“Today is a mountain top day.” Pastor Cynthia Lapp began her March 3 Transfiguration Sunday sermon with these fitting words as Hyattsville (MD) Mennonite Church celebrated the ordination and full credentialing into ministry of Michelle Burkholder by Allegheny Mennonite Conference. The mountain top experience made reference to the transfiguration of Jesus in Luke 9:28-36.
For the service of ordination, David Mishler, Allegheny Mennonite Conference Minister, led the examination, prayer of ordination, and anointing. Wyatt Feeler, Cong. chair, and Mary Jo Schumacher, Pastorate chair, read a congregational affirmation. During the prayer of ordination and anointing, those with ministerial credentials, including her father, and many members, surrounded Michelle with a laying on of hands.
Michelle, joined by her wife Becky and son Simon, led the peace lamp lighting and tenderly reflected on the pain and joys of her long journey to pastoral ministry and ordination. She remembered our United Methodist LGBTQ siblings during a painful week for their denomination, as well as those who have created safe spaces of justice for LGBTQ people. Michelle prays for courage and strength for those who continue in that work.
During the Time for Children, Leanne Zook shared stories about how each child could aspire to be who or whatever they wanted to be.
The worship arts were in full bloom. A cello trio played the prelude and the HMC bluegrass band delighted all with some traditional hymns during the offertory and postlude. Claire Noël-Miller created a blocked print banner with varied geometric forms representing community that featured Michelle’s official colors of black and khaki.
Following the ordination, Michelle shared that she felt a strong undercurrent of a call to ministry for many years. In many ways, she was destined to become a pastor; pastoring is a vocation held by many members and ancestors in Michelle’s family going back five generations. The congregation affirms the many gifts that Michelle brings to our congregation through her art, creative sermons, guiding the children and youth, her humor and joyful presence.
A stole created by former member Ruth Kitchin Tillman was presented to Michelle. It incorporates representations of cross cutouts from Michelle’s artwork and is accented with a rainbow-colored edge. A large framed photo of the church sanctuary with hand-written messages of affirmation, support, and love, was also presented.
Many friends, family, and AMC representatives joined in this service of celebration and consecration, swelling attendance to over 200, well beyond the HMC average. All were invited to a potluck meal following the service that featured an array of Michelle’s favorite foods in the Fellowship Hall festively decorated with splashes of pre-Lenten color. “It was a mountain top service” and similar words were a common refrain expressed by many during the meal and as we parted ways.