Oene, W.W.J. van (1990) App. II

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Appendix II

Letter of Call

 

To the Rev....

The Church at... has been vacant since..., and has been searching for one who would be willing to become our pastor and teacher.

The Lord has graciously and faithfully taken care of our needs and we thankfully acknowledge the help and assistance which we received from the sister churches. Yet both as office-bearers and as congregation we are constantly reminded of the lack of a minister of the Word to guide and feed us in the pastures of God’s Word. The church here does need a minister of the Word to take care of our needs, to proclaim the Word of God, showing its relevance for the particular needs and situation of our congregation, to teach the youth of the church so that also the next generation may continue in the path of the covenant, to visit the members in good days and bad, to comfort those who are grieving and to rejoice with those who have special reason for gratitude and thanksgiving.

It will not be necessary for us to spell out in detail what a minister's task is and what yours will be if it pleases the Lord to guide your ways to our congregation. You know that, as a Canadian Reformed Church, we live in federation with all the Canadian Reformed Churches, which have as their confessional forms the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort, and that we conduct our church life according to the adopted Church Order. As our minister you will be expected to teach and work in total submission to the Word of God, in faithful adherence to the confessional formulas and in loyal observance of the adopted Order.

You will not find a perfect church, and we are aware that we shall never have a perfect minister, but we are not looking for one either. We are looking for one whom we can trust to be a faithful servant of the Lord, who takes the interest of the flock to heart, and who lets himself be guided in everything by the great and faithful Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are convinced that in you we have found such a man and one whom we desire as our minister of the Word. What we have learned about your labours in your present congregation has brought us to this conviction. The consistory with the deacons have consulted the

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congregation and we are happy to inform you that the congregation, too, has expressed its desire to have you take up the ministry in our midst. Consequently, the consistory with the deacons extend this call to you.

Mindful of the command of the Lord that the labourer is worthy of his hire and that those who serve the Gospel shall live off the Gospel, we shall provide for your housing and provide you with an allowance for automobile and library in addition to the regular stipend. The exact figures can be found on a separate document appended to this letter.

Not only in financial respect but also and even in the first place in your work you may be assured that the office-bearers and the congregation will first of all support you in your work by prayer, but that they also will support you financially as we are commanded in the Holy Scriptures and as set forth in the Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons.

This church commends you into the Lord’s special care during these days of deliberation and will remember you in its prayers, both during the worship services and in our homes. We express the desire that you will let us know in approximately three weeks whether you will accept the call extended to you. In order to facilitate a decision we extend an invitation to you and Mrs...to come over and see and hear for yourselves how much we need a minister of the Word.

Entrusting you and yours into the special care of our God and Father, we remain,

Yours in Christ, The Consistory with the Deacons of the Canadian Reformed Church at....

Counsellor

Signatures of all office-bearers

 

Comments

Rather than giving a translation of the somewhat solemn letter of call as it can be found in various books from the Netherlands, an effort has been made to make it a little warmer, more personal and not as stilted as that one.

Experience has taught us that it is still necessary to spell out that the churches live by the Confessions and honour the Church Order and that a minister is expected to do the same.

One realizes that this letter cannot be sent unchanged in every case. There are calls extended to a candidate and calls to become a missionary, and what if a minister is not married? However, the above Letter of Call is intended only to serve as an example how it could be worded.

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Finances

A few remarks may be made about the stipend and the financial arrangements. For a church it is more advantageous to have an official parsonage than to provide the minister with a housing allowance and to let him choose and buy his own house. Once the parsonage has been paid off, the church saves money.

On the other hand, more and more churches realize that a minister will retire some day and that he then will have to rent or buy a house, for he has to live somewhere. Seeing the continuing inflation and spiralling house prices, churches would do well to consider whether it will not be a more responsible course to provide the minister with a housing allowance and let him buy his own house. We are not going into the question of how he is to obtain a down payment. That is beyond the scope of these remarks. We also realize that a minister cannot come to the consistory every time when there is a repair bill or when some changes will have to be made to the house. When he gets a housing allowance which is based on actual costs, he will have to manage his money well and is responsible for any repairs or changes he wants to make.

As for the stipend itself, on purpose we have avoided the expression “live off the Gospel without undue care.” This is a very stretchable concept. Much depends on the abilities of the family to manage their resources. We all know that the one can do more with a dime than another with a quarter or even a dollar. No congregation can be obligated to support an extravagant taste and to provide funds to fill a house with antiques. The size of the stipend will largely depend on the financial position of the congregation as a whole. Fortunately, the times are past when a minister at times virtually had to go begging from the most affluent members of the congregation. In general, we may state that the churches take good care of their ministers and that there usually is no reason at all for complaint.

A point should be mentioned that we have not found in any letter of call here in Canada. It is the point of a special child allowance. Perhaps there are churches that have the custom of adding a certain amount to the stipend when another child is born, but we are not aware of it. Yet this should be considered. We do not mean that upon the birth of another child simply an amount is added to the stipend. What we are referring to is a special, separate amount given per child. It is to the advantage of the church to do this. If, for instance, an amount of $750.00 per child is given per year, this allowance is granted no longer when the child leaves the house or starts working for wages or reaches the age of eighteen or twenty-one, whichever is considered fair.

With the present arrangement of simply increasing the stipend, it makes a miserable impression if the stipend is diminished when a child leaves the house. Yet the cost of living of the ministerial family decreases. For all that, the churches nonetheless leave the stipend as is, for it was never stipulated what amount was added per child. The arrangement we find with the

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Foundation for Superannuation may serve as an example here. Something to consider.

We would suggest that the financial arrangement be put as follows:

Stipend $ XXXX
Housing Allowance $ XXXX
Car Allowances XXXX
Library/Study Allowance $ XXXX
Child allowance $ XXXX per child until age eighteen
All to be paid in equal monthly amounts.