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

In this issue

Fruit of the Spirit: Words to Live By

Words to describe the times in which we are living are not hard to come by these days. Words like unpredictable, challenging, and confusing come quickly to mind. Drill down deeper and you will find words and phrases like crazy, head-scratching, and bizarre bubbling to the surface. Whatever the word, these are times when each day brings a new story that only increases the search for the right word to describe it all.

Depending on which side of the fence you find yourself, it seems that these are either depressing days of resignation or a slice of time when the opportunities for our Christian influence to shine are abundant. These are not days to rest on our laurels or to assume that everything we have leaned on as the “norm” can be relied upon to see us through. Things have been turned upside down and inside out.

In a recent editorial, Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, has suggested that what is at work in our midst can easily be equated with the “Seven Deadly Sins.” You may recall that they are: pride, wrath, sloth, gluttony (lack of self-control), lust, envy, and greed. Klaas believes that we are living in a time when leaders are tempted with, and living out, these “deadly” behaviors:

   Leaders are more interested in themselves than the good of others (pride).
   Leaders are using little restraint in attacking others rather than working with them (wrath).
   Leaders are not working hard to address deep and challenging issues (sloth).
   Leaders are acting more on impulse rather than with deep and meaningful collaboration (lack of self-control).
   Leaders exhibiting behaviors that crave superiority over equality (lust).
   Leaders are less self-assured as they are jealous of rivals (envy).
   Leaders are looking for personal gain (greed).

Say what you will, it doesn’t matter what position of leadership you or I hold, these temptations are real. In the absence of strong discipline, reliable accountability, and deep spiritual centering, these temptations can become harmful acts that alienate and subdue others.

When these acts are performed by those in leadership and never confronted, they soon run the risk of becoming the norm. Before long, people might begin to say that this is acceptable behavior or, at the least, pass it off as a character flaw within the person and dismiss it without confrontation.

These are not days when we can rest on our laurels and assume that ethical behaviors are going to be promoted, proclaimed, and lived as a standard of what is good and right and holy. They are days when we should be digging deep in a personal soul search for right answers, courageous responses, and faithful behaviors. Just because the trend or the norm in the midst of these crazy days is somewhat related to the “deadly” behaviors, it doesn’t mean that we should accept, assume, or, worse yet, participate in them.

Take, for instance, these three separate occasions:

   I recently returned from vacation in Ireland. While there, a gentleman who knew that I was from the United States approached me and said without any prompting, “As long as there isn’t a nuclear war, we really enjoy your comedy show over here.”

   In a conversation at a restaurant, a young woman asked the group that I was sitting with this question, “As a millennial, what would you say to a person my age who asks, ‘Why should I believe in God?’ You folks can’t seem to provide an answer that is convincing our generation to believe.”

   A friend of mine shared recently that his daughter’s boyfriend, a professing non-believer, wandered into a local church the other day just to kneel at the altar to pray after he had received news of his father’s death.

These are the kind of stories that reveal that people are watching what we are doing, searching for meaningful answers to questions that we are not addressing, and longing for a deeper meaning in the midst of the realities of life.

So, what WILL we offer them? How shall we, in the Christian community, counter the trend toward the “Seven Deadly Sins?”

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, may have given us the answer. We describe them as “the gifts of the Spirit.” They are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

But here’s the challenge. If we continue to exhibit behaviors that either assume that this is the norm to which people gravitate or, even worse, assume that the world around us even knows how to live out these characteristics, we will fall victim to those who are actively promoting, demonstrating, and living out behaviors that have nothing to do with what is good and right and holy.

So, the gauntlet has been thrown down in front of us, dear friends:

   People are looking at public behaviors. What are you doing to confront the potentially “deadly” behaviors around us and promote the grace-filled characteristics that bring people hope and promise?

   People want meaningful answers to deep questions. What are you doing to describe what we believe in a way that will convince others?

   People are longing to have their deep needs addressed. How are you offering them the heart of God?

I long for a day when the words to describe the times in which we are living are these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Read them slowly over and over again. Let them seep into your soul. Let them be the norm for your life. Let them be the thoughts in your mind. Let them be the words on your lips. Let them be words that describe all that you are and all that you hope to be.

May it be so.

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

Ecuadorean immigrant Marco Reyes Alverez, second from right, on the steps of First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, Conn., with (from left) Wanda Harris, Adeline Tucker, Rev. Paul Fleck of Hamden Plains UMC, and Rev. Juhye Hahn. Reyes sought sanctuary at the church where Harris and Tucker are on the Social Concerns Committee and Hahn is the pastor.
Conn. Church Provides Immigrant Sanctuary

Editor, The Vision

In April, the people of First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, Conn., voted to become a sanctuary church offering refuge to immigrants facing certain deportation. Early on August 8, their faith was put into action as the church took in Marco Reyes, just hours before he was scheduled to be deported to Ecuador.

Reyes, who is married and has three children, came to the United States in 1997. The Meriden resident is a construction worker and the sole provider for his family. In 2009, Reyes was issued an order of deportment, but had been allowed to remain in the country with his family through a series of stays of that order. But in July, Reyes was informed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials would remove him on August 8.

At a 5 p.m. press conference called to declare that Reyes had sought sanctuary at the church, he spoke about his decision with the help of a translator.

“Just the thought of being separated from my loved ones, and . . . the chance that I would never see them again, was a very heavy burden for them, and, of course, for me,” Reyes said.

Rev. Paul Fleck, pastor of the Hamden Plains UMC who has been working with an interfaith group to organize sanctuary churches in Connecticut, addressed the more than 100 people who gathered in a show of support on the steps of the New Haven church.

“Today, because of a system that threatened to tear Marco Reyes, a child of God, away from his family, First and Summerfield United Methodist Church, a church known as ‘the conscience on the Green,’ has welcomed Marco to live in their house of worship.”

“Our faiths tell us to love neighbor . . . I know Marco Reyes to be a good man. He is a good worker, a good husband, a good father, a man of faith. He is my neighbor,” Fleck said.

While there is no law against it, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has an unofficial practice of not going into sensitive locations—like churches, hospitals or schools—to take immigrants into custody.

Rev. Juhye Hahn, who became the pastor at First & Summerfield on July 1, spoke to those that might challenge the church’s actions.

“When Jesus fed the hungry in the wilderness, he didn’t ask for photo I.D. He didn’t ask for legal documents. He didn’t ask whether they had Galilean citizenship. The only thing he saw was the need of the people, who are hungry. So, he simply fed them with great compassion,” Hahn said.

Hahn related that at 2:30 in the morning she had gotten a text from Fleck that said, “Someone needs sanctuary at 6 a.m. today.”

“We didn’t ask for his legal situation. We didn’t ask where he originally came from. We just saw the person’s great need for sanctuary. So, we simply responded, “We will be there at 6!” She continued, “We do so as an open act in conformity with our faith commitment to welcome the stranger and provide hospitality to all who are in need.”

According to Reyes’ attorney Erin O’Neil Baker, ICE officials apprehended him in 2007 when a car in which he and his family were passengers accidentally crossed the border into Canada. Although he fought to stay in this country, a deportation order was issued in 2009.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who has advocated for other immigrants, took part in the rally and suggested that Reyes has a valid claim for asylum in the United States.

“Reyes has sought refuge from violence and persecution in Ecuador,” Blumenthal said, noting that Reyes brother-in-law was recently killed in Ecuador and his family there has been threatened. “He faces danger and death” if he returns, the Connecticut senator added.

Blumenthal called Reyes “a hardworking father and husband who has called Connecticut home for two decades without any criminal wrongdoing.” He lamented that under the administration of President Donald Trump, ICE has shifted its focus from deporting people with criminal records to removing “literally anyone.”

“It’s a policy of rounding up everyone who’s undocumented, rather than targeting people who are dangerous or have criminal records and pose a threat to our national security,” Blumenthal said.

 New Haven Mayor Toni Harp also voiced support for Reyes, telling those gathered, “Just to be clear, New Haven will remain a sanctuary city.” Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from cities across the country that offer sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

Reyes was the second immigrant to seek sanctuary in a New Haven church in recent weeks. In July, Nury Chavarria of

At a press conference on the steps of her New Haven church, Rev. Juhye Hahn, pastor at First and Summerfield UMC, said that the church did not hesitate to offer sanctuary to Marco Reyes Alverez.

Norwalk was facing imminent deportation and sought sanctuary at the Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal Church, a part of the Connecticut interfaith group working in the sanctuary movement. After a week’s stay at the church, a federal judge in immigration court in Hartford granted Chavarria’s motion for an emergency stay.

In an email, New York Conference Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton praised the leadership of First and Summerfield for “their courageous and visionary stance to become the first sanctuary church within the bounds of the New York Conference.  

“By doing so, they have carried forward the longstanding tradition of the church being a place of refuge and safety for those who suffer the brunt of the storms of life. Those storms are growing in intensity that, as a result, will cause more victims to seek places of safety, hospitality and grace.”

Bickerton went on the challenge “a system that singles out a small number of people in order to instill fear among many” and urged more UMC congregations to boldly become places of sanctuary for their immigrant populations.

The congregation of First and Summerfield UMC made the decision to become a sanctuary church shortly after several of its members attended a March information session sponsored by the New York Conference Task Force on Immigration.

At the time, the pastor, Rev. Dr. Thomas Gye Ho Kim, said he had challenged the church to become “salt and light” for the world. He described the small congregation that hosts about 40 people in worship each week as a very progressive one, noting that they had become a reconciling church in the 1990s.

When the possibility came before the church council, the vote was unanimous.

“I’ve never seen such a positive response in 22 years of ministry,” Kim said in an April 2017 interview. “We have every reason to be proud—even though we’re a small congregation . . . it makes me proud to be a United Methodist pastor.”

Statement on Church Sanctuary
from Bishop Bickerton

I am grateful for the leadership of First and Summerfield United Methodist Church for their courageous and visionary stance to become the first sanctuary church within the bounds of the New York Conference. By doing so, they have carried forward the longstanding tradition of the church being a place of refuge and safety for those who suffer the brunt of the storms of life. Those storms are growing in intensity that, as a result, will cause more victims to seek places of safety, hospitality and grace.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that singles out a small number of people in order to instill fear among many. That system is tearing apart families, eliminating civil discourse, giving license for behaviors that alienate people, and widening the already large gap between persons who share differing opinions. 

