Laity celebrated at Annual Conference 2023
June 6, 2023 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
Lay members to the 14th gathering of the Upper New York Annual Conference attended the Conference laity session held June 1 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York.
Conference Lay Leader Jessica White welcomed laity to the gathering and named the session’s speakers.
The Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding then introduced Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, resident bishop of the Pittsburgh Episcopal Area and interim bishop of the Harrisburg Episcopal Area, who joined the session to preside over elections of Jurisdictional Conference delegates.
Upper New York Bishop Héctor Burgos Núñez greeted those gathered.
“Thank you for being here and for moving the church forward in creating disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Laity heard reports from Conference Lay Leader Jessica White, the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, United Women in Faith, United Methodist Men, and Lay Servant Ministries.
Darlene Dennis, lay leader of the Crossroads District, opened the session with prayer, thanking God for the opportunity to gather in one place and the opportunity enhance the strength of our conference.
Jurisdictional Conference elections
Because of the years-long delay of the United Methodist General Conference, the United Methodist Judicial Council recently ruled that annual conferences are permitted to hold elections to fill vacancies in the General Conference delegation due to death, resignations, or otherwise, up to the maximum number of allocated delegates, provided vacancies cannot be filled with reserve delegates. The Upper New York Conference had two laity vacancies to fill, which were voted on during the laity session.
The nominees for the two open positions were introduced by Carmen Vianese, head of the Upper New York Conference General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation and president of the conference’s United Women in Faith.
After the rules and process for voting were named and practiced, voting commenced via electronic devices. On the third ballot the laity elected Kenneth Guilfoyle and Emma Scavo.
Mission and fellowship
In between delegate ballots Krystal Cole shared about the work of Upper New York Commission on the Status and Role of Women. The group hosted a virtual women’s retreat in the fall of 2022 with plans to offer a “Catch Your Breath” again in September 29-30, 2023. Krystal also spoke about the group’s Facebook campaign uplifting lay and clergywomen in Upper New York and encouraged attendees to send them even more women to celebrate.
Carmen Vianese and Valerie Clark, member of the Board of Directors of United Women in Faith, celebrated the election of Sally Vonner as the organization’s new general secretary and invited everyone to Mission u August 17-19 at Fayetteville United Methodist Church in Fayetteville and shared a video about the transformative education event. Anyone interested can e-mail email@example.com. Carmen and Valerie thanked members of United Women in Faith for their mission and justice work in their local communities.
For United Methodist Men, President Buddy Heit shared the organization’s focus on evangelism, mission, and service, with a focus on the Scripture verse James 1:22. In 2022, Upper New York UMM participated in prayer groups, retreats, the building of community “blessing boxes,” post-flood cleaning kits, “potato drop” hunger outreach, volunteering at Camp Casowasco, and buying and building wheelchair ramps.
Conference Lay Servant Director Linda Barczykowski spoke about the certified leadership opportunities open to the laity of the conference, including certified lay servant, certified lay speaker, and certified lay ministers.
“The ministry of the laity remains a vital part of the local churches,” she said. “Without laity, churches would not be able to function.”
Some of the Upper New York lay leadership opportunities can be found on the conference’s lay ministry site. Lay servant ministry as a deaconess or home missioner is also a path to ministry for laypeople in The United Methodist Church.
Carmen followed with an update on the upcoming United Methodist General Conference, happening April 23 to May 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The theme remains “And know that I am God,” from Psalm 46:10. She referred to a recent meeting of the Commission on the General Conference for further updates, which you can read about from United Methodist News. The next Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference will take place July 2024 in Pennsylvania.
Jessica asked for the board of laity to stand up and be recognized, and then invited the lay delegation to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences to come forward to be celebrated and prayed for.
Deaconess Sue Silhan offered the prayer, asking for God’s guidance that the laity of Upper New York may be disciples in the image of Jesus able to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Jessica closed the session by encouraging giving to Helping Hands scholarship, and prayed for blessings as the conference moved into plenary sessions.
Tara Barnes is director of denominational relations for United Women in Faith.