Service of Closure

Revd Rex A E Hunt
MSc(Hons), GradDipCommMgt

eMail: rexae@optusnet.com.au
Web site:  www.rexaehuntprogressive.com


LITURGY FOR THE CELEBRATION OF MINISTRY

Service of Closure (and entry into Retirement)
for the Revd (NN)
(Minister of the Word/Deacon)

Presider: Chair, Presbytery of (NN)
Guest preacher: (NN)
Music: xxx


Gathering hymn
Presbytery members and minister process into the worship space

Sing praise to all”  (Tune: ‘Lobe den Herren’, 14 14 4 7 8. 111 TiS)
Sing praise to all that has offered us life and sustains us -
All that has opened our hearts to the love borne within us:
Family and friends,
Beauty we see without end -
Gifts that our lives lay before us.

Sing praise to all that has opened our minds to new vistas -
All that has called us to seek out new truths through the ages:
Vision and word,
Music that sought to be heard
These are the gifts that will mould us.

Sing praise to minds that will fashion our bold new tomorrows -
Yesterday's wisdom released from its dogma and credos.
Evermore free
To live out what we believe
Walking the path that Life hallows.  GVosper/wwg

Entry into worship
The gong is sounded three times

As we gather together on this special day in this place,
may we recognise and affirm:
the pieces of possibility,
the bits of good, we bring,
allowing our individual gifts to weave
a patchwork of celebration and justice  (UUA/ww).

So let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life
in the presentness of God.

Lighting of the community candle
The candle is lit

Hymn The people stand as they are able, to sing
Touch the earth, reach the sky”  (Tune: ‘Touch the earth’, 6 7 9 8)    301 SLT
Touch the earth, reach the sky!
Walk on shores while spirits fly
over the ocean, over the land,
our faith a quest to understand.

Touch the earth, reach the sky!
Children ask the reasons why.
In our lives the answers show,
and by our love they learn and grow.

Touch the earth, reach the sky!
All are born and all shall die;
Life’s the time left in between,
to follow a star, to build a dream.

Touch the earth, reach the sky!
Hug the laughter, feel the cry.
May we see where we can give,
for this is what it means to live.

Touch the earth, reach the sky!
Soar with courage ever high;
spirits joining as we fly,
to touch the earth, to reach the sky.  GLewis-McLaren.

Opening sentences
This time is for us.
We step inside the sacred circle.
Wm We see our lives as part of the
continually astonishing mystery of life.
Mn We know our lives are always lived connected with other people,
wider communities, the eternal humanity.

This time is for us
All To come closer to the God who accepts us and affirms us.

Prayer
We pray:
Spirit of life, we gather grateful for
the companionship of hearts and minds
seeking to speak the truth in love.

We gather grateful for our heritage,
for the women and men before us
whose prophetic words and deeds
make possible our dreams and our insight.

And we gather grateful for the gift of life itself,
mindful that to respect life means both
to celebrate what life is
and to insist on what it can become.
Amen.  M S Milner

Hymn Lithe spirit you’re bounding”  (Tune: 98 11 8)     85 WNC
Lithe spirit you’re bounding and leaping,
stars shimmer and flash from your heels,
until the whole world burns with pardon and praise,
until the lost know how love feels.

O harlequin dazzle by dancing,
let joy spring like sparks from a flame,
until every person consumed by your love
comes blithely to join in your game.

Come juggler, spinning and turning
our chances and dreams like a top,
until all our values are turned upside down
whirl on through the world, never stop.  APratt 
The people sit

Welcome
Informal comments and welcome including people from the wider church.

PCh   The Presbytery of (NN)
inducted the Reverend (NN) as Minister of the Word
into (N Congregation) on (date).

(N) came to (Town) from (N) in (State),
where s/he served as minister of (N Congregation/s).
During that time he (brief comments).

