Planning for church year-end statistics
"Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." (Proverbs 16:3)
As we inch closer to the end of the calendar year, the start of annual church statistic season draws nearer. The ACStats platform will open for local churches to begin adding their data starting on Jan. 2, 2024.
We had an excellent first year using ACStats in place of Ezra. We had some questions and minor bumps, but overall, it went well and church treasurers and pastors did a great job adjusting to the change in platforms.
Please know that your District and Conference staff are ready to help you with any questions completing these reports. I can be reached at (315) 898-2004 or at email@example.com to answer any immediate questions. Click here to find your District contact information.
For this upcoming statistics reporting season, we will begin with a clean slate. It's important to note that you will need to create new usernames and passwords. The login process will not change and will remain the same as last year, but there’ll be a new default password. Check your email inbox (spam and junk too) for the login information coming later in December from Conference or District staff. The email will end with the domain @unyumc.org.
Some updates for this year include more integration from the old database into the newer ACStats platform. Correcting “error” and “warning” notifications will be more streamlined prior to submission. If you get one of these messages, the new platform will clearly indicate where the problem is that needs to be fixed. You will no longer have to hunt for errors. Lastly, there is a question for members who were received by closed and disaffiliated churches.
If you have any questions about which lines you should be inputting your data, never hesitate to ask for clarification. Contact your local District Superintendency Assistant or me at the Conference Office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (315) 898-2004.
Below are some tips for frequently asked questions.
TIP: Line 52d is monies transferred in for Operational Expenses only.
If you transferred money from an endowment, memorial, restricted fund, or other non-operating fund to the operating account to pay for operating expenses, then the amount of that transfer should be recorded on line 52d. If you moved money from a capital fund into your general checking to pay a capital improvement cost (such as new boiler) that amount should NOT be added to line 52d. Only transfers for operating expenses should be recorded on this line.
TIP: Line 2e is members received from other open UMC churches. The new line 2g is members received from other closed and disaffiliated UMC churches.
TIP: Line 25 should be equivalent to all of your cash and investments accounts added together. This would include restricted and unrestricted accounts. This total should also equal the total of all cash and investments on your year-end audit.
Remember, the “warning” notifications are there to help you. If something is way off, you will want to know about it right away! Keep an eye out for updates and changes on our statistics webpage here.
Bob Flask, Conference Treasurer, will also be sending important information about these reports to church treasurers.
It is suggested you begin gathering the information needed with your team. Print a blank report or copy last year’s to familiarize yourself with the information needed. Please remember to gauge your time accordingly as there will be no extension this year. This year we will return to the normal window for statistics entry of Feb. 15.
The strength of the churches depends on making plans, setting goals, and charting outcomes. Your ministry is dependent on the strategic planning that comes from analyzing the data from these statistical reports. Let it be excellent and accurate.
Solar panels for churches
Churches in Upper New York can now get solar panels for their churches. There is federal money through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act to help do this.
Why would you want to do this? There are several reasons. First, after about seven years, the money you will have saved due to lower electric bills will have paid for the panels and installation, and the panels will continue to produce for another 18 years or more, giving you free electricity. Second, you will be able to help reduce the amount of fossil fuel being burned to produce your electricity. Third, you’ll continue to be good stewards of God's creation. Four, you’ll help the people of the world who have done the least to cause global warming to continue to live in their land. Five, you will be able to help ensure our children and grandchildren can live in the beautiful creation God has prepared for us.
The funding for these initiatives is facilitated by the Office of State and Community Energy Programs in the Department of Energy, which partners with state, local, and tribal governments and community organizations.
If your church has already done this, would you be willing to share with churches and church leaders around you? If you have questions about whether this is for you and your church feel free to contact Merle Showers at email@example.com or call (716) 862-4235.
United Methodist Church Bishops to call special session of general Conference in 2026
November 17, 2023 / By UNY Communications
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Council of Bishops plans to call a special session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in 2026 for the delegates to strategize and work toward bringing about the next vital expression of United Methodism.
The bishops made the decision to call the special session during their recent meeting at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina last week. The specific call for the special session, including details about the agenda, date, and other logistics will be unveiled early in the new year.
Under Paragraph 14 of The Book of Discipline and in line with Article II of the Constitution, the bishops have the authority to call “a special session of the General Conference, possessing the authority and exercising all the powers of the General Conference.”
“A special session of General Conference in 2026 would allow the church to see our work as having two important next steps, the first being the regular session of the General Conference in 2024, and the second to make continued progress in 2026,” the bishops agreed. “Affirming the call for a special session in 2026 for missional purposes would give the whole church a clearer sense of our path going forward.”
Early in the year at the May meeting in Chicago, the bishops responded to the Judicial Council Decision 1472 regarding an additional regular General Conference between 2024-2027 by approving a resolution to propose a 5-day General Conference in May 2026 that would focus on re-establishing connection, lament and healing, celebration, recasting the mission and vision for The United Methodist Church.
However, in November the Judicial Council reversed its decision ruling in Memorandum 1485 declaring that “the regular session of General Conference that is to be convened following the upcoming 2024 regular session, would be held four years thereafter, in 2028."
Hence, the COB’s decision to call a special session of the General Conference in 2026 would not be in conflict with the Judicial Council decision, which was concerned with regular sessions of the General Conference.
From the desk of Bishop Héctor- Council of Bishops Fall 2023 meeting
Dear United Methodists in Upper New York,
Grace and peace of our Savior, Jesus Christ, be with you. Over the past three weeks, I had the opportunity to experience our United Methodist connection in varied ways.
Trip to Cambodia and Manila
First, in mid-October, I traveled to Cambodia and Manila in the Philippines, alongside other new bishops, to learn more about the mission work The United Methodist Church is doing in these Asian countries. I was inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of Cambodia's core leadership team as they share the good news of Jesus Christ with words and mighty deeds of compassion and justice. Since the beginning of this mission, over 140 faith communities have been formed alongside dozens of indigenous health, education, advocacy, and leadership development initiatives that are making a positive difference in the country.
Then, in Manila, I experienced the resilience of people who are moving forward in faith after an extended season of divisions and disaffiliations around the issue of human sexuality. The Philippines has a strong United Methodist presence that is well-known for its health ministries (hospital and dental clinics) and ministries to the migrant community and young people. This global reach and impact are possible, in significant part, thanks to the sacrificial generosity of United Methodists in Upper New York through our shared ministries giving. Together, we are contributing to making the love of Christ visible around the globe.
Council of Bishops (COB)
Last week, I participated in the fall meeting of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. Over 100 bishops from around our global connection gathered to worship, celebrate the lives of the bishops who passed away since our last gathering, and experience covenant groups where we checked in, studied the Bible, and prayed for each other and the Church.
During our plenary sessions, the council dealt with important topics, including the vision for the future of the emerging renewed expression of United Methodism, regionalization of the UMC, the 2024 General Conference, our ecumenical partnerships, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the Church, and engaged in meaningful conversations around racism, healing, and reconciliation.
During our time in NC, the council released a new statement on the Hamas/Israel war, calling for a stop to the killing and unrestricted access to humanitarian help. You can read the complete statement here. I encourage pastors to circulate the statement among their congregations.
The council also received the 2022 State of the Church Report from The Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church. You can see a video and read the full report here. I also encourage pastors to share the video with their congregations.
Election of new Officers for the COB
On Friday, the council elected its new officers for two years. Bishop Tracey S. Malone, the area bishop of the East Ohio Conference, was elected president of the COB. She becomes the first Black woman elected to lead our global denomination's more than 110 bishops.
Also elected were,
President Designate: Bishop Ruben Saenz
Secretary: Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
Executive Secretary: Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
Co-Ecumenical Officers: Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner
Past President: Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton
Also, the council received an update from the General Council on Finance and Administration and Wespath on church disaffiliations. As of mid-October, 5,691 churches, representing about 19% of United Methodist churches, have disaffiliated. Most disaffiliating churches are becoming independent congregations. Approximately 1,000 churches are finalizing their paperwork and settling their financial commitments before the Dec 31st due date. You can read more about the final disaffiliation tally in UNY here.
As I return to New York, I am encouraged and hopeful about the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church. I sense a genuine desire to reclaim who we are as people of faith in the Wesleyan tradition, a revival brewing throughout our connection and the Holy Spirit renewing us for God’s healing purposes in the world.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage all local congregations in UNY to stay focused on living the gospel, being God’s love with our neighbors, and celebrating the goodness of God in our lives and ministries.
Thanks for all you do to share the love, hope, mercy, and justice of Christ in your communities and beyond.
Together in mission,
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The United Methodist Church
Serving United Methodist of Upper New York
Preparing churches for the winter season
Cold weather can wreak havoc on our homes and churches, but taking proper precautions can help prevent the unexpected. The Upper New York Conference Insurance Committee and Board of Trustees would like to remind our valued churches to be on the lookout for frozen pipes this coming winter season. Not only will these few steps help ease stress, but they could result in cost saving measures to maintaining low insurance premiums.
According to the American Church Group of New York, freezing pipes may be the biggest claim submitted. Watch this video for simple steps and recommendations on what to do during the winter months to spot small problems before they turn into costly repairs.
Regular maintenance doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The Upper New York Conference has a checklist available for download that outlines safety measures and concerns so you can keep track of any problems before they happen. Click here to download the checklist.
Some of the following questions are suggestions you should consider when caring for any building, including your church:
- Are sump pumps in good working order and is there provision for back-up?
- Are heat tapes being used on roofs to prevent water leaks due to ice dams?
- Are pipes subject to freezing temperatures protected by heat tapes?
- Are boilers inspected and documented annually?
- Have trees been inspected to identify weakness or potential for falling?
- Is there a monitored alarm or water sensor in place?
- Is there a backup plan for power?
One of the biggest risk factors of property damage in winter months is frozen pipes. Brotherhood Mutual has the following suggestions:
- Set the Thermostat above 55 degrees.
- Leave faucets on a trickle.
- Check the church property regularly.
- Maximize the reach of warm air.
Click here to see the full list.
Brotherhood Mutual Insurance is offering a new device called the FloLogic® system that stops the water flow once a leak is sensed. It’s an intelligent leak detection system that’s installed by a licensed plumber on the main water lines on the buildings. The water sensor senses irregular flow or if the temperature drops, in which case it will automatically shut off the water. Click here for more information about it. Brotherhood offers a 20-percent discount on this product. Click here to get more information about the discount.
The unprecedented Christmas blizzard of 2022 had some unpreventable damages. This will happen no matter how prepared you are. Please remember to call the insurance broker at American Church Group as soon as you notice any issues, James Nguyen, at 1-800-326-7200 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. American Church Group will help you with claims and repairs to make the claims process go faster.
Ask your church membership how you can help prepare your church this season. Then, go help your neighbor do the same.
Statement from the Council of Bishops on Hamas/Israel war: “Give Peace a Chance”
Editor's note: This letter was published by The United Methodist Council of Bishops on Nov. 10, 2023 and shared with United Methodists of Upper New York.
“Give Peace A Chance”
Christ’s true disciples must work for peace: build it and not just keep it; live it and not just aspire for it. If Christ is our peace, then peace must be imperative (Resolution 6129: The United Methodist Church and Peace).
The United Methodist Church Council of Bishops, along with millions of people across the globe, are weeping and praying for the people of the Holy Land. We decry the Oct. 7, 2023, attack by Hamas and the continuing loss of life of Israelis and Palestinians including thousands of children.
We cannot remain silent while a preventable humanitarian crisis in Gaza unfolds with no safe haven for the citizens in Gaza or the volunteers and agencies seeking to prevent starvation and to treat the wounded.
We value all life. We encourage every effort toward a peaceful solution. We call for the release of hostages and for the killing to stop. We also call for the immediate allowance of unrestricted humanitarian assistance. As Bishops of the Church, we denounce acts of and the proliferation of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate crimes that may begin with words and often turn to violence directed toward persons whose race, ethnicity or religion is disparaged.
We cannot stand by as though God is not weeping when the innocent, including children, are dying. We cannot abandon the way of peace.
May we find ways to listen to the stories of those most directly impacted by this centuries-old conflict. We commit to join all people in creating life-giving ways to journey toward peace with justice for all.
The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church met at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina from Nov. 4-11, 2023.
Prayers from the pumpkin patch
November 6, 2023 / By Rev. Elizabeth J. Stewart, retired Upper New York Pastor
So, what does a retired pastor do during the early fall days? How about sitting in a pumpkin patch for five weeks for about nine hours a day? A most glorious time to spend with the Lord!
Twelve years ago, I retired from “active ministry” and, with my husband, moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It didn’t take long for us to settle into Conway Centenary UMC. Bill and I have become active in the church's mission. This is one story.
"So, first and foremost, I urge God’s people to pray. They should make their requests, petitions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all humanity" (1 Timothy 2:1).
A new addition was apparent in the Conway Centenary United Methodist Church pumpkin patch this year. For many years, the church has been affectionately called “The Pumpkin Church” because of its pumpkin patch where they sell pumpkins to raise funds for mission projects. Pastor Dennis Devorick asked worshippers to consider the depth of our existence; what is it that we are known for besides pumpkins.
With those words in mind and having read an article about a mom placing a prayer pumpkin on the kitchen table for the family to place prayer needs for each other on, it was a perfect move. So, a few days later, the first prayer pumpkin was placed on a table in the pumpkin patch.
As people visited the patch and purchased pumpkins, they were introduced to the prayer pumpkin and were asked if they would like to add the name of someone in need of prayer. We explained that on Sunday, the pumpkin would be moved to the altar in church where a prayer would be offered for those people. The response was overwhelming.
It was interesting to see people’s facial expressions and attitudes change from disinterest to concern, joy, and compassion. Minutes after placing the second one out, a person purchased several of the smaller, perfectly shaped, white and orange pumpkins. While she paid for her pumpkins, I explained the purpose of the prayer pumpkins. Her eyes filled with tears. She picked up the pen and wrote several names. As she set the pen down, she pointed at the prayer pumpkin and said, "this is the most important pumpkin," and then, pointing to the pumpkins she was purchasing, she said "so much more than all of these."
It was an extraordinary experience. Young children asked if they could put a friend’s name, a grandparent's name, or a brother or sister's name on the pumpkin. College students mentioned a struggling student, picked up the pen, and wrote that name on the pumpkin. Another college student told a friend that a classmate had been in an accident that morning and no one knew how he was doing as she placed his name on the pumpkin. A week later, that student was at the pumpkin patch and spotted his name. He smiled and said, “that was for me.”
Prayers were also offered for ministries of other churches, “We pray for your ministries and you pray for ours.” There were prayers for illness, injury, unspoken needs, teachers, and clergy. One for a Roman Catholic priest celebrating his 90th birthday, still serving the Lord in as an active Parish Priest. A total of six pumpkins were displayed with over a thousand names as well as missions and other countries.
Yes, we may be known as the Pumpkin Church, but more so now as the “Prayer Pumpkin Church.” Reaching the community as a witness of being a praying church, we bring hope and comfort to the world in need. The Prayer Pumpkin Church will continue with fervent prayer for love, compassion, forgiveness hope, and peace.
Our ministry shares at work for all of God’s creation
November 6, 2023 / By Rev. Corey Turnpenny, Church in the Wild
Editor's Note: The Rev. Corey Turnpenny spoke at the LEAD Conference in Asheville, NC. The LEAD Conference was founded in 2011 in the Desert Southwest Annual Conference in response to leaders of young adult ministries in The United Methodist Church desire to be more effective leaders in ministry with young adults. They're modeled around TED style talks about new and creative ways to engage in young adult ministry in the The UMC. Over the years, the conference has maintained a similar format, however, speaker topics have expanded to a number of ministry areas to starting new churches, self care, creativity, leadership challenges, lay ministry, urban and rural ministries, and more. Click here to watch the YouTube video of Rev. Turnpenny speaking about her passion of planting a wild church network in Upper New York.
Global Ministries, an agency of The United Methodist Church, has been hosting EarthKeepers trainings for over a decade now through Creation Justice Ministries. EarthKeepers is an intensive program meant to equip United Methodists to lead grassroots environmental projects that are action-oriented, antiracist, bold, and entrepreneurial in their communities. I had known about EarthKeepers for a few years now but was not able to attend myself until this year. From Oct. 5-8, I was immersed in the work of Creation Justice with fellow United Methodists from around the connection. At the first in-person training since the pandemic, I gathered with 18 others in Hartford, CT and we were joined by groups gathered in Birmingham, AL and Denver, CO. Each day, all three groups would join together on Zoom to hear from different presenters and learn valuable skills for organizing our projects. We discussed theology, United Methodist resources, community organizing, and anti-racism and then used what we learned to develop an environmental project for our churches and communities. The program is both a launchpad for people looking to turn an idea into action and an incubator for people who want to deepen an existing ministry. Participants develop plans in conversation with their peers, troubleshooting ideas, and sharing strategies. At our site locations we worked in table groups and met with our site trainers to hone our projects in preparation for a formal presentation on the final day.
I have been wanting to attend this training for a few years and was excited to be able to attend and support the first regional gathering, which helped cut down on travel for all the participants. There were several hours of pre-work we did together on the Global Ministries Creation Care Network online. This was the first introduction of many to incredible resources on environmental justice provided by various United Methodist agencies. The Creation Care Network is open to any and all United Methodists interested in this aspect of our faith. I highly recommend joining the online network. You will discover an incredible number of resources and hundreds of fellow United Methodists working to heed our Genesis call to care for the gift of Creation. You will also find their descriptions of every EarthKeepers project and ways you can support it!
I have been passionate about caring for the Earth my entire life and have been living a dream come true the past few years planting and pastoring Church in the Wild, an outdoor worshiping community that seeks to help people connect with and care for Creation. It was from this passion I entered the EarthKeepers training and developed my project around the wild church movement.
Spirit is calling us back out into Creation to do as Job instructs, "Ask the animals what they think—let them teach you; let the birds tell you what’s going on. Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics. Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories" (Job 12:7-9). John Muir once said, "I'd rather be in the mountains thinking of God than in church thinking about the mountains." Wild Church says, why not do both? My project is to create the United Methodist Wild Church Connection which will include a United Methodist Wild Church database and map, a virtual networking space, and at least two wild church training trainings held on Zoom each year for five years, with the goal of having at least two wild churches in each annual conference. As we connect with God in Creation, we know more people will be motivated to care for Creation.
The next step of my project is already in motion; a Wild Church Interest Meeting will be held on Zoom on Monday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. EST. If you’d like to learn more about Wild Church, click here to sign up to join. You can also help by connecting me with anyone else you know leading outdoor worship on a regular basis (monthly or even seasonally). I would also love to know if there are any other EarthKeepers here in Upper New York! Please reach out to me by email at email@example.com and join us in the newly formed Upper New York Creation Care Team.
Everyone is invited to attend the upcoming Global Ministries EarthKeepers commissioning service online service on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. EST livestreamed at www.facebook.com/GlobalMinistries. This is the seventh year that the EarthKeepers commissioning service has been held online. The online service allows EarthKeepers to participate along with their family, friends, and church community. The service will be led by Bishop Thomas Bickerton, resident bishop of the New York Conference in the Northeastern Jurisdiction, president of the UMCOR board and president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church. He will commission 57 new EarthKeepers in the service that will affirm us in our call to the ministry of creation care and bless our work in our communities. I hope United Methodists of Upper New York can join me in this celebration and that together we can increase our work of environmental and social justice here in Upper New York.
Rocks changing shape at Webb Mills UMC
November 2, 2023 / By Eric Coon, Webb Mills UMC
Every Sunday morning, you can expect to find about two dozen faithful members worshipping inside Webb Mills United Methodist Church, but total membership exceeds 100. Like many churches, many members don’t attend regularly. Some migrate south for the fall and winter months, others are “taking a break,” and some only come back for major holidays. Regardless, Webb Mills UMC is considered their home church. The church has been ministering for more than a century.
In July, church members decided to celebrate our history and membership. With the Holy Spirit busy at work, volunteers started forming an Ebenezer right in front of the church. The idea took off like wildfire. Today, the Webb Mills UMC Ebenezer acts like a touch stone for the community.
The base of the Ebenezer is a marble stone block inscribed with the word, “King.” This stone acts as the foundation for our Ebenezer. I couldn’t think of a better base than Jesus as our cornerstone. It sits right in front of the church sign.
When I was the church’s Youth Minister, I would take kids in grades 6-12 on a hike every fall. Most of those hikes were done in the Adirondacks and some in Pennsylvania. This time acted as a personal retreat to get the kids back together and offered a time of fellowship. During the hike, we would stop and hold a small worship service and offer the Eucharist to everyone in attendance. On these hikes, the youth and I would also create our own Ebenezer to remember where we were and where we’ve come from.
Just like on those hikes, people today grab a stone and add it to the church’s Ebenezer. People’s grandkids bring stones from all over and add it to the collection. Families come back each summer to Pine City and bring a stone with them. People who don’t even belong to the church are also contributing.
Stones have come from people's cottages on the Finger Lakes and Canada, from homesteads, and while on vacation, people are bringing stones back to their home church. They place it where they want to. This summer, my wife and I visited Maine. There we found a rock, brought it back, and added to the group.
It may look like just a pile of rocks, but it’s much more than that. Each month, the Ebenezer is growing and changing shape. It’s become a meaningful and healing experience for people of every age. As the stones appear, the shape changes, and it will continue to do so as time goes on. Just like our church body and our ministry style, the Ebenezer will change. I’m excited to see it change. Praise be to our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is our rock, and our cornerstone.
NOMADS lend helping hands at Asbury Retreat Center
October 30, 2023 / By Rev. Sue Russell, Asbury Retreat Center Director
Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service, more commonly referred to as NOMADS, recently spent three weeks at Asbury Retreat Center. The NOMADS are volunteers with the mission of rebuilding lives, homes, and facilities with God’s love and their hands. Volunteers from across New York and Pennsylvania spent Oct. 2-19 at Asbury. The retired, or close to retired participants, enjoy traveling across the United States in an RV, using their skills in service to others and sharing their Christian faith.
Asbury applied and was accepted as a project site with the NOMADS. The projects at Asbury included remodeling the back entry way of the recently purchased Wesley Meeting House. This will allow guests to pull right up to the building and enter safely without using stairs. NOMAD volunteers also built a canoe rack and benches, pressure washed buildings, painted, created a stone walkway to the prayer labyrinth, and trimmed the interior ceiling where skylights were removed in the Sylor Retreat House.
NOMADS have a history of volunteering at Upper New York Camp & Retreat sites. NOMADS projects include working at Methodist-related agencies such as churches, camps, homeless shelters, children’s homes, homes of those in need, and mission and disaster agencies doing remodeling, maintenance, repairs, new construction, office work, painting, gardening, and more.
The NOMADS provide valuable labor allowing sites to tackle some maintenance issues at a lower cost. What a wonderful opportunity to make new Christian friends from around the connection and have our camp and retreat sites look and operate better.
Virtual retreats offer space for UNY women and beyond to find space and build connections
October 26, 2023 / By Krystal Cole, Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women
Doing something new can be scary. But the Upper New York Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) is full of people ready and willing to try something. We weren’t sure it was even achievable to hold a retreat for women over Zoom.
The mere mention of the word “Zoom” for some people can elicit an internal eye roll, or perhaps the word “snoozefest.” But what we wanted was to create a space for women of faith to connect from anywhere and everywhere, and what better venue for limitless connection than the worldwide web, on a platform almost everyone has become familiar with in the last few years. Despite the hurdle of the stereotypes that can come with the word Zoom, we pressed forward!
Countless hours went into planning our inaugural event in the fall of 2022; Wisdom-Seeking Women. In coordinating this event, we put in every effort to appeal to many styles of learning, scheduling in several stretch breaks, lining up five different speakers, and spacing the event over two evenings to appeal to clergy as well as lay people. We were fortunate enough to have five women say “yes” to speaking, including Bishop Susan Hassinger. Bishop Hassinger served as the Episcopal leader of the Boston Area from 1996 until her retirement in 2004.
Because of the limitations of meeting remotely, we also wanted to add as much personal connection as possible, so we added time to break off into one-on-one prayer partner sessions as well as a discussion group. And why stop at making an impact just on the women that attended? We went one step further by donating $5 of every registration to End the Backlog, a nonprofit organization founded by producer, director, actress, and advocate Mariska Hargitay which focuses on ending the rape kit backlog in the United States.
To further personalize the retreat experience, we packed and sent care packages to early registrants. These packages included stickers, candles, candy, a handwritten note from the team, a postcard explaining what COSROW is, a coloring sheet, paper for an origami craft, and other materials.
Ultimately, holding these events stems back to 2019, when COSROW conducted a survey of the Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference, asking how we can best serve and support the needs of women in UNY. Those results led us to planning a Zoom retreat.
Our team had never tried anything like this before. Previously, we have been known as the “pie chart people,” keeping track of demographics of speakers at Annual Conferences. And for some years, that was the heart of COSROW’s work. While we will not cease that important task in the future, we are branching out and finding more ways to support women. Right now, that’s with Catch Your Breath events.
The Finding Your Space women’s retreat allowed us to spend two evenings with women from across the country, Sept. 29-30. This is our second Zoom retreat and the experience was centered around the theme of “Finding Your Space." During our time together, we heard from five unique speakers, had breakout group discussions, connected with prayer partners, and even did a little origami.
This year, our speakers included Jenna Amberge, the Rev. Theresa Eggleston, Nairobi Smith, the Rev. Corey Turnpenny, and Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, who serves as the Episcopal leader of both the Western Pennsylvania and Susquehanna Conferences. Bishop Moore-Koikoi served as our retreat's keynote speaker. We learned the definition of space, built community, engaged in guided meditation, experienced the creation story, and worshiped through song. This time around, $5 of each registration cost went to Girls Inc., which “inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.”
Through the work of the Spirit, our gifted speakers, and of the COSROW team, we have gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback after both of our Zoom events. One person attending from outside of New York state shared they feel their home conference doesn’t host a space they feel they can spend time in retreat, but the Catch Your Breath retreats provides that for them. I recently received a handwritten card in the mail from my prayer partner, who was keeping my personal prayer concerns in her heart.
We look forward to continually serving and supporting the women of Upper New York however we can. Thank you to everyone that has made these Catch Your Breath events possible.
We don’t yet have the date of our next event, but please follow us on Facebook: Upper New York Commission on the Status and Role of Women. Feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COSROW team members include Margot Rankins-Burd, the Rev. Bryant Clark, Ellen Klock, the Rev. Sue Russell, Krystal Cole, the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, Pastor Brett Johnson, and Pastor Bekah Solar.
Special Session 2023: A recap of disaffiliations in Upper New York
October 24, 2023 / By the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Assistant to the Bishop
On Oct. 14, 2023, a special session of Annual Conference ratified a final docket of 57 requests from churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church (UMC) under ¶ 2553 of The Book of Discipline. According to an unofficial tally maintained by United Methodist Communications (UMCom), around 6,500 disaffiliation requests have been ratified by conferences across the United States to date. Several more conferences will meet in special sessions to consider other requests before the limited right to disaffiliate provided in ¶ 2553 ends Dec. 31, 2023.
What United Methodists in Upper New York (UNY) and across the country are experiencing in terms of disaffiliations is unprecedented in the 55-year history of The United Methodist Church. While it is not possible at the moment to fully assess its impact, some basic facts can be shared.
Between October 2022 and October 2023, UNY Conference members ratified a total of 118 requests for disaffiliation:
- 8 in October 2022
- 18 in March 2023
- 35 in June 2023
- 57 in October 2023
The total number of disaffiliations was spread across all districts:
- Adirondack – 10
- Albany – 5
- Binghamton – 12
- Cornerstone – 24
- Crossroads – 5
- Finger Lakes – 7
- Genesee Valley – 8
- Mohawk – 11
- Mountain View – 13
- Niagara Frontier – 14
- Northern Flow – 4
- Oneonta – 5
The average worship attendance at the churches disaffiliating in 2022-23 was 39. Ten of these had an average worship attendance of 100 or more while over half worshipped with 25 or less on an average Sunday. The number of disaffiliations, therefore, represents a loss of about 15% of UNY’s churches. Nationally, this places UNY in the bottom third of conferences in terms of percentage of churches disaffiliating.
Church disaffiliations have significant financial implications for UNY. The anticipated revenue loss related to disaffiliations in 2024 is $653, 371. This loss was accounted for in the budget approved by Annual Conference back in May. For 2025, the anticipated loss is anticipated to be $1,247,003. The UNY Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) is already developing a ministry budget for 2025 that adapts to these anticipated realities.
Churches exiting UNY paid $2,645,215 to offset their share of the anticipated unfunded pension liability. Exiting churches were also required to pay all current and overdue shared ministry payments, a sum equal to $231,217. They also paid an additional $1,478,220, an amount representing 12 extra months of shared ministry payments. All legal fees associated with disaffiliation were also paid by the exiting church.
Church membership numbers are also impacted by disaffiliations. When a church exits UNY, its clergy and laity must decide whether to follow the church or remain United Methodist. In The United Methodist Church, a clergy person’s membership resides with the conference, not the local church. Therefore, even when a church chooses to disaffiliate, a pastor’s discernment regarding their future relationship with The United Methodist Church is a separate matter.
The Episcopal Office asked pastors serving churches intending to disaffiliate whether they intended to continue serving in The United Methodist Church or would withdraw from the denomination to unite with another denomination or withdraw from the ministerial office. If a pastor indicated an intention to withdraw from The United Methodist Church, the decision would take effect when the disaffiliation is finalized, which is the date the New York State court approves the disaffiliation and transfer of property. If a pastor indicted an intention to remain in The United Methodist Church, the cabinet will work to ensure continuation of compensation and consideration of another appointment. A disaffiliating church must pay its appointed clergy’s compensation and benefits through the end of the appointment year immediately following the effective date of disaffiliation if the appointed clergy remains in The United Methodist Church and is unable to be appointed elsewhere.
Laity face similar choices about their membership. They may choose to follow their church out of the conference or remain United Methodist and transfer their membership to another United Methodist congregation. Because only members of UNY congregations are eligible to serve on conference boards, committees, commissions, and task forces, members who choose to remain with their church after disaffiliation are no longer eligible to serve on any conference agency.
Church members who wish to remain United Methodist are welcome at any other United Methodist church in the Conference. The Conference’s “Safe Haven Congregations” initiative is designed to offer radical hospitality to anyone whose church has disaffiliated or closed. Regardless of theological leaning, United Methodists in Upper New York are all encouraged to follow the example in Acts 2 of the community of Jesus’ followers caring for each other – a diverse community that is ready to receive unity as a gift from God.
The impact of church disaffiliations cannot be fully known, but it is clear UNY is moving into a new season of ministry, with new realities and possibilities.
United Methodists of Upper New York remains a strong network of over 100,000 members in more than 675 congregations committed to living the gospel of Jesus Christ and to being God’s love with all our neighbors in all places.
As leaders and congregations begin to move forward, Bishop Héctor’s closing remarks to the October 14th special session seem very appropriate: “Our unity as Christians is not of our doing but God’s. For it is not us but God who brings us together, people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and walks of life into one family. May we, in this new season, fully embrace the supremacy of love and the spiritual reality of unity in Christ, and as we live into this invitation, may we experience renewal and may more people be compelled to believe the Gospel's good news.”
Remembering Bishop Thomas B. Stockton
Retired Bishop Thomas B. Stockton of Winston-Salem, NC died on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at the age of 93.
Bishop Stockton was elected to the episcopacy on July 12, 1988. He was assigned to the Richmond Area, which encompasses the Virginia Annual Conference. He retired in 1996. He also served as Bishop in Residence at High Point University.
He was born on July 26, 1930, in Winston Salem, NC. After receiving an A.B. degree at Davidson College, he attended Duke University Divinity School, where he received a Master of Divinity Degree.
Bishop Stockton was ordained deacon and elder and received into full connection in the Western North Carolina Conference. He served Central Methodist Church in Charlotte for a summer and then he was appointed to Thrift Methodist Church which he served for four years. He then became the minister of First Methodist Church in Reidsville, NC, before moving to the Dilworth Methodist Church in Charlotte, followed by a move to Central United Methodist Church, Asheville and on to Myers Park United Methodist Church, Charlotte. He moved to Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, High Point, where he served until he was elected bishop in 1988.
Bishop Stockton served for one quadrennium on the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and has served various Boards and Agencies in the Annual Conference as well as serving as Trustee of several Colleges and Homes in the Western North Carolina Conference. He served two quadrennia on the General Board of Discipleship as Chairperson of the Curriculum Resources Committee, and two quadrennia as Vice Chair of Evangelism.
Tom Stockton married Jean Stevens in Winston Salem on Aug. 22, 1953. They have three children, Lisa Stockton Howell, Thomas B. Stockton, Jr., and Shannon Stockton Miller. Jean Stockton died in Nov. 2017.
The funeral service is planned for Saturday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. with a reception afterwards. The service will be held at Centenary United Methodist Church, located at 646 W 5th Street, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27101.
Korean-American faith leaders celebrate spirituality
October 19, 2023 / By Rev. Jee Hae Song, St. Paul's United Methodist Church and Warners United Methodist Church
In the beginning of October, 304 clergy and laity attended the Special Session of National Association of the Korean American United Methodists (KAUM) in Northbrook, IL. Four of those clergy attendees were from Upper New York (UNY).
The Rev. Yohan Moon (Clarence Center UMC); the Rev. Sung Jun Park (Homer UMC); the Rev. Jin Kook Lee (Henrietta: Faith UMC and Korean Mission of Rochester UMC); and I all attended, representing UNY.
This is the first in-person KAUM meeting since 2019. The group hasn’t been able to meet in four years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the body of Korean clergy and laity that serve in The United Methodist Church (UMC). This included but is not limited to Korean-speaking congregations and Cross-Racial/Cross-Cultural (CRCC) appointments.
Prior to this year, I was not interested in the KAUM because, in the past, it consisted mostly of clergy who served Korean-speaking immigrant churches. As a clergy serving CRCC, I didn't think it was my place to belong.
As a first-time participant, I cannot but think that it was God who led me to this gathering. I was able to network with other Korean clergy and laity who are of the same mind. That is that we love our Church and cannot let God's Church be dismantled. Everyone was weary. But through those four days, we were able to connect, be fed (both spiritually and physically-- eating lots of Korean food), and be empowered.
The main goal for the KAUM gathering is to reclaim who we are as United Methodists, revive our Korean heritage for the mission of The UMC, and renew our relationship with God and with one another. The body confirmed once again to support and encourage each other in this trying time of our denomination.
As many churches disaffiliate from the UMC, many Korean churches have as well, including many KAUM leaders. Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, the resident bishop of Wisconsin Annual Conference and the only active Korean bishop in The UMC, convened this special session. Bishop Jung is also president of the Korean Ministry Plan.
In his opening worship, Bishop Jung quoted the healing story in Mark 2 and asked, "What if we came to Jesus today with a paralyzed denomination on our shoulders?”
"The future of the church lies in reconciliation, acceptance, friendship, repentance, and self-reflection," he said. "The future of the church lies in the envisioning framework of a theological interpretation through unity in diversity through God's creation.”
Also in attendance was New York Conference Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops. He said one of his purposes for attending the gathering was to express honor and deep respect for the work of the Korean American churches and pastors in The United Methodist Church over the years.
"I honor you for being faithful in the midst of the struggle. It has not gone unnoticed,” he said. “Speaking on behalf of the denomination, I wanted to make sure to express my gratitude to each of you.”
Bickerton also said The United Methodist Church is not a church of one mind and one faith, but a denomination that embraces diverse perspectives, including traditionalist beliefs, and tries to embrace both conservative and progressive sides.
Surprisingly, I found a lot of diversity within the Korean body. There are twice as many clergy serving CRCC than those who serve Korean-speaking congregations. There is a group, called NEXUS. They are second and third generation Korean immigrants who speak very little Korean, but still identify with their Korean heritage. There are people with diverse theology and culture. I confirmed that that's the microcosm of our denomination-- The Church that embraces diversity and accepts people as they are.
New Legislation regarding written notice of unemployment benefits and personal account information disclosure
There is new legislation regarding written notice of unemployment benefits and personal account information that takes effect in November 2023 and March 2024.
Written Notice of Unemployment Benefits
In relation to the notice of eligibility for unemployment benefits, New York State Senate Bill S4878-A/A. 398-A amends Section 590 of the Labor Law. Under this new legislation, employers must provide written notice of eligibility for unemployment benefits to any employee who has been terminated, temporarily separated, experienced a reduction in hours, or any other interruption of continued employment that results in total or partial unemployment. This information must be disclosed on a form furnished or approved by the Department of Labor (DOL). The form must include the employer’s name, registration number, and contact address for the employer. This news article will be updated when the DOL publishes the form.
This notice must be provided no more than five (5) working days after the termination date or reduction of their working hours. In the same five working day period, Section 195(6) of the Labor Law still requires an employer to “notify any employee terminated from employment, in writing, of the exact date of such termination, as well as the exact date of cancellation of employee benefits connected with such termination.”
This new law will take effect on Nov. 13, 2023.
Personal Account Information Disclosure
Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed a bill that prohibits employers from requesting or requiring an employee’s personal username, login information, passwords, or social media accounts as a condition of hiring, a condition of employment, or for use in a disciplinary action.
The new law prohibits employers from requesting, requiring, or coercing employees and job applicants to:
- Disclose their username, password, or other login information in order to access a personal account through an electronic communication device;
- Access a personal account in the employer’s presence;
- Reproduce photos, videos, or other information contained within a personal account through unlawful measures.
This new legislation, which amends the Labor Law to add section 201-i, prohibits an employer from discharging or disciplining an employee or refusing to hire an applicant for failure to disclose such information.
This law is also subject to certain exceptions and limitations. For example, an employer may require disclosure of personal information to access nonpersonal accounts that allow access to the employer’s internal computer or information systems. Employers may also view, access, and rely on information obtained through the public domain. The law also allows an employer to obtain login information for accounts provided by the employer where the account is used for business purposes and the employee was provided prior notice of the employer’s right to inquire about such information.
An employer is also permitted to access an electronic communications device which is paid for in whole or in part by the employee where the provision of or payment for such device was conditioned on the employer’s right to access. However, the employee must have been provided with prior notice of the condition and explicitly agreed to it. The employer is still prohibited from accessing any personal accounts on the device.
The law excludes law enforcement agencies, fire departments, departments of corrections, and community supervision.
This new law will take effect on March 12, 2024.
If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at (315) 898-2017 or TracyRickett@unyumc.org.
Sneakers for students
October 16, 2023 / By Tim Rock, Harkness United Methodist Church
Harkness United Methodist Church turned meals into sneakers through the Michigans for Mission project.
It all started in 2016 as a fundraiser to support the mission of the church. The Michigan hot dog is a North Country favorite and is a popular meal at the many restaurants around our tri-county area. Seven years ago, we offered the option of dine-in or take-out. All the money raised from selling hot dogs helped pay ministry shares and other mission obligations.
The fundraiser was an instant success, drawing people from all over to our little county church. Twice a year, in the months of May and August, we hold our fundraiser.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to do things a little bit differently with this popular meal. We still wanted to do something to serve our community, but could no longer offer the meal as a dine-in option. The church decided to have a free meal giveaway as a take-out option to anyone who wanted one. While not a fundraiser, it was a good way to give back to our community.
In the post-pandemic, we were looking for ways to reach out with our Missions through Michigan meal fundraiser. A decision was made by the leadership team to use all the money raised from the sale for a specific mission and not deduct the cost of supplies.
We asked the congregation for suggestions, and in May of 2023, we decided to donate to Marion Medical Mission. This specific project provides wells with clean drinking water for villages in Africa. That year, we were able to fund six wells in Africa with all the money raised! We also received a generous matching donation from an anonymous donor.
This past August, the congregation decided to spend the money specifically on school children ranging in grades from elementary to high school. We wanted students to have proper footwear for school. Our goal was to purchase high quality, name brand sneakers to distribute to the local schools and economic aid office in our community.
With the money raised and the extremely generous discount provided by Lenny’s Shoe and Apparel in Plattsburgh, we were able to purchase 59 pairs of excellent sneakers that ranged in brands, sizes, styles, and colors. Before the sneakers were delivered to the chosen locations, the Harkness UMC congregation blessed the pile of sneakers.
We plan to continue this bi-annual fundraiser in 2024 with a mission focus to be determined prior to the event. We feel truly blessed to be able to make these donations locally and globally with such an active and generous congregation and community.
From the desk of Bishop Héctor- Closing remarks on disaffiliations
Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript and video of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez' closing remarks following the Special Session of the UNY Annual Conference, which was held remotely on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023 to ratify the fourth and last batch of church disaffiliations.
“Friends, since I arrived in Upper New York in January, I have experienced United Methodists of Upper New York as people who genuinely love God and seek to embody Christ with your neighbors. I see how you all strive to be God’s healing presence through ministries of love, mercy, and justice and how you extend Christ’s hope to people in your communities – thank you for who you are and all you do.
I also know this has been a challenging season for most of us, as some of our congregations discerned whether to disaffiliate or remain part of the United Methodist community related to longstanding disagreements around our ministry with and by our LGBTQ siblings.
I know congregations seeking disaffiliation did not make this decision lightly. And for most, the decision was as difficult, if not more, than it is for the rest of us. Those disaffiliating do so out of conviction based on how they interpret the Scriptures and how they have come to understand and seek to live the way of Christ. So, as these congregations move forward, I pray for God’s blessings and peace upon them. While they will no longer be United Methodists, they remain part of the body of Christ, so I wish them the best in their future endeavors and earnestly pray for a time when reuniting is a possibility.
I lament that, at times, during this extended season of disagreements, we have not offered one another the grace Christ offers to all of us. Unkind words have been used from all sides to refer to the other. Misinformation has been shared that has added to the confusion and tensions. Unnecessary and questionable hostility has been encouraged, even celebrated in some settings. Longstanding relationships have been severed. And in some instances, our shared sacred human dignity has been violated.
Today, I invite us all, in humility, to confess the ways we have fallen short of our calling to be agents of love, peace, and reconciliation. To confess how we have sinned against God and one another as we have often prioritized “being right” over offering grace and walking the extra mile with our siblings as Jesus modeled for us.
We need to confess that during this season of disagreements, there have been times when we have become a mere reflection of the brokenness and polarization already present in the world instead of being a witness to a more excellent way of being together amid our diversity.
On behalf of the Church, I apologize to our siblings in Christ who are departing The United Methodist Church for the ways we have sinned against you and not honored your journey as people of faith in the Wesleyan tradition.
I also know our disagreements and debates around human sexuality have greatly harmed our LGBTQ siblings. Their very existence has come under scrutiny. Their love for Christ has been put into doubt. The fruit of the Spirit in their lives has been ignored. Their desire to contribute to the building up the Reign of God through their service and leadership has been questioned.
On behalf of the Church, I ask for your forgiveness for the ways we have sinned against you and pray for a day soon when, as the Apostle Paul proclaims, we can fully see you as God sees you through the lenses of Christ, the one in whom we are all made whole.
This is not the end. It is a new beginning. Those of us who remain United Methodists of Upper New York, we are moving forward - acknowledging the pain of this moment and knowing healing will find us as we journey together with Christ.
We move forward, aware that we remain diverse in our beliefs, opinions, and attitudes about ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. We move forward knowing that church disaffiliations present new realities, challenges, and opportunities that we must face with courage, trusting in God’s perfect provision and guidance.
Yet, my hope as your episcopal leader is that as we continue doing life and ministry together, we embrace a vision of missional unity that finds its beginning and end in the very essence of who God is – Love – as the Scriptures tell us in 1 John 4:8. Love, that, as the Apostle Paul clarified, ties everything together in Christ.
Our unity as Christians is not of our doing but God’s. For it is not us but God who brings us together, people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and walks of life into one family. May we, in this new season, fully embrace the supremacy of love and the spiritual reality of unity in Christ, and as we live into this invitation, may we experience renewal and may more people be compelled to believe the gospel's good news.
In this new season, as United Methodists of Upper New York, we will continue living the gospel and sharing Christ with our neighbors everywhere. We will continue planting new faith communities that engage new and different people.
We move forward and will continue helping the most vulnerable in our communities through compassionate ministries We move forward committed to eradicating the sin of racism from the church and society.
In this new season, we will work together to nurture a new generation of disciples and spiritual leaders and assist and resource congregations willing and ready to experience renewal. And we will continue supporting life-giving initiatives through our United Methodist missions around the globe.
As we journey forward, together, we will continue finding ways to honor our rich theological diversity that embraces conservatives, evangelicals, centrists, and progressives – all as beloved children of God.
The cabinet and I will continue seeing and welcoming all people and inviting them to experience the love of Christ in their lives. We will celebrate our rich diversity as a gift from God. We will continue to gracefully acknowledge our diverse theological beliefs around ministry with and by LGBTQ persons and promote a vision of Christ-centered missional unity that transcends our differences and is based on a shared commitment to do no harm and do good to one another.
The Apostle Luke documented the witness of the first community of believers for the universal church. In Acts 2:42-47, we are provided a vibrant description of the kind of community God wants us to embody.
Luke wrote, '...they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was awed by the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day, they continue to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people – AND THE LORD added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.'
May we, too, United Methodists of Upper New York, be a Pentecost community where all people experience Christ's healing and abundant love.
Let’s join our hearts to God in prayer.
Gracious and holy God, we offer thanks and praise for how you continue to live and move in our lives: your grace, mercy, and compassion for each of us. We know that you travel with us in the difficult times and spaces in our lives and the times of hope and healing. May you, this day, bring hope and healing to a difficult time as we leave this place to travel different paths.
We ask for your continued presence and guidance in the journey forward for those who have heard your call to a path different from our own and for the continued journey of this community of faith called United Methodists of Upper New York. We ask that you lay your hands of healing on each of us as we struggle with separation and yet look for the newness that will emerge as we go forward from this place. We ask your blessing, Lord, for those leaving this unique faith community as they seek to listen and hear your invitation for their lives and ministries in new and different settings. May they continue to be blessed and be a blessing in all the lives they touch. We ask your blessing on those who have discerned your invitation to remain that they would be blessed and be a blessing. That even as we leave this place, we would continue to embody Christ in the world, that we would continue to offer the love, the peace, and the compassion of Christ to all we meet. We lift all this to you in the name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
May the peace of God guard our hearts, the grace of Christ strengthen our hope, and the Holy Spirit lead us as we continue living the gospel and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places. Amen.”
District Days: Informed to Transform
October 12, 2023 / By Carrie Boyer, Adirondack and Albany Districts Superitendency Administrative Assistant
The Adirondack and Albany Districts hosted their annual “District Day: Informed to Transform,” on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Saratoga Springs UMC. More than 80 people participated, with 10 facilitators offering a total of 16 workshops. Fifty-one churches were represented. Each participant was able to choose three workshops for the all-day affair, which included a worship service and a free lunch, thanks to the generosity of the Adirondack District Lay Servant Team. This was our fifth event.
Workshops offered included Stewardship, Local Church Finance, Christian Yoga, Drama in Bible Study, Mission Insite, Asset-Based Community Development, Suicide Prevention and Grief, Harm Reduction in Faith Communities, Simplifying Your Church Leadership, Blending Lectio Divinia and Mandalas, Congregational Care, Harmony From Division, Lay Servant Ministry, Covenant Discipleship, Prayer Beads and Discernment as a Spiritual Practice. Click here to view the descriptions of each workshop.
Facilitators included three from the UNY Conference Staff: the Rev. Nancy Dibelius, the Rev. Susan Ranous and Kristina Clark. Others were Albany/Adirondack District Superintendent, the Rev. Debbie Earthrowl, the Rev. Meredith Vanderminden, the Rev. Derek Hansen, Katherine Chambers from the Council for Prevention/Hope and Healing RCOC of Hudson Falls, Albany and Adirondack Lay Servant Directors Darlene Suto and Pastor Bruce Hazard, and Certified Lay Speaker Bruce France.
Pastor Brendan Fox led us in worship.
Many folks provided feedback on their experience at the end of the day, citing the chance to worship and connect with others and the quality of workshops/facilitators as highlights of their day. Many said the downside was they couldn’t take more workshops! Some offered suggestions for future workshops.
The day was a blessing for all.
From the desk of Bishop Héctor- Violence in the Middle East (Palestine-Israel)
Editor's Note: The following note was sent via email to United Methodists of Upper New York on Oct. 11 on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez about the violence in the Middle East.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9
Dear United Methodists of Upper New York,
This past weekend, we woke up to the horrible news of violent attacks from Hamas against Israel, resulting in the tragic loss of many innocent lives. As I write these lines, the situation has sadly deteriorated, with children, women, and foreigners being taken as hostages and killed, homes, places of worship and hospitals being bombed into rubble, and a formal declaration of war between Hamas and Israel.
As disciples of Jesus Christ and United Methodists, “we are called to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict.” As stated in our Social Principles, political and social turmoil can be caused by many issues, including economic disparity, environmental degradation, gender inequity, racism and xenophobia, and illness and disease. So, if we want peace, “we must be committed to disrupting these conditions and systems that perpetuate injustice.” (UM Social Principles)
In response to this unfolding situation, I invite all United Methodists in Upper New York to,
- Pray for the immediate end of violence in the Middle East, for all the innocent lives impacted by these heartbreaking acts of violence, and for the decision-makers in this conflict. Hence, they prioritize life over death, peace over war, and reconciliation over alienation.
- Listen to the different stories and perspectives of those directly impacted by this ongoing conflict and about the political, social, and religious factors that are contributing to this ongoing conflict so that we can join them in imagining life-giving ways to journey to a reality of peace with justice in the region.
- Care for those in your community who might be impacted by this war and offer them compassion and support in concrete and meaningful ways that lead to healing and wholeness.
- Give special offerings in your congregation directed to our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to assist in providing shelter, food, and other resources to those left helpless by the war.
During these challenging times, may the peace of God guard our hearts, the grace of Christ strengthen our hope, and the Holy Spirit lead us as we continue living the gospel and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places.
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The United Methodist Church
Serving United Methodist of Upper New York
United Methodist Church Bishops condemn violence in the Middle East, call for prayer and action
The Council of Bishops (COB) of The United Methodist Church has condemned the ongoing violence in the Middle East and has called for prayer and action.
In a statement released today, COB President Thomas J. Bickerton urged all United Methodists to renew a deepened commitment to pray for those who have been injured, abducted, or killed, and to deepen our prayers for those who have suddenly lost a loved one.
“As a people who pray for and work toward peace, we in the United Methodist family are appalled, and dismayed by the animosities and inhumane actions undertaken by Hamas. The declaration of war on the part of Israel as a result is also deeply saddening,” the COB statement said.
Bishop Bickerton reminded The United Methodist Church about the Book of Resolutions (2016) which states clearly that, “We seek for all people in the Middle East region an end to military occupation, freedom from violence, and full respect for the human rights of all under international law.
Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, Bishop Bickerton remained hopeful to the future of peace and love for all of God’s children.
Click here to read the full statement from the COB.
From the desk of Bishop Héctor- Clergy Appreciation
Editor's Note: The following email was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on Tuesday, Oct. 10 on behalf of Héctor A. Burgos Núñez about October being recognized as Clergy Appreciation Month.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15b
Dear United Methodists of Upper New York,
Grace and peace from Jesus Christ be with you!
During October, the church is celebrating Clergy Appreciation Month.
Serving as a pastor is a joyful calling. Pastors are vital in providing Christ-like transformational leadership and support to Upper New York (UNY) congregations and the community. They offer compassionate care and enrich our lives. Pastors are a source of inspiration and strength within the community. Serving as a pastor can also be a stressful calling, given the complexity of the realities and challenges we are facing in a fast-paced and constantly changing mission field. Very few vocations have the spiritual/emotional highs and lows as that of a pastor.
I thank God for all UNY clergy, whether serving local churches or in extension ministries. Their faithful leadership and sacrificial service bless many and inspire me. Their holistic well-being is a priority to the appointive cabinet and me.
Some of the best ways you can show appreciation to your pastor(s) include praying for them and their families, respecting them, honoring boundaries, and supporting the ministry of your congregations. Also, SPRC teams are encouraged to regularly converse with their pastor(s) to explore meaningful contextual ways they can show your support and appreciation for their ministry.
UNY congregations also can show appreciation for their pastor(s);
I pray for God’s continued blessings in your lives and ministries. Thanks for who you are and all you do to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and embody God’s love with your neighbors.
Together in mission,
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The United Methodist Church
Serving United Methodists of Upper New York
Faith in action
October 5, 2023 / By Pastor Daniel Bradley, Faith Journey UMC
"If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails at one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' If you do not commit adultery but murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:8-17
If ever there was a piece of scripture that convicts me of my sin, this is it. It reminds me daily that I am to be in ministry to my brothers and sisters in Christ before myself. Taking this into account on a daily basis is of the utmost importance. It’s not enough to give “lip” service to my faith. My faith must be combined with actions.
Actions speak louder than words. When we put our faith into action, it reminds us that God works through our more than-capable words to meet the needs of those who need it the most. The most important work that is done through Faith Journey United Methodist Church is not done on Sunday mornings, but throughout the week through the mission arm of our Cradle and Beyond Ministry. Lives are being changed by the generous faith, giving, and prayer support of this mission arm of the Church. It’s not about us or the merchandise we sell, but it is all about the people who come in and are greeted in grace by the volunteers at the store.
One of my favorite stories of faith to tell is of a couple that came in to donate their daughter's clothing and other items. Their daughter had died unexpectedly, and they were cleaning out her house. The couple, visibly shaken, was crying as they brought in their daughter's belongings. The volunteers in the store stopped what they were doing and spent time in prayer and offered hugs to this couple. It was a testament to the power of God at that moment. There are times when God stops us dead in our tracks and gives us the opportunity to open up to others through prayer and hugs; that makes all the difference. Cradle and Beyond is more than clothes and goods. It’s about putting faith into action.
Not only does Cradle and Beyond meet the needs of those in need, but it also provides a small food pantry and partners with thirty-two other Syracuse missions. This year, through our backpack mission, we were able to give away 105 backpacks filled with school supplies. The children who came through the store were blessed and beyond ecstatic to receive these gifts. In addition to expanding the use of the building, we have also opened up our ‘clubhouse space’ for an organization called “Circle of Friends,” which ministers to individuals with special needs. Coming this October, there will be a Bible study group using the ‘clubhouse’ space on Sunday afternoons, as it is being used for our book study on Wednesday afternoons.
The church of Jesus Christ was never meant to be just about Sunday worship. It was meant to be missional in purpose, multifaceted, and ever-changing. What we do on Sunday mornings should transfer to what we do throughout the week. I urge you to consider how your week is spent in mission and ministry.
If the mission of the Church is all about what happens in your church building on Sunday mornings, then you have missed the point. The mission of The United Methodist Church is to, “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Many people thought spending as much as Faith Journey did on rehabbing this old veterinary clinic into a thrifty boutique was a mistake. I was one of those people. I am thankful to God that I was wrong. The work that is done through this campus is so much more than clothing and goods. It is life-giving and sustaining and is reaching the people of North Syracuse, NY in a powerful, positive, and uplifting way. The mission statement of Faith Journey United Methodist Church is to, “Seek, Serve, & Share God with others.” That is what Cradle and Beyond is doing, and I can’t thank the volunteers who staff the store enough for their commitment to God and Jesus Christ.
It is good to remember where we have been as a church on the move, but more importantly, to consistently focus on where we are going. The next steps for Cradle and Beyond have yet to be written, but I believe that James says it best when he reminds us, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
As Christians, we have a choice to make, “we can get busy living or get busy dying.” It’s up to us to chart our future or to pick out our headstone. This is what is before us today. The choice is yours.
Cradle and Beyond is a “thrifty boutique” located at 7778 Brewerton Rd. Cicero, NY across from Dunkin Donuts.
Upper New York Conference welcomes Kevin Miller
United Methodists of Upper New York (UNY) is pleased to introduce Kevin Miller as the new Multimedia Content Creator. Kevin joins the Communications Ministry Team after Shannon Hodson left her role as Writer/Editor in August 2023. Kevin will collaborate closely with Shelby Winchell, who serves as the Director of Communications, and Mary Dalglish, UNY Video Specialist. In his capacity, Kevin will be primarily tasked with telling the stories of Upper New York.
Kevin brings to UNY a wealth of expertise gained from over a decade of experience in public broadcasting. He earned his A.A.S. degree in Electronic Media Communications from Onondaga Community College. His professional journey commenced at WCNY PBS, where he began as an Associate Producer and steadily advanced to the role of Senior Producer.
Kevin said, "I have a deep enthusiasm for every aspect of storytelling. Having the chance to collaborate with my colleagues and share stories of The United Methodist Church with the communities we serve is something I take immense pride in."
“Kevin is a great addition to the Communications Team. Communication plays a vital role in everything we do as a Church. Over the years, our communications strategies have evolved from social media to livestreaming to podcasting. Kevin will play an important role in helping reach a broader audience as we continue to tell the stories of Upper New York,” said Shelby Winchell.
Kevin resides in Liverpool. When he's not at work, he cherishes moments spent with his wife and two sons, while enjoying his passion for cooking delightful meals. Additionally, every Sunday, you'll find him enthusiastically supporting the Buffalo Bills.
Please join us as we welcome Kevin to the Upper New York team.
United Methodists of Upper New York receives $1.25 million grant
PRESS RELEASE: United Methodists of Upper New York receives $1.25 million grant.
$1.25 Million Grant to United Methodists of Upper New York
October 2, 2023
For Immediate Release
Contact: Shelby Winchell, Director of Communications (email@example.com)
United Methodists of Upper New York (UNY) have been granted $1,250,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. Compelling Preaching Initiative. The initiative aims to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages, and guides people to come to know and love God, and to live out their Christian faith more fully. This is the first grant Upper New York has received from Lilly Endowment Inc. and the first grant that exceeds $1 million dollars.
The Lilly Endowment grant project, “Reconnecting with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful,” is intended to revitalize the practice of preaching in Upper New York (UNY) by equipping 300 pastors to (re)connect others with the goodness, truth, and beauty of life with God through preaching that inspires, encourages, and guides people to come to know and love Jesus Christ and to live out their Christian faith more fully. The project is a component of UNY’s clergy leadership development focus called “Thrive.”
“United Methodists of Upper New York are blessed with many gifted and faithful pastors who share the good news of Jesus Christ weekly. Through this Lilly grant, we will be able to rekindle the gift of preaching in our pastors as they are refreshed and renewed by the goodness, truth, and beauty of the gospel. God is doing new and wonderful work among us,” said Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez.
Upper New York is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist, and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.
“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s Vice President for Religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”
Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of religion's role in the United States and across the globe.
Building beds so children in need have one
October 2, 2023 / By Shelley Smith, Mission Team Chairperson, Immanuel UMC
Sanding. Hammering. Drilling.
To learn more, click the links below:
Those sounds filled the air on Sept. 9 at Immanuel United Methodist Church in Camillus. Sixty-nine people gathered in the parking lot along with 18 members from the Syracuse Chapter of Sleep In Heavenly Peace (SHP), a national organization whose mission is “No Kid Sleeps On The Floor In Our Town.”
The goal was to build 40 beds for children living in the greater Syracuse community. These were beds for children who didn’t have one of their own.
The Syracuse Chapter was founded just five years ago. In that short time span, and in collaboration with volunteers like those at Immanuel UMC, they’ve built 4,000 beds. Click here to watch a video from CNY Central about the 4,000th bed being assembled.
While it’s sad that so many children need beds, it is heartwarming to see the community come together for such an important project. Volunteers weren’t just from the Immanuel. Members from the Camillus Police Department, Brewerton UMC, Ionia UMC (and some of their friends), and even some neighbors of the church.
“The Camillus Police Department was honored to have been asked to be a part of a fantastic organization in Sleep in Heavenly Peace for such an important project. Building beds so that ‘no kid sleeps on the floor in our town’ was a great event with wonderful people. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this.”
There were jobs for everyone; even our youngest at seven-years old to our most mature members. We actually had more workers than jobs which is a good problem to have, so next year (yes, we’ve signed up already), we’ll be better prepared.
The bed building project came with a cost. It included not only the wood for the bed, but it included the mattresses, bedding, and pillows so that when the beds are delivered, the children will be able to sleep “peacefully” that night. In order to support this project, Immanuel needed to raise the funds so we have two craft shows a year (our next show is Oct. 27 & 28), we hold a miniature golf tournament, and we make fresh pine Christmas door swags.
Immanuel UMC is also known as The Church of The Bells as we have a beautiful bell tower located in the front of our church. On Sept. 9, the bells didn’t ring. The sound was replaced by dozens of power tools that were bringing hope and love to 40 children in our community.
If you can’t build beds, consider having a bed on display in your church and collect twin-size bedding. You’ll need a standard-size pillow, pillow case, sheets, and comforter. Many big box stores sell “Bed in a Bag” and includes mostly everything you need. They retail for about $40. Sleep in Heavenly Peace also accepts monetary donations. Click here for drop-off locations in the Syracuse-area and for donation information.
You can volunteer to deliver and assemble beds. There are other volunteer opportunities as well that don’t require handy work. Find a local chapter in your area by clicking here.
New York State Minimum Wage Increase effective Jan. 1, 2024
The New York State minimum wage is changing starting in 2024.
New York State Minimum Wage Increase
Effective Jan. 1, 2024, New York State (NYS) minimum wage will increase to $15.00 per hour. In 2025 and 2026, NYS minimum wage will increase by $0.50 annually. Beginning in 2027, and each year thereafter, increases to the minimum wage will be indexed based on inflation by the U.S. Department of Labor consumer price index. The minimum wage will be published by the New York Department of Labor (NYDOL) Oct. 1 each year for the rate to take effect that coming January 1 of the following year.
New York State (excluding New York City, Long Island, and Westchester
Jan. 1, 2024
Jan. 1, 2025
Jan. 1, 2026
An updated NYS Minimum Wage poster must be posted at your work site for your employees by Jan. 1, 2024. Once the updated poster is available, the Conference office will post it on our Church Employer webpage Employment Law Compliance and Posters. Please click this link for more information on the change to NYS Minimum Wage.
