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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ask the Matriarch - On Our Way Rejoicing...Loving...Serving

Good morning!

I am revhoney, and I blog at I've been a member of RGBP since spring of 2008 and ordained and serving in the Lutheran expression of the church for 23 years. Ann at and I have received the reins of this weekly conversation from RevGals's pre-eminent matriarch Gallycat. God's richest blessings to you, dear Gallycat, as you look ahead to marriage and all the other events opening up in your life!

Our sister Gallycat leaves big shoes to fill.
But God is good, and questions keep coming, we go!

We have the following question for this week:

Several of my seminary pals and I have determined that we would be wise to start memorizing a handful of charges and/or benedictions. What are some good sources? What are some favorites – scriptural and not?

Benedictions or blessings offer comfort and the promise of God's presence to worshipers as they leave the sanctuary or worship space. For many of our longtime members, they are some of the most familiar words we speak on Sunday. Our denomination now offers seasonal benedictions tied to lectionary readings. As you might suspect, some love 'em and others...they want the familiar words of the Aaronic blessing (The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord's face shine upon you...)!

Charges (or words of dismissal) can serve to extend the focus of the day's message and impart direction to the faithful as they leave corporate worship and go into their environments to worship God in word and deed. In more liturgical traditions, dismissals are simple (e.g. Go in peace; serve the Lord!) and are often issued by a non-ordained assisting minister.

Many of our matriarchs are vacationing and getting sons and daughters off to school and college, so here are a few of our favorites, inviting our readers to offer theirs...

One of our matriarchs indicated that she usually inserts a ten-word or so summary of her sermon as a prologue to the liturgical benediction she uses.

From Ann -

I like a variety of blessings. Episcopalians use a prayer book so that is a primary source - the Book of Common Prayer. Also some later publications under the name of Enriching our Worship. The Anglican Church of New Zealand has A New Zealand Prayer Book which contains lots of great stuff - a bit more inclusive and expansive language with a more earth based tone - both Maori and Euro-descent New Zealanders composed it. is a great source for weekly ideas. I don't usually memorize but have a couple for when called on unexpectedly.

May Christ be above you to bless you, beneath you to hold you up, before you to guide you, behind you to prod you. May Christ at your left and at your right to be your constant companion on the Way. May Christ be within you and among you that you may know love, joy and peace. May the blessing of God who creates, redeems and sanctifies rest on you and those you love and pray for this day and always. Amen.

The grace of Christ attend you, the love of God surround you, the comfort of the Holy Spirit keep you, that you may live in faith, abound in hope and grow in love, both now and evermore.

One of my favorites sounds much like Ann's first one...composer and singer John Ylvisaker set it to music a number of years ago, so the pronouns are still masculine.

As you go on your way, may God go with you. May he go before you to show you the way. May he go behind you to encourage you, beside you to befriend you, above you to watch over, within you to give you peace. In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. Amen

The readiness to memorize benedictions and charges is commendable! But beware! I am sure that I am not the only RevGal who has found herself standing before the congregation, prepared to offer the blessing, when the "blue screen of death" voided her random access memory of those words she had been saying week after week for years. I stood for a moment, waiting for words that would not come, and then finished it with something my brain cobbled together. The people may have formed a small congregation - but they had hearts as big as all outdoors...thanks be to God!

How about the rest of you? What benedictions, blessings, charges, and dismissals would you offer our inquiring sister and her seminary pals?


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  2. ELCA pastors have access to a lectionary worship aid book called... Sundays and Seasons. The writers of this aid compose benedictions to change with the seasons.

    Since we use full worship bulletins... I print the seasonal benediction (prayers, confession, etc...)... and I never have to worry about my frequent blue screen of death during worship... because it's all in front of me in the bulletin.

  3. I have found many sources taht are wonderful for charges, benedictions and blessings. I often use on of these as a type of charge. Also many 'classic" one (Aaronic, ect) are beautiful.
    I think it is neat to also have an original benediction you use yourself. Look at others and build it from there. I have used other prayers as models in prayer writing exercise.
    When I wrote mine, I thought of keeping in line with tradition (I made it triune) but at same time used soem of my own faith statement ideals to combine it.
    I also memorized a benediciton that my own pastor used many years before....honestly don't know where it came from!
    Smart thinking and good luck to you all!