Prior to his/her placement in (City),
(N) had served (short history of placements)

We now meet to thank God for both (N) and (N),
to formally release (N) from the responsibilities s/he has taken up in
(N Congregation) and the (N Presbytery),
(i) and to send her/him to his new placement in
(N Congregation), in the Presbytery of (NN),
with our prayers and blessing

(ii) and offer a blessing as he/she moves into retirement from active ministry.
I welcome you all to this time of celebration.

May it be well with you.
All And also with you.
Life is a gift and we its celebration.
All May we rejoice in the beauty that we areGVosper/wwg

Prayers
PCh   We pray.
God of eternity...
All we trust in your compassionate love.
Our past is a part of sacred history.
We share in the heritage of your faithful people.
We are thankful for the centuries of tradition.
We look back in gratitude and faith.

God of eternity,
All we trust in your compassionate love.
Our present is a part of this sacred history.
We are a faithful people too.
We are thankful for the chance to serve.
We look around with concern,
but also with confidence and imagination.

God of eternity, 
All we trust in your compassionate love.
Our future will be part of sacred history.
Whatever happens, we will strive to be a faithful people.
We look forward in hope.
Amen.

Readings from our broad religious tradition
PCh     Some readings from our broad religious tradition
shall now be read by (NN) and (NN).

World around us:

xxx

Hebrew scriptures:

xxx

Hymn "Christ, the tent God pitched"   (Tune: ‘Picardy’. 87 87 8.  684 TiS)    1 TMT
Christ, the tent God pitched among us
tabernacled on this earth,
as the sacred mystic presence
which sustains our spirits' growth,
for in Christ the Word incarnate
God's new world is brought to birth.

We are called to live as pilgrims,
from our birth until that day,
when our bodies have their ending
in their earthly home of clay,
but not all who walk that journey
find the true, the living way.

We can trap ourselves in systems,
and destroy life's primal stream,
or can dance in life's adventure
to the edges of our dream,
binding beauty, love, and justice
into one great holy theme.

Leaving all that breeds oppression
let us learn to travel light,
with no temple but our body,
and as shelter for the night,
pitch a pilgrim tent for dwelling
in the place of sheer delight.

Christ is found within each canvas
painted with the earth and sky,
in the singing and the dancing
and within the people's cry,
for the world is space for singing
God's great song that never dies.  Bill Wallace

Gospel:

xxx

Contemporary word

Silence for private reflection

A celebration of faith

PCh    In response to the Word reflected on, let us stand
and share together a celebration of our faith.
The people stand as they are able

We celebrate the presentness of Creativity God
in our lives and in our community,
All whose creativity is not defeated
by fear, concrete or tradition.

We celebrate the presence of Jesus as the Christ
who lived as friend and saviour to the people of the city,
All who ate and laughed, wept and celebrated
with ordinary people like us.

We celebrate the presence of the Spirit of Life
who dances in the community
as truth and moments of love,
All who weaves among us
threads of colour and diversity,
and never leaves us without hope.

We celebrate the presence of the church in our lives,
All which is real when it stands open
to the life of the community, and bears witness
to the love and justice of God.  (Adapt.D McRae-McMahon.eoj.)

Hymn We are many”  (Tune: ‘Hamilton’.)     67 FFS
We are many, we are one,
and the work of Christ is done
when we learn to live in true community,
as the stars that fill the night,
as a flock of birds in flight,
as the cluster of the grapes upon the vine;
as the branches of a tree,
as the waves upon the sea,
as the cluster of the grapes upon the vine.

All division is made whole
when we honour every soul,
find the life of God in every you and me,
as the fingers of a hand,
as the grains that form the sand,
as the cluster of the grapes upon the vine;
as the threads upon a loom,
as a field of flowers in bloom,
as the cluster of the grapes upon the vine.

We will join creation's song,
make a world where all belong,
build as one in peace and loving harmony,
as the voices of a choir,
as the flames within a fire,
as the cluster of the grapes upon the vine;
as the snowflakes in the snow,
as the colours of a bow,
as the cluster of the grapes upon the vine.  Colin Gibson

DISSOLVING THE PASTORAL TIE

Introduction
(N) On (date) we shared together a Service of Induction
to begin a new ministry in the (Congregation of NN).

