Liturgy for Conclusion of Vestry Service
"I will, with God’s help."
Book of Common Prayer, Baptismal Service, 304-5
We Episcopalians are a very ceremonial people. Punctuating the Book of Common Prayer and the Service of Occasional Offices are various rites of welcome, investiture, and commissioning for just about everything, including being on the vestry. All of them are modeled, more or less, on the first and most important such ceremony, Holy Baptism, where we are asked if we will faithfully discharge the ministry of being Christians. We reply, “I will, with God’s help.” That response is at once a powerful proclamation of our determination to be doers and a humble acknowledgment that we need to rely on God’s providence to get anything done.
Unfortunately, we do not have a rite to decommission someone who has concluded a ministry. That’s a critical omission. By the time you conclude your vestry term, you have generally acquired a certain degree of ownership over your status and your work, and you may be loath to step aside. A formal farewell to vestry service, especially one that vows reliance on God’s holy grace as you move on, might help you to let go.
I have taken the liberty of writing a short decommissioning ceremony (also available in a Word doc below) for retiring vestry members. It combines a well-deserved pat on the back with a few new and very important commitments on your part. It will be harder to keep these promises than you might think. Believe me, I know: I think I violated most of them in my first year off the vestry. It will help if you ask for God’s assistance. But you can do it – and you will, with God’s help.
Colleen McMahon is author of Meditations for Vestry Members, where this service and other meditations can be found.