Hi, my name is Doug.
I write little essays about faith and life.
I also laugh at my own jokes and correct other people's grammar.
I'm far from perfect.
This is my blog.

“Retirement” and this thing called ministry

I’ve been using the word “retirement” for the last few years mainly as a joke, as though it were some distant possibility, certainly not something that I needed to worry about any time soon.

And then, last week, what had seemed so distant and unlikely suddenly became a reality. I am planning to retire early next year, six months from now.

Speaking the word aloud – as in “I am going to retire” – turned out to be surprisingly difficult. I nearly cried the first time I told someone. I don’t know what I expected. I suppose I had expected to grin and pop open the champagne. Certainly not tears.

I have been a pastor for nearly 40 years. I will observe the 37th anniversary of my ordination in September, and before that I worked in churches as a “student pastor” and “graduate intern,” carefully chosen titles which no longer communicate much to me. In any case, when you add it up, I’ve been doing this thing called ministry in a church setting for nearly 40 years without much of a pause along the way.

“This thing called ministry” was not what I imagined doing with my life. I resisted it for what seemed like a long time and only surrendered to it when it appeared that I had no choice. I had seminary classmates who were so eager to get started that they proudly wore clerical collars on their first day of class. That was not me. I sort of backed into this life and even felt mildly embarrassed that first year when I would wear my only suit and funeral directors would call me “pastor.”

Over time, though, I grew into the role. The church people I served taught me how to love them, and I did.

Today I can’t imagine having been anything other than a “pastor,” but those early memories of hesitation and awkwardness are vivid ones. This was not what I wanted for myself, but when I embraced it and started down the long path that has led me to this point, I threw myself into it. I tried to be the best pastor I was capable of being. I am proud of what I’ve done.

And now, suddenly, or so it seems, this life as a pastor is coming to an end. I realize that in many ways I will still live out this role in the months and years to come. There is no way to retire from an identity like this particular one. But I plan to spend my time doing a few other things that I have not been able to do, things not having to do with church.

I’ve already learned a new language – or at least made considerable progress toward learning one – so that’s no longer on my bucket list, but there are a few other things that I have wanted to do.

Being a grandfather would be at the top of that list. I’m happy to say that I had two good role models earlier in my life. And I’d like to do it at least as well as they did it for me. Offering a lot of unconditional love (and having an endless supply of candy) can’t be a bad way to spend the next few years of my life.

 

Comments { 18 }

Here’s an Oscar-worthy video about my new book

Comments { 7 }

Bad timing for my new book? I don’t think so

Timing may not be everything in the publishing world – a few other factors are important too – but bad timing is never good for the launch of a new book.

In the forward to my just-published book, How to Become a Multicultural Church, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson points out that most western democracies are having a hard time right about now with multiculturalism, especially with what feels like a rising tide of refugees, immigrants, and others who are, well, different from the rest of us.

In the recent presidential election, Donald Trump successfully tapped into the fears and anxieties that many Continue Reading →

Comments { 7 }

I was there to hear your borning cry

As I write this, I am getting ready to travel to the U.S. for my mother’s 90th birthday. She is doing well, she lives independently, and (like the Queen of England) she still drives, though not as much as in the past, mainly for her weekly hair appointment. Continue Reading →

Comments { 13 }

Dachau and my friend John O’Melia

After visiting European cathedrals, castles, gardens, and museums, I finally visited my first concentration camp on a cloudy and cold Friday afternoon in April. Continue Reading →

Comments { 12 }

“Translation services” on Easter

 

Image result for how to become a multicultural church

Last night a church member called to ask if we would be offering “translation services” to Arabic or Kurdish speaking people on Easter morning. She is tutoring refugee women in her village, and a half dozen or more are apparently interested in coming to Zürich for worship. Continue Reading →

Comments { 3 }

Pierre Spoerri, 1926 – 2017

Pierre Spoerri was born in 1926. He died in late February after climbing into the backseat of a taxi in front of the Convita Bethanien, where he lived with his wife Fulvia. His memorial service was held at the French Reformed Church in Zürich on March 9, 2017. Continue Reading →

Comments { 3 }

My most embarrassing moment

When I was 10 years old, I won second prize in my school’s annual “prose and poetry” competition and got to read my entry in front of an all-school assembly.

I nearly always use those words in my biography to get a laugh, but the truth is, the prize was for me a life-altering event. Continue Reading →

Comments { 5 }

A dry and desiccated spirit

Something has happened to me over the last several months. I seem to have lost my voice.

The campaign, the election, the painful period between election and inauguration, and now the first stumbling weeks of a new administration – in it all, I seem to have lost my ability to speak. I still preach most Sundays at my church in Zurich, so it’s not that voice that seems to have gone away. It’s something else. Continue Reading →

Comments { 13 }

My first Christmas sermon

I was 24 years old when I preached my first Christmas morning sermon. I was not the congregation’s first choice, but they had few options.

Between my second and third years of seminary, I took some time to get married and to test drive this thing called ministry. I became what was called then a “student pastor” in a university town in Iowa, where I hoped to learn the ropes from a seasoned pastor. Continue Reading →

Comments { 5 }