by the Rev. James M. Bimbi
As announced in November 2022 at the diocesan convention, the members of Christ Church, Delaware City, had voted to suspend worship services at the end of 2022 due to the decline in membership. So that the faithful ministry of those who worshiped there might be honored, laity and clergy from around the Episcopal Church in Delaware gathered with Bishop Brown and the members of the parish on Saturday, January 12, 2023, for “A Service of Leave-Taking.”
From the opening hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing to the concluding verses of Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing, the service was a touching celebration of the 174 years of ministry that had been lived out through Christ Church, and the impact it had made in the lives of the people of Delaware City and beyond.
In addition to a final celebration of the Holy Eucharist within the sacred space of the church building, members of the congregation offered prayers at the lectern, baptismal font, and altar – representing the faithful years of proclaiming the Word of God, being commissioned for service in Christ’s name, and being strengthened by the sacrament of Holy Communion to welcome others to the banquet of salvation.
The members of Christ Church, while saddened by the necessity of closing the congregation, made a bold statement of their faith in the words of the post communion prayer: “Gracious God, at your table you strengthen us for service wherever you will send us. As we leave this place that has been a home for worship and mission, help us to gather in new church homes that will provide further opportunities for our life and ministry. Welcome us forever into your embrace, until that day when all your people throughout the world worship together around the throne of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”
On behalf of the people of Christ Church, senior warden Carol Schofield has expressed her thanks and appreciation that both laity and clergy from all three counties joined them for their service of leave-taking. As Bishop Brown stated in his sermon, we may gather in separate locations for worship, but we are all united as one church in Delaware. The legacy of Christ Church, Delaware City, will truly live on in the collective memory of the Episcopal Church in Delaware and wherever Christ is honored and God’s people served.