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


    news article

    Commentary: Learning the true meaning of “life-changing” from Mission of Peace

    June 13, 2024 / By Grace Steirheim / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Disclaimer: Upper New York Communications may include commentaries in the Weekly Digest that reflects a variety of voices and viewpoints. They are the opinions of the writers, not of Bishop Burgos Núñez or any Upper New York staff member or team. 

    Editors note: The Mission of Peace (MOP) is a yearly journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Council on Youth Ministries of The United Methodist Church. The most recent MOP trip was to Puerto Rico in Feb 2024.

    The Mission of Peace is an experience I’ve waited for since I was in third grade. I heard that the trips were “life-changing” and I knew that I wanted the trip to Puerto Rico to mark another chapter on my faith journey. As I mentally and physically made my way to the beautiful, majestic island, I knew little about how the phrase “life-changing” would impact my views on God, devastation, and humanity.

    The island of Puerto Rico is one of the few places I have traveled where the atmosphere is welcoming. Every single time MOP walked into an unfamiliar place we were greeted with smiles, laughter, and a friendly “Bienvenidos!” Despite devastations from hurricanes, the people of Puerto Rico never failed to flash a smile. They take their days slowly, enjoying every second of every day. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to leave behind my worries and to just live. Kindness and a smile is all people need. Additionally, one of many service projects included painting a Methodist church in Fajardo. We painted the bathrooms because the church offered to host an island-wide church conference in September. While we painted the bathrooms, we learned that the church still waits on funds and materials to repair the roof from Hurricane Maria. Their love and hospitality continued when they served us an unexpected lunch. The people of Puerto Rico are hospitable, humble, and most of all an extension of my church family. 

    While in Puerto Rico, I learned that the trip is not only a connection to the church people but a connection with other MOPPERS. We lived together for ten days: we ate three meals together, laughed together, roomed together, and spent every minute of every day bonding over Puerto Rico. We all came from different conferences and learned many new things about the other eight youth. The connections and memories I have made strengthened my bond with other youth as I believe that communication with youth from other conferences is a key concept in growing the church. They have become my family– we have shared memories I have experienced with no one else, we have inside jokes, and our biggest commonality is that we went on this trip with an open mind. 

    Without Mission of Peace 2024, I would not have met these wonderful Christ-followers who have shown me what impact youth can make towards one another and towards the communities around us. One of our good friends in Puerto Rico loved to engage in conversation in which he and I discussed the group’s impact on him. He told me that MOP was a unique group of missionaries because we were vibrant, smiley, and were open to try absolutely everything. While many only see Puerto Rico as a devastation or a vacation spot, Puerto Rico shows humanity at its finest. God brought me to Puerto Rico to show me how love can come in many forms, the importance of youth in the church, and how the conjugation of nine different individuals creates an impact within a short time. The phrase “life-changing” feels underwhelming to describe this experience because the Mission of Peace trip 2024 to the island of Puerto Rico is truly the best experience of my life. 

    Statement from The Northeastern College of Bishops: Embracing Theological Diversity and Moving Forward

    June 11, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    A SPECIAL NOTE FROM BISHOP BURGOS NÚÑEZ: I am grateful that the Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops is of one voice on these matters. United Methodists of Upper New York are moving forward as a theologically diverse Conference united in our love for Christ and our shared desire to live the gospel and embody God's love with as many people as possible while doing no harm and respecting one another. In the weeks and months to come, resources will be made available to congregations to assist them in living this vision in healthy ways.

    "The Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church embraces theological differences and, without creating more harm to any group, will lead so that within the jurisdiction, there will be room for different theological understandings. Further, we will work with everyone to honor Jesus Christ and advance the mission and ministry within the Northeastern Jurisdiction." – The Northeastern College of Bishops

    Dear United Methodists in the Northeastern Jurisdiction,

    The postponed 2020 General Conference of The United Methodist Church met from April 23 until May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and approved important changes for our church. Today, we are writing to you because we are receiving questions about continuing with disaffiliations.

    Disaffiliations

    The delegates at the General Conference deleted paragraph 2553 in our Book of Discipline, which was inserted in 2019, to provide a temporary path for congregations to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church through December 31, 2023. As many as 25% of United Methodist congregations chose this path.

    The NEJ College of Bishops will uphold the decision made by the delegates at the postponed 2020 General Conference to discontinue any disaffiliation process and NOT support any more disaffiliations. The United Methodist Church is moving forward as a church that embraces theological diversity.

    People have inquired about the use of other disciplinary paragraphs to allow disaffiliations. To be clear, the General Conference indicated through the legislation it approved that disaffiliation is no longer a path for leaving the denomination. There was no extension of disaffiliation, and the disaffiliation paragraph was removed from The Book of Discipline. Two paragraphs were considered in the past: paragraph 2548 was ruled by the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church not to be used for disaffiliations, and paragraph 2549 is for a church closure and how to handle the property. Now that disaffiliations have concluded, the College of Bishops will ensure that annual conferences receive the best value for any sold property.

    Same-Gender Weddings and Appointments of LGBTQ Pastors

    You may have read or heard that the Global Methodist Church and other non-UMC groups and individuals have said that United Methodist clergy will now be forced to perform same-gender weddings and that our congregations will be required to permit same-gender weddings. This is NOT true. The General Conference passed legislation that prevents district superintendents and bishops from penalizing pastors and churches that refuse to perform or allow a same-gender wedding on their property. No clergy will be forced to perform same-gender weddings, and no congregation will be required to permit same-gender weddings on their premises. Clergy and congregations are now entrusted to make these decisions gracefully, considering their ministry context based on their beliefs and attitudes regarding ministry with and by LGBTQ persons.

    We will make appointments based on gifts, graces, experience, commitments, and theological alignment between congregations and clergy.

    In the summer, the College of Bishops will commission a small team of theologically diverse clergy and laity to create a resource to assist congregations in understanding the changes made by the General Conference regarding human sexuality and working through weddings and appointments. This resource is intended to provide a healthy process to (re)build relationships, listen to learn and reflect theologically on this matter from our distinctive Wesleyan perspective so congregations can discern how to move forward. No clergy or laity will be asked to change their beliefs. The goal is to make the resource available by September 1, 2024.

    A Future with Hope

    We celebrate other important decisions made by the General Conference, including the proposal for a new regional structure for our denomination that, if ratified, will allow for more contextual and equitable ministry, fully revised social principles, a renewed commitment to creation care, sacramental rights for deacons, the consecration of new missionaries, and the historic vote to reunite and establish full communion with Episcopalians, the group Methodism separated from in 1784.

    The United Methodist Church is moving forward as a diverse worldwide Christian community that welcomes people from all walks of life. Our faith and hope are anchored in Jesus Christ. Led by the Holy Spirit, our journey of faith and mission is grounded in Scripture and guided by our doctrine, polity, and social principles. We celebrate our rich diversity as a gift from God. Although we may not always agree on certain specific issues, we remain joyfully united in our love for Christ and our shared mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

    In this new season, we are moving forward, claiming God’s future with joy and hope—all for God's glory.

    Together in mission,

    The College of Bishops
    Northeastern Jurisdiction
    The United Methodist Church www.nejumc.org
    www.nejumc.org

    Commentary: The woman at Rafah

    June 11, 2024 / By Noelle Stevens / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The following commentary is by Noelle Stevens, a wife, mother, and palliative care physician in northern New York. The views expressed in this reflection are her own, not of Bishop Burgos Núñez or any Upper New York staff member or team.

    On February 6, 1993, during a visit to Gaza with the Near East Council of Churches, Noelle Stevens captured a photograph of a woman in Rafah waiting to see her sister across the border established by Israel following the Camp David Accords.

    I am Noelle Stevens, a wife, mother, and palliative care physician in northern New York. I took this photo the year after graduating college. My notes from this moment state:

    I do not know this woman’s name, but I will never forget her story. She and her sister met regularly at this Rafah-Egypt border to reconnect as family and share news, yelling across the wide barricade. They were separated in 1982, when Israel withdrew from the Sinai. Rafah was split into an Egyptian and Palestinian side, dividing families, separating them by barbed-wire barriers.

    This photo captures a moment in Rafah over 30 years ago. The framed photo remains in a prominent space in my home. It serves as a daily reminder. I honestly do not know that I can adequately convey exactly what the reminder is, as this changes over time.

    Sometimes this is a reminder of how complicated the history is. Despite my efforts to understand, there are thousands of moments and decisions that led to this woman sitting here, waiting for her sister. This overlaps with a sense of responsibility as an American for this situation, given our integral involvement, not only with the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, but so many other political, social, and economic steps throughout the 20th century until now.

    The photo reminds me to remain connected to the ongoing history created there: repeated violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and international law – collective punishment, denial of access to water and medical aid, torture of prisoners, targeting civilians, intentional interference with humanitarian assistance, disproportionate destruction of hospitals and schools, strategic establishment of settlements, and so on. In the past 30 years, there have been so many moments of heightened awareness of the terror in Gaza. During 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2021, the photo was a stark reminder of the attacks by the Israeli offensive force, killing thousands of people in Gaza in a concentrated period of time.

    Since 2023, the photo prompts me to pray for the people of Palestine. This woman’s image reminds me that action in the face of oppression is critical. This is a disheartening reminder of my role as a taxpayer and constituent in the death and destruction of a people. I am also reminded that our elected officials are accountable to us, as voting citizens. Our young people have proven over time that we can alter the course of economic influence. The photo makes me cry and feel genuine hope all at the same time.

    This photo is a strong reminder of my privilege. I could move freely amongst people living under a military occupation. It is true that Israeli soldiers often threatened me and made my life inconvenient. This treatment pales in comparison to what it was like for a Palestinian to live in that same space that is their home.

    My privilege allowed me to travel to the Holy Land during college. My first trip was with a United Methodist Church (UMC) group that included Bishop Forrest Stith. Subsequently, I was selected by the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) as a Person in Mission at the Amira Basma Centre in Jerusalem. My charge was to live, work, and study in Jerusalem, so I could share with fellow UMC members the plight of the Palestinian people and the role of the United States in perpetuating an oppressive military occupation. I returned to the United States to attend medical school, while also fulfilling my Person in Mission work, continuing to share with UMC groups my experience living in occupied Palestine.

    How was I so blessed with this privilege? Bishop Stith was key in facilitating the creation of this position with the GBGM. I also received immense support from my local congregation, including Ronald Bretsch and Hubert Clark who gifted me the Nikon camera to capture many photos of my experience. I would not have traveled without my parents’ (Shirley & Garrie Stevens) unwavering encouragement to work in Palestine and learn as much as possible.

    I cannot emphasize enough how great the impact of The United Methodist Church has been on my personal and professional growth. This photo is a representation of immeasurable influence over my development as a human, wife, and mother, a physician, a voting citizen, and a community member locally and globally. I am blessed to have witnessed Pastor Gary Bergh’s work on the United Methodist Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine-Israel. He believed that a way for many people to learn about the actual situation in Palestine is for them to go there in person. His legacy through the Gary Bergh Scholarship Fund is to facilitate human connections by removing financial barriers and encouraging travel to Palestine. The objective is to engage with Israelis and Palestinians who long for a fulfilling human existence while they live through this brutal military occupation and destruction.

    I believe strongly in Pastor Gary Bergh’s message. I believe in establishing strong values and critical thinking that can be shared with generations to come. For Mother’s Day, I received this message from my child - “...thank you for teaching me to be strong but vulnerable, be positive and caring towards others, and inspiring me to be the best version of myself.” In the midst of tears and heartache for the people of Palestine, I have hope for a better future.

    I encourage you to pray for peace with justice, vote with your heart, support your local peacemakers, connect with your neighbors near and far, and encourage critical connections in Palestine.

    TAGGED / Advocate / Communications / Taskforce for Palestine Israel

    Commentary: Lessons from Puerto Rico

    June 10, 2024 / By Noah Stierheim / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The following commentary was written by Noah Stierheim about his recent Mission of Peace trip. Mission of Peace (MOP) is a yearly journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Council on Youth Ministries of The United Methodist Church. The most recent MOP trip was to Puerto Rico in February 2024.

    The Mission of Peace (MOP) trip to Puerto Rico was a wonderful experience. I recommend that any youth in high school apply for this opportunity. There are numerous ways to get involved, but the way I did was pretty simple. Initially, I was highly interested in attending the trip to China back in 2020; however, I think we all know how that turned out. I decided to wait a little while and then I finally heard that MOP was taking a trip to Puerto Rico.

    There was a lot of anticipation for the trip. When I was in second grade, I went on a trip to Nicaragua, and I thought I had a general idea of what Puerto Rico was going to be like. We had the wonderful opportunity to stay in a church parsonage in what was probably considered a typical neighborhood in San Juan. Surprisingly, it was almost silent, despite being just off a major road, and it seemed very natural. Many people had beautiful gardens and flowers and lots of dogs. However, behind the beauty of the neighborhood, you could tell that hurricanes had come through and decimated the area. There were several homes without roofs or even the occasional pile of rubble. In one area we visited, Ponce, we were walking on a sidewalk looking at all the beautiful murals the community painted. I looked to my right and my left and realized that I was walking in between two ruined houses, the only thing remaining was a quarter of a wall. 

    There was a huge expectation that I was going to witness the ruins of hurricane Maria. Unfortunately, I was right, in fact, it was worse than I imagined. The other expectation I had on this trip was perception. As people from the mainland, I thought we wouldn’t be perceived well. Especially when you see resorts on beaches and tourists really having no regard for the local people. I was wrong. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet joyful, hospitable people that were enthusiastic and excited to see us. 

    I met people my age who aspire to be music artists, chefs, and chemists. Yet they aren’t sitting around waiting for the opportunity. They took action. They all are in/have been accepted into a college and they all are actively doing what they want to do; however, without that type of energy and enthusiasm, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

    Puerto Rico is a special place full of very, very special people. It is amazing to me, that even through the hardships of earthquakes, hurricanes, and a deadly pandemic, these people never seem to run out of energy. I hope that maybe I could harness some of that energy and bring it back with me to my friends and family at home. Because, at least it appears to me, as people that live on the mainland, I feel like we give up too quickly. Maybe, we just need to be a little more like the people of Puerto Rico so that we can have a community that is strong and unified.  

    UNYAC Creation Justice Team’s composting efforts at 2024 Annual Conference

    June 10, 2024 / By Andrew Hartley / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Three 95-gallon containers of food-associated waste were diverted from landfills to composting at the 2024 Annual Conference at the SRC Arena on the campus of Onondaga Community College from May 30 to June 1. The composting was a labor of love arranged by the conference organizing committee and supported by the UNYAC Creation Justice Team (CJT). Items for composting included food scraps, paper plates, and napkins. This AC meeting was the first such meeting at which composting was facilitated. Members of the CJT staffed the composting station at each of the six meals, assisting diners in separating compostable material from plastics, candy wrappers, waxed cups, and so on. The material was removed for processing by Natural Upcycling, an organic recycling company. 

    Why does composting matter? First, consider the scope of America’s food waste problem. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that, in the United States, between 30–40% (about 133-billion pounds annually) of the food supply is wasted. Food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 58% of the fugitive methane emissions (i.e., those released to the atmosphere) from municipal solid waste landfills comes from landfills. Methane (a potent greenhouse gas, and the principal constituent of natural gas), in turn, contributes to the global heating that is worsening weather-related events, such as collapsing infrastructure, diseases, encroaching oceans, food supply risks, heat waves and killer storms. Thus, via food waste, Americans are degrading the beautiful, supportive planet that God put in place to sustain us and for us to steward responsibly (Gensis 2:15). 

    In several ways, composting helps us tame food waste. Obviously, it slows the growth of landfills. Moreover, when compared to electric vehicles, heat pumps, and solar and wind energy, composting is an under-appreciated tool for reducing heat-trapping pollution. Then, too, it recycles organic materials into a valuable soil enhancer, creates jobs, and—because food scraps are heavy—reduces solid waste management costs. 

    Is God calling you, your congregation, and your community, to reduce global heating, through composting? Composting is feasible for congregations, other organizations and individuals, even those living in apartments or townhomes. Many communities have composting programs, but if yours doesn’t, then such programs are an excellent way to strengthen ties between congregations and their communities. At least one United Methodist Earthkeeper project has included composting. 

    For AC2025, we on the CJT want to further enhance the care of God’s creation, including strengthening composting (by, e.g., including other UNYAC committees in staffing composting stations), reducing waste, steering meeting participants towards environmentally responsible hotels, and promoting cleaner transportation options. 

    Are you curious about the UNYAC Creation Justice Team? Formed in Summer 2023, it promotes the care of God’s creation throughout the conference. Its efforts include educating clergy and laity about the biblical basis for creation care and the environmental challenges of the Upper New York region, forming and promoting “green teams” at all local congregations, and facilitating partnerships between congregations and their communities that will foster better care for God’s creation.  We emphasize creation justice, as those who suffer the most from environmental degradation, especially climate change, are largely those who contribute least to it. We amplify the UMC Book of Resolutions in urging each congregation to start a creation care team, or enhance their existing team, and we are eager to come alongside you in such efforts.  


     
    Other resources 

    FDA on Food Loss and Waste 
    EPA on Quantifying Methane Emissions from Landfilled Food Waste 

    TAGGED / Communications / 2024 Annual Conference

    Youth voices matter: Bridging generational divides in church leadership

    June 6, 2024 / By Shelby Winchell, Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Let our youth have a say. In his passionate plea to United Methodists of Upper New York, Victor Giso from First United Methodist Church of East Greenbush asked the annual conference body to include youth in the life and decisions of the church.  

    “Churches must create platforms for meaningful participation and leadership opportunities. By valuing our insights and fostering an environment of inclusivity, religious institutions can harness the energy and creativity of youth to address contemporary challenges and adapt to evolving social dynamics.” 

    Giso said bridges can be built across generational divides by recognizing youth as equal stakeholders in the faith community. Doing so will allow the sharing of knowledge while creating mutual respect. In turn, this would help create unity amongst Christians.   

    “Recognizing their unique developmental needs, churches can provide guidance, mentorship, and discipleship tailored to the realities of contemporary youth. Through intentional investment in their spiritual growth, the church ensures its relevance and cultivates a generation of committed and empowered followers of Christ.” 

    Challenges will remain, but Giso believes these challenges will offer opportunities for reflection, adaptation, and growth. Embracing diversity amongst all members can harness “transformative potential” in today’s youth to thrive in an ever-changing world.  

    Instead of just imagining youth and young adults as part of the church’s future, he urges churches to make them integral members by valuing their voices and empowering their leadership skills while nurturing their spiritual formation.  

    “Young people are part of the church's present–and with God's help, if you allow us, we are ready to help shape the future as we move forward together.” 

    Click here to watch a recording of Victor’s presentation at annual conference.  

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez named the importance of investing in young people during his Episcopal address on Friday, May 31. He invited Destiny Hoerbelt from North Tonawanda First United Methodist Church to share her story of following God.  

    “We can walk through the darkness, through the fog, and through the confusion if we let God lead us. We need to let God be our headlights, our steering wheel, and our GPS. God connects us in ways we cannot see; but God can see it and to him the connections are clear.” 

    She explained that we don’t always walk in a direction knowing the outcome. Sometimes it is just being in the right place at the right time thanks to God. 

    “When Israel prayed for a savior from their Roman oppressors, they expected a military genius to overthrow their captures. Instead, Mary and Joseph were given a path to a manger where a child was born. Wisemen and shepherds were given a star to follow to where that same child lay; a child whose death and resurrection would overthrow tyranny, would overthrow empires, would overthrow death!" 

    Destiny explained that like Jonah, it’s normal to not always want to move. In Jonah 1:10, Jonah chose to flee from the presence of the Lord. He left his home in Gath-Hepher, traveled to the coastal city of Joppa, and boarded a ship to Tarshish in the opposite direction of Nineveh.   

    “We may not want the change we are given, but I have yet to hear about a suggestion box for God.” 

    The journey from Cairo, Egypt to Jerusalem is about a week-long journey on foot, yet it took Israelites 40-years to complete. “The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord” (Joshua 5:6 NIV). 

    Destiny said, “Where we are meant to be won’t change; how long it takes us to get there depends on our willingness to let God lead and for us to follow.” 

    Click here to watch a recording of Destiny’s presentation. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Youth / 2024 Annual Conference

    Dr. Ashley Boggan offers lessons in history at Annual Conference 2024

    June 4, 2024 / By Tara Barnes / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    For the Friday afternoon learning session United Methodists of Upper New York heard from “full-blown Wesleyan Metho-nerd” Dr. Ashley Boggan, General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History, during the conference’s 2024 annual meeting.  

    But first she took issue with the gathering’s scriptural focus, Philippians 3:13-14. 

    “Here, we are encouraged to forget the past and strive forward to what is before us,” she said. “Yes, forgetting would be nice. But I’m a historian by trade, and I often dwell in the past. But I want to point out the difference between being historically informed and being nostalgic. For me, and hopefully for The United Methodist Church, we can all agree to move forward, knowing that we will hold ourselves accountable to our past, and seek to never repeat it.” 

    She named disaffiliation, the racist jurisdictional structure that segregated Black Methodists for over 30 years, denying women’s calls to ministry until 1956, and harm done to our LGBTQ+ United Methodists as some history we may like to forget. 

    “But if we are going to move on as a new United Methodist Church then, good Lord, we need to reclaim some bits of our past and hold ourselves accountable to other bits,” she said. “If we fail to do this, then we’ll repeat history and continue to not claim our Wesleyan identity and continue to repeat past harms in new ways.” 

    Dr. Boggan is the author of the books Entangled: A History of American Methodism, Politics and Sexuality and Nevertheless: American Methodists and Women’s Rights. 

    Becoming Methodist 

    Dr. Boggan took attendees back to the 1730s, when a newly graduated John Wesley, founder of Methodism, still hung around his alma mater, unsure of what do with his life. His younger brother Charles was still enrolled at Oxford University in England and had started a Bible group on campus.  

    “They rose early, they studied Scripture intently, they prayed incessantly, they fasted, they talked openly about their spirituality, they visited the sick, they held each other accountable to it,” she said. “In other words, they centered their lives on faith as love acted out. And this was weird.” 

    English Christians at the time practiced their faith by sitting quietly in church, listening to a sermon, and going home. The idea of Christianity outside of a church challenged the status quo. 

    John and his friends went outside the city to minister with and learn from the poor, the outcast, the imprisoned. This too challenged the status quo. The group was derisively called “Bible Moths,” “Sacramentarians,” and “Holy Club.” The term “Methodist,” she said, was coined in 1732, in an Oxford newspaper article that also called them “superstitious prophets, shameless diviners, or madmen, or those whom poverty compels.” 

    The Methodists were ridiculed for their weekly prayers and monthly religious services held with those imprisoned, taking food, drink, medicine, and reading material, Dr. Boggan explained.  

    “When they saw inhumane treatment directed at those who had no other options before them, the Holy Club took it upon themselves to hold the authorities accountable.” 

    She told the story of Thomas Blair, an inmate sentenced to death for the alleged crime of having a relationship with a man. John Wesley worked to “convince any reasonable man of his innocence” and then paid the 20 marks—an equivalent of more than 6,000 pounds today—to free Blair after he was found guilty.  

    “I’m not saying that Wesley was defending the actions of Mr. Blair, but he also was not condemning him for them,” Dr. Boggan said. “But in order to ensure that Mr. Blair felt worthy of God’s love, of the love of a neighbor, and love of himself, Wesley was willing to risk all. 

    “Y’all, this is how we got our name. This is what it means to be Methodist. And this is the message of hope that we need to reclaim.” 

    Wesleyan “viletality” 

    John Wesley went to Bristol, England at the request of his “longtime frenemy” George Whitefield in 1739. Wesley was appalled to see Whitefield preaching in a field. Wesley believed a church building was the proper location for soul-saving. However, two days after arriving in Bristol, Wesley wrote in his journal: 

    “At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to about three thousand people.” 

    Wesley not only chose to be more vile by preaching in a field, Dr. Boggan explained, but by also preaching without permission of the bishop of the parish. When castigated by the bishop, Wesley replied, “Sir, I look upon the world as my parish.” 

    “‘While John Wesley’s heart may have been strangely warmed in London, it was set afire in Bristol,’” she said, quoting historian David Worthington. “Within three days of being in Bristol, Wesley’s entire framework of how to preach, where to preach, and what is missionally prophetic was wholly overthrown.” 

    Wesley’s decision to be more vile wasn’t for the sake of being vile but to follow God’s call outside of his comfort zone, outside the standards and rules of church and society, to dare to be “reprehensible” if it meant making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.  

    Happy in God 

    The early Methodists “preached God’s unconditional love of all persons and the worthiness of those on the outskirts. For this, they were harassed, beaten, jailed, and disowned from their families,” Dr. Boggan said, yet John Wesley also described them as “Happy in God,” for their understanding of “perfect love [has] now cast our Fear [and so they] rejoice evermore.” 

    “How do we as United Methodists carry forward these characteristics into a new version of ourselves?” Dr. Boggan asked, naming the opportunity of this new time in the church in which we no longer no longer identify a category of persons “as separate from the love of God within our writings.” 

    “There are many ways that 2024 is looking more and more like 1740s England. Our national laws are getting more and more strict about what can be said, what can be taught, whose lives matter, and who can have full authority over their own lives and bodies. When Wesley preached against ALL of this in the 1740s, he was ridiculed,” she said. “This is not an easy task.” 

    Learning history is necessary for moving forward, said Dr. Boggan. “We have before us now, a moment to be hope-filled. To rethink who we want to be in the future. We have a chance to be proactive. To be prophetic. To be vile. The question is: Are we brave enough to do it?” 

    Click here to view and/or download Dr. Boggan’s learning session from annual conference.  

    Tara Barnes is director of denominational relations for United Women in Faith.  

    TAGGED / Communications / 2024 Annual Conference

    Clergy and Deaconesses commissioned at Annual Conference 2024

    June 1, 2024 / By Tara Barnes / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    A Service for the Celebration of Ministry and Commissioning was held Friday May 31 at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College, part of the 15th annual meeting of the United Methodists of Upper New York. Four people were commissioned for the work of an elder, one for the work of deaconess, and one deaconess transferred her relationship from the Philippines to the Upper New York Conference.  

    Presiding Bishop Héctor Burgos Nuñéz was joined by Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of the Ohio East episcopal area and president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops. 

    Bishop Burgos Nuñéz began the service by calling those gathered to remember their baptisms, pouring water into a basin created from the broken glass brought to the altar in prayer by conference members during the 2023 conference. 

    “This baptismal font serves as a reminder of our oneness formed from the broken pieces of the past,” Bishop Burgos Nuñéz. “It continues to be a symbol of the hope and promise offered to us as God’s faithful people. It symbolizes for this community of faith the possibility and promise of newness and blessing as we seek to discern God’s invitation for us as we move forward.” 

    The “conference cane” was passed from the Rev. Norman Parsons, who passed away in September 2023, to the Rev. David Lubba, the longest living serving clergy member in Upper New York. 

    The conference cane was made from the wood of the first Methodist church in the Genessee Conference, which was built in 1818. The cane was made by the Rev. George Taylor and given to the Rev. Glezen Fillmore with the request that he keep it as long as he lived and that it “descend after Brother Fillmore’s decease to the oldest member of the conference, (that is, the longest serving) and so on successively.” 

    The Rev. Rachel Dupont received the cane on behalf of the Rev. Parsons. 

    The Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood, dean of the cabinet, with Conference Secretary the Rev. Carolyn Stow then led a celebration of retiring clergy.  

    Called to love, justice, and service 

    Deaconesses Constance Glover and Josefina Nicholas-Tacadena were commissioned into their vocational ministries as part of the Upper New York Conference. Glover serves as the lead coordinator of the Community Café at Penn Yan United Methodist Church, a free community meal served twice a month. Nicholas-Tacadena serves as a nursing home resident support attendant.  

    Deaconesses and home missioners are laypeople who are called by God to be in a lifetime relationship in The United Methodist Church for engagement with a full-time vocation in ministries of love, justice, and service. Together they form a covenant community that is rooted in Scripture, informed by history, driven by mission, ecumenical in scope, and global in outreach. 

    Deaconesses and home missioners function through diverse forms of service directed toward the world to make Jesus Christ known in the fullness of his ministry and mission, which mandate that his followers: alleviate suffering, eradicate causes of injustice and all that robs life of dignity and worth, facilitate the development of full human potential, and share in the building global community through the church universal. 

    “Friends in Christ, we rejoice that you responded to God’s call to servant in ministry as a deaconesses of The United Methodist Church. In your ministry you continue a tradition of service that is as vital today as it was in 1888 when the Office of Deaconess was first authorized in the Methodist tradition,” Bishop Burgos Nuñéz said. “The call of God is always profound, and our response can be no less extraordinary. In the varied ministries of love, justice and service to which the Holy Spirit is leading you, you will testify to the infinite love of God in Christ Jesus.” 

    Set apart 

    Conference Lay Leader Jessica White presented those to be commissioned on behalf the laity, joined by the Revs. Ann Kemper and Carmen Perry, who presented on behalf of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Candidates for ministry complete a long process of discernment, education, mentoring, and examination before clergy of the conference vote to elect them provisional or full elders.  

    The Rev. Perry read the names of those to be commissioned for set-apart ministry in Christ’s holy Church in Upper New York, and Bishops Burgos Nuñéz and Smith Malone administered the general examination.  

    Shift the atmosphere 

    As part of the service, Bishop Malone delivered a sermon on “The Joy of Hope,” inspired by Ephesians 1:15-23.  

    She thanked Bishop Burgos Nuñéz for not only inviting her to preach during the commissioning service but to be a part of the holy conferencing. 

    “The Spirit of God has been on the move in this place,” she said. 

    In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul prays that the God “give the saints a spirit of wisdom, revelation, and discernment to know God better and deeper,” said Bishop Malone, that “eyes of their hearts will have enough light and spiritual focus that they can see the hope of God's call to see exactly what God is calling them to do.” 

    “What if we make Paul’s prayer our prayer for the Upper New York Conference, for the worldwide people called United Methodists, for every local church?” Bishop Malone asked. 

    God is always at work, she said, if we have eyes to see. She challenged the congregation to recognize the presence and power of Jesus Christ, to fully trust God, and rely on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Faith is not an intellectual exercise or spectator sport, she said. It requires training, practice, and discipline. 

    Bishop Malone dared the Upper New York Conference and especially those being commissioned to own that God’s Spirit is already upon all of us, and to be convinced that nothing is impossible for God. 

    “It is not popular to be bold and prophetic in our witness. And yet, that’s what we are called to do,” said Bishop Malone. “Fear, division, and hatred tear at the very fabric of our culture and world. Our society is increasingly becoming more racially divided, violent, and unjust. Political and cultural wars have us anxious, fearful, and suspicious of one another. We can’t afford NOT to be bold. We can’t afford NOT to share the love of Jesus. We can’t afford NOT to walk in power. Don’t be afraid to use God’s gifts in you relying on the Spirit of God that is in you.”  

    We must be bold in our witness, she said. Be committed to building the beloved community. 

    “Don’t be apologetic for how your prophetic witness and presence will shift the atmosphere,” she said. “You ought to shift the atmosphere because the light of Christ that is reflected in your life as shown up and brightened up a room. It holds everyone accountable. If we all show up in a room and let the light shine—imagine what can happen in those places.” 

    Bubbling of the Spirit 

    After the message, Bishop Burgos Nuñéz joined Bishop Malone to offer the prayer for commissioning. 

    “God of the apostles and prophets, martyrs and teachers, you raise men and women to 

    be apostolic leaders in your Church. By your Holy Spirit, help these servants understand and live the mystery of your love with boldness and joy. Deepen their sense of purpose as they exercise commissioned ministry,” said Bishop Burgos Nuñéz. “Empower them and those who will walk with them to guide their ministry, together with your people, to heal the sick, love the outcast, resist evil, preach the Word, and give themselves freely for your name’s sake.” 

    He closed the service by inviting forward anyone present feeling a call to ministry to be blessed and prayed for. 

    “I wonder if among us there might be some who are sensing a bubbling of the Spirit that they have never felt before, that is inviting them to take the next faithful step in their journey as disciples,” said Bishop Burgos Nuñéz. “If this is sounding to you like a call … it is because it is a call. God is calling all of us to respond to the question, ‘What are you going to do with this gift that I have given you?’” 

    “I want you to hear that one who calls is not the church, it is Jesus Christ,” he continued, “We give God thanks for those tonight who hear your voice calling, ‘Come follow me.’ This is an encounter with the spirit of the risen Christ. It doesn’t end here tonight. Hallelujah.” 

    You can watch the service on the Conference’s Vimeo page hereClick here to view the worship booklet.  

    Deaconesses commissioned to lifetime of love, justice, and service 

    Constance Glover 
    Josefina Nicholas-Tacadena 

    Provisional members commissioned for the work of an elder 

    Justin Michael Hood 
    Christine Ann Mitchell 
    Danyal Mohammadzadeh 
    Alicia Margaret Wood 

    Tara Barnes is director of denominational relations for United Women in Faith and a lay equalization member from the Binghamton District.

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / 2024 Annual Conference

    Being willing partners with God

    May 31, 2024 / By Tara Barnes / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez called United Methodists of Upper New York to prioritize relationships in his address to the conference Friday, May 31.

    “Over the past year and moving forward, we will continue prioritizing relationships over everything else, recognizing the crucial role each one of you plays in this,” said Bishop Héctor. “For the past twelve months, through ‘Together in Prayer,’ we prioritized our relationship with Christ, going deeper through prayer and corporate reflections and seeking to renew our connection with God and one another.”

    Together in Prayer is a conference-wide prayer pilgrimage encouraging United Methodists of Upper New York to join together in shared prayers using themes and resources provided by the conference.

    Stronger together

    The conference also launched Together in Worship, which Bishop Héctor described as “a monthly worship experience in which the cabinet and clergy staff rotate in leading a devotional time from our mission center in Liverpool that is livestreamed through different platforms available to everyone in the conference.” You can find past services in the conference’s sermon bank.

    The bishop spoke of connecting in the past year with hundreds of clergy and laity at district events that included worship, conversation, and fellowship. He looks forward, he said, to more in-person and online connections and to expanding ecumenical and interfaith partners, including the New York Council of Churches, Interfaith Works, and Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University.

    “We don’t have to do ministry alone, or in silos.” Bishop Héctor said. “We are stronger together!”

    He encouraged attendees to celebrate the good work we do in our churches and together as a connection. Since the last annual conference, more than 300 positive stories were published, he said, sharing the countless ways God is at work through Upper New York churches.

    “We have a beautiful and powerful story to share with the world. We will continue celebrating our leaders and congregations, rejoicing in what we accomplish, and giving God all the glory.

    The bishop acknowledged the challenges of reduced membership rates, COVID-19, lowered budgets, and disaffiliation and praised members and leaders for adapting to new ways of being in mission and ministry. He reminded the conference of the importance of shared giving for shared mission.

    He also thanked laity for stepping up in churches without pastoral leadership as the conference faces a clergy deficit. He pledged to build relationships with seminaries and nurture a culture of calling. He spoke of educating and promoting the route of licensed local pastor and strengthening the resourcing for lay speakers and certified lay ministries.

