Retiring clergy and their spouses attend the Foundation's Clergy Retirement Workshop in Lakeland, Florida on April 18, 2023. (FUMF photo / Connor Murphy)
Retiring clergy and their spouses attend the Foundation's Clergy Retirement Workshop in Lakeland, Florida on April 18, 2023. (FUMF photo / Connor Murphy)

April 20, 2023

Workshop helps clergy couple iron out details before an active retirement

By: Connor Murphy

A retirement age man and woman pose for a photo indoors
Sherry Eldred and Gary Eldred at the Foundation's Clergy Retirement Workshop. (FUMF photo / Connor Murphy)

Gary and Sherry Eldred are a clergy couple who have been in ministry since graduating from college.

Gary works as an ordained minister, most recently at Christ United Methodist Church in Leesburg, while Sherry worked as a high school teacher alongside her involvement in the church.

“He is the pastor,” said Sherry, “Although, to be honest, every pastoral spouse is a pastor to their congregation, too.”

Over the course of their careers, they worked in the interdenominational Christian group now known as Cru, pastoral ministry and the local church. Outside of their pastoral work, they’ve supported the church in Florida as proud investors in the Foundation’s Development Fund.

Now, Gary is looking forward to formally retirement, but his life in ministry will continue.“Well,I would like to stay really active in ministry to some capacity,” Gary said. “I’m not sure I would end up being a retired pastor necessarily but to be very involved.”

To prepare for the transition, they joined 20 other members of the clergy and their spouses at the Florida United Methodist Foundation in Lakeland for the Clergy Retirement Workshop. It’s a one-day seminar designed to prepare clergy who are planning to retire in the next year.

The workshop differs from the R-10 & Counting seminar held in the fall, which is more comprehensive and formulated for United Methodist clergy retiring within ten years.

At the workshop, attendees learned how to prepare for the impending transition, gaining knowledge on pension and benefits, health insurance and financial longevity planning. Presenting subject experts included Frank O’Brien of Wespath Benefits and Investments and Diana Welsh of the Florida Conference.

Sherry found value in learning more about maintaining health insurance in retirement.

A man in a suit speaking in front of a lectern
Frank O’Brien addresses attendees of the 2023 Clergy Retirement Workshop in Lakeland, FL on April 18, 2023. O’Brien, who works for Wespath Benefits and Investments, helps clergy to understand the complexities of their pension and other benefits. (FUMF photo / Connor Murphy)

“Part of workshop I thought was most helpful, probably the health benefits section because that was a little unclear to us about the surviving spouses with spouse passed away,” Sherry said.

With knowledge gained at the seminar, they’re more prepared for to pursue the retirement they have planned. Garys says his biggest fear is not understanding benefits and finances, but being bored in retirement.

“Sherry and I both enjoy writing as well as speaking,” Gary said. “We thought talk about putting together a book of ours together, sharing little devotional-type things. Meditations.”

Gary also has his heart set on writing a historical novel on an ancestor of his born in the early 19th century. It would be an new undertaking, filled with creatively patching together the life of his great, great, great grandfather.

Other plans include travel, joining a bowling league and spending time with their kids and grandchildren.

More prepared for the transition to retirement, they look forward to an active retirement, while continuing to serve God’s kingdom.

“I just I feel like I still have some gas in the tank,” Gary said.

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