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

    news article

    From the desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: Keeping connected

    August 18, 2020 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    Editor’s Note: The following letter is Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb’s introduction to the Summer 2020 issue of the Advocate, which highlights stories of unique ways that churches across the UNY Conference have been keeping connected since being faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read the issue. 

    “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”  - Isaiah 43.19

        Experiencing a global pandemic and living in the midst of it changes almost everything. Over the last few months we have seen life literally turned upside down for so many. We have witnessed the devastation of illness, the sorrow of death, the uncertainty of resources, economic consequences, and an emotional and spiritual toll that may not be fully identified for months, if not years.

    Yet, there is one thing that has not changed – one constant in the midst of the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. The mission of the Church of Jesus Christ HAS NOT CHANGED. Our invitation to offer the good news of Jesus Christ for all remains our call.

    While the mission has not changed, we have certainly experienced the ways in which we carry out that mission change in ways that many of us could never imagine. Over these past few months I have been inspired by the stories of laity, clergy, and congregations holding firm to our call as the Church while adapting in almost every way how that call is accomplished and lived. The words “thank you: seem too little. I have been blessed by your faithfulness and appreciate the hard and at times seemingly impossible work done by every clergy and lay leader. THANK YOU!

    This edition of the Advocate is a testimonial of the faithfulness of the church in Upper New York in these last few months. As you look through these pages, you will be inspired by the countless ways in which God has been at work through sisters and brothers in Christ who have remained focused on the mission in a season unlike most of us, if not all of us, have ever seen.

    In conversations with clergy and laity over the past four months, I have shared that if I or a District Superintendent would have walked into your church in January and said we would like you to change how you do worship, or offer Bible studies, or change the ways in which you connect with and care for one another, for the most part, we would have been listened to, smiled at, and then told all the reasons why our request would be impossible. YET, look at what God has done! Stripped of every sense of normal, the Holy Spirit led the way and the church of Jesus Christ experienced new power, new imagination, and a new impact upon the world.

    Before the pandemic, in the midst of the pandemic, and long after the pandemic is gone, there is another constant that we must recognize. Our world needs Jesus! Our world that is often driven by despair, division, injustice, violence, evil, and darkness needs the promise, hope and light that is only found in the good news of Jesus! While this has arguably been one of the most difficult seasons of ministry, it has been one filled with possibility and promise. I firmly believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is being raised up in a new way to usher in a new manner of living in the midst of our world - a way of living that has as its foundation the truth, hope, and life offered in person of Jesus Christ!

    The Gospel of Matthew reminds us “you are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? . . .You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand . . .” (Matthew 5.13-15) 

    In the Gospel of Luke as Jesus appoints and sends 70 for ministry and mission, we read his words: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.”  (Luke 10.2)

    Romans 12.1-2 speaks to us through the voice of the Apostle Paul: “Therefore I urge you, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

    Church, this is our time to be salt! This is our time to be light! This is not our time to mimic the world or be led and deceived by the world and its ways. This is our time to be transformed by the power of God and boldly, with urgency, flood the world with the hope of Jesus. This is our time to invite those around us to live the life that Jesus and Jesus alone offers.

    Celebrate what has been done in the Church over these last few months, as you read these pages – but more importantly ask the questions:

    How can we build upon what God has started in this time?

    How will we guarantee that we will not go back to what we did before, but rather push and press into the new things God has begun and the new things that God is yet to do?

    “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”  (Isaiah 43.19)

    Thanks for being faithful followers of Jesus! Thanks for being the Church! My prayers continue for each of you.



    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."