    “God is providing sufficient resources to achieve all that God is inviting us to do as United Methodists in Upper New York and worldwide through the connection,” Bishop Héctor said. “To make it happen, though, we need to be willing partners with God and align our resources to move forward with the mission and vision of our congregations and The United Methodist Church.”

    Important work ahead

    Acknowledging that United Methodists of Upper New York are “not of one voice” regarding the United Methodist General Conference’s removal of the bans against gay clergy and same-sex wedding ceremonies, Bishop Héctor said, “I want the fighting and harm to end, so we need to collaborate and covenant to love each other and our neighbors in healthier ways.”

    “Over the summer, I intend to convene a small theologically diverse team of clergy and laity to create a resource and process to guide congregations that want to engage in deep and courageous conversations,” he continued, “not to debate or seek alignment, but to build relationships, listen to learn, and discern how they move forward as a theologically diverse connectional faith community.”

    The conference will also produce a resource to help congregations “create a contextual covenant about ministry with and by LGBTQ persons so they can formalize it at their church conferences this fall,” he said.

    The bishop spoke about the hope and opportunity of this time in the church and world. “We need to witness a countercultural vision of hope in a time when a spirit of individualism and intolerance is destroying the testimony of the church and the fiber of our society. We have been called for such times as this.”

    He also named the importance of investing in young people. He offered the stage to Destiny Hoerbelt, a member of North Tonawanda First United Methodist Church.

    “In my life I have worked in culinary, education, retail, business; there is no clear connection between where I’ve been and what I’ve done,” Hoerbelt said. “But these connections do not need to be clear to us, only to God. In the Book of Psalms chapter 119 verse 105 it is written, ‘Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.’ We can walk through the darkness, through the fog, and through the confusion if we let God lead us.

    “Looking to the future of the United Methodist Church in Upper New York, it is my hope that we will come together and work in unison as we share the joyful news that there is an empty tomb, and its former occupant is leading us to salvation.”

    Click here to view/download the video and click here to read the transcript.

    Tara Barnes is director of denominational relations for United Women in Faith and a lay equalization member from the Binghamton District.

    TAGGED / Communications / Bishop Burgos / Youth / 2024 Annual Conference

    Episcopal nominations

    May 22, 2024 / By Carmen FS Vianese, Head of the UNY General & Jurisdictional Conference Delegation

    The Upper New York (UNY) delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conference has completed the episcopal nomination process for 2024.

    Upon the public notice back in March, inviting nominations for episcopal candidates, three esteemed elders and members in full connection were submitted to the delegation. Each nominee was notified of their nomination and prayerfully invited to discern their offering to continue the process, submitting a “summary of their call” followed by an interview with the delegation. Two of the nominees gracefully declined the nomination, while one chose to continue into the interview process with the UNY delegation.

    On Thursday, May 16, 2024, the UNY delegation interviewed the candidate. After prayerful deliberation, the delegation decided not to affirm the candidate, thus, completing our process.

    Furthermore, after robust conversations and mindful of the slim chance that elections are carried by the Northeastern Jurisdiction due to the significant budget reductions made to the Episcopal Fund by the General Conference and the work being done by the Inter-Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy to allocate bishops across jurisdictions, the UNY delegation strongly recommends that the Annual Conference session of  United Methodists of the Upper New York does not endorse candidates to the Episcopacy in 2024.

    The delegation thanks the Conference for your engagement in this process.

    TAGGED / Communications / General Conference 2024 / 2024 Annual Conference

    With Bishop’s help, Liverpool First burns its mortgage

    May 22, 2024 / By Charles McChesney, Liverpool First United Methodist Church

    It was a double celebration at Liverpool First United Methodist Church on Pentecost Sunday. Along with celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, the more than 200-year-old church celebrated paying off a mortgage it took out decades ago to enlarge and improve the church building and later refinanced to update the kitchen to commercial grade. 

    The celebration included a rededication of the building and the congregation to the church’s mission of making disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world. It was capped by a burning of mortgage documents. 

    The service was led by Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez who preached on “Come Holy Spirit, Come.” In his message he recalled that it was at Liverpool First where he was installed as Bishop in 2022. “I get chills coming into this church,” he said, adding that he hoped others did too as they came into the House of the Lord. 

    The service drew clergy who had served the church in the recent years, including the Rev. Dr. Russell Hall, the Rev. Penny Hart, the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Quick, and the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens. Each offered a reflection of their time with the church and were warmly applauded in turn. 

    Two members of Liverpool First’s three-person clergy team, the Rev. Bill Mudge and the Rev. Susan Ranous, assisted at the service and joined the Bishop and others for the ceremonial burning of the mortgage. Judith Lieber-Butler, pastor of Apple Valley United Methodist Church, was the original signer of the mortgage and had the honor of putting the mortgage to the flame. 

    Addressing those standing around a firepit in the church’s backyard as Liverpool First Finance Chairman Richard Ertinger held the mortgage with a pair of tongs, the Bishop urged the church to redirect the money that had been going to the monthly mortgage payment to further expand the church’s efforts to fulfill its mission locally and globally. 

    TAGGED / Finance / Bishop Burgos / Districts

    Celebrating Creation with Wild Worship at Webb Mills UMC

    May 21, 2024 / By Ann Wood / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    On a pleasant April 22 evening, Earth Day, the Webb Mills United Methodist Church hosted a memorable outdoor worship service beneath the shelter of a large pine tree on their church grounds. The event, dubbed “Wild Worship,” attracted members from surrounding area churches and the local community, and even captured the interest of a passerby who decided to join in. 
     
    The service was led by Pastor Corey Turnpenny and Lay Leader Marcia Focht from Church in the Wild. Together, they shared the intriguing backstory into the origins of wild worship and the establishment of Church in the Wild. Their guidance turned the worship into an interactive experience that connected attendees with God through nature. The congregation engaged in reading scriptures and poems, singing, and fellowship, all set in the tranquil outdoors. Jean Coons of Webb Mills UMC provided the musical backdrop, playing a keyboard, enhancing the ambiance. 
     
    This innovative worship service was organized by the Elmira Area Operational Team, a laity group dedicated to exploring ways to enhance ministry collaboration across the community. Throughout the year, this team of spiritual disciples from various churches developed under the guidance of Lindsay Martin, a coach with Spiritual Leadership Inc. (SLI), who introduced them to the L3 model of loving, learning, and leading. The Wild Worship was one of their first collaborative efforts aimed at creating meaningful spiritual connections and building relationships within the Elmira area. 
     
    The Wild Worship at Webb Mills UMC exemplifies how creative and inclusive worship practices can bring communities together and deepen their connection with God’s creation, making it a memorable and spiritually enriching for all who participated.

    TAGGED / Communications / Youth / Districts

    Brown Memorial UMC engages community while sharing God’s love

    May 20, 2024 / By Judy Graigmile / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    In 2021, Brown Memorial UMC received a Peace with Justice grant. This grant, along with church congregant donations, allowed the church to continue Loads of Love Laundry Mission, which offers free laundry washing and drying the last Monday of every month at the Canal View Laundromat in Phoenix, NY. The church provides laundry detergent, dryer sheets, coins to operate the machines, and new 30-gallon garbage bags (for cleaned laundry) to families and individuals who, for financial reasons, wish to participate in this mission. Families can do up to five loads of laundry free and individuals up to three free loads of laundry per gathering. We offer assistance with moving and folding laundry, if desired. We engage with the mission patrons and their children through conversation, prayer, a kids’ craft, and a beverage and snack at each gathering. We offer free local transportation to/from the laundromat to anyone who needs it.  
     
    During the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2020-Fall 2022), we did not meet in-person at the laundromat. Instead, we delivered Loads of Love Laundry Packets to each patron allowing them to select the safest time to do their laundry with social distancing in mind. These packets included all the laundry supplies and coins for the machines, a child’s snack, and a brief devotional with a prayer. 

    The relationships built through the Loads of Love Laundry Mission with patrons and their children led to some families and individuals attending our church, having their children baptized, and attending youth Sunday School. We also developed friendships of trust and caring which expanded into a two-way sharing of ideas and resources as well as our church assisting patrons with free clothing, outer wear, footwear, furniture, transportation to medical and other appointments, helping complete and/or fax important paperwork, meals, groceries, and a few times help with paying rent. We continue in this regard. 

    The Peace with Justice grant also allowed us to serve local residents a healthy, low-cost meal and beverage at Music in the Park, a weekly free public music event at Henley Park in nearby Phoenix. Local residents of limited income, as well as others, were able to enjoy a hot and delicious meatball sub meal at a very low cost. Those who bought the meal were delighted, expressing that it was a nice change from hot dogs and hamburgers, and that it was plentiful for the price.  
     
    Our goal was to engage with local residents in a relevant way that allowed us to share Christ’s love and upcoming church events while helping all to have access to a low-cost meal. There were lots of conversations and smiles shared as we served the attendees. Organizations in our community are asked to provide at least one meal during this summer music series. We were able to do this with the grant funds helping to offset the meal costs. 

    And it didn’t stop there. With the help of the grant funds, we were also able to provide a hot healthy “to-go” meal & beverage at Brown Memorial UMC to their congregants and area neighbors, some homeless or dealing with food scarcity. The meals went quickly, and the church congregants were very appreciative and supportive of our assistance in providing a meal to those in need and sharing in offering Christ’s love with them. Some of our Sunday School youth participated in the meal serving and found it very enjoyable and plan to do this mission again in early 2024.

    To apply for a Peace with Justice Grant, click here and to give to this Special Sunday to benefit a local Upper New York church, donate here

    New York State Legislative Updates: Paid Prenatal Leave, Paid Breast Milk Expression Time, and Continuation of Paid COVID-19 Sick Leave until mid-2025

    May 20, 2024 / By Tracy Rickett, UNY Human Resources Generalist / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    As part of the NYS Budget Bill process, there are three legislative updates which were approved. The details for each one are listed below. If you have any questions on these legislative updates, please contact Tracy Rickett, HR Generalist, at tracyrickett@unyumc.org or 315-898-2017. 

    Paid Prenatal Leave 

    New York becomes the first state to mandate paid prenatal leave requiring employers to provide pregnant employees with 20 hours of paid prenatal leave during any 52-week calendar period. This mandate is an amendment to Labor Law § 196-b and is in addition to the state’s existing mandatory paid sick leave. The leave can be used for “physical examinations, medical procedures, monitoring and testing, and discussions with a health care provider related to the pregnancy,” and can be taken in hourly increments. The paid prenatal leave requirement will take effect on Jan. 1, 2025, and only applies to private sector employers.  

    Paid Breaks for Breast Milk Expression  

    The final law amends Labor Law § 206-c and requires all private and public sector employers to provide 30 minutes of paid break time and allow employees to use other paid break or mealtime for time in excess of 30 minutes “each time such employee has reasonable need to express breast milk.” Given the “each time” language, it is conceivable an employee would be entitled to multiple paid breaks during a workday for this purpose. The paid breast milk expression mandate begins on June 19, 2024.  

    Paid COVID-19 Sick Leave  

    The budget bill repeals the Paid COVID-19 Sick Leave requirement—but not until next year. Paid COVID-19 Sick Leave continues to be the law of New York State until July 31, 2025. 

    TAGGED / Communications

    Statement from the Council of Bishops clarifying the status of The United Methodist Church’s relationship with The Global Methodist Church

    May 15, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's note: This letter was published by The United Methodist Council of Bishops on May 14, 2024 and shared with United Methodists of Upper New York.

    “Make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.” (Ephesians 4:3 CEB)

    Holding Scripture’s call for Christian unity before us, we lament that some have chosen to leave The United Methodist Church. At the same time, we must clarify that the Global Methodist Church has no official relationship with The United Methodist Church and has not been endorsed by any of its official bodies. There has been no request for such a relationship and, as such, there is no communication taking place to negotiate a common understanding of our two bodies.

    In a strong commitment to ecumenism and in order to fulfill our mandate to be the body of Christ, The United Methodist Church offers processes for establishing full communion relationships with other Christian denominations. In our United Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶431.1 states that a formal “full communion” relationship is one that exists between two or more Christian churches that: 

    1. recognize each other as constituent members of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, the body of Christ, as described in the Holy Scriptures and confessed in the     church’s historic creeds; 
    2. recognize the authenticity of each other’s sacraments and welcome one another to partake in the Eucharist, 
    3. affirm the authenticity of each church’s Christian ministry, and 
    4. recognize the validity of each other’s offices of ministry. 

    This commitment is a beacon of hope, signaling our optimism for future relationships.  However, at the heart of such relationships is a mutual recognition that each denomination is a faithful expression of ministry in the name of Jesus Christ, bearing the marks of one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. 

    The mission of the church to make and nurture disciples of Jesus Christ is enhanced when various bodies of Christ collaborate in a mutual ministry of grace and respect.  Likewise, the mission of the church is harmed by the denigration of one body at the expense of another.  To that end, we call upon the members of the Global Methodist Church to formally recognize The United Methodist Church as an authentic and valid denomination and to cease all efforts to coerce members of The United Methodist Church to join their fellowship.  Likewise, we commit ourselves to the same standard of respect and grace.

    We believe that the ministry of Christian discipleship requires us to be co-laborers who work together in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord “until Christ comes in final victory, and we feast at his heavenly banquet.”  In order to maintain the integrity of this mandate, we cannot in good conscience enter the mission field with the members of the Global Methodist Church until there is a clear understanding of this mutual recognition.  We pray that we may do so with a spirit of charity even as we expect it from others.

    As our Book of Discipline states, “All United Methodists are summoned and sent by Christ to live and work together in mutual interdependence and to be guided by the Spirit into the truth that frees and the love that reconciles.” In that spirit, we remain open and hopeful for future conversations with the Global Methodist Church that might lead to reconciliation and healing. This openness is a testament to our commitment to unity and peace. This will not happen with words and actions that undermine and disparage one another.  

    Even as we call for this spirit of mutual recognition from the leadership of the Global Methodist Church, we earnestly pray that God will help us to lead The United Methodist Church in working to fulfill Christ’s own prayer that someday, all who believe in Him will live in unity and peace.  

    In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, may it be so. Amen.

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos

    Rome First UMC builds relationships while providing services to those in need

    May 7, 2024 / By Pastor Sherry Mahar, Rome First UMC / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    In November 2022, Rome First UMC received a grant from Peace with Justice which was used to support our Five Loaves Ministry and launch Saturday’s Bounty. The Five Loaves Ministry provides boxes of food for people in need; those in poverty, disabled veterans, and the elderly. We seek to impact everyone physically by feeding their hunger and spiritually by offering prayer, Scripture, and a greeting from a friendly person of faith. 

    Saturday’s Bounty is a food ministry that provides a weekly hot meal at the church for those in need throughout the community. In addition to the meal, we build relationships with those that come through with time spent in fellowship, engaging in conversation, and offering prayer for those who want it. 

    Positive outcomes from these ministries have allowed us the ability to build relationships as we share God's love with the people who come to Five Loaves and Saturday’s Bounty. Another has been presenting the opportunity to plant seeds by sharing our faith, offering prayer, and inviting people to attend church and church sponsored events and activities. Several have responded and one young woman, Jennifer, recently joined the church. She was homeless, jobless, and struggling with addiction when we met her. 

    Jennifer recently shared her testimony. “Over the past few years, I had been living in despair. The lowest I thought I could get. However, things did get worse. One Thursday around noon, I saw a table with fruit and water being given out as part of a program called Worship Without Walls. That was the first time I met Pastor Sherry and a few others of the congregation. When I came over, I started talking with Pastor Sherry and she offered to pray for me. She prayed a sincere prayer for me and invited me to attend service on Sunday. I did not go. My lifestyle didn’t blend well with church. However, I did need Jesus and God in my life desperately. A few months later, I saw the Worship Without Walls and Pastor Sherry again. They were handing out socks and some other toiletries which I did need. Pastor Sherry prayed for me again about the negative situation I was in.” 

    “Shortly after her prayer, the place I was staying in was sold and the new owner gave me less than 24 hours to move out. The owner promised to put my stuff into a storage unit, but that did not happen when she realized it would cost her more. I then had less than an hour to come up with the money to pay for the storage unit. As you might guess, I couldn’t do that. Some of the stuff went to the dump, including things my deceased mother had given me, which reduced me to tears. She also said she would hold on to some of my things, especially a suitcase filled with special pictures and mementos of my mom, and other important paperwork. About a month later I found out it had all been thrown out by someone else. Yet again, I broke down. That was the end of October when I officially became homeless. I couch surfed at different people’s houses for a few nights each. I soon ran out of places to stay. 

    “In December I went into rehab to get clean and build a better life. It actually did work for me. Shortly after I came back from rehab, I saw that Worship Without Walls was in their usual spot. I went hoping Pastor Sherry would be there. She wasn’t this time. The people that were there gave out toiletries and fruit and they invited me to Saturday’s Bounty at the church for lunch. Being that I was homeless, I was pretty hungry, so when Saturday came, I went for lunch. As lunch was going on, one of the church members made a huge box of food for me. It was awesome, especially since I needed to stay with a friend again, surfing couches. I was so appreciative of the food box, not only for me, but I also had something to share with the people letting me stay with them. 

    “As I talked to the people at Saturday’s Bounty, I was again invited to attend church on Sunday. Because of all the help they’d offered and how much they’d helped me over those months, I really couldn’t say no. I showed up on Sunday. It was Easter Sunday. I sat with the one person I met at Saturday’s Bounty along with his wife. Pastor Sherry looked at me throughout the service. At the end of it, she came over and gave me a big hug and told me she was happy to see me. She even remembered my name. These outreach programs and the church have not only helped me, but they brought Jesus and God back into my life. I’m not only grateful, but Pastor Sherry’s prayers were answered and I am now clean and stable and much happier. I’m no longer in despair. I’m now glad, not mad, to wake up every morning. I now have hope.” 

    Other positive outcomes from the ministries have been that several people who received food, words of encouragement, and love have come full circle to help both Five Loaves and Saturday’s Bounty grow- reaching and touching more lives. Serving together, they have even become a form of church. We have been learning as we grow and continue to learn as we move forward. One of the learning curves was getting the word out about Saturday’s Bounty.  

    Our advertising was not getting to the vast homeless population, most of whom do not have cell phones, internet, are not on Facebook nor do they read the paper. Posters were posted around as well, yet it was a challenge reaching people. We have found that for most of the people needing the information, they have been reached most by word of mouth along with a reminder flyer with the details. Getting the word out this way showed the size of the homeless situation in our area. In response, we have been collecting camping equipment and other items and bringing it all to the homeless community, along with food and an invitation to the meal. Another challenge has been learning how to talk to people who are either under the influence of drugs or alcohol or are struggling with mental illness. We continue to learn and grow.  

    To apply for a Peace with Justice Grant, click here and to give to this Special Sunday to benefit a local Upper New York church, donate here.

    Community working together to care for one another

    May 7, 2024 / By LeAnn Childs, Westfield First UMC

    I knew nothing about the commitment of the Westfield community to helping those less fortunate when I started working as the Administrative Assistant at the First United Methodist Church of Westfield (FUMC Westfield) in 2011.  

    Part of my job was checking in food pantry clients. Since my husband is a pastor, I have been in many churches and lived in different communities and have heard about different needs and have made donations. I have never actually gotten to know those that that needed the help. 

    Through my work, I have gotten to know these individuals and families on a personal level. I have worked with them to get as much help as possible, been there to support and cheer them on as their families changed, grew and shifted.  

    The FUMC Westfield has hosted the Westfield Community Food Pantry for over 25 years. This has been an area wide endeavor and relies on help from the community and FeedMore of WNY, an independent, nonprofit organization that’s part of Feeding America and Meals on Wheels America. The community has stepped up to help this be a thriving and much needed and appreciated program in the Westfield-area in the Cornerstone District of the Upper New York Conference. 

    In 2023, the food pantry logged in well over 700 hours in volunteer time from food ordering, food deliveries, packing food, check-ins, food distribution, and paperwork. Volunteers come from all over the village and surrounding areas. Together, we served over 650 families, averaging about 56 families a month. We served 1525 individuals, averaging 127 per month. We provided 13,725 meals, averaging 1144 meals per month.  

    We have received donations from every church in Westfield at least twice a year. We received food donations from individuals and organizations, including some special treats from local Girl Scout troops. We received monetary donations as memorials, in honor of someone's birthday and “just because” donations. Our Reverse Advent, which is sponsored by FUMC Westfield, brought in over 750 items!  

    The nice part about Reverse Advent is that people will gift the food pantry an item every day of the Advent season that are needed to help fill the food pantry shelves. We have added a bonus day for December 25 and encourage people to bring items for Mary and/or baby Jesus. 
     
    Over time, we discovered there were needs that were not being met with the food pantry, including cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products. These are items most of us take granted. With the help of the Westfield Ministerium (made up of clergy from the village of Westfield), we were able to gift families with a cleaning bucket filled with items like dish soap, laundry detergent, a dish cloth, household cleaner, bar soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and much more. This started as a one-time thing but it was needed and very well received, we began to explore options that would allow us to give these items out more frequently. We have been fortunate that many individuals, churches, and organizations have helped us be able to offer these items multiple times a year. This project has turned into our “Blue Bag Fund.” 
     
    About six years ago, we discovered that many households did not have the funds for menstrual products and baby care items. We started what is known as our “Pink Envelope Fund.” This fund is used to provide diapers, wipes, formula, menstrual pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and incontinence products. With the generosity of the Westfield Community, we can offer these products for free to those in need in the Westfield area year-round. 

    If you ask me about Westfield, I would tell you that there are many individuals, organizations, and churches that truly care about all individuals in the community. There are many opportunities to help others and many organizations that do help out - just ask anyone in town about Union Relief and the Women of Westfield to name a few. I know that each community has opportunities out there to help others.  

    I know that when you take the opportunity to reach out to give, you get back so much more than you ever give. Opportunities can be something small that others won’t notice, but if it comes from your heart, you will be blessed. I know I have been blessed when receiving something as small as a heartfelt smile. 

    If you feel led to contribute or would like more information, please feel free to contact the church at (716) 326-3243 or email us at westmeth@fairpoint.net. To access our website, click here or click one of the links below to see our Amazon wish lists: 

    You can also consider donating in your local area. Take time today to be a blessing to others. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Districts

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez: Recapping General Conference

    May 3, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's note: The following video and transcipt was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez on May 3, 2024 following the adjournment of the postponed 2020 General Conference, held April 23-May 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Click here to download and print the transcript and click here to download the video.

     

    NOTE TO APPOINTED CLERGY: Bishop Burgos strongly encourages clergy to share this video in their congregations during worship and in any other media platform available to the congregation(s) they serve.

    The postponed 2020 General Conference of The United Methodist Church met from April 23 until May 3, 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Clergy and lay delegates from our worldwide United Methodist connection gathered for ten days to worship, receive reports, celebrate life-changing ministries, commission new missionaries, consider legislation and resolutions on various mission-critical subjects, and to organize the life of our denomination for the next four years.

    This General Conference is a pivotal moment in the history of our beloved denomination, marked by significant decisions that will shape our future together as United Methodists for generations. The movement of the Holy Spirit was evident throughout the past two weeks. A genuine spirit of collaboration, consensus, and hope permeated the legislative committees and plenaries, fostering a new sense of unity amid our rich diversity.

    I am grateful for the delegation from the Upper New York Conference. They served us faithfully, modeled grace and collaboration amongst themselves and the other delegates, and embodied the love of God with joy, even during long working days that included many complex and difficult conversations.

    In this recap video, I will briefly highlight five significant decisions made during the postponed 2020 General Conference.

    Regionalization 

    The General Conference approved legislation, including changes to our constitution, that enables a regional structure in The United Methodist Church. Regionalization will allow us to continue being a worldwide movement AND permit ministry to happen more contextually, indigenously, and with equity throughout the different regions where we do ministry. The approved legislation on regionalization will now go before all Annual Conferences around our worldwide connection for a vote to ratify this decision before it can be implemented. Upper New York will have the ratifying vote in 2025.

    Revised Social Principles

    The General Conference also approved a revised version of our social principles. While these principles aren't considered church law, they represent the United Methodist response to our time's most pressing social issues based on our shared Wesleyan heritage and emphasis on social holiness. The review process took eight years and involved over four thousand people worldwide. The revised social principles are less US-centric, less prescriptive, and more guiding. They aim to address issues that impact the global community, with regional bodies focusing on concerns specific to their respective missional contexts from now on.

    Removal of the Exclusionary Language against the LGBTQ community.

    In a historic vote, the General Conference decided to remove the exclusionary language that was inserted in our Book of Discipline 52 years ago, against LGBTQ persons. This decision was supported by 93% of the delegates.

    The body also approved legislation that prevents district superintendents and bishops from penalizing pastors and churches that perform or allow a same-gender wedding on church property. The same petition also includes protections that prevent punishment if a pastor or church chooses not to perform or allow a same-gender wedding on church property.

    Unfortunately, already, irresponsible voices from outside the UMC are trying to confuse our people and churches in Upper New York, telling them that because of these decisions, they will be forced to act in ways that are not aligned with their beliefs on this matter. Let me be very clear—that is not true. Currently, clergy determine who they marry or not, and congregations choose how to use their buildings for ministry. That will continue to be the case. The General Conference removed all restrictions in the Book of Discipline and trusted clergy and congregations to follow their beliefs about ministry with and by LGBTQ persons.

    Some might wonder what removing the restrictive language means for our shared ministry as United Methodists in Upper New York. As we move forward, the cabinet and I will continue:

    • seeing and welcoming all people and inviting them to experience the love of Christ in their lives.
    • celebrating our rich diversity as a precious gift from God.
    • consulting with clergy and pastor-parish relations committees to discern the best missional appointment that honors the congregation and the pastor, and,
    • promoting a vision of missional unity that transcends our differences and reflects the all-inclusive grace of Christ.

    Reduced Missional Budget

    After a robust discussion, the General Conference established a new base rate for the apportionment formula, which will come into effect in 2025. The rate will be reduced from 3.29% to 2.6%. However, if the apportionment collection rate reaches 90% or higher in those years, the base rate will increase to 2.9% for 2027 and 2028.

    The reduced budget prioritizes the ministries of local churches and annual conferences and considers our new ministry context after years of reduced membership, COVID-19, and disaffiliations. The bottom line of this decision is that the annual conferences in the US will pay lower apportionments to the general church. This also means that denomination-wide ministries that rely on those apportionments, including our general agencies and episcopal leadership, will be budgeted with this reduction in mind, triggering significant reductions in agency ministry budgets and changes in episcopal assignments.

     In June, the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference will make decisions on episcopal assignments considering the missional budget approved by the General Conference.

    New Clergy Retirement Plan

    The General Conference approved a new retirement plan for United Methodist clergy in the U.S. The plan, called Compass, was conceived and supported by Wespath, the denomination’s pension and benefits agency, to secure a sustainable approach to supporting retired clergy.

    Compass is expected to be less costly than the CRSP; and it will not generate additional long-term liabilities for annual conferences, many of which have been hard hit by the disaffiliations of local churches. With Compass, clergy will have retirement accounts that they control. They will be encouraged to contribute 4% of their salary to receive the full matching contribution from the church. Compass also will provide matching contributions to help clergy pay off student loans. The shift towards the Compass Plan, will not change benefits for clergy who are already retired. In addition, all benefits accrued in the current plan by active clergy, will be available to them at the time of retirement.

    In the coming months, we will provide detailed information to all clergy on the new retirement plan. We will also continue working towards compensation equity for our clergy in ways that are sustainable in the long term.

    Moving Forward

    In the coming days, weeks, and months, I will collaborate with The Council of Bishops and our conference leadership to provide you with more information about all that happened in Charlotte including the good news on new sacramental privileges for deacons, a revised book of resolutions and many other things; to help us better understand the general conference's outcomes and how we will move forward together.

    As we celebrate the monumental progress made by the General Conference, let's do so humbly, mindful that some among us may be frustrated with some of the decisions made by the delegates on behalf of the church and uncertain about the future.

    To my LGBTQ siblings, on behalf of the church, again, I ask for your forgiveness for the ways the church have sinned against you with words and exclusionary actions. I look forward to continuing to journey alongside you in this new season. Please know that I remain committed to continue working for a United Methodist Church, where not only our polity, but also all hearts are changed so that all persons are truly welcomed and allow to live to their full God-given potential.

    I pray that the spirit of unity and collaboration experienced in Charlotte and the outcomes of this General Conference begin to bring healing to our denomination after years of disagreements and divisions. I urge all United Methodists in Upper New York to stay committed to doing no harm, doing good, and growing together in our understanding, experiences, and outward expressions of God's love.

    I have never been more excited to be a United Methodist. We are moving forward with a vision of being a Spirit-led worldwide movement that is:

    • Thriving and united in transforming the world by nurturing disciples of Jesus Christ who share God’s love, compassion, and justice every day and everywhere. 
    • Spiritually vibrant and counter-culturally relevant. 
    • Committed to personal and social holiness, celebrating its rich diversity as a gift from God.
    • A multi-generational network of faith communities that embrace all people as beloved children of God and allow them to live to their full God-given potential.
    • A mission-driven organization that is agile, creative, and resilient, and while global in nature and impact, it is local and contextual in its ministry to reach as many people as possible with the good news of Jesus Christ.

    The prophet Isaiah proclaimed from God:

    “Forget what happened long ago! Don't think too much about the past. I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it? I have put roads in deserts, streams in thirsty lands.”

    Guided by the Holy Spirit, together, we are moving forward to God’s future with joy and hope. I thank you for who you are and for the countless ways you are making the grace of Christ visible and tangible in your communities. Continue living the gospel and being God’s love with your neighbors in all places – that’s how the world is transformed.

    Now, may the love of God protect our hearts. The grace of Christ strengthen our faith and hope, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit continue to lead us forward.

    Amen.

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
    The United Methodist Church
    Serving United Methodists of Upper New York

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos / General Conference 2024 / Council of Bishops / Districts

    UNY shares observations from General Conference

    April 30, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    United Methodists for all over the world are gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina from April 23-May 3 for the General Conference of The United Methodist Church. Elected clergy and laity delegates from 133 annual conferences, including delegates from Africa, Europe, and the Philippines, normally meet once every four years, but that wasn’t possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which postponed the top policy-making body of The UMC three times.  

    There are several representatives from Upper New York at General Conference, including ten delegates, reserve delegates, and volunteers. Ian Urriola is serving as a lay delegate and describes the atmosphere as Spirit-filled. 

    “My sense of the overall spirit throughout legislative committee rooms last week is that this is a General Conference unlike any other. This is a General Conference that harkens back to the early, Spirit-fueled days of traditional Methodism. Hard, difficult questions were wrestled with in legislative committees, of course, but we were able to have them with a heart of peace rather than a heart of war. I'm seeing strong relationships being formed by delegates that transcend borders that, with God's help, will continue to blossom long after we leave Charlotte. The new, faith-filled dawn of United Methodism is palpable as it just begins to break on the horizon." 

    The Rev. Carlos M. Rosa-Laguer, Cornerstone and Niagara Frontier District Superintendent, is also in Charlotte serving as a clergy reserve delegate. This is his first time attending General Conference.  

    "The cultural diversity I anticipated truly comes alive in the atmosphere. The clothing, hairstyles, and expressions of both face and body all seem to offer a glimpse of heaven—it feels like experiencing a daily, continuous Pentecost. The preaching and worship resemble an orchestra that has prepared for four years, fine-tuning every rehearsal to deliver each piece of music with finesse. On socio-political matters, it's clear that decisions have been made which demonstrate to the global community that The United Methodist Church is ready to be a conduit of God's grace—a necessity we, as humanity, urgently and desperately need in this complex, globalized era.” 

    The Rev. Bob Kolvik-Campbell, Binghamton and Oneonta District Superintendent, and the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood, Crossroads and Finger Lakes District Superintendent, are both volunteering as marshals at General Conference. Read all about their roles at General Conference here. This is the fourth time Rev. Kolvik-Campbell has served as a marshal.  

    “The mood so far is good and the spirit is that we are working together. We are grappling with finances and seeking the new that God is calling us. And being a Methonerd is now a thing,” explained Rev. Kolvik-Campbell.  

    Rev. Dr. Rood attended General Conference in 2019 as a volunteer to support the Upper New York delegation. She describes this as an exciting time. 

    “I am always amazed by the diversity that exists in the UMC. In the plenary and legislative committee rooms there are interpreters so everyone can understand what is being said in real time. The interpreters speak French, German, Spanish Kiswahili, Portuguese, Korean, Tagalog, Russian and English. Walking down the hallway as people move to a meeting or meal is like a taste of Pentecost. Each person, many in clothing from their culture, speaking in their own language is an awesome experience. I have been blessed to talk with someone I met in the Holy Land and to renew friendships from around the connection. We are a big church doing big things!” 

    You can watch the daily live stream of General Conference by clicking here. The General Conference is highest legislative body of The United Methodist Church and holds the power to revise The Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions, while also initiating amendments to the denomination’s constitution. 

    TAGGED / Communications / General Conference 2024

    Celebrating 200 years of Ministry at Penn Yan United Methodist Church

    April 23, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Penn Yan United Methodist Church celebrated its 200th anniversary recently. The birthday bash began on Saturday, April 20 with a concert featuring the musical ensembles of the church: praise band, sanctuary choir, bell choir, organ solos, and trumpet duets. The anniversary festivities continued with a dessert reception, fellowship, and history displays after the concert. 

    A unified celebration worship service was held on the following day. Sunday’s worship theme was “Love Grows Here” as the congregation looked back at the last 200 years of ministry. “Two hundred years. Think about what was happening two hundred years ago. Penn Yan was only one year old when this church was formed,” mentioned Penn Yan’s pastor, the Rev. Kristen Allen in an opening statement. Rev. Allen then went on to share a video message from Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez. In the video, Bishop Héctor thanked the congregation for their many years of witness, mission, and ministry. “As you remember your past, as you celebrate your present, and as you look into the future, I pray that you continue making this fellowship your spiritual home and that you extravagantly continue inviting and welcoming your neighbors so that all can experience the healing love of Christ in their lives.”

    The anniversary worship service featured special guests including former pastors, including the Rev. Wayne Butler and his wife Molly Butler, the Rev. Bradford Hunt, the Rev. Jeff Childs and his wife the Rev. Dr. Robin Blair, and former Associate Pastor Adrienne Russell. Also in attendance were Dorothy Williams, wife of the former pastor the late Rev. Gordon Williams, Pastor Tom Wunder and his wife Anne Wunder who were former members of this church before Tom became a pastor, and District Superintendent the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood and her husband Dr. Bob Rood. 

    Penn Yan UMC’s church historian, Jan Hafner, shared 200 years of history in two minutes. “We have had our home in three different church buildings, the one we’re in is the third one, survived a major split before the Civil War over the issue of slavery...we’ve had 56 different pastors.” Hafner goes on to thank and praise God for “keeping us strong for 200 years.”

    The congregation then celebrated a first in Penn Yan UMC’s 200 years: the very first Deaconess from the congregation. Connie Glover will be consecrated as a Deaconess at the 2024 General Conference Session. Not only is she the first woman, but she is also the first woman of color to be a Deaconess from Penn Yan UMC. Rev. Allen explained the ministry of Deaconesses and Home Missioners and offered a special prayer of blessing over Connie. “They answer the call to make Jesus Christ known by obeying his command to alleviate suffering, irradicate causes of injustice and all that robs life of dignity and worth, facilitate the development of full human potential. Anyone who knows Connie knows that her life exemplifies this call.”

    The anniversary celebration continued with Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood as she preached the sermon “Rooted and Grounded” on theme of Penn Yan UMC’s celebration weekend, Ephesians 3:17 - “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” 

    The celebration concluded with the closing song “And All the People Said Amen” which the Sunday School children learned the sign language for and signed to it as the congregation sang.  

    After worship, there was a reception with appetizers and history displays followed by a celebration dinner in the church’s fellowship hall, with speeches from the former pastors and spouses. 

    Commentary: A Future of Hope for Palestine-Israel?

    April 22, 2024 / By Rev. Gary E. Doupe / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Gary E. Doupe is a retired Upper New York elder and wrote the following reflection on behalf of the Upper New York Task Force for Peace with Justice in Palestine-Israel.   
     

    Since retiring from full-time pastoral work, I’ve been part of our UNY Conference Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine-Israel. In 2012 I traveled to the West Bank, Israel, Jerusalem, and Gaza with a group known then as “Interfaith Peace-Builders” (now called “Eyewitness Palestine” (EP)).  I cannot commend its leadership and work highly enough. If you’re interested in seeing for yourself, I encourage you to consider a trip with EP or another responsible group who will introduce you to both Israelis and Palestinians. You would want to hear from people actively engaged in building relationships and foundations for a just and lasting peace. The New York State Council of Churches is preparing such a trip for this coming fall. Contact the Council directly or email me at gary@doupe.com if you’re interested. 

    Over the last couple of decades, I have read widely, engaged with deeply-rooted and knowledgeable people, experienced the Holy Land, visited its homes, and searched my heart. I can imagine only one way for there to be justice among all who feel deeply connected to the Holy Land: that they welcome one another as partners in a democratic, unitary state. You and I have no mandate to create such an outcome. We of the United States have no special wisdom or position to do so. The money we’ve invested in the governments of Israel and Palestine does not give us that power, even if we should think it does. 

    Though the Arabic and Hebrew languages emerged from a common root (making these two Semitic peoples in a real sense “cousins”), we know that a family tree does not guarantee family-feeling. Holy Land conflict is not about religion, as some may assume, but rather a dispute over land and power. Palestinian Christians and Muslims manifest no conflict or ill feeling toward each other, and get along well. All Palestinians were concerned when farms, homes, and land were taken by Jewish immigrants. 

    Jewish people driven from their Palestinian homes by Romans, almost 2000 years ago, had created a Jewish culture in Europe. They settled in many places, but their greatest challenge was the anti-Jewish attitudes of so-called “Christian” peoples and nations. In Spain, Jews were expected to adopt Christianity, and when they refused, the inquisition condemned many to torture and death.  Escaping Spain, Jews were welcomed in Muslim countries, but not so much among Christians. In the wake of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, Luther and other Protestant leaders interpreted the Gospel of John as indicting Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus. While in some places Jews blended into European culture, oftentimes they kept Jewish traditions alive in small communities or ghettos. Barely tolerated in some places, in others Jews won respect as professionals, businessmen, and intellectuals. Yet anti-Jewish attitudes surfaced and resurfaced, and when “Master Race” (Aryan culture) theories were developed by the German Nazi Party in the 1930s, Jews were subjected to expulsion, imprisonment, and mass murder in death camps—a policy later described as the “Holocaust.” Some six million Jews died, victims in no small measure of a malignant, distorted theology, where self-identified “Christians” substituted for the love of Christ a hatred for Jews. 

    The Holocaust was, in other words, a hideous blasphemy by an offspring of “Western Christian” culture which knew too little of Christ. 

    At the end of WW II, guilt-ridden governments: English, French, American and others, responded to the Holocaust with the help of the newly formed United Nations, by partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab sectors. They would solve the “Jewish problem” by shuffling Jews into a country “all their own” (thereby reducing Jewish presence in Europe and America). Some justified that unilateral decision of November 1947 by reference to a shallow slogan: “A land without people for people without a land.” The slogan was bogus. Palestine had been occupied and farmed, by mostly-Arab people, for centuries. Far from being empty, it was populated, prodigiously productive, and peaceful. An increasing minority of Jews lived and worked alongside their Arab-majority neighbors. 

    Some Jews in the U.S. asked leaders of the Jewish state (self-proclaimed in May 1948) to be attentive to the just needs of Palestinian Arab families driven out when Jewish para-military groups—Haganah and Irgun—took possession of their farms and homes. More than a hundred Palestinian villages were eliminated by such groups. After a slaughter of villagers in Deir Yassin, many Palestinians fled for their lives, and afterward were barred by Israel from returning home—in direct violation of international law. When U.S. Jewish critics voiced concern, Israeli officials worked to silence their voices. 

    Don Peretz, who taught Middle East Studies for many years at Binghamton University, was one of those voices(1). I was fortunate to become a friend of Don (born of two Jewish parents, his father born in Jerusalem) and eventually to learn that Don had volunteered to work with Quakers in the resettlement of Holy Land families after WW II. His Ph.D. dissertation (Columbia University) was the first ever to explore the plight of Palestinian refugees after Israel’s declaration of statehood. Don knew at first hand the “Nakba”—the catastrophe—suffered by Palestinians and did not want their suffering to continue.  

    Once I commented to Don that there seemed to be no “solution” to the conflict. He replied, “Well, there are lots of solutions. But people must be willing to take them.”  

    It is anyone’s guess how a process may unfold that will build sufficient trust for peace and hope to prevail. I do not believe that for our country to continue spending several billions of dollars each year to arm the Israeli Defense Force, to continue a policy of separation and mutual resentment, will accomplish that goal.  

    I know this. When I visited apartheid South Africa in 1978, I never imagined I’d live to see the end of that apartheid system. Yet apartheid was replaced with universal suffrage in 1994. South Africa is still segregated in fact, but it no longer lives under separation laws, and is working toward justice. On hopeful days, I say the same for my land: we are working toward justice! To say we live in “United States” is an act of faith—just by stating our name! 


    [1]The story of Don Peretz and other Jewish voices of conscience is detailed in a recent book by Geoffrey Levin:  Our Palestine Question, published 2023 by Yale University Press. 

    TAGGED / Peace with Justice

    Three UNY churches awarded grant money

    April 19, 2024 / By Dr. Blenda Smith, CONAM Treasurer / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM) wants to thank the Upper New York churches that support Native American Ministries Sunday (NAMS) each year. This year, the Special Sunday was held on April 14.  

    Upper New York has three Native American Methodist Churches within our Conference boundaries, including 

    Due to the generosity of others from past NAMS Special Sunday collections, CONAM paid part of that giving forward and awarded all three of these churches $3,000 in grant money. Each grant is intended to supplement heat, utility, and other bills incurred by the churches. 

    Other grant opportunities are available because of this Special Sunday, but are earmarked only for Native American missions, ministries, and communities to support native churches, community outreach, leadership training, education, and cultural survival projects. Click here to read the full grant proposal, including the background, purpose, application procedure, review, and approval. Click here for a grant application along with instructions for submission. There is no deadline for submission.  

    Each year, there are six scheduled Special Sunday churchwide offerings: 

    • Human Relations Day (Sunday before the observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday) 
    • UMCOR Sunday (fourth Sunday in Lent) 
    • Native American Ministries Sunday (third Sunday of Easter) 
    • Peace with Justice Sunday (first Sunday after Pentecost) 
    • World Communion Sunday (first Sunday in October) 
    • United Methodist Student Day (last Sunday in November) 

    Click here to donate to NAMS or any other Special Sunday. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Finance / CONAM

    Serving at General Conference

    April 17, 2024 / By Shelby Winchell, Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Their bags are packed and they’re ready to go. The Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood, District Superintendent of the Crossroads and Finger Lakes Districts, along with the Rev. Bob Kolvik-Campbell, District Superintendent of the Binghamton and Oneonta Districts, are off to General Conference (GC) in Charlotte, NC. They aren’t serving as clergy delegates, but in the role of marshals, representing Upper New York.  

     This is the fourth time Rev. Kolvik-Campbell has served as a marshal; first in 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas, again in 2016 in Portland, Oregon, and then at the Special Session to General Conference in 2019, held in St. Louis, Missouri. This will be Rev. Dr. Rood’s first time serving in this role. 

    “No, we don’t wear silver badges. We are not the law. Our goal is to assist the General Conference in abiding by its rules so that the work of The United Methodist Church can be accomplished for the good of the mission and ministry to the people called United Methodists worldwide,” said Rev. Kolvik-Campbell.  

    “I attended GC 2019 as a guest to support our Upper New York delegation. We made sure they had good coffee, snacks, and little things like chapstick and tissues. We wanted to make sure they felt God’s love in tangible ways as well as our appreciation. The delegates’ days are long and physically and emotionally demanding. This year I look forward to serving all the delegates, bishops, and other staff as they do important work on our behalf,” said Rev. Dr. Rood. 

    General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church and security during the two-week gathering is of utmost importance. The Commission on the General Conference of The United Methodist Church relies on volunteers to help enforce strict security measures. All volunteers must apply in advance and are not compensated for their work. Most volunteers work a seven-hour shift daily.   

    “We’re all in this together. We need to work together in a variety of roles, so that we may hear God’s call and faithfully move forward as United Methodists,” said Rev. Dr. Rood. 

    Marshals serve several important roles at General Conference, including helping manage the visitor and reserved seating areas and ensuring that only authorized individuals access certain conference sections.  

    “Some days we will be checking name tags making sure people are in the right place, and on other days we will help the press get to where they need to in the arena. We will be there for legislative committee sessions the first week and the general plenary sessions the second week.  On these days, we will have duties assisting with getting people to meals while assisting staff, bishops, and others while filling in gaps where something needs to happen,” explained Rev. Kolvik-Campbell. 

    United Methodists of Upper New York are encouraged to pray for everyone serving at General Conference. Pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the delegates not only serving Upper New York, but for the delegates from each Conference around the world. 

    “The Body of Christ is coming together for worship, prayer, conversation, debate, and discernment. I still pray for people from around the world that I met at GC 2012. We have so many diverse gifts and experiences. When we do this work well, we build relationships across the connection and demonstrate what it means to be a follower of Jesus,” said Rev. Dr. Rood.  

    “What we do, we do for the good of the whole church. We choose this role so that the church can work at its best,” said Rev. Kolvik-Campbell. 

    General Conference meets on a quadrennial basis and was originally scheduled for 2020, but has been postponed three times due to the coronavirus pandemic. Click here or press play below to watch a video message from Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez about the significance of this year’s gathering, and how, regardless of the outcome, United Methodists of Upper New York should remain focused on loving God, one another, and our neighbors. 

    TAGGED / Communications / General Conference 2024 / Districts

    Travel with UNY to Africa University in 2025

    April 16, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Registration is open for an opportunity to travel to Africa University (AU) in Mutare, Zimbabwe, from Feb. 12-21, 2025. Join Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, Dr. Roger and Mrs. Claudia Ellis, and others from Upper New York (UNY) on a trip to visit and stay on the AU campus, meet with students, observe classes, and learn about the country and their culture.   

    Many have described Africa University as the most exciting ministry of The United Methodist Church in this century. The Upper New York Conference pilgrimage to AU is your opportunity to see and experience a ministry born of the radical generosity and faithfulness of United Methodists and others.  

    “I have had the privilege of visiting AU twice, once on my own after co-leading a Heifer International study tour to Mozambique and again for the 20-year celebration of its founding. My experiences formally and personally with faculty and especially with students were amazing and heart-warming,” said Dr. Ellis.  

    He said his travel experiences to AU strengthened his faith and commitment to The United Methodist Church and inspired him to share the trip with others.   

    “Travel logistics made it impossible for us to include a visit to AU with the Heifer Study tour. After my visits, I set a goal of bringing additional people, including my wife Claudia, to AU to experience what I had been blessed to experience. The commitment and persistence of United Methodists of Upper New York to raise $1,000,000 to fund eight endowed scholarships for students from 22 African countries has continued to inspire me,” he noted.  

    The opportunity for other United Methodists of Upper New York to embark on this ten-day journey with fellow Christians is in the works. Bishop Héctor is hopeful of bringing several youths from UNY on the international trip to the African continent to deepen their faith and sense of calling through the Engage Fund.  

    “United Methodists of Upper New York is a proud ministry partner with Africa University. Our generosity is making it possible for future leaders to be equipped for transformational ministry in the Church and the world. Witnessing the ministry of AU will help participants grow in their journey as followers of Christ and envision new possibilities for their own lives and ministries. I look forward to sharing this experience with young people from our Conference, hoping it will broaden their imagination about what is possible when we join God in mission in local ministry context and beyond.” 

    The Upper New York Conference has had a long relationship with AU, including the mission and funding of multiple endowed scholarships, which allow students from nearly two dozen countries in Africa to study. 

    The all-inclusive pilgrimage, including airfare, costs $5,000 and includes a two-day safari to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and Chobe, Botswana. Travelers wishing to extend their journey can “add on” to their tour and visit Johannesburg, South Africa, and more. Scholarships for continued education might be available to clergy through the UNY Board of Ordained Ministry.  

    Consider joining Bishop Héctor, Dr., and Mrs. Ellis on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity next year. Click here for more details. If you have additional questions, contact Dr. Ellis at (518) 744-4288 or rgellis6@gmail.com.  

    As stated by Dr. Ellis, “The experience of seeing what we are a part of is priceless.” 

    A glimpse inside UNY Archives: Hidden treasures revealed and restored

    April 15, 2024 / By Shelby Winchell, UNY Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York (UNY) Archives is full of archived information from documents to artifacts. Located in the United Methodist Center in Liverpool, the UNY Archives is run by a group of volunteers and part-time Archives Assistant, Reilly Callahan, who aim to record and preserve United Methodist history in Upper New York, dating back to before the formation of UNY. 

    Many items and documents are reviewed and cataloged in a database, but not everything is archived. Regardless, each item is a piece of history and has a story. 

    One item that can’t be archived is the Birchenough Cross from the now closed Slingerlands United Methodist Church, once located in Albany County. The cross is six feet tall and four-and-a-half feet wide across and is in search of a new home. 

    The cross is centered on the Birchenough family in Slingerlands, a hamlet in Bethlehem, NY. Records indicate Robert H. Birchenough, Sr. and his first wife, Ethel, were active members of Slingerlands UMC. The cross was commissioned to be built sometime after 1998 by their two sons, Dr. Robert H. Birchenough and David Birchenough, in memory of their parents. 

    Robert H. Birchenough, Sr. married Ethel Kattrein on Oct. 16, 1937 in Albany and moved to Slingerlands in 1939. Ethel was a 23-year member of the Bethlehem Public Library in Delmar, including serving as a board member and president of the library. (She even donated a grand piano to the library.) She also served as a volunteer to the American Red Cross during World War II and was a Red Cross board member, honorary trustee, and a national field volunteer. She died on Jan. 2, 1986 and is buried in her family’s lot in the Albany Rural Cemetery. 

    After Ethel’s death, Robert married a widow named Virginia Peters. She taught in the Bethlehem Central School District for many years until her retirement in 1986. She was on the Women’s Council of The Albany Institute of History and Art. She died on Dec. 26, 2012 and is also buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery. 

    Robert was a graduate of Albany Academy and Cornell University and was a certified public accountant. He established Jennings and Birchenough CPAs. He was an honorary life member of the University Club of Albany and a longtime member of the Albany Rotary Club. He died May 4, 1998 and is buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery next to both his wives, Ethel and Virginia.  

    Records indicate the cross was designed and constructed of brass tubing by Robert Jensen of Schenectady. The cross was hung on the wall above the main altar of the church until the church closed. It was then sent to the UNY Archives to be given to a New Faith Community. 

    Any UNY New Faith Community interested in having the cross should email Reilly at archives@unyumc.org

    Disintegrating and recently restored was this hat box, once belonging to William T. H. Bayford. According to his obituary, William Bayford was born on March 14, 1869 in Barnsley in South Yorkshire, England and began preaching at the age of 14. When he turned 19 and until 1913, he was regularly appointed to preach in circuit chapels. After marrying Maud Mary Greenwood in 1894 and following the birth of their two children, the Bayford family relocated to the United States in 1913. Bayford served several Upper New York churches, including Naples UMC, Dansville UMC, Medina UMC, and more. He died on Nov. 26, 1944.  

    The hat box was restored by Reilly using leather honey and wax. Today it rests in the UNY Archives.  

    The Conference Commission on Archives and History has boxes of items that aren’t and can’t be archived, so members of the Commission are going to give them away for free during the 2024 Upper New York Annual Conference, to be held May 30-June 1 at the SRC Arena on the campus of Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. If you’re looking for offering plates, altar vases, candlesticks, wood and metal crosses or would like to have a bust of John Wesley, lamp oil dispenser, and more, head outside to the outer parking lot during lunchtime. The archive giveaway will be next to the car trunk book exchange. For more information, contact Sue Slenker at jslenker@twcny.rr.com or Reilly Callahan at archives@unyumc.org.   

    TAGGED / Communications / 2024 Annual Conference

    Now accepting Denman award nominations

    April 10, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Do you know a lay, youth, or clergy member whose ministry helps them form relationships with others, introducing them to the Good News of Jesus Christ? Think of someone who serves God in a way that impresses you. And nominate that person for the Denman award.

    The Harry Denman Evangelism Award honors United Methodists who bring people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Each year, the Upper New York Conference works with the Foundation for Evangelism to recognize and honor one lay and clergy member as well as youth for their commitment to consistently introducing others to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

    Click here to see past recipients of the Denman Award.

    Nominations are now being accepted through April 22, 2024 for clergy, laity, and youth in Upper New York to be announced in connection with Annual Conference Session. Click here for a nomination form. Send all completed nomination forms to colleenboyea@unyumc.org.

    TAGGED / Communications / Districts / 2024 Annual Conference

    2024 CVA Fund Allocation resolution

    April 9, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    A resolution will be presented at the 2024 Annual Conference detailing the Child Victims Act (CVA) fund allocation for case settlements and legal fees. These settlements represent only the financial recompense for the survivors of abuse.  

    The Conference Leadership Team created a task force made up of clergy and laity to examine every feasible funding source. Click here to read more about the work of the task force.  

    A CVA Fund Allocation resolution is included in this year’s Pre-Conference Workbook, which will be available no later than May 1. Click here to view the resolution in advance of the 2024 Annual Conference

    If you have questions or concerns for the task force, a webinar is planned for Monday, May 20 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Click here to join the webinar on May 20.

    TAGGED / 2024 Annual Conference

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez: Pre-General Conference

    April 9, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor’s Note: The following transcript and video were shared with United Methodists of Upper New York on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez on Monday, April 9, 2024. In this message, Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez discusses the significance of the upcoming 2024 General Conference, scheduled for April 23-May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

    Dear United Methodists of Upper New York, 

    Grace and peace from the Risen Christ be with you. 

    The General Conference of The United Methodist Church, our church’s top legislative body, will meet from April 23 to May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Clergy and lay delegates from our worldwide United Methodist connection will gather for worship and Christian Conferencing, consider legislation on various missional subjects, and organize the life of our denomination for the next four years. 

    A lot has happened since the last General Conference in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over seven million lives were lost, and the organizers of the General Conference had to postpone the gathering from 2020 until now. The pandemic has also changed how the church carries out its ministry and has made longstanding missional challenges for our local churches and the denomination more severe and urgent. We also went through a difficult period where some congregations disaffiliated based on their views and attitudes towards ministry with and by LGBTQ individuals. 

    The General Conference ahead is of utmost importance as it will shape the future of The United Methodist Church. Therefore, I call all United Methodists in Upper New York to unite our hearts in prayer in preparation for and during the General Conference. 

    Let’s pray together for 

    • The organizing team as they make final preparations to receive delegates in Charlotte. 
    • Traveling mercies and holistic health for all General Conference participants. 
    • Christ’s love to rule throughout the General Conference so all persons are seen, valued, and honored as beloved children of God. 
    • Bishops as they preside and provide a pastoral presence to delegates and the church. 
    • Holy Spirit-led vision, creativity, wisdom, and humility that allows delegates to prioritize the mission and common good over individual agendas. 
    • Clarity about the next faithful steps we will take together as United Methodists. 
    • The courage to move forward, trusting God’s continued guidance and abundant provision. 

    Today, I encourage us to remain strong in our faith and hope in Christ. 

    No matter what happens at the General Conference, we will remain deeply committed to our shared mission, values, articles of faith, doctrine, polity, and connection as United Methodists. 

    Our purpose will remain the same as United Methodists in Upper New York the day after the General Conference. We will continue nurturing passionate disciples of Jesus Christ who share faith, love, hope, mercy, and justice daily and everywhere. 

    Our vision will remain the same the day after the General Conference. We will continue seeking to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and embody God’s love with our neighbors everywhere. 

    No matter what is decided at the General Conference, United Methodists of Upper New York will continue honoring our rich theological diversity, embracing conservatives, centrists, and progressives. We will remain focused on loving God, loving one another, loving our neighbors, and encouraging others to thrive in life and ministry. 

    We will continue promoting a Christ-centered vision of missional unity that transcends our disagreements. We will continue resourcing our leaders and congregations to thrive in the mission field. 

    The prophet Jeremiah (29:11), speaking from God to the Israelites during tough times, wrote: “I know (meaning God), the plans I have for you…plans to give you hope and a future.”  

    I embrace God’s promise for our lives, for our congregations, our communities, our conference, our nation, and the world. No matter what happens at the General Conference- we are moving forward together, embracing God’s future with hope and joy. 

    On behalf of the cabinet, I thank you for who you are and for the countless ways you are making the love of Christ visible in your communities as you share the good news through words and concrete acts of mercy, compassion, and justice. 

    May the love of God protect our hearts. The grace of Christ strengthen our faith, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit continue to lead us forward. Peace of God be with you. 

     

    In Christ, 

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
    The United Methodist Church
    Serving United Methodists of Upper New York

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos / General Conference 2024 / Districts

    The future vision for New Faith Communities

    April 3, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Join Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, and the Rev. Abigail Browka as they share the exciting developments in New Faith Communities (NFCs) across Upper New York. For 14 years, United Methodists of Upper New York have been committed to planting NFCs, reaching new people in new places. The New Faith Communities of Upper New York are diverse ethnically, economically, and in the style of providing a way for our church to become more diverse in important ways. 

    The current grant cycle for New Faith Community application is May 1, 2024. Click here for more information about New Beginnings grants. 

    As NFCs evolve, so does our understanding of their lifecycle. NFCs are now defined as ministries in their first five years, explicitly built to reach new people, and can choose from four pathways for their future development.

    If you feel called to start a New Faith Community, click here to learn more.

    TAGGED / Communications / New Faith Communities / Districts

    Updated New York State Short-Term Disability Claim Forms

    March 26, 2024 / By Tracy Rickett, UNY Human Resources Generalist / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    New York State updated the short-term disability claim forms. To remain in compliance the updated disability claim forms should be used starting immediately. Claim forms should be submitted to the insurance carrier within 30 days following the start date of the disability. Claim forms submitted incomplete or illegible may delay processing of the claim.   

    There are several options to submit the completed disability claim forms. 

    Mail to: Guardian Insurance State Disability Claims P.O. Box 14332, Lexington, KY 40512 
    Email: State_Disability_Claims@glic.com 
    Fax to Guardian: (610) 807-2953  

    Important: The updated short-term disability claim forms no longer have a section to enter the plan number and division number. It is recommended the plan number and division number be handwritten on the top right of each page of the claim form.  The plan number is 00926076.  The division number is unique to each church and is available on the Certificate of Disability Insurance mailed to the church in January each year. The plan number and division number are helpful to the insurance carrier to process the claim quicker.  

    Additional information regarding short-term disability benefits can be located here.   

    If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at (315) 898-2017 or TracyRickett@unyumc.org. 

    Upper New York Conference welcomes Jim Rowley

    March 25, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    United Methodists of Upper New York (UNY) are pleased to introduce Jim Rowley as the new Finance Manager. Jim steps into this role succeeding Beth Dupont, who will be retiring later this year after a dedicated 11-year tenure with the Conference. Jim will work with Conference Treasurer Bob Flask and the entire finance team. 
     
    Jim brings to UNY a rich history in accounting and finance, boasting nearly 40 years of leadership across private and public sectors. He is adept at managing operations, from a small company's finances to a $1.2 billion county budget, and recently served 12 years as Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations at Oneida City School District. He also has a rich history in government and politics, including serving as Supervisor of the Town of Clay and Chairman of the Onondaga County Legislature. 
     
    Regarding his new role at UNY, Jim expressed enthusiasm and gratitude, stating, “It may be a bit cliché to state that God works in mysterious ways, but in my case, it is absolutely true. I could not have found a better role at this stage of my life than my new role with the Conference. I am blessed to retire from my school position and take on the Finance Manager position with the Conference. The staff I’ve met have been exceptional. The work is challenging, and I look forward to working with Bob Flask and the rest of the finance team to meet the goals of the Conference. To say that I am excited to start my new role would be an understatement!” 
     
    UNY’s leadership is equally excited about Jim joining the team. “Jim stood out very quickly during our extensive interview process. His outstanding skill set, and strong leadership ability make him a perfect fit for assisting the Treasurer and our finance team,” said Bob Flask. “We look forward to Jim’s insights from Beth as she concludes her remarkable career with us and are eager to collaborate with Jim in the years ahead.” 
     
    Outside of work, Jim enjoys spending time with his family, especially his five grandchildren, and focusing on his spiritual and physical well-being. Jim is also a sports enthusiast, enjoying football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, and basketball games in his leisure time. 
     
    Please join us as we welcome Jim to the Upper New York team.

    TAGGED / Communications / Finance

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez: Holy Week

    March 22, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's note: The following email was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez on Friday, March 22, 2024. 

    “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you.” John 13:34

    Dear siblings in Christ, 

    Starting on Sunday, next week, United Methodists of Upper New York, alongside Christians worldwide, will gather in varied ways to observe Holy Week—a time to witness our faith as Christians and to celebrate the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

    In John 13, the Bible considers Jesus’ last supper with his closest disciples. Unlike the other gospels, John does not mention the sharing of bread and wine. Many Bible scholars comment that John most likely did not include the Lord's Supper in his account of this gathering because the audience to which his writings were directed, the Gentiles, did not understand the importance of the Passover meal and its significance in the faith experience of the Jews. For John, there was something more critical to memorialize about that gathering for non-Jewish audiences. 

    As we celebrate Holy Week this year, I invite us to intentionally reflect on Jesus's act of humility and service as depicted in John 13 and its implications for our lives today: washing his disciples' feet. 

    Throughout his ministry, Jesus expressed his love for his disciples in many ways (vs.1), but on that night, He did so radically. Washing a person's feet was reserved for the lowest-ranking servants in Jesus' time. No one expected Jesus to wash his guests’ feet. Jesus humbly gave up his place as a teacher and all the benefits and privileges that came with the title and humbly gave himself to serve and care for His disciples' needs and holistic well-being. 

    That’s how God still loves us today – in scandalous, often unexpected, and radical ways. This is also how God expects us to love one another. When Jesus finished washing his disciples' feet, he said to them: “…if I, the Lord, and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another's feet. I have set an example for you so that you do the same as I have done with you.”

    Loving God is much more than singing songs, praying, or going to church every week (or on special occasions). It involves more than participating in rituals and following religious rules to the letter. As Jesus modeled for us when he washed his disciples' feet, loving God involves dedicating ourselves to serving others, seeking their well-being, just as God seeks ours. It requires being willing to do what others would not do for us. It means stepping out of our places of comfort and privilege to reach out to people suffering and find ways to impact them positively. To be a voice for the voiceless. Justice seekers for the oppressed. Loving, Jesus’ way, means giving a hand to those who have fallen, encouraging and comforting those who are discouraged, and helping in whatever ways we can to those who are going through difficult times. 

    This Holy Week, and every day, may our faithful response to God’s love be how we love and respond to the needs of our neighbors, knowing that when, and only when, we live this way, people will know that we are disciples of Jesus, the Risen Christ. 

    May our lives be blessed abundantly as we embrace and practice Jesus’ way of living and loving. 

    In Christ, 

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
    The United Methodist Church
    Serving United Methodists of Upper New York

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos / Districts / Missional Excellence

    Nominations and Leadership Development team seeking nominations

    March 15, 2024 / By Ian Carlos Urriola, Nominations and Leadership Development Chair / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    For three days, United Methodists of Upper New York gather for a time of prayer, worship, and holy conferencing to conduct the business of our Annual Conference. And yet, the work of our connectional ministry to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places is a 365—or, when it’s a leap year like 2024, 366—day affair. This work is done by a dedicated group of servant leaders who have answered the call Jesus has placed on their hearts to use their gifts and graces for ministry in service of our connectional Church. It is the task of your Nominations and Leadership Development team to prayerfully discern and identify these servant leaders among our ranks to carry on and execute the ministry of our Annual Conference well after the time our adjourning motion is adopted, and our bishop bangs his gavel for the last time. 

    In the past, our team’s report for the Pre-Conference Workbook has needed to be perfected until right before we give our report to you during the Conference session for a variety of reasons. This year, it is our goal to have that complete report to you by the time pre-conference briefings are held. The completed nominations report will be put on the Annual Conference here as an update to the 2024 Pre-Conference Workbook. In order to make this goal a reality, we need your help. The truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that we need each other. Neither any single person on our team, nor our whole team in its entirety, is as wise as all United Methodists of Upper New York put together. So, rather than trying to hold off on sharing our work with you until it’s perfected, our team invites you into our work.  

    Click here for the list of all of the Annual Conference committees, teams, boards, and agencies for which the Nominations and Leadership Development team is responsible, a brief description of their work, and their needs. If, after reviewing this, you feel called to serve United Methodists of Upper New York in a servant leadership capacity on one of these teams, please fill out this form here.  

    If there is a member of your congregation or one of your colleagues in ministry whose leadership you think would be an asset to our Annual Conference, you can also fill out this form. Our team is grateful for every nomination form that we receive, and we will surround each submission in prayer as we nominate people into servant leadership roles. Please note that submitting this does not guarantee that we will nominate the person for the role. 

    2023-2024 Nominations and Leadership Development Members: Ian Urriola, Chair; Janice McKinney, Vice Chair; Casey Bradley, Secretary; Abigail McCarthy, Member; Sharon Rankins-Burd, Member; Angela Stewart, Member; Natalie Bowerman, Commission on Religion and Race Liaison; Cesar Galarza-Arzola, Hispanic Ministries Team Liaison; Aaron Bouwens, Director of Missional Excellence and Cabinet Rep; Grace Lynn Besse, Adirondack District Lay Leader; Ellen Mall-John, Albany District Lay Leader; Richard Preston, Cornerstone District Lay Leader; Robert Mueller, Crossroads District co-Lay Leader; Darlene Dennis, Crossroads District co-Lay Leader; Shafeegh Habeeb, Finger Lakes District Lay Leader; Peter Lagueras, Genesee Valley District Lay Leader; Mark Adsit, Mohawk District Lay Leader; Ann Welch Wood, Mountain View District Lay Leader; Hap Skellen, Niagara Frontier District co-Lay Leader; Brenda Shelmidine, Niagara Frontier District co-Lay Leader; Rick Fisher, Oneonta District Lay Leader 

    TAGGED / Communications / Connectional Ministries / New Faith Communities / Vital Congregations / Youth / Annual Conference / Districts / Missional Excellence / 2024 Annual Conference

    Statement from the Council of Bishops calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza

    March 14, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's note: This letter was published by The United Methodist Council of Bishops on March 13, 2023 and shared with United Methodists of Upper New York.

    “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NLT)

    As bishops of The United Methodist Church, we call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in the conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza and pledge our prayers and commitment to work for a durable peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and all in the region.

    As United Methodists, we join others in encouraging, “…diplomatic initiatives that will engage both Israelis and Palestinians in an effort to understand the fears, hopes, and aspirations of each other. Such strategies should actively seek a way to promote a just and lasting peace and cooperation that will lead to a two-State solution…an end to the current occupation and violence, and the creation of a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel…”1

    On Oct. 7, 2023, an attack by Hamas left 1,200 Israelis dead and hundreds of hostages taken. Since then, more than 30,000 have been killed by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, the majority of them women and children. Innocent people continue to be killed because of the fighting, and many are dying of hunger and the spread of infectious disease.

    The ability of aid organizations to attend to the critical needs of the victims of this prolonged war has also been sharply limited by the lack of meaningful negotiations. On Feb. 29, starving Palestinians were fired upon as they sought food from an aid truck, with more than 100 persons killed by Israeli forces. It is estimated that 1.8 million Palestinians have been displaced, their homes and communities destroyed. The United Nations estimates that more than half a million people are living under “catastrophic levels of deprivation and starvation.”

    We believe that the current military strategy of the Israeli government, supported by U.S. weapons transfers and aid, will only lead to the destruction of the entire Gaza Strip, an unconscionable death toll that grows daily, the perpetuation of one of the world’s longest conflicts, and the proliferation of increased enmity between Israelis and Palestinians, which has historically led to an increase in the militarization on both sides  There is no peace to be found in this strategy.

    The lack of a true cease-fire after more than five months of this deadly conflict compels us to raise our voices now. We call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and a commitment from all involved parties, including Israel, Palestinians, surrounding Middle East countries, the U.S., and others to pursue a lasting peace.

    We pledge our prayers and commitment to work for a durable peace, an end to the violence and the release of the hostages.

    1 A Pathway for Peace in Palestine and Israel, The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church – 2016

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos

    Traveling crosses for Lent

    March 11, 2024 / By Shelby Winchell, Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    It all started with a six-foot cross made by a church member who connected two wooden beams. At the time, Brandin Greco was the pastor at Lycoming United Methodist Church and was busy creating plans for both Lent and Easter. Then the pandemic hit.  

    “We had to quickly change our plans in order to stay connected with our church families,” explains Pastor Brandin. 

    He wasn’t going to let COVID-19 stop him or members at Lycoming UMC from worshiping and singing God’s praise. His church had been livestreaming since 2016 so the transition from worshiping in-person to virtually was an easy one. 

    “We started broadcasting from our family home. My daughter and her husband stayed with us and led worship music.” 

    In an attempt to stay even more connected during this time when distancing was being enforced, the idea of the traveling cross came to life.  

    “We would transport the cross to be placed in the front yards of church members for a few days at a time throughout Lent. The idea was to journal the journey from house to house online as it made its way to the church for Good Friday.” 

    That first year in March 2020, the cross traveled through the Lycoming area to eight different homes. One of the homes it has been parked in front of belongs to Pat Lawrence. Pat lives in Mexico and has been attending Lycoming UMC for nearly two decades. 

    “That cross is a visual reminder to me. When people pass by, they wonder why there’s a cross in my yard. People will call me and ask why it’s there. It is part of showing the love of sharing and giving. If someone is having a bad day, they may stop by and want to talk because they saw the cross,” explains Pat. 

