Sacrament of Holy Orders

HOLLY EARLESON


“Holy Orders” isn’t a phrase that’s in my vocabulary. In fact, to be completely honest, I had to learn what the term meant before writing this article. I’m guessing that the term probably isn’t in a lot of our collective vocabulary at Imago, so just for clarity, the dictionary defines “holy orders” as “the rite or sacrament of ordination” or “the rank or status of an ordained Christian minister.” But I think it goes beyond making your faith your profession. With that in mind, I want to share my experiences and thoughts about feeling called to specific ministries for God.

The very first time I felt like I had any kind of calling or “holy order” in my life was in junior high when I felt like I was appointed by God to be a missionary.

For a bit of backstory, my parents had been taking my sister and I to an evangelical conservative church since I was three years old. When I started seventh grade, I joined the youth group and attended a couple of the emotional and moving state youth conventions. I felt like youth group was where I belonged, and felt like I didn’t quite fit with people at school. It was an awkward time for me as I so badly wanted to fit in with my peers. I struggled socially, and thinking back now, I wonder if the girls I considered to be my friends were really that at all. During the summer after my eighth grade year, I was able to go to the international youth convention for our denomination in Cincinnati and found myself surrounded by hundreds of other youth in a huge convention center with booming music and very impressive speakers who encouraged us to repent and surrender our lives to Jesus. In the midst of all the mountaintop experiences, one of the pastors preaching mentioned something about being a missionary, and I was drawn to this idea. Through this, I felt a strong tug on my heart that God was calling me to be a missionary to the people in Africa. In that moment, I felt like my life had direction. It took me 15 years to do so, but I did go to Kenya to teach kids for five months. In that process, I ended up returning home early, as there were some cultural differences I was not prepared to handle.

Did returning home mean that my calling wasn’t truly from God? Was it just me, being a teen, simply getting caught up in all the hype and emotion of a youth convention? Perhaps other youth at that same event felt a similar tug on their hearts. Are we responding to “holy orders” when we do things for a mix of complex reasons that may or may not be “directly from God?” 

Going back to the tradition where I grew up, people who felt called underwent an ordination process, or went to a college or university where they learned how to become a pastor or missionary. I attended many ordinations or pastor induction services as I grew up, all of which included words about being “called” or “set apart.” 

But what does that look like for those of us who aren’t full-time pastors or missionaries?

I believe everyone within the church also has their own “holy orders.” We, the Imago Dei, are called to tune in with the Spirit and step out in faith when we find opportunities to live out the Image of God.  Mark 10:45 talks about how Jesus “came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” We could say these were Jesus’ “holy orders.”

As I’ve gone through life, my “holy orders” have looked very different. It has been teaching at an inner-city school full of hispanic students for two years, most of who were probably without immigration papers. And yes, I think that my time helping in Africa was leaning in to the “holy orders” God had for me.  More recently, this has looked like becoming a mom and serving in the children’s ministry here at Imago.

So I would say to ask yourself, what “holy orders” are you being called to? Where are you already living this out and can lean into it more, making all things spiritual? 


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Holly is married to Jeff and is mom to the adorable Kara, and they will soon add baby #2 (calling him Mr. Potato for the time being) to their family. She enjoys reading fiction, Brené Brown and Rachel Hollis books, getting coffee with friends, and spending time in nature.



Christina Hite