I am testing out a piece that I want to write about being useful following retirement. I am set with a call to go to Peru for a few years and to assist Bishop Bill Godfrey in teaching clergy and seminarians. However, I meet a variety of similarly aged clergy whose idea of retirement is to find a home somewhere and then play golf while assisting some local parish. Some even seem to make themselves a nuisance in their old congregations! Others spend much time annoying their wives who are not used to having them around all the time. It seems that the house can only be painted so many times and living here in Wisconsin, golf gets iffy because of several feet of snow, notwithstanding temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees.
My research informs me that the age of 65 was arbitrarily selected by the German General Otto Bismark as an age when people should retire; in the 19th century, it was an age that few attained. Now we are expected to live several years longer. So what to do?
I believe in continuing in ministry. I was ordained in 1975 and by then had already exercised ministry of one kind or another since 1968. Most of my working life has been in parish ministry. I am taking my pension after 3o years in the Episcopal Church because I can do so and still be useful to God while not having the burden of running a congregation. I have no need to be “in charge.” I do have a passion to help younger and beleaguered clergy.
Let me tell some of the story.
In 2005 I spent a sabbatical couple of months (I have a generous congregation) in Kenya. This led to two further trips with mission groups from our congregation. I believed that I would spend my “encore ministry” in Kenya, assisting a dear brother who is a Bishop near Nairobi as well as teaching at the local theological college. Several doors closed on that opportunity, the last being the political unrest following the last election. I asked God what I was to do. I literally threw myself at his feet and asked for guidance for my 2008 sabbatical. (I said the congregation was generous!) Low and behold I received three invitations. One was to Belize, one to Madagascar and the last to Peru. I was in fact offered jobs in each place. I knew I had to hear from God. Invitations from bishops were clearly not enough!
I spent April 2008 in Belize and May 2008 in Peru – where Polly joined me for a week or so. They even spoke my language in Belize, but it was in Peru that God spoke so we simply said yes. When I wrote to Bishop Todd in Madagascar to tell him of the call and my non-availability for Madagascar he was not only gracious but really affirmed the call to Peru. The reaction at SAMS-USA was interesting as they had thought that we would be going to Belize. I thought we were to go to Belize. I even had reactivated my scuba certification! I had a wonderful time as the Vicar of the congregation in San Ignacio, up in the hills near Guatemala. The picture above was taken at San Ignacio. How God must laugh at our ideas, plans and propositions.
I am often asked – “How Long?” The answer is naturally in God’s hands; however, we think it will be three to eight years. The initial commitment is for three years and then it can extend until I expire. Truly that is in God’s hands. We have taken the decision to work under the “covering” of SAMS-USA and they make no demands regarding age. They are excellent at helping the support raising and supervision in the field. I believe that they are the premier Anglican Mission society in the USA.
How about others? I know of five vacant parishes in Belize that are waiting for someone with a vision for an “encore ministry”. Please let me know if you are interested and I will work with you and SAMS.