my liturgy of departure

Note: One of the valued practices of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, is the Liturgy of Departure. When folk become members of St. Mark’s, one of the pledges they are invited to make is to share with the community their intentions and reasons should they decide to depart. By this measure, in which the people respond with prayers of “Godspeed”, we honor the moment of exodus from the community as a significant life’s passage – both for the person and for the people – as much as we esteem the moment of entry into the community. I share the text of my Liturgy of Departure, offered at the close of the services on January 25, my final Sunday as St. Mark’s rector.

I walked across St. Mark’s threshold on June 1, 1998. My official retirement date is the stroke of midnight of Sunday, February 1, 2015. 6,089 days.

Being a person of many words, I considered crafting my Liturgy of Departure to match my tenure in days. Our mayor, Vincent Gray, in his December 17, 2014, farewell address after a mere four years in office, spoke for two hours. I was tempted, but, on second thought, I believe that over the course of 16½ years with you, I’ve said enough.

So, to cut to the chase, four words (of course, with embellishments and digressions).

Love. On my starting day, I promised to love you. Love. Not an emotion (though a feeling person I am), but rather a willing, willful, active benevolence that seeks to be and do the best for you. Being human, I’ve failed as much as I’ve succeeded; not always meeting your individual and communal expectations about what love is and does. Yet I always tried to love you. I love you still. I always will.

Thanks. As I’m wont to say, one must ne’er tire of saying “thank you”, for no one arrives at a place of good without the aid of countless hearts and hands. I thank you especially for helping me embrace with sadness, yet without fear the darkness, the woundedness, the brokenness that is so much a part of my existential being and self-understanding. I thank you, too, for showing me through it all how to find and shine the light of integrity.

Forgiveness. Where and when I have hurt you, I beg your forgiveness. Where and when you have hurt me, I forgive you.

Benediction. From the Latin bene dicere, to speak well, I share words of blessing about what I pray you continue to do:
• To tell the stories, the chapters and verses of the sacred autobiographical scriptures of your individual lives. For through this, you not only have information about one another, but, always more important, you know one another.
• To question. Everything. For knowledge, like the cosmos, is ever-expanding and, like all humans, is always forming.
• To offer your complaints humbly with one another. For nothing quite establishes (stabilire, to make stable) human relationships, particularly in disagreement, than respectfully articulated criticisms when the complainer, rarely saying “you”, but rather “I”, talks about what got stirred up in her/his heart.
• To share your praise honestly with one another. For nothing quite encourages (infuses with courage to be and become) the human soul like sincere acknowledgement and genuine appreciation.