I’m not even sure how it originated, but sometime shortly after getting back from Chicago, I came to realize that if the church I’m working at would essentially just change my title, without changing anything else about the terms or responsibilities of my part-time employment, I would be eligible to be ordained, where I wasn’t eligible with my current title. Yes, I know that sounds odd, and I suppose it is, but the rules are what they are. So I figured that while I continued to search for the permanent, full-time installed position, I could at very least get this piece of the puzzle put in place. So we went through the bureaucratic process, got Session approval, and sent the whole thing off to the appropriate Presbytery committee to be approved and forwarded to the general Presbytery for a vote. At the same time, the Presbytery would conduct my oral ordination examination. This is the final step, after completing the M.Div., passing all the written ordination exams, and doing the parish field education, as well as a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. The format of the floor exam is this: the candidate has provided a brief autobiographical statement and a statement of faith, which is included in the information packets of all the voting commissioners of the Presbytery. After the candidate offers a brief introductory oral statement/presentation, the floor is then open for any of the 200-some commissioners to stand up and ask the candidate any question at all regarding the candidate’s understanding of theology and polity within the church. After questioning, the amassed Presbytery then votes the candidate up or down.
Of course, this final examination comes after the candidate has been in the process for a number of years, so s/he is a pretty well-known quantity to the commissioners by this time. While this is an important step, it is, to some extent, the candidate doing a bit of a victory lap after completing the long, grueling ordination process. Maybe most significantly, it’s a final validation to the candidate from these gathered individuals and a sign of emotional support.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t nerve-wracking, though. The truth is, you never know what some commissioner is going to come up with. Some floor examinations proceed without a hiccup; others can get contentious. At the end of it all, though, I’ve never seen a single candidate fail this final examination, which is a testament to the rigorous nature of the candidacy/ordination process, and should serve to calm the nerves of anyone about to be examined. Still, I was very nervous while I waited for my turn to be examined – I was the last of four people being examined in the midst of the rest of the Presbytery business last evening.
Everything went fine. I was nervous at first, but even from the beginning of the process, I recognized the large number of people in the room with whom I’d interacted during the whole journey, and how much so many of them meant to me. As I spoke, I could see their support in their faces and body language and felt the warmth that they seemed to be offering me. That energized me, so I just spoke from the heart, answered the questions as best as I could, and just enjoyed the moment. The actual vote was very quick, as they usually are – I barely had time to leave the room for the vote before I was called back in. I can’t tell you what a relief this ordination vote is.
Now, the next step is scheduling and planning the actual ordination service. This close to the Advent/Christmas season, I’m trying to schedule it for January 11, 2014. There are a lot of moving pieces to get aligned, but that date is looking good at the moment. So, how am I feeling tonight?