New York State Minimum Salary
As of the date of this news article, the New York State minimum salary for employees classified as exempt under the New York State Labor Law remains at $1064.25/week or $55,341.00 per year. Any updates to the New York State minimum salary will be published as it becomes available.
Churches should review their wage and hour practices to ensure that their employees are classified properly as non-exempt or exempt and that current minimum wage and minimum salary levels are being paid to employees.
If you have any questions on this topic, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at (315) 898-2017 or TracyRickett@unyumc.org.
Explore the Holy Land with Bishop Héctor
Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5 ESV
Journey through the Bible with Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez and experience the Fifth Gospel on a sacred trip to the Holy Land. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus in a faith-filled adventure with Bishop Héctor and other United Methodists of Upper New York.
Mark your calendar for this once in a lifetime trip Sept. 17-27, 2024. See the cave where Jesus was born, visit the Church of the Nativity, sail across the Sea of Galilee, stand on the Mount of Olives, and experience much more. Following this trip, you will never sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” or hear the Sermon on the Mount the same way again.
Learn the history, deepen your faith, and bring a friend. Click here to view the trip itinerary and reservation information.
Creating a bridge and building understanding with faith leaders
September 22, 2023 / By Kristina Clark, Director of Missional Engagement
Every month, faith leaders from various traditions come together for a powerful roundtable to discuss justice issues. The group is called InterFaith Works and it’s been meeting for 46 years. There are representatives from the Hindu Community, Islamic Society of Central New York, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Quakers, American Baptist, Episcopal Church, Catholic Church, Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, The United Methodist Church among others. In my role as Director of Missional Engagement, I’ve been representing The United Methodist Church on this particular roundtable.
This month, United Methodists of Upper New York were honored to host the roundtable of faith leaders at the Conference Center in Liverpool. The meeting was a time of powerful conversation on how faith leaders can work together to address food justice, relationships with the Onondaga Nation, ending antisemitism, and ending racism this year.
Promise Land Church pastor, Erik Eure, addressed food security and highlighted food deserts in the Syracuse-area. He mentioned one community in particular where the closest grocery store selling fresh food is 12 miles away.
“You can buy apple flavored nicotine at the corner store in that community, but not an actual apple,” exclaimed Pastor Eure.
Michael Balanoff from the Jewish Federation of Central New York led the discussion on ending antisemitism.
“Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem. It’s a community problem. It’s all our problem.”
There was also a powerful discussion about how when a society takes away rights for one group, it sets a stage for a society to start deciding who is valued and is not valued as a human.
The meeting concluded with a tour of the United Methodist Center and discussions about how United Methodists of Upper New York can use their space and resources to partner and support the work of InterFaith Works as well as the other faith traditions.
A New Season Begins for the Conference Leadership Team
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
The Conference Leadership Team (CLT) has a new membership configuration. The new configuration is part of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos-Núñez efforts to eliminate silos and shift to a culture of connections and collaboration in Upper New York (UNY). Notable in the new composition of the team is the inclusion of the chairs of UNY five administrative boards and committees alongside at-large members to do the work entrusted to the CLT.
United Methodists of Upper New York are encouraged to meet the team members here.
The CLT serves as the steward of the vision and mission of United Methodists of Upper New York between Annual Conference sessions. This team also provides directional leadership and accountability to UNY boards, agencies, and executive staff to equip UNY clergy and congregational leaders for impactful ministry.
CLT members gathered for the first time in the new configuration on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the United Methodists Center in Liverpool for a day of loving, learning, and leading, also known as the L3 model.
During this time, the CLT reviewed and ratified the UNY Missional Playbook. The Missional Playbook is UNY's strategic document that guides the conference's ministry. The CLT ratified core strategic pieces, including our mission, vision, purpose, and primary task.
- Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
- Our vision is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and be God’s love with all our neighbors in all places.
- Our Purpose is to equip leaders and congregations for impactful ministry and provide a connection for mission beyond the local church.
- Our Primary Task is to increase the leadership capacity of clergy and congregational leaders for effective, impactful ministry.
During the meeting, the CLT received updates from the executive staff team and reviewed the financial activity of the Conference year-to-date. During his report, Bishop Héctor shared that he will visit all 12 districts in 2024 over the winter and spring months to engage clergy and laity in listening-to-learn sessions to help reconnect United Methodists of Upper New York with the Missional Playbook.
An essential item addressed by the CLT was creating a short-term task force to work on a resolution approved by the 2023 UNY Annual Conference session, which requested the CLT to present a recommendation to the 2024 session on how to allocate the funds related to the Child Victim Act (CVA) lawsuit settlement. The task force will present their recommendations to the CLT by Feb. 15, 2024.
The task force will be led by Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady II, lead pastor at Asbury UMC Rochester, and consist of the Conference lay leader, Jessica White, representatives from the UNY Council on Finance, the Board of Trustees, and the Board of Pensions, and four at-large members, alongside staff resources including Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Assistant to the Bishop; Bob Flask, UNY Treasurer; and Peter Abdella, UNY Chancellor.
Pinwheels spin cash for camp
September 15, 2023 / By Sarah Walker, Ohio UMC
The pinwheel spins when the breeze blows. The breeze is a reminder that although you cannot see the air moving, it is always present. Just like the air is always present, so is the Holy Spirit.
Fundraisers are an important way to keep the Ohio United Methodist Church going. We needed funds for our children going to camp. The Sunday school and youth group wanted to do something fun, bring light to someone's day, and bring joy to the world.
For a few years now, we have been pinning people’s front lawns. All it entails is placing a bunch of colorful pinwheels in the grass. This brings laughter and happiness to their homes as well as the community.
We have heard people talk about how awesome it is to see something beautiful. This brings joy to our church as we fulfill our promise to God.
Every summer, we send our youth to Aldersgate Camp & Retreat Center where they play and have fun while learning about the Bible and understanding their purpose. This past summer, we raised enough money to send eight youth to camp at no cost to the families.
Colton is 15 years old. He’s been to camp at Aldersgate three summers now.
"Camp Aldersgate is my favorite place to be to make new friends and learn more about God and God’s purpose in our life," said Colton, who aspires to one day become a camp counselor.
I run the fundraiser with my husband, Gardner Walker III. Our four sons, Colton, Garner IV, Levi, and Brayden, also assist.
We thank all that participated and hope to continue spreading the joy of having Jesus in our hearts and being true to God. Our church is small, but we are trying to make a big impact in our community and surrounding areas.
Bishops in Africa vow to stay in The United Methodist Church
United Methodist Church bishops serving the church in Africa have issued a statement declaring their intention to stay in the denomination despite differences on the issue of human sexuality.
“Notwithstanding the differences in our UMC regarding the issue of human sexuality especially with our stance of traditional and biblical view of marriage, we categorically state that we do not plan to leave The United Methodist Church and will continue to be shepherds of God’s flock in this worldwide denomination,” said the bishops in statement agreed on Sept. 7.
The bishops indicated that while some of their colleagues and friends have left or intend to leave our UMC, “we have prayerfully discerned that we will continue to be part of this denomination which has nurtured us throughout our lives. We will continue to work in ministry with all our brothers and sisters throughout the world, remembering not to forsake the fellowship of our sisters and brothers.”
The bishops also voiced support the ongoing discussion for regionalism, which would ensure that Africans would be accommodated in the way and manners in which Africans want to worship the Lord.
They also voiced support for the decision by the Council of Bishops to request General Conference sessions in 2026 and 2028. “This will be necessary for smooth transitioning as our denomination emerges from the disruptions of COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of disaffiliations.”
Three of the 14 bishops in attendance did not sign unto the statement.
Click here to read the UMC bishops in Africa statement.
Conference Commission on Religion and Race: What’s up for 2024
September 11, 2023 / By Dr. Scott Johnson, Rev. Harold Wheat, and Georgia Whitney
As our area continues to heal from the loss and trauma of the racist attack in Buffalo last May, a new example of racist hatred taken to the most violent extremes has just happened in Jacksonville, Florida. A White supremacist gunman killed Angela Michelle Carr, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., and Jerrald Gallion for no reason other than his hatred of Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). The surface elements of this attack are hard enough to bear.
Similar to the Tops shooting in Buffalo, deeper questions about the role of racism in this killing emerge. Issues of purposeful residential segregation, the intersection of race and poverty in America, the economics and impact of discount stores that focus on communities of Color, and a national climate that silences meaningful exploration of such topics. The complexities of these issues demonstrate the ongoing urgent need for United Methodists of Upper New York to purposefully strive to “set the oppressed free,” as Jesus did.
Conference Commission on Religion and Race's (CCORR) Imagine No Racism ministry was launched in 2018 because antiracism work is a central part of discipleship—it’s about who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ. The work is not rooted in any political agenda. We are Jesus’s people in the world today. For the past few years, CCORR supported this work by striving to equip our siblings across Upper New York to dismantle racism in the church and our communities. Now, we feel the Spirit calling us to focus in new directions, broadening our work. Here’s what this looks like for our team in 2024:
More Churches Engaged in Antiracism Ministries
First, many churches are working to change beliefs, practices, and systems that perpetuate racial inequities. In 2024, CCORR is committed to increasing the percentage of local churches engaged in antiracism ministries. Some churches and pastors may concentrate on equipping themselves by continuing their learning through Bible, movie, and book studies. We hope they’ll consider bringing the Imagine No Racism curriculum to their churches as well. Others may be ready to engage in an issue in their communities. CCORR will provide coaches for teams in this phase of work to assist with discernment and strategies.
Ministry Action Teams
Congregations and siblings who may want to engage in more direct action, addressing specific racial inequities in their communities can do this work through ministry action teams. This brings us to CCORR’s second goal for 2024, which is to produce a more just world by facilitating the creation of ministry action teams to empower policy or community change. These teams may involve people from a single church or geographical area of the conference. Depending on the policy goal, a team may be comprised of people from across all Upper New York. The key uniting element is a call and passion for bringing about a specific tangible outcome, such as revising a police use of force policy, opening a grocery store, or starting a tutoring ministry to address educational disparities. We propose creating teams in three areas:
- Criminal justice reform, which might include work to address qualified immunity, bail reform, and the clean slate bill.
- Food apartheid. This might involve a ministry that focuses on creating food sovereignty through community-driven solutions and systemic change to eliminate food deserts.
- Educational concerns, such as disciplinary injustice, curriculum, educational outcomes, and the school-to-prison pipeline.
If you have a passion for working in one of these areas, CCORR wants to help you accomplish your goal. Maybe you’ve already talked to some people in your congregation who want to work with you. Perhaps you have some elements of a strategy but aren’t quite sure how to proceed. You might be ready to begin work but need more partners to accomplish tasks. No matter the case, we can help. We can provide coaching for teams who are ready to start, and/or we can connect you with other people in the conference who share your passion.
Those who have completed INR sessions in recent months, or have communicated with us about wanting to be part of a ministry action team, will receive email invitations to join these teams. If you don’t receive an email and would like to participate in one of these initiatives, please contact Scott Johnson or Georgia Whitney, CCORR’s co-conveners.
There’s a lot more to say about these teams and the ways they might function in our conference. We’ll continue to communicate with you about them in the weeks ahead.
Enhanced Imagine No Racism (INR) Curriculum
Our third goal for 2024 is to further enrich the conversation in our conference to equip siblings for antiracism work. We’ve heard from folks who are ready to take a deeper dive into some of the topics explored in INR. We’ll begin work on a more specialized curriculum that explores a topic such as divesting ourselves of privilege or overcoming our implicit biases.
Finally, we’ll continue the work we began last year to develop a multigenerational approach to antiracist work. CORR seeks to partner with younger siblings to ensure that this work better includes their perspectives and experiences.
Our Work Is More Important than Ever!
When the Imagine No Racism ministry was launched in 2018, we were all asked to consider signing an individual covenant that read, “Before God and with my family in Christ, I vow, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to oppose and to eliminate the influence of racism from systems, institutions, relationships, and my own life.” Today, that vow is even more important than it was five years ago. The work we do belongs not just to CCORR, but to all of us. The CCORR team rejoices in the opportunity to partner with you and take up your authority to interrupt racism wherever you become aware of it in your circles of influence.
We ask that you join us in prayer that racism will cease to impede the movement of God’s love in Upper New York. Together with the Holy Spirit, we can build the world we imagine.
Register now for October’s virtual Special Session
Registration is now open for the virtual October Special Session of Annual Conference. This Special Session will focus on Upper New York churches looking to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church.
There is a $10 registration fee for eligible voting members, with the exception to equalization members, to participate in the Special Session, which will begin at 9 a.m. on Oct. 14.
Click here to register by Wednesday, Sept. 27. Late registrations will not be accepted. If you experience credit card issues, please call Trina Obrist at (315) 898-2006.
For anyone looking to be excused, please link this link and complete the form.
Grow New Ministries, Reach New People with Launchpad Fall 2023
Are you ready to embark on an inspiring journey to reach new people, cultivate innovative ministries, or even establish a brand-new church? If so, Launchpad Fall 2023 is the training for you.
Launchpad is designed for churches and church planters seeking to create fresh, vibrant spaces for new individuals to find faith and community. This intensive training program spans six insightful sessions that will equip your team with the tools, strategies, and support needed to make your vision a reality.
Here's what you'll gain from Launchpad Fall 2023:
- Engaging New Audiences: Learn effective methods to connect with new individuals outside of your current church community.
- Vision Clarity: Discover how to clarify your ministry's vision and adapt it to your unique context for meaningful discipleship.
Launchpad Fall 2023 Schedule via Zoom:
- Week 1: Monday evening, Sept. 25 - Discerning
- Week 2: Monday evening, Oct. 2 - Visioning
- Week 3: Oct.9 -12 - Week off for team meetings
- Week 4: Monday evening, Oct. 16 - Gathering
- Week 5: Monday evening, Oct. 23 - Discipling
- Week 6: Monday evening, Oct. 30 - Week off for team meetings
- Week 7: Monday evening, Nov. 6 - Worshiping
- Week 8: Monday evening, Nov. 13 - Closing Session
It's important to note that each Launchpad session is limited to just 20 individuals, and teams should ideally consist of two to eight core members. The cost for your team's participation is $50, with one to two hours of required reading to be completed before Week 1 of Launchpad. If you miss out on this opportunity, our next Launchpad won't be until Summer 2024.
Don't miss out on this chance to elevate your ministry and make a profound impact. Click here to register for Launchpad by Wednesday, Sept. 20 to secure your spot and start your journey towards creating new places for new people.
All questions should be directed to Rev. Abigail Browka, Director of New Faith Communities and convener of Launchpad Fall 2023, at AbigailBrowka@unyumc.org.
NYS Wage Transparency Law
Effective Sept. 17, 2023, all private sector employers with four or more employees must post a range of pay on job advertisements pursuant to New York State (NYS) Wage Transparency Law. In addition, pay ranges must be placed on all advertisements for promotions or transfers. The wage range requirement applies to postings that are both internal and external to the employer. The wage range must be included on all postings for jobs that will be physically performed (in whole or in part) in New York, and this includes a job that is performed outside of New York but reports to a supervisor, office, or worksite within New York. The range should show the minimum and maximum annual salary or hourly rates that the employer believes in good faith to be accurate at the time of posting. In addition to posting a pay range, all job postings must include job descriptions.
Individuals cannot bring private lawsuits against their employers for violating the wage transparency law, but they can file complaints with the New York Department of Labor. The Department can impose penalties ranging from $1,000-$3,000. Under the terms of the law, the Department is required to provide additional guidance on wage transparency. This guidance will be provided once published.
If you have any questions regarding the NYS Wage Transparency Law, please contact Tracy Rickett, HR Generalist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (315) 898-2017.
New Faith Communities Policy for New Beginnings Fund Grants
Apply now for Year 1 New Beginnings Fund Grant.
The core goal of New Faith Communities in Upper New York is to intentionally reach new people in contextual ways to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Eligibility Criteria: To apply for the Year 1 New Beginnings Fund, ministries must be:
1. A New Ministry: The NFC should represent a newly established ministry initiative
2. Explicitly built to reach new people outside of the existing church
4. Helping new people explore, embrace, and grow in their faith in the Wesleyan way
Types of New Faith Communities (NFCs)
The Year 1 New Beginnings Fund Grant is open to a variety of New Faith Communities (NFCs), all dedicated to the mission of transforming the world through Christ. These include:
- New Church Starts: Launch a brand new church with the potential to charter.
- New Faith Communities/Fresh Expressions: Create smaller, less traditional ministries.
· Church ReStarts: Church Restarts may be considered NFC’s upon completion of
- Ministry audit via your District within the past two years
- NFC Launchpad or NFC coaching in the UNYAC
- Purposeful Ministry Pause of at least four weeks – up to 6 months
- Intentional Revisioning: strategic plan to begin new ministries that will reach new people
- Approval from the Bishop and Cabinet
- Other supporting qualities include: Change of Name, New Location
- Church Restarts are eligible for matching grants only.
To begin your journey, click here to download a New Beginnings Fund Grant Application.
Important Note: If your ministry has previously received New Beginnings Funds, please be aware that you are not eligible as a Year 1 applicant. However, an application for Year 2-4 applicants will be available in early 2024, with a due date of May 1, 2024.
The New Beginnings Fund offers grants of $2,500 or more to intentionally reach new people in contextual ways, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This fund, powered by the net proceeds from the sale of discontinued congregation buildings, empowers closed churches to provide a legacy that reaches new people and enables new churches to take root in our communities.
Mark your calendar as the application deadline is Nov. 1, 2023.
For more information, email Rev. Abigail Browka, Director of New Faith Communities, at AbigailBrowka@unyumc.org.
United Methodists encouraged to focus on love
The Council of Bishops President Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton is calling on United Methodists to focus on love because the Church’s greatest success depends upon mutual love and meaningful relationships throughout the world.
“The quality of our love for one another among Christians makes the church an effective witness for the gospel because it is what the human spirit longs for, dreams of and desired,” Bishop Bickerton said during a worship service on Sunday, Sept. 4 in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Bishop Bickerton is attending the Africa Colleges of Bishops meeting, representing the Council of Bishops with Bishop Gregory Palmer.
“When we demonstrate our genuine desire for unity in Jesus Christ, God draws us into a perfect love that exists between us and God and between us and the world. God calls the church to become a community of mutual love in the world so that people will see and experience the love that believers have for one another but also the love that God has for us.”
Connecting with Jesus and journey in faith at Massena First UMC
September 5, 2023 / By Rev. Cori Louden, Pastor and Kathy Perry, Missions, Outreach, and Hospitality Chair
As the summer ends, the activities at Massena First UMC pick up. Our Missions, Hospitality, and Outreach Team has planned many events and activities to end the summer season and welcome fall while fulfilling our mission to Serve Massena, Connect with Jesus, and Journey in Faith.
Our first activity was to continue our Monday night book/Bible group to study a Max Lucado book entitled Life Lessons from Acts: Christ’s Church in the World. We continue to enjoy expanding our knowledge and living out our faith. We have added new members to our group and have welcomed them on this journey. Two individuals are not members of our own congregation but heard about what we were doing and wanted to join.
We also started another small group discussion on Tuesday mornings. It is centered around the TV series “The Chosen” and involves watching one episode and then engaging in a discussion about it afterwards.
Community meals are also a big part of what we do. Our Thursday night dinners serve approximately 120 meals per week. One of our regular meal guests celebrated their 98th birthday with us this year. In August, we hosted a program put on by the Food Bank in which participants obtained $30 in coupons to use at farmers’ markets and allowed them to eat healthier foods.
We also restarted a monthly Fellowship Dinner open to everyone in the congregation and their families. We enjoy trying out restaurants in the area where we can be in fellowship together. In May, the group watched Josh Barkley, our organist, perform at a local restaurant. It was a fun-filled evening of music, food, and friendly conversation. In June, we tried a new restaurant in town called On the Rocks. What a great location with wonderful food and fellowship. In August, we checked out the Gristmill in Massena.
Bringing kids into a family-friendly activity is something we are hoping to build on. So, in August, we hosted pizza and miniature golf.
Normally, Vacation Bible Study (VBS) at Massena is done through Greater Massena Ministerial Association (GMMA) and is ecumenical. This year that was not possible. So, we decided to do our own. Since it was the first time doing our own VBS, we decided to try a one-day program. The theme was “Jesus to the Rescue” and all the participants really enjoyed the day.
Our Summer Carnival on Aug. 26 was free and open to the public. With games, prizes, food, and fun how could it not be a success? Last year was the carnival’s first and we hosted 80 children and adults. This year we had between 300-350 children and adults. Aside from the rain, everyone had a great time.
On Aug. 28, we partnered with our local schools and participated in the “Ready 4 School” event at the Massena High School gym. We provided over 10 bags and boxes of school supplies, personal care items, and socks to those who visited our booth. There were over 604 people at this event, more than prior to COVID-19.
As we look forward to the fall, we are planning a Back-to-Church event with an old-fashioned ice cream social. We plan to return to Sunday School with an additional class added this year, monthly fellowship lunches after church on the first Sunday of the month, and a fall festival in October. In November, we serve Thanksgiving dinner to our community (last year we served 800 dinners) and in December, we are hosting a Christmas party for those in the community who would like to attend. We have so much to plan and look forward to as we reach out to serve our community.
Bike Ministry on a roll at Sarah Jane Johnson UMC
August 28, 2023 / By Rev. Carolyn Stow, pastor at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church
"Rosalynne riding her new bike yesterday! Already riding by herself!!! Thank you all so much!! You've made our kiddo supper happy and proud of herself," wrote one mom whose daughter received a new bicycle during a recent family bike giveaway at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City.
That was the text message with a short video waiting for me after church. The 36-second clip ends with Rosalynne’s smiling face telling me that she feels ready for second grade now. I met her the day before at one of Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial UMC’s Bike Giveaway Days. She was test-riding a bike that was far too small for her. She had never ridden without training wheels and the bigger bikes were just too big for them. We looked at several choices in her size, but she wouldn’t agree to any of them – even that one that lit up her eyes when she saw it. When her folks felt comfortable leaving her with me to go check out some bikes for themselves, we talked. I let her know that Officer Peets from the Johnson City Police Department’s Bike Patrol Unit was onsite and ready to give riding lessons to anyone who asked. Rosalynne and her family got more than some bicycles, helmets, and locks that day.
The Bike Ministry grew from a summer youth outreach effort 16-years ago that included workshops where participants worked on their own bikes, side-by-side with volunteers from the Southern Tier Bike Club, gaining repair and regular maintenance skills. While many were reached and served that summer, church and bike club leadership saw first-hand just how many children are without bikes. In talking with folks from other outreach ministries, they learned about the benefits bikes would be for some adults too. Augie Mueller, president of the bike club and a master at reconditioning bicycles, was excited to “get bikes under butts” and got others excited too. He put together a team to collect donated bikes and refurbish them to be given out during the first Bike Day during the summer of 2008.
Augie has since retired from his leadership position in the bike club and from The Bike Ministry. There’s still a dedicated group of volunteers who we call “Augie’s Angels” led by church member Dave Belknap, or as he is known on Tuesday nights, Bike Guy. Dave has succeeded in revitalizing the ministry as we emerged from the pandemic. We needed to restore our stock of repaired bikes because, while we were in times of quarantine, the cellar where they were housed was looted. We moved what few bikes were left to rooms in the church and started giving out repaired bikes through individual appointments, which we still do. Last spring, Dave coordinated his first Bike Day - we’ve had four so far.
Last fall, he brought back the repair part of the ministry. Most Tuesday nights he can be found in the bike repair shop, which once housed arts and crafts. Dave and a few other of Augie’s Angels open their shop to anyone who brings a bike in need. One such person, Tom, is a regular visitor. We at church have known Tom through our other outreach ministries and he was very excited to get some help with his bike. Tom makes most needed repairs himself but sometimes gets to a point that he can’t figure out how to finish a repair, so he asks the Bike Guy. Dave explains the mechanics and Tom moves forward. Dave and Tom have bonded through their shared interest in things mechanical and Tom seems to have found a comfort zone in the repair shop where he leaves his anxiety at the door and puts all his energy and focus into repairs. Dave explains, “Tom has an interest in mechanical things and seems to slow down to attend to a detail here and there. There’s something about using his mind and hands simultaneously, that helps him focus a bit more and learn.” Tom is very grateful because as he explains, “It helps me keep from smoking and drinking and bugging my neighbors. I need to have something to do with my hands – it’s a coping skill.”
And there’s Ali, who we were introduced to by the Rev. Joyce Allen, Pastor at Ogden-Hillcrest UMC. Their community of faith has been ministering to Ali, helping her better meet her adult responsibilities. Rev. Allen asked me over lunch one day if our program had any bikes with pedal brakes and she shared a little of how Ali’s struggles with Cerebral Palsy include weakening strength in her hands. Ali works in housekeeping at a local hospital while raising her eleven-month-old son as a single parent. When Augie’s Angels found out, they built a bicycle to meet her unique needs. She has now cut her commute to and from work in half, saving five hours each week in childcare costs. She can also run errands, grocery shop, and make it to appointments with less demand on her body. Rev. Allen expressed gratitude, “I love how the Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial UMC is there to help everyone, even other church's members, when they need it.”
Expressions of gratitude like these are only a small part of what fuels the Bike Ministry – the smiles we see on so many faces, the opportunities created for family togetherness, the helping hand to increased independence, and knowing we are loving our neighbors is what it’s all about. Bike Guy, sees the Bike Ministry as a “community that includes those who donate bikes and resources, Augie’s Angels, and those who receive the bikes, with the church at the center.”
It’s a good, good season
August 21, 2023 / By Daniel J. Bradley, Pastor at Faith Journey UMC
“Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him. Worship God if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness”.
Psalm 34:8-9 (The Message Translation)
There is much to be said for living in Central New York. It is the only place I am sure that we are guaranteed four seasons. As for right now, it is the middle of summer. Through the mass amounts of rain that we have had this summer—the sunshine and warmth have done wonders for my soul. It’s a good, good season.
The Christian and the Church go through seasons of change and upheaval. There is no escaping it. As long as we are sinful human beings, we will always be called closer to God for God’s intervention. I must admit that I was somewhat melancholic at the Upper New York Annual Conference session this past June. The disaffiliation votes felt like defeat. It was as if we lost something that wasn’t ours, to begin with.
The Church is God’s idea, not ours. We are God’s instruments that guide and lead the Church, but in the end, it’s all about people. As Christians and the Church, we make a lot of decisions based on fear. We look at a decline in membership, checkbooks that are shrinking, and theological infighting. We look at the worst of people and hold them in contempt as if we were judges, jury, and executioners. We go off in our own direction and ask God to bless our paths as if we have won the battle.
I am not interested in fighting a theological war of words and actions that cannot be underpinned with love.
I long for an end to the brokenness, strife, and pain. I long for a renewed sense of call and purpose to blow through the doors of the United Methodist Church. I long for people to come together as brothers and sisters in Jesus first before they identify as United Methodist or Global Methodist. I long for relationships to be mended and molded in the imago-dei that God might be glorified in action, word, and deed.
Whatever side of the great divide you fall on—know this: God loves you with all that God has and God will continue to pour out God’s grace like the rain this summer and the warmth of the sun. It’s a good, good, season.
This life—this time is not about our rights to justice. It’s about God calling us to be humble and holy. As God told Moses, “Take off your sandals for you are standing on holy ground.”
The great Hymn of the faith reminds us:
“The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. She is his consummation through water and the world. From heaven he came and sought to be his holy bride and for her love he bought and for that life, he died.”
It’s not about you, it’s not about me. It’s all about God and what God is doing in this thing called the CHURCH of Jesus Christ. Drop the rock, love those you despise, and offer grace when it is not offered to you. Show Jesus in all that you do and speak.
That’s the only thing that matters right now is humility and holiness and I pray that in this good, good, season we might see the glory of God and the resurrected Jesus.
Finding Your Space Women’s Retreat
Need a break and want to catch your breath? The Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) is here to help with a two-night virtual retreat Sept. 29-30 for any female lay or clergy person.
Join Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi as the keynote speaker and the Rev. Corey Turnpenny, along with Jenna Amberge, Nairobi Smith, and the Rev. Theresa Eggleston for an inspirational event via Zoom from 6:30-9 p.m.
The cost is $25 and a portion of the fee will help support Girls Inc., a not-for-profit organization that focuses "on the development of the whole girl." Click here to register. All registrants will receive a box of materials to enhance your retreat experience. The deadline is Sept. 22
You can earn 0.5 CPU credit for participating in both days. If you have any questions, email email@example.com.
Developing Developers brings people across The Connection to UNY
From Sunday, Aug. 13 to Tuesday, Aug. 15, an extraordinary event unfolded primarily at the United Methodist Center in Liverpool, NY. United Methodists of Upper New York had the distinct honor of hosting the 2023 Developing Developers event—an annual affair orchestrated by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church’s Path 1 team.
Path 1 is a team of leaders drawn from global, national, regional, and local levels of The United Methodist Church. Their mission is to train, equip, and deploy church leaders, both lay and clergy, who will equip people for disciple-making and start and sustain new and vital congregations and ministries in the United States and worldwide.
The Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, Upper New York Director of Missional Excellence, said, “This is an empowering event with the goal of resourcing each other and connecting with each other.”
The 2023 event began Sunday, as folks gathered for a Syracusan dinner at Dinosaur BBQ. This allowed folks from all over the United Methodist Connection to get to know each other. Conferences represented included North Georgia, Great Plains, North Texas, Texas, Desert Southwest, Western PA, and more.
Discipleship Ministries Executive Director, the Rev. Bener Agtarap, lead the event and representatives from different agencies and Conferences presented throughout the days—sharing success stories and effective church planting and church building strategies.
The repertoire of presentations spanned a diverse spectrum, encompassing everything from the intricacies of grant creation to the profound realm of spiritual well-being. Following each presentation, attendees were armed with thought-provoking discussion prompts, designed to spark conversations at their respective tables. These discussions were instrumental in fostering profound connections among attendees, setting the stage for an exchange of innovative ideas.
One particularly resonant practice, taught by Rev. Dr. Ron Bell, Director of Healing & Resilience—an organization dedicated to Christ-centered mental health—proved exceptionally powerful. Coined as "Sharing your P.I.E.S."—an acronym encapsulating Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual health—this practice encouraged attendees to delve beyond the surface and share vulnerabilities, which created a nurturing sense of comfort and camaraderie.
The event ended with Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, offering a brief message and communion. Bishop Héctor said, “We hope you leave with new possibilities that came out of your time together.” As he broke the bread for communion, he reminded attendees that “The love of God is as real as this bread.”
If you would like a quick review of the Path 1 resources currently available and those soon to emerge, click here for more information and ways to contact the Path 1 team.
Red Bird shoebox mission 2023
August 16, 2023 / By Dave Alexander
The Mission team at Endwell United Methodist Church is again coordinating the collection and delivery of shoeboxes for the Red Bird Mission, located in Beverly, Kentucky. The Red Bird Missionary Conference is one of three United Methodist missionary conferences in the United States. It is the most comprehensive mission effort of the United Methodist Church, providing outreach and services that minister to the whole person-spiritual, physical, social, and economic.
In December of 2022, four volunteers from Upper New York drove two 26-foot trucks to the mission in Kentucky. They transported over 2,800 shoeboxes, over 100 new sheet sets and bedspreads, as well as numerous books, school supplies, and cleaning supplies.
The need is even greater this year.
Our goal for 2023 is to transport at least 3,500 shoeboxes and other supplies to the Red Bird Mission the last week of November.
There are two different styles of shoeboxes-adult and children. Click here for lists of items needed in the adult and children's shoe boxes. Christian bookmarks, wristbands, and other spiritual items are also appreciated.
The Red Bird Mission would like the items placed in clear plastic shoebox-sized storage containers with locking lids. If you are unable to purchase plastic boxes, the same-size cardboard boxes will work. Please do not wrap the shoeboxes or cardboard boxes.
Also, it is helpful to the mission if you clearly label each shoebox, so they know who the intended recipient is for the items. Click here for labels that you can use.
The mission also needs new pillows, new sheet sets, and new blankets for full and twin-size beds, as well as new bath towels. Used sheets, blankets, and towels cannot be sent.
Books, school supplies, new backpacks, and cleaning supplies are needed, as well.
Monetary donations can be made payable to the Endwell United Methodist Church to help cover the cost of the truck rental, fuel, lodging, and meals for the volunteers who will deliver the shoeboxes and other donations to the Red Bird Mission in Kentucky the last week of November. All funds will be deposited into a dedicated account for this mission. A suggested donation is $1.50 per shoebox. Please do not put money inside the shoe boxes. Place the money in an envelope and attach it to the shoe box.
We are in the process of compiling a list of drop-off sites if you can’t bring items to either the Upper New York Conference Center in Liverpool, NY, or at Endwell United Methodist Church in Endwell, NY.
Please consider being a part of this vital mission. You can learn more about the mission by clicking here.
If you have questions or would like your church to be a drop-off location, please contact Dave Alexander by Sept. 8 at 607-743-8955 or Endwell United Methodist Church at 607-754-5735.
IRS Employee Retention Credit
If you haven’t already started the process of applying for an Employee Retention Credit (ERC), you need to do so now. You may have received telephone calls, letters, or emails from people/companies that are promising they can help you apply for these credits and you can receive “$28,000 per employee.”
While that could be true, the amount most churches would be entitled to is most likely much less because that amount is the maximum credit and assumes that every employee was making at least $10,000 per year during 2020 and $40,000 per year during 2021. In churches, that is usually just not the case. Many of these companies also charge a substantial amount of money to prepare the necessary paperwork for the claim.
Of course, it does take some work and multiple computations and spreadsheets, but the process isn’t horribly difficult. Essentially:
- quarterly payroll per employee has to be computed for the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2020 and the first and second quarters of 2021.
- Then the maximum “qualified wages” have to be computed per employee per quarter, and then the maximum credit applied per employee per quarter.
- Once those computations are done, then amended quarterly payroll forms have to be prepared, applying for the credit. These forms are filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), who has to approve the credit and provide the “refund.”
There are two “reasons” this credit is allowed. The employer church:
- was affected by government orders imposing capacity restrictions on services and other gatherings; or
- suffered significant declines in gross receipts.
While many employers have some familiarity with the ERC, confusion exists around the qualifications and application processes. Because our churches were closed or had to have reduced attendance, they can qualify for this credit even though many churches did not experience significant declines in gross receipts, thanks to the generosity of our people! Tax exempt organizations that experience fully or partially suspended operations due to orders from an appropriate governmental authority to limit commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19 can qualify as Eligible Employers for purposes of the ERC. The period that the employer pays qualified wages lasts as long as the government mandates are in effect.
The maximum credit allowed is essentially $5,000 per employee for 2020 (but would be limited to 50% of allowable income, which may be much less than $10,000 for the year).
The maximum credit is $7,000 per employee per quarter for the first and second quarters of 2021 (but would be limited to 70% of allowable income, which may be much less than $10,000 per quarter).
There are credits available for the third and fourth quarters of 2021, but there are additional requirements to qualify.
If you have any questions, contact the Rev. Susan Ranous, Certified Public Accountant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click the following links for additional informational resources:
YOUTH 2023—an incredible experience for Upper New York youth
August 14, 2023 / By UNY Communications
Editor’s Note: Many youth from Upper New York attended Youth 2023. Here are some commentaries from youth that attended.
Youth 2023 was an event held Tuesday, July 25 through Friday, July 28, by the sandy beaches of Daytona Beach, Florida. Discipleship Ministries sponsored the event, which occurs every four years. This year’s theme was an acronym, BOLD, Being Ourselves, Living Differently. Over the course of the four days, youth and leaders learned what it is like to be BOLD, whether that was from workshops, volunteering, or in worship. The event had over 2,500 people attending, and there were people from almost every state in attendance. There were also people in attendance from as far away as Mozambique and the Philippines!
There were many different workshops to choose from. Some of them gave a different perspective on how to worship God, or they talked of how we can get people to worship God with us, while others showed people how they don’t have to change their perspective to become closer to the Lord. But all of them involved being BOLD and growing in our lives and in our faith. Each morning and evening there was a worship service in the large room of the Ocean Center, where most of the event took place. The worship would begin with a band, called FRVR FREE, playing upbeat music. They would hype everyone up for worship as they poured out their love of God into their singing and instruments. They also performed at the end of worship, sending everyone out to their next activity. Either way, they brought a new level of energy and love into the arena. If the Big Room Worship was too loud or overwhelming, they also offered a quieter space called the Upper Room. Here participants could watch worship through a live feed on a TV screen.
There were many different speakers, all of them having experienced challenges that they overcame with God’s help. Whether that was falling into different stereotypes, surpassing an obstacle in their path, or even feeling separated from the Lord. Each of them was very powerful in their own right, and it was inspirational to hear all of their stories. Our own Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, was one of the first speakers. Bishop Héctor attended with his wife and daughter, who also enjoyed being part of the experience.
On the opening night, a band called Rend Collective played. They were very down to earth and in touch with themselves and God, plus they added their own Irish flare into their music. The crowd had so much fun dancing and singing along to some of the songs we had sung before, or even songs we had never heard.
My favorite part of this event was that on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, you had the option to go down to the beach and take communion as the sun rose. My friends and I went down every single day, because it was an amazing way to start the day, even if it meant we had to wake up a little early. I could really feel God in those moments, as I looked upon the rising sun and felt the waves splashing on my ankles. It is a memory I will cherish forever. Throughout the event, we were meeting people from everywhere, whether it was our neighbors from the Midwest, the people on the top floor of the hotel from Alaska, or the people in workshops we were interacting with. In all of these people there was a great kindness, and I am thankful for every person I had the pleasure of meeting.
Overall, Youth 2023 pulled everyone closer to God, whether it was the rekindling of a relationship, strengthening a firm bond, or anywhere in between. The power of God was all around, and it was an experience I know I will never forget. Youth 2027's location has yet to be determined, but I hope more youth from Upper New York will have the opportunity to attend this amazing event. Our Bishop Hector has challenged us to have 150 youth in attendance in 4 years!! - Kevin Clark, East Greenbush UMC
Youth 2023 was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait for what’s to come. Being able to feel connected to everyone else was an amazing feeling, because I knew we all had something in common; our love for God. Although the workshops and the music were amazing, the speakers will be my favorite thing about my experience. Being able to connect someone else’s journey with God is such an interesting thing, especially when it’s as simple as a Bible verse. The range of stories and different experiences that others have had that you can relate to as well, makes you feel like one. Which made connecting and feeling comfortable so much easier. Youth 2023 was so fun and upbeat, and I was able to immediately meet new people to hang out with over the course of three days. At first, I felt a little nervous to branch out and talk to others. But with BOLD being the main theme of Youth 2023, I gave it a shot. Everyone was so sweet, and I felt accepted instantly. Being able to have so much fun during worship is something everyone should be able to do, and I’m grateful to be one of them. - Valeria Burgos-Adorno
Are you bold? This was frequently asked at Youth 2023. Though a simple response could be said, being bold not only includes being yourself, but also insists that an individual loves themselves and loves others the way Jesus does. The sights and sounds of this event are truly unique as the event consisted of 2,500 Christian people all coming together for one common idea: Jesus. Between the loud sounds of worship every day, and seeing some new and old friends, Youth 2023 was an experience like no other that allowed me to attend thought-provoking workshops, feel the sand on my feet, and realize what power the youth of the church can bring. - Grace Stierheim, Williamsville UMC
IGNITE conference for youth and young adults
The IGNITE conference is just around the corner. IGNITE is an opportunity for youth and young adults to ignite hearts, spark connections, and fuel the passion for Christ among the next generation of leaders.
The event is from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at the Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, NJ.
Click here to register, view the schedule, learn about the artists and speakers, get lodging information, and more.
This event has the potential to ignite a fire within the hearts of the young people, setting them ablaze with love and passion for Christ and their communities. This event is hosted by United Methodists of Greater New Jersey.
Bishop Héctor and District Superintendents provide guidance for charge conferences
August 1, 2023 / By UNY Communications
Editor’s Note: On Monday, July 31, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez sent a letter to clergy across Upper New York (UNY) about charge conference details and deadlines. The same day, UNY District Superintendents(DSes) sent a note that reiterated the charge conference deadlines and explained why not every clergy will be selected for one-on-one conversations with their DS.
The letter from Bishop Héctor:
Dear Upper New York clergy,
Grace and peace from our Savior and Friend, Jesus Christ, be with you.
I hope you are enjoying the summer months! This time of the year provides us unique opportunities for rest and renewal, and to spend quality time with our loved ones before the busy fall and winter months.
As I shared with you on July 6, 2023, this year the clergy profile, supervisory, and advisory forms will be consolidated into one form to be filled out online by all clergy under appointment. Completing the streamlined clergy profile form will serve as the official supervisory engagement with your superintendent that is required by our polity. All clergy under episcopal appointment must complete the online clergy profile form by August 25, 2023.
I ask that you prayerfully and diligently complete the form in its entirety. The information you share with the Cabinet is not only used to assist superintendents in effectively fulfilling their supervisory responsibilities, but it is also crucial during appointment-making and to help us discern how to best support and resource you for impactful ministry.
You can complete your clergy profile, here.
Starting this year, as part of the clergy profile, the Appointive Cabinet is inviting clergy to frame and focus their development on the following four priorities and set clear and measurable goals around them to work throughout the 2023-24 appointment year. Setting these personal goals is for the willing and ready. Please note that these four areas will be part of your evaluation going forward (whether you set goals or not).
PRIORITY #1: Live Well – involves offering your day-to-day living as an expression of worship to God. Foundational to living well, is embracing Jesus’ promise of abundant life.
Physical/Intellectual Wellness: includes a healthy diet and eating habits, regular exercise, routine doctor checks, and the appropriate amount of rest and play. Intellectual wellness involves a life-learner mindset, a desire to grow and develop, and openness to different perspectives, feedback, and coaching.
Emotional & Relational Wellness: includes understanding oneself, healthy personal and professional boundaries, developing and maintaining meaningful relationships, developing the skills and tools to effectively handle life and ministry stresses, adapt to change and difficult times.
Spiritual Wellness: foundational to spiritual wellness is a personal growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, it involves experiencing and integrating meaning, purpose, and connectedness with God, self, and others. Key to spiritual wellness in the Wesleyan tradition are faithfully engaging the means of grace, including being part of an accountability group and holding personal piety and social holiness together.
PRIORITY #2: Lead Paid and Volunteer Leaders Strategically – includes working towards clarity and alignment with the vision and strategic priorities of the congregation and UNY and setting clear and measurable goals, coupled with equipping, resourcing, coaching, unleashing folks for vital ministry and healthy accountability; delegating and multiplying yourself; creating and managing effective systems and processes that provide for healthy ministry.
PRIORITY #3: Preach and Teach with Excellence – involves aiming to preach the best sermon you can every week, thus, setting appropriate time to prep a solid sermon and worship experience that inspires, encourages, equips, challenges, and moves people to action. Sermons and teaching experiences must be focused on addressing the needs of the people, not the institution, and providing a clear vision and path for fruitful discipleship.
PRIORITY #4: Care for your People - involves setting intentional systems, processes, and rhythms for effective congregational care so that members and participants feel loved, valued, and cared for. Wherever possible, the role of the clergy is to equip others to exercise their spiritual gifts so that impact is amplified within the faith community and beyond.
ONE-ON-ONE CONVERSATIONS WITH DS
As District Superintendents begin overseeing more churches and clergy, I have encouraged them to experiment with new ways and prioritize who they invite for a one-on-one supervisory conversations. Please note that this is a mandatory meeting for clergy that are invited by the DS. If they haven’t done so already, District Superintendents will communicate their 2023 one-on-one schedule in the coming days.
CHARGE CONFERENCE FORMS
All charge conference forms are now available on the UNY website. Pastors, as the administrative officers of the charge(s) you lead, it is your responsibility to ensure all forms are completed accurately by the appropriate parties and submitted to the district office by the set due dates.
You can find up-to-date information on Charge Conference forms, schedules, due dates, and procedures on the UNY website, here.
Do not hesitate to contact the Superintendency Assistant for your District if you have any question or need additional information about charge conference or accessing the clergy profile online interface.
As we begin this new season of ministry, may the peace of God guard your hearts, the grace of Christ strengthen your hope, and the Holy Spirit lead you as we continue living the gospel and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places.
Together in the journey,
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The letter from the District Superintendents:
Dear Upper New York Colleagues in Ministry,
As Bishop Héctor shared earlier this summer, the combined 2023 clergy profile, supervisory, and advisory forms are now available online for completion by all clergy under appointment. All information can be found by clicking here.
Completing this form will serve as the official supervisory engagement
with your superintendent required by our polity. All clergy under episcopal
appointment must complete the online clergy profile form by August 25, 2023.
As District Superintendents are now supervising an increased number of churches and clergy, not every clergy will be scheduled for a one-on-one supervisory conversation this year. District Superintendents will communicate directly with selected clergy to schedule the one-on-one.
Beginning this year, the congregational profile and appointment advisory forms will be consolidated into one form as well as the SPRC advisory form. They are to be filled out online.
All charge conference forms are also now available on the UNY website. Pastors, as the administrative officers of the charge, must ensure all forms are complete, accurate, and submitted to the district office by the set due dates.
Do not hesitate to contact the Superintendency Assistant for your district if you have any questions or need additional information about charge conference or accessing the clergy profile online interface.
Grace and Peace,
The District Superintendents
Updated Form I-9 effective August 1, 2023
July 28, 2023 / By Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist
On Aug. 1, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will publish a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (PDF, 899.28 KB).
Employers may continue to use the older Form I-9 (Rev. 10/21/19) through Oct. 31, 2023. After that date, employers will be subject to penalties if they use the older form. The new version will not be available for downloading until Aug. 1.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule that allows the agency to create a framework under which employers can implement alternative document examination procedures, such as remote document examination. The new form has a checkbox to indicate when an employee's Form I-9 documentation was examined using a DHS-authorized alternative procedure.
Only employers that use E-Verify who are in good standing may continue to conduct verifications electronically after Aug. 1, 2023. E-Verify employers performing remote verification must conduct a live video interview with the employee, retain copies of all documents presented in the I-9 verification process and create E-Verify cases for new employees.
Employers who were participating in E-Verify and created a case for employees whose documents were examined during COVID-19 flexibilities (March 20, 2020 to July 31, 2023), may choose to use the new alternative procedure starting on August 1, 2023 to satisfy the physical document examination requirement by Aug. 30, 2023. Employers who were not enrolled in E-Verify during the COVID-19 flexibilities must complete an in-person physical examination by Aug. 30, 2023.
Completing the New Form I-9
Completed at the time of hire, Section 1 of the new form collects identifying information about the employee and requires the employee to attest to whether they are a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national, lawful permanent resident or noncitizen authorized to work in the United States.
Completed within three days of the employee's hire, Section 2 of the new form collects information about the employee's identity and employment authorization. The employee must present original documentation proving the employee's identity and employment authorization, which the employer must review.
When new hires have preparers and/or translators assist them in completing Section 1, they should complete Supplement A.
Employers should fill out Supplement B when rehire occurs or reverification is required. This should be completed prior to the date that the worker's employment authorization expires. Supplement B also may be used to record a name change.
Employers do not need to complete a new Form I-9 for current employees who already have a properly completed Form I-9 on file.
Employers must maintain a person's Form I-9 for as long as the individual works for the employer and for the required retention period after the termination of an individual's employment (either three years after the date of hire or one year after the date employment ended, whichever is later).
Employers must make I-9 forms available for inspection upon request by officers of the DHS, the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. Department of Labor. Employers that don't complete and retain I-9 forms properly may face civil money penalties and, in some cases, criminal penalties.
The revised Form I-9 (edition date 08/01/23) will be published on uscis.gov on Aug. 1, 2023. Employers can use the current Form I-9 (edition date 10/21/19) through Oct. 31, 2023. Starting Nov. 1, 2023, all employers must use the new Form I-9.
If you have questions, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at (315) 898-2017 or email@example.com.
Operation: Home Repair, a success
Seventy-three-year-old Shirley Slater has spent over half her life in what was once a humble one-room schoolhouse, nestled in Schoharie County. Despite the house showing signs of wear, Shirley cherishes her home and diligently searches for grants to support its upkeep. After three persistent attempts, her optimism paid off when she recently secured a New York State grant for weatherization.
Last spring, during a fierce thunderstorm, one of Shirley's gutters was torn off her house. Realizing the need for new gutters, she wisely refrained from attempting the installation herself, remembering a past incident where she suffered a severe bruise from a ladder fall, leading to her doctor's orders of "No more ladders!"
Alongside her commitment to her home, Shirley also actively volunteers at the food pantry of Sharon Springs United Methodist Church, one of the 11 churches forming the Schoharie Mosaic United Methodist cooperative ministry (Mosaic). It was through her involvement here that she learned about Mosaic's Operation: Home Repair project. Without hesitation, Shirley decided to apply, and her application was one of the fortunate nine homeowners to be accepted for the project.
From July 24 to July 29, 2023, an incredible team of over 80 volunteers, including enthusiastic youth and a dedicated Girl Scouts troop, rallied together to repair these nine homes. The projects ranged from painting Shirley's porch and expertly installing new gutters to installing a brand-new roof on one of the homes.
At the remarkable age of eighty-three, Betty Gerhard was the recipient of the new roof. The news of Operation: Home Repair reached her through her thoughtful sister-in-law, who spotted an ad in the local newspaper and shared the information.
Betty's reaction to the unexpected roof repair was nothing short of astonishment. She vividly recalls the moment, saying, "I was so, so shocked when they decided to repair my roof! I said to myself, 'Sit down, Betty!'"
Among the various projects undertaken during the week, the roof project stood out as the most time-consuming and costly. A dedicated team of nine volunteers, including two Mosaic pastors, Pastor Maryellen Moore from Warnerville, Gallupville, and Middleburgh UMCs, and Pastor Russ Underwood of Richmondville and Worcester UMCs, worked on the roof in extreme heat with temperatures nearing 90 degrees. Their commitment to helping others extended beyond boundaries, as Jackie Potter, from Avon UMC, traveled over three hours to volunteer for Operation: Home Repair.
Betty's gratitude for the work being done on her roof was immeasurable. She couldn't help but express her admiration, saying, "They work all day long and have been so wonderful. I am so thankful that I decided to call the ad. Every morning, around 7 a.m., it sounds like little elves running around my roof, and I know they are already hard at work. Every day, I look at their progress in awe. I never expected so many volunteers to be up there—there are nine of them! I can't even stretch my driveway long enough to accommodate all their vehicles."
Fortunately, a considerate neighbor generously allowed the volunteers to use his driveway as well.
Now, with a completed roof, Betty looks up with a glimmer in her eyes and shares her newfound sense of security, saying, "I can now go to sleep when it's windy and stormy, and I won't have to worry about dripping."
Thirty-two-year-old Chloe Vanderpoel and her husband Alex were among the blessed homeowners who benefited immensely from Operation: Home Repair. Chloe, a passionate music teacher for the Cobleskill School District, took on the ambitious challenge of purchasing a dilapidated 200-year-old 2,200 square-feet house, on the verge of being demolished. Viewing it as a labor of love, she and her husband saw the hidden potential in the home, nestled on three acres of enchanting forest, concealed from the outside world.
Chloe couldn't help but express her excitement about the property, calling it nothing short of magical. Since their purchase in 2017, Chloe and her husband have poured their hearts into tirelessly restoring the home. With the invaluable assistance of her mother-in-law, they undertook a complete renovation of the kitchen, tackled wall repairs, flooring fixes, and engaged in extensive painting endeavors. The house, lacking proper insulation, left them shivering in the cold, with a pellet stove as their only source of heat.
The Rev. Anna Blinn Cole, who leads the Mosaic as well as Operation Home Repair, said, “She told me that glasses of water left on the counter actually freeze in the winter because it's so chilly in the house!”
Chloe learned about Operation: Home Repair through her friend, Cobleskill UMC’s office manager, Paige Bulmer. She decided to apply and see if she could get her basement insulated to help prevent cold air from rising into her home, especially during the wintertime.
“The basement project was the one giving my husband and me the most anxiety,” Chloe expressed.
During the application process, Corky Scranton, of Esperance-Sloansville UMC and Gus Mueller of Grosvenors-Corners UMC came to look over Chloe’s basement. It was in shambles with five old heating systems broken and laying around with debris all over the place.
Rev. Blinn Cole and her team decided to include Chole's house in their week of repairs if she was able to clean out the basement so that working conditions would be safe for the volunteers. Chole excitedly agreed.
Corky said, “Chole did an amazing job cleaning out the basement. Operation: Home Repair revved up her ambition and she went to work.”
Corky and Gus had to do a lot of prep work in Chole’s basement prior to the Project Home Repair designated week. They had to fill holes created by rodents. They even transformed a boarded-up doorway to the outdoors with a gorgeous new oak door.
Gus and Corky mentored two youth volunteers who helped them with the basement installation project at Chole’s house. A group of youth volunteers also painted Chole’s living room.
Chloe said, “The quality of life that we have here is going to increase astronomically!”
“The work that this team did is going to make it possible for Alex and me to have kids; we needed to have this home be safe and warm before we have kids. I am so thankful!”
Shirley, Betty, and Chole are just three of the people who are benefiting from the amazing project that Mosaic decided to launch this summer. They plan to do it every summer going forward.
Rev. Blinn Cole said, “We’ve never done this before…so we’re learning!”
She had very organized documents, illustrating the address and homeowner for each project, who the lead and volunteers were at each project, and the day(s) that the projects would be worked on. She would have to make quick adjustments based on the weather. She also had volunteers making and delivering lunches. She had a congregant with graphic design expertise design a logo and shirts for the project as well.
- They raised $2,500 by sponsoring an old-fashioned train for a ride down the Charlotte Valley Railroad. A series of local Christian bands played on the open-air gondola car and kept the participants entertained
- They raised $2,000 by holding a drive-through dinner.
- And the thrift store at Cobleskill UMC raised several thousand dollars.
Operation: Home Repair illustrates how the community can benefit from people coming together being the hands and feet of Jesus.
Next year, Rev. Blinn Cole is considering doing the project again. After assessing how this year's project went, the team will make a decision. If they decide to do it next year, they hope that volunteers across Upper New York come together to help repair homes in Schoharie County. For instance, Jackie Potter shows how traveling a distance is possible. Kids are out of school so it could be a project for youth to consider as well.
Operation: Home Repair is the perfect example of the power of collaborative ministry that Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez has established as one of his goals for the Conference during his tenure.
Service Information for Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
Editor's Note: The following email was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez on July 21, 2023. Since distribution of this email, we have learned the service will begin at 11 a.m. and will be livestreamed.
The following was sent on behalf of Bishop Devadhar's family on August 7, 2023:
My family and I offer our deepest thanks to you for your warm expressions of sympathy after the unexpected passing of Suda. The outpouring of love and appreciation of his ministry among you brought us comfort. We hope knowing how much each of you meant to him brings you peace as well. The people of Upper New York always held a special place in Suda’s heart. He appreciated all that he learned and experienced in ministry with you as a pastor and as a district superintendent and the support he received that led to his election to the episcopacy as well as the ways you nurtured us in our new life in the United States. You touched our lives in so many wonderful ways. As we journey through grief together, let us continue to hold one another in our prayers.
With much appreciation and love always,
In Christ’s love,
Prema Devadhar and The Hemmelgarn Family
“Well done, good and faithful servant…”
Dear siblings in Christ,
Please continue to surround the Devadhar family in your prayers. Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar died on July 18.
A Celebration of Life will be held on the morning of Thursday, July 27 at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, located at 1345 Grace Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45208.
Condolences can be sent to Bishop Devadhar's wife, Prema, at 7128 Thorndale Lane, Cincinnati, OH 45244.
Together in the journey,
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The United Methodist Church
Serving United Methodists of Upper New York
From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez - Notice of Passing - Bishop Devadhar
Editor's Note: The following email was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez on July 19, 2023.
The following was sent on behalf of Bishop Devadhar's family on August 7, 2023:
My family and I offer our deepest thanks to you for your warm expressions of sympathy after the unexpected passing of Suda. The outpouring of love and appreciation of his ministry among you brought us comfort. We hope knowing how much each of you meant to him brings you peace as well. The people of Upper New York always held a special place in Suda’s heart. He appreciated all that he learned and experienced in ministry with you as a pastor and as a district superintendent and the support he received that led to his election to the episcopacy as well as the ways you nurtured us in our new life in the United States. You touched our lives in so many wonderful ways. As we journey through grief together, let us continue to hold one another in our prayers.
With much appreciation and love always,
In Christ’s love,
Prema Devadhar and The Hemmelgarn Family
“Well done, good and faithful servant…” Matthew 25-21a
Dear siblings in Christ,
With a heavy heart and sadness, I share that retired Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar died yesterday, July 18, 2023.
Bishop Sudarshana, a son of the Upper New York area, served as Bishop from 2004-2022. Before serving in the episcopacy, Bishop Devadhar served for eight years as the district superintendent for the Ontario District of the North Central New York Annual Conference.
I will remember Bishop Devadhar for his deep spirituality, compassion, and heart for inclusion and ecumenical/interfaith collaboration.
Please, surround the Devadhar family in your prayers. You may send condolences to his wife, Prema Devadhar at 7128 Thorndale Lane, Cincinnati, OH 45244
I ask that you respect the family's privacy and refrain from calling Prema to allow them the space they need to grieve their devasting loss.
As soon as details about funeral arrangements become available, I will share them with you.
Together in the journey,
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The United Methodist Church
Serving United Methodists of Upper New York
Help for churches and communities experiencing natural disasters
As you may have seen in recent news broadcasts, severe flooding has impacted much of the Northeast, including the Long Lake area in the Adirondack District. Last December, a brutal winter blizzard devastated Buffalo and churches in the Niagara Frontier District.
United Methodists of Upper New York can help when your church or community is impacted by a natural disaster! There is a simple protocol to follow in these instances. Contact your Superintendency Administrative Assistant who will then contact Kristina Clark, the United Methodists of Upper New York Director of Missional Engagement. She can organize and send response teams to your community, deliver disaster relief kits, and may help you receive financial support through a United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) grant or Upper New York funds.
Kristina said, “It is important for churches to know they are not alone when tragedy hits their community. The Christmas Blizzard of 2022 showed just how strong United Methodists of Upper New York are in caring for one another. Churches across our region donated money towards recovery efforts and many teams deployed to assist survivors. But, the gifts of compassion can only happen when we know of the pains communities are facing. Whether big or small, please always report to your Superintendency Administrative Assistant how we can show up and care for you and your neighbors.”
From refugee to homeowner: The power of mission work
Editor's Note: Walt Mathias, member of Honeoye Falls UMC; Leon Perkins, member of Rush UMC; and Peter Baldwin and Jim Kanaleyof Iona UMC received a $2,500 Everyday Disaster grant from the United Methodists of Upper New York Missional Engagement Ministry Area for their carpentry work in the homes of refugees in the Rochester area. Ahmad Ibrahimi is one of the refugees they have helped. His story follows.
Imagine yourself being in a new country, new city, and far away from all your family and everything that was familiar. That is what 34-year-old Ahmad Ibrahimi, his wife, Shugufa; and their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Muskaan; had to face when they had to flee their home in Afghanistan.
In 2021, when President Biden decided to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, it cast a veil of uncertainty over the future for numerous local Afghans who had dedicated their efforts to supporting the United States and its allies. Among those affected was Ahmad, a former translator for the US Embassy in Afghanistan.
Ahmad said, “I never wanted to leave my home, my country, until the Taliban announced that they have forgiven everyone except interpreters. After that announcement, I called my pregnant wife and my daughter to come to our base and I had to leave my sick mom and my sister, who were living with me, alone. I was on the base for three months and was not allowed to go home for security reasons and I couldn't see my mom and my sister and get a goodbye hug, which still to this day, hurts me.”
Ahmad, his wife, and daughter sought asylum in the United States and were brought to Fort Dix in New Jersey in August of 2021. It was there that Ahmad and Shugufa found out they were having twins.
Ahmad said, “I walked in (the OBGYN exam room) and saw my wife cheering and crying; she and I were so shocked and happy when told we were having twins, a boy and a girl.”
In October 2021, Ahmad and his family resettled in Rochester, NY and were blessed with a rental property in the Maplewood neighborhood, which is home to refugees from Burma, Afghanistan, Nepal, Somalia, Ethiopia, Togo, South Sudan, and several other countries. Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services (RRRS) owns 80 other properties in Rochester and rents homes specifically to refugees.
Ahmad was so impressed with his new home. He said, “The house was so clean and beautiful. The kitchen looked brand-new with brand-new cabinetry!”
When houses are acquired by RRRS, they are in rough shape, but thanks to four United Methodists who volunteer for the agency, homes like Ahmad’s are expediently repaired and remodeled with a fresh coat of paint throughout.
Ahmad, who now works as a case manager for RRRS, said, “Before we came to Rochester, Walt, Leon, Pete, and Jim did some amazing work for my home. They do remarkable work all the time. They are great volunteers and make a huge difference. They completely remodel houses when they are acquired and whenever tenets move out, they need to do a complete rehab and multiple repairs. It’s tough work and they do a wonderful job.”
Ahmad and Shugufa’s daughter, Parisaan, and son, Subhaan were born Jan. 22, 2022.
Walt, Leon, Pete, and Jim have come to know Ahmad very well through coordinating work from RRRS. Pete said, “Ahmad is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. He is so grateful despite being uprooted like he was.”
Walt said, “I agree. Ahmad is so nice. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.”
Ahmad loves Rochester.
He said, “It was not our choice to come to Rochester; It was the (IOM) International Office for Migration’s decision. But from the first day we came to Rochester I started liking it, I like all the trees and greenery here. There is not too much traffic, I love the four seasons here, and the five lakes, and sweet waters. It’s so beautiful.”
Ahmad has just closed on a home of his own, also in the Maplewood neighborhood.
He said, “The home is ancient! It will need new carpeting and a lot of cleaning! And all the windows and doors are broken.”
Even though his new house will need a lot of work, Ahmad is ecstatic. He exclaimed, “I feel so great to have a home of my very own!”
Ahmed will look to Walt, Leon, Pete, and Jim for many carpentry tips.
Human Resources legal updates
July 7, 2023 / By Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist
Pregnant worker fairness
The federal government has passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), went into effect on June 27, 2023. This law requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to workers for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, absent an undue hardship to the employer. Although the language of the Act is similar to that of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), accommodations under the PWFA are available to pregnant workers regardless of whether they are disabled within the meaning of the ADA. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published guidance on the Act, and lists several possible reasonable accommodations, including: “ability to sit or drink water; receive closer parking; have flexible hours; receive appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel; receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest; take leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.” Starting on June 27, the EEOC began accepting charges filed by employees for violations of the PWFA. In addition, the EEOC has published a new “Know Your Rights” poster that encompasses the PWFA protections, and all covered employers must replace their current posters with the new one on or before June 27. The EEOC’s guidance on the PWFA can be found by clicking here.; and the new poster can be found here.
New York State has published a policy on lactation accommodations and requirements for workplaces, which became effective on June 7, 2023. Requirements under the policy and the revised law include providing a private area (which is not a bathroom), that has light, is close the employee’s work area, has accessible clean running water nearby, has a chair, an electrical outlet, and has a desk, table, counter, or other flat surface. An employer does not need to provide these requirements if it can show “undue hardship.” Employers must also distribute the NY policy to all employees on a yearly basis, at the employee’s time of hire, and as soon as an employee returns to work following the birth of a child. I recommend including the policy, in full, in the employee handbook. The policy can be found here.
The federal government has made some updates to its posters.
First, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) poster has been updated to include information about the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act). The PUMP Act expands the right to take unpaid breaks to express breast milk to exempt employees under the FLSA. Employers are required to give notice of employee rights under the PUMP Act, and this poster presumably fulfills those requirements. The Act went into effect on April 28, 2023.
Next, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) poster has been changed to reflect the importance of job restoration, rights, and responsibilities of employers, and the use of otherwise available paid leave. Employers are not required to use the latest version of this poster but are encouraged to do so. As a reminder, this only affects employers already covered by the FMLA.
From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez - 2023 Church Conference Season
July 6, 2023 / By Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
Editor's Note: The following letter was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on July 6, 2023
Dear United Methodists of Upper New York,
Grace and peace from our Savior and Friend, Jesus Christ, be with you.
I thank God for the warmer temperatures and longer days as we enter summer. I also thank congregations for hosting children and youth through their summer programs (VBS, Movie Nights, Splash Days, etc.) and for churches that sponsor young disciples to attend one of UNY’s Summer Camps.
During the summer, clergy, and church leaders also prepare for the fall months. The Annual Charge Conference is essential to administering congregational ministry in The United Methodist Church. This is when the leaders of local congregations gather with their District Superintendent or a presiding elder to organize the congregation’s life for the coming year.
As we proceed with the implementation of our new Superintendency coverage model, we aim to provide clergy and congregational leaders with a comprehensive timeline for the upcoming 2023 Church Conference season. This will enable you to proactively organize and execute Charge Conferences in a timely manner, ensuring that they are conducted with utmost excellence.
All information, forms, and other resources related to Charge Conferences will be available on the UNY website here.
Charge Conference Forms
All forms that churches must complete for their regular Charge Conference will be posted on the conference’s website by August 1, 2023.
The following forms are due to your District Superintendent by September 20, 2023:
The rest of the Charge Conference forms are due 15 days before the scheduled Charge Conference date.
Clergy Profile, Supervisory, and Advisory Forms
This year the clergy profile, supervisory, and advisory forms will be consolidated into one form to be filled out online. This form is due on August 25, 2023. Clergy will receive a separate email with instructions on accessing and filling out the form by August 1, 2023.
Congregational Profile and Appointment Advisory Forms
The congregational profile and appointment advisory forms will be consolidated into one form to be filled out online. This form is due on November 1, 2023. SPRC Chairs will receive a separate email with instructions on accessing and filling out the form by August 1, 2023.
Clergy One-on-One Meetings
This year, completing the clergy profile online will serve as the official supervisory engagement with the superintendent required by our polity. As District Superintendents oversee more churches and clergy, they will prioritize whom they invite for the one-on-one supervisory conversations. Please note that this is a mandatory meeting for invited clergy. District Superintendents will publish the one-on-one schedule by August 1, 2023.
This year local churches' Charge Conferences will happen in different formats (in-person, online, clusters) to meet the contextual needs of each district. Please note that all UNY churches, including the ones disaffiliating, need a Charge Conference to comply with UMC polity and NY state laws. A pastor may request their District Superintendent a church conference to increase members’ participation. The Charge Conference schedules for all districts will be posted by August 15, 2023.
Please do not hesitate to contact your District’s Superintendency Assistant if you have any questions or need more information. You can find their contact information here.
May the renewing Spirit of the Risen Christ continue to be at work in our lives and shared ministries as we seek to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and be God’s love for our neighbors – all for the glory of God.
Together in the journey,
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The United Methodist Church
Serving United Methodists of Upper New York
Rev. Dr. Giovanni Arroyo engages AC2023 in a conversation about intercultural discipleship
On June 3, at the 2023 Annual Conference for United Methodists of Upper New York, held at Onondaga Community College‘s SRC Arena in Syracuse, the Rev. Dr. Giovanni Arroyo, the General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), led a thought-provoking and engaging learning session on intercultural discipleship.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, explained the role of GCORR to the audience. He said, “GCORR is an agency with a mandate to help the church grow in its awareness and practice of racial justice and healing, diversity, cultural competence, and diversity.” The bishop further explained that Rev. Dr. Arroyo has had over 25 years of passionately engaging in this work.
Rev. Dr. Arroyo began his session by showing a slide of a painting of a Woman of Color, pressing her face against a fence. The impressive story behind the painting adds more beauty to it. The painting in fact was created by a group of graffiti artists in Los Angeles. A pastor of a local church wanted to have a conversation about refugees and invited these graffiti artists to participate in the conversation. From what they heard; the graffiti artists created a series called “Fearless.”
Rev. Arroyo recited a description the graffiti artists provided, “The refugees who are coming over are mostly families lost and traumatized. They need our help, not our fear.”
Rev. Dr. Arroyo expressed how the engaging session was going to focus on how attendees can help as opposed to operating in a fear-driven way—how they can become Intercultural Disciple Leaders.
He expressed the importance of communication. Throughout his time, Rev. Dr. Arroyo would have the audience turn to their neighbor and converse about a question he presented, such as “How does your church portray people from different lived experiences, different cultures, different social economic class, etc.?”
For these conversations among attendees, Rev. Dr. Arroyo introduced the concept of "FAMILIA," an acronym representing the principles that would guide their interactions. Each letter of FAMILIA embodied a core value: Fellowship, Acceptance, Motivation, Identity, Loyalty, Inclusivity, and Affirmation. These principles served as a framework for building a community that respects, listens, and celebrates the diversity of its members.
The notion of intercultural discipleship was highlighted as a way to bridge the gap between different cultures and lived experiences. Rev. Dr. Arroyo challenged attendees to examine their own biases and assumptions, urging them to actively seek understanding and empathy. By recognizing the limitations of their own perspectives, they could embrace the full mosaic of God's Imago Dei present within their congregation.
The presentation also emphasized the need for a shift in mindset from a difference-avoiding approach to a difference-seeking one. Attendees were encouraged to engage in self-reflection and develop self-awareness of their own cultural identities and biases. By acknowledging their social conditioning and upbringing, they could better understand how these factors influenced their interactions with others.
“Intercultural leaders, “Rev. Dr. Arroyo explained, “possess the ability to shift their cultural perspectives and bridge the gap between cultural commonalities and differences. They recognize that their own culture is not the sole reality and value the diversity of experiences and perspectives within their community. These leaders actively cultivate relationships across differences, promoting curiosity, respect, and critical analysis.”
To foster intercultural discipleship, Rev. Dr. Arroyo emphasized the importance of a three-pronged approach: mindset, skill set, and heart set. A difference-seeking mindset involves embracing diversity, acknowledging power differentials, and understanding intersecting oppressions. Attendees were encouraged to cultivate self-awareness, challenge their beliefs, and explore the values they inherited to foster a deeper understanding of their own cultural identities.
Rev. Dr. Arroyo's presentation concluded with a call to action for attendees to engage in mutual invitation and active listening. By creating spaces for authentic dialogue and sharing, they could promote a relational approach to disciple-making. The ultimate goal was to build bridges across cultural differences and embody the gospel message of inclusivity and love for all.
As the session ended, attendees were left with a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to embracing intercultural discipleship. Rev. Dr. Arroyo's message reminded them that their mission as United Methodists was to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This transformative work could only be achieved by developing intercultural competence and practicing cultural humility, allowing them to build relationships across diverse perspectives and experiences.
In a world where divisions and prejudices often prevail, Rev. Dr. Arroyo's presentation served as a powerful reminder of the importance of embracing and celebrating diversity within the faith community. By actively engaging in intercultural discipleship, attendees were challenged to live out their mission statement of The United Methodist Church and create a church that truly reflected the mosaic of God's creation. With a commitment to fostering understanding, empathy, and unity, they could work together to dismantle systems of oppression and bring about a more inclusive and loving world.
Oswego: Trinity UMC hosts youth cyclists traveling from Indiana to Maine
The Rev. Steven Eddy, pastor of Oswego: Trinity UMC, received an email earlier this year that was sent to a large group of pastors. It was from Norm Houze, founder, tour director, and on-road supervisor for deCycles, an ecumenical youth and young adult cycling ministry.
Rev. Eddy said, “Norm was seeking places for his cyclists to stay on their 1,500-mile bike trip this summer." I thought, "Our church is always wanting to do more outreach—this would be an excellent way to do it. I brought forth this idea to my church leaders, and they all agreed it would be a great idea.”
On June 28, 2023, a hot and humid afternoon, Rev. Eddy and Sheila Buske, Oswego: Trinity UMC SPRC Chair, stood on the ramp access to the church awaiting the group of youth cyclists (ages 13-16) and six adult cyclists. These cyclists have been traveling from Bloomington, Indiana and are on their way to Bar Harbor, Maine. Their previous stop was at Asbury First United Methodist Church in Rochester.
Nearly a dozen volunteers from Oswego: Trinity UMC were inside, preparing pitchers of water and arranging fruit and vegetable platters. Sheet pizzas were ordered to be delivered an hour after the anticipated arrival time of the cyclists.
The first group of four cyclists climbed up the hill toward the church just before 5 p.m. and eagerly rode up the ramp, sweaty, but smiling. They had just traveled 83 miles from Rochester. The trip was intended to be 71 miles but the bridge on Lake Road, just outside of Rochester, was closed, forcing them to backtrack against the wind, up a very long hill to travel along the bay.
Showing the map of their route on her cellphone, Lydia, a 16-year-old rider with large scabs and road rash on her knees said, “It was such a bummer when we arrived at the broken bridge. We had just had a fun ride down a steep hill with the wind at our backs and we had to turn around and go up the hill against the wind!”
Next to Lydia stood Leo, a 14-year-old with dirty-blond hair, wiping off beads of sweat from his forehead and sporting a beaming smile highlighted by shiny silver braces. He chimed in, "Since we left Indiana on June 16, this entire journey has been nothing but rolling hills."
14-year-old Californian, Griffin was standing with Lydia and Norm.
When questioned about their cycling background, Griffin and Lydia both admitted their lack of experience.
Griffin said, “Before doing 25-mile training rides for this trip, I maybe only ever rode 5 miles max.”
Leo rode from Key West to Bloomington last year.
Shortly before 5:30 p.m., the remaining riders made their arrival. Following closely behind, the supply trailer pulled up. Cricket (Norm’s wife and a chaperone cyclist) brought all the perishable food into the church.
The entire deCycles team enjoyed a meal and fellowship with church members and Pastor Eddy.
After dinner, the team went to a local sports club to shower. The adults and Lydia slept in the sanctuary. The rest of the riders, who were boys, slept downstairs. Rev. Eddy kindly washed their cycling clothes.
These cyclists ride 70-100+ miles a day, starting out at 7 a.m. and ending at about 5 p.m.
Norm said, “This ministry helps these kids out in so many ways. This is big league riding. For those who did the ride from Key West to Indiana and then the ride from Indiana to Maine can literally say they road from the Southern most part of the country to the Northern most part of the country. This can get them scholarships to college!”
He also discussed the positive impact that cycling has on the environment; he said, “These kids are learning that they can transport themselves without cars!”
Norm, a doctor, rides his bike to his office every day. “I am getting in my workout and reducing my carbon footprint.”
Oswego: Trinty UMC members were so impressed by these cyclists. Sheila said, “This is so exciting. These riders are so brave!”
Reflect upon this: despite confronting storms, broken bridges, and even enduring crashes, the riders persist on their journey. Their unwavering determination serves as a testament, inspiring us to have faith that anything is achievable.
Norm explained that these trips would not be possible without the churches that host them.
“The host churches keep this trip affordable so that we can welcome anyone,” he said.
By being the hands and feet of Jesus, members of churches like Asbury First UMC and Oswego: Trinity UMC help youth to have an experience of a lifetime.
Click here to learn more about deCycles.
Click here to follow their journey on Facebook.
From the Desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez - Affirmative Action
Editor's Note: The following email was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez on June 30, 2023.
“Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out.”
Isaiah 1:17a (MSG)
Dear siblings in Christ,
As United Methodists, we are called to work for peace and justice for God’s children.
The construct of race and the inequities and privileges born out of it harm people of color and make it extremely difficult for many to develop to their full God-given potential.
Racism is the sinful belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another. Racism directly opposes the truth that we are all perfectly and beautifully created in the image of our Creator. From this sinful construct, racist systems and structures have been built in our society over time to create unfair advantages for some people.
Affirmative action is a practice and policy that seeks to help balance opportunities for historically disadvantaged groups subjected to discrimination. The recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States does away with the practice and policies of affirmative action, which have allowed countless children of God historically labeled as “minorities” to have equitable access to education and job opportunities – including me.
As United Methodists, we assert that “given the tenacity of many forms of racism, sexism, and ableism – both blatant and subtle – the concept of affirmative action retains its relevance as part of an overall effort to create a more just and equitable social system” (BOR 3373).
United Methodists of Upper New York are committed to eradicating the sin of racism.
- Through our Imagine No Racism, we seek to increase the leadership capacity among our disciples and servant leaders to intercept and dismantle racist beliefs, systems, and policies in the church and society. You can learn how your congregation can participate in the INR here.
- Also, through Shared Ministries Giving, as United Methodists, we support many programs and scholarships that empower students, especially those from low-income families, and aim to eradicate the sin of racism.
- Locally, through the Buffalo 10 Scholarship, we assist deserving students to attend college.
- In addition, we are blessed by the witness and ministry of many United Methodist congregations in UNY that serve in rural, urban, and other disadvantaged settings.
The recent decision on affirmative action will make what is already a difficult task harder in our society. Yet, as followers of Christ and United Methodists, we remain committed to the principles of mercy, justice, and equity embodied by Jesus and will actively continue to advocate and work for a more just world - one person, one community at a time.
“God has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 (NIV)
May the prophet's words embolden us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and be God’s love to our neighbors in all places.
Together in the journey,
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The United Methodist Church
Serving United Methodist of Upper New York
Monitoring report at AC2023
At each Annual Conference in Upper New York, the speakers on the floor are asked to state their name, race/ethnic identification, gender identification, whether they are laity or clergy, what church they represent, and their district.
This information allows the Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) to report back to United Methodists of Upper New York as well as the General Conference, the dynamics of the speakers from the floor.
On Friday, June 2, at the Upper New York 2023 Annual Conference at Onondaga County Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse, Krystal Cole presented monitoring report pie charts illustrating:
- 59.6 percent of speakers on the floor were white
- 7 percent were Hispanic
- 5.3 percent were Black
- 28.1 percent were unidentified
- 26.3 percent of the speakers were laity
- 40.4 percent were clergy
- 33.3 percent were unidentified
- 40.4 percent of the speakers were female
- 28.1 percent were male
- 31.6 percent were unidentified
On Saturday morning, June 3, Georgia Whitney and Blenda Smith presented the monitoring results from Friday’s plenary. The results were as follows:
- 84.3 percent of the speakers were white
- 2.0 percent were Hispanic
- 5.9 percent were Black
- 5.9 percent were unidentified
- 39.2 percent of the speakers were laity
- 49.0 percent were clergy
- 11.8 percent were unidentified
- 54.9 percent of the speakers were female
- 35.3 percent were male
- 9.8 percent were unidentified
The results from the Saturday, June 3, morning plenary had the following results:
- 78.4 percent of speakers on the floor were white
- 10.8 percent were Hispanic
- 2.7 percent were Black
- 8.1 percent were unidentified
- 42.1 percent of the speakers were laity
- 50.0 percent were clergy
- 7.9 percent were unidentified
- 51.3 percent of the speakers were female
- 43.6 percent were male
- 5.1 percent were unidentified
While female voices are represented as much, if not more than male voices, there is still an overrepresentation of white speakers compared to People of Color. Each day, the clergy was represented a little more than the laity.
Expecting the unexpected guest
June 28, 2023 / By Daniel J. Bradley, Pastor at Faith Journey UMC
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so, we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that bit did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”—1 John 3:1-2
It goes without saying that Faith Journey United Methodist Church is an inclusive church. We have all kinds of people in the church, and they all make up a tapestry of faith in God. We may not always agree about everything, but the one constant that we hang our hats on is that Jesus is Lord. That is the common thread that pulls us together in the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. This is grace, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent Jesus into this world to redeem us from the law of sin and death.
Not too long ago, I was not an inclusive person. I understood scripture and theology to be exclusive as opposed to inclusive of all persons. I have never been so wrong. It took getting out of my comfort zone and hanging out with people that were different than me, and seeing God’s grace in and through them to realize my own fallacies. I am not a perfect person, nor have I arrived at a fully sanctified state. I am human, and I make many mistakes. I thank God that God gives me the grace to make amends with those I hurt and repair relationships. In some cases, throughout my life, making amends has not been possible on this side of heaven. For that, my heart is grieved, but I trust in God that in the twinkling of an eye and the blink of death turning into a new life, all will be set right.
I just finished reading an incredible book about life and faith. It is entitled, On Our Best Behavior: the Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to be Good. The book by Elise Loehnen, while written primarily for women, is very instructional for men. If you are a man reading this article, I encourage you to get a copy and read it for yourself and fully understand the culture of patriarchy and the damage it has done to women in this world. Loehnen writes of faith, “Faith revolves around an attachment that there is something bigger than my [our] existence.” For me, that is God and the reality that I am not in charge of this world. There is nothing that is in my control except for how I respond in the face of injustice, oppression, and chaos. This is the cry of the Christian faith. How we respond and how people see us tells a story about the God that we praise on Sunday morning.
The greatest sin committed by humanity is reveling in one’s vanity. This world is not about us or our needs. It is a love story of the God of the universe pouring out God’s blessings on an imperfect world. Thank God for grace and the depths of grace that are unknown. Thank God that God does not hold my sins against me. We must be a people of grace, compassion, and mercy—slow to anger and full of love. If we want the world to know what we know, then we must face the reality that we have an imperfect church run by imperfect people, all needing the grace of God.
At times I can be arrogant and self-centered. I can be the center of my own universe and think that the sun, moon, and stars revolve around me. I can judge people harshly—particularly other clergy and have the impotence to want to correct their perceived errors. This is not helpful or grace-filled behavior; it is a sin. The second I judge someone by my standards, that standard is applied to me. How can I judge someone’s behaviors harshly when I am committing the same perceived sins?
The multitude of errors and sins that I have committed leave me wondering if God can love me. The answer to that question is that God loves you and me no more or less than God does today. God gave this gift in Jesus that we might have the fullness of life and the faith to move mountains. Right now, I’ve got mountains to move and very little faith. What is the essence of faith? “Faith revolves around an attachment that there is something bigger than my [our] existence.” That is the key. All of the stuff that we think is important really isn’t; if we don’t grasp a larger view of the world and all of its splendor, then we will have missed the point of God drawing near when we were far away.
Each week we open the doors of the church to people from all walks of life. There is no litmus test to come to Faith Journey United Methodist Church. There is no magic handshake or creed that must be recited before entering the sanctuary. There is only a desire to meet God on God’s terms and not our own. This thing called faith needs to be exercised each time we greet one another in grace and thanksgiving, knowing that God is working things out.
Faith is touching God through our brokenness, pain, and sin, holding on to the hands of Jesus. It is my hope that as we greet people, we look not to the differences but to the grace and faith that binds us together.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” —1 John 3:2
District contact information beginning July 1
Beginning July 1, United Methodists of Upper New York will begin a new structure for District Superintendents and Administrative Assistants. Six District Superintendents (DS) will serve two districts and each will have a Superintendency Administrative Assistant (SAA). You can read about the structure previously announced here. Use the following information to contact your DS or SAA beginning July 1. Click here to print a copy.
Adirondack and Albany Districts
DS: Rev. Debbie Earthrowl
SAA: Carrie Boyer
Northern Flow and Mohawk Districts
DS: Rev. Mike Weeden
SAA: Tammy McAdam
Finger Lakes and Crossroads Districts
DS: Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood
SAA: Betsy O’Flynn
Binghamton and Oneonta Districts
DS: Rev. Bob Kolvik-Campbell
SAA: Rosemary Dilorio
Niagara Frontier and Cornerstone Districts
DS: Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer
SAA: Lyn Moon
Genesee Valley and Mountain View Districts
DS: Rev. Suzanne Block
SAA: Patti Gridley
P.O. Box 129, Tyrone, NY 14887
Until July 17:
Genesee Valley: (585) 340-9525
Mountain View: (607) 962-8047
The importance of Advance Specials
June 26, 2023 / By The Rev. Jeff Childs
Each year at the United Methodists of Upper New York Annual Conference we vote on a list of the Conference Advance Specials. What are they? There are three different types of Advance Specials in the Book of Discipline for the General Church, Annual Conferences, and Districts. Currently we do not have any District Advance Specials but hope to encourage and develop some this coming year; we have 21 Conference Advance Specials and hope to promote them here throughout the year, and there are 41 pages of General Church Advance Specials located on the GBGM website here: All Advance Projects - Global Ministries (umcmission.org)
The terminology comes from an earlier time when the then Methodist Church was advancing the mission for Christ. It seems that there were so many missions that a process was established for certain missions to be approved on the various levels of the church for church-wide support. Missions were required to get on the special lists to be able to ask local churches and individuals for financial support. I explain it to the ministries that it is like a fishing license. It does not guarantee you will catch fish, but you are not to fish without it. This year we will invite ministries to apply to be added to the conference list.
It is important for churches to understand that giving to missions or supporting missionaries are considered “second mile giving.” That is, first we take care of our primary giving to support the local church with our offerings to support the Annual Conference through our shared ministries giving. Secondly, it is important to know that though there is a list of 22 Conference Advance specials no individual or church is asked to give to all of them. But I would ask you today to go to the Conference website and under the “Missions” tab read over all of the ministries listed as the Advance Specials: Conference Advance Specials | The Upper NY Conference (unyumc.org). Pray for each one and see if you feel God guiding you to encourage your church or small group to find ways to support one or two of them this year.
Thank you for your support that allows us an opportunity to connect and work together to advance the mission of Christ.
From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez - Safe Haven Congregations
Editor's Note: The following email was sent on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez to United Methodists of Upper New York on June 26, 2023.
“By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Dear United Methodists of Upper New York,
I thank God for the joy and hope I experienced as United Methodists of Upper New York came together for our 14th Annual Conference session in Syracuse, NY, earlier this month. We are moving forward as United Methodists and continue living into God’s vision of being TOGETHER – living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places.
You can read more and watch videos of the annual conference session here.
As we lean into our future together, we are launching a new initiative that embodies the principle of radical hospitality that distinguish followers of Christ in the United Methodist tradition – Safe Haven Congregations.
Safe Haven Congregations are local churches in United Methodists of Upper New York equipped to offer radical hospitality to anyone whose church closes or has chosen to disaffiliate. Regardless of our theological leaning, as United Methodists, we are all encouraged to follow the example in Acts 2 of the community of Jesus’ followers caring for each other – a diverse community ready to receive unity as a gift from God.
I strongly encourage all UNY congregations committed to The United Methodist Church's long-term future and that embrace God’s vision for unity in our diversity to prayerfully consider becoming a Safe Haven Congregation as a public witness of our faith and vision for mission and ministry.
You can learn more and apply to be equipped as a Safe Haven congregation here.
If you are among those who have become displaced or churchless because of closing or disaffiliation, please know that we see you, love you, care about you, and are here for you.
In the weeks and months to come, we will share additional ways United Methodists disciples, leaders, and congregations can continue coming TOGETHER, to be The Connection at its best – for the glory of God.
Together in the journey,
Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
The United Methodist Church
Serving United Methodist of Upper New York
Six steps to building a successful Discipleship Pathway
At the 2023 Upper New York Annual Conference, attendees were inspired by the Rev. Trey Wince’s engaging learning session on “Building a Discipleship Pathway.”
Rev. Wince began his time with some humorous personal stories to connect with the audience. One story involved getting a shot at the doctor’s office, which happened to be located within a teaching hospital. His shot was administered in front of 30 students surrounding him. He knew the shot was to be in his buttock area, so he dropped his drawers. Incidentally, the shot was administered at his hipline meaning he only needed to fold his pants down an inch.
He skillfully used that awkward moment to explain how embarrassing it could be for someone to walk into a church and do something that is not customary for congregants in the Church to do because the expectations weren’t explained to them anywhere.
He pointed to the four “Ps” coined by Will Mancini as to why people show up to church: place, programs, personalities, and people.
Rev. Wince added another p, referencing Ecclesiastes 3:11, “(God) has set eternity in their heart.” People are looking to churches so that they understand God more and are able to sort out why God put them on this planet…to begin to understand their purpose.”
Rev. Wince said, “In intentional discipleship, people get to understand their purpose a little more clearly.”
He then provided the audience with a recipe for developing an effective discipleship pathway:
- Start with a clear definition of discipleship.
Rev. Wince described how this may seem obvious to pastors, but not to congregants. He gave an example of a church he worked with: “They said, ‘A disciple is someone who is committed to continually learning about Jesus. We do that by worship, service, reflection, and retreat.’ They were that clear. Common language. They even explained how they got it done.”
- Break down your definition.
“People engage in what they understand. We have to start with a definition…we have to be comfortable with that definition being packet-size even if it doesn’t reflect our entire doctoral thesis,” Rev. Wince said. He continued, “We are going to break down our definition and ask ourselves, ‘Are these the key categories that match a life of discipleship?’” If your answer is “no,” the definition will require tweaking.
- List your activities.
List everything your church does each year: missions, small groups, youth events, etc. List everything.
- Connect the dots by matching each priority with each activity.
Rev. Wince clarified that this means to take the words that you said a disciple is and connect them to the activities until all activities fall within one of your key categories of a disciple.
- Check for alignment.
“This can be the part that can sting,” Rev. Wince said, citing the possibility of one of your disciple categories only having one activity connected to it.
- Craft a clear and simple message.
Rev. Wince put this step simply, “Whoever tells the best story wins!”
Rev. Wince concluded by encouraging the audience to continually tell the story of their church repeatedly as they invite people in. He explained the importance of talking about the place they want to be even if they’re not quite there yet and to always point it out with pride when they see congregants fulfilling part of the church’s discipleship definition.
A good year for the Conference Commission on Religion and Race
June 19, 2023 / By Georgia Whitney, Co-Convener CCORR
The Conference Commission on Religion and Race is making good progress in its mission to challenge, lead, and equip The United Methodists of Upper New York to become interculturally competent, ensure institutional equity, and facilitate vital conversations. Here’s what we’ve been up to in the last year:
Imagine No Racism (INR)
At least five new groups experienced the INR 2.0 curriculum, and we have a total of 30 facilitators throughout our districts. We’ve continued to edit the curriculum for clarity, and recently revamped session 6 to make its practices more actionable.
This year, for the first time, churches submitted their INR charge conference reports online, and all twelve districts submitted reports on their antiracism work. This is a big improvement from last year, when only six districts responded.
This system has also greatly simplified our data collection process. Here are our overall results:
- We received 561 reports, which is a 68% response rate, and 14% higher than last year’s 54% rate.
- Of those responses, 305 churches, or 54.4%, say they are doing some form of antiracism work.
- In terms of resources that would be most helpful to a church in continuing or beginning anti-racism work, the most popular options are sermons, bible studies, and book/movie/video discussions.
Each church that submitted a report receives a customized thank you email from CCORR that also responds to their antiracism work. This has generated some very fruitful dialog as well as some excellent opportunities for the CCORR team to be of additional service.
We continue to offer training to pastors and laity who have not yet experienced INR 2.0, and are currently finalizing a plan for commissioned clergy to complete INR through the Board of Ordained Ministry.
CCORR’s Work in 2022
Last year, CCORR began to strengthen its efforts to resource the INR 2.0 curriculum and equip leaders at every level of the conference to fight racism. We started to focus in new directions, broadening our work in three specific areas.
First, we began to address the harms of racism experienced by all People of Color in the UNY Conference, building on our efforts to be a resource and ally to these groups. Thus far CCORR team members have:
- Regularly participated in Hispanic pastors' covenant group, and the African American/Black Leadership Caucus. One of our team members remains strongly connected to CONAM as well.
- Provided information on grant opportunities to about 25 conference churches that are comprised mainly of People of Color.
- Worked with the Rev. Mike Weeden to support the Conference's cross-cultural/cross racial appointment process.
- Developed and equipped an incident response team available to the cabinet and conference to address specific acts of racism occurring in our churches.
Secondly, we are slowly beginning to develop a multigenerational approach to antiracist work, ensuring that we hear all the voices of this Conference and actively seeking the input of Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z-ers. This effort includes:
- Talking to youth and young adults outside of CCORR who are committed to antiracism work. How are they already engaged, and what do they need from CCORR? What don't older folks get?
- Brainstorming on how we can make our messages bigger to support more people.
- Meeting with Camps and Retreats Ministry leaders for input to determine how we can best work together.
Third, we began work to increase the number of churches and people actively engaged in anti-racism work by:
- Providing coaching for churches/groups who want to move forward after completing INR. We’re now discussing process and timing.
- Encouraging/exhorting current facilitators to start their own groups.
We appreciate everyone’s support for this important ministry over the past 12 months. We’ll let you know about our goals for 2023-2024 in a subsequent article.
Clergy recognized, commissioned, and ordained at AC2023
June 19, 2023 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
A Service of Commissioning and Ordination was held Friday June 2 at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College, part of the 14th Annual Conference of the United Methodists of Upper New York. Five people were commissioned and 10 ordained, and the orders and full membership were recognized for four clergy members transferring to The United Methodist Church in the Upper New York Conference.
Presiding Bishop, Héctor Burgos Nuñéz was joined by Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi of the Western PA and Susquehanna Conferences.
“In these past days, we have come together in community; we have lamented, cried, laughed, prayed, and, yes, occasionally disagreed, and God has been present in all of this,” Bishop Burgos Nuñéz said to open his first ordination ceremony as an episcopal leader.
He began the service by calling those gathered to remember their baptisms, pouring water into a basin created from the broken glass brought to the altar in prayer by Conference members during opening worship.
These broken pieces “have become something new, life-giving, and holy,” the bishop said. “In years to come, at this baptismal font, Upper New York will welcome new disciples into the journey. Every time you see it, remember the day when God brought us back together.”
Conference Lay Leader Jessica White presented the ordinands on behalf of the laity, joined by the Revs. Rick LaDue and Carmen Perry, who presented on behalf of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Candidates for ministry complete a long process of discernment, education, mentoring, and examination before clergy of the conference vote to elect them provisional or full elders.
The Rev. Perry read the names of those to be ordained, commissioned, or recognized for set-apart ministry in Christ’s holy Church in Upper New York, and Bishops Burgos Nunez and Moore-Koikoi administered the vows of ordination.
Strength in Diversity
As part of the service, Bishop Moore-Koikoi delivered a sermon on “The Power of One,” inspired by John 17:17-24. She described oneness as different from sameness, with strength a product of diversity, not conformity. After naming Upper New York as one of her favorite vacation spots, biking around the Finger Lakes, and an upcoming lecture at the Chautauqua Institute, she called Upper New York to “be one with each other just as Jesus is one with God.”
“Our God wants to be one with us! With a ragtag, sinful, pitiful people like us,” she said. “Our God wants to be one with us. It blows my mind. The great I Am wants to be I Am with me.”
She spoke about her ethnic background including DNA from various African and European countries, acknowledging the violence that brought those strands together, violence “not sanctioned by God but redeemed by God” through a DNA in which the strands remain unique, diverse, and distinct yet one, making the body strong.
God is not glorified by a monolithic body, she said. Not by like-mindedness or a gathering of people from the same economic strata or privilege or single perspective or same definition of rightness.
“The scripture points to the fact that diversity in the body makes the body stronger. Our spiritual body needs some diversity in order for it to be healthy,” Bishop Moore-Koikoi said. “The power of our oneness the impact of our oneness is greater when there is diversity in the body.
“Beloved, the world is looking at us to see how we treat one another. They’re looking at us to see what our actions say about who God is.”
She closed her sermon with a call to action.
“That’s the God that we need to show the world.”
Coworkers with God
After the message, Bishop Burgos Nunez joined Bishop Moore-Koikoi to administer the ordination vows and offer the prayer for commissioning, the recognition of orders, and the examinations of deacons and elders.
“My siblings in Christ, you have been called to an ordained, commissioned, or recognized status in set apart ministry. The Church now confirms your calling. As commissioned or ordained ministers, you are to be coworkers with all the people of God: with laity, bishops, elders, deacons, local pastors, provisional members, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, home missioners, supply pastors, all who serve God in the Church,” said Bishop Burgos Nunez. “Remember you are called to serve rather than to be served, to proclaim the Church’s faith and no other, to look after the concerns of God above all.”
Those to be recognized, commissioned and ordained took turns with their family to receive the laying of hands by Bishop Burgos Nunez and receiving the authority to live their calling.
He closed the service by inviting forward anyone present feeling a call to ministry to be blessed and prayed for.
“Church, more than ever, the world needs to hear about the hope that you and I have found in Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Burgos Nunez. “More than ever the world needs to see the people of God extending their arms in service for those who are hurting. More than ever God is calling God’s people to raise our voices for those who have been deemed voiceless and to advocate for justice and reconciliation. This is not the work of a few—this is a work for the entire body.
“Rather than serving out of our deficiencies,” he continued, “out of our scarcity or our fear or our doubts, we can go out and serve out of our abundance of the presence and love of Christ.”
You can watch the service on our Vimeo page.
Provisional members commissioned for the work of an elder
Daniel Joseph Bradley
Cori Joan Louden
Michael George Whitcomb-Tavey
Full members ordained for the work of a deacon
Deborah M. Coatsworth
Patrick James Dupont
Theresa L. Eggleston
Full members ordained for the work of an elder
Andy McClaren Anderson
Casey Edward Bradley
Brett William Johnson
Jennifer K. Piatt
Olga Elsie Gonzalez Santiago
Alison Elaine Schmied
Jee Hae Song
Orders recognized in The United Methodist Church
Lal Fak Mawia
Jefferson Calvin Niles
Tanya Renate Spencer
Betsy O’Flynn named the 2023 Denman Award for Laity
We are pleased to announce that the Conference Leadership Team has selected Betsy O’Flynn, Genesee Valley District Administrative Assistant, as the recipient of this year’s Harry Denman Evangelism Award, an award that honors United Methodists who bring people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Betsy’s impact extends far beyond the confines of her title. She possesses a remarkable ability to connect with everyone who reaches out or visits the district office, effortlessly becoming a friend to all. Betsy's administrative skills are unparalleled, as she handles her responsibilities with superb efficiency. However, it is her supreme care for each individual and church that truly sets her apart. Betsy is a valued partner, a trusted colleague, and a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.
Leading by example, Betsy emanates a deep-rooted faith that she proudly shares with anyone she encounters. She willingly devotes long hours, offering compassion and lending a listening ear to those in need. Betsy's passion for her work drives her to go above and beyond, consistently displaying a remarkable willingness to assist others and embodying the essence of a true team player. Taking her role seriously, Betsy provides invaluable support to both clergy and laity, readily answering inquiries, offering resources, scheduling events, and offering a compassionate ear. Additionally, she serves our Board of Ordained Ministry, contributing to the success of our clergy candidates and providing course of-study information.
Betsy's leadership style is one of servant leadership, an approach she wholeheartedly embraces in every aspect of her life. Whether in the church, with her family, among her friends, and even with strangers, she tirelessly works behind the scenes to ensure that every moment becomes an opportunity to share the love of God through Jesus Christ. Her willingness to extend a helping hand knows no bounds, whether it requires personal visits, phone conversations, or any other necessary means to assist those in need.
In her personal life, Betsy finds joy in spending time with her family and indulging in her passion for quilting during her spare moments. She is happily married to Oscar, and their loving family includes two children, Riley and JR, a daughter-in-law named Catie, and their newest addition, grandson Maverick.
We consider it a true honor to present Betsy with this well-deserved award. Her unwavering commitment, compassionate spirit, and exemplary dedication embody the qualities we deeply appreciate, making her an invaluable asset to our team and a beacon of inspiration to all.
Learn more about past recipients by clicking here.
New Superintendency Administrative Assistant structure to begin July 1
June 14, 2023 / By UNY Communications
As previously announced, United Methodists of Upper New York will begin a new structure for District Superintendents and District Administrative Assistants (AAs) on July 1, 2023. Each of the six District Superintendents (DSes) will serve two Districts and each will have an Administrative Assistant. Additionally, all District AAs will transition to working remotely (within the next six months) and collaboratively with one another. The phone numbers and emails for the District offices will remain the same.
The six AAS and the Districts they are assigned to are as follows:
- Lyn Moon will serve the Niagara Frontier and Cornerstone Districts under the leadership of DS, the Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer.
- Patti Gridley will serve the Genesee Valley and Mountain View Districts under the leadership of DS, the Rev. Suzanne Block.
- Betsy O’Flynn will serve the Finger Lakes and Crossroads Districts under the leadership of DS, the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood.
- Rosemary Dilorio will serve the Binghamton and Oneonta Districts under the leadership of DS, the Rev. Bob Kolvik-Campbell.
- Tammy McAdam will serve the Northern Flow and Mohawk Districts under the leadership of DS, the Rev. Mike Weeden.
- Carrie Boyer will serve the Adirondack and Albany Districts under the leadership of DS, the Rev. Debbie Earthrowl.
We express our utmost gratitude to Anne Hutchins, Teresa Wood, Cindy Muder, and Charlie Camp for their remarkable 52 years of dedicated service as District AAs. As they embark on the next chapters of their lives, we extend our heartfelt wishes for an abundance of blessings to come their way.
Save the Date: August 17 United Methodist Friends Night at the Ballpark
June 13, 2023 / By UNY Communications
The year, Syracuse United Methodist Ministries (SUMM) will be sponsoring our 43rd annual United Methodist Family and Friends Night at the Ballpark scheduled for Thursday, August 17 at 6:35pm-Syracuse Mets vs. Columbus Clippers, Ohio. There will be no tailgate party this year. Like last year, we will have 200-level assigned seats (not 300-level benches). We will gather on the field at 6.15 pm to sing the National Anthem from Home Plate, and Bishop Héctor A Burgos Nùñez will throw out the First Pitch at about 6:20 p.m.
Game Ticket: $15
For more information or ticket reservation, please call or email the Rev. Andy M Anderson – at 917-723-0901 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Darlene Dennis – 315-345-6338 Email: email@example.com
Bellevue Heights UMC – 315-475-0011 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make Check Payable to: Bellevue Heights UMC with Game written in the memo line and mail to: Bellevue Heights UMC, 2112 S. Geddes Street, Syracuse, NY 13207
Please, do not miss this fun event. Order your tickets by July 27.
Click here for the order form.
Upcoming Safe Sanctuaries Trainings for the rest of 2023
June 12, 2023 / By UNY Communications
The Upper New York Conference is offering the upcoming Safe Sanctuaries® training opportunities. Registration for each event opens one month prior to the training date. If you have questions, email email@example.com.
Click here for a flyer with all details.
Proposed 2024 Budget Approved at Annual Conference
June 12, 2023 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
On June 2, the proposed 2024 Ministry Share Budget was presented to the 2023 Upper New York Annual Conference by Holly Roush, chair of the Upper New York Conference Council on Finance and Administration.
“Since we last met, CFA has continued to be very active. We have created the 2024 budget, formulated a plan to pay for the Child Victims Act settlements and legal fees, revised our 2022 spending plan, and worked to ensure support of the ministries of our conference,” Holly said.
She reported that revenue exceeded expenditures in 2022 and that 560 churches were able to pay their ministry shares in full. She also shared that the council uses the reduced spending plan proposed by the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration proposed to the 2020 General Conference to calculate the conference’s general apportionments owed.
The 2024 revised budget represents a reduction of $800,000 from the 2023 budget.
To create the budget, the council works with conference committee chairs to get the budget down to “real numbers,” Holly said, and find cost savings wherever possible while supporting vital ministries. The ministry share rate for local churches, she said, would remain similar to prior years.
The 2024 budget was supported as presented.
The budget can be found on pages 17-18 of the 2023 Pre-Conference Workbook and in updates to the workbook on our website.
The council also brought a recommendation, titled “Request to Allocate the Cost of the Child Victims Act Legal Fees and Settlement Costs,” which can also be found in the online workbook updates.
The proposal suggested the following means to pay the settle and legal fees: 24 percent from the General Fund, 17 percent from the Trustee Fun, and 59 percent from the Pension and Health Fund.
An amendment to exclude Camp & Retreat Ministries as funding sources was not supported.
After much debate, the Conference recessed for dinner, to continue discussion the next morning.
On Saturday June 3, a substitute recommendation tasking the Conference Leadership Team with further examination of possible funding sources was supported, the findings of which must be reported by the 2024 annual conference.
Board of Trustees Reports to Annual Conference
June 12, 2023 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
The Upper New York Conference Board of Trustees presented its 2023 report to the Annual Conference on Thursday June 1. The Rev. Pamela Klotzbach, president of the board, presented an overview of the board’s work, which includes the purchase, sale, and maintenance of Conference-owned properties, conference legal matters, the disaffiliation process, and managing and selling church buildings that have closed. The Trustees also manage the Conference’s master insurance program.
The board also brought resolutions for church closures and disaffiliations and an update on the lawsuits brought against the Conference under the Child Victims Act. You can read the full report on pages 69-70 of the 2023 Pre-Conference Handbook.
Treasurer Kathy King-Griswold offered the board’s unaudited 2022 financials, sharing the Conference’s assets, revenue, and expenses for that period. She shared that more than $740,000 from the sale of church properties has been transferred to the conference’s New Beginnings Fund, and income from disaffiliations was more than $159,000.
Kathy spoke about the market’s effect on investments and reported the continued abeyance of the Conference trustees guaranteed loan program until current balances are paid. Wespath is Upper New York’s investment manager.
“Throughout 2022, the trustees maintained oversight at any one time of nearly 74 properties within the Upper New York geographic area,” Kathy said. “While several properties were sold, many were held for sale, and others are held as long-term assets. The properties include churches, vacant lots, cemeteries, and parsonages.”
In 2022, 16 churches were sold for proceeds of $851,144. The board currently oversees 36 closed churches, including five with parsonages and seven legacy locations and is also tasked with the maintenance of five Camp & Retreat Centers,10 District parsonages, the episcopal residence, and the Conference Center.
The full report can be found in the 2023 Pre-Conference Workbook.
Pastor Jack Keating shared details about the board’s work with property and insurance.
“Your Annual Conference Board of Trustees maintains an insurance subcommittee whose task it is to oversee conference-wide insurance program underwritten by Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company,” he explained, noting that the local representatives are the American Church Group of New York, a relationship that began in January 2020.
In 2022, with the help of American Church Group, all of the Conference’s local and conference properties became properly insured at the correct replacement costs. The conference was also able to reduce its property and casualty loan and workers compensations rates.
Churches can visit the Upper New York website for resources on insurance, background checks, boiler inspections, a free water sensor program and more.
Since the previous Annual Conference, 10 United Methodist congregations in Upper New York made the decision to close their church buildings. The Rev. Mike Weeden on behalf of the Cabinet brought the recommendations on closure of churches, reading the name of each church and inviting to stand anyone in attendance with a connection to the named congregations.
“We offer God thanksgiving for the witness of these congregations,” he said. “They represent more than just four walls and structure; they represent lives changed and transformed and touched by the gospel.”
Closed churches include Albany Emmaus, Bolton Landing, Endicott First, Franklin, Hale Eddy, Lounsberry, Short Tract, South Dayton, South Ripley, and Sullivanville.
Upper New York Resident Bishop Hector Burgos Nunez took a moment to acknowledge the churches that were closing.
“We thank these faith communities for their faithful witness in ministry throughout the years. As we come into this season let’s recommit ourselves as a connectional body to remain engaged in our communities, remain engaged to loving and serving our neighbors, knowing that the Spirit of God is at work among us.”
The resolution to affirm the church closures was supported. These resolutions can be found on pages 26-30 in the 2023 Pre-Conference Workbook and in the updates to the workbook.
Disaffiliation is a process by which local congregations can leave The United Methodist Church to become independent entities or join a different denomination. The only means to disaffiliate is via ¶2553 in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.
Of the almost 800 churches in the Upper New York Conference, eight disaffiliated in 2022 and 18 at a March 2023 special session. An additional 35 brought disaffiliation resolutions to the 2023 regular session. Approval by the Annual Conference is required for disaffiliation.
The Rev. Klotzbach explained the process for exiting churches, and after a prayer from the bishop read the names of the churches seeking approval for disaffiliation.
The 35 disaffiliating United Methodist churches are as follows.
Frewsburg Wheeler Hill
Jamestown Kidder Memorial
Finger Lakes District
Genesee Valley District
Mountain View District
Niagara Frontier District
Grand Island Trinity
Medina Abundant Harvest
Northern Flow District
Once the transfer of property is complete, the Rev. Klotzbach explained, members of disaffiliating congregations are no longer United Methodists, they cannot serve on United Methodist boards, teams, or agencies nor hold other leadership positions in The United Methodist Church.
The next and last opportunity to submit requests for disaffiliation is October 14, 2023.
Child Victims Act
The Trustees report also included an update on the lawsuits brought against the conference under the Child Victims Act.
The New York State Child Victims Act was signed into law in August 2019 and opened a window for retroactive filing of civil cases by victims of childhood sexual abuse against entities and organizations like schools, churches, and annual conferences. The filing provisions expired in August 2021.
“The grand total of cases filed against the conference and its churches stands at 63 cases, 46 of which name the Conference and/or one of its churches as a defendant due to its association with a church-chartered Boy Scouts of America troops,” said Conference Chancellor Peter Abdella. “Since October, we have settled two more cases through careful and compassionate mediation and settlement conferences. This is good news. In total we have settled five of our Child Victim Act cases.
“Our legal approach whenever possible is to work toward a settlement with plaintiffs out of court rather than attempt to defend the conference before a judge and jury,” he continued. “Out of court settlements are typically more conciliatory, an approach we believe is more consistent with the mission of our conference.”
The 46 Boy Scout related cases fall under the jurisdiction of a federal bankruptcy court convened for the purpose of confirming the Boy Scout of America’s bankruptcy reorganization plan, including the resolution of all sexual abuse claims against the organization. In April 2023, the bankruptcy plan was approved by a U.S. District Court. As a part of the settlement each annual conference was asked to pay into a fund for survivors. Upper New York Conference’s share of the fund is $1.25 million, and the conference is expected to begin making payments at this time.
To date the conference has paid $2.6 million to Child Victim Act-related costs. This amount does not include the $1.25 million earmarked for the Boy Scout settlement, still to be paid.
“Our goal in every case will be to achieve a just resolution while remaining good stewards of all God has entrusted to us,” Peter said. “The only way we have been able to get through this is to lean on God and one another.”
The full Trustees report can be found on pages 69-70 of the 2023 Pre-Conference Handbook.
Laity celebrated at Annual Conference 2023
June 6, 2023 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
Lay members to the 14th gathering of the Upper New York Annual Conference attended the Conference laity session held June 1 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York.
Conference Lay Leader Jessica White welcomed laity to the gathering and named the session’s speakers.
The Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding then introduced Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, resident bishop of the Pittsburgh Episcopal Area and interim bishop of the Harrisburg Episcopal Area, who joined the session to preside over elections of Jurisdictional Conference delegates.
Upper New York Bishop Héctor Burgos Núñez greeted those gathered.
“Thank you for being here and for moving the church forward in creating disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Laity heard reports from Conference Lay Leader Jessica White, the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, United Women in Faith, United Methodist Men, and Lay Servant Ministries.
Darlene Dennis, lay leader of the Crossroads District, opened the session with prayer, thanking God for the opportunity to gather in one place and the opportunity enhance the strength of our conference.
Jurisdictional Conference elections
Because of the years-long delay of the United Methodist General Conference, the United Methodist Judicial Council recently ruled that annual conferences are permitted to hold elections to fill vacancies in the General Conference delegation due to death, resignations, or otherwise, up to the maximum number of allocated delegates, provided vacancies cannot be filled with reserve delegates. The Upper New York Conference had two laity vacancies to fill, which were voted on during the laity session.
The nominees for the two open positions were introduced by Carmen Vianese, head of the Upper New York Conference General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation and president of the conference’s United Women in Faith.
After the rules and process for voting were named and practiced, voting commenced via electronic devices. On the third ballot the laity elected Kenneth Guilfoyle and Emma Scavo.
Mission and fellowship
In between delegate ballots Krystal Cole shared about the work of Upper New York Commission on the Status and Role of Women. The group hosted a virtual women’s retreat in the fall of 2022 with plans to offer a “Catch Your Breath” again in September 29-30, 2023. Krystal also spoke about the group’s Facebook campaign uplifting lay and clergywomen in Upper New York and encouraged attendees to send them even more women to celebrate.
Carmen Vianese and Valerie Clark, member of the Board of Directors of United Women in Faith, celebrated the election of Sally Vonner as the organization’s new general secretary and invited everyone to Mission u August 17-19 at Fayetteville United Methodist Church in Fayetteville and shared a video about the transformative education event. Anyone interested can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Carmen and Valerie thanked members of United Women in Faith for their mission and justice work in their local communities.
For United Methodist Men, President Buddy Heit shared the organization’s focus on evangelism, mission, and service, with a focus on the Scripture verse James 1:22. In 2022, Upper New York UMM participated in prayer groups, retreats, the building of community “blessing boxes,” post-flood cleaning kits, “potato drop” hunger outreach, volunteering at Camp Casowasco, and buying and building wheelchair ramps.
Conference Lay Servant Director Linda Barczykowski spoke about the certified leadership opportunities open to the laity of the conference, including certified lay servant, certified lay speaker, and certified lay ministers.
“The ministry of the laity remains a vital part of the local churches,” she said. “Without laity, churches would not be able to function.”
Some of the Upper New York lay leadership opportunities can be found on the conference’s lay ministry site. Lay servant ministry as a deaconess or home missioner is also a path to ministry for laypeople in The United Methodist Church.
Carmen followed with an update on the upcoming United Methodist General Conference, happening April 23 to May 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The theme remains “And know that I am God,” from Psalm 46:10. She referred to a recent meeting of the Commission on the General Conference for further updates, which you can read about from United Methodist News. The next Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference will take place July 2024 in Pennsylvania.
Jessica asked for the board of laity to stand up and be recognized, and then invited the lay delegation to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences to come forward to be celebrated and prayed for.
Deaconess Sue Silhan offered the prayer, asking for God’s guidance that the laity of Upper New York may be disciples in the image of Jesus able to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Jessica closed the session by encouraging giving to Helping Hands scholarship, and prayed for blessings as the conference moved into plenary sessions.
Tara Barnes is director of denominational relations for United Women in Faith.
Petition and Resolutions results at the 2023 Upper New York Annual Conference
Discussions and voting for the petitions and resolutions brought to the 2023 Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference session took place on June 3, 2023.
The Conference petitions can be found on pages 31-53 of the 2023 Pre-Conference Workbook except for UNYAC2023.11, which can be found in the updates to the Journal addendum page on the Conference website.
Of the 11 petitions, only four were voted on because time expired before the Conference body could vote on subsequent petitions. The results of the four peitions that were voted on are as follows.
UNYAC2023.1 - Supporting the Removal of Discriminatory Policies, supported with amendment
This petition asked that the Upper New York Annual Conference: 1. Supports and amplifies the queer delegates’ call to justice and empowerment for the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the Upper New York Annual Conference, within and beyond our local churches, districts, departments, centers, and committees. 2. Affirms the spirit of the abeyance or moratorium as proposed to the General Conference, as referenced above, until changes can be made in The United Methodist Book of Discipline. 3. Implores the Upper New York Annual Conference to not pursue, to hold in abeyance, or to resolve in a timely fashion through a process of just resolution any complaints against clergy regarding their sexual orientation, gender identity, or the officiating of weddings of LGBTQIA+ persons. 4. Aspires to become a United Methodist Church in which LGBTQIA+ people will be protected, affirmed, and empowered throughout our life, mission, and ministry together.
UNYAC2023.2 - In Support of Creating a U.S. Regional Conference, supported with editorial amendment
This petition requested that the Upper New York Annual Conference (UNY) supports the expressed intents of the Christmas Covenant and Connectional Table legislation, including the creation of Regional Conferences in Africa, Europe, the Philippines, and the U.S., respectively; and that the UNY recognizes and supports the leadership of our Central Conferences in the creation and furtherance of the Christmas Covenant as well the Connectional Table’s future visioning on behalf of our worldwide fellowship; and for the UNY Conference to urge the Council of 9 Bishops to expedite the process of voting on the constitutional amendments necessary to enact the Regional Conferences legislation, calling special sessions of Annual Conferences where necessary; and that in line with the intent of the non-disciplinary petition submitted by the Connectional Table, the Upper New York Annual Conference requests the Council of Bishops to immediately appoint a 20-25 member Interim Committee on Organization for a U.S. Regional Conference to develop and propose to the 2024 General Conference the structure and organization of a U.S. Regional Conference. In line with the Connectional Table’s legislation, this body would organize and plan for the establishment and functioning of a new United States Regional Conference comprising the five jurisdictions of the United States. Committee membership should have a minimum of three members of each U.S. jurisdiction, three Central Conference members and shall meet standards of racial and gender diversity. The Committee should recommend a structure for the U.S. Regional Conference including considerations such as its membership, committee structure, meeting time, agency, and function. Lastly, this petition called for the UNY Secretary to send copies of this resolution to all delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences, including alternates, to the Commission on the General Conference, and to the Council of Bishops.
UNYAC2023.3 - Supporting the Removal of Discriminatory Language, supported with editorial amendment
This petition called for the Upper New York Annual Conference to support the removal of all discriminatory policies and harmful language related to sexual orientation, and urges delegates to adopt the following petitions: petitions already submitted and that will be before the voting body of the next General Conference:
● Petition No: 20730-CB-¶161-G;
Entitled: Revised Social Principles-161 and 162
Summary: Removes the statement that affirms marriage as only between “one man and one woman.” Removes the statement that only affirms “heterosexual” marriage. Removes, “The UMC does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”
● Petition No: 20177-FO-¶304.3
Entitled: A Simple Plan #3
Summary: Removes ¶304.3 which states, “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” Also removes the corresponding footnote stating that “self-avowed practicing homosexual is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, Board of Ordained Ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual; or is living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual.”
• Petition No: 20469-OM-¶341.6
Entitled: A Simple Plan #5
Summary: Removes ¶341.6, which states (under unauthorized conduct), “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”
● Petition No: 20181-FA-¶613-G
Entitled: A Fully Inclusive Way Forward-Part 6 of 8
Summary: Removes ¶613.19, which prohibits annual conferences from giving “United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality... “
● Petition No: 20190-FA-¶806-G
Entitled: A Fully Inclusive Way Forward-Part 7 of 8 23
Summary: Removes ¶806.9, which tasks GCFA with “ensuring that no board, agency, committee, commission, or council gives United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group ...”
● Petition No: 20304-HS-¶415.6-G
Entitled: Next Generation UMC #11—Amend Episcopal Responsibilities
Summary: Removes statements prohibiting bishops from commissioning, ordaining, or consecrating persons determined to be “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”
● Petition No: 20387-JA-¶2711.3-G
Entitled: Next Generation UMC #22—Penalties
Summary: Removes predetermined, mandatory minimum penalties for clergy who officiate same sex weddings.
● Petition Number: 20365-JA-¶2702.1-G
Entitled: Next Generation UMC #21 - Chargeable Offenses
Summary: Removes chargeable offenses that target “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” and clergy who conduct same-sex weddings.
● Petition No: 20420-OM-¶310.2d-G
Entitled: A Simple Plan #4
Summary: Removes statements from Footnote 3 that repeat phrases being removed from other paragraphs in the BOD.
Lastly, this petition called for the Upper New York Annual Conference Secretary to send copies of this resolution to all General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates and alternates, the Commission on General Conference, and the Council of Bishops.
UNYAC2023.4 - Encouraging Leadership with Integrity, unsupported
This petition called for the Upper New York Annual Conference (UNY) to expresses respect and gratitude to those who have voluntarily stepped away from positions of leadership as they journey away from membership in The United Methodist Church. As we continue through this period of transition, It requested that the UNY call upon every United Methodist, as a disciple of Jesus the Christ, to move forward in fairness and with integrity. It called for UNY to ask all lay and clergy members who intend to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church to recuse themselves from leadership roles in all areas of the church, including the local church, District, Conference, Jurisdictional, and General Church level committees, boards, agencies, delegations, and episcopal leaders. It encouraged the UNY Board of Trustees to develop codes of conduct to manage conflicts of interest that may arise around discussions of disaffiliation agreements.
Retirees honored and appointments named
June 6, 2023 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
Retiring clergy were recognized and appointments were named at the Service of Passage on the final day of the 2023 Upper New York Annual Conference.
The Rev. Mike Weeden, Dean of the Cabinet and District Superintendent of the Northern Flow District, opened the service by thanking retirees for their years of ministry.
“The world and the church have always needed faithful ones who answered the call. Thank you, retirees, for answering that call many ago.”
Conference Secretary the Rev. Carolyn Stow read names of clergy who have or are retiring in 2023, which you can read on our website.
“You did much that seemed beyond your power,” said Bishop Héctor Burgos Nuñéz. “We thank God for your calling and ministry.”
The bishop then passed a stole as a symbolic mantle to retiree the Rev. Sung Ho Lee, who then passed it to newly ordained elder Olga Elsie Gonzalez Santiago, who passed it to newly commissioned Ann-Marie Brown, who passed it to newly appointed local pastor Alisyn Clock. The bishop then passed the mantle to Conference Lay Leader Jessica White.
After singing “Spirit of the Living God,” the bishop recognized district superintendents the Revs. Nola Anderson, Ted Anderson, and Abel Roy, reading Ephesians 4:7-14 to acknowledge the end of their terms.
“Remember that we do not journey alone,” he said. “The one who has called us is on the journey with us. Go with grace, go with humility, go with boldness and courage to deliver the good news of Jesus, and go with the willingness to recover from mistakes, to persevere through hard times, and to see and celebrate the goodness of God in all people.”
District Superintendents read the new appointments for their districts. Both the new appointments and the full list of appointments can be found here.
Bishop Burgos Nuñéz prayed.
“As we send these leaders to be salt and light to the world, we pray that you pour out a fresh outpouring of your spirit on their lives so that they may lead with your love, they may care with your compassion, and they may reach with your generosity.”
The Leadership Report inspires collaboration at AC2023
The United Methodists of Upper New York (UNY) Leadership Report was presented during the afternoon plenary at the 2023 UNY Annual Conference. Jessica White, Conference Lay Leader, presented the laity portion and the Rev. Mike Weeden, Northern Flow District Superintendent and Dean of the Cabinet, presented the Superintendency portion.
Jessica White used the term claity to describe collaborative ministries between clergy and laity that work to discover, develop, and deploy Christ-following Transformational Leaders. She mentioned over a dozen ministries that illustrate the power of claity.
For example, she said, “Wesley’s Place collaborated with United Women of Faith and local churches to create 200 bags given out for Nurse’s Appreciation Week. That is claity!”
Asbury First recently served their first community breakfast since COVID. That is claity!”
Clara’s Closet supplies clothing and household goods to many refugees and people with financial struggles in Buffalo—that is claity!”
At Sarah Jane Johnson, everyone in the congregation committed to 1 hour of service in the community during Lent—that is claity!”
Jessica White expressed that there is so much claity happening every day throughout Upper New York through blessing boxes, disaster relief kits, youth groups, mission trips—"we see the partnership of lay and clergy bringing Christ’s vision into the world all throughout the Conference.” Jessica said.
Bishop Héctor loved the term, claity; he said, “We’re going to use the idea of claity while moving forward—this goes in line with my shift to collaboration I spoke about this morning!”
Rev. Weeden exclaimed “We are better together!” to introduce the superintendency portion of the report.
He recognized that even with the transition to six District Superintendents and six Administrative Assistants; we still have the opportunity to be better together.
He referenced Romans 8:38-39, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Rev. Weeden then shared five high-level reflections he has had:
High level reflections:
- “We need to focus on relationships more than programs. We are in an epidemic of loneliness. Imagine covenant groups, bands, small groups for those who are curious. Imagining communities not just sanctuaries and fellowship halls, but community centers, diners, and outdoor places…reaching new people to the hope of the gospel. Remember the value of our Connection---we are better together! I think when Paul is writing about the diversity of the church, he may be referring to a group of churches—collaborate with churches down the road, across town around the valley, etc.
- Expand our sense of grace and forgiveness. A lot of us are still tired from the aftermath of COVID. Get out of the hamster wheel and just accept others with grace. “Wouldn’t that widen our spiritual margins?” Rev. Weeden asked.
- Learn new technology so that we can work better together and be better connected with each other. “We know we can experience community online. We know that we can work together online…so let’s lean into this,” Rev. Weeden recommended.
- Embrace diversity. “There are followers of Jesus Christ who do not talk like me or look like me who have been under-resourced and sometimes marginalized…we can learn from them. We need to embrace and invest in these communities so that our community on earth looks like our community in heaven, “Rev. Weeded expressed.
- Trust in God. Continue to let the main thing be the main thing despite our disagreements.
Rev. Weeden concluded his report by thanking the Rev. Nola Anderson, the Rev. Abel Roy, and the Rev. Ted Anderson for their service as they complete the terms. He said, “Your diligence and spiritual depth will continue to touch us in the years to come.”
Bishop Héctor said, “I am highly encouraged that we will not only move forward but continue to explore new ways to work together.”
Board of Pension & Health Benefits report presented and two recommendations carried at AC2023
The Rev. Sara Baron presented the Board of Pension & Health Benefits report during the June 2 afternoon plenary at the Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference. She spoke of the increasing cost of healthcare. She said, “Moving into 2023, there was an increase in cost of 12 percent. That is a concerning amount, one that we did not think either churches or participants could absorb. The increased cost to churches was 3 percent, which is $400 over the course of the year. The increased cost to participants was 3 percent on average. The remaining 6 percent of increased costs were absorbed by the Board.”
Rev. Baron then announced that the Board has been informed that the increase in healthcare costs will be 14 percent for 2024. “The good news, Rev. Baron said, “is that the Board can absorb some of the cost again, 5 percent in this case.”
As for Retiree Health Reimbursement Accounts, there is no change and no proposed changes for the future.
Rev. Baron reviewed pension and protection for the UNY clergy, including Wespath’s Comprehensive Protection Plan (CPP), the United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP), and the Clergy Retirement Security Program (CRSP).
CPP offers death benefits, long-term disability income replacement, and other survivor benefits remain the same at 3 percent; UMPIP is available to clergy with 50-74 percent appointments, and that remained the same at 9 percent; and CRSP is available to clergy who have 75-100 percent appointments remained the same at 13.8 percent.
Rev. Baron mentioned that questions frequently arise about how pension impacts those who disaffiliate. She said, “Any active clergy who leaves The United Methodist Church will have their pension funds transferred from the current accounts into their UMPIP via actuarial calculations by Wespath.” She added, “An active or retired clergy person who leaves The United Methodist Church will not receive a retiree reimbursement account nor will they be eligible for retiree medical benefits.”
Rev. Baron then discussed legislation of a new plan, called Compass, that is being presented at the 2024 General Conference. She said if this legislation passes, it would eliminate CRSP and be replaced with Compass, which is entirely based on defined contributions. She reminded the Conference that this is just PROPOSED.
After presenting the Board of Pension & Health Benefits Report, Rev. Baron presented two recommendations that the Board had.
The first recommendation from the Board of Pension & Health Benefits is found in the 2023 Annual Conference Pre-Conferece Workbook on page 19.
This recommendation from this Board comes each year as required by the IRS and the General Church. It’s the Housing/Rental Allowance Resolution. This resolution allows retired and disabled clergy to claim their church pension, severance, or disability income as a housing exclusion.
This recommendation carried.
Rev. Baron then presented the second recommendation; she said, “Our second and final recommendation is for an increase to the Pre-82 Past Service Annuity Rate. We are recommending a 5% increase to the Past Service rate, which would move it from $658 to $691. The Past Service Rate can only go up, it can never go down, and it applies only to service to the church before 1982. This is also found on page 20 of the Pre-Conference Workbook.”
This recommendation carried.
The entire Board of Pensions and Health Benefits Report can be found on pages 65-68 of the Pre-Conference Workbook.
Board of Equitable Compensation recommendation carries after much debate
On Friday, June 2, in the afternoon plenary, the Rev. Rich Weihing Jr., and Teddi Urriola presented the Equitable Compensation Report. Teddy shared a story of a little boy named Ernesto. Ernesto struggled to see words on the blackboards. He saw a sea of green from trees and grass. When his family finally bought him glasses, he was amazed at how he could see. Teddy said, we all need Jesus glasses; “We all need Jesus glasses so we can see the way God see the social inequities of our clergy.”
Teddi and Rich placed big, silly plastic glasses on and also presented pairs of these glasses to Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez; Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi; Conference Secretary, Rev. Carolyn Stow; and Conference Lay Leader, Jessica White. Teddy and Rev. Weihing Jr. referred to these as Jesus glasses.
Teddi spoke of the Minimum Base Salary that our full-time clergy in full connection currently earn. She said, “Would it surprise you to know that the minimum compensation in Upper New York is the fourth-lowest in the country? Would it surprise you to know that we have elders in full connection who are making $19 an hour? Would it surprise you to know that we have licensed local pastors making just over $17 an hour—this is based on 40 hours a week.”
Teddi paused and added, “And how many clergy actually work only 40 hours a week?”
Many attendees laughed, knowing that clergy tend to work way more than 40 hours a week.
With these realities in mind, the Board of Equitable Compensation presented a recommendation to increase the minimum base compensation by 3.5 percent. You can see how the salaries would increase on page 22 in the Pre-Conference Workbook.
Many came to the floor, speaking against the recommendation, claiming that the raise is not enough, especially considering inflation. Some spoke for the recommendation, claiming that “something is better than nothing.”
In the end, this recommendation was approved, with an editorial change that this increase in compensation is not for the 2023-2024 appointment year, rather, it begins January 1, 2024.
Additionally, the Rev. Abigail Browka withdrew her petition (UNYAC2023.7 - Toward Equitable Compensation), which requested that beginning in the 2024-2025 appointment year, and for future years, the Minimum Compensation be established by the Upper New York Commission on Equitable Compensation by calculating the certain percentages of the most recently available Denominational Average Compensation (DAC).
Rev. Browka, Rev. Weihing Jr., and Teddi have been in conversation about equitable compensation over the past few months and will consider a recommendation for the 2024 Upper New York Annual Conference.
Marthalyn Sweet presented a motion for next year’s Equitable Compensation Report to include the percentage of clergy at Minimum Base Salary and a percentage breakdown based on race, gender, and age/ This motion passed.
The Clergy Housing Policy and the Accountable Reimbursement Plan did not change.
Loved ones remembered during Memorial Service
June 2, 2023 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
Clergy and clergy spouses who have died since May of 2022, were honored and celebrated during a service of remembrance Friday morning at the Upper New York Annual Conference.
“We take this special moment to give thanks to God for the lives of those who have come to be with the lord,” said Bishop Héctor Burgos Núñez to open the gathering. “We give thanks to God for their legacy of love and service and for a healing presence for their family and loved ones.”
Music was provided a band comprised of musicians from Greater New Jersey and Upper New York, and by the conference’s Korean Caucus.
The Rev. Nola Anderson offered the message.
“As we come together our hearts are heavy with the weight of grief but let us embrace the transformative power that lives in this moment,” she said, and asked in prayer for God’s eyes to be fixed on the gathering and for God to surround the family in God’s everlasting arms.
She shared the story of learning of her sister’s passing, that even 20 years later the grief is still present.
“It felt as if a light within me had extinguished,” she said. “Engulfed in a wave of numbness, hurt, heartbreak and anger. Losing a loved one brings forth a profound grief that knows no bounds.”
She offered up 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 as a source of hope, reminding the families and all of us that through Christ we have the assurance of eternal life.
She also gave the mourners permission to grieve.
“It is okay to say ‘terrible’ when someone asks you how you are doing.”
“Grief isn’t something to be swept under the rug or hurriedly swept aside,” she continued. “Grief is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith. It is a price we pay for love. To deny grief its due is to deny the love we had for the one we lost.”
The Rev. Anderson offered condolences to the families and loved ones of those honored in the service by quoting the “Hymn of Promise,” which attendees sang in response to her message.
The names of clergy spouses and clergy lost were read by district superintendents as those who knew the named stood up to honor and a bell was rung. Click here to find their names in the Memorial Booklet.
Conference Lay Leader Jessica White asked for the names of lay members to Conference who have passed away in the past year, and names were lifted.
“Thanks be to god for the love shown to the world through these saints,” Jessica said.
Bishop Burgos Núñez thanked God for faithfulness and service of those who passed.
“There are a lot of things we don’t know about in life. Things we’ll never be able to comprehend or explain. I hope that as we go about our lives and ministries that we go knowing that death is not the end of the story,” the bishop said in closing. “May we continue to live life abundantly and through our own lives live the legacy of those we are here honoring, knowing that healing will find us on the journey.”
Episcopal address speaks of needed shifts and unveils new Conference logo
Disorientation and uncertainty. “This is the context we are living in,” said Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez during his Episcopal Address on June 2 at the 2023 Upper New York Annual Conference.
“We will not wait for the disorientation and uncertainty to end to move forward,” Bishop Héctor said, “We are going to continue to move forward together and unapologetically share God’s hope with our communities.”
Bishop Héctor then exclaimed, “UNY we’re moving forward and we’re doing it together!!!!”
The crowd responded with near-deafening applause.
Bishop Héctor recognized that to move forward, we need to make some shifts.
Two shifts involve relationship-building:
- We need to shift from silos to connections. We need to get out of the church doors and into our communities.
- We need to shift from competition to collaboration. Bishop Héctor said,” We are going to explore collaborations across the Conference. Competition speaks about individual agendas—collaboration celebrates our shared mission.”
One of the shifts, Bishop Hector expressed had to do with a new way of looking at vitality; he said, “We are going to shift from a culture of growth to a culture of impact.”
He asked the audience to “Imagine what if it looked like if you measured church vitality not by the number of people in the pews or the amount of money in the offering plate, but by people who could tell stories about how their lives improved because of ministries at your church!”
The final shift that Bishop Héctor shared is the shift from institutions to people and with that he shared the new branding of the Conference’s logo; the logo is no longer the Upper New York Annual Conference; we will now refer to ourselves as The United Methodists of Upper New York.
“We want our Conference logo to showcase people.” Bishop Hector explained.
Together, the United Methodists of Upper New York are moving forward in fulfilling the vision of living the gospel and being God’s love to our neighbors in all places.
New Leaders Approved for 2024
June 2, 2023 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
The Upper New York Conference Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development report to the 2023 Annual Conference was presented by Ian Urriola, chair of the committee, who opened his report by singing the hymn “Are We Yet Alive.”
He reminded attendees of the Conference’s mission to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places.
“These leaders go above and beyond to make sure the work of our annual conference actually happens. From ensuring that our clergy retirees’ livelihoods are secure to enfleshing our goal to eradicate racism and white supremacy. From caring for our property to caring for our people. From advocating for the least of these at the societal level to aligning our budget with our values. From sharing the Gospel to sharing our story. All of that and more happens because of the people serving on our Conference teams, boards, and agencies.”
Ian presented names of those nominated to serve on Conference and District boards and committees, referring members to the addendum report found on the conference website.
Nominations were taken from the floor to fill vacant positions and accepted. The nomination report with additions were supported.
Because New York State law requires trustee nominations to be elected by paper ballot, Bishop Héctor Burgos Núñez oversaw the distribution and collection of ballots, the results of which be announced at a later plenary.
“One of the core lessons the past few years we need to take away from the past few years is how important it is for us to take care of one another,” Ian said. “That’s what it means to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places.”
2023 Conference Advance Specials celebrated and supported
June 2, 2023 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
The Rev. Jeff Childs, chair of the Conference Global Ministries Team, presented the 2024 Conference Advance Specials to the Upper New York Conference during the Thursday afternoon plenary. The projects and ministries are listed on page 24 of the 2023 Journal.
Twenty-three ministries were included on the list.
The Rev. Childs explained that the Global Ministries teams was reactivated in the past year, and that the team plans to raise awareness of the specials throughout the conference and develop a process to add additional Advance Specials.
He then encouraged conference attendees to visit the Advance Specials display tables in the SRC Arena to learn more.
The body approved the list of Advance Specials.
“I want to encourage all of us to prioritize these ministries,” said Upper New York Resident Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, encouraging members to visit the conference website to learn more. “As we lift up these ministries we are saying as Upper New York that these ministries are our priorities. Educate your churches on these causes and encourage people to give to them generously.”
To learn more and support the ministries, visit the Conference Advance Specials website.
Opening worship “together” at the 2023 Upper New York Annual Conference
The arena was filled with energy as United Methodists of Upper New York gathered for opening worship at the 14th session of Annual Conference. The theme of this year’s Annual Conference is Together. Together for the first time since 2019, due to the coronavirus.
This year, for the first time, the attendees sat at round tables instead of rows of chairs. The tables were adorned with black linen and had beautiful sea glass in blue, turquoise, mint green, and white sprinkled across the table. Each table also had a chalice of grape juice and a wrapped gluten-free crusty baguette.
Upper New York Area Conference Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, said, “When thinking and praying about a theme for our gathering, we wanted not only to highlight the fact that we were coming back together in person but also, given all that’s happening in the world and our denomination – we felt it was important to lift the value of our TOGETHERNESS IN Christ as the Church and United Methodists.”
In his opening prayer, Bishop Héctor expressed his heart’s yearnings, “for joy, for healing, for dance…It longs to share the stories of community- of building- of growth…that we may once again know the joy of (God’s)presence…the work of (God’s) hands, the unity of (God’s) Spirit, the strength of (God’s) Love.”
In the Call and Response, the Rev. Tanya Spencer expressed the good news that we are no longer isolated, that we drink of one Spirit, that God heals the illusion of separateness and makes us one and whole.
She called the room of clergy and laity to proclaim “Together” multiple times. They complied, enthusiastically.
In his Opening Worship message, entitled “Togetherness,” Bishop Héctor used the metaphor of a sports team to illustrate the importance or working together in unity and diversity.
He said, "The most popular sport in our household is soccer. All our children have played it. And our son Joel today plays it professionally in Belize.
As for most team sports, in soccer, two values are prioritized, celebrated, and lifted as essential for a team to be successful - UNITY and DIVERSITY."
Remembering a moment when Joel’s soccer coach was pumping up the team before a game, Bishop Héctor said, “Joel’s coach…told the players, ‘Kids, we will do well in the game if we play it TOGETHER. If we go out to the field as ONE and leverage the skills each of you brings to the game…there is no space for lone rangers or superstars in this team – we are one, each with a different role, but all important and playing for the same outcome.’”
Bishop Héctor asked the crowd to turn to the person next to them and say, “You are a member of God’s team!”
The scripture reading that corresponded with Bishop Héctor’s message was 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Corinth, where he uses the metaphor of the human body to describe the body of the Church, “if the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?” In other words, we all need each other together in unity and diversity to effectively build the kingdom of God.
Bishop Héctor elaborated on the importance of unity and diversity in fulfilling the mission of the Church.
He described some of the ways in which Upper New York is exemplifying unity—planting New Faith Communities; responding to natural disasters; locally and regionally; working to eradicate racism, sexism, and exclusion from the Church and society; empowering a new generation of spiritual leaders, and more.
“That’s what unity in Christ looks like. That’s you!” exclaimed Bishop Héctor.
He then described many examples of diversity in Upper New York. Small churches with less than 10 members and churches with 2,000 + members; urban, suburban, and rural towns and inner cities; conservatives, evangelicals, centrists, and progressives.
“That’s what diversity looks like in the body of Christ—Diversity is not a problem but a gift from God we need to celebrate,” Bishop Héctor said.
With passion, Bishop Hector cried, “God is calling us to be together and remain focused on what is most important: loving God and loving our neighbors – encouraging one another to thrive in life and ministry.”
The crowd roared in applause.
Bishop Héctor offered suggestions in how to go about being together in unity and diversity:
- Keep Christ at the center of our individual and communal expression of faith.
- “Stop questioning who belongs to the body or is more valuable—if someone is in Christ—they are part of the body, period!”
- Despite disagreement on some matters, we need to honor our diversity in all its forms and expressions as a gift from God.
- We must pursue the good of the entire body, not just our well-being, and God’s vision to bring hope and reconciliation to all people.
- We commit not to do harm. To do good—and grow TOGETHER in our inward and outward expressions of our love for God and one another.
Bishop Héctor recognized that following these suggestions is not easy. He asked the attendees to “Think about one way you can live and promote togetherness in Upper New York that lifts unity and diversity.”
The room grew very quiet as everyone reflected.
An offering was then taken for Mission Central HUB. At the writing of this article, close to $6,000 has been collected.
The Rev. Theresa Eggleston came to the lectern and brought forth the idea that we all have personal brokenness as well as brokenness in our community. We are broken just like the sea glass.
She asked everyone to pick up a piece of glass and silently pray and reflect on all that has been broken over the past few years. She then invited everyone to bring their piece of glass to the baptismal font at the front of the room.
Rev. Eggleston said, “As you come forward to the font, I invite you to bring your broken piece and offer it as a symbol of the hope and promise that is offered in this place; a symbol of possibility, a symbol of newness.
As we spend these next few days together, let us remember the God who brings new life from the ashes, who brings new life to the broken pieces, who transforms death into life, despair into hope, and isolation into community.”
Opening worship ended with each table offering communion to each other with the chalice of grape juice and baguette at their table.
Bishop Héctor’s message to UNY as we prepare for AC2023
In Upper New York (UNY) Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez’s, latest video message to the Upper New York Conference, he explained that with the 2023 Annual Conference (AC2023) quickly approaching (June 1-3 at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse), United Methodists of Upper New York alike are called to engage in prayerful reflection, review essential materials, and prepare to embody the love of Christ in their interactions.
This year’s Annual Conference is the first in-person Annual Conference since 2019. This is something to celebrate!
A time of learning
Acknowledging the importance of continual learning, Bishop Héctor expressed his excitement for the two learning sessions that will take place at AC2023.
Joining us as a special guest this year is the Rev. Trey Wince, CEO of Ministry Architects, who will lead the learning session on June 2 on the importance of having integrated discipleship pathways in our congregations.
On June 3, the Rev. Dr. Giovanni Aroyo, General Secretary for the General Commission on Religion and Race, will lead us in a conversation about the importance of integrating cultural competence into our ethos of discipleship as United Methodists.
Bishop Héctor expressed his joy to have Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, resident Bishop of the Western Pennsylvania and Susquehanna Conferences, as the speaker for the Ordination and Commissioning service on June 2. Bishop Moore-Koikoi will also lead the Clergy Session on June 1.
Bishop Héctor also was happy to share that UNY’s District Superintendent of the Crossroads and Finger Lake’s Districts, the Rev. Nola Anderson will bring the message during the Memorial Service on June 2.
Bishop Héctor expressed that the call to communal discernment is a significant aspect of the United Methodist tradition. This process, marked by grace and focused decision-making, ensures that the community remains aligned with its mission. By fostering an atmosphere of unity and love, we aim to discuss important issues without causing division or fracturing the body of Christ.
Preparation and participation
United Methodists of Upper New York are encouraged to prepare for AC2023 by reviewing the Pre-Conference Workbook and familiarizing themselves with the guidelines for holy conferencing. These resources provide the necessary tools for active engagement in discernment and deliberation. Updates and addendums to the Workbook can be found on the Conference website.
A call for prayer
Bishop Héctor requested everyone throughout UNY to, “Pray for our communal times of discernment to be grace-filled and our decision-making to be mission-focused and pray for our times of visioning to be spirit-led, hope-given, and unifying." He asked everyone to pray that the times of worship during AC2023 be inspirational and transformational and for the times of learning to be meaningful and filled with new insights and implementable ideas.
Bishop asked to pray for our times of celebration to be joy filled.
A day of fasting and surrender
In preparation for AC2023, Bishop Héctor has invited all United Methodists of Upper New Yorkto fast on May 30. This designated day allows individuals to surrender themselves fully to God, opening their hearts and minds to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
As United Methodists gather for AC2023, we do so with a spirit of unity, prayer, and anticipation. Together, we move forward with faith, trusting in God's plans for a future filled with hope.
Click here to watch Bishop Héctor’s pre-AC2023 message.
If you are not attending AC2023 in-person, you are invited to watch the livestream beginning on June 1 at 10:30 a.m. by clicking here.
Cady Grant Award recipients for 2023
May 23, 2023 / By Blenda Smith
Five Cady Grants have been awarded this year, totaling $20,000. Awardees have demonstrated creative ways to support, educate, and enhance the lives of African Americans and Native Americans and their unique cultural values.
- Music Educators Wind Ensemble is commissioning a Native American composer to write an original classical piece to honor and commemorate the International Wampum Exhibit at Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, NY (March-September 2023). This exhibit is displaying 300-year-old Native American artifacts originally given to France and now being loaned from Musee de Quai Branley in Paris. Educational aspects of the exhibit and composition will foster cultural appreciation for Native American and all students.
- Church in the Wild is a fairly new church start that is creating new experiences for worship at Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center. In addition, there is a significant focus on reaching out to various populations through mission projects commonly in black and brown communities. Service projects such as Buy Nothing Markets, Free Laundry Nights, and transportation to Sky Lake worship experiences for those who have no vehicles are some of the ways this ministry lives out social justice.
- Lincoln Memorial UMC is addressing the health needs of its church and community with a project through the month of August called “Let’s Get Healthy.” Dedicated to the promotion of healthy habits and lifestyles, this is an opportunity for individuals to prioritize their physical and mental health and make positive changes in their daily lives. Various activities and workshops are centered around healthy living with the goals of wellness awareness, encouraging individuals to take control of their health, and providing the necessary tools to do so.
- Brown Memorial UMC’s Lori Wyman has specific goals to work with the black and brown communities after seminary. This award will help her complete seminary work.
- Woodwind Ensemble & Daystar Contemporary Dance for Native Americans has been awarded a grant to support Native American youth to attend classical music and contemporary dance performances that reflect their cultural heritage. The mission of the Daystar Dance Company is to teach and encourage Native American youth (and adults) cultural values and the skills of the performing arts (dancing, singing, creative writing, performance, and storytelling).
The Rev. Dr. Giovanni Arroyo to lead a learning session at AC2023
May 22, 2023 / By UNY Communications
We are pleased to announce that the Rev. Dr. Giovanni Arroyo, the General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion & Race, will lead a learning session at the Upper New York 2023 Annual Conference being held on June 1-3 at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse.
Rev. Dr. Arroyo’s session will take place at 9 a.m. on June 3. He will lead us in a conversation about the importance of integrating cultural competence into our ethos of discipleship as United Methodists.
Rev. Dr. Arroyo’s current position
As General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race, Rev. Dr. Arroyo is the lead official of the denominational agency that cultivates racial inclusion and the full participation of all people into the work, witness, and life of the UMC. Rev. Dr. Arroyo is responsible for modeling behavior both corporate and personal that follows the scriptural mandate for unity among many: “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, though they are many members yet one body, we are all members of the one body, the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12).
Rev. Dr. Arroyo’s background
Rev. Dr. Arroyo, a native of Puerto Rico, migrated to New York City as a young boy. As he learned English in his new elementary school, his family nurtured him in the faith at Knickerbocker United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, NY It was there that Giovanni recognized and answered his call into ministry.
At the age of 10, in his family's home-based children's worship group, which served approximately 15 children four times weekly, Giovanni began his discernment process. Giovanni took on various roles in his local church and roles in both District and Conferences.
Professionally, Rev. Dr. Arroyo has worked in the research field with The City College of New York in language inquisition and experimental psychology, the New York State Psychiatric Institute in exposure to violence and child abuse studies, the National Development and Research Institute with young adult inject drug users, and as a grant evaluator for the Long Island Children’s Museum. He has also served as adjunct faculty in English as a Second Language and World Religions.
Rev. Dr. Arroyo began his ministry in 2001 as pastor in a shared facility ministry setting in Norwalk, Connecticut, in the New York Annual Conference. Upon his appointment, he says that his call was affirmed by baptism by fire experience. He served as one of the three chaplains at Bellevue Hospital in New York City during the 9/11 attack where 278 survivors were receiving medical care and the morgue of all those who lost their lives in the Twin Towers. If that was not enough, on Nov. 12, 2001, there was another tragic accident in New York City where an American Airlines flight going towards the Dominican Republic exploded 30 seconds from lifting off. New channels summoned him to assist as a chaplain during this tragedy because they felt they needed a person who understood how to care for the Latino community.
In 2004, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church began to recruit him to go on loan from New York Conference for six years to help in a Latino new church start. For eight years, Rev. Dr. Arroyo served Salem/Baltimore Hispanic Ministry in the Baltimore-Washington Conference as the pastor of two congregations housed in the same facility but offered in two different languages. He moved this congregation from a two-day a week church to seven-days a week church programs. Rev. Dr. Arroyo has served as interim pastor while serving at the General Church level within his Conference's bounds. He has also served in the Baltimore-Washington Conference in various leadership positions, including chair of Commission on Religion and Race, executive member of Hispanic/Latino Ministries, Annual Conference worship team, clergy recruitment, immigration ministry, Justice for Our Neighbor, and others. Currently, he chairs the Conference Hispanic/Latino ministries and is an advisor to the Racial Advocacy team, Call to Action Team, and Intercultural Competency team. He is an Elder of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference.
Rev. Dr. Arroyo in 2010 was invited to join the General Commission on Religion & Race where he is the Team Leader for Program Ministries who is responsible for overseeing all the programmatic initiatives and resources of the agency worldwide. He works in providing training, consultations, leading initiatives for The United Methodist Church in this portfolio. He has developed training and curriculum around intercultural competence, conversations on race, and institutional equity. He facilitates groups using different methodologies across the globe, such as Appreciate Inquiry, Open Space Technology, and Human-Centered Design. Through his portfolio, he relates to the ongoing development of GCORR work in the Central Conferences. He is also the agency grant administrator for the CORR Action Fund, where he has to administer approximately 80 projects in the last eight years. He serves in the United Methodist Immigration Task Force and Researchers group.
He holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from City College of New York; Master's of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary; Master's of Science in Management from the University of Maryland; Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health From The University of the Cumberlands; Doctor of Ministry on Transformational Leadership in the Wesleyan Perspective from Wesley Theological Seminary in partnership with Cambridge University: Methodist House of Studies in Cambridge, United Kingdom; and a Pastoral Care Skills certificate from Blanton-Peale Graduate Institute of Mental Health and Religion.
Inclusion isn’t a dirty word
May 22, 2023 / By Pastor Daniel J. Bradley, Faith Journey United Methodist Church
“When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas, son of James.
All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” Acts 1:13-14
Some of the wisest people in my life are women, beginning with my wife, Mary. Throughout our 21 years of marriage and ministry, her wisdom has guided us through tumultuous times, kept me from making a fool of myself, and helped me grow spiritually as a disciple of Jesus Christ. In the backdrop of what I do on Sunday morning—she is always there, prepping me and supporting me through her work at Faith Journey United Methodist Church. She is the genuine article; without her and her love for God, I could not do this ministry vocation. Thank You, Mary, for rescuing me when I was not walking with God and helping me rediscover my love for God and the Church of Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Dr. Chris Evans, a Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School professor, commented on one of my many classes with him, “If it were not for women, the Methodist movement would have been a great idea that went nowhere.” I believe that to be true because I have seen the power of God work through women to push, pull, and drag the church, kicking and screaming, into the glory of God. Through the countless number of women in the church, we have seen the power, strength, and veracity of what an agile and passionate spirit can bring to the table.
In 1761, John Wesley licensed Sara Crosby as a preacher. Former parts of the Methodist Movement would ordain women in the 1800s. It was, however, not until May 4, 1956, that the General Conference of the Methodist Church granted full clergy rights to women and full membership in the Annual Conference.
Some of the otherwise women in my life are my colleagues and spiritual director. They are also lay people in the church who help direct my staff. I might say that my spiritual upbringing in the United Methodist Church has been at the hand of wise and compassionate women who were in harmony with the Holy Spirit. I must also acknowledge that many male clergy colleagues have been equally important in my spiritual development. One of which I have on speed dial whenever the need arises.
When we think of Pentecost, we think of Peter and the disciples preaching in different languages as the Spirit gives the ability. We don’t stop to think about the certain women that Luke writes about and not Mary, the mother of Jesus. Theologians speculate that maybe Luke is referring to Mary Magdalene, Johanna, Salome, or Peter’s mother-in-law. What if Luke is trying to tell us that there were women that Jesus encountered in his ministry that had gathered there in that upper room in prayer as well?
Think about the women Jesus encountered over his three-year public ministry campaign…
- Mary whom anointed Jesus’ feet…
- Martha who served a banquet in Jesus’ honor…
- The woman caught in adultery…
- The Syrophoenician woman…
- The little girl whom Jesus raised from the dead…
- The Samaritan woman at the well…
- The woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed…
These are just a few that come to mind, but what if more were gathered there in prayer? What if the women outnumbered the male disciples? Would we think differently about the Church and the role of women in the church? Would we then look to ourselves and God and ask why our exclusionary practices have failed to include all who have come into a relationship with God?
Faith Journey United Methodist Church is a very different church in many ways. Its DNA is not just male and female but non-binary, gay, lesbian, and transgender. It is an amalgam of people made in the imago dei. The communion table at Faith Journey does not belong to the church. It is, as our communion liturgy reminds us, “Christ’s Holy Table.” All are welcome at the table. All have a place where their faith meets God in breaking bread and sharing the cup of salvation.
Inclusion isn’t a dirty word…It’s Jesus' word, “Come to me, ALL who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28.
I am seeking a new move of the Holy Spirit that includes everyone. I look forward to fellowshipping with old friends at Annual Conference in just a few days. I am looking to seeing Jesus in your eyes and embracing the gifts and graces you bring to the table! But, most of all, I can’t wait to share in Holy Communion.
It’s not about US or THEM. It’s about God doing what God does with imperfect people sanctified and marked Holy in Jesus. I am proud to be a United Methodist this time, and I hope and pray that our love for God and one another flows from, as my wife often prays, “from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes.” So let us love one another and indeed be the disciples of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Héctor meets with clergy discerning disaffiliation
On Thursday, May 11, 2023, via Zoom, Upper New York (UNY) Area Resident Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez met with over 50 clergy members seeking clarification about disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church (UMC). The purpose of the meeting was to provide information and support to clergy still discerning their next steps. The bishop emphasized that the meeting was not intended to be a theological debate and thanked the attendees for investing their time to converse with him.
After prayer, Bishop Héctor provided background information on the longstanding disagreement within the UMC regarding ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. He mentioned that in 2019, the Special Session of the General Conference approved the Traditional Plan, which led to the creation of legislation, including a protocol for separation. However, the agreement fell apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other missional factors, and a new denomination called the Global Methodist Church (GMC) was launched. The GMC and the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) are actively recruiting UMC congregations and clergy.
The current disaffiliation process for congregations involves a time of discernment guided by the cabinet, legal work with the Board of Trustees, and the ratification of the Annual Conference session.
Bishop Héctor acknowledged that some clergy and other interest groups are going around UNY congregations advocating for disaffiliation, many spreading misinformation, and half-truths, creating confusion and harm within communities. He urged clergy to rely on firsthand information and official United Methodist sources when wanting more information about our official beliefs rather than solely trusting the information provided by the WCA and GMC.
Bishop Héctor addressed two scenarios: clergy who had already decided to leave the UMC and clergy still discerning.
For those who had decided to leave and are serving a church that voted for disaffiliation, the bishop requested them to formalize their intent to leave by emailing his office at email@example.com. He also asked clergy not to encourage others to leave and to respect people's space to make their own decisions.
For clergy who were still discerning, Bishop Héctor advised them to refrain from advocating for disaffiliation within their congregations. Congregational and clergy discernment is separate and different. He emphasized that their responsibility as pastors is to serve all congregation members and avoid taking sides, as it could cause harm and disfranchise people.
Throughout the meeting, the clergy had the opportunity to ask Bishop Héctor questions they had. Click here to view some of the questions and answers.
The bishop expressed his hope for a United Methodist Church that welcomes all and allows them to grow and develop to their full God-given potential. He clarified that welcoming all included conservatives, centrists, and progressives. He also emphasized the value of diversity, theological reflection, and the need to honor different cultures and contexts to reach more people for Christ. Bishop Héctor acknowledged that divisions within the denomination were not necessarily about specific beliefs but differing visions of missional unity.
Bishop Héctor assured the clergy that they would be treated with respect and fairness regardless of their decision. He said, “I don't hold anything against those who are discerning to move outside of The United Methods Church, and my only request is that we commit not to harm each other and stay committed to doing good.” For those that ultimately decide to stay in The United Methodist Church, he assured, “There will always be a place for you in the Upper New York Conference – we will work together towards a vision of missional unity that honors diversity, does not expect uniformity, and acknowledge our differences, all for the love of God and the sake of the gospel.”
The Rev. Abigail Browka appointed as Director of New Faith Communities
“New Faith Communities are the best way to reach new people in new places,” said Upper New York (UNY) Director of Missional Excellence, the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens.
The Rev. Dave Masland created a vibrant New Faith Communities (NFC) ministry area in Upper New York (UNY) beginning soon after the formation of the UNY Conference. He partially retired in December of 2020 and has been working “more than ever before” with the UNY NFC team in a coaching capacity since.
Beginning July 1, 2023, Rev. Masland will officially retire, and a long-time member of the NFC team, creator and curator of Everyday Sanctuary app and podcast, and also pastor at Trinity UMC: Whitesboro, the Rev. Abigail Browka will begin her appointment as the UNY Director of New Faith Communities.
Rev. Masland has enjoyed the past couple of years being able to sit in worship with his wife, Leslie, at their new church home, St. Paul’s UMC in Elizabethtown, PA. Rev, Masland said, “It had been a long time since we have been able to do that when I was working full-time and meeting with church planters on weekends.” Rev. Masland and Leslie also started a small group that they enjoy leading at St. Paul’s UMC.
Rev. Masland is excited to take a sabbath this summer to enjoy fishing and spending time with his grandchildren.
Rev. Browka will continue pastoring at Trinity UMC part-time and is thrilled to become the new UNY NFC Director. In 2022, she completed a ministry audit, a purposeful pause, and pressed “play” on restarting refreshed ministry at Trinity UMC. She had equipped laity at Trinity to be able to lead services and become active leaders in the church and community.
Rev. Browka was mentored by Rev. Masland and took the Launchpad training course for people interested in planting New Faith Communities. This past year, she taught her first Launchpad course.
“I loved teaching Launchpad; helping people explore and visualize ways to create new places for new people was a great experience. I have helped many churches, groups, and individuals create strategies to intentionally plant their New Faith Communities. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to create New Faith Communities in Upper New York with innovation and intention, which is so important for the future of the Church,” said Rev. Browka.
She also has her own podcast and app that serves as an NFC, Everyday Sanctuary. You can check that out by clicking here.
“Rev. Browka will be a great Director of New Faith Communities. She’s actively leading her own New Faith Community. She’s a top-notch leader who brings a heart to listen, learn, and build on the amazing foundation that Dave has created for New Faith Communities in Upper New York,” Rev. Dr. Bouwens remarked.
Rev. Masland said, “I can sleep well at night knowing that Abigail is taking over. She is extremely creative, an excellent leader, and she understands the fact that trusting God is important in this ministry.”
Rev. Bouwens is enthusiastic about the team working for him in missional excellence with Kristina Clark as Director of Missional Engagement; the Rev,. Nancy Dibelius as Director of Spiritual Vitality; the Rev. Dr. Pam Harris as the Interim Executive Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries; and now Rev. Browka as Director of NFC.
Rev. Dr. Bouwens said, “This team will do an amazing job at shaping out the missional excellence goals for the Conference. I am excited to see how we’re able to invest in at-risk communities equitably. It’s important for us to continue investing in New Faith Communities in a way that reaches people that our existing churches aren’t yet reaching.”
Collections at the 2023 Upper New York Annual Conference
At this year’s Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference, held June 1-3, at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse, there will be three opportunities to give.
During Opening Worship on June 1 at 10:30 a.m., there will be a collection for the UNY Mission Central HUB. The HUB is located at the United Methodist Center in Liverpool. It is a place for local churches to actively engage in outreach and disaster response ministries. From training the Conference’s Volunteer in Mission and Disaster Response teams to collecting and assembling flood buckets, hygiene kits, menstrual hygiene kits, and more, the UNY Mission Central HUB is the perfect answer to local churches who feel called to expand their outreach ministries. The ministry of the HUB is supported solely by financial and product donations. Click here to learn more about the UNY Mission Central HUB.
For clergy, during Clergy Session on June 1 at 1:30 p.m., there will be a collection for the Clergy Care Fund. The Clergy Care Fund assists clergy who need financial support.
For laity, during Laity Session on June 1 at 1:30 p.m., there will be a collection for the Helping Hands Fund, which is used by the Cabinet to assist congregants in need of financial assistance.
Faith and my mental health journey
May 16, 2023 / By Rev. Tom LeBeau, pastor at Kidville Memorial and Mayville UMCs
I’ve written this in recognition of May, Mental Health Awareness Month. Someone I trust, my spiritual director, told me I have a sacred wound. He encouraged me to write about it. It is a major depressive disorder. Shame, pride and fear of being judged for lacking faith have stopped me from writing about it until now. Despite working in the mental health field for 15 years prior to becoming an ordained minister I have been reluctant to surrender, to accept that I have a mental illness. You see, mental illness stigma says that accepting my illness means I am crazy. Mental wellness says that I am to accept my diagnosis and access all the care I need and deserve. Stigma dies hard!
The stigma around mental illness set in during my childhood in the 1950s. As a kid, I imagined being “crazy” meant being locked in a room, restrained in a straitjacket, and given shots that made you like a zombie. Our dad’s sister had to live in such a place (though those methods were rarely used). She was developmentally disabled and may have also been schizophrenic. A conversation about her was always in hushed tones. Our paternal grandmother also suffered from mental illness. She’d been hospitalized numerous times for what they then called “nervous breakdowns.” Our mother carried an emotional trauma, too: she found my uncle’s body after his suicide. In all, there was plenty of emotional and mental pain in the family, including alcoholism on both sides of it. But the cultural norm was, “Hush! We don’t talk about those things.”
I broke the silence but still felt shame for needing to talk to a pastoral counselor. I felt that If I were “normal,” I wouldn’t need counseling. For years I didn’t see that stigma undermined my mental health and self-esteem. It delayed my reaching out for help during my last depressive episode.
At its onset, my wife expressed concern, “Tom, you’re just not yourself.” I minimized how I felt. Stigma was working through pride, the flip side of shame. I was a former psychiatric nurse and substance abuse counselor. “I know how to care for myself,” I thought. I didn’t.
There were contributing factors to the depression. In 2015, my son died of a drug-induced heart attack after a year and a half of being clean and sober. He showed remarkable spiritual growth. I was crushed when he died. I shared some of my pain with my wife, but I didn’t want to burden her. She’d lost him, too. Nor was I going to unload on parishioners. That would have been inappropriate. I went to Al-Anon meetings for support, but it wasn’t enough. A grief support group wasn’t readily available. I felt I had to be strong. After all, I was a man of faith. So, I kept most of the pain inside hoping it would eventually subside. At that time, I was also undergoing extensive dental and jawbone reconstruction. I minimized how unpleasant it felt because I knew the outcome would be a blessing. Still, it was repeated oral trauma for three years.
In May of 2016, I had my left knee replaced for a second time. I wore out the first artificial joint in nine years. I’d always been an active person, but now my physical activities were going to be very limited. I was thankful just to walk, but it was painful. So, I took up kayaking, which didn’t require much leg motion. I continued some modified strength training, too. But I had to give up race walking and skating. I loved them both. It was another loss.
In July 2016, I was appointed to a new parish after a good eight-year pastorate. Before long, I struggled with the new appointment, unable to spur growth in the church. I felt it was all up to me. I tried to put on a positive face. I prayed for guidance and strength and got a mentor, but my mood was sinking. I didn’t connect the dots, that the traumas and losses were adding up. I expected myself to tough it out. The subconscious message was, “Pastors can’t show they’re hurting.”
While kayaking one day, hoping that the exercise endorphins would help me feel better, I realized that I had lost enjoyment of pleasurable things. I knew this was anhedonia. Nearly everything had become an unpleasant chore, even eating. I knew this was anorexia. I lacked motivation and was increasingly lethargic. I started to avoid people. I felt an ache in the pit of my stomach, like a hole into which I was being sucked. All these were classic symptoms of depression.
In my kayak, I caught myself thinking, “I can make it (drowning myself) look like an accident.” I’d had a fleeting suicidal thought. Instead of having compassion for myself, I was disgusted by the thought. Self-loathing and thoughts of suicide are also symptoms of clinical depression. It probably didn’t help that I grew up in Catholicism when suicide was considered a mortal sin. I was sure God was mad as hell at me. My thinking was becoming distorted.
I reasoned, “God must be letting me experience a ‘dark night of the soul’ to teach me the importance of piety.” I redoubled my efforts at prayer and Bible reading. It didn’t help. God seemed completely absent. I couldn’t focus.
I have since learned that you don’t normally lose the ability to focus nor do you lose your sense of humor during a spiritual “dark night.” Both were gone. This wasn’t a “dark night.” It was clinical depression.
My wife pressed me to see a therapist. I finally agreed. He encouraged me to seek medication assistance, too. I’d been on an antidepressant for eight years, then was medication free for 10. I was desperate enough to try it again.
Unfortunately, the medication I restarted did not help. In fact, thoughts of suicide increased along with sudden severe anxiety and insomnia. Frightened and exhausted, I agreed to hospitalization. I felt I had failed. I thought, “Only crazy people need to be in a mental ward.” That ole’ stigma was still kicking and screaming! Truthfully, it would have been crazy not to go to the hospital. By then, I feared for my own safety.
On my hospital bed I grunted, “Dammit, God, I can’t even pray.” The very next thought that went through my head was, “You just did, colorfully too!” It was God’s still, small voice speaking to me with humor! I laughed and cried for the first time in weeks. God was there and wasn’t mad at me! I’d been angry at myself for being mentally “weak.”
The nurse manager on my unit shared that he’d been hospitalized for depression, too. He quipped, “We’re not immune just because we have training in mental health care. You’ll come out of this stronger.” I was offered shock therapy (ECT). I knew how effective it could be. I assisted with it as a nurse. It is gentle, unlike a popular misconception. There are no burns or scars, no violent jolts. The patient is unconscious.
I responded well to ECT and new medication and was released after 10 days of hospitalization. ECT sessions were tapered off over a few months in outpatient care. Since then, medication, a good therapist, and social support have helped me move forward.
I am truly blessed to have a loving wife who has seen me through my worst times. The expectations of being a pastor (or those I put on myself) can be isolating, despite being around people a lot. Being a pastor can be lonely at times, but I’ve learned that loneliness can also be self-inflicted.
As for my late son, I still wonder why he chose to relapse after doing so well in recovery. But I know he had an illness, too. I believe he is at peace in God’s loving care, God who loves him even more than I do. His sacred wound was chemical dependence, mine is depression. He helped many people in recovery during his times of sobriety. Surrender was his key to recovery. It is mine, too. Don’t suffer needlessly. Help is available through your Employee Assistance Program, your medical care provider or 988, the new mental health hotline.
I have a mental illness, a chemical brain disorder. It means I have to care for myself appropriately. But by God’s grace, it won’t define me. I am a bright, caring husband, father, grandfather, nurse, pastor, and novice spiritual director. Most of all, I am a beloved child of God.
Many of us have sacred wounds that force us to our knees, even when we think we cannot pray. Spiritual writer Father Henri Nouwen said these are the very things that can make us wounded healers. I hope my words help someone to heal. May you be well in body, mind, and spirit. You are a beloved child of God!
2023 Annual Conference to offer onsite registration with a late fee
Registration for the 2023 Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference, to be held June 1-3, at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse, closed on April 30. There is a lot of work that happens behind-the scenes among the UNY staff to make the registration process smooth and easy-to-understand. For those who registered (over 900 of you), we thank you!
Because the Book of Discipline ensures all voting members have the opportunity to vote, onsite registration will be provided. As in the past, a $50 late fee will be added to the $250 registration fee and the entire $300 fee must be paid in full at the time of registration onsite. Also, because the SRC Arena needed numbers in advance for meals, we can only guarantee meals for the first 50 people who register onsite.
Questions can be addressed by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York releases revised Sexual Harassment Prevention Model policy and training
May 15, 2023 / By Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist
The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL), in consultation with the New York State Division of Human Rights, recently released a revised sexual harassment model policy. At the same time, the DOL released a revised model sexual harassment prevention training, which includes changes similar to those made to the policy.
The Model Policy
The updated model policy follows NYSDOL’s quadrennial obligation to evaluate the impact of the state’s model sexual harassment policy. Under a law that went into effect on October 9, 2018, employers in New York State are required to either implement written sexual harassment policies that meet or exceed the minimum standards set forth in Section 201-g of the New York Labor Law OR adopt the model policy published by the NYSDOL.
There are substantial differences between the new model policy and the policy released in 2018.
- Emphasis on gender identity discrimination as a type of sexual harassment claim
- New sections on bystander intervention and the way sexual harassment can impact the remote workplace. The bystander section encourages witnesses to report observed harassment and reminds supervisors that they are required to do so.
- Includes that employees working remotely can be harassed over virtual platforms and messaging apps
- Addresses New York’s broader definition of harassment
- Includes more examples of retaliatory behavior
- Includes stronger emphasis on external remedies for employees
As a reminder, New York State Labor Law requires all employers to adopt a sexual harassment policy that includes a complaint form for employees to report alleged incidents of sexual harassment.
The release of the new model policy was accompanied by new training materials designed to meet the state’s annual training requirement. The training materials include a 54-minute video containing eight case studies with answers, as well as the slide deck and script from the video. DOL also provides a form for employees to answer the true/false questions in the case studies, which can be completed by attendees and submitted to the employer to meet the requirement that the training be interactive. The content of the training mirrors the new model policy and includes case studies addressing topics such as the State’s broadened definition of harassment, gender identity and remote work.
As a reminder, New York State Law requires that employers of one or more employees must conduct sexual harassment prevention training for all employees on an annual basis. The employer can decide the timing of the annual training (calendar year, anniversary date, or any other date) as long as it is completed annually. Employers are encouraged to track completion of training through attendance sheets, certificates of completion, or some other manner for audit purposes.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights has developed a free online training that will satisfy both the New York State and New York City anti-sexual harassment training requirements.
During the annual training, employers must also provide employees a notice that contains the employer’s sexual harassment policy.
Important: Safe Sanctuaries training does not exempt churches from the New York State sexual harassment prevention training requirements.
Churches should review and update their sexual harassment policies and ensure that they meet the minimum standards outlined in the updated model policy or adopt the model policy provided by the NYSDOL. NYS has not provided a specific date for employers to update their sexual harassment prevention policy but it is recommended it be updated within a reasonable amount of time.
Churches should conduct annual training for all employees using the updated training materials.
If you have questions on this topic, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at email@example.com or (315) 898-2017.
Rev. Trey Wince to lead Learning Session #1 at the UNY AC2023
The Rev. Trey Wince will lead the first learning session at the Upper New York Annual Conference, at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, June 2 at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena in Syracuse.
Rev. Wince serves as the CEO of Ministry Architects, a consultancy for churches, theological institutions, and nonprofits. He also serves as the Executive Vice President of Ministry Incubators, an innovation consultancy start-up dedicated to helping missional innovators.
Rev. Wince will be zeroing in on the process of creating a discipleship pathway.
Discipleship in this era requires more clarity, vulnerability, and storytelling than we might be used to. There are many ways to go about discipleship, so while we never want to dictate a particular church's discipleship process, we do want to ensure that everyone has done the deep work it takes to answer the question: what is our discipleship pathway?
“Because we’re talking about nurturing people’s faith journeys, it’s perfectly normal to want to avoid being too specific or narrow about how discipleship is done. However, there’s healthy reflection and clarity that comes from asking questions about your church’s values, steps, and even expected results in a life of discipleship,” Rev. Wince explained.
Rev. Wince has served as a Preaching Pastor, Lead Pastor, College Director (serving students at Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Lipscomb Universities), Director of Young Adult Ministries, and international missions coordinator with Joshua Expeditions. He and his wife Debbie live in Oklahoma City, OK, as the delighted parents of Liam and Jack.
Upper New York Conference welcomes Colleen Boyea
In late January, Judy Campany left her role with Upper New York as Administrative Assistant for Connectional Ministries and Vital Congregations. Shortly after a search was engaged, applications gathered, and interviews shared. On May 1, Colleen Boyea joined the staff as Administrative Assistant for Missional Excellence. She will support the Director of Missional Excellence, the Director of Missional Engagement, Director of Spiritual Vitality, and the Director of New Faith Communities. Also included will be support of Conference teams in the Missional Excellence area.
The Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, Director of Missional Excellence shared, “Colleen will be a great addition to the team. She brings with her experience from a wide range of companies and a willingness to learn what is needed to live the mission of the Upper New York Conference.”
Colleen lives in Central New York, and outside of work she enjoys her family, pets, reading, and crocheting. Do not be surprised in the summer months to see her riding around in her 1965 Ford Mustang with her trusty sidekick, mini-doxi Finnegan.
When you have an opportunity, please welcome Colleen to the Upper New York team.
Bishop Moore-Koikoi to be the 2023 Commissioning and Ordination speaker at Annual Conference
At this year’s Annual Conference at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena, the Commissioning and Ordination Service will be held on Friday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m. This will be one of the largest groups of individuals to be commissioned or ordained since the formation of the Upper New York (UNY) Conference.
We are pleased to announce that the speaker for the Service of Commissioning and Ordination is Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi.
Bishop Moore-Koikoi is the bishop of the Western Pennsylvania Conference and the Susquehanna Conference. Prior to her role as bishop, Moore-Koikoi served as superintendent of the Baltimore Metropolitan District in the Baltimore Washington Conference.
The title of Bishop Moore-Koikoi’s message at the 2023 UNY Commissioning and Ordination Service is “The Power of One.” She will be using John 17:17-24 as the foundation for her message.
Children learning how to love themselves and others at Watertown First UMC
Editor’s Note: A Little Child Will Lead Us is a recipient of a $2,500 Everyday Disaster grant from the Upper New York Conference’s Mission Central HUB. As one mother stated, this ministry has healed many children from underprivileged backgrounds and has helped them blossom.
There are many theories as to why children are no longer in our churches, especially our smaller churches. Some say that kids are involved in activities—they’re at ice hockey rinks, soccer fields, or dance studios. Others say that families are so busy during the week shuffling their children around to activities that Sundays are their days to catch up on chores and other obligations. And many families don’t feel like forcing children to go to something they find “boring.”
When the Rev. Anne Canfield was appointed to Watertown First United Methodist Church in 2019, she had one child in her church. However, she noticed that the church once had a vibrant children’s ministry. She could tell from all the rooms upstairs in her church. The bookshelves were still lined with children’s books; there were toys, craft supplies, and baby swings. She even found snacks like boxes of graham crackers that expired more than 20 years ago!
How could she bring the children back to church?
Rev. Canfield said, “I talked to people and their thoughts about having kids at church were, ‘It would never work. We could never do it. Everybody’s at a soccer field and yet I would walk around and see poor kids in particular, not in organized sports, riding on their little bicycles or just playing in their yard and I thought to myself, ‘There are all sorts of children that are free on Sundays or any other day of the week.’”
Rev. Canefield is a visionary—with a grant from Upper New York Conferences New Faith Communities Ministry Area, she started a New Faith Community called A Little Child Will Lead Us aimed to be a place for those kids that she saw in poor neighborhoods.
A Little Child Will Lead Us (ALCWLU) is free childcare housed at Watertown First United Methodist Church. It is offered on Wednesdays after school and on one Saturday a month. There are 26 children enrolled and a typical Wednesday has 20 children ranging in age from infant-12 years old. There is a diverse mix of children. About 50 percent of the children are white and about 50 percent are mixed race. Some of the children have special needs. Most of the children are raised by single moms.
Rev. Canfield started the program by bringing flyers to the local school superintendent and told her about the program open to all children, convincing her that it was not a religious program, but a program that will model the Golden Rule.
“She bought it,” Rev. Canfield exclaimed, “Her name was Patty LaBarre; she was like, ‘That’s all you are going to do? You are not going to teach catechism or songs?’ and I told her, no, this will be open to anyone regardless of background, race, or ethnicity. This will allow parents to work late or go to appointments or do something for themselves while the children will be mentored to love themselves and love others unconditionally.”
ALCWLU is a vibrant ministry.
There are five rooms devoted to the children: a craft room, a game room complete with a trampoline and basketball hoop, a nursery for toddlers and infants who may need a nap, a playroom for the younger kids, and a kitchen where the older kids share dinner together.
One of the ministries’ leaders, Jennifer Felton, (mom to two-year-old twins, both who are both in ALCWLU) feeds the smaller children in the small children’s playroom at a little table with tiny plastic chairs.
Excitedly, she said, “These kiddos just graduated from highchairs to this toddler table,” as the six kids ate their cut-up chicken nuggets and grapes.
Christina White is the Lead Child Coordinator for ALCWLU and is also a mom to two children in the program. With great enthusiasm, she teaches crafts. For example, one day, the older children made pirate patches and telescopes for them to later use in the outdoor fenced-in playground on the church’s premises…they were going to search for treasures that Christina hid.
ALCWLU is so beneficial to the children. Jennifer is extremely patient with the children. She has taught a nonverbal toddler with autism over 20 words in the past three months.
A lot of the children in the program have experienced trauma in their lives, such as death and domestic violence. Through ALCWLU, “they heal because they are listened to,” Rev. Canfield said.
Rev. Canfield explained some of the life lessons that are taught through plays that they produce together, such as The Giving Tree. She said, “We have a lot of fun doing kids’ plays. We just really love kids. I just think that too many children are structured all day to the point that they feel like they’re a failure because maybe they are not very good at school…our idea is to help children understand their identity as a child of God, that they are loved, and they are precious and wonderful!”
ALCWLU is just as beneficial to the parents as it is to the children.
Christina said, “A lot of times, Anne will invite us to the church for dinner and us moms can talk while our kids run around and play. Not a lot of the moms have support systems so it’s really nice that we have these dinners…Us moms decided together to have a messenger program…we share things like hand-me-down clothes or dentist referrals. I don’t think I would have this support if I didn’t start working here or send my kid here. It’s had a very good impact on my life.”
Rev. Canfield said, “This is the Church at its best.” And this program has brought more children into the church not just on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but also on Sundays. In fact, Rev. Canfield has baptized eight children in the past year and now has 10-14 children attending church every Sunday.
The means of grace through coming to the Lord’s table
April 25, 2023 / By Pastor Daniel J. Bradley, Faith Journey United Methodist Church
It’s inborn in our humanity—the need to connect with people, places, and things. We have the desire to be more than we are as human beings. This can be a good thing or bad, depending on your perspective.
Bishop Al Wesley Goodwin said, “We are not human beings having a supernatural experience. We are supernatural beings having a human experience.”
Let that sink in for a moment. The divine God, as we understand God created us for connection. However, it was not for connection one to another but to God. We are created in the strange vastness of the imago Dei. We were created and placed perfectly in this world as divine image bearers of God. That means that with all our shortcomings and imperfections, we bear God’s image. Look in the mirror: “What do you see?” “Do you notice your beauty, or do you notice your imperfections?” Mirrors reflect our physical presence but cannot reflect our intellect or spiritual essence. They give us an incomplete picture of the ‘whole’ of ourselves. Only God can see the full picture of who we are and our potential in this world.
During the Passover feast, Jesus gave the disciples bread which he referred to as his body, and wine, which he referred to as his blood. In this meal, Jesus gave of himself to his disciples for the journey ahead. The journey would be hard and painful and end in Jesus’s death. If that were the end of the story, we wouldn’t be here to tell it. Jesus’s death was the beginning of God tearing open the heavens and restoring humanity in connection to God and one another. Three days later, the event that would change the universe happened. The stone was rolled away, the grave clothes were folded, and the first witnesses were women who carried the message to the disciples who dismissed them as ‘mad.’
Death is the culmination of faith’s perfection in Jesus Christ.
Death then becomes the beginning of new life in Jesus Christ. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Death works backward.” Life begets life, and the story continues with us as participants in a new story of faith.
Coming to the Lord’s communion table to receive the body and blood of Christ binds us in faith to billions who have gone before us singing the great mystery of faith:
“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna is the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.”
This great mystery of faith is complete with the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup of salvation. It is what John Wesley referred to as the means of grace. Grace is this divine means of help or strength given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ. It is a free unmerited gift that is available to all persons at all times. It is what God does at that moment when we approach the table and humble ourselves. It is one of the messiest of sacraments because as we meet Christ in this meal, we acknowledge:
1.) Our mortality and sin
2.) Our need for Jesus
3.) Our need to be in ministry to all the world.
Holy Communion is a call to respond to the grace of God given in Christ. It is an opportunity for us to experience God in a tangible way that cannot be duplicated by human hands.
For the past couple of years, I have been meeting with two of my parishioners in my office every Wednesday morning for Holy Communion and prayer. My coffee table becomes a makeshift altar. The bread is still warm from coming out of Harold’s oven, and Howard reminds me, “I am doing pretty good for an old guy.” We laugh, talk, solve the world’s problems, and then pray. We ask God’s blessing in this time and space and share in the words of the institution. We break bread together and depart in the grace of God. I have been doing this every Wednesday for the past five years. The impact that it has had on the three of us cannot be explained. All of us have changed spiritually, and we have become closer than I ever thought possible. It is the means of grace and thanksgiving that God has given at that moment that make all the difference.
Bishop Al Wesley Goodwin said, “We are not human beings having a supernatural experience. We are supernatural beings having a human experience.” That human experience of bread and cup is just what the church needs on a regular basis to stay in connection with Jesus, our Lord, and Savior.
Laity invited to self-nominate for two lay vacancies for the 2024 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference
The Upper New York (UNY) Conference elects delegates for the Northeastern Jurisdictional (NEJ) Conference and the General Conference the year prior to each General Conference, which ordinarily takes place every four years. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 General Conference was postponed twice and is now slotted for 2024. Due to the unprecedented length between General Conferences, the United Methodist Judicial Council will be allowing conferences to fill delegate vacancies. The UNY Conference currently has two lay vacancies for the NEJ delegation.
The ruling to allow for new delegates to be elected
The United Methodist Church’s highest court has opened the door for some new delegates to be elected to the long-postponed and potentially momentous General Conference, now set for next year. The court explained that “a lot has changed in the interim. Some delegates can no longer serve for various reasons including disaffiliation from the denomination amid what is already a slow-motion separation. Some delegates have seen their status change from lay to clergy or vice versa. Some conferences that were separate entities when elections took place have since merged into one.”
With changes that have taken place since the UNY 2019 delegate elections, there are currently two lay vacancies in the NEJ Conference delegation in UNY.
How the elections take place
According to the 2016 Book of Discipline, “The lay delegates to the General and jurisdictional or central conferences shall be elected by the lay members of the annual conference or provisional annual conference without regard to age, provided such delegates shall have been professing members of The United Methodist Church for at least two years next preceding their election, and shall have been active participants in The United Methodist Church for at least four years next preceding their election, and are members thereof within the annual conference electing them at the time of holding the General and jurisdictional or central conferences” (¶36, Article V).
To nominate yourself as a lay delegate for the NEJ delegation, click here to fill out the form and submit it by May 14.
The election for these two delegate vacancies will take place at the 2023 Upper New York Annual Conference laity session, presided by Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, on June 1.
Prior to the lay elections, lay members at the UNY Annual Conference will be invited to adopt rules to limit voting to four ballots. If any vacancies remain after conducting three of these ballots, a fourth and final ballot will be taken, and all vacancies will be filled by the top one or two votes even if they receive less than 51% of the vote.
What prospective delegates need to know
Carmen Vianese, the head of the delegation discussed a few key responsibilities for delegates, including:
- There is a time commitment that will increase as the year unfolds.
- You need to have access to email and a computer regularly.
- You need to be able to devote time to reading materials as appropriate to the work of a NEJ Delegate from UNY.
- You need to be available for Zoom meetings, in-person meetings, and for days off with the ability to travel to the NE Jurisdictional Conference in July 2024 ( NEJ Dates = 7/7/24 - 7/12/24).
New District Superintendent structure for Upper New York
As Upper New York (UNY) Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez previously announced, the UNY Conference will switch from nine District Superintendents to six District Superintendents (DS) effective July 1, 2023.
On June 30, 2023, the current Crossroads and Finger Lakes District Superintendent, the Rev. Nola Anderson; Mohawk District Superintendent, the Rev. Abel Roy; and the Rev. Ted Anderson, who has been serving as Interim District Superintendent for the Genesee Valley District, will complete their terms. The six remaining District Superintendents will generally be serving two districts.
“This new configuration for the Cabinet is an excellent example of the collaborative leadership model that Upper New York is leaning into on all levels. All pastors and congregations will continue to be cared for and have the resources needed to effectively serve in the community and excel at continuing the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Bishop Héctor said.
The district coverage assignments for UNY’s 12 districts, effective July 1st, are as follows:
- The Rev. Carlos Rosa-Laguer will serve the Niagara Frontier District and the Cornerstone District.
- The Rev. Suzanne Block will serve the Genesee Valley District and the Mountain View District.
- The Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood will serve the Finger Lakes District and the Crossroads District.
- The Rev. Mike Weeden will be the Mohawk and Northern Flow District's District Superintendent.
- The Rev. Debbie Earthrowl will be the District Superintendent of the Adirondack and Albany Districts.
- The Rev. Bob Kolvik Campbell will serve the Binghamton and Oneonta Districts.
To ensure an equitable distribution of churches among district superintendents, the Mohawk District will be covered by Rev. Weeden, Rev. Earthrowl, and Rev. Campbell. Click here for a list indicating which DS will support specific churches in the Mohawk District.