A beautiful but difficult service at church today, saying farewell to a beloved Associate Rector who's served here for twenty-one years, and is moving on to new challenges. It's called a Service for the Ending of a Pastoral Relationship and Leave-taking from a Congregation. After a festival Eucharist with many of her favorite hymns (including the mesmerizing 469, right, which seems to roll powerfully on and on "like the wideness of the sea") and a wonderful last sermon, came these words:
I ask if you, the people of ___, recognize and accept the conclusion of this pastoral relationship, releasing me from my responsibilities as ___.
People: We do.
And I in turn release you from turning to me and depending on me as a pastor in this place. I offer my blessing, support and encouragement to ____, and the other clergy who will serve after me.
It was a good demonstration of the power of ritual. Without it, I suspect we would all have burst into tears.