The Vision
The Newspaper of The New York Conference of The United Methodist Church July 2019

In this issue

Call to Action In Response To Migrants’ Plight

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

On behalf of the United Methodist Immigration Task Force we share with you a deep concern for migrants. You have seen the deplorable conditions under which migrant children and families are being detained in the US right now. We cannot be silent in this hour. The voice and actions of The United Methodist Church must be heard and experienced in this moment.

We give God thanks for United Methodists who are providing compassionate care to migrants at the border. Border Conferences have established relief centers for migrants. United Methodists from other regions of the country continue to support migrants seeking asylum with their time, talent and treasures. United Methodist congregations across the country have opened their doors to provide sanctuary for those immigrants whose lives would be endangered if they were to be deported to their home countries. UMCOR has been a partner in assisting this connectional work. The General Board of Church and Society has led us faithfully in our advocacy work in support of justice for the migrant and the immigrant. United Methodist Women have also been a strong voice in advocating for the rights of immigrant children and families.

Let’s continue to do this good and faithful work. Join us in these actions:

  • Give to the Advance #3022144 for migration. Go to UMCOR-Global Migration for further information.
  • Join the General Board of Church and Society in our United Methodist advocacy work alongside migrants. Speak out to end child detention by sending drawings and letters from United Methodists of all ages to Congress and the White House.
  • Encourage your UMW unit to join the action plan set forth at the United Methodist Women website.

We ask that you also speak up in support of persons in

sanctuary and the churches supporting them. In the past week, we have become aware of the Trump administration’s most recent attack on immigrants who are living in sanctuary in congregations, among them United Methodist congregations, as they seek to fight for justice in their deportation cases. The federal government is issuing fines of up to $500,000 to these immigrants in sanctuary. This is an egregiously punitive tactic causing great fear and anxiety to immigrant brothers and sisters who are already deeply burdened by the stress of their circumstances.

Support United Methodist sanctuary congregations and the immigrants in sanctuary by praying for them and by sending them a postcard expressing such support. [Two churches in the New York Conference are currently providing sanctuary for immigrants—First and Summerfield UMC in New Haven, Conn., and St. Paul and St. Andrew UMC in Manhattan.] Click here to find list of multiple United Methodist sanctuary churches and those immigrant friends whom they are hosting.

Take this moment to act. It will make a difference in these challenging times in the lives of suffering immigrants and the brave churches who are ministering to them.

May the words of Paul to Timothy strengthen us all: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 2:7

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Chair
UM Immigration Task Force

Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society

Thomas Kemper, General Secretary
General Board of Global Ministries

Harriett J. Olson, General Secretary/CEO
United Methodist Women

Gardens Connect Church, Community

Raised beds are filled with soil for the first season of planting in Bloomville in the Catskills.

Editor, The Vision

If you ask Rev. David Collins about his Port Washington flock, he might mention how they love to run around the church lawn when he lets them loose, but that they always come home to roost. Earlier this year, Collins, who leads the UMC of Port Washington with his wife, Romana Abelova, decided to supplement the vegetables that would grow in the church’s community garden with eggs. And the flock of seven Golden Comet hens were glad to oblige as they started laying eggs just as the garden was beginning to see its first fruit.

This is the second time that Collins and Abelova have helped create a community garden, an idea that has been taking root all around the New York Conference in the past few years with the reasons and results as varied as the gardens themselves. Part food supply, part learning experience, and part exercise in caring for God’s creation, the gardens feed body and soul and help connect church and community.

When Collins brought up the garden idea to the Port Washington congregation they were willing to give it try. When a pair of grants to fund the project fell through, the church raised $2,300 to get started. There was a business donation of organic soil and discounts on lumber for the raised beds. Church members and the scout troop chartered by the church handled building and filling the beds.

In its first season, the garden in Port Washington prompted a lot of curiosity from the neighbors of the eight-acre property on Long Island’s North Shore. Some applauded the effort and even dropped off plants for the beds. The garden also increased the interaction with the nursery school whose children, parents and teachers often help tend the beds.

“It’s a great opportunity to get to teach kids about where their food comes from . . . how chickens lay eggs,” said Collins, who has two young daughters of his own. He turned the church office into a greenhouse-incubator for the first few weeks for both the vegetable seedlings and the chicks.

A regular crew works every other day during the growing season to harvest the produce that is delivered to the food pantry at a nearby Catholic church. The Sunday School kids pick every week; last year there were hundreds of cucumbers, yellow and green squash, green beans, eggplants and bushels of tomatoes.

At the other end of the conference, the organic garden at the Kaaterskill UMC in Tannersville, N.Y., offered up its first crop in 2011 under the guidance of lay leader Christie Pierce. But it took a joint effort to build the garden in the mountaintop community in the Catskills. A couple of local contractors contributed time, energy, and equipment to excavate the sod, and then dig and rototill the beds. Pierce’s daughter, landscape architect Jamie Vanucchi, designed a 1,300-square-foot space that included six in-ground and two raised beds.

Michelle Yost, a member of the Kaaterskill church, said that the garden has had a unique and individual impact on the church and community.

“There are those who rely on it to supplement their food expenses . . . and there are those who use it because it provides a healthier option than store produce,” she said.

The garden is tended by members of the congregation and any community members who volunteer. Youth and teens have been drawn to learn about and work in the garden through events at the church like the annual blessing of the backpacks and community service days. Cultivating more student involvement is one the church main goals.

Yost said that it’s hard to tell just how many people use the garden each year.

“Sometimes there is leftover harvest, other times certain beds are depleted,” she said. “It is open to anyone, not just food insecure people; you never know who you are going to encounter in the garden—from the rich to the economically challenged, the old and the young, local resident or visitor, and other faith-based guests, each with their own life story.”

This summer finds the garden—with its row of cheerful sunflowers—in a bit of a transition as work is done to install a rain harvesting system that will capture rooftop runoff from the church in a cistern for use in watering the crops.

Faith UMC in North Haven, Conn., is also looking for a way to harness natural resources to keep their garden growing. The church is currently raising funds to install a solar-powered well so that water hoses don’t have to be run from the church to the garden.

But Rev. Dr. Wayne Lavender, pastor of the church, said that their “Garden of Eatin” has “just taken off this year . . . it’s really flourishing.”

The garden, which is in its third year, rents out 15 x 20-foot plots for the summer season. Twenty-one of the 24 plots are actively planted this year, mostly by congregation members. Produce from five of the plots gets donated to the Loaves and Fishes food pantry in New Haven. Last summer that amounted to thousands of tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, Lavender said.

One of the plots is used by the junior garden club of North Haven. Every Saturday of the growing season some 10 children and their leader can be found weeding the plot or picking beans, cucumbers and corn. Some 30 students from nearby Quinnipiac University helped prepare the planting beds and added mulch to the garden paths this spring.

Lavender said he’s most inspired by the developing sense of community among the gardeners. People who have been members of his congregation for years are really getting to know one another.

