All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
— Acts 2:44-45
We knew it was going to be bad.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that many of our congregations were going to struggle. We were hearing stories of distress from mid councils and our sibling agencies as revenue fell for many of them. Our affiliated employers — camps, conference centers, colleges, and retirement communities — all faced challenges.
The Board of Pensions is one of the means through which the Church extends compassion to those among us who are in need. Surveys let us know that 20 percent of our congregations were seeing a revenue decline that would make it impossible for them to meet budget. Far too many were unable to access the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Our smallest congregations were particularly at risk.
The Board acted swiftly to stem the tide, making policy decisions and implementing administrative steps to bring relief. For congregations of 300 or fewer members with mandated dues for their installed pastors, the Board waived three months of dues for any congregation that requested it. To date, over $6 million has been forgiven for over 1,200 congregations without any minister losing benefits.
For larger churches and other entities, the Board provided over 100 interest-free loans in the form of deferred dues payments, totaling $1 million. In all of these cases, individual employees and their families have benefited.
But it didn’t stop there. We were hearing about the challenges faced by front-line workers, particularly in our retirement communities, confronting the COVID-19 threat every day. That’s when one of our financial partners stepped up. Wells Fargo Asset Management offered to set aside a substantial portion of its fee if we could benefit individual workers in crisis. That gift, augmented with funds from our Assistance Program, was made available to those affiliated employers with employees in dire straits. Grants went out to 23 employers and, in turn, to hundreds of workers.
How the Church and its related employers treat every person whom we employ becomes an opportunity to witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The professionals at Wells Fargo Asset Management were inspired to participate. Congregations have been sustained to continue their ministry. Pastors and their families have been protected. Employees know that working for a PC(USA) employer means more than just a paycheck, all to the glory of God.
Our Theology of Benefits concludes:
“As the body of Christ, we demonstrate abundant life to the world as a community of faith, hope, love, and witness. We call people to varied forms of service and covenant to support them so they may devote their best gifts and energies to the work of God’s kingdom.”
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer