At the End of a Pastorate

Meeting by meeting, sermon by sermon,
bible study by bible study, service by service,
the years pass, and you know the church family as your own.
Until the day comes when the time is accomplished,
and you feel God nudging you to leave the role.
Gently you let go of this responsibility and that one,
you say your good-byes, you hear the thank yous.
On this threshold of retirement [leaving] you realize
that what is done is done,
and what is not done is not done,

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Blessing for a Pastor’s Departure

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under heaven.
There’s a time to arrive, and a time to go.
A time to work, and a time to rest.
A time to be called, and a time to say good-bye.
There is a time for pastoral ministry:
a time to visit the sick and grieving,
a time to lead worship and preach sermons,
a time to officiate at funerals and weddings,
a time to gather people together in meetings,
a time to lead and shepherd in all circumstances,
in the hurly-burly of congregational life….

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22 Ways to Love Your Congregation: A Pastor Reflects

Serve them joyfully.
Listen to their stories carefully.
Hear what they are not saying.
Laugh and cry with them.
When they hurt each other, forgive them.
When they hurt you, don’t take it personally.
Affirm good things out loud.
Pray for them and with them.
Preach good news faithfully.
See the big picture, and address it.
Love everyone, in every age group.

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Pastor’s Prayer: Holding Stories

The story of love gone sadly wrong

and the cruelty of the wounded;

the story of misguided innocence

and wrong roads eagerly taken;

the story of bitterness carefully hoarded

and an accountbook full of tears;

the story of pain uncomforted

and loneliness at the sticking place;

the story of grief unrequited

and the collapse of unrealized dreams;

the story of sanity stormed at the gate

and the sharp stab of personal betrayal.

Congregational life in all its sadness….

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Sanctuary Prayer

I weave a circle of prayer around this sanctuary

Protect, dear God, this space from sin.

Let evil thoughts be dropped in the parking lot

along with petty quarrels and all bitterness.

Let selfishness be relinquished on the steps

and pride be renounced at the threshold.

Let quarrelling be left at the door

and all hard feelings be hung up in the cloakroom.

Help us enter this hour of worship simply,

as children, eager to meet you here….

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Smooth Hollow of Worship

gather the eyes in

stand and seek them out

the tired, the hopeful,

the sad, the skeptical, the inquiring eyes

gather each pair

with these upraised arms,

this gaze,  these words

I gather you in

gently patting you into place

this place

this place here

this smooth hollow

of worship

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Prayer for Social Graces

God of social graces

be with me in this gathering today.

In every interaction, stand by my side.

When words are needed, help me find them.

In the give and take of conversation,

help me to give carefully

and take freely.

When others choose to put me down,

be with me in humiliation’s slow burn.

Keep me from returning evil for evil

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Pastor’s Prayer: What I Need from You

To do my job as pastor here, here is what I need from You:

              wisdom to interpret scripture,

courage to speak the truth,

eloquence to touch frozen hearts,

patience when people won’t listen,

kindness for those who irk me,

strength to shoulder hard stories,

discretion to know when to speak,

self-control to remain silent,

hope in the face of hopelessness.

Above all these give me love for all your people

and a passionate longing for your presence.

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About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at

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