Close X
  • Home
  • About
  • Ministries
  • Mission
  • Events
  • News
  • Resources
  • X



    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Conference Office closed

    November 16, 2018 / By Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Due to the inclement weather, the Conference Office in Liverpool will be closed today, Nov. 16. It is scheduled to reopen Monday, Nov. 19.

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services / Episcopal Office / Finance / Mission Central

    Important 2019 dates

    November 14, 2018 / By UNY Communications

    Before you know it, 2019 will be here. There are several very important dates that you should add to your calendars as we look forward to 2019.

    • Jan. 8, 2019—This is the last day you can submit your 2018 Ministry Shares.
    • Feb. 15, 2019—Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference Reports are due.
    • Late Feb. 2019—The 2020 UNY Narrative Budget Booklet will be available online.
    • March 15, 2019—UNY Annual Conference Petitions and Resolutions are due.
    • Mid-late March 2019—The 2020 UNY Narrative Budget Booklet will be printed.
    • Mid-late April 2019—The UNY Journal will be available.
    • June 4-8, 2019—The UNY Annual Conference will be held at the Oncenter in Syracuse.

    TAGGED / Finance / Annual Conference 2019

    Celebrating friendship at East Rochester United Methodist Church

    November 13, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Smiles, handshakes, and hugs greet you as you enter the basement of the East Rochester United Methodist Church. Four years ago, this basement was transformed into one of Heritage Christian Services’ (HCS) 29 Day Centers in the Rochester-Buffalo area for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. At a Nov. 9 Thanksgiving celebration, gratitude was expressed by both the day program enrollees and staff for the partnership that the Rev. Todd Goddard, pastor at East Rochester UMC, has formed with the day center.

    John Bucheri, who is referred to as “Bush” by many of his differently-abled friends, is the Senior Direct Support Specialist at this HCS location. He said, “We have a great relationship with Todd. He’s fantastic. He comes down and plays cards with us and eats lunch with us a couple days a week.”

    This day program has about 12 enrollees with a variety of developmental and intellectual disabilities. John explained, “The goal here is to help individuals get to the next level. They volunteer here by cleaning the room where Alcoholics Anonymous meets numerous times a day, sorting clothing donations, and more. We are helping them learn the skills they need to get a full-time job and become more independent. We recently had two people leave for internships that transition into full-time jobs at the local Jewish Community Center”

    John continued, “...but really, I need to say, that developing positive relationships is huge here.”

    Ian, one of the enrollees, chimed in, “No fighting is very important. God is very important. Peace is very important.”

    Todd refers to the enrollees as his best friends. He said, “I have a special friendship with each and every one of them.”

    Todd shares his love of coffee with Ian—Ian makes sure that Rev. Goddard’s coffee is perfect every day. If he goes upstairs to check on Todd’s coffee and Todd is not there, Ian writes Todd a letter. Todd has hundreds of letters written by Ian. Click here to see a video of Todd and Ian talking about their friendship.

    Gavin, another enrollee, shares a special relationship with Todd related to their mutual interest in trains. Todd and Gavin enjoy lunch together regularly at a place where they can watch trains go by. “Gavin is proud of his part-time weekend job at the Rochester chapter of the National Historic Railway Society.” Todd said. Gavin smiled widely as Todd shared this.

    Todd hosts several celebrations throughout the year where he invites members of the day program, their families,  and his congregation. In addition to an annual Thanksgiving celebration, he hosts a Christmas pageant and party (the day program enrollees star in the pageant), a Mardi Gras party (the day program enrollees laugh and have a great time wearing silly costumes, extra-large glasses and hats), a St. Patrick’s Day party an Easter Egg hunt, and a summer picnic at his cottage on a lake (where the day program enrollees can swim, boat, and play outdoor games).

    These celebrations foster friendship.

    Word has spread about Todd’s inclusion of people who are differently abled, and his congregation is growing---twenty percent of his congregation is differently abled. These are not only people from the day program in his basement, there are people throughout the community who have heard about the members of East Rochester UMC being so welcoming and have joined the church.

    Todd said, “I have one person with a developmental disability who sings in the choir. I have another who grew up Jewish and wanted to be baptized—she is now a trustee at the church.”

    The partnership that Todd has formed with the enrollees in the HCS day program in the church’s basement is a beautiful example of the mission of the UNY Conference, “to be God’s love to our neighbors in all places.”

    Joanie Parker, the Associate Vice President of Education and Employment at HCS, attended the Thanksgiving celebration. She said, “This particular day program, with this particular church, with this community is a model for how day communities should be. If I could bottle the magic that happens here and put it in every other location that we have, it’s the perfect recipe for a fruitful faith-program partnership.”

    Click here to see a video of the HCS day program enrollees saying what they are thankful for. Some are only able to provide one-word answers, but their smiles alone speak volumes of their gratitude. East Rochester UMC makes them feel welcomed, important, and love

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Appointing planters for New Faith Communities

    November 12, 2018 / By Rev. Dave Masland. Director of New Faith Communities

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on appointmnt-making in the United Methodist Church.

    For the past six years, the Upper New York (UNY) Conference has been very blessed to have a Bishop who is very committed to planting New Faith Communities. Bishops make decisions about who will sit on their appointive cabinets, helping in the consultation process that leads to making appointments of pastors. Across our UM connection, many of those Bishops choose not to place their new church start developers around that table. However, since the Director of New Faith Communities (NFC) position was first formed in the UNY Conference in 2013, Bishop Webb has made sure the NFC Director sits in on all Cabinet meetings, and has a significant voice in the process that leads to decisions about what pastor is appointed where.

    Why is this?

    When a Conference prioritizes planting new churches highly, it also prioritizes finding highly effective people to plant those churches. Some of those people are already serving existing churches. If the Bishop and Cabinet are not open to moving those (often highly effective) people from existing churches, then new churches will never be planted! The opposite is also true. In UNY, we value planting so highly the Bishop invites regular conversation about two key aspects of planting:

                1.         Who are the highly gifted, carefully assessed potential planters that we have identified?

                2.         Where are the high potential places where God seems to be calling us to plant?

    We are all committed to discovering where God wants to work to plant an NFC. We are all committed to finding the right person to plant in each of those communities. And, our agenda reflects it!

    As the Director of NFCs, I have a regular spot on the Appointive Cabinet agenda. At these times (and especially at the beginning of the Appointment season), I can share who the potential planters are, and where are the places we might want to deploy those people. There is a constant conversation going on between me and the various regional DSs. Is it possible this local pastor or that elder is called by God to plant?  If so, where would they be most effectively be deployed? We are all constantly praying for the Spirit to show us where movement seems to be happening, and how we can get on board with what God is doing.

    Sometimes the first move is for a high potential planter to come to us and share a dream and a vision for where they feel God is calling them to plant. Sometimes we go to the high potential planter, and we ask them to prayerfully consider whether or not they feel called to plant at all… and then, whether they are willing to plant in a particular community. It is all a process of discernment. And, when we all (DSs, planter, Bishop and Director of NFCs) agree that God is leading us toward appointing a person as “Lead Planter” of an NFC, we are in a position to act. 

    The good news is this: There are no turf wars in our cabinet meetings. Without fail, our DSs are all committed “Conference Superintendents.” Each of us wants what is best for the Kingdom of God. We have lots of open, honest and often lively discussion… sharing all pros and cons. But, if we discern that what is most needed is a new appointment of a gifted person to another mission field, there is shared enthusiasm to move ahead. What a joy to work on a team like this… all focused on planting new churches so that new people will come to experience the incredible grace and unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Active shooter resources available

    November 12, 2018 / By UNY Communications

    In light of recent events like the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, it is becoming important to know how to prevent and respond to active shooter incidents. The Upper New York Conference insurance provider, Church Mutual, recommends several resources that churches can use to learn how to prevent and respond to such incidents.

    Here are some of Church Mutual’s recommendations:

    • ALICE

    ALICE is the acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. Church Mutual has partnered with ALICE, which provides several videos and webinars to help you in the face of violence. Click here for more information.

    • Firestorm

    Church Mutual has partnered with Firestorm, whose mission is to “Predict. Plan. Perform” when crises take place. Firestorm has helpful handouts and webinars. Click here for more information.

    • Armed Intruder Resource Kit

    Church Mutual along with Firestorm and the ALICE Training Institute. have come together to bring you an informative webinar series and an Armed Intruder Resource Kit. Click here for more information.

    • FEMA Faith Resources

    Across the United States, Americans congregate in faith-based venues to worship, learn, play, and bond as a community. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reminds people that public gatherings are vulnerable, and adversaries may perceive houses of worship as attractive targets where they can inflict mass casualties, cause substantial psychological impacts, and draw extensive media coverage. FEMA provides resources, webinars and trainings to houses of worship. Click here for FEMA resources.

    In addition to resources specific to active shooter incidents, Church Mutual also has several resources on other safety concerns. Click here for the plethora of free resources available to you.

    Mentoring for Effectiveness:  A Personal View

    November 12, 2018 / By Rev. Robert Kolvick-Campbell, Sherrill: Christ UMC

    Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on itinerancy.

                In the midst of newly ordained pastors, or even longer serving pastors, the situations of ministry can become a bit much to handle. Self-care can be forgotten and hopes can fall short of God’s vision for us. We might see ourselves as doing what we can each day; those who are our supervisors might see that we need some support.

    In 2014, being moved to a new appointment, this happened to me. Members of the Upper New York Cabinet approached me, concerned about what was happening in my ministry and calling me to covenant with them in a new program: Mentoring for Effectiveness.

    At first, I was hesitant, perceiving care as judgment. It felt that starting a new appointment and the requirements of Mentoring for Effectiveness might be too much or might be unnecessary. I came to find out that care was really at work in the Cabinet’s concern: care for me as a pastor, in my ministry, seeking to give the space and grace to continue growth.

    Some of that growth was learning about where I was in the midst of my life in ministry through emotional intelligence training. Through the EQ-HR process, I was able to be reminded of communication skills I already knew, but to practice them in some new ways.

    One of the great times of sharing occurred in participating in “Tending the Fire.” Tending the Fire uses the work of Edwin Friedman and his concept of the non-anxious presence as a means of examining one’s self as a clergyperson, in the midst of what can be anxious congregations.

    Throughout the process, I had a coach, who nurtured and shared with me in meaningful ways towards prayerfully engaging my life anew as God is calling me. We worked on little things I saw, developing a balcony view of ministry and worked together in forming our bond in covenantal prayer. And this was and is positive and helpful—I continue to work with my coach quarterly, updating and working with the challenges and joys of ministry.

    There was, as well, an understanding of accountability, that I had goals to meet by specific dates. That accountability reminded me that we are all accountable to each other. Accountability has its place in ministry as we seek to live as God’s community. Mentoring for Effectiveness helps me define where and what I need to be about when living out my ministry.

    Finally, a big aspect was the focus on self-care. One might argue that this is what Mentoring for Effectiveness was really all about: caring about oneself and ministry enough to give oneself to a program to prayerfully live into new growth as a pastor.

    Could a clergyperson do all of the programs themselves? Yes, of course, but looking back, I can say that  giving myself to the program allowed me to find new connections in ministry that continue to support each day.

    Throughout Mentoring for Effectiveness, I learned and I grew. I had to be open to this process, and that wasn’t always easy, throughout the process, I was supported as I met with my District Superintendent to look at my progress, to be encouraged, and to provide feedback on the process for improvement.

    As I completed the process, I felt renewed. I give thanks to God for that renewal. I believe that everyone can find meaning in taking some time to reflect and examine their ministry and grow from that time. I continue to use the fruit I gained to inform and critically grow in the ministry to which God has called me.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Mentoring for Effectiveness:  A Personal View

    November 12, 2018 / By Rev. Robert Kolvick-Campbell, Sherrill: Christ UMC

    Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on itinerancy.

                In the midst of newly ordained pastors, or even longer serving pastors, the situations of ministry can become a bit much to handle. Self-care can be forgotten and hopes can fall short of God’s vision for us. We might see ourselves as doing what we can each day; those who are our supervisors might see that we need some support.

    In 2014, being moved to a new appointment, this happened to me. Members of the Upper New York Cabinet approached me, concerned about what was happening in my ministry and calling me to covenant with them in a new program: Mentoring for Effectiveness.

    At first, I was hesitant, perceiving care as judgment. It felt that starting a new appointment and the requirements of Mentoring for Effectiveness might be too much or might be unnecessary. I came to find out that care was really at work in the Cabinet’s concern: care for me as a pastor, in my ministry, seeking to give the space and grace to continue growth.

    Some of that growth was learning about where I was in the midst of my life in ministry through emotional intelligence training. Through the EQ-HR process, I was able to be reminded of communication skills I already knew, but to practice them in some new ways.

    One of the great times of sharing occurred in participating in “Tending the Fire.” Tending the Fire uses the work of Edwin Friedman and his concept of the non-anxious presence as a means of examining one’s self as a clergyperson, in the midst of what can be anxious congregations.

    Throughout the process, I had a coach, who nurtured and shared with me in meaningful ways towards prayerfully engaging my life anew as God is calling me. We worked on little things I saw, developing a balcony view of ministry and worked together in forming our bond in covenantal prayer. And this was and is positive and helpful—I continue to work with my coach quarterly, updating and working with the challenges and joys of ministry.

    There was, as well, an understanding of accountability, that I had goals to meet by specific dates. That accountability reminded me that we are all accountable to each other. Accountability has its place in ministry as we seek to live as God’s community. Mentoring for Effectiveness helps me define where and what I need to be about when living out my ministry.

    Finally, a big aspect was the focus on self-care. One might argue that this is what Mentoring for Effectiveness was really all about: caring about oneself and ministry enough to give oneself to a program to prayerfully live into new growth as a pastor.

    Could a clergyperson do all of the programs themselves? Yes, of course, but looking back, I can say that  giving myself to the program allowed me to find new connections in ministry that continue to support each day.

    Throughout Mentoring for Effectiveness, I learned and I grew. I had to be open to this process, and that wasn’t always easy, throughout the process, I was supported as I met with my District Superintendent to look at my progress, to be encouraged, and to provide feedback on the process for improvement.

    As I completed the process, I felt renewed. I give thanks to God for that renewal. I believe that everyone can find meaning in taking some time to reflect and examine their ministry and grow from that time. I continue to use the fruit I gained to inform and critically grow in the ministry to which God has called me.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Planter Leadership Development Group… a PLD group for planters

    November 12, 2018 / By Rev. Dave Masland / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    What is it? Six monthly meetings, starting in November and ending in May. We will gather from 9:30 a.m. untill 2 p.m. on weekdays (dates to be negotiated, during the first one, by the group). We will be reading and discussing four important books about: the spiritual life of the leader, developing a disciple making system in your NFC, and being an effective adaptive leader in our changing mission field. Each monthly meeting will provide time for going deeper spiritually, talking about our wildly important goals, celebrating the victories and supporting one another through the challenges of leading a New Faith Community, discussing the book of the month, setting goals around action steps, praying together and holding one another accountable to the goals we set.

    First meeting will be on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 9:30 a.m. in the Conference Center.  There is no cost for this group. Just your time and energy!

    Books we will be reading and discussing: Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger (about adaptive leadership), Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton, Developing an Intentional Discipleship System by Junius Dotson, and one other of the group’s choosing (we will discuss some options when we gather for our first meeting).

    Bottom line: This is a peer learning group! There will be no lectures by experts! It will be us learning and growing together as we continue to try to figure out how to make disciples of Jesus Christ in our unique New Faith Communities, in our unique mission fields! 

    To sign up, send Dave Masland an email…

    Compete for the Golden Bucket Award

    November 7, 2018 / By Mike Block, Director of Missional Engagement / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York (UNY) Conference Mission Central HUB is announcing the Golden Bucket Award.

    Beginning Oct. 1, 2018 through May 25, 2019, the District that donates the most UMCOR cleaning kits will be awarded the coveted Golden Bucket.

    Each month, the UNY Communications Ministry Area will share the collection results and a certificate will be displayed showcasing which District collected the most for that particular month.

    If you are bringing kits to UNY Mission Central HUB, please label your kits with your church and District names so that you receive proper credit.

    Click here to view the updated UMCOR cleaning kit supply list from May 2018.

    The Golden Bucket Award will be awarded at the 2019 UNY Annual Conference.

    If you have any questions, please contact Mike Block, Director of Missional Engagement, at

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Social Holiness Concerns: the youngest Palestinian Political Prisoner

    November 6, 2018 / By Dianne Roe

    Shadi Farah had just turned 12 years old when he and a friend were taken into Israeli police custody in December 2015 because Israeli settlers complained they looked suspicious. Under interrogation and torture Shadi "confessed" that he wanted to stab a soldier.  No actual stabbing, or attempt at stabbing had taken place.  Yet Shadi was charged and sentenced to prison. Almost three years later Shadi is still in detention.  His birthday was Monday, Nov. 5.

    His mother wants people around the world to not forget him.

    This Sunday remember him in your mission moment.  Learn more about him and the other Palestinian children in Israeli jails at  If you sing him happy birthday, videotape it, or send a photo to They will get it to his mother..  

    Happy birthday Shadi.  We won't forget you!

    UNY completes a successful medical mission trip in Vieques, Puerto Rico: Article 3 of 3

    November 6, 2018 / By Ryan Bennett

    Editor’s Note: Click here and here to learn more about this mission trip team by reading previous articles.

    Hello, my name is Ryan Bennett, and the mission trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico in September is the first mission trip I’ve ever been on.

    It was pretty much everything I could have asked for, considering we went to a place that got slammed by Hurricane Maria. Even with all the mind-blowing damage, this little island of Vieques endured during the hurricane, it still has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

    I worked as part of the construction team alongside a mission team from Neosho, Missouri that was doing building repairs. I worked with Dale, Dathan and George and, immediately felt connected with them. We all worked tremendously well together.

    Our first task was to bring six wheel-barrow loads of sand and six of gravel up the stairs of the Esperanza United Methodist Church to the second floor – the same church we had worshiped in on Sunday morning. We then mixed bags of cement and the sand and gravel mixture on the floor to make liquid cement which we poured into new forms, replacing a wall that was obliterated by Maria. I had never done anything like that before. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit! Plus, we had a great foreman to guide us in the right direction. Our foreman, a Puerto Rican native whose name is Luis, was probably the coolest guy I have ever worked for. We got along great. He really knew his stuff, and he appreciated my hard work. It took two days to finish the cement job. It was a really great feeling to work on something that means so much to the wonderful people of Vieques.

    My second job that week was putting a metal roof on a house on the northern coast of Vieques in a little town called Isabel Segundo. Luis was my foreman again.  He had us working with one of his contractors named Santana. It was very helpful that Santana was bilingual. I got to work with Dale and Dathan again to put the metal roof on. The family that we did the roof for was so appreciative! When we showed up at their house with all the building materials in the back of Luis’s truck, the elderly owner came right out and shook all our hands, repeating “Gracias, gracias.”

    The roof was a trickier, more time-consuming project and took pretty much the rest of the week. It went well, and again we made a great team. My favorite thing about getting that roof done is the simple fact that there’s one less family worried about the wind and the rain getting into their house as they sleep and otherwise go about their lives.

    My trip and the overall experience of being able to go on this mission trip to Vieques was all so amazing. I am very thankful that God has allowed this opportunity in my life and I wouldn’t think twice about saying “yes” to another mission trip if it’s going to be anything like this one to Vieques. 

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Welcoming Rev. Eleanor Collinsworth to Bath: Centenary UMC

    November 6, 2018 / By Bob Dunham, Co-Lay Leader, Bath: Centenary UMC

    t was Sunday, July 6, 2014, and everyone at Centenary was anxious and excited to welcome our new pastor. Several of us had already met Pastor Eleanor when she came to an evening gathering at our church in the spring to be introduced and to have the opportunity to tell us a little about herself. It also gave her the chance to meet several of us for the first time.

    While I’m sure she wanted to make a good first impression, which she definitely did, we also wanted to make a good impression on her. We think of ourselves as a warm and welcoming church family, and we certainly wanted to convey that to her at our very first opportunity.

    That first Sunday in July 2014 was, in fact, a very positive and uplifting experience for the whole church family. The immediate response to Eleanor was one of pure joy that someone who we instantly liked had been selected to be our new pastor.

    From that first sermon on July 6, Eleanor’s sermons continue to be biblically based and presented in a way that not only makes them easy to listen to, but also are memorable and give each member of the church family something to ponder and to incorporate into their daily life.

      We did know, however, that it would be difficult for many to get to know her well by just seeing her in church Sunday morning and, for some, at various committee meetings. So, we planned and scheduled many informal small-group get-togethers at members’ homes. This gave Eleanor and her husband Mark the opportunity to visit with the church family a few at a time allowing them to share more about the two of them and their backgrounds and experiences. It also provided for them the chance to visit with and get to know members of their new church family on a personal and more intimate basis.

    Everyone who attended one of these small-group gatherings was thrilled with the experience and found the time they were able to share with Eleanor and Mark very enjoyable and valuable.

    I think Eleanor realized right from the start that the transition into a new pastorate is not something that takes only a few weeks or even a few months. It is an ongoing and fluid process that continues to evolve as time goes by. Eleanor is a master at continuing to grow into the position and to allow us all to grow with her.

    It wasn’t long after Eleanor came to Centenary that we discovered that she has a beautiful singing voice, and she joined our choir to share her talent with us each Sunday morning. This is just one of the many gifts that she shares with us.

    One of the many things that impressed many of us right from the start was Eleanor’s willingness to step right in and work with us and beside us as we put on church dinners, rummage sales, and other events. She has never hesitated to take an active role in whatever endeavor we are involved with.

    She made it clear, almost from day one, that she would welcome our ideas and suggestions for enhancing and expanding our ministries both for our church family and for the Bath community and for people throughout the world. She has and continues to give us many opportunities to do just that.       

    Though Eleanor did not come into our new relationship with the intention of instantly making sweeping changes, we would soon learn that she was and is a very creative and thoughtful person. She has a way of suggesting ideas for our consideration that somehow turn out to be accepted as great ideas that we are eager to implement. She never dictates, but, instead, gently conveys a vision that she thinks we might like to consider, and lo and behold, it turns out that we often do.  

    Just some of the ideas that have come to fruition include: The Church Has Left the Building, Senior Gatherings, and The Bath Community Clothing Closet. The Clothing Closet, which provides free gently used clothing for young children, is located in the basement of our church.Eleanor didn’t limit her focus to Centenary. She wanted to be an active and contributing member of the entire community. Her “transition” involved much more than a focus on Centenary and our church family. She is active and visible in the greater Bath community and never hesitates to reach out to others in need. She is a member of the Bath Rotary Club and participates actively in their many outreach programs. She meets often and works closely with other Bath pastors as they ecumenically look for ways to serve the greater community and not just the people who attend their individual churches.

    Eleanor developed soon after her arrival in Bath a close working relationship with the Bath Food Pantry “Turning Point,” and she encourages our congregation to contribute food and other items on a weekly basis throughout the entire year. She has also taken a leadership role in the Crop Walk which locally raises thousands of dollars to fight hunger both in the greater Bath area and throughout the world.

    I can’t imagine anyone who could have made a more positive first impression which just continues to grow and blossom as each day, week, month, and year go by.

    To say that we, at Centenary, have been blessed to have Eleanor with us would be an understatement. She was, from the start, and continues to be just who we need as our pastor, and we sincerely hope that she will be with us for many years to come.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Replacing a pastor who served a church for 17 years

    November 6, 2018 / By The Rev. Eleanor Collinsworth, Bath: Centenary UMC

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 Issue of the Advocate, which focused on itinerancy and appointment-making in the United Methodist Church.

    As if a phone call from a District Superintendent asking you to prayerfully consider a change in appointment doesn’t get your heart beating fast enough, these words will surely do the trick: “…and the person you are following has been the pastor of the church for 17 years.” These are words I heard four and a half years ago when I was asked by the then-District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Cathy Stengel to accept an appointment to Bath: Centenary UMC. My heart rate might not have been as elevated as it might be, however, because just four years prior, I had been asked to accept an appointment that would have me following a person who had been the pastor of that church for 18 years! My mantra immediately became, “You can do this. You’ve done it once before. You can do this…”

    The members of a church are rarely of one mind when it comes to any change in pastoral appointment. There are nearly always those who are positive about a change, and those who are not so positive, and for lots of different reasons. The added twist involved in following a long-term pastor is, in my experience, the fact that there are a rather large number of people in the faith community who have never experienced a pastoral change, and there are likely people who have never had another pastor. And so, the transition process needs to be even more intentional and thorough.

    The transition process I experienced in 2014 as I prepared to move to Bath: Centenary UMC was far more intentional and helpful than my experienced pastoral transition process in 2010. And I am grateful. Instead of one very nerve-wracking (for all) meeting with some or all of the members of an Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC), my 2014 transition process afforded me four separate opportunities to meet and interact with different groups of people in the church.

    Following the customary introductory interview with the SPRC, I was invited to speak to and with a large group of church members and friends. These were folks who had responded to an open invitation to meet and greet me at an informal gathering, at which they would receive words of encouragement from their departing pastor, and words of introduction from their soon-to-arrive pastor. It was a time to share questions and answers, hopes and dreams, laughter, and tears.

    That large gathering was followed a few weeks later by a facilitated session with the leaders of the church, at which we were guided through a series of questions designed to tease out the church’s strengths, growing edges, mission, vision, challenges, hopes, and dreams. What I learned at that meeting was invaluable to my process of living into my role as their new pastoral leader. While these meetings fed my mind and heart throughout the transition process, what fed my soul were the letters of introduction, welcome, and encouragement that I received from many members of the faith community in the weeks leading up to my physical move to Bath, NY. The end result? I cannot imagine a more intentional and helpful transition process!

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Do No Harm urges The UMC to lead in combating sin of sexual misconduct

    October 30, 2018 / By Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministries

    “I have a dream that the United Methodist Church will be the leading prophetic voice in combating sexual misconduct.”

    Bishop Sharma Lewis (Virginia Conference) shared this vision during worship the last day of the “Do No Harm” sexual ethics training event sponsored by the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women ( and held earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas. Bishop Lewis powerfully articulated the bold call of this event: for the Church in this #MeToo era to step up and lead in combating the sin of sexual misconduct, first in our churches but also in the wider world.  

    Several members of the Upper New York Conference were invited by Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb to join me in sharing this training:  Krystal Cole, Tom Blake, Rebekah Solar and the Rev. Vonda Fossitt from our Conference’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women; Cathy Stengel from our Response Team; and the Rev. Sherri Rood and the Rev. Carlos Rosa Laguer from the Cabinet. In addition to plenary lectures and discussions, each of us participated in one of four learning tracks: response teams which walk with churches after allegations of misconduct are known, advocacy resources for survivor-victims, administrative and judicatory responses to misconduct, and integrity and healthy boundaries for lay and clergy leaders. The aim of each of these tracks was to equip participants to build or improve our capacity to respond to sexual misconduct in our Conference and its churches.

    One of the key learnings for me was the impact an institution’s response to allegations has on the level of trauma experienced by an individual. Dr. Jennifer Freyd, an internationally recognized expert on trauma and sexual misconduct, shared how “institutional betrayal” compounds the harm done to a victim of sexual misconduct. When a pastor or another church leader engages in inappropriate sexual behavior, great harm is done. When a church or a conference fails to address this harm, it betrays the victim-survivor and compounds the harm. Dr. Freyd acknowledged an institution like the United Methodist Church can’t always “change the reality of interpersonal violence, but it can change the way the institution responds.” 

    Working with our Commission on the Status and Role of Women, the Bishop’s Cabinet, the Board of Ministry, Conference staff and leaders in our local churches, this is our work: to build structures and systems which compassionately, consistently and, to quote Bishop Lewis, prophetically respond to sexual misconduct. We must cease doing harm and seek to be a source of healing and justice. This is the work of individuals, to be sure, but it is also the obligation of the institutional church. Jesus expects nothing less of our congregations and Conference.

    One of the ways local churches can begin this work immediately is to comply with the new sexual harassment policies adopted by New York State. Each pastor was made aware of this new law and provided with information on how to help the congregation comply. Click here to read more. At the Conference level, the Do No Harm participants are developing a list of “next steps” and will begin working with other leaders to build or improve our Conference capacities. There is still much work to do.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Clergy appointments in Upper New York

    October 29, 2018 / By the Rev. Brian Fellows, Clifton Springs UMC

    Editor's Note: This article was first published in the Fall 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on itinerancy in the United Methodist Church.

    The Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) is privileged to have the ministry of caring for the clergy of the Upper New York (UNY) Conference from the first perception of a call through retirement. BOM works through the 12 District Committees on Ordained Ministry (dCOMs), and in close partnership with the Appointive Cabinet. BOM is the credentialing body for clergy seeking licensing, commissioning, and ordination in the UNY Annual Conference. The Board of Ordained Ministry has a wide scope of responsibilities in cultivating and supporting excellent clergy leadership; these tasks are outlined in paragraph 635 of the 2016 Book of Discipline (BOD).

    I am Brian Fellows, an elder serving with the people in the Clifton Springs UMC. I am one of the co-chairs of the Board of Ordained Ministry. Sue Russell, a deacon serving our UNY Camp and Retreat Ministry is one of the co-chairs. We hope this issue of the Advocate broadens your perspective of the itinerancy system, how the system adds to the diversity of our Conference, and how it strengthens the ministries and churches in the UNY area of the United Methodist Church. All baptized Christians are called to ministry. Outlined here are ways people serve in pastoral ministry based on their education and credentials in the United Methodist Church.

    Lay-person assigned

    When a pastoral charge is not able to be served by an ordained or licensed minister, the Bishop, upon recommendation of the cabinet, may assign a qualified and trained layperson to do the work of ministry in that charge. (2016 BOD par. 205.4) If a layperson will be assigned longer than one year, the layperson will begin the process of becoming either a Certified Lay Minister or a certified candidate under the care of the District Committee on Ministry. They are laity serving a church, accountable to the Annual Conference, and have no sacramental authority.

    Certified Lay Member

    Certified Lay Members (CLMs) have committed to a set of classes to serve the church at a higher level of commitment and education. CLMs complete requirements set and approved by the Board of Laity. The classes help to prepare them to teach and lead within the local church. Some CLMs serve churches by preaching, teaching and administrating. They are not clergy. They fill a pastoral role in some parishes as laity. CLMs have no sacramental authority and do not itinerate.

    Licensed Local Pastor

    All persons not ordained as elders who are appointed to preach and conduct divine worship and perform the duties of a pastor shall have a license for pastoral ministry. (2016 BOD par. 315) A Licensed Local Pastor (LLP) completes the requirements and education specified by the Board of Ordained Ministry in order to be recommended for approval at clergy session. Education common to LLPs is the Course of Study (CoS), seminary courses designed just for licensing as a local pastor. After approval of the Annual Conference, LLPs are licensed by the Bishop to perform all the duties of a pastor. LLPs can only administer the sacraments within their own local church setting. LLPs have the right to vote on most, but not all matters at Annual Conference. LLPs do itinerate at the request of the Bishop.

    Associate Member

    An Associate Member is an LLP that has gone through a process completing similar requirements as ordination. Associate members are in the itinerant ministry of the Church and are available for appointment by the Bishop. At each Annual Conference, they have the ability to vote on all matters except constitutional amendments, matters of ordination, character, and Conference relations of clergy. Licensed Local Pastors and Associate members participate in the Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members providing mutual support for the sake of the life and mission of the church.


    Deacons are called by God, commissioned, and ordained to a lifetime ministry of Word, service, compassion, and justice to both the community and the congregation in a ministry that connects the two. In addition to credentialing in their field of service, Deacons are required to complete the same preparation as ordained Elders. Deacons help the poor, the sick, and the oppressed; equip the laity in ministries of compassion, justice, and service in the world. Deacons have the authority to teach and proclaim God's Word, to contribute in worship, to assist elders in the administration of the sacraments, perform the marriage ceremony where the laws of the state permit, and to bury the dead. They are responsible for finding their own areas of ministry to which the Bishop must then approve. Deacons must always designate a Charge Conference where they offer their gifts as well. Deacons do not itinerate. As members of the Order of Deacons, all Deacons are in covenant with other deacons in the Annual Conference and shall participate in the life of their order.


    Elders are called by God, commissioned, and ordained to a lifetime ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service after completion of their formal preparation. Elders lead worship, preach, counsel, visit, order the life of a parish through administrative duties, teach the Word of God, equip laity, administer the sacraments, lead persons to faith in Jesus Christ, as well as many other duties both in the parish or extension ministry. Elders are called to the itinerant system. Elders serve in the place they are appointed by the Bishop and Cabinet. As members of the Order of Elders, all elders are in covenant with other elders in the Annual Conference and shall participate in the life of their order.

    As you can see from these brief descriptions, there are many different ways people can serve in the church and answer God’s Call to Ministry in their life. These descriptions only skim the surface of how clergy serve and, they barely mention the ministry and service of the laity.

    Part of what makes the United Methodist Church what it is can be found in how we order ministry.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Baldwinsville First welcomes 600 community children to their annual trunk-or-treat

    October 29, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Sunday Oct. 28 was rainy and cold in Central NY, but that did not stop Baldwinsville First United Methodist Church from putting on an awesome trick-or-treating alternative event. For nearly a decade, Baldwinsville First UMC has put on a trunk-or-treat event and has welcomed the community to come to the church for trick-or-treating at decorated car trunks in their parking lot. When the weather calls for rain, they simply change plans and bring the trick-or-treating inside and decorate doorways instead of trunks.

    The Rev. Susan Ranous is a member of Baldwinsville First. She was handing out treats to the children who attended the event. She said, “We have been doing this event for several years now. Our Christian Education team decided to start this event as they noticed fewer and fewer people felt comfortable with their children trick-or-treating. They wanted to provide a safe place for people to trick-or-treat and what better place than the church.”

    Rev. Ranous also explained that in addition to welcoming several community children to a fun event, the church was also collecting canned goods for the food pantry as well as donations for the United Methodist Committee on Relief to help with recent hurricane damage.

    Frankie Weaver is the Christian Education Director and mother of three children who attended the event. She said, “I am so impressed with the number of people who have come out despite the horrible weather. Yesterday, we made the decision to hold this indoors because of the weather forecast and people had no problem switching gears to decorate doorways instead of trunks.”

    Frankie added, “This event seems to grow every year. Last year we had over 200 and I am so glad that this year, we have over 500 so far.”

    The Baldwinsville Police Department decorated the final doorway of the trick-or-treating stops. Sargent Chrissy Allen and Police Officer Bob Thibault represented the department. Officer Thibault said, “This is such a great event. I love seeing the different costumes and people are just so kind and thankful for our participation.”

    Frankie also explained the Baldwinsville First youth were a big part of making the event so successful. In addition to over 20 trick-or-treating stops throughout the hallways of the church, there were games and crafts held in Fellowship Hall as well as church members serving delicious homemade cookies, treats, and apple cider.

    The Rev. Bill Mudge, appointed as pastor at Baldwinsville First in July, experienced this event for the first time. Rev. Mudge his wife Shari, and daughter Hannah were handing out treats at one of the doorways. He said, “Everything this church hosts is wonderful. Having been at a church for several years before becoming D.S. (of the Adirondack District), I was wondering what it would be like becoming a part of a different church and it has been great. People have been so welcoming and kind to my family and me.”

    Baldwinsville First also hosts a Christmas Bazar leading up to Christmas for children to shop for their parents and they host an Easter egg hunt before Easter. Does your church welcome your local community to fun and creative events? Let us know by writing us at

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    The Culture of Call

    October 29, 2018 / By Rev. Mark Kimpland, Endwell UMC

    Editor's Note: This article was first published in the Fall 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on itinerancy in the United Methodist Church.

    Over 40 years ago, while attending a youth retreat at Casowasco Camp and Retreat Center, I encountered the very presence of God calling me into ministry. I only wish I had comprehended the event as a call, but the best I could conjure was simply an occurrence I had never experienced before. How does a high school junior begin to discern the gravity of that moment when my sole hope at the retreat was to secure a date to my prom?

    I was however keenly aware that what happened that night was real, emotional, and transcendent. In my teenage world of peer pressure/acceptance, athletics, and hormones, I did understand that I encountered the divine amidst my human confusion. Is not that just like God, where in a time of my life I was running from God, the grace of the Holy stopped me in my tracks and revealed a truth I still do not completely comprehend? One thing is certain; the call that began so many years ago is constantly evolving, emerging, and transforming my life today.

    As a member of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM), our main task is to confirm the authenticity, interpretation, and presence of one’s call to ministry. The primacy of this call directs our work and recommendations for those preparing for commissioning and ordination and is the catalyst of our functions. Every division of BOM, Clergy Status, Standards and Qualifications, Recruitment and Enlistment, District Committee on Ministry, Provisional membership, and Clergy Effectiveness root their work in the foundation of a candidate’s call. 

    This “Culture of Call” has its genesis from the very beginning of Candidacy for Licensing or Ordination as outlined in paragraph 310 of The Book of Discipline, 2016, “The licensed or ordained ministry is recognized by The United Methodist Church as a called-out and set-apart ministry. Therefore, it is appropriate that those persons who present themselves as candidates for licensed or ordained ministry be examined regarding the authenticity of their call by God to set-apart ministry.” I have come to appreciate that the examination of my call that continued throughout the entire process of my ordination, continues every Sunday I lead worship and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Perhaps this is the dichotomy of one’s call. When a specific moment in time recognizes the Divine summons, it is in the lifetime of moments following, that articulates and discovers God’s purpose of that call. This is where the United Methodist appointment process positions itself uniquely where the called are able to live out their call. This distinctive system allows those named by God, through an intentional appointive process by those who have heard, mentored, and guided that call, to live out the call to its fullest.

    As I begin my 34th year under appointment, I not only stand amazed at the transformation of my call, but also to those over the years entrusted in the fulfillment of my call in the appointment process.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Dr. Clif Christopher unravels how to increase giving at the 2018 Bishop’s Retreat

    October 29, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    At the 2018 Bishop’s Retreat, held Oct. 23-25 in Syracuse, Dr. Clif Christopher, founder of Horizons Stewardship Company, provided inspiring insights to Upper New York clergy on how they can improve stewardship in their congregations.

    Dr. Christopher emphasized the fact that people are bombarded with messages from the media that they need the next new car or gadget.

    He explained, “The greatest sin your people have is their love of material things…we love money more than we love God… We have an enemy constantly telling us that stuff will save us… the message is constantly there.”

    Sadly, people’s spending habits have translated into no longer tithing.

    Dr. Christopher presented a chart that illustrated total giving as a share of income by religious affiliation. Every religion gave their place of worship less than 5 percent of their income—Methodists gifted their churches a mere 1 percent of their income.

    How can pastors and church leadership improve congregational giving? How do they become the opposing force of materialism? Dr. Christopher discussed three pockets of giving: annual, planned, and capital.

    Annual giving

    Pastors often cringe at the idea of talking about money—according to Dr. Christopher, the fact is that many pastors do not have stewardship plans.

    He said, “Your plan is for two weeks in October, you talk about it and then you go on to other things. There is no plan for the first of the year or for Lent, or for the summer, or Christmas. The plan is for two weeks in October. You’ll preach a sermon and maybe send out a letter and that’s it.”

    Dr. Christopher reiterated the problem with materialism and said that the stewardship committee needs to meet all year long because materialism is a sin that is happening every month of the year.

    He said, “Every single Sunday is Stewardship Sunday. Stewardship is part of discipleship.”

    In terms of giving, Dr. Christopher explained that though it may seem counterintuitive, churches should not be focusing on expenses; they should be focused on the mission and constantly communicating the mission to their congregation.

    Instead of showing their congregation a line-item budget, pastors and leaders should present a missional budget that explains how their giving created more disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. How many people were new to the church? How many people worshipped on an average Sunday? How many children’s programs were there? How many baptisms? How did you and your church nurture people? How did members of the church witness their faith?

    Planned giving

    Dr. Christopher discussed how people are solicited for planned gifts by almost every charity they support so why doesn’t the church do the same?

    He said he spoke in front of a crowd of about a 1,000 people recently on the topic of planned giving. He asked the laity in attendance, “How many of you in the last six months have been solicited by a charity for a planned gift, asked to remember an organization in your will, or to perhaps set up a trust?” Dr. Christopher said that over 500 hands were raised.

    He asked the same laity. “Now in the last six months, has your church in any way, shape or form, communicated to you that they would love for you to consider them in your will?” About six hands were raised.

    Dr. Christopher’s point was that pastors need to ask for planned gifts. He said, “We have done a dismal job at talking to them (our congregations) about donations to the church through estates.”

    He provided suggestions such as having an attorney come in to talk about how to set up wills and include in the presentation how to set up gifts to the church.

    Capital campaigns

    Regarding capital campaigns, Dr. Christopher discussed assumptions held by most clergy— “Most of us in the church assume that we deal with the capital pocket only when we are actually building something. Understand that every college in America has a capital campaign every single day. They’re not all about building something every day, but they are all about a dream and a vision every day.”

    Dr. Christopher explained that the capital pocket contains resources such as stocks, bonds, property holdings, inheritances, etc. These are resources we don’t use on a day-to-day basis. They’re there for the point in time we choose to reach into that pocket for something, generally a one-time, short-term expense, such as our child’s college education, our dream vacation, or a giving opportunity that arises.

    Dr. Christopher said to the clergy, “This needs to be a pocket that you are communicating to your people that you could use any day of the year.”

    Are you ready to plan how you will increase giving at your church in 2019? When doing so, address the three pockets of giving and see stewardship as a year-long process. Keep mission at the forefront. Every Sunday as offerings are collected, have a person who has been touched by the church give a one or two-minute talk on how the church has helped them.

    Dr. Christopher reminded the crowd, “When hearts are reached and touched and not just wallets, annual funds will rise.”

    Changes to Paid Family Leave in 2019

    October 29, 2018 / By Tracy Rickett, UNY Human Resources Generalist

    New York State (NYS) Department of Financial Services recently announced changes to the 2019 NYS Paid Family Leave.

    Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the number of weeks eligible employees can take will increase from eight to 10 weeks. The benefit will also increase to 55% of the employee’s average weekly wage, capped at 55% of the state’s average weekly wage. For 2019, the state’s average weekly wage will be $1,357.11. Therefore, the maximum weekly benefit will increase to $746.41. 

    The employee contribution rate will increase as well. In 2019, the contribution is 0.153% of an employee’s gross wages each pay period. The maximum annual contribution is $107.97.  Employees earning less than the current Statewide Average Weekly Wage of $1,357.11 will contribute less than the annual cap of $107.97 consistent with their actual wages. 

    Additionally, you will be required to update your PFL policies reflecting the 2019 changes.  You can find model language on the NYS Paid Family Leave website, in the Employer Resources section. 

    Important Reminders regarding Paid Family Leave

    • The Conference will continue to provide coverage under the group disability plan via Guardian and pay the premium.
    • Churches should not purchase their own coverage.
    • No employee contributions are to be withheld from pay and churches will not be billed.
    • Churches ARE responsible for their own claim administration as they are with disability claims.

    If you have a payroll vendor that manages your payroll, please contact them with this information and verify they will not take deductions in January 2019. It is recommended that you check your pay journals the first few months to ensure that they do not add the deductions. 

    Click here to review all updates. If you have additional questions, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at (315) 898-2017 or

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

    Minimum wage increase affects all UNY employers

    October 29, 2018 / By Tracy Rickett, UNY Human Resources Generalist

    New York State (NYS) is raising the minimum wage. Effective Dec. 31, 2018, minimum wage will increase from $10.40/hour to $11.10/hour.

    Employers in the Upper New York Conference, regardless of the number of employees, must pay non-exempt employees minimum wage. The minimum wage will continue to increase annually by 70 cents until it meets $12.50/hour on December 31, 2020.  Future increases after 2020, will be determined by the NYS Director of Budget in consultation with the NYS Commissioner of Labor and will be announced on or before October 1 each year.

    An updated NYS Minimum Wage poster must be posted at your work site for your employees to see by December 31, 2018. Once available, Conference Communications will post the new Employment Law Compliance poster here on the website.

    If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at (315) 898-2017 or

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

    UNY completes a successful medical mission trip in Vieques, Puerto Rico: Article 2 of 3

    October 23, 2018 / By Pastor Sharon Rankins-Burd

    Editor’s Note: A 12-person team from the Upper New York (UNY) Conference went on a mission trip to Puerto Rico, on the island of Vieques in Sept. Team members included seven people from Fly Creek and Schuyler Lake UMCs in the Oneonta District as well as three additional medical staff from the Northern Flow District. Drs Sylvia and Marv Reimer of Watertown, NY led the team. On Viequez, the mission team was housed and staffed a medical clinic at the United Methodist Church in Esperanza. Some members of the team also had the opportunity to work on home reconstruction alongside a team from the Midwest. Below is an article by Pastor Sharon Rankins-Burd of Fly Creek UMC and Schuyler Lake UMC.

    We recently returned from a work trip to Vieques, one of the smaller Puerto Rican islands. From the first glimpse of the main island through our airplane windows, to the parting hugs and kind words from our new friends, this trip was filled with discoveries and adventures.

    The island of Vieques is small: four and a half miles wide, 20 miles long. According to year 2000 census data, more than 9,000 people lived on the island then. Today it’s estimated something close to 40% of the population left the island after Hurricane Maria in September 2017.  Abandoned homes and cars, and concrete pads swept clean of walls sit side by side with homes wrapped in blue tarps awaiting new roofs or windows, and homes that have already been restored. Money is part of the issue – some households cannot afford the cost of replacing a roof, or of hauling away the debris that sits piled in the alleyway or at the road’s edge. One of our bus drivers told us that there remain 60,000 homes across the Puerto Rican islands needing repair one year after Maria. Recovery is a lengthy process.

    We stayed in Esperanza, a community along the south shore of Vieques. There’s a convenience/grocery store there, and a restaurant or two, but many of the small hotels that face the beach were damaged or destroyed and are not yet rebuilt. Portions of sidewalk were washed away. A low railing that separates the road from the beach was damaged in several places when large coconut trees were sheared off or uprooted by the powerful storm. In the days after Maria, this main road was impassable. Not only had the ocean surged by several feet, it left behind mountains of sand. But today the signs of life and hope are unmistakably present: like spring flowers poking their heads up above the snow, businesses are repairing and reopening, and tourists are returning. A newly painted sign along the road that links Esperanza to Isabel II reads “Esperanza se Levanta.” Esperanza Will Rise.

    Our work team of 12 was joined by another crew of 15 from Neosho, Missouri. Among us we brought four doctors and five nurses to staff a medical clinic in Esperanza and conduct some home assessment visits with a local case manager. Over the course of the week they saw 87 patients, many in their own homes.

    The other 18 team members took turns providing support for the medical clinic or working to repair homes across the island. One team poured concrete to repair the second floor of the Iglesia Metodista de Esperanza, and later in the week replaced a metal roof on a family’s home.

    Another team painted the exterior of a recently repaired house.

    A third group worked on what had once been a two-story home, but the storm swept the second floor away, and what had been an interior floor now served as a roof, but the damage left cracks that leak when it rains. The team cleaned and then sealed that roof, and also worked to clean the first floor where now damp concrete continues to fall from the ceiling.

    Every place we went, we were accompanied by locals hired through our agency as translators, drivers, or in the case of construction, as job foremen. And every place we went, we were greeted warmly, made to feel welcome despite language barriers, and thanked profusely for our presence and our assistance. One homeowner sent the workers back to our dormitory with fresh-picked star fruit and flowers from her garden. A clinic patient brought avocados. A neighbor delivered papayas. The Methodist church pastor connected us with people he knew in the community from whom we could purchase meals or fresh fish to cook ourselves.

    We were so grateful for our local guides. From them we learned so much about the people, the island, its history, its resources. Through their eyes we saw the community’s resilience. On many of the home visits we conducted we witnessed the strength of the community. The government may be failing them. The Puerto Rican medical system may be insufficient. But the bonds of community, born of a shared traumatic experience and lifelong care and concern for one another, shines through. Vieques’ greatest asset is her people.

    “What do the people here need most?” I asked one of our translators.

    “For you to keep coming, to keep loving on us,” she replied.

    In Spanish, Esperanza means hope. By our presence, by our skills, by our financial and material gifts, we were bringers of hope to a people in need.

    Esperanza se Levanta. Poco a poco.

    Become a spiritual entrepreneur-Nov. 15 workshop

    October 23, 2018 / By UNY Communications

    Starting a New Faith Community (and keeping it going!) is in many ways like building a business from scratch. We may never have the financial payoff of a Silicon Valley software firm, but we'd all like to see new churches succeed in disciple-making!

    How can we as planters adopt and adapt the best practices of private-sector start-ups? How do entrepreneurs identify their customers plan for success? How do they make decisions in a changing marketplace? How do they stay nimble and keep going if their first product fails? 

    In this hands-on workshop, we will learn how entrepreneurs think about products, marketplace, return on investment, and innovation. We'll apply entrepreneurial principles to our own situations as we begin to develop our own "lean" (read: short and sweet) business plans for our churches. If you are planting a new faith community and would like to think strategically about its future with a group of your peers, this workshop is for you! Bring your creative juices, an open mind, and a member of your team!

    This event will be lead by Nancy Raca, lead planter of the New Faith Community called “Sophia Community” in Rochester, NY.  She is sharing some important learnings she had at a recent Continuing Education event. The Rev.  Dave Masland, Director of New Faith Communities for the Conference will also be part of the conversation.


    Cost: $25

    November 15, 2018

    10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (lunch included)

    UNY Conference Office, United Methodist Center,

    7481 Henry Clay Blvd.

    Liverpool, NY

    To Register, please contact the NFC Administrative Assistant, Anne Hutchins, by phone at 315-898-2000 (Ext. 2029); or, via email:  Deadline for registering is Friday, November 9th at 4 PM.

    Rev. Cathy Stengel on itinerancy

    October 23, 2018 / By Rev. Cathy Stengel, Rush UMC

    Editor's Note: This article was originally published in The Fall 2018 (2018, issue 4) of teh Upper New York Advocate, which focused on intinerancy in the United Methodist Church.

    Imagine having the same pastor from when you were born until you are on the verge of graduating from high school. Imagine having the same pastor who baptized your children preside at their weddings and then baptize your grandchildren.Rev

    Maybe you can’t imagine, but it does happen. As I was leaving the superintendency, I was overseeing such a transition – when Jeff McDowell was leaving Bath Centenary UMC after 17 years of ministry, and Eleanor Collinsworth was appointed to be the next pastor. I was also about to make a transition myself, from seven years as a District Superintendent to Rush UMC where the pastor, Bill Pegg, had been for 22 years. Jeff was leaving to become a superintendent; Bill was retiring.

    When churches have such long-term appointments, both the congregation and the leadership essentially have forgotten about the itinerancy. There are people in the congregation who have never experienced a pastoral change. This creates an environment of surprise, confusion, fear, anger, excitement, and a sense of disorientation. There is typically an understanding of the rationale for the pastor leaving – it’s a familiar experience to most people. However, when a pastor has shared such a long part of their lives, their stories, their connection to God, it’s not the same. The preaching style, the pastoral care routine, the leadership – have likely shifted slightly over time, but with the same person in the role of pastor. It’s uncomfortable when that changes.

    As a District Superintendent I had to orient myself to the disorientation of the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee (S/PPRC). What? How does this work? Who does what, knows what, decides what? It required explaining the appointment process, even to some whose background was not United Methodist. Congregational life – interrupted. I needed to enter into the life of the church in a different way – serving as a gentle guide; acknowledging feelings and providing information on process, plan and expectations. The whirlwind of demands and needs in the ensuing weeks and months is a lot for a church to manage. After a long appointment there are many people who want to be a part of a big farewell celebration for the pastor who is leaving. There are lots of stories to be told, memories to be shared, gifts to be given.

    The incoming pastor is there…just beyond sight, wondering and probably a little anxious about being the new pastor after so many years. Twenty years of ministry gives new meaning to “we’ve always done it this way.” Longterm pastors can be idealized before they’ve even turned in their keys, making it hard for the incoming pastor. Long or short, your incoming pastor is leaving a congregation that they have loved, and the transition is difficult, exciting, and filled with God’s Holy Spirit doing amazing things.

    What did I learn?

    Pastors – no matter how long you are staying, keep refreshing your S/PPRC  knowledge of the appointment system – how it works, what’s important. Remind your congregation after each Annual Conference that you have been reappointed to your current church, for another year, not forever. Invite the congregation to be in prayer for nearby churches receiving new pastors, let them hear the news, just to know that it happens.

    Church leadership – keep your profile up to date, make yourself familiar with how appointments work. Don’t live in constant anxiety about “is it going to be this year?” Instead – continue to orient S/PPRC, teach about why it happens when it does. Never lose sight of the excitement of what God is and will be doing in your midst, even with a new pastor. After all, your incoming pastor, even after all these years, has been prayed in by the same system that brought you the pastor who is leaving.

    It’s a journey we’re on together, and as we read in Scripture – God has gifted us all, every one. That doesn’t make us all the same, it makes us a part of the rich tapestry of diversity. We don’t have to stop missing those long-term congregations, or our pastors, no one can try and force us to do that – we just need to open the door a tiny bit to let the Holy Spirit show us that we are still and always in God’s hands.

    Bishop Webb on itinerancy

    October 23, 2018 / By Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor's Note: This article was originally published in The Fall 2018 (2018, issue 4) of teh Upper New York Advocate, which focused on intinerancy in the United Methodist Church.

    The United Methodist system of itinerant ministry is rooted in John Wesley’s vision of spreading scriptural holiness across the land and utilizing both clergy and laity in the fulfillment of this mission. In the days of Francis Asbury, the first of two Methodist Bishops in the United States, a pastor – most often a circuit rider – might be appointed to half of a state or more.

    “Itinerancy” refers specifically to the commitment by pastors to go and serve wherever their Bishop sends them. Early in the process of candidacy for pastoral ministry, United Methodist pastors are asked to reflect on the implications of itinerant ministry for their lives and families. No pastor is licensed for ministry without an agreement to serve where the resident Bishop appoints. Appointments are for one year at a time.

    The Book of Discipline gives the responsibility for appointment-making to the Bishop and District Superintendents of the Annual Conference.

    The Cabinet of the Upper New York Annual Conference begins each appointment-making season with an intensive three-day retreat in December, attempting to look at the big picture, establishing our purpose/goals for appointment making, and identifying what will be different because of our appointment work.

    At the foundation of the appointment-making task is clarity regarding priorities for deploying clergy leadership. As we move through each appointment season, we have established the following priorities that guide our discussions, discernment and decisions.

    1. Prayer and God’s Agenda – This entire process is bathed in prayer seeking God’s desire for our life together as brothers and sisters in Christ and the ministry of congregations in the Upper New York Annual Conference.
    2. The Mission Field – What are the needs of the community surrounding the local congregation and how can we better equip the local church to engage the community in ministry?
    3. The Local Church – What is the current reality of this congregation? What strengths for ministry do they currently demonstrate and what are the areas of ministry that need to be developed? What kind of pastoral leadership will assist the congregation to fruitfully and effectively live the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world in the days ahead? Who is God calling to be the next pastor?
    4. The Pastor – What are the gifts the pastor brings? How will this pastor help this congregation continue living the mission and move to the next level in their ministry to the community? How does this potential appointment fit within the personal needs/desires of the pastor?

    These priorities help us to stay focused on the main thing, which is the mission of the Church and equipping the Church to more effectively and fruitfully live that mission. These priorities remind us that appointment-making must be responsive and not reactive, as the Church continues to seek transformation and vitality.

    When we begin making appointments we consider full-time appointments first, then work on less than full-time appointments. As a potential appointment is discussed by the Cabinet, we begin with the understandings and needs shared through the consultation process. A common question is, “What are the gifts needed in the next pastor to assist this congregation for the future?” After conversation, the Cabinet enters into a time of prayer.

    At the end of that prayer time, names of pastors that the Holy Spirit has brought to our minds and hearts are shared and added to a list of potential pastors for that specific congregation. Each person is then discussed asking two primary questions – “Why would this pastor fit here?” and “Why wouldn’t this pastor work here?” After another time of prayer, potential designations are made and then the Cabinet leaves the discussion of that congregation.

    At the end of the Cabinet meeting, we revisit those potential designations and a final prayerful discernment is made or we acknowledge that we do not yet have the right person and commit to returning to the conversation at the next Cabinet meeting. Once a designation has been made, the discernment process continues by engaging the designated pastor and Staff/Pastor-Parish Relations Committee in conversation to assure the sense of God’s call. Finally, the Cabinet seeks to provide ongoing support for both churches and pastors when new appointments are made.

    One of the challenges we must continue to wrestle with is that United Methodist pastors are itinerant in a time where the practice and reality of itinerancy is being tested and examined in new ways. Our commitment as a Cabinet is to honor our call as United Methodists to be fully itinerant, yet also be willing to engage in conversation that provides space regarding the realities of the 21st century.

    The reality is that our appointment-making process is never perfect. We acknowledge that 14 humans are involved and while we deeply desire to seek God’s will, there are times that we do not get it right. However, even in spite of the human involvement, the great truth we celebrate is how often God indeed works in, through and in spite of the process and effective ministry and mission continue and begin among congregations and pastors. To that we say, “To God be the Glory.”

    This issue of the Advocate contains true stories and resources that showcase how appointment making helps increase the capacity of every clergy person appointed in The Upper New York Conference. I hope that you will read each page and recognize the many opportunities for us to work together in providing healthy, effective, and fruitful partnerships of clergy and laity in every local congregation living the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

    UNY response to Hurricane Michael

    October 15, 2018 / By Mike Block, Director of Missional Engagement / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editors Note: The following is a letter that was written by Mike Block, Director of Missional Engagement, about the response to Hurricane Michael and sent to the Upper New York Conference on Oct. 15, 2018. 

    Dear Friends,

    It’s going to be a long road of recovery and rebuilding following Hurricane Michael, the most powerful hurricane in nearly 50 years to hit the continental U.S. The Florida Panhandle was hit hardest. The flooding caused by heavy rain, the storm surge, and the fierce wind ripped some homes, churches, and businesses off their foundations, left many without a home, and in some cases, resulted in death. Thousands are still without power and it will remain like that for some time.

    As the Director of Missional Engagement for the Upper New York Conference (UNY), I ask you to do the following:

    1. Invite your congregation to participate in a special gathering for victims of Hurricane Michael. All donations can be forwarded to the Conference Office in a single check made out to Upper New York Conference with "Disaster Relief" written on the memo line.
    2. Assemble UMCOR Cleaning Kits (Flood Buckets) either as a congregation or work with neighboring churches to assemble kits together and either bring them to the United Methodist Center in Liverpool or drop off supplies at one of the locations closest to you listed here. Click here for assembly instructions.
    3. If our location in Liverpool is too far, consider organizing a “HUB on the Road,” where neighboring churches work together to purchase items together and assemble buckets as a group. It costs about $75 to assembly one cleaning bucket if items are bought at cost at your local grocery or convenience store. If your church or group is interested in saving money and producing two kits for the price of one, send your donation to UNY Mission Central HUB and I’ll order the supplies for you at a bulk rate and have it shipped directly to your church. I’ll be sure the items meet UMCOR requirements.

    Please keep those affected by Hurricane Michael in your prayers. If you want to be added to a listserv to learn more about volunteer opportunities, including possible mission trips to Florida, Georgia, or the Carolinas, please email me at For questions or more information, feel free to contact me at (315) 898-2066.

    Grace and Peace,

    Mike Block
    Director of Missional Engagement

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    New York State Employers required to adopt a sexual harassment policy and training

    October 15, 2018 / By Tracy Rickett, UNY Human Resources Generalist / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Beginning in October 2018, New York State employers must adopt a sexual harassment policy and training or use a similar policy and training that meet or exceeds the laws minimum standards.

    Key Components of the new law:


    Under the new law, every employer in New York State is required to establish and distribute a sexual harassment prevention policy.  Model policies are available through the link below.

    The policy can be distributed in writing or electronically.  Employers are encouraged to have employees acknowledge receipt of the policy, and to post a copy of the policy where employees can easily access it.


    Every employer in New York State is required to provide employees with sexual harassment prevention training by October 9, 2019.  This is an annual requirement as part of the new regulations.  Model training materials are available through the link below.

    Employers are encouraged to track completion of training through attendance sheets or some other manner for audit purposes. 

    Additional resources for sexual harassment training will be shared once that information has been gathered.

    There is a wealth of information available from New York State including sample policies, forms, and training materials.  Click on the link below for more information. 

    New York State Sexual Harassment Regulations

    Conference Contact:  If you have any questions regarding the New York State sexual harassment requirements, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at 315-898-2017 or

    Rev. Debbie Earthrowl offers a powerful worship experience at her DS installation

    October 10, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    On Sunday Oct. 7 at Plattsburgh First United Methodist Church (FUMC), the Rev. Debbie Earthrowl was installed as the Adirondack District Superintendent; from the music and performances to the inspiring sermon, the installation was a vibrant celebration filled with joy.

    In introducing Rev. Earthrowl, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb described the several qualities he looks for in selecting a District Superintendent. He said confidently, “I am delighted to share with you that I believe your Superintendent has many of those qualities and has a deep desire to have all of them be a part of her life every moment of every day.”

    Celebratory performances

    Rev. Earthrowl explained how grateful she was for the way in which the service came together. She said, “I am so thankful and feel blessed that we are here gathered for worship because when we gather for worship, there is something powerful that happens.”

    Part of that powerfulness of worship was expressed through dance—the Adirondack Liturgical Dance Troupe performed to the song, Ode to Joy. With impressive plies, releves, and sautes, the five young women in beautiful, flowing turquoise dresses illustrated the utmost joy that can be felt in worshipping God.

    The upbeat tone of worship continued as expressed through the Plattsburgh FUMC’s bell choir. A diverse group in age, ethnicity, and gender performed the anthem, “Festival Celebration” with breathtaking crescendos.

    The Adirondack District Choir, comprised of over two dozen women and men throughout the District, sang with strong projected voices, Join in the Dance, which included a solo by trumpeter Matt Kuhn and piano duet accompanists Dennis Frisbie and Carol Gallagher. Join the Dance was in fact written for Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanosky’s installation to the Mountain Sky Area (previously Denver).

    Commitment to God

    Rev. Earthrowl delivered an inspiring sermon using the 21st chapter of the Gospel of John as her reference point.

    The setting of this chapter is at the Sea of Galilee near Tiberius where Simon Peter, Nathanial, and several other disciples were fishing.

    Rev. Earthrowl expanded on the timeframe of this chapter and as to why the disciples were fishing.

    She said, “This takes place after Jesus has walked with his disciples; after he has taught and done miracles in their midst; after he has offered them a pattern for living which included forgiveness, reaching out to the least and the lost and now that he has sent them to be in ministry…he suffered and died and was raised again and the disciples didn’t know what to do so they did what was familiar to them, fishing, but they caught no fish.”

    Rev. Earthrowl continued, “After daybreak the next day, Jesus appeared and said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish have you?’ They answered him, ‘no.’ He said to them, ‘Cast your net to the right side of the boat and you will find some’ so they cast it and now they were not even able to haul it in because there were so many fish. At this point they knew it was the Lord.”

    Rev. Earthrowl explained that the people at her installation service as well as all disciples of Christ often act like Simon Peter and the other disciples fishing.

    She said, “Isn’t that what we do, we do what’s comfortable; we do what we know; and we invite others along. But then, Jesus shows up the way he does in all our lives, right? Jesus shows up in all our lives and says, ‘Go to the other side of the boat’ and we think, ‘what difference is that going to make?’ The difference is Jesus.”

    Sharing the good news

    Rev. Earthrowl explained that one area of discomfort that many have is sharing the Gospel. She said, “We have the greatest news that the world ever knew. We have the Good News, but for some odd reason, we want to keep it to ourselves and that isn’t what Jesus intended; we’re not intended to keep this good news to ourselves. And so we need to share it with others, but we’re reluctant to do that.”

    Rev. Earthrowl presented the math of how transformative it would be if each person in the Adirondack District prayed for two people to receive the good news from them and that if each person’s two individuals prayed for two more individuals…and so on within each following year.

    She said, “The average attendance in the Adirondack District on a Sunday morning is 3,000 people—that’s just average attendance—that’s not everybody who comes. If those 3,000 people told two people (the good news), you have 9,000 in one year. And you know what you get after four years…243,000 people and do you know that just happens to be? The number of people who live in the Adirondack District!”

    Rev. Earthrowl reassured the crowd that sharing the good news does not need to be overwhelming; she said, “ All we have to do is pray and do it one person at a time.”

    With God all things are probable

    In Rev. Earthrowl’s closing prayer, she asked God to reveal how to share the good news in a way that points people solidly to Him and the depth of his love.

    Rev. Earthrowl concluded her prayer, by proclaiming, “All things with you are not only possible, but probable.”

    UNY completes a successful medical mission trip in Vieques, Puerto Rico: Article 1 of 3

    October 10, 2018 / By Joyce Wilder, RN and Karen Axenfeld, RN

    Editor’s Note: A 12-person team from the Upper New York (UNY) Conference went on a mission trip to Puerto Rico, on the island of Vieques in Sept. Team members included seven people from Fly Creek and Schuyler Lake UMCs in the Oneonta District as well as three additional medical staff from the Northern Flow District. Drs Sylvia and Marv Reimer of Watertown, NY led the team. On Viequez, the mission team was housed and staffed a medical clinic at the United Methodist Church in Esperanza. Some members of the team also had the opportunity to work on home reconstruction alongside a team from the Midwest. Below is an article by two UNY nurses who were on this mission trip.

    Vieques is a small island across the sea from San Juan, Puerto Rico. It takes an hour and a half by ferry from San Juan to get to Vieques. Vieques was nearly destroyed from the wrath of hurricane Maria in September 2017. The people there are recovering; they are slowly rebuilding their homes and their beautiful beaches are once again being used by tourists.

    However, diabetes and hypertension are prevalent among the people. Some of them have had the ability to get proper medications, but they do not understand the seriousness of their disease or the importance of compliance with their medications, diet and activity. There are only two physicians that come to the island twice weekly each. They only see 20 patients per day. Those seeking care will arrive at 5 a.m. to ensure they will be seen that day. The physician doesn’t arrive until 9 a.m.  There is also a VA clinic and a tiny hospital/clinic in Isabel Segundo for those needing immediate care.

    A team of four physicians, four nurses and four ancillary people left for Vieques on September 22, 2018 for a medical mission. We were also assisted by two members of a team from Neosho UMC, Neosho, Missouri.

    Our team leader had been on many missions, but for some of us it was our first time. We attended church on Sunday and got a taste of the community spirit and togetherness. Then we got to work preparing the clinic for patients the next day.

    The clinic had a pharmacy which needed organizing and disposing of expired medications. It took two nurses the entire week to count and label medications, dispose expired medications, and organize the pharmacy so that the next team had an inventory of all the medications. The rest of the medical team, with the assistance of translators and ancillary team members did home visits in the morning for the residents that couldn’t leave their homes, then worked in the clinic in the afternoon.

