1. Have the courage to ask the question: Why do we think we are still doing this? Has God still got a purpose for this?’ ‘Why not close?’
  2. Allow time for discernment, listening and reflection: Beth Ann Gaede- ‘where there is resistance, allow more time, the Spirit will break through’ This is a collaborative process. If people aren’t committed to this, then there’s little point in attempting further spiritual discernment. Story/story-telling as a useful tool for reflecting on the past and then present story in order to discern the future. Weighing the emerging decision and then resting with it for a short time (Ignatian practices of consolation or desolation?)
  3. Take a clear, courageous decision: following the above, take the decision and abide by it. This will be painful but it is more helpful in the long run (think of the sticking plaster analogy). Choosing to discontinue gives control over how things end - with dignity, planning, support - but many drag on which engenders false hope. Better to face facts, and deal with the grief.
  4. Communicate clearly and consistently: think about all who may be impacted by the ‘ripples’ of an ending - those on the fringe of a project, who were involved in the past, and the wider church and community.
  5. Be prepared for grief: and all the complex emotions that arise (denial, anger, blaming). Or, the ‘last minute rescue plan’ (what if we tried this or that?). Recognise the significance of the loss: what does this project/community mean to people? How does it interweave with other parts of their lives? People may feel angry, especially if it hasn’t been appropriate for them to be part of the decision making body, or look to someone to blame (language of ‘them’ and ‘they’ doing this ‘to us’).
  6. Mark the moment: Plan creative, contextually appropriate rituals to mark the ending (John Leach equates this to ‘holding a funeral’) allowing for expressions of grief as well as celebrations of what has been achieved, and an opportunity to look ahead and for new hope. What would be most appropriate in your context? (See Beth Ann Gaede’s book, Ending with Hope, for ideas for rituals around Church closure).
  7. Take time for evaluation and review: involve all those responsible for the decision making, once the immediate grief is over. Looking at the strengths and weaknesses of how the ending was handled, and ways things might have been done differently enables learning and mutual support.

Kerry Scarlett, Jon Pedley and Jo Yair