    In four short years, the traveling cross has become a tradition not only for Lycoming UMC, but also Mexico UMC

    “This year between both churches, we have 24 homes and two crosses along with the original cross staying in front of the parsonage throughout Lent. We have since added several community members and people from other churches on the journey. It has been one way that we can visibly represent our churches in the community and open opportunities for conversation while sharing the gospel with others,” explains Pastor Brandin. 

    The cross can stay in a yard between three to five days before it’s moved to another location. Pat says for her, the cross is a constant.  

    “My quiet spot is the boat launch at Mexico Point. There’s a cross there. I watch it all year long. It looks different in the winter, spring, summer, and fall. People may not notice it, but the cross is there just like my faith.” 

    There’s only about ten miles between Lycoming and Mexico UMCs, and by Good Friday, the crosses will have arrived at their final stop in front of both churches. In that short distance, the crosses will have crossed many more miles in an attempt to remind others of what Jesus sacrificed for all of us. 

    TAGGED / Communications

    Upper New York response to Netflix documentary, “The Program”

    March 9, 2024 / By Shelby Winchell, UNY Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    United Methodists of Upper New York were made aware of a new Netflix documentary featuring audio clips of Thomas Nichols. In the docuseries “The Program,” Nichols is identified as the former Public Relations Coordinator for the Academy of Ivy Ridge, a boarding school in Northern New York that ceased operation in March 2009. The series details several allegations of abuse.  

    Nichols is currently associated with Galilee and Kendrew churches. Nichols and these churches disaffiliated from the Upper New York Conference and The United Methodist Church on February 9, 2024. Nichols’ prior work at the Academy was independent and never endorsed by the Upper New York Conference. 

    In The United Methodist Church, credentialed pastors must complete a thorough process that includes mentoring, a criminal background check, psychological assessment, and more. Upper New York had no knowledge of the events portrayed in the docuseries and no knowledge of Nichols’ involvement in the alleged abuse.  

    United Methodists of Upper New York are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of the people we serve, especially the most vulnerable among us. Our congregations are required to enact and maintain a Safe Sanctuary policy to reduce the risk of abuse of children, youth, and vulnerable adults participating in the ministries of our churches, districts, agencies, and ministry groups.  

    We stand with those harmed by the alleged abuse and questionable practices portrayed in the documentary and recommit ourselves to confronting abuse in all the ways it manifests in our society.  

    Click here to view the official press release.

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos / Disaffiliation / Districts

    Commentary: The Ugly Truth

    March 7, 2024 / By Rev. Daniel J. Bradley, Pastor at Faith Journey UMC / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Daniel J. Bradley is a pastor at Faith Journey UMC in Clay, NY. He wrote the following article to juxtapose the biblical story of Amos, a humble prophet, with his passion for the Buffalo Bills to highlight the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of challenges. Rev. Bradley emphasizes the need for Christians to actively work towards justice and compassion in society, drawing from their own experiences of hope and resilience. This piece encourages readers to be like Amos, bravely speaking truth and striving for a better world.
     

    “And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and peat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was 1 no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore hear the word of the Lord. “You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’ Therefore, thus says the Lord: “‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’” 

    The ugly truth about Christianity is this: there is no finish line. No Hail Mary pass at the last second. It is a life lived in Christ that makes all the difference.  

     I love football and have watched the Buffalo Bills all my life. I wept with wide right and wide left. I cheered until my voice hurt and yet all their franchise history, they have failed to bring back a Lombardi Trophy. They’re still my team and suffering go along with victory. My favorite part of the game is the touchdown dances. The players and fans are exuberant, and it seems as if a bomb of joy has gone off in the stadium. That’s how it is with life. We win some and lose some, but there is always joy when we make a touchdown. 

    Christianity has developed in a counterculture which focuses on self and selfish principles that push people down and create structures that are unholy. It seems as if there is an awakening in the culture where pocket of hope is rising over the oppressive structures that have hurt, enslaved, murdered people in the name of God. We still have a long way to go. This is just the beginning of a revolution which I believe will transform the Church of Jesus Christ in the years to come.  

    Amos is referred to as the “anti-prophet.” Amos was a farmer of sycamore fig trees. He had no formal training to be a prophet. He simply had a word from the Lord to an evil and corrupt Priest of Bethel Amaziah.  

    Amos with the authority of God spoke prophesies called the corrupt leadership of Israel to task. This was not easy to do. It’s like shaking hands with a great white shark and being only a minnow. Amos doesn’t strut--he simply speaks what he knows to be true.  

    These are the things that I know about God that are true. They come from the Book of Discipline ¶102 Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task: Basic Christian Heritage-- 

    “The created order is designed for the well-being of all creatures and as the place of human dwelling in covenant with God. As sinful creatures, however, we have broken that covenant, become estranged from God, wounded ourselves and one another, and wreaked havoc throughout the natural order. We stand in need of redemption. We hold in common with all Christians a faith in the mystery of salvation in and through Jesus Christ.” 

    This belief is one of the reasons I am and always will be a part of The United Methodist Church. It is the central bulwark that can never be moved. We are a part of this created world and are in need of salvation in Jesus Christ.  
     
    Anything less is rubbish. 

    Every August when pre-season football starts my heart gets full of excitement for a good year of Bills football. I cheer, shout, and hope my team wins. I have learned the phrase that I have taught to my daughter, “There is always next year.” Year after year I never give up on my Bills. In every win there is a loss and every loss there is a win. The point of all of this is that we keep going. Another day, another chance to throw the ball and dance in the endzone. I thank God that God doesn't take football as serious as I do.  

    There is much to do in this world. Isn’t it time we started speaking truth to power. Isn’t it time we start lifting up the oppressed. This is our mission: to be a voice for the voiceless, a light in the dark, a port in the storm for all who are in need in this world. Be an Amos today, speak to power and corruption. Speak the truth of God’s grace and mercy. Even if it’s ugly.  

    In Christ,  
    Rev. Daniel J. Bradley 

    TAGGED / Advocate

    Lilly Endowment grant taking shape in Upper New York

    March 4, 2024 / By Rev. Abigail Browka, Associate Director of Missional Excellence / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York (UNY) Conference was granted $1,250,000 from the Lilly Endowment Inc. Compelling Preaching Initiative in October 2023. 

    The Compelling Preaching Initiative is part of UNY's clergy leadership development focus called "Thrive," designed to support and enhance the preaching practices of pastors in Upper New York. The initiative will provide pastors with immersive experiences, curated workshops, and intentional space for rest, work, and play. These activities, set in locations that inspire awe, wonder, and joy, are aimed at refreshing and instilling confidence in pastors, renewing them to continue their ministry of preaching. 

    The first cohort of the Compelling Preaching Initiative is set to launch in January 2025 with a renewal trip, offering pastors a unique opportunity for spiritual refreshment. In 2024, the initiative's team will launch curated resources to support preaching through a dedicated website, providing pastors with valuable tools and insights. 

    Those interested in participating in the Compelling Preaching Initiative can look forward to up-to-date information at the 2024 Annual Conference, to be held May 30-June 1 at the SRC Arena, located on the campus of Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Registrations for trips and cohorts will begin in August 2024, offering pastors a chance to be part of this exciting initiative. 

    With the support of the Lilly Endowment Inc. Grant, the Compelling Preaching Initiative of Upper New York is poised to renew, restore, and inspire pastors, fostering a healthy rhythm of rest, work, and play. It promises to be a balm for creative renewal and growth, empowering pastors to continue spreading the message of love and faith. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Episcopal Office / Finance / New Faith Communities / Vital Congregations / Annual Conference / Districts / Missional Excellence / Clergy Wellness

    CVA Task Force update

    March 4, 2024 / By CVA Task Force

    In December, the Child Victims Act (CVA) Task Force asked you to join your prayers with ours as we began the weighty work of developing a plan for allocating Upper New York’s share of the payment of Child Victims Act case settlements and legal fees.  

    Understanding that these settlement costs represent only a token of recompense for the survivors of abuse, we considered the costs to the Upper New York Conference with great care as we discerned the best plan possible to present to the Conference Leadership Team (CLT).  

    Centering values of deep care, responsibility, and intentionality over the course of our work, we developed a report from which the CLT has created legislation to present to the Conference. We are committed to communicating the outcome of this work as transparently as possible; to that end, there is a plan to invite members of the Upper New York Conference to see the legislation and participate in at least one online FAQ experience prior to the AC session. You will be hearing about these opportunities in the coming weeks.    

    We thank you for your prayers and ask that you continue to pray for the Annual Conference, survivors, and all involved as we proceed with the remaining responsibilities of settling these cases. 

    The task force consists of the following individuals: Peter Abdella, Upper New York Conference Chancellor; Rev. Sara Baron, Chair of the Conference Board on Pension and Health Benefits; Rev. Dr. Michelle Bogue-Trost; Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, Director of Missional Excellence; Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady II; Bob Flask, Conference Treasurer; Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Assistant to the Bishop; Dr. Scott Johnson, Conference Commission on Religion and Race; Rev. Pam Klotzbach, Conference Chair of Board of Trustees; Holly Roush, Conference Chair on Finance and Administration; and Jessica White, Conference Lay Leader.    

    TAGGED / Communications / Annual Conference / 2024 Annual Conference

    Beyond Borders: Watertown First UMC’s Mission of Hope in Zimbabwe

    February 29, 2024 / By Kevin Miller, Multimedia Content Creator / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    In Zimbabwe, the life of a young boy named Edward Dingadade took a transformative turn, fueled by the kindness of a community thousands of miles away. This story, woven with threads of empathy and global unity, originates not directly from Edward, but from the compassionate individuals at the Watertown First United Methodist Church. Touched by the struggles faced by AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe, they made a commitment to fund the education of one child, laying the groundwork for hope and change. 
     
    AIDS orphans, children who have lost their parents to the AIDS epidemic, find themselves navigating a world marred by loss, stigma, and uncertainty. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where the impact of HIV/AIDS has been particularly devastating, these children embody a crisis that extends beyond the loss of family – into the realms of economic hardship and social isolation. The Ishe Anesu project in Mutare, which Edward became a part of, stands as a beacon of hope amidst this crisis. Initiated to provide after-school tutoring for these vulnerable children, the project represents a crucial intervention, offering not just educational support but also a pathway to healing and resilience. 
     
    Dr. Sylvia Reimer, a member of Watertown First UMC and a retired medical missionary, along with her husband, Marvin, also a retired physician, remember their first encounter with Edward. “Following an Upper New York Conference Volunteers-in-Mission (VIM) journey to Zimbabwe in 2011, the United Methodist Women in the Watertown First UMC elected to support a third-grade boy, Edward Dingadade, whom some of us had met as we worked at Ishe Anesu project in Mutare,” Dr. Sylvia Reimer recounts. It was during that mission trip that exposed the members of the church to the realities faced by AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe. Inspired by the Ishe Anesu project, which translates to “God with us” in English, and led by Maria Humbane, a GBGM missionary, and continued by Nancy Chinzvende of the United Methodist Church of Zimbabwe, the community in Watertown pledged to support Edward’s educational aspirations. 
     
    With the support from the church, he was able to continue his education, overcoming the numerous obstacles that many orphans in Zimbabwe face. “The women at Watertown First UMC continued their support of Edward’s schooling, providing money for school fees, books, and uniforms for the next eleven years,” Dr. Reimer adds, highlighting the long-term commitment of the church members to Edward’s well-being and future. 
     
    Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted further missions to Zimbabwe, the church’s dedication to Edward’s success never wavered. As he approached the culmination of his college education, the church once again stepped in to ensure he could complete his studies in electrical engineering. “A few weeks ago, we received and responded to a request from Nancy to help Edward one more time, as he needed resources to pay expenses for his graduation from the college he had attended, as well as completion of an internship in electrical engineering!” Dr. Reimer joyfully shares. 
     
    Edward’s graduation marks a significant milestone, not only in his life but also in the lives of those who have supported him through his educational journey. From a young boy in the third grade to a college graduate in electrical engineering, Edward’s story is a powerful example of how compassion, coupled with action, can forge a path to a brighter future. 
     
    Dr. Reimer’s involvement and the collective effort of the Watertown First UMC underscore the profound impact of the missional outreach of the United Methodist faith. “Thanks be to God for the opportunity to make mission outreach matter!” Dr. Reimer exclaims, encapsulating the gratitude and fulfillment derived from this life-changing endeavor.

    TAGGED / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Vital Congregations / Districts / Missional Engagement

    District Days shed hope on the future

    February 27, 2024 / By Shelby Winchell, Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    There is nothing like being able to gather to worship, engage in meaningful conversations, and enjoy fellowship with other Christians. 

    This winter, United Methodists of Upper New York have had the chance to connect beyond their local churches through District Days. Since the beginning of February, Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez has been traveling throughout Upper New York, meeting with both clergy and laity, for a time of worship and conversation. By mid-April, Bishop Burgos will have visited all 12 districts in the Conference. 

    In his message, Bishop Héctor is urging United Methodists of Upper New York to give their entire attention to what God is doing now, release the anxieties of tomorrow, and stay focused on living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

    “The Bishop’s message was a source of hope for me after long years of leadership that wanted to drag us into the past instead of leading us into the future,” said Ted Finlayson-Schueler, lay member at University United Methodist Church in Syracuse. Ted attended Bishop’s District Day at Fayetteville UMC

    During the gatherings, there is time for small group conversations and a question-and-answer session with Bishop Héctor. The Rev. Sheila Price attended the clergy gathering at Horseheads UMC. She says she came away from the gathering feeling uplifted.  

    “It was a joy to gather with my colleagues. Bishop Héctor spoke with such enthusiasm for the future of the conference and the denomination, acknowledging our challenges, but also focusing on our call to follow in the way of Jesus,” said Rev. Price. 

    Adirondack and Albany District Superintendent, the Rev. Debbie Earthrowl, says she values the opportunity to connect with one another in-person.    

    “Every experience of gathering together with colleagues, clergy colleagues and then lay colleagues, is an opportunity to discern together what God is doing among us and through us. We are so thankful that Bishop Héctor is making space to be with us and lead us in such positive ways!” 

    Clergy gatherings are scheduled for each visit from 1-3 p.m. and from 7-8:30 p.m. for laity and clergy who couldn't attend the earlier meeting. There are still dates available to participate in these fruitful gatherings. See the full list of upcoming dates and locations here.  

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos / Districts

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez: Three District Superintendent appointments extended

    February 26, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's Note: The following was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on behalf of Bishop Héctor on Feb. 26, 2024.

    Dear United Methodists of Upper New York, 

    I am pleased to announce the extension of three District Superintendents appointments for 2024-25.  

    The Reverend Mike Weeden is being extended to an eighth year as Conference Superintendent assigned to the Northern Flow and Mohawk Districts.  

    It is also my intention to extend both the Reverend Debbie Earthrowl and the Reverend Carlos M. Rosa-Laguer to a seventh year. Rev. Earthrowl will continue to serve the Adirondack and Albany Districts. Rev. Rosa-Laguer will continue to serve the Niagara Frontier and Cornerstone Districts. 

    United Methodists of Upper New York are blessed by the leadership of Mike, Debbie, and Carlos. Their gifts and continued call to ministry will provide vital and consistent leadership not only for the districts they serve, but also the cabinet and conference as a whole.  

    I invite you to pray for them as they accept this extension to their leadership roles.  

    In Christ, 

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez  
    The United Methodist Church  
    Serving United Methodist of Upper New York    

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos / Districts

    UNY Archives Hires Archives Assistant

    February 22, 2024 / By Tara Barnes, UNY Commission on Archives and History member / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York Commission on Archives and History (UNYCAH) is excited to welcome Reilly Callahan as Archives Assistant to help with the important work of keeping the historical records of our churches. Reilly graduated summa cum laude in May 2023 from Syracuse University with a master’s degree in information studies. She worked as an archives intern at the university’s Special Collections Research Center and is a member of Beta Phi Mu, Pi Gamma Mu, and Phi Alpha Theta

    Reilly began with Upper New York as an archives intern in the summer of 2023 and was hired to this new 29-hour position in the fall.  

    When the North Central, Western New York, and parts of Troy and Wyoming Conferences merged in 2010, the new UNYCAH operated with only volunteers and the help of the Upper New York Conference’s Media Resource Center Coordinator and Archives Assistant, Karen Campolieto, one day a week. After Karen’s retirement in 2021, volunteers and part-time intern Brielle Popelia did their best to keep up with incoming records of closed and disaffiliated churches, but the sheer number of files being sent required more hands.  

    Among its regular work, the commission must approve local church records sent to the conference as complete in order for the church to finalize a closure or disaffiliation.  

    Brielle completed her internship in Sept. 2023, the same month the commission approved the new assistant position and enthusiastically offered Reilly the job. Reilly, along with volunteer Loreen Jorgensen, have devised excellent systems for handling the paper and digital disaffiliation records, which UNYCAH has shared with General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) at Drew University. 

    The commission meets regularly via Zoom, and in the past few years has been coordinating with GCAH in confirming the history of former Indigenous schools in our conference, part of a larger United Methodist Church effort to account for the shameful practice of forcing native children from their families and to forget their native heritage and languages.  

    We now look forward to working with GCAH on a new unified United Methodist digital repository called the Virtual Circuit Rider Project. Stay tuned for more to come! 

    You can find Reilly in archives all day Monday through Wednesday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays. The archives are located at the United Methodist Center at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd. in Liverpool. You can join in welcoming Reilly and celebrating the ministry of story by volunteering to help review and catalog records. Learn more by e-mailing archives@unyumc.org and by visiting their website

    Photos courtesy of Reilly Callahan, Sue Slenker, and Chip “Archie” McEvers.

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Episcopal Office / Finance / Ministry Shares / Disaffiliation / Districts

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez: True Fasting During Lent

    February 20, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's Note: The following email was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez on Tuesday, Feb. 20. 

    "…this is the kind of fast I choose...” Isaiah 58:5a 

    Dear United Methodists of Upper New York, 

    Lent is a time for followers of Christ to engage in self-examination, repentance, and deepening our relationship with God.  

    John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, encouraged practices such as fasting and prayer during Lent. Wesley saw these disciplines not as mere rituals but as means to cultivate a closer connection with God. For Wesley, these disciplines, when practiced faithfully, lead us to live more aligned with the teachings and witness of Jesus.  

    As the Bible clarifies through the prophets Isaiah and Micah, practicing spiritual disciplines should extend beyond a set time and include genuine and permanent changes in attitudes and behaviors in our daily lives.  

    The world is in desperate need of the healing love of God. This great love is made visible through passionate disciples of Jesus Christ who embody love, compassion, mercy, and justice every day and everywhere.  

    This Lent, I encourage all United Methodists in Upper New York to  

    • be open to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit,
    • practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting,  
    • reflect on areas in our lives where our expression of faith needs to transcend from “good intentions” to concrete actions that embody God’s love,  
    • and pray to God to make our hearts tender to one another.  

       In a world filled with violence, let’s be peacemakers.  
       In a world filled with hate, let’s be healers.  
       In a world filled with divisions, let’s be unifiers.  
       In a world filled with exclusion, let’s be includers. 
       In a world filled with selfishness, let’s be community builders.  
       In a world filled with hopelessness, let’s be and proclaim Christ's hope.  

    This Lent, and always, remember that God desires sincere actions driven by love and responsible social engagement rather than mere ritualist observance. 

    If you haven’t yet, join me in UNY’s year-long prayer pilgrimage “Together in Prayer.” You can learn more about it and sign up here.  

    Together, let’s be God’s acting presence in the world.  

    In Christ,  

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez 
    The United Methodist Church 
    Serving United Methodist of Upper New York 

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos

    From the Desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez: Local Church 2023 Year End Statistics – Important!

    February 14, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor’s note: The following electronic note was sent on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez to active pastors, current local church lay leaders, SPRC chairs, admin council chairs, and treasurers via email on Feb. 13.

                                                                                     “…diligence brings wealth.” Proverbs 10:4b 

    Dear partners in ministry,

    Grace and peace from Christ be with you as we begin the Lent season.

    Currently, 368 (54%) Upper New York (UNY) congregations have not yet submitted their 2023 Year-End statistics through the ACStats portal.  

    If your local church has already submitted your 2023 Year-End statistics, THANK YOU!  

    If your local church has not yet submitted its Year-End statistics for 2023, we have extended the timeline to submit them to March 15, 2024. There will not be any more extensions.  

    Accurate and timely church statistics are very important for the mission. 

    1. They help local churches’ mission – accurate statistics allow local churches to keep a record of their ministry activities and see trends of growth, progress, or decline. This information is critical for planning and addressing challenges and opportunities in your ministry.  
     

    2. They impact local churches’ finances:

    • Apportionments – The General Council on Finance uses key factors from local churches’ statistics to calculate each congregation's shared ministries allocation to support the ministries and missions of The United Methodist Church in UNY and worldwide.  
       
    • Health and Property Insurance – UNY’s Council on Finance and Administration and the Board of Trustees use key factors from local churches’ statistics to assess risk factors and negotiate group plans with vendors on your behalf.  
       
    • Workers Compensation and Medicare Liability and Compliance – UNY administrative staff uses key factors from local churches’ statistics to report to the State of New York, which impact workers’ compensation, disability, and paid family leaves. 

    Note: Inaccurate or outdated statistical data may result in higher apportionments and insurance premiums. Churches that do not submit all reports during the charge conference season and their year-end statistics cannot appeal or ask for reconsiderations in these areas.  

    3. They help UNY’s mission – The data reported by local churches is a critical tool for the conference leadership, staff, cabinet, and the bishop to plan, oversee, and evaluate our shared ministry in the region, see trends, identify risks and opportunities, discern appointments, and to identify and prioritize areas to resource congregations for more impactful ministry.  

    You can find information on how to submit your year-end statistics on the UNY website here. You may also contact your district office if you have questions.  

    I thank all congregations for your faithful ministry and witness as, together, we live the gospel and embody God’s love with our neighbors in all places.  

     

    Together in mission, 

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez 
    The United Methodist Church 
    Serving United Methodist of Upper New York 

    Commentary: Peace with Justice resources

    February 12, 2024 / By Rev. Gary Doupe, Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine-Israel / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Gary Doupe is a member of the Upper New York Task Force for Peace with Justice in Palestine-Israel. He wrote the following article to inform pastors and members of Upper New York congregations about materials recently placed on our task force web site, hoping to encourage and facilitate local church discussion programs on the crucial issues relating to peace in the Holy Land.   

    Images of war, death, and social disruption in Israel and Gaza flood the media every day. To many, it is dumbfounding. The process of violence is familiar and self-defeating, as we all know too well. The roots of this process are not, in fact, ancient or inevitable—as some glibly assume. Complex and interwoven movements including late 19th century Zionism, antisemitism, and settler colonialism produced a conflict over land, now regarded as the mother of two peoples. Can Solomonic wisdom discern the proper mother? Or, in this instance, can the prize be shared? 

    Your Upper New York Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine-Israel has been seeking wisdom on this matter for a long time—since well before our young Conference was born. A trip to the Holy Land, three decades ago, set this task force in motion. The intensity and complexity of the struggle seems daunting. But our faith tradition recalls Jesus both crying over Jerusalem (“Would that they knew the things that make for peace!”) and his encouraging benediction (“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you!”). 

    Peace is possible. When some of us worked to heal the apartheid struggle in South Africa, long ago, we never expected to see the day of transformation. Oftentimes, change seems impossible. But as greater awareness dawns, so also new possibilities. In a land that is holy to people of three faith traditions, you may be part of a healing solution! Today’s “unbelievable” gives way to tomorrow’s miracle of restoration. 

    How can this be? Only because love is stronger than iron. We are not discussing sentimentality, but the strength of respect cultivated for all our sisters and brothers. We are one human family. When we come to believe that, conviction creates the new reality. 

    On our task force website you will find a number of “pages” listed across the top of the introductory page. On the second line, mid-page, you’ll see “Resources for Churches.” Clicking there you’ll find not only printed comments, but some excellent video connections. If you and a few other youth and/or adults want to gain a real grasp of what has transpired in the Holy Land during the past 75 years, and witness what compassion, understanding, and wisdom can do, have a look at these two items in particular: 

    A film (feature length, almost two hours in length) called, The Law and the Prophets. Present laws separate people from land and from each other. Current prophets challenge those laws, seeking alternatives to an ever-present tension—which easily becomes violent. A time bar under the video will allow you to select brief sections for sharing with groups and return easily to a pre-selected portion. 

    Steadfast Hope is another excellent video. Chapter One (about ten minutes) introduces two families (one Jewish, one Palestinian) each seeing the same house with warm family ties of memory. Chapter Two depicts the “big picture” (about 17 minutes) of how two peoples struggle to exist in a divided land, where power is not shared equally. 

    On the same website page there is much, much more, including other excellent videos and book titles. 

    If you look at the other “pages” you will be amazed at the quantity and quality of information and perspectives. Immediately after the “Resources for Churches” page is one titled, “Letters to the U.S. President.” The first letter is new, written by a Palestinian Christian theologian, The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, who offers his thoughtful vision to President Joe Biden of what might be attempted now and in the days to come, in the wake of recent violence. 

    At the left side of the page you’ll find a list of the task force leadership team and contact information.  We will be happy to respond to your requests to help create local church programs and discussions, and to find leaders or speakers. 

    This may be a pivotal moment for our loving, prayerful, creative response to one of the world’s most debilitating crises. Please remember that a crisis is also an opportunity, a time to change direction and restore hope. May all who weep now be blessed, one day soon, to weep in joy. 

    More information may be obtained from the Task Force Leadership Team:    
    Rev. Merle Showers: revshowers@gmail.com  
    Linda Bergh: lindagarybergh@gmail.com  
    Rev. Gary Doupe: gdoupe@stny.rr.com  
    Karen Peterson: (607) 739-3141 

    TAGGED / Peace with Justice / Taskforce for Palestine Israel

    What to expect as we prepare for AC24

    February 7, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Planning is underway for the 2024 Upper New York Annual Conference session, to be held May 30-June 1 at the SRC Arena, on the campus of Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. 

    Administrative team leaders met virtually last week to iron out details regarding the upcoming session. Participants included chairpersons from the Board of Pension and Health Benefits, Conference Finance and Administration, Commission on Equitable Compensation, Nominations, and Trustees working in conjunction with the Episcopal Office and the Communications Team Ministry.   

    Upper New York Annual Conference members can expect many things this year, including information rich reports in the 2024 Pre-Conference Workbook, informative Pre-Conference briefings, and focused podium presentations during Annual Conference. 

    The 2024 Pre-Conference Workbook will be available for publication no later than the first week of May. United Methodists of Upper New York will be notified of its availability in the Weekly Digest and through other Conference Communication channels. If you are not subscribed to the Weekly Digest electronic newsletter, click here to subscribe.  

    Pre-Conference briefings will be held on Thursday, May 16 from 6:30-8 p.m. and on Saturday, May 18 from 10-11:30 a.m. These virtual briefings offer United Methodists of Upper New York who are registered for Annual Conference to listen to presentations and ask questions of the administrative team prior to gathering in-person later that month.  

    Members attending are expected to come prepared with a clear understanding of reports along with petitions and resolutions prior to gathering.  

    Registration for Annual Conference will open April 3. Click here to see registration costs. The theme this year is based on Philippians 3:13-14 with a forward mindset of claiming God’s future for us with hope and joy.    

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Ministry Shares / New Faith Communities / CONAM / COSROW / Bishop Burgos / Annual Conference / Districts / CCORR / Missional Engagement / Missional Excellence / 2024 Annual Conference

    Address Racial Inequities through CCORR’s Ministry Action Teams

    February 6, 2024 / By Georgia Whitney, CCORR Co-Convener / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Have you completed the Conference Commission on Religion and Race’s (CCORR) Imagine No Racism curriculum in the last few years? Have you wanted to be part of a team that is focused on engaging in direct action to address specific racial inequities in your community? If you’re committed to producing policy and/or community change, CCORR wants to help you achieve that goal. 

    Maybe you’ve already talked to some people in your congregation who want to work with you towards a goal. Perhaps you have some elements of a strategy but aren’t quite sure how to proceed. You might be ready to begin work but need more partners to accomplish tasks. The key uniting element is a call and passion for bringing about a specific tangible outcome, such as revising a police use of force policy, opening a grocery store in a food desert, or starting a tutoring ministry to address educational disparities.  

    We propose creating teams in three areas: 

    1. Criminal justice reform, which might include work to address qualified immunity, bail reform, and the clean slate bill. 
    2. Food apartheid. This might involve a ministry that focuses on creating food sovereignty through community-driven solutions and systemic change to eliminate food deserts. 
    3. Educational concerns, such as disciplinary injustice, educational outcomes, and the school-to-prison pipeline. 

    CCORR members can provide coaching for teams who are ready to start, and/or can connect you with other people in the conference who share your passion.  

    If you’re interested, and want to know more, please get in touch with one of CCORR’s two co-conveners: Georgia Whitney at georgiawhitney11@gmail.com or Scott Johnson at scottjphd@gmail.com — and we’ll help you get started! 

    TAGGED / Imagine No Racism / CCORR

    Reflections on 2023 Cady Grants and new applications being accepted

    February 2, 2024 / By Dr. Blenda Smith, Chair of the Cady Grant Team / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Each year, Cady Grants are awarded to projects and programs that seek to be used for the “benefit or education of minority groups, preferably black or American Indians,” as directed by Ercil Cady, the originator of the Ercil Cady Grant. 

    The committee is pleased to share an update on how the grants were used by the 2023 recipients: 

    • Church in the Wild: As this New Faith Community encourages others to discover their ministries, it has been able to provide transportation to worship which brings a diverse group out to Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center, including people of color, that have traditionally been difficult to reach: provide free laundry nights; and help a local Black led organization take over the monthly “Buy Nothing Markets.”  
    • Music Educator’s Wind Ensemble: This grant enabled the commissioning of Native American composer, Dr. Charles Shadle, to write a musical piece honoring the International Wampum Exhibit at the Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, NY. (The exhibit displayed 300 year-old artifacts loaned from Musee de Quai Branley in Paris.) The original composition deepened understanding of the beauty and creativity of Native American cultures. 
    • Lori Wyman: Lori progresses toward her minister to urban congregations and their many underserved populations. She graduates in May 2024 from United Theological Seminary to live out her vision for missions at Brown Memorial UMC
    • Wind Ensemble/Day Star Contemporary Dance: The grant provided an opportunity for Native American youth, young adults, and families to attend and participate in performances of Native American classical music and contemporary dance that reflects one’s own culture. 

    Application forms are now available here for the Upper New York Conference Ercil Cady Grant. Cady Grants are awarded annually to a fund ministry, program, or experiences that benefits or provides education to, preferably but not exclusively, African Americans and/or Native Americans. Awards may be up to $5,000. Cady Grants are available to individual United Methodists, local churches, and District or Conference ministry teams within the Upper New York Conference. Priority shall be given to educational proposals that benefit minority groups or individuals. Applications will be accepted until March 22, 2024

    **If you do not receive an email reply from Dr. Blenda Smith at bsmith@binghamton.edu, you application was not received. Please email Blenda directly to inquire. 

    Submitted proposals should demonstrate the ministry, program, or experience is faith-based and the program will benefit a person/group in need. Proposals should also include: an assessment of the gifts – spiritual, financial, and organizational – of the individuals or team that will carry out the proposal, an itemized expense report, and an evaluation process to monitor progress. Priority shall be given to new grants rather than re-applications, and ones that are sustainable in the future if applicable. Grants will not finance salaries or new tech systems for churches.  

    TAGGED / Camp and Retreat Ministry (CRM) / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Finance / New Faith Communities / Vital Congregations / Youth / Districts

    Transforming lives through compassion in Uganda

    January 31, 2024 / By Kevin Miller, Multimedia Content Creator / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 

    Jesus in Matthew 25: 35-36 (NRSVue) 

    Mukama akaway omukisa (May God bless you in Luganda)



    In the lush landscapes of Uganda, a country renowned for the Nile’s source, is a continuing story of remarkable compassion, unity, and transformation.

    Pastor Robert Schooley of Centerville United Methodist Church spearheads a mission that is deeply involved in transformative projects across Uganda and East Africa. This mission, deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 25: 35-36 (NRSVue), reflects a commitment to serving those in need, embodying the gospel’s call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. 
     
    November 2023 marked the nineteenth journey since 2006 to Uganda, a country of contrast where burgeoning development coexists with extreme poverty – despite growth of a middle class, improved education, and infrastructure, millions still live on less than two dollars per day. This mission aims to address these disparities through partnership and shared humanity between Africans and Americans. 
     
    Highlighting the collaborative spirit of the mission, Pastor Schooley shared, "We are blessed to be friends with many people there including our vital partner Fred Muyimbwa and his wife Robinnah, Micheal and Juliet Masemba, and Wandera Wafula, his wife Sharone, as well as others like John Kivirri and Joyce, Charles and Mary Lubya, Jimy Tendo and Betty, Charles and Irene in Kavule, and Wilberforce and Janet Nabona, Josh Bule and many others. These sisters and brothers are partners; we’re all in this together. They have great vision for their people." 

    The mission’s broad scope of projects underscores a commitment to sustainable development and immediate aid. “We’re working on projects like digging wells for fresh water, supplying mosquito nets, vocational training programs in the areas of sewing, hairdressing, and welding, support for people with disabilities, assistance with health needs, distribution of Bibles, construction of churches, and other issues. Your prayers are valued! Come with us! Donate if you can!” Pastor Schooley emphasized, highlighting the community’s support and the multifaceted nature of the mission’s efforts. 
     
    In the heart of Central Uganda, "Susie," a 12-year-old girl facing the challenges of a congenital disability, has become a symbol of hope and the profound impact of dedicated support. 
     
    "Susie has a congenital disability of her legs/hips. She puts shoes on her hands to crawl around," Pastor Schooley reports, shedding light on the daily struggles Susie faces. Despite her physical limitations, Susie harbors a deep desire to continue her education, a dream that seemed out of reach until now. "Susie has not gone to school since second grade, but – seriously – gets tears in her eyes because she wants to return to school. She can’t get to the local one and has no funds for the fees," Schooley explains, emphasizing the barriers that stood in her way. 
     
    In collaboration with Pastor Wilberforce Nabona, they took significant steps to alter Susie's path fundamentally. "We were able to send Susie to the orthopedic doctor and purchase for her the recommended three-wheeled chair, pedaled by her hands," Schooley recounts. This crucial intervention has not only provided Susie with increased mobility but has also opened the doors to her education and future. 
     
    In a testament to the mission's commitment and the community's support, Susie is set to embark on a new chapter of her life. "In addition, she’ll be attending a boarding school starting at the beginning of February," Schooley shares, marking a significant milestone in Susie's journey towards empowerment and independence. 
     
    Further, the mission has led to tangible improvements in living conditions. Pastors Charles, his wife Irene, and their young children were previously living in a cramped 9’x15’ house, now enjoy a new three-room home thanks to the support from the Centerville community. 
     
    In the vibrant heart of Uganda, the city of Jinja stands as a beacon for travelers from across the globe. The allure of its natural beauty and the historical significance of the Nile's headwaters draw countless visitors each year, seeking to immerse themselves in the serene landscapes and rich cultural heritage the area has to offer. 
     
