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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Young adults add their pieces to the puzzle to break down the walls at Young People’s Service

    June 5, 2018 / By Kathleen Christiansen

    Elyse Muder and Maya Smith kicked off the Young People’s Service on June 2 at the 2018 Annual Conference session with a skit.

    Maya wanted to start a Bible study but wasn’t sure she could do it and felt awkward about talking about her faith outside of church. Elyse encouraged her.

    “It’s important to spread the word of God everywhere you go, in any way you can,” Elyse said. “We have been provided spiritual gifts so that we can use them to honor God.”

    Elyse told Maya to remember what it says in James 2: 14-16, which questions what good it is if someone has faith but does nothing.

    “Think of all the young people in our Conference doing God’s work each day. They’re using their gifts to spread God’s love all over the world,” Elyse said, inspiring Maya to start new ministries to share her gifts as well.

    Throughout the service, several young people added their piece to a puzzle displayed at the front of the room.

    Vicki Standhart led the call to Worship, followed by Theresa Eggleston’s dramatic reading about the apostle James writing to the 12 tribes in Diaspora, saying: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? … Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

    Marthalyn Sweet delivered the 2018 Young Adult Address, praising some young adults in UNY for all they are doing from pursuing their education to graduation from seminary and work in Conference camps.

    “As a whole, young people both in and out of our church are looking to make meaningful connections and contributions to our communities,” Marthalyn said. “I’m so proud that Upper New York has committed to supporting and emphasizing ministry to youth and young adults, and that this time of worship continues to be the best attended during Annual Conference.”

    She encouraged the crowd to stay invested in youth, suggesting they send cards and care packages to those away at school or help youth connect with a church family.

    “Let’s commit to doing a better job as a Conference, and as local churches, of supporting our seminary students,” she said, noting that support of seminarians could unite the Conference.

    Outgoing Conference Council on Youth Ministries co-chairs Sam Smith and Maria Schermerhorn shared the changes CCYM underwent in the past year, such as the event “Fall Gathering” becoming “Inward” and the event “UpWord” becoming “Outward.”

    Sam took time during the service to clarify comments he made about the Conference’s financial support of young adults during Wednesday’s Laity Session, apologizing that CCYM documents were not submitted to the Conference Council on Finance & Administration. He said CCYM’s largest request was for $10,000 so youth could attend Youth 2019, a national youth event, next summer in St. Louis, Mo.

    Sam and Maria said they have been blessed to serve as co-chairs of CCYM. They passed the baton to the new CCYM co-chairs, Rachel John and George Taylor, and prayed over the incoming CCYM leadership team and adults who guide them.

    “We know God has a plan in store for the youth of the UNY Conference, and we are pleased that you will lead them,” Maria said.

    Next, a Camp & Retreat Ministries video added its piece to the puzzle, discussing how the ministry is vital to the Kingdom of Christ, helping campers see what Christian community looks like.

    Following the video Madeline Klein and Alisyn Klock – who both participated in Mission of Peace, which sends young people each year on a journey of Shalom around the world –  announced the MOP offering. As it was collected, Madeline shared stories of her trip to this past year’s MOP to Cuba, including how one night of worship, singing, and dancing broke down all language barriers. Four youth and four adults from UNY went on the Cuba trip.

    “On this journey, we grow in love and peace with people from our group and the country we visit.  We come to know these people as family,” Madeline said. “Your financial and spiritual support is what makes it possible for youth from this Conference to go on this trip.”

    Maya and Elyse spoke again, this time praising how many UNY young people are involved in ministries in the Conference. They said the face of The Church is changing and evolving, and young people are evolving with it.

    “The people of God's kingdom are changing, and this calls for The Church to evolve with the people,” Elyse said. “The Church needs to find ways to adapt to this desire to reach out, to break down the walls of The Church, and step out into the world to share the word of God. As a body of Christ, we need to support the members of this body in their new ways of worship.”

    Theresa’s second scripture touched on Elyse’s sentiment, as Matthew 28:16-20 is the story of Jesus instructing the 11 apostles to go make disciples.

    When Maya and Elyse took the stage again, Elyse said people can make disciples by being involved and helping the church family share God’s love inside the walls of churches, the Conference, and beyond.

    “All of the people on this stage and in the seats among you have so much to share with you about how they share their faith,” Maya said. “Please help us continue our ministries.”

    Though JJ Warren was unable to attend the AC session this year, he did make an appearance in a video to add his piece to the puzzle. He shared his college experience at Oxford University as well as discussed his video series that asks about the roots of faith and tries to break down barriers that divide people. He also announced he will serve on the Conference’s College Ministries Team.

    Pastor Erin Patrick, of The ROAD at West Genesee UMC, shared her ministry in a video. She said she uses her passion to “create opportunities for people to connect with God in new, unique, and untraditional ways,” adding her piece to the puzzle.

    Pastor Cory Jones, who will serve the Trinity: Whitesboro UMC starting July 1, and Pastor Brian Lothridge, of the Rome First UMC, discussed a new ministry they have been a part of called Worship Without Walls, a church that meets on an inner-city sidewalk with the simple message “God Loves You.”

    “Having been a part of this for over a year now and seeing how many people have been touched by this ministry, it has completely changed my perception of what ministry is,” Pastor Jones said. “I still love the local church, but to me ministry is about going outside the comfort of the local church and bringing the good news out to people who might not otherwise hear it.”

    As the last piece was placed, the image of a puzzle piece with a saying inside it became clear: “Building the Kingdom: Remaining Connected.”

    The service ended with a benediction by Ian Urriola, who said that though AC session will soon come to a close, the Conference’s work continues because beyond these walls “lies a beautiful, broken world full of beautiful, broken people grieving, mourning, thirsting for justice, and longing to hear a word of good news.”


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