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Retirement — how it is for us

17 June 2022

Catherine Butcher asks three people about their experience of retirement

The Revd George Fisher with his wife, the Revd Joan Fisher

The Revd George Fisher with his wife, the Revd Joan Fisher

The Revd George Fisher retired in 2019, after serving as director of mission for Lichfield diocese for 12 years.

TAKING a sabbatical three years before I retired helped me prepare. The sabbatical was to see if this self-confessed workaholic could cope with more space, and whether his wife could cope with him being around. The answer to both was yes; so, at the end of the sabbatical, I began to think seriously about retirement.

Being in a diocesan role also helped the transition. There is something unique about being the vicar of a church, because of the relationships. If I’d retired straight after being a vicar, I’d have massively missed the sense of community. But I was constantly moving round to different churches; so there wasn’t the same level of attachment.

In the diocesan role, part of my remit was to go into a church with a critical eye, and from that to give recommendations. To come out of that mindset is not easy. For me, it was important to find a church with a leader whom I could respect, and who was not threatened by my presence.

Someone described retirement as “cherry-picking”: you can decide what you want to do. In our new church, we have decided not to do funerals, for example. Funerals are very ad hoc, and we wanted to make ourselves more available to family.

I retired the day I got my state pension. I’d needed to have worked a further three years to get my full church pension, but I’d worked eight years as a teacher; so that compensated. We had two grandsons down south that we didn’t see much. To retire three years earlier gave us a better opportunity to build a relationship with them.

We found the Church Housing Assistance for the Retired Ministry [CHARM] scheme really good. They own the house, and we rent it off them. They have houses throughout the country, and they send a brochure each month. If one of the houses is what you’re looking for, you apply for it. For us, there was nothing that came up in any of the brochures; so they bought the house with us in mind. We didn’t choose it. We simply said we wanted to be within an hour from where our family live.

As a clergy person, you have a tied house which is part of your wage. Your stipend is therefore lower; your pension is based on your wage, so you have a lower pension. CHARM rents the house to you at two-thirds the market rate as a secure tenancy.


Tony Mottram joined Sussex Police at the age of 39, and worked until he retired at 55. Before police work he had been a plumber.

Tony Mottram

I HAD friends who were retired. One had joined as a cadet. He hadn’t thought that, when he retired, Sussex Police would carry on without any concern about who he was, or what he had done. He felt quite depressed about that. Another friend, a sergeant, missed the camaraderie.

When I retired, I set up a building company as a part-time business to keep me occupied and employ some of my family. Soon, however, it became a full-time job. After about five years, my wife, Hazel, said: “No more.” So, I sold the business.

After about three months, I noticed a change in my demeanour. I’d look back now, and say I was feeling blue. When you haven’t got the routine of a working day, you have to adjust.

While running the business, I had become a churchwarden, steering the church through reordering. That continued after the business was sold. Alongside church responsibilities I helped out at a cycle shop, and I was a trustee of a local charity. Also, Hazel and I joined other retired bell-ringers, travelling around the country, ringing in some stunning churches.

There came a point when I recognised I was filling my timetable: I hadn’t come to terms with the fact I needed to slow down.

This year, I’ve handed over the role of churchwarden and the charity trustee role. Now, I focus on supporting our extended family. With three children, there is always someone who needs something. I’m often looking after one of our eight grandchildren, but that will change as they are growing up.

As for my routine in retirement, I’m an early riser and I’m in bed by ten o’clock. It’s the time in between that is still evolving. I’m making sure that exercise is part of my routine, however. If you haven’t got your health, it can be a very slippery slope to not being able to enjoy retirement as fully as one might.


Helen Calder retired as executive director of finance and services for the UK Evangelical Alliance (EA) in 2016.

Helen Calder

MY EA job was full on. I was on call 24/7; so I was looking forward to the easing of responsibilities, more flexibility, and not commuting.

I had been exploring retirement for 18 months, and I had several options, including freelance consultancy, going overseas with a mission organisation, joining a community like Lee Abbey. . . Two weeks in, I went on retreat; six weeks into retirement, I flew to New Zealand.

My priority was to find God’s calling for this new phase of life. Taking a gap at the end of full-time work, before taking on any new responsibilities or areas of service, allows you to unwind and take stock. It also means that you can consider any invitations to get involved in new areas of service more strategically. Going away, if possible, helps you move on from the established patterns of many years at work.

I spent four months travelling in New Zealand after I retired. Then a scholarship from Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre made a further trip possible in 2018. While there, I wrote resources for my website, Helen’s Headlines, sharing my 40 years’ experience of business and management to equip charities, churches, and individuals. I also developed the Retiring Well course for people preparing for retirement. That work has grown, and will soon be published as a workbook and journal.

I always said I didn’t want to grow old in London. In planning my retirement, I went through a fairly structured process of thinking what I needed in a new home.

I wanted to keep in touch with London friends, and, when I looked at transport links for Winchester, that worked. I’m convinced that God opened the door. It was three months from me looking at Winchester on the map to unlocking my new front door.

It’s in a new housing development, and I went door-knocking to welcome other new residents as they arrived. We are building a great community, and had an amazing community carol service on the village green the first year I was there. I coordinated a community-support network during the pandemic, and set up an events team: we’ve just had a lively jubilee picnic.

I now divide my life into involvement in the community, activities in the parish, and professional projects. I get up later: around 7.45 a.m. instead of 5.45 a.m., [but] there is still structure in my day.

In this phase of life we are preparing for eternity; so I try to give an hour to devotions, and I give an hour to exercise. Before I know it, it’s lunchtime.

I usually assign Tuesday and Wednesdays as my project days. Chores take longer than they used to, but I still have plenty of time for other interests: hospitality, walking, reading, opera at Glyndebourne, Test-match cricket, and wine tasting, alongside the life of my local church and building community where I live.

For me, retirement is purposeful, fulfilling and enjoyable.


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