“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
June 22, 2016
“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” - George Bernard Shaw
Kathy and I had supper with the members of our Retired Clergy Association last evening at St. Philip’s. We arrived a little late and, because the doors and windows were open at the church hall, could hear them all from the parking lot. And a boisterous crowd they were! There were nearly 60 of them and they were a joy to be with. The retired clergy meet throughout the year but on two occasions – Christmas and June – they gather with spouses and widows and a few others to share a meal, remember the past, and give thanks for one another. Last night was such a time with many stories, much laughter, and lots of fun.
I always feel humbled and honoured to be among the retired clergy of the church. A great many of them were ordained even before I was born and have been part of my life in many ways from the beginning. I have learned pretty much all that I know about parish and diocesan ministry from the older clergy of the diocese and that learning continues for me every time I am with them. Many have known hardship in different ways over the years and responded with what I call “graceful stubbornness” to get the job done and complete the work they set out to do. It is a worthy example for all of us to follow.
In some ways the retired clergy of Newfoundland and Labrador are worthy heirs to the words of Bishop Aubrey Spencer to the Church in England from about 1840 when he was seeking clergy to work here. I know Spencer’s language is dated and not inclusive but, taken in the spirit of the day, his words are most enlightening:
“The Missionary in Newfoundland has certainly great hardships to endure, and more difficult obstacles to surmount than those which await the messenger of the Gospel in New Zealand or India, or perhaps in any field of labour yet opened to the known world. He must have strength of constitution to support him under a climate as rigorous as Iceland, a stomach insensible to sea-sickness, pedestrian powers and an ability to rest occasionally on the bed of a fisherman of the hard boards of a woodsman’s tilt. With these, he must combine a patient temper, and energetic spirit, a facility to adapt his speech to the lowest grades of intellect, a ready power of explaining and illustrating the leading doctrines of the Gospel of the Church to the earnest though dull and ill-informed inquirer.”
A curious feature of life for most of our retired clergy today is that they don’t actually retire so much as shift gears when the time comes to collect a pension. Most still take a turn at the altar and pulpit on Sundays and some continue to administer parishes well into retirement. It’s as if their life’s work was just too important to allow a silly retirement date to get in the way.
I am grateful for the retired clergy of this church, for their partners in life, and for those who find themselves widowed after many years. I hold them all in my heart today and will say a prayer of thanksgiving for them and for their ministries past, present and future.
I encourage you to do the same. With my every blessing, +Geoff