Even in a time of social distancing, when participants cannot meet together, the ceremony of ordination and installation of a Unitarian Universalist minister can still be a moving experience.
On Saturday, August 15, 2020, the congregations of Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (MVUUF) and St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church (St. John’s) jointly ordained Alice Diebel into the Unitarian Universalist Ministry. Rev. Diebel was also installed as Affiliated Community Minister at MVUUF. Clergy, lay leaders, music providers, family and friends joined in via Zoom and Facebook Live.
Diebel’s home congregation is MVUUF in Dayton, Ohio. She recently received a Master of Divinity degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School, a UU seminary in Chicago, and did her ministerial internship at St. John’s in Cincinnati. Her focus has been and will continue to be on ministering to women who are returning home from serving time in prison.
As with any UU ordination or installation, many clergy participated or were included in the virtual processional. These included Rev. Kellie Kelly (MVUUF), Rev. Mitra Jafarzedeh (St. John’s), Rev. Connie Simon (First Unitarian Church, Cincinnati), Rev. Bill Gupton (Heritage UU Church, Cincinnati), Rev. Leslie Woodward (Heritage), Rev. Sharon Dittmar (MidAmerica Region), and Rev. Jessica James (Dayton area), along with ten other ministers.
Some typical components of a UU minister’s ordination and installation were included, such as the hymns “Wake Now My Senses” and “The Fire of Commitment.” These gave a continuity with the past. Other components could not be included. One speaker lamented the inability for clergy to gather around Diebel in a circle and lay on hands. Another speaker noted that one segment of the ceremony was typically titled “The Right Hand of Fellowship,” but the speaker changed this to an invitation to spirit. This was because not only could a handshake not be physically performed over distance, but the old ritual could be seen as ableist, and the word “fellowship” could be heard as not being gender-inclusive.
Rev. Bill Gupton was able to find a way to merge technology and ritual. Speaking near the end of the ceremony, he noted to Alice that she was now ordained. He invited her, at that time and while he spoke, to use her computer to change her Zoom name from “Alice Diebel” to “Rev. Alice Diebel.” When she next appeared on screen, she had done so.
We wish Rev. Alice Diebel all possible joy and success as she continues her service in the new role of minister.