“How’s the farewell tour going?”

Yesterday a church member said to me, “How’s the farewell tour going?”

I suppose this had something to do with my upcoming retirement, and I will assume (because of my natural good-heartedness) that the comment was meant in jest, but it hit the ear wrong. I found myself tearing up unexpectedly.

It’s true that I am in the last months of my ministry here in Switzerland, and I’ve been thinking that there might be some wisdom that I could pass along – or at least note for my own benefit.

I thought about keeping a journal over these last weeks and months, with a view toward writing my next book, but my editor told me – in the nicest possible way – that I’d have to think of a much more clever angle than that. Books about retirement, she said, are not big sellers.

The coordinator of the men’s breakfast asked if I would speak at the November gathering and “kind of sum up my career,” as he put it, as though that could be done in 20 minutes, including time for Q&A.

So, here are some preliminary thoughts, a kind of rough draft for my presentation to the men:

  • Not long ago I considered myself to be at the top of my game. There wasn’t a situation or crisis that I hadn’t seen before – or couldn’t think my way through. At about the same time, though, I realized that what I knew about ministry was slowly becoming obsolete. My training wasn’t bad; it was just dated. Funny how the “top of my game” feeling should happen so close to the “my approach to this work is dated” realization.
  • I’m not as patient as I used to be. I used to listen to people quite patiently years ago, people who weren’t inclined to accept my advice or who didn’t care much about what I had to say. I listened anyway, thinking that was what I was supposed to do. And now, I find myself drawn to Jesus’ words when he cut off a complainer by saying, “Do you want to be healed?”
  • There’s a proverb – I’m pretty sure it’s in the Book of Proverbs – that blessing should always precede wisdom. I’ve always taken that to mean that what other people want from me, first of all, is blessing. And then, possibly, though not always, they will ask for my wisdom. Either way, I should always begin with blessing, as in “you’re really good at that” or “I think you have a gift.” These words might one day lead to someone saying, “What do you think about…?” or “what would you do in this situation?” At this point in my life, I am concentrating on giving blessings, not knowing if anyone will ask for wisdom, of which I have quite a lot, in my humble opinion.
  • Not long ago David Letterman was quoted as saying, “Anyone who retires to spend more time with family should first ask for the family’s opinion.” It’s a good line, one I should probably pay attention to. Among other things, as I have written here, I hope to spend more time with my family in retirement. What I haven’t heard yet is that anyone wants to spend more time with me. If that turns out to be true, look for me greeting shoppers at Walmart.

That’s all I have for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll post it here. In the meantime, you all are really good at what you do. I mean it.

(Photo: Back in Holland – Michigan, that is – my shoes are waiting!)

About Doug

I’ve been a writer ever since I won second prize in a fifth grade “prose and poetry” contest. I’m also a Presbyterian pastor, and I’ve served churches in New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, and Florida. Today I am pastor of the International Protestant Church of Zürich, Switzerland.

13 Responses to “How’s the farewell tour going?”

  1. Carter Good October 18, 2017 at 5:58 am #

    Hope yesterday’s unexpected connection was as pleasurable for you as it was for me. You are most dear to my soul Doug. In the spirit of John 17, I will always think of you as my pastor, but mostly I will always hope to have been considered as your friend. Now, off to Panera’s with Malcolm.

    • Doug October 18, 2017 at 7:50 am #

      Say hi to Malcolm from me!

  2. Danelle Marquardt October 18, 2017 at 8:18 am #

    Hi: Two things, among many, that I didn’t know: You’re retiring. You think what you know is obsolete???? Quote attributed to Socrates – “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” Language, details and settings may change, but basic human nature remains the same I think, which makes your wisdom, advice, and sermons continually relevant. I think our blog’s crossed paths this week. I filled out my social security benefits papers this weekend so my blog is dealing with my attitude towards retirement. Glad to see you made it back down the mountain in one piece.

    Dani

    • Doug October 18, 2017 at 8:54 am #

      Hi Danelle, I went right to your post, not quite believing that you were old enough to retire, but apparently you’re getting ready. Good for you. Here’s the link for anyone interested in Danelle’s excellent new blog…http://www.canwebecivil.com/

      For what it’s worth (and this may have to be expanded in a future post), I don’t think a pastor’s heart changes or goes out of date. But what I value in ministry no longer seems to be what others value. The way I understand the church has been turned on its head. A new generation of pastors has come along with new ideas, and it’s time for those ideas, we need them, and so it’s time for me and others in my generation to step aside. The church will be better for it.

  3. Jean Spyksma October 18, 2017 at 8:33 am #

    You probably know that retired church workers (pastors and musicians) end up serving as fill-Ins on a pretty regular basis. You’ll probably be able continue to do what you are good at without a lot of the aggravation of a full time position. Of course, that’s also without the salary. Good music is going for about $150 these days. I don’t know what a good sermon is worth!

    • Doug October 18, 2017 at 8:45 am #

      Hi Jean, at that rate I’m thinking Walmart is a better option.

  4. TCATR October 18, 2017 at 8:51 am #

    You are most dear to my soul Doug. In the spirit of John 17, I will always think of you as my pastor, but mostly I will always hope to have been considered as your friend. Now, off to Panera’s with Malcolm. Sorry I had to steal this from a previous comment, because it is how I have felt about you. I miss your sermons and First Pres hasnt been the same!

  5. Betty Hemstad October 18, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

    Hummmmmmmm…those wooden shoes are spotless. Even though we haven’t met, I’m wishing those shoes will take you to the back roads and maybe even on some trails in the nearest forest. Enjoy God’s great creation!

  6. icaregion1 October 18, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

    I sincerely hope you continue the blog,,,,I can’t seem to get mine going and yours seems to roll off your pen, or tongue or whatever,.

  7. Barbara Keith October 18, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

    You are much to good as a minister and are so very “missed” at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale. I vote for your return to “First Pres” and you will be welcomed with open arms and smiling faces. Please come back … WE NEED YOU! Barb & Tom

  8. Andrew Gifford October 19, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    I will wave the next time I sail past Holland. Enjoy your time and how God continues to speak to you. I don’t think it will be at Walmart…maybe Amazon.

  9. karen parkinson, wheaton November 1, 2017 at 12:47 pm #

    Dear Doug,
    It was great to read your blog. I am sorry to say I had not read it for a while. I want to say Thank You for encouraging Ericka to attend Princeton Seminary and graduate. I attended the Church she serves in Michigan City. She presented a Wonderful Sermon and quoted her time at Princeton. The members of the Church gave me Wonderful Words. As I entered the Church I was greeted with Welcome Oma, and at the coffee hour as I thanked all who give much to her I was told she gives much to us. Remember she walked in the same steps you walked.
    Thank You, Doug, Karen Parkinson

    • Doug November 7, 2017 at 10:22 am #

      I wish I could hear Ericka preach! I’m so glad you were able to do that recently, and I’m glad her congregation gave you a warm welcome. It’s good to hear from you, Karen.

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