Here we are...

Just off the Port Bow—a place of uncertainty, adventure, and insight. Thank you for your ears, eyes and hearts. I hope to bring compassion, grace and beauty to your day.

What do you call it when...?

Metaphors abound in the working world: push the envelope, do the heavy lifting, at the cutting edge, having the 30,000 foot view, and more. The Part's Guy at a shop I frequent always had the same response to my, "Howya doin?" query; "Livin' the Dream."

Then we retire. The metaphors dry up. We hedge our fragile egos with qualifiers such as, "I'm just partly retired", or, "I'm retired, but busier than ever". I know the statistics. I know that guys, in particular, are prone to severe depression in the first flush of retirement. Those metaphors from our careers must have had some substance. In our post-professional life we labor to find substance. Like this old store in Kinderhook.

What about clergy and retirement? I'm hardly a typical case, but I have been watching this dynamic since I was 52 years old, that moment when I took my first sabbatical and left "full time" ministry behind. Since then I have taken a series of gradual steps away from ministry altogether.

All around me are ministerial colleagues and friends who are "winding down" in one way or another. Most continue to be busy beavers. Some have started alternative ministries. Some are on the staff of larger churches, no longer in charge of it all. Many find themselves on Sundays worshipping at cathedrals, most of them showing up in their clerical collars. (A cathedral seems to be a safe track where these superannuated workhorses can amble at a more relaxed pace, and do so in a grand setting.) For the past three years I have been one of these put-to-pasture pastors.

What is it like? People who care (and they really do) ask me how retirement is going. At some point, in trying to take their care seriously, I will demure, underlining the very, very modest nature of the ministry I continue to do. Often this will elicit the comment, "Once a priest always, always a priest." The comment is meant as a vocational affirmation, I am doing my eternal work as a priest simply by waking up in the morning. It is iconic work, recognized by the faithful. The problem is, I no longer wish to be so recognized...I don't think.

This is an initial giving voice to something I have been thinking about for a while. How does a priest in the Episcopal Church safely or smoothly or sanely and surely bring an end to the role? The only option today is to renounce one's orders. This catch-all process covers those who have had moral failures, and those who have not.

Might there be another path? Some way for the church to say to the retiring minister, "You have done well, your work is finished, you have permission to step out of the role of priest and pastor; you are fully retired".

In a few weeks I'll be participating in an ordination service, where a former student of mine will become a priest. I will give her the chasuble and stole which were given to me from the very same parish nearly 40 years ago. I won't be vested for the service. I won't wear my clerical collar. I will be listed as The Rev. Peter Pierson in the program. I will, in my own mind, be de-vesting as this new priest is freshly in-vested.

Does this work?  More later.

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What do you call...? (Part II)

Inclusive...or not?