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

    news article

    Forming the Upper New York Conference

    March 9, 2022 / By The Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Assistant to the Bishop and UNY Director of Connectional Ministries

    On June 19, 2010, North Central New York, Troy, Western New York, and Wyoming Conferences joined to become the Upper New York Conference. The meeting that day, known as the uniting conference, took several hours, but the work leading up to it had taken several years. Much of that work was led by the New Area/Conference Team or New ACT. For nearly two years, this 26-member team, drawn from the four upstate Conferences, met monthly to dream and plan. Under the pastoral guidance of Bishops Susan Hassinger and Marcus Matthews, the team did its work by prayerful discernment and consensus-building.

    One of New ACT’s first decisions was to hire Gil Rendle, the senior consultant with The Institute for Clergy and Congregational Excellence of The Texas Methodist Foundation. Gil was a well-known and respected leader in the field of organizational change and his job was to equip New ACT to imagine how churches and leaders could form a Conference aligned with the needs of the 21st century.

    During Gil’s work with New ACT, he sought to unleash our imaginations so we might dream of a new way to be a Conference. Of the many provocative ideas he shared with us, there was one that he returned to over and over again: the Conference and its churches exist to the mission field, not its members.

    Rev. George Nicholas, a New ACT member, summed up Gil’s teaching this way. He said the new Conference needed to equip the churches to get into the neighborhood and find ways to bring the neighborhood into the church. When the team tasked two of its members, Rev. Darryl Barrow and Kristin Dart, to draft a vision statement for the new Conference, they based their proposal on this idea. Darryl and Kristen returned to the team with this vision statement: “To be God’s love with our neighbors in all places.” New ACT members loved this phrase and added “To live the Gospel of Jesus Christ” on the front end to complete the vision for what Upper New York Conference would be.

    Twelve years ago, the uniting conference adopted “to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be God’s love with our neighbors in all places” as Upper New York’s vision statement. Since then, leaders and local churches, with God’s help, have been working to translate this vision into a lived reality.  How have we done? 

    Voltaire said, “Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  The results of our efforts have been far from perfect. I have my list of disappointments and I am sure it is not exhaustive. But we have produced much good.

    Thanks be to God. Upper New York has started over 100 New Faith Communities, many among people groups United Methodism had neglected or ignored for decades.

    Through our Imagine No Racism initiative, we have begun a serious conversation about racism, both personal and systemic, and our Conference Commission on Religion and Race continues undaunted to draw us ever deeper into this work.

    We have endowed four scholarships at Africa University.  

    Last year, the second year of a global pandemic, Upper New York was one of only eight Annual Conferences to pay it General Church apportionments in full. These are good things we can celebrate.

    Where are we going from here? We live in a time of uncertainty and rapid change. The truth is, God only knows for sure where we will wind up, but the direction is not in question. Susan, Marcus, Gil, George, Darryl, and Kristen named it and the uniting conference affirmed it over decade ago: living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places. There is work left to do and it continues to be worth doing.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    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."