Rev. Gretchen Janssen, M.Div. ’86

What do you do?
That’s the question! I’ve recently retired and am sorting through life again, now that I’m no longer serving a congregation or doing counseling. Author Dan Kadlec speaks of this as “the real retirement struggle,” defining oneself as more than the sum of a long career. For 28 years I’ve been a marriage and family therapist. While at Union, my family moved to Denmark for six years because of my husband’s employment, and during some of that time I did an internship at the American Church of Copenhagen. I returned to Union to finish my degree, but altogether it took me 13 years to finish. After I graduated, there were not very many women in pastoral ministry, but I was fortunate to be ordained at the First Presbyterian Church in Palisades Park, New Jersey, a congregation that had been founded in the early 1900s but in recent years had become almost entirely Taiwanese in membership. While I preached in English, the sermon was translated into Taiwanese. I was three-quarters time, but there’s no such thing as part-time ministry. My real work there was to prepare the way for a Taiwanese pastor to take the pulpit. It was after that ministry that I trained to become a counselor. Listening to people’s stories, now that’s been my dream job!
What’s the best thing about your job?
I’ve greatly enjoyed seeing how people become involved in reshaping their lives in ways that are satisfying and meaningful. It’s remarkable to work alongside people as

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