    We were grateful for the translators and astonished at their ability to translate so quickly. We were able to attend to 87 patients during the week.  We obtained their chief complaint and symptoms, medical history, and medication list. Then we obtained their weight, blood sugar, and vital signs. This was all recorded on an intake history, which will be filed so that the next team has the information. Most of the patients coming to the clinic just needed some reassurance, education, and medication. We handed out vitamins and analgesics to most of them.

    The home visits were what moved our hearts the most. Some of them knew we were coming, so they took the time to tidy their home and put on nice clothing. It was reassuring to see that many of them were being well taken care of by family members and a home health aide who volunteers her time to care for 104 patients.

    There were a few individuals that needed so much more than what we could provide in a week. They were the ones we all prayed for at our evening devotions, as well as privately.  It is our hope that the next team will bring Spanish educational materials and have the time to provide some educational sessions for diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, and revisit those that don’t have the ability to come to the clinic.     

    NEJ Bishops gather at United Methodist Center

    October 9, 2018 / By Shelby Winchell / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Nine Bishops from the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church (NEJ) joined Upper New York (UNY) Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb for a peer learning session on Oct. 8 and 9 at the United Methodist Center in Liverpool. The NEJ Residential Bishops meet four times a year, rotating meeting locations. The last time the NEJ Bishops gathered in UNY was the fall of 2016 at a hotel in Syracuse. This is the first time NEJ Bishops have visited the United Methodist Center. 

    The learning session was moderated by retired Bishop Ernest Lyght. During his tenure as a deacon and elder, Bishop Lyght served in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, Southern New Jersey Conference, and the former Northern New Jersey Conference. The NEJ Conference elected Bishop Lyght to episcopacy in 1996 and assigned him to the New York Area followed by an assignment in the West Virginia Area in 2004.

    Bishop Webb says, “It’s always great to have folks come and see what’s happening in Upper New York, interact with the staff, and show off the Conference Center.”

    Bishops in attendance included: Bishop Webb (Upper New York Area), Thomas J. Bickerton (New York Area), Sudarshana Devadhar (Boston Area), Sandra Steiner Ball (West Virginia Area), Cynthia Moore-Koikoi (Pittsburg Area), John Schol (Greater New Jersey Area), Peggy Johnson (Philadelphia Area), Jeremiah Park (Harrisburg Area), LaTrelle Easterling (Washington Area), and Ernest Lyght (retired Bishop).

    Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball describes the United Methodist Center as a place where visitors can get empowered, trained, and equipped to fulfill the mission and ministry of UNY.

    “I really like the center with living water and the baptismal font. We really can’t do our mission and ministry unless we are reminded constantly of who we are. We are supposed to be fishers for all people and just like the world, there are fish that are searching for something and waiting for people to connect with them,” says Bishop Steiner Ball.

    Bishop LaTrelle Easterling says she found the same space to be inviting and serene. “What a setting for just contemplative prayer and thought. I think I would end up sitting there several times a day.”

    This trip was a sort of homecoming for Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, who was elected to the episcopal post in Boston from the former North Central New York Conference. Bishop Devadhar describes his experience as one of radical hospitality. “It is a joy to be here. This is much needed reality of the hour and we are very proud of Bishop Webb and all the leadership for making this a possibility.”

    The purpose of this session was to learn and interact with one another and as Bishop Steiner Ball describes it, “learn how to be a leadership team instead of a team of leaders.”

    “It’s really about how we can better be the body of Christ together, working on our covenant so we support one another both when we are together and when we are apart so that the connection remains empowered so that we help one another to be the best we can be with the gifts God has given us.”

    The peer learning session was well-received by all the Bishops in attendance, from the space and hospitality to the session take-aways, and fellowship. The NEJ Bishops will gather again in January 2019 in Baltimore.   

    Social Holiness concerns: Majority does not necessarily rule

    October 3, 2018 / By Rev. Alan Kinney

    We as a people of the local church, the District, the Annual Conference, the United Methodist Church, and on a larger scale the United States of America have been confronted time and again with questions that deal with what is right and what is not right. These questions are nothing new to our lives, our country, or even in human existence. We can hear this question in the book of Genesis when Adam, Eve, and the serpent said it was right to eat of the fruit and God said it was not. It was a three to one vote but we know the outcome and who was cast out.

    I say this because I do not always believe the majority is correct. In history, we see where the majority said slavery was not only right but ordained by God. The majority said it was right to try and exterminate the people of the Jewish faith and the United States and the people of the Methodist Church were for the most part silent. Many of us were alive when the basic human rights of people were denied based on the color of their skin or the gender they identified with. The majority does not insure morality or right.

    As we look back on history, it is often the exceptional and the bravest of people who have resisted the majority because they felt the majority was mistaken. Within our local churches, our Districts, our Conference, and our denomination, we are confronted with questions of right and wrong and the many shades that lie between. I feel that we cannot say because most people feel this way or that way, it is the correct way God intends for us. I believe we need to come before God continually as individuals, as local churches, as Districts, and as an Annual Conference and seek the paths God calls us to. At times, there may be multiple paths, but if we listen, they would all lead to the more complete presence of God in our lives and not exclusively to one or the other.

    Morality and the search for truth goes beyond a simple majority. We need to value, to listen, and to learn from the voices of all people and not just the familiar voices, such as my own. We should not place time constraints on determining God’s will and thusly the direction God may be seeking for our journey together sharing and learning on the way. Let us become invested in the practice of hearing and sharing where we feel God is leading us.

    Let us be open to God reshaping our beliefs by hearing the voices that differ from our own. Let us live and speak in a manner that proclaims God has spoken to me and God has spoken to you and somewhere we sort out the will of God for ourselves, our local churches, our Districts, our Conference, and this world we have been born into. I feel one of God’s continual creations of beauty can be found in sunrises and sunsets. The beauty of these come from the various colors, shapes, and hues and not just my favorites.

    Equitable Compensation Application for January-June 2019 available

    October 3, 2018 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Commission on Equitable Compensation has issued guidelines and application forms for salary grants to local churches for the period January 1 to June 30, 2019. Salary grants are available only to churches with a pastor under full time appointment. 

    To apply for salary assistance from the Equitable Compensation Fund, applicants should review the policies and procedures in the application document for guidance, and then complete the application according to the directions provided by the November 2, 2018 deadline.

    Please note the following documents must be submitted with your application to be considered complete:

    • For churches that have already received an Equitable Compensation Grant: Renewal Application for CEC Grant only to be used by Churches currently receiving an Equitable Compensation Grant that wish to renew their grant for the January to June 2019 time period
    • For churches that have not previously received an Equitable Compensation Grant: Application for CEC Grant for January to June 2019 time period
    • Copy of the Clergy Compensation Form for all churches the UNY clergy person currently serves
    • Copy of church’s most recent budget (if serving more than one church, include budgets from all)
    • Ezra Church Summary 6-Part Graphic Report

    Attach the appropriate application, along with the above documents, to an email or print them to mail to your District Superintendent for receipt by November 2, 2018.

    NOTE: The application is set up as a template. To add text, tab through the document to each box and start typing. Once completed, save the document to your computer as “[your church name] January 2019.”  The Commission anticipates notifying churches of its determination by mid-December.

    Click the link for the appropriate application for:

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

    NEJ delegates prepare for Special Session of GC

    September 26, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    On Saturday Sept. 22, delegates from the 10 Conferences within the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church gathered together at the Westin Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. The purpose of the meeting was for delegates to learn how to go about entering the Special Session of General Conference in February 2019 in a Christ-like manner.

    The Rev. Bill Allen, head of the Upper New York (UNY) Delegation of the General Conference (GC), attended the event as did all but four of UNY’s 16 delegates. He said, “The gathering was meaningful; it was a way for delegates to develop deeper relationships with others in the Northeastern Jurisdiction. It was a time to prepare us to enter the Special Session of GC in a good place emotionally and spiritually.”

    The 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. day included worship, a truly informative report from two members of the Commission on a Way Forward, lunch, and a lot of time devoted to small table meetings where delegates would converse with delegates from other Conferences.

    Dr. Scott Johnson of UNY and the Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver of the Susquehanna Conference, both Commission on a Way Forward members, as well as West Virginia Area Resident Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball (a Commission on the Way Forward moderator) presented at this gathering. Rev. Allen said, “It was a very helpful presentation. It was less about what their report concluded and more of a discussion on how they came up with the report.” Dr. Johnson, Rev. Salsgiver, and Bishop Steiner Ball also allowed for a time to answer questions about the process to be expected at the Special Session of General Conference.

    The way in which this gathering most helped to empower and encourage the delegates was through the small table meetings. Rev. Allen said, “It was a great way to get to know each other.” Delegates sat around the table with others from different Conferences across the NEJ to answer questions, such as “Where have you seen Christ at work in your lives?” and “What feeds your soul outside of church?”

    With the Special Session of GC taking place in February, Rev. Bill Allen said that this gathering was a great approach to help delegates not to be outcome-oriented. He said the NEJ Delegate gathering helped answer the question, “How can you work through whatever the outcome is to remain Christ-like?”

    Please continue to pray for our Upper New York delegates as they prepare for the Special Session of GC. Click here to learn more about UNY delegates.

    TAGGED / General Conference Special Session 2019

    UNY response to Hurricane Florence

    September 18, 2018 / By Mike Block, Director of Missional Engagement / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    As many of you are aware, Hurricane Florence brought a significant amount of rainfall to North and South Carolina, causing evacuations, flooding, the displacement of many families, and for some, death. When the water subsides, many will return home to find their homes and businesses damaged or destroyed. Rebuilding can take weeks, months, or perhaps years. As the Director of Missional Engagement for the Upper New York Conference, I urge you to keep those affected in your prayers. The time will come when United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) will ask for volunteers to head south to assist with the clean-up and rebuilding process. In the meantime, I ask you to do a few things.

    1. Invite your congregation to take up a special collection for those affected. Make the announcement in advance so people can be prepared to make a generous donation. You may forward these funds to the Conference Office with a single check, made out to Upper New York Conference with "Disaster Relief" written on the memo line.
    2. Assemble United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Cleaning Kits (Flood Buckets) either as a congregation or work with neighboring churches to assemble kits together and either bring them to the United Methodist Center in Liverpool or drop off supplies at one of the locations closest to you listed here. Click here for assembly instructions.

    There is currently a shortage of UMCOR Cleaning Kits in the Upper New York (UNY) Conference due to last month’s flooding in Seneca County and throughout Pennsylvania. Consider volunteering your time at the UNY Mission Central HUB to assemble or verify buckets. If our location in Liverpool is too far, consider organizing a “HUB on the Road,” where neighboring churches work together to purchase items together and assemble buckets as a group. UMCOR kits assembled locally are used within our area and around the world. For questions or more information, please contact me at (315) 898-2066 or Please also consider emailing me if you would like to be added to a listserv to learn about volunteer opportunities, including possible travel to the Carolinas.

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer installed as the Niagara Frontier District Superintendent

    September 18, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    On Sunday September 16, 2018 at Batavia First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer was officially installed as the District Superintendent (DS) of the Niagara Frontier District. Well over 200 clergy and lay members throughout the Upper New York Conference attended the service, including several members of Rochester’s Emmanuel UMC were Rev. Rosa-Laguer previously served as pastor.

    In the service, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb said, “When I begin to pray about who God is calling to fulfill the role of District Superintendent, I look for someone first and foremost who has a deep spirituality, who has a passionate, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. I look for someone who gets the mission of the Church, who understands the purpose of a life in Christ.

    I look for someone who has proven to be a leader and through God’s power has born fruit in that leadership. I look for someone who will help others recognize God’s spirit in them and equip them to use those gifts for the work of the Church.

    I look for someone who is able to be amidst diversity…

    I look for someone who is humble. I found that those who are humble in their service of Christ risk much for the sake of Jesus.

    I feel that the person God has called to be the District Superintendent for the Niagara Frontier District this season, possesses all those qualities. Carlos is a gift to us and do the Church and I’m grateful that has he and Marta (Rev. Rosa-Laguer’s wife) discerned whether this really was God’s call that the spirit spoke to them and said ‘Yes.’ And then they said, ‘Here we are oh God, use us.’

    When Rev. Carlos M. Rosa-Laguer received the invitation from the Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb to become the Niagara Frontier’s District Superintendent (DS), an image of a creek came to his mind, followed by an image of streams, and finally an image of a river came to his mind.

    The Rev. Rosa-Laguer envisioned Jesus as living water flowing through his heart and accepted the invitation.

    Rev. Rosa-Laguer values cross-cultural relationships as was evident in the reading of Psalm 95: 1-3 In four different languages at his installation service. Diane Thurlow read the scripture in English. Christopher Kim read the passage in Korean. Benjamin Matta Jr. read the scripture in Spanish, and Sekuye Bolende read the verses in Swahili.

    The theme of the installation was centered on the images that came to Rev. Rosa-Laguer’s mind upon being invited to serve as the Niagara Frontier DS.

    Praise songs, scriptures, and Rev. Rosa-Laguer’s sermon referred to the renewing power of Jesus as living water.

    The primary scripture that served as a foundation to Rev. Rosa-Laguer’s sermon was John 7:37-39:

    “All who are thirsty should come to me!
        All who believe in me should drink!
        As the scriptures said concerning me,
      Rivers of living water will flow out from within him.”

    In his sermon, entitled “Creek, Streams, a River,” Rev. Rosa-Laguer spoke passionately about the attendees’ role to the Church; in a loud, projecting voice, he said, “As pastors, as lay-members, we need to make the decision to be more like our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Rev. Rosa-Laguer continued, “Here in the Upper New York Annual Conference, we are creeks; we are streams; we are the river of the living God. We are called to work together.”

    Rev. Rosa-Laguer explained that living water is a matter of the heart. He said, “We are in the spiritual business. If you think this is a matter of the mind, look around. My Lord and Savior said this is a matter of my heart. Because God works through our hearts, not through our minds.”

    Rev. Rosa-Laguer offered challenges to the crowd; “I challenge you my folks to be a river of peace. I challenge you my brothers and sisters—let us renew our passion for Christ. I challenge you to here and now reclaim our heritage as the people with the crying hearts! Brothers and sisters of the Niagara Frontier District let us live for his will…live for his spirit. We are creeks; we are streams; yes, brothers and sisters of the Niagara Frontier District, we are the river, the river of love.”

    The praise song, The River of God, was performed by guitarist Mary Johnson at the beginning and end of the service—attendees danced as they sung the lyrics,

    “I'm running to the river I'm going back to the river of the Lord

    Let's go

    Take me back to the river
    Where I first believed
    Take me back to that moment
    Where freedom I received
    Heaven knows where I would be
    If it wasn't for Your mercy
    My sins are now forgotten
    Yet You remember me.”

    In his benediction, Rev. Rosa-Laguer urged attendees to see themselves as more than the hands and feet of God. He said, “We are the hands, feet, heart, ears and smile of Jesus.” He then invited everyone to attend a celebration dinner in Fellowship Hall where members of his family served a delicious Puerto Rican meal.

    Transformation in Christ 180 UNY UMM Retreat, inspiring for men, women, and children

    September 11, 2018 / By Mark Jones / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Greetings from the United Methodist Men (UMM) of the Upper New York (UNY) Conference.

    “Transformation in Christ Turn 180“ was our theme for this year’s UMM Annual Conference-wide retreat  held at the beautiful Sky Lake Camp and Retreat Center, in Windsor NY (about 15 miles from where I grew up in Conklin, NY). The idea this year was to include families; men, women and children. This idea came from a talk that we heard from Bishop Holsten of the South Carolina (SC) Conference while attending a nation-wide men’s gathering in Indianapolis in July of 2017. He shared that the men of his Conference complained that the attendance for UMM Annual gatherings in their Conference kept declining, so he suggested to the UMM leadership to begin to invite the entire family. They did and had great success and the next year’s gathering increased in attendance significantly.

    We decided if it worked for them than it should and could work here in the UNY Conference. We invited the powerful and dynamic speaker Bishop James Swanson of the Mississippi Conference to be our Leader for this year’s ground-breaking event. During his talk, Bishop Swanson challenged us all “to focus on the Being in Christ” and not so much the “Doing in Christ.” He stated that, “folk want to be a part of a Church that we’re are joyously witnessing to the transforming power of God in our lives.”

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb was also in attendance and he and Bishop Swanson served communion Friday night. The praise band was awesome in mixing traditional and contemporary and beautiful keyboard and solos throughout the event. The music for this event was led by Tom Hall.

    We had breakout sessions after breakfast on Saturday morning led by Pastor Cathy Stengal and Pastor Jeff McDowell. Pastor Mark Kimpland was a blessing as he was given the final part of Transition Turn 180 Saturday after lunch. Pastor Mark shared with us that it’s easy to do church, to put on your church face, and act as certain way. However, it is difficult is to glorify God in our everyday lives (in the places we go and the people we see each day…at work, the grocery store, a football game, the mall, etc.). Pastor Mark’s talk was an inspiring and wonderful way to close out this year’s retreat.

    Approximately 80 people attended between coming and going Friday and Saturday. We are planning on another UMM event next year September 14-15 at Sky Lake Camp and Retreat Center again and all are welcome: men, women, and children.    

    The UMM wanted to create an event where we could begin to connect with all people throughout this UNY Conference. We realize that times have certainly changed in our churches and societies and we too must change if we are to build the God-centered relationships necessary to spiritually impact the men, women, and children of this Conference, through our mission and ministry efforts. The UMM leadership sincerely thank all those involved in the planning and for the hard work that went into this memorable Transforming UMM event.

    “The transition in Christ Turn 180 “was a very inspirational 22 hours. Bishop Swanson reinforced that our relationship with Jesus is of utmost importance in our lives. He also helped us to better understand how to follow the path God has set for us in relating to our fellow brothers and sisters and loving them.

    Spotlight on the Bishop’s Retreat 2018 Keynote Speaker, Dr. Clif Christopher

    September 11, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    “Living, Leading, and Equipping for Biblical Stewardship” is the theme of this year’s Bishop’s Retreat to be held October 23-25 at the Genesee Grande Hotel in Syracuse, Ny

    The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Clif Christopher, founder of Horizons Stewardship Company, is the perfect speaker on the topic of stewardship. Since founding Horizons, he and his strategists have led consultations in over 2,000 churches, conferences, synods, and diocese in all phases of building, finance, and church growth. In 1995, he was given the National Circuit Rider Award by the United Methodist Church for outstanding leadership in developing vital congregations.

    Dr. Christopher will be giving four inspiring talks, each one building on the previous, giving you a plan to follow to lead your congregation members to all become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

    Dr. Christopher’s introductory talk on October 23 is entitled “God vs. Money…Money is Winning.” His talk the following morning is entitled “How can we Win?” In the second evening, Dr. Christopher will reveal how to create a battle plan for the year, and his final talk on the morning of Oct. 25 is entitled, “The Big Guns of the Battle-Capital Campaigns.”

    One thing that Dr. Christopher emphasizes is that stewardship is not just about the money. He said, “We must quit thinking and acting like stewardship is just all about money. It is all about the abundant life and being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. The greatest threat to our knowing this life and becoming a true disciple is the allure of ‘stuff’ All around us are those promising that more stuff will open the doors to joy and peace and fulfillment. The only alternative voice is the church. We must have a battle plan and execute it every day if we have any hope of winning. Right now, we are way behind.”

    Dr. Christopher feels that the theme that Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Web chose for this year’s Bishop Retreat is imperative for clergy to embrace. He said, “Pastors need to show by example of word and deed that stewardship is a core value of theirs. They must be convincing that stewardship is vital for the health of their soul - not just a means to pay a budget. They must regularly preach about it and testify to their own practice of stewardship in very specific terms.”

    The deadline to Register for this year’s Bishop’s Retreat is September 28. Click here to see the entire itinerary and to register for what’s sure to be a fun and inspiring retreat for Upper New York clergy and their spouses!

    What’s new at SU: September 2018

    September 11, 2018 / By Rhonda Chester, United Methodist Ecumenical Chaplain. Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse University

    It’s the beginning of my third year as the United Methodist Ecumenical Campus Ministry chaplain here at Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse University campus and I am reflecting on the meaningful ministry opportunities that I have had with so many students. Recently, I got the opportunity to be a part of the welcoming committees and watched with glee as we kicked off the Fall 2018 semester with 5,000 new incoming students, 800 of whom are from different countries around the world.

    Whether I am leading a worship service, having communion in our small groups gathering; facilitating a class; watching an SU basketball game with a group of students; providing grief counseling for a member of faculty who has lost her husband; sharing a meal with students, faculty, and staff; and being present during times of great joy or distress; I have this beautiful opportunity to journey with others.

    It is life-giving to experience the students throughout their educational pursuits and watch them evolve from bright-eyed bushy tailed freshmen/women to serious seniors whose goal is to transform the world. It is amazing to hear the stories of faith and resilience that they employ while on the journey. Many of the students I interact with are international students and to hear their stories of crossing cultures and experiencing new things while living in America, makes me realize how much alike we are, no matter who we are or where we come from.

    For example, I had the opportunity to host two Fulbright Scholars in my home over the summer as a way of introducing them to American culture as well as facilitating conversation around our shared values. Sergei, a student from Russia and Carolina from Colombia both shared how they plan to transform the world and how coming to University here in the USA is going to be a vital part of their ability to engage in the transformational process.

    “I want to improve, motivate, and engage students to live meaningful lives through gamification in education. If they can have meaningful lives in the classroom, then all other aspects of their lives can be meaningful as well,” says Carolina.

    “It is so important to take care of the earth,” says Sergei, whose focus during his studies here in the USA will be on eliminating pollution caused by vehicles. “We need to breathe clean air so that we can live healthy lives and since breath is so essential to our lives, then clean air is as important to our quality of life.”

    When I think about our mission as the people called Methodists, I can see how when we choose to connect with each other through our common humanity, we all can be on a mission to positively transform the world. Does that not sound familiar? Does it not sound like a way to please God?

    Throughout Scripture we are inspired by the positive words and transformational experiences of those who dared to seek the kind of transformation that brought about the renewing of minds as well as to take up the challenge to engage in positive transformational experiences. I get to do that as the United Methodist Chaplain here on SU campus and for these graces, I am eternally grateful. Amen.

    Tommy boldly living his way forward

    September 4, 2018 / By Erin Patrick, Church Planter

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on individuals and churches throughout the Conference who are boldly living their call. Tommy is one of those individuals.

    The ROAD is a New Faith Community that reaches people by creating a place and sense of belonging through being relational community that is open to all levels of faiths that affirms, loves, and accepts everyone; no matter how diverse. We seek to provide opportunities for people to build relationships with themselves, with us, with others, and with God.

    Through one of our ministries, we met two friends named Tommy and his mentor Suzanne who were looking for a place of belonging on Fridays. They checked out our Open Street Communion where we offer free lunches, waters, communion, and prayer. Tommy is an individual with special needs and works with a mentor several days of the week. When asking him about how he became the way he is, a young man with a traumatic brain injury, he said with innocence yet strength; “God made me this way.” Since we met about a year ago, Tommy and Suzanne have been joining us downtown nearly every week.

    He began coming down, learning what our community was like, and how he fit into it. Once he felt comfortable saying “hi” to people and worked on how to do so, he started handing out the free lunches to others, and offering awesome words of encouragements such as, “Welcome to Tommy’s diner, please have a free lunch, thank you, and have a great day and MANY MANY MORE!” In the beginning he loved offering hugs to everyone, but he and Suzanne worked hard on finding alternative ways to positively interact, bringing us to a new tradition of fist bumps! In the past few months, Tommy and Suzanne began taking some time during their week to decorate the bags that we put the lunches in! Since then, they have inspired others to do the same, and today there are at least 20 individuals and mentors in the special needs community that decorate the bags we pack. Unknowingly, Tommy’s passion for helping people created more opportunities for others to help people!

    Tommy has an amazing gift of being able to catch on to what emotions you are feeling. One time, a lady was passing by and instead of saying his normal, “Welcome to Tommy’s diner - would you like a free lunch today,” Tommy simply asked, “Ma’am, what is wrong, do you need a hug?” As mentioned, we normally try to fist bump instead of hugging, but at that moment - the lady broke into tears and mentioned that she needed a hug for sure! She proceeded to tell Tommy about her struggles and before leaving mentioned that she was not sure how she would have made it through the rest of her day if he had not been there for her.

    The rest of us had not noticed the pain behind this woman’s eyes, but Tommy just knew, and he was not afraid to love a stranger. Suzanne and I teared up. Tommy has become a smile and source of encouragement that others on the street look for now.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    The Upper New York Conference welcomes new treasurer, Bob Flask

    September 4, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York Conference Council on Finance and Administration is pleased to announce that new Conference Treasurer Bob Flask has officially joined the Finance Ministry Area. Tuesday, September 4, was his first day. 

    Susan Ranous, Chair of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration said, “After a long and exhaustive search, I am delighted with the addition of Bob Flask to the Conference staff as our Treasurer.  His abilities and gifts and experience in the not-for-profit arena will be a great asset to our Conference as we continue our financial and stewardship work. Conference Finance & Administration looks forward to working with Bob.”

    Bob grew up in Memphis, NY and attended Jordan-Elbridge High School. Bob then attended college at DeVry University in Columbus, Ohio. After college, he moved back to Central New York and attained an accounting clerk position with Central New York Services (a behavioral health organization) in 1994. In 1996, Bob was asked to fill in as interim Finance Director and in 1998 assumed the role as Chief Financial Officer on a permanent basis. Bob said, “In my 24 years with Central New York Services I have helped the agency grow from $2,500,000 dollars to over $19,000,000 and was awarded the Financial Executive of year award in 2011 from the Bonadio Group for agencies between $5-14 million.”

    Beth Dupont, Conference Finance Manager, said, “I met Bob during the process for the treasurer search and was very impressed with his background experience. He has much experience in the not-for-profit arena which will be so beneficial for the Conference and the Finance Team. I also enjoyed his personality and demeanor.  I think we’re lucky to find someone of his caliber to be our treasurer.”

    Bob is a member of Christ Community United Methodist Church where he served as financial secretary for 13 years and treasurer for three years. He is married to his wife, Betty Jo, and they have two daughters (Britni and Brooke). In his free time,  he enjoys golf, bowling, card games, and most of all, time with my family.

    Bob said, “I am very excited about my new opportunity with the Upper New York Conference. I am looking forward to meeting many new people and forging new relationships along the way.”

    TAGGED / Finance

    Garden ministries grow relationships and feed the hungry

    August 31, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor’s Note: If your church has a garden ministry that you would like to share, send the story to

    Vegetable gardens are flourishing this season throughout the Upper New York Conference. Many churches throughout the Conference have garden ministries that help to feed fresh, local produce to the hungry and build relationships both with their communities and among their members. Here are some of their stories.

    Clinton UMC

    Clinton UMC, located in the Mohawk District, started a straw bale garden five years ago. The vegetables harvested from their 40-bale vegetable garden go to Hope House in Utica. The congregation gets together every spring to plant the vegetables. Throughout the summer and harvesting season, families sign up to take care of the garden on a weekly basis.

    Diane Miner, a member of the Clinton UMC congregation, said, “Our straw bale garden works a little differently than other community gardens. When we harvest, the family in charge of the week picks what is ripe during the week and takes it to Hope House…or we may take it on a Sunday afternoon when we have other veggies that people from our church donate from their gardens. 

    We like donating it to Hope House because they take our veggies and add to others that are donated.  Even if it's not a lot, they are very glad to add it to what they have. They use them in the meals they prepare to feed the community every day of the week. While we don't have a large garden, it allows for learning, mission, and ministry.”

    Elma UMC

    In the winter of 2013, the mission team at Elma UMC, located in the Niagara Frontier District, decided to establish a “Giving Garden” for FISH, their local food pantry serving several communities.  In the spring, they dug up an area next to their church, built a 6’ fence around it (to keep out deer, rabbits, and woodchucks) and planted their garden. 

    Elaine Delisle, the church’s Missions/Outreach Chair, said, “The soil was not good, but we were able to provide lettuce, tomatoes, and lots of beans to the food pantry. In 2014, we decided raised beds would give us a better yield.  At the same time, our Christian Ed director approached us and asked if we could instruct the senior youth group on the proper and safe use of power tools in preparation for their upcoming mission trip. They measured, used circular saws and power drills to make eight 4’ by 8’ beds-and carried them to their proper places-what great teamwork!” 

    Filled with good soil and compost, the beds have been producing an abundance of kale, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, beans, zucchini, yellow squash, and cherry and regular tomatoes.  The members of the Girl Scout troop that meet at the church have been faithful in weeding, watering, harvesting, and then delivering the produce, which has been gratefully received.   

    Jonesville UMC

    More than nine years ago, Jonesville UMC, located in the Albany District, started its gardening ministry with the assistance of one of their congregations’ master gardener, Nancy White. With the help of the church’s youth members, they designed, planted, and began growing produce to be supplied to the Helping Hands Food Pantry.

    The basic layout is in the shape of a cross.  It has used a “no-till,” “weed less” approach employing organic approaches in combination with raised beds.

    Ed Bennett, member of the Jonesville UMC Green Team said, “…the garden has become the symbol of the Jonesville United Methodist Church’s commitment to care for the needy in our community and beyond. It has become an outward reflection of our inward caring for creation through the protection and preservation of the sacredness of the earth.

    It has become much more than a source of vegetables for the Helping Hands Food Pantry, but also an educational resource to the clients, our members and all the family that surrounds our congregation.  Every day a different member cares for this resource and it truly has become a reflection of our commitment to preserve and protect God’s Creation.”

    Whitney Point UMC

    Whitney Point UMC, located in the Binghamton District, supports their local community garden in a few different ways.

    Whitney Point UMC Pastor, the Rev. Corey Turnpenny said, “The Lisle Community Garden was founded by community members about eight years ago and in the past 3 years we've really increased our involvement. This year we hosted a seed-to-supper class taught by the Cornell Cooperative Extension in our area. The garden organizers helped make that happen and encouraged participants to also help at the community garden throughout the growing season. We give regular updates on the garden in worship and encourage members to spend some service house there each week weeding and harvesting.”

    The produce from the Lisle Community Garden is given to a local ecumenical food pantry, the area senior center, and distributed throughout town to anyone who wants it. They always have a stand to give out produce at the annual backpack giveaway that is hosted at the church and volunteers often deliver produce to a local low-income trailer park.

    Rev. Turnpenny added, “We also allow the garden volunteers to use our kitchen to make jam and do canning once the harvesting is complete.”

    Gardening is a great way to use God’s creation to help the hungry. If your church has a garden ministry, we’d love to showcase your harvest on our Facebook page. Email photos to

    Called into the healing ministries

    August 28, 2018 / By Jessica Glaser, Commissioned for the work of Deacon

    Editor’s Note: This article was written in April 2018 before Glaser was commissioned. This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of the Advocate.

    I first felt the call to ministry close to 10 years ago, when I lived in Denver. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a deacon. I was inspired by one of the deacons at my church who also served as a labor organizer. I knew that compassion and justice were what I was called to do. My work at Asbury Amherst, my church home, has confirmed that I want to stay connected to ministry in the parish as well as working outside in the community.

    My work in Buffalo over the years has led me toward healing ministries in a variety of capacities. The clinics I serve treat patients with many complex conditions that are often exacerbated by mental illness, poverty, and/or substance abuse. Through this work, I have learned a great deal about the opportunities and challenges in transforming our health care system, and I have served for six years as a witness and an advocate for change within it. Now I am starting to consider what fosters healing in a spiritual sense, and the interface of spiritual and physical healing.

    I am very interested in learning more about trauma-informed care and trauma-informed ministry, especially since some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities often struggle with past and/or ongoing trauma, and this negatively impacts their physical health. I have collaborated with a team at Asbury Amherst to create a monthly prayer and healing service. I have trained as a mercy doula with a team at Erie County Medical Center and plan to increase my time doing that work in the coming year. Finally, I was recently appointed as the Abundant Health Ambassador for Upper New York Annual Conference and look forward to exploring the health challenges throughout the Conference to discover the places where people are hurting and where they feel they need healing.

    Why should the church be involved in this kind of work? To quote Rev. Bobby Baker, the co-founder of the Congregational Health Network in Memphis, “Life is more than just spending our days beating back death.” The health care industry is interested in healing the body, but we are interested in the healing of the soul; after all, one of the offices of Christ is that of Physician.

    The healing of the body and soul are deeply intertwined, as demonstrated by Jesus’ work of healing in the gospels. If Jesus was moved by the suffering of others, including the sick, shouldn’t we be moved as well? Isn’t that, after all, why we as churches engage in chaplaincy in hospitals and nursing homes? Why we send cards to people in our congregations who are sick? I am hoping to explore and contribute to this level of healing integration, creating a stronger circle of care that sustains quality as well as quantity of life.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Urgent need for cleaning kit supplies

    August 28, 2018 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Recent flooding in Seneca County and throughout Pennsylvania has caused a shortage of UMCOR flood buckets within the Upper New York Conference.

    UNY Mission Central HUB is in great need of UMCOR cleaning kit supplies and help assembling and verifying buckets. While some of these buckets are used to help our own area, they’re also used around the world. According to Mike Block, Director of Missional Engagement, and Joe Auslander, UNY Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, warehouse contents are limited, and help is critical at this time.

    Click here for a list of UMCOR certified supplies used in cleaning kits and click here for your closest drop-off location. If you or a few friends can help assemble kits in the very near future at the UNY Mission Central HUB, please contact Mike Block at (315) 898-2066 or

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Discerning my call into ministry

    August 28, 2018 / By Paul Winkelman

    Editor’s Note: This article was written in April 2018 before Winkelman was ordained.

