I’ve been thinking a lot lately about power and authority. Not only because of the classes where I’ve been taking where we’ve been examining how power and authority is used in our society, but because of my own relationship to these concepts. And especially because I am being ordained next weekend as a Christian priest, and being installed as the pastor of my new church.
There comes a certain authority and power when one takes on the mantle of a priest. What I mean by that comes from the dictionary definition of “priest” as one who performs the rites, rituals, and other sacred duties ascribed to a particular tradition. I’ve known, especially in the last year and a half, that people see me differently than they used to. There is a certain expectation of the work that I do in a religious context, and a certain respect for my training and education.
What’s been difficult is really accepting that I am worthy of actually claiming that authority. I’ve been comparing myself to much more experienced priests and pastors, especially since I’ve started the church. It’s hard to think of myself as a peer to those that I have learned from and respect. Part of that is still being in seminary, but part of that is my own internal Adversary telling me “Who the hell are you to be doing this work?” I’ve recently realized that comparing myself to them is almost an apples and oranges thing: I am different, and that’s ok. My ways of priesting don’t have to match their ways of priesting. It doesn’t make my priesting less than or ineffective, just different.
There’s also the part of me that is scared of this power, too. I’ve lived (literally) under the example of a corrupt leader. His example makes me scared sometimes because I know there can be a thin line between the correct use of power and authority and going over to the Dark Side. I don’t think anyone can deny that priesting can be a heady experience sometimes, and the spiritual power can be just as addictive as earthly power. I’m adamant about making sure I do have the support in place so that I don’t go down the bad road, and that if I’m heading in that direction, I have people who will tell me.
Going into my ordination, all of these things keep running through my head. It’s a humbling process, and there was a part of me that thought, before I wrote out my ordination ritual, that maybe I should just not have one. I’m doing the work anyway, so…? My wife reminded me that the ritual isn’t just for me, it’s for the community, too. In witchcraft, we say that to name a thing is to make it real. This goes for things at a personal level, and at a community level, too. When I say the vows I’ll write next Saturday, I am creating a reality where I will state how I will serve my community, and accepting the power and responsibility that comes with that service from the people I will serve.
It’s awesome in scope. And when I remember to think about Jesus’ ministry, I find comfort in the fact that Jesus faced these questions and doubts, too…