How Tending the Soul shaped my work as a Pastor and Spiritual Director
July 19, 2019 / By Rev. Dr. Michelle Bogue-Trost
Editor’s Note: Tending the Soul, open to both laity and clergy, is a program designed to train individuals in Missional Spiritual Direction and Congregational Formation. The two-year training program (which takes place during six retreats) offers learning and formational experiences in classroom and small group settings. The following is the Rev. Dr. Michelle Bogue-Trost’s reflection of Tending the Soul. Click here to learn more about Tending the Soul—the next two-year session begins November 11-14, 2019.
I was part of the inaugural group of Tending the Soul years ago, and its impact on my work and my life continues today. Tending the Soul was, for me, a formative experience that profoundly shaped my work as a Pastor and as a Spiritual Director. Learning to listen with another person for the presence and the nudging of the Holy Spirit has helped me help many persons with their unique spiritual journeys.
I began the training with the goal and hope that I could improve the ways I listen for God’s guidance, so that I could be a better listener with members of my congregation. I hoped to gain tools for discernment that I could put in my “toolbox,” to help me in my ministry. I gained that, but so much more. Walking with others through this learning helped me to listen more fully to God’s calling in my own life; it was reflected through the others on the journey, affirmed by them and by the retreat leaders, and deeply acknowledged in my own soul. This was an unexpected gift that I continue to treasure.
The work it has enabled me to accomplish has been deeply moving, as well. Often confronted with persons seeking a relationship with God and at a loss for how to begin, I found early in my ministry that I felt ill-equipped to partner with them. I didn’t have the words, or even the instinctive response I wished I had, and that they were looking for me to have. Tending the Soul taught me the art of listening and letting go of myself and my need to have the “right answer,” as well as the skill of simply sitting with someone and listening for God together. I learned how to ask questions and let the answers shape the listening. With these abilities, my ministry has been incredibly enriched. I have been blessed to partner with many persons since and have felt fulfilled in doing so.
When Churches Neglect Payroll Taxes
July 10, 2019 / By Rev. Susan M. Ranous
Your Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) want to share the following information with you:
An article written by Bobby Ross, Jr., in the Church Law and Tax Report, titled “When Churches Neglect Payroll Taxes,” stated that “failure to file payroll taxes on time is a fairly common issue” in churches. Some churches prioritize their electric bill over the IRS; others assume that because churches are tax-exempt that they don’t have to worry about anything from the IRS. The article even cited an example of one church that had to dissolve and sell its property in order to pay the taxes due to the IRS.
Most churches have employees. When a church has employees, there are certain requirements:
- Clergy appointed to a church is typically an employee.
- When a church has employees, clergy or not, payroll tax returns, including, but not limited to quarterly payroll reports and annual W-2 forms must be prepared and filed with the Internal Revenue Service. W-2 forms must also be provided to employees.
- If a church has non-clergy employees, Social Security, Medicare, federal and state taxes must be withheld and timely paid to the Internal Revenue Service and the state, as appropriate.
- If a church has clergy employees who have elected to have federal or state income taxes withheld, those taxes must be withheld and timely paid to the Internal Revenue Service and the state, as appropriate.
- If a church has clergy employees, the church MAY NOT withhold Social Security or Medicare tax from the employee.
The article goes on to talk about the two main risk scenarios:
“One is where the payroll processing is done internally by church staff, using the church’s payroll software and the risk is that the person(s) responsible for payroll do not actually remit the payroll taxes to the government.”
“The second scenario involves an outside payroll firm. “The church uses an outside payroll processing company to process payroll and the church remits the payroll taxes to the processing company, but the processing company doesn’t remit them to the government.”
Both scenarios can carry serious consequences. These consequences can include interest and penalty charges assessed to the church, as well as penalties assessed to any persons considered to be “responsible” by the Internal Revenue Service. These persons can include the persons who sign checks, persons who prepare payroll and the pastor.
If you have any questions about any of this information, please contact a Certified Public Accountant or a member of the finance staff of the Upper New York Conference, who can direct you.
26th Annual United Methodist Palestinian Dinner in Central/ Upper New York: A Catalyst for Peace?
July 9, 2019 / By Linda Bergh, co-chair, UNY Task Force on Peace w/ Justice in Palestine/Israel
How can people treat others that way?,” I thought, while listening to Huwaida Arraf tell of a five-year-old Palestinian child, suffering from cancer and officially admitted to an Israeli Jerusalem hospital, prevented from having the comforting presence of parents, a grandparent, family, or friends with him due to Israel's refusal to grant any of them permits. As our speaker, Huwaida, a Palestinian American lawyer and civil rights activist, told of the child's medical treatment but eventual death, while still longing for parents to be there, the spontaneous tears of this mother of young children herself brought audience tears and emotion in return. This was one example among many that have been shared over the years of Israeli injustice toward the Palestinian people.
An audience of 135 Palestinian Dinner attendees at the 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference, consisting of eight CCYM youth and their advisors, UNY Conference members, Syracuse-area friends and activists, and several Palestinian guests were present. At the end of an already full evening program, one young person asked, "How did this conflict between Israelis and Palestinians begin? We don't
learn about this in school." It was late! The audience breathed in. But Huwaida answered the question as succinctly, yet thoughtfully, as she could. How else can we learn?
Is this dinner, held annually during Annual Conferences for 26 years in both North Central and Upper New York, a possible step toward peace? Sponsored by the UNY-UM Task Force on Peace w/Justice in Palestine/Israel, this dinner's occurrence is known by United Methodists throughout the national church as they look for ways to make known the need for justice and peace for Christian and Muslim Palestinians under the Israeli Occupation.
A symbol, perhaps, or an all-too-familiar occurrence during Annual Conference, the dinner has afforded UNY United Methodists the opportunity to "contribute" in some small way. Whether through the $4,000.00 raised at this year's dinner and extra donations to go to four West Bank schools and clinics and scholarships for "justice-seeking" trips, or through contributions to "Luci-Lites", the solar-powered lights that enable electricity-starved Gazan children to do their homework, United Methodists have taken a step in enabling peace.
The Palestinian Dinner is the result of many dedicated volunteers and donors. It has been graced annually by greetings on behalf of the Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb.For it to continue, some new leadership will be required. It is hoped that newly-inspired United Methodists will step forward, called to action in response to the needs of Palestinians and Jews in Palestine/Israel for a life together of peace with justice.
Top five ways to help UNY Mission Central HUB this summer
July 8, 2019 / By UNY Communications
It’s finally summer here in Upper New York (UNY). The rains have let off, the sun is shining, and the temperature has warmed up beautifully. We hope you are enjoying this season!
While summer is a time of rest, renewal, and a whole lot of vacationing for Upper New Yorkers, our UNY Mission Central HUB is buzzing with hard work thanks to the UNY Director of Missional Engagement, Mike Block, and UNY Mission Volunteer Coordinator, MaryBeth Ingalls. These two dedicate their heart and time (even when not at work) to helping others…no matter what the weather is.
Some of the major projects that Mike and MaryBeth engage in are wheelchair ramp building, mission trips with UMCOR and VIM, and collecting and assembling UMCOR cleaning, hygiene, and school kits right here at the HUB.
While summer is a season when natural disasters aren’t as widespread as they are in the spring or fall, the sad news is that many people near and far are still in need of help from the past spring flooding and ongoing natural disaster occurrences.
This time of year, when donations to the UNY Mission Central HUB are drying up, disaster relief demand hasn't. The UNY Mission Central HUB needs your help. Here’s how:
- Prayer—that is number one. Pray for the victims of natural disasters and their families. Pray for the workers and volunteers at all Mission HUBs and VIM teams across the nation. Pray for the many churches connecting and being the hands and feet of God. Pray for each other to be what God made us to be.
- Monetary donations—by giving monetary donations, the UNY Mission Central HUB can order UMCOR kit supplies at wholesale prices in bulk and save costs.
- Volunteer—donate your time to UNY Mission Central HUB. Bring your group in to assemble or verify kits.
- Volunteer for mission work.
- Take a class for ERT at the UNY Mission Central HUB.
Click here to learn more or call the UNY Mission Central HUB at 315-898-2064.
Thank you for your past and future support.
CCYM Training Camp-an amazing experience
July 3, 2019 / By Danny Gekonge – Emmaeus UMC / Albany District Kathryn Helms – Brockport UMC / Genesee Valley District
Greetings from CCYM training camp! Here at Asbury Retreat Center, we participated in worship, games, and welcoming gestures. We sang lots of praise songs to get us energized and in a good mood. We lifted our voices to God many times every day. We used skits, lessons, and songs to teach messages about God. We served communion and had short services, one of which was around a warm campfire, where we sang even more praise hymns.
Also around the campfire, we roasted marshmallows and waved our glowsticks in the air. The community at CCYM was designed to make people feel welcomed and included. When we arrived at Asbury, we were immediately matched up with experienced CCYM members who showed us how things work and moved us into our rooms. The Welcome Committee even baked cookies! After this warm welcome, we gathered in the meadow and we did ice breakers. Each CCYM member was assigned a ‘Warm Fuzzy’ (another CCYM member) to show affection towards and make feel welcome. People hung encouraging signs on the wall and bought candy for their Warm Fuzzy. People became very creative with their gifts to others this week and did so secretly. At the end of the week, the identity of someone’s Warm Fuzzy is revealed after three guesses.
There’s no other way to say this: The food was amazing. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were not only healthy, but well organized. People signed up to set tables, then someone said grace, and then tables were called on to go and get food. There was always enough to have seconds, and it was always enough. There was also a snack shack that we could use during evening free time, to play games and get a late-night snack, if needed. Between table hospitality (the fancy term for setting the table) and the infinite supply of food, our meals were set up to be welcoming and comfortable for everyone.
Other activities we focused on at camp were about bonding. Building trust and connections is an essential part of the CCYM training camp experience. One of the first things we did together as a team was a game called Hog Call. Blindfolded, we tried to find our partners using a phrase that only our partners knew. We made new friends and it helped us to have more people to hang out with during camp. Overall, training camp was a productive, spiritual, and fun time that everyone enjoyed. We’re planning future events - stay tuned for more details.
UNY Mission Central HUB installs ramp in Syracuse’s Southside
July 1, 2019 / By UNY Communications
Editor’s Note: The Upper New York Conference’s Mission Central HUB has a phenomenal partnership with Operation Northern Comfort and has built more than ten ramps together for those in need. The latest ramp project took place earlier this month during the UNY Annual Conference for an 82-year old woman, Lucille Morris, who lives in a high-crime area of Syracuse’s Southside. Some may deter from helping someone who lives in a neighborhood ridden with crime, but those who worked on this project demonstrated the UNY Conference’s mission to Be God’s Love to neighbors in ALL places.
Lucille Morris is 82 and lives alone, with no family, on the Southside of Syracuse. She had a stroke in 2011, which affected her speech as well as her knees, shoulders, and ankles. She needs a total knee replacement and uses a walker and power scooter to get around.
Lucille is a very loving and caring person; before she had the stroke, she was very active in the community and does all she can now to maintain her independence, and whatever she can to help others.
Upper New York Director of Missional Engagement, Mike Block, teamed up with Operation Northern Comfort, to offer a Wheelchair Ramp project for Lucille’s home as a Mission Project to those attending the UNY Annual Conference. There were a few that helped the prebuild work at the UNY Conference Center and a few also came to the site to help.
This is what Mike Block said about the project,
“Prebuild site visits and design work started in mid-May with submission for the local Codes approval on May 24.
Now that all the planning was completed a prebuild date was set for June 4 at the Upper New York Conference office. The needed sections were built at the UNY Mission Central HUB to help offer less onsite time requirements (we aim to prevent the client from being trapped too long during construction).
On June 8, the site work began. By nine in the morning, the site was buzzing with activity and excitement. Things were going well until lunchtime. The apartments next door became very active with some not so pleasant sounds – yelling and screaming.
The situation increased in intensity to the point the police had to be called. Once it appeared the situation was calmed, we continued to work. Not long after, a young person appeared and was very upset with us calling the police. It became quite concerning to us to be on the lookout for friends supporting this person to retaliate because our involvement. Fortunately, nothing happened and as we finished, the team was glad to be done.”
Annie Johnson, Lucille’s spokesperson, was on site most of the day supporting our team and shared a heartfelt “Thank You” for the completed ramp!
Rule of Law documents now available
June 24, 2019 / By UNY Communications
During plenary on June 7 at the Upper New York Annual Conference, a rule of law was requested for both the UNYAC2019.2 resolution (“UNYAC Response to Actions of 2019 General Conference” found on pages 83-88 of the Upper New York Journal Volume I) and the UNYAC2019.3 resolution (“A Call for Structural Change” found on page 89 of the Upper New York Journal Volume I).
Upper New York Area Bishop, Mark J. Webb has prepared both Rule of Law documents.
Click here for the Rule of Law for Resolution UNYAC2019.2.
Click here for the Rule of Law Resolution for UNYAC2019.3.
Updated CF&A section of the Conference website
Your Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) have been working on developing the CF&A section of our Conference website. Some new arrivals on that section of the webpage include handbooks. The topics covered by these various handbooks is:
- Clergy Tax
- Finance and Standards
- Clergy Compensation
- Internal Church Audits
- Ministry Shares
- Two-part Handbook with multiple resources
You can locate these handbooks on the Conference website (unyumc.org), selecting “Finance” under “Resources” and then selecting Conference Council on Finance and Administration (on right-hand sidebar), where the handbooks are located.
As your CF&A, we take all of our tasks seriously, and hope to be a resource for all of you! These handbooks are part of that.
Lakewood UMC’s Blessing Box
June 18, 2019 / By Rev. Michael Childs, Pastor, and Nancy Meyer, Mission Chairperson Lakewood UMC
It all started with a clothesline and a cold winter in Lakewood, New York. In 2017, after much conversation among the Lakewood UMC Mission Team, it was decided to install a clothesline on the church property. The line was close to the road and easily accessible to the surrounding community. The line was filled with zip lock bags of all sizes containing hats, gloves, scarves, and socks – all which were donated by the LUMC congregation. As the winter grew colder, the line saw much use. We started to hang sweaters, sweatshirts and an occasional jacket or coat. The line was replenished whenever it was empty. Our congregation supported our efforts to keep our community warm that winter, and it was a true blessing for all – both giver and receiver.
Then mission chair, Nancy Meyer, heard of the Blessing Box. “What in heaven’s name is a Blessing Box?” you may ask. ”It’s an opportunity,” said Pastor Mike Childs, “for a person to bless someone else, or, for a person to receive a blessing and the whole process is anonymous!” It is like God’s Pantry and anyone is welcome to use it!
Missions team contacted Randy Davidson, husband of former Pastor Violet Davidson, and he agreed to construct the box for us. Lillian Brown added the finishing touch of praying hands to adorn the two front doors of the cupboard. Soon, Lakewood UMC erected the Blessing Box cupboard with guidance from Donald Thorp, Chair of Trustees and then Kurt Sturzenbecker and Doug Brown of Ol Dawg Renovations, LLC, kindly installed the box gratis.
The Lakewood UMC congregation held a service of dedication on October 14, 2018 and the response has been truly amazing. This 24/7 Lord’s Pantry Blessing Box has already helped countless individuals and families. “When you come up to this blessing cupboard, you will never know what items may be inside,” said the pastor.” There are some food items, paper products, cleaning supplies and miscellaneous. And the items will vary over time. If you need an item, please take it with God’s blessing! If you find that you have extra to share – you can drop off the item at any time.”
Our mission team will be seeking items from the congregation, so we can always keep items filled with the desirable items. They can also give monetary gifts and we will shop for the items needed. The clothesline was relocated next to the Blessing Box this past winter, providing warm clothing for adults and children.
Members of the community have embraced our ministry by donating hand-made hats and various other needed items. A local bank branch took up a food collection, just for the Blessing Box to show their support!
We stock seasonal items that may appeal to individuals at holiday times. For example, we had Easter baskets just prior to Easter and they were very popular. It continues to be a wonderful blessing to our community. Recently we’ve added note paper and pencil so people may leave a prayer request or a note of thanks or praise, so we can pray for them or their situation, or celebrate their life victories. It is another way we can connect to our local community. Such a blessing to us!
There is a great expectation that God will bless people in remarkable ways through this 24/7 Blessing Box ministry – The Lord’s Pantry.
Being the Change in the city of Syracuse
What would a day devoted to being the hands and feet of Jesus throughout a hurting city look like? Beautiful Mess Ministries, a Christ-centered movement that uses music and missional experiences to change culture through changed lives, illustrates a day like this through their annual “Be the Change” event.
“Be the Change" in the city of Syracuse is a Saturday filled with music and service as churches, businesses, and community groups come together to be in mission with partners around the city. The mission is to unify in music and mobilize in mission. This year on June 1, this ecumenical effort brought smiles of hope and healing throughout some of the most socioeconomically disadvantaged communities throughout Syracuse.
Brown Memorial United Methodist Church, a Beautiful Mess mission partner, was one of the sites where two of the 10 missional events took place on this sunny Saturday. Brown UMC is known for opening its doors to members of their community. Located on Syracuse’s West Side, this neighborhood has been verified as one of the most concentrated areas of poverty in the United States.
One of the events at Brown was a carnival for youth of all ages. Small children waited patiently for face paintings, played carnival games, and jumped for joy in the bounce house. Several tweens and teenagers had their nails painted and joined in on some games with the Liverpool United Methodist youth group. Youth of all ages were able to plant seeds in pots to bring home.
A free lunch was served to the dozens of community members who came for the carnival.
Mary Hoy is a member of Liverpool UMC—she brought the Liverpool youth group to volunteer at Brown Memorial UMC. She said, “Today has been awesome. This carnival is a great opportunity for kids to get outside, get some exercise and fresh air for free. It’s hard to find free fun…and this is a community that definitely needs it.”
In addition to the carnival, Brown Memorial UMC also had give always from their Clothing Closet which provides, at no-cost, brand new clothing to people who need it. While the kids played outside, their parents or caretakers had the opportunity to shop for new clothing or household goods. Individuals who sought hope and healing also had the opportunity to be passionately prayed for in Brown’s fellowship hall.
“Be the Change” ended with a concert at Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University Chapel. Tim Ehrhart, one of the founders of Beautiful Mess Ministries spoke about the healing that took place throughout the city through meals served, Blessing Bags distributed, and more. He said, “This wasn’t only about kids having fun at a carnival and hungry people getting served meals, it was about being covered with Jesus.”
Over 150 volunteers participated in “Be the Change.” One of the band members compared “Be the Change” to Nehemiah and other Israelites rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, symbolically rebuilding strength in peoples’ lives.
In addition to “Be the Change,” Beautiful Mess ministries offers volunteer opportunities throughout the year as well as nights of worship. The next Worship Night is Friday July 12 at Brown Memorial Church with two mission opportunities that weekend as well. For more information, visit beautifulmessministries.com.
Africa University graduates urged to create a better Africa
June 18, 2019 / By Jeanette Dadzie, Africa University Marketing and Public Affairs Officer
MUTARE, ZIMBABWE: - Africa University President and Vice Chancellor Professor Munashe Furusa has challenged the graduates of the United Methodist-related institution to continue to be shining examples of their exemplary education and build a better Africa for the future.
“Remember you are Africa’s future that we invested in today, the hope that your families have been holding tight to, the sacred seeds we have planted and expect to burst into divine and wondrous flowers,” Professor Furusa told the graduates. “Therefore, go forth and build an Africa that we all want and deserve to live in. In doing so, do not neglect your dreams, but keep your faith, affirm your dignity, be kind, caring and generous.”
Professor Furusa was speaking at the 25th Graduation Ceremony where nearly 600 students from 22 African countries received their master’s and bachelor’s degrees during the commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 8, 2019 at the campus in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe.
He reminded the graduates that they were part of a special class, the Silver graduating class marking the 25th graduation ceremony. “Our alumni, whose ranks you are joining today, have gone on to take their place among the leaders, movers and shakers of this continent and the world and are reimagining our space in ways that we never thought possible.”
Professor Furusa told them about Lillian Achom, a Ugandan Computer Information Systems graduate of 2011 who is revolutionizing the field of IT in her country and realigning the role that women play in the development of the IT sector in Africa through her start up Grade Score- an online platform geared towards evaluating students’ grade performance with the view of aligning their talents and passions with the programs they will eventually study when they enroll into university.
Another shining Africa University graduate was Bishop Mande Muyombo who recently assumed the chair of the Africa University Board of Directors and is creating a legacy of peace, service and stewardship in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Therefore, go in the knowledge that you are of Africa, and within you lies the hopes and dreams of a continent,” Furusa said.
The graduating class had 526 graduates, 54.6% of whom are women, 27.6% international representing 22 African countries
The class of 2019 also included Dr. Kenjiro Yamada who was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his contributions to Africa University’s development. He was instrumental in securing funding for the library on campus which is partly named in his honor.
Dr. Yamada’s career spans almost five decades in Methodist education, including more than 30 years of leadership at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). He told the graduates not to worry about financial gains.
“Don’t chase the money. Let money chase you,” he said to a thunderous applause.
The keynote address speaker, Rev. Greg Bergquist, interim general secretary of GBHEM, called on the graduates to be grateful for the education they are receiving and to be loving and kind to all they meet in their endeavors. .
The university has initiated a process to transform itself into a research-intensive institution; become a prominent center for Childhood and Child Rights Studies, Intellectual Property Studies, Malaria Research, Public Health, Theological Studies, Leadership and Governance, and Environmental Advocacy. The University is also expecting several innovations, technological solutions and engineering products from the I5Hub and Clinical Research Center.
Africa University has also expanded its extension and community engagement work to include training and skills development for industry, government institutions and public service practitioners through the newly established Africa University Business Academy.
In a bid to improve student life on campus, the university has finished the construction of a swimming pool that was seeded in love through funds donated by the Baltimore Washington Conference in honor of the former Africa University Board Chair, Bishop Marcus Matthews and his wife Barbara Matthews. The project is the first phase of the dream sports complex that is in development.
Also, construction is underway on two state of the art buildings; a new women’s hostel and student union building made possible by support of Highland Park United Methodist Conference. Both projects are expected to be completed by December this year, if not earlier.
About Africa University: Africa University, a United Methodist-related institution, aspires to become a world class university for leadership development in Africa.
Bishop Steiner Ball speaks at the AC2019 Service of Commissioning and Ordination
The 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference concluded with the Service of Commissioning and Ordination; seven individuals were commissioned as Elders; three individuals were ordained as Deacons; and five individuals were ordained as Elders.
The following individuals were Commissioned for the Work of an Elder:
- Natalie Ora Bowerman
- Casey Edward Bradley
- Bryant Christopher Clark
- Brett William Johnson
- Jongdeok Park
- Cindy L. Schulte
- Grace Elisabeth Warren
The following individuals were Ordained to the Order of Deacon:
- Rebecca Guthrie
- Kristin Lee Helms
- Susan Marie Ranous
To following individuals were Ordained to the Order of Elder:
- Anna Kathryn Blinn Cole
- Patricia M. Hubman
- Marilyn Jane Kasperek
- Eunice Sun Ae Kim
- David Bradley McKinney
Upper New York had the honor to have Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball of the West Virginia Conference deliver the message during this service.
When introducing Bishop Steiner Ball, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb said, “She is a person who passionately loves Jesus Christ. She loves the Church and has committed her life to the Church. She loves the people that God has called her to serve. Both the people who are in the Church and those who are not yet a part of the Church. She is a person of high integrity, great passion, and deep spirituality. I am blessed to consider her a trusted colleague, a dear friend and Sister in Christ. “
Bishop Steiner Ball’s message was entitled, “An extraordinary, challenging journey.” The scripture she highlighted in her message was Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calms the storm for his disciples who were traveling by boat after a long day of teaching and learning with mostly Jewish crowds along the Sea of Galilee. They were then traveling to an area they were more than likely uncomfortable with because they would be going to an area with a high concentration of Gentiles.
The disciples were forced to do exactly what the message of this year’s Annual Conference tells us to do, “Moving Beyond Our Comfort Zone.” God had called them to bring their extraordinarily Good News to the other side where more people needed to hear it. And they did so during a frightening, heavy storm.
Bishop Steiner Ball described this process as “crossing over.” And she likened ordination to crossing over.
The disciples were petrified as their boat filled with water. Bishop Steiner Ball said, “Waves beat into the boat; they have water up to their ankles. This is a literal and spiritual storm. This is serious. At least four of the disciples, have accomplished more than just their residency and master’s degree, they have their professional degrees – they are professional fishermen and even they are scared – experiencing anxiety, panic, dread. Fear of what they do know and fear of what they do not know.
The disciples do what we do when we find ourselves overwhelmed – They yell, ‘God, for heaven's sake, wake up!’ They do what we do when bad things happen to good people. They ask, Are you really there God?’ And what they discover is that God is there. Right in the boat, in scariest place, God is there. After they have tried everything they turn to Jesus, he is there, and he is able.”
Jesus calmed the storm. He said, “Peace Be Still.” Bishop Steiner Ball said, “The wind and the storm stopped and there was absolute calm.”
She assured the commissioners and ordinands that this absolute calm is available to them. She said, “It is about leaving the familiar and following Christ into new and unfamiliar territory. At times, it may appear to us that God is sleeping and not paying attention to our plight, but God does care. God cares so much for each of our troubles, our worries, our anxieties, our spats, our health, and our minds, that God can and will calm the storm and say with authority, ‘Peace Be Still’ and the cosmos will obey. When you are in the midst of a crossing with the all-powerful, almighty God, you can go with confidence to the other side! You can take a message of extraordinary hope, peace, assurance, and comfort to those around you who need it so badly! You now are sent to inspire and care for others.”
At the end of Bishop Steiner Ball’s message, Bishop Webb called people attending the service to come forward for prayer and guidance if they feel as though they are being called to step beyond their comfort zones, to step into the boat of becoming a pastor.
UNY young people on a Church of love and a Church of pain
June 13, 2019 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The theme of the Young Peoples’ Worship Service focused, on “I know a Church of love, but I also know a Church of pain.” During the service on June 8 at the 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference session, young people shared powerful testimonies speaking to both when they felt loved as well as when the endured pain (such as racism, ageism, sexism, and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals). In addition to worship, three reports were delivered via video at the service: The Conference Council on Youth Ministries Report the Mission of Peace Report (with a MOP offering collected while the video rolled), and the Young Adult Ministries Report.
Click here to read Elyse Muder’s testimony.
Click here to read Ian Urriola’s testimony.
Click here to read Matt Kirkham’s testimony.
Click here to read Riley O’Flynn’s testimony.
Click here to read Bethany Printup-Davis’s testimony.
Click here to watch a video of this moving service.
Meet the UNY 2020 General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference delegates
The Upper New York Conference would like to extend a warm welcome to the clergy and lay delegates elected for the 2020 General Conference as well as the 2020 Jurisdictional Conference. These individuals were elected at the Upper New York Annual Conference held June 5-8 in Syracuse, NY.
The clergy delegates, in order elected for General Conference are:
- The Rev. Bill Mudge
- The Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady II
- The Rev. Beckie Sweet
- The Rev. Carmen Perry
- The Rev. Rachel Morse
The lay delegates, in order elected for General Conference:
- Carmen Vianese (head of the delegation)
- J.J. Warren
- Ian Urriola
- Marthalyn Sweet
- Sam Smith
The clergy delegates, in order elected for Jurisdictional Conference are:
- The Rev. Dr. Michelle Bogue-Trost
- The Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer
- The Rev. Martha Swords-Horrell
- The Rev. Drew Sperry
- The Rev. Rebecca Laird
The lay delegates, in order elected for Jurisdictional Conference are:
- Samuel Mudge
- Drew Griffin
- Rachel John
- Linda Barczykowski
- Melysa Acevedo
The clergy reserve delegates are:
- The Rev. Bill Allen
- The Rev. Harold Wheat
The lay reserve delegates are:
- Dan Fuller
- Rachel Giso
Petition and Resolution Results at the 2019 UNY Annual Conference
June 11, 2019 / By Tara Barnes
The 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference held June 5-8 at the Oncenter in Syracuse, passed eight petitions pertaining to the conference and 14 that will go to General Conference 2020. The conference petitions can be found on pages 65 to 111 of the 2019 Annual Conference Journal Vol.1, except for UNYAC2019.14, which can be found in the updates to the Journal or on the UMCMeet smartphone app. The General Conference resolutions can be found on pages 112 to 139 of the Journal Vol. 1 as well as the updates and app.
The resolution UNYAC2019.1 titled “Action of Nonconformity With the General Conference of The United Methodist Church” was ruled out of order by Bishop Webb after an amendment to make the petition more aspirational did not pass. The petition called for the conference to “not conform to, comply, or cooperate with any provisions of the Traditional Plan,” which will become church law Jan. 1, 2019. A challenge was made to the bishop’s ruling. The challenge was not supported and the petition remained out of order.
After passing a motion to disallow amendments, the Conference reconsidered this motion and voted to return the ability to amend petitions, and resolution UNYAC2019.2 titled “UNYAC Response to Actions of the 2019 General Conference,” calling on the conference to condemn the decisions of General Conference 2019, apologize for harm caused, “assert and affirm that no human being is incompatible with Christian teaching, and refrain from expending funds on complaints, resolutions, or trials “pertaining to LGBTQIA+ ordination and marriage,” was thus amended and supported. UNYAC2019.3, “A Call for Structural Change” was also supported. A rule of law was requested for both of these petitions, meaning Bishop Webb has 30 days to decide if the resolutions violate church law, which will be automatically review by the United Methodist Judicial Council.
Petition UNYAC2019.4, “Create a Team to Consider Processes for Future Movement,” which calls on the conference to put together a team to examine all details involved with a “large-scale separation movement of churches and clergy to an alternate Methodist denomination,” was also supported.
Petitions UNYAC2019.5, “Discerning Gifts and Graces for Ministry Without Partiality,” calling on the Conference board and district committees on ordained ministry to examine clergy candidates “without pursuing information in regard to sexual orientation or gender identity,” was supported as amended, as were two scholarships, one named for the Rev. Ann Stanton Blair and the other for Virgia Phoenix, to support students attending Africa University, were supported (UNYAC2019.6 and UNYAC2019.7, respectively).
Petitions UNYAC2019.8, “Caring for LGBTQIA+ Ministry Candidates,” and UNYAC2019.11, “A Call for Attention to the Worth of All Immigrants” were also supported. Petition UNYAC2019.9, “Assisting with the Interpretation of Speeches by Ecumenical Inter-Faith Leaders,” was referred to the Conference Committees on Sessions and Religion and Race, and UNYAC2019.10, “Let’s Talk About Sex,” did not pass.
UNYAC2019.12, “Standards for Conference Leadership by Bishop’s Appointment, and UNYAC2019.13, “Standards for Conference Leadership by Nominations,” were withdrawn. UNYAC2019.14, “Clergy Authority to Perform Weddings,” was ruled out of order, a ruling that was supported by the Conference upon challenge
After supported motions to limit discussion as time on the final day ran down, the General Conference petitions were voted on without presentation or discussion, and the final nine were bundled together (noting that eGC2020.9 and GC2020.14 were previously withdrawn). All General Conference petitions were supported.
Retirees, ordinands, cabinet, and new appointments celebrated at the Service of Blessing and Anointing
June 8, 2019 / By Shannon Hodson
At the Service of Blessing and Anointing on June 7 at the tenth session of Upper New York Annual Conference, 33 retirees were recognized, as were eight ordinands.
The Rev. Carmen Perry announced the retirees, who walked to the stage and were thanked personally by Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb.
“Let’s applaud these retirees for their service, which totals 875 years,” Rev Perry said.
Click here to see the full list of retirees and watch videos submitted by some of them.
During the Service of Blessing and Anointing, the Conference Cane was transferred for the first time since the formation of the Upper New York. The Rev. Matt Stengel announced that the Conference Cane would be presented to the Rev. Bradley Havens, who recently turned 100. The previous holder of the cane, the Rev. Donald Modisher, passed away on Oct. 27, 2018.
When presenting this year’s ordinands, Bishop Webb said, “I had the privilege of spending a day with [these individuals] in retreat, and conversation, and worship, and I was blessed to hear their call stories, not their calls to become pastors, but their calls to follow Jesus. These are radical followers of Jesus. They are people who will help the church go deeper.”
Upper New York Conference Lay Leader Susan Hardy, Bishop Webb, and Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball – the Resident Bishop of the West Virginia Conference who will serve as this year’s speaker for the Service of Commissioning and Ordination – asked the ordinands the historical questions of John Wesley.
Introducing the Cabinet, Bishop Webb said, “I want to tell you who they are to me – they are my family. They are the ones who are your biggest cheerleaders … they have your best interest always. They make mistakes. Here’s a news flash: so do I. Here’s a news flash: so do you.”
The Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood was recognized for her eight years of service as the Cornerstone District Superintendent.
“She has been a gift to me and a gift to you,” said Bishop Webb. In recognizing that the Rev. Suzanne Block will replace Rev. Rood, he said, “It’s a sorrow to say goodbye to Sherri and a blessing to say hello to Suzanne.”
Each district superintendent announced the new appointments in their district.
The Rev. Drew Sperry and the Rev. Heather Williams shared a litany to set the new appointments, affirming, “We stand together in prayer, moving beyond our comfort zones, embracing the movement of the Holy Spirit into new places with new neighbors as we share Christ’s gospel of love with all.”
Retirees, ordinands, and all others attending the service were invited to be blessed and anointed with oil. During the blessing and the anointing, InsideOut beautifully belted out the song You Say by Jason Ingram, Lauren Daigle, and Paul Mabury and then transitioned into a softer Who You Say I Am by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan.
The service ended with the song Thrive, by Mark Hall and Matthew West. Everyone in attendance stood and many danced, clapping through the chorus, “Joy unspeakable, Faith unsinkable, Love unstoppable, Anything is possible!”
Anti-racism workshops continue the education of Imagine No Racism
June 7, 2019 / By Shannon Hodson
During lunch on Friday, June 7, at the tenth session of the Upper New York Annual Conference, the Conference Commission on Race and Religion (CCORR) held four workshops on ways to address racism. This was an effort to continue the work that began with the Imagine No Racism initiative launched in April 2018. Over 300 people participated in these workshops.
“Let’s be real for a second – there is no way in the space of an hour we can equip everyone with everything needed to effectively respond to racism,” said the Rev. Dr. Scott Johnson, CCORR member and a professor of criminal justice, as he introduced the workshop that he led with CCORR member Linda Hughes on “Strategies for Responding to Racism and Racist Incidents.”
Just as Rev. Johnson admitted the reality of a workshop not being able to cover all strategies to respond to racist incidents, this article cannot possibly provide all the insight brought forth by the committed and talented leaders of the UNY Conference who are delving into the work needed to help eliminate racism. But it will give a glimpse of the many ways that anti-racism work can be employed in local churches, our homes, and our communities as taught in the workshops.
“Why it is so Hard to Talk about Racism”
Dr. Blenda Smith, the convener of CCORR and Georgia Whitney, a Regional Coordinator for the INR initiative, presented on the topic of “Why it is so Hard to Talk about Racism” with a strong focus on micro-aggressions.
In this workshop, with over 100 people in attendance, Dr. Smith showed a video of what it would be like if people of color were racist to whites, saying things like, “Wow, you barely have an accent,” “You’re very pretty for a white girl,” and “Can I touch your hair?” The point of this video was to showcase what microaggression looks like.
“Strategies for Responding to Racism and Racist Incidents”
The Rev. Dr. Scott Johnson and Linda Hughes also focused on microagressions in their workshop. They discussed that while microagressions may appear to be compliments, that it is, in fact, harmful. They also explained how microagressions can be unconscious and are often delivered by well-meaning people.
In this workshop, Dr. Johnson and Linda also discussed ways to respond to racism. For example, Linda mentioned how a gentleman she respected and looked up to shared a joke with her and the punch line was racist.
“It was the first time I responded to a racist joke,” she said. “What I said wasn’t profound; I simply said, ‘That wasn’t funny.’”
Linda then shared how Paul Kivel, in his book Uprooting Racism, refers to racist jokes as verbal abuse.
“Preaching and Teaching Racism”
The Rev. Beckie Sweet and the Rev. Harold Wheat, both members of CCORR, led a workshop titled “Preaching and Teaching Racism,” which focused on how to practice self-care in such a way that can help one to become better prepared to take the next faithful steps in one’s work to help eliminate racism.
“We provided everyone here with scripture passages they can use back at their churches to begin to help people understand racism,” Rev. Sweet said.
Rev. Wheat emphasized that “it’s really important to invest in quality self-care no matter what type of leadership you are in.”
Rev. Wheat also asked the white people in the room to read the General Commission on Religion and Race’s Code of Ethics (which was supplied as a handout to attendees).
“I encourage all white people in the room to read this Code of Ethics before you do anything to confront racism and the reason is because we grew up with white privilege,” he said. Often times, we are running around like elephants in a china shop, and if we don’t take time to realize the impact our footsteps can have, we can do a heck of a lot of damage without even realizing it.”
“They’re Up Next: Leading our Youth to Imagine No Racism”
Cornerstone District Advocate and CCORR member the Rev. Carrie Wolfe and INR Regional Coordinator and CCORR member Charles Syms presented a workshop “They’re Up Next: Leading our Youth to Imagine No Racism.”
This workshop provided a strategy for youth to grow to not only become racially competent, but also to get to a point where they can actively become a part of the anti-racist movement.
They presented a chart that showed how to transform children into anti-racists. Youth are likely to enter the transformation at different stages of the chart. The stages are as follows:
Racist/Active HostilityàRacial Indifference/InsensitivityàRacial Blindness, “All lives matter”àRacial Diversity/Inclusion, “hosting parties and events that celebrate racial diversityàRacial competence, “skills and attitudes required to develop healthy cross=racial relationships, notice and analyze racial dynamics, and confront racism”àAnti-Racist/Transformation, “An active way of seeing and being in the world in order to transform it.”
“One way that kids can be racially competent is by being an ally to kids from different racial backgrounds,” Charles said.
As far as transformation, Rev. Wolfe mentioned that our children are looking at us as examples, and being an anti-racist can take many different forms from participating in anti-racism marches to writing letters against racism actions/events.
One of the activities in Rev. Wolfe and Charles’ workshop involved placing Post-it notes on one of two trees: one representing social justice and another representing racial injustice.
“Social injustices aren’t less important than racism, but in anti-racism, we need to funnel our focus to look into the different forms of racism,” Rev. Wolfe said.
She passionately expressed that the point of Imagine No Racism is to bring anti-racist efforts from rhetoric to action.
Referring back to the tree analogy, Rev. Wolfe said, “You can’t just prune trees. You have to cut-down the tree to address the roots of racism.”
CF&A’s budget is the toolbox of our Conference
June 7, 2019 / By Kathleen Christiansen
On June 7 during the 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference session, Chair of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A), the Rev. Susan Ranous, told the crowd that a budget does nothing more than tell stories that show how it can support the ministries of the local churches of the Upper New York Conference by offering tools for ministry.
She asked everyone to picture a toolbox, one that holds a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, and a few other tools.
“This budget is just like that toolbox,” Rev. Ranous said. “The toolbox isn’t the point … The point is the use of the tools.”
She recalled these lessons from her father:
- Don’t use a hammer to turn a screw.
- Don’t use a large wrench to fix a watch.
- Don’t use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail.
“The proper tool is important, but even more important, is how you use it,” she said. “The right tool used in the right way means that the work we’re trying to do can be accomplished.”
The narrative Ministry Shares Budget (pages 18 and 19 of the Narrative Budget Booklet) describes all the tools that equip, enhance, and extend ministries to support Conference leadership and allow the work of churches and faith communities to advance.
“It’s only working together that we can fill our toolbox with the proper tools, that we can maintain those tools in good working order, and that we can use the right tools for the right job,” she said.
Rev. Ranous said “CF&A has been busy since the last time we were together here at Annual Conference.”
Part of that work was crafting the Narrative Budget Booklet – which contains the 2020 Ministry Shares Budget. And a request from last year’s AC session was fulfilled: A new column with 2018 “actual” numbers was added to the budget.
Other parts of that work involved developing the CF&A webpage on the Conference website, selecting new Conference Treasurer Bob Flask, and working with other Conference staff on the asset allocation project.
“Thanks to many hours of work by your finance staff and others, we’ve been able to identify all funds coming from the prior conferences,” Rev. Ranous said. “An investment policy has been created and approved, and an investment committee has been formed … to review our investments and how they are invested on an ongoing basis.”
While the collection for 2018 Ministry Shares was less than the prior year and less than what the Conference requires to cover the 2019 spending plan, UNY General Church apportionments did not suffer.
“I want to thank all the faithful servants that are members of our local churches, the disciples of Jesus Christ, that have enabled the Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church to do the work that God is calling us to do,” Rev. Ranous said, as she announced CF&A decided to pay General Church apportionments in full. “ … If we are to ask for that commitment from our local churches, then we also had to be willing to make that same commitment to the General Church.”
GCF&A used excess funds from a prior year to cover the difference, making it the third year in a row that the UNY Conference has paid in full. Rev. Ranous marked the accomplishment by gifting a plaque to Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb.
“That plaque, is for all of us because none of us are able to do the work that God calls us to alone,” Rev. Ranous said.
Rev. Ranous presented the budget for approval.
The Rev. Robin Blair, pastor of the Harmony and Ithaca: Forest Home UMCs asked how to inquire about additional funds available to Higher Education Ministry and elaboration on why district superintendent compensation fluctuated in the documentation, and lay member David Kennedy asked for clarification on budget funds relating to staff.
After explanation from the Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministries the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Rev. Ranous, and Flask, the budget was voted upon and approved.
Rev. Ranous concluded by thanking Bishop Webb, Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding, CF&A members, Flask, and the finance team for their service.
Conference Leadership Team devotes Friday morning to lectio divina
June 7, 2019 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The Upper New York Conference Leadership Team led a Devotional Friday morning devoted to scripture reading for lectio divina. In his introduction, the Rev. Harold Wheat shared some information from, “our friends at the Upper Room.”
“One of our most central and ancient practices of Christian prayer is Praying the Scriptures (lectio divina, or divine reading),” he said. “We read unhurriedly so that we can for the message God has for us there. We stay alert to connections the Spirit may reveal between the passage and what is going on in our lives.”
Drew Griffin told the crowd to get into a comfortable position and relax before Erinn Gould-Norris read Isaiah 43:15-19, followed by a one-minute pause. Erinn then invited everyone to turn to their neighbors and share the word or image lifted to their hearts by the Spirit.
After three minutes, the Rev. Rebecca Laird explained that they would repeat the process.
“This time as you listen to the scripture, you are invited to reflect on what hope this scripture is rising within you,” she said. “What hope does it offer you as a leader for our Annual Conference and disciples of Christ.”
Valerie Clark re-read the scripture, paused, and then asked attendees to discuss.
The Rev. Drew Sperry invited everyone to stand, hold hands, and pray silently.
“This prayer can be focused on the insights you have had from this time of devotion or for people who are in your hearts,” Rev. Sperry said. “Let it be whatever you need it to be in this place and time.”
The Devotional ended with a closing prayer (United Methodist Hymnal, No. 401): “In [our] heart[s], above all else, let love and integrity envelope [us] until love is no longer in conflict with Thy Spirit.”
Hat challenge at AC2019 raises $5,600 for New Faith Communities
June 7, 2019 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The Rev. Jeffrey Aiosa, pastor of the Elmgrove UMC, had a question Friday, June 7, at the 2019 UNY Annual Conference session for Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb: If Rev. Aiosa could raise $500 for New Faith Communities, would Bishop Webb wear Rev. Aiosa’s hat?
Bishop agreed, but only if Rev. Aiosa could raise $1,500.
Before lunch, Rev. Aiosa announced they had raised double the original offer ($3,000), and Bishop Webb upped the ante: If the Conference raised $5,000, he would wear a large top hat and Commissioning and Ordination Speaker Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball – the Resident Bishop of the West Virginia Conference – would wear Rev. Aiosa’s red and white striped hat.
Before the dinner break, Rev. Aiosa delivered an update: The Conference had raised $5,600 for New Faith Communities.
And, true to their word, both Bishops Webb and Steiner Ball donned the ridiculous top hats and posed for photos as the Conference bar erupted in cheers.
After wearing the hat for a few minutes, Bishop Webb graciously invited Director of New Faith Communities the Rev. Dave Masland join in on the hat challenge fun. Rev. Masland happily obliged.
Remembering clergy, clergy spouses, and lay members
June 7, 2019 / By Shannon Hodson
On Thursday June 6, a Memorial Service was held at the 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference session to remember clergy and clergy spouses who have passed away since the 2018 AC session.
In both Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb’s introduction and Cornerstone District Superintendent the Rev. Sherri Rood’s Memorial Service message, they were able to bring about a spirit of positivity.
Bishop Webb referred to a pear tree at his grandparents’ house that he deeply desired to pick a pear from as a small child.
“When I was about 4 years old, my grandparents lived on a farm, and there was a pear tree on the side lawn and the pears were too high to pick … for some reason I had the desire to get pears. The only way I could get them was if my dad put me on his shoulders.
“What we celebrate tonight is people who allowed us to stand on their shoulders, to pluck the fruit that God has invited us to. Many of these that we remember tonight were our mentors, teachers, pastors, colleagues, and friends. Our lives are better, fuller because of the lives that they lived and because they were willing to bend down so that we could climb on their shoulders and reach for what we believe that God was calling us to.”
Rev. Rood based much of her message on the story of Lazarus’ death as captured in the book of John, chapter 11. She zeroed in on the anger Martha and Mary felt toward their friend Jesus for not healing their brother.
“Martha lays it out for Jesus – she doesn’t pull any punches ‘Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.’ I can almost hear Martha saying, ‘Jesus, where the hell were you?’ And sometimes we feel the same way,” she said. “Where were you when we needed you – in the hospital, by the bedside, at the clinic, in the ambulance? Where were you in Orlando, in Sandy Hook … at the Mexican border, in natural disasters and human disasters, and in all the places where people are wounded and hurting and dying? Where were you Jesus? We needed you.”
Though Martha was angry at Jesus, she still held onto faith; she said, “I know God will give whatever you ask.”
Rev. Rood reminded the Memorial Service attendees, those who have lost loved ones and who are very likely still grieving, that there is good news even in death.
“Is it not a true, that even in the midst of death, we are in life? Are we not resurrection people? Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has destroyed the power of death,” Rev. Rood said. “We don’t have to wait for the end of our days for everlasting life. We don’t have to wait for the end of our days to be with Jesus. As followers of Jesus, everlasting life is both here and now and at the end of our days – it’s the fulfillment of the promise of the inbreaking of God’s beloved community. We don’t have to wait for the sweet bye and bye. It’s here for us now.”
Rev. Rood suggested that United Methodists should take a cue from our Jewish brothers and sisters and keep shiva, where we would practice silence during a week-long mourning period after the funeral, a time when family share about their loss and receive the comfort of others.
She said that after the death of a loved one, “when we’re done sitting shiva, when we’re able to breathe again, when we live into the new normal and our head and our hearts make peace with the knowledge that our loved one is not coming back, our task is to spread the love we have for them around, often walking by faith and not by sight. Having confidence that in sharing the love, by meeting the world’s needs with our gifts, through the blessings and tender mercies we have so abundantly received, we are bringing about God’s beloved community.”
After delivering her message, the names of the following clergy spouses and clergy were lifted, and attendees had the opportunity to lift the names of laity who have died in the past year.
Bruce Wheeler, Jan. 16, 2018
Grete Dodson, April 25, 2018
Evah Jane Northrup, May 15, 2018
Joy Ferguson, May 26, 2018
Miriam Laundry, June 30, 2018
Barbara Steen, Aug. 23, 2018
Richard Davidson, Aug. 24, 2018
Joyce F. Ware, Sept. 8, 2018
Dorothy Brandon, Sept. 13, 2018
Sharon H. Melius, Oct. 8, 2018
Audrey Foley, Nov. 3, 2018
Billie Jean Townsend, Dec. 6, 2018
Barbara Jean Linza, Dec. 15, 2018
Edward Schaus, Dec. 22, 2018
Bertha Pierce, Jan. 12, 2019
Roberta Fishbeck, Feb. 13, 2019
John M. Hicks, Feb. 22, 2019
Joy Cruikshank, March 20, 2019
Louise H. Howe, March 21, 2019
Dorothy Groshans, April 3, 2019
John F. Mowry, April 14, 2019
Hon. Loc. Orrin Frederick Hall, April 8, 2018
Rev. George Dewey Armitage, Jr., April 26, 2018
Rev. Wendell E. Minnigh, Jr., May 9, 2018
Pastor James A. Smith, July 2, 2018
Pastor Robert Case, July 5, 2018
Pastor Charles Forbes, July 25, 2018
Rev. Olav Danielson, Aug. 27, 2018
Pastor K. Gordon Brownlow, Sept. 11, 2018
Rev. Robert Wallace Zimmerman, Sept. 27, 2018
Rev. Thomas F. Schafer, Sept. 29, 2018
Rev. Donald Modisher, Oct. 17, 2018
Rev. Milton Vahey, Oct. 30, 2018
Rev. Terrance Millbyer, Nov. 15, 2018
Pastor Lyman Pelkey, Dec. 11, 2018
Rev. Richard Sears, Dec. 11, 2018
Rev. Robert T. Anderson, Dec. 20, 2018
Pastor Barbara Jeanne Allen, Jan. 18, 2019
Rev. Richard E. Grant, Jan. 22, 2019
Rev. Hallock Norton Mohler, Jan. 25, 2019
Hon. Loc. Robert E. Pennock, Feb. 10, 2019
Rev. Carlton G. Van Ornum, March 9, 2019
Rev. Guy Lewis Burt, March 26, 2019
Rev. Mardean Moyer, April 4, 2019
Jim Krager, July 3, 2018
Study Leader emphasizes the power of praying together in session 2
June 6, 2019 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Study Leader the Rev. Dr. Vance Ross returned for a second session Thursday afternoon during the 2019 Annual Conference.
“I know you were blessed this morning,” said Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb. “And now you will be blessed again.”
Similar to the first study session, Rev. Ross discussed a Bible reading – this time Romans 12:1-2 – and presented the Conference with three assertions paired with questions for reflection to “think about what it means for our lives, for our ministries, and for ourselves.”
Praying together elevates sacrifices that live
In the reading, Paul calls for a sacrifice – not one of blood and guts, nor one of ritual, but rather he calls for a committed life, Rev. Ross explained.
This session of Annual Conference has a large focus on voting.
“As we vote, are we voting for living sacrifices?” Rev. Ross asked. “Are we voting for people and issues of character? Do we look for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control?
“The life Paul invited and presents as sacrifice has fruit that is found in character, in spirit.”
The he posed the question, “How will Paul’s appeal, the value of sacrifice, impact my voting for both legislation and delegation election?”
Praying together finds sacrifice as worship more so than acquisition
This assertion is about action. Paul had been discussing ideas, consideration, reflections, and notions, but then there is a shift from “the idea to the concrete, from theology to ethics, from thinking to doing,” Rev. Ross said.
“Prayer should be consequential; prayer should impact how we live and how we give,” he said. “The text says present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Then he asked the crowd to reflect on, “How does our acquisition translate to our sacrifice?”
Praying together finds lives that are transformed
“We practice through means of grace so we won’t be mean and ugly, but we don’t ignore the meanness and ugliness either,” Rev. Ross said. “Praying together finds lives that are transformed.”
Rev. Ross told the story of a poor boy who was given an assignment to write about what he would like to do in the future. He dreamed of owning a ranch and compiled a thorough report. But his teacher gave him an F. The two later had a meeting, where the teacher said the boy’s paper was completely unrealistic and gave him the chance to re-write the essay. The boy responded, “Teacher, you keep the F; I’m keeping my dream.”
“The transformed mind is a mind that keeps God’s dream,” Rev. Ross said. “Transformed minds dream love and justice across the earth. Transformed minds dream the gifts of all people … transformed minds dream God’s dream for this world.”
The final question for reflection: “What must you begin, or continue, or eliminate, to live in the transformed mind of God?”
“Let’s have the courage, the audacity, and the unmitigated love to dream God’s dream, praying in the closet and not being scared of our comfort zone being pushed,” Rev. Ross said.
Board of Pension and Health recommendation supported
June 6, 2019 / By Tara Barnes
The report and recommendation of the Upper New York Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits, presented by board chair Mary Rublee, were both approved by the annual conference session Thursday, June 6.
The report from the board can be found on pages 160-161 of the Journal. The recommendation is on pages 45-46.
The recommendation allows retired and disabled clergy to claim their church pension, severance or disability income as a housing exclusion, as allowed per the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and concerning IRS Code section 107.
The practice of the denomination and the Upper New York Conference is to provide active clergy with rental allowance or parsonage as part of gross compensation. The recommendation applies to the year January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.
The report described the work of the board, which includes securing health and retirement stability for clergy and employees of the Upper New York Conference through health care and benefits plans, pension plans, leadership development and education and participation in the conference investment committee.
In the wake of possible denominational changes in response to General Conference 2019, the board reassured the conference that its work with Wespath continues to ensure benefits remain secure. Further communications on a 2021 Health Flex Exchange program will come.
Trustee report presented, Trustee election delayed
The trustees shared their report in the morning plenary on June 6, 2019 at the tenth session of the Upper New York Annual Conference.
President of the Upper New York Board of Trustees Rich Barling began by discussing how successful the work of mission and ministry has been at both the Conference Office and the Camp & Retreat Centers throughout the Conference. He then shared some financial highlights, including the fact that the net assets (these are defined as assets less liabilities, Trustees maintain oversight for) declined slightly more than 2% between 2017 and 2018.
The net of the revenue and expenditures resulted in a surplus of $526,775 prior to transfers. After the transfers, there was a net deficit of $276.457. The transfers included $404,038 to New Beginnings Fund and $399,194 to Camp & Retreat Ministry.
Rich said, “The total of these transfers, $802,232, were more than three times greater than the 2017 transfers.”
