An invitation to the June 15 retirement gathering was mailed to Lory and me with a note that said, “You can’t decline.” We smiled, then Lory held it up the way a prosecutor holds up evidence to the jury and said, “This makes it real.”
It’s not as if the reality of the approaching finish line in my 29-year Westport marathon hasn’t found its way into the deepest recesses of my mind…and heart. Of course it has. It’s been a long good-bye, or final chapter, to be sure. But reality has a way of disguising itself, with a little help from its friend and companion denial.
Denial helps us to keep from dwelling on a sharp loss, pushing it below the surface so that we don’t lock our eyes on it: out of sight, out of mind. Two cheers for denial!
But denial doesn’t dominate the days leading to a designated date. For example, the reality of my retirement from full-time ministry inserted itself into the Boston trip two weeks ago – the last one in a 29-link chain of annual coming-of-age pilgrimages, plus two adult trips; or was it three?
Reality popped its head up last Tuesday evening with the fourth and final session of Building Your Own Theology, which I’ve generally done twice a year, for either four or five sessions, forging a chain of over 50 groups.
Last Sunday’s announcement that an interim minister has been hired by the Board brought the reality face-to-face. There’s something about having a real person, Roberta Finkelstein, ready to begin her work with the congregation and staff, that cuts through denial like a hot knife cutting butter.
Though I was, appropriately, not involved in that decision, I will be very much involved in the transition. Roberta will be meeting with me and the staff next week and we will do all we can to have her two year interim ministry do what it is intended to do – first, to keep the ship afloat, with full sails, and secondly to pave the road for a smooth transition to the next called minister.
The most frequently asked question I hear is, “Will you be living in Westport?” That’s an easy one: yes. Carlyn will graduate from Cleveland Institute of Music in two weeks, and she will continue her work at CIM as a grad student for two more years.
A not-so-easy question is, “What are your plans?” I decided, some time ago, that I would keep my focus on what I’m doing now – to have the best final chapter I can. I’m satisfied — it has been a great year, marching by the mile stones: the last Home Coming, Christmas Eve and reading of Dickens’ Christmas Carol; the last Easter and the above-mentioned mile markers.
The future will come and I’ll respond to it. I’ll preach at Chautauqua, spend time in Maine at my cabin and at my daughter Sue’s place and ease my way into retirement. Sounds good.