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

    Perspectives: 2022 Casowasco LIT

    Meet LIT graduate Kylie VanPatten

    August 18, 2022 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    From June 27-July 22, Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center held a program called Leaders in Training (LIT) for 16–17-year-old high school students to learn how to become leaders in the camp setting and in ministry. Click here to learn more about the LIT program.

    One of them is outgoing 16-year-old Kylie VanPatten, whose mother, Kristi VanPatten, is the pastor at Alplaus UMC. This summer was Kylie's tenth summer at Casowasco.

    Here are some of Kylie’s reflections of the LIT training in her own words:

    • I have gained five new friends. I don’t know if I would have made it through the program without them. We all worked together and helped each other. We connected so well together and laughed a lot. I love this group and hope we always stay in touch.
    • Being an LIT required a lot of hard work and emotional control. And being around young campers, it’s important to put a filter on what you say.
    • The LIT program gave us so much experience. By helping the staff here (at Casowasco), I gained the confidence I would need to get a job here.
    • The Highlands portion of the training was emotionally challenging for me—I’m afraid of bugs. But stargazing the last night in the Highlands was the most spiritual aspect of the program for me.
    • I really surprised myself by how quickly I picked up leadership skills. I thought leading campers would be extremely difficult; it turned out to be mildly difficult.
    • My faith gets a refill every time I go to Casowasco. This place is where I feel closest to God.

    Kylie was one of the three campers who also earned her lifeguard certification—that part of the program was her favorite part!

    Congratulations Kylie on your LIT graduation!

    Meet LIT graduate Ryan Caldwell

    August 16, 2022 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 2 Comments

    From June 27-July 22, Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center held a program called Leaders in Training (LIT) for 16–17-year-old high school students to learn how to become leaders in the camp setting and in ministry. Click here to learn more about the LIT program.

    One of them is 16-year-old Ryan Caldwell. Ryan is from Auburn, NY, which is only 12 miles north of Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center. His mom found out about the LIT program and mentioned it to Ryan, who immediately felt that it was something he would love.

    The LIT program was Ryan’s first experience of Casowasco and he absolutely loved everything about the setting and all that he learned as an LIT.

    Here are some of Ryan’s reflections of the LIT training in her own words:

    • We are all so close; all of us LITs. It feels like we are a family.
    • Sailing was my favorite part even though I flipped the sailboat. I also loved learning the high ropes course and leading the ACA (All-Camp-Activity).
    • I’ve learned so much: knot-tying, sailing, how to speak up for myself and others in a crowd of people. That has always been a challenge for me, but I’m learning that sometimes challenges are good things, I enjoyed kayaking and swimming in the middle of the lake.
    • This program has definitely changed my maturity level; it is teaching me what type of person I want to be and things I want to do; I want to be a supportive person who can brighten someone’s day.
    • My communication skills have improved. I used to be anti-social. At Casowasco, I was able to be myself, which helped me to be more confident about being myself.
    • The setting at Casowasco, near the water, was very calming.
    • The people at Casowasco are great. I want to give a shout out to David, Theresa, Courtney, Shannon, Terrance, and Hannah. Hannah coordinated everything and I found that she did a phenomenal job at that.
    • As an LIT, you come out a better person.
    • I came to this program without any faith; now I have an extraordinary amount of faith.
    • I am eager to show people that God works in mysterious ways and that anything is possible with faith.

    Ryan plans to keep his faith and grow with it.

    Congratulations on your LIT graduation, Ryan.

    Meet LIT graduate Ashley Dillon

    August 11, 2022 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    From June 27-July 22, Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center held a program called Leaders in Training (LIT) for 16–17-year-old high school students to learn how to become leaders in the camp setting and in ministry. Click here to learn more about the LIT program.

    One of them is 16-year-old Ashley Dillon. Ashley has been going to church her whole life. She attends CenterPoint Christian Fellowship with her mother and a non-denominational church with her dad.

    Ashley was a camper at Casowasco last summer when David Weber mentioned the possibility of creating a leadership training program for a whole month.

    When she found out the LIT program was on, she told her parents, “I need to do this!”

    Here are some of Ashley’s reflections of the LIT training in her own words:

    • Even after just a couple of days, we all became so close. I loved hanging out with the other LITs and getting to know them.
    • I loved Chapel and singing every day.
    • I actually enjoyed kayaking the most; you get into a rhythm and it feels relaxing.
    • I found that being a role model was the most challenging part. In front of campers, we have to be careful not to fool around like we do when they’re not around. You have to have a very good filter.
    • I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I’ve become more outgoing and better able to control a large group.
    • I love the whole camp setting here at Casowasco—it feels like a small community.
    • I feel like I understand my faith better and I realize that God loves me and wants the best for me.
    • Being a leader is a lot more of a team thing than I thought. We had to rely on each other a lot and it was great to have the support of others.

    Ashley had a great time as an LIT and though she misses the aspects of being a camper, she is excited to use the skills she has learned. Ashley was also one of the three LITs who became a certified lifeguard.

    Congratulations on your LIT graduation, Ashley

    Meet LIT graduate Joel Cooper

    August 9, 2022 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    From June 27-July 22, Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center held a program called Leaders in Training (LIT) for 16–17-year-old high school students to learn how to become leaders in the camp setting and in ministry. Click here to learn more about the LIT program.

    Joel Copper is one of them. Joel is from Liberia and moved to Syracuse in 2016. He attends University UMC in Syracuse and this was his third year at Casowsco.

    Here are some of Joel’s reflections on LIT training in his words:

    • This program has been so much fun—it’s great learning skills with people you have a lot in common with—one of them being that we are all Christian.
    • The program really shows you how to be a leader.
    • I especially enjoyed our guest speakers. Pastors would come and talk to us about qualities you need to be a leader. One of the qualities mentioned a lot was the importance of being a good listener. These speakers help me to keep these things in mind.
    • I hope to come back as a counselor and help kids to get on a good path.
    • Through this program, I have grown closer to God and myself.

    Congratulations Joel on your LIT graduation!

    Meet LIT graduate Freddy Weber

    August 4, 2022 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    From June 27-July 22, Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center held a program called Leaders in Training (LIT) for 16–17-year-old high school students to learn how to become leaders in the camp setting and in ministry. Click here to learn more about the LIT program.

    Sixteen-year-old Freddy Weber was one of them. Freddy has been immersed in the Christian camp experience his whole life. His father, David Weber, Jr. is the site director at Casowasco. Freddy was born in Arizona, then lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida before moving to Casowasco. Freddy’s older sister and both parents were LITs in North Carolina.

    Freddy said, “Camp helps me build a relationship with God more than anything else. It’s great having people around you with same beliefs and who you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with."

    Here are some of Freddy’s reflections on LIT training in his words:

    • Hanging around these guys has been great. Since the very beginning when we signed our covenant, we feel mutually respected.
    • My favorite part was sailing. It’s one of my favorite things to do and I’m good at it. I’ve been sailing since I was 11 or 12. I liked helping people who have never done it before. It’s so cool that I get to be with my friends and teach them something.
    • This whole experience has been very fun. I know that I am never going to forget it. It has changed me in a positive way, spiritually. I’m a lot closer to myself…I feel that I am better able to connect with people. I feel more at ease. I have learned that I am a very caring and welcoming person.
    • I feel eager to participate in leadership roles now. I feel that I will be able to take charge of projects as well as responsibility of my life.
    • You go to Chapel every day, which is life-changing!
    • I was impressed by how in-depth the training was.
    • I am going to miss this so much. The LIT training is worth it!

    Freddy had an excellent experience as an LIT and was one of the three LITs who earned lifeguarding certification.

    Congratulations Freddy on your LIT graduation!

    Meet LIT graduate Kate McKenzie

    July 28, 2022 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 2 Comments

    From June 24-July 22, Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center held a program called Leaders in Training (LIT) for 16-17 year old high school students to learn how to become leaders in the camp setting and in ministry. Click here to learn more about the LIT program.

    Seventeen-year-old Kate McKenzie was one of the six students who participated in this training.

    Kate was born in Guiping, China. She moved to the United States as a young child, first to Chicago, then Minnesota, followed by New York. Her father, Ken McKenzie, is the pastor at West Winfield Federated Church.

    This summer was Kate’s third summer at Casowasco.

    Here are some reflections of LIT training in Kate’s words:

    • My favorite part of this training has been hanging out with the other LITs. It has been so much fun.
    • I experienced sailing for the first time, and I loved it.
    • We have Chapel every night and I really like that, especially the songs we sing.
    • In the future, I see myself leading Arts & Crafts at camp.
    • The Highlands portion of the training was hard for me. I am more of a main site kind of girl.
    • My faith has grown from learning more about the Bible.
    • My definition of leadership has changed; I realize now that it is a team thing.
    • I will be helping my community and day camp more by using the skills I learned through this training.

    Overall, Kate felt that the LIT training was a very good experience.

    Congratulations on your graduation from the LIT program, Kate McKenzie!

    Casowasco’s Leaders in Training program introduction

    July 28, 2022 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    From June 24 - July 22, 2022 Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center held the first-ever Leaders In Training (LIT) program. This program invited high school students between the ages of 16 and 17 to learn how to become leaders in both a camp and ministry setting. Not only did their confidence grow, but also, they learned about the importance of team work while trusting in God.

    David Weber Jr., site director at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center, said this is the first time anything like this has been offered in the Upper New York Conference. “The LIT training was a remarkable success. The LIT candidates grew tremendously in their faith walk, in their individuality, and as a team. They learned what it means to lead a team in a Christian setting for the transformation of the world.”

    Taking part in this journey were Kylie VanPatten, Ashley Dillon, Ryan Caldwell, Freddy Weber, Joel Cooper, and Kate McKenzie. They were guided by counselors Shannon Sierzenga and Terrence Henry.

    David said the program will be ongoing. "I am going to do this as long as I can, to build leaders for the next generation of the Church.”

    Over the next few weeks, you'll meet the six Upper New York teens who embarked on this one-of-a-kind journey and hear how they evolved over the course of four-weeks.

    Bishop Webb: March 25, 2021

    March 25, 2021 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb / 2 Comments

    Dear Colleagues in Christ,

    Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!

    As you prepare to experience and lead your congregation into the scared of Holy Week and the celebration of Easter, I wanted you to know of my prayers for each of you.  I continue to be blessed by the faithful ways in which you live out God’s call upon you.  I celebrate the gifts of the Holy Spirit within you and am convinced that God will use those gifts and each of you in assisting others to experience, know and respond to the amazing love of God through Jesus Christ!

    This past year and these recent days continue to provide challenge, as well as rich opportunities for us to carry out the mission of the Church and boldly proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  These are exhausting days to lead within the Church, yet days that demand the hope and way of Jesus Christ that the church must exemplify and offer to the world. 

    I deeply value and appreciate each of you.  May you be strengthened in your faith as you journey toward the cross and the empty tomb.  May you be anointed in fresh ways as you lead worship and preach the good news.  May you find strength in the midst of weariness and renewed joy as God’s Spirit leads and refreshes you. 

    Thanks for who you are and for all that you offer for the sake of God’s people and God’s kingdom!

    In Grace,


    Bishop Webb: July 1, 2020

    July 1, 2020 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    The following email was sent from Bishop Webb on July 1, 2020 to clergy, certified lay ministers, and other congregational leaders in the Upper New York Conference.

    Dear Friends,

    Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!

    Today marks the beginning of a new appointment year within the United Methodist Church and I wanted you to know how grateful I am for each of you and for your continued response to God’s call upon your life.

    For those of you for whom today marks the beginning of retirement, I want to join your colleagues and the congregations you have served in saying “well done.” Thank you for the many years of leadership and ministry you have offered. I know as you begin this new chapter of life, it is also a new chapter in God’s call upon you. I deeply regret that the realities of COVID-19 did not allow us to honor and celebrate your ministry at a gathered session of the Upper New York Conference. We hope you will be able to join us at the 2021 session, so we will have the opportunity to celebrate your ministry among us.

    The remainder of us are beginning a new appointment year either by returning to a place we have served or beginning a journey in a new setting. Thank you for your faithfulness in ministry and mission. Remember that God has equipped you with everything you need to lead the congregation(s) your serve among and with. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will renew you and work through you to renew the congregations and communities you serve.

    These have been interesting days to lead the Church and I continue to be awed by the ways in which you have done so. As we continue to move forward amid a global pandemic, please continue to let me or your District Superintendent know if there are any ways in which you can come alongside you in this time. I appreciate the response each of you have made to the call to provide the ministry and mission of Christ while doing so in a way that responds to best practices for the safety and health of those we are called to serve. 

    COVID-19 has indeed changed the ways in which we live out our call and it has impacted the rhythms that we have grown accustomed to. I wanted you to know that we are still attempting to find the best way to gather for clergy session and our session of Annual Conference. We are currently navigating New York state laws, working cooperatively with the New York Conference to determine how we can carry out these important gatherings and do so legally. We will find a way and it will be one that cares for the safety and health of everyone who desires to participate, while allowing us to accomplish the essential business we must accomplish.

    I appreciate your patience and understanding as we consider our options and how they are impacted by state laws. We are not ignoring the need to pay attention to the realities of COVID-19, we are simply making sure that the ways in which we move forward will not put our work in question or jeopardy. My hope is that within the next few weeks we will be able to update you and move forward on a final plan. Whatever that plan looks like, I am confident that you can hold Saturday, Oct. 3 as the day for our 2020 Annual Conference session in whatever format. The clergy session date may change, but please hold Oct. 2 for now.

    In closing, let me say again – thank you! You are appreciated! Your ministry and leadership are celebrated. You are in my prayers constantly!

    I share this adapted prayer of John Wesley and invite us to pray it for our life together.

    O God, seeing as there is in Christ Jesus an infinite fullness of all that we can want or desire, May we all receive from him, grace upon grace; grace to pardon our sins, and subdue our iniquities; to justify our persons and to sanctify our souls; and to complete that holy change, that renewal of our hearts, Which will enable us to be transformed into the blessed image in which you created us. O make us all acceptable to be partakers of the inheritance of your saints in light. Amen.

    (adapted from the original by John Wesley)


    Mark J. Webb

    CLT Prayer #6 during coronavirus pandemic

    May 18, 2020 / By Rev. Nancy Dibelius

    Pray now,
    Pray for the Others.

    Love one another. The command echoes through Scripture and awakens us to life. Jesus intended for the world to verify the truth of his message by observing us in our love for one another and all God sends into our lives (John 13:35, 17:22-23). Because praying is an expression of loving that is accessible to all, our Conference Leadership Team (CLT), calls all who are able, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to pray with them.

    The CLT invites you to continue to pray with them in the coming weeks as they share prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. If the Spirit places it on your heart to include these prayers in your daily devotions, publish them on your social media page, or jump off from their movement into your own inspiration, go with God and with their blessing.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Nancy Dibelius:

    Gracious and holy God, we come before you this day in the midst of difficult and challenging times; as we do so, we are reminded this week of the words of the psalmist that affirm that you hear and listen and that you do ‘give heed’ to our prayers. We ask that your Spirit rest upon us, offering comfort, reassurance, compassion, gentleness; we breathe deeply (even as we are aware that such an act is difficult for those who are ill) for the Spirit of truth to enter in and bring peace to our bodies and peace to our souls. May we remain faithful in times such as these and trust in your presence; let us not be impatient, let us not lose confidence as you continue to lead and guide in the midst of anxious times.  We give you thanks this day Lord for your faithfulness and continued activity in the world and for your patience when we are at times ‘slow of heart.’ We lift these words to you in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

    CLT Prayer #5 during coronavirus pandemic

    May 11, 2020 / By Rev. Harold Wheat

    Pray now,
    Pray for the Others.

    Love one another. The command echoes through Scripture and awakens us to life. Jesus intended for the world to verify the truth of his message by observing us in our love for one another and all God sends into our lives (John 13:35, 17:22-23). Because praying is an expression of loving that is accessible to all, our Conference Leadership Team (CLT), calls all who are able, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to pray with them.

    The CLT invites you to continue to pray with them in the coming weeks as they share prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. If the Spirit places it on your heart to include these prayers in your daily devotions, publish them on your social media page, or jump off from their movement into your own inspiration, go with God and with their blessing.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Harold Wheat:

    “May God our Father himself and our Master Jesus clear the road to you! And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers.”

    (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 from The Message)

    Our circumstances of physical separation were not unfamiliar to Christians in the first century. Paul wrote often of his yearning to have in-person time with those whose faith he was nurturing. In 1 Thessalonians, “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face” (1 Thessalonians 3:10 NRSV). Below is a prayer inspired by Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the prayer Paul and Timothy offered in a time when they were experiencing the pain and stress of being physically separated from loved ones in faith.

    A Prayer for Spiritual Union in a Time of Physical Separation  

    May the Beloved, our Holy God, personally show up with Jesus the lover of our souls to deliver us back to each other. And, may Jesus our bright and morning star so fill our hearts with love that our cups overflow with grace to each other and our hurting world. May our love be purely focused on the well-being of others, our hearts be pleased to stand before God, and our hands be strong for the work that is ours to do; so that when we are reunited with each other and our Master Jesus, our joy will be complete.

    Bishop Webb: April 29, 2020

    April 29, 2020 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb / 2 Comments

    The following email was sent from Bishop Webb on April 14, 2020 to clergy, certified lay ministers, and other congregational leaders in the Upper New York Conference.

    Dear Friends,

    We pray for our world; those stricken by the Coronavirus; those grieving the loss of loved ones; the lonely and those separated from friends and family; the medical personnel and caretakers in many places; those who risk their own health to serve in places of essential business for our sake and comfort.  We pray for these and many more needs, known and unknown. Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayers!

    I continue to give thanks to God for each of you and the tremendous leadership you are providing in these extraordinary days. As we continue to live within the realities and dynamics of a global pandemic, your witness of trust in God and faithfulness to your call is an inspiration. Thank you for all that you are doing. Thank you for your willingness to be bold, creative and open to the ways in which the Spirit of God is leading in your lives, your congregation and the community you serve among and with.

    It is been a blessing to join when I have been invited and able in various district, cluster and other ZOOM gatherings. It has been a joy to see your faces, share in conversation and hear the stories of celebration, as well as struggle. God is at work and I am convinced that the ministry of the Church will emerge stronger as a result of this time. Your leadership will emerge stronger because of these days.

    I know this has been a difficult and exhausting season. In some ways, everything that we previously knew has been tested, yet everything we need has been a part of our prior experiences. Continue to trust your call, the gifts of the Holy Spirit within you and most of all the sufficiency of Christ. 

    I hope that you are finding ways to rest, renew and care for your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Please let your district superintendent know if you are struggling in any way, so that we may come alongside and offer the support and encouragement you need. Your district superintendent will be contacting the chair of your Staff Parish Relations Team to encourage them to continue to offer the support you need. If you find you need a break during this time, do not hesitate to have that conversation with your SPRC. Your district superintendent is ready and willing to assist in those conversations.  As I shared with you before, be kind to yourself and help your colleagues to do the same.

    As our state, counties and other municipalities begin to develop and release steps to “re-open” we will do our best to provide guidance and resources.  Currently, we are developing principles for re-opening that will be shared at the appropriate time to serve as a guide for you and your local congregation.  For now, as the stay at home order for New York continues through May 15th, we are urging you to not hold in-person worship and continue online worship through Sunday, May 17th. As guidance from governmental and medical authorities is updated, we will update our suggestions and guidance as well.

    The work all of you have done in providing on-line worship experiences has been inspiring and used by God to touch the hearts, minds and spirits of many during these days. It has come with sacrifice, hard work and long hours. Members of the Cabinet, as well as other conference staff will be preparing an on-line worship service that you can use if you choose on a Sunday morning, allowing yourselves and your team a well-earned break. This worship experience will be available to use beginning Sunday, May 10th and any Sunday after that you choose. Our communications team will be sharing the necessary information next week to access this resource if you choose to use it.

    I also want to invite you to join me and one another in a time of reflection and prayer on Wednesday, May 13 at 9:30 a.m. You will receive log-in information for this gathering through your email or you will be able to find it on the conference website at I will be inviting laity (and clergy) who desire to join in a time of reflection and prayer on Wednesday, May 13th at 7:00 p.m. Please feel free to share this opportunity with the members of your congregation.

    Again, I want you to hear me say thank you for who you are and how you are offering your lives for the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ! These are days of great frustration at times, yet days of great potential all the time. We know the One who offers the hope, peace and assurance people are yearning for.  Continue to boldly offer Jesus in all that you do and say.  Continue to pray for God to have God’s way in us and the world around us. May this be a time of spiritual awakening among the Church and within the world!  I’m praying for you always!

    I close with these prayers of blessing for each of you:

    I pray that from God’s glorious, unlimited resources God will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. 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. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3.16-20)

    “May the Lord of peace give you peace at all times and in every way.”

    (2 Thessalonians 3:16) 

    With love and gratitude,


    CLT Prayer #4 during coronavirus pandemic

    April 27, 2020 / By Rev. Steven Taylor / 1 Comment

    Pray now,
    Pray for the Others.

    Love one another. The command echoes through Scripture and awakens us to life. Jesus intended for the world to verify the truth of his message by observing us in our love for one another and all God sends into our lives (John 13:35, 17:22-23). Because praying is an expression of loving that is accessible to all, our Conference Leadership Team (CLT), calls all who are able, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to pray with them.

    The CLT invites you to continue to pray with them in the coming weeks as they share prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. If the Spirit places it on your heart to include these prayers in your daily devotions, publish them on your social media page, or jump off from their movement into your own inspiration, go with God and with their blessing.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Steven Taylor:

    Gracious and Holy God of the Universe, we give all honor to your name and lift our hands in praise to You, our Rock, and our Redeemer. With great anticipation, we turn our faces to You and, with eyes wide open like children waiting for the story to be fully revealed, we wait and we worship. Your promises give us hope. Your mercy gives us peace. Your love gives us assurance. Your grace blossoms gratitude from within our hearts. Lord, in these days of waiting and wondering, amidst things we don't fully understand, use Your Church to roll out the Good News to a world that is waiting for wholeness and purpose. Raise us up in Your powerful Spirit. Recreate us, once again, in the image of your Son, Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen!

    CLT Prayer #3 during coronavirus pandemic

    April 20, 2020 / By Rev. Nancy Dibelius

    Pray now,
    Pray for the Others.

    Love one another. The command echoes through Scripture and awakens us to life. Jesus intended for the world to verify the truth of his message by observing us in our love for one another and all God sends into our lives (John 13:35, 17:22-23). Because praying is an expression of loving that is accessible to all, our Conference Leadership Team (CLT), calls all who are able, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to pray with them.

    The CLT invites you to continue to pray with them in the coming weeks as they share prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. If the Spirit places it on your heart to include these prayers in your daily devotions, publish them on your social media page, or jump off from their movement into your own inspiration, go with God and with their blessing.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Nancy Dibelius:

    God of new life, on this third Sunday of Easter, help us remember those who walked the road to Emmaus. Grant that we too might meet the resurrected Christ as we travel on this journey; help us not to be “foolish… and slow of heart to believe.” The difficult times in which we find ourselves, the challenges of our current crisis, open us to fear and anxiety. Yet just as you walked with and reassured those early disciples, walk with us as well. Grant us wisdom and courage to continue to be faithful in all things; give us vision and a creative nature to continue to trust in your faithfulness; open our eyes and our hearts to the ways in which we can continue to reach out to a world in great need this day. We lift our hearts and minds to you O Lord in the name of the risen Christ. Amen.

    Bishop Webb: April 14, 2020

    April 14, 2020 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb / 1 Comment

    The following email was sent from Bishop Webb on April 14, 2020 to clergy, certified lay ministers, and other congregational leaders in the Upper New York Conference.

    Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My followers to go to Galilee. They will see Me there.”  -Matthew 28.10

    Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!

    In the midst of all the disruption, sickness, death and anxiety that our current fight against the coronavirus has brought, the good news of Easter speaks loudly into our lives and the lives of those around us.  As we are invited to enter and experience an empty tomb, as we invite others to witness the same, we are confronted with the truth that Jesus lives.  That truth changes everything!  That truth invites us to move beyond empty tomb gazing and without fear, join Jesus in the work of transformation that He is accomplishing in individual lives and the world around us.

    I continue to give thanks for the many ways in which you are responding to the call of God within your lives, leading the Church and encountering the world in these troubling times.  As we have been forced into different ways of leading and being the Church, I have been blessed by your witness of boldness, faithfulness and trust as Jesus moves us beyond what has been, to what is becoming and is yet to be.

    I know this time is stretching us.  We are dealing with our own anxieties, fears, and doubts.  Some of you are offering hope and care to others, while dealing with the illness and even death of loved ones. We are dealing with ministry tasks and acts of compassion and service in ways that are foreign to us and remove every familiar skill and gift we have known. Yet, the Holy Spirit is at work in us and through us, offering the good news of the Gospel to all who can hear.

    Jesus says to us – “Do not be afraid!  Go to Galilee!  I will meet you there!”

    Thank you for saying yes to that invitation!  Keep saying yes and keep inviting others to join you on the journey.

    I want to continue to remind you to please reach out to your District Superintendent or me if there are ways in which we can come alongside you and offer support in these days.  If we are not able to provide the resource you are needing, we will do our best to discover it or help build it.

    One of the resources that is being offered this week centers around “Christian Stewardship in Uncertain Times.” Rev. Bill Gottschalk Fielding and Susan Ranous will be facilitating a conversation that will offer best practices and provide an opportunity for sharing challenges and discovering new ways of leading in this area.  You can find information about these conversations by visiting

    Let us continue to pray for all those who have been affected by this pandemic physically, emotionally and spiritually.  We pray God’s healing for those who are infected and recovering.  We pray God’s peace for those who have experienced death as a result of coronavirus. We pray God’s assurance for those who are anxious.  We pray for those on the front lines, providing medical care and offering other essential services – may God bless them, strengthen them and keep them safe.

    Please continue to care for yourself and watch over one another.  Thank you for being who you are!  You remain in my prayers.



    CLT Prayer #2 during coronavirus pandemic

    April 14, 2020 / By Drew Griffin

    Pray now,
    Pray for the Others.

    Love one another. The command echoes through Scripture and awakens us to life. Jesus intended for the world to verify the truth of his message by observing us in our love for one another and all God sends into our lives (John 13:35, 17:22-23). Because praying is an expression of loving that is accessible to all, our Conference Leadership Team (CLT), calls all who are able, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to pray with them.

    The CLT invites you to continue to pray with them in the coming weeks as they share prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. If the Spirit places it on your heart to include these prayers in your daily devotions, publish them on your social media page, or jump off from their movement into your own inspiration, go with God and with their blessing.

    This prayer is provided by Drew Griffin:

    Gracious and loving God, creator, sustainer, redeemer, and healer, we are in awe of Your love for us. We are in awe of Your love for the whole world. We confess that we often struggle to feel Your love in times of disasters or crisis. It’s hard to see You past the reports on the news, or past our own personal loss.

    Help us Jesus. Help us as we learn how to use new technology and adapt to new ways of gathering. Help us as we adapt to video meetings. Help us as we learn to work from home. Help us as we love our neighbors by physically distancing ourselves as an act of discipleship. Help us to see You in the midst of danger, in the midst of fear, in the midst of nearly unbearable loss. God please help us.

    We are so blessed to be able to call on You in prayer Lord. We are grateful for the technology that still allows us to gather and worship You as a family of believers; to still be connected to You and to each other as the body of Christ. We are grateful for all of our essential workers risking their health to serve us. But most of all we are grateful for Your steadfast love. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

    Bishop Webb: March 31, 2020

    April 2, 2020 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb / 1 Comment

    The following email was sent from Bishop Webb on March 31, 2020 to clergy, certified lay ministers, and other congregational leaders in the Upper New York Conference.

    Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing” . . . Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely, I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With God at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. - Psalm 16.1-2; 5-11

    I have found myself drawn to the reminders of God’s faithfulness and the promise of hope we have in our God. It is these truths that I have been praying be revealed in fresh ways within each of your lives.

    I again want to thank you for the many ways in which you are living out your call and leadership in these days. I know there are challenges and with each new day added to this time of physical distancing those challenges change and increase, yet God is amid those challenges and your willingness to trust God and continue to say yes to God’s call is an inspiration. The continued stories of ways in which you and your congregations are “living the Gospel” are profound. I have been blessed by many of your online devotions, messages, and worship services.

    I continue to believe that God will not waste these moments and the ministry of the Church will continue to be transformed while individuals who seek peace in the midst of anxiety, health in the midst of disease, hope in the midst of despair will come face to face with the good news of Jesus Christ.

    I know there is great disappointment as we approach Holy Week and Easter and continue to follow the federal and state guidelines and not hold in-person worship, YET, the message and truth has not changed. God will continue to use your creative efforts to assist those who are already a part of the Church to experience again the good news that Jesus is alive and allow those who have yet to embrace the meaning of that truth to have their lives changed through an encounter with the living Christ!

    Our communication team will be providing a 3-5-minute Easter video from me next week if you desire to use it in any way in your Easter worship. If there are others ways we can be helpful as you continue to offer worship on-line, please reach out to any of the conference communication or IT staff.

    I also wanted to acknowledge one of the potential challenges that result from not gathering physically for worship – a decline in financial giving. The Conference staff is working on resources that will be available to assist you in the area of stewardship and giving during this time. Please watch for an announcement about this opportunity in the coming days. We want to partner with you to ensure that your commitments to your local ministry can be met.

    We have received some calls regarding the ability of congregations to continue to care for the salary of pastor’s and staff during this time. If you and your congregational leaders find yourself having these conversations, please contact your District Superintendent immediately. We want to help you find ways to address this potential reality. You do not have to travel these challenges alone.

    Please frequently check the resource page provided on the conference website at If there are resources that you have found helpful that are not included, please share them with us.

    Again, I encourage you to reach out to me or your District Superintendent with any specific need you have or specific ways in which we can join you in prayer during this time.

    Please continue to care for your body, mind, and soul. Reach out to colleagues and friends and share this journey we are on. Trust God! Trust the gifts the Holy Spirit has given you and remember none of us can fix this, but each of us can shine the light of Christ into the reality of this time and be the very presence of Jesus in the midst of every need.

    I am grateful for each of you! I am praying for you! Thank you for your faithful and courageous leadership.



    Bishop Webb: March 24, 2020

    April 2, 2020 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    The following email was sent from Bishop Webb on March 24, 2020 to clergy, certified lay ministers, and other congregational leaders in the Upper New York Conference.

    Dear Friends,

    I want you to know that each of you continue in my prayers during these unusual and remarkable days. It has been a blessing to witness the many creative ways in which you are leading and providing ministry.

    Today, as the Cabinet met, we shared glory sightings that lifted up many of the stories we have heard and the ways in which we have seen each of you helping the Church to carry out its mission and offer the good news of Jesus Christ in these days.

    We celebrate the on-going ministry of meeting the very real needs of those within our communities and congregations. We have heard testimonies about on-going and new food distributions, aiding the elderly and vulnerable, offering online worship, Bible study, devotionals, and prayer opportunities. We celebrated the stories of you working with one another, sharing experiences, gifts, and knowledge to strengthen one another’s leadership. Obviously, this is just a sampling of your creativity and faithfulness. Thank you!

    As you continue to lead the Church in this time, I offer words I saw shared by another: “please take care of your soul; take care of your health; and be simple in what you are trying to do.” Trust that God has provided you with the gifts needed and that God will increase what you offer to impact the lives you touch.

    I want to remind you that the Communications Team has provided a host of resources that you may find helpful. You can find those resources at If there are specific things we can be of assistance with, please do not hesitate to reach out to your District Superintendent, me, or a member of our Conference staff. We want to help in any way we can.

    I also want to share again that is there is a specific way in which I can join you in prayer, please do not hesitate to let me know. 

    Words do not seem to be enough to express my gratitude for each of you. You are appreciated! 

    In closing, I wanted to share with you a prayer I found in my devotional time today. It is a prayer credited to Susanna Wesley – one that I found meaningful in this time.

    “Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church, or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in thy presence. So may my every word and action have a moral content. May all the happenings of my life prove useful to me. May all things instruct me and afford me an opportunity of exercising some virtue and daily learning and growing toward thy likeness. Amen.”



    Bishop Webb: March 17, 2020

    April 2, 2020 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    The following email was sent from Bishop Webb on March 17, 2020 to clergy, certified lay ministers, and other congregational leaders in the Upper New York Conference.

    Dear Friends,

    Just this afternoon I sent a letter to the UNY Conference regarding the extraordinary season we find ourselves in due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. I wanted to follow that letter with this note to you as a clergy leader.

    I am grateful for your ministry in this time and want you to know that you, your congregation(s) and the communities you serve among and with are held deeply in prayer. I know that God has gifted you and will increase the giftedness necessary to lead in such a time like this. Very few of us have experienced ministry in the context that we now find ourselves and while it can seem overwhelming, I know that in God’s Spirit you will find all that you need.

