For some Alban readers, December 31 will mark the end of their full-time professional ministries. January 1 will bring the gift of retirement, even if not the end of their ministries. 

In this week’s Weekly, we consider what ministry can look like in retirement. Alban author Bruce Epperly helps frame our view with an essay reflecting on what he learned in writing his new book about clergy retirementThe Jubilee Years. Emmanuel McCall invites new retirees to join “The Barnabas Club” by becoming encouragers for others. Then, we return to the archive to learn from St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Oxford, NC, a church where active lay people are partnering in ministry with retired clergy. I’ve also included an article I wrote several years ago about how we pass wisdom from one generation to the next. We’ll finish the Weekly — and the year — with more about Bruce Epperly’s new book. 

Welcome to the Weekly. 

Entering the jubilee years of ministry

Entering the Jubilee Years of ministry

A Cape Cod pastor and frequent Alban author describes how a friend helped him reframe retirement as a time of jubilee — a time of abundant life and generative service.

Resources for leaders during the pandemic

An invitation to join “The Barnabas Club”

Emmanuel McCall encourages pastors to find in their retirement an opportunity to coach, mentor and develop young pastors — and to encourage weary pastors to keep the faith and keep serving.

Resources for Advent and Christmas

Laity and retired clergy lead together in small congregations

Laity and retired clergy lead together in small congregations

In 2011, our colleagues at Faith & Leadership profiled a congregation in Oxford, NC, and how the gifts of a retired clergyperson helped that church renew its lay ministries.

Passing wisdom from one generation of leaders to the next

Passing wisdom from one generation of leaders to the next

As a generation of congregational leaders moves toward retirement, how might we capture their wisdom and experience to be better leaders in the future?

From the Alban Library

The Jubilee Years: Embracing Clergy Retirement

by Bruce Epperly

The Jubilee Years: Embracing Clergy Retirement

Taking inspiration from the Spanish word for retirement—jubilacion—veteran minister Bruce Epperly challenges and empowers clergy to see retirement as a celebration of new possibilities. Similar in spirit to the Jubilee year described in scripture, retirement can be a time of transformation and exploration, of freedom to try on new versions of yourself and new paths of service. In that spirit, clergy can embrace creative transformation in their relationships, neighborhoods, religious communities, and politics. No longer tethered to the politics and administrative duties of congregational leadership, they can now freely commit themselves to relational, intellectual, and spiritual growth. They can also focus on personal, community, and planetary healing and transformation. Retired clergy can become sages and wisdom givers sharing their insights and energy with seminarians and novice pastors, congregations, and communities.

Bringing together the fruits of conversations with more than 100 retired clergy, theological reflection, and spiritual practices, this text provides a way forward for clergy considering retirement and retired clergy. Based on interviews from persons from diverse denominations, theological perspectives, and ethnic and racial backgrounds, this book garners wisdom from pastors on their retirement journeys, from personal preparation and public announcement to first steps following retirement and long-term adventures.

Before you go…

Each year, when we send the first Alban Weekly of the year, we receive a handful of automatic email responses informing us of readers’ retirements. Some are serious, while some are funny. Each one represents years of service and a life of dedication. 

I would love to know a few of the stories behind the names and emails. What moment in ministry was most meaningful to her? What experience was most formative to him? What challenge was most vexing? What would they do differently given the chance? 

Beyond my curiosity, though, my simple hope is that someone told each of them thanks. Thanks for sharing your gifts, your love, your life. Thanks for the sacrifices you made that no one understood. Thanks for the courage you showed and the compassion you offered. Thanks for your example and your legacy. Thanks for the ways that you will continue to serve.

Ralph Waldo Emerson offers a pseudo-blessing for our readers who are retiring this year: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” We agree. 

To those readers who are not retiring on December 31, we’ll see you next year. In the meantime, may all of us have a very happy and safe holiday. 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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