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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ask the Matriarchs: The Big Event — Ordination

Greetings all! This week's question is about celebrating one's ordination. Our seeker is being ordained to the transitional diaconate in the Episcopal Church, and then to the priesthood in six months. And she finds herself wanting to put together a small event for her out-of-town guests, but... doesn't know where to start:

You know how when folks get married, the parents help as much as they are allowed to because they have been through it before and been to many weddings? Well, what I need is an "ordination mother"- my own mother would do it but has never been ordained, and come to think of it has never been to an ordination in this denomination.

The ladies group at church is putting on the reception, so that is set. But I am being ordained many miles from where I started (moved here in May) and am considering a brunch at my house the following morning for those who come from out of town. Thoughts? What am I not thinking of?

Soooo, what are the customary gifts for this occasion? What do I say when the relatives ask? Anyone have a list of things every Episcopal Priest should have?

Peripatetic Polar Bear notes that "ordinations are generally elaborate services with fairly simple receptions, so your ladies guild is doing a fabulous thing for you. Having a brunch the next day is nice, especially if people have come a long way. My understanding is that the priestly ordination will have a big first eucharist thing the next morning, so you may want to save your brunch chops for that--or do it twice."

As for gifts, PPB offered up some ideas that aren't denomination-specific:

  • certificates to religious bookstores (cokesbury, etc.) to buy those big old commentaries that you can no longer access from your seminary library
  • crosses--particularly the big ones worn over robes
  • stoles, robes and clergy shirts
  • communion sets (the small ones you take to the hospital)
  • general "getting started in a new career" stuff--briefcase, business card holders, personal stationery with your name engraved, things for your new office walls, etc.

Ann of What the Tide Brings In joins us as a new matriarch, and an Episcopal one at that, and she had this to offer: Don't worry about anything too much, as it's all happened to someone in the past. "One thing to remember—no matter what happens at the service or the reception, you will be ordained, and all the other incidents around the event will become the stuff of legend and much grand storytelling in the future. Anything that can go awry has happened before, so enjoy your day."

She encourages you to enlist lots of help for your brunch event, because you will be exhausted. But it may well be the most important part of your ordination! "Let your friends and family do whatever is comfortable for you," she says. "At my diaconal ordination we had a dinner before the service with friends and family. The feeling of being ordained happened at that event even more than at the actual ordination rite in the Cathedral. So party with those who have loved you along the way."

She stresses that it's better to give giftly hints lest you wind up with "all sorts of Hallmark angels, etc." She adds that it's customary for your family to give you a stole, but be sure they "get one that can be used as a priest stole, not a deacon style one." Preferably one in red, she adds. And, the bishop will give you a bible.

Other ideas:

  • Gift certificates to Almy or Womenspirit for shirts, vestments, collars, episco-dodads.
  • A communion visit set works well as a group gift, but be sure they "get an Episcopal one with a single chalice. I was given one with individual cups!"
  • The combination Book of Common Prayer/Hymnal 1982. The leather binding version, she notes, is more durable and won't crack.
  • An extra-long vestment bag, if you are going to be traveling often, is good for transporting your robes and albs. Even better if it's personalized, she notes.
  • The out-of-print-but-still-on-Amazon Burial Services: Rite One and Rite Two With the Holy Eucharist, Rite One and Rite Two and Additional Material by Joseph Bernardin
  • Extra collar studs
  • A shoe polish kit

For those of you reading, what was the most useful gift you received at ordination, or what do you wish you had gotten but didn't? And does anyone else have tales of ordination celebrations to share? If so, please post them in the comments!


  1. Not sure this was a "useful" gift, but it has been much appreciated.
    One couple gave me an iPod. Sounds crazy and indeed privoulous, but it has been greatly appreciated.
    Now, realizing that you proably can't "ask" for an iPod, but I think a frivilous gift is great or if you get gift cards to some place, use them for a frivilous item or two.
    Yes, you do need all the other items mentioned, but somethign fun, jsut for you will come in handy.
    My iPod has come in handy on long trips (plane) and on other outings, where a music break is in order. Also, it was cool to have at Montreat (PCUSA retreat) with the youth. It is very cool to excahnge iPods or MP3s and listen to each other's music.
    Yeah, totally go friv on at least one thing!

  2. Too bad we can't "register" at some places as you do when you get married. That would be fun.

  3. OOOhhh - I know this ordinand!! Thanks for the gift ideas!! And thanks for asking - hopefully I will need this advice later on :)

  4. My best advice is, don't over schedule yourself. Gratefully accept the help that is offered you, ask for help rather than go the "I'll just do it all myself" route. This is such a special time, allow yourself to fully experience and enjoy it!
    One type of gift I received that I have gotten much use of, is devotional books. (good ones, not the smarmy ones please!) I can't count the number of times I have had to come up with devotions for some meeting or get-together, and having a variety of devotional books has been helpful. Plus, it's nice to have a variety for your own devotional life.

