Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
— John 5:24
My mother, Ava Clark Spencer, died last week. Her passing was abrupt and unexpected, but our family is at peace, knowing she is with God and joins the great cloud of witnesses. She was 94 years old and had lived an amazing life. Her obituary is available at this link.
She was facing the possibility of an extended period in the healthcare unit at The Pines at Davidson, as her strength and mobility had both started to fail her. As kind and wonderful as the nursing staff is, we are grateful God has spared her the pain and indignity of that existence in the final chapter of her life.
My mother was a blessing to my siblings and me, modeling for us a life with intellectual curiosity, moral integrity, and a fundamental work ethic. She enriched the institutions she served, often in partnership with our father: Davidson College, Mary Baldwin College, Davidson College Presbyterian Church, and The Pines at Davidson, which she helped found and where she lived her final two decades.
My mother was able to be in a place like the Pines because my father had planned well and his employers had provided a pension. Mom and Dad selected the option that continued to pay an equal amount, no matter which of them survived longer. That monthly income allowed Mom to live in independence and dignity.
The Board of Pensions sends over 4,500 monthly payments to surviving spouses. Like my mother, they depend on that support to meet their living needs. For others, when that support proves insufficient, the Board augments the pension with grants for housing and income.
As a community of faith, we need to embrace fully the need for participation in the Pension Plan. Too many of our congregations are being penny-wise and pound-foolish by offering employment without a contribution to the Pension Plan. Too many of our younger ministers are willing to accept those offers in a rush to be ordained, eschewing what seems to be a far off benefit.
We should all hope for a life that is full of curiosity, love, friendships, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Living into our 90s with a secure income and first-rate medical care should not be the dream of the few. While we advocate for societal change that might make this a reality for everyone, we have the power to act right now and make it a reality for those who have answered God’s call.
This is the time of year when our employers decide what benefits to offer. We hope they will think about what they might want for their parents, or their children, as they make these choices.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us …
— Heb 12:1
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer