I have to confess that there are many parts of the Church of England's new Common Worship services that I don't like. The Baptism service, for example, is hugely long, overly complicated and (I think) theologically wrong. (For more on that you might want to read my essay on baptism.) The pattern of daily prayer changes every day, and there are so many options that it is difficult to see what is 'Common' about the new services.
Despite all this, my wife and I spent the day in Durham Cathedral yesterday – where we will be ordained in June – going through the ordination service, both practically and theologically. As the last part of Common Worship to be published, there has been a lot of time and effort put into the service, and I think it has paid off. The prayers are good, there is a focus on the call to preach and to serve, and even on the importance of the Bible!
The ordination itself, where the Bishop lays his hands on each candidate, takes place within the context of the main prayers in the service. From the service booklet we were given yesterday (all forty pages of it!) it really does seem like the transition between prayers – ordination – prayers is seemless.
The centrality of prayer in the service caught me by surprise, but actually I think is absolutely right. It means that our life as ordained ministers begins firmly within the context of family, friends and the wider church praying for us, and it means that we ourselves begin on our knees. This all acknowledges just how important it is that God enables us to perform our various ministries (ordained and non-ordained), that we can't do any of it in our own strength.
I was looking forward to the service before – now I can't wait!