Finger Lakes District E-Newsletter  January 21, 2020

Welcome to the Finger Lakes District  e -Newsletter! Please share this with church members and staff, teams and organizations. We hope that you will find this a useful resource as we work to promote the missions, ministries and events of the Finger Lakes District. 
May you have a blessed week!
Your friends at the Finger Lakes District Office,
Rev. Jeffrey McDowell, District Superintendent
            Pam Deckard, Administrative Assistant

Please contact the office email: or phone (315-781-0188) and your messages will be responded to.   
From Superintendent Jeff McDowell

Dear Friends and Members of the churches of the Finger Lakes District: Grace to you in Christ, who calls us all into service for the world!

Much is changing in our church. Some weeks it seems as difficult to keep up with the changes as with U.S. politics! In this time of change, we must remember our spiritual grounding, as stated in Psalm 46:1 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." One old hymn refers to "fighting without and fears within," pointing us to the fact that strife and pain are not new, but hope is found in Jesus Christ, especially for His church.

In May our General Conference will meet, and the potential to change or split as a denomination seems highly likely (CLICK HERE for more info) . No one seems to know the future structure or ramifications of this coming conference. Considering the unsure ground we may be standing on, our Bishop and cabinet, the conference leadership team and executive staff have been working on a plan to best navigate the next year. This past Saturday, it was announced by Bishop Webb to all twelve Superintendency Committees, that District Superintendents will serve in larger Regions, reducing the number of Superintendents from 12 to 9. Three superintendents who are cycling off the cabinet will not be replaced this year. We will retain 12 Districts and 12 district offices. I will be serving in the Southern Tier region, and my office will be in the Mountainview district. That region will include Cornerstone, Binghamton, Mountainview and Oneonta. I will work closely with DS's Nancy Adams and Suzanne Block.

The Finger Lakes will be supervised by nearby superintendents Rev. Nola Anderson (Crossroads District), Rev. Vonda Fossitt (Genesee Valley District) and Rev. Carlos Rosa Laguer (Niagara Frontier District). Every church will have one superintendent assigned to it. This link will take you to the official announcement on our conference website: CLICK HERE 

Although this change is substantial for us particularly, please hold all this in prayer. I believe, with God's help, we will get through this time of transition and keep our eyes on Christ. More details of how this change will affect our district and churches will be shared over the next few months. But in all this let us remember that God is with us, and we have the gifts and fruits of God's Holy Spirit to live faithfully together. Specifically, I am looking for mature Christians to show their best selves in all manner of conversation, action and prayer. This is not a time to blame and shame each other in Christ's church for having differing points of view; diversity is our blessing! This is a time to gather for prayer, for holy conversation and for mutual support across all divisions we create. May fear give way to trust and may we all be channels of God's peace.

In Christ's love,

Jeffrey (Peacemaker) McDowell
The next edition of this eNewsletter comes out on February 4, 2020.  To submit an item for the newsletter, please have it to the district office 5-7 days before the post date.   Thank you.
Learn More About  General Conference

The General Conference meets once every four years. This year the conference will be held May 5 through May 15 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The elected delegates meet to worship, pray, and conduct legislative work.  Get answers to some of your questions regarding General Conference 2020.  Just  click here
EZRA (Statistics) Site Open

The Ezra site (  is open for entry of 2019 local church statistical data. The deadline for 2019 local church statistical data entry is Saturday, Feb. 15.  Your user name and password is the church's GCFA #.   If you have questions, or you need to have your password re-set, please contact me in the District Office, (315) 781-0188 or at
IMPORTANT!   All churches are receiving a payroll audit from CHURCH MUTUAL for 2019. Please fill it out and return it. It is required.  Even though the insurance is changed for 2020, the payroll audit is for 2019. Kindly take care of this vital, required information. Do Not Discard/Ignore It.
Please Note:

When there are changes in the names, addresses, phone numbers, and  e-mail addresses  for you, and/or any of your committee chairs, please email the  district office with the changes. Thank you  
DS Calendar is always changing; for best way to reach me please contact the office)

Jan. 21-23             Cabinet meetings
Jan. 24                   Day Off
Jan. 26                   Preach at Ovid worship, Annual Meeting
Jan. 27                   Planning Day
Jan. 28-30            Office
Jan. 29                   Red Creek Leader meeting
Jan. 31                   Day Off
Feb. 2                    Preach McGraw
Feb. 3-5                Cabinet meetings
Feb. 6                    DCOM, possible Cabinet
Feb. 7                    Day Off
Feb. 9                    Preach Newark Emmanuel
Feb. 10                  Pastor Leadership Class
Feb. 11-19           Wesley Heritage Tour, England

  DS Preaching twice a month, only by invitation of each church
Feb. 2                    McGraw
Feb. 9                    Newark Emmanuel
Mar. 15                 Cayutaville         
Mar. 22                Lansing
Apr. 19                  Geneva
Apr. 26                  Wolcott
OUTWARD! Registration now open

OUTWARD! will be held Friday-Sunday, March 13-15, 2020 at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool.

OUTWARD!, as the names suggests, is a retreat that focuses on an outward expression of God's love. Youth groups will have an opportunity to get a taste for mission work by going on short excursions away from the hotel in which this event is hosted. During this event, youth groups will have more opportunities to do things together, and work towards creating a God-like community around them.

The cost of the event: $70 per person (youth or adult), which covers the registration and includes a YSF T-Shirt. This cost does not include meals. There are many options available locally. Hotel Rooms are $115 per room per night (up to five people per room). There is a $10 cost for a rollaway for the weekend. The number of rollaways is limited, so it is first come-first served.

Click here for registration details. 
VIM Focusing on Recent Flooding in the Rome/Utica Area 
The UNY Conference's Volunteers in Mission (UNY VIM) are looking for ERTs and others to help in the disaster relief efforts. UNY VIM is currently focusing on the Rome/Utica area and has established a semi-command post with the Red Cross and other agencies to center their planning/dispatch and overnight accommodations. Not only do they have a place to sleep, but also, the Red Cross is providing food and showers. 
Click here  to register to help so that the on-site team can create a plan and contact you.
A Word from John Wesley's Journal upon arrival in Georgia, USA, 1736, February

Friday, 6.-About eight in the morning, we first set foot on American ground.  It was a small uninhabited island, over against Tybee.  Mr. Oglethorpe led us to a rising ground where we all kneeled down to give thanks.  He then took boat for Savannah.  When the rest of the people were come on shore, we called our little flock together to prayers.

Saturday, 7.-Mr. Oglethorpe returned from Savannah with Mr. Spangenberg, one of the pastors of the Germans.  I soon found what spirit he was of and asked his advice with regard to my own conduct.  He said, 'My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions.  Have you the witness within yourself?  Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?'  I was surprised, and knew not what to answer.  He observed it and asked, 'Do you know Jesus Christ?'  I paused and said, 'I know He is the Saviour of the world.'  'True,' replied he; 'but do you know He has saved you?'  I answered, 'I hope He has died to save me.'  He only added, 'Do you know yourself?'  I said, 'I do.'  But I fear they were vain words.

Insurance Carrier Changed to Brotherhood Mutual

Last week, the UNY Board of Trustees sent a letter to all churches in the UNY Conference to inform them of the plan to change the Conference's insurance carrier from Church Mutual to Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. Click here to read the letter. This change becomes effective January 1, 2020.
The Upper NY Local Pastors Licensing School for 2020 is as follows:
Date:  April 19-25, 2020
Location:  Camp Casowasco, Moravia, NY
Arrival time:  Welcoming will begin at 4:15 on the 19th, dinner will be served at 5:30

On-line registration availability will be set up at the appropriate time.
If interpreter is required please inform me as soon as possible.
Caroline Simmons
Safe Sanctuaries Minimum Standards

The Minimum Standards have been established by the Upper New York Annual Conference for all ministries. They are not inspirational, but set minimum standards to protect children, youth, and vulnerable adults from abuse and exploitation. Without exception, these standards apply to all local churches/charges, district and annual conference ministries, and those who serve within. Click here for more information. 
Click here  to go to UNYAC safe sanctuary information.  
Background Checks - will be conducted every two years.

Click here  to learn more about background checks and for information on the Trusted Employees services, a corporate partner of Church Mutual. 
  Use Facebook to Donate to the HUB

Donate to the Upper New York Conference in a safe and secure way through Facebook using your credit/debit card. All donations, minimum $5.00 up to $100,000, are tax deductible and 100% of the profits go back to UNY. Right now, donations are earmarked for the UNY HUB "Hands of Jesus Around the World" hygiene kit campaign. For every donation, a new hand is added to the globe. A red hand signifies a donation of $500 or more. Each UMCOR-approved kit costs $12.00 to assemble and includes toothpaste and postage. Click here to donate through Facebook  and click here to learn more.
Download the latest issue of the  Bridge
The latest issue II of the  Bridge is now available for download. It is available in both color and black & white formats.   Click here to select the version you prefer and make copies as necessary. This issue focuses on ways to celebrate Pentecost at home and also informs readers about the meaning of Peace with Justice Sunday.
The  Bridge is a communications tool designed for local churches to stay connected to each other and to the ministries taking place around the Upper New York Conference and The United Methodist Church. The newest volume will be listed at the top of the web page, with older volumes below. The  Bridge is designed to be handed out in worship, as a church bulletin insert, or as a standalone item. If you have questions or are unable to make copies, please contact .
The  Bridge is a bi-monthly publication from September-May and for the months of June-August, the  Bridge is published during the week prior to the third Sunday of the month. 
New Direct Bill Arrearage Policy - Effective 1/1/2020 (Impacts full-time benefits eligible pastors)
The Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits has approved a new arrearage policy that could have an impact on your benefits if you/your church carry an arrearage on your direct bill.
          Currently, if you/your church has an arrearage on your direct bill, you likely receive notification from the Conference Office, your DS or both asking you to contact the Conference office to make payment arrangements. Some contact us; many do not.
           How is this new policy different and why did the Board establish it?
Since the one-time arrearage forgiveness from the Board a few years ago, the total accumulated amount of direct bill's, UNPAID is $787,673.04. This is money that is supposed to be used to pay premiums to Wespath for your benefits. As a result of these arrearages, the CBOPHB has to pay Wespath at the end of the year out of the investment accounts. Unpaid direct bills accompanied by increasing benefit costs has not only resulted in increasing cost to the church and personal premiums from your paychecks, the Board has to continue to look at the sustainability of benefits and ways we can work together with you, so future benefits are not jeopardized for active clergy (or for current/future retiree's).
The new policy outlines the process, which now involves Wespath, as well as consequences (while active and potentially into retirement) for ongoing non-payment.
         As always, we are here to care for those who serve God and God's Kingdom. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your ministry.    CLICK HERE for full letter.        Susan Latessa, Director of Human Resources and Benefits.
New Federal W-4 Tax Form for 2020

Effective January, 1, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) redesigned the Federal W-4 Tax Form which instructs employers how much tax to withhold.   The redesign is a result of the changes to the federal tax code from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect in 2018. 

The new federal W-4 tax form is meant to be a more accurate paycheck withholding for employees. The new form uses dollar amounts to represent credits allowed for qualified dependents instead of allowances/exemptions. CLICK HERE for the new federal W-4 tax form. CLICK HERE for more information.

Group Ruling on Tax Status

United Methodist Churches are classified as 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. 

Your church may need to prove this status to various organizations. They will be looking for your tax ID and a copy of the Group Ruling Letter. General Conference on Finance and Administration (GCFA) has automated the process for obtaining this letter.
Click here  to request a copy for your church from the legal department of GCFA. You will need to provide your church's name, address, Employer Identification Number (EIN), and approximate charger date.
Contact GCFA Legal Services Department at  with additional questions.
Episcopal Candidate Nominations Process Extended

Due to a low number of nominations, the delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conferences has decided to reopen the Episcopal candidate nominations process to invite additional candidates to be nominated. The delegation wants to specifically encourage the nomination of people of color and clergywomen. Click here to read a letter from Carmen FS Vianese, head of the UNY delegation, and the Rev. William A. Mudge. 
  Clergy Tax Exemptions information
Clergy who own their homes may be eligible for a tax exemption. For more information, and the Exemption Application Forms, please 
United Methodist Men's Chili Cook-Off 

UMM and Men's Groups throughout the Upper New York Annual Conference are invited to participate in, and/or attend the Annual Chili Cook-Off from 6 to 8pm on January 24, 2020. The event will be held at Manlius UMC located at 111 Wesley St, Manlius, New York 13104.

The Chili Cook-Off offers Methodist Men from the region an opportunity to share their culinary skills and enjoy Christian Fellowship while also learning more about our community. All men are welcome and encouraged to attend. Those that would like to compete in the challenge should bring a crock pot full of their best chili to be sampled. Prizes will be awarded to the top chilis and possibly the worst. If you plan to compete in the challenge please send an email to Harry Hale at so that we can have a place ready for your entry.

The featured speaker at the event will be Colleen Merced, Executive Director of the McMahon-Ryan Child Advocacy Center. The McMahon-Ryan Child Advocacy Center's Mission is dedicated to ending child abuse in our community, through prevention, intervention, and education by facilitating a coordinated multidisciplinary team approach, meeting the needs of children and families. A free-will offering will be taken at the event to benefit the Center. Please join us in making this the best Chili Cook-Off to date. Contact: Harry Hale, Manlius UMC Men's Group Phone: 315-380-0774 Email: 
Lyons UMC and the Hertzog Scholarship Fund

The Lyons UMC has money available through the Hertzog Scholarship Fund to help individuals who are pursuing studies to become full or part time ministers. For guidelines please go to our Website: for instruction on how to apply. All questions should be submitted to The Hertzog Scholarship Committee Email: Deadline is April 15th.
Annual Conference Information

