Board of Pensions creates sacred space for prayer and worship


(Board of Pensions press release) The morning sun broke through the clouds, illuminating an exquisite glass font, communion vessels, and the handcrafted table on which they rest.

The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) dedicated these beautiful liturgical furnishings, along with a pulpit, in a worship service September 26, 2018. The furnishings are a reminder that the Board of Pensions is Church— that for more than 300 years the Board and its predecessors have cared for Presbyterian ministers and their families.

“This is holy work,” said the Reverend Frank Clark Spencer, President of the Board.

Liturgical furnishings

The Reverend Dr. Erich Thompson, a Presbyterian minister-woodworker, designed and built the maple and mahogany communion table and pulpit. His work includes chancel furniture at Montreat Conference Center, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and a number of PC(USA) churches across the United States.The baptismal font was created by Kathleen Ash of Studio K Glass, in Austin, Texas.

The communion table and pulpit’s design suggests a ship’s hull, an ancient Christian symbol of protection and salvation.

“This image calls to mind God’s protection of Noah in his ark, of Jesus calming the storm that threatened to swamp his disciples’ boat on the Sea of Galilee,” said the Reverend Dr. John G. McFayden, Executive Vice President and Chief of Church Engagement for the Board. “For the Board, it symbolizes the protections we provide to Benefits Plan members as we serve the Church.”

The Reverend Dr. José Irizarry, the Board’s Vice President, Education, planned the dedication service, and the Reverend Ayana Teter, Associate Church Consultant, delivered the reflection in Town Hall, the centerpiece of the Board’s newly renovated offices. The multifunctional space is large enough for the entire staff to gather together. Employees share lunch and hold small meetings in the space, and it is used for prayer and worship services and other significant gatherings.

The open design of Town Hall extends a sense of spaciousness and welcome. The seating area is encircled by multicolored glass panels reminiscent of stained glass — a nod to the stained glass window installed in the Board’s reception area in 2017 to commemorate 300years of serving those who serve the Church.

The liturgical furnishings are now the focal point of the space, and serve as a reminder of the Board’s identity. “With these additions, Town Hall is now complete,” said Rev. Spencer. “They make it a sacred space when we gather for prayer and worship.”

The communion table and vessels, font, and pulpit also help inspire Board staff as they go about their work. “These are the symbols that we set before us to remind us that God is with us, that we have been invited into a blessed future, and that we can be a blessing to the families in our community — this little tribe we call the PC(USA),” said Rev. Teter.

Diverse faith traditions

One of six PC(USA) agencies, the Board of Pensions provides benefits, assistance, and education for ministers, employees of the Church and PC(USA)-affiliated employers, and their families. The 190 people the Board employs reflect the diversity of the Philadelphia region, including in their religious beliefs.

“The diversity of our neighborhoods and our communities is reflected in the diversity of our staff,” said Susan Reimann, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Board of Pensions. “Regardless of background, we come to work every day committed to working in community with each other and those whom we serve.”

The Board holds monthly prayer services in Town Hall. They are led by staff from a spectrum of faith traditions, and participation is voluntary. Many employees welcome the opportunity to support their colleagues’ journeys by attending these services.

Exhibiting such respect and caring is essential to the Board’s way of life, both as an employer and as an agency of the Church. And its new liturgical furnishings are a reminder to all Board employees of God’s redeeming love — and of God’s call to show that love to all, near and far.

Content provided by the Board of Pensions