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Rite of Thanksgiving at the
Retirement of a Bishop

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The order may be used to close a social event for the retiring Bishop or it may follow the Post Communion Prayer at the chief synod eucharist. The Presiding Bishop of the ELCA presides.  The Vice President of the synod may assist or may preside in the absence of the Presiding Bishop.

 

P. Dear Christian friends, in the book of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher writes the following verses:

 

"For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to seek, and a time to lose...."

 

Our Bishop,   Full Name  is laying down his/her pastoral staff to enter into retirement. Today, therefore, it is a time to mark the ending of his/her ministry with us in the ______________ Synod; a time to look back, and a time to look forward; a time for joy, and a time for sadness. It is a time to give thanks and praise to Almighty God for what Bishop Last Name  has given us in our lives together.

 

A. Blessed be God.

C. And blessed be God's holy name.

 

A. The Lord makes everything beautiful in its time.

C. Whatever God does endures forever.

 

A. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

C. And forget not all God's benefits.

 

A. Bless the Lord, all you hosts:

C. You ministers who do God's will.

 

A. Bless the Lord, all you works, in all places of God's dominion.

C. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

 

P. For everything there is a season; a time to go, and a time to come. Yet the Spirit blows where it will. And for those who are led by the Spirit, they must follow. God has blessed the ______________ Synod with _____ years of service by Bishop ___________. He/She has been our Bishop, our guide, our co-worker in Christ, our counselor, our teacher, our overseer, our friend. With joy and sadness we mark and celebrate the ending of his/her ministry with us.

 

C. Bishop __________, we called you to be our chief pastor and shepherd, to proclaim God's Word and celebrate the sacraments, to ordain our pastors and set aside our lay ministers, to interpret the Gospel for us and maintain the unity of the Church. You have provided leadership and guidance for us in the spirit of Christ. You have challenged us with the Gospel mission as our Bishop. You have helped us to mark our direction and encouraged us on our way. Together we have served the Lord and his Church in common devotion to the Gospel. Sharing in our joys and sorrows, you have been important to us in our life together in the Church of Jesus Christ.

 

The Departing Bishop addresses the congregation.

 

B. People of God, you called me to serve in this synod, and now God has seen fit to lead me to another stage in my life and service. I praise God for the time which we have shared together. I have known your love and your patience. You have ministered to me as I have ministered to you. You have been my teacher as I have been yours. You have forgiven me as I have forgiven you. Hand-in-hand, we have walked in the light of Christ, and we have grown together in the Gospel. Our lives have been intertwined by the Holy Spirit, and I shall not soon forget you.

 

P. In thanksgiving, let us pray for Bishop ____________ and for our life together.  Eternal God:

 

C. We thank you for Bishop ____________ and for our life together. You have led his/her by the Holy Spirit to serve your people in this synod, to build up your Church, and to glorify your name. We have worked in common for the sake of the Gospel. Together we have learned from your Word. Together we have broken bread and given thanks. In thanksgiving, we praise you for raising up faithful servants among us for the ministry and oversight of your Church. And we pray that Bishop ____________ may continue to exemplify, in word and deed, the Gospel of your Son. Grant that we, with him, may continue to serve you in the Church on earth, and be brought to rejoice in your kingdom forever; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

The Departing Bishop addresses the congregation.

 

B. Scripture tells us that endings are only new beginnings. Therefore, let us go forth, doing God's will in our respective places, for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

C. Continue to give and receive comfort as you live out your retirement.

B. Give and receive comfort as you serve within the world.

 

C. May God, the Father, bless you in your life of retirement.

B. May God, the Father, bless you in your ministry in this synod.

 

C. May God, the Son, be ever with you and guide you.

B. May God, the Son, be ever with you and guide you.

 

C. May God, the Holy Spirit, equip you with everything good to do God's will.

B. May God, the Holy Spirit, equip you with everything good to do God's will.

 

C. And may you always know God's peace.

B. Amen! Amen!

 

Closing Hymn:

          Now thank we all our God

          With hearts and hands and voices,

          Who wondrous things has done,

          In whom his world rejoices;

          Who, from our mothers' arms,

          Has blest us on our way

          With countless gifts of love

          And still is ours today.

 

          All praise and thanks to God

          The Father now be given,

          The Son, and him who reigns

          With them in highest heaven,

          The one eternal God,

          Whom earth and heav'n adore;

          For thus it was, is now,

          And shall be evermore.