Sir, - I was pleased to read Huw Spanner's article "Best years
are yet to come" (
Features, 28 June). As many ageing clergy couples face imminent
departure from life in a vicarage, the emotional and practical
impact of retirement is a topic worth considering.
This time last year, my husband was celebrating his final
eucharist as full-time incumbent of a large and flourishing parish
church. He had, during 40 years, contributed much to the
theological and spiritual life of four different dioceses, and he
was a colleague and friend to many.
Although money was always tight, and is now very tight indeed
(the luxury of travel in this new state of retired freedom is not
an option), we were fortunate to have saved enough to buy our own
home in, perhaps crucially, another diocese far from our last
Having reached the eligible retirement age, fit, active, and
very much a going concern, neither my husband nor I had really been
prepared for the extraordinary sense of loss which accompanied
leaving our vicarage for the last time. The difference between
being in stipendiary parochial ministry and being newly retired is
In a vicarage, you have an immediate circle of friends and the
love of a church family. You have a home that is, for good or ill,
at the hub of things. You have the stimulus of colleagues and the
support of archdeacons and bishops. We had hoped and expected that,
in later life, my husband might still have some sense of being part
of a useful ministry team within our new diocese. He continues to
wait for an opportunity to be of use.
In spite of the novelty of being able to worship side by side in
the pews of a friendly, but fully staffed, church, our experience
of retirement is one that currently feels like exile from a former
life, almost complete invisibility. It has been like dropping into
Maybe things will improve. Maybe some of my husband's skills and
experience, accrued from a lifetime of very varied ministry, will
eventually be discerned and utilised. But it seems extraordinary
that the machinery for extending pastoral care to recently retired
clergy, ascertaining their hopes for this next phase, and, if they
wish, assimilating them into the priestly fold appears to have been
so noticeably absent in our case.
It is possible that more helpful structures exist in other
regions to welcome, recognise, and embrace the gifts of their older
priests, particularly those new to a diocese.
I would be very interested to know whether our experience is
unusual, whether we have just somehow been unlucky in our choice of
retirement destination, or whether others may also have felt
similarly abandoned and devalued at the conclusion of their
lifelong stipendiary ministry.
Name & Address Supplied