As the preacher, of course.
This past weekend I experienced first hand one of the great “gifts” of ministry when I officiated the wedding of my little sister. It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony and reception on one of the most picturesque pieces of farmland Western North Carolina has to offer. My parents were radiant, my sister looked breathtaking, and my now-brother-in-law cried the entire service. In short, as a brother I could not have asked for more.
But as a young minister, it was equally satisfying.
You see, this was the first time many of my family members and folks from the church I grew up in have seen me “in action,” so to speak. I preached at my home church for Mother’s Day last year, but the fact that it was also Youth Sunday and that I was still in seminary and not yet been ordained somehow seemed to act as “liturgical qualifiers.” I was still the young person discerning a life in ministry.
This past Saturday I was just the minister.
And I got good feedback. Everyone seemed to have been listening to the liturgy and homily I prepared and enjoyed it. I even had older family members and friends’ parents (some of them my former Sunday school teachers) ask me theological and ecclesiastical questions, which was in some small way an honor. At the end of the day these affirmations far out numbered the well-intentioned but slightly off-putting comments that I “looked like a real minister up there.”
I don’t blame them. It took me a while to see it to.
You see, I think that is one of the most difficult parts about being a young minister. As much as we want others to appreciate us as “real” ministers, it is oftentimes ourselves that need the most convincing. For me, I begin to see it a little more with every sermon, every wedding ceremony, every pastoral visit, and the more natural it becomes, and the less I worry if others see it too.
As I stood there at the alter with my future brother-in-law, watching my father walk my sister down the aisle, I realized that as her brother I would never see her the same way again. And that was a great joy.
But I also realized that I was the one wearing my black robe and white stole, who had walked with the happy couple in the time leading up to this day, and who was holding in a binder the words that would frame this singular occasion, and unite these two lives in the presence of God. And that was a good feeling too.
The fact that others saw that as well makes it even better.