I am so grateful for being right here in this powerful place, right now in this time of my life. I feel fully present to this moment in my life. It feels like a new beginning – similar to a college graduation or a promotion to a new position of responsibility. A week from now, I will be retired from my place of employment, and beginning a transition in my ministry. It is a transition because ministry does not end when one no longer receives a paycheck. We are all ministers from our Baptism, and even my ordination to the priesthood does not end at retirement. So I will continue to serve as a priest whenever and wherever I am called upon. For ministry is a lifelong journey of assisting God in bringing peace and justice to everyone, one person at a time, of helping friends and strangers to discover God’s presence in their lives, and of serving when and where Christ’s love is needed. Looking back I realize that I have had a wonderful span of 25 years in parish ministry in the dioceses of Minnesota, Massachusetts and Washington, DC. I give thanks for the people I have known and the experiences I have had that have shaped my ministry and who I am. No paycheck is needed because I am paying it all forward. I will do for others what has been done for me, and will do for others what I hope others will do for me. Retirement is a time to pay it all forward – to share what we have learned, to have the time to give time, to learn or improve a skill that we could use with others, and to give thanks to friends and family who have supported us in our working years.
In response to my musings on retirement, a group of 12 parishioners contacted me and suggested that I gather a group of adults who are pondering retirement, who would like to talk confidentially, since they may not have made their retirement intentions public or given notice to their employer. So we met and found that sharing our ideas, our questions, our hopes, our fears and our dreams was very helpful and essential. The group will continue to meet monthly. It proves again how essential small groups are in building a community. I offer this prayer, amended from the Book of Common Prayer, as a prayer for retirement.
“Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us….. We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care that surrounds us on every side. We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone…. Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you for all things. “Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 836)