Seven clues for retirement
- Written by: Peter Corney
Seven clues for Retirement for Ministers of the Gospel
1. Start preparing well before you retire. Pastoral ministry is busy, and the deadlines are relentless; sermon and service preparation every week, constant pastoral needs to attend to, regular committee meetings, marriage preparation, funerals, planning meetings, etc, etc. This can cause one to keep putting off planning ahead for retirement. The constant demands can also mean we can lose contact with old friends and valued relationships, neglect hobbies, and other interests, that will be important in retirement.
2. During full time ministry it is important to keep up other interests, relationships, hobbies, and ministry activities outside the parish. Many of these can be continued after you move from full time ministry. Retirement doesn’t mean we cease ministry! The pace and the pressure changes and the influence may narrow but our vocation can continue. In my case I have always been involved in training, coaching, and mentoring younger leaders, both within and outside my parish ministry, and that has continued into my retirement from full time ministry. The Arrow leadership program which I was privileged to head up, happened while I was still in parish ministry and when I moved from full time ministry gave me a continuing field of very meaningful service at a level appropriate to my energy at that stage of my life. In retirement I and a small group of retired friends from the church we attend, started a ‘Shed’ for men and women that is focussed on woodwork projects, musical instrument making, furniture projects both new and restorations, etc. The core group also act as a maintenance team for the Church. The group is open to anyone to attend and has become a great opportunity for members to invite their retired friends who don’t attend a church. The level of fellowship enjoyed shows the need for ongoing relationships for retirees.
3. Be prepared for loss, particularly a loss of recognition, status, and perceived significance. Parish ministry is a very public role. You are known, recognised by many people, and appreciation is often expressed. Retirement can bring a sense of loss of the recognition that comes with belonging to and being a significant person in that community. Someone said, “you know you’re irrelevant when no one knows or speaks your name.” That is what many older people feel in some nursing homes when no one visits them anymore. It is also why the federal governments initiative and funding to assist people where possible to live longer in their own homes and street is so important. Retirement usually means physical relocation to a new house and suburb for parish ministers which can also produce a sense of loss, loss of community, loss of a familiar place and contacts. Retiring to a beach house isn’t always a good idea! It can seem ideal at first but can become very lonely and isolated from friends and family. This needs careful thought and planning.
4. As our retirement continues and our physical strength and abilities change, we can feel that there is not much we can contribute to the Kingdom now. Billy Graham, perhaps the most significant and effective evangelist of the modern era, wrote in his later years in a book entitled Nearing Home “The time God has given you is not without purpose.” That is an idea we need to keep hold of as we age, as Psalm 31:15 puts it “My times are in your hands.” So therefore they are not without purpose. Discovering that purpose needs to become part of our regular prayers as it will change as we age. There is also the challenge to avoid becoming too focussed on your own health and the aches and pains of advancing years rather than the needs of others!
5. Be prepared for a change in life structure. Full time work gives a particular structure to one’s daily life and so it is important to develop a new one or one can drift into a vague boredom. At first the relief from the pressure of full-time work is welcome but eventually the need for structure and purpose asserts itself. It is important to maintain, even create new disciplines for your daily life. Especially in your devotional life of prayer and the study of God’s word. I thought that once I retired that my daily prayer life would be easier now that I have more time and less interruptions! In my case I found the challenge to keep and grow in these disciplines didn’t get any easier, it just changed in its form. I have had to develop new routines and methods and goals. Our new structure needs to also include regular daily physical exercise as our body ages. To keep mentally alert and relevant by reading, learning, and growing is as important now as it was in full time parish ministry. Supporting, mentoring, and discipling younger people is a great way to keep abreast of the new challenges contemporary culture presents to our faith and discipleship.
6. For those of us who are married there is another adjustment to being around more at home. The plus is that we now have more discretionary time to do things together, but we need to spend some time discussing this with our partner rather than making assumption’s about what we will do!
7. Dr Robert Clinton, who taught and researched for many years at Fuller Seminary on Christian leadership, made the observation that Christian leaders who “finished well” observed five things during their active ministry: (i) They kept perspective. (ii) They had many spiritual renewals. (iii) They maintained spiritual disciplines. (iv) They adopted a constant learning posture. (v) They maintained a relationship with a mentor, and they also mentored others. It seems to me these five things are also worth pursuing into retirement.
