CLT and DLTs work towards clear disciple making processes
The Upper New York Conference Leadership Team (CLT) met with the District Leadership Teams (DLTs) at the United Methodist Center in Liverpool on Saturday, April 14. The focus of the meeting was designing systems to have intentional disciple making processes (DMPs) in every Upper New York church, which would be no small task.
The teams have been preparing to engage in this work for well over a year. Last spring DLTs were introduced to the Ministry Action Plan (MAP) tool available here. Then, last fall the DLTs were introduced to the Loving, Learning, Leading (L3) process. Click here to read more about the L3 process.
With the tools and environment for approaching complex work in place, the time had come to focus on leading around a ministry need that would have a positive impact on local churches in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens and the Rev. Dave Masland shared that while there are some that do, very few Upper New York Conference Churches actually have a simple, clear DMP. However, clear DMPs are a key indicator of a church’s success in fulfilling the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The CLT believes strongly that helping local churches create DMPs will greatly help them fulfill the mission. They also believe that DMPs must be contextual and that the DLTs need to have the insight to know what local churches need in creating their DMPs. However, the CLT also believes that there are a few basic minimum characteristics for every fruitful DMP including:
- A simple system that describes at least the following three major types of experience that will be present: Engaging Worship that brings people into an experience of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace; Small Groups that allow people to go deep in their faith through learning, discussion, mutual support, and prayer; and, Outreach/Service in the community/world that shows God’s love, fosters real relationships between church people and unchurched people, and leads to invitations to come see Jesus.
- Clarity about multiple doorways into the church for new people… and attention paid to hospitality for new people in each setting. New people can find their way to church through any of the three types of gatherings listed in #1.
- A pathway within the small group part of the system, that includes a series of experiences of learning and growing that every person experiences. This might include things like: a meeting with the pastor(s); a 101 class (or classes) where basic discipleship is taught; a 201 class (or classes) where people discover their spiritual gifts and are given an opportunity to see how they might offer their gifts for the good of the church and community; a class where people learn what it means to be a member of a church before committing (including service, stewardship, sharing your faith with others, etc); a process whereby everyone becomes engaged; service/outreach ministry in the community; an invitation to ongoing small groups that provide places for people to go deeper and hold one another accountable to spiritual disciplines, personal goals related to faith and relationships, equipping for faith sharing/evangelism with new people, etc.
- Clear movement from any one of the experiences in #3 to the next, and clarity about how people are invited to make these movements… when and where to go for the next step!
- A memorable visual representation of the DMP that is re-created in many places and in diverse media around the church for everyone to see.
- Constant talk about and teaching around the DMP by both lay and clergy leaders… so that it becomes the core culture of the church!
This work is only beginning, and the hope is that DLTs will come to the Fall CLT/DLT gathering with a MAP for every local church in their district to have a DMP. In the meantime, the CLT and DLTs will work together on this important work through a Facebook group and CLT/DLT liaisons.
Finally, acknowledging the United Methodist tendency towards using a nearly absurd amount of acronyms, there was also agreement that there should be a permanent United Methodist acronym glossary available on the Conference website. Such a glossary will be pulled together as soon as possible (ASAP).
Gloversville Foothills UMC to commence building a new worship and mission center
April 17, 2018 / By Rev. Terrence O’Neill, Retired
After a ten-year hiatus, the Foothills United Methodist Church is pleased to announce that it has reignited their dream to build a new worship and mission center along Rt. 30A across from the new Wal-Mart Super Center in Gloversville.
Ten years ago, this project came to a sudden halt due to the unexpected and tragic death of Foothills’ pastor combined with the economic collapse of the 2008 “Great Recession.” Set back but not defeated, the congregation met all of their outstanding financial obligations, reconsidered their efforts, scaled back the project, and sold a portion of their land that had been anticipated for future expansion purposes and are now launching a crowd funding effort to help them meet their goal.
With nearly one million dollars raised and in hand, the congregation’s goal is to raise an additional two million dollars to complete the church through a Crowd Funding effort beginning Sunday, February 18, 2018, the First Sunday of Lent. Though initiated during Lent, the appeal will run through the end of the year and remain a reference point as the congregation undertakes additional fund raising efforts. The Foothills Congregation has been using a GoFundMe site for the program and has produced a video presentation which tells their story set against a “Rocky-like” boxing story supported by an old Southern Gospel, “Champion of Love.” Click here to view the video and learn more about the project.
The history of the project is framed in metaphor by the creation of a heavyweight championship fight with 13 rounds briefly describing the triumphs and obstacles overcome to proclaim Jesus Christ as the Champion of Love. The sub-theme from the song is: “Champion of Love: Down, but not out.”
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the United Methodist Church
April 23, 2018 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the merger of Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church, which created a new denomination, The United Methodist Church.
Consider holding commemorative events at your local church sometime between April 22, the Sunday before the April 23 anniversary, through May 20, Heritage Sunday.
Heritage Sunday is set aside for remembering our legacy as United Methodists. The theme for this year’s Heritage Sunday is “Jubilee” to depict the celebratory nature of the UMC’s 50th Anniversary.
The General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church has great tips on planning a celebration. Click here to learn ways to celebrate this great moment in the history of the UMC. Click here for logos and banners you can use to promote the 50th Anniversary.
Click here for the latest news, features, and historical retrospectives on this most important anniversary for our church.
Also, be sure to follow and tag us on social media with #UMC50.
Annual Conference Special Meal: June 1 Palestinian Dinner
April 16, 2018 / By UNY Communications
The theme of this year’s Palestinian Dinner held during the 2018 session of Annual Conference is, "Valuing Palestinian Children."
Pilgrims from Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb's 2018 Holy Land Trip are especially invited to this year's eighth annual UNY Palestinian Dinner during Annual Conference.
The dinner will be held at 5:15 p.m. on Friday June 1 at St. George’s Macedonian Church (5083 Onondaga Road (Rt. 173), Syracuse 13215). This is about a 10-minute drive from Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena, where the Annual Conference will be held.
This dinner is a buffet, catered by Munjed’s Middle Eastern Restaurant.
Sponsored by the UNY Taskforce for Palestine-Israel, this gathering will include speakers Tina Whitehead of the Western PA Annual Conference and long-time worker w/ UM Liaison Office, Bethlehem/Jerusalem and Rev. Leanne Zeck, a participant in Bishop's 2018 Holy Land trip.
The purpose of this meal is fun, food, fellowship, mission-giving (including extra for "lights for Gaza" or Gary Bergh Scholarship), education, and advocacy.
Reservations must be made by May 30 to: Linda Bergh, (315) 492-8507, 116 Edna Road, Syracuse, NY 13205 or Karen Peterson, (607) 739-3141, 116 Greenridge Drive, Horseheads, NY 14845.
The cost/donation for this meal is $20.00 to benefit four United Methodist Advance Specials (clinics/ schools) in the Bethlehem/Jerusalem area, Gary Bergh Scholarship for applicants to "justice-seeking" trips, and ongoing Taskforce work.
If you have questions or would like more information, contact Linda Bergh at firstname.lastname@example.org or (315) 492-8507.
Introducing the Annual Conference App
The Upper New York (UNY) Conference is excited to announce that there will be an Event app available to use at Annual Conference this year from May 30-June 2 at the Onondaga County College SRC Arena in Syracuse. Now you will have the option to access everything related to Annual Conference right from your phone or tablet instead of thumbing through pages upon pages of materials in your packet.
Upper New York Conference’s IT team is leading the way with the implementation of this app for Annual Conference through a partnership with the United Methodist Church’s General Council of Finance and Administration (GCF&A). GCF&A designed this app through QuickMobile software.
UNY IT Manager, Doug Thomas said, ”The whole idea of GCF&A providing this app to Annual Conferences is to consolidate services.” This app program is called UMC Meet—it is an event planning app that has been used for a variety of events in many Annual Conferences.
Currently the UNY IT and Communications Ministry Areas are pulling together everything one normally receives in their Conference packet and creating electronic versions for the app.
Thomas said, “It’s a very feature-rich and user-friendly app.”
Included in this app will be the schedule of events, menus, maps, and a whole lot more. If there are any changes taking place at Annual Conference (for example, plenary beginning earlier on Friday than intended), an alert will appear on your phone through this app.
You can also contact anyone attending Annual Conference through a messaging option on this app. No need to have people you want to connect with in your phone contacts!
With the introduction of this app, we will be limiting the number of printed packets. In addition to being environmentally friendly, the UNY Conference will be saving dollars. The app itself is only costing the Upper New York Conference about $.50 a day per person.
Doug Thomas also mentioned how this app could potentially streamline the arrival and check-in process. He said, “The process of arriving and check-in will be quicker through simply using a QR code to check-in.”
If you are not too familiar with apps, do not worry! There will be plenty of volunteers on-hand to help you download the app onto your mobile device. The app will be made available to download and familiarize yourself with in early May. More details will be coming soon.
Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church is spicing it up
Imagine relying on a local food pantry to make ends meet for your family. Common nonperishable food enables your family to have oatmeal or dry cereal for breakfast and perhaps pasta and sauce for dinner. Some food pantries such as Saratoga Springs’ Franklin Community Center, supply perishable goods as well. Over 900 individuals who rely on this food pantry to conquer hunger can add fresh dairy products, meat, and veggies to their meals.
Still, flavor would make a meal so much more enjoyable for these families, right? As Debbie Martin, Franklin Community Center’s office manager said, “Who would want broccoli without seasoning?”
Julie Slovic, the Franklin Community Center Food Program Administrator, added, “Using spices is a great alternative to salt, and so much better for one’s health.”
Enter Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church (SSUMC). For over two decades, they have been partnering with Franklin Community Center, a non-profit that provides many community services such as an afterschool program for at-risk youth, clothing and furniture distribution, efficiency apartments for low-income individuals, and an expanding food pantry.
This year, SSUMC, made a New Year’s Resolution for the church to focus on performing Random Acts of Kindness throughout the entire year. The idea came from a small group, which meets every Thursday morning, called Joy in the Morning. The group was doing a journal exercise from the book A Year of Kindness by Dr. Pamela Parskey, where each day, the readers wrote about their acts of kindness and gratitude.
Donna Bjork, the leader of the Joy in the Mornings small group, said, “We talked about spreading Random Acts of Kindness in our church. Our ministers (Rev. Andrew (Drew) Sperry and Rev. Heather Williams) took it and flew. They created a year-long journey of Random Acts of Kindness and we created a wall, so people could write down some of the things they are doing (on post-it notes).”
Donna continued, “It helps alleviate some of the things you hear in the media; it shows that people can do good and spend time helping others. This really began as an individual thing and it doesn’t have to be something big; it can be simple, like buying a friend a cup of coffee.”
The idea of the Random Acts of Kindness initiative as an individual-focused project has extended to involve bigger projects, and the Spice Drive is one of them.
Pastor Drew serves on the Franklin Community Center’s board. He recently saw Julie demonstrate the different types of meals that families could put together.
Pastor Drew said, “During the presentation from Julie, I was amazed by how obvious the needs of those who receive assistance from the community center are, and yet how I’ve been so un aware! I never thought about the need for items like spices, cooking oils, or seasoning packets. I remember instantly thinking SSUMC can help with this.
Despite my amazement at my ignorance to basic needs, I am always doubly amazed by SSUMC’s generosity! Last year we donated over 3,500 pounds of food to Franklin! This year through our attention to Random Acts of Kindness, I believe we double that, and add to it an assortment of spices that will provide great-tasting meals for folks regardless of their economic situation.”
During a get-together that SSUMC has every month, called Third Thursdays, where members of the church gather for an informal Potluck, Pastor Drew mentioned the Franklin Community Center’s board meeting and some of their needs.
Laura Lecour, SSUMC lay leader, attended this Third Thursday. She said, “Pastor Drew told us that Franklin’s food pantry had a need for spices. This immediately caught our Third Thursday group’s attention and we thought, ‘Hey, we could do this as one of our big Random Acts of Kindness projects.’
That’s where our spice drive was born.
Spices started showing up immediately. We are continuing this for the month of April. I think we will overwhelm Franklin with spices.”
Because of SSUMC setting the intention to perform Random Acts of Kindness, ideas like the Spice Drive are constantly emerging.
SSUMC is bringing flavor to the bland foods that families who rely on food pantries are accustomed to. Laura said, “It’s great to have food; it’s nice to have your food taste good. To have poultry seasoning or to bake and have cinnamon for example, are things we take for granted—they all cost money. Some families cannot afford those things.”
Julie added, “We also have a Blue Door Chef Special (like Blue Apron) where a recipe and all ingredients are included for people who use the food pantry. The spices we receive from SSUMC will also keep our Blue Door Chef Special going for quite a while, which in turn brings a smile to our customers.”
Donating spices to the Franklin Community Center is one simple way that SSUMC members are being God’s love to their neighbors in all places.
Getting ready for Annual Conference: The layout of SRC Arena
April 10, 2018 / By Vicki Swanson
To help attendees feel prepared for spending a few days at a new facility at the 2018 Annual Conference, held May 30-June2 at the SRC Arena on Onondaga County Community College (OCC)’s campus, this article will share some general information about the layout of the space we are occupying at OCC.
We will be publishing a map of the parking lots just prior to Annual Conference so that those who are unable to walk a long distance can park near a shuttle location. In addition to the shuttles from our downtown hotels, there will be parking lot shuttles (van-size) to get people to the SRC Arena entrance. They will pick up folks at specified locations marked by sandwich boards.
Upon entry to SRC Arena, the registration tables are straight ahead. To the left is the hallway to Allyn Hall/Gym – the location for Clergy Session, child care, and later the Display Room and Cokesbury. If attending either of the two special banquets – Memorial Service Dinner or BOM Dinner – you would continue through Allyn Hall, exit the building, and enter the next building, which is Gordon. The Gordon Great Room is immediately on the right upon entry.
Back in the SRC Arena building, in addition to registration there are restrooms and the Prayer Room on the right side of the entry area. On the lower level is where most of the action takes place. Getting to the lower level happens via elevator (near registration) or via stairs (to the right of the main entry). On the lower level is the dining area and the main session area, divided by a curtain. There is a large bank of restrooms near the dining area. For those participating in Blueprint for Wellness, that activity is located in a classroom down the hallway near the restrooms.
Locations for a Spiritual Direction room and a Coaching room will be announced as we draw closer to the Annual Conference.
Deepen your relationship with God through spiritual formation and direction
April 10, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Whether you are a lay person or clergy member, how is your spiritual walk? What can you do to improve it? How can you recognize God in all the complexities of life, not just those “holy” moments, but in the questions and struggles as well?
Upper New York (UNY) has spiritual directors who can help you in spiritual formation and spiritual direction.
Spiritual formation is the work of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The Rev. Nancy Dibelius, UNY’s Conference’s Associate Director of Spiritual Life for Vital Congregations, thinks of it as “casting the net deeper…reaching out to our community and inviting others into a life lived out of the Gospel.”
Spiritual formation enables people to live more Christ-like lives; it goes beyond attending Sunday church services. It means reading the Scripture regularly, studying together often, and covenanting with one another to help with accountability. You practice spiritual disciplines including meeting with a spiritual director; you observe Sabbath in your life; you witness to one another, and you reach out in mission to a needy world.
Spiritual direction is a relationship primarily between two people where one person seeks to walk alongside and companion another on their faith journey. The Spiritual Director’s desire is to deepen your relationship with God so that you might: learn to identify and trust your own spiritual experiences, become more aware of God’s presence in your life and respond to that presence, learn to discern God’s voice and God’s invitation for your life, and grow in intimacy with God.
The Spiritual Director helps you to trust God’s guiding hand in the process. Both the director and directed desire to discern where God is calling, speaking, challenging, and leading. Both are pilgrims on the road to a more Christ-like life under the loving direction of the Holy Spirit.
UNY Spiritual Directors will be available to meet with one-on-one at the 2018 Annual Conference, held May 30-June 2 at the Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse. You can seek their guidance on your own faith journey or inquire about the steps needed to become a Spiritual Director for your congregation. Stay tuned for specific details as we get closer to Annual Conference. For more information on spiritual formation and direction, contact Rev. Dibelius at email@example.com.
ERT and VIM volunteers put forth amazing effort at Hogansburg UMC
Ten Upper New York Conference Early-Response Team members (ERT) and Volunteers-in-Mission (VIM) team members (two from the Crossroads District, one from the Albany District, and seven from the Northern Flow District) came together on April 2 and April 3 to begin restoration of the Hogansburg UMC, which is on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in the Northern Flow District. The church was damaged by flood waters of the St. Regis River in February of this year. Together, these team members devoted 95 hours to this clean-up project.
The water damage was confined to the basement of the church, and both the furnace and the sump pumps had been spared, so there was little remaining standing water. The water depth had been about 2 ½ feet. Most of the walls and floor were concrete, but drywall had been installed in the kitchen and part of the fellowship hall, and a wood floor laid in the kitchen about 8 inches above the concrete. The refrigerator, cooking stoves, and the cabinet surrounding the sink were soaked, as well as much of the furniture in the fellowship hall. An already shaky stairway was soaked up three risers, which made it even more unstable.
The team removed all the non-salvageable items; cleaned and sanitized all others; removed the appliances, sink cabinet, kitchen floor, and 4 feet of drywall where ever it had been wet. The entire basement was power washed and sanitized using Shockwave. The stairway was taped off and the local folks agreed that it would not be used at present; a second stairway was not damaged.
The team of volunteers experienced a couple of surprise blessings during this clean-up project.
Sylvia Reimer, team leader of the clean-up project said, “We were blessed by being housed and fed by the Centenary UMC in Malone. We give thanks to Pastor Heidi Chamberlain and members of her congregation.”
Sylvia mentioned another amazing blessing that occurred as part of this project. She said, “The Disaster/Mission teams of the UNY Conference had agreed to pay for the dumpster used to haul away the trash (three loads!), but when we asked about payment, we were told that the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne considered this part of the flood recovery and covered the entire cost. Praise and thanksgiving for that!”
Mike Block, UNY Director of Missional Engagement, also volunteered at Hogansburg UMC; he said, “We’re grateful to have team members to step forward in times of need. It’s not always pretty and not always fun, but the result in resolving the need is always rewarding.”
Sylvia said, “Thanks to all the volunteers and to the support from local persons, both off and on the reservation. Praise to God for strength and calling to service.”
Now that cleanup is completed at Hogansburg UMC, plans are being made to fully restore the basement this summer. Volunteers will concentrate on replacing the drywall and rebuilding the stairway. The kitchen floor will need to be replaced also before the kitchen can be made serviceable again. ERT and VIM members will be on board, but anyone willing to volunteer can do so.
To volunteer in restoring Hogansburg UMC this summer, contact Mike Block at (315) 898-2066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Holiness Concerns: Conscience of the Conference
April 3, 2018 / By Rev. Marti Swords-Horrell, pastor, Emmaus United Methodist Church, Albany
Many of us remember where we were on April 4, 1968 when the nation was shaken to its core by the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. I remember that tragic day very well, but also conversations at our family’s table the previous fall concerning the criticism Dr. King was receiving for his opposition to the Vietnam War, and the connections he was making between poverty, racism and militarism. At the time of his untimely death, Dr. King was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign: putting injustices faced by low wage workers, black and brown and white, at the center of the struggle for equality in this country.
Many of our churches commemorate Dr. King’s birthday in January, but this year we have an opportunity to lift up the 50th anniversary of his untimely death. On April 4th, please take time to prayerfully review the events of that fateful day in Memphis where Dr. King had travelled to support sanitation workers, on strike for better wages and working conditions.
But the best way to honor the memory of Dr. King is to continue his work. Many things have changed in the intervening 50 years in this country, but one thing that hasn’t is poverty. If anything, it’s gotten worse. As a native of New York State, I am deeply ashamed to report that we have the worst income inequality in the country, with 1.7 million New Yorkers living in poverty and 88,000 New Yorkers homeless every night across our state, while the wealth of Manhattan multi-millionaires and billionaires soars to all-time highs.
Our Upper New York Conference spans a wide spectrum politically and theologically. But even as many things divide us, one thing that every District across the Conference has in common is poverty. In my 35 years of ministry, I’ve served in distressed urban neighborhoods and in poverty- stricken rural settings as well – which have more in common than not. Banding together to address poverty across New York State is something every United Methodist can and should do. As followers of Jesus in the heritage of John Wesley, together we are devoted to bringing good news to the poor.
The good news is that there’s an active and growing movement not only here in New York but in 33 other states which seeks not so much to commemorate Dr King’s Poor People’s Campaign as to continue it. Headed up by the Rev. Dr. William Barber of “Repairers of the Breach” and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of Union Theological Seminary, the New Poor People’s Campaign “is not so much about right vs left as it is about right vs wrong” Watch for opportunities to join in nationwide actions starting on Mother’s Day.
I hope to see you at the statewide conference sponsored by the New York State Council of Churches in Johnstown, July 10 – 12: “Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide”. This year’s theme is “Congregations as Catalysts for Economic and Social Change in their Communities.” Together we can be the change we wish to see.
Getting Ready for Annual Conference 2018: Offerings
- The first two offerings will be collected during the laity and clergy sessions on Wednesday evening May 30. The Clergy Care Fund offering will be taken at the clergy session and a Helping Hands Fund offering will concurrently be taken at the laity session. The Clergy Care Fund assists clergy who need financial support, and Helping Hand raises funds to be used by the Cabinet to assist congregants in need of financial support.
- During Opening Worship on Thursday May 31, the offering collected will go to support the Upper New York Mission Central Hub—a place located at the UNY Methodist Center for local churches to actively engage in outreach and disaster response ministries. From training the Conference’s Volunteer in Mission and Disaster Response teams to collecting and assembling flood buckets, health kits, and more, the UNY Mission Central HUB is the perfect answer to local churches who feel called to expand their outreach ministries. Click here to learn more about the UNY Mission Central Hub.
- The offering collected on Saturday morning June 2 during the Young Adult Worship service will go to of Peace (MOP)—an annual journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdiction Council on Youth Ministries. Click here and here to read the reflections from two Upper New York youth who went on the MOP journey to Cuba earlier this year. Next year, MOP will be going to the Philippines.
- The final offering to be collected during Annual Conference will be at the Ordination Service on Saturday June 2. This offering will go to New Faith Communities (NFCs). New faith community planters work to create safe places for un-churched or de-churched people to explore their faith, consider what it means to follow Jesus Christ, and then practice discipleship together with new friends. These communities gather in malls, cafes, storefronts, bars, homes, fellowship halls and restaurants, and each one is committed to being God’s love with their neighbors. There are currently __ New Faith Communities in UNY—click here to learn more about UNY NFCs.
Annual Conference provides these five great opportunities to support the United Methodist Connection. From helping our youth experience a mission trip of their lifetime and supporting the many ministries the pour forth from Mission Central to supporting clergy and congregants with financial constraints and planting New Faith Communities, you can help the Upper New York and people around the world flourish with your generous offerings.
Seeking nominations for 2018 Harry Denman Evangelism awards
April 2, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Nominations are open for the 2018 Harry Denman Evangelism Awards. The awards honor United Methodists in each Conference whose exceptional evangelism brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Each year, Annual Conferences join the Foundation for Evangelism in recognizing one youth, one clergy member, and one lay person in their Conference. The 2017 recipients in the Upper New York Conference were lay member Mark Jones and Pastor Sandi Perl. The deadline for submitting your nominations to the Conference is May 1. Please contact Cherish McGowan at email@example.com with your nominations.
Apply for a Peace with Justice grant by April 30
March 29, 2018 / By Heather Smith, Peace with Justice Coordinator
Peace with Justice Grant applications are being accepted through April 30, 2018. The application can be found here. Please read the information included and fill out application completely.
The Peace with Justice Grants are provided by funds collected on Peace with Justice Sunday, one of the six Special Sunday offerings required by the Book of Discipline. Half of all money collected in our conference stays right here to support new ministries that address justice issues. The most recent grants have gone to:
- Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS - $2000 helped fund the Truth Commission on Poverty gatherings
- NYS Council of Churches - $2000 to support the Rural-Urban Divide Conference
If you have any questions, please contact Heather Smith, Conference Peace with Justice Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sound the alarm, save a life
March 28, 2018 / By UNY Communications
A house fire can start at any time in any home. The Upper New York Mission Central HUB, with the help of Volunteers in Mission (VIM) and Early Response Team (ERT), is working with the American Red Cross to help install free smoke alarms where needed.
In UNY, more than 500 alarms are available and will be installed in the Central New York area on Saturday, May 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The UNY Mission Central HUB is seeking between 15 and 20 volunteers to work in teams of two. There will be a gathering point, to be announced closer to the work date of May 12, where the list of addresses will be handed out and the smoke detectors as well. For more information or to volunteer to help, contact Mike Block, Director of Missional Engagement, at email@example.com.
Rev. Corey Turnpenny selected as Annual Conference 2018 Memorial Service speaker
The Rev. Corey Turnpenny, pastor at Whitney Point UMC, has been selected as the Memorial Service speaker for the 2018 Annual Conference held May 30-June 2 at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse; the Memorial Service takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday May 31.
Rev. Turnpenny grew up in a Methodist church in Wilkes Barre, Pa. She felt God calling her to ministry at the age of 11! Her bond with Christ was strengthened through summers spent at Sky Lake Camp. Eventually she would receive her Masters in Divinity from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity and begin serving the Upper New York Conference in 2013.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, said ““I am grateful to Rev. Turnpenny for accepting the invitation to preach at the 2018 Memorial Service. Corey’s passion for Christ and the Church is contagious and as one of our gifted young adult clergy persons, we will be blessed by her willingness to share her gift of preaching.”
Rev. Turnpenny enthusiastically accepted the invitation to be the Memorial Service speaker; she said, “I am so honored to have the role as the Memorial Service speaker at this year’s Conference. The theme of the Conference (Together in prayer: Boldly living our Call) fits so well with the Memorial Service because we are honoring and celebrating clergy who have lived their call.”
Rev. Turnpenny continued, “Any type of Memorial Service is meant to honor and remember people who have gone on to their next life in heaven, but I also want this service to be geared toward people still here, encouraging them to follow the legacy of those who we honor.”
As Rev Turnpenny begins planning her focus of the Memorial Service sermon, she finds inspiration in the story of Lazarus in John 11, where after Lazarus’s death, Jesus comforts Lazarus’s sisters, assuring them that those who believe in Jesus will live even after they die. And then he performs a miracle; he raises Lazarus from the dead.
Rev. Turnpenny said, “I think a lot of pastors can relate to being present with others as they experience grief and these words from John 11 can bring comfort.”
