This past weekend, I had the great and weighty honor and privilege of receiving ordination to word and sacrament in the Evangelical Covenant Church and to be granted a place in the apostolic succession of faith in Jesus Christ.
Ordination is the setting apart by the Church of certain persons in a unique way for service to God and to God's Church. It represents the culmination of a long process of education, testing, discerning, and confirming the gifts and soundness of faith of those who are being set apart. It does not make anyone a "better" Christian or a suggest that God "loves them more." It simply discerns and affirms the particular gifting of the Holy Spirit for certain persons to act as leaders and teachers in God's Church and passes along the true faith of Jesus Christ to a next generation.
The Covenant Book of Worship describes it like this:
"At the end of the first century, the early church was facing two stark realities. The apostles – the eye witnesses to the resurrection and the great teachers of the faith – were dying, and Jesus had not yet returned. It was in response to this looming deficit that the early church began to shape the forms of ordered ministry. A few from among the body would be set apart for ministry within the body, thus holding the church true to its beginnings in the gospel of Jesus Christ...It is the responsibility of each succeeding generation of the church to do the same, setting part men and women for ordered ministry...While the ministry of the Triune God belongs to the whole church, the Evangelical Covenant Church has recognized the specific service to the word of God by those endowed with the requisite gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, discerned and confirmed by the church to be so equipped...Through prayer and the laying on of hands, the Covenant Church sets apart such persons for the ministry and sends them out to be servants of the word of God."
Throughout the history of the church, the passing of leadership among God's People and the dedication of those people has been accomplished through prayer and the laying on of hands (see, for instance, Acts 13:1-3). This past weekend, the Body of Christ that is the ECC set aside 73 such people for ministry to God's Church as ECC leaders and clergy laid hands on them and dedicated them to service.
I was deeply honored that my father, Gregg Oliver, also an ordained Covenant pastor, was able to participate in this service by laying hands on me and praying over me, passing the baton (so to speak). In the same way, years ago, someone laid hands on him and passed the baton to him, and so it goes back from generation to generation all the way to the first apostles and to Jesus Christ himself! We are a part of this great legacy!
Additionally, during the service, I was draped with a stole, a piece of cloth draped around the neck as a symbol of the yoke of Jesus Christ. Again, this is not a symbol of honor, but neither is it a burden. Rather, it is a reminder to all of us (you and me alike!) that my life has been chosen and set apart for service to God's Church. I will wear this stole at various times throughout the church year, but particularly on those occasions where we celebrate the sacraments of baptism and communion.
Finally, I would like to thank all of you, my church family, for your support, your trust in me, and your commitment with me to the ministry and mission of God in our community. It is truly my privilege to serve you. I pray that, by God's grace, I will remain faithful to this task.