Finding My Place: When a Pastor Retires To…”

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 9, 2016

                         

Today marks the one hundredth day of retirement for me after thirty-six and a half years of church pastoral ministry. One hundred days! In my later years of ministry I was feeling the loss of energy and finding it hard to get recharged on Monday for another week of ministry and activity. I’ll be honest! I looked forward to retirement. When I announced my retirement date about one hundred days beforehand I began the countdown.

In many ways beginning this new phase of my life has been enjoyable. I enjoy the freedom of deciding whether I will or will not do a certain task. For example, in recent weeks I’ve started substitute teaching and if I don’t feel like taking a position on a certain day I don’t. The freedom is a breath of fresh air.

But the greener grass on the other side of the pasture has some challenges hidden in it! In my backyard there is a certain soft spot in the grass that I frequently step in when I’m mowing the lawn. It is well hidden and not deep enough to cause me to turn an ankle, but enough of a depth to sometimes make me lose my balance.

That’s a picture of how it is for a pastor who retires. There is the expected steps as he/she walks through the challenges of ministry, the fulfilling of the roles of being a pastor…and then there is the slipping step of retiring. Who am I in that moment of surprising imbalance and uncertainty?

Ministerial ethics has made me keep some distance from the church I pastored for sixteen years. It’s the right thing to do as the congregation searches for the next pastor, and has some time to figure out who it is. Interim periods are great times for churches to regroup, evaluate, talk, and move ahead. Having the former pastor hovering inhibits that process, kind of like having the dad of a teenager sitting in at a gathering of adolescents! It affects the conversation and is not cool!

So where does that leave me? Truthfully…wandering! A retired pastor enters the woods, but has a hard time finding the path. It is one of those journeys that Google Maps can’t give directions for.

Who is my church? What do I do on Sunday morning? For that matter, what do I do on Saturday night? How do people from my former congregation greet me now…Bill?…Pastor Bill?… Mr. Bill? Is my purpose still the same? What congregation do I become a part of?

Retirement is a time of questions and confusion, and, like a first semester college freshman trying to find his classroom location, I’m trying to find my way.

Scripture doesn’t help that much in this part of the journey. Aaron got taken up to Mount Hor and everybody said “See ya!”, and he died there. I really don’t want to be taken to the top of Pike’s Peak and left for dead!

So I wander to something that is not yet clear and comfortable. It is a redefining travel. It is the soft spot in the lawn that I sink into before finding solid ground again. And it may end up being the most important part of my life journey, because through it I’ll discover who I really am and who I’m not!

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, Christianity, Death, Faith, Jesus, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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One Comment on “Finding My Place: When a Pastor Retires To…””

  1. janet Says:

    I think it is Carol’s turn to pick the church you attend after 36 years of following you.


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