Click here to view an album of images from the Retirement Celebration
“What a joy it is to be here tonight,” Bishop Kiesey told the Iowa Annual Conference Session. She said that being there at the Conference Session felt like coming home.
A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Bishop Kiesey served in several Iowa churches after her ordination. She was elected to the episcopacy in 2004 by the North Central Jurisdictional Conference and appointed to the Dakotas Area. After eight years there, Bishop Kiesey was assigned to the Michigan Area in July 2012.
Bishop Kiesey began explaining how she never used to worry about birthdays. But when she approached 60, this changed.
“That was hard,” she stated. “That was a particularly huge step in my mind.”
“Maybe it was because I could see retirement from there,” she bishop said, ‘or maybe I could no longer pretend I was young.”
But the birthdays came and went, and she still has trouble believing she is that old.
Bishop Kiesey recalled one day in particular for those gathered at the Session.
As she went about her normal morning routine, she said, preparing to go to the office, drying her hair, looking in the mirror, she thought there wasn’t as much grey in her hair as she’d thought - not that bad – for 65.
As she put on some make-up, Bishop Kiesey said, she looked a little more closely and thought she didn’t see too many wrinkles.
“And those little, dark, age spots?” she said. “Well, the powder just seemed to make them disappear. Nobody’s going to really see them. It’s not too bad.”
“When I was done, I looked in the mirror one last time and I was feeling pretty darn good,” recalled Bishop Kiesey.
She said she thought maybe being 65 wasn’t such a big deal after all.
“ ….. And then I put on my glasses,” Bishop Kiesey said.
Age and retirement do sneak up us, the bishop continued.
She shared how it very much has been a change in lifestyle and an adjustment for her after 42 years in active ministry.
It has taken her months to not wake up thinking about what’s on the calendar for that day, and to stop thinking about that she must get a particular thing done before a certain day.
“And I still dread the question, “What are you going to DO in retirement?” Bishop Kiesey shared.
“I’ve learned to simply respond, “I don’t know,” the bishop said. “I’m going to say “no” to everything for a while – sleep and rest and enjoy being closer to family - and then see what God has in store for me.”
“Friends, retirement is an adjustment,” she told the retirees. “But let me offer another way of looking at it.”
“Retirement is just another step on our Journey of life,” she said. “Retirement is our Sabbath time.”
Faith is not a pre-set thing that remains static all our lives, continued the bishop, rather it’s dynamic – continually growing, deepening and broadening. Whether at the beginning of active ministry or retirement, the bishop said, as we journey through life, we also journey more deeply into faith.
“Faith grows as our life experiences,” she stated. “It grows as our encounters with the world grow.”
Bishop Kiesey discussed St. Peter, saying how he was one of her favorite Biblical characters, because he seems so very human.
She detailed how he was impulsive, emotional, spoke what was on his mind whether right or wrong, and how he was sometimes wise and sometimes foolish.
“He was human,” said Bishop Kiesey.
Peter was both praised by Jesus for his wisdom and also rebuked when he continued to misunderstand what Jesus’ Messiahship was about.
It was Peter whom Jesus trusted enough to take with him to the mountaintop for the transfiguration, and yet it was also Peter who didn't understand what he had just seen, and who wanted to stay on that safe mountain rather than return to the difficulties of life down in the real world.
“It was Peter who, during Jesus' last meal promised undying love and devotion to Jesus - even to the death,” recalled the bishop. “And yet it was that same Peter who, when Jesus most needed him, denied even knowing Jesus – and not once, but three times.”
Peter is a very human reminder of what we all experience in our journey into faith, she said.
Bishop Kiesey expressed that like her, the retirees’ journey has likely been one where some days were strong and bold, wise and hopeful, but other days were filled with doubt, uncertainty, and anxiety.
“There have even been days when we have missed the mark entirely, said Bishop Kiesey. “But through it all, you have been faithful – to God … and to your call.”
She referenced the words in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 14, concerning the anointing of Jesus by the woman of Bethany. Some of the disciples were offended by her wasting a years’ worth of wages with the perfume and his feet. But Jesus’ response is quite different, the bishop said.
Christ said the woman had done something beautiful for him.
“All she had done was to love her Lord with her heart, soul and life,” Bishop Kiesey said. “And she had put that love into action, the best she knew how. That was it.”
“You see,” said the bishop, “Jesus saw the faithfulness behind the act.”
She told the retirees that when they had given their lives to the work of Christ, when they said “yes” to “this amazing, scary, wonderful, frustrating, miraculous, and incredibly fulfilling call to ministry, whether you know it or not, your lives and your faithfulness have made a difference.”
She pointed to how they have served in churches and ministries of all sizes, and have been mentors and shepherds.
“And believe it or not - and this is the miracle of it all - not only have others’ lives been changed,” said Bishop Kiesey, “but you have been changed, your faith has been deepened, you have learned more about yourself and about the God we serve.”
Bishop Kiesey repeated once more for the retirees that as we journey through life, we also journey more deeply into faith.
She offered a quote for consideration:
"Success is being faithful in the place God has appointed me."
“And I believe that,” Bishop Kiesey stated. “Success is not determined by size of church or salary, recognition or status. It is not determined by the standards of the world.”
“But I believe that success, in the sight of God, is first and foremost being faithful to God’s call,” she continued. “It is being able to love and minister and shepherd - to do those 'beautiful things' - wherever we are.
That is success, she said
Perhaps they have planted only a tiny seed within someone’s soul, she reminded them, or perhaps they have challenged someone’s faith to grow in a new direction. They might have been there for someone when the world came crashing down around them, or simply ministered in a small but important way.
“But, be assured, your life and your ministries have made a difference,” the bishop told them. “And the world is a better place because of it.”
Bishop Kiesey then congratulated the retirees for their years of service, telling them as well, “Congratulations on entering this holy time of Sabbath in your lives.”
She expressed gratitude on behalf of the whole United Methodist Church.
“May God bless you,” Bishop Kiesey said, “and may the journey continue!”
Members of the Retiring Class of 2017 honored at the Retirement Celebration were:
Norman G. Anderson; Rose M. Blank; Rose Marie Calderon-Khan; Judith R. DePue; Brent A. deSilva; Philip D. Dicks; Lynn C. Gardner; Dwayne Henrichs; M. Scott Hibben; Kay Hooper; Earlene M. Lekwa; Lon L. Lewis; Nicholas S. Longworth; Susan M. May; Donald D. Mitchem; Darwin L. Moore; Merrill G. Muller; Catherine L. Orth; Arnette M. Pint; Vicki Lindley Reece; Dale A. Schoening; Tompsie K. Smith; Cathy Van Gundy; Roger A. White; Catherine Whitlatch; Jessica B. Wimmer; Judy J. Wooton; Mark A. Young
The offering taken at the Retirement Celebration benefited Cass Community.