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


    Together in Prayer

    Beginning in October 2023, United Methodists of Upper New York are launching Together in Prayer, a call to reconnect with the essence of who we are as people of faith, disciples of Christ, and United Methodists. This is an invitation to unite our hearts and seek a stronger connection with God and one another, deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ministries.

    John Wesley said prayer is one of the most powerful ways to develop a personal connection with God. His brother, Charles, believed that corporate prayer fosters a sense of unity among believers and reinforces our shared faith.

    Watch the video below as Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez invites you to join this prayer pilgrimage. Look for new resources at the beginning of each month during this year long initiative. 

    Are you ready and willing to experience the healing love of Christ? Click here to show your support and commitment and join God's mission as we pray our way forward. 

    December Resources

    Theme: Love, Hope, Peace, Joy

    Scripture Passage: Luke 1:39-45

    Reflection (video):


    Reflection (script):

    Grace and Peace to you, my sisters and brothers in Christ. I am Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, the Assistant to the Bishop and I’m delighted to share with you another reflection in our series, Together in Prayer. 

    Driving home from work the other day, after turning off the news which seemed all bad, I found myself remembering a night almost 28 years ago: 

    In my mind’s eye I saw a tiny hand outstretched, too small and fragile to be grasped by my father-size hand. So, I laid my smallest finger across her tiny palm. Her infant body quivered at the sensation of this unfamiliar touch, but she already knew how to respond to love. Her little fingers slowly wound around my finger, and we enjoyed the first embrace of a father and child. 

    It is a beautiful memory, but what place does it have in a world filled with the ugliness of war and climate change and nasty politics? When you and I gather during the season of advent to remember the birth of Mary’s baby, are we just indulging in sentimentality to distract us from the harsh realities recounted on news? 

    Let’s turn to Scripture for some help with this. 

    "Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her” (Luke 1:39-45 CEB).

    Mary and Elizabeth were no strangers to the world’s harsh realities. Their daily lives were lived under Roman occupation, subject to the will and whims of pagan rulers. Into that world Elizabeth and Mary would give birth. Archaeologists and historians of the ancient world estimate the infant mortality rate in the 1st century was higher than 50%. More than half the children born in those days died before the age of one. The maternal mortality rate – the chances of a mother dying in childbirth – were little better. Make no mistake: Elizabeth and Mary knew harsh realities. 

    Yet, when we meet them in Scripture, they are full of love, joy, hope, and peace. Indeed, they experience these qualities viscerally, in their very bodies. Elizabeth tells Mary, “As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy” (Luke 1:44 CEB). Mary responds by breaking out in full-throated song: With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior (Luke 1:46,47 CEB). 

    What do these two women know about living in the midst of challenging times? What is the source of their confidence and hope? 

    To answer that question, Mary and Elizabeth would point us to the “little one” in Mary’s womb. The presence of Jesus caused Elizabeth’s child to leap and Mary to sing. 

    This same presence did not immediately erase the problems of the world. On that first Christmas morning, when Mary held her newborn child, the world remained a broken and dangerous place, as it remains today. 

    That much the evening news gets right. 

    But what the evening news misses, the Good News proclaims: the one Mary held also holds the whole world. For he is the one whom the prophet Isaiah called “Emmanuel,” God-with-us and whom the Angel Gabriel said would be called “Son of God.” He is the one Paul called “the image of the invisible God,” and John said was the “Word made flesh.” 

    To put it simply: because God is in Jesus, and Jesus is with us as one of us, we are not alone in facing any problem. In everything, in every place, with every person, in every situation, God in Jesus is with us. 

    As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, 

    For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NRSV). 

    The child we embrace this Christmas is the One who embraces the whole world, including you and me, with a hold that nothing can undo. 

    My dad, who turns 85 a few days before Christmas, has always told me: you can face any situation with a good friend at your side. 

    This is why Mary and Elizabeth could live in the midst of a crazy world with confidence and hope, in love, and joy, and peace. And this is why we can too. 

