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Hallo again to all.

We had lived in the same house for 28 years. It was home to us, to our family and to whatever stray animals or people we had taken in at one time or another. It was time to move on, and we had to prepare to sell the old house as quickly as possible for the best price we could manage. We vacated the house in the afternoon of V Lent in time for a construction crew to begin renovations the next day. The new place was not ready and would not be ready for some weeks.

We found temporary accommodations, and then waited, trying to live normal lives in this temporary housing while the builders hurried to finish their work on the new dwelling. Virtually all of our belongings were in storage; just a few clothes and medicines and computers (how else could we produce Anglicans Online?) went into suitcases instead of packing crates.

During our time in temporary housing, each time we started to feel stressed or anxious at the disruption, or at washing plastic forks and spoons in a little sink, we thought first of Jesus fasting forty days in the wilderness, and then of the millions of refugees around the world who have no home to return to, for whom the temporary is endless, and therefore permanent. We cut out of a magazine a small photograph of a refugee camp in Darfur, and looked at it occasionally to make sure that we didn't accidentally lose perspective and start to think that our housing disruption was, in an absolute sense, hardship. But it was hard being displaced even for a month, and one of the ways that we got through it was to keep reminding ourself of the millions who would be displaced and hungry for the rest of their lives.

When our housing situation became more stable, we decided that we needed to have a formal parting from the old house. It had been empty for a month, and it was quite ready. It would be a housecooling party. That's like a housewarming party, except that you gather to pay respects to the place for what it was, and not to celebrate what it will be.

Sun in an empty room, by Edward Hopper

Sun in an empty room
Edward Hopper, 1963. Oil on canvas.

We knew that we needed a prayer to bless the house as we left it for the last time, to prepare it for its next occupants. Some years ago we helped a friend look through dozens of Anglican prayer books in search of a house blessing prayer, and finally found one in A New Zealand Prayer Book: He Karakia Mihinare O Aotearoa*. Given the difficulty of finding a suitably Anglican prayer for what seemed like an ordinary event — a house blessing — we knew we weren't going to find a prayer for parting with a house. And, of course, all of our prayer books were still in boxes somewhere, waiting their turn to be unpacked and put on the shelves in their new home. We had to wing it.

Writing prayers is hard. It's harder than sonnets, limericks, political speeches, or most every other kind of writing we've tried. A prayer needs to conform to so many expectations. It must be Christian, in every sense of that phrase. It must be sonorous, because it will be said aloud. It must evoke in the heart of those who hear it a sense that it was the right prayer for the occasion. It must be neither too formal nor too informal. This one had to be short, because it was to be said on the way out the door. We aren't quite sure what would make a prayer be Anglican or not, but we knew that God would forgive us some rough edges.

Here's what we said, as we left the old house for the last time:

In the name of God, peace to this place.
Make it a haven for all who will be here.

For us who leave, it will soon be night,
after a long day.
What has been done has been done.
What has not been done, has not been done.
Let it be.

(the door closes)

May the Lord watch over our going out
and coming in,

See you next week.

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Last updated: 6 April 2008

*That book is copyrighted, so we cannot quote the prayer here.

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