Retirees challenged to continue in ministry


By Paul Black
The Retiree Class of 2015 was challenged by one of their own to stay connected even in retirement.

Referring to the second verse of the song Hymn of Promise, Rev. Mark Myers said he firmly believes that the key to the future life and growth of The United Methodist Church is to be found rooted in the experiences and continued ministry of the church's retired pastors. "Take some trips, visit the grandkids, relax and enjoy life," he said. "But heal and stay healthy; age gracefully and remember the words, 'From the past will come the future; what it holds a mystery. Unrevealed until its season something God alone can see."

Myers who is retiring with nearly 40 years of active service used the stories of four retired pastors and what he learned from them:

  • Dennis Hill, a seminary classmate who has a counseling and caring ministry: Retirement (even early) lets one focus on what we do best. .pastor
  • Ralph Totten, who served his home church, Olney First UMC, as a visitation pastor in retirement: Truly from the past comes an understanding of the future.
  • Charles Chadwell, former pastor of Greenville First UMC, who returned in retirement as a visitation pastor: Prayer is more than lip service. He truly knew his people and their needs. "He talked about how tough it was to see friends grow old," Myers said.
  • Dr. Wendell Robinson, who served Olney First UMC during Myers' first year as an associate. When Myers returned as senior pastor 16 years later, the church was having problems with the members split into three factions. "I started meeting up with him as my last visit every Friday," Myers recalled. "He was in poor health but those Friday visits helped me to heal the church and possibly kept me in the ministry."
Myers also paid tribute to Lerna and Johnstown, a two-point charge he pastored while at Eastern Illinois University. "If you are a church that has had student pastors, you have a special ministry in that you are shaping pastors," he said. "I recall preaching at Fairview church east of Centralia where I preached my first sermon. It was a disaster of biblical proportions. I preached everything I knew in a 30-minute sermon with about 10 minutes worth of content."

He also recalled a conversation with his parents after he decided to forego his student teaching during his senior year of college after articulating a call into the ministry. "My parents were supportive but they asked, 'Don't you think you ought to go ahead and do your student teaching? That way you have something to fall back on if preaching doesn't work out for you'; a Plan B if you will."

"Now, 40 years later, I was asked to speak today, I called my Mom and asked: Do you still think I should have done my student teaching?" Myers said. "She said, 'It never hurts to have a Plan B.'"

Myers said that is the challenge he had for his fellow retirees as well as the laity. "Don't take it too easy in retirement," he added. "It's time for Plan B. God, the church and yes, the Annual Conference still needs you."