Ritual of Departure for a Director of Religious Exploration (DRE)

Tess Baumberger

In a worship service, the congregation presented farewell gifts to the outgoing Director of Religious Education/Exploration (DRE) before the following:

MINISTER: In (season, year), this congregation and NAME entered into a formal/unspoken covenant with one another. NAME agreed to step out of her role as a regular member, to become our professional Director of Religious Education. In turn, the congregation agreed to recognize NAME in this role, and to support her in her work.

Because NAME was also a member of this congregation, this new arrangement presented its own challenges. Going from being a spiritual member of a congregation to becoming a staff member can be a difficult transition—though you are still on a spiritual journey,  in some ways you lose your spiritual community.

You lose your minister as your minister, because he or she becomes your supervisor.

You become privy to information not available to regular members, which can be a heavy burden and at times can present a conflict of interest.

In the case of a Director of Religious Education, you gain authority with members who teach, as you come to supervise them. Your role with respect to parents, and children changes as well, as you become responsible for the safety and the religious education of the young.

Boundaries of friendship and shared journeys are redrawn when a member of a congregation becomes a staff member.  It is good to be aware of this, and the sacrifices it entails, whenever a congregation choose to call a member to serve as staff.

NAME handled this transition with maturity and grace. Now it is time for her to step back into her role as a regular spiritual member of this congregation, and to relinquish her role as Director of Religious Education.Years of experience and wisdom show that this transition can be even more difficult, for both the individual and the congregation, than crossing in the other direction, from congregation member to staff member. Boundaries must again be reset, as the staff member relinquishes authority and again becomes equal to all other congregants. Furthermore, all must respect the need for any future leaders, volunteer or paid, to handle the role in their own way, using their own gifts, without comparison to NAME (because who could compare?), and without interference from NAME, which we all know she would not dream of doing.

Today, we release NAME from our covenant with her as Director of Religious Education.  We welcome her back into our regular covenant as members of this congregation.

LAY LEADER: NAME, are you ready to be released from this covenant?

NAME: I am.

LAY LEADER: Will the congregation please rise and join me in releasing NAME from our covenant with her.


NAME, we release you from your covenant as Director of Religious Education.
We thank you for accepting this responsibility,
For leading and shaping the religious lives of our children.
We welcome you back among us as a member of the [Congregation's NAME].
We promise to walk with you and with each other in the spirit of mutual love.
We promise to recognize and respect your boundaries as your role among us changes.

NAME: I release you from your covenant with me.
I am grateful for my time as Director of Religious Education,
entrusted with shaping the religious, spiritual, and ethical growth of your children.
I will continue to walk with you in the spirit of mutual love,
so vital to our life together at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Franklin,
even as I step aside to make room for new leadership.

LAY LEADER: The transitional leadership of the Religious Education program will be our new Religious Education Committee, in consultation with NAME. I invite the members of the committee to come forward now. NAMES do you, as the new Religious Education committee, promise to work together to coordinate  our Sunday School program for the next year?


LAY LEADER: Do you promise to share the work, to call on all of us to help and support you in carrying this light in the coming year?  


RE SPOKESPERSON: NAME, in this next transitional year do you promise to act as a resource for us, sharing your wisdom?

NAME:  I do.

RE SPOKESPERSON: Do you, the members of this congregation, promise to say “yes” to the call to help our Sunday School program flourish, when that call comes to you?


Passing the Light Ritual/Closing Circle

MINISTER: Every Sunday before the kids go downstairs, NAME lights a candle from our chalice, carrying the light of our faith to share with the children. NAME has been a light-bearer for us and for our children.

Now I ask NAME to light the candle one last time.

In the coming year, we will all need to step up to support the Sunday School program, which will be entirely run by volunteers. It takes a UU Village to raise a UU child.  

As symbol of this, of our shared responsibility to our children, I invite you all now to step forward and join in our closing ceremony.   

(after all are gathered) I invite NAME to take her place among us as we pass this light around our circle, singing “This Little Light of Mine.”  The light will end with our new Religious Education Committee.

(pass the light—it ends with the RE committee)

MINISTER: Do you, the members of the Religious Education committee, promise to bear and to safeguard this light until you can pass it on to other leaders or a new Director of Religious Education?


MINISTER: We have given thanks and gifts.
We have made a new covenant around or Religious Education program.
We have welcomed NAME back as a regular member of our congregation,
May we all be bearers of the light of our beloved faith as we continue our journey together.