Gary Turner’s Divorce Worship Service

Gary developed this service with the help of several of his friends, growing out of what at that time was a deep, almost unspeakable grief at the ending of his marriage. Interestingly, I think Gary would agree that the very act of developing this service and working through many (as in many, many!) drafts became an important part of his healing process. Today, Gary is active in working toward the healing of others who are going through divorce.

Gary is a United Methodist. Those of you who are into United Methodist liturgy will quickly recognize that the core of Gary’s service is a complete United Methodist service following an updated Order of Communion. He called it “A Service of Recognition and Resurrection.”

Here’s Gary’s description of the service, if you’d like.

Prelude: There will be three candles at the front of the chapel. In the middle one will be lit. On either side of the Alter will be two unlit candles. On one side of the Alter will be the bread and wine for communion. On the other side will be a large dish/pot with a lid.
Hymn (optional)
Celebrant: Begin the service of communion on p. 12 of the Hymnal.
Welcome and Call to Worship Brothers and sisters, welcome in the name of the risen Christ to this service of recognition and resurrection. We gather to remember the marriage of Gary and [Gary’s ex-wife] Turner. We gather to mourn their divorce. And we gather to celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about healing and new life.The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


The Risen Christ is with us!

Praise the Lord!

(Gary Reads Short Story or lesson from Single, But not alone.)

All: Please join me in the prayer of thanks.Dear Lord of all life, we give you thanks that you and you alone are God.

That you made each and every one of us in your image to be like you, to live with you, to frolic with you, and to grow in you.

Lord, we give you thanks.

That you gave us the gift of free will, self-determination, and the ability to make choices for ourselves.

Lord, we give you thanks.

That you made men and women to fall in love, marry and start their own families so they could enjoy sharing all the wonders of this world together.

Lord, we give you thanks.

That you blessed the union of Gary and [Gary’s ex-wife] Turner with Your all-giving and all-empowering energy, power, and love.

Lord, we give you thanks.

That You now cry with us at the premature end of this holy marriage by divorce and stand ready to provide healing to Gary, to [Gary’s ex-wife], and to all who call on your name.

Lord, we give you thanks.

Lord, even when we fail to realize or appreciate the opportunities that you have blessed us with, when others turn from us and from you, and when we don’t understand why you still love us or why this world is as it is, we give you thanks. For we are your children, and you Father, you give us life.

Celebrant: Lord, we give you thanks. Amen.
All: Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.

We have failed to be an obedient church.
We have not done your will.
We have broken your law.
We have rebelled against your love.
We have not loved our neighbors,
And we have not heard the cry of the needy.

Forgive us, we pray.
Forgive us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Celebrant: Let all pray in silence.Let us offer one another signs of reconciliation and love. At this point someone will stand up and ask everyone to take notice of the pads, envelopes and pencils in the pews. These are for everyone to write down something of their past or present that they are holding on to that they need to let go of. It may be something very trivial or of great significance. It should be something that they may no longer have control of. Things that are keeping them from being the creatures that God needs them to be. Then they should place the notes in an envelope for privacy. We will collect them and place them in the covered pot where they will be lit and burnt.


In the Bible in both the Old and New Testament fire is used metaphorically and literally showing God’s power and love. Here we again are using fire to have God cleanse us of the things that harm us. As it states in Matthew 3:11 …He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire. And with baptism the old dies and new is born. With fire here today our past, these pages will burn away and become nothing more than ashes.

Hear the good news: “Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love toward us.” In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven!

In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven!

Glory to God. Amen.

All exchange signs and words of God’s peace. This can be quite leisurely – perhaps 5-10 minutes. (0ptional. I think the service is going to be long enough so this may need to go).
Celebrant: Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and the Word proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.
Scripture Reader 1 Hear what the Scripture says about marriage: “At the beginning, the Lord God made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no human separate.”
Scripture Reader 2 Now hear what the Scripture says about healing: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Various: Thoughts of Celebration, Regret, and Affirmation from Gary, from the Celebrant, and from one or two others (instead of a mini-sermon).
Celebrant continues with the Great Thanksgiving (consider Musical Setting A), breaks the loaf of bread baked by Ali McGill (sister), and gives thanks over the elements.
Celebrant: Explanation of Dying Moments: “We’re going to celebrate Holy Communion now, but we’re going to do it in an unusual way. You will actually come to the table twice. The first time you come you will receive a piece of bread. Then we encourage you to name that piece of yourself from which you need freedom and release, that part of yourself that you want to die. It may be a quarrel with someone important to you, or your inability to forgive someone who’s done something to hurt you, perhaps your inability to forgive yourself. Or maybe it’s a habit, behavior or practice that you know is destructive. When you name the piece of yourself that needs to die, you need to stay safe. You can be as specific or as general as you want. You may choose to label a specific behavior simply ‘rebellion’ or ‘pride.’ Or you may describe it in painful detail. The choice is yours, and so is this time. When you have named the piece of yourself that you want to die, place the bread in this basket. Come, children, draw near, and share in God’s love. (At this point the Celebrant and others will model the taking of the bread and the naming of a dying element, speaking slowly and clearly so what they say can be heard).
Celebrant: After everyone has come, to bless the elements, say something like this:”Now, Lord, we bring these burdens to you, trusting as we do in your love, grace, and power. Lord, this bread is full of human frailty. Bring your perfect love and bless our human failings. Create in this basket the perfect host and sustain us for the journey.”
Now brothers and sisters, the bread remains, but the burdens are gone. Know that as you take communion, you will be celebrating the power of the risen Christ to bring about resurrection and healing. The bread you eat has carried someone’s burden, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will be partaking of the consecrated host. Come, children, draw near, and share anew in God’s love.
The people return for normal communion, served by intinction. After the elements are served, the celebrant lifts the basket high and says proudly, “The basket is empty!”
Hymn (optional)
Now Gary approaches middle candle at alter and takes then lights one of the outside candles with it. Then his sister Alli or possibly one of [Gary’s ex-wife]’s sisters who will be at the service will do the same to the other candle. Then Gary will blow out the middle candle.
Celebrant: Job 14:7-9
Benediction & Closing Children of God, go forth in peace. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.Amen.