Jack Keating reported on Conference properties, which resulted on a net revenue to support the New Beginnings Fund.
The Church Mutual insurance program was renewed. As a result of the renewal with Church Mutual, there were slight increases in the Commercial Multi-Peril premium for 2019. Churches also received a safety group dividend from Church Mutual which should have helped offset any premium increases.
In addition to continuing the insurance program with Church Mutual, the insurance committee also recommended to the Board of Trustees that we continue with Walsh Duffield as our risk management partner and insurance consultant.
Due to two major fires for UNY churches, one at Schroon Lake and the other at Stannards. The trustees expect that these major losses may have an impact on pricing for 2020.
The insurance committee is considering whether we may need to go back out into the market to obtain new pricing from other companies, plus Church Mutual, to ensure that our 2020 pricing is competitive.
Church Mutual is focusing on loss control, active shooter training, and the installation of water sensors.
Despite a resolution passed at the 2018 Annual Conference, requesting that the Trustees pursue lead coverage for churches from Church Mutual, he Insurance Committee found that lead coverage is not available from Church Mutual, or any other company.
The District Superintendents of Districts with closed churches each asked members touched by the ministries of the specific churches to stand.
- For the Adirondack District, the Rev. Debbie Earthrowl prayed for Newcomb UMC and Peasleeville UMC.
- The Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood, District Superintendent of the Cornerstone District prayed for Catttaraugus UMC and Open Meadows UMC.
- For the Finger Lakes District, the Rev. Dr. Jeff McDowell prayed for Friend UMC and Palmyra UMC.
- For the Genesee Valley District, The Rev. Vonda Fossitt prayed for Rochester: Grace UMC and Rochester: West Ave. UMC as well as South Byron UMC.
- For the Mohawk District, The Rev. Abel Roy prayed for Utica: Asbury UMC.
- For the Mountain View District, the Rev. Nancy Adams prayed for the Elmira Riverside UMC.
- The Rev. Mike Weeden of the Northern Flow District prayed for Watertown: Bethany UMC.
- For the Oneonta District, the Rev. Everett Bassett prayed for McDonough UMC, Plymouth UMC, and Smithville Center UMC. All closures were supported.
When it came time to elect trustees, Sara Baron motioned to have the ballot postponed until the Nominations Committee can bring other nominees representing more diversity. The Rev. Beckie Sweet amended Sara’s motion to postpone until two people of color are included on the ballot to be ex officio members. The Rev. Scott Johnson amended the amendment to the motion to postpone by removing the word “two.” This amendment was supported after which, the Rev. Ruth Rosa Warner, amended the amendment by changing the wording to a more diverse slate. A motion was made to indefinitely postpone the amendment. Sam Smith mentioned that the Robert Rules would make the postponing out of order until the amendment is voted on. Bishop Webb noted that Sam was right and invited him to the stage as parliamentarian. The voting devices were used to vote on Rev. Rosa Warner’s amendment and the amendment was supported by a mere six votes.
Update: The trustees election took place on Friday June 7 in the afternoon plenary. It began with Jack Keating describing the many duties that trustees are responsible for including overseeing at least two properties, working long hours, and dealing with both real estate and legal issues.
Bios were provided on all the candidates, which included:
- The Rev. Stephen Crowell, Clergy, Native American
- Benjamin Hill, Laity, White
- The Rev. Pamela Klotzbach, Clergy, White
- Harold Schmidt Laity, White
- Sanjay Solomon Laity, Indian
- Tracy Jackson-Adams Laity, African American
- -The Rev. Patience Kisakye, African
Study Leader Rev. Dr. Vance Ross teaches AC session attendees how to pray
June 6, 2019 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The Upper New York Conference was blessed to have the Rev. Dr. Vance Ross as the 2019 Annual Conference Study Leader in the morning on June 6.
“What you need to know most about Rev. Ross is he is a passionate lover of Jesus Christ,” said Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb. “He is a gifted communicator who will stir your spirit, touch your soul, challenge your mind, and convince your heart.”
Rev. Ross serves as pastor of the Historic Central UMC in Atlanta and is also dean of the Chapel of Spiritual Life at Emory University. Previously, Rev. Ross served as Director of Annual Conference Relations/Annual Conference Strategist for Vital Congregations at Discipleship Ministries.
He thanked God for allowing him and everyone the gift of being present at the Conference, Bishop Webb for his leadership, and Episcopal Office Manager Mary Bradley, who he called “a wonder, a marvel and a gift.”
Rev. Ross said there is enough leadership in the world, however, there is not enough spiritual leadership – which he defined as leadership that connects with the heart and mind.
“We need leadership, spiritual leadership that reminds us the main thing has to be the main thing,” he said.
His speech, which utilized humor and passion to enliven an early-morning crowd of AC session attendees, sought to explain the correct way to pray – relating it to this year’s theme of “Together in Prayer: Moving Beyond Our Comfort Zones.”
Rev. Ross turned to Matthew 6:5-15 to demonstrate how to pray, where Matthew encouraged people to privately pray behind closed doors instead of praying like hypocrites for attention in public. This passage also gives The Church the “Lord’s Prayer.”
The Study Leader invited AC guests to consider three assertions:
- Prayer should be for divine revelation and inspiration, not for public commendation. “Jesus seems to favor prayer that is in the closet, unseen, not heard publicly,” he said. “Prayer in the closet happens for a God connection and divine discovery.”
- Prayer, as Jesus prayed, does not ignore corporate for personal. “God is not exclusively mine or yours,” Rev. Ross said. “Prayer is communicating to God by unity with others, by togetherness with others.”
- Are we praying to exchange our will for God’s will or are we insistent on the cosmic bellhop? “Praying is then a divine human exchange of wishes,” he said. “Prayer is daily communication with God that moves us from our desires to God’s desires; we are listening to live God’s way.”
Rev. Ross closed his first session with a wish for the Conference: “May we have the courage, the commitment, and the desire in prayer to seek God’s will and not just our own.”
Report, testimonials affirm work of UNY delegation to 2019 General Conference Special Session
June 6, 2019 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The Rev. Dr. Bill Allen, pastor at the Bemus Point United Methodist Church, delivered the Delegation Report on Wednesday during the 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference session.
Rev. Allen served as the Head of the Delegation from the UNY Conference to the 2019 Special Session of General Conference, held in February in St. Louis.
“I know that every person who served on our delegation felt a deep gratitude to all of you for placing in us your trust and confidence to go the General Conference and do our best to discern God’s will for the United Methodist Church,” he said. “Thank you for this opportunity to serve.”
Rev. Allen detailed the process of preparation for GC2019, which involved six clergy, six laity and two reserve lay delegates as well as several meetings – including ones with Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb and Dr. Scott Johnson, who served as the UNY representative on the Commission on a Way Forward.
“And let me add that in every single one of our meetings, we prioritized, and practiced fervent prayer for God’s will to be done,” Rev. Allen said.
After describing the “challenging” General Conference that only dealt with questions surrounding human sexuality, he invited three delegates to share their experiences.
The Rev. Beckie Sweet, pastor at the Kenmore UMC, shared how a prayer rug gifted to her by the United Methodist Women served as a source of comfort throughout GC2019.
“It was my constant companion in the weeks of preparation for and at the sessions of the 2019 Special Session of General Conference,” she said. “I prayed fervently for the delegates, staff, leaders, and observers meeting in St. Louis in February.
“My prayers were focused on finding a pathway to a truly ‘United’ Methodist Church, where all persons are offered the fullness of Christ’s love and the richness of the Church’s ministry.”
Marthalyn Sweet, a lay delegate from the Gouverneur First UMC in the Northern Flow District, took a moment to thank the Conference for entrusting her with responsibility of serving in that role.
“Holy conferencing: fun to say, hard to do,” Marthalyn said. “ … I found the holy of that conferencing in people rather than the process. From our own delegates, those from around the country, and all those who made the journey to bear witness and support us all; the people gathered in Saint Louis brought God into that space.”
Ian Urriola, a lay delegate from the Asbury First UMC in the Genesee Valley District, expressed his gratitude for all of the UNY Conference’s prayers.
“Between members of our Cabinet smuggling us in contraband coffee during proceedings to surprise notes and text messages received throughout the session, the love from our Annual Conference was palpable,” Ian said.
He also thanked the laity for allowing him to serve as a delegate.
“It was not a responsibility I took lightly, and I pray that I and the rest of our delegation conducted ourselves in such a way that would make you all proud,” he said. “I know that I, for one, was incredibly proud of the ways the rest of our delegation served.”
Rev. Allen closed the report by affirming the work of the UNY delegation. Each member prepared thoroughly by reading important material ahead of time, listening to multiple opinions, and attending every worship service, discussion, and vote. But above all, everyone went out of their way to treat fellow delegates with respect, he said.
“Yes, we were passionate,” Rev. Allen said. “Yes, we cared deeply about our various beliefs. Yes, we challenged each other in meaningful and reflective conversations.
“And in the midst of all that, we cared enough to tell each other that we loved each other, that we desired good for each other, and that we wanted relationship with everyone.”
Four equitable compensation recommendations supported
June 5, 2019 / By Shannon Hodson
Paula Kuempel, current chair of the Commission on Equitable Compensation brought forth four recommendations to the floor of the Upper New York Annual Conference session on Wednesday, June 5.
The first recommendation can be found on page 47 of the Journal, lines 28-34.
This recommendation sets the minimum base salary levels guaranteed to pastors for the 2020 budget year. The base salary is set for the different credential levels. Any less than full-time appointments shall receive a base salary pro-rated according to the appointment. There is no change from the base salary approved for 2019.
This recommendation was supported.
The second recommendation can be found on Page 48, lines 1-6 of the Journal.
This recommendation proposes a change in the years of service increment. With this increase, the CEC reaches the goal set to have the yearly increment equal 1 percent of the minimum base compensation for each credential level for up to 25 years of full-time equivalent service. The 25-year element is already in place.
These increments are:
- Full connection (Elders & Deacons): $400
- Provisional (Elders & Deacons): $386
- Associates: $378
- Full Time Licensed Provisional with a course of study or Mdiv: $371
- Full Time Local Pastor: $357
This recommendation was supported.
The third recommendation can be found on page 48, lines 8-9 of the Journal.
This recommendation is for those clergy who are charged to more than one church. The Commission on Equitable Compensation recommends that an additional $500 for each additional church on the pastoral charge (over one), not adjusted for part-time appointments, remain in place.
No changes are being proposed to this item, but it needs to be approved annually.
This recommendation was supported.
The fourth recommendation is on page 48 of the Journal, lines 14-16.
Since the inception of the Upper New York Conference, the Commission on Equitable Compensation has encouraged churches to offer raises to their pastors that reflect increases in the cost of living. Their recommendation uses the 10-year average increase in the Consumer Price Index as the standard for determining the raises. For 2020, that increase is 1.6 percent. Churches are encouraged to consider further raises based on exceptional service.
This recommendation was supported.
Laity “move” through many topics during AC2019 session
June 5, 2019 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The more than two-hour Laity Session during the 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference session covered a plethora of topics – from the service of United Methodist Women to the work of UNY young people and a statement from United Methodist conference lay leaders regarding new peace and unity.
Laity session began with an address from Bishop Webb, who thanked all lay members for attending AC session as well as for their service.
Following an address by Kae Wilbert, UNY’s Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) chairperson, recognizing Native sisters and brothers and a welcome message from Conference Lay Leader Susan Hardy, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb greeted the laity.
“I give thanks to God for all that you do,” he said. “God is indeed at work in you and through you … Thank you for being the people of God.”
Bishop Webb encouraged AC session attendees to have conversations in spirit of love and respect, “and I hope joy.”
Carmen Vianese – president of UNY’s United Methodist Women who has also served as the finance chair of Global Ministries and UMCOR – then greeted the “beautiful souls” in the audience.
And these souls didn’t let a little technical glitch with a video get them down, as the crowd burst into song filling the room the lyrics of “This Little Light of Mine.” At the song’s conclusion, the video was up and running, informing laity about the history of Global Ministries.
Following the video, Carmen elaborated on that history and the development of United Methodist Women. She said there are common threads in UMW: prayer, purpose, and presence.
“Because of that intentional prayer, purpose, and presence, the UMW still supports 128 international missions the world over and 131 national missions throughout the U.S. to this very day,” Carmen said.
Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) Co-Chair Rachel John took to the stage next to discuss CCYM’s theme, “Love: Digging Deep and Branching Out.”
“Through God’s grace, we have been able to set aside our differences and grow together in unity as the youth of The United Methodist Church,” Rachel said. “The youth who attend our events have been given the opportunity to grow spiritually along with us, as they learned new ways to show love and practice being Christ-like.”
In addition to traditional CCYM events and gatherings, this year UNY youth packaged meals for the Samaritan Center and made prayer blankets for a children’s hospital.
Susan then introduced the Helping Hands Fund, which raises money to be used by the Cabinet to assist congregants in need of financial support.
After the HHF collection, Neil Law and Sharon Bassett, members of the Oneonta District Leadership Team, relayed information about how their district is working together to use community building to bring about change.
Utilizing Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block, they and other community members created a cooperative parish of 11 United Methodist parishes.
“The goal is that the people invited to the table stay committed throughout the process and will end with steps they can employ that make their church stronger, developing tools to bring others to Christ, and be in a position for building a strong body of Christ for making disciples,” they said.
J.J. Warren and Elyse Murder, co-chairs of the Young Adults Ministry Team, briefly updated laity on the team’s progress, including hosting a seven-week Bible study and an event at Dave & Busters. Plus, the pair gave a preview of what’s ahead for Saturday’s Young Adults Worship Service.
“We continue to ask for your prayers as we embark on new tasks to bring the young people of our Conference closer to God,” Elyse said.
Susan closed out the session touching on this year’s AC session theme – “Together in Prayer: Moving Beyond Our Comfort Zones” – encouraging attendees to “move.”
“Each of us is here by invitation,” Susan said. “Each of us has particular gifts to exercise on behalf of the body of Christ, as The Church of this time. All of us are challenged to exercise those gifts. And to do that for our Creator often means moving beyond our comfort zones.”
She also detailed how she has “moved” as Conference Lay Leader this year – including attending Extended Cabinet meetings and a gathering of Northeastern Jurisdiction conference lay leaders. Susan set aside time to read the “Conference Lay Leaders’ Statement – New Unity and Peace,” which addresses the current climate of The UMC.
Before departing, General Conference laity delegate candidates were recognized: Linda Barczykowski, Robert Bour, Ted Cooper, Ted Finlayson-Schueler, Dan Fuller, Rachel Giso, Drew Griffin, Thomas Holmes, Samuel Mudge, Barbara Nelson, Kevin Nelson, Riley O’Flynn, Sheila Rader, Margot Rankins-Burd, Sam Smith, Deborah Spratt, Marthalyn Sweet, Ian Urriola, Carmen Vianese, and J.J. Warren.
Upper New York hosts first Awards Dinner at AC2019
June 5, 2019 / By Kathleen Christiansen
About 100 UNY Conference staff, award recipients, and honored guests gathered Wednesday evening for the inaugural Upper New York Conference 2019 Awards Dinner during AC session. The event put a spotlight on those who “don’t seek the limelight” but serve “quietly, unassumingly, and selflessly.”
“In particular, I am eager and privileged to welcome our honorees and their guests this evening,” said Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministries the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, who joked that he got to wear a new hat at the event: emcee. “We need to highlight and celebrate what these faithful servants have accomplished.”
Upper New York Area Bishop Mark J. Webb offered his congratulations to the recipients before leading grace.
“I’m hoping tonight is the first of many awards dinners to happen in the Annual Conference going forward,” Bishop Webb said. “I’m delighted that we can have this opportunity at a slower pace, in a more celebratory way to acknowledge what God has accomplished through you.”
The awards and winners are as follows:
- The One Matters Discipleship Award – which recognizes churches that have moved from zero baptisms and confessions of faith into positive numbers – was awarded to the Warnerville UMC. The church received a plaque and $1,000 toward future discipleship endeavors.
- The Crossroads District won the first-ever Golden Bucket Award – which celebrates the district that donated the most United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) cleaning kits to the Upper New York Mission Central Hub from October 2018-May 2019. The district received a certificate as well as a golden bucket filled with cleaning supplies.
- The Ercil Cady Grants recognize individual United Methodists, local UM churches, or UNY district and conference ministry teams. The “Cultural Preservation through Indigenous Food” grant of $5,000 grant was given to Friends of Ganondagan. The Inter-Generational Martial Arts Program” grant of $5,000 was awarded to the Brown Memorial UMC. The “Youth 2019” grant of $1,275 was given to the Emmaus UMC.
- Shirley Readden received the Conference Commission on Religion and Race’s first-ever Special Recognition for Significant Contribution to Racial Justice – which honors someone who has worked tirelessly for racial justice at local church, community, district, Conference, and General Church levels. Readden, who will be honored June 6 with a video and could not make it to the event, will receive a certificate.
- The Committee on Native American Ministries’ Four Directions Award – presented to a worthy recipient chosen to show outstanding devotion and advocacy for Native American people – was bestowed upon Darlene Papineau, who received a framed certificate.
- Each year, the annual Harry Denman Evangelism Award honors a UNY clergy and laity member who has demonstrated exceptional ministry of evangelism, bringing people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. The 2019 winners were the Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady II for clergy and Director of Missional Engagement Mike Block for laity. Both recipients received a certificate and pin.
“We have been richly blessed tonight as we witnessed these incredible servants and their ministries,” said Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding. “The most significant way that we can thank these folks is to pick up their work and carry it forward.”
Christ in the City offers hope
For the past three years, the Syracuse United Methodist Churches has hosted a worship service called, “Christ in the City,” the afternoon before the Upper New York Annual (UNY) Annual Conference session begins. Held at Columbus Circle, only a few blocks from the Oncenter in Syracuse, where the Annual Conference is typically held, this service includes music, praise and worship, a message, and testimonies of faith.
This year, things didn’t go as planned. It was a cold and rainy afternoon and the band somehow forgot about the event. This did not stop the pastors of the Syracuse United Methodist Churches (Rev. BJ Norrix, Pastor Alicia Wood, Pastor Jee Hae Song, and the Rev. Andy Anderson) from holding this celebration.
The tent that was intended for the band and pastors became the worship space. The evening started with 15 people, unlike previous years when the event begins with about 40-50 people, but Pastor Song reminded everyone present of Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.”
Rev. Norrix made light of what some would consider an unfortunate situation. He said, “If you want to renew your baptismal vows, stick your head out of the tent for a moment.” He also mentioned that the tent is reminiscent of the tent revivals that marked the beginning of the Methodist movement in the United States.
What did worship look like without the band? Everyone simply found song lyrics on their mobile devices! The first song was chosen by Pastor Song was On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.
More hymns were offered up by those present and the worship ended up consisting of 6-8 songs—the beautiful singing struck interest of passerby and the number of attendees grew to almost 30.
Pastor Song’s message was about hope.
Pastor Song mentioned situations where we feel hope: the Friday before the weekend, the nights leading up to vacation. We have hope in anticipation.
Pastor Song asked, “If we have hope for the weekend or a vacation, shouldn’t we have hope in the eternal life offered by Jesus?” She referenced the lyrics in On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
What does it take to have this hope? Trust in Jesus. Pastor Song quoted Romans 8: 38-39, “ For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,a]">[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Pastor Song then offered her own testimony. While in seminary in 2015, Pastor Song started looking for jobs and there were no bites. She became in a state of despair, losing hope. She feared that being a foreigner (from South Korea) in the United States that folks didn’t want her as a pastor.
At the start of 2016, Pastor Song decided to begin reading a chapter of the bible every day to help herself regain hope. She started with the book of Psalm. On January 27, she pondered the words of Psalm 27, the last verse reading, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” That very day, Pastor Song received an appointment opportunity from the Upper New York Conference. She prayed about the opportunity and accepted the offer. Pastor Song’s hope was restored.
Pastor Song mentioned that despite English being her second language, she’s slowly learning the language’s euphemisms. She said, “I now know the saying ‘When it rains, it pours,’” pointing to the pouring rain outside of the tent, but my new saying is, “When God provides, he pours.”
Hope can be found even in the pouring rain. This is what Syracuse United Methodist Churches proved to be true on June 4, 2019, the afternoon before the start of the tenth session of the UNY Annual Conference.
It’s time to take a leap of faith, Bishop Webb urges during AC2019 Opening Worship
“We need a fresh word! We need to be reminded of who we are and whose we are … we need to be reminded that amid this season, God is doing a new thing.” This sentiment was expressed by Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb during Opening Worship at the 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference session.
Though chosen in 2016, this year’s AC session theme, “Together in Prayer: Moving Beyond our Comfort Zones,” couldn’t be more pertinent.
After the Special Session of General Conference held in February, centered around the denomination’s divide on the issue of human sexuality, Bishop Webb said, “What General Conference 2019 [revealed] is that our form is impacting our function! Our division is impacting our ability to accomplish our task! It seems like we are spending more time arguing with one another, trying to convince one another to change than we are trying to convince the world to see Jesus! Our hearts are increasingly at war at the very moment we need hearts of peace.”
Bishop Webb explained that during this season, we need to remember the words of the prophet Isiah, quoting Isaiah 9 and 16:
“Behold, the former things have come to pass. Now I declare new things; before they spring forth, I proclaim them to you … I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.”
Throughout his sermon, Bishop Webb repeated these prophecies of Isiah six times. He said, “You are going to get to get tired of hearing these words, but you need to have them etched into your heart.”
Each time Bishop Webb recited these words, he asked the AC session attendees, “What will be our response? Will we choose to step out of our comfort zones and into God’s promise and future?”
Bishop Webb used the account of Peter walking on water as an example of stepping outside of our comfort zone. He expressed how so many people focus on the negative – the fact that Peter sunk. Bishop Webb expressed how our focus should instead be on the fact that Peter took a leap of faith – and that this is what those who are part of The United Methodist Church need to do now.
Bishop Webb used the analogy of a little girl he saw recently in the grocery store, arms crossed, scowl on her face, exclaiming to her mother, “I’m not moving! I’m staying right here!” Bishop Webb expressed that so many people in The UMC are acting the same way amidst this season of uncertainty, when in fact we need to do the exact opposite.
There are several barriers that are holding us back from moving beyond our comfort zones – Bishop Webb touched on many of them, fear being at the top of the list.
Bishop Webb expressed his intentions on his personal spiritual journey.
“I’m not willing to stay where I am – I want to move into the new thing God is calling me to – calling us to,” he said. “I’m not certain what that is, but I want to trust the promise of God, the words of the prophet and be moved!”
Later, Bishop Webb elaborated on his personal intention.
“I’m interested in stepping into the new thing that God is about to do,” he said. “I’m interested in going deeper in my own relationship with Jesus. I’m interested in helping clergy and laity go deeper in their capacity to be Christ-following leaders. I’m interested in walking alongside congregations and assisting them to become even more vital, effective, and fruitful than they already are. I’m interested in being a part of the conversations that address the reality of the United Methodist Church – a Church I deeply love.”
Expressing the urgency of leaping forward to help people find their primary identity as followers of Jesus Christ, Bishop Webb invited everyone to join him by moving beyond the walls of the churches and into the community to serve and be the light of Jesus. He expressed the importance of New Faith Communities and the revitalization of existing congregations
As opposed to continuing to debate about our differing opinions, Bishop Webb claimed that it’s time to “recognize our reality and lean into the new things God desires to do.”
What will it take for all of those who are part of the United Methodist Church in Upper New York to choose to take the leap of faith needed to create a fresh start for the denomination?
“As we make the decision to step out, we must do so making the decision to look at Jesus and never stop,” Bishop Webb said.
“We will only become the person God desires us to become when each one of us makes our own relationship with Jesus Christ the most important thing. That’s the only way you and I will find the courage to step out of our boats. And when we start to sink, Jesus will be there to pull us up, hold us close and continue the journey with us.”
Bishop Webb proclaims hope after Special Session of General Conference
Hundreds of people throughout the Upper New York (UNY) Conference spent an April or May evening gathered at a church in their region to listen to UNY Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb explain how the United Methodist Book of Discipline will change effective Jan. 1, 2020 based on the Judicial Council’s decisions regarding the constitutionality of the petitions that made up the Traditional Plan affirmed by the delegates of the 2019 Special Session of The General Conference.
Beyond understanding the Judicial Council’s decisions, Bishop Webb held these gatherings as a reminder of the power of the spirit of God. And to proclaim hope despite the mixed feelings and hurt felt by many throughout the UNY Conference.
Opening one of the April-May Regional Gatherings, the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, UNY Director of Vital Congregations, said, “You’re not here to listen to me and even beyond coming to listen to Bishop Webb, God is inviting us to listen to the Spirit.”
Prefacing the discussion of the Judicial Council decisions, a brief time of worship was held. Recognizing the pain that many people have been feeling after the Special Session of Annual Conference held in February 2019 in St. Louis, Bishop Webb reminded attendees what has not changed about the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Webb said, “The Special Session of General Conference did not change the nature of God. The Special Session of General Conference did not change the Truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Special Session of General Conference did not change the reality that every person ever born and every person yet to be born is significantly loved by God. The Special Session of General Conference did not change the truth that all human beings are broken and in need of grace. And the Special Session of General Conference did not change the truth that our God is a God of grace, a God who lavishes grace upon us.
Our mission has not changed. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are mandated to do all that we can to help other followers of Jesus to go deeper and further in that journey and then to do whatever it takes to make sure that at least one more person has a chance to know the love of God through Jesus Christ…we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ that through the power of God, so that the world can be transformed.”
Bishop Webb likened the current state of the United Methodist Church to a Good Friday-Holy Saturday moment. He said, “I believe that in St. Louis, the United Methodist Church as I have known it and as you have known it began to die. But we’re a people of resurrection. To quote Tony Campolo, ‘It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.’ And while we may be in this Good Friday-Holy Saturday as a Church, Sunday is coming. You can’t get to the resurrection without death. You can’t get to new life without pain.”
After reminding regional gathering attendees of the fact that we must proclaim hope in this time, Bishop Webb reviewed the petitions that were named unconstitutional by the Judicial Council and the petitions that were declared constitutional by the Judicial Council (and will be added to the Book of Discipline effective January 2020). Click here to review the decisions made by the Judicial Council.
Once the decisions of the Judicial Council were reviewed, attendees had the opportunity to ask Bishop Webb questions they had about the future of the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Webb shared what he hopes can happen with the United Methodist Church. He compared his hope to a cul-de-sac with two or three houses where the beliefs and practices of those houses can be different, but where they are able to share a backyard.
Bishop Webb said, “I am going to spend the rest of my time that I have in Upper New York and on earth as far as that goes engaging in conversations where strategies like this can be discussed.”
Bishop Webb emphasized the fact that legislation and Judicial Council decisions will not fix the state of the United Methodist Church. He said, “We need a new conversation.”
Recognizing that this conversation will be difficult because of people’s lack of trust in one another and people’s unwillingness to be vulnerable, Bishop Webb said, “If a few people start and begin to invite others to the conversation, I think we will build a momentum and that momentum will give us hope.”
