I can’t believe just how quickly the past 6 months have passed. Here I am knocking gently on the door of retirement with just 4 Sundays to go. It’s a rather strange feeling – some of you have been through this experience already. Some recently. Some, quite a while ago. Some might be looking forward to it but have a few years before it arrives. Some are just setting out on meaningful careers.
Like each of you, I have had many transitions in life but this one feels significantly different. Other occasions involved changing roles: single, married, couple, children, etc. Emigrating twice and settling into new lifestyles and challenges were biggies. Changing ministry directions was always a mix of excitement and apprehension. But I have to say that stepping away from full-time ministry and diving into the arms of the retiree world fills me with a high degree of nervousness.
I’ve got great hobbies that I love. I’ve got plans for some writing and a focus on producing some new lyrics for familiar hymn tunes. Oh, and some travel when the borders open up again; I’d like to visit my elderly siblings in the UK while they are still around.
But the thing that’s playing on my mind is that every other transition has related to purpose; and purpose gave my life meaning, direction and shape.
I’ve chatted with other retirees and get the sense that they fill their lives with ‘stuff’ – activities and things to do. People to see, places to go. ‘I’ve never been so busy’, they say. Perhaps that’s enough. I was talking to my friend Larry last week and I said this: ‘I’ve spent all of my adult life as a human-doing, I’d like to devote more of my time to human beings.
A bit ‘fluffy’ I know, but it has got me thinking more deeply about what it means to be alive as an older person, and what retirement might look and feel like for me. Of course, I’ll never find a Universal answer to that question. Perhaps the best any of us can do is have a go at answering it for ourselves.
For the moment at least, as I move steadily toward 25 July, I am content with the idea of concluding my ‘ministry life’ in the midst of a community that I have come to know, love and respect enormously, and who took the risk of letting me transition from a Synod life to congregational life. For that I am deeply thankful.