Episcopal ordination of Teemu Laajasalo

12.11.2017Tuomas Vaura

Dear congregation, dear Teemu,

Welcome to this episcopal ordination mass. Welcome, Teemu, who in a moment will stand before this altar. You have just walked down the centre aisle in the midst of this congregation. You have brought much with you. I do not simply mean in the procession. After all, you did not undertake the procession alone, but the procession brought you – the shared procession of the diocese, the church and our sister churches has brought you here.

What you have brought is your whole life thus far. That’s what you bring with you here. It includes all the days you have lived, all the people in your life, everything you remember and the things you can’t or don’t want to remember. Everything that is in you, everything that is now in this church. This is the person who has come before God and this congregation.

Here this person will be vested and presented with the bishop’s emblems, and blessed by the laying on of hands. It is an act felt both emotionally and tangibly. This is about the whole person, the wholeness of Teemu. It’s more than simply about the acquiring of certain responsibilities. This is about how your unique God-given life in this world is fulfilled.

The bishop’s office has two dimensions. The first concerns what the bishop does and how the bishop does it, how he or she supports the parishes and interprets the faith in the particular time and place in which the Church of Christ lives. For you, that’s the growing metropolitan area that is today’s Diocese of Helsinki. You must await the clarity and strength to endure conflict. This requires much sensitivity, courage, silence and prayer, much strength to bear loneliness and emotional burdens.

The second dimension concerns what the bishop is. The bishop is the face of Christ’s Church in this diocese. This will be a special responsibility as you walk the streets of Helsinki. It is essential not only that the purple shirt and cross are seen, but that they are worn by a person with a human face and a human history. The Church of Christ always has a human face. Your role is more visible as the face of Christ’s Church.

Teemu, the life God has given you is now taking this course. The diocese has called you to this mission and to exercise this role. But this is not your whole life. If you are to recognise yourself in the midst of all these expectations and requirements, you will need places in which and people among whom you can breathe deeply and in peace, the people who see Teemu and not your office. You need your family and loved ones; and they need you not as a bishop, but as Teemu. Make sure that there is such a space, so that you don’t disappear from yourself and your loved ones.

Of course, you will need others: you will need colleagues in the diocese and in the church, and you will need people who pray for you in the churches of the diocese. The bishop’s office can be lonely, but you are not alone.

And you will need this place, this altar, the place of Christ’s presence. From here you will be sent; and here you will be blessed. This is not a place of requirements and expectations and assignments. This is a place of grace and acceptance. None of us knows what lies before you. Hopefully, there will be a lot of joy and understanding; and if you find in the church there is a lack of grace, return to this place, to this altar, from which you are sent. This is the place of grace.

This place has meaning. Welcome here, to this altar.