By Howard Anderson
It was a bit like the movie “Father of the Bride,” when Steve Martin’s daughter announced that she was getting married. Rather than seeing the lovely, mature woman in front of him, the Daddy in him sees his little girl, in pigtails, saying a ridiculous thing-“I’m getting married.” Our little Pookie getting ordained? How can it be? As Bishop Alan Scarfe, the Bishop of Iowa laid hands on our little girl, making her a transitional deacon, I was seeing something quite different, and someone quite different.
I was seeing, in my mind’s eye, the new born baby girl, who, when I held her the first time, changed my life forever. I was seeing the little blonde Haole girl running naked across the hot sand at Makapu’u beach, her little bottom covered with sand, accompanied by several of her little friends, and the “herd” of them jumping, laughing into the Pacific. I was seeing the little girl standing in front of her stuffed animals, her faithful old dog propped up in a bean bag chair, with glasses on her snout, with thin slices or radish she had picked from the salad, handing each a thin, white slice and saying “take, eat, this is my body.”
I was shaken out of my reverie by a small voice next to me saying, “Papi, Momma is crying, what did Bishop Alan do to her?” Now there’s a question for you! My grandson, Will, watching his Momma kneeling before the Bishop, tears streaming down her face, was concerned. I leaned toward him and said, “Don’t worry Will, those are tears of joy. Your Momma is very happy to be ordained.”
I was moved to be asked to be a presenter. My wife, Linda, and I, just as when we held her at her baptism, at her various graduations, Will’s baptism, stood this day to support her in her decision to answer the call of The Holy One to give her vocational life to serve God’s people as an ordained person. As I listened to Bishop Scarfe preaching to and about Kesha, I could sense how deeply he knew our little girl, now a woman. She had been on his diocesan staff, and all her foibles, gifts, skills and charisms he knew well. And what a window on her soul his words were…and challenging. More tears. The symbol of unity in the Church, the Bishop, was ordaining a person, our little one, with such tenderness and insight. And then I began to remember. My own ordination as a Deacon came back so clearly.
I remembered, years earlier, a bishop I loved and love still, Bob Anderson, laying hands on me. Like my daughter, I, too, had been a lay professional for many years before I was ordained. And like Bishop Scarfe, Bishop Anderson was ordaining someone he knew well. These two men were ordaining someone whom they had loved, challenged, counseled, someone with whom they had laughed and cried in many unguarded moments. Warts and all, fears and gifts, accomplishments all laid humbly before the Holy One…all made holy through Christ’s love and the power of the Spirit.
Feelings washed over me and time slowed, as the ordination proceeded. Kesha had fought the call to ordination almost as long as I had. Proud lay professionals in the Church for over a decade, she and I were alike in this way. I had feared God could not be trusted. I could not get myself to believe what I preached, that The Holy Spirit guided the Councils of the Church and guided God’s people to call some apart for ordination. Kesha and I had always talked “shop.” And we both believed that the primary vocational sacrament was not ordination, but Baptism. And yet, here she was. Now ordained.
Kesha as a 10 year old, watched another family member, her uncle, announce that he was leaving his position as an athletic trainer and physical therapist for a major Division I university athletic department to follow his older brother to seminary. This was just too much of her. Her mother a parish school principal, and her Daddy, two uncles, a great grandfather and four great uncles all ordained. She placed her little hands on her scrawny hips and crossly said, “Now all we’ll ever talk about at family gatherings is God!”
But The Holy One is a patient and persistent suitor. And here we were. Father and daughter…both reluctant, both now ordained. Her collar felt too tight she said. She was not convinced that there was an ontological change. “Will my friends all stop cussing around me and only want to talk about church?”
And then the pictures. The Mom and Dad and ordinand, their baby, newly ordained and chafing already at the collar. The proud husband and even prouder little boy all smiles. More tears. More laughter.
Future and past all collapsed into a wintry Iowa day when a young woman began a new and perilous journey off to fight the good fight armed with only a bit of bread, a little wine, some olive oil and a couple of books. Paltry things in the world’s eyes. Very ordinary. But with the Spirits gifts empowered, just enough. The Rev. Pookie now thank you. The Rev. Pookie.
The Rev. Dr. Howard Anderson is rector of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Pacific Palisades, California. He was a long time General Convention deputy and most importantly, is grandfather to a six-year-old theologian, Will.