On Sunday last, I preached my final sermon as Senior Pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Cleveland Heights, OH. It was a retirement celebration unlike any other ever in the history of Discipledom. It was the last Sunday before Lent begins. We call it Fat Sunday at Disciples. Wearing our Mardi Gras colors and sporting beads around our necks, we closed worship with a set from Samba Joia, a Brazilian drum group led by Disciples’ percussionist extraordinaire, Dylan Moffitt. You can’t listen without dancing, and I”ve got to believe that God was moving to the beat as well. Worship was followed by a traditional pancake breakfast and open mike appreciation for 8 years of ministry together. It was as close to perfect as a day can be!
As early as that afternoon, the questions started. So, how do you like being retired? On Sunday afternoon, it felt like it was time for a major nap, except I couldn’t fall asleep. Too much good stuff rolling around in my brain. On Monday, when I was asked the same question, I said it felt like having a snow day. It literally was a snow day and the church office was closed. It’s another snow day today with temperatures not expected to reach above zero.
There is a difference though. When I was an active pastor leading a congregation, snow days really didn’t matter. Sermons still had to be written. Surgeries still happened. Memorial services still go on. When you’re a retired pastor, not so much.
Last night was Ash Wednesday. It was my first experience of attending worship, rather than leading it. I”ll confess it felt strange. I”ll confess it was tough not to think about how I would have done it differently, critiquing the sermon and choices of music. But I can also say that mixed in with that was a real appreciation for how it was done differently and what I could take from it to use in my own ministry. Preachers do that, you know. We steal each other’s stuff all the time. We like to call it collegial respect!
The sermon was based on Psalm 51: 16-17. The Message translation. It’s a passage that’s often read on Ash Weds, one that I’ve used several times myself. The Rev. Courtney Clayton-Jenkins preached it well, and I realized quickly that I have something new to learn from the passage this year. Lent is a time to clean house — our spiritual houses. Lent is a time to be in touch with our relationships — especially our relationship with God. Lent is a time to check out how we’re doing with that following Jesus promise — and to make the necessary adjustments to get back to it. I’ve been leading that effort for so long that it’s been easy to put my own adjustments aside for when I have time. And a pastor never has time during Lent! This year I do. Have time, that is. Rev. Courtney said that this can all be overwhelming, so she suggested this: start in one corner and work your way out from there.
Good advice. But I’ve got some work to do before I can even get started. I have to figure out what my corners are. The old ones have gone and have been replaced by ones I”m not yet familiar with. I think I’ll write about finding that corner this year. A very different sort of writing than when I was a pastor. I did alot of writing during Lent. I had a prayer discipline in which I prayed for and wrote to every single person in my congregation, as well as writing a series of Lenten sermons and blogging. What I gave up, I used to say, was free time. Before you feel sorry for me, it was also ego-satisfying. I had a built-in audience. This year, not so much. In previous years, I was writing about and to others. This year, it’s more about me, and I”m not so comfortable or skilled with that. Perhaps it’s a good thing fewer people will be reading this year!
So … how do I like retirement? So far, so good. I’m excited to begin a search to find the corner where I can reconnect with God, not as pastor — just as myself.
Rev. Kristine Eggert
Pastor. Parent. Activist.