The Magical World of Retirement

Jack Stotts, former President of Austin Theological Seminary, said upon his retirement:

“My initial conclusion about retirement is that it is a magical world.  Now each month checks appear magically in our bank account, courtesy of wire transfers.  The economic threat has been tamed, at least for now.  In this magical time of retirement, the burden of “dressing up” for work every day is whisked away.  I can select my own uniform.  Now I can ask, “What do I want to do?” rather than, “What do I have to do for the seminary today?  The boundaries of my little world, small though it was, have collapsed.  The terrain has shifted.  I am free to erect different boundaries, to rearrange the landscape of my life.  And that is just the problem.  For in retirement I not only can but must reorder my life.  In that sense the magical world of retirement is also threatening.”

The question I continue to ask myself is how to reorder my life now that my wife and I have made the decision to move almost 3000 miles to California.   Within a new Presbytery in a location where there are few Presbyterian churches (Redwoods Presbytery), how will I live out my “Call” as a Teaching Elder / Minister of Word and Sacrament?

Three things I affirm with conviction in approaching this challenge of reordering my life as a pastor:

I will never stop serving God.

Jesus never retires.

The church, the living and vibrant body of Christ, doesn’t retire!

Returning to Jack Stotts for some insights in living in this world of retirement, this is an insightful article on retirement found at this link:

http://media.sabda.org/alkitab-2/Religion-Online.org%20Books/Stotts%2c%20Jack%20L-Aging%20Well-%20Theological%20Reflections%20on%20the%20Ca.pdf

Jack Stotts says,

 “Retirement is not a condition of our self-hood; it is a context for our selfhood.  We must adapt, even as we have adapted to new contexts when we have moved from one physical location to another.  The late Dr. Joseph Haroutunian, professor of theology at McCormick Theological Seminary and later at the University of Chicago, dropped this pearl in class one day:  ‘Our bodies precede our spirits and our spirits must catch up with our bodies,’  referring to those who move geographically from one place to another.  We find ourselves having to grow into a new culture as well as into a new house. Those of us who have moved many times can agree that it takes our emotions and our spirits longer to feel at home than it does n our bodies.”

Traveling over 3000 miles to a new home in California near where our daughter lives, my first task “called to ministry” will be to move and adjust to living in a new context and culture closer to members of our family.  I have also done some initial networking by emailing Presbytery officers where I will be living to establish some new contacts/relationships.  Nancy and I will be look for a new church home.  As this journey continues, I hope to keep up with pulling together some of my thoughts for this blog.  These are first steps, ‘baby steps’ as I travel into this magical world of retirement.

 

Saturday Morning Office Hours?

I woke up this Saturday morning grateful to God for “retirement”.  In these moments in casually planning my day, I contemplated a history of Saturday’s past when active in ministry.

As a teenager in the 60’s, I recall going to my church home in Aurora, Colorado, on Saturday mornings–mostly for a required confirmation class.  I also had voice lessons with the choir director.  Church was a place go hang out on Saturday mornings!

When asked to be a worship leader, we always had practice sessions with the pastor on Saturday mornings.  As a teenager, I recall, the church was always open on Saturday mornings.  The casually dressed pastors, two of them, were always around.  There was activity and laughter up and down the halls–almost like Sunday mornings except less formal!

On a serious note, when I was off at college, I learned that my dad would often drop by the church office on Saturday mornings.   For some reason, the pastor shared this with me following his funeral in 1973.  This was something my pastor felt I should know.  What were they talking about?

Dad was a quiet man who didn’t talk much about church.  Yet here was drinking coffee with the pastor on Saturday mornings.  I wonder if he would have had a place to go to talk about things, anything, if these pastor’s were not present in the church on Saturday mornings.  I wonder?

I wonder if I would have been called to be a minister without access to the church on Saturdays?

Many years later, after ordination my ordination in 1977, I accepted my first call to serve in a large church in Davenport, Iowa.  There were three ministers and a full-time director of music on the staff.  I learned some important things in these first years of ministry.   It was always an expectation in that particular church that clergy be ‘on-the-job’ on Saturday mornings.  We always had a staff meeting to talk through the Sunday morning worship services.  Lots of details concerning Sunday worship were discussed.

As an Associate Pastor responsible for Christian Education programming, Saturday mornings were vested in working with youth and church school teachers.  I would do some last minute checks to make sure everything was ready for Sunday classes.  The organist was busy rehearsing on the organ.  The senior pastor was working on the sermon or perhaps, preparing for the next wedding or funeral.  As a large church, we had a large program with lots of details to be juggled at all age levels.   Worth mentioning, there were a host of church members cleaning and polishing in getting this sacred space, the church, ready for Sunday worship.

As years passed as a solo pastor in Evanston, Illinois and then Saginaw, Michigan, I found myself relaxing on Saturdays.  While I would often be at the church doing a variety of things, it was not publicized that the church was open.   In reflecting on this:  MY LOSS!

Because my wife worked a typical Monday through Friday job, we found Saturdays were sacred time to be with each other as a couple doing ‘family-type’ things.  As a pastor, there were always last minute calls that had to be made.  Weddings and funerals were always part of the mix in working and doing ministry on Saturdays.  Instead of holding regular office hours, I would meet with congregants by appointment—mostly in their homes.  In recent years of ministry, to be honest, Saturdays were considered a day when the church was closed.

I wonder about the experience of others?  How many of my clergy colleagues maintain office hours on Saturday mornings?  I wonder if I would have become a pastor had I not had some Saturday morning opportunities to mingle with the sacred.

I wonder?