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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church


    news article

    Rowing toward shore after my husband’s death

    August 15, 2017 / By By Jan Rothfuss

    My husband’s death was not completely unexpected but I was holding on to the thought that we would be together a while longer. After all, he had survived his initial bought with cancer in 2013 and 2014 was a great year, including the birth of our first grandchild and a road trip together out to Colorado.

    But in June of 2015, he was called home. While I had experienced the death of grandparents and parents, what I felt during these days was quite different. I did not understand the depth of emotions that would come over me at unexpected moments. We were both fishers and it seemed that the image to describe my turmoil was described best as ten foot waves repeatedly crashing over me.

    I do not remember very much about the first six months. I do remember thinking that I now understood the purpose behind committing Bible verses to memory – writing them on one’s heart. During these times of true heartache, those words moved in through the cracks and provided comfort. I still had trouble putting my scattered thoughts into words; so much of my time with God was silent. This provided many opportunities for God to speak and for me to listen.

    Early in 2016, I continued to struggle with my innate need to do something. I was beginning to feel a slight degree of control over my emotions. I came across a suggestion that I could hold on to:  Pray to God….But Row toward Shore. It suggested to me what I already knew deep down. That God is faithful and patient and that God wanted me to begin my journey afresh as I moved toward my new normal. But it also appealed to my internal drive to do something instead of just stand by and wait for something to happen.

    I moved through the months toward the one year anniversary trying to rebuild while continuing to listen. I joined our UMC church’s GriefShare group which placed me into a caring community of persons who were traveling a similar path. I continued to spend time with my son and his family, enjoying the love that is uniquely shared between a grandmother and grandson.

    As June arrived, I began to feel that I was getting closer to shore. It was around this time that I came to a realization that would impact the rest of the journey. I realized that my boat was not empty. Now I know that God was there with me all along. Trusting God is enough.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Laity District Days locations announced

    August 14, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Bishop Mark J. Webb has announced the following dates for the District Days with the Bishop coming in the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2018. Locations for the event have now been confirmed for each District as follows:

    • Mountain View – 9/7 @ Avoca UMC
    • Cornerstone -9/17 @ Christ First, Jamestown
    • Finger Lakes - 9/26 @ Seneca Falls UMC
    • Niagara Frontier – 10/3 @ Harris Hill UMC
    • Albany – 10/5 @ Shenendehowa UMC
    • Adirondack – 10/19 @ Queensbury UMC
    • Oneonta – 10/30 @ Unadilla UMC
    • Northern Flow – 11/16 @ Canton UMC
    • Crossroads – 2/1/18 @ The United Methodist Center
    •  Mohawk – 2/13/18 @ Sherrill: Christ Church
    • Binghamton – 3/1/18 @ Endwell UMC
    • Genesee Valley – 3/19/18 @Farmington UMC

    Each event will take place from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Stay tuned for more details on what to expect at the District Days.

    Vital Congregations opportunities this fall

    August 14, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    There is still time to register for the fall opportunities from Vital Congregations. In reaching toward our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, all of us will need to continue to grow in our capacity as leaders. Our current understandings will limit our ability to live into our vision of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places. The following opportunities are available starting this fall:

    Leadership Academy

    Built around the 16 Competencies of Leadership, the academy is a series of four gatherings, with a capstone trip. This year our faculty includes, Dr. Rebecca Letterman from Northeast Seminary, Rev. Jasmine Smothers pastor at Atlanta First UMC, Dr. Kevin Watson from Candler School of Theology, and Dr. Douglas Powe Jr. from The Lewis Center for Church Leadership. There will also be time of hearing from practitioners in the field, as well as case studies from peers. Please note a change from original information, the first session, September 12-14 will be at Casowasco Camp and Retreat Center, the remaining sessions will be held in Syracuse at the United Methodist Center. Hotel accommodations are included in the registration. Registration deadline is September 2, 2017.

    Click here to register.

    Illuminate Preaching Academy

    Every preacher, regardless of current ability, can grow in the art and craft of preaching. Illuminate Preaching Academy is designed around the Characteristics of the Bright Spot Preacher. Through guest faculty, peer feedback, and mentoring, participants will develop their preaching style more fully, as well as explore additional styles. Laity from participating congregations have reported an increase in the quality and application of their sermons. Illuminate will help a good preacher move toward being a great preacher. This year’s faculty includes, Rev. Jacob Armstrong from Providence Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee and Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady from Asbury First UMC in Rochester, NY. There will also be teaching times from peers, and preaching labs where learning will happen from feedback loops. Please note a change in location, all sessions will take place at the United Methodist Center in Liverpool. Hotel accommodations are included in the registration. Registration deadline is September 13, 2017.

    Click here to register. 

    Tending the Fire

    Human systems are complicated and churches are no exception. At their best, they draw out excellence in their people. At their worst, they become stuck --undermining and sabotaging even the most well-designed plans for change. Tending the Fire helps clergy “think systems” in their congregations and their personal lives, so they can lead change that lasts.

    They can:

    • Understand anxiety’s effects on churches and individuals
    • Be a healthy, non-anxious leader
    • Manage complicated emotional relationships
    • Avoid overwork and “underwork”
    • Recognize and handle sabotage
    • Discover the “next right steps” for their churches and themselves

    Registration Deadline is September 15, 2017.

    Click here to register. 

    From Spiritual Life in Vital Congregations:

    In the ever-increasing noise, busyness and distraction of our world, do you sense a desire to spend more time with God but aren’t sure that you know how? Have you been wondering…

    “Where is God in all of this?”
    “How do I know what God wants me to do?”
    “How can I learn to hear God’s 'still small voice' in my life?"

    The Upper New York Conference is offering two programs, Growing with God and Tending the Soul, for both laity and clergy that can help.  These programs are designed to strengthen individuals and congregations through spiritual formation and to enhance the spiritual growth of congregations.

    Growing with God

    Growing with God is a program designed to help Christians who are seeking to deepen their relationship with God and who are in search of his presence and activity in their everyday lives. It is a series of 8 mini-retreats, just one day each from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., where you will learn prayer practices and spiritual disciplines, which are activities that you can practice daily to help you quiet your soul and focus your attention on God. You can incorporate one or more of these disciplines in your life at different times to help you notice how the Spirit is calling and guiding you. Growing with God sessions are once a month beginning on Saturday September 9.  Sign up today for the one in your local area – Syracuse, Saratoga, or Rochester.  The deadline is September 1.  CEU-1 

    Click here to register and learn more information.

    Tending the Soul

    Tending the Soul is designed for individuals who have begun to incorporate spiritual disciplines in their daily lives and are seeking to deepen their spiritual lives; individuals who are seeking to learn to companion others (in both one-on-one relationships and congregational settings) and help others pay attention to the God moments and movements in their lives.  As we walk alongside one another in discerning God’s deep desire for us and for others, we are better able to hear God’s invitation for our lives and our ministries. This program is a series of six retreats, four days each, over two years. The retreats offer learning and formational experiences in classroom settings, small groups and personal reflection.  The first retreat is scheduled for October 23-26.  The deadline is September 8th.  CEU-12

    Click here to register and to learn more information.

    Pre-retirement Seminar scheduled for Sept. 25

    August 14, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    There will be a Pre-Retirement Seminar held in September to highlight and explain the benefits available through The United Methodist Church to retiring clergy.  This seminar is intended to assist persons in their later years of ministry understand the current pension plan, health insurance options, Social Security, and moving assistance available. ONLINE REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED, as we will provide clergy-specific retirement projections, and also need to plan for lunch.

    Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. 
    Upper New York United Methodist Center, 7481 Henry Clay Blvd., Liverpool, NY 13088

    The deadline to register is Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.  Click here to register and for more information.

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services

    God’s strength throughout my life

    August 14, 2017 / By Rev. Rhonda Kouterick, Horseheads UMC

    When have I had to trust that God is enough? When haven't I? And when haven't you? Here are some times throughout my life when I have trusted that God is enough:

    • It was when I went off to seminary with a sleeping bag and $75 in my pocket with no guaranteed place to stay and thinking I could buy what books I needed for the semester; The housing person yelled at me then found me a room, but only if the others there agreed; And in my mailbox was notification of a book award that paid for the year's books before I even discovered how outrageously expensive they were.
    • It was in Texas doing a year long stint of Clinical Pastoral Education at the Austin State Hospital completely broke, not able to even make my car payment and at the chapel service I was in charge of, the patient choir sang "It Took Me So Long, So Long but I Learned to Trust the Lord."
    • It was during the last month of seminary classes when the world stopped when I found out that my husband, Lon, had testicular cancer and needed surgery immediately. We only had health insurance because he was working on the Drew cam- pus as a custodian in the Science Building. His supervisor, an Asian refugee Christian, came to pray over him.
    • It was when I was on my way to be introduced to the people at my first appointment and feeling totally inadequate and the DS handed me a list of what the people were looking for and I realized they were looking for me. "I can do those things" I said; and the DS laughed.
    • It was during the second year of my second appointment at Thanksgiving, when with a 10th grader, a 1st grader, and a 3-year-old, we found out that my husband would need brain surgery. It was over Christmas; everybody from everywhere sent prayers and words of support. My sister from Florida was able to come and be with the children so I could go to Strong in Rochester and not worry.
    • It was the next year, a few months after my husband’s second brain tumor surgery, juggling full-time pastor with everything else and in prayer, God let me know "I'm with you, it will be okay." And so it has been, every year, every time.

    When I was at my wits end with one of the kids, with the church, with health issues, every year, every time, and even early morning this past Christmas Eve when my husband, surrounded by family passed away after a long courageous battle with cancer, God is enough. God's strength is enough to get me through the deep water and to the other side.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Upper New York Conference offers a grant through The Trust Agreement of the late Ercil Cady

    August 14, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    The Cady Grant is available to UNY individual United Methodists, local UM churches, or District and Conference ministry teams.  Priority shall be given to educational proposals that benefit African Americans or Native Americans. This year's applications are due August 21, 2017 with notification by September 1, 2017.

    The proposal must demonstrate:

    1.      The education/ministry/program/event is faith based.

    2.      A direct benefit for an African American or Native American person or persons in need.

    3.      A need for education/ministry/program/ or event.

    4.      An itemized expense report (if appropriate).

    Applications must be typewritten/word processed with no more than three pages (cover sheet, one page proposal, and financial report if appropriate). Faxes and email proposals are permitted.

    Click here for an MS Word version of the application. Click here for a .PDF version of teh application.

    Proposals are to be submitted to the Cady Grant Review Team, Upper New York Conference, Director of Connectional Ministries at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd., Liverpool, NY 13088. Fax: (315-898-2198). Email:  dcmoffice@unyumc.org

    Conference website status

    August 14, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    As we are sure you have noticed, we’ve had some significant issues with the Conference website over the last week or so.

    The good news is that we have a restored version of the Conference website that we can work with.

    The bad news is that several months updates, changes, and additions to the website were lost in the process.  

    What this means is we are having to manually go in and recreate the work that was lost. Our hope is that we will have the majority of the information restored this week.

    We appreciate your patience as we work to get our site fully restored. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Director of Communications, Steve Hustedt, at stevehustedt@unyumc.org

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

    From the desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: Response to Charlottesville

    August 14, 2017 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Bishop Mark Webb has shared the following Response to Charlottesville:

    Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

    Having just returned this morning from some time away with limited access to news, my heart breaks upon reading the reports of what occurred in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, August 12th. This is evil fully manifested. As the Church of Jesus Christ, we must stand strongly against this kind of hate and racism. I urge you to pray and continue to seek ways to be the hands and feet of Christ. Through your actions and your words boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

    This is a spiritual matter, plain and simple. May we remember that Christ calls us to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin. Christ calls us to accept the freedom and power God gives to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. And Christ calls us to confess him as Savior, put our whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as Lord, in union with the church which he has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

    Let us confidently offer the light of Christ, as it alone will pierce the darkness within our world.

    Grace and peace,

    Bishop Mark J. Webb

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office

    Register now for Sept. 15-16 Annual UMM Gathering

    August 9, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    This year's UMM's Annual Gathering at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center takes place on Sept. 15-16. With the theme Revival, the Rev. Mark Lubbock is the keynote speaker and exciting music will be performed by Mark Jones and Eric Schele.

    Rev. Lubbock is the CEO of the non-profit men's ministry "Gulf South Men" headquartered in Baton Rouge, LA, serving Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Gulf South Men supports churches and men's groups in making disciples of Jesus through coaching, events training, studies, and small group formation.

    To register for Revival, visit, unyumm.org and click on events. For more information, contact Mark Jones at 315-749-3700 or msjwelshman@yahoo.com

    2017 UNY Conference Journal Directory now available for purchase

    August 9, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The 2017 Upper New York Conference Journal Directory is now available. This directory contains up-to-date contact information of all UNY churches, clergy, members to Annual Conference, and surviving spouses for the 2017 Upper New York Annual Conference Session. There are two ways to receive the Journal Directory:

    Click here to purchase a hard copy from online publisher Lulu.com OR click here for free downloadable PDF version on Issuu.

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

    Vol. 2 of the Journal will be available later this fall. Vol. 1 of the Journal (published last spring), the Journal Directory, and Vol. 2 of the Journal will make up the entirety of the 2017 Journal. These can be found on the Journals webpage found here

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    Faith is not enough

    July 26, 2017 / By Sherie Heins, Trinity Federated Church

    Growing up in rural New York State, I was part of what I always thought of as a typical family in a typical home environment. We ate dinner around the table each night; we said our bedtime prayers; we attended church and Sunday school and joined the church when we were of age, growing into a faith-based life. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how many families do not have that bedrock.

    It served me well, as two of my brothers died at young ages before I had turned 14. I looked to Mom – as she held the family together – and I knew it was her faith that was holding her together.  So faith always seemed to “be enough” as I grew into adulthood, gained independence, and started my own family.

    The years went by and my family grew into three grandchildren as well as my two children, and they, too, grew into that much-loved and handed-down faith. And still that faith seemed to be enough…getting us through the tough times families face – mental illness, death of my husband at a young age, financial problems.

    And then, in February of this year, my 11-year old granddaughter, Maddie, died totally unexpectedly, leaving a gaping, raw hole in my faith. Suddenly, faith didn’t seem enough. It wasn’t explaining anything; it wasn’t easing the loss; it wasn’t fixing a thing. In fact, I questioned my faith, and my God, and the good that could possibly come from this devastating loss. There is no magical formula in “having faith” that makes everything better or takes that grief away.

    Early on in our grieving, I said to my son, Tad (amazingly good single-father of just this one child now gone), “I want to love God again. I don’t like being mad at him.”  My son looked at me, smiled through his heartache, and said, “Mom weren’t you ever mad at your Mom and Dad? When they did something you didn’t see any reason for and couldn’t understand, it made you mad at them, but you didn’t stop loving them. It’s just like that with God. You’re mad now, but you still love him.”

    At that moment, humbled by my son, I felt the full impact of what I’d been doing. I’d been leaning on my faith as a quick-fix…a Band-Aid, if you will, to ease the pain I was feeling. What I wasn’t doing was trusting that God is enough. Certainly, my faith felt stretched at that point in time, and wasn’t providing the usual amount of comfort a familiarity. My faith was stretched beyond my ab to recognize it as faith, but in that one sentence my son reminded me that my faith is still there, its bright light still shining, just waiting for me to come back to it. Just waiting for me to realize t when its light doesn’t seem to shine so brightly for me, that is exactly when I need to trust that God is enough. And in doing so, my faith will snap back into shape – perhaps a different shape, but likely stronger and brighter.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    My visit to the Holy Land Trip Article 1 of 3

    July 26, 2017 / By Theresa Eggleston

    My husband and I were driving in the car one day and we decided to name our bucket list items. “You know one place I really want to go, but I don’t think it would ever happen?” “Where?” My husband replied. I paused mentally preparing myself to not gain any hope, “I really want to go to the Holy Land.” I paused again hearing my parents in my head, “It’s dangerous over there.” I recalled being 13, watching the news hearing about the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict; bombs went off, protests ran through the streets, and people died.  I continue to speak to my husband, “I want to go just to…just to experience it. I know there may never be peace in the Middle East while I’m alive and it may never be ‘really safe’ but I want to go, just to experience it and walk where Jesus walked.” My husband looked at me and shrugged, understanding where I was coming from, “Yeah that would be pretty cool.” “It would cost a lot, and we may never be able to afford a trip like that for one person,” I said.  I sighed, looked out the window of the car and thought, “Who am I kidding, I don’t think I’ll visit the Holy Land, I’ve never even left the country. Even if I could afford it, it wouldn’t be till I’m retired.” I let out an audible sigh, my husband rubbed my knee.

    Little did I know that a God was making plans for me to travel to the Holy Land. A few weeks after our car conversation, I received a message from the United Methodist Young People’s Ministry base out of Nashville, Tennessee. They were offering me a fully paid trip to visit The Holy Land. All I had to do was provide my own Air Fare. “Was this real?” I thought.

    Within days I confirmed my spot on the trip, renewed my passport, asked churches for financial support and booked a flight to the Holy Land. I was elated, scared, and ready to trust God’s plan.

    The goal of the trip was to bring young leaders together from around the globe to connect and gain a better understanding of the Israeli, Palestinian conflict.

    All of us were ages 20-35; we gathered from around the world: United States, Philippines, Germany, South Africa, Ireland, Serbia, and Norway. Tour guides across the Holy Land raised their eyebrows to see our age and hear that we were from all over the globe. ‘You mean you’re a group of young Christians from around the world?’ “Yes,” we all would politely smile and nod.

    We followed the life of Jesus from his birthplace in Bethlehem, to his ministry in Tiberius, and finally set forth to Jerusalem. We walked on the ground Jesus walked and sailed upon the Sea of Galilee where his disciples fished.  We heard the stories of ancient ruins and trials of the souls who dwell in the land today. We sat inside the walls of a refugee camp and listened to heart break of the Palestinian people. We sat around a circle in Jerusalem and listened to the story of a Rabbi sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. We became friends with one another; we became family with one another.

    This trip changed my life. It changed the way I see The Holy Land, the way I read the Bible, the way I view conflict, and the way I listen to the story of refugees. It has changed the way I hear God’s story and it will forever change the way I tell God’s story. 

    The Upper Room: Where the world meets to pray

    April 26, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    The Upper Room is a global ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual formation of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully. It is a part of Discipleship Ministries.

    Sherry Elliot, The Upper Room’s Executive Director of Interpretation and Development, said, “The Upper Room exists for the purpose of calling people to prayer and inviting The Church to practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, small group study, and other tenets of faith that draw you closer to God and strengthen your faith.”

    “Prayer is our mission work,” she said. “Prayer is about paying attention to God, listening to the Spirit. Prayer shapes the soul so you can discern God’s call for your life. As United Methodists, we know that personal time with God (piety) gives us power to show mercy and do justice in the world.”

    The Upper Room was prayed into existence by a women’s prayer group at Travis Park Methodist Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas, during the Great Depression. They were interested in supporting daily prayer and devotional life in the home and petitioned a general Church board to consider a simple publication to facilitate daily prayer. This action birthed the popular devotional guide, The Upper Room, in 1935, which is used by millions of Christians around the world and available in 33 different languages and more than 100 countries today.

    The Upper Room focuses on five ministry areas:

    • Supporting small group ministries.
    • Guiding personal spiritual practices.
    • Supporting spiritual leaders.
    • Transcending languages and cultures to serve all nationalities.
    • Using E-learning as a way to help people grow spiritually online.

    The Upper Room now includes publications, programs, prayer support, and other resources to help believers of all ages and denominations move to a deeper level of faith and service. Below are just some of the resources and programs made available by The Upper Room ministry.

    Publications

    The Upper Room has several publications:

    • The Upper Room’s daily Daily Devotional helps people feel invited and welcomed into God’s presence to listen to scripture as God’s personal message, linking their stories to God’s story; commune with God in prayer; see their daily choices and small acts of obedience as part of God’s work; realize their connection through Christ as a universal family of believers; and encounter the living Christ and be transformed into Christ’s likeness. Check it out at www.devotional.upperroom.org.
    • El Aposento Alto is a daily devotional for Spanish-speaking individuals. Find it at www.elaposentoalto.upperroom.org/es.
    • devozine is a lifestyle magazine written by young people and designed for youth. Its purpose is to help young people, ages 14-19, develop a lifelong practice of spending time with God and reflecting on what God is doing in their lives. Find it at www.devozine.upperroom.org.
    • Pockets is a devotional magazine for children ages 6-12. It is designed for the personal use of children to help them grow in their relationship with God. Check it out at www.pockets.upperroom.org.
    • The Upper Room’s Voices blog offers current news, stories, and insights from the publications and ministries of The Upper Room. Check it out at www.voices.upperroom.org.

    Programs

    • The Upper Room offers six programs:
    • The Walk to Emmaus, which empowers Christian leaders.
    • Chrysalis, which builds up young people.
    • Face to Face, which is an adaptation of The Walk to Emmaus for men and women ages 60 and older.
    • Academy for Spiritual Formation, which combines academic learning with experience in spiritual disciplines and community.
    • Living Prayer Center, which is an intercessory prayer phone line and online prayer wall for those in need of prayer. It’s staffed by about 600 Christian volunteer and receives about 800 prayer requests a day.
    • Journey to the Table, which is a spiritual formation ministry specifically designed for young adults, ages 18-35, that allows participants to explore faith through authentic teaching and fosters open discussion through which participants can build relationships with a community of peers.

    Most recently, the Upper Room has worked with the Council of Bishops and created a United Methodist Prayer Community in support of the “Praying our Way Forward” initiative, in which every Annual and Central Conference has committed to a week of prayer. Visit the website umcprays.org to learn when the UNY will pray together, to submit posts to a prayer wall, and more.

    From the Desk of Bishop Mark J Webb: Together in prayer

    April 26, 2017 / By Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor's Note: This letter was first published in the 2017 Issue 2 of the Advocate, which focuses on the power of prayer. Click here to access this issue.

    “Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.”

    “God does nothing but by prayer, and everything with it.”

    Those two quotes attributed to John Wesley are two of my favorite quotes about prayer. Prayer is at the heart of our journey with God, one another, and the world. Prayer takes us deeper, wider, higher, and longer, as we seek to serve God with all that we are and all that we have. We experience prayer individually and corporately. We offer prayers of thanksgiving and intercession. Prayer drives us to talk with our God and even more, to listen to the voice of our God.

    As we seek to be the church of Jesus Christ, boldly living the mission of being used by God for the increase of disciples who love and follow Jesus, prayer is our greatest resource and spiritual weapon. Prayer leads us to a place of trust and dependence upon God. Prayer reveals God’s dreams, offers God’s direction for our path, and provides Holy Spirit boldness for the steps we take.

    In the pages of this edition of The Advocate, you will find some amazing stories of prayer from brothers and sisters in Christ in every part of the Upper New York Conference. You will see various practices of prayer, powerful experiences of prayer, and awesome results of prayer! I hope these expressions encourage and challenge us to go deeper in our prayer life, as individuals and together as the body of Christ.

    Over the next few years, we have chosen a theme for our life together that is defined by three simple words: Together in Prayer. The realities of our world, our future as congregations, as an Annual Conference, and as The United Methodist Church call us to get serious about the discipline of prayer! In the midst of uncertainty, prayer opens us to the truth and promise of the Holy Spirit’s work within and among us. Imagine the Church’s impact upon the world if we took our prayer lives to a higher level. Imagine the vitality and revival our churches would experience not because of the plans born of our own ingenuity, but from the power and promise of prayer. Imagine how we would approach the future, if our present was even more deeply grounded in the practice of prayer.

    As we continue to seek ways to be the hands and feet of Christ, as we wonder about the future of The United Methodist Church because of our disagreements around homosexuality, as the Commission on a Way Forward carries out its task and seeks to offer solutions for the days ahead – LET US PRAY!

    As we travel through another season of Lent, I want to challenge us to go deeper in our discipline and practice of prayer. Starting now, let’s get serious about praying for God’s power and direction for the ministry we have been called to. Here’s the challenge: 

    Once a month, there will be a gathering for prayer in every District!

    Once a week, there will be a gathering for prayer in every local congregation!

    At the request of The Council of Bishops and in partnership with the United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women, and United Methodist Communications, The Upper Room has posted all sorts of prayer resources on its umcprays.org site. Over the next days and weeks, other resources and suggestions will be made available on the Upper New York Conference website to help churches and Districts launch their prayer gatherings. When you do gather, I suggest you start by praying for these things:

    • for the community/communities we are called to reach.
    • for the congregation(s) we are called to go forth from.
    • for the individuals that God is begging us to offer Christ to.
    • for ways in which God desires to use our gifts and resources, leading us into new and vibrant forms of ministry and service.
    • for the future of God’s mission as lived out by United Methodist Christians in Upper New York to be one of great vitality, fruitfulness, and effectiveness.
    • for God to reveal the way for the future of The United Methodist Church.
    • for God to spiritually revive us and for spiritual revival to spread across the land.

    LET US PRAY!

    “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  -Romans 12.12

    Walworth United Methodist Church Listed On the National Register of Historic Places

    April 25, 2017 / By Gene Bavis, Walworth Town Historian

    A few years ago, while working on a list of historic sites for Wayne County, I discovered that the Town of Walworth had NO structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  After attending a few preservation workshops and seminars, I invited Cynthia Howk of the Landmark Society of Western New York to speak to Walworth Historical Society and others who might be interested in learning about the National Register of Historic Places.  This took place on October 20, 2014 at the Walworth United Methodist Church, and it worked!  Pastor Jacque Ruth, Jessie Keymel and others from the church submitted a very detailed application for the Walworth United Methodist Church to be listed on the National Register.

    The following description was taken from a flyer by the NYS Division of Historic Preservation.  “Established by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register of Historic Places is the official list of historic properties that have been recognized as significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture.  The Division for Historic Preservation in the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation coordinates the National Register program in New York State, as well as the parallel State Register program.”

    There are five categories of historic properties that are eligible for listing:  buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts.  There are strict guidelines for acceptance.  Properties and objects must retain the integrity associated with the category and be at least 50 years old.  There are about 40 listings of National Register properties  and districts here in Wayne County.  Now Walworth can brag that we have one, too.

    The National Register program started as a result of the Urban Renewal movement during the 1950s and 1960s when large numbers of historic structures were being demolished to build “new and better” downtowns.  A prime local example occurred in the Village of Newark.  While the program does not save all historic structures, it has brought more awareness of the value of historic buildings.

    The properties on the list are significant and can help us create pride in our communities.  There are also some economic benefits to the owners of listed properties.  In some cases there are preservation tax credits, and non-profit organizations can sometimes qualify for grants.  In the case of churches, there is a matching grant program from a foundation interested in preserving sacred sites and structures. 

    To learn more about the National Register of Historic Sites, you may want to visit https://www.nps.gov/nr/ .

    Flood bucket and health kit collections during the UNY Conference United Methodist Center Open House

    April 25, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    In previous years, the UNY Conference Disaster Response Teams collected flood buckets and health kits during a set time period in a parking lot across from the Oncenter at Annual Conference.

    However, this year the UNY Disaster Response Team will be collecting flood buckets and health kits during the UNY Conference United Methodist Center’s Open House, making use of the new Mission Central space.

    The Open House will be held at the United Methodist Center (7481 Henry Clay Blvd., Liverpool) on Wednesday May 31 (the day before Annual Conference begins) from 3:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. followed by a service of dedication at 7:30 p.m.

    Flood buckets and health kits should be brought directly to Mission Central located behind the building at the two garage bays near the loading dock.

    Click here for a printout listing which items should be included in the health kit. Click here for a printout a listing of what should be included in a flood bucket.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    From the desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: Judicial Council

    April 25, 2017 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor’s Note: On the morning of April 25, Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter to the members of the Upper New York Conference about the coming Judicial Council meeting that will address some matters around human sexuality and the called Special Session of General Conference in 2019 that will address the work of the Council of Bishops and the Commission on a Way Forward.  

    April 25, 2017

    Dear Sisters and Brothers,

    Today, the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church gathers in Newark, New Jersey to begin the work of their spring docket. That docket is composed of several matters, including cases involved in our continued conversation as a denomination about human sexuality. One of these matters before the Judicial Council is the status of Bishop Karen Oliveto, a married lesbian who was elected, consecrated, and assigned this past July by the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.

    The Judicial Council in many ways mirrors the Supreme Court of the United States. Its role within our Church is to determine the constitutionality and legality of actions in light of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. The Judicial Council does not have the authority to change the Book of Discipline and none of their decisions does so.

    I am urging you to pray for our sisters and brothers who have assumed the leadership and responsibility of serving as members of the Judicial Council. May God provide them wisdom and understanding. Pray for each individual, congregation, and Annual Conference represented in the cases that are being considered by the Judicial Council this week. Pray for Bishop Oliveto, her family and the people and congregations she serves.

    No one can predict the outcomes of this session of the Judicial Council, but I implore us to trust that God is in the midst of it. While the work of the Judicial Council is significant and has impact upon our common life, I urge us to see this week as simply one part of the whole work that is before us as a denomination. The Commission on a Way Forward, commissioned by the Council of Bishops and authorized by the General Conference, is working diligently to help us find God’s way forward for The United Methodist Church, specifically in our fractures around homosexuality.

    While you may be tempted to allow the decisions made this week to guide your sense of the future, I beg you not to do so. Whatever the Judicial Council decides, it is the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, acted upon by a special session of the General Conference, which will be the most important decision point for these critical matters.

    Just last evening, the President of the Council of Bishops issued a call for a special session of General Conference. That session, which will be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward, will be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri.

    So my friends, pray and pray some more! Continue to love one another, especially in the midst of disagreement and diversity. Seek ways to find the Christ in every one. Stay focused on the mission that is before us – the opportunity to walk beside others and assist God in showing them the amazing love and life offered in Jesus Christ!

    I am not naïve; these are days of uncertainty and anxiety. But more assuredly, they are also days of faith! Days for us to continue to trust God, trust one another, and move into the future that God has promised God’s Church. A future that not even the gates of hell will prevail against - a future that finds God already present!

    Thank you for being the Church of Jesus Christ. As always, you remain in my prayers.

    Blessings,

    Mark J. Webb 

    2017 Conference Journal now available

    April 19, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The 2017 Upper New York Conference Journal, Vol. I (formerly known as the Pre-Conference Booklet) is now available for download as a free PDF and for purchase through online publisher Lulu.com. To view an online version or download a copy from Issuu, click here. To purchase it for $6.02 (plus shipping and applicable sales tax) from Lulu.com, click here.

    If you have any questions about the materials presented in Vol. I of the Journal or the 2017 Upper New York Annual Conference Session in general, please send them to ACQuestions@unyumc.org. The Conference Communications Ministry Area will assemble pertinent questions and answers and post them as a FAQ on the Conference website. 

    For further discussion of the materials in the Journal, the 2017 Pre-Conference Briefing will be produced via video and released in early May. 

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    AC ’17 special offerings announced

    April 17, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The theme of the 2017 session of the Upper New York Annual Conference is “Together in Prayer, Trusting that God is Enough.” During AC2017, our sisters and brothers throughout the Conference will gather together in Syracuse, trusting God to guide us in prayer, fellowship, action, and giving. This year, five offerings will be received during the session, held June 1-3 at the Oncenter in Syracuse.

    On Thursday, 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 are in need of financial support, and Helping Hands raises funds to be used by the Upper New York Cabinet to assist congregants in need of financial support.

    There will also be three additional offerings:

    During opening worship on Thursday morning, an offering will be taken that will help support development of Mission Central space at the new UNY Conference Center, located at 7841 Henry Clay Blvd., Liverpool.

    The next offering will be received Saturday morning during the Young People’s Worship Service. This offering will support the Mission of Peace (MOP) – a yearly journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdiction Council on Youth Ministries. Youth from Upper New York went to Nicaragua as part of MOP ’17. The next MOP trip is to Cuba. Click here for more information and to apply.

    The final offering will be received on Saturday at the Service of Commissioning and Ordination. The offering will support the development of new faith communities.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    Africa University celebrates 25th anniversary

    April 17, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Africa University – the first and only fully accredited institution of higher learning established on the African continent by action of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church – recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. The celebration included a dinner for alumni and friends at Amber Hotel in Mutare, Zimbabwe, the main celebration at Africa University’s graduation arena, and a celebration/worship service at AU’s Kwang Lim Chapel.

    With an enrollment of more than 1,500 full-time students and 800 part-time students, Africa University, located in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe, today boasts more than 6,100 graduates from 32 African countries. More than half of the students (53 percent) are female — more than double other universities throughout Africa.

    The United Methodist Church’s support of AU – which was previously funded by the Upper New York Conference’s Africa 360 initiative – has and will continue to produce a growing number of effective disciples and tangible positive change. Investment in AU helps fund scholarships for African students who would otherwise have no way to pay for a university education.

    Click here to see photos from the celebration.

    Apply now – UNY Conference hiring Custodian/Building Maintenance Technician

    April 15, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York Conference is hiring a full-time Custodian/Building Maintenance Technician for the UNY Conference Center in Liverpool. Duties include extensive cleaning of bathroom, kitchen, and office areas; maintaining the custodial supply inventory; set up and tear down of tables for meetings; basic grounds maintenance; light carpentry; and more. Qualified candidates will have a high school diploma or equivalent, at least one year of experience in facilities maintenance or custodial work, and basic knowledge of machinery, equipment, and tools necessary for the maintenance and repair of buildings

    For more information and to apply, click here.

    UNY wins at UMAC gathering

    April 11, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    The United Methodist Association of Communicators has announced their 2017 award winners, and the Upper New York Conference Communications Team won the following awards:

    The Weekly Digest

    The Upper New York Conference’s weekly e-newsletter, The Weekly Digest, came in 2nd place among conferences across the connection.

    UNYUMC.org

    The Upper New York Conference website came in 1st place for website content among conferences across the connection.

    Blog

    The Upper New York Conference blog, Perspectives, came in 1st place among conferences across the connection.

    Rev. Robin Blair of Marcellus United Methodist Church also won an award for the online radio project, called Common Good Radio™.  Common Good Radio educates families about the messages media sends and creates media that offers alternative healthy, heartfelt, and caring choices, so they can make faithful choices in consumer culture. Common Good Radio won best in class for audio production and First Place for Internet streaming, The Kindness Project.

    TAGGED / Communications

    Book review: Uprooting Racism—How White People Can Work for Racial Justice

    April 10, 2017 / By Linda Hughes, CORR member

    Have you ever thought of a racial joke as verbal abuse? Have you ever thought of interrupting a racial joke as public education? These are two premises that Paul Kivel brings out in his book Uprooting Racism – How White People Can Work for Racial Justice, in the chapter entitled “Jokes.”

    We have all been in the situation of being told a joke we are uncomfortable with. Sometimes we realize it’s racist right away. The last time it happened to me, it didn’t come out until the punchline. It’s uncomfortable to interrupt racist comments but we have to do it anyway! At some level, the joke teller knows the joke is inappropriate, so speaking up IS educating both the teller and the bystanders. Your comments may also give others the courage it takes to be a vocal racial ally.

    I have a sign in my office that says “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the part of the oppressor.” None of us want to be part of this bullying any longer. So how do we do it? Paul Kivel says there are no right or wrong ways, and the more we do it, the better we get at it. We can say something short and sweet like, “Please stop right there.” I once said in response to a racial joke, incredulously and in a moderate voice, “That’s not funny.” The joke teller said defensively, “To me it is,” and that was the end of it. Now it’s up to him to decide about telling a racist joke to anyone in the future.

    Ask God to give you the courage to be a positive influence and an anti-racist example to others. These are good seeds to plant!

    Display Tables AC 2017

    April 5, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Display tables are once again being offered at the Upper New York Annual Conference Session, held June 1-3 at the Oncenter in Syracuse. To request a display area at Annual Conference please fill out the attached form and return it by April 15. You will be advised, by April 30, as to the granting of display space for your group or organization. Request does not guarantee reservation. Direct all questions to Cherish McGowan or call her at (315) 898-2012.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    Updates to the Peace with Justice Grant Program

    April 5, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    The Social Holiness Team has recently re-evaluated our conference Peace with Justice Grant guidelines. This was necessary because folks have been utilizing the Peace with Justice Sunday funds to support wonderful ministries and opportunities. In 2016, the Social Holiness team was able to grant $21,500 to five projects, including:

    • NYS Council of Churches Luncheon with speaker
    • Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS Faith for Fair NY Conference
    • NYS Council of Churches Protestant Chaplain Care Program
    • NYS Council of Churches Congregations for Justice Initiative
    • Brown Memorial Church Adult Life Skills

    Currently, the Peace with Justice fund is down below $8,000 and in order to continue supporting a wide range of ministries for both education and advocacy, the application process has been tightened.

    The most important changes are that grants will not exceed $2,000 (from $5,000) and will only be considered twice a year (instead of as applications are received). Each application must now include a statement of support from someone close to, but not involved in, the project. More details are provided on the Peace with Justice Grant application. Please contact Heather Smith, UNY Peace with Justice Coordinator, with questions (peacewithjustice@unyumc.org). The next application deadline is April 30, 2017.

    Teaching children to pray: A helpful script

    April 4, 2017 / By Kerry Evans, Jamesville Community Church

    Editor’s Note: The theme of our next issue of the Advocate, which will arrive at local churches and be accessible through our website the first week in April, is Together in Prayer. The issue features many stories of how prayer has made a difference from an individual-level, all the way to our Conference level. Like this story, some of the stories provide guidance on teaching children to pray.

    At Jamesville Community Church in Jamesville NY, our Sunday School has recently implemented an opening prayer program with an effort to teach children to pray, and also to increase the feeling of community in our Sunday School.  This is a script that we encourage our teacher to use to help to help children through the process of prayer.

    Teacher: “Good morning and welcome to Sunday school at Jamesville Community Church. My name is                                  and I am happy to be your Sunday school teacher this morning. I know most of us know each other's names but let's go around the circle and tell everyone our name, just in case. Good morning my name is (teacher’s name).”

     (Now the children go around the table) “Good morning, my name is                      .”

    Teacher:  “Welcome everyone; I am happy you’re here. I know you all have busy weeks since we've seen each other last. Does anyone have something that happened to them this week that was a celebration event or good news?”

     Children share good news.

    Teacher: “That sounds wonderful. Let's say a prayer thanking God for all the good news in our lives. (bow heads)

    Dear God, thank you so much for all the good news in our lives in this past week.  We are so thankful for (give some examples here, like Amelia learning to ride a bike and Nora losing a tooth) and know that none of these blessings would have happened without your love and guidance. In Jesus name, Amen.

    Teacher: I think maybe some of us have had some sad things that have happened to us too. Does anyone have any challenging or sad events that you would like to share with us?

    Kids share sad events or problems.

    Teacher: Now let's say a prayer to ask God for help.

    Dear God, please help us in our lives with the challenges and problems that we face. We pray for (give some examples here) and ask that you be with them and help them each and every day. In Jesus name, Amen.

    Teacher: Thank you everyone for sharing. Now we will read our bible story and then we will (do a craft, play a game, etc.)

    A Reflection of UpWord! 2k17

    April 4, 2017 / By Kristian J. Snyder, CCYM Member 2017-2018

    Hundreds of youth and adults from all across Upper New York came together in Liverpool, N.Y.for UpWord! 2k17. UpWord! 2k17 was held on March 31 - April 2 at the Liverpool Holiday Inn. There were over 300 youth and adults who joined the 57Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) members who planned and organized the event. There were a total of 35 youth groups from 10 different districts in attendance. The weekend included 15 workshops on Saturday, and five workshops on Sunday. The weekend also had four worship experiences planned by the CCYM Worship Team.  Worship speakers were four young adults and former members of CCYM - JJ Warren, Krystal Cole, Marthalyn Sweet, and Jefferson Dedrick.

    Here is a sampling of some of the workshops:

    Some Saturday Workshops:

    • “God is in Devotion” was led by Mary Anderson. This workshop helped us understand the question, What is devotion?
    • “God is Organized” was led by Betsy O’Flynn. We learned how to live our life organized with God’s help
    • “God is Mingling” was led by Sue Russell. In this workshop we got to know other people in different youth groups.
    • “God is Speaking” was led by Carol Doucette. In this workshop, we prayed and had a two-way conversation with God.

    Some Sunday Workshops:

    • “God in the Bible” was led by Beckie Sweet She delved into the Bible and taught how to apply it to our normal life.
    • “God is calling” was led by the Board of Ordained Ministry. In this, we found out what we are called by God to do in our own life.
    • “God is walking the Labyrinth” was led by Tony Hipes. In this, we prayed while walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

    Each evening was brought to an end by eight late-night options that all youth took part in and had 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, workshop leaders,and the people who led late night options each night. Click here to see some photos of Saturday’s worship, workshops, and lunch.

    2017 Harry Denman nominations sought

    April 3, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Nominations are open for the 2017 Harry Denman Evangelism Awards. The awards honor United Methodists in each conference whose exceptional evangelism brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Each year, annual conferences join the Foundation for Evangelism in recognizing one youth, one clergy member and one layperson in their conference. The 2016 recipients in the Upper New York Conference were lay member Shari Schuck and the Rev. Joseph Pascoe. The deadline for submitting your nominations to the Conference is May 1. Please contact Cherish McGowan at DCMoffice@unyumc.org with your nominations. DETAILS

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017 / Connectional Ministries

    Registration open for the UNY Local Pastor License School (June 4-9)

    March 31, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    The 2017 Upper New York Conference Local Pastor License School (LPLS) will be held June 4-9 at the Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center in Moravia. Registration is 4-5 p.m. June 4. Dinner is provided at 5:30 p.m., and students must be present for worship at 7 p.m. The school is in session from registration on Sunday and continues through dinner on Friday.

    The LPLS experience provides an opportunity to learn with other students about the basics of ministry, to interact with and share ministry practice with the faculty and students, and to be creative in beginning pastoral ministry. Students in the LPLS should be in the process of completion or have completed the requirements for certified candidate.

    The school is a concentrated learning experience. A “normal” school day begins with morning worship and preaching lab at 8:30 a.m. and includes five classes for learning, concluding at 9 p.m.

    Completion of the LPLS meets a portion of the requirements for the licensing process, but the school does not grant the Local Pastor’s License; district superintendents have that privilege after a candidate’s satisfactory completion of the LPLS, approval by the District Committee on Ministry, and appointment to a church or extension ministry.

    Students are encouraged to bring their own recreational equipment, as there will be free time Wednesday evening for recreation. There is a beach and accessibility to non-motorized boats as well as many opportunities for walking and hiking.

    Students will reside in two-person rooms and will be provided all meals and beverages.

    Registration costs $400 for UNY members; $600 for members of other Conferences. The deadline to register is May 15. Click here  to register.

    2017 Pre-Conference Briefing to be produced via video this year

    March 30, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    In years prior, leading up to the Annual Conference, Pre-Conference Briefings were held across the UNY area to provide information about the budget, pensions and benefits, resolutions, constitutional amendments, and other details to help you feel prepared for Annual Conference.

    This year, we have successfully developed a narrative budget and conducted listening sessions across the UNY Conference to discuss the budget. You can review and/or download our 2018 narrative budget booklet here.

    Budget has always been the primary topic of the Pre-Conference Briefings. Because travel was required for the listening sessions, which centered on the budget, we decided not to have people travel again.

    This year, we are producing a Pre-Conference Briefing video that will be released in early May. This video will provide all of the same information you would have received in the “live” briefings, but you can watch it in the convenience of your home or church, on your own, in small groups, or as a congregation.

    Keep watching the UNY Conference news platforms to find out when the video is released.

    The Rev. Dr. John Tyson reflects on John and Charles Wesley’s prayer life

    March 27, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    Editor’s Note: The next issue of the Advocate, which will arrive at local churches and be accessible through our website in early April, focuses on prayer. For this issue, we connected with Wesleyan scholar, the Rev. Dr. John Tyson to learn more about John and Charles Wesley’s prayer life and insight on how the Wesley’s teachings can help nurture our prayer life today. Below are some some questions and answers with Rev. Dr. John Tyson. Look to the next issue of the Advocate for more questions and answers with Wesleyan scholars.

    UNY Communications: If John and Charles Wesley were here today, what do you think they would recommend for people who feel that they need to revive their prayer life?

    The Rev. Dr. John Tyson: The Wesleys used and enjoyed the Book of Common Prayer and its readings and prayers shaped their daily devotions and prayer life. They also read spiritual classics. Often, it seems we need fresh simulation and new input for our souls;  a good devotional guide can sometimes put a new charge and new energy into our prayer life.

    UNY Communications: John Wesley would often write out prayers. Do you feel that writing, drawing, or other creative modalities help some to better connect with God through prayer?

    The Rev. Dr. John Tyson: I find that writing out my prayers can be very helpful, though I do not do this every day. What helps me about this discipline—it causes me to be more reflective about how I am saying my prayer, and what things and attitudes are coming to expression. Prayer is nothing more than talking with God. But God is a very important person, and when one speaks to an important person it is sometimes a good idea to choose one’s words well.  So writing prayers helps me check on my prayer focus, and upon the words (needs, concerns, experiences) with which I come before the Lord.

    UNY Communications: John Wesley advocated for fasting as a way to make prayer more powerful and he himself fasted every Friday; at one point in his life, he fasted every Wednesday and Friday. Do you advocate for fasting? If so, how often?

    The Rev. Dr. John Tyson: Fasting was very important to the Wesleys. They found it helpful to their prayer life, and to their over-all approach to Christian discipleship. They generally advocated for “fasting or abstinence” as if to remind us that the one is almost as the other. In other words, core virtue being developed in fasting is self-denial and self-denial can be cultivated by not eating or by denying ourselves certain things for a specific time and reason.

    But yes, fasting should be directly linked to prayer, because it is not simply going on a diet or trying to develop self-control. “Thy will be done” may be the most difficult clause of the Lord’s prayer, and fasting helps us learn to bend our own will  and inclinations to God’s will and God’s work. And that is a pretty good thing, in the process of being a vital Christian disciple.  Jesus put it simply:  “Deny yourself and follow me.” (Luke 9:23).  The two things; discipleship and an appropriate sense of self-denial are intimately related.

    Equitable Compensation Application for July-December 2017 available

    March 24, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    The Commission on Equitable Compensation has issued guidelines and an application form for salary grants to local churches for the period July 1 to December 31, 2017. 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 14, 2017 deadline.

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

    • Application for CEC Grant for July to December 2017 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 Six-Part Graphic Report

    Attach the application, along with the above documents, to an email or print them to mail to your District Superintendent for receipt by April 14.

    NOTE: The application is set up as a Microsoft Word 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 2017.”  The Commission anticipates notifying churches of its determination by mid-May.

    Click here for the application form.

    Update on Milford UMC and Fonda-Fultonville UMC

    March 16, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Please continue to pray for Milford UMC and Fonda-Fultonville UMC as they recover from the fires that destroyed their buildings earlier this week.

    The Milford UMC, which caught on fire Sunday March 12, begins moving forward.

    In a letter to her congregation, Millford UMC pastor, the Rev. Sylvia Barrett, explained the logistical and administrative procedures that have taken place since the fire. She said, “We are working on an inventory of the church, on plans for the Food Pantry to be relocated, and on all the arrangements needed to begin our worship on Sunday mornings, at the Cultural Center, which has generously offered us a temporary home until our church is rebuilt. And yes, our church will be rebuilt, and from the blackness of Sunday night, there will come a day when we all stand in the sunlight and look at a new building with happiness and peace in all our hearts. I have received over 100 emails from other ministers, other congregations, other denominations, total strangers, people who worshipped at Milford in the past, and concerned friends and family members. I am sure we all can recall kind words spoken, sympathetic hugs, and offers to help.

    The fire at the Fonda-Fultonville UMC took place on Tuesday March 14, amidst Storm Stella, that swept the Northeast. We will release future plans for the Fonda-Fultonville UMC as soon as we are made aware. In the meantime, Albany District Superintendent, Rich Weihing, said, “The church building…is considered a total loss. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Vital ministries of worship, service, and outreach have used this structure as a home and a headquarters. This is a tremendous loss to the church and the community. Times like this remind us of a powerful truth that we sing, ‘The church is not a building... the church is the people.’ Powerful worship, Christ-like service, and life-changing outreach will certainly continue through Fonda-Fultonville UMC.  At this point, though, let us put our faith into action by upholding, supporting, praying for, and loving our brothers and sisters of the Fonda-Fultonville UMC and community.”

    As we continue to pray for these two churches and their congregations, let’s also offer up prayers of praise for fire and rescue personnel.

    The Rev. Natalie Hanson to preach at the 2017 Annual Conference Memorial Service

    March 14, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Natalie Hanson will be the Memorial Service preacher at the 2017 Upper New York Annual Conference, held June 1-3 at the Oncenter in Syracuse. Rev. Hanson is currently the pastor at Christ-First UMC in Jamestown, N.Y. 

    Prior to being appointed to Christ First, Rev. Hanson served as District Superintendent of the Niagara Frontier region of the United Methodist Church for eight years. She supervised 81 churches in that position. Rev. Hanson is a graduate of Wesleyan University and completed her seminary work at the Harvard Divinity School.  She said of her calling, “I believe I’m called to help others find their calling, their own sense of Christ’s presence in their lives, their own experience of the Spirit’s empowerment, their own identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Living God. I think one of God’s constant nudges is to live more honestly, more transparently, more lovingly.”

    Honored to be chosen to deliver the message at the Memorial Service, Rev. Hanson spoke about her feeling on the service held every year at Annual Conference. She said, “The Memorial Service is an especially tender and personal time at Annual Conference, a time when we are able to remember how human we are and how much we are family. So, for me, bringing the message is an incredible opportunity to be in conversation with my colleagues and friends and family about things that are basic to our humanity and central to our faith: our mortality, the mystery of death, the question of ‘what lasts?’ It’s an intimate conversation, even though it’s in a large setting – and it’s a deep privilege.”

    Rev. Hanson’s topic for her sermon is “Does it Last?” She will speak about how often Christians wonder whether or not what they do means anything to others, whether or not it makes a difference, whether or not their work will be remembered.

    Rev. Hanson will be working with Psalm 90: 1-4, 10, 12-17 and John 12: 20-29. She said she has chosen these scriptures because they are so often used in Memorial celebrations and graveside services and she wants to dig deep into the profound truth that they hold.  She said, “The longer I serve in ministry, the more I appreciate the wisdom and ‘pith’ in many of our traditions, and the more I want to unpack the depth and challenge in these much-used passages. If we take them seriously, they’re not easy reading - but they are particularly honest, and profoundly true.”

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb said, “Rev. Hanson’s willingness to be our Memorial Service preacher will deeply enrich our experience of worship and the remembrance of the saints who have gone before us.”


     

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    Registration for the Upper New York 2017 Annual Conference session opens

    March 9, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Registration is now open for the Upper New York Annual Conference session, held June 1-3 at the Oncenter in Syracuse. Click here for the registration form and to obtain more information about the 2017 Annual Conference session, including the registration and event guidelines and the housing form.  

    Questions about registration can be addressed to Julie Valeski at julievaleski@unyumc.org

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean to serve as AC17 study leader

    March 8, 2017 / By Katherine Christiansen

    Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean will serve as the study leader at the 2017 Upper New York Annual Conference session, which takes place June 1-3 in Syracuse.

    “I’m delighted to be at Annual Conference,” she said. “There are lots of people that I love that are serving in the Upper New York Conference. I’m really happy to do it.”

    Dr. Dean is an ordained elder in the Baltimore-Washington Conference and professor of youth, church, and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, where she works closely with the Institute for Youth Ministry. She graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio; Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.; and received her doctorate at Princeton Theological Seminary. Before working at Princeton Theological Seminary, she served as pastor in suburban Washington, D.C. and as a campus minister at the University of Maryland-College Park. She is currently appointed as the coordinating pastor of the Kingston United Methodist Church in Kingston, N.J.

    Dean will host two study sessions during this year’s Annual Conference session, which will focus on innovation in ministry with young people, with biblical overtones.

    “I think it will be mostly about missional innovation and young adults in The Church and what that means for congregations and what that means for the future of youth ministry.”

    Session one is titled “Love Made Me an Inventor: Why an Entrepreneurial Church Matters to Young People,” and session two is called “Doing a New Thing: The Church Has No Excuses.” The two sessions focus on doing new things and touching on Bible passages that speak to this, such as 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Revelations 21:5.

    “The Bible begins and ends with the story of God innovating and the role that The Church has played in innovation,” Dean said. “I’m hoping that we’ll poke the box a little bit to see where this might be leading the Upper New York Conference when it comes to doing new things, particularly where young people are concerned.”

    She said many churches today are afraid of trial and error, that taking a risk seems “terminal.”

    “It’s the opposite impulse we need to follow: We need to risk more, not less,” Dean said. “There’s no magic bullet … it’s a matter of testing and trying and experimenting until we discover where our hopes and God’s mission come together, and that takes an awful lot of trial and error.”

    Dean encourages those attending AC2017 to bring ideas with them to discuss.

    “Let’s play with it while we’re there and make The Church a place where new ideas are brought to life, rather than a place where ideas go to die.”

