Upper New York’s Imagine No Racism initiative off to a great start
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.
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 imaginenoracism.org.
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.
New District Superintendent Installations announced
July 10, 2018 / By UNY Communications
The District Superintendent installation services for the Rev. Carlos Rosa Laguer (in the Niagra Frontier) and the Rev. Deborah Earthrowl (in the Adirondack District) have been announced.
Rev. Rosa Laguer’s service will be held on Sunday September 16 at Batavia First UMC at 4 p.m.
Rev. Eartrowl’s service will be held on Sunday October 7 at Plattsburgh UMC at 4 p.m.
Details about each service will be announced as we get closer to the dates.
June 2018 Program meeting of the Upper New York United Methodist Historical Society
July 9, 2018 / By Nancy Rutenber, Recording Secretary of UNY United Methodist Historical Society
The purpose of the Upper New York United Methodist Historical Society (UNY-UMHS) is to work with UNYCAH in preserving Methodist materials related to the Upper New York conference and antecedents and to promote knowledge of Methodist history and skills for preserving and disseminating it. In furthering this purpose, Society members and other interested folks met June 16, 2018 at Clyde United Methodist Church in Finger Lakes District.
Betsye Mowry reported that the Northeastern Jurisdiction Commission on Archives and History (NEJCAH) will meet in Upper New York Conference May 19-21, 2020 in Auburn, New York. The one-day tour has not been finalized but possibilities include the Erie Canal, Women’s Hall of Fame, Harriet Tubman house, etc.
It was noted that there is still a large volume of closed church records from the merged Conferences to be processed at the UNY conference archives. As 12 churches were reported closed at the Annual Conference this year, the amount of records will greatly increase.
The next Society meeting is planned to be joint with the UNY Commission on Archives and History (UNYCAH) on Saturday, September 22 at the Conference archives at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd. in Liverpool, NY. Volunteer work in the archives will start at 9:30 a.m. for those present then and later for others as they arrive. Lunch will be at 12 p.m. and James Hare, an Elmira historian, will do a program on Elmira churches. After the program. there will be meetings for first the UNY-UM Historical Society and then for UNYCAH.
The business portion of this meeting was followed by lunch and a slide program by Loreen Jorgensen on Wayne County Methodist churches. The slides included churches of various Methodist branches such as Methodist Protestant, German Evangelical Association, and Free Methodist. Afterwards there was a narrated walking tour around some local historic churches in Clyde which noted the “musical chairs” done by some churches.
The tour started in the sanctuary of the 1859 Clyde Methodist Church (with later additions). This is the oldest active church building in the town. The stained-glass window “Christ knocking at the door” over the current altar came from the Presbyterian Church after the 1970 merger between the two churches. The group was told there is a hidden window of an anchor behind this window. A more colorful modern window set is in the rear of the sanctuary.
The walking tour included access to Christ Community Church with a small Tiffany window. Then it finished at the Galen Historical Society in a former Baptist brick church which is the oldest church structure and also the oldest brick building in town (1833).
From the desk of Bishop Webb: Commission on a Way Forward Update
July 9, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Editor's Note: On Monday July 9, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter to the Upper New York Conference informing them of some changes to take place regarding the release of the Commission on a Way Forward report.
I learned this weekend that the Commission on a Way Forward report would not be released on July 8th as communicated by the Council of Bishops after our May meeting. The final report has been submitted to the Commission on General Conference, but the translation work is still in process.
It is my understanding that a revised timeline of the completion of the translations will be coming from the Commission on General Conference soon. It is important that the whole church receive this report at the same time. May we continue to pray for our delegation, each delegate who will participate in the special session of General Conference, and The United Methodist Church.
Mark J. Webb
Eastern Parkway United Methodist Church gathering addresses immigrant injustice
July 2, 2018 / By Cathy Woodruf
Speakers at a forum Monday evening, June 25, at Eastern Parkway United Methodist church shared their heartbreak, frustration, and questions surrounding the separations of children and families at the U.S. border with Mexico.
About 40 people, mostly members of the Schenectady-Niskayuna congregation, attended the public gathering, centered on the theme “Speak for the Children; Act for the Families.” The format was inspired by a request from two church members who said they felt increasingly unsatisfied with their usual outlet, sharing posts on social media, and were seeking a more productive and meaningful way to channel their energy, anger, and frustration.
“We come together to unite voices and hearts to address the injustice that is happening to immigrant families and individuals at border crossings into the United States,” Pastor Mark Ledbetter said in opening remarks.
“We are not naive and are well aware of the complexity of the issue,” he said. “Yet, we gather as a community that believes love and compassion and practical humaneness must always inform, if not supersede policy and personal opinion.”
The forum concluded with an agreement to gather again. Forum attendees also pledged, in coming weeks, to perform at least one individual act to promote kindness and justice for migrants and refugees and to recognize the humanity of immigrants already in our community.
Social Holiness Concerns: Reflections to consider as you enjoy Independence Day
July 2, 2018 / By Evelyn A. Woodring, Pastor, South Park UMC, Buffalo, Member CCORR and Conference Social Holiness Committee
Recently, we have experienced the words of Scripture (Romans 13) being used to justify the separation of children from their parents at our borders, and subsequent deportation of immigrants seeking asylum. Calls for denial of due process are in direct conflict with our laws. Historically, Methodists have had extraordinary concern for the wellbeing of children. Our Book of Resolutions references several social ills related to current events. The members of the Upper New York Conference Social Holiness Committee join with the College of Bishops in condemning the actions happening at our southern border.
As we celebrate the birth of our nation, we are reminded of the words of our own Declaration of Independence:
“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; …. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
These words, foundational to our identity as a nation, seem to be antithetical to the spirit expressed in support of a national policy which inflicts harm on others. While we do not tell any others how to reconcile these words, and the words of Scripture that we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” we must encourage each person to closely examine government policies (yes, all of them!) in light of this Declaration and the Gospel message of the King of Kings. We are blessed to be Americans, citizens of the nation that has for decades been a beacon of light and hope in a dark and threatening world. Each of you, as you enjoy a Fourth of July cookout, or watch a fireworks display, is encouraged to “think on these things” – the words of our own Declaration of Independence, the words of our Lord and Savior, and the ways in which they are either in agreement or at odds with one another.
Go to your Bible. Read Matt. 22:34-40 and Matt. 25:31-46, then reread those words from our own foundation as a nation. Then, “think on these things.”
Dress a Girl Around the World
Last month, the Whitney Point United Methodist Church hosted a celebration of the 10,000 dresses their Sew ’n Sews ministry group sewed for Dress a Girl Around the World. Click here to read more about how the Holy Spirit, donations, and the sewers from Whitney Point UMC who met once a week contributed to the success of their ministry.
This ministry was spurred because of the Dress a Girl Around the World campaign – under Hope 4 Women International, a 501(c)(3) organization – in which groups around the world have sewn dresses for young girls in impoverished communities since 2006.
Rachel Cinader, the founder of Dress a Girl Around the World, said the campaign didn’t begin the way she imagined.
Dress a Girl Around the World came out of Rachel’s calling while she was in Uganda to create a project where local women would make dresses for thousands of little girls in their communities who wore torn rags as dresses.
When Rachel came back to the United States and news about the girls in need of dresses spread like wildfire on social media, hundreds of women offered to make dresses. Rachel was hesitant; she said, “I had to keep telling people, ‘That’s not my vision!’”
But God had different plans.
Rachel decided to test the waters and see how others’ ideas of women in the United States making dresses for impoverished communities could make a positive impact. She sent 50 dresses with a high school student going on a mission trip to an orphanage in Honduras. When the student returned with photos of girls beaming with pride in their new dresses, Rachel was convinced that this could be a great ministry.
Within a short period of time, Rachel created Dress a Girl Around the World. Today, over 800,000 dresses have been made from sewers in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, and many other countries around the world.
Dress a Girl Around the World is effective not only in dressing girls in impoverished communities, but also creating beautiful friendships among the sewers; building confidence and a feeling of love in the little girls; and helping prevent trafficking of the girls.
“I can’t take credit for this – I know that God’s hands are all over this ministry when I see women who thought they no longer had a purpose dust their sewing machines off,” Rachel said. “They feel like, ‘Yes! I’m doing something,’ and they pray over a little girl who is going to receive the dress. There’s nothing in the world that is more beautiful to me that putting a beautiful dress over a little girl that is wearing rags.”
Dress a Girl Around the World provides patterns for ministries to use when making dresses for girls. There are ambassadors all over the world for the campaign, and these ambassadors sew the Dress a Girl Around the World labels onto the dresses and send them to Hope 4 Women, who then hand-deliver the dresses on various mission trips. The ambassador the Whitney Point UMC sends their dresses to is Angels of Mercy out of Rochester.
Some may question what a simple dress can do for a young girl; Dress a Girl Around the World has identified four additional amazing gifts the girls gain when they receive a dress:
- They receive dignity. When a vulnerable girl living in extreme poverty is given a beautiful new dress and told it was made especially for her by someone who loves her and prays for her, it gives the girl a sense of self-worth and dignity.
- Their health is protected. When a girl wears a dress with the Dress a Girl Around the World label, this indicates the girls are under protection of an organization and deters would-be predators.
- The girls receive joy. Imagine a little girl being given a new beautiful dress made just for her and being celebrated like a princess. She twirls around in joy, with a wide smile. For most of these girls, this is a new, exhilarating experience.
- Most importantly, these girls receive love. As a Christian organization, the foundation of everything Dress a Girl Around the World does is show the love of Jesus.
Moving outside my comfort zone through Leadership Academy
June 25, 2018 / By Pastor Warren VanDewark, Edwards Chapel UMC and Watts Flats UMC
Editor's Note: This article was originally publisged in the Spring 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on spiritually planning our way forward to create leaders and vital congregations in Upper New York.
Leadership Academy is just what you would expect it to be; it’s about leadership, but that term “leadership” for the pastor could mean many things. Leadership Academy challenged my ideas of what the role of the pastor looks like. I’ve always seen myself as a quiet leader working from within the fellowship, maybe as a shepherd who prods the flock from behind, hoping we all get to the same place together. Yes, I realize my voice does carry some weight when expressing God’s Word from the pulpit, but for the most part I prefer calm waters.
The Rev. Aaron Bouwens and his excellent choice of teachers will cause you to stretch a little bit. We have been placed into a position of leadership, and it is time we started leading and finding leaders for the cause of Christ! Jasmine Smothers from Atlanta was a recent guest presenter who led us in a session about finding our “Why.” She has an in-your-face approach to leadership that draws the very best out of you. I’m not saying that you will be turned into Moses parting the waters with my staff, but we will have to boldly challenge our congregations to move out of our comfort zones into new territory.
If I can be perfectly honest with you, the reason I signed up for Leadership Academy was because leadership is my weakest point in ministry (my view) and I needed some further education credits! We are at about the middle of the curriculum and it is well worth your time, regardless of where you are in your ministry, young or old, ordained, or not.
Rome area United Methodists host anti-racism vigil
Early last week, recruitment letters from the Ku Klux Klan were discovered along driveways in the town of Lee, which is in the Rome area in the Upper New York Conference’s Mohawk District.
Rome-area United Methodists were not going to let this act of hate go unnoticed.
When the news came out about the KKK letters on June, 13, Pastor Brian Lothridge, of the Rome First United Methodist Church; Pastor Pat Hubman, of the Delta and Verona UMCs; and Pastor Deb Wollaber, of the Lee Center, Point Rock, and Taberg UMCs decided to hold an anti-racism vigil at 7 p.m. June 16 at the Delta UMC.
The Delta UMC has a large lawn, where participants in the vigil were visible to the community. The neighborhood behind the church is the one where the letters were delivered.
“We felt our faith compelled us to respond,” Pastor Brian said. “Our baptism vows charge us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Evil sowed up. We are responding. We want to be the light in the darkness, as Jesus called us to be in Matthew 5.”
Pastor Deb said we need to overcome hate with love.
“We really just feel that hate speech does not have a place in our community, in our city, in our world,” she said.
A large, diverse group of people from the community attended the vigil, which included words from pastors Brian, Pat, and Deb; singing; an opportunity for others to pray; candle lighting; and refreshments.
Pastor Brian kicked off the event with an explanation of the gathering and thanked everyone for coming.
“We gather here tonight to be a light in the dark,” he said. “We are concerned that darkness is trying to infiltrate our communities … We have to do something about this. When the KKK comes with hatred toward our brothers and sisters of color and seek to harm them, evil has come to our doorstep. When they twist scripture to try to justify their hatred, we know that evil has come to our doorstep. And when evil arrives on our doorstep, we don’t just take it; we stand for love.”
After pastors Brian, Deb, and Pat shared a few words and prayer, attendees joined Pastor Brian in song as he strummed We shall Overcome on the guitar. People joined hands in solidarity with those they had never met before, singing, “We are not afraid; we are not afraid; we are not afraid today; oh deep in my heart, we shall overcome; we shall overcome some day.”
Several people came to the microphone to offer prayers and share their reasons for attending the vigil.
Keith Rubino, a politician running for the 118th Assembly seat, traveled from Herkimer to attend the vigil.
“The minute I heard that part of my area has been inflicted by an occurrence of hate, I wanted to be here,” he said. “One of the issues I have with the current state of the world is that people in power are somewhat ashamed to come out and denounce hate. I am happy to see so many people here tonight who are willing to stand up and proudly be here in visible fashion, saying that they stand up to hate. Because we cannot beat hate with more hate. It breeds only more hate; it always has, and it always will … we have to spread love, and that’s what we are all doing here tonight.”
Gwen, a worshipper at Mt. Calvery Baptist Church and member of the area chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), lifted a prayer, asking for God to “come before us and make every crooked way straight.”
“Lord, your word says, ‘no weapon formed against us shall prosper in Jesus’s name,’” she said. The crowd proclaimed, “Amen!”
Leonard Martin – a Rome resident, member of the NAACP, and worshipper at Abundant Life Christian Center in East Syracuse – prayed that as vigil attendees went to their separate houses of worship, they would “remain conscious of our togetherness because heaven is going to look like this … probably even more diverse.”
“I ask that you think about this situation because this is something people of color think about all the time,” he said. “In Rome, we experience bigotry, racism, prejudice all the time … it’s something that black people, brown people, and even poor white people experience because classism is a problem too.”
After many people offered their prayers and reflections, candles were passed out and lit, and the crowd sang This Little Light of Mine.
Afterward, some people traveled to Rome City Hall to attend an additional anti-racism vigil, while others stayed for refreshments and discussed plans to keep in touch and arrange get-togethers in the future.
“We need to do this more often … this is a wonderful thing,” Pastor Pat said.
Leonard discussed his experiences with racism with some of the attendees, thanking them for taking a stand. He reminded people that, “Silence is compliance.”
“It was so nice that the United Methodists took the lead in this,” Gwen said. “When I heard about this, I picked up as many elderly people interested in coming as I could who usually won’t travel at night. This sort of gathering is so important.”
Rome-area United Methodists’ anti-racism vigil, an interactive reflection of Jesus’ light and love, beautifully showcased the connection that takes place when we are God’s love to our neighbors in all places.
Editor’s Note: The issue of racism is being addressed through the Imagine No Racism initiative in Upper New York. Click here to learn more or become involved.
How God equips the called through Leadership Academy
“You are enough.” These powerful words were spoken to each of us as we were anointed and commissioned to return to our congregations at the end of the “Change the World Conference” at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in March 2017. An important part of participating in the Upper NY Leadership Academy, is the incredible road trip we took to one of our United Methodist mega churches in ministry in the Dayton, Ohio area. We were amazed and inspired by the leaders and presenters as they shared the honest heartaches and challenges, along with the joys of relevant ministry in the context of their communities.
Often, we hear that “God is enough,” but hearing that “we were enough,” reminded us that God doesn’t “call the equipped,” but “equips the called.” Leadership Academy is about equipping us with the tools and leadership competencies to become the transformational leaders our congregations and ministries need to become vibrant and relevant to the churched and unchurched in our communities.
Set in a retreat-style format, Leadership Academy enabled us to be away from our normal ministry settings, so we could be more intentional about learning from the gifted presenters. The informal time outside of the presentations provided us the opportunities to ask the presenters any questions we had about their expertise and thoughts on leadership. We learned from the other people in our class as we reflected and shared our ideas and experiences. We also developed lasting friendships with each other. The Rev. Aaron Bouwens, Upper New York’s Director of Vital Congregations, inspired each of us to integrate what we had learned.
When we use the tools that Leadership Academy gives us, we will be empowered to work with our congregations and God to plan where our ministries are going. This brings a new level of excitement and engagement that helps to make our ministries relevant to the life of our communities. With God’s help, we are enough.
Upper New York Camp & Retreat Ministries Transforming Lives: The 2017 Impact Report
June 18, 2018 / By UNY CRM Ministries
“Before this I never really followed God and Jesus. The camp has created a connection between me and God. I will always remember that God is real, God loves me, and God wants a relationship with me. I really felt a connection to Christ and I want to remain connected, I know that if I abide in God, God will abide in me.” This is what an Upper New York Camper had to say about their 2017 camping experience.
The 2017 Impact Report is now available for you to learn what an amazing impact Upper New York Camp & Retreat Centers have on the lives of children and families throughout the Conference through data, feedback, and anecdotes. Click here to read the full report on Issuu or click here to read it if you don't have an Issuu account.
Commission on a Way Forward report at UNY Annual Conference 2018
The Commission on a Way Forward (Commission) was formed by the Council of Bishops (Council) after a decision was made at General Conference 2016 to develop a committee to address the issue of division around the topic of human sexuality in The United Methodist Church.
The charge given to the Commission was to “design a way for being a Church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible.”
The Commission worked together to create a report to present to the Council of Bishops. Based on this report, the Council will bring a recommendation to the special session of the General Conference to be held in February of 2019.
Upper New York’s (UNY) Dr. Scott Johnson was one of the 32 people selected by the Council across the Global Connection to be a part of the Commission. At the 2018 UNY Annual Conference, Scott discussed the hard work that went into creating the Commission’s report.
First, Scott dissected the charge so that the UNY Conference members stating that it would help contextualize the recommendations made to the Council
Scott said, “First is the goal of maximizing the presence of a United Methodist witness. In a world that often doesn’t acknowledge its brokenness or doesn’t see the Jesus as the solution when it does, the United Methodist Church has a distinct voice in Christianity. Our theology of grace and our commitment to living the gospel offer meaningful differences from theologies driven by false promises of prosperity or rooted in fear.”
Scott continued, “The second key element is contextual differentiation. Being that we are a global church, there are United Methodists who live in parts of the world where national and cultural attitudes vary differently. In addition, every faith community must be faithful to its call and aware of its setting. The desire to be nimble enough to empower effectiveness mission is critical.”
Scott concluded the dissection of the charge with a third point, “Lastly, is the repeated use of the phrase ‘as possible.’ With all that we hold in common, we are not of one mind about LGBTQ inclusion. Our readings of scripture, our interpretation of tradition, our multiple attempts to reason together, and our experiences have led us to different places in this conversation. Many of our United Methodist Connection have studied and discerned their positions intentionally. The debate has been long, exhausting, and many people have been hurt by the Church as it has unfolded.”
Scott explained how effective the Commission was in doing the work they set out to achieve through their nine meetings. He said, “The Commission was intentional about creating an environment in which we could have very difficult conversations with deep trust so that whenever difficult moments arose we could persist in Christian love. I am deeply grateful that we invested considerable time in prayer, Bible Study, and fellowship. Another resource that was helpful in our work was the Anatomy of Peace. This helped us move beyond conversations that were superficially polite, and even we struggled mightily, we were able to remain engaged. Over the past 18 months, we developed a genuine sense of team that relied on the diversity of gifts and perspectives around our table.”
The report given to the Council recommended three possible plans: The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan, and The Connectional Conference Plan.
The Council decided to submit a recommendation of the One Church Plan to General Conference. Click here to read the Council’s recommendation of the One Church Plan.
The report written by the Commission on the Way Forward will become public in early July. Scott said, “I know that it’s hard to ask for patience until the report becomes public. There is an urgency for people trying to determine whether the church they love can still be their home. There is an urgency for LGBTQ sisters and brothers wondering whether they can be authentically at home anywhere called United Methodist. There is an urgency for a connection that seeks to bear witness to a God of love, hope, and joy to a hurting world, but cannot free itself from its internal struggles. Even with these powerful drives pushing us to get to this work, we must remember that there is a difference between going fast and going the right way.”
After Scott completed the report, Bishop Webb said, “Once the report has been published is available, we hope to then provide opportunities (dates, times, and locations) starting in September going though the end of January or middle of February where myself, Scott and others will be a part of listening, conversations, study groups, and various ways in which we can engage in this process together.”
Bishop Webb then explained how he and Scott already met with delegates to the special session of General Conference and invited them to consider how they will be part of the conversations.
Bishop Webb encouraged churches and Districts who are holding prayer groups dedicated to the Way Forward to continue to do so.
The General Conference will be held February 23-26, 2019. Bishop Webb described a Way Forward prayer initiative that relates to this date. He said, “We’re asking individuals that every day from 2:23 to 2:26 to pray; pray for God to breakthrough. Pray for the United Methodist Church to follow the direction that God is calling us.”
The Commission on a Way forward report concluded with a time of prayer.
Virgin Pulse and RedBrick Health join forces to create world’s largest digital wellbeing and engagement company
June 12, 2018 / By UNY Communications
The Virgin Pulse and RedBrick Health merger will create the first and only one-stop-shop for employee health, wellbeing, and benefits engagement; the combined company will have more than 3,200 customers across 190 countries
Providence-based Virgin Pulse and Minneapolis-based RedBrick Health announced last month that the industry pioneers will merge, creating the world’s largest, most comprehensive digital health and engagement company. This powerful combination will deliver the industry’s only fully integrated digital platform, with benefits navigation and live coaching to support global clients and members across the entire health, wellbeing and benefits lifecycle – from screening and assessment to activation, behavior change and the adoption of sustainable, healthy habits.
“We are thrilled to join with RedBrick to set a new vision and standard for employee health, wellbeing and engagement,” said David Osborne, Virgin Pulse CEO, who will serve as CEO of the combined company. “Bringing RedBrick’s live and digital coaching and benefits navigation together with Virgin Pulse’s mobile-first, daily engagement platform allows us to deliver the industry’s only global, one-stop-shop for employees and employers. As first-movers in this space, and with substantial investment from our new partner, Marlin Equity Partners, we are well-positioned to execute an aggressive growth strategy and change even more lives around the world for good.”
Virgin Pulse and RedBrick are clear industry leaders in employee health, wellbeing and engagement, with each company delivering highly complementary capabilities to the market. To ensure the best possible experience for all clients, the combined company will continue to support and innovate on both the Virgin Pulse and RedBrick platforms, while making the best-in-class capabilities of each solution available across both client bases.
By the end of this year, Virgin Pulse clients will be able to access RedBrick’s health assessments, expert live and digital coaching, and benefits navigation through Virgin Pulse’s API-based framework, allowing Virgin Pulse to interact more deeply with members to optimize their health and wellbeing. In addition, RedBrick clients will have access to Virgin Pulse’s unparalleled challenge capabilities.
“Virgin Pulse and RedBrick are a logical fit, and it should be no surprise that we are finally coming together,” said Dan Ryan, CEO of RedBrick. “The merger is a win for the entire industry – clients, consumers, partners, consultants – and raises the bar for what employers and employees should expect from their engagement partner. Combining our product portfolios and resources allows us to maximize our investments in R&D and operations, and ensures that our clients and consumers have access to the best, most innovative wellbeing and engagement solutions and services available.”
“Our investment, which brings together two leaders in the health and wellbeing market, underscores our strong belief in the potential to transform this highly fragmented industry,” said Michael Anderson, a managing director at Marlin Equity Partners which also recently acquired RedBrick Health. “This is a multibillion-dollar market that is hungry for innovation, desperate for disruption and ripe for consolidation, and we are committed to doubling down on these two leaders to move this market forward and unlock the value of employee health and wellbeing.”
Virgin Pulse is widely recognized for having the industry’s highest member engagement rates, with daily usage rivaling the most popular consumer applications such as Facebook and Twitter. The company’s flagship SaaS platform, Virgin Pulse Engage™, delivers personalized, mobile-first experiences that support employees in improving their health and wellbeing every day. RedBrick Health was an early pioneer in delivering outcomes-focused health and benefits engagement solutions, and is highly regarded for its customizable integration platform, digital and live coaching, health assessments, biometric screening services and award-winning experience. With highly configurable workflows, integration capabilities, strong expertise in custom program design and a successful record of serving complex, distributed organizations, RedBrick has firmly established itself as the partner of choice for large enterprises.
Together, Virgin Pulse and RedBrick have the largest customer base in the industry, with over 3,300 clients including public sector organizations, health plans, universities and more than 20 percent of the Fortune Global 500 companies. The combination of the two companies also creates an extensive and growing network of strategic ecosystem partners spanning mental wellbeing, financial wellbeing, sleep, nutrition, telemedicine, cost transparency, treatment decision support and more.
RedBrick and Virgin Pulse will unite under the Virgin Pulse name but continue to operate as separate brands. The combined organization will be based out of Virgin Pulse’s corporate headquarters in Providence, RI, and will maintain a major office in Minneapolis, MN and a coaching center in Phoenix, AZ. The company also has global centers of excellence in multiple international locations, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Bosnia, Brazil and Singapore.
Marlin is acquiring Virgin Pulse from its prior investors, including Insight Venture Partners. The merger is expected to close this month. Financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed. Evercore acted as financial advisor and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP served as legal advisor to Virgin Pulse. Raymond James & Associates, Inc. acted as financial advisor, and Goodwin Procter LLP served as legal advisor to RedBrick. William Blair & Company, LLC acted as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal advisor to Marlin.
About Virgin Pulse
Virgin Pulse, a leading provider of technology solutions that promote employee engagement and wellbeing, and part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, helps employers create workforces that are happier, healthier and ultimately more productive. The company’s modern, mobile-first platform delivers a personalized user experience that utilizes gamification to engage members in building habits that inspire meaningful and measurable change across individuals and the businesses they serve. By helping employees thrive at work and in all aspects of life, Virgin Pulse is helping change lives and businesses across more than 190 countries for good. More than 3,200 organizations around the world, representing many of the Fortune 500 and Best Places to Work, have selected Virgin Pulse’s solutions to engage their workforces and drive their businesses forward. To learn more, visit VirginPulse.com and follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn.
About RedBrick Health
RedBrick helps companies transform the health of their organizations by inspiring their people to be fully engaged in life and at work. Starting with each person’s unique needs, RedBrick combines advanced behavior science, adaptive technology and a deep bench of live experts. The industry’s most highly configurable platform actively integrates each organization’s benefits and resources with RedBrick’s own extensive content and capabilities. Hundreds of leading organizations rely on RedBrick to measurably improve their well-being and benefits engagement, while delivering a better employee experience. To learn more, visit RedBrickHealth.com and follow the company on Twitter or LinkedIn.
About Marlin Equity Partners
Marlin Equity Partners is a global investment firm with over $6.7 billion of capital under management. The firm is focused on providing corporate parents, shareholders and other stakeholders with tailored solutions that meet their business and liquidity needs. Marlin invests in businesses across multiple industries where its capital base, industry relationships and extensive network of operational resources significantly strengthen a company’s outlook and enhance value. Since its inception, Marlin, through its group of funds and related companies, has successfully completed over 120 acquisitions. The firm is headquartered in Los Angeles, California with an additional office in London. For more information, please visit www.marlinequity.com.
Upper New York Annual Conference boldly lives our call
Editor’s Note: The following is a report that was sent to the General Conference, summarizing the Upper New York 2018 Annual Conference.
Members of the Upper New York Annual Conference gathered for the ninth session May 30 – June 2 at the SRC Arena in Syracuse, NY.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb officiated and led the Conference around the theme Boldly Living Our Call.
“If we are to boldly live our call – if we are to be effective in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ – our identity must be grounded in the identity of Christ,” Bishop Webb said, during opening worship. “We must acknowledge Christ! We must acknowledge who Christ is, not based on who the world says he is or based on our ideas, our definitions, our understandings, but on who Jesus said he was in word and in action. We must confess Jesus as our Savior and Lord”
Conference Teacher, Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones led two study sessions. The first focused on not going back to Egypt.
“Each one of us has a ‘back to Egypt’ part of our souls,” Rev. Jones explained. “We get a glimpse of what God is calling us to do, and we get uncertain. And we say, ‘I don’t think so. Egypt sounds just fine to me.’ Oh how often we just settle for ‘going back to Egypt.’”
Click here to view the first study session in full.
The second study session focused on getting the past out of our eyes to attain an extraordinary future.
“If we are going to boldly move into our call, if we are really going to be able to understand the summons coming from God, we need to recognize all that needs to be unlearned so we can change,” Rev. Jones said.
Click here to view the second study session in full.
The following recommendations were addressed through holy conferencing:
The Conference Leadership Team Recommendation that every UNY congregation be required to use the VitalSigns Dashboard starting Sept. 1, 2018, supported as amended to strongly encouraged rather than required; click here for details.
Board of Pension & Health Benefits recommendations one and two, both supported; click here for details
Equitable Compensation recommendations one through five, all supported or supported as amended; click here for details
Recommendation from the Accessibility Committee – Disability Awareness Weekend, supported
UNY2018.SHRec.1 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team-Welcoming a Stranger, supported
UNY2018.SHRec.2 – Recommendation from the Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel – Advocating for the Rights of Children Living Under Israeli Occupation, supported
UNY2018.SHRec.3 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Committee – Fossil Fuels, supported
UNY2018.SHRec.4 – Recommendation from the Task Force for Immigration – Radical Hospitality, supported with combined amendments
UNY2018.SHRec.5 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team – Specify Peace and Justice Coordinator, supported
UNY2018.SHRec.6 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team – Safe and Free from Firearms, not supported
Click here for more details on the recommendations.
