By Lydian Bernhardt
From his youngest childhood, Rev. Matthew Allen knew he had a calling.
When other kids would come home from church on Sunday to go outside or watch television, Allen would come home from Friedland Moravian Church in Winston-Salem to play preacher.
“I would stand on the hearth and pretend to give a sermon,” he says. “I was about four years old. I’d say that was when my call really came; I was so interested in church at such a young age.”
As the years went by, that sense was confirmed by others – friends, family, even random contacts.
“People would say to me, out of the blue, ‘I think you’re going to be a preacher some day,’ “ he says. “By the time I was in high school, I had a definite feeling of being called. But when that happens, you begin to wonder, ‘Is this real? Am I imagining this?’ “
That sense of call never wavered. It followed him to college at UNC-Chapel Hill and through internships at Salemtowne with Rev. Norwood Green and Trinity Moravian Church with Rev. Henry May Jr.. When he started at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, PA in 1995, he felt very prepared and strong in his convictions.
“Every day, I have that sense of call,” he says. “No matter what’s happening in the church, no matter how difficult things may get, I know that I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do.”
Serving with purpose
Allen’s purposeful nature guided him through ministries at Pine Chapel and Oak Grove Moravian Churches in Winston-Salem; to Olivet Moravian, where he was installed in 2015; and to service on the Southern Province Provincial Elders Conference, the Moravian Music Foundation board of directors, the Board of Cooperative Ministries and the Board of Christian Education, among others through the years.
It also prompted him to proactively use the estate planning services of the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America (MMFA).
“My older brother is a lawyer, and even though I’m fairly young, he encouraged me to get my affairs in order with a will and a plan for my estate,” Allen says. “I’m single and my parents are deceased, and I had heard about the MMFA for several years. They were very helpful to me in planning what I wanted to do.”
Making his planned gift
Allen knew that he wanted to include the churches he’d served and Friedland Moravian, where he had grown up, in his estate plan. He also wanted to include his niece and nephew. So, with the help of the MMFA, he developed a plan.
“I went to them and found out that you could leave your money with them, and they would disperse it to different entities as you instruct, both Moravian and non-Moravian,” he says. “It feels good that I have all those things in order and that my family won’t have to deal with it.”
The Moravian Music Foundation. The Board of World Mission. The Moravian Archives. All are among the outlets that Allen found were available through the MMFA.
The foundation also helped him set aside unrestricted funds for the churches that he has pastored, and for Friedland Moravian, where he grew up. Allen appreciated the flexibility to personally change his allocations as time goes by, including any future congregations that he might serve or agencies that are special to him.
“I felt very strongly that there should be no strings attached to my church gifts,” he says. “They can use those funds however their boards decide they need to.”
With his estate plan in place, Allen plans to move ahead as a servant leader in his church and for the church worldwide. Although COVID-19 and other factors have affected church vitality in recent years, Allen says that the church should proceed confidently into ministry in the community and around the world.
“As a culture, in recent years, we measure everything by numbers, but that’s just one of many ways to measure. A congregation can be healthy and strong, even without large numbers, if you’re spiritually strong. We’re going to have to re-learn how to be the church out in the community and find creative ways to share Christ to others.”
“All renewals, even the Moravian church’s in the 1700s, began with prayer. I think that if we become more serious about praying intentionally for renewal of the church and for each other, it will happen.”