I'm about to leave for a two day retreat with the five candidates who will be ordained early next month.
It is my privilege to lead this retreat. The very idea of an ordination retreat calls into question what we mean by each of those things: a retreat, and ordination itself.
I have done a lot of work this year trying to assist local Baptists to re-discover some of the theological meaning of ordination, within our tradition. Not an easy task!
The process of the retreat will include reflection upon the ordination vows and this, I think, will greatly help us to focus upon the heart of ordination itself.
The first part of the vows is a re-affirmation by each candidate of their baptism. It recognizes the calling to be a Christian, and that this calling to ministry exists within the calling of every Christian to be a minister of the Gospel.
Then the vows move to a section about the specific character of this calling: to Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care. But they do this by positioning this ministry within God's work of calling forth faith, God's work of guiding and enabling the whole community of faith, God's care for all people. So the ministry to which a pastor is ordained is deeply and inherently about a life in God.
The final section of the vows is a commitment to faithful service of the people, and they also respond with a commitment to receive and support the ministry so ordained.
My special interest in this retreat and in the prayer which I will lead at the service is in that second part: that these people may know their lives to be deeply and wholly grounded in God and what God is doing, giving, empowering in the world and in the church. There is no other basis for identity, security and 'success' in ministry. But this is the basis for a life of faith, hope and love with all God's people.
When the church is able to affirm these things together, in and for these people, collectively we have an ordained ministry: from God, with God, and for God.
May it be so!