Advocate 2017: Vol. 9, Issue 1 - Embracing Racial/Ethnic Diversity

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ADVOCATE Upper New York

A publication of the Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

Embracing Racial/Ethnic Diversity




GOING CROSSCULTURAL Cross-cultural appointments demonstrate the depth and breadth of God’s love. Learn about Rev. G. Ewart Morris’s cross-cultural appointments and what they mean to him.


AN INVITATION TO COMMUNITIES IN NEED The ministry of community meals not only effectively addresses the issue of hunger, but also, reaches diverse populations in need of God’s love. Learn how North Main UMC in Gloversville serves their neighbors through weekly community lunches.


DIVERSE YOUTH Learn how Sarah Jane Johnson UMC brings diverse youth closer to God through basketball.


SOCIAL MEDIA AND DIVERSITY Hear what two social media experts, Sophia Agtarap and the Rev. Hannah Bonner, have to say about using social media as a tool to learn ways to combat racism and welcome diversity in your congregation.


MINISTRY ON THE INSIDE George Herrick writes about the Kairos prison ministry and how it brings those who are incarcerated in UNY, closer to God. Bringing diversity to churches through community meals. Read more on page 12. photos by Shannon Hodson 2 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 1



What does it mean to embrace diversity?

Upper New York


he vision of the Upper New York Conference calls on us to be God’s love for our neighbors in all places. In other words, it calls on us to get outside of what we know and embrace all those people who are desperate to experience God’s love. Often, as we go about day-to-day ministry, it is easy to forget those who are not right in front of us, but in order to fulfil our vision and even the great commission, to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28.1620), we must be intentional about embracing the diversity all around us. This might mean finding ways to impact communities that are often forgotten, advocating for those who struggle to be heard, or simply giving new people in new places a chance to lead us and teach us. This issue of the Advocate explores many ministries in Upper New York that are exceling at embracing diversity. It will celebrate both successes and opportunities for growth. It will also provide important tools to help ministries go even further in embracing diversity. Through the stories and tools in this issue, it is hoped that individuals will be empowered to take the next step when it comes to their ministry and diversity, whatever that next step might be for them. Truly, the body of Christ is a diverse one, and it can only be whole when all parts of the body are embraced. May we continue to live into the vision of the Upper New York Conference “To live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be God’s love for our neighbors in all places.”

Vol. 9, Issue 1

Upper New York Area

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Emmaus UMC and Valley Falls UMC come together for a Sunday Service. Photo by Valley Falls UMC and courtesy of the Rev. G. Ewart Morris Read More on pages 8-9

ADVOCATE Upper New York

A publication of the Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

Embracing Racial/Ethnic Diversity

The Upper New York United Methodist Advocate is a publication of the Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church, whose mission is to be God’s love with all our neighbors in all places. Materials in the Advocate may not be reproduced unless the item is accompanied by a copyright notation. Periodicals postage paid at Utica, New York 13504; USPS 14025. Subscriptions: $15 per year paid in advance to 324 University Ave., 3rd floor, Syracuse, NY 13210; or call (855) 424-7878; or visit Postmaster: send address changes to Upper New York United Methodist Advocate, 324 University Ave., 3rd floor, Syracuse, NY 13210. We reserve the right to edit or decline any items submitted for publication.

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You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female, fall you all are one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.


– Galatians 3.26-29

ur culture and society too often and too easily place individuals into categories. Frequently, we seek our identity and are tempted to identify others based on things like appearance, abilities, culture of origin, educational status, socioeconomic position, race, gender, and theological or political leanings. This way of seeing one another and relating to one another continues to cause great harm to one another within our communities and within the Body of Christ!

and sinful “isms,” has erected barriers on the path to becoming the beloved community mandated by the Gospel.

The grace of God promises us a new reality – a better reality! Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we are clothed in Christ and our identity is found in nothing but Christ! The intent of God through Jesus is for all people, regardless of race, class, gender, language, citizenship, education, or abilities, to live together as sisters and brothers. The words of the Apostle Paul to the church of Galatia, give us a glimpse of this promise and reality.

As part of our response to this call, I will appoint a Bishop’s Task Force on Racism to develop strategies and resources to equip local congregations to specifically combat racism in their contexts, but also discover principles that will equip us to deal with all forms of “isms.” It is my prayer that this work will move us closer to the vision God has for us to live together, to recognize each other through the eyes and heart of God and invite all to truly live the identity they were created for.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. echoed these words in his call for “the creation of the beloved community,” where love transforms the relationship between oppressors and the oppressed, insiders and outsiders, and haves and have nots, restoring justice and creating peace. I believe the vision of Jesus for a diverse people with varied gifts yet one in love and purpose is the deepest longing of our hearts. We have much progress to make in celebrating the rich diversity among us and living the truth that each person is valuable and significant. Most notable, the scourge of racism, along with other divisive

We know Jesus has little toleration for the way of division. “With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us” (Ephesians 2:14c). As his Body, the Church, we are called and equipped to continue this dismantling work. Last July, the College of Bishops of the Northeast Jurisdiction and the delegates of the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church issued a “Call to Action” to actively address and confront the reality of our culture and church, specifically the racism present in our hearts, our local congregations, and our communities (Learn more about the Call to Action at NEJfightingracism).

As Dr. King said, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…” Though spoken years ago, his words remain relevant in this moment. Now is the time for us to act. With God’s help, let us work together to challenge hate, remove barriers, and build communities where we boldly defend and offer the promise and reality of identity found in and through Jesus the Christ!



Fighting racism:

The Church’s unfinished agenda Racism is everywhere, even in “don’t challenge our churches.The racism that racist jokes and comis apparent many times may ments.” be unintentional. The General Commission on Religion & Race ( has published these quotes to illustrate “think that racism ways in which you is not a problem.” may be unintentionally perpetuating racism.

“assume that I will not be discriminated against because of my race.” “assume my point of view is the norm.”

I acquiesce in the perpetuation of racism when I…

“feel threatened when interacting with persons of different races than my own.”

“ignore the literature and achievements of persons from ethnic groups other than my own.” “avoid events of ethnic groups other than my own.”

“make opportunities to interact with persons of a variety of races and backgrounds.” The General Commission on Religion & Race also published quotes that showcase small ways in which you can help dismantle racism.

“try to use my access to persons with influence to serve as an advocate for racial persons and the elimination of racism.”

“listen to and don’t discount the discrimination experience of others.”

“try to educate myself about people’s differences.”

I actively participate in the dismantling of racism when I… “try to challenge racial slurs and don’t tell jokes that put down other groups.”

“seek to befriend and understand persons from racial ethnic groups other than my own.”

