Is It Time for a Check-Up?
by The Rev. Dr. Bob Honeychurch
I was one of the fortunate ones. Ordained at the tender age of 27, I was able to exercise The Church Pension Fund’s “early retirement” option when I hit the 30-year mark at age 57.
Of course, at 57, I wasn’t quite ready to move to the deck with a pitcher of iced tea and watch the days pass by. So, before long, I was back at it, looking for meaningful and enriching work. Some might say that I have “failed” at retirement. I, on the other hand, would argue the opposite, that retirement has allowed me to successfully engage life and ministry in ways that simply were not possible during most of my working years.
Since retiring four years ago, my primary work has been as a part-time priest with various congregations in transition in the Diocese of Los Angeles. I spent most of the last several years before my retirement as a full-time consultant and program developer on the staff of the Episcopal Church Center. Now as an interim priest, I find that I am able to bring much of that same consultative approach to congregational life.
I have found that one of the most important needs congregations in transition have is bringing all of the various protocols up-to-date — from position descriptions, to building use policies, to reviewing the vision or mission statements of the congregation. Most of this work had been done sometime in the past, and then got lost in the shuffle of daily congregational life. While not always easy or comfortable for any congregation, the very process of reviewing, revising, and recommitting to the work done in the past is a foundational and life-giving exercise — especially in a congregation in the midst of transition and preparation for its next chapter.
In congregational life, reconnecting our past plans with our present realities enables us to live into a preferred future. This too is necessary in our personal lives. Setting various goals is an important aspect of living an integrated and purposeful life, and an equally important element is following up and checking in on those goals from time to time in the same deliberate way in which those goals were formulated.
Perhaps you cast your original goals as a list of New Year’s resolutions. Or perhaps you determined them at a CREDO conference. Maybe your birthday or the anniversary of your ordination was the impetus for setting goals. Whatever the occasion was, that same moment now can become your opportunity for taking stock of those goals and viewing them in the light of your present circumstances.
Ask yourself, “How have I worked toward the accomplishment of my goals?” “How have my life circumstances changed since I originally developed them?” “Which of those goals are no longer pertinent to my life?” “What new growing edges have come into my life since I developed these goals?” “What is the unique work that God has set before me in a new way?”
Just as is in a congregation, using the three-step approach of “reviewing, revising, and recommitting” in your own life can become the tool for reflecting upon your stated intentions. The purpose of setting personal goals — then checking back into those goals on a regular basis — is that we might live our lives with integrity… integrating the many different aspects of our lives into one cohesive effort, that we might continually live ever more into the people who God is inviting us to become.
Bob Honeychurch is a priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles, where he is currently the Interim Rector at The Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel, and the Professor of Church Leadership at Bloy House, The Episcopal Theological School at Claremont. He is also a faculty member with the Church Pension Group, sharing in the leadership of the Enriching Your Retirement conferences for retired clergy and surviving spouses.