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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Upper New York New Faith Communities Team’s empowering new structure

    April 20, 2021 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    In his seven years as Director of New Faith Communities, the Rev. Dave Masland helped church planters create dozens of New Faith Communities (NFCs) across Upper New York (UNY). Dave retired in December 2020, but still works with the UNY Conference part time, supporting planting efforts in the Conference. In that time, he has been equipping a team of New Faith Communities allies that anybody in the Conference can contact about the exciting idea of creating New Places for New People.

    Rev. Masland is still available to help with people interested in planting New Faith Communities, but is less available now that he is part-time. The team members below that Rev. Masland has been working closely with are ready and able to help too! You can contact any team member below whether or not they are in your region.

    The Rev. Abigail Browka is the contact person for the Northeast Region.

    Rev. Browka is an ordained elder who had a vision to plant a coffee house centered NFC 18 months ago and attended Launchpad in February 2020 with that goal in mind. Then, COVID hit, and that plan was put on the back burner.  However, COVID also inspired a new idea. Her NFC called “Everyday Sanctuary” is centered around a free mobile app that provides a five-minute centering spiritual practice for anyone who signs up.  Over 1,000 people have downloaded the app since its launch just couple of months ago.

    Rev. Masland said, “Abigail has a unique giftedness in creating online presence and impact for new people.  Rev. Browka is also an active member of UNY’s NFC Leadership Team, and will be leading a team-taught online Launchpad starting April 22, 2021.  She has enthusiasm for planting work that is truly infectious!”

    Contact Rev. Browka at

    The Rev. Anna Blinn-Cole is the contact person for the Southern Tier Region.

    Rev. Anna Blinn-Cole is an ordained elder who planted a New Faith Community called “Nourished” a number of years ago in the Cobleskill area, which quickly doubled to two such NFCs in the county. Nourished is a dinner church, where people come to share a meal, and then have a conversation-style worship experience around the table. 

    Rev. Masland said, “Anna’s NFC reached many previously unchurched people and seems to be a very effective strategy for rural settings!  As the lead pastor of a large, rural cooperative parish, Anna is particularly gifted at bringing varied groups of people together and discerning a shared vision.  Anna is a team builder. And, Anna is ALL IN on the planting movement. She loves to talk to people about their dreams for new places for new people. “

    Contact Rev. Blinn Cole at

    The Rev. Justin Hood and the Rev. Gregg Sterheim are the contact point for the Lakes Region.

    Rev. Hood is an ordained elder who three years ago led both churches in his two-point charge to plant New Faith Communities in their mission field just north of Syracuse. 

    Rev. Masland said, “Justin has unique giftedness for leading a congregation thru a prayerful, patient discernment process to discover what new thing God is calling them to do to reach new people thru a New faith Community. He can teach many best practices for an existing church to plant an NFC.  Justin is a relatively young, new member of the NFC leadership team in the Conference.  Yet, his experience as a Christ-centered pastoral leader and planter is valuable to anyone who wishes to engage him in conversation!”

    Contact Rev. Hood at

    Rev. Stierheim is an ordained elder who six years ago had a dream to plant a new church in the medical corridor of downtown Buffalo.  Since he attended Launchpad over six years ago, he has been planting a new church called “Wesley’s Place.” 

    Rev. Masland said, “Gregg’s unique giftedness and experience is in planting a truly Missional Church.  In other words, he has never met people in a church building. Rather, he has gathered with individuals and groups in restaurants, coffee shops, apartment buildings, and hospital meeting rooms. Because of the difficulty of finding large enough (and affordable) space in his mission field, his church and disciple-making plan has been entirely small group based. During the pandemic, these small groups have gone to all online! Yet, Wesley’s Place continues to effectively reach new people. Since he started Wesley’s Place, Gregg has been a champion for planting NFCs in UNY, has assisted in teaching Launchpad, and is fluent in all things related to planting!

    Contact Rev. Stierheim at

    Are you ready to have a conversation about starting a New Faith Community? Connect with Rev. Browka, Rev. Blinn Cole, Rev. Hood, or Rev. Stierheim today. They’d be happy to guide you in your vision!

    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."