This Sunday in worship, we will celebrate a joyous occasion in the life of our church and our regional church, the Presbytery of the Cascades, in the ordination of Alexander Wendeheart to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Alexander has been a candidate for ministry under the care of our church Session, and recently passed his final ordination exams and examination at Presbytery.
To understand the path that Alexander has taken, and for any who may be interested in exploring the possibility of training for Ministry of Word and Sacrament, the long and winding journey toward ordination unfolds with a number of markers along the way. First, a person considering ministry becomes an Inquirer, and undertakes a process to discern whether they have a call for this ministry. The call is both an inward one of the Spirit and a willingness to serve, as well as an outward call, with the inquirer’s call being confirmed by the wider church.
In our Presbytery, there is a CPM (Commission on Preparation for Ministry) group that shepherds the inquirer through this process. The next phase (if the inquirer decides to proceed) sees the inquirer become a candidate for ministry and undertake training for ministry. In our PC(USA) denomination, this involves studying for a Master’s degree of Divinity (the M.Div), usually at one of our denomination’s seminaries. This is usually a three-year course of study, including the Biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew, as well as training in Theology, Biblical studies, Pastoral Care, Church History. Clinical Pastoral Education or CPE is also required; this is training for chaplaincy and hospital visitation that has the candidate reflect on pastoral visits in a guided group setting.
On completion of studies, the candidate undertakes the Ordination Exams, something like a Board exam for law or medicine. These are in the areas of Bible content, Bible Exegesis (interpretation), Worship & Sacraments, Theology, and Church Polity (governance).
Then the candidate is examined again by the Commission on Preparation for Ministry, preaching a sermon for them and presenting an exegetical paper (interpreting the Biblical text on which their sermon is based). The candidate also goes before the regional church, the Presbytery, to share their experience of the faith.
When all of these have been completed, the Commission on Preparation for Ministry votes to approve the student as a Certified Candidate, certified as ready to receive a call. When the candidate finds a church, chaplaincy, or other ministry setting that asks them to join their ministry, the candidate then is examined on the floor of a meeting of the Presbytery as to whether they are ready to be ordained. Ministers and Elders attending Presbytery have a chance to ask the candidate questions (including at times rather esoteric points of theology) until they are satisfied of the person’s readiness for ministry.
A candidate is ordained to a particular call or ministry setting (and once ordained, can serve in any ministry setting). The ordination is a service of the Presbytery, as the Presbytery is, in a sense, the corporate bishop that ordains.
At the ordination service, you will see paraments in red (as we have on Pentecost) to symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit. Representatives of the Presbytery who have encouraged Alexander in his training will take part in the service, including Elder Ann Walsh from our church, who has been Alexander’s Session liaison. Ministers and Elders attending the service will be invited forward for the ordination prayer, in which they put a hand on the ordinand’s shoulder for what is called the laying on of hands. At the end of the service, it is traditional for the newly ordained person to give the closing benediction.
We are grateful for the Spirit’s guidance to Alexander through this long journey, and for the gifts and graces that he brings to his ministry in hospice and chaplaincy.
I hope you can join us in person or by streaming to witness this special service and milestone in Alexander’s ministry!
Grace & peace,