    Budget listening sessions begin in Upper New York

    March 7, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

     At the 2016 Annual Conference, after much deliberation, the 2017 Conference budget passed with an added motion for the Conference Council of Finance & Administration (CF&A) to lead the production of a narrative budget that includes one paragraph describing the ministry and priorities of each line item in our 2018 ministry share budget for the 2017 Annual Conference to be posted on the UNYAC website at least two weeks prior to the 2017 resolutions and petitions deadline of February 1, 2017. This task has been completed and has been further updated once Conference leadership had the opportunity to review it —click here for the 2018 narrative budget booklet, which includes graphics and FAQs.

    The motion was further amended that through March of 2017, there be regional listening and interpretation gatherings for the entire Conference.  These listening sessions are intended to help CF&A to further improve the narrative budget so that the budget can be presented at the Annual Conference with little confusion over the ministries that the dollars support and how the budget numbers are calculated.

    The first listening session was held for the Oneonta District on Saturday March 5 at Worchester UMC. Susan Ranous was the CF&A Rep and Oneonta District Superintendent Rev. Everett Bassett was the facilitator. They showed a video about the narrative budget produced by the UNY Conference Communications Team, provided narrative budget booklets to all attendees and opened the floor for feedback and questions.

    The feedback about the narrative budget was positive. One attendee stated, “This booklet is a great gift.” Another attendee said, “This booklet is wonderful and contains good explanation with details and results.” Attendees expressed that they want to have the narrative budget and listening sessions again next year, which is what the Conference plans to do.

    The narrative budget is a work in progress—the response and questions raised at the listening sessions will greatly help to make the narrative budget an effective tool year after year.

    Listening sessions will continue to take place through March 26. Click here to find a listing of listening sessions along with corresponding dates, times, and locations.

    Blueprint for Wellness Annual Conference Event Pre-Registration Begins

    March 6, 2017 / 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 The Oncenter (Meeting Rooms 2/3), on Thursday, June 1 and Friday, June 2 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

    This is an opportunity to obtain a free comprehensive "biometric" screening which provides information about your heart, liver and kidney function, diabetes risk and blood sugar control, calcium and iron – plus PSA screening for men.  In addition to having information to take to your doctor to help implement a wellness plan, HealthFlex participants can earn $100 in Virgin Pulse HealthMiles Cash.**

    Pre-Registration is strongly recommended for the Annual Conference event. You can register for an appointment between now and May 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 April 1.

    Click here for instructions on how to register at Annual Conference, as well as fasting requirements.

    Click here for 2017 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 One Exchange. 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 (OneExchange 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 Virgin Pulse” and following the instructions.

    Upper New York Conference 2018 budget booklet available

    March 2, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The UNY Conference 2018 narrative budget, released earlier this year, has been updated into a full booklet, including graphics and FAQs.  Click here (as of April 19, 2017) to download a pdf version of the booklet from our website. Click here to view the budget booklet on Issuu. Printed copies of the budget booklet will be available at all District listening sessions. Click here to view listening session dates, times, and locations. Once the listening sessions are completed, the budget booklet will be further updated, and added to the 2017 Annual Conference journal. 

     

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017 / Finance

    Rev. Junius Dotson to speak at AC2017 Service of Commissioning and Ordination

    March 1, 2017 / By Katherine Christiansen

    The Rev. Dr. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries, will serve as the speaker at the Service of Commissioning and Ordination at the 2017 Upper New York Annual Conference session on Saturday, June 3.

    “I’m looking forward to preaching the Ordination Service,” Rev. Dotson said. “I feel honored to share in such an important service.”

    During the service, he said he will focus on the privilege of serving and utilizing our gifts for the building of the kingdom.

    “I’ll talk about my own call and the joy I felt when I first began this journey,” Rev. Dotson said. “The message will offer some significant learning about pastoring and effective leadership from a pastor that has served in a variety of churches in very diverse settings.”

    In addition, he said he will discuss the unique challenges of leading a church in 2017 as well as offer encouragement for those who are still on the mission field and use the moment to help people remember the “why” of their call.

    Rev. Dotson is a visionary leader in church revitalization.

    Before serving at Discipleship Ministries, Rev. Dotson was pastor of the Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kan., where he helped transform the church into a 3,500-member, multi-campus congregation.

    He studied at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his undergraduate degree in political science with a concentration in economics, and the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., where he earned his Master of Divinity degree. Dotson was ordained in June 1992.

    Rev. Dotson served on the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Revitalization Taskforce of the former Kansas West Conference – now part of the Great Plains Conference. He served as facilitator for the Fitzgerald Program, a Discipleship Ministries program to equip pastors to begin start-up congregations. From 2009 to 2012, Rev. Dotson served on the Board of Directors of Discipleship Ministries, where he was chair of the New Church Starts/Path 1 division of the agency. Rev. Dotson also served on The Wichita Food Bank Executive Board and was appointed by the governor of Kansas to serve on the Kansas Sentencing Commission.

    Editor's Note: Some information from this article comes from Discipleship Ministries’ website.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    We are moving!

    February 28, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York Conference office will be moving to the new United Methodist Center at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd in Liverpool, N.Y.  13088, March 17-21. To accommodate the move, the office will be closed. The office will be reopening on Wednesday March 22 at the new location. 

    Upon reopening, the Conference office hours will remain the same (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.).  The new phone number for the Conference office will be 315-898-2000. The toll-free number, 855-424-7878, will remain the same.

    In addition to the Conference office staff, the new building, will also house the Episcopal office, the Crossroads District office, and soon several other United Methodist offices that serve Upper New York. 

    The office hours for the Episcopal office are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The new phone number for the Episcopal office will be 315-898-2020.

    The office hours for the Crossroads District are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The new phone number for the Crossroads District will be 315-898-2029.

    Continue watching Upper New York Conference communications channels for more information about ministries housed at the new United Methodist Center and for information about a grand opening that will be taking place later this spring.

    Sue Russell named Director of Asbury Camp and Retreat Center

    February 27, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The UNY Conference is pleased to announce that Sue Russell has been named Director of Asbury Camp and Retreat Center. Having served as the Interim Director of Asbury since the spring of 2016, Sue’s history at Asbury is notable. Sue was hired in June of 2011 at Asbury as the Guest Services Coordinator. In February of 2015, she became the Assistant Director.

    The UNY Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries, Mike Huber, said, “Sue brings a passion for Christian education and a wealth of experience at Asbury. Her strong gifts of Christian hospitality and guest services are exciting to have on the team.”

    Sue’s connection to camping and Christian education is remarkable. She grew up in Central New York where she attended youth retreats at Casowasco with her home church, the Clyde UMC. She graduated with a B.S. in Plant Science from Cornell University. She completed diaconal studies and certification in Youth Ministry from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. In 1997, she was ordained a Deacon in the UMC through the Detroit Annual Conference. She served churches in Michigan and Western New York as a Youth/Associate Pastor until 2010. Over the years, she has volunteered at Judson Collins Camp & Retreat Center in Michigan and at Asbury Camp & Retreat Center, as a camp counselor, dean, and ministry team member.

    Reflecting on goals Sue hopes to accomplish in her new role, Sue said, "With God as my guide, I look forward to continuing to offer excellent Christian hospitality to all guests who come to Asbury in order for them to grow closer to God. I would like to move forward with renovations on our Willmott Lodge and Brown Cottage. I would like to take time to review the Master Site Plan and begin to formulate plans about how we could accomplish making some much needed building additions to accommodate more retreat guests."

    You can learn more about the ministry of Asbury Camp and Retreat Center at www.asburyuny.org.

    United Methodist Men hosting Conference-wide shoe drive

    February 22, 2017 / By UNY Communications Team

    The Upper New York Conference United Methodist Men is sponsoring “Shoes For Service,” a shoe drive that will benefit Upstate New York Veterans, from March 1-31. UM Men is working with Funds2Orgs, which gives organizations money based on the total weight of the shoes gathered during shoe drive campaigns.

    UM Men will collect all types of shoes, including boots and flip flops, as well as shoes for all ages. Shoes can be new or used, but must be in good condition — the soles should be intact, should have laces, no holes present, dry and clean, etc.

    You can drop off your donations at your local church by putting them in the clear plastic bags provided, with a rubber band around each pair. UM Men volunteers will pick up the shoes at the end of March, or you can bring them from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 1, to the United Methodist Center of Upper New York, located at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd., Liverpool.

    This event will mark the first use the new Mission Central's 8,000-square-foot complex and loading dock at the Center. 

    Money collected from the shoe drive will be given to Rochester’s Veterans Outreach Center, Utica’s Feed Our Vets food pantry, the Cpl. Kyle R. Schneider Foundation, and other regional veterans charities.

    For more information, please contact Steve Ranous, president of the Crossroads District United Methodist Men at 315-427-3515 or ummsteve@twcny.rr.com.

    Cross-cultural appointments in the United Methodist Church

    February 21, 2017 / By Rev. Ewart Morris

    My guiding principle and mandate, both in the call and practice, of the ordained and pastoral ministry has been Jesus’ commission to his disciples. He directed them: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you and remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat 28:19-20 NRSV).

    The United Methodist Church encourages cross-cultural appointments among its churches in the denomination. Its “Mission to the World” commits to “crossing boundaries of language, culture, and social or economic status. . . . to be in ministry with all people, as we in faithfulness to the gospel, seek to grow in mutual love and trust” (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, par. 125).

    Cross-cultural appointments have demonstrated to me something of the breadth and depth of God’s love. All it takes is our willingness to be open to the moving of the God’s Holy Spirit and embrace the people we have been called to love and serve. They can come from all walks of life and we are called to minister to them as Jesus would.

    I have never thought of my ministry as anything other than being cross-cultural. That means reaching the world’s people with the saving and life-giving message of Jesus Christ regardless of their cultural backgrounds. I have always understood my pastoral appointment to a community and not merely to a particular “congregation.” I have been blessed, as a person of Afro-West Indian descent, to serve both predominantly white and black congregations of various cultural backgrounds. Nevertheless, the one common thread continues to be that each one regards himself/herself as American and that provides common ground for communicating the gospel as well as being in ministry together.

    One of the unique blessings I had recently was to be appointed to two diverse congregations. Emmaus UMC is a multi-ethnic congregation in Albany. A number of languages might be heard in this congregation including Kinyarwanda, Swahili, and French among the Africans, to Urdu among the Pakistanis, and Tagala among the people of the Philippines. Worshippers on Sunday hear Scripture readings and songs in one or two languages other than English.  The other congregation, Valley Falls UMC, located more than a 45-minute drive north of Albany, welcomes and embraces the people of Emmaus. Each congregation leaves its sanctuary and joins the other for a worship service and luncheon. The congregations see themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ growing in their walk of faith rather than racial and cultural identities.

    When I was asked to reflect on the question, “What does a cross-cultural appointment mean to you?,” I was happy to share from my rich experience to encourage others to reach across the differences of color and race to be bearers of the good news of Jesus Christ. I have learned that one has to be intentional in reaching across those differences is to bear that witness.

    Having served a number of congregations in my 23 years of ministry, I have discovered as Maya Angelou said very eloquently in her poem, The Human Family, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”  The people of our congregations have a number of things in common. They love to hear the gospel preached from the Bible. They love worship and do not mind being introduced to new songs and hymns. Our work as pastors and leaders is to move at a pace that will allow them to catch up to the sounds and rhythms. I recall introducing the South Park, Buffalo and Covenant, West Seneca, congregations to the West Indian versions of “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain” at Christmas. Folks had come to expect them when they gather for Christmas celebration and were disappointed if they were not included. And yes, most of our churches love to have worship end at a reasonable time so that they can get on with the rest of their day.  While these examples may seem superficial, at the deeper level they show how much we are more “alike than unalike.” 

    What I have come to learn and appreciate, to a degree, is that our varied expressions of ministry and propagation of the gospel have their unique cultural bias. So long as they are not perpetuating prejudice and division, they can be used to strengthen relationships and spreading of the love of Jesus Christ. Our main agenda should be expand our ministries for the Kingdom of God and the redemption of humankind.  At the end of the day, each seeks the same goal, which is decency, courtesy, respect toward all others as human beings. Such behaviors can happen through the transforming power in Jesus Christ, which can embrace all cultural backgrounds and with spiritual leaders who are will to be open to the moving of God’s Spirit where we serve.

    My journey as pastor at Four Corners UMC

    February 21, 2017 / By Pastor David Rood

    I remember the first day I walked into Four Corners UMC when the District Superintendent notified them that I was getting appointed to their church. I was greeted with very friendly smiles and welcomes, which is the way that I would expect to be welcomed at any church. We talked and they gave me a bulletin and they informed me of the way their service was laid out. We sing “He Is Lord” as our Call to Worship in the Seneca language.  We recite “The Lord’s Prayer” and we sing the “Doxology” in Seneca.  I was given the Hymns in Seneca hymnal and they assured me that they would help me. Practicing with the Seneca Hymn Singers, which is an ecumenical group that practices at our church, has allowed me in the pronunciation of the language and also helped to understand it.

    Everything I knew about Native Americans I learned on TV, movies, and in elementary school around Thanksgiving. I was not well prepared for this appointment, at least in accordance with the world’s standards. However, there was a sense of belonging as soon as I walked in the door. It is true that God does not call the equipped, God equips the called. (Heb 13:20-21).

     It was October 1, 2012, when I had my first service at Four Corners. I restructured the service a little so that it was more in line with the Book of Worship and changed it so we celebrated communion every other week. We celebrate by intinction now so they didn’t have to wash those tiny cups every other week.

    I am still learning about the Seneca Nation, “Long House,” the “Thomas Indian School,” and the role the Church has played in the spreading of the Gospel to the Seneca Nation. Through all the things that the Church has done, it is no wonder that the indigenous people of this land have termed Christianity as “White Man’s Religion.” In spite of what the early Church has done “in the name of God,” the Holy Spirit has managed to work through them or in spite of them and continues to do to this day.

    The Seneca struggle with the same things that we all do: financial challenges, divorce, drugs, alcoholism, and malnutrition are just a few of them. Four Corners is a small congregation and we appreciate the help that the UMC has sent to us through the offerings that our brothers and sisters in Christ share with us through the Native American Sunday offerings and the Committee on Native American Ministry (CONAM).

    Through CONAM, we are in the early stages of connecting with our Native American UM brothers and sisters in Christ at Hogansburg UMC and Onondaga UMC. As Christians, we all have the same struggles of keeping our membership up and being relevant to the areas we serve. However, our Native American Churches have the challenge of teaching that we are God’s children and that Jesus came into the world for everyone. One of the best things that we did at Four Corners is to combine our studies and special services with Versailles and Gowanda United Methodist churches. Our Churches understand that we are all equally loved by God through this journey of study and worship that we are taking together. Combining our Churches has been beneficial to all of our churches and our congregations.

    When our friends from Hamburg UMC come to Four Corners and visit on Sundays, it is great! I call it Hamburg-er Helper because it helps fill the pews and makes worship even better. They walk into our Gathering Hall, sit down and have coffee before the service, and we laugh and talk and have fellowship. It is the same as they do at Hamburg UMC and probably at your church as well.

    Four Corners United Methodist Church is an awesome Church where all are welcomed and made to feel as though they belong. I believe you can sense the presence of the Holy Spirit when you walk in the door. If you come to our coffee hour and stay for worship, we will welcome you and help you to know that you belong here. So take a road trip some Sunday morning and visit us at 8:30 a.m. for some coffee and snacks and stay for worship. Every day is Native American Sunday at Four Corners UMC!

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Review of Being Poor: The Cycle of Injustice

    February 21, 2017 / By Linda Hughes

    For some reason, I have avoided exploring and educating myself about the racial injustice problem of mass incarceration. Maybe I’m not ready for the weight of yet another racial issue. I’ve had the book The New Jim Crow for over a year, but have yet to read it.  

    When I was flipping through the TV stations recently, I came upon a documentary on WCNY (our PBS station) about a 21-year old African-American man in Albany, and, of course, it caught my attention. The interviewer, Susan Arbetter, opened the show saying, “Imagine going to work every day, not knowing if you’ll be picked up by the police or not. That’s a reality for many black men…”  

    Jameer Green was on his lunch break from work and was on his way to Stewart’s to get some lunch. He was stopped by police and told there had been a robbery nearby and that he fit the description. The police took him to the station. Fortunately, Jameer has an AWESOME boss who didn’t fire him for not returning to work or not calling him. How many low-wage earning employees have that blessing?

    The documentary was eye-opening for me and helped explain how so many young men of color end up in the judicial system and in prisons. I think God was tapping me on the shoulder to get going with this issue. I encourage you to see the video. It’s called Being Poor: the Cycle of Injustice. It’s 10 minutes long; click here to view it.

    Bishop Webb announces Annual Conference 2017 speakers

    February 21, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb has announced three featured speakers for the 2017 Upper New York Annual Conference, June 1-3 at the Oncenter in Syracuse.

    Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean will be the study leader. Dr. Dean is an ordained elder in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference and professor of youth, church, and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she works closely with the Institute for Youth Ministry. Bishop Webb said, “Dr. Creasy Dean is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ, with a gift for communicating the good news of the Gospel.  Her commitment to the church reaching new people and younger people guides much of her teaching and ministry.  She will bless us!”

    The Rev. Natalie Hanson will be the Memorial Service preacher. Rev. Hanson is the pastor at Christ-First UMC in Jamestown, N.Y.  Prior to joining Christ First, the Rev. Hanson served as District Superintendent of the Niagara Frontier region for eight years. She supervised 81 churches in that position. Bishop Webb said, “Rev. Hanson has served faithfully in the Upper New York Conference and has provided leadership in many arenas.  She is a gifted preacher with a heart for Christ and people.  Her willingness to be our Memorial Service preacher will deeply enrich our experience of worship and the remembrance of the saints who have gone before us.”

    The Rev. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries, will serve as the speaker at the Service of Commissioning and Ordination. Before serving at Discipleship Ministries, Rev. Dotson was pastor of the Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kan., where he helped transform the church into a 3,500-member, multi-campus congregation. Bishop Webb said, “Rev Dotson is a gifted and respected leader within The United Methodist Church!  His work as the General Secretary for Discipleship Ministries is calling the Church to stay focused on our primary task – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  His passion for Jesus is contagious.  I am honored that he will be the preacher for our service of ordination.”

    In- depth articles on each of these leaders and the passion they will bring to the the 2017 Annual Conference Session will be coming in the following weeks.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    Summer Camp & Retreat registration is now open

    February 15, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Upper New York Camp & Retreat Ministries (CRM) is excited to announce that registration is now open for its 2017 Summer Camp & Retreat programs. Program details are available online and brochures were mailed this week! Brochures were sent to past participants and campers as well as all Upper New York Annual Conference churches.

    “We are excited about the high quality and excellent variety of programs being offered this summer,” said Mike Huber, director of CRM. “The CRM team, in collaboration with hundreds of volunteers, has created programs specifically designed for spiritual growth, birth, and renewal.”

    CRM offers programs and experiences for children, youth, families, and adults. Summer Camp programs/week(s) will be held at Aldersgate, Casowasco,  Sky Lake & Skye Farm. Retreat programs and events will be held at Asbury, and will include adult, family, and youth retreats. 

    Each of our centers offer online registration for most programs, making it easy to register for a favorite or to find a new one to attend. To view programs or to register, visit http://campsandretreats.org/summer-camp-2017. To download a PDF of the brochure, click here.

    For more information, contact us via e-mail at registrar@campsandretreats.org or toll free (855) 414 - 6400 or 315-364-8756. 

    Diversity and Social Media: Q & A with Sophia Agtarap and Hannah Bonner

    February 15, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Sophia Agtarap is a transplant to the South from the West Coast. Her background iSophia Agatrapn education and digital media has helped her be a shepherd of sorts to digital immigrants, and she enjoys working with diverse groups to help them better understand today's communication tools and uses for ministry and outreach. She is currently works in communications and marketing for The Village--a new church start in Nashville, TN.

    Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner is the Curator of The Shout, and the author of a curriculum released in 2016 from Abingdon Press, The Shout: Finding the Prophetic Voice in Unexpected Places. Through her work with The Shout, she labors to amplify “the cry” through a spoken-word poetry focused, arts & justice community that is putting words into action. For the past 18 months, she has been working on the ground in Waller County, Texas, to amplify the voice of activist Sandra Bland. In 2016, Hannah was recognized as one of the “16 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2016.”

    As a millennial, her social media advice is perfect for young adults in the UMC.

    How can United Methodists use social media to ducate others about racial injustices that are happening throughout the world?

    Sophia Agtarap: There are a number of UM orgs, non-profits, and NGOs who keep their audiences, congregations, and constituents abreast of what’s happening in their organization and with the work they are doing. I encourage organizations to use their social spaces to update people of current events, opportunities, and real-time updates.

    Sometimes we see our social media pages as spaces to solely promote our work, but so much of the social and racial justice work that we find ourselves a part of is intersectional.“We are not single-issue people, and there are no single issue struggles,” as Audre Lorde has said. Part of the beauty of social media is that hierarchies are flattened and we are able to lift one another up and put a spotlight on what’s happening beyond the four walls of our church and the boundaries of our geographic spaces. There is no harm done in sharing what our neighbors in similar organizations are doing—it does not diminish the work or ministry we are doing or promoting.

    Hannah Bonner: I think the key with this is to first ask yourself if you are on the receiving end of that information already. Are you “tuned in” so to speak. If you are not, you may want to follow some people on social media that are. If you don’t know where to start, you can follow me @HannahABonner - most of my activity on Twitter is amplifying people in all parts of the world who I am following by retweeting them. If you follow me, or others who do that, you will start to see these missives and can amplify them yourselves or share the information with your congregation. Once you are “tuned in”, the next important step is to figure out how to share these things with others. Just as you can get the information by following someone on Twitter, someone who is not on Twitter may be able to get the information by hearing you bringing it up in a Pastoral Prayer, announcements or small group.

    How can United Methodists develop a community of those who are passionate about social and racial justice?

    SA: Social media is very visual. One way UMs can use social media to develop a community of those passionate about social justice is to tell stories. Give people a glimpse into the vision, mission, and heart of whatever group or community you are trying to gather. A short 30-second video, a compelling photo, or a story are all ways that we can make this work and ministry real. We sometimes miss the emotional connection that in-person relationships and gatherings can convey, so the question is how do we communicate the heart of what we’re about when a screen is the medium? But I always remind people that social media is social. Continue to find ways to connect online and off. Just because it starts online it doesn’t mean it has to end there.

    HB: Joining groups that talk about the issues, following people on Twitter and commenting on their posts so that you create the opportunity to engage is a start. Then use the strength that you gain from seeing others working around the world to motivate yourself to work in your own community. If you started off as the only person with your level of energy, commit to changing that. Make your discipleship a lifestyle and not just a hobby.

    How can United Methodist churches help diverse communities to feel welcomed by the UM faith?

    SA: Again, I like to remind people that social media is a medium—it is a tool, but it is not the end-goal. So what we communicate on social—that we are welcoming, and accepting and loving—we must also communicate offline in our actions and in our words. Social media will not save us if what we do online is not congruent with what we do offline. The photos we use in our posts, the words we write, and the messages we share on video are all indicators of who we are. Find people to communicate those things who fully understand who you are as a community, and who are sensitive and aware  of the struggles that marginalized communities are facing.

    HB: As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” We have to take a sincere interest in what people are experiencing and take action, not just tell them it will be okay. We cannot afford to do as Jeremiah warned us of, "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.” We have to be willing to say the words, like #BlackLivesMatter - because they do, and we need to accompany our words with actions, like visiting someone in a local immigration detention center and getting to know their story.

    How can local churches reach diverse communities that are not currently connected to their church through social media?

    SA: I encourage local churches to stay local in the ways they connect with what’s happening in their communities. Become a part of the fabric of your community. Follow and join local blogs, forums, facebook groups. Let people know that you are there, you are present, and you are active in the online and offline communities. Visit bit.ly/UMethniccaucuses or www.gcorr.org for resources.

    HB: The first we should ask is: “what will they gain from connecting with our church?” Is this about our desire to appear diverse, or our desire to support others? Will they be safe? Will they be treated as a token so that the church can pat itself on the back? Or will they be uplifted as a child of God, their voices and experiences heard and believed, and their needs supported? We have to work on all these fronts: who we are, who we want to be, and who we need to be. When we get out of the church and into the streets we will find out all the clues we need to know. We will find out how to fix the language on our website. We will find out the right hashtags to use. Yet, we have to get out of our pews and into the streets. Social media is a tool, it is not a replacement. Methodism was built in the streets, the factories, the fields, the schools—we must go there too.

    Can you share some examples of churches or individuals you know whose celebration of diversity and/or education about racial injustices are commendable?

    SA: Christena Cleveland is one of my first go-tos for things related to social/racial justice:. Her website is www.christenacleveland.com She can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drchristenacleveland.

    Urban Village Chicago is also a great resource; check out their Fcebook page at : https://www.facebook.com/uvchurch.

    Glide Memorial from San Francisco is also an amazing example of celebrating diversity. Visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/glidesf.

    HB: New Day (http://www.newdaychurch.nyc)

    Arise (http://arisemovement.org)

    Servant Church (http://servantchurchaustin.org)

    Valley & Mountain Fellowship (https://valleyandmountain.org)

    Registration is now open for UP!WORD ‘17

    February 14, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Spread the word to all youth in grades sixth through 12th-UP!WORD is the spring event held by the Upper New York Conference's Council of Youth Ministry (CCYM). The theme this year, short and to the point, is "God is."  UP!WORD 2017 is an opportunity for youth from all over the Upper New York Conference to experience community and grow in their spiritual journeys through worship experiences, workshops, late night activities, and fun interactions. The event will be held March 31-April 2 at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool, N.Y.

    Click here to register. Stay tuned for more details about the activities and workshops.

    Fairview UMC-a growing urban church

    February 14, 2017 / By Blenda Smith

    An urban church in a “changing” neighborhood— how many local churches in Upper New York Conference would fit that description? Fairview UMC in Binghamton, NY, is just that. We are also a growing church with baptisms, confirmations, and other new members in the last six to seven years. We don’t measure the strength of our beloved community with metrics.  Rather, we have come to see so many opportunities to reach out to our neighbors with God’s love. We are not simply situated in the neighborhood; we are part of our neighborhood. We are in ministry with – not to – our local neighbors. That’s one secret to our congregational vitality and growth. People joining the church want to be part of something meaningful and beyond our building and Sunday morning services.

    Welcoming diverse community members of various races and socioeconomic levels is an important “culture” for our church members. We share our building with a Haitian congregation. Our street corner is a hub for meeting people in the neighborhood. We give prayers/ashes on Ash Wednesdays, hot soup on cold winter days (and at the  laundromat as well), popsicles to school children as they walk home on the last day of school and again in September with invitations to Sunday School, and we share “Hear a Story – Take a Story” for children’s’ summer fun with free books to take home. Soon ,we will offer an outside free book lending library. These are some ways we call out to the community that we have open hearts, open minds, and open doors.

