Non Solum: Installing a New Pastor

A reader writes in:

I was recently appointed pastor at a parish and am looking to create a worship aid for the Installation Mass, which is in early September. The texts and rubrics in the Book of Blessings and the Ceremonial of Bishops, both published in 1989, are rather different.

Does anyone have suggestions for planning the liturgy? Things that worked, things to look out for, things to avoid, etc.?

In addition to your advice, I am sure that our reader would appreciate any templates or links to resources that you could provide.

If you have any advice, please comment below.




  1. I have no idea: I am 64 and have been witness to a number of new pastoral appointments. Five in one particular parish that I was an active leader. None had an “Installation Mass”. So I’ve never seen one done. My suggestion is to see if you can skip it. Save that for when you become Bishop, father.

  2. Our diocese has done installation Masses for new pastors for some years. The Bishop presides, and it makes a nice moment of contact and continuity. But the pastor is never responsible for concocting it; we have a standard format.

    I have our materials on this, but I would suggest that before you spend any time or energy, you contact your diocesan Office of Worship and ask if there is an established custom or expected format.

  3. Within the Lutheran church, the rite of installation is a regular part of the transition from one pastor to another. The rite follows the hymn of the day and the creed, and includes (a) the presentation of the new pastor to the presider and assembly, (b) three biblical passages on pastoral leadership followed by questions and answers between the presider (the bishop or bishop’s designee) and the new pastor and also between the presider and the assembly, and (c) a blessing.

    The questions and answers are similar to those asked at ordination, with a particular focus on this new position and community. The pastor is asked to care for these people, and the assembly is asked to receive the new pastor as a servant of Christ and to care for the new pastor for the sake of their shared work in Christ’s name.

    The mutuality of the questions/answers serves to underscore the partnership that pastor and people must have, in order for their work together to bear fruit.

    Obviously, there are ecclessiological differences between Lutherans and Roman Catholics (most prominent in this context is the role of the lay leaders of a Lutheran parish in calling the new pastor), but the general outline of presentation, mutual promises between pastor and parish, and blessing is a good model that can be used in either context.

    To see the ELCA rite in more detail, the ELCA’s Metropolitan Chicago Synod (synod in the ELCA = diocese in the RC church) has posted a pdf here:

  4. The installation of a pastor is sop in our diocese. Contact Diana Macalintal (worship office, diocese of San Jose) for the outline of the rite.

  5. Archdiocese of Seattle: SOP, as well. Each bishop has their own version. If you have the Archbishop you get one version, based on a version written by Bishop Kenneth Untener (sort of church tour, with lots of presentations by various parish officials and groups). If you have the Auxiliary Bishop, you get the version in the Book of Blessing.

    Yes, it’s very confusing.

  6. Within our Diocese, the Bishop insists on doing the Installation of a Pastor. We do a hybrid between the two sources listed.

    Our primary text is from the Book of Blessings: Order for the Installation of a Pastor. The Bishop preaches the homily.

    Once the new pastor is installed, then the Bishop moves to be in choir for the rest of the mass, and has the newly installed pastor preside for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The newly installed pastor then speaks for a few minutes (and only a few) following the post communion prayer.

    Our Bishop thinks it is always appropriate to come to parishes with new pastors, tell the people that he cares about their community, and why he thinks this is the right minister to lead them. The people love it. A nice reception usually follows.

    The one hiccup we have had in the past several years is that the Bishop would like this to be at the “main” mass a parish has. But most of our parishes are undersized to growing congregations. Therefore, this is usually a bi-lingual, outdoor or gym mass, where more people can be accommodated from each of the communities. That may not be ideal, but the people still seem to really enjoy having the Bishop there and having a big event to officially welcome their new pastor (even when he may have been serving as administrator for a significant time).

    Congratulations on the new appointment, and may God bless your ministry and community.

  7. I understand the pastor must take possession of the parish, but after encountering one pastor who asked for (and got) several dozen singers to offer Parry’s “I Was Glad” (sans Vivats) for his occasion, it sealed my growing sense over the years that the ritual for taking possession should be minimal.

  8. In this diocese, the area dean does the installations. He presided at our main Sunday Eucharist, but insisted that our new pastor preach. There was a lot of people pledging support to each other: the pastoral council and finance council to the new pastor; the dean, on the bishop’s behalf too; and then the pastor pledging his fidelity to God and the Church and his commitment to the people of this parish. On reflection, it was somewhat strange that the parish staff (including the rest of the clergy) did nothing in this service. (I was a deacon at the time, so I deaconed the Mass, but the associate just sat in the pews and left after the installation part).

  9. Karl is right. Use the one in the Book of Blessings and keep it short but sweet. The one we used in the past in our diocese was practically a coronation ceremony that lasted 25 minutes. The one in the BB is much more modest and “sober,” as good Roman liturgy should be.

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