  4. A Presbyterian blogger (sorry I dont remember which one but not one of the RevGalBlogPals) posted a video of Bishop Gene Bishop. I transcribed it to use:

    May God bless you with discomfort; discomfort at easy answers half truths and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.

    May God bless you with anger: anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

    May God bless you with tears: tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy

    May God bless you with foolishness: enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world so that you may do what others claim can not be done.

    Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church

    I also use a charge from my internship church that Cheesehead will recognize. It's originally from Wendell Berry's Mad Farmer Manisfesto

    So, friends, every day do something
    that won't compute.
    Love the Lord.
    Love the world.
    Work for nothing.
    Love someone who does not deserve it.
    Ask the questions that have no answers.
    Plant sequoias.
    Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.
    Practice resurrection

  5. I love to use one that comes from our Presbyterian Book of Common Worship that says (with a couple minor tweaks of my own):
    And now my friends,
    go out into the world in peace;
    have courage;
    hold on to what is good;
    return no person evil for their evil;
    instead, strengthen the faint-hearted,
    support the weak,
    help the suffering,
    honor all men, women and children;
    love and serve the Lord your God,
    rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
    I follow it with: And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of God's Holy Spirit be with each of you and all those you love, now and forever. Amen.
    So there you have a charge (sending) and benediction (blessing) all in one.
    My congregation seems to really like that one, so I use it often.
    There are several others in the BCW if that one doesn't suit, but there are also plenty in the worship books of other denominations that are quite beautiful. Use your resources!!

  6. No suggestions here, just thank you and welcome to the new coordinators of this feature! Appreciate your willingness to serve.

  7. I'm not too creative in this area. My charges are a spin-off of my sermon or some other theme from the service (communion or something going on in the congregation related to missions, etc.). Probably 9 times out of 10 I just use the Trinitarian/Pauline (2 Cor.) benediction. I love the Aaronic blessing, but tend to just use it at funerals and sometimes weddings because honestly I haven't taken the time or effort to memorize it. At those two services I always have a book/script in front of me so I can use it as needed.

    Very occasionally I do something responsive and print it in the bulletin, but that's very very occasionally.

  8. The Episcopal Book of Occasional Services has seasonal blessings. We, too, do a full text bulletin and print those during the season. For the rest of the year, I usually use "The Peace of God which passes all understanding..." a standard in the Episcopal Church or the following:
    Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us; so be quick to love, and make haste to be kind; And the blessing of god Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

    There are a few others from the Celtic tradition that I've found recently. I recommend Brendan O'Malley's two books A Celtic Primer and Lord of Creation.

  9. Oops! That would be *God* almighty.

  10. I really like a Celtic Blessing that is also in our Hymn Book (Voices United) so if I'm planning on using it but blank on the words, I can look it up. It goes like this:
    May the Christ who walks on wounded feet walk with you on the road. May the Christ who serves with wounded hands open your hands to serve. May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart open your hearts to love. May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you.
    Usually I like to pull on various resources to do something that ties in the sermon as a charge (commissioning) and then a trinitarian blessing/benediction.

  11. The blessings that have Christ be with you, Christ beside you, etc - are built on the prayer of St Patrick - sometimes called St. Patrick's breastplate. I like that sense of Christ surrounding me, within me and in those I meet - as a blessing. We had a deacon at a church where I served who did dismissals (or charges) from the sermons -- he was so good at it. I miss his creativity.

  12. The charge always--almost always--comes from the sermon, like She Rev. I have also used the "Charge From the Church Across the Street", which is, as Joan Calvin points out, by Wendell Berry.

    But usually I go with "May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Creator, Christ our Redeemer, and the sweet Sustaining Holy Spirit go with us this day and evermore."