God’s grace after the storm
May 28, 2019 / By MaryBeth Ingalls, Upper New York Volunteer Coordinator
Editor’s Note: MaryBeth Ingalls was just certified as an ERT earlier this month. She went on her first mission trip as an ERT to Smalltown, PA. from May 20-22 with a team of 12 volunteers from the Upper New York Conference. Montrose UMC hosted the group and East Bloomfield UMC provided the food. The specific town of the home the team worked on has been changed as has the residents’ names to protect their identity. MaryBeth’s story exemplifies how being an ERT is about so much more than relief and recovery—it’s about fellowship and feeling the presence of God
A few weeks ago, I decided to do the training to become an ERT. I have a lot of experience doing missions work and I have also been a volunteer firefighter, so I thought this was just up my alley. The next thing I know, only a couple weeks after this training, I’m asked to join a recovery team traveling to Smalltown, PA. I am picked up by a van filled with strangers, but within minutes, it’s as though I have known them my whole life.
We worked underneath (yes, literally underneath) a modular home that needed insulation and plastic ripped out and replaced. In August 2018, a creek uphill from the home flooded with hundreds of gigantic rocks tumbling down and flood waters so deep that cars in the neighborhood floated away.
The resident of this home, we’ll call her Jennifer, was livid with God. She was so mad. Jennifer grew up in poverty and worked very hard to make a decent living and her home was a token of all her hard work and dedication over the years. Jennifer lived with her husband and 14-year old daughter, we’ll call her Evie.
The insulation underneath the home was water-logged and could become toxic. We wore Tyvek suits, face masks, and safety glasses as we crawled into this small space to rip out the insulation. There were points where we had to squeeze our bodies in small spaces and maneuver our bodies like a contortionist to rip out insulation or install the new insulation. This was hard, bruise-provoking work, but it was so worth because I witnessed acts of God like I never have before.
On the second day of this trip, Jennifer came out to speak with us and said, “You know, I have been so angry with God after this storm but seeing you all doing this work joyfully was amazing. I saw some light and felt hope for the first time in ages. I haven’t prayed in decades and last night I prayed for 20 minutes.”
That’s what we do as ERTs—we bring the heart of Jesus.
Our leader, Brian Greenwald, at one point instructed me to instruct others. I had never done this type of work before, so I was a little intimidated and uncomfortable. There were basics I had to tell some of the women working with me like the critical importance of wearing safety glasses even if you don’t want to! But then, I also had to tell them how to install installation when I had less than an hour of experience from earlier in the day. Afterwards, one of the women came to me and thanked me and said, “Thank you for helping us. We felt very relaxed working with you. You were so calm and patient.” At devotion time that night, I thanked Brian for making me step out of my comfort zone. I truly felt God’s presence then.
Probably the most lasting impression of God I left PA with was a painting. This wasn’t any old painting. The last morning, Jennifer was looking all over for her daughter Evie—she wasn’t in her room, she wasn’t watching TV, where could she be? She looked out the window and saw her daughter up on the pile of thousands of rocks in her back yard. Evie had painted a sun rising over a mountain and water scene on one of the rocks. Those rocks had been there for nine months. I do not think it is a coincidence that Evie painted that beautiful scene on a rock while the ERT was there being the hands and feet of God.
We wrapped a prayer shawl over Jennifer before we left and prayed for her. She is going through many struggles in life right now aside from the house—we told her when she prays to wrap the shawl around her, that the people who knitted it and also us (your family in Christ) will be praying with you.
I may be physically bruised from the ERT work, but the grace of God I felt during this ERT trip trumps the physical pain by far.
Peace with Justice Sunday is June 16
May 20, 2019 / By Heather Smith
Pentecost is June 9 and traditionally Peace with Justice Sunday is the following week. I like the way they scheduled that – the first thing we do as United Methodists after celebrating the birthday of the church is take an offering in support of justice ministries. This year, I have great hope that our Conference-wide participation will increase – hopefully meeting the 30% goal that we set for ourselves at the 2017 Annual Conference Session. Remember, it only takes $1 to be counted as participation – just send it to the UNY Conference treasurer’s office with the correct fund number 315 on the memo line.
Half of all the Peace with Justice money collected in our Conference, stays right here to fund ministries of local churches, community groups, and individuals who are starting or expanding a project that addresses one or more of the United Methodist Social Principles. The Social Holiness Team has just completed our first round of grants for 2019. Those grants include:
- $2,000 to be divided as scholarships to help some of the UNY delegation attend the UMC-Next event that Adam Hamilton and others are hosting in Leawood, KS. This gathering, by invitation only, will include discussions about how the UMC moves forward in light of the results of the Special Session of General Conference. Look for our team of 10 delegates to return with lots to talk about and share with us over the summer months.
- $2;000 to support a Young Adult Skill Building initiative of the Bellevue Heights UMC in Syracuse. They are seeking to teach 19-30 year olds life and citizenship skills – resume writing and job searching; cooking and shopping on a budget; and goal-setting and self-care – and hope to see them turn around and pay it forward by mentoring the next group of participants. BHUMC is hoping to address the crime and poverty issues before folks become statistics.
- $1,500 to Rev. Dana Horrell of Faithful Citizen, Inc. to hold workshops around the state, focusing on the work he lays out in Engage! Tools for Ministry in the Community. Watch for workshops to be held in the Fall of 2019 in both urban and rural communities within our conference. Participants will learn the importance of discerning problems, doing social analysis, touring the community, building relationships with neighbors, and engaging in public policy discussions.
- $2,000 to the Vestal UMC for The Hope Epidemic a hands-on ministry of caring and clean-up. The project seeks to help those in nearby neighbors with yardwork and light repairs. The idea is that helping those who aren’t physically able or lack the time and/or finances to complete these tasks will foster relationships, good will, and pride in the neighborhood and with the church. All this in effort to help reduce the potential of crime in those areas.
It’s exciting to see the ways United Methodists are in ministry in our state and beyond. We look forward to our next round of grants in the Fall to seeing what other projects are being formed.
Peace with Justice Sunday is June 16, but you can move it to another Sunday if that suits your congregation better. The important part is to talk about it and make this giving opportunity available to all those in our pews. Resources can be found at umcgiving.org or contact Heather Smith at email@example.com.
Mission U 2019 is back for another summer of learning
Take time this summer to study, worship, sing, and great fellowship.
Mission U (formerly known as School of Christian Mission) will continue its annual emphasis on “learning together for the transformation of the world.”
It was created by Methodist women in the early-20th century in order to educate women and inspire them to a sense of mission at home and around the world. The United Methodist Women remain dedicated to the planning and promotion of this program.
The schools were formed by and for women but over the years the demographic has changed as men, children, and youth take advantage of this rich opportunity.
The three studies offered each year cover three aspects: spiritual growth, geographical, and social issues. This year’s topics are: “Practicing Resurrection: The Gospel of Mark & Radical Discipleship,” “Women United for Change: 150 Years in Mission” (for Silver Bay only), and “What About Our Money?: A Faith Response.”
Events will be held at the following locations:
- Cazenovia College: July 12 - 14, 2019 Dean – Patricia Briggs firstname.lastname@example.org
- This event will not include a youth program this year due to Pastor Michael Terrell's pastoral move.
- Asbury Retreat Center: July 25 - 27, 2019 Dean - Ellen Klock email@example.com
- Silver Bay YMCA Conference & Family Retreat Center: September 6 - 8, 2019 Dean – Ilah Sisson Walser firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for more information and to download the registration brochure.
Why a Palestinian dinner?
May 14, 2019 / By Linda Bergh
Did you ever think that participating in a meal could be an act of Social Justice? When members of Annual Conference, other United Methodists, and community members gather on Friday, June 7th for the Palestinian Dinner during Annual Conference, they eat in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, who suffer the denial of their basic rights and freedoms under the illegal Israeli occupation, as well as the Palestinian citizens of Israel who endure discrimination. The authentic Palestinian food, the dinner donation of $20.00 which goes to four Bethlehem-area UM Advance Specials plus scholarships for "justice-awareness" Holy Land tours, and the program message reminding us of Palestinian injustices---all of these are reminders that Palestinians are our brothers and sisters, for whom we need to advocate.
The dinner will take plac at Plymouth Congregational Church, 232 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse 13202, on Friday of Annual Conference, June 7th at 5:15 p.m. For reservations, contact Linda Bergh, (315) 492-8507, 116 Edna Road, Syracuse, NY 13205 or KarenPeterson, (607) 739-3141, 116 Greenridge Drive, Horseheads, NY 14845. Make checks to UNYAC with "Palestinian Dinner" on the memo.
Sponsored by your UNY-UM Task Force on Peace w/Justice in Palestine/Israel
UNY United Methodist Historical Society Meeting slotted for June 15
May 13, 2019 / By Nancy Rutenber
The Upper New York United Methodist Historical Society will meet on Saturday, June 15 at the UNY Conference Center (7481 Henry Clay Blvd.) in Liverpool, NY. Early birds can do volunteer work in the conference archives starting at 9:30 a.m.
Bring your own lunch if eating at the Center.
The Society meeting will start about 12:40 p.m. with a business meeting, followed by a PowerPoint presentation by Nancy Rutenber on UMC Historic Sites connected to Upper New York Conference.
Then there will be a ceremony for retiring old Bibles led by the Rev. Jim Barnes II. Bring your worn-out Bibles for recycling or burning. Hard covers and any metal may need to be removed before any recycling.
The meeting is open to all those interested.
Click here for driving directions and a guide to the UNY Conference Center in Liverpool.
How Phoenix UMC offers loads of love
Imagine living in dire straits to the point where you are unable to pay to wash your laundry? Churches in the UNY Conference, such as Whitney Point UMC, have laundry ministries that pay for and do the laundry for people in need within their communities.
Phoenix UMC started a laundry ministry, Loads of Love, this past January. They have seven church members and their pastor Justin Hood serving in this ministry. On the last Monday of every month, the ministry gathers together at The CanalView Laundromat from 5-7 p.m. Laundromat patrons who wish to have the Loads of Love ministry do their laundry sign in at 5 p.m. On the Sign-In Sheet, they advise ministry members if they want them to use their detergent and dryer sheets or if they brought their own detergent, and if they want to have their laundry folded. The patrons sort and load their own laundry. The ministry pays for the cost of the washing and drying machines and come prepared with quarters to do so. They ask that the person stay on-site while their laundry is being done. For any children present, crafts are offered, and snacks are brought for anyone interested!
The day of their first event, there was a snow blizzard and yet, two families showed up with three families' laundry! The second month, they served 8-10 families. The third month, they served five families. Surrounding community neighbors have been very supportive of this ministry, and most of their laundry detergent and other supplies have been donated. The UNY Conference Mission Central HUB offered assistance by repurposing to them laundry detergent that didn't qualify for UMCOR cleaning kit inclusion!
Judy Craigmile, Phoenix UMC member who leads this ministry, said, “Our biggest joy each month is getting to know the people who allow us to help them with their laundry expenses. Building relationships that grow into sharing about our lives and joys and struggles is what it is all about. We are growing familiar with the families who have come on a repeated basis and through our conversations, we have been able to hear about their other areas of need and have begun to pray together and act on some of the needs, assisting them in other life areas where we can. Some are clothing needs; some are parenting or education concerns. For others, it is just a listening ear and caring heart. Sometimes, it includes a ride home if the weather is bad.”
There are people unable to meet basic needs in most communities. The Phoenix UMC Loads of Love ministry team is reaching their neighbors through laundry and offering them so much more by displaying God’s love.
UNY Annual Conference 2019 mobile phone app now available
Are you attending the Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference at the Oncenter in Syracuse from June 5-8? If so, you will want to download The UNY Annual Conference 2019 event app, which is available now!
This app, is available for all who have registered and paid their Annual Conference registration in full. Currently, there are documents related to Annual Conference, such as the event schedule, speaker bios, menus, etc. available for you to browse. Once you are at Annual Conference, you can use the app to quickly check-in. While at Annual Conference, the app will be updated daily with videos, articles, and any potential changes in the schedule.
Be sure to download the app before arriving at Annual Conference.
How to download the app
Go to the App Store on your Apple device or to Google Play on your Android and search for the app “UMCMeet” and download it. Once your app is on your phone, you will want to open the app and enter the event ID: unyumc. Then, press search and select the Annual Conference-UNYUMC icon. Sign in using the email address you provided when you registered for Annual Conference and the provided password: 2019.
If you are using a laptop, Kindle or are having problems downloading the app from the app store or google play you can use the mobile web site. From any browser (Chrome, Firefox, IE, etc.) go to the following link. It looks and feels the same as the App, but it runs inside the web browser. https://umcmeet.quickmobile.center/#/.
Click here to watch a video, featuring Doug Thomas, the UNY Director of IT, as he shows what the app has to offer.
At Annual Conference, there will be an “App Squad” available to answer any app questions you may have and to help you download and explore the app. Look for people wearing big neon yellow “App Squad” buttons.
Imagine No Racism workshops to take place at Annual Conference 2019
The Upper New York Conference’s Imagine No Racism (INR) is an initiative that was sparked by an unanimously approved resolution in July of 2016, at the Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, for every Annual Conference to confront the sin of racism in our own hearts, our churches, and our communities.
This initiative was created by the Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism and was launched on April 21, 2018. Each District has created small groups who have committed to meeting and studying a six-session General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) curriculum to ultimately understand the sin of racism and strategize ways to confront this deeply embedded issue across our Conference and the community at large. These groups were led by INR trained facilitators.
Dr. Blenda Smith, chair of the Conference Commission on Religion and Race (CCORR), said, “More than half of the clergy participated in the six-session INR process but many more are yet to engage. “
CCORR plans to offer a revised INR curriculum for the fall of 2019. In the meantime, UNY Conference clergy and laity registered for Annual Conference can attend INR workshops on June 7 from 12:15-1:30 at Annual Conference. This is one way that members of our Conference can continue to engage in the critical work of understanding and eliminating racism.
Dr. Smith said, “The overall goals for the workshops are an increased knowledge and sensitivity about individual and institutional racism and an enhanced desire and ability to bring this work back to one's own local church.
Registrants had the opportunity to choose one of four workshops to attend on their registration form. While two of the workshops have sold out, the other two will be able to accept walk-in attendees.
Why Is It So Hard to Talk About Race?
Led by Dr. Blenda Smith and Georgia Whitney MFA, INR Regional Coordinator for Adirondack, Albany, Binghamton, Finger Lakes, Mountain View, and Oneonta Districts
Racism is everywhere, and racial tension, animosity and pain are in almost everything we see and touch. We must talk about race -- ignoring it does not make it go away. This workshop will include multiple perspectives on talking about race, and suggest strategies to share our truths more effectively.
Preaching and Teaching to Confront Racism
Led by Rev. Harold Wheat and Rev. Rebekah Sweet
God has given you the gift and access to dozens of spiritual resources to facilitate a transformative encounter with Christ through preaching and teaching. This workshop is designed to help you identify your strengths, avoid common pitfalls, and become more confident in your Christ-given authority to love people out of racism and into wholeness.
They're Up Next: Leading Youth to Imagine No Racism - SOLD OUT
Led by the Rev. Carrie Wolfe and Charles Syms, LCSW, INR Regional Coordinator for Cornerstone, Genesee Valley, and Niagara Frontier Districts
Involvement of our youth in this work is essential as they are a vital part of the Church. Youth leaders, adults and youth participants attending this workshop will explore how to incorporate youth (ages 13-17) into a church’s “Imagine No Racism” ministry.
Strategies for Responding to Racism and Racist Incidents - SOLD OUT
Led by Dr. Scott Johnson (former Conference Lay leader) and Linda Hughes (CCORR member)
What if someone tells a racist joke in your presence? What if you find KKK materials left at your door? What if your friend criticizes players for kneeling during the National Anthem? Participants will learn how to take more effective action in confronting racism in situations like these and others.
Upper New York makes “New Places for New People” a priority
New Faith Communities (NFCs), are one of the best ways to introduce people to God in fresh new ways—sometimes in public settings like cafes, outdoor settings, and even laundromats; other times in peoples’ homes. New Faith Communities welcome people who may not initially be comfortable in the “church” setting. Additionally, NFCs help ethnic-minorities connect to God through building groups of people from a similar cultural background to gather together for prayer, fellowship, and worship.
There are currently close to 100 NFCs in Upper New York (UNY). A lot of the funding comes from the New Beginnings Fund —a fund that was set up at the time of the formation of the UNY Conference and has been fed by the income of the sales of closed church properties. For a variety of reasons, in recent years, the income of sold churches has not kept up with need. Because of this the Conference Leadership Team has approved a plan to create a new campaign fundraiser called “New Places for New People Partners.”
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb and Rev. Masland are inviting individual persons (lay and clergy) to prayerfully consider becoming a “New Places for New People" Partner by giving a gift of at least $100. Every person who gives at least $100 will receive a button that proclaims: “I am a 'New Places for New People' Partner."
Every church in UNY is challenged by Bishop Webb and Rev. Masland to become a “New Places for New People Partner” by giving a gift of at least $500. Congregations that gives at least $500 will receive a certificate saying: “New Places for New People" Partner Church.
Of course, if individuals or churches feel inspired to give something more than the entry level “Partner” gift, they can. Click here to read more about the "New Places for New People" Partnership campaign, including higher giving levels.
The appointive cabinet believes so highly in the work of planting NFCs as of the date of this article they have already given nearly $3,000 in cash gifts and are pledging to give more going forward.
Why consider becoming a "New Places for New People" Partner? Because your help will aid in the growth of already successful NFCs and will help plant even more NFCs.
Upper New York has many success stories of growing New Faith Communities, creating hundreds of disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation of the world.
Here are just a few examples of New Faith Communities success stories in Upper New York.
Speaking about Foundation UMC in Vestal, Ny, The Rev. Dave Masland, Director of New Faith Communities, said, “A little more than two years ago, the Rev. John Martin planted FoundationUMC in Vestal. Their very simple church has attracted many unchurched people. They do three things… worship, life groups and monthly church-wide mission projects. They find new people coming almost exclusively through personal invitation from active members. Many people who have been out of church for 20-30 years have found their way back to Christ through Foundation. Nearly 20 persons have been baptized in the past year. Life Groups are where people get very honest about their doubts, questions, sins, and spiritual lives, receive God’s forgiveness and deepen their commitment to following Jesus. The average worship attendance since January (2019) has been 128!”
Rev. John Martin added, “On any given Sunday at Foundation, we have five distinct generations (Gen Z, Millenials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and Builders) worshiping alongside one another all striving to embody the fullness of God's Kingdom in and throughout our community. This diversity of experience, perspective,and gifting has truly empowered our church to provide a profound witness to those who are not yet a part of us.”
The mission of the UNY Conference is “being God’s love to our neighbors in all places.” Most often, that means being the church outside of the church. New Faith Communities are sprouting in this format!
Pennsylvania Avenue UMC in Pine City, NY has three locations where five distinct New Faith Communities meet as part of what they refer to as Fresh Start outreach. Two of these five groups meet right at Pennsylvania UMC one on Saturday and one on Sunday, but three of the groups meet in other locations. One is at the Glen theatre in Watkins Glen, NY. There is a contemporary worshipping congregation that meets there Sunday mornings, welcoming about 35 people from the community and tourists in the summer season. A second is also in Watkins Glen, at the Fresh Start Church House; referred to as the early weekend worship service, this group of about 15 people meets on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. The third is Fresh Start Miracle Mile, in a former Ponderosa restaurant; there is a contemporary worship here on Sunday mornings with about 90 in attendance and numerous activities throughout the week.
In the neighborhood of Lake UMC (near Rochester, NY), there is a relatively new lower-to-middle-income apartment building. Pastor Ray Poling launched a New Faith Community called “Elevation Celebration” for people in this apartment complex. They meet in the complex’s public gathering place. On recent weeks, they have had 40-50 new people coming for great food, community building, and conversation about God’s love and grace.
There are many culture-based New Faith Communities throughout the Conference. Casa de Dios, a Hispanic New Faith Community in Syracuse is now worshipping around 100 each week and is actively growing leaders to launch a second site elsewhere in the months to come. The “Karenni Good News and New Hope UMC” in Mattydale, NY, have 80+ worshipping each week with 25-30 children and youth. This congregation uses the former Mattydale UMC building, and is sharing their space with two other New Faith Communities. The Nepali UMC is one of these NFCs—they have 70+ people every week, including many young children as well.
There are many more examples that will be shared as the "New Places for New People" Partners campaign continues. If you would like to share about your experience with a New Faith Community send your story to email@example.com.
If you and your church become a "New Places for New People" Partner, imagine the number of unchurched people who will become disciples! The possibilities are endless. Checks for this campaign from churches should have Advance Special # 664 in the memo line. Individuals should put “New Places for New People” in their memo line.
The New Places for New People Partners campaign begins today and will end Nov. 1, 2019. People and churches can give gifts before, during or after Annual Conference. You will be recognized at Annual Conference if you have a button!
Click here for toolkit resources to help promote the "New Places for New People" Partnership—this page will be regularly updated as more resources are developed.
The Judicial Council Rulings on the Traditional Plan
April 29, 2019 / By UNY Communications
In its April 23-26 meeting, the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council reviewed the Traditional Plan, which was approved the Special Session of General Conference in February. This plan retains the current stance of the Book of Discipline regarding same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals.
The Judicial Council ruled that seven of petitions of the newly adopted Traditional Plan remain unconstitutional, and the rest of the plan is valid as church law.
Click here to read the updated Summary of the Judicial Council Ruling Fact Sheet prepared by the Upper New York Episcopal Office. This document clearly outlines the petitions that were ruled null and void and the petitions that were ruled constitutional.
UNY Conference welcomes MaryBeth Ingalls
The Upper New York Conference welcomes MaryBeth Ingalls as the new Mission Volunteer Coordinator. She will be working alongside with Mike Block, the Upper New York Director of Missional Engagement. MaryBeth’s primary responsibility will be to help broaden the awareness of volunteer opportunities at the Mission Central HUB and throughout the Conference.
MaryBeth became a Christian 12 years ago while attending Liverpool First UMC. While at Liverpool, she fell in love with mission work and went on several mission trips at the Red Bird Mission Work Camp. Her passion for mission and her love of Red Bird was so strong that she took a position there as a craft marketer. For the past 2.5 years, MaryBeth traveled all over the United States selling crafts made by people living in poverty in Appalachia.
While MaryBeth loved her position at Red Bird, she has been looking for an opportunity closer to home in Upper New York so that she can spend more time with her 10-month old granddaughter, Payton. She was thrilled when she heard about the Mission Volunteer Coordinator position with the Conference.
MaryBeth was hired earlier this month. Mike Block said, “We are so glad MaryBeth chose to be a part of our Missions not only in the HUB but throughout the Conference. Her experiences and dedication to Missions will provide clear and precise direction for others to follow.”
MaryBeth is filled with enthusiasm. She said, “This is very exciting to me. When I was with Red Bird, I was often a speaker at local churches during their services. I always spoke about the importance of making connections and this is exactly what I get to do in this new position…make connections.”
In addition to her devotion to mission work, MaryBeth enjoys cooking and a lot of outdoors activities like camping, kayaking, and hiking.
Register now for your Blueprint for Wellness screening
April 23, 2019 / By UNY Communications
Wespath Benefits and Investments and The Center for Health have again teamed up with Quest Diagnostics to offer "Blueprint for Wellness," a free health screening program for eligible participants* in the Upper New York Conference. Quest Diagnostics will be at the Upper New York Annual Conference event at the Oncenter on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, and Thursday, June 6, 2019, from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
This is an opportunity to obtain a free comprehensive biometric screening which provides information about your heart, liver, and kidney function, diabetes risk and blood-sugar control, calcium and iron – plus PSA screening for men. In addition to having information to take to your doctor to help implement a wellness plan, HealthFlex participants can earn $100 in Virgin Pulse HealthMiles Cash.**
Pre-Registration is strongly recommended for the Annual Conference event. You can register for an appointment between now and May 22. A limited number of walk-ins will be allowed depending on time and supply availability. Walk-ins must provide a HealthFlex ID number at the time of the screening.
You may also choose to get your screening at a local Quest laboratory between January 2 and July 31. Pre-registration is required and appointments are available now.
Click here for instructions on how to register for an appointment at Annual Conference, as well as fasting requirements.
Click here for 2019 HealthFlex Wellness Incentives FAQs.
*Please note: The screening at Annual Conference is only available to participants and spouses covered by the HealthFlex PPO B1000 and CDHP plans.
**To earn the $100 in HealthCash, you must be a HealthFlex participant enrolled in Virgin Pulse by the end of the day of your screening. To enroll in Virgin Pulse, login to your HealthFlex/WebMD account at: https://www.webmdhealth.com/gbophb/, choose “Join Virgin Pulse” and follow the instructions.
Important Notice for Via Benefits Participants
Participants and spouses enrolled in Via Benefits are not eligible to obtain a screening at Annual Conference. As an alternative for Via Benefits participants, a health screening can be obtained at any Quest Diagnostics laboratory by calling 1-855-623-9355. Via Benefits participants are not eligible for the HealthCash.
Facing a church closure—First Palmyra UMC members reminisce
Editor’s Note: Every year, 8-15 churches across the Upper New York Conference close their doors for good. Here is the story of one church that will be closing effective July 1, 2019. Have you experienced a recent church closure? We’d love to help you preserve the memory of your church. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Palmyra, New York has a rich history of Methodism. This area was one of the most popular areas of the Methodist circuit riders in the late 1700s. What is known today as the First United Methodist Church of Palmyra (FUMCP) had its first gathering as a congregation in 1797. After becoming incorporated in 1824 and being located on two different streets in Palmyra, the current church was built on the corner of Main Street and Church Street in 1867 and has served several generations of Methodists since.
The church is a gorgeous brick structure with tall, arched stain glass windows. The original sanctuary seats about 200 people on wooden pews with royal blue cushioning. A massive pipe organ that was installed in 1889 adorns the back of the sanctuary and still plays beautifully. Stitched and quilted banners made by members of the congregation over the years are hung on the sanctuary walls between the stained-glass windows.
Today, the church has 10 sole members and to save on utility bills, they do not meet in the large sanctuary; they meet in what they call the chapel (a room that was once the church nursery). This room has enough pews and chairs to seat 30, but it hasn’t held that many members in over a decade.
The remaining members of FUMCP are mourning. Their church will be closing effective July 1, 2019.
Judy Herrick and Ann Guest have been members of FUMCP since they were infants in 1941 and 1945 respectively. They remember days when the large sanctuary was full especially for the Christmas Eve and Easter services. Judy said, “It was so full that it was standing room only on Easter for all three services every year.”
Ann piggybacked off Judy’s comment remarking on how the Sunday school classes flourished over the years. Ann said, “There were 10 or more kids in every single grade of Sunday School. And the Junior High youth group and Senior High youth group each had 15-20 kids.”
For several years, the church had a junior choir and senior choir, each with 30+ members. Ann, reminiscing about the choirs, said, “They wore these gorgeous purple robes with gold stoles and there were amazing singers from young children all the way through members who are as old as I am now.”
Over the past couple of decades, the membership numbers of FUMCP started dwindling. There hasn’t been a Sunday School in the past six or seven years. Children who have grown up in the church have since moved all over the country.
