Posted tagged ‘being retired’

The Strange Place Called “Retired Pastor”

September 5, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       September 5, 2016

 

My life has been filled with transitions, as has yours! Transitioning from diapers to diaper-less, going from crawling to walking, from pre-school to kindergarten, elementary to junior high. There was transitioning from not shaving to imagined shaving (Thinking I saw a hair on my chin and needed to shave!) to shaving; and going from dating Carol to being seriously in love with Carol to marrying Carol.

You get the idea! Life is transitory in nature! We have to continually adjust to changes around us and in us.

Eight months ago I retired as a church pastor after thirty-six and a half years in the ministry. I was ready! I had lost my edge! I was tired of the drama, the weekly tasks, and even the distance that the position was creating between my Creator and myself. So I announced almost three months in advance that I was retiring at the end of December.

Retirement has come with its benefits. Carol says that I am a more relaxed now, perhaps easier to live with. I’m home evenings. We are able to share more dinners together than apart. I’ve had more time to read and write. The lawn looks better! There has been more nights when I’ve been able to sit on the couch with the grandkids watching TV like a kid. (Carol was more amused at me the other night as I sat there watching Shrek 2 with them. I laughed like a kid, because in those moments I was!)

But retirement has also come with its challenges. Being a retired pastor is a strange place to be in. For sixty percent of my life I had been an actively employed pastor. It had become as natural to me as throwing right-handed. Transitioning from that has been one of the hardest changes in my life.

Why is that? Because a pastor is relationally wired. Pastoring is not like a faucet that you can turn on and off at a turn of the wrist. Right now two people who are dear to me are dealing with illnesses that are most likely terminal. Not being their pastor any longer puts me in that strange place of trying to be redefined. Who am I now? A friend? I’m okay with that, but who am I to them? They still refer to be as Pastor Bill.

As pastors we have a Code of Ethics that we commit to follow. Much of it is written with the understanding that it is difficult for people to see someone who has been their pastor as now being their former pastor. Therefore the former pastor needs to keep that distance from those he/she has been the pastor to. It has wisdom in it. If the former pastor still keeps popping up those he pastored will keep reinserting him into his former role. If a church was like a car transmission it would be a car with transmission trouble, having trouble shifting from one gear to another. For the congregation there would be great difficulty in being able to shift from one pastor to the next.

My son-in-law has encountered some similar dynamics in his dental practice. He and my daughter bought the practice from a retiring dentist last fall. Several times he has encountered those words: “Dr. So-and-So didn’t do it that way!”

It is hard for people to transition from one trusted professional to the next. Dentists, doctors, barbers, and especially pastors. The pastor has been there for the crises, the deaths and the births. He has been the confidant and the encourager.

And now he is retired!

This strange new place I’m in has been populated with new adventures, but also deeply-rooted problems that I’ve stubbed my toe on. As time has gone on, and as my former church has gotten closer to calling the next person to come and be the pastor, I’ve become more distant from those I used to pastor. That isn’t a good thing, but a necessary thing.

The small church, a forty-five minute drive away from town, has become my unofficial “pastoring outlet.” I get to preach, pray for, and offer encouragement like I had been doing. I’m like an old dog who gets taken out to the woods and allowed to run around a bit to keep me moving.

As I figure out this new place I’m in there will be moments of celebration and times of depression. I look behind me at the years of footprints and look ahead at a different terrain that requires a change in footwear.

 

Being An Old Rookie

February 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       February 3, 2016

                                         

    I’m thirty-four days into my retirement after thirty-six and a half years in pastoral ministry. People have asked me several hundred times what I’m going to do? The answer to that is still being filled in, but I’m beginning some new endeavors.

Last week I was asked if I would be interested in being the interim pastor at a church a good drive away from where we live. My answer: “Not yet!”

What I have done so far in the first thirty-four days is spend a good deal of time with my ten month old granddaughter, learning how to change a diaper again, how to feed a baby, how to carry a baby in one of those baby carriers you wear, and finding out that going to the bathroom for someone who is watching a baby can only happen at certain times…so shake a leg quickly!

I’ve also officiated several basketball games for youth leagues. That experience has brought me into contact with some good coaches, and other coaches that I wouldn’t let my grandkids get close to. Last Sunday afternoon a minute and a half into one of the games I officiated I stopped the game and had a little “Come to Jesus” session with one of the coaches. He got the message that the fear of God was close at hand, and didn’t say another word to me for that game except to call time-out.

I’ve visited four different churches on Sundays and enjoyed the different experiences. More than that, I’ve had four Saturday nights where I’m not thinking about what I’m going to say in the Sunday sermon.

But perhaps my most adventurous new exploration is that I’m beginning a new career as a substitute teacher. What!!!!

Tomorrow I’ll go to observe in a classroom for the second time. The first time I observed in a couple of high school classes. Tomorrow I will observe in a couple of middle school math classes. One of them is Algebra. Maybe I’ll learn something, because it really didn’t stick the first time around when I took it…46 years ago!

In essence, I am a sixty one year old rookie. I face the unknown with excitement and hesitation. I remember how we treated substitute teachers back in the day. I’m sure we drove some of them to positions of employment with the elderly! We were insensitive brats trying to get anyway with anything we could. My fear is that I’ll encounter the great-great grandchildren of a couple of those teachers who know the criminal history of my high school days with their ancestors.

In my defense…I have no defense. It is just what we did.

My hope that the sins of my past school behavior will not come back to haunt be is rooted in the fact that I am already a coach at the two schools I will substitute at. But I also recognize that I am an old rookie who may be a bit gullible. When that first student says that “a + b= z”, I’ll say “Sounds good to me!” When that first spit wad zings past my head I’m not sure how I will react. When chalk dust is put on my chair and I sit down in it with my dark pants on I may become disoriented and bright red in the face.

You may be saying, “Those things will never happen!” I hope you’re right, because those are things that I did to substitute teachers when I was in school. The sins of the past…

I just want to get past the first day. Last week at a basketball game I was coaching, my wife heard someone from the other team say “Their coach is chill!” I’m not sure what that means, but she said it was a compliment.

I hope I am chill in the classroom the day when I get the 5:45 A.M. call. I can hear it now, “You have a substitute position today in…middle school Latin.”

Oh great! I’m going to teach a subject I flunked!