The word "superannuate" (soo-per-an-yoo-eyt) dates from 1640-1650. Today, we might use the word "retirement." "Superannuate" was a more common word in the early 20th century than today. As a verb (used with object), it means "to allow to retire from service or office on a pension because of age or infirmity." Another meaning is "to set aside as out of date; remove as too old." As a verb (used without an object) it means "to be or become old, out of date, or retired."
The Board of Superannuate Homes is a unique ministry of the North Alabama Conference. In early American Methodism, the life expectancy of clergy was very short. “Retirement” was not part their plan. By the end of the 19th Century, some pastors outlived their ability to preach. Some retired pastors or their surviving spouses found themselves with neither income nor a place to live.
In 1901, John Morriss, a layperson from Saginaw, proposed the establishment of housing for homeless “superannuated” preachers and their surviving spouses, supported by a resolution presented by William W. Brandon, later Governor of Alabama (1923-27). The bishop appointed a committee comprised of Morriss, Brandon, J. P. McFerrin, F. M. Jackson, and S. R. Lester. The committee met during the Conference, and submitted a report calling for a board to be composed of the presiding elders and one layperson from each district, to benefit Conference claimants, to be known as "The Superannuate, Widows, and Dependent Children's Endowment Fund." The report called for an additional twenty percent assessment to be used in establishing this endowment fund, and for three trustees (J. D. Simpson, J. D. Moore and John E. Morriss) to handle the fund. This was the beginning of the Superannuate Homes movement.
In 1902, John Morriss gave the first home for retired clergy. The 1930 Journal reported that 55 donated homes for superannuates were managed by the Conference.
In 1972, John Edward Humphrey (1897-1972) of Huntsville left $3 million of his estate to benefit the Board of Superannuate Homes through the Annie Sue Kelly Humphrey Memorial Trust in memory of his wife (1900-1969). Since 1976, over 100 Humphrey Home units have been built, as single family homes, duplexes or multi-family complexes. The Board of Superannuate Homes currently manages 124 residential units located across North Alabama. Of these, 108 are Humphrey homes and sixteen are units that have been donated or built with other funds.
A United Methodist clergy with at least fifteen years of full time service with the North Alabama Conference may apply for a superannuate home. New residents are asked to pay a move-in fee of $7,500 to defray some of the expenses of refurbishing a home. If a retiring clergy desires a new Humphrey home, the retiring pastor is required (in lieu of the $7,500 move-in fee) to provide a suitable lot that is approved by the Superannuate Board and the Trustee of the Humphrey Trust (Regions Bank). The Superannuate Board is responsible for the roof, the foundation, termite bond and insurance on the structure. The resident is responsible for routine maintenance.
Jerry Swafford of Gardendale has chaired the Board of Superannuate Homes for over ten years.
As Administrative Assistant, Regina Ergle manages the Superannuate Board office at the North Alabama Conference Center (898 Arkadelphia Road, Birmingham, AL 35204). Ted Leach is Director of Community & Property Care, and he is available to speak to church groups about the work of the Board of Superannuate Homes. The office number is 205-226-7968. The mobile number is 205-760-9106. Regina’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Ted’s email address is email@example.com.