    My calling to pastoral ministry was not discerned by a specific moment or encounter with God - it occurred more gradually. Since I was very young, I began seeing and experiencing the grace of God through Jesus Christ, by the things that I saw in the world and in nature, through the love of Christ that people showed me, and through seeing the need for living the gospel of Jesus Christ in a hurting and a broken world. During every stage of my development as a person and as a Christian, I had and still have loving and devoted parents, great church families, and great pastoral mentors like Rev. Donald Guiles, Rev. Bill Mudge, Rev. Bill Vallet, Rev. David Hays, Rev. Larry Baird, Rev. David Schlansker, Rev. Harold Wheat, Rev. Richelle Goff, and many more. My wife Melissa has also been a rock and a source or great love and continued inspiration in my life.

    After getting married in 2004, my wife Melissa and I joined Christ United Methodist Church of Locke and Moravia. During our eight years as members of that church, I continued to be nurtured and encouraged in my faith in Christ, as did Melissa.

    I then attended a Walk to Emmaus spiritual retreat weekend in 2005 that changed my life. After this retreat weekend, I began Lay Leading, preaching, and soon filling in at nearby United Methodist Churches. All throughout this process and eventually beginning my seminary education in 2010, I saw people all around me that were suffering. In seeing many people brought to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, I began to see how these persons were then changed both personally and spiritually. Many of these persons then went out and served their local communities, and the world. It was during these eight years at the Christ United Methodist Church of Locke and Moravia that I began to unite the faith that I had in my head, with the faith that was continuing to develop in my heart.

    The desire to bring people to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and then to help and equip them to pursue the mission of the United Methodist Church in the world was and is a major influence in my calling to ministry. It has been a joy to serve local churches and to see what God has done though me; through those I serve, through the communities that I have served, and in the world.

    Reaching the point of ordination reminds me of the “it takes a village” quote, as my next step towards ordination is one that has coalesced over years of love, encouragement, faith, education, and of course, lots and lots of coffee. I continue to look forward to boldly living into our mission of “Making disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world”!

    TAGGED / Advocate

    2018 UNY Conference Journal Directory now available for purchase

    August 27, 2018 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The 2018 Upper New York Conference Journal Directory is now available. The directory is a compilation of clergy, church, and laity contact information. There are two ways to receive the Journal Directory:

    If you order directly from, you can have it delivered to the address of your choice. (Note: You will need a major credit card to place an order.) A paperback copy of the Journal Directory costs $5.54 plus tax and shipping.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    Reflection on the Global young People’s Convocation 2018

    August 27, 2018 / By Rachel John, Emmaus UMC

    This past July, I attended the Global Young People’s Convocation (GYPC) in Johannesburg, South Africa. At this enlightening convocation, youth and young adults from about 40 different countries gathered together to assess different issues facing each of us in our own communities. This convocation was able to give each and every one of us a voice so that we can see change happen right before our eyes.

    At GYPC, we were able to create legislation that is to be submitted to General Conference in 2020. Some topics of discussion during small group and legislative forum times included poverty, sexism, child marriage, nationalism, immigration, human trafficking, and much more. Through the forums we were able to create six pieces of legislation to be sent to General Conference so that our voices as young people may be heard. We created a unity statement and legislation on sexism, nationalism, child marriage, migrants, and prioritizing young people in the local church.

    However, legislation was not the only thing we participated in at GYPC. This event was a time for cultural celebration and learning about other people who may not be like you. Throughout the event, we had very talented and diligent translators who worked constantly to make sure everyone was on the same page. Because not everyone at GYPC spoke the same language, we were able to learn different songs in languages other than our own. We also experienced other cultures during the drum circle, the cultural celebration, and during free times talking to one another. We saw how different our backgrounds were and were still able to not set aside our differences, but to embrace our differences and come together to make change in the UMC. Which, conveniently, goes along with this year’s theme for GYPC: United We Go.

    We were also given the opportunity at GYPC to strengthen our leadership skills. During two workshop times, all GYPC attendees could learn more about the UMC or learn new techniques for leadership. We could also learn from each other through the delegation exhibits where jurisdictions and central conferences displayed the work they do in their own communities. On the last day of GYPC, there was a Q&R with three Bishops about their journey to leadership and the future of the church.

    Spiritual fulfillment was gained during the lively worships at the convocation. Even though numerous languages were present, we were still able to worship as one. Whether it was through the music, sermons, communion, scriptures, or being surrounded by God-loving people, it’s safe to say everyone felt the holy spirit in some way.

    Going to GYPC was a truly amazing opportunity that I was able to experience thanks to many churches, committees, and individuals throughout the Northeastern Jurisdiction. I highly encourage youth and young adults who would like to further their knowledge of the UMC or become a stronger leader to consider attending General Conference in 2020 and/or the next GYPC in 2022.

    Summer Fun Retreat 2018

    August 27, 2018 / By Jan Rothfuss, Co-Chair of the Genesee Valley District Leadership Team

    The purpose of the Summer Fun Retreat 2018 was to provide a faith-based camping experience for our city youth who may not have an opportunity to attend a Christian camp. One goal was to help the participants mature in their self-worth and explore models of community that empower the young people to share their faith. By providing a time away from their day-to-day urban environment, the participants interact with peers and counselors in a safe, natural, environment while exploring ways to apply their faith in God to their daily lives.

    The idea for this retreat was spawned about two years ago by District Superintendent (DS), the Rev. Vonda Fossitt. The Genesee Valley District Leadership Team accepted the challenge to plan and coordinate the retreat. Of the seven UM congregations contacted two responded – Emmanuel UMC (Hispanic) and Wesley Fragrance of Christ UMC (a New Faith Community of African American members). A total of 14 kids and five adults participated in the retreat held at the Asbury Camp and Retreat Center (Asbury CRC) from Aug. 12-Aug. 15.

    The facility was perfect and director Sue Russell and her staff were amazing. They created an honest, caring, and Christ-based environment. Their witness served as solid models for the young Christians to follow.

    On the last day of the retreat the kids each completed a Participation Evaluation. When asked “What was the best part?” the answers included “swimming, boating and the Snack Shack.” Others included “archery and arts and crafts”, “going fishing”, and “Bible study.”  One participant simply answered, “I liked everything!” Another shared that “the best part was making new friends.” Also noted was “Learning about God was fun.”

    When asked “Did you learn something new?” the kids responded, “I learned new songs”, “Archery”, “Glow-in-the-Dark Soccer”, “I learned how to fish.” Two shared that they “learned more about God” and another recorded learning that “God will change your life.”

    When prompted to add anything else about their time at the Summer Fun Retreat comments recorded included “A fun place and I really liked the people that worked here”, “Liked when we had the campfire…and loved the food” and “It was amazing, and I loved it.”

    Naomi Hartnagel, Assistant Director at Asbury CRC provided the following: “The kids seemed to really enjoy the retreat. Asbury’s staff enjoyed working alongside of the Adult leaders to provide a quality retreat experience for the kids. We all enjoyed working together as everyone wanted to participate in all activities, especially in worshiping our Savior. One of our staff members said the kids were very receptive to the teachings and the retreat was a great opportunity for the kids to ask harder questions and learn more about Jesus.”

    Sue submitted, “We enjoyed hosting you and hope you and the students had an enriching experience. I felt our Asbury staff invested well in your participants!”

    Rev. Fossitt concluded, “The retreat was good and kids enjoyed nature, learning about Christ,and clean fun.”

    The District Leadership Team worked very hard to pull the retreat together. Even though the group was small (seven boys and seven girls), it resulted in a successful event. As one of the adult volunteer counselors I can report that I witnessed the growth of some young Christians. I only hope that they reflect on what they learned and share it with others in their families.

    How my past impacted my journey into pastoral ministry

    August 20, 2018 / By Pastor Mike Kelly, Newfield UMC

    We all have interesting stories when it comes to answering our call to ministry. Like many, I was but a sinner who God decided to use for His purpose.

    After college, I went into law enforcement for nearly 10 years. Although I loved law enforcement, because of many factors, I lost my zeal and passion for it.

    My life took an odd turn when I decided to change careers and attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). This led to a long and successful career, becoming a Certified Executive Chef, and finally finding myself employed by Cayuga Addiction Recovery, a 60-bed residential drug and alcohol rehab facility, and although I had remained active in church, as a District Lay Leader, Lay Leader and Lay Speaker, this is where I find that my ministry story may have truly begun.

    As their chef I had a great deal of interaction with many clients in rehab: clients that had lost their children, their families, and in some cases had nearly lost their life; clients of all ages; male and female; from good families and from families that had dealt with addictions for generations; rich families and poor families; but common to all, those people were in trouble, facing the choice of recovery, prison or death.

    I had often questioned why I was there, a Certified Executive Chef from the CIA, cooking simple meals for “those” people. I sat in my office one day after a contentious interaction with one client. I closed my office door and spoke to God asking, “Why have you put me in such a forsaken place,” and in the flash of a second, I received my answer in a vision of my life.

    You see, when I was six months old, I was dying, I had been left in an apartment by birth mother repeatedly, for two to three days at a time, alone, while she frequented the bars. She was a single, unmarried mother. My grandparents interceded; I was taken away, and after hospitalization and a bit of a legal battle was adopted by those same grandparents. God made it clear to me. I was a victim of addiction and I could make a difference. That was ministry at its best; I was touching people just like me.

    I continued on to pastoral ministry, now serving two churches (Newfield UMC and Reynoldsville UMC), and I remain a consultant for Cayuga Addiction Recovery, stopping in whenever I can.

    One other thing to add as the icing on the cake, my wife Pam and I adopted a child, Tiffany, 16 years ago, she too, a victim of addiction, her single birth mother, who was drug and alcohol addicted, gave her up. This year she will again attend the Annual Conference as a young adult equalization member.

    I never planned on becoming a pastor, and I fought it for many years, but God won out! I am glad that I gave in to His wishes.

    Here I am… is it where you are?

    August 20, 2018 / By Becky Priest, New Faith Community Planter & member of Fairport UMC

    Let’s just start with this-I’ve been lucky in my life. No one has ever asked much of me. Most of what I had done up until this has been asked of me by the toughest expectant I’ve ever encountered, myself. I knew what I wanted to do, and why I wanted to do it, and let’s just say that few things could ever really slow me down…until something did.

    I had a dream job. I call it a unicorn role; a well-compensated, well-respected, and creative executive leader. I was also the mom of two beautiful girls, and married to my best friend who I met when I was 15. By all worldly accounts, I was enjoying some success. But spiritually I was a child, like Samuel in the temple, like Jonah fleeing from his call, like Martha distracted in the presence of God.

    In January of 2018, for reasons outside of my control and understanding, I wasn’t physically able to continue. It seemed my world was constructed to run at 100 miles an hour and I could only go 45. After denial of this, distraction, running from, and responding in the wrong place, I accepted that all I could physically do was pray, sit, and listen.  

    I left my unicorn role, shaking the “security” of my family’s world, to go to nothing.  Or as I prefer to think of it, to respond to God and follow the way of Jesus.

    For two years I have been practicing daily silence as Jesus taught and studying with a great centering prayer group at my church, Fairport UMC.

    Out of this unique and diverse group who shared silence weekly came a vision for providing space for people wherever they are to encounter silence. Silence?. The same silence that peer-reviewed science shows can decrease anxiety, depression, and increase compassion and self-confidence; the same silence that Harvard and Forbes profile for organizational innovation and employee productivity; the same silence (dare I say) that our Lord and Savior Jesus points us to through his life, words, and practices.

    After prayer and consideration, the pastor who first taught me this practice, Chris Jewell and I decided to start a silence inspired ministry. We call it Into Silence. We have converted a trailer to create a studio that can go out into the community to provide space for anyone to encounter silence for little or no cost to the individuals. Imagine healthcare employees feeling compassion fatigue, festival-goers seeking a respite from the chaos, bankers and sales teams for innovation and inspiration. These employers are hiring us because they know wellness (physical, spiritual, and emotional) is vital to their employees’ success, and conventional programs aren’t making a big enough impact.

    We are eager to see the organic communities of spiritual but not (yet) religious people that silence will spark. Some may even be looking for a congregation where they can share silence with a diverse group and discuss the deep spiritual truths that our faith tradition and others espouse.

    Visit to learn more.

    Building relationships and strengthening faith through Workcamp 2018

    August 16, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    This past July, Central New York United Methodists were both on the supporting end and receiving end of amazing ecumenical mission work – Syracuse Workcamp 2018. This mission work involved over 300 youth from all over the country of several different denominational backgrounds coming together to work on repairs needed in 54 homes in Syracuse. 

    How did Syracuse Workcamp 2018 come about?

    Syracuse Workcamp 2018 came out of a partnership between Onondaga Hill Presbyterian Church and Group Mission Trips, a Colorado-based organization that sends thousands of youth groups all over the country to work on homes that are in desperate need of repair.

    Having a Workcamp project come to Syracuse was over a decade in the making. Pastor Bob Langston, of Onondaga Hill United Methodist Church, had a vision to bring Workcamp to Syracuse about 14 years ago. The leadership team at his church approved of the project two years ago.

    Pastor Bob then spent a year building a local leadership team and securing donors.

    Once that was complete, members of the leadership team had to survey over 200 homes that applied to be considered for the Workcamp group to work on their home. Knowing the group coming would have 300 teenagers meant that 54 homes had to be chosen to be part of the project because the crews that work on each home consist of five to six individuals.

    Mike Block, Upper New York Conference Director of Missional Engagement, was on the project’s leadership team.

     “Mike was so instrumental in making Workcamp a success in our community,” Pastor Bob said. “He went above and beyond. I can’t say enough good things about the guy. At the beginning, he connected us with so many resources. He was able to get smoke alarms from the Red Cross, and because of him, we had 114 smoke alarms installed in 39 homes. He spent hours of his time surveying the homes and once the Workcamp week was finished, he offered his time to wrap up some of the homes that needed finishing touches, liking having a window or door installed.”

    What was the theme of Syracuse Workcamp 2018?

    The theme of Syracuse Workcamp 2018 was GRIT.

    While youth were in Syracuse to work on homes, their physical work was undergirded by spiritual grit gained through engaging in devotions every morning, lunch time, and evening as well as fellowship-based programming and worship every evening.

    The three devotions per day the Workcamp youth, between ages 13 and 21, engaged in with their adult site leaders and often the residents of the homes they worked on focused on developing spiritual grit through courage, forgiveness, trust, surrender, and love.

    “As our spiritual grit grows, we gain a growing and deeper confidence as we walk with Jesus,” said Kris Caswell, a site leader.

    How does Workcamp build relationships?

    Mike Block said, “It was amazing to see what could be accomplished when all these kids from different denominations came together. They worked hard and were happy doing this work. They were receptive to help and made a lot of residents happy.”

    Cindy Kissane, also a member of the Syracuse Workcamp leadership team, oversaw hospitality, welcoming the kids at West Genesee High School and visiting their sites with treats and drinks.

     “If I could tell you one thing, it’s this: Yes, Workcamp is about home repair, but it’s really about relationship-building,” she said. “It’s relationship-building between the volunteers. It’s relationship-building with the residents. It’s about youth groups connecting with other youth groups.”

    Cindy mentioned how members of dozens of churches throughout the Syracuse community were eager to help and that she built relationships with many of them. One woman she came to know through Workcamp 2018 was Jean Whipple, who leads the sandwich ministry at the Camillus First United Methodist Church.

    “Jean is amazing and her willingness to help was impressive. She came every day with cookies for the kids, Cindy said.

    Pastor Rose Kingsbury, of the Onondaga Nation United Methodist Church, was among the residents who had a Workcamp crew work on her home. They completely renovated her porch that had rotted out.

    Rose spoke highly of Jason, the crew leader at her house. She joined the group at their devotion time.

     “Jason was exceptionally gifted in that he brought people together,” she said. “He made the kids feel comfortable and connected, while talking about their faith. It was cool to see.”

    Nineteen-year-old Karen Caswell, Kris’ daughter, has been on six Workcamp trips, including the one in Syracuse, and has maintained several faith-based friendships with people on previous crews. This year, her crew worked on cleaning and painting the home of an elderly woman named Vera. While Vera did not participate in the devotions, Karen said, “Vera was full of compliments to all of us every day. She was so happy to see us transform her house. She said to me once, ‘I see God through you.’”

    How does Workcamp strengthens faith?

    This year, Karen was the oldest on her team and was the devotion leader. She said she deeply enjoyed engaging the kids on her crew in discussions.  

     “I felt like I had something to offer them in my own experience and realized how much I have grown in my faith through these mission trips,” she said. “One of my crew members wrote me one of the nicest cards I’ve ever received. He said that I was a role model and that he strives to have the faith I do every day. I have been so touched to know that God’s light is shining through me.”

    Cindy’s husband, Tim Kissane, was also on the leadership team; he helped survey all the homes to make sure they were safe for the Workcamp kids.

     “What amazed me about Workcamp is how the kids would draw residents into their devotion and prayer time, residents who maybe didn’t know the love of Christ but were experiencing it for the first time through other people,” he said. “You never know what kind of transformation these kids might be making.”

    Cindy piggybacked off Tim’s comment, saying, “We’re showing the community what people can do when they are called by God to help others.”

    One Workcamp teen was so transformed by his Workcamp experience that he asked his pastor to baptize him. He was baptized in Shove Park in Camillus.

     “The whole nature of the program is to be relational and transformational,” Pastor Bob said. “When local government, community organizations, local faith families, and kids from all over the country team up together, how could it not be?”

    Cindy mentioned the effect she noticed the program having on neighbors. She said, “The ripple effect goes far beyond anything we could imagine.”

    Pastor Bob indicated that perhaps neighbors would be inspired to better their homes.

    On the final day of Workcamp, residents were invited to West Genesee High School for evening programming. A Group Mission Trips representative told Pastor Bob it was the largest resident turnout he can ever remember.

    Fifty-four homes were improved in the Syracuse community and hundreds of people, maybe even thousands involved in Workcamp, were transformed and brought closer to God.

    This is mission work at its best.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    How God has been calling me into pastoral ministry

    August 14, 2018 / By Gavin Hill, Eden United Methodist Church

    Editor's Note: The article below was featured in the Summer 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on churches and individuals that are boldly living their call. Read how young Gavin Hill, not even out of high school has already been called to pursue a career path into pastoral ministry.

    It’s important to know this when discerning God’s call—God whispers, he doesn’t shout. The way I was able to hear God call me to ministry was through his little hints and the gifts he has given me. I believe God’s hints and gifts started in English class, before I was a Christian.

    At one point, I wanted to be an author. My reasoning was because I was always good at making an essay or a story out of any topic. However, when I looked back one day, I realized God gave me that gift to use for sermon-making. No matter what my topic is, I will make a good sermon out of it.

    Another gift God has given me, is the gift of fighting for justice. Ever since I was young, I have fought for justice. The only problem was I didn’t know how to use it correctly at first. As I became more mature, I realized that justice can stem from God’s word … and that’s a tool that can be used as evidence for the importance of justice.

    Next, God gave me the opportunity to preach at my church. This made me close to finalizing my choice of going into pastoral ministries. The way God communicated with me this time, was through other people. When I heard I made people cry with happiness and that I made people rethink how they were living, I was 99 percent sure God was calling me to pastoral ministries. When discerning God’s call, listen to what others have to say also.

    My Mission of Peace trip to Cuba finalized my decision to go into pastoral ministries. The final step was “Experiencing.” In Cuba, I experienced the feeling of doing God’s work. You know the feeling of what God is calling you to do when your soul is still? The feeling you get when you are floating on water because; when you float on water everything is in balance. You are half in the water and half out creating the perfect balance. Another way to explain it is when you sing in perfect harmony with other people, and then you get that one feeling of perfect peace and stillness.

    When I was experiencing God in Cuba and helping others, I felt that stillness. Doing God’s work convinced me that I should do even more work for him as a pastor.


    TAGGED / Advocate

    Becoming disciples through confirmation

    August 14, 2018 / By Heidi Gran, Director of Christian Education, First United Methodist Church of East Greenbush

    Editor's Note: The following article was published in the summer 2018 issue of the Advocate. This issue focused on ways in which churches and individuals are boldly living their call. Living boldly into a call can start as early as confirmation. In this article, Heidi Gran describes how successful their confirmation model has been in growing the faith of youth at First United Methodist Church of East Greenbush.

    Our church has tried several different models for our confirmation class. About three years ago, we tried the model that we are currently using, and it has been growing and expanding. We have classes during Sunday school time, using a United Methodist confirmation curriculum. The classes are taught by five different members of the congregation all varying in age and church experience. This year we had ten students in the confirmation class.

    The students also have class requirements to meet. The idea is to immerse the youth into the church life through music, service participation, youth events, and mission projects. It is our hope that in doing this, the students will not only learn about their church life, but also, will find a "place" in the church after confirmation. They may want to be in the church choir, or help with missions, or become more involved in youth group or in the services. It is a way to discover more about the life of our church.

    This year, along with confirmation classes each Sunday, the students had several service participation and mission requirements. They each served communion, made dinner at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, participated in a service at Riverside Nursing Home, attended youth events, and participated in a Christmas and an Easter service. They attended a service at Berith Shalom Temple in April, participated in Change the World Sunday in May, and traveled to to New York City to visit John Street United Methodist Church, the oldest Methodist congregation in the country. The class was joyously confirmed on June 3.

        Here are just a few thoughts from the students.

    Good things about being a church member:

    • “You get closer to God.”
    • “You feel welcomed and it gives you a sense of community.”
    • “It is a place where you share the same beliefs and you feel that you belong somewhere.”
    • “You can ask questions and be open with others who share the same thoughts.”

    Good things about First United Methodist Church of East Greenbush:

    • “Sunday School teachers are very interactive, people support the Sunday School, even if they don’t have kids in the Sunday School.”
    • “Our church is child-focused - we have special/fun days that are kid-friendly.”
    • “Everyone is friendly and kind. The Church is close, like a family.”

    Highlights of the confirmation class:

    • “Singing Christmas Carols to the Riverside Nursing Home residents.”
    • “The relay race in class.”
    • “The NYC trip.”
    • “Making dinner for the homeless shelter.”
    • “Interacting with each other in class.”

    On growing closer to God:

    • “I have seen myself grow in my understanding of God.”
    • “My relationship with God is strong.”
    • “My relationship with God is stronger now”
    • “I am closer to God in the sense that I can communicate with God and understand what He does for me.”

    TAGGED / Advocate

    From the desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: Imagine no Racism engagement

    August 13, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor's Note: Below is a letter that Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb sent to the Upper New York COnference on Tuesday August 14.

    Dear Imagine No Racism Group Participants,

    I am grateful to each of you for your participation in Upper New York’s Imagine No Racism ministry. You are engaging in the urgent work of addressing racism in ourselves, our Church, and in our communities. This is holy work that we join our sisters and brothers throughout the Northeast Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church in doing. Thank you.

    Imagine No Racism groups across the Annual Conference are at different points in their journeys. As expected, some are half-way through this initial study. Others are beginning. Wherever you and your group are, I hope you find the materials helpful in undergirding and equipping you in this important work. If you have not yet joined a small group, I remind you of the expectation for every clergy member to participate and to encourage laity to do the same. You can contact your District Advocate for assistance in starting or joining a small group. For your convenience, click here for a list of District Advocates.

    With some groups past the half-way point, I wanted to call our attention to the future. We know that this current study is but a preparation for the ongoing work of addressing and combating racism. What we do in these groups- while significant- will mean little unless we bring its importance home and find ways to help brothers and sisters in our local congregations and mission fields participate. Our primary goal has always been to equip local congregations to fully engage in this work among themselves and throughout the community where God has planted them to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

    There is a “brainstorm” exercise in the sixth and final session designed to help us do that. However, please do not wait until then. This “What’s Next?” discussion is an important one your small groups will want to grapple with in planning for local church engagement. More than simply answering a question or two with your District Superintendent and on a Charge Conference form, finding ways to support and uphold one another in the work of anti-racism is crucial as we move into the future.

    Remember you do not engage in this work alone. Your District Advocates, Regional Coordinators, and the Cabinet stand ready to assist you when and as needed. Do not hesitate to contact them.

    Again, my grateful prayers are with you, your colleagues, and your loved ones as we move through these closing days of summer and prepare to continue our missions and our ministries in the year ahead.


    Grace and peace,


    Mark J. Webbb

    TAGGED / Imagine No Racism

    Partnering with Friends in Uganda

    August 8, 2018 / By Pastor Bob Schooley, Centerville UMC / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    You know what it’s like to see a friend you haven’t seen in a year, don’t you? It’s a moment of great joy, when time stands still.

    Stepping out of the airport in Entebbe – 7,000 miles away -- there stood our friend Musumba (Pastor) Fred Muyimbwa, welcoming us, as he always does.

    This was our 16th journey to Uganda since 2006. Friends, our stereotypes of Africa have to be questioned. It’s a complex, multi-faceted place. Soaring buildings in the cities…grass huts in some rural villages. Folks with university degrees…people who can’t read. Black-topped roads…bumpy cow paths.  Generous, compassionate people, and like anywhere, folks who are still developing these characteristics.

    The work we’re called to do with partners like Fred and many others is in places where no other group seems to be helping, primarily in rural areas. And the work is holistic:We try to support sisters and brothers in the areas of clean drinking water, health care, economic opportunities, agriculture, education, and spiritual issues. (These correspond to the UN Sustainable Development Goals). We try to lift up, not enable.

    For example, due to the efforts of East Randolph UMC, we were able to put a well in Kalagala, near Luwero. The people there are wonderful but it’s a place struggling with grinding poverty. There’s no safe clean drinking water anywhere nearby. The water people drank came from a hand dug pond. Our mukwano – friend – Fred was sickened for a month by drinking from it. But thanks to Peter, the manager of E+ Well Drillers, safe water is now flowing for hundreds of children, women and men.

    In the same area, we distributed 400 mosquito nets to fight the scourge of malaria, which is endemic there.

    In Katosi, Musumba Jimy Tendo needed a new wheelchair as his old one was narrow and worn out. Buying a wheelchair in Uganda is not an easy task – it had to be purchased and transported from Kampala to Katosi but the efforts were deeply worthwhile.

    In Awkamor village, Pallisa District, surgery was arranged for a father named Simon. People there live in simple thatched roof homes. Doctors put in plates and screws to repair his leg. It had been broken for about a year, but Akwamor is a very community and the funds just weren’t there for his health care.

    In the same area, we arranged for three days of an agricultural seminar for well over 100 local subsistence farmers. Over the past year, pests have been threatening to eat their crops so our group has helped with eradication efforts.

    Pastors, in general, don’t draw a salary out in the countryside. In Kavule – where a well went in last year – Pastor Charles has about six pigs to help support his family. This summer the structure was doubled in size. Elsewhere, two women’s empowerment groups were given two sewing machines each, as well as materials and instructor supports to help women learn a trade and develop an income to supplement the food from their small farms.

    On the education front, there’s a school in Katosi that continues to grow. A new office/admin building was constructed and the classrooms built last year have been equipped with doors and windows and 80 percent plastered! We hire local builders to do the work; Ugandans don’t need us to swing a hammer – there are plenty of builders looking for work. And at Katosi, Lindsey from Centerville UMC conducted teacher training. Forty five desks are being built. And many games of volleyball happened!

    Similar to supporting the efforts of local well drillers and builders, people in Uganda don’t need Americans to come and preach – they’re effectively doing that on their own. We see our role as supportive; this summer we helped with church construction in Mukono and Namutumba (where next year’s well will be dug). In Mukono, the congregation made many bricks; we donated cement and the walls of an expanded church have gone up! In Namutumba, the fellowship had already bought a piece of land so we helped with construction of a simple temporary church.

    There are many, many more stories from this summer. Funds for these activities were donated by big hearted people at Centerville UMC and individuals from many places, including Sardinia, Rushford and Friendship UMCs.

    Working on various projects is fulfilling but the real joy is just being together with our friends. Sharing meals in Musumba Jimy Tendo’s house. He who contracted polio at the age of eight, worked as a blacksmith, and became a pastor. By the way, the word Tendo means “Praise” --Jimy’s Pastor Praise! A number of partners over the past two years have helped build him a modest house, adapted to his wheelchair. A favorite image of mine is Jimy’s living room, Ugandans and Americans sitting around, laughing, eating matoke and Irish and omucheri (plaintains, potatoes and rice)! Or celebrating head teacher Betty’s birthday. Relaxing. Safe. Peaceful. Blessed. Christ present.

    These journeys are about friendship, about walking with one another over the long hau

    Anything accomplished on these missions is due to the efforts of many people, including Muyimbwa Fred, his wife Robinnah, Kiviiri John, Ssuubi, Masembe Micheal, his wife Juliet, Foster, and many others. And, of course, thanks to the loving God who walks with all of us, all the time, whether we recognize it or not.

    If you’d like a copy of the full report from this summer’s journey, contact me us and we’ll be glad to email you one! Mukama akaway omukisa – may God bless you!

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Into the desert

    August 7, 2018 / By Pastor Cory Jones

    Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from a longer story that Pastor Jones submitted for the Mohawk District newsletter. To read the original article, contact Mohawk District Administrative Assistant Cindy Muder at

    This past July I took part in a cross-cultural trip through my seminary, Drew Theological, and spent eight days in southern Arizona in an area commonly referred to as the Borderlands. The purpose of this trip was to better understand the issue of immigration to the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. When I signed up for the class back in January I did so solely because it fit my schedule and it checked a graduation requirement off my list. As the months passed leading up to the trip I saw the issue of immigration becoming more and more divisive in our society and in our churches. I’ve heard stories of people walking out of worship, getting into heated debates and a lot of angry Facebook posts fighting over this issue. I decided to use this trip as an opportunity to learn as much as possible about this issue with the hopes of sharing what I learned with all of you so that we might better understand it and see how it relates to our life in the Church.

    We were guided by an organization called Borderlinks that works to educate people on the reality of immigration from Mexico and Central America into the U.S. The first thing I learned was this is not a political issue. Politicians from both parties have implemented legislation that has caused tremendous harm not only to those seeking to enter the country, but also, to the U.S. citizens living in the Borderlands. Seeing this first hand made me look at the issue much differently, I decided to drown out the noise of the 24-hour news cycle and solely look at it through the lens of a Christian.  

    As I prepared for this trip there was one question weighing on my mind, why do people risk their lives to come to a country where many don’t want them? I learned that while there are some people who cross with bad intentions, this is a small percentage of the total number and these people are the ones with the means to get into the U.S. without getting caught. Most of the people trying to make it to the U.S. are people not only trying to find a better life and these are the ones who are being captured in the desert, but also, dying from heat exhaustion and inhabiting our government and private detention facilities. Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part this is the reality.

    We performed an exercise that really opened my eyes to the economic issues in Mexico. We went to a local Food City Supermarket in the border city of Nogales. We were broken up into groups and told to go price shop for various items. Once we were done pricing what would be a week’s worth of groceries the bill came to $78.33. In Arizona the average minimum wage worker takes home $8.60 after taxes, which means they would have to work 9.1 hours to buy a week’s worth of groceries. When we looked up the cost of these items in Mexico the total cost came to 1,075.90 pesos ($57.79 U.S.). So, while the cost of the items would be slightly cheaper in Mexico, the wages are much lower. The average take home pay for a Mexican worker is 17 pesos per hour. At this rate a person in Mexico would have to work 63.3 hours just to buy these groceries. This doesn’t include money for housing, utilities, school supplies, clothing, etc.… Just to have enough to eat a worker in Mexico must work 7 times as many hours as an American on minimum wage. This economic disparity is the reason many are crossing the border, they simply can’t afford to live in Mexico with wages being kept low by the wealthy.

    With more and more people trying to escape the poverty and corruption in their home countries, the U.S. in the 1990s implemented a policy called Prevention through Deterrence. The government put up walls along the border in the areas that were the easiest to cross, normally near cities and towns. These large walls and the strong presence of Border Patrol agents has caused people to go to more remote areas to try and cross, more specifically the deserts and the mountains. We visited one of these remote areas near the city of Douglass and when you get five miles away from downtown the wall is replaced with easier-to-cross fencing. When I asked why our guide told us that if someone were to cross in this place they had a five-mile walk through the desert to get to the town. This gives Border Patrol more time to catch them and there is also a good chance the people will get injured or even die before they ever reach the town.

    To get some idea of the conditions these people are crossing through just to get to this country Borderlinks took us to a remote spot just off the side of the road about 40 miles north of the Mexican border. This spot is where many immigrants are trying to go because once they are here, there is a possibility a friend or family member already in the U.S. who can come and pick them up. We came to this spot and first thing we had to crawl under a barb-wire fence just a few feet from where we parked. Once through the fence, we walked one mile into the desert.

    We only walked one mile into the desert, but it felt much longer. Our destination was a memorial to a young woman who was found dead in this desert, her name was Reina. She had died from the heat one mile from the road, so close to her destination after a journey that was most likely thousands of miles. As we stood and prayed at her memorial I struggled to feel the presence of God. The intense heat, the sun beating down with no shade to be found, the stagnant air that didn’t seem to move. The fact that you can’t even sit on the ground because of millions of fire ants; the temptation of water so close deep inside cactuses that could only be cut into with a hatchet, so not attainable otherwise.

    When our group sat down to discuss the experience at the end of the day I summed it up in a just a few words, I feel like I saw what Hell is like. I had never been in a place where the presence of God felt so far away, yet I believe God was with Reina as she breathed her last breath on the rocky desert ground.

    I share these stories solely to bring some clarity to a messy situation. I don’t want to try and sway anyone politically, in fact I left Arizona with more questions than answers. I have no clue what the solution is. Regardless where you stand politically as Christians we should all agree that no child of God should have to work 100 hours per week just to barely survive in poverty. No child of God should be so desperate that they are willing to risk their lives walking through thousands of miles of desert just to have a chance at a decent life. I can say from experience of walking through one mile of desert, nobody would put themselves through that unless they felt like they had no other choice.

