We were pleased to honour and celebrate the ministry of Rev. Don Koots on Sunday, January 29th at a special service and luncheon. Board Chair, Christine Ens, wrote an article that summarized the events of the day.
“On Sunday January 28 we said farewell to Reverend Don Koots and paid tribute to his almost ten year ministry among us. The focus of the farewell event was a tribute service with input from many voices – a summary of which I will share here.
Carolyn Miller sketched an overall plan for the service and penned a fitting Call to Worship as well as an Opening Prayer that perfectly set the stage for what was to follow:
“God of Mystery and Grace, we come before you today with so many mixed emotions; our hearts are filled with gratitude for the ministry of Don, tinged with sadness as he leaves us to explore new faith adventures. We acknowledge his leadership and guidance as we embarked on the expansion of Your House and as we strengthened our relationship with our neighbours in Brander Gardens. Yet we also have feelings of anticipation, as we know that You have hopes and dreams and visions for this congregation that are so much greater than we can ever imagine. May it be that we strive to follow Don’s example and live out our faith, helping and supporting those in need; that we continue the dialogue with other faith communities, to work together, to make our city, and indeed our world, a better place for all. We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, the Light of the World, AMEN.”
Our handells, choir and congregational singing wove beautiful musical messages throughout the service. Emily shared a children’s story likening Jesus to a Teacher, and pointing out that Don himself was once a school teacher and in ministry he continues to teach, but without a classroom. In addition to confirmation of five members and communion, three reflections offered different perspectives on Don’s contributions to RUC and its people.
Heather Dettman wove her personal story as a fairy tale – Once upon a time there was a scientist who had many questions about God and Christianity – and this led to a one-on-one book study with Don. Enriching conversation continued in Don’s biannual group book studies. The fairy tale concluded in typical fashion: “Don, may you live happily ever after!”
David Faber led the service as well as shared his own story. Don played a significant role in David answering his own call to the ministry and David reflected that time spent with Don was deeply spiritual and deeply meaningful. David suggested that Don take some time to “just be” before he moves on to new ventures.
Joanne Olson’s prayers of the people, as always, had a beautiful theme – a few of her words were as follows:
Almighty God, through seasons of constancy and especially during time of change, you are with us, calling us into deeper waters, calling us together in your spirit of unity, calling us out of ourselves into the world to serve others. Grant that as Reverend Don Koots enters a new phase of his ministry and as we, the congregation of Riverbend United enter new waters, we might all hold fast to your unending love and mercy, a love that promised to hold onto us as we go where your Spirit leads us.
Doug Spaner shared the final of the three reflections. One of Don’s strengths was to lead from within; to encourage voices from the congregation that we may not have realized we had. When Don called, Doug responded – sharing sermons, leading worship and taking on leadership of the confirmation program. These roles were not initially met with a quick affirmative response, but Doug shared that with Don’s guidance and encouragement in all of these roles, he experienced a deepening of his journey into the ‘cloud of unknowing’, and for that he is thankful. To conclude, Doug shared a poem from his favourite poet, Rumi:
“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.”
In Don’s final words to us, he noted that one of the key elements of his decision to move to Edmonton and serve us here at Riverbend United was our mission statement, in particular the last line: “to welcome and befriend one another in the name of Christ”. This phrase spoke to Don at the time, and after over nine years at RUC, he concluded by stating that this is what we have done to him. May we continue to live out our mission statement as Riverbend continues on its own faith journey.
If you are interested in seeing the video recording (in 4 parts) of the special service please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VAICAv1FZE or search YouTube for “Riverbend United Church Rev. Koots farewell”