Hands of Blessing
In the Baptist tradition we recognize two ordained offices, minister and deacon, and the ritual we use for ordination is the practice of “laying on of hands.” The laying on of hands is an ancient practice of the church which first appears in the book Acts when the early church selected seven from among them to serve in a special way. Many believe these seven, Stephen first among them, to be the first deacons, and this laying on of hands to be the first act of ordination.
Laying on of hands is a way of blessing an individual through the power of touch. The person receiving the blessing is usually kneeling or sitting, and others either gather around them and place a hand on their head or shoulders, or come by one by one and do the same, offering a word of blessing and encouragement. It is a deeply moving experience for those involved, and along with foot washing is one of the more intimate rituals we do in church.
It has been our practice to ordain new deacons at special Sunday night services, and perform the laying on of hands one at a time to allow for these individual blessings. This year, in an effort to share this important ceremony with the wider church (sadly, those services were not well attended) and raise the visibility of our deacons, we will incorporate the installation and ordination of this year’s deacon class into our 11 o’clock worship service this Sunday.
Recognizing the logistical concerns of having everyone come down and lay hands individually, we will all, the entire congregation, lay hands collectively. Here’s how we’ll do it.
The newly ordained will be spread out in the front of the church and at the appropriate time will kneel down. They have each selected a handful of members who have been special to them in their spiritual journey and these folks will be circled around them and will lay hands on them. Then the rest of the congregation will stand as they are able and hold hands or touch the shoulder of the person in front of them, so that we will all lay hands on each other and be connected through touch to the four being ordained. Bob Hardy, our Chair of Deacons, will then offer a prayer of blessing.
This will be something new for our church and we all may have to move around a little to make sure that everyone will have an opportunity to be a part of the blessing. But it is my hope that this will be a moving and meaningful service for all involved, and especially for the four new deacons whose commitment to serve among us we will be recognizing and blessing.