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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

The Rite of Ordination and Installation


By Peter Berg

I once wrote in this journal, “More and more I find that the conduct of the Mass in the chancel is the only time and place when I find true peace and where I feel truly safe. I'm comforted by the Gospel spoken and sacramentally incarnated: breath, body and blood! I love the texts and textiles, the music and the plastic arts, the pungent small of the chalice and the simplicity and lightness of the Host, the rubrics and the liturgical movement. I love to see God's people coming forward to receive (His gifts)...” (Trinity 2012, Vol, 20 Num. 1, page 12)

I love the Liturgy, which includes the mass and the daily offices and occasional services as well. However when it comes to the occasional services my affection has cooled a bit. While funerals are wonderful opportunities to confess the Risen One, one is annoyed when a sobbing niece slams you for calling Uncle Frank a sinner in the sermon, even though he readily confessed that every Sunday at the confiteor. The niece had probably lost her faith long ago and bought into the fiction that most people are basically good. Then there is the lovely nuptual rite, unfortunately victimized by the world's view of romance and all sorts of silly, modern wedding practices which feature the bride and groom and not the Bride and the Lamb. The liturgically faithful pastor will navigate these troubled waters and will stay the course, remaining faithful to the Liturgy. Still it's annoying. There is one rite, however, that at present seems unsalvageable, not due to any flaws in the rite, but due to the poor administration by many presiding ministers. This rite is the Rite of Ordination and Installation (see LSB Agenda, pages 160f). The problem is usually not with the ordinand or the one to be installed. The problem arises due to the manner in which the presiding minister and the attending pastors treat the rite. Even if the presiding minister is liturgically astute he will often find that managing the other pastors is a bit like trying to herd cats. For this reason I dread these services.

In the past, when I've presided at these services, I've tried to choreograph the movements of the clergy on a chalk board prior to the service, much the way that a football coach diagrams a play. This is helpful if the participating clergy arrive on time. Lots of luck there. I've also urged the men to stick with the assigned passages in the rite rather than using off the cuff original blessings. Alas, the brothers look at you as if you have robbed them of their precious gospel freedom, and then do their shtick anyway. Their shtick is often exactly that: “humorous”, rambling, wordy, sappy, etc., etc. Did I say that I dread these services?

The rubrics for these rites are clearly spelled out in the Agenda and should be adhered to. There should be no ad-libbing. Presider, stick to the rite! There should be no individual laying on of the hands coupled to each attending pastor's “original” salutation. Not all of the passages pertaining to the institution, responsibilites, strength and promise of the Holy Ministry need to be read. The rubric states, “Assisting ministers read one or more selections of Holy Scripture...” (page 162, emphasis mine) At one of my installatons the presiding minister hijacked the reading of the passages and read all of them! I was dying for a beer! Did I say that I dread these services?

Furthermore, since the ordination/installation service will also be an Eucharist the preacher should be circumspect with regard to the length of the sermon. The occasional services of the Liturgy are a treasure and blessing for the Church all unto themselves, they need no improvement.

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