Peter Corney is Vicar Emeritus of St Hilary’s Kew
Book Review: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self
- Written by: Rhys Bezzant
The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self
Wheaton: Crossway, 2020
Reviewed By Rhys Bezzant
I don’t often say it, but this book was so good I read it once then listened to it as an audiobook! Carl Trueman, an Englishman teaching in the US, has written an extraordinary overview of the last three hundred years of Western culture, to help explain how the sexual revolution came to pass, and how transgenderism can be understood philosophically within that story. I am a sucker for grand vistas when they help me to investigate the minutiae of an event, and that he admirably achieves. The heart of the book is an evaluation of Rousseau as the fountainhead of modern views of the self, but he goes on to explain how the great Romantic poets Wordsworth, Shelley, and Blake reinforce the subjective turn, with Marx, Darwin and Nietzsche rendering the subjective a political force. All that is then needed is the contribution of Freud to sexualise the political. This layering of cultural sediments is a fine example of intellectual history, explaining where great thinkers got their ideas from, how they reshaped those ideas given their own historical moment, and how they passed them on. Ideas matter, for it is not just our material environment that impacts who we are.
Trueman takes up the language of “expressive individualism” to capture the goal of the modern search for identity, with questions of sexuality a case study. So many in the West work with a default position, like Rousseau the French educationalist, that culture is corrupting, so we long for the “state of nature,” in which we were free to express ourselves without the shackles of social expectations. The great Romantic poets worked initially within this mimetic frame of mind, which assumed that meaning was given to us (rather than created by us) and discovered through art. This was in time overturned, as philosophers and poets came to understand that what we had previously accepted as universal and static was actually the dynamic and local product of oppressive historical forces, from which we needed liberation. Christianity was regarded not as offering freedom, but something from which we needed to be freed! As Shelley wrote, “Religion and morality, as they now stand, compose a practical code of misery and servitude” (p155).
Expressive individualism, in Trueman’s estimation, therefore doesn’t assume a worldview but instead a social imaginary, as Charles Taylor the Canadian philosopher has argued. We create our world and create ourselves within it. We become plastic people, who find meaning in self-expression: “Freedom for Nietzsche is freedom from essentialism and for selfcreation” (p174). If Marx believed we need a new social self-awareness, if Freud believed we should be open to deep sexual motivations that lurk just beyond our recognition, and if Darwin undermined an exalted and purposeful role for human beings in history, then together they set up profoundly modern ways of grasping what a human being is. Better to begin within ourselves, and from there to invent our own identity according to our own lights. Though with any model for understanding what it means to be human there are philosophical challenges, in this model there is a new danger: “Where once oppression was seen in terms of economic realities (eg poverty, lack of property) or legal categories (eg slavery, lack of freedom), now the matter is more subtle because it relates to issues of psychology and self-consciousness. The political sphere is internalized and subjectivized” (p250). Learning to express ourselves as individuals has a deep prehistory.
Set within the development of expressive individualism, and against the backdrop of longer and larger philosophical shifts in the West, Trueman ultimately wants to explain how a concept like transgenderism makes eminent sense to our contemporaries though it made no sense to his own grandfather. This change within a generation is not to be explained by referring to the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s alone! He sets all these particular concerns (and others!) within the sociological analysis of Philip Rieff, who has generated categories like “the triumph of the therapeutic” or “the anticulture,” and the ethical reflections of Alasdair MacIntyre, who has argued that in the modern world truth claims are more like “expressions of emotional preference” (p26). Trueman’s breadth of reading gives great depth to his analysis, even if along the way we might want him to explain or qualify a point further.
This book has won notable awards, for its prose is lucid and its argument coherent, as it tries to guide Christians through a short course in intellectual history and an outline of a way of understanding the process of secularisation. His concluding reflections may at points highlight the weakness of a historian trying to be a prophet, but he is surely right when he concludes: “If sacred or metaphysical order is necessary for cultures to remain stable and coherent, then we currently face an indefinite future of flux, instability, and incoherence.” (p394). I recommend the book to readers who want to find ways to understand the pressure points in contemporary culture.
Rev Dr Rhys Bezzant is Senior Lecturer and Dean of The Anglican Institute Ridley College and Visiting Fellow Yale Divinity School. First published in TMA.
- Written by: Paul Arnott
Our 21st century world values youth above all else. It lauds the merits of the young in a myriad of ways. Just watch the ads on TV tonight. Youth is good and to be desired. Old age, not so much. In fact, not at all. Old age is seen as bad. In our ageist society older people are often portrayed as doddery, frail, and not really with it. Growing older is feared. It's seen as a time of decrepitude. Even those of us who seek to follow Christ can be seduced into seeing ageing as bad. Why was I so pleased when someone told me after I preached recently that I looked 61 not 71? Because I don't like the thought of growing older. To some degree I've imbibed the spirit of the age. I fear losing control, although if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's that much of life is beyond our control.