    We are one block from an elementary school at which children have many basic needs. Teachers know our church is the school’s emergency shelter if a disaster occurs. In the winter our Hat and Mitten [and socks and underwear] Tree in the narthex from Thanksgiving to New Year’s overflows with items from the congregation. The same happens in August with our Christmas in August Tree to supply the children (& teachers) with needed supplies to start the new school year successfully. Knowing the start of a new school year is important, we arrange for a cosmetology school to come and give free haircuts in our parking lot. We invite the Endicott Central UMC to bring a full truck from their Clothing Closet for children and parents to choose clothing for a fresh start to the school year. Summer time can be a challenge for working families. Arts, crafts, games and snacks in the local park bring out not only children, but also, parents andchild caregivers.

    In some instances, we give a hand-up, namely our food pantry with no strings attached: come and have a bag of groceries (and prayers if desired). Monthly delicious home-cooked meals from scratch for up to 32 men at the local Rescue Mission Homeless Shelter are our message of caring. Last month, one of our members received a Hope Award from the Rescue Mission, namely, the “Faith Award” for his regular attendance and commitment to his faith journey at Fairview UMC.

    We continue to find ways to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our neighborhood. As new members come from suburbia as well as from our community ministries, people “feel” something special at Fairview UMC. Of course, we know it’s the Holy Spirit moving in the congregation and bubbling out of our building. This is living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and  being God’s love with our neighbors.

    Pastor Yohang Chun and his ministry with college students at SUNY Oswego

    February 14, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Living a mere three blocks away from a college campus presented the perfect opportunity for a pastor to begin a ministry for college students. When he was appointed to Oswego First UMC in 2011, Pastor Yohang Chun began a Friday-night meal and bible study at the church parsonage for international students from SUNY Oswego. The program has continued each year with new students who learn of the small group primarily through word of mouth.

    Pastor Chun is Korean as are many of the international students at SUNY Oswego. When Pastor Chun started the program, he said “My wife cooks delicious Korean food. Many of the students missed home and their ethnic cuisine. My policy is to fill their stomach and their spirit.”

    Each Friday, Pastor Chun leads the students through a bible study followed by a meal. Students who come to the Friday night gatherings are from many different backgrounds. Most, like Pastor Chun, are from South Korea. Students from other ethnic backgrounds, such as Indian and Chinese, have also attended. Many Christian backgrounds are represented, and some have never been to church.

    Dong Gun Lee and his wife HyunJoo Ahn began attending the Friday night gatherings in the fall of 2016 when one of Dong Gun’s friends told him about the gatherings. He grew up Catholic in South Korea and his wife who was born and raised in a Baptist household in South Korea has since converted to Catholicism.

    Dong Gun and HyunJoo’s five-month old son, Daniel, attends the gatherings with them. HyunJoo, who studies communications and hopes one day to become a psychologist, said, “It is so nice to get together with people who understand me and who share the same beliefs as me.”

    Pastor Chun brings the international students together on other occasions as well. They have a large Thanksgiving celebration as well as a Korean New Year celebration. They also volunteer at the Salvation Army twice a year, serving meals. Pastor Chun said, “It makes me happy to see how the students enjoy serving the community.”

    Seeing how the program has been a success to international students, Pastor Chun has initiated a gathering for American college students this school year as well. He has asked Ray and Barbara Morrison to join and lead the American students at the parsonage on Friday nights. They met Pastor Chun when they began attending the Oswego First United Methodist Church in 2016. Barbara is a Registered Nurse and Ray is a business librarian at SUNY Oswego.

    Barbara and Ray, who have two adult sons, are excited to have students in their home and expressed to the students that they are welcome to come anytime, not just on Fridays. Barbara said, “If you need a place to study or just hang out and relax and watch T.V., our doors are open.”

    Caleb Smith is one of the American students attending the group. He grew up as United Methodist in the Albany, New York area. He is a member of the praise band at Oswego First United Methodist Church.Caleb said, “This (Friday night gathering) is something I look forward to every week.”

    Ray explained why he and Barbara are excited to lead a Christian small group for college students; he said, “I went to a State University and I know what it’s like to be a Christian when it seems that nobody else is. I am excited to offer a place where Christians feel comfortable getting together and getting to know one another.”

    While the way we do ministry with college students is changing in many ways, one thing is for sure, college can be one of the most critical times in a young person's life, and it is a time of discernment for many. College ministries, such as Pastor Chun’s, can strengthen college students’ faith, helping to assure that the mission of the United Methodist Church, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, is achieved.

    How can I keep from singing?

    February 14, 2017 / By Stephen Cady

    A little over a year ago, Asbury First had a conversation about caroling as a congregation. We thought it would be fun to get together and walk through the neighborhoods surrounding our church to spread a little Christmas cheer. Then, we thought that it would be more fun with more people, so we considered inviting other churches to carol with us. Next, we thought about all of the brokenness and violence in our community and decided it might be even better if we could invite everyone in Rochester to participate. What resulted was the first annual “City Sing for Peace and Unity,” an ecumenical and interfaith event in which over 350 people from all over Rochester gathered to sing throughout a local neighborhood. While we shifted from Christmas carols to songs of peace from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and humanist traditions, there was no doubt about the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    Methodists have long known the power of a song. As we lift up our voices together, the Spirit becomes apparent in a new way. Sometimes those “sighs too deep for words” find expression in voices raised in harmony. Even when the voices themselves fail to land on the right pitch, somehow the gathered community makes the tune apparent. The key to harmony, however, is to have different people singing different parts of the same tune. In the case of City Sing, the tune was peace on earth—something every tradition can get behind.

    We recently held our second annual City Sing event. We were joined by a different group of people and walked through a different neighborhood, but the Spirit was the same. We sang songs from far-ranging traditions with far-ranging meanings to the various generations gathered. The evening ended with a candlelight vigil in which we all sang, We Shall Overcome. And in that moment, we believed it. Here was a church leading a group of people from all different faiths in the same song of hope. In the end, it didn’t matter if you could sing or not because the gathering itself was a kind of song.

    We often think about how to make our churches more diverse—or at least better reflective of the community in which we exist. Asbury First has worked hard on that. From passing a reconciling statement which makes it clear that our congregation is open to all persons regardless of any distinguishing characteristic—age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation—to ensuring that our committee structures and leadership are reflective of those commitments. In the end, however, the lesson of City Sing is that if we want to make our churches more reflective of our communities, we have to be in the community. We have to invest in those community partnerships with people who, though they may not look like us or believe like us or think like us, have the same commitment to those timeless issues of the human spirit that drive us all. The good news is that if we can somehow get those different voices singing the same tune together, the harmony becomes apparent—and so does the Spirit.

    As the old hymn puts it, “Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”

    UNY UMHS announces institutional membership and optional joint dues with the HSUMC

    February 14, 2017 / By UNY Communications Team

    The United Methodist Historical Society for the Upper New York Conference (UNYUMHS) announces that institutional membership is now available in the organization. Also, an option has been added for reduced joint membership in the Historical Society of the United Methodist Church (HSUMC). UNY-UM Society membership includes access to the private UNY United Methodist Historical Society Facebook closed group. As a closed group, viewing photographs, files, etc. (as well as adding posts) on the Facebook site is restricted to qualifying members.  (While joining Facebook is necessary for access, each person can choose his/her own Facebook privacy settings.)

    Upper New York UMHS dues for new individual members or associate members are $7.50 annually per member. Dues for Upper New York UMHS institutional members are $15 annually. Click here for more information on benefits and available memberships.

     The Upper New York United Methodist Historical Society focuses on the Methodist history within the area that is now Upper New York Conference.  Such history includes earlier Methodist predecessor groups such as Evangelical United Brethren. The Society was formed by the Upper New York Commission on Archives and History.  Its theme is to Preserve the PAST; Inform the FUTURE. 

    Conference Office closed today, Feb. 13

    February 13, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Due to the inclement weather, the Conference Office in Syracuse will be closed today, Feb. 13. It will reopen Tuesday, Feb. 14.

    How Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial UMC uses basketball to reach diverse youth

    February 6, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    At 5 p.m. on a Wednesday night, a diverse group of youth, ages 9-14, begin gathering into Sarah Jane Johnson UMC; they are there to play basketball! This is no ordinary basketball league; its purpose is not only to develop the children’s basketball skills, but also to teach the children about God’s love for them.

    Before hitting the gymnasium, the children gather into the chapel to learn about God—this is called “team time.” On this particular night, Pastor Ron Wenzinger began the lesson based on Matthew 5: 14-16, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before everyone so they see the good in you and you give glory to God.”

    The children then drew pictures of their lights, including skills such as drawing, writing, basketball and family-oriented skills like helping their mother cook.

    Kelly Crane, the Outreach Director at SJJ and its George F. Johnson Dream Center, completed the lesson. She held up a flashlight with no batteries and asked the children, “Why is this light not shining?” Many mentioned that the flashlight had no batteries. And Kelly said, “Exactly, the light needs a power source. God is your power source. He is what makes your light shine.”

    After team time, the kids headed up to the basketball court for practice on a court made from Johnson Endicott shoe soles.

    The basketball league at SJJ began almost a decade ago as part of the church’s George. F. Johnson Dream Center. The basketball league consists of four teams that practice at SJJ and the Boulevard UMC in Binghamton. Each church coaches two teams. SJJ holds two two-hour practices each week on Mondays and Wednesdays and Boulevard UMC holds two two-hour practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The teams then compete on Saturdays. This year, there are 45 children signed up for the program.

    How do the children learn about the basketball league?  Kelly Crane said,  “We have a great relationship with the (Johnson City) Middle School. They refer children to us who do not make the basketball team and kids also learn about the program through word-of-mouth. The George F. Johnson Dream Center is a recognizable and highly regarded. I am helping the community learn that The Dream Center is part of Sarah Jane Johnson.”

    George F. Johnson, in fact, is a big name in the history of the Binghamton area. George was a businessman in the early 1900s; he was the founder of the Endicott-Johnson shoe factory. During that era, Endicott-Johnson was the largest manufacturer of footwear in the United States, employing 24,000 workers at its peak. Despite paying some of the highest wages in the industry, Endicott-Johnson was consistently profitable. SJJ is named after George’s mother. Johnson City, where SJJ is located, is also named after him. His Dream Center is the foundation for the young children who learn about God and become fantastic basketball players. The Dream Center also offers tutoring; Kelly is expanding the outreach to adults as well, by such offerings a computer literacy classes.

    One unique characteristic about the basketball league is that it is co-ed. Beth Martinez is one of the coaches. When her husband approached her about coaching, she wasn’t interested at first. She said, “I said to him, ‘Why would I want to coach these kids?,’ but then I thought, ‘If these girls can play with these boys, I can certainly coach amongst male coaches.’’ Beth is one of two female coaches now at SJJ. She coaches one team and a husband and wife, Mark and Kris Moyer coaches the other team.

    On this particular Wednesday night, he children practice with intense concentration. The one girl at practice this evening, 11-year-old Teagan Morris, held her own, doing an incredible job blocking her opponents’ passes and shots.

    Droplets of sweat dripped off 12-year-old Noah Sprately’s face as he explained his history with the SJJ league, “When I first moved here three years ago (from New York City), I was asking my mom how I could join a basketball team and she had a friend who lived upstairs from Beth (Martinez) and she told my mom about this league. I love it! I like playing here because I can see my skills improve. It’s very competitive and hard to make my school team—the bigger kids in this league do a great job at helping me build my skills.”

    The basketball program helps bring consistency to Noah’s life as it does for many of the other children involved. Noah’s life in New York City was one of moving around constantly—his mother’s caseworker suggested they move to Binghamton for a quieter and better quality of life. “This basketball league is the thing I am happiest about since I’ve moved here,” Noah said.

    While improving their basketball skills, the children are learning how to become “God’s love to their neighbors.” Kelly Crane reminded the kids in the transition between “team time” and practice that, “Team time is just as important as what you do upstairs on the court; we are teaching you how to be kind and compassionate—these are important life skills.”

    Through their basketball program, SJJ is reaching children from a diverse, poor neighborhood and helping them to see that they are “the light of the world.”

    God brings diversity to Aldersgate UMC

    February 6, 2017 / By The Rev. Anne O'Connor

    Aldersgate UMC is located in Greece, a first-ring suburb of Rochester. The church is surrounded by affordable homes built in the 1950s and 60s to house employees of Eastman Kodak. In the last several years, the neighborhood has changed and has become ethnically diverse. We are pleased to see more ethnic people in our morning worships services, but God is doing much more.

    A few years ago, we noticed many Hispanic/Latino people shopping in the local stores and sensed God leading us to reach out to them. We began a dialogue with Pastor Carlos Rosa-Laguer from Inglesia Metodista Unida Emmanuel, a Hispanic church in Rochester. They sent us Pastor Hector Rivera and a couple families from their church to begin a Hispanic ministry at Aldersgate. The ministry began with Bible study and after a year began a worship service in our church chapel on Sundays at 3 p.m.We planned from the beginning that this New Faith Community would be part of Aldersgate—one church with worship services in English and Spanish. In this way, we could be one church in ministry together while honoring the traditions of each.

    In the five years of this ministry, we have made a conscious effort to include Hispanic members on the various church committees and work toward the same goals. We worship together several times a year and fellowship together regularly in an effort to continue to build relationships across cultures. One of the first things God led the Hispanic community to do was raise money for a church van to help expand the ministry. Little did we know at the time how important the van would become to the total ministry of Aldersgate.

    About a year ago, two refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo stopped by the church, believing God had told them to go to the United Methodist Church, in part, because of people they knew that were attending Albany: Emmaus UMC. The father, Renzha Mujyanama Ceser, and son, Ngarultuye John Paul, shared their stories of having spent several years in a refugee camp in Uganda before being moved to Rochester. While in Uganda, they attended a Bible college and served as pastors. They had lived in Rochester about four years and were looking for a church that would welcome them and be supportive of a ministry that is important to them, The Ebenezer Hope Restoration Ministry, which serves widows and orphans in the Nakivale Refugee Camp where they had lived. Believing that it is important to pay attention to the people God sends to us, we were pleased to welcome them. We don’t know why God decided to bless us with their presence. Perhaps God sent them to us because we had been open to the Hispanics in our area. Perhaps it was because we had a van that they would need to transport other refugees to the church. Perhaps because we have prayed for more young adults in our church and God has answered us in a surprising way.

    Our African brothers and sisters worshipped with us for about a year in one of the English languages services wanting to learn English and the American culture. This past September they started a service in their own language in the sanctuary at 3:00 p.m.on Sundays.

    Aldersgate has been enriched by diversity, only part of which is related to our ethnic worshipers. It’s a great joy to be in relationship with all kinds of people and to learn from them. We believe God has called us to be one church made up of many people. It’s our hope and prayer that we will continue to grow and reflect God’s kingdom.

    Hidden Figures-A brilliant account of three African American women at NASA

    February 6, 2017 / By Linda Hughes, CORR

    On Friday January 20, I had the great opportunity to go to the Stanley Theatre in Utica and listen to Margot Lee Shetterly (pictured on the right) speak about the book she recently authored entitled Hidden Figures. It’s about a group of African-American female mathematicians working for NASA during the 1960s, in segregated Virginia. Ms. Shetterly, also African-American, grew up in the same area as these women. Her father worked at NASA and had told her about them, so she was moved to research and interview and write an accurate and compelling account of their contributions. It focuses on three particular women of the group of African American women working at NASA at the time.

    On Saturday, I saw the movie, also entitled Hidden Figures, based on the book. It was great! Russia had just beaten the US in putting a man into orbit around the earth, so NASA was desperate to catch up. The engineering department requested the best mathematician be sent to them to help (This was before computers)! You can imagine the scene when an African-American woman walks into the room full of elite Caucasian men! The movie accurately portrays the prejudice and Jim Crow laws in effect at the time. To use the ladies room, she literally ran a quarter- mile to the only building on the complex that had a “colored” ladies bathroom. Did I mention she did it in high heels? Then she ran a quarter- mile back.

    What amazed and saddened me was these women were brilliant, confident, and driven to succeed. But at work, they had to assume a subordinate role and endure being treated as inferior by the men and women they worked with.

    The theatre was filled, with mostly Caucasian folks, and there were two rounds of applause. I sincerely urge you to see the movie. Please take your family, including your kids, and your friends and congregation. And then read the book.

    Editor's Note: Linda Hughes is a member of the Upper New York Conference Commission on Religion and Race.

    NEJ Bishops release statement supporting refugees and speaking against visa ban

    February 1, 2017 / By Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops

    Editor's Note: The Northeastern Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops has released the following statement about the recent Executive Order suspending the country’s refugee assistance program and banning visas for seven countries.

    "Give me your tired, your poor, 
    your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, . . .”

    These words, written by poet Emma Lazarus and posted on pedestal of the Statue of Liberty have, for decades, welcomed the foreigner to the shores of our land.  They are words that have described the position of our country, a place that has welcomed the immigrant into a land of hope where a pathway to a better life could be found.

    The words “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” sound very similar to a message that the church has proclaimed for generations:

    “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

    The posture of our country in welcoming the foreigner has been compatible with the position of the church.  But today there is a disconnect between the position of the country and the mission of the church.  Our President’s recent Executive Order suspending the country’s refugee assistance program and banning visas from seven countries seems a far cry from the words “give me your tired and your poor.”

    The bishops of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church recently met in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a region naturally equated with farmland, Pennsylvania Dutch, and the Amish.  But these perceptions do not accurately describe this area. Lancaster is America’s refugee capital.  It has 20 times more refugees per capita than the rest of the United States, having welcomed over 1,300 refugees since 2003.  Within the city there are several United Methodist Churches that have historically modeled what it means to settle families and advocate for the immigrants in their midst.

    Just outside the walls of our hotel, a place where we are safe and comfortable, there are immigrants who have become disenfranchised and afraid.  Even those who legally have been given a right to become a part of our country are now wondering if they are truly safe and welcome.  Others have fears about travel and future employment.  Still others wonder when they will see friends and family who reside in another country.  The huddled masses yearning to be free have all of sudden become very alone and afraid.

    We write you today, the people that we serve in the northeastern section of our country, urging you to embrace the gospel message of providing rest for all who are weary in the midst of a land that has begun to build walls of division and discord.  In response to Executive Orders from the President, it is our hope that you will once again embrace the mandate from Jesus to be in ministry to the least, the last, and the lost among us.

    This is the time for the church to do what it does best – love our neighbors as we ourselves have been loved.  We urge all United Methodists to be intentional in providing a ministry of prayer and presence in our churches and throughout our communities that bear witness to our grace and love.  We implore you to preach and proclaim an alternative rhetoric to the message of fear and anger that is being generated by those with power.  We invite you to step forward and provide safe places of sanctuary for those who long for a place of care and advocacy.

    We believe that we have the opportunity and the call from God to welcome the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses with a message that simply says, “Come, and we will, in the name of Christ, give you rest.”  May it be so.

    We invite you to pray with us this prayer:

    Creator God, before life began, you reached deep into the soil around the world to gather rich red clay, fertile black soil, white sand, tan and brown earth and created us; people of every hue, every culture and of every nation and called us good. We praise you for making us different. Yet through all of us, you pulsed the same red rich blood and breathed into us the same breath, your Spirit.

    Redeemer God, forgive us when we allow color, culture and national boundary to become the enemy of hospitality and dignity. Forgive us for stigmatizing the name immigrant. In the midst of life’s complexities, let us never give up or give in to quick fixes but to be the innovators, the creators following your example. Forgive us for forgetting that we have a rich lineage of immigrants.

    Sustainer God and protector of all, sustain and strengthen us for the journey ahead. Give wisdom, and boundless love to the leaders of our nation and the leaders of our communities, schools, government and congregations. Give us the courage and humility to lead people toward security and justice, prosperity and righteousness, safe borders and safe passage.

    Bless those born within our borders and those who crossed our borders to find a new home. May your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. It is in the name of Christ that we pray and commit to welcoming the stranger, loving our enemies, and praying for those who persecute us.

    Amen.

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office

    Fighting racism: The Church’s unfinished agenda

    January 31, 2017 / By Upper New York Communications

    Racism is everywhere, even in our churches. The racism that is apparent many times may be unintentional. The General Commission on Religion & Race (gcrr.org) has published these quotes to illustrate ways in which you may be unintentionally perpetuating racism.

    I acquiesce in the perpetuation of racism when I…

    • “don’t challenge racist jokes and comments.”
    • “feel threatened when interacting with persons of different races than my own.”
    • “assume that I will not be discriminated against because eof my race.”
    • “avoid events of ethnic groups other than my own.”
    • “ignore the literature and achievements of persons from ethnic groups other than my own.”
    • “think that racism is not a problem.”
    • “assume my point of view is the norm.”

    The General Commission on Religion & Race also published quotes that showcase small ways in which you can help dismantle racism.

    I actively participate in the dismantling of racism when I…

    • “try to challenge racial slurs and don’t tell jokes that put down other groups.”
    • “seek to befriend and understand persons from racial ethnic groups other than my own.”
    • “listen to and don’t discount the discrimination experience of others.”
    • “make opportunities to interact with persons of a variety of races and backgrounds.”
    • “try to educate myself about people differences.”
    • “try to use my access to persons with influence to serve as an advocate for racial persons and the elimination of racism.”

    If you are seeking ways to pray about the elimination of racism, Race and Prayer: Collected Voices, Many Dreams by editors Malcom Boyd and Chester Talton is a great resource. Here is an excerpt  of one of the prayers:

    “Almighty God…Raise up among us people of strength and courage to speak out and take action with love and commitment to end all forms of discrimination based on old racist practices that have no place in our world today. Help us to patiently listen to one another as we all work to end the pain and suffering that has imprisoned us all; and finally bring us into your holy presence as one people, united in your love. Amen.”

    Pan-Methodism: What is this?

    January 31, 2017 / By Blenda Smith, CORR

    Pan-Methodist Churches are plentiful in the Upper New York area. Have you noticed African American Episcopal (AME), African American Episcopal Zion (AMEZ), Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME), African Union Methodist Protestant, or Union American Methodist Episcopal Churches in your communities?  Collectively, they are called Pan-Methodist Churches.

    It has been over 200 years since Pan-Methodist Churches began separating from Methodism. Many African Americans chose to leave the Methodist Church when color and slavery were painful issues. African-Americans were forced from altar rails as they prayed, forced to stand at the side walls of churches, and relegated to segregation in hot balconies. Hence, many African Americans formed their own churches based on the tradition of Wesley.

    In 2012, the United Methodist Church celebrated Full Communion with Pan-Methodist Churches, meaning full connection and relationship.  At the General Conference service, CME Bishop Thomas Hoyt, Jr., “suggested the need for a ‘sacrament of the coffee cup’ to build individual friendships and commit to finding ways to break down barriers and promote justice together. Issues of race and class are not just sociological but theological because dealing with such issues ‘teaches us to get along together’” (Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter).

     This past June, Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb attended the Western NY Conference session of the AME Zion Church. It is Bishop Webb’s hope that Bishop Proctor of the AME Zion will be available to attend a session of The Upper New York Conference in a coming year, as we build partnerships and relationships.

    Bishop Webb said, “Our sisters and brothers of the AME Zion Church share our passion for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Their commitment to the communities they serve and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is inspiring.  We share a rich theology and I look forward to future ways of living together as the Body of Christ.”

    From the desk of Mark J. Webb: Embracing diversity

    January 31, 2017 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female, fall you all are one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

    – Galatians 3.26-29

    Our culture and society too often and too easily place individuals into categories. Frequently, we seek our identity and are tempted to identify others based on things like appearance, abilities, culture of origin, educational status, socioeconomic position, race, gender, and theological or political leanings. This way of seeing one another and relating to one another continues to cause great harm to one another within our communities and within the Body of Christ!

    The grace of God promises us a new reality – a better reality! Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we are clothed in Christ and our identity is found in nothing but Christ!  The intent of God through Jesus is for all people, regardless of race, class, gender, language, citizenship, education, or abilities, to live together as sisters and brothers. The words of the Apostle Paul to the church of Galatia, give us a glimpse of this promise and reality.

    The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. echoed these words in his call for “the creation of the beloved community,” where love transforms the relationship between oppressors and the oppressed, insiders and outsiders, and haves and have nots, restoring justice and creating peace.

    I believe the vision of Jesus for a diverse people with varied gifts yet one in love and purpose is the deepest longing of our hearts. We have much progress to make in celebrating the rich diversity among us and living the truth that each person is valuable and significant. Most notable, the scourge of racism, along with other divisive and sinful “isms,” has erected barriers on the path to becoming the beloved community mandated by the Gospel.

    We know Jesus has little toleration for the way of division. “With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us” (Ephesians 2:14c). As his Body, the Church, we are called and equipped to continue this dismantling work. Last July, the College of Bishops of the Northeast Jurisdiction and the delegates of the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church issued a “Call to Action” to actively address and confront the reality of our culture and church, specifically the racism present in our hearts, our local congregations, and our communities (Learn more about the Call to Action at http://bit.ly/NEJfightingracism).

    As part of our response to this call, I will appoint a Bishop’s Task Force on Racism to develop strategies and resources to equip local congregations to specifically combat racism in their contexts, but also discover principles that will equip us to deal with all forms of “isms.” It is my prayer that this work will move us closer to the vision God has for us to live together, to recognize each other through the eyes and heart of God and invite all to truly live the identity they were created for.

    As Dr. King said, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…”  Though spoken years ago, his words remain relevant in this moment. Now is the time for us to act. With God’s help, let us work together to challenge hate, remove barriers, and build communities where we boldly defend and offer the promise and reality of identity found in and through Jesus the Christ! 

    A new approach to the Conference Budget

    January 31, 2017 / By UNY Communications

    The Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) has been trying to address concerns expressed by members of Annual Conference about how the conference budget is presented. 

    To that end, CF&A is developing a new approach to the budget. It is a work in progress, which will continue to be honed this year. But here are the highlights:

    • Listening to What’s Needed
    • Narrative and Timely Information
    • Clarity over Spending and Giving
    • Shrinking the Bottom Line

    Listening Sessions

    The concern is that the budget process takes place behind closed doors. And so, last year’s Annual Conference called for regional “listening sessions” in which any concerns about the development of the budget could be voiced. A listening session in each district, to take place in March has been scheduled as such:

    March 5th

    • Oneonta District at Worcester UMC/Time: 2-4 p.m.

    March 11th

    • Albany District at Newtonville UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
    • Binghamton District at Endwell UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
    • Cornerstone District at East Randolph UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
    • Crossroads District at Liverpool First UMC/Time: 1-3 p.m.
    • Finger Lakes District at Seneca Falls UMC/Time: 2-4 p.m.
    • Northern Flow District at Gouverneur UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
    • Mountain View District at Bath Centenary UMC/Time: 10 a.m.- noon
    • Niagara Frontier District at Pendleton Center UMC/Time: 2-4 p.m.

    March 18th

    • Adirondack District at Saratoga Springs UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
    • Genesee Valley District at Rush UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon

    March 26th

    • Mohawk District at New Hartford UMC/Time: 3-5 p.m.

    These Listening Sessions will not be a repackaged Pre-Conference briefing on the budget. The purpose of the Listening Session is to listen—to the questions, concerns, and thoughts of the conference (about the information and process needed, to act upon the budget responsibly). While a member of both CF&A and the Conference Leadership Team will be present, their function will be to listen carefully (rather than persuade). A facilitator at each session will ensure that open questioning and real listening can happen.

    Narrative and Timely Information

    The concern is that, in the past, the budget has been presented in a manner that is difficult to understand, and without enough time to process the information.

    Click here for the 2018 budget proposal, which is on the Conference website. Included are: (1) a typical line-by-line budget spreadsheet; and (2) a narrative budget that in one paragraph describes what each line-item is for. Answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” are being complied and will be posted before March 1.

    Clarity over Spending and Giving

    The concern is that our spending plans were mystifying, and that local churches have been unable to give fully toward our ministry shares.

    The previous practice of “variable” spending plans has been done away with, altogether. “Variable” funding meant that a particular ministry might be approved for a certain amount, but receive only 35% (or some other percentage) of that amount. Our new budget eliminates all that. Instead, it establishes a set amount for each line item, so that each team knows at the outset the amount actually available to accomplish their ministry.

    On the giving side, Ministry Shares have not been fully funded by our churches. This of course impacts our funding for conference ministry. In this past year, our local churches have made significant gains, and we believe that trend will continue. Our new budget makes room for “Ministry Shares at Full Giving”—and as those dollars come in, our Leadership Team will determine how to fund the ministries we have committed to more fully. Yet we need to be realistic, and believe it will help our individual ministry areas to have clarity about how much they actually have to work with each year.

    Shrinking the Bottom Line

    The concern is that we spend too much. In fact, ministry shares have remained steady at 14.5% of actual local church operating income the past six years. Individual church statistics may vary, depending on how the church’s income varies, but overall that is where we have been.

    At the same time, the need to economize has been heard. Our 2018 budget proposal has decreased to just under $10 million, for the first time since the Upper New York Conference was created. The precise numbers are:   

          2016 Approved Budget    $10,079,236

          2017 Approved Budget    $10,078,432

          2018 Budget Proposal      $  9,995,000

    We hope that these efforts help prepare us all for Annual Conference, starting June 1. CF&A will continue to be attentive to what it is, that our Conference needs.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    CLT continues logic model work to guide ministry in UNY

    January 24, 2017 / By Stephen J. Hustedt / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    On January 14, members of the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) gathered in Syracuse to continue their visioning and strategic planning work.

    Using a logic model (see the logic model graphic) the team “began with the end in mind,”  working its way backwards from the Vision and Mission to identify the steps required to live into the vision and mission. The CLT had previously identified three desired outcomes:

    • Increase Number of Transformational Leaders
    • Increase Vitality of Existing Congregations
    • Increase Number of New Faith Communities

    After identifying these outcomes, the team began work on identifying the outputs that would result in the desired outcomes. A list of measurable outputs for each outcome has been identified and is being refined in small group settings. Work has also begun on brainstorming the activities that will lead to the outputs for each outcome.

    As the lists are further refined they will be shared with the Conference.

    In addition, the team also made a change to the model that has been used to share the purpose of the Annual Conference. For some time “Spiritual Renewal and Revival” had been at the center of the Model. This was changed to “Spiritual Vitality and Revival” to better express a forward thinking mentality (see the Purpose of the Annual Conference model). The new model is also now available in the Graphics Resources section of the Conference Website.

    The next meeting of the CLT will be on March 25 as they gather with District Leadership Teams. Continue watching Conference communications channels to stay connected to this important work.

    Upper New York young adults reflect on poverty

    January 24, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Earlier this month, 15 young adults from the UNY Conference traveled to Washington, D.C.  and spent two days learning at the United Methodist Building as part of the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) seminar program, focusing on #FaithandPoverty. Maya Smith, Weagba Nelson, Alisyn Klock, and Cory Jones share their reflections on what they learned about poverty. Below are a few reflections from the young adults who attended.


    Maya Smith

    While in Washington D.C., myself along with other Upper New York young adults, had the chance to attend a Global Board of Church and Society (GBCS) poverty and homelessness seminar. The first thing we learned was that in Syracuse one in every two children live in poverty, 31% of the total people living in Syracuse live in poverty, and poverty in Syracuse ranks 29th when compared against the whole nation. This came as a shock to me, as someone who lives so close to the city and as a UNY young adult.

    In addition to learning these statistics on poverty, we had the chance to learn that there are many different ways people become impoverished and homeless. Dr. Jessie Smith from GBCS guided our conversations. Whether we said it or not,  , most of our brains immediately went to addiction and laziness when asked what causes one to become impoverished or homeless. However, we learned that there are so many other reasons such as loss of a job, debt, mental illness, loss of a loved one, depression, and choice, just to name a few and that addiction is often a result of these and ends up being a coping mechanism.

    The reasons listed can be separated into two categories: Voluntary and Involuntary poverty. Voluntary poverty would include monks, popes, and intentional communities. These people choose to free themselves of possessions and wealth in order to open themselves up to God. On the other hand, involuntary poverty would include: job loss, debt, or mental illness. These people do not choose to be impoverished, but circumstances have led them there. On top of this, there is generational poverty and situational poverty. If you are born into an impoverished family, you are in generational poverty. If health problems put you in debt and in turn led you to poverty, you are in situational poverty. We also had the chance to hear stories from two improvised people who have lived through homelessness. We got to hear about what put them there, the hardships, successes, and their passion to help those who walk in the same shoes.

    Dr. Smith also guided us through the story of the Good Samaritan. We all know this story but have we really heard what Jesus is telling us? The beaten man was not helped by the priest nor the Levite. Both of these men we supposed to be kin to the beaten man. However, the only person to stop and help him was the Samaritan, the sworn enemy of the man. The Samaritan cleans and bandages his wounds and brings him to shelter and promises to pay for his care. Here Jesus shows us a story of great compassion. He teaches us to extend a hand to those who need help regardless of who they are and whether or not they are your best friend or your sworn enemy. Linking to this is Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words. He was referencing the story of the Good Samaritan when he said, “The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ The question is, ‘If I do not stop the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’”.

    While in Washington D.C., I became inspired to make a change. From being completely shocked that there was so much unmentioned poverty around me, to learning that poverty is complex and has a face, to learning that the bible and famous activists have spoken great words on this subject.

    Right in the middle of our Conference, there is great poverty. I am now inspired to go to these places and lend a hand to those who need help. Now, I know that poverty isn’t one sided. It is voluntary, involuntary, generational, and situational. It has a name. There are stories and people, not just a general reason or statistic. My eyes are now open to this and so is my heart and mind. My eyes, heart, and mind are now flooded with the story of the Good Samaritan. Reminding me every day to worry less about what society will say if I am helping the homeless and impoverished, but to remember this is what Jesus teaches us to do. That myself and all of us must worry more about what will happen to the man in need if I do not help and to show the compassion of Jesus. While in Washington D.C.  I learned that as a Christian young adult I am called to help, called to serve, and called to show compassion to all regardless of circumstance.


    Weagba Nelson

    My experience on our young adult trip to D.C. was largely a self-reflective time for me. I have personally experienced poverty, and have always been interested in alleviating the pain it causes. A lot of what we heard, I already knew; however, hearing things over again gave me a fresh perspective on the continued pain that poverty causes, and how systems continue to trap generations of families. Over the trip, I thought deeply on what my role in ending that pain could be, how I want to act towards those experiencing homelessness and poverty; and most importantly how I can become the light God is calling me to be. That is what I was able to take away from our trip to the Global Board of Church and Society in Washington D.C.


    Alisyn Klock

    I chose to go on this trip for two reasons. The first being I thought it would be great way to meet other young adults in our Conference, and the second being I wanted to do something meaningful with my winter break. This experience was truly eye opening and has helped me understand some of the fundamental causes and effects of homelessness and poverty.


    I See You by Cory Jones
    (A poem based on Luke 10:25-37 The Parable of the Good Samaritan, from the perspective of the beaten man as the priest passes by.)

    You pass me by pretending not to see me lying here black and blue,
    My presence is an inconvenience to someone just passing through,
    I didn’t choose to be here but there was nothing I could do,
    Although our eyes don’t meet I can still see you,

    Ignoring me is easy as you go along your way,
    Helping someone in need wasn’t on the agenda for today,
    But things don’t always work out the way that you wish,
    Just look at me I never planned on being here in this ditch,

    You present an image that makes others stand in awe,
    I’d stand up to greet you but at this point I can’t even crawl
    If you won’t stop to help me I can’t help but wonder who
    The orphan, the widow, the needy are they also an inconvenience to you?

    So while you pretend not to see me, I see you.

    A letter of thanks from the Desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb

    January 24, 2017 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor's Note: On the morning of Jan. 24, Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter,  expressing sincere thanks to all Upper New York Conference congregations who paid their Ministry Shares and the leaders who have strived to reduce spending, as it has enabled our Conference to pay 100 percent of our General Church apportionments for the first time in the history of the Upper New York Conference.

    Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Upper New York Conference,

    Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!

    As United Methodist followers of Jesus Christ, we claim a rich heritage and an amazing connection. Together we are stronger and able to accomplish a witness for Christ in the world that we could not alone. Stories abound of the ways in which God's grace is offered through the passionate ministry of each and every congregation within The Upper New York Conference and through our connection with United Methodist Christians around the world.

    I want you to know of my continual appreciation for your ministry, but specifically I want to say thank you for one expression of that ministry - the commitment to increasing our capacity as it relates to Ministry Share payments. This year, thanks to the leadership of clergy and laity in each of our congregations, we received the highest receipt of Ministry Shares in the history of The Upper New York Conference.

    Because of this commitment and through the increased efforts that our Conference Council on Finance & Administration, staff, and other leaders have applied to manage our spending, for the first time in our history, The Upper New York Conference has paid 100 percent of our General Church apportionments. In three years, we have moved from being able to pay only 56 percent of our commitments to the General Church to paying 100 percent. This is an amazing accomplishment! Thanks be to God!

    Our giving through Ministry Shares represents one of the ways in which we commit together to mission, ministry and witness. Over this past year, we had to make some painful decisions around spending. We have increased our conversations about our culture of giving. Our work together has brought fruit!

    I am grateful for the congregations that have faithfully paid 100 percent of their Ministry Shares year after year. I celebrate the many ways in which congregations responded to the challenge of increasing ministry share payments. I have been blessed by the stories of congregations giving beyond 100 percent to help their sister churches who could not offer their full payment. I am filled with joy as I think about the generosity, sacrifice, and hard work.

    We know this work is not complete and God is calling us to continue to find ways to offer the best of what we have been given in every way. Yet, let us look at what God has done! Let us truly celebrate what is possible when we trust, honor, and live our connection with one another.

    So again, let me say thank you! Thanks for your commitment to the mission of "making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Thanks for your willingness to share the love of Christ by honoring the covenant of Ministry Shares. Thanks for your faithful witness!

    It is my joy to share ministry with you. Be assured of my constant prayers for each and every one of you as you continue to shine the light of Jesus Christ!

    Sincerely,

    Mark J. Webb

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office

    Bishop Mark J. Webb names new Northern Flow District Superintendent and extends three others

    January 23, 2017 / By Stephen J. Hustedt / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is pleased to announce the appointment of the Rev. Mike Weeden as a Conference Superintendent assigned to the Northern Flow District effective July 1, 2017.

    Rev. Weeden currently serves Fulton: First United Methodist Church in the Crossroads District. He first sensed God calling him into ministry as a student at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania where   He received a B.A. in Religious Studies in 1982.  He completed his Masters of Divinity at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1986.  

    Rev. Weeden is also currently a member of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and is the chairperson of the Crossroads District Missional Leadership team as well.

    Rev. Weeden is married to Ellen Weeden and they are parents of four grown children. They are also proud grandparents to four young grandchildren.

    Bishop Webb said, “Rev. Weeden has demonstrated a commitment to Christ and a passion for the Church throughout his life and pastoral ministry. His gifts will be a blessing to the people of the Northern Flow District and his leadership will offer much to the overall ministry of The Upper New York Conference. Mike has served in various district and Conference leadership roles and will bring to this new task a contagious spirit and the heart of a servant. I am excited to welcome Mike and Ellen to this new form of ministry and encourage you to pray for them, the Fulton First congregation and the people of the Northern Flow District.”

    Rev. Weeden will be replacing Rev. Rebekah Sweet as Superintendent of the Northern Flow District. Rev. Sweet will be returning to pastoring a local church after six faithful years serving as the Northern Flow District Superintendent.

    “Rev. Sweet has served the Northern Flow District with grace and passion. I am grateful for the leadership Beckie has provided at the Cabinet table, as well as in many other arenas of the Conference,” expressed Bishop Webb.  “I invite you to pray for Beckie, Birney, and their family as they travel toward this new chapter of ministry and mission.”

    In addition to naming Rev. Mike Weeden as the Superintendent of the Northern Flow District, Bishop Webb is pleased to announce that after consultation with each respective District Committee on Superintendency, he will be extending the Rev. Wayne Butler, the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood, and the Rev. William (Bill) Mudge to a seventh year in their terms as District Superintendents.

    2018 narrative budget draft available

    January 17, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Click here to download the Narrative Budget draft as of April 19, 2017.


    An initial draft of the 2018 narrative budget is now available on the Upper New York Conference website. This draft is being made available two weeks before the first deadline for petitions and resolutions as a result of the action of the 2016 Annual Conference Session. Click here for details of the action taken at the 2016 Annual Conference Session regarding the 2018 budget.

    Please be mindful that this is a very early draft of the 2018 budget that is being released to aid in the dialog around how we do ministry together. Please send questions, concerns, and potential edits to budget@unyumc.org.

    The dialogue around the 2018 budget will continue through the development of an FAQ on the Conference website, one-on-one interactions, and local listening session that are being organized by the Conference Council on Finance and Administration. This dialogue will culminate in an informed discussion of the 2018 budget at the 2017 Annual Conference Session when it is put forward for approval. 

    The most up to date version of the 2018 budget will always be at the top of this article.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2017

    Earn your way to the Holy Land

    January 9, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Bishop Mark J. Webb and his wife, Jodi Webb planned an 11-day trip (January 9-19, 2018) to the Holy Land through Educational Opportunities Tours for anyone in the Conference to join. Click here to learn more about the trip. If you would like to join them, the earlier you register, the more you can save. For example, register by February 9, 2017 to save $150.

    Pastors are also able to promote the tour and earn their trip. They will earn Tour Host credits for each full- paying passenger they recruit. The tour is based on one earned trip for every five full paying passengers. Five full-paying passengers will cover the pastor; five more will cover the spouse, etc.  

    Tour Host credits are taxable income, so they will receive a 1099 for any host credits used for travel.

    To become a Tour Host, simply fill out a host form and an account will be set up for each pastor who would like to promote the tour.
    Here is the link to the host form: https://www.forms.travelwithus.com/web/hostrequests.nsf/DTMBookNewHost?OpenForm
    The host will be given access to our website to:

    • View step-by-step information on how to promote the tour.
    • View video for the Holy Land tour.
    • View their Passenger Report.
    • View Host Questions and Answers.

    Educational Opportunities will be happy to create personalized brochures with their name and host number listed.

    If the pastor is already a host with EO, they can simply contact our office at 1-800-247-0017, extension 480 for brochures.  Alternatively one can also call or email Kaye Cline directly at ext. 319 or kcline@travelwithus.com.

    Educational Opportunities Tours is a Full-Service Administration and will handle all the details for your tour.  The passenger can either fill out the registration form on the brochure or register online with the information from the brochure.  Educational Opportunities Tour will collect the payments, send billing statements, pre-trip information and final instructions. Carissa Lake will be serving as the Tour Host Assistant for the project and will help ensure EO has everything needed for you and your group.
     

    Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) celebrates 2016 and looks ahead to 2017

    January 3, 2017 / By UNY Communications Team

    Over two weekends in November, youth and adult advisors from all around Upper New York Conference gathered to learn who and what “God is” through fellowship and workshops. The workshops included: God is  …Diverse, …A Leader, …Forgiving, …Speaking, …Now, and …Peace. Each workshop offered different insightful pieces as to who God is, and we are confident that the youth who attended this weekend left with a greater understanding of the many ways God interacts with us.

    There were also fun-filled late night options on Friday night.  Some youth decided to showcase their God-given talents at Open-Mic Night, while others competed intensely in games of four-square and in a scavenger hunt. Worship and music are important parts of Fall Gatherings, and this weekend demonstrated that importance. Family groups, or small groups of around ten youth, gathered to create bonds of friendship with people whom they haven’t met before. Always a favorite, family groups helped youths leave the Fall Gatherings with a sense of belonging, and with a sense of bonding among a group of peers. In total, there are several words that can describe how God appeared at the Fall Gatherings: fun, friendly, exciting, caring, and most of all, loving.

    With 90 youth and adults gathered, Fall Conference Youth Gathering East 2016 was a fun- and Spirit-filled event.  Praise music was led by a praise band from Newtonville UMC.  Inspiring messages for the weekend were provided by youth and adults.

    With 130 youth and adults in attendance, Fall Conference Youth Gathering West 2016 was a smashing hit. Youth sang their praises to God along with the house band, “The Hispanglos” (the youth praise band at Aldersgate UMC), who taught the crowd a bit of Spanish in their bilingual version of “How Great is Our God,” or “Cuan Grande es Dios.” Once again, inspiring messages for this weekend were shared by both youth and adults.

    Thank you to our hosts for Fall Conference Youth Gatherings – Saratoga Springs UMC and Rochester: Aldersgate UMC for their exceptional hospitality. Also thank you to the bands, all the workshop leaders, guest speakers, worship leaders, youth group advisors, our district superintendents, and Bishop Webb. May God bless all of you.

    While still celebrating two God-filled and Spirit-filled Fall Conference Youth Gatherings, the CCYM is looking ahead to the UPWORD Conference Youth Gathering that is scheduled for Friday-Sunday, March 31 – April 2.  This is happening earlier in the “spring” than in previous years, so it’s not too early to start making plans to attend!

    The Media Resource Center is moving

    January 3, 2017 / By Diane Miner / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    With the New Year will come some changes for the Media Resource Center and that will mean a few changes for you as well. Our long anticipated move is finally happening. As I prepare for the move, it will mean closing the Resource Center for two weeks to be able to pack up everything, move, and setup in the new Conference Center in Liverpool. January is typically a very busy month, along with February in preparation for Lent. I encourage you to plan early as the resource center will be closed from Feb. 22-March 7.

    For some, the move will mean you won’t be quite as close to the Resource Center as you are used to. For others, it will bring the opportunity to visit more often. For many, as you attend meetings and gatherings at the Conference Center, you will also be able to stop in at the Resource Center! No matter how close or far away you are, please know that I will continue to work hard to make it as easy as possible for everyone to be able to utilize this important ministry.

    Worship and a Meal: How Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church reaches its neighbors

    January 3, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Every Tuesday evening, the dining room at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church (SJJ) fills with dozens of diverse residents of the tri-cities of Binghamton, Johnson City, and Endicott. They range in age from infancy to elderly. And a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The director of the program since 2001, Jim Lane, said, “Everyone here is needy in one form or another. Most are low-income and literally hungry. Many have mental challenges or are struggling with addiction. There are also seniors who have no family.”

    The community meal at SJJ has been offered for 25 years. Each Tuesday, a 15-minute service begins at 5:30 p.m. in the SJJ dining room. Dinner is served at 5:45 p.m. Worship includes sharing of joys and concerns with Jim Lane, Bible reference and meditation and prayer with SJJ pastor Ron Wenzinger, then Christian music throughout dinner. Worship has also included baptisms and reception of church members. 

    Pastor Ron said, “As this Tuesday night program has grown, it has transitioned from just a meal to a congregation. The people who come every Tuesday see themselves as that…one night, we asked each individual why they came during the service and it was so fascinating that the meal was not the top answer for anyone. The first thing on everyone’s list was prayer, fellowship, or learning about God.”

    Paul Natelli is the chef. A long-time marathon competitor, he is a healthy, energetic, and vibrant 73-year-old.  Paul said, “I love doing this; one day isn’t much. It is an 11-hour day, but it is worth it and I can do it now that I am retired.” He explained that the volunteer servers come from various churches.

    One week, volunteers come from Vestal UMC and/or Conklin UMC; the second week, the volunteers come from Chenango Bridge UMC; the third week, the volunteers are from SJJ; volunteers are sent from St. James Catholic Church for the fourth and fifth weeks of the month.

    On Tuesday Dec. 27, there were nearly 200 people from the community at the meal.  During the joys and concerns part of worship, many expressed concerns of hospitalizations and deaths of loved ones. Several simple joys were shared, such as one middle-aged woman who exclaimed, “My Chihuahua-Maltese is going to be two on New Year’s Day!”

    As the full-course meal of turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, and sautéed greens were served by volunteers from St. James Catholic church, acoustic guitarist Vince and vocalist Deb Ferriaccioli performed soft Christian songs.

    The room was bursting with laughter, conversation, and smiles. Many were more than happy to share their stories.

    66-year old twins Jim and Norman Hough (pronounced like cough without the c) have been coming to the community meal for a number of years. They’ve been in Binghamton since 2000. Norman is four minutes older than Jim and takes care of Jim as he would do for a little brother years younger. Norman has strong faith in Jesus and believes the meal is one way that God provides for his children. Jim is uncertain and has been for years, yet he said, “The food is good…and the Lord is good,” pointing up.

    Norman, who had stepped aside for seconds of the meal, came back mid-way through the conversation and whispered, “You see, Jim used to get in a lot of trouble with the law. I like to keep him with me. I am a believer and I hope that one day he becomes one too. It makes life easier.”

    Many of the people at the SJJ meal rely on churches who serve the community as their mainstay meals.

    Denis has been coming to SJJ for over 10 years. “I work until 4 and then come here when I get out of work every Tuesday. On Wednesdays, I go to a Presbyterian church that serves a community meal, and on Saturdays I go to Boulevard UMC.” Denis’s friend Louisa has been coming with him since 2001 and she also joins him at the Presbyterian church and Boulevard UMC. Denis met Charlie at the community meal years ago. “You make a lot of good friends,” Charlie said. “People can relate to one another.”

    John Seals, a 28-year-old, has been coming to the community meal for the past six weeks with his girlfriend Shannon and their three children (4-year-old Jayden, 3-year old Keshawn, and 1-year-old Destiny). They learned about the meal from John’s cousin Amber.  John said, “I enjoy it so much every time I come here. Meals like this help us get to where we need to be to support our kids.”

    The community meal at SJJ also serves many teens and young adults, regardless of whether or not their parents or guardians attend. Twenty-one-year old Curtis Bixter started coming with his family when he was 14; while they stopped going after a few months, Curtis continued going and hasn’t missed a week in the past couple years. Fifteen-year-old Nikkia Martinez started coming in 2012 when her 32-year old sister told her mother about it; her mother and sister went regularly until a couple of years ago and Nikkia decided to keep coming; she said, “I have a lot of friends here. The food is always good and it’s always a nice time.”

    Many UNY churches reach their diverse communities by serving community meals. The community worship and meal every Tuesday night at SJJ is a beautiful example of how to physically and spiritually nourish those in need. To learn more, watch for our next issue of the Advocate, which will focus on the many ways UNY churches are embracing diversity in their congregations and their communities.

    Ministries supported by Shared Giving

    January 3, 2017 / By UNY Communications Team

    Leadership

    The past year has been filled with opportunities for people across the Conference to increase their leadership capacity. November of 2015 saw the launch of the UNY Leadership Academy attended by 17 people throughout the Conference.  The Rev. Anne Cole had this to say about her experience, “Leadership Academy has equipped me to better care for self spiritually while leading adaptive change in the congregation I serve. I am blessed to serve a congregation with a missional focus that is engaged in collaborative ministry with other congregations and agencies in the community. Leadership Academy has served to affirm the work our congregation is doing and given us tools to clearly communicate mission and vision.”

    Leadership Academy was not the only opportunity as over 500 people came together to hear from Jorge Acevedo of Grace Church in Cape Coral, Florida  about how having a strategy for ministry makes all the difference. Opportunities such as the Bishop’s Retreat, district training events, Hand-to-Plow, Transitional and Intentional Interim Ministry training, and Tending the Fire were engaged as well.

    The Conference is committed to increasing the leadership capacity of Christ-following leaders. Opportunities like those above and others in development show how together we can do more than individual congregations.

    To learn more about UNY Leadership, refer to our Advocate issue that highlighted UNY leadership at bit.ly/LeadershipAdvocate.

    New Faith Communities

    Since 2012, the UNY Conference has been actively engaged in following the Holy Spirit’s lead to plant New Faith Communities.  How have we done this?

    The Annual Conference budget has allowed us to hire a full-time Director of New Faith Communities to oversee the creation of an entire system to support individuals and churches that have a vision to reach new people in their communities by planting.  Under the leadership of Bishop Webb, this Director sits on the appointive cabinet, enabling a close working relationship with each district superintendent, and wise deployment of gifted planters where they are most needed.
    By Conference action, 60-70 percent of the income from the proceeds of sold church properties has been used to help us place gifted planters in the places where God is calling us to plant.  Each dollar has been invested in teams of people, all focused on building relationships with new people, and creating safe places for them to explore God’s love and grace.

     What are the fruits of this work?

     As of September 30, 2016, the people of our Conference have planted a total of 71 New Faith Communities!  Fifty-eight of these are currently active.  And, today some 2,000+ people who were not connected to a United Methodist Church in 2012 are now actively living as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Many are new Christians.

    To read more about UNY’s New Faith Communities, refer to our Advocate issue that focused on UNY New Faith Communities at bit.ly/NFCAdvocate.

    Camp & Retreat Ministries

    Our UNY camp and retreat centers offer sacred places “apart” dedicated to God and a community of Christian practice. By retreating to God’s creation and the distractions of everyday life, camp and retreat participants often experience transformation in their self-understanding and deeper relationships with God and others.

