Matthew Stevens, whose liturgy often is shared here writes this as a brief biographical note: As a person of Aboriginal heritage I was privileged to serve for many years as a minister within First Nations communities. Being also regarded as an elder I was anxious to promote a blending of our traditional Native spiritual heritage, with the Christian practices the United Church of Canada follows amongst the dominant society. In this regard I find total harmony between the quintessential spirituality of both traditions, and re-introduced many of our symbols and approaches to the church service.
Of this prayer he writes: This service is referred to as a “Celebration of Ministry” because it is not only the Ordination/Commissioning of new clergy, but a time of recognition for clergy who have retired over the past year. This service will be held this year in the beautiful old sanctuary of Metropolitan United Church, right in the heart of downtown London, Ontario, Canada.
Matthew writes after his return: Just nicely home again, and the Celebration of Ministry service went very well. I received a number of positive expressions concerning the prayer, from non-Aboriginal attendees as well as Aboriginal ones.
This prayer may be adapted for ordinations and installations and celebrations of ministry in many contexts.
Celebration of Ministry Service Metropolitan United Church –
London Ontario, Canada Sunday, May 25th, 2013
G’zhem-mnidoo Mishoomis – Great Kind Grandfather Spirit:
We come here from many different places,
with many different intentions and aspirations.
Some have heard you calling
in that still, small voice of service,
and so they come seeking guidance,
affirmation, and blessing,
as they take up their ordination, commissioning, appointment.
Some have at last felt your approving hand on their shoulder,
celebrating the ministry you’ve lead them throughout,
as their journey turns toward a new path into retirement.
Some recognize themselves as colleagues, family and friends,
intent upon offering love, support, and good wishes,
to those who commence or conclude their ministry today.
And some – indeed most of us – are simply grateful and pleased,
to find ourselves included in this company of faithful,
giving praise and thanks for all we’ve received in grace.
Gizhe-manidoowiwin Nookmis – Divine Grandmother Spirit:
you know only too well how puffed-up with self-importance,
we can often become at occasions such as these.
We’re likely to need your frequent reminders of genuine humility,
setting aside all our honourific titles and academic accolades,
continuing grounded in Jesus’ simple ministry of all believers.
Grant us eyes that see beyond the human constructs of this church,
and delighting in the true wonders of your creation,
remain intrigued by the image of Christ we see all about us.
Stir our imaginations, and upset our comfortable complacency,
to acknowledge that those who are disempowered and exploited,
are largely not present amongst us this evening.
For all of efforts in the name of inclusivity and personal affirmation,
many of your children still do not perceive themselves as welcomed,
or their gifts as valued through real and pragmatic recognition.
Mishoomis & Nookmis – Grandfather & Grandmother Spirit:
it is certain that we still have a long way to go,
and that we routinely wander inattentively from the path.
But, it is equally certain through our proposed actions this evening,
that we hope to demonstrate our resolve to engage in ministry,
with a new generation of innovative and dynamic servants.
Recommitting ourselves to our founding social gospel principles,
and reasserting primacy upon justice, equality, and empowerment,
we will live-into right relations with all who are marginalised.
So, we invite your constant presence amongst us this evening,
alerting us to the unanticipated movement of your Spirit,
calling us from our scripts to the challenge of spontaneity.
Push us out of the stayed and predictable rut that has proven so life-robbing,
to be one with your life-affirming Ru’ach* in the wilderness,
finding our true identity in the uncertainty of your challenge.
Chii-Miigwech – Amen.
*Ru’ach – Hebrew word for the powerful and unpredictable wind of God.