Walking into retirement: Barbara Glasson's journey of reflection and letting go

Former President of the Methodist Conference, Revd Barbara Glasson celebrated her retirement with a walk along the canals of England to the Derbyshire Dales.

10 July 2024

As the sun rose on 8 June, Barbara Glasson set out from the Queen's Foundation for Theological Education in Birmingham, embarking on a journey that would mark the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

"Walking has always been a significant part of my life," Barbara reflects. "I find the daily routine of walking helpful to give space and time in the day." This love for walking has led her to undertake several long-distance journeys in the past, each marking significant transitions in her ministry.

For Barbara, this retirement walk to the Derbyshire Dales was about more than just covering miles. It was a deliberate act of slowing down and embracing change. "When ministers are received into full Connexion they stand for the Conference's standing vote. After this, we are so many years 'travelled' as this is part of the itinerant nature of our calling. At retirement we are said to 'sit down'," she explains. "I wanted to mark this change of pace with my walk. It is too easy to rush from one stage of life to another without giving time and space for reflection, regret and thanksgiving."

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As she made her way along the canals, Barbara became immersed in a world where the past and present intertwine. "The canal system links us with our urban and industrial past, taking us to the heart of towns and cities without the manic congestion of the motorway," she observes. She discovered moments of beauty and tranquillity even in the most unexpected places.

"I was surprised to stand under Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham where the roads, railway and canal tangle together in an immense knot of concrete and steel," Barbara recalls. "Within the noise and fumes of such a venue, there was a curious sense of 'otherness' where a duck nurtured her babies and an orchid bloomed under one of the huge pillars."

While Barbara walked mostly alone, she was far from isolated. A WhatsApp group of 100 members allowed friends and colleagues to engage in her walk in solidarity, creating a shared experience despite the physical distance. Some even joined her on some segments of her walk.

As the miles passed beneath her feet, Barbara grappled with the concept of letting go. "I realised that not only did I need to let go of my paid employment but also many of the responsibilities and worries that I have carried for a long time," she shares.

"Letting people go is a grieving process but also the opportunity to be free oneself," Barbara adds. "I care deeply about the Methodist Church and believe that our message of God's grace going ahead of us is crucial for the world in its turmoil and trouble."

As Barbara's walk ended, she looked forward to the next chapter of her life with anticipation. "I am going to write, paint, create and walk in retirement," she says, "and hope that the letting go that I have experienced through this walk will give space and time for new adventures –there is always something to be discovered around the next corner!"

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