On December 10, 2019 the UNY Annual Conference Sessions team met to continue their work of planning for the 2020 session of the Upper New York Annual Conference. Several important decisions were made related to special offerings and fees to cover meals and other amenities.
Click here for more details on special offerings and fees
Petitions and resolutions will need to be submitted to by February 3, 2020 for inclusion in Vol. 1 of the Upper New York Conference Journal. Items not submitted by this date will only be available on the Annual Conference App and on the Conference website.
As we get closer to Annual Conference, continue watching Conference and District communications channels for the latest information about the 2020 session.

NYS Minimum Wage Increasing on Dec. 31, 2019

Employers in the Upper New York Conference, regardless of number of employees, must pay non-exempt employees minimum wage. The minimum wage will continue to increase annually until it meets $12.50/hour on Dec. 31, 2020. Future increases after 2020, will be determined by the New York State (NYS) Director of Budget in consultation with the NYS Commissioner of Labor and will be announced on or before October 1 each year.
An updated NYS Minimum Wage poster must be posted at your work site for your employees to see by Dec. 31, 2019. Once it is available, the Conference office will post it on our Church Employer web page under Employment Law Compliance and Posters .  
If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Rickett, Human Resources Generalist, at (315) 898-2017 or  


February 5th, 2020 from 3-5 P.M. at Newfield UMC.
This training is presented by Lt. Jeremy Zigenfus and Deputy Karl Bowers of the Tompkins County Sheriff's Department. All organizations are encouraged to attend.

This training is not intended to scare anyone but is intended to prepare people in the event of a true situation. Houses of worship are becoming a target. Around 100 people have died from shootings at churches at houses of worship since 2017. The reality is we must be prepared.
Call Pastor Mike Kelly at 607-220-7873 to reserve your spot.

EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (EAP) information. (also new number for 2020)
This year, if you or a family member find yourself going through a tough time, you can speak privately with a specialist 24/7 to help with everything from relationship concerns to trouble sleeping or stress. More good news? There's just one number to call for any question that comes up - our new number is below.
Through your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you can get up to eight counseling sessions per issue per year. Connect with caring support, as part of your HealthFlex benefits, for things like:
*              Stress, anxiety, depression
*              Workplace or relationship concerns
*              Finding the right therapist or psychiatrist for you
*              Child and eldercare support
*              Dependency issues, like alcohol, tobacco or drugs
Call EAP
1-866-881-6800, TTY 711
Available 24/7.
What to expect:
  • No extra cost
  • EAP services are included as part of your HealthFlex benefits.
  • Confidentiality
  • All services are confidential in accordance with the law*.
  • Family support
  • Connect with help for you and your covered family members.
  • 24/7 online resources
  • Get help balancing work and life on using access code: HealthFlex
Cady Grant applications available

Applications for the Ercil Cady Grant are available now through Jan. 31, 2020. Grant(s) of up to $5,000 may be awarded to individual United Methodists, local UM churches, or UNY District and Conference ministry teams. As directed by the originator of the Ercil Cady Grant, priority shall be given to educational proposals that benefit minority groups or individuals. Click here for more information.
Workshop Available: Three Ways to Engage Your Community
On Tuesday evening, Feb. 11, Rev. Dana Horrell will lead a workshop at Canandaigua United Methodist Church "Three Ways to Engage Your Community."  Address: 100 N Main St., Canandaigua.

The workshop will take place from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.  Its purpose is to introduce tools that church leaders can use to reach out to the community in service and dialogue. Those three ways include 1) Learning more about your community through surveys, mapping, and interviews, 2) Starting or restarting a service project, and 3) Deliberating together to overcome divisiveness about important social issues.

The event is free. It is sponsored by the Social Holiness team of the Upper New York Conference. For more info or to register go to or call Rev. Horrell at 315-439-9154.

In addition to serving as pastor of Cooperstown United Methodist Church, he is Co-editor of The Parish Paper (  This workshop is based on his book, Engage!: Tools for Ministry in the Community, which was published by Fortress Press last year.   
How Do I connect?

Denominational Website: The United Methodist Church
District Website: Finger Lakes District 
If you would like to subscribe to this e-newsletter, please send your email address to:
Finger Lakes District
of the Upper New York Conference

Rev. Jeffrey McDowell , District Superintendent
Pam Deckard, Administrative Assistant

12 North Park St., Suite 11
Seneca Falls, NY 13148  
Office:  315-781-0188     efax: +1-315-282-2367 
 click here for: Finger Lakes District Map