The Reverend Roger Stressman '44 has found one of the best retirement activities available to an ordained minister. Since 2006, he has been active in the chaplaincy program for Holland America Line ships, cruising the world in exchange for conducting Protestant worship services on Sundays and sea days, caring for families who experience illness or death, and assisting the captain with ship weddings.
He lists Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Palestine, Italy and Norway among the countries he’s visited while “working.”
“I’m treated very well, with a private room near the top of the ship and meals in the formal dining room,” says Stressman, a resident of Tempe, AZ.
Stressman receives calls from Holland America about which ships need a chaplain for certain cruises. Some may be seven days in length, others can entail a month at sea, which he can then accept or turn down. Since 2006, he’s cruised the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas several times, and during 2007, he went to both the Arctic Circle on a cruise to Norway and to Antarctica as part of a South America itinerary. One of Stressman’s longest assignments involved a trip to New Zealand and Australia. And his favorite ship is the Westerdam because it “just feels like home.”
Stressman applied for the program after the death of his wife Jane '47 in 2006. The couple had cruised extensively during their active travel years. “After Jane’s death, I began looking around for some area of service and I remembered the many contacts I had with chaplains aboard the ships we sailed.”
When not cruising, Stressman continues to serve as minister of visitation at First United Methodist Church in Tempe. He spent 54 years in the ministry, receiving his master’s from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and his doctorate from the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, CA. He served churches in Michigan and Nevada and later spent 12 years on the staff of Velda Rose United Methodist Church in Mesa, AZ, after his official “retirement.”
Stressman admits that the travel gets tiring—especially when things go awry—and he’s going to limit the number of longer cruises he accepts. “And now I want to go to ports that I haven’t seen before.”
North Central NOW Winter 2009