Goodbye to the London Mennonite Centre.

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2011-06-05 by George Kaplan

Liturgy: Wayne Hochstetler

5th June 2011

LEADER: As we gather at the London Mennonite Centre for the last time as a congregation, our minds and senses are tuned to the many memories and senses which this place holds for us. We feel the ambience, we smell the fragrance, we see the beauty, we hear the sounds; people from the past materialize for us; we are fully present in this place.

READER 1. Indeed, this is a special place for us. We have spent many hours in this space. Some of us have lived here. Many of us have worked here: in the garden we have mowed the grass, raked the leaves, tended the plants, trimmed the hedge, formed the stone walls, and done other tasks, both small and large. We have washed the floors and windows, we have cooked meals and we have repaired the complex.

READER 2. Ah, the meals. House meals, church meals, communion meals and services, receptions, community events, seminars with food. We remember gathering in the kitchen with the smells and tastes and sounds of a community gathered around the table. Singing the grace, sharing the food, and sharing fellowship. Tea on the patio. Memories …

READER 3. And the garden. We treasure this peaceful and beautiful place. We have eaten, sat, walked, read, and prayed in it. We have struggled with others and God in it. Some of us came to peace with God and ourselves in it; the prayer hut was our companion.

ALL: For the life, beauty, peace, wonder, and memories of this space, we give you thanks.

1. Life transforming things happened here. That’s why we cannot easily leave this place. Late night discussions, parties, jam sessions, singing, all influenced us. Relationships were formed and deepened. Some of us were married here. Jocelyn Murray’s ashes are buried here. For others, there are rose bushes and trees in their memory.

2. A rowan tree for John Coffman, a may tree for Eileen Coffman, lime trees, an ash tree, rhododendron and azalea bushes, plus the abominable chestnut tree which makes such a mess on the patio. The smells of the fragrant lavender, roses, and rosemary linger with us, as do the chives and other tasty produce from the vegetable garden.

3. And don’t forget the birds and the foxes which freely roam these haunts. The tits, robins, woodpeckers, and wrens who nest here and raise their young. Their songs and sounds still inhabit this space and our memories.

L. “What is this place where we are meeting?” As the hymn suggests, this is more than simply a house. Indeed, for many of us, it is the community which we encountered here which made this a holy space, where we have encountered God in life-changing ways. God has spoken to us in this place through the people, the space, the teachings, and the numerous seminars.

ALL: God, for your grace and persistence in meeting and transforming us in this place, we give you thanks.

1. We remember the many people who have come through this place and whose memories and teachings continue to inform us. Quintus and Miriam Leatherman, John and Eileen Coffman, Alan and Eleanor Kreider, the Nelson and Ellen Kraybill, Mark and Mary Thiessen Nation, Vic and Kathy Thiessen; leaders of the Anabaptist Network, trustees, Colloque, the various hosts and hostesses, and numerous others. These people have enlarged our world view, and impacted us in ways we cannot fathom.

2. Through the presence of these many people and their teaching, we have learned how hospitality, theology, and discipleship are all woven together in your grace and love. God, you changed us through this, and blessed our lives abundantly. Ultimately, this is what is holy to us.

3. In this place the London Mennonite Fellowship had its roots and eventually became the Wood Green Mennonite Church. From this beginning grew a larger vision for an Anabaptist influence and presence in the U.K.; The Anabaptist Network was inaugurated as an expression of this vision.

ALL: God, in your grace you have led us through our birth, growth, and learning. We are humbled and awed by the many ways in which you have walked with us to this point. We give you thanks, and we praise you for your faithfulness.

L: Each painting or work of art in this building has special meaning for some of us. Fred Yokum’s art, the 50th anniversary quilt, “The Fruit of the Earth” dedicated to JD Graber, The piano dedicated by Minnie Graber, the wall hangings, Ian Pentney’s artistic impressions, and much more.

ALL: For every memory, we give you thanks.

L: These memories and relationships have influenced and shaped us. As we carry them forward, now an integral part of our personhood, they will also shape our future. But now we grieve the necessity of leaving this place. Yet leave it we must. We grieve this loss. (Silence)

ALL: God, we ask you to accompany us in our grief. Guide us as we integrate this loss into our lives. May we be faithful in this part of life also.

L: As the People of God undertook many journeys throughout history, we also undertake this next journey of our lives. We remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past, and believe that God will also be faithful to us in this coming chapter of our congregational life.

ALL: God, as you lead us, we will follow you faithfully. Help us to remember your mercies past and present, and to hope for your Kingdom coming to us in fresh breaths of your Spirit. We believe that Your will for us will be accomplished in our life together. Lead on, O King Eternal.

ALL: May all this, past, present, and future, bring honour to you, our God and Lord!
Amen and Amen.

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