A Candle, a Lamb, and a Basket of Food

In September of 1996, Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church in Champaign, Illinois, had the pleasure of installing a new minister. As we prepared for the service of installation, the worship committee wanted to try something a little different. We used one of the shorter forms from our church hymnal (Psalter Hymnal, pp. 992-4), but we added a new twist to the section of the form called "Instruction."

Actually our new twist is borrowed from an old tradition found in The Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church. The forms and instructions for the Ordination of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon include an interesting use of objects that represent the new minister's duties or roles. We liked that idea.

Except for the celebration of baptism, Lord's Supper, or the annual lighting of the Advent candles, our services at Hessel Park Church incorporate very few concrete elements. As a worship committee, one of our goals is to look for ways that can help the children in the congregation better understand what's happening and participate more fully in the service. Interestingly, it seems that whenever we add a visual element whose primary goal is to help the children, it is often quite meaningful for the adults as well. (Think about how many times a minister has used an object lesson in the children's sermon that helped illuminate an idea for you.)

Within each of the Episcopal forms there is a time when representatives of the congregation come forward. Each representative presents a symbol of ministry and speaks a sentence of challenge. For example, one of the symbols suggested is a Bible. The representative hands it to the new minister saying, "____,accept this Bible, and be among us as one who proclaims the Word." We liked this idea of using several different members of the congregation and the presentation of a symbol to represent each of the duties of ministry.

In the instruction portion of the Christian Reformed form for installation, each paragraph suggests a facet of the new minister's role in the church. For each one we chose someone from the congregation who stood as a model of that facet and an object that symbolized that duty. For example, we asked one of our young teens who recently made profession of faith to present a small handmade lamb as he read this challenge: "When Jesus said to Peter, Teed my lambs,' he entrusted the officebearers with special care for the young..." For the paragraph about evangelism we asked our resident InterVarsity staff member to present a candle symbolizing the light of the gospel. In the section about ministering to the hungry, the naked, and the sick, we asked a member of our congregation who does food deliveries and organizes our food pantry to present our pastor with a small basket of food. And for the challenge to visit the sick and suffering, a member who is very hospitable presented him with a green plant. For the sacraments we used a pitcher of water and the actual plate and cup which are used in celebrating the Lord's Supper.

Though the objects themselves held no magical powers, their presentation brought new life to the words in a form that we have grown so accustomed to hearing. It reminded me of the scene in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum in which the Wizard presents each of the characters with an object. The Tin Man already was the most compassionate in the group, the Scarecrow the smartest, and the Lion the most courageous. They didn't need the heart, the diploma, and the badge to perform those abilities. Neither does a minister need a candle in order to practice evangelism or a green plant to minister to the sick. These objects were merely symbolic reminders of the qualities we expect to see in a pastor.



Worship Leader: Congregation of Jesus Christ: Today we rejoice in Christ's special care and love for his church as we have the privilege of installing to the ministry of the Word in this church. Because he has accepted the call of the congregation, we shall now proceed with his installation.

From its beginning the entire New Testament church was called to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to the whole world: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." It soon became apparent that the task committed to the church was extremely vast and complex. Therefore the church, under the guidance of the apostles, instituted distinct ministries to ensure that the work would be done well. Those engaged in these ministries were to function with Christ's power and authority, a power and authority rooted in obedience to his Word and expressed in loving service.

These ministries are to be distinguished from the more general ones given by Christ to all believers.

The Instruction

[Pastor to be installed moves to right of pulpit area to stand by the communion table. Presenters come up and stand to the left of the pulpit, facing the congregation.]

Worship Leader: The Scriptures portray the minister's duties in various ways:
Presenter One: A minister is an ambassador who proclaims the message of reconciliation.
Presenter Two: A minister is an administrator of the sacraments.
Presenter Three: A minister is a shepherd who cares for the flock.
Presenter Four: A minister is a steward in the household of God.
Presenter Five: A minister is a teacher who explains the mystery of the gospel.
Presenter Six: A minister is a servant both of Christ and of the church.

[In turn, each presenter reads his or her statement, presents the symbol of ministry to the new pastor, then moves across to the other side of the pulpit and remains standing until all are finished. Then they return to their seats or sit near the front until called back up for the laying on of hands.]

Presenter One: The preaching of the Word is one of your chief tasks as a minister. Your sermons and other instruction to this congregation must faithfully reflect the Word of God and relate to the needs of those who hear it. Paul stressed this demand when he wrote, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage...."

____, accept this Bible as a reminder of your calling to be an ambassador, proclaiming the message of reconciliation as it has been revealed in God's Word.

Presenter Two: Because the sacraments are closely related to the preaching of the Word, a minister also has the privilege of administering holy baptism and the Lord's Supper. Since you have the responsibility to preach the Word and to administer the sacraments in public worship, it is your task to conduct the worship service so that God receives glory and the congregation is edified.

____, this plate and this cup are reminders of your responsibility to break the bread and bless the cup with this congregation of God's people. And this water is a reminder of your responsibility to baptize.

Presenter Three: When Jesus said to Peter, "Feed my lambs," he entrusted the officebearers with special care for the young. As our minister, you must instruct the baptized members of the congregation and show them the way of salvation. You must also encourage and assist those who teach with you to do the same.

____, take this lamb as a reminder of your calling to be a pastor and spiritual shepherd to this flock.

Presenter Four: As a pastor, you will call on the sick and suffering, you will comfort those who mourn, you will counsel those in need of guidance, and you will encourage the weak.

____, take this plant as a reminder of your calling to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

Presenter Five: As a minister, you are called not only to serve those who already are members of the church of Christ, but also to engage in and promote the work of evangelism. As a true disciple of Christ, you show that the church exists also for the world and that the missionary task of the church forms an essential part of the church's calling.

____, take this candle as a reminder of your calling to bring the light of the gospel to those in this community who are still in darkness.

Presenter Six: As a minister and servant of Christ you are to help and encourage us as we care for the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick, and those in prison.

____, take this basket as a reminder of your calling to help us minister to the needy in this community.

The Vows

Charge and Prayer

Laying on of Hands

[Participants include those presenting ministry symbols; current and former elders from this or other congregations.]

Debra Levey Larson is a freelance writer and producer and a member of Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church, Chapaign, Illinois.


Reformed Worship 44 © June 1997, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.