“There are lots of conversations in the garden, lots of ideas exchanged,” he said. Some of the gardeners in the community have also come to Sunday worship services.

Lavender, who freely shares his concerns about global climate change with his congregation, explained the that church is taking a “holistic” approach to tending it’s six-acre property.

“We’re “planting with a purpose,” he said.

A new orchard just 50 yards from the garden is already bearing fruit on its six apple and six pear trees. A bee hive is providing pollinators (and honey) and a compost pile supplies nutrient-rich amendments for the soil. There are no chemicals used in the garden.

Elsewhere on the grounds, a peace path through the woods provides a 1/3-mile trail complete with a bench for quiet contemplation and prayer. Walkers may also come across some of the resident deer, foxes, rabbits, and snapping turtles.

“I love having people on the property who love the earth and want to care for it . . . and even reverse some of the harm that’s been done,” Lavender said. The church hopes to add a labyrinth and a gazebo one day.

When Collins and Abelova were serving the Delaware Headwaters Cooperative Parish in the Catskills, the gardens they helped create there have brought together local schools, churches, youth groups and scouts from at least six communities to build, plant, nurture and harvest the beds.

Collins said that the impetus for the gardens came from a new couple who came to the Hobart UMC. Diane and Larry Frances had bought a farm outside of town and were looking for ways to promote healthy eating and nutrition in their new community. Collins and Abelova thought it would be a great

Rev. David Collins shows a chicken to the Sunday School children in Port Washington.

A beehive in the Faith UMC provides a ready supply of pollinators for the garden.

way to connect the churches together in the cooperative parish and with the Catholic church in town. The co-op included the United Methodist churches of Hobart, Bloomville, Stamford and Township. Team Moses, a youth group based in the Harpersfield UMC also offer their time and energy to the project.

“Diane Frances did all the ground work, and got the local sawmill to give us lumber at cost,” Collins said. “She figured out what would be needed.”

The first raised beds were constructed in 2015 in Hobart, Bloomville, and Stamford, and at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Stamford; others were added in 2016 and 2018. There has also been an herb garden planted in Stamford, and a “pizza garden” in Harpersfield. A community group, Growing Abundance Together, has taken over care of the gardens and expanded the reach to Harpersfield and Kortright. Produce goes to the local food pantries and for a community meal, “Soup’s On,” that began at the Hobart UMC with about 20 people and grew to feed 60 to 70 people each month.

Pastor Paul Moeller and Rev. Dee Stevens helped to continue the efforts during their appointments to the parish.

“It’s been a great opportunity to teach kids about growing food and caring for the earth,” Moller said.

The volunteers at the New Rochelle UMC like to say that their garden “doesn’t just grow food, it grows healthy community.” A guiding premise is that no one works alone in the garden.

“Everyone works together,” said Pastor Angela Redman. “You always work with someone else so that relationships are nurtured.” The principle also serves as reminder that disciples do not do God’s work alone, but that it is done in community.

One of the volunteers, Doris Clark-Magloire, did a lot of gardening at the former St. Luke’s UMC and provided produce for other members of that congregation. She kept up the practice after the merger that formed NRUMC where the gardens now produce enough vegetables for a couple of nearby soup kitchens and those who share in working the garden. The nursery school also uses one of the plots to teach the children about the interdependence of nature with seeds, and dirt, and worms and bees.

Former pastor, Rev. Michelle Lewis, brought a new interest in the gardens through her doctoral work that examined the intersectionality of food justice issues in the community. Her work included spirituality sessions that explored faith, food, and social justice from Christian and Jewish perspectives.

The congregation has also lent their expertise to the nearby Jewish temple and Baptist church who are tending gardens to add to the fresh produce available to the community. Lewis’ plans for the “Peace Garden Project” included a network of gardens that also would confront issues of food justice, racism, and other “isms” present in communities.

On harvest days, the church has provided recipe cards geared to the produce being shared; individuals and families choose only the produce they want so that none is wasted. They have continued to expand the garden beyond a dozen raised beds, and are planting directly into the ground with beets, carrots, swiss chard, collard greens, green beans, and tomatoes.

Clark-Magloire said that one of her favorite times in the garden is harvest day.

When people are reaping the produce “I love the delight it brings them, people can’t believe it’s free,” she said. “We’re just doing it out of love; so many people come week after week.”

“It’s a lot of work though. You’ve got to love gardening to do this,” she said. “The work is intensive—weeding, watering and fighting with the critters. Even though there is a fence, the deer will jump over.”

Clark-Magloire said that the church’s work with the gardens and food justice issues have allowed the community to see them in a new way. 

“Maybe people saw us for the first time, people harvesting and working,” she said. “Neighbors wanted to know what we were doing. It was free advertising.”

Rev. David Collins is willing to share his knowledge and experiences in starting a community garden; contact him via email

Left: Swiss chard is harvested from the raised beds at New Rochelle UMC; top, a peace path is a tranquil place to spend a few moments at Faith UMC in North Haven; right, a sign marks the entrance to the community garden.

Veronika and Viktoria Collins line up a day's harvest of cucumbers and yellow squash; dad and pastor, Rev. David Collins, with a Golden Comet member of his Port Washington flock.

For a full lineup of events, go to:

7/5–8/30 Conference Center Summer Schedule
Starting July 5, the conference center will be closed on Fridays for the summer.

7/26–28 Mission “u” Weekend
Join the United Methodist Women and Board of Laity for a weekend of spiritual growth and to expand your knowledge and concept of mission. The 2019 studies are: “Practicing Resurrection: The Gospel of Mark and Radical Discipleship,” “What About Our Money? A Faith Response,” and “Women United for Change.” The event will be held at the Hilton Stamford in Connecticut. There is a one-day sampler program available on Saturday. For additional information or to register, click here.

7/31 Medical Screenings Deadline
Clergy and their spouses enrolled in HealthFlex need to complete the Blueprint for Wellness biometric screening and the online HealthQuotient assessment to receive a $100 bonus and a lower annual deductible. Login to your account on the WesPath website, and make an appointment for the wellness screening, and complete the HQ questionnaire. Email Sally Truglia, or call her at 914-615-2220 with any questions.

8/1–3 Path 1 Launchpad Training
Online registration is now open for this Thursday-Saturday event which focuses on “Helping New Churches Launch Well.” Rachel Gilmore and Paul Nixon will lead this summer’s NEJ Launchpad, both of whom have planted successfully and coached planters. Any planter or planting team is welcome. It is good for second year people also, both in terms of review and auditing the first year and helping them plan for the next. The goal is an action timeline of how to get from ‘here’ to ‘there’ in the next year. Cost: $100 each for church planters and team members, $50 for spouses of church planters. Some meals and snacks will be provided at


the White Plains conference center. Participants must make their own overnight accommodations, if needed. For more information or to register online, go to the NYAC calendar page.

8/14 Table Ministry Workshop
Learn how to do church around the table from Zach Kerzee who started Simple Church in 2014 with a simple question: What if church was a dinner party? The 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. event at the Stony Point Center, in Stony Point, N.Y., is free, but registration is limited to 50. Register on the NYAC website.

8/18–23 Family Beach Week
Start a new tradition by experiencing summer camp as a family at Camp Quinipet on Shelter Island. Sail, swim, ride bikes, shuttle to nearby attractions, worship together, meet guest ministers and more. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Open week, register a-la-carte and come for any combination of days. Hostel-style and private rooms available.

8/22–24 “NAVIGATE: Unleashing the Leader
in You”

This event sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdiction sets out to equip current and future leaders to transform their congregations and communities for Jesus Christ. Clergy and laity can explore tracks for revitalization, the small church, lay pastors, new places for new people, young leaders and conference leaders. The event will be held at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill, Penn. For more information and to register, go to the Susquehanna Conference website.

10/11–13 “Hatch-a-Thon”
Stay tuned for more info on this event to develop innovative ideas for engaging youth and young adults that was announced by Rev. David Gilmore at annual Conference.

10/26 UMM Annual Retreat
“Hearts on Fire for God II” runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Memorial UMC in White Plains. $25 donation is requested. Rev. John Simmons Jr. and Rev. Matt Curry will be guest speakers. Register online.

11/16 Laity Convocation
Guest speaker Dr. Jacqui King from Discipleship Ministries will explore what it means to “lead courageously.” The 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. event at the Tarrytown House Estate in Tarrytown, N.Y., will include worship, fellowship and communion. Cost is $30. Register on the NYAC website by November 8.

Vision Deadlines for 2019
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 2019 are August 2, September 6, October 4, November 1, and December 6. Please send any stories, photos, ideas, or questions directly to

Church Vandalized Over LGBTQIA+ Support

Rev. Kristina Hansen and Connecticut District Superintendent Alpher Sylvester, first and second from left, preside over Holy Communion during worship just days after two vandalism attacks at Mary Taylor Memorial UMC.

Editor, The Vision

Mary Taylor Memorial UMC in Milford, Conn., was vandalized twice just days apart by a 30-year-old man who told police that he opposes the church’s open stance in affirmation of LGBTQIA+ persons.

Police charged Charles Yarbrough of Nashville, Tenn., for the attacks that occurred on June 27 and July 1. The charges against Yarbrough include hate crime, burglary in the third degree and criminal mischief in the third degree. He was being held on a $50,000 bond.

Rev. Kristina Hansen, who is the pastor at Mary Taylor, told the media that although the vandalism was disturbing and saddening, the church would continue to be an open and affirming congregation.

“It seemed like there was someone who was angry, angry at God, angry at the church,” Hansen said. “ . . . But if we walk around in fear how are we going to love our neighbor?”

Longtime church member, Eileen Doyle, echoed that sentiment.

“We’re not going to let hate overcome love,” she said.

Rainbow-colored signs placed in the church yard following the 2019 Special General Conference in St. Louis read, “To be clear, if you are queer LGBTQIA+ you are affirmed here.”

According to members of the congregation who recognized Yarbrough from security camera footage, he had attended at least a couple of the free community suppers that the church provides once a month.

In the two incidents, the seats of altar chairs were slashed, the altar rail was gouged, and the door to Hansen’s office was slashed repeatedly with a box cutter.

In a post on the church’s Facebook page dated Sunday, July 7, Hansen wrote of the outpouring of support from the community, UMC clergy and laity as well as those from other denominations.

Rev. Alpher Sylvester, superintendent of the Connecticut District, joined the congregation for worship on July 7 to offer words of comfort and support.

“Our best strategy as Christians is, when possible, to exorcise these acts of hatred at their root using the best tool we know—love,” Sylvester wrote in a statement. “Jesus’ love has the potency to be the perfect response and best strategy to inoculate the cancer of hate before it metastasizes within a community.”

A letter from Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton expressing his deep concern for the well-being of the congregation and Rev. Hansen was also read to the congregation during the worship service.

“In the midst of those evil and misguided actions, the church has been called upon to rise above the injustice and continue to promote a message of grace, healing, and love,” the bishop wrote, adding that he was praying for the congregation, Hansen, and also for Yarbrough.

“This is my prayer for you today.  Stay strong.  Keep the faith.  And know how very much you are appreciated and loved,” Bickerton concluded.

Upcoming Mission Trips, Training

Members of a Connecticut District team (led by Tom and Wendy Vencuss) along with local workers take a break from repairs to a home in Utuado, Puerto Rico. The team was assisting in hurricane recovery from June 22 to 29.

Puerto Rico Teams Forming

  • September 25–October 2: Email Barb Adams, Poughkeepsie UMC, N.Y.
  • October 17–24: Email Jill Wilson, Prospect UMC, Bristol, Conn.

Individual volunteer cost is $650 which includes airfare. 

Youth Ambassadors: Ecuador

Our 2019 Youth Ambassador team of 12 youth and 4 chaperones will be serving in Ecuador from July 20 to 27. They will be assisting with a Vacation Bible School program and working on a church community center. 

Early Response Team Training

Early response teams (ERT) are the first to go into disaster-affected areas after an “all clear” is given. They are a first critical step in the recovery cycle. To schedule an ERT training event, email Art Mellor.

Disaster Response Forums

In anticipation of national preparedness month in September, three Disaster Response Forums have been scheduled:

  • September 28: Bristol, Conn.
  • October 19: St James UMC, Kingston, NY
  • November 2: Grace UMC, Baldwin, NY

Workshops will include training for early response teams, disaster care, team leadership, CPR/first aid, Narcan administration, and Connecting Neighbors. More information will follow and on-line registration will be required.

NYAC Members heading to Saipan 

Five members of the NYAC will be taking part in a FEMA “invitational travel” opportunity to work in Saipan as part the Typhoon Yutu recovery effort. Yutu hit Saipan in October 2018.

Blue tarps at the Dondo Home for Children in Mozambique have been replaced by new blue roofs as the work continues to repair damage from Cyclone Idai. Portions of the roofs on the dormitory/education building and the director’s home were ripped off in the mid-March storm. 

New District Coordinator

Rev. Carlos Figueroa, pastor of the UMC of Peekskill, is the newest district missions and disaster response coordinator, serving the New York/Connecticut District. Figueroa served on a recent team to Puerto Rico and is leading the group heading to Saipan in August.

Missionaries Share About Life, Work

Rev. John Calhoun, above center, spoke with Pastor Adeline Hazzard and members of the Winstead UMC over lunch on June 27.

Editor, The Vision

Rev. John Calhoun, a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries based in the Ukraine, has been visiting churches throughout the conference this summer to discuss his ministry as the coordinator of international ministries for the UMC in Eurasia. In that role, he works to build partnerships with international students and migrant communities to provide guidance in the areas of leadership training, community development, and preaching.

Calhoun, who is an elder in the NYAC, has met with Winstead, Farmingdale, Peekskill, Jesse Lee Memorial in Ridgefield, Conn. He’ll finish out his itineration with Richmond Hill and Park Slope.

