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Saying Goodbye to a Pastor

A Litany of Farewell

When a new pastor is ordained or installed in a congregation, much celebration usually occurs. Several ordained people might take part in the service. Councils of neighboring churches are invited to send representatives to witness the occasion. The official installation and/or ordination form is read and sometimes embellished with ministry symbols and several readers. Perhaps the choir presents music, or congregational singing time is enlarged. To add to this celebration, cake or even a meal may be served after worship!

When a beloved pastor receives and accepts a call from God to another congregation, though, the mood at his or her final worship service is, by contrast, subdued and reflective. The following farewell litany is a compilation and adaptation of several sources including the Lutheran Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Mennonite Church of Canada. The litany acknowledges a pastor’s ministry among a congregation and releases the pastor with the blessings of God and of the congregation.

Logistics

When our congregation used the litany, various individuals or groups (as indicated) stood across the front platform of the sanctuary. We used one stationary microphone for the introduction. Three handheld microphones were passed among the readers. One representative of the family groups spoke. The reader’s part of the litany was abbreviated in the bulletin and on the screens, with only the beginning and ending words printed as a cue for the congregation’s response. The departing pastor and the co-pastor stood next to each other, off to the side. Because of the emotions involved, the farewell litany concluded the service.

Litany of Farewell

[Introduction by the chair of council or other representative of the church’s leadership; not printed in the bulletin]

Our church family is constantly changing. People come and go. Babies are born. Children grow up. People commit themselves to one another. Loved ones and friends among us come to the end of their lives. Individuals move into our community and church life. Others leave us, moving away to new places, new experiences, and new opportunities. It is important and right that we recognize these times of passage, of endings and beginnings. Today we share this time of farewell with Pastor (name), who has taken a call to pastor the (name) church.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance (Eccles. 3:1–4).

By the grace of God, Pastor (name) has served us well. Today is (name)’s last Sunday as our pastor. This is a time to look back and a time to look forward; a time for joy and a time for sadness. It is time to give thanks and praise to almighty God for what Pastor (name) has given us in our lives together.

[a college-aged person stands by the pulpit]
Pastor (name), from this pulpit for the last (number) years, you have proclaimed the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. You have challenged us to live out the gospel in our daily lives and in our neighborhoods.

We thank you for your preaching ministry.

[a family with young children stands near the baptismal font]
At this font you have baptized (number) infants. The gift of new life in Christ comes from God and is administered by faithful pastors.

We thank you for presiding at the sacrament of holy baptism.

[a family with young children]
Not only did you baptize children, but you have taught us, presented children’s messages, and shared in our youthful activities . . . including kickball.

Thank you for being a significant part of the lives of the children and youth of (name) Church.

[an elder stands by the communion table]
At this table, you have presided at the sacrament of holy communion. The meal is the Lord’s, and this congregation has been a provider of this meal so that young and old could be fed with the living presence of Christ.

We thank you for presiding at the sacrament of holy communion.

[a senior citizen]
At hospitals and in homes, you have walked with many of us in our struggles with health, old age, and sickness. You led us in prayers for healing and restoration in the midst of our suffering.

We thank you for the encouragement you gave us as our pastor.

[someone who had experienced a death in their family]
You have presided at services where many gave thanks for the lives of loved ones who had died. You walked with us in the midst of grief. You proclaimed the good news of the resurrection and led us in prayers for comfort and strength.

We thank you for being with us in the time of loss.

[a newly married couple]
You have also presided over services of marriage. You were present at the beginning of something wonderful and encouraged couples to include Jesus in their marriage. You led prayers asking for God’s presence in marriage.

We thank you for sharing those and other times of great joy.

[The co-pastor asks all to stand and leads the following litany of blessing. The congregation begins, and the departing pastor responds]

Go now and do God’s will. As you have been a blessing to us, go to be a blessing to others.

As you have been a blessing to me, so also may you be a blessing to others.

Witness faithfully in word and deed to the love and salvation that is known to us in Christ.

Strive for righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness among yourselves.

May God, the Father, bless you in your ministry at (name) Church.
May God, the Father, bless you in your ministry here at (name) Church.
May God, the Son, be ever with you and guide you.
May God, the Son, be ever with you and guide you.
May God, the Holy Spirit, equip you with everything good to do God’s will.
May God, the Holy Spirit, equip you with everything good to do God’s will.

God’s Blessing (by the departing pastor)

Doxology