At my retirement celebration at the church where my wife and I served as co-pastors for seven years, a member gave me a T-shirt with the words “Retired, but not finished” printed in large letters. He captured a piece of wisdom that had been growing in my heart and mind ever since my wife and I had come to Westminster Shores senior living community in St. Petersburg, Florida. Elders, wise older adults in the church, mentored us by their active involvement in life. They were open to change and to learning. They served in the church; they served in the larger community doing social justice.
Part of my journey has included new friends that I have made in the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network (POAMN), a volunteer organization affiliated with the PC(USA). At an annual POAMN conference, Henry Simmons, Professor Emeritus at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va., introduced me to three questions we each have to answer at each transition point in our lives. These key questions are:
» Who am I?
» What am I going to do and/or be?
» Who am I going to do (be) that with?
At the heart of my life is my relationship with the Trinity, the creator, savior, and sustainer who love me, all other peoples and all of their creation. I spend about an hour, almost daily, reading Scripture, in prayer for others and myself and, most critically, listening silently. As I have asked God the questions of my calling, God often has nudged me through insights as I journal after meditating.
God also has answered my prayer through people calling to ask me to be their spiritual director. I was invited to return to the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation for more training so that I could co-lead an eight month retreat process called Personal Spiritual Deepening Program (PSDP). Entering into relationships with people who hunger for a deeper relationship with God as individuals and in groups is sacred time for me. These new relationships and the PSDP retreats are answering part of the questions of who I am, what I am to do and with whom I will do it.
Another part of who I am and with whom I am in relationship are those I have loved for much of my life. My community includes my wife of 45 years, Jean, my children, my granddaughters, our siblings and their families and old and new friends. I also am learning to give myself permission to have fun doing things like enjoying a sunset with Jean, watching a movie together and reading a good novel.
In this new stage of life, I also have time to learn new skills and gain knowledge. I am considering learning Spanish, how to play the piano and kayaking. And I am continuing to take care of myself with exercise, quiet time for listening and a good diet.
My wife and I also decided to move into a continuing care retirement community after her retirement as pastor. We are delighted with our decision. By making this move, we have already answered big questions about where we will live, who will take care of us when we need that help and who will be with us along with our families to make hard decisions about end-of-life issues.
Because we know this community will be our home, we are both focusing on answering the questions of who we are, what we will be and do and who we will do it with both here at Westminster Shores and in the larger community while we still have plenty of energy. We know our answers will keep changing as we age, but we also know there will be some continuity for us for the rest of our lives. Indeed, I am retired, but not finished.
Bill Cooley is a teaching elder in the PC(USA), honorably retired as co-pastor with his wife, Jean, from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lakeland, Florida. Bill and Jean, live at Westminster Shores, a senior living community and PAHSA member located in St. Petersburg, Florida.