    Because in Jesus, we have a Friend who stands with us.

    Let me end with a prayer I wrote for Christmas Eve services 30 years ago when I was blessed to serve the good people of the Trumansburg UMC: 

    Holy God, through the birth of a little baby, you have visited your people and set them free. Grant that we might throw open the doors of our hearts and invite you in. Give us grace sufficient to provide a comfortable place for you, not in the back rooms of our lives, but in those places where we live and move and have our being. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. 

    Advent and Christmas blessings on each of you, my friends.

    Prayer for the Month:

    Holy God, through the birth of a little baby, you have visited your people and set them free. Grant that we might throw open the doors of our hearts and invite you in. Give us grace sufficient to provide a comfortable place for you, not in the back rooms of our lives, but in those places where we live and move and have our being. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. 

    Prayer Queues or Breath Prayers for the Month (Click on each date below to download the images.):

    • Dec. 3: Emmanuel, enable me (us) to perceive your tender embrace. 
    • Dec. 10: Precious Friend, rekindle a flame of hope to scatter the darkness of my (our) fears. 
    • Dec. 17: Captain of my (our) soul(s), silence the stormy winds of uncertainty stirring up my (our) heart(s).  
    • Dec. 24: God-made-human, stoop to embrace me (us) as I (we) take hold of you once again. 
    • Dec. 31: God of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: walk with me (us) into a new year and newness of life.  

    Click here to view/download a copy of the December resources.

    November Resources

    Theme: Gratitude

    Scripture Passage: Philippians 4:4-7

    Reflection (full version):

    Reflection (short version):

    Reflection (script):

    Hello Friends! We are together in Prayer! I am Bob Kolvik-Campbell, Upper New York Conference Superintendent, serving the Binghamton and Oneonta Districts, and for the month of November, we are together in prayer in Gratitude! 

    John Wesley on Gratitude: “Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it. One who always prays is ever giving praise, whether in ease or pain, both for prosperity and for the greatest adversity. He blesses God for all things, looks on them as coming from Him, and receives them for His sake - not choosing nor refusing, liking or disliking, anything, but only as it is agreeable or disagreeable to His perfect will.”  

    The word, Gratitude, appears only once in the Bible (RSV), in the 24th chapter of the book of Acts. However, the word, Thanksgiving, appears multiple times. The meaning of Gratitude is clear: It is about GIVING THANKS! Being thankful, giving thanks, gratitude, are vital parts of our prayer life. We are called to open each prayer, by reminding ourselves of the gratitude, with thanksgiving for what we have and who we are. Gratitude, then, is a way of life for those who follow Christ! 

    Gratitude is why we “give thanks” at each meal together, reminding each other that it is not by our efforts alone, but through God’s blessings and the work of others’ hands that we have food to eat. It is also what we do when Holy Communion is celebrated: The word “Eucharist” means “to give thanks”! We remember, we put back together the story of how God loves us and what Jesus does for us in giving himself for us. Our response is to Give Thanks with grateful hearts. 

    Scripture leads us to understand Gratitude as a way of life and a center of our prayer life. We read in Psalm 103 that “all that is within me is called to Bless God’s holy name”. Why? Because of all of those ways God sustains and loves us in so many ways. Blessing God is part of our Gratitude! 

    Psalm 95 calls us to sing to the Lord, to make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation (Imagine singing a prayer of gratitude to God)! Find a song to sing! 

    The apostle Paul reminds us to let our requests be known to God with prayer and thanksgiving, pray and let our requests be known to God (Philippians 4:6). In the letter to the Colossians, he reminds us to devote ourselves to prayer, keeping alert in prayer with thanksgiving. 

    A thanksgiving event that happens in the Gospel of Luke is when Jesus cleanses ten lepers.  

    Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy 

    11 Now on his way to Jerusalem,  Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance  13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master,  have pity on us!” 

    14 When he saw them, he said,  “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 

    15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 

    17 Jesus asked,  “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”  19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

    What I believe is most evident in gratitude, in giving thanks, is that it is NOT our actions nor feelings nor mindset nor anything about us, that creates gratitude.  As we see in this gospel account, gratitude comes as a response to what God in Christ Jesus does for me, for us, for others, for the world. Gratitude is, at best, a response to all that we are and all that we can be and all that we have been given. Gratitude takes the focus off me and the focus off us, and places it upon that for which we are grateful.

    God in Christ Jesus calls us to be grateful in all things. The gospel song, ‘Count Your Blessings, Name Them One By One’ gives us a sense of taking the focus off of our need, our want, our desire, and instead seeing where God in Christ Jesus has already blessed us and is and will meet that need. Do you often count your blessings? Have you seen where God’s blessings have touched you? Have you taken any time to appreciate those? 

    It has been said that who and what we are is because of what God in Christ Jesus has given us. What we do with it is our gift of gratitude to God in Christ Jesus. All that we do involves us in living out gratitude each day. 

    So the challenge for all of us is how we live out our gratitude. Allow me to challenge you: 

    • Write down, for this month, something you are grateful for each day. 
    • Read scripture each day with gratitude in mind. What does this day’s scripture call forth in you to be grateful? 
    • How do you express gratitude to God and others in your life?   
    • Pray this prayer of gratitude each day.    

    Prayer for the Month:

    Lord Jesus, you have given us life of abundance. Sometimes, however, all we see is what we are lacking. Remind us to name our blessings and our thankfulness for them. Open us to see your presence in all the ways your blessings come to us. And in all our ways, may we lift grateful hearts and lives, engaged in increasing your blessings for all. In this, may we be blessed always. May our grateful hearts and live be a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord - Amen. 

    Prayer Queues or Breath Prayers for the Month (Click on each date below to download the images.):

    • Nov. 5 - God of grace, may I (we) see your grace. 
    • Nov. 12 - God of mercy, may I (we) share your mercy. 
    • Nov. 19 - God, may my (our) eyes see your goodness. 
    • Nov. 26 - Holy Spirit, may I be thankful in all things. 

    Click here to view/download a copy of the November resources.

    October Resources

    Theme: Reclaim. Revive. Renew.

    Scripture Passage: Psalm 51:10-12

    Reflection (script):

    Prayers have always been of great importance for us United Methodists. John Wesley, the founder of our movement, described prayer as one of the most powerful ways to develop a personal connection with God. John’s brother, Charles Wesley, believed that corporate prayer fosters a sense of unity among believers and reinforces our shared faith.

    Together in Prayer is a call to reconnect with the essence of who we are as disciples of Christ and United Methodists. It is an invitation to unite our hearts and seek a stronger connection with God and one another. To go deeper in our relationship with Jesus Christ and to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ministries.

    Reclaim. Revive. Renew. During my first meeting with the council of bishops of the United Methodist Church, the president of the council, Bishop Tom Bickerton, shared this focus as a vision of hope for our journey forward as United Methodists as we move past an extended season of disagreements, divisions, and disaffiliations. This focus is a solid foundation for the transformation God is inviting us into. This vision is one that I support and will engage fully in the years to come.

    And, as we engage in it, there are a few things I feel we need to be clear about.

    First, let's be clear that this project of reclaiming, reviving, and renewing us is not ours but God’s.

    It is not us but God who is reclaiming us and reclaiming those that we, the church, have forsaken in our communities. Also, as we embrace this as a season of reclaiming, we must resist the temptation to reclaim backward when God calls us to move forward.

    Second, given the ongoing turmoil in the world, disorientation, more than a season, is our new normal that we must embrace as our missional field, not try to run away from it. We cannot pray for revival hoping that disorientation ends; we need to ask God for revival amid the disorientation so that we can overcome our fears and move forward courageously, claiming our distinctive identity as disciples and United Methodists, trusting God is with us, and boldly engage a hurting world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

    Lastly, there is the prayer for renewal.