The following resolutions were also addressed through holy conferencing:
UNYAC2018.1-on Guidelines for GC 2019 Delegation, not supported
UNAYC2018.2-on Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Misconduct, supported with amendment
UNYAC2018.3- Methodist Heritage, Methodist Doctrine, Biblical Truths, and Sexual Ethics Going Forward, not supported
UNYAC2018.4-Rules and Agenda Changes for Enhanced Order of Floor Discussion and Debate on Motions, Motion to refer to Rules Committee, supported
UNYAC2018.5-Lead Resolution, supported with an amendment to test water as well
UNYAC2018.6-Expansive Language, not supported
UNYAC2018.7-Parental Leave, supported
UNAC2018.8-Funding Ecumenical Inter-Faith Leaders, supported
UNYAC2018.9-Location of Annual Conference, not supported
UNY2018.10-Non-Binary Gender Resolution, supported
UNY2018.11- Statistical Reporting, withdrawn
Click here for detailed coverage of the resolutions that were discussed.
The ninth session of the Upper New York Annual Conference concluded with the service of Ordination and Commissioning.
Bishop Dennis V. Proctor from the North Eastern Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was the preacher.
There was one person commissioned for the work of deacon:
Jessica Faye Glaser
There were six people commissioned for the work of elder:
Cheryl Ann Brown
Raymond C. Gilman IV
Linda Kay Haight
Melissa Marie Killenberger McCarthy
Hector D. Rivera
Lisa Dawn Taylor
There was one person received as an Associate Member:
James Edward Barnes II
There were three people ordained to the order of elder:
Stephanie Jo Brown
Kevin Duane Slough
Paul D. Winkelman
Bulleted Daily Notes and Daily Wrap videos for use in local church reporting are available here.
Membership stands at 149,752, down 2% from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 40,547, down 3%.
Church school attendance stands at 10,440, up 11%.
Professions and reaffirmations of faith for 2017 were 1,614, up 2% from 2016.
Adults and young adults in small groups for 2017 were 17,074 down 7% from 2016.
Worshippers engaged in mission for 2017 were 10,754, down 2% from 2016.
Fulfill your mission needs
The Upper New York Mission Central HUB is a great place to support your missional needs. Are you interested in assembling UMCOR kits? Are you handy and want to roll up your sleeves and help build a wheelchair ramp? Or is there another project that you would like to assemble, build, or create?
Contact Director of Missional Engagement, Mike Block, to arrange a time and date to accomplish mission projects. The Conference calendar announces when groups are stopping by, so you can plan around them or maybe even be a part of what they are doing. Come make a difference with Mission Central by connecting God’s resources with human need.
Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism report shared at AC2018
The Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism shared their report at the Annual Conference during the Thursday May 31 afternoon plenary. Blenda Smith began the report by showing a video that illuminates some of the challenges of institutional racism.
For example, studies show that drivers of color are twice as likely to get pulled over. Black people are four times more likely to get arrested than white people. Legislators are less likely to respond to phone calls or emails form black-sounding names.
The Rev. David Wickins, pastor at Akron First UMC shared his reasoning for being part of the Upper New York’s Imagine No Racism initiative, which is set forth to help eliminate racism both in the Church and Upper New York communities. He said, “I am a white pastor, in an almost completely white church, in an almost completely white community… when I got the email from (the Conference) looking for volunteers for the Imagine No Racism team, God convicted my heart. For a few days, I tried to say this is for someone else… I am too busy already and I almost heard Jesus say, ‘Was I too busy? Am I too busy now? I left my spirit behind for all of you to continue the work? Minutes later I checked my email, another email arrived… conviction complete. I am called to be a part of this.”
Rev. Wickins went on to say how can he not allow God to work through him to help alleviate systemic racism. He said, “Evil exits when we do nothing to stop it. Doing nothing isn’t enough. I hope you will hear the call to not do nothing, but to do something to allow God to work on you, in you, and through you to alleviate the oppression of God’s children who are crying out and be part of confronting the systemic racism that is in our society today.
Imagine no Racism Advocate Ruth Warner elaborated on the importance of the Imagine no Racism initiative; she said “We, your Bishop, your Cabinet and your Conference Committee on Religion and Race commit ourselves to engaging in this work and leading you, our sisters and brothers in Christ to do the same. It is a vital aspect of our call to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
After Ruth spoke, she pointed to a video recorded by the UNY Conference’s Communications team whereby Christine Doran shared the story of Bishop Violet Fisher’s (former Bishop of the North Central Conference) installation service. Bishop Fisher was African-American. She had over 40 family members arrive for the installation service at a hotel that Christine had booked and prepaid for all of them (going to the extent of placing fresh flowers in the room). And when the 48 black people entered the hotel, the person behind the front desk said there were no reservations and no rooms available. Even after showing the person at the front desk her paid receipt, Christine was told those reservations were not made. Christine had to get the mayor of Rochester involved, Bill Johnson, an African-American male who called the hotel owner and the rooms were secured. Bishop Fisher felt uncomfortable complaining about it at the start of her episcopacy in North Central New York.
Rev. Teressa Silvers, the convener of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism, described the amazing number of people coming together so far across Upper New York to work on the Imagine No Racism initiative. She said, “Imagine No Racism is launched! In the midst of the intentionally organized chaos of our April 21st Launch Day, you succeeded in creating about 101 small groups. These groups will work with a curriculum designed to equip members to form discussion groups and influence conversation in local churches. We have also hired four Regional Coordinators who will serve as resource and support people as well as data gatherers for Imagine No Racism ongoing evaluation. Training sessions for facilitators and four Regional Coordinators has occurred. The General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) is providing excellent resources. We are moving on in our powerful work to Imagine No Racism!”
Rev. Silvers then asked all who were able to stand and together recite a vow to stand for the elimination of racism. The vow read:
“Before God and with my family in Christ, I vow, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to oppose and work to eliminate the influence of racism from systems, institutions, relationships, and my own life.”
The attendees were asked to print out and sign a copy of the vow that was available both in the Conference event app and as a hardcopy. Rev. Silvers also explained that lay persons who are eager to get involved can simply contact their District Advocates. Rev. Silvers said, “We are hoping with the help of the Holy Spirit, we develop a serious response.”
The illuminating report by the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism culminated with Elder in the struggle Shirley Redean praying for all to become involved in this initiative. She prayed, “Great giver of wisdom provide strength, patience, and an understanding that this is not seasonal work; this is not part-time work; this is 24/7 work.”
Editor’s Note: Keep watching the Conference Communications channels for updates on the work achieved through the Imagine No Racism initiative as small-group meetings take place throughout Upper New York each month.
Service of Commissioning and Ordination at the 2018 UNY Annual Conference
The theme of this year’s Annual Conference, Boldly Living our Call, was exceptionally demonstrated in the June 2 Service of Commissioning and Ordination.
There was one person commissioned for the work of deacon:
- Jessica Faye Glaser
There were six people commissioned for the work of elder:
- Cheryl Ann Brown
- Raymond C. Gilman IV
- Linda Kay Haight
- Melissa Marie Killenberger McCarthy
- Hector D. Rivera
- Lisa Dawn Taylor
There was one person received as an Associate Member:
- James Edward Barnes II
There were three people ordained to the order of elder:
- Stephanie Jo Brown
- Kevin Duane Slough
- Paul D. Winkelman
Bishop Dennis Proctor of the Northeastern Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church served as the ordination speaker. As we was welcoming the crowd and expressing gratitude for the opportunity to speak, he made humorous jokes about the fact that the service is meant to recognize the ordinands and commissioners, not to “hear some guy you don’t even know talk.”
Bishop Proctor promised not to take all the time that Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb granted him to deliver a message. He said, “I pray that I still hold true to the adage that says, ‘a sermon need not be eternal for it to be immortal.’”
Bishop Proctor’s powerful sermon will be remembered. He started off by asking the question “What do you have to give?”
His sermon was centered on Acts Chapter 3—the telling of James and John making their way into a temple when they saw a man unable to walk begging for alms. James and John, holding the man’s hand, said, ‘Silver and Gold, we have none, but such as we have, we give to thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…rise up and walk.” The man rose, walked, leaped and praised God.
Bishop Proctor claimed that despite our differences in biblical interpretation or backgrounds, this text illustrates what we all should be able to give.
The first possession we can give is affirmation. Bishop Proctor explained that Peter and John paid attention to the man, holding his hand, affirming they hear his call.
Bishop Proctor shared a personal story of when he offered affirmation to a group of men living with AIDS. These men were living in a home together on Brentwood Baptist Church’s campus in Houston, Texas. Many of the men had open lesions on their hands and bodies. When Bishop Proctor came to their home to meet them, they offered him chocolate chip cookies they had baked earlier that day.
Bishop Proctor said, “I could have said ‘no.’ I was staying at a Doubletree where they give you nice, warm chocolate chip cookies. But I accepted them and asked for more to bring back to the hotel.” The men then offered Bishop Proctor more cookies they made that had nuts. And Bishop Proctor graciously accepted them. He emphasized how proud these men were that someone who represents the King of Kings were happy to accept their cookies—that he did not turn them down even though the cookies were made with their hands with open lesions. These men, who many in society would pay no attention to, were affirmed to be worthy by Bishop Proctor.
The second gift we have to offer is that of information. Peter and John did not take the credit for the power to perform a miracle; they said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…” Bishop Proctor said, “You must be willing to tell the world who Jesus really is.”
The third way we can give to others is through inspiration. Bishop Proctor reiterated how the man in the temple not only walked, but he leaped, praising God. He said, “This man had new energy…he was not only healed physiologically, but also psychologically…it’s not you, me, us, but the power that works through us.”
After Bishop Proctor’s sermon, the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Executive Assistant to Bishop Webb and the Upper New York Director of Connectional Ministries, stood to explain the offering for the service, which was designated for New Faith Communities.
Mentioning how he could feel the wind of the spirit blowing through the entire session of Annual Conference, he told the story of the success of Upper New York’s New Faith Communities. He said, “When we first formed as a Conference, I met with (the Rev.) Dave Masland (now Director of UNY’s New Faith Communities) and I said, ‘We need to set a bold goal…over the next four to five years, we’re going to plant 25 churches,’ and Dave, my friend, said to me, ‘No Bill, we’re going to plant 100.’ Dave was wrong, we planted over 100.”
Rev. Gottschalk-Fielding explained how of the over 100 churches planted, over 80 are still meeting regularly. He then said, “But, we’re not done yet. The spirit is still blowing through us.”
Bishop Webb closed the service in prayer, thanking God for meeting us right where we are with love just as we are. He said, “Holy God…help us to continue to say ‘Yes’ to that love you have for our own lives that as you continue to transform us that we may then offer that love to others that they may share the Truth of grace through Jesus Christ; that we will walk, leap, and praise your name that others may walk, leap, and praise your name.”
Young adults add their pieces to the puzzle to break down the walls at Young People’s Service
June 5, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Elyse Muder and Maya Smith kicked off the Young People’s Service on June 2 at the 2018 Annual Conference session with a skit.
Maya wanted to start a Bible study but wasn’t sure she could do it and felt awkward about talking about her faith outside of church. Elyse encouraged her.
“It’s important to spread the word of God everywhere you go, in any way you can,” Elyse said. “We have been provided spiritual gifts so that we can use them to honor God.”
Elyse told Maya to remember what it says in James 2: 14-16, which questions what good it is if someone has faith but does nothing.
“Think of all the young people in our Conference doing God’s work each day. They’re using their gifts to spread God’s love all over the world,” Elyse said, inspiring Maya to start new ministries to share her gifts as well.
Throughout the service, several young people added their piece to a puzzle displayed at the front of the room.
Vicki Standhart led the call to Worship, followed by Theresa Eggleston’s dramatic reading about the apostle James writing to the 12 tribes in Diaspora, saying: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? … Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
Marthalyn Sweet delivered the 2018 Young Adult Address, praising some young adults in UNY for all they are doing from pursuing their education to graduation from seminary and work in Conference camps.
“As a whole, young people both in and out of our church are looking to make meaningful connections and contributions to our communities,” Marthalyn said. “I’m so proud that Upper New York has committed to supporting and emphasizing ministry to youth and young adults, and that this time of worship continues to be the best attended during Annual Conference.”
She encouraged the crowd to stay invested in youth, suggesting they send cards and care packages to those away at school or help youth connect with a church family.
“Let’s commit to doing a better job as a Conference, and as local churches, of supporting our seminary students,” she said, noting that support of seminarians could unite the Conference.
Outgoing Conference Council on Youth Ministries co-chairs Sam Smith and Maria Schermerhorn shared the changes CCYM underwent in the past year, such as the event “Fall Gathering” becoming “Inward” and the event “UpWord” becoming “Outward.”
Sam took time during the service to clarify comments he made about the Conference’s financial support of young adults during Wednesday’s Laity Session, apologizing that CCYM documents were not submitted to the Conference Council on Finance & Administration. He said CCYM’s largest request was for $10,000 so youth could attend Youth 2019, a national youth event, next summer in St. Louis, Mo.
Sam and Maria said they have been blessed to serve as co-chairs of CCYM. They passed the baton to the new CCYM co-chairs, Rachel John and George Taylor, and prayed over the incoming CCYM leadership team and adults who guide them.
“We know God has a plan in store for the youth of the UNY Conference, and we are pleased that you will lead them,” Maria said.
Next, a Camp & Retreat Ministries video added its piece to the puzzle, discussing how the ministry is vital to the Kingdom of Christ, helping campers see what Christian community looks like.
Following the video Madeline Klein and Alisyn Klock – who both participated in Mission of Peace, which sends young people each year on a journey of Shalom around the world – announced the MOP offering. As it was collected, Madeline shared stories of her trip to this past year’s MOP to Cuba, including how one night of worship, singing, and dancing broke down all language barriers. Four youth and four adults from UNY went on the Cuba trip.
“On this journey, we grow in love and peace with people from our group and the country we visit. We come to know these people as family,” Madeline said. “Your financial and spiritual support is what makes it possible for youth from this Conference to go on this trip.”
Maya and Elyse spoke again, this time praising how many UNY young people are involved in ministries in the Conference. They said the face of The Church is changing and evolving, and young people are evolving with it.
“The people of God's kingdom are changing, and this calls for The Church to evolve with the people,” Elyse said. “The Church needs to find ways to adapt to this desire to reach out, to break down the walls of The Church, and step out into the world to share the word of God. As a body of Christ, we need to support the members of this body in their new ways of worship.”
Theresa’s second scripture touched on Elyse’s sentiment, as Matthew 28:16-20 is the story of Jesus instructing the 11 apostles to go make disciples.
When Maya and Elyse took the stage again, Elyse said people can make disciples by being involved and helping the church family share God’s love inside the walls of churches, the Conference, and beyond.
“All of the people on this stage and in the seats among you have so much to share with you about how they share their faith,” Maya said. “Please help us continue our ministries.”
Though JJ Warren was unable to attend the AC session this year, he did make an appearance in a video to add his piece to the puzzle. He shared his college experience at Oxford University as well as discussed his video series that asks about the roots of faith and tries to break down barriers that divide people. He also announced he will serve on the Conference’s College Ministries Team.
Pastor Erin Patrick, of The ROAD at West Genesee UMC, shared her ministry in a video. She said she uses her passion to “create opportunities for people to connect with God in new, unique, and untraditional ways,” adding her piece to the puzzle.
Pastor Cory Jones, who will serve the Trinity: Whitesboro UMC starting July 1, and Pastor Brian Lothridge, of the Rome First UMC, discussed a new ministry they have been a part of called Worship Without Walls, a church that meets on an inner-city sidewalk with the simple message “God Loves You.”
“Having been a part of this for over a year now and seeing how many people have been touched by this ministry, it has completely changed my perception of what ministry is,” Pastor Jones said. “I still love the local church, but to me ministry is about going outside the comfort of the local church and bringing the good news out to people who might not otherwise hear it.”
As the last piece was placed, the image of a puzzle piece with a saying inside it became clear: “Building the Kingdom: Remaining Connected.”
The service ended with a benediction by Ian Urriola, who said that though AC session will soon come to a close, the Conference’s work continues because beyond these walls “lies a beautiful, broken world full of beautiful, broken people grieving, mourning, thirsting for justice, and longing to hear a word of good news.”
Petition and Resolution Results at the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference
Discussion and voting for the petitions and resolutions brought to the 2018 Annual Conference session began in the afternoon plenary on June 1 and continued through the June 2 morning plenary.
Here are the results of each resolution.
UNYAC2018.1-on Guidelines for GC 2019 Delegation, not supported
This resolution called the Upper New York Conference delegates attending the Special Session of General Conference (SSGC) in February 2019 to use the biblically-based values of grace, dignity, justice, relationship, and solidarity (with the oppressed) to guide their work.
This resolution also called for the delegation attending SSGC to work toward a resolution at GC that would end all forms of discrimination against LGBTQIA+ persons and embrace all persons regardless of gender or sexuality.
This resolution also called for persons who do not embrace all individuals and refuse to remain in a connection with a UMC that does not discriminate against LGBTQIA+ to be granted a gracious exit without punitive action.
UNAYC2018.2-on Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Misconduct, supported with amendment
This resolution called all clergy and laity within the Upper New York Conference to receive training on how to stop and prevent others from engaging in sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, misogyny, as well as how to create appropriate boundaries/relationships between women and men.
This resolution also called that such training be mandatory for the Bishop, all members of the extended cabinet, all executive/professional level Conference staff, the Conference Lay Leader, Associate Lay Leader, the Conference Secretary, Conference Chancellor, all persons serving under appointment, and all persons serving on the Conference Leadership Team, the Board of Ordained Ministry, on each District Committee on Ordained Ministry, on each District Leadership Team, the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, the conference Trustees, the Conference Committee on the Episcopacy, all church employees within the annual conference, and members serving on committees that may touch on matters addressed in these trainings, including the Safe Sanctuaries Committee, the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, the Social Holiness Team, and the Committee on Investigation.
This resolution also called for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) to be invited to provide sexual ethics training in 2019.
This resolution was supported with an amendment to lines 33-35 on page 83 to state “Bishop Webb will select members from the body to attend…”
UNYAC2018.3- Methodist Heritage, Methodist Doctrine, Biblical Truths, and Sexual Ethics Going Forward, not supported
This resolution called for the Upper New York Conference and all its member churches, clergy, and laity consider a four-book study over this next year that will help us to turn back to a deeper Methodist understanding of our heritage, a deeper commitment to United Methodist beliefs and doctrine, a better appreciation of what the Bible really says on the topic of sexual ethics and marriage, and from there, more easily see the way forward that God wants us to see as possible.
This resolution also called for the Conference to promote the four-book study on their website. The four books are:
- The Way of the Wesleys – A Short Introduction; by John Tyson; Wm. B. Erdmann
- Top 10 United Methodist Beliefs; by Don Adams
- What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality; by Kevin DeYoung
- Same-Sex Attraction and the Church; by Ed Shaw
UNYAC2018.4-Rules and Agenda Changes for Enhanced Order of Floor Discussion and Debate on Motions, Motion to refer to Rules Committee, supported
This resolution called for rules to be changed or added to the proposed organizational motion submitted for consideration at future Upper New York Annual Conference sessions starting in 2019 (see pages 89-90 of the Upper New York Conference 2018 Annual Conference Journal Vol. 1 for the proposed changes).
UNYAC2018.5-Lead Resolution, supported with an amendment to test water as well
This resolution called for the Upper New York Annual Parsonage Report be revised in 2018 to reflect a church’s last date of lead testing and the question “Is lead present?” with boxes to check “yes” or “no” and if “yes” is checked, list the locations of the lead.
This resolution also called for the UNY Conference to determine the cost of “Lead-based Paint Liability Insurance Coverage” through Church Mutual and at the appropriate time, but no later than Annual Conference 2019, an offer for the inclusion of this coverage to UNY’s insurance policy for local churches be shared with the Conference at-large.
UNYAC2018.6-Expansive Language, not supported
This resolution called for the Upper New York Conference to commit itself to use language and imagery about God and humanity in ways that are faithfully inclusive of the variety of humanity and the myriad of understandings of God in all publications and media, meetings, petitions and resolutions, songs, prayers, and more.
This resolution also called for the members of the UNY Conference to covenant to treat each other with the utmost kindness and respect.
UNYAC2018.7-Parental Leave, supported
This resolution called for a member of the Cabinet, a member of the Committee or Equitable Compensation, the Benefits Office of the Upper New York Annual Conference, and a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry’s Executive Committee collaborate with the Conference Communications department to create a readily available resource which can be distributed and easily accessed through the Conference website by laity, clergy, and Conference staff. The resource to be provided will provide education on Parental Leave requirements as outlined in ¶355 of the 2016 Book of Discipline, education on the NYS Paid Family Leave Act, how they differ, and how they might be used in conjunction to best serve our churches.
UNAC2018.8-Funding Ecumenical Inter-Faith Leaders, supported
This resolution called for the Upper New York Conference, at least every fourth year, [beginning the very first year when there is not yet a major presenter already engaged] provide a major presentation [or focus on sacred texts by a significant leader of a differing non-Christian faith during Conference Sessions, including settings for total and smaller group dialogue with the presenter.
This resolution also called for time made available during each year’s Annual Conference gathered sessions for brief greetings by leaders of differing Christian perspectives and different faiths.
UNYAC2018.9-Location of Annual Conference, not supported
This resolution called for change of location of Upper New York’s Annual Conference beginning in 2020 based on region. Specifically, this resolution called for Annual Conference sessions to be held once every four years the Albany region and the Buffalo/Rochester region with sessions during the three intermittent consecutive years remaining in Syracuse.
UNY2018.10-Non-Binary Gender Resolution, supported
This resolution called for the Upper New York Annual Conference Statistician and the Director of Connectional Ministries to work with the General Council on Finance and Administration to add a “non-binary” column to the membership gender section of the statistical tables to allow the reporting of members who do not identify as male or female, beginning with the 2018 statistical report.
UNY2018.11- Statistical Reporting, withdrawn
This resolution called for Table 3, Line 52t of the Statistical Report for Upper New York Annual Conference local churches to be amended to request reporting only the income used to pay the expenses reported on Table 2, lines 41a-47 Local Operating Expenses. Further, Line 53, pertaining to benevolent and mission giving to include to instruction to report “income used to pay Ministry Shares, pension and health billing, and other connectional support billing.”
This resolution also called for the Ministry Shares apportionment formula be published in a clear, complete and transparent manner, and be affirmed by vote of the Annual Conference, every year.
Bishop Webb celebrates many at the Service of Blessing and Anointing
The Service of Blessing and Anointing was held June 1 at the 2018 Annual Conference session at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena.
It was a celebration! InsideOut had the crowd singing verses from Father Let your Kingdom Come at many times throughout the service:
“You make all things new
You make all things new
In places we don’t choose
You make all things new.”
This service was a time for Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb to recognize many important people throughout the UNY Conference.
All retirees were recognized with their number of years of service. The total years of service to the United Methodist Church among the retirees was 884 ½ years.
The retirees are:
- Rev. Theodore Carl Anderson, 43 years of service
- Pastor James E. Barnes II, 23 years of service
- Rev. Bonita L. Bates, 27 years of service
- Pastor Alan S. Bill, 16 years of service
- Rev. K. Wayne Butler, 40 years of service
- Pastor Gail Conners, 13 years of service
- Rev. Gail Falsetti, 13 years of service
- Pastor Mark E. Flandreau, 9 years of service
- Rev. Carl E. Getz, 7 years of service
- Rev. Alan G. Howe, 39 years of service
- Rev. Bradford Hunt, 42 years of service
- Pastor Richard C. Hurd, 23 years of service
- Rev. Tae Kun Kim, 30 years of service
- Pastor Jeri O. Kober, 14 years of service
- Rev. Donald M. Langreck, 42 years of service
- Rev. Lawrence E. Lundgren, 44 years of service
- Rev. John W. McNeill, 36 years of service
- Rev. Sara G. Merle, 20 years of service
- Rev. Ray M. Noell, 21 years of service
- Rev. Anne H. O'Connor, 32 years of service
- Rev. Nancy S. Preston, 5 years of service
- Pastor Kathy L. Reese, 10 years of service
- Rev. Ann E. Robinson, 29 years of service
- Rev. Brian T. Rotach, 39 ½ years of service
- Rev. William S. Rowe IV, 30 years of service
- Pastor Brian K. Scharf, 25 years of service
- Rev. Robert O. Sherburne, 46 years of service
- Rev. E. Allen Siebold, 49 years of service
- Pastor J. Elyse Skiles, 11 years of service
- Pastor Patricia L. Walz, 10 years of service
- Rev. Lawrence J. Wiliford, 45 years of service
- Rev. Terry Sue Wiliford, 19 years of service
- Rev. Byron Lee Williams, 32 years of service
Honoring Ordinands and Commissioners
Bishop Webb also recognized those who will be ordained or commissioned on June 2.
Those who will be commissioned to perform the duties of the Ministry of Elder are:
- Cheryl Ann Brown
- Raymond C. Gilman IV
- Linda Kay Haight
- Melissa Marie Killenberger McCarthy
- Hector D. Rivera
- Lisa Dawn Taylor
And Jessica Faye Glasser will be commissioned to perform the duties of the Ministry of Deacon.
Those who will be ordained as elders are:
- Stephanie Jo Brown
- Kevin Duane Slough
- Paul D. Winkelman
And James (Jim) Edward Barnes II will be received into Associate Membership.
Those who will be ordained as elders as well as Jim were asked John Wesley’s historical questions, to which they all responded “yes.”
Honoring the Cabinet
The Upper New York Cabinet was also recognized for their service to the Upper New York Conference.
“I don’t want you to take this group of people for granted,” Bishop Webb. “We’ll make mistakes; we’ve made mistakes, but I can promise you this, there is not a decision made by this group that is not bathed in prayer … there is a unity in this body that is strong for the sake of the Church in Upper New York. I just want you to love on them for a minute.”
The Rev. Wayne Butler, who is retiring July 1, was especially recognized as the Rev. Bill Mudge, who will be returning to the role of pastor at the local church level starting July 1 at the Baldwinsville United Methodist Church.
The Rev. Carlos M. Rosa-Laguer was recognized as the new Niagara Frontier District Superintendent starting July 1. The Rev. Debbie Earthrowl was recognized as the new District Superintendent for the Adirondack District starting July 1.
The Rev. Sherri Rood was recognized as serving as Dean of the Cabinet for the past three years and final year and for serving the Cornerstone District for her eighth year.
“Sherri always makes sure to put fun into the Cabinet’s agenda,” Bishop Webb said.
District Superintendent of the Crossroads District the Rev. Nola Anderson will be the new Dean of the Cabinet.
Honoring new local church appointments
All new appointments for each district were named by their respective District’s Superintendent.
Lucina Hallagan, Kristen Allen, and Katie Allen delivered the litany to set the new appointments.
Blessing and anointing
Everyone at the service was invited to be blessed and anointed with oil (if they so chose). They were asked to bring the river rock they received at Opening Worship with their call written on it. Once they were blessed and anointed, they were able to lay their stone at the foot of a cross.
The service ended with spirit-filled singing and clapping to the song, Build your Cabinet Here.
At the end of the Service of Blessing and Anointing, Bishop Webb shared that the Conference would continue the worshipful spirit by addressing the Nominations Report. It was accepted.
Recommendation results from AC2018
June 1, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson
Voting on the Upper New York Conference recommendations began in the morning plenary on June 1 and extended through the afternoon plenary at the 2018 UNY Annual Conference session held at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse.
The results are as follows:
Recommendation from the Accessibility Committee – Disability Awareness Weekend, supported
This recommendation is for the Upper New York Conference to establish February 1-7, or another weekend chosen by the local church, to be designated as Disability Awareness Weekend and that a special offering may be received in local churches for promotion of awareness issues as well as ministries that provide opportunities for fuller inclusion of people with disabilities.
UNY2018.SHRec.1 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team-Welcoming a Stranger, supported
This recommendation invites Upper New York members to write letters to Congressional representatives urging them to support legislation that upholds civil and human rights for all migrants to United States; welcome immigrants and refugees in congregations; denounce xenophobic, racist, and violent reactions against migrants to the United States; and to consider becoming Sanctuary Churches.
UNY2018.SHRec.2 – Recommendation from the Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel – Advocating for the Rights of Children Living Under Israeli Occupation, supported
This recommendation advises the that the Upper New York Conference calls on the United States Senate, the House of Representatives, the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State to join with 196 other nations in ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to bring stronger international pressure to bear on Israel to comply with the Convention’s provisions, particularly those governing the treatment of children held in detention.
It also advises the UNY Conference to call on the government of the United States to adhere to its own established law – in this case, the U.S. Assistance Act – by withholding military assistance from the State of Israel that would support financing Israel’s military detention, interrogation, abuse, and ill-treatment of Palestinian children; and that the members of this 2018 Annual Conference session take action by: 1) Relaying these two calls to their congregations; 2) Writing their members of Congress, as well as the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State, urging them to respond to our calls; and 3) Encouraging and facilitating their congregations to do the same.
UNY2018.SHRec.3 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Committee – Fossil Fuels, supported
This recommendation advises the Upper New York Conference to support the New York State Council of Churches’ push for the NYS Divest program in support of divestment legislation before the NYS Legislature, which calls for divesting from fossil fuels in the NYS pension funds.
This recommendation also advises the UNY Conference to divest in fossil fuel in favor of renewable energy and encourages individuals and churches to prayerfully consider fossil fuel divestment of their funds.
UNY2018.SHRec.4 – Recommendation from the Task Force for Immigration – Radical Hospitality, supported with combined amendments
This recommendation advises that to better practice the art of “radical hospitality” and to better practice what the scripture of the Old and New Testaments call us to and the lifestyle and teachings of Jesus Christ call us to; that when our districts and/or our Conference is hiring people who will be the first point of contact a priority shall be that these people shall be a minimum of bilingual or more. So that the Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church may be even more faithful to God’s call to make disciples of all persons of all origins and all ethnicities.
This recommendation was supported with combined amendments to change the language of “that when our Districts and/or our Conference is hiring people who will be the first point of contact, a priority shall be that these people shall be a minimum of bilingual or more.” To “that when our Districts and/or our Conference is hiring people who will be the first point of contact a priority shall be that these people shall be a minimum of bilingual or more, whenever possible and/or the District and Conference keep a database of multilingual people, who they are and the languages they speak as a resource.
UNY2018.SHRec.5 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team – Specify Peace and Justice Coordinator, supported
This recommendation advises the Upper New York Conference Rules Committee to include Peace with Justice Coordinator to the list of equalizing lay members based on position of leadership (Policies and Resolutions, Appendix II, V, C of 2017 UNY Conference Journal). This change would take effect beginning with the next Annual Conference session and remain in any future iteration of our rules to show our commitment to justice issues.
UNY2018.SHRec.6 – Recommendation from the Social Holiness Team – Safe and Free from Firearms, not supported
This recommendation advises the UNY Conference, all districts, congregations, and programs to affirm that no firearms will be allowed within the sanctuaries, the buildings, or any of the programs, or any of the lands owned by local churches or the Conference facilities, programs, or land. Law enforcement officers and others required by law to carry firearms at all times are exempted from this provision.
This recommendation also advises that all churches and Conference sites shall post clear and visible signage that firearms are strictly forbidden on any of our properties or programs.
Rev. Jones explains how to get the past out of our eyes to attain an extraordinary future
June 1, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
For more years than most, the most hapless team in baseball was managed by Charlie Brown, said Study Leader the Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones of Duke Divinity School. One of the problems with his winless team involved the team’s outfielder Lucy, who was always daydreaming and thinking of boys. But one day she comes up to the mound and tells her manager, “This time it is going to be different. I’m going to pay attention and do my best.”
During the game a ball is hit to her and it comes closer and closer until it hits her on the head; the batter gets a home run. Lucy apologizes to her manger.
“I wanted it to be different, but when the ball was in the air, I thought of all the other times and I lost my confidence,” Lucy said. “I guess you could say the past got in my eyes.”
Rev. Jones said people often let the past gets in their eyes.
“When we let that take over us and begin to pour over us, it’s hard to unlearn the brokenness,” he said. “We need to pay attention to formation; we need to learn how to unlearn the sin and develop patterns of holy living.”
Rev. Jones said many think change is a matter of cognition, but Philippians 2 shows it’s not just about the mind; feelings are also involved.
The Pixar movie “Inside Out” shows the power of emotions and how they drive so much of what we do. He said many think reason is all that matters, comparing reason to an elephant, and that emotions are the rider that can occasionally get us riding in the wrong direction.
“But it’s the opposite; emotion is elephant and reason is the rider,” Rev. Jones said.
To illustrate this, he gave an example of an elephant who chased a Jeep after it almost ran over its baby, driven to act by emotion.
If we live with a sense of awe, Rev. Jones said, it reshapes our thinking and feeling, “then it’s about living, discipleship, how we engage in daily life.” He said it’s not just about thinking and feeling but what we do with our lives.
Developing a Christian vision, discipleship, and leaders have been woven into the fabric of United Methodists’ lives, he said, which is why Wesleyans are so eager to start schools and build on the Sunday school movement.
“If we are going to boldly move into our call, if we are really going to be able to understand the summons coming from God, we need to recognize all that needs to be unlearned so we can change.”
A dean at a medical school once told students that half of what they learned would be obsolete by the time they graduated, but he didn’t know which half, so they had to learn it all. One student said the dean undersold that message, and as a 30-year-old oncologist, she must now treat each day as a new learning experience if she wants to be faithful to her profession.
“We’re not thinking about that very well in The Church,” Rev. Jones said. “If we are going to boldly live our call, we have to be sure we are being formed and aligned with God so by the power of the Holy Spirit we see the world the way God sees it.”
The good news is we can help each other along the way with holy friendships. Rev. Jones said holy friendships do three things:
- Holy friends are those who challenge the sins we come to love.
- Holy friends help us affirm the gifts we are afraid to claim.
- Holy friends help us dream dreams we otherwise wouldn’t have dreamed.
“Friendship with God is manifest in prayer and manifest in befriending others because the more time you spend with friends, the more it begins to shape your imagination,” he said.
Rev. Jones shared a story where his wife, Susan, tucked their son Ben into bed for the night. Before Susan left the room, Ben kissed her four time down her face and three times across. She asked Ben if he knew that he had formed a cross, to which he replied, “that’s how I planned it.” Rev. Jones and Susan recalled Ben had received the sign of the cross in water on his forehead in a Wesley Covenant Renewal Service and in ashes during Ash Wednesday. Ben used his creativity to give an innovative twist to a common church action, which also helped shape both his mother’s and father’s imaginations.
Developing holy friendships and relationships where we challenge each other helps to execute dreams. People like Maggy Barankitse – who witnessed her village’s massacre but from the tragedy created a house of peace for children, Maison Shalom – result from this. When friendships are formed and dreams are executed, congregations dying in their old identity come together in a new pattern of ministry that brings life and vitality to the congregation, like in the church in Eastern North Carolina.
“Do we have a willingness to do the hard work and endure the costs?” Rev. Jones asked.
He said United Methodists don’t have money problems so much as they have vision and disciple problems.
“We need to be dreaming dreams that otherwise wouldn’t have been dreamed … and then we will see extraordinary things,” Rev Jones said.
Study Leader Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones says we must stop ‘going back to Egypt’
June 1, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Back in the early days of airplane travel, it took longer to go from east to west than west to east. One time, a plane flying from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles fell into heavy fog for a while.
“The pilot said, ‘I have good news and bad news. First the bad news: We’re lost. The good news? Now we’re two hours ahead of schedule,’” said Study Leader the Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones of Duke Divinity School. “I think that’s a good comparison of where we are today.”
Rev. Jones held his first study session in the morning on June 1 at the 2018 Annual Conference session at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.
Rev. Jones said society is becoming more confused and bureaucratic – and doing so rapidly.
“It used to be called ‘keeping up with the Joneses,’ and I’m a Jones, and even I can’t keep up,” he said.
Rev . Jones said we don’t know where we’re going or why we’re going there. So, the study session focused on why we have gotten lost and how we can regain our direction.
He pulled largely from the Book of Numbers during his speech, specifically chapters 10-21. Rev. Jones explained how the Israelites’ complaints went from trivial things to serious complaints about leadership, particularly complaints about Moses.
“So much of the noise is coming from the shallow end of the pool. People who are most acutely aware of the distance with God are the most intimate with God, and that makes the longing even more intense,” he said. “The more intimate our relationship with God, the more we are shaped by prayer,” he said.
In Numbers chapter 16, Korah rebels against Moses’ leadership, resulting in 250 deaths. “There is a crisis of leadership and something is not working,” Rev. Jones said.
“The heart of problem is in Numbers 13 and 14,” he said, when the spies share both a majority report (the Israelites can’t go forward because of the obstacles ahead) and minority report (two said that despite the challenges ahead, God promised the land of Milk and Honey, so they must trust Him and move ahead).
The Israelites wanted to return to Egypt, even if that meant returning to suffering and oppression because it was what was familiar.
“Each one of us has a ‘back to Egypt’ part of our souls,” Rev. Jones said. “We get a glimpse of what God is calling us to do, and we get uncertain. And we say, ‘I don’t think so. Egypt sounds just fine to me.’ Oh how often we just settle for ‘going back to Egypt.’”
He said the deepest problem is that we have lost our way, our sense of where we’re headed and the confidence that we might be able to get there.
“Maybe the future is more than it used to be, but we must get centered and remember what it is to bear witness to God,” Rev. Jones said. “When we do that, we discover the capacity to boldly live into our call; it’s God summoning us to bear witness to the good news God provides us.”
For that to happen, he said, we must realize our tendencies to “go back to Egypt” and allow God to work through us, in spite of us, and beyond us to change us.
“It’s about a way of life where God becomes intimate to us, and we are able to see the world more and more as God sees it,” Rev. Jones said. “When you know what your purpose is … the world looks different, decision-making looks different, ministry looks different. It looks like what God intended when he created us.”
He said people need to have a spirit of confession to be intimate with God.
Rev. Jones also mentioned a church in an Easter North Carolina church had a large number of older congregants and prayed for young people to join their church. Their prayers were answered as refugees from Myanmar joined the congregation. They weren’t the young people the church expected, but the congregation practiced Christian hospitality, and the word spread back to Myanmar. Now about 75 percent of the congregation is from Myanmar.
“When you’re intimate with God, amazing things can happen, but you better bring a crash helmet because you never know what will happen,” Rev. Jones said.
Rev. Jones said a reporter asked him about statistics that a growth of atheism amongst young adults. He told the reporter it’s not growing atheism, it’s a sign of young adults’ boredom.
“They want to see how God is lived in community,” he said. “They want to be at places where you need to wear crash helmets.”
Rev. Jones ended with the story of Maggy Barankitse, giving attendees something to ponder.
Maggy is a woman from Burundi forced to watch as people in her village were slaughtered. After the massacre, she gathered the children who survived and eventually had adopted 30 children. She founded Maison Shalom – a house of peace for the children, so they could have a brighter future. More than 20,000 children have lived and learned there. Leadership in Burundi viewed her as a threat and expelled her from the country.
Rev. Jones once asked her what she prayed, and she told him, “Lord, let your miracles break forth every day, and let me not be an obstacle in any way.”
Despite all the harm others cause in the world, Maggy focused on how she affects things, Rev. Jones said. “Maggy believed that miracles are going to break forth every day,” he said. “‘What people intend for evil, God can use for good,’ she said.”
Maggy trusted God to work through her, in spite of her, and beyond her to change her, which helped her grow intimate with God. And amazing things happened and continue to happen in her ministry, as she continues to help Burundi from afar.
Clergy and clergy spouses remembered at AC2018 Memorial Service
June 1, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson
On May 31 at the 2018 Annual Conference session, a Memorial Service was held to honor Upper New York clergy members and clergy spouses who have passed away since the 2017 Annual Conference session.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb introduced the service.
“I hope you know that we have been praying for you, that we love you, and that we thank you for making sacrifices so that your loved one could share their service with us,” he said. “We mourn with you and celebrate with you.”
After echoing Bishop Webb’s sentiments, the Rev. Corey Turnpenny, pastor of the Whitney Point UMC, delivered the message. She explained that clergy must be comfortable with death. She expressed how when calls come in that someone has died, she responds with empathy and compassion, but when she hangs up the phone, she sighs.
“The sigh contains all the grief and sadness anyone feels when someone dies but also expresses the weight we bear when having to suddenly readjust schedules and prepare to lead another worship service that needs to be meaningful and healing in just a matter of days,” she said.
Rev. Turnpenny shared the story of Lazarus’ death from the Gospel of John. She described how she can relate to Jesus not coming right away.
“I totally get Mary and Martha’s frustration that Jesus didn’t come right away,” she said. “But I also get where Jesus was coming from. I wonder if he let out a deep sigh too when he heard the news.”
When Jesus finally comes to Mary and Martha, they cry out, “We know you’re the Messiah, we trust you, we know you’re here with us now, but couldn’t you have gotten here sooner? Couldn’t you have saved him?”
Rev. Turnpenny expressed certainty that those who have lost loved ones could relate to these sentiments.
Rev. Turnpenny feels that the next part of the story of Lazarus is the most teachable moment in the Bible. She said, “Good ol’ Jesus, he’s always teaching us, always revealing more of the truth and glory.”
Jesus moves the tomb and raises Lazarus from the dead.
“Death is not the worst-case scenario,” Rev. Turnpenny said. “In my opinion, the best part of this story is what happens after Lazarus comes out. … Lazarus was brought back to the community.”
Mary and Martha had to loosen his bindings and bring him back to the community.
Rev. Turnpenny went on to discuss the importance of community. She said, “It takes a village to raise the dead. Those we remember and celebrate tonight were part of that village for us.”
Rev. Turnpenny personally knew one of the people honored during the Memorial Service, Brolin Parker, who greeted her at Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center when she was 12 years old. Meeting Brolin and her first trip to Sky Lake was the first time she felt the Holy Spirit. It’s what sparked her passion to pursue becoming a pastor.
“I’m sure there are countless stories like that for all the saints we’re remembering tonight,” Rev. Turnpenny said. “And I have no doubt when they were raised into the next life, they were greeted by the most loving community imaginable! And now they’ve joined that great cloud of witnesses who continue to cheer us on. Their love remains with us and their example and legacy lead us onward as we work together to complete what Christ begins.”
After Rev. Turnpenny delivered her message, District Superintendents named the clergy and clergy spouses being honored and lit candles for each of them.
The following clergy and clergy spouses were remembered:
- George Aberle
- Susan Andrews
- Marco Araujo
- Alden Asbornsen
- Janet Atkins
- Barbara Beaudry
- Thomas J Bement
- Bruce Benson
- Benson Benton
- Robert S. Boston
- Helen Bowen
- Herbert B. Bowen
- Leland Leslie Bowman
- Retha Brown
- William Alan Burnop Jr
- Rene Carrillo
- Laura Chatelle
- R Carol Coltrain
- Mary Cunningham
- Robert H. Darling
- Margaret Easton
- Myron Ellsworth
- Dorothy (no pic) Emerson
- Rosella S Ewen
- Della Finney
- Margaret Harrington
- F Ray Hazlett
- Ruth Huff
- Helen P. Jones
- Robert A. Jones
- William A. Kark
- Douglas G. Lathorp
- Robert B. Lewis
- M. Edward Lincoln
- Lyle Linder
- "John Lee ""Jack""" Love
- Allen Lum
- Daniel T. Moore
- Martha Munson
- Brolin Christopher Parker
- "Edith ""Edie""" Poland
- William Reeder
- Ronald Rhodes
- Charles A. Rudd
- Donald Scandrol
- Jo Ellen Shea
- Leo Sidman
- Verne Slighter
- Robert William Smith
- Karen Patrice Snyder
- Shirley Spencer
- Walter Edmund Taylor
- Ruth Thornton
- Nan Valencia
- William N. Walter
- Erwin James Wendt
- Thelma Sue West
- Wiley White
- Beatrice Whitney
- Jessie Marie Willkens
Actions taken during Trustees Report
May 31, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson
The Upper New York Conference Board of Trustees shared their report May 31 at the 2018 Annual Conference session during the afternoon plenary.
President of the Upper New York Board of Trustees Rich Barling began by discussing the great energy and work happening in the United Methodist Center, making special mention of the Resource Center, Mission Central HUB, and the team spirit in all departments.
“The feeling of mission and ministry is very evident,” he said.
Rich Barling also updated the Conference on the fact that Trustees have come to an agreement to transfer Camp Findley and reported that ministries will continue there through Fit for Life.
During the Trustees Report, the recommendation that the conference trustees be corporately authorized to sell, lease, convey, transfer, and exchange of real property or other real property interests associated with the Camp & Retreat centers. It was supported.
Jack Keating, secretary of the Board of Trustees, reviewed property management the board oversees, which is currently 11 District parsonages and one Episcopal residence.
“Since our last Annual Conference gathering, we acquired one of these district parsonages, and we believe that 2018 will see us add the 12th parsonage to complete the project of providing parsonages in each of our 12 districts,” he said.
Vice President of the Board of Trustees Peter Abdella discussed the 2018 insurance program renewal as well as an update on the risk management program and water sensor program through Church Mutual Insurance Company.
“The 2018 renewal was impacted by two significant losses and some unusual weather issues (high wind damage claims), which have impacted our pricing for this year,” Peter said. “While all coverage aspects of our Conference policies remain the same this year, including property and liability limits, deductibles, and policy terms, all churches across the Conference saw a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in their 2018 commercial multi-peril premium from Church Mutual.”
Peter also encouraged all churches to install water sensors, which are available to them at no cost from Church Mutual.
Closed churches were honored for the work they have done and were each recognized by their respective District Superintendents.
The following churches closed since the 2017 Annual Conference session:
Blockville UMC, Jamestown: New Beginnings UMC, Fellowship UMC, Coopers Plains UMC, Lockwood UMC, Binghamton: High Street UMC, Perrysburg-Dayton UMC, Earlville UMC, Ellenburg UMC, Watervliet UMC, Stannards UMC, Kenyontown UMC, Rexford, and Vestal: Calvary UMC.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb said, “We celebrate the legacy that these churches leave. Ministries continue because of who these congregations were in their lives and their ministries.”
The Rev. Alan Kinney, retired, requested a report of the funds the Board of Trustees used and earned in the latter half of 2018 to increase the board’s transparency. The Board of Trustees agreed to do so.
The Board of Trustees Report was accepted.
Mold discussion dampens Commission on Equitable Compensation Report
May 31, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The Rev. Lauren Swanson, chair the Conference Commission on Equitable Compensation, presented the commission’s report May 31 at the 2018 Annual Conference session.
“It has been our mission to equip struggling local churches to establish sound financial footing so they can build leadership capacity, make disciples, and transform the world,” Rev. Swanson said. “We have done this by supplying short-term grants to help bridge short-term setbacks that hinder the ministry of local churches. The Commission has worked in concert with the Bishop’s Cabinet to encourage right-sizing appointments and other local church staffing in order to secure good financial footing for both the local church and the Conference.”
This year, the Commission on Equitable Compensation brought five recommendations before the Conference.
The first was to set the minimum base salary level guaranteed to pastors for the budget year 2019 (there was no change from the base salary approved for 2018). The second recommendation proposes a change in the years of service increment (found on page 52 lines 18-21 in Journal volume 1). The third recommendation (found in the Journal on page 52, lines 22-23) involved a provision for additional salary for multi-point charges that reads, “Plus an additional $500 for each additional church on the pastoral charge (over one), not adjusted for part-time appointments.” (No changes are proposed to this item, but it needs to be approved annually a part of our compensation policies.) The fourth (in the Journal on page 52, lines 27-30) helps pastors keep pace with the increase in the cost of living – this year’s amount is a suggested 1.4 percent increase.
Those four recommendations were moved before the Conference, voted upon, and approved with little discussion.
The fifth recommendation was a bit more discussion-intensive.
The CCEC’s last recommendation (found in the Journal on page 52, lines 39-40) was a clarification and addition to the clergy housing policy. According to Rev. Swanson, the addition makes clear the church’s obligation to ameliorate any existing health threats with the addition of a sentence saying, “The presence of any health threat shall be remediated including, but not limited to: lead and uncontained asbestos.”
Then, the Rev. Heidi Chamberlain, of the Malone: Centenary United Methodist Church, proposed an amendment to include the word “mold” after the colon.
Her amendment was seconded, and Rev. Chamberlain described her plight. She has been paying a mortgage on a house she has not been able to live in because of a water leak that produced black mold, making it an unhealthy and unsafe dwelling in which to reside.
“Mold precludes clergy family from being safe and healthy in a home environment,” she said. “I would like to encourage UNY to blaze the trail to make sure that we as the clergy of this Conference and our families are safe in our parsonages.”
The Rev. Pam Klotzbach, pastor of the Attica: Trinity UMC, spoke against the amendment, saying that a lot of times, mold is caused by a previous occupant and not the church that owns the parsonage, so the church should not be responsible for paying for mold remediation.
Marthalyn Sweet, a member of the Governour UMC and a self-proclaimed “pastor’s kid” – she’s the daughter of the Rev. Beckie Sweet, pastor of the Kenmore UMC – recalled an asthma attack she had while running on a treadmill in a damp parsonage basement.
“It doesn’t matter where the mold comes from, clergy needs to be housed in safe environment, especially if kids are in it,” she said.
After more discussion, a couple of amendment proposals, and some clarification, the question was called on all things before the Conference by the Rev. Childs, pastor at the Penn Yan and Penn Yan: The Living Well UMCs.
The call for the question was supported. First the amendment to add “mold” was voted upon. It was supported. Then the fifth CCEC recommendation was voted upon and supported. Lastly, the Rev. Swanson moved the report for acceptance. It was accepted.
Business as usual during Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits Report
May 31, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits presented their report Thursday at the 2018 Annual Conference Session at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.
The board’s Chair, the Rev. Mary Rublee, started by acknowledging the board members.
“The board is made up of dedicated and active individuals,” she said.
According to Rev. Rublee, the board is responsible for management of a sustainable health insurance program and practices; development of policies and procedures to ensure the financial health of the pension and health plans; and investment of benefit funds to sustain current and future obligations.
As a result of the board’s analysis of direct bill arrearages, a one-time forgiveness of unpaid direct billing amounts owed for 2014 and prior by churches was approved and executed in October 2017. The board is in the process of developing arrearage policies and procedures.
There’s also an ongoing investigation of future health care plans that will serve the needs of those covered while balancing the issues of equitable funding from all parties.
Due to personal resources and priorities (i.e. finalizing asset fund allocations from previous conferences), the recommendations previously approved by the 2017 UNY Annual Conference session related to investment screenings and investment account recommendations has been referred to an Investment sub-committee of the Board.
And, monitoring recommendations by the Council of Bishops Commission on the Way Forward Task Force, and pending decision of the General Conference in 2019, the board is in active/on-going discussions with Wespath Benefits & Investments to ensure that benefits remain secure.
Rev. Rublee then shared 2019 benefit rates for local churches and the personal 2019 benefit rates for active clergy or full-time laity employees. For more comprehensive information on the benefit plan, view the UNY Comprehensive Benefit Funding Plan.
Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits presented their recommendations. The first would set the 2019 Past Service Annuity Rate for Pension payments to retired Clergy with pre-1982 service at $645 per qualified service year prior to 1982, which is an increase of 1.1 percent over 2018 in recognition of the active clergy salary increases of less than 2 percent over the last two years and as a way to begin to address the unfunded liability in this pension plan.
“The plan went from fully funded to underfunded as a result of the effects of using an updated mortality table. Additionally, we are in a season of a high numbers of retirements,” Rev. Rublee said. “This illustrates that being 100 percent funded is not sufficient, and we need to strive to be more than fully funded to weather actuarial fluctuations and market volatility.
Rev. Rublee moved for acceptance of the recommendation. It was voted upon and accepted.
The board’s second recommendation comes each year as required by the IRS and the General Church: the Housing/Rental Allowance Resolution, which allows retired and disabled clergy to claim their church pension, severance, or disability income as a housing exclusion.
Rev. Rublee moved for acceptance of the second recommendation. It was voted upon and accepted.
Leadership Report presented comically, but discussion gets serious
May 31, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The Leadership Report was presented on a fun note, with Conference Lay Leader Susan Hardy describing how she thought her first meeting would go through a video of Conference Leadership Team members saying one-liners, sharing their opposing views as stats, and posing next to those stats.
Then the Rev. Steve Taylor, of the Panama UMC, and the Rev. Andrew Sperry, of the Saratoga Springs: UMCWest, delighted the crowd with some hilarity, comparing and contrasting their opposing views, like how Rev. Sperry is a hardcore liberal who drives a fuel-efficient car and hangs out at the local organic-fair trade, bird-friendly, don’t-hurt-the-bees coffee shop or that Rev. Taylor is skinny jean-wearing, guitar-playing, contemporary song-singing, soul patch-sporting, deer-killing stereotype of a conservative pastor.
But despite their comic banter, the crowd did learn a thing or two, like the mission of the UMC, the vision of the Conference, the purpose of the Conference, and the primary and secondary tasks of the Conference.
CLT members Valerie Clark and Cornerstone District Superintendent the Rev. Sherri Rood took the stage next to discuss the leading portion of the L3 model, in which the CLT utilizes Ministry Action Plans (MAPs) that focus on a particular dilemma and logically lays out a transition from where we are to where we ant to be. MAPs also clearly define who is responsible for tasks and when the tasks should be accomplished, Valerie said.
“Through the MAP process, we have already seen some great progress in our Conference,” Valerie said. “For example, since the last session of Annual Conference, the Mission Central HUB has opened … that was one of our MAPs.”
The CLT has seen great success around MAPs for new faith communities. A goal was set to launch 100 new faith communities by 2020, and since that time, there have been 107 new faith communities launched, with 81 still active.
“That’s right, and don’t forget about the fact that we were able to pay 100 percent of our General Church apportionments for the second year in a row,” the Rev. Rood said. “Just a few years ago, we payed less than 60 percent, and the MAP process has been very helpful in getting us to this healthy financial place.”
The MAPs process has also been introduced to the District Leadership Teams.
After more discussion of MAPs, Susan took the stage again.
“Sherri said it so eloquently, ‘We can’t know where we are headed if we don’t know where we are,’” Susan said. “And, friends, there is one tool available to us to help us know where we are that many of us are not taking advantage of. I’m speaking of VitalSigns. This is software that we already pay for through our Ministry Shares, and it helps us track key information, like worship attendance, baptisms, professions of faith, and so on. It only takes a few minutes each week to enter this data, and, guess what: If you enter your data weekly, it will automatically load the annual data you are required to enter into Ezra.”
The CLT ended their report with a recommendation that every UNY congregation be required to use the VitalSigns Dashboard starting Sept. 1, 2018, which generated much discussion.
The Rev. Cathy Hall Stengel, of the Rush UMC, spoke against the recommendation, saying the deadline was unrealistic, that internet access isn’t available at every church, the work will fall on the pastor, and that she’s confused by the platform because she already knows enough about her church and where it is going.
Pastor Nate Lange, of the Middleport UMC, said he is a huge proponent of technology, but mandating the use of VitalSigns could put a strain on smaller churches. “There must be a better way,” he said,
Chaplain Capt. the Rev. Keith Manry said as part of his job as a U.S. Air Force chaplain, he must report data daily. He said many chaplains have fought it, but by recording the data daily, it provides real-time information to commanders and staff to make changes of direction and is much more accurate than trying to play catchup. “I thank the Conference for being visionary in this,” he said.
The Rev. Dawn Quesenberry, of the Delevan and West Valley: Saint Paul’s UMCs spoke in favor of the recommendation, saying that her church uses it, that VitalSigns should be something done at the lay level, and that deadlines are important.
An equalization member spoke against the recommendation, saying her church does not have internet and that using VitalSigns could be difficult for many small churches.
The Rev. Robin Blair, of the Ithaca: Forest Home and Common Good Radio UMCs, said she disliked the mandatory component of the recommendation and thought that data would not be collected for her benefit. “I like technology and helping us move forward, but this doesn’t feel like that,” she said.
And then came an amendment.
The Rev. Stephen Cady, of the Asbury First UMC in Rochester, proposed striking “required” and adding “strongly encouraged” to the recommendation. It was seconded. “If it is strongly encouraged, maybe more churches will start to use it and help others to use it.”
After a speech in favor of the amendment, the Rev. Merle Showers, retired, called the question on all before the Conference. The call was supported.
The amendment was voted upon and supported.
The Rev. Naomi Annandale tried to clarify some information, but Bishop Webb ruled it was out of order. But Rev. Annandale got another chance at the mic after the Rev. Robert Dean, of the Main Federated Church, asked a question about how to record information for churches with more than one society.
The recommendation as amended was then voted upon and supported.
Bishop Webb opens worship at AC18 with a message to acknowledge Christ
“Are you persistent in your pursuit of God, or is it a hobby? Do you strive to experience and claim the things of God with the same diligence that you strive to experience and claim the things of the world? ... What is your response when Jesus says ‘Who do you say I am?’”
These are just a few of the questions Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb asked at Opening Worship on May 31 at the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference session held at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse.
The theme of this year’s Annual Conference session is Together in Prayer: Boldly Living our Call. In addition to Bishop Webb’s sermon Wade in the Water, worship music was performed by InsideOut, a biblical message from the Gospel of Mark was shared, and two Conference members re-enacted a scene as historical witnesses with sound advice; this service emphasized the importance of acknowledging Christ by boldly living our call.
Phil Eisenman, dressed in a robe, portrayed the role of Daniel. After explaining how he was a faithful Israelite in Babylonian captivity, Daniel shared the following advice: “My lesson for you today: Stay faithful as you boldly acknowledge YHWH. Follow God’s call on your life so that you will be able to find God even in the most unlikely of places and offer YHWH’s love to the world around you. Undergird everything you do with prayer, fasting, and devotion as your let your life acknowledge, follow, and offer the great I AM to the world around you.”
Rebecca Jensen played the role of Georgia Harkness, the first woman to teach theology at an American seminary. She spoke of the importance of loving our neighbors with our whole being – widows, orphans, immigrants, and all on the margins of society. Georgia said, “Develop a hunger to read and learn all you can and offer God by encouraging one another to do the same. No matter where we might find ourselves on the theological spectrum, the meaning of the cross and the power of the resurrection must stand as central to our quest to acknowledge God, follow God, and offer God.”
Lisa Kisselstein shared the Bible passage of Mark 8:27-38, in which Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” Only Peter answers correctly, saying that he is the Messiah. The Rev. Nancy Dibelius, UNY Conference Associate Director of Spiritual Life for Vital Congregations, described the scene where Jesus asks his disciples this important question on a hot, dry, dusty road – she asked the crowd to envision they are on this road with the disciples and to acknowledge how they feel when Jesus says, “Who do you say that I am?”
In Bishop Webb’s sermon, he admits that his answer about who Jesus is isn’t as powerful or as confident as Peter’s response. He reminds the crowd of the truth of Jesus through the following biblical passages:
- Mark 6.35: “I am the bread of life; they who come to Me shall not hunger, and they who believe in Me shall never thirst.”
- John 8.12: “I am the light of the world; they who follow Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”
- John 10.9: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, they shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.”
- John 11.25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life; they who believe in Me shall live even if He dies.”
- John 14.6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
Bishop Webb urged UNY members to acknowledge this identity of Christ. He said, “If we are to boldly live our call – if we are to be effective in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ – our identity must be grounded in the identity of Christ. We must acknowledge Christ! We must acknowledge who Christ is, not based on who the world says he is or based on our ideas, our definitions, our understandings, but on who Jesus said he was in word and in action. We must confess Jesus as our Savior and Lord.”
Bishop Webb described the necessity for all to continue to wade in the waters of their baptismal call. He said, “God stirs our spirits and invites us to wade in the water. With the waters of baptism, God reminds us who we are because of who God is and invites us to wade in the water. With the waters of baptism, we hear God’s 'yes' in our lives, so we can say, 'yes' to God and wade in the water. With the waters of Baptism, we acknowledge who Jesus is, choose to follow His way and become determined to offer Christ in word and action to the world around us.”
Opening Worship ended with Communion, whereby UNY members were asked to reaffirm their Baptismal call. They each selected a stone to carry with them as a reminder to acknowledge Christ and boldly live their call. The Opening Worship offering will support the UNY Mission Central HUB.
Session shares examples of laity boldly living their call
May 31, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Laity Session for the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference session kicked off promptly at 7 p.m. May 30 at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Upper New York Conference Lay Leader Susan Hardy started the evening with an introduction of Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb, noting how he has equipped and empowered other leaders in UNY.
Bishop Webb took the stage, thanking laity for their ministry.
“Continue to be open to the surprising things that God wants to do in you, through you and in spite of you,” Bishop Webb said. And he also challenged the laity to go to church this Sunday and pray this simple prayer: “Give us an opportunity, oh God, to reach one more person in Christ.”
Associate Conference Lay Leader Drew Griffin addressed the crowd next, starting with some housekeeping details and later urging the laity to give as generously as they could during the collection of the Helping Hands Fund – which assists laity during extreme times of financial need. The Board of Laity was acknowledged for their service before Susan took the mic once more.
Don’t stay crippled by anything separating us from God
Susan pointed out that the Board of Laity report in the AC Journal Vol. 1 only contained information from May 2017 to early February 2018.
“Did the clock stop for those of us in leadership?” Susan asked. “No.”
She said the board continued to meet electronically to plan for Laity Session, nominate laity for leadership on Conference teams, participate in District Days, and more.
“And now, here tonight in Syracuse, N.Y., we gather as laity to celebrate and affirm examples of the ministries of laypersons of the Upper New York Annual Conference,” she said. “Truly, each one here is boldly living their faith.”
Susan said the laity have models for courage of equipped and empowered laity in scriptures like Acts 3: 3-8, where disciples Peter gives a crippled beggar something stronger than money: in the name of Jesus Christ, he healed the beggar so he could walk.
Susan said she spent about 20 years outside the walls of any church, crippled by pride. A disciple of Christ invited her to go to Brocton Tri-Church Parish.
“I walked right into love and faith when I entered those open doors. When I ponder that cripple outside the walls, I understand how that was me or you or any of us,” she said. “Here I am, speaking to a crowd of United Methodist laypersons. Are we sinners? Oh, yes. But is that the end of our story? No. We do not have to remain buried in our sin. We do not have to stay crippled by anything separating us from our loving God. … Let’s put down our hammers of judgment. Let’s melt those nails of human pride.”
Youth need help to boldly live their call
Sam Smith, representing youth as a Board of Laity member, started his speech with a letter written by his Conference Council on Youth Ministry Co-Chair Maria Schermerhorn, who always felt a calling to be a nurse and is now boldly living that call in studying to become one.
“It’s not always easy for young people to live their call,” Sam said, mentioning youth he encountered that have felt a calling but can’t or won’t pursue it for various reasons, from financial to lack of support from peers or congregations. “Youth are how The Church continues to grow and thrive throughout the year.”
Sam said youth need to be acknowledged and accepted in order to live their call.
“I want to make sure that all the youth that feel a call get the support they need to make their call a reality,” he said, challenging the crowd to help support youth in any way they could.
A call that “unfortunately” involved hair nets
Nikki and John Hrustich from the Whittemore Hill United Methodist Church shared their faith journey that led to the creation of Southern Tier MobilePack, a Feed My Starving Children food packing event that helps feed chronically malnourished children around the world.
The start of their journey began in 2014 when their nephew was of a group called BonaResponds at St. Bonaventure University that hosted a MobilePack event. They needed help, so the Hrustiches, with their two sons, pitched in.
“We didn’t know then what this would lead to,” John said. “Feed My Starving Children doesn’t use machines to package their meals because they realize the impactful experience of packing the meals by hand. It transforms this from just ‘something good to do’ into doing, something deeply personal. In those two hours, God reached in and touched our hearts. He had a plan for us, and unfortunately, it involved hairnets!”
The Hrustiches felt God was calling them to set up their own food packing event, and He kept calling until the Hrustiches founded Southern Tier MobilePack. Their next event is Nov. 2-3 at the Endwell UMC.
“Our faith journey hasn’t ended – it’s only begun,” Nikki said. “I would like to close today by asking, “What God is calling you to do? Are you listening?”
Finding God in disaster
Donna and Roger Cullen, chairs of Volunteers in Mission, shared stories of VIM helping survivors of natural disasters.
One example involved VIM teams helping a downtrodden son trying to repair his mother’s home on his own after Superstorm Sandy who gave up because he thought his life choices left him “on the left side of God.” At the end of the project, not only was the home rebuilt, but the man's faith in God’s answer to prayer and reinstatement to “the right side of God” was restored.
“We are familiar with scenes of destruction, devastation, and sheltering, from news reports at disasters,” they said. “When the water recedes and the fires go out, we turn to our routine. Life for the survivors evolves into quiet desperation as emergency activity transitions into recovery, and recovery grinds on interminably. Once the TV cameras are turned off, help falters and hope fades.”
The United Methodist Committee on Relief and VIM help return families to hopefulness with solid material help and a ministry of presence.
“Christian Love in Action”
The Rev. Tom Lank, Northeastern Jurisdiction Coordinator of VIM, shared VIM’s motto, “Christian Love in Action," which comes from 1st John 3:18.
“We are all about helping you respond to the love of Christ by loving your neighbor,” he said. “There is a theologian named Frederick Buechner who talks about vocation, and he says that you are called to be where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger. That is true of your calling in mission, too. God has placed you like puzzle pieces jumbled up among each other, some scattered to opposite ends of the globe, but with a purpose to come together and make something beautiful.”
Rev. Lank shared information about UMVIM Awareness Sunday, which General Conference has called for churches to observe.
“Since you, the laity, are the lifeblood of the UMVIM movement, we are recommending that you celebrate this in your congregations on Laity Sunday in October … ” he said.
Rev. Lank also shared some ways UMVIM can help laity get involved in mission, including trainings and toolkits, as well as opportunities to volunteer.
“There are more opportunities out there to be the hands and feet of Christ than you could ever imagine. They will revitalize your faith. … They will draw others to faith because you are shining the light of Christ into the darkness,” he said. “God is at work everywhere renewing, healing, and redeeming. The only question that remains is, ‘How will you join God along the way?’”
“Let’s journey together”
UNY Mission Central HUB Director Mike Block discussed his role of equipping local church and Conference leaders to be the “hands and feet of Jesus,” providing help and hope to people in times of disaster.
“Let’s face it, we all are part of a mission engagement somewhere or will be sometime,” Block said. “I can help provide, learn, or assist in the ‘what’s available’ comments. Come, let’s journey together.”
He shared mission opportunities going on at Mission Central HUB as well as those in districts and churches throughout the Conference.
“Let’s find a way to not only share them, but maybe even create new ones learned from other areas,” he said. “Please share with me the different missions and mission-like activities you’re already doing.”
Drew closed the Laity Session with the benediction, saying, “Christ has no body now on Earth but yours, no feet but yours.”
“Help us to boldly step out and bring that one more person to your kingdom to glorify your world,” he said.
Being God’s love in downtown Syracuse
To many people leaving work in downtown Syracuse, it may have seemed like an ordinary, hot and humid late May Wednesday—until they heard a Christian rock band jamming out with a crowd around them.
Wednesday May 30, 2018 marked the second annual Celebrating Christ in the City, an outdoor worship event held in Syracuse’s Columbus Circle. The event, open to the public, was sponsored by the Syracuse United Methodist Ministries (a collaboration of seven United Methodist churches in Syracuse).
The late afternoon event began with praise and worship led by local contemporary Christian rock band, A Beautiful Mess. Tim Ehrhart, the lead singer of the band, invited God’s spirit to join the attendees, reminding everyone that “When (God’s) spirit is here, we have perfect peace, perfect joy, and answers to problems are revealed.” Tim recognized that Syracuse is a city that needs prayer and God’s healing.
After a few upbeat songs celebrating Christ’s love for all, the Rev. Andy Anderson introduced the seven churches that make up the Syracuse United Methodist Ministries: Bellevue Heights UMC, University UMC, Brown Memorial UMC, Erwin First UMC, Hope Korean UMC, Gethsemane UMC, and St. Paul’s UMC. Rev. Anderson passionately asked for everyone to “open your hearts to receive what God has in store for us.”
Three members of the Syracuse United Methodist Churches shared their faith journeys. Each testimony was different, yet all poignantly showcased God’s love.
Charlie, a member of Bellevue UMC, shared how he had an ordinary life—he grew up in a faith-based family, married a wonderful woman, had three children, a successful career, and good health. Recently, this changed when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Initially he thought, “no big deal—it’s not a bad cancer—it can be treated easily.” The doctors informed Charlie otherwise; they told him it was aggressive. Charlie went through surgery that removed the cancer, yet shortly after, it came back. Charlie then went through nearly 50 rounds of radiation and enjoyed good health for a few months, but the cancer came back. Doctors informed Charlie that he would always have cancer.
Despite the knowledge that he has a terminal illness, Charlie wakes up every day asking what he can do for God that given day. He said. “Everyday, God gives me something to do—not Mother Theresa or Billy Graham stuff, but still important stuff. Today, he asked me to let you all know that God blesses you all and the good things you do.”
Sylvia, a member of St. Paul’s UMC, explained how she grew up going to church—she learned about how God loved her, but she didn’t believe it. She always wondered, “How could God possibly love me, after all I have done?” She lived with shame, as many people do.
As Sylvia grew older and had children of her own, she became familiar with a love so strong that no matter what her children did, no matter how rebellious they were at times, she still loved them. It occurred to her that that is how God loved her. Sylvia said, “I didn’t have to deserve God’s love. It was a gift…I know even when I waver, no matter what, God loves me!”
Tina, a member of University UMC, shared how God called her to change churches, when she was just 14 years old in Africa. She had told her mother about this calling, about God’s message for her to change from a local church to a church that was a 4-hour walk each way to spread his love. Tina is still spreading God’s love today.
After the powerful testimonies, the Rev. B.J. Norrix, leader of the Syracuse United Methodist Ministries, delivered a message about hope. He shared, “You can go three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without air, but you can’t last three seconds without hope.”
Rev. Norrix explained how hope is what gets us moving even if we don’t feel like it. He said, “Hope is always there no matter what struggles you face. In Jesus, you can have hope to rise again.”
The Rev. Andy Anderson closed the event with a benediction. He said, “In despite hopelessness you may be experiencing, we are here to walk with you toward hope.” People were invited to meet with one of the pastors to be introduced to Jesus or to receive laying of the hands and prayer.
The Syracuse United Methodist Ministries intends on hosting this event every year. It’s a true expression of the Upper New York Conference’s mission “to be God’s love to our neighbors in all places.”
Mission Central HUB hosts UMCOR kits event
May 30, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Before the start of the 2018 Upper New York Conference session, dozens of UNYC members gave back to the community.
The UNY Mission Central HUB hosted an event May 30 in which volunteers helped assemble hygiene kits and flood buckets for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
UNY Director of Missional Engagement Mike Block said the UMCOR kits are important because if a disaster happens, these are the first things homeowners receive.
“The kits are very important because they are the standby kits in case there’s a problem some place,” said UNY Director of Missional Engagement Mike Block. “Normally if there’s a storm that happens or a problem that happens out in the neighborhood, people don’t know how to start back up … we’re giving them that beacon that says, ‘Come here and we can help you get there.’”
Block said the point of the event was to have the kits on standby in case of an emergency.
“Hopefully we never have to use them, but just in case, here they are,” he said.
The Rev. Diane Prentice, pastor at the Kirkwood United Methodist Church, assembled some of the kits.
“I’ve worked on these kits before, and I know that it’s a worthwhile project,” Rev. Prentice said. “It’s done in a short period of time, and the help is always needed.
Terry Ritter, a lay member from Manchester UMC, said her church is very involved with health kits and flood buckets.
“People going through natural disasters … these kits allow them to be clean, to have the basics of life,” Ritter said. “To be able to wash your face and be clean is huge when you don’t have anything.”
Val Gray, a lay member from the Averill Park UMC (Church of the Covenant), said he decided to volunteer after reading an email.
“I read it and said, ‘I can do that,” he said. “I like to help out when I can.”
Whitney Point UMC’s Sew ’n Sews ministry makes a difference in the lives of 10,000 girls
Picture 10,000 vibrant dresses in bright blues with checkered trim, or fuchsia a with floral trim, purple with paisley trim, or entirely floral in bright pinks, reds, turquoise, or yellow—gorgeous dresses. These dresses are for little girls in impoverished communities all over the world—dresses that were once sheets and pillow cases, or quilting patterns found when cleaning out attics of loved ones who have either passed away ore moved to a long-term care facility.
These 10,000 dresses were made by a group of women at Whitney Point United Methodist Church who get together every Friday morning and create dress kits ranging in sizes from infant to teenage. Their ministry is called Sew ‘n Sews. They wash every piece of fabric donated to them and choose complementary colors for each dress and trim. Sewing begins and elastic is added to the little shoulder straps. Each dress is prayed over and hung on the wall of their Fellowship Hall until there are plenty of dresses to bring to the New York State Dress a Girl Around the World Chapter located at Angels of Mercy in Rochester, NY.
On Sunday, May 20, Whitney Point UMC celebrated the 10,000 dresses made in their fellowship hall, decorated with nearly 200 dresses on the wall. Well over 100 people were there for the celebration.
The Rev, Corey Turnpenny, pastor at Whitney Point UMC opened the celebration. After pointing out a slide show on the back wall showcasing little girls around the world wearing dresses made right in the room they were sitting in, Pastor Corey said, “This isn’t just a celebration of 10,000 dresses. What this is, is a celebration of 10,000 girls around the world knowing they are loved, and that they have a layer of protection that will last them for years.”
Jean Ellis is the leader of the Sew ‘n Sews ministry group explained the many ways that God’s hands are involved in Dress a Girl. The friendship among the sewers is one of the blessings. She said, “It’s been a very exciting time; we have made so many dear friends. Many women who have done this ministry were in their 90s.” She points to a memorial board with photos of women (and men) who have greatly supported the ministry over the years and have left to be with God.
Several voices were raised from celebrants around the room mentioning women currently involved in the ministry who are in their 90s.
Even though the demographic of this group is older women, Jean gets younger women involved. She said with a giggle, “Some younger women say that they’ve never sewn a hem in their life and I tell them, ‘No problem we’ll show you!’”
Donations keep this ministry strong and effective. Every piece of thread, elastic, and fabric used in the Sew ‘n Sews ministry have been donated. God makes sure the Sew ‘n Sews never run out of materials.
Jean said, “All of our fabric has been donated. We have discovered that when we think we are running out of fabric on a Friday morning, that door (points to one of the doors in fellowship hall) opens and someone brings in more fabric. That reassures us that this is what God wants us to be doing.”
In addition to Pastor Corey and Jean Ellis, speakers present at the 10,000 Dresses celebration, included: Rachel Cinader, founder of Dress a Girl Around the World (who flew in from Iowa) and Mary Joe Colligan, President of Angels of Mercy.
Dress a Girl Around the World presented Sew ‘n Sews and Whitney Point UMC with an amazing, colorful painting of dresses on a clothes line that reads, Congratulations! 10,000 dresses for Dress a Girl.”
Angels of Mercy presented Sew ‘n Sews and Whitney Point UMC with a plaque that reads, “Angels of Mercy lovingly honors Sew ‘n Sews in recognition of their contribution of 10,000 dresses to bring hope and dignity to girls around the world. May 20 is declared Sew ‘n Sews Day in Whitney Point, NY. Your amazing accomplishment truly speaks of the love of Christ that you exemplify.”
The 10,000 Dresses celebration concluded with an expression of gratitude and another gift from Pastor Corey.
Pastor Corey said, “I have something to share that was made possible by funds donated in memory of Joyce Jones who was a long-time participant in the Sew ‘n Sews. These dresses have become a fixture in this room and I think they just soak up the love and the joy that is shared here every Sunday. We will now have a permanent fixture here even when we send off batches of dresses. This fixture will remind us of what an incredible accomplishment we made. I’ll unveil her.”
Pastor Corey moved hanging dresses to the sides and on the wall was a stunning metal wall hanging of an angel in a beautiful dress. The work of art was made in Haiti from a local craftsman from a leftover oil drum (learn more at itscactus.com).
Pastor Corey prayed a blessing over the dresses in the room. The attendees enjoyed refreshments and helped pack up the dresses to go to Angels of Mercy and eventually to girls who need them.
Pastor Corey said, “Thank you for what you do. It may seem like a small thing, giving a girl a dress, but it can mean everything to a little girl.”
Editor’s Note: To donate fabric or sewing supplies to Sew ‘n Sews, contact Rev. Corey Turnpenny at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the coming weeks, an article featuring Angels of Mercy and an article featuring Dress a Girl Around the World will further reveal how this amazing ministry is indeed God’s plan.
Inviting and Inspiring Worship: Highlight on Asbury First UMC
May 23, 2018 / By Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady II, Asbury First UMC
In the United Methodist tradition, worship is ultimately about “an encounter with the living God through the risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Or, so says our Book of Worship. Unfortunately, many people (including some clergy) are more likely to experience boredom in worship than God.
To our credit, we have known that there is a problem for several decades and have done our best to fix it. We have tried everything from adjusting service times and days, to hiring bands, to using new forms of technology, to taking out the pews. The problem persists.
Could it be that the deficit is not intrinsic to the worship hour? As a part of my doctoral program, I spent a year in three United Methodist congregations interviewing youth and adults about their experience of worship. I discovered that what helps people experience God is not the kind of music sung, but the kind of community that sings it. As one young person put it, “I just want to be someplace where it feels like everyone wants to be there.”
Worship is an expression of the community itself and should be a reflection of the work and mission of that community. It must have magnitude—not in terms of size, but in terms of meaning. The sermons should matter. The music should be authentic. But more than anything else, the people should be willing to share life together—in and out of worship.
The neo-gothic nave of Asbury First could be dressed up to seem more hip. We could take out the pews, stop using the organ, lose the hymnals, abandon the pulpit, but to what end? Ultimately, we are who we are, and pretending to be something we are not is not only disingenuous, it fails to make disciples. Instead, we have spent the last few years clarifying our mission, bolstering our intergenerational connections, serving the poor, and walking with one another through the highs and lows of life. As a result, our worship attendance has increased.
To be clear, we have worked on our worship as well—from preaching that addresses the issues of today to music that is varied and accessible. Do people still get bored? Probably, and we still have work to do, but at least we are in it together. The good news is that God is never boring.
What else you need to know about Annual Conference
Every week for the past few months, articles have been published about specific Annual Conference details that you need to know about. Now, with being just over a week away from Annual Conference, we have a few more details to share with you.
If you are unable to attend Annual Conference—no worries! You can watch all the services and plenaries through the Annual Conference livestream. Simply go to our website, www.unyumc.org and on the front page, you will see a link to the livestream of Annual Conference beginning with the laity session on Wednesday May 30 and ending with the ordination service on Saturday June 2.
- No packets
To be better stewards of both the environment and the Annual Conference budget, there will be no packets this year. Instead, Annual Conference members will be asked to use digital copies of materials available in the Annual Conference App. There will also be a table with limited numbers of printed documents so that you can take specifically what need or want.
- App squad
Are you uneasy about the fact that there will be an app this year? In addition to the detailed instructions on how to download the app in the Annual Conference Guide, there will also be an app squad available to help you download and navigate the app. Look for people wearing yellow buttons that say, “APP SQUAD.”
- Registration closing
Please note that again this year registration will close at 9 a.m. on Thursday May 31 for opening worship. It will reopen following the service.
- Late Fee
If you did not pre-register for Annual Conference and are registering onsite, please that that there is a $50.00 fee.
Please note that the seating this year will be metal folding chairs. To make the long hours of sitting more comfortable, each Annual Conference attendee will be given a seat cushion, provided by Church Mutual. Outside seating should only be used for medical reasons.
- Accommodations for people with disabilities:
Please note that parking adjacent to the SRC Arena for people with disabilities may fill up. There are shuttles available from lots 13 and 14.
There are a limited number of large-print worship booklets for those who need them. Also, during services and plenary, there is both a sign-language interpreter and closed captioning on the screens.
Any additional details will be sent out though UNY Notes later this week and next week. Be sure to continue watching Conference Communication channels so you can stay updated as we gather together and boldly live our call at this year’s Upper New York Annual Conference.
Bishops clarify statement on Commission on a Way Forward recommendation
May 18, 2018 / By Council of Bishops
The Council of Bishops is issuing the following statement, written by the bishops who served on the Commission on a Way Forward, and approved by the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops this week.
The Council of Bishops has voted by an overwhelming majority to share the work done by the Commission on a Way Forward on the three plans and to recommend the One Church Plan.
The One Church Plan will be placed before the 2019 General Conference for legislative action.
To honor the work of the commission, and in service to the delegates to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, the Council of Bishops will also provide supplemental materials that include a historical narrative with disciplinary implications related to the connectional conference plan and the traditionalist plan. The recommendation adopted by the COB reflects the wide diversity of theological perspectives and the global nature of the UMC as the best way forward for our future as a denomination.
What are the five markers of vitality?
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Spring 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on developing vital congregations.
Through the study of thousands of congregations in various contexts, there are five markers that have been consistent with high-vitality congregations:
Inviting and Inspiring Worship
Weekly worship services continue to be a primary place of connection with those who are already connected with the church as well as those who are not yet part of the church. With that in mind, attention should be given to offering a worship experience that moves beyond simply covering the basics of tradition and practice. This involves creating an environment where people feel invited either by a person already attending or the Holy Spirit.
Vital worship can engage a person on a visceral and emotive level. It is relevant and includes high-quality preaching. In short, vital worship is done with excellence.
New and Growing Disciples
Vital congregations are congregations that are making new disciples as well as growing disciples into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Congregations that have a high level of vitality have an intentional plan in place, and actively, to help people become followers of Jesus as well as grow through the sanctifying grace of God through Jesus Christ.
In short, vital congregations are places where people are invited to encounter the grace of God in its fullness.
Small groups in vital congregations are employed for faith formation, accountability, and encouragement. Utilizing classic Wesleyan questions such as the condition of a person’s soul and areas of struggle and sin. Small groups provide an opportunity to live life deeply together and provide opportunity to invite others deeper into the grace of God found in Jesus.
As congregations grow numerically, small groups are essential for connection and care in the life of the congregation. The rate at which a congregation can grow numerically and remain healthy and vital is in direct relationship to the quantity and quality of small groups.
Engaged Disciples in Mission and Outreach
Vital congregations live out a faith that is actively partnering with God to be agents of transformation in the world. Engagement is through hands-on activity outside the bounds of the local congregation. This is seen through activity in local, national, and international mission and outreach.
Movement is made beyond charitable support such as food and clothing pantries, toward a deeper relationship with Jesus and the church.
Vital congregations have healthy, biblical, and consistent conversations about a person’s relationship with God and money. Healthy conversations leads to participants of the congregation giving generously financially as well as with other resources. Significant numbers of people will report engaging the spiritual discipline of tithing. Additionally, congregations will provide financial assistance to mission and outreach locally, nationally, and internationally. Vital congregations have an outflow of financial resources.
Following are profiles of five congregations that have been recognized for strength in a marker. The pastors of these congregations explain how intentional focus on the marker helped increase the vitality of their church.
May 15, 2018 / By Deresha Hayles
Editor's Note: The United Methodist Ecumenical Campus Ministry at Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse University applied for and received the Ercil Cady Grant last Fall and they put on a writing contest that was geared towards students of Black/African American and Native American descent. Deresha S. Hayles won the contest with the following essay.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 NIV
If our hearts are the inner light source that keep us pushing towards the greater tomorrow that we can’t see, mine was shattered. Fallen from the depths of a burgeoning sorrow it barreled towards a crystalline sea of depression and splintered into a million pieces that would take me a million years to piece together again…at least that’s how it felt to me. I had always imagined that when it was time for me to go off to college that the radiant beam of joy that I kept stationed within me would still be there, sharing the love that I had found within myself with those around me. Yet here I was, eighteen years old and feeling utterly depleted of the inner hope that had consistently kept me going all my life. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. My God, the source of my burning hope and divine joy felt light years away from me. I grieved over the light that had left me and mourned the peace I thought I would never again see. My heart was not functioning as my lamp and I was struggling to stumble through my day to day. My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Is this how Jesus felt on the cross? Stranded alone in the shadows, how was I to share my light with others when my light had been stripped away from me?
I came into Syracuse running from a reality I thought I was not strong enough to bear. Entering into my freshman year I felt utterly alone. Separated from those who had been supporting me through my despair, the days crept by ever so slowly, leaving me to sit in an ocean that felt determined to rise above me. I had many goals coming into the year, things like declaring a major in African American Studies while working towards medical school and creating a new friend group to build beautiful memories with. Although those goals were still on my mind, it all paled in comparison to finding a treasure that was proving to be more elusive than I ever thought it could be: emotional and spiritual security. God had always been my resting place whenever I needed to pull away from the world and dwell in a dreamy calmness. When life left me feeling shriveled up and void of my inner peace, God always poured that peace back into me. I have had “dry spells” before; moments where it felt as though a wall had gone up between God and I, blocking me from hearing His voice and my prayers from reaching Him. Yet for some reason this was different. God felt further and more distant than ever and the wall that was between us was insurmountable. I had every desire in me to make my time in Syracuse one laden with memories I could look back on with a smile, yet how was I to do so when my happiness was continually slipping through my fingers? Unsure of what I needed and where I needed to go to find it, I set my sights first on ground that looked seemingly familiar to me: Syracuse’s own Black Celestial Choral Ensemble.
On the day of tryouts, I tentatively crept up the steps to Hendricks Chapel and tiptoed my way to the nearest bathroom I could find. The inside of my chest felt like a sauna yet my throat felt as dry as the Sahara. Uncertain whether He would hear me, I let a small prayer slip from my lips and fall into the space around me. If You are listening and You want me to be in this group, please, give me some form of a sign. I stood in the empty bathroom, waiting for something like a glorious ray of light to fall and fill the room or hear a voice whisper, “You’re in the right place.” Even though I had never heard Him in those ways before, I stood anxiously waiting for anything to prove that He loved me and was still with me.
On the verge of tears and body trembling, I inched my way up to the bathroom sinks to splash cool water on my face. I hovered dejectedly in front of the mirror, tears mid fall when the door opened and a cheerful voice greeted me.
“Hi! I felt compelled to come in here because I saw you walk in here looking a bit nervous. Are you here for the auditions?”
What came after that was a blur of a five-minute audition that felt like an eternity, never-ending hugs, and an ocean full of hellos. I walked back to my room feeling more accomplished than I had in a long time. Whether or not I made it into the choir, I knew that God had heard me. There was a crack in the wall of Jericho that was blocking me from my bliss and it felt like there was hope in the wall tumbling down after all.
Two days later, I got an email saying that I was accepted into BCCE. That first rehearsal was the first of many that would help me to piece together not just the Deresha I used to be, but the Deresha I wanted to be. As we stood together in Hendricks’ hallowed halls, hands clasped and voices echoing through the sanctuary, I laid down the crosses that had been nailed to my shoulders. I had an altar on which I could lay my sorrows and a pinnacle from which I could reach out and touch God’s hands. The dark hole I was in wasn’t as lonely and when I looked up above me, the glowering night appeared to have golden streaks within it. I was not alone. I was not abandoned. There in that space with my fellow choir members, it was okay for me not to be okay. I did not have the answers nor the blueprint as to how I’d get out of my depression, but I was no longer as afraid of the fumbling process I was on in order to get back to reality. Through the love that they showed me and the encouraging words they spoke into my life, they acted as a conductor that helped me feel the love of God that I had been missing.
It slowly started to dawn upon me that if life was a mural, I had been looking for God purely from afar. I had not been stopping and taking the time to admire the intricate details of each composite part of the overall design, seeking Him and cherishing Him in the seemingly small things in this new part of my life. Depression was still weighing heavily on me, but He had not left me alone with no ammunition against it. The fuel to my fire was living in the interactions I carried with those around me. As I searched to find the reassurance I was missing, God found me through the people who embraced me. His love touched me through the scriptures they shared with me. I felt His presence as we would lift up our voices in harmony and sing from the deepest wells within us. He was our life source who had and would do great things in our lives. As I looked around our semi-circle, I saw the faces of those who, like me, may have gone through an unbearable pain that they couldn’t shake off on their own, but they were slowly healing from that pain with each other’s help. I found beauty in my brokenness. Crouched over in the depths of my despair, surrounded by utter darkness is when my truth found me. It was the people who were surrounding me who found the pieces of my light that I was missing and restored them onto me. As I mended my light from my heart they lent me their own, engulfing me in the love I thought I was numb to.
I know now that even in the darkest nights when I feel lower than low, I am not invisible. My light might dim and I might sway in the ferocity of the night’s wind, but the entity that I am will never be extinguished for I am a child of He who loves me until the end of time. When I was at my weakest, He sent others in my life to lift me up and help me get back on the path to a greater me— a better me. Since being at Syracuse University and meeting the people that I have, I have been reassured that God is not just within the big things in life. His presence is living and breathing within the things we take for granted. He’s in the smiles we share in the mornings. He’s in the hugs we share when we’re excited. He’s in the tears we shed when we’re vulnerable and the anger we feel when we’re tired of the pain in this world. He’s in everything, and that means He’s even in me: broken, unbroken, and all.
Historical Society meeting Sat., June 16, 2018 in Clyde
May 15, 2018 / By Nancy Rutenber
The Upper New York United Methodist Historical Society will host a public meeting Saturday, June 16, 2018 (with Society news and a program) starting at 10:30 a.m. at Clyde United Methodist Church, 84 Sodus St. in Clyde, NY (in Wayne County’s town of Galen). Methodist churches of Wayne County to be explored.
Lunch hosted by the church - offered for a free-will donation – will be meatloaf, herbed potatoes, corn casserole, salad and dessert accompanied by coffee, tea, water, or lemonade. Gluten-free and/or lactose free versions can be prepared. (For example, olive or canola oil used in place of butter for some of the potatoes.) To help the kitchen and yourself, please note a preference as to regular, gluten-free, or lactose-free by emailing email@example.com. Thanks.
The program will be a power point presentation by Loreen Jorgensen (Have Churches Will Travel) on the nearly fifty Methodist churches of Wayne County, plus the “musical chairs churches” in Clyde. A handout will have the location of the churches marked on a map of Wayne County with a key on the back. Loreen is a retired school librarian, volunteers at the Wayne County Museum of History and elsewhere, and had a book published in February on “The First Hundred Churches.”
Optional Sites to Visit after will include access to the former 1833 – 1954 Baptist Church which is now Galen Historical Society (see picture) and the Christ Community Church in Clyde which has the only Tiffany window still in Wayne County.
Location: Clyde, at the intersection of Route 414 & State Route 31 by the banks of the old Erie Canal, is in the Finger Lakes District northeast of Geneva. Originally called ”Blockhouse” for a French trading post and block house, the village later was called “Lauraville.”