    Participants come from all backgrounds and traditions, some active in their faith, others exploring. Our investment in ministry shares supporting camp and retreat ministry outreach makes the following possible

    • 2,084 children and youth attended camps in 2016; nearly 30 percent received scholarship support.
    • Servant leadership development through teaching, modeling and experiential education.
    • Welcoming Christian hospitality to all, offering care, connection and community.
    • Facility and site improvements to meet the needs of all ages.
    • Equipping and inspiring persons to live out their transformational faith in their daily lives.
    • Nurturing Christian faith and discipleship; over 50 percent of clergy and over 40 percent of lay leaders had a singularly significant faith experience at a camp or a retreat.
    • Partnerships with congregations connecting with youth and families in their communities through shared camp and retreat experiences.
    • Sacred space and Sabbath opportunities; a recent study documented that retreating to God’s creation reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.

    To learn more about the UNY Camp and Retreat Ministry, refer to our Advocate issue that highlighted the UNY Camp and Retreat Ministry at bit.ly/CRMAdvocate.

    Revitalization

    Moving from being stagnant or declining as a congregation requires significant effort and willingness to invest in the life of the congregation from clergy and laity together. Increasingly, the congregations of the Upper New York Annual Conference are investing their time, talent, and treasures in this ministry work. Throughout the Conference, congregations engage in the Hand-to-Plow process through peer learning and consultation weekends.

    For example, Whitney Point UMC has used the energy and direction of their consultation weekend to sharpen their focus on intentionally developing disciples, increasing their stewardship understanding, and building greater connection with their community. The Syracuse United Methodist Churches have been journeying through a customized Hand-to- Plow process to help the seven congregations find a common vision for the city while celebrating the unique gifts each congregation offers. Through this process, momentum is building and lives are being impacted in the city of Syracuse. Excitement, discipleship, and attendance in worship are increased across the city as a result.

    Additional efforts are being made as congregations reach out to each other and staff of the Annual Conference to explore the road ahead. Congregations like Clifton Springs UMC, Findley Lake UMC, and Calvary UMC Latham are investing in increasing their vitality through connections provided through the Conference. A group of leaders from East Randolph UMC invested time and resources in learning what it will look like to be more intentional in their ministry. This was encouraged by visiting other congregations and a retreat time with Conference staff.

    All of the efforts being undertaken by local congregations are made possible by what we do together. Sharing the journey of being the church together provides more opportunity than being an isolated congregation trying to move to greater vitality.

    To learn more about UNY Revitalization, refer to our Advocate issue that highlighted UNY Revitalization at  bit.ly/RevitalizeAdvocate.

    My message about Shared Ministry

    December 20, 2016 / By Mike Kelly

    When pondering Ministry Shares, I always tell my congregations that we must realize that Jesus Christ’s ministry is not limited to Reynoldsville or Newfield United Methodist churches; it is global, as noted in Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples of all nations, we are responsible!”

    Ministry Shares help make global ministries possible, as part of these monies go to General Connectional Ministries, which funds broader initiatives of The United Methodist Church. For example, it helps to fund Africa University.

    It is important to remember and to follow our mission statement: To live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places. If you choose to be a United Methodist, this doesn’t seem so optional. In order to be God’s love with our neighbors, we must maintain a presence in the community, which is made possible through shared giving.

    We pay Shared Ministry just like we pay our light bill or anything else, the only difference is that we get a lot more bang for our buck, as ministry shares fund everything from Camp & Retreat Ministries to Conference staff salaries, Equitable Compensation, congregational development, and justice and mercy ministries.

    And pastors play a key role in the collection and payment of Ministry Shares.

    There is no place in The Book of Discipline that makes it optional to pay shared ministry. Instead, it is the duty of the pastor to see that it is done.

    When it comes to shared ministry, I have heard the phrase: “What has the conference done for us?” My most basic response is, “Well, I’m here!” Without Ministry Shares, pastors would not be able to do what they do because part of these monies helps teach, ordain, appoint, develop, and support clergy. In addition, as a disciple of Christ, we should never be looking at what someone has done for us; hasn’t Christ done enough?

    Shared ministry is just like any other mission, and I am so proud of my churches for supporting this mission.

    Last year, Reynoldsville UMC paid 100 percent of our shared ministry. . We then heard Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb’s call for churches to give more than 100 percent if possible and paid another 5 percent. Newfield UMC paid our 100 percent and responded with an additional 3 percent. That is part of being United Methodists. We must realize that when our churches can’t help, others are there to lend aid.

    There is no special formula of how churches will pay 100 percent Ministry Shares. Just make it happen because it is clearly the expectation. My churches don’t say to me, “Pastor, how are we going to pay this?” Instead, it is just expected that we are going to pay in full.

    Have faith, and make sure that God is in control.

    TAGGED / Ministry Shares

    How Danyal Mohammadzadeh became a passionate disciple of Jesus Christ

    December 20, 2016 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    When Danyal Mohammadzadeh came to the United States in 2011, he was “exhausted, destroyed, and disappointed.” Today, Danyal is joyfully on the path to become a United Methodist elder. This is a story of how one individual invited Danyal to Delmar UMC and how the congregation and leadership of the church transformed Danyal’s life. This is a story of inspiration.

    An Iranian citizen, Danyal’s journey to the United States was not a chosen one. A human-rights activist and journalist in Iran, he was constantly arrested for exposing the lack of human rights for women and minorities in his country. Danyal expressed, “Journalism is a crime in the Middle East. They consider journalists potential spies.”

    During the heated 2009 Iranian presidential election, the newspaper that Danyal owned was shut down and he was put in solitary confinement where he was tortured for 39 days. Released on bail, he temporarily fled to Turkey.

    While in Turkey, The U.S. Embassy, noting that Danyal was on the Amnesty International list, requested to meet with him to discuss his concerns about the lack of human rights in Iran. Danyal met with the U.S. officers. He said, “I spoke with them about my solitary confinement, human rights in Iran, and the fact that we have over 800 political prisoners. They are in prison just because of the way they are thinking. They didn’t use any guns; they just used their pens and wrote their views. It was supposed to be a confidential meeting because I wanted to return to Iran and continue my activities.”

     After a month in Turkey, Danyal returned to Iran.

    Two years later, Julian Assange’s Wikileaks website exposed every detail of Danyal’s meeting with the U.S. Embassy in Turkey. The Iranian government would easily be able to learn what Danyal told the U.S. Embassy in 2009. His life was on the line.

    Danyal said, “If Iranians realized I met with U.S. Embassy, they would arrest me again and put me in solitary confinement again. My charge would have been communications with foreign countries; in other words, I’d be considered a spy. I would go to prison for 10 years or could even face execution.”

    Danyal immediately fled to Turkey within a couple of days of the Wikileaks exposure and met with the U.S. Embassy again. They urged him to accept a U.S. Asylum offer.  He would not. He said, “I told them I am a political activist and I cannot destroy or leave my background.” They then offered him a student Visa to study at SUNY Albany and he accepted.

    Danyal was in deep despair when he arrived in Albany. He said, “I had no family…no friends…and it was VERY cold.”

    At SUNY Albany, Danyal majored in journalism and minored in religion, for what would be his second Bachelor’s degree in journalism. While taking a bible study course, Danyal began to feel Jesus’s gentle tug. With tear-filled eyes, he said, “When I took the bible study course, a new window opened in front of my eyes.  I read the bible, the Gospel, and I realized that Jesus is a human rights activist; he’s a journalist; he’s a reformist; and, he’s a good friend. Jesus was my leader; Jesus was my love…and his teachings were the real asylum I was seeking. “

    When Danyal learned about John Wesley and Methodism, he became even more intrigued by Christianity, especially Methodism.

    It was the winter of 2014 when Danyal was taking the course about John Wesley. In February, The Times Union published an article about Danyal and his wife Maryam (who came from Malaysia in 2013 and married Danyal). The article was entitled “Living in quiet desperation.” The author, Rosemary Armao described the Mohammadzadeh’s desperate situation. At the time, Danyal had been going through surgeries to treat an abscess on his thigh; his wife had recently been arrested for simply passing through Iran on her way back from visiting family in Malaysia; their financial situation made it difficult to get food on the table; they felt as though they’d never be able to return to Iran.

    Deeply touched by the article, Pam Skripak, who lived in the Albany area and had done some work in the Middle East, felt a need to help the Mohammadzadehs. She contacted the writer and asked if there was a fund to help support the couple. Pam said, “Their story touched my heart and I don’t really know why. I have never ever before responded to something that I read in the paper and I know some people do, but I am not one of them. I contacted the person who wrote the story and asked if there was a fund for them and if there was a way I could make a contribution….and she said ‘Why don’t I just put you in touch with Danyal directly’ and she did. It turns out I was the only person who had responded to the article and it was a time when Danyal and Mariam were at a crisis point in their life. They were essentially homeless. They were seeking asylum and had no allies, no friends, and were struggling.”

    Pam emailed Danyal simply asking how she could help.  A member of Delmar United Methodist Church, Pam was in no way proselytizing Danyal. Pam said, “it was about reaching beyond our religions and faith…I mentioned that my church had a very active group called Mission Movers where we gather all the time and collect and distribute household furniture and goods and I was certain that we’d be able to help them out with something that they needed. So I mentioned the Methodist Church that I belonged to very casually and Danyal was so excited about that.”

    Danyal considered Pam’s email to him a life-changer. Pam and her husband Dave Gordon became Danyal and Mariam’s U.S. family. Danyal said, “When she emailed me, I was so excited. She belonged to a Methodist Church and here I was studying John Wesley at the very moment. She asked if I had ever been to a Methodist service and I hadn’t. She invited my wife and I to go to a service, and wow, it was amazing.”

    That particular Sunday in the winter of 2014 was a turning point in Danyal’s life. Pam said, “The connection between Dave and I and Danyal and his wife as well as their connection to our faith community was almost immediate. They lived with us and other members of our church for quite a period of time. Many members of the church stepped up both in providing them shelter and raising the funds they needed to eventually pay for housing and their basic survival needs.” This was very helpful because Danyal’s employment opportunities were minimal with the type of Visa he had.

    The pastor of Delmar UMC, the Rev. Deborah O’Conner-Slater, said “When Pam brought Danyal to church that first Sunday, I was astounded. He is an amazing spirit and just had beautiful insights about scripture. He was fascinated with the understanding of God’s love and the commitment of God’s love that the Wesleyan tradition provided and spoke about. From that Sunday on, Danyal and his wife were here every Sunday, without fail.”

    Danyal described what his experience at Delmar UMC became, “Worship each week left me in a peaceful mood. I felt in harmony with nature, humanity, and the world. I could feel an inner revolution in my heart. Indeed, I found the beverage for which my soul had needed for so long. I felt that I wanted to be at the church forever. I wanted to read, sing, and speak at the church. I wanted to eat, drink, and sleep at the church. The church had become my home, my shelter, my haven, and indeed my heaven. My soul was at peace there. I received many joys and eternal gifts. Then, I made decision to become a Christian to keep these safe and shining feelings forever.”

    In March of 2014, Danyal formally asked Rev. O’Conner-Slater if he could be baptized on Easter Sunday. Danyal explained, “I wanted to be a Methodist because I realized that if I want to change the situation in the Middle East, I needed to follow John Wesley and his teachings of Jesus…Jesus as a source of peace.”

    Rev. O’Conner-Slater happily agreed to do so. She said, “It was the most moving experience I have ever had in ministry. I have never had anyone so deeply touched by the grace of God whose life was profoundly changed. There wasn’t a dry eye in the sanctuary.”

    Danyal now refers to Easter as his birthday. Since becoming baptized, Danyal said, “I am not exhausted anymore. I am not disappointed anymore. I am not alone anymore. Instead, I feel happiness, joy, and peace. I can dance. I am not away from my country anymore because this faith made me a citizen of the world, and now I see that all people of the world are my neighbors.”

    Soon after his baptism and after graduating from SUNY Albany with his second Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, Danyal took a large leap in his faith journey. He wanted to become an ordained Methodist elder. He approached Rev. O’Conner-Slater with this dream.

    Rev. O’Conner-Slater said, “How could I not support him in following this dream? Danyal is a phenomenal, phenomenal individual. He has told me how he wants to sit down and translate every hymn and every book of the Bible into Farsi so that other people would come to know the grace of God. He has such a wonderful mind, what he is truly unfathomable.”

    Rev. O’Conner-Slater explained the UNY Ordination process to Danyal and he immediately began his ordination track. Because he is going through ordination, he was able to get tuition waived at Boston University’s School of Theology, where he is studying now. Once he finishes seminary, he can be commissioned as a provisional member for a period of time, after which he becomes eligible to become ordained as an elder.

    While Danyal and Maryam continued to struggle with financial stability after moving to Boston, Danyal’s trust in God remained solid. Danyal and his wife were only permitted to work 20 hours a week at minimum wage, which they did by pulling 10-hour days on the weekends.

    Danyal said, “I have heard people usually see miracles and then they believe in something, but I completely trusted Jesus immediately after my conversion and since then, every day I see miracles. When I went to Boston, I had no money and after two days I had housing and a job; that’s a miracle for me. I do not pay for my tuition; it’s a miracle for me. In my heart, I am at peace and I feel the light in my heart; it’s a miracle for me. I’m living among amazing, lovely American people; it’s a miracle for me. And my wife was admitted for her PhD in computer science at NJIT and is able to attend for free; that’s a miracle too!”

    All the while Danyal has been on his journey of faith, he has also been on a journey to be granted asylum; legally, his status changed from having a U.S. Visa to becoming a U.S. asylum seeker.  Legal fees were exorbitant, but a lawyer was willing to work on his behalf as long as he was willing to eventually pay the fees.  In the fall of 2016, Danyal and Maryam were granted asylum!

    To learn more about Danyal and Maryam, click here to read the YouCaring page that Pam and Dave Gordon set up for Danyal and Maryam. It documents their journey. Here, you can also help celebrate the amazing breakthroughs and blessings in Danyal's and Maryam's lives with a contribution and note of congratulations. They both still have considerable educational and living expenses, and the attorney who assisted them with their asylum case seeks his final payment.

    You can hear Danyal tell his story in a video of Danyal filmed by UNY COnference videographer at https://vimeo.com/191804709.

    Sit back and reflect on Danyal’s story. Because one United Methodist invited a foreign couple who were lost and despaired to church and because Delmar UMC welcomed Danyal and Maryam with open arms, the world will eventually have the first Iranian ordained United Methodist Elder. Extending your hands to people in need can most certainly fulfil the United Methodist mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    The importance of Peace with Justice for the UNY Conference

    December 20, 2016 / By Heather Smith

    With all the turmoil surrounding that past several weeks - election results, increased racial and religious intolerance, numerous shootings, etc. - now is the time for those of us who call ourselves United Methodist to take action. Prayer, study, and justice work are more important than ever. One way connect to this work is to support the Special Sunday offerings outlined in the Book of Discipline.

    As your Peace with Justice Coordinator, I especially appeal to you all to consider the Peace with Justice Sunday offering, but I know that each person in the pews will have a different area of passion. Those with a heart for relief efforts will be keen on UMCOR Sunday (formerly One Great Hour of Sharing); some will have a special interest in United Methodist Student Sunday, World Communion Sunday, or Native American Ministries Sunday which provide scholarship for college students; still others will be interested in supporting Human Relations Sunday which supports outreach the at-risk youth and social justice efforts.

    Each of these askings create occasions for folks in your congregations to find and connect with ministries beyond the local church. These are not offerings that should only be taken after your Ministry Shares are met. They are church-wide offerings meant to be taken in every United Methodist Church each year. The six Special Sunday offerings are giving opportunites that every UM church-goer should have the chance to support, please help spread the word about all the ministries of the church by promoting them.

    As the Peace with Justice coordinator for the Upper NY Conference. I’ve had the task and pleasure to facilitate the PwJ Grant program. This year alone, we have supported:

    • Adult life skills in Syracuse
    • Statewide Protestant Chaplain Care Program
    • Congregations for Social Justice Pilot Program
    • Faith for Fair New York Conference on Economic and Racial Justice
    • Networking and Conference on NYS Prison Chaplaincy

    In 2015, we were able to help fund some ministries that have trickled into this year like:

    • Leadership Training: Ministry with the Marginalized
    • English as a Second Language Outreach in Rochester
    • Trip to Palestine/Israel for two General Conference Delegates
    • Development of a Congregational Program to Address Transgender Justice

    If you’d like more information about any of these ministries, how to apply for a Peace with Justice Grant, or if you’d like me to talk with your church about the Peace with Justice Sunday program; please contact me at peacewithjustice@unyumc.org  or 518-785-7383.

    Although Peace with Justice Sunday is recommended for the Sunday after Pentecost, it is not too late to present it to your congregation. Christmas is a wonderful time to combine the messages of Social Justice and preparing a way for Christ in our lives.

    May Peace and Justice be our goal in the coming year!

    Bishop Mark J. Webb’s 2016 Christmas message

    December 20, 2016 / By Ashley Riddell / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Bishop Webb shares a message for the Christmas season-his message is about the importance of hope. He encourages all to lean into hope-to expect with confidence or to cherish a desire with anticipation. As an example of hope, he points to the fact that the shepherds journeyed straight to Bethlehem after hearing of the birth of Jesus. In this day and age, in this culture, Bishop Webb explains, "we need to hear afresh the announcement of the angel - 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'" Click here to watch a video of Bishop Webb's inspiring Christmas message.

    TAGGED / Episcopal Office

    Connectionalism and mutual trust drive giving at Champion Second UMC

    December 13, 2016 / By Pastor Sung Ah Choi, MSW, MDiv, PhC, Champion Second UMC and Carthage UMC

    Editor’s Note: In 2015, Champion Second UMC increased their Ministry Shares by 81 percent. In 2016, Champion Second UMC has paid 100 percent of their Ministry Shares. Pastor Sung Ah Choi is the pastor of Champion Second UMC and Carthage UMC; both are small rural churches in the Northern Flow District that have accomplished the great work of increasing their Ministry Shares. Here is the story of how Champion Second UMC accomplished this goal.

    Before I write something about the wonderful increase of the Ministry Shares at the Champion UMC in 2016, I would like to offer a special thanks to my congregants who have received a Korean female pastor as their spiritual leader with their welcoming heart and love. The Champion UMC is one of the two parishes that I began my Christian ministry as a local pastor in July 2015. Since then, the Champion UMC has been a delightful kingdom family to me.

    The challenge

    The Champion UMC was one of the six parishes under the leadership of one minister before my arrival. The six parishes had shared one clergy for nine years. With collaboration of few devoted lay speakers in the parishes, the congregation hardly maintained the church service Sunday by Sunday for many years. My congregants stated that inconsistency of the pulpit was the major factor that caused the decline of the congregation. In spite of the hardship, the strong commitment, faithfulness, and sacrifice of the few remaining congregants had maintained the church.

    The strength

    The Champion UMC was organized in a rural community of the northern region in 1827. The Champion UMC has great potential, wonderful spiritual heritage, and strong unity. It is a rural church where people are connected to one another, rejoice together, and support one another. We celebrated the 189th church anniversary and invited our old church members to the service this year. The number 189 does not have any special meaning attached; however, by remembering and celebrating our church tradition, we renewed our dedication to serve the Lord and our church.

    Set a priority for the Ministry Shares

    After our church anniversary, congregants made a critical decision. The congregation made a commitment to set aside 50 percent of the offerings from the second Sunday of each month to pay the ministry shares. It was a consensus made within the congregation. It required each congregant great courage and faith in God, the Provider, since church finances had always been an issue in the congregation. The Champion UMC used to pay the apportionment at the end of the year after paying pastor’s salary and all other bills first. Now, the Champion UMC has set the ministry shares as one of its top priorities. It was a critical change at the congregation.

    The consistency in attendance and finances

    As the pulpit has been consistent by one lead pastor, the Sunday attendance has also been consistent. Our lay speaker, Linda Wiltse,  stated that there was a season when people couldn’t even expect who would be in or not be in the sanctuary each Sunday. Due to my background as a social work researcher, I believe that statistics and numbers give important messages to us. I found that the congregation stopped recording the weekly attendance several years ago. Now, we have a devoted congregant whose Sunday mission is to count the numbers. The average Sunday attendance has become consistent in every quarter and increased about 46 percent compared to before and after the six-parish structure. Along with the consistency and increase of the regular attendance, the church finances have naturally and gradually increased as well.

    Making its vision real

    Although it is a small rural church, the congregation has made a wonderful vision to be a missional church for the nations. I have helped the congregation to actualize its vision by making a connection between the congregation and a Christian NGO in Malawi. The Champion UMC did not do any special fundraising events to increase our Ministry Shares or church incomes, but they did a fundraising to help children in Malawi with the Carthage UMC. I believe that God always blesses and specially uses local churches and individuals who are committed to do missions for the nations. In our congregation, the Church, Society, and Missions committee didn’t exist, but we newly formed the committee this September. The committee is new to us. I believe that this small rural church will be continually vitalized by the Spirit of God, as it reaches out people in our global community

    Connectionalism

    I understand connectionalism as a vital relationship in the UMC. I believe that the relationship should be mutual, interactive, and based on mutual trust between the local church and the Conference. The congregants commented that there was a time when they honestly felt that their voices were unheard by the Conference. However, once they gained consistent leadership, they found new hope for spiritual growth and the trust between the local congregation and the Conference was naturally restored. They carefully heard my concern and followed me regarding the apportionment.

    The Champion UMC is a place where people feel the presence of God every Sunday morning. We don’t even have a pianist. We worship with a CD player, but we are a true worshipping community where passionate worshippers praise and honor our Lord, Jesus Christ in freedom. Before I wrote this article, I had a conversation with all of the congregants and separately with our lay speaker to know more about their honest opinions about the Ministry Shares. They stated that they feel that they are now spiritually being fed, and because they are spiritually satisfied, they want to give more back to the Lord.

    There was no special education or strategic meeting to develop a plan to increase the apportionment at our congregation. I don’t have any formula or knowhow about the matter. However, I can say with confidence that the Champion UMC is being empowered and revitalized by the Holy Spirit, and devoted to do the will of God as a missional church. These are the major factors that made this small rural congregation to be a cheerful giver.

    Apply for Peace with Justice, Human Relations Day and Ethnic Local Church grants

    December 13, 2016 / By The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church

    Church and Society offers three grants in the Spring: Peace with Justice, Human Relations Day and Ethnic Local Church. These applications for the Spring are due January 10, 2017. You can find the applications here.

    Peace with Justice Grant

    Applicants must work toward achieving at least one of the following objectives:

    Objective 1: Assist United Methodists in understanding and responding to violence and militarism.
    Objective 2: Involve United Methodists in efforts to end conflicts and violent aggression around the world.
    Objective 3: Promote just national and international policies and actions (governmental and non-governmental) seeking to restore communities and respond to the disproportionate effect of injustices on racial and ethnic persons.
    Objective 4: Support policies that promote systematic economic justice and the self-development of peoples.

    Human Relations Day Grant

    Human Relations Day Grants provide funding to support and promote ministries that respond to non-violent young offenders through education, advocacy, or leadership training and development.

    Human Relations Day (January 15, 2017) is a churchwide Special Sunday of The United Methodist Church. This day of social action and giving raises awareness and strengthens United Methodist outreach to communities in the United States. Funds collected support the Community Developers program of the General Board of Global Ministries and a portion (10%) is dedicated to providing funds through Church and Society's Human Relations Day Grants Program to ministries of education, organizing and advocacy.

    In The United Methodist Church calendar, Human Relations Day happens the Sunday closest to the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. The juxtaposition of these two very special days is not a coincidence. The United Methodist Book of Discipline describes the purpose of Human Relations Day as a call to "the Church to recognize the right of all God's children in realizing their potential as human beings in relationship with each other."

    Ethnic Local Church Grant

    The purpose of the GBCS Ethnic Local Church Grants (ELCG) Program is to provide grants to strengthen the ethnic local church through education, advocacy, or leadership training and development as they engage in social justice. Grant recipients must be programs initiated by or developed in partnership with one or more United Methodist ethnic local churches. Racial/ethnic persons shall be the majority of those served by the program. The project must focus on needs identified by ethnic local churches as they address one or more chronic social problems or concerns, such as housing, employment, health care, human rights, education, the environment and racism.

    To apply for any of these grants, please click here. Applications are due January 10, 2017.

    Why Carlton UMC values Ministry-Share giving over half-time appointment

    December 7, 2016 / By Rev. Melanie Ollett

    Editor’s Note: Carlton UMC improved their Ministry Shares in 2015 by almost 80 percent.  At the time of this writing (October, 2016), they have already surpassed 100 percent of their Ministry Shares for 2016.

    Despite the very difficult transition from a half-time pastor to a quarter-time pastor, Carlton UMC has found a way to pay our Ministry Shares in full. I am a new pastor at Carlton and I entered an environment where the congregation was unsure of their future.  I faced the challenge of calming their fears and encouraging them in their ministry. I had to re-energize them for ministry, because of course, the change from a half to quarter time pastor, was discouraging to them. I, as their pastor, had to wisely invest my time in ministries and after more than a year at Carlton, I am still figuring it out. I made it clear from Day One that we would pay our Ministry Shares. I am a product of a United Methodist campus ministry; that ministry fueled my call to ordained ministry, and I was open about sharing that story. Campus ministry, camping ministry, other youth and young peoples’ ministry... all of those are only possible if churches pay their Ministry Shares.

    Carlton was passionate about getting younger people engaged and involved in worship and supporting young people, so in worship and committee meetings, I simply reminded them that our Ministry Shares goes to help these vital ministries throughout the Conference and Connection. For stewardship Sunday last year, I also asked some of my friends from college and seminary who had been involved in camping ministry or campus ministry to share their experiences with me so I could share them in worship. I received some touching stories of how these ministries truly transformed lives. I’d like to think that made a difference in helping my congregation understand why we pay Ministry Shares, and why we are a part of a connectional system.

    For an aging congregation, it can be hard to feel like they are making a difference if they are not “out there” on the ground doing mission work, and through their Ministry Shares, they are connected to important mission, relief, and ministry work world-wide. Of course we still give and reach out to local missions, too! Occasionally, I prodded our admin board to write a slightly larger check as a portion of their Ministry Shares as needed, until eventually not only did we pay up for the year, but also, we paid all the Ministry Shares we had owed for past years, too. 

    I asked some of my lay leaders for their thoughts about Ministry Shares. I got many responses that the pastoral transition from 1/2 to 1/4 time was challenging and difficult. One of my lay leaders, Dorothy Follman,  was encouraged by our youth and the revitalization of that ministry over the last year. She mentioned how important paying Ministry Shares was, recalling seeing the disaster of a hurricane and the amazing work the United Methodist Church was able to do in the relief effort due in part to generous Ministry Shares. I also told her about the great news that due to UNY’s generosity, we have been able to reinstate the chaplain position at Syracuse University, and it is due in part to the increase in giving from churches like Carlton. 

