A Word from Joe Phelps

Greetings from retirement! Today marks five months into this new life and I miss your faces, your stories, and the sacred work of Love we shared for decades. I follow news  of Highland with gratitude for your continued work for gospel justice, just as I knew you would.

It is a delight to see many of you around town and to have a chance to catch up. But since some of our paths don’t cross, a note seems in order.

I am doing very well—happy, rested, healthy, grateful. My schedule is often that I have nothing to do when I arise, but by the end of the day only half of the work is done! I find my daily work, or it finds me. It changes daily. I play in the dirt around the yard; I fix things; I help friends who need something I can do; I ponder things; I read; I meet neighbors; I talk to friends and to several young pastors. Terri and I have and will travel to see family and take time to see the world as we come and go. We take the backroads a lot.

One gift of retirement is that life’s pace is slower, more humane. There is space to experience how diverse, beautiful and interwoven everything is. I’ve preached this for years, but now have time and emotional energy to get to know neighbors, to drive without rushing and to see our city as if for the first time, to visit other parts of Kentucky… only to discover that heaven’s epicenter is southeast of Lexington: Red River Gorge.

I continue my work with racial reconciliation and as advocate for Metro Corrections inmates, particularly Joey, with whom I communicate regularly.

Retirement provides a window into soul-searching: Who am I now that I am just me—no official title, office, role, place, responsibilities? I am grateful for those skilled in helping others on this journey. It is enlightening, scary, and invigorating.

I’ve not been bored for one moment.

I suppose I’m on a sabbatical of sorts from life-long Sunday practices. On Sundays when we are in town, I sit and pray and listen, or I walk in the woods, or I drive around the city and notice who is and isn’t in church. I pray for you, Highland. Absent from you, I’ll often feel like I am with you, accompanying you. I’ll notice the time, envision where you are in the morning schedule, and give thanks to God for the gift that is you.

For blessed are you, Highland. You are a church ready “for such a time as this.” You have the wisdom, the energy, the  vision, the gifts, the guts, the hope, and the connection. Highland, the world needs you now as never before. Your unique blend of gospel passion and history and courage and gifts are given to announce God’s new day. As our Highland hymn instructs: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus Christ the author of our faith.