The Vision
The Newspaper of The New York Conference of The United Methodist Church April 2018

In this issue

Rev. Gil Caldwell, far right, and others demonstrate for full inclusion at the 1968 Uniting Conference in Dallas. Caldwell served for a time in the NYAC.
Amid Tumult of 1968, A Church Came Together


UMNS | The year 1968 convulsed with assassinations, riots, war in Vietnam and student protests against that war. The Troubles revved up in Northern Ireland, and Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia.

At a time when it seemed much of the world was violently splitting apart, a group of Wesleyan Christians peacefully and joyfully were coming together.

On April 23, 1968, two bishops followed by two children, two youths, two adults, six ordained ministers, two church officers and finally all 10,000 people present joined hands and repeated in unison:

“Lord of the church, we are united in thee, in thy church, and now in The United Methodist Church. Amen.”

With those words in a Dallas auditorium, the 750,000-member Evangelical United Brethren Church and the 10.3 million-member Methodist Church became one church. The merger also brought people together in another way: marking the official dissolution of the Methodist Church’s racially segregated Central Jurisdiction.

Amid a tumultuous year—just weeks after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.—a new United Methodist Church was born.

“It felt like the restoration of the Methodist movement,” said the Rev. Joseph Evers, a Methodist delegate to the 1968 Uniting Conference. He is now 91 and lives in Quincy, Ill.

Reaching unity required years of effort and a commitment to address racism that remains a work in progress.

Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, newly named as a district superintendent at the time, was among the demonstrators at the doorway to the Uniting Conference promoting integration. They held signs silently reminding delegates the church still had work to do. Caldwell’s sign quoted the title of King’s final book: “Where Do We Go from Here . . . Chaos or Community?”

“We knew even though we eliminated the Central Jurisdiction, issues of race and racism were still there,” he said.

As The United Methodist Church celebrates its 50th birthday, church historians see lessons for a denomination facing questions of unity anew.

Blessed be the ties

The early leaders of what would become The United Methodist Church had close ties. They just took more than a century to bind.

Philip Otterbein, the German-born co-founder of the United Brethren in Christ, was a friend with Francis Asbury, Methodism’s pioneering bishop. In fact, Otterbein participated in Asbury’s ordination at the 1784 Christmas Conference, the event that marked the founding of the Methodist church in America.

Jacob Albright, founder of what became known as the Evangelical Association, came to Methodism through a class meeting and began preaching and forming classes of his own among fellow German-speaking Americans. However, a lack of cooperation from English-speaking Methodists led both Otterbein’s and Albright’s followers to organize their own denominations.

Language differences weren’t the only source of division. U.S. Methodism during its first century saw a structural split about once every decade, wrote noted church historian, Rev. Russell E. Richey. Most dramatically, northern and southern Methodists ruptured over slavery in 1844.

By the early 20th century, John Wesley’s spiritual descendants had gone from breaking up to making up—but at great cost.

In 1939, three Methodist denominations reunited to form what was then the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. But to make that union possible, Methodist Protestant clergywomen had to surrender their clergy rights.

Most notoriously, the Methodist Episcopal Church South required the creation of the Central Jurisdiction, which enshrined the segregation (and attendant second-class treatment) of African-Americans in the new denomination’s constitution.

The merger of the United Brethren and Evangelical Church in 1946 featured its own setback. While the United Brethren approved full clergy rights for women in 1889, the Evangelicals wanted to halt the ordination of women altogether. While never an official ban, women’s ordination slowed greatly in the resulting union.

Let’s get together

Nonetheless, members of both denominations continued to push for a church more in keeping with Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 that believers “will be one.” 

Efforts to end the Central Jurisdiction date from its inception. Methodists and Evangelical United Brethren also began making movements toward union just months after the EUB formed.

“The mid-20th century marked a broad movement toward church unity,” said the Rev. Thomas E. Frank, a historian of Methodism at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

At the same time the Methodists and Evangelical United Brethren were talking, other denominations embarked on similar dialogues that would lead to the formation of the United Church of Christ in 1957, the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1983, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988.

The path to The United Methodist Church wasn’t without roadblocks. Bishops from both denominations in 1957 identified possible impediments to union, said Rev. Ted Campbell, church history professor at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas.

One issue was that the Methodist Church gave bishops life tenure while the Evangelical United Brethren had term limits. The list also included the size difference between the two churches, the manner of selecting district superintendents, overlapping church agencies, and finding a name that would honor the heritage of both denominations.

To make the union happen, the two denominations made compromises. United Methodists in the U.S. adopted the Methodist practice of life tenure for bishops. The Evangelical United Brethren’s Council on Ministries structure was adopted, and is still used to coordinate ministries at the local church and other levels of the denomination. The word United also became part of the new church’s name.

Forming a more perfect union

The Central Jurisdiction was not on the initial list of trouble spots, Campbell pointed out, but that came later.

The Evangelical United Brethren—following petitions from the church’s Illinois Conference—ultimately made abolishing the segregated institution a condition for union, said the Rev. J. Steven O’Malley. He was an ordained EUB pastor at the time of the merger and now a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

“This move reflects longstanding EUB opposition to segregation and, before that, slavery,” he said.

Four years before the union, Methodist conferences within the Central Jurisdiction began transferring to geographical jurisdictions.

“By 1964, there were just so many of us who thought segregation was wrong and that the Central Jurisdiction was an anomaly in the Methodist Church because our theology didn’t support segregation,” said Evers, the Methodist delegate. “But it lasted too long.”

In a reversal of what happened in prior mergers, the 1968 union also assured women the right to be ordained and have full clergy rights, said the Rev. Patricia Thompson. She is the author of “Courageous Past—Bold Future: The Journey Toward Full Clergy Rights for Women in The United Methodist Church.”

However, the church sometimes struggled to live up to its teachings.

Retired Bishop Susan W. Hassinger, who came out of the EUB tradition, was ordained in 1968. She waited two years for her first appointment, which was only part-time.

Hassinger and other church leaders say the denomination can learn from its union. Those lessons seem especially relevant as the church prepares for a special General Conference in 2019 where delegates will face questions of whether attitudes toward homosexuality should be church-dividing.

“People had to listen to each other across differences and learn how to value the other,” said Hassinger, now bishop-in-residence at United Methodist Boston University School of Theology.

O’Malley thinks the church can benefit from its Evangelical United Brethren heritage by taking a more “irenic” approach to conferencing, church order and social principles—that is, an approach aimed at reconciliation and peace.

Rev. Ian Straker, a member of the New York Conference and a former Howard University School of Divinity professor who has researched both the church split over slavery and the Central Jurisdiction, has yet another lesson in mind.

While uniting a church is hard, he said, breaking up is even harder. The split in 1844 was not as simple as the amicable declaration made at that year’s General Conference.

“Stuff was tied up in litigation for decades,” he said. “It made a bunch of lawyers happy, but it was not neat and easy.”

* * * * *

Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke, the episcopal leader of the New York Area at the time, shook hands with Evangelical United Brethren Bishop Reuben H. Mueller, symbolically joining the two churches during the Uniting Conference in Dallas. Wicke had chaired the Methodist committee that drew up the proposal leading to the merger.

Wicke was elected to the episcopacy in 1948 and served the New York Area from 1960 until his retirement in 1972.

The New York Conference sent a delegation of eight clergy and eight laypersons to the Dallas conference. The clergy delegates were Harold A. Bosley, Douglas F. Verdin, Roy Nichols, Richard A. Thornburg, Walter L. Scranton, William M. James, Burton F. Tarr, and H. Burnham Kirkland. Laity were Mrs. George E. Transom, Robert W. Preusch, William T. Staubach, Jr., Ethel R. Johnson, Louis C. Hauser, Mrs. Everett B. Kennedy, Howard H. Darling, and William H. Veale.

New York Area Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke, second from right, looks on as a child from the Methodist Church and one from the EUB Church shake hands during the Uniting Conference in April 1968. Wicke chaired the Methodist committee that drew up the merger proposal.

Resources to Mark UMC 50th Anniversary

Commemorative events are being planned across annual conference, district and local church levels beginning April 22, the Sunday before the April 23 anniversary, through May 20, Heritage Sunday. This year, the Heritage Sunday theme is “Jubilee: The 50th Anniversary of The United Methodist Church,” giving congregations an opportunity to reflect on the importance of history while also vision casting about the future.

The General Commission of Archives and History and other historical organizations will hold “Merging the Streams: Celebrating The United Methodist Church’s 50th Anniversary.” The gathering on July 9–12 at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, will celebrate both the denomination’s Evangelical United Brethren heritage and the end of the Central Jurisdiction. For more information and to register, click here.

Numerous resources have been developed for the 50th anniversary of the uniting conference, including liturgical materials, the original uniting conference video, and a reference guide to the church’s history. is featuring anniversary content at A hashtag—#UMC50—is being used for all anniversary-themed content across social media channels and the denomination’s official Facebook page is featuring Throwback Thursday (#TBT) content from the momentous event.