Our time together has been varied and challenging,
and when I claim the space and reflect on what we have shared
these past (x) years, I believe it will become
a significant time for me.

But our identity as part of the family of God is constantly changing.
We are all travellers, sojourners...
situated in a given place for only a season.

It is now time for one of those changes to be made real:
to give thanks for the life we have shared,
and for me to leave (both) this Congregation of (NN)
and active ministry as (N) and I move into retirement.

Safe-keeping of the symbols given at induction
Representatives of the congregations come forward

(N) At my service of induction, you presented me with symbols
which acknowledged my ordination
and expressed my ministry among and with you.

Though I am moving (into retirement),
and even though you will continue as witnesses
to these means of grace in this place,
I cease to be so, here with you.

Therefore I offer these symbols for safe-keeping
as a sign that our present relationship is ending.

• I have shared in ‘celebrating belonging’
through the sacrament of Baptism.
Scoops water from the Font

Here is water which symbolises the gift of life.
It is the responsibility of the Church Council and the Presbytery
to ensure that God's grace is available freely
to all who would receive it in the sacrament of Baptism.
Gives a jug of water to a representative

• Bread and wine are the means by which we have
celebrated ‘community’ in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Takes the bread and wine from the Holy Table

We have celebrated the meal together and in so doing
we have experienced both community and the continuing
presentness of God among us.

It is the responsibility of the Church Council and the Presbytery
to ensure this nurturing of community continues
in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Gives bread and wine to representatives

• The (N) Church lays upon its members
the serious duty of studying and telling the scriptures.
We have studied and listened together
as we have sort to discern God’s presentness among us
in words of comfort, compassion, story, and challenge.
Takes the Bible from the Reading/Preaching Place

It is the responsibility of all the people
to study and to hear the stories of life and faith
in the written, living and spoken word.
Gives a copy of the Bible to a representative

• As an inclusive community of people we have sought together
to discern the transforming presence of God in the world
and in our own lives, and to respond to that discovery
through worship, mission, hospitality, conversation and care.

I return to you the Pastoral Roll of this congregation,
and the people represented by these names,
for your continuing nurture and loving care.
Gives a copy of the Congregation Roll to a representative
Representatives place symbols on Side Table and return to seats

And now it is time for me to be released from ministry among you.
And as I do, I seek a 'going away' blessing.

The release
PCh     (N), you were called to serve in this congregation of (NN):
• to preach the invitation for all to follow in
the way of Jesus and the realm of God;
• to celebrate with the people
the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
• to teach, enable, and challenge,
to comfort and inspire them in a new pilgrimage.

Some of that time has been in moments of uncertainty
as together you faced a time of transition
and the need for new decisions and change.
Some of that time was in celebration and joy, and bold, new initiatives.

But now you are to go from here and
(i) take up ministry in the Congregation of (N),
(ii) move into retirement, ‘good and faithful servant’.

The Presbytery releases you from the responsibilities
you were given at your induction,
thanks you for your ministry and your faithfulness,
and commits you to God's continuing care.

N    I am thankful for the opportunity of sharing my Call to ministry
with you all especially in this congregation,
and in the many communities represented
in the membership of this congregation.

I have endeavoured to push theological boundaries,
to be honest in my liturgies and scholarship,
and to risk the way of the sage Jesus in all we have done...
That we might be an inclusive and caring community,
understanding and trusting in the gospel’s good news.

I ask for your forgiveness for the mistakes I may have made.
I ask you to pray for me
(i) in the ministry I am about to take up in (N),
(ii) as I move into retirement from active ministry.
All We receive your thankfulness,
offer you our forgiveness and understanding,
affirm your ministry among us, and
release you from your responsibilities in this congregation
(that you may now devote yourself fully
to new ministry with other people).