Robert Banks reminds us that ageing is normal. The ageing process, being biologically determined, is part of God's providence and is to be accepted with grace.1 However, that's easier said than done when the world constantly tells us that growing old is bad. And we observe firsthand, the effects of ageing on people we love. Ultimately, we have a choice to accept growing older, with all that process may bring or to live in denial. T.S. Eliot famously wrote in his poem, The Wasteland, that human beings cannot bear too much reality.2 The preacher in Ecclesiastes provides "a beautiful and poetic description of progressive fading and failing in each of the several faculties of the body. It is a picture of sad and ineluctable deterioration and decay."3
Death and Disease in the Fourth Quarter
- Written by: Moyra Dale
Here in hospital, nurses taking observations mark the passing of the hours: they issue medicines, meal trays are brought and removed: pigeons flutter outside the window.
Disease and death, if they haven’t visited us earlier, come calling on all of us in the fourth quarter of our lives. For me it came earlier than I’d been anticipating.
At fifty-seven years, a non-smoker, my prolonged cough was diagnosed as Stage 4 lung cancer, with probably just months to live. My oncologist suggested that with new targeted therapy I could see two years. Nearly six years on, I’m surprised to find myself still alive, albeit with reduced health and energy. Tumours which have grown in my bones, brain and liver, as well as the base growth in my lungs, have been contained or removed by different forms of treatment (targeted chemotherapy, radiotherapy, brain surgery, immunotherapy). As one treatment stops working, my doctors offer another one – until they run out. Diagnosis came at a time when career and work opportunities were expanding. A masters intensive I was to be teaching in the USA had to be cancelled, together with my part in a major international conference. I’d just accepted the role of leading an annual six-week international intensive course, and had to let that go, with other plans for wider travel and work. There wasn’t much time to grieve – I was focused on the prospect of imminent death and preparing for that with my family.
The Fourth Quarter
- Written by: Paul Barnett
These are for Anita and me our twilight years. Ageing and loss are sad realities of the passing years but there is the joy of engaging with now middle-ageing children and vibrant emerging grandchildren. But most of all there is the existential anticipation of renewal in God’s good kingdom. Ageing and loss deepens hope.
Apart from routine ailments of the septuagenarian and octogenarian years I have been blessed with good health, although all the while aware of slippage, including memory. What is it about names? You are poised to mention a name, and it just takes wings and flies away. Thankfully it mostly flies back later.
I was glad to retire as a serving bishop at 66. Freedom! No more meetings to attend or pastoral crises to resolve. My time was now my own and it was and is great to be living in our own home. Anita and I joined a church and threw ourselves into various forms of ministry through which we have developed deep and abiding friendships. Our church family is a much valued parallel to our personal family. In both we are deeply blessed and feel appreciated and valued.
For Anita that means pastoral fellowship and support of some older ladies as well as having served on the board of what was Anglican Retirement Villages. Her nursing experience and involvement in geriatric care at St Vincent’s were very helpful on the Care Committee of the ARV. For Paul it means preaching periodically, leading an annual mid-week congregational teaching series, leading a largish weekly Bible Study group and being member of a small, monthly men’s group.
Until covid I was leading a fortnightly Bible Study for a dozen or so Supreme Court judges. This has been quite a challenge as well as a privilege. These are highly intelligent and experienced men and women who provide superb service to the community. I am grateful to successive principals of Moore College for opportunities to teach. This is my final year. Apart from our six years in Adelaide I have had unbroken connection with the college since 1960 — as student, lecturer, half-time lecturer, part-time lecturer. Lecturer emeritus.
I have also been part of a small Macquarie University committee that publishes the journal New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. My association with high level scholars of classical antiquity along with travels to the lands of the Bible have contributed to my understanding of the texts of the New Testament. My main work 2002-2022 has been writing. Since retirement I have had published sixteen papers in peer reviewed journals and twenty books including five commentaries.
In these past twenty years Anita and I have travelled overseas, mostly leading study groups to Jordan- Israel, Turkey-Greece, and Malta-Sicily-Italy. It has been rewarding to see group-members deepening their Bible understanding in the setting of visiting the actual biblical sites. We have also visited the cities of the great reformers Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and also to Oxford, to be reminded of the faithfulness of the martyr bishops. One highlight was to visit missionary friends in Damascus and to travel throughout Syria. There have also been ministry visits to Canada, the US, South Africa, the UK, Singapore, Thailand. I also visited China twice to teach at universities in Chengdu, Wuhan, Shanghai and Shangchun. We also visited Uberaba in Brazil, where Anita was born and visited the grave of her missionary father, Alexander Simpson.
The pandemic probably means the end of overseas travel.
There are many challenges at this stage of life. Not least is the sense that our country along with other western cultures are moving away from Christian faith and values. I remain confident in the power of God working through clear and strong preaching in the setting of insightful pastoral ministry and warmhearted congregational fellowship. Today many instruments for ministry seem closed off to us, crusade evangelism or street evangelism, for example.
