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Guests tell Between 2 Pulpits how the PC(USA)’s Christmas Joy Offering helps institutions and individuals to thrive

The focus of a recent edition is on the Menaul School and the Board of Pensions’ Assistance Program

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Menaul School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is among the recipients of the Christmas Joy Offering. (Photo courtesy of the Menaul School)

LOUISVILLE — The impacts that gifts to the Christmas Joy Offering have are front and center during a recent edition of Between 2 Pulpits, a podcast offered by Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog and hosted by the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Katie Snyder.

The conversations featuring the Rev. Matthew Miller, pastor of First Presbyterian Church and a member of the Board of Trustees at the Menaul School, both in Albuquerque, and Ruth Adams, director of the Assistance Program at the Board of Pensions, can be heard here. Both the Menaul School and the Assistance Program are recipients of the Christmas Joy Offering, which PC(USA) congregations receive during the season of Advent.

Miller’s adoptive son is attending Menaul School, which Miller said is “small enough and caring enough to have some patience and bring him along. He is improving every year as a student and with his relationships.”

“We’re a global school that serves the underserved,” Miller said of the Menaul School. “But at the end of the day, it is a wonderful supportive community of educators and students.”

Menaul School is searching for its new head of school and expects to have an announcement early in 2024. Miller credits the school’s chaplain, Hannah Scanlon, “who has been diligently engaging international students,” some with Hindu or Muslim faiths, “giving them the opportunity to share their religious practice in chapel [services] and sharing their religious culture with the student body through those chapel times during the week.”

The Rev. Matthew Miller

“In the Reformed tradition, we understand we don’t have the corner on the truth,” Miller said. “I think it makes for a richer theological and spiritual experience for the students.” The religious studies teacher at Menaul’s Upper School, John Sitler, “is among the best … religious educators that I have experienced. He does a phenomenal job engaging students and getting them to figure out what they believe.”

Miller said support to Menaul through the Christmas Joy Offering “is critically important to the operation of the school and its ability to offer programs not just for international students but local students.”

“People can access this kind of education because of the support of Presbyterians from around the country,” Miller said. “It’s hugely important.”

Asked by Snyder what he hopes for the church, Miller said, “Our hope is in the renewal of all things, the redemption of all things.” A way that Menaul lives into that hope is this: “As students from around the world share space and live with one another, reconciliation is taking place. Our world is made smaller in a good way.”

“My hope for the church is the same, the new thing God is doing now that we don’t always see,” Miller said. He has a friend who has this saying: “We know how to do what we do. We just need to do it as [well] as we can.”

“My hope,” Miller said, “is we keep our eyes open and stay awake to the thing God is doing at Menaul School and what God is doing in and through the church.”

Adams, who’s introduced at the 26:10 mark, oversees 11 assistance programs for the Board of Pensions, including three that benefit from the Christmas Joy Offering. One, Emergency Assistance, provides financial relief due to sudden expenses or a one-time emergency event. Adams cited the example of a member now in a wheelchair who applied for modifications to the member’s van because insurance wouldn’t cover the work.

“I love it that access is now opened up to more folks,” Snyder told Adams. “Stuff happens to everybody, and it can happen at any time.”

Other assistance programs help people to live in dignity in retirement, with adoption assistance, with transition to college or vocational school, and with minister debt relief, minister education debt assistance, sabbatical support and clergy wellness support.

A “good portion” of emergency assistance goes to members who have experienced disasters, including house fires. “Doing things like that is just mercy,” Adams said, “and that’s what these grants are intended to provide.”

“It’s meeting an unthinkable need at a time when you’re vulnerable,” Wilkinson said. “It’s not totally unlike the Christmas story … It’s a powerful testimony to our connectional life together.”

“So many of these saints gave their best to the church while living on very modest incomes,” Adams said. “This program is there to make sure they can live comfortably in retirement without financial burden.”

Ruth Adams

Adams said she appreciates the partnerships with Special Offerings “and the positive impacts they have on people’s lives … We’re so much more effective when we work together, and these are great examples of what that partnership looks like.”

Asked about her hope for the church, Adams said it’s for both the Board of Pensions and the PC(USA) “to continue to support each other and grow together and make the necessary adjustments they need to make to embrace people of all backgrounds and cultures.”

“The world is changing,” Adams said. “The church needs to adapt to those changes, and I do have hope for that.”

Give to the Christmas Joy Offering to help Presbyterian-related schools and colleges equipping communities of color provide life-changing experiences, and to help the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions support our leaders: past, present and future.

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