    Another of my lay leaders, Deb Heuer, responded that we are “absolutely better off” than we were a year ago, right when I began ministry here and we began paying up more of our Ministry Shares. She said that yes, we went to quarter time, but “we didn’t just lay down and die,” as a church. Ministry has gone on, has grown beautifully, particularly with youth, and more people are more optimistic about the church’s future. She says she hopes that someday soon we can increase to half time again, but in the meantime, we have an incredibly generous congregation that “believes paying Ministry Shares is important, that the work that happens through the District and Conference is important.” Ministry has flourished, despite the decrease in pastoral time in the church. We recently had a youth fundraiser where our youth raised over $500 for a campus ministry the church is connected with. We’ve hosted the first church dinner that the church has had in years. We are able to put up a new sign so our community can stay current on the events happening in the church. I made a church website (carltonumc.wordpress.com.) It requires creative use of my time, but it is a joy to be in ministry with this congregation. They are alive, and with Christ’s help, we are moving forward into a new future that God has for us! We are proud of all the ministry that has happened because we are now able to fully pay our Ministry Shares. 

    Together we can do more: A worship series at Homer First UMC

    December 7, 2016 / By Rev. Rachel Morse

    At Homer First, our stewardship campaign barely addresses the question, “Why should Christians give?”

    I know, I know. I know that we’re supposed to explain every year why God wants us to commit to give. We did that last year and our pledges increased by 30 percent! But there is still resistance to giving generously in the offering plate. It’s strange, because we have a generous congregation. Whenever there has been a need, whether it has been for Africa 360, refugee families, our food pantry, local children, or UMCOR kits, we responded to those needs wholeheartedly. So what is the problem with funding our General Budget? 

    For too many years, the story has been told that we have to give a lot of money to the Conference and somehow it hurts our local church. Our Finance Team kept hearing this question: “What do we get from them?” 

    In response, we decided to use our stewardship campaign to offer clear information about why we give Ministry Shares; it isn’t about what we get from them. Ministry Shares are about extending our impact beyond our community. We believe that when we pool our resources as United Methodists, we can make a greater impact on the world. Not only that, when we have centralized administration, the local churches are focused and more effective at the local level.

    I used information from umcgiving.org in a worship series on the UMC Connection that helped explain to my congregation that most life-changing ministry happens at the local church level. Eight-five percent of the funds collected in the offering plate stay in the local church. The rest goes to funding ministry at a regional and global level, extending our impact. I spent five weeks educating my congregation on this impact. It wasn’t a part of a service; it was an entire worship series, “The Connection: Together, We Can Do More.”

    Here is what I focused on each week:

    Week 1: Ministry of the Conference

    Guest speaker and UNY Conference Multimedia/Web Coordinator, Ashley Riddell, spoke about her experience growing up in and working for a connectional church. The work of the Conference is to help to extend the reach of the local church by supporting and offering life-changing ministry through Camps and Retreats, Ministerial Support, Connectional Ministries, trainings, and more

    Week 2: Global Ministry

    On World Communion Sunday, we celebrated the work of the General Board of Global Ministries and the World Service Fund. The congregation learned more about the ways we reached out in ministry around the globe through our Ministry Shares. Over 11 percent of our Ministry Shares go to the World Service Fund, aiding people in need and supporting discipleship worldwide

    Week 3: Ministry of the local church

    The local church is the primary place where life-changing ministry takes place. The local church is in mission with the community and trains Christian leaders to live their daily lives in light of their relationship to God. The members of a local church are living changed lives while going out into the community changing lives, participating in the global mission of the United Methodist Church.

    Week 4: Ministry of the laity

    At the time of this writing, this will be next week. Some of our key lay leaders will share about their significant experiences with the church, whether it is at the local level or beyond. The congregation will celebrate the role of the laity and their varied gifts.

    Week 5: Pledge Sunday 

    This will be a day of baptism and new beginnings. We will ruminate over the fact that our baptisms and our Social Creed is a way of connecting back to our call as United Methodists. Members will bring forth their pledges for 2017, more new members will join, adults and children will be baptized, and we will celebrate the opportunity to be free to give to the Connection.

    This is crucial information for our United Methodist identity. United Methodists are special people who are part of an amazing institution whose mission is about changing the world. When we put money in the offering plate at a United Methodist church, we are contributing to that mission. 

    Mission church values their Ministry Share giving over comfort

    December 2, 2016 / By Rose Kingsbury

     “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."  1 Timothy 6:10

    Many Christians leave monetary stewardship to other people. I am no different in that respect. Yet the need to pay our bills and provide for the work of ministry is at the heart of ministry. Until I attended Annual Conference, I had no idea about what Shared Ministries (formerly known as apportionments) were, and why the church collects and uses them. I had a chance to reflect on the usage of shared ministry, and started to put a line on my check to indicate that one dollar each week would go to paying our share. At that point, my home church wasn’t paying its ministry share.

    I am now a lay appointment to the Onondaga Nation Mission Church where 100 percent of our Shared Ministries are paid. We are not a wealthy church by any means. Last winter, we went for two weeks without any heat. Shared Ministry got paid though. When our friends at the Committee of Native American Ministries (CONAM) heard of our shortfall, they gave us an emergency grant. CONAM is also a recipient of Shared Ministries funding.

    I asked our treasurer, Debbie Jacobs, how we did it, and she replied, ”We make it a priority, ahead of even heating ourselves. We understand that there are other people in need too, and it is what the creator wants us to do: share.”

    Our Native American Transportation Outreach Program is also a recipient of Shared Ministry.

    We currently are the only transportation to serve the elders and the disabled on the Onondaga nation. The program is administered by CONAM and the people of our church.

    All three of our native churches are challenged by aging congregations. We wish to remain current with our neighbors.

    Our congregation, like many small churches, seeks to be in community with their neighbor for the transformation of the world through Jesus Christ.

    Shared Ministries help make that happen.

    CONAM:  What it is and how Ministry Shares support it

    December 2, 2016 / By Blenda Smith

    By Blenda Smith

    CONAM, the Committee on Native American Ministries, is part of the Upper New York Conference and receives Ministry Shares to function effectively.  

    Native peoples need community in order to connect, build relationships, work together, and move forward.  Because of the regular connections through our CONAM meetings, we are able to worship together, hearing Christian biblical teachings from a Native perspective. What a gift to share the joy of this holy time.

    Meeting face-to-face in Upper New York several times a year and supplementing with conference calls as needed are vital connections for our community. Every year, Ministry Shares fund our meeting expenses, mileage, tolls, lodging, and meals. Without this fund, some people would be eliminated from attending because it is difficult for them to pay this out of their own personal finances, particularly those far away.

    Ministry Shares pays expenses for three to six people to attend the Northeastern Jurisdiction CONAM meeting once a year: This is an important ministry because it is the time CONAM receives necessary training and connects those from UNY’s CONAM with other Native American UMC members in the jurisdiction.

    Since 2013, we have sent four different UNY CONAM Native Americans to various learning opportunities through the United Methodist Connection: “Cook Native American Missions Workshop” (New Mexico); Native American Comprehensive Plan’s “Strengthening CONAMs” (Kansas); “Exploration 2013” (Colorado); and “Native American New Fellowship Summit” (Oklahoma).

    CONAM is very grateful to be receiving this Conference support.  Without this funding, the work of CONAM would be very limited. 

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    FLSA Minimum Wage and Overtime Ruling update

    November 30, 2016 / By UNY Communications

    A federal judge has just struck down the FLSA overtime ruling to increase the minimum salary for exempt employees to $913/week ($47,476/year) just two weeks before it was supposed to take effect on December 1.

    What does this mean for local churches? The federal minimum salary for exempt employees will now remain at $455 a week; however, New York State already has its own minimum salary for exempt staff of $675 week.

    Some churches may not be subject to FLSA minimum wage and overtime rules. Click on this flow chart for more information. Even if a lay employee is not covered under FLSA minimum wage and overtime rules, the employee still must be paid at least NYS minimum wage and overtime. Click here to get to the New York State Department of Labor web page on minimum wage.

    Below is information on how to help determine if you should classify your employees as Exempt or Non-Exempt:

    Exempt Employees: An employee who is exempt from the overtime pay provisions or both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions of the FLSA. In order to be Exempt from overtime, an employee must meet all three of the following criteria*

    Rate of Pay: $675/week in accordance with NYS wage and hour law (eff. 12/31/15)

    Pay Type: Paid on a salary basis

    Duties: Meet job duties test as defined by FLSA, most commonly used are Administrative, Professional, and Executive. Click here for a list of overtime and minimum wage exemptions, and information on how to determine if your employees pass the job duties test.

    *Clergy are not subject to the FLSA minimum wage and overtime rule

    Non-Exempt Employees: An employee who must receive at least the minimum wage and overtime pay for time worked.

    Rate of Pay: At least $9.70 per hour in accordance with NYS minimum wage law (eff. 12/31/16)

    Pay Type: May be paid an hourly or weekly rate of pay, but must receive time and a half for any hours worked over 40 in a work week.

    In order to ensure employees who are non-exempt are paid properly, including receiving overtime, it is recommended that they be made hourly and track their time worked.

    It is recommended that all local churches retain an attorney with expertise in employment law to facilitate proper interpretation and compliance with State and Federal law.

    Penalties for Misclassifying Non-Exempt Employees as Exempt

    From New York State Department of Labor website: The Department of Labor will “help collect underpayments for workers who have not received the minimum wage. Often, we collect the funds without resorting to court action. However, an employer that violates the Minimum Wage Law is subject to criminal prosecution and penalties. Action may also be taken in civil court. The Commissioner of Labor may require an employer to pay: Minimum wage underpayments and liquidated damages PLUS Interest and civil penalties up to 200 percent of the unpaid wages.”

    Philadelphia UMC embraces creative fundraising

    November 29, 2016 / By Beth Johnston, Philadelphia UMC

    Editor’s Note: In 2015, Philadelphia UMC (located in the Northern Flow District) increased their Ministry Shares by 45 percent. In 2016, Philadelphia UMC has paid 100 percent of their Ministry Shares.

    The Philadelphia UMC is a small church composed mainly of people over 50 years young. Our local area is impoverished with no industry and few if any employment opportunities available locally. Our younger families have moved from the area to seek employment while others with pre-teens and teenagers do not attend due to school obligations. These factors have had a devastating effect on our abilities to meet our Shared Ministry giving as well as our weekly expenses.

    At first we relied on the generosity of our church trustees in loaning the general fund what was needed to meet our Shared Ministries. From there, we paid only the very basic essentials and then through prayer, we were reminded that, as United Methodists, we are a part of the connectional system that encompasses the world and that we made a promise “As members of the Philadelphia United Methodist Church, we would faithfully participate in its ministries by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.”

    We raised our Ministry Shares over the past couple of years through a combination of increased sacrificial giving and specific fundraisers. We placed our trust in God to guide us in our attempts to make our shared giving a current reality. Our regular members have stepped up to the plate through increased sacrificial giving. In the summer, we have Chicken B-B-Qs in the month of July and an End of Summer Social at the end of August. Proceeds from these events go directly to the church trustees to aid in the payment of our Ministry Shares. We also have held monthly All-You-Can Eat Roast Beef Dinners that have given us monies to supplement our regular offerings and enabled us to make regular monthly payments on our past owed shared ministries as well as make regular monthly payments on our current year’s Shared Ministries. Fundraisers can be truly effective in raising Ministry Shares and fulfilling our promise to be actively involved in the UMC Connection.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    GBHEM to award $5 million to more than 2,300 students

    November 28, 2016 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    The General Board of Higher Education & Ministry’s Office of Loans and Scholarships will award more than 2,300 students a total of $5 million in financial assistance for 2016. Of those students, 25 are from the Upper New York Conference.

     “Thank you for your support in recognizing United Methodist Student Day, World Communion Sunday, and Native American Sunday, which all help fund a portion of our scholarships,” wrote Allyson Collinsworth, Executive Director of Loans and Scholarships, in an email.

    The remaining funds for these awards come from gifts, annuities, and endowments GBHEM has invested and administered for decades.

    Ian Urriola, a member of the Asbury First United Methodist Church in Rochester and studying at Wesley Theological Seminary, received the HANA Scholarship. He said GBHEM’s scholarship program shows The United Methodist Church is committed to providing access to higher education.

    “Graduating from college and going to seminary would have been much more difficult for me if I hadn't received that form of financial assistance,” Urriola said. “Because of this, the scholarship program is helping The UMC fulfill its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

    There are many applicants who did not receive a scholarship due to lack of funds. If you would like to partner to make a difference for more students, contact Bruce Blumer at bblumer@UMCDevelopmentCenter.org

    Students who are members of The United Methodist Church may apply online for a Fall 2017 GBHEM scholarships between Jan. 3 and March 1, 2017. Student loans are also available at interest rates as low as 3.75 percent – lower than federal educational loan rates – with a credit-worthy cosigner.

    Africa University—what’s next?

    November 28, 2016 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor’s Note: On Saturday evening, November 19, Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey was the featured speaker at a dinner at Drumlin’s Country Club in Syracuse, celebrating Africa University. Bishop McCleskey served for 45 years as an active United Methodist clergyperson, including 12 years as a bishop. Today, in his retirement, he volunteers part-time for Africa University and serves as the Executive Vice President of Development. While in Syracuse, he educated members of various UM congregations on how Africa University came about, where it is today, and where it can be in the future with the help of individuals, congregations, and Conferences.

    Africa University-The history

    The development of Africa University is a consequence of the growth of United Methodism in Africa. In 1980, the growth in membership and the emerging socioeconomic and political needs in their countries led the African bishops of the United Methodist Church (UMC) to call on their church to invest in higher education provision in Africa.

    At the 1988 UMC General Conference in St. Louis, the General Conference unanimously approved the founding of Africa University and made a commitment to provide financial support for the University from the General Church budget, ($2.5 million annually). What this means is that Africa University became a part of the apportionments of the offerings collected at all United Methodist Churches.

    On January 21, 1992, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Robert Gabriel Mugabe, issued the Africa University Charter by official proclamation, making the institution the first recognized private university in Zimbabwe. During this first year of Africa University, 40 students were enrolled.

    Bishop McCleskey informed attendees at the Drumlins dinner that “The Upper New York Conference and predeceasing Conferences have been involved with Africa University since its beginning.”  He shared the story of the Rev. Jim Spear, who was a pastor at Fayetteville First United Methodist Church.  Rev. Spear was intricately involved with the building of Africa University, yet sadly passed away in the early years of Africa University. When he died, a memorial was created by what was the North Central New York Annual Conference at the time, which included building the stone entranceway onto the campus dedicated in Rev. Spear’s memory. The gate to Africa University is a symbol of how the UNY Conference is forever linked to Africa University. The UNY commitment to Africa University is easily realized by the recent Africa 360 campaign, which resulted in the UNY Conference raising more than $536,000 for Africa University.

    Africa University-Today

    Bishop McCleskey has always been involved with Africa University and today, his commitment to Africa University is his livelihood and was his answer to the question “What are you going to do in your retirement?” As Executive Vice President of Development for Africa University, since he retired from the UMC eight years ago, Bishop McCleskey said that his life goal is to “raise friends and funds of Africa University.”

    Bishop McCLeskey showed a DVD about Africa University, which revealed the extraordinary beauty of the large Africa University campus, which is on over 100 acres of land. The narrator of the DVD, stated, “This campus is a remarkable contrast to the African countries. Africa University is a place of peace, learning, and hope.”

    Bishop McCleskey then shared many statistics of where Africa University is today. In 2015-2016, 12 new residence halls were built and 16 staff houses. Bishop McCleskey said, “There is no indebtedness in any of the buildings on Africa University that were built since its inception. That is because we do not build until the necessary funds are raised.”

    In 2015-2016, Africa University had 1,415 students from 26 African countries. Bishop McCleskey pointed out an amazing statistic; he said “May I note that over 50 percent of the student population is female, which is remarkable in a male-dominated culture.”

    Bishop McCleskey emphasized that the continued success of Africa University would not have been possible without the unceasing support of individuals, churches, and Conferences. He said, “I believe Africa University is the most significant mission of the United Methodist Church in my lifetime.”

    Africa University-Tomorrow

    Bishop McCleskey mentioned several ways in which United Methodists can help assure Africa University’s continued success.

    One of the most unique ways of helping is through USAHWIRA (pronounced You-suh-we-rah), which means “a beautiful friendship” in Shona, the most spoken language of Zimbabwe. This is a unique scholarship program that covers a student’s four years of attendance at Africa University. An individual, local church, a group of congregations, or a District can commit to invest in four years of education for an Africa University student. The cost is $6,000 a year for four years.  With this program, you are able to connect with the student you are supporting so you can intimately learn how your investment helps!

    Bishop McCleskey also mentioned an endowment initiative. He said, “The development office has raised $66 million over the years from individuals, churches, and Conferences. This is money that has helped pay for the beautiful buildings on the campus, scholarships, professorships, and more. But, we’re looking at long-term sustainability, so we’ve been engaged in the silent phase of a $50 million campaign. We just announced this campaign publically in September, and we already have commitments of $26 million. We are doing this in line with celebrating Africa University’s 25th Anniversary (in 2017), and we hope with this two-and-a-half to three year campaign, we can raise $50 million, which will give us a $100 million endowment.”

    Bishop McCleskey continued, “There are several ways of participating in this endowment campaign.  We cultivate individual gifts or planned gifts. Planned gifts are gifts of over $10,000 or more than can be given over a period of years; they are a significant part of this ongoing campaign.”

    The Rev. Ann Blair, an Upper New York pastor at Sterling UMC and Red Creek-Westbury UMC is a planned giver to Africa University, through her estate. She said, “Over the years, I have felt that part of my call to ministry - as well as my role as a parent - has been to help broaden the horizons of young people, to see beyond themselves and become more aware of God's world…In my childhood I became interested in Africa, and I have been involved with the Zimbabwe Partnership of the Wyoming Annual Conference and the AU Scholarship Task Force.  As the Task Force worked together, I came to feel that support of the AU scholarship as a part of my estate planning would be an important statement of my family's values.  In consultation with my daughters, Trish and Nina - who have their own interest in Maua Methodist Hospital in Kenya - I added AU to my will…In this way, I will be able to continue broadening the horizon for others.”

    One of the most remarkable facts about Africa University that Bishop McCleskey shared is that despite the economic and political turmoil in Zimbabwe, Africa University has never been impacted. This is because of the way it is funded through the United Methodist Church. If you or your church is interested in learning more about how you can help Africa University, click here to visit Africa University’s Development Office website. 

    The four Sundays of Advent

    November 16, 2016 / By UNY Communications

    The season of Advent is celebrated over four Sundays in The United Methodist Church – this year, those Sundays are Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, 11, and 18. The season begins four Sundays before Christmas, ending at sundown on Christmas Eve. The end of Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical or church year for Christians.

    During Advent, United Methodists prepare for and anticipate the coming of Christ.

    “We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning,” according to UMC.org. “Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.”

    To prepare for the coming of Christ, each Sunday of Advent has a distinctive theme. In addition to these themes, Discipleship Ministries has crafted a new approach to worship planning, and its Advent 2016 Worship Series has its own themes for each Sunday of Advent.

    First Sunday

    The United Methodist Book of Worship calls for the theme of the final return of Christ in victory and the Second Coming for the first Sunday of Advent. Discipleship Ministries marks the first Sunday of Advent with the theme “Watch,” as Advent begins with the call of Jesus to his disciples to stay on watch for the fulfillment of all things.

    Second and third Sundays

    The Book of Worship calls for the second and third Sundays of Advent focus on John the Baptist’s role, words, and teachings. Discipleship Ministries’ theme for the second Sunday is “Turn.” As United Methodists become aware of the universe that Christ will bring about, they are invited to repent, to turn from their attachments to the powers of death and destruction of this age and live out the Spirit-led mission of the coming reign of God. Under the new series, the third Sunday’s theme is “See” because once United Methodists have turned toward the fulfillment God intends, they can begin to see the world and treat others in a new way.

    Fourth Sunday

    The Book of Worship’s theme for the fourth Sunday of Advent involves the events immediately preceding Jesus’ birth. Discipleship Ministries’ names the fourth Sunday’s theme “Dream.” As United Methodists begin to see God’s way of compassion and mercy, they also come to acknowledge their reliance on God communicating with them and transforming them, not only in their conscious lives, but also in their sleeping, unconscious lives.

    Editor’s Note: Information from this article comes from umc.org and umcdiscipleship.org.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    How Ministry Shares support young people at the local level: The UNY Conference Media Center

    November 15, 2016 / By Tasha Gottschalk-Fielding

    While Conference Ministry Shares fund youth and young adult outreach on a national and even global level, the ministry provided by churches’ connectional giving also returns to the youth of the churches themselves. A key example of this level of ministry is the Conference’s Media Resource Center in Endicott. which lends resources to youth and young adult groups in churches all across the Conference.

    Diane Miner, the Resource Center Director for the past six years, noted that a substantial portion of the Center’s curriculum is specifically targeted to youth and young adults. A keyword search in the Center’s online catalog, accessible from the conference web page, brings up 778 results for youth ministry and 1,611 results for young adult ministry. These resources span a wide range of media, including: books, DVDs, curricula, kits, CDs, and even a 24’x24’ portable canvas labyrinth that Diane said was used at a recent Conference youth event. Once a church has selected one of these resources to borrow, the Media Resource Center mails it to the church, arriving within a couple of days, at no charge.

    How the Media Resource Center is funded

    The Media Resource Center receives all of its funding from the Conference’s budget for Conference Connectional Ministries and this support allows the center to continue to invest in new resources to be used for youth and young adult ministry in the future. Recent acquisitions include group studies like Half-Truths by Adam Hamilton-which covers common Christian clichés in a way applicable to both youth and young adult groups-and Get Their Name-which focuses on ways churches can reach out to the un-churched, a substantial percentage of whom are young adults.

    How the investment in media resources impacts young people

    “The investment in resources is an ongoing ministry,” Diane explained. “I continually look for new and relevant resources to offer the local church. I am always planning at least a season ahead when previewing new materials.”

    For Kevin Klippel, youth coordinator at Lansing UMC, the results of this careful selection are evident in the responses of his youth group to the study kits he has recently borrowed, including Surrender by Francis Chan and Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris.

    “Many of the well-done resources help our youth think more deeply about particular ideas about and within Christianity, in a much more eloquent way than I or a volunteer may be able to present them,” Kevin noted. “The efforts that the publishers put into producing these resources are clear and that lends them a lot of credibility with the youth.”

    Kevin emphasized that these materials have also allowed him to provide his youth group with a more flexible and diverse curriculum than he could have achieved without the help of the Resource Center. 

    Brenda Brunzey, the Director of Religious Education at Vestal UMC, frequently turns to the Media Resource Center for books, curricula, and more.  She said, “We have borrowed too many resources to list ,but I can affirm that our Senior High Sunday school class as well as young adult classes have borrowed dozens of resources throughout the Sunday school year every year“

    How the Media Resource Center saves funds for churches

    Truthfully, the Ministry Shares that support the Media Resource Center produce cost-savings for youth education.

    According to Kevin, “Our budget is very carefully crafted and has little wiggle-room. So, if I suddenly decide to use a media resource without planning for it in the budget potentially a year ahead of time, being able to simply borrow it is a huge cost-saving advantage which frees up those funds for use in other aspects of ministry.”

    Brenda expresses a similar sentiment. She said, “There are many benefits to borrowing the resources  instead of buying them. The obvious reason is that it makes using new resources very cost effective because there is no cost associated with borrowing them. This allows us to use a variety of materials without the added expense. Also, in many cases, we will borrow the resource before it is needed to preview and decide if the content is actually what we are looking for. 

    For both Kevin and Brenda, the Media Resource Center is a key example of the way Ministry Shares allow their churches to save money on programming, while continuing to provide quality education and outreach to youth at the local level.

    My reflections on the Leadership Institute 2016

    November 15, 2016 / By Pastor Alicia Wood

    Our Upper New York Annual Conference session three-day meeting in spring 2016 included a three-part learning time with Adam Hamilton, the lead church planter of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan. He started this church 26 years ago, and now it has four sites/campuses.

    The church is so generous that it hosts a Leadership Institute annually, sharing what the congregation has learned as they planted and grown a very large church. Twelve people from the Syracuse area, including myself, were able to attend this year.  (Editor’s Note: Next year’s trip to the Leadership Institute is slotted for Sept. 26-29, 2017).

    My head was spinning by the end. It was spinning with excitement and real-life tools that I could apply in my own context as a pastor of an urban church and lead planter of a new church hoping to launch in the next year.

    Why was I so excited and ready to get to work?

    The Leadership Institute included a mix of training and networking as well as a reminder of the “why” we do this work. Each of us from Syracuse went to different workshops. I’ll share with you a little about what I learned so that next year you can come and learn along with us.

    The first day I went to the workshop “New Church Planting Convocation.” Don’t let the name fool you. Everything I learned applies to existing and new churches!

    First, we were reminded not to ever lose sight of the view from 30,000 feet. In other words, always look at the big picture when planning with your church. Ultimately, the big picture is “make disciples.” So, in your context, how will you and your church make disciples? For me, this means growing deeper in faith as a congregation and reaching out beyond the walls of the church to those who are not yet a disciple of Jesus Christ.

    Second, the reaching out part – if you really want to get to know new people – is talking with new people every day. Make a goal for yourself to reach out to 10, 20, or 30 new people a day and then do it.

    Third, in your church planning, keep track and participate in four calendars: the calendar year, liturgical/Church year, school year, and community calendar. Each calendar creates a unique way to engage the church with the community.

    The next day and workshop included a systematic way to engage visitors, a path from visitor to member and a way to, in Christian Love, keep up with current members. I learned it is best to touch base with a visitor within 24 hours of the visit. The Church of the Resurrection has volunteers that drop off a gift to the visitor’s home within 24 hours after his or her visit. They have chosen a mug for their gift. And within 72 hours, a letter is mailed or emailed to welcome the visitor.

    After three visits to the worship, the visitor is invited to a gathering with the pastors. At the end of the gathering, they are invited to become members. New members are told from the beginning, “membership comes with responsibility.” The church has created a culture of volunteers, a commitment to small group classes to grow deeper in faith, and the expectation to attend worship.

    Once members, if someone is not in worship for three weeks, a letter or email is send asking if everything is okay and saying they are missed. Calls are made by volunteers and pastors if someone is not in worship for a longer period of time. Three times a year, the church does a mass mailing, inviting people to Christmas Eve service, Easter service, and “Welcome Back” in September.

    Finally, the church has a step-by-step system for disciple growth. I believe there are five classes one can take as a new member to grow in faith. This is a big part of the ministry of disciple making. New members aren’t created and then forgotten. They are cared for. They are able to grow in faith through small group learning. They also become connected to the people they are growing with in the small groups.

    This is just a small sample of the information to be learned from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership Institute.

    I’m currently working on implementing these tools into the life of the Church in Syracuse. I was blessed to have members of my clergy team and two members of the congregation where I preach attend with me. So, we got to work as soon as we got home!