In the midst of this uncertainty and chaos, it is time for the church to embody our beliefs and demonstrate to the world a standard of peace, civility, grace and love. It is also time for us as United Methodists to live out our Wesleyan heritage by striving for personal and social holiness in the manner in which we engage with the people in our communities. 

I urge more of our United Methodist congregations to take the bold step to become places of sanctuary, to offer open hearts and open hands to the immigrants and others who desperately need clear and tangible evidence that they are loved and worthy in eyes of God.

These are uncertain and frightening days. In the midst of the storm, may we be the calming presence that clearly demonstrates that we not only believe in the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, we aim to live it as well.

Interfaith Sanctuary Experience: A Laboratory of Lessons


Nury Chavarria, a mother of four U.S.-citizen children (the eldest with cerebral palsy) who lives in Norwalk, Conn., was scheduled to be deported to Guatemala on July 20 at 5 p.m. Instead, she chose to seek sanctuary at Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal in New Haven.

Wednesday, July 19
My cell phone died the evening of July 19. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. You charge it and go on about your business. But I was restless in trying to sleep that night. So I got up at 4 a.m. to look at my phone. I had a text message from Rev. Abraham Hernandez, a pastor and executive director of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference: “GBU Pastor, can you please call me tonight?? IMPORTANT.” I had been working with Rev. Hernandez in an interfaith effort to organize sanctuary churches. I wasn’t sure what the situation was, but I was pretty sure of one thing: One of the churches in our interfaith network here in Connecticut was about to provide sanctuary. So I did what any sane person would do at 4 a.m. in the morning. I called Abraham.

Thursday, July 20, 9 a.m.
The interfaith leadership that had been working on sanctuary including myself, Pastor Abraham Hernandez of the NHCLC and Pastor Hector Otero of Iglesia de Dios met with leading immigration activists from the community at Pastor Otero’s church. There were two churches in our network that had declared themselves as short-term sanctuary spaces in the event of immigration raids, Iglesia de Dios and First & Summerfield United Methodist. Neither one had shower facilities in order to provide longer-term sanctuary. All that was about to change.

Immigration activists had met with Nury Chavarria on July 19 at a rally and press conference. They inquired whether she would be amenable to seeking sanctuary with one of the churches, and she said yes.

We considered having her seek sanctuary at First & Summerfield UMC that afternoon, but because the church’s social concerns committee and pastor had not had an opportunity to meet her, our team elected to have her come to Iglesia de Dios.

Because sanctuary is an open act, and because we did not want to run afoul of federal law regarding “harboring,” we developed a plan to announce Nury’s stay at the church to the press, to the U.S. attorney’s office, and to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

4:30 p.m.
I return to Iglesia de Dios to meet Nury before the 5 p.m. press conference. The television stations’ vans were already taking up residence across the street from the church when I arrived.

Nury is a sweet and introverted woman. You could tell the stress of potentially being torn from her family had taken its toll. She looked fatigued, exhausted. I also had the opportunity to meet Hayley, Nury’s 9-year-old daughter. Hayley was a ball of energy and enthusiasm.

One of the first problems we encountered was securing Nury from the prying press. They kept sticking their heads in the door of the area that would be her living quarters in sanctuary, so we locked it. Maintaining security during the sanctuary process—both from the press and potentially from ICE entering without a warrant signed by a federal district judge or magistrate—would continue to be of concern.

At 5 p.m. the press conference began with Kica Matos, an activist with the Center for Community Change, explaining the background and circumstances of the case. Nury’s daughter Hayley spoke about how much she loved her mother and did not want to see her leave. Pastor Hector Otero spoke in Spanish, translated by Rev. Abraham Hernandez, about the biblical imperative of caring for the widow, the orphan and the immigrant in our midst that had compelled him to open his house of worship to Nury.

I spoke about our faith bringing us to that place in time, and the mandate in Leviticus 19:33–34 not to oppress the immigrant, “for you were once immigrants in the land of Egypt . . .”

Rabbi Herbert Brockman of Congregation Mishkan Israel told the story of a Lutheran pastor in a tiny village in Belgium who provided sanctuary to Jews fleeing Nazi deportation to concentration camps, and ended up saving thousands. Rev. Abraham Hernandez then offered a powerful prayer.

Shortly after the press conference we received a visit from Mike Lawlor, who serves as a liaison on immigration matters in Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office. He informed us that the governor was on his way to the church for a press conference at 7 p.m.

Gov. Malloy met with the faith leaders and Nury inside the church to learn more about her situation. After he spoke with Nury privately. Then, holding Hayley’s hand, he walked out of the church to meet the press. Hayley spoke again, as did Pastor Otero. Then Gov. Malloy spoke powerfully on behalf of Nury and her case. He said, based upon his understanding, there was no reason to deport her. He said he was deeply disturbed that the administration was “lying to us” and “not telling the truth” about whom they would deport.

Gov. Malloy’s visit and press conference was the first time that many elected officials have come to Nury’s aid. Senators Blumenthal and Murphy spoke out later that week, as did Congresswoman Rosa De Lauro, Mayor Toni Harp of New Haven, and Mayor Rilling of Norwalk.

Friday, July 21, 8:45 A.M.
I arrive at the church for a strategy meeting. Some members of the press seem to have been camped out all night across the street—hoping for additional news (or a glimpse of Nury).

Kica Matos facilitated the meeting inside. Glenn Formica, Nury’s attorney, spoke of the importance of coordinating our efforts and speaking with a unified voice. He emphasized the importance of taking the lead from Nury, and that she had been in control of the decision-making from the very beginning. He also emphasized the importance of having one person coordinate the overall effort, including press contacts. We all agreed that Kica, with whom we had been

A student lawyer of the Yale Workers and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic announces a stay of deportation for Nury Chavarria, third from left, with Pastor Hector Otero, Rabbi Herbert Brockman, and Rev. Paul Fleck.

working for more than six months to organize sanctuary communities in Connecticut and was seasoned in this role, would be that person.

As we knew that the broader faith community wanted to be meaningfully involved in supporting Nury, we organized a candlelight vigil for that Sunday evening.

We also discussed the sensitive question of whether we might need to move Nury to another house of worship. Pastor Otero would be taking a trip out of the country the following week, and was not sure his church would be able to serve as sanctuary in his absence.

We knew that “transport” of a “fugitive” from deportation was a felony carrying heavy penalties under federal law. Unquestionably, we would not be “transporting” Nury.

We discussed the possibility of organizing a march the following Wednesday with Nury joining us in an open fashion. There is an immigration policy promulgated by then Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly that “sensitive locations” such as hospitals, schools, houses of worship, and rallies are not to be the subject of enforcement action without upper level approval. A march was a “rally” of sorts. In addition, we felt since Nury would be travelling by foot, this would obviate the “transport” question. Nevertheless, it was a tremendously risky strategy to consider, given the fact that ICE could snatch her at any moment.

I stepped out of the meeting to introduce Nury to Connecticut District Superintendent Alpher Sylvester and the lay leadership from First and Summerfield UMC. First and Summerfield had offered sanctuary to Nury as well, and was the church where we might have moved her. Upon meeting Nury and her adorable daughter, Hayley, there was little question on the part of FSUMC: They were willing. Rev. Sylvester, an immigrant himself, expressed how tremendously moved he was. We prayed together for a successful outcome.

Sunday, July 23, 6 p.m.
We held a vigil in the small grassy area adjoining Iglesia de Dios. A group of local artists created a wonderful mural as a backdrop, with Hayley giving directions for messages like “Keep Families Together” and “Stop Hate” to be included.

Mayors Toni Harp of New Haven and Harry Rilling of Norwalk spoke. Mayor Harp welcomed Nury to the community, and Mayor Rilling pledged his office’s efforts to help provide for Nury’s family in her absence.

Pastor Otero welcomed the crowd of approximately 300 folks “to this house.” Rabbi Brockman stated that in this lifetime, sometimes heroes emerge in our midst; Nury is one of those heroes. I spoke about the Gospel reading from that morning on the weeds among the wheat. I stated, “Our God has spoken in this matter. Nury and her family are wheat, not weeds.”

Monday, July 24, 5 p.m.
Pastor Otero, Rabbi Brockman and I met with Rev. Juhye Hahn and the Social Concerns Committee of First and Summerfield UMC. We discussed the logistics of sanctuary and some of the concerns. One of the primary issues was how to provide security and living space. A wonderful part of First and Summerfield is that it hosts many groups. However, that meant that its building got a lot of use with a lot of traffic. We all shared a concern that ICE could enter through the inadvertence of a well-meaning user of the facility. Also, First and Summerfield, like Iglesia de Dios, did not have a shower for long-term sanctuary.

Moreover, we could tell that Pastor Otero and the parishioner who had joined him had developed strong ties to Nury and Hayley. You could tell that they did not want to see her leave their church.

Tuesday, July 25, 9 a.m.
Another strategy meeting; we discussed the concerns about FSUMC and moving Nury. In an incredibly moving moment, Pastor Otero announced that he was going to cut his trip to Panama short so that Nury could stay in sanctuary at Iglesia de Dios. We all breathed an incredible sigh of relief. All of us expressed how incredibly grateful we were at the hospitality of First and Summerfield. But we recognized that the risks of moving Nury were simply too great.

We decided to hold the march as planned, but instead to have it go around the Fair Haven neighborhood in New Haven.

Wednesday, July 26, 4:15 p.m.
I get a text from Kica: Call me ASAP. I got her on the phone. She was ebullient. Nury had received a stay of deportation from a federal judge willing to reconsider her asylum case! Student lawyers from Yale Law School, under the leadership of Michael Wishnie, had crafted new and compelling arguments that the judge wanted to consider.

What was to be a somber procession had turned into a celebration! I walked out linking arms with Rabbi Brockman, Nury, Pastor Otero, and Rev. Hernandez. We sang and chanted “Caminando, en la luz de Dios, caminando en la luz de dios!” (“We are marching, in the light of God, we are marching in the light of God!”).

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.

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.

8/30–31: 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.

9/7 Clinton at Olmsted Benefit
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the special guest at a fundraiser for Camp Olmsted. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. event at Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Dr., Manhattan, can be purchased online. See photo and additional details below.

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.

9/10 Installation of Connecticut DS
The official installation of Rev. Alpher Sylvester as superintendent of the Connecticut District is at 4 p.m. at Nichols UMC, 35 Shelton Road, Trumbull, Conn. All are welcome to attend. A time of fellowship will follow the service.

