Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, September 28, 2015

Ministry in retirement...

When I retired I had many people saying things like, "I didn't think ministers ever retired?" "You will never retire, you'll still be a minister." I have known ministers even in their nineties still chasing opportunities to preach, still wanting to be "up front" and the centre of attention. I am going to a Neil Diamond concert at the local sports stadium in a few weeks, and I have often wondered why don't these aging singers retire? They have the money? Why do they still tour and perform when they are in their seventies? I suspect many aging ministers have the same feeling as these singers. There is something in the challenge, something in the art form that makes them want to continue. I am not really like that but I am still finding ministry to do.

We attend a local Presbyterian congregation, though each Sunday I swear never to go back. The people are lovely but the visiting retired parsons are hard to take and, in my view, are killing the church. I am asked to lead a service every now and then. On Sunday I was asked again so, after chatting with the session clerk about my angst and struggles, which she knew about, I agreed and in a few weeks I'll be leading. I have been a bit of the Church handyman fixing things around the building. But some time back I was asked if I could take a wedding for the son of an elderly couple in the congregation. I agreed and decided I would hang around until that wedding. The elderly father is battling cancer and the son, a man in his 50's wanted to get married to his partner of a few years while his dad was still around. So I shared with this mature, but open couple, and conducted their wedding in the Church last Sunday afternoon. It was a nice intimate family wedding. In the process I had conversations with bride, groom and the parents and I felt like their pastor, in caring life-affirming, sometimes healing, sometimes supportive conversations. That is the part of ministry that I think I will never give up. There is a deep privilege when people want to share "life" with you. They don't want answers, they just want "along-side-ness" and somehow they feel free to talk with a retired minister. I suspect sometimes there is even more openness than when you are their employed pastor, they know that you have no axe to grind with them. It was a Church wedding, though the couple do not attend they wanted it in his childhood church. They appreciated my style of service that adapted to where they were at.  In my role as chaplain I seldom do a church wedding these days, they are most often in some secular setting.

I was talking to a younger minister today. I was telling him of my successes with the Night Shelter work. (We had another promising funding conversation today) He knew of my recent funeral and the wedding I conducted on Sunday. "I think I should retire!" he said, "You're doing better in retirement than I am in ministry!" There is a certain freedom in retirement. You are free to do human caring things and you do not carry the label of a "prosylatising minister" trying to increase his congregation or his influence.  You are just being a decent human.

I am trying to go for a walk as often as I can fit it in and the longer daylight allows that to happen more often as we enter spring. I have included some photos taken with the camera on my phone of scenes from around our local area where I walk. I love our harbour views. 
Even on a cold misty day, the spring season expresses itself.
The day before the wedding - next day was a brilliant sunny day.
"When peace like a river..." Love the Otago harbour views.
My mountain from between trees.
The bay called Sawyers Bay because it was once a tree harvesting area.
The wedding register from the local church.

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