For information about hosting a missionary at a local church event, contact Jill Wilson via email.

* * * * *

Hannah Reasoner grew up as a witness to the intersectionality of faith and social justice as a member of the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew in Manhattan.

“My faith has always been about the community, strengthening, meeting needs as well as a personal relationship with God,” Reasoner said. So, when she finished her college degree, she applied to serve as a global mission fellow in Colombia for two years.

Through the global mission fellows program young adults are commissioned as UMC missionaries to serve in their home context or abroad in ways that integrate faith and justice by learning, walking, and working with communities in their struggles to address systemic injustice and human suffering.

For Reasoner that meant putting her communications skills to work with Centro Popular para América Latina de Comunicación (CEPALC) in Bogota. CEPALC uses radio, television, and magazine journalism as well as the arts to teach groups of women and children living in poverty about human rights, gender justice and peace in Colombia.

“It was a really exciting opportunity . . . and a really scary opportunity to leave everything behind for two years to go to a place I’d never been before and work with people I never met before,” Reasoner said.

But that anxiety soon dissipated as she settled into leading workshops for children in Bogota and two other locations, and hosting an internet radio show about CEPALC programs in English. Reasoner arrived with a basic understanding of Spanish, and relied on a tutor to help strengthen her fluency in the language.

“This [assignment] excited me because it wasn’t just like the mission trip for a week,” she said. The goal of the mission fellows’ immersive experience is to “be part of the community, in solidarity with community . . . seeking out the root causes of injustice. That aspect of mission work I hadn’t really experienced before.

“That’s a very important aspect of mission in the church, learning to live in solidarity with people around the world,” Reasoner added. She also connected with the small local Methodist community there and found the same social justice issues, the same search for equality.

One of Reasoner’s favorite parts of her work was a Saturday morning program when “kids as young as 7 or 8 years old would talk about social justice . . . and teach their peers and families about social justice and inequality issues.” Adults helped with researching the issues and then the children used the radio platform to share what they had learned.

“It was teaching kids to have a critical eye to the culture and the world they live in,” she said. “We were teaching kids to notice discrimination and injustice and call it out, to find ways to change it . . . to understand that they have rights as children.”

Reasoner who served with the NYAC Council on Youth Ministries and was a youth ambassador in mission, learned about the global fellows program through her parents. Her mother, Christie House, is a senior writer and editor for the General Board of Global Ministries.

The program works to match the skills of the applicants with the needs of the host organizations.

“You don’t know when you apply where you will go,” she explained. “I matched up with their communications [CEPLAC]. I interviewed over Skype with the directors. It was a perfect fit, really, I got very lucky.”

As Reasoner’s time in Colombia came to an end in early June, she discovered what an impact her work had made on many of the children.

“It was a joy watching the leadership formation in the young people,” she said. “A few of the girls in the program would take things into their own hands, speak more openly in the radio programs. An 11-or 12-year-old boy who wants to talk about feminism made my heart soar.

“Many said I was part of that transformation in their lives,” she added. “It was beautiful they shared that with me. I didn’t think I was doing anything that special, that empowering . . . their words touched my heart.”

Reasoner is taking some time to reconnect with family and friends over the summer as she waits to see what other opportunities will present themselves. What advice would she give to other young adults considering missionary work?

“Jump in, do it with your whole heart,” Reasoner said. “It was the best experience of my life. You can’t let fear stop you.”

Reasoner is available to share her missionary story with congregations or youth groups; contact her via email. To learn more about the two-year Global Mission Fellows program, go to the website here, or check out the group’s Facebook page.

Hannah Reasoner, above, and some of the youth she worked with in Bogota, Colombia.

Slavery Anniversary Leads to New Discussions

UM News

In August 1619, about 50 people from Angola arrived in Jamestown, Virginia—the first African slaves in what is now the U.S. Four hundred years later, African Americans still struggle with the onerous remains of that legacy.

“In 2019, after centuries of structural change, protests and policy reforms most often led by Africans and people of African descent, why do these groups still experience such disproportionately high percentages of hunger and poverty today?” wrote the Rev. Angelique Walker-Smith in the introduction to “Lament and Hope: A Pan-African Devotional Guide.” The guide, by United Methodist partner Bread for the World, was produced to help people reflect on the quad-centennial.

“And why is there still such a wide wealth and income gap between these groups and individuals of European and Asian descent?” she asked.

The devotional guide is among resources and events endorsed by three United Methodist agencies to help Christians study and commemorate the beginning of slavery in the U.S.

They include a prayer book, a commemoration of the 1619 landing at Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center in Hampton, Virginia, and a United Nations initiative declaring the International Decade for People of African Descent.

 “It’s important to recognize it because we’re still living with the vestiges of what happened in 1619,” said Walker-Smith, senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World, a Christian non-profit that fights hunger. “We are still living with the lament and the hope that has come out from that period.”

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, referred to slavery as “that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England and of human nature,” in a 1791 letter to William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament.

But white Methodists “had great difficulty in seeing a way to genuine equality,” said historian Alfred T. Day, leader of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History.

“Methodism … has had a remarkable anti-slavery commitment but at the same time made troubling concessions to racism,” Day said. White Methodists dictated that Africans should always have the supervision of whites and not be permitted to meet by themselves.

 “Black Methodists would embrace and treasure the Methodist egalitarian Gospel and the affirmation it offered, but quickly found their growth in the faith and the movement held back, stymied at most every turn.” 

To this day, there are United Methodist pulpits where black clergy are unlikely to be appointed because of their skin color, according to Day. “We sort of tacitly accept that,” he said.

This year also marks a second important anniversary pertaining to U.S. race relations.

Fifty years ago in May 1969, James Forman, the head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, declared aBlack Manifesto.” The manifesto demanded $500 million in reparations be paid to African Americans by U.S. churches and synagogues for being “forced to live as colonized people inside of the United States, victimized by the most vicious, racist system in the world.”

Reparations were discussed June 19 in Washington during a congressional hearing on H.R. 40, a bill to create a commission that would propose ways to address the lingering effects of slavery.

The World Council of Churches released a statement May 27 calling for “all WCC member churches to find opportunities to commemorate this historic moment, to ask God’s forgiveness on behalf of our ancestors who were involved in the enslavement of African people and to recommit to the struggle against racism and for racial and economic justice and reparations.”

The Rev. Jean Hawxhurst, ecumenical staff officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops, said that there would likely be opportunities this year “for some significant repentance for those of us who are privileged, but also conversations about reparations.”

The United Methodist Council of Bishops, Commission on Religion and Race and Board of Church and Society all contributed to “Stolen,” described as “a collection of resources and engagements to commemorate the quad-centennial of the first of the African diaspora brought to the American colonies.”

Walker-Smith said everyone would benefit from racial reconciliation, not just African Americans.

“This is a cause for all of us. Once we really understand … the benefits when we’re able to call ourselves to reconciliation, … I believe we will receive the blessings of that.”

A Witness on Long Island

Clockwise from left: From the merger of four churches on Long Island’s East End, one new congregation arose: North Fork United Methodist, which was dedicated on June 16. The church’s bright and open interior is captured in a photo from the July 7 worship service. On June 16, Pastor Tom MacLeod was joined by Long Island East District Superintendent Julia Yeon-Hee Yim and Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton.

2 Bishops Offer New Plan for UMC’s Future

Bishop David Bard, center, confers with fellow bishops—including Bishop Bickerton, lower left—during the 2019 General Conference on whether the legislative committee can refer items to the denomination’s Judicial Council for review. Bard has since joined with Bishop Scott Jones in proposing a plan to reshape the UMC.

UM News

Two bishops propose turning The United Methodist Church into an umbrella organization for new, self-governing church groups that would offer different approaches on ordination of gay clergy and same-sex unions.

Michigan Conference Bishop David Bard and Texas Conference Bishop Scott Jones began collaborating on this new plan after the rancorous 2019 General Conference and shared it with United Methodist News this week.

“We both envision a future where the church will focus on its mission of making disciples and spend less time and energy debating issues of human sexuality, which means we need to bless different parts of The United Methodist Church to be about the mission in their own ways,” Jones said.

The denomination has faced conflict for more than four decades over theological differences regarding homosexuality. The 2019 General Conference, held Feb. 23–26 in St. Louis, reinforced restrictions on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex unions, but also led to protests and resistance by many churches across the U.S.

Bard and Jones’ plan comes as various groups of church leaders discuss options for the denomination, including schism. A Sept. 18 deadline looms for petitions to be submitted for the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis.

Though bishops don’t vote at General Conference, Bard and Jones said they feel an urgency to stimulate debate and action.

“We’re offering this plan as a thought experiment that we hope others will take seriously and consider as they are making decisions about the future of the church,” Jones said.

Bard added, “Scott and I acknowledge that there’s room for other ideas to be incorporated.”

Under the Bard-Jones plan—titled “A New Form of Unity: A Way Forward Strategy 2019–2022”—an annual conference would choose to join one of three groups the bishops are tentatively calling the Traditional Methodist Church, the Open Methodist Church and the Progressive Methodist Church.

The Traditional Methodist Church would begin with a Book of Discipline that includes the Traditional Plan, which passed by a vote of 438 to 384 at the 2019 General Conference and strengthened enforcement of restrictions on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex unions.

The Open Methodist Church and Progressive Methodist Church would begin with a Book of Discipline modified to include the Simple Plan as presented in St. Louis. That plan called for eliminating restrictions on same-sex unions and ordination of gay persons as clergy, as well as removing the church’s official position that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Under the Bard-Jones proposal, the Progressive Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline would be further modified to affirm clearly the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in marriage and ordination candidacy.

The Open Methodist Church and Progressive Methodist Church might choose to be one group, the bishops say.

The two or three churches would each decide on a name (“Methodist” isn’t required to be part of it), and each would hold its own General Conferences, with complete freedom to revise its Book of Discipline. Each would fund its bishops and decide on approved seminaries.

The two or three churches would share in governing the General Council of Finance and Administration, Wespath, the

United Methodist Publishing House and the General Commission on Archives and History. They would contribute proportionally to the Black College Fund and Africa University.

Other general church agencies would have their own boards and be accountable to the Open Methodist Church but would provide services as requested to the other churches.

The United Methodist Church would no longer have individual members but would continue to exist “as an umbrella to facilitate this new form of unity,” the plan says.

The churches would be in full communion, and each could use the cross-and-flame logo of The United Methodist Church.

Though specific in many ways, the plan leaves unanswered big questions, such as the global nature of The United Methodist Church.

“Churches in Europe and Asia could form their own Methodist Churches or belong to one of the two or three churches, with the precise nature of the relationship to be determined,” the plan says. “There would be a United Methodist Church in Africa, the precise affiliations to the two or three churches to be determined.”

Asked about the ambiguity, Bard said, “While we’ve had conversations with our colleagues from other parts of the world, we didn’t want to go too far in defining what they may wish to do.”

Another unknown: Would these new churches have a Judicial Council?

“Each of the new church groupings would determine whether or not to form a Judicial Council or similar body,” Bard said.

The Connectional Conference Plan that failed at the 2019 General Conference would have realigned the denomination according to perspectives on LGBTQ inclusion, as does Bard-Jones.

But the Connectional Conference Plan required constitutional amendments, a lengthy process involving votes throughout the annual conferences. Bard and Jones believe their plan could be launched by General Conference action only.

“The key is the proposal to allow U.S. annual conferences to leave the denomination,” they say in the plan. “It was contained in section 9 of petition 90041 of the Traditional Plan. This section of the petition was ruled constitutional by the Judicial Council. Because the petition died in the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, section 9 would need to be reintroduced and passed in 2020.”

The Bard-Jones plan foresees churches that disagree with their annual conference’s affiliation decision having the right “to transfer conferences with their assets, thereby joining a different church.”

The plan also lays out an implementation timetable, with the 2020 General Conference approving the major steps, followed by annual conferences choosing their affiliations with one of the two or three new churches in 2021 and the first General Conferences of those churches in 2022.

Bard and Jones have known each other since long before they were episcopal colleagues, having crossed paths at Southern Methodist University, where they both earned Ph.Ds.

They said they have shared their plan with fellow bishops as well as with groups discussing the future of the church. The stakes are high, and the two bishops hope to have an influence.

“Our plan offers a vision for keeping as much unity as possible and a pathway for decisions to be made,” Jones said.

Bishops Pose 5 Questions to JC on Traditional Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Council of Bishops (COB) has asked the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application and effect of certain petitions adopted as the Traditional Plan by the 2019 General Conference held in St. Louis, Missouri, in February.

Although the Judicial Council addressed the constitutionality of all of the petitions adopted at the 2019 General Conference in Decision 1378, the COB has identified numerous issues regarding the Traditional Plan that need to be addressed for the benefit of The United Methodist Church.

However, rather than submit all of those issues, the COB has determined that many of the questions identified are best addressed in the context of specific factual situations in which they arise within an annual conference. 

Thus, the COB is asking the Judicial Council to address the following questions:

Question 1: Does the expanded definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” in Paragraph 304.3 (Petition 90032) apply to persons who have already been ordained under previous definitions of that term? If so, does the expanded definition constitute impermissible and unconstitutional ex post facto legislation held to be improper in Judicial Council Decision 219? If it does not apply to persons ordained before the effective date of the legislation, does the expanded definition violate the principle of legality by applying different standards to persons of the same class or status?

Question 2: Is the expanded definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” in Paragraph 304.3 unconstitutional because the categories of “living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union” do not allow for the presumption that a person is “practicing” to be rebutted as provided for in Judicial Council Decision 1341? If not, may a person be charged and found guilty of being a self-avowed practicing homosexual pursuant to Paragraph 2702.1b by simply proving that the person is “living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union?”


