Witnessing radical servanthood in South Korea
August 14, 2017 / By Rev. Jeff McDowell, Finger Lakes District Superintendent
A worker fell over 40 feet from the new steeple roof and surely would have died. But he fell on a small tree, only breaking four ribs instead. He lived to tell about being saved at the Bupyeong Methodist church as a result of all the people’s prayers. This is the kind of faith story told to us by host Pastor Hong as he shared miracle after miracle in his life, the lives of others, and the life of this fast - growing Methodist church. He did not tell stories only with happy endings, but shared also some of the deep and painful struggles both his Father and he have had over their years of serving as Pastor of this church. Yet the call of God and the faithfulness of God toward all the people there is evident. The people we met are serious about their faith, showing it in everything they do. I will let others on the cabinet talk about the prayer services and perhaps the lavish treatment we received from this expression of the body of Christ. Suffice it to say we were treated like royalty. But faith is something that provides evidence for that which we cannot see, and substance for those things we can only hope for. (My loose transliteration of Hebrews 11:1)
I believe that when Korean Methodist Christians ask God for something, they actually think they are going to get it! I mean, the faith stories we heard point to a higher power, and they are not afraid to identify that power as God in Jesus Christ, the Savior. Now, I know people are people and that doubters live in every human faith community. But there is simplicity of faith I sensed by being around my brothers and sisters in Korea. It is a faith born, perhaps, out of extreme pain over the bloody history of this nation’s occupation and civil war: a faith that must to cry out to God for saving. People in the church we visited had trusted God for money that was impossible to collect, land that seemed impossible to acquire, and a ministry of receiving foreigners to share their faith with, from lands they had not visited. Their leaders have trusted God to help them plant churches and give to missions beyond their means. “Faith in action” seems too small a phrase; I was moved.
Servant - leadership was demonstrated in a new way to us. All around us for nine days there were people happily serving us food, driving our bus, counting us to make sure we did not leave someone behind, and even cleaning our hotel-style rooms, with no expectation of reward, except to please their Lord by serving strangers. As we arrived back at the church each evening after sightseeing, six or seven pastors and other lay servants met us to say welcome back and to wish us a good night. There is no overtime in the Lord’s service. I wonder what it would be like if we all held such a high standard of service as a demonstration of our faith. I wonder.
It is too early for me to formulate my plans of how to implement something I learned on this wonderful trip to Korea. I need to chew on it some more and pray for guidance. But this I know: the world is looking for a people whose faith is simple, who trust that God is enough, and who demonstrate radical servanthood for the sake of Christ every day. We can go a long way by following these three traits.
The Blessing of Freedom
August 2, 2017 / By Rev. Nancy Adams, Mountain View District Superintendent
First of all, the trip to Korea was amazing in so many ways. You’ve already read a few blogs, including Sherri Rood’s blog about the unparalleled hospitality we were shown, experiencing prayer through Tong Song Kido from Dave Masland, and the expectation of excellence from Everett Bassett.
Another striking experience was at a church we visited where there were two pews covered with velvet, meant to look like a throne. Those pews were reserved for kids to encourage them and to remind them that they are children of the King… What a great idea!
I wrote some of the following thoughts in my (almost) weekly Mountain View District newsletter article, but I will expand on them here.
I must say that I approached Independence Day much differently this year.
While in S. Korea, we visited an observation tower on Ganghwa Island, just about a mile from N. Korea. We went to the top of the observation tower where Nola Anderson led us in a powerful prayer for peace. While there, we could look through binoculars on top of poles that are often found at picturesque places such as Niagara Falls or at the ocean. I looked and could see two men working in a field on a farm in N. Korea! I am free - they aren’t. It has struck me before, but never so poignantly, how much I take my freedom(s) for granted…
We also heard propaganda loudly blaring from speakers from the N. Korean shore, probably singing the praises of Kim Jong-Un. In S. Korea, especially at the 5 a.m. prayer services, we heard Korean Methodist Christians singing the praises of Jesus. What a contrast!
On the second floor of the observation tower there was a room in which the walls were completely covered with handwritten notes on which were prayers, hopes, and dreams for the re-unification of Korea. The notes were written by visitors to the site, many of whom still have family members in N. Korea who they will never see unless re-unification occurs. It was very moving and brought tears to my eyes…
There are many more impressions that I could share, but during the visit to the observation tower, a question I have asked myself again and again over the years came to mind: Why was I so blessed? The only answer I have ever come up with is what Abram was told in Genesis 12, that you have been blessed to be a blessing to others. We are doubly blessed. Not only do we live in a free country, but we are free in Christ Jesus.
Let’s be the agents of God’s grace and the blessing to others that our Lord calls us to be.
May it be so.
Expectations of the church in Korea
July 26, 2017 / By Rev. Aaron Bouwens, Director of Vital Congregations
Every moment I was in Korea, the people as a whole, and certainly the people of the church, demonstrated a level of hospitality uncommon to many church experiences in the United States. Each detail was given attention as to how someone who is new to the life of a congregation would experience the people and space. Preference was given to welcoming new people, not just Americans, over those who were regular attenders. The greeting and welcome was only the beginning of understanding what it was that has made the Korean Methodist Church vital and fruitful through the years.
In one of our lectures, Rev. Hong Eun-Pa, Senior Pastor at Bupyeong Methodist Church, shared some of the core principles at the center of the ministry. Before I share the list Pastor Hong offered, there are two things that undergird all of the life of the church. First, there is a relentless focus on Jesus Christ. Everything about the life of the church was geared toward growing ever-deeper in a relationship with Jesus and to the work of evangelism. Second, prayer is the engine that drives the Christ focus of the church. Prayer for the people in the Korean church is far more than a component to the Sunday service; it is a way of being. As for the core principles Pastor Hong shared:
- Good tree produces good fruit. In the words of Pastor Hong, being a good tree and producing good fruit begins with salvation in Jesus Christ. If a person desires to produce good fruit with their life it begins with the justifying grace offered only through Jesus Christ.
- Love the Church. For the most part in the United States, we organize the church around the life of the members. This is an outlandish thought to the Korean Methodist Church. The members of the church organize their lives around the work of the church. This is especially true of the pastors.
- The Church at Work. It is not acceptable to merely be a member of a church; great expectation and accountability is at work. Members are expected to be at morning prayer, engaged in mission, participate in a class meeting (Small group), and give sacrificially of their time and money. Sunday morning worship is done with excellence and is very important; however, it is only a portion of the work of being a member of the Korean Methodist Church.
As my head was swimming in the above thoughts, I was ready to take some time and process; however, Pastor Hong was not done. He moved my focus from the church as a whole to what is expected of a member of the church in greater detail. Hearing these points I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit along with the realization of why the church in the United States is struggling. Here is what Pastor Hong offered:
- Prayer - Praying for the grace of God to be known in fullness, and that without prayer there is no way for the church to be fruitful. Pastor Hong offered a statement that continues to convict and encourage me, “Members that do not pray are dangerous. Pastors who do not pray are even more dangerous.” It was clear to me that my prayer life needs an upgrade.
- Sacrifice - All too often when it hurts we stop our giving of time and money. For the people of the Korean Church there is an amazing willingness to give up time and resources for the sake of the Christ and the church. People reorganize their lives so that they can fulfill the mission God is calling them to.
- Sharing - Connecting others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is almost sacramental to the people I encountered in Korea. This was more than providing food, clothing, other needs, while that is done, it is making sure the Good News of Jesus Christ is shared.
Upon first arrival home I felt myself romanticizing the Korean Church. If only I could help congregations here in the United States be more like the Korean Church, then we might get traction. Quite simply, that is not going to work as we are not immersed in the Korean culture, and our Church is in a much different place. What I am convinced of is there is much to learn and adapt to our time and place from our Korean co-laborers. The principles shared will have different applications, yet they are principles and therefore have valid application in our context.
No matter the context, it is clear the Church is at its best when there is a relentless focus on Jesus Christ, and high-capacity Christ-following leadership. I will spend my summer continuing the work of sorting out what that looks like in the various regions of Upper New York.
God’s brilliance in South Korea
July 19, 2017 / By Rev. Vonda Fossitt, Genesee Valley District Superintendent
I am grateful that Rev. Eun Pa Hong of Bupyeong Methodist Church invited the UNY Cabinet on a mission trip to South Korea. Never in a million years would I think a city girl like I would end up traveling across the world to another land called Korea. The 14-hour plane ride in itself was impactful. This God-given opportunity has made a lasting impression on my life in ministry.
When we arrived, several young Korean men, associate pastors dressed in suits, greeted us. One was holding a sign which read "Welcome Upper New York Spiritual Pilgrimage.” It wasn’t until then I truly embraced we were on a spiritual pilgrimage, a journey with the Lord Our God. When we arrived at the church, a formal welcome line with more associate pastors, lay ministers, and women dressed in formal Korean dresses had waited for us late into the night. What a staff! They bowed as we came in as if we were royalty.
The pilgrimage had begun as we all went to our hotel styled residential facilities right there inside of the church. We stayed at the magnificent 5,000+ member Bupyeong Methodist Church.
In the morning Rev. Eun Pa Hong offered us a lecture on the History of Korean Methodism explaining how the Korean church preserves the history of the work of Methodist Missionaries and the Great Revival of Methodism.
In the following week, we went sightseeing to many different churches of the connectional Korean Methodist as well as visited historical sites like the great Tower in Seoul. Every place was a testimony to the power of honoring the past, remembering, and giving thanks. I appreciated the history review on the role of the United States in the Korean War. Because of these efforts on the part of the U.S. and other countries, the Bupyeong church has become dedicated to inviting and hosting Bishops and Cabinets from all over the world. For the Bupyeong church this sharing is a testimony to how General Douglas MacArthur led the United Nations to help the Koreans and a memorial to the thousands of lives that were lost in the Korean War.
The churches we visited were immaculate. I witnessed a team of women sacrificially reserve time to clean and polish the sanctuary, shining the pews and pouring out great pride and care in serving. This act of caring for the cleanliness of a church truly amazed me. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” became a new reality. I hope to encourage the churches in my district to dare to be as brilliant for the glory of God. And we were entertained, educated and provided for all our needs with excellence.
Is it surprising that South Korea, being the proprietor of Samsung, Hyundai, etc. is rated the 11th richest economy in the world? No! In Seoul, there are so many people that they must build up because they cannot build houses across the land, the skyscrapers order the sky. I have witnessed how God can bless and heal the economy of a nation, “if we put God first”. Their disciplined prayer life, 5 a.m. every morning shows how our Korean sisters and brothers put God first. The Church in South Korea is on the move!
Although the trip was a wonderful experience, I’m glad to be an American. The kimchee was interesting; their diet is nutritious and full of vegetables, cabbage, radishes, and sprouts. After a while, I wanted a good ol’ hamburger and a side of fries. My mother and I were stretched physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Thank you Lord for safe health and travels. It was a wonderful experience!
The Korean Methodist Church does everything with excellence
July 12, 2017 / By Rev. Everett Bassett, Oneonta District Superintendent
Have a clear vision. Be grounded in prayer. Look beyond the church walls. Be bold in trying new things. Be accountable to a small covenant group.
Those are conversation points we cover as we talk about how God is calling us to be the church of Jesus Christ in our context today.
We who were blessed to spend seven days under the amazing hospitality of Bupyeong Methodisit Church in South Korea were able to witness all of those goals lived out to a high degree; and I could write a reflection on any of them.
But instead I am drawn back again and again to the value I saw exercised in every action of this church, and the other churches we visited – excellence. Everything was carried out with visible attention to doing it excellently.
I found myself humming (for the first time in decades) a hymn-tune from the old Sunday School hymnals of my childhood—Give of Your Best to the Master. My take-away image of the Korean church is that these great Christian people are giving their best to God at an amazingly consistent level.
Here is one image that sticks with me:
On our last evening, we were treated to a barbecue in the church courtyard. The tables were elegantly set, and there were a centerpiece and four bottles of water on each.
A few minutes before we were served, I saw one of the associate pastors walk down the line of tables and inspect whether the bottles and centerpieces were lined up and spaced perfectly. On my table, he moved a bottle half an inch, and rotated another about 20 degrees. This careful attention was given at table after table.
On the one hand, we might see that as troubling obsessiveness or perfectionism. But I believe it is more that this pastor is part of a church whose DNA holds that what is done for Jesus is the very best that we can make it. And I believe that drives the transformative ministry of Bupyeoung MC.
I will not be doing any bottle inspecting soon (I missed that course in seminary). But I hope to learn to look at those sermon notes one last time; pray one more time before making that church visit; rehearse the purpose of that meeting again; focus a little more on that conversation…
Each time asking: are the bottles lined up? Is this the best I have to offer my Lord and my God? Does this represent the standard of excellence I would want to practice and exemplify before others?
To whatever degree this becomes a deeper value in my ministry, I will thank God for the example of the Korean churches who shared God’s grace with us on this journey.
The practice of Tongsung Kido
July 5, 2017 / By Rev. Dave Masland, Director of New Faith Communities
One of the reasons I was most excited to make the spiritual pilgrimage to Korea with Bishop Webb and the rest of the extended cabinet was to experience first-hand Tongsung Kido, an aspect of early-morning prayers in the Korean Methodist Church context. I was not disappointed. In fact, the experience had a profound impact on my life, and the way I think about my prayer practice!
Every single morning, 365 days a year, Korean Methodists gather at 5 a.m. for a prayer service. Yes. 5 a.m. Every day.
At Bupyeong Methodist Church, somewhere between 500 and 700 people gather for early-morning prayer each day, including a 65-90 member choir! The service starts with high-energy hymn singing… with everyone clapping and singing fast-paced versions of two or three familiar hymns.
Then, a pastor reads a short passage of scripture and offers a brief (5-10 minute) reflection/sermon on the text, with a choir anthem in between. Next, another hymn is sung. And, immediately at the end of this song, everyone raises their hands to the sky and shouts at the top of their voice (in Korean), “Help, Lord! Help, Lord! Help us Lord!”, and then breaks into LOUD extended prayer! This time of vocal prayer, shared by hundreds, is what is known as Tongsung Kido. And, it has an impact on everyone in the room. The honesty and emotional expression to God draws you in!
Tongsung Kido literally means, “Cry out with loud voice” or simply, “pray out loud.” It is a tradition that started more than 100 years ago, at a moment that the Korean Church points to as a time of profound spiritual awakening. It was when 1,500 people gathered for a meeting, and while in prayer, first opened up honestly to one another about their sins and their desire to seek God’s help. Suddenly at that meeting, the Holy Spirit moved, and the church began to grow exponentially. Since that day, Korean Christians have practiced this very Pentecostal form of prayer. Everyone seeks to pour out their heart to God, whatever they are feeling and fearing and longing for. And, everyone expects the Spirit to speak and move among them!
After the initial shock of the VERY loud prayers of people around me receded, I was able to enter into the experience. I found myself freely admitting to God things that I often hide from God, for whatever reason. My fears for the future (both personally and professionally) came to the forefront of my mind, and I poured them out verbally, and asked God for help.
My anger about injustice in the lives of my friends and coworkers in the planting movement emerged, and I asked God for help in ways I never had before. My gratefulness, always a part of my daily prayer life, simply took on greater depth of emotion expression. But, I also found myself raising to God some disappointments I have had in recent months, and asking God why. I was honest with God, more honest than I had ever been. And, by the end of the prayer time, I found myself feeling lighter, and closer to God. It was therapeutic, and healthy!
As the week went on, I found myself thinking of things I wanted to bring to God the next morning… and looking forward to that time of open honest prayer with 500 friends. Each day I went deeper with God, as the layers of hidden-away emotions came to the surface, and I emoted honestly what was going on inside me. And, each day, I felt more at peace, and more at one with God.
I do not know if we will ever be able to replicate Tongsong Kido in the American church… or even if we should try. Americans tend to be much more reserved in our prayer lives, especially in public. In addition, I think I will always crave silence in my own personal prayer time. However, after this experience, I also know that I will also weave in times of loud, vocalized prayer… using my whole body to say to God what is really going on. I know now that there is great value in Christians getting brutally honest with God, and pouring out our true emotions, no matter what they are. My prayer time will never be the same.
With glad and generous hearts
June 28, 2017 / By Rev. Sherri Rood, Cornerstone District Superintendent
"Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved." Acts 2:46-47
I've been reflecting on our trip to South Korea and "with glad and generous hearts" describes my experience of the wonderful Christians we met at Bupyeong Methodist Church and each church we visited. The people were gracious and full of the love of Christ. This love was generously showered on us through the hospitality offered throughout our stay. We were greeted at the airport with roses and warm smiles. Our rooms were well appointed, complete with a bud vase for our roses, an ever-changing variety of sweets, slippers and fresh linens. Banners were hung throughout the church welcoming "The Upper New York Conference to a Spiritual Pilgrimage in Korea." We were offered a feast every morning for breakfast, complete with linen table cloths, fine china, and silver. Everywhere we went, we were welcomed and greeted with bows, smiles, and handshakes. It was a lovely and humbling experience.
But the glad and generous hearts of the people moved far beyond welcoming a group of Americans to their country. Throughout the week we witnessed people gladly and generously offering their best to glorify Christ and the Church. When I arrived for prayer a little before 5 a.m., the sanctuary was already full of people, quietly whispering their prayers. The sanctuary at that hour felt like a "thin place," a place where heaven and earth come very close together. Before too long, the choir would quietly make their way into the choir loft. Each day I counted at least 75 people in the choir - every morning - at 5 a.m. - prepared to offer their best to God. It was amazing!
At all the worship services, but especially at 5 a.m. prayer, the congregation clapped and sang their hearts out too, all to the driving beat of an associate pastor pounding on the lectern. After a prayer, scripture and a brief sermon, the congregation would sing another hymn would then move into the prayer practice of Tongsung Kido. Tongsung Kido is a time of supplication when the people cry out to God to listen and pray out loud all at the same time. To pray out loud with 400 to 600 people at 5:30 in the morning is an incredibly profound and freeing experience! My prayer life was revived by praying with the people of Bupyeong and will never be the same again.
The Bupyeong Methodist Church has nine choirs, an orchestra, several organists, and other musicians. On Sunday night, we were treated to a mini concert that included a string quartet, a flutist, several vocalists, a pianist (Pastor Hong's son who had recently auditioned at the Eastman School of Music), and a Marimba player! We were also treated to a performance by the church's children's choir. All played and sang with excellence, and offered their gifts with glad and generous hearts.
One morning, we saw a team of people cleaning the sanctuary. They dusted, vacuumed, and scrubbed until everything in the sanctuary shone. I joked with Nancy Adams that there must not be dust bunnies in Korea because I had yet to see one! Later on I saw a lady wiping down the marble planters outside. Another day, on an early morning walk, I found a man cleaning the outdoor courtyard with a floor scrubber. The parking ramp was immaculate from top to bottom. A glad and generous love for Christ and the Church seemingly permeated every action of every person in the church. My sense is that all this care was not prideful, but is instead a way for people to show their love for God by caring for what God has entrusted to them. More importantly, the people of Bupyeong demonstrated their love for one another by creating space that is gracious and welcoming to all. When we do our best it honors God.
Grace and honor was especially apparent in the tradition of bowing to one another. While I was pretty awkward about it at first, it really felt like we were humbly honoring the person we were greeting. One morning, on my way out of prayer service, an older woman greeted me at the door. She didn't have to bow far because she was pretty bent over and used a cane. I greeted her with a bow and as she took my hand in hers, she began to talk to me. I have no idea what she said, but I could see the caring in her eyes and smile. I met her again on our last day. She greeted me like an old friend and again began talking to me in Korean. I smiled and nodded as we blessed one another with our presence and shared words of thanks - really the only word I knew in Korean: Thank you. It was a holy moment.
I am thankful for the opportunity to have had this experience, for it has renewed my commitment to prayerfully live with a glad and generous heart.
UNY Conference trip to South Korea
Almost immediately after Annual Conference 2017, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb, several members of the UNY Cabinet as well as other leaders in the UNY Conference, and many of their partners or spouses traveled to Bupyeong, South Korea from June 6-June 14.
The Rev. Eun Pa Hong invited Bishop Webb and the UNY Cabinet to visit his church in South Korea. Rev. Eun Pa Hong feels one of the main ministries of his church is to introduce Americans to the way that Korean Methodists worship the Lord. He has invited several United Methodist Conferences across the world to his church. All expenses except for travel to and from South Korea were paid for by the Bupyeong Methodist Church.
According to the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, who went on the trip, there were four main reasons for the trip, “One reason was as a way for the pastor of Bupyeong Methodist Church, The Rev. Eun Pa Hong to thank us for bringing Methodism to his country. He was so gracious for something we didn’t directly have any part of. A missionary from the United States introduced Korea to the Methodist Church in the 1880s.” Rev. Gottschalk-Gielding explained that the three additional reasons for traveling to Korea were for Upper New York Cabinet members to experience the Korean Church, to experience spiritual renewal, and to better understand Korean culture.
Bishop Webb and Upper New York Cabinet members and leaders worshipped with their Korean brothers and sisters every morning at 5:00 a.m. On Sunday, they attended a worship service at 11:30 a.m. in addition to the 5:00 a.m. service. Bishop Webb preached at the 11:00 a.m. service and The Rev. Dr. Sung Ho Lee interpreted the sermon.
UNY visitors stayed in housing that Rev. Gottchalk-Fielding described as “immaculate” right at Bupyeong Methodist Church. He said, “The attention to detail of the South Koreans was absolutely amazing.”
UNY visitors were also able to visit several other Methodist churches in South Korea and were able to sight-see, including seeing the North Korean border.
It was a deeply moving experience to learn about how the 1.5 million Methodists in South Korea worship and serve God in their churches.
In this blog series, you will read what some of the UNY visitors took away from their experience in South Korea.
Behind the Scenes: Annual Conference
Do you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes in preparation for the Upper New York Annual Conference Session each year? Many hours and many hands are involved in the process of each and every detail of planning. Every Ministry Area plays an important part, along with the help of many volunteers before and during the Session.
Our next blog series will dive deep into the ins and outs, beginning with logistics*, and ending with a post Annual Conference wrap-up (which will include a special video!). Here’s a list of what you can look forward to leading up to the 2017 Annual Conference Session in the coming weeks:
- Printed Materials
- Communications OnSite
- Post Annual Conference Wrap-Up
*Did you know, the Annual Conference planning begins before the current Conference is even finished? Learn more next week in our first blog post of the series!
Pastor Mike Kelly: Chicken Parmesan and Garlic Red Smashed Potato
February 27, 2017 / By Pastor Mike Kelly
First off, I want to thank everyone for asking me to participate in this first ever Conference Blog Cooking Video. As I thought of what I was going to do for my presentation, and the recipe that followed, I thought that I would do a Christmas recipe to share, but I struggled with that. In the first place because I have been a Chef for so long and do not use recipes, so I was going to have to go through the steps to create one. Secondly, as I thought about Christmas recipes nothing traditionally associated with Christmas really struck me as something I wanted to do. So I thought more about Christmas and what it means, beyond Jesus, Christmas is about family and the love we share. So I thought why not do the dish that my wife loves the most that I cook, Chicken Parmesan and typically I serve that with Garlic Red Smashed Potatoes, a true favorite of the family. So that’s what I am going to do today. Below you will find the instructions for these dishes.
What you will need:
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast ( pretty large) 1 per person
- Italian Style Bread Crumbs
- Panko Bread Crumbs
- Spaghetti Sauce – I make my own but, I find that Hunts 4 cheese in a can is quite good
- Italian Blend Shredded Cheese
- Cooking Spray (Pam)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On cutting board, place a large piece of cooking wrap flat, place your chicken breast on the wrap, cover with another piece of wrap, using a meat hammer, or a can of vegetable, pound out the chicken until it is ¼ and ½ of inch thick, be careful with this process that you don't tear the breast apart, (note if the chicken breast is an inch or more thick, before pounding, carefully butterfly the breast by slicing through the thickness, leaving about a half of an inch uncut) set breast carefully to the side while you repeat this process for the remaining chicken breasts. In bowl start with 6 eggs, cracked and whipped, in another bowl place panko bread crumbs and add ½ c grated parmesan cheese, in the third bowl place Italian bread crumbs, to this I add, additional Italian seasoning to taste along with granulated garlic, commercial seasoned bread crumbs lack enough seasoning. Taking one chicken breast at a time, dip in egg, dip in Italian bread crumbs, redip in egg, coat with panko bread crumbs, and place in a pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake until the internal temperature of the chicken reads at least 165 degrees, pull from oven, dab with sauce that has been warmed, add Italian cheeses and return to the oven until the cheese has melted.
Garlic Red Smashed Potato
What you will need:
- Red Skinned Potato – 5 pounds makes a nice serving for a family of 4
- Granulated garlic – to taste
- Butter – 1 stick
- Heavy cream – to desired consistency
- Salt – to taste
- Pepper – to taste
- Parmesan Cheese
Directions: Thoroughly wash red potatoes, place in water in pan and cook until the potatoes are fork tender. When tender drain and rinse and place in mixer. Add butter, that has been softened, add ½ cup of parmesan cheese, add seasonings, (Note: add a little at a time, you can always add more but cannot take it out) Slowly add the heavy cream until it reaches the desired consistency, and serve.
Pastor James Brown: Corn Fritters Pancakes
February 21, 2017 / By Pastor James Brown, Bowmansville UMC & Faith Lancaster UMC
As a pancake lover and cooker for many, many years, I have used this recipe to feed many a fine group of people over the years at many Shrove Tuesday events prior to Ash Wednesday.
Folks do plain pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, but I enjoy making, as I like to say, "Step it up a Notch!" Corn Cakes pancakes as a second choice. Lots of people love them and have wanted the recipe, so here it is!
1 can whole kernel corn
1/2 cup flour
1/2 shredded cheese
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 pat butter
Salt & pepper to taste
- Drain can corn and save liquid.
- Put eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl and beat.
- Add flour and baking powder, whisk until smooth.
- Add corn & corn juice and shredded cheese.
- Stir together, batter should be semi thick. (A cheap trick is to use Bisquick/Jiffy Mix & equal parts of stone ground corn meal & cans of corn, mix & add milk to make batter)
- Put butter and oil in frypan & heat until bubbly over medium heat.
- Drop corn mixture in spoonful lots into frypan.
- When golden turn and cook other side.
- Drain on absorbent paper and serve.
Shannon Hodson: Carrot Lentil Coconut Stew
Because I feel my body is my temple, my diet is at least 85 percent plant-based. I love vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, seeds, fruits--foods from the earth. Also, I have been a dedicated endurance athlete for over 25 years. Nutrition is a big part of that dedication. I make sure I have a lot of antioxidants, plenty of fiber, and ample protein to fuel my performance. The recipe below is a delicious, warm lentil stew that is easy to throw together in a crockpot. Full of flavor and nutrients, this stew makes me feel good. If you consider yourself very carnivorous, I challenge you to try this. You will love it!
- 2 Cups of Dry Red Lentils
- 1 Cup of Medium Spiced Salsa (I like Newman’s!)
- 1 Teaspoon of Vegetable Oil
- 2 yellow onions, chopped.
- 3 Large Carrots, cut in half length wise and thinly sliced
- 5 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 Teaspoons of Turmeric
- 1 Teaspoon of Cumin
- 1 Teaspoon of Fenugreek
- 1 Teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of lemon pepper
- 6 cups of Vegetable Stock
- Korean Chili sauce
- 1 can of lite coconut milk
- 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
- Chopped Cilantro and Unsweetened Shredded Coconut for topping/garnish
- Rinse lentils and soak overnight in 5 cups of water
- In a big soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add the onions, carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring them until they are soft.
- Add the garlic, turmeric, fenugreek, salt and lemon pepper and stir for one minute.
- Add the salsa and bring to a boil.
- Stir in the lentils and vegetable stock.
- Transfer this concoction to a slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours.
- Stir in coconut milk and lemon, cook for 15-20 minutes on HIGH.
- Add a couple of squirts of the Korean Chili Sauce. Mix Well.
- Serve in soup bowls. Garnish with cilantro and coconut.
Debbie Albright: Shrimp Creole
I was born and raised in the Deep South and lived most of my life in Shreveport Louisiana. After meeting my husband we moved to Upstate New York where we currently reside and although I certainly miss home and my family I really miss the food. I think Louisiana has the best food however, as I was raised there I may be partial. Growing up I loved the Creole, Cajun and Southern Comfort food. I enjoyed cooking dishes such as Southern Fried Chicken, Shrimp Creole, Chicken and Dumplings, Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, Black-eyed Peas. I also really enjoyed any kind of blackened chicken, fish or seafood I came across.
I taught myself to cook these foods that I grew up with and have many years of experience cooking. I prepare huge meals for family and friends as well as make food gift baskets. I demonstrated a class at our local high school on how to fry chicken and my Southern Fried Chicken is requested at every party at my daughter’s place of employment. As heritage is important to me I have taught my sons, grandchildren and niece how to prepare the dishes I grew up with (they love it) so the tradition continues.
- 1 pound medium shrimp peeled and deveined
- 2 tsps. "Simply Southern" Cajun Seafood Seasoning
- 1/3 cup butter
- ½ cup onion minced
- 2 tsps. Kosher Salt or to taste
- ¼ cup flour
- ¾ cup bell pepper chopped
- Pinch Cayenne Pepper or to taste
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 32 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 ½ cup cooked rice
- 1 cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- Sprig Fresh Parsley for Garnish
Melt 1/3 cup butter in large pan over medium low heat then add ¼ cup flour stirring constantly over low heat until light brown. Add 1 pound medium shrimp cook over low heat until shrimp is slightly pink (do not overcook). Add 3 cloves minced garlic, ½ cup minced onion, 3/4 cup chopped bell pepper and 2 teaspoons Simply Southern Cajun Seafood Spice. Cook on medium low heat until vegetables are tender (approximately 5 minutes). Raise heat, add 32 ounces tomato sauce and 1 cup water. Cover and simmer on low heat for approximately 30 minutes. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Serve over rice and garnish with fresh parsley.
Beth Russell: Glazed Meatloaf
January 30, 2017 / By Beth Russell, Volunteer Coordinator/Director at Christ Church
This meatloaf is a big hit at our Community Meals at Christ Church United Methodist in Glens Falls.
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 3 slices bread, shredded
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- In a small bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and dry mustard until smooth.
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef, shredded bread, onion, egg, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1/3 cup of the ketchup mixture until well mixed. Form into a loaf and place in a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
- Bake 1 hour. Pour off fat. Pour reserved ketchup mixture over loaf. Bake 10 minutes more.
Pastor Jack Laskowski: Haitian Pikliz
January 24, 2017 / By Pastor Jack Laskowski, Spencerport and Adams Basin UMC's
I attended two Volunteers-in-Mission trips to Haiti in 2004 and 2006. We worked in the little town of Hermitage, helping to build a church and a school. It was a beautiful village on the coast. The faithfulness and hospitality of the Haitian people was both humbling and inspiring.
On the trips, I was introduced to Haitian Pikliz, which is a staple in just about every household. Since then, I can't get enough of it!
Enjoy the recipe, but be forewarned that it can be a bit spicy!
2 ½ cups cabbage slice thin
1 cup julienned carrots
½ cup thinly sliced shallots
6 hot peppers quartered
3 sprigs of thyme
8 whole cloves
1 tsp kosher salt
3 cups white vinegar
3 tbs fresh lime juice
Mix together to dissolve salt and chill for three days, shaking twice a day.
Mary Dalglish: Fillet a fish
WARNING: If you are at all squeamish, you will see a fish getting filleted if you watch the video.
Growing up on the coast of Maine has taught me a slightly unusual skill set when it comes to Seafood. It's quite normal to go straight to the source rather than the grocery store as you head further up the coast. It's easy to score some of the freshest lobsters right off the boat, steamer clams straight from the mud flats, and yes, fresh whole fish caught from your own fishing line. This has allowed me to master the process of fresh seafood preparation; from opening oysters with ease to picking a lobster clean of all its meat in under 90 seconds, but one of the most asked about preparations is how to fillet a fish. So, you've asked, now I'll answer.
How to fillet a fish:
Make sure that your fish has been cleaned of all of its innards. If possible, ask your fish monger to clean them for you.
Begin by placing the fish on its side with the back fin facing you. Insert a sharp fillet knife behind the side fin with the blade facing away from you. Simply pierce the skin/flesh (but not through any bone) and move the knife down toward the belly. This helps to separate the head from the fillet.
Place the knife tip on the back of the fish just after the head and above the top fin. Slowly and carefully begin to slice down the back side, releasing the fillet from the back bone and ribs.
Once you reach the tail end where the belly cavity ends, push the knife all the way through (making sure to stay above the backbone) and continue to pull the knife right to the tail.
Once this is done, you can slowly slice and peel the fillet away from the body.
Some fish such as salmon can have many small bones from the ribs (pinbones) that are sliced through and remain in the fillet. Not to worry, you can easily remove these with a pair of pliers.
Jodi Webb: Broccoli Cheddar Soup
December 20, 2016 / By Jodi Webb
Want to have your recipe featured on the blog? Send your recipe, why you love it, and a photo (if you have it!) to email@example.com to be considered!
We're big soup eaters in the Webb household. I love to make this family favorite during the winter months. It helps warm our souls on those cold nights. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
2 tbs butter (for sautéing onion)
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 stick of butter
1/2 C flour
4 C 1/2 & 1/2 cream
4 C chicken stock
2 C carrots julienned
1 lb broccoli chopped into small bites
16 oz. shredded sharp cheddar
Pinch of salt and pepper
Melt 2 tbs butter in a non stick pot. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Melt 1 stick of butter in now empty pot. Add flour slowly, stirring to incorporate until smooth, about 5 minutes. Slowly add half & half and chicken stock to the pot. Continue to stir until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until thickened. Stir in sautéed onions, carrots, and broccoli. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes. Remove pot from stove top to cool slightly. Slowly stir in cheese until melted through. Serve with crusty bread or a sandwich.
Note: depending on your preference of texture, you may puree or mash the soup mix before adding cheese.
Day in the Life: That’s a wrap!
Take a look back at the last 12 weeks of our "Day in the Life" Series!
We hope you enjoyed it and learned a bit about the Conference staff and how you, the local church, can use these vital people to make disciples for the transformation of the world!
A Day in the Life of: Mary Dalglish
November 15, 2016 / By Mary Dalglish, Video Specialist
On any ordinary workday in the office, the first thing most people do is check the hundreds of emails that piled up over the last 15 hours of their absence. That's typical. The first thing I did today was put on a hard hat. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Mary, that tiny little camera is not going to fall on your head, nor would it give you the slightest concussion if it did." But I'm not worried about cameras falling from the sky. I'm worried about construction debris as walls are torn down and ceilings are repaired.
Today, I'm recording video and taking photos of the progress at the new Conference Center on Henry Clay Blvd. It's something I do once a week to keep everyone informed and right now, demolition is underway. I had a hard time trying to figure out where I was as I walked through the front doors. At first glance, I thought I walked into the wrong building due to the lack of coffee I had earlier. No, I was in the right place but something was missing. Walls that were once familiar and acted as navigational guides were gone. There was nothing but wide open space and plenty of light. After gathering more photos and videos than one would possibly need, I headed back to the office.
The first thing I always do after returning from a shoot is import my video onto a hard drive for editing. I can't tell you how important this step is. Not only am I creating a back up, but I'm also able to review the video and take notes while it's still fresh in my mind. It doesn't usually take long to do, but once it was done, then I checked my email. Only 27 unread emails this morning!
Sitting down to edit a video usually takes a lot of patience. Normally I would start editing a video shortly after returning from the shoot, but since this particular video is in the making for the next few months or so, I picked up where I left off on an edit from the day before. Some of the more involving videos may take up to a few days to complete depending on how long it takes for those creative juices to start flowing. Today, the creativity started pouring out faster than usual. One of the biggest challenges when telling stories through videos is making sure you have enough visual content to keep your viewer engaged. There are many times when someone on camera is describing an experience they recently had, but have no visual components to help support it. This is just such the case now. How do I show something that happened without having video or photos of it? That’s when the creativity really starts to kick in. In this case, I have a man describing his experiences in solitary confinement and I have no idea how to visually support something like that. Don't worry, I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say that animations and graphics will do wonders!
Normally, a day of editing would end with the export of a semi-final video which is then sent to others just to get more eyes on it. Then the final version is published for all to see and enjoy. In this case, the edits will take several days and a lot of inventiveness. So, a simple "file and save" will do just fine here.
I know it seems silly, but the hardest part of my day is packing up to go home at the end of the workday. "What am I forgetting? What lose ends Did I not tie up? Do I have a shoot tomorrow morning? Will I need the camera tonight?" This is the time of day when I really tend to over-think everything. But once I get into my car and drive away, I relax by telling myself," there's always tomorrow! "
A day in the Life: Julie Maciejewski
As a District Admin Assistant, I can have contact with anyone in the Conference, but mostly from our district – the DS (District Superintendent), clergy, church leaders or someone who has a question about a person or event. Is that broad enough? Because that is what happens here – you never know who is going to call or e-mail you with a question or request.
One of the main responsibilities for my job is to keep our district’s contact information updated in the Conference database. This usually takes place about this time of year because churches are turning in their list of church leaders’ contact information and again in the summer because of clergy appointment changes.
I also hear from pastors and committee chairs this time of year with questions about the reports that are due for annual church conferences.
People also send in articles they would like to be in the district newsletter. Those go out every two weeks and include events and activities at our local churches, district and Conference events and news, links from Conference resources, United Methodist Communications, other events that may be fun or interesting in our area and our “Peter and Paul” section – kind of a “I need” or “I have” items. Anyone can request to be on this distribution list – just ask!
Then, there are the church and clergy files. We keep yearly reports that are turned in, general correspondence about things going on at the church, as well as personnel files for our clergy. We also have files on clergy candidates, Certified Lay Ministers, and several district committees.
The district offices also keep track of equalization members who attend Annual Conference in early June. They are lay people who can vote on items submitted for consideration.
Some people who contact me want to make an appointment with the District Superintendent and I can get them on his calendar.
The District AAs also have four training sessions a year where we go to the conference office to meet and go over things that all of us deal with. It’s nice to have a support system with others who know exactly what you are dealing with. Our Bishop’s Executive Assistant oversees these meetings and one or two other staff members are usually there to share new or changing information.
There is not really a typical day for me and that is one reason I like this job. I get to talk, e-mail, and see all kinds of people with all kinds of questions. Stop by to say “hello” sometime!
A Day in the Life: Cherish McGowan
Well, it's almost September, and what does September mean? It means our somewhat slower-paced summer is over and we here at the UNY Conference are out of the gate running!
Every day is very different, since I, like most people here at the Conference office, have a broad list of duties and wear many hats. Many times the primary tasks that I am working on depend on what time of the year it is. My main job is always to work with all of our Conference program teams with any questions, concerns, and needs they may have, whether it's meeting set ups, travel arrangements, reimbursements, scheduling and being part of conference calls, being a source of information, or sometimes just being a sounding board for ideas, etc. It's actually great fun working with so many different teams, personalities, and styles, so things never get boring, that's for sure.
Some examples of specific things that I do on a regular basis for and with teams would be:
- I work closely with our Safe Sanctuaries Committee, attending their team meetings, scheduling their conference calls, being a source of information about background checks, the Conference's Minimum Standards, and also handling the compilation of data from the Safe Sanctuaries compliance reports that are included in the charge conference materials. I even got to travel to Nashville a few years ago for a Safe Sanctuaries convention, and that was very informative, as well as being a ton of fun!
- I work with the College Ministry Team, being the contact person at the Conference office for any scholarship and loan questions, etc. I meet with the team to go over scholarship and loan applications once I receive them and then make decisions based on each student's application. I will then follow up with the students to let them know our decision, supply them with any additional needed paperwork or documentation, and then provide all necessary paperwork to our finance department so that the students receive their money. It's incredibly rewarding to be a part of helping these students along with their education and with their future career and life goals. The applications are impressive and it is inspiring to see our young people's love for and faith in God, as well as their determination to achieve their goals.
- Throughout most of the year one of my biggest ongoing jobs is the Nominations report. It is an ever-changing, ever-fluid document with people leaving teams, being added to teams, terms ending, team structures changing, etc. I work very closely with the chair of our nominations team, Jenna Amberge, for about nine months of the year. We complete worksheets for each team, filling vacancies according to the Book of Discipline and UNY Rules, as well as trying to have representation from all districts, genders, and ethnicities, before I finally create the document itself, making sure that the quaddrenium, terms, classes, and positions are all correct for each individual on each team. It's a lot of work all year long, but it's very fulfilling when it is finally presented at Annual Conference each year (although changes usually occur five minutes after the report is presented!) The nominations report is never boring, and it never allows me to just casually work on it. It's one of those jobs that requires 110% of your concentration. I may or may not have had dreams about it.
Another responsibility that I have enjoyed so much is that I have headed up our mission project at two of our recent annual conferences, both times being with the amazing humanitarian nonprofit organization, Stop Hunger Now. Working closely with Stop Hunger Now, I have been involved with every detail of ensuring that our meal-packing events, which provide food to impoverished countries in need, are a success. When I say "working closely with", I actually mean that I eat, sleep, and breathe SHN for months! I make arrangements with the On-Center to secure the adjacent War Memorial as the event site. The War Memorial is the perfect spot - it is big enough to house all the tables, supplies, equipment, and volunteers needed to pack countless thousands of meals, which is exactly what the wonderful people of the UNY Annual Conference have done in 2014 and 2015. The War Memorial fills up with volunteers, the numerous work stations are set up with ingredients, bags, boxes, scales, measuring cups, etc., the music is booming to get everyone motivated, many folks sing right along, and the hair nets ... we can't forget the hair nets. Everyone is required to wear one. There is really no way to put into words the image of seeing hundreds of people, including Bishop Mark Webb, wearing said hair net, working together in unison, talking, laughing, and having a marvelous time, knowing that the work we are doing is so important and is helping so many people with the most basic of human needs - food. Working along with this organization and coordinating these important events has honestly been my favorite thing of anything I have done here at the Conference. It's important, it's inspirational, and it's fun. The hair nets, on the other hand...
One thing that I am very excited about that is still in its beginning stages is a new process that we are developing for new volunteers. A Volunteer On boarding subcommittee has been created, of which I am a part. We are developing a standardized new process to use for each of our Conference teams, which will provide such things as a purpose, description, and working role of the team, a handbook with team-specific information, but also with "big picture" information, and webinars for team leaders, just to start. It is very exciting, and facilitating this process will be one of my primary tasks. I can't wait to see it progress!
All in all, I greatly enjoy my work at the Conference office. It is a privilege to work for and with some incredible people. I am very excited for us to move into our new Liverpool office and start the next chapter very soon.
Day in the Life: John Thomas
October 24, 2016 / By John Thomas, Food Service Manager
My name is John Thomas and I am the Food Service Manager at Casowasco for Upper New York Camp and Retreat Ministries. I provide meals for campers and guests, and any other event hosted at Casowasco. Come into my kitchen and I'll show you around.
9:30 a.m. - Every day is different in the kitchen. We are hosting several events and retreats this week at Casowasco, so today began with a fresh brew of coffee for our guests.
10:00 a.m. - After making sure there was plenty of coffee out for our early risers, I began the food prep process for lunch. First, I need to make sure I am aware of all special requests and food allergies. One guest requested a specific salad since she is vegetarian and also has food allergies. I washed and weighed up vegetables, and began prep for the main course.
10:30 a.m. - A guest asked about decaf coffee. Realizing that the pot was almost empty, I brewed up a fresh batch for her.
11:00 a.m. - Now that prep is done for lunch, I took another look at my notes to make sure I had everything I needed and all special requests were filled. Everything looks good! I fired up the stovetop burners and off we went. Cooking for a crowd is not always easy. Not only do I try to make sure all of our guests are pleased with their meals, I also need to make sure that meat is cooked to proper temperatures and everything stays fresh and clean.
11:50 a.m. - Lunch is ready to be served. I made sure the food was laid out for serving and utensils, plates, beverages, and napkins were fully stocked.
12:00 p.m. - Lunch time for me means making sure lunch is served on time. Mission accomplished. I decided to take a little "me" time while everyone enjoyed their meal.
1:00 p.m. - Once the dining area was cleared out, it was time to start cleaning up. A guest approached me to compliment the chicken, which I received with a huge smile. It makes me happy to know that I can bring someone joy through food.
2:00 p.m. - This is about the time I start getting ready for the next meal. Today, I need to get ready for tomorrow's lunch. I take inventory of what's in the pantry, including cleaning supplies and paper goods. We are getting low on a few produce items, so I'll make sure to order what I need.
3:30 p.m. - Before I leave for the day, I always try to get as much paperwork done as I can. This means going through invoices from suppliers to make sure we are up to date on everything, making sure my menu for the next day is ready, and taking note of special requests and allergies.
4:30 p.m. - Time to go home and spend time with my daughter and rest up for the next day. I made sure the stove was off, perishable foods were properly stored, and nothing was left out. See you tomorrow Casowasco!
Click here to learn more about Camp and Retreat Ministries.
Day in the Life: Karen Campolieto
October 17, 2016 / By Karen Campolieto, Administrative Assistant for Communications, New Faith Communities, and Vital Congregations
Well, it’s fall, and the main goal of my work between now and as soon as I can get all the information together, is to publish the Upper New York Conference Journal. My first step is to gather all the database information for the directory, clergy names, churches, and attending laity to Conference. This can take many weeks, as I must first wait until July 1st to begin gathering the information due to new appointments. Once the directory is finished, I will begin to assemble all the parts of the journal that pertain to the business of the UNY Conference, which is no easy task. Hours of editing and formatting come into play for each section that’s included. When all information has come together, I will upload the entire file to Lulu.com for purchase. My work actually begins before Annual Conference, usually in February, by publishing Vol. I of the Journal, or what was formerly called the Pre-Conference booklet. It’s a really big job, but a labor of love that I enjoy working on and seeing the finished product at publishing time.
Between working on the Conference Journal, I am the supporting liaison for Vital Congregations and the New Faith Communities District. I am responsible for creating registrations for upcoming events, such as Leadership Academy, Illuminating Preaching, Tending the Fire and any New Faith Community events that are held throughout the year. There are many other tasks to be done for each of these ministries, such as registration coordination, accounting reconciliation, new appointment sheets, travel, event arrangements and a weekly newsletter.
On the creative side, my other main responsibility every week is assembling the Weekly Digest. Working along with the Communications Team, I combine all the edited news stories into what we eventually send out to the Conference. Notes for events, announcements, death notices, etc., all come from me. It’s a collaborative effort between the entire Communications team, but I end up sending them out through Constant Contact. I really enjoy the creativeness of assembling the Weekly Digest, as I get to use graphics, and pictures and can usually find and learn something new about the process almost every time and I get the news of the Conference firsthand. It can get confusing sometimes trying to gather all the correct information, checking to be sure names, dates and general information is correct, but hopefully, it’s keeping us all connected.
I really enjoy speaking with and serving the local church. I do get calls and inquiries about many things such as forms, address changes, Advocate delivery, notices that need to be sent, and classified ads. It’s a rewarding experience to help the many ministries and answer questions for people that need help.
The tasks mentioned above are only a few of the many that I’m responsible for. After twenty-one years working for the United Methodist Church, I’ve held many positions within the Conference(s) and have enjoyed all the work and people that I come in contact with and really enjoy helping the local churches with their ministries in any small way that I can. I’ve learned and grown so much and cherish the opportunity to continue to meet and serve so many people and churches within our connection. I’m looking forward to new “adventures” as we relocate to the new building in Clay when we can finally all be on one floor, and reconnect, so to speak with our co-workers.
Click here to learn more about all the staff members within the Commmunications Ministry Area and their specific responsibilities.
A Day in the Life: Mary Bradley
October 11, 2016 / By Mary Bradley, Episcopal Office Manager
I start each day checking voicemail and emails. Then, the day unfolds from there. Each day is its own and can change at the answer of one phone call. I am the support person to the Executive Assistant to the Bishop, Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, and to Bishop Webb. Beyond handling items that they request of me, my primary role is the appointment list and dealing with clergy status changes.
I am a support person with the District Superintendents and the liaison with the District AAs. I support the cabinet when they hold meetings and assist the DS’s when possible. I send invitations out for different meetings that the cabinet invites folks to join them for and assist in the logistics of those events. I lead three District AA Trainings a year. I support and help the District AAs in any way that I am helpful.
I am also responsible for the Bishop’s preaching calendar and working with the churches to plan each visit that is made. I help the Bishop’s Retreat Planning team with the annual Bishop’s Retreat each October and all that goes into making that happen. I organize and send invitations out for the provisional’s day apart with Bishop Webb each year as well as the ordinand’s day apart with the Bishop each year prior to Annual Conference.
I sit on the session’s team. I am responsible for preparing different aspects of Annual Conference. The biggest one that most people see is the appointment list. I also assist with the Business of the Annual Conference (BAC) and working with the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) to make sure the appointment list and the BAC match each other. I am responsible for preparing all of the certificates for Annual Conference including those for commissioning, ordination, licensing, and retirements. I also work before Annual Conference with the DS’s on organizing the Right Start Workshops in the six regions so good pastoral transitions can be made. I work with communications team and invite the current class of retirees to record videos to be used during Annual Conference.
Click here to learn more about all the staff members within the Episcopal Office and their specific responsibilities.
A Day in the Life: Mike Weaver
October 4, 2016 / By Mike Weaver, Accountant
My name is Mike Weaver and I am the accountant for the finance ministry area of the Conference. I work directly with members of our local churches by providing the support and resources they need to record financial information, create budgets, and more. To understand more about what I do for the Conference, let me walk you through a typical day at the office.
8:00 a.m. - After settling in, my day begins with the usual checking of emails and voice messages. I responded to a few emails from church treasurer needing some resources and tools necessary to help with their budgets, and give some direction on their upcoming fundraising campaigns. Most of the people I work with are clergy with a lot to do, or volunteers, so, while I’m usually providing information or advice, I’m also often providing reassurance.
9:30 a.m. - I received a phone call from one of our pastors asking me a question about their Ministry Shares, which I was glad to answer. I receive a lot of these calls this time of year, as churches become busy again in the fall, and the year begins to come to a close for their Ministry Shares. While it’s not always seen, there is a great spirit of connection in most of our churches and they are proud to be in ministry together and around the world, not as individual churches.
10:30 a.m. - I returned a missed call from a treasurer of another local church. Together, we gathered all the information needed to prepare for an upcoming audit and I was able to provide him with the proper tools and resources. I was also able to listen to his concerns and assure him that he is ready and the outcome will be fine.
12:00 p.m. - Its lunchtime! I think I'll go outside and get some fresh air.
12:30 p.m. - I have some paperwork to catch up on after reviewing ministry share budgets and finances for the Annual Conference. This is not the most exciting part of my job, but if it isn’t done it would sure be missed.
2:00 p.m. - The phone rings. It's one of the Camp and Retreat directors asking for assistance on some numbers. Not only was I able to supply him with a direct answer, but I also pointed him in the direction of some great resources to help in the future.
2:30 p.m. – Often I’m asked by Conference committees about their budget, and how to complete their expense reports appropriately. I’m here to help these teams with the details so they can focus on their ministry. With the fall beginning, lots of teams are meeting, and I just heard today from the Young Adult Task Force that training I provided last spring has helped guide their work for this fall, regarding their budget. It’s always nice to receive a, “Thank you,” via email!
4:00 p.m. - As I wrap up the day, I make sure that I haven't forgotten anything. All financial inquiries by the local churches have been followed up on and there are no major loose ends for the day. I reflect on my day. I could be doing accounting work lots of places, but here it’s more. I’m supporting ministry. It feels good. Lights off, calculator away, and off I go! See you tomorrow!
Click here to learn more about all the staff members within the Finance Ministry Area and their specific responsibilities.
A Day in the Life: Debi Marshall
September 27, 2016 / By Debi Marshall, Human Resources Generalist
As a mother of an-almost two year old, I’m on her schedule, so I usually enter the office between 8:00 and 8:15 each morning.
8:15 a.m. After putting away my lunch and booting up my computer, I usually start the day by clearing out my junk email and looking to see if I have any emails that need immediate responses. This morning I had several emails from my supervisor, Vicki Putney, following up on projects I’m working on. Today she wants to schedule a meeting for next week, to prepare for our discussion at the next staff meeting where we will discuss preparation for moving to the new office building on Henry Clay, as well as the opportunity of improving office culture.
8:30 a.m. Quick review of my “To-Do” list for the day, and then I begin crossing items off as I accomplish them, old school with an orange Sharpie highlighter. If I don’t have a meeting in the morning, I do my best to get quick projects (such as processing personnel changes) completed within my first hour at work to feel a sense of accomplishment, before diving into a more complicated project around mid-morning. Of course, the day doesn’t always go as planned…
9:00 a.m. I received an email from our payroll company advising that one of our employee’s paychecks could not be direct deposited because the wrong account number was in our payroll system. I worked with our payroll specialist, Alma, to ensure that the employee would receive a manual check, and then did some investigative work to determine what had happened. After checking our records, it appeared the account number was correct so the bank must have changed either the routing or account number and did not tell the employee. I advised the employee of the situation with a reminder to send an updated direct deposit form with the correct account number for the next paycheck.
9:30 a.m. I love visitors! Today it was a new employee. For 45 minutes, we went over new hire paperwork, including processing the employee’s I-9 form where I’m required to review her documents to ensure she is who she says she is and is authorized to work in the United States. This is also the opportunity for me to explain our health insurance and pension benefits, and go over other things of importance like when she will get her first paycheck! We all love getting paid for a hard day’s work.
11:00 a.m. Time to make some phone calls. The hiring committee for the Finance and Benefits Support Specialist narrowed down the applicants to three. I was able to get a hold of the first person I called and set up an interview in a few weeks. I then left voicemails for the other two candidates and prayed that we wouldn’t have to play phone tag all day. Luckily, one candidate called me back shortly thereafter. Still waiting on the third…
11:30 a.m. A local church pastor emailed me asking for guidance on the new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime/minimum wage ruling that goes into effect December 1st. “Are clergy now required to be paid overtime, and should lay employees be paid hourly instead of salaried,” the pastor wonders… I email the pastor back indicating that our office has created a flow chart detailing how local churches can interpret the law and it is available on our Church Employer web page. This is one of my favorite parts of my job. I love being a resource to local churches that do not have a designated HR person. Anything I can do to help!
12:00 p.m. I left a voicemail for our contact at the Genesee Grande to secure a date for an upcoming Supervisory Training. I need to ensure that we have a date and location before I send details out to invited staff.
12:30 p.m. Enjoying a turkey sandwich and strawberries at my desk as I catch up on personal email. This provides me a little bit of downtime, and helps me refocus, but I’m pretty much done eating in 10 minutes and then back to work. Being the self-appointed “Queen of Compliance,” I’m normally the person telling employees that they should take their entire lunch break, but I never take that advice myself. Isn’t that how it always is? We know what’s good for us but it’s hard to live it out.
2:00 p.m. I sit down to start writing this Day in the Life blog…
2:30 p.m. One of our camp directors forwarded me workers’ compensation paperwork he completed for an employee. I made sure the forms were completed properly and then processed it to be mailed to Church Mutual who handles our workers compensation insurance. I don’t mind pushing paper once in a while.
2:45 p.m. Craving some chocolate to get me through the afternoon, but I resist the urge to take a 5 minute break to the local deli, and instead power through by enjoying a cold apple I had waiting for me in the fridge.
3:00 p.m. Summer camp is pretty much over which means it’s time to start archiving files. I transfer the 2015 seasonal staff personnel files over to a smaller box, since it’s dwindled down as we’ve processed rehires throughout the summer. Next I begin alphabetizing the personnel files for 2016 seasonal staff that have been inactivated in our payroll system, so I could file them in a new box… a perfectly tedious, yet necessary, task to end the day.
3:30 p.m. Another visitor! This time the visitor is an employee with a confidential concern to discuss. No additional information I can share here, except that, in general, when employees come to me, my first step is to listen to their concern. Then I try to determine exactly how they would like me to assist them. Are they just seeking a listening ear? Do they want clarification on policy and procedure? Do they want coaching on how to address the issue? Do they want me to directly address the issue with their supervisor and/or escalate the concern to our Director of HR? The employee’s initial concern drives the conversation and, in turn, drives any next steps on my part. I have an open door policy and do my best to ensure all employees know I’m available and happy to be a resource whenever they are in need.
4:15 p.m. Right before I leave, I update my “To-do list” Word document, deleting everything I’ve accomplished and adding all new tasks that came up throughout the day… then print it out and put it on my nifty desk stand (best purchase ever) – fresh for the next morning.
Click here to learn more about all the staff members within the Benefits and Administrative Services Ministry Area and their specific responsibilities.
A Day in the Life: Diane Miner
September 20, 2016 / By Diane Miner, Media Resource Center Director
Believe it or not, part of my work day starts from home when I wake up (5:30 a.m.). The first thing I do is spend a half-hour reading part of a book from the Media Resource Center. It doubles as a good devotional time and a way to preview materials. I have made this part of my morning routine for over five years now.
I typically get to work at 7:30 each morning. (You may not realize that the Media Resource Center is not located in the Conference Center yet, so I have worked in an office by myself for the better part of the past six years). Before I even check email or phone messages this morning, I begin with a pile of about 10 requests sitting next to the postage meter waiting to be packaged and mailed out. There are a few steps to getting resources ready to mail: checking to see what is available for the request, sending a follow-up email or phone call, invoicing them, and packaging them for shipment.
I spent time on the phone this morning with a church lay person who likes to plan the year of studies for her small group. I checked the library log while we are talking to see what she has done in the past and we discussed options for this year. When she has her studies picked out, I will help her plan the year, so the studies fit into the right time frames for her group. After I talked to her, I went through and double checked the dates and reserve the resources for the appropriate dates. I followed up with an email that included the list to make sure it’s set up correctly.
My friend from FedEx delivered a package from Cokesbury (I tend to get a lot of them). Some new Advent resources have arrived, so I will catalog those later this week or next. It’s Advent in August since I need to plan at least a season ahead in the resource center (I always have a wish list next to my computer).
Intermittently, the phone rings and people stop in and I help them with their requests. (I actually mail to over 70% of the churches that utilize the resource center). Sometimes people know exactly what they want and other times they like to discuss options and ask questions. I also ask questions to be sure I am suggesting the right resources for their group.
It’s a beautiful day, so out the door I went for a walk. Most days, I like to get out and take a walk during my lunch time, but alas that doesn’t always happen.
Upon my return, I had a pile of resources that need to be checked back in, which includes making sure nothing is missing or damaged (bubble wrap is my friend), checking them in on the computer library system, and re-shelving them if no one else is waiting for them.
More phone calls and email requests came in for resources, so I have a new pile next to the postage meter to mail out tomorrow and some on the shelf for people to pick up. I have also been working on putting together the notebooks for the upcoming Safe Sanctuaries Train the Trainer sessions. I was going to work on my newsletter, but time helping others is much more important. That will have to wait until tomorrow or the next day…
A Day in the Life: Kay Jackson
September 12, 2016 / By Kay Jackson, Receptionist and Support Services Clerk
I’m Kay Jackson. I am the receptionist and support services clerk for the Conference. I arrive each day at 8:30 a.m. Here is a snapshot of what a day looks like for me:
8:30 a.m. – As I started my day at the Conference office, I turned on the Keurig Machine and the copiers, to help make sure everyone’s day ran smoothly. I checked my emails, restocked the coffee, and browsed the Conference Office the day ahead.
9:45 a.m. – After I was settled in, I ran labels for envelopes for a large mailing, and then the envelopes were stuffed.
11:30 a.m. – Sometimes my days are filled with lots of sitting, so I visited the copy room and mail room to see if any mail needed postage. Only a package or two, so the trip was short-lived.
11:45 a.m. – Surprisingly, the phones have been quiet today… and as I finished typing this, a call comes in! A pastor was looking for information on “Church Employers” and I directed the call to Debi Marshall as our main contact for employer questions. As I hung up, the mailman walked in the door! I sorted, opened, and dropped it in the appropriate mail boxes.
12:30 p.m. – A visitor rang the buzzer outside, I answered. They’re here for a meeting with Vicki Putney, our Director of HR/Benefits. I gave instructions of where the elevator is, and guided them to the 2nd floor where Vicki’s office is located. I gave a quick call to her once the visitor entered, just to give her a heads up that they were on their way!
1 p.m. – Lunchtime! I enjoyed taking a walk outside and cared for my important phone calls today. The break is welcomed!
1:30 p.m. – I returned to my desk, checked my email, and then headed to the 2nd floor to being my afternoon filing. While not the most exciting part of my job, I know it needs to be completed and done well, in order for Ministry Areas to be organized, and so that documents are easy to find when needed.
3p.m. – Filing is usually completed, then I head back to my desk, look to see what’s on the schedule tomorrow, and if there’s anything I need to care for. Refill Keurig machine/Sanitize my desk.
3:15 p.m. – Browsed the calendar for tomorrow and created the sign welcoming visitors to the Conference Office located at the main landing by the front door. We’ve heard this has helped direct visitors (first- time and others) to the right location for meetings and other business.
4 p.m. – I prepped the mail and ran it through the postage machine, in order to be ready for the Post Office run I make at the end of the day. Thankfully, it’s a small amount, but that’s not always the case when it comes to invoices being compiled or other mass mailings. I’m lucky today!
4:15 p.m. – I head to the Post Office before heading home.
Click here to learn more about all the staff members within the Benefits and Ministry Area and their specific responsibilities.
Introducing: A day in the life!
Welcome to our latest endeavor, the Upper New York Conference “Day in the Life” blog series! Over the next few months, you will read (and view) firsthand from several Conference Staff members as they chronicle a day in their life with Upper New York.
Each week, we will feature a member from one of our Ministry Areas—they will share what their day is like, what type of work they do, and how you, the local church, can use these vital people to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
Check back each week to learn more, read their stories, and hear why they love Upper New York!
Upper New York goes to Jurisdictional Conference
July 25, 2016 / By Rev. Cathy Hall Stengel
In June, the UNY Annual Conference endorsed two candidates for the position of Bishop in the United Methodist Church. I was honored to be one of those two. I feel that I can speak confidently that we both felt affirmed and encouraged by the endorsement of our colleagues in the delegation and the annual conference. Thank you.
Monday night, July 13, all of the endorsed candidates gathered for prayer, conversation, anointing and stoling (green quilted stoles were placed around our necks by Bishop Violet Fisher). In that intimate service, led by Bishop May, Bishop Lyght, Bishop Yeakel, and Bishop Fisher – we were called and claimed as gifted. We were anointed as precious in the sight of God and our peers. We were invited to guard our hearts, guard our dignity, to not be ornery or negative, to show our love for Jesus Christ and the United Methodist Church. It was a sacred time. It was a time for laughter and the opportunity to hear the hearts of these retired bishops.
Tuesday the eleven endorsed candidates walked through eight interviews, each lasting approximately 40 minutes. We offered ourselves, our hearts, our gifts, our hopes from 8:45 am until 9:45 pm. What a day. I experienced it as full of life, full of care and concern for this church called United Methodist. We laughed together; we prayed together (often); and these faithful delegates listened over and over….all day. I don’t believe I have ever felt as affirmed as in these hours. Each interview team had someone from Upper New York – so there were familiar faces in each room.
Neither [Rev.] Beckie [Sweet] nor I were elected. The church spoke loudly into the world in which we live. We have elected two gifted and called Elders into the office of Bishop. Their gifts shined for all to see as they accepted the pin, the purple stole, and the new nametag. It’s truly a Holy Spirit moment when someone is elected to the episcopacy. God was truly glorified. We declared that we will not only speak against racism, we will empower all to serve this church at a time when resurrection and hope are desperately needed.
Upper New York – I want you to know that the jurisdiction welcomed and affirmed the two women you endorsed. The jurisdiction experienced the care and intentionality of the delegation you elected. Thank you for your confidence, your trust, your attention to what was happening, your messages of care and encouragement. Let us continue to live into the call that God has placed on ALL of our lives to serve without reservation, take risks, speak honestly with love and compassion, and make ourselves available for the work of the Holy Spirit.
Peace and grace!
My Perspective of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference
July 25, 2016 / By Rev. Rebekah ("Beckie") Sweet
Greetings to the precious family of the Upper New York Annual Conference!
I am so grateful for your loving, caring, and prayerful support during the 2016 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference held in Lancaster, Pa. As one of the candidates for the episcopal office endorsed by UNYAC, I entered into the interview and election process assured of your desire for the Holy Spirit to guide the Conference, and affect the elections needed for our future together. The sessions were intense, joy-filled, spirit-freeing, soul-binding, and relationship-forming.What a blessing!
I count it a privilege to have journeyed alongside amazing Christ-followers as candidates and delegates this past week. Through this experience, I learned much about myself and the church, in such a transformative way that I can say with conviction that I am forever changed. I pray that the fervor with which I conveyed my beliefs, convictions, learnings, hopes, and dreams for denomination's witness for Christ will not dwindle or be diminished.
And, indeed, the NEJ Conference elected two exceptionally gifted persons to serve in our midst as bishops, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and Bishop LeTrelle Easterling. Please pray for these bishops as they engage in a new form of servant-leadership within the United Methodist Church, that their witness and leadership will be dynamic and Christ-centered, and that their spirits will be guarded by the Spirit of our Living God.
Every time people noticed the large number of youth and young adults attending the NEJ Conference from Upper New York, I was very proud to be a delegate from UNYAC! It is clear to all that we are leaning into the future that God has in store for us as an Annual Conference and that we highly value the voices and contributions of our youth and young adults. They engaged fully in the conference, and took the opportunity to join in the conversations about the issues at hand. I was pleased to support them as they used their gifts and expressed their concerns in poignant ways.
I encourage everyone to read more about the proceedings of the NEJ Conference by visiting the NEJUMC website. And then, enhance your understanding of the proceedings by engaging in conversation with our delegates. Each one will may have unique reflections on our discussions, spiritual discernment, political plays, worship, and future together.
May the church rejoice in sharing Christ's love with the world!
Hope for the Church
July 18, 2016 / By Rev. Colleen Hallagan Preuninger
I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining
I believe in Love, even when I don’t feel it
I believe in God, even when God is silent
- “I Believe” by Mark Miller
Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.
- “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds”
This morning we woke once again, as the body of Christ and as citizens of the global village, to reports of acts of violence and brokenness in our world. We began our final session, bathed in prayer by Bishop Matthews and graced by a haunting rendition of the Mark Miller hymn “I believe” by Lydia Munoz. We remembered the lives lost in France, echoing in our memories the violence that has marked the last months and years in this country and abroad. And so, we ended our time of Holy Conferencing in the way that it had begun, grief mingling with joy, bound together as prisoners of hope called by God to serve the church and world for a time such as this.
For me, this season of conferencing on the General, Jurisdictional, and Annual Conference levels has been just that: the co-mingling of grief and joy as I have searched for the heartbeat of God in the midst of it all. These last days, conferencing together as the people of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, has been the the sweetest. God’s presence and power was revealed in Lancaster in a way I had yet to experience in Portland or in Syracuse this season; I left Lancaster with a heart filled and overflowing with hope for the Church.
The rekindling of hope in Lancaster took many forms: Ernest and honest conversations within the delegation, watching the strength and grace of our two Upper New York endorsed episcopal candidates, the joy of spending the lunch hour bouncing baby Tim around the conference center, two new prophetic and powerful episcopal leaders, belly laughs, and cake. Although the in-breaking of God’s presence was palpable in many and varied ways, the most significant for me was the space created and utilized for honest and life-giving conversation around the topics that are most urgent in this time and place: systemic racism, homophobia, and the nature of true “unity” within the United Methodist Church. I am deeply grateful for the leadership of our bishops, who set the tone for our conference by standing together and reading a statement that named the wounds of systemic racism, sexism, heterosexism, and homophobia and offered an invitation to enter into honest conversation as a way to begin to bind up our wounds and begin to mend our fraying quilt of connection together. Throughout the conference the presiding bishops offered grace and space for the body to enter into conversation, even if the vote was ultimately ruled out of order. This process of holy conferencing, unparalleled in my experience of the United Methodist Church, gives me hope that the church and her episcopal leadership will have the courage to enter boldly into the difficult conversations and discernment the next quadrennium holds for the United Methodist Church with vulnerability and grace.
As I leave Lancaster, my heart is full with hope for the United Methodist Church; whatever the future may bring for our connection, we can be confident in the Spirit who binds us together, empowering us to create space for meaningful dialogue and offers the courage to bind up each other’s wounds in the healing power of Christ’s love. My prayer for our conference, and for the larger connection, is that we may enter this quadrenniumwith courage and faithfulness to our calling. Christ goes before us and Christ hems us in. Christ’s binds us together with the Spirit of the Living God. We do not need to be afraid.
I pray that you will feel the rekindling of hope that I have found in the body of Christ this week.
May you know in your bones that you are loved beyond measure and may you be brave enough to proceed into these violent and uncertain days with hope.
Burned Out: Reflections on Thursday of Jurisdictional Conference
July 15, 2016 / By Stephen Cady
“The college of bishops will never be the same.” These were the words of Bishop John Schol in response to the election of our two new general superintendents—new bishops Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and LaTrelle Easterling. I celebrate this historic moment with the rest of the jurisdictional conference, both for the historic nature of the election (this is the first time a jurisdictional conference has elected two African American women) and for the passion for justice of these two new bishops. As one of our delegates, JJ Warren, put it succinctly—they have “fire.”
The United Methodist Church is in need of some fire—the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit. We have been carrying around unjust burdens for decades as a denomination and it is time to get rid of them for the sake of the gospel. As an annual conference located in what was once known as the burnt-over district, we know the power of the Spirit’s fire to cleanse and we started to see it at work again today.
The first item of business (following bishop Easterling’s election) was a petition from Black United Methodist Pastors (BUMP), the Black Leadership Forum (BLF) with the support of the Multiethnic Center for Ministry and NEJ-Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) that pushed for specific and tangible action to confront racism and white privilege in our jurisdiction. The petition called for solidarity in our affirmation that black lives matter by examining and addressing the systemic and structural racism within our Church. The resolution passed by overwhelming margins and ended with a moving rollcall in which each conference delegation, youth delegation, and college of bishops stood to affirm their commitment to this task. The work is still ahead of us, but the heat of the Spirit’s cleansing fire could be felt.
While the conference stood in near unanimity at the call for racial justice, the fires of justice for LGBTQ persons are still catching. Legislation was passed today that directs conference CF&As to state that no monies are available for LGBT-related trials. Similarly, a motion was passed (and reluctantly ruled out of order by the College of Bishops) which encouraged annual conferences into nonconformity with the provisions of the Discipline which discriminate against LGBTQ persons. While it is a far-cry from removing the harmful language of the Discipline, it sends a message to the denomination that the Northeastern Jurisdiction is erring on the side of love.
The good news is that God’s Spirit continues to be at work within our Conference and in our Church. Someday the Spirit’s cleansing fire will have completed its job and burned out those unjust burdens. Until then, we all have work to do.
NEJ Day 1 Summary from a Reserve Delegate’s View
July 14, 2016 / By Rick LaDue
The first official day of the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference certainly seems like Day 3, but who’s counting? As a reserve delegate, I sit outside the bar of the conference. Actual delegates receive the perk of a table, more elbow room, and a special book highlighting the ministry of the jurisdiction (available to the rest of us for only $10!).
Our opening worship was a memorial service starting promptly at 8:30 am. Two bishops and two bishop’s spouses were memorialized by UNY’s former Bishop Marcus Matthews. Bishop Matthews would be approved for retirement later in the morning, but first, one more sermon. Bishop Matthews was the perfect choice because each of the persons who have passed away since the last conference had a formative impact on his ministerial career. Bishop Matthews noticed the common characteristic of inclusiveness evidenced in each of their lives. He preached how they modeled and taught others how to invite everyone to the table. Matthews then challenged all of us to learn from their legacies by staying in covenant with God in order to find our way out of the challenge of our human condition.
After a break, we gathered for the first business session of the conference. The bishops opened with an episcopal response to current events and encouraged the “church to be the church.” Some might think that means more potlucks, picnics, and fights over finances. But, I’m sure they really want us to reach out to a hurting world with God’s love, hope, and peace and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Conference business sessions always seem to begin with the adoption of the rules. For General Conference groupies, you know this vote alone can take upward of three days. Thankfully, this only lasted a couple of minutes.
Former UNY Communications Director Maidstone Mulenga was tasked with teaching the delegates how to properly use the keypads for voting. His test survey asked if the delegates were Christians. Over 95% responded “yes.” In the spirit of Christian love, no action was taken against the other 5%. Adirondack District Superintendent Bill Mudge was specifically asked not to steal the keypad and the delegation held him accountable.
The business sessions are regularly interrupted with votes for episcopal candidates. There are 172 voting delegates and this year two vacancies needed to be filled. On the 11th ballot, somewhere in the middle of our evening session, Rev. Cynthia Moore-KoiKoi from the Baltimore/Washington Conference was elected bishop. The entire proceeding came to a halt and a party broke out! She addressed the conference with sincere thanks and a promise to uphold the sacred trust. Next time we saw her, she was sitting among the bishops. One of the candidates from our conference, Rev. Cathy Hall Stengel, had withdrawn in the 9th ballot, opening the door for the election. Cathy’s concession speech was gracious and humble and brought the entire room to a standing ovation.
The afternoon session featured the finance report and a State of the Church address from Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, another bishop with UNY Conference connections. Bishop Devadhar highlighted the fruitful ministries of each conference and when he mentioned Upper New York he emphasized the impact of our Leadership and Preaching Academies.
Young adult delegate Ian Urriola made a passionate plea for youth voting privileges, but the conference could not allow the additional lay votes. The 172 delegates are mandated to be an equal representation of clergy and lay delegates and granting Ian’s request would have brought imbalance. His words were heard and well-received as one delegate followed up with a call for more conferences to elect youth delegates in the future and several youth were empowered to lead us in prayer throughout the rest of the day.
The evening session featured the nominations report – a report dear to me – having served on this committee on Monday. As people picked apart some of the decisions we made, I felt like people might not appreciate the time (over five hours) and effort it took choosing dozens of representatives for General and Jurisdictional committees all while being fair to 10 conferences and monitoring diversity of gender, ethnicity, and age. In the end, all were approved, but one. Each conference was asked to meet after the session to help make one committee more diverse.
As the night wore on, we began to wonder when that meeting might take place. By 10:20 pm, we actually started calling for votes to determine if we wanted to keep meeting or not. A 30-minute extension was rejected, then a 15-minute extension was also voted down. It all took about 15 minutes, so it may have been voted down, but really all we did was extend the time without accomplishing anything. Typical Methodists!
As I wrap this up, I want to share the prayer request I left with my congregation on Sunday: that God would show up and lead and guide our church during this week of holy conferencing. I was reminded of that prayer a couple times during the day because someone would occasionally lean against the light switch and plunge the room into darkness. The lights would return, but then it would happen again and so there were moments were it was hard to see and others were we could see clearly. Sometimes when we search for God’s presence among us it’s hard to see and other times it’s easier. On a busy day that started at 8:30 am and ended after 11 pm, it might have been harder to see God at work. But, God was with us and spoke through our episcopal leaders, guided us to a new bishop and helped us to accomplish administrative tasks that will enable ministry into the next quadrennium.
It was a long day. It was a good day. I think it’s time to turn in for the night, but I can’t find my watch. I’ll check with Bill Mudge in the morning.
How many different ways can YOU answer the same question?
July 13, 2016 / By Holly Nye, Clergy Delegate
Episcopal candidates put in a very long day on Tuesday. Each nominee meets with 8 different interview teams, between 9 am and 9:30 pm. Each time, they answer some of the same questions, along with one or two additional questions devised by interview teams. Nominees rely on the Spirit for the stamina to travel through the day.
Each of the eight teams, made up of people from across the NEJ, interviews all 11 candidates - a long day for all!
It is a rare opportunity to see and hear the energy, dreams and vision of some of the most gifted leaders in our church! I believe I speak for all of us in the UNY delegation in saying: we are grateful for this opportunity to serve, and to prayerfully discern leadership for this region of God's church. Thank you for sending us and trusting us to do this sacred work!
And so it begins… but not quite yet.
While NEJ hasn’t “officially” begun until Monday evening, committees have already started their work! Myself, Ian Urriola, Rick LaDue, and Bishop Webb began this morning with the Nominations Committee, which is responsible for nominations to The United Methodist Church (UMC) General Boards and Agencies, as well as nominations for the Northeastern Jurisdiction Standing Committees. While I thought this would be an informative and fun task (which it still was!), it was also mathematical, strategic, and intense.
We spent the next four hours lifting up names from each Conference to be considered for openings. Many things were considered, in order to have diverse representation, such as: gender, racial/ethnic background, age, and whether they were clergy or laity.
As a young adult and with a passion for young people, much of my time was spent vying for youth and young adults to have representation and a voice at the table. While I feel good about the names that were raised and considered, I still think we have work to do as a Church to raise up young leaders into these important roles!
Tomorrow is filled with Episcopal Candidate interviews (and the bios on each can be found here: http://nejumc.org/2016conference.html). Here’s to a great week ahead!
NEJ 2016 begins Monday!
July 7, 2016 / By Bill Allen
Next week, July 11-15, 2016, the UNY Conference will be sending 28 delegates to the the NEJ Conference in Lancaster, PA. While there we will work with delegates from the other Annual Conferences in the NEJ to vote on resolutions, affirm a budget, and, most importantly, discern two new bishops for our Jurisdiction.
We have been hard at work as a delegation over the last 12 months.
We met together six times during which:
- We worshipped God and prayed for wisdom and discernment for the tasks which were set before us
- We worked on creating strong, relational bonds within our delegation
- We used ZOOM in order to allow delegation members who could not be there in person to be present in the meetings.
- We developed ground rules for our Holy Conferencing and discernment processes
- We finalized the entire process for the endorsement of potential episcopal candidates from Upper New York
- We organized all sorts of logistics for both General and Jurisdictional Conferences
- We listened to various groups who wished to present their concerns to us about issues that were coming before those of us who attended General Conference
- We presented two potential episcopal candidates to Annual Conference (Cathy Hall Stengel and Beckie Sweet) who were endorsed by UNY to be sent to Jurisdictional Conf in July.
In short, our meeting times were packed with prayer, relationship building, decision-making, and logistics. I think it’s fair to say we worked hard, sensed the presence of the Lord, and had a good time!
A few words on the episcopal process:
One of the primary responsibilities of the delegation is to facilitate the process of determining whom, if anyone, to bring to the Annual Conference for potential endorsement as an episcopal candidate. Those chosen are then sent on to Jurisdictional Conference, where they are voted on by all the delegations in the NEJ to determine who will be the new bishops in our jurisdiction.
We took this process very seriously. We realized that we had the opportunity to set some precedents for future UNY delegations. None of these things are binding, of course, but they do offer wisdom for those who face these decisions in the future.
Some decisions we made for this year’s process:
- Each delegate is allowed to vote his/her own conscience
- A timeline was developed to gather nominations from the Annual Conference
- Episcopal nominees needed only to be nominated by one person
- All nominees who accepted the nomination would be interviewed
- Because the Book of Discipline gives each jurisdiction the authority to determine the percentage of votes needed to elect a bishop, and because the NEJ has decided that the threshold for election is 60% of voting delegates, we decided to have the UNY threshold also be 60% for a nominee to be recommended by the delegation to Annual Conference as a potential episcopal candidate.
- We were at peace in recommending to the AC multiple candidates, one candidate, or no candidates
We ask for your prayers as we embark on this important work of choosing the next bishops for the NEJ. Please know that we are deeply appreciative that the lay people and clergy of UNY have entrusted us with this opportunity to serve.
Head of the 2016 UNY Delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conferences
Bridging the broken
May 20, 2016 / By Cathy Stengel
It has truly been a gift to have been here these nearly two weeks for General Conference. I have heard people from African Central Conferences guide those of us who come from the United States. Their world, their cultures are so different from ours, and they desire to be in partnership with us in so many ways. We have been at worship; we have held hands and been in prayer,;we have walked and ridden the streets of Portland, eaten in restaurants, shopped.....often recognizing the strangers among us by the telltale name badges we wear.
The bridge I spoke of in my earlier post is here again, a different view. I am experiencing a change in mood and spirit after yesterday. It feels less anxious, less angry, less intense. The issues are still serious and very important - but it feels as though that center section of the bridge is coming down, coming down into the place where people can pass respectfully from side to side, walking together, or passing each other on their way to different destinations.
However - we have so far to go. I just walked out of the plenary session. We had just celebrated 60 years of the ordination of women. I came up behind two white men and a white woman. The young woman was walking behind the two men. The older of the two men turned and said: "As it should be, the woman walking behind two white men. That's what I like." I stepped a little forward, near the young woman, smiling, and said, "Excuse me, are you just being funny? Lots of people can hear what you are saying." His response - "Good, I was hoping lots of people heard me. That's the way I intended it to be; I am sick of trying to be politically correct." Off they went, the two men charging ahead of the young woman.
We are all on a journey - and I don't pretend to know this man, or his story, or his angst. I just know that this young woman could be my daughter, your daughter, or some young woman we don't even know. It's a hurtful and confusing message to anyone, but especially younger women who may struggle to step up and speak, as I did.
These have been days and now weeks that have brought out the very best in us, and seems to have also created hurt that fires back at the most unsuspecting passerby.
We heard last night, as we honored, prayed about, and bore responsibility for the massacre at Sand Creek, that none of us is immune to the kind of harm that others do. We are always just one bit of life away from hurting someone, or many someones.
And so I pray, as I walk down to the river...that we might be washed and transformed, that we might hear ourselves and others, that we might honor on this journey. Even if it's only one quarter crank at a time, let's bring that bridge down so that we can walk together in peace, in justice, in grace. May the words of MY mouth and the meditations of MY heart be acceptable in God's sight.
Overheard in the gallery
May 18, 2016 / By Holly Nye, Reserve Clergy Delegate
Did he even hear what he was saying? Maybe not. More disturbing still: perhaps he meant exactly what I heard him say.
All night and morning, rumors had been flying of a proposed "amicable separation." No one had yet addressed WHO was to separate or HOW. The questions had not been addressed by Church or General Conference officials, yet the chatter in the body was growing. We were sent for a long break, and as I (and my cast - remember my cast?) Picked my way among knots of people, I passed a group of three men, one of whom was clearly saying, "I don't mind having fewer members, as long as they are on ‘My team.’"
My team? My team?
This passing moment was one of many moments of deep sadness for me. Anytime we start talking about ‘My Team’ or ‘Their Team,’ rather than about God’s Church, then we have certainly strayed from God's path.
I had a fleeting mental image of myself - or any pastor - saying to my congregation something like, "It's ok if the congregation gets smaller, so long as those who remain are on the same page with me." It was ludicrous, unthinkable. Yet I had heard just this sentiment voiced about the UMC.
The church is God's people - varied, difficult, messy as we are. We are the people who are called to learn to live together, in love - and to reflect God's love to the world.
The future of any "unity proposals " or "separation proposals" remains uncertain at this moment. Your delegation trusts that you are in prayer with and for your church and for the General Conference. Imagine: one day the world may once again say: "See how those Christians love one another."
P. S. Re loving one another: Monday night, most of the UNY contingent gathered for dinner - those who serve as marshals, pages, other volunteers and staff, delegates, and our bishop. The group was kind enough to remember my birthday! But even more important, we all took the time to relax and enjoy table fellowship together. We came together from our different areas of work, left the stress of the day behind at the convention center, and spent the evening caring for one another. Oh, and sharing some famous Portland donuts, with birthday candles .
Second P. S. Tuesday morning's preacher, World Methodist Council leader Bishop Ivan Abrahams, reminded us that we follow Jesus of Palestine, not the Jesus of Constantine. I commend his powerful message to you - the text and video are available on UMC.org.
The Journey Continues
May 16, 2016 / By Ian Urriola
Friends, I'm feeling nostalgic tonight. Perhaps it was because I just had a fantastic dinner (elk for the first time!) with the folks at General Conference who went on the Mission of Peace to Cuba in 2008 (and other fantastic and really awesome people), but I feel like reflecting a bit on the past tonight.
See, 2016 is kind of a big year for me. December 31 at 11:40pm will be eight years of me knowing that I'm being called to ministry. But this year, in fact this very month, marks ten years since my Confirmation and becoming a full-fledged member of the United Methodist Church. It marks ten years since my decision to become a disciple of Jesus Christ
We talk a lot about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in the United Methodist Church. After all, our mission—our whole reason for existing—is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
But here's the thing about discipleship. It's more than a one-day-a-week thing. It's more than giving 10% of your income. It's more than going on a service trip every now and then. Discipleship is a complete and total commitment to following Jesus Christ. Discipleship is giving your all to Jesus Christ all of the time and encouraging others to do the same. That's what it means to make disciples.
And we need this total commitment from EVERYONE if we're going to build the Kingdom. Clergy alone can't build the Kingdom. Americans alone can't build the Kingdom. Africans alone can't build the Kingdom. The wealthy alone can't build the Kingdom. We need—no, Jesus needs—everyone for this sacred work. Christ needs his whole body, not just parts.
And we heard as much today in the laity address from Upper New York's own Scott Johnson. It's gonna take doctors and lawyers and teachers and farmers to accomplish the task. Or, as we heard in the episcopal address a few days ago when Bishop Palmer quoted Upper New York's own Thom White Wolf Fassett "we need to discover again the vocation of being full-time Christians".
Child of God needs to be our primary identity, followed closely by follower of Jesus. Those two are the only labels that should matter in our lives and when looking at other Christians. All other identities and labels come after those two.
Will we slip up every now and then? Most definitely. But as long as we're all moving onward and upward, then that's ok. Praise be to God, and in the words of Bishop Tom Bickerton, pictured above, the journey continues.
May 16, 2016 / By J.J. Warren
This morning, day 5 of General Conference, has already been off to a great start. We have been confused, frustrated and even sometimes a tad bit overwhelmed in the previous day's of General Conference. Until Day 3, we still had not voted on all of the rules about how we would conference together. Specifically rule 44, which would have allowed General Conference to organize table talks (similar to those used by our conference at Annual Conference '15) when deemed useful. This would have created smaller tables of delegates who would have had the opportunity to share, listen and discern together the calls on their hearts. This proposed rule was rejected. But now we are on with the work of the Church!
We are being re-centered to remember that this is Holy ground, consecrated for the work of God to transform the world. This morning, young people from around the world delivered the Young People's Address to the General Conference during this morning's plenary. Peter, a young adult from Africa said in the YPA this morning, "No matter what happens... remember that our unity makes us strong," and that, "Love doesn't show difference." These statements convey our collective desire, as young people of The United Methodist, for the continued unity of the church that has become home to so many of us around the world.
The Young People's Address also was in strong support of loving all of our sisters and brothers in Christ -- including our LQBTQ family. "No matter where you stand on the question of human sexuality we are called to love." This statement of the Young People represents the overwhelming position of our Church's younger leaders of today and tomorrow, to love all of God's people because this is the good news of the gospel that we as Christians are called to proclaim. We as United Methodists are called by our founder, John Wesley, to "do no harm" and the young people's address demonstrated a desire for our church to live into this call by no longer doing harm to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Christ.
As General Conference continues I look forward to seeing the movement of the Holy Spirit once again within our beautiful denomination which began by a warmed heart and continues to warm mine today.
A Marshal’s Experience at General Conference
May 14, 2016 / By Bob Kolvik-Campbell, a marshal
Yesterday, I greeted Bishops and assisted some in moving through the dark parts of back stage at General Conference. Then I assisted a maintenance person named Greg to fix the hand rail on the steps leading to the interpreters' booth.
I serve as a Marshal at General Conference.
I was trained to assist delegates by supporting the rules set by the Conference.
Also, we are problem solvers in many ways. If one is brought to us, we seek to follow through and find a solution.
There are enough of us that we work in two teams, each for half the day. Our day starts early, we arrive at 7 AM, if on the early shift. Late shift, which is on the alternate day, starts at 1 PM......
We smile, check badges, greet the delegates, and help people get to where they need to be.
We represent the whole church as ambassadors of the whole church. As such, we take no positions and do not assert our personal feelings about the content. We, as Marshals and Pages, are about making the process as easy as it can be......
Which is sometimes very easy and sometimes harder than it looks.
Because of our staggered schedules, we form a community of our own, though this is not closed nor exclusive. We share our hopes, dreams and experiences in ministry and in our lives.
We are laity and clergy whose goal at this General Conference is to serve the church.
We represent the entire connection.
And sometimes we help to get hand rails on the stairs of the interpreters booth fixed.
Blessings from Portland!
Down to the river
May 13, 2016 / By Cathy Hall Stengel
As I walked down to the Eastbank Esplanade to walk by the Williamette River, I found myself singing (in my head) the Jordan Felize song “The River.” The lyrics on my mind were -I’m going down to the river, down to the river, down to the river to pray.”
Today's plenary at GC2016 sent me down to the river in prayer. I walked passed some of the many homeless people- tents, sleeping bags, grocery carts, laundry drying in the sunshine. What would their thoughts be about our time at the Oregon Convention Center? The technologically savvy don't want to talk around tables (rule 44) and those whose first language and cultural experience is not our (USA) are asking for help. Those are over generalizations for sure. But we are so anxious we have used hours of time (which = money) talking about talking. Or talking about not talking.
Are we afraid of each other’s truths? Are we afraid we will lose control? I'm aware that many are watching us. Will we “do no harm, do good, help each other stay in love with God?” Will what outsiders see help them to find a place among us? Will the separated be reconciled, the homeless/house less be sheltered, the trafficked and hungry be fed, the gospel be proclaimed?
Let it be so, Lord, let it be so.
Still hopeful, prayerful, even joyful at times.
And something happened
May 13, 2016 / By Michelle Bogue-Trost
If you ever wonder what we mean by a "global connection," come to General Conference sometime. The worldwide nature of the United Methodist Church is evident, everywhere you look and everywhere you go. You can hear languages from across the world next to you in lines, in worship, at the microphones in plenary, at snack breaks, and on the street as we gather and recess. The world is present here in Portland, and for the first time in my experience, English-speakers were able to experience simultaneous translation with headsets as delegates who speak little to no English took the floor (as international Delegates have done for years). It's positively Pentecostal, which is appropriate, given the liturgical season.
Yesterday, we began our work in legislative committees, the small groups assigned to review and possibly amend, then suggest recommendation or rejection to the plenary body once the General Conference assembles next week. Our work yesterday began with small group conversations regarding the worldwide nature of the United Methodist Church. This was a unique addition to the process, and included introductions of each delegate present. My table comprised delegates from Cote d'Ivoire, Congo, Hungary, the Philippines, and the United States, requiring translators fluent in English, French and Swahili. At one point, the Congo delegates spoke through the Swahili translator, who spoke French to the French translator, who rendered it into English for the USAmericans. Each delegate listened with patience and grace, some delegates pitching in when they knew a word that was escaping the translators, learning more about each other, hearing about each other's ministries and families, discovering the richness of life experiences the delegates bring, as well as what the church is like beyond each of our contexts.
And something happened.
Strangers became acquaintances, conversations about common threads learned in the time of introduction continued beyond the session and out the doors. Greetings were exchanged even today, and when we reassembled for our work, it was like sitting with friends--USAmericans trying out their rusty high-school French, Congolese asking in basic English about children and grandchildren, women of different continents talking about the UMW. And so we began our work.
One of the questions for the small group yesterday was something along the lines of: what does the UMC need to continue/further our worldwide connection? The answer reiterated around the table was, "This. We need this." Relationship. Listening. Hearing each others' stories. Translating when necessary. Helping each other find the words. Finding commonalities to begin more conversations. Coming together again in peace and friendship and doing our work in connection.
It requires deep and open listening to hear the Spirit speak. I believe we did.
A view from the gallery
May 11, 2016 / By Holly Nye, Reserve Clergy delegate
So, as it turns out, my foot gets a chair of its own for this General Conference.
I fell down a few days before traveling to Portland, and landed in a walking cast.
Walking around with an extra "companion" has given me different perspective on Conference. My cast has brought out the compassion and generosity of people I encounter- not only delegates, but even the security guards who have to search all our bags and "wand" every person entering the building. They do their work with a friendly respect and compassion.
Respect and compassion are gifts much talked-about and sought-after at General Conference. On Tuesday, Bishop Warner Brown raised the question, "will our words do harm?" He reminded us of John Wesley's plea: "Though we may not think alike, may we not love alike?" Our response to this entreaty remains to be seen.
All of Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning have been given to discussing and adopting the Rules of Order, that will frame the structure and process of Conference deliberations. Specifically, a new rule 44 would have created a process, similar to our Upper New York process of 2015, for discussing measures related to human sexuality. At this time, rule 44 has been tabled. Unless it is taken off the table, all legislation will be addressed by traditional Parliamentary process. And: just as I write this, there is a motion to remove it from the table! Stay tuned: things can change quickly at General Conference.
Sitting in the gallery as a Reserve Delegate is a bit like being a spectator - yet we are all part of the Body. At times, the Body seems as strained as my sprained ankle. Yet we are reminded to ask ourselves and one another: What is God's longing for our church? Surely God longs for healing and wholeness. May it be so.
Portland or Bust
May 10, 2016 / By Ian Urriola
Well it's finally upon us. After almost a year of planning and preparation and day-long conference calls, General Conference is here. I'm seeing all my fellow delegates posting their selfies at their respective airports. Everything is packed. And it's just starting to hit me. See, as a full-time graduate student this past month has been hectic to say the least. Somehow, most of my assignments ended up being back-loaded. I turned in my last final this past Friday afternoon, so I haven't had much time to shift from a mentality of school to a mentality of conferencing. But as I sit here waiting for my room to become available at the hotel, I'm feeling a mix of emotions. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I simultaneously feel ready and not ready.
After all, in Methodist circles, these upcoming 2 weeks are kind of a big deal. The UMC isn't like some other branches of Christianity. We don't have a president or figurehead for our church. The General Conference is the only group that has the authority to speak on behalf of the entire UMC. And the General Conference only meets once every 4 years, so this is it. If anything is going to happen or change in the world of United Methodism, it has to happen now or it will have to wait until 2020. And of course there are pundits on every side of every issue making predictions about what will happen over the next two weeks. I'm by no means an expert, so this blog won't contain any of that.
Instead, I'm only going to share my day-to-day experiences. As a reserve delegate for the Upper New York Annual Conference, my schedule is a little bit more open than my full delegate colleagues. Unless I'm called to pinch hit, so to speak, I get the opportunity to bop around the convention center and take it all in. I can sit in on committee meetings, meet new people, and explore all that General Conference and Portland has to offer. So while I don't know what exactly our United Methodist Church will look like in 10 days, I'm still excited.
As for the rest of the day, once my room becomes available, I plan on getting situated in it and resting after a long day of travel (5:00am wake up call to catch a SuperShuttle to take me to Dulles). And then going out to explore a little bit. I'll try to get a feel for the TriMet system. And with any luck I'll make it back to the hotel in time to get a good night's sleep before it all begins tomorrow. I ask that you keep all of the delegates and the General Conference in your prayers over the next two weeks. While I don't know much, I do know that we will be having some difficult conversations as a church and it's my prayer that we are always mindful of the presence of the Holy Spirit with us. Until tomorrow.
The UNY perspective on General Conference
The Upper New York Conference “Perspectives” blog for the 2016 General Conference session will be a direct line between the Upper New York Conference delegation and the rest of the Upper New York Conference as the delegation worships, listens, discerns, and interacts with United Methodists from around the world at General Conference. It will go beyond the news of the day and share the delegation’s experience as they help to lead the Church forward on our behalf.
While the General Conference “Perspectives” will provide deeper insight into the news coming out of General Conference and help to frame the news with an Upper New York perspective. It will focus on the stories, experiences, and insights of individual members of the UNY Conference Delegation. These individual perspectives – intertwined with the vast array news and reporting that will come out of General Conference – will make a much richer experience for those observing from Upper New York.
General Conference “Perspectives” will not be an all-inclusive news summary; news will be covered in the news section of the UNY Conference website and other places. “Perspectives” also will not serve as a report from the entire delegation; a polished report will be shared at the 2016 Annual Conference session and through Conference communication channels.
As General Conference approaches, remember Those following General Conference from a distance do not need to be passive observers. Let us actively listen to the experience of our delegation, and let us not forget to hold these leaders in prayer.