Rev. Turnpenny has also felt drawn to Isiah 25, reminding people that God is a refuge, a shelter from the storm.
Various verses from Hebrews 12 also speaks to Rev. Turnpenny as pertinent to a Memorial Service, such as these lines from verses 1 and 2, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
While Rev. Turnpenny continues to weave her own inspiring words with passages from the Bible, she hopes attendees at the Memorial Service “will feel inspired to follow the footsteps of clergy who have paved the way.”
CLT discusses ministry in Holy Saturday times
The Conference Leadership Team (CLT) spent their time together on Friday, March 23 and Saturday March 24 framed by three questions focused around the theme “Living through Holy Saturday” (the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection). The three questions were:
- What spiritual practices can help us journey through Holy Saturday times?
- What does leadership look like on Holy Saturday?
- What is God inviting us to accomplish in this time?
Continuing to follow the L3 (Loving, Learning, and Leading) meeting model, their time on Friday started with the same kind of Holy Conversation around the work of the Commission on a Way Forward that has been taking place at the District Days with the Bishop. Click here to learn more about the conversations that took place at the District Days with the Bishop.
Just as at the District Days with the Bishop, this was an honest conversation about hopes and fears for the future of The United Methodist Church. The conversation set-up the idea that we are living in Holy Saturday times- a time between, where we know change is coming but we don’t know what that change is yet. The team continued by pondering the three questions that framed the day, and they broke for the night.
The following day, the CLT continued their honest conversation by discussing the questions they had been pondering. Then they had an adaptive conversation around the mission, vision, and primary tasks of the Upper New York Conference. Click here to learn more about the mission, vision, and primary task. This conversation was enhanced by a time of learning that focused on the master MAP (Ministry Action Plan) and updated statistical information for the Upper New York Conference based on past goals. Ministry Action Plan worksheets are available to all on the Conference Website here.
The reviewed statistics and master MAP included good news in areas of new faith communities, increasing diversity, communication, and trust. To that end, the CLT spent their remaining time reviewing and prioritizing their “child MAPs”, and planning for the CLT’s time with District Leadership Teams (DLTs) in April.
Much of this leading work was driven by a new prioritizing of the “child MAPs” with a strong focus on equipping the local church. Two areas that received particular focus were providing the tools that empower every local church to have an intentional pathway of discipleship and providing the tools for local church to identify which of three “lanes” their church is in.
The team will enlist the help of the General Church’s Discipleship Ministries to create the tools that empower every local church to have an intentional pathway of discipleship. This work will be shared and implemented through the DLTs.
A team was identified to begin creating the tool that will help churches identify which of three “lanes” they are in. The three Lanes are Growing, Revitalizing, and Legacy and clarity about where a church is and where a church is going will help churches immensely as they work to make disciples.
Work around VitalSigns, 16 Core Competencies of leaders, and many other MAPS also continues.
After two very fruitful days of work, the CLT ended it’s time together with a prayer and went forward to continue leading the Conference and in their local contexts.
Getting Ready for Annual Conference 2018: CRM Staff to again provide childcare for Annual Conference
March 27, 2018 / By David Wood, Program Director, Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center
Childcare at this year’s Annual Conference will be provided by staff members of Camp & Retreat Ministries (CRM) for the seventh consecutive year. Staff involved in childcare are a combination of year-round and seasonal CRM employees who have served at least one full season at one of Upper New York’s Camp & Retreat Centers. CRM staff are trained to handle a wide variety of topics when it comes to working with children, including behavior management, social development, leading age-appropriate activities, responding to children’s needs, and procedures for emergency situations. All CRM staff involved with childcare have undergone at least two weeks of intensive training, and have six or more weeks experience in a residential camp environment, providing 24-hour custodial care to groups of 6-8 children.
Childcare sessions at Annual Conference are intentionally designed to be more than just daycare. Each day is structured in a way that provides a variety of activities for children of all ages and allows for the needs of each child to be met. Mornings are structured time that may involve group games, crafts, board games and card games, songs and riddles, and interactive play (such as Legos and blocks, or various make-believe scenarios driven by the children’s interests).
Afternoons are structured to provide children with a bit of down time, and a chance to nap for those who would like. As Annual Conference days can be quite long, this time is important to allow children a time to rest and renew themselves for the rest of the day. Children who choose not to nap during this time have the option to engage in quiet group or individual play with our staff or watch an age-appropriate movie no longer than 1.5-2 hours. After this time, an afternoon snack is served, and structured activities fill the remaining time until dinner. After dinner, the number of children can vary greatly and thus staff will either play some group games or give the kids time playing active games on the Wii like Just Dance or Wii Sports.
Childcare this year will be offered Wednesday, May 30 in the evening for clergy and laity sessions. Childcare will be available all day on Thursday, May 31 and Friday, June 1. It will open approximately 20 minutes prior to the start of each session, and parents will need to pick up their children for all meals. Childcare is also available on Saturday, June 2 until the end of the Ordination Service.
Parents must sign their children in and out, and photo ID and prior written approval will be needed to sign a child out from childcare. Parents are encouraged to take time to talk with our staff prior to signing their children in, and are welcome to leave us with anything their children may need throughout the day.
Commission members grateful to serve, complete work on final report
March 26, 2018 / By Council of Bishops
Members of the Commission on a Way Forward expressed gratitude at the opportunity to be part of the Commission and they signaled hope for The United Methodist Church as they completed their meeting in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 22.
The 32-member Commission has been meeting since January 2017 in various places throughout the global denomination to assist the bishops in their charge from the 2016 General Conference to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related to LGBTQ inclusion and resulting questions about the unity of the church.
The Commission will present its final report to the Council of Bishops at the April/May meeting in Chicago. At that meeting, the bishops will decide what will be received and acted upon by the delegates to the Special Session of the General Conference set for St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019.
“Sitting at the table with Commission members, I see persons honest enough and humble enough to see the great challenge or impasse that is before us,” noted Rev. Helen Cunanan, from the Philippines. “At the same time, I see so much commitment and passion to the work entrusted to us - passion for mission and ministry; passion for our forms and expressions of unity; passion for God.”
Rev. Cunanan said she was confident that, “with the Holy Spirit’s leading, I believe we can embrace together a way forward.”
For Dr. Aka Hortense, a layperson from Côte d’Ivoire, the Commission was an opportunity to meet people who have the same love for Jesus Christ and who are all members of the United Methodist Church, but with very different experiences and differing positions regarding the question of human sexuality.
“By listening and through reflections I have learned - in all humility - that unity, which seems so simple in the church, is fragile because each person has their own personality, their own cultural and religious context, their own education, their own life experiences, and their own truth.”
She noted that through prayer, Bible studies and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, members of the Commission worked on a plan for the church that must continue to highlight “the importance of the mission to which Christ calls us as a global church. This commission has helped me cultivate the heart of peace and has put me back at the heart of the Christian faith.”
By giving great attention to traditional, contextual and progressive values, the Commission members weighed input from across the denomination as they discerned the best proposals for a way forward.
As part of reaching out to various constituencies, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators, met with general secretaries of the church agencies while Bishop David Yemba, another moderator, and other members of the Commission gave an update to the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters. Members of the Commission have also shared with various general agencies, jurisdictional and central conference gatherings, annual conferences and local churches.
“The purpose of these meetings includes initiating healthy conversations that educate, share information, and invite people to think and dream about God’s preferred future for The United Methodist Church. Conversation serves to break down fear, build relationships, and helps us to collectively think about what is possible,” said Bishop Steiner Ball. “Conversation also serves to remind us that no matter what position persons or groups hold within the church, they love Christ, love The United Methodist Church, and strive to be faithful in service to God and to God’s people.”
Two other Commission members, Rev. Julie Hager Love from Kentucky Conference and Rev. Tom Salsgiver from Susquehanna Conference, have spent time talking to various groups and participating in meetings with groups in preparation for possible work that would be done at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.
Rev. Love noted that the Commission is filled with persons who deeply love The United Methodist Church and have worked together to find a way forward through prayer, worship, Bible study, dialogue, study and fellowship.
“While I have often referred to the work of the Commission as the ‘hardest leadership work’ I have ever been a part of (and it is true), it is also an honor to be asked to be a part of the commission,” said Rev. Love. “I am deeply thankful for our process and the persons on the commission who have given deeply of their time and energy. The prayers that have covered members personally, our work and our way forward has been deeply felt and appreciated.”
For Alfiado S. Zunguza from Mozambique, working with some of the best minds in the church gave him a sense of humility and desire to learn the complex nature of values, worldviews, and principles informing interpersonal and institutional relationships within the church.
“The journey has been a life giving and eye-opening experience with many lessons learned. Being close to the end of our mandate as a Commission on the Way Forward, I have a feeling that there is more to learn, more relationships to build and more visioning to be undertaken as we continue to perfect the proposals that the Council of Bishop will have to offer the church for consideration,” said Zunguza, who serves as manager of Leadership Development and Scholarships with Global Ministries.
He added: “The mission just started and we need to continue building coalitions and sharing hope for a better United Methodist Church that will make all members proud of being part of this great denomination.”
As they discussed the possible ways forward, the Commission members gave attention to the traditional, contextual and progressive values, ensuring that as many diverse voices were given chance to be heard, said Bishop Ken Carter, one of the moderators of the Commission. “The values being discussed are grounded in deep listening to our global church, and are at the heart of the call of Jesus Christ to discipleship in the very different contexts where our people live and are in ministry,” Bishop Carter noted.
Contrary to some voices in the church that assume closure and that the work is already completed from particular perspectives, the Commission indicated that there was still robust conversation taking place through the denomination. Bishop Carter noted, “The thirty-two members of our commission embody an astonishing diversity—living on four continents, laity, clergy and bishops, theological differences, gay and straight, urban and rural, multiple generations. And yet we are committed to a way forward for the church that has blessed us and blesses others through us.”
As it prepares its final report to the Council, members of the Commission noted that the UMC will continue to discuss the public and private mission of the church and the value of convicted humility.
“We are in a crucible together, trying to create something that does not yet exist,” explained Bishop Gregory Palmer, resident bishop of West Ohio Area and a member of the Commission. “God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ sustains us through the ups and downs of the process that we trust leads to newness.”
The Commission will present its final report to the Council of Bishops at the COB meeting in Chicago April 29-May 4.
Applications still being received for lay equalization members to Annual Conference
March 23, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Applications are still being accepted for individuals desiring to serve as a lay equalization member to the 2018 session of the Upper New York Annual Conference. Lay equalization members must be professing members of a United Methodist Church within the Upper New York area. The deadline for all applications is April 29, 2018.
Upper New York rules regarding lay equalization members state that after lay persons by virtue of office as identified by the Book of Discipline are in positions of leadership within the Annual Conference, they are granted lay equalization membership. Any remaining lay equalization memberships will be divided as equally as possible among the respective Districts of the Annual Conference. These equalization memberships will be awarded by the respective District Lay Leader(s) in consultation with organizations within the District. Attention should be given to underrepresented churches on multi-point charges, to persons who are able to bring wisdom and experience of value to the Annual Conference, and to the guidelines for inclusivity found in paragraph 140 of the 2016 Book of Discipline.
In attempt to provide equitable representation, the Upper New York Sessions Committee has implemented a process that gives opportunity for as many congregations as possible to have a Lay Equalization Member. To accomplish this goal, no more than one Lay Equalization Member from a congregation will be awarded until it is determined that every congregation has had an opportunity for one lay equalization member. Once this guarantee has been provided and prior to the deadline for lay equalization membership, District Lay Leaders may offer additional lay equalization membership to individuals from congregations that have already been awarded a lay equalization member.
Youth and young adults are exempt from this process. To encourage participation in the session of annual conference, in consultation with the District Lay Leader(s) and organizations within the District, more than one youth and/or young adult from a pastoral charge can serve as a lay equalization member.
If you have questions about this process or desire an application, please contact your District office or your pastor.
Discipleship ministries seeks to serve what the Church is becoming
March 20, 2018 / By Discipleship Ministries
The board of directors of Discipleship Ministries, at its spring meeting, took additional steps to position the agency to be more relevant and useful in order to better serve the future needs of the United Methodist Church.
“We are relentlessly committed to reimagining and reshaping our agency to match the needs of the church we are becoming,” the Rev. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary (CEO) of Discipleship Ministries, told board members during their March meeting in Nashville.
“This includes an ongoing effort to maximize our resources, while we live fully into our strategic priorities,” Dotson said. “It also means thinking ahead as we prepare for the uncertainties of the future of our church and our denomination and as we prepare for the uncertainties of the next quadrennial budget allocation.”
Discipleship Ministries is strategizing around what is mission critical in a time of great change in the church in order to position the agency to continue helping local churches make disciples of Jesus Christ, Dotson said.
“Our major aim is to maintain the core of ministries we offer that serve churches of all sizes and focus on the task of disciple making,” he said.
The agency is asking what it means to be “brokers of knowledge and conveners of strategic conversations,” Dotson said. The church needs not only experts, but perhaps even more importantly, it needs those who can leverage a village of experts and practitioners across the connection, he said.
The board reaffirmed its commitment to the agency’s ministry focus.
“We believe there is a continued hunger in our congregations to create relationships with those outside our local churches, and we are poised to help congregations create intentional disciple-making systems to fulfill those goals,” said Bishop Mark J. Webb of the Upper New York episcopal area, who chairs the board.
Discipleship Ministries is using the #SeeAllThePeople movement (www.SeeAllThePeople.org) to help congregations reach out to people outside their churches. In addition, the agency is also cultivating local resources around the globe in order to bring the voice and contributions.
Bishops, leaders of UMC-related institutions optimistic of denomination’s future
March 20, 2018 / By Council of Bishops
Several leaders of United Methodist Church-related institutions voiced optimism and are preparing for possible changes in the global denomination that could occur as a result of the Special Session of the General Conference called for February next year.
As part of its commitment of offering a proposal that would move The United Methodist Church forward with as much unity as possible. The Council has encouraged similar gatherings on each continent. Based on the recommendations from the Commission on the Way Forward the Council of Bishops will present its report to a Special Session of the General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019.
The two-day gathering in Dallas, Texas, on March 15-16 brought together leaders of foundations, colleges, seminaries and other institutions that extend the mission of the church and anchor the faith in the various public arenas of education, health, finance, community development, and others.
“As the United Methodist Church faces the possibility of deep changes, it is imperative to listen for the impact of such changes on our related institutions, and to learn from them as they have faced their own changes,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council of Bishops at the start of the meeting on Thursday evening.
Bishop Ough emphasized that the work of the Commission was not complete, and both the Council and the Commission were eager to listen to the responses from leaders to shape the work and recommendations that were being proposed.
Rev. Tom Berlin, a member of the Commission from the Virginia Conference, outlined the work that has been done so far by the 32-member Commission and how they plan to work on the final draft at their next meeting in Los Angeles, March 19-22.
The Texas Methodist Foundation of Austin, Texas, a foundation within the United Methodist denomination with a long history of offering both financial and leadership services to the church, was invited to host the meeting by the Council of Bishops.
How Cobleskill UMC increased Special Sunday Giving
Cobeleskill UMC has greatly increased their giving. For Human Relations Day, their congregation gave $65 in 2017, and $366 in 2018. And for UMCOR Sunday, they went from $420 in 2017 to $650 in 2018! Click here to find out exactly how Cobleskill UMC accomplished this increase in generous giving.
According to Cobleskill UMC pastor, the Rev. Dr. Nancy Hale, “We used the resources from umcgiving.org to increase awareness about how the donations for Special Sundays are put to use. The "explainer" videos were particularly helpful, and we used them in our PowerPoint presentation in worship. We also used graphics from that website on our Facebook page and in our worship presentations for a week or two before the Special Sunday.
Our Outreach chairperson spoke about Human Relations Day during worship, and we offered a special prayer for the various mission projects that we support through Special Sunday giving before we took up the offering.
We also reminded people about how our own region (Schoharie County) benefitted from UMCOR during the catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Irene, and we encouraged people to see our Special Sunday giving as a way to "pay it forward" so others can be helped in times of need.
Finally, we stressed our connectionalism as United Methodists, and how we can do more together. It all paid off in an amazing increase in generous giving!”
Getting Ready for Annual Conference 2018: Clergy Session and Laity Session
March 20, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson
Clergy Session and Laity Session for the 2018 Annual Conference will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday May 30 at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Clergy must check in at the registration table before heading to their session.
The Clergy Session is a time for the clergy to come together for brief worship, and to fulfill the Book of Discipline responsibilities. The primary purpose of the Clergy Session is to review and approve the Business of the Annual Conference (BAC) document prepared by the Board of Ordained Ministry. In paragraph 605 of the 2016 Book of Discipline, it states that: “…Questions relating to matters of ordination, character, and Conference relations of clergy shall be the business of the clergy session.”
For the Laity Session, Upper New York’s Board of Laity has invited laypersons from the local church, District church, Conference teams, and the wider world of UMC to offer testimonies. Young people, Volunteers in Mission team members, a local church team from the Binghamton District, and others elaborate how this year’s Conference theme, “Together in Prayer: Boldly living our Call” relates to them. The UNY Conference Lay Leader, Susan Hardy, said, “This year’s laity session will celebrate the calls and courageous experiences of laypersons throughout our UNYAC.”
Be sure to have your accommodations arranged and transportation methods determined for Wednesday, May 30, so that you can attend this year’s Clergy Session and Laity Session, which for the first time take place on a Wednesday evening as opposed to Thursday morning. Please note that the shuttles from the hotels will not run on Wednesday evening.
Reflection of my Mission of Peace trip to Cuba
March 19, 2018 / By Madeline Klein, Baker Memorial UMC
I didn’t quite know what to expect from the Mission of Peace to Cuba. A few people I know had traveled to Cuba not long ago and from the descriptions they gave me, I envisioned dirty streets, people dancing, old cars, and colorful houses. While most of these expectations proved correct, there is so much more to Cuba than what they saw as tourists. They saw the outside of Cuba, the beautiful colors of the country’s cities and beaches, but our group was able to dig deeper to see more: the incredible people and their culture.
Before going to Cuba, I thought the language barrier we faced and the divisions between our governments might prevent us from really forming bonds with the people there. Despite these differences, we were united under our common belief in God. Through that, I was able to make friends that I’ll always remember, both Cuban and American.
One of my favorite places we went to was the church of Carlos Rojas. We visited once to meet the pastor, then again on New Year’s Eve to see their preparations for the New Year’s celebration. The love and generosity the people showed us there have really stayed with me. All we did for them was visit their church and sing a few songs, then they invited us to share in their New Year’s Eve. We were able to dance with them, play dominos, and they served us a cake. One of the women made each of us a paper flower, even though we’d never met her before. I thought this was amazing: she took the time and energy to make nineteen beautiful paper flowers for people she’d never met. That night was not only fun, but also, it gave us an opportunity to learn more about the Cuban culture.
Another thing I loved was the music. In church, people got so involved in singing and dancing to the music that it made our church services at home seem pretty dull. At the Methodist church in Matanzas, two younger girls came up to me during the last praise song to dance with me. As soon as the song started, they came right over and took my hands, something I was surprised by because I tried to avoid strangers when I was younger.
They quickly saw how bad my dancing was, so they showed me the right dance moves and when to spin, and it was so much fun to be able to dance with them. This was also a moment where I could clearly see in them the face of God. Music is a huge part of a country’s culture, so it was amazing that we were so surrounded by it. We always sang when we went to churches, homes, or orphanages, which people enjoyed. The Cubans couldn’t understand what the songs meant, but they embraced our music.
I learned so much through our experience in Cuba. I learned that Cuba has both tarantulas and crocodiles, despite our translator telling us that there were no dangerous animals in Cuba. I learned that “patience, flexibility, and change” (the MOP mantra) are important to make the most of the Mission of Peace. I learned about the history of Cuba, including their perspectives on the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. I learned that people living in difficult situations, like many that participate in the handicapped children’s ministry, are happy despite their circumstances.
Everything I learned made this trip more valuable to me and made me appreciate everything I have so much more. For me, this Mission of Peace was about three main ideas: love, peace, and joy. The love our group saw in every smiling face and the love we were able to show the Cuban people. The peace I felt when we visited a quiet seminary on a hill overlooking the city of Matanzas. The joy we spread through our music as we met with the handicapped children’s ministry. That sense of love, peace, and joy is probably the most important thing I got from Cuba.
The friends I made and the memories we shared will keep alive the amazing feeling of fellowship, tranquility, and overall happiness that Cuba gave me. Learning about the Cuban history and culture was a wonderful experience and I couldn’t have asked for better people to share it with. I encourage any high schooler who wants to experience a foreign country while furthering their relationship with God to apply for the Mission of Peace.
Equitable Compensation Application for July-December 2018 available
March 19, 2018 / By UNY Communications
The Commission on Equitable Compensation has issued guidelines and application forms for salary grants to local churches for the period July 1 to December 31, 2018. Salary grants are available only to churches with a pastor under full time appointment.
To apply for salary assistance from the Equitable Compensation Fund, applicants should review the policies and procedures in the application document for guidance, and then complete the application according to the directions provided by the APRIL 9, 2018 deadline.
Please note the following documents must be submitted with your application to be considered complete:
- For churches that have already received an Equitable Compensation Grant: Renewal Application for CEC Grant only to be used by Churches currently receiving an Equitable Compensation Grant that wish to renew their grant for the July to December 2018 time period.
- For churches that have not previously received an Equitable Compensation Grant: Application for CEC Grant for July to December 2018 time period.
- Copy of the Clergy Compensation Form for all churches the UNY clergy person currently serves.
- Copy of church’s most recent budget (if serving more than one church, include budgets from all).
- Ezra Church Summary 6-Part Graphic Report.
Attach the appropriate application, along with the above documents, to an email or print them to mail to your District Superintendent for receipt by April 9, 2018.
NOTE: The application is set up as a template. To add text, tab through the document to each box and start typing. Once completed, save the document to your computer as “[your church name] July 2018.” The Commission anticipates notifying churches of its determination by late May.
Click the link below for the appropriate application. Once the application is open, download, and save it to your computer in order to fill it out electronically.
- Equitable Compensation Grant Applications (for first time applicants)
- Renewal Grant Application (for those who have previously applied and received funds)
Imagine No Racism initiative launches April 21, 2018
March 19, 2018 / By Upper New York Communications Team
Imagine No Racism (INR) is a ministry of the Upper New York Conference, in response to the Call to Action Resolution of the Northeastern Jurisdiction in July of 2016, to engage in the work of eliminating racism. INR seeks to raise consciousness and increase conversation and ministry at the local church level through a multi-year, small group approach. The goal of INR is to increase conversations on and awareness of racism and white privilege at the district and local church levels and to increase the number of ministries which impact racial justice within local churches and their surrounding communities.
Imagine No Racism will convene multiple District-level small groups, consisting of both clergy and laity, to engage in deep listening, transformative study, and meaningful action to eliminate racism and white privilege in individuals, local churches, and the communities the local churches serve.
Each District will be served by three or four District Advocates, trained by the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), who will oversee and resource the small groups within their District. The District Advocates will be connected and served by part-time paid Regional Coordinators, who will care for three Districts each, and work to collect data for assessment of the INR ministry. The Upper New York Conference Commission on Religion and Race (CCORR) and the Connectional Ministries Office, overseen by the Director of Connectional Ministries, will supervise the work of the Regional Coordinators and the Imagine No Racism ministry.
Within each of the Upper NY Conference’s 12 Districts, clergy and laity will meet in small groups once or twice a month. These small groups will be formed at a Conference-wide launch day, to be held on April 21, 2018 from 12:30-4 p.m.in each District, at the Districts’ Communication Hubs. Click here to see the District Communication Hub locations.
Each District is asked to prepare nametags for all participants that are color-coded by district regions to facilitate the formation of small groups. District Advocates will have all copies of all materials (including videos) on a flash drive from the Upper NY Conference office.
The goal of the Launch Day event is to give all participants a clear overview of the INR ministry purpose and structure, and to form the small groups within each district where the work of INR will take place. The event will include:
- Opening worship
- Welcome by Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb, livestreamed from the United Methodist Center
- Reference to the NEJ Call to Action
- Explanation and formation of small groups
- Small group meetings with District Advocates
- Videos presentations by members of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism, followed by discussion
- Video by Teressa Sivers, chair of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism and the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens on the Wesleyan Covenant and INR Covenant
- Signing of the INR Covenant
After the formation of the small groups on April 21, every small group will meet at least monthly to engage in a curriculum designed in partnership with GCORR. The first six weeks of the curriculum is designed to guide the small groups through deep listening and transformative study regarding racism and white privilege, with attention to our theological understanding of baptism and our call to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
The small groups are intended to be an ongoing ministry, moving from deep learning and transformative study, through naming racism in their local church and context, to purposeful action in the local church and wider community.
The work of eliminating racism, personally and systemically, is much like moving through the stages of grief. Though the goal is to continually be moving into action, many times individuals and small groups will need to pause to return to deep listening, transformative study, and naming racism and white privilege.
Throughout the process, the Conference will assess the work of INR through the number of small groups and individual participants, the number of intentional ministries within the local churches started by the district small INR groups, and the number of local church and community ministries that impact racial justice. This material will be collected through the District Advocates, Regional Coordinators, and CCORR. The small groups are also designed to act as a support group for the laity and clergy members as they move into action in their local church and community.
INR will utilize the reporting of District Advocates and Regional Coordinators, and church Conference forms and pastor one-on-one meetings with their District Superintendents. CCORR will assess the progression of this data at 6 months, 1 year, 18 months, 2 year, and then yearly going forward.
Blaney sisters celebrate 100th birthdays
March 14, 2018 / By Pastor Ken Blume, Apulia UMC
Three sisters, Ruth Smith, 102 years; Marion Rakov, 101 years, and Louise Henderson who turned 100 today, March 14, 2018, will be celebrating their centennial birthdays together with an upcoming family gathering and dinner.
They are the daughters of the late John and Pearle Squire Blaney of Apulia Station, NY.
They account for their longevity to being raised in the country and working on the family dairy farm, plus never smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. Ruth and Louise have lived in the Apulia area their entire lives, while Marion moved to Syracuse for better job opportunities.
They have been lifelong members of the Apulia United Methodist Church. Their family offered the land on which the church stands today. They were baptized in the church when they were young, joined the church membership in their teenage years around 1928, and were married and raised their families, all participating in church activities. They have been supporting members in the church’s fundraising efforts working at smorgasbord suppers, bake sales, annual rummage and craft sales, etc. They also were loyal members of the Women’s Society of Christian Services (WSCS) that worked to raise funds for Methodist outreach programs in foreign and developing countries to further support the spread of Christianity, especially Methodism, providing food, clothing and medical care to those in need throughout the world.
