By William Hull
“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”
— Allen Saunders, 1957
These words accurately describe the last year for me and my wife, Sibyl. Six years ago, I retired as pastor of a PC(USA) church I organized and served for 28 years. Six months later, I “flunked” retirement and became the interim pastor of a Disciples of Christ church that I was related to through Family Promise, an ecumenical, interfaith ministry to homeless families. This was the most truly diverse congregation I ever served, and I valued how this ministry stretched me and deepened my faith in God and my commitment to mission.
During my ministry, among other volunteer activities, I served as a board member on several Presbyterian-related ministries that provided services and housing for older adults. One of these was Westminster Communities of Florida where I was a board member for a number of years. Seeing the depth of the commitment to mission and the financial strength of this ministry, my wife and I had decided to move into one of the Westminster communities, probably when we reached our 80s. We are currently in our early 70s.
To our surprise, we decided last fall to change our plans and we are now living at Westminster Shores in St. Petersburg, Florida. Among the many reasons Sibyl and I made this decision was our desire to make a fresh start; taking a new look at our “energy, intelligence, imagination and love;” knowing we are in the last quarter of our lives; and wanting to be freed from challenges of property ownership and other responsibilities so that we could give more of ourselves in service to God and others.
In that regard, this transition has exceeded our expectations. In contrast to my previous inclinations, I imposed on myself the discipline of refusing any new commitments for at least the first six months after we moved. I continued my involvement in a clergy support group that I helped organize when I first retired. This group employs a professional counselor to facilitate meetings. For the first two years, the cost was supported by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The membership of this support group is ecumenical, and it has provided a safe and nurturing place for all of us.
Other than that, I stayed the course on my commitment, and have appreciated the opportunity to take a fresh look at my calling. I am still active in living my faith while I explore new ways and opportunities for serving. Living in this faith-based community greatly enhances my freedom to seek and consider fresh pathways.
It is my desire to find a place of service in the Westminster Shores community, in a local church and in the St. Petersburg community. One of the groups I joined soon after we moved to Westminster Shores was a weekly contemplative prayer ministry. It has been a growth experience for me to embrace this form of spiritual nurture.
I am also afforded ways to explore new hobbies and recreations, something I previously tended to neglect. For example, I have recently taken up fly fishing – something I wanted to do since I was a child, but never did because I told myself I did not have the time.
Now that the six months are passed, I have become a member of the Resident Advisory Council for Westminster Shores. My wife and I are prayerfully seeking a church home here in St. Petersburg where we can be active in Bible study, worship and mission. And I am still exploring options for service in the St. Petersburg community – there are many!
“Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” And, that is a gift from God!
While my search for further volunteer involvement is a work in progress, I am excited by and grateful for the opportunities I now have for greater growth and deeper involvement in living and sharing my faith.
My parents taught me (primarily by example) that we are not saved by works, but we are saved for works of compassion and love.
Near the close of my theological education at Columbia Theological Seminary, I committed myself to live out the model of ministry offered in 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us” (NRSV).
I celebrate that God has gifted to me the freedom and opportunity to explore and engage new ways to serve and, in the process, has enabled me to continue growing into the image of God that is in all people.
WILLIAM HULL is an honorably retired PC(USA) teaching elder. He served as pastor at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church in Bradenton, Florida, and interim pastor at Central Christian Church of Bradenton.