The Association of Retired Ministers, Spouses and Survivors (ARMSS) was started in 1997 by a group of farsighted retired clergy and their spouses who felt that even though they had retired from active ministry, they still could be useful to the church they served and loved. ARMSS is the only denomination-wide organization in the PC(USA) that advocates on behalf of this segment of the church.
The purpose of ARMSS is to assist retired ministers, their spouses or survivors to utilize their skills and abilities in ministry to the church and world; support and resource the governing bodies of the church in their ministry to, and with, the retired ministers, their spouses or survivors; provide a continuing forum for retired ministers, their spouses or survivors to share experiences, wisdom and needs with one another and with the church; and advocate for the support and nurture of the retired ministers, their spouses or survivors in recognition and celebration of their contribution to the church.
With members in most of 173 presbyteries of the PC(USA), ARMSS relates locally through its “presbytery representatives.” The ARMSS presbytery representative communicates with the retired in his/her presbytery, organizes gatherings of the retired, offers ministry to the retired when called upon and advocates for recognition of clergy by the presbytery upon retirement. The ARMSS presbytery representative is the key to the success of the organization.
Emphasizing a lifelong call to service through the church, ARMSS encourages the retired to be of service to the PC(USA) through local church participation, presbytery, synod and General Assembly committees and mission activity. This call to service results in many volunteer hours spent in mission to the church and is an invaluable resource for the PC(USA).
ARMSS brings together retired ministers, spouses and survivors annually at a national convention for inspiration, enrichment and fellowship. The 2012 convention was held in Portland, Ore., and the 2013 convention will be held in Atlanta. All retired ministers, spouses and survivors are encouraged to attend. ARMSS conventions have been enriched by joining with Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network (POAMN) with which it has shared interests and goals.
ARMSS publishes and distributes a newsletter to all 9,000 retired ministers, spouses and survivors affiliated with the PC(USA). Although ARMSS has only around 700 dues-paying members who help fund the newsletter, ARMSS considers the valuable information and resources published in the newsletter as a part of its mission with all the retired in the church.
ARMSS has a “covenant of agreement” with the PC(USA) through the General Assembly Committee on Church Growth, from which it receives staff support. This tie with the GA ensures access for ARMSS to the PC(USA) structure and confirms that the larger church still cares and hears about the concerns of the retired.
About four years ago, ARMSS was invited by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Cuba to visit their congregations. ARMSS members have traveled to Cuba in response to three subsequent invitations to get reacquainted with our brothers and sisters in the Reformed Presbyterian Church. On one of our trips, members saw a need to supply the library of the Matanzas Reformed Presbyterian Seminary with Spanish theological books. The U.S. embargo of Cuba has restricted the Seminary Library’s ability to secure books. Although the Cuban church is very poor, it is going through a remarkable period of membership growth and more members are entering the ministry to meet this growing need. ARMSS has sent two busloads of theological books, funded the development of a computer room with seven computers and printers for the students and assisted in air conditioning the school library. ARMSS members have also assisted in the purchase of the two buses to carry the books.
You can learn more about ARMSS by going to our website armss.org. The website offers up-to-date information about the annual convention and the ARMSS newsletter.
BILL GANNAWAY is a teaching elder, honorably retired, with the PC(USA) and a past president of ARMSS.
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