  5. Not being of the liturgical sort, I would appreciate any P.S. comments from someone who is in a nondenominational setting. I guess I could wear a stole and big ol' pectoral cross with my jeans but (LOL)... not.

    I would vote for gift cards so that the ordinand (learned a new word) can indulge in their tastes and interests and needs...


  6. I loved it when people who knew me gave me "non-pastor" gifts. Because really, I didn't stop being a whole person when I added "Rev" to my name. I still got plenty of crosses, stoles, Bible-y type things.

    The mani-pedi, massage, girly things were much appreciated.

    Having said that,when my congregation asked me what they could give, I asked for contributions toward the New Interpreter's Bible commentary on CD. They surprised me with the whole thing! It is the one gift I use every single week.

  7. What a fabulous topic today. Thanks

  8. I already weighedin on the practical gifts, but the most fun and appreciated gifts that I received were these two:
    a) framed and matted photographs of the midwest--cornfields, etc. by a photographer I liked--to remind me of where I came from.
    b) two kittens. With shots and fixings pre-paid. They were gifts from the college where I was serving. boykitty died a year ago (named him after the church where I was ordained), and girlkitty (named after the first college I served) survives still. They were the most thoughtful gifts ever! And since today is the day after my ordination anniversary, it's actually the anniversary of the arrival of the kitties. (I don't recommend giving cats to just anyone. They had been asking me a lot of questions about pets before hand, and I just hadn't put two and two together.)

  9. For people who are interested in giving stoles, crosses, etc.... A Greater Gift has some great Fair Trade ones.

    A meaningful keepsake from a first parish I think would also be treasured, since all the pastors I know look back on that first job as an emotional as well as vocational touchstone.

  10. Actually, your seminary bookstore can probably set up a wishlist for you.

  11. I had some friends from my "home church" (where I was ordained) who put on a dinner party after the service/reception. It was late--like 9pm--but it was fabulous to just go and hang out with family and friends at a nearby home, not have to worry about real food (since the reception was full of an amazing cake), and just relax after the big event.

    for presents, my favorite actually is a storypeople "sculpture" that now hangs on my office wall. It is shaped sort of like a person and sort of like a wine bottle and it says "there are things you do because they feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other's cooking and say it was good." It's the one gift I look at and appreciate every single day.

  12. Honestly, if I were doing ordination over again, I would invite people to give to a charity/fund/church-related organization if they wanted to give a gift. Fewer copies of footprints and pastel angels that way, plus I received a lot of stuff I just didn't need.

    Have fun!

  13. The custom in my home church when someone is ordained is that the congregation makes donations which are used to purchase the ordinand's clergy robe & a cross for them to wear with their robe that is a replica of the cross that sits atop the sanctuary. Tradition has always been that the donations contributed far exceeded the cost of the robe and cross (it's a medium-sized church and they are very gracious with these kinds of things). When the young woman (who is also a friend of mine) who had been the children's director was ordained a pastor, the question was, "what do we do with the extra money?" I was asked what my suggestion was, and I suggested a gift certificate to the mall, so that she could purchase clothing that she might need for more formal church events - or she could use it for anything she wanted. She loved the gift certificate, because she had nothing in her wardrobe along those lines. With the gift certificate she purchased a suit, some blouses, shoes, etc., and had her Sunday morning-wedding-funeral attire all set.

    When I was ordained, they gave the extra contributions to me in the form of a check, which I used to purchase the NIB commentary.

  14. My best "pastory" gift was a "pastoral record" book, with a place to record baptisms/funerals/weddings/and parishes served.

    Abingdon publishes it. Especially if the first call is as a solo pastor to a small parish, this is a nice gift.

    The commentary idea is great, too.

    I got the verse "God ye into all the world and preach the gospel" on a counted cross-stitch wall-hanging. (that was from someone in the church I was going to).

    I like the non-religious items.

    Also, friends who gave me a rolo-dex card file.

  15. Deb - in my low church setting I have worn a stole with a plain black suit. But only when I planned to talk about its meaning to me during the service, not regularly.

    Sometimes it is sad not to have the "holy haberdashery" of the high church :(

    And ordination GIFTS? What an idea! My mother gave me a sofa, but the church folks, nada. Such is life in the non-hierarchical communities of faith. (And the elder who was slated to do the Call to Worship. . . arrived 10 minutes late.)

