I’m sorting things out as we get ready to move, and came across this little liturgy from another farewell – when I left Cockermouth in 2003 to become an archdeacon. It struck me then that we make a great fuss when a new minister is put in, with the bishop there and a special service – but much less when the minister leaves. And that’s a shame because there are often some very mixed feelings around a real need for both thanksgiving and handing on. So here’s what we did back in the Stone Age:
A liturgy for the ending
of a ministry
After the Post-Communion
The minister who is leaving moves to chancel step where he/she is joined by
ministerial colleagues, churchwardens [and congregational representatives]
On a small table nearby: a
chalice & paten*; a Bible; church keys [and gifts for the congregation**]
chalice and paten to ordained colleague
on behalf of the clergy of this parish/these parishes, receive this chalice and
paten as a sign of the ministry of the sacrament which we have shared and which
I now leave with you.
Bible to lay colleague
on behalf of the ministry team of this parish/these parishes, receive this
Bible as a sign of the ministry of the word which we have shared and which I now
leave with you.
keys to churchwardens
and X, on behalf of the churchwardens and people of this parish/these parishes,
receive these keys as a sign of the responsibility which we have shared and
which I now leave with you.
gifts for congregation to their representatives
and X, on behalf of the congregations of this parish/these parishes, receive
these gifts to distribute to God’s people, as a sign of the new life in Christ
that we have shared together and which we will now live out in our new
situations, still one in Him.
The minister kneels at the chancel step and a colleague leads prayer for her/him
Colleague Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the fellowship
and ministry which we have shared with X during her/his time as Y in our parish/es.
We now release her/him for her/his new ministry as Z, and ask that you will
bless her/him and bless her/him richly, in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The minister then stands and turns and says the prayer
of blessing on the people and the service then continues with the final hymn
* Bread and wine could also be used.
** The gifts given at the first use of this liturgy were seed peas
(variety ‘Forward’!) which the members of the congregation were asked to sow
and harvest as a sign of their continuing growth under God after the minister