    Regardless of how you see these people, we need to pray for them. Pray for their home countries to be safer. We need to pray for the families who have lost loved ones to the desert and may never know what happened to them. We need to pray for those who lost their lives trying to find a better way. When the answer isn’t clear all we can do is pray for God to grant us that clarity.

    As we stood at Reina’s grave in the middle of the desert, an intern from Borderlinks named Maddie, wrote a poem at her graveside. 

    This is sacred ground.

    Anointed with the blood of those seeking refuge in a land that does not want them.

    Washed in the blood of those who first cared for this land.

    This is sacred ground.

    Each tear that falls – a prayer for healing, a prayer for remembrance.


    What is God inviting you to do?

    August 6, 2018 / By Nancy Dibelius, Assistant Director, Spiritual Life for Vital Congregations

    Editor’ Note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on individuals and churches throughout the Upper New York Conference who are boldly living their call.

    Discerning your call is a many-layered, challenging process for most of us. To discern means more than to understand or to make a decision. Discern comes from the Latin discernere; dis means apart, and cernere means to separate. With all the options before us, we “separate apart” those that seem uniquely suited to us. When we are discerning God’s “call” for our life, it requires careful, deep listening, by ourselves and by others who can help us listen.

    I have often found the word “call” somewhat intimidating in that it implies to me a clarity that I often find missing. According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the most common definitions of the word “call” are: to cry out in a loud voice, to command or request to come, to summon, to announce authoritatively. It would have been far more helpful if God had “summoned me authoritatively.” My own experience has been far more like that of Elijah; God comes as the still small voice in the sheer silence. And unlike the commanding voice, a still small voice is often easy to miss or to ignore; it requires silence, attentiveness, a deep desire to listen, and prayerful discernment. For these reasons, I often substitute the word “invitation;” what is God’s invitation for my life?

    I often find individuals do not believe that God has an invitation for their life because it didn’t come as a loud voice. For me, the first step is helping persons understand that God has an invitation for all of us. I believe that God rarely “commands” and although he has a desire “uniquely suited to us,” the choice is always ours to make. Part of that choice is that we choose to listen, hear, and allow God into our decision-making process.

    So how do we practice discernment? If I am to hear God’s invitation for my life, that requires that I have a close, personal relationship with God and that I practice listening for God regularly. I cannot hope to go away for a weekend, meet God on the “mountaintop” and come home with total clarity about God’s desire for me. I need to learn spiritual disciplines and prayer practices; I need to practice them regularly so that I am making space for the silence and acquiring the ability to hear the still small voice. Part of that discipline is reading scripture; hearing what God is saying to me today in the words I read. Part of that discipline is allowing my faith community to listen with me, to help me understand and process what I believe I am hearing, to help me distinguish God’s desires from my own desires.

    The role and importance of a faithful community has always been part of the Christian process of listening to and for God. “God announces that He does not want the soul to believe only by itself the communications it thinks are of divine origin, or anyone to be assured or confirmed in them without the Church or her ministers. God will not bring clarification and confirmation of the truth to the heart of one who is alone.” 1

    Our Wesleyan heritage offers us a clear framework for our discernment process. Does what I am hearing fit with a sound understanding of scripture; does it fit with all that I know about the traditions of our faith; does it make sense in the context of all that I have experienced of God; and is it reasonable/rational within the context of a life of faith. If you and those you consider wise and experienced in your faith community can answer these questions in the affirmative, then you can be confident in what you believe God’s invitation to be for your life. Another test of your discernment over time is whether this invitation bears fruit; how has your response to God’s invitation fulfilled God’s deep desire for your life in the fruit that it produces?

    I believe that it is also important to remember what the Christian life is about; being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Transformation is a process; one that I believe never ends. And so we cannot assume that once we believe we have clarity about God’s invitation that that is the end of the story. As we continue to walk with God and respond to God, we must always be listening to God’s invitation for today, for “such a time as this,” and be open to the ways in which God’s invitation is transforming and inviting us to be transformed. “When we persevere and continue to follow the call we’ve heard with our heart, the light grows, and somewhere along the way, we find ourselves exactly where we are supposed to be, doing just what God has called us to do.” 2


    1.  John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel  2. Farrington, Debra, Hearing with the Heart

    It’s time to take your HealthQuotient assessment to reduce your 2019 HealthFlex deductible

    August 1, 2018 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The HealthQuotient (HQ) online health risk assessment is step two of your HealthFlex “Three Steps for Better Wellness.” Taking the HQ between August 1 and September 30, 2018 will save you money on your 2019 medical plan deductible*— you will avoid paying $250 extra (individual deductible) or $500 extra (family deductible). It is also meant to help you develop a wellness plan for yourself based on your specific health care needs.

    In order to avoid paying extra on your deductible in 2019, both the enrolled participant and enrolled spouse must complete the HQ.

    To participate, click here to login to your Wespath HealthFlex/WebMD account. Choose “HealthQuotient” under your Action Plan, or select “Health Tools” and choose “HealthQuotient” under “Assess My Health.” If you last took the HQ prior to August 1, 2018, you will have to complete it again during the designated timeframe to obtain the reduction in deductible for 2019.

    More information on this program, along with more details on how to complete the HQ are also available on the Benefits - Wellness Initiatives webpage.

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

    The Susquehanna Conference visits for mission work on the Onondaga Nation Reservation

    July 31, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Connection. This is what enables United Methodists to make a difference in the global community. Just as the Upper New York Conference engages in mission work all over the world so all the Conferences. Last week, members of a mission team from the Susquehanna Conference repaired houses on the Onondaga Nation Reservation, just South of Syracuse.

     In fact, the Susquehanna Conference has been committed to mission work on the Onondaga Nation for many years—this year marks their eleventh visit. It rained the entire week and all their projects were planned for outdoors. That did not stop them! They switched gears and with the help of Dicky Crouse, a Native from the Syracuse area, who coordinates mission work on the reservation, they visited many homes that were in dire need of interior work.

    John Shepler, a member of Calvary UMC in the Susquehanna District was the team leader for this trip. This was his fourth visit to the Onondaga Nation. He said, “Over the years, I feel like we are becoming more welcomed by the Natives. They now refer to us as the ‘do-gooders.’” He explained that his volunteer team, which had many people who were on this mission trip for the first time, were incredibly dedicated to the work they were doing, which included repairing floors, painting, and plumbing work.

    John said, “When we were younger, we did roofs, but we aged and don’t do that anymore. Now we do stairs and decks. And when the weather defeats us, we can paint, install flooring, and do some plumbing work.”

    The team stayed at St. Paul’s UMC in Syracuse. John said, “The folks at St. Paul provided amazing hospitality!” Members of the Onondaga UMC joined the team on the volunteer projects. They were up for breakfast at 6 a.m., did devotions between 7 and 8 a.m., and were out the door to get to work by 8 a.m. each day. They enjoyed lunch together at the Onondaga UMC and many of the Natives joined them.”

    This was Vicki Geigas’s first-time mission trip to the Onondaga Nation. She painted ceilings and walls for a few residents on the reservation. She said, “The Natives were so nice…they were so open and willing to share their culture. The love of Christ very evident.”

    In addition to working on homes, the Susquehanna Conference team was able to learn a lot about Native American culture. One highlight was visiting the reservation’s buffalo farm.

    Mission trips like this call team members to continue such mission work. Vicki said, “I fully intend to come back next year.” John said, “Next year we will come back wearing shirts with Do-Gooders printed on them.”

    It’s great to have other Conferences collaborate with Upper New York to fulfil the UNY’s vision “to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places.”

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Way Forward report released in all four official languages of General Conference

    July 31, 2018 / By Council of Bishops

    The final report of the Commission on a Way Forward has been released in all four official languages of the General Conference: English, French, Portuguese, and Swahili. The report will be presented to the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. Subject to final copy editing, the report will be printed in the Advance Daily Christian Advocate (ADCA) in November. Here is a statement from the moderators of the Commission and the President of the Council of Bishops on the release of the report:

    “To the People of The United Methodist Church,

    “We offer the final report of the Commission on a Way Forward, translated in the four official languages of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church: English, French, Portuguese and Swahili. In the Nicene Creed, we are taught the marks of the church—one, holy, catholic and apostolic. We are catholic in that we care not only for the parts of the church, but more significantly for the whole. We have refrained from commenting about the plans contained in this report until the time when our sisters and brothers could read this in their own first language. With this distribution, we give thanks that this work can now begin, and we can have a conversation that represents our global and catholic nature—more fully who we are as The United Methodist Church.”

    Bishops Sandra Steiner Ball and David Yemba
    Moderators, Commission on a Way Forward

    Bishop Ken Carter
    President, Council of Bishops

    Click here for the link to the English version.
    Click here for the link to the French version.
    Click here for the link to the Portuguese version.
    Click here for the link to the Swahili version.

    Q&A about baptism

    July 30, 2018 / By UMC Discipleship Ministries

    Q: What does United Methodism fundamentally believe about baptism?

    A: Baptism is a sacrament. In a sacrament, God uses common elements – in this case, water – as means or vehicles of divine grace. Baptism is administered by the church as the Body of Christ. It is the act of God through the grace of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Q: Is sprinkling the only way that United Methodists baptize?

    A: No, our Church has always offered to people being baptized and to the parents of infants the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.

    Q: May a person who has not been baptized participate in Holy Communion?

    A: Yes, our Church does not seek to close God's table, although the historic and normal Christian order of the sacraments is baptism first - as birth into the family - and Communion following, as continuing nurture at the family table. Pastors and congregations reach out and encourage those who partake at the Table to share fully in the life of God's people, including coming to the font after appropriate preparation.

    Q: Should every baby be baptized?

    A: No, the baptism of a baby assumes that the child will be nurtured and formed in the faith at home and at church.

    Q: How do we express our own decisions to be Christian disciples if we have already been baptized as infants?

    A: In services of profession of faith and confirmation before the congregation, we respond to God's grace by repenting of our sins, declaring our faith in Jesus Christ, and becoming professing members of the Church.

    Q: Does baptism mean that I am saved?

    A: No, salvation is a lifelong process during which we must continue to respond to God's grace. Baptism offers the promise that the Holy Spirit will always be working in our lives, but salvation requires our acceptance of that grace, trust in Christ, and ongoing growth in holiness as long as we live.

    Q: Do I have to be baptized in order to be saved?

    A: No, but baptism is a gift of God's grace to be received as part of the journey of salvation. To refuse to accept baptism is to reject one of the means of grace that God offers us.

    Q: How can I recommit myself to Christ when I have had a powerful spiritual experience?

    A: Confirmation and profession of faith are only the first of our affirmations of faith. As we experience God's work in our ongoing lives of discipleship, we can express our commitment through participation in services of baptismal reaffirmation (Baptismal Covenant IV).

    Q: Does baptism make me a member of the Church?

    A: Yes, baptism is the act of initiation and incorporation into the universal church of Jesus Christ, The United Methodist Church, and the local congregation, as our ritual makes very clear.

    Editor’s Notes: These questions and answers about baptism and many more Q+As can be found on the UMC Discipleship Ministries’ website.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    How baptism is related to your call

    July 30, 2018 / By The Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Director of Connectional Ministries and Assistant to the Bishop

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on individuals and churches throughout the UNY Conference that are boldly living their call. 

    Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

    A few years ago, I took violin lessons with my daughter Tasha. It was a blessing to share this experience with her. It was also terrifying! A 40-something just doesn’t learn as quickly as a 14-year old. As part of our training, Tasha and I, along with the other beginning violinists, had to perform on stage at Ithaca College’s Ford Hall. I knew that some of the finest violinists in the world had played on that stage. And there I was, standing under the stage lights clutching my rented violin, praying I’d not forget how to finger the notes for “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” I really wanted to be sitting in the audience. But if I wanted to learn violin, I had to be bold and play my part. 

    I think the same attitude is required of those of us who are baptized.  Every baptized Christian – no matter what their age or talent level – is expected to perform, to “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness” and “resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” as it says in our service of baptism. Nobody gets to sit in the audience.

    I remember one of my seminary professors reminding a classroom of us would-be clergy that baptism, not ordination, made us Christ’s ministers. Ordination would refine our calling, but baptism alone defined it. The partnership of laity and clergy in ministry is one of the essential marks of being a United Methodist. We are in this together.

    Baptism invites and equips us to be bold in living out our calling. It links us to Christ, to one another and to a mission of love and service to our church, neighborhood and world. So be bold. Play your part. Only you can.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    UNY Conference hires Treasurer

    July 24, 2018 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Susan Ranous, Chair of the Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) of the Upper New York (UNY) Conference, announces that CF&A has completed its search for a new Conference Treasurer and has recommended Robert (Bob) Flask for the position.

    CF&A took the selection process seriously; the process involved interviews by a primary interview team as well as conversations with the Conference Executive Staff, Finance Staff, and Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb. The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) guided this search, assisting us with the job postings, phone interviews, and in-person interview questions.

    Selected from over 20 applicants and six final interviewees, the Council determined that Bob is the very best fit and we believe he brings an outstanding skill set to this critical position in an ever-challenging and ever-changing environment of church management and financial needs. We believe his skills will continue and build upon the solid foundation of leadership and accountability that we have in place.

    Bob will start as Conference Treasurer on September 4, 2018. We will introduce him to you as we get closer to that date.

    CF&A and Bishop Webb are most excited about the leadership and abilities which Robert Flask will bring to the Upper New York Conference. They are grateful for the interest in this position and pray God’s deepest blessings upon the Annual Conference at this time of transition.

    TAGGED / Finance

    Bishop Webb offering fall gatherings for A Way Forward

    July 24, 2018 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    This fall, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is hosting six gatherings around the Conference in preparation for Special Session of General Conference to talk about Commission on a Way Forward for The United Methodist Church.

    The gatherings will include a presentation of the plan and process of General Conference, a time to remember our mission, and worship and prayer. Click here to find the dates and times when Bishop Webb will be in your area.

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office / General Conference 2016

    From the desk of Bishop Mark J Webb: Living Boldly

    July 24, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of the Advocate, which shared stories on individuals and churches throughout the Upper New York Conference that are boldly living their call.

    Sarah, Abraham, Miriam, Moses, Sarah, Ruth, Joshua, David, Esther, Hannah, Solomon, Jeremiah, Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, and Paul. What do these individuals all have in common?  What do their lives offer to ours?

    These women and men are examples of individuals who placed their faith and trust in God and boldly lived the call of God within their lives. A call that led them into places and situations they would not have otherwise gone. A call that equipped them with gifts that were used to invite others into a choice of faith in God. A call that catapulted them into society and then through God’s power and grace they became agents of deep change and transformation.

    As United Methodists in Upper New York, we are called just as these men and women of the past were called. We are called to boldly live our identity as followers of Jesus Christ, to be shaped by who Jesus is, and offer with urgency and passion the truth of God through Jesus Christ to the world around us. We continue to remind ourselves that our purpose is clear. We are called to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We live out this calling by trusting Jesus who promises to produce transformation – individually, corporately, and systematically.

    Jesus came to serve – to offer light, truth, hope, peace, forgiveness, and life. He met sinners where they were and called them to sin no more. He touched the untouchable and loved the unlovable. He challenged the status quo of society and the Church with a call to righteousness, holiness, justice, and mercy. He depended upon the power of God’s Spirit always and in all things!

    Our opportunity is the same! The call as followers of Jesus Christ - as the Church of Jesus Christ - is to choose the way of Jesus! To die to self so that He may live – to decrease so that He may increase. To set aside  our agendas, our desires, our solutions, so that we may lose our life to be found in the life and the way of Jesus Christ. Like those who have come before us, we must boldly live our call!

    We have much to celebrate as the Church of Jesus Christ in Upper New York. We are living the mission and striving for the fulfillment of our vision. Have we fallen short at times – of course. Have we missed the mark of being all that God desires us to be – absolutely. But God has called us. God is enough.

    Because of God we are enough and have everything we need for the journey!  Jesus is the way and we are invited to follow that way! We are invited to believe and to proclaim that truth to others. We must boldly live our call!

    I hope you will take some time to look through the pages of this edition of the Advocate! Be inspired, challenged, convicted, and encouraged by the way brothers and sisters in Christ are boldly living the call!

    TAGGED / Advocate

    2018 UNY Lottie Brown Scholarship recipients announced

    July 23, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Each year the Upper New York Annual Conference College Scholarships Committee offers Lottie Brown Scholarships for undergraduate students who are intending to enter a career in Christian service. This year’s recipients are Tristan Turner, Madyson Valeski, Kelly Thompson, Katherine Bobsein, Zachary Moyer, Emily Allen, and Katherine Allen.

    Tristan Turner will be attending Rochester Institute of Technology. He has chosen Chemical Engineering as a major. Already having done mission work in Uganda and Guatemala, Tristan hopes to become a long-term missionary, using his chemical engineering education to help increase the accessibility to portable water.

    Madyson Valeski will be attending Saint John Fisher College and will be preparing for a career in nursing. Madyson believes a nursing career will enable her to share God’s love with people of all ages and backgrounds; she feels this career path is God’s calling.

    Kelly Thompson will be attending the University of Nebraska Lincoln and will begin preparing for a career in law, politics, and Civil Rights. She hopes to be able to provide legal services for the less fortunate.

    Katherine Bobsein will be a sophomore at Ithaca College this fall. She is pursuing a career in music and wants to be a part of a worship band.

    Zachary Moyer attends Houghton College; he is preparing for a career as an ordained clergy member.

    Emily Allen also attends Houghton College; like Zachary, she wants to go to seminary after college and pursue the path of ordained ministry.

    Katherine Allen is Emily Allen’s younger sister. Following her sister’s footsteps, she too will be attending Houghton College. Katherine believes God is calling her to ministry either through pastoral work or Christian teaching at the college-level.

    It is scholarships like the Lottie Brown scholarships that enable our young people to fulfill the path God is calling them to take. We ask that you keep each of these scholarship recipients in your prayers as they begin their steps to careers where they will continue to serve God.

    UNY Camp & Retreat Ministries seeking youth nominations for Director’s Invitational

    July 18, 2018 / By UNY Communications

    Many of our youth around the Conference are leading Sunday school, youth events, local and global mission projects, serving on church committees, and leading school and community activities. They have demonstrated leadership potential, but often lack confidence, training, direction, or opportunity to develop their gifts. Soon they will be adults working in a variety of careers, be parents, and spiritual leaders. We recognize the opportunity the church has to guide them into their adult roles by offering them the skills that will enrich their faith, build their confidence and teach them how to use their potential.

    Director’s Invitational (DI) is a five-day, spiritual leadership seminar, held August 5-9th, at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center, developed to help youth recognize their style of leadership and to develop their own unique God-given gifts. Nominate a youth ages 14 through 2018 hugh-school graduate for this program by August 1. Churches and individuals making nominaions will be invoiced for the $375 program fee once the individual nominated accepts an invitation to attend by returning the registration form.

    Click here to read Upper New York Annual Conference's Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries, Mike Huber's letter about the Director's Invitational.

    Click here for a Director's Invitational nomination form.

    TAGGED / Camp and Retreat Ministry (CRM)

    Spotlight on Wesley’s Place, an UNY New Faith Community

    July 17, 2018 / By Rev. Gregg and Rev. Heather Stierheim

    Wesley's Place Faith Community is part of the Upper NY Conference New Faith Community movement. It is a unique expression of "church" that seeks to connect unknown people in unfamiliar places with God and with each other. We hope to be a diverse group and the areas around the Buffalo/ Niagara Medical Campus are a perfect environment for that to occur in.

    Over the past 1.5 years we have worked hard at building relationships with residents, employees, businesses, nonprofits, and other faith groups to be partners in ministry in the future.  Many of those partnerships are now bearing fruit:

    • We meet weekly at Ulrich's Tavern for conversations revolving around faith, life, and God.
    • Five area restaurants that rotate weekly serve as a gathering place during lunch hours for people working in the area.
    • A teacher appreciation meal was hosted at the Health Science Charter School for 80 teachers, staff, and faculty. What better way to thank them for their work than with warm food, goodies, and reusable water bottles!
    • Over 400 fleece socks, hats, and headbands have been distributed to people needing warmth on the streets of downtown Buffalo through "Socks from a Savior.”
    • We have made it a best ministry practice to participate in community events such as the Allentown West Art Festival, BNMC Block Party, Juneteenth Festival, and Elmwood Arts Festival.
    • We recently received a grant from United Methodist Communications for $4,000 in promotional items such as stainless-steel mugs, pens, pop sockets, t-shirts, and custom printed display banners!

    Some exciting developments coming in the next few months:

    • Worship will be offered in an apartment building for its residents and anyone else that would like to. We are still looking for a few musicians, travel size soaps, travel size lotions, a Keurig machine, and assorted pods for this.
    • Through a partnership with the new Oishei Children's Hospital, Pastor Gregg is undergoing training to be approved as a chaplain. This will allow us to adopt an entire floor in the hospital to minister to families, patients, and staff.  We plan on adopting the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
    • Spiritual care is an unmet need for the 15,000 medical professionals working in the campus each day.  We are developing a Spiritual Support Group ministry to meet that need.  It is being developed in conjunction with the Christian Medical and Dental Association, several medical professionals, and a trauma therapist.

    Wesley's Place has many additional dreams for ministry as we seek to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to connect people with God and with each other.  If you have questions or would like to help support Wesley’s Place, contact Gregg Stierheim at 716.218.8273 or

    Upper New York New Faith Communities to be featured on podcast

    July 17, 2018 / By UNY Communications

    Reports from the Spiritual Frontier is a Path1-sponsored podcast that tells the stories of the day-to-day lives of the pioneers who are innovating radically New Faith Communities on the spiritual margins of our country. You will encounter the stories of the new church God is planting in the midst of our country’s changing religious landscape, told in the voices of the people who are actually doing the work. Hear about their glorious successes and equally glorious failures, their most beautiful stories and most pressing questions, and what God is teaching them about what it means to follow Jesus in a rapidly changing culture.

    You can listen to episodes by visiting or, or simply by searching for “Reports from the Spiritual Frontier” on Apple Podcasts, or Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

    Some New Faith Communities right here in the Upper New York Conference will be featured on this podcast this summer so be sure to check it out! For example, there will be an interview with Erin Patrick at the ROAD and an interview with Chris Jewell Rebecca Priest, lead planter of our newest NFC called, “Into Silence.”  There will also be an interview the Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer, who will describe his vision and strategy for planting many new Hispanic house churches in Rochester. The podcast will also feature an interview with the Rev. Dave Masland, Director of New Faith Communities in UNY, where he will give everyone the broader view of what we are trying to do in UNY in the area of planting. 

    TAGGED / New Faith Communities

    Commission reduces GC Special Session registration fees

    July 17, 2018 / By Diane Degnan / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's Note: Following the passing of the 2019 budget at the 2018 Annual Conference session, a declaratory decision was requested from the Judicial Council about the reality of charging observers a fee to attend the special session of General Conference in 2019. Due to the actions described in this article, those fees will no longer be charged.

    Thanks to a $450,000 grant from United Methodist Communications (UMCom) and budget reductions identified by the General Council of Finance and Administration (GCFA) and General Conference staff, there will be no registration fees for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. 

    The Commission on the General Conference voted this week to rescind the registration fees after United Methodist Communications agreed to provide $450,000 to cover communication-related needs outside the scope of their responsibility that would normally come from the General Conference budget. Any remaining shortfall could be covered through budget reductions recommended to the Commission on the General Conference and revenue from ministry partnerships.

    “We recognize that this is a monumental event for the church in its history,” said Dan Krause, General Secretary of United Methodist Communications. “It was a chance for us to help the denomination, while also recognizing a broader communication role.”

    At their May 2018 meeting, the Commission voted to institute registration fees for attendees in order to cover a nearly $700,000 budget shortfall for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. Commission members expressed concerns about the registration fees, but ultimately determined that charging registration fees was the best available alternative at the time, though concerns remained that charging a registration fee could limit attendance to those who could afford the cost.

    Moses Kumar, General Secretary of GCFA, said that after the meeting, his team began to work on alternatives so that the registration fees would not be necessary. 

    The grant came in response to a request from GCFA asking that the denomination’s communication agency consider helping to fund a portion of the budget shortfall so that the registration fees could be eliminated. UMCom had already offered to cover all of the production costs for the event.

    “For many quadrennia, our partnership with United Methodist Communications has been essential to carrying out the work of the General Conference,” said the joint request from GCFA General Secretary Moses Kumar and Bishop Michael McKee, President of GCFA. “Given UMCom’s commitment to providing services related to technology and strategic communication for The United Methodist Church and to further the partnership and facilitate communication for the denomination, the Commission on General Conference would like to request a grant in the amount of $450,000 to underwrite the cost related to equipment rental, infrastructure, and interpretation for the Special Session.”

    The General Commission on Communications voted to approve the request. “We are pleased to be able to make the event more inclusive by helping to remove any cost barriers for participation,” said Board president Cashar Evans, Jr.

    The price tag for the 2019 special session is estimated to be $3.7 million, up to $3 million of which had been funded by GCFA. 

    As in the past, there will be a suggested badge charge of $7 in advance and $10 at the site of the conference to help offset the expenses of the credentialing process. Delegates, reserves, official monitors required in the rules of the General Conference, Judicial Council members, hospitality volunteers, and General Conference staff will not be requested to pay this amount.

    The suggested amount for the badge is not new, dating back as far as 2008, and is optional so not the same as a registration fee. However, all attendees will be required to be credentialed to enter the meeting spaces. Convention Center staff will be monitoring the badges to direct attendees to proper seating areas based on their credentials. The decision was made by the Commission on the General Conference for the safety and well-being of all attendees. Also, there will be other events happening in parts of the America’s Center during the special session of the General Conference. More details of the credentialing process and a diagram of the plenary hall including seating will be released at a later date. 

    Upper New York’s Imagine No Racism initiative off to a great start

    July 13, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor’s Note: In July of 2016, the Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church unanimously approved a resolution for every Annual Conference to confront the sin of racism in their own hearts, churches, and communities. Upper New York Area Resident Bishop created a taskforce, known now as the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism, to strategize ways to confront this deeply embedded issue across our Conference. The taskforce worked together to form the Imagine No Racism initiative.  The following article features what the hundreds of UNY Conference members participating in the initiative have been up to since the imitative was lunched in April of this year. 

    “The work of eliminating racism is ours to do. It starts within ourselves – it spreads beyond ourselves into the lives of others and throughout the structures of our society. We have been called to stand against the sin of racism. May we be bold! May we be courageous! May we trust God to encourage us, challenge us and equip us for this journey of justice!” These are the words of Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb in an introductory video to the Imagine no Racism initiative that is taking place throughout the Conference.

    Imagine no Racism (INR) was launched on April 21, 2018. Click here to read more about the launch day. You can also use a study session based on the launch day. Click here to view the session.

    Each District has created small groups who have committed to meeting six times over the next six months to ultimately understand the sin of racism so that work can begin work toward it. The six sessions are from a curriculum developed by the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR). Additionally, each District has an INR Advocate to assist small groups and there are also four Regional Advocate throughout the Conference to offer support.

    Before the small groups delved into their sessions, they received a day-long training from GCORR. Blenda Smith, chair of the Conference Commission on Religion and Race (CCORR), and a member of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism said “The INR training was for facilitators (leaders) of small groups. We also encouraged District Advocates and Regional Coordinators to attend. The training walked the attendees through the six sessions and how to guide them. It also gave guidance to potential concerns that might come up.”

    Small group leaders, District Advocates, and Regional Coordinators all provided positive feedback about the GCORR training day.

    Dr. Scott Johnson, a small group leader in the Niagara Frontier District, said, “I thought the training laid a strong foundation for the upcoming conversations. The dialogue about the different types of racism and the truths of privilege provided important knowledge and a broader perspective that will help the groups as they discern new ways of working for racial justice.”

    Pastor Brian Lothridge, the District Advocate for the Mohawk District, said, “I thought the GCORR training was very helpful in learning how to teach the curriculum. I went as a District Advocate but have found myself co-leading one of the groups with Pastor Pat Hubman in the Mohawk District.”

    Nancy Raca, a Regional Coordinator for the Finger Lakes, Binghamton, and Mountainview area said, “The GCORR training was indispensable for anyone leading an INR small group this year. The presenter did a great job explaining the goals of the curriculum and answering questions from the audience.”

    According to the GCORR curriculum, “The goal of Imagine No Racism is for churches and connectional organizations within the Conference to show a real increase in mission and ministries that impact racial justice in churches and communities…this is not simply a means to an end. Rather GCORR created this series to provide a starting point for the long-term work of disrupting and dismantling racism.”

    The study sessions for small groups are designed in such a way that enables active discussion among all group participants no matter their experience with resisting racism. There are discussion questions written for three different anti-racism experience levels:

    • There are introductory questions for people who are just beginning the work of resisting racism; people who may not have heard anything about race/racism at church and/or the pulpit.
    • There are what’s next questions for people who have started the work of resisting racism; have probably been to workshops, engaged in conversations about race/racism some of which may have happened at their church; have heard sermons addressing race/racism; don't know how to take next steps on their own & find themselves asking, "what's next?"
    • There are also veteran questions for people who have been doing this work for a long time and may have facilitated workshops; are able to think of next steps on their own but may feel like they have already tried everything and are getting burnt out; People of Color who, by necessity, resist racism their whole lives regardless of ever having been to a workshop.

    Using these guidelines, several small groups have been meeting across the Conference. Most groups have completed the first session and have had time to reflect on it.

    The first session approached racial justice from a theological standpoint based on John Wesley’s three simple rules to do good, do no harm, and stay in love with God. Each small group participant was asked to sign a group copy of these rules to indicate they agree with the rules and will follow them.

    Pastor Lothridge found the first session helpful; he said, “I find the theological underpinning of this curriculum to be helpful. I don’t know that many people connect racism to their faith. This curriculum shows how racism is contrary to our calling as followers of Jesus Christ.”

    Overall, the INR initiative is off to a great start! Small group leaders are taking initiative and upholding their commitment to meet regularly and follow the GCORR curriculum. Nancy Raca said, “Groups meet in restaurants, churches, District offices…anywhere that is convenient for their members to get together and share. Overall, it seems the curriculum has been well received so far.”

    To learn more about INR and how you can participate in this initiative, visit

    TAGGED / Imagine No Racism

    Preventing fraud at the local-church level

    July 12, 2018 / By Conference Council on Finance and Administration

    When you have your annual local church audit done, does your auditor make suggestions about policies or procedures? Have you wondered why this is? Many churches (and small businesses too!) have too few people involved in their financial systems. The suggestions aren’t made because we distrust your people but because we do trust them and want them to be protected as well, from someone else causing harm or even suspecting harm.

    Church Finance Today’s monthly newsletter for June 2018 (Senior Editor: Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA, published by Christianity Today) has an article about this issue.

    Are Your financial systems susceptible to fraud (Adapted from Essential Guide to Money for Church Boards)?

    The following are indications that your financial systems are at risk:

    • One person counts and/or collects church offerings.
    • There is no regular turnover or rotation in those persons who count church offerings.
    • Offering counts are submitted to the person who deposits the offering.
    • No one regularly reconciles bank deposit slips with offering counts, or the person who does so is the same person who deposits the offerings.
    • Only one signature is required to write a check.
    • Members who contribute cash do not use envelopes.
    • Accurate contribution receipts, i.e. giving statements, are not issued to members, or they are issued but members are not encouraged to report discrepancies to the church board.
    • Offerings are not deposited immediately.
    • Monthly bank statements are not reviewed, or they are reviewed by the same person who deposits the offerings.
    • Offerings fluctuate significantly.

    Consider all of these systems when evaluationg your finacial risk. This will help you to understand why an auditor may offer you suggested changes in your systems and procedures.

    TAGGED / Finance

    New District Superintendent Installations announced

    July 10, 2018 / By UNY Communications

    The District Superintendent installation services for the Rev. Carlos Rosa Laguer (in the Niagra Frontier) and the Rev. Deborah Earthrowl (in the Adirondack District) have been announced.

    Rev. Rosa Laguer’s service will be held on Sunday September 16 at Batavia First UMC at 4 p.m.

    Rev. Eartrowl’s service will be held on Sunday October 7 at Plattsburgh UMC at  4 p.m.

    Details about each service will be announced as we get closer to the dates.

    June 2018 Program meeting of the Upper New York United Methodist Historical Society

    July 9, 2018 / By Nancy Rutenber, Recording Secretary of UNY United Methodist Historical Society

    The purpose of the Upper New York United Methodist Historical Society (UNY-UMHS) is to work with UNYCAH in preserving Methodist materials related to the Upper New York conference and antecedents and to promote knowledge of Methodist history and skills for preserving and disseminating it. In furthering this purpose, Society members and other interested folks met June 16, 2018 at Clyde United Methodist Church in Finger Lakes District.

    Betsye Mowry reported that the Northeastern Jurisdiction Commission on Archives and History (NEJCAH) will meet in Upper New York Conference May 19-21, 2020 in Auburn, New York.  The one-day tour has not been finalized but possibilities include the Erie Canal, Women’s Hall of Fame, Harriet Tubman house, etc.

    It was noted that there is still a large volume of closed church records from the merged Conferences to be processed at the UNY conference archives. As 12 churches were reported closed at the Annual Conference this year, the amount of records will greatly increase. 

    The next Society meeting is planned to be joint with the UNY Commission on Archives and History (UNYCAH) on Saturday, September 22 at the Conference archives at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd. in Liverpool, NY. Volunteer work in the archives will start at 9:30 a.m. for those present then and later for others as they arrive. Lunch will be at 12 p.m. and James Hare, an Elmira historian, will do a program on Elmira churches. After the program. there will be meetings for first the UNY-UM Historical Society and then for UNYCAH.