    I hope that you will be certain to care for your own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs during this time and reach out to friends and colleagues for nurture and support. If I or your District Superintendent can be helpful in any way, from receiving a prayer request, to sharing in conversation as you work through a challenge, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. District Superintendents will be providing times to gather for check-in and prayer through Zoom as we navigate this season.

    As I stated in my letter to the Conference, if you and your congregational leaders have not already done so, I hope you will make the decision to not hold in-person worship or other gatherings at least through the end of March. We will support your decisions to move in that direction and offer any guidance we can regarding those decisions beyond the end of March. Our Communications Team is ready to provide any resources you may need to be equipped to offer online worship, online meetings and other technological needs, please do not hesitate to reach out to them at 315-898-2012 or by email at

    This is not an easy time, yet I know it is a time that God will not waste. May it be a time when the ministry of the Church moves into places and realities that we could only have dreamed and imagined before.

    Thank you for your ministry! Thank you for the ways you will lead in the days ahead. You are appreciated and loved! You are in my prayers!



    Bishop’s words to clergy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

    April 2, 2020 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    On Mar. 17, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began changing the world in ways that would have been hard to imagine even just a couple months earlier, Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, wrote his first in a series of letters to the clergy of the Upper New York Conference. His inspiring words and pastoral advice have been gathered in this blog series for all who wish to see them. We will continue to share these letters as he continues to write them.

    CLT Prayer #1 during coronavirus pandemic

    March 25, 2020 / By Rev. Nancy Dibelius

    Pray now,
    Pray for the Others.

    Love one another. The command echoes through Scripture and awakens us to life. Jesus intended for the world to verify the truth of his message by observing us in our love for one another and all God sends into our lives (John 13:35, 17:22-23). Because praying is an expression of loving that is accessible to all, our Conference Leadership Team (CLT), calls all who are able, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to pray with them.

    The CLT invites you to continue to pray with them in the coming weeks as they share prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. If the Spirit places it on your heart to include these prayers in your daily devotions, publish them on your social media page, or jump off from their movement into your own inspiration, go with God and with their blessing.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Nancy Dibelius:

    O God of steadfast love, we lift our hearts in prayer.  In this time of uncertainty, be our firm foundation. Lead us beyond our differences to unity in you; in our times of prayer, in our acts of compassion and mercy; help us reach out beyond ourselves. Give us grace to move through these challenging times; may our times of isolation become opportunities to practice solitude and to live more deeply and fully into our relationship with you. May your Spirit open our imaginations to new and creative ways to continue to be in relationship with one another. Guide the days ahead as we seek to discern how you invite us to continue to be the Church, your Church, for a world in need of the God of steadfast love. We lift our hearts to you in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

    CLT Prayer Initiative: Week 7

    March 16, 2020 / By Drew Griffin

    In this season, there are momentous preparations being made for our United Methodist community to part, possibly to multiply in new ways. How we do that matters. In the weeks leading up to General Conference, members of your Conference Leadership Team will be sharing prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. Click here to read more about the prayer initiative.

    This week's prayer is provided by Drew Griffin:

    Gracious and loving God we give you thanks for your presence in our lives. We know that you love us and that you want only the best for us. Please forgive us when we can only see the valley of dry bones and not Your promise of breathing new life into those bones. O God please open our hearts and minds to the new thing that You are doing. Help us to see that You are opening our graves of exile, so that we can rise anew and bring Your message of radical and unconditional love to those who don’t yet know You. We know from Your Word that Jesus was sent into the world to redeem ALL things. So we humbly seek your face so that we might be able to reflect some of your light and glory to our neighbors here and around the world. Amen

    Click here to read about the authors participating in the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) Prayer Initiative.

    Meet the DLTs: Mountain View District

    March 10, 2020 / By Rev. Nancy Adams

    I have had the privilege of working with the Mountain View District Leadership Team since 2014. While there have been membership changes in the past six years, our focus has always been on deepening discipleship in the District.

    We have developed a three-session approach to come along-side churches to aid them in developing their disciple-making systems. The first session is on “Intentional Discipleship – Knowing Your Why.” Session two covers the definition of a disciple, characteristics of a disciple, and components of a disciple-making plan. Session three includes examples of disciple-making systems, realizing that they need to be very contextual.

    Each session is 90 minutes: 45 minutes of quality worship followed by 45 minutes of presentation and congregations working on their own disciple-making plans.

    Friends, people are living and dying without Jesus. What are we doing about it?  We are excited to see how God will use the efforts of our DLT, so that more persons will become disciples of Jesus Christ who make disciples of Jesus Christ, and on, and on, and on…  May it be so!

    CLT Prayer Initiative: Week 6

    March 9, 2020 / By Rev. Steven Taylor

    In this season, there are momentous preparations being made for our United Methodist community to part, possibly to multiply in new ways. How we do that matters. In the weeks leading up to General Conference, members of your Conference Leadership Team will be sharing prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. Click here to read more about the prayer initiative.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Steven Taylor:

    Abba, in Jesus' Name, we give honor to You as we humbly approach You in prayer today. We simply pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, Come!” It's only in You, Lord, and in Your presence with us, that we can see clearly Your desires for our lives, for our churches, and for the United Methodist Church. As disciples that strive to follow Jesus closer and closer, we wait and listen, talk and pray, in bold anticipation that, as we abide in Your presence, the future will be secure for us all. Protect and inspire our leaders. Encourage and steady your people. Call and equip us all for the days and years ahead. We have nothing and are nothing apart from You. With you, we have nothing to fear and everything to gain. Amen.

    Click here to read about the authors participating in the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) Prayer Initiative.

    CLT Prayer Initiative: Week 5

    March 2, 2020 / By Rev. Harold Wheat

    In this season, there are momentous preparations being made for our United Methodist community to part, possibly to multiply in new ways. How we do that matters. In the weeks leading up to General Conference, members of your Conference Leadership Team will be sharing prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. Click here to read more about the prayer initiative.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Harold Wheat:

    In the process of teaching humanity how to pray, Jesus left us with a treasure. “Our Father...”*  This week, as we invoke the presence of the One who created and loves us, we invite you to pay special attention to the “Our.” As you say it, let your mind and heart embrace and be joined with all in our conference who desire God. Follow the gift of these words into a sense of awe at the name of our God, leave our circumstances in God’s care, and allow yourself to be drawn into praying this ancient prayer as part of a body. What will be, will be. Today, let us pray as Jesus taught us to pray.

    Although the text, with modifications in italics, from the UM Hymnal (#894) is shared here for any who may not be familiar with The Lord’s Prayer, we invite you to use whatever version comes most freely to your heart and mind as we pray together.

    Our [Mother/Father/Creator]* in heaven,
                hallowed be your name,
                your kingdom come,    
                your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
    Give us today our daily bread.
    Forgive us our sins
                as we forgive those who sin against us.
    Save us from the time of trial,           
                and deliver us from evil.
    For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
                now and forever. Amen.

    * God is, of course, beyond identification with a single gender. Please pray using the language for God that helps you feel closest to God.

    Click here to read about the authors participating in the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) Prayer Initiative.

    CLT Prayer Initiative: Week 4

    February 24, 2020 / By Rev. Nancy Dibelius

    In this season, there are momentous preparations being made for our United Methodist community to part, possibly to multiply in new ways. How we do that matters. In the weeks leading up to General Conference, members of your Conference Leadership Team will be sharing prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. Click here to read more about the prayer initiative.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Nancy Dibelius:

    “let all who are faithful offer prayer to you” (Psalm 32:6)

    Gracious and merciful God we come into your presence in a time of anxiety, fear, and doubt; we know that when we are anxious and fearful people, we are unable to live fully into the persons you desire us to be. And so we reach out to you with prayerful hearts. We know that in this place of prayer, when we are open and responsive to your presence, you can use this time and space to bridge the desires of our hearts with your deep desires, for each of us individually and for us as a community of people seeking to live faithfully into your Kingdom. As we find ourselves in this season of repentance and renewal, we ask that you do indeed ‘sustain in us a willing spirit’ that we might be reconciled to you, to each other, and to the world. 

    And in this season of uncertainty in the Church, we ask that you grant us your peace and grace and mercy that we might use those gifts to offer your healing and wholeness to a broken world. We lift our voices to you in the name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

    Click here to read about the authors participating in the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) Prayer Initiative.

    CLT Prayer Initiative: Week 3

    February 17, 2020 / By Drew Griffin

    In this season, there are momentous preparations being made for our United Methodist community to part, possibly to multiply in new ways. How we do that matters. In the weeks leading up to General Conference, members of your Conference Leadership Team will be sharing prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. Click here to read more about the prayer initiative.

    This week's prayer is provided by Drew Griffin:

    Gracious and loving God we seek your shalom during these tides of change. The waters we sail are new and uncharted. By the light of the Holy Spirit please help us to navigate so that we might  reach new people in new places with Jesus’ message of unconditional love. There will be rough seas and unknown obstacles, so we acknowledge our weakness and long for Your strength O Lord. As we work together for the glory of heaven here on earth help us to braid a strong rope with our relationships, with everyone we meet, so that we all can grow deeper in our relationship with Christ by supporting each other. Help us to remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” We pray these things in the name of our risen Savior  Jesus the Christ, Amen.

    Click here to read about the authors participating in the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) Prayer Initiative.

    CLT Prayer Initiative: Week 2

    February 10, 2020 / By Rev. Steven Taylor / 1 Comment

    In this season, there are momentous preparations being made for our United Methodist community to part, possibly to multiply in new ways. How we do that matters. In the weeks leading up to General Conference, members of your Conference Leadership Team will be sharing prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. Click here to read more about the prayer initiative.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Steven Taylor:

    Almighty God, in Jesus' Name, we bow before you together in worship and praise because of Your love and grace in our lives. We hear the words of the angels who declared to your people, and to us, “Fear not!” In this season of unsettledness in the United Methodist Church, we confess that we bring unwanted, and sometimes hindering, sinful thoughts, actions, and fears with us to You, thinking that if we can just control a few more things or people, that we will move Your heart as we desire. Forgive us. Turn our hearts back to You and give us ears to hear again, “Fear not.”

    We know You are not done with any of us yet, even as You are allowing ground-shaking change to occur once again in Your Church. We grieve losses and celebrate what can be. Increase our trust in You and in the mission You have given us to be your hands and feet, and to reach a lost and broken world, those on every margin, and to confront every injustice. Remind us that the mission to make disciples for the transformation of the world won't change. Come, Holy Spirit, to guide every step and decision, heal our hearts, give us courage, and shine Your glory in us and around us to the world. Amen.

    Click here to read about the authors participating in the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) Prayer Initiative.

    CLT Prayer Initiative: Week 1

    February 3, 2020 / By Rev. Harold Wheat

    In this season, there are momentous preparations being made for our United Methodist community to part, possibly to multiply in new ways. How we do that matters. Over the next 20 weeks, members of your Conference Leadership Team will be sharing prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. Click here to read more about the prayer initiative.

    This week's prayer is provided by the Rev. Harold Wheat.

    “‘I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries.” (Zech. 10:9) According to God’s will Christendom is a scattered people, scattered like seed “into all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Deut. 28:25)’ (Bonhoeffer, 1954: 18)

    Gracious God, a scattering of your United Methodist people is being considered. By you, by us, or by those who oppose your church unaware of what they are doing, it’s not yet clear. Leaning into the passing winds, we pause to recognize your transcendent grace and reaffirm our trust in your guiding Spirit. With the first followers of The Way of Christ we pray, “grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness while you stretch out your hand to heal.” (Acts 4:29-30) In whatever relational field we find ourselves, bless us to be healthy vessels of your love and grace so that we may be a blessing to those you send into our lives. We pray in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

    Works Cited:

    Bonhoeffer, Dietrich.  Life Together.  Trans. John Doberstein, (Harper & Row, NY; 1954).

    Scripture not re-quoted from Life Together is taken from the New Revised Standard Version copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the national Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

    Click here to read about the authors participating in the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) Prayer Initiative.

    CLT Prayer Initiative: About the authors

    February 3, 2020 / By / 3 Comments

    Rev. Nancy Dibelius is a Provisional Deacon who is currently appointed as the Assistant Director of Vital Congregations for Upper NY; her focus in this ministry is the spiritual life of individuals and congregations.

    When I was invited to participate in this prayer initiative, I didn’t hesitate. However, when I was asked to respond to the question ‘why am I doing this,’ I didn’t have an immediate response. That was in part because I have known for quite some time that praying/intercession was one of my gifts; it is my ‘go to’ like the words of the song, “as close as breathing, as close as prayer.” However, I rarely use the word ‘intercession;’ I have always thought of it as ‘standing in the gap,’ offering, lifting up, extending, giving voice to that which is not always able to be spoken. But it is also about helping listen (to the still small voice in the silence), listen for God’s deep desire, for that which will lead us closer to the Kingdom as God imagines. And so, in this anxious time and space, I will do my best to ‘stand in the gap.’

    Drew Griffin is the Associate Conference Lay Leader and Binghamton District Lay Leader.

    During these uncertain times in the life of the UMC, many are experiencing a variety of emotions that accompany change, loss, and an unknown future. So when I was considering what provides comfort, what eases fears, what brings peace, and what grows our trust in God? It occurred to me that it’s the Holy Spirit that provides comfort, eases fears, brings peace, and grows our trust in God through prayer and community. I am blessed to have been called to work with this team and share these prayers with the churches and people of Upper New York. May they help provide comfort and peace in this season. So I invite you to join us in praying for all of God’s people and all of God’s future churches.

    Rev. Steven Taylor is lead pastor of the Panama UMC in the Cornerstone District.

    This prayer initiative gives us some common focus in uncommon times in our Conference. As we take seriously Jesus' mandate to love each other in order to show that we are His disciples (John 13:34), our response is to pray for each other during these uncommon times. I am humbled to be working with Drew, Nancy, and Harold to offer some shared time before the Lord, some common worship prayers, and a sense that, even though we are uncertain about the denomination, we can be certain of the shared love of Jesus amongst us. Please join us in praying for each other and for God's vision for the future.

    Rev. Harold Wheat is pastor at Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Binghamton District.

    From the day in Sunday School when I decided on a picture of Christ as my end of year “prize,” Jesus has been part of my path. He has been faithful through all my questioning, and even stayed near me when I have denied him. Now I live to serve him as an ordained Elder in my 12th year of ministry. I have witnessed grace in many beautiful forms. Although my primary experience of our current United Methodist reality is perplexed sadness with overtones of frustration, there are moments when I can see grace on the horizon.  I write and pray in hopes of being in touch with and helping others (you?) find that grace and remember that God is near.  

    CLT Prayer Initiative: Introduction

    February 3, 2020 / By / 1 Comment

    Pray now,
    Pray for the Others.

    Love one another. The command echoes through Scripture and awakens us to life. Jesus intended for the world to verify the truth of his message by observing us in our love for one another and all God sends into our lives. (John 13:35, 17:22-23) This series of prayers began as a way to prepare us for General Conference. Because praying is an expression of loving that is accessible to all, we, your Conference Leadership Team, called all who could sense the resonance of our voices to, “Pray with us!”

    Now, General Conference has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Moreover, the world has changed, and we face an uncertain future together in entirely new ways. In this context, the need to pray together is greater now than ever.

    We invite you to continue to pray with us over in the coming weeks as we share prayers designed to be used however the Spirit calls you to use them. If the Spirit places it on your heart to include these prayers in your daily devotions, publish them on your social media page, or jump off from their movement into your own inspiration, go with God and with our blessing.

    Meet the DLTs: Testimonials from Albany District Lay Leadership Development Team

    January 21, 2020 / By Albany District Lay Leadership Development Team members

    Editor’s Note: The Albany District Leadership Team has made a conscious effort to increase the leadership skills of their laity through developing a laity leadership curriculum. Below are testimonials of some of the participants.


    “The United Methodist Church is facing difficult challenges of an uncertain future. The vitality of the local church is imperative to sustain the impact of a possible separation. This lay leadership development course offers the local church tools and ideas to help take a deeper look at why our congregations participate in the work of God. It provides opportunities to investigate how we can continue to serve by increasing the focus of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."  It's important to me, because my call to Lay Leadership is important, this UMC is important, and God's work is the most important.  (Rachel Giso, First UMC, East Greenbush)

    “LLD has been a timely program for us as we begin ministry with a new pastor, after 16 years with our now retired pastor. The program provides resources, structure and valuable input from leaders of other local churches in our district as we plan for, and pray for, strengthening our ability to minister to our community and make disciples for Jesus Christ.” (Cheryl Mugno, Salem UMC, West Sand Lake)

    “Lay Leadership Development for me is to enhance my awareness of my brothers and sisters’ feelings so that I unintentionally do no one harm. If I do no one harm, that which remains is only good that I can do. I have joined our men's communion breakfast group to engage myself in both church and community Christian outreach” (Gary Blauvelt, Church of the Covenant, Averill Park)

    LLD is very important to me, it helps me to become a better and improved Certified Lay Speaker. You get a different perspective of other Churches and the people who attend these churches. It is one thing to take classes but sitting down with other people and having food and discussions gives you a different point of view. It helps me become a better disciple. We are in the process of getting together with our congregation and having small group discussions in the near future.” (David Wadd, Burnt Hills UMC)

    “Since we all come from different walks of life, this LLD work is important in a sense that I am learning about myself and others’ traits, spiritual gifts and personalities. This will help me to be open minded, listen and learn about others and guide them accordingly to their own spiritual path.” (Noel John, Local Pastor, First UMC Voorheesville team)

    “The lay leadership development course recognizes something that is essential to effective Methodism and Christianity. Both have had their greatest growth through the prayers, study and actions of the church looking and reaching outward. Our class has grown thorough prayer and study of authors renowned for their analysis of effective and dysfunctional organizations. We share our successes for Christ with one another and improve to become better disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” (Rita Pickett, Calvary UMC, Latham)

    Meet the DLTs: Albany DLT acts to create more lay leaders

    January 14, 2020 / By District Superintendent Rev. Rich Weihing and Albany District Lay Leader Ellen Mall-John

    As a DLT, we decided to focus a majority of our time and energy on creating a series of gatherings we call Laity Leadership Development (LLD). In 2018, as clergy received training in principles of Vital Congregations, we launched Year 1 of Laity Leadership Development Sessions equipping laity with leadership training with the expectation of helping move toward a critical mass in each congregation that would be able and willing to enact positive change. Though careful study of the results from our 2018 Survey, we intentionally considered the current reality of declining churches due to various circumstances, and provided support for creation of Laity Leadership Development (LLD) Sessions to bring not only the Albany District together for learning and equipping, but find ways to help resurrect churches for current times. Our thought process for creation of LLD centered around the use of the L3 model – Loving God and each other; Learning; Leading.

    During the 2018-19 for LLD 1.0, 54 laity representing 19 congregations participated in eight monthly sessions to study:  Healthy Teams, Inter-Generational Church, The Externally Focused Church, Sharing Our Faith, How Do We Make Disciples?, Clarity of Mission / Vision, Simple Church, New Tools for New Needs, and Mission Insite. The participants also received helpful tools from our guest speakers Superintendent Dave Masland (1 on 1 conversation – Outward Focus) and Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwen (creating an Intentional Disciple-Making Plan). Each session required participants to read a book, reflect on it, participate with other church members to create a potential Action Plan for their congregation, and to adapt these Action Plans over time.

    A Bold Vision:

    With such equipping, we began to envision God multiplying Albany District’s shared efforts to make disciples who transform the world!

    In order to continue improving as we grew into LLD, we asked for feedback at every session and for overall feedback at the end of the year. Generous, gracious, and pointed responses helped us improve our teaching methods, our Laity Development Curriculum, and other practical elements of these monthly gatherings. From the final feedback, it became clear that most churches needed more equipping and resourcing for three aspects of their ministry: 

    1. How do we create intentional Disciple-Making Plans? 

    2. How do we create clear, concise, shared Mission/Vision statements that truly serve to guide and simplify church life? 

    3. How do we continue to learn and grow in our ability to move out from our church buildings to relate directly and deeply with our communities?

    Present Time:

    This year, these three needs provide our focus for nine sessions of LLD 2.0:  Making Disciples; Simple Church; and From Inside to Outside – three blocks with three in-depth sessions each.  At the end of each block, we gather the three regions together at McKownville UMC for a capstone presentation by a host of guest speakers.

    Our vision of multiplying led us to move from three overall leaders of one gathering to three separate regional gatherings led by different leadership teams. DS Weihing, District Lay Leader Ellen Mall-John, and Rev. Gary Kubitz (Voorheesville UMC) each formed a five-person leadership team (primarily laity from LLD 1.0 and DLT) who implement the LLD Curriculum with adaptation to Lesson Plans in three regions of Albany District. With three regions, our hope is to reach as many church congregants as possible.

    With incredible excitement, this year our leadership team has multiplied from 3 to 15!  Our overall number of laity registered and attending LLD 2.0 is 72, up from 54, last year! 

    The number of churches represented, interestingly, is lower, at 17.

    The Albany District Leadership Team believes our job is to experiment – to try a variety of ways of equipping clergy and laity of our district and region to continue doing what makes disciples and transforms the world while also opening ourselves to new possibilities of cross pollination of churches.

    Meet the DLTs: Albany District

    January 8, 2020 / By District Superintendent Rev. Rich Weihing and Albany District Lay Leader Ellen Mall-John

    Our purpose as a District Leadership Team is to equip the congregations of Albany District to live their mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We are rooted in this mission statement, and our vision statement, too! 

    When we have fully-equipped clergy, laity, and congregations in Albany District for their mission, we expect to experience the vision of Upper NY Conference: “Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Being God’s love with our neighbors everywhere.” We are filled with passion and excitement as we make our way on this journey of faith! 

    We are getting there!!!

    Past History of DLT:

    The District Leadership Team used Survey Monkey in 2018, to invite Albany District clergy and laity to assess their congregational needs.  We were pleased to hear back from representatives of over 40 of our 67 churches through SurveyMonkey. We found certain needs kept coming to the top for many Albany District churches: 

    • How do we connect with our neighbors in deeper forms of relationship?
    • How do we move beyond mission as giving money or things?
    • How do we transition from ministry primarily within our building(s) to a greater focus out in the community?
    • How do we move to clarity about our mission and purpose in this time and place?
    • How can we grow a spirit of unity around our mission and vision?
    • How do we do new things in new ways without alienating long-term members?

    We heard a deep longing for relevance and inclusion for both long-term members and potential new disciples, and a deep longing for real equipping from the District and Conference that truly builds up local church leaders for their ministry setting(s).

    In addition to District Training Days, including Jason Moore on Worship and Welcoming, Jorge Acevedo on Vital Congregations principles, clergy on Building Community, and several with Conference staff for training of local church teams and committees, along with ongoing Safe Sanctuaries and Lay Servant Ministries offerings, and Pastoral Leadership Development led by Superintendent Rich Weihing and Rev. Gary Kubitz, we began our focus on developing a Laity Leadership Curriculum that would not only help empower laity, but also help laity and clergy walk along side one another as we continue to do God’s work by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Meet the Spiritual Director: Cheryl Lyon

    December 17, 2019 / By Cheryl Lyon

    The Way It Is

    There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
    things that change. But it doesn’t change.
    People wonder about what you are pursuing.
    You have to explain about the thread.
    But it is hard for others to see….1

    -William Stafford


    Over the last 12 years, the thread I follow has taken me on twists and turns I could never have anticipated and blessed me in ways I could never have imagined. It has also called on every bit of courage and trust I could muster, as I grew from a wife, mother, and paralegal into a life coach, worship leader, group facilitator, retreat leader, and spiritual director.

    I didn’t imagine that I’d be good at any of those things. I pursued them for the simple reason that I couldn’t “not” do them. All I could do was follow the thread – the call forward. I found that what I needed most I already had: an open, quiet presence; a gentle sense of humor; a love of poetry and the arts; and an ability to help others calm their bodies and quiet their anxious minds so that they could hear the Wisdom within.

    Whether I am working with an individual or group, leading a worship service or hosting a retreat, what I seek to do, with God’s grace, is to open a space in which individuals can be attentive to where the Spirit may be moving or inviting them and then boldly step forward into that leading. Walking with others as they follow their threads delights my own soul.

    I am located in the Oneonta District, near the Binghamton District border. I would welcome invitations to lead half or whole day retreats or individual or group spiritual direction for laity or clergy, in person or by phone, Skype or Zoom. I would also be happy to consult with anyone who is developing a retreat or spiritually formative activities for a group. You can reach me at

    1. Excerpted from Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford; Click here for the full poem.

    Meet the DLTs: Cory Jones

    December 16, 2019 / By Cory Jones

    My name is Cory Jones and I am the pastor of Trinity UMC: Whitesboro. My role on the DLT has evolved over the years. The DLT was my first introduction into the work of the District/ Conference back in 2014. At that time, I was a Youth Group Leader at my home church Herkimer FUMC, and I was discerning my call to ministry. I joined the DLT as a laity before they were established in every District. In the time since then I went from being a laity on the team to a pastor so my perspective has changed quite a bit. In that time, I’ve become a Licensed Local Pastor, graduated from Seminary, and served three different congregations. Through that time the DLT has been a constant in an ever-changing time.  

    I believe the work of the DLT, much like the work of being a pastor, is contextual and the needs of our respective Districts can vary. It’s important to be flexible so we can adapt to the constantly changing needs of our communities. In my time on the DLT, we have had a focus on discipleship and faith sharing; we’ve also sought to keep our pastors connected through the development of our PACs. In the coming months and years, our work will continue to evolve but the mission will continue, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Having been a part of a team that seeks to keep us connectional has been a blessing and I look forward to what God has in store for our work in the future.

    Meet the DLTs: Pastor Brian Lothridge

    December 11, 2019 / By Brian Lothridge

    I am Brian Lothridge, pastor of Rome 1st and Delta UMCs. I am a provisional elder and serve on the Mohawk District Leadership Team.   

    The Church exists to serve the people who are not yet a part of it. 

    This is a new way for me to think about why the Church matters. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s a paraphrase of something I recently heard from the mouth of the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, Director of Vital Congregations for the Upper New York Annual Conference. 

    He’s right. If we exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world then we are to continually look outside of the church walls, get to know our neighbors, and invite them to journey with us in this life of discipleship. That isn’t to say those already a part of the church are unimportant. A vital church will continue to help its community grow deeper in their walk with Jesus. However, part of growing deeper with God is loving our neighbors. Our main focus is on the people who have not yet joined us with the hope that our invitation to this journey will be a part of God’s transforming work in the world. 

    What I hope I bring to this great team of clergy and laity is a concern for our neighbors near and far who are not yet with us. My focus is ministering with those on the margins. That has led me to develop one of the four Worship Without Walls sites in the Mohawk District, alongside pastors Carol Jubenville, Cory Jones, and Joelle Faulks. This ministry reaches out to our communities with the simple message, “God loves you.” We say it in word, prayer, food, as well as handing out winter gear, gifts, devotional material, and more. This has also led me to partner the two churches I serve with the Jervis Public Library in Rome to take on a new ministry called Laundry Love, where we hope to serve the community with free laundry for a few hours each month. Our hope is to get to know folks we wouldn’t otherwise meet. We want to love by service and friendship. You can find out more about that project at

    I also would love our churches to take a look at using their buildings for more community ministry. I am pleased that the churches I serve both open their doors to groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Girl Scouts, but our buildings are often woefully underutilized. In the coming year I hope to create plans to use our buildings to serve the community better, to get to know our community better, and even find ways to invite people on this discipleship journey. I plan to take some of the laity at the churches I serve to a seminar called Who is My Neighbor, sponsored by the New York State Council of Churches and UNYAC, among other partners. Multiple events are planned around the state with one happening on May 19 at University UMC in Syracuse. Find more information at

    Let’s join Jesus in the work he is doing outside of our walls. Let’s invite our communities to this discipleship journey so we can see our communities transform. Let’s use our resources, including our buildings, to give God glory. May we be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the agents of transformation we are called to be!

    Meet the DLTs: Pastor Bryant Clark

    December 9, 2019 / By Pastor Bryant Clark / 2 Comments

    My name s Bryant Clark; I am the pastor at Park UMC in Hamilton. Much like my work in the local church, my priority on the Mohawk district leadership team is one of empowerment. I believe very strongly in the idea that all Christians are capable and few of us are fragile. All Christians have something to offer the wider church, not to mention the world beyond it. But too often we erect for ourselves or accept the existing barriers between ourselves and progress – it’s the general conference’s fault, apportionments are too high, no one in my church wants to do anything, we’ve never done it that way before, what if my people get mad. I believe this is all fear talking. And while God calls us to many things, fear and fragility are rarely ranked among them.

    So I guess you could say I’m the dreamer of the group. And I don’t sit still very well. Whether or not it is comfortable for them, I believe so very much in the folk in my district, lay and clergy, ordained and licensed. And as a result, I seek to empower them to do great and different work. Cultivating pastor area connection groups to bind together groups of active clergy, empowering local churches to create discipleship plans and go about church differently, addressing fallout from GC2019 and helping folk make sense of our present Methodist moment, or designing district days where we can learn specific skills and new paradigms – these tasks all come back to the value of empowerment for me. For God who began a good work will be faithful to complete it, and we have a role in that too.

    Meet the DLTS: Mohawk District

    December 3, 2019 / By Wayne Clemens

    Greetings in the name of Christ from the Mohawk District Leadership Team! My name is Wayne Clemens and I am blessed to be the Senior Pastor at CenterPoint Church in Barneveld NY, as well as the coach/facilitator for the Mohawk District Leadership Team.

    This past year has been incredibly productive and spiritually renewing for us as a team as we have continued to focus on increasing leadership capacity among clergy and laity in our district. We continue to focus on our mission, vision, purpose and team objectives:

    Purpose of DLT

    1. Love: Do Spiritual Formation as a group.  Do the work of desiring God more.
    2. Learn: together
    3. Lead: together in District.  What is God calling us to?

    Mohawk District Leadership Team Objectives for Pastor Area Connection

    1. Encourage regular Connection amid the Pastors of the Mohawk District
    2. Build care and trust among the Pastors of the Mohawk District
    3. Revitalize the Pastors of the Mohawk District
    4. Create a space that encourages resourcing and shared ministry
    5. Minister to the isolation Pastors’ experience
    6. Build consistency in the midst of pastoral transitions

    Some of the ways in which we have been about this work in the past year include:

    1) We participated in two DLT retreats focused upon teambuilding and spiritual renewal. The first one in January was to set priorities for the coming year, and the one in July found us enjoying the outdoors, experiencing God in nature and celebrating all God has been accomplishing in our midst.

    2) We hosted a District-Wide Leadership Summit to continue to foster relationships, encourage connection and provide learning opportunities with a focus upon assisting churches and pastors in developing or enhancing their “Disciple Making Plan.”

    3) We continued to meet as a DLT on a regular basis, either monthly or bimonthly to plan, vision, prepare and grow together as a team.

    4) We continued to encourage and facilitate our Pastor Area Connection groups (PAC groups) that meet on a regular basis for pastors in geographic regions to gather for prayer, accountability, connectional relationship and spiritual growth.

    The Mohawk DLT is incredibly excited about all that God is going to do through our work on the district as we move into this new year. We continue to pray for all of the DLTs across the connection and we thank you all for your prayers as well.

    Meet the DLTs: Erinn Norris

    November 25, 2019 / By Erinn Norris

    Hi! I’m Erinn Norris, a member of the Adams United Methodist Church and part of Northern Flow’s District Leadership Team. Over the last few years, I have also been part of our Conference Leadership Team, Kairos Outside Prison Ministry, Via de Cristo, Closer Walk, and active in leadership in my own church. 

    Recently, our DLT wrapped up our first round of Intentional Discipleship Making workshops around our District. We decided to get to the heart of things by focusing first on our “WHY” – as individuals and as congregations. This is one of my favorite things to talk with people about. When we are truly connected to WHY we do what we do, our heart is engaged. When our heart is engaged, what we do has far more impact than when our hearts are disengaged.

    Part of my goal in helping facilitate our first workshop was to encourage people to connect what they knew in their heads about “church” to what they felt in their hearts. We even talked a bit about why each of us is a part of the church we each currently attend. We can very easily get so caught up in the business of running church that we lose sight of why we are there (in that church AND why our church is in that community). A bonus was seeing multiple neighboring churches come together in conversation and fellowship. This connection is vital. Relationships are at the heart of everything we do. These workshops are an opportunity to strengthen the relationships we have within our churches, between our churches in our district, and take that into our communities. Our next round of workshops will build on what we started, and dig deeper into what we believe a disciple looks like. 

    Being part of various ministries has been a tremendous blessing. Though I have stepped down from a few responsibilities to better balance ministry, motherhood, and other aspects of my life, I’m excited to more intentionally love and serve in the Adams UMC and the Northern Flow District. 

