The Vision
The Newspaper of The New York Conference of The United Methodist Church July 2017

In this issue

How Are You Serving the Place You Were Sent?

The older I get the more tempted I am to fall into certain rhythms, routines, and habits. I am tempted to drive the same route each day when I’m heading to the office. At the restaurant, I am tempted to order the menu items that I know that I will enjoy. Before I go to bed at night and when I awaken in the morning I have the same routine.

The older I get the more predictable I have become.

The same is true for our church. The older we have grown as a denomination, the more predictable we have become. You hear it quite loudly in many of our churches:

“We worship at this time.”
“The service only lasts this long.”
“These are the persons who are our leaders.”
“This is the way we do things around here.”

The older we get the more predictable we have become.

For several years now I have disciplined myself and challenged those under my care with three significant questions for our leadership and for the day-to-day practice of ministry. They are reminders that force me to think outside of the box and open me to the depth of God’s presence in new and refreshing ways.

When is the last time you have gone someplace where you wouldn’t normally go?

The God you and I serve is far greater in scope than our human minds can comprehend. When we allow ourselves, even at times force ourselves, to go into places and situations where we wouldn’t normally go, the more we open ourselves to the power and presence of God at work in situations that are beyond our perceived norms and habits.

Several years ago, I filmed a video about leadership. In one of the scenes, it was very noticeable that I was filming in a place where “people like me” wouldn’t normally go. The criticism from some circles was very vocal. Yet, the content of the video was about how we as Christians in the 21st century need to go to places where we wouldn’t normally go in order to share the good news of God’s love.

How are your habits and rhythms, both individually and as a church, limiting the depth and awareness of how God is at work in the world? When is the last time you went somewhere that you wouldn’t normally go?

Do you really know the context of the situation in which you have been placed?

On a personal level, my context is changing. I have come to the clear understanding that if I drink caffeine in the evening I won’t sleep well at night. I know that when I push myself physically I will be sore in the morning. I know that if I eat spicy food it will upset my stomach. This has not always been the case. I used to be able to work late into the night. No more! My context is changing.

One of the clear realities of life in the 21st century is that we live in a world that is also rapidly changing. For the most part, the settings in which our churches have been constructed have a completely different context today than when they were first planted. Over the years some churches uprooted themselves and relocated in places where their current context was residing. But, on the whole, most of our churches have remained in their original setting and, on the whole, have struggled to relate to the changing context around them. To understand the context of the situation in which you have been placed takes daily discipline and strong doses of courage. It is informed by research, acquired through interaction, and assimilated by a willingness to simply say, “something may have to change around here if we are going to remain relevant and vital.”

Do you understand your context? If you do, how are you adapting to it?

Are you loving the people you are called to serve at all costs.

If we live within the constraints of our long-standing rhythms and routines, we will be tempted to define “the people we are called to serve” as the existing membership of our local churches or the clientele within our extension ministry setting. This limited definition is predictable, comfortable, and easily identified.

At annual conference this year I fixed each appointment with these words, “You are not appointed to a building. You are appointed to the community in which that building resides. Use that building as a mission outpost for the ministry of making disciples for the transformation of the world.”

In other words, the people that we are called to serve cannot and should not be confined to the names on a membership roster. Rather, they should be the names listed on the latest census data within the community. When the bishop of

Bristol, England, suggested that John Wesley abandon the mission outpost he named, “The New Room,” Mr. Wesley’s reply was simple, yet profound, “I consider all the world to be my parish.” So should we.

Are you loving the people you are called to serve? What are there restraints or hesitations that are standing in your way?

The other day I found myself on a local train coming from Grand Central Station back to White Plains. At each stop I began to notice something that was truly disturbing to me. In each station the majority of the people standing on the platform had their eyes fixed on their smartphones! No one was interacting. There were no conversations, no head nods, no smiles. Station after station filled with people who were immersed in the tiny cubicle of their world confined to the screen on their phone.

In a world of routine and rhythm, we are tempted to do the same. The comfortable confines of our offices and our church buildings are insulation to the realities of the world moving past us. To go to places we wouldn’t normally go, to completely understand the context of where we have been appointed, and to love the people we are called to serve requires the courage to look up and look around. It challenges us to speak words of grace and invitation. It pushes us to put aside our agendas and our habits in favor of a relationship that offers grace, hope and blessing to everyone involved.

As we begin this next year of ministry together in the settings where we have been called to serve, may each us have the courage to go into places where we wouldn’t normally go, the will to understand the context in which we were placed, and the desire to love our people at all cost.

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known, will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

(“The Summons,” verse 1,
by John L. Bell & Graham Maule)

May it be so!

The Journey Continues, . . .
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton
Resident Bishop

Bishop Thomas Bickerton handles the grilling duties at a staff cookout on July 6 at the White Plains conference center.

The Vanderveer Park UMC choir, above, performs at a benefit concert at Wesley Methodist Church in Belize and their entourage pause for a group photo, below.
Choir’s Mission: Sharing Music Abroad

With the goal to share their ministry and God’s message of love beyond their church, the sanctuary choir of Vanderveer Park United Methodist Church recently embarked on a music mission trip to Belize. The choir spent June 21–28 in the Central American country where they performed in a benefit concert and sang in a Sunday worship service.