Want to read the journal from the 1968 Uniting Conference? It’s available online here.

Comment on Revision Of Social Principles

All United Methodists are invited to go to the General Board of Church and Society website to read theproposed changes to the Social Principles, which have remained unchanged since their creation in 1968. Groups will be meeting throughout our districts, across the NYAC and the world to discuss the

revisions to the UMC policies on social justice. Between now and August, the website will allow individuals to leave comments. More information will be forthcoming. Register for a discussion group in your district by clicking here.

Finding Peace Where You Least Expect

My mind has been dizzy lately. There is SO much going on! I have been swirling in a sea of activity, changing hats everyday with something else to do: disaster recovery in Puerto Rico, re-writing the Book of Discipline, Council & College of Bishops, the “Way Forward” and, oh yes, appointment season! It’s just been crazy.

My mind has been dizzy lately. There is SO much going on! More shootings, children and youth protesting, the struggles with DACA and immigration, teachers’ strikes, and, oh yes, appointment season. It’s just been crazy.

My mind has been dizzy lately. Work on our mission, vision, and core values, budget proposals, an endless string of committee meetings and appointments in the midst of what seems to be weekly travel and, oh yes, appointment season. It’s just been crazy.

My mind has been dizzy lately. Remembering the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the 50th anniversary of the formation of the United Methodist Church, and the 50th anniversary of the dissolving of the Central Jurisdiction. So much to remember. It’s just been crazy.

My mind has been dizzy lately. Recent struggles with the health and well-being of my parents in Florida, trying to work out times with our daughter as she anticipates the birth of her first child and our first grandchild, and a water main break at the episcopal residence that has added a whole other layer of things to do. So very much going on. It’s just been crazy.

My mind has been dizzy lately. So dizzy at times that it’s a bit hard to know where to start, when to stop, and how to navigate it all. My mind and body have been weary as of late and my spirit has been taxed. And in those seasons, the one who is called to minister to others feels, at times, a need to receive ministry from others. 

And when I least expected it, it happened.

His name was Barue. His nametag said “James,” but his real name is Barue. He was my flight attendant on a recent trip back to New York from one of those endless meetings. I fly just enough to get “bumped up” to first class every so often and this was one of those times. A bigger seat and a little more legroom . . . and Barue.

When I settled into my seat, Barue approached me and asked about my pin. My bishop’s pin is a real point of curiosity for those in the non-United Methodist world. When I told him what I did, I assumed that I would once again have to be “on” again. But Barue took a different approach.

“You must get really tired in your work,” he said. “I can’t imagine all of the responsibilities you carry. I hope that you’ll let me take care of you during this flight. If you need anything, please let me know.”

That was nice. But it got nicer. Before I knew what had happened, Barue was addressing all of the customers in first class.

“Before we start our flight,” he began, “I wanted to say a special word of thanks to each one of you for your business on our airline. We don’t say it enough but we wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for you. So, on behalf of the thousands of employees at American Airlines I want to thank you for helping us have a job. During our flight today, if there’s anything I can do for you, I’ll try my best to do it.”

People started talking.

“We’ve never heard that speech before from a flight attendant,” one man said. The person in front of me turned to her seatmate and said, “I wish they all had that kind of spirit.” Another said, “What a nice young man.”

During the flight there was turbulence. It was rocky enough that they had to suspend the beverage service. Barue got on the intercom to make the announcement. I’ve heard it before, “Ladies and gentlemen, due to turbulence there will be no beverage service today.” And when that speech ends, you almost hear a sigh of relief from the flight attendant—you know, the “I’m off the hook on having to serve them” attitude. But Barue went a step further, “Ladies and gentlemen, due to turbulence there will be no beverage service today . . . And I really apologize for that. We enjoy serving you. In fact, it’s what

we do. I’m really sorry that we can’t help to make your ride more pleasant. And, I’m really sorry for the turbulence, but you’ll have to take that up with someone else besides me.”

People starting talking again. 

When we landed, Barue appeared with his suit jacket on. In the few minutes it took the plane to taxi to the gate, this man reached out his hand, shook the hand of every passenger in first class, and called each of us by our first name (although he did call me bishop instead of Tom). To each of us he said, “It’s been a pleasure meeting you and I hope you have a really pleasant remainder of your day.”

When I was leaving, Barue shook my hand again and said, “Thank you especially for what you do. I don’t know a lot about your job but I would guess you have a lot of responsibilities and a lot of people to take care of. I’ll be remembering you.”

I may never see this man again in my life. But I will never forget him. 

In the rush of activity called life and in the midst of ever-rising tensions and anxieties, we are often more consumed with our own feelings and needs than the cares of others. And, when we offer ourselves freely in service to our work, there are times when we get tired and weary. It’s then, I have found, that God has a way of sending an angel or two to minister to your need. It speaks to scripture verses like these:

  • “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5),
  • “But even the hairs on your head are counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)
  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

The list goes on and on. These verses are written and serve as reminders on the journey that no one is on an island in the heart of God. But more than that, we have the gift of living reminders in our midst. People that sense a need are caught in a spirit of gratitude and made aware that what they have they have received from someone else. And when they understand how much they have, they respond in kind. What they have received, they freely give.

It’s what we are called to do. It’s how we transmit the faith that we claim as our own. Flight attendants can be short-tempered, non-conversant, and aloof. So can we. But remember, there is someone somewhere today who needs exactly what you have been given: grace, love, kindness, and joy. And when we do, life in the crazy, dizzying world seems a little bit more survivable in the mind of the one who you cared enough to bless.

My mind has been dizzy lately. But my equilibrium returned on American flight 2050 from Charlotte to LaGuardia.

Thanks Barue.

The Journey Continues, . . . 

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton
Resident Bishop

Hoop It Up for Abundant Health!
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton had a lot of hula-hooping company at the “Hulapalooza” event April 7. Nearly 200 people turned out to learn about healthy living.

For a full lineup of events, go to:

Ongoing Immigration Prayers
Join the NYAC Immigration Task Force for a time of prayer for our country and immigrant brothers and sisters on Monday nights from 7:30-8 p.m. until further notice. Call-in number: 641-715-3580; group code: 780843#. Contact Pastor Ximena Varas for more information.

5/5 & 12: Bishop’s Confirmation Rallies
Confirmands are invited to join Bishop Bickerton for a day of worship, discussion, and fun at one of two Saturday rallies from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.:

•May 5: Grace UMC, 21 S. Franklin Ave., Valley Stream, N.Y.
May 12: Poughkeepsie UMC, 2381 New Hackensack Road, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Contact Neal Bowes at with any questions. Register on the NYAC web site.

5/18–19: Anti-Racism Training
The NYAC Commission on Religion and Race is sponsoring a session of “Effective Christian Leadership in a Multicultural World” training. This training is mandatory for all clergy, and members of district committees on ministry and the Board of Ordained Ministry. The training will be held at the Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center in Ossining, N.Y. Attendance is FREE (Conference Commission on Religion & Race pays the $250 cost), however there is a $250 refundable deposit for this training. Without payment of the $250, your registration is not complete. Register online.

5/19: Missional Community Engagement Forum
Guest speaker for this event at the Edith Macy Conference Center is Andrew Roberts, author of “Holy Habits.” Members


of the conference have been studying the book in a variety of contexts for the past year. Roberts will explore the question: How do we become disciples of Christ who nurture more disciples of Christ—in and out of the church? The center is as 550 Chappaqua Rd., Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. Contact Carol Merante at with any questions.

5/25–27 Quinipet “Spring into Action”
Volunteers are needed to help get Camp Quinipet ready for the summer season. Individuals, church groups, youth groups, and/or Quinipet alumni are all welcome to participate. Projects may include painting, raking, beach and grounds cleanup. Housing and meals are free in appreciation for the work. Register here.

6/7–10 New York Annual Conference
Clergy and laity from around the conference will gather to explore the theme, “Pathways & Possibilities: Transforming the World” at Hofstra University on Long Island. Online registration is now open for the session that will begin on Thursday afternoon and conclude following the ordination service on Sunday. See the annual conference preview on Pages 10–12.

7/27–29 Mission u
The United Methodist Women and Board of Laity invite all to this time for spiritual growth and to expand your knowledge and concepts of mission. The 2018 studies are: “Embracing Wholeness: An Earth Perspective to Covenantal Living,” “What About Our Money? A Faith Response,” and the “Geographic Study: Missionary Conferences in U.S.” Participate in all three days at the Stamford Hilton, or drop in for the Saturday Sampler. Register online before July 1.