But the local church is and always has been a potential for reaching the outsider. That, certainly, was my experience many years ago. Likewise, very important are the many faith-based schools.
In one of his Synod addresses former archbishop Mowll encouraged Anglican laypeople to consider engaging vocationally in public office, a call I believe issued in a number of laypeople seeking election in local, state and federal politics. The standard of political discourse and service is and always will be open to improvement, so the challenge is there for our laypeople today.
So for us the ‘Fourth Quarter’ has been a challenge, as for others, but also very fulfilling. Our ‘golden’ years.
Bishop Paul Barnett is the former Bishop of North Sydney and has lectured at Moore College for many decades. He is the author of many books and is married to Anita.
General Synod Update
- Written by: Stephen Hale
Most of the news in the secular press and various religious media from the Anglican General Synod has focussed on one motion and one issue. Indeed, General Synod did consider an important motion seeking to affirm the traditional understanding of marriage. The context for this was the Appellate Tribunal decision in relation to same sex blessing in the Diocese of Wangaratta. The Tribunal had indicated that if the General Synod wanted to make a statement on marriage it was should do so. The motion to affirm a statement on the doctrine of marriage was moved by Archbishop Kanishka Raffel in a thoughtful and sensitive speech and seconded by Natalie Rosner (Melbourne) who spoke to the pastoral challenges of upholding the Bibles teaching. While it was solidly supported in both the house of laity and the house of clergy, the house of bishops narrowly voted not to support it. It is worth noting that Sydney delegates accounted for roughly 50% of the lay and clergy support. There was therefore strong support from people from a wide range of dioceses across the country.
For those present there was significant upset at the outcome of this motion. While disappointing, it doesn’t change anything in any Diocese, nor does it change the previous statements of General Synod which have consistently upheld an orthodox doctrine of marriage. The reality is that since the Appellate Tribunal decision in 2020, Dioceses have been free to make their own decisions in relation to same sex blessings.
Another important motion did pass which clarified a definition of unchastity as sexual intimacy outside of marriage, with similar levels of support in each house, the only difference being that the house of bishops very narrowly supported it.
From an EFAC perspective there are two things to note. Firstly, the bishops of our church are now clearly out of step with the lay and clerical representatives at Synod. How this will play out is uncertain. The Diocese of Melbourne will be a focal point given the unexpected action of its bishop at General Synod!
Secondly the Synod reflected the fundamental shift that is taking place in the ACA. The majority of those elected or appointed for both the Standing Committee and the Primatial Election Board (except for the House of Bishops) are evangelicals from across Australia. During the Synod there were wonderful speeches from evangelicals from across Australia and many people from many places made great contributions. There was a high level of cooperation between evangelicals at Synod from across Australia.
EFAC Australia ran an evening session at General Synod with around 80 people present. Bishop Mark Short led an interactive panel of Kara Hartley (Sydney), Kate Beer (NT), Bishop Matt Brain (Bendigo) and Bishop Richard Condie (Tas). It was a great session and we spent time in prayer for the Synod.
General Synod reflects the life of our church in many respects. However, it doesn’t reflect the day to day reality of people serving our great God in and through the parishes, church plants and agencies of our church.
Stephen Hale is the former Lead Minister of the St Hilary’s Network and a Regional Bishop in the Diocese of Melbourne. Stephen is the Victorian Director of Overseas Council Australia and Chair of EFAC Global and EFAC Australia.
Editorial - Winter 2022
- Written by: Stephen Hale
This issue of Essentials focusses on retirement. There are great contributions from some of the leaders of our church from a range of eras of retirement.
Given that most of us will be living longer lives the issue of retirement becomes even more challenging and important.
Being in the younger bracket of this phase of life I don’t really regard myself as retired! When I’m locumming I’m working full time and in between I have more flexibility!
On top of that I have the opportunity to chair a number of Boards and to coach younger leaders. As well my wife and I volunteer with a local charity and we have the privilege of playing a small part in a remarkable work that assists those most in need in our city. I’m doing this without the stress of leading a church and all the joys and challenges that that represents.
There are wonderful contributions in this issue from some of the great leaders from the past 50 years or so. What they each illustrate is that ministry continues on for each of us, but it is being expressed in a diverse range of ways. If we’re open to God’s leading then He is always open to using us in His service.
At the same time Moyra Dale has written a beautiful and honest article which captures what happens when our plans are disrupted by major illness.
There is a genuine need for more conversation about how we can continue to serve God in the unfolding phases of our lives after our ‘full time ministry’ or paid work ends.
I trust you’re refreshed by each of the articles and the book reviews.
STEPHEN HALE, EDITOR