    When meditating on God’s promise of renewal, I was drawn to Psalm 51, verses 10 through 12. This is not your traditional Psalm of renewal. This Psalm relates to a story that confronts our fragility and human brokenness. David’s prayer, more than a prayer of renewal, is one of confession, repentance, and surrender. Through this prayer, David cried to God for mercy when confronted with his wrongdoings. David humbly acknowledged his sins to God and implored God for forgiveness and restoration. 

    I believe that Confession. Repentance and Surrender is the most faithful response to God’s desire to reclaim, revive, and renew the church.

    Renewal will come to our lives, ministries, and the United Methodist Church as the fruit of our individual and collective confession for the ways we have fallen short of our calling to be light and salt in the world.  Renewal will come when and only if our mindset, strategies, and plans embody clear and concrete acts of repentance that seek to close the gap between our previous intentions and our actions and that lead to more faithful ways of being the church in the world.

    Renewal will come, and it is only a viable and sustainable proposition if we are willing and ready to surrender our agendas so that a renewed vision FROM GOD unfolds for the witness and ministry of United Methodists worldwide.

    Our challenges are not new. Church decline in the US is not new. COVID-19 did not cause our decline; it just put it on display, accelerated, and amplified it. The declining spiritual effervesce in some parts of our connection is not new. The pervasive manifestation of systemic racism, sexism, privilege, and exclusion is not new in the United Methodist Church.

    So, as we begin this journey. As God is reclaiming. As God is reviving. As God seeks to renew us – what is it for us to do? Psalm 51 suggests that we must confess, repent, and surrender as a church, leaders, and followers of Jesus.

    We must confess how we have allowed the world, the circumstances around us, and our desperate attempts at survival to weaken our identity as United Methodists – people called to love God and our neighbors as Christ loves. We must confess that for decades, here in the US, we have been relationally disconnected from our communities. Most of our local congregations do not reflect the people in their communities as we have turned inward. And, we must confess that while the world is hurting and plagued with the re-emergence of racial hate, white supremacy, gun violence, toxic politics, war, and climate change, and when there is an entire generation seeking hope and purpose, we have been, for the most part, silent, nowhere to be seen, distracted by our internal debates and inability to hold our differences and disagreements in Christian love, which has left us fractured, weakened, and divided.

    United Methodists, we are on a journey of renewal. As the prophet Isaiah proclaimed – it is already happening. God is doing something new.

    During your times of prayer this month, I invite you to open the eyes of your heart and ask the Holy Spirit to help you imagine what your life, your church, and our communities will look like if we embrace God’s invitation to surrender to the Holy Spirit so that we can once more be claimed, revived, and renewed by the healing grace of Jesus Christ.

    Write down what you see. Share it with others in your church, your pastor, and me.

    God is doing something new. God is reclaiming us for God’s purposes. God is reviving and deepening our faith. God is renewing us to be who God needs us to be TODAY for the world. May our response to God’s invitation be to confess, repent, and surrender, and like David, in humility, lift our broken hearts to God and pray.

    Prayer for the Month:

    Create a clean heart for us, God. Put a new, faithful spirit deep inside us! Please don’t throw us out of your presence or take your holy spirit from us. Return the joy of your salvation to us and sustain us with a willing heart – Amen.

    Prayer Queues or Breath Prayers for the Month (Click on each date below to download the images.):

    • Oct. 1 – God of grace, create a clean heart for me (us).
    • Oct. 8 – God of mercy, put a new, faithful spirit inside me (us).
    • Oct. 15 – God, in your mercy, don’t give up on me (us).
    • Oct. 22 – God, in your faithfulness, return the joy of your salvation to my (our) soul(s).
    • Oct. 29 – God, through the Holy Spirit, sustain me(us) with a willing heart.

    Click here to view/download a copy of the October resources.

    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."