Inside story: How UNY’s organizations are building, increasing leadership
Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel
By Linda Bergh
The mission of the Upper New York Conference’s Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel is to educate, network, and advocate for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel. Encouraging United Methodists to join together in this effort requires “a step forward” for everyone – a willingness to advocate for “a just peace” for Palestinians in a cultural context that has made this controversial. The effort of task force members and friends to educate themselves and others about this issue creates a push toward courageous leadership in what has been a “minority” position.
Knowledge brings empowerment. Cooperation encourages brave stands. The task force gave public support to a young United Methodist whose public witness to first-hand awareness of Israel’s abuses of Palestinians was questioned by her college alumnae.
Last summer, Pastor Ben O’Connor, one of our Conference’s young clergy serving at the State Street UMC in Fulton and the Lycoming UMC, attended the “Walking with Palestinian Christians” conference at the Ginghamsburg UMC in Tipp City, Ohio. What he heard impacted him, and he blogged about the proceedings.
Leadership emerges in much the same way as Christian conversion: for some, the interest and engagement comes as a sudden “metanoia,” and for others, as an incremental series of experiences. The most effective enabler is an actual “peace- and justice-seeking trip” to the Holy Land. No one seems to return from such a trip without being called to respond to Palestinian suffering. For this reason, the task force offers Gary Bergh scholarships for trip applicants, with an emphasis on aiding young people. Currently, a young clergy couple in Binghamton will travel on an InterFaith Peacebuilder’s Trip.
“Reaching out” for new leadership happens through personal conversations at local church presentations, at our Annual Conference session display table, or at the Palestinian Dinner. Conversations with youth, visitors from other cultures, and Conference retirees develop leadership in the task force members themselves and in those they engage. It is a model we hope to replicate regionally.
From the Kairos Document (¶4.2.1) – a “call out to Christian brothers and sisters around the world” drafted by a group of Christian Palestinians who live under the Israeli occupation: “Love is seeing the face of God in every human being. Every person is my brother or my sister. However, seeing the face of God in everyone does not mean accepting evil or aggression on their part.”
For more information about the task force, go to www.um-palestine-israel-tf.org.
Linda Bergh is the co-Chair of UNY’s Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel.
By Donna C. and Roger E. Cullen
“For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them.” (Romans 15: 26-27)
Volunteers-in-Mission (VIM) take the meaning of contribution personally. Not content to send funds, we go to new and sometimes uncomfortable places. In the pattern of disciples of Jesus, we often go in pairs or teams. Leading in the footsteps and example of Christ offers a privilege and a challenge.
Christians sharing Christ’s love in broken places where people feel abandoned make new relationships with God possible. Engaging in servant leadership teaches us how to become humble participants in God’s mission, working not for the Church but as the Church. We give a powerful witness by our very presence at the margins, more powerful than the physical work we accomplish.
Effective witnesses must guard against imposing our cultural viewpoint on those with whom we seek to build relationship. Leaders of teams working in unfamiliar cultural settings guide team members towards sensitivity and acceptance of differences.
Great rewards await both those serving and those we serve. Adults as well as youth frequently experience spiritual transformation as first-time missioners. We go to serve and find ourselves changed in the encounter. Leaders have a special value in facilitating that transformation. Mission experiences away from home always open eyes and hearts. We go to do a job and discover a call. It can happen on a ramp building team working down the street or on a medical team in Zimbabwe.
Leaders accomplish or manage considerable administrative duties. A journal of one trip to Haiti soon after the 2010 earthquake illustrates these:
- The earthquake inspires 11 experienced volunteer leaders to form a response team. Devastation beyond imagination intensifies preparation and planning. Arrival amidst the chaos leaves seasoned volunteers emotionally raw and searching for meaning.
- Planning: Leaders insure that each team member assembles paperwork, passport, small bills ($1, $5), inoculations, treated clothing, and antimalarial medications. Supplies account for local laws, customs, climate, and extraordinary conditions.
- Safety: Entry into impoverished and chaotic environment introduces safety issues. Cash distributed among team members reduces risk. Supplies and luggage carefully guarded gets shepherded to awaiting vehicles. Even with these precautions, one team member shares the disorientation felt at the airport.
- Spirituality: Bible study starts each evening with weary bodies settling. Bible verses decorate buses, cars, and billboards everywhere in the streets. Funeral processions fill the streets with color and song. Sunday worshipers dress in pristine white and pastels for services that last three hours. Gurgles of babies lulled into sleep mix with the sound of horses tied to trees outside the chapel. Reflection on the faith of the people we serve turns into praise to the one who sent us.
- Gifts: This is not a time to leave team building to chance. The Haiti team includes a human resources professional who culls probing questions from her toolbox. Humor, inside jokes, nicknames, and tears flow. One team member ministers to us by plaiting long hair – a joy to those who suffer in the heat. A teacher shares skills when organizing children for crafts. A Haitian man shares the death of his parents – a team member translates so all understand. A passion for cultural history of one team member supplies insight. Medical expertise brings comfort to team members as well as the Haitians.
- Decisions: Having multiple leaders on a team blesses the mission while running the risk of conflicting decisions. The team leader makes or assigns decisions required to set schedules, arrange lodging, prevent heat stroke, acquire materials, and control expenditures.
- Flexibility: Leaders call for and lead teams in practicing flexibility. Eating hot goat soup in steamy Haiti, being locked in with fierce guard dogs pacing outside, showering in a trickle of water, waking at 4 a.m. from the crowing rooster that becomes your evening meal, and the sights, sounds, and smells of crowded cities lacking sewage or trash management require flexibility and a grateful heart.
- Listening: Survivors of disaster stand strong, vulnerable, assaulted, raised up, prayerful, thankful. Surrounded by others in similar circumstances, your leadership transforms to a listening ear, an empathetic heart, and willingness to serve expressed needs.
Leadership – called by God to make a contribution – brings planning, safety, spirituality, gifts, decisions, flexibility, and listening. Leading in the blessing of the Christ we serve.
Donna C. and Roger E. Cullen are the coordinators for the Upper New York Conference's Volunteers-in-Mission.
By Mark Jones
We give God all the glory and praise for raising up leaders in the Upper New York Conference United Methodist Men (UNYUMM). Over the past 20 months, the UNYUMM has adopted a new direction and focus. We have slowly become “Men growing in Christ, so other will know Him.” We have traveled many miles: from the north end of Lake Champlain to north of Buffalo, and to Albany, Binghamton, and everywhere in between to meet face-to face with our Methodist brothers throughout the Conference.
Why? To explain clearly the importance of all of us coming together to build a strong, spirit-filled men’s ministry capable of leading others to Christ by our words and, most significantly, our actions; to promote personal daily prayer; and express the significance of mission work – hands-on expression of sharing God’s Love. Lastly, we ask, “What is our purpose as Methodist men?” Then, we explain it is leading others into a personal relationship with Jesus.
We have been challenging Methodist men across the Conference to put God first in their lives and to serve Him daily in their families, churches, and communities. We tell them that we envision – in just a few short years from now – 100 spirit-filled UNYUMM charters giving God their very best throughout this Conference. We currently have 55 UNYUMM-chartered groups. Next, we emphasis the vital need for passionate, spirit-filled leaders to make this vision a reality. Many men in the past year have been moved by God to lead. Praise God!
We have put forth our best effort to physically meet face-to-face with other Methodist men, despite the distance we must travel to meet them. We have been blessed to add the following Conference and district leadership positions throughout 2014-2015: two Conference vice presidents, one director of communications, two district presidents, four district vice presidents, one Conference prayer advocate, one Conference scouting advocate, two district prayer advocates, and two executive UNYUMM board members at-large, totaling 15 new leadership positions with many more to add as we follow God’s leading in 2016-2017. God is moving, we are just blessed to be riding the wave!
We reach out and embrace “non-traditional” leaders, by looking at their hearts and not necessarily their leadership skills and/or abilities. Much of our leadership outreach is done through answers to daily prayer and spending time with God. We, as Methodist men, are committed to reaching others for Christ. We believe that as we, as leaders of this Conference, grow stronger in our relationship with Christ, then future leaders will be excited to be a part of the UNYUMM ministry. All of our current UNYUMM leaders should be celebrated for their continued commitment in serving God through men’s ministry in Upper New York.
Mark Jones is the President of the Upper New York Conference’s United Methodist Men.
By the Rev. Rebecca Naber
The Silver Tsunami of retiring baby boomers is hitting the shores of The United Methodist Church. With this unprecedented event in the history of the United States, the Older Adult Ministry (OAM) Team of the Upper New York Conference is making preparations to develop “OAM Champions” toward the goal of making disciples of Jesus the Christ through the local churches.
Currently, there are 35 million adults age 65 and older in the U.S., and over the next seven years, this number will grow to 75 million. As a group of volunteers passionate about ministry with older adults, the OAM Team recognizes that baby boomers are quickly retiring and looking for meaning and significance in their new lifestyles. Thus, the OAM Team has been busy reshaping its charter and planning a fall OAM Retreat at the Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center in Moravia to better equip churches for intergenerational and older adult ministries.
An OAM-UNY Executive Council was formed and met in September at the Rush UMC. Our “Revisioning Day” sought to build off of the previous work accomplished under past chair Dr. Tom DeLoughry and team. At that September meeting was the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, UNY Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministries, and our executive council – consisting of myself as the newly elected chair, Barbara Bruce, Becky Guthrie, Cassandra Jordan, Lisa Rood, Winona Stonebraker, Kathy Thiel, and Tom DeLoughry; unable to attend were the Rev. Cathy Lee and Barbara Saltarella. We developed a fresh set of goals and objectives to better align ourselves with the Conference’s goals for connectional ministries. Our 2015-2016 planning resulted in the following:
- Mission: The OAM Team will train leaders to enhance the mind, body, and spirit of older adults through Christ-centered ministries.
- Goals: Our goals to accomplish that mission in the coming year are:
- To identify potential OAM Champions within each district of the Conference and to communicate and support the local churches in the development of intergenerational/older adult ministries.
- To educate and inspire these champions in three or more best practices of older adult ministry.
- To utilize Conference communication channels to promote OAM ministries, opportunities, and programs.
For the OAM Retreat Nov. 4-5 at Casowasco, our objective was to gather and educate volunteers across the districts that are passionate about leading older adult ministries. The retreat included more than six speakers and topics, such as Barbara Bruce’s Why Older Adult Ministry-Why Now; Dr. Tom DeLoughry’s Aging Well: Help for Three Generations; my workshop: Sharing Your Hope: Visitation Ministry in the Local Church; Lisa Rood’s Respite Care for the Memory Impaired; the Rev. Dr. Don Weaver’s The Gift of Peace of Mind for You and Your Family; and Jamie Breedlove-Crouch’s Aging LGBT in The UM Church.
Other retreat objectives were to identify district OAM Champions, best practices, communication vehicles, and a 2016 budget to support the formation of intergenerational/older adult ministries in the local church. We also took some time for networking, team building, relaxation, and just plain old fun.
If you or someone in your district or local church is interested in learning more about how to ride the waves of the Silver Tsunami of baby boomers and create intergenerational/older adult ministries that seize what may be the Church’s greatest opportunity to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation the world, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DeLoughry at email@example.com.
The Rev. Rebecca Naber is the Chair of the Older Adult Ministries of the Upper New York Conference.