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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Whitney Point UMC’s Sew ’n Sews ministry makes a difference in the lives of 10,000 girls

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

    Picture 10,000 vibrant dresses in bright blues with checkered trim, or fuchsia a with floral trim, purple with paisley trim, or entirely floral in bright pinks, reds, turquoise, or yellow—gorgeous dresses. These dresses are for little girls in impoverished communities all over the world—dresses that were once sheets and pillow cases, or quilting patterns found when cleaning out attics of loved ones who have either passed away ore moved to a long-term care facility.

    These 10,000 dresses were made by a group of women at Whitney Point United Methodist Church who get together every Friday morning and create dress kits ranging in sizes from infant to teenage. Their ministry is called Sew ‘n Sews. They wash every piece of fabric donated to them and choose complementary colors for each dress and trim. Sewing begins and elastic is added to the little shoulder straps. Each dress is prayed over and hung on the wall of their Fellowship Hall until there are plenty of dresses to bring to the New York State Dress a Girl Around the World Chapter located at Angels of Mercy in Rochester, NY.

    On Sunday, May 20, Whitney Point UMC celebrated the 10,000 dresses made in their fellowship hall, decorated with nearly 200 dresses on the wall. Well over 100 people were there for the celebration.

    The Rev, Corey Turnpenny, pastor at Whitney Point UMC opened the celebration. After pointing out a slide show on the back wall showcasing little girls around the world wearing dresses made right in the room they were sitting in, Pastor Corey said, “This isn’t just a celebration of 10,000 dresses. What this is, is a celebration of 10,000 girls around the world knowing they are loved, and that they have a layer of protection that will last them for years.”

    Jean Ellis is the leader of the Sew ‘n Sews ministry group explained the many ways that God’s hands are involved in Dress a Girl. The friendship among the sewers is one of the blessings. She said, “It’s been a very exciting time; we have made so many dear friends. Many women who have done this ministry were in their 90s.” She points to a memorial board with photos of women (and men) who have greatly supported the ministry over the years and have left to be with God.

    Several voices were raised from celebrants around the room mentioning women currently involved in the ministry who are in their 90s.

    Even though the demographic of this group is older women, Jean gets younger women involved. She said with a giggle, “Some younger women say that they’ve never sewn a hem in their life and I tell them, ‘No problem we’ll show you!’”

    Donations keep this ministry strong and effective. Every piece of thread, elastic, and fabric used in the Sew ‘n Sews ministry have been donated. God makes sure the Sew ‘n Sews never run out of materials.  

    Jean said, “All of our fabric has been donated. We have discovered that when we think we are running out of fabric on a Friday morning, that door (points to one of the doors in fellowship hall) opens and someone brings in more fabric. That reassures us that this is what God wants us to be doing.”

    In addition to Pastor Corey and Jean Ellis, speakers present at the 10,000 Dresses celebration, included: Rachel Cinader, founder of Dress a Girl Around the World (who flew in from Iowa) and Mary Joe Colligan, President of Angels of Mercy.

    Dress a Girl Around the World presented Sew ‘n Sews and Whitney Point UMC with an amazing, colorful painting of dresses on a clothes line that reads, Congratulations! 10,000 dresses for Dress a Girl.”

    Angels of Mercy presented Sew ‘n Sews and Whitney Point UMC with a plaque that reads, “Angels of Mercy lovingly honors Sew ‘n Sews in recognition of their contribution of 10,000 dresses to bring hope and dignity to girls around the world. May 20 is declared Sew ‘n Sews Day in Whitney Point, NY. Your amazing accomplishment truly speaks of the love of Christ that you exemplify.”

    The 10,000 Dresses celebration concluded with an expression of gratitude and another gift from Pastor Corey.

    Pastor Corey said, “I have something to share that was made possible by funds donated in memory of Joyce Jones who was a long-time participant in the Sew ‘n Sews. These dresses have become a fixture in this room and I think they just soak up the love and the joy that is shared here every Sunday. We will now have a permanent fixture here even when we send off batches of dresses. This fixture will remind us of what an incredible accomplishment we made. I’ll unveil her.”

    Pastor Corey moved hanging dresses to the sides and on the wall was a stunning metal wall hanging of an angel in a beautiful dress. The work of art was made in Haiti from a local craftsman from a leftover oil drum (learn more at

    Pastor Corey prayed a blessing over the dresses in the room. The attendees enjoyed refreshments and helped pack up the dresses to go to Angels of Mercy and eventually to girls who need them.

    Pastor Corey said, “Thank you for what you do. It may seem like a small thing, giving a girl a dress, but it can mean everything to a little girl.”

    Editor’s Note: To donate fabric or sewing supplies to Sew ‘n Sews, contact Rev. Corey Turnpenny at In the coming weeks, an article featuring Angels of Mercy and an article featuring Dress a Girl Around the World will further reveal how this amazing ministry is indeed God’s plan.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    Inviting and Inspiring Worship: Highlight on Asbury First UMC

    May 23, 2018 / By Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady II, Asbury First UMC

    In the United Methodist tradition, worship is ultimately about “an encounter with the living God through the risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Or, so says our Book of Worship.  Unfortunately, many people (including some clergy) are more likely to experience boredom in worship than God. 

    To our credit, we have known that there is a problem for several decades and have done our best to fix it. We have tried everything from adjusting service times and days, to hiring bands, to using new forms of technology, to taking out the pews. The problem persists.

    Could it be that the deficit is not intrinsic to the worship hour? As a part of my doctoral program, I spent a year in three United Methodist congregations interviewing youth and adults about their experience of worship. I discovered that what helps people experience God is not the kind of music sung, but the kind of community that sings it.  As one young person put it, “I just want to be someplace where it feels like everyone wants to be there.”

    Worship is an expression of the community itself and should be a reflection of the work and mission of that community. It must have magnitude—not in terms of size, but in terms of meaning. The sermons should matter. The music should be authentic. But more than anything else, the people should be willing to share life together—in and out of worship.

    The neo-gothic nave of Asbury First could be dressed up to seem more hip. We could take out the pews, stop using the organ, lose the hymnals, abandon the pulpit, but to what end? Ultimately, we are who we are, and pretending to be something we are not is not only disingenuous, it fails to make disciples. Instead, we have spent the last few years clarifying our mission, bolstering our intergenerational connections, serving the poor, and walking with one another through the highs and lows of life. As a result, our worship attendance has increased.

    To be clear, we have worked on our worship as well—from preaching that addresses the issues of today to music that is varied and accessible. Do people still get bored? Probably, and we still have work to do, but at least we are in it together. The good news is that God is never boring.

    What else you need to know about Annual Conference

    May 22, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Every week for the past few months, articles have been published about specific Annual Conference details that you need to know about. Now, with being just over a week away from Annual Conference, we have a few more details to share with you.

    • Livestream

    If you are unable to attend Annual Conference—no worries! You can watch all the services and plenaries through the Annual Conference livestream. Simply go to our website, and on the front page, you will see a link to the livestream of Annual Conference beginning with the laity session on Wednesday May 30 and ending with the ordination service on Saturday June 2.

    • No packets

    To be better stewards of both the environment and the Annual Conference budget, there will be no packets this year. Instead, Annual Conference members will be asked to use digital copies of materials available in the Annual Conference App. There will also be a table with limited numbers of printed documents so that you can take specifically what need or want.

    • App squad

    Are you uneasy about the fact that there will be an app this year? In addition to the detailed instructions on how to download the app in the Annual Conference Guide, there will also be an app squad available to help you download and navigate the app. Look for people wearing yellow buttons that say, “APP SQUAD.”

    • Registration closing

    Please note that again this year registration will close at 9 a.m. on Thursday May 31 for opening worship. It will reopen following the service.

    • Late Fee

    If you did not pre-register for Annual Conference and are registering onsite, please that that there is a $50.00 fee.

    • Seating

    Please note that the seating this year will be metal folding chairs. To make the long hours of sitting more comfortable, each Annual Conference attendee will be given a seat cushion, provided by Church Mutual. Outside seating should only be used for medical reasons. 

    • Accommodations for people with disabilities:
    • Parking

    Please note that parking adjacent to the SRC Arena for people with disabilities may fill up. There are shuttles available from lots 13 and 14.

    • Worship

    There are a limited number of large-print worship booklets for those who need them. Also, during services and plenary, there is both a sign-language interpreter and closed captioning on the screens.

    Any additional details will be sent out though UNY Notes later this week and next week. Be sure to continue watching Conference Communication channels so you can stay updated as we gather together and boldly live our call at this year’s Upper New York Annual Conference.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    Bishops clarify statement on Commission on a Way Forward recommendation

    May 18, 2018 / By Council of Bishops

    The Council of Bishops is issuing the following statement, written by the bishops who served on the Commission on a Way Forward, and approved by the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops this week.

    The Council of Bishops has voted by an overwhelming majority to share the work done by the Commission on a Way Forward on the three plans and to recommend the One Church Plan. 

    The One Church Plan will be placed before the 2019 General Conference for legislative action.

    To honor the work of the commission, and in service to the delegates to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, the Council of Bishops will also provide supplemental materials that include a historical narrative with disciplinary implications related to the connectional conference plan and the traditionalist plan.  The recommendation adopted by the COB reflects the wide diversity of theological perspectives and the global nature of the UMC as the best way forward for our future as a denomination.

    What are the five markers of vitality?

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

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Spring 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on developing vital congregations.

    Through the study of thousands of congregations in various contexts, there are five markers that have been consistent with high-vitality congregations:

    Inviting and Inspiring Worship

    Weekly worship services continue to be a primary place of connection with those who are already connected with the church as well as those who are not yet part of the church. With that in mind, attention should be given to offering a worship experience that moves beyond simply covering the basics of tradition and practice. This involves creating an environment where people feel invited either by a person already attending or the Holy Spirit.

    Vital worship can engage a person on a visceral and emotive level. It is relevant and includes high-quality preaching. In short, vital worship is done with excellence.

    New and Growing Disciples

    Vital congregations are congregations that are making new disciples as well as growing disciples into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Congregations that have a high level of vitality have an intentional plan in place, and actively, to help people become followers of Jesus as well as grow through the sanctifying grace of God through Jesus Christ.

    In short, vital congregations are places where people are invited to encounter the grace of God in its fullness.

    Small Groups

    Small groups in vital congregations are employed for faith formation, accountability, and encouragement. Utilizing classic Wesleyan questions such as the condition of a person’s soul and areas of struggle and sin. Small groups provide an opportunity to live life deeply together and provide opportunity to invite others deeper into the grace of God found in Jesus.

    As congregations grow numerically, small groups are essential for connection and care in the life of the congregation. The rate at which a congregation can grow numerically and remain healthy and vital is in direct relationship to the quantity and quality of small groups.

    Engaged Disciples in Mission and Outreach

    Vital congregations live out a faith that is actively partnering with God to be agents of transformation in the world. Engagement is through hands-on activity outside the bounds of the local congregation. This is seen through activity in local, national, and international mission and outreach.

    Movement is made beyond charitable support such as food and clothing pantries, toward a deeper relationship with Jesus and the church.

    Generous Giving

    Vital congregations have healthy, biblical, and consistent conversations about a person’s relationship with God and money. Healthy conversations leads to participants of the congregation giving generously financially as well as with other resources. Significant numbers of people will report engaging the spiritual discipline of tithing. Additionally, congregations will provide financial assistance to mission and outreach locally, nationally, and internationally. Vital congregations have an outflow of financial resources.

    Following are profiles of five congregations that have been recognized for strength in a marker. The pastors of these congregations explain how intentional focus on the marker helped increase the vitality of their church.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Broken Glory

    May 15, 2018 / By Deresha Hayles

    Editor's Note: The United Methodist Ecumenical Campus Ministry at Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse University applied for and received the Ercil Cady Grant last Fall and they put on a writing contest that was geared towards students of Black/African American and Native American descent.  Deresha S. Hayles won the contest with the following essay.

    “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 NIV

    If our hearts are the inner light source that keep us pushing towards the greater tomorrow that we can’t see, mine was shattered. Fallen from the depths of a burgeoning sorrow it barreled towards a crystalline sea of depression and splintered into a million pieces that would take me a million years to piece together again…at least that’s how it felt to me. I had always imagined that when it was time for me to go off to college that the radiant beam of joy that I kept stationed within me would still be there, sharing the love that I had found within myself with those around me. Yet here I was, eighteen years old and feeling utterly depleted of the inner hope that had consistently kept me going all my life. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. My God, the source of my burning hope and divine joy felt light years away from me. I grieved over the light that had left me and mourned the peace I thought I would never again see. My heart was not functioning as my lamp and I was struggling to stumble through my day to day. My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Is this how Jesus felt on the cross? Stranded alone in the shadows, how was I to share my light with others when my light had been stripped away from me?

    I came into Syracuse running from a reality I thought I was not strong enough to bear. Entering into my freshman year I felt utterly alone. Separated from those who had been supporting me through my despair, the days crept by ever so slowly, leaving me to sit in an ocean that felt determined to rise above me. I had many goals coming into the year, things like declaring a major in African American Studies while working towards medical school and creating a new friend group to build beautiful memories with. Although those goals were still on my mind, it all paled in comparison to finding a treasure that was proving to be more elusive than I ever thought it could be: emotional and spiritual security. God had always been my resting place whenever I needed to pull away from the world and dwell in a dreamy calmness. When life left me feeling shriveled up and void of my inner peace, God always poured that peace back into me. I have had “dry spells” before; moments where it felt as though a wall had gone up between God and I, blocking me from hearing His voice and my prayers from reaching Him. Yet for some reason this was different. God felt further and more distant than ever and the wall that was between us was insurmountable. I had every desire in me to make my time in Syracuse one laden with memories I could look back on with a smile, yet how was I to do so when my happiness was continually slipping through my fingers? Unsure of what I needed and where I needed to go to find it, I set my sights first on ground that looked seemingly familiar to me: Syracuse’s own Black Celestial Choral Ensemble.

    On the day of tryouts, I tentatively crept up the steps to Hendricks Chapel and tiptoed my way to the nearest bathroom I could find. The inside of my chest felt like a sauna yet my throat felt as dry as the Sahara. Uncertain whether He would hear me, I let a small prayer slip from my lips and fall into the space around me. If You are listening and You want me to be in this group, please, give me some form of a sign. I stood in the empty bathroom, waiting for something like a glorious ray of light to fall and fill the room or hear a voice whisper, “You’re in the right place.” Even though I had never heard Him in those ways before, I stood anxiously waiting for anything to prove that He loved me and was still with me.


    On the verge of tears and body trembling, I inched my way up to the bathroom sinks to splash cool water on my face. I hovered dejectedly in front of the mirror, tears mid fall when the door opened and a cheerful voice greeted me.

    “Hi! I felt compelled to come in here because I saw you walk in here looking a bit nervous. Are you here for the auditions?”

    What came after that was a blur of a five-minute audition that felt like an eternity, never-ending hugs, and an ocean full of hellos. I walked back to my room feeling more accomplished than I had in a long time. Whether or not I made it into the choir, I knew that God had heard me. There was a crack in the wall of Jericho that was blocking me from my bliss and it felt like there was hope in the wall tumbling down after all.