    However, a few miles from the tourist pathways, a starkly different reality unfolds. The outskirts of Jinja are marked by an industrial landscape, where factories dot the horizon. Beyond this industrial belt lies a world far removed from the postcard images of the city. It is here, that the informal settlement known as Soweto finds its place on the map. Not officially recognized, yet undeniably present, Soweto is a testament to the resilience and struggles of those who call it home. 
     
    Soweto, a name borrowed from the famous South African township, has become a refuge for individuals and families from various corners of Uganda. Among its residents are those displaced by conflict, including refugees from Gulu who fled the horrors of war. Now, with the conflict behind them, they seek solace and survival in Soweto. The area, characterized by its poor housing and lack of basic amenities, paints a somber picture. 
     
    Within this community, individuals like Pastor Nabona have become beacons of hope. Pastor Nabona, who resides in Soweto, is among those who witness the daily struggles and triumphs of its inhabitants. Amidst the hardship, there are stories of resilience and solidarity that often go untold. Tom, another notable figure in the community, plays a crucial role in fostering hope for the future. He helps manage Beauty for Ashes, a small school that stands as a sanctuary for the children of Soweto. Here, amidst the challenges of daily life, education shines as a beacon of hope. 
     
    Beauty For Ashes is more than just a school; it's a lifeline for many families. In a place where the luxury of a meal cannot be taken for granted, the school strives to provide what many consider a basic necessity: food. The reality that many children in Soweto cannot afford to pay for their meals is a stark reminder of the challenges they face. Unlike other parts of Uganda, where school meals might be a given, here, it is a need that is often unmet. 
     
    As The United Methodist Church community steadfastly supports and participates in the Uganda mission, the narratives of change and collaboration shine brightly as symbols of optimism, illustrating the impactful force of faith manifested through deeds. This path, though fraught with genuine obstacles, is also imbued with happiness and acknowledgment of our shared humanity. Embodying the spirit of service and the immediacy of action, Pastor Fred Muyimbwa from Bread of Life UMC in Mukono shares a profound message: "We are alive today and tomorrow we might be gone. Let us use every opportunity to serve Christ." 

    TAGGED / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Vital Congregations / Districts / Missional Engagement

    The importance of church statistics

    January 19, 2024 / By Autumn Wells, Administrative and Accounting Services Specialist / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    There are many reasons why church statistics are so important and why they need to be up-to-date. First and foremost, they are there to help your church mission. Statistics allow a church to see trends such as growth or decline in membership, revenue, expenses, attendance, membership makeup, amount of youth, and more. These trends can help a church plan for the future. There are many distinct groups who view and analyze this data, nationally and regionally. The data reports different information than your financial audits in the fall, which just go to your District and Annual Conference. The ACStats information goes across all missions, ministries, and agencies both nationally and globally. This is how we quantify our vision that WE ARE UNITED. 

    The big picture: General Conference 

    A year-by-year analysis shows growth or decline in any certain area. This data is invaluable to The United Methodist Church. The United Methodist data is compiled here.   

    The General Council’s multiple boards and departments analyze this data for many reasons. If you are interested in which board uses each question, click here to take a look at the “Understanding Data Terms” webpage for more details. 

    The Book of Discipline mandates the collection of statistics, for vital reasons. Collection of up-to-date statistics are used in the following ways:  

    1. Episcopal formula for determining the number of bishops; 
    2. Correct apportionment calculations; 
    3. General Conference delegate counts; and 
    4. Providing a complete data set for denominational leadership to understand trends to inform and aid ministry growth. 

    As you can see, using old statistics could result in over- and under-calculating any number of areas, which have impacts and repercussions on the whole denomination. More importantly, our covenant to be methodical by adhering to The Book of Discipline is broken. 

    The United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) uses the statistics to assist in planning resources and marketing. The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) uses them to help annual conferences plan how to more effectively minister within their own communities. The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) and the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) use the information to assist in monitoring and raising consciousness of gender and racial/ethnic inclusiveness in The United Methodist Church. 

    GCFA apportionments  

    The apportionments that United Methodists of Upper New York pay to General Conference are based on your local church statistical reports. These apportionments fund the work of the General Church like global missions, agencies, and boards. These boards use your analytics to determine their budgets. Some examples of these are United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Special Sundays, World Service Fund, Black College Fund, and Africa University Fund. This is how we quantify being UNITED AROUND THE WORLD. 

    Click here to read more.  

    Zooming in on the Upper New York Conference 

    How can we serve if we don’t know? The Upper New York Annual Conference uses statistical data to help you in a wide variety of ways. The data shows trends that maybe we or even you didn’t notice. When we look at the trends over time, there are some interventions we will take that will assist you. Here are just a few uses of the statistical data: 

    New opportunities 

    They help local churches analyze where there are new opportunities for outreach. District Superintendents (DSs), the Director of Missional Excellence, and the Director of New Faith Communities use this to find ways to reach more people. They analyze trends to pull the right people and resources together to develop new methods of spreading the good news and outreach. This is how we quantify SHARING GOD’S HOPE. 

    Appointment 

    The District Superintendents use key factors like attendance and membership to assist in the clergy appointment process. The balance needs to be right for your congregation. This is how we quantify MAKING DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST.  

    Ministry Impact 

    The leadership of the Annual Conference uses the reports to help identify local churches that are having extraordinary impact in a certain area of ministry. Doing something great? Your figures will show it. This lets everyone else know too so others might find where there are new opportunities for outreach. Your District Superintendent will assist you in maximizing the missional impact for your church and those around you. This is how we quantify being UNITED IN LOVE.  

    Committees 

    In addition to the Conference Advance Specials, below are just a small select committees that use your stats reports:  

    • GCORR and COSROW use the data collected. Equality and diversity are important to us all, on a local level and nationally. The committee uses this data and compares it to demographics in the local area using platforms like MissionInsite. If the church data shows trends that aren’t reflected in the neighboring areas, the committee and/or the District Superintendent will make intentional modifications to promote a better representation of the population. This is how quantify if we are being GOD’S LOVE WITH OUR NEIGHBORS.   
    • Volunteers in Mission Committee and Conference staff analyze the stats data reported on lines 20a and 20b to see which local churches have VIM teams and how many members. This can be useful for when a disaster strikes, we have numbers in hand to deploy needed help immediately. This is also helpful in planning development in newer areas where there are scarce VIM teams. This is how we quantify being UNITED IN SERVICE.  

    To learn more about United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, click here.  

    Annual Conference apportionments 

    Apportionments from the Conference are based on all local churches total operating income that is represented by line 52. Line 52 is a total of giving, fundraisers, and other income from church assets.  

    Workers Compensation and Medicare compliance 

    The Conference uses the stats for reporting Worker’s Compensation, Disability, and Paid Family Leave data to New York State with the number of employees and gender. If there are any questions by the state regarding our reporting, the statistics report is also referenced. The report also helps with the Medicare MSPSEE certification to make sure that the MSPSEE is allowed. This is how we quantify being UNITED IN SEEKING JUSTICE.  

    For the local churches 

    For many local pastors, annual statistics reporting is the only place they compile this data. For many, if you don't complete them, you would have no record of worship attendance, discipleship, fiscal changes. Churches use the stats to demonstrate growth or decline, year to year, to a church council. This is your first notification that something is going on so you can be on the move in the right direction for change that you want to see happen.  

    Local forecasting 

    The reports help with forecasting and financial analysis. The various applications in our Conference ask for you to use your past data to help you understand where you stand whether in mission, membership, or finances. They are invaluable to help create budgets and forecast projections to keep the church moving forward.  

    Try running reports and graphs of the last ten years comparing your capital building improvements or your local food pantry program expenses. Or try comparing Vacation Bible School participants to income? What does it show you? Is one budget area staying stagnant? 

    Ministry areas for outreach 

    It will bring it to your attention that a trend is occurring. For instance, if line 12 confirmation numbers are down year-over-year, this is an indication that you need to create initiatives for more youth. While your DS can help, you know your community better than anyone and will be the first to make this turnaround happen. This is how we quantify being UNITED IN OUR COMMUNITIES. 

    As you can see there are many reasons why our statistics are so important to showcase our people and ministries. The trends help from globally to nationally to your neighborhood. Reporting that is measured differently from your other charge conference forms. We encourage you to continue your ministries with tools of knowledge and collaboration. Some of these tools are set forth by completing the annual statistics completely and accurately. We are United Methodists of Upper New York. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Episcopal Office / Finance / Ministry Shares / New Faith Communities / Vital Congregations / COSROW / Districts / CCORR / Missional Engagement / Missional Excellence

    2024 Bishop’s Retreat focuses on wellness

    January 19, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Fellowship, worship, times of learning, and a little bit of magic happened at the 2024 Bishop’s Retreat. This was the first Bishop’s Retreat since 2019, postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first retreat hosted by Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez.  

    “This year’s retreat provided a time for reconnecting with God and fellow clergy, extended rest and renewal, and allowed for a safe environment to engage in learning through meaningful and robust conversations about God’s desire for Upper New York (UNY) clergy to experience joy and wholeness,” said Bishop Héctor. 

    Clergy and their spouses were invited to take part in the three-day event that focused on the different dimensions of clergy wellness, with an emphasis on emotional and mental health. The time of rest and renewal allowed clergy to come together as a group and leave with an understanding that in order to serve others, you must take care of yourself.   

    “We have not been able to have a Bishop’s Retreat since 2019, and this was our first with Bishop Hector, so I didn’t know what to expect. Bishop Hector was so warm and welcoming, and he was so sweet with my son Daniel, who stayed with the grownups for the whole event. He learned as much this week as I did,” exclaimed the Rev. Natalie Bowerman, pastor at Eastern Parkway UMC in Schenectady. 

    The Rev. Dr. Ron Bell from The Upper Room and Andrew Hendren, General Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of Wespath were the featured keynote speakers.   

    During his first keynote address, Rev. Dr. Bell talked about the theological framework for emotional and mental health and urged those in attendance to check their SPICE; how are you spiritually, physically, intellectually, connectional, and emotionally? He made a direct connection to our emotional well-being, the emotions and feelings we experience, and how they affect our overall well-being. 

    "One of the exercises encouraged us to make a commitment toward our wellness. I decided to unplug from technology for ten minutes every two hours. I feel this will help me feel more grounded and focused when I am plugged in while interacting with others," said Alicia Wood, pastor at University UMC in Syracuse.

    Rev. Dr. Bell led a second session about the impact of burn-out, embodied trauma, and conflict. He specified that emotional and spiritual trauma can have a great impact on our physical well-being and reminded participants to focus on the importance of centering, realigning, and breathing. Andrew Hendren shared with clergy valuable resources available through Wespath that can help clergy get to a place of wholeness. 

    "Rev. Dr. Bell's study sessions on wellness were enlightening. They emphasized the importance of holistic wellness, reminding me that caring for my spiritual health is just as crucial as physical health. These sessions have left me with a renewed sense of balance and a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all aspects of wellness,” said Pastor Raquel Alston from First UMC in North Tonawanda

    Participants were encouraged to attend at least one workshop that focused on a dimension of well-being. Workshops were centered around improving your devotional life, time management, financial, and physical wellness. 

    “The times of worship, guest keynote speakers, workshop leaders, and times of fellowship allowed clergy that attended to imagine what abundant life and ministry can look like, even during these challenging times. I am filled with a renewed sense of hope and excitement for UNY clergy. This is just the beginning - the best is yet to come,” emphasized Bishop Héctor. 

    The theme for this year’s event was “Thrive” based on the scripture by John 10:10 (AMP), “I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” 

    Magician David Black entertained attendees with his magic skills and even taught a few magic tricks. There was even some time for dancing. Members of the Upper New York cabinet led a session on how to dance the Electric Slide. 

    During closing worship, participants were encouraged to offer a gift of healing of the nations. Everyone in attendance was invited to trace their hand on a piece of construction paper, cut it out, then write one word that signifies a gift they could offer to others in the form of well-being and healing. Different colored paper hands were collected on the Communion table. The hands will be joined together to become the leaves of a tree; the leaves that can bring healing and wholeness to another as described in the Book of Revelation

    "I look forward to our Bishop's Retreat next year and to the new wellness program our Bishop and Annual Conference has launched. I feel valued when my health and well being rises to the top of their concerns," said Pastor Alicia.

    More than 140 Upper New York clergy and their spouses attended the Bishop’s Retreat, which was held Jan. 16-18 in the Mountain View District at the Radisson Hotel in Corning. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos / Cabinet / Districts

    New York State Minimum Wage / Salary Increase, Effective January 1, 2024

    January 11, 2024 / By Tracy Rickett, UNY Human Resources Generalist / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Effective Jan. 1, 2024, New York State increased the minimum wage for hourly (non-exempt) employees as well as the minimum salary amount for salaried (exempt) employees.

    The new amounts for New York State (excluding New York City, Long Island, and Westchester) are:

    HOURLY (Non-exempt): $15.00/hour 
    SALARY (Exempt): $1,124.20 per week / $58,458.40 per year

    Employers within the Upper New York Conference, regardless of the number of employees, must pay non-exempt staff the minimum wage. Non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay under state and federal wage and hour laws. Overtime pay for non-exempt employees is calculated as time and one-half of their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek (i.e., a $15/hr. employee working overtime would be entitled to $22.50/hr. overtime pay).

    An updated NYS Minimum Wage poster must be posted at your worksite for your employees by Jan. 1, 2024. The updated minimum wage poster is available on our Church Employer webpage under Employment Law Compliance and Posters. Please click this link for more information on the change to NYS Minimum Wage.

    Churches should review their wage and hour practices to ensure that their employees are classified properly as non-exempt or exempt and that current minimum wage and minimum salary levels are being paid to employees.

    Please note: Clergy salary is exempt from state and federal wage and hour requirements. The minimum salary for the purpose of clergy compensation is determined by the Commission on Equitable Compensation. It is listed in the Clergy Support Policies and can be located here. It can also be found in the Annual Conference Journal, located here.

    If you have any questions on this topic, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at 315-898-2017 or TracyRickett@unyumc.org.

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services / Finance

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez: 2024 Appointment Season

    January 11, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's Note: The following message was sent to United Methodist of Upper New York via email on Jan. 11 on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez about the 2024 appointment season. 

                                                                                                                    “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” - Romans 10:15 

    Dear partners in ministry,  

    Grace and peace from Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, be with you in the New Year! 

    I thank God for Upper New York congregations’ passionate and faithful witness during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Seeing the countless ways UNY congregations offered radical hospitality, inspiring worship experiences, fellowship opportunities, generous giving, and service to their community was inspiring.   

    As we move forward in 2024, the cabinet diligently prepares to begin discerning appointments for UNY congregations. I thank God for our clergy and congregations who faithfully engage in an itinerant system. 

    This season, we face unique realities that may impact appointment-making. Disaffiliations and the continued trends of contraction will require adaptability in how we go about this sacred work. At the same time, these challenges provide us with exciting opportunities to explore creative and collaborative approaches to pastoral leadership and congregational ministry.  

    Below, I share an overview of the values and principles that guide the cabinet in our discernment and decision-making during the appointment season. I call on United Methodists of Upper York to surround the cabinet and the appointment process in your prayers during the coming months. 

    Appointment Discernment Process 

    In The United Methodist Church, the responsibility for appointment-making is given to the resident bishop and district superintendents of the annual conference. All appointments are prayerfully made to continue moving forward with the Church’s mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  

    While appointment-making is a sacred task that happens year-round, most appointments are made from January through April 15 and then finalized at the regular session of annual conference. 

    The following values and principles guide our discernment process for appointment-making: 

    • Pursue God’s vision for congregations and their communities 
    • Match gifts, graces, and strengths 
    • Acknowledge and honor our diversity 
    • Connectionalism and itinerancy 
    • Inter-personal relationships and conflict resolution 
    • Pursue equity in the appointment process and decisions  
    • Excellence, effectiveness, and fruitfulness 

    During the appointment discernment process, the cabinet pays special attention to the ethnic, cultural, and theological makeup of the congregation. The personal needs of pastors are also important to the superintendents and to me as your bishop. 

    Guided by the Holy Spirit, the cabinet bases appointments on: 

    1. God’s vision for the congregation and the missional needs/opportunities in the community, the congregation, and UNY.  
    2. A congregation’s willingness, passion, and track record of collaborating with pastoral leadership to faithfully move forward the mission and God’s vision for their community. 
    3. A pastor’s willingness, passion, ability, and track record of engaging a congregation and the community in a fruitful collaborative ministry.  

    The cabinet and I will also consider: 

    • The conflict level of the congregation and other sensitive issue(s) that might be impacting the congregation’s health and fruitfulness. 
    • The congregation’s ability and track record of paying Ministry Shares, pension, and health benefits. As needed, the cabinet will “right-size” the appointment or align the congregation with another congregation to ensure long-term sustainability.  

    When discerning appointments, the cabinet will prayerfully consider the following three missional-critical questions: 

    1. Is the potential pastor’s character, personality, and shepherd’s heart suitable for the congregation and the community? 
    2. Do the potential pastor's spiritual gifts, skills, and experiences intersect with the congregation's needs, hopes, aspirations, and the community? 
    3. Will this appointment maximize disciple-making in the unique context of the congregation? 

    When the cabinet makes appointments, we will consider full-time appointments first, then work on less than full-time appointments.  

    Pastors and congregations may ask for reconsideration of an introduced appointment if there are serious concerns based on missional reasons (pastor’s or congregation’s ability to spread personal and social holiness and lead the congregation in growing the five core ministries of worship, evangelism, faith formation, hands-on missions, and generosity). The following will not be considered: race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, age, or educational achievement of a pastor or congregation, as well as the location and size of a congregation. Based on the reflections and prayer by the pastor, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC), and the superintendents, the bishop will decide on a request for reconsideration based on missional reasons.  

    Retirements 

    The 2024 clergy retirements will be announced by Feb. 1 on the UNY website here. I thank our retirees for their faithful servant leadership over the years. This information will be updated as needed. I invite you to pray for and thank our 2024 Class of Retirees. 

    Open Churches 

    Again this year, starting Jan. 24, on Wednesdays, the cabinet will post on the UNY website here a list of the open churches currently being considered for a new appointment. Clergy who prayerfully discern that they want to be considered for one of the open churches are to inform their superintendent exclusively via email by Thursday at 4 p.m. and share why you believe you would serve the congregation well. The cabinet will prayerfully consider these requests during their discernment process. 

    Clergy communicating their interest in an open church, 

    • Must understand that requesting to be considered for an appointment is advisory and does not guarantee you will be appointed to the open church. 
    • Cannot, in any way, communicate with the members or the pastor of the open church to advocate on their behalf or indicate an interest in serving that church. 
    • Can be assured that their request to the cabinet will remain confidential, will not affect their current appointment, and will not be shared with your present church’s SPRC.  

    New Appointments Announcements 

    Each Wednesday, at 1 p.m., the official episcopal announcement of new appointments will be posted on the UNY website here. We anticipate that we will start making appointment announcements on Feb. 14. 

    Transition Process 

    The appointive cabinet is committed to resourcing pastors and congregations experiencing a new appointment to ensure a smooth and effective transition. Congregations experiencing an appointment change will be provided with a comprehensive guide and toolkit that includes best practices, checklists, and ideas. This will help pastors and congregations transition smoothly from the current pastor to the new pastor. 

    On behalf of the cabinet and myself, thank you for your service to Christ, The Church, your community, and the world. 

    Together in mission, 

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
    The United Methodist Church
    Serving United Methodist of Upper New York

    Steve Alexander named new Site Director at Casowasco

    January 9, 2024 / By Shelby Winchell, UNY Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center’s newest site director is no stranger to Upper New York. Steve Alexander is a member of Lansing United Methodist Church and a former certified Early Response Team leader. Steve stepped into the role on Jan. 8 following an extensive search. He replaces the Rev. Dr. Pam Harris, who has served as the Acting Site Director since October 2022. Rev. Dr. Harris will remain in the role as the Interim Executive Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries.  

    “I am thrilled that Steve is joining the Upper New York Camp & Retreat Ministries’ leadership team as the Director of Casowasco. Steve brings many years of experience as a team leader, and as a person who can move an organization toward realizing its vision for the future. The search team did its work very carefully and thoroughly, conducting a nationwide search, and making sure that it fully understood the needs of Casowasco at this time and for the future. Steve brings strong skills and experience to his new role at Casowasco. He is deeply committed to the experience that Casowasco offers to all persons, an experience of welcome, hospitality, and invitation to grow in one's relationship with God. We have a deeply committed team of people at Casowasco, and I look forward to how Steve will become a part of that team and will lead that team into effective ministry,” said Rev. Dr. Harris. 

    Serving in leadership roles isn’t foreign to Steve. He’s a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel, serving our country for 22 years. From 2009 through 2012, he ran the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, program at Cornell University. He then moved on to the private sector as the President of Central Recycling in Horseheads, NY.  

    “I feel called and compelled to enter a position that I have to rely on God and others,” said Steve. 

    Coming to Casowasco is a bit of a homecoming for the Alexander family. Steve’s wife, Laura, has been serving as a cook at Casowasco since August 2023. Both of their sons, Thomas and Patrick, attended summer camps at Casowasco many years ago. Thomas also worked at Casowasco for three summers; one summer in the kitchen and two summers as a camp counselor in the Highlands. Now in their late 20s, Steve says they both grew in their faith because of camp and Kevin Dunn, who served as both Thomas and Patrick’s youth leader at Lansing UMC. Kevin served as Casowasco’s Assistant Director until his death in November 2016. In 2018, he posthumously was awarded the Harry Denman Evangelism Award as a laity member of the Upper New York Conference. 

    “God is here. God loves you and God wants to have a relationship with you. We really want you to experience that at camp again. If we keep that in our hearts and open our hearts to that, I think a lot of things will fall in place.” 

    Faith can be fun and church can happen anywhere. As Steve explains, Casowasco facilitates that fun aspect of faith and he’s ready to introduce more people to God. 

    “My camp is your camp. It’s our camp. Nothing is different here except there are people here who have an open heart to God. Our hearts are open. The camp is open. Everything that you experienced here as part of your faith journey is still here and it’s waiting for you to come back and tap into it. We want to welcome you radically.” 

    TAGGED / Camp and Retreat Ministry (CRM) / Communications / Youth / Districts / Missional Excellence

    Imagining No Racism during Lent

    January 9, 2024 / By Georgia Whitney, Co-Convener of the Conference Commission on Religion & Race / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Lent is a season of introspection and awareness, a great time to reflect on some of the challenging realities of our society. So, if you’re looking for a good Lenten study next month, please think about being part of the next Imagine No Racism class.  

    The Conference Commission on Religion and Race (CCORR) will offer this a six-session small group study on Zoom, from Feb. 16 through March 22 from 10-11:30 a.m. These highly interactive sessions will be facilitated by CCORR team members the Rev. Holly Strickland and Georgia Whitney. The class limit is 15. 

    The curriculum is meant as a beginning, a way to launch the ongoing work of addressing, and ultimately, dismantling racism, expanding knowledge, and developing skills for addressing racism in its many current manifestations. It can empower individuals and local churches to discern how God is calling them to apply the new knowledge and skills in their lives and missions. Each 90-minute session includes a strong connection to scripture and prayer, and builds on prior sessions. 

    In six weeks, you’ll gain a shared language and shared set of learning engagements as a foundation for developing and implementing goals that are meaningful and powerful in your setting.  

    If you’d like to find out more, or register for the class, contact Georgia Whitney at (585) 410-4370 or by email at georgiawhitney11@gmail.com

    TAGGED / Communications / Imagine No Racism

    Tax workshops geared for clergy

    January 5, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    A new year means it’s time to start preparing for the upcoming tax season. Did you know clergy are treated differently under the tax code than virtually anybody else in the country?  

    Filing your taxes can be overwhelming. Let the Rev. Susan Ranous help guide you through the process. Rev. Ranous is an ordained deacon and Certified Public Accountant. She is hosting a two-hour workshop in the afternoon on Jan. 29. During the workshop she will discuss:   

    • Advantages and disadvantages clergy have. 
    • If clergy are considered employees or self-employed? (Hint: the answer isn’t obvious or easy!) 
    • Clergy compensation and expenses.  

    This workshop will help you gain a better understanding of the current tax laws that affect clergy today.  

    Other topics include: 

    • Defining the dual-status tax classification of clergy; 
    • Defining a clergy person and their financial reporting responsibilities; 
    • Responsibilities of The Church; 
    • Describing the Housing Allowance and exclusion; 
    • Discussing exemptions and deductions; 
    • How to complete your tax filing forms. 

    At the culmination of the workshop, you’ll have a better understanding of the unique issues faced by a United Methodist clergy person. Click here to register. The Zoom link will be sent to registrants prior to Jan. 29. Questions can be sent to Rev. Ranous at susanranous@unyumc.org

    TAGGED / Communications / Finance / Districts

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez - Happy New Year

    January 2, 2024 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's Note: The following message was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez on Tuesday, Jan. 2. 

    Dear United Methodists of Upper New York,

    Happy New Year 2024!

    I thank God for the countless blessings we received in 2023! I am also grateful for the faithful witness, ministry and generosity of UNY’s disciples, servant leaders and congregations. Together, we are making the love of Jesus Christ visible in meaningful ways in our neighborhoods and worldwide.

    While last year we faced significant challenges and were introduced to new realities as a connectional body, God’s provision and guidance never failed us.

    The New Year is an ideal time to clarify what we want to accomplish and set goals around our desired outcomes. In this season, the Spirit is urging us to prioritize strengthening our relationship with God and one another and to imagine renewed ways of being the church so that we can reach more and diverse people with the healing love of Jesus.

    More than ever, as United Methodists, we need to seek a strong connection with our true vine, Jesus Christ, so that we can experience God’s greatness anew in our lives and ministries.

    John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, once wrote, My fear is not that our great movement, known as the Methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great.

    As we move forward in the new year, my prayer and hope for all United Methodists is that we (re)claim the fire, power, excitement and the supernatural element of our faith.

    To do so, like Wesley, I dare to suggest that:

    1. We must not become content. In humility, we need to confess the ways we have fallen short of living the way of Christ. How we may have neglected our relationship with the living God and the people God calls us to love and serve – which is not the same as “doing church” or “religion”. The moments we may have settled for “good enough” when God deserves our best. The ways we have insisted on doing things “our way” or “the way it has always been done” when our context have drastically changed.
    2. We must stay joined to Jesus understanding that growing in knowledge, experiences and outward expressions of the love of God in Jesus Christ is our most faithful response to the grace we constantly receive from God. The Holy Spirit is God with us today and it is only in the power and lead of the Spirit that we can live the promises of Christ and share them with others.
    3. We must continuously seek the wellbeing of all our neighbors by sharing the good news of Christ through words and concrete acts of love, mercy, compassion, justice and reconciliation.

    This month, I encourage all UNY congregations to set a Sunday apart to experience Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Service as a public witness of our faith and shared longing for renewal. Also, in 2024, let’s continue journeying together in prayer as we navigate through uncharted waters, discern God’s will for this season and make important decisions about our shared ministry in UNY and The United Methodist Church. You can learn more and join our prayer pilgrimage here.

    In a world plagued with individualism, toxic politics, divisions, hatred, violence and hopelessness, may UNY disciples and congregations dare to be countercultural and embody Christ’s love, unity and hope.

    In the new year, may our prayer be:

    “I am no longer my own, but thine.
    Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
    Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
    Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
    exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
    Let me be full, let me be empty.
    Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
    I freely and heartily yield all things
    to thy pleasure and disposal.
    And now, O glorious and blessed God,
    Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
    thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
    And the covenant which I have made on earth,
    let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

    I look forward to all God will do this year as we experience Christ anew and continue living the gospel and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places - together.

    Peace,

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
    The United Methodist Church
    Serving United Methodist of Upper New York

    Ministry loaning free medical equipment for more than 50 years

    January 2, 2024 / By Shelby Winchell, UNY Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    In 1970, Raymond Welker put a cane he wasn’t using in a closet at Dresden United Methodist Church. His hope was that anyone could use it if they needed it. What started with one cane more than 50 years ago has turned into a three-car garage full of medical equipment for others to borrow, free of charge.   

    “We found that insurance typically does not cover items that make daily living easier or are considered safety in the home. The First Aid Closet (FAC) at Dresden UMC has many items that just make life easier,” said Pastor Jeannine Biehls. 

    The FAC loans items that support health and healing. The ministry’s mission is generously supported by both physical and monetary donations and run strictly by volunteers like church member, Deb Flood.  

    “I’m getting calls seven days a week, day and night from people who heard about us. The average age of our volunteers is 83 years old. I’m the youngest volunteer at 71.” 

    While donations of gently used items are accepted and appreciated, Deb says they don’t want anything that can’t be cleaned and sanitized or that is rusty. The most popular items are hospital beds and wheelchairs. They also have transport chairs and rollator walkers. In 2024, the FAC plans to purchase replacement items for those that have been well used. 

    “There is a walker collection for persons needing one for after surgery and the commodes are plentiful. Canes, bed rails, and items to help get out of bed are also available. We work with people in the community, like The Living Well, who bring in items like urinary incontinence products. Bandaging wounds can be very expensive, and thanks to those who share with us, the FAC can share with others,” said Pastor Jeannine. 

    They have items like nebulizers, blood pressure cuffs, scales, medication minders, and even sitz baths at the FAC. The greatest need right now is shower chairs and benches, knee walkers, and additional wheelchairs. 

    “People are very grateful. The harder it is to get something, the more grateful they are. We help people who just had knee surgery, hip replacement, or were in a car accident. We have some people who borrow for years at a time,” said Deb. 

    The ministry’s reach extends far beyond Dresden and Yates County. Information about the closet can be found in hospitals and doctor's offices from Syracuse to Rochester, Elmira to Geneva. 

    Located behind the parsonage, the FAC is just a few blocks from the church. Deb says “call before you buy” to see if the FAC can help stretch your medical budget. You can call or text Deb at (607) 316-4920. Monetary donations can be mailed to the church at 60 Cornelia Street, Dresden, NY 14441.  

    TAGGED / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Mission Central / New Faith Communities / Vital Congregations

    Save the date for 2024 District Days

    December 20, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    In the new year, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, will be visiting local churches from February to April during District Days. This time allows Bishop Héctor to meet with laity and clergy across Upper New York.

    Clergy meetings are scheduled for each visit from 1-3 p.m. Another gathering is being held for laity (and clergy who couldn't attend earlier meeting) from 7-8:30 p.m. All United Methodists of Upper New York are invited and encouraged to attend a gathering closest to you. 

    Save the following dates:

    Monday, Feb. 5

    Crossroads 

    Fayetteville UMC

    Monday, Feb. 12

    Mohawk

    New Hartford UMC

    Tuesday, Feb. 13

    Moutain View      

    Horseheads First UMC

    Thursday, Feb. 15

    Genesee Valley

    Henrietta: Faith UMC

    Monday, Feb. 26

    Finger Lakes

    Lansing UMC

    Monday, March 11

    Oneonta

    Elm Park UMC

    Thursday, March 14

    Niagara Frontier

    Clarence Center UMC

    Tuesday, April 9

    Albany

    Shenendehowa UMC

    Wednesday, April 10

    Adirondack

    Community UMC of Chestertown

    Thursday, April 11

    Northern Flow

    Gouverneur First UMC

     

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / New Faith Communities / Vital Congregations / Bishop Burgos / Districts

    Three Upper NY United Methodist Churches’ help bring joy to seniors

    December 20, 2023 / By Kevin Miller, Multimedia Content Creator / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The holiday season is a time of celebration, joy and family gatherings, but for many senior adults, it can also be a time of loneliness and isolation. 
     
    However, Faith in Action Volunteers, a program of the Broome County Council of Churches, has been lighting up the lives of seniors for a number of years through a heartwarming initiative known as the Silver Bells program. The mission of Faith in Action is clear: to provide essential services to Broome County’s senior adults, enabling them to maintain their independence. These services encompass a range of support, including transportation to medical appointments and assistance with grocery shopping. They’re a lifeline for those who may have limited mobility or family living far away. 
     
    According to Consumer Affairs, in 2021, 28% of seniors live alone, totaling more than 14.7 million people (nearly twice the population of New Jersey), with loneliness and social isolation increasing the risk of various health issues, including dementia, stroke, heart disease, mental health disorders, and premature mortality. The health effects of loneliness are even compared to smoking 15 cigarettes each day. And when the holiday season arrives, the challenges faced by many of these senior adults become even more apparent. For some, there may be no family members nearby to share the festivities with, while others might not have family at all.  
     
    It’s during this time that the Silver Bells program shines brightly, ensuring that no member of their community is left without a gift to open on Christmas day. 
     
    Vestal United Methodist Church (VUMC), one of six Broome County churches supporting the Silver Bells program, has been helping to play an integral part in ensuring seniors do not feel alone during the holiday season. In the past, the church received tags bearing names and gift requests, which were then hung on a small tree in their sanctuary. However, the program has evolved, and now they receive the names and gift requests through an online platform called SignUpGenius.  
     
    The beauty of Silver Bells lies in its simplicity. The gift requests are usually modest, reflecting the genuine and practical desires of the seniors. They might ask for a cozy sweater to ward off the winter chill. Large print puzzle books offer entertainment, while gift cards for grocery stores provide a sense of self-sufficiency. Blank note cards and stamps allow seniors to stay connected with loved ones through handwritten letters. 
     
    The process is a heartfelt one. Members of the VUMC congregation eagerly choose a name from the list, purchase the requested gift(s), and return them to the church. The gifts are then collected and delivered to the Faith in Action Volunteers, who take on the task of wrapping them with care. Jean Stout, a member of VUMC, emphasizes, “We see many toy drives and angel trees that focus on children and families at this time of year. It’s important to also support the senior adults in our community and let them know they are remembered and not alone, especially during the holidays.” 
     
    Vestal UMC is joined by two other Upper New York Conference churches in this compassionate endeavor. Park Terrace United Methodist Church and Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church were also instrumental participants. With all six Broome County churches participating, four different faith traditions are represented -- a testament to the power of unity among God's people. 
     
    In the spirit of the holiday season, one small act of kindness can create ripples of joy that touch the lives of those who need it most. Jeff Patricia, the chair of the mission committee at Park Terrace Community United Methodist Church (PTC), understands the power of such acts and the endless possibilities they offer for making a difference. His mantra is clear: "There are countless ideas and opportunities for missions. We should try new ideas." This philosophy of embracing fresh initiatives and seeking novel ways to make a positive impact led PTC to an inspiring journey with the Silver Bells program. 
     
    Back in 2018, PTC took its first step in this heartwarming tradition. They were assigned 20 tags, each bearing a name and a couple of gift ideas. Fast forward six years, and Silver Bells have become a cherished and time-honored tradition within their community. During the bustling holiday season, many organizations and churches face the decision of whether to replace existing programs with new ones. PTC, however, took a different approach. They recognized the value of diversity in their holiday mission projects and decided to add Silver Bells to the list, rather than replacing an existing program. It was a way to extend their outreach and offer support to a generation that may often find itself alone during Christmas. 
     
