"Write the vision clearly on the tablets, that one may read it on the run." — Habakkuk
The Vision
The Newspaper of The New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. August, 2014

In this issue:

Blessed to Protest for Immigration Reform

Editor’s note: The following is excerpted and adapted from a sermon delivered by Rev. Paul Fleck at New Milford United Methodist Church on August 3.

I feel truly blessed today to be situated where I am. I feel blessed that I live in a country where I can take a train to Washington, D.C., protest deportations in front of the White House on a Thursday, be arrested and processed without fear of retribution or reprisal, and emerge from processing in a matter of a few short hours.

I’m blessed because I got the opportunity to participate in one of the wonderful features of this democracy of ours—the exercise of my right to free speech—on Thursday, July 31. I was one of three Connecticut pastors, along with Revs. Anne Bracket and Alex Souto, and 109 other faith leaders and immigration activists who traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in an act of civil disobedience in front of the White House.

We protested the Obama administration’s continued attempts to deport its way to immigration reform in this country, tearing families apart to the tune of 1,100 people a day. We urged President Obama to exercise compassion in response to the thousands of children who flee violence in Central America. We asked President Obama to use his executive authority to halt these deportations.

Our passion for this issue did not just come from our understanding of this country as a nation of immigrants: It came from a deep-seated understanding that our faith called us to this.

Both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures are replete with calls for us to treat the stranger, the alien amongst us, as we would like to be treated. Leviticus tells us: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” And then there is Matthew 25:35, where Christ himself says, “. . . I was a stranger, and you welcomed me . . .”

So we stood in front of the White House. We carried signs. We chanted. We sang. We were warned three times to move. Then they began arresting us. They put those plastic zip-tie handcuffs on us. And we were taken in buses by the Capitol Park Police to be processed. Our crime? We were charged with “carrying signs in front of the White House while stationary,” which, apparently, is against the law. We were processed and given a $50 fine.

Now I feel proud and blessed to be a part of a country where such action can take place and I can be a part of such an action. The park police were polite and efficient and did their jobs well. No harm came to us. The protest was a peaceful one.

I recognize that my brothers and sisters around the world do not enjoy such privileges. They live in fear of their governments or live in fear of violence from others. The greatest discomfort I suffered was I got a little thirsty in the processing line. I commented on this to

UMCs at Immigration Protest
Immigration activists protest in front of the White House during a “Day of Prophetic Action” on July 31. More than 110 were arrested, including three New York Conference pastors from Connecticut. GBCS photo

Rev. Alex Souto, my colleague from South Meriden here in Connecticut. And Alex teased me back: “At least you don’t have to cross the desert.” I laughed and agreed.

That’s when Misa, a young Latino in the processing line with us said, “Yeah, I remember when I had to cross the desert with my family.” And I felt ashamed and convicted. Misa told us the story of when he was 12 and his brother and sisters were younger and they crossed the desert from Mexico with a coyote, which is a person who you hire to help you cross the desert. Early in the journey, Misa’s mother twisted her ankle in a hole. While crossing, they ran out of water. They had to fill their plastic milk jugs from a rancher’s water trough.

But they made it. And they’re here. Like so many others, Misa and his family are living among us and contributing. He even received a citation from the mayor of Baltimore for his work with youth in the community.

The scripture the following Sunday (August 3) was the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:13–21). The disciples fear that there will not be enough for the crowd to eat. They say, “Send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

Immigration Protest
Rev. Alex Souto, center, joins in a time of prayer at the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., to begin a “Day of Prophetic Action.” Souto, pastor of South Meriden Trinity UMC, was one of more than 110 faith leaders and immigration activists arrested July 31 at the White House. UMNS Photo

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We are so afraid there will not be enough for us as well. “Send the crowds away,” we say. Deport them away, we say.

Immigration ProtestBut Jesus operates by a different economy in the scripture of the loaves and the fishes. He says: “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Because, you see, in God’s economy, there is plenty to go around, and leftovers besides.

We need not be afraid. We need not live into the economy of the world, an economy of scarcity and fear of the other because God’s economy is an economy of abundance. Let us live into that.

United Methodist Bishop Marshall L. (Jack) Meadors is arrested in front of the White House. GBCS Photo

See related story in this issue, "Why Do We Care for the Immigrants?

Greetings From Bishop Irons

July 31, 2014

Dear Christian Friends:

Having been your bishop for one month now, I think it is past time for me to be in touch with you. As you know by his letter to you on July 7, Bishop McLee is on leave of absence because of health issues. The president of the College of Bishops, Bishop Marcus Matthews, contacted me in late June about my availability to serve among you as bishop.

Obviously I said, “Yes,” to this inquiry. In our polity, Bishop McLee is no longer your bishop during his leave. I have been returned to an active status from retirement, which means that during the six months I am with you all of the responsibilities, privileges and “headaches” end on my desk. In short—I have a tendency to use too many words to get to the point—I am the bishop of the New York Area until the end of December.

I believe that doing the work of the bishop is none other than doing the work Christ gives to the Church. I function best in a community of ministry, for only together are we a part of the body of Christ.

To the best of my ability I will work to get acquainted with as many of you as possible. What extraordinary ministry you are doing in and around the greatest city on earth. For this, I thank you.

Bishop Neil IronsBishop Irons

Because I commute to the Conference Center in White Plains each week from my home in Pennsylvania it is not usually possible to accept invitations to be with you on weekends. My days in the office are normally Tuesday through Thursday. You can reach me through emails via the bishop’s office.

Personally, I enjoy travel, laughter, good company, and not taking myself too seriously. My wife, Susan Thomas—yes, we have different last names for when we married we were too old and set in our ways to change last names—is an active real estate agent and a very faithful member of the Camp Hill United Methodist Church. When I am not serving as an interim pastor—I have done this four times—or serving as your bishop, the two of us sing in our church choir of about 45 voices. We have three grandchildren and one on the way.

If you are in the Conference Center and my door is open, drop by and say hello. The company of those called to be saints is always welcome.

