The following "laying on of hands" ceremony was composed using words from a sermon by Rev. Sue Spencer, other rituals, my own ideas, and the poetry of Unitarian Samuel Longfellow. A slightly more impromptu rendition of this was used at the ordination ceremony for the Reverend Dr. Gaye Ortiz on May 11, 2013.
In our free church tradition – the one Unitarians and Universalists inherited from the Reformation – every member of a congregation is called to serve. Every member of the community is a minister, and has a ministry! This is often recognized in Unitarian Universalist ordination services, through the central act of “laying on of hands.” This is an ancient ritual symbolizing the act of conferring of power, by one person to another.
In hierarchical churches, a bishop performs the laying on of hands; in others, the assembled clergy. But at most UU ordinations, it’s done by the entire congregation, joined as one body, linking hands and hearts. This makes sense in our tradition, for it says where the ordained person’s power really comes from. Not from on high, but from the people assembled, with the Spirit moving among them.
So I invite Gaye to come forward now and we are all going to connect together. Gaye and I talked about this and decided we didn’t need to have an order for folks to stand in concentric circles, instead we ask those who are nearby to come forward and put their hands on Gaye – and others will put their hands on the shoulders of these folks or hold their hands – and on and on until we are all connected. Gather with me in this laying on of hands—whether you are part of the participating clergy, members of the two ordaining congregations, family, friends, and loved ones, connect with the Spirit of life and love and with Gaye Ortiz on this day.
(After all are connected sing)
Gathered here in the mystery of the hour. Gathered here in one strong body.
Gathered here in the struggle and the power. Spirit draw near. (Sing with me) (Repeat)
With this spirit running through us to Gaye and from Gaye to us, we are joined in that interdependent web of life & love in the shared ministry of our precious faith.
From hand to hand the greeting flows,
From eye to eye the signals run,
From heart to heart the bright hope glows;
The seekers of the light are one. (Samuel Longfellow)
It is accomplished.
So be it. Amen.