We congratulate these women on attaining their 100th birthdays and thank them for their lifelong service to the Apulia United Methodist Church. May you all enjoy many more years of good health and happiness.
My faith transformation during my Mission of Peace trip to Cuba
March 12, 2018 / By Gavin Hill, Eden United Methodist Church
Editor’s Note: The Mission of Peace (MOP) is a yearly journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Council on Youth Ministries of The United Methodist Church. The most recent MOP trip was to Cuba, Dec. 28, 2017-Jan. 12, 2018. Fourteen youth went on the trip, of which four were from Upper New York.
The day before we left for Cuba, I felt super scared and I made this prayer that was inspired from Psalm 91:1-12. I wrote, “Lord. My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. I ask that you deliver me from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. I ask that you cover me, and I will find refuge; your faithfulness is a shield and buckler. I ask that I not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day. Thank you.” This prayer made me feel very comforted. And this, was only the beginning of my faiths transformation
Upon arriving to Cuba, I was nervous because we walked out of the airport and a crowd of people are staring at us. I immediately had a bad feeling. Then, we walked to the parking lot and my emotions completely changed. Our transportation was a painted school bus with writing that said, “love” and “End the blockade on Cuba.”
On the way to the house of Farfan (the place we stayed) I saw the immense beauty God had created in Cuba with the vast fields and palm trees. Also, the crystal clear blue ocean. When we arrived the owner, Ricardo made us popcorn and told us about the house. He was so friendly and right then, I knew that Cuba was a place of community and love.
Throughout the trip, we visited pastors and churches.
One of the days, we were visited by a professor by the name of Daniel Montoya. He told us about the history of Christianity in Cuba and asked us a very deep question. He started by quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Junior. “I have a dream but with open eyes.” He then proceeded to ask, “what is your dream?” I was completely stumped. I thought my dream at that moment was to go to the Olympics for track and field. I was then proven wrong over the course of the trip. My dream is to go to the Olympics when I am a senior, so I can show people the great things God has done to me. However, that is not the end of my dream. God has been calling me to be a pastor for quite some time and this trip helped me accept it. I hope to go to the Olympics 1-3 times; however, my true dream is to be a pastor and change people’s lives.
We spent much of our time at a place known as “The Farm.” The Farm works with the CCM (Cuban Connectional Ministries). We ate most of our meals there; we played a lot of frisbee, taught people how to juggle, cleaned up rubble, found tarantulas, and we really connected with the Cubans and the differently enabled children.
One thing I learned at The Farm is that you don’t need to keep purchasing more luxuries for yourself. One of the men, Armando, had a “Frankenstein car.” Under his hood were parts from different makers. Some of these were, Chevy, Hidi, Suzu, Toyota, Yelee, and a lot more. The reason for these different parts is because he can’t afford a new car.
For New Years, we had a huge celebration. A bunch of people came to The Farm for a bonfire. At that fire, we talked about how it is a new start and we need to leave the bad and the good behind. And something that I shared with everyone was Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I wanted to remind people that in the coming year that no matter how dark things get, Christ will strengthen you, and you will rise up and complete the task.
One of the most special moments of the trip was when all the guys met in our room and we had a Bible study. It was so great because it was an impromptu Bible study. No one had planned it, I just asked Gabe what his favorite verse was and then, all the guys are in the room and we are all sharing verses.
We also visited two orphanages. It was really great to visit the orphanage with older kids because they told us their whole process. When a kid turns 18, they are supposed to leave. However, if they don’t have a job or a house then, they can stay at the orphanage until that happens. There was a woman who was old enough to leave; however, she had a baby, so she could stay to make sure the baby gets enough food.
The last time we visited the differently enabled children, I worked with the children. I mostly worked with this one girl that I never got the name of but, I will never forget. I colored with her for most of the time and then, one of the volunteers made an origami boat and gave it to hear. The little girl then gave that boat to me. For that reason, I will never forget her.
Upon leaving it was very sad. The night before we looked at photos to recap the trip and we said goodbyes. There were so many tears, which illustrated how close we became to each other. The friends that I made on this trip are friends that I never will forget. I will never forget this amazing experience and all the people that helped shape me into a better person.
Social Holiness Concerns: Promoting Human Rights for all, especially children
March 6, 2018 / By Karen Peterson, Task Force of Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel
Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes children in military courts, with approximately 500 to 700 children entering Israeli military detention system in a year.
UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) has repeatedly called upon Israel to end night arrests and ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in military detention.
On November 14, 2017, legislation was introduced in the US Congress entitled Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, which declares that “Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children”, and seeks to prevent the US from financing Israel’s military detention, interrogation, abuse and ill-treatment of Palestinian children.
Please stop by the Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel table at Annual Conference to learn more about day to day life for Palestinians especially children and sign our petition.
Lenten suggestion: Imagine a day with only 4 hours of electricity! For roughly $1,000, a solar panel and battery can be provided for a family in Gaza, enabling the family to have light, refrigeration, and maybe even charge a phone or computer if they had one. At best, Gazan families get 3 to 4 hours of power per day and some days none! What a gift a solar panel and battery would be!
A donation of any amount may be sent to the Shepherd Society through UM Church Advance #3020439. Include a letter with your donation specifying you wish it to be used for solar panel and battery for Gazan family. The Shepherd Society was started in 1996 by Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem to help meet the needs of some of their neighbors.
Coaching is an interactive, dynamic, team approach toward achieving a person’s goal
March 6, 2018 / By Rev. Chrys Beck and Rev. Ray Stees, approved UNY coaches
Editor’s Note: Many Upper New York Conference leaders find benefits in coaching sessions. Below, Rev. Chrys Beck and Rev. Ray Stees describe the coaching process.
Through a process that includes deep listening and powerful questions, a coach journeys alongside the client providing a supportive atmosphere where new possibilities are discovered or created, expanded, and explored. The coach engages the beauty and grace of the client’s God-given life purpose and affirms the client’s inner resources and spiritual gifts. Together, coach and client develop a strategy whereby the client commits to a values-oriented action plan that achieves the client’s goal.
While coaching is similar to other helping disciplines it is not in itself therapy, mentoring, spiritual direction, consulting, or training. Coaching helps empower a person into his or her preferred future. Since the purpose of coaching is to maximize one’s effectiveness in achieving success, coaching stays in the present, builds on strengths, assumes competence, and taps into the client’s own experience, wisdom, and resolve to generate solutions and follow through on the client’s chosen action plan.
How might a coaching partnership benefit the local church? Coaching is a valuable resource for lay and clergy who are seeking to discern a direction or are beginning a new ministry, ministry context or leadership position. A church can help to ensure a good start, for example, for their new Sunday School Superintendent, Church Council Chair or Staff Pastor Parish Relationship Committee by contracting with a coach for a few sessions. More and more clergy across denominations benefit from time spent with a coach. This relationship can be especially useful for clergy during times of personal or professional transition, such as discerning a new call, when ending and beginning appointments, marriage, starting a family or moving into retirement.
Disciples in any leadership position can contract with a coach through the Upper New York Conference Coaching Network. Clergy may use Continuing Education (Accountable Reimbursement) funds and churches may choose to invest in a block of coaching sessions as training for laity in leadership positions. In some cases, the UNY Conference may provide coaching at no cost to the coachee. Clergy may count coaching sessions toward their required annual continuing education.
To learn more about becoming a coachee, contact Upper New York Director of New Faith Communities, the Rev. Dave Masland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bishop Proctor serving as Annual Conference 2018 ordination speaker
March 6, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Bishop Dennis Proctor of the North Eastern Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church will serve as the ordination speaker for the 2018 Upper New York Annual Conference session (UNYAC).
“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to speak to young ordinands,” Bishop Proctor said. “As a Methodist Bishop, I feel that the setting aside of young women and men in ministry is indeed a sacred privilege. As such, the charge delivered at the ordination service is weighty!”
Bishop Proctor is a native of Buffalo and graduate of the Syracuse public school system. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Livingstone College, a Master of Arts in pastoral care and counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary, a clinical pastoral experience diploma from Western Reserve Psychiatric Habilitation Center, a Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University College of Law, and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary.
In addition to his education, he is the founding president of the Congress of National Black Churches, Baltimore Affiliate, co-authored Christians Under Construction, and served on his denomination’s Connectional Budget Board and Overseas Missions Board.
Bishop Proctor has held three pastorates: the St. James AME Zion Church in Massillon, Ohio, where he led the congregation in the building of a new church and purchased a parsonage; the St. Luke AME Zion Church of Wilmington, N.C., where he led the congregation in remodeling the church, purchasing a new parsonage, and commissioning a life-size mural; and the Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church in Baltimore, Md., where he remodeled the facility, acquired additional property, created a full-time ministerial staff, and implemented over 20 ministry areas.
As ordination speaker, Bishop Proctor said he will attempt to place a counter-culture argument to these preachers in the Wesleyan tradition, “one intent on being a credible Christian example to the flock of God.”
Bishop Proctor said through the invitation to serve as ordination speaker at this year’s UNYAC session, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is demonstrating the full scope of itinerant collaboration.
“We are shepherds of the Lord’s sheepfold. Different sheep, same needs,” Bishop Proctor said. “This is more than symbolic reconciliation; it is the format for the construction of the beloved community.”
The Service of Commissioning and Ordination takes place June 2 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. For more information about this year’s AC session, click here.
Editor's Note: Some information from this article came from amez.org.
How Mission Partner Churches can help International Reconciliation Ministries
Editor’s Note: The Upper New York Conference is launching a new program called the Mission Congregation Process whereby churches can connect with a church with a large immigrant population to pray for them and help support them. Click here to read more about this new process. Below, learn about International Reconciliation Ministries, the New Faith Community chosen to be a pilot for this program.
Pastor John Bizimana leads the International Reconciliation Ministries. Pastor Bizimana came to this country as a refuge of violence in the Congo. His vision (as depicted in the name of the church) is to provide a church where people can experience reconciliation with God and with people that may have been on the other side of the violence in their home country. Pastor Bizimana was a member of the minority tribe in the Congo that suffered thousands of losses to the majority tribe including many of his closest friends and family. His church is made up of persons from both tribes(approximately 50 percent from each tribe), and together they are experiencing the forgiveness of God and each other. And, they are blessing the lives of African immigrants from many countries throughout the city of Albany. They are now worshipping with an average of about 75 each week, with 140+ active persons. Many of these are youth and children.
Pastor Bizimana said, “Here in the church, we help everyone, regardless of tribe or background. We don’t make any differences between them when we provide assistance. We call everyone ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’ Everyone from every tribe gets the same treatment. By sharing acts of mercy – visiting them in their homes, helping with shopping and transportation, eating together, we break down the barriers. In the refugee camp, persons from each tribe will say they fled from the other tribe. Here, we visit each other and become one. The war continues even now. Each person who arrives bears the trauma of having seen family members killed by the other tribe. “
The Mission of the International Reconciliation Ministries is:
- To help persons from different tribes and backgrounds reconcile with each other and with God.
- To help people feel like home by worshiping in the African tradition in their common language.
- To bring revival among the people who come here in the new life (many get a job and forget God).
When the African refugees arrive to the Albany area, they face many challenges. They don’t know English; they do not have financial resources, transportation, or employment. They also need an orientation to the new life here in the United States. Pastor Bizimana said, “International Reconciliation Ministries invests time, money, and care in orienting the newly arrived. Those who have been here longer, help those who have just arrived. Those who are already employed can help the newly arrived find jobs and learn the language, so they can work.”
Pastor Bizimana continued, describing some of the other ways that his New Faith Community helps refugees, “We show them where to shop for food and clothes and how to cook with what they buy. We help them with medical appointments and connect them with the Department of Social Services. We work closely with RISSE, also a ministry of Emmaus: Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus. At RISSE, they can take English classes and find some legal assistance and other services.”
While International Reconciliation Ministries is greatly helping refugees from the Congo ease in to life in Albany and revive their relationship with God, help from mission partner churches could benefit the refugees in even more ways.
Current needs at the church include:
- A flat screen television for Sunday school classes, for children and adults.
- A newer model computer with email and word processing software for the office, and a printer.
- A van for transportation Pastor Bizimana said, “We have to bring many of our refugees to and from church for both services Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. We also bring them to their medical, social, and refugee agencies appointments. Any 8-12 passenger van in good working order would be greatly appreciated.”
- A donation of money to help us pay for insurance and gas for the van (approximately $2500 for a year).
- A donation of money so that 2 or 3 unrelated persons can provide Safe-Sanctuary sensitive child care for many children during Saturday and Sunday services for 3 hours each week (approximately $3,000 for a year)
- A donation of money to allow IRM to hold its Annual International Reconciliation Conference. Hundreds of African immigrants come from Canada and all over the Northeast for worship, food, games, and to hear the good news of the gospel. Pastor Bizimana said, “This year’s Conference will be held on July 6th, 7th, and 8th and everyone is invited! All sessions have translation provided. The ministry sometimes aids with travel expenses for those who come from a distance and we provide meals for attendees as well as help with lodging.” (approximately $2,000 for each year)
How can your church become a mission partner with this New Faith Community? First, you can become a prayer partner with them. Second, you and a small group of interested people could plan a trip to Albany to meet Pastor Bizimana and the people of his church, experience their high energy worship, and spend some time learning each other’s stories. They worship on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. Third, you could make a monetary donation or help with the aforementioned needs of this growing congregation.
To reach Pastor Bizimana to arrange for a donation or a visit to his New Faith Community, he can be contacted at email@example.com.
As mentioned above, connecting your church with the International Reconciliation Ministry (and others in the future) in a meaningful way is the goal of the Mission Congregation Process. If your church wants to get involved, please contact Rev. Dave Masland at (firstname.lastname@example.org). You will be invited to take advantage of some training to equip your team to relate with confidence and humility to people of another culture, and then will be given opportunity to create a long-term relationship (1-3 years) that will impact both your church and theirs. Rev. Masland is always available to answer questions. More Mission Congregations will be added soon.
Getting Ready for Annual Conference 2018: Meals
March 5, 2018 / By Vicki Swanson
NEW for this year is a Welcome to Annual Conference Buffet which will greet members upon arrival Thursday morning at Onondaga Community College (OCC)! This will be a continental breakfast which will run from 7- 9 a.m. (THURSDAY ONLY).
All meals, except special banquets, will be buffet style. Name tags will need to be visible when going through any of the buffet lines. Click here to see the menus for each meal to be served at Annual Conference.
PLEASE NOTE that there will be separate lines for those with a special need or dietary restriction … and only those persons who have so indicated a need on their registration form will be able to utilize those lines. This will INCLUDE persons who need or prefer to eat vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or who have indicated a food allergy.
Special banquets – Extension Ministries Luncheon, Memorial Dinner, and the Board of Ordained Ministry Dinner – are by invitation only. RESERVATIONS MUST BE MADE … Please follow instructions in the invitation letter for making reservations.
You should also be aware that there are very few restaurants/eateries in the OCC area. However, there are two opportunities for hot/cold beverages and snacks. A concession stand will be open on the upper concourse level of the Arena building. And we are anticipating that “Wholely Grounds” at The ROAD, a coffee house and New Faith Community of The United Methodist Church, will be open at 4845 W. Seneca Turnpike about one mile from OCC. Their hours will be: Wednesday- 1 -10 p.m., Thursday- 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 7 a.m.-10 p.m., and Saturday 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. Click here to view the Wholey Grounds menu.
Blueprint for Wellness Annual Conference Event Pre-Registration Begins
March 5, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Wespath Benefits and Investments and The Center For Health has again teamed up with Quest Diagnostics to offer "Blueprint for Wellness," a free health screening program for eligible participants* in the Upper New York Conference. Quest Diagnostics will be at the Upper New York Annual Conference event at Onondaga Community College (SRC Arena/Allyn Hall Room A182), on Thursday, May 31 and Friday, June 1 from 6 to 10 AM.
This is an opportunity to obtain a free comprehensive "biometric" screening which provides information about your heart, liver and kidney function, diabetes risk and blood sugar control, calcium and iron – plus PSA screening for men. In addition to having information to take to your doctor to help implement a wellness plan, HealthFlex participants can earn $100 in Virgin Pulse HealthMiles Cash.**
Pre-Registration is strongly recommended for the Annual Conference event. You can register for an appointment between now and May 18. A limited amount of walk-ins will be allowed depending on time and supply availability. Walk-ins must provide a HealthFlex ID number at the time of the screening.
You may also choose to get your screening at a local Quest laboratory between April 1 and July 31. Pre-registration is required and appointments can be made beginning March 15.
Click here for instructions on how to register at Annual Conference, as well as fasting requirements.
Click here for 2018 HealthFlex Wellness Incentives FAQs.
*IMPORTANT! Please note: The screening is only available to participants and spouses covered by the HealthFlex PPO B1000 and CDHP plans, and participants and spouses enrolled in Via Benefits. The screening is not available to participants or spouses enrolled through AmWINS.
**To earn the $100 in HealthCash, you must be a HealthFlex participant enrolled in Virgin Pulse by the end of the day of your screening (Via Benefits participants are not eligible for the HealthCash). To enroll in Virgin Pulse, login to your HealthFlex/WebMD account at: https://www.webmdhealth.com/gbophb/, choose “Join Virgin Pulse” and following the instructions.
Upper New York Annual Conference 2018 registration is open
March 1, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Registration is now open for the Upper New York Annual Conference session, held May 30-June 2 at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.
Lifetree Cafe: an outreach ministry of Pennsylvania Avenue UMC
February 28, 2018 / By Sue Dunlap, Pennsylvania Avenue UMC
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on the ministry of the laity.
Lifetree Café, an outreach ministry of Pennsylvania Avenue UMC and its Fresh Start Faith Communities, provides a new interactive opportunity that invites people to gather weekly to explore life and faith. Dubbed as a “Conversation Café,” this nationally-syndicated program distributed by Group Publishing features real stories of real people, guided conversation, Biblical insights, prayer, and time to build relationships, laughter and fun all in one hour each week!
There is no membership, no preaching, no singing, and no cost for the participant. Each week, the Lifetree Café Values are read aloud… “You’re welcome just as you are. Your thoughts are welcome. Your doubts are welcome. We’re all in this together. God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way.”
We first started Lifetree Café at our Fresh Start Corner in Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY four years ago as a way to connect with people in a secular setting. Currently, we host Lifetree Café on Thursdays 7-8p.m. at our Fresh Start Church House, located at 206 Fourth St. in Watkins Glen, NY, and this has proven to be a positive way to establish a foothold in the village as we develop a New Faith Community.
We believe that God is at work in everyone’s life all the time. Our goal is to help, not hinder, and to bring people from all walks of life into relationships with each other and with Jesus Christ.
Doug Pollock writes in his book, God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally, “Both Christians and non-Christians have very real perceptions about one another that keep us from interacting in redeeming ways. It’s been said that the only thing more difficult than getting the Church to go to the world is getting the world to come to us….I believe God wants Christians to make the first move….If not-yet Christians are convinced the Church is not a safe space to experience community or inquire about their spiritual yearnings, where is that space? And what does it look like in a world that increasingly says no to our traditional God spaces?”
Lifetree employs methods that Jesus used:
- He befriended.
- He met real human needs.
- He welcomed nonbelievers and outcasts.
- He engaged people in conversation.
- He asked questions. He listened.
- He told stories.
- He let people grapple with the meaning of His stories.
- He patiently let people discover who He is: their Lord and Savior.
And Jesus used regular everyday people to carry out His work. Likewise, Lifetree Café relies on everyday followers of Christ to carry out its mission, to lead the program and associated activities, to participate in Lifetree conversations and to shine the light of Christ.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Lifetree Café provides a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, even those with questions, doubts, opposing beliefs…and we’re there to serve them, love them and to demonstrate to them the love of Jesus. How? First we pray! Then we create a cozy, coffeehouse atmosphere with tables for four–the ideal number for some real conversation and sharing. Next, we gather a Friendship Team- a small group willing to setup simple refreshments and drinks, be ready to welcome our guests, sit at a table, and be a part of the conversation and build friendships. And we pray some more! When the hour begins, a ‘Host’ introduces the topic and asks a prepared ice-breaker question from a script provided with the monthly materials…and the Lifetree Café begins! The hour continues with excerpts from the weekly topic, interspersed with group questions.
Lifetree Café tackles the topics that most people deal with—topics about the big (and little) stuff that shapes our lives: Family. Friends. Fears. Busyness. Balance. Money. Materialism. Health. Heaven. Peace. Purpose. People are encouraged to share their stories, with their own group of four, and sometimes with the larger group, and to listen to others stories.
At Lifetree, faith isn’t a subject to be mastered. It’s a relationship to be nurtured. We plant seeds. We water them. But the miracle of growth is God’s to perform. Lifetree Café simply creates an environment for the Holy Spirit to work.
Lifetree Café discussion groups are hosted in a variety of venues, such as coffeehouses, cafés, pubs, restaurants, community centers, and churches. For additional information on starting your own Lifetree Café, contact the website: www.LifetreeCafé.com.
Upper New York Conference is “Praying Our Way Forward”
February 28, 2018 / By UNY Communications Team
“Praying Our Way Forward” is an initiative created by the Council of Bishops, in which every Conference around the world is invited to participate and engage in a week of intentional prayer for the Commission on A Way Forward.
The week of March 4-10 was selected as the week for the UNY Conference to pray.
The Commission is preparing recommendations for the Council to offer to General Conference on the matter of human sexuality related to ordination and marriage. The General Conference will be considering and voting on recommendations at a special session in February 2019. Click here to watch a video about the initiative.
Upper New York Area Resident Mark J. Webb described several ways that everyone across the Conference can participate in this important week of prayer. He said,
“In this season of discernment for the future of our beloved United Methodist Church, we need to pray. We need to pray for the members of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops, the Upper New York delegation and all delegations that will participate in the special called session of General Conference in Feb. 2019. I urge you to personally set a time each day for prayer; gather with others in a small group setting and pray; or participate or plan a prayer service in your local church. Pray for God’s wisdom; pray for our ability to listen; pray for our willingness to say yes to the direction of God for our life together. Before the vote on a way forward comes, let’s engage in the work of praying forward for the glory of God.”
Here are some ways you can pray during this significant week:
- Set a time each day specifically to pray for the Commission on A Way Forward
- Organize a prayer vigil or prayer circle in your congregation
- Invite people to sign up for 15-30 minutes of meditation and prayer for a specific day
- If there is a church meeting or event scheduled during March 4-10, offer a special prayer in opening and closing devotions
- Start a prayer chain for each day specifically for the Commission on a Way Forward
Intentional prayer for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward is important for a fruitful future for the United Methodist Church to continue making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Spotlight on the Dr. Rev. Gregory Jones, Upper New York Annual Conference 2018 study leader
The Rev. Dr. Gregory Jones of Duke Divinity School will be the guest study leader and this year’s Annual Conference (AC2018), which will be held from May 30-June 2, at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena. Rev. Jones’ emphasis will be on living our call in the Wesleyan Way.
Rev. Jones said, “There is a distinctive Wesleyan Way to living and thinking and feeling as Christians, and we can chart significant paths forward into the future by mining our own best insights. This Wesleyan Way involves holding things together that others put into opposition and involves us embodying a powerful vision of social innovation.” Rev. Jones will be drawing insights from the Wesleyan movement in England and will also provide modern-day examples of the Wesleyan Way in the United States and around the world.
Rev. Jones will be leading two study sessions. The titles of his first presentation is “The End is our Beginning” Rev. Jones said, “This presentation focuses on the importance of us being guided by a robust vision of the Reign of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit in conforming us to Christ while making all things new.”
The title of Rev. Jones’ second presentation is “Forming Christians for Social Innovation.” Rev. Jones said, “The second presentation will focus on friendships and practices that shape and form us to be people who bear witness to the Holy Spirit’s work.”
Rev. Jones’ presentations will certainly fit nicely into the AC2018 theme: “Together in Prayer: Boldly living our Call.” When asked about the theme, Rev. Jones said, “Prayer is at the heart of keeping us focused on the End (bearing witness to the Reign of God and testifying to the power of the Holy Spirit). We are to be discerning our calling in all we are and do, laity and clergy alike. And we need to do so boldly by imagining and embodying extraordinary social innovation in the world.”
You will leave AC2018 inspired with some imaginative examples and empowered with specific calls-to-action you can do in your home contexts after hearing Rev. Jones’ presentations.
Toronto UMC unites with the Upper New York Conference as a New Faith Community
February 27, 2018 / By UNY Communications Team
In November 2017, the pastors and Church Council Chair of Toronto United Methodist Church met with the Rev. David Masland (Upper New York Director of New Faith Communities) and the Rev. Wayne Butler (Niagara Frontier District Superintendent) to discuss uniting with the Upper NY Conference as a New Faith Community.
This young congregation (it’s only five years old and made up primarily of people in their 30s) is largely comprised of families who have immigrated to Toronto, Ontario from the Philippines. Most of the congregation were members of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines and wished to maintain that relationship in their new homeland. Since the Methodist Church became part of the United Church of Canada in 1925, their Bishop recommended that they contact the Upper NY Conference and seek to become affiliated here
On Sunday, Feb. 18, Rev. Butler and Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer traveled to Toronto to join the congregation in worship and conduct the first charge conference they have held since the start of the church. While charge conferences may seem simply a matter of taking care of business for most United Methodist Churches, this congregation approached the event with excitement, enthusiasm, and great joy. When informed that they were already recognized as a New Faith Community by the Upper NY Conference, the group broke out into spontaneous applause.
Rev. Butler said, “It’s exciting to work with such a young congregation, especially since they bring a new international and cross-cultural perspective to the Niagara Frontier District. Their excitement over holding their first charge conference was contagious.”
The Toronto congregation has already planted a new congregation (Cornerstone Community) in a community two-hours northwest of Toronto, which Rev. Manny Valdez serves while on a one-year leave from the Toronto congregation. During this time, Rev. Efren Limos is pastoring the Toronto UMC.
The pastors and lay members of Toronto UMC plan to attend Annual Conference session in Syracuse this spring, where it is hoped that they will be recognized by the body and welcomed as our first international congregation in the Upper NY Conference.
International Reconciliation Ministries to be a pilot for UNY’s new Mission Congregation Process
The Mission Congregation Process of Upper New York (UNY) Conference is a new effort to connect existing United Methodist churches in partnerships with New Faith Communities and churches that are actively making new disciples with immigrant and refugee populations throughout upper New York. These partnerships can include any of the following: relationship building, praying for one another, worship and spiritual development together, VIM trips to do needed work on buildings, donations of money or resources to support the ministry.
