Introduction to Transitions
We learn early on in life that transitions take their toll on us. Whether we’re moving from primary school to “big school”, from one job role to another, or engagement to marriage, many of us have relied on others during those periods to help guide and mentor us. In the church there are often courses or mentorship programmes, my wife and I went through “marriage prep” for instance before we got married, but it seems that the older one gets, the less emphasis we place on the transitions we face. Given that retirement is such a huge change, this seems rather baffling. Whether one is retiring alone, or together with a spouse, has plans in mind, or has never considered life beyond work, retirement poses serious questions, and questions that shouldn’t be faced alone. Helen Calder is the author of Retiring Well, a course that looks to help provide pastoral and prayerful guidance for those preparing for retirement, those currently facing that transition, or those who have recently retired. This includes a leaders guide as well as two workbooks that cover preparing for retirement and new patterns of living in retirement.
One session that particularly stood out to me is called “Exploring God’s Calling for Your Retirement,” in which we read:
“The aim of this session is to give you an opportunity and some ideas for ways to explore new purpose, calling, vision or vocation for your retirement. For some the word “calling” may be a surprise. Maybe you thought it was only for ministers and missionaries, teachers and medics. We’ll look at its wider relevance…”
This early session typifies Helen’s entire approach, that moving from work to retirement can be a blessed one but should also be taken seriously for us as Christians. Each session invites those attending the course, and working through the books, to pray about how God might be leading them and to ask for inspiration, obedience to God, awareness, wisdom, discernment, and provision. This is, as I see it, the most important aspect of any transition and huge part of what makes this book stand out. We have a saying at Faith in Later Life, “Everything we do begins and ends in prayer,” and that rings true of these workbooks too. Helen also gives biblical guidance, providing readers with encouraging scriptures and examples of God’s favour upon older people throughout the Bible.
In addition to prayerful consideration, Helen—a business graduate who prior to retiring spent years in senior business management—guides readers through the practical elements of pre- and post-retirement. Helen leaves no stone unturned, covering everything from slowing down to pressing in to volunteering, passing on the baton at work, leaving a legacy, preparing budgets, and even navigating a relationship in which spouses now find themselves spending far more time together—something I’m sure many would never have even considered.
This is never done in a cold way either, rather Helen’s words are always packed with understanding, wisdom, and kindness. In a section about letting go, she says:
“Pay attention to how you are letting go. You may be retiring reluctantly. This could be for many reasons. Retirement may be a bereavement, even for those who are looking forward to it. It’s important to recognise and acknowledge this and to explore appropriate ways in which to grieve and then to move on…How do you feel about retiring? What will you miss? What won’t you miss!”
Helen is always careful to meet people where they are, and to allow them space to grieve or to enjoy the process.
These books aren’t meant to be tackled alone either. As I mentioned these books are part of a course, which we would highly recommend for anyone either pastorally supporting older people or facing retirement themselves. In a world in which holds up independence as one of the most important virtues in life, the Bible gives us a different model., i In his recent book, The Final Lap, John Wyatt says: “…what the Christian faith teaches us is something profoundly different. Instead of independence being the greatest good, we learn that dependence is all part of the design. It’s the way that we have been made. God makes people in his own image.” The church is the body of Christ, each member with their own gifts, and that means we need to rely on one another. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:16, “if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.” Facing retirement alone, or indeed any transition alone, doesn’t fit the pattern laid for us in scripture, we are to rely on others, on their wisdom, on those who have run the race ahead of us, and one those currently dealing with similar issues.
If you’d like to consider running this course yourself, or you would like to attend a course being run by Helen herself—there is one happening soon in sunny Spain!—you can contact us at [email protected], or contact Helen directly at [email protected].