Ann and Judy discussed one indicator of the declining membership—the flowers for special services in the sanctuary. Judy said, “The sanctuary used to be overflowing with flowers for Christmas and Easter…and every year, there were fewer and fewer to now only a few arrangements.”
The remaining members of the church have still been very active disciples; during the Christmas holidays of 2018, they filled 471 shoe boxes of toiletries and other necessities for community organizations.
They have had very successful chicken barbeques and pie sales that have been successful fundraisers to keep the church afloat, but they no longer have enough people to keep the fundraisers going.
As a group, nine of the 10 remaining members voted for the church to close.
The Rev. Patience Kisakye was appointed to the church on July 1, 2018 and has seen the members through the process of deciding to close the church in the fall of 2018. She said, “The fact that many generations of families have been members of this church has been a strength, but also, it has been a downfall because it has been difficult for new members to assimilate.”
The church will be celebrating their history on June 30 and members of several churches will be attending to show them their support. Judy said, “We are sad about the church closing, but we will continue to do our jobs of spreading God’s word, and serving those who need us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.”
Hundreds of people will hold memories of how wonderful it was to be a member of FUMCP.
New York State Employers required to provide sexual harassment prevention training
New York State employers must provide employees with sexual harassment prevention training upon hire and on an annual basis. For this year, the training must be completed by all current employees and new hires by October 9, 2019. Once the initial training is complete, the employer can decide the timing of the annual training (calendar year, anniversary date, or any other date). Employers are encouraged to track completion of training through attendance sheets or some other manner for audit purposes.
In addition to the sexual harassment prevention training requirement, each employer is required to have a sexual harassment prevention policy in place. This policy should be shared with employees prior to the training. If you have yet to create a sexual harassment prevention policy, click here to learn more.
Please note that the Safe Sanctuaries training does not exempt churches from the New York State sexual harassment prevention training requirements.
Click here for free training materials available from New York State (NYS). Training materials are available in a variety of languages and should be provided in the employee’s primary language. Please note the training materials provided by New York State do not alone meet the interactive requirement. If you choose to use the New York State training materials, you will need to add to it to meet the interactive requirement. For information on the interactive requirement, please visit the NYS website.
The Conference provided ESI EAP program offers free training for New York State sexual harassment prevention that meets the New York State training requirements. The participant must be eligible for the EAP plan. Click here to see if you are eligible for the ESI EAP plan.
There are several training providers that offer New York state sexual harassment prevention training
in an online format that meets the New York State training requirements. Evolve E-Learning and
HRdirect are suggested providers. Please note these vendors will charge a fee for the training.
If you have any questions regarding the New York State sexual harassment prevention requirements, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at 315-898-2017 or TracyRickett@unyumc.org.
UNY Conference members help with disaster relief in Danville, VA
April 23, 2019 / By Laura Alexander, Lansing UMC
From April 7 to April 13, a team from Lansing UMC traveled to Danville, VA for Hurricane Recovery. In September 2018, the Dan River crested at 22’, and again in October crested a record 30’. Team leader Steve Alexander was in contact with Disaster Coordinators from North Carolina, who referred Steve to Pastor Bob Pihlcrantz, the VA UMC Disaster Response Coordinator. He said that the Danville area was in need. Pastor Lisa Nordan is the Danville District Disaster Relief Coordinator. After the storm, she had begun, with local help, to muck out and remove damaged material. Once Pastor Lisa applied for and received grant money, she called for teams to help with recovery.
Six members of Lansing UMC traveled to Virginia, among whom were Glenn Withiam, Dave and Peg Stoyell, Eric Keilbach, Steve and Laura Alexander. Bryce Ginther from Salem UMC in West Sand Lake NY and his brother Paul Ginther of Ashville, NC joined the team. Pastor Jimmy Calhoun of Mount Olivet UMC welcomed the team with open arms, providing a full kitchen and showering facilities.
The team split into two four-person teams to work on two sites. One needed a ceiling installed, trim work, and light fixtures. The other needed paneling installed and painting. Morning arrival on site at 8:30 a.m. saw one team prepping the cement walls, the other to measure for trim. Lunch brought the team together again to share the meal on site. Break for the day was at about 5 p.m. when we returned to the church, cleaned up, and took turns to prepare dinner. Devotional time followed dinner and then review of work accomplished and plans for the next day with supply needs.
By the end of the week, we had the ceiling installed, the light fixtures in, the trim applied, and doors installed. The second site had paneling and trim installed, walls painted, new vent covers, doors installed, and an old dryer vent sealed, and as a surprise bonus (for owners) a defunct access panel turned to a shadow box.
The families were still living in the homes, receiving the teams with grace and love, even after living for so long with the damage, even when they are sick and have to go for evaluations, even when their privacy has been shattered, and when they are preparing to receive the next team. For while the family feels lost and the team hears the call to mission, it is God who is working. As one devotion quoted Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God.”
Outward! ’19 gathers your from around Upper New York
April 16, 2019 / By Kristian J. Snyder
Hundreds of youth and adults from across Upper New York came together in Liverpool for OUTWARD! ’19, held April 5-7 at the Liverpool Holiday Inn. There were over 250 youth and adults who joined the Conference Council on Youth Ministry members who planned and organized the event. There were a total of 25 youth groups, from all 12 districts, in attendance.
This year, we again provided opportunities for youth groups to do hands-on mission work for those in need. Over one-third of the attendees participated in assembling and verifying UMCOR health kits and flood buckets at UNY Mission Central Hub. A smaller group went to the Samaritan Center to assist with their feeding program. Mission work was also available on-site. Several CCYM members led youth and adults in making sandwiches for the Samaritan Center, fleece blankets for a homeless shelter, and cards to be sent to veterans.
In addition to the hands-on mission work, the weekend included 15 workshops on Saturday. The guest preachers at the worship services were Kenny John, Gavin Hill, and Sung Ah Choi, and the juggling group InJest shared their faith in a fun way on Saturday night. The band InsideOut joined us this year for wonderful and exciting worship music for the weekend.
Some Saturday workshops:
- “Digging Deep in Love” led by Dee Finch. In this workshop, participants dug into the meaning behind the love of God and how he shows us his love.
- “Onsite Service” led by Brennan and Jennalyn. This workshop allowed attendees to write cards to those serving our country and also make blankets for the Samaritan Center.
- “Prayer Chapel” led by Jenn King. In this workshop, youth and adults prayed by drawing, coloring, or writing things down.
- “Mingler for Youth” led by Ryan Sivers. In this workshop, youth met and interacted with other youth that they did not previously know.
Some Sunday morning options:
- “Juggling with Jesus” led by InJest. In this workshop, participants learned how to juggle.
- “Labyrinth” led by Tony Hipes. In this workshop, attendees walked around the labyrinth silently and prayed as they walked through and felt the holy spirit.
- “Study & Writing” led by Cory Jones. In this workshop, youth and adults learned how to write devotions and study devotions better.
Each evening was brought to an end by eight late-night options, for youth to take part in and have fun before going to their rooms for the night. The weekend was full of laughter, joy, renewal, music, prayer, spiritual growth, and fun times with other youth, due to the wonderful worship speakers, great missions work, and workshop and late-night options leaders.
*Kristian J. Snyder is a CCYM Member
Children with special needs have an eggcellent time at Easter event
April 16, 2019 / By The Rev. Todd Goddard
Our Easter Egg Hunt for Children with Special Needs and Their Families this morning was a great success!
About 40 volunteers planted eggs filled with candy, toys, slips of paper for prizes, and money. About 40 families attended and had a wonderful time, as volunteers guided children throughout the church and front yard to fill a bag full of eggs.
Children with special needs often are left out of community Easter egg hunts due to their unique limitations. The East Rochester United Methodist Church is committed to serving all people, with an emphasis on individuals with special needs and their families.
Our annual egg hunts are non-competitive, informal, and supported by caring volunteers. Parents are especially grateful and look forward to attending each year. Every child has a great time and leaves with a bag full of Easter eggs.
This tradition is a collaboration led by the East Rochester UMC, together with our Heritage Christian Services East Rochester Day Program, and our neighbors, the Family First Federal Credit Union. All three organizations filled eggs and supplied volunteers. In addition, Family First Federal Credit Union provided professionally printed fliers.
A unique ministry: Common Good Radio
April 10, 2019 / By Rev. Della Ludwig
Editor's Note: This is the first article in our series about unique ministries. If your church have a unique ministry that you would like to share, send us your story at email@example.com.
“You’re listening to Common Good Radio for all God’s children,” chimes in another year of award-winning programming from Common Good Radio (CGR). This all-volunteer 24/7 digital radio station is entering into its 11th year of production as a labor of love. But CGR is not only a place to listen. It also invites participation and trains young people to lift their voices for the common good (1 Cor 12:7).
“Because we believe we have a responsibility to empower young people to live out their faith and spirituality, Common Good Radio has created programming for children to listen to one another and the world around them, speak out, and be heard,” shared the Rev. Dr. Robin Blair, creator and executive director of CGR.
“Common Good Radio opens the minds and hearts of children and teens to the power of media that includes their voices, so they are equipped and encouraged to contribute to the common good. It is faith formation using 21st century digital tools. In our tradition I like to remember this as a way to honor the covenant made at their baptism, too.”
Common Good Radio stands in contrast to our current media culture where messages are often raw, unedited, or scripted for a singular purpose of profit-making often using the hearts and minds of young people without care for their well-being. If you have ever wondered why children’s programming is more violent or sexually explicit than ever, the reason is to keep your kids stimulated enough to stay glued to the screen(s)to influence consumer behavior.
The sad spiritual void of commercial media is real; leaving a generation of people confused about the essential role they fill in this world, or distracting us all from loving one another in the peace of Christ. Simply put, CGR hopes to inform children and families to pay attention to and use media for more than the commercialization of childhood.
“We embrace the opportunity to cultivate media literacy as a spiritual practice,” Dr. Blair said. “We are focused on how God’s truths show up in the media we consume. And if they do not, we notice that, too.”
Common Good Radio is an alternative to today’s media because it lifts a steady message of compassion and kindness in homes, faith communities, schools, and after-school programs. We have gracious space for the sounds of diversity in story, blessing, and song. Common Good Radio provides spiritual care for families and support for families through podcasts, like Faith Parenting and Married to the Media; movie reviews by adults; and The Projects, by the youth.
UMAC award-winning programming includes our website and podcasts, like, the Peace Project, the Casowasco Project, Anatomy of a Lockdown, and Married to the Media. Common Good Radio has also been invited to offer a round-table discussion during this year’s NAMLE (National Association of Media Literacy in Education) Conference in Washington DC this June. All this is accomplished with volunteers and a lot of learning, patience, and love.
Common Good Radio is heard in 125 countries around the world. From Cambodia to Canada, Botswana to Belize, Thailand to Trinidad, Australia to Albania, and the USA people are listening to manifestations of the spirit for the Common Good.
Common Good Radio offers workshops to faith communities, adults and youth, and schools. These workshops allow young people to learn how to use their voice in faith formation in both church and pop culture, teaching media literacy by creating digital media. Such exploration promotes love and grace because it looks for the common thread within the diversity of expression.
Common Good Radio invites the youth in your community to join the movement. To learn more visit commongoodradio.org. CGR operates solely on donations, consider a missional partnership to help spread the good news, using the sounds of love. Conference Advance Special 3118.
CLT and DLTs gather to learn about teams
The Conference Leadership Team (CLT) gathered with the District Leadership Teams (DLTs) for their spring meeting on April 6 at the United Methodist Center.
The morning started with inspiring worship capped off with an exercise acknowledging the barriers to ministry by writing the barriers on a piece of paper. Those gathered then dropped the pieces of paper into bowls of water where the pieces of paper dissolved as the members of the CLT and DLTs continued forward to take the sacrament of communion.
Following worship, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, spoke to the nearly 100 individuals, representing all 12 Upper New York Conference Districts. Bishop Webb acknowledged the pain caused by the Special Session of General Conference and casted a vision for a “new kind of unity.”
“I don’t know what the United Methodist Church is going to look like a year or two from now,” Bishop Webb said. “It is my belief that it won’t look like it does today, and it definitely won’t look like it did before the Special Session. But, whatever it looks like, I have to believe God will be in it. I have to trust that. And, I know that whatever it looks like, we will need leaders. We will need each of you.”
After Bishop Webb spoke, the CLT led a time of learning around different kinds of teams. There was sharing around directional teams, operational teams, and task teams. Attributes of each kind of team were shared, and there was an acknowledgment that each kind of team is needed. However, it was also shared that both the CLT and the DLTs should be behaving primarily as operational teams.
Learning continued as members of the West Virginia Conference were brought in remotely to share about their experiences working in operational teams at the District level.
DLTs then moved into small groups with two other DLTs to share about what they were accomplishing and the progress they had made on their Ministry Action Plans. DLTs had been specifically tasked with working on a plan for each church in their District to have an intentional discipleship system, and each DLT had a chance to share where they had succeeded and where they had fallen short along with any other information they cared to share.
When the DLTs and CLT gathered back together the opportunity was given to share learnings with the whole.
Finally, the CLT had the chance to share what they had been working on. They shared that they continued to embrace the Loving, Learning, Leading (L3) model. Despite great diversity in beliefs, both about human sexuality and the outcome of Special Session, the L3 model helped them to support and embrace each other following the Special Session of General Conference.
The CLT committed to continue to work together in this way to lead the Conference forward in a very challenging season and invited the DLTs to join them.
The day then concluded with prayer and sending forth.
Offerings to be collected at the 2019 UNY Annual Conference
April 9, 2019 / By Upper New York Communications
The 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference will be held on June 5-8 at the Oncenter in Syracuse. The following five offerings will be collected at this year's Annual Conference:
- The offering collected at Opening Worship will go to the Upper New York Mission Central HUB—a place located at the UNY Methodist Center for local churches to actively engage in outreach and disaster response ministries. From training the Conference’s Volunteer in Mission and Disaster Response teams to collecting and assembling flood buckets, hygiene kits, school kits, and more, the UNY Mission Central HUB is the perfect answer to local churches who feel called to expand their outreach ministries. Click here to learn more about the UNY Mission Central HUB.
- The offering collected at the Laity Session will go to the Helping Hands Fund. Helping Hands Funds raises money to be used by the Cabinet to assist congregants in need of financial support.
- The offering collected at the Clergy Session will go to the Clergy Care Fund. The Clergy Care Fund assists clergy who need financial support.
- The offering collected at the Young Adult Worship Service will go to Mission of Peace (MOP) an annual journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdiction Council on Youth Ministries. Click here and here to read the reflections from two Upper New York youth who went on the MOP journey to Cuba earlier this year. Next year, MOP will be going to the Philippines.
- The offering collected at the Service of Ordination and Commissioning will go to New Faith Communities (NFCs) - New faith community planters work to create safe places for un-churched or de-churched people to explore their faith, consider what it means to follow Jesus Christ, and then practice discipleship together with new friends. These communities gather in malls, cafes, storefronts, bars, homes, fellowship halls and restaurants, and each one is committed to being God’s love with their neighbors. There are currently more than 91 New Faith Communities in UNY—click here to learn more about UNY NFCs.
The Upper New York Annual Conference provides five great opportunities to support the United Methodist Connection. From helping our youth experience a mission trip of their lifetime and supporting the many ministries the pour forth from Mission Central to supporting clergy and congregants with financial constraints and planting New Faith Communities, you can help the Upper New York and people around the world flourish with your generous offerings.
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball to speak at the UNY Annual Conference Service of Commissioning and Ordination
At this year’s session of the Upper New York Annual Conference, to be held June 5-8 at the Oncenter in Syracuse, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, the Resident Bishop of the West Virginia Conference, will be the speaker for the Service of Commissioning and Ordination. This service will take place Saturday June 8 at 2 p.m.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, feels blessed that Bishop Steiner Ball accepted his invitation to speak. He said, “I am blessed to call Bishop Steiner Ball a sister in Christ, trusted colleague and friend. Her deep commitment to Christ and the Church is evident in her leadership in West Virginia and across the church. Bishop Steiner Ball has dedicated her years of ministry to the equipping of others and inviting them to live out God’s call upon their lives. We will be blessed by her presence and her message as the preacher of our ordination service.
Bishop Steiner Ball’s sermon title will be, “An Extraordinary, Challenging Journey.” She will zero in on the message found in Mark 4:35-41. This is the passage that recounts the parable of Jesus asking his first disciples to join him on a boat during a storm at sea. The disciples answered his call and Jesus miraculously stilled the storm.
The stilling of the storm can be read on different levels—one is that Jesus has the power of miracles (as this parable introduces several other miracles performed in the book of Mark). This parable can also be looked at through the lens of discipleship or answering Jesus’s call—this interpretation fits perfectly with Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J’ Webb’s theme for this year’s Annual Conference, Together in Prayer: Moving Beyond our Comfort Zones.
Bishop Steiner Ball said, “The life of ministry invites us to crossings that move us beyond our Comfort Zones. Yes, there will be excitement! Yes, there will be storms! Yes, there will be fears and wrestling! Yes, you can expect the unexpected! The Good News is that we are never alone! Christ invites us to and is with us on the journey.”
Peace with Justice Grant Application Deadline Approaching
April 2, 2019 / By Heather Smith, Peace with Justice Coordinator
The deadline to apply for the next round of grants is April 30, 2019. Find the current Peace with Justice Grant application here. The Social Holiness Team looks forward to hearing what ministries may be emerging around our annual conference!
In 2018, the Social Holiness Team approved three $2000 grants.
- Brown Memorial Church in Syracuse - They seek to address issues of poverty with a Teen Life Skills program during which young people were taught resume and college essay writing, and anger management, as well as participating in mission trips and Lay Servant training.
- Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State - They are addressing systemic causes of poverty through revitalizing the Poor People’s Campaign. This grant supported the work in the North Country region of our state with a People’s Hearing to be held early in 2019. Elected official will be present to hear from 4-6 individuals about their experience of injustice and oppression.
- New York State Council of Churches - Bringing Christians together from all over the state to work on issues of hospitality and development. A kickoff event in March, 2019 and five one-day seminars in rural, suburban, and urban locations will be held and focus on building inclusive community through public policy and practical use of assets and property.
If your congregation has not yet taken the Peace with Justice Sunday offering, there is still time! Any Sunday would be a good time to highlight these or other ministries that have received grants and half of all funds collected in Upper NY stay right here to support new justice projects.
Contact Heather Smith, the Peace with Justice Coordinator, if you have any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org). Heather is happy to come visit your congregation or small group to talk about how the Peace with Justice offering is integral to our United Methodist Connection.
Cady Grant applications accepted through May 3
April 2, 2019 / By Blenda Smith
Applications for the Ercil Cady Grant are available now through May 3, 2019. Grant(s) of up to $5,000 may be awarded to individual United Methodists, local UM churches, or UNY district and conference ministry teams. As directed by the originator of the Ercil Cady Grant, priority shall be given to educational proposals that benefit minority groups or individuals, preferably black and American Indians. Click here for the application form and instructions.
In recent years, the following exciting grants have been awarded:
· Hendricks Chapel Creative Non-Fiction Writing Contest: an opportunity for African American and Native American university students to creatively share their experiences of spirituality/spiritual formation. Contest included cash awards. Click here for the announcement poster.
· Hogansburg UMC’s Buddy-Bench Caring, Sharing & Respect Project: a two pronged approach to counter bullying, namely, building benches and educating the school board, school children and staff about the anti-bullying, safe-place benches that are located in strategic places on school grounds and parks.
· Covenant UMC’s Praise & Play Program: a weekly opportunity for community children to build relationships, learn about Jesus and cultivate their faith through music, art, service projects & followed by full course suppers with families.
· Central Park Buffalo's Young Men & Women of Faith Program: provided opportunities for educational trips to learn about our country’s history of racial discord, women’s rights, and the brave efforts of people and the United Methodist Church in racial, social & restorative justice.
The Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood selected as Memorial Service speaker at Annual Conference
At this year’s session of the Upper New York Annual Conference, to be held June 5-8 at the Oncenter in Syracuse, the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood, District Superintendent of the Cornerstone District, will be the speaker for the Memorial Service. The Memorial Service will take place Thursday June 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Following Jesus and being part of a community of faith has always been an important part of Dr. Rood’s life. She said, “My family, and particularly my maternal grandparents, modeled a quiet but strong faith. Their lives reflected Micah 6:8, ‘What does the Lord require of you? To seek justice, love, kindness, and walk humbly with your God.’ Christians need to journey with others on the way – following Jesus is not a solo endeavor! I have been blessed with good pastors, mentors, family and friends who have shown me what it means to be a follower of Jesus.”Reflecting on his invitation to Dr. Rood to be the Memorial Service speaker, Bishop Webb said, “Dr. Rood’s passion for Christ, love of the Church and her pastoral heart for the people of God will bless us as she offers words of hope and promise found in the living God.”
While Dr. Rood prepares for her Memorial Service sermon, she explained that part of it will zero in on the importance of “crying out to Jesus in times of need and finding hope in the midst of grief.” Rev. Rood will be referencing John 11, specifically the death of Lazarus and how Jesus comforted the sisters of Lazarus. She will also call attention to Psalm 46, a passage that reminds us that God is our refuge and strength.
Dr. Rood believes that the Memorial Service is an important witness to the lives of clergy and spouses who wholeheartedly devoted themselves to God and the United Methodist Church. Rev. Rood is praying that “the family and friends of the persons we’re gathering to remember will feel loved and supported by the Annual Conference as well as receive a word of hope in their time of sorrow.”
Bishop Webb announces April-May regional gatherings
April 1, 2019 / By UNY Communications
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb has announced regional gatherings that he will be hosting throughout the Upper New York Conference in April and May. These regional gatherings will primarily focus on unpacking the Judicial Council’s decision regarding the constitutionality of the petitions that made up the Traditional Plan affirmed by the delegates of the 2019 Special Session of The General Conference. It will also be a time to help attendees to understand what becomes part of the Book of Discipline on January 1, 2020 and what does not. These times will include an opportunity for questions and conversation about what God might be doing in and through The United Methodist Church in the future. There will be a brief time of worship at each gathering as well.
The dates, times, and locations of these gatherings are as follows:
- April 30, 2019 from 6:30 -8:30 p.m.: Potsdam UMC
- May 1, 2019 from 6:30 -8:30 p.m.: Olean: Christ UMC
- May 13, 2019 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.: Cicero UMC
- May 14, 2019 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.: Chenango Bridge UMC
- May 15, 2019 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.: Clarence UMC
- May 29, 2019 from 6:30- 8:30 p.m.: Shenendahowa UMC
Bishop Webb announces AC2019 speakers
The 2019 Upper New York Annual Conference will be held June 5-8, 2019 at the Oncenter in Syracuse, NY. The quadrennial theme of Together in Prayer continues with an emphasis on Moving beyond our comfort zones. Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is pleased to announce this year’s speakers.
This year, the study leader will be the Rev. Dr. Vance Ross; the Memorial Service speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood; and speaker for the Service of Commissioning and Ordination will be Bishop Sandra Steiner-Ball.
The Rev. Dr. Vance Ross serves as Pastor of the Historic Central UMC in Atlanta GA and is also Dean of the Chapel of Spiritual Life at Emory University. Previously, Dr. Voss served as Director of Annual Conference Relations/Annual Conference Strategist for Vital Congregations at Discipleship Ministries.
The Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood is currently serving as the District Superintendent of the Cornerstone District for the eighth consecutive year. Prior to role as District Superintendent, Rev. Rood served as pastor of North Chili UMC.
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball is the Resident Bishop of the West Virginia Conference and was one of the moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward. Prior to being elected as Bishop and assigned to the West Virginia Conference in 2012, Bishop Steiner Ball served as Director of Connectional Ministries for the Pennisula-Delaware Conference.
Look for full feature articles on each of these speakers in the coming weeks.
Employee Assistance Programs available
March 20, 2019 / By Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist
Did you know that The Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church provides an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefit for its employees? There are two EAP plans offered. Both plans are confidential and are provided at no cost to the participant. The EAP plan you are enrolled in depends on your employment status and whether you are enrolled in HealthFlex.
Employee Assistance Program for employees enrolled in Healthflex Medical Benefits:
Employees enrolled in HealthFlex Medical Benefits through Blue Cross/Blue Shield are automatically enrolled in the Employee Assistance Program through Optum. The EAP program through Healthflex Medical Benefits provides eight free counseling sessions/per person/per issue (Examples of issues are: divorce, work related stress, grief counseling, etc.).
Click here for HealthFlex EAP brochure.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 1-800-788-5614 or visit wespath.org.
Employee Assistance Program for Select Employees:
The Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church has contracted with ESI Employee Assistance Group to provide a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to the following groups of employees.
- Part time clergy appointed to local churches
- Supply pastors appointed to local churches
- Active clergy over the age of 65
- Clergy on incapacity leave
- Part-time year-round Conference employees
- Conference employees who waived medical insurance
The EAP provided by ESI Employee Assistance Group is a confidential resource which includes the following benefits:
- Unlimited telephonic counseling
- Up to three in-person counseling sessions per issue
- Work/Life benefits such as other personal, legal, and financial issues
- Self-Help Resources
- Personal and Professional Coaching
- Lifestyle benefits
- Career Development and Training benefits
- Wellness Benefits
Click here for an ESI/Total Care EAP brochure.
Click here for an ESI/Total Care EAP video.
Participants are enrolled automatically upon becoming eligible and will receive a memo from the Conference Human Resources department with information on how to register on www.theeap.com.
For more information or to access any of the benefits provided by ESI EAP, call 800-252-4555 or visit theeap.com
If you have any questions regarding either Employee Assistance Program (EAP), please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at 315-898-2017 or email@example.com.
Seeking nominations for 2019 Harry Denman Evangelism awards
Nominations are open for the 2019 Harry Denman Evangelism Awards.
The awards honor United Methodists in each Conference whose exceptional evangelism brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Each year, Annual Conferences join the Foundation for Evangelism in recognizing one youth, one clergy member, and one lay person in their Conference.
The 2018 recipients in the Upper New York Conference were lay member Kevin T. Dunn (posthumously) and Pastor Mike Kelly. The deadline for submitting your nominations to the Conference is April 19.
UNY Recap and Reflections of Special Session 2019 gathering
On March 17, 2019, hundreds of members of the Upper New York Conference gathered together across 12 District Communication HUBS for a livestreamed Recap and Reflection after the Special Session of General Conference. District Superintendents presided at their District’s HUB—they played the livestream and led communion at the end.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, introduced the gathering by expressing how he wished that everyone could be together under one roof, but also felt grateful that we have the technology to be able to be connect in the livestream format.
Bishop Webb acknowledged the pain felt among the LGBTQIA community after Special Session and also recognized how the division, political maneuvering, and ugly rhetoric that filled the arena in St. Louis has continued to the point where there is a lot of distrust in one another throughout the United Methodist Church.
This gathering included worship throughout led by Wayne Clemens, pastor at CenterPoint Christian Fellowship; he sang both contemporary songs and traditional hymns with passion as he strummed his acoustic guitar.
Conference Lay Leader Susan Hardy led a shared litany that recognized a range of feelings that people are having after Special Session. While some are feeling peaceful, many are feeling: sadness, numbness, suspiciousness, and many arrays of emotions.
Susan Hardy reminded those gathered that “Our feelings cannot bind, hinder, or block the presence of God.”
Significant time was devoted to prayer and reflection.
This time began with a prayer by Erinn Norris, who is a member of the Conference Leadership Team. She asked God “to help us be aware of your Holy Spirit in us and through us as we walk through this difficult time.”
Videos of Cabinet members; the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood, the Rev. Vonda Fossitt, the Rev. Debbie Earthrowl, and the Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer included their reflections of what God is calling the UNY Conference to do in this difficult time.
Rev. Sherri Rood referred to Romans 12:9-10, stating, “Let your love be genuine. Hate what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with mutual affection. Outdo one another with showing honor.”
Rev. Rood explained that these words from Paul call us to be respectful of one another with sincerity. She also referred to the social principles of being United Methodist—stating that it is important not to label one another. Click here to watch Rev. Rood’s reflection.
Rev. Fossitt referred to Romans 12:11-13, stating, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fever serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”Rev. Fossitt explained that in this letter, Paul is telling the Romans not to give up, to keep their enthusiasm for serving the Lord and that it is important to keep praying and to continue welcoming others with radical hospitality. Click here to watch Rev. Fossitt’s reflection.In her reflection, Rev. Earthrowl referred to something she learned in her college psychology class that combined psychology with Newton’s Law of Physics, where when two sides are in conflict, it keeps the momentum going, but when one side becomes like a pillow, it drops the momentum.
Rev. Earthrowl said that we are called to even a deeper sense than becoming like a pillow that we need to draw closer to God and learn how to live peacefully with one another. Click here to hear Rev. Eathrowl’s reflection.
Finally, attendees watched Rev. Rosa-Laguer’s reflection on Romans 12:14-15, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” He explained that the Upper New York Conference has been entrusted to live out God’s will. He went on to say, “Let us keep modeling what God is doing in us.” Click here to watch Rev. Rosa-Laguer’s reflection.
Between each Cabinet member’s reflection, Pastor Clemens sang verses from Make me a Channel of Your Peace.
Introducing 10 minutes of silent prayer, Nancy Dibelius, Assistant Director of Vital Congregations, said, “Faithful people recognize the importance of sitting in uncomfortable wilderness places…Together we will sit in silence…We will respect in this silence. God above all.”
There was also time allowed for meaningful prayer in small groups and corporate prayer.
Bishop Webb then discussed the decisions made at the Special Session of General Conference. Click here to review these decisions as well as to download a PowerPoint presentation of these decisions.
After discussing the petitions, Bishop Webb provided answers to many questions that came to him for this live session. He assured attendees that he would review questions that come in and answer all he could. Click here to read questions asked and Bishop Webb’s answers—this link will be regularly updated as Bishop Webb continues to answer the dozens of questions that have come in.
He said, “Seeking Christian unity is our calling, but it does not preclude us from being a part of a denomination and seeking denominational unity as well.”
Bishop Webb explained that part of the crisis of the United Methodist Church is that we do not have unity of doctrine, discipline, and possibly not even mission.
Bishop Webb then reflected on possibilities and changes that may have to take place in order for the United Methodist Church to “seek after the Christian Unity we desire and are called to pursue while defining a new unity for The United Methodist Church that will have integrity and end the division that has defined us for all these years.”
Click here to read Bishop Webb’s comments about what changes could possibly work to achieve denominational unity as well as his entire script used at the Post Special Session of General Conference Recap and Reflection gathering
At the end of the event, Bishop Webb blessed the elements of communion that were offered at all of the HUBs.
In closing, Bishop Webb reminded attendees of the importance of continuing to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Upper New York.
Click here to watch the video recording of the livestreamed event
Equitable Compensation Application for July-December 2019 available
March 12, 2019 / By UNY Communications
The Commission on Equitable Compensation has issued guidelines and application forms for salary grants to local churches for the period July 1 to December 31, 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 MARCH 29, 2019 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 July to December 2019 time period.
- For churches that have not previously received an Equitable Compensation Grant: Application for CEC Grant for July to December 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 MARCH 29, 2019.
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] July 2019.” The Commission anticipates notifying churches of its determination by late May.
Click the link below for the appropriate application. Once the application is open, download, and save it to your computer in order to fill it out electronically.
- Equitable Compensation Grant Applications (for first time applicants)
- Renewal Grant Application (for those who have previously applied and received funds)
Special Session recap and reflection gatherings
March 11, 2019 / By Upper New York Communications
Post Special Session conference-wide livestream gathering locations announced
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb and Upper New York Conference leadership understand that many people are grieving after the results of Special Session. They believe that now it is more important than ever to gather together as a Conference and fill our hearts with faith in Jesus Christ.
All clergy and lay members of the Conference are invited to join to join Bishop Webb, and Upper New York Conference leadership in a time of worship, sharing, questions, and prayer on March 17 from 4-6 p.m.
The gatherings will be offered at the following locations:
- Albany District: Shenendehowa UMC
- Adirondack District: Saratoga Springs UMC
- Binghamton District: Endwell UMC
- Crossroads District: Cicero UMC
- Cornerstone District: Bemus Point UMC,
- Finger Lakes District: Cortland First UMC
- Genesee Valley District: Rush UMC
- Mohawk District: New Hartford First UMC
- Mountain View District: Avoca UMC
- Niagara Frontier District: Clarence UMC
- Northern Flow District: Canton UMC
- Oneonta District: Oneonta First UMC
Special Session 2019 delegates’ letter to the UNY Conference
March 6, 2019 / By Rev. Bill Allen and Greg Forrester
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As the leaders of the Upper New York delegation to General Conference 2019, we write with heavy hearts concerning the pain and anguish that our beloved Church is experiencing at this time. We have witnessed the division and disunity among those who are Christ followers, members of the same UMC family, yet who disagree about the future direction of the church. It is hard to experience the struggle of a church engaged in intense conflict. We want to strongly emphasize our deep love and commitment to all our LGBTQ+ siblings in the faith. You are precious in the sight of God and of us. You are loved, respected, and welcome.
We also strongly affirm the intentional relationship building and love exhibited by the delegates from Upper New York. Everyone, no matter what their position, went out of their way to treat their fellow delegates with respect and grace. Yes, we were passionate. Yes, we cared deeply about our various beliefs. Yes, we challenged each other in meaningful and reflective conversations. And in the midst of all that, we cared enough to tell each other that we loved each other, that we desired good for each other, and that we wanted relationships with everyone.
Upper New York was well represented by our delegates. We prepared thoroughly by reading the important material sent to us several months ahead of time. We listened carefully to multiple opinions shared with us in person as well as via emails, letters, phone calls, texts, etc. In Saint Louis, we worked hard to attend every worship service, every discussion, and every vote. We shared our thoughts and reflections on social media. Two of us attended additional meetings to prepare (if elected) to lead the legislative committee on Monday. Five of us spoke from the floor (possibly more than any other delegation). All of us prayed for wisdom and guidance from God.
We cannot thank you enough for all the prayers offered on our behalf and on behalf of the whole church. We truly appreciate your gracious actions and encouraging words. We will offer a report to Annual Conference that will incorporate more voices from our delegation. We are available to any who wish to share their thoughts and reflections. We were privileged to represent Upper New York at an historic gathering of the United Methodist Church. We were proud to be there on your behalf. We acted with integrity and honesty. We love God and we love you all.
Rev. Dr. Bill Allen – Head of Delegation
Greg Forrester – Assistant Head of Delegation
From the Desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: A video message to the Conference
March 5, 2019 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb has recorded a special message for the members of the Upper New York Conference following the Special Session of General Conference. Click here to hear his message.
Nominations being accepted for Conference leadership vacancies
March 5, 2019 / By Rev. Tony Hipes
Editor’s Note: The following letter from the Chair of the Upper New York Conference Committee on Nominations was shared on Mar. 5.
I am serving as the chair of our Conference Committee on Nominations, the team responsible for identifying and recruiting persons to serve on Conference ministry teams. We are beginning our work of developing a list of nominees for consideration at our upcoming Annual Conference session (June 5-8). While each Conference ministry team has a focus, all exist to equip clergy, laity, and their churches to live our mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. The nominations team believes all the gifts needed to live this mission have been given to the people of Upper New York by God.
Therefore, I’d like to invite you to consider serving as a member of one of our Conference ministry teams. Click here for descriptions of several ministry teams with known vacancies as of July 1, 2019. If you are willing and able to make yourself available to serve on one of these teams, we would be grateful to you for completing the nominations form. Click here for the nomination form.
Nominations forms need to be completed by Mar. 19 for consideration at our Committee on Nominations meeting later in the week.
Thanks for your prayerful consideration.
Rev. Tony Hipes
Important Announcement: Clergy and regional gatherings now a Conference-wide event
March 4, 2019 / By UNY Communications Team
Having heard concerns about separate gatherings for lay and clergy following the Special Session of Annual Conference as well as concerns about the distance that some individuals would have to travel, Upper New York leadership has decided to replace the clergy gathering and the six regional gatherings with a single event that will be held remotely in all 12 districts.
Mark your calendars now for this Conference-wide time of worship, sharing, questions, and prayer. The Conference-wide event will take place on March 17 from 4-6 p.m.
Click here to learn about the gathering locations for the March 17 event.
From the Desk of Bishop Webb: Response to Special Session
February 27, 2019 / By
Editor’s Note: Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb sent the following letter to the Upper New York Conference on Wednesday Feb. 27, 2019.
Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!
The Special Session of the General Conference has concluded with the passage of The Traditional Plan. No matter where you stand on the decision and the direction taken by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church, the reality is that we are a Church in deep pain and great division. I want you to know I see and feel the hurt that many of you are feeling today—a feeling that your Church has let you down. These last few days have been emotional for all and deeply harmful for many. That reality grieves my spirit. I have been in deep prayer for all of you—for all of us.
Yet, in this very present reality is a truth. Christ is with us, amid our pain. In the midst of our brokenness, the resurrected Christ is with us. The One who offers us the promise of abundant life has not forsaken us. We are the body of Christ, called to loving God, loving one another and offering the love of Jesus Christ to the world.
The road ahead will not be an easy one for us as individuals and as a Church. I commit to traveling this road with each of you. Upper New York is a collection of beautiful people with a commitment to Christ and a potential for ministry that is endless. We can travel this road together. We can choose to stand against a culture of division and be a people who pray together, talk with one another, choose to love each other, and most importantly help one another find the ways in which we live out God’s call upon our individual lives and our life together with fruitfulness and faithfulness.
Over the next few weeks and months, our commitment to Christ and one another will be tested and given an opportunity to be lived out in ways that we cannot imagine – ways that can witness to the healing presence of God. We are a people of different opinions and convictions, but our hope is a common one found in the person of Jesus Christ! May we pursue that hope with one another, in one another, and for one another.
Let us remember that we are the Church and we can choose whether we will perpetuate the pain in one another or surround one another in a spirit of encouragement and love. I hope you will join me on Sunday March 17 from 4-6 p.m. for a livestreamed Conference-wide time of worship, prayer, sharing, and questions. Let us remember that God has called us to be the hands, feet and voice of Christ in the midst of the world.
Know I deeply love you, am grateful for you, while holding you constantly in prayer. Pray for me.
Mark J. Webb
Bishop, Upper New York Area
Getting connected to Special Session
February 22, 2019 / By UNY Communications
The Special Session of General Conference will be held Feb. 23-Feb. 26 in St. Louis, MO. There are many ways you can be connected to the prayers, worship, and sessions taking place throughout Special Session. The Upper New York Conference has you covered.
Visit the front page of our website (unyumc.org) for access to the Special Session livestream. You can also access the Perspective blog, which will feature blogs as well as vlogs (short videos) from the UNY delegates attending Special Session.
Connect to the UNY Conference’s social media platforms for all things related to Special Session, including: up-to-date news, photos, Facebook Live videos, and more.
Click here to visit UNY’s Facebook page.
Click here to visit UNY’s Instagram feed.
Click here to follow the UNY Conference on Twitter.
Watch for a wrap-up of Special Session in the Feb. 27 edition of the Weekly Digest.
Praying Our Way Forward Prayer
Editor's note: The following prayer was released Feb. 20 by the Council of Bishops and will be part of the worship liturgy at the opening of the 2019 Special Session of General Conference, held Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, MO. As part of the Praying Our Way Forward process, Upper New York Conference churches are invited to use this prayer during worship services on Sunday Feb. 24.
Gracious and loving God, who leads, teaches and guides,
You who offer compassion, grace and mercy, be with us now.
We passionately seek Your presence during challenging times and circumstances and we trust that you are moving in and around our lives.
We, as one part of your Body, the Church, go into the days and weeks ahead seeking to discern Your deep desire for us as The United Methodist Church.
Give us courage as we continue to live and respond to Your invitation to be Your hands, feet and voice.
We ask for a fresh wind of Your Spirit and guidance for each of us as individuals, for the faithful congregations, and for this global community of United Methodists.
We ask for Your wisdom and presence for those among us who have been called to serve as delegates as the Special Session of General Conference gathers today.
Grant them clarity and a discerning spirit as they seek to listen for You in their midst.
Reveal to them Your deep desire for our future as a church.
Give them and us the faith to lay aside our personal wants and needs so that we can be truly present to You, sit with You in reverence and awe, and listen deeply for the still small voice that woos us, comforts us, and invites us to that place where we can live fully and wholly into the Kingdom life that You desire for us.
We lay all this before You as the deep desire of our hearts and minds in the name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen
Click here for a printed copy.
Port Byron UMC celebrates the lives of their centenarians
Port Byron UMC has two centenarians in their congregation—and both of their names are “Ted.”
On Sunday Feb. 17, 2019, the church held a 100th birthday party for Ted Eiben. Church member Ron Mills lit the birthday candles for Ted, mentioning how devoted Ted has been to the church. Ted has been a member of Port Byron UMC for 22 years, having been introduced by his late wife. His step-daughter Suzanne Moose said, “He has more energy than almost anyone I know.”
Ted Eiben enjoys writing snail mail letters to his nephew in Alabama. His nephew served in the Air Force and now works at NASA. Ted, a World War II vet, said, “It’s nice knowing I have someone who enjoys hearing from me. Apparently, I share wisdom with him.”
When asked what advice he would give to the generations younger than his, he said, “It’s all about patience. Be very patient with everything,”
Major Ted Wilt is 101 and he was visibly very happy at Ted Eiben’s birthday celebration. He is also a World War II vet. One reason he was smiling is because he got a hearing aid for his right ear three days ago and could hear what everyone was saying clearly.
His daughter Kathy Wilt, a Baptist minister, was with him. She said, “He had been in denial about hearing loss in his right ear for decades, but finally decided to get a hearing aid last week.”
Ted Wilt said, “It’s amazing—I can even hear soft voices. Background noise used to bother me, but not anymore. Now the only thing I really need to feel young is two new knees.”
Kathy shook her head laughing and said, “Do you believe this? He’s 101 years old and wants knee replacements. Have you ever heard of such a thing?”
She continues, “He has such a positive attitude and that’s what keeps him going.”
Ted Wilt has been a member of Port Byron UMC for 75 years. He cracked a grin and said, “I’ve seen a lot of changes…most for the good. I actually helped built this building we worship in in 1970.”
Ted Wilt still lives on his own. Aside from getting help from Meals on Wheels, he takes care of himself. He said, “Why would I want to give up my home and my beautiful yard?”
When asked what advice he would give to younger generations, he said, “You just have to live a pretty clean life—that’s all.”
Does your church have any centenarians? If so, send photos and any words of wisdom they have by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNY members serve Special Session as Pages and Marshal
Are you aware that beyond Upper New York delegates, we have members of our Conference who are serving as volunteers at the Special Session of General Conference (A Way Forward) on Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, MO? For example, the Rev. Patience Kisakye and lay person Angela Neal will serve as Pages and the Rev. Bob Kolvik-Campbell will serve as a Marshal.
Pages assist delegates, staff, Bishops, members of the Judicial Council, and official guests with communication and other needs. They distribute approved materials and deliver printed information.
Marshals are part of the team that assists delegates, guests, and staff with seating, checking credentials, providing information, and other duties as assigned.
All Marshals and Pages are required to attend an orientation session on Friday, Feb. 22 at the Americas Center in St. Louis. This orientation will be in addition to the training videos that facilitated their preparations prior to their arrival in St. Louis.
There were 750 applicants for the Special Session of General Conference Page position—Rev. Kisakye and Angela Neal were among the 80 selected. Rev. Kisakye has served as a Page at previous General Conference sessions. She said, “I am grateful to serve at this historic event in the life of our denomination and I trust that my role will be meaningful… I am prayerfully looking forward to assisting delegates, Bishops, visitors and members of the board, and agencies of our denomination at this Special Session of the General Conference.”
Angela Neal, a lay member of First United Methodist Church of Delmar, will experience being a Page for the Church for the first time at Special Session. She said, “I'm excited to see and feel the global connectedness of our denomination.”
The Rev. Bob Kolvik-Campbell began his service as a Marshal at the 2008 General Conference held in Ft. Worth, TX. Since then, he also served as a Marshal at the 2016 General Conference. He said, “I love serving as Marshal because I get to interact with the executives who make up our church in a macro sense: The Council of Bishops, the Judicial Council, the Delegates, the Program agencies...and I am able to serve the whole church.”
Beyond Pages and Marshals, there are many other volunteers that will make the Special Session of General Conference come together. If you or someone you know is serving as a volunteer at the Special Session you are invited to share your story by sending it to email@example.com Please Keep the Pages, Marshals, and all the other volunteers who will make the Special Session happen in your prayers as this important time in the life of the United Methodist Church approaches.
Chenango Bridge UMC hosts Night to Shine
Proms are often imprinted on people’s hearts for the rest of their lives, but some individuals aren’t fortunate enough to know what it feels like to attend a prom. This is especially true among the special needs’ community. However, the Tim Tebow Foundation has made the dream of a prom possible for those who are differently abled.
Started four years ago, the Tim Tebow Foundation sponsored its First Night to Shine, an evening prom for those who are 14 years of age or older. The first year, the event was hosted by 44 churches with a total of 7,000 special guests. This year, the event was hosted by 655 host churches in every state in the United States, as well as 23 additional countries. This year, over 100,000 special needs individuals were able to experience a prom on Feb. 8.
This event is always held around Valentine’s Day and it’s not only about love, but also, about God’s love and supporting those with special needs.
Chenango Bridge United Methodist Church in the Binghamton District was a host church for this event and they had 75 guests attend. Bob Clark, pastor of Chenango Bridge UMC, said, “A Night to Shine was a night to shine God’s love on our special guests.”
Guests came from all over the Southern Tier and were supplied with prom dresses and suits that were donated. They arrived in limousines and walked in on a red carpet where they were greeted by many volunteers. Professional makeup artists and hairdressers volunteered their services to each of the special guests. The guests enjoyed a sit-down catered dinner and were able to dance the night away to music played by a professional DJ. Photos and videos were taken of the guests by a professional photographer and videographer. At the end of the evening, every special guest was crowned queen or king. The special needs community were able to truly enjoy royal treatment.
Pastor Clark expressed a couple of moving moments from the evening; he said, “A young man asked me if we could all come back tomorrow and do the prom all over again! Another heartwarming story was when a young lady told her buddy that she wanted to get out of her wheelchair to dance. Three people held her up, so she could move to the music. She was the best dancer I’ve ever watched!”
Caretakers had tears in their eyes, witnessing the joy experienced by their special guests. Over 100 volunteers made this event possible. One of the volunteers told Pastor Clark, “I just wanted to thank you for including me in on this amazing night. It sparked so much joy in me…it filled my heart! Thank you so much.”
Chenango Bridge UMC has been shifting toward an outward focus over the past year and the Night to Shine was just one amazing example of this shift. Many organizations in the community partnered with the church to help make this event memorable for the 75 special guests. Individuals and organizations in the community gave monetary donations as well as services. One-hundred-seventy-five adult volunteers and 115 youth volunteers helped at the event.
Pastor Clark said, “Events like this help the community get to know us and our heart.” A Night to Shine is one way that Chenango Bridge UMC represents God’s love to their neighbors in all places. Their leadership team has agreed to host a Night to Shine again next year.
From the Desk of Bishop Webb: District Superintendent Extensions
February 13, 2019 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Editor's Note: On Wednesday Feb. 13, 2019, Bishop Webb announced the extension of two District Superintendents' terms in the following letter.
Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,
Greetings in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ!
Paragraph 418 of the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church states that “the normal term for a District Superintendent shall be up to six years, but this may be extended to no more than up to eight years at the discretion of the Bishop, in consultation with the cabinet and the district committee on superintendency.” After, following this process of consultation, I am pleased to share my intention to extend the term of two of Upper New York’s District Superintendents.
The Rev. Rich Weihing will be extended to an eighth and final year as Superintendent of the Albany District and the Rev. Dr. David Kofahl will be extended to a seventh year as Superintendent of the Binghamton District.
Their sense of continued call to the ministry of superintendency, along with their gifts will allow them to continue to offer vital and consistent leadership within the work of the Cabinet, the life of the Annual Conference and in their respective Districts. I am grateful for their willingness to continue to serve in this way. Please join me in praying for them, their families and the Albany and Binghamton Districts.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Mark J. Webb
COB President’s letter to United Methodists
February 12, 2019 / By Council of Bishops
Editor's Note: The Council of Bishops released the following note on Tuesday Feb. 12, 2019.
The Bishops of The United Methodist Church are preparing to preside over the three-day Special Session of the General Conference set for Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri. In a letter to the United Methodists released Feb. 12, Council of Bishops President Bishop Ken Carter noted that the bishops will be bound by a covenant of presiding, which was written in collaboration with the Commission on the General Conference.
“The Bishops honor the delegations who will gather in St. Louis and will continue to see our appropriate calling as helping them to do their best work in these three important days.” Bishop Carter said in the letter.
“We continue to give thanks for the mission of The United Methodist Church, for the power of the Cross and the Flame, and for the hope that God will guide us in a way forward.”
This Special Session has been called by the Council of Bishops to find a way forward beyond the impasse around LGBTQ identity, interpretation of scripture and the unity of the church. The General Conference is the highest legislative body in the church and the only group that can decide church law and speak officially for the global denomination.
Social Holiness Concerns: Working to dismantle racism beyond Imagine No Racism
February 6, 2019 / By Pastor Evelyn Woodring
So, you finished the Imagine No Racism (INR) training. You checked off that box for your annual Church Conference. It’s going to be time to move on to the next “cause of the day.” Is that how the INR initiative of the Annual Conference has left you feeling?
There are still challenges to be met, wrongs to be righted, and sins to be identified and repented of. The work of ridding ourselves, our communities, our churches and our land of the sin of racism is barely begun. Imagine No Racism is not a fad program, a box to be marked off. It is a call to radically changed vision and understanding of the nature and impact that the long-standing reality of racism has had upon our society as a whole. It is designed and intended as a first step in the process of eradicating this evil wherever it exists, in whatever guise we find it.
You may be astounded to learn that, just this past December, Congress enacted legislation establishing lynching as a Federal Hate Crime! Do you still think the INR program was a “feel-good initiative” rather than a long-overdue corrective to an established and entrenched evil?
The Conference Social Holiness Committee and the Conference Commission on Religion and Race have introduced INR as a first step in what must be a process of learning, empowering and releasing in the world a new way of looking at people that uplifts rather than denigrates, celebrates rather than demeans, welcomes rather than shuns, those whose differences have historically been marginalized.
We, as Christians and as United Methodists, have an obligation to seek the best of all things for those who God puts in our path. Historically, we have educated, supported, sacrificed for, and held ourselves to account for those whom society has marginalized. That obligation has not changed since the first Methodist societies established by John Wesley. We still hold to the notion that all persons are of worth, are created by the same God who made each of us, are gifted by that creator God, and need God’s justifying, sanctifying, and perfecting Grace.
Imagine No Racism was a first, small, step on a journey. Where that journey will ultimately lead we don’t know, but we know that it must be undertaken if we are to follow God’s call on our lives, on the Upper New York Annual Conference, and on the United Methodist Church. To fail to make that journey is to fail to follow the commandments of the One we call Lord.
Already the conversation has started regarding the next steps on this road of discovery and growth. CCORR is asking the same questions you have asked—what now? How do we apply what we have leaned? Where is this leading us? And, most importantly, how do I effectively take this to my congregation and community, so that our world can truly be transformed?
Social Holiness is not, ultimately, a Conference Committee. It is a fundamental attitude of the heirs of the movement started by John Wesley nearly three centuries ago. Social Holiness is holiness. It is what makes us Methodist. It is who we are and what we do.
A message from the Bishops of the Northeast Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church
February 5, 2019 / By Bishops of the Northeastern Jurisdiction
Editor's Note: The following pastoral letter written by the Bishops of the Northeastern Jurisdiction was sent to the Upper New York Conference and all Conferences of the Northeastern Jurisdiction on Feb. 5, 2019.
We bid you grace and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ:
During the Northeastern College of Bishops meeting, January 28th – 30th, we your Bishops prayed for the Church and in particular the clergy and laity of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.
As the Special Session of the General Conference in St. Louis, MO, February 23-26, 2019, is just days away, we invite each congregation and every member to join us in even deeper and more fervent prayer. We seek your prayers as the delegates receive and act upon the report from The Commission on a Way Forward and corresponding petitions. Along with the Apostle Paul, we pray that the “God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 CEB).
Please lift this session of holy conferencing in prayer in each of your churches this Sunday and throughout the week. On Saturday, February 23, the General Conference will dedicate the entire day to prayer. This will be available through live-streaming (umc.org) and we invite as many as possible to pray along with the Conference delegates, Bishops and attendees.
We are confident that God will work all things together for good as God’s people are faithful in prayer and obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As John Wesley said, “Best of all, God is with us.”
Changes in how we share our story
How we communicate as a society seems to evolve daily. While it may seem very distant now, the time when the only way to reach members of our churches was to mail them a print newsletter was not all that long ago, and there are still plenty of people that prefer that form of communication. There are also many people who would prefer their information to just show up as a notification on their smart devices. In order to best share our story with as many people as possible, it is the job of the communicator to find the balance.
To that end Upper New York Conference Communications has continually evolved over the last five years or so. Examples include, introducing new elements like the Bridge and the Weekly Digest, changing the audience and the format for the Advocate, more fully embracing social media, and putting the resources necessary into video ministry to make that platform more impactful. In that spirit, Conference Communications will be making an adjustment once again.
In the past, the Advocate has been the tool that focuses on taking people who are new to our churches or new to leadership deeper into what it means to be United Methodist. Each issue of the Advocate has a particular theme that explores our life together as United Methodists through inspiring stories, resources, and information. However, we know that a lot of people would prefer to get that information in a format that is better suited to their smart device.
Moving forward, Conference Communications will explore topics that might have previously been explored in an issue of the Advocate in a new format called “Focus On.” QR codes and quick links will be made available to local churches to make access as easy as possible, and the new format will allow for better integration with other forms of electronic media.
There will be some cost savings involved in this move, as there will now only be two issues of the Advocate per year now, but ultimately this change comes from trying to continue to be forward thinking.
The hope is that by being proactive, we can continue to be in the forefront of increasing the capacity of local church leaders to make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Additional information about how Upper New York Conference Communications is leading the way in telling our story will be available in the Communications Report in Vol. I of the Journal later this year.
New York United Methodist Bishops make statement on Reproductive Health Act
Editor’s Note: The following statement was released on January 31, 2019, by New York Area Resident Bishop, Thomas J. Bickerton, and Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, about the Reproductive Health Act that was signed into New York State law in January.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!
The conversation about abortion has dominated the media over the last few days. In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Reproductive Health Act, one of the most sweeping expansions of abortion rights since abortion was legalized in New York State in 1970. Some commend this action as a significant step toward securing women’s rights and health. Others fear the less restrictive provisions of the new law will lead to an increase in abortions and especially late-term abortions.
Although the number of abortions in New York State has declined in recent years (a trend mirrored across the country), New York has twice the number of abortions as any other state according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan research organization.
The new law now permits abortion after the 24th week of pregnancy in cases where a woman’s life or health are threatened or when an unborn child is deemed not viable and unable to survive outside its mother’s womb. It also allows health care providers to determine what constitutes a health threat to a pregnant woman and expands authorized health care providers to include not only physicians, but licensed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed midwives.
As United Methodists, we are clear about several things related to abortion. Our Social Principles state, “The beginning of human life and ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born.” Our Social Principles also state that, “We are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child. We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers . . . We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics. We oppose the use of late term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life.” (Social Principles, ¶161K)
Our Social Principles challenge us to work for the “diminishment of high abortion rates” by “encourage[ing] ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies such as comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education, advocacy in regard to contraception, and support for initiatives that enhance the quality of life for all women and girls around the globe.” We urge you to talk with other leaders about how your church might engage in these kinds of ministries.
We are supportive of our church’s current stance on abortion as expressed in our denomination’s Social Principles and encourage you to use these principles as a basis of education and conversation on this sensitive issue in particular.
We know passions run high on all sides of the abortion debate and in the midst of those conversations we know God calls us to a future where the value of every human life – including every woman and every unborn child - is honored and protected. The way to that future will not be found through finger pointing, legislating, or even church programs, but only by walking the path of Jesus with one another.
Grace and Peace,
Thomas J. Bickerton Mark J. Webb
Resident Bishop, New York Area Resident Bishop, Upper New York Area
Friday night worship at Hope Korean UMC
January 29, 2019 / By Pastor, Jee Hae Song, Hope Korean UMC
Hope Korean UMC is a rather unique congregation. Though its name has “Korean” in it, it is multi-cultural group. We have diverse people from various ethnicity, race, and nationality. But we all share one thing in common: Hope Church is our home. The motto of Hope Church is a “Home away from Home.”
This diversification has begun from a crisis. In recent years, Hope Korean UMC had lost its older members due to death and outward migration of Korean Immigrant population. But as in Korean proverb, “Crisis is an opportunity.” The location was very handy for reaching out young adults in Syracuse University. I, the minister, discerned the student / young adult ministry as the Church’s new vision. Through thorough researches, I concluded that there are great spiritual needs in international student body. So the church began to invite international students from Syracuse University. Moreover, the ministry has become more diverse in recent days because members began to invite Americans and non-students. So, this congregation has become a multi-cultural group.
The core of this fellowship is definitely our Friday event, “Dinner Church.” As its name suggests, the purpose of this gathering is “Church” and “Dinner.” We begin with the “Church” segment. It is inviting and inspiring praise worship. The praise team lead the worship with four or five songs. We have a particular theme for every week, such as Christ, mercy, hope, Light of the World, or Holy Spirit. We sing songs that are relevant to the theme.
In addition to praise songs, I give a short message during the praise service. When I talk, I intentionally try not to be “preachy” or use dogmatic vocabularies or inside language. This is because many international students are new to faith. My goal is to let these new Christians hear about Jesus Christ and the Gospel, so the seed of the Gospel would be planted in the soil of the listeners’ hearts.
When we finish the “Church” segment, we move on to the “Dinner” segment. We eat food, sometimes home-cooked by various volunteers or sometimes catered. We are famous for always having lots of food. Feeding the soul and the body is important mission of Hope. “Dinner” is not merely eating food, but it is a continuation of the “Church” because in sharing table together, we also share our lives and build relationships. We are building a church in sharing the table. So, Hope fellowship builds a community of faith with singing praises and sharing life together.
Upper New York pays 100 percent of their General Church apportionments
For the third year in a row, the Upper New York (UNY) Conference was able to give 100 percent of our General Church apportionments, supporting life changing ministries around the world.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb said, “Our ministry together through the giving of Ministry Shares truly multiplies the impact of the Gospel around the world. I want to personally thank every congregation in the Upper New York Conference for your continued giving. Your Ministry Shares have made it possible for us to pay 100 percent of our commitment to the General Church for the third year in a row. This is an amazing accomplishment.”
Bob Flask, UNY Conference Treasurer said, “Although the Conference did fall a little short of our budgeted Ministry Share collection, we made the decision to draw on our reserves in order to, once again, reach our annual goal of payment of 100% of our General Church apportionments.”
He continued, “It is with these apportionment payments the Methodist Church remains connectional. This connectional system allows our ministry to create Disciples of Jesus Christ around the world. This system is an acknowledgement of God’s love with our neighbors in all places. Supporting our United Methodist Ministries around the world is our obligation, but we fulfill this obligation with joy, knowing we are supporting ministry far greater than what we could do alone.”
The Rev. Susan Ranous, Chair of the Conference Council on Finance & Administration, said, ““It feels great that we have been on an excellent track for the past three years—paying 100 percent of our General Church apportionments! I am grateful for consistent Ministry Share giving and the hard work of CF&A and our finance team to help make this accomplishment possible for three years in a row.”
Bishop Webb concurs with Rev. Ranous. He said, ““I too am grateful for the tremendous effort that the Conference Council on Finance & Administration and other leaders have put forth in managing our spending.”
Meeting 100 percent of General Church apportionments is one way that local churches in UNY are helping to fund General Church funds such as the World Service Fund, The Black College Fund, and the Ministerial Education Fund. Click here to learn about more funds supported by General Church apportionments.
The Rev. Suzanne Block to become District Superintendent of the Cornerstone District
January 21, 2019 / By Upper New York Communications
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is pleased to announce this intention to appoint the Rev. Suzanne Block as a Conference Superintendent assigned to the Cornerstone District effective July 1, 2019.
Rev. Block currently serves Christ United Methodist Church, Olean, NY. Rev. Block has been involved in various Conference and District leadership roles, including as a current member of Board of Ordained Ministry, Cornerstone District Committee on Ministry, and Cornerstone District Leadership Team. She has served as a local pastor mentor and has been involved in ecumenical and community partnerships.
”Reverend Block has demonstrated a commitment to Christ and a passion for the Church throughout her life and pastoral ministry. Her clear understanding of the purpose of the Church and desire to see congregations live out that purpose will be a gift to the Upper New York Conference and the Cornerstone District” Bishop Webb said. “I am grateful to welcome Suzanne to this new form of ministry and encourage you to pray for her, the Christ, Olean congregation, and the people of the Cornerstone District”.
Rev. Block will be replacing the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood as Superintendent of the Cornerstone District. Rev. Rood will be returning to pastoring a local church after eight faithful years serving as the Cornerstone District Superintendent.
“Dr. Rood has served the Cornerstone District with grace, passion and compassion. Upper New York has been blessed by Sherri’s leadership and I’m extremely grateful for the excellent leadership Sherri has provided at the cabinet table, as well as in many other arenas of the Conference”, Bishop Webb stated. “Sherri will be deeply missed in this role, but I celebrate the next chapter that she and Bob will experience in ministry and service. I invite you to pray for Sherri and Bob as they travel toward this new chapter”.
Rev. Block is a graduate of Niagara Community College, Daemen College and United Theological Seminary.
From the desk of Bishop Webb: Wespath FAQ
January 18, 2019 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Editor's Note: On Thursday Jan. 17, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter to the Upper New York Conference regarding Wespath and the Special Session of General Conference.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ! As we approach the Special Session of General Conference in St. Louis, I continue to be committed to providing information that will allow for healthy conversations that are based on accurate information. Obviously there are many voices, opinions and information being shared over many platforms and overall I believe that is a healthy thing, but sometimes the information shared can add to our sense of uncertainty and anxiety in unhealthy and unnecessary ways.
Over the last few days, I have noticed the sharing of information related to how clergy pensions and benefits will be impacted depending upon the action of the special session and I want to invite you to examine a resource Wespath has provided for all of us.
Wespath has published FAQs, which they update regularly, in an attempt to share information with the Church about the pension impact of all the Commission's plans, which you can find here: https://www.wespath.org/WayForwardWespathFAQ/.
I have deeply appreciated the leadership of Wespath and their commitment to work closely with the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops to help mitigate any risks to retirement benefits during the analysis of the Way Forward options.
May we continue to pray for the delegates of the special session of General Conference, care for one another in this time of discernment and stay committed to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I continue to be grateful for your ministry and mission. You remain in my prayers!
Mark J. Webb
District trainings in the coming months
Many Districts across the Upper New York (UNY) Conference have some great leadership training opportunities in the coming months. Below are some of the trainings taking place ordered by the dates that they are being offered.
Mohawk District Leadership Summit
Jan. 26, 2019
9 a.m.- 3 p.m.
105 Genesee St.
New Hartford, NY
Free to attend! Choose two workshop options:
- Growing Your Church Through Collaboration: Mike Huber, UNY Camp & Retreat Ministries: Take a unique opportunity to learn about serving as a liaison between the local church and Camp & Retreat Ministries. Hear exciting opportunities happening in Camp & Retreat Ministries.CRM staff will make sure you know about opportunities to grow your local church, give you the latest info about summer camp discounts and scholarships, and offer tips on amazing retreats in which you may personally want to take part.
- Finance: Bob Flask, UNY Conference Treasurer
- Human Resources/PPRC: Susan Latessa, UNY Human Resources
- Not Another Meeting! Rev. Aaron Bouwens, UNY Vital Congregations: Join us as we explore what it means to use the pattern of loving, learning, and leading to create an environment God can use to do even greater things that we can imagine.
- Missions: TBA
- Technology: Social Media Culture and Etiquette: Steve Hustedt, UNY Communications
- Trustees: TBA
Everyone will have an opportunity to experience: Discipleship Systems: Pastor Brad Chesebro and Pastor Wayne Clemens
Click here for a registration form. Pre-registration due by Jan. 23.
Jan. 26, 2019
9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Avoca United Methodist Church
Jacobs Ladder, Avoca, NY 14809
Laity and clergy join for worship and hear from local ministers about how they boldly answered their call. The day will consist of sessions to choose from in the morning and sessions to choose from in the evening. Some of the session topics include giving and stewardship, the benefits of a worship team, intentional discipleship, and more. The cost is $10, which includes lunch. If you are interested in just attending the morning or afternoon sessions, the cost is $5. Click here for information on the sessions and for a registration form.
Feb. 1-2: Servant Leader/Laity Retreat
Feb. 6-7: Clergy Retreat
March 28-29: Combined Clergy/Servant Leader Retreat
Transforming Conflict in Communities of Faith
This training is presented by the Finger Lakes District and the UNY Conference. It’s a two-part professional development and spiritual growth retreat at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center.
Total Fee: $350 (actual fee is $650 but is being subsidized to make it affordable)
Registration Fee: $100
Balance of $250 due Feb. 1st
Commuter discount: $50
Registration Deadline: January 15th
To learn more, click here.
PART ONE: "Transforming Conflict as a Spiritual Practice"
You can radically shift the nature of your conflict-interactions from negative and destructive to positive and constructive.
Click here to register for the Feb. 1-2 Servant Leader/Laity Retreat.
Click here to register for the Feb. 6-7 Clergy Retreat
PART TWO: "Facilitating Effective Participation in the Heated Church Meeting"
You will learn how to protect the meeting process, while at the same time support participants-in-conflict.
Click here to register for the March 28-29 Combined Clergy / Servant Leader Retreat.
*Please note all participants of part two must first have attended part one.
Crossroads District Training Day
Hosted by Crossroads District Leadership Team
United Methodist Church Conference Center
7481 Henry Clay Blvd.
Liverpool, NY 13088
Feb. 9, 2019
9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
This training day will consist of three different sessions with a variety of topic during each session. The registration cost is $5 and includes lunch. Some of the topics include growing your church with small groups, finance, mission opportunities for youth, drug/opioid epidemic, Facebook for your church, and more. Click here for a full listing of sessions with descriptions. Click here for a registration form.
Adirondack District Leadership Team is hosting a District Workshop Day, “Informed to Transform”
Saratoga Springs UMC
175 Fifth Avenue
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
March 2, 2019
9 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
More than 20 workshops planned, facilitated by laity, clergy, community leaders, and Conference staff. Some of the topics include: intentional discipleship, walking the prayer labyrinth, hospitality, technology, Volunteers in Mission, mental health/addiction, and more.
The day will begin at 8:30 a.m. with registration, with an opening worship at 9 a.m. There will be three 75-minute sessions and a luncheon, with communion offered during their closing time at 2:30 p.m. The $10 fee includes lunch. Childcare will be available. Topics and presenters will be announced in a brochure to be distributed later this month. Pre-registration will be required.
If you have questions, please contact Carrie in the District Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (518) 480-4866.
There will be a similar event offered in the Fall at Plattsburgh UMC to enable people in this large geographical District to have the opportunity to participate without the hardship of long travel time.
Catch the Spirit Discipleship Gathering
Clarence United Methodist Church
10205 Greiner Rd.
Clarence, NY 14031
March 2, 2019
8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
The theme of this gathering is “Therefore go and make disciples in my name.” There will be full-day workshops, worship, vendors, lunch, and mission collection. Workshops include topics such as discovering your spiritual gifts, biblical solutions for setting boundaries with needy people, keys for good sermon presentations, and more. The cost is $20/person and includes lunch. Click here for more information on the workshops and a registration form.
Cornerstone District Training
Bemus Point UMC
4954 Bemus-Ellery Rd.
Bemus Point, NY 14712
March 16, 2019
Morning (9 a.m. to 11 a.m.) and fternoon (1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.) sessions of the following:
Five Things Your Visitors Are Thinking But Won’t Ask: Guest Readiness Workshop led by Jason Moore, nationally known worship coach and author New Faith Communities led by Rev. David Masland, Director of New Faith Communities, Upper New York Conference
Spiritual Gifts Discernment led by Susan Hardy, Upper New York Conference Lay Leader
UNY Safe Sanctuaries® Training of Trainers led by Carol Barnes, Upper New York Conference Sexual Ethics Committee, and Roberta Anderson, Certified Safe Sanctuaries® Trainer for the Cornerstone District. This training is limited to 20 people who have completed the Basic 3-hour Safe Sanctuaries® Training since 2016; priority is given to those wishing to serve on their District’s training team. No cost for this training; $10 for lunch. Advance registration is required.
The cost is $25 per person; 20% discount per person for 3+ registrants from your church. Cost includes morning coffee/snack, lunch and two workshops. Paid registration must be received by February 8.
Safe Sanctuaries®-trained child care available, $5 per child. Advance registration required by February 8.
To register, please call (716-665-2423) or email (email@example.com) the District office.
A Binghamton District Day Apart
Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center
501 William Law Rd.
Windsor, NY 13865
March 30, 2019
9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
“Praying with the Wesleys: Foundations of Methodist Spirituality” led by John R. Tyson. This day-long enrichment event that will focus on the spiritual lives of Susanna, John, and Charles Wesley as practitioners and shapers of a distinctive approach(s) to prayer.
The cost is $25 per person and includes dinner and snacks.
How the IRS “Parking Lot” Tax Guidance affects your church
January 8, 2019 / By Conference Council on Finance & Administration
Some of you may have read articles or seen information about a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that seemed to assess an unrelated business income tax on employers, including churches, that provide parking to employees.
Within the past couple of weeks, the Internal Revenue Service released guidance, which, essentially showed the IRS adopting a special rule that should eliminate the possibility of a tax burden on the vast majority of churches and other taxexempt organizations.
Please note that churches that reserve parking spaces for employees need to stop the practice by March 31, 2019, to avoid the potential of being taxed for those spaces.
Even with this change, please be aware that some churches still may face a tax hit.
If a non-profit (or church) pays someone for parking for their employees, the non-profit will pay unrelated business income taxes on that expense. Therefore, churches providing mass transit passes or parking fees paid to third party vendors will report these expenses as unrelated business income on Form 990-T.
The guidance does seem to clear up the confusion surrounding the scenario of a church owning its own parking lot which is part of or adjacent to the church's worship facilities. The IRS provides an analysis to determine if most of the parking spaces are utilized for employees or for the "general public." Spaces at a church that are not used during the week are considered as for the "general public" unless they are designated for employee use only. If the majority of the spaces are utilized or available for the general public, then the church does not have unrelated business income.
On the other hand, if more than 50 percent of the parking spaces are used for employee parking, then the church must pay unrelated business tax in qualifying expenses. The qualifying expenses that create unrelated business income are expenses associated with the parking lot, including repairs, maintenance, utility costs, insurance, property taxes, interest, snow and ice removal, leaf removal, trash removal, cleaning, landscaping costs, parking lot attendant expenses, security, and rent or lease payments or a portion of a rent or lease payment (if not broken out separately). These qualifying expenses do not include depreciation.
If the church has parking spaces reserved for employees, the expenses related to those spaces always create unrelated business income.
There is a four-step analysis that the IRS has provided if a non-profit or church designates specific spots for its employees.
If a church does have designated spots and after the analysis, determines that they have unrelated business income, a Form 990-T would only have to be filed if the church’s total unrelated business income (including the parking amount) is greater than $1,000.
If you have any questions or wish to review the four-step analysis provided by the IRS, please contact the Finance staff of the Conference, or the Chair of the Conference Council on Finance & Administration.
Resources for Human Relations Day on Sunday, Jan. 20
January 8, 2019 / By UNY Imagine No Racism Team
As we continue to Imagine No Racism and journey together through small group experiences and study, we’d like to offer ways to bring the Imagine No Racism message into your worship settings. Human Relations Day on Sunday, Jan. 20, offers an ideal opportunity to incorporate messages of race inequality and injustice. In addition to other resources available through UMC Discipleship Ministries, we offer this video entitled Racism Is Real by Brave New Films, this prayer and call to justice and mercy.
The 3:04 video, which can be used in worship or in a small group setting, offers powerful imagery and an impactful message to help our congregations to begin to see each other and the world around them through different eyes. We also hope that the use of the video and other resources in worship may stir interest among the laity in attending an Imagine No Racism small group either within your congregation or elsewhere in the district.
We continue to pray for your ministry and our work together.
In Christ, the Imagine No Racism Team
Call to Worship for Human Relations Day Leader: It's coming—the Kingdom of God is coming! Let your Reign, O God, be acknowledged among all people.
People: We stand on the threshold of truth. We are perched on the branches of justice.
Leader: Across the horizon we see the outline of peace and harmony.
People: With privilege comes responsibility, With responsibility comes accountability. With accountability comes honesty. With honesty comes faithfulness.
All: God of Creation and history, equip us to live faithfully in your Kingdom!
Gracious God, every day we’re confronted with language and images that remind us that racism is real, and its impacts are far reaching. Open our eyes to see racial stereotypes that oppress some of us while providing entitlement to others. Help us to not see racism as something that only happens in other communities and affects other people.
Open our ears to recognize both unfairness and indifference; to hear even our own voices when we speak ignorance or ambivalence. Open our mouths to speak up when remaining silent is harmful; to speak out even if others won’t.
Open our arms to embrace one another, to carry each other’s burdens, and to build bridges of understanding. Open our hearts so that we may fully receive your grace; point us toward your light so that we may more clearly understand your desires and vision for all humankind.
We pray that in this new year we may remove the barriers that block us from seeing you clearly in one another; that divide rather that unite, and that keep us as strangers rather than neighbors. Give us the courage to stand up against those injustices and stand with those who are oppressed. Come Lord Jesus, we pray. Amen.
For more information, contact:
Nancy Raca [Mountain View & Finger Lakes & Binghamton Districts] firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Syms [Cornerstone, Niagara Frontier & Genessee Valley] email@example.com
Georgia Whitney [Adirondack, Albany & Oneonta] firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Hodge (Crossroads, Mohawk & Northern Flow) Unysecretary@yahoo.com
Honor Disability Awareness Weekend Feb. 2-3
At the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference, held at on Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena, in Syracuse, NY, a petition was adapted for local churches to hold a Disability Awareness Weekend.
This petition was submitted by Rev. Missy McCarthy and the Accessibility Committee. The petition recommends a Disability Awareness Weekend to be held during the first weekend of Feb. or another weekend chosen by a local church for a special collection for promotion of awareness issues as well as ministries that provide fuller inclusion of people with disabilities.
Rev. McCarthy has supplied several resources to help your church broaden the awareness of disability issues. Below are the resources she recommends.
Click here for UMC Giving’s explanation, offertory prayer, and a newsletter tidbit to be used by local churches for their Disability Awareness Sunday.
Click here to visit UMC Disability Ministries, which has FAQs, Annual Conference materials, grant information, and several resources, including videos of how other Annual Conferences have promoted disability awareness.
Click here to visit the United Methodist Church’s Disability Ministries’ Disability Awareness Sunday website. This resource explains that the Book of Discipline states that “all persons with mental, physical, developmental, neurological, and psychological conditions or disabilities" are fully human and full members of God's family, with a rightful place in church and society. In recognition of this status, the church is to be in ministry with all people who have any special need, and to enable their full participation in its activities. The church is also to be an advocate for equality.” There are dozens of general resources, worship plans, prayers, and sermons that churches can use to assist in congregational planning of a Disability Awareness Weekend/Sunday.
Click here for The UMC’s Global Ministries’ recommended resources for Disability Awareness Sunday.
Click here for some small group resources on disability awareness created by the United Methodist Women.
Click here to read a blog on disability concerns created by The Disability Concerns Committee of the Western PA Conference.
Rev. McCarthy also recommends the book, Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability, and Inclusion by Mark Pinsky. This book supplies examples and stories of inclusion of persons who are disabled.
How are you going to honor Disability Awareness at your local church? Share your stories and ideas by sending them to News@unyumc.org or visiting our Facebook page and responding to the corresponding post.
Hope in the midst of tragedy
Imagine watching your 28-year-old daughter’s health deteriorate over a course of a few weeks. This is what Linda Mauro experienced last September. Her daughter. Brittany Sass, was diagnosed with pneumonia. When undergoing treatment for pneumonia, Brittany began having dizzy spells. Linda took Brittany to the emergency room at Upstate University Hospital.
Diagnostics showed that Brittany had a stroke that was caused by her having a heart attack. She was rushed into three surgeries. First, she underwent the process of taking the pressure off her brain. Once the pressure from her brain was released, it opened the blocked valve in her heart, causing blood clots in her legs. She was rushed into open heart surgery where they were able to pull most of the clotting and repair the damage to her heart. After the open-heart surgery, the medical team attempted to remove the clots from her legs. Because of clotting in her right leg, the leg had to be amputated.
Brittany and her mom both work at Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY. They live together in Salina, NY.
On Dec. 5, Upper New York Conference Director of Missional Engagement, Mike Block was contacted by Gene Guss, a volunteer at the zoo. Mike said, “Gene told me about the plight that Brittany and her mom were going through and I assured her that we (Upper New York Mission Central and Operation Northern Comfort) could help—that we do these things all of the time.”
Linda said, “I knew that Brittany would be able to come home from the hospital by the end of December and I had no idea how she would be able to get into the house or do simple things like use the bathroom.”
Operation Northern Comfort (ONC) is a non-profit organization based in Central New York that is committed to serving the surrounding communities by providing labor, donations, and support in any time of need. One of the projects they do regularly is build ramps for families, like Brittany’s, who need wheelchair access in their house. ONC has been collaborating with the Upper New York Conference’s Mission Central HUB for over a year, using the HUB to build ramps. Members of several churches across the Conference have then helped install ramps.
As soon as Mike Block was informed about Brittany and her mom, he began his mission to help them. He contacted Linda and asked if it was okay for him to go over and chat and evaluate the house. On Dec. 14, he and Rick Pellote of ONC, evaluated the house and applied for a permit through the Town of Salina. The home needed a wheelchair ramp for the front of the house and the downstairs bathroom had to be widened and completely remodeled for Brittany to be able to access it.
Linda said, “I decided to keep Brittany on the first floor and have arranged it so the living room can be her space.”
On December 20 and 21, over 15 men, including Mike Block; Gary Bockus, Jerry Sabitas, Mike Myers, and Mike Diordio from Immanuel United Methodist Church; and several volunteers for ONC got to work on the bathroom and installing a ramp at Brittany’s house. Fortunately, earlier this fall, the United Methodist Men from Baldwinsville First UMC had built a ramp at the UNY Mission Central HUB so that saved a lot of time.
The bathroom remodel was more challenging than was expected. It turns out that the wall that the wider door was going to be installed is where all the piping was.
Tom Kibicki of ONC, who was overseeing the bathroom part of the project, said, “This (piping) was a surprise so we have to put the door in (next to the kitchen).” A lot of extra work was needed to complete the bathroom remodel because the crew realized after ripping out the drywall that one of the ceiling-to-floor-beams was one of the support beams for the second floor. They had the additional work of building a temporary beam to support the ceiling while they worked on their remodel.
Linda witnessed the men working for several hours each day with excitement. She said, “These guys are amazing. I can’t believe what they can accomplish in such a short timeframe.”
She was not shy at all about complimenting the crew several times each day.
Mike Block said, “We had to tell her that we’re not looking for accolades, that we are Christians sharing our love and helping our neighbor.” He continued, “We are here to help anybody willing to receive our help.”
When the ramp was finished, Linda adorned it with several balloons. The town of Salina approved both projects. The bathroom is accessible though ONC and UNY Mission Central HUB will complete the remainder of the work (drywall, painting, and some electrical work) in the coming weeks.
On December 21, Brittany arrived home. She said, “I am very, very happy. My mom and I are both super grateful for everything the Upper New York Mission Central HUB and Operation Northern Comfort has been able to help us with.”
Brittany is slowly becoming accustomed to her new life. Linda said, “This is a work in progress. We’re just trying to figure everything out.”
Giving Brittany Sass access to her house and showing her the UNY Conference’s support with prayer shawls is one example of how so much can be accomplished with by connecting and collaborating with community organizations.
Keep Brittany and Linda in your prayers as they navigate their new life. Their next steps are determining how to transport Brittany and, in the future, hopefully finding a way for her to obtain a prosthetic leg.
Editor’s Note: If you would like to offer support to Brittany and her mother Linda, feel free to call or text Linda at 315-401-8887.
Three men on a mission
Power tools echo throughout the entire first floor of 473 Birr Street, located in the Northwest quadrant of Rochester, NY. This neighborhood is home to hundreds of refugees from Burma, Nepal, Somalia, Ethiopia, Togo, South Sudan, and several other countries.
