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A life changed but still fully lived

Retired Illinois pastor living with multiple sclerosis still gets around, thanks in part to the Christmas Joy Offering

by Special Offerings | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Stewart Pattison and his wife, Bonnie. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Dr. Stewart M. Pattison is living with multiple sclerosis, and he has for years. The disease recently progressed to a point that he had to retire from ministry.

“Right now, we’re in the middle of the COVID virus. For lots of people, that’s a temporary stay-at-home thing,” said Pattison. “When you have a disability, it’s also a stay-at-home thing. But, if I didn’t have the special programs that the Board of Pensions has, for me, it would be a permanent stay-at-home order. What they do is really important to me and others like me, so that we can carry on with life even with our disabilities. They’ve helped in ways that have opened up my life.”

That included making it possible for him to continue his ministry as the solo pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church in Lombard, Illinois, for more than 20 years.

Several years ago he applied for and received a grant from the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions and the Presbytery of Chicago for the purchase of a specialized scooter — he calls it his “Di Blasi.” That’s the name of the company that makes it. Getting the scooter allowed him to continue serving in his ministry, but that all changed a few months ago.

“What I had to do was go on disability with the Board of Pensions,” Pattison said. “It was a completely pleasant experience. They were well organized, responsive and helpful, and they continue to be that way.”

In comparison, he’s still waiting on government agencies to respond to his disability request.

“If I had to rely on the government, I’d be in trouble. I still haven’t heard back,” he said. “I know that the COVID-19 issues have slowed everything down, so I understand things can take longer. But the Board of Pensions responded immediately. Once they got all my documentation, they got me going so I could access my disability benefits.”

The Board of Pensions is also providing support and assistance as Pattison navigates the Social Security Administration’s system, which he says can be a “very difficult process.”

“They tell me what they need and they just kind of get the job done for you,” he explained. “They go through all the motions and take care of it. This is so important not just for myself but for others who are facing difficulties or life transitions. The Board of Pensions has really good support programs, and to just know you have someone there to help you navigate all the red tape is so helpful.”

A portion of what you give to the Christmas Joy Offering goes toward supporting retired church leaders in their time of need. It’s something Pattison understands has impacted his life.

The quality of life for a retired pastor, the Rev. Dr. Stewart Pattison, and his wife, Bonnie, have been enhanced by the gift of mobility. (Contributed photo)

That help not only allowed him to continue serving as a pastor for as long as possible, but it’s enabled him to continue living a full life even as his disease progresses.

He now has two scooters, which are his source of mobility. They recently allowed him to take a trip to visit his son, who is a Marine at Camp Pendleton, California.

“Without the Di Blasi all I’d do was sit at home,” Pattison said. “What the Board of Pensions is doing is huge. I’m grateful for those who give to this Offering because the board’s staff is very responsive and seem so happy to help. It has never been a hassle to deal with them or get the help I need to live a better life.”

Give to the Christmas Joy Offering to help the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions support our leaders: past, present and future.

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