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Jubilant Ordination and Commissioning Service after pandemic postponements

Posted: April 27 2021 at 02:22 PM
Author: Anne Marie Gerhardt, Dir. of Communications

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An in-person ordination and commissioning service for the 2020 class was finally held April 24, 2021, at Barrington United Methodist Church after two postponements because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A feeling of exuberance and loud “Amens" filled Barrington United Methodist Church's sanctuary on April 24 during a long-awaited, in-person service to ordain and commission the 2020 class. The ordinands and commissioning candidates had patiently waited nearly a year for their time after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the service two times in 2020.

“How pleased I am we finally got to do this in person!” said Retired Bishop Sally Dyck during the service, which was livestreamed from the church. “This is not the celebration you had in mind, but we are here together and I celebrate you are still going forth in ministry every day.”

After the June 2020 Northern Illinois Annual Conference was cancelled and moved to a virtual event in the fall, plans were made to have a small in-person service in November under health and safety guidelines. However, a couple of weeks before the date, COVID-19 cases started to surge in Illinois. Bishop Dyck made the difficult decision to cancel again.

Bishop Dyck, who retired in December to California, was grateful to return to co-officiate with Interim Bishop John Hopkins in the April service and be included in her final work in the Northern Illinois Conference. “I was thankful for the opportunity to make this important time of celebration with all of them,” she said. “I know this isn’t the service they dreamed of, but it was pretty powerful and emotional.”

The Rev. Tammy Scott, who was ordained an elder and serves at Sugar Grove UMC, said she was filled with emotions and tears during the service. “I was ordained a deacon 15 years ago, so now be ordained an elder I’ve come full circle. To walk this journey with some amazing colleagues, it was very meaningful,” said Rev. Scott. “I was so thankful we had an opportunity to be physically together and to have Bishop Dyck here, but the difficult part was not having friends, family and churches I’ve served be present with us.”

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Retired Bishop Sally Dyck returned to co-officiate the service with NIC Interim Bishop John Hopkins.

Those being ordained and commissioned could only bring one guest in order to stay within the church’s capacity limits. Most brought a parent, spouse, friend or mentor. Everyone was required to wear masks and participants were socially distanced 6 feet apart and staggered in the pews. The Bishops sanitized between the laying of the hands.

The Rev. Beverly Dukes, who was commissioned for the work of an elder and accompanied by her mother, a retired United Methodist pastor, said she was so thankful to have her by her side and was uplifted by the service. “I really needed this and felt spiritually rejuvenated,” said Rev. Dukes, who serves St. Andrew UMC in Homewood. “I was called to the ministry and feel recharged to continue my journey of serving others.”

For many, it was difficult picking just one guest, but they understood and were thankful for the precautions being made.

“I feel joy and gratitude that we found a safe way to honor this moment and a little bit of sadness as well that so many who have companioned us on this journey were not able to be there,” said Andi Voinovich, who was ordained an elder and serves as Associate Pastor at First UMC in Downers Grove. “In so many ways, ordination feels like a celebration, a community affirmation of the call God has placed on my heart, and that the Holy Spirit has been nudging me towards for so many years.”

The Rev. James Fu, who was commissioned for the work of an elder and serves Calvary UMC in Village Park, said the delays were only a slight inconvenience and he was so grateful to come together in thanksgiving to God with all those who have supported him through his journey so far.

“The Spirit of God present alongside me during this time has been far more important and comforting to me,” Rev. Fu said. “I think that my commissioning is confirmation of the call that God has placed on my life and verifies the gifts that God has blessed me to work for the Kingdom of God, and I am so thankful for all that God is and has done in my life.”

Unfortunately, a traditional reception after the service could not take place, but many found ways to celebrate including dinner with family and outdoor receptions at their church.

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The Bishops ordained 11 elders and two deacons, and commissioned seven for the work of an elder and one for the work of a deacon.

Ordained Deacon Rev. Kathy Wellman said she was grateful for the meaningful ways people found to recognize her "giant milestone" in her faith journey. "After the service, I arrived home where my parents and daughters had flowers, balloons, cards, and a slideshow filled with congratulations waiting for me," she said.

Bishop Dyck acknowledged how tough a year it’s been for ministry through the pandemic as she quipped in her sermon title, “A Walk in the Park…Jurassic Park.” While we are not running from killer rogue dinosaurs like in the 1993 movie, the pandemic has brought on some frightening, anxiety-producing challenges for clergy, lay leaders and church staff, she said.

“We’ve had to do things we never thought we’d sign up for and demanded new skills like producing online worship services,” said Dyck. “And we had to think through things quickly and safely…like how to do ashes when you have to stay 6 feet apart or serve communion?”

But she told the ordinands and those being commissioned, while we need to make room for people to express their pain and loss this past year, we also need to celebrate with them, even if it’s the little things.

“We need to celebrate because there’s incredible ministry despite all the challenges,” said Dyck. “As we begin to emerge back to in-person worship, I encourage you to figure out individuals and groups of people to celebrate each week, such as our medical and first responders. Celebrate graduations, births, baptisms, marriages and anniversaries. Celebrate accomplishments and anything else that you can think of for the next year! Find ways to meaningfully acknowledge that it wasn’t—and still isn’t—the way they had hoped, but you see them, you care and you rejoice with them!”

After each clergy was ordained, a lantern was lit as a reminder of their loved ones and supportive community who couldn’t be present. Bishop Dyck said not all days in ministry will be a “walk in the park,” but reminded clergy to remember they’re not alone on the walk.

“Some days you’re going to come home and say that was a walk in the park…Jurassic Park, but then you can give thanks that you are not in the park by yourself because God is with you along with a whole covenant community and church of Jesus Christ whose spirit is surrounding you like a cloud of witnesses. You’re not alone in the park, whatever kind of park it is.”

To view a recording of the service, click here.

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