That’s what pastor tells New Jersey congregation that gave individual gifts to every pastor in its presbytery
February 4, 2017
The letters with an individual check of $50 from Stewartsville Presbyterian Church, made out to every teaching elder in Newton Presbytery, came in the mail in May 2016, near the end of the church calendar year.
Yet six months later, the pastors who received the letters, and those who made the decision to give them, are still talking about them in ways that get at the heart of the gift of giving.
Video Embed: https://vimeo.com/193386153
“In the letter we made sure to say that the $50 was for the pastors to spend on themselves,” says the Rev. Stephen Choi. “It was not a pay-it-forward gift. It was intended to bless the person receiving it.”
After mailing the letters and checks to 68 pastors and chaplains—the combined total of the gift was $3,400—Choi says he and the congregation really didn’t think about it much and moved on to the next demands of ministry. They knew that some churches and pastors were struggling, but they never anticipated the responses they got.
In the next two to three weeks, notes and cards from those receiving the gifts poured into the church’s mailbox: messages expressing gratitude, speaking of how the letter and the check came when they were having a bad week or an anniversary of some sort.
One pastor spoke about how over Memorial Day weekend he was able to splurge. Instead of the usual hot dogs and hamburgers, he bought steaks for the family.
“Receiving those notes and cards was such a joy for me—and for our congregation,” says Choi. “I found myself waiting eagerly for the mail to arrive every day, so that I could open up more testimonies of how in some small way the Holy Spirit used us to bless teaching elders, pastors in our presbytery.”
One letter in particular made a powerful impression on Choi and the Stewartsville congregation. It came from Rev. Dr. Ed Halldorson at the Presbyterian Church of Chatham Township. He’s been in ministry for more than 40 years. “Since 1974,” is how he began his three-page, handwritten letter. “I’ve never received a gift quite like this.”
He wrote that he found the gift “truly remarkable” because it wasn’t a “church to church” gift” but “a church to every single pastor gift in the presbytery.” He was deeply touched to have his ministry “affirmed in this way.”
Halldorson spent his $50 on a video program on biblical archeology for a bible class he teaches. He even offered to co-teach it at Stewartsville as an expression of his thanks.
“Certainly this act as a congregation has strengthened our connections with the ministers and teaching elders in Newton Presbytery,” says Choi. “It’s opened a door for us to care a little bit more, to have a more real relationship with them.”
“I’m truly grateful,” adds Halldorson. “They reminded me of how happy and blessed I am to be a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church.”
Paul Seebeck, mission communications strategist, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Newton Presbytery
Let us join in prayer for:
The Presbytery of Newton Staff
Rev. Jeanne Radak, presbytery leader
Jeremy Campbell, stated clerk
Sonja Gaertner, office manager
Lizabeth Hutchinson, financial administrator
Rev. Stefanie Muntzel, resource center media coordinator
PC(USA) Mission Coworkers
Bernard Adeney-Risakotta, Indonesia
Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta, Indonesia
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
David Sedlak, PMA
Linda Seebantz, PMA
Let us pray
Holy and loving God, we are grateful that you are creating a future of home in our world. Thank you for working in our hearts and lives, imperfect though we are, to do transforming ministry. Give us courage to live from trust in your goodness and provision. Thanks be to God! Amen.
Morning Psalms 63; 149
First Reading Isaiah 56:1-8
Second Reading Galatians 5:25-6:10
Gospel Reading Mark 9:14-29
Evening Psalms 125; 90