If you are seeking ways to pray about the elimination of racism, Race and Prayer: Collected Voices, Many Dreams by editors Malcom Boyd and Chester Talton is a great resource. Here is an excerpt of one of the prayers: “Almighty God…Raise up among us people of strength and courage to speak out and take action with love and commitment to end all forms of discrimination based on old racist practices that have no place in our world today. Help us to patiently listen to one another as we all work to end the pain and suffering that has imprisoned us all; and finally bring us into your holy presence as one people, united in your love. Amen.” 5

God brings diversity to Aldersgate UMC By the Rev. Anne O’Connor


ldersgate UMC is located in Greece, a first-ring suburb of Rochester. The church is surrounded by affordable homes built in the 1950s and 60s to house employees of Eastman Kodak. In the last several years, the neighborhood has changed and has become ethnically diverse. We are pleased to see people of more diverse ethnic backgrounds in our morning worships services, but God is doing much more.

Confirmation at Aldersgate UMC. 6 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 1

A few years ago, we noticed many Hispanic/ Latino people shopping in the local stores and sensed God leading us to reach out to them. We began a dialogue with Pastor Carlos Rosa-Laguer from Inglesia Metodista Unida Emmanuel, a Hispanic church in Rochester. They sent us Pastor Hector Rivera and a couple families from their church to begin a Hispanic ministry at Aldersgate. The ministry began with Bible study and after a year, a worship service in our church chapel on Sundays at 3 p.m.We planned from the

beginning that this New Faith Community would be part of Aldersgate—one church with worship services in English and Spanish. In this way, we could be one church in ministry together while honoring the traditions of each.

which serves widows and orphans in the Nakivale Refugee Camp where they had lived. Believing that it is important to pay attention to the people God sends to us, we were pleased to welcome them. We don’t know why God decided to bless us with their presence. Perhaps God sent them to us because we had been open to the Hispanics in our area. Perhaps it was because we had a van that they would need to transport other refugees to the church. Perhaps because we have prayed for more young adults in our church and God has answered us in a surprising way. Our African brothers and sisters worshipped with us for about a year in one of the English-language services wanting to learn English and the American culture. This past September, they started a service in their own language in the sanctuary at 3:00 p.m.on Sundays.

Hispanglos teen band at Aldersgate UMC. Photos courtesy of the Rev. Anne O’Connor

In the five years of this ministry, we have made a conscious effort to include Hispanic members on the various church committees and work toward the same goals. We worship together several times a year and fellowship together regularly in an effort to continue to build relationships across cultures. One of the first things God led the Hispanic community to do was raise money for a church van to help expand the ministry. Little did we know at the time how important the van would become to the total ministry of Aldersgate. About a year ago, two refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo stopped by the church, believing God had told them to go to the United Methodist Church, in part, because of people they knew that were attending Albany: Emmaus UMC. The father, Renzha Mujyanama Ceser, and son, Ngarultuye John Paul, shared their stories of having spent several years in a refugee camp in Uganda before being moved to Rochester. While in Uganda, they attended a Bible college and served as pastors. They had lived in Rochester about four years and were looking for a church that would welcome them and be supportive of a ministry that is important to them, The Ebenezer Hope Restoration Ministry,

Aldersgate has been enriched by diversity, only part of which is related to our ethnic worshipers. It’s a great joy to be in relationship with all kinds of people and to learn from them. We believe God has called us to be one church made up of many people. It’s our hope and prayer that we will continue to grow and reflect God’s kingdom.

African Worship at Aldersgate UMC. 7

Cross-cultural appointments in the United Methodist Church to obey everything that I have commanded you and remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat 28:19-20 NRSV). The United Methodist Church encourages crosscultural appointments among its churches in the denomination. Its “Mission to the World” commits to “crossing boundaries of language, culture, and social or economic status. . . . to be in ministry with all people, as we in faithfulness to the gospel, seek to grow in mutual love and trust” (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, par. 125).

Rev. G. Ewart Morris

By the Rev. G. Ewart Morris


y guiding principle and mandate, both in the call and practice, of the ordained and pastoral ministry has been Jesus’ commission to his disciples. He directed them: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them

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Cross-cultural appointments have demonstrated to me something of the breadth and depth of God’s love. All it takes is our willingness to be open to the moving of the God’s Holy Spirit and embrace the people we have been called to love and serve. They can come from all walks of life and we are called to minister to them as Jesus would. I have never thought of my ministry as anything other than being cross-cultural. That means reaching the world’s people with the saving and life-giving message of Jesus Christ regardless of their cultural

Confirmation at Valley Falls UMC. Photos courtesy of Valley Falls UMC

backgrounds. I have always understood my pastoral appointment to a community and not merely to a particular “congregation.” I have been blessed, as a person of Afro-West Indian descent, to serve both predominantly white and black congregations of various cultural backgrounds. Nevertheless, the one common thread continues to be that each one regards himself/herself as American and that provides common ground for communicating the gospel as well as being in ministry together.

Rev. G. Ewart Morris stands with the Emmaus UMC and Valley Falls UMC congregations.

One of the unique blessings I had recently was to be appointed to two diverse congregations. Emmaus UMC is a multi-ethnic congregation in Albany. A number of languages might be heard in this congregation including Kinyarwanda, Swahili, and French among the Africans, to Urdu among the Pakistanis, and Tagala among the people of the Philippines. Worshippers on Sunday hear Scripture readings and songs in one or two languages other than English. The other congregation, Valley Falls UMC, located more than a 45-minute drive north of Albany, welcomes and embraces the people of Emmaus. Each congregation leaves its sanctuary and joins the other for a worship service and luncheon. The congregations see themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ growing in their walk of faith rather than racial and cultural identities. When I was asked to reflect on the question, “What does a cross-cultural appointment mean to you?,” I was happy to share from my rich experience to encourage others to reach across the differences of color and race to be bearers of the good news of Jesus Christ. I have learned that one has to be intentional in reaching across those differences is to bear that witness.

Having served a number of congregations in my 23 years of ministry, I have discovered as Maya Angelou said very eloquently in her poem, The Human Family, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” The people of our congregations have a number of things in common. They love to hear the gospel preached from the Bible. They love worship and do not mind being introduced to new songs and hymns. Our work as pastors and leaders is to move at a pace that will allow them to catch up to the sounds and rhythms. I recall introducing the South Park, Buffalo and Covenant,West Seneca, congregations to the West Indian versions of “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain” at Christmas. Folks had come to expect them when they gather for Christmas celebration and were disappointed if they were not included. And yes, most of our churches love to have worship end at a reasonable time so that they can get on with the rest of their day. While these examples may seem superficial, at the deeper level they show how much we are more “alike than unalike.” What I have come to learn and appreciate, to a degree, is that our varied expressions of ministry and propagation of the gospel have their unique cultural bias. So long as they are not perpetuating prejudice and division, they can be used to strengthen relationships and spreading of the love of Jesus Christ. Our main agenda should be expand our ministries for the Kingdom of God and the redemption of humankind. At the end of the day, each seeks the same goal, which is decency, courtesy, respect toward all others as human beings. Such behaviors can happen through the transforming power in Jesus Christ, which can embrace all cultural backgrounds and with spiritual leaders who are will to be open to the moving of God’s Spirit where we serve.