Question 3: Is the phrase “or has failed to certify it carried out the disciplinarily mandated examination” in Paragraph 415.6 (Petition 90036) unconstitutional on the ground that the certification requirement in Petition 90038 was ruled unconstitutional in Decisions 1366 and 1377?

Question 4: If the binding civil law in an annual conference provides that no person, including persons serving as ordained clergy, can be suspended without pay (e.g., the employment law in a central conference) or the respondent is appointed to an extension ministry (in which the person is paid by an entity other than the church, such as a school or the military), can a person found guilty of a chargeable offense under Paragraphs 2702.1(b) or (d) be assessed a mandatory minimum penalty of one (1) year’s suspension “without pay” pursuant to Paragraph 2711.3 (Petition 90042)?

Question 5: If the answer to the foregoing question is “no,” does that part of Paragraph 2711.3 violate the principle of legality, rendering it unconstitutional for all persons because it cannot be applied equally to all persons found guilty of the same offense?

In its request, filed June 26, 2019, the COB reported that bishops voted to request the declaratory decision on May 7, 2019, during the May meeting held outside Chicago.

In a related matter, the COB is also asking the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to the effective date of Paragraph 2553 (Petition 90066 as amended). The petition deals with disaffiliation of local churches over issues related to human sexuality.

The COB notes that when the minority report regarding Petition 90066, as substituted and edited, was adopted, the substitution of the minority report did not expressly include or exclude the prefatory language in the original petition that stated an effective date.

Hence, the COB is making a limited request for a declaratory decision as to the effective date of Paragraph 2553.

The Judicial Council’s next meeting is set for October 2019.

Worship Resources, Groups Sought for GC2020

United Methodist choirs, worship ensembles and liturgists from around the world have an opportunity to be part of the worship experience of the 2020 General Conference. Creatives may apply to share their talents while leading the church body during the United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly meeting May 5–15, 2020, in Minneapolis. The deadline for submission has been extended to September 15, 2019.

Individuals interested in writing original liturgy for General Conference may submit a letter of application that includes a sample liturgy with five-minute devotional, call to worship and prayer of confession inspired by Philippians 3:14. Submissions must include the applicant’s name, email, phone number

and local church information. Applications should be emailed.

Groups interested in performing at the 2020 General Conference during worship services and/or a lunchtime showcase venue should submit a letter of application which includes the group’s name; primary contact person’s name, email and phone number; ensemble’s brief history/bio with the number of members, their general age range, location, and unique characteristics; and link to a private YouTube video of them performing. Email submissions to Raymond Trapp, worship and music director for General Conference 2020, who is responsible for developing the overall worship experience and music programming.

GC2020 Petitions Due by Sept. 18

Petitions for consideration by the 2020 General Conference may be submitted to the petitions secretary now through September 18.

According to church law, “Any organization, clergy member, or lay member of The United Methodist Church may petition the General Conference...”.

Detailed instructions for submitting a petition are available on the General Conference website. Petitions must be typed and may be submitted through the General Conference website, by postal mail or fax, or via e-mail to Abby Parker Herrera, petitions secretary.

Due to the passage of legislative material by the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, an addendum to The Book of Discipline 2016 is available. These paragraphs

replace what is printed in The Book of Discipline 2016.  Petitions related to these paragraphs must reference the material in the addendum.  The errata (corrections) for The Book of Discipline 2016 are included at the end of the addendum document and should also be considered in petition texts.

Eligible petitions are given numbers and assigned to one of 14 legislative committees or the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters. The committees will debate the proposals and determine whether to approve, amend, combine or reject them for recommendation to the full body of General Conference.

Questions about the petition submission process may be submitted by e-mail to Herrera.

Sharing in NZ Grief, Working for Peace


On March 15, 2019, an angry, white supremacist from Australia entered the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, and began systematically shooting people. When he finished, he drove about three miles to the Linwood Islamic Centre, where he repeated the attack.

Thanks to the brave actions of Abdul Aziz Wahabzada, this attack was cut short. A total of 43 persons were killed at the Al Noor Mosque, and eight more at the Linwood Islamic Center. Another 50 were wounded. Without the actions of Abdul and the quickly responding police of Christchurch, another 50 or more could have also been killed.

Soon after the attacks I was invited to come to New Zealand by a professor at Auckland University who knew of my research and work promoting peace between Christians and Muslims. She asked me to come in April, but because of Easter and the end of the academic semester here, I delayed my trip to the end of May 20-June 3.

The purpose of my trip was to bring a message of peace and love to the members of these grieving communities and others in New Zealand who were shocked and traumatized by this attack. It was an amazing and emotional trip. I was able to visit both mosques where the massacres took place and met many of the wounded and survivors there. We broke bread together and they shared about their experiences and trauma. I was also able to speak in another mosque in Auckland, three churches (including a Methodist one) and to a group at Auckland University.

I was anxious as I headed into the Al Noor Mosque. Despite the many experiences I have had in war zones and other sites of tragedy, I did not know if I would be accepted nor did I know what I would say. As I came through the door a Muslim greeted me with these words: “Welcome, brother.” I felt an amazing sense of peace come over me as I walked through the mosque and spoke to many who were present on that horrific day. They invited me to pray and share the Iftar meal with them. I felt like part of the community.

Following the meal, I stepped outside with a few of the members as we continued our conversations. There is a makeshift memorial in front of the mosque where members of the community have been leaving flowers. We watched as a group of four arrived, bringing condolence cards and more flowers. We spoke to them. They were very emotional and began crying. I and my new Muslim brothers began crying as well. One of the New Zealand police officers, who was there to protect the mosque and its members, came over with some tissues. Then he began crying as well.

We shared this intimate moment with each other—an American, members of the mosque, some New Zealand residents and a police officer. Our humanity and the tragedy were the bonds that brought us all together.

The world is messed up. Yes? There’s not a day that goes by where we don’t hear of a bombing, shooting, murder, rape, act of war or crime against humanity. Since the time of Adam and Eve, human history has been written in blood and tears.

The world is an amazing place. Yes? There’s not a day that goes by where we don’t see someone helping another, going out of their way to give of their time, talents, gifts and service to those in need. Since the time of Adam and Eve, human history has been written with grace, peace, mercy and love.

We live in this bi-polar reality, where good and evil fight each other in a cosmic struggle for supremacy. We can choose which side of this divide to be on: we can choose good over evil, we can be peacemakers. As followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, it seems clear which side we must be on.

Lavender is the pastor of Faith UMC in North Haven, Conn., and the founder of the Foundation 4 Orphans, an organization helping orphans in countries like Mozambique.

Reinventing Identity in Clergy Retirement

President, Retired Clergy and Spouses Fellowship

Two of the greatest fears when we reach adulthood is being watched and being ignored. My conversations with some of the retired clergy during Annual Conference reinforced those feelings.

Transitioning out of full-time ministry to total retirement is not easy for some pastors and their spouses. Loss of identity, feelings of displacement, absence of experienced individuality, combined with slowing mobility and dwindling resources sometimes make them wonder who they are. A lifetime of ministerial credentials doesn’t stop the pain of intermittent loneliness and sporadic feelings of being ignored. The weight of dealing with family issues or caring for a disabled child or spouse also drives them to perceptual paralysis and expressive depression.

