I was the second to the last installed pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio. On November 20, 2011, the last service of worship was held in that 151 year old building by that congregation that was founded in 1839. I participated that service along with my successor and my predecessor pastors. I prayed the following pastoral prayer during the service.
Well, to begin, Lord, we will acknowledge that we are feeling a lot of sadness and sorrow right now. This old church has been a home to us both as a place and as a people. And though we trust and know that you will lead all of Central Church’s people to new church homes, still all of us who have had our lives bound up with this church will feel an aching sense of loss when we have closed this place up and been dispersed to those new homes. We acknowledge and own before you our grief and brokenheartedness, and we seek from you a balm of comfort for our aching hearts and a renewed assurance of your guiding presence as we go from here.
And yet, alongside the sadness we feel, we also feel grateful to you. We are grateful that you have granted us to have a part in this community of faith and its ministry. What an extraordinary, even unique place of mission and ministry you created here for a time! I, for myself, Lord, am enormously grateful that you allowed me to be part of that for a while. We can scarcely image the myriad people whose lives have been touched by you as you have worked through this congregation over the 172 years–many of whom, maybe even most of whom, were never even members of the church itself. This church is and has been a church that has quite literally given itself away in loving and faithful service to our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself up for us all.
Thank you, O Holy Spirit, for enabling us to do that for your kingdom’s sake. Thank you, also, that, though the ministry of this particular church is coming to an end, your kingdom does not end but rather grows and expands around the world even more so today than when this congregation first came to be. So, Lord, help us to keep sight of the truth that your kingdom is forever, and it is bigger than any one church or congregation. In that knowledge, grant us hope, assurance, and peace.
You are the Good Shepherd of your people. You have tended this people so faithfully through the generations that have arisen and passed away here. You will, we know, tend your people as they go from here after today. Protect them from wandering. Don’t let their sorrow at this ending here become a reason that keeps them from finding a new beginning somewhere else.
Lord, you gave the seventy-five year old Abraham the courageous faith to venture out from his home and his family to a new beginning in a place that you would show him. By your powerful Spirit pour the courageous faith of Abraham into the hearts of each of these people of yours here at Central Church and so make them bold in this new beginning. Lead each of them to a new place of promise that you preparing for them.
Finally, Father, we remember to you those folks in this downtown mission field who have received so much blessing from you through this congregation. Lord of heaven and earth, you know that the downtown of a big city like this is filled with wealth and power, with poverty and despair. And it has been the privilege of this congregation to be one of the means by which you brought your light and hope and healing and transformation and grace to this mission field. Do not leave this place of need and opportunity abandon. Raise up new initiatives of mission here for this new time.
©2012 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.
- See Related: Pastor Note #31–Does God Ever Say, “Oops!”