In this season of anticipation and hope, Frank Spencer asks us to consider what it means “to make room in the inn of our lives.”

Welcome to Board Connections, the newsletter for The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This publication highlights recent Board news and important updates and information. We hope you find this newsletter useful, and we welcome your feedback at any time.

Appeals Court Ruling Preserves Clergy Housing Exemption

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has preserved the federal income tax exemption for clergy housing allowances, a significant benefit for ministers who rent or own a home. The decision threw out a lower court decision that found the exemption unconstitutional. Visit pensions.org for more information.

A Good Shepherd Retires, but Not before Finding Lost Sheep

In 1960, the pension accounts of more than 50 Cuban Presbyterian church workers were blocked due to the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Over the years since, the unblocking of nearly all the accounts and payment of the benefits owed have required tremendous persistence, dedication, and a refusal to forget those who were separated from their pensions by the revolution.

The successful resolution of this story owes to the determination of Frank Maloney, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Board of Pensions, who is retiring this month after 40 years of service to the Board, as well as several others who wouldn’t give up on their efforts to persuade the U.S. government to modify its regulations and to find lost account holders.

Read The Board’s Good Shepherds: A Refusal To Forget Brings Long-Embargoed Pensions Home.

Call for Photos!

As you celebrate Advent and Christmas this year, you may be moved to try to capture on camera the mystery, beauty, and joy of this holy season. We hope so, and we hope you’ll share your photos with us for possible use in future Board of Pensions communications.

As we work to depict the life of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in our communications, we would love to include your experiences of church in action, whether a worship service, pageant, Christian education class, community outreach and mission support, or a simple fellowship gathering. Please send your favorite photos to photos@pensions.org, and note the name of your church, city and state, as well as a contact name, in your email. (Keep in mind, submission of a photo to this email box constitutes permission to publish.)

We are all the body of Christ together. Let’s celebrate that reality, especially during Advent and Christmas!

Call to Health Continues into 2015

A new year of Call to Health® is already underway, from October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2015. Start planning and acting today to answer the call to better health and earn reduced deductibles for 2016!

The second year of Call to Health offers more

  • ways to take advantage of preventive care benefits, improve your health, and earn reduced deductibles for 2016;
  • options to participate in some health coaching actions online so you can work around your busy schedule; and
  • opportunities to enhance your quality of life to enjoy your family, community, and call.

To learn more about what's new this year and what has stayed the same, read the article on pensions.org.

Remember the CJO: Help Lift Up Those Who Serve the Church!

On December 21, churches throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will again receive the Christmas Joy Offering, through which caring Presbyterians help lift up those who’ve devoted their lives in service to the Church.

The Christmas Joy Offering is shared equally by the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions, which provides much-needed assistance to PC(USA) church workers and their families, and Presbyterian-affiliated racial ethnic schools and colleges, which enable students to develop their gifts and find their calling.

Every congregation’s gifts to the Offering are critical to the future of these programs, especially now. If you don’t already do so, please make the Christmas Joy Offering part of your Advent and Christmas tradition.

To see the difference the Christmas Joy Offering makes in the lives of PC(USA) church workers and their families, view the three-minute video Faith Guides, Faith Gives.

Thank you for supporting the Christmas Joy Offering!

Roth Option Coming to RSP in 2015

Beginning next year, you will be able to make after-tax contributions through the new Roth contribution option in the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (RSP). This new option expands the tax advantages available through the RSP. You can save the traditional pretax way and defer paying taxes now, and you can contribute after-tax through the Roth option, in exchange for favorable tax treatment on your Roth funds later if you meet certain criteria. Or, you can save both ways.

More Information Coming Soon

You may invest through the Roth contribution option beginning January 1, 2015. To learn more, read the article on pensions.org. Look for more information about the RSP Roth option in early January.

Because of local tax law and regulations, Roth after-tax contributions and Roth catch-up contributions are not permitted for RSP participants employed in Puerto Rico.

Too Late for a Flu Shot? Think Again

You haven’t gotten a flu shot yet? You plan to wash your hands a lot between now and next fall, when you will get a flu shot?

Wait! It’s not too late! In fact, National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is straight ahead — December 7-13, 2014.

NIVW was established to emphasize how important it is to continue influenza vaccination through the holiday season and beyond. So says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which notes that flu shot activity disappears with the turkey leftovers.

Even if you’ve already been sick with a flu virus this season, getting the shot is recommended because it protects against several different flu viruses. Plus, you’re entitled to a free annual flu shot under the Medical Plan.

Your immune system needs about two weeks from the vaccination date to build the necessary antibodies. So get your shot in the next week or so, and you’ll be protected by the time folks start knocking at your door or you board a plane or a train, or roll into one of those travel plazas alongside the interstate.

Oh, yes, and do stay vigilant on the hand-washing, even if you’re vaccinated. It’s considered the do-it-yourself vaccine.

The EAP Can Help You Plan for the New Year

As this year draws to a close, you may be faced with many decisions for the new year. Did you know that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help you with information and referral for child care, senior care, legal consultation, financial consultation, and more, as well as guidance for finding local resources? During this season, and throughout the year, the EAP is a confidential resource included with your healthcare benefits at no cost to you.

Active members enrolled in Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO or Anthem Blue Preferred HMO are eligible for the EAP, as are covered family members (regardless of residence) and any person living in an active member’s household. The EAP is not available to those enrolled in the Medicare Supplement Plan.

To learn more about the EAP, including how to access it and other services it provides, visit pensions.org.

Highlighted E-Learning

View Advisers, the fifth lesson in the recently launched Basic Investment Series. The module addresses what to consider when working with an investment adviser and how to use the 403(b)(9) Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as part of your investment strategy.

Coming in January

Look for Tax Tips for Members and Churches for tax year 2014, available on Board University in January.

Seminars

Find upcoming seminars and locations

Church Treasurers and Business Administrators Can Submit Salary Changes Online

Church treasurers and business administrators* can use Benefits Connect to securely submit, confirm, and change their employees' salary information. They can also submit service changes and terminations, review invoices from the past six months, and review their organizations' contact information.

To register as an organization's authorized Web representative, church treasurers and business administrators must select that role in step 1 of the registration process and then complete the rest of the registration information, including establishing a user ID and password.

If you are not already taking advantage of Benefits Connect, register today!

*Churches and employing organizations whose billing address is in the United States and are currently receiving a monthly invoice from the Board can have one authorized Web representative.

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If you have comments or feedback on this newsletter, please let us know at communications@pensions.org.

If you have questions, call the Board at 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN) and speak with a member service representative.