Iâ€™m taking some PTO today from hospice . . . personal time off. Not long from now, after walking the dog and munching on breakfast granola, Iâ€™ll aim the car north on Highway 99 for a church meeting.
This year, the Annual Conference for the California-Nevada region of the United Methodist Church, will gather in lovely Modesto. A nice little city.
I will attend for a few hours.
Today, in the last calendar hours of spring, I will be at the Modesto conclave so that I can hear my name read as one of the newly retired clergy. This gray-haired old coot will do the official deed, shifting from an â€œactiveâ€ to a â€œretiredâ€ minister.
No bells. No whistles. No parade. Rumor has it that I get a swell medallion for a keepsake. The church is nothing if not generous.
Maybe forty-five years ago, I had my first wade in the water of denominational gatherings where ordination was discussed. At some hazy point in the past, I declared my candidacy for the ministry and a group of men (yeah, it was mostly men then) had to ask me a few come-to-Jesus questions and either recommend or not recommend that I move on to some other committee for more approval or disapproval. I was ordained a deacon on a hot June night in Redding, California in 1977. The rest is history and mystery, rural churches and campus ministry, hospice and new church starts. Oh, the failures I had. Oh, the joy I shared.
The first communion I officially served as a newly ordained fella was at Lake Ireland in the Yosemite backcountry with a group of church youth.
Since then, a thousand weddings, a thousand baptisms, a thousand funerals.
The best sermons I gave had little to do with me. God knows!
The best part of my ministry was always in the mountains with kids and adults, wilderness bound and full of Godâ€™s bountiful spirit.
I spent most of my adult life trudging after Jesus, oft-distracted with selfish interests, but just enough of the time remembering that loving my neighbor was always the best choice. I leaned to be a â€œbetterâ€ Christian because of my relationships with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, neâ€™er-do-wells and more than a few hedonists.
So it ends. So it begins.
Iâ€™ll keep at hospice a little longer.
Iâ€™ll walk the dog.
Iâ€™ll spend time with the most beautiful woman in the world.
Retirement arrives. Seems like yesterday I was young and foolish and just ordained.
Now, just foolish.