Call – Opelika-Auburn News
I remember well the summer day my dad
left me working in our garden while he went to town. My cousin Mickey O’Brien
was with me. We were working hard to earn a little money.
As soon as dad was out of sight, Mickey
and I took off for the creek. We chased the snakes away and went swimming in
our birthday suits. We were having fun to beat the band when I heard my dad’s
booming voice calling “Walter Junior!” Dad had slipped up on me while I was
having fun. (The painful ending of this story you can imagine.)
Like my dad, retirement slipped up on me
while I was having fun. Having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70, I
had no choice but to retire at our annual conference in Montgomery this past
week. With my sweet wife by my side, I took my place on the platform with ten
other pastors who entered the retired relationship.
So today is my last Sunday to serve as
one of the pastors of Trinity United Methodist Church in Opelika. I will be
preaching in each of our three morning worship services and saying farewell to
the most wonderful church family I have ever known.
Sunday afternoon they are honoring my
wife, Dean, and me with a reception from 3 to 5. Then it will be finished – the
Opelika chapter in our lives, 13 precious years of serving God alongside some
of the finest folks I know anywhere.
The Trinity people have loved me and
supported me far beyond my desiring. At times I have been wrong. At other times
I have been foolish. But through thick and thin, the good folks at Trinity have
honored me with their faithfulness. I truly believe that these dear people
entered into a conspiracy years ago and decided that they would not allow their
pastor to fail.
Church people can do that, you know.
Sure, they can sometimes be ornery and mean. But when they want to, they can
pull together, pray together, and work together in such a wonderful way that
their pastor simply cannot fail. There are fewer privileges greater than that
of serving as pastor of such a church. And that has been my privilege since
June of 1989.
Our bishop has appointed my successor,
so next Sunday the Rev. Michael G. Roberts will take my place in the pulpit. He
and his wife Jo Ann are dear friends and I believe God is sending them to
Trinity to begin the greatest chapter in their ministry.
Mike comes here from a successful,
seven-year pastorate in Mary Esther, Florida. He has 30 years of experience
preaching and his people have loved him in all his churches. Mike’s dad,
Malcolm Roberts, is a retired United Methodist pastor now living with his wife
in Mobile. I am thrilled to have such a capable, godly man following me at
There is a saying that goes like this:
“God buries his workmen but His work goes on.” That is true. None of us is
indispensable. We serve at God’s please, then we move on and others take our
place. In my case, I hope that the burial will come much later, but right now I
must step aside and allow another to take my place.
This is how it should be. From day one I
have known that Trinity was not “my church.” It is God’s church, and he has
allowed me the high privilege of serving him for more than a decade.
In Lee County I have many friends who
are retired from active work. These friends have set a wonderful example for
me. I have watched them move graciously from their work into retirement and
still find significant work to do for the Lord. My wife and I hope to do the same,
as long as the Lord gives us breath.
While I have not wanted to retire from
the active ministry, I will do so with deep gratitude for all the years the
Lord has so graciously given me. God knows best. He is in this. He has a plan
for each one of us, a plan that usually unfolds gradually as we live in
The Trinity chapter has been a marvelous
one in our lives – the best one really – so far. But who knows? God may make the next one even better! For more
than a year I have been praying the prayer of Jabez, asking especially that the
Lord enlarge my opportunity for ministry.
I believe that in my retirement God is
going to answer that prayer – perhaps in ways I cannot even imagine. So, with
God’s help, we will move forward in this glad confidence.
For all that has been, we say THANKS!
For all that will be, we say YES!