A friend of mine who attended the ordination service on Saturday evening later said to me, "That moment when the Bishop put his hands on your heads...did you feel it? All noise in the cathedral just stopped Even the children who had been making a fuss throughout the whole service were suddenly silent. What *was* that?"
As someone who doesn't regularly attend church, my friend wouldn't usually speak about the presence of God and so struggled to describe what he witnessed, but his wife told me he had spent a good deal of the service in tears.
How can I possibly describe the incredible, overwhelming experience of being ordained? Of course I was excited and terrified in equal measure. Part of my nerves were obviously related to the importance of the occasion and the commitment I was undertaking but part of it was also distinctly more prosaic - what if I tripped on my cassock and went flying in front of the Bishop? What if I forgot what I was supposed to say or where I was supposed to stand? What if I just ended up blubbering through the whole service? (Trust me, I am *not* attractive when I cry!) But in the end, despite the butterflies in my tummy, being ordained was the single most powerful experience I have ever had, perhaps other than becoming a mother.
How can I describe the atmosphere? The cathedral was packed with friends, family and supporters of the candidates, the stunning voices of the men and boys choir soared over us, the formal robes - particularly those of the bishops - glittered as they caught the light and of course there is no better setting than the cathedral building itself which is nearly one thousand years old. All these things combined to overwhelm the senses but it wasn't *just* these things.
There was also a very tangible Presence in the cathedral. To put it quite simply, but also incredibly profoundly, God was there. I cannot possible explain to you how I know this, there are no adequate words. But God was there in the way the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck rose. God was there as people who would never normally cry in public were in tears.
God was there as Bishop Jonathan reminded us, "You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God..." God was there as we knelt in silent prayer and my entire body shook - not with nerves but in reaction to His presence. God was there in the holy hush as Bishop Jonathan laid his hands on each of our heads in turn and prayed, "Send down your Holy Spirit on your servant (Charlotte) for the office and work of a deacon in your church."
God granted that prayer and the Holy Spirit was there. Even as I write this and try, incredibly inadequately to describe what happened, the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck are rising and I'm covered in goosebumps. I'm using a lot of words to say, in essence, that there are no words than can truly, or even remotely adequately, explain it.
Eventually, as these things do, the service came to a close. We processed out to the cheers and applause of those who love us and will continue to support us in our ministries to be presented with our licenses. So I am now officially a 'Rev' or, to use the technical term, "A Clerk in Holy Orders".
So what did you do this weekend?!