Laity uplifted at Annual Conference 2022
October 6, 2022 / By Tara Barnes, Director of Denominational Relations, United Women in Faith
Lay members to the 13th gathering of the Upper New York Annual Conference attended the Conference laity session held virtually on Oct. 6, 2022.
After a greeting from Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb, Associate Conference Lay Leader Jessica White welcomed more than 260 participants to the gathering.
“In these times we need to hold onto God,” she said. “As I tell my Sunday school class pretty much every week: God has our back.”
Darlene Dennis opened the session with a prayer for God’s blessing, guidance, strength, and love for the work of laity, who are the strength of the church.
Participants heard reports from the Conference’s Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), United Women in Faith, United Methodist Men, and Lay Servant Ministries as well as an update on the upcoming United Methodist Jurisdictional Conferences.
Reports were given live or via prerecorded video and were interspersed with videos from the Conference’s Imagine No Racism team, which works to raise awareness, expand knowledge and develop skills for addressing racism in its many current manifestations. Click on the links to watch Unlearning Racism and Racism Is Real.
Putting love into action
In a video presentation,CONAM named the many Indigenous peoples across our conference and the ministries it undertakes, including connecting Native American United Methodists across the United Methodist connection, celebrating Native American cultures, uplifting Native American Sunday and supporting cultural survival projects, Native American Outreach Transportation and scholarships.
The Native American United Methodist churches in the Upper New York Conference are Four Corners United Methodist Church on the Cattaraugus Territory, Hogansburg United Methodist on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation at Akwesasnee, and the
Onondaga Nation United Methodist Church located on the Onondaga Nation Indian Territory.
Learn more about CONAM and its vital work on our website.
Carmen Vianese, president of the Upper New York United Women in Faith, formerly United Methodist Women, celebrated the organization’s new name and look as a bold step into a bright future.
“This sisterhood of grace is big enough for all women of faith to join us in our justice work and the ministries we’re doing to put love into action.”
Carmen shared a video from United Women in Faith calling all bold, spiritual women to join the movement to uplift women, children and youth to build a world in which all can thrive.
United Women in Faith is the official women’s organization of The United Methodist Church and the largest denominational faith organization for laywomen, with hundreds of thousands of members across the United States and partners around the world. It focuses on leadership development, spiritual growth, transformative education and opportunities for service and advocacy.
The United Methodist Church values as equal the contributions of laity to that of clergy. The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church states, “the ministry of the laity flows from a commitment to Christ’s outreaching love. Lay members of The United Methodist Church are, by history and calling, active advocates of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. The witness of the laity, their Christ-like examples of everyday living as well as the sharing of their own faith experiences of the gospel, is the primary evangelistic ministry through which all people will come to know Christ and The United Methodist Church will fulfill its mission.” (¶127).
Conference Lay Servant Director Linda Barczykowski named these roots as she spoke of the Methodist history of circuit riders—pastors who served circuits, riding on horses to administer sacraments to many different churches—and of the lay leadership that thus built and grew the Methodist church.
“In order to see the future of our church we have to back to our roots,” she said. “We should up our game in encouraging, equipping and empowering our laity.”
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.
Steve Ranous, vice president of the Upper New York United Methodist Men, shared the ministries of the men’s organization, including post-flood cleaning kits, “potato drop” hunger outreach, emergency response EMT training and building wheelchair ramps. They have also debuted a new website at ummuny.com.
Steve also spoke of the connection to the denomination-wide men’s ministry currently called United Methodist Men, who, like the women’s organization, have changed their name in an effort to remove perceived barriers to participation and will soon be known as United Men’s Ministry.
Carmen, head delegate for the Conference’s General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation, addressed the session once again and shared updates on the upcoming Jurisdictional Conferences taking place in each of the five U.S. United Methodist jurisdictions Nov. 2-5. Upper New York is part of the Northeastern Jurisdiction and will be meeting in College Park, Maryland, to elect new Bishops for our jurisdiction and new board members to the denomination’s general agencies.
Bishops elected at the Jurisdictional Conferences begin service Jan. 1, 2023. The Northeastern Jurisdiction will assign a new Bishop to the Upper New York Conference upon this year’s retirement of resident Bishop Mark Webb.
Carmen reminded attendees that the Upper New York General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation has submitted a resolution to this year’s annual conference, “Endorsement of Candidates for Episcopacy,” UNYAC2022.6, which can be found in the Journal updates and will be voted on during the conference.
“Given that the Upper New York Conference will be receiving a new Bishop from the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference gathering, and that we are the largest Conference in this jurisdiction, it is important to exercise our disciplinary right under paragraph 405 of the Discipline to raise up a nominee to send forward to the jurisdictional conference for episcopal election process,” she said. “Our task is to listen to the Holy Spirit as we raise up a name to be considered by the delegates to the Jurisdictional Conference that will happen in November.”
Jessica led a prayer for our Conference’s delegates and their important decisions ahead, and lifted up the Conference’s Helping Hands fund, raising money to assist members of local churches in need of financial support.
Local pastors can apply for funds through their District Superintendents. To support his fund, visit bit.ly/unyacdonate.