Once I was in the greeting card section of a Christian bookstore and saw some cards for retiring pastors. One read, “Congratulations on leaving the Lord’s service.” I had to chuckle! Whoever would send a card with that message must not have been listening very carefully to their pastor’s sermons. At least I hope they hadn’t been listening carefully. Whatever retirement means, it is not “leaving the Lord’s service.” One never leaves the Lord’s service. Retirement means finding new ways of serving, just not in a formal pastoral position. The people of CCE Kalispell know very well that you don’t have to be a paid professional to serve the Lord. Our parishioners have all sorts of ways of serving in unpaid, unprofessional modes, and they do them very well. So one thing I aspire to in retirement is just to imitate the high standard of service I have seen in our members, and find ways to be helpful outside the role of rector.
A little saying I have come up with about the clergy life may be relevant. It goes like this: clergy life has some things I would gladly do for free, and others you couldn’t pay me to do. (I won’t say which parts of the job falls in which category… it’s better to leave that to the imagination.) I realize this saying may be trying to be a little too cute, but it does have some truth, especially that the clergy life includes amazing graces and privileges. Doing them for love, without thought of reward, is rewarding in its own right. So another thing I aspire to in retirement is just to focus on things like that: all those activities I would gladly do for free, and enjoy them to the full. Maybe the things I am not attracted to, someone else will be. That’s how it works in the Kingdom of God, so that everything important gets attended to somehow by someone.
I have heard that retirees should take at least a year before making major new commitments. You have to process what the previous career was like, the highs and lows, the regrets and the triumphs, and let it settle down in your mind. This makes sense to me. When I add the years of seminary and ordination process to the years of actual parish service, it comes out to over 40. That is a lot of processing to do and naturally it will take time. Maybe a silver lining of Covid will be that I’m not planning to be out and about very much anyway, so letting it all settle down will come more naturally. We’ll see; there is no rush or deadline, thankfully.
I have other musings but maybe I’ll have other opportunities to share them. Blogposts shouldn’t go on too long. Thanks for reading this one, stay safe and be well, many blessings,