Sincerely,


Young Adults Ministry Gets Off To Good Start

Some 35 people from across the conference gathered for a young adults workshop, “It Was All a Dream,” recently at the New Rochelle UMC. The group heard from Rev. Ron Bell Jr., author of “Bigger than Hip Hop: 7 Questions for Effectively Reaching Young Adults in Ministry,” and young adult leaders from New Day UMC in the Bronx.

Many also shared their own personal testimonies and talked in small groups about what growing in faith means to them. The goal of the event was not only to learn from one another, but also to form an official Council on Young Adult Ministry in the New York Conference.

On the Facebook page created by event organizers, they express their mission as “connecting the young adults, laity and clergy, in the New York Annual Conference to mobilize and empower young people to answer God’s call in becoming CHURCH.”

Ron Bell, Jr.
Rev. Ron Bell Jr. encourages participants to be creative in reaching out to other young adults.

Here’s what two participants wrote about the event:

Paul Smith,
Pastor, East Meadow UMC

This event was a pleasant surprise for me. I’ve often witnessed young adult ministries taking place randomly among a local group of friends trying to develop a momentum that will spread beyond their core. While these efforts are full of

Young Adult Ministries Organizers
Rev. Ron Bell Jr., second from right, celebrates after the workshop with Tiffany French, from left, Jeffrey Hooker and Dorlimar LeBron.

potential and sincere desire, the issue I have seen is a lack of strong support beyond these occasional waves. I believed this until now.

This event focused on the absence of young adults in our churches and offered initial programs to begin addressing this issue. As a young adult of the United Methodist Church, this issue is near to my heart and I found it encouraging and inspiring to participate in dialogue with other young adult sisters and brothers in Christ, especially people such as Ron Bell Jr. and leaders from the New Day UMC community.

They shared helpful ideas and stories, which motivated and challenged me to think critically and creatively in order to return to my local church and more effectively connect with young adults. Their successes strengthened my hope and made me want to impart that in my local community. I also wasn’t sure how many people would participate in the event, but was pleased that there was a good showing, with representatives from different parts of our conference, resulting in a diverse group and making new connections and friends.

I share again my thanks to all those, especially God, who made this experience possible. I pray this positive experience will only be the beginning of a movement that will actually take root, spread across our conference, and lead to growth in young adults in our church.

Zuhairah McRae, G.L.O.W
(God Lighting Our Way), the young adults ministry, First UMC of Jamaica

“It Was All A Dream” was an amazing event . . . Guest speaker, Ron Bell, Jr., provided a lot of information on how to improve the young adults ministry in my church, including ways to reach out to more young adults in the community.

I also had the opportunity to meet with other young adults in my district to learn about what they are doing in their churches as well as have open discussions pertaining to issues and challenges that young adults currently are facing.

As a result of such a phenomenal event, I feel more empowered and motivated to work toward growing the young adults ministry in my church and beyond. It has also added to my spiritual growth and development.

For more info on this NYAC young adults initiative, go to the Facebook page, or contact Tiffany French at, tiffanymfrench@gmail.com.


8/21 & 28 Powerpoint in Worship
This “how-to” workshop is being presented as a two-part lay servant course at New Paltz UMC. Rev. Bette Johnson Sohm will explore equipment, costs and setup, and how to use this visual tool to enhance meaningful worship. Meetings are from 6:30–9 p.m. For more information, go to: www.nyac.com/eventdetail/129150.

9/6 Sunday School Director Training
This event will include an open house at the Perkins Learning Center. 9 a.m.–3 p.m., Conference Center, White Plains. Contact Lynda Gomi at lgomi@nyac.com, for additional info.

9/12–14 Launchpad for Church Planters
LAUNCHPAD is a three-day training event for leaders and teams planting new faith communities sponsored by the Upper New York Conference and PATH 1. The training is in Albany, N.Y., and will be led by Paul Nixon, Sam Rodriguez, and Emily Reece, among others. For more information or to register, go to: www.unyumc.org/launchpad.

9/15 Pastoral Care Training for Clergy, Laity
The pastoral care specialist training program is accepting applications for the new class that is beginning September 15. This two-year program is designed for pastors and priests, and the lay people who assist them, who desire to deepen and broaden their pastoral care skills. Classes meet at Arumdaun Presbyterian Church in Bethpage on Mondays from 9:15 a.m.–1 p.m. For information or to apply, contact Rev. Dr. Penny Gadzini at 917-287-0583, or pennygadzini@aol.com.

9/20 Basic Lay Servant Course
This course in the Connecticut District will be held at the Plainville UMC on three Saturdays, September 20, 27, and October 4. Fellowship will be at 9 a.m.; classes begin promptly at 9:30 a.m., ending by 3:30 p.m. Cost is $15, and participants should read the first two chapters of the “Lay Servant Ministries Basic Course Participants Book” before the first meeting. For more information, or to register go to: www.nyac.com/eventdetail/125299.

9/27 Re-Think Evangelism—Get Their Names
Rev. Bob Farr, the director of the Center for Congregational Excellence at the Missouri Annual Conference, will lead this exploration of ways to share your faith without anxiety at Woodbury UMC, 577 Woodbury Road, Woodbury, N.Y. Topics include how to change the habits of leaders and entire congregations, so that the invitation to discipleship is natural, constant, systemic, genuine, and easy. The daylong event is sponsored by the Parish Resource Center of Long Island, with a discounted rate for individuals or teams from United Methodist churches on Long Island. To register and more info, go to: www.nyac.com/eventdetail/190568.

More events available on the NYAC calendar>>

9/27 Onondaga Presentation for UMW
Elaine Winward, a member of Jesse Lee Memorial UMC, will be discussing the women and children of the Onondaga Nation in a presentation for the UMW of the New York/Connecticut District. Danbury UMC will host the event from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. An offering will be taken for the Onondaga School; hats, scarves, and gloves are also being made for the children. For more info, contact Winward at ewinward@optonline.net, or 914 669-5264.

9/30 Deadline to Complete HealthQuotient
Clergy and spouses enrolled in the HealthFlex active plans must take the HealthQuotient (HQ) online health risk assessment, by September 30 to avoid paying a higher individual or family deductible on your 2015 medical plan. The questionnaire has been updated for 2014 and promises to be easier to use. If you took the Blueprint for Wellness screening this year, it will automatically be loaded into your HQ. Go to: http://www.gbophb.org/, to take the online assessment.

9/30 Youth Ambassadors Deadline
The deadline to apply to be in the 2015 class of Youth Ambassadors for Mission is September 30. High school students in the conference who are age 15 to 17 are eligible to apply to be part of the team that will visit the Methodist Church of Antigua Circuit from February 13–22. Assignments in country will include construction work, afterschool activities with children, and visits to historic, religious and political sites. For more info and an application, go to: http://tools.nyac.com/vim/detail/14. For questions, call the office of Conference Mission Coordinator, Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, at 914-615-2233.

10/2–4 Older Adult Camp
Calling all . . . young at heart, wise in soul, and graced with years for this experience at Camp Quinipet on Shelter Island, N.Y. Come for a time of worship, sacred play, learning, and fellowship. The cost is yet to be determined, but will include housing and meals. For more information, go to: www.nyac.com/eventdetail/115535.

10/11 3rd Laity Convocation Planned
Rev. Dr. Derrick-Lewis Noble, the NYAC’s new directo of church development and revitalization, will be the featured speaker at “You Gotta Have Heart.” The schedule from 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m. will include lunch, plenary and breakout sessions, resources, and worship led by Raymond Trapp. Full breakfast is offered from 7:30-8:50 a.m., at the Edith Macy Conference Center, 550 Chappaqua Rd., Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510 Cost is $45 per person; open to the first 200 persons who register. Register at www.nyac.com/eventdetail/129228. More info: Renata Smith at renata.smith@nyac-umc.com, or 914-391-3998.

10/25 Deacons Day Apart
Deacons of the conference will gather from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Learning Center, 20 Soundview Avenue, White Plains, N.Y. Contact Sonia Jermin at bronxjermin@verizon.net for additional information.

Learn to Lead — "Disciple Fast Track"

The creators of the Disciple Bible Study are looking for a limited number of clergy or laity to train to lead the new “Fast Track” version of the popular study. Disciple Fast Track provides the same principles as the original, but in a shortened 24-week program—12 weeks for the Old Testament and 12 for the New Testament. The beta test leaders will complete their training online with the help of leader’s and participant’s guides and DVDs. The final leader training option runs from August 18-31. For more information and to register, go to:http://www.disciplefasttrack.com/.


"Mission u:" A Journey From
Hole-Ness to Whole-I-Ness

BY PAT KNEBEL

God puts together the puzzle pieces of our lives and shapes us into a beautiful tapestry. We may individually experience a physical, emotional, or spiritual “hole” in our life’s journey, but God can fill in the missing pieces and make us “whole.”

July 24 through July 26, New York Conference Mission u guided over 180 participants on the journey from hole-ness to whole-i-ness. Participants worshiped together, studied together, worked together, and shared their stories and lives with one other. The worship center included three large puzzle pieces and other symbols that represented the three major study themes. As “Mission u” progressed, the puzzle pieces and the symbols began to blend together until they merged into one at the closing communion.

Studies, which were taught in English, Korean, and Spanish, included:

• “How Is It With Your Soul?” (That sounds like John Wesley!) Taught by Rev. Juhye Hahn, Daryl Norman, Rev. Cecil Stone, Elaine Williams Nelson, and Faye Wilson.

• “The Church and People With Disabilities” addressed how churches can offer hospitality to people with disabilities and was led by Elise Boykin, Gail Douglas Boykin, Rev. Miyoung Kang, Byungkook Lee, Rev. Evy McDonald, and Ximena Varas.

• “The Roma of Europe,” an exploration of Europe’s largest minority group led by Lija Kim.

On Thursday evening, the mission fair provided learning experiences on human trafficking, caring for the elderly, healthy pregnancy, Bible women, immigration, deaconesses, accessibility and more. In between learning and enjoying an ice cream social, participants assembled health kits, recycled t-shirts into shopping bags, and created banks to collect donations for No More Malaria.

Friday evening, Mission u packed 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now. Working in intergenerational teams to lively music and the sound of a gong and cheering as each 1,000 meals were completed, 10,000 meals were packed in even less time than in 2013. Which allowed all to settle into their hotel rooms with time left to do homework and still get a good night’s sleep.

What else happened? Stephanie Parsons of the NYAC Committee on Accessibility led participants in a workshop, “Dissing the ‘Dis’ in Disability: Welcoming the Differently Abled.” United Methodist Women across the conference had opportunities to share ideas. The resource room was well stocked with fascinating books and helpful materials. The prayer room was quiet, centering, and inspiring. Music, led by Raymond Trapp and Jerome Roberts, was spirit-filled and uplifting.

Mission u communionLinda Mellor and Stephanie Parsons, right, offer communion during the final worship service

An additional 30 participants joined in to study “How Is It With Your Soul?” at Saturday@ Mission u. Children and youth classes shared what they learned through dance, skits, readings, and signing.

Pieces of several puzzles were distributed to participants at registration. It was quickly discovered that, if everyone does not contribute his or her piece, the picture cannot be whole. Don’t be the missing piece. Share one of these studies at your church. And don’t forget to come to “Mission u” in 2015.

Here’s what two of the participants had to say about their experiences at the gathering:

The Church and People with Disabilities
By Monica Bartley

This was an exciting and fulfilling three days of mission study grounded in scripture and fun-filled group activities. Thanks to Rev. Evy McDonald who shared how the church can be transformed into a nurturing inclusive environment for people with disabilities through awareness and by creating an accessible environment and the right accommodation.

We learned how immediate changes can be made in the way people with disabilities are welcomed and cared for in our congregations. The use of “people first language” and “disability etiquette” can help insure that no one feels left out. After all, we are to be our brother’s keeper. We were urged to be mindful of those with hearing loss. When people they can’t hear the sermon, the entire family goes out the door with them.

Mission u - Evy McDonaldRev. Evy McDonald, center, challenged churches to change how they serve people with disabilities.

We were exposed to the current standards for parking lots, bathrooms, and doors; the importance of signage, and to have pew cuts to accommodate wheelchairs.

Mission u - Stop hunger
Participants measured and packed some 10,000 meals
for Stop Hunger Now.

We examined some of the negative perceptions relating to disability, and used the scriptures to dispel the belief that a person’s disability is directly related to his or her sin. Jesus refutes that understanding himself in John 9 when asked whether a blind man or his parents had sinned. Jesus replied neither had sinned, it was so that his father’s work can be glorified in him. Also one should not consider curing someone’s disability with prayer, but instead should pray for spiritual wholeness and the healing of what can be healed.

We were challenged to advocate in our local churches to improve accessibility, which left me very hopeful that when I next visit a United Methodist Church I would experience an inclusive environment. While the building might not be fully accessible for me, the people and the practice will be inclusive and welcoming.

Finally sisters and brothers, it takes all of us together to make the body whole and complete. We need each other.

Bartley is a member of Bethany UMC in Brooklyn. Additional information on interacting with people with disabilities can be found at, http://www.umdisabilityministries.org/.

Mission u - teaches
"Saturday@Mission u" drew an additional 30 people to explore their faith practices.

The Roma of Europe
By Christie R. House

Our group taking the Roma study was made up of people from many different traditions, races, cultures, and nations of origin. We were all United Methodists, but we had different ways of expressing our faith.

We all had different ideas about “Gypsies.” Some, who had grown up in the Southern United States, said that they had been warned as children by their parents not to leave the yard because they might well be kidnapped by gypsies. But we learned in the study, that the Roma, sometimes called “Gypsies,” are far more likely to be victims of trafficking than kidnappers of other people’s children.

The history of this repressed people resonated with our group members. We were descendants of slaves ripped from African homes, of Irish indentured servants, of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean—all peoples who had experienced oppression. But the Romanis continue to experience ongoing overt oppression today. Just recently the Roma people were offered 300 Euros per adult and 100 Euros for each child if they’d just pack up and leave France.

Throughout history, the Roma have experienced all kinds of oppression—slavery, expulsion, forced sterilization, and extermination in Nazi concentration camps. The discrimination of the Roma in Eastern Europe continues. Today, 90 percent of the Roma people are no longer nomads, having settled down in different countries, but they are often trapped in the outskirts of towns. Though born in a country, they have no citizenship, no rights, not even a birth certificate. No identification card, no passport, no right to leave, but no right to stay. Other Roma have been able to assimilate into their adopted countries, but by doing so, they lose their language and culture—a unique culture of a people leaving India and wandering for centuries.

The Roma people find security and fellowship living among their own. They have developed their own ways of life, systems, and cultural practices. But why should they trust outsiders, when outsiders have oppressed them for 1000 years? It is the better part of reason to keep to themselves.

But we also learned that since the 1920s, members of the United Methodist Church of Central and Southern Europe have been working alongside the Roma in Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, and other Eastern European countries. It will take a long-time commitment, several lifetime commitments, to gain the trust and the hearts of the Roma.

As of today, 35 Methodist churches have been planted among the Roma, in such a way that provides education for members of the community. Some have even continued their education to seminary in order to lead the churches planted earlier by their European friends.

As Thomas Rodemeyer, who coordinates Roma ministries for the Central and Southern Europe Central Conference, said in one of the videos we saw, “As long as there is need, the mission does not end. When are you done being a Christian? In 20 years, in 30 years? No, the love and compassion go on forever, with the help and love of God.”

House is a member of St. Paul and St. Andrew UMC in Manhattan, and the editor of New World Outlook, the mission magazine of the UMC.


Why Do We Care for the Immigrants?
Immigration - Commentary
A group of United Methodists protest in front of the White House as members of the denomination along with Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, Catholics, Baptists, Jews, and other faiths participate in a “Day of Prophetic Action” to push for immigration reform. GBCS photo

BY JACOB DHARMARAJ, Ph.D.
Shrub Oak UMC

Woody Allen once joked about a man who went to a psychiatrist and said, “Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken.” When the doctor asked, “Well, why don’t you turn him in,” the man replied, “I would, but I need the eggs.”

How much easier it is to remain stuck in deep-rooted behaviors and outdated human responses long after they no longer function well! We’re more comfortable with what we know; we prefer the status quo. We may discern that a change is long overdue, but as Woody Allen said, “We need the eggs.” We’re trapped by our own version of reality.

An important issue that craves and calls for our national attention today is the issue of immigration, refugees and asylum seekers who come from diverse circumstances and under varied categories. Our society and its capitalist economy have employed many of these immigrants in the service industry to remain competitive in the global economy.

A set of prisons—run for profit—have also emerged as a method of policing the bodies of these poor immigrants. The political economy of our prison system and the punishment industry brings the intersection of class, race, and capitalism, which should not be taken lightly.

As a faith community, we are invited to shift our focus from a market economy to God’s salvific economy in order to see the image of God in ones who are not in our image. We are called to recognize, acknowledge, and to remedy the destructive effects the existing forceful deportations have inflicted upon immigrant families. We are summoned to search for something more than eggs.

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and social activist, once said that it was not ideas that change the world but simple gestures of love done to those around us, and more often to those we are most

commentary

at odds. In order to save the world, we must serve the people in our life.

“You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything,” Merton wrote.

The United Methodist Church’s commitment to comprehensive immigration reform clearly demonstrates that we are not only engaged in simple gestures of love but ready to stand in solidarity with the strangers and neighbors in need in our midst as well. Our faith in Christ is not a mere dogma or belief but an active intervention for the weak and screams for the vulnerable in the hours of their greatest susceptibility.

In our commitment to this vital ministry, we are convinced that advocacy by grassroots people is an important part of the process. We join the throngs of biblical advocates like Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, and the Apostle Paul for humane and compassionate treatment of the strangers and neo-neighbors among us. In the final analysis, we are judged not just as individuals but also as a nation.

On July 31, along with leaders from the United Methodist Church and other faith organizations, I gathered in the park across from the White House to make our voices known to President Barack Obama about the cruelty of separating families by deporting parents or children. Our goal was to take the marginalized and repressed voices of the forcefully broken immigrant families right into the center of things.

We pleaded with the elected officials to go beyond their traditional community to listen to the voice of the muted, and make a sincere effort to know the divergent voices of all the groups in their constituencies. Subsequently, several clergy and laity were arrested, jailed, and fined as they were deemed to be disruptive outside the White House.

New York Conference pastors Paul Fleck, Alex Souto and Anne Bracket, all of Connecticut, were among those arrested.

Many in our churches and communities are indeed sympathetic and earnest about current immigration issues. We admit that there are no easy solutions to this complex problem. But what is deeply disconcerting is the silence and inaction in the political upper rungs. Hence we, as a faith community, are engaged in two major fronts: advocacy and education. We organize the faith community for this just concern, and educate the grassroots and "grasstops" about the present unacceptable plight of the new immigrants. We are determined to carry our influence and weight to the corridors of power and are willing to use these advantages to alleviate the pain of the new immigrants.

In one of his pastoral letters, the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini cited a passage from Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” to drive home his message. In the story, the cynical Ippolit Terentiev asks Prince Myshkin, “Is it true, that you once said that the world will be saved by beauty?” He then sarcastically adds, “What kind of beauty will save the world?”

The prince does not respond to his critic in words. However, as the story unfolds, the readers are left to understand that the answer is found in the context of the prince’s life, a life of great suffering and pain.

“The beauty that will save the world is the beauty of sharing the pain of the other,” noted Cardinal Martini, who died in 2012.

The Immigration Task Force of our denomination indeed listens to and shares the pains of the vulnerable neo-immigrants so that the miracle of God’s comfort may readily occur. In standing on the traditions of Prophet Isaiah, we invite the members of the New York Annual Conference and others to join us in the ministry of comfort and restoration.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says the Lord God.” —Isaiah 40:1


Fun Was Slam-Dunk At Malaria Event
INM Skeeters Game

Fun was the name of the game when the “Skeeter Defeaters” took on the Harlem Wizards July 19 in a fundraising event for Imagine No Malaria. And although the Defeaters scored first, they came up short, 78-71, when the final buzzer sounded at the Hofstra University Arena.

The Defeaters hit the court ready to play with nearly 50 players from all across the New York Conference to call upon. The starting lineup—district superintendents Jim Moore and Ken Kieffer, Rev. David Czeisal, Assistant to the Bishop Bob Walker, plus Rev. David Ball—gave a nod to their heavenly connections by taking to the court in their clergy robes. But they also had a trick play up their sleeves, as they took two points while the Wizards were kneeling in prayer.


But the antics didn’t end there as the Wizards teased and taunted the Defeaters at the free throw line, and even took on some of the spectators. At half time, volunteers were plucked from the stands to try and survive a “pitch and catch” game with the Harlem team.

Rev. Wendy Paige led a group of young cheerleaders from Harriman UMC to motivate the crowd, as Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie amped up the volume with his Brazilian soccer horn on the sidelines. The conference’s new director of church development and revitalization, Derrick-Lewis Noble, handled the referee duties—although the whistle was seldom needed.

The national anthem, sung by Kathleen Theisen, opened the game. Theisen is the minister of music at Darien UMC.

Rev. T. Anne Daniel and her church, Wakefield Grace Memorial UMC, would have taken number one honors for attendance as some 50 youth and adults from the Bronx congregation enjoyed the game.

Before the game, more than 25 kids and teens got an opportunity to practice their basketball skills in a clinic run by former Hofstra player Chris Eldredge, and current basketball teammates Ameen Tanksley and Juanya Green.

At the top: The Skeeter Defeaters are ready to play.
Above: A pesky mosquito, above, gets caught at mid-court.
Left: Getting off a shot at the pregame clinic.
Photos by Won Tack Lee.

Above: Did somebody say “let us pray,” or was it “let us play,” Rev. Bob Walker? (on right in robe.) Left: There was plenty of horseplay with the Wizards on the court.


"Incubator Process" Counting on Laity Help

Where are we, and where are we going? Vital Congregations: Incubator process is alive and the next wave will soon be working among us. Many folks—both clergy and laity—have completed this training and are using the lessons learned to transition their congregations into thinking and working with new approaches.

The next step for “Incubator” is to bring the training to the laity of our annual conference—laity from all churches—big or small, and rural, suburban or urban.

Last month, four lay members—Lisa Bosworth, Kim Childs, Mary Brevegleiri and myself—spent three days with Kwasi Kena and Safiyah Fosua, the authors of Vital Congregations: Incubator Process. During the gathering we reviewed and revised the eight modules specifically with laity in mind. Suggested reading materials and homework assignments were adjusted, making the material more user friendly and creating an opportunity for laity to become more engaged in the ministries of their local churches. We are all very excited about the possibilities this training will spark for our laity and churches.

As Kena and Fosua noted, this time of review allows all of us to stop and be reminded exactly why we began the Vital Congregations: Incubator Process. The “Incubator” process is not a program that “we do” and then move on to wait for the next thing. This process allows us to begin to understand how life can change for ourselves and our congregations if we are to continue the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

So if you are thinking, “I have never heard of this Vital Congregations stuff,” you can go to the NYAC web site at www.nyac.com/vitalcongregations, and this is the start of what you’ll find:

Vital Congregations: A Strategic Plan for United Methodist Congregations to Fulfill the Mission of The United Methodist Church

Margaret Howe

Introduction: The United Methodist Church is being called to join in God’s plan for transforming the world by increasing the number of disciples of Jesus Christ through vital United Methodist Congregations. Based upon the findings of the 2010 Call to Action

Report and through the leadership of the Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table, the entire denomination is being invited to “redirect the flow of attention, energy, and resources to an intense concentration on fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” (Call to Action Report p. 14)

Clergy and laity leaders at all levels of the United Methodist Connection are called to work together in this opportunity to cast vision and set directive goals for our congregations. As each congregation sets reasonable, accessible and achievable goals based upon its individual context, and is equipped and resourced to meet those goals, the congregation readies itself to receive the fruits of God’s harvest. (2 Cor. 9:5–7) We become a church united by a common vision, striving to reach the goals uniting us for the transformation of the world through God’s power and grace.

I personally have been through this training as both a participant and instructor, and support the behaviors and changes and opportunities it creates for each one of us. I know it works and can work in each of our churches. It will not look the same in every church; it will look the way it needs to look as you move toward the goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our team of four, as well as Kena and Fosua, met with our new director of connectional ministries and director of church development and revitalization to discuss how we will be introducing our strategies and plans throughout the fall. I am truly excited about the occasions to further empower our laity to work side by side with our clergy to keep the mission of the United Methodist Church.

Please be in prayer for our churches, clergy, and laity as we move forth in faith.

With a grateful heart,
Margaret Howe
New Paltz UMC

"You Gotta Have Heart" — Laity Convocation

Rev. Dr. Derrick-Lewis Noble, the NYAC’s new coordinator of church development and revitalization, will be the featured speaker. Noble began work in New York on July 1, and is a veteran church planter and trained coach in the church development field. Noble is also a dynamic preacher and teacher.

What: Plenary and breakout sessions, resources, and worship led by Raymond Trapp

When: 9 a.m.3:30 p.m., October 11

Where: Edith Macy Conference Center, 550 Chappaqua Rd., Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510

Cost: $45 per person. Open to the first 200 persons who register.

Meals: Full breakfast (7:30 a.m.8:50 a.m.) and lunch included.

Register: www.nyac.com/eventdetail/129228

More info: Renata Smith at renata.smith@nyac-umc.com,
or 914-391-3998.


Dementia Inspires New Ways to Communicate

By Rev. Jim Stinson
Consultant for Older Adult Ministries

Jim Stinson

“I have a difficult time talking to my mother. We used to have wonderful conversations. But the more her dementia advances, the less intelligent our conversations become. What do I say to her, especially when her sense of reality has changed so much?”

Certainly a fair and a common question, created by situations that are often painful to watch, as we “lose” the loved one we knew. There is no easy answer to the question. But perhaps something my adult children refer to as “going to Grandma land” sends us in the right direction.

My mother lived with our family for 26 years, and several years before she died, she began telling “stories” which were patently untrue and she began showing other signs of mental confusion. The doctor confirmed what we suspected. She was, in fact, showing classic signs of dementia. Since they were young and uncertain how to respond to the stories and confusion, we decided (for everyone’s sake) that rather than fret about what could not be changed, we would simply find ways to enjoy the stories and the confusion.

We would not frustrate her by saying something like, “Grandma, maybe you were dreaming, you could not have met Hillary Clinton at the beauty salon. She lives in Washington and you live in Connecticut. Maybe you saw someone who looked like her.” We would instead respond differently. Rather than frustrate her more as she tried to convince us that she most certainly had not had a dream or seen a double, we would just go, as it were, to “Grandma land.” We would enjoy the moment and marvel at how amazing it was that she had met Hillary Clinton. (By the way, Grandma was a diehard Republican and had no use for any Democrat.)

Jim Stinson

In short, we acknowledged that the Grandma we loved and knew was lost, in some sense, to us. She now lived in her own world. Hence the creation of “Grandma Land.” The result was less frustrating for all of us. It also provided some wonderful moments of joy and laughter for everyone involved, as we traveled as best we could to her world. Yes, we missed the old Grandma, but we found a new one.

Certainly not the only way to deal with such situations, but it was effective. It is not a direct answer to the question, “How do I talk with Mom?” But it does suggest a direction. As much as possible, enter the world of the person with dementia. Their reality is “reality” to them. It seems cruel to try to make them see the “truth.” Wherever they are at the moment is their truth.


Get Thee to the Clergy Clinic

The fall health clinic for pastors and spouses has been scheduled for October 27–31 at the New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn. Participants in the four-day clinic will receive a physical exam and any follow-up tests warranted, plus learn about our mission hospital at work.

Overnight accommodations and virtually all expenses beyond a $50 registration fee are covered by the Hospital. To register or for more details, go to: www.nyac.com/eventdetail/198564.

NYM Health Clinic

Read about the NYM clinic in the article, "Why is it So Hard to Take Care of Ourselves?" from the April, 2014 issue of The Vision.

Global AIDS Conference Set for September

Bishop Cynthia Harvey from Louisiana will provide a clarion call to action to those gathered at the 5th United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Conference, Countdown to Zero: Just Save One, to be held September 11–13 in Denver. Bishop Harvey is the episcopal leader in a conference that believes the AIDS pandemic must be eradicated and has taken action to make that happen.

Over the years, the Louisiana Conference, even in the wake of Katrina, mobilized thousands of dollars to support life-saving ministries around the globe through the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund in partnership with UMCOR. 

“I am looking forward to the ‘Countdown to Zero’ Global AIDS conference. HIV/AIDS is an issue with many faces,” says Harvey. “It is an issue that not only belongs to our culture; but even more importantly, it is an issue that belongs to the church, The United Methodist Church. My hope is that through events such as these we might raise awareness and allow the Holy Spirit to stir in us the ‘What if?’ question. What if we could just save one and then another, and another, and another, and . . . ?”

Every annual conference is being urged to send a representative to this event with the goal of equipping leaders to help further educate about and advocate for AIDS elimination and ways United Methodists can make a difference.

The deadline for registering for the conference is August 15. To register, go to umglobalaidsfund.com.


Marching and Waiting for Peace in Korea

UMNS and Local Reporting

Cries of “Peace for Korea Now!” could be heard as some 200 people, primarily Korean or Korean Americans, marched the mile from Foundry United Methodist Church to Lafayette Park in front of the White House last month.

The July 26 “Korea Peace March and Vigil” was the culmination of a two-day event timed to coincide with the 61st anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War on July 27, 1953. The idea for the march and vigil was initiated in a petition from the Korean Caucus, approved by the New York Annual Conference, and adopted by the 2012 General Conference. Some 15 members of the conference participated in the march and vigil including

“This was a very historic moment,” explained Rev. Kun Sam Cho, pastor of Grace UMC in Fairfield, Conn., and coordinator of the NYAC Asian Council. He noted that most Asian cultures believe that every 60 years a new life cycle begins.

“The country has been divided for 61 years so it is time for a new season, a new reign of God for the Korean Peninsula,” said Cho. “Korea is the only place still divided by the Cold War. I believe that bringing peace in Korea will bring peace for all of our world.”

Cho added that he is “very, very moved” and that the NYAC should “be proud that the march for peace has spread to so many different places . . . it all started here in New York.”

The day before the march, about 60 people participated in an international ecumenical roundtable held at the historic Foundry church.

“We gather here because of our desire for peace, not only for Korea, but for the people of Palestine and Israel and the Ukraine, and all places where hatred and fear find expression in war and violence,” said Wisconsin Area Bishop Hee-Soo Jung in his remarks.

Korea Peace March
Walking the route from Foundry UMC to the White House, marchers shout, “Peace for Korea Now!” while holding signs and banners during a Korean Peace March on July 26. UMNS Photo

At the 2012 General Conference, the UMC adopted a “4-year plan for peace and reconciliation in the Korean peninsula.” Following this resolution, representatives of the UMC will also visit North Korea and South Korea in 2015.

Kun Sam Cho said he hopes to place a petition before the 2016 GC that will create a “Korea desk” to be more intentional about working for reunification for the peninsula.

Each year, the National Council of Churches in Korea and the Korean Christian Federation jointly prepare a “Prayer for Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula” for use on the Sunday before Aug. 15, “the day when Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial oppression, and ironically, the day when Korea was divided by external forces.”

“For us, this march is about being one in Christ, being one people, one land and truly having peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula as a part of our Christian witness.” said Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops. She later noted that all 345 member denominations of the World Council of Churches have been asked to join in that prayer every year “until peace happens.” The prayer can be found at: http://umc-gbcs.org/faith-in-action/2014-prayer-for-peace-reunification.

The delegation from the NYAC numbered about a dozen and included: Sung-ok Lee, a deaconess and an assistant general secretary of Christian Social Action for the UMW; Rev. Kun Sam Cho, Fairfield Grace UMC; Rev. Charles Ryu, Saint Paul’s UMC, Middletown; Rev. HyoungDuck Yoo, Grace UMC, Brooklyn; Rev. Sung Mo Song; and Myung Rae Kim, executive director of the National Network of Korean American UMW.

Sponsors of the event included the UMC’s General Board of Church & Society, General Board of Global Ministries Korean Ministry Plan, United Methodist Women and the Committee on Reunification of Korean American Assembly of The United Methodist Church; and the World Council of Churches, National Council of Churches of Korea, Global Ministries of the Christian Church and United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterian Church USA-Office of Public Witness.


The Laity Get It—Why Can’t the Clergy?

BY TONY BECK
Retired Pastor

I read with interest the results of a survey of United Methodists recently conducted by United Methodist Communications. These results, published in the last Vision, “shows that issues related to human sexuality rank significantly lower than other concerns . . . Creating disciples of Christ, spiritual growth, and youth involvement are among the [members’] top priorities . . .”

This tells me that the laity get it. They understand Christ’s command to make disciples. They comprehend the need to disciple our youth and adults, and reach out to the community to lead others to Christ. What happened to the clergy? What about the promises made during ordination?

In the General Examination, clergy agree with this statement: “It is your task to proclaim by word and deed the gospel of Jesus Christ, to lead persons to faith in Jesus Christ, and to conform your life in accordance with the

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gospel . . . You are called to proclaim the faith of the Church and no other.” (Book of Worship, p 688)

Rather than honoring these commitments, some clergy are flouting the Book of Discipline, and spending considerable time on issues that have nothing to do with making disciples.

According to the survey, “Sixty-three percent [of the members] said the issue of sexual orientation and same-gender marriage is ‘diverting the church from more important things.’ They ranked it eighth in importance among issues facing the church today.”

Fortunately, the members have their priorities in line with biblical commands. Let me suggest that it would behoove the clergy to do likewise and stop devoting so much time and effort to issues that are tearing the church apart.

As we all know, the UMC is seriously divided over issues that, according to the survey, rank lower in importance, especially when you consider the magnitude of other problems facing this world: human trafficking, unaccompanied children crossing our border, conflicts in the Middle East, persecution of Christians in a number of countries, treatment of women, forced abortions in China, terrorism, anti-Semitism, widespread substance abuse, deadly diseases, and the kidnapping of children in Africa by terrorists. Wouldn’t our time be better spent working for resolution of these horrendous problems?

The UMC will continue to lose members if we keep on the current path, and the church may eventually split over the issue of human sexuality. That would be a shame, because a unified church can be a powerful force for good in the world. Clergy, let’s get back to basics, so the church can once again be about the business of making disciples for the transformation of the world and serving those who are truly in need.


Judicial Council to Hear Schaefer Appeal

(UMNS) Rev. Christopher L. Fisher, who was counsel for the church in the trial of the Rev. Frank Schaefer, is appealing to the denomination’s Judicial Council to overturn last month’s reinstatement of Schaefer’s ordination credentials.

The UMC’s top court will next meet in late October, and the appeal is one of 21 items on the current docket.

Fisher’s brief to the Judicial Council argues that the decision to reinstate Schaefer conflicts with the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, and earlier Judicial Court decisions. Fisher also says the committee on appeals “wrongly crafted its own penalty” for Schaefer rather than remanding back to the lower church court. In his appeal, Fisher also requested that the Judicial Council hear oral arguments in the case. 

Schaefer told United Methodist News Service he knew an appeal “was a real possibility … and knowing how politicized my case has become I sort of expected it to happen.”

Schaefer’s ministerial credentials were reinstated by the denomination’s Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals on June 23. The decision also ordered the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference to compensate Schaefer for all lost salary and benefits dating from Dec. 19, 2013.

The former pastor of Iona UMC in eastern Pennsylvania, Schaefer was defrocked after a November 2013 church trial found him guilty of violating the Book of Discipline by conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony for his son. He also was found guilty of violating the church’s order and discipline.

After the June 23 ruling, Bishop Minerva Carcaño announced Schaefer’s new appointment to Isla Vista Student Ministry in Santa Barbara, Calif., with the blessings of his previous bishop in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference. Schaefer will be responsible for reaching out to the large college community that “lives, studies and works at the doorsteps of the church,” said Carcaño, who leads the denomination’s California-Pacific Conference.

The items on the council’s October docket can be found at www.umc.org/who-we-are/judicial-council-dockets.


UMC Market Case Settled

The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) recently settled a disagreement with one of the founding partners of UMCmarket.org. During the process, UMCmarket.net was developed so that the program did not cease operation.

In the settlement, GCFA regains full rights of UMCmarket.org, the online shopping portal for United Methodists. At www.UMCmarket.org, United Methodist shoppers can browse through and shop with a vast array of online vendors.

The process is simple: Log on to www.UMCmarket.org, create a profile, select the local church or other church entity you’d like donations made to, search for a vendor by name or category, click on the vendor page and shop online as you regularly would. When shoppers use this portal, each retailer has agreed to donate a percentage of the purchases to the local church or United Methodist group of the shopper’s choice. Each time the total of donations reaches $100, the church (or group) will be sent a check in the mail.


Simple Words of Love May Change a Life

BY REV. WILLIAM TOWNSEND
Director of Spiritual Life

“Just because you live in the hood, the hood does not have to live in you.”

Those words, uttered by a stranger on a park bench in Long Beach, California, changed the life of a young high school dropout by the name of Manny Scott. Manny was one of the students whose story was chronicled in the movie, Freedom Writers.

Manny grew up in a loving but abusive and dysfunctional family. He witnessed domestic violence and gang violence on a regular basis. He saw his mother beaten and raped, and saw friends gunned down on the streets. Manny skipped more days of school than he attended. When he finally dropped out in his freshman year, he had a grade point average of .6 (out of 4.0). He was regularly abusing drugs and alcohol with his life was headed nowhere fast. That chance meeting, however, changed his life.

The stranger shared the good news of God’s love and the good news of hope and redemption. For the first time, Manny understood that his past didn’t have to define his future. That day he made a conscious decision to become

Children's Home

the kind of man and father that he had never known.

Manny’s story reminds us that we live in a fallen world. Children are abused and neglected. Too many fathers are absent and too many mothers are overwhelmed. Often mental and emotional problems keep children from reaching their full potential. Learning disabilities make going to school as painful as going to the dentist; often the kids just don’t go. Anger and violence seems to spill over into every aspect of life. Drugs and alcohol have become an easy way of escape from the darkness and despair.

But there is good news. Just because we live in a fallen world the fallen world does not have to live in us. By God’s grace, every person can rise above the present circumstances and become the person God intended him or her to be. Each one of us must decide whether to use the fallen world as an excuse for inaction and failure or as an impetus to positive change and success. Manny Scott chose the latter and encourages us to do the same.

Many children have stories similar to that of Manny. They have every reason to give up and to be doubtful about the future. They have seldom known the joy of success. There seems to be no hope. Every child is waiting for a chance encounter that can change his or her life. Each child is waiting to experience the forgiving, unconditional love of God, and that of a caring adult. Each child is waiting to hear that the future can be better than the past. Each child is waiting to hear that, “Just because you live in the hood, the hood does not have to live in you.”

That’s where you and I come in. Next time you see a young person sitting alone, looking like they are at the end of their rope, take a moment to stop and chat. Listen to their story. Share your faith and share your story. Let them know that somebody really cares. Be “God in the flesh” for that young person. Who knows, you might just change a life?

 

For more information on the Children’s Home, call 607-772-6904 (or toll free 800-772-6904) ext. 131, or visit the web site at www.chowc.org. Send donations directly, or use the New York Conference advance number 60-0588.


UMCOR Responds to Immigration,
Middle East, Ebola Crisises

The current immigration crisis involving adults, accompanied minors, and unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States along the Southwest border has been labeled a humanitarian disaster. UMCOR has responded by supporting the conferences most affected with grant funds for hospitality, material supplies where needed, and collaboration with our ecumenical and governmental partners.

UMCOR has released emergency grants of $10,000 to the Southwest Texas and Desert Southwest conferences.

UMCOR has supported the Mexican Border Ministry Network (16 sites) in the past with grants for blankets, socks, and medical supplies. A delivery of 18,000 health kits was recently released in the areas of McAllen, Laredo, and Brownsville to help support the hospitality needs of those arriving.

JFON (Justice for our Neighbors), which is supported by UMCOR, is sending volunteer attorneys to the area on request of the government to help expedite some immigration proceedings with legal representation.

EBOLA VIRUS

As the Ebola virus spreads in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the denomination continues to work through West African United Methodist church leaders and regional health boards,

denominational health facilities, missionaries, and UMCOR. The church has three hospitals and five clinics in Sierra Leone and one hospital and three clinics in Liberia.

An initial $25,000 grant from UMCOR to the Sierra Leone Annual Conference provided UM health centers with material to protect health workers and prevent contagion and to construct an isolation unit at Mercy Hospital. A $50,000 UMCOR grant to the ACT Alliance was used to help build isolation centers, conduct workshops and educate communities about the virus, and to raise awareness about prevention.

GAZA

The eruption of open conflict with Israel in the last month has left families in Gaza struggling to meet basic nutritional needs. About half of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents already were dependent on food aid. But because of the current bombing campaign, fishermen can no longer operate their boats, and

UMCOR

agricultural fields are being destroyed or simply are too exposed for farmers to risk harvesting.

Thousands of people have been displaced, and only limited shipments of food and other supplies are being allowed through border crossings.

UMCOR is working with partner American Near East Refugee Aid to provide emergency food assistance to 650 Palestinian families—about 5,200 individuals—impacted by the fighting.


The Vision, Newspaper of the NYAC, of the UMC

Bishop: Martin D. McLee

Director of Connectional Ministries: Claude I. Gooding

Editor: Joanne Utley

Vision e-mail: thevision@nyac.com

Web site: www.nyac.com

New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

20 Soundview Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606

Phone (888) 696-6922

Fax (914) 615-2244