  13. Here are a couple I like to use.

    Go in peace.
    And may the Holy God surprise you
    on the way,
    Christ Jesus be your company
    and the Spirit lift up your life. Amen.
    (World Council of Churches, 1991 Assembly,
    Canberra: Benediction)

    As you leave know, in the deepest sense
    you are a delight to God the creator
    you are embraced by Christ Jesus the son
    you are a masterpiece-in-the-making of God’s creative Spirit.
    from SpiritWindows

  14. I sometimes use my favorite prayer as a kind of benediction:

    Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    (If you've been to Holden Village, you might recognize this one; it's also in the Lutheran Book of Worship.)

  15. Margaret gave one version of this, but here's mine:

    Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make this earthly pilgrimage with us.

    So be swift to love;
    Make haste to do kindness;
    Shower abundant hospitality on friend and neighbor.

    Walk in justice
    That you may follow the path of mercy and love.

    And the blessing of God
    who comes to us unbidden,
    who for us was broken,
    and in whose spirit we are called into wholeness and holiness of life
    be upon you and those whom you love
    now and forever.


    I got this from the dean of my seminary, who received it from a friend--exact origin unknown.

  16. Rev. dr. mom's is actually an addition to the original, written by Henri-Frederic Amiel, as he was waiting to hear that a long time friend of his had passsed away at last.

    I use it pretty much straight.

    Life is short, and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind. And may the blessing of the One who made, us and loves us, and walks the way with us, be upon you and those you love dearly, this day and always. AMEN.

    Also, I like the blessing of St. Clare.

    Live without fear. Your Creator has made you holy, has always protected you and loves you as a mother. Go in peace to follow the good road, and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always. AMEN.

  17. I have developed a bunch of "blessings" for the end of the eucharist and dismissals offered by the deacon at the very end of the service. Most of the ones I use I have taken from the New Zealand Prayerbook, and a lot of them I have re-written. But I use the same set for Advent each year, and then the same set for Lent, and so on. So, while they change "seasonally" they are consistent yearly....and over time I do memorize them - but don't ask me out of context, 'cuz I won't remember....LOL

    Lots of good ideas here!

  18. I have not been so creative in this way so far, but I like what I'm reading here, and am looking forward to experimenting! Gotta get that New Zealand prayer book, that's for sure.

    also, that you to rev honey and Ann for your good work.

  19. I generally make up a charge related to the sermon, and I often make it up during the last hymn. For benediction, I always use the Celtic deep peace blessing (I'm surprised not to see it here yet):
    Deep peace of the running wave to you;
    deep peace of the flowing air to you;
    deep peace of the shining stars to you;
    deep peace of the quiet earth to you;
    and deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.

    This is an awesome collection here, ladies! I might just turn them all into one big word doc I can reference when I need something like this...

  20. There's an old Irish blessing that is somewhat well-known:

    May the road rise up to meet you.
    May the wind always be at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    and rains fall soft upon your fields.
    And until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

  21. One my Sponsoring Priest uses all the time, and I just love. Often she tailors the parts in parentheses to the situation:

    May our Lord Jesus Christ who walks on wounded feet (walk with you today, and all the days of your earthly life.)

    May our Lord Jesus Christ who heals with wounded hands (heal us and empower us to heal others.)

    May our Lord Jesus Christ who loves with a broken heart (be the love of our lives from this day forth and forever more.)

    And when we go forth from this place may we see the face of God in everyone we meet, and may everyone we meet see the face of God in us.

  22. Hale and hello sisters
    I often use the last paragraph of the Brief Statement of faith beginning with...In Gratitude to God, empowered by the spirit...
    In my parish we said this together ... It was fun to watch the people memorize it just from repeating it.
    Be well

  23. Oh sorry here's the whole paragraph from the pcusa Brief Statement of Faith
    In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit, we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
    and to live holy and joyful lives, even as we watch for God's new heaven and new earth, praying, Come, Lord Jesus!With believers in every time and place we rejoice that nothing in life or in death
    can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

    the Whole Brief Statement can be found at

  24. Love the Deep peace one Teri.
    Hubby uses the statement from Micah
    "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your Lord"
    A favorite of mine I must say.

  25. Awwww, thanks. It bears noting that I was never a matriarch, just your erstwhile editor. :D But I'll take the honorary hat for just this once.


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