On July 10, 2017, Bishop Michele Birch-Conery presided at the ARCWP ordination of Sydney Joan Condray as priest and Karen Kerrigan as deacon. Michele's homily below was based on the readings chosen by Sydney and Karen. The first reading was 1Corinthians 12:4-11 and the Gospel was Luke 10: 1-5; 8-9.
Bishop Michele Birch-Conery's Homily
We welcome all of you who have come to share in the joy of the ordination of Sydney Condray to the priesthood and Karen Kerrigan to the deaconate in the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). We thank you for responding to their invitation and that you have come as witnesses to their ordination.
Your gracious presence blesses us as we gather in anticipation of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring of grace in laying-on- of hands for Sydney and Karen. We will invite you to lay hands on these ordinands as all of us together are blessed … all of us, the people of God.
Many spiritual manifestations bless us on the journey to ordination. These may be public or private and individual and they also may be communal and experienced by us in discoveries we come upon together. They may come as a consequence of obstacles requiring some struggle to resolve.
In preparing for this ordination we were challenged by changes in venue. This is not unusual in initiatives such as ours since everything we do is realized on the margins of our formal RCC. The Church law forbidding the ordination of women has yet to be changed. Because of that we are illicit although validly ordained. This means that we must find spaces for worship and ministry outside diocesan territories.
We often have a formidable task in building and rebuilding what I call “Church in the rough”. But when we were received by Pastors Samuel Buerer, Mary Meadows and David Anderson, we knew once again, the embrace of Jesus who taught us to welcome the stranger, to offer hospitality from the heart to the refugee, and to value the gifts of all of us held in the wide tent of Christianity. Each of us, at the very least, offers charity of heart no matter our differences, while accepting each other in the spirit of Ecumenism.
Then when we entered the sanctuary, two days ago, we were lifted up and filled with joy and confidence. The spiritual resonance of this sacred space was palpable. It came as a kind of miracle to all of us, especially Sydney and Karen. We were bathed in an immediate light radiant from the stained glass windows and all the natural light from the chapel, particularly from the domed skylight.
The theme of creation and the sacred elements of earth, air, fire and water told us that we were on another Church ship owned by friends and companions in the Spirit. Here were persons who cared about all peoples, about the planet, about our vast universe. Their caring, like ours, and that of Sydney and Karen is grounded in what is essential now, in the challenges of climate change and in the necessity of peacemaking.
With their gifts and prayerful contemplative hearts and spirits, Sydney and Karen understand the activism and energy necessary to stand for justice in all things. Such gifts are essential for the kinds of ministry needed today.
In the scripture reading today, we hear of Holy Wisdom’s hospitality and her invitation to those desiring enlightenment, by thinking more expansively. We are compelled to abandon thoughts that are no longer useful and we are released into new ways of understanding.
We hear in the reading from Corinthians that, “There is a variety of gifts and one Spirit”. St. Paul gives us permission to offer them for the good of all. Today, competition is rampant and impedes the manifestation of our gifts. Such individualism impedes progress. But when we minister in a community of equals, collaboration supported by simplicity, modesty and regard for one another, ensures transformative leadership in order to be safe and effective.
Today, I invite our ordinands, priests and each of you to renew your life commitments and align them with the necessities of the times we are in now. I invite you to open your heart to receive the graces you most need.
I pray that we receive the Spirit of Holiness that speaks to us from the many holy people who have gone before us, including those from this United Church since 1900.
Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday. I conclude with the sacred poem by our Sydney entitled ‘Trinity’.
Bound in single unity
Earth, sea and sky
On sunlit beach.
Each different and distinct
Yet a seamless garment
Creates, sustains, renews the earth.
photos courtesy of Joan Chesterfield, ARCWP, and Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP