I have come to realize that my central vocation of retirement has much the same venue as the priesthood job itself: it is practice. What I mean is that playing a superior game in and on any vocational and professional court of endeavor requires massive, daily practice, perfecting each minor detail and maneuver toward greater perfection. In the active ordained ministry the practice is, of course, about the aspects of priesthood required by ordination itself: liturgy, pastoral care and administrative management, adjudicatory participation, community involvement and so on. In retirement the practice is about reviewing the entire field of personal history and doing so both privately and, when available, with the privilege of reflecting with colleagues who are both active and retired. The purpose for me of this rehearsal of the past is to access the endgame meaning of my life and, where possible, our life together as colleagues.
I feel extremely blessed to have a great group of clergy I see every week for two to four hours as we share breakfast and conversation about the whole gamut of our lives. I truly respect and care for each and every one of them. As well, I have an extended cadre of highly skilled lay folk with whom to reflect, the most important one being Catherine, my spouse. As well, the unique relationship I have is with Bob Shahan, my dear friend, cousin and colleague. Catherine, whose whole life has been as an Episcopalian, provides the constant home based conversation that enlivens our days. She has the added achievements of being an EFM graduate and member of some rather enlightened ecumenical study and prayer groups. Bob and I share a very strong family connection that only increases as we reflect on oral stories, articles, photos and family memorabilia that have helped each of us understand those launching Reed ancestors whose history we can trace back rather fully for at least two hundred years. This endeavor has importance to us as we both believe that family systems affect many multiples of generations. Even more importantly, we share a professional history that is similar and complementary going back into the 1960’s. Altogether the amount of time I know I put into the spiritual and conversational practice of personal, collegial and vocational review involves no less than sixty hours of my life a month. This practice bears a slow but meaningful result because I now have one basic vocational question: What can I really, really say about the place of the Episcopal Church in my life? After over one half a century of formal life in the Episcopal Church what difference has it made? What difference does it make now?
I have spent much of my academic and professional life reading, analyzing, reflecting and trying to find some tentative conclusions in the studies of political, social, church, scientific and psychological readings in historic analysis. I started the search in the library of Fr. Ross Wellwood, the first Rector of St. James in Oklahoma City, where I met Kierkegaard, Thomas Aquinas and Jaroslav Pelikan. I was trying to find out how to counter my school mates at Southeast High School who were condemning most of the people of the earth to hell because they had not heard of Jesus Christ. I found answers in that library that Fr. Wellwood let me use, and in those wise and kind words of my academic and historic mentors, I found hope and comfort.
I intend to expand my answers with more blog essays in the future. But I know for sure that the broad brush conclusion is that because and only because of the Episcopal Church in its people, clergy, scholars and truth tellers in my teen years I was truly saved: saved from much teen anxiety and given a platform of hope and the comfort which passeth all understanding. It made my high school life full of adventure because I was anchored in the environment of hope given to me by the Holy Spirit at St. James Episcopal Church.