Installation - Monday Musing, July 5, 2021
Installation. Although this word is more commonly known for readying equipment or machinery for use, a secondary definition is to place someone in a new position of leadership. There is a sacred rite held in the United Church of Christ called a Service of Installation. It is a service in which the Association (local gathering of UCC churches), at the request of the local church, confirms and celebrates the covenant between the local church and a newly called pastor, and reaffirms the covenantal relationship of all the churches in the Association.
Although I was called to serve as your pastor on March 1, 2020, and began in ministry with you on June 1, 2020, I have not yet been installed by the Barnstable Association of the United Church of Christ. Typically, a Service of Installation is held within six months of beginning ministry, but COVID-19 restrictions forced a delay. While I could have been installed by the Association via Zoom, the Church Cabinet asked for this service to be delayed, hoping that restrictions would ultimately lessen, and we could hold an in-person service.
An Installation is a joyous celebration. For one thing, everyone is happy that a new leader has been found. Leaders begin ministry with a sense of hope and possibility. The Federated Church of Orleans conducted a lengthy search process and chose me to serve as your pastor, believing that my unique gifts, skills, vision, passion, and talent set me apart from the other candidates. During my candidating process, I felt that you, too, saw hope and possibility.
The Service of Installation is a way of saying “You belong here!” It grants a sense of permanence and belonging even though we know that ministry is generally seen as a “season.” Someone will – at some point – follow me as pastor, which will create a new transition. But no one is thinking about that now!
Something highlighted in an Installation service is the concept of being called to the ministry setting. In our faith tradition, we do not refer to clergy as being “hired” by the church, filling a job, but rather being called to a particular ministry. Those of us who engage in ministry talk about receiving a call. There is something profoundly sacred about this. For everyone involved in the search and call process, we know the Holy Spirit is an engaged partner in the unfolding life, health, and vitality of the Church. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is active in decisions we make.
In all my settings of ministry, I have had a clear and unmistakable moment of call to that ministry. Hearing ministerial colleagues talk about their call is an unquestionably rich experience. The Service of Installation is more than just your saying to me, “This is your new job – do it well.” It is a way of affirming the movement of the Holy Spirit who participated with us in the pastoral search process, and who called me as leader to serve you in this place and at this time.
This past week, the Barnstable Association of the United Church of Christ scheduled my Installation as your pastor to be held at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 17, 2021!
I offer thanks to God for the engagement of the Holy Spirit in a discernment process that has led us both to this very moment. I pray that the delayed celebration has not dampened our sense of hope and possibility. May God continue to guide us in this ministry that we have embarked upon together. See you in church!