Monday, February 6, 2012

Judson's Commissioning -- 200 years ago today!

I appear to have forgotten about my blog for a bit. Time to pick it back up again:

Two hundred years ago today, Adoniram Judson, Samuel Newell, Luther Rice, Samuel Nott and Gordon Hall were commissioned as the first U.S. missionaries to foreign soil. 

It must have been quite the couple of days for Adoniram and his new bride, Ann. Married on Wednesday, commissioned on Thursday, preparing for life overeseas, they must have felt they were in a whirlwind.

The commissioning service itself was a momentous occasion. The people involved understood its historical import. Several luminous clergymen conducted the service, following the order for ordination because there was as yet no liturgy for missionary commissioning.

The wives, Ann Hasseltine Judson and  Harriet Newell sat in the pews while the men took their places on the bench. Women were not ordained or commissioned in that day and time.

The service was long, with so many preachers. The climax of the service was the traditional “laying on of hands.”  A preacher stood in front of the young men and placed his hands on their head and a prayer was offered. Deeply meaningful and highly symbolic – the sharing of God’s power and anointing.

My favorite part of the story, though, happened in the aisle. Ann Hasseltine Judson slipped from her pew and knelt near the bench on which the men sat. Perhaps she understood that she, too, had an important role to play in the new ministry and should be there in the front. Or maybe she felt overwhelmed by what she had taken on and wished to receive a measure of God’s grace for the journey. We’ll never know. But we do know that she knelt there near her husband, sharing in his commissioning.

Time would prove that both Ann and Adoniram were faithful to God and their calling. They sacrificed much and accomplished much and no doubt in the end heard “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Have a blessed day!

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