Ordination Services and Ceremony

The ordination service stands on ceremony and symbol, but is a meaningful part of the process that leads to ministry. It’s a day for reflection and commitment, and a chance for a religious institution to recognize a new leader, a new flag bearer.

According to Disciples Home Missions, the service of ordination is an act of the whole church rather than of an individual. The service celebrates the setting a part of a person for representative ministry. It is designed to highlight praise and thanksgiving for the gifts of ministry. It includes covenants, the laying on of hands, prayer invoking the Holy Spirit, and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

The service deserves the utmost care and preparation in order to give glory to God and to uphold the sacred calling of the office of the ministry.

Catholic Ordination Ceremonies

The rite of Catholic Ordination is an old, storied part of catholic tradition. But it has undergone many changes in the modern era. For example, the congregation used to be asked whether there was an opposition to a specific individual’s ordination. That component, formerly called the Consultation of the People, has been eliminated.

The Diocese of Joliet has constructed a sample program for ordination. The following is a partial rundown of the Catholic rite:

Calling of the Candidates
The candidates to be ordained are called by the Deacon.   The candidates come forward and answer “Present.”

Presentation of the Candidates
The Director of Vocations asks the Bishop in the name of “holy mother Church” to ordain the candidates.

The Bishop asks whether the Director of Vocations judges them worthy.
The Director of Vocations testifies to their worthiness for the priesthood and responds: “After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those concerned with their formation, I testify that they have been found worthy.”

Election by the Bishop
The Bishop then chooses the candidates by saying: “Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these, our brothers, for the order of Priesthood. “

Consent of the People
All present respond: “Thanks be to God” and show their assent by applause.

Everyone sits while the Bishop gives the homily.  He begins with the text of the readings from Scripture and then addresses the people and candidates about the priestly office.

Promises of the Elect
After the homily, the candidates stand together before the Bishop who questions them about their resolve to perform the duties of the Order of the Priesthood.

The elect declare their intention to undertake the office of priesthood through the following promises:

  • Promise to discharge the office of priesthood in the presbyteral rank as worthy fellow workers with the Order of Bishops.
  • Promise to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the gospel and teaching of the Catholic faith.
  • Promise to celebrate faithfully and reverently the mysteries of Christ handed down by the Church, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation, for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people.
  • Promise to implore God’s mercy upon the people entrusted to their care by observing the command to pray without ceasing.
  • Promise to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered himself for us to the Father as a pure sacrifice and to consecrate themselves to God for the salvation of all.

Promise of Obedience
The elect go to the Bishop one at a time and, kneeling before him, places his hand between those of the Bishop and promises obedience and respect to him and his successors.

The promise of obedience to the bishop originated during a time when clerics were subject to lay authority and considered serfs subject to a feudal landlord.  The promise emphasizes that the priest is subject to the bishop and him alone.  The gesture of placing one’s hands between those of another originated in the feudal relationship between lord and vassal.

Litany of Supplication
The Bishop invites the people to pray.  The elect prostrate themselves while the assembly kneels for the singing of the Litany of the Saints.

The litany, a prayer of the universal Church, is sung over the elect while they lie prostrate on the floor.
Prostrate on the floor, the elect demonstrate their humbleness and willingness to serve others

Laying on of Hands
The elect go to the Bishop one at a time and kneel before him.  The Bishop lays his hands on the head of the elect, in silence.  After the Bishop has laid on hands, all the priests present lay hands on the elect, in silence.

The gift of the Holy Spirit for the office of presbyter is conferred by the laying on of hands and the following Prayer of Ordination.  Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition explains this gesture: “They all have a common and similar spirit.”   By this gesture the presbyters receive the elect into the presbyteral college.

Following the Laying on of Hands which is the pinnacle of this holy ceremony, there are several prayers and communion. For a complete program, click here.

Protestant Ordination Ceremonies

According to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, most protestant ordination ceremonies can be incorporated into a regular Sunday morning or evening service of the church. They may also be planned for a special time.

Here is a sample order of events from BGCO:

Call to Worship Hymn of Praise — “Oh For A Thousand Tongues”

Scripture and Prayer Introductory Statement — Tell why you have met. “We have met to ordain ____________ to the office and work of the Christian ministry.”

Presentation of the Candidate

The Ordination Prayer — The candidate will kneel facing the congregation.

Laying on of Hands — While the candidate is kneeling, those who have been designated by the church file by and place their hands upon the candidate’s head.

Presentation of the Bible

Special Music Message Hymn of Commitment — “Jesus I My Cross Have Taken,” “Am I A Soldier of the Cross,” “Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus,” or some other appropriate hymn.

Hand of Fellowship — It is appropriate for the entire congregation to extend a hand of fellowship to the newly ordained minister and, if married, his wife.