Fine tuning my retirement

Since retiring from full-time work 30 months ago, I have hardly sat still.

No, I’m not “busier than ever”: for most retired people that would have to be a fabrication.  Older folk just take longer to do what has to be done and are less adept at getting through a big agenda.  Spending a few days with our kids and their families quickly reminds Helen and me how busy life can be.

WH chaplaincy_01But I have just retired from my paid chaplaincy work with our church’s seniors’ community.  The change-over had to be handled with care and I believe it has been, and by God’s guidance it seems that everything so far has worked out beautifully.

We started to talk about this a year ago.  Last year I was away from Adelaide twice after two colleagues invited Helen and me to “look after” their church communities for a total of almost 3 months.  Last year I posted some of our observations after two very “rich” times in Western Australia and in Sydney.  We were also away several other times for family reasons and shorter periods.  No time for “grey nomad” stuff, no world travel, no Rhine cruise.

But being away for 4 months of a year is not easy to combine with employment, even if it’s only 0.2, especially when the work involves people facing end-of-life issues.

Since moving to Adelaide 16 years ago, I have been the volunteer or paid part-time chaplain of my church’s aged care organisation.  This responsibility has been a real privilege and a joy, as well as something of a channel of God’s goodness to the elderly and to some of the staff, as I understand it.  During the past 10½ years my work has been paid but necessarily limited by budgetary constraints.

16 years in one role has been longer commitment than anything else I’ve done – other than my marriage and parenthood.  So despite building some memorable relationships and my own and the staff and residents’ regret, it was necessary to make way for a new pastoral worker and to return to a voluntary service role.

It is also time to leave behind the practical and emotional constraints of this very part-time employment.

Retired friends and colleagues have repeatedly urged me to remember that most of us can only expect to enjoy 10 – 15 years of good health after retirement age.  “Work at your Bucket List while you can,” I have been told several times.  And don’t I know it: my parents never got to tick off any of the items on their List and both died in their later 70s.

Emeritus (senior) colleagues also encouraged me to make short-term help for churches a priority.  “Looking after the shop” while a friend takes annual or long service leave is a quite necessary area of service that can be done by only a small number of people, not everybody fits everywhere, and (so my co-retirement friends tell me and we have already found) it is almost always very enjoyable work:

  • a short-term sea change – a home-away-from-home,
  • work with new people in a new situation,
  • a common bond of faith and purpose, without church politics,
  • new discoveries about the open doors and blessings churches have,
  • a “honeymoon” atmosphere in the church (yes!),
  • travel and accommodation taken care of (but no income),
  • time to explore different regions of our large land,
  • an opportunity to catch up with local relatives and old friends.

What am I waiting for?  We’ve booked the ferry to Tasmania!

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