It was another festive dinner -- this time with the diocesan staff and the clergy who had gathered from around the diocese and from other dioceses – some had driven from Manila (9 hours) to get here for the ordination of the transitional deacon. These folks really show up for each other.
One retired priest, when prompted, shared a recollection from the Marcos days. He was on the government enemies list. One day someone told him the death squad would come to his house that night to kill him, so he stayed in another town. When he came back, his home had been burned. He said there were several such death threats over the years, but he figured he would die when God was ready.
Today, we ordained (yes, I got to be in on it – asked questions – hands on the head, the whole bit) Baby Auhra A. Galope as a transitional deacon. I know our context is different, but their discernment and formation process is so different from ours that it has to say something. She became an aspirant in 2002. She finished her 4-years of seminary in March, 2009. She then served as an intern lay pastor until today. I asked the bishop if there was some reason for the nearly 2 years between graduation and ordination, expecting him to explain why it had been so long. Instead, he told me there was a pressing need for her services so was on the fast track. It is normally over two years. She will now serve as a transitional deacon for two more years before being eligible for ordination to the priesthood. We are talking about a 10 year track to priesthood going at it full time.
It was a splendid service. In addition to ordaining Baby Auhra, a sparkling eyed diminutive young adult as the first non-Cordilleran clergy person to serve in this diocese, we dedicated the brand new St. Joseph’s Church. Their stained glass West window commemorates St. Joseph the Worker, showing him not with carpenter tools but plowing with a water buffalo.
We also had baptisms, confirmations, and receptions. I got to do the receiving. 11 new Episcopalians. The open air church sat 150 people. It was packed SRO plus chairs and people standing outside for a marathon liturgy in hot humid, often raining weather. The high point for me, after the ordination and the receiving, was the offertory. We sang a rousing version of Standing On The Promises while the new deacon censed the altar, the altar party, and the congregation. I have never seen incense used while Standing On The Promises was being sung. I loved it!
After the liturgy and lunch, we had a full afternoon of presentations. First, the MC invited the Senior Warden to say a few words about the construction of the new church. He took the mike and sang Victory In Jesus in mellifluous soulful tones! Asian Gospel! The last time I was so moved by a song, it was a Filipino singer at St. Luke’s, Las Vegas, singing Why Me Lord – I recall doing a blog post about it. There was of course playing gongs and dancing galore. There were more speeches and more songs.
At one point, the cutest little girl – about 6 with a missing front tooth – wearing a pink ballet outfit came over and placed a pale blue ribbon around my neck. The blue ribbon held a circle of pink ribbons enclosing white daisies. I wore it proudly the rest of the day. The children were simultaneously fascinated by me and shy with me. The afternoon was full of children and singing, dancing celebration.
You may recall I visited another brand new church yesterday, and stopped by yet another one with the paint barely dry on my way back from dedicating St. Joseph’s. The faith is on the move in the Philippines.