By John Ellis
The intercessions led by an Elder included a prayer for retired ministers. The retired minister leading the service commented it was the first time he had ever heard retired ministers prayed for in an act of worship. I found my mind shot through with a mixture of emotions including shock and concern. I hoped his experience was not typical but realised it might be.
As I travel around the United Reformed Church our 900 retired ministers are frequently in evidence. Some, with every justification, now rest from their labours. A few justify the fears some ministers have of finding retired ministers, who remember so well the good old days, lurking in their congregations. But in very many places I have found wise, gracious retired ministers using their experience to craft distinctive complementary ministries alongside that of the local stipendiary. Indeed I have been struck at how often in congregations that seem positive and happy there is a retired minister in the leadership mix.
The incident I mentioned was during the Church Anniversary day of celebration at Richmond Hill St Andrew’s URC in the centre of Bournemouth. The most famous minister of the Richmond Hill congregation was the Revd J D Jones who served there for 39 years and somehow also found time in the early twentieth century to write enough books to fill a whole shelf in the Minister’s Vestry and to be the equivalent of the General Secretary of the Congregational Union nationally. I was intrigued to discover that he did not retire until well past the current state pension age. A giant of his time; but also a minister who went on serving as long as health and strength permitted.
If your local church is enriched by the presence and work of a retired minister, have you prayed for him or her this week? And will you tell them next Sunday?