Come the end of April, I will have been retired 6 years. I retired the month I had 30 years in the Church Pension fund and was old enough to take SS at 62. (I know people tell you to wait before taking social security) but I figured out I'd be 82 before waiting until 66 would draw even with the amount of money I'd get taking it at 62. Seemed a good bet to me (my father lived to 83 and hopefully I will as well, but by then I'm sure I can live on what I get from the Pension Fund and SS--'free money'...well, not really, it's my money the Pension Fund and the US has been holding for me all these years.)
So, I get invited to a 'young retired priest' gathering at the Commons--what used to be called 'the Diocesan House' but our bishop has re-branded things and moved the headquarters from a mansion in Hartford to a former ball bearing factory in Meridan. Much better, for my taste, and calling it "the Commons" is so New England and so inclusive.
I called my dear friend, Bonni McKinney, at the Commons and asked, "Am I a young retired priest?"
She assured me I was and I look forward to the meeting.
Our Bishop, Ian Douglas, (call me "Ian", he always says just as I tell people to call me "Jim" rather than "Father Bradley"...so I like him a lot) says their are four 'buckets' of priests. This is a fascinating thought and, I believe, so true.
Bucket One is seminary trained priests who work full time as priests. That group is shrinking. In the Diocese of Connecticut 20% of 'full time jobs' have disappeared in the last 5 or 6 years. Places that had 2 assistants now have one. Churches that had a full time assistant no longer do. Places that had a full time priest (just one) might not now.
Bucket Two are seminary trained priests who thought they would work full time but don't anymore. Their jobs were down-sized or there just aren't enough full time jobs around. So, they work part time and figure out how to make more money.
Bucket Three are folks like me--seminary trained, full time priests who are retired and work part time in the church. There are lots of us (baby boomers, after all) and we are holding the places for the priests, who don't exist in large numbers, in Bucket Four.
Bucket Four are priests, either seminary trained or ordained in some other way, who never expected to be 'full time' in ministry. Connecticut no longer accepts folks into the ordination process who can't 'make a living' outside the church. This is the future but there aren't many of them yet so recently retired 'full time' priests are filling in until this bucket of priests is finally available.
I even like the image of 'buckets of priests', swimming around like bait minnows in a bucket of water. I like that image, I really, really do.
And moving from bucket one to bucket three has been a joy for me. I love what I do and look forward to sharing a few hours tomorrow with people like me--first bucket folks who leaped to bucket three....
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