A service of thanks and farewell


Farewells are not the strong suit of the Anglican Church.  There is no formal liturgy in the Prayer Book for when a minister retires or leaves a parish.  We’re rather good at de-commissioning buildings and boats, but we don’t express our thanks to people nearly enough … or deeply enough.  We expend much more energy on greetings and inductions. Here is an order of service for saying farewell.

Malcolm WoolrichChaplain, Melbourne Grammar


General structure:

People will be arriving from about [time], with the service commencing 30 minutes later.

M to lead service (acting as ‘MC’).

Two songs during service and music at conclusion 

Three reflections to thanks to A [and B/family] (Minister, including Spouse/Family if appropriate).

A [and B/family] to respond.

Two people to pray for A [and B/family] [1] (giving thanks for the past) and [2] (praying for the future).

K to produce a photo tribute (to be shown before-hand as people are arriving, and after the formalities – on a loop).

ORDER

  1. Welcome and Introduction – 

Opening words from Scripture:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you  

1 Thessalonians 5:18

A man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each to his own ability.  Then he went away.  He who had received the five talents went away at once and traded with them, making five talents more… Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Matthew 25:14-16; 19-21

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:25-27

Reflection – 

Farewells are not the strong suit of the Anglican Church.  There is no formal liturgy in the Prayer Book for when a minister retires or leaves a parish.  We’re rather good at de-commissioning buildings and boats, but we don’t express our thanks to people nearly enough … or deeply enough.  We expend much more energy on greetings and inductions.  

This oversight is echoed in Scripture.  Moses, as with all great generals, simply fades away.  Elijah’s departure on a fiery chariot can’t be replicated today for OH & S reasons.  The Book of Acts ends abruptly – it provides scant detail of what happened to Paul once he reached Rome.

Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian leaders in Acts 20:17-38 is a helpful template.  Our Anglican ordination service, containing the exhortations of the bishop and the responding undertakings by ordinands for the priesthood, probably draws its inspiration from Paul’s words.  It is as if Paul is settling accounts with his flock, reminding them that he has been a faithful leader and what ministry should look like in practice.  As the account was being settled, the Ephesians must have realised they were very much in Paul’s debt.  A [and B/family] we are very much in your debt.  There were several things that exercised Paul’s mind as he said goodbye and examined his ministry.  I will now put those questions to this congregation and invite them to respond with the words that appear on the screen: 

Did you live with your people?

Did you serve the Lord with humility and with tears?

Did you ever shrink from preaching boldly?

Did your ministry testify to the gospel of grace?

Did you strive to build up believers?

Did you admonish with tears, to build up your flock?

Did you avoid coveting gold, silver or anyone’s apparel?

Did you work hard to help the weak?

A [and B/family] since we welcomed you to [church] in [year], you have done all these things and more.  Today’s service will be bittersweet, as we remember with joy your years of service and your friendship, yet knowing with sadness and a few tears that this ministry is reaching its conclusion.  We are comforted by the fact and rejoice that the seeds you have sown in this parish will continue to grow and bear fruit, both in [church location] and far beyond, to the glory of God.

This [morning / afternoon / evening] we sincerely want to thank both of you – and God – for your ministry at [church] – through song, reflections and prayer. 

  1. Song
  2. Reflection – 1
  3. Reflection – 2
  4. Reflection – 3
  5. A [& B/family’s] response
  6. Presentation of gift to A [& B/family]
  7. Song
  8. Prayers
  9. Final blessing – MC
  10. Music after service