‘Dearest Sisters and Brothers in Christ’: Letter supports Church of the Brethren ministers

A letter from the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee has expressed the group’s support to the ministers in the Church of the Brethren. The letter acknowledged the particular challenges for ministers during the COVID-19 pandemic and shared information about a number of resources that are available for ministers and congregations experiencing financial hardship.

The full text of the letter follows:

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“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” –Jeremiah 29:7, 10b-14

Dearest Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

A second year into the COVID pandemic and our congregations are pulling us this way and that. They want to meet in person; they want to meet virtually; they want everything to go back to “normal,” and they’re exhausted. In this time of exile and uncertainty, the demands upon you are even greater than they were last year when (almost) everyone understood that they couldn’t continue to meet as usual. In some places, congregational and pastoral stress and anxiety continue to rise.

Our scripture reminds us that the LORD has plans for our welfare and not for our harm, and that His plan is to gather us back together from all the places of exile: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Yet we know that God’s time is not our time, and living through ever new COVID variants, societal polarization, denominational turmoil, congregational conflict, and all the normal “stuff” of ministry (e.g., illness or death of church members) reminds us that exile can take many forms.

The Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee wants you to know that we are very aware of the challenges you face in your ministry during this second year of the pandemic. We want to remind you that financial resources are available for ministers (active and retired) and congregations who are experiencing severe financial stress. The Church Workers Assistance Plan (https://cobbt.org/Church-Workers-Assistance-Plan) through Brethren Benefit Trust, and the Ministry Assistance Fund (www.brethren.org/ministryoffice/assistance-fund) through the Office of Ministry, may provide assistance to ministers and their families in financial hardship. If you believe you have need of financial assistance, please contact your District Executive Minister, who can assist you in applying for a grant. Here is a link to the information on the COVID webpage: https://covid19.brethren.org/financial-resources.

We are so grateful for each of you, brothers and sisters, and for the critical work you do for the church. The next time you feel discouraged, remember that you are valued and appreciated by the denomination, and especially by PC&BAC. We pray for you at our every meeting (and we have been meeting often!), and thoughts of how to bring about improvements to your relationship with your congregation around compensation, benefits, and work/life balance guide all our work. And you will see the results of that work very soon!

Stand firm in faith, rejoicing in your call, renewing your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, and trusting that God’s plan is for your welfare and not your harm.

Rev. Deb Oskin (Chair), Secular Compensation Professional
Rev. Dan Rudy (Secretary), Clergy
Art Fourman, Laity
Bob McMinn, Laity
Rev. Gene Hagenberger, CODE Representative
Rev. Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Director, Office of Ministry


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