As part of their mission, the Brooklyn choir also committed to invest in the music education of the children. They allocated part of the proceeds from their annual Eastertide concert to provide instruments to children in the Belize National Youth Orchestra.

The idea for the mission was placed on the heart of Raymond Trapp, music director/organist at Vanderveer, about two years ago. Trapp is a native of Belize and the grandson of Elosie Humes, composer of one of Belize’s patriotic songs, “Queen of the Bay.” He has also served as music director at for the New York Annual Conference for the past five years.

On June 23, Trapp and Ian Wharton were guests on a local television show where they promoted the benefit concert and the missionary work of the choir. Later that day, Trapp presented a workshop, “Hymns and Registration” to local organists.

The following day, the choir gave a benefit concert at Wesley Methodist Church in Belize City, where Rev. David Goff is the pastor and Jeffery Adolphus, the director of music. Adolphus is the former choir director at Fenimore UMC in Brooklyn. The choir ministered to a full house and was honored to have the Governor General of Belize, Sir. Colville Young GCMG MBE, in attendance. Local choirs also performed and then joined the Vanderveer singers for an en masse presentation of “Total Praise.”

During the concert, the choir presented six trumpets, four clarinets and two flutes to the director of the Belize National Youth Orchestra for students who were unable to procure their own. 

On July 25, the choir provided the music ministry at St. Ann’s Anglican Church in Belmopan, where Rev.  Sinclair Williams

is pastor. In addition to its 30 members, the choir was accompanied by pianist Joseph Roberts; percussionist Jerome Roberts; Rev. Camella Fairweather-Porter, pastor
of People’s UMC Long Island City; and Gail Douglas-Boykin, coordinator of ministerial services, Board of Ordained Ministry; and various friends and relatives. 

While in Belize, the choir also took time to enjoy the
country’s beauty in Caye Caulker and Placencia. They
visited the Garifuna community in Dangriga, where they
heard folk songs in the native tongue, learned about the people’s history, and sampled authentic food. The choir visited the ancient Mayan ruin, Altun Ha; saw chocolate produced from scratch, and witnessed the building
of a drum from tree to instrument.

The choir thanks Rev. Dr. Hermon Darden, and his successor at Vanderveer Park, Rev. Kirk Lyons, for their support of the mission. They are also grateful to all who made this vision a reality and remain grateful for God’s
grace as they continue to make sure our ministry “meets people at their point of need.”

—Submitted by Raymond Trapp

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.

July-August Conference Office Closings
The conference office in White Plains will be closed on Fridays during the summer.

8/25–27 Celebrate Quinipet’s 70th
Help Camp Quinipet celebrate its 70th anniversary by embracing its favorite traditions and making new memories. The weekend is open to all members of the Quinipet community—past, present, and future. Come solo or with family and friends. Swimming, boating, worship, and fellowship will be included. Reunion groups such as Historic Quinipet Choir Camp and Women’s Sailing will be brought back to life at this event. Register online for the weekend.

8/26 Abundant Health Expo
The Connecticut District will host an Abundant Health Expo at Faith UMC in North Haven from 2 to 4:30 p.m. The program will include a presentation about Faith’s community garden that was dedicated in April. There will also be a prayer/meditation room, activities for both children and adults, and resources for healthy living.

8/30–31: 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 sessions, which run from 8:30 a.m. on the first day until 4 p.m. on the second day, will be held Mariandale Retreat & Conference Center in Ossining, N.Y. Register on the conference web site at least one week beforehand. Contact Rev. Sheila Beckford at with any questions.

9/9 Safe Sanctuaries Training
This workshop from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. is for the person responsible for training volunteers and staff in your church’s Safe Sanctuaries policy. You will leave with tools to help you facilitate training at your church. Topics covered will include reviewing and editing policies, cyber safety, vulnerable adults and more. Register by September 6. Contact Cassandra Negri at with any questions or to register.

9/28 Anchor House Banquet
Anchor House will host its annual graduation banquet for their clients who have successfully completed treatment at 6 p.m. at the Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. The residential drug treatment program for men and women is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Tickets are $75; to purchase call Carolyn Bracy at 718-771-0760, ext. 124.

10/2–4 Tri-District Clergy Retreats
Rev. Junius Dotson, the new director of Discipleship Ministries, will be the guest speaker at these overnight retreats for clergy in the three northern and three southern districts. The retreats will be held again at the Stony Point Center in Stony Point, N.Y. Check here for additional details as the date draws near.

10/14 Safe Sanctuaries Training
Vail’s Gate UMC at 854 Bloomingrove Tpk., New Windsor, N.Y., will host a Safe Sanctuaries workshop designed for congregations who do not have a written policy or need a refresher on editing their policy. The workshop prepares a core team of 4–5 to work with the congregation to write a policy, as well as providing information on how to train trustees, teachers, parents and pastors on the implementation of that policy. The workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information or to register, contact Cassandra Negri at

10/14 St. Paul Celebrates 70 Years
St. Paul UMC in Jamaica, N.Y., is celebrating 70 years of ministry to the surrounding community at luncheon banquet at Antun’s of Queens Village from noon to 4 p.m. Cost is $80 person in advance. Call the church office at 718-523-5570 for more information.

