Your trusted reporter interviewed Reverend Jane about her plans for Life after Retirement. Here is a brief synopsis of our discussion:
TR (trusted reporter): You’ve picked a specific date: December 31, 2015. Why that date?
RJB: (Reverend Jane Bechle) By then I’ll be 68 years old, and I feel my age catching up. Also, like many people my age, I have to say that I didn’t sign up for technological ministry—it’s time for a new minister, younger, with new ideas.
TR: Do you have specific plans?
RJB: I have two siblings who may be retiring at the same time. I’ll probably use Springfield as a home base, and travel, looking for a place to settle. I love the West but my family seems to want to stay on the east coast. I definitely don’t like winter, so nothing too far north.
TR: After 40 years of ministry do you think you may just take a few years away from church?
RJB: I will be a very active UU member wherever I end up. I’d really like to do part-time community ministry affiliated with a UU church—possibly focusing on some form of social action. Or I could get involved in environmental, reproductive rights or animal causes. I’m also drawn to one-on-one elderly care. So many older people have no one to act as their advocate.
TR: What are you most looking forward to?
RJB: Not having so much responsibility.
TR: What are you dreading?
RJB: The lack of schedule. I have a tendency to read all day if I don’t have a schedule. That will be the first thing I establish.
TR: How do you plan to stay motivated now that you are officially a “lame duck”?
RJB: I really got a shot of energy at General Assembly and I want to use that energy for the church. I’m serious about the practice of Kindness and people may find that I’m more assertive.
TR: As we start a search for a new minister do you have any advice?
RJB: This church is on the verge of supporting a full-time minister if you can find the right one. You’ll need someone energetic, focused on community involvement, and bringing some technological expertise. The UUA has a process, but it starts with electing a search committee. Rely on the UUA process to see you through.
TR: Any plans to publish?
RJB: I doubt it, but you never know.
TR: Tell me a little bit about 41 years as a minister.
RJB: I was ordained in 1973, when women ministers were rare. I got my first solo church a year later—Irvington United Methodist in New Jersey, bordering Newark. The congregation was totally welcoming and accepting, but some of my colleagues in ministry were not happy to see a female in the ranks.
I used to handwrite all my sermons, and I used the same sexist language everyone used at the time. I phased that out by my second year. Now I am writing my sermons and reading them from my laptop, I read email for hours every day , and I’m no longer a liberal Christian. Instead, I consider myself a Spiritual Atheist. A lot can happen on a spiritual journey in 41 years. I’ll be on this journey for the rest of my life.
TR: Any advice for the new minister?
RJB: (laughing quietly) Love them for all you’re worth. Communicate with them for all you’re worth. Do your best to channel their wonderful energy into practicing acts of kindness.