LOUISVILLE

Staff members representing the six agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) filled the chapel of the Presbyterian Center this morning for a “Service of Gratitude, Grief, and Grace,” to give voice to their sadness and to express their gratitude for the 26 employees of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA)—their longtime colleagues and friends—who accepted voluntary separation packages effective February 29.

The voluntary separation packages were offered as part of the PMA’s cost-savings measures instituted earlier this spring.

Constructed in three movements—culminating in the celebration of communion—the service included an “open space” for staff colleagues to offer words of appreciation and farewell.

“I am grateful for the over 500 collective years of Christian witness that our friends departing us represent,” said Tony De La Rosa, the PMA’s interim executive director, “and for their accompaniment of the church in a time of great change.”

Others lifted up the departing employees’ creativity, teambuilding skills, dedication to justice, and “for pointing us to Jesus again and again and again.”

In her message based on John 16:16-28, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, coordinator for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, acknowledged the mixed feelings that are shared by those leaving and those who will remain. She did so in the context of both the Lenten journey and the Lord’s Table, where De La Rosa and the Rev. Rosemary Mitchell, newly-appointed interim senior director for Funds Development, celebrated the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

“It is at the table where we begin the story of death, separation, grief, and loss, but also resurrection,” said Kraus. “Even in the midst of an uncertain path, the table is Christ’s, the body is Christ’s, the will is God’s, and we have one another as we break bread and share the cup.”