A MESSAGE FROM PASTOR J.C. AUSTIN: A Special Blessing – Our Retired Pastors

This past week there was an article entitled “Retired Pastors Enrich Congregations” in the Presbyterian Outlook (the main independent publication in the Presbyterian Church (USA)). It detailed how the First Presbyterian Church in Sarasota, Florida has a number of retired pastors from multiple denominations worshipping and participating in the life of the church, and how their presence and ministry strengthens the church. As I read the article, I thought to myself: “Hey, that’s our story!”

When I was interviewing for the pastorate here at First Pres, I remember one person telling me that there is a “special blessing” at First Pres in the form of a group of retired pastors who have made this congregation their church home and are a major source of wisdom and support to help the congregation in this time of transition and transformation.

As I have been thinking back over the past year in preparation for the Annual Congregational Meeting coming up on Sunday, February 10, it has been a pleasure to see how true that is. We have retired pastors who preach and lead worship from time to time, sing in the choir, even serve on  committees that are helping us build and expand our ministries in this new era for First Pres. That last one is particularly awe-inspiring to me; after decades of active ministry in the Presbyterian Church, they are still voluntarily serving on committees even in retirement!

In addition to all of that, Cindy Simmons writes the introductions to our Scripture lessons in worship every week, and created and led the children’s presentation in December about the history of the beloved Christmas carol, Silent Night. Steve Simmons has taught a well-received adult education series on the Gospel of Mark and helped coordinate the recent program on understanding the faith practices of other traditions. Joyce Smothers has served on several special projects and task forces, including the Lenten Supper series. While one of First Pres’ greatest strengths is that it is a “member-driven church,” the wisdom and energy of these retired pastors has been an invaluable support and boost to the ministry that our members are driving in so many ways.

Finally, we have a number of retired pastors who are in worship regularly and are holding our congregation in prayer constantly, encouraging and supporting our leaders and members in their own ministries. It’s been a pleasure to get to know some of those folks over the past year, which includes not only Presbyterians but also a few Moravians, Lutherans, and Methodists! And I’m particularly grateful for Keith Brown, our Pastor Emeritus, in this regard; Keith loves this church and its people, so while a Pastor Emeritus does not engage in formal pastoral work, his prayerful support for our ministry together is a true gift, and he has been a great friend in ministry to me personally.

So, keep an eye out for those retired pastors in our midst and say a special thanks to them for all that they do when you get a chance!

Grace and Peace,