Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Music-filled Ordination of Michael

This weekend is something the Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Choir and I have been looking forward to for some considerable time. You see, Saturday afternoon our congregation ordained our young Associate Pastor Michael Lehman in a most impressive worship service. Michael, from Akron, Ohio, comes from a a family where music and singing is a major element. Indeed, his mother Julie is a choir director -- and brought her church choir with her when the entire Lehman family and a goodly representation of High St. CC(DC) journeyed from Akron for the ordination.

Michael himself studied for a degree in music, at Oberlin (famous for its music program), and intended to be a percussionist in the Cleveland Symphony. However, our good Lord had other plans and Mike sensed the call to professional ministry, and this past academic year received an MDiv. from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Back in May I posted about going to the Vandy campus for his Commencement. And to be honest and frank, Michael's ceremony surpassed my own as an M.A. degree recipient at VU in 1989.

Well, I must be honest & frank again. Only a few months ago Eastwood ordained another recent Vandy D School grad & member of our congregation. She's Emily Nourse, and I felt HER ordination service was the equal of my own. But Michael's surpassed both!

And oh, it was SO Music City! The guy put SO MUCH song and music into this celebration of his ordination!

It all commenced with Pastor Jay on bagpipes and other instrumentalists playing a prelude called "Highland Cathedral" (Roever & Korb), followed shortly afterward by the Nashville Bluegrass Band in a mini-concert -- three bluegrass-gospel songs (the Band's fiddler is ECC(DC) member Stuart Duncan). Several other musical specials spiced the service. Not one but TWO Anthems got sung by a combination of Eastwood and High Street's choirs. Julie Duemler, Eastwood's director, conducted the first, "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name" (Fettke & Johnson). Michael's mother, director of the High St. Choir, conducted the other, "Lord Here Am I" (John Ness Beck).

Between the two Anthems were several other portions of the order of service. These included Presentation of the Candidate, which involved representatives of four entities being witnesses to his gifts of ministry, as witnessed at the Disciples Divinity House, the D School (to which the previous is attached), our congregation and the Regional CC(DC). A Dr. Amy-Jill Levine represented the D School, and in her witness incorporated several musical expressions in a manner which charmed and at times amused me and others.

Eastwood's Senior Pastor Jay Hartley treated us to a fine ordination sermon, based on Jeremiah 1:4-10 and titled "Michael and his Angels". Then various standard promises were made and we had the standard Laying on of Hands. As an ordained Disciples of Christ clergy I was one of those who ascended the chancel and placed my hand on Deacon Margaret Nourse's shoulder in front of me (Pastor Jay had his on mine). Margaret's hand was on someone in front of her, who had theirs on Michael.

And glory to God! We'd heard sounds of thunder and rain outside, but while Pastor Jay was reciting the Ordination Prayer a beam of sunlight pierced a west-wall window behind me, passed over my shoulder and fell on the one being prayed for! I affirm that THIS act was an "Act of God" affirming Michael's ordination! It was to Michael as the descent of the Holy Spirit in dove form was to Jesus at His baptism. Glory to God indeed!

Michael was presented with signs (or symbols) of the office of ministry: a black academic robe, a colorful stole, beautiful ceramic chalice and paten (vessels for the Lord's Supper) and so forth. It shouldn't be a surprise that Michael as musician/singer got into the act, beyond his singing in both Anthems. His response as the Newly Ordained featured very few spoken words beyond "Thanks!", as he was clearly overcome with emotion about the whole event. After his brief, choked-up expression of gratitude, he went to a marimba, took up two sticks in each hand, and played the Malotte "Lord's Prayer". He did it beautifully, even including a little "Amazing Grace" in it (thus it was actually a medley).

Then we had the Supper. We did this in the manner we do at Eastwood on every First Sunday: singing "Eat This Bread Drink This Cup" the people walk down center aisle, partake by intinction (breaking off a piece of the loaf & dipping it in the chalice), and then form a hand-holding circle around the sanctuary while continuing to sing.

This activity, which I presume Michael had requested, made my heart full on two counts. First Sunday of this month I'd missed out on it, since I attended worship at Donelson CC(DC); so this made up for that. And due to the extra-high attendance, with all the folk from Ohio, we had to stand close together with our backs against the wall all the way around; this occurred also at our Christmas Eve service. Just as then, the situation reminded me strongly of my last Kairos Prison Ministry visit into the Briscoe Prison (Dilley, Texas); so many of us volunteers and especially so many inmates were present that when we formed our accustomed "circle" to close by singing "Surely the Presence", all our backsides were up against the walls of the prison gym! For yours truly, such events are awesome witnesses to the mighty work of God within the particular institution where they occur. Plus, ANYTHING that reminds me of my blessed times in prison doing Kairos ministry will make my heart full!

Glory to God for ALL that transpired in the ordination of Michael Lehman! He will be an outstanding leader and servant for the portion of the Church on Earth that is our denomination -- as well as for others. I expect to hear great news about Michael in the future. . . .

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