Liturgy and Saying Goodbye: A Leave Taking Ritual
On January 29th, we celebrated our last worship service with Jeff Krehbiel as pastor as Church of the Pilgrims.
Liturgy was an essential element in how we said goodbye to each other.
At the beginning of our communion liturgy, we had words of leave-taking. The United Church of Christ has a specific liturgy for saying goodbye to a pastor. I used part of that liturgy to shape communion.
These are the words that we shared while gathered around the communion table (see picture above). We shared these words before the Prayer of Thanksgiving and the bread and the cup.
I thank Church of the Pilgrims for the love, kindness, and support shown to me these last 16 years.
I ask forgiveness for the mistakes I have made.
I am grateful for the ways my leadership has been accepted.
As I leave, I carry with me all that I have learned here.
We receive your thankfulness, offer forgiveness, and accept that you now leave to minister elsewhere.
We express gratitude for your time among us.
We ask your forgiveness for our mistakes.
Your influence on our faith and discipleship will not leave us at your departure.
I forgive you and accept your gratitude, trusting that our time together and our parting are pleasing to God.
After sharing these words, Jeff signed our "Clerk Book."
Backstory: Pilgrims has two books that keep the records of the congregation: baptisms, confirmation, membership, weddings, and the names of each pastor and their tenure.
We've add signing of the Clerk book into our rituals and sacraments. When we had two confirmands, Sam and Emma signed their own names into the book rather than our clerk signing their names on their behalf. The signing is done in the act of public liturgy rather than in private after the fact. As a community, we get to witness the signing. Our Clerk Books now have a more liturgical function rather than just "record keeping."
After our sharing of leave taking words, Jeff and Bettina, our clerk, went to the Clerk Book on the communion table. Bettina wrote in Jeff's departure date and Jeff signed the book.
After signing of the book, we shared the peace with one another and moved into our Prayer of Great Thanksgiving. The prayer was divided up into several parts and the prayer was done with multiple voices, people giving voice to their parts wherever they were in the circle. Jeff and I weren't standing near the table during the prayer, we were in the circle with everyone else.
In sharing the bread and the cup, we did "Pop-Up" communion---when we got to breaking the bread, I asked, "where the bread?" and Caitlin called out "we do!" I broke the bread with Caitlin.
Then "who has the cup?" Kathleen and her two kids called out "we do!" Jeff poured the cup with Kathleen and her kids.
People were invited to share the bread and the cup with each other, walking across the circle to share rather than sharing with the person next to them in the circle. This had people walking in all different directions (rather than linear and predictable).
People asked, "have you been fed?" and if someone hadn't received they were encouraged to say, "can you serve me?"
After communion, Jeff led a final song, an Alleluia, and everyone cheered and cried.
We tenderly lingered around in the sanctuary, sharing in mimosas and croissants until we shared the final moment of goodbye.