Soft Landings in Retirement—A New Pension Boards Initiative for UCC Clergy Women

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The process of retirement can be a journey into the unknown. Female clergy have their own lens and experiences of this journey, but who is talking about it and helping to equip clergy women through this life stage?

The good news is that the Pension Boards-United Church of Christ, is launching a new initiative called Soft Landings in Retirement, a program focused on easing and optimizing the transition of female clergy as they retire. The United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance (UCBMA) is providing financial and administrative support as part of its commitment to care for those who serve the church in every phase of their pastoral career.

The Rev. Suzanne Adele Schmidt, Ph.D., of the Central Atlantic Conference, and the Rev. Michelle Hughes of the Illinois Conference, both retired UCC authorized ministers, are developing and co-facilitating the program. The pilot will offer a learning experience to a diverse group of potential facilitators for future iterations of the program.

Rev. Schmidt notes: “The Soft Landings in Retirement program is an initiative that I created to support and provide resources for clergy women as they transition from the pulpit to retirement. I recognized a need for this kind of program as I prepared to retire as a minister and realized that resources for retirement were lacking voices of clergy women. Retirement can be a significant life transition, and it is important to have a space to name the grief that comes with it while also claiming the gifts that retirement can bring. The Soft Landings in Retirement program aims to fill this gap and provide clergy women with the support they need during this significant life transition.

“As co-developers of the program, Rev. Michelle Hughes and I are creating the content and will be co-facilitating the pilot beginning in August 2023. Our goal is to encourage other retired clergy women to view retirement as an opportunity to explore new possibilities. We are committed to supporting clergy women during this important transition and accompanying them as they navigate the challenges and opportunities that retirement presents.”

Since many clergy women have served in smaller churches and have had fewer career opportunities than their male counterparts, the pilot seminar will be for UCC retired clergy women only. Future offerings will be expanded to include male clergy.

Although the 2023 pilot is limited in attendance, new offerings will be available in 2024. To indicate your interest in the 2024 Soft Landings in Retirement sessions, please contact the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..