THE FIRST article I wrote for Journey during my current term as Moderator was entitled “On the brink”.
It was a reflection on transition and new beginnings with particular reference to the story in Joshua 3 that recounts the crossing of the River Jordan by the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land.
Now I’m on the brink again and that means another transition and another new beginning.
In one sense it’s no surprise because I knew that it was inevitable from the time of my induction.
This transition is different, however, because it represents a move from active ministry into retirement, whatever that means.
I’ve talked to a lot of retired people in recent times who almost without exception tell me how busy they are.
That’s absolutely fine but I’m actually content to discover what retirement means for me rather quietly and gradually. A lot of people have asked me what I’m going to “do”.
This is a perfectly reasonable question and it’s easy enough to answer because the list is already getting longer by the day.
However, the question also leaves me uneasy. Why is the “doing” so important?
I’ve never really been comfortable with the idea of defining people by what they do, and certainly not on the basis of how busy they are.
Over the nearly 70 years of my life I’ve been child, sibling, student, friend, husband, father, grandfather, teacher, minister, missionary, moderator…..we’ve all got our own list.
All of those ways of being myself have been formative and significant. They identify the key relational and vocational dimensions of my life. But there is much more.
Since my early teens I have thought of myself, first and foremost, as a child of God, created a spiritual being for relationship with my Creator.
I still believe what I learnt and affirmed from the Catechism when I was quite young, that my primary purpose in life is to love and enjoy God forever.
That understanding of who I am and what I live for informs and shapes every other dimension of my personhood, including all the “doing” aspects of it. Inevitably, and quite properly, it will inform and shape what my retirement means as well.
I am deeply grateful to God and the church for the great adventure in faith, hope and love that my life and ministry have represented. Almost all of it has been quite wonderful.
By God’s grace, and the love of family and friends, even the really difficult times, including the failures, have been sources of learning and renewal.
Thank you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, for your prayers and encouragement during this most recent phase of my journey. The many opportunities I have had to connect with, and share in, the amazingly rich and diverse life of the Church have unquestionably been the best part of being Moderator.
“On the brink” can convey a sense of imminent peril, or it can mean the beginning of a new experience and opportunity.
As I begin the next phase of my life I look forward with anticipation and confidence to what is about to unfold because I hold in my heart the promise of God’s presence, a promise confirmed by the words of Jesus and experienced in the power of the Spirit: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.