    Two days later, I got an email saying that I was accepted into BCCE. That first rehearsal was the first of many that would help me to piece together not just the Deresha I used to be, but the Deresha I wanted to be. As we stood together in Hendricks’ hallowed halls, hands clasped and voices echoing through the sanctuary, I laid down the crosses that had been nailed to my shoulders. I had an altar on which I could lay my sorrows and a pinnacle from which I could reach out and touch God’s hands. The dark hole I was in wasn’t as lonely and when I looked up above me, the glowering night appeared to have golden streaks within it. I was not alone. I was not abandoned. There in that space with my fellow choir members, it was okay for me not to be okay. I did not have the answers nor the blueprint as to how I’d get out of my depression, but I was no longer as afraid of the fumbling process I was on in order to get back to reality. Through the love that they showed me and the encouraging words they spoke into my life, they acted as a conductor that helped me feel the love of God that I had been missing.

    It slowly started to dawn upon me that if life was a mural, I had been looking for God purely from afar. I had not been stopping and taking the time to admire the intricate details of each composite part of the overall design, seeking Him and cherishing Him in the seemingly small things in this new part of my life. Depression was still weighing heavily on me, but He had not left me alone with no ammunition against it. The fuel to my fire was living in the interactions I carried with those around me. As I searched to find the reassurance I was missing, God found me through the people who embraced me. His love touched me through the scriptures they shared with me. I felt His presence as we would lift up our voices in harmony and sing from the deepest wells within us. He was our life source who had and would do great things in our lives. As I looked around our semi-circle, I saw the faces of those who, like me, may have gone through an unbearable pain that they couldn’t shake off on their own, but they were slowly healing from that pain with each other’s help. I found beauty in my brokenness. Crouched over in the depths of my despair, surrounded by utter darkness is when my truth found me. It was the people who were surrounding me who found the pieces of my light that I was missing and restored them onto me. As I mended my light from my heart they lent me their own, engulfing me in the love I thought I was numb to.

    I know now that even in the darkest nights when I feel lower than low, I am not invisible. My light might dim and I might sway in the ferocity of the night’s wind, but the entity that I am will never be extinguished for I am a child of He who loves me until the end of time. When I was at my weakest, He sent others in my life to lift me up and help me get back on the path to a greater me— a better me. Since being at Syracuse University and meeting the people that I have, I have been reassured that God is not just within the big things in life. His presence is living and breathing within the things we take for granted. He’s in the smiles we share in the mornings. He’s in the hugs we share when we’re excited. He’s in the tears we shed when we’re vulnerable and the anger we feel when we’re tired of the pain in this world. He’s in everything, and that means He’s even in me: broken, unbroken, and all.

    Historical Society meeting Sat., June 16, 2018 in Clyde

    May 15, 2018 / By Nancy Rutenber

    The Upper New York United Methodist Historical Society will host a public meeting Saturday, June 16, 2018 (with Society news and a program) starting at 10:30 a.m. at Clyde United Methodist Church, 84 Sodus St. in Clyde, NY (in Wayne County’s town of Galen). Methodist churches of Wayne County to be explored.

    Lunch hosted by the church -  offered for a free-will donation – will be meatloaf, herbed potatoes, corn casserole, salad and dessert accompanied by coffee, tea, water, or lemonade.  Gluten-free and/or lactose free versions can be prepared.  (For example, olive or canola oil used in place of butter for some of the potatoes.) To help the kitchen and yourself, please note a preference as to regular, gluten-free, or lactose-free by emailing  Thanks.

    The program will be a power point presentation by Loreen Jorgensen (Have Churches Will Travel) on the nearly fifty Methodist churches of Wayne County, plus the “musical chairs churches” in Clyde.  A handout will have the location of the churches marked on a map of Wayne County with a key on the back.  Loreen is a retired school librarian, volunteers at the Wayne County Museum of History and elsewhere, and had a book published in February on “The First Hundred Churches.” 

    Optional Sites to Visit after will include access to the former 1833 – 1954 Baptist Church which is now Galen Historical Society (see picture) and the Christ Community Church in Clyde which has the only Tiffany window still in Wayne County.  

    Location:  Clyde, at the intersection of Route 414 & State Route 31 by the banks of the old Erie Canal, is in the Finger Lakes District northeast of Geneva.  Originally called ”Blockhouse” for a French trading post and block house, the village later was called “Lauraville.”      

    To get there From Thruway Exit 41:  Get in the left of the two left turn lanes and proceed north for about 8 mi. At the foot of the bridge over the Erie Canal, turn left onto Columbia St., then right onto Sodus St. The church is two blocks north on the left, at the southwest corner of Sodus and Caroline Streets.

        From Rt. 31 east bound: In the village, turn left at the stop sign onto Sodus St. and proceed 1 block. The church is on the left, at the southwest corner of Sodus and Caroline Streets.      From Rt. 31 westbound: In the village, turn right at the stop sign onto Main St. and immediately left onto North Park St. Turn right onto Sodus St. The church is on the left, at the southwest corner of Sodus and Caroline Streets.

        From Rt. 104: Turn onto Rt. 414 south for approx. 10 mi. Inside the Clyde village limits, take the 3rd right (at the Y in the road) onto Sodus St. The Methodist Church is at the 4th intersection, at the southwest corner of Sodus and Caroline Streets.  Parking is available in front of the church and behind it.

    Getting Ready for Annual Conference: Communication at Annual Conference

    May 15, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Annual Conference will take place May 30-June 2 this year at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse.

    The Upper New York Communications Ministry area works around the clock during this event to help keep everyone informed about what took place during all worship services and all plenary sessions. In-depth articles are written and added to the UNY Conference website ( and to the UMCMeet app daily.

    After each day of Annual Conference, there will be a bulleted informational document titled “Daily Notes” to support Annual Conference members in reporting to their local church. These notes will be made available on the UNY Conference website and the UMCMeet app at the end of each day of Annual Conference. A limited number of printed copies are made available each following morning.

    There will also be fun video recaps shown on Friday and Saturday morning reviewing the happenings of the previ­ous day at Annual Conference. The recaps will also be available on the UNY Conference website and the UMCMeet app.

    Furthermore, the week after Annual Conference, a video recap of the entire Annual Conference will be available for use in reports to local churches.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    UNY Welcomes Emily MacNaughton

    May 9, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York (UNY) Conference is pleased to welcome Emily MacNaughton as Payroll Specialist. Emily joins the Finance Ministry Area with previous Paylocity experience, which will be helpful in her task of processing biweekly payroll for the Conference office, Districts, Camp & Retreat Ministries, and episcopal employees.

    In addition to payroll-related tasks, Emily will be helping in the Human Resources Department as needed. Beth Dupont, Emily’s supervisor, said, “All of us in Finance are thrilled with Emily’s presence! Even though she has only been with us for a week, I can already see that Emily is going to have a positive impact on the efficiency of our Ministry. She offers a very positive outlook and is so helpful and kind. Her knowledge of payroll matters will be very helpful for the churches, as well.  Her spirit and energy fit in very well here.”

    Outside of the office, Emily enjoys spending time with her 8-year-old daughter Lydia. Together, they enjoy the sun, doing arts and crafts, watching movies, doing archery with their church, and spending time with family. 

    UNY churches, children raise funds in memory of a boy

    May 9, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    Colin Hayward Toland always had a smile on his face.

    He dreamed of being a police officer, which became a reality when the Ithaca Police Department made him an honorary member at 9 years old and later when the Memphis Police Department promoted him to lieutenant and a member of the department’s tactical unit at 10 years old.

    Colin battled brain cancer since the age of 2, and sadly succumbed to the illness at the age of 10, but he never let his illness bring him down.

    “He brought community back through his plight,” said Pastor Mike Kelly, of the Newfield and Reynoldsville United Methodist churches, who met Colin while serving as chaplain of the Allegiance Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, for which Colin was an honorary member. “He became a community icon. Every time you saw this young boy, he had a smile on his face, and he never gave up.”

    In memory of Colin, children attending Sunday school and Vacation Bible School at Newfield and Reynoldsville UMCs are fundraising for St. Jude’s Children Hospital – which provided Colin medical care at no cost – and Trumansburg Takes on Pediatric Cancer.

    “The idea of helping both organizations in Colin’s name, to really be able to honor him, his memory, seemed appealing to me,” Pastor Kelly said.

    The children began various fundraisers on April 1 and will continue to raise funds through Aug. 1. Pastor Kelly said it made sense to fundraise during Vacation Bible School because this year’s theme is “benevolence.”

    Kids from both Sunday schools have been selling boxes of candy, the Reynoldsville UMC will have a bake sale and can drive from 8 a.m.-noon on May 12 in front of the Walmart in Watkins Glen, and the Newfield UMC will host a spaghetti dinner, with all proceeds going toward the effort. In addition, both churches are partnering with Texas Roadhouse for gift certificates and sales.

    “I just think that this is an opportunity to really teach the kids how blessed they are and that kids just like them aren’t always as lucky, even though people like Colin didn’t understand that – he always had that positive spirit no matter what,” Pastor Kelly said.

    Living into our potential through Pastoral Leadership Development

    May 8, 2018 / By Pastor Gary Kubitz, Co-facilitator of PLD in Albany DIstrict

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of the Advocate, which highlighted different ways people and churches across the Upper New York Conference are spiritually planning their way forward.

    What does it mean to be a leader in the church in the 21st century? Many pastors across the Upper NY Annual Conference have been wrestling with this question as they are participating in Pastoral Leadership Development (PLD). The PLD curriculum was developed by our brothers and sisters in the Missouri Conference and has been utilized in their region to encourage their pastors to engage in leadership that will help the church live into its Spirit-filled purpose for the Glory of God. It is the goal of our episcopal leadership that the clergy in our region gain knowledge and tools for leading the church in our current day so that we also may live into God’s call for God’s church.

    The (PLD) curriculum is designed to have clergy engage with one another in the discussion of various leadership topics through large and small group interaction. Each month, the clergy in each District gather for training that is facilitated by the District Superintendents and other members of clergy that have had other leadership training.

    In the Albany District, we have covenanted to read the books that are recommended by the authors of the curriculum (Bob Farr, David Hyatt, and Ken Willard), and to meet monthly to discuss these books and to participate in discussion and other activities with the intention of increasing both the spiritual and practical approaches to leadership.

    The topics for our monthly discussion include such things as: Our changing world, the missional church, personal leadership styles, church alignment, vision and focus, effective worship and preaching, and outreach and evangelism.

    One aspect of this effort that is different than many other learning opportunities in the past is that it asks pastors to create action plans based upon the concepts that are being learned in each session. As a part of this action plan, participating members are working in peer accountability groups to as we look to support one another in living into our purpose as the church.

    As I consider all that I have been learning throughout this process, I would like to start by stating the obvious; Leading for change is hard!

    The members of our group in the Albany District have come together acknowledging this fact…and it may be safe to say that we are beginning to embrace this fact.

    One major benefit in our discussions has been that we are beginning to move out of our respective ministry-setting silos to understand that other pastors in other contexts are working to overcome common obstacles, and that there is strength in the sharing of ideas. This is not a new or groundbreaking realization, but given the focus on action and accountability that is at the core of the PLD, we are we are building bonds that can lead to future possibilities for effective leadership in ministry.

    Through this work, we are beginning to understand that our current systems are not optimal for ministry in our current age. Together, clergy are beginning to explore new avenues of leadership, new possibilities for collaborative ministries, and new and exciting ways to empower laity increase their effectiveness in mission and ministry.

    As pastoral leaders of God’s Church, we are called to share in God’s vision for the world. Because the world is changing at a seemingly unprecedented pace, we as leaders need to re-vision for the present and the future. This is challenging work. But rest assured that we are not alone – God’s Spirit is moving among us and within us. God’s Spirit is empowering us with the gifts, skills, and tools we need to effectively be the Ekklesia, the “called out ones” in a world that needs effective leaders equipped to share the love of God in all places to all people.

    I encourage all children of God, clergy and laity alike, to continue to seek God’s will for our church. Keep seeking, keep learning, and keep loving. If you are interested in growing in your leadership capacity, I invite you to explore some of the following books which those participating in the PLD curriculum are reading:

    • ReCreating the Church – Leadership for the Postmodern Age by Richard Hamm
    • Direct Hit by Paul Borden
    • Shaped by God’s Heart by Milfred Minatrea
    • Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger
    • The Externally Focused Church by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson
    • Communicating for Change by Andy Stanely and Lane Jones
    • Unbinding the Gospel by Martha Grace Reese

    “He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38). Through our continued work in leadership development, we are striving to be effective laborers, living into the potential that God has gifted us to be.

    May our God empower us to live out the mission and purpose to which God has called us as the church in the UNY Annual Conference.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    UNY AC2018 App is now available

    May 8, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Are you attending the Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse, taking place May 30-June 2? If so, we have exciting news for you! The UNY Annual Conference 2018 event app is now available for you to download on your mobile device.

    This app is available for all who have registered and paid their Annual Conference registration in full. Currently, there are schedules and documents related to Annual Conference, such as the Annual Conference Guide, worship booklets, speaker bios, menus, etc. available for you to browse. Once you are at Annual Conference, you can use the app to quickly check-in and the app will be updated daily with videos, articles, and any potential changes in the schedule.

    Be sure to download the app before arriving at Annual Conference. 

    How to download the app

    Go to your App Store on your Apple device or to Google Play on your Android and search for the app “UMCMeet” and download it. Once your app is on your phone, you will want to open the app and enter the event ID: unyumc. Then, press search and select the Annual Conference-UNYUMC icon. Sign in using the email address you provided when you registered for Annual Conference and the pro­vided password: 2018. You are ready to start exploring!

    Click here for detailed instructions, complete with photos and diagrams, to help you download the Annual Conference 2018 app.

    At Annual Conference, there will be an “App Squad” available to answer any app questions you may have and to help you download and explore the app. There will be a limited number of printed documents available at Annual Conference for those who choose not to take advantage of the the app.

    The hope is that the app will allow most Annual Conference delegates to get needed information and updates in a timely way, so the focus can remain on being together in prayer while we boldly live our call. 

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    Getting Ready for Annual Conference: Mission work opportunities available May 30 at UNY’s Mission Central HUB

    May 7, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Are you arriving in Syracuse by Wednesday, May 30 for Annual Conference? If so, there’s an opportunity to help with a mission project at Upper New York (UNY)’s Mission Central HUB, located at the United Methodist Center at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd in Liverpool, NY.

    On May 30th, 2018 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., you can come to the United Methodist Center in Liverpool and work in the Center for Mission Engagement HUB on UMCOR Health, Cleaning, and School kits.

    There are one-hour volunteer slots available beginning at 1:00 p.m. Materials will be ready and volunteers available to teach the assembly process if needed.

    Mike Block, UNUY Director of Missional Engagement said, “The goal of 2,500 kits for the day can be achieved with everyone’s corporation and efforts.”

    Click here to sign up to help with this mission project!

    You can also stop by on May 30 to donate flood bucket (cleaning) kit, health (hygiene) kit, and school kit supplies—bring them directly to Mission Central at the United Methodist Center (look for the two garage bays near the loading dock). Visit for lists of supplies that go into each kit.

    There is also the opportunity to help support the UNY Mission Central HUB financially. There will be a collection for the UNY Mission Central HUB at the Opening Worship on June 1. You can also click here to donate online. Checks can be written payable to the Upper New York Conference with "951- Mission Central HUB" noted in the memo line.

    It is a great gift to be able to incorporate mission work into Annual Conferences utilizing the great space that is now have available at the Mission Central HUB!

    From the Desk of Bishop Webb: Constitutional Amendments regarding gender equality

    May 7, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    On May 7, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb sent the following letter to the UNY Conference. 

    Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

    In addition to our work regarding the recommendations of The Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops last week also completed canvassing the votes of Annual Conferences on the five constitutional amendments that were approved by the 2016 General Conference.

    All five constitutional amendments were approved by the 2016 General Conference but require 2/3 aggregate vote of all the Annual Conferences to effectively change our constitution.

    Click here for the press release from the Council, as well as two supporting letters.

    I am sending this additional letter because the amendments regarding gender equality did not receive the required two-thirds aggregate vote of the Annual Conferences and, therefore, did not pass. Considering this outcome, I join my colleagues in wanting to be clear that we remain unequivocal in our commitment to the equality of women and their full inclusion in our Church.

    Our Social Principles are clear: “We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God. We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another.” (⁋161(F)) We also state, “We affirm women and men to be equal in every aspect of their common life.” (162(F)). With regard to clergy, our principle has been clear for more than 60 years: “Both men and women are included in all provisions of the Discipline that refer to the ordained ministry. “((⁋369.2). Throughout our Book of Discipline, the General Conference has enacted provisions to protect women’s role and to enhance their full participation in the life of the church. This includes the establishment of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and their related structures in Annual Conferences.

    I am grateful for the impact of the many women whom God has used to shape me.  My wife, Jodi, my mother, grandmother, sister, aunts, Sunday School teachers, teachers, professors, supervisors, authors, bishops, district superintendents, pastors, colleagues, and friends. The Upper New York Conference is blessed to have many passionate, effective female pastors and laity who serve Christ and the Church with distinction and I am deeply appreciative of their ministry and blessed to serve alongside them. I deeply mourn the pain the results of these votes have caused.

    I will continue to stand against sexism in our culture and our Church. I commit to working with you and leading the Upper New York Conference into the fullness of God’s intended reality for us regarding equality for women. Over the next few months, I will work with our Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women to strengthen the ways in which we address the sin of sexism that still exists and celebrate the role of women within our shared life and ministry. May we continue to care for one another, pray for one another, encourage one another and understand the powerful truth that we need one another in all things.

    Grace and peace,

    Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor’s Note: The first constitutional amendment related to gender justice was voted on using the wrong language. A new ballot is being prepared for voting by Annual Conferences at their next meeting; however, some conferences will not meet again until 2019

    From the Desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: United Methodist Bishops recommend a way forward

    May 4, 2018 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    On May 4, 2018, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, sent the following letter to the Upper New York Conference. 

    “As Bishops of The United Methodist Church, we affirm that WE ARE OF ONE HEART in our desire to discern the mind and will of Jesus Christ for our leadership and the church. In the Northeastern Jurisdiction and around the world we experience great diversity of thought and practice within The United Methodist Church. In partnership with Bishops from around the world, we will continue to lead collectively and individually to value and provide room for our diversity as United Methodists.”

    -The Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops

    Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

    Over the last week, the Council of Bishops (Council) met in Chicago to receive the final report from the Commission on a Way Forward (Commission) and discern the recommendation that would be sent to the special session of General Conference to be held in St. Louis, MO in February of 2019.  This meeting was bathed in prayer, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and caring, honest conversations.

    The Council of Bishops adopted the following:


    Having received and considered the extensive work of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will submit a report to the special session of the General Conference in 2019 that includes:

    • All three plans (The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan, and The Connectional Conference Plan) for a way forward considered by the Commission and the Council.

    • The Council’s recommendation of The One Church Plan.

    • An historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.

    Rationale: In order to invite the Church to go deeper into the journey the Council and Commission has been on, the Council makes all the information considered by the Commission and the Council of Bishops available to the delegates of the General Conference and acknowledges there is support for each of the three plans within the Council. The values of our Global Church are reflected in all three plans. Most of the Council recommends The One Church Plan as the best way forward for The United Methodist Church.

    While a majority of The Council of Bishops did express a preference for the One Church plan, this report and its recommendation reflects the wide diversity of perspectives within the Council of Bishops on our best way forward as a denomination. It also provides the General Church with three specific and detailed options for moving out of our current impasse. Ultimately the decision on this matter lies within the 800+ clergy and lay delegates from around the world who will convene at the General Conference in St. Louis on February 23-26, 2019.  Please pray diligently for the members of our Upper New York delegation.

    Full details of the plans and accompanying legislative proposals will be released as soon as final editing of the entire report is completed and translated into the official language(s) of the General Conference. It is estimated this will be no later than July 8. 

    Over the next few months, we will announce ways in which we may gather together throughout the Upper New York Area for continued conversation and prayer. These are indeed critical and anxious days for our beloved United Methodist Church. Yet, let us remember Jesus is Lord of the Church, the mission of the Church is clear, and our calling and opportunity to use the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit remain.

    Let us pray and not be paralyzed; let us hope in the midst of our uncertainty; let us care for one another in the midst of hurt; let us love one another in the midst of disagreement; let us be the Church effectively and fruitfully “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

    As always, I am blessed to share this journey of following Christ with you.  You remain deeply in my prayers. 


    Mark J Webb

    Editor’s Note: Click here for the full press release on this meeting.

    Building leaders in Upper New York

    May 2, 2018 / By Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens

    As the Upper New York Conference endeavors to embody the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and reach toward being the people that live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are God’s love with our neighbors in all places, three key outcomes have been identified by the Conference Leadership Team.

    • Increase the number of transformational leaders
    • Increase the vitality of existing congregations
    • Increase the number of vital and sustainable New Faith Communities

    While working with these outcomes, three core values are kept before the team at all times. First, the centrality of the local church. Second, that we are a connectional church. Third, the partnership of clergy and laity. All three of these values influence the ways in which the three outcomes, the vision, and the mission are reached for.

    Increasingly, the Conference Leadership Team has been asking the question, “How can we continue to help connect more deeply with the local church?” They consistently ask how to keep resources as close the local church as possible. This has meant a change in how functioning and programming in the Conference is being offered. Fewer Conference-wide events are being planned and the more regional or District level events are emerging. An active example of this began this fall each district began Pastoral Leadership Development (PLD) groups. PLDs gather regularly, most of them monthly, to spend time in spiritual formation, leadership learning, and peer mentoring.

    Rather than invite people to travel great distances for interaction and learning, Superintendents have gathered pastors from their Districts to learn and grow together. At this time, there are approximately 230 pastors engaged in a PLD. For some perspective, there are nearly 550 pastors under appointment in the Conference. By offering PLDs, the hope and vision of the Conference Leadership Team is being realized as the increasing the capacity of Christ following leaders happens on an increasingly local level. Additionally, PLDs are built around peer interaction and offer an opportunity to create a highly contextualized conversation about the content being shared.

    As the first round of PLDs comes to a close, and at the direction and need of the Districts, continued opportunities for clergy to engage in Pastoral Leadership Development as well as additional opportunities, with updated resources, will be made available.

    Not to leave the laity out, many Districts are in the early planning stage of how to offer a similar opportunity for the laity of their Districts. It is a truly exciting time to be engaged in the work of building leaders in Upper New York as we move deeper into living the mission, reaching toward the vision, and equipping the local church to be the primary missional outpost of the church.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    UNY Welcomes Tracy Rickett

    May 2, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York (UNY) Conference is pleased to welcome Tracy Rickett as HR Generalist. Tracy is taking on roles that were once Susan LaTessa’s prior to Susan’s position change to Director of HR/Benefits. Tracy will be responsible for recruiting, onboarding, updating the employee handbook as needed, writing job descriptions, and coordinating the employee’s wellness program.

    Tracy comes to UNY with over 20 years of Human Resources experience in the corporate world. Tracy graduated from Lemoyne with a BA in Business Administration. She started her career at Fay’s Drugs as a personnel associate and moved her way up to Benefits Administrator. She then worked for NEC Business Network Solutions as a Senior HR Administrator for eight years and spent the past 13 years as first an HR Specialist and then a Benefits Compliance Specialist at INFICON.

    Tracy said, “I’m excited to be working here at the Upper New York Conference. I have felt such a sense of peace and calmness here, which is a nice change from the corporate world.”

    Speaking of her supervisor, Susan LaTessa, Tracy said, “I think Susan will be a great mentor for me.”

    Outside of the office, Tracy is dedicated to yoga, practicing 2-3 times a week and she also enjoys mountain biking and baking.

    Whitney Point United Methodist Church to celebrate 10,000 dresses made

    May 1, 2018 / By UNY Communications

    For the past eight years the ‘Sew ‘n Sews’ have been meeting weekly at the Whitney Point United Methodist Church to sew dresses. They use pillowcases, sheets, and other donated fabric along with elastic and lace, to assemble dress kits which then get sewn together into dresses of all sizes. Every few months a volunteer takes several boxes full of completed dresses to Angels of Mercy in Rochester, NY where they get labels and are shipped out across the globe as part of the Dress A Girl Around the World program.

    On Sunday, May 20 at 1:30 p.m., the church will celebrate the completion of the Sew ‘n Sews’ 10,000th dress! There will be speakers from Angels of Mercy and Dress A Girl as well as a short video presentation showcasing some of the happy girls who have received dresses.

    “We’ve never bought any fabric,” Sew ‘n Sews, leader, Jean Ellis says. “Every time we got low, another donation would come in.” 

    Whitney Point UMC pastor, Rev. Corey Turnpenny said, “This is not just a celebration of 10,000 dresses, but of the 10,000 children being given dignity and protection. It’s also a celebration of the incredible community support we’ve received through countless donations of fabric and thousands of hours of sewing!”

    Dress a Girl Around the World is a Campaign under Hope 4 Women International (a 501c3 organization) bringing dignity to women around the world since 2006. For more information go to

    Angels of Mercy is a Christ-centered organization (501c3) dedicated to helping women in need locally, across the nation and around the world. For more information go to

    The Whitney Point United Methodist Church has been an active part of the community since the 1800s and prioritizes supporting children and feeding the hungry. For more information go to

    For more information, contact Rev. Corey Turnpenny at the Whitney Point United Methodist Church at or by calling her cell phone 570-417-7693.

    What is Mission u?

    May 1, 2018 / By Joan Reppert, Communications Officer UNY United Methodist Women

    Mission u (formerly known as School of Christian Mission) was created by Methodist women in the early-20th century in order to educate women and inspire them to a sense of mission at home and around the world. The United Methodist Women remain dedicated to the planning and promotion of this program.

    The schools were formed by and for women but over the years the demographic has changed as men, children, and youth take advantage of this rich opportunity.

    In our Upper New York Conference, Mission u is a “cooperative school," sponsored by both Conference United Methodist Women and the churches of our Upper New York Conference.  We welcome women and men and, in the case of the Cazenovia venue, children and youth.

    We offer opportunities for study and fellowship in three different venues, each held on a different weekend in the summer. Each venue has its own special flavor.
    (See “Mission u by Region”).

    At Mission u, we grow in understanding of the mission of the church in the current world context as we “learn together for the transformation of the world”.  

    The three studies offered each year cover three aspects: spiritual growth, geographical and social issues. This year’s topics are: “Embracing Wholeness: An Earth Perspective on Covenantal Living,” “Missionary Conferences in the United States of America,” and ““What About Our Money? A Faith Response.”

    Click here for 2018 Mission u dates and where to turn for emerging details.

    Getting Ready for Annual Conference: The Service of Commissioning and Ordination

    April 30, 2018 / By Anne Canfield

    The Service of Commissioning and Ordination of The Upper New York Annual Conference, will be held Saturday, June 2, 2018 at 2 p.m. in the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, will preside with the full Upper New York Area Cabinet in attendance. Bishop Dennis V. Proctor, North Eastern District, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, will be the preacher. 

    Bishop Proctor's Sermon will be: "Living In Crete," based on the Epistle Lesson from; Titus 1:5. We look forward to hearing Bishop Proctor's mighty proclamation of The Holy Scripture. Surely, the Holy Spirit will be present to meld heart and minds together as The Call is answered. These candidates for ministry, will become our newly commissioned, ordained, and recognized members of our Annual Conference.

     By answering God's Call, these men and women have chosen by God's grace," to serve rather than be served, to proclaim the faith of the church and no other, to look after the concerns of God above all" (words taken from the ordinal of the upcoming service). The following persons ministries will be celebrated as persons set apart by God for ministry:

    • To Be Commissioned for the Work of a Deacon: Jessica Glaser
    • To Be Commissioned for the Work of an Elder: Cheryl Ann Brown, Raymond C. Gilman IV, Linda Haight, Danyal Mohammadzadeh, Melissa MK McCarthy, Hector D. Rivera, and Lisa Dawn Taylor
    • To be Received as an Associate Member: James Edward Barnes II
    • To Be Ordained to the Order of Elder: Stephanie Jo Brown, Kevin Duane Slough, and Paul D. Winkelman.

    Special Music will be led by Casowasco's Praise Band:"InsideOut," and The Elder Trio, from our Conference's Board of Ordained Ministry. We look forward to hearing the musical gifts of Mr. Fred Willard, Accompanist and Mr. Jeff Stockham, Trumpeter.

    The culmination of the service will be when Bishop Webb invites new persons from the congregation to answer God's claim upon their lives as ordained, commissioned, and local pastors Let us be in prayer for those being ordained, commissioned and received into our Annual Conference as new clergy of Christ' Church, in The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church. Let us pray for those who upon hearing Bishop Webb's invitation to ordained and licensed local pastor ministry, will respond in faith, by God's grace: "Here I Am Lord, send me to serve your Church.”

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    OUTWARD! ’18—an amazing experience for hundreds of UNY youth

    April 24, 2018 / By Kristian J. Snyder, CCYM Member

    Hundreds of youth and adults from across Upper New York came together in Liverpool, NY for OUTWARD! ‘18, held on April 13-15 at the Liverpool Holiday Inn. There were over 275 youth and adults who joined the 40 CCYM members who planned and organized the event. There were 35 youth groups, from all 12 districts, in attendance.

    The event was named OUTWARD! because of its outward-focused emphasis on mission work.  Over one-third of the attendees participated in assembling UMCOR health kits (717 of them!) and 350 school kits. This work was completed at UNY Mission Central HUB at the UNY United Methodist Center.

    In addition to the hands-on mission work, the weekend included 10 workshops on Saturday. The guest preacher at the worship services was Michael Jordan, Dean of the Chapel at Houghton College. The band “SameCity” joined us again for another year of wonderful and exciting worship music for the weekend.

                Some Saturday Workshops:

    1. “Peace with Justice” led by Heather Smith. In this workshop you got to learn how to seek justice, walk humbly, and love kindness.
    2. Mission of Peace” led by the Youth who attended the most recent MOP trip to Cuba. This workshop allowed you to hear stories and see pictures from the experience.
    3. College Transition” led by Michael Jordan. In this workshop youth got to explore the joys and struggles of going from high school to college.
    4. Be Heard!” lead by Robin Blair. This workshop youth got to join Common Good Radio in digitally recording and sharing a piece of scripture on a podcast.

                Some Sunday Morning Options:

    1. Yoga” led by Mary Anderson
    2. “Prayer Labyrinth with Prayer Stations” led by Tony Hipes
    3. Study & Writing” led by Cory Jones. In this workshop youth and adults learned how to write devotions and study devotions better.

    Each evening was ended by eight late night options, for youth to take part in and have fun before going to their rooms for the night. The weekend was full of laughter, joy, renewal, music, prayer, spiritual growth, and fun times with other youth, due to the wonderful worship speakers, great missions work, and workshop and late-night options leaders.

    Gouverneur First UMC successes in Mission and Outreach

    April 23, 2018 / By Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Quick

    One of the two priorities Gouverneur First UMC has is growing disciples who are engaged in mission and outreach. We’re working on growing in mission and outreach by connecting our community and congregation ever more deeply, loving our neighbors with concrete, hands-on and face-to-face actions:

    • Every year, we host a “We’ve Got Your Back to School” event for families, offering backpacks, school supplies, and toiletries to students. We serve more than 100 students each year. We offer prayers for our families if they choose, and we invite them to connect with the life of the church.
    • Our Friday Lunch Program is entering its 20th year. Each Friday, we serve lunch at the church and deliver meals to area residents. Additionally, each Thanksgiving and Christmas, we serve more than 300 people with a hot dinner. This program was started after the ice storm in 1998. During that time of community crisis, First UMC realized there was a need to connect with folks that we could meet. Friday Lunch is thriving and growing still today.
    • Our Rip It exercise ministry started a few years ago and continues to grow. Several nights a week, a group gathers in our fellowship hall to participate in Zumba-like exercise programs. Many new faces have connected with our church for the first time because of this free fitness ministry. The Rip It ministry engages in mission giving, choosing different projects in the community to support with donations each month.

    We have many worshipers at Gouverneur First UMC who are new to church, and just learning about what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. To help connect some of these new folks to our outreach priority, we engaged in a “Mission Exposure” event in 2017. We had a group of about 25 take an overnight trip to Syracuse where we stayed at The ROAD. We helped make and deliver sandwiches, learned about the work of The ROAD, and also spent some time volunteering at The Salvation Army. This quick 24-hour immersion experience was a great jumping-off point for exploring disciples. We also shared in a “Mission Extravaganza” night at the church. We shared in a potluck meal, and then heard presentations from various people who had engaged in mission work: a couple who went on a medical mission to Cambodia, a young adult who attended a seminar on poverty at the General Board of Church and Society, and a report from those who took part in the Syracuse overnight.

    We’re excited about how God is challenging us to grow in discipleship through serving others, and we’re continue to look for ways that we can engage in the work of justice in the world.

    Imagine No Racism launches in Upper New York

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

    This past Saturday, April 21, marked the launch of the #ImagineNoRacism (INR) initiative that the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism has spent months planning.

    The launch took place simultaneously across all 12 Upper New York Conference districts and began with a moving worship experience.

    The Opening Worship liturgy started with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King quote, “Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”

    The Common English Bible’s rendition of 1 Corinthians 12:4-14 was used for the scripture reading, reminding INR launch day attendees that, “We are all baptized by one Spirit, one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. Certainly, the body isn’t one part, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:13-14).

    The worship experience also included a baptismal remembrance, which focused on the repentance of the sin of racism and the affirmation to teach the faith of the whole Church and to serve as Christ’s representatives in the world.

    Opening Worship ended with the Amazing Grace video by Pastor Wintley Phipps, an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister. Pastor Phipps discussed the history of the song Amazing Grace. He mentioned how it was written by John Newton after he converted to Christianity.

    Pastor Phipps explained that prior to Newton’s conversion, he was active in the slave trade. The lyrics of the song portray how God’s grace saved Newton from the wretchedness he experienced running the ships for the slave trade. Phipps also mentioned that the Amazing Grace lyrics are said to be written by Newton, but the melody’s creator is unknown. Phipps feels strongly that the melody was formed by slaves on ships, as it has evident African hymnal notes, which interestingly use the pentatonic scale (the black keys on the piano).

    The Amazing Grace video was shown to remind all launch day attendees that despite different ethnic and racial backgrounds, they are all connected by God’s amazing grace.

    After Opening Worship, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb’s welcome message was live-streamed from the Upper New York United Methodist Center. Attendees were reminded of the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s Call to Action to address, confront, and demand systemic, fundamental, and institutional change within The Church and the world to work toward the elimination of racism.

    Small groups were formed among attendees based on their geographical location. As these small groups are required to meet at least six times in the coming months, they planned meeting locations and dates.  

    Each small group also had to select a facilitator who must attend a six-hour training in May, convene the group using the full curriculum provided from their INR District Advocate, and connect regularly with the District Advocate – sharing progress, concerns, and needs. They must also communicate with their groups any changes to meetings as well as information from the Conference.

    After conversation and planning, the small groups watched videos featuring members of the UNY Conference. The first video featured the Rev. Harold Wheat, Christine Doran (former assistant to the Bishop), and Adirondack District Superintendent the Rev. Bill Mudge. They discussed racism and white privilege. The second video featured Dr. Scott Johnson, who talked about the importance of thinking beyond individual racism to look at the challenges caused by systemic racism.

    Each small group discussed their thoughts about these videos.

    The educational component of INR ended with a video from the Rev. Teressa Silvers, convener of the Bishop’s Task Force on the Elimination of Racism. Rev. Silvers spoke of how racism exists even in The Church and that the first task of the small groups is to “listen, learn, and seek understanding of both personal and systemic racism.”

    At the INR launch day’s closing worship, everyone was given the opportunity to receive sacred water and remember their baptism. They were also asked to consider signing an individual Imagine No Racism covenant.

    The covenant reads, “Before God and with my family in Christ, I vow, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to oppose and to eliminate the influence of racism from systems, institutions, relationships, and my own life.”

    Getting Ready for Annual Conference: Worship

    April 23, 2018 / By Rev. Rachel Morse

    Boldly Living our Call to Acknowledge Christ, Follow Christ, and Offer Christ. 

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb is using Mark 8:27-38 for his opening sermon, Wade in the Water. He will invite us to remember our baptismal call to acknowledge, follow, and offer Christ to the world. 

    Opening Worship: Acknowledge Christ

    During this service, we will have the opportunity to “enter the narrative,” a Ignatian spiritual practice led by the Rev. Nancy Dibelius, our Associate Director of Spiritual Life for Vital Congregations. Nancy will help us ask ourselves the question that Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

    Bishop Webb’s sermon will continue this theme as he reflects on what it means to boldly lived out our call. We will then be invited to acknowledge Christ and reaffirm our Baptismal call. ‘Fonts’ will be placed in our worship space and the congregation will be invited to take a rock out of one of the fonts as a sign of their reaffirmation of that call. 

    This service is blended, with a combination of traditional hymns and upbeat contemporary music. 

    Memorial Service: Follow Christ

    During this service, we will remember the lives of those who have passed away since the last Annual Conference. Families of clergy and clergy spouses will receive a gift and we will celebrate Communion. The Rev. Corey Turnpenny will share a message titled “Jesus Calls us Out.” 

    This service is our traditional service, with a procession, vestments, and traditional hymns and songs. 

