Bishop Webb installed as UNY episcopal leader

By Beth DiCocco*
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The Upper New York Area welcomed its second resident bishop, Bishop Mark J. Webb, with a service of installation this afternoon at Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus, just up the hill from the episcopal office.

Bishop Webb began this assignment, his first, on Sept. 1. The service today marked the formal welcoming of the bishop by the Annual Conference. Hundreds from across the Annual Conference attended the service and the reception that followed.

The installation service marked another significant milestone when Bishop Webb made his first live address to the Upper New York Annual Conference.

Bishop Webb began by talking about some of what he’s learned since coming to the Upper New York Area – for example, that he, a native of Pennsylvania, has an accent; that he likes Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Sal’s pizza and wings and a little something about the people of the Upper New York Annual Conference:

“One of the things, I’ve been learning more about is the deep love that you have for Jesus Christ and the Church, and your willingness to share that love with all those God brings into our path – even including the bishop – thank you.”

Bishop Webb thanked the episcopal office staff for making his transition easy and the Cabinet, whom he called “great leaders who are giving their all.” He thanked the Rev. Janice Palm, who served as acting superintendent of the Albany District, and incoming Albany District Superintendent the Rev. Richard Weihing, as well as the media staff.

In his sermon, titled Imagine, Bishop Webb said that members must acknowledge the reality that the birth of the Upper New York Annual “was necessary because of our decline (in membership),” and there is pain and baggage attached to that. But he said, “God’s reality is what we must begin to imagine.”

“God will use us to make disciples for Jesus Christ so the world will be changed,” he said, and we have a choice “to hold onto our reality or we can imagine God’s reality.”

 “We have got to get to the place and live in place, where it’s not about us and our reality, but the place where it is always about God and God’s reality, God’s desire and God’s plan.”

Quoting Jeremiah 29:11: “'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

A significant part of the service was the presentation of the symbols of episcopal ministry:

The Bible, a symbol of the holy and inspired words of God, was presented by Conference Leadership Team representatives the Rev. Elizabeth Quick, pastor at Liverpool UMC, and Scott Johnson, Conference lay leader.

Presenting the Holy Water were the Rev. Susan Shields, chair of Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), and Richard Nephew, a representative of the Seneca Nation who serves on CONAM. The Holy Water – taken from the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers and Lake Ontario and Onondaga Lake  – is given as a symbol of God’s precious gift and of our baptism.

The bread and cup, for use in Holy Communion, were given to the bishop by representatives of the Fellowship of Associate Members and Local Pastors: the Rev. David Hotchkiss, pastor of Conesus United Church and Scottsburg UMC; the Rev. Tammi Chawgo-Nipper, pastor of North Volney and Palermo UMCs; and the Rev. William Palmer, pastor of Mexico UMC.

Presenting the towel and basin were Order of Deacons chairs the Rev. Sheila Price, pastor at Montour Falls and Odessa-Catharine UMCs, and the Rev. Susan Russell, interim guest services coordinator at Asbury Camp & Retreat Center. The towel and basin are given as symbols of Jesus’ gracious service to all.

Co-Chairs of the Order of Elders the Rev. Everett Bassett, pastor at Cicero UMC, and the Rev. Robert Kolvik-Campbell, pastor at Calvary UMC in Latham, presented Bishop Webb with the stole. The stole represents the yoke of Christ; to be the pastor, preacher and teacher; and to lead in the worship of God.

The globe was presented by the respective presidents of the Conference UMW and UMM, Patricia Briggs and Harold Heit. The globe serves as a reminder that for United Methodists the whole world is our parish.

The lamp is given to the bishop to illustrate that as the leader, he is the guiding light. It was presented by Kayti Dean, a seminary student at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.

Co-Chair of Conference Board of Ordained Ministry the Rev. Holly Nye, pastor at Burnt Hills UMC, presented the bishop with The Book of Discipline to use in guarding the faith, seeking the unity, and supervising the Church's life, work and mission.

“This is an important book,” Bishop Webb said as he was presented with the Discipline. But, he said, “watch carefully the placement of this book,” as he laid it underneath the Bible.

The gavel was given to Bishop Webb by Scott DelConte who serves as Conference chancellor. It symbolizes that the bishop is the president of the Upper New York Annual Conference, who will appoint pastors, assign deacons to their ministries, and guide laity in mission.

And presenting the pastoral staff Margot Rankins-Burd, co-chair of the Conference Council on Youth Ministry (CCYM). The pastoral staff (or crozier) is the symbol of his office, which is to be a shepherd to all.

The service was also an opportunity to support one of the Conference’s four areas of mission: Africa University. The offering collected $2,560.05, which will go into the Africa University Scholarship Fund. The Conference is conducting a three-year campaign to raise $1 million to fund eight scholarships.

Bishop Webb closed the service by saying: “ … In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, let’s go imagine.”

Those attending the service had a chance to meet the bishop and his family during a reception on the quad outside Hendricks Chapel.

Click here to view the photos from the service.

*Beth DiCocco is the writer/editor for the Upper New York Annual Conference.