Over 1,000 people gathered at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, Long Is. on Sept. 15 to witness the ordination of the Rev. Leandra T. Lambert to the Sacred Order of Priests in the Episcopal Church.
The cathedral, which seats 600, could not accommodate the crowd, so a tent was set up on the grounds for the other faithful to witness the historic occasion via livestream.
Rev. Lambert, 29, who was born in Brooklyn and whose parents – Leandra “Virginia” Baptiste and Joseph Lambert – hail from Bogles, Carriacou, the larger of Grenada’s two sister isles, was ordained as a deacon on Mar. 1 at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church on Hawthorne Street in Brooklyn. Petite Martinique is Grenada’s other sister isle.
On Sept. 15, Rev. Lambert was ordained by the Right Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.
The preacher was the Rev. Canon Calvin C. McIntyre. Canon McIntyre, now retired to his native Jamaica, served for many years as the Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Bronx.
With her ordination into the priesthood, Rev. Lambert is now serving as the Curate of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton, Long Is.
“On the surface, it feels good to have set and accomplished goals, navigating challenges and remaining persistent,” Rev. Lambert told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview on Monday.
“On a deeper level, I felt ready for ordination,” she added. “The calling God had for me was there my entire life. It took me some time to recognize it; it took time for the church to recognize the call also.”
Before the Ordination Service, Rev. Lambert said it is customary the ordinand to take time for retreat.
Rather than going to a monastery, she said she knew she wanted to do something different.
“I decided I would take a sensory deprivation float,” Rev. Lambert said, stating that the float is a salt solution, “which makes the body incredibly buoyant.
“My time in the pod was in complete silence and darkness,” she added. “I had an intense spiritual experience where I was transported to the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and I was floating with my ancestors in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean during the Middle Passage.
“In those moments, I could feel myself bound to them and immersed in their sacrifice,” Rev. Lambert said. “I felt their spirit once again. It was the wind at my back propelling me forward, as I walked in the procession the morning of my ordination.
“They were with me as I lay prostate in prayer, and they held me up in the moment I became a priest, under the weight of the hands of the bishops and priests,” Rev. Lambert continued.
She described the Ordination Service as “a rare and special opportunity to have various people from my life together in the same place at the same time.”
Within the Episcopal Church, Rev. Lambert said the Sacrament of Ordination is signified in the laying on of hands – “marking the unbroken succession of authority given by Jesus to his apostles and continued on in the Church through the centuries.”
She noted that the tradition is filled with rituals – “laying prostrate in prayer as a sign of humility; being made a priest in the laying on of hands; being vested a priest in garments, which signify my office and authority in the church.
“It is humbling to be part of that tradition,” the young priest said.
She said the Rev. Canon McIntyre is “a dear friend and mentor, who shared his wisdom from 38 years in ordained ministry.
“He reminded me that this calling is not mine; it is God’s,” Rev. McIntyre said, “that while the Ordination Service is akin to being on the mountaintop, ministry is in the plains; where real people are.”
The next day, Sept. 16, Rev. Lambert said she celebrated my first mass at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, the parish which sponsored her for ordination.
“I was good to be back home,” she said, adding that she had “the joy” of baptizing her first two babies.
After the service, Rev. Lambert said she stood in the sanctuary for 2 ½ hours praying with parishioners.
“It was a stark reality of ministry and my call to represent Christ, and be with God’s people, as we all navigate life,” she said.
Since her ordination, Rev. Lambert said she celebrated the Eucharist five times.
“Every time, it has felt as if I’ve come home to myself,” she said. “I feel even closer to my sisters and brothers, as we worship and experience God’s love in the Eucharist.
“I don’t feel ontologically different, because God already consecrated me as His priest,” she added.
Rev. Lambert said while she knows that ministry will present her with “unimaginable challenges” in the years ahead and that God will use her taking her to places she “can’t imagine and prefer not to go,” she remains “comforted knowing that the God who brought me to this point in my life and ministry will see me through.
“I know the blessing and prayers of the great cloud of witnesses go with me,” she said. “My prayers now are for good health and that I be worthy of my calling.”
Rev. Lambert graduated from Harvard University’s Divinity School with a Master of Divinity (M. Div.) degree in 2015. Her Master’s thesis was on “Sign, Symbol and Sacrament: Eucharistic Ethics and the Israel-Palestine Conflict.”
Prior to pursing her Master’s degree, Rev. Lambert said she had attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, graduating in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in classical civilization and political science, and pursued a semester of studies in Greece a year earlier through the college’s Study Abroad Program.
In Greece, she said her interest in politics and the church’s role heightened.
On her message to the world, Rev. Lambert, who was named the “2017 Young Adult of the Year” by the Union of Black Episcopalians, said she wants to continue spreading “the message of the Cross and the Resurrection.
“God is always taking dead things and broken things, and bringing something new out of it [them],” she added. “And am very humbled to be called into the ministry in the church.
“And all I want to do is to be a faithful servant and worthy of the calling,” Rev. Lambert affirmed.
Earlier this year, Rev. Lambert received a citation for her “service to the community” from Assembly Member Diana Richardson, representative for the 43rd Assembly District in Brooklyn, whose parents are immigrants from St. Martin and Aruba.
The 43rd Assembly District encompasses parts of Crown Heights, Lefferts Gardens and East Flatbush, among other Brooklyn neighborhoods.