Ordinand’s Statement

Ordinand’s Statement: Equipped by Grace
Rev Antoinette, 5th August 1988

The Gift of His Amazing Grace
Way back in Waterloo Crescent days when we first began to hold Full Moon Festivals, the very first word that I received − and they were only words in those days − was ‘Grace’. And I feel that I have learned a lot about grace over the last twelve months since the announcement of my ordination. In the first few months it was very hard to think of myself as a candidate for the priesthood for when I really had to think about it I thought that no one could ever be worthy of such an office and no one could ever fulfill what was asked, certainly not myself. But as the months passed I realised that it was not dependent on me and that in fact I was being very arrogant to think that it did depend on me to become a priest. 

Placing one’s Faith in God
One thing that helped me was something that I read in the newspaper. It was an article about a monsignor who was celebrating his fiftieth anniversary of ordination and he was asked how he felt and he said, “Looking back over the years no priest can feel completely satisfied and as one grows older and older one becomes more and more aware of one’s weakness and unworthiness. Perhaps, that is a special grace, to recognise our weakness and to put our hope in God.” 

Reading that really helped me because I realised that the feelings of weakness and unworthiness and the awareness of faults and shortcomings was never going to diminish or magically disappear but that one was a priest despite of those things or perhaps because of those things because it made one put one’s faith in God and not in one’s own strength. 

Gracious enough to receive his Grace
Another factor in my growing realisation over these last months was something that Craig said to me. He was questioning me on how my preparations were going - he helped me a lot with those − and he said something that I will never forget, he said, “You must be gracious enough to receive that grace.” And it was then that I realised that I had been thinking that the priesthood was something that was deserved or worked for or earned and that in thinking like that no wonder I thought that I was unworthy, and I was also being terribly ungracious. But now I know that God gives without deserving because he is great and his greatness is sufficient for all of us and in our weakness his strength is displayed. 

I still approach the priesthood with great awe and solemn trepidation but that I approach it at all is due to the knowledge that I now have of the grace of God and it does strengthen me. That is why I chose the songs that we’ve had tonight. I come just as I am and I’m accepted because of his amazing grace. I feel like it is something of a paradox and something of a mystery and it’s also one of the greatest gifts I have been given. 

The Call
Now traditionally this ordinand’s statement is supposed to be about the call that I received and the help and the guidance I was given along the way. Well, I believe that I had a very strange calling and that I, like Paul, was called before I was born. I must have been to have placed myself where I did, giving myself the parents that I have and the upbringing that I have had. I’m sure that you will agree with me that choosing to be born in the Schoenmaker family shows great courage and determination! But I am very grateful for that because I’m sure that left to my own devices I never would have found The Centre because I’m not really all that religious or mystical or occult. I like things that make sense. But God made sure that I wouldn’t get lost and he put me somewhere where I would just trip over it every time I moved. And so it was that I was surrounded by a devotion and a love for Christ and his people all the days of my life and this has most certainly shaped me as nothing else could have and it’s brought to life in me that aspect of myself that says, “The only really important thing in life is Christ and the only thing really worth doing is engaging in that battle that will see the forces of light victorious in the hearts and minds of our fellow man.” So the first person in a long list that I would like to thank and recognise is myself for having the foresight so many years ago to be born in the right place and of the right people. 

Along the Way
Now along the way I have been given very much and I think because of my past incarnations and associations with all of you I have also been very receptive to what has been given, but for much of my life I think this was unconscious. It was only after becoming a Deacon in 1983 that many of the lessons and the knowledge started becoming a conscious thing in me. So I would like to say to the Deacons that are here tonight and especially the ones about to be inducted, never underestimate what you are about to be given, it really is an incredible gift, which brings me to my father, who has given such great gifts to all of us. 

I feel that I am lucky to be able to call him father because I think that most of you here would think of him as a father anyway, having the seed of his teaching and presence finding rich soil in your hearts and bringing to life so much within us. I’m sure that for him to have had a pupil that is also a daughter has been very difficult, just as it has been for me, and yet I would not have had it any other way. He has always treated me fairly and given me what I have needed, whether it would be the pat on the back or the kick up the backside. But most of all my father and my mother have had such unwavering faith in me and in my abilities that it has empowered me to meet every challenge that’s been placed before me. I think that is proof of the power of faith and I thank them both very much for that. I’m grateful also that I’ve been able to help my father with the work that we do because it was always a great source of frustration to me to work outside and feel like I was wasting time. Now I feel like I am doing something real and something lasting. 

There are many, many other people who have helped me along the way and I would go so far as to say that all of you here have helped me to stand here tonight in very different and often unlikely ways. So I’m very glad that you’re here tonight and that I can make my vows in your presence, and I’m also sure that you will be there to help me fulfill those vows. 

It is the opportunity of eternity that opens itself to me tonight and when the Gods beckon it would be a fool who would decline, so I stand here before you clad in your love and equipped by the grace of God and, like Mary, I say, “Yes, I will be your handmaiden, I will magnify the Lord.” 

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