ARMSS: Good as gold

In the 25th chapter of Matthew, we hear of the master who left his holdings to three servants in varying numbers of talents, an ancient denomination of money. One received five talents, one received two and one got a single talent.

The value of the talent in Jesus’ day depended on the metal of which it was made — gold, silver or bronze. The same principle holds true today of the mettle of an individual.

In Jesus’ parable, when the master returned, the servant with five talents had earned five more and the two-talent servant had earned two more. The reward for both was entry into the presence and happiness of the master — but at the same time, each was given multiple responsibilities.

Similarly, after years of service, individuals with multiple talents offer themselves in service to Christ and the church and to other retired ministers as presbytery and synod representatives for the Association of Retired Ministers, their Spouses or Survivors (ARMSS). They keep in touch with the synod pension representatives, welcome new retirees and their spouses, and often initiate and oversee activities for retired ministers and spouses, be they social gatherings, Bible studies, discussion groups or excursions to nearby places of interest.

The judicatory representatives encourage retirees to put their talents to continuing good use. Some retirees feel that the only advantage of retirement is the trinity of cruises, golf and bridge, but for those who have served long and hard it is difficult to end a service-oriented career with pure self-indulgence.

ARMSS representatives disparage isolation. We Presbyterians are known for our connectionality. ARMSS representatives reach out to others with compassion, commitment and a compulsion for connectionalism, not only within the bounds of the synods or even those of the presbyteries, but across the entire breadth of the church.

For some pastors and spouses, retirement is an end to difficult congregational pressures. The ARMSS presbytery representative often takes the stance of a committee on mission person who understands where the newly retired pastor is coming from and can with empathy help the newly retired family with positive strokes.

We understand and acknowledge that the pressures of modern-day ministry often take the entire agenda time of presbytery COM meetings. The ARMSS presbytery representative still provides valuable service to the presbytery by assisting retirees into a positive retirement, or possibly by helping retirement-eligible pastors search for interim positions where they can continue to use talents that have gained in value during their professional lives.

A comment often heard at the end of a retirees’ luncheon or discussion group is, “We’ve got to do this again, and real soon.” It seems there is too little time to enjoy thoroughly the fellowship and too much to recall and discuss to get it all in at the social gathering. Folks who have experienced mission need to spend time together.

It is noteworthy that in the story in Matthew 24, the five-talent and two-talent servants did not say, “Hey, wait a minute, we want to know what it is that we are expected to do before we accept the assignment.” Instead, they realized that they had already contributed to the master’s happiness, and that regardless of what assignment they would receive, they would have the strength and wisdom to carry it out. The master knows what your mission occupational specialty (MOS) is, and God is willing to assign you where you can best serve, as long as you are willing to serve. ARMSS presbytery representatives are ready and willing to help retirees find and fulfill that call to continued service.

Presbytery representatives find that their work is creative, and they encourage creativity in fellowship members whom they assist, whether it finds expression in crafts such as woodworking or sculpture, writing for publication or some other form.

Retirement is an exciting time. It can become more so with the help of ARMSS presbytery representatives who forge and strengthen connections among retirees and to the denomination.

Ken Smith is a small-church pastor who enjoyed ministry and now enjoys ministering to retirees.