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

    news article

    Celebrating Upper New York’s history through the Conference Cane

    June 20, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Most people associate the word “cane” with walking stick to provide support and aid in walking. For Upper New York, the Conference Cane holds deeper significance. Encased in a wooden box, the Conference Cane is given to the longest living, longest serving clergy member in the Upper New York or predecessor conferences. 

    The passing of this heirloom from one clergyperson to another is a tradition dating back to the 1800s. Eligible holders can be from former conferences, including Genesee Methodist, Erie Methodist, Erie Evangelical United Brethren, New York Evangelical United Brethren, Western New York, Northern New York, Central New York, North Central New York, Troy, or Wyoming Conferences. The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church was created when the North Central New York, Troy, Western New York, and Wyoming Conference merged more than a decade ago.

    In the long tradition of the Conference Cane, it is generally presented to the successor as soon as possible after the death of the previous holder. When possible, the cane is presented to the next recipient during the annual conference session. The family of the recipient is instructed, through labels on the display case, to return the Conference Cane to the Conference Center upon the death of the cane holder. The last person to hold the cane was the Rev. Norman Parsons. Rev. Parsons died at the age of 97 in 2023, meaning the cane must be passed down to another member.

    This year, the Rev. Rachel DuPont from Asbury First UMC accepted the Conference Cane at the 2024 Upper New York Annual Conference on Friday, May 31, 2024, on behalf of the Rev. David Lubba who could not be in attendance. She presented the cane to Rev. Lubba during a worship service at Asbury First UMC on Sunday, June 16. 

    “Time flies when you’re having fun and I’m grateful to God, who many years ago, saw a 13-year-old boy plowing in a field in South Attica and decided to call that young guy into ministry. It’s been a wonderful life. God is good all the time and I’m grateful for serving the church and our Lord, Jesus Christ, not only here in America but also for the 9 years we served in the Republic of the Philippines. I’m grateful for this. I treasure it,” Rev. Lubba expressed during the presentation at Asbury First UMC. 

    Other than being an Upper New York heirloom, the physical cane that Rev. Lubba holds is entirely a Michigan product, the timber being made of oak from that state. It is topped with a large, polished Michigan agate and fitted with iron, copper, and silver from Michigan mines. With so much Michigan history, how is the cane so important to clergy in New York? 

    The Rev. George Taylor made the cane. He was originally a member of the Genesee Conference. He used timber salvaged from the first Methodist Episcopal Church (and first Protestant church) in Michigan, which burned in 1841. Fun fact is that this church was part of the Genesee Conference when it was built in 1818. At its founding, the Genesee Conference extended from Quebec City to Detroit to northcentral Pennsylvania. 

    Rev. Taylor gave the cane to the Rev. Glezen Fillmore, one of the pioneering pastors and Presiding Elders of the Genesee Conference, with the request that he should keep it as long as he lived, and that it should "descend after Brother Fillmore's decease to the oldest member of the conference, (that is, the longest serving) and so on successively."   

    In the morning session of the Genesee Conference on September 6, 1854, Rev. Fillmore presented the cane to the conference and made a motion that it be received according to Rev. Taylor's wishes. It was received, and the cane has passed in unbroken line to this day, through the Genesee to the Western New York Conference to the Upper New York Conference. In all, more than 30 clergy members have been holders of the Conference Cane. Rev. Lubba is the 34th clergyperson to obtain possession of it   

    The Clergy Status Division of the Board of Ordained Ministry has assumed responsibility for the awarding of the Conference Cane and will continue to update the conference as needed on the continuation of this tradition. When the holder dies, the cane should be returned to the Upper NY Conference Center at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd., Liverpool, NY  13088. 

    Click here to view the long history of Conference Cane holders dating back to 1854. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Older Adult Ministry / Districts / 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."