Impending retirement's a big deal. A person may look forward to it, but it's also a bit "scary unknown territory". There oughta be some rite of passage--wait--you're giving me one!
It used to be retirement was a prelude to the grave---a few years of enjoying golf and canasta before the end. Now, it's "What's next?" The options are out there--volunteerism no longer involves shelving books--the skills and knowledge of retirees are valuable to the community. I find that I have more choices than I can fathom. My friend Elizabeth wants to pick antiques and open a store. I like that idea. For one thing, it would clean out the storage shed. She also wants to manage my campaign for City Council. I like that too. The city is still at 11.7% unemployment. People are still living in dire poverty. Then, there's reading and travel. I read two books last week when we were in our other home! Stan's in Scotland this week for a meeting where he's giving a paper. I couldn't go. Or, I could open a church. LIberals are sadly lacking there. But, I've made a choice for now, for this first year of retirement. The announcement should follow on Sunday the 24th.
With all those possibilities out there, why, oh, why would I be at all sad? Well, it's YOU! I've enjoyed my limited time with you. I've come to love and respect you and your efforts to build an open, caring, vital congregation. I've come to know who you are--your talents, your intelligence, your commitment and your love. I will miss you.
I've had a career as a religious professional for 26 years. I started as an RE Director, whose claim to the job involved a dusty degree in Religious Studies, some teaching experience and years in business management. I got the first "career" package quickly--I completed Renaissance training for lay religious educators. Then I entered a program for Ministry of Religious Education; and then Meadville/Lombard, the UU Theological School . The rest is history.
Over the years, I've come to know congregations and their habits very well. Mostly, I enjoy the work. I enjoy becoming part of people's lives. I enjoy meetings, believe it or not. I enjoy teaching and training. And I love preaching and the writing that goes with it. What I hate--what can ruin a good day--is whining. I want to say "get over it and go volunteer at the Shriners Hospital and help the world". Now, I don't mean making suggestions on how to improve things, or pointing out that something's not workng. I mean the constant "me, me, me" of it all. I mind the destructiveness of incessant and widespread whining. Mostly, if you're whining about something real, the Board's already addressing the problerm. Ask. Congregations that are out there in the community building alliances with other faiths, making love visible in the streets and in City Hall--they don't normally have to deal with petty problems. They're too busy making justice. You are becoming that congregation. Keep it up.
And, lastly, get yourselves a full time minister--a professional Unitarian Universalist fellowshipped minister. By being fellowshipped, you are guaranteed someone who is knowledgeable about Unitarian Universalism as well as church function, pastoral care and preaching, and who can live in and serve your geographical community. Be willing to sacrifice to do this. Start a fund for it--if you can, contribute heavily. A hundred thousand dollars would enable you to supplement a full time salary at a decrasing percentage each year for 3 years. By then, all other things being good, you should be large enough to support the ministry. You folks are mostly new to Unitarian Universalism. A minister will help you understand the structures of governance, help you understand how to strengthen your own governance structures, live in the community and build interfaith cooperation and justice coalitions, give quality pastoral care and counseling, and work with you to build a stronger congregation.
This year, the Board voted to send your DRE for training in the first of the steps to becoming a professional DRE. This is valuable training, and I hope you will support further training for your DRE and RE staff. RE can be a growth engine for a congregaiton. Please continue to support the program and its leaders.
You have a great music program for a small church. It's a draw for people to come. Nurture your leades there, and support them with your contributions and your voices.
I wish you all the best. It has been a pleasure to serve you and serve with you. There are so many of you to thank that I can't thank each of you personally. You've supported the ministry of this congregation in so many ways, and you have supported my efforts. Keep it up. The future is open to enormous possibilities for you if you grab on and go. You are good people and it has been a great ride! Thank you.