Anna Copeland: Leaping into Retirement

When I asked Anna Copeland how she felt about her imminent retirement, she told me a story about bungee jumping.

“Decades ago,” she remembered, “I donned a nylon harness and climbed the prefab tower bolted to a shopping mall parking lot. Teetering over the corrugated steel platform toward the spectators far below, several things occurred to me: This leap into the unknown is entirely voluntary. I’m both thrilled and terrified. There’s no turning back.

“Now,” she said, “as I stand on the brink of retirement, I trust that I’m free-falling into the best years of my life.”

The Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland (71), who has been a Christian minister for more than three decades, will soon be retiring from her current position as Senior Minister of the Community Church of Vero Beach, Florida, and coming to live in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with her husband Ellis.

I’d met Anna several years ago when I briefly attended the Community Church here in San Miguel, while she was a visiting minister. We became friends then, and soon we will be neighbors. In a recent interview, while she was visiting her not-yet-completed home not far from my apartment, I learned more about my fearless friend.

(Anna Copeland in her SMA living room)

“I fully embrace life in all of its iterations,” she told me, “and I’m open daily to learning new things. That means I’ve been an adventurous person.” She then shared a vivid story about her trek into the Arctic Circle with a small group of women not so long ago: “We flew to the northernmost airport in Sweden and then we took a bus to the end of the road and then we took a boat across the last lake, and then we trekked for five days in the Arctic and then we helicoptered out….” 

Fearlessness, adventurousness, as well as compassion are her bywords.

“My self-identity is that I am a warrior-priest,” she said. “I’m a warrior social advocate for the disenfranchised, and there’s nothing I won’t do for someone. And I’m a priest because I create sacred space wherever I am.”

When I asked Anna what motivates her, I was not surprised to learn her answer: faith. 

“The simplest answer to what motivates me is my faith, a gift since childhood,” she said. “I’ve had many challenges in life and yet have lived under a cloud of grace. I’ve always known, even in the worst of troubles, that that was not the end of the story. 

“I am a Christian, which is not a popular thing to say because it’s so misunderstood and so maligned and so abused in so many corners. But as a Christian, my understanding of the cosmic Christ is the universality of love.

“It is a great grief,” she admitted, “when people deeply misunderstand what this Jesus came to do and use it as a weapon to cause harm or divide. We’re here to embody the love of God, and if that’s not evident, we’re doing something wrong.”

And, unsurprisingly, what sustains her, she said, is prayer.

“For me,” she said, “prayer has a variety of forms; there isn’t a wrong way to pray. … Prayer is a way of life, it’s an ongoing relationship that is ever-present. Reliably in the morning, but it can be in the middle of the night, or when I’m driving — but I don’t close my eyes!

“The other thing that sustains me is beauty. I require natural beauty. I’m a mountain-climber, and I trek the mountains of Colorado. When I lived in Maine, I walked the coast, the rocky shores. It’s all so beautiful.”

And what, in Anna’s view are some of the advantages of older age?

“One of the advantages,” she said, “is that I no longer need to or are willing to shape who I am to satisfy someone or something in my environment. Another, which I’m anticipating as I enter retirement, is the gift of time, especially the time to write. This gift of time is one of the things that draws me to San Miguel. And it’s a gift to no longer be striving. I no longer have anything to prove or accomplish or demonstrate.”

As ever in my WOW interviews, my last question for Anna was, What would she say to the graduating class of a women’s college in her commencement address?

“Your life is now your own. What is it you are passionate about, that you can get lost in, for an endless amount of time, that gives you extraordinary pleasure? DO THAT THING. Do not compromise. That’s why you’re here. Discern who you are, why you’ve come, and give it your all. DO NOT BE AFRAID,” she said.

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To learn more about Anna’s fearless, adventurous, and compassionate life, and to see some of her videotaped sermons, go to . To get in touch with Anna personally, her e-mail address is .

6 thoughts on “Anna Copeland: Leaping into Retirement”

  1. What I most cherish about living in San Miguel is the group of extraordinary people- both expats and locals. It sounds like Anna will be a perfect fit in this dynamic community.

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