Depart in peace

By John B. Chilton

As guests leave Shrine Mont Episcopal Camp and Conference Center they pass under a sign. On the front of the sign it says “Shrine Mont”. But as you leave you see the obverse that reads “Depart in Peace”. After your mountaintop experience away from everyday life it’s easy to say to yourself, yes I do feel more at peace than when I arrived.

But upon further reflection a good Episcopalian will realize that’s not merely Depart in Peace, Period. It’s “depart in peace to love and serve the Lord.” We have been fed with the spiritual food — your respite in the mountains. And you have been given an assignment. Not an assignment merely of works, but an assignment to live a whole life, a life of integrity and gratitude.

The people remain standing.

That is the instruction to the people at the outset of The Great Thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer.

Following the Sanctus the instruction is:

The people stand or kneel.

My personal preference is to continue to stand. I became accustomed to standing throughout the Eucharistic Prayer at a church that with no kneelers. (See my earlier Daily Episcopalian on The Personal Pew Movement.)

When it says, “The people stand or kneel” what if anything is implied? Should the people all do the same thing?

I have noticed that at diocesan services you see some standing and some knelling at the Eucharist. People stand or kneel depending on the practice at their parish, except that some clearly yo yo and are influenced to kneel when many others have chosen to kneel. The uncertainty creates some distraction from worship, but setting that aside I celebrate the diversity. I wish more individuals would feel comfortable making the choice rather than following the crowd.

Again, when it says, “The people stand or kneel” what is meant? Must you stick with your choice until the end of the service?

Returning to their seats after taking Communion most people kneel or bow their heads for a moment of silent prayer in penitence and thanksgiving before sitting. This is an unwritten custom – often the best kind.

And after Communion, but before the post communion prayer? It’s not clear from the prayer book what the people should do. Most revert to what they were doing before the Breaking of the Bread.

I advocate an insertion (shown in bold):

After Communion, the Celebrant says

Let us stand and pray.

(The same hitch that presents itself that already exists; the Celebrant needs to say which of the two post communion prayers to use.)

The post communion prayers are a sending forth. Through the Word and the Eucharist we have been prepared once more to go into the world. We ought to be standing as a sign through our posture of our eadiness to take on the assignment.

Depart in peace…

…Send us now into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love you and serve you

…And now, Father, send us out

to do the work you have given us to do,

to love you and serve you

as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord….

And the final hymn? Don’t get me started. It’s not the Recessional. It’s the Procession into the World.

Go forth into the world to love and serve the Lord.

People. Thanks be to God.


Oh, and Morning Prayer doesn’t let you off the hook. The people’s last prayer is the General Thanksgiving in which we pray,

And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,

that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,

not only with our lips, but in our lives,

by giving up our selves to your service,

and by walking before you

in holiness and righteousness all our days….

John B. Chilton holds a doctorate in economics from Brown University. He has taught at the University of Western Ontario, the University of South Carolina, and the American University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates). He keeps several blogs.



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