    Sue Spencer, Director of Faith in Action Volunteers, poignantly reminded PTC of the program's unique focus, saying, "Usually our programs are about Santa and kids. We don't often think of seniors sitting home alone on Christmas day." This sentiment deeply resonated with Sue Mott, one of PTC's dedicated members. She observed that while many projects concentrate on children and families, seniors are sometimes assumed to have family during the holidays. Sue Mott said, "Silver Bells is a way of honoring them and recognizing their importance. It's meaningful to touch their lives and have an impact." 
     
    PTC member Rachel Acri beautifully captured the essence of this act of kindness, noting, “Usually it’s something so simple for me, but may be a big deal for them. I can help them feel loved and wanted by giving them that gift.” Sherri Reed, another PTC member, demonstrated that kindness knows no bounds. Instead of signing up this year, she chose to make a donation, ensuring that no senior would be missed. She explained, “It’s important to make sure everyone has a gift.” 

    The response from seniors has been heartening, although they may initially decline gifts with a modest "I don't need anything." When encouraged to make a wish list, their requests reveal simple yet meaningful wants: socks, gloves, or grocery store gift cards. Some ask for new stationery, envelopes, or stamps, while others add a touch of fun with requests for "creamy milk chocolates" or even "a radio that plays cassette tapes." 
     
    Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church got involved in the Silver Bells initiative in its second year, as explained by the Reverend Carolyn Stow. When Sue Spencer reached out to the Pastor, church leaders had recently talked about new ways to love their neighbors. They were already involved in several ministries that gave gifts to children and families for Christmas and were hoping to expand. Spencer had explained her program serves seniors who can no longer live independently without assistance, and she had a goal to give each of those shut-ins in the Faith in Action program a Christmas gift. “They were only twenty away from reaching that 150-person goal, and I knew our congregation was ready to embrace this new way of beginning the Advent season,” Rev. Stow remembers. 

    Each year since 2019, the church community has incorporated Silver Bells tags into their holiday customs. They now proudly display two Advent wreaths—one adorned with candles lit weekly to mark the Christmas countdown, and another adorned with tags bearing names and gift wishes. This unique tradition helps them prepare for the celebration of the Incarnation. And without fail, they've come together each year to gather 20 Christmas presents around their tree, as seen with the images captured by Violet Schuttak. One church member expressed, “I had never done something like this before – I mean, buying gifts for someone I don’t know. It’s kind of a deeper way to spread a little love.”  

    Faith in Action Volunteers ensures just that. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Connectional Ministries / New Faith Communities / Older Adult Ministry / Vital Congregations / Youth / Districts / Missional Engagement

    Two churches create lasting Christmas memories for children, their families, and volunteers

    December 11, 2023 / By Pastor Deb Peacock, Argyle UMC

    Two years ago, I took my grandson shopping so he could buy small gifts for his mom and dad for Christmas. I remember how excited he was to do this. I began to think about the children in the Argyle and West Hebron communities, as well as other small communities around us, that are struggling to provide meals for their families, let alone Christmas gifts. I immediately had an idea.  

    I went to both of my congregations, which have about 42 members combined, and told them about my idea to create a shopping day for children living nearby. I was so blessed because church folks were so excited and volunteers were plentiful. Our tables filled with gifts long before the event.  We all could hardly wait until we could open our doors to see God’s children. 

    Members at both Argyle and West Hebron United Methodist Churches realized we had the ability to teach the young how blessed it is to give at Christmas as well as receive. Members from both congregations gave little items from their home or small new gifts in addition to donating wrapping paper, decorative gift bags, bows, and gift tags to the children's shopping day.  

    We divided up the shopping areas by ages from toddler to 12 years old and set up the room behind the sanctuary with tables. One area was designated for wrapping, another area was for other items we collected. In addition to donating gifts and wrapping supplies, we also asked volunteers to bake homemade cookies. We knew we also needed some volunteers to wrap gifts and fill out tags for children who needed help.  

    As the pastor, I made it a priority to be at the church to offer cookies, coffee, or tea to those who accompanied the children, and of course juice for the children. But most importantly, I wanted to be there, so I was able to visit with parents and grandparents while the children were shopping. This was such a wonderful opportunity to share with them what our church offered: love and compassion.  

    Last year, we served 32 children. This year, the number of participants doubled to 64 children. We advertised with a sign outside the church and posted the event in a few local free newspapers. We offered the event on two different Saturdays so parents and guardians had some flexibility. We were especially blessed this year as one of the participating parents joined our Zoom worship service.  

    It was such a blessing to all those who volunteered to see the excitement in the children's eyes and lavish in the sound of their giggles when they were reunited with their family members.  

    Christmas isn’t even here yet, and already we are taking inventory of gifts for next year. We cannot wait to continue share the love of Christ. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Youth / Districts

    Commentary: Where is he?

    December 7, 2023 / By Dianne Roe / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Dianne Roe is a member of First United Methodist Church of Corning and wrote the following reflection on behalf of the Upper New York Task Force for Peace with Justice in Palestine-Israel which is part of Social Holiness. Dianne drew the sketch below from an Instagram photo sent out from Gaza during the bombing in 2014. She reflects on this as she processes the present catastrophe, which at the time of this writing, has killed over 17,000 Gazans, including over 7000 children.

    I looked at the photo that my friend had received on Instagram from a photographer in Gaza. It was the Summer of 2014 and in the course of a month and a half Israeli bombing had killed 2200, including 500 children. When I do a sketch from a photo, I like to give credit to the photographer. Was the photographer still alive? What about the little boy carrying his baby brother? What happened to them? I did not know. I sketched them anyway. 

    I was unable to find out anything more about the boy. But he remained with me. He became the human face of suffering children around the world. He looks to be about eight. If he was eight in 2014, he would have been 12 in 2018 when the young people of Gaza organized a non-violent protest called the “Great March of Return.” Did he take part?  What were his dreams as a 12-year-old? Is he still looking after his younger brother? Can he envision any path toward peace? 

    I thought of him again this past month. If he is still alive, he would be around 17—old enough to be a fighter if he had no hopes of anything else. Was he a fighter? Did he care whether he lived or died? Could it have been different? 

    I spent 14 years (1995-2009) with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), now Community Peacemaker Teams in Hebron-Al Khalil. My work with CPT was a conference (North Central New York at the time) advance special and was supported in part by a grant from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM). We saw what it was like when families had their homes demolished because they were living under military occupation, and the occupation forces had the power to offer or deny permits for building a home on land that had been in the Palestinian family for generations. We felt what it was like when soldiers came in the middle of the night and abducted family members without charges and imprisoned them indefinitely. 

    What could we do? What could we say? Very little. But the least we could do was the small thing they asked of us. “Don’t forget us. Tell our stories.” I have tried to do that. I was a witness. Witness is more than just seeing—witness means telling others what you saw. Witness is truth-telling. And now I see children writing their names on their arms when they hear the bombing outside and they know they are about to die. “Don’t forget us. Tell our stories.” 

    Even as I speak, and as I write, I am hearing from friends in Hebron, Masafer Yatta, and Bethlehem who have been true to a pledge of non-violence. Yet one is in prison, another’s son has just been taken off to prison, and in Masafer Yatta, militant settlers have taken over, threatening to kill those who remain in their villages. 

    How do I find a space for their voices to be heard? I shall dig out whatever spaces I can find and attempt to share the story. It is the least I can do. 

    What can we do? 

    PRAY -both privately and publicly in silence and in writing for an end to violence. 

    SUPPORT calls for government officials to work for a ceasefire: 

    1. sign petitions to Congress (ask the Task Force to forward e-mails for this) 
    2. mail post cards to President Biden to support ceasefire (available - PCAP) 
    3. have a church or Women’s group “call-in party” or “writing party” to reps or senators about ceasefire for humanitarian aid and space for talks & plans. 

    CONTRIBUTE much-needed financial aid to UNRWA, UMCOR, ANERA, for Gaza. 

    This reflection is part of the Task Force’s ongoing mission to share with the churches the need to be concerned for peace with justice for all peoples in Palestine/Israel. Visit the Task Force's website here or find them on social media here.  

    More information may be obtained from the Task Force Leadership Team:   
    Rev. Merle Showers: revshowers@gmail.com 
    Linda Bergh: lindagarybergh@gmail.com 
    Rev. Gary Doupe: gdoupe@stny.rr.com 
    Karen Peterson: (607) 739-3141 

    For information about the situation and background from the author, email Dianne Roe at dianneroe42@gmail.com

    TAGGED / Peace with Justice / Taskforce for Palestine Israel

    Community yoga opens church doors to new faces

    December 7, 2023 / By Shelby Winchell, UNY Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Breathe. Don’t just inhale and exhale. Take the kind of breath where you can feel your diaphragm contract and your lungs expand. Become one with your breathing.  

    Deep breathing is a part of yoga, an ancient practice that not only can improve strength and flexibility, but also helps reduce stress. Yoga can also be used to manage pain. Disbelievers may hear the word “yoga” and think ‘that’s not for me.’ The poses may look like they’re only for the young at heart, too complicated, and impossible to achieve. The balance and strength required may in itself be a turn-off. Who actually has the ability to make their body bend and contort in the shape of a pretzel?  

    “Yoga is about building a relationship between mind, body, and spirit. As we build a relationship with ourselves, we open our hearts to others,” said yoga instructor, Noele Brabon.  

    Noele is a lifelong and active member at Malone: Centenary United Methodist Church (CUMC). Her involvement is personal. She grew up 10-miles from Malone in North Bangor, NY, was baptized as a child at CUMC, went away to college, and came back. Her roots are grounded deep in the soil of New York’s North Country.   

    “The best thing my parents did for me was introduce me to Jesus Christ.” 

    In October 2023, Noele offered to teach a series of free community yoga classes in the Fellowship Hall at Malone: Centenary UMC a few times a month. She didn’t have high expectations at first. She knew her mom would be in attendance along with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Rich Hanlon, a few friends, and some others. That first fall night, much to Noele’s surprise, the Fellowship Hall was overflowing with people. There were so many attendees, people were spilling out into the hallway.  

    “When seventy people showed up, I knew the small voice that said ‘go for it’ was the Holy Spirit leading me.”  

    Since the initial class, attendance has remained strong. There hasn’t been a class that has had fewer than 57 people, ranging in age and abilities. More than 90% of the participants aren’t even members of the church. Noele says giving back to her community is something that was modeled by her parents.   

    “This program gives our community members an hour of peace with no strings attached. To me, that is the definition of love and what God would want for our world. Yoga is about being peaceful. Jesus came into the world as the Prince of Peace.” 

    While the community yoga program is free, participants have the option of supporting two vital church food ministries. The food pantry and free lunch program at CUMC serve a combined 100-200 meals each week. Rev. Hanlon says that the church’s food pantry has been and continues to be one of the most vital ministries in the Malone community. Now, thanks in part to Noele and her community yoga, it’s overflowing. 

    “The free community yoga events that Noele has been leading for the Malone-area at Malone: Centenary UMC has had a more profound influence than anyone anticipated. It gives participants the opportunity to do something healthy and something good. Social isolation is a major issue that this and many areas face. Noele’s free community yoga is one of the very important ministries in our neighborhood because participation cultivates connection with self, connection with neighbor, and fosters an awareness of community needs and how neighbors can work together to meet them. As pastor of CUMC, I’m grateful for Noele’s courage to use her gifts for good, and I’m excited for the next session of free community yoga,” said Rev. Hanlon. 

    “Franklin County is one of the poorest counties in New York State and we serve hundreds of lunches a week. Feeding others is the basis of safety and is close to my heart,” said Noele.  

    Feeding others and being able to provide some sort of food security is something that hits close to home for her.  

    “My grandfather, Eldridge Brabon, grew up in an orphanage during the Great Depression. At the age of nine, he asked a visiting pastor at the orphanage if he would take him home. The pastor and his wife adopted him, took my grandfather home to Bangor, and raised him as their son. My grandfather, as a child, would hoard food as a trauma response. With enough warmth, love, and safety, he grew into a young man that walked 12 miles in a snowstorm to see my grandmother. When we have safety, warmth, and food, we lead our life from our hearts. It’s my goal to make my yoga students feel safe and provide food to our community so we can all lead life from our hearts.” 

    The program is more than just exercise. Noele is using the sessions as a way to build community just as Jesus once did.  

    "We are not pushing religion on our community members during these sessions. We are simply giving them a space to feel safe and warm so they can go into the world with an open heart.” 

    The bimonthly sessions are designed for people with all abilities, something she calls “accessible yoga.” It’s through these classes that she can share her love for God while growing her own faith.   

    “There are no restrictions to the love and peace of Jesus. As I practice yoga and meditation, I become closer to God as I accept all parts of myself as He loves all parts of me. I am not perfect, but I am able to lead my life rooted in faith that God has my best interest in life. God gives me the courage to lead in love, and not fear.” 

    When she’s not teaching yoga or volunteering at Malone: Centenary UMC, Noele spends her daytime hours working as a licensed clinical social worker and has a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Albany. Her goal is to bring good mental health services to the North Country.  

    Noele’s yoga and meditation journey wasn’t love at first sight. Through perseverance, she now uses her yoga poses that she does on her retail-store purchased mat as a life-changing practice. Listen to her talk about it in an episode of The Brie Pod by clicking here.  

    TAGGED / Communications / New Faith Communities / Vital Congregations / Districts

    A call for prayer for wise discernment

    December 6, 2023 / By Rev. Dr. Michelle Bogue-Trost on behalf of the CVA Task Force

    The Conference Leadership Team has been tasked “to provide a comprehensive examination of every feasible funding source… for payment of the Child Victims Act (CVA) case settlements and legal fees to be reported back with recommendations to the Conference no later than Annual Conference 2024. In the meantime, the sources of any funds spent in the next year on the resolution of CVA cases must be tracked and understood that such funds may be restored by the Annual Conference.” 

    This weighty work has begun by a task force comprised of Upper New York laity and clergy, a group that covets your prayers. We keenly feel the serious nature of this work, and the deep emotions surrounding it. Understanding that these settlement costs represent only a token of recompense for the survivors of abuse, we also know that the costs to the Upper New York Annual Conference must be considered with great care. There is no perfect solution, and no solution which will be acceptable to everyone; our task is to discern the best way forward for the Conference, as transparently as possible.  

    We begin our work by asking for your prayers. Please pray for wise discernment, open minds, receptive hearts, and clear heads for each of the task force members. The task force consists of the following individuals: Peter Abdella, Upper New York Conference Chancellor; Rev. Sara Baron, Chair of the Conference Board on Pension and Health Benefits; Rev. Dr. Michelle Bogue-Trost; Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, Director of Missional Excellence; Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady II; Bob Flask, Conference Treasurer; Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Assistant to the Bishop; Dr. Scott Johnson, Conference Commission on Religion and Race; Rev. Pam Klotzbach, Conference Chair of Board of Trustees; Holly Roush, Conference Chair on Finance and Administration; and Jessica White, Conference Lay Leader.  

    Please join us in our prayers for healing and justice. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Annual Conference

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez shares his message for Advent

    December 4, 2023 / By Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez

    Editor's note: The following video was released and sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on Wednesday, Nov. 29. The video transcript is provided. Click here to download a version that can be printed for easy sharing.

    Dear United Methodists of Upper New York,  

    I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, the source of our faith and hope.  

    During the Advent season, we have the unique opportunity to reflect and celebrate the gifts of love, hope, peace, and joy we receive from Christ every day. I thank God for the many ways Upper New York congregations, leaders, and disciples are witnessing God's healing love in your communities. 

    In my first year journeying alongside you, it has been a blessing getting to know you, your ministries, and your hopes and aspirations for the future. You’ve welcomed my family and me as one of your own and shown us the love of Christ through your hospitality.  

    Amid the unprecedented challenges we faced this year, I experienced United Methodists in Upper New York as a strong and vibrant network of congregations living the gospel and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places throughout the region and around the globe through our United Methodist connection missions. 

    This year, I had the opportunity to visit many congregations in our cities, suburbs, villages, and rural settings, small, medium-sized, and larger, conservative, centrist, and progressive – and in all of them, it was palpable your deep love for God and one another, and your passion to serve your community and make the love of Christ visible in your neighborhoods.  

    I witnessed powerful ministries changing lives and positively impacting the people you serve. 

    I witnessed new people being introduced to the healing love of Christ and welcomed into the church's fellowship through baptisms and professions of faith.  

    Disciples intentionally seeking to grow in the knowledge and outward expressions of the love of Christ through small groups and other faith formation and companionship groups.  

    Folks faithfully responding to God’s call to serve the church. Ministries that are providing the most pressing needs in our communities – food pantries, feeding tables, clothing closets, after-school programs for children, mentoring initiatives for young people in communities at risk, scholarships to help youth advance in their education, hospitality to immigrants coming to our area.  

    New faith communities that are reaching to new and different people.  

    Individuals and entire congregations rallying and advocating for justice for the most vulnerable. 

    Congregations sacrificially giving to our Shared Ministries fund to extend the work of the church around the world so that others can also experience Christ’s love and hope in their lives.  

    This is who we are. This is who we choose to be as United Methodists here in Upper New York - people who love God and respond to God’s grace by loving others as Christ loves us. You are living in the spirit of Advent. In Christ’s name – you are love, hope, peace, and joy embodied to our neighbors in all places. For all this, from the deepest place in my heart, receive my gratitude as your episcopal leader.  

    As followers of Jesus, this Christmas, we can share no better gift than the Good News of Jesus. Advent and Christmas are a few of the celebrations in the Christian calendar that provide a natural and more accessible path to share our faith journey with others.  

    In a recent article, Greg Stier offered simple ways disciples can share Christ this Advent and Christmas seasons (both laity and clergy are encouraged to do this!).  

    For example, invite another family to accompany you to your congregation’s Christmas Eve service or Christmas program, and perhaps use it as a gospel conversation starter. If there’s ever a time people are pre-conditioned to go to church, it’s on Christmas Eve. The Christmas story becomes an excellent entry point to the Gospel message. Maybe have them over for some eggnog afterward and ask a question like, “So why do you think the story of Jesus’ birth is so important to so many churches?” or “What was the most meaningful part of the service to you?”  

    You can also write someone a personal letter that explains the Gospel in the context of Christmas. There’s nothing more powerful than a hand-written, heartfelt letter. A letter is both personal and permanent (because typically, people don’t throw handwritten letters anymore!). The book of John was a hand-written letter primarily written to those who had not believed in Jesus. That’s why the Apostle wrote, “These things were written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing you may have life through his name” (John 20:31).  

    You can also host a meal and movie night. Invite family, friends, or neighbors for a meal and movie night. People today are graving for relationships and community. You could start with a funny one (A Christmas Story?) and follow it up with a movie that could spark a Gospel conversation over hot cocoa (The Nativity Story?) There’s nothing like a meal together and a few laughs to open the door for a deeper conversation about what matters most.  

    Or just have the conversation. Not to be too simplistic, but maybe, just maybe, it’s time to bring it up. Ask the person God has placed on your heart where they are spiritually, what their view of God is, and what they think about this whole “Jesus thing.” After all, it’s Christmas. His Name is central to the celebration. Then, after you listen to them deeply, share with them honestly about why you’re a Christian. Be upfront about how much Jesus means to you.  

    Sharing our faith story with others can be scary…but be assured that as you step out in faith and share what Christ is doing in your life, the Holy Spirit will be with you every step of the way! 

    I pray that in this Advent & Christmas seasons our faith is rekindled so that we all experience the abundant life we have promised through Christ, and our congregations continue to be beacons of hope and joy in the community and the world as we share the good news of Jesus through words and acts of love, mercy, and justice.  

    I look forward to our ministry together in the New Year and the new and mighty things God will do in and through us as we live the gospel and embody God’s love with our neighbors, and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  

    May you all have a blessed and joy-filled Christmas and New Year celebrations. Amen  

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos

    Conference property insurance update

    November 29, 2023 / By Pastor Jack Keating, UNY Board of Trustees

    As we prepare for the upcoming annual renewal of our Conference-wide insurance program with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, we face an entirely different insurance climate than probably at any time in anyone’s memory.  

    “Unfortunately, most, if not all, Upper New York (UNY) churches have already received information from Brotherhood Mutual about significant deductible increases for the coming year without a proper explanation. As Chair of the Trustees, I truly regret the confusion this situation has caused. We are working with our insurance provider to ensure better communication with our churches in the future,” said the Rev. Pam Klotzbach, UNY Board of Trustees Chair.  

    There are many factors contributing to the increase in property deductibles.  

    The Insurance Market 

    Since 2021, the property insurance market has experienced the worst claims years at any time in more than 50 years. The combined commercial insurance industry paid out, in 2022 alone, $1.21 in property claims for every premium dollar they collected. This means the loss ratio for these property insurance companies was an average of 121.5%. Many carriers had higher losses, and a few had lower losses, but the effect of these losses on all insurance companies’ bottom line was catastrophic. These increased losses were due to many factors: 

    Increased storm losses (particularly in the Midwest and southern areas)  
    Fires, earthquakes, freezing, water damage, and more.   

    Our insurance carrier, Brotherhood Mutual, paid out over $1 million alone in United Methodist blizzard losses in Western New York because of the Christmas 2022 storm. Also having an impact is increased costs of both construction materials and availability of contractors due to the higher inflation rates. 

    At a recent meeting of Conference Treasurer’s across our United Methodist connection, many conferences shared that their churches are experiencing more than a 30% insurance premium increase with reduced coverages. In addition, many churches are being non-renewed due to their losses or the ministries they are providing.   

    One major insurance carrier writing church insurance is rumored to be renewing all their customers insurance policies with a mandatory $10,000 per occurrence deductible for all property losses in 2024.      

    A Different Approach 

    In an attempt to serve our churches, Brotherhood Mutual has designed a tiered deductible option, based on the total Insurance To Value (ITV) for each of our more than 600 churches. The 2024 deductible changes (for property losses ONLY) will be: 

    ITV                                New Deductible 

    0 - $3 million                          $ 2,500 

    $3 - $5 million                        $ 5,000 

    $5 - $ 10 million                     $ 7,500 

    More than $10 million            $ 10,000     

    Even with these new levels of deductibles for property losses, we still expect to see a premium increase of approximately 5% (on average) across our Annual Conference. While no one likes to see premium cost increases, this 5% average is dramatically better than many other churches in our connection are experiencing. 

    What Can We Do? 

    The first, and best thing each church can do is to continue trying to reduce property insurance losses. While some property and weather-related losses are unavoidable, the vast majority of the losses we suffer could be prevented by increased awareness and risk management.  Maintaining heat to prevent frozen pipes, organizing storage areas to prevent fire risk, and safeguarding property from vandalism and malicious mischief can reduce losses and protect premium levels. Click here to view valuable safety information provided by Brotherhood Mutual that can benefit your church during the winter months. Click here to view a safety and insurance self-inspection checklist that can be used year round.   

    In the next few days, your church will receive information about an opportunity to reduce your church’s new property deductible based on eliminating losses. Unfortunately, the New York State (NYS) Insurance Department has yet to approve Brotherhood Mutual’s first filing request of up to a $2,500 reduction so, at this time, the opportunities that are available to Upper New York churches work this way: 

    Churches with two years loss free= $100 deductible reduction 

    Churches with 4 years loss free= $250 deductible reduction  

    Churches with 6 years loss free= $500 deductible reduction  

    Brotherhood Mutual is also exploring other options for reducing our individual deductibles, which would need the approval of the NYS Insurance Department, and hopes to have more information during the 2024 policy year.  

    UNY Conference Treasurer Bob Flask says the Trustees will continue to look for ways UNY churches can save additional money.  

    “Although we are seeing increases to our local church’s deductible levels, our Conference is benefiting from a lower loss history than most Conferences across the country that resulted from major storms over the past few years. These lower loss ratios have allowed a much smaller increase in our renewal rates of around 4% compared to 15-30% in other Conferences. We will continue to work with our carrier to try and find additional savings for our churches including a possible deductible decrease (for no loss history) above what is currently being offered,” said Bob Flask. 

    Additionally, the UNY Board of Trustees recommends that prior to contacting Brotherhood Mutual’s Claims Department about a potential claim, all churches talk to American Church Group representatives James Nguyen or Brandon Bower first. In this new insurance environment, it may be that self-paying a small claim, in order to protect a deductible reduction, is the most cost-effective way to proceed. American Church Group representatives can guide you in the realities of placing a claim prior to reporting a potential claim. Call James at (315) 414-8631 or email him at JNguyen@AmericanChurchGroup.com or call Brandon Bower at (646) 565-0193 or email him at brandon@bowerins.com.   

    Final Thoughts 

    It appears that this current insurance market situation will, unfortunately, not be a short one.  It often takes years for these types of loss situations to return to former levels. And when the situation turns, it is unlikely that we will see reductions in the standard insurance deductible levels.   

    Every church needs to take advantage of the loss prevention information and guidance of our insurance experts at American Church Group. As our partners in this Conference-wide insurance program, they too have a vested interest in helping us move through these difficult times. By working together and working smarter, we can work to minimize the negative effects of this situation to all our churches.   

    TAGGED / Communications / Finance / Districts

    Planning for church year-end statistics

    November 28, 2023 / By Autumn Wells, Administrative and Accounting Services Specialist / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    "Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." (Proverbs 16:3) 

    As we inch closer to the end of the calendar year, the start of annual church statistic season draws nearer. The ACStats platform will open for local churches to begin adding their data starting on Jan. 2, 2024. Information must be submitted by end of day on Feb. 15. 

    We had an excellent first year using ACStats in place of Ezra. We had some questions and minor bumps, but overall, it went well and church treasurers and pastors did a great job adjusting to the change in platforms. 

    Please know that your District and Conference staff are ready to help you with any questions completing these reports. I can be reached at (315) 898-2004 or at autumnwells@unyumc.org to answer any immediate questions. Click here to find your District contact information. 

    For this upcoming statistics reporting season, we will begin with a clean slate. It's important to note that you will need to create new usernames and passwords. The login process will not change and will remain the same as last year, but there’ll be a new default password.

    Please note that you cannot use the same email address twice for two different churches and/or users. This can be solved by adding additional digits, like your GCFA number, at the end of your email address for the second church. Here is the default church login information:  

               Username:      <your 6-digit GCFA Number> 

               Password:        ACStats2023!  

    Check your email inbox (spam and junk too) for the login information coming later in December from Conference or District staff. The email will end with the domain @unyumc.org

    Some updates for this year include more integration from the old database into the newer ACStats platform. Correcting “error” and “warning” notifications will be more streamlined prior to submission. If you get one of these messages, the new platform will clearly indicate where the problem is that needs to be fixed. You will no longer have to hunt for errors. Lastly, there is a question for members who were received by closed and disaffiliated churches.  

    If you have any questions about which lines you should be inputting your data, never hesitate to ask for clarification. Contact your local District Superintendency Assistant or me at the Conference Office by email at autumnwells@unyumc.org or by calling (315) 898-2004. 

    Below are some tips for frequently asked questions.

    TIP:    Line 52d is monies transferred in for Operational Expenses only.  

    If you transferred money from an endowment, memorial, restricted fund, or other non-operating fund to the operating account to pay for operating expenses, then the amount of that transfer should be recorded on line 52d. If you moved money from a capital fund into your general checking to pay a capital improvement cost (such as new boiler) that amount should NOT be added to line 52d. Only transfers for operating expenses should be recorded on this line. 

    TIP: Line 2e is members received from other open UMC churches. The new line 2g is members received from other closed and disaffiliated UMC churches. 

    TIP: Line 25 should be equivalent to all of your cash and investments accounts added together. This would include restricted and unrestricted accounts. This total should also equal the total of all cash and investments on your year-end audit. 

    Remember, the “warning” notifications are there to help you. If something is way off, you will want to know about it right away! Keep an eye out for updates and changes on our statistics webpage here.  

    Bob Flask, Conference Treasurer, will also be sending important information about these reports to church treasurers. 

    It is suggested you begin gathering the information needed with your team. Print a blank report or copy last year’s to familiarize yourself with the information needed. Please remember to gauge your time accordingly as there will be no extension this year. This year we will return to the normal window for statistics entry of Feb. 15. 

    The strength of the churches depends on making plans, setting goals, and charting outcomes. Your ministry is dependent on the strategic planning that comes from analyzing the data from these statistical reports. Let it be excellent and accurate.  

    TAGGED / Finance

    Solar panels for churches

    November 20, 2023 / By Rev. Merle Showers, Upper New York Creation Care Team member / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Churches in Upper New York can now get solar panels for their churches. There is federal money through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act to help do this. 

    Why would you want to do this? There are several reasons. First, after about seven years, the money you will have saved due to lower electric bills will have paid for the panels and installation, and the panels will continue to produce for another 18 years or more, giving you free electricity. Second, you will be able to help reduce the amount of fossil fuel being burned to produce your electricity. Third, you’ll continue to be good stewards of God's creation. Four, you’ll help the people of the world who have done the least to cause global warming to continue to live in their land. Five, you will be able to help ensure our children and grandchildren can live in the beautiful creation God has prepared for us. 

    The funding for these initiatives is facilitated by the Office of State and Community Energy Programs in the Department of Energy, which partners with state, local, and tribal governments and community organizations. 

    If your church has already done this, would you be willing to share with churches and church leaders around you? If you have questions about whether this is for you and your church feel free to contact Merle Showers at revshowers@gmail.com or call (716) 862-4235. 

    United Methodist Church Bishops to call special session of general Conference in 2026

    November 17, 2023 / By UNY Communications

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Council of Bishops plans to call a special session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in 2026 for the delegates to strategize and work toward bringing about the next vital expression of United Methodism.
     
    The bishops made the decision to call the special session during their recent meeting at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina last week.  The specific call for the special session, including details about the agenda, date, and other logistics will be unveiled early in the new year.
     
    Under Paragraph 14 of The Book of Discipline and in line with Article II of the Constitution, the bishops have the authority to call “a special session of the General Conference, possessing the authority and exercising all the powers of the General Conference.”
     
    “A special session of General Conference in 2026 would allow the church to see our work as having two important next steps, the first being the regular session of the General Conference in 2024, and the second to make continued progress in 2026,” the bishops agreed. “Affirming the call for a special session in 2026 for missional purposes would give the whole church a clearer sense of our path going forward.”  
     
    Early in the year at the May meeting in Chicago, the bishops responded to the Judicial Council Decision 1472 regarding an additional regular General Conference between 2024-2027 by approving a resolution to propose a 5-day General Conference in May 2026 that would focus on re-establishing connection, lament and healing, celebration, recasting the mission and vision for The United Methodist Church.
     
    However, in November the Judicial Council reversed its decision ruling in Memorandum 1485 declaring that “the regular session of General Conference that is to be convened following the upcoming 2024 regular session, would be held four years thereafter, in 2028."
     
    Hence, the COB’s decision to call a special session of the General Conference in 2026 would not be in conflict with the Judicial Council decision, which was concerned with regular sessions of the General Conference.

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor- Council of Bishops Fall 2023 meeting

    November 15, 2023 / By Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23 

    Dear United Methodists in Upper New York, 

    Grace and peace of our Savior, Jesus Christ, be with you. Over the past three weeks, I had the opportunity to experience our United Methodist connection in varied ways.  

    Trip to Cambodia and Manila 

    First, in mid-October, I traveled to Cambodia and Manila in the Philippines, alongside other new bishops, to learn more about the mission work The United Methodist Church is doing in these Asian countries. I was inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of Cambodia's core leadership team as they share the good news of Jesus Christ with words and mighty deeds of compassion and justice. Since the beginning of this mission, over 140 faith communities have been formed alongside dozens of indigenous health, education, advocacy, and leadership development initiatives that are making a positive difference in the country.  

    Then, in Manila, I experienced the resilience of people who are moving forward in faith after an extended season of divisions and disaffiliations around the issue of human sexuality. The Philippines has a strong United Methodist presence that is well-known for its health ministries (hospital and dental clinics) and ministries to the migrant community and young people. This global reach and impact are possible, in significant part, thanks to the sacrificial generosity of United Methodists in Upper New York through our shared ministries giving. Together, we are contributing to making the love of Christ visible around the globe.  

    Council of Bishops (COB) 

    Last week, I participated in the fall meeting of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. Over 100 bishops from around our global connection gathered to worship, celebrate the lives of the bishops who passed away since our last gathering, and experience covenant groups where we checked in, studied the Bible, and prayed for each other and the Church.  

    During our plenary sessions, the council dealt with important topics, including the vision for the future of the emerging renewed expression of United Methodism, regionalization of the UMC, the 2024 General Conference, our ecumenical partnerships, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the Church, and engaged in meaningful conversations around racism, healing, and reconciliation.  

    During our time in NC, the council released a new statement on the Hamas/Israel war, calling for a stop to the killing and unrestricted access to humanitarian help. You can read the complete statement here. I encourage pastors to circulate the statement among their congregations.  

    The council also received the 2022 State of the Church Report from The Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church. You can see a video and read the full report here. I also encourage pastors to share the video with their congregations.  

    Election of new Officers for the COB 

    On Friday, the council elected its new officers for two years. Bishop Tracey S. Malone, the area bishop of the East Ohio Conference, was elected president of the COB. She becomes the first Black woman elected to lead our global denomination's more than 110 bishops.  

    Also elected were,  

    President Designate: Bishop Ruben Saenz 
    Secretary: Bishop L. Jonathan Holston 
    Executive Secretary: Bishop Gregory V. Palmer 
    Co-Ecumenical Officers: Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner 
    Past President: Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton 

    Disaffiliations

    Also, the council received an update from the General Council on Finance and Administration and Wespath on church disaffiliations. As of mid-October, 5,691 churches, representing about 19% of United Methodist churches, have disaffiliated. Most disaffiliating churches are becoming independent congregations. Approximately 1,000 churches are finalizing their paperwork and settling their financial commitments before the Dec 31st due date. You can read more about the final disaffiliation tally in UNY here.

    As I return to New York, I am encouraged and hopeful about the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church. I sense a genuine desire to reclaim who we are as people of faith in the Wesleyan tradition, a revival brewing throughout our connection and the Holy Spirit renewing us for God’s healing purposes in the world.  

    As we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage all local congregations in UNY to stay focused on living the gospel, being God’s love with our neighbors, and celebrating the goodness of God in our lives and ministries.  

    Thanks for all you do to share the love, hope, mercy, and justice of Christ in your communities and beyond.   

    Together in mission,  

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez 
    The United Methodist Church 
    Serving United Methodist of Upper New York  

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos / Council of Bishops

    Preparing churches for the winter season

    November 13, 2023 / By Autumn Wells, Administrative and Accounting Services Specialist / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Cold weather can wreak havoc on our homes and churches, but taking proper precautions can help prevent the unexpected. The Upper New York Conference Insurance Committee and Board of Trustees would like to remind our valued churches to be on the lookout for frozen pipes this coming winter season. Not only will these few steps help ease stress, but they could result in cost saving measures to maintaining low insurance premiums.  

    According to the American Church Group of New York, freezing pipes may be the biggest claim submitted. Watch this video for simple steps and recommendations on what to do during the winter months to spot small problems before they turn into costly repairs. 

    Regular maintenance doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The Upper New York Conference has a checklist available for download that outlines safety measures and concerns so you can keep track of any problems before they happen. Click here to download the checklist.  

