Keeping you informed of happenings around the New York Conference, UCC.

Happenings Around Our Conference
My Thoughts

Rev. David Gaewski

I finished teaching another UCC Polity Class this past Saturday.  This was the first time I taught a completely online course. (I've taught "blended" classes for years.)  It is harder work to teach when body language is not obvious.  And while I believe I did establish community with the seven students, it is a new type of community for me.
During each Polity class I strive to provide a full picture of our UCC history, not just the wonderful "firsts", but also some of the chapters for which we should not be proud.  And when I review the actual polity I attempt to outline what works like clockwork, and what wheels are still squeaky.  As is typical of Polity classes today, all of the students chose the UCC as a new spiritual home.  And while they expressed their gratitude for a denomination like the UCC, we also discussed how it is good to continue to value what is the best aspects of the religious traditions from which they came.  It is clear to me that we need to create a liturgy in the UCC for those who are finding this denomination to be a new home, while still honoring the former places that have been a spiritual home.
At the end of each class it is my practice to close all the notes and to look my students in the eye and say: "And this is why I love the United Church of Christ:  I love a church that welcomed this Roman Catholic boy with the impossible last name to pronounce.  I love the women's fellowship that nurtured me and loved me as a young adult.  I love the church who's commitment to doing what is right (even when it irritates some) is not a 21 st century development, but rather a five hundred year journey.  I am so appreciative that we found our brand with "God Is Still Speaking" even though has been our practice of faith for centuries.  I love a church that knows it is not perfect, but is committed to improving itself all the time.  I love this flavor of Christian faith and continues to stand upon the rock that "Jesus Christ is the sole head of the church" even when those words do not sound modern (or post modern).  I LOVE the church that honors other Christian traditions and other faith practices and is quick to say "we have no market on the whole truth".  I love this church and despite the times it drives me crazy, I deeply appreciate it's faithfulness.

Rev. David R Gaewski, Conference Minister Twitter : @davidgaewski1
Donations, Prayers to Help
Flood Victims in Louisiana

As devastating floodwaters continue to rise in Southeastern Louisiana, and rescues continue after torrential rain, United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries is calling for prayer for the people affected, and monetary donations to help the survivors facing long-term recovery assistance.
"Monetary donations provide the most effective, efficient and versatile form of support for disaster survivors," said Zach Wolgemuth, executive for UCC Disaster Ministries.
This historic disaster, with 30 inches of rain in three days, has left 11 people dead, damaged more than 40,000 homes, sent more than 8,000 people to find shelter, with rescues up over 30,000.
President Obama has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, and the American Red Cross said more than 1,000 of its disaster volunteers have been mobilized from across the U.S. to help with relief efforts. 
"Sadly this event is just one in a string of major disasters over the past 12 months including but not limited to historic flooding in South Carolina, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma and now again in Louisiana," said Wolgemuth. He is directing people who want to help to the Emergency USA fund.
"UCC Disaster Ministries is well connected with the nation's most trusted and reputable disaster response and recovery organizations," Wolgemuth said. "We collaborate closely with organizations throughout the disaster response and recovery continuum but our focus is on long-term recovery namely because, during this phase, the needs often exceed resources. I would encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering to strongly consider supporting our ongoing efforts to help communities recover." A list of locations where volunteers are needed can be found  here.
The Rev. Mona Lopez, disaster assistance coordinator for the UCC South Central Conference said that she hasn't heard of any UCC churches in distress, but is still working on communication with folks in the area.

"We continue to monitor the situation," Wolgemuth said, "and will do our best to update information on the Disaster Ministries  website and the  OGHS Facebook page."

Freedom to Boycott Rally at the NY State Fair

The Freedom to Boycott Coalition will hold a rally on Governor's Day at the New York State Fair to protest Gov. Cuomo's executive order creating a blacklist of organizations that support boycott, divestment and sanctions as a tactic in the struggle for Palestinian rights. The rally will take place Aug. 25, 11am-1pm at the fairgrounds in Syracuse. Car pools are being organized around the state. Click here to RSVP.


Registration is now open for the:
Authorized Minister's Fall Retreat
on October 3-5, 2016

at Stony Point Retreat Center,
Stony Point, NY
The theme of the event is: 
"Authenticity & Vulnerability in Ministry"
Presenters are:
Rev. Holly Miller-Shank and Rev. Dani Loving Cartwright.
For more information and to register please click here.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: Ideas for Rally Day and Beyond
Many churches cut back on programming and educational offerings during the summer, so when it's time to get back to normal routines, they celebrate with special activities to welcome everyone back. This is usually the first day of Christian Education offerings, a return to the regular worship time, and the return of the church choir. It's traditionally been called Rally Day but might also be referred to as Welcome Back Sunday, Homecoming Sunday, or Kick Off Sunday. You can visit the Congregational Library & Archives website to read about the history of Rally Day.
Intergenerational activities that might take place on Rally Day include a special meal, such as breakfast before worship or a church picnic afterwards. There may also be ceremonies, often in the worship service, commissioning teachers and other Christian Education leaders, as well as promoting children to new grade levels. Some churches may also present third grade students with Bibles. The Presbyterian Church of Canada offers a litany for Commissioning Church Educators; there is also one for Commissioning Sunday School Teachers from the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church offers Worship Resources for Promotion Sunday and Rally Day, as well as an Order for the Presentation of Bibles to Children.
Another idea for Rally Day which is growing in popularity and may be used for evangelistic outreach is blessing children's backpacks. The Building Faith website includes an article called Blessing of the Backpacks: 6 Tips for Success which also includes links to prayers and liturgies.
There are plenty of online ideas for themes and activities for Rally Day, such as these from Kidology. You can also do a search on Pinterest using "Rally Day Sunday School Ideas" or something similar.  
Rally Day this year may take a serious turn, as in many churches it will fall on September 11, 2016, and a remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001 may be part of the service. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, September 11 will be their dedicated day of service called "God's work. Our hands. Sunday."
Some are calling for a new kind of Rally Day, such as described in this post from a few years ago on Jan Edmiston's A Church for Starving Artists blogsite. Jan states that "If we hope to be a 21st Century Church, let's re-think Rally Day..." She suggests that Rally Day could be a community appreciation for First Responders, a community service event, or an opportunity to go out to meet with the community where they gather.
Don't forget that Rally Day and Christian Education programs are not just for children and youth. Be sure to address the needs of your adults and offer a variety of studies. New studies for 2016 include a shorter version of the 33 session Disciple Bible Study called Disciple Fast Track, which has two separate 12 week components on the Old and New Testaments. Adam Hamilton, well known for his balanced and relevant DVD studies, has a new study out called Half Truths: "God Helps Those Who Help Themselves" and Other Things the Bible Doesn't Say. A new resource from the United Church of Christ is Glory: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianityby Emily C. Heath; a free downloadable Reading Group Guide is available for the book for either three or twelve sessions. The PC(USA) store of the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently published Mike Slaughter's The Christian Wallet: Spending, Giving, and Living with a Conscience. A free downloadable Stewardship Study Guide for the book is available. Church Publishing of the Episcopal Church has released Pilgrim: A Course for the Christian Journey , a teaching and discipleship series for inquirers and new Christians.

Faith for a Fair NY 2016 Conference
September 25-27, Syracuse

New Yorkers of all faiths are compelled by our traditions to seek justice. How do we do so faithfully and effectively in a time of increasing inequality, poverty and ideological division?
Over three days of presentations, workshops, and small group reflection, we will:
  • Build connections with other justice-seeking New Yorkers from different regions and faiths
  • Build knowledge of issues and movements through a moral/faith-rooted lens
  • Build the capacity to do justice work through skills training and strategic reflection
  • Be energized and inspired to continue working for justice - or to get involved for the first time
Sacred Conversations on Race: Next Steps

Justice and Witness Ministries Coordinator Rev. Emily McNeill is looking to coordinate reading/discussion groups in each association to further the conference's engagement on issues of racism and white privilege. Are you interested in learning more or getting involved? Contact Emily at .

Time to Order Your Fall Curriculum and Faith Formation Resources

We interrupt your summer with a very important message.

Don't forget to order your Fall Curricula.

Thank you. Please resume your summer.

For more information and to order Click Here
August 26-28 in Indianapolis

¡Missionworks! is an experience for pastors, mission board members, and anyone interested in global mission to connect with the global work of the church. Over the weekend of  Aug. 26-28  in Indianapolis you will find out how to build on your congregation's existing passion for mission and receive tools for sharing about God's mission in the world.  For more information go to 

Staff Preaching Schedule

Rev. Dr. Marsha Williams
August 28 - Binghamton Eastside
September 11 - First Congregational, Phoenix

Rev. David R Gaewski
September 18 - Epiphany UCC, Clarence Center
September 25 - Park Avenue Christian, Manhattan
Rev. Dr. Marjorie Purnine
August 28:  Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse
September 18:  Homer Congregational Church, UCC
Opportunities for Education
Registration for Theology and Family Systems Courses Ends Next Week

Two of NYSOM's web-conferenced courses are beginning in September.
Registration for:
Steve Johnson's  Introduction to Christian Theology, a required course for the Christian Leadership Program, ends on August 24.

We're also offering Family Systems and Pastoral Leadership with Wayne Gustafson, which will provide pastors with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of their congregation's characteristic responses to the inevitable challenges and crises of life and to hone their leadership skills. An audit provides 20 hours of continuing education! The registration deadline for Family Systems is August 26.

For more information and to register, click here.

Global Missionary Available to Speak

The Rev. Judy Chan, who has served with Global Ministries for 22 years will be available to speak to congregations and groups around the New York Conference from Saturday, Oct. 22-Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Western/Central Region: Oct. 22 - Nov. 1
Metro Area: Nov. 2-9 

Judy serves with the Hong Kong Christian Council, as a communications Specialist in charge of Ecumenical Broadcasting Ministry and Editor of English publications and speaks fluent Cantonese.  She has a powerpoint with pictures of her work and enjoys meeting with small groups.    

If you would like to schedule Judy or have questions, contact Kay Woike at:; 716-834-9781

News from Our Committees
Stewardship Committee

So all the things the Conference staff does sound great, what's the problem? 
Remember the question I asked three weeks ago; do you know how much your church gives to OCWM?  Here are some figures as you think about the answer to that question.
In 2015 OCWM contributions ranged from $20 to $36, 000, and the amount of the contributions has no relationship to the size of the congregation.
In the New York Conference 90% of OCWM giving stays here to support the work of the Conference. 
Last year 174 churches contributed $636,746 to OCWM; $573,062 stayed in the NY Conference.
In 2017 the OCWM goal is $650,000, which represents 49% of the total Conference income.
Next year 29% of the total income comes from other sources including individual donations to Covenant Share and Friends of the Conference.
In 2017 22% or approximately $330,000 will have to come from investments, and program expense will need to be cut to balance the budget.  This is not sustainable!
Remember; OCWM starts with the local Church, your church!  So how do we close the budget gap?

  This fall's stewardship webinars:
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
7:00 to 8:00 PM Eastern
Leader: Grace Duddy Pomroy

You can always call me or email me with Stewardship questions

Support the New York Conference
Covenant Share

Covenant Share is the Special Offering approved by the New York Conference in 2013. This offering can be taken up any time during the year. Covenant Share is to be received in the manner as One Great Hour of Sharing and Neighbors in Need. The Covenant Share Offering makes possible ministries specific to the United Church of Christ in New York.

Click to Learn More and Support:
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Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the  New York Conference of United Church of Christ  whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.
AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. Same products, same prices, same service.

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Make your contribution to the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ today.

Join Us in Ministry:
What's Happening at Your Local Church?

Do you have an item of news that you would like to share throughout the New York Conference? Please email our Communications Coordinator at and send the details - preferably with links and pictures!
Please note that the New York Conference does not publish news related to fundraisers.
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