The purpose of the Mission Congregation Process is two-fold: To assist in developing and implementing strategies to help a New Faith Community or church that is making disciples with new people to become a fully self-sustaining community of faith; And, to provide an opportunity for all UNY United Methodists to be engaged in significant relationships and ministry with the poor in ways that are mutually beneficial.
The appointive cabinet will identify the Mission Congregations, and then work with the Communications Team to get the word out to the Annual Conference about opportunities for partnership. To begin, the International Reconciliation Ministries in Albany has been identified as a pilot program for this new process.
The Rev. David Masland, UNY Director of New Faith Communities, said “International Reconciliation Ministry has been one of our UM New Faith Communities since 2014. They are consistently welcoming new people of all ages into worship, Bible study, and service. In many ways, they are stronger than most of our existing churches! However, they are constantly held back by their financial challenges. Our vision is to give other churches the chance to know them, partner with them, learn from them, and help them to become financially self-sustaining.”
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for an in-depth article about International Reconciliation Ministry and the specific needs they have.
Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood appointed for an eighth year
February 22, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb has announced that the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood will be appointed to the office of District Superintendent for an eighth year.
“After consultation with Dr. Rood and with the members of the Cornerstone District Committee on Superintendency, I am delighted to share that Sherri will continue to provide leadership to the Cornerstone District, the Cabinet and the annual conference for an eighth and final year,” Bishop Webb said. “Sherri is a gift to this annual conference and the work of the Cabinet. Her commitment to Christ and the Church is steadfast. Her leadership as the Dean of the UNY Cabinet over the past three years has made us stronger and more effective. We are blessed to have her continue to serve with us and among us.”
The normal term for a district superintendent is six years but may be extended up to eight years at the bishop's discretion, in consultation with the Cabinet and the District Committee on Superintendency.
Rev. Rood said, “I am blessed to serve with the pastors and churches of the Cornerstone District as well as Bishop Webb, the Cabinet, and Conference staff. We have done significant work together in building up the Body of Christ. I look forward to a final year of ministry together as we prepare the Cornerstone District to receive their next superintendent.”
Rush UMC fulfills dream with two projects
February 20, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
When the Rush United Methodist Church was built a little over 20 years, there was always a desire to use the church’s land to provide opportunities for the community.
The first opportunity came when the church built a large picnic pavilion – that seats 150 people – for public use, said the Rev. Cathy Hall Stengel, pastor at the Rush UMC.
More recently, the church expanded upon this dream with two projects.
About 18 months ago, a men’s group, Carpenter & Sons, formed at the Rush UMC with the goal of building a woodshop in a room downstairs in the church. They transformed a former choir room into a room fully equipped with power tools, work tables, and a small office for woodworking, various repairs, building, and more. On Monday nights, the group can be found refinishing things downstairs or working upstairs on an addition to the church.
And the room isn’t just used for church purposes; anyone can use the woodshop, like a local handyman who, at times, will utilize the room to craft projects for customers.
“It is not limited other than some safety regulations – no children using power tools,” said Rev. Stengel. “And it's not just for men – it just so happens that it was created by our men’s group.”
And two amazing things have happened as a result, Rev. Stengel said.
“It’s drawn some people into both partnership and small group settings that weren’t and re-engaged some of our older men who thought that their skills weren’t valuable anymore because they couldn’t do what they used to do,” she said. “And they have realized that God’s not finished with them, and we’re not finished with them.”
The woodshop will soon install a donated dust removal system.
In addition to the woodshop, the Rush UMC is also reaching out to the community through a canoe/kayak shed building, which was delivered about two weeks ago.
Rev. Stengel said the idea for this building was “born out of unfortunate loss,” after a member of the congregation passed away in his early 50s. When Dan Varble’s memorial gifts came in, the church consulted with his loved ones to decide how to honor him. In keeping with his passion for Boy Scouts, the outdoors, and physical activity, they chose to support and enhance canoeing and kayaking at the creek behind the church with the shed.
“Now we have the opportunity to reach out to and support the greater kayak and canoe community,” Rev. Stengel said.
In the spring, racks will be built for people to put their canoes or kayaks, and there will be at least one canoe or kayak available for public use.
“These two places of ministry have been born out of a passion/interest within the congregation – with the dream that those who are outside of our current ministry might be blessed by them,” Rev. Stengel said.
Soup sale helps kids go to camp
February 20, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
Children at the Odessa-Catharine United Methodist Church rarely had the opportunity to go to camp during the summer, so the church decided to do something about it – with the help of soup.
For the past few years, the Odessa-Catharine UMC has hosted its Soup-to-Go-Sale to raise money for the "Send our Kids to Camp Scholarship Fund,” which helps send the church’s children to summer camp at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center.
“We’re a very small church, so we know that it’s very expensive for the children’s families to be able to afford the camp,” said the Rev. Sheila Price, pastor at the Odessa-Catharine UMC. “So, we wanted to be able to pay half the camp expenses for each child who wanted to go.”
For the past two years, seven children from the church have gone to camp – up from zero – thanks to funds raised by the soup sale.
This year, the church hosted their Soup-to-Go Sale on Feb. 3, offering four varieties of homemade soup: broccoli cheese, corn chowder, hamburger, and chicken vegetable.
Members of congregation, parents, Rev. Price, and anybody willing to help were given the four recipes for continuity and then made the soups at home.
The church took pre-orders of the soup for $8 per quart. Those who placed orders picked them up Feb. 3. This year, more than 114 pre-orders were placed and $1,295 was raised.
Rev. Price said the church got the idea for the soup sale because they had hosted one in the past as well as because people come to their holiday bazaar each year for the church’s “famous” broccoli cheese and hamburger soups.
“I guess the reason we do this at all is we’re kind of famous for two of our soups,” she said. “We knew that it was very well-liked.”
And Rev. Price said going to camp has been a wonderful experience for the children, who come back excited, sharing what a great time they had at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center.
“It’s not so much that we did a soup sale,” she said. “The congregation really wants their kids to go to summer camp and really wants to be able to make that possible for more of the children.”
Bishop Webb names Rev. Earthrowl as Adirondack District Superintendent
February 19, 2018 / By UNY Communications
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is pleased to announce his intention to appoint the Rev. Deborah Earthrowl as Superintendent of the Adirondack District, effective July 1.
Rev. Earthrowl currently serves as pastor of the Salem and West Hebron United Methodist churches in the Adirondack District. She has been involved in various leadership positions in Upper New York, as well as a predecessor conference. She currently serves on the UNY Board of Ordained Ministry, the UNY New Faith Community Leadership Team, and serves as a coach with the coaching network through Vital Congregations. Rev. Earthrowl is also currently a member of the Adirondack District Leadership Team and has been a volunteer director at Skye Farm for nearly 20 years.
Previously, Rev. Earthrowl served on UNY Town & Country Ministries, the Troy Conference Small Membership Church Committee, the Troy Conference Board of Ordained Ministry as the diaconal ministry representative, and the Troy Conference Diaconal Ministries Committee.
“Rev. Earthrowl brings a contagious love for Jesus and a commitment for assisting the church in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Bishop Webb said. “Debbie’s experience and love for ministry in all settings, specifically rural ministry, will be a gift to the work of Upper New York and the Adirondack District. Her knowledge of and relationships with clergy and laity in the Adirondack District will be a great blessing and asset in this role. I am delighted to have Debbie join the work of the Cabinet.
Current Adirondack District Superintendent the Rev. William Mudge will be appointed to First United Methodist Church in Baldwinsville, effective July 1.
“Rev. Mudge has served with faithfulness, passion and love. He has been a steady presence in the work of the Cabinet and throughout the UNY Conference, living out his commitment to Christ and the Church with a servant’s heart,” Bishop Webb said. “Bill will be missed in this role, but I celebrate with he and Shari this new beginning in ministry and mission.
“I invite you to keep these two servants of Christ, as well as the congregations of Salem, West Hebron, First Baldwinsville, and the Adirondack District in your prayers during this time of transition,” Bishop Webb said.
Rev. Earthrowl has a Master of Divinity from Drew University, a Master of library and information science from SUNY Albany, and a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from SUNY Oneonta. She is married to Jonathan Earthrowl, and they have three children and seven grandchildren.
From the Desk of Bishop Webb: Response to the school shooting in Florida
February 15, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Editor's note: On Feb. 15 Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter about the shooting at a Florida high school.
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Our hearts ache and our spirits grieve as once again senseless violence and evil has taken the lives of innocent people. I invite you to join me in praying for the victims and families of the shooting yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Our prayers are with our United Methodist brothers and sisters in the communities of Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida as they seek to be the presence of Christ during this horrific time.
Like you, I watch and listen as people attempt to make sense of events like this. I hear the discussions that attempt to find a reason and then ultimately a solution. We must lead and be engaged in the conversations that address the moral and spiritual decay in our society. We must lead and be engaged in the conversations that work toward ending all acts of violence and evil, including gun violence. We must lead and be engaged in the conversations that seek to address the hopelessness, fear, and spiritual yearnings found in each person. We must confess our lack of compassion, passion, and urgency in offering the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and action to the world around us.
Ephesians 6 remind us of a powerful truth: “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The words of Jesus in John 12 invite us to claim and proclaim a promise as well – “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”
May we allow the light of Jesus to continue to transform us and then may we take that light into the darkest parts of our community and world, trusting that light to penetrate the darkness. The light of Christ is our hope, our source of peace and the true solution for transforming change in us, in others and in our world. Let us boldly offer Jesus!
Grace and peace,
Bishop Mark J. Webb
Imagine No Racism locations announced
On April 21, 2018 from 12:30-4 p.m., clergy and lay members across the Upper New York Conference will have the opportunity to unite together and begin strategizing how they can work together to eliminate racism. Click here to read Upper New York Area Resident Bishop’s invitation to this event.
This event will feature Bishop Webb and members of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism. The event will take place in every District at the UNY District Communication Hubs. Click here to learn where your District Communication Hub is.
Stay tuned for more details about this event in the coming weeks.
Annual Conference 2018 speakers announced
February 13, 2018 / By UNY Communications team
The quadrennium theme “Together in Prayer” continues at the 2018 session of the Upper New York Annual Conference with a sub-theme of “Boldly Living Our Call.” The Rev. Dr. Gregory Jones of Duke Divinity School will be the guest study leader. His emphasis will be on living our call in the Wesleyan Way. Bishop Dennis Proctor of the North Eastern Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church will be this year’s ordination speaker.
Rev. Jones is a theologian whose work centers on the nature of forgiveness, the significance of Christian ministry and pastoral leadership, and social innovation and entrepreneurship. The author or editor of seventeen books, he has also published more than 200 articles and essays. His most recent book is Christian Social Innovation: Renewing Wesleyan Witness (Abingdon Press, May 2016).
Bishop Proctor is a native of Buffalo, NY, and a graduate of the Syracuse, New York public school system, he received his Bachelor of Arts (Summa Cum Laude) from Livingstone College, Master of Arts in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary, a Clinical Pastoral Experience Diploma from Western Reserve Psychiatric Habilitation Center, a Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University College of Law, and a Doctor of Ministry (Samuel D. Proctor/Otis Moss Fellow) from the United Theological Seminary. He was inducted into Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA. He was honored by his Alma Mater to receive the Doctor of Divinity from Hood Theological Seminary and Livingstone College. He was a featured lecturer at the prestigious Hampton University, Hampton Minister’s Conference.
Look for full feature article on each of these speakers in in the coming weeks.
What Launchpad is all about
February 13, 2018 / By Rev. Dave Masland, Director of New Faith Communities
On Friday, Feb. 2 and Saturday, Feb. 3, 52 people gathered at the United Methodist Center for Upper NY Conference’s Launchpad 2018. Launchpad is essentially a boot camp for people that feel called by God to plant a New Faith Community in their neighborhood. The materials were developed by Path 1, the planting arm of the United Methodist Church. Three years ago, Bill Vallet and I were approved by Path 1 to teach these materials in Upper NY Conference. This most recent Launchpad was the third annual event hosted by our Conference. Seven of the persons in attendance came to us from the Susquehanna Conference. Otherwise, all participants were people from existing Upper NY churches who believe God is calling them to start New Faith Communities. A total of 16 teams of people were present, each one representing a different plan in a different place.
What happens at Launchpad? According to Path 1, there are seven seasons of planting a new church or faith community. Participants in Launchpad learn about the first five seasons, and then have a chance to apply them to their own unique context. The Seasons of Discerning, Visioning and Gathering are covered on Day 1. The Seasons of Discipling and Worshipping are covered on Day 2. Lead planters have a lot of time between teaching sessions to work with their teams to discern who God is calling them to focus on reaching, and what strategy they will use. They work hard to develop a concise Vision for their New Faith Community and have time to practice casting that vision to participants from other groups. By the end of the two days, each team leaves with a detailed action plan and timeline for the next six months… moving them toward launching their New Faith Community.
The best part of Launchpad is the peer learning that happens. While the presenters share a lot of helpful information and teach new skills and ways of thinking, the best learning happens as the teams listen to and learn from one another. One of the last activities of Launchpad is a 3-5 minute presentation by each team, sharing their vision, target group, strategy, timelines and action plans with everyone else. There are “aha” moments for everyone! And, people leave ready to work their plan when they get home.
Please pray for each of the 16 teams who attended Launchpad, that God will give them the courage, wisdom and energy they will need to start a new place for new peopl
Bishops urge Methodists to deny themselves for the sake of Gospel this Lent
February 13, 2018 / By UMC Council of Bishops
In a message sent on behalf of UMC bishops to United Methodists throughout the world, Council of Bishops President Bishop Bruce R. Ough challenged fellow Christians to reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34-35, where he said: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
Bishop Ough said losing one’s life for the sake of the gospel means that one has to live the same purposeful life Jesus lived. “It means to deny our preferences for the sake of Jesus’ kingdom purposes. It means to set aside our self-interest so that others may have a more abundant life. It means we are saved in order to participate in the salvation of others. It means our hearts will break for the very situations that break the heart of God.”
For the Lenten Season that starts on Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018, the UMC bishops are asking Methodists to engage in spiritual disciplines that include praying, fasting and sharing their resources with others in their communities.
“During this Lenten season, let us continue to live out our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Together, let us lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel,” Bishop Ough said in the message.
Click here to read Bishop Bruce R. Ough's letter.
Teaching children about emergency relief efforts
February 13, 2018 / By Mike Block, Director of Missional Engagement of the Upper New York Conference and lay member of Immanuel (Church of the Bells) UMC in Camillus, NY
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared In the Winter 2018 Issue of the Advocate, which zeroed in on the ministry of the laity.
It is not often that one has the opportunity to share information regarding regional and worldly events with a young audience. As part of the Sunday School “JAM” (Jesus And Me) session at Immanuel UMC, our youth coordinator, Carol Doucette had asked if I could offer some words regarding the flooding and hurricane activities happening in the news as part of sharing who Mosses was.
The 15-minute session was set up using a few props and pictures as well as videos. The props were small toys and some children’s clothes that were soaked in water to simulate a flood. The pictures were from worksites our team had been on that reflected what the children saw on TV, websites, and in the newspaper about Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
The sample picture I used was a picture of a flooded home, then a short video of the family being rescued by a boat, then a set of pictures showing an ERT (Early Response Team) working to clear out a flooded basement. The children were then assembled to don their protective gear to conduct their own “Clean Up” (safety classes and gloves were fitted).
The team learned how to organize and start the cleanup. The tools used were five-gallon work pails and a wheelbarrow. In a darkened room, they cleaned up all the items and placed them into the wheelbarrow. The items the children were picking up reflected some of the things found in a flooded home after the weather-related event.
Now was the time to conduct an end of mission talk/briefing where questions and concerns were addressed. I learned that many of the children did not understand why things could not be cleaned up and reused. I explained that all the items were in water that could have bad or dangerous chemicals or bacteria in it that could make people very sick.
The session went so well that not only were the children pleased in what they learned, but also, they shared this with their families who became very interested and wanted to know more about how they could get involved or trained to be part of an ERT.
What you need to know about Annual Conference 2018: Getting There
February 13, 2018 / By Vicki Swanson
This year, the Annual Conference is at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College (OCC). GPS Address is: 4585 West Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse NY 13215; comprehensive directions from multiple locations can be found here: http://www.sunyocc.edu/index.aspx?menu=807&id=1817
Buses: There will be shuttle buses from the Crowne Plaza and Genesee Grande. Youth and others staying at the Parkview will have access to the shuttle leaving from the Crowne Plaza.
PLEASE NOTE: These buses will only run morning and evening, not continuously throughout the day. Click here for a shuttle bus schedule, keeping in mind that the “commute” will take more time than in previous years.
Driving to OCC: Please reference the address above. There are several hotels in our block which have easy access to highways if you plan to drive to OCC and not utilize the shuttle service. Those hotels would be the Holiday Inn Express, Maplewood, and Comfort Inn & Suites-Airport. We recommend that you put the address of your hotel into Google Maps, or other mapping system, and get directions and estimated time needed to OCC for planning purposes.
Parking at OCC: Pro: Parking is plentiful and free; Con: Parking lots are huge. OCC will provide shuttles for getting from parking spots to the Arena. More information will be provided at a later date.
Bishop Webb invites all to attend UMM fall retreat
February 6, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The Upper New York Conference’s United Methodist Men will host their fall retreat Sept. 7 and 8 at Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center in Windsor. The theme of this year’s event is “Transformation through Christ: Turn 180°.” The retreat is open to people from all denominations and communities; and, for the first time, it will not only be open to men, but also to women.
“The UMM are moving in a different direction with this retreat,” said Sanjay Solomon, the communications manager for the UNY Conference’s United Methodist Men. “We are trying to be more inclusive and are changing our mindset to accommodate people of all age groups and genders. We are welcoming to new ideas, embracing change, and our theme for this retreat is the vision our President Mark Jones. His legacy is change, and we need to embrace change in everything we do as UMM.”
All denominations and communities will be included this year because, Solomon said, other denominations and communities are also involved in UMC missions, such Baptists churches that are involved in the Red Bird Mission.
The 2018 UMM fall retreat keynote speaker is Bishop James Swanson, of the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Bishop Swanson graduated from Southern Bible College in Houston and Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He was ordained as an elder in the South Georgia Conference and served as pastor of St. Mary’s Road UMC in Columbus, Ga., for 14 years, where the church grew from 16 active members to 950. He was elected to the episcopacy in 2004 and is currently the president of the General Commission on United Methodist Men.
Other guest speakers include the Rev. Mark Kimpland – pastor at the Endwell UMC – and Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb, who recently invited people to attend the retreat in a video.
“I ask that you mark your calendars now, as I have, and keep watching Conference communication channels for more information on our time together and how to be a part of this exciting event,” he said in the video.
Solomon said retreat attendees can expect a spiritually fulfilling and uplifting experience with the Lord and a dynamic speaker in Bishop Swanson. He said there will also be breakout sessions for men and women, as well as a praise band.
The retreat, including a one-night stay and three meals, costs $130. The cost for commuters attending just Friday is $40, with dinner included. The cost for commuters attending Friday and Saturday is $60, including meals.
Full registration details to come.
From the Desk of CF&A Chair, Rev. Susan M. Ranous
February 6, 2018 / By Rev. Susan M. Ranous, CF&A Chair
Editor's Note: The following letter was sent from Susan M. Ranous to the UNY Conference on Feb. 6, 2018.
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
After prayerful discernment, the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) has made the decision to end our current relationship with Kevin Domanico as Conference Treasurer, effective immediately (2/5/18). On behalf of the Upper New York Conference, we express thanks for the ways in which Kevin offered his service during his time as Conference Treasurer and we wish him well in future endeavors.
CF&A will now begin the process of a search for a new Conference Treasurer. Details will follow as that search progresses.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Susan M. Ranous, CF&A Chair
Erin Patrick and the community she creates
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on the ministry of the laity.
Erin Patrick discovered something she loved about the Methodist Church when she was in fifth grade—she loved the sense of community.
Erin said, “One day my brother started going to church with some of his friends and because he is older than me and way cooler, I thought that I needed to go to….so I went only to hang out with my brother.
It was Dolgeville United Methodist Church. I really liked the community there—it seemed like one big family so it just kind of fell into place. I checked out a whole bunch of churches, but I really liked the sense of community that the Methodist church had… I always kind of knew there was a God and I found him at the United Methodist Church.”
Erin is 27 today and is a church planter. She is doing amazing things in the city of Syracuse through The ROAD where she serves as Church Planter, Wholely Grounds Café Manager, and Event Planner. She is fostering that sense of community that helped her find God as a kid and she is doing this for a wide array of populations: the homeless and the hungry, the special needs community, senior citizens, musicians, and more.
The ROAD was started by the Rev. Becky Laird in 2011; it was the restart of West Genesee United Methodist Church that voted to restart and hand everything over to a new leader. Rev. Laird said, “My vision was to create a faith community where everyone, no matter their faith background, their economic status, career, gender, marital status, family status, etc., would feel welcome and be able to find a way to connect with God. The other part of the vision was that we were not dependent upon people coming to us, but that we would go develop community where people were.”
One of the major ministries that Rev. Laird started was Open Street Communion. This project involves dozens of volunteers gathering together on Thursday nights and packing lunches to hand out to the homeless in downtown Syracuse’s Perseverance Park every Friday at noon.
Rev. Laird was reappointed in 2016. At the time, Erin had been very involved at The ROAD, particularly with their Wholely Grounds Café located in the building that The ROAD had moved into an Onondaga Hill neighborhood in August of 2014. With Rev. Laird being reappointed, Erin decided to approach the Rev. Dave Masland, Upper New York Conference’s Director of New Faith Communities, to see if she could possibly become a planter for The ROAD.
Erin said, “So, I talked to Pastor Dave (Masland) and he said, ‘Take this assessment test and see if you might be a good fit for it.’ So I did, and here we are.
There were six or seven different pages to go through—your spiritual gifts, whether you’d be happy in the church planter atmosphere, your leadership skills, I think maybe how well you might be able to network with people and build relationships.
I know I got 100 percent on the faith one and Dave said that was great, but I was more shocked at the leadership section being high. I have never thought of myself as a leader; I just know that I am a hard worker so I figured whatever needs to be done here, I’ll work hard and we’ll pull through that way.”
Rev. Masland described the assessment he uses; “one of the tools I use in helping to identify and recruit high-potential church planters is the Lifeways Church Planter Assessment. This survey compares potential planters to current planters who are happy and fruitful as church planters all across the country (and across various denominations) in 24 areas. These 24 indices are all related to personality traits and leadership style, and have nothing to do with theological training or perspective. Erin Patrick scored much higher than average in a number of key areas: preparation, persistence, networking with others, service evangelism, evangelistic optimism, ability to recognize and address blind spots, and (higher than all others) in emotional resilience. Each of these things points to a person with a very high potential for success as a planter of New Faith Communities. Her positive attitude, her persistence even when things do not go as planned, and her ability to relate to and network well with others are things that gave me confidence in her ability to take The ROAD to the next place God was calling it to go.”
And The ROAD was going new places. Erin wanted to keep the ministry to the homeless and the hungry strong, but she also wanted to serve the neighborhood where The ROAD building was located.
Erin said, “There aren’t as many hungry and homeless up here so we really had to switch our minds to look at the area we are in and make connections and find out what they need.
When we first moved in the building, nobody knew who we were. People knew downtown because we’re on the street corner every week. So, up here, I basically went door to door (handing out flyers) saying, ‘Hey, we’re your new neighbors. Here’s who we are. Would you like to meet us or come join us for something?’
One thing we learned is that there is a huge community of seniors in this area…and many of them have been dropped off and have no family left. They were craving community.”
Serendipitously, 75-year old Michael McCormick happened across The ROAD. A conversation with Erin started an amazing ministry with a retirement community just a couple of miles away from The ROAD.
Michael said, “I was at the library on a Saturday afternoon. And I knew that church was over there…it had been there a while.
So I decided to go over and check it out and all these ladies were there for a jewelry/craft show, which I didn’t know was happening.
I saw Erin in the café area and I said, ‘Maybe I’ll have a cup of coffee or something.’ So she made me a sandwich and I had a cup of coffee.
I told her where I was from (the retirement community he lived in) and I said it would be nice if you come over sometime and I will introduce you to the crowd and maybe some people will come over and visit you. I’ll tell them there is a restaurant over here.”
The next week, Erin went to the retirement community and posted a flyer in the community room inviting people to join her for coffee later that week. She said, “So I came over and brought coffee and quite a few people came to meet with me. I asked then what they needed and 96-year-old Ethel Chakan said, ‘I wanted people to come out of their room and hang out with us so here we are two years later!’”
Since then, Erin has brought a Wii bowling game to the seniors every Wednesday from 2:30-5:30 p.m. Ethel, a regular, said, “I just like getting people out of their room and together.” Erin refers to Ethel as one of her best friends; she visits Ethel often just to play cards. When asked what he thinks of Erin, Michael refers to Erin as “dynamite!” He said, "I knew she was good the first day I met her. You just get a feeling of goodness.”
In addition to her ministry with seniors, Erin has started a ministry with the special needs community. Music therapists were using the Onondaga Hill Library (across the street from The ROAD) for one-on-one sessions with their clients and felt the need to find a better place that had more flexibility with timing. Kat Fathers is one of those music therapists. She began using The ROAD for one-on-one sessions with her clients. She loved the peace and warmth and sense of welcoming that Erin and The ROAD offered so she told every music therapist she knew about it.
Registered Music Therapist Gail Healy learned about The ROAD from Kat. Gail saw The ROAD as a place to expand her music therapy work far beyond one-on-one sessions. Erin said, “I was introduced to Gail through Kat. Gail told me she had this vision of doing a drum circle. She asked if she could use the space (at The ROAD) and I said ‘Absolutely!’” Currently, Gail leads drumming circles with adults who have special needs every Tuesday and Thursday morning and afternoon. Each session had up to 15 people with special needs along with their individual mentors. Erin said, “We’ve built relationships with over 100 people in the special needs community.”
Gail said, “Erin is so incredibly giving. Since the first encounter, The ROAD community space has been used for numerous classes, get-togethers, and a safe, comfortable place for individuals with special needs to spend time with friends and to be a part of the community in which they live. Erin humbly declares that we have done so much for her and the mission at The ROAD, when in fact; my drumming classes would not be experiencing this rate of success without the warm community space that The ROAD provides.”
