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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Chenango Bridge UMC hosts Night to Shine

    February 15, 2019 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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. Several young people from the community volunteered.

    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.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    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

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office

    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.

    Click here to read the full letter from Bishop Carter. Click here to read the Bishops covenant for presiding.

    TAGGED / General Conference Special Session 2019

    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.

    TAGGED / Imagine No Racism

    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 ( 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.”

    TAGGED / General Conference Special Session 2019

    Changes in how we share our story

    February 4, 2019 / By Stephen J. Hustedt / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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.

    TAGGED / Communications

    New York United Methodist Bishops make statement on Reproductive Health Act

    January 31, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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

    TAGGED / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Episcopal Office

    Regional Gatherings after Special Session

    January 29, 2019 / By Upper New York Communications

    We do not know what to expect at the 2019 Special Session of General Conference taking place Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, MO and this uncertainty can be uncomfortable. Whatever the outcome of Special Session is, our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world will continue. There may be a new reality that we will have to acclimate to so that we can continue to fulfill our mission as United Methodists. To that end, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb will host an all-clergy gathering and six regional gatherings to process the new reality.

    Bishop Webb said, “The purpose of these gatherings is for us to gather together after the Special Session of General Conference to worship together, pray together, understand the decisions or actions of the Special Session, and remember our individual and collective call to ministry and mission in the name of Jesus Christ.”

    It is expected for all clergy to attend the clergy gathering, which will be held at Rochester: Asbury First United Methodist Church on Saturday March 9 from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. This location was chosen as opposed to a centrally located church because of the venue’s ability to host the large number of clergy members who will be attending.

    The gatherings open to both laity and clergy will take place on the following dates at the locations listed:

    Plan now to attend one of these gatherings, and as we approach the Special Session of General Conference please keep the delegates to the Special Session, all those attending the Special Session, and the entire United Methodist church in your prayers.

    TAGGED / General Conference Special Session 2019

    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

    January 23, 2019 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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.

    TAGGED / Finance

    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:

    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

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office / General Conference Special Session 2019

    District trainings in the coming months

    January 15, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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
    Mountain View District
    Finger Lakes District
    Crossroads District
    Adirondack District
    Niagara Frontier District
    Cornerstone District
    Binghamton District

    Mohawk District

    Mohawk District Leadership Summit
    Jan. 26, 2019
    9 a.m.- 3 p.m.
    First UMC
    105 Genesee St.
    New Hartford, NY

    Free to attend! Choose two workshop options:

    1. 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.
    2. Finance: Bob Flask, UNY Conference Treasurer
    3. Human Resources/PPRC: Susan Latessa, UNY Human Resources
    4. 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.
    5. Missions: TBA
    6. Technology: Social Media Culture and Etiquette: Steve Hustedt, UNY Communications
    7. 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.

    Mountain View District Training

    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.

    Finger Lakes District

    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

    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

    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 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.

    Niagara Frontier District

    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

    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

    All-Day session:
    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 ( the District office.

    Binghamton District

    A Binghamton District Day Apart
    Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center
    Founder’s Lodge
    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.

    Space is limited. Click here for more information and click here for a registration form.

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services / Camp and Retreat Ministry (CRM) / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Finance / Mission Central / New Faith Communities / Vital Congregations

    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]   

    Charles Syms  [Cornerstone, Niagara Frontier & Genessee Valley]

    Georgia Whitney  [Adirondack, Albany & Oneonta] 

    Jeff Hodge (Crossroads, Mohawk & Northern Flow)

    Honor Disability Awareness Weekend Feb. 2-3

    January 8, 2019 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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 or visiting our Facebook page and responding to the corresponding post.

    Hope in the midst of tragedy

    January 7, 2019 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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.

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Three men on a mission

    December 14, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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

    December 12, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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.

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office

    First UNY Korean Caucus prayer concert includes dozens of prayers

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

    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.

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Bishop Webb names Peter Abdella as Upper New York Conference Chancellor

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

    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

    December 5, 2018 / By Stephen J. Hustedt / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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

    December 5, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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.

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Conference Office closed

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

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

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

    Important 2019 dates

    November 14, 2018 / By UNY Communications

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

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

    TAGGED / Finance / Annual Conference 2019

    Celebrating friendship at East Rochester United Methodist Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    These celebrations foster friendship.

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Appointing planters for New Faith Communities

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

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

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

    Why is this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Active shooter resources available

    November 12, 2018 / By UNY Communications

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

    Here are some of Church Mutual’s recommendations:

    • ALICE

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

    • Firestorm

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

    • Armed Intruder Resource Kit

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

    • FEMA Faith Resources

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

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

    Mentoring for Effectiveness:  A Personal View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Mentoring for Effectiveness:  A Personal View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Planter Leadership Development Group… a PLD group for planters

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

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

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

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

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

    To sign up, send Dave Masland an email…

    Compete for the Golden Bucket Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Social Holiness Concerns: the youngest Palestinian Political Prisoner

    November 6, 2018 / By Dianne Roe

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

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

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

    Happy birthday Shadi.  We won't forget you!

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

    November 6, 2018 / By Ryan Bennett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Welcoming Rev. Eleanor Collinsworth to Bath: Centenary UMC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Replacing a pastor who served a church for 17 years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Clergy appointments in Upper New York

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

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

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

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

    Lay-person assigned

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

    Certified Lay Member

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

    Licensed Local Pastor

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

    Associate Member

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


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


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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    The Culture of Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Annual giving

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Planned giving

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

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

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

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

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

    Capital campaigns

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

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

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

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

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

    Changes to Paid Family Leave in 2019

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

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

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

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

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

    Important Reminders regarding Paid Family Leave

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

    Minimum wage increase affects all UNY employers

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

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

    October 23, 2018 / By Pastor Sharon Rankins-Burd

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Another team painted the exterior of a recently repaired house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Esperanza se Levanta. Poco a poco.

    Become a spiritual entrepreneur-Nov. 15 workshop

    October 23, 2018 / By UNY Communications

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

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

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

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


    Cost: $25

    November 15, 2018

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

    UNY Conference Office, United Methodist Center,

    7481 Henry Clay Blvd.

    Liverpool, NY

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

    Rev. Cathy Stengel on itinerancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What did I learn?

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

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

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

    Bishop Webb on itinerancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    UNY response to Hurricane Michael

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

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

    Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

    Grace and Peace,

    Mike Block
    Director of Missional Engagement

    TAGGED / Mission Central

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

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

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

    Key Components of the new law:


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

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


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

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

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

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

    New York State Sexual Harassment Regulations

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

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

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

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

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

    Celebratory performances

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

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

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

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

    Commitment to God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sharing the good news

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

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

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

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

    With God all things are probable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    NEJ Bishops gather at United Methodist Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Social Holiness concerns: Majority does not necessarily rule

    October 3, 2018 / By Rev. Alan Kinney

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

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

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

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

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

    Equitable Compensation Application for January-June 2019 available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Click the link for the appropriate application for:

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

    NEJ delegates prepare for Special Session of GC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / General Conference Special Session 2019

    UNY response to Hurricane Florence

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Mission Central

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Let's go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What’s new at SU: September 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tommy boldly living his way forward

    September 4, 2018 / By Erin Patrick, Church Planter

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    The Upper New York Conference welcomes new treasurer, Bob Flask

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Finance

    Garden ministries grow relationships and feed the hungry

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

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

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

    Clinton UMC

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

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

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

    Elma UMC

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

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

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

    Jonesville UMC

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

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

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

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

    Whitney Point UMC

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

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

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

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

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

    Called into the healing ministries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Urgent need for cleaning kit supplies

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Discerning my call into ministry

    August 28, 2018 / By Paul Winkelman

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    2018 UNY Conference Journal Directory now available for purchase

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    Reflection on the Global young People’s Convocation 2018

    August 27, 2018 / By Rachel John, Emmaus UMC

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Summer Fun Retreat 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How my past impacted my journey into pastoral ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Here I am… is it where you are?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Visit to learn more.

    Building relationships and strengthening faith through Workcamp 2018

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

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

    How did Syracuse Workcamp 2018 come about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What was the theme of Syracuse Workcamp 2018?

    The theme of Syracuse Workcamp 2018 was GRIT.

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

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

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

    How does Workcamp build relationships?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How does Workcamp strengthens faith?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This is mission work at its best.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    How God has been calling me into pastoral ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    TAGGED / Advocate

    Becoming disciples through confirmation

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

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

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

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

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

        Here are just a few thoughts from the students.

    Good things about being a church member:

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

    Good things about First United Methodist Church of East Greenbush:

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

    Highlights of the confirmation class:

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

    On growing closer to God:

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

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

    August 13, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

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

    Dear Imagine No Racism Group Participants,

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Grace and peace,


    Mark J. Webbb

    TAGGED / Imagine No Racism

    Partnering with Friends in Uganda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Into the desert

    August 7, 2018 / By Pastor Cory Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This is sacred ground.

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

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

    This is sacred ground.

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


    What is God inviting you to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

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

    July 31, 2018 / By Council of Bishops

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

    “To the People of The United Methodist Church,

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

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

    Bishop Ken Carter
    President, Council of Bishops

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

    Q&A about baptism

    July 30, 2018 / By UMC Discipleship Ministries

    Q: What does United Methodism fundamentally believe about baptism?

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

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

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

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

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

    Q: Should every baby be baptized?

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

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

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

    Q: Does baptism mean that I am saved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    How baptism is related to your call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    UNY Conference hires Treasurer

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Finance

    Bishop Webb offering fall gatherings for A Way Forward

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office / General Conference 2016

    From the desk of Bishop Mark J Webb: Living Boldly

    July 24, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Advocate

    2018 UNY Lottie Brown Scholarship recipients announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    July 18, 2018 / By UNY Communications

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

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

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

    Click here for a Director's Invitational nomination form.

    TAGGED / Camp and Retreat Ministry (CRM)

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

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

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

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

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

    Some exciting developments coming in the next few months:

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

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

    Upper New York New Faith Communities to be featured on podcast

    July 17, 2018 / By UNY Communications

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

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

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

    TAGGED / New Faith Communities

    Commission reduces GC Special Session registration fees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Imagine No Racism

    Preventing fraud at the local-church level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    TAGGED / Finance

    New District Superintendent Installations announced

    July 10, 2018 / By UNY Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    With more than 168,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 86 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."