10/14–25 “Journeys of Paul” Cruise
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton will host the nine-day journey aboard Royal Caribbean’s “Jewel of the Seas,” in conjunction with Educational Opportunities Tours. Beginning and ending in Rome, the trip includes stops in Taormina and Pompeii, Italy; Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, and Corinth, Greece; and Ephesus, Turkey. There is also an optional two-day tour of Vatican City on October 25–26. Find the reservation information online. If you have any questions, contact Rev. Chuck Ferrara, the regional representative for Educational Opportunities in our area.

Vision Deadlines for 2018
The Vision is a monthly online publication of the New York Conference. Deadlines are always the first Friday of the month, with posting to the web site about 10 days later. The deadlines for 2018 are May 4, June 1, July 6, August 3, September 7, October 5, November 2, and December 7. Please send any stories, photos, ideas, or questions directly to

Pushing On, Taking Risks to Transform Lives

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.
—Galatians 6:9–10 The Message

I AM TIRED! Any “leader” in our church, who is engaged in the life of our church, might be tired, also. Coming out of Holy Week, this is time when many of us need to catch our collective breath. Doing the real work of transformation, or “doing good,”is exhausting, because we are out in our communities modeling what it means to be truly Christ-like. We, agents of transformation, are going where Jesus went . . . around the “ain’ts” that Jesus went . . . loving and living hard enough to make a change. At least that’s what we should be doing, and yes, this is hard work!

Unfortunately, I see some who will not do the hard work for a myriad of reasons. Whether it is because of the rejection by those whom we are called to love; or because of the past failures in evangelistic efforts; or being just plain tired because “I seem to be the only one doing the work.” Some of us choose to avoid the hard work . . . thus, doing no good. And, make no mistake, our church is in a tenuous place where, if we choose not to do good, we have in fact done harm to our sisters and brothers inside and outside the church!

If someone has failed to pick up what’s being put down, please allow me to make it plain: We will not “make disciples” if we stay in the same safe place . . . doing the same safe thing . . . in the same safe way!

With this stark reality staring us in the face, I would offer an alternative perspective that right now is the time for us to push on . . . push up . . . and push through! We may be tired (we should be tired!), but right now is our kairos moment for doing good!

Now is the time to take the fire of Resurrection Sunday out into the world proclaiming the life-changing, soul-saving Good News of Jesus Christ! Think about it . . . if God gave God’s best (and God did!), why would we want to give less than our best . . .every time we get the chance?My prayer is for a reviving transformation within the church that manifests in a transformative experience of renewal outside the church. What about you?

Stepping away from my window . . .

Lent Devotional Strengthens Churches’ Connection

Four churches in the New York-Connecticut District shared a special book of devotions throughout the Lenten season.  The booklet, “Beloved Community,” was written by 26 lay members of the Warwick, Sugar Loaf, New Milford-Edenville and Goshen United Methodist churches. Seventeen clergy—including the bishop and members of the cabinet—also provided reflections on the daily lectionary readings.

The idea first came forward in a meeting between Rev. Jennifer Morrow, Pastor Susan Chupungco, and Pastor Crystal Paul-Watson, who have been meeting regularly to discuss and plan collaborative ministries among their four churches.

Warwick UMC, where Morrow is the pastor, had been doing a devotional in Lent for many years that was organized by church lay leader Tracy Moore. So expanding the devotional between the four churches was easier than beginning from scratch, according to Paul-Watson.

The pastors divided the daily lectionary readings between their churches, and Chupungco went to work drafting cabinet members and conference staff to supply the Saturday and Sunday offerings. They asked Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton to write the devotion for Easter Day.

Once Chupungco had all the entries in one file and ordered by date, she sent it off to Moore and Paul-Watson for editing and printing.

Paul-Watson happens to own a publishing company and said that “one of my gifts and joys is making books. I wanted to create a book that would be a cherished keepsake. It took me three days to design and create the publication.”

She added that it was a “Godsend” that Pastor John Parille from Bethel (Conn.) UMC and his printing company could complete the work. The booklet was done just a week before Ash Wednesday and the churches distributed 200 copies. They also provided the devotions online through daily emails and Facebook postings.

Response to the devotional has been heart-warming for the three pastors. Chupungco expressed the joy of all four of the churches praying together throughout the season of Lent.

During worship on Easter Sunday at Warwick, several people offered public prayers of thanks for the book and all those who had contributed devotions, Morrow said in an email, adding that the interest and engagement with the online devotions grew throughout the season.

“We got one message of thanks from as far away as New

Booklet of devotions created for the Warwick, Sugar Loaf, New Milford-Edenville and Goshen United Methodist churches.

Hampshire from someone who read the daily readings on Facebook . . . so a joyfully broad reach indeed,” she said.

New connections were also made when church members read the devotions written by other members of their congregations.

“To hear the personal stories of faith that we often don't have the opportunity to share in worship opened up opportunities for seeing the faith of those whom we sit with in the pews each Sunday in new and deeper ways,” Chupungco wrote. 

While they don’t yet have specific plans to do a booklet again, they are planning for other collaborative ventures like a confirmation class next year. The four churches have been coming together every other month for a “Beloved Community” potluck meal and program to build fellowship and strengthen their connection.

Treading the Halls to Halt Solitary Confinement


 How well I remember the “Million Dollar Staircase” in the Albany Capitol reverberating with the chants led by the Peace Poets at last year’s lobby day for legislation to change the use of solitary confinement in New York State!

“No-o-o more Sol-i-tary Confineeeement . . .” resounded then and the chants were back in full force on March 13 as some 200 people advocated for the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement bill (A.3080B/S.4784A).

Having made a commitment to work to eliminate torture from the New York criminal justice system, the Conference Board of Church and Society sponsored participation in this day of advocacy and action. Working with other organizations from around the state, we formed 45 small groups, and, undeterred by the snow and sleet, visited more than 100 legislators. In between these visits, we listened to testimony from those directly affected by isolated confinement, shared stories of successes and frustrations, and, of course, marched and chanted at the famous staircase and around the halls.

The day after our action, the Assembly included HALT in its one house budget bill that passed. While HALT still needs to pass the Assembly as a stand-alone bill, this is a huge step (and passage is expected)! The Senate Democratic Conference included HALT in its budget letter, giving it priority on the democratic agenda and at least two more senators (Brian Kavanagh and Joseph Addabbo) have agreed to co-sponsor the bill This brings the number of committed senators to 27, with 32 being the magic number.

What can you do to stop New York from sanctioning torture? Here are a few steps to take:

  • Find out how your senator and assemblyperson stand on the bill. Let them know that you want New York to stop allowing torture. “New York can do better!” Locate your assemblyperson by clicking here, and your senator here.

Kimberly McKenzie, Sharon Roth, Andrew Torzano, Sonia Wagner, and Ute Ritz-Deutsch during a visit to the office of New York Senator John Bonacic, a Republican from the 19th district.

  • Join the “Together to End Torture” campaign by using the 23rd day of every month to raise up the injustice of solitary confinement. Those in solitary spend 23 out of 24 hours a day completely cut off from all human contact. Hence, the 23rd day of each month is dedicated to demonstrations, educational seminars and other ways of raising awareness. Go to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) website for lots of ideas.
  • Get a free copy of the documentary, “Breaking Down the Box”and show it at your church or small group. An easy discussion guide is supplied, too. Email Church & Society for a copy of the DVD.

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need to go back again next year to chant and march to end torture??

Peiffer is the coordinator for social justice organizing, engagement and advocacy for the Conference Board of Church & Society. She may be reached via email:

2 New District Assistants

Two new administrative assistants have joined the NYAC staff to serve four of the district superintendents.

Karen Yostpille is supporting Rev. Tim Riss in the Catskill Hudson District and Rev. Betsy Ott in the New York Connecticut District. She is a lifelong United Methodist and a member of the Darien UMC.  She most recently worked at the Darien Library and previously worked in finance. Yostpille has a degree in accounting.

Mariyam Muhammad is assisting Rev. Dr. Denise Smartt Sears in the Metropolitan District and Rev. Dr. Alpher Sylvester in the Connecticut District. Muhammad is an experienced administrative professional who has worked in several schools as well as The Boys and Girls Club, and as a nursing staff coordinator/administrative assistant. She has a degree in Social Science.

Both will be working Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the conference center in White Plains. Yostpille can be reached at 914-615-2233; Muhammad can be reached at 914-615-2227.

Email addresses are as follows:

Catskill Hudson:
New York-Connecticut:

BMCR Cited for Donation

At their annual meeting in March, the Black Methodists for Church Renewal recognized the New York Conference chapter for participation in the “1,000 Challenge.”

After celebrating the groups’ 50th anniversary in 2017, the

BMCR leadership challenged 50 churches to commit $1,000 to go towards their budget. The NYAC chapter was one of 16 who accepted the challenge. Rev. Sheila Beckford accepted the citation at the Sacramento, Calif., meeting.

The pilgrims gather at the Port of Pill from which John Wesley sent Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke to America.
Reflections from Wesley Heritage Tour to England

From March 11–20, a group of 15 from the NYAC—led by Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton—traveled to England to visit locations key to early Methodism and the lives of the Wesley brothers. The pilgrims included four clergy members who will be ordained in June—Melissa Hinnen, Jongbum Lee, Steve Youngdong Kim, Rev. Sharon Petgrave-Cundy. Journal entries from the four as well ones from fellow pilgrims Rev. Betsy Ott and Rev. Marva Usher-Kerr are below.

March 11

After weeks of waiting, we met at the conference center to start our trip. The odd thing is that we then rode from New York to Philadelphia to catch the plane. We passed four airports to get there! No explanation why!!

If I dwelled on this fact alone it could distract for we like to be in control.

Such a trip made a long day longer. However, by taking such a journey, we managed to create a shared bond of tiredness, tinged with excitement.

A lesson perhaps is that anything worthwhile still takes time—even today in our fast-paced world.

Peace & Blessings,
—Marva Usher-Kerr

March 13

“John Wesley, a brand plucked out of the burning.”

As we complete our first full day of the Wesleyan Heritage journey, less than three months from my ordination, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Thankfulfor Bishop Bickerton and the faithful people who guided his journey . . . Thankful for the faithful people who guide and have guided me on my journey . . . and thankful for the faithful people who guided each child of God who is brought together on this journey.

Exploring our Christian discipleship through our common Wesleyan/Methodist heritage, I am once again in awe of our strategic God. When we allow the Holy Spirit to be free (quoting Pastor Angie at Wesley Memorial), where she leads us is beyond anything we can ask or imagine.

Walking through the Wesley rectory, I considered what it might have been like to grow up in this lovely town where people resented your father, their pastor, because he represented the “institution.” At the same time, the family home was so focused on God’s love for us through Jesus. Constant prayer and scripture reading in the midst of hardship and struggle provided the foundation for growing, sharing, and perfecting love.

When John “Jacky” Wesley was saved from a house fire as a small child, his mother instilled in him a sense of God’s purpose on his life. So often it is out of times of crisis that we remind ourselves that God is with us and bigger than the crisis.

When I was in a season of pain and questioning eight years ago, through a series of events I began to feel inexplicable joy within the chaos. My soul was finding peace even though the situations around me had not significantly changed. And I wondered: how could I share this good news with others? God’s grace and joy is present and can fill your soul even in the midst of a broken world.

Standing on the tomb of Samuel Wesley I felt a rush of empowerment and humility . . . and once again gratitude. Standing in the same place as John Wesley . . . who was so determined to share the Good News that he would not be silenced . . . He didn’t allow the limits or exclusion of others to bind him but literally stood on his father’s memory to preach what God had placed on his heart.

Standing in the spot thankful for all those who shepherded and are shepherding me, I feel empoweredto share the Good News God has placed on my heart even if I’m not popular or I have to find creative places to be heard. I feel humbledby this opportunity to learn and connect with the places where God started the Methodist movement. And I feelthankfulfor the volunteers, hosts, guides, leaders and co-sojourners. And most of all:

Thanks be to God! Amen.

—Rev. Melissa Hinnen

P.S. Was blessed by hospitality and communion at Wesley Memorial and vespers evening song at York Minster, with echoes of the centuries of worshippers who had been there giving glory to God.

March 14

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
Winston Churchill

On March 13, we visited Epworth, the birthplace of John Wesley. There we heard, saw and remembered a crisis, yet a critical chance that shaped who we were/are as Methodists.

The “brand plucked from the fire.” (Zechariah 13:9)

On March 14, we visited the old and new Coventry Cathedral. There we listened, watched and recalled a pain. Yet again, a healing balm of Gilead that shaped the British people. “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” No wonder the emblem of the City of Coventry is the phoenix: out of ashes, phoenix rises!

Today, we stand on the crisis of the past and the present and are wondering, how would these moments shape and inform us. Here we pause now and make the Holy Cross: the chronos and the kairos. By drawing the chronos we acknowledge our limit to chronological and sequential time, but as we draw the kairos,dare to make a decisive choice like our Christ on the cross: unafraid to keep counting the successes and failures.

The cross reminds us today that our time is in God’s time. Eternal God dares to pick “such time as this” for “such people as Methodist” as an instrument of kairos. What would our kairos look like if we dare to keep counting courageously, yet joyfully?

It became clear to me while standing in front of the stature of reconciliation. Would our kairos look like that statue, and emblem of reconciliation? Would our kairos sound like “Father, forgive?” Would our kairos be shaped like the “cross of nails?”

My recent involvement with the Korean Peninsula Peace Committee of the United Methodist Church and the visit to the Coventry Cathedral made a powerful cross in my heart. “Such time as this,” God appointed “such people like Methodists” in “such a place like the Korean Peninsula” to forgive and be forgiven.

In the midst of such crisis, like the phoenix wanting and yearning to bring forth a life-filled and peace-full opportunity to prove that God is with us and, after all, is the best thing that happened to us all!

Soli Deo Gloria!

—Steve Kim

March 16

A brand plucked from the burning . . .

Because God had called John Wesley, long before he was even born, the fire could not harm him.

Here is what Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’

“Then I said, ‘I; ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth . . .’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am a youth,” for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.

“ ‘Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:4–8)

Sitting in the chapel where John Wesley was ordained was such a powerful experience for me. It brought me to tears when I think about God giving me this opportunity to identify with John Wesley in his call to the ministry.

As I sat there, I remembered the night I answered my call to ministry.

Serving in my local church, I remember one Sunday my pastor said to me, “You can run but you can’t hide from God.” I did not understand why he made that remark. A few Sundays later we had a guest speaker. She was awesome; I believe she was preaching directly to me.

Pastor after worship invited me to visit a church service where he was attending. The worship was awesome. At the closing, the pastor of the church opened the doors of the church, inviting anyone present who felt their call to do ministry to come forward.

I was very hesitant, but finally I went. On our way out, my pastor said, “I know that God was really speaking to me when he told me to invite you to this service.”

Following that evening I started college, where I receive a B.A. degree, and from there to seminary. I have never looked back since. Thanks to God and the Rev. Ester, pastor, brothers and sisters that stand with me.

Tonight I am so grateful to them all who plucked me from the burning.

To God be the glory for all the things he hath done!

—Rev. Sharon Petgrave-Cundy

March 16

On the morning of Friday the 16th, we departed the hotel at 8:30 a.m. The weather was the best since we have visited. The sun was shining bright and the wind greeted us warmly.

We first visited Pill Harbor, where Wesley sent Asbury, the father of American Methodism, and Thomas Coke, the first bishop in America, to America as missionaries. The harbor itself being very narrow was stated to be where the birth of American Methodism took place.

As Wesley sent them to the harbor, he said, “Offer them Christ.” When I heard that voice I was deeply moved. And the reflection of Bishop Bickerton made my heart more shameful. And I asked myself, “Are you, Jongbum, offering Christ? Are you really the people sacrificed for Jesus?”

We departed from Pill Harbor and arrived at the New Room that was the first church of Wesley.

It made me thrilled to be at such a historical site. The first thing that caught my eyes was the sign that said, “John Wesley’s first chapel and dwelling house.”

When we go through the entrance, we can trace Wesley’s passion and ministry here and there.

ABOVE: Bishop Bickerton with the 2018 class of ordinands in front of a statue of John Wesley. From left: Steve Youngdong Kim, Jongbum Lee, Bickerton, Sharon Petgrave-Cundy, and Melissa Hinnen. BELOW: Steve Youngdong Kim and his wife, Rose, don some period clothing during a visit to Wesley’s New Room.

First, John Wesley’s statue greets us and the statue is so lively that it seems like he is still alive and ready to depart for a round trip.

Towards the back, there is a statue of Charles Wesley holding up his right hand, and still I can deeply sense the exclamation of his passion for the gospel through the tip of his hand.

By standing at the church that he founded, and the platform he himself stood in, I feel that we are back in the 18th century for a moment. I think of his sermons. I feel that I can hear Wesley’s sermon for personal justice and social justice against moral disorder.

In the New Room there is no window, and this is because people who bothered Wesley’s ministry used to throw stones. Instead, light comes in through the pulpit and the skylight . . .

I have reflected myself. Do I hold Wesley’s passion? Do I have his enthusiasm? Also, confidence?

After lunch, we headed outside and saw that it had been pouring. England’s weather is so unpredictable. The sun would be shining bright one moment and pouring rain in another. It is just like our hearts toward God. We think that we dedicated our lives fully for God in one moment, but do we not blame God for another moment?

On our way back, we climbed the mountain where Wesley preached to the poor and isolated. His precious words were written as “all the world is my parish.” Suddenly, Jesus from Matthew chapter 5 came to my mind. He was the Jesus who preached the words of heaven for the poor and isolated on the mountain. Rev. Wesley became the gospel himself.

“Let’s get out of our church into the world with the Gospel.”

—Jongbum Lee

March 17—Transition Day

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “
—Matthew 6:19–21

A transition is a movement, passage or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc. to another. A modulation—as in music.

So today was a “transition day.” A change from country to city, from a focus on Wesley and Methodist movement to an extended tour through Windsor Castle and entrance from there to London. What a day! And what marvelous collections of things to look at and admire!

Ceilings. Tapestries. Armor. Sabers. Shields. Guns of every type—even decorated guns glistening with jewels. China. More china. Still more china. Magnificent views. Gardens. Courtyards. Knick knacks—fit for a king (or queen). A grownup dollhouse. And paintings!

I stood within three feet of a Rembrandt (one of my favorite artists) that was displayed so casually—almost carelessly. Stuck on the wall with five or six other works of art by equally famous artists. What does one do with so many things? Clearly, fill space with them. And more space. Stuff space full to overflowing with—well—stuff. It was simply overpowering. Which is, of course, the idea. The immense display of excessive, immeasurable treasure is the thing expected of royalty. They are royal at least in part because—they’ve got a lot of stuff. And stuff and the power to protect it is what makes “royalty” possible.

But what struck me most were the crowns from others places around the world. The Ethiopian crown. The crown from Siam, from India, from Turkey. Giving up the crown by a king is a symbol of submission. Displaying those crowns—which the sign said were “acquired from . . .” is the biggest show of power in the entire castle.

I wondered if Wesley ever saw any of these things. Or if he imagined them. He was an educated man who knew his country. He was a loyalist who didn’t support the Revolutionary War. I think because he had to be in order to survive. Methodism was a “transitional movement.” The idea was entirely about change but it had to be negotiated with the realities of the time. Methodists were suspected of being a cover for a revolutionary group in England and Wesley had to prove that men riding around on horses for meetings in houses weren’t working to overthrow the king. His loyalty kept Methodism alive and gave it a voice to “loyally” speak against evil and injustices like debtor’s prisons and slavery.

Today, royalty is kind of “pop” culture and the power is in “advising” parliament. I can’t imagine the queen having anyone burned at the stake or beheaded and lasting long on the throne. So change happens through “transitional times.”

One thing did strike me (no pun intended)! It was the clock in the Queen’s Waiting Room. Sculpted of marble, on one side was figure representing being on time with a rooster. The other figure with a plant represents patience. The audio suggested it was a good message for the Queen’s “waiting room.”

It is a good message for any transitional time and leads me to ask: What are we to be “on time” for? What are we to be “patient” for?

How are we “transitionally” called to be loyal so that we can make changes that move into a different and better future?

A future so beautifully expressed by Charles Wesley in the hymn “And Can It Be.”

And can it be that I should gain

an interest in the Savior’s blood?

Died He for me who caused his pain!

For me who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be that

Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?


He left his Father’s throne above

So free, so infinite His grace!

Emptied himself of all but love,

and bled for Adam’s helpless race.

Tis mercy all, immense and free,

For o, my God, it found out me!

(skipped verse 3)

No condemnation now I dread;

Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;

Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own!

—Rev. Betsy Ott

A rainbow above the hotel outside Bristol was a sign of affirmation for the pilgrims.

Tour guide shares information about Samuel Wesley as the group surrounds his grave in the St. Andrews churchyard in Epworth.

Four British Methodist ordinands meet four American ordinands in the New Room.

Latest New Appointments

It is the intention of Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton to make the following appointments effective July 1:

Elon Sylvester to Westbury (LIE)
Bette Johnson Sohm to St. Paul’s, Northport (LIE)
Suhee Kim to Bellport (LIE)
Mark T. Allen to Monroe (CT)
Parker Prout to Southeastern Dutchess Cooperative Parish (NYCT)
Joanne Utley to Mount Kisco (NYCT)
Michael H. Barry, Jr. to Zion’s Hill, Wilton, and continuing at Stevens Memorial, South Salem (NYCT)
Dong Hyun Choi to First United Methodist Church, Greenwich, NYCT District
Martha A. Epstein to Clinton (CT)
Gregory K. Higgins to Mountain View (CH)
Benjamin D.Y. Yoo to Floral Park (LIW)

Bishop Issues Call to 2018 Conference Session

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

The time has once again come for the “Call to Conference” and it is my distinct pleasure to indeed “call you” to be a part of our annual time of discernment and holy conferencing.

Our theme this year is a continuation of our quadrennial theme, “Pathways and Possibilities.” This year our focus will be on the “transformation of the world.” I believe that we not only have a relevant message for the world but we have a clear mandate from Christ himself to bear witness to the fact that the world can be a better place with God at the center of our being.

In a recent interview, someone asked me a question from a secular perspective. The question was, “Bishop, what is your product?” My answer was simple, “Our product is a better person.” This is what we believe! A better person is a changed person, a transformed person, a person who realizes that they have been created in the image of God and, with that realization comes the belief that they can participate in the creation of a better world for all people.

That will be our focus when we gather at Hofstra University. We will greet one another with a holy greeting. We will welcome Bishop Latrelle Easterling, the bishop of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference as our preacher. We will center ourselves around the baptismal font and anoint ourselves with holy reminders of who we are and what we are called to be. We will engage in meaningful worship and have opportunity to participate in hands-on mission. Oh yes, we will have business to do, that’s for sure. We will elect delegates the Special Session of the General Conference to be held in February 2019. We will hear reports and act on business. There is, no doubt, work to be done that requires your input and participation.

But the centerpiece of our time together will be on our continual journey toward transformation: a change of heart, attitude, emphasis, and approach that will reveal to us what Christ-like holiness looks like and how that transformation within can lead to a change throughout the New York Conference and, indeed, throughout the world.

That is my hope for our time together. In fact, it is more than my hope. It is my prayer. Won’t you join me in that prayer, a prayer for a changed world, in these days leading up to our time together? And, more than that, won’t you literally make plans now to join me at Hofstra University, from Thursday, June 7 through Sunday, June 10, as we continue our work on “Pathways & Possibilities: Transforming the World” together?

You’ve heard it! It’s a “Call to Conference!” It’s happening! And I need you to be present. I look forward to seeing you there!

The Journey Continues, . . . 

Thomas J. Bickerton
Resident Bishop

Invitation from Conference Lay Leader

There is much excitement around the Conference Center these days as plans develop for the upcoming New York Annual Conference. As conference lay leader, please accept this “Call to Conference” which convenes June 7–10, 2018 at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

Annual conference comes to reflect on the business of the previous year’s work and present the vision for future plans and initiatives. A major task at this year’s conference is voting. In addition, one will experience joyful worship, witness the ordination service, gather to share information and fellowship and more.

While everyone is welcome to attend, only a predetermined number of persons from the 430+ churches and charges of the NYAC can vote. That number of voters is divided equally between clergy and lay members to annual conference; they vote on reports, resolutions, petitions, and for delegates to General Conference.

“The lay members of the annual conference and alternates shall be elected annually or quadrennially at a Church or Charge Conference as the Conference directs.” This is taken from The 2016 Book of Discipline, page 251. The lay member(s) from each congregation joins the pastor to interpret and report the news from annual conference soon after it ends.

If you are a newly elected lay member to annual conference, a member of the Board of Laity will be available to welcome you, to partner with you, help you to get oriented, and answer any questions you may have to ensure that your experience will be stress-free, meaningful and productive. We invite you to refer to the conference website for helpful and detailed information in a PowerPoint presentation entitled, “What’s My Job?”

The laity session is for all laity: lay members, lay leaders, lay servants, and all laypersons are strongly encouraged to attend this important event.

Rev. Dr. Grace Cajiuat will engage us, inform us and challenge us to make disciples the Wesleyan way, so that we will become strong leaders who will develop vital congregations that eagerly make new disciples. This will be a time of renewal, sharing, collaboration, fellowship, and relationship building. You don’t want to miss the laity session!

“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!” Psalm 133:1 (The Message).

This laity session promises to leave you with a more profound love for God and tools for carrying out the mission of the church that is: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” In our time together, recognition will be given for work done between districts and boards. We will celebrate another year together as professing members of the UMC as we grow and endeavoring to offer Christ to those on the path to discipleship.

We invite you to join the Board of Laity in its six-week pre-conference prayer and meditation vigil by phone, each Monday through Friday morning from 6:55 to 7 a.m., beginning April 23 through June 1.

Indeed we are excited about the “Pathways and Possibilities to Transform the World through Disciple-Making.” Please stay tuned; there’s more to come!

In the service of the Lord,

Roena Littlejohn
Conference Lay Leader

Call to Conference Online

The Call to Conference for the June 7–10 gathering will be in the mail soon to all members of annual conference. In the meantime, it can be found here on the conference website. Remember that this year’s conference runs from Thursday to Sunday.