To get there From Thruway Exit 41: Get in the left of the two left turn lanes and proceed north for about 8 mi. At the foot of the bridge over the Erie Canal, turn left onto Columbia St., then right onto Sodus St. The church is two blocks north on the left, at the southwest corner of Sodus and Caroline Streets.
From Rt. 31 east bound: In the village, turn left at the stop sign onto Sodus St. and proceed 1 block. The church is on the left, at the southwest corner of Sodus and Caroline Streets. From Rt. 31 westbound: In the village, turn right at the stop sign onto Main St. and immediately left onto North Park St. Turn right onto Sodus St. The church is on the left, at the southwest corner of Sodus and Caroline Streets.
From Rt. 104: Turn onto Rt. 414 south for approx. 10 mi. Inside the Clyde village limits, take the 3rd right (at the Y in the road) onto Sodus St. The Methodist Church is at the 4th intersection, at the southwest corner of Sodus and Caroline Streets. Parking is available in front of the church and behind it.
Getting Ready for Annual Conference: Communication at Annual Conference
Annual Conference will take place May 30-June 2 this year at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse.
The Upper New York Communications Ministry area works around the clock during this event to help keep everyone informed about what took place during all worship services and all plenary sessions. In-depth articles are written and added to the UNY Conference website (unyumc.org) and to the UMCMeet app daily.
After each day of Annual Conference, there will be a bulleted informational document titled “Daily Notes” to support Annual Conference members in reporting to their local church. These notes will be made available on the UNY Conference website and the UMCMeet app at the end of each day of Annual Conference. A limited number of printed copies are made available each following morning.
There will also be fun video recaps shown on Friday and Saturday morning reviewing the happenings of the previous day at Annual Conference. The recaps will also be available on the UNY Conference website and the UMCMeet app.
Furthermore, the week after Annual Conference, a video recap of the entire Annual Conference will be available for use in reports to local churches.
UNY Welcomes Emily MacNaughton
The Upper New York (UNY) Conference is pleased to welcome Emily MacNaughton as Payroll Specialist. Emily joins the Finance Ministry Area with previous Paylocity experience, which will be helpful in her task of processing biweekly payroll for the Conference office, Districts, Camp & Retreat Ministries, and episcopal employees.
In addition to payroll-related tasks, Emily will be helping in the Human Resources Department as needed. Beth Dupont, Emily’s supervisor, said, “All of us in Finance are thrilled with Emily’s presence! Even though she has only been with us for a week, I can already see that Emily is going to have a positive impact on the efficiency of our Ministry. She offers a very positive outlook and is so helpful and kind. Her knowledge of payroll matters will be very helpful for the churches, as well. Her spirit and energy fit in very well here.”
Outside of the office, Emily enjoys spending time with her 8-year-old daughter Lydia. Together, they enjoy the sun, doing arts and crafts, watching movies, doing archery with their church, and spending time with family.
UNY churches, children raise funds in memory of a boy
May 9, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Colin Hayward Toland always had a smile on his face.
He dreamed of being a police officer, which became a reality when the Ithaca Police Department made him an honorary member at 9 years old and later when the Memphis Police Department promoted him to lieutenant and a member of the department’s tactical unit at 10 years old.
Colin battled brain cancer since the age of 2, and sadly succumbed to the illness at the age of 10, but he never let his illness bring him down.
“He brought community back through his plight,” said Pastor Mike Kelly, of the Newfield and Reynoldsville United Methodist churches, who met Colin while serving as chaplain of the Allegiance Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, for which Colin was an honorary member. “He became a community icon. Every time you saw this young boy, he had a smile on his face, and he never gave up.”
In memory of Colin, children attending Sunday school and Vacation Bible School at Newfield and Reynoldsville UMCs are fundraising for St. Jude’s Children Hospital – which provided Colin medical care at no cost – and Trumansburg Takes on Pediatric Cancer.
“The idea of helping both organizations in Colin’s name, to really be able to honor him, his memory, seemed appealing to me,” Pastor Kelly said.
The children began various fundraisers on April 1 and will continue to raise funds through Aug. 1. Pastor Kelly said it made sense to fundraise during Vacation Bible School because this year’s theme is “benevolence.”
Kids from both Sunday schools have been selling boxes of candy, the Reynoldsville UMC will have a bake sale and can drive from 8 a.m.-noon on May 12 in front of the Walmart in Watkins Glen, and the Newfield UMC will host a spaghetti dinner, with all proceeds going toward the effort. In addition, both churches are partnering with Texas Roadhouse for gift certificates and sales.
“I just think that this is an opportunity to really teach the kids how blessed they are and that kids just like them aren’t always as lucky, even though people like Colin didn’t understand that – he always had that positive spirit no matter what,” Pastor Kelly said.
Living into our potential through Pastoral Leadership Development
May 8, 2018 / By Pastor Gary Kubitz, Co-facilitator of PLD in Albany DIstrict
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of the Advocate, which highlighted different ways people and churches across the Upper New York Conference are spiritually planning their way forward.
What does it mean to be a leader in the church in the 21st century? Many pastors across the Upper NY Annual Conference have been wrestling with this question as they are participating in Pastoral Leadership Development (PLD). The PLD curriculum was developed by our brothers and sisters in the Missouri Conference and has been utilized in their region to encourage their pastors to engage in leadership that will help the church live into its Spirit-filled purpose for the Glory of God. It is the goal of our episcopal leadership that the clergy in our region gain knowledge and tools for leading the church in our current day so that we also may live into God’s call for God’s church.
The (PLD) curriculum is designed to have clergy engage with one another in the discussion of various leadership topics through large and small group interaction. Each month, the clergy in each District gather for training that is facilitated by the District Superintendents and other members of clergy that have had other leadership training.
In the Albany District, we have covenanted to read the books that are recommended by the authors of the curriculum (Bob Farr, David Hyatt, and Ken Willard), and to meet monthly to discuss these books and to participate in discussion and other activities with the intention of increasing both the spiritual and practical approaches to leadership.
The topics for our monthly discussion include such things as: Our changing world, the missional church, personal leadership styles, church alignment, vision and focus, effective worship and preaching, and outreach and evangelism.
One aspect of this effort that is different than many other learning opportunities in the past is that it asks pastors to create action plans based upon the concepts that are being learned in each session. As a part of this action plan, participating members are working in peer accountability groups to as we look to support one another in living into our purpose as the church.
As I consider all that I have been learning throughout this process, I would like to start by stating the obvious; Leading for change is hard!
The members of our group in the Albany District have come together acknowledging this fact…and it may be safe to say that we are beginning to embrace this fact.
One major benefit in our discussions has been that we are beginning to move out of our respective ministry-setting silos to understand that other pastors in other contexts are working to overcome common obstacles, and that there is strength in the sharing of ideas. This is not a new or groundbreaking realization, but given the focus on action and accountability that is at the core of the PLD, we are we are building bonds that can lead to future possibilities for effective leadership in ministry.
Through this work, we are beginning to understand that our current systems are not optimal for ministry in our current age. Together, clergy are beginning to explore new avenues of leadership, new possibilities for collaborative ministries, and new and exciting ways to empower laity increase their effectiveness in mission and ministry.
As pastoral leaders of God’s Church, we are called to share in God’s vision for the world. Because the world is changing at a seemingly unprecedented pace, we as leaders need to re-vision for the present and the future. This is challenging work. But rest assured that we are not alone – God’s Spirit is moving among us and within us. God’s Spirit is empowering us with the gifts, skills, and tools we need to effectively be the Ekklesia, the “called out ones” in a world that needs effective leaders equipped to share the love of God in all places to all people.
I encourage all children of God, clergy and laity alike, to continue to seek God’s will for our church. Keep seeking, keep learning, and keep loving. If you are interested in growing in your leadership capacity, I invite you to explore some of the following books which those participating in the PLD curriculum are reading:
- ReCreating the Church – Leadership for the Postmodern Age by Richard Hamm
- Direct Hit by Paul Borden
- Shaped by God’s Heart by Milfred Minatrea
- Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger
- The Externally Focused Church by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson
- Communicating for Change by Andy Stanely and Lane Jones
- Unbinding the Gospel by Martha Grace Reese
“He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38). Through our continued work in leadership development, we are striving to be effective laborers, living into the potential that God has gifted us to be.
May our God empower us to live out the mission and purpose to which God has called us as the church in the UNY Annual Conference.
UNY AC2018 App is now available
Are you attending the Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse, taking place May 30-June 2? If so, we have exciting news for you! The UNY Annual Conference 2018 event app is now available for you to download on your mobile device.
This app is available for all who have registered and paid their Annual Conference registration in full. Currently, there are schedules and documents related to Annual Conference, such as the Annual Conference Guide, worship booklets, speaker bios, menus, etc. available for you to browse. Once you are at Annual Conference, you can use the app to quickly check-in and the app will be updated daily with videos, articles, and any potential changes in the schedule.
Be sure to download the app before arriving at Annual Conference.
How to download the app
Go to your App Store on your Apple device or to Google Play on your Android and search for the app “UMCMeet” and download it. Once your app is on your phone, you will want to open the app and enter the event ID: unyumc. Then, press search and select the Annual Conference-UNYUMC icon. Sign in using the email address you provided when you registered for Annual Conference and the provided password: 2018. You are ready to start exploring!
Click here for detailed instructions, complete with photos and diagrams, to help you download the Annual Conference 2018 app.
At Annual Conference, there will be an “App Squad” available to answer any app questions you may have and to help you download and explore the app. There will be a limited number of printed documents available at Annual Conference for those who choose not to take advantage of the the app.
The hope is that the app will allow most Annual Conference delegates to get needed information and updates in a timely way, so the focus can remain on being together in prayer while we boldly live our call.
Getting Ready for Annual Conference: Mission work opportunities available May 30 at UNY’s Mission Central HUB
Are you arriving in Syracuse by Wednesday, May 30 for Annual Conference? If so, there’s an opportunity to help with a mission project at Upper New York (UNY)’s Mission Central HUB, located at the United Methodist Center at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd in Liverpool, NY.
On May 30th, 2018 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., you can come to the United Methodist Center in Liverpool and work in the Center for Mission Engagement HUB on UMCOR Health, Cleaning, and School kits.
There are one-hour volunteer slots available beginning at 1:00 p.m. Materials will be ready and volunteers available to teach the assembly process if needed.
Mike Block, UNUY Director of Missional Engagement said, “The goal of 2,500 kits for the day can be achieved with everyone’s corporation and efforts.”
Click here to sign up to help with this mission project!
You can also stop by on May 30 to donate flood bucket (cleaning) kit, health (hygiene) kit, and school kit supplies—bring them directly to Mission Central at the United Methodist Center (look for the two garage bays near the loading dock). Visit UMCOR.org for lists of supplies that go into each kit.
There is also the opportunity to help support the UNY Mission Central HUB financially. There will be a collection for the UNY Mission Central HUB at the Opening Worship on June 1. You can also click here to donate online. Checks can be written payable to the Upper New York Conference with "951- Mission Central HUB" noted in the memo line.
It is a great gift to be able to incorporate mission work into Annual Conferences utilizing the great space that is now have available at the Mission Central HUB!
From the Desk of Bishop Webb: Constitutional Amendments regarding gender equality
May 7, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
On May 7, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter to the UNY Conference.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
In addition to our work regarding the recommendations of The Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops last week also completed canvassing the votes of Annual Conferences on the five constitutional amendments that were approved by the 2016 General Conference.
All five constitutional amendments were approved by the 2016 General Conference but require 2/3 aggregate vote of all the Annual Conferences to effectively change our constitution.
Click here for the press release from the Council, as well as two supporting letters.
I am sending this additional letter because the amendments regarding gender equality did not receive the required two-thirds aggregate vote of the Annual Conferences and, therefore, did not pass. Considering this outcome, I join my colleagues in wanting to be clear that we remain unequivocal in our commitment to the equality of women and their full inclusion in our Church.
Our Social Principles are clear: “We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God. We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another.” (⁋161(F)) We also state, “We affirm women and men to be equal in every aspect of their common life.” (162(F)). With regard to clergy, our principle has been clear for more than 60 years: “Both men and women are included in all provisions of the Discipline that refer to the ordained ministry. “((⁋369.2). Throughout our Book of Discipline, the General Conference has enacted provisions to protect women’s role and to enhance their full participation in the life of the church. This includes the establishment of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and their related structures in Annual Conferences.
I am grateful for the impact of the many women whom God has used to shape me. My wife, Jodi, my mother, grandmother, sister, aunts, Sunday School teachers, teachers, professors, supervisors, authors, bishops, district superintendents, pastors, colleagues, and friends. The Upper New York Conference is blessed to have many passionate, effective female pastors and laity who serve Christ and the Church with distinction and I am deeply appreciative of their ministry and blessed to serve alongside them. I deeply mourn the pain the results of these votes have caused.
I will continue to stand against sexism in our culture and our Church. I commit to working with you and leading the Upper New York Conference into the fullness of God’s intended reality for us regarding equality for women. Over the next few months, I will work with our Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women to strengthen the ways in which we address the sin of sexism that still exists and celebrate the role of women within our shared life and ministry. May we continue to care for one another, pray for one another, encourage one another and understand the powerful truth that we need one another in all things.
Grace and peace,
Bishop Mark J. Webb
Editor’s Note: The first constitutional amendment related to gender justice was voted on using the wrong language. A new ballot is being prepared for voting by Annual Conferences at their next meeting; however, some conferences will not meet again until 2019
From the Desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: United Methodist Bishops recommend a way forward
May 4, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
On May 4, 2018, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, sent the following letter to the Upper New York Conference.
“As Bishops of The United Methodist Church, we affirm that WE ARE OF ONE HEART in our desire to discern the mind and will of Jesus Christ for our leadership and the church. In the Northeastern Jurisdiction and around the world we experience great diversity of thought and practice within The United Methodist Church. In partnership with Bishops from around the world, we will continue to lead collectively and individually to value and provide room for our diversity as United Methodists.”
-The Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Over the last week, the Council of Bishops (Council) met in Chicago to receive the final report from the Commission on a Way Forward (Commission) and discern the recommendation that would be sent to the special session of General Conference to be held in St. Louis, MO in February of 2019. This meeting was bathed in prayer, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and caring, honest conversations.
The Council of Bishops adopted the following:
Having received and considered the extensive work of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will submit a report to the special session of the General Conference in 2019 that includes:
• All three plans (The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan, and The Connectional Conference Plan) for a way forward considered by the Commission and the Council.
• The Council’s recommendation of The One Church Plan.
• An historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.
Rationale: In order to invite the Church to go deeper into the journey the Council and Commission has been on, the Council makes all the information considered by the Commission and the Council of Bishops available to the delegates of the General Conference and acknowledges there is support for each of the three plans within the Council. The values of our Global Church are reflected in all three plans. Most of the Council recommends The One Church Plan as the best way forward for The United Methodist Church.
While a majority of The Council of Bishops did express a preference for the One Church plan, this report and its recommendation reflects the wide diversity of perspectives within the Council of Bishops on our best way forward as a denomination. It also provides the General Church with three specific and detailed options for moving out of our current impasse. Ultimately the decision on this matter lies within the 800+ clergy and lay delegates from around the world who will convene at the General Conference in St. Louis on February 23-26, 2019. Please pray diligently for the members of our Upper New York delegation.
Full details of the plans and accompanying legislative proposals will be released as soon as final editing of the entire report is completed and translated into the official language(s) of the General Conference. It is estimated this will be no later than July 8.
Over the next few months, we will announce ways in which we may gather together throughout the Upper New York Area for continued conversation and prayer. These are indeed critical and anxious days for our beloved United Methodist Church. Yet, let us remember Jesus is Lord of the Church, the mission of the Church is clear, and our calling and opportunity to use the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit remain.
Let us pray and not be paralyzed; let us hope in the midst of our uncertainty; let us care for one another in the midst of hurt; let us love one another in the midst of disagreement; let us be the Church effectively and fruitfully “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
As always, I am blessed to share this journey of following Christ with you. You remain deeply in my prayers.
Mark J Webb
Editor’s Note: Click here for the full press release on this meeting.
Building leaders in Upper New York
May 2, 2018 / By Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens
As the Upper New York Conference endeavors to embody the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and reach toward being the people that live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are God’s love with our neighbors in all places, three key outcomes have been identified by the Conference Leadership Team.
- Increase the number of transformational leaders
- Increase the vitality of existing congregations
- Increase the number of vital and sustainable New Faith Communities
While working with these outcomes, three core values are kept before the team at all times. First, the centrality of the local church. Second, that we are a connectional church. Third, the partnership of clergy and laity. All three of these values influence the ways in which the three outcomes, the vision, and the mission are reached for.
Increasingly, the Conference Leadership Team has been asking the question, “How can we continue to help connect more deeply with the local church?” They consistently ask how to keep resources as close the local church as possible. This has meant a change in how functioning and programming in the Conference is being offered. Fewer Conference-wide events are being planned and the more regional or District level events are emerging. An active example of this began this fall each district began Pastoral Leadership Development (PLD) groups. PLDs gather regularly, most of them monthly, to spend time in spiritual formation, leadership learning, and peer mentoring.
Rather than invite people to travel great distances for interaction and learning, Superintendents have gathered pastors from their Districts to learn and grow together. At this time, there are approximately 230 pastors engaged in a PLD. For some perspective, there are nearly 550 pastors under appointment in the Conference. By offering PLDs, the hope and vision of the Conference Leadership Team is being realized as the increasing the capacity of Christ following leaders happens on an increasingly local level. Additionally, PLDs are built around peer interaction and offer an opportunity to create a highly contextualized conversation about the content being shared.
As the first round of PLDs comes to a close, and at the direction and need of the Districts, continued opportunities for clergy to engage in Pastoral Leadership Development as well as additional opportunities, with updated resources, will be made available.
Not to leave the laity out, many Districts are in the early planning stage of how to offer a similar opportunity for the laity of their Districts. It is a truly exciting time to be engaged in the work of building leaders in Upper New York as we move deeper into living the mission, reaching toward the vision, and equipping the local church to be the primary missional outpost of the church.
UNY Welcomes Tracy Rickett
The Upper New York (UNY) Conference is pleased to welcome Tracy Rickett as HR Generalist. Tracy is taking on roles that were once Susan LaTessa’s prior to Susan’s position change to Director of HR/Benefits. Tracy will be responsible for recruiting, onboarding, updating the employee handbook as needed, writing job descriptions, and coordinating the employee’s wellness program.
Tracy comes to UNY with over 20 years of Human Resources experience in the corporate world. Tracy graduated from Lemoyne with a BA in Business Administration. She started her career at Fay’s Drugs as a personnel associate and moved her way up to Benefits Administrator. She then worked for NEC Business Network Solutions as a Senior HR Administrator for eight years and spent the past 13 years as first an HR Specialist and then a Benefits Compliance Specialist at INFICON.
Tracy said, “I’m excited to be working here at the Upper New York Conference. I have felt such a sense of peace and calmness here, which is a nice change from the corporate world.”
Speaking of her supervisor, Susan LaTessa, Tracy said, “I think Susan will be a great mentor for me.”
Outside of the office, Tracy is dedicated to yoga, practicing 2-3 times a week and she also enjoys mountain biking and baking.
Whitney Point United Methodist Church to celebrate 10,000 dresses made
May 1, 2018 / By UNY Communications
For the past eight years the ‘Sew ‘n Sews’ have been meeting weekly at the Whitney Point United Methodist Church to sew dresses. They use pillowcases, sheets, and other donated fabric along with elastic and lace, to assemble dress kits which then get sewn together into dresses of all sizes. Every few months a volunteer takes several boxes full of completed dresses to Angels of Mercy in Rochester, NY where they get labels and are shipped out across the globe as part of the Dress A Girl Around the World program.
On Sunday, May 20 at 1:30 p.m., the church will celebrate the completion of the Sew ‘n Sews’ 10,000th dress! There will be speakers from Angels of Mercy and Dress A Girl as well as a short video presentation showcasing some of the happy girls who have received dresses.
“We’ve never bought any fabric,” Sew ‘n Sews, leader, Jean Ellis says. “Every time we got low, another donation would come in.”
Whitney Point UMC pastor, Rev. Corey Turnpenny said, “This is not just a celebration of 10,000 dresses, but of the 10,000 children being given dignity and protection. It’s also a celebration of the incredible community support we’ve received through countless donations of fabric and thousands of hours of sewing!”
Dress a Girl Around the World is a Campaign under Hope 4 Women International (a 501c3 organization) bringing dignity to women around the world since 2006. For more information go to dressagirlaroundtheworld.com
Angels of Mercy is a Christ-centered organization (501c3) dedicated to helping women in need locally, across the nation and around the world. For more information go to angelsofmercyny.org.
The Whitney Point United Methodist Church has been an active part of the community since the 1800s and prioritizes supporting children and feeding the hungry. For more information go to whitneypointumc.org.
For more information, contact Rev. Corey Turnpenny at the Whitney Point United Methodist Church at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her cell phone 570-417-7693.
What is Mission u?
May 1, 2018 / By Joan Reppert, Communications Officer UNY United Methodist Women
Mission u (formerly known as School of Christian Mission) was created by Methodist women in the early-20th century in order to educate women and inspire them to a sense of mission at home and around the world. The United Methodist Women remain dedicated to the planning and promotion of this program.
The schools were formed by and for women but over the years the demographic has changed as men, children, and youth take advantage of this rich opportunity.
In our Upper New York Conference, Mission u is a “cooperative school," sponsored by both Conference United Methodist Women and the churches of our Upper New York Conference. We welcome women and men and, in the case of the Cazenovia venue, children and youth.
We offer opportunities for study and fellowship in three different venues, each held on a different weekend in the summer. Each venue has its own special flavor.
(See “Mission u by Region”).
At Mission u, we grow in understanding of the mission of the church in the current world context as we “learn together for the transformation of the world”.
The three studies offered each year cover three aspects: spiritual growth, geographical and social issues. This year’s topics are: “Embracing Wholeness: An Earth Perspective on Covenantal Living,” “Missionary Conferences in the United States of America,” and ““What About Our Money? A Faith Response.”
Click here for 2018 Mission u dates and where to turn for emerging details.
Getting Ready for Annual Conference: The Service of Commissioning and Ordination
April 30, 2018 / By Anne Canfield
The Service of Commissioning and Ordination of The Upper New York Annual Conference, will be held Saturday, June 2, 2018 at 2 p.m. in the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, will preside with the full Upper New York Area Cabinet in attendance. Bishop Dennis V. Proctor, North Eastern District, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, will be the preacher.
Bishop Proctor's Sermon will be: "Living In Crete," based on the Epistle Lesson from; Titus 1:5. We look forward to hearing Bishop Proctor's mighty proclamation of The Holy Scripture. Surely, the Holy Spirit will be present to meld heart and minds together as The Call is answered. These candidates for ministry, will become our newly commissioned, ordained, and recognized members of our Annual Conference.
By answering God's Call, these men and women have chosen by God's grace," to serve rather than be served, to proclaim the faith of the church and no other, to look after the concerns of God above all" (words taken from the ordinal of the upcoming service). The following persons ministries will be celebrated as persons set apart by God for ministry:
- To Be Commissioned for the Work of a Deacon: Jessica Glaser
- To Be Commissioned for the Work of an Elder: Cheryl Ann Brown, Raymond C. Gilman IV, Linda Haight, Danyal Mohammadzadeh, Melissa MK McCarthy, Hector D. Rivera, and Lisa Dawn Taylor
- To be Received as an Associate Member: James Edward Barnes II
- To Be Ordained to the Order of Elder: Stephanie Jo Brown, Kevin Duane Slough, and Paul D. Winkelman.
Special Music will be led by Casowasco's Praise Band:"InsideOut," and The Elder Trio, from our Conference's Board of Ordained Ministry. We look forward to hearing the musical gifts of Mr. Fred Willard, Accompanist and Mr. Jeff Stockham, Trumpeter.
The culmination of the service will be when Bishop Webb invites new persons from the congregation to answer God's claim upon their lives as ordained, commissioned, and local pastors Let us be in prayer for those being ordained, commissioned and received into our Annual Conference as new clergy of Christ' Church, in The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church. Let us pray for those who upon hearing Bishop Webb's invitation to ordained and licensed local pastor ministry, will respond in faith, by God's grace: "Here I Am Lord, send me to serve your Church.”
OUTWARD! ’18—an amazing experience for hundreds of UNY youth
April 24, 2018 / By Kristian J. Snyder, CCYM Member
Hundreds of youth and adults from across Upper New York came together in Liverpool, NY for OUTWARD! ‘18, held on April 13-15 at the Liverpool Holiday Inn. There were over 275 youth and adults who joined the 40 CCYM members who planned and organized the event. There were 35 youth groups, from all 12 districts, in attendance.
The event was named OUTWARD! because of its outward-focused emphasis on mission work. Over one-third of the attendees participated in assembling UMCOR health kits (717 of them!) and 350 school kits. This work was completed at UNY Mission Central HUB at the UNY United Methodist Center.
In addition to the hands-on mission work, the weekend included 10 workshops on Saturday. The guest preacher at the worship services was Michael Jordan, Dean of the Chapel at Houghton College. The band “SameCity” joined us again for another year of wonderful and exciting worship music for the weekend.
Some Saturday Workshops:
- “Peace with Justice” led by Heather Smith. In this workshop you got to learn how to seek justice, walk humbly, and love kindness.
- “Mission of Peace” led by the Youth who attended the most recent MOP trip to Cuba. This workshop allowed you to hear stories and see pictures from the experience.
- “College Transition” led by Michael Jordan. In this workshop youth got to explore the joys and struggles of going from high school to college.
- “Be Heard!” lead by Robin Blair. This workshop youth got to join Common Good Radio in digitally recording and sharing a piece of scripture on a podcast.
Some Sunday Morning Options:
- “Yoga” led by Mary Anderson
- “Prayer Labyrinth with Prayer Stations” led by Tony Hipes
- “Study & Writing” led by Cory Jones. In this workshop youth and adults learned how to write devotions and study devotions better.
Each evening was ended by eight late night options, for youth to take part in and have fun before going to their rooms for the night. The weekend was full of laughter, joy, renewal, music, prayer, spiritual growth, and fun times with other youth, due to the wonderful worship speakers, great missions work, and workshop and late-night options leaders.
Gouverneur First UMC successes in Mission and Outreach
April 23, 2018 / By Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Quick
One of the two priorities Gouverneur First UMC has is growing disciples who are engaged in mission and outreach. We’re working on growing in mission and outreach by connecting our community and congregation ever more deeply, loving our neighbors with concrete, hands-on and face-to-face actions:
- Every year, we host a “We’ve Got Your Back to School” event for families, offering backpacks, school supplies, and toiletries to students. We serve more than 100 students each year. We offer prayers for our families if they choose, and we invite them to connect with the life of the church.
- Our Friday Lunch Program is entering its 20th year. Each Friday, we serve lunch at the church and deliver meals to area residents. Additionally, each Thanksgiving and Christmas, we serve more than 300 people with a hot dinner. This program was started after the ice storm in 1998. During that time of community crisis, First UMC realized there was a need to connect with folks that we could meet. Friday Lunch is thriving and growing still today.
- Our Rip It exercise ministry started a few years ago and continues to grow. Several nights a week, a group gathers in our fellowship hall to participate in Zumba-like exercise programs. Many new faces have connected with our church for the first time because of this free fitness ministry. The Rip It ministry engages in mission giving, choosing different projects in the community to support with donations each month.
We have many worshipers at Gouverneur First UMC who are new to church, and just learning about what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. To help connect some of these new folks to our outreach priority, we engaged in a “Mission Exposure” event in 2017. We had a group of about 25 take an overnight trip to Syracuse where we stayed at The ROAD. We helped make and deliver sandwiches, learned about the work of The ROAD, and also spent some time volunteering at The Salvation Army. This quick 24-hour immersion experience was a great jumping-off point for exploring disciples. We also shared in a “Mission Extravaganza” night at the church. We shared in a potluck meal, and then heard presentations from various people who had engaged in mission work: a couple who went on a medical mission to Cambodia, a young adult who attended a seminar on poverty at the General Board of Church and Society, and a report from those who took part in the Syracuse overnight.
We’re excited about how God is challenging us to grow in discipleship through serving others, and we’re continue to look for ways that we can engage in the work of justice in the world.
Imagine No Racism launches in Upper New York
This past Saturday, April 21, marked the launch of the #ImagineNoRacism (INR) initiative that the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism has spent months planning.
The launch took place simultaneously across all 12 Upper New York Conference districts and began with a moving worship experience.
The Opening Worship liturgy started with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King quote, “Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”
The Common English Bible’s rendition of 1 Corinthians 12:4-14 was used for the scripture reading, reminding INR launch day attendees that, “We are all baptized by one Spirit, one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. Certainly, the body isn’t one part, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:13-14).
The worship experience also included a baptismal remembrance, which focused on the repentance of the sin of racism and the affirmation to teach the faith of the whole Church and to serve as Christ’s representatives in the world.
Opening Worship ended with the Amazing Grace video by Pastor Wintley Phipps, an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister. Pastor Phipps discussed the history of the song Amazing Grace. He mentioned how it was written by John Newton after he converted to Christianity.
Pastor Phipps explained that prior to Newton’s conversion, he was active in the slave trade. The lyrics of the song portray how God’s grace saved Newton from the wretchedness he experienced running the ships for the slave trade. Phipps also mentioned that the Amazing Grace lyrics are said to be written by Newton, but the melody’s creator is unknown. Phipps feels strongly that the melody was formed by slaves on ships, as it has evident African hymnal notes, which interestingly use the pentatonic scale (the black keys on the piano).
The Amazing Grace video was shown to remind all launch day attendees that despite different ethnic and racial backgrounds, they are all connected by God’s amazing grace.
After Opening Worship, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb’s welcome message was live-streamed from the Upper New York United Methodist Center. Attendees were reminded of the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s Call to Action to address, confront, and demand systemic, fundamental, and institutional change within The Church and the world to work toward the elimination of racism.
Small groups were formed among attendees based on their geographical location. As these small groups are required to meet at least six times in the coming months, they planned meeting locations and dates.
Each small group also had to select a facilitator who must attend a six-hour training in May, convene the group using the full curriculum provided from their INR District Advocate, and connect regularly with the District Advocate – sharing progress, concerns, and needs. They must also communicate with their groups any changes to meetings as well as information from the Conference.
After conversation and planning, the small groups watched videos featuring members of the UNY Conference. The first video featured the Rev. Harold Wheat, Christine Doran (former assistant to the Bishop), and Adirondack District Superintendent the Rev. Bill Mudge. They discussed racism and white privilege. The second video featured Dr. Scott Johnson, who talked about the importance of thinking beyond individual racism to look at the challenges caused by systemic racism.
Each small group discussed their thoughts about these videos.
The educational component of INR ended with a video from the Rev. Teressa Silvers, convener of the Bishop’s Task Force on the Elimination of Racism. Rev. Silvers spoke of how racism exists even in The Church and that the first task of the small groups is to “listen, learn, and seek understanding of both personal and systemic racism.”
At the INR launch day’s closing worship, everyone was given the opportunity to receive sacred water and remember their baptism. They were also asked to consider signing an individual Imagine No Racism covenant.
The covenant reads, “Before God and with my family in Christ, I vow, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to oppose and to eliminate the influence of racism from systems, institutions, relationships, and my own life.”
Getting Ready for Annual Conference: Worship
April 23, 2018 / By Rev. Rachel Morse
Boldly Living our Call to Acknowledge Christ, Follow Christ, and Offer Christ.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is using Mark 8:27-38 for his opening sermon, Wade in the Water. He will invite us to remember our baptismal call to acknowledge, follow, and offer Christ to the world.
Opening Worship: Acknowledge Christ
During this service, we will have the opportunity to “enter the narrative,” a Ignatian spiritual practice led by the Rev. Nancy Dibelius, our Associate Director of Spiritual Life for Vital Congregations. Nancy will help us ask ourselves the question that Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”
Bishop Webb’s sermon will continue this theme as he reflects on what it means to boldly lived out our call. We will then be invited to acknowledge Christ and reaffirm our Baptismal call. ‘Fonts’ will be placed in our worship space and the congregation will be invited to take a rock out of one of the fonts as a sign of their reaffirmation of that call.
This service is blended, with a combination of traditional hymns and upbeat contemporary music.
Memorial Service: Follow Christ
During this service, we will remember the lives of those who have passed away since the last Annual Conference. Families of clergy and clergy spouses will receive a gift and we will celebrate Communion. The Rev. Corey Turnpenny will share a message titled “Jesus Calls us Out.”
This service is our traditional service, with a procession, vestments, and traditional hymns and songs.
Service of Blessing and Anointing
This service is packed with wonderful celebrations of ministry. We will thank and recognize clergy retirees and their spouses. Those who will be ordained will be asked the Historical Questions, and we will set appointments for the new year.
Throughout Annual Conference we will have stations for writing your ‘call’ on your baptismal call rock. The members will be asked to bring their baptismal call rock to the service of Blessing and Anointing.
Each person present is invited to receive anointing for their ‘baptismal call.’ After receiving anointing, members are asked to place their rock at the foot of the cross as a sign of commitment to boldly live out their call.
After the service, rocks will be taken to the Upper New York Annual Conference Center and placed under a tree to remind visitors of the many people who come together, boldly living out their call, to make the mission of the Church a reality.
Worship and Accessibility
All of our Communion bread is gluten-free. We will invite those who need to be served in their seats to be served first. The screens are used to project lyrics to all songs, but we also have large-print booklets available.
CLT and DLTs work towards clear disciple making processes
The Upper New York Conference Leadership Team (CLT) met with the District Leadership Teams (DLTs) at the United Methodist Center in Liverpool on Saturday, April 14. The focus of the meeting was designing systems to have intentional disciple making processes (DMPs) in every Upper New York church, which would be no small task.
The teams have been preparing to engage in this work for well over a year. Last spring DLTs were introduced to the Ministry Action Plan (MAP) tool available here. Then, last fall the DLTs were introduced to the Loving, Learning, Leading (L3) process. Click here to read more about the L3 process.
With the tools and environment for approaching complex work in place, the time had come to focus on leading around a ministry need that would have a positive impact on local churches in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens and the Rev. Dave Masland shared that while there are some that do, very few Upper New York Conference Churches actually have a simple, clear DMP. However, clear DMPs are a key indicator of a church’s success in fulfilling the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The CLT believes strongly that helping local churches create DMPs will greatly help them fulfill the mission. They also believe that DMPs must be contextual and that the DLTs need to have the insight to know what local churches need in creating their DMPs. However, the CLT also believes that there are a few basic minimum characteristics for every fruitful DMP including:
- A simple system that describes at least the following three major types of experience that will be present: Engaging Worship that brings people into an experience of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace; Small Groups that allow people to go deep in their faith through learning, discussion, mutual support, and prayer; and, Outreach/Service in the community/world that shows God’s love, fosters real relationships between church people and unchurched people, and leads to invitations to come see Jesus.
- Clarity about multiple doorways into the church for new people… and attention paid to hospitality for new people in each setting. New people can find their way to church through any of the three types of gatherings listed in #1.
- A pathway within the small group part of the system, that includes a series of experiences of learning and growing that every person experiences. This might include things like: a meeting with the pastor(s); a 101 class (or classes) where basic discipleship is taught; a 201 class (or classes) where people discover their spiritual gifts and are given an opportunity to see how they might offer their gifts for the good of the church and community; a class where people learn what it means to be a member of a church before committing (including service, stewardship, sharing your faith with others, etc); a process whereby everyone becomes engaged; service/outreach ministry in the community; an invitation to ongoing small groups that provide places for people to go deeper and hold one another accountable to spiritual disciplines, personal goals related to faith and relationships, equipping for faith sharing/evangelism with new people, etc.
- Clear movement from any one of the experiences in #3 to the next, and clarity about how people are invited to make these movements… when and where to go for the next step!
- A memorable visual representation of the DMP that is re-created in many places and in diverse media around the church for everyone to see.
- Constant talk about and teaching around the DMP by both lay and clergy leaders… so that it becomes the core culture of the church!
This work is only beginning, and the hope is that DLTs will come to the Fall CLT/DLT gathering with a MAP for every local church in their district to have a DMP. In the meantime, the CLT and DLTs will work together on this important work through a Facebook group and CLT/DLT liaisons.
Finally, acknowledging the United Methodist tendency towards using a nearly absurd amount of acronyms, there was also agreement that there should be a permanent United Methodist acronym glossary available on the Conference website. Such a glossary will be pulled together as soon as possible (ASAP).
Gloversville Foothills UMC to commence building a new worship and mission center
April 17, 2018 / By Rev. Terrence O’Neill, Retired
After a ten-year hiatus, the Foothills United Methodist Church is pleased to announce that it has reignited their dream to build a new worship and mission center along Rt. 30A across from the new Wal-Mart Super Center in Gloversville.
Ten years ago, this project came to a sudden halt due to the unexpected and tragic death of Foothills’ pastor combined with the economic collapse of the 2008 “Great Recession.” Set back but not defeated, the congregation met all of their outstanding financial obligations, reconsidered their efforts, scaled back the project, and sold a portion of their land that had been anticipated for future expansion purposes and are now launching a crowd funding effort to help them meet their goal.
With nearly one million dollars raised and in hand, the congregation’s goal is to raise an additional two million dollars to complete the church through a Crowd Funding effort beginning Sunday, February 18, 2018, the First Sunday of Lent. Though initiated during Lent, the appeal will run through the end of the year and remain a reference point as the congregation undertakes additional fund raising efforts. The Foothills Congregation has been using a GoFundMe site for the program and has produced a video presentation which tells their story set against a “Rocky-like” boxing story supported by an old Southern Gospel, “Champion of Love.” Click here to view the video and learn more about the project.
The history of the project is framed in metaphor by the creation of a heavyweight championship fight with 13 rounds briefly describing the triumphs and obstacles overcome to proclaim Jesus Christ as the Champion of Love. The sub-theme from the song is: “Champion of Love: Down, but not out.”
Editor's Update (June 6, 2018): Efforts are still underway to raise enough funds in New York State's most poverty-stricken region to resurrect a new church building for Fotthills UMC. These photos depict what the church will look like.
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the United Methodist Church
April 23, 2018 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the merger of Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church, which created a new denomination, The United Methodist Church.
Consider holding commemorative events at your local church sometime between April 22, the Sunday before the April 23 anniversary, through May 20, Heritage Sunday.
Heritage Sunday is set aside for remembering our legacy as United Methodists. The theme for this year’s Heritage Sunday is “Jubilee” to depict the celebratory nature of the UMC’s 50th Anniversary.
The General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church has great tips on planning a celebration. Click here to learn ways to celebrate this great moment in the history of the UMC. Click here for logos and banners you can use to promote the 50th Anniversary.
Click here for the latest news, features, and historical retrospectives on this most important anniversary for our church.
Also, be sure to follow and tag us on social media with #UMC50.
Annual Conference Special Meal: June 1 Palestinian Dinner
April 16, 2018 / By UNY Communications
The theme of this year’s Palestinian Dinner held during the 2018 session of Annual Conference is, "Valuing Palestinian Children."
Pilgrims from Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb's 2018 Holy Land Trip are especially invited to this year's eighth annual UNY Palestinian Dinner during Annual Conference.
The dinner will be held at 5:15 p.m. on Friday June 1 at St. George’s Macedonian Church (5083 Onondaga Road (Rt. 173), Syracuse 13215). This is about a 10-minute drive from Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena, where the Annual Conference will be held.
This dinner is a buffet, catered by Munjed’s Middle Eastern Restaurant.
Sponsored by the UNY Taskforce for Palestine-Israel, this gathering will include speakers Tina Whitehead of the Western PA Annual Conference and long-time worker w/ UM Liaison Office, Bethlehem/Jerusalem and Rev. Leanne Zeck, a participant in Bishop's 2018 Holy Land trip.
The purpose of this meal is fun, food, fellowship, mission-giving (including extra for "lights for Gaza" or Gary Bergh Scholarship), education, and advocacy.
Reservations must be made by May 30 to: Linda Bergh, (315) 492-8507, 116 Edna Road, Syracuse, NY 13205 or Karen Peterson, (607) 739-3141, 116 Greenridge Drive, Horseheads, NY 14845.
The cost/donation for this meal is $20.00 to benefit four United Methodist Advance Specials (clinics/ schools) in the Bethlehem/Jerusalem area, Gary Bergh Scholarship for applicants to "justice-seeking" trips, and ongoing Taskforce work. Please make checks payable to “UNYAC” and write "Palestinian Dinner" on the memo line.
If you have questions or would like more information, contact Linda Bergh at email@example.com or (315) 492-8507.
Introducing the Annual Conference App
The Upper New York (UNY) Conference is excited to announce that there will be an Event app available to use at Annual Conference this year from May 30-June 2 at the Onondaga County College SRC Arena in Syracuse. Now you will have the option to access everything related to Annual Conference right from your phone or tablet instead of thumbing through pages upon pages of materials in your packet.
Upper New York Conference’s IT team is leading the way with the implementation of this app for Annual Conference through a partnership with the United Methodist Church’s General Council of Finance and Administration (GCF&A). GCF&A designed this app through QuickMobile software.
UNY IT Manager, Doug Thomas said, ”The whole idea of GCF&A providing this app to Annual Conferences is to consolidate services.” This app program is called UMC Meet—it is an event planning app that has been used for a variety of events in many Annual Conferences.
Currently the UNY IT and Communications Ministry Areas are pulling together everything one normally receives in their Conference packet and creating electronic versions for the app.
Thomas said, “It’s a very feature-rich and user-friendly app.”
Included in this app will be the schedule of events, menus, maps, and a whole lot more. If there are any changes taking place at Annual Conference (for example, plenary beginning earlier on Friday than intended), an alert will appear on your phone through this app.
You can also contact anyone attending Annual Conference through a messaging option on this app. No need to have people you want to connect with in your phone contacts!
With the introduction of this app, we will be limiting the number of printed packets. In addition to being environmentally friendly, the UNY Conference will be saving dollars. The app itself is only costing the Upper New York Conference about $.50 a day per person.
Doug Thomas also mentioned how this app could potentially streamline the arrival and check-in process. He said, “The process of arriving and check-in will be quicker through simply using a QR code to check-in.”
If you are not too familiar with apps, do not worry! There will be plenty of volunteers on-hand to help you download the app onto your mobile device. The app will be made available to download and familiarize yourself with in early May. More details will be coming soon.
Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church is spicing it up
Imagine relying on a local food pantry to make ends meet for your family. Common nonperishable food enables your family to have oatmeal or dry cereal for breakfast and perhaps pasta and sauce for dinner. Some food pantries such as Saratoga Springs’ Franklin Community Center, supply perishable goods as well. Over 900 individuals who rely on this food pantry to conquer hunger can add fresh dairy products, meat, and veggies to their meals.
Still, flavor would make a meal so much more enjoyable for these families, right? As Debbie Martin, Franklin Community Center’s office manager said, “Who would want broccoli without seasoning?”
Julie Slovic, the Franklin Community Center Food Program Administrator, added, “Using spices is a great alternative to salt, and so much better for one’s health.”
Enter Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church (SSUMC). For over two decades, they have been partnering with Franklin Community Center, a non-profit that provides many community services such as an afterschool program for at-risk youth, clothing and furniture distribution, efficiency apartments for low-income individuals, and an expanding food pantry.
This year, SSUMC, made a New Year’s Resolution for the church to focus on performing Random Acts of Kindness throughout the entire year. The idea came from a small group, which meets every Thursday morning, called Joy in the Morning. The group was doing a journal exercise from the book A Year of Kindness by Dr. Pamela Parskey, where each day, the readers wrote about their acts of kindness and gratitude.
Donna Bjork, the leader of the Joy in the Mornings small group, said, “We talked about spreading Random Acts of Kindness in our church. Our ministers (Rev. Andrew (Drew) Sperry and Rev. Heather Williams) took it and flew. They created a year-long journey of Random Acts of Kindness and we created a wall, so people could write down some of the things they are doing (on post-it notes).”
Donna continued, “It helps alleviate some of the things you hear in the media; it shows that people can do good and spend time helping others. This really began as an individual thing and it doesn’t have to be something big; it can be simple, like buying a friend a cup of coffee.”
The idea of the Random Acts of Kindness initiative as an individual-focused project has extended to involve bigger projects, and the Spice Drive is one of them.
Pastor Drew serves on the Franklin Community Center’s board. He recently saw Julie demonstrate the different types of meals that families could put together.
Pastor Drew said, “During the presentation from Julie, I was amazed by how obvious the needs of those who receive assistance from the community center are, and yet how I’ve been so un aware! I never thought about the need for items like spices, cooking oils, or seasoning packets. I remember instantly thinking SSUMC can help with this.
Despite my amazement at my ignorance to basic needs, I am always doubly amazed by SSUMC’s generosity! Last year we donated over 3,500 pounds of food to Franklin! This year through our attention to Random Acts of Kindness, I believe we double that, and add to it an assortment of spices that will provide great-tasting meals for folks regardless of their economic situation.”
During a get-together that SSUMC has every month, called Third Thursdays, where members of the church gather for an informal Potluck, Pastor Drew mentioned the Franklin Community Center’s board meeting and some of their needs.
Laura Lecour, SSUMC lay leader, attended this Third Thursday. She said, “Pastor Drew told us that Franklin’s food pantry had a need for spices. This immediately caught our Third Thursday group’s attention and we thought, ‘Hey, we could do this as one of our big Random Acts of Kindness projects.’
That’s where our spice drive was born.
Spices started showing up immediately. We are continuing this for the month of April. I think we will overwhelm Franklin with spices.”
Because of SSUMC setting the intention to perform Random Acts of Kindness, ideas like the Spice Drive are constantly emerging.
SSUMC is bringing flavor to the bland foods that families who rely on food pantries are accustomed to. Laura said, “It’s great to have food; it’s nice to have your food taste good. To have poultry seasoning or to bake and have cinnamon for example, are things we take for granted—they all cost money. Some families cannot afford those things.”
Julie added, “We also have a Blue Door Chef Special (like Blue Apron) where a recipe and all ingredients are included for people who use the food pantry. The spices we receive from SSUMC will also keep our Blue Door Chef Special going for quite a while, which in turn brings a smile to our customers.”
Donating spices to the Franklin Community Center is one simple way that SSUMC members are being God’s love to their neighbors in all places.
Getting ready for Annual Conference: The layout of SRC Arena
April 10, 2018 / By Vicki Swanson
To help attendees feel prepared for spending a few days at a new facility at the 2018 Annual Conference, held May 30-June2 at the SRC Arena on Onondaga County Community College (OCC)’s campus, this article will share some general information about the layout of the space we are occupying at OCC.
We will be publishing a map of the parking lots just prior to Annual Conference so that those who are unable to walk a long distance can park near a shuttle location. In addition to the shuttles from our downtown hotels, there will be parking lot shuttles (van-size) to get people to the SRC Arena entrance. They will pick up folks at specified locations marked by sandwich boards.
Upon entry to SRC Arena, the registration tables are straight ahead. To the left is the hallway to Allyn Hall/Gym – the location for Clergy Session, child care, and later the Display Room and Cokesbury. If attending either of the two special banquets – Memorial Service Dinner or BOM Dinner – you would continue through Allyn Hall, exit the building, and enter the next building, which is Gordon. The Gordon Great Room is immediately on the right upon entry.
Back in the SRC Arena building, in addition to registration there are restrooms and the Prayer Room on the right side of the entry area. On the lower level is where most of the action takes place. Getting to the lower level happens via elevator (near registration) or via stairs (to the right of the main entry). On the lower level is the dining area and the main session area, divided by a curtain. There is a large bank of restrooms near the dining area. For those participating in Blueprint for Wellness, that activity is located in a classroom down the hallway near the restrooms.
Locations for a Spiritual Direction room and a Coaching room will be announced as we draw closer to the Annual Conference.
Deepen your relationship with God through spiritual formation and direction
April 10, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Whether you are a lay person or clergy member, how is your spiritual walk? What can you do to improve it? How can you recognize God in all the complexities of life, not just those “holy” moments, but in the questions and struggles as well?
Upper New York (UNY) has spiritual directors who can help you in spiritual formation and spiritual direction.
Spiritual formation is the work of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The Rev. Nancy Dibelius, UNY’s Conference’s Associate Director of Spiritual Life for Vital Congregations, thinks of it as “casting the net deeper…reaching out to our community and inviting others into a life lived out of the Gospel.”
Spiritual formation enables people to live more Christ-like lives; it goes beyond attending Sunday church services. It means reading the Scripture regularly, studying together often, and covenanting with one another to help with accountability. You practice spiritual disciplines including meeting with a spiritual director; you observe Sabbath in your life; you witness to one another, and you reach out in mission to a needy world.
Spiritual direction is a relationship primarily between two people where one person seeks to walk alongside and companion another on their faith journey. The Spiritual Director’s desire is to deepen your relationship with God so that you might: learn to identify and trust your own spiritual experiences, become more aware of God’s presence in your life and respond to that presence, learn to discern God’s voice and God’s invitation for your life, and grow in intimacy with God.
The Spiritual Director helps you to trust God’s guiding hand in the process. Both the director and directed desire to discern where God is calling, speaking, challenging, and leading. Both are pilgrims on the road to a more Christ-like life under the loving direction of the Holy Spirit.
UNY Spiritual Directors will be available to meet with one-on-one at the 2018 Annual Conference, held May 30-June 2 at the Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse. You can seek their guidance on your own faith journey or inquire about the steps needed to become a Spiritual Director for your congregation. Stay tuned for specific details as we get closer to Annual Conference. For more information on spiritual formation and direction, contact Rev. Dibelius at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ERT and VIM volunteers put forth amazing effort at Hogansburg UMC
Ten Upper New York Conference Early-Response Team members (ERT) and Volunteers-in-Mission (VIM) team members (two from the Crossroads District, one from the Albany District, and seven from the Northern Flow District) came together on April 2 and April 3 to begin restoration of the Hogansburg UMC, which is on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in the Northern Flow District. The church was damaged by flood waters of the St. Regis River in February of this year. Together, these team members devoted 95 hours to this clean-up project.
The water damage was confined to the basement of the church, and both the furnace and the sump pumps had been spared, so there was little remaining standing water. The water depth had been about 2 ½ feet. Most of the walls and floor were concrete, but drywall had been installed in the kitchen and part of the fellowship hall, and a wood floor laid in the kitchen about 8 inches above the concrete. The refrigerator, cooking stoves, and the cabinet surrounding the sink were soaked, as well as much of the furniture in the fellowship hall. An already shaky stairway was soaked up three risers, which made it even more unstable.
The team removed all the non-salvageable items; cleaned and sanitized all others; removed the appliances, sink cabinet, kitchen floor, and 4 feet of drywall where ever it had been wet. The entire basement was power washed and sanitized using Shockwave. The stairway was taped off and the local folks agreed that it would not be used at present; a second stairway was not damaged.
The team of volunteers experienced a couple of surprise blessings during this clean-up project.
Sylvia Reimer, team leader of the clean-up project said, “We were blessed by being housed and fed by the Centenary UMC in Malone. We give thanks to Pastor Heidi Chamberlain and members of her congregation.”
Sylvia mentioned another amazing blessing that occurred as part of this project. She said, “The Disaster/Mission teams of the UNY Conference had agreed to pay for the dumpster used to haul away the trash (three loads!), but when we asked about payment, we were told that the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne considered this part of the flood recovery and covered the entire cost. Praise and thanksgiving for that!”
Mike Block, UNY Director of Missional Engagement, also volunteered at Hogansburg UMC; he said, “We’re grateful to have team members to step forward in times of need. It’s not always pretty and not always fun, but the result in resolving the need is always rewarding.”
Sylvia said, “Thanks to all the volunteers and to the support from local persons, both off and on the reservation. Praise to God for strength and calling to service.”
Now that cleanup is completed at Hogansburg UMC, plans are being made to fully restore the basement this summer. Volunteers will concentrate on replacing the drywall and rebuilding the stairway. The kitchen floor will need to be replaced also before the kitchen can be made serviceable again. ERT and VIM members will be on board, but anyone willing to volunteer can do so.
To volunteer in restoring Hogansburg UMC this summer, contact Mike Block at (315) 898-2066 or email@example.com.
Social Holiness Concerns: Conscience of the Conference
April 3, 2018 / By Rev. Marti Swords-Horrell, pastor, Emmaus United Methodist Church, Albany
Many of us remember where we were on April 4, 1968 when the nation was shaken to its core by the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. I remember that tragic day very well, but also conversations at our family’s table the previous fall concerning the criticism Dr. King was receiving for his opposition to the Vietnam War, and the connections he was making between poverty, racism and militarism. At the time of his untimely death, Dr. King was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign: putting injustices faced by low wage workers, black and brown and white, at the center of the struggle for equality in this country.
Many of our churches commemorate Dr. King’s birthday in January, but this year we have an opportunity to lift up the 50th anniversary of his untimely death. On April 4th, please take time to prayerfully review the events of that fateful day in Memphis where Dr. King had travelled to support sanitation workers, on strike for better wages and working conditions.
But the best way to honor the memory of Dr. King is to continue his work. Many things have changed in the intervening 50 years in this country, but one thing that hasn’t is poverty. If anything, it’s gotten worse. As a native of New York State, I am deeply ashamed to report that we have the worst income inequality in the country, with 1.7 million New Yorkers living in poverty and 88,000 New Yorkers homeless every night across our state, while the wealth of Manhattan multi-millionaires and billionaires soars to all-time highs.
Our Upper New York Conference spans a wide spectrum politically and theologically. But even as many things divide us, one thing that every District across the Conference has in common is poverty. In my 35 years of ministry, I’ve served in distressed urban neighborhoods and in poverty- stricken rural settings as well – which have more in common than not. Banding together to address poverty across New York State is something every United Methodist can and should do. As followers of Jesus in the heritage of John Wesley, together we are devoted to bringing good news to the poor.
The good news is that there’s an active and growing movement not only here in New York but in 33 other states which seeks not so much to commemorate Dr King’s Poor People’s Campaign as to continue it. Headed up by the Rev. Dr. William Barber of “Repairers of the Breach” and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of Union Theological Seminary, the New Poor People’s Campaign “is not so much about right vs left as it is about right vs wrong” Watch for opportunities to join in nationwide actions starting on Mother’s Day.
I hope to see you at the statewide conference sponsored by the New York State Council of Churches in Johnstown, July 10 – 12: “Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide”. This year’s theme is “Congregations as Catalysts for Economic and Social Change in their Communities.” Together we can be the change we wish to see.
Getting Ready for Annual Conference 2018: Offerings
- The first two offerings will be collected during the laity and clergy sessions on Wednesday evening May 30. The Clergy Care Fund offering will be taken at the clergy session and a Helping Hands Fund offering will concurrently be taken at the laity session. The Clergy Care Fund assists clergy who need financial support, and Helping Hand raises funds to be used by the Cabinet to assist congregants in need of financial support.
- During Opening Worship on Thursday May 31, the offering collected will go to support the Upper New York Mission Central Hub—a place located at the UNY Methodist Center for local churches to actively engage in outreach and disaster response ministries. From training the Conference’s Volunteer in Mission and Disaster Response teams to collecting and assembling flood buckets, health kits, and more, the UNY Mission Central HUB is the perfect answer to local churches who feel called to expand their outreach ministries. Click here to learn more about the UNY Mission Central Hub.
- The offering collected on Saturday morning June 2 during the Young Adult Worship service will go to Mission of Peace (MOP)—an annual journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdiction Council on Youth Ministries. Click here and here to read the reflections from two Upper New York youth who went on the MOP journey to Cuba earlier this year. Next year, MOP will be going to the Philippines.
- The final offering to be collected during Annual Conference will be at the Ordination Service on Saturday June 2. This offering will go to New Faith Communities (NFCs). New faith community planters work to create safe places for un-churched or de-churched people to explore their faith, consider what it means to follow Jesus Christ, and then practice discipleship together with new friends. These communities gather in malls, cafes, storefronts, bars, homes, fellowship halls and restaurants, and each one is committed to being God’s love with their neighbors. There are currently __ New Faith Communities in UNY—click here to learn more about UNY NFCs.
Annual Conference provides these five great opportunities to support the United Methodist Connection. From helping our youth experience a mission trip of their lifetime and supporting the many ministries the pour forth from Mission Central to supporting clergy and congregants with financial constraints and planting New Faith Communities, you can help the Upper New York and people around the world flourish with your generous offerings.
Apply for a Peace with Justice grant by April 30
March 29, 2018 / By Heather Smith, Peace with Justice Coordinator
Peace with Justice Grant applications are being accepted through April 30, 2018. The application can be found here. Please read the information included and fill out application completely.
The Peace with Justice Grants are provided by funds collected on Peace with Justice Sunday, one of the six Special Sunday offerings required by the Book of Discipline. Half of all money collected in our conference stays right here to support new ministries that address justice issues. The most recent grants have gone to:
- Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS - $2000 helped fund the Truth Commission on Poverty gatherings
- NYS Council of Churches - $2000 to support the Rural-Urban Divide Conference
If you have any questions, please contact Heather Smith, Conference Peace with Justice Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sound the alarm, save a life
March 28, 2018 / By UNY Communications
A house fire can start at any time in any home. The Upper New York Mission Central HUB, with the help of Volunteers in Mission (VIM) and Early Response Team (ERT), is working with the American Red Cross to help install free smoke alarms where needed.
In UNY, more than 500 alarms are available and will be installed in the Central New York area on Saturday, May 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The UNY Mission Central HUB is seeking between 15 and 20 volunteers to work in teams of two. There will be a gathering point, to be announced closer to the work date of May 12, where the list of addresses will be handed out and the smoke detectors as well. For more information or to volunteer to help, contact Mike Block, Director of Missional Engagement, at email@example.com.
Rev. Corey Turnpenny selected as Annual Conference 2018 Memorial Service speaker
The Rev. Corey Turnpenny, pastor at Whitney Point UMC, has been selected as the Memorial Service speaker for the 2018 Annual Conference held May 30-June 2 at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse; the Memorial Service takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday May 31.
Rev. Turnpenny grew up in a Methodist church in Wilkes Barre, Pa. She felt God calling her to ministry at the age of 11! Her bond with Christ was strengthened through summers spent at Sky Lake Camp. Eventually she would receive her Masters in Divinity from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity and begin serving the Upper New York Conference in 2013.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, said ““I am grateful to Rev. Turnpenny for accepting the invitation to preach at the 2018 Memorial Service. Corey’s passion for Christ and the Church is contagious and as one of our gifted young adult clergy persons, we will be blessed by her willingness to share her gift of preaching.”
Rev. Turnpenny enthusiastically accepted the invitation to be the Memorial Service speaker; she said, “I am so honored to have the role as the Memorial Service speaker at this year’s Conference. The theme of the Conference (Together in prayer: Boldly living our Call) fits so well with the Memorial Service because we are honoring and celebrating clergy who have lived their call.”
Rev. Turnpenny continued, “Any type of Memorial Service is meant to honor and remember people who have gone on to their next life in heaven, but I also want this service to be geared toward people still here, encouraging them to follow the legacy of those who we honor.”
As Rev Turnpenny begins planning her focus of the Memorial Service sermon, she finds inspiration in the story of Lazarus in John 11, where after Lazarus’s death, Jesus comforts Lazarus’s sisters, assuring them that those who believe in Jesus will live even after they die. And then he performs a miracle; he raises Lazarus from the dead.
Rev. Turnpenny said, “I think a lot of pastors can relate to being present with others as they experience grief and these words from John 11 can bring comfort.”
Rev. Turnpenny has also felt drawn to Isiah 25, reminding people that God is a refuge, a shelter from the storm.
Various verses from Hebrews 12 also speaks to Rev. Turnpenny as pertinent to a Memorial Service, such as these lines from verses 1 and 2, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
While Rev. Turnpenny continues to weave her own inspiring words with passages from the Bible, she hopes attendees at the Memorial Service “will feel inspired to follow the footsteps of clergy who have paved the way.”
CLT discusses ministry in Holy Saturday times
The Conference Leadership Team (CLT) spent their time together on Friday, March 23 and Saturday March 24 framed by three questions focused around the theme “Living through Holy Saturday” (the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection). The three questions were:
- What spiritual practices can help us journey through Holy Saturday times?
- What does leadership look like on Holy Saturday?
- What is God inviting us to accomplish in this time?
Continuing to follow the L3 (Loving, Learning, and Leading) meeting model, their time on Friday started with the same kind of Holy Conversation around the work of the Commission on a Way Forward that has been taking place at the District Days with the Bishop. Click here to learn more about the conversations that took place at the District Days with the Bishop.
Just as at the District Days with the Bishop, this was an honest conversation about hopes and fears for the future of The United Methodist Church. The conversation set-up the idea that we are living in Holy Saturday times- a time between, where we know change is coming but we don’t know what that change is yet. The team continued by pondering the three questions that framed the day, and they broke for the night.
The following day, the CLT continued their honest conversation by discussing the questions they had been pondering. Then they had an adaptive conversation around the mission, vision, and primary tasks of the Upper New York Conference. Click here to learn more about the mission, vision, and primary task. This conversation was enhanced by a time of learning that focused on the master MAP (Ministry Action Plan) and updated statistical information for the Upper New York Conference based on past goals. Ministry Action Plan worksheets are available to all on the Conference Website here.
The reviewed statistics and master MAP included good news in areas of new faith communities, increasing diversity, communication, and trust. To that end, the CLT spent their remaining time reviewing and prioritizing their “child MAPs”, and planning for the CLT’s time with District Leadership Teams (DLTs) in April.
Much of this leading work was driven by a new prioritizing of the “child MAPs” with a strong focus on equipping the local church. Two areas that received particular focus were providing the tools that empower every local church to have an intentional pathway of discipleship and providing the tools for local church to identify which of three “lanes” their church is in.
The team will enlist the help of the General Church’s Discipleship Ministries to create the tools that empower every local church to have an intentional pathway of discipleship. This work will be shared and implemented through the DLTs.
A team was identified to begin creating the tool that will help churches identify which of three “lanes” they are in. The three Lanes are Growing, Revitalizing, and Legacy and clarity about where a church is and where a church is going will help churches immensely as they work to make disciples.
Work around VitalSigns, 16 Core Competencies of leaders, and many other MAPS also continues.
After two very fruitful days of work, the CLT ended it’s time together with a prayer and went forward to continue leading the Conference and in their local contexts.
Getting Ready for Annual Conference 2018: CRM Staff to again provide childcare for Annual Conference
March 27, 2018 / By David Wood, Program Director, Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center
Childcare at this year’s Annual Conference will be provided by staff members of Camp & Retreat Ministries (CRM) for the seventh consecutive year. Staff involved in childcare are a combination of year-round and seasonal CRM employees who have served at least one full season at one of Upper New York’s Camp & Retreat Centers. CRM staff are trained to handle a wide variety of topics when it comes to working with children, including behavior management, social development, leading age-appropriate activities, responding to children’s needs, and procedures for emergency situations. All CRM staff involved with childcare have undergone at least two weeks of intensive training, and have six or more weeks experience in a residential camp environment, providing 24-hour custodial care to groups of 6-8 children.
Childcare sessions at Annual Conference are intentionally designed to be more than just daycare. Each day is structured in a way that provides a variety of activities for children of all ages and allows for the needs of each child to be met. Mornings are structured time that may involve group games, crafts, board games and card games, songs and riddles, and interactive play (such as Legos and blocks, or various make-believe scenarios driven by the children’s interests).
Afternoons are structured to provide children with a bit of down time, and a chance to nap for those who would like. As Annual Conference days can be quite long, this time is important to allow children a time to rest and renew themselves for the rest of the day. Children who choose not to nap during this time have the option to engage in quiet group or individual play with our staff or watch an age-appropriate movie no longer than 1.5-2 hours. After this time, an afternoon snack is served, and structured activities fill the remaining time until dinner. After dinner, the number of children can vary greatly and thus staff will either play some group games or give the kids time playing active games on the Wii like Just Dance or Wii Sports.
Childcare this year will be offered Wednesday, May 30 in the evening for clergy and laity sessions. Childcare will be available all day on Thursday, May 31 and Friday, June 1. It will open approximately 20 minutes prior to the start of each session, and parents will need to pick up their children for all meals. Childcare is also available on Saturday, June 2 until the end of the Ordination Service.
Parents must sign their children in and out, and photo ID and prior written approval will be needed to sign a child out from childcare. Parents are encouraged to take time to talk with our staff prior to signing their children in, and are welcome to leave us with anything their children may need throughout the day.
Commission members grateful to serve, complete work on final report
March 26, 2018 / By Council of Bishops
Members of the Commission on a Way Forward expressed gratitude at the opportunity to be part of the Commission and they signaled hope for The United Methodist Church as they completed their meeting in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 22.
The 32-member Commission has been meeting since January 2017 in various places throughout the global denomination to assist the bishops in their charge from the 2016 General Conference to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related to LGBTQ inclusion and resulting questions about the unity of the church.
The Commission will present its final report to the Council of Bishops at the April/May meeting in Chicago. At that meeting, the bishops will decide what will be received and acted upon by the delegates to the Special Session of the General Conference set for St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019.
“Sitting at the table with Commission members, I see persons honest enough and humble enough to see the great challenge or impasse that is before us,” noted Rev. Helen Cunanan, from the Philippines. “At the same time, I see so much commitment and passion to the work entrusted to us - passion for mission and ministry; passion for our forms and expressions of unity; passion for God.”
Rev. Cunanan said she was confident that, “with the Holy Spirit’s leading, I believe we can embrace together a way forward.”
For Dr. Aka Hortense, a layperson from Côte d’Ivoire, the Commission was an opportunity to meet people who have the same love for Jesus Christ and who are all members of the United Methodist Church, but with very different experiences and differing positions regarding the question of human sexuality.
“By listening and through reflections I have learned - in all humility - that unity, which seems so simple in the church, is fragile because each person has their own personality, their own cultural and religious context, their own education, their own life experiences, and their own truth.”
She noted that through prayer, Bible studies and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, members of the Commission worked on a plan for the church that must continue to highlight “the importance of the mission to which Christ calls us as a global church. This commission has helped me cultivate the heart of peace and has put me back at the heart of the Christian faith.”
By giving great attention to traditional, contextual and progressive values, the Commission members weighed input from across the denomination as they discerned the best proposals for a way forward.
As part of reaching out to various constituencies, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators, met with general secretaries of the church agencies while Bishop David Yemba, another moderator, and other members of the Commission gave an update to the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters. Members of the Commission have also shared with various general agencies, jurisdictional and central conference gatherings, annual conferences and local churches.
“The purpose of these meetings includes initiating healthy conversations that educate, share information, and invite people to think and dream about God’s preferred future for The United Methodist Church. Conversation serves to break down fear, build relationships, and helps us to collectively think about what is possible,” said Bishop Steiner Ball. “Conversation also serves to remind us that no matter what position persons or groups hold within the church, they love Christ, love The United Methodist Church, and strive to be faithful in service to God and to God’s people.”
Two other Commission members, Rev. Julie Hager Love from Kentucky Conference and Rev. Tom Salsgiver from Susquehanna Conference, have spent time talking to various groups and participating in meetings with groups in preparation for possible work that would be done at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.
Rev. Love noted that the Commission is filled with persons who deeply love The United Methodist Church and have worked together to find a way forward through prayer, worship, Bible study, dialogue, study and fellowship.
“While I have often referred to the work of the Commission as the ‘hardest leadership work’ I have ever been a part of (and it is true), it is also an honor to be asked to be a part of the commission,” said Rev. Love. “I am deeply thankful for our process and the persons on the commission who have given deeply of their time and energy. The prayers that have covered members personally, our work and our way forward has been deeply felt and appreciated.”
For Alfiado S. Zunguza from Mozambique, working with some of the best minds in the church gave him a sense of humility and desire to learn the complex nature of values, worldviews, and principles informing interpersonal and institutional relationships within the church.
“The journey has been a life giving and eye-opening experience with many lessons learned. Being close to the end of our mandate as a Commission on the Way Forward, I have a feeling that there is more to learn, more relationships to build and more visioning to be undertaken as we continue to perfect the proposals that the Council of Bishop will have to offer the church for consideration,” said Zunguza, who serves as manager of Leadership Development and Scholarships with Global Ministries.
He added: “The mission just started and we need to continue building coalitions and sharing hope for a better United Methodist Church that will make all members proud of being part of this great denomination.”
As they discussed the possible ways forward, the Commission members gave attention to the traditional, contextual and progressive values, ensuring that as many diverse voices were given chance to be heard, said Bishop Ken Carter, one of the moderators of the Commission. “The values being discussed are grounded in deep listening to our global church, and are at the heart of the call of Jesus Christ to discipleship in the very different contexts where our people live and are in ministry,” Bishop Carter noted.
Contrary to some voices in the church that assume closure and that the work is already completed from particular perspectives, the Commission indicated that there was still robust conversation taking place through the denomination. Bishop Carter noted, “The thirty-two members of our commission embody an astonishing diversity—living on four continents, laity, clergy and bishops, theological differences, gay and straight, urban and rural, multiple generations. And yet we are committed to a way forward for the church that has blessed us and blesses others through us.”
As it prepares its final report to the Council, members of the Commission noted that the UMC will continue to discuss the public and private mission of the church and the value of convicted humility.
“We are in a crucible together, trying to create something that does not yet exist,” explained Bishop Gregory Palmer, resident bishop of West Ohio Area and a member of the Commission. “God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ sustains us through the ups and downs of the process that we trust leads to newness.”
The Commission will present its final report to the Council of Bishops at the COB meeting in Chicago April 29-May 4.
Applications still being received for lay equalization members to Annual Conference
March 23, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Applications are still being accepted for individuals desiring to serve as a lay equalization member to the 2018 session of the Upper New York Annual Conference. Lay equalization members must be professing members of a United Methodist Church within the Upper New York area. The deadline for all applications is April 29, 2018.
Upper New York rules regarding lay equalization members state that after lay persons by virtue of office as identified by the Book of Discipline are in positions of leadership within the Annual Conference, they are granted lay equalization membership. Any remaining lay equalization memberships will be divided as equally as possible among the respective Districts of the Annual Conference. These equalization memberships will be awarded by the respective District Lay Leader(s) in consultation with organizations within the District. Attention should be given to underrepresented churches on multi-point charges, to persons who are able to bring wisdom and experience of value to the Annual Conference, and to the guidelines for inclusivity found in paragraph 140 of the 2016 Book of Discipline.
In attempt to provide equitable representation, the Upper New York Sessions Committee has implemented a process that gives opportunity for as many congregations as possible to have a Lay Equalization Member. To accomplish this goal, no more than one Lay Equalization Member from a congregation will be awarded until it is determined that every congregation has had an opportunity for one lay equalization member. Once this guarantee has been provided and prior to the deadline for lay equalization membership, District Lay Leaders may offer additional lay equalization membership to individuals from congregations that have already been awarded a lay equalization member.
Youth and young adults are exempt from this process. To encourage participation in the session of annual conference, in consultation with the District Lay Leader(s) and organizations within the District, more than one youth and/or young adult from a pastoral charge can serve as a lay equalization member.
If you have questions about this process or desire an application, please contact your District office or your pastor.
Discipleship ministries seeks to serve what the Church is becoming
March 20, 2018 / By Discipleship Ministries
The board of directors of Discipleship Ministries, at its spring meeting, took additional steps to position the agency to be more relevant and useful in order to better serve the future needs of the United Methodist Church.
“We are relentlessly committed to reimagining and reshaping our agency to match the needs of the church we are becoming,” the Rev. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary (CEO) of Discipleship Ministries, told board members during their March meeting in Nashville.
“This includes an ongoing effort to maximize our resources, while we live fully into our strategic priorities,” Dotson said. “It also means thinking ahead as we prepare for the uncertainties of the future of our church and our denomination and as we prepare for the uncertainties of the next quadrennial budget allocation.”
Discipleship Ministries is strategizing around what is mission critical in a time of great change in the church in order to position the agency to continue helping local churches make disciples of Jesus Christ, Dotson said.
“Our major aim is to maintain the core of ministries we offer that serve churches of all sizes and focus on the task of disciple making,” he said.
The agency is asking what it means to be “brokers of knowledge and conveners of strategic conversations,” Dotson said. The church needs not only experts, but perhaps even more importantly, it needs those who can leverage a village of experts and practitioners across the connection, he said.
The board reaffirmed its commitment to the agency’s ministry focus.
“We believe there is a continued hunger in our congregations to create relationships with those outside our local churches, and we are poised to help congregations create intentional disciple-making systems to fulfill those goals,” said Bishop Mark J. Webb of the Upper New York episcopal area, who chairs the board.
Discipleship Ministries is using the #SeeAllThePeople movement (www.SeeAllThePeople.org) to help congregations reach out to people outside their churches. In addition, the agency is also cultivating local resources around the globe in order to bring the voice and contributions.
Bishops, leaders of UMC-related institutions optimistic of denomination’s future
March 20, 2018 / By Council of Bishops
Several leaders of United Methodist Church-related institutions voiced optimism and are preparing for possible changes in the global denomination that could occur as a result of the Special Session of the General Conference called for February next year.
As part of its commitment of offering a proposal that would move The United Methodist Church forward with as much unity as possible. The Council has encouraged similar gatherings on each continent. Based on the recommendations from the Commission on the Way Forward the Council of Bishops will present its report to a Special Session of the General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019.
The two-day gathering in Dallas, Texas, on March 15-16 brought together leaders of foundations, colleges, seminaries and other institutions that extend the mission of the church and anchor the faith in the various public arenas of education, health, finance, community development, and others.
“As the United Methodist Church faces the possibility of deep changes, it is imperative to listen for the impact of such changes on our related institutions, and to learn from them as they have faced their own changes,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council of Bishops at the start of the meeting on Thursday evening.
Bishop Ough emphasized that the work of the Commission was not complete, and both the Council and the Commission were eager to listen to the responses from leaders to shape the work and recommendations that were being proposed.
Rev. Tom Berlin, a member of the Commission from the Virginia Conference, outlined the work that has been done so far by the 32-member Commission and how they plan to work on the final draft at their next meeting in Los Angeles, March 19-22.
The Texas Methodist Foundation of Austin, Texas, a foundation within the United Methodist denomination with a long history of offering both financial and leadership services to the church, was invited to host the meeting by the Council of Bishops.
How Cobleskill UMC increased Special Sunday Giving
Cobeleskill UMC has greatly increased their giving. For Human Relations Day, their congregation gave $65 in 2017, and $366 in 2018. And for UMCOR Sunday, they went from $420 in 2017 to $650 in 2018! Click here to find out exactly how Cobleskill UMC accomplished this increase in generous giving.
According to Cobleskill UMC pastor, the Rev. Dr. Nancy Hale, “We used the resources from umcgiving.org to increase awareness about how the donations for Special Sundays are put to use. The "explainer" videos were particularly helpful, and we used them in our PowerPoint presentation in worship. We also used graphics from that website on our Facebook page and in our worship presentations for a week or two before the Special Sunday.
Our Outreach chairperson spoke about Human Relations Day during worship, and we offered a special prayer for the various mission projects that we support through Special Sunday giving before we took up the offering.
We also reminded people about how our own region (Schoharie County) benefitted from UMCOR during the catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Irene, and we encouraged people to see our Special Sunday giving as a way to "pay it forward" so others can be helped in times of need.
Finally, we stressed our connectionalism as United Methodists, and how we can do more together. It all paid off in an amazing increase in generous giving!”
Getting Ready for Annual Conference 2018: Clergy Session and Laity Session
March 20, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson
Clergy Session and Laity Session for the 2018 Annual Conference will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday May 30 at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Clergy must check in at the registration table before heading to their session.
The Clergy Session is a time for the clergy to come together for brief worship, and to fulfill the Book of Discipline responsibilities. The primary purpose of the Clergy Session is to review and approve the Business of the Annual Conference (BAC) document prepared by the Board of Ordained Ministry. In paragraph 605 of the 2016 Book of Discipline, it states that: “…Questions relating to matters of ordination, character, and Conference relations of clergy shall be the business of the clergy session.”
For the Laity Session, Upper New York’s Board of Laity has invited laypersons from the local church, District church, Conference teams, and the wider world of UMC to offer testimonies. Young people, Volunteers in Mission team members, a local church team from the Binghamton District, and others elaborate how this year’s Conference theme, “Together in Prayer: Boldly living our Call” relates to them. The UNY Conference Lay Leader, Susan Hardy, said, “This year’s laity session will celebrate the calls and courageous experiences of laypersons throughout our UNYAC.”
Be sure to have your accommodations arranged and transportation methods determined for Wednesday, May 30, so that you can attend this year’s Clergy Session and Laity Session, which for the first time take place on a Wednesday evening as opposed to Thursday morning. Please note that the shuttles from the hotels will not run on Wednesday evening.
Reflection of my Mission of Peace trip to Cuba
March 19, 2018 / By Madeline Klein, Baker Memorial UMC
I didn’t quite know what to expect from the Mission of Peace to Cuba. A few people I know had traveled to Cuba not long ago and from the descriptions they gave me, I envisioned dirty streets, people dancing, old cars, and colorful houses. While most of these expectations proved correct, there is so much more to Cuba than what they saw as tourists. They saw the outside of Cuba, the beautiful colors of the country’s cities and beaches, but our group was able to dig deeper to see more: the incredible people and their culture.
Before going to Cuba, I thought the language barrier we faced and the divisions between our governments might prevent us from really forming bonds with the people there. Despite these differences, we were united under our common belief in God. Through that, I was able to make friends that I’ll always remember, both Cuban and American.
One of my favorite places we went to was the church of Carlos Rojas. We visited once to meet the pastor, then again on New Year’s Eve to see their preparations for the New Year’s celebration. The love and generosity the people showed us there have really stayed with me. All we did for them was visit their church and sing a few songs, then they invited us to share in their New Year’s Eve. We were able to dance with them, play dominos, and they served us a cake. One of the women made each of us a paper flower, even though we’d never met her before. I thought this was amazing: she took the time and energy to make nineteen beautiful paper flowers for people she’d never met. That night was not only fun, but also, it gave us an opportunity to learn more about the Cuban culture.
Another thing I loved was the music. In church, people got so involved in singing and dancing to the music that it made our church services at home seem pretty dull. At the Methodist church in Matanzas, two younger girls came up to me during the last praise song to dance with me. As soon as the song started, they came right over and took my hands, something I was surprised by because I tried to avoid strangers when I was younger.
They quickly saw how bad my dancing was, so they showed me the right dance moves and when to spin, and it was so much fun to be able to dance with them. This was also a moment where I could clearly see in them the face of God. Music is a huge part of a country’s culture, so it was amazing that we were so surrounded by it. We always sang when we went to churches, homes, or orphanages, which people enjoyed. The Cubans couldn’t understand what the songs meant, but they embraced our music.
I learned so much through our experience in Cuba. I learned that Cuba has both tarantulas and crocodiles, despite our translator telling us that there were no dangerous animals in Cuba. I learned that “patience, flexibility, and change” (the MOP mantra) are important to make the most of the Mission of Peace. I learned about the history of Cuba, including their perspectives on the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. I learned that people living in difficult situations, like many that participate in the handicapped children’s ministry, are happy despite their circumstances.
Everything I learned made this trip more valuable to me and made me appreciate everything I have so much more. For me, this Mission of Peace was about three main ideas: love, peace, and joy. The love our group saw in every smiling face and the love we were able to show the Cuban people. The peace I felt when we visited a quiet seminary on a hill overlooking the city of Matanzas. The joy we spread through our music as we met with the handicapped children’s ministry. That sense of love, peace, and joy is probably the most important thing I got from Cuba.
The friends I made and the memories we shared will keep alive the amazing feeling of fellowship, tranquility, and overall happiness that Cuba gave me. Learning about the Cuban history and culture was a wonderful experience and I couldn’t have asked for better people to share it with. I encourage any high schooler who wants to experience a foreign country while furthering their relationship with God to apply for the Mission of Peace.
Equitable Compensation Application for July-December 2018 available
March 19, 2018 / By UNY Communications
The Commission on Equitable Compensation has issued guidelines and application forms for salary grants to local churches for the period July 1 to December 31, 2018. 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 APRIL 9, 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 July to December 2018 time period.
- For churches that have not previously received an Equitable Compensation Grant: Application for CEC Grant for July to December 2018 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 April 9, 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] July 2018.” The Commission anticipates notifying churches of its determination by late May.
Click the link below for the appropriate application. Once the application is open, download, and save it to your computer in order to fill it out electronically.
- Equitable Compensation Grant Applications (for first time applicants)
- Renewal Grant Application (for those who have previously applied and received funds)
Imagine No Racism initiative launches April 21, 2018
March 19, 2018 / By Upper New York Communications Team
Imagine No Racism (INR) is a ministry of the Upper New York Conference, in response to the Call to Action Resolution of the Northeastern Jurisdiction in July of 2016, to engage in the work of eliminating racism. INR seeks to raise consciousness and increase conversation and ministry at the local church level through a multi-year, small group approach. The goal of INR is to increase conversations on and awareness of racism and white privilege at the district and local church levels and to increase the number of ministries which impact racial justice within local churches and their surrounding communities.
Imagine No Racism will convene multiple District-level small groups, consisting of both clergy and laity, to engage in deep listening, transformative study, and meaningful action to eliminate racism and white privilege in individuals, local churches, and the communities the local churches serve.
Each District will be served by three or four District Advocates, trained by the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), who will oversee and resource the small groups within their District. The District Advocates will be connected and served by part-time paid Regional Coordinators, who will care for three Districts each, and work to collect data for assessment of the INR ministry. The Upper New York Conference Commission on Religion and Race (CCORR) and the Connectional Ministries Office, overseen by the Director of Connectional Ministries, will supervise the work of the Regional Coordinators and the Imagine No Racism ministry.
Within each of the Upper NY Conference’s 12 Districts, clergy and laity will meet in small groups once or twice a month. These small groups will be formed at a Conference-wide launch day, to be held on April 21, 2018 from 12:30-4 p.m.in each District, at the Districts’ Communication Hubs. Click here to see the District Communication Hub locations.
Each District is asked to prepare nametags for all participants that are color-coded by district regions to facilitate the formation of small groups. District Advocates will have all copies of all materials (including videos) on a flash drive from the Upper NY Conference office.
The goal of the Launch Day event is to give all participants a clear overview of the INR ministry purpose and structure, and to form the small groups within each district where the work of INR will take place. The event will include:
- Opening worship
- Welcome by Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb, livestreamed from the United Methodist Center
- Reference to the NEJ Call to Action
- Explanation and formation of small groups
- Small group meetings with District Advocates
- Videos presentations by members of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism, followed by discussion
- Video by Teressa Sivers, chair of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism and the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens on the Wesleyan Covenant and INR Covenant
- Signing of the INR Covenant
After the formation of the small groups on April 21, every small group will meet at least monthly to engage in a curriculum designed in partnership with GCORR. The first six weeks of the curriculum is designed to guide the small groups through deep listening and transformative study regarding racism and white privilege, with attention to our theological understanding of baptism and our call to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
The small groups are intended to be an ongoing ministry, moving from deep learning and transformative study, through naming racism in their local church and context, to purposeful action in the local church and wider community.
The work of eliminating racism, personally and systemically, is much like moving through the stages of grief. Though the goal is to continually be moving into action, many times individuals and small groups will need to pause to return to deep listening, transformative study, and naming racism and white privilege.
Throughout the process, the Conference will assess the work of INR through the number of small groups and individual participants, the number of intentional ministries within the local churches started by the district small INR groups, and the number of local church and community ministries that impact racial justice. This material will be collected through the District Advocates, Regional Coordinators, and CCORR. The small groups are also designed to act as a support group for the laity and clergy members as they move into action in their local church and community.
INR will utilize the reporting of District Advocates and Regional Coordinators, and church Conference forms and pastor one-on-one meetings with their District Superintendents. CCORR will assess the progression of this data at 6 months, 1 year, 18 months, 2 year, and then yearly going forward.
Blaney sisters celebrate 100th birthdays
March 14, 2018 / By Pastor Ken Blume, Apulia UMC
Three sisters, Ruth Smith, 102 years; Marion Rakov, 101 years, and Louise Henderson who turned 100 today, March 14, 2018, will be celebrating their centennial birthdays together with an upcoming family gathering and dinner.
They are the daughters of the late John and Pearle Squire Blaney of Apulia Station, NY.
They account for their longevity to being raised in the country and working on the family dairy farm, plus never smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. Ruth and Louise have lived in the Apulia area their entire lives, while Marion moved to Syracuse for better job opportunities.
They have been lifelong members of the Apulia United Methodist Church. Their family offered the land on which the church stands today. They were baptized in the church when they were young, joined the church membership in their teenage years around 1928, and were married and raised their families, all participating in church activities. They have been supporting members in the church’s fundraising efforts working at smorgasbord suppers, bake sales, annual rummage and craft sales, etc. They also were loyal members of the Women’s Society of Christian Services (WSCS) that worked to raise funds for Methodist outreach programs in foreign and developing countries to further support the spread of Christianity, especially Methodism, providing food, clothing and medical care to those in need throughout the world.
We congratulate these women on attaining their 100th birthdays and thank them for their lifelong service to the Apulia United Methodist Church. May you all enjoy many more years of good health and happiness.
My faith transformation during my Mission of Peace trip to Cuba
March 12, 2018 / By Gavin Hill, Eden United Methodist Church
Editor’s Note: The Mission of Peace (MOP) is a yearly journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Council on Youth Ministries of The United Methodist Church. The most recent MOP trip was to Cuba, Dec. 28, 2017-Jan. 12, 2018. Fourteen youth went on the trip, of which four were from Upper New York.
The day before we left for Cuba, I felt super scared and I made this prayer that was inspired from Psalm 91:1-12. I wrote, “Lord. My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. I ask that you deliver me from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. I ask that you cover me, and I will find refuge; your faithfulness is a shield and buckler. I ask that I not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day. Thank you.” This prayer made me feel very comforted. And this, was only the beginning of my faiths transformation
Upon arriving to Cuba, I was nervous because we walked out of the airport and a crowd of people are staring at us. I immediately had a bad feeling. Then, we walked to the parking lot and my emotions completely changed. Our transportation was a painted school bus with writing that said, “love” and “End the blockade on Cuba.”
On the way to the house of Farfan (the place we stayed) I saw the immense beauty God had created in Cuba with the vast fields and palm trees. Also, the crystal clear blue ocean. When we arrived the owner, Ricardo made us popcorn and told us about the house. He was so friendly and right then, I knew that Cuba was a place of community and love.
Throughout the trip, we visited pastors and churches.
One of the days, we were visited by a professor by the name of Daniel Montoya. He told us about the history of Christianity in Cuba and asked us a very deep question. He started by quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Junior. “I have a dream but with open eyes.” He then proceeded to ask, “what is your dream?” I was completely stumped. I thought my dream at that moment was to go to the Olympics for track and field. I was then proven wrong over the course of the trip. My dream is to go to the Olympics when I am a senior, so I can show people the great things God has done to me. However, that is not the end of my dream. God has been calling me to be a pastor for quite some time and this trip helped me accept it. I hope to go to the Olympics 1-3 times; however, my true dream is to be a pastor and change people’s lives.
We spent much of our time at a place known as “The Farm.” The Farm works with the CCM (Cuban Connectional Ministries). We ate most of our meals there; we played a lot of frisbee, taught people how to juggle, cleaned up rubble, found tarantulas, and we really connected with the Cubans and the differently enabled children.
One thing I learned at The Farm is that you don’t need to keep purchasing more luxuries for yourself. One of the men, Armando, had a “Frankenstein car.” Under his hood were parts from different makers. Some of these were, Chevy, Hidi, Suzu, Toyota, Yelee, and a lot more. The reason for these different parts is because he can’t afford a new car.
For New Years, we had a huge celebration. A bunch of people came to The Farm for a bonfire. At that fire, we talked about how it is a new start and we need to leave the bad and the good behind. And something that I shared with everyone was Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I wanted to remind people that in the coming year that no matter how dark things get, Christ will strengthen you, and you will rise up and complete the task.
One of the most special moments of the trip was when all the guys met in our room and we had a Bible study. It was so great because it was an impromptu Bible study. No one had planned it, I just asked Gabe what his favorite verse was and then, all the guys are in the room and we are all sharing verses.
We also visited two orphanages. It was really great to visit the orphanage with older kids because they told us their whole process. When a kid turns 18, they are supposed to leave. However, if they don’t have a job or a house then, they can stay at the orphanage until that happens. There was a woman who was old enough to leave; however, she had a baby, so she could stay to make sure the baby gets enough food.
The last time we visited the differently enabled children, I worked with the children. I mostly worked with this one girl that I never got the name of but, I will never forget. I colored with her for most of the time and then, one of the volunteers made an origami boat and gave it to hear. The little girl then gave that boat to me. For that reason, I will never forget her.
Upon leaving it was very sad. The night before we looked at photos to recap the trip and we said goodbyes. There were so many tears, which illustrated how close we became to each other. The friends that I made on this trip are friends that I never will forget. I will never forget this amazing experience and all the people that helped shape me into a better person.
Social Holiness Concerns: Promoting Human Rights for all, especially children
March 6, 2018 / By Karen Peterson, Task Force of Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel
Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes children in military courts, with approximately 500 to 700 children entering Israeli military detention system in a year.
UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) has repeatedly called upon Israel to end night arrests and ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in military detention.
On November 14, 2017, legislation was introduced in the US Congress entitled Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, which declares that “Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children”, and seeks to prevent the US from financing Israel’s military detention, interrogation, abuse and ill-treatment of Palestinian children.
Please stop by the Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel table at Annual Conference to learn more about day to day life for Palestinians especially children and sign our petition.
Lenten suggestion: Imagine a day with only 4 hours of electricity! For roughly $1,000, a solar panel and battery can be provided for a family in Gaza, enabling the family to have light, refrigeration, and maybe even charge a phone or computer if they had one. At best, Gazan families get 3 to 4 hours of power per day and some days none! What a gift a solar panel and battery would be!
A donation of any amount may be sent to the Shepherd Society through UM Church Advance #3020439. Include a letter with your donation specifying you wish it to be used for solar panel and battery for Gazan family. The Shepherd Society was started in 1996 by Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem to help meet the needs of some of their neighbors.
