The General Secretary, in his report to the 2011Conference, asks “are we able to put a ‘mission accomplished’ sign on our closing premises and allow ourselves to hear the whisper of the Spirit, ‘well done, thou good and faithful servants’.”  What does it mean to ‘finish well’ in respect of a Church Building? Can local congregations be helped to grow through the experience of building closure and consider the possibilities for a different shaped church moving forward? How can we help the mission achievement of a local congregation to be celebrated at the same time as acknowledging a possible sense of bereavement at their loss? Support must be provided for all concerned- congregations, ministers and also those outside the church that feel some ‘community ownership or pride’ in Methodist buildings.

Such times require pastoral sensitivity which helps people celebrate and grieve its ending. The analogy with the process of bereavement in case of human loss according to the work of Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross (denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) is described in David P Easton’s Master thesis.

It is important for a local church to feel that they have ‘permission’ to let go of their building. This is a pastoral and liturgical process as much as it is a legal process, and it is very demanding for the staff involved. In the process, it is important for the minister and the church workers to have support from outside the Circuit in order to cope with the various reactions of the church members that might be projected onto the ministerial team who would take the leadership for the implementation of the decision of the Managing Trustees.

A closing act of worship lies with the local congregation. Closing services of worship should include thanksgiving and the celebration of life, but also providing space for bereavement, aiming to ensure a beautiful ending for the life of the congregation in the closing church building. In recognition of this, work is being undertaken by the Faith and Order Committee’s Liturgical Sub Committee (which will be available on the Methodist Church website) to produce an accessible and practical guide to creating good endings for church buildings and the on-going encouragement and resourcing of Christian congregations in local communities.

from The Releasing of Buildings for God’s Mission (paras 48-51), Methodist Council Paper (2014)