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: September 1, October 6, November 3, and December 1. Please send any stories, photos, ideas, or questions directly to

Finding Ways to Curb Spiritual Tiredness

“But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.”

(Luke 5:15–16)

As I’ve traveled around our wonderful conference visiting with wonderful clergy and laity, one constant I’ve encountered seems to be a spiritual “tiredness.” Many of our churches have been working so hard for so long we have become “tired” of the work, or “tired” of doing the work in the places where Jesus would have gone to do “work.” The people gathering to hear and be healed by Jesus did not meet him in the synagogue. No, these hurting and hungry people gathered in places that were out in the open (read: public).

When I pause to reflect on my time as a local church pastor, and now a congregational developer, going out with something life-sustaining, heart-warming, and soul-stirring is taxing. And, if we are not careful will open the door for a spiritual malaise to enter.

If that went by someone, I’m talking about being “tired”!

When we are spiritually tired there may be a tendency to give up too quickly or hang on too long. When we are spiritually tired there may be a tendency for our hearts and minds to close down, while hurtful words, attitudes and actions spew forth. When we are spiritually tired we may be able to see the vision God has set before us, but we lack the strength to walk faithfully into that vision.

Are YOU spiritually tired?

A spiritual practice (“discipline”) I began as a pastor, and

have begun to reemploy in my current role is in observing a sabbath. In my prayerful reading and meditations, one of the things that struck me is how Jesus would regularly withdraw to deserted places and pray. I believe Jesus understood the task God had placed before him. I also believe Jesus understood he needed to regularly get away, by himself, to refresh, rejuvenate and refocus on where he was supposed to go . . . what he was supposed to do . . . and among whom he was supposed to do it.

For our pastors and congregations feeling spiritually “tired,” my prayer for you is that you make time to regularly get away for some special time with the Lord. Then come back ready to walk faithfully into the vision God has placed before YOU!


Stepping away from my window now . . .

Benefit, Book to Support Camp Olmsted, City Society

Rev. Bill Shillady delivers a copy of his book of devotions to Hillary Clinton at her home in Chappaqua. The book, Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, is a compilation of 365 daily meditations that Shillady and a team of other UM clergy—many of them women—sent to Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. On September 7, a special fundraiser for Camp Olmsted will feature a conversation between Shillady and Clinton about her United Methodist faith, camping and politics. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. event at Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Dr., Manhattan, can be purchased online. A free book is included in the ticket price; the book, published by Abingdon Press, has a release date of August 15 and is available at Cokesbury. Rev. Denise Smartt Sears and St. John’s Elmont UMC will also be honored for their commitment to Camp Olmsted.

Jamaica Mission: Mt. Osborn Methodist Church

On July 4, a mission group of 11—led by Golden Hill UMC in Bridgeport, Conn.—traveled to Leeds, St. Elizabeth Parish in southwest Jamaica. The group ranged in age from 16 to 80, with two younger members from Poughkeepsie UMC along with three high school students from Milford, Conn., and Maine. For six members of the group this was a return visit; they had worked with the members of Mt. Osborn Methodist Church to construct a church hall in 2015. Further progress was made this time by adding doors, toilets, sinks, showers, and cabinets, as well as painting and placement of a sewage line.

In addition, a Vacation Bible School was held for approximately 25 children, ranging in age from three to 16.

We returned with memories of a wonderful group of people, who welcomed us into the fabric of their community. We look forward to sharing another mission experience with them again.

Mountains of Hope for Haiti

In early July, our 22-person team had the privilege of visiting Furcy, the Mountains of Hope for Haiti mission site in the hills south and east of Port-au-Prince.

For some, it was an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, and for others, it was the first exposure to a community so many of us think about every day. Our group was a wonderful mix of high school, college-age and older “youth” from four different churches throughout the conference.

Our team did repairs inside the church and school, and provided some extra muscle assisting local workers in constructing a concrete outdoor area for community gatherings.

We had a busy week of activities as well. We hosted a Vacation Bible School, where everyone went home with health kits they had decorated and filled; held two community meals, a game day, a gathering where the youth in both communities were able to talk about their lives, and we attended a community concert where we heard amazing talent—and our group performed too! But the best part was the time we had to spend as a team with old and new friends. And we are already planning our return in early summer 2019.

For the complete mission stories and additional photos please visit the mission/missionary stories page on the NYAC web site.

“Done in a Day” Goes Local

Background: “Done in a Day” started as a response to Superstorm Sandy. It was a program designed to engage small volunteer teams in the recovery effort by assigning them to locations and projects that were well organized and managed, and with a specific task for a day. The catch phrase was, “Start early, end late—done in a day!”

While the Sandy recovery effort continues to go on, we are also looking to transition this ministry, and the many skills and energies of our volunteers to continue their efforts, but on more local levels.

Local outreach through “Done in a Day” seeks to work with local churches to identify local homes and homeowners who are in need, who may not be able to afford repairs, or who many need some tender loving care through home repairs. A priority should be given to low-income families, seniors, persons with disabilities, single-parent families, and others with special needs or circumstances. Local churches would provide the volunteer labor for the effort.