  16. In the UMC, we are ordained as a class at annual conference, followed by a photo op and cookies and lemonade. That's pretty much it. My family gave us Cokesbury GCs, which we used to buy a robe for me (bought Ben's with graduation gifts 3 years before).
    I'm kinda jealous of the party and presents! Our celebration was pretty low-key; Mom came to see us, but that was about it.

  17. I should explain that I did not get gifts from the congregation. They gave me some money toward seminary and that was more than generous. I got some gifts from my parents' friends, and a few relatives. And I think this was only because my sister had finished her PhD the year prior and my parents had hosted a party for her---and she received gifts for that.

  18. I, too, was lucky enough to have the women's group of my home congregation help out by providing a light dinner beforehand (for family and everyone coming a long ways) and then the reception afterwards. Then my parents bought a few pizzas so we could hang out with the really close friends at home and I opened gifts.

    I got a surprising number of journals. Plus the standard crosses and figurines, some of which are great and some of which were okay. My aunt made my red stole. But honestly, most people gave me money. And that was just great, because with it all combined plus what I got for selling my old car, I was able to make a good down payment on my new car (vital for ministry in a two-point parish).

    I think I treasure the memories more than the gifts. Like the friends from college who drove three hours to be there...but came on the wrong day. OOPS! But as a result, they helped me fold bulletins and we had a wonderful dinner together that night. Then the white-trash marryin'-Jesus anti-bachelorette party the same night. (Long story.)

    Is now an acceptable time to confess that I still have some thank-yous to send out? (and this whole thing took place about a year and a half ago...)

    Okay, I'll stop reminiscing now!

  19. Keep in mind that very young ordinands,(like I was), are often setting up their first real(i.e. non dorm/student apt.)household as they move to their first call. In these instances, non-religious, practical gifts are much appreciated. From relatives I asked for and received a VCR and a set of everyday dishes as ordination presents.

  20. The friends who attended my ordination drove 12 hours each way to be there, so I considered their presence their gift to me. My family had NO idea a) how big a deal my ordination was to me, or b) what appropriate gifts might be. So, I got a small wall-hanging with a spiritual sort of saying on it from my parents, and a set of large mugs from my aunt (which I love and use all the time, but which clearly had little to do with the nature of the occasion).

    What I would have liked is a commentary set or gift card toward buying one. I still struggle with not having what I need in that department. A communion set would have been handy, too.

    The crowd was small, so we just went out for dinner afterward. It was low-key and fun.

  21. An iPod! Great idea!

    We AG folks are like the UMC in that ordination is done as a group. In my particular district it is always at an evening worship designed for that event, but held as part of our yearly district council. It's nice, but makes it difficult to include much of a personal reception. I think five church people attended, which was more than I thought might come.

    I love the idea of gift certificates to be used for books or "clergywear." I was really hoping that my church would see fit to purchase a set of commentaries, but such was not the case.

    So no help from me...interesting comments for future reference however.

  22. my gifts also came all from family and people did give me random stuff for my office on my installation, though, as well as a huge reception. Good times!

    All this talk about commentaries makes me feel like I should read more of them. It was sort of discouraged at my seminary--we are the testimony types more than the commentary types, I guess. I have a couple of commentaries (and my senior pastor has the NIB set) but I never use them. I suspect that makes me a bad Presbyterian....

  23. I received just a few gifts, but the most meaningful was a stole made by a friend after we discussed and planned it together. The Association, oddly, gave me a chalice without a paten, but I took a check someone else gave me and found an appropriate plate at the same pottery place. I've never seen them do just a chalice again, so I hope it was a fluke.
    My home church gave me a blue stole for Advent designed for a 6'2" man, and that is still in the box.

  24. All three of my ordinations were tiny and last minute, so I had very little in the way of parties or gifts--but what I did have was from the heart and deeply appreciated. Most recently, for the episcopal consecration, one friend gave me a copy of the music mix the students at his campus ministry position had given him. And the other had just been to see Edwina Gately, told her about me and my sisters in the new Sophia Catholic Communion, and got her blessing on my ministry and a signed book--woohoo!

  25. So I have been thinking about gift registries. Any seminary bookstore manager worth their salt would help with a registry. Trust me on this one.

    Target, Crate and Barrel and I'm sure lots of others have gift registeries that are not occasion specific. So if you think of this as a "house warming" event- why not register for new dishes or a vacuum or whatever you really need.

  26. My default ordination gift, on the assumption that the honoree will be getting plenty of religious stuff, is a Leatherman multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife. My grandfather taught me that, after the Bible, he has found this the most useful tool for pastoral ministry.

  27. If you haven't bought the classic Cassock/Surplice combo for Evening Prayer, Morning Prayer and all those times you have to be "terribly Anglican" and not wear an alb (for those who are really stuffy about that protocol), ask for that!


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