We express gratitude for your ministry among us,
and we ask your forgiveness for our mistakes.

Pray for us as we continue in the celebration
and service of God in this place.

N    I accept your gratitude
and offer you my forgiveness and understanding.
I trust that all our time together, and our parting now,
is acceptable to Creativity God.

PCh   On behalf of the Presbytery of (NN)
of the (Uniting Church in Australia),
I witness the words that have been spoken:
words of thankfulness,
words of forgiveness,
words of release.

The whole church will remember you all in prayer
and prays God's continuing blessings for (N) and (N),
and for the congregation of (N)
as this pastoral tie is now dissolved.

Prayers
PCh     We pray:
(i) Loving God, we acknowledge that (N) has a new ministry
in another place and community.
All May s/he go with our blessing
to serve them as s/he has served us here.

(ii) Gracious God, we pray for (N) and (N)
as they move into retirement from active ministry.
All May they grow in grace and in the knowledge
of your love, to be a blessing to many.

Continue to bless and enrich the work of your church here
in (N) as it continues its ministry of
worshipping, nurturing, teaching and caring.
All We pray that what we have shared and learnt 
while (N) has been with us, will continue to shape and inspire us
to be at mission in our communities.

Empowering Spirit, we affirm that from the beginning
you brought (N) and this congregation together.
It was your Spirit that enlivened their life together.
All May your Spirit go with (N) and stay with us,
and keep us all together
in the universal family of your church.

May all the glory be to you, O God,
and your will be done in and among us all.
All Amen.

Blessing  The people stand as they are able, to sing

May the mystery of God enfold us”  (Tune: Marleborough Sounds)    95 AA
May the mystery of God enfold us,
may the wisdom of God uphold us,
may the fragrance of God be around us,
may the brightness of God surround us,
may the wonder of God renew us,
may the loving of God flow through us,
may the peace of God deeply move us,
may the moving of God bring us peace.  Joy Cowley
The people sit

The peace
PCh     Let us take a moment to celebrate each other.

The peace of God is here... to stay.
All Thanks be to God.
You are invited to share the peace with your neighbours.

Offerings
PCh     Our offerings for the celebration of life in this place and beyond,
shall now be received.
The offerings for the work of the Presbytery are received

Presentation  The people stand as they are able
PCh    The riches of God's gracious love have been entrusted to us.
May we share the beauty and wonder of Creativity God
with all who walk with us, in caring service.
The people sit

Prayers and Lord's Prayer
Prayers for the community, the church, and for others
Offered by (NN) and (NN)

Lord's Prayer
You are invited to pray in the spirit of the Lord's Prayer, and in your original language as that is appropriate

All Loving God, within and around us, we revere you.
We seek to live life as you would want us to do:
with love and respect for all people
and all things in the universe.

May we find each day sufficient for our needs.
And find forgiveness when we do wrong,
just as we forgive those who do wrong to us.

In times of trouble, may we centre our lives in you.
For your being is love, which comes
with strength and with beauty.
Throughout eternity. Amen.  Margaret Rolfe

Litany for continuing on the way
PCh    Let us celebrate that we are a pilgrim people:
travellers from one community to another,
sojourners with the familiar and the unknown.
All On the way we are feed with word and sacraments
and we have the gift of the Spirit
that we may not lose or fear the way.

N   Rejoicing in God's grace I offer to God
the joys and sorrows of ministry along the way these past (xx) years.
All May God look kindly on the work we have shared together.

N    (i) With God's help I look forward to continuing in ministry 
in the Congregation of (NN).

PCh     We send you out with love,
remembering with thanks all you have been to us:
in affirming your gifts of creative imagination,
liturgy, and progressive theology,
both as a means of ‘being church’
and as a model for preaching and communication.
All We pray that you will continue to find refreshment of spirit.

CCg    Both in laying hold and letting go, we will continue
to walk the pilgrim way with all God's people.
All We will by the grace of God.

