– for leaving and returning
Prepared by Thandiwe Dale-Ferguson in preparation for her maternity leave.
This covenant may be used for a Parental Leave, Sabbatical or any other type of extended leave that is not an end of a settled ministry. It is a covenant between the congregation, Settled Minister and Interim Minister. It draws language from covenants found in ‘Chalice Worship’. You may want to provide some time for the interim minister to introduce themselves and say a few words. It may also be helpful for Interim Minister & Settled Minister to co-preside over communion or in some other way share authority and leadership in worship on this day.
Ready-to-print download: Worship Covenant with Interim Minister for a time of Leave
- Settled Minister
- Interim Minister
- Moderator and/or Vice Moderator of the congregation (In some settings this might be the Church Secretary or other similar position in the congregation.)
- Deacon Chair/convener (In some settings this might be the Convener of the Eldership or Leadership Group.)
- Trustee Chair/convener (or Treasurer or equivalent) – person connected to church finances
Covenant for Leave
Include information about the leave — when it begins and ends, purpose, etc.
This morning, we covenant with [Interim Minister’s name] in preparation for [his/her/their] interim ministry with us. We make this covenant in the context of our relationship with the [Conference/Region/Association/Synod/District Name] and in the presence of God.
[Interim Minister’s name], will you, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, share your spiritual, professional and pastoral leadership with us for the [duration of Settled Minister’s leave] providing worship leadership and pastoral care for our congregation [Add other specific responsibilities that this person will be taking on during this time]?
Will you maintain healthy, ethical ministerial boundaries during that time?
Will you partner with our leaders and our congregation to maintain our vibrant worship and spiritual life while [Settled Minister’s name] is away?
Interim Minister: I will, with God’s help.
[Interim Minister’s name], we honour and give thanks for your training, your ordination and your many years of ministerial and life experience. As a congregation, we look forward to receiving the blessing of your expertise, and we commit to compensating you fairly for your work among us.
We also recognize that the work of ministry can never be done alone. As representatives and servants of our congregation, the Deacons/Elders promise to partner with you, [Interim Minister’s name], in caring for our congregation during [Settled Minister’s name] leave.
Offer an opportunity for Interim Minister to speak, briefly, to the congregation. Clarify length of available time prior to the service.
[Settled Minister’s], we give thanks for your ministry with us and we celebrate the upcoming [purpose of leave]. We release you [dates of leave or length, e.g. 10 weeks ], for the duration of your leave, from your responsibilities to us in preparing and leading worship, preaching, reaching out to the wider community, attending meetings, working for justice and providing pastoral care.
Will you, in turn, release your responsibilities to [Interim Minister’s name] and our lay leaders for that time, simply holding us in your prayers as we will hold you in ours?
Settled Minister: I will, with God’s help. And I look forward to my return and our continued ministry together.
Moderator/Secretary: Please join me in the congregational response:
We give thanks for God’s call on our lives.
[Settled minister’s name], we honour the [duration, e.g. 10 weeks] of your leave as a time for you to [purpose of leave e.g. live more fully into your call as a parent], and we offer our love and blessings for that time.
[Interim Minister’s name], we welcome with gratitude your gifts for ministry, worship leadership and pastoral care. During your interim ministry with us, we promise to receive and respect your gifts and your leadership. With God’s help, we promise to support you in ministering with us to God’s people and world.
Prayer for Guidance
Join me in prayer. Holy God, in and through all of this, we know that you are with us. We look to you now and in the weeks to come for your presence, wisdom, guidance, and grace. We pray for [Settled Minister’s name] as she/he/they [e.g. and her family await the arrival of a new baby]. We pray for [Interim Minister’s name] as she/he/they prepares to step into the pastoral role for our congregation. And we pray for ourselves — for this community of faith and love. Empower us to be your people: loving boldly, giving generously, and in all things seeking you. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Hymn of Response or Special Music ( e.g. ‘Blessed be the tie that binds’)
Covenant for Return
Moderator/Secretary, Interim Minister, Settled Minister, Deacon/Elder Chair
It has been a gift to be away and to know and trust that the congregation has been in the faithful, loving and gifted hands of God and [Interim Minister’s name]. And it is a joy to return.
[Interim Minister’s name], we give thanks for your ministry with us, for the opportunity to deepen in relationship, love and faith alongside you. We give thanks for your gifts and graces, your worship leadership, preaching, and pastoral care. In gratitude and love, we release you now from your ministerial responsibilities to our congregation. Thank you!
Interim Minister: [An opportunity to share her/his/their own words]
We give thanks for all those within our congregation who have stepped up in significant ways during [Settled Minister’s name] leave: our staff members __________ and ___________, our leaders and Elders, our members and volunteers. We have been reminded that ministry is not the work of our Ministers alone but the work of the church, the work of all of us.
[Settled Minister’s name], we celebrate with you [event from which you are returning; e.g. your maternity leave and the birth of your son; your sabbatical adventure to France; your study with ______]. Now that your time of leave is over, we welcome you back into your pastoral role with us. This is a time of transition for us and you — as we re-enter ministry with you, [as you adjust to life with an infant], and as you re-enter your work and ministry among us. We ask for your patience with us as we offer you ours. As we covenant again our ministry together, will you listen for God’s spirit leading us? Will you offer comfort and care to those grieving and in need? Will you love and challenge us? Will you listen to us? And most of all, will you walk with us in hope, love and faith as we seek to follow God’s call and Christ’s way?
Settled Minister: I will with God’s help.
Moderator/Secretary: Please join me in the congregational response:
We give thanks for God’s call on our lives and our shared ministry. With gratitude, we release [Interim Minister’s name] from her/his/their ministerial responsibilities and welcome [Settled Minister’s name] back. With God’s help, we will strive to live out our faith in courage, truth and love, ministering together to God’s people and world.
Pray with me. Holy God, in these past weeks, you have walked with us — holding us in change; guiding us through transition. Bless and keep [Interim Minister’s name] as we release her/him/them from her/his/their ministerial responsibilities to us. Strengthen [Settled Minister’s name] as she/he/they returns. And, Holy God, bless us with patience, generosity, courage and most of all love as we continue to live into your call to us to be your church and in all things to seek you. It is in Christ’s name that we pray. Amen.