by Fr. Brian Winter —
One of the questions most often asked of me is about the final blessing or benediction I share at the close of the service. Many people have asked me to share it with them, and of course, have asked where I got it or whether I made it up myself. Well, I didn’t make it up myself. So I’d like to share the story about how I received the wonderful gift of this blessing:
Be careful as you go out into God’s creation,
for it does not belong to you.
Be gentle with yourself and with one another,
for you are the dwelling place of the Most High God.
Be alert and hesitant,
for sometimes God is but a whisper.
And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with your always.
Like many great prayers of the church, this one was handed down to me by a very close friend and mentor, in this instance, the Rev. Huey Sevier, my field education supervisor at Virginia Theological Seminary, and rector at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Mount Vernon, Virginia. The prayer had been handed down to Fr. Huey, by the Rev. Tom Mustard of the Diocese of Southwest Virginia, but that’s as far as I can trace the blessing. During my two years as a seminarian at St. James’, this benediction really spoke to me.
The wonderful thing about this prayer is that it is an oral tradition, passed on by a few to many. Like so much of our faith, it is a prayer to God, which speaks to many and is shared through the years.
What is a benediction or blessing, and what purpose does it serve at the end of our service?
Dom Gregory Dix, a theologian and scholar on the liturgy of the church, puts it this way in his book The Shape of the Liturgy, “It is a departure-blessing or dismissal of the faithful there present, a prayer for not with those who have been interceding.… After the post-communion prayer the priest is to ‘let the people depart’ with ‘The Peace of God …'”
So the benediction is sending us out into the world with God’s blessing, so that we might see, serve and share God in our daily lives. With that in mind, I share words of this prayer, which have been shared with me, hoping they speak as strongly to you as they have to me.