The first question people ask when they find out I’m retiring is “Are you excited?” This question does not have a simple answer. I have been serving as a pastor at the same church for 21 years. I love the church and we have had fruitful ministry while I have been there. I love preaching on Sunday. I love leading worship and helping people grow in Christ. I have had the high honor of being invited to share in the worst moments – and the best moments – of people’s lives. I will miss all of this more than I can say or even imagine at this point.
I am excited to begin a new chapter in my life. My husband and I are looking forward to spending more time together. For years we have been “ships passing in the night” as we both worked long hours and dedicated ourselves to God’s calling. During his free time – on the weekends – I am at my busiest. During his school breaks – fall, winter, spring – I have been immersed in the life of the church and the busy-ness of a church year that doesn’t follow a school calendar. Instead of working for God separately, we hope to have more time to spend together.
I am excited about traveling. Tom and I have always traveled as much as possible. I have been in all 50 states, most of the Canadian Provinces, and 17 other countries. Most of these trips have been too fast to enjoy or really soak in the culture and the differences of the places we have gone. We are looking forward to staying in one place for weeks instead of hours, months instead of days.
I am excited about meeting new people in new places. As a United Methodist pastor, I always expected to move to different communities. The average length of a United Methodist pastorate is still just four years. Instead, I have served one church for 21 years. I am not sorry I stayed so long – it has been wonderful to watch children grow up and perform weddings for people I have known all their lives – but staying in one place a long time has its challenges. I want to see places I have never seen before, worship at a different church every week, and find ways to connect with people who aren’t and won’t be my parishioners or neighbors.
I am excited to have something I’ve heard people talk about: leisure time! There are things that I have put off for years because I didn’t have time to concentrate on them. I want to ride our tandem bike with my husband, write a blog post, play a game, spend several days with family instead of a few hours. Of course, most of the retired folks I know are busier than they were when they were working, but they are choosing how to spend their time, and I am looking forward to that.
Yes, I am excited – and sad – and nervous – and a little scared. But the God who has always been faithful in the past continues to call me forward, and I am excited to see where he will lead.