Wednesday, June 4, 2014
All you hungry campers...
"Today is Wednesday, Today is Wednesday, Wednesday SOU-OUP..." according to the old campfire song, anyway. No actual soup on the menu at Tether's End today.
An undecided sort of day -- brilliant sunshine very early, then heavy, racing, threatening clouds, now some of both. Do I go out for a walk!?? Do I seize shovel and get all seriously gardinacious before my poor bedding plants die of sheer boredom??? Do I go out to the kitchen and cook and eat accordingly? Do I burrow into this impressive heap of library books? Do I go back to my desk and attend to the now-definitely-due thank-you letters I need to be writing?
Retirement is challenging (Platitude of the Day). On Sunday at noon I wrapped up the most recent interim appointment after three months of half-time duty in a small parish in a small town ninety kilometers from home (exactly ninety kilometers, and exactly fifty-seven minutes, every single trip). At this point, beyond a single Sunday-supply appointment on Pentecost in another small parish, in a small town, rather more than ninety kilometers from home, there is no word of a further interim assignment.
So the cassock has gone to the dry cleaner, and the surplice is in the laundry "whites" pile downstairs, and the stoles are up on a hanger in the spare-room closet, and the prayer books and the communion kit are tucked away on a shelf, not too high.
And I contemplate the possibility that I may now, in the fifth year after retirement from full-time parish ministry, really be, really and truly, RETIRED. Which gives a bit of perspective on the exercise of ministry, perhaps even some of that 20/20 hindsight stuff.
I was a curate, part-time, for about four years; ten years in full-time ministry as Rector, Head of Staff, Senior Pastor~~whatever your nomenclature~~and I've been an interim parson since February 2010. Since then I've served six parishes, part-time: three in the city, three in the hinterland. And the difference from full-time ministry has been staggering. I've been relaxed; I've been comfortable and unanxious; I've been -- happy! (I KNEW there had to be a word for it).
And there has also been a difference in the climate, the ethos, of the parishes I've served. The folks have been warm, and friendly, and appreciative. Now have I been happy because the people have been different? Or, as I very much suspect, have the people been different because I've been giving off a very different vibe? And if that's the case, where the heck was that vibe during the previous ten years!?!?
When I took leave of St. Thaddeus, on Sunday, we had a potluck lunch of ESCHATOLOGICAL splendour--you know, where everyone finds what s/he most enjoys--and there were PRESENTS -- a photograph of the church, and a bushel of flowers, and a beautiful hand-crafted pen -- it looks like byzantine jewelry, but it's decorated with tiny little electronic components I couldn't even name -- and a little trousseau of hand-knitted things, hot pads and dishcloths and a SCRUBBY which I can use on my saucepans or my heels, whichever needs it more.
There were also speeches, on the general theme of "We've tried to figure out how we could JUST KEEP YOU ALWAYS" and there were very elderly retired farmers saying very quietly, "You know -- we JUST LOVE you" and the wives of elderly retired farmers telling me how much they and their husbands have enjoyed and been moved by the sermons ("You reduce him to tears, every time, Crimson"). And finally one Mother-in-Zion who leaned in close and said, "I probably shouldn't even say this, BUT -- your HAIR looks WONDERFUL."
Somehow I could not dredge up any impulse to re-assert my Personal Boundaries under those conditions. I just sat down and mentally rolled around in the ambient goodwill and affection and praise. Perhaps that means I really am somehow "too far gone" to exercise ordained ministry with appropriate professionalism.
But I don't really think so. Now I will go and write some more thank-yous.