As I’m sure it is for many of you, finding inspiration and strengthening of faith comes in many forms and events. Sunday morning worship, reading the Daily Texts, working in our communities or on a mission trip, helping others, studying the Bible or simply contemplating the beauty and splendor of nature all help to refresh the spirit. On a Sunday afternoon in February, I experienced an event that I need to add to that list.
For me, Sunday afternoons are times to decompress, relax, enjoy time with my family, reflect on the week past and prepare for the one upcoming. So when I was asked to participate in a Sunday afternoon event, I was a little hesitant to give up that time.
However, the event that afternoon was to be something I hadn’t yet experienced personally as a Moravian—the ordination of a new pastor—and it meant I got to play guitar with some of my favorite people. And I admit, after the colorful and beautiful service that I witnessed and participated in, I’m glad I put aside my Sunday afternoon to witness Rhonda Robinson’s entry into the service of the Lord.
Rhonda, who graduated from Moravian Theological Seminary last spring, was recently called to serve with her husband, the Rev. Tracy Robinson, at Esperanza for Bethlehem, a Moravian outreach on the south side of the city. The Sunday afternoon service was to be both her ordination and installation; it was also to be the first ordination performed by Bishop Chris Giesler, the Northern Province’s newest bishop of the Moravian Unity.
The service was held at St. John’s Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem (where Esperanza meets), a setting different than typical Moravian churches. The sanctuary of St. John’s is a colorful place with beautiful stained-glass windows, brightly-colored murals, religious statues, marble pillars and a vaulted ceiling. Just entering this place of worship signaled that the day would be unique.
People from diverse cultural and faith backgrounds packed the pews, joined by more than 20 Moravian pastors in white surplices. Past and present players from The Edge (our band at Edgeboro Moravian) provided the prelude music. The Rev. Grace Olson, interim Lutheran pastor at St. John’s, welcomed us and shared her excitement and honor to be a part of the service. In the choir loft, members of Schoeneck Moravian Church’s choir (Rhonda was a student pastor there) were joined by singers from other churches and denominations.
Once we were done playing I picked up my camera (I try not to miss any opportunity to photograph church events). As I moved around the sanctuary that afternoon documenting the event, I witnessed many beautiful moments…
…like when those gathered sang hymns in both Spanish and English – at the same time! Or when the children and youth of Esperanza performed for the congregation. I heard the proud words of Rhonda’s father, the Rev. Steadman Bent, and watched as he and the Rev. John Giesler, who had known Rhonda since childhood, outfitted her with a new surplice.
Through the viewfinder, I watched as Bishop Chris performed the ordination rite and the Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller presented Rhonda to the congregation. I smiled as Rhonda’s husband and Esperanza partner Tracy presented her with a new Bible to guide her work. Seeing the swarm of clergy and lay people laying on hands to bless Rhonda in her work was inspiring.
Following the ordination and installation parts of the service, Rhonda had the opportunity to address the gathered congregations for the first time as an ordained Moravian pastor. Her joy and spark came through with every word and gesture.
As the ceremony came to a close and all in attendance worked their way to the fellowship hall to celebrate, there were hugs, handshakes and high-fives. The joy in the room was stratospheric; one couldn’t help but smile.
As I moved through the ornate doors at the back of St. John’s, I was thankful that I hadn’t missed this wonderful gift of celebration. Yes, Sunday afternoons are for reflection and getting stuff done, but having an afternoon turn into an uplifting experience is a blessing I would never want to miss.
In photo above: The Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler leads the ordination of Rhonda Bent Robinson as a deacon in the Moravian Church while Rhonda’s husband, the Rev. Tracy Robinson, assists.
From the April 2013 Moravian Magazine