    Some of the following questions are suggestions you should consider when caring for any building, including your church:  

    • Are sump pumps in good working order and is there provision for back-up? 
    • Are heat tapes being used on roofs to prevent water leaks due to ice dams? 
    • Are pipes subject to freezing temperatures protected by heat tapes? 
    • Are boilers inspected and documented annually? 
    • Have trees been inspected to identify weakness or potential for falling? 
    • Is there a monitored alarm or water sensor in place? 
    • Is there a backup plan for power?  

    One of the biggest risk factors of property damage in winter months is frozen pipes. Brotherhood Mutual has the following suggestions:   

    1. Set the Thermostat above 55 degrees.
    2. Leave faucets on a trickle.
    3. Check the church property regularly.
    4. Maximize the reach of warm air.

    Click here to see the full list.  

    Brotherhood Mutual Insurance is offering a new device called the FloLogic® system that stops the water flow once a leak is sensed. It’s an intelligent leak detection system that’s installed by a licensed plumber on the main water lines on the buildings. The water sensor senses irregular flow or if the temperature drops, in which case it will automatically shut off the water. Click here for more information about it. Brotherhood offers a 20-percent discount on this product. Click here to get more information about the discount.  

    The unprecedented Christmas blizzard of 2022 had some unpreventable damages. This will happen no matter how prepared you are. Please remember to call the insurance broker at American Church Group as soon as you notice any issues, James Nguyen, at 1-800-326-7200 or email him at jnguyen@americanchurchgroup.com. American Church Group will help you with claims and repairs to make the claims process go faster.  

    Ask your church membership how you can help prepare your church this season. Then, go help your neighbor do the same.  

    Statement from the Council of Bishops on Hamas/Israel war: “Give Peace a Chance”

    November 10, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's note: This letter was published by The United Methodist Council of Bishops on Nov. 10, 2023 and shared with United Methodists of Upper New York.

    “Give Peace A Chance”

    Christ’s true disciples must work for peace: build it and not just keep it; live it and not just aspire for it. If Christ is our peace, then peace must be imperative (Resolution 6129: The United Methodist Church and Peace).

    The United Methodist Church Council of Bishops, along with millions of people across the globe, are weeping and praying for the people of the Holy Land. We decry the Oct. 7, 2023, attack by Hamas and the continuing loss of life of Israelis and Palestinians including thousands of children.

    We cannot remain silent while a preventable humanitarian crisis in Gaza unfolds with no safe haven for the citizens in Gaza or the volunteers and agencies seeking to prevent starvation and to treat the wounded.

    We value all life. We encourage every effort toward a peaceful solution. We call for the release of hostages and for the killing to stop. We also call for the immediate allowance of unrestricted humanitarian assistance. As Bishops of the Church, we denounce acts of and the proliferation of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate crimes that may begin with words and often turn to violence directed toward persons whose race, ethnicity or religion is disparaged.

    We cannot stand by as though God is not weeping when the innocent, including children, are dying. We cannot abandon the way of peace.

    May we find ways to listen to the stories of those most directly impacted by this centuries-old conflict. We commit to join all people in creating life-giving ways to journey toward peace with justice for all.

    The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church met at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina from Nov. 4-11, 2023. 

     

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Council of Bishops

    Prayers from the pumpkin patch

    November 6, 2023 / By Rev. Elizabeth J. Stewart, retired Upper New York Pastor

    So, what does a retired pastor do during the early fall days? How about sitting in a pumpkin patch for five weeks for about nine hours a day? A most glorious time to spend with the Lord!      

    Twelve years ago, I retired from “active ministry” and, with my husband, moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It didn’t take long for us to settle into Conway Centenary UMC. Bill and I have become active in the church's mission. This is one story. 

    "So, first and foremost, I urge God’s people to pray. They should make their requests, petitions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all humanity" (1 Timothy 2:1). 

    A new addition was apparent in the Conway Centenary United Methodist Church pumpkin patch this year. For many years, the church has been affectionately called “The Pumpkin Church” because of its pumpkin patch where they sell pumpkins to raise funds for mission projects. Pastor Dennis Devorick asked worshippers to consider the depth of our existence; what is it that we are known for besides pumpkins. 

    With those words in mind and having read an article about a mom placing a prayer pumpkin on the kitchen table for the family to place prayer needs for each other on, it was a perfect move. So, a few days later, the first prayer pumpkin was placed on a table in the pumpkin patch. 

    As people visited the patch and purchased pumpkins, they were introduced to the prayer pumpkin and were asked if they would like to add the name of someone in need of prayer. We explained that on Sunday, the pumpkin would be moved to the altar in church where a prayer would be offered for those people. The response was overwhelming.  

    It was interesting to see people’s facial expressions and attitudes change from disinterest to concern, joy, and compassion. Minutes after placing the second one out, a person purchased several of the smaller, perfectly shaped, white and orange pumpkins. While she paid for her pumpkins, I explained the purpose of the prayer pumpkins. Her eyes filled with tears. She picked up the pen and wrote several names. As she set the pen down, she pointed at the prayer pumpkin and said, "this is the most important pumpkin," and then, pointing to the pumpkins she was purchasing, she said "so much more than all of these." 

    It was an extraordinary experience. Young children asked if they could put a friend’s name, a grandparent's name, or a brother or sister's name on the pumpkin. College students mentioned a struggling student, picked up the pen, and wrote that name on the pumpkin. Another college student told a friend that a classmate had been in an accident that morning and no one knew how he was doing as she placed his name on the pumpkin. A week later, that student was at the pumpkin patch and spotted his name. He smiled and said, “that was for me.”   

    Prayers were also offered for ministries of other churches, “We pray for your ministries and you pray for ours.” There were prayers for illness, injury, unspoken needs, teachers, and clergy. One for a Roman Catholic priest celebrating his 90th birthday, still serving the Lord in as an active Parish Priest. A total of six pumpkins were displayed with over a thousand names as well as missions and other countries. 

    Yes, we may be known as the Pumpkin Church, but more so now as the “Prayer Pumpkin Church.” Reaching the community as a witness of being a praying church, we bring hope and comfort to the world in need. The Prayer Pumpkin Church will continue with fervent prayer for love, compassion, forgiveness hope, and peace. 

    TAGGED / Communications

    Our ministry shares at work for all of God’s creation

    November 6, 2023 / By Rev. Corey Turnpenny, Church in the Wild

    Editor's Note: The Rev. Corey Turnpenny spoke at the LEAD Conference in Asheville, NC. The LEAD Conference was founded in 2011 in the Desert Southwest Annual Conference in response to leaders of young adult ministries in The United Methodist Church desire to be more effective leaders in ministry with young adults. They're modeled around TED style talks about new and creative ways to engage in young adult ministry in the The UMC. Over the years, the conference has maintained a similar format, however, speaker topics have expanded to a number of ministry areas to starting new churches, self care, creativity, leadership challenges, lay ministry, urban and rural ministries, and more. Click here to watch the YouTube video of Rev. Turnpenny speaking about her passion of planting a wild church network in Upper New York. 

    Global Ministries, an agency of The United Methodist Church, has been hosting EarthKeepers trainings for over a decade now through Creation Justice Ministries. EarthKeepers is an intensive program meant to equip United Methodists to lead grassroots environmental projects that are action-oriented, antiracist, bold, and entrepreneurial in their communities. I had known about EarthKeepers for a few years now but was not able to attend myself until this year. From Oct. 5-8, I was immersed in the work of Creation Justice with fellow United Methodists from around the connection. At the first in-person training since the pandemic, I gathered with 18 others in Hartford, CT and we were joined by groups gathered in Birmingham, AL and Denver, CO. Each day, all three groups would join together on Zoom to hear from different presenters and learn valuable skills for organizing our projects. We discussed theology, United Methodist resources, community organizing, and anti-racism and then used what we learned to develop an environmental project for our churches and communities. The program is both a launchpad for people looking to turn an idea into action and an incubator for people who want to deepen an existing ministry. Participants develop plans in conversation with their peers, troubleshooting ideas, and sharing strategies. At our site locations we worked in table groups and met with our site trainers to hone our projects in preparation for a formal presentation on the final day.  

    I have been wanting to attend this training for a few years and was excited to be able to attend and support the first regional gathering, which helped cut down on travel for all the participants. There were several hours of pre-work we did together on the Global Ministries Creation Care Network online. This was the first introduction of many to incredible resources on environmental justice provided by various United Methodist agencies. The Creation Care Network is open to any and all United Methodists interested in this aspect of our faith. I highly recommend joining the online network. You will discover an incredible number of resources and hundreds of fellow United Methodists working to heed our Genesis call to care for the gift of Creation. You will also find their descriptions of every EarthKeepers project and ways you can support it!  

    I have been passionate about caring for the Earth my entire life and have been living a dream come true the past few years planting and pastoring Church in the Wild, an outdoor worshiping community that seeks to help people connect with and care for Creation. It was from this passion I entered the EarthKeepers training and developed my project around the wild church movement.  

    Spirit is calling us back out into Creation to do as Job instructs, "Ask the animals what they think—let them teach you; let the birds tell you what’s going on. Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics. Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories" (Job 12:7-9). John Muir once said, "I'd rather be in the mountains thinking of God than in church thinking about the mountains." Wild Church says, why not do both? My project is to create the United Methodist Wild Church Connection which will include a United Methodist Wild Church database and map, a virtual networking space, and at least two wild church training trainings held on Zoom each year for five years, with the goal of having at least two wild churches in each annual conference. As we connect with God in Creation, we know more people will be motivated to care for Creation.  

    The next step of my project is already in motion; a Wild Church Interest Meeting will be held on Zoom on Monday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. EST. If you’d like to learn more about Wild Church, click here to sign up to join. You can also help by connecting me with anyone else you know leading outdoor worship on a regular basis (monthly or even seasonally). I would also love to know if there are any other EarthKeepers here in Upper New York! Please reach out to me by email at pastorcoreyt@gmail.com and join us in the newly formed Upper New York Creation Care Team.  

    Everyone is invited to attend the upcoming Global Ministries EarthKeepers commissioning service online service on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. EST livestreamed at www.facebook.com/GlobalMinistries. This is the seventh year that the EarthKeepers commissioning service has been held online. The online service allows EarthKeepers to participate along with their family, friends, and church community. The service will be led by Bishop Thomas Bickerton, resident bishop of the New York Conference in the Northeastern Jurisdiction, president of the UMCOR board and president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church. He will commission 57 new EarthKeepers in the service that will affirm us in our call to the ministry of creation care and bless our work in our communities. I hope United Methodists of Upper New York can join me in this celebration and that together we can increase our work of environmental and social justice here in Upper New York. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Ministry Shares / New Faith Communities / Vital Congregations

    Rocks changing shape at Webb Mills UMC

    November 2, 2023 / By Eric Coons, Webb Mills UMC

    Every Sunday morning, you can expect to find about two dozen faithful members worshipping inside Webb Mills United Methodist Church, but total membership exceeds 100. Like many churches, many members don’t attend regularly. Some migrate south for the fall and winter months, others are “taking a break,” and some only come back for major holidays. Regardless, Webb Mills UMC is considered their home church. The church has been ministering for more than a century.  

    In July, church members decided to celebrate our history and membership. With the Holy Spirit busy at work, volunteers started forming an Ebenezer right in front of the church. The idea took off like wildfire. Today, the Webb Mills UMC Ebenezer acts like a touch stone for the community.   

    The base of the Ebenezer is a marble stone block inscribed with the word, “King.” This stone acts as the foundation for our Ebenezer. I couldn’t think of a better base than Jesus as our cornerstone. It sits right in front of the church sign. 

    When I was the church’s Youth Minister, I would take kids in grades 6-12 on a hike every fall. Most of those hikes were done in the Adirondacks and some in Pennsylvania. This time acted as a personal retreat to get the kids back together and offered a time of fellowship. During the hike, we would stop and hold a small worship service and offer the Eucharist to everyone in attendance. On these hikes, the youth and I would also create our own Ebenezer to remember where we were and where we’ve come from. 

    Just like on those hikes, people today grab a stone and add it to the church’s Ebenezer. People’s grandkids bring stones from all over and add it to the collection. Families come back each summer to Pine City and bring a stone with them. People who don’t even belong to the church are also contributing.  

    Stones have come from people's cottages on the Finger Lakes and Canada, from homesteads, and while on vacation, people are bringing stones back to their home church. They place it where they want to. This summer, my wife and I visited Maine. There we found a rock, brought it back, and added to the group.  

    It may look like just a pile of rocks, but it’s much more than that. Each month, the Ebenezer is growing and changing shape. It’s become a meaningful and healing experience for people of every age. As the stones appear, the shape changes, and it will continue to do so as time goes on. Just like our church body and our ministry style, the Ebenezer will change. I’m excited to see it change. Praise be to our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is our rock, and our cornerstone.

    TAGGED / Communications

    NOMADS lend helping hands at Asbury Retreat Center

    October 30, 2023 / By Rev. Sue Russell, Asbury Retreat Center Director

    Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service, more commonly referred to as NOMADS, recently spent three weeks at Asbury Retreat Center. The NOMADS are volunteers with the mission of rebuilding lives, homes, and facilities with God’s love and their hands. Volunteers from across New York and Pennsylvania spent Oct. 2-19 at Asbury. The retired, or close to retired participants, enjoy traveling across the United States in an RV, using their skills in service to others and sharing their Christian faith. 

    Asbury applied and was accepted as a project site with the NOMADS. The projects at Asbury included remodeling the back entry way of the recently purchased Wesley Meeting House. This will allow guests to pull right up to the building and enter safely without using stairs. NOMAD volunteers also built a canoe rack and benches, pressure washed buildings, painted, created a stone walkway to the prayer labyrinth, and trimmed the interior ceiling where skylights were removed in the Sylor Retreat House. 

    NOMADS have a history of volunteering at Upper New York Camp & Retreat sites. NOMADS projects include working at Methodist-related agencies such as churches, camps, homeless shelters, children’s homes, homes of those in need, and mission and disaster agencies doing remodeling, maintenance, repairs, new construction, office work, painting, gardening, and more. 

    The NOMADS provide valuable labor allowing sites to tackle some maintenance issues at a lower cost. What a wonderful opportunity to make new Christian friends from around the connection and have our camp and retreat sites look and operate better. 

    TAGGED / Camp and Retreat Ministry (CRM) / Communications / Missional Engagement

    Virtual retreats offer space for UNY women and beyond to find space and build connections

    October 26, 2023 / By Krystal Cole, Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women

    Doing something new can be scary. But the Upper New York Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) is full of people ready and willing to try something. We weren’t sure it was even achievable to hold a retreat for women over Zoom. 

    The mere mention of the word “Zoom” for some people can elicit an internal eye roll, or perhaps the word “snoozefest.” But what we wanted was to create a space for women of faith to connect from anywhere and everywhere, and what better venue for limitless connection than the worldwide web, on a platform almost everyone has become familiar with in the last few years. Despite the hurdle of the stereotypes that can come with the word Zoom, we pressed forward! 

    Countless hours went into planning our inaugural event in the fall of 2022; Wisdom-Seeking Women. In coordinating this event, we put in every effort to appeal to many styles of learning, scheduling in several stretch breaks, lining up five different speakers, and spacing the event over two evenings to appeal to clergy as well as lay people. We were fortunate enough to have five women say “yes” to speaking, including Bishop Susan Hassinger. Bishop Hassinger served as the Episcopal leader of the Boston Area from 1996 until her retirement in 2004.   

    Because of the limitations of meeting remotely, we also wanted to add as much personal connection as possible, so we added time to break off into one-on-one prayer partner sessions as well as a discussion group. And why stop at making an impact just on the women that attended? We went one step further by donating $5 of every registration to End the Backlog, a nonprofit organization founded by producer, director, actress, and advocate Mariska Hargitay which focuses on ending the rape kit backlog in the United States.  

    To further personalize the retreat experience, we packed and sent care packages to early registrants. These packages included stickers, candles, candy, a handwritten note from the team, a postcard explaining what COSROW is, a coloring sheet, paper for an origami craft, and other materials.  

    Ultimately, holding these events stems back to 2019, when COSROW conducted a survey of the Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference, asking how we can best serve and support the needs of women in UNY. Those results led us to planning a Zoom retreat. 

    Our team had never tried anything like this before. Previously, we have been known as the “pie chart people,” keeping track of demographics of speakers at Annual Conferences. And for some years, that was the heart of COSROW’s work. While we will not cease that important task in the future, we are branching out and finding more ways to support women. Right now, that’s with Catch Your Breath events. 

    The Finding Your Space women’s retreat allowed us to spend two evenings with women from across the country, Sept. 29-30. This is our second Zoom retreat and the experience was centered around the theme of “Finding Your Space." During our time together, we heard from five unique speakers, had breakout group discussions, connected with prayer partners, and even did a little origami. 

    This year, our speakers included Jenna Amberge, the Rev. Theresa Eggleston, Nairobi Smith, the Rev. Corey Turnpenny, and Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, who serves as the Episcopal leader of both the Western Pennsylvania and Susquehanna Conferences. Bishop Moore-Koikoi served as our retreat's keynote speaker. We learned the definition of space, built community, engaged in guided meditation, experienced the creation story, and worshiped through song. This time around, $5 of each registration cost went to Girls Inc., which “inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.” 

    Through the work of the Spirit, our gifted speakers, and of the COSROW team, we have gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback after both of our Zoom events. One person attending from outside of New York state shared they feel their home conference doesn’t host a space they feel they can spend time in retreat, but the Catch Your Breath retreats provides that for them. I recently received a handwritten card in the mail from my prayer partner, who was keeping my personal prayer concerns in her heart.  

    We look forward to continually serving and supporting the women of Upper New York however we can. Thank you to everyone that has made these Catch Your Breath events possible.  

    We don’t yet have the date of our next event, but please follow us on Facebook: Upper New York Commission on the Status and Role of Women. Feel free to reach out to us at cosrow@unyumc.org

    COSROW team members include Margot Rankins-Burd, the Rev. Bryant Clark, Ellen Klock, the Rev. Sue Russell, Krystal Cole, the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, Pastor Brett Johnson, and Pastor Bekah Solar. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Vital Congregations / COSROW / Youth / Districts

    Special Session 2023: A recap of disaffiliations in Upper New York

    October 24, 2023 / By the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Assistant to the Bishop

    On Oct. 14, 2023, a special session of Annual Conference ratified a final docket of 57 requests from churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church (UMC) under ¶ 2553 of The Book of Discipline. According to an unofficial tally maintained by United Methodist Communications (UMCom), around 6,500 disaffiliation requests have been ratified by conferences across the United States to date. Several more conferences will meet in special sessions to consider other requests before the limited right to disaffiliate provided in ¶ 2553 ends Dec. 31, 2023. 

    What United Methodists in Upper New York (UNY) and across the country are experiencing in terms of disaffiliations is unprecedented in the 55-year history of The United Methodist Church. While it is not possible at the moment to fully assess its impact, some basic facts can be shared.  

    Between October 2022 and October 2023, UNY Conference members ratified a total of 118 requests for disaffiliation:   

    • 8 in October 2022 
    • 18 in March 2023 
    • 35 in June 2023 
    • 57 in October 2023 

    The total number of disaffiliations was spread across all districts: 

    • Adirondack – 10 
    • Albany – 5 
    • Binghamton – 12 
    • Cornerstone – 24 
    • Crossroads – 5  
    • Finger Lakes – 7 
    • Genesee Valley – 8 
    • Mohawk – 11 
    • Mountain View – 13 
    • Niagara Frontier – 14 
    • Northern Flow – 4 
    • Oneonta – 5 

    The average worship attendance at the churches disaffiliating in 2022-23 was 39. Ten of these had an average worship attendance of 100 or more while over half worshipped with 25 or less on an average Sunday. The number of disaffiliations, therefore, represents a loss of about 15% of UNY’s churches. Nationally, this places UNY in the bottom third of conferences in terms of percentage of churches disaffiliating.  

    Financial Impact 

    Church disaffiliations have significant financial implications for UNY. The anticipated revenue loss related to disaffiliations in 2024 is $653, 371. This loss was accounted for in the budget approved by Annual Conference back in May. For 2025, the anticipated loss is anticipated to be $1,247,003. The UNY Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) is already developing a ministry budget for 2025 that adapts to these anticipated realities.  

    Churches exiting UNY paid $2,645,215 to offset their share of the anticipated unfunded pension liability. Exiting churches were also required to pay all current and overdue shared ministry payments, a sum equal to $231,217. They also paid an additional $1,478,220, an amount representing 12 extra months of shared ministry payments. All legal fees associated with disaffiliation were also paid by the exiting church.  

    Church Membership 

    Church membership numbers are also impacted by disaffiliations. When a church exits UNY, its clergy and laity must decide whether to follow the church or remain United Methodist. In The United Methodist Church, a clergy person’s membership resides with the conference, not the local church. Therefore, even when a church chooses to disaffiliate, a pastor’s discernment regarding their future relationship with The United Methodist Church is a separate matter.  

    The Episcopal Office asked pastors serving churches intending to disaffiliate whether they intended to continue serving in The United Methodist Church or would withdraw from the denomination to unite with another denomination or withdraw from the ministerial office. If a pastor indicated an intention to withdraw from The United Methodist Church, the decision would take effect when the disaffiliation is finalized, which is the date the New York State court approves the disaffiliation and transfer of property. If a pastor indicted an intention to remain in The United Methodist Church, the cabinet will work to ensure continuation of compensation and consideration of another appointment. A disaffiliating church must pay its appointed clergy’s compensation and benefits through the end of the appointment year immediately following the effective date of disaffiliation if the appointed clergy remains in The United Methodist Church and is unable to be appointed elsewhere.

    Laity face similar choices about their membership. They may choose to follow their church out of the conference or remain United Methodist and transfer their membership to another United Methodist congregation. Because only members of UNY congregations are eligible to serve on conference boards, committees, commissions, and task forces, members who choose to remain with their church after disaffiliation are no longer eligible to serve on any conference agency.  

    Church members who wish to remain United Methodist are welcome at any other United Methodist church in the Conference. The Conference’s “Safe Haven Congregations” initiative is designed to offer radical hospitality to anyone whose church has disaffiliated or closed. Regardless of theological leaning, United Methodists in Upper New York are all encouraged to follow the example in Acts 2 of the community of Jesus’ followers caring for each other – a diverse community that is ready to receive unity as a gift from God. 

    The impact of church disaffiliations cannot be fully known, but it is clear UNY is moving into a new season of ministry, with new realities and possibilities.  

    United Methodists of Upper New York remains a strong network of over 100,000 members in more than 675 congregations committed to living the gospel of Jesus Christ and to being God’s love with all our neighbors in all places.  

    As leaders and congregations begin to move forward, Bishop Héctor’s closing remarks to the October 14th special session seem very appropriate: “Our unity as Christians is not of our doing but God’s. For it is not us but God who brings us together, people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and walks of life into one family. May we, in this new season, fully embrace the supremacy of love and the spiritual reality of unity in Christ, and as we live into this invitation, may we experience renewal and may more people be compelled to believe the Gospel's good news.” 

    Remembering Bishop Thomas B. Stockton

    October 20, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Retired Bishop Thomas B. Stockton of Winston-Salem, NC died on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at the age of 93.

    Bishop Stockton was elected to the episcopacy on July 12, 1988. He was assigned to the Richmond Area, which encompasses the Virginia Annual Conference. He retired in 1996. He also served as Bishop in Residence at High Point University. 
      
    He was born on July 26, 1930, in Winston Salem, NC. After receiving an A.B. degree at Davidson College, he attended Duke University Divinity School, where he received a Master of Divinity Degree. 
     
    Bishop Stockton was ordained deacon and elder and received into full connection in the Western North Carolina Conference. He served Central Methodist Church in Charlotte for a summer and then he was appointed to Thrift Methodist Church which he served for four years. He then became the minister of First Methodist Church in Reidsville, NC, before moving to the Dilworth Methodist Church in Charlotte, followed by a move to Central United Methodist Church, Asheville and on to Myers Park United Methodist Church, Charlotte. He moved to Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, High Point, where he served until he was elected bishop in 1988. 
     
    Bishop Stockton served for one quadrennium on the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and has served various Boards and Agencies in the Annual Conference as well as serving as Trustee of several Colleges and Homes in the Western North Carolina Conference. He served two quadrennia on the General Board of Discipleship as Chairperson of the Curriculum Resources Committee, and two quadrennia as Vice Chair of Evangelism. 
     
    Tom Stockton married Jean Stevens in Winston Salem on Aug. 22, 1953. They have three children, Lisa Stockton Howell, Thomas B. Stockton, Jr., and Shannon Stockton Miller. Jean Stockton died in Nov. 2017. 
      
    The funeral service is planned for Saturday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. with a reception afterwards. The service will be held at Centenary United Methodist Church, located at 646 W 5th Street, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27101.   

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos

    Korean-American faith leaders celebrate spirituality

    October 19, 2023 / By Rev. Jee Hae Song, St. Paul's United Methodist Church and Warners United Methodist Church

    In the beginning of October, 304 clergy and laity attended the Special Session of National Association of the Korean American United Methodists (KAUM) in Northbrook, IL. Four of those clergy attendees were from Upper New York (UNY). 

    The Rev. Yohan Moon (Clarence Center UMC); the Rev. Sung Jun Park (Homer UMC); the Rev. Jin Kook Lee (Henrietta: Faith UMC and Korean Mission of Rochester UMC); and I all attended, representing UNY.  

    This is the first in-person KAUM meeting since 2019. The group hasn’t been able to meet in four years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the body of Korean clergy and laity that serve in The United Methodist Church (UMC). This included but is not limited to Korean-speaking congregations and Cross-Racial/Cross-Cultural (CRCC) appointments. 

    Prior to this year, I was not interested in the KAUM because, in the past, it consisted mostly of clergy who served Korean-speaking immigrant churches. As a clergy serving CRCC, I didn't think it was my place to belong. 

    As a first-time participant, I cannot but think that it was God who led me to this gathering. I was able to network with other Korean clergy and laity who are of the same mind. That is that we love our Church and cannot let God's Church be dismantled. Everyone was weary. But through those four days, we were able to connect, be fed (both spiritually and physically-- eating lots of Korean food), and be empowered. 

    The main goal for the KAUM gathering is to reclaim who we are as United Methodists, revive our Korean heritage for the mission of The UMC, and renew our relationship with God and with one another. The body confirmed once again to support and encourage each other in this trying time of our denomination. 

    As many churches disaffiliate from the UMC, many Korean churches have as well, including many KAUM leaders. Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, the resident bishop of Wisconsin Annual Conference and the only active Korean bishop in The UMC, convened this special session. Bishop Jung is also president of the Korean Ministry Plan. 

    In his opening worship, Bishop Jung quoted the healing story in Mark 2 and asked, "What if we came to Jesus today with a paralyzed denomination on our shoulders?” 

    "The future of the church lies in reconciliation, acceptance, friendship, repentance, and self-reflection," he said. "The future of the church lies in the envisioning framework of a theological interpretation through unity in diversity through God's creation.” 

    Also in attendance was New York Conference Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops. He said one of his purposes for attending the gathering was to express honor and deep respect for the work of the Korean American churches and pastors in The United Methodist Church over the years. 

    "I honor you for being faithful in the midst of the struggle. It has not gone unnoticed,” he said. “Speaking on behalf of the denomination, I wanted to make sure to express my gratitude to each of you.” 

    Bickerton also said The United Methodist Church is not a church of one mind and one faith, but a denomination that embraces diverse perspectives, including traditionalist beliefs, and tries to embrace both conservative and progressive sides. 

    Surprisingly, I found a lot of diversity within the Korean body. There are twice as many clergy serving CRCC than those who serve Korean-speaking congregations. There is a group, called NEXUS. They are second and third generation Korean immigrants who speak very little Korean, but still identify with their Korean heritage. There are people with diverse theology and culture. I confirmed that that's the microcosm of our denomination-- The Church that embraces diversity and accepts people as they are. 

    TAGGED / Communications

    New Legislation regarding written notice of unemployment benefits and personal account information disclosure

    October 19, 2023 / By Tracy Rickett, UNY Human Resources Generalist / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    There is new legislation regarding written notice of unemployment benefits and personal account information that takes effect in November 2023 and March 2024. 

    Written Notice of Unemployment Benefits

    In relation to the notice of eligibility for unemployment benefits, New York State Senate Bill S4878-A/A. 398-A amends Section 590 of the Labor Law. Under this new legislation, employers must provide written notice of eligibility for unemployment benefits to any employee who has been terminated, temporarily separated, experienced a reduction in hours, or any other interruption of continued employment that results in total or partial unemployment. This information must be disclosed on a form furnished or approved by the Department of Labor (DOL). The form must include the employer’s name, registration number, and contact address for the employer.  This news article will be updated when the DOL publishes the form.   

    This notice must be provided no more than five (5) working days after the termination date or reduction of their working hours. In the same five working day period, Section 195(6) of the Labor Law still requires an employer to “notify any employee terminated from employment, in writing, of the exact date of such termination, as well as the exact date of cancellation of employee benefits connected with such termination.”

    This new law will take effect on Nov. 13, 2023.

    Personal Account Information Disclosure

    Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed a bill that prohibits employers from requesting or requiring an employee’s personal username, login information, passwords, or social media accounts as a condition of hiring, a condition of employment, or for use in a disciplinary action. 

    The new law prohibits employers from requesting, requiring, or coercing employees and job applicants to:

    • Disclose their username, password, or other login information in order to access a personal account through an electronic communication device;
    • Access a personal account in the employer’s presence;
    • Reproduce photos, videos, or other information contained within a personal account through unlawful measures. 

    This new legislation, which amends the Labor Law to add section 201-i, prohibits an employer from discharging or disciplining an employee or refusing to hire an applicant for failure to disclose such information. 

    This law is also subject to certain exceptions and limitations. For example, an employer may require disclosure of personal information to access nonpersonal accounts that allow access to the employer’s internal computer or information systems. Employers may also view, access, and rely on information obtained through the public domain. The law also allows an employer to obtain login information for accounts provided by the employer where the account is used for business purposes and the employee was provided prior notice of the employer’s right to inquire about such information. 

    An employer is also permitted to access an electronic communications device which is paid for in whole or in part by the employee where the provision of or payment for such device was conditioned on the employer’s right to access. However, the employee must have been provided with prior notice of the condition and explicitly agreed to it. The employer is still prohibited from accessing any personal accounts on the device.

    The law excludes law enforcement agencies, fire departments, departments of corrections, and community supervision.

    This new law will take effect on March 12, 2024.

    If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at (315) 898-2017 or TracyRickett@unyumc.org.

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services / Communications

    Sneakers for students

    October 16, 2023 / By Tim Rock, Harkness United Methodist Church

    Harkness United Methodist Church turned meals into sneakers through the Michigans for Mission project.  

    It all started in 2016 as a fundraiser to support the mission of the church. The Michigan hot dog is a North Country favorite and is a popular meal at the many restaurants around our tri-county area. Seven years ago, we offered the option of dine-in or take-out. All the money raised from selling hot dogs helped pay ministry shares and other mission obligations. 

    The fundraiser was an instant success, drawing people from all over to our little county church. Twice a year, in the months of May and August, we hold our fundraiser. 

    The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to do things a little bit differently with this popular meal. We still wanted to do something to serve our community, but could no longer offer the meal as a dine-in option. The church decided to have a free meal giveaway as a take-out option to anyone who wanted one. While not a fundraiser, it was a good way to give back to our community.   

    In the post-pandemic, we were looking for ways to reach out with our Missions through Michigan meal fundraiser. A decision was made by the leadership team to use all the money raised from the sale for a specific mission and not deduct the cost of supplies.  

    We asked the congregation for suggestions, and in May of 2023, we decided to donate to Marion Medical Mission. This specific project provides wells with clean drinking water for villages in Africa. That year, we were able to fund six wells in Africa with all the money raised! We also received a generous matching donation from an anonymous donor. 

    This past August, the congregation decided to spend the money specifically on school children ranging in grades from elementary to high school. We wanted students to have proper footwear for school. Our goal was to purchase high quality, name brand sneakers to distribute to the local schools and economic aid office in our community. 

    With the money raised and the extremely generous discount provided by Lenny’s Shoe and Apparel in Plattsburgh, we were able to purchase 59 pairs of excellent sneakers that ranged in brands, sizes, styles, and colors. Before the sneakers were delivered to the chosen locations, the Harkness UMC congregation blessed the pile of sneakers.  

    We plan to continue this bi-annual fundraiser in 2024 with a mission focus to be determined prior to the event. We feel truly blessed to be able to make these donations locally and globally with such an active and generous congregation and community.  

    TAGGED / Communications / Ministry Shares / Mission Central / Global ministries / Districts

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor- Closing remarks on disaffiliations

    October 14, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript and video of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez' closing remarks following the Special Session of the UNY Annual Conference, which was held remotely on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023 to ratify the fourth and last batch of church disaffiliations.  

    “Friends, since I arrived in Upper New York in January, I have experienced United Methodists of Upper New York as people who genuinely love God and seek to embody Christ with your neighbors. I see how you all strive to be God’s healing presence through ministries of love, mercy, and justice and how you extend Christ’s hope to people in your communities – thank you for who you are and all you do.  

    I also know this has been a challenging season for most of us, as some of our congregations discerned whether to disaffiliate or remain part of the United Methodist community related to longstanding disagreements around our ministry with and by our LGBTQ siblings.  

    I know congregations seeking disaffiliation did not make this decision lightly. And for most, the decision was as difficult, if not more, than it is for the rest of us. Those disaffiliating do so out of conviction based on how they interpret the Scriptures and how they have come to understand and seek to live the way of Christ. So, as these congregations move forward, I pray for God’s blessings and peace upon them. While they will no longer be United Methodists, they remain part of the body of Christ, so I wish them the best in their future endeavors and earnestly pray for a time when reuniting is a possibility.  

    I lament that, at times, during this extended season of disagreements, we have not offered one another the grace Christ offers to all of us. Unkind words have been used from all sides to refer to the other. Misinformation has been shared that has added to the confusion and tensions. Unnecessary and questionable hostility has been encouraged, even celebrated in some settings. Longstanding relationships have been severed. And in some instances, our shared sacred human dignity has been violated.  

    Today, I invite us all, in humility, to confess the ways we have fallen short of our calling to be agents of love, peace, and reconciliation. To confess how we have sinned against God and one another as we have often prioritized “being right” over offering grace and walking the extra mile with our siblings as Jesus modeled for us.  

    We need to confess that during this season of disagreements, there have been times when we have become a mere reflection of the brokenness and polarization already present in the world instead of being a witness to a more excellent way of being together amid our diversity.  

    On behalf of the Church, I apologize to our siblings in Christ who are departing The United Methodist Church for the ways we have sinned against you and not honored your journey as people of faith in the Wesleyan tradition.  

    I also know our disagreements and debates around human sexuality have greatly harmed our LGBTQ siblings. Their very existence has come under scrutiny. Their love for Christ has been put into doubt. The fruit of the Spirit in their lives has been ignored. Their desire to contribute to the building up the Reign of God through their service and leadership has been questioned.  

    On behalf of the Church, I ask for your forgiveness for the ways we have sinned against you and pray for a day soon when, as the Apostle Paul proclaims, we can fully see you as God sees you through the lenses of Christ, the one in whom we are all made whole.  

