Monday, 20 July 2015

I'll take time to ponder before taking on new roles

Last Friday I packed up my computer, my last box of books and papers, closed the door to my office of the last fifteen years and turned my keys in to the church secretary.

I am now retired from the active ministry of the United Church of Canada.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but in the end, the alignment of events made the decision. It feel right and good.

For the purposes of the United Church of Canada I am officially retired effective August 1, 2015. But the fact is much more clear and simple. I have surrendered the keys to the church. Someone else will be doing preaching and pastoral care from now on.

I have a date with the deck of my cottage, which my wife helpfully reminds me needs to be painted.

To be sure, I will continue to do certain things. I will continue writing this column as long as the Editor wants to publish it and I feel I can contribute something. I will do another season of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County. I will continue to serve as a public member on the Board of Health. But I have made a decision to accept no more commitments, long or short, until after October 1 at the earliest.

When the news of my retirement became public, I was approached to serve on several community boards and committees.

I declined.

Not yet. Maybe never. Who knows? I have to take stock of my skills and abilities, first.

One thing the United Church makes clear when their ministry personnel retire that their roles become, in many ways, very carefully defined.

Because of the terms of the Marriage Act in Ontario, the United Church removes my credentials to officiate at and solemnize weddings. That disappointed a few people, but the law is clear. Not all churches are as strict as the United Church, because I see the names of ministers who are long dead on the provincial lists, but in my case it’s just as absolute.

I am also not permitted to offer any pastoral services to members of my former congregation without the consent of the current minister and the church board.

That makes good sense.

Many years ago, when I first started in ministry, I was officiating at the funeral of a gentleman and shared that duty with a long-time former minister who had since retired.

He took over the service. He spoke well of the deceased, offered comforting prayers and scriptures and consoled the family. I just closed my service book and at the end said, "Amen."

Shortly after, he was spoken to by other pastors and he was never invited back for any other services.

I am still able to accept what are called "supply appointments" to serve churches who are between ministers.

I can officiate at funerals of people not connected with my former congregation.

I can also sleep in a bit on Sunday morning and not be anxious over the quality of a sermon or if my words were, in fact, helpful.

I started ministry with typewriters, gestetner duplicators and stencils. I retired with photocopiers, computers and smart phones.

It’s been a wonderful journey. But it’s not over yet. The next chapter in my ministry is just beginning.

Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.