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Confessions of an Ordinand

kate norris preaching

As I reflect on my ordination to the priesthood, I feel destined to underwhelm expectations given the caliber and amount of support I’ve received personally and in my call to ordained ministry.  Under Archbishop Duncan and Canon Mary Hayes I discerned a call to ministry through Shepherd’s Heart Church in Pittsburgh sponsored by the Rev. Mike Wurschmidt.  South Side Anglican, a church my husband and I founded and co-pastored, rallied around me and welcomed my endeavors in art and evangelism as I went through the process.  Bishop Duncan ordained me a transitional deacon in his last Pittsburgh ordination in June 2016.  Somewhere in there the Lord gave us two adorable, spunky daughters and made me a mother on top of a wife to my high school sweetheart and soul mate (how grace in our brokenness saved our dreamy little marriage is another story).  In fact the call to ordained ministry didn’t fully kick in until after our first child was born (but that’s another story, too).

If my ordination to the priesthood were a Hollywood movie, it would be star studded.  We moved to Charleston, South Carolina last summer where my husband, Sean, became the Campus Pastor of the Church of the Holy Cross at I’On under the Rev. Chris Warner.  I came too, as a transitional deacon.  Bishop Mark Lawrence opened the door to join the diocese and agreed to jointly ordain me with Bishop Jim Hobby from Pittsburgh.  Holy Cross on Sullivan’s Island was the host; the clergy and crew worked hard to make things easy for me. 

It felt like planning another wedding as family, friends, Bishop Hobby, and band members from South Side Anglican flew in to Charleston to fight for parking with Dunleavy’s Pub on Sullivan’s Island that Friday night.  I had a team of family and friends handing off care of our daughters, ages two and five, because most of our family was involved in the service.  My father was the preacher (the Very Rev. Dr. Peter C. Moore, now the Director of the Anglican Leadership Institute and Scholar in Residence at St. Michael’s, Charleston), my brother and sister in law were readers, my husband led the worship, my parents, parents-in-law and mentors were presenters.  Rhyan and Skylar, our daughters, were not about to miss it and yet they needed Mary Grace (a favorite babysitter) for the “boring parts” as they said. I surprised the children with a balloon artist at the reception.  She said this was her first ordination.  May it not be her last!

Unlike so many, I have been well supported, as a woman and as a person called to ministry.  I am grateful and realize what a rare gift that is. Though there are many women who have felt called to ordained ministry in the Anglican Church of North America; many whom the Episcopate has confirmed, I follow many pastors whose families rejected or misunderstood their call and many women who were refused fair discernment of their gifts whether because of theological belief or personal bias.  To be honest, I wrestled with whether to join the Anglican Church of North America because of their disagreements over women’s ordination.  However, those God surrounded me with encouraged me. 

There is no perfect church.  There is one form of opposition or another everywhere.  I felt called to bloom where I was planted.  Archbishop Duncan also encouraged me saying the fact that there is room for difference among orthodox Christians in the ACNA is a good sign.  Usually denominational leadership kicks you out if you don’t agree with them.  Not so here.  I appreciate that.  It seems to ring true with the way family goes this side of heaven: it’s messy.  It took me a long time to own my call but now I feel settled assurance that God has in fact called me.  I am willing to stand in this expression of the body of Christ for as long as it is possible.

The ordination began with my presenters surrounding me saying they affirmed my call.  The Kate at the beginning of seminary (13 years ago!) would have been filled with self-doubt wondering if this was what she wanted or felt called to do.  The Lord has been patient and thorough, leaving no stone unturned taking a self-doubting know-it-all into the depths of his death and rebirth and bringing the graciousness of his counselors, teachers, and pastors to come alongside.  Knowing his forgiveness and love in my pain kept my feet from running out the door when time came for my vows.  This is the God I want others to know.  In the way he has made me to share, I will by his grace.

I spent the day before confessing.  The Lord had pointed out areas of resentment by reminding me that his love “believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and rejoices with the truth.”  He opened my eyes to see that kind of long-suffering love throughout the ordination service.  He had bigger things afoot.  He was confirming the accord between the Diocese of South Carolina and the Anglican Church in North America, which had happened the week before.  As I stood in the circle of presenters before my ordaining bishop, Bishop Hobby, I knew the Lord had been long-suffering with me, patient with me, enduring all things with me.  He made me able to step into my small part of his big and growing family and his grace would sustain me.  Only that. 

