As I prepared to move to a new pastoral relationship, I wanted a ritual way of bringing the current one to a close. Because, in The United Church of Canada, the pastoral relationship is a three-way covenant between minister, pastoral charge and Presbytery, overseen by God, I felt it important to connect the closing of the covenant with its opening.
This was shared at the end of my last service with the congregation:
Something special happened in this place, in the middle of (Liturgical Season and Year). It was then that we began to share in ministry together. A few months later you, me and Presbytery
officially recognized that new beginning, in the eyes of God, through a service of covenant.
Over the last ( ) years and ( ) months we’ve had some times of joy and some times of frustration. We’ve challenged each other, we’ve learned from each other, we’ve done a lot to care for each other… and we’ve worshiped God together. There is nothing that can take away the memories and learning from the relationship we have developed.
However… as the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time for beginnings and a time for endings. I will hold each of you – St. Marys and this congregation, dear in my heart – in friendship and in love.
But, after today, our relationship as Enabling Minister and congregation ends. I move to a new pastoral relationship, with a different congregation who have other difficulties and celebrations. With the support of (supply minister), you will have time to prepare yourselves for a new pastoral relationship with a new minister – someone who has new skills and gifts – and that’s good.
As a denomination, we’re often good at celebrating the beginning of new relationships, but not quite as good at marking their ending. I would like us to take a moment to think about our sorrows and our joys together… and to say goodbye.
(Some silent time)