Key Dates

April 26: All annual conference reports, resolutions and petitions are due by email to Conference Secretary Margaret Howe. The reports, resolutions and petitions will be periodically posted online beginning in late April.

May 1: Nomination deadline for the Shirley Parris Service Award for exceptional, uncompensated service to the United Methodist connection. Nominees must be lay persons. Each nomination should include a one-page resume of the individual’s service to his or her local church and the organizations, committees and boards beyond. The nomination form can be found here.

May 4: Early-bird registration is available now through May 4 at a discounted rate of $230. Register on the conference website.

May 5: Late registration ($255) for annual conference opens.

May 24: Last day for annual conference registration. No onsite registration will be accepted at Hofstra.

May 24: Deadline to request to be excused from annual conference. It is Bishop Bickerton’s expectation that all clergy and lay members will be in attendance at the 2018 session. If clergy, laity, provisional members or local pastors cannot attend they must submit in writing to the Conference Secretary Margaret Howe the reason for the absence. The excuses may be sent via email, or by mailing a letter to Howe at 20 Soundview Ave., White Plains, N.Y. 10606-3302.


Registration fees cover meals and participation costs. The link to the online registration can be found here; register as soon as possible. There will be no onsite registration at Hofstra. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with a link where you can review all of the options you have chosen, your total charges, and the mailing information for checks. Please print this confirmation information and bring it with you to conference.

Prices are as follows:

  • Registration completed and paid by May 4 is $230; May 5 until May 24 is $255.
  • One-day fee for clergy retirees and spouses for Friday, June 8 is $20 each.
  • Hofstra campus housing for a single is $54.25 per person per night; a double room is $44.25 per person per night.
  • Special meals: $6 per meal (separate locations incur additional expense to the conference).

Your registration is not complete until payment has been received. Payments must be made either by credit card/debit card through PayPal during registration, or by check made payable to NYAC and mailed to NYAC, Attn: Fran Collins, 20 Soundview Ave, White Plains, NY 10606 within two weeks of the online registration. The additional fee of $25 for late registration will be charged to those early-bird registrants who have not paid prior to May 4.

Summary Agenda

• Join pre-conference mission projects with UMArmy or the NY Conference Done-in-a-Day program. (See below.)

• Morning: Check in at Mack Arena lobby,
10 a.m.–5 p.m. and 6–9 p.m.
• Afternoon: Opening worship and opening session. Balloting for General Conference delegates begins. All-conference dinner at 5 p.m.
• Evening: Clergy and laity sessions, healing service

• Morning: Check in at Mack Arena lobby,
8 a.m.–noon; memorial service with Bishop LaTrelle Easterling preaching
• Afternoon: Business, reports and legislative sections
• Evening: Business and reports

• Morning: Commissioning service and business;
• Afternoon: Workshops, legislative reports and other business;Rise Against Hunger meal packing project
(See below.)
• Evening: Legislative reports and other business

• Morning: Ordination service with confirmand celebration and Holy Communion. Bishop Bickerton preaching

2019 General Conference Election

We will elect four clergy and four lay delegates to the special General Conference to be held February 23–26, 2019, in St. Louis, Mo. We will also choose four clergy and four lay reserve delegates. Balloting will begin Thursday during the opening session.

Pre-Conference Mission Projects

UMARMY: As part of this year’s annual conference, we are offering an opportunity to be part of projects near Hofstra University on Wednesday, June 6. United Methodist Action Reach-out Mission by Youth (UMARMY) is a unique mission opportunity for youth, young adults and their adult mentors. This will be a full-day commitment from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Please go to for more information on the organization. To register click here; although this form refers to a project from June 3–9, it is the correct form for the one-day project.

Done in a Day: Started as a response to Superstorm Sandy, DIAD is a ministry of “care and repair.” DIAD works with local churches to identify homes and homeowners who are in need, who may not be able to afford repairs, or who may need some tender loving care through home repairs. On Wednesday, June 6, DIAD projects will be available near Hofstra that include both interior and exterior work and allow for all skill levels. Participants must be 14 or older. Dorm rooms will be available on Wednesday night for volunteers. Click this link to apply and for more information.

Rise Against Hunger

Conference children and youth (preschool to high school) and their youth leaders are invited to come at 12noon. Saturday June 9 to help package 30,000 meals to help eradicate hunger.  Rise Against Hunger has partnered with the United Methodist Church to help make this happen.  Buses from key locations will provide transportation to and from Hofstra on Saturday morning. Lunch will be provided. During the afternoon you will observe what happens at annual conference. Register here.

Health Kits

Kits will be collected on Thursday and Friday in the arena. Volunteers are needed to help box and load the health kits onto the Mission Central truck. Please indicate your availability to help when you register.

Retired Clergy Lunch Friday

The lunch for retired clergy and spouses has been shifted to Friday June 8 due to the change in the conference schedule. Sign up for the luncheon on the online registration form.

To share your recent activities, send an email with the information to Audrey (Bowles) Alese, who puts together “The Chronicle.” Write the update in the body of the email and send to Or send a legible paper copy to: Dr. Audrey Alese, 109 Portsmouth Lane, Newport, NC 28570.

To make an annual donation (dues), write a check to New York Annual Conference and designate “Retired Clergy Fellowship” on the memo line. Mail the check to Rev. James and Laura Veatch, 204-15 Foothill Ave., #A44, Hollis NY 11423.  

Confirmand Celebration

This year’s confirmands, their families and sponsors are invited to a special worship celebration during the Ordination Service at 10 a.m. Sunday morning, June 10. Pastors who plan to bring confirmation classes are asked to fill out the related information on their registration form. Someone from the worship team will contact those pastors with further details.

Childcare/Children’s Programming

The conference is offering Safe Sanctuaries-certified childcare (infants and preschoolers) and children’s programming (school-aged) free of charge. If you sign up for this option, Cassandra Negri, NYAC children’s ministries consultant, will be in touch with you with more information closer to the conference. 

Blueprint for Wellness Screening

This important service will once again be held on Friday and Saturday from 6–8 a.m. Active clergy and their spouses who are enrolled in HealthFlex along with retirees should consider participating and earning cash rewards through Virgin Pulse. This is the first step to completing the Health Quotient and saving on your annual deductible in 2019.

Pre-registration is required; details on registration for this screening to follow. Walk-ins are not encouraged and accepted only if there is availability.

Live Streaming/Captioning

All special services in the Mack Arena will be available through a live-stream link on the conference website. All events in the arena will also be “live captioned”—transcribed live with the words scrolling across the bottom of the large central screen in real time. Live captioning is intended to provide greater accessibility by offering all arena events in both written and spoken word.


The following offerings will be taken at conference:

  • Bishop’s Partners in Mission
  • Black College Fund
  • Puerto Rico Disaster Recovery
  • Young Clergy Debt Assistance

Checks should be made payable to NYAC, with the name of the offering on the “memo” line.

Come Sing or Dance

Share your gifts by ministering with this year’s annual conference mass choir during the ordination service on Sunday, June 10. Rehearsal is 8:45 a.m. Sunday. For additional information, contact Raymond Trapp, director of music, or Ian Wharton, coordinator at

Dancers of all ages are also needed for the worship services. No experience is necessary. Email Rev. Sheila M. Beckford or Rev. Leslie Duroseau for all the details.

Guest Preachers/Speakers

Bishop Latrelle Easterling, the first woman to lead the 233-year-old Baltimore-Washington Conference, will preach at the Friday morning memorial service. She was elected as a bishop in July 2016.

An Indiana native, Easterling worked in human resources and as an attorney before being ordained a deacon in 1995 and an elder in 1997. She served at Union UMC in Boston’s South End, Pearl Street UMC in Brockton, Mass., and Old West Church UM in Boston. From 2012 to 2016, she oversaw 57 congregations as superintendent of the Metro Boston Hope District in the New England Conference.

She holds a bachelor’s and law degrees from Indiana University. She graduated summa cum laude in 2004 with a master of divinity from Boston University School of Theology.

During her ministry, Bishop Easterling served as co-chair of the Board of Global Ministries, and as a delegate to the 2012 and 2016 general and jurisdictional conferences. She is a published author and frequent teacher and speaker.

Bishop Easterling is married to the Rev. Marion Easterling Jr., pastor of Wesley Grove UMC in Hanover, Md., The couple has two sons.

Grace Cajiuat, an internationally recognized musician, minister, professor, and interculturalist, will lead the Wednesday evening laity session. She brings more than 35 years of teaching and ministry experience to her work.

Cajiuat received her doctor of musical arts from the University of South Carolina, master of church music (choral conducting) from Scarritt Graduate School, and master of music (vocal performance) from Austin Peay State University. She has worked as an international opera conductor, studying voice, language, and opera in Italy.

In addition, Grace holds master’s degrees in divinity and sacred theology from Boston University. She is an ordained UMC elder in Wisconsin.

Helping Others Move Obstacles in Life’s Path

Consultant, Older Adult Ministries

She arrived convinced that life was over. The house that her husband had built, the house that she had turned into a home, the house in which her children were born and raised, had become a burden to maintain. Her husband had died, her children had married and moved on, and she was left alone. Life had no promise left, or so she assumed. And so, against her wishes, her children had convinced her to sell the place and move to an assisted living community.

Now here she was, trying to place photos and other mementos of a familiar life all around her. She worries that otherwise she will forget how they looked, even though she likely will never really forget. And she has remembered well enough that she is struggling to forge new relationships.

She is trapped in her past. Even if she wanted to, she cannot escape the past. It has her under its spell. The past is in control. She is growing increasingly isolated and bitter. 

And suddenly it is Easter Sunday, and the assisted living bus takes a group of residents to a nearby church. She felt more separated than ever. She knew no one. A stranger spoke to her, asked if she could sit with her, and not waiting for an answer, sat down. The woman smiled warmly, and for a moment, the stranger created a safe haven, making the lonely woman feel better.

Before going home, the woman from the assisted living place had the other woman’s phone number and had given hers. A friendship had been born, crossing the chasm of grief and loneliness. A new chapter in life was opened. A kind word, a sincere smile, an outreached hand was all it took.

I thought of this woman on Easter Sunday as I preached on Mark’s account of the first Easter and pictured the stone that had been rolled away. We encounter many stones that lock us, as it were, in a tomb. Ministry in the name of Jesus just might be a ministry of moving stones too big for someone to move alone.

Praying this Easter season helps us to move the stones in our lives and that we help other move theirs.

UM Hymnal Revision Committee Holds 1st Meeting

A diverse group of laity and clergy, musicians, scholars, teachers, and worship leaders blended their varied experiences to affirm in one voice that it is God’s ruach—God’s breath—that brings all creation to life, inviting every living thing to praise the Lord. The hymnal revision committee held its inaugural meeting March 19–21 at The United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville.

The meeting launched months of activity to identify songs and ritual resources that can be made available in multiple media, including digital downloads and streaming. In addition to hymn texts and tunes, the team will identify and recommend a wide selection of liturgical resources that provide an essential collection to connect and serve diverse United Methodists in worship. The assortment will be dynamic and augmented at every General Conference going forward.

Bishop William McAlilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area convened the meeting on behalf of the Council of Bishops, calling the participants to imagine a resource that fosters koinonia and transformational worship for all United Methodists and our ecumenical partners. 

The 15-member committee represents all 5 jurisdictions in the United States, 11 states, and is comprised of persons representing a variety in age, cultural origin, ministry setting, and experience. The committee’s many tasks will include work on theology and praxis, reviewing and selecting texts and tunes as well as liturgical resources, and listening deeply to and engaging with congregations to understand their needs and support their ministries. 

“Although the work is a little overwhelming, I am hopeful as we are guided by the Holy Spirit that this collection will touch hearts and transform lives,” said committee member Monya Davis Logan.

The group will work largely via internet conferences and regular conference calls to update and report progress as well as in several on-site meetings as the project develops, leading to recommendations to the 2020 General Conference.

Members of the committee include:

Neil M. Alexander, president and publisher emeritus, The UM Publishing House, Nashville.

Rev. Karen Chraska, associate pastor of worship and music, Trietsch Memorial UMC, Flower Mound, Texas.

Rev. Nelson Cowan, provisional elder, Florida Annual Conference, and doctoral student in liturgical studies, Boston University School of Theology.

Rev. Melissa Drake, Field outreach minister, Iowa Annual Conference, Atlantic, Iowa.

Dr. Lim Swee Hong, associate professor of sacred music, Emmanuel College of Victoria University, University of Toronto, and member of Hewitt First UMC, Hewitt, Texas.

Louisa Locklear, music director, Pembroke First UMC and public school music teacher, Pembroke, N.C.

Monya Davis Logan, minister of worship and the arts, St. Luke “Community” UMC, Dallas.

Rev. Geoffrey Moore, president of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, provisional elder serving as creative director of a ministry of congregational singing & worship, an extension ministry in the North Texas Annual Conference.

Rev. Lydia Muñoz, lead pastor, Church of the Open Door, Kennett Square, Pa.

Dr. Diana Sanchez-Bushong, director of worship and music, Westlake UMC, Austin.

Rev. Theon Johnson III, associate pastor, Glide Memorial UMC, San Francisco.

Beverly Clement McAlilly, director of music ministries and organist, First UMC, Tupelo, Miss.

Mark Miller, associate professor of church music and composer in residence, Drew University, Madison, N.J.

Rev. Anna Moon, pastor, TroyHope Ministry at Korean UMC, Troy, Mich.

Rev. Dr. Karen Westerfield Tucker, professor of worship, Boston University School of Theology; clergy member of Illinois-Great Rivers Annual Conference.

Commission Members Complete Work on Final Report

UMNS | Members of the Commission on a Way Forward expressed gratitude at the opportunity to be part of the Commission and they signaled hope for The United Methodist Church as they completed their meeting in Los Angeles on March 22.

The 32-member commission has been meeting since January 2017 in various places throughout the global denomination to assist the bishops in their charge from the 2016 General Conference to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related to LGBTQ inclusion and resulting questions about the unity of the church.

The commission will present its final report to the Council of Bishops at the April 29–May 4 meeting in Chicago. At that meeting, the bishops will decide what will be received and acted upon by the delegates to the special session of the General Conference set for St. Louis, Missouri, February 23–26, 2019.

“Sitting at the table with commission members, I see persons honest enough and humble enough to see the great challenge or impasse that is before us,” noted Rev. Helen Cunanan, clergy from the Philippines. “At the same time, I see so much commitment and passion to the work entrusted to us—passion for mission and ministry; passion for our forms and expressions of unity; passion for God.”

Rev. Cunanan said she was confident that, “with the Holy Spirit’s leading, I believe we can embrace together a way forward.”

For Dr. Aka Hortense, a layperson from Côte d’Ivoire, the commission was an opportunity to meet people who have the same love for Jesus Christ and who are all members of the United Methodist Church, but with very different experiences and differing positions regarding the question of human sexuality.

“By listening and through reflections I have learned—in all humility—that unity, which seems so simple in the church, is finally too fragile because each person has their own personality, their own cultural and religious context, their own education, their own life experiences, and their own truth.”

She noted that it was through prayer, Bible studies and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, members of the commission worked on a plan for the church that must continue to highlight “the importance of the mission to which Christ calls us as a global church. This commission has helped me cultivate the heart of peace and has put me back at the heart of the Christian faith.”

From reaching to other groups and by giving great attention to traditional, contextual and progressive values, the commission members weighed input by groups and caucuses as they discerned the best proposals for a way forward in the denomination.

As part of reaching out to various constituencies, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators, met with general secretaries of the church agencies while Bishop David Yemba, another moderator, and other members of the commission gave an update to the Standing Committee of Central Conference Matters. Members of the Commission have also shared with general agencies, jurisdictional committees, annual conferences and local churches.

“The purpose of these meetings includes initiating healthy conversations that educate, share information, and invite people to think and dream about God’s preferred future for The United Methodist Church. Conversation serves to break down fear, build relationships, and helps us to collectively think about what is possible,” said Bishop Steiner Ball.

“Conversation also serves to remind us that no matter what position persons or groups hold within the church, they love Christ, love The United Methodist Church, and strive to be faithful in service to God and to God’s people.”

Two other commission members, Rev. Julie Hager Love from Kentucky Conference and Rev. Tom Salsgiver from Susquehanna Conference, have spent time talking to various groups and participating in meetings with groups in preparation for possible work that would be done at the 2019 special session of the General Conference.

MyungRae Lee, at right, who is a lay member of the New York Conference, listens to colleagues on the Commission for A Way Forward during the group’s March meeting in Los Angeles.

Rev. Love noted that the commission is filled with persons who deeply love The United Methodist Church and have worked together to find a way forward through prayer, worship, Bible study, dialogue, study and fellowship. 

“While I have often referred to the work of the commission as the ‘hardest leadership work’ I have ever been a part of (and it is true), it is also an honor to be asked to be a part of the commission,” said Rev. Love. “I am deeply thankful for our process and the persons on the commission who have given deeply of their time and energy. The prayer that has covered members personally, our work and our way forward has been deeply felt and appreciated.”

For Alfiado S. Zunguza from Mozambique, working with some of the best minds in the church gave him a sense of humility and desire to learn the complex nature of values, worldviews, and principles informing interpersonal and institutional relationships within the church.

