By Robert T Brooks
I’ve found over the years that God uses my experience, gifts, and talents in unexpected and powerful ways. I left my parish assignment four months ago. People are asking me, “What are you doing with yourself in retirement?” During the Epiphany season, I want to reframe the question: “How is the light of Christ showing forth, manifesting itself in your life now that you’re retired?”
I find this question useful, first, because it reminds me that my vocation is to do my part to further God’s mission, the missio Dei, in my work and in my life. I’ve always defined my personal vocation as “serving God and God’s people.” Second, the question reminds me that as a disciple of Christ, I always look to Jesus as my fellow traveler, my mentor, my guide, my friend. Finally, I’m reminded that I’m called to walk the walk, that it is in the showing forth of Christ’s light in and through me that those I know and meet will see God’s mission in action.
The newest manifestation of Christ’s light in my life is my developing involvement with 1000 Jobs Haiti (www.1000jobshaiti.org). Shortly after I retired last fall, I accompanied the Reverend Deacon Buck Close on a five-day trip to Haiti. My mission was simple: to observe his work and to discern how I might be of assistance. I had no clue of the answer.
Half way through the trip, on our daily visit to the Central Plateau, I had an epiphany. “Buck, I think I know how I can help.” Before I could explain, Buck shot back, “Bob, I know exactly how you can help. I want you to be the non-executive chair of the board of 1000 Jobs Haiti.” Since I was going to propose that I work with 1000 jobs on governance and strategy issues, I immediately accepted his offer.
What interests me about this assignment, this epiphany, this manifestation of Christ’s light showing forth in and through me, is how it so perfectly fits with my theology, my experience, my gifts, and my interests.
Episcopal Divinity School trained, it continues to form me “to serve and advance God’s mission of justice, compassion, and reconciliation.” So to be involved in a project with a focus on the creation of sustainable jobs at fair wages in one of the poorest countries on the planet, on promoting employment and self-sufficiency, and on developing markets for Haitian products; all of this is consonant with my theological understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
So for a “late vocation” Episcopal priest whose training and work includes military service in logistics, graduate study in finance, work in investment management, and a variety of not-for-profit board work, Buck’s offer was providential.
As I prepare for my first board meeting of 1000 Jobs Haiti, I am comfortable and confident in knowing that this is indeed an Epiphany moment for me.
*The Reverend Robert T Brooks '95 served three parishes as Rector: Christ Church (Kent, Ohio), Grace Church (Providence, Rhodes Island), and St Andrews (Little Compton, Rhodes Island). He is a faculty member of CREDO, chair of the Audit Committee of the Episcopal Church, and has served as a trustee of EDS since 2001.