Joella Ranaivoson ordained by CRC

Photo+courtesy+Joella+Ranaivoson

Photo courtesy Joella Ranaivoson

Joella Ranaivoson, associate chaplain of upperclass students at Calvin, was ordained as a minister of the word and sacrament in the Christian Reformed Church of North America on Sunday, Oct. 2 at Madison Square CRC. As an ordained minister, Ranaivoson is now able to baptize, solemnize marriage ceremonies, administer the Lord’s Supper and give benedictions with raised arms. But in addition to performing these functions, what does it actually mean to be ordained? And what does one need to do to have the title of minister?

According to Ranaivoson, being ordained means she “has been approved and charged to serve as an ordained minister by a local congregation and by Synod, which represents the churches of all the classes (geographical regions) in the CRCNA.” It also means she is can officially be called a reverend.

Chaplain Mary Hulst explained why it is important for pastors to be ordained: “Ordination says that you have been set apart by a church for this particular work. In the CRC, ordination signals that you have had training, that you have been examined, that you have theological intelligence as well as pastoral skills.” In some ways, requiring ordination functions as what Pastor Mary calls “quality control” for the denomination; it ensures that ministers of the word are well equipped to serve.   

To become ordained, Ranaivoson attended and was approved by Calvin Theological Seminary; part of this process included giving a case study presentation and passing the oral comprehensive exam. Following seminary, the next step was to be approved by a candidacy committee of the CRCNA and recommended to Synod, a decision-making body of the CRC. Ranaivoson was then blessed by the delegates at Synod and sent before classis, the geographical area her congregation belongs to, for evaluation and approval. Calvin chaplains Hulst, Paul Ryan and Matt Postma attended Ranaivoson’s oral exam at classis.

The final step in of the process was to be ordained at a worship service. “That’s the big celebration where all the people who have been with you through the journey get to see its culmination in ordination,” said Ranaivoson. “You are ordained by a local church to a particular ministry. I am ordained to my position as associate chaplain here at Calvin.”

Ranaivoson’s ordination was especially meaningful to her because of the people involved: “My vocational mentor, Pastor Joy Bonnema, led the service and preached a beautiful sermon, and gave me the ordination vows; Pastor Dave Beelen, the pastor of the congregation I am a part of, gave the charge to the congregation to walk with me in this ministry journey; and Pastor Mary, my boss, gave me the charge for my work at Calvin as an associate chaplain.” Ranaivoson’s family and friends were also involved; some friends led worship while others brought refreshments, and Ranaivoson’s parents put the stole of ordination on her during the ceremony.

The journey to being ordained is filled with challenges, but Ranaivoson relied on “gifts of grace” to carry her through. One motivating factor was “knowing that ordination is not an end in itself — you are ordained for the sake of ministry and service. You are ordained so that you will serve, not so that you get to say you’re ordained — that’s a thing to hold in mind.”

Hulst, who recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of her ordination, knows how easy it can be to allow serving in ministry become a 24-hour commitment. Nevertheless, Hulst calls ministry “the best job in the world.”

One piece of wisdom Hulst shared was to take a weekly Sabbath. “Establishing healthy rhythms early on in ministry is crucial for being able to sustain it,” she said. “On my Sabbath days, on Monday, I’m just Mary, I’m just a person. And this is God’s campus and he’s got it … and I can just rest.”

Ranaivoson’s successful completion of the ordination process is important to commemorate, “but ordination is only a beginning, it’s not the end,” said Ranaivoson. “An ordained minister gets to live and be in a vocation where you are charged with being the hands and feet of Jesus in your very work, your very life. That’s a good gift.”