I received my ordination from the Fellowship of the Phoenix last weekend.
It feels anticlimactic to put it that way. But so many milestones are anticlimactic when put down in words. How many folks have turned 21, or 30, or 40 and been sent into an existential crisis because of how utterly quotidian the event felt?
I think that's a big part of why we emphasize the celebration of milestones. Because the celebration itself stands in for the sense of meaning that we're expecting.
Our expectation of some obvious change at an arbitrarily demarcated moment in time is... dare I say deranged? The meaning in these moments exists because we attach meaning to them. There is no natural law governing your duration on this earth which says 'ah yes. 21 annums, you are an adult and capable of holding your liqour!'
But we CAN create that meaning by choosing to do so. We can have parties. We can contemplate the meaning of the occasion. We can get tattoos or piercings. We can have mid-life crises. Sometimes we do all of these things.
What I'm driving at here is that the vast majority of the time these demarcations are what we make of them.
And so as I sit here, reflecting upon my path to ordination and the actual event, I'm thinking about what I want to make of it. Maybe I should have been thinking of this more before the actual event. But honestly I could barely think about it beforehand. I was just focused on making it happen.
I believe there are moments in our life that are opaque. We can see them coming perhaps, but we just can't see to the other side. Whether these are just natural or if we create them through our expectations and anxieties I can't say. But my ordination was a big black pane of glass to me. I got closer and closer to it, but all I could see was my own reflection. The path on the other side was obscured.
It was frustrating of course. But I also think that it is sometimes for our own protection. We can get lost in the future and in the past. And for me at least, it was better for me to focus on getting there than on what I'd do once I was there.
But that leaves me with my reflections now. And a largely un-imagined landscape unfolding before me. Not because I didn't try to imagine it, but because I had no way of knowing who I'd be on the other side of this event.
"Do you feel different?"
I think I got asked this about a dozen times on the day of my ordination. I didn't have an answer then, and I don't now either. Because Yes, Of course I feel different. My ordination has been years in the making and now it's over. But also No, I've been functioning as a spiritual and administrative leader for my community for as long as I've been a member of the Fellowship. My ordination wasn't the start of something new. It was the recognition of something ongoing. But also Yes, because seeing and hearing members of community affirm my work and effort and dedication was tremendously powerful for me. But also No, I am still me. I'm still living with anxiety and depression. I'm still awkward and not great around large groups of people.
Mostly, I felt confused. Was I supposed to feel different? How? Why? Was this one of those ineffable moments that everyone else seems to be deeply transformed by but leaves me feeling... flat? Or are people just doing what they do and projecting their expectations upon me?
A big part of my ministry is about making space for all expressions of self and meaning. So i'm not super comfortable with the weight of other people's expectations of my reactions. Nor with their feeling of entitlement to know my reactions.
It's not that how I'm feeling is or was a secret. It's that I don't process emotions rapidly. I couldn't have told anyone how I was feeling afterwards because I couldn't have put words to it for myself even if I'd wanted to.
And I didn't. Because one of the many things I've learned about myself is that the surest way to misunderstand my feelings is to try and nail them down before I've fully felt them. They're complex. Nuanced. They have shades, colors, and layers.
But I digress. What I've been trying to say this whole time is that our relationship with self, with our identity, with our feelings is... well... complicated. And while I'm ecstatic to have been ordained, I'm also full of other feelings.
And that complexity is one of my favorite things about the whole process. And why I'm so glad that we gave the act of ordination the silly nickname of "the boop."
At what point during the process of ordination did I become ordained? Was it when I swore my oaths? Was it when I stood before my community and told them who I am and what my intent is?
You know that magic moment when a cat or a dog or a baby is looking up at you with nothing but love in their eyes? And then you reach out, and you boop them on the nose or on the forehead? And then suddenly they change?
Not like they turn into a bird or anything. But suddenly the baby is giggling and laughing, or the dog seems to think 'I am so blessed,' or the cat becomes 100 times more dignified and above it all.
That's the boop. That's the power of it. It's not specifically about booping someones nose or forehead. It's about signaling to them that you SEE them. You're here with them. They aren't alone. They are part of something bigger than themselves. And it goes both ways. The booper(s) and the boopee all become seen.
And that's what we do in our rite of ordination. We set the stage for the boop. We create a sense of meaning and symbolism where the person who is about to be ordained can open their heart and be seen. And then, when they're ready.... BOOP.
And then everybody can see them. That's the real alchemy. The real boop. It's not about changing the person being ordained. It's about making a space where everyone else can see the person they've become.