January 15, 2012
“It’s 7:59 on this Sunday morning…” and I’m not scheduled to be anywhere in particular. Is that what’s retirement about? Eleven months ago I wrote a letter to the President of the Seminary, where I said:
After conversations with my wife Dawn and consultation with the Integrative Theology Area, I have decided that I will retire from full time teaching at LTSP as of Epiphany 2012. I arrived on Epiphany 1989 and that seems to be an appropriate time for this refugee from the Virgin Islands and Ohio to become a refugee again in the realm of retirement.
I’ve often light heartedly said that Jesus and his parents become refugees and illegal immigrants after being visited by the Wise Men. For five years of my life, Epiphany was the end of Carnival on St. Croix, so in many ways it really was the beginning of a new year and the starting point for new adventures.
It is not as if I don’t have anything to do. I finished a two week intensive class on leadership in a 21st Century church before considering that I was truly in retirement mode. It is not as if I have any answers, but my students [my pastors in training] are facing a church that is nowhere near what I experienced in my first call 41 years ago. If I can share creative thinking and nimbleness and the ability to keep learning alive, then I may have accomplished my mission for this year. So as retirement seeps into my bones I have two more courses that await my presence in this first year of retirement as an adjunct professor.
I’ve been receiving some significant advice from those who have preceded me along this path of retirement.
1. FIND A PLACE OF ACTIVITY AND REGULARITY TO KEEP YOU BUSY. Though I’ve got plans to see if my golf game can ever come close to my age that may not be what they have in mind. There are several boxes of African American Lutheran History research that needs to have exposure to a wider audience. That may provide a bit of consistent work for a while.
2. TRAVEL WHILE YOU CAN. The mail seems to contain a brochure per day to keep us appraised of the multitude of places we can go and explore. But Dawn and I have seemed to focus on how we meet people in the places we have visited, friends both old and new.
3. BE AS ACTIVE AS YOU CAN BE. There is a fragility of health that seems to come after retirement. My own body parts have started to be replaced, with new knees last year. The ‘Y’ and I are good friends and much more regular in our seeing each other than in the past. I may not have a big bucket list of stuff I want to do, but I do have a long list of “round to its” that need some attention.
4. MAKE CONSCIOUS CHOICES. Rather than being a relative sure bet for a ‘yes’ answer, I’m now in a position that I can say no. It feels strange to decide where I want to go to church today. Oh I may say yes to some supply, but I do have the ability now to go sit in the pews of my former students and hear the Gospel. Questions arise, like do you want to sing in the choir? That’s something I haven’t considered since I was in college.
Yes retirement is different. It is a change in life. I plan on enjoying this new chapter as much as I’ve enjoyed the previous chapters in my life. In my new refugee status, I’ll just keep shooting my snapshots.