Ordination

Photo copyright Bram Evans 2010
Saturday began early. I was awake at 4 and up at 6 and off to the airport at 9 to pick up my daughter Catherine. A mix up (mine, naturally) over the flights meant that I had time to sit around drinking coffee before her plane from Wellington arrived, so I was able to meet a number of people who were arriving on other planes en route to the ordination later in the day: three Maori two Pakeha and one Polynesian bishops; one bishop-elect; a General Secretary and a mission board CEO; and a couple of very dear friends of many years standing. I managed a couple of deep and meaningful conversations amongst the hongis and handshakes and then was able to offer a taxi service back into Dunedin. After a detour to meet a contingent from Te Hahi Mihinare gathering in St. Marks Green island, I got home at about 11:00 am, just in time to change for the big event. For the first time I put on a purple shirt and the new suit which the helpful guy from Bob Shepherd Menswear had only last week helped me choose. I gathered up my crisp and crinkly new rochet, and drove on my own to the cathedral just after mid day. Already there were clergy in the crypt changing into albs and red stoles. I struggled with the unaccustomed buttons on the sleeves of the rochet, chatted to the folk around me, then went outside into the cathedral car park to wait.

People gathered. The sun shone down in that bright, but not hot Dunedin way. My family arrived and looked uncertainly at the gathering crowd in white and red before we formed up behind the banners and the crosses, and moved out, down Stuart Street, past the tourists with their digi-cams and up the vast flight of steps from The Octagon into St. Paul's. The procession in front of us seemed endless as we moved slowly up the steps. Then waiting at the door, for the first time I was daunted by it all. The nave was filled with standing people; I could see an ocean of backs and down the long central aisle, ranged behind the great altar, the assembled bishops of our province in a semi circle facing me. Then the spine tingling cry of a karanga: a sound that always brings tear to my eyes and we moved in, the vestry of St. Johns and my most beloved and me, slowly through all those people. Some of them had travelled from thousands of miles away and all of them were there for me. More than even my wedding day, or my ordinations to the diaconate or the priesthood, I was overwhelmed and daunted by the sense of being the centre of attention.

The service proceeded as slickly as the cathedral staff had planned. A mihi whakatau and a confession and prayers. I was presented to the archbishops and then the scripture was read. As is usual in St. Paul's, there was a Gospel procession, and as I turned to face the Gospel as it was carried down the aisle, for the first time I was able to see the faces of the congregation, and here was the first great spiritual experience of the day. Row after row after row of familiar faces were turned towards me. Row after row after row of people I knew and trusted and respected and loved. In an instant all sense of being daunted by the crowd dropped away, and it was replaced by a deep sense of joy at being amongst them.

Alan Firth preached. Alan is an extraordinary young man, and I had chosen him as preacher for two reasons. Firstly, and most importantly because I could absolutely guarantee that he would deliver a memorable, intelligent, well crafted, theologically sound sermon. He did. Secondly because Alan's mere presence in the pulpit is, as his many friends at St. John's Roslyn will tell you, living testimony to the fact that the Risen Christ is amongst us.

Then there was the ritual examination by the archbishops: a series of liturgical questions which even in their ordered formality seemed like a searchlight shining into me and through me. And then the second great spiritual event of the day. As the bishops gathered and as a hymn evoking the Holy Spirit was sung, I lay prostrate on the floor. I'm still not sure why I initially chose to do that, but as soon as I was in contact with the cold marble, I knew. I was aware of the singing and the sound of my soon to be episcopal brethren and sister; but all the cathedral seemed to vanish and I was alone with Him. Utterly, utterly alone. And searched. And judged. And known. And utterly, utterly accepted and loved. I knelt and hands were laid on me. I was presented with the badges and vestments of office. I was placed in the chair which is now, for the time being, mine. Speeches were made, and I spoke to my people. And then a third great experience. They stood and applauded and the goodwill and hope rose like golden fragrant incense and kept on rising.

Together we broke the bread and shared the wine. A huge hamper of gifts was placed on the altar: small and thoughtful love offerings from the parishes of our diocese. Then I said my first blessing on all those hopeful ones, and walked back down the long aisle and into the Octagon.

Of course we wouldn't be Anglicans if we didn't finish by celebrating the eighth sacrament: the cup of tea afterwards, and after more conversations than I could count and a final rush around the cathedral to gather up the bits and pieces of the day and bundle them into my car, I arrived home very late in the afternoon. My family had a meal of trout and salads. We sat around and opened the many gifts, exclaiming over their ingenuity and thoughtfulness. And in the middle of yet more D&M conversations I began to fall asleep, for longer and longer periods and in more and more noticeable ways.

On Sunday morning I travelled to the tiny Brockville Community Church for my first official engagement as Bishop of Dunedin. I know I shouldn't any longer be surprised by the workings of the Holy Spirit but I am. The Spirit had conspired to give me the most perfect beginning for this new ministry, as my sermon there might show you. And so it ended. My first 24 hours as bishop. One down, and many, many more to go. Thank you.


Comments

Beth Griffin said…
Reading your account has brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart, Kelvin. Thank you for sharing your very personal feelings and impressions and thoughts. I was honoured to be there on Saturday and am honoured to have you as my bishop. Thank you, simply, for being you.
Peter Carrell said…
Marvelous. God is good!
Howard Pilgrim said…
I am deeply moved by your account. The Lord is with you, and so are my prayers.
Peter Llewellyn said…
It's been a good number of years since I was present at the ordination of a bishop - by happenstance my last was the ordination in St Saviour's Goulburn NSW of Richard Randerson, who became a good friend in his and Jackie's time in Canberra. Your account is simply splendid - consistent with all I have learned about you, Bishop Kelvin, since first reading your stories. Benedictus benedicat.
Katherine said…
First post of a bishop, eh? Well, it was simply marvelous. Shining like a light, and full of joy. Congratulations Kelvin. I'm so glad it all went so well for you. Now the adventures begin.
Christopher said…
Awesome read! But OH NO! Now your gonna have to change your blog url from VenDR.blogspot.com to BishDR.blogspot.com
Alden said…
Congratulations Kelvin.
I wish you the very, very best of all the new and wonderful experiences that await you in this new Spring of your Autumn.
Janice said…
Thank you for that wonderful account of your ordination, Kelvin, it felt like I was there. You are an extraordinary man, and the church is lucky to have you in its service.
Stuarts8 said…
I enjoyed your account so much Kelvin. Its been 30 years since we met. I look forward to catching up with you perhaps at Ross Bay`s ordination on 17 April. Hope you will be there. I am mindful of Richard Gillard`s wonderful song and the first verse in particular:
"Will you let me be your Servant, let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the Grace
to let you be my servant too".
Blessings
Stuart Sinclair