    Service of Blessing and Anointing

    This service is packed with wonderful celebrations of ministry. We will thank and recognize clergy retirees and their spouses. Those who will be ordained will be asked the Historical Questions, and we will set appointments for the new year. 

    Throughout Annual Conference we will have stations for writing your ‘call’ on your baptismal call rock. The members will be asked to bring their baptismal call rock to the service of Blessing and Anointing.

    Each person present is invited to receive anointing for their ‘baptismal call.’ After receiving anointing, members are asked to place their rock at the foot of the cross as a sign of commitment to boldly live out their call.

    After the service, rocks will be taken to the Upper New York Annual Conference Center and placed under a tree to remind visitors of the many people who come together, boldly living out their call, to make the mission of the Church a reality. 

    Worship and Accessibility

    All of our Communion bread is gluten-free. We will invite those who need to be served in their seats to be served first. The screens are used to project lyrics to all songs, but we also have large-print booklets available. 

    CLT and DLTs work towards clear disciple making processes

    April 18, 2018 / By Stephen J. Hustedt / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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).

    TAGGED / Vital Congregations

    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 17, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    April 23, 2018 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the merger of Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church, which created a new denomination, The United Methodist Church.

    Consider holding commemorative events at your local church sometime between April 22, the Sunday before the April 23 anniversary, through May 20, Heritage Sunday.

    Heritage Sunday is set aside for remembering our legacy as United Methodists. The theme for this year’s Heritage Sunday is “Jubilee” to depict the celebratory nature of the UMC’s 50th Anniversary.

    The General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church has great tips on planning a celebration. Click here to learn ways to celebrate this great moment in the history of the UMC. Click here for logos and banners you can use to promote the 50th Anniversary.

    Click here for the latest news, features, and historical retrospectives on this most important anniversary for our church.

    Also, be sure to follow and tag us on social media with #UMC50.

    Annual Conference Special Meal: June 1 Palestinian Dinner

    April 16, 2018 / By UNY Communications

    The theme of this year’s Palestinian Dinner held during the 2018 session of Annual Conference is, "Valuing Palestinian Children."

    Pilgrims from Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb's 2018 Holy Land Trip are especially invited to this year's eighth annual UNY Palestinian Dinner during Annual Conference.

    The dinner will be held at 5:15 p.m. on Friday June 1 at St. George’s Macedonian Church (5083 Onondaga Road (Rt. 173), Syracuse 13215). This is about a 10-minute drive from Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena, where the Annual Conference will be held.

    This dinner is a buffet, catered by Munjed’s Middle Eastern Restaurant.          

    Sponsored by the UNY Taskforce for Palestine-Israel, this gathering will include speakers Tina Whitehead of the Western PA Annual Conference and long-time worker w/ UM Liaison Office, Bethlehem/Jerusalem and Rev. Leanne Zeck, a participant in Bishop's 2018 Holy Land trip. 

    The purpose of this meal is fun, food, fellowship, mission-giving (including extra for "lights for Gaza" or Gary Bergh Scholarship), education, and advocacy.

    Reservations must be made by May 30 to: Linda Bergh, (315) 492-8507, 116 Edna Road, Syracuse, NY  13205 or Karen Peterson, (607) 739-3141, 116 Greenridge Drive, Horseheads, NY 14845. 

    The cost/donation for this meal is $20.00 to benefit four United Methodist Advance Specials (clinics/ schools) in the Bethlehem/Jerusalem area, Gary Bergh Scholarship for applicants to "justice-seeking" trips, and ongoing Taskforce work. Please make checks payable to “UNYAC” and write "Palestinian Dinner" on the memo line.

    If you have questions or would like more information, contact Linda Bergh at or (315) 492-8507.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    Introducing the Annual Conference App

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

    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

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

    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

    ERT and VIM volunteers put forth amazing effort at Hogansburg UMC

    April 9, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    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

    April 3, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    For this year’s Annual Conference held May 30-June 2 at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, there will be five offerings collected.

    • The first two offerings will be collected during the laity and clergy sessions on Wednesday evening May 30. The Clergy Care Fund offering will be taken at the clergy session and a Helping Hands Fund offering will concurrently be taken at the laity session. The Clergy Care Fund assists clergy who need financial support, and Helping Hand raises funds to be used by the Cabinet to assist congregants in need of financial support.
    • During Opening Worship on Thursday May 31, the offering collected will go to support the Upper New York Mission Central Hub—a place located at the UNY Methodist Center for local churches to actively engage in outreach and disaster response ministries. From training the Conference’s Volunteer in Mission and Disaster Response teams to collecting and assembling flood buckets, health kits, and more, the UNY Mission Central HUB is the perfect answer to local churches who feel called to expand their outreach ministries. Click here to learn more about the UNY Mission Central Hub.
    • The offering collected on Saturday morning June 2 during the Young Adult Worship service will go to Mission of Peace (MOP)—an annual journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdiction Council on Youth Ministries. Click here and here to read the reflections from two Upper New York youth who went on the MOP journey to Cuba earlier this year. Next year, MOP will be going to the Philippines.
    • The final offering to be collected during Annual Conference will be at the Ordination Service on Saturday June 2. This offering will go to New Faith Communities (NFCs). New faith community planters work to create safe places for un-churched or de-churched people to explore their faith, consider what it means to follow Jesus Christ, and then practice discipleship together with new friends. These communities gather in malls, cafes, storefronts, bars, homes, fellowship halls and restaurants, and each one is committed to being God’s love with their neighbors. There are currently __ New Faith Communities in UNY—click here to learn more about UNY NFCs.

    Annual Conference provides these five great opportunities to support the United Methodist Connection. From helping our youth experience a mission trip of their lifetime and supporting the many ministries the pour forth from Mission Central to supporting clergy and congregants with financial constraints and planting New Faith Communities, you can help the Upper New York and people around the world flourish with your generous offerings.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    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

    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

    TAGGED / Mission Central

    Rev. Corey Turnpenny selected as Annual Conference 2018 Memorial Service speaker

    March 28, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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

    March 27, 2018 / By Stephen J. Hustedt / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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:

    1. What spiritual practices can help us journey through Holy Saturday times?
    2. What does leadership look like on Holy Saturday?
    3. 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.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    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.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    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 ( 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

    March 20, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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 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.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    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.

    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.

    Launch Day

    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 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

    Moving Forward

    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

    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

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    How Mission Partner Churches can help International Reconciliation Ministries

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

    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  

    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 (  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.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    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:, choose “Join Virgin Pulse” and following the instructions.

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services / Annual Conference 2018

    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

    February 28, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    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

    February 27, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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

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

    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:

    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 the hotel shuttle 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. Click here to view the parking lot shuttle schedule.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    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. 

    Click here to view Bishop Webb’s video. Click here for a PowerPoint slide you can feel free to use to promote the event.

    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

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

    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:

    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.

    Laity Glossary

    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.

    3. Laity

    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.

    For reflection:

    • 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

    January 30, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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

    January 24, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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 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.”
    John Wesley

    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.

    Click here for more details about Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.


    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.”
    John Wesley

    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

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

    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

    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 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.

    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

    December 19, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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

    Click here for writing and submission guidelines as well as a petition and resolution template. 

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2018

    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

    December 13, 2017 / By Stephen J. Hustedt / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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.

    If you are not following the Upper New York Conference on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms now is the time to start.

    Judy Campany hired as Administrative Assistant to Connectional Ministries

    December 13, 2017 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    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 To learn more about Global Mission Fellows, visit You can also check out our podcast of Mirrored Voices on the iTunes podcast application and on Stitcher for android devices.

    With more than 168,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 867 local churches and 65 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."