Done in a Day—Sandy Recovery Volunteer opportunity

We are partnering with the St Bernard Project to rebuild a Sandy-affected home in Coney Island, Brooklyn, and need volunteers and teams through September 28. Work dates are:

  Monday–Thursday, Aug. 14–17 
  Monday–Tuesday, Aug. 21–22 
  Saturday, Aug. 26 
  Monday–Thursday, Aug. 28–31
  Saturday, Sept. 2 
  Monday, Sept. 4–Wednesday, Sept. 20 
  Friday, Sept. 22–Thursday, Sept. 28

Please contact Angela Calabro for more information, or to register a team.

Be a “Ready Church” for the Right Time

In the world of disaster response we no longer say “if” but “when.” We also say all response is local. The visible presence of the church in a community is essential in any time of disaster. Disaster response is an effective ministry through which we become instruments of God’s healing and hope.

“Connecting Neighbors—Ready Church” is an UMCOR/NYAC program designed to assist churches in their preparation for, and response to, the “when.”

All churches are encouraged to attend one of the Saturday training events being offered through our Disaster Response Ministry. All the fall sessions are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., unless otherwise indicated. For more information, and to register, please visit the missions/disaster response page on the NYAC web site.

   September 9: Poughkeepsie UMC, 2381 New Hackensack Rd., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
   September 23: New Paltz UMC, 1 Grove St., New Paltz, N.Y.
   September 30: Mount Kisco UMC, 300 Main St., Mt Kisco, N.Y.
   September 30: Noon to 4 p.m., Milton/Marlboro UMC, 112 Church St., Milton, N.Y.
   October 7: St. Johns (Elmont/Valley Stream), 2105 Stuart Ave., Valley Stream, N.Y.
   October 21: Seymour UMC, 225 Great Hill Rd., Seymour, Conn.
   October 28: Grace, UMC, 121 Pleasant St, Southington, Conn.
   November 4: Simsbury UMC, 799 Hopmeadow St, Simsbury, Conn.
   November 11: First UMC, Routes 23 and 22, Hillsdale, N.Y.

No Expiration Date on Service to God

“I don’t feel as if I belong here.”

“It is not the world I knew.”

“Maybe I have lived too long.”

Sound familiar?

Having had the privilege of pastoring congregations and serving as director of spiritual life for United Methodist Homes for more than a half century, I cannot even begin to guess the frequency with which older people have expressed these feelings. Even as I continue to serve as a pastor to a small congregation, the feelings continue to find expression.

I understand them differently now. The fact of my own aching bones, reading and hearing news (which I often wish was fake news, but alas is not), living in a world and a nation that often seem to be in immanent danger, serving a beloved church with so many congregations worried about simply surviving, the saber rattling—and the list goes on—all tempt me, from time to time, to be the speaker of these sentiments, rather than the hearer.

And I wonder, is it the times we live in? Is it my aging process? Have these things always been true? Probably.

Whatever, the fact is that I know the feeling, expressed by so many of my older peers. Thankfully, the feeling does not control me. Hope does!

A challenge of aging and ministering to the aging is listening and understanding. Yet it is much more. The faith we proclaim constantly reminds us that God continues to speak and work in the world. The stories of Jesus and the victory of the cross serve as reminders that hope is more than a pious wish. It is the very reality of God. To proclaim anything less than hope is to witness to something other than the Gospel.

The older adult, like every other person, is called to be in service by this Gospel. The whole Gospel is not being heard if she is not hearing this call and living into this hope. There is no expiration date. It continues through all of life.

A ministry in the name of this hope enables a vision that sees the reasons for despair, but continues to work in whatever way is possible for the coming of the realm of God in the here and now. Whatever one’s age, whatever one’s health or physical condition, our call is to live into, and behave accordingly. Those of us engaged in caring for and about older adults serve them best when we challenge them to remember ways in which, even as they age, they can remain faithful to this hope.

Gail Douglas-Boykin works with the youth.
Mission u: Planting Seeds to Educate, Transform


Many seeds were planted to create a beloved community of disciples during the “Mission u” gathering from July 14–16. Some 250 participants gathered at the Stamford Hilton in Connecticut for the three-day event and the one-day Saturday sampler.

 Mission u Dean, Deborah C. Jenkins, greeted the group with a warm welcome on Friday, and then invited them down to the “River Hilton” to wade in its waters before they stepping on to their class sessions. The classes—which were available in English, Spanish, and Korean—included: “Living as a Covenant Community,” “The Bible and Human Sexuality,” “Climate Justice: A Call to Hope And Action,” and the “Missionary Conferences of the United Methodist Church.”

Dr. Glory E. Dharmaraj, retired director of spiritual formation and mission theology for United Methodist Women, led the adult plenaries on the missionary conferences and encouraged action-based planning for enhancing ministries in each one.

The sessions for children and youth focused on those three missionary conferences—the Alaska United Methodist, Oklahoma Indian and the Red Bird conferences. Through crafts, Bible study and other activities, the children learned what it means to be people of faith through interaction with the people who care for them. The youth learned the history of each conference, examined the social and economic justice issues that impact the people in the area, and thought of new ways to engage in mission with their counterparts in the missionary conferences. The youth classes also participated in a mission project at Covenant House that was fulfilled with donations of needed goods.

Apart from the classes and plenary sessions, the group gathered for morning praise and evening vespers hosted by the various UMW districts. Worship was led by Joseph A.I. Gordon, minister of music at Butler Memorial UMC, accompanied by Prince Ofori on drums.

Attendees were able to browse the mission fair, and use the resource room, UMW Time and prayer room when classes were not in session. A carry-over collaborative project from the 2016 Mission u was a legacy quilt designed and constructed by Phebe Kirkham of the Connecticut District. Last year’s participants wrote messages and decorated squares; this year’s participants were able to tie the knots to complete the quilt.

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton met with the group and spoke fondly of the dedication he had seen and the mission work accomplished by the United Methodist Women during his appointments as a church pastor. Lending their support and presence to the weekend were Director of Connectional Ministries Matthew Curry, Conference Lay Leader Roena Littlejohn, Connecticut District Superintendent Alpher K. Sylvester, Catskill District Superintendent Rev. Timothy Riss, Board of Ordained Ministries’ Coordinator of Ministerial Services Gail Douglas-Boykin, Deaconess and International Missioner Emma Cantor and conference UMW President Judith E. McRae.

The weekend ended with “A Word from the Lord,” courtesy of Rev. David Gilmore, director of Congregational Development and Revitalization, and the sacrament of Holy Communion for the beloved community of disciples who would return to their church homes and districts ready to plants seeds.

Marcia O. Bent, who served as the assistant dean this year, has assumed the role of dean for 2018. She will be assisted by Rev. Jeffrey Hooker of Grace UMC in Newburgh. The 2018 studies will focus on the topics of “Seeking Health and Wholeness,” “What About Our Money? A Faith Response,” and the Missionary Conference.

Mission u, formerly the Cooperative School of Christian Mission, was begun in the mid 1930s by the Women’s Home Missionary Society and seeks to educate 20,000 people a year in ways that transform their lives. The NYAC planning team includes more than 30 members who serve in various church capacities and with the United Methodist Women (UMW) across the conference.

Clockwise from top left: listening in on a class session; participants left messages within a lighted cross during the closing worship; kids sprout up during a skit.

‘Bandana Guy’ Does Double Duty at Kingswood


The duties of the family camping program director have been being shared this summer at Kingswood Campsite and Noah Santoro is one of the three people who has been shouldering part of the responsibility.

Santoro first arrived at Kingswood in 2012 to serve as the program director for Woodsmoke Camp. A high school friend had heard about the opening and posted the notice on Facebook, recognizing that Santoro would be perfect for the job, since he had been a Boy Scout for a good portion of his youth. Santoro, an aspiring actor, wasn’t so sure, but decided to accept the position.

“They haven’t been able to get rid of me since,” Santoro said recently in a phone interview.

Originally from West Hempstead on Long Island, Santoro has continued to serve as program director of Woodsmoke, in addition to the family camping program duties.

What brings him back, year after year? Santoro said it’s the sense of the community that makes up the Kingswood experience; mainly that the camp is run almost entirely by volunteers. Each volunteer contributes her or his special ability, talent or simple hard work. Whether it is mowing, removing broken trees from the road or managing registrations “everyone brings something different to the table,” Santoro said. Each person wants to make Kingswood and the camping programs even better.

He has also enjoyed the experience of meeting all kinds of people from varied backgrounds who become like an extended family for each other. Specifically, Santoro recalls JoJo Gonzalez and his special talent for welding which inspired the welding camp, and Peter Sierup for the stone

Noah Santoro, left, strikes a pose with a Woodsmoke camper at Kingswood Campsite.

ministry. He also mentioned Bud and Judy Swanson, who “thrift” for Kingswood, donating many items to the Kingswood supplies and store.

Santoro sees his family camping role as primarily providing arts and crafts projects for all ages. He helps the campers find natural objects that are transformed into unique crafts.

While he’s enjoying his first time with the family camping program, he remains most enthusiastic about Woodsmoke because campers make life-long friends and learn important skills that change lives. While Christianity is the basis for spiritual experiences at Kingswood,
he noted that all are welcome and their contributions valued.

Santoro is easy to spot around the camp; he’s known as the “guy in the bandana”—his trademark attire. For more about the summer camping experiences at Kingswood, visit the web site.

Reminder: Camp Quinipet is celebrating its 70th anniversary on the weekend of August 25–27. For more information or to register go to the camp web site.

Quinipet Weekend to Honor Zenkert

The life and ministry of Carl Zenkert will be celebrated during a work weekend at Camp Quinipet on October 20–22. Zenkert, who died in January, served for more than 25 years as director of United Methodists camps including Camp Epworth and Quinipet Camp & Retreat Center in the New York Conference, and Manidokan Camp & Retreat Center in the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

During the weekend, there are plans to plant a tree and dedicate a bench in Zenkert’s honor at a memorial service at 2 p.m., October 21. Participants are encouraged to bring a story or photos to share, and a favorite book to donate to the Quinipet library. A shelf is being reserved for books that Zenkert regularly read during his ministry. For more information and to register, go to

His family has requested that donations may be made to the Camp Quinipet Scholarship Fund in Zenkert’s memory. Checks should be made payable to: Quinipet Camp and Retreat Center with “Carl Zenkert scholarship” written in the memo line. Send to: Camp Quinipet, PO Box 549, Shelter Heights, NY 11965.

Registration information will be available on the Quinipet web site.

Moore Joins NYAC Staff

Diana Moore has begun work as the NYAC controller, effective July 10. She assumes the role held by Susan Tedesco, who is retiring but will stay on through the end of the year to aid in the transition.

Moore has already been serving the conference as a volunteer member of the Council on Finance & Administration. She most recently led the accounting consolidation and reporting process at Jarden Corporation in Norwalk. Prior to that, Moore held senior finance positions at GE Capital Corporation where she was responsible for risk management, financial reporting, systems implementation, internal controls testing and the adoption of complex accounting standards. 

She hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Southern Connecticut State University and an MBA in finance from the University of New Haven. Moore, who lives in Milford, Conn., with her husband and son, is a member of Golden Hill UMC in Bridgeport, Conn.


Rev. David A. Stevens

The Reverend David Arthur Stevens of Port Washington, N.Y., died July 26, 2017, at Northwell Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., with his wife, Marilyn L. Miller, at his side. 

Stevens was born March 1, 1936, in Fairmont, W.Va., the youngest of three sons of Dr. Amos H. and Julia (Currier) Stevens. He was orphaned at thirteen, and moved to Massachusetts to live with relatives. He graduated from Cambridge High and Latin School in Cambridge, Mass., in 1954, and then studied English and drama at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

In 1961, Stevens earned a master of divinity degree from Hartford Theological Seminary, and three years later, a master of religious education and drama from Union Theological Seminary in New York. After he was ordained an elder in the New York (East) Conference in 1962, he served the following churches: Wethersfield, First Stamford, and Seymour in Connecticut; Fisherman’s, Greene Avenue and Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn; Port Ewen, Esopus, Rifton, Bellmore, and Glendale in New York. Stevens retired in 2006.

Blessed with a beautiful singing voice, he enjoyed singing in church and glee club. During his years in Brooklyn, Stevens produced and directed several dramas and musicals at the New York Conference sessions. He also formed a drama troupe of 50 Brooklyn teenagers who performed plays and musicals in churches. While serving in Glendale, he founded the Jubilee Cluster United Methodist Players, an ongoing musical repertory theater group of youth and adults from the area’s United Methodist churches.

Stevens also served as chairman of the Brooklyn Methodist Ministers Fellowship.

In addition to his wife, Stevens is survived by his son, Mark (Gina) Stevens; and grandsons, Nicholas (Natasha) Stevens and Hunter (Sarah Brady) Stevens. His brothers, George A. Stevens and Rev. Edward A. Stevens, and a nephew, Charles Stevens, predeceased him.

A memorial service was held August 13 at the Glendale Maspeth UMC; burial was in his family plot in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Arlington, Mass. Memorial donations may be made to Glendale Maspeth UMC Memorial Fund, 6614 Central Ave., Glendale, NY 11385.

Sara H. Haruyama

Sara Hamilton Haruyama, died at her home in Oakland, Calif., on June 29, 2017, at age 82. Haruyama was the widow of the Reverend Justin Giichi Haruyama, who served the North Carolina and New York conferences from 1961 until his retirement in 1972. He died in 1980.

She was born on July 27, 1934, to Iron Lee and Fuschia Saunders Hamilton in Troy, N.C. In 1955, Haruyama earned a bachelor’s degree from High Point College in North Carolina. While getting her master’s degree at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York, she met Rev. Haruyama. The couple married in 1958, and in 1961 moved to Kagoshima, Japan, as missionaries for the United Methodist Church. 

After 10 years in Japan, the couple decided to take on the new challenge of ministering to Japanese Americans in New York City. She taught English and American social studies at the Japanese School in New York.

In 1997, Haruyama moved to Oakland, Calif., where she became an active member of the Berkeley UMC. She is remembered for her spirit of social activism, and insatiable appetite to learn new things.

Haruyama is survived by three children: Andrew (Cynthia), Stephen (Robin), and Amy (Akemi); 10 grandchildren: Justin, Dorothy, Stuart (Farzanah), Jared (Lauren), Aaron, Mark, Cherish, Skye, Maya and Anna; and one great granddaughter, Aiko.

A celebration of her life was held July 29 at the Berkeley UMC. Memorial donations may be made to the Justin Haruyama Ministerial Scholarship Fund, c/o Japanese American United Church, 255 7th Ave., New York, NY 10001.


Director of Youth Ministry

Grace United Methodist Church in Valley Stream, N.Y., is seeking a dynamic, dedicated, and passionate Christian to lead our youth ministry. The ideal candidate should be an active member in church ministry, have experience working with children and youth, possess good computer and communication skills, knowledge of contemporary communication tools, have good leadership and organizational skills, and is able to lead youth participation in worship service, and Bible study. This part-time position requires 5–7 hours per week. Please send a cover letter and resume to


Coordinator of Children’s Ministries

The Poughkeepsie United Methodist Church, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., seeks a creative and dedicated coordinator of children’s ministries. Responsibilities include: leading a team of dedicated volunteers in the Sunday School program; organizing and directing a week-long summer Vacation Bible School; and supervising childcare staffing during Sunday church services and for occasional other events. Non-exempt part-time position (up to 15 hours weekly) works with an enthusiastic education commission and under the direction of the senior pastor. Pay is $18 an hour.

If interested, please send your resume to: Poughkeepsie UMC, Attn: Pastor Adrienne Brewington, 2381 New Hackensack Road, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603.

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