Erin loves welcoming the drumming circle attendees. She said, “I am so in love with this group. When they’re here, I just listen in awe.” The morning drumming circle attendees and the afternoon drumming circle attendees interact and feel the warm welcome of The ROAD staff during lunch at the café, which takes place between each session.
In addition to the homeless and the hungry; the seniors; and the special needs ministries, Erin also opens the doors to The ROAD to musicians every Monday for Open Mic. Many of the musicians are in their 50s and beyond and participate in Open Mics across the Syracuse region every day of the week. Erin refers to this core group as the “Old Guys with Guitars.”
When their regular Monday night gig at a nearby venue cut Open Mic from their schedule a couple of years ago, Erin welcomed them to have their Open Mic at The ROAD. A typical Monday will have 15-20 performers ranging in age from their teens to their 70s. Bryan Dickerson, one of the Old Guys with Guitars explained, “This is one of my favorite open mics; Erin is the heart of The ROAD; she makes it very comfortable for us all to be here.”
When it comes to events, Erin has a way of creating an awesome variety of experiences at The ROAD so that people from all different walks of life can feel connected to her and connected to others. She has hosted craft fairs, murder mystery dinners, mommy and me tea parties, as well as Alpha courses (a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith).
Community…that is what attracted Erin to the United Methodist Church as a young child and that very concept helps her to create a thriving ministry at The ROAD. Erin said, “Going back to where I’ve come from…I really only kept going back to that church because of the community I felt. So to create a community here that connects people from everywhere and helps others meet people they would have never met without this purpose was my vision. I had to hold on to ‘Community.’”
To learn more about building communities at The ROAD, watch the video at: https://vimeo.com/uppernewyork/theroad.
Called to be a lay servant
January 31, 2018 / By Lucina Hallagan, UNY Conference Director of Lay Servant Ministries
I became a lay servant in 1991 because I was encouraged by my pastor to attend a lay servant basic course held at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center. I have always felt a pull to ordained ministry; however, I was never able to begin the process. All the while, for years really, I still had this deep longing and felt that God was calling me to something. I continued to lead worship several times a year, when asked, at my local church and around the District. Every time I would lead worship I would have at least one person approach me afterward and say, “you have missed your calling.” A part of me believed this too.
One day, I was reading the story of the Gerasene Demoniac. At the end of the story, the man who was healed begged to follow Jesus and travel with him, but Jesus said no. “No, go home and tell everyone about the wonderful thing the Lord has done for you.” (Luke 8:39). At that moment I felt like God had whispered to me, “no, not the path you are thinking about, but I have a different path for you … to work with and for the laity.” I began to embrace the “no” and look for God’s “yes” to me. It was the year before the Upper New York Conference was formed. District lines were redrawn; new leadership was needed; new teams were forming and new legislation around Lay Servant Ministries was in the works. I was asked to serve and I said, “Yes!”
Now, when someone tells me I have missed my calling, I smile and thank them. Then, I assure them that I am right where God is calling me to be – serving the laity of Upper New York and sharing the wonderful things that God has done for me. It’s amazing to play an important role in clergy and laity working together – equipping disciples so that the world is changed. I am so grateful that God has placed me in a position to help laity in their discipleship to Jesus Christ as we work, hand in hand with the clergy, to transform the world through his love.
Lay Servant Ministries is one of the most significant lay leadership development programs already available within the United Methodist connection. Through this system of equipping and empowering, lay servants have the opportunity to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ who then go and make other disciples.
A certified lay servant, lay speaker, or lay minister is a professing member of a local church who desires to serve the church and who knows and is committed to Scripture and the doctrine, heritage, organization, and life of The United Methodist Church. This is a person who has received specific training to witness the Christian faith through spoken communication, to lead within a church and community, and to provide caring ministries.
Lay Servant Ministries offers a variety of courses to equip the laity for leadership. The courses are not for lay servants only – they are open to all. Courses range from United Methodist History to Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts, Storytelling, to Leading in Prayer, Preaching to United Methodist Polity, Growing Spiritually through Daily Discipline, to Conflict Resolution, and many more. There is something for everyone.
Upper New York has over 800 Certified Lay Servants, 26 Certified Lay Speakers, and 76 Certified Lay Ministers. Lay Servant Ministries are serving as disciples of Jesus Christ in more ways than you can imagine.
At a conference I attended I had the opportunity to speak with many lay servants. One gentleman told me about how he goes to a nearby prison once a week and leads a bible study for inmates. Through this ministry, he is answering a call to become a prison chaplain – as a Certified Lay Minister. A woman told me how she, at the request of her pastor, takes the communion elements to the local nursing homes and hospital every communion Sunday. While there, she prays for and with all of the people she gives communion to. She told me how she had taken the Leading Prayer Lay Servant course recently and how it helped ease her fears about praying publically, how it gave her new insights about ways to pray, and how grateful she was for taking it. I have had many local pastors and elders tell me that they began to hear their call to ordained ministry through lay servant ministries.
Some Lay Servants do lead worship and preach the Word, but more often than not, we serve the body in other areas of leadership and caring ministries. Food pantries, community dinners, mission projects, prayer ministries, small-group leadership, event planning and organization, and the list goes on. Without any doubt, the lay servants are active “doers” in most congregations.
January 31, 2018 / By UNY Communications
An informal poll by the Upper New York Communications Ministry Area reveals the following 11 items as the least known Lay Ministry terms. Can you correctly identify the meaning?
1. Lay servant
A. An active, supportive member of a United Methodist congregation who is eager to be in ministry through the church. He/she is well-informed on scripture, doctrine, heritage, organization and life of the United Methodist Church and is committed to witnessing through church and community leadership, care giving ministries and spoken communication. This person is willing to initiate ministry in partnership with clergy and other lay servants and willing to improve his/her skills for service.
B. A lazy worker
C. A worker who must make sure all the Bibles lay flat in a church
D. The person in charge of making leis for the annual Hawaiian worship service
2. Lay member
A. The chicken in the coop responsible for producing eggs
B. A member of a sports team that sits on the sidelines and watches
C. An amateur
D. The voting lay delegate to an Annual Conference session. Each Annual Conference session is required to consist of an equal number of lay members and ministerial members. They may speak and vote on all items coming before the AC session, with the exception of those relating to ministerial membership, relationships, ordination, and election of clergy delegates to Jurisdictional and General Conference sessions.
A. A person who like to lie down all the time
B. From the Latin word meaning “lady”
C. A term used to describe members of a congregation or parish
D. A person who is frequently late to Sunday worship
4. Certified lay minister
A. An individual who goes through a certification process to learn how to properly lie down
B. A certified lay servant, certified lay missioner, (or equivalent as defined by his or her Conference), who is called and equipped to conduct public worship, care for the congregation, assist in program leadership, develop new and existing faith communities, preach the Word, lead small groups, or establish community outreach ministries as part of a ministry team with the supervision and support of a clergyperson.
C. An individual certified to greet people with leis
D. The Sunday school teacher tasked with getting all the kids to lie down for a nap
5. Laity Sunday
A. A special Sunday established by the General Conference to be observed on the third Sunday in October. Laity Sunday focuses on the celebration of the ministry of all lay Christians. In many local churches, Laity Sunday is observed by having lay persons lead all parts of the worship service.
B. A special Sunday honoring all the people who show up to Sunday worship late, in which everyone shows up at least five minutes late
C. A special Sunday in which all congregants lie down during Sunday worship
D. A special Sunday honoring all the ladies in The Church
6. Conference Lay Leader
A. A conference’s primary representative of and role model for Christian discipleship and faith lived out in The Church and in daily life for the people of a congregation. The Conference Lay Leader works with other Conference leaders to fulfill the mission and vision of the Conference and leads the laity in ministry. Susan Hardy is the current UNY Conference Lay Leader.
B. Dr. Scott Johnson
C. An annual event where leaders across the world gather to lie down for some rest after all their hard work
D. The individual who leads everyone in the laying on of hands
7. Board of Laity
A. A group that tells congregants when to lie down
B. A group comprised of representatives from boards and agencies that encompass the life of the laity across the Upper New York Conference. Members work to support, equip, and resource the laity across the Conference.
C. The last board to go up during construction of a church
D. A panel of experts who can tell if someone is lying
8. District Lay Leader
A. A commune where all lay leaders go to live when they retire
B. The person who Katniss Everdeen despised in “The Hunger Games” series
C. The neighborhood where all of the lay leaders live
D. The principal layperson in a district who represents and leads the laity in ministry
9. Lay Servant Ministry (Lay Ministry)
A. Non-clergy ministry that includes visitation, leading a study, singing in the choir, serving at a lunch program, teaching Sunday school, sending out church or personal prayers, volunteering to clean, going on a mission project, or leading or preach at a worship service.
B. The state department in charge of allocating funds
C. A servant who lays tiles down on the floors of churches
D. When clergy serve lay members an elegant, five-course dinner
10. Laity session
A. Another word for nap time
B. A gathering of laity at Annual Conference session. Usually, there is an address by the Conference lay leader as well as a collection for the Helping Hands Fund, which raises funds to be used by the Upper New York Cabinet to assist congregants in need of financial support.
C. When women get together and gossip
D. Another word for a meeting with a therapist
11. Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders
A. Studied at seminary, this class helps determine the link between each Conference and their lay leaders
B. A group of clergy that tells the laity what to do
C. A group that initiates strategies and policies to strengthen the presence and voice of laity in The United Methodist Church, to enable a mutual ministry among lay people and clergy alike as set out in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, to exchange information concerning the lay ministry of The United Methodist Church, and to take any and all action deemed desirable by the Association to promote and support lay ministry.
D. Once you go through laity training, this group determines your fate
Laity Glossary Answer Key
1. Lay servant: A
2. Lay member: D
3. Laity: C
4. Certified lay minister: B
5. Laity Sunday: A
6. Conference lay leader: A
7. Board of Laity: B
8. District lay leader: D
9. Lay Servant Ministry (Lay Ministry): A
10. Laity session: B
11. Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders: C
Commission moderators emphasize mission as key to way forward
January 31, 2018 / By Bishops David Yemba, Sandra Steiner Ball, and Ken Carter Moderator Team of the Commission on a Way Forward
The moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward are urging United Methodists to engage in reflections on where they see mission at the heart of the denomination as well as seeing mission as significant for resolving conflict. Below is the statement from Bishops David Yemba, Sandra Steiner Ball, and Ken Carter
Mission and the Way Forward in the Season after the Epiphany
At the conclusion of the recent meeting of the Commission on a Way Forward, the members were asked to share three words that expressed their prayer for the church in the present moment. The 32 persons reflect the global nature of the church and a profound diversity of gender, age, theological perspective. They are laity, deacons, elders and bishops. The three words each shared then helped to create a word cloud. The more often a word is named, the larger it becomes in the word cloud (picture). This was the result:
In the Mission, Vision and Scope given to the Commission by the Council of Bishops, we are seeking to “design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible”. This vision is deeply rooted in the movement of the gospel from a small village in Bethlehem to the ends of the earth. The revelation of the Christ to the Magi (the gentiles) in Matthew 2 signals the church’s calling to share the good news with all people. At our best, this has been the vocation of a missionary church and is the root of a global church, where we are sent “from everywhere to everywhere” in the name of Jesus.
- What does it mean that the commission sees “mission” at the heart of the way forward for our denomination?
- Could it be that we discover our unity as we are in mission together?
- What if mission became the primary framework for our work in resolving conflict?
- How are we called to be in mission together more fully with our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community?
- And what three words would express your prayer for the church in the present moment?
Imagine No Racism event to be held on Sat. April 21
January 30, 2018 / By UNY Communications Team
In July of 2016, the Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church unanimously approved a resolution for every Annual Conference to confront the sin of racism in our own hearts, our churches, and our communities.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop created a taskforce, known now as the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism, to start strategizing ways to confront this deeply embedded issue across our Conference. The taskforce is now ready to help the rest of the UNY Conference to act.
The taskforce has called this new ministry, Imagine No Racism, drawing inspiration from our denomination’s successful Imagine No Malaria campaign. Like Imagine No Malaria, Imagine No Racism will unapologetically identify the disease of racism and offer concrete ways to bring healing.
The Bishop has sent a letter to the clergy across the Conference to set aside Saturday April 21 (12:30 p.m.- 4 p.m.) for the Imagine No Racism Launch Day open to both clergy and laity; simultaneous events will be held across the Conference in every District. Stay tuned for more details. Click here to read Bishop Webb’s letter.
CF&A reports positive news about 2017 Ministry Shares
The Upper New York Conference Council of Finance & Administration (CF&A) is happy to report that 638 churches have contributed 100 percent of their Ministry Shares in 2017; this is up from 632 in 2016. The amount of Ministry Shares collected is over $100,000 more than Ministry Shares collected in 2016 ($8,625,795 in 2017 compared to $8,507,208 in 2016).
The Rev. Susan Ranous, chair of CF&A said, “It has been such a blessing to work on the narrative budget with the various Conference teams. I believe the stories that CF&A has been able to hear about and share because of that information has been a great incentive to local churches to understand that their Ministry Share giving isn't an act of ‘paying a tax’ or ‘paying a bill,’ but is, instead, an act of giving to God for mission and ministry through the Upper New York Conference.”
Pastors across the Conference whose church paid at least 100 percent of their Ministry Shares concurred with the Rev. Ranous.
Pastor Bob Lindsay is the pastor of Newport UMC and Middleville UMC in the Mohawk District, both of which have paid 100 percent of their Ministry Shares every year. He explained that “Ministry Shares are every church’s responsibility because each church is a member of the Methodist Family and responsible for funding the Church as a whole.”
The Rev. Patience Kisakye is the pastor of Lyons UMC and Newark Emmanuel UMC in the Finger Lakes District. Both churches gave 100 percent of their Ministry Shares in 2017 and it was the first year that Newark Emmanuel has done so.
Rev. Kisyake acknowledges how her congregations are seeing the importance of Ministry Shares in supporting the Connection. Among the many examples Rev. Kisakye supplied of how Ministry Shares support the United Methodist Connection, she said, “The knowledge that brothers and sisters are giving in partnership with other United Methodists around the world and that together we are making an impact that no single congregation could do alone is encouraging. Empowering and trusting the young people to manage the youth service fund is a plus that enables the Conference to see that the church is captivating leaders and planning for tomorrow. Folks have appreciated seeing how connectional giving continues to make programming possible in distressed communities like Lyons and Newark and so they give generously on Special Sundays with the hopes of enabling vital ministries that change the world. There is increased gratitude for visits from the District Superintendent and the Bishop's day in the District. They understand that without connectional giving these visits may not take place.”
The Ministry Shares collected in Upper New York helps support the Connection beyond the Conference. Because of the Ministry Shares collected, the UNY Conference was able to give 100 percent of our General Church apportionments for the second year in the row.
Rev. Ranous said, “I was so excited to learn that, because of the increase in Ministry Share giving by our local churches, and the great work done by CF&A, our Finance staff, and the various teams, the Upper New York Conference was able to pay for the second year in a row 100 percent of its General Church apportionments. Just as many local churches struggle to pay its Ministry Shares to the Conference, the Conference has struggled in paying its General Church apportionments as well. CF&A made a commitment to strategically increase its General Church apportionment giving each year until we were able to pay 100 percent. Because of the hard work of so many, we were able to do that in only two years!
Thank you to all the churches who have prioritized their Ministry Shares. Because of you, great things are happening across the United Methodist Connection.
Upper New York Conference 2019 Narrative Budget booklet available
January 26, 2018 / By UNY Communications Team
The first draft of the UNY Conference 2019 Narrative Budget booklet has been released. Click here to download a .pdf version of the booklet from our website. Click here to view the budget booklet on Issuu. As changes are needed, these digital copies of the budget booklets will be updated.
When all updates are completed in the coming months, printed copies of the budget booklet will be available in the District Offices and at the UNY Conference Center. The final budget booklet will also be added to the 2018 Conference Journal, Vol. I.
Special Sunday giving across the Upper New York Conference
Do you have a heart for social justice? How about providing relief in the time of natural disasters? What about enabling disadvantaged youth to attend college through scholarship opportunities? While we can help these ministries through being the hands and feet of Christ, we can also support these ministries through offerings that the United Methodist Church collects on Special Sundays.
The United Methodist Church has six Special Sundays church-wide. These include:
- Human Relations Day (Sunday before the national observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday) strengthens United Methodist outreach to communities in the United States and Puerto Rico, encouraging social justice and work with at-risk youth.
- UMCOR Sunday (fourth Sunday in Lent) This Sunday enables the United Methodist Committee on Relief to reach out through worldwide ministries of food, shelter, health and peace.
- Native American Ministries Sunday (third Sunday of Easter) nurtures mission with Native Americans and provides scholarships for United Methodist Native American seminarians.
- Peace with Justice Sunday (first Sunday after Pentecost) enables The United Methodist Church to have a voice in advocating for peace and justice through a broad spectrum of global programs.
- World Communion Sunday (first Sunday of October) provides scholarships for U.S. racial- and ethnic-minority students and international students, on both undergraduate and graduate levels.
- United Methodist Student Day (last Sunday of November) furnishes scholarships and loans for students attending United Methodist-related and other accredited colleges and universities.
In previous years, the UNY Conference hasn’t publicized our Special Sunday contributions. However, at the 2017 UNY Annual Conference, a resolution was passed that states,
“Therefore be it Resolved That worshipping communities of the Upper New York Conference pledge to actively discuss and become educated about these offerings in effort to commit to supporting each offering; and
Be It Further Resolved That the Upper New York Conference set a conference-wide participation goal of at least 30% for each of the six Special Sunday Offerings for 2018 as we move toward 100% participation; and
Be It Further Resolved That that the Conference Director of Communications publish a list of all congregations who participate in all six Special Sunday offerings like that celebrating congregations who pay ministry shares in full.”
The total contributions toward Special Sundays in 2017 from the UNY Conference was $151, 847.40, with the biggest contribution of $59, 281.45 going toward UMCOR Sunday.
Special Sunday church giving is measured by any church who gives a $1 or more toward each Special Sunday. Of close to 900 churches in the UNY Conference, only 63 churches gave funds to all six Special Sundays. The Special Sundays that had the largest number of churches participating were World Communion Sunday with contributions from 236 churches; Peace with Justice Sunday, with contributions from 231 churches; and UMCOR Sunday with contributions from 201 churches. Click here to see the full list of churches who participated in Special Sunday offerings.
How do UNY churches encourage giving on Special Sundays? Many of the pastors of the churches who contributed for all six Special Sundays use resources that can be found on www.umcgiving.org. The pastors of these churches also all make sure that special offering inserts and/or envelopes are added to their bulletins on Special Sundays.
These pastors explained the importance of having a mission-mindset. For example, the Rev. Jeff Childs of Penn Yan UMC, said, “As a mission-minded pastor I have always called the congregations I have served to not only pay their shared ministries in full, but also to go beyond that and support the special offerings of the denomination and those called by the Bishop of our Conference.”
Rev. Andrew Sperry of Saratoga Springs UMC explained one way of promoting the Special Sundays outside of the services; he said, “We have a bulletin board dedicated to the special Sundays that reports our giving and it stays up all year.”
Many churches have committees or an individual responsible for planning how to collect the Special Sunday funds.
The Rev. Sara Baron of Schnectedy First UMC said, “The Intersectional Justice Committee oversees our benevolence giving, and they ensure that a minimum amount is included for each Special Sunday, and then the plate offering is simply additional.”
Pastor Gary Kubitz, of Voorheesville UMC, spoke of the importance of involving the laity in collecting Special Sunday funds. He said, “We have an active mission team, and members of this team take on various projects. One of the members has taken on the responsibility of having offering envelops for each of the special collections throughout the year, and from there, we have a brief mission moment at the beginning of worship regarding the mission we are collecting for. This group has also given to these missions at other times throughout the year. I think the key is having one individual take charge of organizing these special offerings - it simplifies and helps to empower the laity of the church.”
Special Sundays remind us of the importance of the United Methodist Connection, that your dollars serve not only your local church or community, but also serve important missions across the globe. As Rev. Sperry said, “One of the core values of our denomination, Conference, and our Church is connectionalism…We teach that a part of our church family are all the other UMCs around the globe, and to care for our family, we must pool resources. Giving to the Special Sundays is one way we can do that.”
Social Holiness Concerns: Dissecting the meaning of “Black Lives Matter”
January 22, 2018 / By Evelyn A. Woodring
“Black Lives Matter.” We have all heard that chanted, shouted, and have even seen the words carried on posters and banners. And, we have our individual responses when hearing them.
Before we settle on our response to this, perhaps a bit of learning is called for. February is Black History Month, so let’s look for a moment at the “matter” of black lives. When the Founding Fathers were inventing an entirely new form of government, one of the sticking points they faced was the issue of how to allot representatives. The problem was solved by creating a bicameral legislature – that is, a government in two parts, the Senate (in which each state, regardless of size, had two voices) and the House of Representatives (in which voices were allotted based on population). It was the question of how to determine “population” that caused problems. How do you count people? Who counts? When do you count?
The question was solved by determining that, every 10 years, a census would be held. But, now a new problem arose. Those states that relied heavily on the presence and labor of chattel, slaves, had unreasonably high populations in relation to their citizenship. Ultimately, the decision was made that each slave would count as 3/5 of a person. That’s right, a slave is 60% human!
This solution held through the time of the Civil War. But, with emancipation, a new challenge faced the governments of the states. How to assure the legitimacy of voter registration when the “new” citizens strove to register? Many states adopted “literacy tests” to assure that only properly schooled and educated (and white) persons would vote in elections at any level. Further, laws were passed restricting the definition of African descent. If even one of an individual’s great-grandparents was Negro, that person was not white, but Negro!
This is the sad history of the meaning of “black lives.”. From being “not really human” to being “of inferior stock”, the lives of African Americans have been regarded as of lesser value. The reality is that, even in today’s America, persons of color face burdens that the white majority cannot even imagine.
As we enter the 21st century, we still find the fight for true equality of opportunity, respect, and protection of legal rights is being waged in our cities, towns, colleges, and wherever people of color interact with white America. Persons of color learn, from their earliest days, that they will confront challenges unimagined by the white majority.
Until the lives of our Sisters and Brothers of color are regarded with the same respect and deference as our own, no lives will truly matter! It is only when the lives of the least regarded, the most overlooked, the invisible ones matter that we can claim the truth that all lives matter. Not 60%, not one in eight, but every life is precious to the Source of all Life. All lives matter to God. They should all truly matter to God’s people, the people of the Upper New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church!
My third day in Puerto Rico for Humanitarian Relief
January 22, 2018 / By Thaddeus Pinckney
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.”
In a community called “Los Amigos” (which means “The Friends”) where people are very united, it’s The United Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and UMCOR that has been the first church or agency to offer food and supplies to residents since Hurricane Maria. “With prayer and the work that they’re doing it feels like they’re doing the Kingdom of God here on earth.” said one resident.
While people of all ages gathered together bright and early to bring van loads and truck loads full of supplies to distribute physical items, such as bags of food, bottled water, packaged meats, packages of cookies, and much more, to residents in mountainous regions, they also distributed essential spiritual items, such as peace, joy, and the Holy Spirit.
It’s no secret that the island of Puerto Rico now desperately needs supplies to rebuild its infrastructure, along with food and water to feed those that are hungry and thirsty. But in feeding the hungry, UMCOR and the UMC of Puerto Rico keep finding a thirst and hunger from the citizens of Puerto Rico for much more (for that water that does not leave them thirsty). As a resident described that when all the physical elements around you have been taken away, you begin to realize that your hope should be in that which cannot be taken away.
Pastor Yolanda Correa-Pintor said, “I think many people have lost their hope, and that’s devastating because if we lose hope, then I think we lose everything. Besides the food that we’re giving, I think we give them the Spirit of Hope and The Holy Spirit, which they can receive.” Minutes after making this statement, she was surprised herself when hearing the omission from a resident she was interviewing. When Pastor Yolanda asked the resident to tell of her immediate physical needs, the resident replied that she now realizes that she really needs God and Salvation above all else.
How about yourself, would your reply be similar if you were asked about your immediate pressing needs were? Would you be able to say that you need God first (even above all physical needs like food, shelter, or even water)? Some say that many great things also came from Hurricane Maria, including leading many people into a deeper relationship with God. The devastation in Puerto Rico reminds us that when we have fewer distractions in life it becomes much easier to follow the First and Greatest Commandment (and the second like unto it.) – To Love Your God with all of your heart and soul and mind. Doth it really take man to lose “everything”, for man to discover what “everything” truly is?
UMCOR and the UMC of Puerto Rico are devoted to tending to the physical and spiritual needs of the citizens of Puerto Rico. They invite us to also become a part of establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth. As Pastor Yolanda concludes, “There is still much work to do!”
Editor’s Note: You can help support relief efforts in Puerto Rico, by making out a check to Upper New York Conference with FUND # 483 - "2017 Hurricane Maria Disaster Relief" on the memo line.
United Methodists asked to join Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
January 22, 2018 / By Council of Bishops
WASHINGTON – The Council of Bishops is urging all United Methodists to join with other Christians throughout the world to participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins tomorrow, January 18, 2018.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is promoted by the World Council of Churches, most regional councils of churches, and most mainline denominations, including The United Methodist Church.
This year’s Week of Prayer (January 18-25, 2018) uses Exodus 15:6 with the theme “Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious in Power.” An ecumenical group from the churches of the Caribbean have taken the lead this year in writing the materials and creating the theme.
The contemporary Caribbean is deeply marked by the dehumanizing project of colonial exploitation. During 500 years of colonialism and enslavement, those who brought the Bible to this region used the scriptures to justify their subjugation of a people in bondage. Yet in the hands of the enslaved, the Bible became an inspiration, an assurance that God was on their side, and that God would lead them into freedom.
Thus, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe.” (see John 17.21).
Congregations and parishes all over the world are invited to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by exchanging preachers, holding special ecumenical worship or prayer services, or however seems appropriate in your local setting. Check for events in your area.
Click here to read a prayer offered for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by Bishop B. Michael Watson, Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops, and the Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst and Rev. Dr. Kyle R. Tau, ecumenical staff officers of the Council of bishops.
What’s new with the UNY Historical Society
January 22, 2018 / By UNY Historical Society Committee
The UNY Historical Society has created a newsletter that shares fascinating and useful information. The UNY Historical Society News & Views Issue 1 of 2018 has been released. This issue reveals some interesting historical stories from places throughout the Conference, dating back to the mid-1800s. This issue also provides guidance on what to keep and what to toss at local churches.
If you are interested in joining the UNY Historical Society, this issue describes some of the benefits of doing so and includes a membership form for you to fill out.
Click here to read the latest issue of UNY Historical Society News & Views Issue 1 of 2018.
A Christmas Eve truck stop church service
January 16, 2018 / By Sandra Brands
Just off Exit 28 on the New York Thruway, I-90, there are three truck stops. The largest, TA Truck Stop in Fultonville, was where the Fonda-Fultonville United Methodist Church held Christmas Eve Services.
Accompanied by members of the community, many who had been associated with the church in the past, the pastor and 51 others held services the evening of Dec. 24. At least half of them were not members of the church, though some had been associated with the church 10 or 15 years ago, said Pastor Amy Winne. “They came out for this Christmas,” she said. During the service, many customers decided to stay for the 35-40-minute service.
“We ended the service with Silent Night. I told them if they wanted to snuggle up to someone, they should feel free to do so,” she said. At the beginning of the service, the congregation bought drinks for those at the restaurant. Those who wanted to order something to eat were absolutely welcomed to do so.
It was a wonderful way to end what was a particularly stressful year. The church building went up in flames in March and the pastor died in May, “she said. Following the fire, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb had recommended the church look at Compass Church Discipleship Study.
Appointed to Fonda-Fultonville UMC in July 2017, Winne said they had been reading the study that asks the church who they are and who God wants them to be. The church could no longer expect people to come to them. Instead, the church needed to go out and meet the people.
“Most people aren’t going to come [to church] unless someone invites them and builds a personal relationship with them,” Pastor Winne said, adding she thought it reinforced the study that they need to get out into the community and that doing so can be effective..
It was one of the parishioners, she said, who thought outside the box to come up with the idea of holding Christmas Eve Services at TA Truck Stop. The congregation was skeptical.
“They didn’t think the Christmas Eve service would attract many. They didn’t want to be disappointed.” she said.
What happened when the truck stop manager was asked to let the church hold its Christmas Eve Services in the restaurant shocked everyone. “He asked what we would think of holding monthly services,” Winne said. “It’s a popular place to eat in the community, a wonderful restaurant.”
That, and later seeing how many people showed up for Christmas Eve gave the congregation a boost. “It reinforced what they were learning in the study,” she said.
The church had already become more visible in the community when, after being left building-less when the church burned, they began holding weekly services at the Fonda Town Hall.
Currently, a service held at the end of January is being planned.
My second day in Puerto Rico for humanitarian relief
January 16, 2018 / By Thaddeus Pinckney
Not, how much of my money will I give to God, but how much of God's money will I keep for myself. -John Wesley
On the second day of a trip to Puerto Rico to witness the humanitarian and disaster relief efforts by the United Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and UMCOR after Hurricane Maria, Pastor Carmelo Tosado Moya, Jr. graciously volunteered to not only show the gorgeous charm and splendid wonder of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, but also, to show the simple beauty of serving others through even the smallest of actions.
Is it really true that the meek shall inherit the earth? The word meek puzzles many because the meek aren't always portrayed in a positive light. Have you also heard that being recognized or being the loudest can earn the most attention (and the largest reward as well)?
Yet, Pastor Carmelo does enjoy being meek, with a gentle, and humble spirit. He uses it to fervently serve his community in San Juan, putting a huge emphasis in his life upon that serving word. “He understands,” Pastor Carmelo stated, “Many people might have a hesitation to serve themselves, especially to serve people so far away from them in Puerto Rico. In fact, many people may feel that their talents and actions maybe just too small to help those affected by a major hurricane.”
This is why Pastor Carmelo emphasized not worrying about personally knowing the ABCs of disaster relief, and spoke about simple ways to help Puerto Rico get back on its feet. Some of his suggestions, included: remembering Puerto Rico in your prayers, setting aside needed supplies that can be shipped to churches, or making direct donations to UMCOR, all would make a huge difference. He cited other simple actions, such as contacting UMC Churches to offer encouragement, or even visiting Puerto Rico on your next vacation to boost the economy and get Puerto Ricans back to work. Old San Juan, where his church is located is rich in Spanish-style architecture and quaint cobblestone streets. He welcomes you to come, serve, and worship with his church.
Serving is oftentimes seen as giving a lot of money through a large, ground-breaking donation or giving a great deal of time and physical strength, and while these methods are helpful, serving can also be accomplished though the smallest of acts of kindness. There are so many small ways that you can help the people of Puerto Rico (beginning with prayer).
Yes, The United Methodist Church and UMCOR are prominent parts of the restoration of Puerto Rico, and so also are YOU! You too can serve.
Editor’s Note: You can help support relief efforts in Puerto Rico, by making out a check to Upper New York Conference with FUND # 483 - "2017 Hurricane Maria Disaster Relief" on the memo line.
My first day in Puerto Rico for Humanitarian Relief
January 10, 2018 / By Thaddeus Pinckney
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
Good-works, inspiration, persistence are all qualities that describe Pastor Yeika Huertas as she is trying to lead her church in storm-struck Carolina Puerto Rico. Her church suffered severe damage to its roof and sanctuary, while her parishioners were left to literally hunt for food, water, and shelter. Still today, months after Hurricane Maria, it's an everyday occurrence in Puerto Rico of having to simply survive.
Can you imagine living for over four months without electricity or clean water? Now can you imagine tending to the needs of hundreds of church members and the entire community, who all wonder when this misery will end? Surely, it would be easy for Pastor Yeika to just cope only with her losses and concentrate on fighting for her own survival.
Some say the secret to happiness is helping others, but what if that promise of immediate happiness seems to be so far in the distance? What if your challenges were so great (even life-threatening) that the perks from helping others don’t feel perky at all? Could YOU ever do more for someone else, knowing that you’re doing less for yourself? Living and helping can make us feel depleted, burdened, and sometimes even taken advantage of.
Why, Pastor Yeika could choose to follow these commonly expressed feelings that I’m sure have entered her mind, but instead she chooses to "represent the hands and feet" of Christ to help people in all places at all times. Pastor Yeika even confides about the surprise on the faces of many when they discover that she is a young, female pastor cast into such a huge role. But, her passion through the love of Christ burns!
Jeanette Graulau, from the UMC of Puerto Rico, reminds us that no one expected for the conditions in Puerto Rico to be so severe and lasting. American citizens in Florid, Texas, and Louisiana received an outpouring of humanitarian aid, but for Puerto Rico? Seemingly, Puerto Rico has been forgotten by many. The United Methodist Church and UMCOR though is committed to being helping others like Pastor Yeika and her community, get back on their feet.
Pastor Vieka said, "We can't give up, because the people depend on us...and no matter how burdened I will be, and I am, I have to because it's my responsibility. It's my privilege; it's my passion."
Editor’s Note: You can help support relief efforts in Puerto Rico, by making out a check to Upper New York Conference with FUND # 483 - "2017 Hurricane Maria Disaster Relief" on the memo line.
Called to help displaced Puerto Ricans now living in Rochester, NY
On September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma swept across Puerto Rico, killing 16 people, destroying homes, and leaving many residents without electricity. Just two weeks later, an even more destructive Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, leaving a much higher death toll, and this time, hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced.
UMCOR and other mission teams are traveling to Puerto Rico and engaging in continuous disaster relief. If you are unable to or untrained to become involved in disaster relief, there is another way that you can help—you can assist displaced Puerto Ricans who now live in Upstate New York. For example, more than 500 Puerto Ricans have moved to Rochester to live with family members since September. Many of these families are supported by public assistance and they do not have the resources to help their beloved family members beyond providing shelter.
In early November 2017, Hector Rivera, pastor at LeRoy UMC and Aldersgate UMC, as well as leader of the New Faith Community Aldersgate: Hispanic UMC, and Anne O’Connor senior pastor at Aldersgate UMC, were contacted by, a newly formed non-profit organization comprised of residents in Rochester, NY.
Puerto Ricans United in the Distance helps Puerto Ricans who have relocated to Rochester, NY, after the devastation they experienced from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Essentially, this organization helps the Puerto Ricans transition into the community by partnering with other human serving agencies in the fields of housing, education, legal, clothing, food, employment, and other supporting services.
Pastors Rivera and O’Connor were asked if they had space at Aldersgate for a food pantry and if they would be able to host a Thanksgiving and Christmas gathering for the Puerto Rican families. Pastors Rivera and O’Connor agreed. Happy to have doors, minds and hearts open to serve the community. Pastor Rivera has gone far beyond the initial request with the help of many volunteers.
Immediately, a food pantry was set up at Aldersgate. The food pantry is open to anyone in need of food on Wednesdays from 4-7 p.m. or as needed. Dior, a volunteer said, “I feel good when I can help families in need, provide for their children, and experience God’s love. “
Soon after, with the help of Sumarie Lopez, Miguel Lopez, and Yolanda Morales, members of Aldersgate Hispanic UMC, a Thanksgiving celebration was held at the church for the Puerto Rican families. About 50 persons attended this beautiful gathering. This celebration included Thanksgiving Worship Service, a cultural dinner, and fellowship.
To further meet the needs of the new population of Puerto Rican families, LeRoy UMC has also established a clothing closet with a lot of winter attire, very much needed this frigid winter.
Pastor Rivera and his wife Maria started a new English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to suit the needs of the Puerto Rican families, at Aldersgate as well. Maria teaches the classes. Transportation is provided to and from the classes; nursery services are also provided during the classes.
About the classes, Maria said “I am so excited! Teaching the newcomers is an exciting fulfilling experience and very rewarding. It is so great to see how our students are learning English language skills while celebrating their culture. They will learn English for work, home, and for survival within their new environment. Our students are highly motivated and supportive of one another as they discover their place in the new community.”
One student, Marie said, “I like the classes and my teacher Maria, she has a great sense of humor.”
A new student, Marta said,” I have a hard time pronouncing some words. But I am not giving up because I like it here.”
Grace, also one of Maria’s ESL students said, “I am learning a lot of words that will help me get around to the bank, stores, hospital and of when ordering in the restaurant where I can now ask for more than ‘ham and eggs.’”
New student Yolanda said, “I enjoy being with my classmates and we learn so much from each other.”
On Dec. 23, 2017 Aldersgate Hispanic UMC hosted a wonderful Christmas celebration for the displaced Puerto Rican families. There was a spectacular array of cultural food, cultural music, incredible fellowship, gifts for the children, and a visit from Santa Claus!
Pastor Rivera said, “It’s a great feeling when we have regular attenders (of the newly arrived Puerto Ricans) at every Sunday services, and to have many attend special events during the year, but when I saw a great deal of neighbors attending this year’s Christmas event, as a way to find healing after experiencing the effect of Hurricane Maria from Puerto Rico, I was in awe.
So many families and children came together during this time; it was a great opportunity for the church and the Puerto Ricans United in the Distance organization to provide the visiting families and their children with winter clothing, grocery bags filled with groceries, and of course the most expected Christmas gift from Santa.”
It’s amazing how the Lord calls upon us to help people in distress. To learn more or to help with this ministry, contact Pastor Hector Rivera at 585-802-0998 or email@example.com.
Upcoming District Training Days
January 9, 2018 / By UNY Communications Team
In the coming weeks, several Districts are offering the following leadership trainings.
Jan. 20: The Albany District’s District Leadership Team will be hosting a workshop entitled “Creating an L3 Environment” from 9 a.m. to noon at Calvary UMC. The registration deadline is Jan. 15. Click here for more information.
Jan. 27: The Mohawk District strongly encourages participation in a Leadership Summit taking place at Centerpoint Christian Fellowship from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Click here for more information.
Feb. 3: The Genesee Valley District is offering a training day, called “Inform to Transform” with nine workshops at Asbury First UMC from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration closes Feb. 2. Click here for more information and/or to register.
Feb. 10: Both the Crossroads District and the Cornerstone District are offering leadership training events. The Cornerstone event will be held at Bemus Point UMC from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Click here to learn more and/or to register. The Crossroads District event will be held at the United Methodist Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Click here for the itinerary for the day. Click here for a registration form for the Crossroads District traininng day.
Feb. 24: The Niagara Frontier District is offering an event called “Catch the Spirit” at Clarence United Methodist Church from 8 a.m.to 3:30 p.m. Registration deadline is Feb. 16. Click here for more information and/or to register.
An Opportunity to Serve: Imagine No Racism District Volunteer Advocate
January 8, 2018 / By Teressa Sivers, Chair of the Bishop's Taskforce on Eliminating Racism
Editor’s Note: In the video above, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb invites members of the Upper New York Annual Conference to become an Imagine No Racism District Volunteer Advocate. An article describing this position follows.
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 [Jesus] said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~Matthew 22
On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you: Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? Sacrament of Baptism, United Methodist Hymn, p. 40
Racism is a disease that infects the hearts, minds, souls and bodies of individuals. churches and communities. Our Social Principles state, “Racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races and a value system that assumes that the dominate race is innately superior to others.” Racism is contrary to the purpose and will of God. As children of God who are to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8),” we are called to action. In the Upper New York Annual Conference, we are going to Imagine No Racism together! We are creating the Imagine No Racism District Team to help us imagine this as a conference.
You may be the person we are looking for to help lead this important ministry!
- Do you have a passion for racial justice and equity?
- Are you open to change and willing to grow in your knowledge and awareness of racial injustice and white privilege?
- Do you have some knowledge already of racism and/or white privilege?
- Are you able (with help and guidance) to facilitate small groups and address conflict?
- Do you actively uphold Wesley’s Three General Rules: Do no harm. Do God. Attend to the Means of Grace (stay in love with God).
If so, let us know! Click the link below for an application. Return forms to the Upper New York Conference Office at 7481 Henry Clay Boulevard, Liverpool, NY 13088.
- Click here to download and print a Microsoft Word application
- Click here to download and electronically fill out a PDF application
The Imagine No Racism District Team will work to form District small groups of clergy and laity, who will engage in deep listening, transformative study, and meaningful action to eliminate racism and white privilege in themselves and their churches and communities.
Members of the Imagine No Racism District Team will:
- Attend preliminary and subsequent trainings led by the General Commission on Religion and Race. The training will be held within our Upper NY Conference.
- Attend and participate in the District Day Orientation, to be held on Saturday, April 21. The District Day will be held at each District’s communication hub(s) and livestreamed from the UNY Conference office.
- Meet with and receive support from the Regional Coordinator for their area.
- Coordinate and resource small groups of clergy and laity in your district.
- Join each small group at their initial meeting.
- Make sure they have the resources needed and have more meetings on their calendars.
- Check in with each small group’s convener to see that they are meeting regularly and making progress.
- Provide ongoing support as needed.
- Intervene with the help of the Regional Coordinator if issues arise.
- Use the internet, especially email and social media, to keep everything and everyone organized and connected.
- Travel around the District and to Conference training with mileage reimbursed.
Social Holiness concerns: From the inside out
January 2, 2018 / By Richard Gianzero
In 2017, New York State stopped housing minors inside adult prisons. I was convicted of attempted murder and spent 14 years in maximum security at Wende, Elmira, and Coxsackie Correctional Facilities. I grew up in prison. I became a Christian in prison.
Shortly after my 30th birthday, the parole board released me – 11 years ago now. When I walked out of Coxsackie, I carried a towel with me. If released, I promised God to lay a towel down in the parking lot, raise my hands to the sky, and thank God. My parents, cousin, and godmother all traveled to pick me.
While my family met me at the gates two other men walked out with me. I had “street clothes” sent in by my family. Dressed in “state” clothes, these men had no one meeting them. The prison gave them a bus ticket and $40.00 with instructions to check-in with their parole officer within 24-hours. They didn’t even know where the bus stop was.
Volunteers and chaplains helped me grow as a Christian in prison. The most effective volunteers met me and others in our brokenness with God’s unconditional love. Prison ministry remains an important call to the church from Christ. As an aspiring pastor, I am often struck by the Church’s desire to reach out to those in prison. Such a call to serve prisoners remains sacred and limited.
Ministry to prisoners means going on the “inside.” At the same time, most people in prison will return to the “outside.” Enthusiasm to serve the incarcerated often stops the moment prisoners become returning members of society. In my case, a Christian community of Kairos volunteers surrounded me when released. When I came home to Colorado a couple days after release, I connected to a church I corresponded with while in prison. My case, however, is an exception and outlier.
A person released from prison usually lacks the basics: deodorant, toothpaste, transportation, a place to live, female sanitary products, food, and a job. Rental companies and landlords require background checks to live on their properties. A returning person cannot pass a background check. They cannot usually pay for an apartment if they found one anyway because they cannot find a job. The likelihood of returning to prison grows higher as they continue to serve the “collateral consequences” portion of their convictions. If we consider education, racial discrimination, gender, addiction, and mental health the ability to remain “free” becomes even less realistic.
This evening my wife and I will visit the maximum-security prison for women in Colorado. Going from the inside to the outside as a Christian and back inside to share hope and love means something. But as I look at the faces of my locked-up sisters I think about what happens to them once they come “home.” Home is a relative term.
The greatest service needs for those affected by the criminal (in)justice system remain largely unmet. The Church in the United States has a unique call, not only to meet the immediate basic needs of those who are returning to the community, but to mentor and support them as they rejoin the community. It will take critical thinkers with creative imagination and faithful determination to make an impact with such ministries.
The Fortune Society, in New York City and The Reentry Initiative, in Colorado, are doing critical work with the formerly incarcerated. Education regarding the prison industrial complex can be found in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
The New York State Council of Churches meets at the United Methodist Center
The United Methodist Center hosted the New York State Council of Churches (NYSCOC) on Thursday Dec. 14 for their executive committee’s quarterly meeting. This meeting was attended by the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding and the Rev. Marti Swords-Horrell of the Upper New York Conference; the Rev. Gideon Jebamani and Bishop Mary Glasspool of the Episcopal Church; Phil Garvey of the Presbyterian Church; chair of the committee, the Rev. Dustin Wright of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. Alan Dailey of the United Church of Christ; the Rev, Peter Cook, NYSCOC Executive Director; and Nancy Lapierre, NYSCOC office manager.
The NYSCOC has three areas of focus, which include advocacy, prison chaplaincy, and education. The committee reviewed some of their successful work this past year, including:
- The promotion of supportive and affordable housing, seeking to build church-government-private sector partnership to build low-income housing.
- Offered ongoing support to chaplains serving in NYS institutions. (NYSCOC is authorized by NYS to certify all Protestant chaplains serving state prisons, mental health facilities, and youth detention facilities).
- Shared success of the “Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide Conference” held at Fulton-Montgomery Community College last summer. They focused on how to bring rural and urban leaders together to address shared issues of justice.
During this meeting, a budget for 2018 was adopted in support of NYSCOC work. The Upper New York Conference’s 2018 budget provides support for NYCOC’s work. The ecumenical work done by the NYSCOC shows the success that can stem from Christians working together on social justice issues.
Annual Conference petitions, resolutions, and reports due Feb. 15, 2018
December 18, 2017 / By UNY Communications Team
The Committee on Petitions and Resolutions is charged with overseeing the submission, review, and presentation of petitions and resolutions to the Annual Conference.
All resolutions and petitions for the 2018 Annual Conference session must be submitted to the Committee no later than Feb. 15, 2018. Submissions should be emailed to the Director of Connectional Ministries Office at DCMOffice@unyumc.org.
Click here for writing and submission guidelines as well as a petition and resolution template.
Rev. Carlos M. Rosa-Laguer to become Niagara Frontier DS
December 18, 2017 / By UNY Communications
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is pleased to announce his intention to appoint the Rev. Carlos M. Rosa-Laguer as superintendent of the Niagara Frontier District, effective July 1, 2018.
Rev. Rosa-Laguer currently serves as pastor of the Emmanuel and Churchville congregations of Rochester, NY, having served Emmanuel since 2000. Carlos has been involved in various leadership positions in Upper New York, as well as a predecessor conference. He has served as Coordinator for Hispanic-Latina ministries and co-director of Hispanic-Latina Planting in cooperation with the Upper New York Conference Office of New Faith Communities. Carlos serves as a consultant and coach with Path1 New Church Starts and Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Carlos has also worked with several local congregations in developing ministries to the Hispanic-Latina community.
“Rev. Rosa-Laguer brings a deep spirituality and a passion for assisting the church in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” Bishop Webb said. “Carlos’ heart for walking alongside people as they discover God’s call upon their lives will be a gift to the work of Upper New York and the Niagara Frontier District. I am delighted to have Carlos join the work of the Cabinet.
Current Niagara Frontier District Superintendent the Rev. Wayne Butler announced in November that he will retire June 30, 2018.
“Rev. Butler has served with excellence, faithfulness, wisdom, and love. He has added greatly to the work of the Cabinet and was instrumental in the beginning season of Upper New York’s life.” Bishop Webb said. “Wayne will be deeply missed in this role, but I celebrate with he and Molly the new chapter of life that they are about to embark upon. I invite you to keep these two servants of Christ, as well as the congregations of Emmanuel and Churchville and the Niagara Frontier District in your prayers during this time of transition and new beginnings.”
Rev. Rosa-Laguer is a graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, State University of New York and Inter Americana University in Puerto Rico. He is married to Marta Davila-Velazquez and they have five children and two grandchildren.
Engaging with the UNY Conference through social media
Some significant changes have taken place in the Upper New York Conference Communications ministry area recently, which has given the Conference Communications team the opportunity to think strategically about how to continue to improve the ways we tell our story. In assessing our communications channels’ strengths and weaknesses, one means of telling our story was clearly in need of work. That area was social media.
In the coming weeks and months, members of the Upper New York Conference will see some major changes in how, where, and what we communicate through social media.
- We will build off of the success of the Conference blog in engaging each other in a variety of conversations- from fun to serious and from personal to big picture.
- We will build off of the success of our video ministry and start producing shorter videos specifically designed for social media that will sometimes complement longer videos designed for worship settings and sometimes stand on their own.
- We will also be inviting voices from around the Conference to be heard as we have with the Advocate and other Communications channels over the last few years.
Judy Campany hired as Administrative Assistant to Connectional Ministries
Judy Campany joins the UNY Conference as Administrative Assistant to Connectional Ministries. This position opening resulted from budget-neutral staffing changes that included Vicki Swanson’s imminent retirement, Susan Latessa becoming the Director of Human Resources and Benefits, Cherish McGowan becoming the Office/Connectional Ministries Manager, and Karen Campolieto’s position changing to Media Resources Coordinator and Archives Assistant. Cherish will be supervising Judy.
Judy not only brings administrative expertise to her new position, but she also brings a strong passion for ministry and helping people. Judy’s talents mirror her college education—she was initially going to major in Psychology, but decided to switch to Business Administration. After decades of administrative roles in businesses and corporations, Judy was hired by the Oswego County Department of Social Services in April of 2015. While her role began as an administrative role, she soon became a child support caseworker. She loved helping the children, most who were impoverished. She said, “When I was visiting a foster child once, his caregiver said to me ‘You hold him and hug him and give him love—I have never seen a case worker be so caring.’”
Judy went above and beyond with her role as a child support case worker. She noticed that many families received government assistance that helped with food, but not with hygiene supplies so she started ministries at several churches to receive donations of hygiene supplies that she could bring to families in need.
While Judy enjoyed her work as a case worker, she felt ready for a change. A simple search on a job search engine for “ministry jobs” brought her to the position opening at the UNY Conference. She interviewed for the position and when offered the job, she was excited!
Judy has been with the Conference for just over a week and is thrilled about the tasks she will be working on.. Judy said, “I love that my tasks are varied and leaves room for my creative input. It’s second-nature for me to see where ministry can be strengthened.”
Cherish McGowen is happy to have Judy on board. She said, “We are very excited for Judy to join the UNY Conference staff. She brings many gifts and talents to her role as Connectional Ministries Administrative Assistant, among them, her creativity, and has already proven herself to be an asset in the few short days that she has been with us.”
Director of Vital Congregations, Aaron Bouwens, who Judy provides support for, shares Cherish’s excitement; he said, “I am excited to have Judy be a part of the Vital Congregations ministry. She brings a servant’s heart and a willingness to join in the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Judy lives in CNY with Maggie, her 10-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She has two sons ages 26 and 27 and a grandson who is 18-months old who also reside in the CNY area. Growing up in Lewis County contributed to her love of the outdoors including hiking, kayaking, and flyfishing. Judy also loves photography—her photography includes landscape as well the outside architecture of churches and trying to capture the holiness felt while inside churches.
Empowering women and children in Colombia
December 12, 2017 / By Gracie Lynn Besse, Former Global Mission Fellow
I had the amazing opportunity to be part of the General Board of Global Ministries’ mission as an International Global Mission Fellow. I was placed in Bogotá, Colombia as media and program facilitator/instructor working with CEPALC, the Latin American Center for Inclusive Communication. CEPALC’s team is made up of dedicated individuals who are passionate about helping women and children realize their full potential. They do this by teaching about their rights and providing many different forms of media, including radio, magazine, and YouTube videos to express their concerns, opinions, and interests in their own voice through alternative media. Through their methodology of “learn by doing,” CEPALC is helping to create vital leaders in Colombian communities.
Colombia struggles with a very machista culture. That is to say, people have ways of thinking that are both patriarchal and chauvinistic. CEPALC helps to empower women, teaching them, that they have a right to voice their opinions, with the hope that they pass this down to their children to create a more peaceful future.
I had many different roles within CEPALC. I helped to lead workshops for children, youth and women; occasionally wrote articles for their magazine Encuentro (meaning meeting); participated in three different radio shows ranging from kids’ rights to politics; created a show called Mirrored Voices about gender issues in society; and taught about peace at a local elementary school.
One of the workshops that was most powerful for me was with more than 80 children speaking about gender in society. Gender equality is such a difficult topic for some kids to grasp because they have already been exposed to all of the social constructs that their parents, teachers, and society have taught them. For example, they are taught that boys need to be strong, can’t show emotions, should be good at sports, and should like the color blue. Girls are taught that men will take care of them, that they should be good at cooking and cleaning, that they should be lady-like, and should like the color pink.
After posing some questions for the kids like “How do we express gender?” and “Is one gender superior to another?” They discussed their opinions in small groups. Colombia is mostly Roman Catholic, with some very conservative views; however, these young people were eager to discuss, listen, and learn about something that is often voodoo to talk about in their society. At the end of the workshop, we asked for their reflections. One young girl said “This was one of my favorite workshops because we learned about Flora Tristan’s story…how she defended women’s rights because before that, women couldn’t do anything and thanks to her and other women, things have changed.”
Even though CEPALC now operates as a secular organization and is not directly affiliated with any church, they are most definitely living out God’s word and creating a more accepting and peaceful country. As we United Methodists partner with organizations already in place in many countries around the world in order to be in mission with the people of those nations, we have the opportunity to witness to our faith by spreading God’s love, and working toward peace everywhere. I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of this important work.
If you would like to learn more about CEPALC and the people they help, you can go to cepalc.com. To learn more about Global Mission Fellows, visit www.umcmission.org. You can also check out our podcast of Mirrored Voices on the iTunes podcast application and on Stitcher for android devices.
Bishop Mark J. Webb’s 2017 Christmas/Advent message
December 11, 2017 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
I love the words of the advent hymn entitled “Send Your Word:”
Send your word, o Lord, like the rain falling down upon the earth.
Send your word.
We seek your endless grace, with souls that hunger and thirst, sorrow and agonize
We would all be lost in dark without your guiding light.
Send your word, o Lord, like the wind, blowing down upon the earth.
Send your word.
We seek your wondrous power, pureness that rejects all sins, though they persist and cling.
Bring us to complete victory; set us all free indeed.
Send your word, o Lord, like the dew, coming gently upon the hills.
Send your word.
We seek your endless love.
For life that suffers in strife with adversities and hurts, send your healing power of love;
We long for your new word.
As we journey through another season of advent and prepare for another celebration of Christmas, this hymn is my prayer. Over the past weeks and months, we have continued to witness and live within a world that is deeply hurting. Every day the news points to the reality of brokenness, fear and loss. The struggles of racism, sexism, abuse, violence and many other forms of spiritual darkness seem overwhelming.
I watch as the world seeks a response, a fix to all that is swirling around us. Hear the good news! Proclaim the good news! “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This Savior who proclaimed that he came into the world, not to judge the world, but to save the world. This Savior who continues to offer the hope that He is the way, the truth and the life. This Savior who spoke the powerful words that he is the light of the world, and those who follow him shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of Christ.
Send your word, o Lord!
The world needs the truth of Advent and Christmas. The communities in which we live and serve need the promise and assurance of a Savior. The solution to the spiritual forces of evil that surround us was sent in a baby born in a manger, a savior who taught a new way, lived a sinless life and offered his life on the cross that we might be reconciled to god and then propelled into the world to offer that reconciliation found in Jesus Christ!
This advent and Christmas season let us be bold in receiving the gift of Jesus, let him transform you. Let us be courageous in sharing the good news of this savior with those around us. Let us watch with joy as Jesus transforms the lives of others and powerfully pierces the darkness with light!
Let us pray and live the promise for our lives and within the lives of others – Send your word, o Lord!
Jodi, Ben, Tyler and Lyndsay join me in wishing you a blessed and holy Christmas!
Bishop Mark J. Webb
Called to be a Hospice chaplain
December 6, 2017 / By Rev. Becky Naber, Baker Memorial UMC
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of the Advocate, which featured stories that showcased the theme of “Being God’s love to our neighbors in all places.”
My first eight months as a Hospice chaplain have been full of wonder, surprise, and joy. How is this possible given that my patients are at the end of their lives? As Christians, we speak of a peace that surpasses all understanding. Such divine peace allows for a good passing from this life to an eternal life with God. And peace--physical, emotional, and spiritual peace- -is the goal of Hospice. A choice for Hospice is a decision towards better quality of life through comfort measures and away from curative treatments that have become ineffective or too much to physically bear.
As a Deacon appointed to Hospice Buffalo, I work on an interdisciplinary team consisting of a physician, nurse, and social worker. My role is to serve as a channel of God’s grace in the spiritual care of the terminally ill patient and their loved ones. While many people speculate that Hospice work must be terribly dreadful and emotionally overwhelming, I full-heartedly love my job and my calling to this ministry of compassion and reconciliation. For although we live in a death denying culture, I have found the last months, days, and even hours of life can be the most transformative and peaceful should we embrace God’s gift of assurance.
Blessed assurance brings peace and meaning at the end of life. In his works on Christian Perfection, John Wesley said that wholeness is possible in this life as we respond and grow in God’s grace and become more and more Christ-like in our love and actions. But our ability to know the fullness of God’s love and to perfectly reflect the love of Christ most often occurs at the hour of our death. A terminal diagnosis accelerates the desire for the assurance of one’s salvation.
A terminal diagnosis reorders one’s life. When a person is faced with impending death, many questions arise concerning life’s meaning and spiritual beliefs. In other words, confronting our mortality radically shifts our perspective; much that has been important in the past may either grow significantly or diminish in its relevance to our well-being. During this sacred and intense time of reflection and spiritual exploration, religious beliefs and practices may be of great comfort and provide meaning to a patient’s illness and decline. Or, past spiritual hurts and disappointments may result in anger or extreme fear of the Divine. As a chaplain, I listen to spiritual unrest in such questions as “Why me?” or “I deserve this for all the bad things I have done.” Spiritual anguish can be caused by a multitude of things, but most likely it develops out of a need for reconciliation in our relationships or a desire to continue caring for loved ones. Either way, patients find themselves in need of a deeper connection with God’s forgiveness and love.
The Spirit leads me to holy ground. Each morning I receive a list of new patients as well as my schedule for the day with established patients (many people are in Hospice care for many months). I meet with five to six people a day. They are persons of all ages, all faiths, all denominations, and in all stages of belief and emotional balance. With each patient’s name and the entry of their address into my car’s GPS, I leave the office filled with wonder for what God has in store for us (the patient and me):
- Will this family receive me as a stranger bearing God’s hope into their household?
- Will my patient be at spiritual peace and ready to die when they are called home to the Lord? Or, will they be spiritually broken, longing for reconciliation with God, with the church, with a spouse, with a child or a sibling?
- Will they need help in seeing God’s presence throughout their life?
- Or will they want to hear Psalms of God’s love and promises?
The questions go on and on in my mind, and so does my surprise as to where and how God calls me to share divine love and hope.
God places me in roles I never before imagined, over and over again. Reconciliation is a common end-of-life need; and I’ve been tasked with reuniting estranged loved ones with a patient for their peaceful passing. Other times, I’ve been called to homes to offer God’s comfort and promises as I gather a family around the bed of a loved one who has passed or is about to cross through the veil. I’ve been given the privilege of hearing beautiful parting words of love between spouses. I’ve heard confessions, anointed the sick, and prayed with patients who long for a deeper sense of the Lord’s nearness and for God’s protection over their loved ones in their absence.
Of the multiplicity of roles, one of my favorites is to pray with patients who long for God’s blessing of assurance—they long to be pardoned and justified; to know they belong to the Lord and abide with Christ. Whatever the day may bring, my joy is seeing the transformative work of God in patients as they are spiritually healed and as they peacefully pass from this life toward the glory that awaits them in the next.
Some situations require an ever closer walk with God. Pediatric chaplaincy is one example. I serve as the chaplain for the Essential Care Unit, which provides Hospice and palliative care to ill children and their families. In this work, I provide spiritual care to women who struggle with difficult perinatal diagnosis. I walk with them through their pregnancies, birth, and afterwards. I also visit with parents and children all ages who have a life-threatening chronic condition or terminal diagnosis. Here too are questions concerning God’s presence (or perceived absence), of God’s love and mercy, and here too I share God’s love. More often than not, I share the tenants of our hope in God and how these children radiate God’s goodness and show us how to love—in simple and in extraordinary circumstances. Yet sometimes, words cannot capture the pain of a parent; standing in solidarity with them, wrapped in divine love is all that I have to offer as my heart prays they find hope and peace in our compassionate God.
Hope and blessed assurance are part and partial to our Methodist roots. While we often sing this beloved 19th century hymn in worship, its realization of a peace that surpasses all understanding is most relevant in the face of the unexpected and the end of one’s life. Assurance counterpoises our fears and doubts. Assurance undergirds our belief that we each are a beloved child of God—that God’s greatest gift to us is Christ and that the Lord delights to abide with each one of us.
And assurance draws us deeper and deeper into the love of God towards our prize of perfection. At the end of my day’s work at Hospice, my evening prayer for each of my patients and their families is for them to claim God’s promises, and for them to know the joy of salvation in this life in preparation for an eternity to come. For each day as this hymn resonates in my mind, I find myself awestruck by the mystery and compassion of God’s grace in birth, throughout life, and in death. And it is with great joy and humility that I am called to guide Hospice patients towards “a foretaste of glory divine.”
Important dates for 2018
December 6, 2017 / By UNY Communications
Be sure to mark your calendars for these important dates and deadlines set for 2018.
- Jan. 2: EZRA system opens
- Jan. 10: Final day to submit Ministry Shares
- Mid-End Jan.: Narrative Budget Booklet becomes available
- Feb. 15: Deadline for submission of petitions and resolutions (from individuals, churches and unofficial bodies of UNY) as well as deadline for reports and action items from Conference teams
- Feb. 15: Final date to update statistics in EZRA system
- Early March: Annual Conference registration opens
- Early April: Vol. I of the Journal is available
- May 30-June 2 Annual Conference (Onondaga Community College)
Mike Block hired as Director of Missional Engagement
Mike Block has been hired as the Director of Missional Engagement of the Upper New York Conference. This position opening was made possible by a donation from Earlville UMC—their vote to discontinue included donating enough money to the new Upper New York Mission Central HUB to allow it to start operations, which included enough money to cover the salary of a Director for at least two years. Click here to read the full story.
Mike’s primary role will be to equip local church and Conference leaders to be the “hands and feet of Jesus,” providing help and hope to people in times of distress and disaster. He will directly support our Volunteers in Mission and Disaster Response teams and oversee the development and use of the Mission Central HUB.
Mike grew up in a family that was very engaged in mission work and helping communities in need. And he has carried this passion throughout his life. A retired military reservist, Mike speaks of the many times he was able to help countries in need. Much like first responders in disaster, Mike explained, “When countries sought the U.S.’s support during times of war, within 24 hours, we’d be on a plane and on the ground of the country in need, interfacing with civilians, helping them to understand that we were there not to judge them, but to help them.”
Ten years ago, Mike was part of the startup team for Immanuel (Church of the Bells) UMC’s mission trip planning to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, Mike has helped lead 120 people on 36 similar mission trips, and the team has completed 18,000 hours of labor.
Mike is excited about his new position. He said “It has always felt good to make a difference in one church. I’m thrilled to do it with 867 churches and 65 New Faith Communities. I’m just the beginning. There’s a whole team of people anxious to get involved. I don’t know it all, but I know enough to ask and accomplish any task given to me.”
Shelby Winchell hired as Conference Social Media/Web Specialist
Shelby Winchell joins the Conference Communications Team as the Social Media/Web Specialist for the Upper New York Conference. She replaces Karen Campolieto and Ashley Riddell who were both part-time communicators with additional responsibilities in other ministry areas. Karen was promoted to the Media Resource Center Coordinator and Archives Assistant; Ashely Riddell is relocating later this winter and will be helping to train Shelby in the website functions she will be handling.
Shelby is a former television news reporter and also has a background in higher education and running a not-for-profit community center.
Shelby is married with two children; her son, A.J., just turned 7 and her daughter, Savannah, is 5. Shelby is active in the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) at her children’s school and still manages to report on a freelance basis. Her husband, Mike, is a high school teacher and a published author.
Shelby is ecstatic to share her journalistic background with the UNY Conference. “I really enjoy telling others’ stories. People are the heart and soul of all organizations and events. We can all learn from one another. I’m beyond excited to share those stories on social media and grow the Conference’s presence using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.”
Steve Hustedt, Director of Communications and Shelby’s supervisor is happy to have Shelby on board. He said, ”Shelby is an experienced story teller who will help us take our social media and other communications to the next level. We are excited to have her join the team, and we look forward to seeing continued improvement in how we tell the story of the United Methodist Church in Upper New York.”
Shenendehowa UMC’s Mission Possible 3 a success
December 5, 2017 / By Michele Carlson, Shenendehowa UMC
For the past three years, Shenendehowa United Methodist Church has hosted a “Mission Possible” day. This outreach event reaches out through the church to the community and the world through service. The theme this year for Mission Possible 3 was “Better together.”
Due to the recent natural disasters, two of the focuses were flood buckets and health kits to help replenish UMCOR’s supply. The Mission Possible team discussed what the goal should be for the number of buckets filled. A realistic number of 50 was presented. After conversation, it was decided that we as a church could do 50, but with God’s help, they set the goal at 100! This was 100 flood buckets AND 100 health kits!
On October 22, 2017, the event kicked off with many different assignments. They included a trunk or treat/pumpkin painting party at a center located in a low income area (taking the church to the community), 14 teams sent out to assist local senior citizens who needed help with yard and home repairs (service to those in need), a visit and activity at a local nursing home (encouraging the aged), the bucket brigade, and the health kit team (mission outreach). After four hours and tons of behind-the-scenes preparation, SUMC was able to make an impact in the following areas:
- 124 children, youth, and adult volunteers were involved in the success of the event
- 100 flood buckets were filled
- 100 health kits were created
- 14 senior citizens were assisted with yardwork and home repairs
- 30+ nursing home residents enjoyed music and crafts for the afternoon
- 80+ kids and their families experienced trunk or treat (14 stops), crafts, balloon art, and snacks
- $6,000 was donated to fill the buckets and health kits
The day ended with a soup and sandwich dinner for the volunteers and any of the residents who were helped. None of this would have been possible without God’s grace and the outstanding efforts of the SUMC Mission Possible team. We can’t wait to see what Mission Possible IV brings! We truly are “Better Together!”
Missionaries share update from Estonia
November 28, 2017 / By UNY Communications Team
The Rev. Jeff Childs, pastor at the Penn Yan United Methodist Church, was the chair of the Upper New York Conference Global Ministries team when he was first contacted by the Rev. Doug Childress – who has served as a pastor in the Upper New York Conference and predecessor conference, the Western New York Conference – about his feeling a call into the mission field. And Rev. Childress’ wife, Dr. Kulli Toniste, was born in Estonia and called to go back and teach in the seminary there.
Those responding to a call to be a missionary in The UMC must meet with the Conference Global Ministries team to be recommended to the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM).
“As we interviewed them, it was clear that they had a passion for ministry and for this opportunity to serve God in the world,” said Rev. Childs. “They were approved for recommendation, and I was blessed to be present with them at General Conference last year when they were commissioned as missionaries.”
The Rev. Douglas Childress and his wife Dr. Kulli Toniste received a contract from the GBGM in 2015 to do missional work in Estonia. They and their three children have been living there since. The couple has helped at the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary in Tallinn, Estonia, as well as UMC in Estonia.
Here are some updates on their work and their time in Estonia.
In May, members of the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary and representatives of Asbury Theological Seminary discussed launching a joint Masters in Church Planting degree program, which could be completed by BMTS students. In June, 14 students – including some from Estonia, Ukraine, Nigeria, and Latvia – graduated from BMTS.
The seminary began a new session in August with 22 new students, which the couple says is larger than last year’s class size.
Harnessing some creativity, they crafted new admissions materials and a video in Estonian to introduce seminary to prospective students last spring.
Kulli participated in the Wesley Summer Seminar and spent a few weeks at Asbury Theological Seminary working on an article related to John Wesley’s eschatology. She also worked on a committee at UMC in Estonia to translate and publish Wesley’s 52 sermons in Estonian language for the first time.
Estonian Methodists hold a conference each summer. This year, Rev. Childress presented and Kulli translated two sessions there.
Kulli was invited to speak to the Evangelical College Students on an island of Saaremaa. The family enjoyed some time getting back to nature as they camped with the students.
“We enjoyed seeing a variety of plants and picking wild berries, and went swimming in 18C water of the Baltic Sea,” the couple wrote in an update. “Local people were very social and every interaction takes time. … “It is easy to get caught in long conversations at a store over a loaf of bread or varieties of fish!”
The youth attending the camp “paid their rent in labor.” So, the family pitched in and helped chop some wood.
“Working together, not much speaking, but we all bonded well,” they wrote. “We are friends forever for we chopped wood together.”
For more information about Rev. Doug Childress and Dr. Kulli Toniste, contact Rev. Jeff Childs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stand out from the crowd
November 28, 2017 / By Rev. John Matin, FoundationUMC
Too small, too busy, too tired, too much to be done. These are just a few of the things many of us point to when confronted with a world that is indeed broken. The truth is, as members of a mainline denomination in the United States, we are also a part of rapidly declining (some would suggest dying) breed. Statistics and anecdotal information both confirm this reality, and yet there is Good News! The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ for a hurting and broken world, remains true and is just as powerful as it was 2,000 years ago. And our unique Wesleyan approach to living out and sharing our faith with others gives us an advantage!
“Because of the service, by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ…” 2 Corinthians 9:13
The above passage is at the core of the DNA of our new church, FoundationUMC. We understand this passage to be necessarily connecting missions (doing good things) and evangelism (sharing good news) for followers of Jesus Christ. We see these activities as two sides of the same coin and inseparably linked in concept and practice. For this reason, we began hosting monthly mission opportunities even before we were holding weekly worship!
At FoundationUMC, we believe you can’t tell people how much God loves them, without showing them and people will never know God loves them, no matter how many good things we do, if we don’t tell them. This practice of keeping the two together fits nicely with John Wesley’s emphasis on personal and social holiness, as well as his insistence for a faith of both head and heart. It’s this “both/and” approach that allows United Methodists to truly stand out from the rest.
Why am I telling you this? Because in light of a broken world, a denomination in decline, and Sunday mornings filled with competition like never before, we have an opportunity to truly stand out from the crowd! While our congregation, located in Vestal, NY, is surrounded by other congregations bigger, better established, and wealthier than us, we have an advantage. They might have a cooler band, a newer building, and more to offer people who are simply
looking for what a church can do for them, but we offer them a chance to truly make a difference each and every month. Our emphasis on monthly, handson missions and understanding that these missions (showing God’s love) allow us to truly share God’s love in a way that is compelling.
Several months ago, we partnered with an organization called Sole Hope, who provides healthcare and footwear to children in Uganda who have neither. For the cost of $100, we were able to get a shoe cutting party kit and after about two hours of work, we had created 100 shoes! Partnering with Sole Hope not only allowed our church to provide shoes for children who have none, but also be a part of providing medical care for the kids and jobs for Ugandan shoe makers. This is just one of many projects we’ve undertaken as a new church in order to make our presence known, share the good news of Jesus and of course allow people the opportunity to make a difference. Each month, we take on a project (either local here in Vestal or more globally-focused) that gives our people the opportunity to show God’s love with their actions, to invite friends, family and neighbors to join in, and of course share the good news of Jesus.
Many of our congregations in Upper NY are already doing good work in their local communities as well as throughout the world. To those congregations, don’t be afraid to see those missions as an opportunity not only to love people, but to tell them they are loved. These missions are an easy way to invite your friends, relatives, and neighbors into the fold and truly stand out by making a difference! For those of you who think you are too small, too poor, or too inexperienced to really stand out, know that our baby church (we were less than one-month old when we partnered with Sole Hope) not only managed it, but it caught the attention of people all over our area who would never normally walk through the doors of a church. Be encouraged, be inspired, be challenged, and stand out from the crowd by showing people God loves them with your actions as you tell them about God’s love with your words!
Reflection on INWARD 2k17
November 27, 2017 / By Kristian J. Snyder, CCYM Member 2017-2018
INWARD 2k17 Conference Youth Gathering were held on November 10-11 in Latham at Calvary UMC, and November 17-18 in Penn Yan at the Penn Yan UMC. There were youth groups from all 12 districts present at one or the other event, including some new youth groups that haven’t been at a CCYM event before, such as Pine Valley UMC and Bluff Point UMC. Each event was attended by about 85 youth and adults. The events each opened with 6:30pm registration and a time of gathering for all youth and adults. After a short period of time doing icebreakers to get to know one another, everyone broke up into their assigned family groups for the weekend and during the family group time everyone got to know one another within their group. There also a time of prayer stations to do on Friday night and then Saturday morning we had early morning options:
A Few Friday Night Prayer Stations:
- Rocks in Water Prayers - In this station you wrote sin or confession and then put it into a fountain and the flowing water washed away that sin or confession.
- Walking Through the Labyrinth - In this station you prayed while walking in Jesus’s footsteps.
- Prayer Posts - At this station you wrote something that you wanted prayed for on sticky note and then posted it on a column, then you took a sticky note and prayed for what was on it and placed it back on the column.
Some of Saturday Morning Early Options:
- Community Prayer Walk - In this you joined a group of people and then walked and prayed around the neighborhoods surrounding each of the two churches.
- Morning Meditation with Sam Smith - In this option you learned new techniques of meditation or prayer.
Friday and Saturday were full of time to grow with one another and grow closer to God. At the end of each weekend, there were one last worship service and then one last family group of the weekend followed by communion with each family group leaders anointing each member of their family group. After everything was done and over, everyone had a time of gathering and good-byes as they left to return to their homes, church, and youth groups.
Turning refugee “basement churches” into thriving congregations
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of the Advocate, which featured stories that showcased the theme of “Being God’s love to our neighbors in all places.”
Onondaga County welcomes many refugees each year; for example, in 2014, Onondaga County had the third largest intake of refugees in the country. Many of these refugees settle in Syracuse’s North Side; in fact, there are refugees from over two dozen countries living in this neighborhood where Butternut and Lodi Street intersect.
Three of the predominant Asian countries that refugees living in Syracuse’s North Side include: Nepal, Burma, and Bhutan. How do refugees find a community of faith when they come to Syracuse?
Meet Pastor Sonexay (Sean) Chanthasone; he is a local pastor at Lao Westover UMC in Binghamton, NY, and a new church starter at Karenni Good News and New Hope UMC in Syracuse. Sean’s passion for the Lord and commitment to following a calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ has resulted in two vibrant church communities for refugees from Syracuse’s North Side; one that is Nepalese and one that is Karenni.
Pastor Sean’s personal story and the story of his outreach efforts beautifully showcase what can be accomplished by being God’s love with our neighbors.
Pastor Sean was born in Laos; his family were Buddhist and part of the Ancestor Spirit Faith. When Laos became Communist after the Vietnam War, Sean and his family became separated, and at the age of 15 or 16, Sean moved in with his uncle.
The hardship in Vietnam prompted Sean and one of his friends to try to escape one evening by swimming across the Mekong river, which borders Thailand. He didn’t know he needed legal documents to enter Thailand; the Thailand Police arrested Sean and his friend, imprisoning them for six months, and then they were transferred to a refugee camp that held refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Sean said, “The refugee camp is where I found Jesus Christ. I became good friends with a missionary from the United States; he helped me and introduced Jesus Christ to me.
I grew up with Buddhism and the Ancestor Spirit, but I didn’t understand it, whereas Jesus Christ developed peace in my heart. I felt, this is the God I have been looking for.”
Sean started feeling as though the Holy Spirit was working through him. He prayed for a way out of the refugee camp. Sean said, “The conditions of the refugee camps are very bad; you’re always looking for food, you have to protect yourself and develop safety; it’s like a prison for many people. I was there for six years. I asked God for an open door and in April 1987, God answered my prayer.”
A family in Buffalo, NY sponsored Sean to come live with them. The host father was a pastor. They helped put Sean through school and taught him English.
In 1990, Sean heard a missionary from Vietnam speak and instantly felt a call to be a missionary himself. He wanted to go back to his homeland and introduce everyone he knew to Christ.
He completed high school and then went on to Bible School. Once Sean finished high school he applied to go back to his homeland; he said, “Unfortunately, the door was closed because Christians were not allowed to go back. My vision was stalled…so I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’”
Praying to God about this incessantly, God answered Sean by saying, “Well, if you cannot go back to your homeland, how about starting a mission church in our country?”
And Sean did just that. He started a Lao church in Northeast Georgia. Sean said, “We started with two or three families in a basement apartment. It took us about four years until it became an organized church with about 15 families.”
Sean’s church had a relationship with the Lao church in Johnson City, NY. They did a youth program together. And that is how Sean ended up back in New York State.
Sean met his future wife through the youth program; she was also a youth teacher. She was a United Methodist and her father told Sean that if he were to marry his daughter, he needed to be a United Methodist. Sean gladly accepted.
Soon after Sean moved to Binghamton, the pastor of the Lao church resigned. Sean volunteered to help and became the pastor of the church.
Through this position, Sean met the Rev. Brad Hunt of Andrews: Memorial in Syracuse and developed a close friendship with him. He learned of the New Faith Community that Pastor Brad helped start with the Sudanese population and became inspired to do the same with the Laos who lived in the same neighborhood as the Sudanese in Syracuse’s Northside.
Little did Sean know, that he would be creating New Faith Communities for Karenni and Nepalese people!
Sean said, “Within a year, I packed my stuff and came to Syracuse and camped out in Pastor Brad’s church. I would come to Syracuse from Monday through Saturday for three months doing Evangelism door-to-door in Syracuse’s Northside.”
At the time, Andrews: Memorial would often solicit volunteers to pass out food and clothing to the refugees in Syracuse’s Northside. Sean gladly volunteered and one evening, God literally opened doors for Sean to find Asian Brothers and Sisters in Christ who were already worshipping the Lord. Sean refers to this evening as his doughnut ministry.
Sean said, “One family that I passed out a box of doughnuts to was a man named Tu Law; he told me, ‘I am from Burma and I also speak Thai.’ I immediately became excited and interested because I could speak Thai so we were able to have a conversation and he shared with me how he was looking for someone to help him learn English. I gave him a box of doughnuts and said I’d like to get to know him more and could I come again tomorrow, and he agreed to meet me the next day.”
Sean continued, “That’s how our relationship began…deep in my heart, I felt that the Holy Spirit opened the door for me and that he (Tu Law) would be the key for me to open the door for this new ministry. The Lord was right!”
Sean said, “I found out that he (Tu Law) was a leader in the community and by being bilingual, he could help spread my message…so the Holy Spirit led me to the right house. A month after we met, he introduced me to four or five families that were also Christian and had small groups meeting in their basements.”
One of the individuals that Tu Law introduced Sean to was Par Reh, a 57-year-old man of Karenni descent. The Karenni are a population from a poor, rural section of Burma. Par Reh and his family fled Burma in 1999 and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand. They then moved to the United States in 2009.
Par Reh became a Christian in 2000 and attended a church at the refugee camp. He became a leader in that church. When he moved to Trenton, NJ, he went to an American church. Soon, he moved to Syracuse, NY, on the Northside for medical reasons.
Par Reh’s son, Sai Shwe said, “I believe God’s reason for my dad to move to Syracuse was not because of his health; it was to start his own church to bring people to God.”
Par Reh started his home church with other Karenni families and wanted credibility that he was a rightful Christian leader. This is when Sean entered his life. Sai said, “My dad started going to a local pastor’s school with Sean. He received a certificate and at that point was ready to go forward. He put the certificate all over the walls to show people.”
At that time, more and more Karenni on Syracuse’s Northside were yearning to know Jesus. Sean helped them find a larger place to worship at a church building in Mattydale, and also helped find transportation to get them there. This was the start of the Karenni Good News and New Hope UMC.
Unfortunately, Par Reh passed away in 2014 because of cancer. Sai said, “I wondered, ‘Why did my dad have to pass away before he finished the job he wanted to do?’ A lot of people wanted to follow my dad before he died. So after my dad died, my wife, sister, and I stepped up to lead the church.”
Sai continued, “My dad started out with two to three families; we now have about 70 people attending every Sunday at Karenni Good News and New Hope UMC. I just want to keep moving forward; the Lord created the moon and the stars and the sun; he’s the one I want to work for.”
At a Karenni service, there are several youth and children whose primary language is English. Sean gives the sermon in English and Sai translates in Karenni.
With excellent attendance at the Karenni service, Sai’s focus is now outreach. For example, every Saturday, they have a women’s small group that meet at each other’s homes, and they also have a youth group.
Praemoe Phobya helps lead the Karenni women’s small group. She said, “We have women come to my house or our pastor’s house at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and we help them learn more about God.” Since starting the women’s group last year, Praemoe said that about four additional families have started attending the Karenni church regularly because of their outreach.
Through his door-to-door evangelism, Sean also met Sai’s neighbor Manoj, who was from Nepal, and attended a Nepalese Christian small group who met in basements. Manoj’s Uncle Tara Sunwar and a man referred to as Pastor Phillip lead that group.
In seven months, Sean has helped grow the Nepalese group to nearly 50 people, who meet at 8:30 a.m. every Sunday at the Karenni Good News and New Hope UMC.
As is important in their conservative heritage, the women sit on one side of the congregation and then men sit on the other side.
The Nepalese service centers on jubilant singing and dancing. For example, on a sunny August morning, three women with matching floral dresses, a guy on a hand drum, and another on a drum-set, lead the congregation in song in their native language. Manoj said, “Singing and dancing is how you get close with your Christian family, so you see that a lot in our church services.”
During prayer, the Nepalese are asked to say their individual prayers aloud, much like the Tongsung Kido, a type of Korean prayer which we featured in Volume 9, Issue 2 of the Advocate.
Pastor Sean is confident that both the Karenni and Nepalese church groups will grow.
The Rev Dr. Dave Masland, UNY Conference’s Director of New Faith Communities said, “The Karenni Church is incorporated in New York State…but we have not officially chartered it yet. They are close.”
Pastor Sean is so passionate about his calling to bring more refugees into a relationship with God. He said, “We depend on the Holy Spirit to bring everything together. This is just the beginning of our friendship. We get stronger every year.”
The mission of the New York State Council of Churches
November 22, 2017 / By The Rev. Peter Cook
Infused with a spirit of ecumenism and hospitality, the New York State Council of Churches lives into God’s call to do justice and to love our neighbors. We point to the Kingdom of God on earth where the marginalized are freed from poverty, where prisoners can be restored to live happier and healthier lives, and where we help people of all ages grow in their Christian discipleship.
The Council Certifies and Supports Chaplains in State Prisons.
“I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25: 37)
Should any of your fellow parishioners and community members have the misfortune of being incarcerated, it is really essential that they receive pastoral care from well-trained chaplains inside the system. Your contributions help support our staff and volunteers which manage the certification process while providing support services and visits to chaplains and prisoners. Supporting the Council helps ensure that prisoners and staff alike receive the much-needed ministry of hope.
The Council offers opportunities for faith formation for people of All Ages.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people. And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:17 to 18)
We help people grow in their Christian discipleship by creating opportunities for people of different theological and political persuasions to learn from one another in order to discover their commonalities and discern how best to offer the Gospel in a hurting world. We sponsor an annual conference, Bridging the Urban Rural Divide. The Council sponsors a well-attended United Nations Conference every February for high school youth to help them grow in faith through public witness and cultural dialog. Youth from your congregation are most welcome.
The Council advocates for the poor and disenfranchised in the public square.
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8.)
We embrace the historical commitment of the United Methodist Church to embrace social holiness. Towards that end, we help people of faith advocate for the voiceless in the halls of power. We build coalitions across the state among faith-based and secular groups to advocate for laws and policies which will improve the lives of our fellow citizens. Examples of our collaborative work include successful advocacy for affordable housing funding and the raise the age law where New York no longer prosecutes and incarcerates most 16 and 17year-olds as adults. We seek to improve access to health care and improve the financial welfare of our citizens. We also focus on immigration reform and environmental policy.
For more information:
The Council is grateful to congregations who help sustain our work. For more information, visit WWW.NYSCOC.org and/or contact: The Reverend Peter Cook, Executive Director, at Pcook@Nyscoc.org or 508-380-8289.
Safety and security at your organization
November 20, 2017 / By Richard Poirier President and CEO Church Mutual Insurance Company
In the wake of the recent tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas, many of you may be looking for information to help make your facilities safer. At Church Mutual, your safety is our concern as well.
As you focus on safety and security for your people and facilities, please keep the people of Sutherland Springs in your thoughts and prayers. Our hearts ache for those who are dealing with this devastating, senseless event. First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs is our valued customer, and our team is working closely with this ministry in its time of need.
Fresh, local food offered to the Sodus community
November 20, 2017 / By Sandy Hall, Manager, Sodus Farmers’ Market
Ten years ago, a Sodus United Third Methodist Church member, Nancy Ransley, attended our outreach Team meeting to share a vision she had for the community. Her vision has come to fruition! She could see the need and benefits to the community having a farmers’ market. Nancy spent several winters in Florida. She said, “There were farmers’ markets all over the place (in Florida). And I couldn’t think of any around here. I thought that would go over well here as we have the farmers’ produce to sell.”
Nancy’s idea was applauded and the planning began. A mission statement was designed: The purposes of this market are to provide an opportunity for local farmers, vendors, and crafters to offer their fresh produce, homemade crafts, and other products to the residents of the community and to provide a shopping opportunity for community members.
Interviews with two local farmers who attended markets, contacts with the NYS Department of Agriculture, calls to the church insurance agent, conversations with village officials,
and an experimental market was held with a handful of local farmers in 2008. It was an immediate success and the community asked “When is the next farmers’ market?” Dates were chosen, mailings to local farmers sent out, and the market began in earnest in 2009 with seven dedicated farmers/vendors.
Held every Wednesday from mid-June to mid-October from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Sodus United Third Methodist Church parking lot, the market is run by a team of five volunteers – each as important as the other!
I am the market manager and I am responsible for taking care of paperwork and requirements. I do all of the communicating with the Department of Agriculture and Markets in Albany and make sure that we have bona fide farmers here. We go and inspect farms and their crops. The farmers need to give us their crop plan and let us know whether or not they will accept FMNP (Farmers Market Nutrition Program) that people with certain qualifications can get.
I plan our meetings, which start in February; we have brief meetings each day of the market and then we have a wrap-up meeting when the market ends each year. I also plan our vendor meeting, which happens just before the market starts. I invite all the vendors to come and go over all the rules and regulations.
The Financial Secretary, Mary Ann Riker, takes care of collecting and recording vendor fees, paying bills, and setting up and running the EBT station.
Our “Friends of the Market” is handled by Sandi Hamilton, who also collects any weekly vendor fees, keeps attendance, and makes sure all paperwork (insurance, application, permits/ licenses, etc.) are collected and filed.
Assigning vendor locations is the responsibility of Ruth Fisher. Ruth said, “Vendors who come year after year often want their same spot so I arrange for that. There are also some farmers who are only here seasonally, like our blueberry farmer.” Ruth also schedules farm inspections.
Nancy Ghertner maintains our Facebook page and takes photos at the market. She also writes articles for local papers about our market and profiles on some of the farmers.
Now in our ninth year, the market has changed and grown. The market typically features 20+ vendors and several special events weekly. Once a month for June, July, and August the market features “Health and Wellness Days” and local agencies are contacted to participate. On those days, the market lot is packed to overflowing!
The response from the community (and surrounding communities) continues to astound the market team. We can expect to have over 700 visitors on any Wednesday. The market is a happy, social event. The vision has been fulfilled!
To learn more about this ministry, watch the video online: https://vimeo.com/uppernewyork/sodusfarmersmarket
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of the UNY Advocate.
Vicki Swanson to retire, resulting in position changes
Vicki Swanson (formerly Vicki Putney) has decided to retire effective July 1, 2018. Few people have been as connected to the Upper New York Conference as long as Vicki has. She started working for the Central New York Conference 35 years ago—she was hired by Robert McCune and Vernon Lee as the Administrative Assistant to the Conference Executive. Her first major project was a pension-campaign fund. Little did she know that pensions would become one of her primary tasks years down the road.
When the Northern New York Conference and Central New York Conference merged, Vicki remained on board and worked as the Administrative Assistant for the Design Team and then as Director of Ministry Support for North Central New York Conference. After many years of the utmost dedication and once the Troy, North Central New York, Western New York, and Wyoming Conferences merged to form the Upper New York Conference, Vicki eventually became the Conference Director of Human Resources and Benefits.
When reflecting on her decision to retire, Vicki said, “It’s a lot like a long-time pastorate—there comes a time when you need to refresh!” Vicki explains how her career has influenced other aspects of her life. She said, “I spent a lot of my time dedicated to this organization and I have really enjoyed it and learned from it.”
Vicki plans to spend time in her retirement pursuing interests that have often taken the back burner: sewing, crafts, repurposing furniture, traveling, and hiking. In addition to having a more flexible schedule to spend time with her husband, the Rev. Lauren Swanson, she also plans to spend more time with family and friends. She explained, “Many of my friends have been retired or work part-time and I have not had much flexibility to get together with them and now I will.”
Vicki also plans to visit her daughter Tamara, her son-in-law Ryan, and her 4-month old granddaughter Charlotte as often as possible in Toronto. She mentioned how the timing works out perfectly; “About the time Tamara goes back to work is the time I retire. This will help me to be more available when needed!”
With Vicki retiring, there will be some changes in UNY Conference staff positions effective January 1, 2018. These position
s changes will create greater synergy and impactful leadership, while remaining entirely budget neutral.
Current Human Resources and Office Manager, Susan Latessa, will become Human Resources and Benefits Director.
Susan has had over 15 years of experience in benefits. She said, “I am very excited about this position change. I love focusing on human resources and benefits. They’re definitely my strengths.”
Vicki has started training Susan and will continue to do so until July 1, 2018. She is also introducing Susan to people she will be working closely with. For example, Susan met the Board of Pensions when they were at the United Methodist Center earlier this month for a meeting.
Cherish McGowan will become Office/Connectional Ministries Manager.
Cherish said, “In my six years of working for the Conference as the assistant to the Director of Connectional Ministries, I have had the pleasure and the privilege of working with so many dedicated program team leaders and team members who consistently and graciously work together to help accomplish our mission to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places. In my new role as Office/Connectional Ministries Manager, I look forward to deepening my role with the very important work of our teams, and also look forward to helping make sure the Conference office runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible, making sure that we are always good stewards of the Conference’s resources. I am very excited for what lies ahead.”
Susan has begun training Cherish to be Office Manager, and will continue to do so until January 1, 2018. Some of this training has involved Cherish sitting in on office-supply vendor meetings and post office meetings. Susan said, “When anything pops up that is related to my office Manager tasks, I involve Cherish. I involve her in all communications whether it is emails, phone calls, or in-person meetings.”
Cherish has also begun co-supervising Conference Welcoming and Support Specialist, Christopher Lupini.
Susan said, “Both the training that Vicki is doing with me and that I am doing with Cherish involves more than tasks. It involves relationship building. For example, Chris’s job duties are the same; it’s just that he will be reporting to Cherish, not me. I am helping Cherish to understand the goals of the employees she will be managing.”
There will also be an eventual hiring of a Human Resource and Benefits Administrative Assistant as part of the restructuring of the office staff. Julie Valeski continues to serve as Benefits Administrator.
Vicki will remain in the office until July 1, 2018 to continue training Susan as well as the new Administrative Assistant while also completing projects she has been desiring to dedicate more time to—these projects aim at better streamlining data tracking programs.
Vicki’s role has involved providing benefits for over 1,000 people (400+ retires and their spouses, 100 employees, and 300+ clergy member families). She explained how the training she is supplying needs to take place slowly and daily because it is a balancing act. She said, “You have to constantly balance the needs of the people, the health of the investment funds and the cost of benefits for our churches. You have to take it to heart and really care about the results.”
Vicki has been invaluable to the Upper New York Conference. Her dedication resulted in her earning the Suzanna Wesley Award of Excellence presented by the Upper New York United Methodist Men at the 2017 Annual Conference. This award goes to someone who has distinctive intellect, unwavering devotion, loyalty, competence, and friendliness.
Vicki said, “It is hard to let go of my work, but I am very confident in Susan’s abilities as well as Cherish’s – and the cooperation of all our staff -- to make this transition smooth.”
Latest UNY Camp & Retreat Ministries’ newsletter available for viewing
November 14, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson
The Fall 2017 UNY Camp & Retreat Ministries’ newsletter, Xenia News, is now available to view on our website. The issue includes a note from Mike Huber (the Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries), staff updates, and news about each of the sites. Click here to read this informative issue and see how your Ministry Shares support the Upper New York Camp & Retreat Centers.
Sharing God’s love on the highway
November 14, 2017 / By Chaplain Bruce Maxwell, Deacon of Upper New York, serving in Susquehanna Conference
“Compassionate hospitality can reveal Christ in God moments...”
The Breezewood, PA Trucker and Traveler Ministry is a highway workplace ministry at a crossroads in South Central Pennsylvania. We endeavor to live out a gospel witness in a very public setting guided by the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Chaplaincy is a Christian outreach of prayer, presence, counsel, hospitality, and emergency assistance to truck drivers, their families, travelers, and local area employees.
Local business, civic groups, and churches/regional church bodies are partners in the chaplaincy providing numerous resources for ministry. We operate within the two Breezewood Travel Plazas (office location at the Gateway Travel Plaza, across from TV lounge) providing a space for counsel and prayer, as well a helping to support meals, lodging, gas, and transportation for those in need. Partner churches provide resources for Travel Plaza hospitality tables, faith literature/devotionals/CDs/ Bibles, and hygiene traveler care packages- among other forms of outreach. Additionally, we serve as a ministry location for Wesley Theological Seminary “Immersion” students.
Serving as Chaplain in this setting has unfolded a calling of Deacon (class of 1997), providing daily opportunities to build bridges of faith in a very commercial- marketplace setting. God is alive on the highways, as we hear and share stories of Christ’s love and redemption among the many precious souls we encounter.
In this travel-plaza setting, how do we know where to go, what to say, what to do? God has been gracious in opening doors for a ministry presence and arranging divine encounters within the numerous businesses of Breezewood; we are here by invitation and we don’t take that for granted. Our conversations, emergency assistance offers, and prayer opportunities happen at coffee counters, in a garage, general store, restaurant, parking lot, TV lounge, laundry room, or outside a motel room in the transient community of Breezewood. This place is known as “the town of motels” or the “gateway to the South,” where Interstate 76 (PA Turnpike), meets Interstate 70 and Route 30 (the original Lincoln Highway).
We seek to be guided by the Holy Spirit, as a core group of 15 board directors, we discern and chart a course of mission and ministry in the world of truckers and travelers.
Compassionate hospitality can reveal Christ in God moments, such as offering a listening ear as a trucker unloads the frustrations of interstate commerce, or providing food and lodging to a foot traveler, or steering a “run-away” spouse back to his/her family.
Bible study discussions can bring insights to encourage a sagging faith, or pastoral conversations in the ministry office can unleash cleansing tears, affirming hope in a healing prayer.
Plaza ministry may be unique, but isn’t all ministry unique? Fresh expressions of ministry are being birthed anew in every time, place, and season! Each day in trucker/traveler ministry is a new chapter written in real time.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in our Fall 2017 issue of the Advocate, which focused on sharing God's love with our neighbors in all places.
Bishop Webb sends letter on Council of Bishops time with the Commission on a Way Forward
November 9, 2017 / By UNY Communications
Note: On Nov. 9, Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter to the Upper New York Conference.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ!
A press release from the Council of Bishops regarding our meeting this week and specifically our work with the preliminary report from the Commission on a Way Forward is available here. I encourage you to read this release in a spirit of prayer and hope-filled faith. There are some important pieces to remind you of. First, this is the beginning of a journey that still has many miles to travel. The Council of Bishops engaged in prayerful, thoughtful, and respectful conversation that will continue over the next few months as we work together toward a final recommendation(s) to be presented to the Church and specifically the delegates of the 2019 special called session of the General Conference. Second, the three models presented by the Commission on a Way forward represent the work as of today. These models may represent the whole, portion or none of what the final recommendation(s) contain. Finally, the Council of Bishops did not vote on any of these models. Currently there is no recommendation for a way forward. That recommendation will come sometime after the May 2018 Council of Bishops meeting.
Between now and that meeting in May, I am committed to continuing to lead conversations throughout the Upper New York Conference that will add to and build upon the conversations we have engaged in previously. We will use the models offered by the Commission as a spring board for these deeper conversations. This commitment will be carried out with members of our delegation to the special session of the General Conference, as well as clergy and laity throughout Upper New York.
We continue in a season of urgent prayer for The United Methodist Church. Jesus is still Lord of the Church, our focus remains on the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and we trust the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit for the days that lie ahead. May we never forget the words of Jeremiah, as he proclaims: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29.11)
As always, I am blessed to share this journey with you. Thank you for your faithfulness to the mission and ministry in the name of Jesus Christ. Let us pray for one another!
Bishop Mark J. Webb
CLT and DLTs share time of love, learning, and leading
On Saturday, Oct. 28, the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) hosted the District Leadership Teams (DLTs) from all 12 Districts in the Upper New York Conference at the United Methodist Center in Liverpool. The day followed the Loving, Learning, Leading (L3) meeting model that the CLT has been using for their monthly meetings.
Following a greeting and gathering time, the day started with a passionate time of worship, word, and communion. Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb brought the message, teaching from Nehemiah and reminding those gathered that the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem started with passion, connection, and moral imperative, before moving to planning.
Time was taken to allow those gathered to experience the love of God and connect to the other leaders gathered through the shared love of Jesus. Only after the time was taken to worship and connect together did the focus turn to learning.
The time of learning began with a review of the most important points for leading in the Upper New York Conference, Including: Mission and Vision, Purpose of the Conference, Primary Task, and definition of key terms. This time served as a reminder for those who have been at previous CLT/DLT meetings and a foundation for those who were new to these gatherings. All key points of information are available on the Conference website.
With the foundation in place, the CLT moved into the main topic of the day, teaching and using the Ministry Action Plan (MAP) process. This process is a step by step tool that the Conference Leadership Team has been using to identify how to live into desired outcomes. In fact, how to empower the District Leadership Teams with tools like the MAP process is a MAP itself. Click here to review or download the MAP form. For questions or to learn more e-mail email@example.com.
Only after the foundation had been put in place, and the MAP process had been explained well, did the day move into leading.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with DLTs beginning work on their own MAPS to address key dilemmas in their Districts. As the DLTs worked on their MAPS, members of the CLT sat in on conversations to provide guidance and reinforce the process.
The day ended with a time of questions and answers, as well as an acknowledgement that this is not easy work.
My Trip to the Holy Land: Spending time with a family in Palestine
November 7, 2017 / By Theresa Eggleston
I couldn’t eat another bite of fresh falafel. I sat back in my chair and my belly expanded with delicious homemade Mediterranean food. The owner of our tour guide services had invited our group over for dinner in his home. It was the night before we left and my heart felt a joyful heaviness.
During our time in the Holy Land we had learned about the injustice of the Palestinian people. We had learned about the prejudice that came with years of oppression. I had seen how Israeli soldiers carried blind fear against the Palestinian people. I had experienced the daily struggle of what it took to cross the wall between Israel and Palestine. I had learned so much I did not know and my heart broke for the Palestinian people. As I toured parts of Jerusalem I constantly asked myself, where could the Palestinian people find hope?
Hope was there. I just had the take the time to see it. As we sat on the back porch filing our bellies in Bethlehem, Palestine I felt a secure hope. Despite the intimidating Israeli fighter jets flying overhead, our host continued to eat and tell jokes. Being oppressed or intimidated by Israel did not stop him from living life. We laughed and dug into a second plate for fresh baklava. The jets overhead roared while just kilometers away from his home stood intimidating check points. Check points that were ready to question anyone’s purpose for crossing; and yet here we were surpassing language barriers, telling stories and jokes, watching young children dance and sing songs from school.
Yes, the family knew they were still oppressed by the state of Israel but it didn’t take their joy. Oppression never robbed them of their lives. “These are my people too. I love them,” God spoke. I looked at this family, their fresh food filling my belly. How blessed was I to be a guest in the house of such compassion and joy in the middle of strife and oppression. This is the loving Spirit, the living God.
Church livestreams God’s word
November 7, 2017 / By Kathleen Christiansen
After some members of the Lycoming United Methodist Church became too ill to attend Sunday Worship, Pastor Brandin Greco came up with an idea in September 2016. About the same time, Facebook Live, the social media platform’s livestreaming, was growing in popularity. Pastor Greco thought his church could use this technology for something good.
“A lot of people put down things like Facebook and cellphones,” he said. “Yes, they can take away from worship, and they can take away from that connection, that personal connection, but if we’re to teach and preach that all things are of God, why can’t we use technology; why can’t we use these things to go ahead and share his word and love with people?”
At first, the Lycoming UMC’s livestreaming consisted of iPhone attached to a music stand by a car mount.
“The video was jumpy and the audio was not the greatest, but for the first time in a long time, they were able to be a part of worship, and we were able to communicate with them during worship, so they felt like they were part of the church family again.”
The livestreaming has since improved with the addition of an iPad, and it has grown in popularity through word of mouth. And while Pastor Greco can’t credit livestreaming completely with the church’s growth in the last year and a half, he said it has definitely helped.
Philipa Njau, a Lycoming UMC member, said she enjoys the church’s livestreaming.
“It helps reach more people,” she said. “On days that you can’t come to church, you can always tune in; it will be there.”
Philipa’s parents live in Nairobi, Kenya, and watch the Lycoming UMC’s worship service online. In Kenya, her parents run the Paa Ya Paa Arts & Cultural Centre, which has a community church and uses the arts to share and explore God’s love. Pastor Greco saw an opportunity to share communion with the global community on World Communion Sunday through livestreaming, and Philipa helped connect the two congregations so they could share communion through Skype.
“I especially loved the experience of livestreaming with my family,” she said. “World Communion Sunday provided an opportunity for us to have communion together. The experience was great, so it brings a taste for more.”
Pastor Greco said the Lycoming UMC plans to do more livestreaming events with the arts center in the future, and they have even discussed starting an arts ministry with Paa Ya Paa.
The Lycoming UMC’s Sunday livestream starts with prayer requests at 9 a.m., followed by worship at 9:15 a.m. You can find it and previous livestreams on Facebook.
Come and retreat at one of the UNY Camp & Retreat Centers
Did you know that Camp & Retreat Centers throughout UNY offer much more than summer camping opportunities for youth and children? In fact, these centers are open year-round and offer retreat and event opportunities for adults, youth, families, clergy, and ministry leaders.
These centers offer exceptional hospitality, home cooked meals, great accommodations, and wonderful relaxation and recreation options. Your group can select from a variety of meeting and gathering spaces for groups of all sizes.
There are also several events offered at the UNY Camp & Retreat centers throughout the year. Here are just a few:
- S’mores aren’t just for summer—there are S’more gatherings for youth in grades 6-12 at Sky Lake on January 6, 2018 and March 24, 2018.
- Calling all women chocaholics—attend a Chocolate Getaway Retreat at Casowasco on March 2-4, 2018.
- Asbury offers a Youth Winter Weekend on January 5-7, 2017.
- Skye Farm offers a Family Camp May 26-29.
- A Family Life Weekend takes place at Aldersgate July 13-15.
- Each of the Camp & Retreat Centers open their doors for a day in May or June for anybody to check out the facilities and meet the staff.
Furthermore, A Silent Retreat, a Special Needs Retreat, Spring Work Days, a Mother’s Day Brunch, and more are planned at the Camp & Retreat Centers in the coming months.
Click here to read a brochure that highlights the Fall, Winter, and Spring retreats and events at the Upper New York Camp & Retreat Centers.
Track data, gain insight, and help your church with VitalSigns
November 7, 2017 / By Kathleen Christiansen
The VitalSigns Dashboard is a tool that allows churches to track church growth indicators, such as weekly worship attendance, professions of faith, small group participation, missional participation, and financial giving. It is a deeper level of insight, support, and accountability that tracks and trends vital information in an easy-to-understand dashboard. VitalSigns provides both a real-time pulse and long-term perspective on what’s going on in congregations, Districts, and Conferences. It is designed to help congregations follow their progress on the goals they set each year.
“It’s really a tool to help resource local congregations,” said Director of Vital Congregations the Rev. Aaron Bouwens. “It’s not a tool that we’re going to be using to do harm or to be punitive to churches. It really is going to be a tool to say ‘what’s happening in our local churches from a logistics standpoint?’ and then ‘how can we help engage those churches with resources that would be helpful to what’s happening in their life?’”
The General Council on Finance and Administration pays for this software through General Church apportionments – which the Upper New York Conference paid in full in 2016. The UNY Conference began using VitalSigns about 18 months ago, and so far, 38 UNY churches have signed up.
Right now, most churches only report church growth indicators once a year. It could take years for trends to appear with this method of reporting.
“The idea is that by doing this weekly, churches can start to see trends and changes earlier,” Rev. Bouwens said.
It takes about 10 minutes to sign up for VitalSigns. After a church signs up, it will receive an email each Sunday with a link to track data for worship attendance, profession of faith, baptisms, and other categories. Rev. Bouwens said it only takes about five minutes each week to share the information.
“It’s not asking for new information; it’s just asking to share the information more regularly,” he said. “We are not asking churches to start counting something they aren’t already counting.”
Rev. Bouwens then reviews the information each Tuesday to determine what, if anything, can be done to assist each church.
“Our intent is to be able to look at the trends of what’s happening in the churches and figure out how to best resource them,” Rev. Bouwens said.
For more information about VitalSigns, including how to sign up, click here.