Reflections on Retirement
From the spouses of two retired ministers. Part one - Life after the Manse
Life after the Manse
One of the things I look forward to every two years is the ministers’ spouses’ conference (now run by Thrive). I have made many friends there through the years, as well as seeing those I have come to know throughout our time in ministry. The conference is the only chance that I have to meet with them and for us to catch up on each other’s lives.
During the last conference, I came to realise that for me, and a number of others, we are no longer the ‘first lady’ in our church. Our lives have changed dramatically, due to our spouse’s retirement. We have had to leave the Manse, and find somewhere else to live, unless of course, we have been able to buy our own property already in an area of our choosing, perhaps in previous years or before entering the ministry. (We, along with many others, owe a great deal to the Retired Baptist Ministers and Missionaries Housing Association, who have provided us with a beautiful home.) In many cases us retirees have had to leave family behind, because they have grown up and settled in previous areas where we have ministered. We have also had to leave church, and friends, because it is not considered wise to remain in the situation, as some people will always think of your spouse as ‘the minister’. That could prove uncomfortable for an incoming minister, and they may also feel threatened or inhibited by the previous person.
Setting up home as retirees is so different to life in the manse. The endless phone calls cease, the doorbell doesn’t ring so frequently, people do not drop in to see the minister, and you suddenly find your spouse not rushing around organising this and that and attending endless meetings. You need to find a new circle of friends and people you can relate to. A new church to call home, and maybe a different style of worship, with a new minister’s way of preaching. I must confess I looked up churches via the internet in our new area and prayed about them. We thought we might like to try a different denomination as the Baptist church in our town had closed down. On the first Sunday morning we went along to the church and found they were running a café church, which didn’t appeal to us, so we went to a village Baptist church five miles away where I knew another minister’s spouse was also worshipping. We were given such a warm welcome that we decided to make that our church home.
The first visits to your chosen new church are like being on holiday, where you are made welcome, but you know you are only a visitor. It takes time to get established as a church member and to find your niche in the church. I quite liked the anonymity of just being in the congregation, and not having to stay to the very end to lock up, and having my spouse sit beside me throughout the whole service. We arrived at the church during an interregnum, a few weeks later the church was moved into a local school hall whilst the church was gutted and refurbished. It was good to be able to watch others doing what would have been my spouse’s responsibility. By the time the church was ready to call a new minister, we were in church membership and had the joy and responsibility of helping to choose a new minister to pastor the church.
Besides the church we had a new area to explore, new clubs to join, new friends to make and more time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
During one mealtime at the Conference I had the privilege of sitting with three widows, who shared about life without their spouses and the difficulties that life alone can sometimes bring. Someone said they felt they had lost their identity. I realised that retirement does come with this problem to one or another spouse sooner or later. I felt deeply for these dear ones who were left and began to wonder if there is any way retirees and those widowed could be supported after life in the manse. I would like to thank the BU for the Retirement Conference we were offered before our retirement, which was very helpful, but maybe there could be more support offered for this vulnerable time after retirement. Perhaps it would be possible to set up a Facebook page for spouses in retirement, or other ways of networking, remembering that as we age, we find things like the internet more difficult to cope with. Maybe this is a cry from my heart, but I’m sure other spouses will be able to identify with this. Is there something out there for those living life after the manse?
Image: Harli Marten:Unsplash
The aim of Manse Life is to raise the profile of what personal life is like for a minister, and ground it in reality. We are doing this because ministry life is unique. There are incredible joys, amazing privileges, and inspiring times. These are all brilliant. There is also heartache; fear, frustration, loss, relocation to name a few and there is often no recourse for these feelings. By providing an outlet for people to write constructively about their personal experiences at home and church and share these in a positive environment we believe will bring hope and a sense of perspective. It will help people feel less isolated, to find common ground, to reflect, provoke thought, spur faith, share ideas and best practice, and to raise a smile.
Manse Life is totally inclusive whatever your personal and family circumstance and whether you live in a manse or not. For those who do have immediate family around them, they too are very welcome to contribute.
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