    Meet the DLTs: Earl LaLone

    November 19, 2019 / By Earl LaLone / 2 Comments

    My name is Earl LaLone and I am the pastor of Depaulville and Clayton UMCs in the Northern Flow District. When our DS, the Rev. Mike Weeden asked me to part of the District Leadership Team, I was initially concerned about just how qualified I might be to even be a part of the team.

    What I have found is that each member of our team has varied experiences, education, and hearts. Because of that, we all see the issues and influences of our churches, through a different set of eyes. If we as a team can embrace that diversity and help bring it to the forefront in our District, then we have a reason to be excited about our combined future.

    I am blessed by our group; I am encouraged by their hearts; I am learning how to be more Christ-like as I see the world through the eyes of his servants. Together we have begun an Intentional Discipleship Plan training, we just launced, and was well-received. It has shown me that our DLT has importance, and just as importantly, has influence. May we stay focused on the goal of making disciples for Jesus Christ. Together, we are doing all we can to stay focused, eyes and hearts on Jesus, serving to grow the kingdom of God.

    Meet the Spiritual Directors: Pastor Cheryl Hine

    November 18, 2019 / By Cheryl Hine

    My name is Cheryl Hine. While reading books, I often came across the phrase “spiritual direction.” I wondered, “What exactly is spiritual direction!?” Then I had an opportunity to be a student in the UNY Conference’s Tending the Soul spiritual retreat program, and my relationship with God brought me to remarkable, unexpected opportunities!

    The first change I noticed in myself is that I approach conflicts and emotional situations with a calm demeanor. Also, my personal meditations, especially when using Lectio Divina or the Ignatian method of prayer, discern Holy Scripture differently. My spiritual formation practices continue to grow beyond my personal meditations. I am now part of a group of people who experienced their own transforming experiences through Tending the Soul spiritual retreats. We are the UNY Conference’s group of Spiritual Directors. We meet regularly; we covenant with each other as we continue along our personal spiritual paths; we worship together and we continue the contemplative practices that each of us learned when we studied spiritual direction. Together, we create ways to be a calm presence for all people—individuals as well as entire congregations. Your Conference’s spiritual directors are the ones who are in the Prayer Tent and Prayer Room at Annual Conference, and our presence at AC is just one way we can be with you in prayer during busy, difficult times.

    I often teach contemplative prayer practices that provide a calm understanding and an inner joy. Along with another spiritual director, I offer one-day retreats to diverse church groups. I especially love teaching the Growing with God retreat series which is open to laity, clergy, and anyone in the community. I recently had the opportunity to teach contemplative prayer practices to people who are in recovery from drug addiction. I also bring short (30 – 60 minute) spiritual retreats to elderly people who are home bound. God continues to place me in situations that are filled to the brim with occasions to share the remarkable love that IS God. Thanks be to God!    

    Meet the DLTs: Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Quick

    November 12, 2019 / By Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Quick

    I’m Beth Quick, and I’m a member of the Northern Flow District Leadership Team. I’ve served as the pastor of the North Gouverneur and Gouverneur: First UMCs since 2016.

    I’ve been in pastoral ministry for 16 years, and I, like you, have seen the role of the church in society change significantly in that time. For pastors and congregations, we must learn new ways of being, new ways of doing ministry, new ways of leading and serving. Learning new things does not always come easily; in fact, sometimes the process of making change is quite painful! I love so many things about being a pastor and leading my congregations, but I also struggle to figure out how to help people engage in worship life, make a commitment to discipleship, and strive to love God and neighbor with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

    Our DLT got a bit of a late start, but we’ve been having deep conversations as we’ve tried to “catch up” to the other teams these last two years, and we’ve discussed the kinds of struggles I mention above, which many churches are facing. We’ve been talking about Intentional Discipleship Plans (IDPs), and especially wrestling with how we make IDPs more than plans-on-paper, nice words that don’t actually result in meaningful congregational change. We’ve been reminding ourselves to take our time. True congregational change doesn’t happen overnight. To shift a congregation’s culture, leaders need to make a long-term commitment. To that end, we’ve been working on a plan for a series of workshops to take place over the next two years that will help churches craft and implement and IDP step by step. We’re starting with our first workshops this fall, designed to assist congregations in pinpointing their “why.” Why are we doing this church thing? Why do we care if people come to worship? Follow Jesus? Are we interested in more than survival? Why?

    I tend to be the devil’s advocate of our group, and thankfully, the others put up with me! I am thankful for their relentless optimism and goodwill, and glad that I’ve developed connections with our teammates that make our work both more fruitful and more enjoyable.

    Meet the DLTs: Northern Flow District

    November 5, 2019 / By Brenda Shelmidine

    My name is Brenda Shelmidine and I’m a member of the Northern Flow District Leadership Team as well as serving the Northern Flow District as their Lay Leader. I am also a member of the Lorraine United Methodist Church and serve as a lay speaker.

    I am the least experienced member of our DLT, and I am continuing to learn a lot on our journey together. Our meetings always start with “How is it with your soul?” which gives us each a time to share with one another and God how things are going in our lives and a chance to reach out. We have made life-long friendships.

    Our DLT began later than most, but with God’s guidance we are making progress. In October, we hosted a gathering for the Northern Flow District on “The Next Step” in the Intentional Discipleship Plan, Know Your Why. Focusing on the Rev. Junius Dotson’s Developing an Intention Discipleship Plan book, we guided participants to talk about what they do in their churches and most importantly WHY they do it. Connecting our hearts to Church. Participants were engaged with another and it was exciting to see and hear conversations about how and why. A follow-up training will be held in Feb. 2020 and we will focus on the Characteristics of a Disciple.

    I am blessed to have this opportunity to serve others and to grow in my walk with Christ; thank you to our DLT who are my mentors, friends and family.

    Meet the DLTs: Peter Lagueras

    October 29, 2019 / By Peter Lagueras

    My name is Peter Lagueras and I am the lay leader of the Genesee Valley District. As the District Lay Leader, I have been a part of the District Leadership Team (DLT) because of my position. This is my second year serving on DLT. We have helped plan and organize many different events for the District including the Inform to Transform and the recently finished Bishop’s Retreat. The best thing about serving on DLT is working with such a diverse group of people. They all come from different backgrounds and have many different interests and we can help meet the needs of the people of the District.

    My heart and passion is helping youth ministries and trying to get young people more involved in District events as well as reaching out and connecting with churches that are no longer involved with the District Committee on Youth Ministries (DCYM). It has been a pleasure working with Mary Anderson and Christine Mitchell these last couple of months as we are developing a youth event in November called Destination Games: Our Journey with God.

    Meet the Spiritual Directors: Rev. Tim Phelps

    October 24, 2019 / By Rev. Tim Phelps

    Hi; this is Tim Phelps and I offer this brief introduction as a Spiritual Director in the UNY Conference. My wife Liz and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary this past summer. We have two young adult children. Liz and I live in Falconer, New York in the Cornerstone District

    Across the years, I have been aware of the presence of the Living Christ in my life. Attending Tending the Soul training 2012-2014 grew in my understanding of Spiritual Direction and Spiritual Formation. As an ordained elder in the UNY Conference, serving local churches, I have encouraged spiritual formation through offering prayer centers, prayer vigils, small group studies in spiritual formation, and church leadership retreats. On the District level, I have taught classes on breath prayer and end-of-life issues.

    I am now in my 14th year serving in extension ministry as a hospice chaplain. I have had the blessing of journeying with hundreds of individuals and their families at the end of life. This has been a ministry of Spiritual Direction, listening deeply to what gives the individual meaning and helping them be more aware of the mercies and presence of God with them at the end of life.

    For the past year, I have been meeting with the Conference-trained Spiritual Directors. We have been talking about our expanding role at Annual Conference and on the District level. In these uncertain days of wondering about the future of the United Methodist Church, Spiritual Direction is a resource that can help us with our anxious moments, encouraging prayerful listening to the movement and leading of God for the Church. Let’s continually be mindful of our core mission, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

    Meet the DLTs: Jan Rothfuss

    October 21, 2019 / By Jan Rothfuss

    My name is Jan (Janet) Rothfuss. I am a member of Aldersgate UMC: Greece, where I have been a member for fifteen years. My son, Aaron, now lives in North Carolina. He and his wife Diana have three children. I am blessed with grandchildren Alex, 6 ½, and twin girls Sophia and Madalyn, 2 ½.

    I was born into Methodism, fondly remembering my extended family sitting in the same pew every week. I participated in the youth group and served on the CCYM while in high school. While I attended college at SUNY Fredonia I served on the Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry.

    As the Western New York Conference united with three others to form our Upper New York Conference I served on the evolving Conference teams finally settling in as a member of the Conference Leadership Team. As my time there ended, I resumed work on the District level, becoming a member of the DLT.

    Work with the DLT has been challenging and fulfilling at the same time. Our Genesee Valley focus has been on training our District leadership. Our annual Informed to Transform event is held every February, presenting opportunities for worship, workshop participation, and fellowship. This fall, we offered another GV Leadership Training event which was successful and will be repeated next year.

    Perhaps our most “out of the box” event has been to offer a Summer Fun Retreat for the last two summers. Between 14 and 23 city kids from age 8 to 12 have spent three days at our Asbury Retreat Center. The students and the adult counselors who participated felt the hand of God as those who would normally not be able to have this experience enjoyed the Center and all it had to offer.

    Our GV District is hosting the Bishop’s Retreat this week. If you come, be sure to look for us. We will be working hard to make the Bishop and all of the participants leave feeling refreshed and inspired.

    Meet the DLTs: Deb Clyde

    October 14, 2019 / By Deb Clyde

    Many years ago, I was invited to attend a Lay Speakers Retreat at Asbury Retreat Center. Fast forward and now I am the GVD Lay Servant Ministry Director, who planned this past fall’s Lay Servant Retreat at the Asbury Retreat Center. With that title came the opportunity to be on the GVD Leadership Team. I was somewhat overwhelmed at first because I wasn’t sure what was expected from this group.

    My scripture strength for all that I do for our Lord is: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10. If you feel the call to be in leadership in your church, I truly believe the Lord will provide you with what you need. The joy in being on this Leadership Team is that we are here for the people of the District and try to respond to their requests for what they need to learn to be able to serve their church.

    In the several years I have been on this team, we have offered ways to help church members reach their full leadership potential. Workshop offerings are offered on an annual basis and this year we added another event in September for those who were new to committees in their churches. Our call as United Methodists is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and by all of us working together, we can help eachother to fulfill that call.

    Meet the Spiritual Directors: Bonnie Kreutter

    October 10, 2019 / By Bonnie Kreutter, Geneseo UMC / 1 Comment

    Tending the Soul (TTS) is s a program designed to train individuals in Spiritual Direction and Congregational Formation.

    When I took the TTS training , I was focused on spiritual direction and thought “I’m not really interested in congregational formation.” At that point, I can now picture the Lord chuckling to Himself! Since completing the program, my work has been congregational formation pretty much, although I do listen to people in a different, deeper way and look to see where God is in “things” much more than before.

    I have developed and run six different women’s day retreats. I have offered a monthly mini retreat program on Spiritual Disciplines. I have done a workshop on walking the Labyrinth.  I have set up several different prayer initiatives at my church.

    My aim is to be open to what God has for me to do to help others grow more and more in the image of Jesus.  I have been blessed by each and every opportunity to walk along with others on their faith journeys.

    Meet the Deacons: Rev. Becky Guthrie

    October 8, 2019 / By Rev. Becky Guthrie / 1 Comment

    I have two half-time appointments: First UMC New Hartford and St. Luke’s Hospital, Utica.

    I have a Masters’ in counseling with a specialty in grief and certified by the Association for Death Education and Counseling ( I am available for my congregants and the community. Many pastors and community members in my area reach out for guidance and support.

    At First UMC, I am entrusted with the wellness of the congregation and connection with the community. As a Deacon called to compassion and justice, I make sure that I touch base with congregation members, especially those who are disconnected by illness, frailty, or tragedy. I believe the most important work that I do is listening for spiritual needs and helping where needed.

    An important part of my work revolves around building and working with my Visitation Team who partner with me to go out to the shut-ins and nursing homes. I firmly believe that those who are disconnected need to know that it is the WHOLE church that feels the loss of their presence within the body—not just the pastor. We work hard to bring light and love from a variety of sources.

    I also feel a strong pull toward mission and outreach. First UMC has strong leadership in this area, so I spend time connecting with my Mission and Outreach committee to join in their ministries along with striving to encourage others to support the committee through serving and teaching.

    As a chaplain at St. Luke’s Hospital, I visit the protestant patients and families daily letting them know that they are not alone in this journey and that God loves them deeply. I love being a vessel for God through listening to their struggles and offering prayer and anointing.

    I love serving God in these important ways. It is an amazing thing to watch how God moves in both places.

    Meet the DLTs: Genesee Valley District

    October 7, 2019 / By Rev. Vonda Fossitt / 1 Comment

    The Genesee Valley District Leadership Team meets monthly to pray together, discern together, and strategize ways to assist the local church in ministry to the world. Several years of risk taking and faithful attempts at initiating new ideas and action plans, has resulted in a prosperous annual schedule of programming for the District. Our DLT hosts several main events, the Inform To Transform, a Fall Training event, and the Summer Fun Retreat. Our years are filled with activity within and around the district.

    One of my favorite ministry projects was developed from a Mission Action Plan - the Summer Fun Retreat. Our DLT surveyed churches in our District and discovered some trends. Some churches have camp funding for summer camp but do not have any youth in the church or the congregation. While some churches have youth, there are no funds for camping. Thus, the DLT attempted a Mission Action Plan – The Summer Fun Retreat to create opportunities for churches to engage in ministry with youth and camping.

    The Summer Fun Retreat encourages local churches, especially in our urban areas, to use camping as an evangelist tool. Youth of all backgrounds ages 7-12 are invited into relationship with God and the church through the retreat. It is geared towards youth of underprivileged homes and communities where summer camp is not an option. While keeping the costs low and utilizing our UM camp/retreat facilities, we are in partnership with Asbury Retreat Center.

    In its second year the GV DLT invited local churches to engage in youth ministry, including spiritual development and growth through the Summer Fun retreat. From this spiritual retreat experience, we can see how the youth truly enjoyed being in the sun and learning more about Jesus Christ.

    Spiritual directors—a support team for everyone in the UNY Conference

    September 30, 2019 / By Rev. Nancy Dibelius, Associate Director of Vital Congregations for Spiritual Life in the UNY Conference / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 1 Comment

    The Upper New York Conference has a team of spiritual directors. Spiritual directors are trained to be the non-anxious presence that can hold a safe, sacred space for others.  We believed that these were gifts and skills that could support, nurture, guide the unfolding of God’s deep desire for us as a people and as a Conference.

    Individuals trained in spiritual direction bring gifts and skills in listening deeply for God and the movement of God in themselves and others, in contemplative practices; prayer, reflection, deepening self-awareness, spiritual disciplines, in developing healthy interpersonal relationships and boundaries, in discernment, both personal and corporate. 

    Starting in July of 2018, UNY Conference spiritual directors began meeting quarterly to brainstorm ways that we can be a resource to the Conference. One example of a way this team served the Conference was by setting up and providing support for a prayer room (a sacred space where individuals could come and be supported in prayer or simply sit in the prayerful silence) at the 2019 UNY Annual Conference.

    We are currently aiming to raise awareness within the Conference of spiritual direction as a Christian practice and to raise awareness of our presence and willingness to be available whether that be through offering a retreat, leading a workshop, or being a prayerful presence in difficult circumstances. With that in mind, we are planning to introduce members of this group over the next several months through a blog series; we also hope to provide more information about the types of retreats and workshops that could be offered---announcements will be sent through the UNY Conference whenever these workshops and retreats are planned

    If you would like more information, please contact me at

    Meet the DLTs: Pastor Brandin Greco

    September 25, 2019 / By Pastor Brandin Greco / 1 Comment

    Many blessings family, I am Brandin Greco, pastor of the Lycoming United Methodist Church, located in the shadow of the Nine Mile power plant cooling tower in beautiful Oswego county on the shores of Lake Ontario. Pretty much a hometown boy raised in the town of Mexico, a short distance from my church family, I spent the first third of my adult life touring with the Army Band all over the world. No matter where I performed, the one thing I found most important in what ever I did was personal connections. Admittedly I spent the majority of my life on the outskirts of faith, faced with many hardships and loss and it was those personal connections and my love of music that God used to find that faith and belief that I was missing.