    As Christians, we have so much work to do! What an honor we are called to serve and glorify God!  

    Editor’s Note: Pastor Alicia Wood serves at the Syracuse United Methodist Churches.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    The Connection: What Ministry Shares mean for the local churches

    November 14, 2016 / By Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding

    When I started serving as the UNY Conference’s Director of Connectional Ministries, it wasn’t long before I was asked, “so what do we get from the Conference?”  This question, asked by both clergy and laity, usually came up in a discussion about shared ministry payments and conference budgets.  Heard in the wrong way, it could sound like a consumer demanding a vendor to justify the price of a product.  But churches aren’t consumers and the Conference isn’t a vending machine.  We’re more like a family bound by a covenant.  We work together to serve a common purpose: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

    With this in mind, I hear this question as a plea from the frontlines to understand what resources are available to help ministry happen.  While churches aren’t consumers, they are the primary deliverer of all our ministries.  Ministry happens in and through the local church.  The conference structure exists solely to support the ministries of local churches. 

    I am a visual learner and have been answering the question of what churches get from the Conference with three simple images: a compass, a lever, and a bridge.

    Compass

    First, a compass, which symbolizes for me how the Conference equips churches for ministry by growing Christ-following leaders.  Leaders equipped with a compass help guide people forward through rough terrain and into new and promising places. The primary way the conference equips leaders is through recruiting, training, credentialing, deploying, supporting, and supervising ordained and licensed clergy.  In other words, the simplest way to answer the question “What do I get from the conference?” is to point to your pastor! He or she is with you because of our connection as a Conference.  Your pastor’s call to ministry was recognized and nurtured by the Conference; his or her gifts and skills were developed with Conference resources; and he or she was sent to minister among you by the conference.  Although laity are primarily equipped and supported by their local churches, the leadership of lay people is also increased through Conference initiatives and programs (e.g., Lay Servant Ministries, Conference Council on Youth Ministries).

    Lever

    The second tool the Conference offers local churches is a lever, a symbol for how the conference enhances local churchministries by developing and “scaling up” resources to be shared by all.  With a lever, you can magnify and stretch your efforts.   Examples of how churches leverage their efforts through the conference include our conference’s camp and retreat ministries and our Media Resource Center.  No single church could own a camp and retreat center or purchase 1,000 DVD-based Sunday school programs, but churches linked together have access to all of these things. 

    Bridge

    The third and final tool offered by Conference is a bridge.  Like a bridge, the Conference extends the reach of local churches beyond their particular neighborhood or community.  Bridges allow people to connect across geography and culture.  Conference “bridging ministries” include conference Volunteers in Mission (VIM) programs, our disaster response ministries, and conference support of Global Ministries’ missionaries and UMCOR aid workers through our General Church apportionments. 

    These three tools – the compass of spiritual leadership, the lever of shared resources, and the bridge of connection– are what we get from the Conference.  Better put, they are what we build together as a Conference to support the work we do as local churches. 

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the 2016 UNY Advocate, Issue 4.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    What not to buy for Christmas (or anytime)

    November 11, 2016 / By Merle Showers, Upper New York Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel

    In 2015, we as an Annual Conference voted to divest in several companies that were doing business in Israel that supported the occupation of Palestine. HP (Hewlett Packard) was one of those companies, because it supports Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and its people by supplying some of the security equipment/technology to control the Palestinian people.

    Our General Board of Pensions (now Wespath) has worked very hard to get HP to stop supporting this occupation, but to no avail. This is in keeping with a 2012 General Conference Resolution (6011) that says, “We call on all nations to prohibit any financial support by individuals or organizations for the construction and maintenance of settlements … on Palestinian land.” HP continues to support an occupation that our government and the international community have said very clearly is illegal. It makes a resolution to the conflict impossible. 

    Therefore, our Upper New York Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel is asking all of us and our churches to not buy HP devices (copiers, laptops, computers, etc.). We don’t support violence or war, but peacefully we can use our buying power to encourage action. Our action can be our prayer for the peace of Palestine/Israel.     

    From the desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: Why Ministry Shares matter

    November 8, 2016 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor's Note: The fall 2016 issue of the Advocate reveals the UMC Connection and how Ministry Shares spark change locally and around the world. Here is an excerpt of Bishop Mark J. Webb's article. See the full article in the print copy of the UNY Advocate/2016/Issue 4 (coming out the third week in November).

    United Methodists accomplish big things together. That is true around the world and it is certainly true in Upper New York. We share a common mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” It is this mission that propels us into the world around us. We live out this mission in a variety of ways, including the sharing of our financial resources.

    Shared Giving or Ministry Shares is a distinctive feature of our United Methodist identity. The willingness of each congregation to participate fully in connectional giving allows us to engage together in ministry beyond the local church, as well as support multiple resources that have as their primary goal to partner with the local congregation for the purpose of increasing vitality and fruitfulness. Connectional giving is an amazing opportunity and gift, not a dreaded obligation!

    I have been blessed many times over, as I have witnessed the generosity of United Methodists in Upper New York. The response of giving financially for ministry that stretches throughout our Conference and around the world is amazing. As local congregations participate fully in Ministry Share giving, our dreams for living out God’s call upon us together in this time, become a reality. Not only do we strengthen the impact of our local congregations, but also, we support ministry and mission that no one congregation could accomplish alone. United Methodists do big things together.

    We have much to celebrate, but we also must recognize that too often we have been living beneath our potential in the opportunities God gives us through connectional giving. There are realities beyond our control that have limited the resources we are able to share. To ignore that truth would be irresponsible. However, we must also wrestle together with the truth that sometimes our inability to participate fully in connectional giving has been about other things. Sometimes, it’s been about our failure to recognize that God is enough and to give fully in a spirit of trust. Other times, it’s been a way to demonstrate our disagreement toward “something” or “someone.” When we fall short in our giving, ultimately it is us that suffer the impact. Our ability and the ability of sisters and brothers, right here in Upper New York, to accomplish the mission is compromised.

    I am so grateful for the hundreds of congregations that participate in payment of Ministry Shares. The commitment and the work that has been done to strengthen this area of our ministry over the last few years is inspiring. Watching churches stay committed to 100 percent giving and seeing other congregations working tirelessly toward that goal has been incredible!  Thank you!

    UNY represented at NAMC Annual Meeting

    November 8, 2016 / By UNY Communications

    Wheeling, West Virginia, hosted the Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Native American Ministries Committee (NAMC) on Oct. 6 – 8. Upper New York was proudly represented by Kae Wilbert, chair of the Upper New York Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), and Sharon Schmit, member of CONAM and newly elected treasurer of the NEJ NAMC.

    CONAMs throughout the Jurisdiction gathered to connect with resource representatives who work in Native Ministries, receive updates on native issues, review the past year, plan for the new quadrennium, and share fellowship with one another.

    Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball of West Virginia welcomed the group as it gathered.  Bishop Peggy Johnson (Philadelphia Episcopal Area and Council on Bishops representative to NEJ NAMC) assisted in worship each day. An all-women drumming group, Mother Earth Beat, joined the group on Thursday night when new officers were installed. 

    Friday, the group traveled to the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville, West Virginia. In addition to committee business, two plenaries were held. The first was titled Building Relationships and Advocacy through Social Justice and Native American Ministries. The second was titled Increasing Participation of Youth and Young Adults.

    Sharon Schmit shared, “This is a vital gathering to not only share our work and set new goals, but to also be revitalized as we worship and fellowship through our love of Native ministries.”

     


     


     

    Respite program for families with autistic children aims to foster more community, less isolation

    November 3, 2016 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    The Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region recently received a $5,000 seed grant from the New York State Caregiving & Respite Coalition to begin a respite program for families with autistic children. The society is currently working with United Methodist churches in the Albany area to get the program up and running.

    The Rev. Alan Kinney, pastor at the Eastern Parkway UMC in Schenectady and on the Autism Society’s board of directors; the Rev. Steven Smith, pastor at the Newtonville UMC; and Pastor Jonathan Walter, serving at the Stanford UMC in Schenectady, are among those helping to turn this vision for a respite program into a reality.

    “What we are looking to provide are for families who have family members who are on the autism spectrum an opportunity for some respite, a place where they could bring family members and know that they’re safe, know that they’re cared for, know that they’re enjoying themselves and provide a rest for the family,” Rev. Kinney said. “Autism can be draining for the family.”

    The coalition approached Janine Kruiswijk, the Executive Director of the Autism Society, telling her they were interested in expanding the reach of voluntary, community-based respite programs.

    “They realized there was an extended need for respite, including for children who may have disabilities,” she said. “So when we took a look at it, and we started to understand the work of the coalition, there was a tremendous need for respite within the autism community.”

    The society applied for the grant and received it in early October.

    “Families are not always approved through state-funded respite for enough respite hours, and some families don’t meet the eligibility to acquire to respite dollars through the state system,” Kruiswijk said. “And so this is an opportunity to serve our community, to expand respite opportunities for those who may be receiving it and to offer respite to those who have often been cut out of the respite opportunity.”

    The Autism Society will use the REST (Respite Education & Support Tools) program to train “REST companions,” who will be the ones to deliver the respite care. The program will utilize a drop-in model, which means families can make reservations to drop off children ages 5-18 with autism at one of the program’s locations, which will include faith communities, churches, synagogues, and more.

    “The grant makes the program possible and for the Church to be the Church,” Rev. Kinney said.

    Rev. Smith said his congregation will play a part in the program, either hosting it within his church’s walls or providing staffing.

    He said the program will provide opportunities for caregivers of children with autism to have time to do things for themselves and run errands, while providing a safe and welcoming place for those children.

    In addition to dropping children off, Kruiswijk said families can stay on the premise and have a conversation with a parent or family facilitator as well.

    Beyond respite, Rev. Smith said the program will result in less isolation for families with autistic children. He said people in local congregations will also benefit, as the program will help increase their understanding and acceptance of autism.

    “I hope that it will be a resource for other congregations in other places that might want to do something similar and perhaps spread beyond something that we just do here locally,” Rev. Smith said.

    Since the Autism Society spans an eight-county area, Rev. Kinney said this program has the potential to expand beyond the Upper New York Conference and into the New York Conference. Those involved with the program are trying to get other denominations involved as well.

    “I’m hoping that we will be able to provide not just respite care, but the churches that are being trained will be able to open their doors to people who are on the spectrum,” Rev. Kinney said. “There are other portions of our population who cannot worship in the way that we worship because of being differently abled, but how do we help them grow in their discipleship and their understanding of God’s grace, of God’s love?”

    Council of Bishops to call for 2019 General Conference

    November 2, 2016 / By Diane Degnan / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    St. Simons Island, Ga.: Through an affirmative vote at their fall  meeting this week, the United Methodist Council of Bishops expressed their intent to call for a special session of the General Conference in either February or March of 2019 and asked the business manager of  the General Conference to move forward with exploring venues and a bid search.

    The Constitution of The United Methodist Church provides that the Council of Bishops may call a special session of the General Conference possessing the authority and exercising all the powers of the General Conference. Business to be considered during such a session would be limited to the purpose defined within the call, which also would include the time and place.

    The Council’s action stops short of making the actual call for a special session, which is expected to come at some point after the Commission on a Way Forward begins its work.

    The Council’s Executive Committee brought the recommendation to the full Council for consideration and action after exploring the feasibility of meeting in either 2018 or 2019.

    “A requirement that materials be in the hands of delegates at least 230 days before such a session makes it unlikely that the Commission could complete its work in time to meet that deadline for a 2018 meeting, so 2019 seemed to us to be the best option,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council. “The purpose of broadening the timeframe to either February or March is to afford more flexibility in finding a suitable and available location.”

    Such a special session would be composed of delegates to the preceding General Conference – or their lawful successors – unless a conference prefers to have a new election.

    The Council received a report from the moderators of the Way Forward about composition of commission membership, a plan for the first meetings and a strategy for communication.

    The Council also voted to approve a recommendation from the Executive Committee to initiate a conversational process among clergy and laity within annual and central conferences that would parallel the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. Each bishop would be free to structure the process and timeline according to the specific needs and context of their area, using some suggested questions as a starting point.

    Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and Bishop Al Gwinn, co-chairs of the Praying Our Way Forward Initiative, announced the second phase of the appeal, which involves each conference making a commitment to come together in prayer during a designated week. The effort would begin January 1, 2017 and continue into 2018. The first phase involved a commitment from bishops for daily prayer focused on the selection and initial efforts of the Commission.

    “We want the church and the Commission on a Way Forward to be led by God. This prayer emphasis puts us in a posture where as a church we are asking and listening for God’s leadership,” said Bishop Wallace-Padgett. “Our prayer focus is twofold: We are praying that God will help us to more effectively fulfill the mission of the church.  And we are praying to be one in Christ.”

    She said they are inviting persons to:

    pray daily for the church’s effectiveness in fulfilling our mission of making disciples and for the outcome of the work of the Commission on a Way Forward
    participate in their conference’s week of prayer;
    fast weekly as they are able for The United Methodist Church and our future

    Bishop Gwinn said the Council is working in partnership The Upper Room, which has developed a website called UMCprays.org. “The website features many tools and resources to help you to plan your week of prayer,” said Bishop Gwinn. “Each week will feature information about what is happening in the conference that is praying that week, including a prayer-focused blog written by the bishop in that area.”

    Holy Land Journey with Bishop Webb scheduled for January 2018

    November 1, 2016 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Join Bishop Mark J. Webb and his wife, Jodi Webb, on an 11-day trip (January 9-19, 2018) to the Holy Land through Educational Opportunities Tours. This journey will deepen your experience and bring to life the Scriptures. You will have the opportunity to explore Jericho and Qumran; Bethlehem; Caesarea, Mount Carmel, and Megiddo; The Galilee; Cana, Nazareth, Samaria, and Jacob’s Well; Jerusalem; and Ein Karem, Nebi Samuel, Emmaus, and the Valley of Elah.

    Excited about this opportunity, Bishop Webb said, “A journey following in the footsteps of Jesus, Paul, Samuel, and David will change the way you read the Bible, and you will learn why scholars refer to the Holy Land as the ‘Fifth Gospel.’ “

    The trip starts at $2, 998 leaving from New York City or $3, 196 leaving from Buffalo or Rochester and includes:

    • Basic Tour and Guided Sightseeing
    • Roundtrip International Airfare
    • Administration Fees
    • Entrance Fees, Hotel Gratuities, and Program Fees
    • Daily Buffet Breakfast and Dinner
    • Deluxe Motorcoaches
    • First Class Hotels
    • …and much more!

    There are several ways to save on this trip of a lifetime.

    The earlier you register, the more you can save. For example, register by February 9, 2017 to save $150.

    $400 scholarships are available for clergy and $250 scholarships are available for clergy spouses through Educational Opportunities Tours. Send an email to scholarships@travelwithus.com to apply and confirm your eligibility.

    The Conference Board of Ordained Ministry can also help cover a portion of the cost through a Continuing Education grant. Click here to fill out a grant application.

    To find out more about this exciting opportunity, click here to view the brochure.

    Ministry with the Marginalized Training offered throughout UNY Conference

    October 31, 2016 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Social Holiness Team highly recommends the Ministry with the Marginalized Training to everyone. The Rev. Dana Horrell has developed this program and the accompanying videos with support from a Peace with Justice grant.

    Heather Smith, the Peace with Justice Coordinator says, “Along the way, we have reviewed materials and are thrilled with the professional results. This course is designed around principles of doing justice and being God's hands in the world while empowering those in need by creating understanding and building relationships."

    This workshop provides training for church-based volunteers and teams involved in serving economically challenged communities through food, clothing, cash assistance, short-term service, or other projects.

    Based on research conducted for the Louisville Institute this year, Rev. Dana Horrell, PhD., offers practical advice on:

    ·         How to pay attention to class bias when volunteering

    ·         How to build relationships with those you serve

    ·         How to tap into community assets, not problems

    ·         How to expand on food & clothing ministry

    ·         How to start an empowerment ministry (such as mentoring or financial education)

    Through videos, case studies and discussion, you will learn how to avoid "toxic charity" and build relationships with the people you serve.  

    Course Instructor:  Dana Horrell, PhD is a pastor, consultant and filmmaker specializing in community ministry and social action.  He serves S. Bethlehem UMC.  This year, with a grant from the Louisville Institute, he produced six videos about congregations that provide excellent outreach ministry. He is the Executive Editor of Faithful Citizen, a multi-media adult study on global issues.  Read his blog at faithfulcitizen.net.  

    Dr. Horrell’s Ministry with the Marginalized Training will be offered at the following locations:

    Syracuse

    Fri., Nov. 4, 12– 2:30 p.m. (Light lunch served at 12; 12:30 Course begins)

    University United Methodist Church, 1085 E Genesee St.

    Cost:  $5. Advance registration is required.  Register here (by Nov. 3):  http://bit.ly/2dwx91T

    Troy

    Wed., Nov. 9, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. (5:30 Light supper (pizza & salad); 6:00 p.m. Course begins)

    Christ Church United Methodist  Church, 35 State St.

    Cost:  $10. Advance registration is required.  Register here (by Nov. 7):  http://bit.ly/2dkv5Kk

    Utica

    Thurs., Nov. 10, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. (5:30 Light supper (pizza and salad); 6:00 p.m. Course begins)

    Asbury United Methodist Church, 932 Rutger St.

    Cost:  $10. Advance registration is required.  Register here (by Nov. 8): http://bit.ly/2d8ZEFi

    Gouverneur

    Mon., Nov. 14, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. (5:30 Light supper (pizza and salad); 6:00 p.m. Course begins)

    First United Methodist Church, 34 Grove St.

    Cost:  $10. Advance registration is required.  Register here (by Nov. 13): http://bit.ly/2dS02rq

    Binghamton

    Tues., Nov. 15, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. (5:30 Light supper (pizza and salad); 6:00 p.m. Course begins)

    Tabernacle United Methodist Church, 83 Main St.

    Cost:  $10.  Advance registration is required.  Register here (by Nov. 14):  http://bit.ly/2deITKm

    Rochester

    Wed., Nov. 16, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. (5:30 Light supper (pizza and salad; 6:00 p.m. Course begins)

    Penfield United Methodist Church, 1795 Baird Rd., Penfield

    Cost:  $10. Advance registration is required.  Register here (by Nov. 15):  http://bit.ly/2e9Hp1l

    Buffalo

    Thurs., Nov. 17, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. (5:30 Light supper (pizza and salad); 6:00 p.m. Course begins)

    Primera Iglesia United Methodist Church, 62 Virginia St.

    Cost:  $10.  Advance registration is required.  Register here (by Nov. 16): http://bit.ly/2dJQnUz

     For more information on these workshops, email Dana Horrell at dkhorrell@gmail.com or call him at 315-439-9154.  

     


     


     

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    The Rev. Dr. Amanda Drury challenges UNY clergy to grow their faith

    October 31, 2016 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Dr. Amanda Drury wants to bring testifying back to the Church; she wants congregations to understand and feel God’s outrageous love. Rev. Dr. Drury, the featured speaker at the 2016 Bishop’s Retreat held in Niagara Falls, NY October 25-2, shared her desires in a series of powerful and thought-provoking lectures on Doubt and on God’s Outrageous Love to an audience of nearly 200 clergy members of the UNY Conference.

    Rev. Dr. Drury on the Reality of Doubting God

    Rev. Dr. Drury’s years of studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she obtained her PhD, and at Indiana Wesley University, where she is currently a professor, revolves around adolescents and the importance of testimony as a formation of their identity.

    On October 26, as Rev. Dr. Drury spoke to a room full of clergy, who were far beyond their adolescent years, she emphasized the fact that doubt is a reality even for clergy like herself and that the most powerful testimonies aren’t the happy ones, but are testimonies of people struggling with their faith.

    For Rev. Dr. Drury, she doubts the most when tragedy strikes. She said, “When evil things happen in the world, I think ‘God, where are you?’ Whether its bombings in Syria or earthquakes in Italy, I see stuff like this and I think, ‘I don’t know if I can buy this.’”

    Rev. Dr. Drury reminded the audience of the doubters in biblical times. She referred to a beautiful stained glass window at Princeton’s Chapel that shows Jesus in the middle of the two most known doubters in the bible, Pontius Pilate and Thomas.

    She said, “You can’t choose what you doubt; you can’t choose when you doubt; but, you can choose how you doubt. When someone starts to doubt, the path they are on starts to fork; you can go the path of Pontius Pilate over here; that is a much easier path. You might struggle a bit; you might ask some questions, but ultimately, you give into cynicism and say ‘What is the Truth?’ and you’re done with the journey. The way of Thomas is much tougher; it requires you to sit in tension for a long period of time. Thomas did for eight days. I wish my wrestling with doubt was only eight days. It’s a road where you have to continually give up cynicism. It’s a road where you have to continually walk alongside other believers even if they don’t make any sense to you. “

    Rev. Dr. Drury continued, “I know some of you may think, ‘I wish my journey was shorter, I don’t know how long I can take this road of Thomas,’ but I think there are some reasons that Jesus allowed Thomas to have a relationship with doubt. Do you know what happened after the ascension and the disciples started to scatter? We have disciples going all over the place except for Thomas. Tradition says that Thomas made it to India…that he went further than all the other disciples…that while everyone else went to their homeland, Thomas went to India. And I can’t help but wonder if there was something about Thomas’s experience with doubt that prepared him for the journey…that gave him the courage and the boldness to do something that frankly Peter couldn’t. It could be the doubt that we experience, the doubt that those in our churches experience could be a part of some beautiful plan that perhaps we might not see for years maybe even centuries. That’ the kind of faith that I want to have.”

    Rev. Dr. Drury then illustrated the reality that clergy members can have doubt. She mentioned how she put a request on Facebook for her nearly 2,000 fans to post about their own experiences of doubt. She said, “I got a lot of wonderful triumphant stories, like ‘This is what happened and now I’m here in this wonderful place.’ But what was really interesting to me was the number of private messages I got that said things like ‘Well I know God loves me, but sometimes I’m not sure that he really likes me.’ One said, ‘I just don’t trust God.’  Another said, ‘I don’t doubt God, but I’m afraid and maybe that’s the same thing.’ All three of those comments were said by pastors.”

    Rev. Dr. Drury urged the audience to welcome doubt in their church, to hear about it and not panic. She said, “We need to simply walk alongside side them. By trying to talk someone out of doubt, it’s as though we’re telling them they don’t belong here. But, if we receive these words of doubt with presence, I am sending the person the signal that this is the place for you.”

    Rev. Dr. Drury ended her talk that evening by telling the audience that if they are currently finding themselves having a Thomas experience that she bets they can find someone in the room to speak with. She challenged audience members to be transparent.

    After a few moments of silence that Rev. Dr. Drury requested, the audience broke out into pairs where they were able to share with each other their individual testimonies. The chatter throughout the room conveyed the comfort the clergy members throughout Upper New York felt with one another.

    Rev. Dr. Drury on God’s Outrageous Love

    For her October 27 closing lecture, Rev. Dr. Drury used a powerful analogy to showcase the type of love God offers. She spoke of a 14-year old boy who lives with his mother in a run-down apartment. He is struggling and has anger issues. Angry over the fact that he has to walk to and from school because his family doesn’t own a car, he vandalizes a car dealership, causing $25,000 worth of damage.  How does the car dealership owner respond? He gets the child and his mother into a nicer apartment, buys the child a bike, and a bus pass. 

    Rev. Dr. Drury goes on to say, “There are three types of love. There is tough love, just love and outrageous love. The car dealership owner reacted with outrageous love.”

    Rev. Dr. Drury then goes on to sharing the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15. Once requesting part of his estate from the father, the younger of a man’s two sons, flees to a distant country, parties hard, and spends all the money his father gave him. A famine hits and the son is forced into impoverished living with a job of feeding pigs. He decides to go back to his father. Before he even had a chance to utter an apology, the father welcomed him with open arms and a bear hug, followed by a celebratory Welcome Home party. The father could have reacted with tough love, not allowing his son home. He could have reacted with just love, welcoming him home, but immediately sending him out to the fields to work, but instead, he reacted with outrageous love.  Rev. Dr. Drury said that this is how God loves us; “He doesn’t just want to save us from the pig sty. He wants to give us life.”

    Rev. Dr. Drury then explained how all three parables in Luke 15 end with a party. She likened the Lost Son to a poster-child for the new convert. She went on to say that a teenager in a youth group she led responded to the Lost Son parable, by saying “That is completely unnecessary and just rewards bad behavior.”  She said the truth of the matter is that is precisely the character of God; “what he does is completely unnecessary and rewards bad behavior. He’s inviting us all to join his party.

    Rev. Dr. Drury cited Jeremiah, and said “God has a future and a hope for us…he doesn’t desire calamity for us.” She stressed the importance of the audience of clergy members to accept God’s grace and outrageous love, to attend the party that he has invited them to.

    After the three days spent at the Bishop’s Retreat, Rev. Dr. Drury’s passionate talks helped refresh the UNY clergy’s faith. She encouraged the audience to share their testimonies with each other; “it is a misconception to think that testimony only counts when talking to hostile others who don’t believe in God. It counts just as much when you share your testimonies with each other.” Also, Rev. Dr. Drury reminded attendees that “the party is not an anomaly for God.”

    The time concluded with Bishop Webb thanking Amanda Drury for her time at the Bishop’s Retreat; he said “Thank you Amanda; you have blessed us.” And she did truly bless the UNY clergy; her talks were powerful and undoubtedly invigorating, sparking a feeling of celebration into the faith of all who attended.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    ‘Grace in Action’ Vital Congregations Trip to Cape Coral, Florida – Jan. 20-22, 2017

    October 25, 2016 / By UNY Communications

    Vital Congregations, on behalf of the Upper New York Conference, has put together a package trip to Grace Church in Cape Coral, Florida, home church of Rev. Jorge Acevedo, to attend ‘Grace in Action’. In the words of Rev. Acevedo, “During this weekend, you and your team will experience and learn about how Grace Church builds healthy teams, establishes clear focus, develops fruitful strategies and structures and gets better at making disciples of Jesus. You will personally experience our recovery and compassion outreach ministries. On Friday night, you will worship at Celebrate Recovery. On Saturday morning, your team will experience how Grace Church does outreach that both helps people in need and also connects them to a relationship with God. On Sunday morning, you will have an opportunity to worship at three of our campuses.”

    Cost: $650 per person. This includes flight, conference registration and ground transportation. Each participant will be responsible for their lodging and meals. Arrangements have been made with the Best Western Hotel located at 13021 North Cleveland Avenue in North Fort Myers, Florida for a discounted rate. You can make reservations by calling 239-997-5511 and mentioning "Grace Church".

    Registration deadline: December 2, 2016. Click here to register. Click here for schedule of events.

    TAGGED / Vital Congregations


    With more than 168,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 867 local churches and 65 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."