Although I was well-trained as a celebrant through the excellent program offered by the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, in order to legally perform wedding ceremonies I was ordained through the Universal Life Church. Anyone in the U.S. can be ordained in this way simply by going to their website, filling out a form, and paying a small fee.
I submitted the form on February 13, 2013, because I had just been asked to do my first wedding. A week or so later, I got a certificate in the mail that showed I was now an ordained minister. It felt weird; an odd sense of power came over me, immediately followed by a deep sense of responsibility. But because there had been no ceremony involved, getting the certificate also felt quite anticlimactic and incomplete, as well as fairly ironic, given that I was now going to be proclaiming the importance ceremonies as a vocation.
Meanwhile, an amazing photographer and good friend, Heather Sparrow and I had been planning a photo shoot of me around the theme of gold, being that gold was my color for the year. We had talked about this being ceremonial in several ways, but now we decided to turn it into a full-blown ordination ceremony, which she would both photograph and officiate.
So I wrote my own ordination ceremony. I adapted vows used in more traditional ordination of Christian ministers, and added poetry and prayers that I drew from various sources. Heather and her assistant Jackie Kolbenschlag created a labyrinth on Heather’s land, and then on the morning of March 27th, 2013, as the full moon set and the sun rose, we held our ceremony in the labyrinth.
I wore an incredible outfit created for me by the phenomenal Brooke Barlow, who took my rather vague ideas about wanting to wear gold and juxtapose traditionally feminine elements with metal and leather, and executed a costume that felt like, well…it was made for me. It far exceeded what I had imagined.
The ceremony began with Heather, wearing a grey cape and a giant bird head, waiting for me in the center of the labyrinth, as I walked its path toward her. When I reached the center, she invoked the Living Spirit, Mother/Father of us all, and smudged me with lavender.
She then asked me questions, the answers to which were my vows as a celebrant.
Do you now in the presence of this community commit yourself to this trust and responsibility?
Will you endeavor to share divine love in all that you do, always respecting and honoring those whom you serve?
Will you always seek to forgive yourself and others for shortcomings and failures?
I do. I will.
Heather, Jackie, Brooke, and I then passed around a luscious golden pear and each took a bite.
Recognizing this as a symbol of the fruit of Spirit, we celebrate the communion of all things.
Come, Spirit, come.
Bless and prosper this community; bless and prosper our lives, that justice and love may be the fruit of our joining.
My ordination ceremony/photo shoot was both holy and playful. It was kintsugi and tikkun olam, the crossing of a major threshold in my personal life. It illuminated for me how profound a ceremony can be when performed in a safe space with people you trust, and approached with humility, creativity, and openness.
Maybe most importantly, it made me consider what being ordained truly means, because I never want to be casual or glib about that. And it provided a touchstone to return to if I forget or experience failures along the way.
Ultimately, the whole experience beautifully prepared me as a celebrant to help others cross their own thresholds with grace and loving awareness, and I will forever be grateful to the ladies who co-created and shared it with me.