    Fast forward to my 40s and it is those same things that made me a disciple that God is using my church family and myself to continue to make disciples of Christ. We use personal connections in every step of the disciple making process, from making connections in our community through ministries and community involvement to creating a worship environment that is warm and inviting, exciting and inspiring, open and family filled. All our small groups are designed to make people comfortable and to help continue beyond Sunday worship in furthering our relationships with Christ. Of course, all of that is sprinkled with a bit of the gifts that have been given to my family through music.

    No matter where the Lycoming family is, whether it is feeding and clothing our community, enjoying some Holy Spirit filled worship, sitting in a circle and sharing scripture and how God is moving in our lives, or one of the many group activities we share through our youth and adult group ministries, it is never a doubt the we are “God centered, Christ led, and Holy Spirit Filled.” We truly live by what the sign says outside our church building, “All are welcome, none are turned away.”

    Meet the Deacons: Rev. Vivian Ruth Waltz

    September 23, 2019 / By Rev. Vivian Ruth Waltz / 1 Comment

    I am Deacon Vivian Ruth Waltz, appointed by Bishop Webb to an extension ministry as fulltime Director of the SSJ Sister Karen Klimczak Center for Nonviolence in Buffalo. The mission of the Sister Karen Center is to eliminate violence in ourselves, in our society, and in our world. We work to create a nonviolent community in our thinking, our acting, and our relationships.

    Our primary training program is the Alternatives to Violence Project where we explore the causes of violence, the roots of nonviolence, and how to resolve conflicts in a positive way. We provide workshops for adult community and church groups, in schools, with homeless and abused youth, as well as in Wende Correctional Facility for men and Albion Correctional Facility for women.

    I also work with the Buffalo Peacemakers Gang Intervention and Outreach Program. Peacemakers work with law enforcement to intervene in potentially violent situations with youth in or at-risk of joining gangs.

    The Sister Karen Center runs “Camp Peaceprints,” a day camp for economically disadvantaged children which provides exposure to a diverse community while introducing and exploring communication, social justice issues, community organizing, and peaceful conflict resolution.

    In my role within Hamburg UMC, I preach and lead worship, I assist Pastor David Nicol in the sacraments; I teach bible study; I chair the Outreach Team (including our ministries to people recovering from addiction, as well as our hospitality ministry to homeless families); I visit homebound members; I am secretary for our UMW Circle; and I enjoy singing in the choir!

    I love being a deacon and being called to focus on the need for justice in the world. Over the years, I have often told the elders in my church that I am glad I am not called to “Order” in the UM Church. Any administrative challenges are not my job - my job is to respond with compassion to those who are struggling to find peace in their lives wherever I find them.

    Each week before the pastor’s benediction, I dismiss the congregation with a charge to find and to serve God outside the walls of the church. Hear the challenge that United Methodist deacons put before you: seek out the lost and the lonely in the world, and know that in caring for “the least of these” in the family of God, we are serving Christ himself! (Matthew 25:40)

    Meet the DLTs: Rev. Susan Ranous

    September 18, 2019 / By Rev. Susan Ranous

    My name is the Rev. Susan M. Ranous. I am a Deacon in Full Connection and I have been a member of the Crossroads District Leadership Team since its formation. There have been times when I have wondered why. As I considered that question recently, and also have been working on an intentional discipleship plan for a local church, it struck me that there has been a pathway that I (probably like many others) have been on that has led me to this place and time.

    My earliest memory was reading Bible stories in a storybook at home and attending Sunday School each week. While that sounds like the beginning of a nice straight easily-followed path, it started to meander as I got older. I didn’t join any church until I was in my late 20s, when I felt that worship was an important part of my relationship with God that had been neglected.

    That “simple” beginning grew and grew as my experience with the love of Jesus Christ and the anointing by the Holy Spirit changed and grew. Today, I find that my experience as a disciple is bigger than being a Sunday School student, bigger than being the member of a church, bigger than Bible studies, bigger than receiving a call to ordained ministry, and bigger than attending seminary. This year, I was ordained as a Deacon in Full Connection at Annual Conference to the ministries of compassion and justice.

    Those ministries, motivated by the stewardship interpretation and teaching that is part of my specialized ministry has greatly enhanced my understanding of stewardship as evidence of discipleship. The work that the Crossroads DLT is doing in facilitating training using Discipleship Ministries’ See All the People materials has opened my eyes to the fact that if we are disciples, then we can’t help but to be about doing God’s work as we make disciples to make disciples.

    We must be in relationship and in community with those that are like us and those that are unlike those, with those that are already in our churches and those that are not, with those that know the love of God and those that do not, with those that have experienced love and those that have experienced pain.

    Meet the DLTS: Judy Craigmile

    September 11, 2019 / By Judy Craigmile

    I am Judy Craigmile, First United Methodist Church of Phoenix Lay Leader. I was raised as a United Methodist from birth. I experienced the joyful love and faithful teachings about God and Jesus from caring, dedicated disciples within my family and childhood faith community. Their willingness to follow Christ in love and action provided memorable, foundational examples that impact how I live my adult life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. As a denomination steeped in social justice and missional focus, being a United Methodist reinforces my belief that “Following Jesus” means we will be in motion, listening to his call on our lives, and living out that call in mission to share and reflect God’s love with others.

    My participation on the Crossroads District Leadership Team offers the potential to fulfill a personal goal to have a broader impact in helping others at the local church level:

    • Find and strengthen their personal faith
    • Grow in Christian service and leadership
    • Serve more productively, joyfully and confidently in outreach missions/ministries in their faith communities
    • Understand more fully that their everyday lives and actions tell the Gospel of Jesus to others who do and don’t know Jesus.
    • Share God’s love and Jesus’ redeeming grace in ways that feel like a natural extension of who they are and who God has called them to be for reaching others in His name to become disciples.

    It is a blessing to fulfill my discipleship focus, which  is to build relationships where people gather and in ways that give them hope and space to see God’s love in action so much so that they want to learn more, become Christ believers and followers, and in turn share this knowledge with others.

    Meet the Deacons: Rev. Susan Ranous

    September 9, 2019 / By Rev. Susan Ranous

    I am Rev. Susan Ranous, a Deacon in Full Connection, called to a ministry of word, service, compassion, and justice, with a specialized ministry of stewardship, church, finance, and clergy tax. My call to ministry utilizes my education and experience as a Certified Public Accountant.

    I have served various churches as treasurer, bookkeeper, finance chair, and stewardship coordinator over the years.

    As the current Chair of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A), I have been instrumental in that capacity in preparing various resources for the Conference website. These include handbooks on topics such as finance and minimum standards, payroll, clergy compensation, local church audits, Ministry Shares, and various resources. CF&A has also created and publishes annually a Narrative Budget, sharing the stories of what the Conference budget does, and the ministries that are supported.

    Annually, I currently perform approximately 25 internal church audits, and expect a few additional ones each year. I approach these audits as not only a way to meet the Discipline and Conference requirements, but also as a way to teach proper financial practices and standards, providing resources, documents, and information that will enable each church to be better stewards of their resources.

    I am excited to meet with pastors, finance teams, stewardship teams, church councils, and help facilitate conversations around a holistic view of stewardship and finances. I also enjoy preaching and teaching on stewardship, financial, and clergy tax issues.

    I specialize in clergy taxes and the intricacies involved in those taxes. The dual tax status of clergy is something most tax preparers are not familiar with. New clergy, existing clergy, and retiring and retired clergy all have different needs and situations that directly affect the preparation of an income tax return, and I am able to help with that.

    Meet the DLTs: Crossroads District

    September 3, 2019 / By Rev. Nola Anderson

    Winston Churchill said, “Excellence is caring more than others think is wise; risking more than others think is safe; dreaming more than others think is practical; expecting more than others think is possible.”

    The Crossroads DLT is made up of both laity and clergy. Our team meets monthly, except July and August. Over the past year, the Crossroads District Leadership Team (DLT) has been using the L3 model of loving, learning, and leading. We have studied the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney and we are learning to apply some of the principles in our work.

    Members take turns in leading the devotions and team building exercises at the start of our meetings. This year, our focus has been on discipleship and planning the Annual District Training Day. We spent time familiarizing ourselves with the” See All the People” material provided by the Discipleship Ministries. The members of the DLT paired off and provided training from this material, throughout the district, for all pastors and church leaders.

    This coming fall, we will be checking with pastors and congregations to see how they are doing with creating and implementing the Intentional Discipleship Plan in their context. The DLT will continue to serve as a resource to pastors and the local congregations. This month the DLT will have a planning retreat for 2019 to 2020.

    Our vision is that all pastors will become part of an accountability group by July 1, 2020.

    All the congregations in our district will have in place an Intentional Discipleship Plan by December 2020.

    We will spend time reading the book, Impact! Reclaiming the call of Lay Ministry, by Kay Kotan and Blake Bradford.

    The DLT will share information from this study with clergy and laity in the district.

    The DLT would work towards providing some online training.

    As a DLT, our aim is to unleash the gifts of people into the ministry of Jesus Christ as we partner in “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

    Meet the DLTs: Meg Hagerty

    August 28, 2019 / By Meg Hagerty

    As part of the Adirondack Leadership Team, the main contribution I make is to my church directly, and to the Adirondack District indirectly, through communications. I am responsible for generating an e-newsletter to the members and friends of Queensbury United Methodist Church every week and a print newsletter once a month, and printing the bulletin every Sunday. At one time I also coordinated with the former pastor on the website, created themed days and posted on QUMC's Facebook page and publicized church events to the community - duties I hope to resume under the new pastor.   

    While relaying information is the most important function of what I do, I have the opportunity to be a cheerleader for QUMC whether it's highlighting the work of our volunteers, explaining the mission of our ministries, or sharing photos from a VBS program, or a welcome picnic for the new pastor. 

    I enjoy what I do; it's a creative challenge to keep readers engaged but I am grateful for the wonderful team of staff and volunteers - many who have become my friends - who inspire me every day for what they do. 

    Meet the DLTs: Rev. Heather Williams

    August 26, 2019 / By Rev. Heather Williams

    My name is Heather Williams and I currently serve the community of Saratoga Springs. I have been in the pastoral role since 2000. Throughout my years in ministry, I have served a variety of congregations, ministry teams at the District and Conference level, and I have found ways to use my passion for all God’s beloved children in places beyond the church walls.

    I have also been a part of a small Annual Conference that expanded its geographic area, as well as its number of church communities - as we all have in UNY. All of this leads toward a greater emphasis on the ministries at the District level, for me. I see the need to develop strong leaders that are equipped with encouragement and support. This is fostered when we provide opportunities to connect with one another and to nurture a stronger network of support and accountability.

    Based on our historical roots it is clear that small groups are the setting to build up disciples for the transformation of the world. These small groups challenge us to new insights, bring educational opportunities, and hold us to the life-changing task of bringing the Good News of the kingdom of God to more places and more neighbors. This is the blessing I experience in participating in the District Leadership Team and in the work that is before us. Together we can do far more than we can ask or imagine. May God continue to be our guide in the journey ahead.

    Meet the Deacons: Rev. Amy Beth Jones

    August 21, 2019 / By Rev. Amy Beth Jones

    I work for Family Promise, a national non-profit agency that serves families experiencing homelessness. At Family Promise, our mission is to help homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response. Family Promise is best known for the emergency shelter program that rotates through houses of worship the community, but we are so much more than an emergency shelter program. We provide prevention and stabilization services to families because we believe a child's future begins at home!

    There are over 200 Family Promise affiliates in 43 states. I work in the national Family Promise office with over 1,500 wonderful volunteers in Union County, NJ. I love the way Family Promise matches a congregation's largest assets (their space and people) with the needs of their neighbors in a way that builds stronger communities.

    Click here to watch a video about Family Promise.

    Meet the DLTs: Derek Hansen

    August 20, 2019 / By Derek Hansen

    My name is Derek Hansen. I’m the pastor at Adirondack Community Church in Lake Placid, and I have been serving on the Adirondack District Leadership Team since 2017. In my 10 years of pastoral ministry, I have also served under appointment at Rochester: Aldersgate, Adams Basin, Glens Falls: Christ Church, and Hudson Falls. My wife, Becky, and I have been married for 10 years and we have three children - Liam (7), Sam (5), and Hollis (3).

    I first responded to a call to ministry when I was a senior in high school and was asked to teach the first-grade Sunday School class at my home church in Barker, NY. Then, after my freshman year of college, I served as a counselor at Asbury Camp & Retreat Center and continued on staff for five more summers. It was there - where our camp groups were always small - that I experienced how God uses intentional community and meaningful Christian relationships to change lives and form lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ. I carried that understanding with me into my ministry with local churches.      

    Now I am passionate about helping people go deeper in their faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ - the life of discipleship. The opportunity to serve on the District Leadership Team fits with my gifts and interests in ministry which are about helping congregations reconnect with the call to partner with God to form disciples through the fellowship of the church. In my experience, Christian fellowship is one of the most powerful means of grace.

    I am excited about the work we are starting together as a District Leadership Team. I hope to be a source of encouragement and support to pastors, lay leaders, and whole congregations as, together, we discern how God is calling us to make disciples of Jesus Christ in our time and place.

    Meet the DLTs: Rev. Dr. Meredith Vanderminden

    August 14, 2019 / By Rev. Dr. Meredith Vanderminden

    I have been an elder in the United Methodist Church for 20 years, and though my call has evolved through the years, the heart of it remains the same: to bring people, in all of their wonderful diversity, into a closer relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. My participation with Adirondack District Leadership Team allows me to follow that call not only in the church I serve, Christ Church Glens Falls, but also with a wider group of wonderful folks in the Adirondack region.

    My church and the Adirondack DLT are both focusing on creating new, exciting plans for intentional discipleship making. The Adirondack DLT is working on ways to provide useful programing that will help district churches either create or incarnate their own intentional discipleship plans, putting meat on the bones of what is already working in churches and helping congregations to imagine new possibilities.

    In the last year the DLT has offered programming filled with useful topics and leaders aimed at helping churches do just that, and another opportunity for the fall is already scheduled and planned. We’ve also offered a Preaching Academy to lay and clergy leaders of churches to help enliven their preaching for vital worship. We look forward to getting to know more about your church’s intentional discipleship making needs in the coming year. I know we have the resources to help.

    I also serve as a Quad Leader for the District, facilitating monthly clergy meetings where we share about our lives and our churches, and grow together through leadership development. My Quad humbles me with their genuine care for each other and willingness to share ideas and resources.

    I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in these ways, and I look forward to the ways the Adirondack DLT can be in ministry with you in the coming years. Please pray for us and we pray for you. Blessings!

    Meet the DLTs: Adirondack District

    August 7, 2019 / By Carrie Boyer / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 1 Comment

    My name is Carrie Boyer. I’ve been a member of the Adirondack District Leadership Team since 2016. I also serve as the Minister of Administration for the District. It is helpful for me to serve on the team, as it allows me to bring information back to the District. I also have an “ear to the ground,” as communications “point” person for District, so I can bring questions and concerns back to the team, as well.

    I recently played a part in the planning of the District’s Workshop Day, “Informed to Transform,” which was held March 2 at the Saratoga Springs UMC. We plan to have another similar event at the Plattsburgh UMC in October. One of our objectives with the event was to have each presenter plan their workshop with the fostering of intentional discipleship in mind. We had a wonderful turnout – more than 100 people. Forty-three churches were represented, including five from the Albany District. Connectionalism in action!

    I have a heart for hospitality, and I hope that is reflected in my interactions with the District, and with our team. I’m always open to new ideas, and welcome feedback to improve on programs and goals that we as a team are planning and implementing.

    Under the guidance of our District Superintendent Debbie Earthrowl, our team meets monthly. We check in with each other (“How is it with your Soul?”) and we share insights and dreams about the focus and direction of our District, our churches, our clergy and our laity. Our team is made up of both clergy and laity, which offers diverse perspectives.

    I enjoy the camaraderie of the group, and also look forward to work toward our underlying goal, “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

    Meet the Deacons: Introduction

    August 5, 2019 / By Rev. Nancy Dibelius, Assistant Director of Vital Congregations for Spiritual Life / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 1 Comment

    Did you know that in the United Methodist Church, deacons are ordained? The Upper New York Conference is blessed to have many ordained deacons serving throughout our churches and communities. Over the weeks ahead, we will share stories of deacons who serve in the Upper NY Conference and the unique giftedness to which God has called them in the Meet the UNY Deacons blog series.

    The history of deacons becoming ordained clergy is relatively new.          

    In 1996, the Order of Deacon was approved as a new order of ordained clergy. According to The Book of Discipline, “Deacons are persons called by God, authorized by the Church, and ordained by a Bishop to a lifetime in ministry of Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice to both the community and the congregation in a ministry that connects the two.” We continue to be challenged by how this is lived in the Church and in the world.

