Generosity, Risk, and Grace

Generosity, Risk, and Grace

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Conference receives two major gifts from generous donors


It is remarkable that two very substantial gifts, clearly years in the making, arrived just a few months after the historic Massachusetts and Connecticut Conference Boards had committed to contribute $1 million in unrestricted funds to the Faith in our Future Together grant program, which provides funds to local churches to help them respond to the recent disruptions due to the pandemic, and to emerge stronger. 
 
The very generous estate gifts amounting to over $900,000 involve three dedicated women -- Elise Kreiger, The Rev. Jo-An Bott, and Nan Cook -- who were all well regarded and loved by their churches and spent their lives making a difference in their communities.
 
"These gifts are all the more generous for being unrestricted by the donors, " said Dawn Hammond, Associate Conference Minister for Policy and Finance. "Though it can seem appealing to direct the work of those who will come after us, none of us knows what ministries will be most needed beyond our own lifetimes. Each of these women showed real trust in their UCC family.  I know our Board is determined, by the grace of God, to use their gifts wisely to further the Vision of the Conference."
 
“As a board member and a local church pastor, I am grateful and encouraged by the generosity and adventurous faith of Ms. Kreiger and Ms. Cook. A gift of this size is clearly an indication of sacrificial living and thoughtful planning over a number of years,” said Rev. Philomena Hare. “During this time when our nation is filled with doubt, fear and anxiety, they have planted seeds of hope and faith by investing in the lives of others with this significant legacy gift.”
 
About Elise Kreiger and Jo-An Bott

Although one gift is technically from the Estate of Elise Kreiger, in reality it is a gift from a loving couple that includes Kreiger and her partner, The Rev. Jo-An Bott.  Bott, who passed away at 93 a few months before Kreiger, left her entire estate to Kreiger. The two women found each other late in life, and the UCC context was important in affirming their relationship.

 
Elise Kreiger and Jo-An Bott
Kreiger was a member of United Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ, Worcester, where she actively participated in Christian formation and music activities. Bott, also a member of United Congregational, was the Pastor at Trinity Congregational Church in Fitchburg for many years. After retiring, she continued her mission as a visiting pastor at various churches throughout Worcester County.
 
Kreiger and Bott were known for their generosity throughout the community. Rev. Nancy Elder-Wilfrid, their pastor at  United Congregational, spoke of the many times Kreiger and Bott offered help – whether it was financial support for someone in the church, as a resource for those needing sanctuary from deportation, or faithfully leading worship services in several nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
 
“They had a strong commitment to justice and several unique ways they shone the Light of God,” said Elder-Wilfrid.  “Elise and Jo-An were always ready to help; several times they approached me – sensing a need, and wanting to donate.”

“They were also a gift to several young couples, who often face struggles with family and friends because of their love for someone of their own sex,” she said. “Elise and Jo-An were – without doubt – a source of great comfort for so many of us, with their natural love for, and commitment to, each other: a true partnership in the very best sense of the word. It’s hard to ever just say, “Elise” or “Jo-An” -- they belonged together!”
 
"My aunt was dyed-in-the-wool UCC, although at the time of her birth she was Evangelical and Reformed, until it became UCC," said Kreiger's niece, Susan Royer.  "Her family’s roots were deep and strong in their home church in Hazleton, PA, and clearly, it was part of her DNA. I think her parents would be happy (probably they ARE) to know that her life ended with this generous gift to the church into which she was baptized." 
 
About Nan Cook
 
Nan Cook
Nan Cook was a delightful, generous person and a long-time member of the Federated Church of Orleans, according to Dave and Chris King who got to know her very well over the years. She was also a former moderator of the Southbridge Congregational Church in her earlier years, and had a great affection for the historic Massachusetts Conference and attended many annual meetings.
 
They relayed that one of her finest qualities was her sincere interest in the education of children.

“Her teaching career as an elementary reading specialist in the Southbridge School system was very successful, as exemplified by the many sincere letters of thanks from her former students and their parents that were found in her house after her passing,” said Dave.  “Many thanked her for the attention she paid to them in fostering their education.”
 
In her years at the Federated Church she served in many capacities, including supporting the preschool program with her time and talent as well as her financial support. “She loved children even though she and her husband never had any of their own.” said Chris.
 
“Most of all she was a good friend to us and we loved her,” said Ernie Rogers, Treasurer at Federated Church of Orleans. "I speak for the entire congregation in saying we were all blessed by having her in our lives.”
 
According to Rogers, Cook was extremely generous to the Federated Church with her financial assets which will be appreciated for years to come. "She has left a wonderful legacy that this congregation will benefit from for generations," said Rev. Darren L. Morgan, Senior Pastor, The Federated Church of Orleans.

The Bequest
 
Although it was the historic Massachusetts Conference that received the two very generous bequest gifts, income from the historic Massachusetts General Endowment fund flows directly to the Southern New England Conference, as specified in the Funding Agreement voted by the three historic Boards and the SNEUCC Board. In October, the Board of Directors determined that all gifts from the estates of Nancy Cook and Elise Kreiger were to be added to the unrestricted General Endowment Fund of the Historic Massachusetts Conference.
 
“Each of these women made her life a blessing to others, and ensured that the blessing will continue far into the future,” said Dawn Hammond, Associate SNEUCC Conference Minister for Policy and Finance.
 

Author

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Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane

Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane is the Spotlight and Publications Editor for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ

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