Coaching is an interactive, dynamic, team approach toward achieving a person’s goal
March 6, 2018 / By Rev. Chrys Beck and Rev. Ray Stees, approved UNY coaches
Editor’s Note: Many Upper New York Conference leaders find benefits in coaching sessions. Below, Rev. Chrys Beck and Rev. Ray Stees describe the coaching process.
Through a process that includes deep listening and powerful questions, a coach journeys alongside the client providing a supportive atmosphere where new possibilities are discovered or created, expanded, and explored. The coach engages the beauty and grace of the client’s God-given life purpose and affirms the client’s inner resources and spiritual gifts. Together, coach and client develop a strategy whereby the client commits to a values-oriented action plan that achieves the client’s goal.
While coaching is similar to other helping disciplines it is not in itself therapy, mentoring, spiritual direction, consulting, or training. Coaching helps empower a person into his or her preferred future. Since the purpose of coaching is to maximize one’s effectiveness in achieving success, coaching stays in the present, builds on strengths, assumes competence, and taps into the client’s own experience, wisdom, and resolve to generate solutions and follow through on the client’s chosen action plan.
How might a coaching partnership benefit the local church? Coaching is a valuable resource for lay and clergy who are seeking to discern a direction or are beginning a new ministry, ministry context or leadership position. A church can help to ensure a good start, for example, for their new Sunday School Superintendent, Church Council Chair or Staff Pastor Parish Relationship Committee by contracting with a coach for a few sessions. More and more clergy across denominations benefit from time spent with a coach. This relationship can be especially useful for clergy during times of personal or professional transition, such as discerning a new call, when ending and beginning appointments, marriage, starting a family or moving into retirement.
Disciples in any leadership position can contract with a coach through the Upper New York Conference Coaching Network. Clergy may use Continuing Education (Accountable Reimbursement) funds and churches may choose to invest in a block of coaching sessions as training for laity in leadership positions. In some cases, the UNY Conference may provide coaching at no cost to the coachee. Clergy may count coaching sessions toward their required annual continuing education.
To learn more about becoming a coachee, contact Upper New York Director of New Faith Communities, the Rev. Dave Masland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bishop Proctor serving as Annual Conference 2018 ordination speaker
March 6, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Bishop Dennis Proctor of the North Eastern Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church will serve as the ordination speaker for the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference session (UNYAC).
“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to speak to young ordinands,” Bishop Proctor said. “As a Methodist Bishop, I feel that the setting aside of young women and men in ministry is indeed a sacred privilege. As such, the charge delivered at the ordination service is weighty!”
Bishop Proctor is a native of Buffalo and graduate of the Syracuse public school system. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Livingstone College, a Master of Arts in pastoral care and counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary, a clinical pastoral experience diploma from Western Reserve Psychiatric Habilitation Center, a Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University College of Law, and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary.
In addition to his education, he is the founding president of the Congress of National Black Churches, Baltimore Affiliate, co-authored Christians Under Construction, and served on his denomination’s Connectional Budget Board and Overseas Missions Board.
Bishop Proctor has held three pastorates: the St. James AME Zion Church in Massillon, Ohio, where he led the congregation in the building of a new church and purchased a parsonage; the St. Luke AME Zion Church of Wilmington, N.C., where he led the congregation in remodeling the church, purchasing a new parsonage, and commissioning a life-size mural; and the Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church in Baltimore, Md., where he remodeled the facility, acquired additional property, created a full-time ministerial staff, and implemented over 20 ministry areas.
As ordination speaker, Bishop Proctor said he will attempt to place a counter-culture argument to these preachers in the Wesleyan tradition, “one intent on being a credible Christian example to the flock of God.”
Bishop Proctor said through the invitation to serve as ordination speaker at this year’s UNYAC session, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is demonstrating the full scope of itinerant collaboration.
“We are shepherds of the Lord’s sheepfold. Different sheep, same needs,” Bishop Proctor said. “This is more than symbolic reconciliation; it is the format for the construction of the beloved community.”
The Service of Commissioning and Ordination takes place June 2 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. For more information about this year’s AC session, click here.
Editor's Note: Some information from this article came from amez.org.
How Mission Partner Churches can help International Reconciliation Ministries
Editor’s Note: The Upper New York Conference is launching a new program called the Mission Congregation Process whereby churches can connect with a church with a large immigrant population to pray for them and help support them. Click here to read more about this new process. Below, learn about International Reconciliation Ministries, the New Faith Community chosen to be a pilot for this program.
Pastor John Bizimana leads the International Reconciliation Ministries. Pastor Bizimana came to this country as a refuge of violence in the Congo. His vision (as depicted in the name of the church) is to provide a church where people can experience reconciliation with God and with people that may have been on the other side of the violence in their home country. Pastor Bizimana was a member of the minority tribe in the Congo that suffered thousands of losses to the majority tribe including many of his closest friends and family. His church is made up of persons from both tribes(approximately 50 percent from each tribe), and together they are experiencing the forgiveness of God and each other. And, they are blessing the lives of African immigrants from many countries throughout the city of Albany. They are now worshipping with an average of about 75 each week, with 140+ active persons. Many of these are youth and children.
Pastor Bizimana said, “Here in the church, we help everyone, regardless of tribe or background. We don’t make any differences between them when we provide assistance. We call everyone ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’ Everyone from every tribe gets the same treatment. By sharing acts of mercy – visiting them in their homes, helping with shopping and transportation, eating together, we break down the barriers. In the refugee camp, persons from each tribe will say they fled from the other tribe. Here, we visit each other and become one. The war continues even now. Each person who arrives bears the trauma of having seen family members killed by the other tribe. “
The Mission of the International Reconciliation Ministries is:
- To help persons from different tribes and backgrounds reconcile with each other and with God.
- To help people feel like home by worshiping in the African tradition in their common language.
- To bring revival among the people who come here in the new life (many get a job and forget God).
When the African refugees arrive to the Albany area, they face many challenges. They don’t know English; they do not have financial resources, transportation, or employment. They also need an orientation to the new life here in the United States. Pastor Bizimana said, “International Reconciliation Ministries invests time, money, and care in orienting the newly arrived. Those who have been here longer, help those who have just arrived. Those who are already employed can help the newly arrived find jobs and learn the language, so they can work.”
Pastor Bizimana continued, describing some of the other ways that his New Faith Community helps refugees, “We show them where to shop for food and clothes and how to cook with what they buy. We help them with medical appointments and connect them with the Department of Social Services. We work closely with RISSE, also a ministry of Emmaus: Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus. At RISSE, they can take English classes and find some legal assistance and other services.”
While International Reconciliation Ministries is greatly helping refugees from the Congo ease in to life in Albany and revive their relationship with God, help from mission partner churches could benefit the refugees in even more ways.
Current needs at the church include:
- A flat screen television for Sunday school classes, for children and adults.
- A newer model computer with email and word processing software for the office, and a printer.
- A van for transportation Pastor Bizimana said, “We have to bring many of our refugees to and from church for both services Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. We also bring them to their medical, social, and refugee agencies appointments. Any 8-12 passenger van in good working order would be greatly appreciated.”
- A donation of money to help us pay for insurance and gas for the van (approximately $2500 for a year).
- A donation of money so that 2 or 3 unrelated persons can provide Safe-Sanctuary sensitive child care for many children during Saturday and Sunday services for 3 hours each week (approximately $3,000 for a year)
- A donation of money to allow IRM to hold its Annual International Reconciliation Conference. Hundreds of African immigrants come from Canada and all over the Northeast for worship, food, games, and to hear the good news of the gospel. Pastor Bizimana said, “This year’s Conference will be held on July 6th, 7th, and 8th and everyone is invited! All sessions have translation provided. The ministry sometimes aids with travel expenses for those who come from a distance and we provide meals for attendees as well as help with lodging.” (approximately $2,000 for each year)
How can your church become a mission partner with this New Faith Community? First, you can become a prayer partner with them. Second, you and a small group of interested people could plan a trip to Albany to meet Pastor Bizimana and the people of his church, experience their high energy worship, and spend some time learning each other’s stories. They worship on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. Third, you could make a monetary donation or help with the aforementioned needs of this growing congregation.
To reach Pastor Bizimana to arrange for a donation or a visit to his New Faith Community, he can be contacted at email@example.com.
As mentioned above, connecting your church with the International Reconciliation Ministry (and others in the future) in a meaningful way is the goal of the Mission Congregation Process. If your church wants to get involved, please contact Rev. Dave Masland at (firstname.lastname@example.org). You will be invited to take advantage of some training to equip your team to relate with confidence and humility to people of another culture, and then will be given opportunity to create a long-term relationship (1-3 years) that will impact both your church and theirs. Rev. Masland is always available to answer questions. More Mission Congregations will be added soon.
Getting Ready for Annual Conference 2018: Meals
March 5, 2018 / By Vicki Swanson
NEW for this year is a Welcome to Annual Conference Buffet which will greet members upon arrival Thursday morning at Onondaga Community College (OCC)! This will be a continental breakfast which will run from 7- 9 a.m. (THURSDAY ONLY).
All meals, except special banquets, will be buffet style. Name tags will need to be visible when going through any of the buffet lines. Click here to see the menus for each meal to be served at Annual Conference.
PLEASE NOTE that there will be separate lines for those with a special need or dietary restriction … and only those persons who have so indicated a need on their registration form will be able to utilize those lines. This will INCLUDE persons who need or prefer to eat vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or who have indicated a food allergy.
Special banquets – Extension Ministries Luncheon, Memorial Dinner, and the Board of Ordained Ministry Dinner – are by invitation only. RESERVATIONS MUST BE MADE … Please follow instructions in the invitation letter for making reservations.
You should also be aware that there are very few restaurants/eateries in the OCC area. However, there are two opportunities for hot/cold beverages and snacks. A concession stand will be open on the upper concourse level of the Arena building. And we are anticipating that “Wholely Grounds” at The ROAD, a coffee house and New Faith Community of The United Methodist Church, will be open at 4845 W. Seneca Turnpike about one mile from OCC. Their hours will be: Wednesday- 1 -10 p.m., Thursday- 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 7 a.m.-10 p.m., and Saturday 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. Click here to view the Wholey Grounds menu.
Blueprint for Wellness Annual Conference Event Pre-Registration Begins
March 5, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Wespath Benefits and Investments and The Center For Health has again teamed up with Quest Diagnostics to offer "Blueprint for Wellness," a free health screening program for eligible participants* in the Upper New York Conference. Quest Diagnostics will be at the Upper New York Annual Conference event at Onondaga Community College (SRC Arena/Allyn Hall Room A182), on Thursday, May 31 and Friday, June 1 from 6 to 10 AM.
This is an opportunity to obtain a free comprehensive "biometric" screening which provides information about your heart, liver and kidney function, diabetes risk and blood sugar control, calcium and iron – plus PSA screening for men. In addition to having information to take to your doctor to help implement a wellness plan, HealthFlex participants can earn $100 in Virgin Pulse HealthMiles Cash.**
Pre-Registration is strongly recommended for the Annual Conference event. You can register for an appointment between now and May 18. A limited amount of walk-ins will be allowed depending on time and supply availability. Walk-ins must provide a HealthFlex ID number at the time of the screening.
You may also choose to get your screening at a local Quest laboratory between April 1 and July 31. Pre-registration is required and appointments can be made beginning March 15.
Click here for instructions on how to register at Annual Conference, as well as fasting requirements.
Click here for 2018 HealthFlex Wellness Incentives FAQs.
*IMPORTANT! Please note: The screening is only available to participants and spouses covered by the HealthFlex PPO B1000 and CDHP plans, and participants and spouses enrolled in Via Benefits. The screening is not available to participants or spouses enrolled through AmWINS.
**To earn the $100 in HealthCash, you must be a HealthFlex participant enrolled in Virgin Pulse by the end of the day of your screening (Via Benefits participants are not eligible for the HealthCash). To enroll in Virgin Pulse, login to your HealthFlex/WebMD account at: https://www.webmdhealth.com/gbophb/, choose “Join Virgin Pulse” and following the instructions.
Lifetree Cafe: an outreach ministry of Pennsylvania Avenue UMC
February 28, 2018 / By Sue Dunlap, Pennsylvania Avenue UMC
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on the ministry of the laity.
Lifetree Café, an outreach ministry of Pennsylvania Avenue UMC and its Fresh Start Faith Communities, provides a new interactive opportunity that invites people to gather weekly to explore life and faith. Dubbed as a “Conversation Café,” this nationally-syndicated program distributed by Group Publishing features real stories of real people, guided conversation, Biblical insights, prayer, and time to build relationships, laughter and fun all in one hour each week!
There is no membership, no preaching, no singing, and no cost for the participant. Each week, the Lifetree Café Values are read aloud… “You’re welcome just as you are. Your thoughts are welcome. Your doubts are welcome. We’re all in this together. God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way.”
We first started Lifetree Café at our Fresh Start Corner in Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY four years ago as a way to connect with people in a secular setting. Currently, we host Lifetree Café on Thursdays 7-8p.m. at our Fresh Start Church House, located at 206 Fourth St. in Watkins Glen, NY, and this has proven to be a positive way to establish a foothold in the village as we develop a New Faith Community.
We believe that God is at work in everyone’s life all the time. Our goal is to help, not hinder, and to bring people from all walks of life into relationships with each other and with Jesus Christ.
Doug Pollock writes in his book, God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally, “Both Christians and non-Christians have very real perceptions about one another that keep us from interacting in redeeming ways. It’s been said that the only thing more difficult than getting the Church to go to the world is getting the world to come to us….I believe God wants Christians to make the first move….If not-yet Christians are convinced the Church is not a safe space to experience community or inquire about their spiritual yearnings, where is that space? And what does it look like in a world that increasingly says no to our traditional God spaces?”
Lifetree employs methods that Jesus used:
- He befriended.
- He met real human needs.
- He welcomed nonbelievers and outcasts.
- He engaged people in conversation.
- He asked questions. He listened.
- He told stories.
- He let people grapple with the meaning of His stories.
- He patiently let people discover who He is: their Lord and Savior.
And Jesus used regular everyday people to carry out His work. Likewise, Lifetree Café relies on everyday followers of Christ to carry out its mission, to lead the program and associated activities, to participate in Lifetree conversations and to shine the light of Christ.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Lifetree Café provides a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, even those with questions, doubts, opposing beliefs…and we’re there to serve them, love them and to demonstrate to them the love of Jesus. How? First we pray! Then we create a cozy, coffeehouse atmosphere with tables for four–the ideal number for some real conversation and sharing. Next, we gather a Friendship Team- a small group willing to setup simple refreshments and drinks, be ready to welcome our guests, sit at a table, and be a part of the conversation and build friendships. And we pray some more! When the hour begins, a ‘Host’ introduces the topic and asks a prepared ice-breaker question from a script provided with the monthly materials…and the Lifetree Café begins! The hour continues with excerpts from the weekly topic, interspersed with group questions.
Lifetree Café tackles the topics that most people deal with—topics about the big (and little) stuff that shapes our lives: Family. Friends. Fears. Busyness. Balance. Money. Materialism. Health. Heaven. Peace. Purpose. People are encouraged to share their stories, with their own group of four, and sometimes with the larger group, and to listen to others stories.
At Lifetree, faith isn’t a subject to be mastered. It’s a relationship to be nurtured. We plant seeds. We water them. But the miracle of growth is God’s to perform. Lifetree Café simply creates an environment for the Holy Spirit to work.
Lifetree Café discussion groups are hosted in a variety of venues, such as coffeehouses, cafés, pubs, restaurants, community centers, and churches. For additional information on starting your own Lifetree Café, contact the website: www.LifetreeCafé.com.
Upper New York Conference is “Praying Our Way Forward”
February 28, 2018 / By UNY Communications Team
“Praying Our Way Forward” is an initiative created by the Council of Bishops, in which every Conference around the world is invited to participate and engage in a week of intentional prayer for the Commission on A Way Forward.
The week of March 4-10 was selected as the week for the UNY Conference to pray.
The Commission is preparing recommendations for the Council to offer to General Conference on the matter of human sexuality related to ordination and marriage. The General Conference will be considering and voting on recommendations at a special session in February 2019. Click here to watch a video about the initiative.
Upper New York Area Resident Mark J. Webb described several ways that everyone across the Conference can participate in this important week of prayer. He said,
“In this season of discernment for the future of our beloved United Methodist Church, we need to pray. We need to pray for the members of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops, the Upper New York delegation and all delegations that will participate in the special called session of General Conference in Feb. 2019. I urge you to personally set a time each day for prayer; gather with others in a small group setting and pray; or participate or plan a prayer service in your local church. Pray for God’s wisdom; pray for our ability to listen; pray for our willingness to say yes to the direction of God for our life together. Before the vote on a way forward comes, let’s engage in the work of praying forward for the glory of God.”
Here are some ways you can pray during this significant week:
- Set a time each day specifically to pray for the Commission on A Way Forward
- Organize a prayer vigil or prayer circle in your congregation
- Invite people to sign up for 15-30 minutes of meditation and prayer for a specific day
- If there is a church meeting or event scheduled during March 4-10, offer a special prayer in opening and closing devotions
- Start a prayer chain for each day specifically for the Commission on a Way Forward
Intentional prayer for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward is important for a fruitful future for the United Methodist Church to continue making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Spotlight on the Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones, Upper New York Annual Conference 2018 study leader
The Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones of Duke Divinity School will be the guest study leader and this year’s Annual Conference (AC2018), which will be held from May 30-June 2, at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena. Rev. Jones’ emphasis will be on living our call in the Wesleyan Way.
Rev. Jones said, “There is a distinctive Wesleyan Way to living and thinking and feeling as Christians, and we can chart significant paths forward into the future by mining our own best insights. This Wesleyan Way involves holding things together that others put into opposition and involves us embodying a powerful vision of social innovation.” Rev. Jones will be drawing insights from the Wesleyan movement in England and will also provide modern-day examples of the Wesleyan Way in the United States and around the world.
Rev. Jones will be leading two study sessions. The titles of his first presentation is “The End is our Beginning” Rev. Jones said, “This presentation focuses on the importance of us being guided by a robust vision of the Reign of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit in conforming us to Christ while making all things new.”
The title of Rev. Jones’ second presentation is “Forming Christians for Social Innovation.” Rev. Jones said, “The second presentation will focus on friendships and practices that shape and form us to be people who bear witness to the Holy Spirit’s work.”
Rev. Jones’ presentations will certainly fit nicely into the AC2018 theme: “Together in Prayer: Boldly living our Call.” When asked about the theme, Rev. Jones said, “Prayer is at the heart of keeping us focused on the End (bearing witness to the Reign of God and testifying to the power of the Holy Spirit). We are to be discerning our calling in all we are and do, laity and clergy alike. And we need to do so boldly by imagining and embodying extraordinary social innovation in the world.”
You will leave AC2018 inspired with some imaginative examples and empowered with specific calls-to-action you can do in your home contexts after hearing Rev. Jones’ presentations.
Toronto UMC unites with the Upper New York Conference as a New Faith Community
February 27, 2018 / By UNY Communications Team
In November 2017, the pastors and Church Council Chair of Toronto United Methodist Church met with the Rev. David Masland (Upper New York Director of New Faith Communities) and the Rev. Wayne Butler (Niagara Frontier District Superintendent) to discuss uniting with the Upper NY Conference as a New Faith Community.
This young congregation (it’s only five years old and made up primarily of people in their 30s) is largely comprised of families who have immigrated to Toronto, Ontario from the Philippines. Most of the congregation were members of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines and wished to maintain that relationship in their new homeland. Since the Methodist Church became part of the United Church of Canada in 1925, their Bishop recommended that they contact the Upper NY Conference and seek to become affiliated here
On Sunday, Feb. 18, Rev. Butler and Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer traveled to Toronto to join the congregation in worship and conduct the first charge conference they have held since the start of the church. While charge conferences may seem simply a matter of taking care of business for most United Methodist Churches, this congregation approached the event with excitement, enthusiasm, and great joy. When informed that they were already recognized as a New Faith Community by the Upper NY Conference, the group broke out into spontaneous applause.
Rev. Butler said, “It’s exciting to work with such a young congregation, especially since they bring a new international and cross-cultural perspective to the Niagara Frontier District. Their excitement over holding their first charge conference was contagious.”
The Toronto congregation has already planted a new congregation (Cornerstone Community) in a community two-hours northwest of Toronto, which Rev. Manny Valdez serves while on a one-year leave from the Toronto congregation. During this time, Rev. Efren Limos is pastoring the Toronto UMC.
The pastors and lay members of Toronto UMC plan to attend Annual Conference session in Syracuse this spring, where it is hoped that they will be recognized by the body and welcomed as our first international congregation in the Upper NY Conference.
International Reconciliation Ministries to be a pilot for UNY’s new Mission Congregation Process
The Mission Congregation Process of Upper New York (UNY) Conference is a new effort to connect existing United Methodist churches in partnerships with New Faith Communities and churches that are actively making new disciples with immigrant and refugee populations throughout upper New York. These partnerships can include any of the following: relationship building, praying for one another, worship and spiritual development together, VIM trips to do needed work on buildings, donations of money or resources to support the ministry.
The purpose of the Mission Congregation Process is two-fold: To assist in developing and implementing strategies to help a New Faith Community or church that is making disciples with new people to become a fully self-sustaining community of faith; And, to provide an opportunity for all UNY United Methodists to be engaged in significant relationships and ministry with the poor in ways that are mutually beneficial.
The appointive cabinet will identify the Mission Congregations, and then work with the Communications Team to get the word out to the Annual Conference about opportunities for partnership. To begin, the International Reconciliation Ministries in Albany has been identified as a pilot program for this new process.
The Rev. David Masland, UNY Director of New Faith Communities, said “International Reconciliation Ministry has been one of our UM New Faith Communities since 2014. They are consistently welcoming new people of all ages into worship, Bible study, and service. In many ways, they are stronger than most of our existing churches! However, they are constantly held back by their financial challenges. Our vision is to give other churches the chance to know them, partner with them, learn from them, and help them to become financially self-sustaining.”
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for an in-depth article about International Reconciliation Ministry and the specific needs they have.
Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood appointed for an eighth year
February 22, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb has announced that the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood will be appointed to the office of District Superintendent for an eighth year.
“After consultation with Dr. Rood and with the members of the Cornerstone District Committee on Superintendency, I am delighted to share that Sherri will continue to provide leadership to the Cornerstone District, the Cabinet and the annual conference for an eighth and final year,” Bishop Webb said. “Sherri is a gift to this annual conference and the work of the Cabinet. Her commitment to Christ and the Church is steadfast. Her leadership as the Dean of the UNY Cabinet over the past three years has made us stronger and more effective. We are blessed to have her continue to serve with us and among us.”
The normal term for a district superintendent is six years but may be extended up to eight years at the bishop's discretion, in consultation with the Cabinet and the District Committee on Superintendency.
Rev. Rood said, “I am blessed to serve with the pastors and churches of the Cornerstone District as well as Bishop Webb, the Cabinet, and Conference staff. We have done significant work together in building up the Body of Christ. I look forward to a final year of ministry together as we prepare the Cornerstone District to receive their next superintendent.”
Rush UMC fulfills dream with two projects
February 20, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
When the Rush United Methodist Church was built a little over 20 years, there was always a desire to use the church’s land to provide opportunities for the community.
The first opportunity came when the church built a large picnic pavilion – that seats 150 people – for public use, said the Rev. Cathy Hall Stengel, pastor at the Rush UMC.
More recently, the church expanded upon this dream with two projects.
About 18 months ago, a men’s group, Carpenter & Sons, formed at the Rush UMC with the goal of building a woodshop in a room downstairs in the church. They transformed a former choir room into a room fully equipped with power tools, work tables, and a small office for woodworking, various repairs, building, and more. On Monday nights, the group can be found refinishing things downstairs or working upstairs on an addition to the church.
And the room isn’t just used for church purposes; anyone can use the woodshop, like a local handyman who, at times, will utilize the room to craft projects for customers.
“It is not limited other than some safety regulations – no children using power tools,” said Rev. Stengel. “And it's not just for men – it just so happens that it was created by our men’s group.”
And two amazing things have happened as a result, Rev. Stengel said.
“It’s drawn some people into both partnership and small group settings that weren’t and re-engaged some of our older men who thought that their skills weren’t valuable anymore because they couldn’t do what they used to do,” she said. “And they have realized that God’s not finished with them, and we’re not finished with them.”
The woodshop will soon install a donated dust removal system.
In addition to the woodshop, the Rush UMC is also reaching out to the community through a canoe/kayak shed building, which was delivered about two weeks ago.
Rev. Stengel said the idea for this building was “born out of unfortunate loss,” after a member of the congregation passed away in his early 50s. When Dan Varble’s memorial gifts came in, the church consulted with his loved ones to decide how to honor him. In keeping with his passion for Boy Scouts, the outdoors, and physical activity, they chose to support and enhance canoeing and kayaking at the creek behind the church with the shed.
“Now we have the opportunity to reach out to and support the greater kayak and canoe community,” Rev. Stengel said.
In the spring, racks will be built for people to put their canoes or kayaks, and there will be at least one canoe or kayak available for public use.
“These two places of ministry have been born out of a passion/interest within the congregation – with the dream that those who are outside of our current ministry might be blessed by them,” Rev. Stengel said.
Soup sale helps kids go to camp
February 20, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Children at the Odessa-Catharine United Methodist Church rarely had the opportunity to go to camp during the summer, so the church decided to do something about it – with the help of soup.
For the past few years, the Odessa-Catharine UMC has hosted its Soup-to-Go-Sale to raise money for the "Send our Kids to Camp Scholarship Fund,” which helps send the church’s children to summer camp at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center.
“We’re a very small church, so we know that it’s very expensive for the children’s families to be able to afford the camp,” said the Rev. Sheila Price, pastor at the Odessa-Catharine UMC. “So, we wanted to be able to pay half the camp expenses for each child who wanted to go.”
For the past two years, seven children from the church have gone to camp – up from zero – thanks to funds raised by the soup sale.
This year, the church hosted their Soup-to-Go Sale on Feb. 3, offering four varieties of homemade soup: broccoli cheese, corn chowder, hamburger, and chicken vegetable.
Members of congregation, parents, Rev. Price, and anybody willing to help were given the four recipes for continuity and then made the soups at home.
The church took pre-orders of the soup for $8 per quart. Those who placed orders picked them up Feb. 3. This year, more than 114 pre-orders were placed and $1,295 was raised.
Rev. Price said the church got the idea for the soup sale because they had hosted one in the past as well as because people come to their holiday bazaar each year for the church’s “famous” broccoli cheese and hamburger soups.
“I guess the reason we do this at all is we’re kind of famous for two of our soups,” she said. “We knew that it was very well-liked.”
And Rev. Price said going to camp has been a wonderful experience for the children, who come back excited, sharing what a great time they had at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center.
“It’s not so much that we did a soup sale,” she said. “The congregation really wants their kids to go to summer camp and really wants to be able to make that possible for more of the children.”
Bishop Webb names Rev. Earthrowl as Adirondack District Superintendent
February 19, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is pleased to announce his intention to appoint the Rev. Deborah Earthrowl as Superintendent of the Adirondack District, effective July 1.
Rev. Earthrowl currently serves as pastor of the Salem and West Hebron United Methodist churches in the Adirondack District. She has been involved in various leadership positions in Upper New York, as well as a predecessor conference. She currently serves on the UNY Board of Ordained Ministry, the UNY New Faith Community Leadership Team, and serves as a coach with the coaching network through Vital Congregations. Rev. Earthrowl is also currently a member of the Adirondack District Leadership Team and has been a volunteer director at Skye Farm for nearly 20 years.
Previously, Rev. Earthrowl served on UNY Town & Country Ministries, the Troy Conference Small Membership Church Committee, the Troy Conference Board of Ordained Ministry as the diaconal ministry representative, and the Troy Conference Diaconal Ministries Committee.
“Rev. Earthrowl brings a contagious love for Jesus and a commitment for assisting the church in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Bishop Webb said. “Debbie’s experience and love for ministry in all settings, specifically rural ministry, will be a gift to the work of Upper New York and the Adirondack District. Her knowledge of and relationships with clergy and laity in the Adirondack District will be a great blessing and asset in this role. I am delighted to have Debbie join the work of the Cabinet.
Current Adirondack District Superintendent the Rev. William Mudge will be appointed to First United Methodist Church in Baldwinsville, effective July 1.
“Rev. Mudge has served with faithfulness, passion and love. He has been a steady presence in the work of the Cabinet and throughout the UNY Conference, living out his commitment to Christ and the Church with a servant’s heart,” Bishop Webb said. “Bill will be missed in this role, but I celebrate with he and Shari this new beginning in ministry and mission.
“I invite you to keep these two servants of Christ, as well as the congregations of Salem, West Hebron, First Baldwinsville, and the Adirondack District in your prayers during this time of transition,” Bishop Webb said.
Rev. Earthrowl has a Master of Divinity from Drew University, a Master of library and information science from SUNY Albany, and a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from SUNY Oneonta. She is married to Jonathan Earthrowl, and they have three children and seven grandchildren.
From the Desk of Bishop Webb: Response to the school shooting in Florida
February 15, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Editor's note: On Feb. 15 Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter about the shooting at a Florida high school.
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Our hearts ache and our spirits grieve as once again senseless violence and evil has taken the lives of innocent people. I invite you to join me in praying for the victims and families of the shooting yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Our prayers are with our United Methodist brothers and sisters in the communities of Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida as they seek to be the presence of Christ during this horrific time.
Like you, I watch and listen as people attempt to make sense of events like this. I hear the discussions that attempt to find a reason and then ultimately a solution. We must lead and be engaged in the conversations that address the moral and spiritual decay in our society. We must lead and be engaged in the conversations that work toward ending all acts of violence and evil, including gun violence. We must lead and be engaged in the conversations that seek to address the hopelessness, fear, and spiritual yearnings found in each person. We must confess our lack of compassion, passion, and urgency in offering the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and action to the world around us.
Ephesians 6 remind us of a powerful truth: “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The words of Jesus in John 12 invite us to claim and proclaim a promise as well – “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”
May we allow the light of Jesus to continue to transform us and then may we take that light into the darkest parts of our community and world, trusting that light to penetrate the darkness. The light of Christ is our hope, our source of peace and the true solution for transforming change in us, in others and in our world. Let us boldly offer Jesus!
Grace and peace,
Bishop Mark J. Webb