    The business portion of this meeting was followed by lunch and a slide program by Loreen Jorgensen on Wayne County Methodist churches. The slides included churches of various Methodist branches such as Methodist Protestant, German Evangelical Association, and Free Methodist.  Afterwards there was a narrated walking tour around some local historic churches in Clyde which noted the “musical chairs” done by some churches.

    The tour started in the sanctuary of the 1859 Clyde Methodist Church (with later additions). This is the oldest active church building in the town. The stained-glass window “Christ knocking at the door” over the current altar came from the Presbyterian Church after the 1970 merger between the two churches.  The group was told there is a hidden window of an anchor behind this window.  A more colorful modern window set is in the rear of the sanctuary.

    The walking tour included access to Christ Community Church with a small Tiffany window. Then it finished at the Galen Historical Society in a former Baptist brick church which is the oldest church structure and also the oldest brick building in town (1833).


    From the desk of Bishop Webb: Commission on a Way Forward Update

    July 9, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor's Note: On Monday July 9, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter to the Upper New York Conference informing them of some changes to take place regarding the release of the Commission on a Way Forward report.

    Dear Friends,

    I learned this weekend that the Commission on a Way Forward report would not be released on July 8th as communicated by the Council of Bishops after our May meeting. The final report has been submitted to the Commission on General Conference, but the translation work is still in process. 

    It is my understanding that a revised timeline of the completion of the translations will be coming from the Commission on General Conference soon. It is important that the whole church receive this report at the same time. May we continue to pray for our delegation, each delegate who will participate in the special session of General Conference, and The United Methodist Church.


    Mark J. Webb

    Eastern Parkway United Methodist Church gathering addresses immigrant injustice

    July 2, 2018 / By Cathy Woodruf

    Speakers at a forum Monday evening, June 25, at Eastern Parkway United Methodist church shared their heartbreak, frustration, and questions surrounding the separations of children and families at the U.S. border with Mexico.

    About 40 people, mostly members of the Schenectady-Niskayuna congregation, attended the public gathering, centered on the theme “Speak for the Children; Act for the Families.” The format was inspired by a request from two church members who said they felt increasingly unsatisfied with their usual outlet, sharing posts on social media, and were seeking a more productive and meaningful way to channel their energy, anger, and frustration.

    “We come together to unite voices and hearts to address the injustice that is happening to immigrant families and individuals at border crossings into the United States,” Pastor Mark Ledbetter said in opening remarks.

    “We are not naive and are well aware of the complexity of the issue,” he said. “Yet, we gather as a community that believes love and compassion and practical humaneness must always inform, if not supersede policy and personal opinion.”

    The forum concluded with an agreement to gather again. Forum attendees also pledged, in coming weeks, to perform at least one individual act to promote kindness and justice for migrants and refugees and to recognize the humanity of immigrants already in our community.

    Social Holiness Concerns: Reflections to consider as you enjoy Independence Day

    July 2, 2018 / By Evelyn A. Woodring, Pastor, South Park UMC, Buffalo, Member CCORR and Conference Social Holiness Committee

    Recently, we have experienced the words of Scripture (Romans 13) being used to justify the separation of children from their parents at our borders, and subsequent deportation of immigrants seeking asylum. Calls for denial of due process are in direct conflict with our laws. Historically, Methodists have had extraordinary concern for the wellbeing of children. Our Book of Resolutions references several social ills related to current events. The members of the Upper New York Conference Social Holiness Committee join with the College of Bishops in condemning the actions happening at our southern border.

    As we celebrate the birth of our nation, we are reminded of the words of our own Declaration of Independence:

    “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

    We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; …. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

    These words, foundational to our identity as a nation, seem to be antithetical to the spirit expressed in support of a national policy which inflicts harm on others. While we do not tell any others how to reconcile these words, and the words of Scripture that we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” we must encourage each person to closely examine government policies (yes, all of them!) in light of this Declaration and the Gospel message of the King of Kings. We are blessed to be Americans, citizens of the nation that has for decades been a beacon of light and hope in a dark and threatening world. Each of you, as you enjoy a Fourth of July cookout, or watch a fireworks display, is encouraged to “think on these things” – the words of our own Declaration of Independence, the words of our Lord and Savior, and the ways in which they are either in agreement or at odds with one another.

    Go to your Bible. Read Matt. 22:34-40 and Matt. 25:31-46, then reread those words from our own foundation as a nation. Then, “think on these things.”

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Dress a Girl Around the World

    June 29, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Last month, the Whitney Point United Methodist Church hosted a celebration of the 10,000 dresses their Sew ’n Sews ministry group sewed for Dress a Girl Around the World. Click here to read more about how the Holy Spirit, donations, and the sewers from Whitney Point UMC who met once a week contributed to the success of their ministry.

    This ministry was spurred because of the Dress a Girl Around the World campaign – under Hope 4 Women International, a 501(c)(3) organization – in which groups around the world have sewn dresses for young girls in impoverished communities since 2006.

    Rachel Cinader, the founder of Dress a Girl Around the World, said the campaign didn’t begin the way she imagined.

    Dress a Girl Around the World came out of Rachel’s calling while she was in Uganda to create a project where local women would make dresses for thousands of little girls in their communities who wore torn rags as dresses.

    When Rachel came back to the United States and news about the girls in need of dresses spread like wildfire on social media, hundreds of women offered to make dresses. Rachel was hesitant; she said, “I had to keep telling people, ‘That’s not my vision!’”

    But God had different plans.

    Rachel decided to test the waters and see how others’ ideas of women in the United States making dresses for impoverished communities could make a positive impact. She sent 50 dresses with a high school student going on a mission trip to an orphanage in Honduras. When the student returned with photos of girls beaming with pride in their new dresses, Rachel was convinced that this could be a great ministry.

    Within a short period of time, Rachel created Dress a Girl Around the World. Today, over 800,000 dresses have been made from sewers in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, and many other countries around the world.

    Dress a Girl Around the World is effective not only in dressing girls in impoverished communities, but also creating beautiful friendships among the sewers;  building confidence and a feeling of love in the little girls; and helping prevent trafficking of the girls.

    “I can’t take credit for this – I know that God’s hands are all over this ministry when I see women who thought they no longer had a purpose dust their sewing machines off,” Rachel said. “They feel like, ‘Yes! I’m doing something,’ and they pray over a little girl who is going to receive the dress. There’s nothing in the world that is more beautiful to me that putting a beautiful dress over a little girl that is wearing rags.”

    Dress a Girl Around the World provides patterns for ministries to use when making dresses for girls. There are ambassadors all over the world for the campaign, and these ambassadors sew the Dress a Girl Around the World labels onto the dresses and send them to Hope 4 Women, who then hand-deliver the dresses on various mission trips. The ambassador the Whitney Point UMC sends their dresses to is Angels of Mercy out of Rochester.

    Some may question what a simple dress can do for a young girl; Dress a Girl Around the World has identified four additional amazing gifts the girls gain when they receive a dress:

    1. They receive dignity. When a vulnerable girl living in extreme poverty is given a beautiful new dress and told it was made especially for her by someone who loves her and prays for her, it gives the girl a sense of self-worth and dignity.
    2. Their health is protected. When a girl wears a dress with the Dress a Girl Around the World label, this indicates the girls are under protection of an organization and deters would-be predators.
    3. The girls receive joy. Imagine a little girl being given a new beautiful dress made just for her and being celebrated like a princess. She twirls around in joy, with a wide smile. For most of these girls, this is a new, exhilarating experience.
    4. Most importantly, these girls receive love. As a Christian organization, the foundation of everything Dress a Girl Around the World does is show the love of Jesus.

    Moving outside my comfort zone through Leadership Academy

    June 25, 2018 / By Pastor Warren VanDewark, Edwards Chapel UMC and Watts Flats UMC

    Editor's Note: This article was originally publisged in the Spring 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on spiritually planning our way forward to create leaders and vital congregations in Upper New York.

    Leadership Academy is just what you would expect it to be; it’s about leadership, but that term “leadership” for the pastor could mean many things. Leadership Academy challenged my ideas of what the role of the pastor looks like. I’ve always seen myself as a quiet leader working from within the fellowship, maybe as a shepherd who prods the flock from behind, hoping we all get to the same place together. Yes, I realize my voice does carry some weight when expressing God’s Word from the pulpit, but for the most part I prefer calm waters.

    The Rev. Aaron Bouwens and his excellent choice of teachers will cause you to stretch a little bit. We have been placed into a position of leadership, and it is time we started leading and finding leaders for the cause of Christ! Jasmine Smothers from Atlanta was a recent guest presenter who led us in a session about finding our “Why.” She has an in-your-face approach to leadership that draws the very best out of you. I’m not saying that you will be turned into Moses parting the waters with my staff, but we will have to boldly challenge our congregations to move out of our comfort zones into new territory.

     If I can be perfectly honest with you, the reason I signed up for Leadership Academy was because leadership is my weakest point in ministry (my view) and I needed some further education credits! We are at about the middle of the curriculum and it is well worth your time, regardless of where you are in your ministry, young or old, ordained, or not.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Rome area United Methodists host anti-racism vigil

    June 20, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Early last week, recruitment letters from the Ku Klux Klan were discovered along driveways in the town of Lee, which is in the Rome area in the Upper New York Conference’s Mohawk District.

    Rome-area United Methodists were not going to let this act of hate go unnoticed.

    When the news came out about the KKK letters on June, 13, Pastor Brian Lothridge, of the Rome First United Methodist Church; Pastor Pat Hubman, of the Delta and Verona UMCs; and Pastor Deb Wollaber, of the Lee Center, Point Rock, and Taberg UMCs decided to hold an anti-racism vigil at 7 p.m. June 16 at the Delta UMC.

    The Delta UMC has a large lawn, where participants in the vigil were visible to the community. The neighborhood behind the church is the one where the letters were delivered.

    “We felt our faith compelled us to respond,” Pastor Brian said. “Our baptism vows charge us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Evil sowed up. We are responding. We want to be the light in the darkness, as Jesus called us to be in Matthew 5.”

    Pastor Deb said we need to overcome hate with love.

    “We really just feel that hate speech does not have a place in our community, in our city, in our world,” she said.

    A large, diverse group of people from the community attended the vigil, which included words from pastors Brian, Pat, and Deb; singing; an opportunity for others to pray; candle lighting; and refreshments.

    Pastor Brian kicked off the event with an explanation of the gathering and thanked everyone for coming.

    “We gather here tonight to be a light in the dark,” he said. “We are concerned that darkness is trying to infiltrate our communities … We have to do something about this. When the KKK comes with hatred toward our brothers and sisters of color and seek to harm them, evil has come to our doorstep. When they twist scripture to try to justify their hatred, we know that evil has come to our doorstep. And when evil arrives on our doorstep, we don’t just take it; we stand for love.”

    After pastors Brian, Deb, and Pat shared a few words and prayer, attendees joined Pastor Brian in song as he strummed We shall Overcome on the guitar. People joined hands in solidarity with those they had never met before, singing, “We are not afraid; we are not afraid; we are not afraid today; oh deep in my heart, we shall overcome; we shall overcome some day.”

    Several people came to the microphone to offer prayers and share their reasons for attending the vigil.

    Keith Rubino, a politician running for the 118th Assembly seat, traveled from Herkimer to attend the vigil.

    “The minute I heard that part of my area has been inflicted by an occurrence of hate, I wanted to be here,” he said. “One of the issues I have with the current state of the world is that people in power are somewhat ashamed to come out and denounce hate. I am happy to see so many people here tonight who are willing to stand up and proudly be here in visible fashion, saying that they stand up to hate. Because we cannot beat hate with more hate. It breeds only more hate; it always has, and it always will … we have to spread love, and that’s what we are all doing here tonight.”

    Gwen, a worshipper at Mt. Calvery Baptist Church and member of the area chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), lifted a prayer, asking for God to “come before us and make every crooked way straight.”

    “Lord, your word says, ‘no weapon formed against us shall prosper in Jesus’s name,’” she said. The crowd proclaimed, “Amen!”

    Leonard Martin – a Rome resident, member of the NAACP, and worshipper at Abundant Life Christian Center in East Syracuse – prayed that as vigil attendees went to their separate houses of worship, they would “remain conscious of our togetherness because heaven is going to look like this … probably even more diverse.”

    “I ask that you think about this situation because this is something people of color think about all the time,” he said. “In Rome, we experience bigotry, racism, prejudice all the time … it’s something that black people, brown people, and even poor white people experience because classism is a problem too.”

    After many people offered their prayers and reflections, candles were passed out and lit, and the crowd sang This Little Light of Mine.

    Afterward, some people traveled to Rome City Hall to attend an additional anti-racism vigil, while others stayed for refreshments and discussed plans to keep in touch and arrange get-togethers in the future.

    “We need to do this more often … this is a wonderful thing,” Pastor Pat said.

    Leonard discussed his experiences with racism with some of the attendees, thanking them for taking a stand. He reminded people that, “Silence is compliance.”

    “It was so nice that the United Methodists took the lead in this,” Gwen said. “When I heard about this, I picked up as many elderly people interested in coming as I could who usually won’t travel at night. This sort of gathering is so important.”

    Rome-area United Methodists’ anti-racism vigil, an interactive reflection of Jesus’ light and love, beautifully showcased the connection that takes place when we are God’s love to our neighbors in all places.

    Editor’s Note: The issue of racism is being addressed through the Imagine No Racism initiative in Upper New York. Click here to learn more or become involved.

    How God equips the called through Leadership Academy

    June 18, 2018 / By Rev. Caroline Simmons / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    “You are enough.” These powerful words were spoken to each of us as we were anointed and commissioned to return to our congregations at the end of the “Change the World Conference” at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in March 2017. An important part of participating in the Upper NY Leadership Academy, is the incredible road trip we took to one of our United Methodist mega churches in ministry in the Dayton, Ohio area. We were amazed and inspired by the leaders and presenters as they shared the honest heartaches and challenges, along with the joys of relevant ministry in the context of their communities. 

    Often, we hear that “God is enough,” but hearing that “we were enough,” reminded us that God doesn’t “call the equipped,” but “equips the called.” Leadership Academy is about equipping us with the tools and leadership competencies to become the transformational leaders our congregations and ministries need to become vibrant and relevant to the churched and unchurched in our communities.

    Set in a retreat-style format, Leadership Academy enabled us to be away from our normal ministry settings, so we could be more intentional about learning from the gifted presenters. The informal time outside of the presentations provided us the opportunities to ask the presenters any questions we had about their expertise and thoughts on leadership. We learned from the other people in our class as we reflected and shared our ideas and experiences. We also developed lasting friendships with each other.  The Rev. Aaron Bouwens, Upper New York’s Director of Vital Congregations, inspired each of us to integrate what we had learned.

    When we use the tools that Leadership Academy gives us, we will be empowered to work with our congregations and God to plan where our ministries are going. This brings a new level of excitement and engagement that helps to make our ministries relevant to the life of our communities. With God’s help, we are enough.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Upper New York Camp & Retreat Ministries Transforming Lives: The 2017 Impact Report

    June 18, 2018 / By UNY CRM Ministries

    “Before this I never really followed God and Jesus. The camp has created a connection between me and God. I will always remember that God is real, God loves me, and God wants a relationship with me. I really felt a connection to Christ and I want to remain connected, I know that if I abide in God, God will abide in me.” This is what an Upper New York Camper had to say about their 2017 camping experience.

    The 2017 Impact Report is now available for you to learn what an amazing impact Upper New York Camp & Retreat Centers have on the lives of children and families throughout the Conference through data, feedback, and anecdotes. Click here to read the full report on Issuu or click here to read it if you don't have an Issuu account.

    TAGGED / Camp and Retreat Ministry (CRM)

    Commission on a Way Forward report at UNY Annual Conference 2018

    June 13, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Commission on a Way Forward (Commission) was formed by the Council of Bishops (Council) after a decision was made at General Conference 2016 to develop a committee to address the issue of division around the topic of human sexuality in The United Methodist Church.

    The charge given to the Commission was to “design a way for being a Church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible.”

    The Commission worked together to create a report to present to the Council of Bishops. Based on this report, the Council will bring a recommendation to the special session of the General Conference to be held in February of 2019.

    Upper New York’s (UNY) Dr. Scott Johnson was one of the 32 people selected by the Council across the Global Connection to be a part of the Commission. At the 2018 UNY Annual Conference, Scott discussed the hard work that went into creating the Commission’s report.

    First, Scott dissected the charge so that the UNY Conference members stating that it would help contextualize the recommendations made to the Council

    Scott said, “First is the goal of maximizing the presence of a United Methodist witness. In a world that often doesn’t acknowledge its brokenness or doesn’t see the Jesus as the solution when it does, the United Methodist Church has a distinct voice in Christianity. Our theology of grace and our commitment to living the gospel offer meaningful differences from theologies driven by false promises of prosperity or rooted in fear.”

    Scott continued, “The second key element is contextual differentiation. Being that we are a global church, there are United Methodists who live in parts of the world where national and cultural attitudes vary differently. In addition, every faith community must be faithful to its call and aware of its setting. The desire to be nimble enough to empower effectiveness mission is critical.”

    Scott concluded the dissection of the charge with a third point, “Lastly, is the repeated use of the phrase ‘as possible.’ With all that we hold in common, we are not of one mind about LGBTQ inclusion. Our readings of scripture, our interpretation of tradition, our multiple attempts to reason together, and our experiences have led us to different places in this conversation. Many of our United Methodist Connection have studied and discerned their positions intentionally. The debate has been long, exhausting, and many people have been hurt by the Church as it has unfolded.”

    Scott explained how effective the Commission was in doing the work they set out to achieve through their nine meetings. He said, “The Commission was intentional about creating an environment in which we could have very difficult conversations with deep trust so that whenever difficult moments arose we could persist in Christian love. I am deeply grateful that we invested considerable time in prayer, Bible Study, and fellowship. Another resource that was helpful in our work was the Anatomy of Peace. This helped us move beyond conversations that were superficially polite, and even we struggled mightily, we were able to remain engaged. Over the past 18 months, we developed a genuine sense of team that relied on the diversity of gifts and perspectives around our table.”

    The report given to the Council recommended three possible plans: The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan, and The Connectional Conference Plan.

    The Council decided to submit a recommendation of the One Church Plan to General Conference. Click here to read the Council’s recommendation of the One Church Plan.

    The report written by the Commission on the Way Forward will become public in early July. Scott said, “I know that it’s hard to ask for patience until the report becomes public. There is an urgency for people trying to determine whether the church they love can still be their home. There is an urgency for LGBTQ sisters and brothers wondering whether they can be authentically at home anywhere called United Methodist. There is an urgency for a connection that seeks to bear witness to a God of love, hope, and joy to a hurting world, but cannot free itself from its internal struggles. Even with these powerful drives pushing us to get to this work, we must remember that there is a difference between going fast and going the right way.”

    After Scott completed the report, Bishop Webb said, “Once the report has been published is available, we hope to then provide opportunities (dates, times, and locations) starting in September going though the end of January or middle of February where myself, Scott and others will be a part of listening, conversations, study groups, and various ways in which we can engage in this process together.”

    Bishop Webb then explained how he and Scott already met with delegates to the special session of General Conference and invited them to consider how they will be part of the conversations.

    Bishop Webb encouraged churches and Districts who are holding prayer groups dedicated to the Way Forward to continue to do so.

    The General Conference will be held February 23-26, 2019. Bishop Webb described a Way Forward prayer initiative that relates to this date. He said, “We’re asking individuals that every day from 2:23 to 2:26 to pray; pray for God to breakthrough. Pray for the United Methodist Church to follow the direction that God is calling us.”

    The Commission on a Way forward report concluded with a time of prayer.

    Virgin Pulse and RedBrick Health join forces to create world’s largest digital wellbeing and engagement company

    June 12, 2018 / By UNY Communications

    The Virgin Pulse and RedBrick Health merger will create the first and only one-stop-shop for employee health, wellbeing, and benefits engagement; the combined company will have more than 3,200 customers across 190 countries

    Providence-based Virgin Pulse and Minneapolis-based RedBrick Health announced last month that the industry pioneers will merge, creating the world’s largest, most comprehensive digital health and engagement company. This powerful combination will deliver the industry’s only fully integrated digital platform, with benefits navigation and live coaching to support global clients and members across the entire health, wellbeing and benefits lifecycle – from screening and assessment to activation, behavior change and the adoption of sustainable, healthy habits.

    “We are thrilled to join with RedBrick to set a new vision and standard for employee health, wellbeing and engagement,” said David Osborne, Virgin Pulse CEO, who will serve as CEO of the combined company. “Bringing RedBrick’s live and digital coaching and benefits navigation together with Virgin Pulse’s mobile-first, daily engagement platform allows us to deliver the industry’s only global, one-stop-shop for employees and employers. As first-movers in this space, and with substantial investment from our new partner, Marlin Equity Partners, we are well-positioned to execute an aggressive growth strategy and change even more lives around the world for good.”

    Virgin Pulse and RedBrick are clear industry leaders in employee health, wellbeing and engagement, with each company delivering highly complementary capabilities to the market. To ensure the best possible experience for all clients, the combined company will continue to support and innovate on both the Virgin Pulse and RedBrick platforms, while making the best-in-class capabilities of each solution available across both client bases.

    By the end of this year, Virgin Pulse clients will be able to access RedBrick’s health assessments, expert live and digital coaching, and benefits navigation through Virgin Pulse’s API-based framework, allowing Virgin Pulse to interact more deeply with members to optimize their health and wellbeing. In addition, RedBrick clients will have access to Virgin Pulse’s unparalleled challenge capabilities.

    “Virgin Pulse and RedBrick are a logical fit, and it should be no surprise that we are finally coming together,” said Dan Ryan, CEO of RedBrick. “The merger is a win for the entire industry – clients, consumers, partners, consultants –  and raises the bar for what employers and employees should expect from their engagement partner. Combining our product portfolios and resources allows us to maximize our investments in R&D and operations, and ensures that our clients and consumers have access to the best, most innovative wellbeing and engagement solutions and services available.”

    “Our investment, which brings together two leaders in the health and wellbeing market, underscores our strong belief in the potential to transform this highly fragmented industry,” said Michael Anderson, a managing director at Marlin Equity Partners which also recently acquired RedBrick Health. “This is a multibillion-dollar market that is hungry for innovation, desperate for disruption and ripe for consolidation, and we are committed to doubling down on these two leaders to move this market forward and unlock the value of employee health and wellbeing.”

    Virgin Pulse is widely recognized for having the industry’s highest member engagement rates, with daily usage rivaling the most popular consumer applications such as Facebook and Twitter. The company’s flagship SaaS platform, Virgin Pulse Engage™, delivers personalized, mobile-first experiences that support employees in improving their health and wellbeing every day. RedBrick Health was an early pioneer in delivering outcomes-focused health and benefits engagement solutions, and is highly regarded for its customizable integration platform, digital and live coaching, health assessments, biometric screening services and award-winning experience. With highly configurable workflows, integration capabilities, strong expertise in custom program design and a successful record of serving complex, distributed organizations, RedBrick has firmly established itself as the partner of choice for large enterprises.

    Together, Virgin Pulse and RedBrick have the largest customer base in the industry, with over 3,300 clients including public sector organizations, health plans, universities and more than 20 percent of the Fortune Global 500 companies. The combination of the two companies also creates an extensive and growing network of strategic ecosystem partners spanning mental wellbeing, financial wellbeing, sleep, nutrition, telemedicine, cost transparency, treatment decision support and more.

    RedBrick and Virgin Pulse will unite under the Virgin Pulse name but continue to operate as separate brands. The combined organization will be based out of Virgin Pulse’s corporate headquarters in Providence, RI, and will maintain a major office in Minneapolis, MN and a coaching center in Phoenix, AZ. The company also has global centers of excellence in multiple international locations, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Bosnia, Brazil and Singapore.

    Marlin is acquiring Virgin Pulse from its prior investors, including Insight Venture Partners. The merger is expected to close this month. Financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed. Evercore acted as financial advisor and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP served as legal advisor to Virgin Pulse. Raymond James & Associates, Inc. acted as financial advisor, and Goodwin Procter LLP served as legal advisor to RedBrick. William Blair & Company, LLC acted as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal advisor to Marlin.

    About Virgin Pulse
    Virgin Pulse, a leading provider of technology solutions that promote employee engagement and wellbeing, and part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, helps employers create workforces that are happier, healthier and ultimately more productive. The company’s modern, mobile-first platform delivers a personalized user experience that utilizes gamification to engage members in building habits that inspire meaningful and measurable change across individuals and the businesses they serve. By helping employees thrive at work and in all aspects of life, Virgin Pulse is helping change lives and businesses across more than 190 countries for good. More than 3,200 organizations around the world, representing many of the Fortune 500 and Best Places to Work, have selected Virgin Pulse’s solutions to engage their workforces and drive their businesses forward. To learn more, visit and follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn.

    About RedBrick Health
    RedBrick helps companies transform the health of their organizations by inspiring their people to be fully engaged in life and at work. Starting with each person’s unique needs, RedBrick combines advanced behavior science, adaptive technology and a deep bench of live experts. The industry’s most highly configurable platform actively integrates each organization’s benefits and resources with RedBrick’s own extensive content and capabilities. Hundreds of leading organizations rely on RedBrick to measurably improve their well-being and benefits engagement, while delivering a better employee experience. To learn more, visit and follow the company on Twitter or LinkedIn.

    About Marlin Equity Partners
    Marlin Equity Partners is a global investment firm with over $6.7 billion of capital under management. The firm is focused on providing corporate parents, shareholders and other stakeholders with tailored solutions that meet their business and liquidity needs. Marlin invests in businesses across multiple industries where its capital base, industry relationships and extensive network of operational resources significantly strengthen a company’s outlook and enhance value. Since its inception, Marlin, through its group of funds and related companies, has successfully completed over 120 acquisitions. The firm is headquartered in Los Angeles, California with an additional office in London. For more information, please visit

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

    Upper New York Annual Conference boldly lives our call

    June 11, 2018 / By Stephen J. Hustedt / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor’s Note: The following is a report that was sent to the General Conference, summarizing the Upper New York 2018 Annual Conference.

    Members of the Upper New York Annual Conference gathered for the ninth session May 30 – June 2 at the SRC Arena in Syracuse, NY.

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb officiated and led the Conference around the theme Boldly Living Our Call.

    “If we are to boldly live our call – if we are to be effective in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ – our identity must be grounded in the identity of Christ,” Bishop Webb said, during opening worship. “We must acknowledge Christ! We must acknowledge who Christ is, not based on who the world says he is or based on our ideas, our definitions, our understandings, but on who Jesus said he was in word and in action. We must confess Jesus as our Savior and Lord”

    Conference Teacher, Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones led two study sessions. The first focused on not going back to Egypt.

    “Each one of us has a ‘back to Egypt’ part of our souls,” Rev. Jones explained. “We get a glimpse of what God is calling us to do, and we get uncertain. And we say, ‘I don’t think so. Egypt sounds just fine to me.’ Oh how often we just settle for ‘going back to Egypt.’”

    Click here to view the first study session in full.

    The second study session focused on getting the past out of our eyes to attain an extraordinary future.

    “If we are going to boldly move into our call, if we are really going to be able to understand the summons coming from God, we need to recognize all that needs to be unlearned so we can change,” Rev. Jones said.

    Click here to view the second study session in full.

    The following recommendations were addressed through holy conferencing:

    The Conference Leadership Team Recommendation that every UNY congregation be required to use the VitalSigns Dashboard starting Sept. 1, 2018, supported as amended to strongly encouraged rather than required; click here for details.

    Board of Pension & Health Benefits recommendations one and two, both supported; click here for details

    Equitable Compensation recommendations one through five, all supported or supported as amended; click here for details

    Recommendation from the Accessibility Committee – Disability Awareness Weekend, supported

    UNY2018.SHRec.1 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team-Welcoming a Stranger, supported

    UNY2018.SHRec.2 – Recommendation from the Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel – Advocating for the Rights of Children Living Under Israeli Occupation, supported

    UNY2018.SHRec.3 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Committee – Fossil Fuels, supported

    UNY2018.SHRec.4 – Recommendation from the Task Force for Immigration – Radical Hospitality, supported with combined amendments

    UNY2018.SHRec.5 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team – Specify Peace and Justice Coordinator, supported

    UNY2018.SHRec.6 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team – Safe and Free from Firearms, not supported

    Click here for more details on the recommendations.

    The following resolutions were also addressed through holy conferencing:

    UNYAC2018.1-on Guidelines for GC 2019 Delegation, not supported

    UNAYC2018.2-on Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Misconduct, supported with amendment

    UNYAC2018.3- Methodist Heritage, Methodist Doctrine, Biblical Truths, and Sexual Ethics Going Forward, not supported

    UNYAC2018.4-Rules and Agenda Changes for Enhanced Order of Floor Discussion and Debate on Motions, Motion to refer to Rules Committee, supported

    UNYAC2018.5-Lead Resolution, supported with an amendment to test water as well

    UNYAC2018.6-Expansive Language, not supported

    UNYAC2018.7-Parental Leave, supported

    UNAC2018.8-Funding Ecumenical Inter-Faith Leaders, supported

    UNYAC2018.9-Location of Annual Conference, not supported

    UNY2018.10-Non-Binary Gender Resolution, supported

    UNY2018.11- Statistical Reporting, withdrawn

    Click here for detailed coverage of the resolutions that were discussed.

    The ninth session of the Upper New York Annual Conference concluded with the service of Ordination and Commissioning.

    Bishop Dennis V. Proctor from the North Eastern Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was the preacher.

    There was one person commissioned for the work of deacon:

    Jessica Faye Glaser

    There were six people commissioned for the work of elder:

    Cheryl Ann Brown

    Raymond C. Gilman IV

    Linda Kay Haight

    Melissa Marie Killenberger McCarthy

    Hector D. Rivera

    Lisa Dawn Taylor

    There was one person received as an Associate Member:

    James Edward Barnes II

    There were three people ordained to the order of elder:

    Stephanie Jo Brown

    Kevin Duane Slough

    Paul D. Winkelman

    Bulleted Daily Notes and Daily Wrap videos for use in local church reporting are available here.

    Membership stands at 149,752, down 2% from the previous year.

    Worship attendance stands at 40,547, down 3%.

    Church school attendance stands at 10,440, up 11%.

    Professions and reaffirmations of faith for 2017 were 1,614, up 2% from 2016.

    Adults and young adults in small groups for 2017 were 17,074 down 7% from 2016.

    Worshippers engaged in mission for 2017 were 10,754, down 2% from 2016.

    Fulfill your mission needs

    June 11, 2018 / By Mike Block / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York Mission Central HUB is a great place to support your missional needs. Are you interested in assembling UMCOR kits? Are you handy and want to roll up your sleeves and help build a wheelchair ramp? Or is there another project that you would like to assemble, build, or create?

    Contact Director of Missional Engagement, Mike Block, to arrange a time and date to accomplish mission projects. The Conference calendar announces when groups are stopping by, so you can plan around them or maybe even be a part of what they are doing. Come make a difference with Mission Central by connecting God’s resources with human need.

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism report shared at AC2018

    June 11, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism shared their report at the Annual Conference during the Thursday May 31 afternoon plenary. Blenda Smith began the report by showing a video that illuminates some of the challenges of institutional racism.

    For example, studies show that drivers of color are twice as likely to get pulled over. Black people are four times more likely to get arrested than white people. Legislators are less likely to respond to phone calls or emails form black-sounding names.

    The Rev. David Wickins, pastor at Akron First UMC shared his reasoning for being part of the Upper New York’s Imagine No Racism initiative, which is set forth to help eliminate racism both in the Church and Upper New York communities. He said, “I am a white pastor, in an almost completely white church, in an almost completely white community… when I got the email from (the Conference) looking for volunteers for the Imagine No Racism team, God convicted my heart. For a few days, I tried to say this is for someone else… I am too busy already and I almost heard Jesus say, ‘Was I too busy? Am I too busy now? I left my spirit behind for all of you to continue the work? Minutes later I checked my email, another email arrived… conviction complete. I am called to be a part of this.”

    Rev. Wickins went on to say how can he not allow God to work through him to help alleviate systemic racism. He said, “Evil exits when we do nothing to stop it. Doing nothing isn’t enough. I hope you will hear the call to not do nothing, but to do something to allow God to work on you, in you, and through you to alleviate the oppression of God’s children who are crying out and be part of confronting the systemic racism that is in our society today.

    Imagine no Racism Advocate Ruth Warner elaborated on the importance of the Imagine no Racism initiative; she said “We, your Bishop, your Cabinet and your Conference Committee on Religion and Race commit ourselves to engaging in this work and leading you, our sisters and brothers in Christ to do the same.  It is a vital aspect of our call to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

    After Ruth spoke, she pointed to a video recorded by the UNY Conference’s Communications team whereby Christine Doran shared the story of Bishop Violet Fisher’s (former Bishop of the North Central Conference) installation service. Bishop Fisher was African-American. She had over 40 family members arrive for the installation service at a hotel that Christine had booked and prepaid for all of them (going to the extent of placing fresh flowers in the room). And when the 48 black people entered the hotel, the person behind the front desk said there were no reservations and no rooms available. Even after showing the person at the front desk her paid receipt, Christine was told those reservations were not made. Christine had to get the mayor of Rochester involved, Bill Johnson, an African-American male who called the hotel owner and the rooms were secured. Bishop Fisher felt uncomfortable complaining about it at the start of her episcopacy in North Central New York.

    Rev. Teressa Silvers, the convener of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism, described the amazing number of people coming together so far across Upper New York to work on the Imagine No Racism initiative. She said, “Imagine No Racism is launched!  In the midst of the intentionally organized chaos of our April 21st Launch Day, you succeeded in creating about 101 small groups. These groups will work with a curriculum designed to equip members to form discussion groups and influence conversation in local churches. We have also hired four Regional Coordinators who will serve as resource and support people as well as data gatherers for Imagine No Racism ongoing evaluation. Training sessions for facilitators and four Regional Coordinators has occurred.  The General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) is providing excellent resources.  We are moving on in our powerful work to Imagine No Racism!”

    Rev. Silvers then asked all who were able to stand and together recite a vow to stand for the elimination of racism. The vow read:

    “Before God and with my family in Christ, I vow, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to oppose and work to eliminate the influence of racism from systems, institutions, relationships, and my own life.”

    The attendees were asked to print out and sign a copy of the vow that was available both in the Conference event app and as a hardcopy. Rev. Silvers also explained that lay persons who are eager to get involved can simply contact their District Advocates. Rev. Silvers said, “We are hoping with the help of the Holy Spirit, we develop a serious response.”

    The illuminating report by the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism culminated with Elder in the struggle Shirley Redean praying for all to become involved in this initiative. She prayed, “Great giver of wisdom provide strength, patience, and an understanding that this is not seasonal work; this is not part-time work; this is 24/7 work.”

    Editor’s Note: Keep watching the Conference Communications channels for updates on the work achieved through the Imagine No Racism initiative as small-group meetings take place throughout Upper New York each month.

    Service of Commissioning and Ordination at the 2018 UNY Annual Conference

    June 7, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The theme of this year’s Annual Conference, Boldly Living our Call, was exceptionally demonstrated in the June 2 Service of Commissioning and Ordination.

    There was one person commissioned for the work of deacon:

    • Jessica Faye Glaser

    There were six people commissioned for the work of elder:

    • Cheryl Ann Brown
    • Raymond C. Gilman IV
    • Linda Kay Haight
    • Melissa Marie Killenberger McCarthy
    • Hector D. Rivera
    • Lisa Dawn Taylor

    There was one person received as an Associate Member:

    • James Edward Barnes II

    There were three people ordained to the order of elder:

    • Stephanie Jo Brown
    • Kevin Duane Slough
    • Paul D. Winkelman

    Bishop Dennis Proctor of the Northeastern Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church served as the ordination speaker. As we was welcoming the crowd and expressing gratitude for the opportunity to speak, he made humorous jokes about the fact that the service is meant to recognize the ordinands and commissioners, not to “hear some guy you don’t even know talk.”  

    Bishop Proctor promised not to take all the time that Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb granted him to deliver a message. He said, “I pray that I still hold true to the adage that says, ‘a sermon need not be eternal for it to be immortal.’”

    Bishop Proctor’s powerful sermon will be remembered. He started off by asking the question “What do you have to give?”

    His sermon was centered on Acts Chapter 3—the telling of James and John making their way into a temple when they saw a man unable to walk begging for alms. James and John, holding the man’s hand, said, ‘Silver and Gold, we have none, but such as we have, we give to thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…rise up and walk.” The man rose, walked, leaped and praised God.

    Bishop Proctor claimed that despite our differences in biblical interpretation or backgrounds, this text illustrates what we all should be able to give.

    The first possession we can give is affirmation. Bishop Proctor explained that Peter and John paid attention to the man, holding his hand, affirming they hear his call.

    Bishop Proctor shared a personal story of when he offered affirmation to a group of men living with AIDS. These men were living in a home together on Brentwood Baptist Church’s campus in Houston, Texas. Many of the men had open lesions on their hands and bodies. When Bishop Proctor came to their home to meet them, they offered him chocolate chip cookies they had baked earlier that day.

    Bishop Proctor said, “I could have said ‘no.’ I was staying at a Doubletree where they give you nice, warm chocolate chip cookies. But I accepted them and asked for more to bring back to the hotel.” The men then offered Bishop Proctor more cookies they made that had nuts. And Bishop Proctor graciously accepted them. He emphasized how proud these men were that someone who represents the King of Kings were happy to accept their cookies—that he did not turn them down even though the cookies were made with their hands with open lesions. These men, who many in society would pay no attention to, were affirmed to be worthy by Bishop Proctor.

    The second gift we have to offer is that of information. Peter and John did not take the credit for the power to perform a miracle; they said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…” Bishop Proctor said, “You must be willing to tell the world who Jesus really is.”

    The third way we can give to others is through inspiration. Bishop Proctor reiterated how the man in the temple not only walked, but he leaped, praising God. He said, “This man had new energy…he was not only healed physiologically, but also psychologically…it’s not you, me, us, but the power that works through us.”

    After Bishop Proctor’s sermon, the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Executive Assistant to Bishop Webb and the Upper New York Director of Connectional Ministries, stood to explain the offering for the service, which was designated for New Faith Communities.

    Mentioning how he could feel the wind of the spirit blowing through the entire session of Annual Conference, he told the story of the success of Upper New York’s New Faith Communities. He said, “When we first formed as a Conference, I met with (the Rev.) Dave Masland (now Director of UNY’s New Faith Communities) and I said, ‘We need to set a bold goal…over the next four to five years, we’re going to plant 25 churches,’ and Dave, my friend, said to me, ‘No Bill, we’re going to plant 100.’ Dave was wrong, we planted over 100.”

    Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding explained how of the over 100 churches planted, over 80 are still meeting regularly. He then said, “But, we’re not done yet. The spirit is still blowing through us.”

    Bishop Webb closed the service in prayer, thanking God for meeting us right where we are with love just as we are. He said, “Holy God…help us to continue to say ‘Yes’ to that love you have for our own lives that as you continue to transform us that we may then offer that love to others that they may share the Truth of grace through Jesus Christ; that we will walk, leap, and praise your name that others may walk, leap, and praise your name.”

    Young adults add their pieces to the puzzle to break down the walls at Young People’s Service

    June 5, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    Elyse Muder and Maya Smith kicked off the Young People’s Service on June 2 at the 2018 Annual Conference session with a skit.

    Maya wanted to start a Bible study but wasn’t sure she could do it and felt awkward about talking about her faith outside of church. Elyse encouraged her.

    “It’s important to spread the word of God everywhere you go, in any way you can,” Elyse said. “We have been provided spiritual gifts so that we can use them to honor God.”

    Elyse told Maya to remember what it says in James 2: 14-16, which questions what good it is if someone has faith but does nothing.

    “Think of all the young people in our Conference doing God’s work each day. They’re using their gifts to spread God’s love all over the world,” Elyse said, inspiring Maya to start new ministries to share her gifts as well.

    Throughout the service, several young people added their piece to a puzzle displayed at the front of the room.

    Vicki Standhart led the call to Worship, followed by Theresa Eggleston’s dramatic reading about the apostle James writing to the 12 tribes in Diaspora, saying: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? … Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

    Marthalyn Sweet delivered the 2018 Young Adult Address, praising some young adults in UNY for all they are doing from pursuing their education to graduation from seminary and work in Conference camps.

    “As a whole, young people both in and out of our church are looking to make meaningful connections and contributions to our communities,” Marthalyn said. “I’m so proud that Upper New York has committed to supporting and emphasizing ministry to youth and young adults, and that this time of worship continues to be the best attended during Annual Conference.”

    She encouraged the crowd to stay invested in youth, suggesting they send cards and care packages to those away at school or help youth connect with a church family.

    “Let’s commit to doing a better job as a Conference, and as local churches, of supporting our seminary students,” she said, noting that support of seminarians could unite the Conference.

    Outgoing Conference Council on Youth Ministries co-chairs Sam Smith and Maria Schermerhorn shared the changes CCYM underwent in the past year, such as the event “Fall Gathering” becoming “Inward” and the event “UpWord” becoming “Outward.”

    Sam took time during the service to clarify comments he made about the Conference’s financial support of young adults during Wednesday’s Laity Session, apologizing that CCYM documents were not submitted to the Conference Council on Finance & Administration. He said CCYM’s largest request was for $10,000 so youth could attend Youth 2019, a national youth event, next summer in St. Louis, Mo.

    Sam and Maria said they have been blessed to serve as co-chairs of CCYM. They passed the baton to the new CCYM co-chairs, Rachel John and George Taylor, and prayed over the incoming CCYM leadership team and adults who guide them.

    “We know God has a plan in store for the youth of the UNY Conference, and we are pleased that you will lead them,” Maria said.

    Next, a Camp & Retreat Ministries video added its piece to the puzzle, discussing how the ministry is vital to the Kingdom of Christ, helping campers see what Christian community looks like.

    Following the video Madeline Klein and Alisyn Klock – who both participated in Mission of Peace, which sends young people each year on a journey of Shalom around the world –  announced the MOP offering. As it was collected, Madeline shared stories of her trip to this past year’s MOP to Cuba, including how one night of worship, singing, and dancing broke down all language barriers. Four youth and four adults from UNY went on the Cuba trip.

    “On this journey, we grow in love and peace with people from our group and the country we visit.  We come to know these people as family,” Madeline said. “Your financial and spiritual support is what makes it possible for youth from this Conference to go on this trip.”

    Maya and Elyse spoke again, this time praising how many UNY young people are involved in ministries in the Conference. They said the face of The Church is changing and evolving, and young people are evolving with it.

    “The people of God's kingdom are changing, and this calls for The Church to evolve with the people,” Elyse said. “The Church needs to find ways to adapt to this desire to reach out, to break down the walls of The Church, and step out into the world to share the word of God. As a body of Christ, we need to support the members of this body in their new ways of worship.”

    Theresa’s second scripture touched on Elyse’s sentiment, as Matthew 28:16-20 is the story of Jesus instructing the 11 apostles to go make disciples.

    When Maya and Elyse took the stage again, Elyse said people can make disciples by being involved and helping the church family share God’s love inside the walls of churches, the Conference, and beyond.

    “All of the people on this stage and in the seats among you have so much to share with you about how they share their faith,” Maya said. “Please help us continue our ministries.”

    Though JJ Warren was unable to attend the AC session this year, he did make an appearance in a video to add his piece to the puzzle. He shared his college experience at Oxford University as well as discussed his video series that asks about the roots of faith and tries to break down barriers that divide people. He also announced he will serve on the Conference’s College Ministries Team.

    Pastor Erin Patrick, of The ROAD at West Genesee UMC, shared her ministry in a video. She said she uses her passion to “create opportunities for people to connect with God in new, unique, and untraditional ways,” adding her piece to the puzzle.

    Pastor Cory Jones, who will serve the Trinity: Whitesboro UMC starting July 1, and Pastor Brian Lothridge, of the Rome First UMC, discussed a new ministry they have been a part of called Worship Without Walls, a church that meets on an inner-city sidewalk with the simple message “God Loves You.”

    “Having been a part of this for over a year now and seeing how many people have been touched by this ministry, it has completely changed my perception of what ministry is,” Pastor Jones said. “I still love the local church, but to me ministry is about going outside the comfort of the local church and bringing the good news out to people who might not otherwise hear it.”

    As the last piece was placed, the image of a puzzle piece with a saying inside it became clear: “Building the Kingdom: Remaining Connected.”

    The service ended with a benediction by Ian Urriola, who said that though AC session will soon come to a close, the Conference’s work continues because beyond these walls “lies a beautiful, broken world full of beautiful, broken people grieving, mourning, thirsting for justice, and longing to hear a word of good news.”


    Petition and Resolution Results at the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference

    June 5, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Discussion and voting for the petitions and resolutions brought to the 2018 Annual Conference session began in the afternoon plenary on June 1 and continued through the June 2 morning plenary.

     Here are the results of each resolution.

    UNYAC2018.1-on Guidelines for GC 2019 Delegation, not supported

    This resolution called the Upper New York Conference delegates attending the Special Session of General Conference (SSGC) in February 2019 to use the biblically-based values of grace, dignity, justice, relationship, and solidarity (with the oppressed) to guide their work.

    This resolution also called for the delegation attending SSGC to work toward a resolution at GC that would end all forms of discrimination against LGBTQIA+ persons and embrace all persons regardless of gender or sexuality.

    This resolution also called for persons who do not embrace all individuals and refuse to remain in a connection with a UMC that does not discriminate against LGBTQIA+ to be granted a gracious exit without punitive action.

    UNAYC2018.2-on Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Misconduct, supported with amendment

    This resolution called all clergy and laity within the Upper New York Conference to receive training on how to stop and prevent others from engaging in sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, misogyny, as well as how to create appropriate boundaries/relationships between women and men.

    This resolution also called that such training be mandatory for the Bishop, all members of the extended cabinet, all executive/professional level Conference staff, the Conference Lay Leader, Associate Lay Leader, the Conference Secretary, Conference Chancellor, all persons serving under appointment, and all persons serving on the Conference Leadership Team, the Board of Ordained Ministry, on each District Committee on Ordained Ministry, on each District Leadership Team, the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, the conference Trustees, the Conference Committee on the Episcopacy, all church employees within the annual conference, and members serving on committees that may touch on matters addressed in these trainings, including the Safe Sanctuaries Committee, the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, the Social Holiness Team, and the Committee on Investigation.

    This resolution also called for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) to be invited to provide sexual ethics training in 2019.

    This resolution was supported with an amendment to lines 33-35 on page 83 to state “Bishop Webb will select members from the body to attend…”

    UNYAC2018.3- Methodist Heritage, Methodist Doctrine, Biblical Truths, and Sexual Ethics Going Forward, not supported

    This resolution called for the Upper New York Conference and all its member churches, clergy, and laity consider a four-book study over this next year that will help us to turn back to a deeper Methodist understanding of our heritage, a deeper commitment to United Methodist beliefs and doctrine, a better appreciation of what the Bible really says on the topic of sexual ethics and marriage, and from there, more easily see the way forward that God wants us to see as possible.

    This resolution also called for the Conference to promote the four-book study on their website. The four books are:

    • The Way of the Wesleys – A Short Introduction; by John Tyson; Wm. B. Erdmann
    • Top 10 United Methodist Beliefs; by Don Adams
    • What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality; by Kevin DeYoung
    • Same-Sex Attraction and the Church; by Ed Shaw

    UNYAC2018.4-Rules and Agenda Changes for Enhanced Order of Floor Discussion and Debate on Motions, Motion to refer to Rules Committee, supported

    This resolution called for rules to be changed or added to the proposed organizational motion submitted for consideration at future Upper New York Annual Conference sessions starting in 2019 (see pages 89-90 of the Upper New York Conference 2018 Annual Conference Journal Vol. 1 for the proposed changes).

    UNYAC2018.5-Lead Resolution, supported with an amendment to test water as well

    This resolution called for the Upper New York Annual Parsonage Report be revised in 2018 to reflect a church’s last date of lead testing and the question “Is lead present?” with boxes to check “yes” or “no” and if “yes” is checked, list the locations of the lead.

    This resolution also called for the UNY Conference to determine the cost of “Lead-based Paint Liability Insurance Coverage” through Church Mutual and at the appropriate time, but no later than Annual Conference 2019, an offer for the inclusion of this coverage to UNY’s insurance policy for local churches be shared with the Conference at-large.

    UNYAC2018.6-Expansive Language, not supported

    This resolution called for the Upper New York Conference to commit itself to use language and imagery about God and humanity in ways that are faithfully inclusive of the variety of humanity and the myriad of understandings of God in all publications and media, meetings, petitions and resolutions, songs, prayers, and more.

    This resolution also called for the members of the UNY Conference to covenant to treat each other with the utmost kindness and respect.

    UNYAC2018.7-Parental Leave, supported

    This resolution called for a member of the Cabinet, a member of the Committee or Equitable Compensation, the Benefits Office of the Upper New York Annual Conference, and a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry’s Executive Committee collaborate with the Conference Communications department to create a readily available resource which can be distributed and easily accessed through the Conference website by laity, clergy, and Conference staff. The resource to be provided will provide education on Parental Leave requirements as outlined in ¶355 of the 2016 Book of Discipline, education on the NYS Paid Family Leave Act, how they differ, and how they might be used in conjunction to best serve our churches.

    UNAC2018.8-Funding Ecumenical Inter-Faith Leaders, supported

    This resolution called for the Upper New York Conference, at least every fourth year, [beginning the very first year when there is not yet a major presenter already engaged] provide a major presentation [or focus on sacred texts by a significant leader of a differing non-Christian faith during Conference Sessions, including settings for total and smaller group dialogue with the presenter.

    This resolution also called for time made available during each year’s Annual Conference gathered sessions for brief greetings by leaders of differing Christian perspectives and different faiths.

    UNYAC2018.9-Location of Annual Conference, not supported

    This resolution called for change of location of Upper New York’s Annual Conference beginning in 2020 based on region. Specifically, this resolution called for Annual Conference sessions to be held once every four years the Albany region and the Buffalo/Rochester region with sessions during the three intermittent consecutive years remaining in Syracuse.

    UNY2018.10-Non-Binary Gender Resolution, supported

    This resolution called for the Upper New York Annual Conference Statistician and the Director of Connectional Ministries to work with the General Council on Finance and Administration to add a “non-binary” column to the membership gender section of the statistical tables to allow the reporting of members who do not identify as male or female, beginning with the 2018 statistical report.

    UNY2018.11- Statistical Reporting, withdrawn

    This resolution called for Table 3, Line 52t of the Statistical Report for Upper New York Annual Conference local churches to be amended to request reporting only the income used to pay the expenses reported on Table 2, lines 41a-47 Local Operating Expenses. Further, Line 53, pertaining  to benevolent and mission giving  to include to  instruction  to  report “income used to  pay Ministry Shares, pension and health billing, and other  connectional support billing.”

    This resolution also called for the Ministry Shares apportionment formula be published in a clear, complete and transparent manner, and be affirmed by vote of the Annual Conference, every year.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    Bishop Webb celebrates many at the Service of Blessing and Anointing

    June 1, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Service of Blessing and Anointing was held June 1 at the 2018 Annual Conference session at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena.

    It was a celebration! InsideOut had the crowd singing verses from Father Let your Kingdom Come at many times throughout the service:

    “You make all things new
    You make all things new
    In places we don’t choose
    You make all things new.”

    This service was a time for Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb to recognize many important people throughout the UNY Conference.

    Honoring retirees

    All retirees were recognized with their number of years of service. The total years of service to the United Methodist Church among the retirees was 884 ½ years.

    The retirees are:

    • Rev. Theodore Carl Anderson, 43 years of service
    • Pastor James E. Barnes II, 23 years of service
    • Rev. Bonita L. Bates, 27 years of service
    • Pastor Alan S. Bill, 16 years of service
    • Rev. K. Wayne Butler, 40 years of service
    • Pastor Gail Conners, 13 years of service
    • Rev. Gail Falsetti, 13 years of service
    • Pastor Mark E. Flandreau, 9 years of service
    • Rev. Carl E. Getz, 7 years of service
    • Rev. Alan G. Howe, 39 years of service
    • Rev. Bradford Hunt, 42 years of service
    • Pastor Richard C. Hurd, 23 years of service
    • Rev. Tae Kun Kim, 30 years of service
    • Pastor Jeri O. Kober, 14 years of service
    • Rev. Donald M. Langreck, 42 years of service
    • Rev. Lawrence E. Lundgren, 44 years of service
    • Rev. John W. McNeill, 36 years of service
    • Rev. Sara G. Merle, 20 years of service
    • Rev. Ray M. Noell, 21 years of service
    • Rev. Anne H. O'Connor, 32 years of service
    • Rev. Nancy S. Preston, 5 years of service
    • Pastor Kathy L. Reese, 10 years of service
    • Rev. Ann E. Robinson, 29 years of service
    • Rev. Brian T. Rotach, 39 ½ years of service
    • Rev. William S. Rowe IV, 30 years of service
    • Pastor Brian K. Scharf, 25 years of service
    • Rev. Robert O. Sherburne, 46 years of service
    • Rev. E. Allen Siebold, 49 years of service
    • Pastor J. Elyse Skiles, 11 years of service
    • Pastor Patricia L. Walz, 10 years of service
    • Rev. Lawrence J. Wiliford, 45 years of service
    • Rev. Terry Sue Wiliford, 19 years of service
    • Rev. Byron Lee Williams, 32 years of service

    Honoring Ordinands and Commissioners

    Bishop Webb also recognized those who will be ordained or commissioned on June 2.

    Those who will be commissioned to perform the duties of the Ministry of Elder are:

    • Cheryl Ann Brown
    • Raymond C. Gilman IV
    • Linda Kay Haight
    • Melissa Marie Killenberger McCarthy
    • Hector D. Rivera
    • Lisa Dawn Taylor

    And Jessica Faye Glasser will be commissioned to perform the duties of the Ministry of Deacon.

    Those who will be ordained as elders are:

    • Stephanie Jo Brown
    • Kevin Duane Slough
    • Paul D. Winkelman

    And James (Jim) Edward Barnes II will be received into Associate Membership.

    Those who will be ordained as elders as well as Jim were asked John Wesley’s historical questions, to which they all responded “yes.”

    Honoring the Cabinet

    The Upper New York Cabinet was also recognized for their service to the Upper New York Conference.

    “I don’t want you to take this group of people for granted,” Bishop Webb. “We’ll make mistakes; we’ve made mistakes, but I can promise you this, there is not a decision made by this group that is not bathed in prayer … there is a unity in this body that is strong for the sake of the Church in Upper New York. I just want you to love on them for a minute.”

    The Rev. Wayne Butler, who is retiring July 1, was especially recognized as the Rev. Bill Mudge, who will be returning to the role of pastor at the local church level starting July 1 at the Baldwinsville United Methodist Church.

    The Rev. Carlos M. Rosa-Laguer was recognized as the new Niagara Frontier District Superintendent starting July 1. The Rev. Debbie Earthrowl was recognized as the new District Superintendent for the Adirondack District starting July 1.

    The Rev. Sherri Rood was recognized as serving as Dean of the Cabinet for the past three years and final year and for serving the Cornerstone District for her eighth year.

    “Sherri always makes sure to put fun into the Cabinet’s agenda,” Bishop Webb said.

    District Superintendent of the Crossroads District the Rev. Nola Anderson will be the new Dean of the Cabinet.

    Honoring new local church appointments

    All new appointments for each district were named by their respective District’s Superintendent.

    Lucina Hallagan, Kristen Allen, and Katie Allen delivered the litany to set the new appointments.

    Blessing and anointing

    Everyone at the service was invited to be blessed and anointed with oil (if they so chose). They were asked to bring the river rock they received at Opening Worship with their call written on it. Once they were blessed and anointed, they were able to lay their stone at the foot of a cross.

    The service ended with spirit-filled singing and clapping to the song, Build your Cabinet Here.

    At the end of the Service of Blessing and Anointing, Bishop Webb shared that the Conference would continue the worshipful spirit by addressing the Nominations Report. It was accepted.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    Recommendation results from AC2018

    June 1, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson

    Voting on the Upper New York Conference recommendations began in the morning plenary on June 1 and extended through the afternoon plenary at the 2018 UNY Annual Conference session held at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse.

    The results are as follows:

    Recommendation from the Accessibility Committee – Disability Awareness Weekend, supported

    This recommendation is for the Upper New York Conference to establish February 1-7, or another weekend chosen by the local church, to be designated as Disability Awareness Weekend and that a special offering may be received in local churches for promotion of awareness issues as well as ministries that provide opportunities for fuller inclusion of people with disabilities.

    UNY2018.SHRec.1 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team-Welcoming a Stranger, supported

    This recommendation invites Upper New York members to write letters to Congressional representatives urging them to support legislation that upholds civil and human rights for all migrants to United States; welcome immigrants and refugees in congregations; denounce xenophobic, racist, and violent reactions against migrants to the United States; and to consider becoming Sanctuary Churches.

    UNY2018.SHRec.2 – Recommendation from the Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel – Advocating for the Rights of Children Living Under Israeli Occupation, supported

    This recommendation advises the that the Upper New York Conference calls on the United States Senate, the House of Representatives, the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State to join with 196 other nations in ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to bring stronger international pressure to bear on Israel to comply with the Convention’s provisions, particularly those governing the treatment of children held in detention.

    It also advises the UNY Conference to call on the government of the United States to adhere to its own established law – in this case, the U.S. Assistance Act – by withholding military assistance from the State of Israel that would support  financing  Israel’s  military  detention,  interrogation,  abuse,  and  ill-treatment  of  Palestinian children; and that the members of this 2018 Annual Conference session take action by: 1) Relaying these two calls to their congregations; 2) Writing their members of Congress, as well as the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State, urging them to respond to our calls; and 3) Encouraging and facilitating their congregations to do the same.

    UNY2018.SHRec.3 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Committee – Fossil Fuels, supported

    This recommendation advises the Upper New York Conference to support the New York State Council of Churches’ push for the NYS Divest program in support of divestment legislation before the NYS Legislature, which calls for divesting from fossil fuels in the NYS pension funds.

    This recommendation also advises the UNY Conference to divest in fossil fuel in favor of renewable energy and encourages individuals and churches to prayerfully consider fossil fuel divestment of their funds.

    UNY2018.SHRec.4 – Recommendation from the Task Force for Immigration – Radical Hospitality, supported with combined amendments

    This recommendation advises that to better practice the art of “radical hospitality” and to better practice what the scripture of the Old and New Testaments call us to and the lifestyle and teachings of Jesus Christ call us to; that when our districts and/or our Conference is hiring people who will be the first point of contact a priority shall be that these people shall be a minimum of bilingual or more. So that the Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church may be even more faithful to God’s call to make disciples of all persons of all origins and all ethnicities.

    This recommendation was supported with combined amendments to change the language of “that when our Districts and/or our Conference is hiring people who will be the first point of contact, a priority shall be that these people shall be a minimum of bilingual or more.” To “that when our Districts and/or our Conference is hiring people who will be the first point of contact a priority shall be that these people shall be a minimum of bilingual or more, whenever possible and/or the District and Conference keep a database of multilingual people, who they are and the languages they speak as a resource.

    UNY2018.SHRec.5 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team – Specify Peace and Justice Coordinator, supported

    This recommendation advises the Upper New York Conference Rules Committee to include Peace with Justice Coordinator to the list of equalizing lay members based on position of leadership (Policies and Resolutions, Appendix II, V, C of 2017 UNY Conference Journal). This change would take effect beginning with the next Annual Conference session and remain in any future iteration of our rules to show our commitment to justice issues.

    UNY2018.SHRec.6 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team – Safe and Free from Firearms, not supported

    This recommendation advises the UNY Conference, all districts, congregations, and programs to affirm that no firearms will be allowed within the sanctuaries, the buildings, or any of the programs, or any of the lands owned by local churches or the Conference facilities, programs, or land. Law enforcement officers and others required by law to carry firearms at all times are exempted from this provision.

    This recommendation also advises that all churches and Conference sites shall post clear and visible signage that firearms are strictly forbidden on any of our properties or programs.

    TAGGED / Communications / Annual Conference 2018

    Rev. Jones explains how to get the past out of our eyes to attain an extraordinary future

    June 1, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    For more years than most, the most hapless team in baseball was managed by Charlie Brown, said Study Leader the Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones of Duke Divinity School. One of the problems with his winless team involved the team’s outfielder Lucy, who was always daydreaming and thinking of boys. But one day she comes up to the mound and tells her manager, “This time it is going to be different. I’m going to pay attention and do my best.”

    During the game a ball is hit to her and it comes closer and closer until it hits her on the head; the batter gets a home run. Lucy apologizes to her manger.

    “I wanted it to be different, but when the ball was in the air, I thought of all the other times and I lost my confidence,” Lucy said. “I guess you could say the past got in my eyes.”

    Rev. Jones said people often let the past gets in their eyes.

    “When we let that take over us and begin to pour over us, it’s hard to unlearn the brokenness,” he said. “We need to pay attention to formation; we need to learn how to unlearn the sin and develop patterns of holy living.”

    Rev. Jones said many think change is a matter of cognition, but Philippians 2 shows it’s not just about the mind; feelings are also involved.

    The Pixar movie “Inside Out” shows the power of emotions and how they drive so much of what we do. He said many think reason is all that matters, comparing reason to an elephant, and that emotions are the rider that can occasionally get us riding in the wrong direction.

    “But it’s the opposite; emotion is elephant and reason is the rider,” Rev. Jones said.

    To illustrate this, he gave an example of an elephant who chased a Jeep after it almost ran over its baby, driven to act by emotion.

    If we live with a sense of awe, Rev. Jones said, it reshapes our thinking and feeling, “then it’s about living, discipleship, how we engage in daily life.” He said it’s not just about thinking and feeling but what we do with our lives.

    Developing a Christian vision, discipleship, and leaders have been woven into the fabric of United Methodists’ lives, he said, which is why Wesleyans are so eager to start schools and build on the Sunday school movement.

    “If we are going to boldly move into our call, if we are really going to be able to understand the summons coming from God, we need to recognize all that needs to be unlearned so we can change.”

    A dean at a medical school once told students that half of what they learned would be obsolete by the time they graduated, but he didn’t know which half, so they had to learn it all. One student said the dean undersold that message, and as a 30-year-old oncologist, she must now treat each day as a new learning experience if she wants to be faithful to her profession.

    “We’re not thinking about that very well in The Church,” Rev. Jones said. “If we are going to boldly live our call, we have to be sure we are being formed and aligned with God so by the power of the Holy Spirit we see the world the way God sees it.”

    The good news is we can help each other along the way with holy friendships. Rev. Jones said holy friendships do three things:

    1. Holy friends are those who challenge the sins we come to love.
    2. Holy friends help us affirm the gifts we are afraid to claim.
    3. Holy friends help us dream dreams we otherwise wouldn’t have dreamed.

    “Friendship with God is manifest in prayer and manifest in befriending others because the more time you spend with friends, the more it begins to shape your imagination,” he said.

    Rev. Jones shared a story where his wife, Susan, tucked their son Ben into bed for the night. Before Susan left the room, Ben kissed her four time down her face and three times across. She asked Ben if he knew that he had formed a cross, to which he replied, “that’s how I planned it.” Rev. Jones and Susan recalled Ben had received the sign of the cross in water on his forehead in a Wesley Covenant Renewal Service and in ashes during Ash Wednesday. Ben used his creativity to give an innovative twist to a common church action, which also helped shape both his mother’s and father’s imaginations.

    Developing holy friendships and relationships where we challenge each other helps to execute dreams. People like Maggy Barankitse – who witnessed her village’s massacre but from the tragedy created a house of peace for children, Maison Shalom – result from this. When friendships are formed and dreams are executed, congregations dying in their old identity come together in a new pattern of ministry that brings life and vitality to the congregation, like in the church in Eastern North Carolina.

    “Do we have a willingness to do the hard work and endure the costs?” Rev. Jones asked.

    He said United Methodists don’t have money problems so much as they have vision and disciple problems.

    “We need to be dreaming dreams that otherwise wouldn’t have been dreamed … and then we will see extraordinary things,” Rev Jones said.

    Study Leader Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones says we must stop ‘going back to Egypt’

    June 1, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    Back in the early days of airplane travel, it took longer to go from east to west than west to east. One time, a plane flying from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles fell into heavy fog for a while.

    “The pilot said, ‘I have good news and bad news. First the bad news: We’re lost. The good news? Now we’re two hours ahead of schedule,’” said Study Leader the Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones of Duke Divinity School. “I think that’s a good comparison of where we are today.”

    Rev. Jones held his first study session in the morning on June 1 at the 2018 Annual Conference session at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.

    Rev. Jones said society is becoming more confused and bureaucratic – and doing so rapidly.

    “It used to be called ‘keeping up with the Joneses,’ and I’m a Jones, and even I can’t keep up,” he said.

    Rev . Jones said we don’t know where we’re going or why we’re going there. So, the study session focused on why we have gotten lost and how we can regain our direction.

    He pulled largely from the Book of Numbers during his speech, specifically chapters 10-21. Rev. Jones explained how the Israelites’ complaints went from trivial things to serious complaints about leadership, particularly complaints about Moses.

    “So much of the noise is coming from the shallow end of the pool. People who are most acutely aware of the distance with God are the most intimate with God, and that makes the longing even more intense,” he said. “The more intimate our relationship with God, the more we are shaped by prayer,” he said.

    In Numbers chapter 16, Korah rebels against Moses’ leadership, resulting in 250 deaths. “There is a crisis of leadership and something is not working,” Rev. Jones said.

    “The heart of problem is in Numbers 13 and 14,” he said, when the spies share both a majority report (the Israelites can’t go forward because of the obstacles ahead) and minority report (two said that despite the challenges ahead, God promised the land of Milk and Honey, so they must trust Him and move ahead).

    The Israelites wanted to return to Egypt, even if that meant returning to suffering and oppression because it was what was familiar.

    “Each one of us has a ‘back to Egypt’ part of our souls,” Rev. Jones said. “We get a glimpse of what God is calling us to do, and we get uncertain. And we say, ‘I don’t think so. Egypt sounds just fine to me.’ Oh how often we just settle for ‘going back to Egypt.’”

    He said the deepest problem is that we have lost our way, our sense of where we’re headed and the confidence that we might be able to get there.

    “Maybe the future is more than it used to be, but we must get centered and remember what it is to bear witness to God,” Rev. Jones said. “When we do that, we discover the capacity to boldly live into our call; it’s God summoning us to bear witness to the good news God provides us.”

    For that to happen, he said, we must realize our tendencies to “go back to Egypt” and allow God to work through us, in spite of us, and beyond us to change us.

    “It’s about a way of life where God becomes intimate to us, and we are able to see the world more and more as God sees it,” Rev. Jones said. “When you know what your purpose is … the world looks different, decision-making looks different, ministry looks different. It looks like what God intended when he created us.”

    He said people need to have a spirit of confession to be intimate with God.

    Rev. Jones also mentioned a church in an Easter North Carolina church had a large number of older congregants and prayed for young people to join their church. Their prayers were answered as refugees from Myanmar joined the congregation. They weren’t the young people the church expected, but the congregation practiced Christian hospitality, and the word spread back to Myanmar. Now about 75 percent of the congregation is from Myanmar.

    “When you’re intimate with God, amazing things can happen, but you better bring a crash helmet because you never know what will happen,” Rev. Jones said.

    Rev. Jones said a reporter asked him about statistics that a growth of atheism amongst young adults. He told the reporter it’s not growing atheism, it’s a sign of young adults’ boredom.

    “They want to see how God is lived in community,” he said. “They want to be at places where you need to wear crash helmets.”

    Rev. Jones ended with the story of Maggy Barankitse, giving attendees something to ponder.

    Maggy is a woman from Burundi forced to watch as people in her village were slaughtered. After the massacre, she gathered the children who survived and eventually had adopted 30 children. She founded Maison Shalom – a house of peace for the children, so they could have a brighter future. More than 20,000 children have lived and learned there. Leadership in Burundi viewed her as a threat and expelled her from the country.

    Rev. Jones once asked her what she prayed, and she told him, “Lord, let your miracles break forth every day, and let me not be an obstacle in any way.”

    Despite all the harm others cause in the world, Maggy focused on how she affects things, Rev. Jones said. “Maggy believed that miracles are going to break forth every day,” he said. “‘What people intend for evil, God can use for good,’ she said.”

    Maggy trusted God to work through her, in spite of her, and beyond her to change her, which helped her grow intimate with God. And amazing things happened and continue to happen in her ministry, as she continues to help Burundi from afar.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    Clergy and clergy spouses remembered at AC2018 Memorial Service

    June 1, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson

    On May 31 at the 2018 Annual Conference session, a Memorial Service was held to honor Upper New York clergy members and clergy spouses who have passed away since the 2017 Annual Conference session.

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb introduced the service.

    “I hope you know that we have been praying for you, that we love you, and that we thank you for making sacrifices so that your loved one could share their service with us,” he said. “We mourn with you and celebrate with you.”

    After echoing Bishop Webb’s sentiments, the Rev. Corey Turnpenny, pastor of the Whitney Point UMC, delivered the message. She explained that clergy must be comfortable with death. She expressed how when calls come in that someone has died, she responds with empathy and compassion, but when she hangs up the phone, she sighs.

    “The sigh contains all the grief and sadness anyone feels when someone dies but also expresses the weight we bear when having to suddenly readjust schedules and prepare to lead another worship service that needs to be meaningful and healing in just a matter of days,” she said.

    Rev. Turnpenny shared the story of Lazarus’ death from the Gospel of John. She described how she can relate to Jesus not coming right away.

    “I totally get Mary and Martha’s frustration that Jesus didn’t come right away,” she said. “But I also get where Jesus was coming from. I wonder if he let out a deep sigh too when he heard the news.”

    When Jesus finally comes to Mary and Martha, they cry out, “We know you’re the Messiah, we trust you, we know you’re here with us now, but couldn’t you have gotten here sooner? Couldn’t you have saved him?”

    Rev. Turnpenny expressed certainty that those who have lost loved ones could relate to these sentiments.

    Rev. Turnpenny feels that the next part of the story of Lazarus is the most teachable moment in the Bible. She said, “Good ol’ Jesus, he’s always teaching us, always revealing more of the truth and glory.”

    Jesus moves the tomb and raises Lazarus from the dead.

    “Death is not the worst-case scenario,” Rev. Turnpenny said. “In my opinion, the best part of this story is what happens after Lazarus comes out. … Lazarus was brought back to the community.”

    Mary and Martha had to loosen his bindings and bring him back to the community.

    Rev. Turnpenny went on to discuss the importance of community. She said, “It takes a village to raise the dead. Those we remember and celebrate tonight were part of that village for us.”


    Rev. Turnpenny personally knew one of the people honored during the Memorial Service, Brolin Parker, who greeted her at Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center when she was 12 years old. Meeting Brolin and her first trip to Sky Lake was the first time she felt the Holy Spirit. It’s what sparked her passion to pursue becoming a pastor.

    “I’m sure there are countless stories like that for all the saints we’re remembering tonight,” Rev. Turnpenny said. “And I have no doubt when they were raised into the next life, they were greeted by the most loving community imaginable! And now they’ve joined that great cloud of witnesses who continue to cheer us on. Their love remains with us and their example and legacy lead us onward as we work together to complete what Christ begins.”

    After Rev. Turnpenny delivered her message, District Superintendents named the clergy and clergy spouses being honored and lit candles for each of them.

    The following clergy and clergy spouses were remembered:

    • George Aberle 
    • Susan Andrews
    • Marco Araujo   
    • Alden Asbornsen            
    • Janet Atkins       
    • Barbara Beaudry              
    • Thomas J Bement           
    • Bruce Benson   
    • Benson Benton
    • Robert S. Boston             
    • Helen Bowen    
    • Herbert B. Bowen           
    • Leland Leslie Bowman   
    • Retha Brown     
    • William Alan Burnop Jr  
    • Rene Carrillo      
    • Laura Chatelle  
    • R Carol  Coltrain
    • Mary Cunningham          
    • Robert H. Darling             
    • Margaret Easton              
    • Myron  Ellsworth            
    • Dorothy (no pic) Emerson           
    • Rosella S Ewen 
    • Della Finney      
    • Margaret Harrington      
    • F Ray Hazlett     
    • Ruth Huff           
    • Helen P. Jones  
    • Robert A. Jones
    • William A. Kark 
    • Douglas G. Lathorp         
    • Robert B. Lewis
    • M. Edward Lincoln          
    • Lyle Linder         
    • "John Lee ""Jack""" Love              
    • Allen Lum           
    • Daniel T. Moore
    • Martha Munson              
    • Brolin Christopher Parker            
    • "Edith ""Edie""" Poland 
    • William Reeder
    • Ronald  Rhodes
    • Charles A. Rudd
    • Donald  Scandrol              
    • Jo Ellen Shea     
    • Leo Sidman        
    • Verne Slighter  
    • Robert William Smith    
    • Karen Patrice Snyder     
    • Shirley Spencer
    • Walter Edmund Taylor   
    • Ruth Thornton 
    • Nan Valencia     
    • William N. Walter            
    • Erwin James Wendt       
    • Thelma Sue West            
    • Wiley White      
    • Beatrice Whitney            
    • Jessie Marie Willkens

    TAGGED / Communications / Annual Conference 2018

    Actions taken during Trustees Report

    May 31, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson

    The Upper New York Conference Board of Trustees shared their report May 31 at the 2018 Annual Conference session during the afternoon plenary.

    President of the Upper New York Board of Trustees Rich Barling began by discussing the great energy and work happening in the United Methodist Center, making special mention of the Resource Center, Mission Central HUB, and the team spirit in all departments.

    “The feeling of mission and ministry is very evident,” he said.

    Rich Barling also updated the Conference on the fact that Trustees have come to an agreement to transfer Camp Findley and reported that ministries will continue there through Fit for Life.

    During the Trustees Report, the recommendation that the conference trustees be corporately authorized to sell, lease, convey, transfer, and exchange of real property or other real property interests associated with the Camp & Retreat centers. It was supported.

    Jack Keating, secretary of the Board of Trustees, reviewed property management the board oversees, which is currently 11 District parsonages and one Episcopal residence.

    “Since our last Annual Conference gathering, we acquired one of these district parsonages, and we believe that 2018 will see us add the 12th parsonage to complete the project of providing parsonages in each of our 12 districts,” he said.

    Vice President of the Board of Trustees Peter Abdella discussed the 2018 insurance program renewal as well as an update on the risk management program and water sensor program through Church Mutual Insurance Company.

    “The 2018 renewal was impacted by two significant losses and some unusual weather issues (high wind damage claims), which have impacted our pricing for this year,” Peter said. “While all coverage aspects of our Conference policies remain the same this year, including property and liability limits, deductibles, and policy terms, all churches across the Conference saw a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in their 2018 commercial multi-peril premium from Church Mutual.”

    Peter also encouraged all churches to install water sensors, which are available to them at no cost from Church Mutual.

    Closed churches were honored for the work they have done and were each recognized by their respective District Superintendents.

    The following churches closed since the 2017 Annual Conference session:

    Blockville UMC, Jamestown: New Beginnings UMC, Fellowship UMC, Coopers Plains UMC, Lockwood UMC, Binghamton: High Street UMC, Perrysburg-Dayton UMC, Earlville UMC, Ellenburg UMC, Watervliet UMC, Stannards UMC, Kenyontown UMC, Rexford, and Vestal: Calvary UMC.

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb said, “We celebrate the legacy that these churches leave. Ministries continue because of who these congregations were in their lives and their ministries.”

    The Rev. Alan Kinney, retired, requested a report of the funds the Board of Trustees used and earned in the latter half of 2018 to increase the board’s transparency. The Board of Trustees agreed to do so.

    The Board of Trustees Report was accepted.

    TAGGED / Communications / Annual Conference 2018

    Mold discussion dampens Commission on Equitable Compensation Report

    May 31, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    The Rev. Lauren Swanson, chair the Conference Commission on Equitable Compensation, presented the commission’s report May 31 at the 2018 Annual Conference session.  

    “It has been our mission to equip struggling local churches to establish sound financial footing so they can build leadership capacity, make disciples, and transform the world,” Rev. Swanson said. “We have done this by supplying short-term grants to help bridge short-term setbacks that hinder the ministry of local churches. The Commission has worked in concert with the Bishop’s Cabinet to encourage right-sizing appointments and other local church staffing in order to secure good financial footing for both the local church and the Conference.”

    This year, the Commission on Equitable Compensation brought five recommendations before the Conference.

    The first was to set the minimum base salary level guaranteed to pastors for the budget year 2019 (there was no change from the base salary approved for 2018). The second recommendation proposes a change in the years of service increment (found on page 52 lines 18-21 in Journal volume 1). The third recommendation (found in the Journal on page 52, lines 22-23) involved a provision for additional salary for multi-point charges that reads, “Plus an additional $500 for each additional church on the pastoral charge (over one), not adjusted for part-time appointments.” (No changes are proposed to this item, but it needs to be approved annually a part of our compensation policies.) The fourth (in the Journal on page 52, lines 27-30) helps pastors keep pace with the increase in the cost of living – this year’s amount is a suggested 1.4 percent increase.

     Those four recommendations were moved before the Conference, voted upon, and approved with little discussion.

    The fifth recommendation was a bit more discussion-intensive.

    The CCEC’s last recommendation (found in the Journal on page 52, lines 39-40) was a clarification and addition to the clergy housing policy. According to Rev. Swanson, the addition makes clear the church’s obligation to ameliorate any existing health threats with the addition of a sentence saying, “The presence of any health threat shall be remediated including, but not limited to: lead and uncontained asbestos.”

    Then, the Rev. Heidi Chamberlain, of the Malone: Centenary United Methodist Church, proposed an amendment to include the word “mold” after the colon.

    Her amendment was seconded, and Rev. Chamberlain described her plight. She has been paying a mortgage on a house she has not been able to live in because of a water leak that produced black mold, making it an unhealthy and unsafe dwelling in which to reside.

    “Mold precludes clergy family from being safe and healthy in a home environment,” she said. “I would like to encourage UNY to blaze the trail to make sure that we as the clergy of this Conference and our families are safe in our parsonages.”

    The Rev. Pam Klotzbach, pastor of the Attica: Trinity UMC, spoke against the amendment, saying that a lot of times, mold is caused by a previous occupant and not the church that owns the parsonage, so the church should not be responsible for paying for mold remediation.

    Marthalyn Sweet, a member of the Governour UMC and a self-proclaimed “pastor’s kid” – she’s the daughter of the Rev. Beckie Sweet, pastor of the Kenmore UMC – recalled an asthma attack she had while running on a treadmill in a damp parsonage basement.

    “It doesn’t matter where the mold comes from, clergy needs to be housed in safe environment, especially if kids are in it,” she said.

    After more discussion, a couple of amendment proposals, and some clarification, the question was called on all things before the Conference by the Rev. Childs, pastor at the Penn Yan and Penn Yan: The Living Well UMCs.

    The call for the question was supported. First the amendment to add “mold” was voted upon. It was supported. Then the fifth CCEC recommendation was voted upon and supported. Lastly, the Rev. Swanson moved the report for acceptance. It was accepted.

    TAGGED / Communications / Annual Conference 2018

    Business as usual during Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits Report

    May 31, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    The Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits presented their report Thursday at the 2018 Annual Conference Session at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.

    The board’s Chair, the Rev. Mary Rublee, started by acknowledging the board members.

    “The board is made up of dedicated and active individuals,” she said.

    According to Rev. Rublee, the board is responsible for management of a sustainable health insurance program and practices; development of policies and procedures to ensure the financial health of the pension and health plans; and investment of benefit funds to sustain current and future obligations.

    As a result of the board’s analysis of direct bill arrearages, a one-time forgiveness of unpaid direct billing amounts owed for 2014 and prior by churches was approved and executed in October 2017. The board is in the process of developing arrearage policies and procedures.

    There’s also an ongoing investigation of future health care plans that will serve the needs of those covered while balancing the issues of equitable funding from all parties.

    Due to personal resources and priorities (i.e. finalizing asset fund allocations from previous conferences), the recommendations previously approved by the 2017 UNY Annual Conference session related to investment screenings and investment account recommendations has been referred to an Investment sub-committee of the Board.

    And, monitoring recommendations by the Council of Bishops Commission on the Way Forward Task Force, and pending decision of the General Conference in 2019, the board is in active/on-going discussions with Wespath Benefits & Investments to ensure that benefits remain secure.

    Rev. Rublee then shared 2019 benefit rates for local churches and the personal 2019 benefit rates for active clergy or full-time laity employees. For more comprehensive information on the benefit plan, view the UNY Comprehensive Benefit Funding Plan.

    Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits presented their recommendations. The first would set the 2019 Past Service Annuity Rate for Pension payments to retired Clergy with pre-1982 service at $645 per qualified service year prior to 1982, which is an increase of 1.1 percent over 2018 in recognition of the active clergy salary increases of less than 2 percent over the last two years and as a way to begin to address the unfunded liability in this pension plan.

    “The plan went from fully funded to underfunded as a result of the effects of using an updated mortality table. Additionally, we are in a season of a high numbers of retirements,” Rev. Rublee said. “This illustrates that being 100 percent funded is not sufficient, and we need to strive to be more than fully funded to weather actuarial fluctuations and market volatility.

    Rev. Rublee moved for acceptance of the recommendation. It was voted upon and accepted.

    The board’s second recommendation comes each year as required by the IRS and the General Church: the Housing/Rental Allowance Resolution, which allows retired and disabled clergy to claim their church pension, severance, or disability income as a housing exclusion.

    Rev. Rublee moved for acceptance of the second recommendation. It was voted upon and accepted.

    TAGGED / Communications / Annual Conference 2018

    Leadership Report presented comically, but discussion gets serious

    May 31, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    The Leadership Report was presented on a fun note, with Conference Lay Leader Susan Hardy describing how she thought her first meeting would go through a video of Conference Leadership Team members saying one-liners, sharing their opposing views as stats, and posing next to those stats.

    Then the Rev. Steve Taylor, of the Panama UMC, and the Rev. Andrew Sperry, of the Saratoga Springs: UMCWest, delighted the crowd with some hilarity, comparing and contrasting their opposing views, like how Rev. Sperry is a hardcore liberal who drives a fuel-efficient car and hangs out at the local organic-fair trade, bird-friendly, don’t-hurt-the-bees coffee shop or that Rev. Taylor is skinny jean-wearing, guitar-playing, contemporary song-singing, soul patch-sporting, deer-killing stereotype of a conservative pastor.

    But despite their comic banter, the crowd did learn a thing or two, like the mission of the UMC, the vision of the Conference, the purpose of the Conference, and the primary and secondary tasks of the Conference.

    CLT members Valerie Clark and Cornerstone District Superintendent the Rev. Sherri Rood took the stage next to discuss the leading portion of the L3 model, in which the CLT utilizes Ministry Action Plans (MAPs) that focus on a particular dilemma and logically lays out a transition from where we are to where we ant to be. MAPs also clearly define who is responsible for tasks and when the tasks should be accomplished, Valerie said.

    “Through the MAP process, we have already seen some great progress in our Conference,” Valerie said. “For example, since the last session of Annual Conference, the Mission Central HUB has opened … that was one of our MAPs.”

    The CLT has seen great success around MAPs for new faith communities. A goal was set to launch 100 new faith communities by 2020, and since that time, there have been 107 new faith communities launched, with 81 still active.

    “That’s right, and don’t forget about the fact that we were able to pay 100 percent of our General Church apportionments for the second year in a row,” the Rev. Rood said. “Just a few years ago, we payed less than 60 percent, and the MAP process has been very helpful in getting us to this healthy financial place.”

    The MAPs process has also been introduced to the District Leadership Teams.

    After more discussion of MAPs, Susan took the stage again.

    “Sherri said it so eloquently, ‘We can’t know where we are headed if we don’t know where we are,’” Susan said. “And, friends, there is one tool available to us to help us know where we are that many of us are not taking advantage of. I’m speaking of VitalSigns. This is software that we already pay for through our Ministry Shares, and it helps us track key information, like worship attendance, baptisms, professions of faith, and so on. It only takes a few minutes each week to enter this data, and, guess what: If you enter your data weekly, it will automatically load the annual data you are required to enter into Ezra.”

    The CLT ended their report with a recommendation that every UNY congregation be required to use the VitalSigns Dashboard starting Sept. 1, 2018, which generated much discussion. 

    The Rev. Cathy Hall Stengel, of the Rush UMC, spoke against the recommendation, saying the deadline was unrealistic, that internet access isn’t available at every church, the work will fall on the pastor, and that she’s confused by the platform because she already knows enough about her church and where it is going.

    Pastor Nate Lange, of the Middleport UMC, said he is a huge proponent of technology, but mandating the use of VitalSigns could put a strain on smaller churches. “There must be a better way,” he said,

    Chaplain Capt. the Rev. Keith Manry said as part of his job as a U.S. Air Force chaplain, he must report data daily. He said many chaplains have fought it, but by recording the data daily, it provides real-time information to commanders and staff to make changes of direction and is much more accurate than trying to play catchup. “I thank the Conference for being visionary in this,” he said.

    The Rev. Dawn Quesenberry, of the Delevan and West Valley: Saint Paul’s UMCs spoke in favor of the recommendation, saying that her church uses it, that VitalSigns should be something done at the lay level, and that deadlines are important.

    An equalization member spoke against the recommendation, saying her church does not have internet and that using VitalSigns could be difficult for many small churches.

    The Rev. Robin Blair, of the Ithaca: Forest Home and Common Good Radio UMCs, said she disliked the mandatory component of the recommendation and thought that data would not be collected for her benefit. “I like technology and helping us move forward, but this doesn’t feel like that,” she said.

    And then came an amendment.

    The Rev. Stephen Cady, of the Asbury First UMC in Rochester, proposed striking “required” and adding “strongly encouraged” to the recommendation. It was seconded. “If it is strongly encouraged, maybe more churches will start to use it and help others to use it.”

    After a speech in favor of the amendment, the Rev. Merle Showers, retired, called the question on all before the Conference. The call was supported.

    The amendment was voted upon and supported.

    The Rev. Naomi Annandale tried to clarify some information, but Bishop Webb ruled it was out of order. But Rev. Annandale got another chance at the mic after the Rev. Robert Dean, of the Main Federated Church, asked a question about how to record information for churches with more than one society.

    The recommendation as amended was then voted upon and supported.

    TAGGED / Communications / Annual Conference 2018

    Bishop Webb opens worship at AC18 with a message to acknowledge Christ

    May 31, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    “Are you persistent in your pursuit of God, or is it a hobby? Do you strive to experience and claim the things of God with the same diligence that you strive to experience and claim the things of the world? ... What is your response when Jesus says ‘Who do you say I am?’”

    These are just a few of the questions Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb asked at Opening Worship on May 31 at the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference session held at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse.

    The theme of this year’s Annual Conference session is Together in Prayer: Boldly Living our Call. In addition to Bishop Webb’s sermon Wade in the Water, worship music was performed by InsideOut, a biblical message from the Gospel of Mark was shared, and two Conference members re-enacted a scene as historical witnesses with sound advice; this service emphasized the importance of acknowledging Christ by boldly living our call.

    Phil Eisenman, dressed in a robe, portrayed the role of Daniel. After explaining how he was a faithful Israelite in Babylonian captivity, Daniel shared the following advice: “My lesson for you today: Stay faithful as you boldly acknowledge YHWH. Follow God’s call on your life so that you will be able to find God even in the most unlikely of places and offer YHWH’s love to the world around you. Undergird everything you do with prayer, fasting, and devotion as your let your life acknowledge, follow, and offer the great I AM to the world around you.”

    Rebecca Jensen played the role of Georgia Harkness, the first woman to teach theology at an American seminary. She spoke of the importance of loving our neighbors with our whole being – widows, orphans, immigrants, and all on the margins of society. Georgia said, “Develop a hunger to read and learn all you can and offer God by encouraging one another to do the same. No matter where we might find ourselves on the theological spectrum, the meaning of the cross and the power of the resurrection must stand as central to our quest to acknowledge God, follow God, and offer God.”

    Lisa Kisselstein shared the Bible passage of Mark 8:27-38, in which Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” Only Peter answers correctly, saying that he is the Messiah. The Rev. Nancy Dibelius, UNY Conference Associate Director of Spiritual Life for Vital Congregations, described the scene where Jesus asks his disciples this important question on a hot, dry, dusty road – she asked the crowd to envision they are on this road with the disciples and to acknowledge how they feel when Jesus says, “Who do you say that I am?”

    In Bishop Webb’s sermon, he admits that his answer about who Jesus is isn’t as powerful or as confident as Peter’s response. He reminds the crowd of the truth of Jesus through the following biblical passages:

    1. Mark 6.35: “I am the bread of life; they who come to Me shall not hunger, and they who believe in Me shall never thirst.”
    2. John 8.12: “I am the light of the world; they who follow Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”
    3. John 10.9: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, they shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.”
    4. John 11.25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life; they who believe in Me shall live even if He dies.”
    5. John 14.6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

    Bishop Webb urged UNY members to acknowledge this identity of Christ. He said, “If we are to boldly live our call – if we are to be effective in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ – our identity must be grounded in the identity of Christ. We must acknowledge Christ! We must acknowledge who Christ is, not based on who the world says he is or based on our ideas, our definitions, our understandings, but on who Jesus said he was in word and in action. We must confess Jesus as our Savior and Lord.”

    Bishop Webb described the necessity for all to continue to wade in the waters of their baptismal call. He said, “God stirs our spirits and invites us to wade in the water. With the waters of baptism, God reminds us who we are because of who God is and invites us to wade in the water. With the waters of baptism, we hear God’s 'yes' in our lives, so we can say, 'yes' to God and wade in the water. With the waters of Baptism, we acknowledge who Jesus is, choose to follow His way and become determined to offer Christ in word and action to the world around us.”

    Opening Worship ended with Communion, whereby UNY members were asked to reaffirm their Baptismal call. They each selected a stone to carry with them as a reminder to acknowledge Christ and boldly live their call. The Opening Worship offering will support the UNY Mission Central HUB.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    Session shares examples of laity boldly living their call

    May 31, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    Laity Session for the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference session kicked off promptly at 7 p.m. May 30 at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Upper New York Conference Lay Leader Susan Hardy started the evening with an introduction of Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb, noting how he has equipped and empowered other leaders in UNY.

    Bishop Webb took the stage, thanking laity for their ministry.

    “Continue to be open to the surprising things that God wants to do in you, through you and in spite of you,” Bishop Webb said. And he also challenged the laity to go to church this Sunday and pray this simple prayer: “Give us an opportunity, oh God, to reach one more person in Christ.” 

    Associate Conference Lay Leader Drew Griffin addressed the crowd next, starting with some housekeeping details and later urging the laity to give as generously as they could during the collection of the Helping Hands Fund – which assists laity during extreme times of financial need. The Board of Laity was acknowledged for their service before Susan took the mic once more.

    Don’t stay crippled by anything separating us from God

    Susan pointed out that the Board of Laity report in the AC Journal Vol. 1 only contained information from May 2017 to early February 2018.

    “Did the clock stop for those of us in leadership?” Susan asked. “No.”

    She said the board continued to meet electronically to plan for Laity Session, nominate laity for leadership on Conference teams, participate in District Days, and more.

    “And now, here tonight in Syracuse, N.Y., we gather as laity to celebrate and affirm examples of the ministries of laypersons of the Upper New York Annual Conference,” she said. “Truly, each one here is boldly living their faith.”

    Susan said the laity have models for courage of equipped and empowered laity in scriptures like Acts 3: 3-8, where disciples Peter gives a crippled beggar something stronger than money: in the name of Jesus Christ, he healed the beggar so he could walk.

    Susan said she spent about 20 years outside the walls of any church, crippled by pride. A disciple of Christ invited her to go to Brocton Tri-Church Parish.

    “I walked right into love and faith when I entered those open doors. When I ponder that cripple outside the walls, I understand how that was me or you or any of us,” she said. “Here I am, speaking to a crowd of United Methodist laypersons. Are we sinners? Oh, yes. But is that the end of our story? No. We do not have to remain buried in our sin. We do not have to stay crippled by anything separating us from our loving God. … Let’s put down our hammers of judgment. Let’s melt those nails of human pride.”

    Youth need help to boldly live their call

    Sam Smith, representing youth as a Board of Laity member, started his speech with a letter written by his Conference Council on Youth Ministry Co-Chair Maria Schermerhorn, who always felt a calling to be a nurse and is now boldly living that call in studying to become one.

    “It’s not always easy for young people to live their call,” Sam said, mentioning youth he encountered that have felt a calling but can’t or won’t pursue it for various reasons, from financial to lack of support from peers or congregations. “Youth are how The Church continues to grow and thrive throughout the year.”

    Sam said youth need to be acknowledged and accepted in order to live their call.

    “I want to make sure that all the youth that feel a call get the support they need to make their call a reality,” he said, challenging the crowd to help support youth in any way they could.Nikki and John Hrustich share their call to create Southern Tier MobilePack.

    A call that “unfortunately” involved hair nets

    Nikki and John Hrustich from the Whittemore Hill United Methodist Church shared their faith journey that led to the creation of Southern Tier MobilePack, a Feed My Starving Children food packing event that helps feed chronically malnourished children around the world.

    The start of their journey began in 2014 when their nephew was of a group called BonaResponds at St. Bonaventure University that hosted a MobilePack event. They needed help, so the Hrustiches, with their two sons, pitched in.

    “We didn’t know then what this would lead to,” John said. “Feed My Starving Children doesn’t use machines to package their meals because they realize the impactful experience of packing the meals by hand. It transforms this from just ‘something good to do’ into doing, something deeply personal. In those two hours, God reached in and touched our hearts. He had a plan for us, and unfortunately, it involved hairnets!” 

    The Hrustiches felt God was calling them to set up their own food packing event, and He kept calling until the Hrustiches founded Southern Tier MobilePack. Their next event is Nov. 2-3 at the Endwell UMC.

    “Our faith journey hasn’t ended – it’s only begun,” Nikki said. “I would like to close today by asking, “What God is calling you to do? Are you listening?”

    Finding God in disaster

    Donna and Roger Cullen, chairs of Volunteers in Mission, shared stories of VIM helping survivors of natural disasters.

    One example involved VIM teams helping a downtrodden son trying to repair his mother’s home on his own after Superstorm Sandy who gave up because he thought his life choices left him “on the left side of God.” At the end of the project, not only was the home rebuilt, but the man's faith in God’s answer to prayer and reinstatement to “the right side of God” was restored.

    “We are familiar with scenes of destruction, devastation, and sheltering, from news reports at disasters,” they said. “When the water recedes and the fires go out, we turn to our routine. Life for the survivors evolves into quiet desperation as emergency activity transitions into recovery, and recovery grinds on interminably. Once the TV cameras are turned off, help falters and hope fades.”

    The United Methodist Committee on Relief and VIM help return families to hopefulness with solid material help and a ministry of presence.

    “Christian Love in Action”

    The Rev. Tom Lank, Northeastern Jurisdiction Coordinator of VIM, shared VIM’s motto, “Christian Love in Action," which comes from 1st John 3:18.

    “We are all about helping you respond to the love of Christ by loving your neighbor,” he said. “There is a theologian named Frederick Buechner who talks about vocation, and he says that you are called to be where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger. That is true of your calling in mission, too. God has placed you like puzzle pieces jumbled up among each other, some scattered to opposite ends of the globe, but with a purpose to come together and make something beautiful.”

    Rev. Lank shared information about UMVIM Awareness Sunday, which General Conference has called for churches to observe.

    “Since you, the laity, are the lifeblood of the UMVIM movement, we are recommending that you celebrate this in your congregations on Laity Sunday in October … ” he said.

    Rev. Lank also shared some ways UMVIM can help laity get involved in mission, including trainings and toolkits, as well as opportunities to volunteer.

    “There are more opportunities out there to be the hands and feet of Christ than you could ever imagine. They will revitalize your faith. … They will draw others to faith because you are shining the light of Christ into the darkness,” he said. “God is at work everywhere renewing, healing, and redeeming. The only question that remains is, ‘How will you join God along the way?’”

    “Let’s journey together”

    UNY Mission Central HUB Director Mike Block discussed his role of equipping local church and Conference leaders to be the “hands and feet of Jesus,” providing help and hope to people in times of disaster.

    “Let’s face it, we all are part of a mission engagement somewhere or will be sometime,” Block said. “I can help provide, learn, or assist in the ‘what’s available’ comments. Come, let’s journey together.”

    He shared mission opportunities going on at Mission Central HUB as well as those in districts and churches throughout the Conference.

    “Let’s find a way to not only share them, but maybe even create new ones learned from other areas,” he said. “Please share with me the different missions and mission-like activities you’re already doing.”

    Drew closed the Laity Session with the benediction, saying, “Christ has no body now on Earth but yours, no feet but yours.”

    “Help us to boldly step out and bring that one more person to your kingdom to glorify your world,” he said.

    TAGGED / Communications / Annual Conference 2018

    Being God’s love in downtown Syracuse

    May 30, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    To many people leaving work in downtown Syracuse, it may have seemed like an ordinary, hot and humid late May Wednesday—until they heard a Christian rock band jamming out with a crowd around them.

    Wednesday May 30, 2018 marked the second annual Celebrating Christ in the City, an outdoor worship event held in Syracuse’s Columbus Circle. The event, open to the public, was sponsored by the Syracuse United Methodist Ministries (a collaboration of seven United Methodist churches in Syracuse).

    The late afternoon event began with praise and worship led by local contemporary Christian rock band, A Beautiful Mess. Tim Ehrhart, the lead singer of the band, invited God’s spirit to join the attendees, reminding everyone that “When (God’s) spirit is here, we have perfect peace, perfect joy, and answers to problems are revealed.” Tim recognized that Syracuse is a city that needs prayer and God’s healing.

    After a few upbeat songs celebrating Christ’s love for all, the Rev. Andy Anderson introduced the seven churches that make up the Syracuse United Methodist Ministries: Bellevue Heights UMC, University UMC, Brown Memorial UMC, Erwin First UMC, Hope Korean UMC, Gethsemane UMC, and St. Paul’s UMC. Rev. Anderson passionately asked for everyone to “open your hearts to receive what God has in store for us.”

    Three members of the Syracuse United Methodist Churches shared their faith journeys. Each testimony was different, yet all poignantly showcased God’s love.

    Charlie, a member of Bellevue UMC, shared how he had an ordinary life—he grew up in a faith-based family, married a wonderful woman, had three children, a successful career, and good health. Recently, this changed when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Initially he thought, “no big deal—it’s not a bad cancer—it can be treated easily.” The doctors informed Charlie otherwise; they told him it was aggressive. Charlie went through surgery that removed the cancer, yet shortly after, it came back. Charlie then went through nearly 50 rounds of radiation and enjoyed good health for a few months, but the cancer came back. Doctors informed Charlie that he would always have cancer.

    Despite the knowledge that he has a terminal illness, Charlie wakes up every day asking what he can do for God that given day. He said. “Everyday, God gives me something to do—not Mother Theresa or Billy Graham stuff, but still important stuff.  Today, he asked me to let you all know that God blesses you all and the good things you do.”

    Sylvia, a member of St. Paul’s UMC, explained how she grew up going to church—she learned about how God loved her, but she didn’t believe it. She always wondered, “How could God possibly love me, after all I have done?” She lived with shame, as many people do.

    As Sylvia grew older and had children of her own, she became familiar with a love so strong that no matter what her children did, no matter how rebellious they were at times, she still loved them. It occurred to her that that is how God loved her. Sylvia said, “I didn’t have to deserve God’s love. It was a gift…I know even when I waver, no matter what, God loves me!”

    Tina, a member of University UMC, shared how God called her to change churches, when she was just 14 years old in Africa. She had told her mother about this calling, about God’s message for her to change from a local church to a church that was a 4-hour walk each way to spread his love. Tina is still spreading God’s love today.

    After the powerful testimonies, the Rev. B.J. Norrix, leader of the Syracuse United Methodist Ministries, delivered a message about hope. He shared, “You can go three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without air, but you can’t last three seconds without hope.”

    Rev. Norrix explained how hope is what gets us moving even if we don’t feel like it. He said, “Hope is always there no matter what struggles you face. In Jesus, you can have hope to rise again.”

    The Rev. Andy Anderson closed the event with a benediction. He said, “In despite hopelessness you may be experiencing, we are here to walk with you toward hope.” People were invited to meet with one of the pastors to be introduced to Jesus or to receive laying of the hands and prayer.

    The Syracuse United Methodist Ministries intends on hosting this event every year. It’s a true expression of the Upper New York Conference’s mission “to be God’s love to our neighbors in all places.”

    With more than 168,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 86 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."