as long as there is breath and strength…

…there is life and labor – a personal reflection on the changing course of retirement

Earlier this year, after 37½ years of active service as an Episcopal parish priest, I retired.[1] For the first time in years (really ever) Pontheolla and I have attended church services together. (Being next to her and listening to her mellifluous speaking and singing voice is a godsend to my worship experience!)

Over the past months, I also have been invited by a number of churches to serve as a guest priest. I might have been able to imagine that I’d miss priestly ministry. Still, I didn’t (perhaps couldn’t) know existentially (in my breathing and being) and spiritually (in those ineffable parts of me that respond to the emanations of the divine) how much of a void retirement would be. Now, I know.

I love God (even when God’s mystery confounds me, Jesus calls me to do what, given my obstinate ego, I’d rather not, and the Holy Spirit’s “comfort” challenges me to become more of who God wills me to be than I’m ready to engage!).

I love God’s people (even when we annoy one another!).

I love preaching (not to, much less at, but rather with people) – reading, praying, and wrestling with scripture seeking to discover what a mentor oft called “an enabling word” for God’s people.

I love to preside at the Holy Eucharist; this sacrament of sharing bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood that we, in partaking, can become Who we eat.

I love words. I love to talk and communicate (one of the few things I do well!).

I also love to listen to people with an open heart so to hear in the silences and sighs between their words the depth of their joys and sorrows, desires and cares, hopes and fears.

I love collaborative leadership; sharing in consensus-building and decision-making with God’s people. (Regarding the notion that clergy “run churches”, I’ve said for years, “I’ve never wanted to run anything, but rather run with God’s people!”)

Given these loves, my passions of thought and feeling, intention and action, recently, via the office of Bishop W. Andrew Waldo of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, I’ve been in conversation with the good people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC.[2]

With our mutual agreement and the bishop’s consent, I will begin my service as part-time Priest-in-Charge on Sunday, December 20, 2015.

Prior to receiving the bishop’s approval, I mentioned this possibility to a clergy colleague. His response was encouraging: “That’s great! You clearly still have gas in your tank.”

My prayer: May the fuel that I still have to burn be kindled solely by the Holy Spirit. Amen.



Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, façade, Nave, sign


[1]Immediately, my wife, Pontheolla, rehired me to work at our Spartanburg, SC, bed and breakfast, Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens. Regarding my “rehirement”, when I tell folk, “I’m the minority owner of Clevedale,” it is decidedly a double entendre!

[2] Founded in 1785, Laurens, SC, a picturesque town and home to some 9,000 folk, serves as the seat of Laurens County.

10 thoughts on “as long as there is breath and strength…

  1. Congratulations Paul!!

    We will continue to follow you and your ministry from afar. Epiphany, Laurens is a very fortunate congregation and I know you and them will be led by the Holy Spirit!

    Hope to hear you preach again in person some day! Much success and much love to you and to Pontheolla who will be supporting you along this new journey! As I’ve always said to you, go forth and conquer!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear, dear Paul,

    We knew this was your heart’s desire last week and are so glad to know of your firmly made decision.  The people of your new church have reaped a treasure indeed. It was wonderful being with you and we look forward to coming down to your gorgeous home again soon.  

    All our love to you and Ponthy,

    Penny and Brock 



  3. Beloved Paul,
    My heart soared tonight when I read this news. Somehow I knew, and I can’t explain how, that this path or one very much like it would appear. I delighted in Penny and Brock’s shoutout. In such a grim and troubling week, your news warmed me more than I can say.
    Love always to you and Ponthy.


    • Ah, my dear FPITS Louise, you are so very kind to me. I pray that being who I am (even with all my flaws) and doing what I do can shine a bit of light into our shadowy days and times. As for your sense of knowing something like this would come about, well, my dear sister, you were and are more prescient than I. For I cannot say that I saw it coming! Much love to you and Charlie, always and in all ways.


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