Ordaining Moments

Posted May 30, 2013 | Pastoral Excellence Network


By Kelli Walker-Jones

Second in a series of blog posts by the authors of So Much Better: How Thousands of Pastors Help Each Other Thrive.

Kelli Walker-JonesWhen the invitation arrived last month asking me to a party, I knew I wanted to join in this celebration of Elizabeth’s (not her real name) 20 years of ministry in that congregation and her 25 years as ordained clergy.

On the night of the party, the planners introduced the theme of the party: “ordaining moments.” On that evening the congregation was asked to tell stories of ordaining moments in their life with Elizabeth over the past 20 years. It was a robust celebration, filled with laughter and with story.

Elizabeth was in our Sustaining Pastoral Excellence narrative clergy group for about six years. In that group, we often introduced a question for the participants, questions such as: What haunts you? What makes you smile? What do you need to say in order to be here?

It is a privilege and just pure fun to invite clergy into this kind of reflection on a question. How rare it is for us to be surrounded by listeners not waiting to be entertained or taught, but listeners who want only to listen deeply and honor our story.  In our clergy groups we practice a particular way of listening, based on Parker Palmer’s guidelines: we try not to Fix, Save, Judge, Advise, or Set Anyone Straight. Often, the entry into the deepest listening in our clergy group was to ask curious questions that evoke unedited, often untold, stories in our ministries.

One of my favorite questions (possibly because it is great and because it was first asked by my husband, Logan Jones) is:

“Can you tell me a story about an ordaining moment in your life?”

An ordaining moment is not your official ordination ceremony, but rather those moments when you knew you were doing exactly what you were supposed to be doing, when you felt full and right about yourself as a minister.

Seventeen years ago, I stood before a congregation leading worship and communion as my four-year-old read a book on snakes in the front row. Kate insisted on coming to church with me. Her dad and sister were not available to attend.  I was nervous as I was the only clergy person leading that day, but how could I tell Kate, “No, you can’t come to church”? I prepped her as well as I could, explaining that when I made the invitation to come to the altar for communion, she could come.

I failed to mention to her that she should follow the direction of the ushers. When I raised my arms in my clerical robe stating the table was prepared come and eat, she shut her book and headed directly to my side. There I was, professional ordained clergy flanked by four-year-old Kate.

It was an ordaining moment—Mother and Minister, preparing a table as I do so many days for my family.  Without this question, I think the story would be lost, and I would be the poorer for it. This story is one of those stopping places, one of the guiding stories for my life.

What is an ordaining moment in your ministry?

Kelli Walker-Jones is center director of Triangle Pastoral Counseling in Raleigh, North Carolina, and an ordained minister in United Methodist Church. From 2002 to 2009, Kelli co-directed the Narrative Leadership Project at Triangle Pastoral Counseling and co-authored the book with Richard Hester, Know Your Story and Lead with It: The Power of Narrative in Clergy Leadership.   

The Pastoral Excellence Network at CTS seeks to connect and nurture groups for clergy at all stages of ministry. To request permission to repost this content, please contact wsordillo@cts.edu.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Wanda 04 Jun
    GREAT Post!!!! Thanks for letting us know about it!



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