Dear Beloved Community of Plymouth UCC,
Just after I turned sixty someone asked me when I would retire. I was stunned into silence. Retiring had never occurred to me. But the question had been asked and it remained because life is about living the questions. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “The point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Over the last year, as I have lived into the question of retirement, the answer has come. I will be retiring from parish ministry and ministry at Plymouth on February 28, 2023. My last Sunday will be February 26. After 24 years of parish ministry, I am being called to new ministry as a spiritual director.
This is a bittersweet announcement. Many years ago, as I was preparing my ordination paper, I read about a minister who instructed a young seminarian with this definition of parish ministry: “Lead a fine worship. Visit the people.” This instruction has been my guiding light. The visiting takes place in meetings or study groups or the fellowship hall, even these days in email and text, as often as it does in hospital rooms or people’s homes. The worship takes place in meetings and studies and camp settings as well as in the sanctuary. These two things are what I will miss at times: leading fine worship and visiting the people. Yet I know that I am being called away from the myriad details of parish ministry into a new ministry of intentionally companioning people on their faith journeys through the art of spiritual direction with individuals and through retreat ministry.
When I retire, I will leave Plymouth for a time and keep good boundaries with Plymouth members. I will worship in another community and will not be available for pastoral care, leading memorial services or weddings. It will be important for you to transfer connection to a new full-time associate who will be coming in 2023. I invite you to pray for this person, even though we do not yet know who it will be, as well as for our Associate Minister Search Committee which is already hard at work in the search process.
As I hope you know, Plymouth is one of the flagship congregations in the Rocky Mountain Conference and I venture to say in the UCC. We are a vital, caring and socially active community. We strive to be healthy and transparent in our communication with one another. I have no doubt we can meet the challenges of the changing landscape of faith communities in our tumultuous times. After I served Plymouth as Sharon Benton’s sabbatical interim in 2010, I never thought I would get to serve with you on staff again, even though I knew I felt called to serve in a congregation much like Plymouth. Spirit works in mysterious ways! I am so very grateful!
Over the next eleven months with you, I will still be planting seeds of ministry programming with the boards and committee I serve as staff liaison – Deacons, Outreach and Mission, Christian Formation and Nominating Committee. I will endeavor to leave an enduring organizational legacy for Plymouth’s lay ministry programs in pastoral care and adult Christian Formation. And I will enjoy leading worship and visiting/being with all of you!
Thank you for the privilege of serving among you these last seven years. It continues to be an honor to be part of Plymouth’s staff and in this beloved community.
Blessings on the journey,
Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson