I was ordained a priest in 1976 and after many decades serving, I retired from Murwillumbah in the Diocese of Grafton at the age of 66.
Upon my retirement, I was given a card with Jeremiah 29.11 written on it: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Since that time, God’s plans have certainly unfolded. I have had the privilege of locum work at Kyogle, Byron Bay, Gold Coast North, Petrie, The Gap and, most recently, at Strathpine. I eagerly await my next locum appointment.
I have found retirement to be a time of change and reassessment, as well as a time of rich blessing. I relish the ministry opportunities in these years as a locum. I especially enjoy preparing people for Confirmation.
God is wonderfully involved in this phase of life, which is much less pressurised. Although, I still have a strong sense of call to ministry. I love what I do. I have served in both full-time and part-time locuming roles since leaving Murwillumbah.
I once had a parishioner say to me, “I’ll have to live to 90 to achieve all I want to do!” I concur wholeheartedly! Locuming has enabled me “to keep my hand in”, to keep publicly loving God and people.
I also keep busy between locum appointments – it is important to me that I stay physically fit and engaged with community.
The only grandfather I knew was a poultry breeder and a gardener, based in Rosewood near Ipswich, as well as a shoemaker. He influenced me deeply. I loved assisting him with raising poultry when I was a boy. It was incredibly exciting. So I am keeping a small poultry flock – mainly Light Sussex – during my retirement.
Retirement has also given me the space to pursue interests in gardening, as well as regular trips to the gym, bike riding and swimming.
Motivation in retirement is important. If I have one piece of advice for clergy retirees, it is to encourage them to maintain long-term relationships, while making new ones, especially with younger people. I cycle once a month from Sandgate to Redcliffe with a younger Anglican. We then have breakfast together. It is a highlight of my month.
Just as I had a special connection with my grandfather, I want to build a similar relationship with my five grandchildren, who are constant delights. My one grandson, Isaac, who lives in Cairns, enjoys riding his bike with his doting Pa when that is possible. My granddaughters are gorgeous and enjoy being taken to high tea in the Brisbane CBD. We go in on the train, which is a treat for them.
My seven-year-old granddaughter, Sophie, is leading chapel at Prince of Peace Lutheran College at the end of the month. She invited me along, saying “Pa, you have to be there.” I am really looking forward to it.
The ongoing restoration of my home in Kallangur is another “project” that keeps me occupied and physically moving. Friends from near and far are assisting with the renovations.
This year has been a big one. I contracted COVID-19 in January; recovered from urological surgery; buried my only brother, Vernon; and, have been involved in the funeral of my brother-in-Christ, Ron, who was a good friend for 40 years.
I maintain the discipline of praying the Office every morning. This roots me in the Word of God, keeping me faithful when life presents such challenges and helps me to stay mindful of praying for people on my prayer list.
Even though I am retired, I am still a priest – my ordination vows have not yet expired!
I met a young musician at church on the weekend. He feels a bit isolated. So parishioners are taking him bushwalking soon and I am taking him to dinner after I complete the writing of this reflection.
Editor’s note: The Parishes and other Mission Agencies Commission is continuing to host events for clergy related to retirement, finances and superannuation. The following events are coming up in 2022:
Thursday 25 August 1-2.30 pm via Zoom: Exploring Clergy Retirement (Register online).
Wednesday 7 September 2-3.30 pm via Zoom: Superannuation (Register online).