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A new season of life


by Pr. Kathleen Koran


How do I know the time is right?

What's in my wallet for the days ahead?

How do I practically do this?

What about that "Bucket List"?


I'm staring out with more questions than answers, but that's where the journey toward retirement seems to begin: A restlessness of spirit that seems to have come with every new call. A realization that I have accomplished what I was called to do in this current setting. A joyful sense of having done well in my work, and a readiness to release this ministry to the next leader.


So then, what happens next? Every journey is unique. Decisions are personal. There are books and friends and professionals to offer advice. I'll share a bit of my own journey, for what it's worth, hoping to offer some collegial insight for your own vocational discernment.


How do I know the time is right?

As much as I have found joy and fulfillment in my ministry, I have also begun to recognize a certain weariness. I don't have the energy I once did. Late meetings and driving long distances at night in sometimes uncertain weather has become more and more challenging. Others who've blazed this retirement path before me have shared some of those same concerns. There is a personal awareness that I don't have the physical stamina I once had.


I also know the church is changing--needs to change--for a new culture and time. I wonder if I have the imagination for this new church. I know I have an encouraging spirit paired with a solid foundation in Lutheran theology and tradition. Maybe the time has come for me to support and mentor and encourage new leaders with new imagination for this new church. Maybe it's time to open a space to listen for God's call to a new kind of leadership.


There is also this realistic acceptance that there are fewer years ahead than there are behind. I hope there are a lot of years ahead, but still. My spouse and I have worked hard, raised our children, paid off the mortgage and at least for today as far as we know are healthy and well and in our right minds. Mostly. After 39 years of marriage we enjoy each other's company more than ever, and want to be able to spend more time together.


So, it seems the time is right.


What's in my wallet for the days ahead? 

Do we have the resources to retire? We've consulted--and are consulting--with several financial advisors. Members of Portico Benefit Services have a wealth of people available to them to help with planning, from the first day of enrollment and throughout our retirements. Each person will have personal advisors and resources. Use every resource at hand.


We've contributed to our pension plans consistently our entire working lives, even when it was difficult and the budget was tight. So it seems now, that as well as any of us can guarantee, we will have adequate income in our retirement years. The wallet is flush.


How do I practically do this? 

Determine your date of retirement. I have found Portico's retirement planning resources to be organized and simple to understand. Paired with a personal advisor, I'll move through some more specific decision making in the days ahead.


For Portico members, a notification of retirement form for the Bishop's signature makes retirement official. For rostered ministers, a conversation with the bishop should happen at least 30 days ahead of your planned transition. Most pastors begin this conversation 6 months to a year ahead of their expected retirement date. Retirement decisions affect an extended group, whether congregation or specialized ministry, and transition leadership needs to be recruited. Although the minimum advance notification to a congregation is 30 days, six weeks to six months feels more reasonable. The wisdom across the church seems again to suggest a maximum of a year. Some pastors are announcing their retirements several years in advance. Again, the decision will be based on a multitude of individual factors.


What about that "Bucket List"?

For Gary and I, retirement from our current work has been paired with a sure calling to a new season of exploration and engagement in life. We are excited about renewed opportunity to enjoy home, and visit family scattered across the United States. We plan to pick up musical instruments that have languished for attention in recent years, and buy a new pair of garden gloves to begin reclaiming the landscape in Carmel. We'll hang the bird feeder again and refresh the koi pond. We have some walking paths and bridges and labyrinths to explore near and far, some weekend folk and craft festivals to attend, and--true confessions--may sleep in a Sunday or two now and then. But we're ready too! Ready to engage in the life and ministry of a single congregational. Look out Emanuel, Pleasantville, we're coming home!


I am trusting in God's nudging as we move into this new season of life. I am trusting that God is leading now as God always has. I am trusting that God still has some great new adventures planned for us. Blessings and joy to you as you consider God's call, and the possibilities in a new season of life and ministry.

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