Youth from Emmaus UMC visits Valley Falls UMC. 9

Media Resource Center:

Resources on diversity Below are some resources that can further help church members from youth to older adults to develop a deep understanding of the importance of diversity within our congregations. Each of these resources are available to borrow from the UNY Conference Media Resource Center.

We Are The Ones This is an inspirational and compelling short program. Embracing the concept of looking to ourselves for leadership and positive change, We Are The Ones combines amazing film footage of the Southwest with a powerful message that will convince viewers to work together to face the future.

One: Woodlawn Student Study With teaching from Caleb Castille (who plays Tony Nathan in Woodlawn), the student study speaks to teens about uniting together. The ONE Student Study includes: Six video episodes on DVD An easy-to-follow Leader’s Guide for facilitating a small group gathering One copy of the Journal for the study Briars in the Cottonpatch This is a documentary of Koinonia Farm and its struggle for racial integration and its role in the establishment of Habitat for Humanity. It tells the nearly forgotten story of a courageous group of blacks and whites who withstood bullets, bombs, and boycotts in the years leading up to the Civil Rights era. It is a compelling chronicle of heroic humility and uncommon courage that echoes to the present day. Jesus, Bombs and Ice Cream Author and activist Shane Claiborne believes all people share a vision of a world where love triumphs over hatred, where life conquers death. A couple of years ago, Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Claiborne crossed paths. Ben said to Shane, “I have read your books, and I like what I see.” Shane said to Ben, “I have eaten your ice cream, and I like what I taste.” They started dreaming and scheming ...and Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream was born. A host of talented friends have joined Shane and Ben for this multi-media presentation. The DVD contains over two hours of testimonials, together with visual art and music, to provoke participants to imagine humanity with fewer bombs and more ice cream. In addition, the participant’s guide (sold separately) is packed full of stories of reconciliation and grace, quotes, reflections, and questions for groups and individuals to discuss and discern how they can help make a more peaceful world a reality. 10 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 1

Red Letter Revolution For all the Christians facing conflict between Jesus’s words and their own lives, for all the non-Christians who feel they rarely see Jesus commands reflected in the choices of his followers, Red Letter Revolution is a blueprint for a new kind of Christianity, one consciously centered on the words of Jesus, the Bible s red letters. Framed as a captivating dialogue between Shane Claiborne, a progressive young evangelical, and Tony Campolo, a seasoned pastor and professor of sociology, Red Letter Revolution is a life-altering manifesto for skeptics and Christians alike. It is a call to a lifestyle that considers first and foremost Jesus explicit, liberating message of sacrificial love. Shane and Tony candidly bring the words of Jesus to bear on contemporary issues of violence, community, Islam, hell, sexuality, civil disobedience, and 20 other critical topics for people of faith and conscience today. The resulting conversations reveal the striking truth that Christians guided unequivocally by the words of Jesus will frequently reach conclusions utterly contrary to those of mainstream evangelical Christianity. The 24/7 Experience In reality-TV style, seven teens travel across the country to learn what it means to follow Christ in the 21st Century. There are seven 16-20 minute episodes: 1. Shane Claiborne (The Simple Way, Philadelphia, PA), 2. Gary Haugen (International Justice Mission), 3. Damian Boyd (college minister and national speaker), 4. Steve Fee and Candi Pearson (Passion recording artists), and 5. Ralph Winter (producers of X-Men movies). Race: The Power of an Illusion It challenges one our most fundamental beliefs: that humans come divided into a few distinct biological groups. This definitive three-part series is an eye-opening tale of how what we assume to be normal, commonsense, even scientific, is actually shaped by our history, social institutions, and cultural beliefs. Free Indeed A video drama about racism. Four white young adults play a card game as a pre-requisite for doing a service project for a black church. The game leads to a discussion about the privileges white people have.

I Sit Where I Want: The legacy of Brown v. Board of Education The documentary takes place in Buffalo, NY at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. In many ways the school is the “Brown” idealintegrated, with a diverse mix of students. However, while they attend classes together, the students segregate themselves. The film focuses on group of teens who decide to take on the most visible, tangible representation of the radical divide-their segregated lunchroom. In a challenging and often uncomfortable experience, the students set out to discover what their lunchroom says about them and their community, and what they can do about it. 11

Community Meals: An invitation to communities in need By Shannon Hodson


ommunity meals are one way that many United Methodist churches in UNY reach out to diverse communities in need. Poverty and hunger is an issue that is widespread across our Conference. North Main Street UMC, in Gloversville, knows that hunger is everywhere. That is why they host a weekly free luncheon and a monthly free food pantry. The free luncheon reaches an average of 50 people of multiple ethnicities every Monday from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. In 2015, 2,000 total lunches were served and the program has continued to grow. North Main started the free community meal in March of 2012. Nancy Marsh, a church member spearheaded this ministry after having volunteered for years with a group of others, serving meals to the community with the Salvation Army.

Church member, Nancy Marsh, prepares food for the community Christmas celebration meal. Photo by Mary Dalglish

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Nancy said, “One day (at the Salvation Army), we were told that our help is no longer needed and I thought to myself, ‘I need to keep serving the community.’ By the following weekend, I came up with

a proposal and presented it to my church. We would offer a community meal at a time and day where no other community organization is offering a meal. Ours would be about developing connections. At the Salvation Army, it was very regimented. People would flood in, get their food, eat, and go. I wanted the meal at our church to be longer (an hour and a half) so that we could form bonds with those coming in, get to know them, develop a sense of comradery. At the end of the church service, I had $250 in donations from members who wanted to see this vision come to fruition.”

as Pastor Judi) also mentioned that the community members who come to the meal help out too; she said, “We have many regulars (from the community) who come to the meals; they are so eager to find work. They are always willing to give a helping hand when our volunteers need it.” Pastor Judi mentioned that some attendees of the meals have also become members of the church.

Martha Wilson is one of those members. She started coming to the meal two years ago. Martha said, “A friend of mine told me about the meals so I decided Nancy continued, “For the first meal, we had three to come check it out. That’s why I am here today. And gentlemen attend; the next meal, there were six; the I keep coming because now it’s my church…it’s my following weekend there were nine; and now, we have family; that’s what we call it, family!” Most of Martha’s about 50 people attend each week.” biological family has passed away so Margaret feels When asked about how North Main UMC advertises much comfort being surrounded by members of her the community meal, Nancy responded, “Well, we church family. Martha is also now a member of North didn’t want to reach out to the paper because we don’t Main Street UMC’s choir. have enough to serve thousands, but we put up flyers in establishments where people in need were likely to go: laundry mats, social service agencies, and the senior center. Eventually, word of mouth became the main marketing tool.” The community meal is funded in many unique ways. The Fulton-Montgomery Community College would often bring food, gifts, and music to the meals. Other churches donate food as well as different organizations such as the Lion’s Club. Nancy’s husband, John owns an automotive shop, John’s Auto-Service Shop, and he has a jug for donations to the program at his shop; people regularly put cash into the jug; recently, a customer gave John a check for $250 toward the program. Nancy is so grateful for all of the donations given to Martha Wilson attends the 2016 Christmas support the community meal; she said “Every little bit celebration meal at North Main Street UMC. counts. There is an elderly woman at the church who Photo by Mary Dalglish gives $10 every month. One time, while I was in line buying groceries for the meal at the grocery store, I The community members who attend the meals are was telling the cashier about it and the woman in line as diverse in age as they are in ethnicity. In the summer, behind me donated $5 for the cause.” children attend with their families. During the school Nancy plans each weekly meal based on the weather, year, people in their 20s through 80s attend. Some are the food donations given, and what’s on sale. There are homeless; some are facing extreme socioeconomic volunteers from the church who help serve the meals, hardships. including the pastor, Nancy’s daughter, and her 91-year Perhaps one of the most special meals each year is old father, who is a retired United Methodist pastor. the Christmas celebration meal. Special occasions such Rev. Johnson Siebold (known to the community as this attract over 100 community members, some who are coming for their first time. (Continued on pg 14) 13

In 2016, the Christmas party was held on Dec. 19. It was a joyous time with a delicious buffet of sandwiches, mac and cheese, Christmas cookies, and hot cocoa. Ron and Maggie Talbot from North Bush UMC came as Santa and Mrs. Claus. North Bush is not situated in a community in need, but they have taken it upon themselves to get involved by partnering with North Main. The Christmas cookies and many of the servers were also from North Bush UMC. Pastor Judi played Christmas songs on the piano and Martha Wilson sang along to many of them. Kenny and Maurice were chatting as though they The community gathers for a free hot meal at had been friends for years. They literally just met and it North Main Street UMC. was the first time both of them had attended a meal at Photo by Mary Dalglish North Main. Kenny said,“A neighbor told me about this Observing all of the cheerful faces in the warm church and suggested I come. Everybody is so nice. I don’t have building on a freezing cold day, Nancy Marsh glowed. family around so this really helps. I think it will be easy Her efforts were effective at helping the hungry. She for me to make friends, like Maurice here.” mentioned, “One of our biggest benefactors is here. He wants to remain anonymous, but he decided to check it out. He said this was a huge eye opener.” And eye-opening it was. Over 100 people of all ages from various ethnic backgrounds spoke of hardships mentioning that jobs they qualify for are few and far between; that government assistance helps a little bit, but not enough; that environments like this help them to feel cared for and welcomed. Pastor Judi said, “We are doing what Jesus said for us to do. That’s why we get up in the morning, to do the things that are pleasing to God.” Maurice and Kenny enjoy good company and a hot meal at North Main Street UMC. Photo by Shannon Hodson

Maurice moved to Gloversville from Queens, NY in the fall of 2016 because he wanted to be near his daughter who was attending a nearby Community College. He heard about the Christmas meal from a friend. Maurice was incredibly enthusiastic about the meal and time of fellowship. He said, “I feel so much love in this place from the people working to the people eating. The volunteers from this church are amazing; it is so nice to be around people who are not close-minded. The food is great, but the love is better. I love the family-oriented feeling. It is great to see a woman and her elderly father and her young daughter all working for this cause—three generations of love.” 14 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 1

To learn more about North Main St. UMC’s ministries, watch the full length video at:

View our online video Library

Pan-Methodism: What is this? By Blenda Smith


an-Methodist Churches are plentiful in the Upper New York area. Have you noticed African American Episcopal (AME), African American Episcopal Zion (AMEZ), Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME), African Union Methodist Blenda Smith Protestant, or Union American Methodist Episcopal Churches in your communities? Collectively, they are called Pan-Methodist Churches. It has been over 200 years since Pan-Methodist Churches began separating from Methodism. Many African Americans chose to leave the Methodist Church when color and slavery were painful issues. African-Americans were forced from altar rails as they prayed, forced to stand at the side walls of churches, and relegated to segregation in hot balconies. Hence, many African Americans formed their own churches based on the tradition of Wesley.

In 2012, the United Methodist Church celebrated Full Communion with Pan-Methodist Churches, meaning full connection and relationship. At the General Conference service, CME Bishop Thomas Hoyt, Jr., “suggested the need for a ‘sacrament of the coffee cup’ to build individual friendships and commit to finding ways to break down barriers and promote justice together. Issues of race and class are not just sociological but theological because dealing with such issues ‘teaches us to get along together’” (Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter). This past June, Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb attended the Western NY Conference session of the AME Zion Church. It is Bishop Webb’s hope that Bishop Proctor of the AME Zion will be available to attend a session of The Upper New York Conference in a coming year, as we build partnerships and relationships. Bishop Webb said, “Our sisters and brothers of the AME Zion Church share our passion for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Their commitment to the communities they serve and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is inspiring. We share a rich theology and I look forward to future ways of living together as the Body of Christ.”

African American Church Choir. Photo by Elvert Barnes 15

How can I keep from singing? By the Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady


little over a year ago, Asbury First had a conversation about caroling as a congregation. We thought it would be fun to get together and walk through the neighborhoods surrounding our church to spread a little Christmas cheer. Then, we thought that it would be more fun with more people, so we considered inviting other churches to carol with us. Next, we thought about all of the brokenness and violence in our community and decided it might be even better if we could invite everyone in Rochester to participate. What resulted was the first annual “City Sing for Peace and Unity,” an ecumenical and interfaith event in which over 350 people from all over Rochester gathered to sing throughout a local neighborhood.While we shifted from Christmas carols to songs of peace from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and humanist traditions, there was no doubt about the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Asbury First UMC holds annual City Sing with candlelight vigil.

Photos courtesy of Asbury First UMC

makes the tune apparent.The key to harmony, however, is to have different people singing different parts of the same tune. In the case of City Sing, the tune was peace on earth—something every tradition can get behind.

We recently held our second annual City Sing event. Methodists have long known the power of a song. We were joined by a different group of people and As we lift up our voices together, the Spirit becomes walked through a different neighborhood, but the Spirit apparent in a new way. Sometimes those “sighs too was the same.We sang songs from far-ranging traditions deep for words” find expression in voices raised in with far-ranging meanings to the various generations harmony. Even when the voices themselves fail to land gathered. The evening ended with a candlelight vigil in on the right pitch, somehow the gathered community which we all sang, “We Shall Overcome.” And in that 16 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 1

moment, we believed it. Here was a church leading a group of people from all different faiths in the same song of hope. In the end, it didn’t matter if you could sing or not because the gathering itself was a kind of song. We often think about how to make our churches more diverse—or at least better reflective of the community in which we exist. Asbury First has worked hard on that. From passing a reconciling statement which makes it clear that our congregation is open to all persons regardless of any distinguishing characteristic—age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation—to ensuring that our committee structures and leadership are reflective of those commitments. In the end, however, the lesson of City Sing is that if we want to make our churches more reflective of our communities, we have to be in the community. We have to invest in those community partnerships with people who, though they may not look like us or believe like us or think like us, have the same commitment to those timeless issues of the human spirit that drive us all. The good news is that if we can somehow get those different voices singing the same tune together, the harmony becomes apparent—and so does the Spirit. As the old hymn puts it, “Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”

City Sing in Rochester, New York.

Communities from all over Rochester come together to sing in the neighborhood streets. 17

How Sarah Jane Johnson UMC uses basketball as a way to reach diverse youth The children then drew pictures of their lights, including skills such as drawing, writing, basketball, and t 5 p.m. on a Wednesday night, a diverse group of family-oriented skills like helping their mother cook. youth, ages 9-14, begin gathering into Sarah Jane Kelly Crane, the Outreach Director at SJJ and its Johnson UMC (SJJ); they are there to play basketball! George F. Johnson Dream Center, completed the This is no ordinary basketball league; its purpose is not lesson. She held up a flashlight with no batteries and only to develop the children’s basketball skills, but also, asked the children, “Why is this light not shining?” to teach the children about God’s love for them. Many mentioned that the flashlight had no batteries. By Shannon Hodson


Before hitting the gymnasium, the children gather into the chapel to learn about God—this is called “team time.” On this particular night, Pastor Ron Wenzinger began the lesson based on Matthew 5: 14-16, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before everyone so they see the good in you and you give glory to God.”

“Team time” at Sarah Jane Johnson UMC. Photos by Shannon Hodson

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And Kelly said, “Exactly, the light needs a power source. God is your power source. He is what makes your light shine.” After team time, the kids headed up to the basketball court for practice on a court made from Johnson Endicott shoe soles. The basketball league at SJJ began almost a decade ago as part of the church’s George. F. Johnson Dream Center.The basketball league consists of four teams that practice at SJJ and the Boulevard UMC in Binghamton. Each church coaches two teams. SJJ holds two twohour practices each week on Mondays and Wednesdays and Boulevard UMC holds two two-hour practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The teams then compete on Saturdays. This year, there are 45 children signed up for the program. How do the children learn about the basketball league? Kelly Crane said, “We have a great relationship with the (Johnson City) Middle School. They refer children to us who do not make the basketball team and kids also learn about the program through wordof-mouth. The George F. Johnson Dream Center is a

recognizable and highly regarded name. I am helping the community learn that The Dream Center is part of Sarah Jane Johnson.”

On this particular Wednesday night, The children practice with intense concentration. The one girl at practice this evening, 10-year-old Teagan Morris, George F. Johnson, in fact, is a big name in the history held her own, doing an incredible job blocking her of the Binghamton area. George was a businessman in opponents’ passes and shots. the early 1900s; he was the founder of the EndicottDroplets of sweat dripped off 12-year-old Noah Johnson shoe factory. During that era, Endicott- Sprately’s face as he explained his history with the SJJ Johnson was the largest manufacturer of footwear league,“When I first moved here three years ago (from in the United States, employing 24,000 workers at New York City), I was asking my mom how I could its peak. Despite paying some of the highest wages join a basketball team and she had a friend who lived in the industry, Endicott-Johnson was consistently upstairs from Beth (Martinez) and she told my mom profitable. SJJ is named after George’s mother. Johnson about this league. I love it! I like playing here because City, where SJJ is located, is also named after him. His I can see my skills improve. It’s very competitive and Dream Center is the foundation for the young children hard to make my school team—the bigger kids in this who learn about God and become fantastic basketball league do a great job at helping me build my skills.” players. The Dream Center also offers tutoring; Kelly is expanding the outreach to adults as well, by such offerings as computer literacy classes. One unique characteristic about the basketball league is that it is co-ed. Beth Martinez is one of the coaches. When her husband approached her about coaching, she wasn’t interested at first. She said, “I said to him, ‘Why would I want to coach these kids?,’ but then I thought, ‘If these girls can play with these boys, I can certainly coach amongst male coaches.’’ Beth is one of two female coaches now at SJJ. She coaches one team and a husband and wife, Mark and Kris Moyer coach the other team.

League participant, Noah Sprately.

The basketball program helps bring consistency to Noah’s life as it does for many of the other children involved. Noah’s life in New York City was one of moving around constantly—his mother’s caseworker suggested they move to Binghamton for a quieter and better quality of life.“This basketball league is the thing I am happiest about since I’ve moved here,” Noah said. While improving their basketball skills, the children are learning how to become “God’s love to their neighbors.” Kelly Crane reminded the kids in the transition between “team time” and practice that, “Team time is just as important as what you do upstairs on the court; we are teaching you how to be kind and compassionate—these are important life skills.”

Through their basketball program, SJJ is reaching children from a diverse, poor neighborhood and helping them to see that they are “the light of the Ten-year-old Teagan Morris practices defense with teammate Aries Noel. world.” 19

Primera IMU Jehovah Jireh embraces diversity in worship and outreach

Worship service at Primera IMU Jehovah Jireh.

has showed up for us throughout the week. We celebrate salvation, and the blessings of God done through the miracle work of the Holy Spirit. Justo Gonzalez says in his book Alabadle, Hispanic Christian Worship, “It is a celebration of the mighty deeds of God. It is a get-together of the family of God” (p. 20). We celebrate God in each other’s presence. Worship for Primera IMU Jehovah Jireh (Italics added) is always a multicultural and multiethnic experience of God’s Kingdom on Earth. All nationalities represented come to the house of God with great expectation that God will disclose Himself and abide among us, God’s people.

The congregation’s blend of first, second, and third-generation ethnic groups brings an interesting “Worship for Primera IMU Jehovah Jireh nuance to the worship experience at PIMUJJ. Our is always a multicultural and multiethnic worship is in both the English and Spanish language. experience of God’s Kingdom on Earth.” All ages and genders are intentionally integrated in our worship experience. Liturgical dance (mostly children and youth) is part of our worship. We use By the Rev. Dr. Alberto Lanzot the instruments that are particular to our cultures. Piano, conga, drums, guitar, bass, panderas, and our istorically, Buffalo is known as a diverse city where opportunities are available for all cultures hands; the rhythmic beats, the passion, and enthusiasm that we use to glorify God are part of our spiritual to come and thrive as the city embraces diversity. and cultural DNA. It is a Holy Spirit tool to unify us. When I think about how we are able to embrace Some of our Euro-American brothers and sisters visit diversity in our worship service at the congregation of Primera IMU Jehovah Jireh (PIMUJJ) in Buffalo, I am Jehovah Jireh and they always leave with an energetic experience. reminded that all ethnicities worship differently. Our common denominator is that we all worship God, through Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. At PIMUJJ, we are first, second and third- generation Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, Dominicans, and African Americans. Our worship style is not the same. In God’s transforming multiform and mysterious grace, we worship together to testify of what amazing things God is doing in our faith community. Photos courtesy of the Rev. Dr. Alberto Lanzot


Our worship service is a celebration of the mighty works that God in Christ Jesus, who is the ethnic weaver, has done in the midst of us. We celebrate each other and share through testimonies how God 20 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 1

The choir at Primera IMU Jehovah Jireh.

One of our Euro-American sisters from First North Tonawanda United Methodist Church (Millie) works with us during our Thanksgiving dinner, and has visited us on Sundays said, “I love worshipping with Jehovah Jireh UMC. I feel included in the worship and I leave feeling alive and motivated to serve Jesus.�

located on the Westside of Buffalo New York who worship on Tuesdays. Both are part of the worship experience of PIMUJJ. The focus of these New Faith Communities (NFCs) is the elderly community. At these two NFCs, we serve people from different ethnic groups, cultures, and religious traditions.

Our worship service includes reading of Scripture; our community of United Methodist believers carries their Bibles to church every Sunday. They follow the Old Testament, Psalms, and Gospel readings. Ministry of prayer takes place with the laying on of hands using anointing oil and testimonies. Inclusion of the children and the young people happens every Sunday, by song, dance, or playing an instrument. We embrace diversity in our worship service. Part of our worship experience includes our choir, which offers a more traditional way of worship for the firstgeneration folks. They are part of the 125 people who come to worship on Sunday at Jehovah Jireh. Embracing diversity in age and language, culture and theology is what Primera IMU Jehovah Jireh does every day of the life as the Church. Our extended ministry is another way of embracing diversity. Such ministries include two New Faith Communities

Primera IMU Jehovah Jireh embraces diversity through extended ministry . 21

Fairview UMC: A growing urban church By Blenda Smith


n urban church in a “changing” neighborhood— how many local churches in Upper New York Conference would fit that description? Fairview UMC in Binghamton, NY, is just that. We are also a growing church with baptisms, confirmations, and other new members in the last six to seven years. We don’t measure the strength of our beloved community with metrics. Rather, we have come to see so many opportunities to reach out to our neighbors with God’s love. We are not simply situated in the neighborhood; we are part of our neighborhood. We are in ministry with (not to) our local neighbors. That’s one secret to our congregational vitality and growth. People joining the church want to be part of something meaningful and beyond our building and Sunday morning services. Welcoming diverse community members of various races and socioeconomic levels is an important “culture” for our church members. We share our building with a Haitian congregation. Our street corner is a hub for meeting people in the neighborhood. We give prayers/ashes on Ash Wednesdays, hot soup on cold winter days (and at

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the laundromat as well), popsicles to school children as they walk home on the last day of school and again in September with invitations to Sunday School, and we share “Hear a Story – Take a Story” for children’s summer fun with free books to take home. Soon, we will offer an outside free book lending library. These are some ways we call out to the community that we have open hearts, open minds, and open doors.

Hot soup on the corner at Fairview UMC.

Photos courtesy of Blenda Smith

We are one block from an elementary school at which children have many basic needs. Teachers know our church is the school’s emergency shelter if a disaster occurs. In the winter, our Hat and Mitten [and socks and underwear] Tree, in the narthex from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, overflows with items from the congregation. The same happens in August with our Christmas in August Tree to supply the children (and teachers) with needed supplies to start the new school year successfully. Knowing the start of a new school year is important, we arrange for a cosmetology school to come and give free haircuts in our parking lot. We invite the Endicott Central UMC to bring a full truck from their Clothing Closet for children and parents to choose clothing for a fresh start to the school year. Summer time can be a challenge for working families. Arts, crafts, games, and snacks in the local park bring out not only children, but also, parents andchild caregivers. In some instances, we give a hand-up, namely our food pantry with no strings attached: come and have a bag of groceries (and prayers if desired). Monthly delicious home-cooked meals from scratch for up to 32 men at the local Rescue Mission Homeless Shelter. These are just some of our messages of caring. Last month, one of our members received a Hope Award from the Rescue Mission, namely, the “Faith Award” for his regular attendance and commitment to his faith journey at Fairview UMC.

Clothes for school children at Fairview UMC.

We continue to find ways to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our neighborhood. As new members come from suburbia as well as from our community ministries, people “feel” something special at Fairview UMC. Of course, we know it’s the Holy Spirit moving in the congregation and bubbling out of our building. This is living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and being God’s love with our neighbors. 23

My journey as pastor at Four Corners UMC around Thanksgiving. I was not well prepared for this appointment, at least in accordance with the world’s standards. However, there was a sense of belonging as soon as I walked in the door. It is true that God does not call the equipped, God equips the called. (Heb 13:20-21). It was October 1, 2012, when I had my first service at Four Corners. I restructured the service a little so that it was more in line with the Book of Worship and changed it so we celebrated communion every other week. We celebrate by intinction now so they didn’t have to wash those tiny cups every other week. I am still learning about the Seneca Nation, “Long House,” the “Thomas Indian School,” and the role the A Deo’ Shä’ Geh (Where friends meet) Church has played in the spreading of the Gospel to the Seneca Nation. Through all the things that the Church By Pastor David Rood has done, it is no wonder that the indigenous people


remember the first day I walked into Four Corners UMC when the District Superintendent notified them that I was getting appointed to their church. I was greeted with very friendly smiles and welcomes, which is the way that I would expect to be welcomed at any church. We talked and they gave me a bulletin and they informed me of the way their service was laid out. We sing “He Is Lord” as our Call to Worship in the Seneca language. We recite “The Lord’s Prayer” and we sing the “Doxology” in Seneca. I was given the Hymns in Seneca hymnal and they assured me that they would help me. Practicing with the Seneca Hymn Singers, which is an ecumenical group that practices at our church, has allowed me in the pronunciation of the language and also helped to understand it. Everything I knew about Native Americans I learned on TV, movies, and in elementary school 24 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 1

