RETIRED PASTOR SYNDROME
I am a prayer partner for a colleague of mine, friends since Sem days and all the trials and ord exams we suffered through together. His latest ministry is the challenge of new church/church redevelopment. Into this mix, rears the ugly head of a retired pastor who is constantly a "thorn in the flesh".
Having served as an interim in several congregations in over a decade, I have run into this time and time again. The ominious presence of a retired pastor.
Perhaps, precisely because I have served as an interim, I have learned the spiritual lesson of letting go, of knowing I am called to serve a community of faith that has been around (for ages) before me and who (by God's grace) will be around long after me. I join with others in the midst of their spiritual journey and mine because God has brought us together for his good purpose. When it is time for me to leave, I pray, that I will graciously take my leave of my brothers and sisters in Christ, entrusting them to new leadership and ever to God's care.
Leavetaking is difficult and a hard process especially when the relationships have been mutually loving, and a great match. But, I remind myself, that in the end, my time is always temporary, even in an installed position. It's also not about me, but God. It's not my agenda (or at least, a very tiny piece, if I'm honest), but God's. It's what God is doing and will be doing with them. I need no memorial to my ministry. I don't need to say, "I accomplished this or that while I was pastor." It's not what I do, it's what God does and is doing. What is success in any pastor's life anyway? Certainly, not measureable by the world's standards.
I pray I will live to see retirement and that I will not interfere in any way any church that I attend and of which I will be a part. It is not MY church, ever. It belongs to God and the people God has called and invited to be that particular community of faith. I pray that retired pastors can honor the well-being of a congregation that they have loved and served, that they would honor what God is doing through the leadership of another, even when you don't agree with them. I repeat, it is not YOUR church!!!!!!! If you love the people and God whom you have served so well, ably and faithfully, you will let go and trust in God's good work through others. Celebrate with them new adventures in discipleship and new ways of being the body of Christ. For their health, well-being, and good, move away, find another church to attend and be part of offering in gently, non-threatening ways your gifts or skills. Do not keep socializing and making regular visits with former parishioners - the new pastor needs to build those relationships. Decline doing funerals and weddings, except in extreme instances after following protocol and with the present pastor's full knowledge and invitation.
It is a spiritual lesson for us all, to learn to surrender to God and to let go of those things to which we cling too closely. Pray for a spirit that is willing to surrender. Pray about what you most cling to and why that is.
Honor your service to God and God's people by not interfering or being a"thorn in the flesh". And thank you, for your love, care and gifts with which you served that particular community of faith.