    This is not the end. It is a new beginning. Those of us who remain United Methodists of Upper New York, we are moving forward - acknowledging the pain of this moment and knowing healing will find us as we journey together with Christ.  

    We move forward, aware that we remain diverse in our beliefs, opinions, and attitudes about ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. We move forward knowing that church disaffiliations present new realities, challenges, and opportunities that we must face with courage, trusting in God’s perfect provision and guidance.  

    Yet, my hope as your episcopal leader is that as we continue doing life and ministry together, we embrace a vision of missional unity that finds its beginning and end in the very essence of who God is – Love – as the Scriptures tell us in 1 John 4:8. Love, that, as the Apostle Paul clarified, ties everything together in Christ.  

    Our unity as Christians is not of our doing but God’s. For it is not us but God who brings us together, people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and walks of life into one family. May we, in this new season, fully embrace the supremacy of love and the spiritual reality of unity in Christ, and as we live into this invitation, may we experience renewal and may more people be compelled to believe the gospel's good news.  

    In this new season, as United Methodists of Upper New York, we will continue living the gospel and sharing Christ with our neighbors everywhere. We will continue planting new faith communities that engage new and different people.  

    We move forward and will continue helping the most vulnerable in our communities through compassionate ministries We move forward committed to eradicating the sin of racism from the church and society.  

    In this new season, we will work together to nurture a new generation of disciples and spiritual leaders and assist and resource congregations willing and ready to experience renewal. And we will continue supporting life-giving initiatives through our United Methodist missions around the globe. 

    As we journey forward, together, we will continue finding ways to honor our rich theological diversity that embraces conservatives, evangelicals, centrists, and progressives – all as beloved children of God.   

    The cabinet and I will continue seeing and welcoming all people and inviting them to experience the love of Christ in their lives. We will celebrate our rich diversity as a gift from God. We will continue to gracefully acknowledge our diverse theological beliefs around ministry with and by LGBTQ persons and promote a vision of Christ-centered missional unity that transcends our differences and is based on a shared commitment to do no harm and do good to one another.  

    The Apostle Luke documented the witness of the first community of believers for the universal church. In Acts 2:42-47, we are provided a vibrant description of the kind of community God wants us to embody.  

    Luke wrote, '...they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was awed by the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day, they continue to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people – AND THE LORD added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.'

    May we, too, United Methodists of Upper New York, be a Pentecost community where all people experience Christ's healing and abundant love.  

    Let’s join our hearts to God in prayer.  

    Gracious and holy God, we offer thanks and praise for how you continue to live and move in our lives: your grace, mercy, and compassion for each of us. We know that you travel with us in the difficult times and spaces in our lives and the times of hope and healing. May you, this day, bring hope and healing to a difficult time as we leave this place to travel different paths.   

    We ask for your continued presence and guidance in the journey forward for those who have heard your call to a path different from our own and for the continued journey of this community of faith called United Methodists of Upper New York. We ask that you lay your hands of healing on each of us as we struggle with separation and yet look for the newness that will emerge as we go forward from this place. We ask your blessing, Lord, for those leaving this unique faith community as they seek to listen and hear your invitation for their lives and ministries in new and different settings. May they continue to be blessed and be a blessing in all the lives they touch. We ask your blessing on those who have discerned your invitation to remain that they would be blessed and be a blessing.  That even as we leave this place, we would continue to embody Christ in the world, that we would continue to offer the love, the peace, and the compassion of Christ to all we meet. We lift all this to you in the name of Jesus, the Christ.  Amen. 

    May the peace of God guard our hearts, the grace of Christ strengthen our hope, and the Holy Spirit lead us as we continue living the gospel and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places. Amen.”   

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos / Disaffiliation

    District Days: Informed to Transform

    October 12, 2023 / By Carrie Boyer, Adirondack and Albany Districts Superitendency Administrative Assistant

    The Adirondack and Albany Districts hosted their annual “District Day: Informed to Transform,” on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Saratoga Springs UMC. More than 80 people participated, with 10 facilitators offering a total of 16 workshops. Fifty-one churches were represented. Each participant was able to choose three workshops for the all-day affair, which included a worship service and a free lunch, thanks to the generosity of the Adirondack District Lay Servant Team. This was our fifth event.

    Workshops offered included Stewardship, Local Church Finance, Christian Yoga, Drama in Bible Study, Mission Insite, Asset-Based Community Development, Suicide Prevention and Grief, Harm Reduction in Faith Communities, Simplifying Your Church Leadership, Blending Lectio Divinia and Mandalas, Congregational Care, Harmony From Division, Lay Servant Ministry, Covenant Discipleship, Prayer Beads and Discernment as a Spiritual Practice. Click here to view the descriptions of each workshop. 

    Facilitators included three from the UNY Conference Staff: the Rev. Nancy Dibelius, the Rev. Susan Ranous and Kristina Clark. Others were Albany/Adirondack District Superintendent, the Rev. Debbie Earthrowl, the Rev. Meredith Vanderminden, the Rev. Derek Hansen, Katherine Chambers from the Council for Prevention/Hope and Healing RCOC of Hudson Falls, Albany and Adirondack Lay Servant Directors Darlene Suto and Pastor Bruce Hazard, and Certified Lay Speaker Bruce France.

    Pastor Brendan Fox led us in worship.

    Many folks provided feedback on their experience at the end of the day, citing the chance to worship and connect with others and the quality of workshops/facilitators as highlights of their day. Many said the downside was they couldn’t take more workshops! Some offered suggestions for future workshops.

    The day was a blessing for all.

    TAGGED / Communications / Districts

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor- Violence in the Middle East (Palestine-Israel)

    October 11, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's Note: The following note was sent via email to United Methodists of Upper New York on Oct. 11 on behalf of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez about the violence in the Middle East. 

    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9 

    Dear United Methodists of Upper New York,  

    This past weekend, we woke up to the horrible news of violent attacks from Hamas against Israel, resulting in the tragic loss of many innocent lives. As I write these lines, the situation has sadly deteriorated, with children, women, and foreigners being taken as hostages and killed, homes, places of worship and hospitals being bombed into rubble, and a formal declaration of war between Hamas and Israel.  

    As disciples of Jesus Christ and United Methodists, “we are called to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict.” As stated in our Social Principles, political and social turmoil can be caused by many issues, including economic disparity, environmental degradation, gender inequity, racism and xenophobia, and illness and disease. So, if we want peace, “we must be committed to disrupting these conditions and systems that perpetuate injustice.” (UM Social Principles) 

    In response to this unfolding situation, I invite all United Methodists in Upper New York to,  

    1. Pray for the immediate end of violence in the Middle East, for all the innocent lives impacted by these heartbreaking acts of violence, and for the decision-makers in this conflict. Hence, they prioritize life over death, peace over war, and reconciliation over alienation.  
    2. Listen to the different stories and perspectives of those directly impacted by this ongoing conflict and about the political, social, and religious factors that are contributing to this ongoing conflict so that we can join them in imagining life-giving ways to journey to a reality of peace with justice in the region.  
    3. Care for those in your community who might be impacted by this war and offer them compassion and support in concrete and meaningful ways that lead to healing and wholeness.  
    4. Give special offerings in your congregation directed to our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to assist in providing shelter, food, and other resources to those left helpless by the war.  

    During these challenging times, may the peace of God guard our hearts, the grace of Christ strengthen our hope, and the Holy Spirit lead us as we continue living the gospel and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places.  

    Paz, 

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez 
    The United Methodist Church 
    Serving United Methodist of Upper New York  

    TAGGED / Communications / Bishop Burgos

    United Methodist Church Bishops condemn violence in the Middle East, call for prayer and action

    October 10, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Council of Bishops (COB) of The United Methodist Church has condemned the ongoing violence in the Middle East and has called for prayer and action.

    In a statement released today, COB President Thomas J. Bickerton urged all United Methodists to renew a deepened commitment to pray for those who have been injured, abducted, or killed, and to deepen our prayers for those who have suddenly lost a loved one.

    “As a people who pray for and work toward peace, we in the United Methodist family are appalled, and dismayed by the animosities and inhumane actions undertaken by Hamas. The declaration of war on the part of Israel as a result is also deeply saddening,” the COB statement said.

    Bishop Bickerton reminded The United Methodist Church about the Book of Resolutions (2016) which states clearly that, “We seek for all people in the Middle East region an end to military occupation, freedom from violence, and full respect for the human rights of all under international law.

    Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, Bishop Bickerton remained hopeful to the future of peace and love for all of God’s children.

    Click here to read the full statement from the COB.

    From the desk of Bishop Héctor- Clergy Appreciation

    October 10, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor's Note: The following email was sent to United Methodists of Upper New York on Tuesday, Oct. 10 on behalf of Héctor A. Burgos Núñez about October being recognized as Clergy Appreciation Month. 

    “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15b 

    Dear United Methodists of Upper New York,

    Grace and peace from Jesus Christ be with you! 

    During October, the church is celebrating Clergy Appreciation Month.

    Serving as a pastor is a joyful calling. Pastors are vital in providing Christ-like transformational leadership and support to Upper New York (UNY) congregations and the community. They offer compassionate care and enrich our lives. Pastors are a source of inspiration and strength within the community. Serving as a pastor can also be a stressful calling, given the complexity of the realities and challenges we are facing in a fast-paced and constantly changing mission field. Very few vocations have the spiritual/emotional highs and lows as that of a pastor.

    I thank God for all UNY clergy, whether serving local churches or in extension ministries. Their faithful leadership and sacrificial service bless many and inspire me. Their holistic well-being is a priority to the appointive cabinet and me.   

    Some of the best ways you can show appreciation to your pastor(s) include praying for them and their families, respecting them, honoring boundaries, and supporting the ministry of your congregations. Also, SPRC teams are encouraged to regularly converse with their pastor(s) to explore meaningful contextual ways they can show your support and appreciation for their ministry.  

    UNY congregations also can show appreciation for their pastor(s); 

    1. Encouraging them to participate in the 2024 Bishop’s Retreat. This time apart provides a sacred space for rest, renewal, and fellowship with other UNY clergy.  
    2. Help them fund a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Not only is this an excellent pastor appreciation idea, but it will pay dividends to your congregation. Your pastor will return refreshed spiritually and ready to impart fresh wisdom. You can learn more about UNY’s next pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2024 here.  

    I pray for God’s continued blessings in your lives and ministries. Thanks for who you are and all you do to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and embody God’s love with your neighbors. 

    Together in mission,  

    Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez
    The United Methodist Church
    Serving United Methodists of Upper New York

    Faith in action

    October 5, 2023 / By Pastor Daniel Bradley, Faith Journey UMC

    "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails at one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' If you do not commit adultery but murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:8-17 

    If ever there was a piece of scripture that convicts me of my sin, this is it. It reminds me daily that I am to be in ministry to my brothers and sisters in Christ before myself. Taking this into account on a daily basis is of the utmost importance. It’s not enough to give “lip” service to my faith. My faith must be combined with actions.  

    Actions speak louder than words. When we put our faith into action, it reminds us that God works through our more than-capable words to meet the needs of those who need it the most. The most important work that is done through Faith Journey United Methodist Church is not done on Sunday mornings, but throughout the week through the mission arm of our Cradle and Beyond Ministry. Lives are being changed by the generous faith, giving, and prayer support of this mission arm of the Church. It’s not about us or the merchandise we sell, but it is all about the people who come in and are greeted in grace by the volunteers at the store.   

    One of my favorite stories of faith to tell is of a couple that came in to donate their daughter's clothing and other items. Their daughter had died unexpectedly, and they were cleaning out her house. The couple, visibly shaken, was crying as they brought in their daughter's belongings. The volunteers in the store stopped what they were doing and spent time in prayer and offered hugs to this couple. It was a testament to the power of God at that moment. There are times when God stops us dead in our tracks and gives us the opportunity to open up to others through prayer and hugs; that makes all the difference. Cradle and Beyond is more than clothes and goods. It’s about putting faith into action.  

    Not only does Cradle and Beyond meet the needs of those in need, but it also provides a small food pantry and partners with thirty-two other Syracuse missions. This year, through our backpack mission, we were able to give away 105 backpacks filled with school supplies. The children who came through the store were blessed and beyond ecstatic to receive these gifts. In addition to expanding the use of the building, we have also opened up our ‘clubhouse space’ for an organization called “Circle of Friends,” which ministers to individuals with special needs. Coming this October, there will be a Bible study group using the ‘clubhouse’ space on Sunday afternoons, as it is being used for our book study on Wednesday afternoons.  

    The church of Jesus Christ was never meant to be just about Sunday worship. It was meant to be missional in purpose, multifaceted, and ever-changing. What we do on Sunday mornings should transfer to what we do throughout the week. I urge you to consider how your week is spent in mission and ministry.  

    If the mission of the Church is all about what happens in your church building on Sunday mornings, then you have missed the point. The mission of The United Methodist Church is to, “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  

    Many people thought spending as much as Faith Journey did on rehabbing this old veterinary clinic into a thrifty boutique was a mistake. I was one of those people. I am thankful to God that I was wrong. The work that is done through this campus is so much more than clothing and goods. It is life-giving and sustaining and is reaching the people of North Syracuse, NY in a powerful, positive, and uplifting way. The mission statement of Faith Journey United Methodist Church is to, “Seek, Serve, & Share God with others.” That is what Cradle and Beyond is doing, and I can’t thank the volunteers who staff the store enough for their commitment to God and Jesus Christ.  

    It is good to remember where we have been as a church on the move, but more importantly, to consistently focus on where we are going. The next steps for Cradle and Beyond have yet to be written, but I believe that James says it best when he reminds us, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” 

    As Christians, we have a choice to make, “we can get busy living or get busy dying.” It’s up to us to chart our future or to pick out our headstone. This is what is before us today. The choice is yours. 

    Cradle and Beyond is a “thrifty boutique” located at 7778 Brewerton Rd. Cicero, NY across from Dunkin Donuts.  

    Upper New York Conference welcomes Kevin Miller

    October 4, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    United Methodists of Upper New York (UNY) is pleased to introduce Kevin Miller as the new Multimedia Content Creator. Kevin joins the Communications Ministry Team after Shannon Hodson left her role as Writer/Editor in August 2023. Kevin will collaborate closely with Shelby Winchell, who serves as the Director of Communications, and Mary Dalglish, UNY Video Specialist. In his capacity, Kevin will be primarily tasked with telling the stories of Upper New York. 

    Kevin brings to UNY a wealth of expertise gained from over a decade of experience in public broadcasting. He earned his A.A.S. degree in Electronic Media Communications from Onondaga Community College. His professional journey commenced at WCNY PBS, where he began as an Associate Producer and steadily advanced to the role of Senior Producer. 

    Kevin said, "I have a deep enthusiasm for every aspect of storytelling. Having the chance to collaborate with my colleagues and share stories of The United Methodist Church with the communities we serve is something I take immense pride in." 

    “Kevin is a great addition to the Communications Team. Communication plays a vital role in everything we do as a Church. Over the years, our communications strategies have evolved from social media to livestreaming to podcasting. Kevin will play an important role in helping reach a broader audience as we continue to tell the stories of Upper New York,” said Shelby Winchell.  

    Kevin resides in Liverpool. When he's not at work, he cherishes moments spent with his wife and two sons, while enjoying his passion for cooking delightful meals. Additionally, every Sunday, you'll find him enthusiastically supporting the Buffalo Bills. 

    Please join us as we welcome Kevin to the Upper New York team.  

    TAGGED / Communications

    United Methodists of Upper New York receives $1.25 million grant

    October 2, 2023 / By Shelby Winchell, UNY Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    PRESS RELEASE: United Methodists of Upper New York receives $1.25 million grant.  

    $1.25 Million Grant to United Methodists of Upper New York  

    October 2, 2023 

    For Immediate Release 
    Contact: Shelby Winchell, Director of Communications (shelbywinchell@unyumc.org

    United Methodists of Upper New York (UNY) have been granted $1,250,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. Compelling Preaching Initiative. The initiative aims to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages, and guides people to come to know and love God, and to live out their Christian faith more fully. This is the first grant Upper New York has received from Lilly Endowment Inc. and the first grant that exceeds $1 million dollars.  

    The Lilly Endowment grant project, “Reconnecting with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful,” is intended to revitalize the practice of preaching in Upper New York (UNY) by equipping 300 pastors to (re)connect others with the goodness, truth, and beauty of life with God through preaching that inspires, encourages, and guides people to come to know and love Jesus Christ and to live out their Christian faith more fully. The project is a component of UNY’s clergy leadership development focus called “Thrive.” 

    “United Methodists of Upper New York are blessed with many gifted and faithful pastors who share the good news of Jesus Christ weekly. Through this Lilly grant, we will be able to rekindle the gift of preaching in our pastors as they are refreshed and renewed by the goodness, truth, and beauty of the gospel. God is doing new and wonderful work among us,” said Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez. 

    Upper New York is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist, and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions. 

    “Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s Vice President for Religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.” 

    Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.  

    About Lilly Endowment Inc. 

    Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of religion's role in the United States and across the globe. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Finance / Vital Congregations / Bishop Burgos / Missional Excellence

    Building beds so children in need have one

    October 2, 2023 / By Shelley Smith, Mission Team Chairperson, Immanuel UMC

    Sanding. Hammering. Drilling.  

    To learn more, click the links below:

    TikTok | Facebook | Instagram

    Those sounds filled the air on Sept. 9 at Immanuel United Methodist Church in Camillus. Sixty-nine people gathered in the parking lot along with 18 members from the Syracuse Chapter of Sleep In Heavenly Peace (SHP), a national organization whose mission is “No Kid Sleeps On The Floor In Our Town.”  

    The goal was to build 40 beds for children living in the greater Syracuse community. These were beds for children who didn’t have one of their own.  

    The Syracuse Chapter was founded just five years ago. In that short time span, and in collaboration with volunteers like those at Immanuel UMC, they’ve built 4,000 beds. Click here to watch a video from CNY Central about the 4,000th bed being assembled.  

    While it’s sad that so many children need beds, it is heartwarming to see the community come together for such an important project. Volunteers weren’t just from the Immanuel. Members from the Camillus Police Department, Brewerton UMC, Ionia UMC (and some of their friends), and even some neighbors of the church. 

    “The Camillus Police Department was honored to have been asked to be a part of a fantastic organization in Sleep in Heavenly Peace for such an important project. Building beds so that ‘no kid sleeps on the floor in our town’ was a great event with wonderful people. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this.”  

    There were jobs for everyone; even our youngest at seven-years old to our most mature members. We actually had more workers than jobs which is a good problem to have, so next year (yes, we’ve signed up already), we’ll be better prepared. 

    The bed building project came with a cost. It included not only the wood for the bed, but it included the mattresses, bedding, and pillows so that when the beds are delivered, the children will be able to sleep “peacefully” that night. In order to support this project, Immanuel needed to raise the funds so we have two craft shows a year (our next show is Oct. 27 & 28), we hold a miniature golf tournament, and we make fresh pine Christmas door swags. 

    Immanuel UMC is also known as The Church of The Bells as we have a beautiful bell tower located in the front of our church. On Sept. 9, the bells didn’t ring. The sound was replaced by dozens of power tools that were bringing hope and love to 40 children in our community. 

    If you can’t build beds, consider having a bed on display in your church and collect twin-size bedding. You’ll need a standard-size pillow, pillow case, sheets, and comforter. Many big box stores sell “Bed in a Bag” and includes mostly everything you need. They retail for about $40. Sleep in Heavenly Peace also accepts monetary donations. Click here for drop-off locations in the Syracuse-area and for donation information.  

    You can volunteer to deliver and assemble beds. There are other volunteer opportunities as well that don’t require handy work. Find a local chapter in your area by clicking here.  

    New York State Minimum Wage Increase effective Jan. 1, 2024

    September 28, 2023 / By Tracy Rickett, UNY Human Resources Generalist / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The New York State minimum wage is changing starting in 2024.  

    New York State Minimum Wage Increase

    Effective Jan. 1, 2024, New York State (NYS) minimum wage will increase to $15.00 per hour. In 2025 and 2026, NYS minimum wage will increase by $0.50 annually. Beginning in 2027, and each year thereafter, increases to the minimum wage will be indexed based on inflation by the U.S. Department of Labor consumer price index. The minimum wage will be published by the New York Department of Labor (NYDOL) Oct. 1 each year for the rate to take effect that coming January 1 of the following year.

    Effective Date

    New York State (excluding New York City, Long Island, and Westchester

    Current

    $14.20/hour

    Jan. 1, 2024

    $15/hour

    Jan. 1, 2025

    $15.50/hour

    Jan. 1, 2026

    $16/hour

    Employers in the Upper New York Conference, regardless of number of employees, must pay non-exempt employee’s minimum wage. Non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay under the state and federal wage and hour laws. Overtime pay for non-exempt employees is calculated as time and one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek. 

    An updated NYS Minimum Wage poster must be posted at your work site for your employees by Jan. 1, 2024. Once the updated poster is available, the Conference office will post it on our Church Employer webpage Employment Law Compliance and Posters. Please click this link for more information on the change to NYS Minimum Wage.

    New York State Minimum Salary

    As of the date of this news article, the New York State minimum salary for employees classified as exempt under the New York State Labor Law remains at $1064.25/week or $55,341.00 per year. Any updates to the New York State minimum salary will be published as it becomes available. 

    Churches should review their wage and hour practices to ensure that their employees are classified properly as non-exempt or exempt and that current minimum wage and minimum salary levels are being paid to employees. 

    If you have any questions on this topic, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at (315) 898-2017 or TracyRickett@unyumc.org.

    TAGGED / Benefits and Administrative Services / Camp and Retreat Ministry (CRM) / Communications / Episcopal Office / Finance / Vital Congregations / Districts

    Explore the Holy Land with Bishop Héctor

    September 25, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Holy Land pilgrimage originally planned for Sept. 2024 is postponed until 2025 due to the violence in the Middle East. 

    Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5 ESV 

    Journey through the Bible with Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez and experience the Fifth Gospel on a sacred trip to the Holy Land. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus in a faith-filled adventure with Bishop Héctor and other United Methodists of Upper New York.  

    Mark your calendar for this once in a lifetime trip now planned for 2025. The trip was origninally planned for Sept. 17-27, 2024, but due to the ongoing violence in the Middle East, the trip is being postponed. See the cave where Jesus was born, visit the Church of the Nativity, sail across the Sea of Galilee, stand on the Mount of Olives, and experience much more. Following this trip, you will never sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” or hear the Sermon on the Mount the same way again.  

    Learn the history, deepen your faith, and start saving today. More information about the trip and travel dates will be released when available. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Bishop Burgos

    Creating a bridge and building understanding with faith leaders

    September 22, 2023 / By Kristina Clark, Director of Missional Engagement

    Every month, faith leaders from various traditions come together for a powerful roundtable to discuss justice issues. The group is called InterFaith Works and it’s been meeting for 46 years. There are representatives from the Hindu Community, Islamic Society of Central New York, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Quakers, American Baptist, Episcopal Church, Catholic Church, Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, The United Methodist Church among others. In my role as Director of Missional Engagement, I’ve been representing The United Methodist Church on this particular roundtable. 
     
    This month, United Methodists of Upper New York were honored to host the roundtable of faith leaders at the Conference Center in Liverpool. The meeting was a time of powerful conversation on how faith leaders can work together to address food justice, relationships with the Onondaga Nation, ending antisemitism, and ending racism this year.

    Promise Land Church pastor, Erik Eure, addressed food security and highlighted food deserts in the Syracuse-area. He mentioned one community in particular where the closest grocery store selling fresh food is 12 miles away. 

    “You can buy apple flavored nicotine at the corner store in that community, but not an actual apple,” exclaimed Pastor Eure. 
     
    Michael Balanoff from the Jewish Federation of Central New York led the discussion on ending antisemitism.

    “Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem. It’s a community problem. It’s all our problem.” 

    There was also a powerful discussion about how when a society takes away rights for one group, it sets a stage for a society to start deciding who is valued and is not valued as a human. 

    The meeting concluded with a tour of the United Methodist Center and discussions about how United Methodists of Upper New York can use their space and resources to partner and support the work of InterFaith Works as well as the other faith traditions.

    TAGGED / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Mission Central / Missional Engagement

    A New Season Begins for the Conference Leadership Team

    September 20, 2023 / By Shelby Winchell, UNY Director of Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)  

    The Conference Leadership Team (CLT) has a new membership configuration. The new configuration is part of Bishop Héctor A. Burgos-Núñez efforts to eliminate silos and shift to a culture of connections and collaboration in Upper New York (UNY). Notable in the new composition of the team is the inclusion of the chairs of UNY five administrative boards and committees alongside at-large members to do the work entrusted to the CLT.   

    United Methodists of Upper New York are encouraged to meet the team members here.  

    The CLT serves as the steward of the vision and mission of United Methodists of Upper New York between Annual Conference sessions. This team also provides directional leadership and accountability to UNY boards, agencies, and executive staff to equip UNY clergy and congregational leaders for impactful ministry.  

    CLT members gathered for the first time in the new configuration on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the United Methodists Center in Liverpool for a day of loving, learning, and leading, also known as the L3 model.   

    During this time, the CLT reviewed and ratified the UNY Missional Playbook. The Missional Playbook is UNY's strategic document that guides the conference's ministry. The CLT ratified core strategic pieces, including our mission, vision, purpose, and primary task. 

    • Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.   
    • Our vision is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and be God’s love with all our neighbors in all places.  
    • Our Purpose is to equip leaders and congregations for impactful ministry and provide a connection for mission beyond the local church. 
    • Our Primary Task is to increase the leadership capacity of clergy and congregational leaders for effective, impactful ministry.  

    During the meeting, the CLT received updates from the executive staff team and reviewed the financial activity of the Conference year-to-date. During his report, Bishop Héctor shared that he will visit all 12 districts in 2024 over the winter and spring months to engage clergy and laity in listening-to-learn sessions to help reconnect United Methodists of Upper New York with the Missional Playbook.  

    An essential item addressed by the CLT was creating a short-term task force to work on a resolution approved by the 2023 UNY Annual Conference session, which requested the CLT to present a recommendation to the 2024 session on how to allocate the funds related to the Child Victim Act (CVA) lawsuit settlement. The task force will present their recommendations to the CLT by Feb. 15, 2024.  

    The task force will be led by Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady II, lead pastor at Asbury UMC Rochester, and consist of the Conference lay leader, Jessica White, representatives from the UNY Council on Finance, the Board of Trustees, and the Board of Pensions, and four at-large members, alongside staff resources including Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Assistant to the Bishop; Bob Flask, UNY Treasurer; and Peter Abdella, UNY Chancellor. 

    TAGGED / Communications / Episcopal Office / Vital Congregations / Bishop Burgos

    Pinwheels spin cash for camp

    September 15, 2023 / By Sarah Walker, Ohio UMC

    The pinwheel spins when the breeze blows. The breeze is a reminder that although you cannot see the air moving, it is always present. Just like the air is always present, so is the Holy Spirit. 

    Fundraisers are an important way to keep the Ohio United Methodist Church going. We needed funds for our children going to camp. The Sunday school and youth group wanted to do something fun, bring light to someone's day, and bring joy to the world.  

    For a few years now, we have been pinning people’s front lawns. All it entails is placing a bunch of colorful pinwheels in the grass. This brings laughter and happiness to their homes as well as the community.  

    We have heard people talk about how awesome it is to see something beautiful. This brings joy to our church as we fulfill our promise to God.  

    Every summer, we send our youth to Aldersgate Camp & Retreat Center where they play and have fun while learning about the Bible and understanding their purpose. This past summer, we raised enough money to send eight youth to camp at no cost to the families. 

    Colton is 15 years old. He’s been to camp at Aldersgate three summers now.  

    "Camp Aldersgate is my favorite place to be to make new friends and learn more about God and God’s purpose in our life," said Colton, who aspires to one day become a camp counselor. 

    I run the fundraiser with my husband, Gardner Walker III. Our four sons, Colton, Garner IV, Levi, and Brayden, also assist. 

    We thank all that participated and hope to continue spreading the joy of having Jesus in our hearts and being true to God. Our church is small, but we are trying to make a big impact in our community and surrounding areas. 

    TAGGED / Camp and Retreat Ministry (CRM) / Communications / Connectional Ministries / Vital Congregations / Youth

    Bishops in Africa vow to stay in The United Methodist Church

    September 15, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    United Methodist Church bishops serving the church in Africa have issued a statement declaring their intention to stay in the denomination despite differences on the issue of human sexuality.

    “Notwithstanding the differences in our UMC regarding the issue of human sexuality especially with our stance of traditional and biblical view of marriage, we categorically state that we do not plan to leave The United Methodist Church and will continue to be shepherds of God’s flock in this worldwide denomination,” said the bishops in statement agreed on Sept. 7.

    The bishops indicated that while some of their colleagues and friends have left or intend to leave our UMC, “we have prayerfully discerned that we will continue to be part of this denomination which has nurtured us throughout our lives. We will continue to work in ministry with all our brothers and sisters throughout the world, remembering not to forsake the fellowship of our sisters and brothers.”

    The bishops also voiced support the ongoing discussion for regionalism, which would ensure that Africans would be accommodated in the way and manners in which Africans want to worship the Lord.

    They also voiced support for the decision by the Council of Bishops to request General Conference sessions in 2026 and 2028. “This will be necessary for smooth transitioning as our denomination emerges from the disruptions of COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of disaffiliations.”

    Three of the 14 bishops in attendance did not sign unto the statement.

    Click here to read the UMC bishops in Africa statement. 
     

     

    TAGGED / Communications / Council of Bishops

    Conference Commission on Religion and Race: What’s up for 2024

    September 11, 2023 / By Dr. Scott Johnson, Rev. Harold Wheat, and Georgia Whitney

    As our area continues to heal from the loss and trauma of the racist attack in Buffalo last May, a new example of racist hatred taken to the most violent extremes has just happened in Jacksonville, Florida. A White supremacist gunman killed Angela Michelle Carr, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., and Jerrald Gallion for no reason other than his hatred of Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). The surface elements of this attack are hard enough to bear.  

    Similar to the Tops shooting in Buffalo, deeper questions about the role of racism in this killing emerge. Issues of purposeful residential segregation, the intersection of race and poverty in America, the economics and impact of discount stores that focus on communities of Color, and a national climate that silences meaningful exploration of such topics. The complexities of these issues demonstrate the ongoing urgent need for United Methodists of Upper New York to purposefully strive to “set the oppressed free,” as Jesus did. 

    Conference Commission on Religion and Race's (CCORR) Imagine No Racism ministry was launched in 2018 because antiracism work is a central part of discipleship—it’s about who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ. The work is not rooted in any political agenda. We are Jesus’s people in the world today. For the past few years, CCORR supported this work by striving to equip our siblings across Upper New York to dismantle racism in the church and our communities. Now, we feel the Spirit calling us to focus in new directions, broadening our work. Here’s what this looks like for our team in 2024:  

    More Churches Engaged in Antiracism Ministries 

    First, many churches are working to change beliefs, practices, and systems that perpetuate racial inequities. In 2024, CCORR is committed to increasing the percentage of local churches engaged in antiracism ministries. Some churches and pastors may concentrate on equipping themselves by continuing their learning through Bible, movie, and book studies. We hope they’ll consider bringing the Imagine No Racism curriculum to their churches as well. Others may be ready to engage in an issue in their communities. CCORR will provide coaches for teams in this phase of work to assist with discernment and strategies.  

    Ministry Action Teams 

    Congregations and siblings who may want to engage in more direct action, addressing specific racial inequities in their communities can do this work through ministry action teams. This brings us to CCORR’s second goal for 2024, which is to produce a more just world by facilitating the creation of ministry action teams to empower policy or community change. These teams may involve people from a single church or geographical area of the conference. Depending on the policy goal, a team may be comprised of people from across all Upper New York. The key uniting element is a call and passion for bringing about a specific tangible outcome, such as revising a police use of force policy, opening a grocery store, or starting a tutoring ministry to address educational disparities. We propose creating teams in three areas: 

    1. Criminal justice reform, which might include work to address qualified immunity, bail reform, and the clean slate bill. 
    2. Food apartheid. This might involve a ministry that focuses on creating food sovereignty through community-driven solutions and systemic change to eliminate food deserts. 
    3. Educational concerns, such as disciplinary injustice, curriculum, educational outcomes, and the school-to-prison pipeline. 

    If you have a passion for working in one of these areas, CCORR wants to help you accomplish your goal. Maybe you’ve already talked to some people in your congregation who want to work with you. Perhaps you have some elements of a strategy but aren’t quite sure how to proceed. You might be ready to begin work but need more partners to accomplish tasks. No matter the case, we can help. We can provide coaching for teams who are ready to start, and/or we can connect you with other people in the conference who share your passion.  

    Those who have completed INR sessions in recent months, or have communicated with us about wanting to be part of a ministry action team, will receive email invitations to join these teams. If you don’t receive an email and would like to participate in one of these initiatives, please contact Scott Johnson or Georgia Whitney, CCORR’s co-conveners. 

    There’s a lot more to say about these teams and the ways they might function in our conference. We’ll continue to communicate with you about them in the weeks ahead. 

    Enhanced Imagine No Racism (INR) Curriculum 

    Our third goal for 2024 is to further enrich the conversation in our conference to equip siblings for antiracism work. We’ve heard from folks who are ready to take a deeper dive into some of the topics explored in INR. We’ll begin work on a more specialized curriculum that explores a topic such as divesting ourselves of privilege or overcoming our implicit biases.  

    Finally, we’ll continue the work we began last year to develop a multigenerational approach to antiracist work. CORR seeks to partner with younger siblings to ensure that this work better includes their perspectives and experiences.  

    Our Work Is More Important than Ever! 

    When the Imagine No Racism ministry was launched in 2018, we were all asked to consider signing an individual covenant that read, “Before God and with my family in Christ, I vow, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to oppose and to eliminate the influence of racism from systems, institutions, relationships, and my own life.” Today, that vow is even more important than it was five years ago. The work we do belongs not just to CCORR, but to all of us. The CCORR team rejoices in the opportunity to partner with you and take up your authority to interrupt racism wherever you become aware of it in your circles of influence.  

    We ask that you join us in prayer that racism will cease to impede the movement of God’s love in Upper New York. Together with the Holy Spirit, we can build the world we imagine. 

    TAGGED / Communications / CCORR

    Register now for October’s virtual Special Session

    September 9, 2023 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Registration is now open for the virtual October Special Session of Annual Conference. This Special Session will focus on Upper New York churches looking to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church.  

    There is a $10 registration fee for eligible voting members, with the exception to equalization members, to participate in the Special Session, which will begin at 9 a.m. on Oct. 14.

    Click here to register by Wednesday, Sept. 27. Late registrations will not be accepted. If you experience credit card issues, please call Trina Obrist at (315) 898-2006.

    If you have any questions, contact Betsy O'Flynn at (585) 340-9525 or betsyoflynn@unyumc.org. For more information about the Special Session, click here

    For anyone looking to be excused, please link this link and complete the form.

    TAGGED / Communications / Bishop Burgos / Disaffiliation / Annual Conference


    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."