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Older Americans getting religion for second careers

Published: Monday, June 10 2013 2:05 p.m. MDT

Chapel of the Good Shepherd, General Theological Seminary, New York City.

"Randy OHC" via flickr

Starting off on a new career is not just for the young. Instead of retiring, some Americans are starting over with an "encore career" in the ministry.

Anne Tergesen at The Wall Street Journal talks about the trend: "Flocks of people in their 50s and 60s are putting aside thoughts of a comfortable retirement and heading to theological school, where they've become the fastest-growing age group in recent years. They're putting in years of study and field work to become chaplains, spiritual counselors, missionaries, and educators and social workers for nonprofits with religious ties. And they're taking that training everywhere from disaster zones to impoverished villages to hospital bedsides."

Glenn Ruffenach at SmartMoney says the general term of "encore careers" was made popular by Marc Freedman, who started encore.org to help people make the transition. Ruffenach says the reason why people are looking for such jobs are "undersize nest eggs, increased longevity, a desire to tackle society's ills and, in many cases, an urge to find a different kind of life."

Pursuing a job into the ministry, however, has a whole new layer. Tergesen at The Wall Street Journal tells about Mike Watson, who used to be a medical-malpractice attorney in New York who was feeling worn down by his job. Now, after feeling fulfilled volunteering to help people in hurricane-devastated New Orleans in 2007, the 61-year-old is at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, on his way to earning a master's degree in divinity. "(H)e plans to start a nonprofit to help churches create community-outreach programs similar to the one that took him to New Orleans in 2007," Tergesen writes.

Encore jobs can go the other way as well. Ruffenach at SmartMoney wrote about Paul Rigel, 57, a former minister in Florida went back to college when he was 54 to become a teacher. "Now, he spends his days instructing middle schoolers on the finer points of agriculture and environmental science, among other electives. "This is a great adventure," Rigel told Ruffenach.

Nicholas D. Kristof, summed up his column about "Geezers Doing Good" in The New York Times: "Boomers just may be remembered more for what they did in their 60s than for what they did in the Sixties."

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @degroote, Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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