A Retirement Service of Thanksgiving and Celebration for Ministry

We Gather

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Ministry
[This prayer is included in the bulletin for people to pray during the preservice music. Worship begins when entering the worship space.]

Merciful God and Father, you have graciously promised that through the preaching of the crucified Christ those who believe in him will be saved. We thank you for the grace given to your servant, [name], as pastor of this congregation. We thank you for his/her readiness and steadfastness in ministry, his/her patience, understanding, and zeal. We praise you for strengthening your church through his/her ministry. Continue to build and increase your church through the ministry of its pastors, through your Son, our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Pre-service Music: Ringing of the Bells

Greetings and Announcements
[One option for announcements is to place them before the formal worship begins to reinforce the idea that we come to worship as a community, not as individuals.]

Opening Hymns
“Have No Fear, Little Flock” Lutheran Book of Worship 410
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” CH 151, PH 260, PsH 469, TH 92, WR 507
“How Firm a Foundation” CH 408, PH 361, PsH 500, TH 94, WR 411

God’s Greeting

Confession and Assurance of Pardon
[In Lutheran worship, the confession of sins occurs early in the service to underscore the fact that we need to be purified before approaching God in worship.]

For many years we have walked together as pastor and congregation. I thank God for you; you have been a great blessing to me, and to my family.
And we thank God for you and your family.
At the heart of our life together has been the forgiveness of sins, purchased for us by our Lord at the cost of his own life on Calvary. Once again let us come before God to confess our sins, receive God’s absolution, and share that forgiveness with one another.
Most merciful God, it is in our nature to be sinful. We have sinned against you and against one another, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and not done. We deserve your punishment; yet, because of your Son Jesus we pray, have mercy on us and forgive us. Amen.
In his amazing mercy, God gave Jesus into death in payment for our sins and on that basis has forgiven all our sins. To all who trust Christ he has given the privilege of being his children. With his Spirit God has been empowering us to live a new life. And God, who has begun this good work in us, will continue it until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[A time of silent reflection]

Assured of God’s forgiveness, it is appropriate on this day that we assure one another that all is forgiven between us. Dear brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus, where I have sinned against you and hurt you, where I have let you down and been less than God desired, I ask your forgiveness.
As God has forgiven us in Christ, so we forgive you. And, where we have sinned against you and hurt you, where we have let you down and been less than God desired, we ask your forgiveness.
As God has forgiven me in Christ, so I forgive you.
Thanks be to God!

Hymn of Praise: “We Praise You, O God” CH 68, PsH 237, TH 97, WR 726

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Merciful God and Father, through your Son, Jesus Christ, you have established your church to be a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. We give thanks for shepherds who feed and serve the flock. Strengthen the labors of pastors that through their ministry of Word and sacrament your people may bear fruit in keeping with your command and grow up into the One who is the head of the church, Jesus Christ, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be glory now and forever.

We Hear God’s Word

Old Testament Lesson: Jeremiah 1:4-10 (Call of Jeremiah)

Epistle Reading: Ephesians 4:1-7 (Unity in the body of Christ)

New Testament Readings
1 Peter 5:2-4 (Admonition to pastors)
2 Timothy 3:14-17 (Paul’s charge to Timothy)

Gospel Readings
[In many Christian traditions the congregation will stand for the gospel reading to emphasize its importance in our lives. The congregational responses “Glory to you, O Lord” and “Praise to you, O Christ” are often sung.]

John 13:12-20 (Jesus washes the disciples’ feet)
John 21:15-17 (Jesus reinstates Peter)

We Respond to God’s Word: Apostles’ Creed (unison)

Hymn: “Thy Strong Word” Lutheran Book of Worship 233  or “Lord, We Hear Your Word with Gladness” SNC 89

Sermon: “Our Partnership in the Gospel”

Hymn of Response: “Go My Children, with My Blessing” SNC 284, WR 719

We Return Our Offerings to the Lord
A sign of our desire to offer our lives in service to Jesus so that we can nurture and expand the family of faith.


Litany for the Closure of a Ministry
On [date], we joined together in a service of celebration of a new ministry. It is now time to give thanks for the life we have shared in Christ. It is also time for me to move on to the next chapter in my spiritual journey on which the Lord is leading me. I have found our time together rewarding, and memories of what we have shared will always remain precious and meaningful.
The Lord is loving to everyone; God’s compassion is over all his works. All your works praise you, O Lord; and your faithful servants bless you. (Ps. 145:9-10)
Let us thank God for these past years and invoke his blessing upon us for the years ahead.
O God, you have bound us together for a time as pastor and congregation to work for the advancement of your kingdom in this place and throughout the world. We give you thanks for the ministry have shared together through these years. We thank you for your patience with us despite our blindness and slowness of heart. We thank you for your forgiveness and mercy in the face of our many failures.

Especially we thank you for your never-failing presence with us through these years, and for the deeper knowledge of you and of each other that we have attained. We thank you for those who have been joined to this part of Christ’s family through baptism. We thank you for opening our hearts and minds again and again to your Word, and for feeding us abundantly with the sacrament of the body and blood of your Son. Now, we pray, be with those who leave and with us who stay, and grant that all of us, by drawing nearer to you, may always be close to each other in the communion of saints. All this we ask for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

We Receive a Blessing

Benediction and Peaceful Release from Call
[In Lutheran churches, the pastor is called by the entire congregation to be their shepherd. Normally, a request for “peaceful release” is sent whenever a pastor departs. Instead of the release being granted by a board of elders or at some other meeting, it is requested and granted here by the assembled congregation in worship, helping to bring closure for both pastor and congregation.]

I now ask you for a peaceful release from the call to be your pastor that I may leave with your love and blessing.
We release you from your call and give you leave with our blessings and our prayers. May the Lord watch between you and us when we are absent from one another.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord look upon you with favor and give you his peace.

Closing Hymn: “Rejoice, O Pure in Heart” PsH 561

[During the closing hymn, the acolytes (young persons serving as worship assistants) light their tapers from the Christ candle and exit through the middle of the congregation, symbolizing that we now go out into God’s world to let our faith light shine as a reflection of Christ in our hearts for the world to see so they, too, through our witness, might come to know him as Savior and Lord.]  

Michael Kesar ( is director of music ministries at St. Mark Lutheran Church, Omaha, Nebraska. This service was held on the occasion of the retirement of their pastor.

Reformed Worship 81 © September 2006 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.