Growing older: our story of new adventures and new horizons

My latest book, Growing Older. Our Story of New Adventures and New Horizons, has just been published. The title has its roots in part from a thought-provoking observation from Anglican pastoral theologian James Woodward: “There is a difference between living and being alive. Growing older is about adding life to years rather than just adding years to our lives.” It also has its roots in The Terminus, a wonderful poem by David Adam, the former Vicar of Holy Island, which has deeply influenced my view of retirement. He writes

The Terminus is not where we stay,
It is the beginning of a new journey.
It is where we reach out beyond,
Where we experience new adventures.
It is where we get off to enter new territory,
To explore new horizons, to extend our whole being.
It is a place touching the future.
It opens up new vistas.
It is the gateway to eternity.

I love the concept of retirement as experiencing “new adventures”, for an adventure contains within it the idea of daring. As the 85-year -old Caleb discovered, even at that stage in life there are still ‘mountains’ to climb (Joshua 14.12 AV). Indeed, I would suggest retirement is either a daring adventure or nothing.

I love too the concept of retirement as exploring “new horizons”, for new horizons involve new perceptions and new experiences. As Cicero wrote in his book, How To Grow Old, in later life there is no greater pleasure than learning more and more every day. Yet retirement is not just about learning. It is about applying the learning.

It is about growing as a person. In the words of a popular aphorism, “Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional”. Alas, not everybody grows up. Maturity takes a degree of self-awareness, which not everybody has. The fact is that in words attributed to the American poet E.E. Cummings, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”. The process of maturing can be painful, for it involves facing up to where we have made wrong judgments and wrong decisions. But how much better we feel when we do precisely that.

The main chapter headings give an indication of the scope of the book

  • Making the most of retirement
  • Worshipping at Chelmsford Cathedral
  • Serving God beyond Chelmsford Cathedral
  • Reaching a wider audience through writing
  • Rising to the challenge of Covid
  • Celebrating family
  • Telling Caroline’s story

With a Foreword by David Coffey, a past President of the Baptist World Alliance, the Appendices contain ten reflections on Covid-19 and ten reflections on the Christian life, followed by nine presidential postings by Caroline, ending with her provocative piece entitled  ‘Boadicea – terrorist or freedom fighter?’

As with my earlier autobiography This Is My Story, the primary motivation in writing this book is for our grandchildren. Hopefully when eventually they get round to reading Growing Older, they will discover a little more about what made their grandparents ‘tick’. The danger of a book like this is that it becomes just an account of much activity, whereas I want my grandchildren to see my love for the Lord Jesus as the driving force for all this activity. In this regard my account has at times become very personal. I hope that this ‘sequel’ to This is My Story will also appeal to a wider circle of friends who want to know how life has continued for us – and by ‘friends’ I also include those who are part of my blog community.

Unlike This Is My Story, Growing Older is a ‘limited edition’ in the sense that initially just under 400 copies were printed and are only available directly from myself. 215 pages in length, the book retails at £5. On top of this are costs of postage and packing, which in the UK means a further £2.50 – so £7.50 in total. If you live elsewhere, the price will be higher. I am also happy to supply an electronic copy (PDF) for which I am charging £5 to help me cover costs of publishing. Please email me if you would like a copy, and include your postal address if you wish a printed copy. I will then include my details to enable a bank transfer.

My friend Michael Cleaves served as my ‘sub-editor’ and wrote the following endorsement:

I had an inside track on Paul’s thought processes as he wrote this mix of biography; autobiography; ministry handbook; and contemporary reflection, especially on the Covid phenomenon. His command of detail is extensive and impressive, as witness his copious and helpful footnotes; it shows a mind constantly on the go, and a ready willingness to seek to educate and inform. Paul’s affection for Caroline is very obvious, and the biographical reflection on his family life is very moving. Caroline’s thoughts on her role as a coroner are a rare insight into a little-known and poorly-understood part of our national life, and could be the basis of a useful, stand-alone volume. Paul is well-known among British Baptists for his ebullient and positive approach to the life of the churches, and his role in calling them to account for the sake of the gospel. He has gone from being his denomination’s ‘enfant terrible’ to warm regard as a leading thinker and motivator. This work also shows a deep and personal faith, coupled with a simple spiritual life – which I am privileged to have seen close-up, in the hotel rooms we shared in various places around the world.

To whet your appetite further, next week I will share an extract from Growing Older entitled ‘Loving Jesus with passion’.

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