Living into God’s Work: Chaplains to the Retired
by The Reverend Laura V. Queen
Being passionate about our purpose and providing trustworthy support for church leadership and ministry are fundamental to the Church Pension Group’s (CPG) corporate vision. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CPG has worked diligently to address the needs of the Church in many ways. In addition to our benefit relief efforts, we have increased our communications and offered many virtual education opportunities. Through concerted efforts with the Chaplains to the Retired program in our Education & Wellness department, we have worked to reach out to retirees and beneficiaries. We have done all of this in support for and appreciation of your leadership, your faith, and your love for The Episcopal Church.
The Chaplains to the Retired program has stepped up with us to better fulfill our vision. The program has proven to be one of the most significant ways that we do our best to provide passionate care for our retired members and their beneficiaries. The leadership of CPG embraces this program. Both staff and trustees understand the need for relational support and care for the beneficiaries of The Church Pension Fund as being essential to our vision of care and compassion. As people over 65 have remained sheltered, out of circulation, and socially distanced, the 270 appointed chaplains in the program have been working diligently to help us to connect with and care for the retirees and beneficiaries throughout the Church. Through the program, CPG is currently serving over 10,000 retired clergy and their spouses and 3,000 surviving spouses.
As the Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop stated, “…through the Chaplains program we have been able to assist many dioceses with a systematic, thoughtful, intentional approach to the pastoral care for retirees, their spouses, and beneficiaries.”
The Chaplains to the Retired program is an important chapter in CPG’s story. This vital program began over 15 years ago as a way to help retirees transition into retirement and to address the myriad of pastoral needs and concerns of that life in retirement.
My colleague, Sean Scheller, and I like to say that the chaplains are our boots on the ground, helping us to inform, engage, and inspire our members. The chaplains are charged with the care and nurture of the personal relationships with our retired members—they hear and share the stories of the Church. Throughout the year, the chaplains help us to host and meet with retirees for our Enriching Your Retirement programs.
During this pandemic, our Pastoral Care team has delivered educational resources specific to the needs for people over age 60. We have also encouraged increased communications and systems of support to help improve the quality of life for all of the retirees of The Church Pension Fund Clergy Pension Plan, their spouses, and beneficiaries. The chaplains have made a concerted effort to contact as many of our retirees and beneficiaries as possible. In the month of June, they were responsible for contacting over 7,100 of our retirees and beneficiaries to share valuable information regarding fraud prevention that we gathered from our program in collaboration with AARP and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
As Chaplains to the Retired reached out, they heard stories of distressing trials and boundless joy. They have provided comfort to isolated surviving spouses and offered a personal connection to long-forgotten bishops. They have been witnesses to new love and romance, to debilitating illness and death, and happy virtual reunions with family and friends. They have listened to tales of worry and woe about technology, physical health, and psychological well-being. Throughout this difficult time, even while staying home, they have achieved milestones of their own and celebrated anniversaries, birthdays, weddings—and lives well lived.
The narrative of our journey of faith, especially during this crisis, is an important account of hope and love, of trials and resilience. It needs to be nurtured. We are all God’s children made in the likeness and image of God, and we each have stories that weave God’s love into the fabric of our lives and into our communities. Our stories can bring light and hope into a world that desperately needs to embrace history, tradition, and joyful expectation. I would like to invite everyone to reach out to a retiree, to make the effort to connect with the surviving spouse. Spend a few minutes listening and sharing, strengthening bonds, and gaining so much from understanding the power and grace of a life faithfully lived, a life of faithful service to The Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Laura V. Queen is the Assistant Vice President of Pastoral Care in the Education & Wellness department at CPG. Laura has served as a rector, associate rector, chaplain to Episcopal retirement communities, and a missioner for youth and camping in the Dioceses of Massachusetts and Los Angeles. Laura commutes from her home in Stratford, Connecticut, to her office in New York, where she enjoys working and traveling with the CPG team. She has been married to her supportive spouse for 26 years.