"You can't retire!"
Today just after lunch I went to the Dunedin City Council buildings to take part in a new immigrants orientation tour. We used to do these at the Church in Space2B, but they have chosen to do them in the Civic centre. Working with the settlement support worker at the City Council these monthly programs began in our church nearly four years ago. When I went there today she came up and sat beside me before the program started to tell me what parts she wanted me to look after. I then thought that I should tell her that I will be finishing my role as minister at the end of the year and I was uncertain if Space2B will continue. "I am retiring." I said. She looked shocked! "You can't retire!" she responded. - "Yes the time has come." "But ... you can't retire - you have always been there!" I have had that sort of comment regularly.
On Tuesday I was visiting a fire station and got talking about my impending retirement. I commented that people kept asking "What are you going to do?" and that I often felt like responding, "Mind your own business!" They said, "Fair enough." but then one added with a cheeky grin on his face, "But... what are you going to do? You can tell us!" After a few minutes this man's wife arrived and joined the conversation. (I had married them a few years ago.) They informed her that I was retiring. Immediately she asked, "What are you going to do?" and sniggers went around the room. That is the most common question. It is asked in a way that says, "Why the hell are you retiring? What else have you got in life but ministry?"
It will be interesting when I do retire. I guess I will find out how much of my identity is wrapped up in being a minister. After a usual holiday period when it sinks in that I am not going back to the office, not preparing a service or not feeling responsible for people, will I feel empty? I wondered with my supervisor today how I will cope with not having something to create each week? While I look forward to not "preaching", there is something in the creative exercise of designing a service. I can give expression to myself, my thoughts and passions through each Sunday's service. How will I express myself when that finishes?
I was in the shower the other day thinking of the weeks ahead leading to Christmas. I often find myself not excited about preaching the readings that come up in Advent (the end times stuff) or the Christmas stories. (theology in narrative form) As I soaped myself up inspiration hit me. I could do a concluding series. There are seven Sundays left and seven topics emerged into my brain. I can even tie some into the Christmas stories. Here are the topics that emerged....
November 17th … Faith for the future.
November 24th… If I started a new Church.
December 1st….. Why I am still a follower.
December 8th…. Rethinking "progress". (Mary's song)
December 15th…. Tribal religion verses the Kingdom. (The wise men)
December 22nd…. “Down to earth”. (Birth stories)December 29th … Walking with the sacred.
Seven final sermons...wow.... I started preaching regularly in 1972, so there have been quite a number over the years. Wait and see how these final ones go. What can they do? Sack me?
They have decided to have a farewell "do" on the 21st... what am I going to say then?