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A Liturgy for the Closing of a Church

 

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

 

The following service attempts to look back with celebration and gratitude for the blessings of God upon a congregation, its members and its church building without attempting to encompass the various reasons that might bring a congregation to this stage (which may or may not include a remnant of the congregation’s ministry going on in another form).  Therefore history and thanksgiving are a major component in the service which follows, and a history of the congregation will need to be prepared for reading and presentation.  Hymns listed are advisory only.

 

P = Presiding Minister    A = Assisting Minister/Deacon    C = Congregation

 

 

GATHERING 

Prelude

 

Invitation to Worship:

P    People of God, we gather today to mark the closing of our congregation/church and to remember with thanksgiving the many ways in which God has blessed our ministry and our lives in this place.  Let us lift our voices in praise and song to the One who alone will continue to care for and sustain us in this life and in the next.

 

Entrance Hymn   “O God, our Help in Ages Past”

 

Dialog of Praise

A   Give praise to the One who formed us and gathered us as the Church in this place.

C   Praise to the God of Israel, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

A   Give praise to the One who has blessed us and given us our years of ministry.

C   Praise to our God for all his blessings.  Give thanks to God’s holy name.

 

A   God has caused his name to dwell in our midst.

C   God has stirred our hearts and enriched us by his presence.

 

A   For _____ years, God has nurtured and fed us in this place.

C   For _____ years, God has shown us his love in this place.

 

A   For _____ years, God has given himself in Word and Sacrament in this place.

C   For _____ years, God has empowered our faith through his Holy Spirit.

 

A   Praise to the Lord for _____ years! Praise him in all times and seasons!

C   Praise to the Lord for all our days.  Praise him for evermore!

 

Doxology:     sing

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise Him, all creatures here below.

Praise Him above, ye heav'nly host.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

 

 

Prayer of the Day

P    The Lord be with you.

C   And also with you.

 

P    Let us pray.  Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe.  You fill the entire world with your presence;  your name is to be hallowed through all the earth.  Receive our praise and thanksgiving for the blessings, help, and comfort which you bestowed upon your people in this house.  Continue your mercies to your Church, that we may be conscious of your unchanging love as take leave of this place of worship;  through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

C   Amen

 

 

WORD

 

A history of the congregation is read at this time.  Pictures or projections may be used as part of this presentation.

 

Reading:  Exodus 33:12-17

      Moses said to the LORD, "See, you have said to me, 'Bring up this people'; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.'   Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people."  He said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."  And he said to him, "If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.  For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth."  The LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name."

 

Verse:  “Alleluia”

 

Gospel:  John 14:17-21

P    The Holy Gospel according to John, the 14th chapter.

C   Glory to you, O Lord.

 

P    Jesus said:  “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.  I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

 

P    The Gospel of the Lord.

C   Praise to you, O Christ.

 

 

Sermon

 

Hymn of the Day  “Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer”

 

 

Prayer of Remembrance and Thanksgiving

P    Let us bring before the Lord our prayers of thanksgiving for our life together as the congregation of ____________________ and for the blessings God has brought us through this holy place of worship.

 

Different representatives of the congregation may read the parts marked A below, or an Assisting Minister may read them all.  Each petition is said at the place in the church that is the subject of the prayer.

 

A   At the front pew of the nave.  Almighty God, here in this place, you gathered us as your Church and filled our hearts with your love through our songs and our praises.  You heard our confessions and forgave our sins.  You lifted our sorrows and made us glad in our celebrations.  We praise and thank you for our fellowship and your love, for our meetings and our dinners, for our ministry and our mission, and for all that you have been for us and with us in our life together.

C   We praise and thank you, O Lord, for all these things.

 

A   At the Baptismal Font.  Almighty God, at this font, you have received our children and our loved ones and made them one with your Son, Jesus Christ, and with us, the Body of Christ.  You have given them, as you have given to us, your Holy Spirit, that faith, hope, wisdom and love might abide in all your people.  We praise and thank you for the holy waters that have flowed from this font into each of us and out into the world as a river of life that carries your love.

C   We praise and thank you, O Lord, for all these things.

 

A   At the pulpit.  Almighty God, from this pulpit, we have heard your powerful Word.  You have lived among us through the gospel and the biblical stories of your people of faith.  Through your Word of preaching, you have called us.  Through your Word of teaching, you have taught us.  Through your Word of law and grace, you have guided us on our way.  And in your Word made flesh, you gave us our savior, Jesus Christ.  We praise and thank you for your powerful Word that has been and will continue to be the light to our path and the guide for our lives.

C   We praise and thank you, O Lord, for all these things.

 

A   At the altar.  Almighty God, at this table, you have welcomed us to the banquet of Our Lord and Savior and given us a foretaste of the feast to come.  You have united us with him and with one another in a feast of love through the sharing of his body and blood.  You have strengthened us for our mission and for our daily lives and sent us out to share Christ’s love with all the world.  We praise and thank you for the grace and favor you have shown us through the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and for the hope of sharing this feast with all the saints at the heavenly banquet.

C   We praise and thank you, O Lord, for all these things.

 

P    For all these things and for so many more, we give you our heartfelt thanks, almighty God.  And we ask that you bless us as we go from this place and from this fellowship.  Yet in our parting, we declare our faith in you, our only Creator and Redeemer.  And we seek your presence for our lives as we affirm that faith this day in the words that have been taught us:

 

C   I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
        I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
        I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

 

P    To you be all honor and glory, Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever!

C   Amen!  Amen!

 

 

The Peace

P    Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you;  my peace I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."  The peace of the Lord be with you always.

C   And also with you.

 

All share the Lord’s peace with one another.

 

 

MEAL

 

Offering 

 

The offering may be designated for a special mission in honor of the ministry of the closing congregation.

 

Offertory Song

Offertory Prayer

Great Thanksgiving

Lord’s Prayer

Communion

    Lamb of God

    Communion Songs

 

Post Communion Prayer:

P    Let us pray.  O God, form the minds of your faithful people into a single will through the sacrament of your Son.  Make us love what you command and desire what you promise, that, amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found:  Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C   Amen

 

SENDING

Benediction

Closing Hymn  “Go, My Children, with My Blessing”

Dismissal

 

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Acknowledgments:  The liturgy for today was written by the Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  The Prayer of the Day is from the Occasional Services 1982, "Thanksgiving at the Disposition of a Church Building."  The Post-Communion Prayer is for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, year C, Evangelical Lutheran Worship 2006, altered.