At our church, I’m one of the assisting ministers. At the end of the service, I turn off my microphone and my polite voice, and belt out the dismissal sentence: GO IN PEACE TO LOVE AND SERVE THE LORD. The congregation responds AMEN and we head towards the doors, back out into our lives. A lively organ or instrumental postlude leads the way.
In the ancient liturgical tradition, this way of ending worship would be more like THE MASS HAS ENDED. GO IN PEACE. The message was simple: We leave with a benign announcement about something good—assurance that we can take the peace of a worship experience out into the world. Not a challenge or command—just part of the gift of being in the presence of God.
In my Lutheran liturgical tradition, some tweaks got added to the Dismissal over the years, hence a change in intent: We’ve finished worship, and now the work starts. (“Liturgy” has its etymology rooted in “work”, so some theologians think of these words as a transition to “the liturgy after The Liturgy”.) Because of that emphasis, the quiet assurance became an invitation to continue the worship in the arenas of our daily lives. To take peace—or forgiveness, wisdom, hope, courage or gospel of any kind—out there where we participate in the Spirit’s churning and inspiring.
In my mind, this is more than a polite request. These final words are more than a prayer, an act of adoration or a commentary. This is active-voice stuff for active people. For every one of us who have just received the wisdom of God, the forgiveness of sins, the joy of being surrounded by like-minded folks—these words are a recommissioning, a restating of our callings, a remembering of how we turn worship inside out and spread Gospel into the world.
The first time I ended the service with loud words, I had forgotten to flip the wireless microphone switch to ON, so had to raise my voice a little so that folks with hearing aids—I’m now one of them—could hear a firm and resolute voice. The congregation’s Amen’s seemed polite—as in “Sitze must have forgotten something again, so let’s respond with kindness to this technical lapse.” I had certainly startled some worshippers, and I even worried a little that I might have offended some of them.
After a couple of years of nearly shouting these last words of worship, though, the pattern now seems set in place: My strong baritone voice bounces off the walls, windows and rafters—and probably rattles some of those hearing aids, too. My tone of voice is more than just inviting—it’s more like the start of a large-group cheer. Nowadays it feels like the congregation understands what’s going on!
Yes, they’re starting to shout back! Oldsters, youngsters and in-betweeners. The pastors, acolytes, crucifer and communion assistants. Their AMEN is gathering volume and fervor. I spot knowing smiles here and there, and I’m fairly certain they get it: No matter who we are in here, out there we all have work to do! And by God, we’re going to do it!
Do I hear a loud AMEN?
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