the way for this young brown pastor to even have the opportunity.
- For those who vigorously disagreed with me with compassion and love but forced me to dig deep and defend my faith with the same degree of integrity and passion.
- For professors, mentors, supervisors and members of committees who were charged with trying to mold, empower and inspire.
- For those who saw something in me before I could see it in myself.
- For my family who loved, supported and fed me through it all.
- For the steadfast presence of God that surprised, challenged and comforted me through it all.
And while I would love to think that the appropriate traditional 13th Ordination Anniversary gift is a new laptop or trip to Hawaii, the real gift is simple the grace received through the ongoing privilege and honor of being able to answer the call to which I have been called.
To God be the glory.