Though I grew up around the church as a “low-church evangelical,” I am not churchy and in fact surprisingly unpracticed at the actions of the liturgy.  Twice during Communion Bishop Hobby had to whisper my name to direct me to the right place.  I was so moved by the music that the second time I mistook his motioning for an invitation to hug!  He obliged and then put me in the spot I needed to be.  (I remembered my eighth grade boyfriend who laughed in disbelief because I didn’t know what the word “Eucharist” meant.  I had only heard of Holy Communion or “the Lord’s Supper.”  Thankfully, patient teachers continue to surround me and the people God calls me to serve either don’t know or don’t care.)

I am unpracticed at dressing like a minister.  I’m more comfortable with a paintbrush and a good pair of heels telling people about Jesus and art and the Twelve Steps in a tattoo shop or while taking my kids to the library for story-time.  As I got dressed with the clergy I asked a kind looking clergy person for help.  I didn’t know how to tie my rope. It turned out to be Janet Echols who has been ordained for some time and whose husband later joined her in the priesthood.  She knew how.  (I smiled remembering the clergy couples in Pittsburgh who had inspired me.  I was comforted that God had gone ahead of me in a new place.).

(At times I had resisted getting ordained because my husband was also pursuing it.  I didn’t want it to be weird.  “It” being our ministry. And you don’t need to be ordained to do ministry!  I kept saying.  There have been rules against such relationships in the past and I had heard horror stories of competition or control.  However, it can be a picture of Adam and Eve redeemed Bishop Hobby encouraged me.  Furthermore, in the missionary world husband and wife teams are the norm.  And for some, it is God’s call.  It is for us.)

The music meant a lot to me.  My husband, Sean, had formerly led the worship team at South Side Anglican which had bloomed with new songs of praise and sounds in guitar, violin and drum in the concrete of the South Side.  Two of those band members travelled down to play at the ordination.  Two more from Holy Cross joined them.  The music ministered to me as much as the rest of the service, especially the doxology.  It has always been my favorite part.

The Holy Spirit joystick smacked me in the face as I sat down to listen to the sermon.  My father stood up from the chair next to me in order to preach the sermon and my husband sat down in it after leading the worship set.  I felt loved.  Sean and I sat next to each other and listened.  A picture of the rest of our lives.

The sermon was the crowd favorite, it seems.  I was not willing to share my dad at my wedding.  He would walk me down the aisle.  He wanted to preach.  I wouldn’t let him.  He was my dad – and only that – for a day. 

At my ordination, I could share.  I don’t quite have the words to describe it except it was a moment in time I will treasure for eternity.  My father looked right at me during his charge at the end.  He promised me there would be desert times; I have known them and will know them again, he said.  But the Spirit has led me there, he preached, to prepare me for the next thing.  There is nothing more important in the world than to finish well: to share that Jesus is Lord and Savior of all.  The fellowship I shared with Dad through his words, that we all shared as the Spirit ministered his Word to us, was a taste of heaven.  One day I will miss dad.  But that sermon brought me comfort about the glories to come in heaven together; it gave me fire to proclaim Him while I am here. 

The highlight of the ordination service for me came during Communion in a surprise.  Trevor Spencer whispered to me as I watched him put the collection plate aside, “Your daughter is trying to get your attention.”  I glanced up at the congregation.  There in the front row was my five-year-old Rhyan bouncing up and down waving at me (Skylar was also looking but with the deadpan as only she can).  Rhyan stood next to my older sister.  She and Rhyan had the same face.  They were beaming.  Two very different lives yet the two who most often come to mind when I talk to others about my faith.  If it is not honest or genuine about me or about what I know of Jesus then Rhyan or Jen will sniff it out; if it wouldn’t ring true to Rhyan or Skylar or Jen then it’s not worth it.  Furthermore I prayed that I would not lose connection with my child in pursuit of this call and the sacrifices and strain on my family.  Their faces stole the show.  His love never fails.  Thank you for letting me share.

kate norrisAbout the Author: The Rev. Kate Norris is the Assisting Priest at the Church of the Holy Cross I’On in Charleston, South Carolina. She was previously one of the pastors of South Side Anglican Church in Pittsburgh & Bishop Jim Hobby jointly ordained her in 2017.

1 Comment

Kate, you rock! Loved reading this.

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