Ordination, Liturgy and Blood-Stained Hands

by Brian Walsh

Joanna Manning is going to be ordained a priest. The author of Is the Pope Catholic: A Woman Confronts her Church and Take Back the Truth: Papal Power and the Religious Right is going to be a priest.

Obviously, not a Roman Catholic priest.

No, our dear sister was ordained to the ministry of the deaconate in the Anglican Church last May and will be ordained priest this Sunday. And when someone from the Wine Before Breakfast community receives the laying-on-of-hands from a bishop, it is our practice to get our hands in there first.

So that is what we are going to do at Wine Before Breakfast. We are going to send Joanna on her retreat and towards her ordination with our blessings and with our prayers.

Now it is an interesting thing that Joanna, of all people, is going to be a priest. It is going to be her responsibility to attend to the liturgies of the church, to make sure that the Eucharist and the high holy days of the liturgical calendars are duly observed. And yet no one knows better than Joanna that God is sick of liturgy with blood-stained hands.

The prophet Isaiah says that God can’t endure this shit anymore – offerings, incense, Sabbaths, solemn assemblies, appointed festivals. God hates it all, these rich and finely performed liturgies are a burden to God. I mean, we believe that God is ‘omnipotent’ and all, but Isaiah says that these liturgies make God weary, they sap the divine strength!

Isn’t that curious?

The only thing that can strip God of divine power is the liturgy of God’s people!

And then the prophet comes to a devastating conclusion. Speaking in the voice of God, Isaiah says,

When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.

I will not listen. I will not look.

The divine eyes and ears are closed to a people who pray fervently, who present wonderful liturgies, but whose hands are full of blood.

No one knows this better than Joanna Manning.

Isaiah has a solution to this problem, however. It is a covenantal solution. It isn’t rocket science, it isn’t complicated. It is profoundly simple, deeply healing, and radically true. But it isn’t easy:

Cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.

Six verbs: cease, learn, seek, rescue, defend, plead.

One negative, five positive.

Cease, repent, turn away from evil, and then direct your life to the good, justice, the oppressed, the orphan and the widow.

It’s actually the only way to get the blood off of our hands.

And so as a community we lay our own blood-stained hands on our sister, consecrating her to continue a ministry of justice, indeed, a ministry that just might occasion the renewal of liturgies and worship that is worthy of our God.

Come and pray.
Pray for Joanna.
Pray for the church.
Pray for justice.
Pray for healing.
Pray for forgiveness.

Joanna Manning’s ordination details:
November 27 at 4.30 pm
All Saints Kingsway Anglican Church
2850 Bloor St West | Toronto, ON

All are welcome. Members of the WBB community will be participating in the service.

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

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