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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Bishop poses big questions in small groups

    September 25, 2014 / By Beth DiCocco / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb wants to ask clergy some big-picture questions, and he's doing it by meeting in small groups.

    The bishop is hosting a series of gatherings in an effort to get to know clergy, let them build relationships with each other, and to talk about some larger issues in the Church and the Conference.

    One clergy person from each of the Conference's 12 districts is invited to the sessions at the Conference Office, which include lunch. There will be nine sessions in total with a different group attending each time. Director of Connectional Ministries the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding attends the meetings as well.

    "I hope that during these two hours we will get to know each other better, know each other's hearts better," the bishop told the first group, which met on Sept. 16, 2014 (see schedule below).

    "I hope that we will have a clearer sense that we're called to ministry together, that we are one body; and that's going to ripple out and make a difference in who we are as the Upper New York Conference," he said.

    During the fall in 2012 and 2013, the bishop made visits to each of the districts during his District Days. These meetings are another way of reaching out, the bishop said.

    "Bill (Gottschalk-Fielding) and I put lots of miles on the car doing district visits. This year, instead of large district visits, I wanted to meet in smaller groups to gather in conversation," Bishop Webb said at the first gathering. "This is about building relationships with one another and getting to know people in a more intimate setting."

    After telling clergy to "take a deep breath and relax," he asked some broad questions to spur some conversation among the group.

    What are you passionate about?

    Where is God leading you in ministry that brings excitement and joy?

    What are your hopes for The United Methodist Church and for Upper New York?

    What do I need to know? What do you want to tell me?

    " ... the bishop presented really good questions that, perhaps, we do not ask ourselves or our congregations – and should," said Pastor Frederica Webb, pastor at Alexandria Bay, Redwood andWellesley Island UMCs in the Northern Flow District.

    "'What are you passionate about?' is an interesting first question, and one, I think, we need to ask our congregations, because we may find an exciting idea from someone who is passionate about something that our church might be able to explore," she said.

    There were three gatherings in September. The upcoming meetings will take place on Oct. 2, 15 and 20 and Nov. 13, 18 and 20.

    "I am honored to be part of the conversation and fellowship that strives to bring together the membership of our Upper New York Conference," said the Rev. Carolyn Stow, pastor at the  Clymerand North Clymer UMCs in the Cornerstone District. " ... It is refreshing to gather with colleagues during a time with no agenda other than to build relationship and share thoughts and hopes."

    The Rev. Jeffrey Hale, pastor at the Clinton UMC in the Mohawk District, said he appreciated the small-group approach: " ... it was good to have one (representative) from each district, any more would have been too much."

    "I think the bishop did a good job of trying to keep it all positive," Rev. Hale said. "I believe he heard us and was engaged. I also think it was good to hear each other.”

    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."