Bishop Mike Coyner's Farewell Message from Indiana Conference UMC on Vimeo.

As I write this, my last E-pistle, I realize that I am going through a transition where I am becoming a "rookie" again. Remember all of those transitions in your school years? You went from being in the oldest class in elementary to being in the youngest class in junior high or middle school. Then you went from that stage to being the youngest in high school. Then again in college, and then again in grad school or other training. Same with work and career. Every change and transition in life involves some degree of starting over, being a "rookie" again.

On September 1st, I will be a "rookie retiree." I have never retired before, and I have never gone through this transition – but my whole life has been a series of transitions and being a "rookie" in the next stage. I remember the feeling of being a brand-new District Superintendent and discovering the steep learning curve of that transition. Of course I remember being a “new bishop" or "baby bishop" and having to learn that new role. I remember being newly-married, being a first-time Dad, being a grandparent, etc. and etc. Life is a whole series of transitions, starting over, being a rookie again.

In order to make this transition, I have made a few decisions already:

  1. I am giving myself a "sabbatical" from September 1 to January 1, which means I will not be accepting any preaching invitations, any "jobs" or volunteer work, any new responsibilities, etc. I need those months to rest, to renew, and to seek God's guidance for the next phase of my life.
  2. Marsha and I are taking one trip by ourselves – not leading others on a tour, not including any family visits, and certainly not including any meetings. Even though we have traveled much during my years as a bishop, this will be a trip just for us.
  3. We will enjoy our kids and grandkids more than ever, not interrupting their schedules but being available to visit or babysit at times when we normally were busy with work and ministry.
  4. I have promised not to interrupt Marsha's own schedule of activities, book groups, music, and volunteer work that she is already doing. My being retired does not mean that she should have to adjust her schedule.
  5. I will also do more of the "housework" now that I will have more time to help. There are certain tasks that I have always done, even during my busy times as a pastor, DS, and bishop – but now I should and I will do more.

Most importantly, I will be prayerfully supporting Bishop Julius Trimble as he begins his ministry in Indiana. He and I have talked about this, and we will also consult with Bishop John Hopkins who is retiring back to Indiana. John and I will stay out of the way, but we also stand ready to help anywhere that our presence, our prayers, and our guidance are needed by Bishop Trimble.

As I become a "rookie retiree" I am helped by a book by Steve Harper called "Stepping Aside, Moving Ahead: Spiritual and Practical Wisdom for Clergy Retirement.” His book notes that Numbers 8:25-26 indicated the Levites who served in the Temple were to retire at age 50, and their two new roles were to: (1) step aside so that younger ones could perform their duties, (2) support those younger ones as they learned to do so. I like that Biblical reminder, and I imagine myself stepping aside in order to help others move forward.

I am grateful to God for the privilege of being in ministry and serving the Indiana Area of our United Methodist Church. And so I close this final E-pistle with the words of an early church leader (the Apostle Paul) who wrote to his favorite church:

"I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now. I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace, both during my time in prison and in the defense and support of the gospel. God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God."

(Philippians 1:3-11)

Amen.