Sharing the grace of community and the everyday – Reflections on retirement
Retirement, a time to reflect and to ponder. I grew up in the United Church, and it is a place I have been rooted in all my life. My dream was to be a nurse at the Hospital for Sick Children’s in Toronto where I did train for my 25 year nursing career. With increasing involvement in the church, I became more aware of my sense of call to ministry. Through a time of reflection and prayer, decided to answer that growing pull to a different kind of ministry.
In these early days, I was privileged to serve in a partnership of a United Church and Lutheran Church with marginalized people living in Kitchener-Waterloo. It enlivened and challenged my relationship with God. It was a time of learning to honour how much each person has something to be valued in community. A time to encourage those who feel so outside the accepted places to find the ways they can share their gifts.
After 15 years serving in the outreach ministry, it was time to move on. Near the end of my time there, I started to serve a small congregation struggling to find some meaning for their presence in their community. It too was a time of empowering people, for them to look outside the walls of the church to the community they served and find ways to connect as they share the love of God they so enjoyed within those walls.
A significant connection of my faith has been in appreciating the wonders of the world around me. My final sermon was rooted in the story of creation and God saw that it was good and Louis Armstrong’s song “It’s a Wonderful World”. I shared that simple elements of life such as the fields of green, red roses, the cry of a baby, faces of people, rainbows, blue skies, the faces of people and friends shaking hands are to be treasured; the simple pleasures of life that God has graced us with in our everyday experiences. My heart is filled with joy in all these moments. And I look forward to many precious God connections in retirement. It is with renewed wonder that I am able to explore those opportunities with our growing number of grandchildren.
As our United Church faces a time of change, I too face a time of change as I retire. Just after making the decision, the Lectionary readings included the calling of Samuel and Jesus calling disciples. I struggled for quite awhile trying to decide how to respond in my sermon that week. Then I realized I too was in a place of making decisions, what was it that was going to fill my days? It was easy to think travel, more time with children and grandchildren. But where would I offer my gifts to some other pursuits? I decided that it was not a decision to make in the midst of the transition to retirement. For now, some travel and time with family and in the Fall looking for where God is calling me to share my gifts. I look forward to new ventures and as I travel this summer, there will be lots of time to listen for God’s call.
Marilyn Burnard is a graduate of the Centre for Christian Studies. She retired in April. Marilyn is pictured holding a photograph of herself with her dad at her commissioning.