Fellowship and dining area where friendships and families grow.

of this land have termed Christianity as “White Man’s Religion.” In spite of what the early Church has done “in the name of God,” the Holy Spirit has managed to work through them or in spite of them and continues to do to this day. The Seneca struggle with the same things that we all do: financial challenges, divorce, drugs, alcoholism, and malnutrition are just a few of them. Four Corners is a small congregation and we appreciate the help that the UMC has sent to us through the offerings that our brothers and sisters in Christ share with us through the Native American Sunday offerings and the Committee on Native American Ministry (CONAM). Through CONAM, we are in the early stages of connecting with our Native American UM brothers and sisters in Christ at Hogansburg UMC and Onondaga UMC. As Christians, we all have the same struggles of keeping our membership up and being relevant to the areas we serve. However, our Native American Churches have the challenge of teaching that we are God’s children and that Jesus came into the world for everyone. One of the best things that we did at Four Corners is to combine our studies and special services with Versailles and Gowanda United Methodist churches. Our Churches understand that we are all equally loved by God through this journey of study and worship that we are taking together. Combining our Churches has been beneficial to all of our churches and our congregations.

Re-“Lent”-less Grace and “Advent”-ure gatherings with youth at Four Corners UMC.

and makes worship even better. They walk into our Gathering Hall, sit down and have coffee before the service, and we laugh and talk and have fellowship. It is the same as they do at Hamburg UMC and probably at your church as well.

Four Corners United Methodist Church is an awesome Church where all are welcomed and made to feel as though they belong. I believe you can sense the presence of the Holy Spirit when you walk in the door. If you come to our coffee hour and stay for worship, we will welcome you and help you to know that you belong here. So take a road trip some Sunday morning When our friends from Hamburg UMC come to and visit us at 8:30 a.m. for some coffee and snacks and Four Corners and visit on Sundays, it is great! I call it stay for worship. Every day is Native American Sunday at Four Corners UMC! Hamburg-er Helper because it helps fill the pews

Four Corners, Gowanda and Versailles UMC combined picnic and worship service. Photos courtesy of Pastor David Rood 25

Diversity and Social Media: Q & A with the Rev. Hannah Bonner and Sophia Agtarap The Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner is the Curator of The Shout, and the author of a curriculum released in 2016 from Abingdon Press, The Shout: Finding the Prophetic Voice in Unexpected Places. Through her work with The Shout, she labors to amplify “the cry” through a spoken-word poetry focused, arts & justice community that is putting words into action. For the past 18 months, she has been working on the ground in Waller County, Texas, to amplify the voice of activist Sandra Bland. In 2016, Hannah was recognized as one of the “16 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2016.” As a millennial, her social media advice is perfect for young adults in the UMC. Rev. H ann a

h B onn er

Sophia Agtarap is a transplant to the South from the West Coast. Her background in education and digital media has helped her be a shepherd of sorts to digital immigrants, and she enjoys working with diverse groups to help them better understand today’s communication tools and uses for ministry and outreach. She is currently works in communications and marketing for The Village--a new church start in Nashville, TN. Sophia

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A g t ar a


How can United Methodists use social media to educate others about racial injustices that are happening throughout the world? Sophia Agtarap: There are a number of UM orgs, non-profits, and NGOs who keep their audiences, congregations, and constituents abreast of what’s happening in their organization and with the work they are doing. I encourage organizations to use their social spaces to update people of current events, opportunities, and real-time updates. Sometimes we see our social media pages as spaces to solely promote our work, but so much of the social and racial justice work that we find ourselves a part of is intersectional. “We are not single-issue people, and there are no single issue struggles,” as Audre Lorde has said. Part of the beauty of social media is that hierarchies are flattened and we are able to lift one another up and put a spotlight on what’s happening beyond the four walls of our church and the boundaries of our geographic spaces. There is no harm done in sharing what our neighbors in similar organizations are doing—it does not diminish the work or ministry we are doing or promoting. Hannah Bonner: I think the key with this is to first ask yourself if you are on the receiving end of that information already. Are you “tuned in” so to speak. If you are not, you may want to follow some people on social media that are. If you don’t know where to start, you can follow me @HannahABonner—most of my activity on Twitter is amplifying people in all parts of the world who I am following by retweeting them. If you follow me, or others who do that, you will start to see these missives and can amplify them yourselves or share the information with your congregation. Once you are “tuned in,” the next important step is to figure out how to share these things with others. Just as you can get the information by following someone on Twitter, someone who is not on Twitter may be able to get the information by hearing you bringing it up in a Pastoral Prayer, announcements, or small group.

How can United Methodists use social media to develop a community of those who are passionate about social and racial justice? SA: Social media is very visual. One way UMs can use social media to develop a community of those passionate about social justice is to tell stories. Give people a glimpse into the vision, mission, and heart of whatever group or community you are trying to gather. A short, 30-second video, a compelling photo, or a story are all ways that we can make this work and ministry real. We sometimes miss the emotional connection that in-person relationships and gatherings can convey, so the question is how do we communicate the heart of what we’re about when a screen is the medium? But I always remind people that social media is social. Continue to find ways to connect online and off. Just because it starts online, doesn’t mean it has to end there. HB: Joining groups that talk about the issues, following people on Twitter and commenting on their posts so that you create the opportunity to engage is a start. Then use the strength that you gain from seeing others working around the world to motivate yourself to work in your own community. If you started off as the only person with your level of energy, commit to changing that. Make your discipleship a lifestyle and not just a hobby. (Continued on pg 28) 27

How can United Methodist churches help diverse communities to feel welcomed by the UM faith?

nities. Visit or for resources.

