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EFAC Australia

General

Having recently celebrated my 75th birthday means I have been retired from full-time ministry for five years. When I retired from Armidale in 2012 I joked, ‘rooster today, feather duster tomorrow’! Thankfully, someone said to me, ‘Peter, don’t forget that feather dusters are still useful!’ I value that comment because I have not found retirement an easy gig, even though it has been very fulfilling. I have had to work hard at reminding myself of truths which I have always believed – truths such as my worth not in being a pastor but as one justified by faith and adopted by God, and of the priesthood and ministry of all believers. I am also thankful to God for the example of many older believers and must be content, like them, to take a back seat and look for opportunities to minister in different ways. Retiring from stipendiary ministry does not mean retiring from ministry.

It is actually a great relief not to have all the institutional and local-church leadership responsibilities. Locum stints have reminded me of this, as I have once again felt the great pressures upon those who are serving as Rectors and Vicars. I have a growing appreciation of the demands of local-church pastoring, especially during the pandemic.

I have resolved not to fall into that most debilitating sin of being a grumpy old minister, which Hebrews 12:15 calls ‘bitterness’. The antidote that I am learning to employ is thankfulness to God for what I can do rather than moaning about what I can no longer do, for the younger pastors under whose ministry I am privileged to sit and the people in the congregations who are there because of God’s sovereign work of grace in them as in me.

Hebrews’ exhortation in 10:24-25 has reminded me that church is not about me – I am to intentionally consider how to help others to love and good deeds. It is a team game, where we run and train together, professing Christ (10:23) by turning up every week to spur each other on. Could we ever imagine Pat Cummins going fishing or water skiing when a Test is on?

We are conscripts in Christ’s service. Where did the (mistaken) concept of believers being volunteers come from? I do know that it is the source of much discouragement to local church pastors and leaders, and a danger to those who have fallen into its seductive arms. The alternative? To recognise that the greatest gift we can give our brothers and sisters in Christ is to turn up every week (planning trips away or catch-ups with friends mid-week rather than on Sundays), with an expectant and considerate heart.

Healthy congregations cannot be built on faithful preaching alone but on the backs of disciples who encourage each other with thoughtful words (Ephesians 4:29) and selfless actions (Galatians 5:13).

Many retired people have been a great blessing to me. One was Jean, whom I met in Wee Waa as she and the music team were tuning up. ‘Bishop,’ she asked, ‘what do you think of all these new tunes to the old hymns?’ I replied, ‘Jean, there are many young people around the Diocese who are singing these old hymns because of the new tunes.’ I was much encouraged when she replied, ‘Well that’s good enough for me!’

She gave up her ‘druthers’ because she was glad younger believers were benefitting from those older hymns. The second was Billy, who moved into an Armidale nursing home to be with his wife. The icing on the cake of that selflessness was his asking me to buy $100 worth of gospels and tracts so he could share Christ with the old people! I want to be like them. Retirement means I now need to consciously look for these opportunities, but they are there. Retirement gives me more time to pray for these opportunities to share, and for the people God has led me to.

I am learning to know my limits (the heart is willing but the boy is weak – oops I just noticed the typo – the body and the boy are weak) and I need to examine my motives. Mind you, if I had waited for my motives to be faultless in ministry I probably would not have done anything! So I tell Satan to get lost, whilst asking our Lord for forgiveness and grace (Hebrews 4:14-16 is so realistically encouraging). Selfcare is vital so we can work and pray well until He takes us home. The line from Morning Prayer, ‘whose service is perfect freedom’, has been on my heart for 55 years; I thank God for it and for those who have exemplified its truth to me.

W H Griffith-Thomas’s words remain true.

What I have, He claims;
What He claims, I yield;
What I yield, He takes;
What He takes, He fills;
What he fills, He uses;
What he uses, He keeps;
What he keeps, He satisfies.

Bishop Peter Brain is the former Bishop Of Armidale who these days has a great ministry as a locum. He is married to Christine and they have four adult children and multiple grandchildren. Peter published Going the Distance in 2004. Somewhat appropriately the sub title is ‘How to stay fit for a lifetime of service'.

Stephen Hale and Greg Hammond OAMGregHammondStephenHale

Moving into a new phase of life has been challenging for those of us who are recently retired from working for one organisation full time. Whatever we had planned or anticipated has been changed or put on hold by unforeseen circumstances or, more recently, thrown into chaos by the pandemic. It has been both an interesting and yet frustrating time.
In the early phase of retirement, the following is a random selection of observations.

1. Be open to God's leading

In this new season of one's life (even in the midst of the pandemic) it is critical to be open to God's leading and to being a part of what he would have one do. It is tempting to want to have a plan about the future before retirement occurs, but "letting go" is important and often requires time to reflect, listen and discern how you can best use your God-given gifts in fruitful ways.
When you have spent all or most of your career working for one organisation, it can be hard to think outside the lens or prism of that organisation. Shortly before "early retirement", I received some good advice – trust God and let go of the future, so you can think about it through a new lens, not the old lens of your first career (Greg).

This has always been tricky, but particularly so in the last two years for those entering this new phase of life, as lots of things have been on hold. Strengthening one's prayer and personal devotion is key to reflecting, listening and discerning.

2. A change in identity

Most of us get part (frequently a large part) of our sense of identity from our work and the offices or roles we occupy. It has been hard to get used to the idea that you no longer have a seemingly key role, place, influence or profile.

I think I'm still sorting this through and that includes moving in and out of locum roles (Stephen). In grappling with this issue, I have found Brian Rosner's work on being made in the image of God, being known by God and being in Christ as the Biblical keys to personal identity particularly helpful (Greg).1

3. Flying solo

One area we both find the hardest is working from home and having to do most stuff for oneself. We both miss the workplace and connecting with people, the informal chats over tea or coffee and the asking of questions of colleagues which can open up new solutions to problems. Juggling multiple involvements with no back up has been a challenge.
During the many lockdowns I lined up walks with different people most days in order to attend to my need to connect and be with others (Stephen). Before, during and after lockdown, I have needed to purposefully arrange time to meet with others for conversation and mutual encouragement (Greg).

4. Consider volunteering

It is unlikely in this new phase of life, that you will need to have a full-time paid role, not that a labourer should not be rewarded for their work. There are many charities and other "for purpose" organisations that rely on volunteers to make the vital difference in the delivery of services.
Even if you do not "get outside the church bubble" as suggested below, consider giving some of your time to a local charity or other "for purpose" organisation. For example, could you volunteer in an aged care residential home to enhance the lives of residents through a skill you have, or simply spend time talking to residents to help relieve the scourge of loneliness.

5. Exercise more

During lockdowns there wasn't much else one could do, but it did have its rewards and is a key thing to build into one's life when it's not as dominated by paid work. It builds resilience and guards against the creep of inertia! (Stephen)
In working from home, and using public transport less (especially since the pandemic began), I have found myself walking less and missing the quiet thinking time that came with short walks to the rail station, between meetings etc. It is important to not only find time for exercise, but also find new ways to quietly think about the challenges of the day or week.

6. Keep reading and engaging

Coaching or mentoring younger leaders and professionals is a great way of keeping in the loop as well as listening to the many podcasts that are out there. They'll help you know which books to consider reading and you'll at least be aware of the ones that are out there.

7. Re-establish old friendships

Most of us have long term friends who we may not have kept up regular contact with due to demands of work and family. Reach out and reconnect. Chances are they were thinking the same thing!

8. Get outside the church bubble

This was important for me (Stephen) and something I've wanted to do for years. I'm volunteering with an organisation that cooks meals for those in need using food that would otherwise be thrown out. The level of professionalism and sheer hard work is amazing.

9. Be more available for your family

With more flexibility there is more of a chance to be a part of your parents' and children's lives and (if you have them) especially the grandchildren. If one isn't tied down every weekday or every weekend this is quite a new thing!

10. Learn to relax

It may seem strange, but it has taken a bit of getting used to having the occasional afternoon or day when you have nothing more to do than clear a few emails! Learn to relax and enjoy these moments. I still find this difficult at times (Greg).

Greg Hammond is a former partner of King & Wood Mallesons and since "early retirement" has served on the boards of several not-for-profit organisations - a second career. Among other roles, he is Chair of Anglican Community Services (t/as Anglicare Sydney) and a director of the Australian College of Theology, G&C Mutual Bank and Opportunity International Australia.
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. He doesn't really think he is retired as such, he's just not working for an organisation full time


1. Brian Rosner, Known By God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity (Zondervan 2018).

MoyraDaleHere 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.

Targeted therapy enabled me to continue with my basic teaching load for a while and recover energy to enjoy more normal life (while recognising that things like teaching intensives were now beyond me). The years since then have seen losses and gains but overall decline, sometimes from cancer, more often from treatment or other health conditions that cancer seems to make room for.

A diagnosis of terminal illness is always challenging, but maybe less so in the final quarter of our lives than if it had come earlier. We have the privilege of looking back on a full life, of many different opportunities, of long years knowing and experiencing the goodness of God, as a foundation for resting on that now. It’s harder when it comes to young lives full of unrealised promise, life not yet lived, chances not able to be taken up. The task now becomes to live and to die as well as possible: for us and for those around us whom we leave to grieve. How to care for them in their costly care for us, emotionally and physically, in time and help?

It brings both challenges and opportunities.

The challenge to accept this as the Sovereign God’s gift to me, to be received with thanksgiving. Not so much a fight, this is a context within which to seek to live for God, learning to meet Christ in my cancer.

The challenge to hold my ambitions lightly: together with the challenge of living in uncertainty, unable to make long term plans. Do I have months left or years? How much energy will I have at any given time? And I live with the bewilderment of seeing younger friends die earlier, go ahead of me.

The challenge to maintain a wide perspective, focused on God and others. The lockdowns of covid and of cancer blurred together for me, and it was easy to let my view diminish to the small world I inhabited. This is especially as discomfort and disability increase: pain tends to preoccupy our consciousness.

Familiar disciplines, daily prayer apps prayed with family, become an important part of maintaining perspective. It’s been good to immerse myself daily in the Psalms, a discipline of the church from ancient times. Meditating on/memorising scriptures is a gift especially when I haven’t capacity for much more. The challenge is not to let those slip when I am strong enough to engage in other projects.

There are also new opportunities. All time and energy becomes more than ever a gift from God. For me, this has included the unexpected gift of more years than I thought I had – time to spend with family and loved ones, time to work on projects.

A focus of the fourth age is equipping and raising up others. The need to hand over is expedited by the prospect of imminent decline and death, and so we get the joy of seeing others take up the baton from us and run with it as God has gifted them to do.

Having to let other things go and retire from teaching, has given me the opportunity to do more writing in the last few years. As well as journal articles, it’s been good to work on a book that had been simmering at the back of my mind and my computer files for over a decade, and pursue it through to final publication and launch. I’m thankful for the gift of all those who supported me, for wise editors, illustrators, and all who joined in the celebration of its launch. It has been a blessing to receive the generosity of so many in community.

As Christians we are called to live lives characterised by gratitude. The more helpless I get and dependent on others the more I am thankful for God’s care and love shown through the prayers, care, medical expertise and wisdom of people.

Moyra Dale spent over two decades in the Middle East working in education and ethnography. She has taught courses in Islam and cross cultural anthropology in Australia and the USA. She was on the staff of St Andrews Hall for many years. She is married to Dale and has adult children. Islam and Women: Hagar’s Inheritance was published recently and is available through Regnum Press.

PaulArnottOur 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

I recently slipped while coming down our stairs in bare feet and bruised not only my dignity, but my arm, ribs and leg. Thank God that I avoided any broken bones, but it was a salutary reminder that my balance isn't what it used to be and that I need to be more careful when descending stairs. I was also, two years ago, diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson's Disease. The tremor in my left hand is yet another reminder of my mortality. Covid and Parkinson's have both been encouragements to face my mortality head on and to review my life direction. Given the challenges growing older can present us with it would be easy to succumb to the world's view of ageing as a period of remorseless decay. 

A biblical view of ageing

However, there is another way of viewing ageing. The psalmist reminds us that those who trust in the Lord will "still bring forth fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and green." (Psalm 92.14 – ASV). The late Billy Graham in his book, Nearing Home, tells the story of the missionary to India, Dr E. Stanley Jones.4When he was eighty-five Stanley Jones had a stroke that disabled him and impaired his speech. Despite the stroke he managed to dictate his last book, The Divine Yes, and address a world congress in India from his wheelchair shortly before he died.5 He wrote, "In old age … blossom at the end like a night-blooming cereus."6 6Billy Graham writes that the night blooming cereus, a family of flowering cacti, brings a beauty to the desert when it blooms at nightfall:

E. Stanley Jones certainly knew about blossoming in the night-time of life and producing fruit, despite disability.7 Billy Graham asks "Do we, the older generation, do the same? Are we replenishing fruit that replenishes others or do we complain about our circumstances and drain others who look forward to living full lives? By our attitudes do we make younger [people] dread the inevitable – growing old? Many elderly people, without realising it, taint the purpose God has for them: to impact the younger generation/s by exemplifying reliance on Him and hope in His unchanging promises. We should be content for Jesus has said, 'I will never leave you, nor forsake you.' " (Hebrews 13.5 NKJV).8

In her book, The Gift Of Years, Joan Chittester argues that "old age is not a disease. It is strength and suvivorship."9 Chittester writes:

When we ignore the fact that all of us are on an inexorable journey to our own old age, we miss the gift of years. We miss the profound insight that we are never too young to begin to see ourselves as old, to imagine ourselves as now, at this moment, shaping what we will be in the years to come – as well as the way we will become it. All of us will sooner or later arrive at the point where we are beginning to imagine ourselves entertaining the final stages of our lives and asking ourselves seriously, quietly, what kind of person we want to be then, so that we can begin to be that kind of person now.10

Since CMA began our Q4/Fourth Quarter ministry six years ago we have interviewed more than three hundred Australian Christians in their retirement years/fourth quarter. The common denominator in all their lives has been the determination to continue to make a difference for the kingdom of God no matter how old they are. More than 80 people have now completed our seven-session course, Engaging Q4, built around seven spiritual disciplines designed for people in their fourth quarter. They are involved in a wide range of ministries and activities from serving in and through their local church to Kids Hope, Mainly Music, Men's Sheds and visiting nursing homes.

Often people protest that they're not yet retired, which isn't the point. The fourth quarter begins for men in their early 60s and for women in their mid-sixties. It's not about whether we are in paid or voluntary work. Many of us will live for twenty-five or thirty years past retirement age. The real question, the biblical question, is what use will we make of that time as followers of Jesus?

Paul Arnott is the executive director of CMA's Q4: Rethinking Retirement (Q4 - Rethinking Retirement (cma.net.au)

Notes

1. Robert Banks & R. Paul Stevens, 'Aging', The Completer Book of Everyday Christianity (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1997) 30-31.

3. Banks & Stevens, 'Aging', Book of Everyday Christianity, 31.

4. Billy Graham, Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2011), 33.

5. Graham, Nearing Home, 34.

6. Graham, Nearing Home, 33.

7. Graham, Nearing Home, 34.

8. Graham, Nearing Home, 34.

9. Joan Chittester, The Gift Of Years: Growing Old Gracefully (Katonah: Blue Bridge Books, 2008) 137.

10. Chittester, Gift Of Years, 137.

PaulBarnettThese 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.

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