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Different, not done

A pastor’s retirement means his life of service will be different, but it won’t be done.

I reached up to the top bookshelf and pulled down volume 11 of The History of Civilization, authored by Will and Ariel Durant. The Durants have a knack for making history come alive, so I have read their comprehensive set of histories many times. But I haven’t read it lately, because I need to blow the dust off the book before I nest it next to its companions in the packing box.

Packing box? Why? Because I’m moving. Moving? Why? Because I am retiring from the full-time ministry after 41 years. I spent the first 15 years serving God’s people at Holy Scripture, Fort Wayne, Ind. The last 26 have been spent in Houghton, Michigan, where I have been serving Peace Lutheran Church and our WELS campus ministry at Michigan Technological University.

Since my wife and I were pack rats, retirement means giving tons of stuff away, selling many items, and keeping only what’s most important. Of course, that means all of my fishing equipment, including several hundred 1/64-ounce, lime-green, no-collar, crappie jigheads.

Retirement means leaving the cozy confines of a parsonage warmed by so many memories. This is where my wife, Terry, filled every nook and cranny of each room with Christmas décor each year, turning our home into a winter wonderland that amazed everyone who visited. This is where she worked her culinary magic in the kitchen. And this is where my daughter grew up—as a Yooper. Who’d a thunk it!

Retirement means saying farewell to a family of believers who have become closer than my own flesh and blood, because I am bound to my church family by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13-22).

And retirement means having members, fellow pastors, and folks in the community greet me with, “So, when is your last day?” I can never resist. I respond, “I don’t know. Do you? The psalmist confesses, ‘My times are in your hands’ (Psalm 31:15). Only my heavenly Father knows my last day on this earth.”

My last day of full-time service in Houghton was June 30, 2022. But I pray that was not my last day of service to the Lord. I have already accepted a part-time retirement call to serve the family of believers at Trinity, Minocqua, Wis. I will be installed there, our good Lord willing, on Aug. 21.

To all the boomers joining me and surfing off into the sunset of retirement, I say, “Your retirement day is not your last day.” Not the last day of living for Christ! Not the last day of serving families, congregations, neighbors, and communities in ways far too numerous for me to list here! There is no age-specific expiration date on the encouragement our Lord has shared: “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

And so . . . I dig into a packing box and pull out The Age of Napoleon, the final volume of the Durants’ histories, and put it back on the top shelf in my new home. I look forward to reading it again. Just as I look forward to fishing, gardening, traveling, woodworking, spending time with family and friends, and writing. And learning, exploring, and growing during the next chapter of my life of service to the Lord. Because you see, after retirement, my life will be different, not done.

The Scripture references used in this article are from the Evangelical Heritage Version.

Author: Glenn Schwanke
Volume 109, Number 08
Issue: August 2022

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