PCh    Loving God, bless those who go and those who stay:
and grant that all of us, by drawing near to you,
may always be close to each other
in the communion of saints.
All Alleluia.  Amen.

Hymn The people stand as they are able, to sing
We laugh, we cry”  (Tune: ‘Credo’, Irreg.)      354 SLT
We laugh, we cry, we live, we die;
we dance, we sing our song.
We need to feel there’s something here
to which we can belong.
We need to feel the freedom
just to have some time alone.
But most of all we need close friends
we can call our very own.

And we believe in life,
and in the strength of love;
and we have found a need to be together.
We have our hearts to give,
we have our thoughts to receive;
and we believe that sharing is an answer.

A child is born among us and
we feel a special glow.
We see time’s endless journey
as we watch the baby grow.
We thrill to hear
imagination freely running wild.
We dedicate our minds and hearts
To the spirit of this child.

And we believe in life,
and in the strength of love;
and we have found a time to be together.
And with the grace of age,
we share the wonder of youth;
and we believe that growing is an answer.
Remain standing

Words of mission
PCh    Let us take on this week’s life
with renewed hope and imagination...
The community candle is extinguished

We give you thanks, Gentle One who has touched our soul.
All You have loved us from the moment of our first waking
and have held us in joy and in grief.

Stay with us, we pray.
All Grace us with your presence,
that encouraged by your Spirit
All we might work to restore 
compassion to the human family,
and renew the face of the earth  (Schaffran & Kozak/mtw).

Blessing

PCh    May the blessing in the strength of the Brindabellas,
the calm of Lake Burley Griffin
the freshness of gum tree and wild flower, remain with you...

And may God's strength, peace and creativity
go with you always.
All Amen.

Hymn (Cont)We laugh, we cry”  (Tune: ‘Credo’, Irreg.)        354 SLT
Our lives are full of wonder and
our time is very brief.
The death of one among us
fills us all with pain and grief.
But as we live, so
shall we die and when our lives are done
the memories we shared with friends,
they will linger on and on.

And we believe in life,
and in the strength of love;
and we have found a place to be together.
We have the right to grow,
we have the gift to believe;
that peace within our living is an answer.

We seek elusive answers to
the questions of this life.
We seek to put an end to
all the waste of human strife.
We search for truth,
equality, and blessed peace of mind.
And then, we come together here,
to make sense of what we find.

And we believe in life,
and in the strength of love;
and we have found a joy being together.
And in our search for peace,
maybe we’ll finally see;
even to question, truly, is an answer.  (Shelley J Denham)

Music
Remain standing as ministry colleagues process out of the church.
You are invited to share in the Farewell and Refreshments


I recommend the use of
LicenSing - Copyright cleared music for churches


Some of the resources used in shaping this liturgy:
Alleluia Aotearoa.  Hymns and songs for all churches. 1993. NZ: Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust. 
Faith forever singing. Songs for a new day. 2000. NZ: Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust. 
Iona Community. 2001.  Iona abbey worship book. GtB: Glasgow. Wild Goose Publications.
Pratt, A. 2002.  Whatever name or creed. Hymns and songs. GtB: London. Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Schaffran, J; Pat Kozak. 1992.  More than words. Prayer and ritual for inclusive communities. NY: New York. Crossroad.
Singing the living tradition. 1993.  MA: Boston. UUA.
Vosper, G. 2008.  With or without God. Why the way we live is more important that what we believe. Canada: Toronto. HarperCollins.
Wallace, W. L. 2001.  The mystery telling. Hymns and songs for the new millennium. NY: Kingston. Selah Publishing.

Web sites:
UUA Worship Web. MA: Boston. 
 <www.uua.org/spirituallife/worshipweb/> 

• This liturgy was originally shaped as part of an Intentional Interim Ministry training program I participated in, in 1997.  Several colleagues shared existing material from various denominational sources.  But as it has undergone many ‘incarnations’ since those days, the original sources have been swallowed up in the reshaping.

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