On August 29th, Mark and I will fly to Spain. A train and a bus ride later, we will arrive in the small, coastal town of Irun. The next morning, we will begin the five hundred mile pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela. This pilgrimage is one of the three ancient pilgrimages of the Christian tradition (the other two are to Rome and to Jerusalem) where pilgrims from across Europe journeyed to the grand cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where it is said the relics of St. James the Apostle of Jesus are interred. For me, it is not the relics of St. James that draw me on this pilgrimage but instead a desire to slow down and to recalibrate my living to dwell more fully in that place where God’s time and human time meet. To dwell more fully in what T.S. Eliot calls “The still point of the turning world.”
I am deeply grateful to the congregation for affording me this opportunity. I am also deeply grateful for the beautiful and moving Liturgy of Sending and Blessing that commissioned my travels during worship on Sunday, July 26th. I have laminated a copy of the liturgy and will carry it with me. Peace to you, Pastor Stacy.
A Liturgy of Sending and Blessing
by Rev. Bart Kelso
All: We bring before you Holy One, our sister in Christ, our Pastor and friend, Stacy Swain. We send her on sabbatical with our earnest prayers, asking your blessing upon her, and upon this congregation that she serves.
One: May this sabbatical be for Stacy a time of adventure and discovery. May her travels introduce her to people and places new to her but known to you.
All: Guide her steps, O God. May she know your accompanying presence on each journey and find you waiting for her, welcoming her, at each destination.
One: May Stacy enjoy, in these weeks away: a release from responsibilities, a child-like curiosity, and a thorough refreshment of body, mind and spirit.
All: “Come to me,” says Christ, “all you that are weary and are carrying heaven burdens, and I will give you rest…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11: 28 &30)
One: Grant to her, Gracious God, times of reading, times of play, times of deep contemplation, of rich conversation, of both leisurely dreaming and focused reflection. And enable her to gaze in wonder at the beauty of your creation.
All “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1). “O Lord, how manifold are your Works! In wisdom you have make them all; the earth if full of your creatures.” (Ps. 104:24)
One: Hear your servant when she prays to you, Holy God. Help her to worship you freely, whether in multitude of in solitude, joy or sorrow, in strength or in weakness. Watch over her, and draw her close to yourself.
All: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness. Come into God’s presence with singing.” (Ps. 100:1-2). “I will sing of loyalty and of justice; to you, O Lord. I will sing.” (Ps. 101:1).
(Here let us offer individual prayers, aloud or silently)
All: We now seek her counsel and blessing as well as yours, O God.
Stacy: Beloved, hear these words from the Apostle Paul, to Christ’s people in Corinth. Let them be my word to you as well as God’s: “Finally brothers and sisters, goodbye. Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure. The amazing grace of the Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” (1 Corinthians 13: 11&14, The Message).
All: “You shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” (Isaiah 55: 12a). God below you, God before you and behind you, God everywhere you turn and within you. Amen