Ordinations of a Mammoth Proportion by Nancy Robson, St Mary’s Odibo

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Ordinations December 2011 by Nancy Robson, St. Mary’s Odibo

After much planning and preparation the day dawned for the arrival of the Archbishop Thabo Makoba for ordinations of a mammoth proportion.  Together with the Dean of the cathedral in Windhoek – Mike Yates they flew to Ondangwa on the early flight.  Fortuitously on the same flight was the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, the Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest, in Austin Texas, and her daughter Rachel.  Dr Kittredge had been tutor to one of the deacons who was to be priested and had studied in Austin thanks to the generosity of donors.  They were met at the airport by a delegation meeting for Chapter at St Mary’s.  They were met at the airport by a delegation from Chapter.  They then came here in convoy leaving their cars at the new gate (one job that was not quite completed) and processed through the ‘avenue’ of people singing, dancing and ululating as they came by.  The Arch shook hands with many of those in the ‘avenue’.  His hand must have been quite tired after all that hand shaking.

On Sunday the service was due to start at 9am.  For some unknown reason the Arch and his party were delayed in getting here and the service did not start till 10h30.  The Queen and President were both invited to the service but had to wait for the Arch and his entourage to arrive.  The church having been prepared was then closed for security reasons regarding the President.  One big advantage in having the President here was that his security controlled all the vehicles and most had to find parking outside the mission.  There would certainly have been quite a traffic jam within the mission otherwise.  The sniffer dog came and did his bit too. The Arch then met with Chapter after which the bishop took him for a walk-around the mission before they went back to Ondangwa for the night.  The Kittredges were booked into a lodge at Oshikango 5 kms away, however on arrival we were told there was no booking for them (that receptionist had been fired for inefficiency!) so an unplanned trip to the Protea hotel in Ondangwa had to be made, some 60 km down the road.  Fortunately the Archbishop and Dean were also staying there which solved the morning transport back to the mission form the BIG service.

The President and the Queen joined the procession to the church, probably well over 100 people in the procession.  The 40 to-be deacons and 2 already deacons to be priested were all part of the procession as were 2 Lutheran bishops, the bishop from Angola, our 2 retired bishops as well as our own bishop and the Arch.  Stoles for many of the ordinands were made by the sewing Project at the mission while some of clergy stoles had been made her previously.  A very colourful sight.

The ordinands had been prepared for the past 3 years through TEE and this was now the next step along the way.  As these ordinands were to lie prostrated on the floor where there was only one long and fairly wide red isle carpet more had to be purchased.  Red with silver speckles in them!From start to finish the service took 5 hours which was not bad for all that was happening.  I remember an earlier ordination service with Bp James in 1993 which lasted 7 hours and only 4 to be ordained!

Following the ordinations was the Eucharist and communicating of somewhere around 1000 people.  There was a shortage of chalices and I noticed one old fashioned pint milk bottle with a wide top being used.

A marquee had been acquired that could seat 200 and the church probably 800 on this occasion as seats were arranged to be best advantage for the ordinands and most of the clergy in the Diocese.  In the marquee on the north side of the church a TV & sound system had been set up so that those outside could follow the service.

Apart from one priest who was overseas and another who had a young baby all our clergy were present.  The clergy still active (many overdue for retirement) are 56, deacons now 41 and 3 perpetual deacons.  This does not include the already retired priests.  How the numbers have grown from the 60’s when you could almost count them on one hand.  Likewise congregations have grown and flourished and gradually spreading over the whole country especially along our eastern (as far as Katima Mullilo) and west to Opuwo but they have been there for a while.  This increases the number of clergy needed as well as kilometres to cover especially by the bishop.

One of the last things to happen in the church was Sr Gertrude receiving one of Hope Africa’s awards.  She had put in a submission for this competition based on the work she and her small community are involved in and was one of 3 in the whole province of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (previously CPSA) to win a prize of N$30,000 which will be used to further the work her Community of the Good Samaritans are doing.

After the ordinations the handing out of certificates and licences took well over an hour.  The followed the giving of gifts, mainly to the archbishop and other VIPs.  The president gave a speech.  At the end of the service and outside many group photos were taken and the 2 newly ordained priests were blessing numerous people as well as a number of bishops.  The Arch and Mike Yates left at 17h00 to catch the late plane back to Windhoek.  I don’t think the Arch will ever forget the day (that went on forever)

From the church the party moved over to Tobias Hall for the customary feast.  I understand 2 oxen were slaughtered.  The deacons all arranged their own private celebrations at their own homes.

The Kittredges went to Linea’s home for her feast and then got themselves on to Ondangwa for the night.  As the Kittredges were keen to see a traditional homestead and how things ‘work’ we had arranged to go to the local sub headman who is always keen to share things with visitors.  To do this the Kittredges and Linea had to hike by taxi back to the mission -65 kms.  Not the way normal Americans would travel!  We then proceeded to the homestead where we had been told a meal would await us.

When we got there the headman had been taken to hospital the previous afternoon accompanied by his wife.  (He died that same day unbeknown to us till the next day) There were only the young children in the homestead who showed us around and the use of various areas and how they pound the millet, also to the threshing area and other activities.  Obviously no meal had been prepared so back to my home and we managed to put together some left overs from the day before after which it was a return trip to Ondangwa via a supermarket and a craft shop before dropping them at their hotel.

I found the drive back home tiring as I was obeying speed signs very carefully.  On Saturday when I had taken them back I was too tired to keep a look out to see if I was in a 60 km speed are or not.  The only consistent thing about the speed signs here is their inconsistency!  Towards the home end of this road (the last 30km) you get 60 km sign then later an 80km with 60 km just beyond (100 meters) which means you cannot go above 60 even though it is just a bush area.  That is where the speed cops like to catch you.  On this occasion I was too tired to care.  I never even saw the cop trying to stop me.  He caught up with me at the road block (a permanent one) and asked me to return to read the camera.  I did and told them my story and also added that I was trying to get home before sunset as I am a hopeless driver after sunset as it gets dark about 15 minutes after.  They accepted my explanation & let me go.  As I had only been expecting to go ‘down the road’ to Oshiakngo when I left home I did not even have my purse with me (in which is my driver’s licence) let alone money for petrol – I just managed to get back with what I had.  Then at the road block where all know/knew me there had been a change of the guard who asked for my ‘documents’  I told him I had nothing then spoke to him in the vernacular and he let me move on.  So ended another very tiring day and the end of a very special occasion.

About fatherjeremy

I am a priest in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Oregon. I am currently the rector of Christ Church, Lake Oswego, OR
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