Chaplains to Retired Clergy
The following is reprinted from the Summer 2014 issue of the North Carolina Disciple.
Like many others who have spent their lives working, when clergy retire, a world of fresh opportunities and surprising adventures opens up for them. Many consider it the time to “rewire” and begin new pursuits or expand interests held in abeyance.
One clergyperson who has rewired is the Rev. Bill Brettmann. “When I retired 15 years ago,” recalls Brettmann, “I began working with a community college to develop programs that have included museum trips, history tours, and, recently, a course on the legacy of the Great War that necessitated a trip to Belgium and France. This non-ecclesiastical work has provided me with learning experiences that have enriched me intellectually and spiritually.”
Others have used the opportunity retirement presents to improve physical well-being. The Rev. Barbara Platt-Hendren, who, after 43 years in lay and ordained ministry made a pledge with her husband, Shelby, to nurture each other in a new and healthy lifestyle. Like many retired clergy, she continues to support the Church by serving as supply clergy twice a month and “looks forward to whatever new adventures Christ has in mind for us.”
The Rev. Winston Charles says his “rewirement” goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. On the sublime side, he says, “I am going deeper into contemplative prayer and spirituality and sharing this in churches, spiritual direction, and retreats.” On the ridiculous side, “I joined a team that shoots pool on Thursday nights at Buck’s Billiards.”
These vignettes are examples of the myriad ways in which retired clergy remain active spiritually, intellectually and physically. As they enjoy traveling, studying, continued church ministry, grand-parenting, gardening and so much more, retired clergy are supported by the strong commitment of the bishops and diocesan staff to nurture not only their well-being, but that of their spouses, including surviving spouses. This commitment begins with the Bishop’s welcome and invitation to retired clergy to be involved in diocesan structures and congregations, regardless of their canonical residence, and bring their wisdom and faith to the Church.
In 2006, the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina extended its commitment to retired clergy, their spouses and surviving spouses, when the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, in partnership with the Church Pension Group (CPG) and with strong assistance from the Rev. George Poffenbarger and the Rt. Rev. Alfred “Chip” Marble, began the Chaplains to the Retired program. From its inception, the program’s goal has been to promote wellness and a pastoral presence among clergy when they leave active ministry. Seven Chaplains to the Retired and three co-chaplains, all appointed by Bishop Curry, now serve in their convocations promoting programs, such as CPG’s Enriching Your Retirement, and acting as a resource and support.
The Rt. Rev. Anne E. Hodges-Copple works closely with these chaplains, time she considers well spent. “I have been meeting with the chaplains for almost a year,” says Bishop Hodges-Copple. “From the start I was impressed with their zeal to reach out to clergy and their spouses across the diocese. Through networking and communications, pastoral care and fellowship, they have connected clergy to wider resources in the church.”
With their long-held faith and their accumulation of experience learned over many years in many different circumstances, our retired clergy are truly wise elders.