Well, the news is out. I will retire from full-time appointed ministry at the June gathering of Holston Annual Conference. Here are a few of the excellent questions people have asked since that announcement.
When is your last day?
I will help lead worship on Sunday, June 2, and then ride off into the sunset with my beloved, the Rev. Annette Flynn. Our official retirement ceremony will take place the next week at Holston Annual Conference.
Who will be coming as our next Lead Pastor?
Our bishop and her cabinet are prayerfully discussing all the various appointments which will be made in Holston Conference this year. I have no doubt that First Oak Ridge is very much in the front of their minds. I feel confident that they understand our unique congregation and its amazing variety of ministries. Really wonderful pastors want to come here because they have heard what a strong church we are, filled with supportive faithful people.
When will we find that out?
There is no real way of knowing when the bishop and our district superintendent will make that decision, but my best guess is sometime in late April or early May—but that is only a guess. I invite you to join me in praying for that next person and their family.
Are you and Annette going to stay in Oak Ridge?
Yep. We love it here. We will be taking a few months to roam the eastern seaboard, but we plan on staying in this community.
Are you going to stay connected to First Oak Ridge?
Of course, it is the best congregation in Holston Annual Conference! However, it is standard practice for all retired clergy to take a year or so away from visiting or participating in worship after retirement. In my first appointment, the saintly, beloved, recently-retired pastor I replaced decided to live next door to the church building. Well let me tell you THAT was not good. I want the next lead pastor to have the best opportunity to thrive here, so you won’t be seeing us for a while. When we do return one day in the future, we will fully support the ministry and decisions the staff at that time are making.
How old are you!?
I am 60 years old this past October.
Why are you retiring early?
Because it is time. What I mean by that is that deep in my soul I feel the Holy Spirit is directing me down this path. In 2017, I had a similar feeling, that the Holy Spirit was guiding me to leave my church in Chattanooga. And look how that turned out?! We were appointed to come back to our beloved Oak Ridge. My decision to leave then came with clarity and calm, just as it does now. I trust that God has more wonderful things in store for First Oak Ridge, and I look forward to supporting our ministry as those unfold with a new Lead Pastor.
What are you and Annette going to do next?
Well, I mentioned traveling, and that will certainly play a role in our future. Annette plans on continuing her coaching ministry, and my first priority will be supporting her in that passion. I love, love, love the idea of setting aside a few months to read and be a little bored because friends whom I trust, who have already retired, describe how it is out of that boredom that your passions emerge. I suspect that it is from those passions, which get pushed aside by the routines of work and responsibilities, that I will discover how to use my gifts in a meaningful way in the future. I look forward to discovering that myself.
If I have overlooked your question, please do not hesitate to ask me on a Sunday morning, in an email, or in a phone call. I plan on enjoying these next few months as one of your pastors, celebrating the presence of Christ in our midst and trusting God with our future.