Decades ago, these clergy entered pastoral ministry in obedience to God’s call. They served faithfully in communities and churches to which they were sent. They preached and ministered, administered baptisms and solemnized weddings, conducted funeral services and worked for peace and justice in the public square for decades.

Itineracy as Mission

These clergy members were sent out to serve on the United Methodist Church’s principle called “itinerant system,” as outlined in the Book of Discipline (a Rule Book!). The Book of Discipline says all pastoral “appointments are made without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age, except for the provisions of mandatory retirement.”  Pastors, as a result, don’t get to choose where they would like to serve; rather they are simply “sent” by the bishop in consultation with the bishop’s cabinet.

This itinerary system, in a broader sense, is a mission principle in practice within a defined boundary.  All pastors under appointments are unvaryingly accompanied by their spouses and children as well. Consequently, the entire clergy family pays the price of moving from community to community to serve and witness.  Clergy family’s collateral cost is not only invisible but also ineffable as members of the clergy family are often lost between the pulpit and pew, in a metaphorical sense. It causes occasional tension between family members and the clergy. It’s like how we can’t tickle our own feet! But they move on.

Upon retirement everything comes to a screeching halt. Redefining identity for a retiring/retired United Methodist pastor is a complex task, since their identity is closely connected to itineracy, and not to one church or one community, but churches and communities. An identity-continuum which naturally flows from home to community for many does not apply to a United Methodist pastor. Itineracy and pilgrim-ministry is a missional identity that comes with the ministerial territory.

Since most of the clergy families have lived in church-provided parsonages, they have never built up home equity. They’ve paid social security taxes for the parsonage’s fair rental value with little savings for retirement home. Many spouses had not held on a steady job due to unceasing itineration. Children had not laid deep roots in a particular community with lasting friends.  These cause tension and anxiety for the clergy. 

When retired clergy are looked at like yesterday’s newspaper or an expired magazine by the surrounding culture, this misplaced perception further intensifies the loss of identity.

Because a United Methodist minister’s identity is hitched to the traveling wagon, and not a permanent home, such a perception should not rub beyond the surface, missionally speaking.

A study, conducted by Grey Matter Research a few years ago, found that of the more than 4,200 pastors of all denominations surveyed, many of them struggle to secure long-term financial stability. One third of them have less than $10,000 in retirement funds. One fifth of them have no personal savings. Nearly two-thirds were concerned about medical insurance/bills. The most troubling of all was that more than a third of pastors said they have no one outside their household with whom they can confide about the things that stress them financially or emotionally.

Since they have been givers throughout their lives and ministries, often sacrificing for the sake of others, they simply carry on even during the golden years. A few end up ministering less than full time because they simply need the paycheck.

Being in Community

I vividly remember an episcopal address by Bishop David Lawson during his tenure in the former Central Illinois Conference, now Illinois Great Rivers Conference. At the conclusion of the address, he looked at more than 5,000 people sitting in the hall and said, “No pastor in this conference should die alone . . .” He implored laity and clergy of the conference that if a pastor or a pastor’s spouse or a family member should die, members of the conference should take every effort to attend the funeral service. At least, all the pastors from the district should be present. He reiterated that the conference is the pastor’s home and all its members are the pastor’s family.

As newly elected President of NYAC’s Retired Clergy and Spouses’ Fellowship, I submit the following for your consideration in order to stay connected with the retired clergy, spouses and their widows/widowers who are living in your communities:

  • Remember their birthdays and anniversaries, if possible.  
  • Invite them to church functions, especially during festival seasons.
  • Send a card or flowers during surgeries or hospitalization. Offer them a ride during medical treatment. If they are in rehab/nursing facilities, visit them occasionally as much as they like.
  • Most importantly, when there is a death in clergy family, take every effort to attend the wake or funeral service.

No pastor or pastor’s family member should die alone in NYAC!

The Eternal and the Everyday

In a recent bestselling book, “All That Man,” David Szalay presents Tony, a 73-year-old retiree, who met with an auto accident which was followed by heart surgery. These events had made his grasp on life more precarious. His attempt to connect his sense with his family and the supernatural evades him. He sees no real meaning in life and longs for something eternal. While he was sitting in a local restaurant, a little girl started reciting a nursery rhyme to her mother. That stirred Tony’s memory of the Latin words he had seen in a monastery wall in Italy long before and he began to mumble it to himself: Amemus eterna et non peritura, (Let us love what is eternal not what is transient).

It’s a difficult maxim to follow, especially for the United Methodist clergy; given that pastoral ministry in the UMC is the very definition of impermanence. Pastors who have spent their entire life in itinerant ministry and who embody the transient are suddenly compelled to find a lasting place to nestle and settle in retirement. It is antithetical to what they had done all through their career.

The clergy who have found joy and fulfillment in a ministry of being transient and yet loved and counseled many for both rootedness and the eternal should not be cast away like old newspapers or expired magazines. Let’s do all we can to make all our clergy and their spouses feel valued and valuable!

Digging into a New Future

Heavy equipment moved in on July 11 to begin work on what will become the new home of the First UMC in Middletown, Conn. The congregation has been meeting in temporary space since they sold their building five years ago, according to Pastor Barbara Marks. Construction of the 2,000 square foot building is expected to take about six months.

Grants Available for Racial/Ethnic Ministries

Grants of up to $10,000 will be available this fall from Discipleship Ministries to strengthen the leadership training, small groups, worship, stewardship and spiritual formation in ethnic local United Methodist churches.

The application deadline for the Racial Ethnic Local Church Concerns (RELCC) grants is September 10. Special consideration will be given this year to programs that promote racial reconciliation involving leadership with young people.

“Discipleship Ministries is grateful to be able to serve The United Methodist Church by offering support to ethnic local churches and other entities that develop disciples and promote racial reconciliation,” said Naomi Hope Annandale, director of research and strategic evaluation at Discipleship Ministries. “We have been thrilled to learn about new ministries launched with previous RELCC grants that bring youth to Christ, support recent immigrants and strengthen parents, among other projects.”

RELCC grants are made available each year during the 2017–2020 quadrennium. Priority will be given to new programs, and funds are not provided for personnel and equipment.

Applicants must apply online and are encouraged to consult with Discipleship Ministries staff for guidance in preparing the application.

For more information is available on the Discipleship website, or contact Annandale by phone at 615-340-1743 or by email.

Applications must be for a ministry or project of a local United Methodist church or of the United Methodist connectional system. In addition, they also must:

  • Contribute directly to the mission and ministries of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • Be consistent with the doctrine and social principles of the United Methodist 2016 Book of Discipline.
  • Focus on developing and strengthening the racial ethnic local church for witness and mission.
  • Be related to one or more of the essential services provided by Discipleship Ministries, such as accountable discipleship, Christian education, curriculum resources, evangelism, family and life-span ministries, lay ministries, leadership development, spiritual formation, stewardship and worship.
  • Involve racial ethnic church members in the planning, leadership and decision-making.

Becoming a Culturally Competent Leader

UMC of Huntington-Cold Spring Harbor

Cross-racial and cross-cultural (CR/CC) ministry is a gift from God. It is a gift in the sense that God opens up an opportunity for a pastor and a parish to embody the diversity within the body of Christ. However, embracing differences are challenging at times and even costly if the CR/CC ministry fails to celebrate and welcome diversity. As a servant-leader in CR/CC ministry, there are a few things that might be worthwhile to consider.

At the start of CR/CC ministry, visible and invisible challenges arise due to crossing the existing racial and cultural boundaries. Understanding and navigating these boundaries by acquiring cultural knowledge does not equal cultural competence; a person can be an expert on a particular aspect of a culture, and yet be unable to negotiate well with one’s counterparts. Such a gap between knowledge and competence may be due in part to being unaware of one’s own culture. Here, self-awareness and self-reflection are vital components, which will guide us to advance as a culturally competent leader. Keeping a “cultural diversity” journal can be a great help and a resource in preserving a record of incidents and breakthroughs within CR/CC ministry.

Cultural competence weighs more on how to manage distress and anxiety caused by crossing racial and cultural boundaries than what to study for and research about racial and cultural diversity. In other words, dealing with stress and tension resulting from racial and cultural differences have a more significant and long-lasting impact on the servant-leaders than acquiring specific cultural knowledge and tradition. Here, self-care is critical since knowing and understanding one’s limitations, and weaknesses bring us back to an easy yoke and light burden Jesus assured in Matthew 11:30.

It still takes time and energy for a competent leader to embody and embrace cultural diversity. Since what we often see is just a tip of an iceberg of more significant, elaborate cultural differences, and spirituality of the people we serve. Here, compassion is a must. Empathy will make a pathway to building trust for the people in our care. To care for them is to know and serve them. Take every opportunity to listen to their stories and experiences to connect with them on a personal level. Relationship and trust building happen with this type of sharing.

Then, we can take the next step to embody cultural humility. According to Hook and others, cultural humility is an “ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented (or open to the other) in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the [person]” (Hook et al., 2013). A combination of empathy and cultural humility with a healthy boundary can create a judgment-free zone in which trusting and harmonious relationships flourish. Sustaining this kind of connection depends on the inquisitiveness of the culturally competent leaders who stay curious and suspend judgments when exploring differences.

At times, the gift is difficult to be received and even embraced when people are filled with other offerings, which, unfortunately, people take one gift for granted. Pray that the people of God and the servant-leaders embrace and utilize all talents and blessings God has given us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

[This article originally appeared on the GCORR website. References: Hook, J. N., Davis, D. E., Owen, J., Worthington Jr., E. L., & Utsey, S. O. (2013). Cultural humility: Measuring openness to culturally diverse clients. Journal of Counseling Psychology]


Minister for Leadership, Congregational Development

The Church of the Village (COTV) is seeking a fulltime minister for leadership and congregational development. The person in this position will work to help church members discover and develop gifts and abilities for leadership within themselves and others. The minister of leadership and congregational development is responsible for developing and strengthening the lay leadership and deepening the commitment to discipleship of church leaders. COTV is located at 201 W. 13th St. (at 7th Avenue), New York, NY 10011. Interested candidates should email a cover letter and resume along with an employment application by August 12, 2019, to QuiShaun Hill, administrative associate. The application is available for download. Interviews will be conducted through August 26, with a target start date of August 5. A full job description is available on the NYAC website.


Grace E. York

Grace E. York, 105, died June 18, 2019 at her home in Hamden, Conn. She was born in Columbus, Ohio, on September 8, 1913, the daughter of Ervel & Minnie (Callahan) Benedict.

She was the widow of Rev. Lauren D. York, Sr., who served the New York Conference for 39 years. He pastored Bayville, Kings Park and Sea Cliff UMCs on Long Island, as well as Hamden UMC in Conn., and Saugerties, Centerville and Watertown UMCs in NY. He died in 1978. Grace was an organist for many of the churches where her husband was the pastor. Their son, L. David York, Jr., also served the New York Conference from 1965 until his retirement in 1997.

Grace resided for the last 20 years in Hamden, working along with her daughter at The Evergreen Shop. Grace was also an organist at local funeral homes whenever needed, and sang with the Greater New Haven Community Chorus for over 25 years.

She is survived by her daughter, Dorothy (Michael) Althoff of Hamden; her son, Rev. Lauren “David” (Suzanne) York, Jr., of Monroe, Conn.; grandchildren, Patty Conte, Jane Althoff, Daniel York and Jeffrey York; nine great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter. She was predeceased by three sisters and a brother.

A graveside service was held June 22 at Evergreen Cemetery, Watertown, Conn. A memorial service was held July 6 at Hamden Plains UMC, Hamden. Contributions in her memory may be made to a charity of one’s choice.

Rev. Eric L. Vernon

The Reverend Eric L Vernon, 88, died June 10, 2019.

A native of Belize, his formal education was in Wesley schools and then at Wesley College in Belize City, where he

graduated in 1948. After serving briefly in the civil service, Vernon taught mathematics and geography at Wesley College. He became very active in church affairs, serving as leader of the Methodist Youth Congress, a Sunday School teacher and superintendent, and a local lay preacher, all while still in his teens.

He entered Caenwood Theological Seminary in Jamaica, West Indies, graduating in 1956 with a master’s degree in theology. Vernon was appointed to four churches in the St. Thomas Parish of Jamaica. He was transferred to Belize and later to Tobago, Barbados, Antigua and St. Kitts in the West Indies. While in the West Indies, he married Harrel Hope Houson and they had three children.

In 1971, Vernon came to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in psychology and counseling at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He graduated in 1973, also obtaining certification in clinical pastoral education.

Vernon served as pastor at Asbury UMC in Mt Vernon from 1976 to 1982. He also served Wakefield Grace and Woodycrest churches in the Bronx, and St Matthew’s UMC in Ossining. After retiring in 1997 he served at Broadway Temple UMC in Manhattan and as chaplain of the Methodist Home for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Riverdale, N.Y. Vernon later became an active member of Wakefield Grace, and served as chaplain of the United Methodist Men there.

In addition to his wife, Flora, who is a diaconal minister at Asbury UMC in Mount Vernon, he is survived by his children, Norman (Monika) Vernon, Andrea Vernon, and Susan (Patrick) Vernon-Devlin as well as his grandchildren, Jordan, Daniel, Christopher, Dominic and Alexis; his sister, Grace King; nieces, Caroline (Henry) Baizer, Laverne King and Teri Lodise; and his stepsons David (Victoria) and Gary Walmsley.

A funeral service was held on June 21, 2019, at First UMC of Mount Vernon. The committal service was June 22 at the church. Condolences may be sent to the family at 725 S. Sixth Ave., Mount Vernon, NY, 10550.

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