St Mary's Uttoxeter

Retired but not Retiring

24 Sep 2019 • Articles

The concept of retirement is scarcely any older than the average person who now draws a pension. Before the introduction of pensions and the welfare state, few people could afford to stop working and there were no set ages when workers could be told that they were too old to continue.

October marks three years since I retired from my final stipendiary post as a Vicar in Rochester Diocese. My farewell service was a lovely event attended by friends and parishioners whom I had known and worked with for nearly eleven years, and it featured lots of gestures of gratitude and goodwill, including hand-made cards from the children of the local school and the Sunday School.

At my collation and induction service in 2005 when I was installed as Vicar of the parish, I was ceremonially presented with the keys of the church door and led by the Archdeacon to the Vicar's seat; then representatives of the parish gave me a Bible, a service book, a jug of water and the silver communion vessels. These actions signified the authority and the responsibilities with which I was being entrusted: to lead the church in my care and to ensure that it was a welcoming place where sincere people could gather together to worship God, to hear God's word being read and explained, to be baptized and confirmed, and to share in the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist. In my address, replying to the traditional actions of the presenting of the holy gifts, I suggested that the event might seem similar to a show-business award presentation, but that in fact it had a far greater significance and the items I had received were of far greater value than any Oscar or showbiz Golden Globe. Worldly medals and awards have a passing value and a fading glamour, but the symbols of faith have a significance which lasts eternally.

It was over a decade later, and three years ago now, when I gave my last public performance on the stage of that parish.However, retirement is not preventing me from playing a few gigs at other venues, because the sacred drama of faith goes on all around God's globe. The calendar cannot make the curtain fall on priesthood or faith - rather, we will all discover that our endeavours at any time in this life are only a short rehearsal or a matinee compared to our final, full-life, Royal Command appearance in heaven.