My husband, Mike, retired a year ago after 37 years in ministry. I did not anticipate any great difficulty with this change in our lives, as we already had lots of events in which we participated in place years before we even thought about retirement.
So, I was very surprised to discover we had two very different styles of preparing/leaving for church. Now, we had not ridden to church together for 35 years. That fact should have been my first clue to potential difficulty. Mike insisted we leave 45 minutes before the service began (a drive that only takes 25 minutes max). My habit had been to skim in right when the service started or even during the opening hymn. "Why arrive any earlier?" I thought, "I can visit with people after church."
Convincing Mike that he no longer needs to arrive early to open the church, check the baptismal fount for water, make sure the communion elements and bulletins in place, etc. etc., is a major task. He also has had to find space on the passenger side of the car for me to "move in." My style on Sunday morning for 35 years had been to finish getting ready for church at each stoplight--putting on makeup and inserting my contacts.
Needless to say, there was an adjustment necessary on Sunday morning that I never would have predicted. Now that a year has passed, we have reached a compromise. I've shaved fifteen minutes from our departure time, and Mike has adjusted well to having me in the car. In fact, he recently bought a box of kleenex so that I didn't need to transport the box from my car to his each week.
As humorous as these changes have been, Mike broke my heart several times. A few weeks after he retired, I asked, "How are you doing?" He replied, "I have my soul back." I was speechless. I wasn't expecting that reply. Then not too long ago, he said, "I am almost getting to the place where I can think of a weekend without sermon preparation or typical weekend responsibilities at the church."
I knew that Mike had served well and deeply with persons in the various congregations he pastored, but I thought that retiring would enable him to relax immediately and adapt to a new weekend pace. The rhythm of ministry is rewarding, but also difficult and grueling. People bring who they are to church life--worship, commitee meetings, fund raising, and all other aspects of participation, which means they bring all sorts of challenges to ministry.
I am so thankful that Mike sits beside me in church. That is a really big deal for us. We cherish our time driving to and from church, wondering about the sermon on the way down, and then discussing the worship experience on the way home. I am so thankful that finally after a year Mike can relax, and experience God's presence so deeply each Sunday. We have grown during the year--with humor and God's blessing realizing that compromise can occur in any part of our married life.
Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana