By Rev. Richard L. Floyd
The Rev. Richard L. Floyd, Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is in his third year serving as an Annuitant Visitor on behalf of the Pension Boards. He shares his personal experience as both the recipient and giver of this compassionate ministry of visitation. Rev. Floyd is a member of First Congregational UCC in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and resides in Pittsfield. An author and blogger, he is also a contributing writer to the United Church of Christ’s StillSpeaking Writers’ Group.
In 2004, I left my position as pastor of the church I had served for 22 years, because I had sustained a traumatic brain injury in a bicycle accident.
After several years of disability, I received a call from John Wightman, an Annuitant Visitor. He invited me to lunch and listened to my story. At the end of the lunch he said, “Rick, you’ve been through a lot. I want you to know on behalf of a grateful church, we thank you for your years of service.” I was so moved I began to cry.
When I became an Annuitant Visitor I wanted to pay it forward — for the kindness I had received from John, and for how well I was supported by the Pension Boards during this challenging time. I later became John’s Annuitant Visitor. I took him out to lunch and walked alongside him through some of his difficult health issues. Sadly, John recently died.
I left my job at the height of the local real estate market. My wife and I had lived in church housing for 30 years and we had no equity to buy a home. But, thankfully, with help from family, we managed to buy a house. I went on long-term disability through the Pension Boards and received Social Security Disability Insurance. I didn’t even know I had disability insurance. The Pension Boards paid our health insurance for the 10 years I was on disability! Without that assistance, I don’t know how we would have made it. We remain grateful for the way the church took care of us during a most difficult time.
Annuitant Visitors Play a Vital Role
Generally, annuitants are pleased with their pensions and are thankful to the Pension Boards, although they are not always aware of the plan details or services it offers. Annuitant Visitors play a vital role as ambassadors for the Pension Boards. Through phone calls and personal home visits, we provide annuitants with the information they need to access the quality care they are looking for. And, on behalf of the whole church, Annuitant Visitors embody the message to United Church of Christ retirees that their service over the years is valued, and not forgotten.
“If it wasn’t for the Pension Boards...”
I recently visited a couple I have known for many years. The retired pastor had served small country churches throughout his career, and his wife partnered with him as an unpaid assistant. Both experienced a series of health issues, yet remained cheerful and positive. I learned that some of the congregations they served paid nothing into their pension, and others put in very little. They told me more than once that “If it wasn’t for the Pension Boards,” they don’t know what they would have done. Each year, when I give a pitch for the Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund at my local church, I always think of them and how the church has helped them after serving so many years.
I continue to pay it forward, enjoying personal time with colleagues for a visit. They are often very appreciative of my time with them, just as I was when John first contacted me. Some become very emotional when I thank them for their years of service to the church. It’s a beautiful gift to pay forward.
The Annuitant Visitor Program
The Annuitant Visitor Program, administered by the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance (UCBMA), seeks to provide an annual visit to over 6,000 retired clergy, missionaries, and their spouses/partners in the United Church of Christ. Through these visits, Annuitant Visitors serve as ambassadors for the Pension Boards’ benefits, communicate appreciation for a lifetime of dedicated service, and offer collegial support. Learn more about this program here: http://bit.ly/PB_AVP_INFO.
By Rev. Richard L. Floyd