Each spring I meet with a group of clergy colleagues for a week of Scripture study, rest, renewal, laughter, and support. Each member of The Well brings two exegetical papers corresponding to pre-assigned Sundays in the liturgical year. We share these papers with one another, and the discussion provides us with a great jumping-off point for the next year’s preaching. Our time together has become a not-to-be-missed event.
Last year it was my turn to coordinate our morning worship. I have always been drawn to the reaffirmation of baptismal covenant—the opportunity to renew the vows taken at baptism has always been very moving to me. I decided to write a similar reaffirmation, but of our ordination vows. The following liturgy is based on the ordination questions for ministers in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Following each question is a short prayer that expands on the question. These can be prayed by a worship leader or in unison.
Our group was so taken by the practice that we have decided to renew these vows each year, with each year’s worship coordinator tweaking the prayers to reflect new circumstances. Like a sacred game of “telephone,” these will evolve as our group evolves. Presbyteries or other governing bodies might also use or adapt these prayers for their gatherings.
In addition to using this reaffirmation in clergy retreat settings, it can be used when a clergy member begins a new ministry, with the public celebration of the anniversary of one’s ordination, and privately during a time of devotion and recommitment.
Do we trust in Jesus Christ our Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through Christ believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
O risen Christ, whose life, death, and resurrection set us free from all that holds us captive, help us to put our trust in you. When our temptation to singlehandedly save the world seems greater than we can resist, call us back. Liberate us from our own agendas, and from our impatience at your work in the world that does not conform to our expectations. (Silence)
Do we accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to us?
O Word made flesh, help us not to lose our zeal for studying your sacred story. Make us ever vigilant against our desire to flatten the gospel message, or to make it more palatable, or to embrace novelty at the expense of an honest search for truth. Make us humble when we are arrogant; and give our words power when we feel discouraged, inarticulate, or weak. (Silence)
Do we sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will we be instructed and led by those confessions as we lead the people of God?
We do, and we will.
O God of history, we thank you for all those who have gone before, the church fathers and mothers on whose shoulders we stand. Give us wisdom to discern from our tradition that which continues to give life and to shed what must be let go for your future to be realized. (Silence)
Will we fulfill our office in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?
O God, we thank you for inquisitive minds to discern your will and way in Scripture and through the writings of the church. Help us to stay focused on Christ, to whom the Scriptures and tradition bear witness. (Silence)
Will we be governed by our church’s polity, and will we abide by its discipline? Will we be friends among our colleagues in ministry, working with them subject to the ordering of God’s Word and Spirit?
O God, continue to knit us together. Strengthen our ties with one another, and grant us the gift of friendships wherever we minister. (Silence)
Will we in our own lives seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love our neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world?
Loving and reconciling One, it is a daunting task to love you, to love our neighbors, and to love ourselves. As we make our way in the midst of our many roles and tasks, recalibrate us when we find ourselves out of balance. Help us speak the truth in love so that we might be your reconcilers in the world. (Silence)
Do we promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church?
O Christ, you alone are the source of our peace, unity, and purity. You are the Prince of Peace, who gives us peace that passes understanding. You are the vine on which all of your church grows and bears fruit. And you are the one who overturned the tables of commerce in the temple, who said “go and sin no more.” Help us to remember your call to peace and unity and purity, and not to settle for our own pet caricatures of you. (Silence)
Will we seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?
O God who created the universe in an explosion of energy . . . grant us energy. O God who made this complex world of intricate interconnected parts . . . grant us intelligence. O God whose imagination called forth dinosaurs and dandelions, black holes and bobcats . . . grant us imagination. O God who is love . . . grant us love. (Silence)
Will we be faithful ministers, proclaiming the good news in Word and sacrament, teaching faith, and caring for people? Will we be active in government and discipline, serving in the governing bodies of the church; and in our ministry will we try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?
O God, you call us to Word and sacrament. But you also call us to proofread the bulletin, play “sardines” with a group of seventh graders, and negotiate a contract for repairing the furnace. Help us not to be so overwhelmed by the details of ministry that we forget what is central. And help us to find that which is central, even in the details. (Silence)
Almighty God, hear our prayer. Amen.