Walt Mathias of Honeoye Falls UMC is using a jigsaw to cut a hole into what will become a kitchen sink counter; Leon Perkins of Rush UMC is drilling screws into the counter, and Peter Baldwin of Ionia UMC is cutting wood with a circular saw in what would be an eventual dining room.
Walt, Leon, and Peter volunteer together rehabbing houses two to three days a week when they are not on mission trips. Walt said, “This is our retirement and I couldn’t think of anything better.”
Walt continued, “We’re called the Three Musketeers, the Three Stooges, the Three Methodist boys among other things.”
Leon chimed in, chuckling, “Our wives tell us we go on play dates.”
How did three retired men from three different United Methodist churches come to be a modern-day example of the Ecclesiastes 4:12, “a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
Walt said, “Leon and I first met about four years ago now. Our pastors introduced us to each other. Our church had a team that went down to the Southern Tier (to do disaster relief work) every three to four weeks after the Susquehanna River flooded. The entire area was massively devastated.”
Leon said, “Rush (UMC)had been going to (Louisiana to clean up after Hurricane) Katrina for a number of years, but we decided we wanted to do something local as well, so we got involved down in the Southern Tier with Walt’s church.”
After Walt and Leon met, they immediately clicked.
Walt said, “After we were done with the Southern Tier cleanup, we were brainstorming about what more we could do on a regular basis. The Rotary Club introduced us to Mike Coniff and we got started with the project here.”
Mike Coniff is the Executive Director of the Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services. One of the services this organization provides is housing; they buy foreclosed houses and rehab them for refugees to rent. Some refugees get to a point where they can buy one of the homes.
Mike said, “Rochester Refugee Resettlement has been around for about six or seven years and we work with refugees in a secondary resettlement situation. People have been here a while. We want to try to get them jobs. We want to help their families and kids do well in school and have a career path. One of the major components is housing. It was very fortunate four or five years ago when Walt and Leon showed up at the door because it is virtually impossible to do the work that needs to be done in these houses without volunteer support.”
Peter joined Walt and Leon on their efforts three years ago.
Peter said, “Three years ago, I retired from Kodak. Walt and I share the same pastor. He goes to Honeoye Falls; I go to Ionia. The Honeoye Falls parsonage needed a new kitchen and they were looking for volunteers so that’s where I met Walt and Leon. I volunteered to go and help to work on that kitchen and we completely hit it off. I think after the first day, Walt said, ‘Let’s go to the city. We need to go look at a house for Mike (Coniff). ‘”
Peter smiled, and continued, “We’ve been working together on these houses and going on several mission trips together ever since. It’s been a great retirement for us.”
473 Birr street is one of dozens of houses that Walt, Leon, and Peter have completely remodeled rooms from the studs.
Koreh Set will soon be the owner of this home. He is one of the refugees employed by Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services to help rehab homes. He had zero construction experience prior to this position.
Koreh said, “I’m from Burma. When I first moved to America, I lived in Tennessee. Then, in 2016, I moved from Tennessee to Rochester. Before I came here, I learned about Rochester Refugee Resettlement, so I went to meet Mike Coniff. He asked if I needed a job and I told him that I did. He asked if I could help fix houses and I said I can learn. This is the first time I learned construction. I used to drive a big truck, delivering green beans. I learn quickly and now I can do drywall, painting, and ceiling work.”
Walt, Leon, and Pete are Koreh’s teachers. Now Koreh’s 24-year old son Moe also helps with drywall and painting.
Another refugee that works on homes for Rochester Resettlement Services in a leadership role is Djifa Kothor—he first volunteered at the organization after college and then was hired to help with the remodeling. He came to the Rochester area from Togo as a 12-year old in 2000; an interesting connection is that it was Honeoye Falls UMC that sponsored Djifa and his family. This was before Walt was a member.
Djifa said, “Walt, Pete and Lyon are like saviors…the three of them are just amazing. For them to drive far (from outside Rochester’s city limits) whether it’s a snowstorm, heat, or whatever is just incredible. And they have helped Koreh so much. Without them, I don’t think we would have acquired as many properties as we have and keep them up to code. They are the best volunteers you could ever ask for so I’m beyond thankful.”
The relationship that Walt, Leon, and Peter have showcases the beauty of the United Methodist Connection. Their good work demonstrates one way that the Upper New York Conference is fulfilling its vision to be God’s love to our neighbors in all places.
Order of Elders Gathering, a wonderful experience
On Thursday Dec. 6, 175 Ordained Elders across the Upper New York Conference joined Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb for the Order of Elders Gathering at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool, NY. The event included spirited worship and fellowship.
The featured speaker was Bishop Grant Hagiya from the California-Pacific Annual Conference. He introduced attendees to two ideas that could help them understand how to continue to be united as the Church enters the unknown.
- One idea is known as convicted humility. Bishop Hagiya said, “This is an attitude which combines honesty about the differing convictions which divide us with humility about the way in which each of our views may stand in need of corrections. It also involves humble repentance for all the ways in which we have spoken and acted as those seeking to win a fight rather than those called to discern the shape of faithfulness together. In that spirit, we wish to lift up the shared core commitments which define the Wesleyan movement, and ground our search for wisdom and holiness. They are offered as a starting point for conversation, and a reminder that what unites us is deeper and more central than what divides. “
- The other idea introduced was liminality, which is the sacred space in between the old ways and the new, unknown future. This involves breaking away from familiar ways or cycles and waiting before entering the new.
As we approach Special Session of General Conference, next February, the ideas of convicted humility and liminality that are now planted in the Elders of the Upper New York Conference will serve to help keep us deeply rooted in our connection and common purpose even as we face uncertainty in our way forward.
First UNY Korean Caucus prayer concert includes dozens of prayers
On Dec. 7, clergy and laity from across the Upper New York (UNY) Conference gathered together for the UNY Korean Caucus of Prayer at the United Methodist Center in Liverpool. The event included praise and worship, led by Yohan Moon and Jee hye Song, a message shared by Moon Ho Kim, and a long period of beautiful Tongsung Kido.
Tongsung Kido is popular in Korean congregations among others—it involves everyone in the room or sanctuary praying aloud at the same time. The voices of others do not bother anybody as they are all concentrating on their own earnest prayers, longing for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Prior to the Korean Caucus Concert of Prayer, a note was sent out to the Conference, asking for special prayer requests to be included in the Dec. 7 Tongsung Kido—almost 40 prayer requests were sent in. The attendees prayed aloud several prayers for repentance, unity, and restoration; prayers for the UNY Conference and the denomination; prayer requests for local churches; and several prayers for individuals needing strength and healing.
After the Tongsung Kido, attendees sang a praise song and Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb offered a closing prayer.
This Concert of Prayer was the first of ongoing Concerts of Prayer that will be held quarterly at the United Methodist Center.
Celebrate the UNY Mission Central HUB’s one-year anniversary on Jan. 12
December 11, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Save the date of Saturday Jan. 12 for an event you and your entire family will not want to miss-the Upper New York (UNY) Mission Central HUB Homecoming! This a one-year anniversary to celebrate one year of success and hard work at the Upper New York Mission Central HUB. All are invited to attend.
The event will take place from 1- 4 p.m. at the Mission Central HUB, located in the Upper New York United Methodist Center at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd., in Liverpool, NY.
There will be fun activities for the whole family, like UMCOR kit assembly contests, basic construction contests for youth and adults, and there will be an array of carnival-like games for all age levels. Exciting prizes will be awarded to the contest winners.
There will be face-painting for the kids and crafts as well.
At 1:30 p.m., there will be a plaque dedication to Earlville UMC. When Earlville UMC closed its church in 2017, they donated enough funds to cover the salary of a UNY Mission Central HUB Director for at least two years. They also gifted a 1.2 million dollar trust to help with operations well into the future.
At the HUB Homecoming, there will be plenty of appetizers and snacks as well as a delicious celebration cake!
To get an idea of just how fun this event is going to be, click here to watch a promotional video starring UNY youth, Conference staff, and Mike Block, the UNY Director of Missional Engagement.
Bishop Webb names Peter Abdella as Upper New York Conference Chancellor
Last month, Scott DelConte was elected to the New York State Supreme Court. With this new commitment, he will no longer be able to serve as Chancellor to the Upper New York (UNY) Conference. Effective December 15, Peter Abdella, current Vice President of the UNY Board of Trustees, will be the new Chancellor of the UNY Conference.
UNY Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb said, “Scott has been a blessing to the Upper New York Conference and has served with distinction. I would like to personally thank Scott for his years of service and know that his gifts will be well utilized as a justice of the New York Supreme Court.”
Serving as Chancellor is not a new role for Peter Abdella; he served as Chancellor of the Western New York Conference prior to it uniting with the North Central New York, Troy, and Wyoming Conferences to form the Upper New York Conference.
Peter is a life-long Methodist, beginning his membership at Christ First United Methodist Church in Jamestown, New York. Peter then transferred his membership to Asbury First United Methodist Church when he moved to Rochester in 1987. Peter later served as the Chair of the Asbury First United Methodist Church Staff Parish Relations Committee, having joined that Committee in January of 2010.
In addition to serving as Vice President for the UNY Board of Trustees, Peter is a construction litigation lawyer in Rochester, NY. He has been recognized by Chambers USA from 2015-2018 in the field of litigation. He was named by The Daily Record as one of Rochester’s Attorneys of the Year in 2015. Peter has also been selected to the Upstate New York Super Lawyers list, 2007-2018.
Bishop Webb is grateful that Peter has agreed to serve as Chancellor for Upper New York. He said, “Peter has been a highly valued member of our Board of Trustees and having served as Chancellor of the Western New York Conference, he was a logical choice for this role. I have appreciated working with Peter on various projects over the years and am confident that Peter will continue to serve the Church well in the role of Chancellor.”
Peter is excited for his new role in the Upper New York Conference and feels that Scott’s hard work has made his transition into his new role almost seamless.
Peter said, “My predecessor Scott DelConte has done a terrific job these past eight years and Scott has done a lot of the hard work coming out of the merger of the four Conferences. Stepping into this role has been made easier because of Scott’s efforts. I am honored that Bishop Webb has asked me to step into the Chancellor position now that Scott is moving on to start his judicial career.”
CLT maps way from now to 2025
On Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, the Upper New York Conference Leadership Team (CLT) once again gathered for a time of Loving, Learning, and Leading at the United Methodist Center in Liverpool.
On the evening of Nov. 30, they focused on Loving God and each other, worshiping together, and sharing stories. With Advent beginning the next Sunday and knowing they would not be together again until after Christmas, they talked about the season they were entering and what gifts they had to offer to God. Upper New York Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, introduced a turn of phrase on gifts brought to the baby Jesus of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
“We need to give God our mud, circumstance, and gold,” said Bishop Webb, explaining that the mud is the bad stuff we hold on to, circumstances are what is beyond our control, and gold is our very best. “You don’t hear Olympic athletes say that are training to get a bronze metal. Are we giving God our very best or a bronze effort?”
The following morning the team shared in a time of learning led by Craig Robertson from the Spiritual Leadership Institute. Craig has been coaching the Conference Leadership Team since their first fall 2018 meeting to help them work together even more effectively. Craig helped the team learn both how to better communicate where they were coming from in a discussion and how to stretch themselves to optimize their motivation.
“if in our work together we are only taking a small step forward, motivation is not high. It’s like why does this matter?” he explained. “But if we are trying to take on too much it feels overwhelming and again motivation is low. The key is to find the sweet spot that stretches us just enough to maximize motivation.”
Then the team began their time of leading together, starting with reviewing their Master Ministry Action Plan (MAP). The Master MAP guides all the components of the work of the CLT with a current stated goal of reaching 50 percent of the congregations in the Upper New York Conference being vital by June of 2025. This will be achieved by discovering, developing, and deploying Christ following leaders who are called and gifted for transformational leadership.
Of course, in planning through 2025, the team could not ignore the Special Session of General Conference in Feb. 2019 or the next General Conference gathering in 2020, so a significant amount of time was also spent in scenario planning. While potential scenarios developed a variety of needs, the CLT felt that it’s focus should be on leading around how we relate to each other as sisters and brothers in Christ in the midst of decisions that will make some people happy, some people unhappy, and some people unsure of how to feel.
They held up that while there are many things we don’t agree on; the great commandment is something we can all embrace. They spent some time reviewing the scripture.
Matthew 22:37-40 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The team agreed that they would use this as basis and create resources for the Conference that would hold up how we are to be in relationship with one another no matter what happens at the Special Session of General Conference.
Following their time of leading together, the CLT ended their time with prayer and agreed to meet again to continue their work Jan. 18 and 19 at the United Methodist Center.
Bishop Webb educates UNY on what to expect at the Special Session of General Conference
Forty-six years—that is how long the debate on human sexuality has been taking place in the United Methodist Church. The 2016 General Conference gave a specific mandate to the Council of Bishops to lead The United Methodist Church in discerning and proposing a way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality and the consequent questions about unity and covenant.
After this mandate was given, the Council of Bishops called for a Special Session of General Conference to be held Feb. 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Mo. and appointed laity and clergy across the United Methodist Church to form a 32-member Commission on a Way Forward. This Commission was put in charge of creating a report of recommendations to present to the Special Session of General Conference.
After over a year of meetings and collaboration, the Commission on a Way Forward presented a report to the Council of Bishops in May of 2018 with two possible recommendations to present at the Special Session of General Conference. These plans included: The One Church Plan, The Connectional Conference Plan. The Council of Bishops then asked for the Traditionalist Plan, which was an option in an earlier draft of the report to be added back into the report, leaving three possible Church models.
This past fall, Upper New York (UNY) Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb held six regional gatherings across UNY in preparation for Special Session of General Conference to talk about the report of the Commission on a Way Forward for The United Methodist Church.
Delving into the significance of the 2019 Special Session of General Conference
Bishop Webb started each gathering by educating the attendees about the 2019 Special Session of General Conference, explaining that the United Methodist Church has a legislative body, an executive body, and a judicial body. He further explained that the General Conference is the legislative body and that “it is the only body that can officially speak for the United Methodist Church.” The General Conference is the only body that can change the language in the Book of Discipline.
The executive body is the Council of Bishops. They can call for Special Sessions of General Conference outside of the normal every-four-year schedule. These are called adjourned sessions and such a session has only been held one other time in the history of the United Methodist Church. Bishop Webb acknowledged that what this means is that “We are in a historic time in that an adjourned session of General Conference is not a frequently used vehicle.”
The Judicial Body is like the United States Supreme Court—they can decide the constitutionality of items presented by or to the Council of Bishops.
Bishop Webb then clarified the fact that the delegates for the 2019 Special Session of General Conference are the same delegates that were elected for the 2016 session of General Conference, except for those Annual Conferences that decided to elect new delegates for the Special Session. Upper New York delegation will include the 12 delegates who were elected for the 2016 General Conference, six clergy and six laity. Bishop Webb said, “The Special Session of General Conference will discuss, debate, and vote on the report on the Commission on the Way Forward and Bishops do not participate in debate or vote at General Conference. Bishops do not speak or vote—we preside. Debating and voting is the role of the delegates.”
Outlining the report to be presented at the Special Session of General Conference
Bishop Webb explained that the One Church Model, “provides a form of unity that gives Conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context without disbanding the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.” The One Church plan would allow churches and Conferences to decide whether to perform same-gender marriages, and Bishops will have the freedom to decide whether to ordain practicing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons.
The One Church Plan would allow elders to transfer churches or Conference if they are not in agreement with the church’s or Conference’s stance. In other words, all appointments are guaranteed despite their stance. If clergy decide to leave the denomination, they will be given what they already have vested in their retirement, but no more.
Bishop Webb used an analogy of an umbrella to describe the Connectional Conference Plan. He said, “The Connectional Conference plan creates this big umbrella that reflects a unified core that includes shared name, logo, doctrine and services, but under this umbrella, the Connectional Conference creates three values-based Connectional Conferences that have distinctive definitions of accountability, contextualization and justice.”
The Connectional Conference plan allows various parts of the UMC to follow their understandings of human sexuality without breaking unity completely by forming three Connectional Conferences: Traditional, Unity and Progressive. Current US Jurisdictional Conferences would be replaced with three connectional conferences, each covering the whole country, based on theology including perspectives on LGBTQ ministry (i.e. progressive, unity, and traditional). Each Connectional Conference could have its own Book of Discipline. Each Connectional Conference could also have its own policies regarding LGBTQ weddings and ordination and could set its own standards for ministerial credentialing and list of approved schools/seminaries.
The Traditionalist Plan maintains the current language and stance of the Book of Discipline. However, it allows Annual Conferences or any group of 50 congregations to form a self-governing church if they are in “irreconcilable conflict for reasons of conscience with the doctrine or moral teachings and requirements of The Book of Discipline on the issues of human sexuality.
At it’s most recent gathering in October, the Judicial Council ruled that both the One Church Plan and the Traditionalist Plan contain provisions that have constitutional problems. Proponents of each plan are working to correct those constitutional issues.
Praying beyond Feb. 23-26
Bishop Webb said, “We need to be praying for February 23 through 26, but do you know the date that I am more interested in?…February 27th, February 28th, and March 1st because no matter what happens at this Special Session of General Conference, there is one thing that does not change and that is that the Church of Jesus Christ continues and the mission that the Church of Jesus Christ is called to, continues; and we will still have ministry to do in the name of Jesus.”
Bishop Webb affirmed that no matter how the United Methodist Church changes, he will continue to equip leaders to help their congregations become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Each gathering included worship and deep prayer for all the congregations of UNY, the delegates who will be attending Special Session of General Conference, for all leaders both clergy and laity, and God’s direction and provision. Each gathering also included laying of the hands, on delegates attending Special Session.
Continue to pray for the United Methodist Church as we approach February 23.
If you missed these regional gatherings and would like to engage in conversations within your congregation or with various congregations in your District, click here to see a four-part video series about Special Session, featuring Bishop Webb. Click here to see a comprehensive list of FAQs related to the Special Session of General Conference.
Why I am trained as an ERT
December 4, 2018 / By Mary Lou Buck
Why would anyone want to be part of an Early Response Team? You get to travel a distance, work all day getting very dirty, and sleep on a cot or airbed in a room with strangers. You give up the comforts of home and your routine.
Why would anyone choose that? I can assure you it is a wonderful, inspiring experience and one I choose to do several times a year because I come home having been enriched by the experience. You travel with Christians, some you already know and others soon become like family. Our daily devotions help to bring us closer to the Lord and keep us focused on the real reason we are there. You see God at work as the team witnesses through their love and work. We are able to bring hope to the families impacted by disaster.
It is a place where there is no discrimination. Everyone’s skills are appreciated regardless of age, ability, or whether you are a man or woman. Members help each other and new skills are learned on every trip. The team members’ skills always seem to match the demands of the job. When assignments are given, no one asks the race or religion of an individual being helped because it doesn’t matter. They are all brothers and sisters in the Lord’s eyes. Hugs are feely given and received.
As United Methodists, we are all connected. As we have traveled on ERT trips and needed a place to stay, an internet search and a phone call are all it takes to secure lodging. Early Response teams are trained to be self-sufficient, so we plan to prepare our own meals. Many times we are blessed by church family members supplying meals or desserts for us. Methodist church members are wonderful in providing the gift of hospitality.
An Early Response Team is all about love. John 15:12 says, “Love each other as I have loved you.” This is what I see in the team members and local churches because love is freely given to everyone.
Editor’s Note: One of the trips Mary Lou participated in was the November 2018 trip to Wilmington, NC. Click here to read more about that trip. Click here to learn about ERT trainings taking place across the Upper New York Conference.
Social Holiness Concerns: Supporting Assault Survivors in New York
December 3, 2018 / By Angela Eardley, President f the United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Oneonta,
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on page 14 in the November 2018 issue of the United Methodist Women’s publication, Response. The pastor mentioned in article is the Rev. Dr. Teressa Sivers, at that time the pastor of First UMC Oneonta, now Senior Pastor of St. Paul’s UMC, Ithaca.
I work for a domestic violence shelter. I recently spent nine hours in the emergency room with a woman who had been drugged and physically and sexually assaulted, helping provide her support as she endured invasive exams and hours of questioning. The police took all of her personal belongings, including her phone and sneakers, as evidence, and she was given paper clothing and slipper socks to wear home.
I scurried around the ER to find some more appropriate clothing for her. With the help of a nurse, I was able to find more acceptable clothes. I pleaded with the investigators to take whatever evidence they needed from her shoes and give them back to her, and they thank- fully agreed. She was then placed in a cab for the 30-mile journey home, stripped of dignity and self-worth.
As I drove home my heart was heavy. Tears rolled down my cheeks. How in the world can we let this happen? I was determined not to let one more woman leave an ER this way again.
I met with my pastor and my United Methodist Women sisters at First United Methodist Church in Oneonta, New York, and the Purple Bag Project was born. We called it the Purple Bag Project because purple is the color of domestic violence and sexual assault awareness (but to protect and respect survivors, none of our bags are the color purple).
Each bag includes sweatshirt and sweatpants, T-shirt, bra, underwear, socks, sneakers, pen and notepad, notes of encouragement, and person-al care products such as tampons, pads, hair ties, combs and the like. Bags are organized by color to indicate different clothing and shoe sizes—red small, blue medium, etc. When the project was announced, donations quickly came pouring in. I met with the woman who directs nurses’ training in local emergency rooms, and she put me in contact with trained personnel at three area hospitals. We are now providing the clothing bags to three emergency rooms in Otsego and Schoharie counties.
The First Oneonta United Methodist Women really stepped up, not just with donations but as ER liaisons and with assembly of the bags. United Methodist Women members pray over each bag after it is assembled. Liasons help us know when the ERs need more bags.
The support that we have received just from our church alone has been in- credible. We received a $2,500 grant from the Patrick Ministry, we were part of the Alternate Giving Program during the holiday season and we had a collection taken in our honor during Advent. The congregation has been donating without even being asked.
A few months ago I walked into a store and met eyes with the woman be- hind the counter. We spoke no words but both shed a tear. She mouthed “thank you” and blew me a kiss. I smiled and nodded at this woman who inspired the Purple Bag Project, and I left, determined to continue to put faith, hope and love into action
Wesley Heritage tour scheduled for February 2020
December 3, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Join Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb and his wife Jodi on a Wesley Heritage tour in England Feb. 11-19, 2020. This journey will take you through England where you will learn about the roots of the early Church and the ministry of John Wesley. Visit London, Oxford, Epworth, the Old Rectory where John Wesley grew up, and much more. Take advantage of this time to enrichen your knowledge of John Wesley, and you will also have a day to explore London on your own.
Bishop Webb said, “Jodi and I look forward to sharing this journey that will visit many of the places that shaped John Wesley. His formation led to the vision and birth of a movement that we continue as United Methodists. This is certain to be a spiritual pilgrimage that will impact your life for years to come. We hope you will prayerfully consider joining us. “
The cost of this trip is $3,298 if you fly from New York City or $3,498 if you fly from Buffalo, Rochester, or Syracuse. This cost covers:
- Round-trip international airfare
- Basic tour and guided sightseeing
- Deluxe motorcoaches
- Admission and entrance fees to the sites
- First-class hotels including gratuities and program fees
- Daily breakfast and dinners (dinners not included in London)
The earlier you register, the more you can save. For example, register by March 11, 2019 to save $150.
Details about any potential available scholarships will be determined soon.
Click here for a registration brochure with all details about this exciting opportunity.
UNY sends Early Response Team to Wilmington
November 27, 2018 / By Bryan Roy
Editor's Note: Bryan Roy joined an Early Disaster Response Team (ERT) heading to the Wilmington, NC area to help with the clean up after Hurricane Florence. Having received ERT training last year, Bryan joined a local ERT mission to Lodi Point, NY one day this summer after that area was hit with disastrous flooding. This NC ERT mission from November 4-10 was his first long-term effort to help those impacted by disasters. Below is an interview with him about his experience.
Where did you stay while you were there?
Our team was sent to Wilmington, NC where local ERTs had been helping since the storm but needed additional support to address all the needs. We were hosted by the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church who gave us access to a house on their property between their Sanctuary and Activity Building. We slept on air mattresses in a few rooms, used their kitchen to cook our meals, and gathered around a table in a larger room for meals, daily debriefs, and devotionals.
What kind of damage did you see?
Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina on Sept. 14 with strong winds that took down many trees and caused a lot of roof damage. However, the more damaging impact was the heavy rains that followed for several days. The Wilmington area didn’t experience much flooding like some other parts of the state, but buildings with roof damage leaked and caused water damage from ceiling to floor.
Who was on your team?
Our ERT Team started with a trained team leader volunteering to facilitate the mission, then an announcement was sent to all trained ERTs in the Upper New York (UNY) Conference. Fifteen individuals volunteered for this particular group, coming from churches around Buffalo, Jamestown, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica. Many had been on several prior ERT trips, while some, like me, were participating on their first long-term mission. One member towed an ERT trailer full of tools, while everyone else brought additional items that might be needed so we could be ready to tackle any project assigned to us.
What kind of work did you do while there?
With a larger group, we were able to split into teams to address several projects at once. One team cut up a large tree that came down in someone’s yard; a small team repaired a mobile home that had minor water damage in one room, and the rest worked on a ranch that sustained significant water damage (broke through the ceiling in several places). After removing and recovering any valuable items from the home, we ended up gutting the entire house down to the studs by removing all carpeting, walls, ceilings, and insulation since all had moisture that would mold if left.
Did you have contact with the homeowner?
ERTs only work on properties where homeowners request help, and we recommend they be available to determine when things should be saved. The process is hard for many homeowners and ERTs are trained to provide them support through all of this as well. The ranch was owned by an elderly woman, who was staying with her daughter, but the son (who grew up in this house) worked beside us the entire time and was so grateful for our help.
What did this experience mean to you and would you do it again?
Our team accomplished a lot in the short time we were in Wilmington with the stuff we removed from the house, repairs to the trailer, and trees that were cut up.
However, I feel our biggest impact wasn’t measured in the stuff we hauled to the curb. We were able to lift the spirits of these homeowners and it felt so wonderful to receive their gratitude. Even more than that, the fact that long-distance “neighbors” were willing to come and help raised the spirits of the numerous local volunteers that have been working on disaster relief efforts for several weeks. I also really enjoyed the comradery and faith of this group that quickly became a family in the short time we were together.
Is this something that others from our church family could do?
Absolutely. The ERT training is offered regularly by our UNY Conference and in some cases, the teams will accept untrained ERT members that will learn on the fly. Unfortunately, disaster relief will most likely be in greater need in the coming years. On the heels of Hurricane Florence, there was Hurricane Gordon that hit the Florida panhandle hard and now the wildfires in California. Several Caribbean nations are still need recovery support from last year’s disasters. However, you don’t have to even go that far to find disaster recovery needs. There have been flooding disasters throughout the Northeast over the past few years, including right in our own backyard (Mohawk, Sauquoit) that have brought in ERTs for help.
Conference Office closed
Due to the inclement weather, the Conference Office in Liverpool will be closed today, Nov. 16. It is scheduled to reopen Monday, Nov. 19.