10/19–22 Women’s Walk to Emmaus
The women’s Walk to Emmaus will be held at Montfort Spiritual Center in Bay Shore, N.Y., on Long Island. The Walk to Emmaus is a spiritual program intended to strengthen the local church through the development of Christian disciples and leaders. Each participant needs to work with a sponsor before registering for the weekend. The experience begins with a 72-hour course in Christianity beginning on Thursday night and ending on Sunday. For additional details and registration info, click here.

Vision Deadlines for 2017
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. Deadlines for 2017 are: August 4, September 1, October 6, November 3, and December 1. Please send any stories, photos, ideas, or questions directly to

Vencuss to Lead Mission Ministry

Jim StinsonRev. Dr. Tom Vencuss is now serving as coordinator of mission ministry for the New York Conference overseeing disaster response, global outreach, local outreach, and abundant health. This appointment by Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton consolidates our NYAC mission and outreach ministry and disaster response ministries. We are grateful to Rev Joseph Ewoodzie for his leadership over the past 14 years as mission and outreach coordinator; Rev Ewoodzie has been appointed to serve as pastor of a local church.

Tom has extensive experience in both disaster response and international VIM ministries. From 2010 to 2013, he lived and worked in Haiti, coordinating the UMCOR/UMVIM earthquake response effort there. He returned to New York in August 2013 to coordinate the NYAC Sandy Recovery effort. He also worked as a volunteer EMT in New York and Connecticut for 15 years. He and his wife, Wendy, currently live in Scarsdale. They have two sons, four grandchildren, and a dog they brought back from Haiti.

Our intent is to maintain the high quality and integrity of the mission initiatives we currently have and look to ways to expand and collaborate with other conference programs. More information will follow.

Grace and Peace,
Rev. Matt Curry
Director, Connectional Ministries

Embracing a New Way to Be in ‘Mission’

Coordinator of Mission Ministries

What thoughts or words come to mind when you hear the word “mission?” What do you think of when you hear, “mission ministries?”

When I was a kid growing up, “mission” was something that was done in another country; it was done by a couple who arrived one Sunday every few years and showed us photos of their projects and the people they lived with. Our response was to make a financial pledge to their continued work.

Over the years, the church’s understanding, theology, and practice of mission has changed.

At the core of this new thinking is the understanding of “mission” not as our mission or the church’s mission—but God’s mission.

In A Missionary Journey—a Handbook for Volunteers, Jeremy Bassett writes, “God’s mission has been at the heart of the church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is not so much that the church has a mission, but that God’s mission has a church.” This mission leads us to “an ever-increasing involvement in the pain and brokenness of the world.” Through the church God seeks to restore humanity to God’s original plan.

The New York Conference is in the process of restructuring its mission ministry, once again bringing together mission and outreach and disaster response ministries into one portfolio: Mission Ministries. Within this portfolio will be four major ministry areas: disaster response, global ministries, local outreach, and abundant health.

Disaster response will include early response teams (ERT), long-term recovery teams (LRT), disaster emotional and

spiritual care (DESC), and “Connecting Neighbors-Ready Church.”

Global ministries will include all of the “mission” initiatives the NYAC currently has in place, including missionary covenant relationships, itinerating missionaries, and recruiting and interviewing candidates who apply to become Global Ministries missionaries.

Local outreach will include efforts to identify and support local volunteer opportunities and an expansion of the “Done in a Day” program to include non-disaster related work projects.

Through abundant health, we will encourage and resource local churches to develop programs designed to promote physical exercise, healthy diet and nutrition, tobacco and drug-free living, and mental health education and promotion—mind, body and spirit—for both children and adults.

The New York Conference has had a long and vibrant history of mission work. It is our hope to maintain the integrity and vitality of those efforts, to build upon them, to bring more groups into the mission dialogue, and to offer more opportunities for local, national and international involvement and outreach.

Bassett writes, “The purpose of devoting our lives to following Christ is not to sit around waiting for the return of Jesus. Rather, our faith is defined by our active, intentional, and Christ-like participation in the work of God’s mission. We must share our faith. We are meant to be devoted to following Christ in the world.”

In time you will be hearing more about the opportunities available to participate in this life-giving, life-changing ministry. I invite you to be part of this mission journey.

Disaster Response: Are You A Ready Church?

A category 4 hurricane is approaching. What preparation and response plans does your church have in place? How will you care for your church family, your facility, the vulnerable members of your congregation? How can you more effectively serve your community in the immediate and long-term response?

These questions are not limited to natural disasters. Disasters come in many forms—large and small—including floods, house fires, blackouts, microbursts, and now, terrorist attacks and active shooter incidents. While it is not possible to prepare for every contingency, proper planning and preparation can minimize the effects of a disaster and even save lives.

This fall, the NYAC Disaster Response Ministry will focus on training events using the UMCOR “Connecting Neighbors” curriculum and the NYAC “Ready Church” guide. These two programs will provide churches with a basic framework for developing their own response plans and capabilities.

The intent is to provide multiple events in each district, with the hope that all churches will eventually attend a session

and develop a plan specific to their church and location.

Please find a date and location from the list below esthat works best and secure it on your church’s calendar. Additional details will follow.

   September 9: Poughkeepsie UMC, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
   September 23: New Paltz UMC, 9 a.m to 1 p.m.
   September 30: Mount Kisco UMC, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
   September 30: Milton-Marlboro UMCs, noon to 4 p.m.
   October 21: Seymour UMC, 9 a.m to 1 p.m.

Additional locations and dates will be posted in future issues of The Vision and on the conference web site. Online registration will be available in the coming days.

We will also be scheduling both ERT Basic and ERT Recertification classes this fall. Location and dates are to be determined.

For information, please email Tom Vencuss, or call 860-324-1424.

Looking for ‘Peace’ Amid the Pieces

“Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.”

(Isaiah 26:3–4)

I’ve been reflecting quite a bit lately around how the “piecemeal” fits into my “peace.” I mean, with all of the “piecemeal-ing” occurring around us, where do we find “peace?”

In a perfect world there would be no sickness . . . or death.

In a perfect world every one would be living harmoniously with every one else.

In a perfect world there would be no hurt or pain around a pastoral move, for the pastor and/or the congregation.

In a perfect world . . . in an idyllic setting, we would be able to find our peace without stuff often taking/shaking us to pieces.

In a perfect world . . .

The truth is . . . we do not live in a perfect world. Live long enough and we will experience tumult; just look at the news! Live long enough and we will feel pain and loss . . . how long has it been since our last funeral? Live long enough and we will traverse some “valleys.” Maybe it’s me, but there is seemingly always some thing happening to some one in some place that raises more angst than serenity. And, again maybe it’s just me, but sometimes just when one area of my life begins to function smoothly, another area runs off the track. Where do we find our peace . . . I wonder?

So, what do we do? How do we still find our peace in the piecemeal?

Personally, I seek the good and lean on my Rock. I believe that in every aspect of life—good and not so good—there is some place, some space that provides room for even the briefest of respites. And, I believe that in this respite, however brief it may be, I can find some good. This is where I find my peace. Additionally, I choose to lean on the promise that if I “trust in the Lord [with a] steadfast mind,” I will experience a real peace or true shalom! No, the world is not perfect, but I still choose to believe God offers perfect peace, and quite often we will find it in some of the most hellish of circumstances.

For our pastors and congregations feeling the “storms” rising within you, my prayer for you is that you find your peace even while you think your life may be in pieces!


Stepping away from my window now . . .

Offering ‘Understanding’ May be Wrong Response

Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

“If I could change places with him, I gladly would. He has so much life left to live, I have already had a full life. I would be glad to die if it would save my son.”

He knows changing places is not possible. Yet he knows how he feels. He, among other things, is feeling helpless, which is apparent in his response to hearing his son’s diagnosis. What does one say in response to such anguish?

His son knows that he is facing serious medical issues and is very concerned how his 90-plus-year-old father will deal with the stress of not being able to help. What does one say when he says, “I know it is irrational, but I feel guilty he has to go through this.” How does one respond to such a feeling?

There is probably no one right answer to such questions. But there is surely, from where I sit, a wrong answer.

In short, any response that contains the words “I understand”

are likely inappropriate. No matter how many experiences we may have had, no two are likely alike. No two people experience a similar event in the same way. In truth, no one truly understands what someone else is facing.

Some responses that might offer solace, without evoking an inner response (you just don’t understand, because you can’t) contain phrases such as, “I don’t know what you are feeling, but I want you to know I am here to listen,” or “I will be glad to pray with you, to hold your hand, to sit with you.” Any words or actions that convey the message of accompaniment to the person are the best that can be offered in such situations.

People who are wrestling with such terrifying situations need to know we care, rather than “we know.” Experience tells us that we can live with all sorts of unanswered questions (Life presents us with more than a few). It also tells us that when we have someone with whom we might walk through our darkest hours, who will simply listen, we often find our way.

“I will fear no evil, for thou art with me,” says the psalmist. The more we embody the presence of the divine, the perfect love, the one who walks with us, the more helpful we are likely to be. When words fail, as I learned as a child, “stop talking and start acting.”

Health Expo—
August 26

Jim StinsonThe conference’s second Abundant Health Expo is planned in the Connecticut District at Faith UMC in North Haven. The Saturday, August 26 event will run from 2 to 4:30 p.m. The program will include a presentation about Faith’s community garden that was dedicated in April. There will also be a prayer/meditation room, activities for both children and adults, and resources for healthy living. Other presenters are welcome to contact Danielle Levine, NYAC Abundant Health coordinator, to be included.

4 Awarded James’ Scholarships

The William M. James Scholarship winners were announced on June 9 during annual conference. The 2017 awardees, their home church and college are:

Annie E. Blay, New Rochelle UMC, Syracuse University

Deepika Korani, Community UMC, Jackson Heights, CUNY-Baruch College

Jelani Smith, St. Stephen’s English UMC, SUNY-Jefferson Community College

Alexander Howard, Mountainville UMC, Mount St. Mary College

Garrettson Saddlebags in Smithsonian Exhibit

Saddlebags were an important piece of equipment for the early circuit riders as they traveled from town to town to preach. So much so, that a pair of saddlebags in the collection of the C. Wesley Christman Archives made the journey from New York to be included in the “Religion in Early America” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The leather saddlebags were owned by Rev. Freeborn Garrettson, who is known as the “Father of Methodism in New York State.” Garrettson was born in Maryland in 1752, converted to Methodism at 23, and quickly became a Methodist preacher, serving under Bishop Francis Asbury. The saddlebags, on loan from the archives of the New York Conference, date to the 1700s.

Garrettson is also known as an abolitionist, having set the slaves owned by his family free after hearing a voice from God that directed him to do so. In 1784, Rev. Garrettson went as a missionary to Nova Scotia, and in 1788 began working in New York.

In 1791, he married Catherine Livingston of Rhinebeck. He helped to establish Methodism throughout the state and the newly settled territory to the west. He died in New York City on September 26, 1827, at age 76, and in the 52nd year of his ministry.

The exhibit is part of a larger themed presentation at the museum, entitled “The Nation We Build Together,” that has been staged to showcase the renovation of the building’s west wing.

According to the museum’s web site, “The role of religion in the formation and development of the United States is at the heart of this one-year exhibition that explores the themes of religious diversity, freedom and growth from the colonial era through the 1840s. National treasures from the museum’s own collection will be on view, such as George Washington’s christening robe from 1732, Thomas Jefferson’s The Life and

These saddlebags used by Rev. Freeborn Garrettson are on loan to the Smithsonian.

Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, also known as “The Jefferson Bible,” and Wampum beads. Significant objects on loan will include Massachusetts Bay Colony-founder John Winthrop’s communion cup, circa 1630; a Torah scroll on loan from New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel, founded in 1654; a chalice used by John Carroll, the first Roman Catholic bishop in the U.S. and founder of Georgetown University; and a first edition of the Book of Mormon. The objects will represent the diverse range of Christian, Native American and African traditions as well as Mormonism, Islam and Judaism that wove through American life in this era.”

“Religion in Early America” opened June 28 and runs through June 3, 2018, at the Washington, D.C., museum; admission is free.

Five repurposed stained glass windows greet visitors in the renovated White Plains conference center.
Windows Shine Again in Conference Center
Five stained glass windows from the former Chelsea United Methodist Church in Wappinger Falls, N.Y., have found a new home in the renovated New York Conference Center. The windows, just inside the front doors in what is being called the “gathering area,” add a sense of history and purpose to the White Plains structure.

The three colorful windows clustered together in the center of the space include the Christian symbols of a lamb, a crown, and a star, with the words, “Peace on earth, goodwill towards men.” The pair of windows next to the stairs includes images of a chalice, baptismal font, and descending dove.

According to the 2008 conference journal, the Chelsea church was discontinued effective June 30, 2008, and approved for sale. The property was then sold for a gross sales price of $50,000, according to the 2012 journal. The congregation first took root as a Methodist society in 1823, and built a church10 years later. The stained glass windows had been installed in the sanctuary in 1903.

Rev. Ginny Carle, the former chair of the NYAC trustees who is now retired, noted that when a church is sold, the Book of Discipline “guides us to remove all items of a Christian nature insofar as it is possible.” A window company in Westchester was contracted to replace the six Victorian-era stained glass windows with plain glass, and then store and advertise the windows for sale. One of the six windows removed, the Angelus window, sold in approximately 2013.

Then in June 2015 as the redesign of the conference center was in its preliminary stages, it was determined that the windows would be a perfect reflection of the conference’s mission to do God’s work in and from the space. A pair of stained glass experts repaired, resized and cleaned the windows in preparation for the installation at 20 Soundview Avenue.

Additional details about the windows and the history of the Chelsea church can be found in the spring 2017 newsletter of the C. Wesley Christman Archives.

Pastoral Transitions: More Etiquette Issues


In some denominations, pastors often stay too long and have prolonged farewells; in the United Methodist system, they sometimes move before they are ready. Saying good-bye quickly is a challenge for both clergy and laity. What sort of contact is appropriate after the moving truck leaves?

Should a pastor counsel former parishioners, for example? Sometimes the former pastor has training the successor lacks and knows how to act as a therapist rather than a former pastor. If one has a separate counseling practice and the former parishioner pays for therapy, perhaps the lines can be clear.

Some clergy, however, counsel former parishioners with little clarity about their roles. As several lay people have suggested, such counseling is okay only when their problem, does not have anything to do with the parish or new pastor, and only if they first talk with the new parson.

Lorraine DeArmitt, a therapist as well as a retired United Methodist pastor, finds she is always the sum of her roles, so she never tries to be “only a therapist” to a former parishioner.

“It’s not fair to burden the parishioner with the task of acting like this is not a former pastor, and to sort out all the loyalties, associations, and so on. Besides, it’s not healthy for the therapist to assume she is the only person who can provide good counseling to this person, or any person,” she said. Besides, clergy often serve as the first point of contact for those seeking help and often do the most good by helping them discern what assistance they need and making a referral.

Rev. Stefanie Bennett suggests that the conference give clergy advice about “friending” and “unfriending” parishioners in social media. Personally, she thinks it’s wise to tell congregants she will unfriend everyone as she leaves, making it clear that any future relationship will be different. Several lay people suggest that keeping in touch via occasional email or Christmas card is fine, but not frequent social media or telephone contact. Rev. Matt Curry likes the

social media or telephone contact. Rev. Matt Curry likes the advice offered in the Facebook guide for pastors in transistion on the Hacking Christianity web site.

Another area where the conference might provide guidance, DeArmitt suggests, is what to do when a predecessor creates problems. In the worst cases I have encountered, discussing this with the staff-parish relations committee was difficult because they were part of most of the inappropriate contact. Nor could any district superintendent exert much influence over the miscreants: one paid no attention to anything the cabinet said, another had retired, and the third had already been defrocked.

Sometimes clergy must avoid relationships that laity might welcome. The hardest thing to know, Bennett believes, is when you are acting as a friend and when as a former pastor. It is easy to convince yourself that you are “just being a friend.” Her advice? “Don’t kid yourself. Friends attend weddings—clergy preside.”

How can clergy handle former parishioners who want to discuss church business?

Rev. Jack King recalls a group descending upon him after worship at his new church, ready to unload their frustrations with his successor. He took them out to lunch and asked, “So, what are you doing to enhance the ministry of the pastor at your church now?” They quickly changed the topic.

The Golden Rule applies here: Do unto others as you wish they would do unto you.

Tom Goodhue is a retired member of the NYAC. He is completing a biography of the Hawaiian queen Kaahumanu and another about being a good neighbor in a multi-faith, multi-cultural world.

Stone Ministry Reaching Toward the Roof


Summer is in full swing and Quinipet and Kingswood are busy with campers of all ages. Quinipet counselors completed their initial training during Family Camp week.

At Kingswood, volunteers and campers are continuing the building of what is known as the “stone ministry,” a project that began in 2003. This special ministry is dedicated to “providing campers the opportunity to place a tangible anchor into the peace, grace, and love of God” through participation in a timeless, evolving structure. It is about building, by hand, a chapel in the woods.

The stone ministry construction is unique in that each stone is laid in honor or in memory of an individual or group. A rock is chosen, scrubbed and inscribed in chalk before being cemented in place. Two columns, a chimney wall and two grand arches mark the earliest part of the structure. In all, 12 new foundation piers and more columns will be connected for the footing.

Earlier this year, an important milestone was reached
in the project. Enough of the stones had been placed in
order to allow the first part of the roof—made with timber
from Kingswood—to be installed. Seven volunteers,
including project manager Peter Seirup, gathered at Kingswood in January with a local tree surgeon and the owner of a portable saw mill. They selected 24 hemlock
trees from the area southwest of the chapel structure
to be felled and milled for future use. (See photos in the March Vision.)

Stones can be added to the chapel by visiting the camp and signing up at the barn. For more information about Kingswood, visit the camp Facebook page or the camping and retreat ministry web site.

JFON Reunites Sisters After 22-Year Separation

Posted on June 11, 2017

He was a hard-working man in a country where hard work is not always rewarded. He was a devout man among the Christian minority in Hyderabad, India; a lay minister in the Methodist Church, who loved to preach and loved to sing. He was a man who always wanted to do the right thing.

But ask anyone who knew this man to identify the defining purpose of his life and the answer would always be the same: love for his daughters. He had five of them; they were the joy of his life, but also his worry. How would he adequately provide for them? What kind of future would they have? Where was the opportunity for them?

So when Mark had a chance to immigrate to the United States, and to bring his family with him, he took it. This had been his dream for a very long time. He was determined that his daughters would start new and better lives in America.

All except one. Tiara, the eldest, was 21 years of age and recently married. No longer a dependent, she was not allowed to accompany her father. She and her husband would need to stay in India until Mark could find a way to bring them over.

It was a heart-wrenching decision. They were a close and loving family. They knew it would take more than a decade to bring Tiara to them. The sisters had never been separated. How would they bear so many years apart?

“It was difficult to be left behind,” admits Tiara quietly. “But I understood why.”

It was for the good of the family, and the family is everything.

In 2001, after some years living in the United States, Mark—a lawful permanent resident (LPR or green card holder) who was on his way to citizenship—petitioned the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to bring Tiara and her husband over to join the family. He assumed he was doing the right thing, that as a green card holder he had a right to petition for Tiara.

He was wrong.

“My father didn’t do his homework,” admits Josephine, the second eldest daughter. “He should have asked somebody, but he didn’t have anyone to advise him. He didn’t know you weren’t supposed to do that.”

USCIS never informed Mark of his mistake. He became a citizen in 2002, still waiting to hear when his eldest daughter would be joining them. In 2006, they were finally informed that Mark’s original petition as an LPR was invalid. Now they would have to start all over again.

For a U.S. citizen parent to bring over a married child from India the waiting time is 12 years. If Mark had waited and submitted the petition when he became a U.S. citizen, the family would have been together by 2014. Now the earliest they would see her would be 2018.

By his mistake, Mark had cost his daughter Tiara and their entire family four years. Four years when they could have been together.

“He carried this guilt until his deathbed,” remembers Josephine. “For 22 years, he lived with regret for leaving her behind. He wasn’t able to give her the advantages the rest of his daughters had. And then, to know we had lost all those precious years . . .” She shakes her head. “It was a terrible blow.”

Their father died in 2015. It was a shock to everyone. He had been ill, yes, but it hadn’t seemed that serious. Always protecting the ones he loved, Mark had hid his illness well from his daughters.

“The last time I saw him,” recalls Josephine, her voice quavering, “he made me promise: ‘If anything happens
to me, you have to continue. You have to bring your sister here.’ ”

“I honestly feel like I reassured him,” she adds. “He trusted me. He had faith that I would get this job done. I was not going to fail him.”

Although Josephine willingly shouldered this burden from her beloved father, the obstacles preventing her from carrying out his last wishes remained immense. A family petition dies with the petitioner. Josephine would have to submit her own petition and as she was only a sibling, the wait would be another 14 years. The year would be 2029. The sisters would be middle-aged women, their own children grown, before they would be finally reunited.

Josephine was at a loss as to where to turn and what to do.
A friend from church told her about JFON New York and site attorney, TJ Mills.

Mills advised Josephine to apply for a humanitarian exemption, so that Tiara, her husband and child, would be moved to the front of the line.

“It was going to be difficult,” TJ acknowledges. “Tiara’s life was not in any danger and she was not suffering undue hardship—unless we could convince the USCIS that a family’s separation of 22 years is an undue hardship.

“What we had on our side is that family unity is fundamentalto U.S. Immigration policy.” Mills began gathering affidavits; a local congressman became involved; and Mills carefully laid out the case for a timely family reunification.

They won, and Tiara, her husband, and child will shortly be moving to the United States.

“Honestly, I feel like USCIS probably felt remorse,” says Josephine. “My guess is that they felt somewhat responsible for the delay. If they had only informed us of my father’s mistake . . .” She stops, her voice quavering again with unshed tears. “And perhaps,” she finishes quietly, “they also recognized that we all had been apart long enough.”

It was a miracle late in coming, but it was still a miracle.
“I give the glory to God,” Josephine says gratefully, “but also to TJ.”

Josephine and her sisters are busily making preparations for the day when they are finally reunited. There will be a joyous celebration, of course, with many thankful prayers.

“And then,” says Josephine, “we will all go to visit our father’s grave and spend some time with him.”

Together the five daughters will remember the father who loved them and wanted to give them the world. A father who nurtured trees under whose shade he will never sit and who planted seeds for a garden he will never see bloom.

“He is,” says Tiara simply, “still in the midst of us.”

This story can be found on the JFON-NY web site.

Financial Planning for Certified Candidates

The Candidacy Office at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) has partnered with Wespath and EY (formerly Ernst & Young) to offer financial planning services to certified candidates for licensed and ordained ministry. The services will be offered at no cost to candidates upon certification by their district committees on ordained ministry. 

EY has provided financial planning services to retirement plan participants in Wespath-administered plans since 2005. The financial curriculum through EY includes assistance with cash flow; personal savings and debt management; retirement savings strategies; investment allocation decisions; understanding tax issues; and estate and insurance planning. The curriculum is valued at $2,500 to $3,000 per participant.

The EY financial planning services will help candidates evaluate their financial situations and create strategies for improvement. The EY financial planners received special

training in the areas of concern for future clergy, including Wespath-administered plans and programs. 

“Our work in the candidacy office is focused on connecting the future clergy leaders of our church to the necessary tools to complete licensing or ordination, sharing best practices for navigating the process and providing helpful resources to assist in the licensing or ordination process,” said Meg Lassiat, executive director of the Candidacy Office at GBHEM. “As candidates meet their education requirements, debt can become an obstacle. The EY Financial Planning services will provide a resource for debt avoidance and overall better financial management. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide such a valuable resource.” 

GBHEM offers additional financial support through low-interest loans and scholarships. Awarding more than $5 million a year, the agency provides several ministry-focused scholarships.


Rev. Sungnam Kim

The Reverend Sungnam Kim, of Norwood, N.J., formerly of Fresh Meadows, Queens, N.Y., died July 8, 2017.

Born in Korea on July 20, 1924, Kim was ordained in Korea and served three Korean Methodist churches there before coming to the  New York Conference in 1978. He was a founding pastor of two churches in the New York Conference: Long Island Korean UMC, and Astoria Korean UMC, where he served from 1978 until his retirement in 1990.

Surviving are his wife of 65 years, Dong Won Ham Kim; a son, Rev. Eunchun (Yoonmi) Kim of Flushing; three daughters, Rev. Heasun (Hongkyu) Kim of Bethesda, Md.; Heakyung (Sanghwan) Hahn of Watchung, N.J., and Heain (Seihee) Choi of New Providence, N.J.; a brother, three sisters, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

His son, Rev. Eunchun Timothy Kim, is the pastor at United Methodist Korean Church of Central Queens.

A service of life, death and resurrection was held July 14, at Calvary Korean UMC in East Brunswick, N.J. Funeral services were held July 15 at Arcola Korean UMC in Paramus, N.J. Interment followed in George Washington Memorial Park, Paramus.

Condolences may be sent to Rev. Eunchun Kim, 150-50 35th Avenue, Flushing, N.Y., 11354.

Laura Leigh Davidson

Laura Leigh Davidson, the wife of Rev. Jason Radmacher, died June 27, 2017.

Davidson was a gifted actress, writer, editor, and singer. She worked as a writer and editor for Scholastic Books, and sang professionally in New York and beyond.

She found great joy and meaning in her many friendships, and especially in her beloved family with Radmacher and their son, Oliver. Laura’s wonderful wit and generous heart made her spirit luminous—a gift to all who knew her.

After completing an appointment at John Street UMC, Radmacher and his family were preparing to move to Asbury-Crestwood UMC in Tuckahoe, N.Y.

A memorial service was held July 8 at John Street UMC, 44 John St., New York, N.Y.

Condolences may be sent to Jason and Oliver at Asbury-Crestwood UMC, 167 Scarsdale Rd., Tuckahoe, N.Y., 10707.