“The journey has been a life giving and eye-opening experience with many lessons learned. Being close to the end of our mandate as a Commission on the Way Forward, I have a feeling that there is more to learn, more relationships to build and more visioning to be undertaken as we continue to perfect the proposals that the Council of Bishop will have to offer the church for consideration,” said Zunguza, who serves as manager leadership development and scholarships with Global Ministries.

He added: “The mission just started and we need to continue building coalitions and sharing hope for a better United Methodist Church that will make all members proud of being part of this great denomination.”

As they discussed the possible ways forward, the commission members gave attention to the traditional, contextual and progressive values, ensuring that as many diverse voices were given chance to be heard, said Bishop Ken Carter, one of the moderators of the commission.  “The values being discussed are grounded in deep listening to our global church, and are at the heart of the call of Jesus Christ to discipleship in the very different contexts where are people live and are in ministry,” Bishop Carter noted.

Contrary to some voices in the church that assume closure and that the work is already completed from particular perspectives, the commission indicated that there was still robust conversation taking place through the denomination. Bishop Carter noted, “The thirty-two members of our commission embody an astonishing diversity—living on four continents, laity, clergy and bishops, theological differences, gay and straight, urban and rural, multiple generations. And yet we are committed to a way forward for the church that has blessed us and blesses others through us.”

As it prepares its final report to the council, members of the commission noted that the UMC will continue to discuss the public and private mission of the church and the value of convicted humility.

“We are in a crucible together, trying to create something that does not yet exist,” explained Bishop Gregory Palmer, resident bishop of West Ohio Area and a member of the commission. “God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ sustains us through the ups and downs of the process that we trust leads to newness.”

Making Room for Tents & RVs at Kingswood

NYAC Deaconess

According to T.S. Eliot, “April is the cruelest month.” Indeed, it sometimes feels like spring will never arrive. It’s the perfect time to chase away the blues by dreaming about warmer days and our beautiful camps.

Did you know that Kingswood now has a beautiful site for recreational vehicles? According to Peter Seirup, the idea started several years ago and grew out of a family tradition of tent and RV camping. Seirup, his parents Jack and Dotty, and brother Andrew started tent camping in the 1950s as a family. His parents switched to RV camping after becoming empty nesters.

When Jack began volunteering as a Woodsmoke counselor in the 1980s there were equipped sites and the tent and trailer area, but no places for RV’s. Inspired to create that opportunity at Kingswood, the Seirup brothers planned the project. After presenting the idea, providing specifications for cutting trees, grading the land, bringing in crushed stone, providing 30 amp electrical and water connections, and hook-ups for rigs (and expressing their willingness to work to make it happen), they were granted approval for 10 sites in the woods surrounding “the old cornfield” across the street from the tent and trailer sites.

Currently there are five completed sites with one more to be finished in June. Sites can be rented for the season (which is a bit longer than the weekly camping season) or by the week. Recreational vehicles up to 32 feet can be accommodated, and there is access to a dumping station. The finished sites have fire rings, wash stands, outhouses and picnic tables like the other sites and everything is up to code. While the sites are close to many of the activity centers of the camp, they are also hidden from the main road and separated by a 50-foot buffer of woods for a sense of privacy in a natural setting. A video tour and photos of the RV sites can be found here.

One of five available sites for recreational vehicles at Kingswood Campsite in Hancock, N.Y.

Peter Seirup, a member of Jesse Lee Memorial UMC in Ridgefield, Conn., is already well known to Kingswood campers as the visionary whose hard work has resulted in the stone ministry. He continues to work on it on weekends throughout the summer. How it has grown! So many have laid their dedicated stones into this emerging, inspiring building deep in the woods. Soon 40 percent of the roof will be added. This amazing structure is unique and beautiful. Pictures can be seen on the camp website, but it is well worth the personal experience of a visit. We have the whole Seirup family to thank for so many of the special features of Kingswood.

* * * * *

Looking for an excuse to spend a weekend at Camp Quinipet? Volunteers are needed for fun, sun, great times—and some work—on Memorial Day weekend. Food and lodging will be provided for free for May 25–27. More info and registration details about the “Spring Into Action” weekend can be found by clicking here.

For more information about the NYAC camps, please visit the website.

3 Churches Receive Communications Grants

United Methodist Communications awarded grants and resources to support local church communications to three churches in the New York Conference in 2017.

New Church Start Grant:
• Westbrookville Community Church, Westbrookville, N.Y.

Website Development Grant:
• 43:19—Creating Rivers in the Desert, Cold Spring, N.Y.

• Tremont UMC, Bronx, N.Y.

• Westbrookville Community Church, Westbrookville, N.Y.

New church start grants are a one-time, non-monetary grant awarded to new faith communities within the first five years of their launch. This grant is focused on community outreach and establishing a ministry’s presence in the community through promotional materials.

Website development grants are for local United Methodist churches and church entities who do not currently have a website, and provide pre-designed templates, webhosting, online training and support.

For information about applying for 2018 grants, go to the UMCom website

Active Shooter Guide to Download

Recently, attention has been drawn to the unthinkable action of active shooters in a house of worship.

United Methodist Insurance is offering a free downloadable resource as a way to prepare pastors, church leadership, congregations and visitors in the event this should occur. Being prepared helps everyone cope with these realities and begin to re-focus attention on core ministries.

Conducting the ministries of The United Methodist Church takes on many forms. Our first call to ministry is to make

disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This crucial part of our ministry as a denomination begins in the local church. Everything else we do on a daily basis supports this core commission. (Matthew 28:19)

There are many supportive actions taking place every day to support the local church. One of them is to insure the church properties so that a church can continue its core ministries in the community.

Lewis Launches Church Leadership Podcasts

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary recently launched “Leading Ideas Talks” podcast. Designed to complement the popular newsletter of the same name and reach new audiences who can listen on-the-go, the podcast strives to present listeners with diverse conversations from cutting-edge leaders on subjects important to church leaders, including navigating change, reaching younger people, financing ministry, and communicating effectively. Each “Leading Ideas Talks” episode is another tool to help congregations and denominations thrive, serve, and grow. 

“There are many people that, no matter how good an article is, they just aren’t going to read it,” said Rev. Dr. Douglas Powe, Jr., director of the Lewis Center. “But they have commutes, or they exercise, or there are other times when they are able to listen to something. A podcast is a way for us to connect with those individuals. It is important for us, and likewise the church, to share the message in as many ways as possible.”

“Listeners will hear various topics like stewardship,

evangelism, preaching, church growth; you name it, we try to cover the spectrum of issues,” Powe said. “What you’re also going to get is individuals thinking in places outside the box, of ways to connect, things they’ve learned from experience, things that work. Sometimes you get people talking about the challenges of ministry and what hasn’t worked, which can be just as helpful. What we’re trying to bring to individuals are things they have perhaps been thinking themselves and want to experiment with but aren’t sure how to do it.” 

“Leading Ideas Talks” is ecumenical and intentionally diverse, Powe said, and he hopes that both the guests and the audience will represent a wide range of perspectives. “Our goal is get a really diverse group of individuals to speak: pastors, key lay people, church planting coaches, professors, etc.”

New episodes are released every other Wednesday on the Lewis Center website. The podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher.


Media Production Manager

The Greater New Jersey Conference (GNJ) seeks a media production manager, a position responsible for producing video content and managing the media production studio and its vital mission partners. This position elevates the communication of GNJ by creating high quality, innovative and dynamic video that grows understanding and inspires engagement to recruit and equip transformational leaders to make disciples and grow vital congregations to transform the world. Full details can be found here.


David T. Marks

David Thomas Marks, 72 of North Haven, Conn., died on March 27, 2018, at Yale-New Haven Smilow Cancer Hospital. He was the husband of Pastor Barbara Marks who serves First United Methodist Church of Middletown, Conn.

Marks was born in New Haven on May 25, 1945, the son of the Nathan H. and Ethel Hall Marks. He served his country in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and received the sharp marksman medal. He worked on his family’s dairy farm for many years, was a service manager for the former Statewide Motors of North Haven, and later was the owner/operator of Environmental Testing and Balancing.

He was past president of the New England Chapter of the National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB), past president of the Tres Dias, Fairfield County. Marks enjoyed boating and camping with his family and was an antique hot rod enthusiast.

In addition to his wife, Marks is survived by his children, Allison (Tom) Liner, David T. (Katherine) Marks II, and Chelsea Marks; grandchildren Jack and Luke Liner; Ruka, Bodhi, Eleanore, Elliot, and David Marks; and brothers Walter J. (Kay) Marks and Nathan H. (Judy). Marks Jr.

A funeral service was held March 31 at the North Haven Congregational Church, 28 Church St, North Haven, Conn. A private interment was held in the North Haven Center Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to the Tres Dias Scholarship Fund of Fairfield County.

The Vision, Newspaper of the NYAC, of the UMC

Bishop: Thomas J. Bickerton

Editor: Joanne Utley

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Web site:

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