Calling and Community: Celebrating the Journeys of Three Friends into Religious Servant-Leadership
This week, I had the pleasure and honor of celebrating the ordination and installation of three friends. Two were ordained as Anglican priests; the other was installed as an Orthodox Rabbi.
Jon and Janna Ziegler used to attend New City Church of LA while they were in seminary at Fuller. Osheta and I met the Zieglers when we were hunting for a liturgical Christmas Eve service to attend, and we thought, “who better to spend it with than some Angli-costals who used to go to New City?!” So we worshiped with Gold Line Church. Bonus: They’re from New Orleans—a city near and dear to our hearts because of the precious time we spent living there as we started our family and began serving in urban ministry together.
Jon and Janna’s families back in New Orleans have been Pentecostal for generations. And many of Jon’s immediate family are Pentecostal ministers. But Jon has been on a theological journey for many years. It’s fair to say he started down the “Canterbury Trail” and never went back! He’s written about how, as he’d studied church history, he’d become convinced that the Pentecostal tradition he loves was missing many aspects of the faith he holds dear. A big one was the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I’m right there with him. He’s also fallen in love with the liturgy—to which I can definitely relate.
We sang; we recited creeds; we prayed responsively; Jon and Janna were vested; and they were prayed over by their bishop in a beautifully rich service that was centered around Christ and that created a truly holy space for those who came to celebrate. It was wonderful.
Then, not a week later, I had the privilege of attending the installation service of my friend Raif Melhado. Raif and I grew up in Urbana, IL and neither of us ever thought we’d become clergy. But like the movie Keeping the Faith, I went on to become a Christian pastor and Raif went on to become a Rabbi. Only, we’re both happily married, so there’s no love triangle.
Raif’s installation service at Kahal Joseph Congregation was equally beautiful and wonderful. Several of Raif’s mentors from rabbinical school were there to honor and install him. The president of the synagogue also spoke and said incredibly flattering things about Raif. And Jessica, Raif’s wife, also spoke. Then, Raif sang! It was beautiful. The congregation Raif serves is filled with amazing people who have come from all over the world—from Calcutta to Iran.
Raif’s journey to the rabbinate also included an unlikely turn. He didn’t see himself becoming a Rabbi early on. He’d actually considering becoming a house painter. But God has a sense of humor. God called Raif when he was in college and didn’t know where he was headed. I’m so proud of my friend Raif and the ministry to which God has called him.
It was a such an honor to sit with Raif and his wife at the dinner that followed the installation service. Even in the midst of this momentous occasion for Raif, he still had the time to introduce me to members of the congregation, to visiting Rabbis, and to tell me about some of the customs they were observing. It was a beautiful, beautiful evening.
Congratulations, my friends!