And then the Bishop laid his hands on me….
The moment on the 3rd of July at my ordination when Bishop Andrew laid his hand on my head and asked God to “Send down the Holy Spirit on your servant Hannah for the office and work of a deacon in your Church” was the culmination of a journey of discernment towards ordination which began 20 years ago. This journey began at the altar rail in St Paul’s Anglican Chapel in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. On receiving communion one Sunday morning I had a sense that God was calling me to ordained ministry. I put it out of my mind to focus on my teaching career and having a family. About 6 years ago my then vicar, David Price, asked me if I had ever considered being ordained and that earlier prompting come flooding back.
The journey has intensified over the last three years during my formal training at St Mellitus Theological College. Training towards ordination is a process which is designed to stretch and grow you, it makes you feel incredibly vulnerable, it unpacks everything you believe and it puts you back together – hopefully stronger than before. It is a process which involves many hellos and a fair few goodbyes. It has meant moving and redefining who I am, how I see myself and how others see me.
From the Thursday before my ordination on the 3rd July, I was on a retreat with 12 other ordinands at St Columba’s House, Woking. The initial part of the retreat was at Charterhouse School Chapel to run through the ordination service. During this rehearsal, I had walked around in my cassock for the first time. I had butterflies in my tummy and it all felt slightly surreal.
After the rehearsal we headed off to the retreat house. The next 36 hours was to be in silence. It is amazing how quickly you develop into a community even in silence. You have to figure out how to attract someone’s attention if you want them to pass the salt and pepper. Humans have this built in desire to laugh and when you are in silence the silliest things, which under normal circumstance you might not notice, suddenly seem funny. One of the other ordinands is a Wine Sommelier and he conducted a wine tasting in silence but with lots of exaggerated sound effects which was very amusing.
My family maintained “radio silence” during the retreat and this was challenging because I missed them and also there was a realisation that this was something I had to do on my own with God. The three days of retreat were a blessed time with God that I spent reflecting on my journey to this point and looking forward with excitement and trepidation to the road ahead.
Waiting to be ordained evoked memories of the feelings of expectation I experienced before my children were born – I knew my life was about to change, I had been preparing for this moment but I had no idea what to expect and how much things would change. These feelings were intensified as we waved goodbye to the first group of Ordinands who set off for the 10am service.
I arrived at Charterhouse School Chapel at the same time as Michael, Rachael and Reuben but we had been told that we could only go and greet our families after the service so I had to wave to them across the field.
Whilst getting dressed in my cassock and surplice there was lots of huffing and puffing as I tried to calm my nerves! One last pit stop to the toilet before getting into the procession and then we were off. Whilst walking down the crowded aisle I picked out the faces of family and friends who had come to support me, I don’t think I stopped smiling.
Right up to the moment Bishop Andrew laid his hands on me, I expected a flood of tears, in fact I was even clutching a tissue, just in case. But this did not happen. Instead, I felt overwhelmed by a sense of God’s presence and a feeling of complete peace and calm.
Afterwards, being greeted by so many well wishers was incredible and the welcome the family and I have received in the Parish was wonderful.
Much later, once my close family had headed home, I sat on the settee and simply exhaled. I was brought back to earth with a bump as Rachael needed help with her homework, Mike needed some help tidying up the kitchen and Reuben needed to be encouraged into bed. This is what the next part of my journey in ordained ministry will be – balancing ministry and family life – something which all Moore family will be learning together.