On Easter Monday in 1985, I strode down New York City's Madison Avenue, headed for number 105, home of many of the UCC's national offices. Among those was that of its new newspaper, United Church News. I had been called to be its first editor. My hand grasped a new attachZ case, my inside jacket pocket held a new gold Cross pen, both gifts from First Congregational UCC in Alameda, Calif. I had flown east on a Òred eyeÓ flight the night before, after preaching my last sermon there that morning.
Among my assignments as associate pastor had been the weekly pastoral prayer. A frequent theme of those prayers was to keep ourselves open to the possibilities God placed before us. If things were not going well, God might be trying to show us a different way. Even if things were going well, God might well be saying, ÒIt's time for a change. I have new light yet to break forth in your life.Ó
Then God called my bluff. The challenge came to me, instead of to my parishioners. Should I leave my ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area and answer this call 3,000 miles east? Should I ask my wife, Deborah, to leave her established position in a Berkeley hospital and start over somewhere else?
One morning, as I sat home alone, a hymn kept going through my head. Taking down a hymnal, I looked up ÒThe Voice of God is CallingÓ and sang aloud all four verses, including these lines: ÒWe heed, O Lord, thy summons, And answer, Here are we! Send us upon thine errand; Let us thy servants be.Ó
Notwithstanding the archaic language, the hymn offered me an answer. Later that week, Deborah suggested that everything I had done for the past 15 years had been to prepare me for this new task. By that she meant my graduate studies in mass communications, my public relations work with both business and nonprofit groups, my free-lance writing, photography and editing; my occasional work in the Conference office; my volunteering at General Synod; and my pastoral service in a local church. She thought I should accept the position and move to New York—and, not only that, she said she would come, too.
The rest, as they say...
Now it's time to respond to a different call: retirement. It's time to use my gifts in different ways, writing and photographing for a variety of publications. As my colleagues and friends have retired from full-time employment, I've learned that retirement is not unlike commencement from high school or college: it's not just the end of one chapter of life, but the beginning of another.
Another hymn, ÒIn the Bulb there is a FlowerÓ (The New Century Hymnal #433), captures that sentiment: ÒFrom the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.Ó
Little did I suspect, 18 years ago, that I would retire from this position, since my longest tenure in any job had been five years. Little did I guess that I would retire in Cleveland to be near grandchildren, since we had left the Bay Area to move to the Big Apple. Little did I imagine how United Church News would grow in size and appreciation, since never before had I edited a newspaper. In this bulb there was, indeed, a flower.
Many thanks are in order: to the directors of this office for their confidence in me, to the UCC presidents for their appreciation of the freedom of the press, to the talented staff members who have made this a fun place to work while maintaining high standards, to the readers for paying attention. I thank God for the gifts that I brought to this position and United Church News for providing me the opportunity to employ them to God's glory.
The Rev. W. Evan Golder is the retiring editor of the national edition of United Church News.