Acknowledging retired pastors for their years of dedication to ministry, the South Pacific Division (SPD) ministerial association held its first Veterans of the Cross conference September 26-29, 2022. Retired ministers and their spouses from across Australia gathered for the event at Avondale University, where they participated in a variety of activities.
Organized by a volunteer committee of ministry veterans, the event featured daily morning worship and a series of presentations about God’s grace by SPD ministerial association secretary Darius Jankiewicz. The program also included a number of breakout sessions on relevant topics for retirees, such as how to face retirement from a medical perspective, “relating positively with your grandchildren,” and “a beginner’s guide to social media.”
In the afternoon, the 130 participants had an array of recreational activities to choose from, including guided bush walks, table games, Cooranbong tours, and ELIA health checks.
The initiative was born after Jankiewicz listened to his father’s perspective on retirement. “My dad is a retired pastor. He told me that after serving the church for almost 50 years, retirement felt like dropping off the face of the earth. [After hearing that] I’ve been dreaming of doing something for retired pastors, and since I returned to Australia in 2019, I have started working on it. Around 18 months ago, we got the committee, and the result is here,” he said.
Graham Thompson, who flew in from the mining town of Boddington, Western Australia, to attend the event, shares the same feeling Jankiewicz’s father expressed and acknowledges the importance of the initiative. “Ministers, when they walk out, it seems like they’ve been on the front line, and all of a sudden, they’re on their own; they’ve got to find their own way again and it’s very difficult to settle down and to get on with a different life. So this type of event is actually essential for us. It’s really appreciated,” he said.
Ross Bains, who served in ministry for more than 40 years and drove down from Tweed Heads, New South Wales, for the event, said he really enjoyed the conference. “This is the very first program to cater exclusively for retired ministers, and it’s wonderful; I’m loving it,” he said.
According to SPD president Glenn Townend, the initiative is a way of acknowledging the ministers’ past and current contributions. “In my perception, pastors never retire. Their contribution to the work of the church and God’s mission in the community just continues. Sometimes retirees contribute their best life’s work in retirement, and so this is a great initiative to just honor them and thank them for their service and to say that we continue valuing their contributions since their retirement,” he said.
For Jankiewicz, the highlight of the program was the positive impact on attendees. “I’m excited to see so much energy, joy, happiness, and connections between people. Seeing them building new friendships and restoring and connecting old ones is beautiful. It’s just inspiring for me to see all that,” he said.