Ten years ago, at a gathering of the Tennessee Annual Conference not unlike the one I am currently attending, I knelt at an altar and felt Bishop Kenneth Carder lay his hands upon me for my ordination as a probationary deacon (I came in under the 1992 Book of Discipline). It was certainly not the first ordination service I had attended, for my wife Kay had been an elder for almost ten years at that point, and we had made a point to attend every ordination service from the time we were married in 2000. Since that time we have likewise made a point to attend every ordination service, diligently bringing our robes to process with the other Tennessee Annual Conference clergy and support those new members to the covenant community we belong to.
Ordination has been important to us for we recognize the power of entering into relationship with these other pastors. We are, after all, part of a connectional system, one in which it is very likely that the seeds that we are planting now may very well be brought to fruition (or for that matter, trampled and killed) by those whom the Bishop lays hands on tonight. While we became common members of the Annual Conference through our actions today, we become covenant partners in the service of God through the ordination service tonight.
However, for the first time in probably 15 years, I am skipping the ordination service tonight. While I brought my robe and planned on processing, I simply am simply worn out and in need of quiet space away from people. My skipping tonight is not a slight against those becoming a part of the community, but rather a recognition of my own humanity and the need for quiet space with my God, space that is far too elusive at Annual Conference.
So for all being added to the ranks tonight, I raise a toast to you even though I am not with you. Welcome to the family. I pray the blessings of God upon you, and look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.