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News From Pittsburgh Presbytery

A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

In this week's pastoral letter, Thanksgiving for "And-ers," the Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery, encourages us to appreciate the perspective of those who see a different side of things than we do, to appreciate the "and-ers" in our lives.

Welcome to the New Crestfield Staff Member

The Crestfield Camp & Conference Center Ministry Team is pleased to announce the selection of Paul Humphreys as the new Disciplemaking Program Director for Outreach. Paul served in outdoor ministry as Program Director for 10 years at the Calvin Center of the Greater Atlanta Presbytery. At Calvin Center, Paul was responsible for the growth and transformation of the summer camping program, the development of an outdoor education program for school students, the initiation of a Young Adult Internship Community known as Common Soul/Sole and the inclusion of disciplemaking and experiential learning in all program aspects of the center. For the past two years, Paul has labored for Jesus in his home country of New Zealand as Manager for the Marlborough Community Development Trust while feeding his passion for the outdoors by serving as an outdoor guide. Paul is an outdoor pursuit's enthusiast, climbing various mountains in USA, New Zealand, and Canada. Other interests include kayaking, mountain biking, running, and orienteering/navigation. He has completed various marathons and ultra-marathons, including 100 mile trail ultra-marathon and is a member of the Checkpoint Zero Adventure Racing Team. This team has raced all over the USA and overseas. Paul and the team competed in World Adventure Racing Championships in France 2012.

Paul is married to ordained Teaching Elder, Rev. Robin Humphreys. They will reside in the Pittsburgh area with their beloved dog, Cora. Robin too is listening to how God is calling her to participate in Christ's ministry in Southwest Pennsylvania.

With Becky Little continuing as Disciplemaking Program Director for Hospitality & Sanctuary based on site at the camp, Paul will be based in the presbytery office and will work to provide Crestfield's outreach to pastors and youth directors, particularly in urban areas, while assisting the Administrative Commission for Transformation in a new aspect of partnership ministry. Paul arrived in Pittsburgh on November 19 at 10:45 AM and went to be at the noon meeting of the South Branch that same day!

Paul's personal statement summarizes the actions of his ministry to date:
I strongly believe in the outcomes of camp and conference ministry. Partnered with experiential learning, metaphor and facilitation it provides the perfect opportunity for people of all ages to grow in their faith and therefore literally be the hands and feet of Christ.

We are excited to welcome Paul and his family to the ministry of Pittsburgh Presbytery at Crestfield Camp & Conference Center and look forward to the extension of our disciplemaking and outreach he will bring through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Monthly Per Capita Discount Program Reminder

If your church has been making regular, monthly per capita payments and plans to take advantage of the 2% discount offered this year by Pittsburgh Presbytery, please remember your December payment must be received in the finance office by December 31.  Any monthly payment received after that date is not eligible for the discount and should be made payable in the amount of the full per capita balance due. More information about the 2015 discount program online.

Learn the Facts About Housing Allowance for Pastors

Each year your congregation votes on the terms of call for your pastoral staff.  One of the pieces of the terms of call is the housing allowance.  This allowance is one of the most important tax benefits available to ministers who own or rent their homes.  Ministers who own or rent their home are not required to pay federal income taxes on the amount of their compensation their church designates as a housing allowance.

The housing allowance for all pastors is also tax exempt for local taxes within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  You should not include the housing allowance portion of the gross payroll amount for calculating the appropriate local tax for your pastoral employees.  This rule only applies to the local income tax rates and does not exclude ordained staff from the Local Services Tax, or LST.

What expenses can be included in housing allowance?  Housing-related expenses include mortgage payments, rent, utilities, repairs, furnishings, insurance, property taxes, additions, and maintenance.

Other considerations that must be given to calculating the appropriate level of housing allowance are:

  1. The allowance must represent compensation for ministerial services
  2. It must be used to pay housing expenses
  3. The amount must not exceed the fair rental value of the home (furnished, plus utilities)

One of the most overlooked aspects of approving the housing allowance is having your pastoral staff complete and sign an annual Estimate of Housing Allowance Request.  It is a simple one-page document stating the pastor is requesting a specific amount of the financial package to be designated as housing allowance.  Why do this?  The IRS requires the request be made in writing and the ruling body, council or session, approve the request at a regular or called meeting and that the request and approval be entered into the official record or minutes.  This process must be done prior to the congregation voting on and approving the terms of call.  Under no circumstances may a church designate a housing allowance retroactively.

For convenience, there is a template of the Estimate of Housing Allowance Request available on the presbytery website under Forms/Financial Info & Tools.  Remember you will need to have the form completed by your pastoral employee(s), submitted for approval by your session, and have the request and the approval of the request recorded in the official minutes of the meeting.  All of these steps need to be completed before the congregation approves the terms of call each year.

Please call Roy Burford, Business Administrator, at 412-323- 1406 if you have any questions.

Annual Sweater Drive Underway

Neighbors sharing with neighbors has been the overriding theme of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh's annual Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Sweater Drive over the last 14 years. Beginning in 2000, the museum has collected over 31,000 sweaters from individuals and families to share with those in need throughout southwestern Pennsylvania "neighborhood." Many of the sweaters have come from Presbyterian friends like you over the years.

This year, United Way of Allegheny County and the Presbyterian Mission Agency encourage congregations to collect much needed new and/or gently used sweaters for adults and children in their immediate area as a mission outreach.  Sweaters left over from your own neighborhood efforts may be placed in the collection receptacle in the lobby of the museum through Friday, December 12 to be distributed before Christmas by mission agencies in the greater Pittsburgh area.

Coordinated by Presbyterian Media Mission (PMM) with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Email PMM for more information or call 412-323-1400 X 311.

Coming Training Events & Ministry Opportunities:

Coming Events & Retreats at Crestfield Camp & Conference Center

Continuing Education Opportunities & Events at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary:

NOTE: More information about Continuing Education (CE) is available online; all events offer CE Units.




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