Stumbling into Ordinations

Last Friday, I (along with the Planning Officer and Treasurer) flew to
Honiara for about 12 days for a training workshop. The workshop started
today (Tuesday), so we had a few days to do other business, which was great.
One of my great accomplishments was to get my computer on the Internet and
download all sorts of updates. . . Of course, since I had access to a decent
connection, I took advantage and got some new music, too :-).

Saturday morning I did a (relatively) long run of 7.75 miles. It was nice to
run on a paved road that was flat. After the mud, hills and rocks of Isabel,
I had a new appreciation for the roads of Honiara. Sunday, I went to church.

Since we are staying at the Pacific Casino Hotel on the east side of town, I
decided to go to St. Barnabas, which is the Cathedral. I was surprised at
how nice it is inside, because from the outside it looks like most Solomon
Islands churches. Cement pillars with a roof (no walls). Inside, though,
there were nice wooden pews with kneelers, large lights on the roof beams,
ceiling fans hanging at frequent intervals and very large speakers bolted to
the pillars. It's a big place and as I was trying to decide where to sit,
one of the ushers came to indicate a large portion of the pews were reserved
for guests. Guests? Yes, because as part of the service, there were going to
be the ordinations of 6 transitional deacons to the priesthood!

I should be used to this by now. It seems very common in places other than
the US, that the "regular" Sunday service is often used for all sorts of
special events. You just never know what's going to happen when you show up!

The Cathedral is the church of choice for most of the foreigners and other
"big men" in town. In fact, it was announced that at Evensong that evening,
there would be a send-off for the current Australian High Commissioner and
his family as they are leaving the Solomon Islands. So there were a lot more
foreigners at St. Barnabas than I had seen in any Church of Melanesia church

The service and the ordinations were very similar to the liturgy followed in
my own Diocese of California. The Archbishop presided, in full regalia, only
removing his mitre (that's the funny hat Bishops wear, for those of you who
don't know) when he actually prayed over the bread and wine. One interesting
difference to what I have seen before was that when the candidates were
asked about their vows, each vow was asked of each candidate, one at a time,
and they each had to respond in full voice (rather than all the vows being
read through and the candidates responding either all together or once for
all vows). The other thing I thought was interesting was that they were all
dressed in white: white stoles, white chasubles. When we do ordinations
where I come from, it is a festival and everyone ends up dressed in red.

One unique aspect of these ordinations was that all 6 of the men were being
specifically ordained as non-stipendiary (that means unpaid) priests. All
were older men, and as I learned later, had been longtime lay readers and
then lay preachers. They did not go through the usual seminary training but
were ordained deacons and now priests based on their "on the job training",
if you will. It made me wonder what need they were trying to fill that
prompted the decision to bypass their usual process for these 6 priests. And
it seemed a bit strange to ordain someone as "non-stipendiary". We have lots
of unpaid priests where I come from, but that is a matter of circumstance or
choice or calling, but not something they are necessarily locked into by
virtue of their ordination. Even myself as a Deacon, although the current
understanding is that we are non-stipendiary, that is not by virtue of our
ordination and can differ from Diocese to Diocese and that
understanding/rule can change over time.

It is always interesting to see what different Dioceses or churches in the
Anglican Communion do with regard to ordination in order to address the
local situation.

The sermon was given by a Bishop Brian McDonald. I think he was Australian,
but I'm not sure because he preached in pidgin, so I didn't get much of a
sense of his accent. His sermon was great, though. He talked a lot about the
priesthood of all believers (although he didn't use that phrase). He said,
"iumi priests" (we are all priests), and he counseled the candidates that
"iu no boss" (you're not the boss), in fact "iu same same haus boi" (you are
like the houseboy), you are ordained to serve the parish.

A final thing to share that I really liked. In the Lord's Prayer and a few
other places when the liturgy in my country uses the phrase "the kingdom of
God", in the Church of Melanesia they use the phrase "the rule of God". I
like that so much! I have never been able to relate to some idea of a
kingdom. As an American whose ancestors came over 300-500 years ago, the
whole idea of kings and queens is not much more than a quaint story from
history books. One friend of mine replaces "kingdom" with "reign" (as in
"the reign of God"), but frankly, that's the same thing. Who reigns? Kings
and queens. Presidents don't "reign," Prime Ministers don't "reign." But
"the rule of God" instantly made me think of "the rule of law." Hmm, where
do I obey the rule of law rather than the rule of God? Where is the rule of
law governing my life rather than the rule of God? Wow, suddenly I think I
finally understand what all those conversations in the Bible where it talks
about the kingdom of God are about!


About Seth Longacre

primal health coach, vision fast guide, itinerant discalced Episcopal Deacon, barefoot runner, photographer, spiritual director, yoga teacher, minimalist, pilgrim
This entry was posted in Africa. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stumbling into Ordinations

  1. dorothy says:

    [this is good] Tracy:

  2. backrowbass says:

    Thanks for the report!

  3. Helen says:

    Hi, Tracy,
    Sounds like you met Fr Brian McDonald-Milne, a British priest (not a bishop), who had been in Solomon Islands for the consecration of the Bishop of Malaita.
    He wrote the history of the Melanesian Brotherhood, of which he was formerly chaplain.
    see link

  4. Tracy Longacre says:

    Thanks Helen. Yes, Brian sounds familiar. And his pidgin was phenomenal!

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