Board of Pensions employees tell Between Two Pulpits about the planned expansion of the Board’s Assistance Program
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Gifts given through the Christmas Joy Offering go in part to the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions, and two officials there were happy to appear on Between Two Pulpits Monday to talk about ways that assistance is being enhanced beginning Jan. 1, 2022, to benefit even more workers in ministries affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The Rev. Dr. John McFayden, the Board of Pensions’ Executive Vice President and Chief of Church Engagement, and Ruth Adams, the Board’s Assistance Program director, were the guests of Bryce Wiebe and Lauren Rogers of Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. Watch this edition of Between Two Pulpits here.
In October, the Board of Pensions announced an expansion of its Assistance Program. Read about some of the changes here.
McFayden said during his 12 years serving the Board of Pensions, access to assistance has been expanding. In recent months, the Board has moved to implement “generational changes to assistance programs,” expanding access by “recognizing that membership is more diverse than ever,” McFayden said. While ministers are still central to Board of Pensions membership, “we now have more who are not ministers than minsters. The needs are broader, and we want to make sure they have access.”
An emphasis in the expansion that goes into effect next month is on people of color serving the Church, “in a time when the Presbyterian Church is committed to breaking down and eradicating systemic racism that has affected the Church in wholesale ways through generations,” McFayden said. “People have been marginalized and excluded from assistance.” The Board of Pensions “is looking for specific ways to reach out to groups to make sure they have access.”
Adams said the Board learned from such programs as Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations that “personal debt is an encumbrance,” which the Board will help pastors to combat beginning with the New Year with minister debt relief, financial educational tools, one-on-one free counseling and grants up to $10,000.
Gifts to the Christmas Joy Offering helps expand eligibility for pensioners who might not have been eligible for income and housing supplements. One change will help retirees meet the 15-year eligibility requirement by adding credit for 10 years of qualifying credit for work done outside of traditional work covered by the Board to five years enrolled in the Board of Pensions. Housing supplements funds are being expanded to include some home health care services. More information about the expanded services is available here. Information about Board of Pensions services for people following natural disasters, such as last weekend’s tornadoes in Western Kentucky, is here.
This is a start for the Assistance Program, Adams said, but it’s “certainly not the end. We were looking at ways to expand opportunity and eligibility. We have ideas in the works for subsequent years. This is really just the start for the Assistance Program.”
“I know how important it is to honor stories we have excluded from our midst,” Wiebe said.
“With all these updates, we are trying to destigmatize” the idea that the Assistance Program “is here as a charity,” Adams said. “The Board has wonderful resources, and you or someone you know is probably eligible for these programs.”
Asked to speak about the lectionary passages for Dec. 19, Adams chose Psalm 80:1-7, in part because she was an English major in college. “I am a sucker for poetry,” Adams said, “and I always liked the psalms.”
That part of Psalm 80 reminded Adams that our current struggles “aren’t new, and there is comfort knowing we will endure and flourish. This is the season of hope” during days when “there is the promise of longer days of warmth and light ahead.”
“I was struck by God coming to lowly people,” McFayden said. People may be finding themselves “in lowly circumstances” following a devastating storm, or by circumstances “imposed by marginalization by society and even the Church. The promise is that God works through lowly and ordinary people.”
Rogers asked McFayden about his hope for the future of the church. He said his hope is that “we come to live out and express to the world more fully the design and desire of God,” in part by relating to one another “despite those differences that often divide us but which make us much richer when they are celebrated.”
Between Two Pulpits will air its final broadcast for 2021 on the Facebook page of Special Offerings. Look for it next week here.
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