What’s it Like Being Retired for 21 Years?

7657182218_45cf7aea93_mIt 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!

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Photo credit:  Fort Carson (via flickr.com)

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5 thoughts on “What’s it Like Being Retired for 21 Years?

  1. Aren’t computers a miracle !! We’re so glad we endured the training of our children.. and enjoy our Dell so much ! And now an I-Pad, too! (But no crazy phone.. who needs all 3?) We also have those Geeks to help us when in trouble.. Wonderful how so much can be fixed by just following their advice without having a service call in person !!
    ‘Just like Jesus’ to let us enjoy retirement years and never have to quit with ideas and inspiration.. We are now 90 and 85… and re-tired…
    Betty (and Hugh)

  2. Pastor ,congragulations on 21 years of ‘retirement’ ,spent productively,serving the Lord & your flock,in partnership with Kathleen .

    I don’t think a pastor ever really retires.

    I never learned typing.At school ,then university all assignments were handed in written in longhand.Only the final year thesis had to be typed ,bound in some kind of cover.But I can’t recall any fellow students who typed their theses themselves.We each employed a typist and budgeted for this final year expense..I say ‘ her’ only because I never came across a single male typist in those days.

    For a year between school and university, I worked in the civil service ,,for the Ministry of Defence ,to get some contingency money to help me through university.In those days ,the 70s, we had a computer which was a building the size of Woolworths ,with less capacity than a modern mobile phone.And we had another building ,the typing pool ,where all typing was done.

    Shortly after the new millenium began ,I realized I needed to use a computer and a 6 year old taught
    me how to open an e mail account and ‘surf the net’ or ‘web’..9 years later .the same girl ,now 15, taught me how to write an e mail and it took me an hour to type my first 1/4 page e mail.The Qwerty keyboard foxed me & I foolishly wished the keys were ordered abcde etc not qwerty.

    Now ,though I still use one finger & occasonally 2, I nevertheless type faster than I write and regularly type 20 or 30 pages a day.I should probably have gotten into the good habit of using more fingers ,but some of my fingers are too arthritic to use & I get by typing quite fast with one or two.To my amazement I subconsciously now automatically know where each of the werty keys are .I don’t know how that works but I was told it’s something called ‘muscle memory’.Like we don’t have to remember how to breathe .We just know somehow.

    Congratulations on your books,Pastor.I’ve just read ‘A Pastor’s First Love’ & found it a very readable page turner .I wrote a review on Amazon & now I’m rereading it carefully at a more leisurly pace.I’ve also ordered ‘Belonging : Adventures in Church Membership’ from Big Hearted Books through Amazon. Ialso ordered a copy from Amazon Canada to be sent to the young Canadian friend who discipled me to entire full time Christianity ,q conversion from dilettante Christianity which led to my baptism and has changed my life.

    ‘m on a steep learning curve .I’ve already been chosen to write and lead prayers at my church . I’ve been chosen to be a congregaton involvement leader starting in September .This involves encouraging, assigning & supporting diffrent congregants each week ,to read the First Lesson, lead the prayers of intercession and bear the bread & wine to the altar each Sunday morning.

    Also I represent my church ecumenically at services of worship of other denominations,for Christian unity.

    Pastor ,your blog has been a major turning point for me.I share your words with others at my church.Through your blog my bible reading and prayers have increased & become more focussed ..My life feels better and my relationship with the Lord is closer.Discovering ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ has been a blessing I ‘ve become more reflective upon faith & more connected and life has a clearer prspective.

    I’m pleased to hear you and Katleen travel around North America serving the Lord and His people – to Florida ,New York and that hurting church in distress.I’ve been reading about how Benjamin and Ellen Robets travelled around to serve the Lord,mainly by train.And of course ,in the Bible,I read of Paul’s travels with Barnabas,Luke,Priscilla,Philemon.Timothy ,Titus & Mark ( Marcus) & many others.From the Mediterranean in the first century to North America in the 19th century and still the work goes on in this new millenium.It’s good to know.

    What a good retirement life the Lord has blessed you and Kathleen with.I can’t imagine a better retirement.It’s ‘retirement’ in the sense of retiring from the overfast worldly hustle and bustle into a life of ‘leisure’ in the true sense of the word.Where you lead a life of service to the Lord ,twith leisure to reflect fully upon faith and appreciate His blessings.

    Sometimes I think that Sunday,day of rest ,is the day of days ,when the most important things get considered and focussed on.Similarly ,perhaps the retirement years are the years when the good Christian is most free to reflect upon and enjoy walking with the Lord.

    This is an inspiring blog.Retirement has never sounded so good.It can be a true,productive blessing.

    • Dear Francis: I’ve just read for the second time your last correspondence. I appreciate its content greatly. You strike me as a person with a very fecund mind and I’m so glad to hear that what you read from my mind and fingers has been helpful. Blessings on you today. Don Bastian

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