The Reverend Wesley H. Allen

The Reverend Wesley H. Allen of Worcester, Mass., died June 10, 2017.

Born in Brockton, Mass., on April 28, 1929, Allen was the son of J. Howard and Gladys J. (Gray) Allen. He graduated from DePauw University in Indiana and from Boston University School of Theology, where he earned a master of divinity degree.

Rev. Allen served for more than 50 years in ministry, including several churches in the New England Conference. He joined the New York Conference in 1961, and served First UMC in Newburgh, Morsemere in Yonkers, St. Mark’s in Staten Island, Roslyn, UM Church of Richmond Hill, and Ozone Park Community UMC.

From 1981 until his retirement in 1994, he served as a field representative in the Office of Finance and Field Services at the General Board of Global Ministries. Allen was an active member of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Decedents, Plymouth Plantation and the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary (Sullivan) Allen, and stepson, Sidney Tinder.

Survivors include daughters, Rev. Nancy Allen of Spencer, Mass., Joy (Fred) Cullen of Elizabeth, Penn., and Barbara (Doug) Schmidt of Warsaw, N.Y.; a sister, Ruth (Robert) Fowler of Framingham, Mass.; stepchildren Clifford S. Tinder, and Cescily T. Schurhamer; five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

A celebration of Rev. Allen’s life was held June 15 at the Plymouth (Mass.) UMC. Burial was in Chiltonville Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be made to: Plymouth UMC, 29 Carver Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360; the Chiltonville Congregational Church, 6 River St., Plymouth, MA 02360; or the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Decedents, 175 Derby St., #13, Hingham, MA 02043.

Condolences may be left in the online guest book at

Council Won’t Reconsider Gay Bishop Ruling

UMNS | The United Methodist Judicial Council was unanimous in rejecting a motion by the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops asking the denomination’s top court to reconsider its ruling in the case of a gay bishop.

In a July 7 email to interested parties, the Rev. Luan-Vu “Lui” Tran, secretary of Judicial Council, wrote “after careful review and prayerful consideration, the Motion to Reconsider JCD 1341 of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops has been denied.”

The Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops filed the motion on June 12, contending that Decision 1341 unlawfully changes the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”

Tran said the Judicial Council usually does not disclose the vote to the requesting party but was doing so because the vote was unanimous. The request will not be placed on the fall docket but will be reported as a memorandum at the October meeting.

 “The denial was expected, but it does not mean that the issues are resolved or that the struggle is over,” said Richard A. Marsh, chancellor of the Rocky Mountain Conference who

was part of the counsel for the Western Jurisdiction during an oral hearing on April 25.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, who was counsel for Dixie Brewster, the maker of the original motion for a declaratory judgment, said he was gratified that the judicial council had denied the motion.

Boyette said the status of Bishop Karen Oliveto, the denomination’s only openly gay bishop, “continues under a cloud.”

The Judicial Council decision found that an openly homosexual and partnered bishop may be charged with disobedience to church law. Oliveto, who was consecrated as a bishop by the Western Jurisdiction on July 16, 2016, was not named in the ruling. Oliveto now oversees the Mountain Sky area.

“Self-avowal does not nullify the consecration and cause removal from episcopal office but is a sufficient declaration to subject the bishop’s ministerial office to review,” the decision said. The council said it had no jurisdiction over the nomination, election and assignment of a bishop.

Grants for Racial Justice Projects

Racial justice projects initiated and led by young people seeking a church that is open, loving and caring for all people will receive financial support with funds allocated by the Connectional Table, Discipleship Ministries and two other United Methodist general agencies.

Grants up to $2,500 will be available later this year under the new program to be administered by Young People’s Ministries (YPM), a unit of Discipleship Ministries.

“During the racism gathering convened by Young People’s Ministries in 2016, the group of young black leaders, allies and Discipleship Ministries staff identified a number of ideas originating with young people,” said Michael Ratliff, Associate General Secretary at Discipleship Ministries and head of the

YPM unit. “Many times the challenge of moving from idea to action is financial.”

A total of $65,000 has been allocated for grants to support racial justice projects, including $50,000 from the Connectional Table and $5,000 each from Discipleship Ministries, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR).

“This will provide seed money of up to $2,500 per proposal to make the ideas of young people become a reality,” Ratliff said.

The grants will be available beginning in September, and information about the application process will be on YPM’s web site soon, Ratliff said.

Online Domestic Violence Workshop

In preparation for domestic violence awareness month in October, is offering an online workshop from September 11–22.

Domestic violence occurs in all communities, regardless of a person’s age, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. The physical, mental, and spiritual effects of such violence can be devastating. Do you know how to spot the signs and act to help someone in your church or community?

The online workshop by Dr. Martha Banks will look at domestic violence from a Christian standpoint, and then help churches, clergy, and individuals to recognize the signs of abuse, and support victims in their community.  

Cost is just $45 for this comprehensive two-week course. Class starts on Monday, September 11. To learn more and enroll, click here.

The Vision, Newspaper of the NYAC, of the UMC

Bishop: Thomas J. Bickerton

Editor: Joanne Utley

Vision e-mail:

Web site:

New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

20 Soundview Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606

Toll Free: 888-696-6922
Phone: 914-997-1570