Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thoughts on Retirement

These early weeks of retirement are weeks of learning. I gather that most retirees move elsewhere and so make the separation a clear-cut one, but we are home and home is where we will stay. In a small rural city with only one Episcopal Church that means I’ll see my former parishioners all the time, socially mix with some of them, and, for some of them, as any friend would, be a part of their lives in their time of need as they no doubt will be in my time of need. It doesn’t bother me any, but my assistant, now interim, is worried that there are too many who won’t let go of me as rector. Since I’m not the rector, don’t worship at the church, and am not engaged in parish activities, I don’t think that a small handful of persons with separation anxiety is something to worry about. But who knows, she may have a point. And there is another thing. I call it failure in the face of success. My time in the parish was a wonderful one for me. It is a strong congregation full of confidence. Now and then I come across an article in some religious publication touting a parish success with a new form of ministry and I think, ‘Yeah, that works, we’ve been doing it for years’. But then another article comes along about another congregation and I think of all the things I could have done better, or even tried at all, and all they things I held onto that could have been given up. I think of the parishioners whose great gifts of ministry I never acknowledged or helped along, and I recall the dysfunctional behaviors of some that I tolerated, skirted around or shielded from others, which will no doubt come out of hiding to trouble the new rector. One of the great blessings of ordained ministry is that, lying just ahead, there is always something new and different to experience, and one of the great curses is that the job is never done, and there is no way to leave without leaving at least a small mess behind that someone else will have to clean up.


Tess said...

But you know, in a way I hope for you that you will continue to find ways of making mistakes in your "new" life, because it goes to your first point about learning.
I'm sure your assistant will gradually lose her anxiety about those stubborn ex parishioners!

Country Parson said...

Thanks Tess. I'm sure you are right on both counts. The problem with high anxiety people is that one or two can sound like a whole crowd and claim to speak for everybody. I always figured that the first trick was to discern the rare occasion when that might be true. The second was to know how to respond respectfully to their fears while preventing them from infecting others.


Isn't it wonderful to have landed in a parish where there were more friends than one could ever have imagined, a tailor made family waiting with open arms. Sure, you didn't make them all 100% happy every day but even "you know who" gets the grumblers every day (I think). What a blessing to be able to retire in a place that truly feels and is home. Amen:)