    Part of the challenge is the uniqueness of each call, of each person’s invitation from God. No two deacons have heard the same call from God and so how they incarnate that call can differ dramatically.

    But, what are some of the characteristics that deacons share?  In the United Methodist Church, deacons are “ordained”; set apart for ministry. According to Margaret Ann Crain, Author of The United Methodist Deacon, “Ordination is a mark of one whose call is validated by the Church and who is authorized for ministry.”  Validation by the Church also requires accountability to the Church and the community in which they serve. These individuals have made a covenant with God and the Church to honor the gift they have received and live as fully as possible into that giftedness in the world. And all deacons seek to connect the community and the congregation in ministry.

    An image that is often used is that of a bridge. Once again Crain writes, “’Bridge’ is a powerful image for the United Methodist deacon…the ministry of deacon bridges worship and work or Church and world…Connecting the Word—as experienced in the presence of the Spirit and the promise of the Great Banquet—with the concrete realities of feeding people in the world”. How a deacon serves as the bridge, however, can be very different. Deacons are healers (nurses, chaplains, hospice workers), teachers (sometimes in a classroom but often by modeling a way of life for others), lawyers (family services, legal aid), social workers and psychologists, administrators, musicians, camp counselors, conflict mediators, writers and editors, missionaries. This list is not all inclusive but hopefully helps you begin to imagine how one might serve as a bridge to a world in need.

    I have often referred to my own call to ministry as ‘standing in the gap.’My ministry of spiritual direction includes teaching, praying, listening (and helping others listen), companioning, discerning, encouraging. The ‘gap’ I stand in varies; sometimes it’s between the Church and the world, the congregation and the community, but most often it is the very sacred space between God and the other. I found that I was able to “stand in the gap” as a lay person for a very long time, but eventually I accepted God’s invitation to ordination and the community of others who have heard and responded to the call to be part of this sacred community known as the Order of Deacon.

    Meet the DLTs: Rev. Anna Blinn Cole & Pastor Rich Howard

    July 23, 2019 / By

    In this vlog, Pastor Rich Howard dives deep into the Bible trying to find a warranty for a church that is no longer vital. The Rev. Anna Blinn Cole steps in and references Mark 5: 38-42 where a crowd fears a resting girl is no longer alive, yet Jesus shows them she is merely sleeping. Rev. Blinn Cole compares a church to this resting girl and explains just like the girl, a church can be revitalized.

    Rev. Blinn Cole then describes the Oneonta DLT and how they are willing to come alongside pastors of local churches to help them in the revitalization process.

    Meet the DLTs: Rev. David Pritchard

    July 16, 2019 / By Rev. David Pritchard

    I am David Pritchard, Pastor of Sherburne UMC (; FB Page @SherbChurch), going into my second year of ministry in Sherburne. I have been on the District Leadership Team for about as long as my appointment to Sherburne and am very grateful for the opportunity to serve God in this way. At Sherburne, we are focused on making disciples who communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ through knowing, growing, and going.

    The first year in our process is focusing on Bible Study groups, events, and relationship building along with some minor changes in the order of worship and music. I am blessed to serve such an awesome congregation that is instrumental in providing much for our community in Sherburne. One of the ways that we have given back was to host a free concert on May 4, 2019 when Brother's McClurg played, and earlier this year, we had our first annual Council of Churches Easter Egg Hunt with over 2,500 eggs - and we'll need more next year!

    We are slowly building up to begin a children's ministry, and are just now looking into providing Special Needs space in our church for families with members who have Special Needs - both in worship and what will become the new Sunday School classrooms. The Holy Spirit is moving, and to be guided by God's Spirit into the wonderful things He is showing us is amazing to witness. I am looking forward to more in our District with the discipleship processes that each church will be implementing - that is my passion! May God ignite us, move us, and guide us into the realization of His Kingdom on earth in each of our churches!

    Meet the DLTs: Rev. Paul Winkelman

    July 9, 2019 / By Rev. Paul Winkelman / 3 Comments

    I am originally from Northern Illinois, and I remember attending a United Methodist Church there before moving to New York at the age of 10. After accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior, I began to see the world differently. My desire to love, to help, and to serve was amplified. Through living the gospel of Jesus Christ, through seeing people being brought to Christ, and through watching the church transform the community and the world, I continue to have great hope through Jesus Christ.

    I have been blessed to serve as a pastor for seven years in our Upper New York Annual Conference, and I have had the pleasure and the honor of serving five churches. In serving each of these churches, I have seen spiritual growth, transformation, attendance and membership growth, growth in ministries, and I have seen the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed with power and love.

    I'm now serving the Sidney United Methodist Church in the Oneonta District. I see the hurt, the brokenness, and the suffering experienced by many in the community in which I serve. Within this, I am seeing people come to Christ, I am seeing lives changed, I am seeing a strengthened church, and I am seeing the positive benefits that this has had on many people, the church, the community, and the world.

    My goals are to continue to serve, to preach, to teach, to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, to be a good husband, to be a loving person, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, to watch the Sidney UMC grow in grace, love, and in its all-around impact on Sidney and the world. I believe that strong and growing churches help to renew communities, and it is my hope and my goal, with God’s help, to see not only the Sidney UMC transform Sidney, but it is my hope and goal that a transformed Sidney will then transform the world. The love and the hospitality of the people of the Sidney UMC, the way that we care for, love, and become invested in each other’s lives, along with spirit filled worship, great ministries, and great outreach, has helped the Sidney UMC to make many new disciples and church members.

    Meet the DLTs: The Oneonta DLT

    July 1, 2019 / By Rev. Rachel Morse

    We keep saying this in the Oneonta District as we practice “invitation without incentive’.” Discipleship promises possibility; we must become the transformation we wish to see in the world. 

    When we explored what discipleship means to us, the word that resonated most was transformation. Being disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of ourselves and the world. This is part of the generative discipleship system which we have been discussing as a DLT - specifically, the space between “making disciples” and “transforming the world.” We are intentionally working on our process to help disciples bring adaptive transformation within their context.

    We discovered that a key component is the small group unit. The small group community is the context of faith development and small groups are how communities are transformed. 

    The Oneonta District is full of these small-group faith communities - tiny rural churches - that have been trying hard to stay afloat despite disaster and poverty. We fully accept that we have nothing left to lose. So, our approach is not mainly about developing individual disciples for the sake of proving the worth of our churches. Instead, our approach is intentionally eschatological. We are intentionally working toward the kingdom of God.

    In the gospels, that’s what Jesus asks the disciples to do, anyway. Making disciples of Jesus is about intentionally working together toward the kingdom of God. 

    There’s a story in the gospel of Matthew - and Mark, and Luke, and John - about a time when there was a crowd of people who had followed Jesus into the wilderness - maybe not unlike the rural hills of the Oneonta District. When it got late, the disciples came to Jesus and wanted him to send the people away to a city so they could get some food. And do you remember how Jesus responded?        

    “You give them supper.”

    Are you kidding me?

    The disciples don’t have enough food - or money - to feed everyone! Besides, out there in the middle of nowhere, where would they find more than five loaves of bread and two fish? They don’t have what it takes.

    This is a miracle story, that points to the kingdom of God. It is eschatological and moves us toward the fulfillment of human destiny - disciples transforming the world. We see that God’s kingdom is a present reality and are called to live into the future reality of the kingdom by bringing the unique gifts we have to share. 

    Jesus initiates the miracle by naming the possibility that the disciples could feed the crowd.

    “You give them supper.”

    And the disciples know they don’t have enough, but they are willing to give what they have, in faith. They take ownership. They act toward the fulfillment of the miracle. 

    But I imagine they had their doubts.

    What if they had handed out all their food and they didn’t have enough for their own suppers?

    What if they handed out what they had and no one else shared and they looked like fools?

    What if they gave the people food and the people just completely depended on them forever? 

    Instead of sitting back, waiting for these questions to be answered, they acted in faith that if they committed to sharing the gifts they had to work toward the fulfillment of the miracle, it might just happen.

    As the story goes, it did happen. And with true discipleship, it can happen today.

    Discipleship - following Jesus - is about seeing the truth Jesus points out: the kingdom of God is a present reality. Discipleship - following Jesus - is also about living into the future reality, the fulfillment, of God’s kingdom here on earth. We can’t plan that - Jesus tells us that it is beyond our wildest dreams. But we do have an intentional process to help people develop authentic Christian community that is, intentionally, eschatological.     

    Our plan is a process of building authentic Christian community through intentional conversations. This is only part of the full generative system. We have been working for a few years now equipping our pastors laity  for technical change. We will continue to resource our leaders on faith sharing, hospitality and welcome, and authentic worship. But adaptive change requires transformation, so our small group connectional process cultivates the opportunity for transformational discipleship. Each invitation accepted is a commitment to participation and action. 

    These conversations are centered on moving toward the fulfillment of the kingdom by naming the possibility - taking ownership - naming doubts - sharing our gifts - making commitments and extending invitations. We ask the question, what can we do together that we can’t do on our own? The question itself points to discipleship. The answer is transformational. 

    Meet the DLTs: Rev. Steven Taylor

    June 28, 2019 / By Rev. Steven Taylor / 1 Comment

    My name is Steven Taylor, and I’m serving in my 16th year as a pastor in the UMC. I grew up in the UMC, was baptized as an infant, but made a significant commitment to Jesus at my confirmation when I was 12. Since then, I went to college to be a professional environmental engineer, which I was for 10 years.  I got to travel the country and the world, helping people be good stewards of the environment.

    When I felt God’s call to ministry, I enrolled at Asbury Theological Seminary, earned my Master of Divinity degree, and began to serve the Little Valley UMC in the Cornerstone District in 2003. I currently serve the Panama UMC and am in my ninth year serving this appointment. I do what God has called me to do because I believe with every fiber of my being that Jesus was the only person to ever walk out of His own grave under His own power, and that Jesus is the only answer to the challenges, sin, and struggle in this world. I’ve seen Jesus change lives, including mine.  I’m a change agent who thrives when the church is courageous to reach new people with the gospel in new ways with the truth of God’s love through Jesus. 

    In addition to the Cornerstone DLT, I also serve on the UNY Conference Leadership Team, am a Board member with the Confessing Movement within the UMC and have served in many other leadership capacities. I’ve been married for 26 years to Stacy, and have two children, Benjamin (23) and Abigail (21).  It’s an honor to serve as God leads and to help Jesus transform the world by making disciples for Him.

    Meet the DLTs: Dawn Quesenberry

    June 27, 2019 / By Dawn Quesenberry / 1 Comment

    I am Dawn Quesenberry and I am a pastor in the Cornerstone District who serves on the District Leadership Team. I have the privilege to work with clergy and laity in the District and seeing where God is calling us to lead our District for God. It has been an amazing journey as we have learned from each other, our successes, and our failures. It is leading us to where we are now and helping those in the churches discern their own whys of being the church.

    I am married and we have two grown daughters we spend time regularly with, and I serve two churches in the District. I am working with them to discern their why they go to church, and what they will do with it. With that being said, I have also had to discern my own why, because if I can’t do that, I will not be able to help anyone else discern theirs.

    Why I go to church is to worship and praise God who has blessed me more than I could ever ask for. I feel called to help those who don’t even know God, so they can feel His love and be changed forever more. I know there are many who need to experience God’s love and God has sent me to go and live those Words out wherever He sends me. Doing this allows me to build an even deeper relationship with God and those in whose lives I come across. I try to be transparent through it all so people know I mean what I say, I live it, so they can live it. I also know that my why will change over time and as I evolve in my faith journey.

    Meet the DLTs: Susan Hardy

    June 25, 2019 / By Susan Hardy, Cornerstone District Leadership Team

    I currently serve as UNY Conference Lay Leader. This ministry began, as all do, with a call to serve at my local church-- Brocton Tri-Church Parish in the Cornerstone District--by exercising my spiritual gifts.

    This meant that I sang in the choir, then taught Sunday School and confirmation classes, served in leadership roles like secretary, then chair of Ad. Council, then lay member to Annual Conference and lay leader.

    I also began taking Lay Servant Classes and offered messages in the local church.

    When I attended my first Annual Conference in 2011, others noticed my gifts, and I was invited to serve on the Conference Team called, "Reaching Our Neighbors Mission Oversight" team. At my second meeting, I was asked to step into the role of convener for that team. 

    Meanwhile, at the District level, I joined the District Committee on Ordained Ministry and acquired District Lay Speaker credentials, so I offered messages in increasing numbers of churches. I also accepted the role of District Lay Leader in 2014 and began serving on Superintendency and Lay Servant Ministry committees, as well as Board of Laity and Nominations at Conference level.

    Currently, I am focused on developing Christ-following leaders at all levels. I lead a bible study each week at Brocton Tri-Church Parish and mentor other laity to exercise their leadership skills. At the District level, I actively seek and recruit laity to serve on District and Conference teams.

    I have learned to offer a class on Spiritual Gifts for District Day, which helps in discerning fruitful places to engage in ministries. At Conference level, I am constantly encouraging District leaders, as well as leaders for UMW, UMM, CCYM, and YA to exercise their gifts at all places and all times.

    As I do at our Conference level, I serve on the Cornerstone District Leadership Team, which created a spiritual retreat for pastors in October 2018 at Asbury. Conversations are underway about a second retreat experience, as well as how to partner with churches looking for help with discipleship pathways.

    Meet the DLTs: Veterans for Christ

    June 24, 2019 / By Wes Tessey, Cornerstone District Leadership Team

    My name is Wes Tessey and I am on the Cornerstone District Leadership Team.

    I serve as pastor in two churches in the Cornerstone District. I am a military veteran and Purple Heart recipient from combat in the Vietnam War. Over the last three years in conjunction with my ministry in the churches, God has led me to an exciting field of bringing Jesus Christ to veterans and wounded veterans who otherwise would maybe not have the interest in finding out more about the life Jesus offers us. Along with another pastor in the District, we started a group known as Veterans For Christ; we have had five veterans dinners and meetings at United Methodist Churches who hosted the events for veterans in their area. Now we are working with other organizations and land owners to provide outdoor hunting experiences to veterans at no charge to them.

    I would welcome the opportunity to talk with anyone in or out of our District about hosting an event for veterans, some of whom are really hurting both mentally and physically.

    It is a blessing to be on the Cornerstone District Leadership Team—the people on this team really do care about the Pastors and congregations in our District.

    Meet the DLTs: Richard Preston’s Calling

    June 21, 2019 / By Richard Preston, Cornerstone District Leadership Team / 1 Comment

    Hi! I’m Rich Preston; my wife, Nancy (retired UMC pastor), and I live in the hamlet of West Valley, Cattaraugus County in the Cornerstone District. In my childhood, I attended a Free Methodist Church, but like many teenagers, I left the church. At the age of 34, I was baptized at the Aldersgate UMC in Hampton, Virginia. Since then, I have held many positions in a number of different churches. I felt I had an obligation to do something within the church. It wasn’t until I went on the Walk to Emmaus that I truly felt the Holy Spirt directing me through my gifts to work within the body of the Christ. In my secular life, I am a retired Naval Officer, a retired Town Justice, and have a BS Degree in Nuclear Physics’ Engineering.

    Since my Walk to Emmaus, I have joined the International Gideons and have participated is several New Testaments distributions. By the grace of God, I have been able to go on three mission trips to Uganda and to help with school, water, animal, and heath projects. I am a certified Lay Servant, and in the past two and a half years, I have given the morning message in 23 churches, and as District Lay Leader, I have visited 43 churches. I currently sit on four district committees and one Conference committee.  I’m still not sure what the Lord has planned for me, but I will continue on the path he has set for me.

    Outside of church, I try to continue using my gifts. As a form of agape, I have tutored a number of high schoolers in math and sciences. Once a week, I deliver Meals on Wheels to shut-ins. I think that they are more interested in having someone to talk to for a few minutes rather than just the food. For recreation, I enjoy travel, and, of course, golf.

    Meet the DLTs: Carrie Wolfe’s Ministries

    June 20, 2019 / By Rev. Carrie Wolfe, Cornerstone District Leadership Team / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 1 Comment

    Hello Upper New York, Grace and peace of Christ to all! 

    My name is the Rev. Carrie Sturtevant Wolfe. I am a deacon in full connection and a member of the Cornerstone District Leadership Team. I am appointed to Christ UMC in Olean, NY where my primary responsibilities are as Director of Children’s/Youth/Young Adult Discipleship, Curriculum Coordinator/Writer, Worship Coordinator, and Chair of the Warming House Advisory Board (local soup kitchen). I am a NYS certified teacher who in addition to having taught kindergarten, spent time working in the business sector doing staff development.

