Happy New Year! This has been a wonderful year with family and friends. I have a new grandson, Kenneth Thomas (Tommy), born Jan 18, 2013. Emily and Ken are wonderful parents. They live in Concord, CA. (Near San Francisco). Nancy continues to be my best friend and wife. She continues to work at DOW. She will be retiring in one more year. We just celebrated 37 years of marriage. I have also been an ordained pastor for 37 years.
While this year has been filled with many blessings, this has also been a difficult year for me professionally. I said ‘goodbye’ to the congregation I served for over 27 years in November. I have applied for disability benefits. I guess, as of today, I am unemployed until I learn whether I will get these benefits. I should hear by mid-February whether my application for disability has been accepted.
This has been a transitional year for me. The year started with the usual church activities, worship and programming. We have always had a full plate of programs. For a small urban church of 87 members, this has been quite an accomplishment. Lots of hard work from tireless, faithful leaders have kept the church moving forward. One thing persists for me personally: it has been in the back of my mind that I/we in the church had become too comfortable doing the same things the same way with the same people now for many years. I take responsibility for the fact we haven’t been trying anything new. Personally, in retrospect, I simply didn’t have the physical or spiritual energy to propose new programming. I seemed to always be focused on how I was going to do things with bad hips and a lot of pain.
Behind the scenes, I continue to have problems this past year climbing steps in getting into the church. The church has a 40 year old lift that can’t handle my weight and no elevator. To illustrate these challenges, I had weekly meetings with the church secretary, Melissa, by sitting on a pew inside the Millard Street entrance of the church while she sat on the bottom steps of this same entrance. I was doing 90% of my work from my home. Most of my visitation was by phone. Simply, with my bad hips, I couldn’t do hospital calls. I couldn’t do homebound visits. Thank God for Doug, our Parish Visitor, for doing these important calls and visits. The congregation loves Doug as he continues to provide pastoral care for the church.
I reached a point about one year ago that I could not get around without 100% help of a walker. I couldn’t get from one end of the church building to the other even with the help of a walker. A doctor prescribed a wheel chair to make longer distances more tolerable. The problem with a wheelchair (and walker) was is in working with a church that has nothing but steps at every entrance. I joined with a host of church members lamenting the building being inaccessible for people like me. On several occasions the church turned away from discussions to install an elevator or new chair lift.
Personally, I also reached a point of not being able to walk to the back of the sanctuary to greet members following worship. This was the first major and rather obvious signal that it was time to consider applying for disability. I had a couple of minor falls…..if any fall is minor! I would go straight down on my knees requiring help getting back up. I was constantly worried that either my hips would give out or my knees. For those who didn’t knows, my knees were replaced about ten years ago.
In July an active church member died. I wasn’t able to provide pastoral visits to him and his family. I couldn’t do his funeral without the help of our Parish Visitor. I simply could not make the trip up and down the steps. While the church was continuing to accept and support me with these physical limitations, it became more apparent to me that I wasn’t giving this congregation what they deserved — 100% pastoral attention they required. The church continues to be financially healthy. There is a strong passion from this church for the important work they are doing in the community. What better time to leave then when the church is strong and doing well. I said to several people, it is time for a new leadership to be called to “kick start” a new beginning for the church!
The first question asked when applying for disability: When was your last day at work? I learned that going on disability would be required my resignation from this church I served for many years. With prayer and a lot of discussion with advisors and my wife, I made the decision to ask he church to dissolve our pastoral relationship. If I don’t qualify for disability I will likely apply for early retirement. I can’t see going back to work.
All this being said, I am feeling good. I don’t have steps in my life any more. I am experiencing less pain. I am finding new things to do. I look forward to spending more time with my family.
I end 2013 by saying: LIFE IS GOOD! The church is going to be fine without me. God is good! Life is good!
For those who take time to follow this new BLOG, I ask for God’s blessings. May we grow together in faith and service to our Lord Jesus Christ. Please know my prayers are with you.