How Can We Leave this Place?
By Catherine Gaw,  March 2012

A Litany of Lament and Commitment written by the Rev. Catherine Gaw for the congregation of Sackville United Church as the congregations says farewell to the building.

Introductory Words:

Statement of Our Purpose:  Representative from Church Council

It was a year ago this weekend when we gathered as a family of faith to contemplate our future. The Decision made by the congregation was to offer the properties we hold in Trust for The United Church of Canada and to seek another way of being a community of faith. We know that for some among us this has been a year of deep lament and regret over the decision. For others we know there is a deep desire to move forward in faith. For reasons all too familiar in this place, it has been decided that we will vacate this building next Sunday. We are not fully aware of what the future holds for us, but we know there is a deep commitment to continuing to seek God’s mission for us as a family of faith. We gather here to acknowledge the sense of loss with this moving from this place and to look with the eyes of faith to future ministry. Each of us brings our own emotion to this time. Together we can share one another’s pain while remembering that we are in this together. We gather here to remember the future.

Lamenter:  organ                                              

We gather here. We have heard the grand, sounds of a mighty organ. We have sung in celebration. We have sung in the depths of grief. How can we leave this place?

Responder: from the choir loft:

We can leave this place knowing the music will travel with us. Our song will not end when we leave this place.  God, the maker of all music, will lift our hearts in song wherever we may be. Our song is ongoing. We go from this place knowing the Singer and the Song. (brings symbol to the front—More Voices?)

Lamenter: This pulpit has lifted for us the Word of God. Through trials and wars, through challenges and peace leaders have proclaimed a vision from this pulpit? How can we leave this place?

Responder:  from the pulpit                                      

We can leave this place knowing that the Spirit of God, the Word made flesh, will travel with us. This Word cannot be contained by any pulpit, but will be heard wherever people listen to the words of scripture and live those words in our own time. The Word of God will travel with us. (moves pulpit bible to the front)

Lamenter: at communion table

We have gathered here for so many family meals. We have heard the promise: do this in remembrance of me. We have shared the bread and the cup. We have extended welcome to those who have joined our life from this table. How can we leave this place?

Responder: standing in place                                   

We can leave this place believing that the feast moves with us. We join journey with the bread of life and the cup of blessing. It is Christ who gathers us at this meal. We can leave this place knowing Christ will gather us at other tables. The feast moves with us. (the loaf and cup are moved from the communion table to the symbol table)

Lamenter: balcony

Some remember when the balconies were filled with students. We see the art expressed in the railing and we can see the care of those artisans. And we know there are initials of students carved in the balconies.  It was a sign of our place in the community to have so many young men and women worship here, to have built a church to house the students. We became their church home. How can we leave this place?

Responder: from the balcony-                          

While the balconies were at one time full, we know that this has not been the reality for many years. Our numbers have been few. But we have still found this to be a family for our time here. And we are glad to sit among you. We can leave knowing the students of today, though fewer in number, will move forward with us.  (a backpack is moved to the symbol table)

Lamenter:  The words and music from this place have inspired many to move into the community to work for justice and peace. This place has offered space to many. How can we leave this place?

Responder: standing in place                                

We know the needs of our community will continue to present themselves. We know our call, our mission to love and serve others will travel with us. We can leave this place knowing we will continue to act in ways which make for peace. (a food bank bag is added to the symbol table)

Lamenter: from the west side –Sunday school doors—

Just last Sunday we heard of the struggle to have a separate area built for Sunday school, youth and women. Many have been gathered here to learn the faith, to take part in programs and pageants. How can we leave this place?

Responder:  standing in place—

Our learning is not confined to this space. We have already learned that we can share the story, practice our learning from a variety of places. We can leave because the important lessons are written on our hearts, the learning moves with us and that can happen wherever we gather. (a symbol of the Sunday school is placed on the symbol table)

 Lamenter: from the west side –

From this place the delicious aroma of cookies baking, coffee brewing have wafted up these stairs and made many a tummy growl. Meals have been shared, hospitality extended, community nurtured. Some say the kitchen is the heart of the home… some might say that’s true for the church as well. How can we leave this place?

Responder: standing in place              

We know the importance of hospitality and welcome. We believe that wherever we go we will do everything we can to offer a welcome. We can leave this place because we know the fellowship moves with us. (a teapot is placed on the symbol table)

Lamenter:  from the front

So many have been baptized in this place. We have welcomed infants and adults into the community of this place. How can we leave this place?

Responder: standing in place                        

The water of baptism welcomes us and names us Christ’s. We are gathered into a world-wide family of faith. We can leave this place because we believe that baptism will travel with us and because, in this place, water is thicker than blood. (a pitcher of water is added to the symbol table)

Lamenter:  beside baptism font           

We have been pleased to have infants and toddlers with us and we have offered nursery care to young parents. Sometimes it has been a way of allowing generations to mix as care is offered. It’s been and important place for many. How can we leave this place?

Responder:             Standing in place

The joy of watching children grow moves with us. No matter where we are, the love given and received by our children will travel with us.  (a nursery blanket is added to the symbol table)

Lamenter:  from the front            

Perhaps the last will be the hardest. Look at the windows. In early years there were described as an ornament for the town. They may have sagged, and sometimes leak. But they are beautiful: how can we leave this place?

Responder: Moving to the communion table                      

We need to remember that it is not the window but the light which makes them beautiful. And it is the light of God which shines upon us. The beauty of the glass is but a reflection of the Light of the World. And this light of Christ will travel with us. We don’t have to be afraid. (Christ candle is added to the symbol table)

Concluding Statement: Representative of Church Council

We can leave this place believing our God is not finished with us yet! We are being called to new adventures in faith. We take with us the vision, purpose and mission of God. We travel from here with faith that we are alone. We move from here secure in the embrace of Jesus the Christ. We leave this place filled with lament, over-brimming with hope for the Spirit’s presence as we move forward in faith.