One year retired.
Today is the first anniversary of my retirement as Rector of St Clement’s. It has been a year of ups and downs, but mainly ups. As some of you have found, being suddenly released from all manner of responsibilities can be an unsettling experience. Of course it is, quite literally, liberating: one is suddenly freed from many duties. But if one has been used to a daily and weekly routine, it can be odd to have the necessity of finding a new routine – or none at all. We have all experienced this in a minor version when taking vacations.
Everyone solves this in their own way. This is what I have done so far.
First I took a real vacation and went almost literally from the altar to the airport. I flew to London and saw several close friends there before traveling north to Edinburgh for a couple of weeks. I grew up south of Edinburgh, studied in Edinburgh for four years and was a Curate and then a Rector of two churches in that city for fifteen years; so many of my roots are there. But I lived and worked in London for six years, as well as knowing it well from my four years at Oxford and three when I taught at Salisbury Theological College. So I think of both cities, really, as “home”. I also had side trips to Norwich to stay with Canon Haselock, the ever-hospitable Sub-Dean of the Cathedral, and a visit with him to Our Lady of Walsingham, that powerful shrine which I first visited in the 1960′s. I would like to have visited other friends, but somehow felt I had to get back to Philadelphia and get on with organizing a retirement house or apartment. But having done that, I now feel up to making a resolution that in this second year of my retirement I would like to go back and visit the places where my vocation has taken me.
All this is very well and good, but do I have the energy? Well, the answer is – Sometimes. I have had four hip replacements (if I were a horse, they would have shot me!) and this slows one down a bit. And all airports are a pain in the neck, though I have friends here in Philly who seem to think nothing of hopping off to Europe or California or China at the drop of a hat. I think my job as Vicar-General of the Anglican Diocese of Europe has cured me of the wish to travel too much. However, the desire to see old friends in my former parishes is stronger than my distaste for travel, so I intend to see as many of them as is possible. Hence, I hope during my second year of retirement to visit several places in the UK as well as Ankara, Stockholm, Gibraltar and Milan .
Meanwhile, back to my first year of retirement. After my time in the UK I found a very bright, sunny loft apartment in the centre of Philadelphia and moved my possessions there from the storage unit where I deposited them right after I left St Clement’s Rectory. The loft is just one huge space, with the bedroom up some stairs on a balcony. All my life as a priest has been spent in spacious, many-roomed Rectories or Deaneries, and I wondered how I would adjust to this one space. But I have to say I have enjoyed it enormously. Different corners behave like different rooms, so that I can still say I have a study, a sitting room, a dining room and a kitchen, as well as a bathroom and laundry room and large walk-in closets. But one difference is, of course, that for the first time in my life I have had to pay rent and things like electric bills! This would not have been the case if I had ever been a Vicar in the Church of England, since they do have to pay utility bills (and this partly explains why the C of E has been selling off the vast old Rectories that every parish used to have and replacing them with modern houses). But in the Scottish Episcopal Church and the American Episcopal Church, these bills are paid by the congregations. This is true also of the Diocese in Europe. But I must say this opened my eyes a little as to how the clergy (or some of us, at any rate) are shielded from some of the everyday realities of normal life.
I’ve spent the rest of my first year of retirement in Philadelphia apart from a four-day trip to Toronto for the annual conference of the Society of Catholic Priests, of which I am a member. This was my first visit to Canada, and I was greatly impressed by the city of Toronto. The conference was very interesting; I gave one of the talks – on the spiritual significance of the three words in our Society’s title – and our thirty or forty participants worshipped in several of the Anglo-Catholic churches of the city. I also had a short visit to Palm Springs and several to Washington D.C. But I am always happy to return to Philadelphia. It is a great city which is growing all the time. Some of the best restaurants in America are here, skyscrapers are shooting up, every sidewalk seems to be covered in cafe tables, the museums and art galleries are world-class (including the lovely newly-located Barnes Collection).
Church-wise, I have been very happy to be made Rector-Emeritus of St Clement’s and to be able to help Fr Alton, my successor, by saying one Mass per week, which gives him a day off. On many Sundays I also go to St Clement’s but more and more I am being asked to celebrate and preach in other churches of this diocese and even further afield. The pressure of the full life of a Rector is off, and one of the greatest joys I have rediscovered is to be able to say the whole Divine Office privately. I love Solemn Evensong and Benediction sung to Anglican Chant and Elgar, but what feeds my own spiritual life most is faithfulness to the quiet recitation of the Office. However, if I keep to my intention to visit all my old spheres of ministry from Inverness to Gibraltar, much of the Office will have to be said in airports!
In spite of the slightly discombobulating (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a Blog entry!) experience of retirement, I have enjoyed and gained much from my first year. Now let’s see what the Holy Spirit has in mind for the second.