    In Simon Sinek’s recent book, Start with Why, he calls us to rethink leadership. He claims that all great leaders build trusting and meaningful relationships by leading with their WHY instead of with a WHAT or a HOW. He calls this inside out leadership and challenges his readers to clearly define their WHY or their purpose and then allow their WHAT/result and HOW/process to flow from that WHY.

    My WHY is to declare in thought, word, and action Christ’s call to respond to the reign of God’s love with child-likeness so that we, together, play and grow in the kindergarten of God.

    This is my inside and it is what I have to give out.

    In the past we have been asked to think of our leadership through the lens of a mission statement that as Laurie Beth Jones, author of The Path posits acts as both a harness and a sword – harnessing us to what is true, and cutting away all that is false.

    So, in terms of a mission statement, I am called to nurture, affirm, safeguard, and reclaim, among God’s children of all ages, the child-likeness Jesus Christ proclaimed to be the hallmark of the reign of God’s love.

    I am harnessed to the truth of the need for the further development of a theology of childhood and the notion of play as social justice; both of which I believe to be sacred pursuits with transformative results. And inherent in those developments, I am committed to cutting away the false and irreverent sentimentalization of Christ’s call to live under the reign of God’s love as a child.

    However, in the end, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am simply one transformed child of God trying to lead others to follow Jesus on purpose.

    Please let me know how I can deacon you.

    Meet the DLTs: The Cornerstone DLT

    June 19, 2019 / By Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood

    The Cornerstone District Leadership Team (DLT) takes the L3 model of loving, learning, and leading seriously. We have become a trusting, praying, and supportive team. We have rediscovered the power of sharing a simple meal together. We talk, laugh, cry, and pray together. Sometimes we disagree, and we are okay with that. We have created a safe space where all are loved and valued as companions on the Way. Our desire is to share what we have experienced with the pastors and churches of the Cornerstone District so that they too may know the gift of a deeply committed, Christ-centered community of faith.

    We continue to work on a comprehensive plan for 2019-2020. Conversation and feedback indicate most churches don’t understand the need for an intentional discipleship plan. The DLT wants to help congregations remember why they exist so that they may create an intentional discipleship plan. To facilitate that conversation:

    • The Shepherding groups (pastors divided into geographical small groups) will read ,"Know your Why" and discuss ways congregations can rediscover their calling to introduce people to Jesus, welcome them into the community of faith and help them grow in their discipleship.
    • The DLT will create a process for working with congregations (at their invitation) to discern their “why.” (It's based on work done by Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, Susan Hardy, and Dawn Quesenberry.) There is energy in the DLT to be an active resource within local congregations.
    • The DLT will produce a brochure about themselves as a vehicle to build relationships with the congregations on the District.
    • The 2019 Fall Pastors’ Gathering will focus on “knowing your why as a leader and congregation” and will engage pastors in writing their own personal mission statement.
    • A retreat for pastors and lay leaders will be offered to help partner knowing your why and visioning in the local congregation.
    • The 2020 District Learning Day for Clergy and Laity will focus on how churches can know their “why,” so they may develop and deploy an intentional discipleship pathway.

    Introduction: Meet the DLTs

    June 18, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Hard-at-work and not-always recognized, each District has a District Leadership Team (DLT) that helps to revitalize churches and create thriving ministries. For the next year, we will feature one District a month and will introduce you to some of the leaders that make up each District’s DLT.

    We will begin by covering the Cornerstone District’s DLT for the remainder of June 2019, under the leadership of District Superintendent, the Rev. Dr. Sherri Rood, who as of June 30, 2018, will have completed eight years as the District Superintendent. Effective July 1, 2019, the Rev. Suzanne Block will be the new District Superintendent of the Cornerstone District.

    Favorite Easter Traditions: Betsy Schuessler

    April 17, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Betsy Schuessler, Administrative Assistant to Upper New York Camp & Retreat Ministries, says her favorite Easter tradition involves worship and family. What's your favorite tradition?

    Favorite Easter Traditions: Marthalyn Sweet

    April 16, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Marthalyn Sweet's favorite Easter tradition revolves around the signs of spring. What's your favorite? 

    Favorite Easter Traditions: Blenda Smith

    April 11, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Is Blenda Smith's favorite Easter tradition the same as yours? 

    Favorite Easter Traditions: Ian Urriola

    April 8, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Ian Urriola's favorite Easter memory dates back to his time spent at American University, while doing undergraduate work. What's your favorite Easter tradition?

    Favorite Easter Traditions: The Rev. Debbie Earthrowl

    April 4, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Debbie Earthrowl, Adirondack District Superintendent, says her favorite Easter tradition revolves around a camera. What's your favorite tradition?

    Favorite Easter Traditions: The Rev. Drew Sperry

    April 2, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Drew Sperry, pastor at Saratoga Springs UMC, shares his favorite Easter tradition. What's your favorite tradition? 

    Introduction: Favorite Easter Traditions

    April 1, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Leading up to Easter Sunday, the Upper New York Conference will be sharing favorite Easter traditions vlogs (video blogs). You will hear about services and moments that are meaningful to people in our Conference as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Do you have a favorite Easter tradition that you would like to share? Feel free to comment on any of the vlogs we will be posting the next few weeks.

    Special Session: Marthalyn Sweet’s Prayer

    February 20, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Marthalyn Sweet, lay delegate to the Special Session of General Conference, prays for unity. Please keep Marthalyn and the rest of the Upper New York delegates in your prayers.

    Special Session: Blenda Smith’s Prayer

    February 19, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Blenda Smith, lay delegate to the Special Session of General Conference, shares her prayer of unity. Share your prayers for Blenda and the rest of the Upper New York delegates in the days ahead.

    Special Session: Rev. Bill Mudge’s Prayer

    February 14, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Bill Mudge shares his prayer of peace and guidance as a clergy delegate to the Special Session of General Conference. Share your prayers for Rev. Mudge and the rest of delegates in the days leading up to Special Session.

    Special Session: Rev. Colleen Hallagan Preuniger’s Prayer

    February 12, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Rev. Colleen Hallagan Preuniger shares her prayer of hope and reconciliation as a clergy delegate to the Special Session of General Conference. Share your prayers for Rev. Preuniger and the rest of the delegates.

    Special Session: Ian Urriola’s Prayer

    February 7, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Ian Urriola, lay delegate to Special Session of General Conference, shares his prayer asking the Holy Spirit for guidance. Share your prayers with Ian and the rest of the delegates by leaving a comment.

    Special Session: Carmen Vianese’s Prayer

    February 5, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Carmen Vianese is one of the Upper New York lay delegates for the Special Session of General Conference (The Way Forward). Carmen invites you to be in prayer with all the delegates this Feburary. Share your prayers with Carmen and the other delegates.


    Special Session: Rev. Beckie Sweet’s Prayer

    January 31, 2019 / By UNY Communications / 1 Comment

    The Rev. Beckie Sweet shares her prayer for unity during this time of uncertainty as we approach the Special Session of General Conference (The Way Forward). Share your prayers for Rev. Sweet and the other delegates.

    Special Session: Rev. Bill Allen’s Prayer

    January 29, 2019 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 2 Comments

    The Rev. Bill Allen, head of the UNY delegation, recites his prayer for the upcoming Special Session of General Conference. Share your prayers for Rev. Allen and the other delegates.

    Special Session: Delegation Prayers Introduction

    January 25, 2019 / By UNY Communications

    As the Special Session of General Conference approaches (Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, MO), members of the Upper New York Delegation will be sharing their prayers on video. You are also invited to share your prayers for Special Session by commenting on any of the posted vlogs in this series, on our Facebook page, or by sending your prayer to

    Christmas Traditions

    December 3, 2018 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    What are your favorite Christmas traditions? 

    Please comment with your favorite tradition to be added to this page. Please email pictures to

    "During the Advent season we can think of joy.  The joy of Christ's birth and of His daily blessings. Our church and community has been blessed with a special kind of joy. Helen Rombaut is spreading joy at the age of 97! She is the oldest member of our church-who is an awesome person.  For many years she was the church organist. Today she tries to play once a month depending on the condition of her eye sight. For many years she has made beautiful, colorful hats, slipper socks and mittens to be given away at this time of year for those less fortunate. She receives joy from knitting and she gives joy to warm hands, heads and hearts. This year she made fifty pair of mittens. Conesus United Church thanks God for His grace pouring forth from Helen Rombaut's acts of love and kindness. Thanks you Helen Rombaut, you continue to be an inspiration for us all!"

    Lee Prong, Conesus United Church

    Retreat Reflections: Tending the Soul at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center

    November 21, 2018 / By Nancy Dibelius

    In 2011, as the Director of Tending the Soul, the Conference training program in spiritual direction, I was exploring new retreat center locations for the next session which was scheduled to begin in October 2012.  As I was standing in line at Annual Conference that year, I found myself standing next to Mike Huber (The Upper New York Conference Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries), someone I did not know at that time.  As we conversed in the line, I was invited to consider offering the training program at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center (a place I was not familiar with at the time) and was soon arranging to visit the facility.

    Since that time, I have (like many others throughout the Conference) come to think of Casowasco as home away from home. We have run two sessions of the two-year program at Casowasco since then, as well as annual continuing education opportunities for those who have completed the training.  All of those folks think of Casowasco as home as well.

    From the beginning, I was amazed by what I consider truly authentic hospitality—all the staff are always available to support whatever is needed.  And the facility itself is welcoming and comfortable, particularly for a program that focuses heavily on the need for and value of retreating. The training program requires space for large group presentations, for multiple small group gatherings, for reflection and discernment, and for informal social gatherings. Casowaso graciously meets all those needs.  And, as you might imagine, with a large group, there are multiple dietary restrictions that need to be accommodated.  The kitchen staff always meets the needs of unique dietary requirements while always offering the group wonderful meals.

    And since worship is also a key element of the training program, we all fell in love with the chapel.  It became our go-to place for reflection and solitude and it would not be uncommon to find someone standing by the big window in the front of the chapel watching the sunrise (if you have never watched the sun rise over the lake, consider it a must-do the next time you are at Casowasco).

    If you have never been to the Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center, you must!

    Retreat Reflections: Ladies of the Lake Retreat at Sky Lake

    November 20, 2018 / By Nancy Stockholm

    Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center is my happy place. I have been going to Ladies of the Lake for many years and each year I say, "this was the best year yet" and then the next year it's even better!

    The Ladies of the Lake Retreat gives you the opportunity to celebrate your connection with God as a group and in solitude. We can be busy all weekend with the wonderful planned activity or have a quiet, peaceful, prayer filled weekend. The rooms at Sky Lake are so comfortable and quiet and the staff is always so courteous.

    I always leave Sky Lake with such a feeling of peace and contentment. Everywhere you look, you can see the beauty of God's creation and feel His presence.

    I encourage all ladies to give Ladies of the Lake a try. If you do, you'll be back! Thanks be to God!

    Retreat Reflections: Our Lady of Lourdes Hospice Business Training

    November 19, 2018 / By Bettye Canestaro

    We, at Lourdes Hospice and Lourdes at Home, have scheduled our staff and volunteer daytime retreats at Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center for 10 years.

    We schedule retreats for both our staff and volunteers to be a source of inspiration and introduce some peace into the work life. We have found Sky Lake a perfect location with its respite, peace, and quietness.

    We have always gathered at Founder’s Lodge. The lodge is spacious and affords a beautiful panoramic view of the lake and is comfortable and well appointed. The upper portion of the lodge is perfect for a larger group and the stone fireplace is so inviting. The lower portion is well suited for a smaller intimate group and there is a fireplace there as well!

    We always encourage a walk around the lake at some point during the day. During that time, you can find wild flowers and sometimes wildlife on the lake. Some have said, “I took the walk alone………..I wanted to hear the silence.” Others have said, “The walk around the lake was a great time to be together with my co-workers and talk to them … about family, trips, children’s activities … we rarely have time at work.”

    In Founder’s Lodge, there is always a nook to take some time for oneself … to read or just be alone. One volunteer related that she “finds a quiet place to journal – it’s hard to find that quiet at home!”

    The Sky Lake staff is not only courteous and efficient but attentive to details of our event, always responding in a prompt manner. They are professional, and have positive attitudes and excellent customer service skills. The meals are delicious, flavorsome and appetizing. Working with the kitchen staff has been more than pleasant. They are more than willing to adjust the menu to adapt to dietary needs and special requests such as, the ice cream sundae bar - a favorite of all.  When I requested it, there was a resounding, “No problem … now, what toppings would you like?” It’s a sweet way to end our day at Sky Lake.

    The retreat committee and myself who schedule and plan the day always look forward to working with the staff and we look forward to future dates.

    Sky Lake is a perfect place. We always feel welcomed and well cared for. There is kind hospitality. We have never been disappointed.

    Retreat Reflections: Many times, I’ve retreated at Asbury

    November 15, 2018 / By Carolyn Wrinn

    Asbury Retreat Center is a beautiful place and though I have been there every season, I think I like fall the best. The woods full of color; the leaves crunching under your feet. It is quiet, peaceful, spiritual … where you can connect with nature and converse with God. This place has been important to me for many years … my first camp experience as a teenager, many visits with my family, more recently the quilt & craft and other adult retreats.

    Asbury allows for a getaway weekend where you create on your own time and learn from others. Turn off your phone, have fun and laugh with the group, enjoy great meals prepared by the kitchen crew, and you don’t have to do the dishes!! You will love the pancakes with Asbury’s Pure Maple Syrup (from those beautiful trees). 

    Meaningful devotions inspire conversation. Then you can sew or craft as much as you want, meditate or watch the sunset on the sun dock, listen to the birds before breakfast, sense the quiet of the night … all reminding you that this is God’s country.   

    Now, my grandchildren also enjoy Asbury with our church. Fun games, good eats, ‘family group’ time, and learning mindfulness and spirituality. Asbury is a place for all ages and where experiences and memories bring you back.

    Retreat Reflections: Quilt by Faith at Casowasco

    November 13, 2018 / By Brenda Swanson

    Four years ago, friends of mine encouraged me to sign up for a “Quilt by Faith” retreat at Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center. I attended church camp there for several years when I was younger and knew how beautiful it was. Even though I was not a “quilter,” I decided to sign up. I had no intentions of sewing or doing any of the projects. However, those friends encouraged me to go shopping with them and even made sure I had a sewing machine. I agreed to go.  

    Once I got to Casowasco, I was greeted with open arms. The retreat leaders, Debbie and Kathy, welcomed me even though I had no idea what I was doing. I got hooked and have been attending every year since then. We are given projects with instructions or we can work on our own from home.  

    We always have one service project to benefit a local charity, nursing home, or sometimes third world country needs. Everyone there is helpful, and I have developed a lot of friendships throughout the years. Along with the quilting, we have a daily devotional time, after breakfast, which continues to strengthen our relationship with God.  

    I now attend twice a year, spring and fall. The atmosphere and surroundings at Casowasco put the icing on the cake. The rooms are warm, comfortable, peaceful, and quiet. You can also take a breathtaking walk along the lakeshore or just sit on any of the porches to reflect on the beauty. I’m so glad that I was invited four years ago!

    Retreat Reflections: Trinity Grand Island UMC’s Retreats

    November 8, 2018 / By Kathy DeGlopper

    The lakeside setting at Asbury Retreat Center is the ideal place for a craft retreat. The Trinity Grand Island UMC’s Crafters have been enjoying our retreats there since 2015. Asbury is a gorgeous rustic setting by Silver Lake with small rolling hills for walks and hikes. It is a picturesque place to watch the seasons change. We usually stay two to four nights.

    The Manor, where our group stays, feels like a hotel. There are two rooms on the first floor that are handicap-accessible and are used by two ladies in our group who need those accommodations. There are rooms on the second floor for 2-3 people per room with spacious, private bathrooms and comfortable beds.

    Our crafters are blessed with large tables for working on our projects in the Koinonia Building. We enjoy a variety of crafters here: scrapbooking, quilting, card making, jewelry making, knitting, rock painting, beading, and more! Sometimes the girls just like to read on the rocking chairs on the porch at the Manor overlooking the lake. If weather permits, there is an outdoor fire circle for a fun campfire time, which we did last year.

    The meals are terrific! Working with the staff, we selected our menu. The buffet service is excellent. We even make menu suggestions for future visits, and they are honored! Also, special diets, such as “gluten-free” are accommodated, if needed. They are very adaptable to our needs.

    The staff is marvelous and if there are any small issues, they are taken care of right away! It has been and always will be a blessing to stay at Asbury.

    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."