HB: The first question we should ask is: “what will they gain from connecting with our church?” Is this about our desire to appear diverse, or our desire to support others? Will they be safe? Will they be treated as a token so that the church can pat itself on the back? Or will they be uplifted as a child of God, their voices and experiences heard and believed, and their needs supported? We have to work on all these fronts: who we are, who we want to be, and who we need to be. When we get out of the church and into the streets, we will find out all the clues we need to know. We will find out how to fix the language on our website. We will find out the right hashtags to use. Yet, we have to get out of our pews and into the streets. Social media HB: As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We are not is a tool, it is not a replacement. Methodism was built to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the in the streets, the factories, the fields, the schools—we wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the must go there too. wheel itself.” We have to take a sincere interest in what people are experiencing and take action, not just Can you share some examples of churches or tell them it will be okay. We cannot afford to do as individuals you know whose celebration of diJeremiah warned us of, “They dress the wound of my versity and/or education about racial injustices people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ are commendable? they say, when there is no peace.” We have to be willSA: Christena Cleveland is one of my first go-tos ing to say the words, like #BlackLivesMatter - because they do, and we need to accompany our words with for things related to social/racial justice. Her website actions, like visiting someone in a local immigration de- is She can be found on Facebook at tention center and getting to know their story. Urban Village Chicago is also a great resource; check out their Fcebook page at: How can local churches reach diverse commu- uvchurch. nities that are not currently connected to their Glide Memorial from San Francisco is also an amazchurch through social media? ing example of celebrating diversity.Visit them on FaceSA: I encourage local churches to stay local in the book at ways they connect with what’s happening in their comHB: New Day (, munities. Become a part of the fabric of your communiArise (, Servant Church ty. Follow and join local blogs, forums, facebook groups. Let people know that you are there, you are present, (,Valley & Mountain Feland you are active in the online and offline commu- lowship ( are my favorite resources. SA: Again, I like to remind people that social media is a medium—it is a tool, but it is not the endgoal. So what we communicate on social—that we are welcoming, and accepting and loving—we must also communicate offline in our actions and in our words. Social media will not save us if what we do online is not congruent with what we do offline. The photos we use in our posts, the words we write, and the messages we share on video are all indicators of who we are. Find people to communicate those things who fully understand who you are as a community, and who are sensitive and aware of the struggles that marginalized communities are facing.

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How the Mizo population is able to worship God in their own language By John Vanlalpeka Ralte


irst of all, the Mizos people in Buffalo, NY, are from Myanmar (Burma). We were refugees and fled to Malaysia, Thailand, and India for some political reason. Most of us lived in these countries for decades. With the help of NGOs and the federal government, we resettled to the United States to start a new life. As far as our knowledge is concerned, the first Mizos who came to Buffalo were Mr. Chalthleng Thianga and family Even though we are very small in number, God loves in 2009. Some other Mizos came after that. Because us so much that his love binds us together like one there were not enough people at the time to form a happy family, and together we serve the Lord so happily. church, they had to join other churches. God blessed us far beyond our expectations when When Rev. Lalthuamluaia Ralte and family came to he made a way for us to be a part of the United Ontario Buffalo in February, 2011, he and the other Mizos had decided to form a new Church for the Mizos community. Methodist Church on July 12, 2014. We became the So, for the first time, a church called Buffalo Christian Buffalo Mizo Methodist Church. Church was formed on April 10, 2011. Members of the new Church increased rapidly, numbering 60 in all. However, some of our members had to go to other states in order to pursue new occupations, and Rev. Lalthlamuana and some other members also had to move to Indianapolis in July, 2012.

Even though we are part of the United Ontario Methodist Church, our need for having a separate congregation here in Buffalo lies in the fact that most of us Mizos are unable to speak English well. We are all very active and we are truly thankful to God and to the United Ontario Methodist Church. 29

How the Kairos Prison Ministry reaches a diverse population By George Herrick


any of the categories of diversity in our country such as: race, ethnicity, religion, sexual identity, economic status, age, and educational levels can be observed in the people mentioned in these familiar “I was” lines from the gospel of Matthew, “…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36). Focus with me on the very last “I was” listed; I was in prison. To give this group some dimension, read this recent comment made by U.S. Senator Corry Booker as published on the White House website, “[Our country is} home to the largest number of imprisoned people in the world….this is where we find our country today: The United States, founded on the basis of liberty and justice for all, suffers from that distinction.Twenty five percent of all imprisoned people on our planet are imprisoned right here in

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George Herrick

America.” In numbers, there are some 2.2 million people behind bars in the United States. That number includes representatives of all the groups mentioned in my list above. The majority of New York State’s prisons are in Upstate New York. The inmates in New York State are from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. According to a 2013 New York State Department

of Corrections and Community Supervision Report, about 24 percent of the inmates are white, 24 percent are Hispanic, about 50 percent are African American, close to one percent are Native American, close to one percent are Asian, and the remaining two percent identify themselves as an “other” race. To improve efforts at understanding this diversity in New York State priosns and to find ways to work with people who look different, have different social customs, and in many other ways are different than you or I am, I have joined a large group of men in the Kairos Prison Ministry. Many are familiar with The Walk to Emmaus or Chrysalis Flights (for high school youth). Kairos is similar in its organization and in many of its objectives in what is sometimes called “a Short Course in Christianity.” These three (Emmaus, Chrysalis and Kairos), along with other three-day movement experiences have their root in Cursillo, a program formed by a group of Catholic men in the early 1940s. If you were on an Emmaus weekend, the talks cover broad aspects of a Christian life; on a Chrysalis Flight, there are talks about married life and single life, subjects of great importance to those entering adulthood. In Kairos, we examine forgiveness more than the other programs. The Kairos Prison Ministry website points to one big objective of our program, “Bringing Light Into the Darkness of Prison.” A Kairos team is about 40 men, some clergy and most lay, joined with a near equal number of inmates; we call them residents. The program usually starts on a Thursday late afternoon with the introduction of each individual participant, both team members and new men. Following introductions, there will be time for prayer and meditation and a presentation describing what is going to happen on the weekend. The coffee pot is on almost all weekend and snack items are usually available for those in need. That’s the first night. On Friday, when the residents arrive they find they have been assigned a family group that they will be working with all weekend at a banquet table with three team members and five other residents. Friday and Saturday will be devoted to listening to a series of talks with family group discussion following, some time for chapel meditations, lots of singing, and meals at our family table or maybe in the prison mess hall. There are some breaks in the schedule allowing team and residents time to chat and stretch, another part of the effort at building a Christian community inside the prison.

Sunday, there will be more talks, chapel meditations, and meals all with an aim of bringing the weekend to a conclusion and to prepare for “the fourth day.” That’s all the time after the weekend when we put what we have experienced and learned into practice. You can learn more of the weekend details by going to the website:

The ministry does not end with the weekend. Members of our team return to the prison one night most weeks all year long for what we call a “prayer and share” gathering. We have been doing this since 1999. There are also special times during the year we may be invited to participate in a special family day when residents’ families are invited to come to the prison. That’s when we team members get to meet residents’ wives, girlfriends, parents, and even children. A great short video will show you an actual Kairos weekend at an Indiana facility. Look for it at: I encourage you to join a Kairos team. If there is not a Kairos program at maximum or medium-level prison facility near you, help organize one. Support the teams that are active. Invite an ex-offender (former inmate) to be a guest preacher or speaker at your church. Participate in discussion groups that are looking at prisons and the life of the people living and working there. Support community groups that are working to keep people out of jail and prison in the first place. Learn more about Kairos at 31

324 University Ave., 3rd Floor Syracuse, NY 13210

Journey to the Holy Land January 9-19, 2018

Join Bishop Mark J. Webb and his wife, Jodi Webb, on an 11-day trip to the Holy Land through Educational Opportunities Tours.

Learn more at: