It seems almost impossible that 21 years ago this August I retired after filling the office of Bishop for 19 years. I was 68 at the time.
People retire with different goals in mind. For some it’s a life at the beach, or a life of travel, a succession of golf rounds, or even long, leisurely hours with a favorite hobby.
But some of us need to continue our sense of vocation even after retirement. I’m in that group, and have carried on an active ministry of preaching, teaching, and writing. It may be that, for that reason, adapting to retirement was less stressful for me than for some who retire abruptly and completely.
But I did face one crisis at the outset. During most of my active ministry I had a secretary. Typing had not been taught as a general subject in high school, and later when computers came along they scared me just as they did many others of my generation.
Should I hire a secretary to come to my home once a week? Or should I just languish in idleness? My children came to my rescue. I learned later that they had discussed hiring a part-time secretary for me but as a first step they urged: get a computer; get an Apple; they’re quick to get onto and lots of people type using only the index finger on each hand.
It seemed like a wild idea. But after delaying for six months, fearing that I would buy a computer but never learn to use it, I gave in.
Courageously I got a desktop Apple, a printer, and a typing program, and I learned to use the proper QWERTY fingers (most of the time). And the computer didn’t explode nor did my curtains catch fire. I am now on my fourth Apple.
During these retirement years, besides publishing many devotionals and preparing various studies or historical summaries, I’ve also managed to write and publish two books.
For the two books, much credit is due my publisher son, Donald, my namesake. He guided me through the process and put the copy in its final form. The other children participated too with their gentle but persistent urging: Dad, you can do it!
The results: God’s House Rules published in 2007 (a Scripture-based book on family life, and The Pastor’s First Love published in 2013, (a book to help seminarians or under-trained or inexperienced pastors).
For several years I have written a weekly blog on many subjects, drawing particularly on pastoral memories (justcallmepastor.wordpress.com). It continues to bring interesting responses from near and far.
These 21 years have included some of the stresses of living in a broken world, and a few health diversions, but on balance, dramatically more highlights. And mostly due to the merciful slowing of life’s pace, they’ve included opportunity to pray more and to reflect more on the faith of Christ that sustains.
We spend the cold winter months at Light and Life Park in Florida where I teach a weekly Bible class of between 250 and 350. I find retired people’s interest strong in being led deeper into the Scriptures.
Other highlights of these years have included a once-a-semester meeting with a class at Northeastern Seminary in North Chili, New York. I consider together with them some practical aspects of the pastoral life. Kathleen has insights into this subject too, and we look forward together to the visit!
We also recall with joy a six-week-long stay we had with a church in distress. We were there by the invitation of a superintendent and moved among the people. Hurting churches, eager for help, respond to love and firm but gentle guidance.
Here in our home in Brampton, Ontario, 10 miles north of the Toronto International Airport, the highlight of our day comes each morning. We rise early, prepare ourselves for the day and carry out the household tasks. I usually take my 30 minute walk, and Kathleen and I enjoy our breakfast together. Then at 8:30 we have “church”.
That is, we take time to read from the Scriptures without hurry, one chapter a morning. I have no appointments to keep, no phone calls to return, no urgent e-mails to send. Daily, the Word of God commands our full attention.
We have time for discussion, seeking deeper insight, and we take time to pray together for a vast array of needs.
Across 21 years we have shared in many more activities too numerous to write into this blog – attending family gatherings, conducting family weddings or funerals, teaching or preaching at camp meetings, supplying vacant or needy pulpits, and so forth.
It makes me think of the health-giving activities Christians who are able could plan for their retirement years — volunteer work at their church or in a faith-based service agency, serving a Christian cause abroad for a period, cultivating a hobby that is creative but useful or possibly even service-oriented. Christian service has no cut-off age.
What we have done has been done because Our Lord in his goodness has given us these years as a bonus, has preserved our minds and bodies and, through Christ, has continued to make his love known to us and through us in undeserved ways. To Him be all the glory!
Photo credit: Fort Carson (via flickr.com)