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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Being willing partners with God

    May 31, 2024 / By Tara Barnes / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez called United Methodists of Upper New York to prioritize relationships in his address to the conference Friday, May 31.

    “Over the past year and moving forward, we will continue prioritizing relationships over everything else, recognizing the crucial role each one of you plays in this,” said Bishop Héctor. “For the past twelve months, through ‘Together in Prayer,’ we prioritized our relationship with Christ, going deeper through prayer and corporate reflections and seeking to renew our connection with God and one another.”

    Together in Prayer is a conference-wide prayer pilgrimage encouraging United Methodists of Upper New York to join together in shared prayers using themes and resources provided by the conference.

    Stronger together

    The conference also launched Together in Worship, which Bishop Héctor described as “a monthly worship experience in which the cabinet and clergy staff rotate in leading a devotional time from our mission center in Liverpool that is livestreamed through different platforms available to everyone in the conference.” You can find past services in the conference’s sermon bank.

    The bishop spoke of connecting in the past year with hundreds of clergy and laity at district events that included worship, conversation, and fellowship. He looks forward, he said, to more in-person and online connections and to expanding ecumenical and interfaith partners, including the New York Council of Churches, Interfaith Works, and Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University.

    “We don’t have to do ministry alone, or in silos.” Bishop Héctor said. “We are stronger together!”

    He encouraged attendees to celebrate the good work we do in our churches and together as a connection. Since the last annual conference, more than 300 positive stories were published, he said, sharing the countless ways God is at work through Upper New York churches.

    “We have a beautiful and powerful story to share with the world. We will continue celebrating our leaders and congregations, rejoicing in what we accomplish, and giving God all the glory.

    The bishop acknowledged the challenges of reduced membership rates, COVID-19, lowered budgets, and disaffiliation and praised members and leaders for adapting to new ways of being in mission and ministry. He reminded the conference of the importance of shared giving for shared mission.

    He also thanked laity for stepping up in churches without pastoral leadership as the conference faces a clergy deficit. He pledged to build relationships with seminaries and nurture a culture of calling. He spoke of educating and promoting the route of licensed local pastor and strengthening the resourcing for lay speakers and certified lay ministries.

    “God is providing sufficient resources to achieve all that God is inviting us to do as United Methodists in Upper New York and worldwide through the connection,” Bishop Héctor said. “To make it happen, though, we need to be willing partners with God and align our resources to move forward with the mission and vision of our congregations and The United Methodist Church.”

    Important work ahead

    Acknowledging that United Methodists of Upper New York are “not of one voice” regarding the United Methodist General Conference’s removal of the bans against gay clergy and same-sex wedding ceremonies, Bishop Héctor said, “I want the fighting and harm to end, so we need to collaborate and covenant to love each other and our neighbors in healthier ways.”

    “Over the summer, I intend to convene a small theologically diverse team of clergy and laity to create a resource and process to guide congregations that want to engage in deep and courageous conversations,” he continued, “not to debate or seek alignment, but to build relationships, listen to learn, and discern how they move forward as a theologically diverse connectional faith community.”

    The conference will also produce a resource to help congregations “create a contextual covenant about ministry with and by LGBTQ persons so they can formalize it at their church conferences this fall,” he said.

    The bishop spoke about the hope and opportunity of this time in the church and world. “We need to witness a countercultural vision of hope in a time when a spirit of individualism and intolerance is destroying the testimony of the church and the fiber of our society. We have been called for such times as this.”

    He also named the importance of investing in young people. He offered the stage to Destiny Hoerbelt, a member of North Tonawanda First United Methodist Church.

    “In my life I have worked in culinary, education, retail, business; there is no clear connection between where I’ve been and what I’ve done,” Hoerbelt said. “But these connections do not need to be clear to us, only to God. In the Book of Psalms chapter 119 verse 105 it is written, ‘Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.’ We can walk through the darkness, through the fog, and through the confusion if we let God lead us.

    “Looking to the future of the United Methodist Church in Upper New York, it is my hope that we will come together and work in unison as we share the joyful news that there is an empty tomb, and its former occupant is leading us to salvation.”

    Click here to view/download the video and click here to read the transcript.

    Tara Barnes is director of denominational relations for United Women in Faith and a lay equalization member from the Binghamton District.

    TAGGED / Communications / Bishop Burgos / Youth / 2024 Annual Conference

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."