Chaplains Team - Regrouped and Ready to Serve
by Albert Kennington
Chaplains to Retired Clergy and Spouses are appointed by the Bishop to assist him in offering a ministry of friendship and information to the more than 200 of these retirees who live in our diocese or who live elsewhere but are canonically resident here after having served here. Of this number, over 140 of these retired folks live within our diocese, including three bishops, six deacons, and 70 priests. Among the 61 spouses, 20 are widows or widowers of clergy.
A key challenge for most, if not all retiring clergy is discerning how their vocation continues when their career changes radically. Our clergy are ordained to serve in a gathered Eucharistic community - to serve in pulpit and at altar. Retirement changes the place and community of ministry, but the vocation - the “calling” - abides - for clergy and for spouses.
Chaplains do not take the place of the Bishop who is chief pastor to clergy nor the place of local parish clergy in the congregations where retirees worship and serve. Chaplains offer reminders to retirees that they are still vital members of our diocesan family. Chaplains do so through an annual cycle of prayer based on birthdays, at least one personal contact yearly with each retiree (more often when needed), and an occasional newsletter mailed to all retirees. Chaplains also assist the Bishop with fellowship events when old and new friends gather (suspended during this time of Covid).
Ten years ago, the chaplaincy became a ministry of the Church Pension Group through CPG’s office of education and wellness. Support for chaplains is offered through helpful mailings, on-line seminars, and national gatherings of chaplains every three years with annual provincial gatherings in between. (These gatherings have been suspended during this time of Covid). Within the diocese, chaplains assist the CPG and Bishop in passing on helpful information about health insurance, health benefits, and tax information among useful other topics.
After Fr. Dick and Pam Schmidt resigned as coordinators and moved to Kentucky in April, the Bishop appointed Fr. Albert and Nancy Kennington to become coordinators - a job they did several years ago with Bishop Duncan. Happily, the other chaplains continued in service: Fr. John and Ann Phillips, Sheila Campbell, and Fr. Joe Hagberg. Fr. Ken Cumbie was appointed a new chaplain on the team.
A yearly task for the coordinators is reviewing the roster of retirees provided by CPG and matching this list with the official list in our Bishop’s office. When this is done, chaplains meet and divide the list.
This is important for you to know: Of the 70 retired priests who live within our diocese, over half of them are still active in priestly ministry: Some are vicars or priests-in-charge of congregations, some are regular “supply” clergy, and others serve in various diocesan ministries such as boards, commissions, Cursillo staff, or even a team of chaplains. Others of them, and their spouses and widows, are doing the same plus volunteer work in local congregations or charities. When it comes to aging clergy and spouses, “retired” is not the opposite of “active."