Updated: Mar 11
Coronavirus fears notwithstanding – surely 'this too shall pass' – this new BRF book is a timely addition to the burgeoning literature about our retirement years.
Most European languages have similar words for 'retirement' – all suggesting retreat: 'la retraite' in French, for example. But in Spanish, 'la jubilación' has a far more positive ring to it, as Paul Beasley-Murray explains!
He has drawn together many threads on the topic of how to Make the Most of Retirement (BRF, 2020). It is based on the author's extensive formal research as well as his own personal experience since retiring as a senior minister in the Central Baptist Church. Before that, he was principal of Spurgeon's College. He remains chairman of the College of Baptist Ministers.
Little has hitherto been written about church leaders' retirements in the UK context. This book is as relevant to retired church ministers as it is to the wider public who retire from professions or vocational roles, which have consumed so much of one's time and energy while at the same time providing fulfilment as well as demanding some sacrifices.
Nowadays, Beasley-Murray worships in Chelmsford Cathedral. One endorsement of his book comes from Stephen Cottrell, the former Bishop of Chelmsford who's soon to be the new Archbishop of York:
'Vocation doesn't go away, even if the circumstances of ministry change. Paul Beasley-Murray's book on making the most of retirement will help those who have retired – and those of us who will retire before long – navigate our way through these adventurous waters. The scriptures tell us that old men dream dreams. This book will awaken the dreamer in all of us, showing that retirement is as fulfilling a chapter of life as every other – if we approach it faithfully.'
You may be familiar with the poet Robert Browning's famous exhortation, 'Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.' The author, at the time, said he had found 'rather quaint'. 'Now that I have joined the ranks of the retired,' though, he says, 'I thoroughly agree. Retirement offers an opportunity to be more alive than ever. Or, as James Woodward said, 'There is a difference between living and being alive. Growing older is about adding life to years rather than just adding years to our lives.'
Beasley-Murray has structured his book in four parts: 'Beginning a new journey', 'Finding new purpose', 'Living a full life' and 'Preparing for the final journey'. I suspect most readers will find the final section the most challenging but also, hopefully, uplifting.
Part of the recent Cliff College Certificate course in Ministry among Older People included a section on 'Facing up to one's own mortality', and from what participants said this was both challenging and useful. We naturally fight shy of discussing death and dying, but if we persist in denying the certainty of death and exploring our own attitude towards our eventual demise, we not only impoverish ourselves but we also fail to empathise fully with those around us, especially those who are older.
Interweaving poetry with anecdotes, as well as research, means there are approaches to suit all tastes and preferred learning strategies in this book. I whet your appetite, perhaps, with this poem quoted by Beasley-Murray in his introduction to facing the challenges of retirement, 'The Terminus', by David Adam, a former vicar of the Holy Island, Lindisfarne:
The Terminus is not where we stay,
It is the beginning of a new journey.
It is where we reach out beyond,
where we experience new adventures.
it is where we get off to enter new territory,
to explore new horizons,
to extend our whole being.
It is a place touching the future.
It opens up new vistas.
It is the gateway to eternity.
(The poem was written by David Adam for a greeting card published by Tim Tiley and subsequently reproduced in Prayers As You Explore Your Vocation by The Vocations Team St Albans Diocese.)
Exploring this metaphor of 'beginning a new journey', he writes that 'there is nothing static about retirement. Retirement is not about sitting in the waiting room of death, but it is an opportunity to discover new ways of living that fullness of life that Jesus promised (1 John 10:10). True, the opportunity needs to be seized. Sitting around in the "terminus", watching daytime TV, is a diminishment of life. For me, retirement opens the door to further growth and self-development.'
It comes down to a stark choice. This book challenges us squarely to opt one way or live to regret choosing another.
For more information on Make the Most of Retirement, visit BRFonline.