As the Church Council seeks to be installed this coming Sunday, they covet your prayers – that God’s wisdom, grace and love will guide them in their responsibilities.
To understand what an installation service is, and why we hold one, here’s a great article by The Rev. Dr. Mark W. Oldenburg:
Until a few years ago it seemed that only church workers and home appliances were “installed.” This led to some rather lame jokes at receptions (“Well, we’ve got you plugged into the hot water and the drain now!”) and some real misconceptions. For instance, appliances are pretty much interchangeable — one new Maytag Compact Washer (model MAH2400A) is pretty much identical to any other. And installing a home appliance doesn’t really change either the home or the appliance. They’re just connected now. The same is not true of workers and officers who are installed. They certainly aren’t interchangeable with all other possible candidates. Nor do they, or the organization, remain unchanged by being brought together.
That’s why we’re luckier now, since we have another and better (still not perfect, but better) use of “installation”. It’s now not only church workers and home appliances that are installed, but computer software. And that installation is a more complicated procedure than installing an appliance, mostly because installing software on a system requires changes not only in the software, but in the system. The two are not only connected, but adapted to one another.
Workers and organizations, too, are both changed when they’re connected. The worker has different responsibilities; the organization has new abilities; there vill be new ways to communicate within the organization’s structure. That those changes are happening is one of the things recognized publicly at an installation. Neither the one installed nor the organization is exactly the same once the person is in place.
Certainly that’s recognized in the ceremony of installation. But there are other truths recognized, and other things going on as well. Looking at what goes into such a ceremony might help bring those to the service.
While services for the installation of pastors, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, certified lay church workers, associates in ministry or unrostered lay people are different, they are similar enough to talk about together. Certain items appear in almost all of them:
- A presentation of the installee, with reference to that person’s appointment;
- A description of the position that person will be filling, with passages from the
- New Testament related to ministry within the church;
- Questioning of the installee, regarding their faith and intentions;
- Questioning of the people assembled, regarding their willingness to work with the installee;
- Announcement of installation and the acclamation of the community;
- Blessing of the installee;
- Prayers for the work of the installee, the organization, and the whole church
The presentation of symbols of the person’s service may also be part of the ceremony.
Just by its form and content, the service of installation will, therefore, do several things:
- It will provide an opportunity for the organization to reaffirm its mission, since that is implied in the description of the position, and often stated in the prayers.
- It will recognize and honor the work of those who sought out a person who could honestly and capably make the promises included in the service.
- It will affirm the mutuality of the relationship between the person being in stalled and the people present at the installation — other staff; board members, clients, and other stakeholders. The installee promises to be faithful to the trust shown in offering the position; everyone else promises to work together with that person to accomplish the mission of the organization. By applause and by prayer, the community expresses its support.
- It will declare that God and the church are intimately involved and interested in the work of this person and the organization. The prayers, once more, will at least imply that that interest is on-going. Indeed, the service’s similarity to rites which take place in congregations will imply that the life of this organization is, itself, an expression of the church and a way of carrying out the mission of God.
- Especially where there has been a difficult transition, the service will help cement the movement of this person now into this office.
Even when the transition has been natural and easy, beginning the relationship with public, common affirmation and prayer is not simply an empty form. Humans seem to be created in such a way that we are moved by ritual. Not only can rituals be emotionally important (why do you think that we cry at weddings, even of people who have been living together for years?), they also seem to help with the movement of people from one social role to another. Of course it is not true that, unless he is installed, a person is not really a chaplain. But being installed does seem to help settle him into that role, in his eyes and in those of others. As a rite of passage, it won’t magically accomplish an improvement in communication and mutual support. But it will help.