Dear Albany Synod Friends,

The coronavirus is still among us. Many of us know folks who have tested positive in recent days, or perhaps we have contracted Covid-19 ourselves. 
 
Even though it’s difficult, I believe the time has come for all of us Albany Synod church leaders to consider this question: what are our benchmarks for deciding to return to virtual worship? Do we wait until directed to do so by the governor? Or will we base our decision on our own evaluative process?
 
I urge all Albany Synod consistories to have the conversation about benchmarks, and soon. Between the upcoming holidays, college students returning home, and a tsunami of cases around the country, I’m afraid our numbers in New York will continue to rise in the near future. 
 
I hear many of Albany Synod’s churches have just returned to indoor, in-person worship within the past few weeks. The weather is growing colder, and people are tired of being apart. Perhaps your church worked hard to develop policies and procedures to keep people safe. Perhaps you’re requiring folks to pre-register to reserve a seat, to wear masks, sit six feet apart, and you’ve paused singing. Only you can decide whether it’s a good idea to continue gathering in person with these precautions, or to move to a virtual format, as cases continue to rise around the state. 
 
Worried about how to manage these hard conversations? Here is a resource from the Albany Synod Mediation Team, a process to guide difficult conversations about whether to meet in person or by other means.

And here is a resource on recognizing and managing feelings at a time of high anxiety:
From Anxious Reactivity to Faithful Response, by Sherri and Mike Meyer-Veen. This document and its solitude guide can be used for personal reflection or at consistory.

If I can be of any other assistance to you, please reach out. 
Abby Norton-Levering, Albany Synod Ministries Coordinator

How ARE You? A Survey

We know that your ministry may look very different right now than it did a year ago. The Regional Synod of Albany Executive Committee and the Synod Ministries Board invite you to participate in this brief survey to let us know how you're doing. We long to celebrate with you, grieve with you, pray specifically for you, and offer our support. The answers that you provide in this survey will help us do just that. Thank you for taking a few moments to respond.


News from Churches Learning Change

As we continue to navigate a pandemic, many are saying that their Faithwalking and Churches Learning Change work are invaluable resources that have immensely assisted them during these difficult times. Also, many are noting their congregations leadership teams have been occupied with planning and re-planning conversations and have not had a chance to consider next steps of involvement with Churches Learning Change. 

Therefore, we are extending the deadline for participation in the next round until February 2021! There is still time to join in! Churches that have already signed on for the next round, or sign on by January 1 receive a free “extra” Faithwalking course for the entire team! Teams are encouraged to keep going with their Faithwalking work in between CLC sessions.

Churches Learning Change also has a new website full of resources, including videos from participants. 
Check it out at www.churcheslearningchange.com.

Questions? Would you like someone to come talk to your leadership team? Contact Sherri Meyer-Veen, PastorSherriMV@gmail.com or any other member of the leadership team.


What is Faithwalking? 
In the video below, Linda from Scotia shares some of her journey while answering that question. 
While all of our in-person retreats this fall needed to be cancelled, we have had several online opportunities continue. Faithwalking Foundations introduces the Faithwalking process in six modules which are ten weeks each, 1.5 hours a week, and all include content, homework and coaching. We are also continuing the core four, original Faithwalking courses. Two Foundations modules (1 & 4) are just finishing. A Faithwalking 202 has just begun, and we are about to embark on our first fully online Faithwalking 101. We will be launching several Foundations offerings to begin in January, stay tuned for registration information. 
Offering from the Reformed Church Center

Understanding Theological Education in the RCA colloquies reflect on what theological education has been in the RCA and what it could be. For our third session, on Tuesday, November 17, we will discuss women in RCA theological education. Until the 1970s, women were not ordained to offices in the Reformed Church in America. It has only been the last forty-one years that the idea of women ministers of the Word and Sacrament have been acknowledged in the church order. But that doesn’t mean women weren’t involved in theological education before that, nor does it address how such an idea has been accepted since then. Our discussion will reflect on the past and present of women in RCA theological education, and maybe speculate on what the future could be and how it could happen.

Lynn Japinga is a professor of religion at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and was the 2019-2020 Hazel B. Gnade Fellow in RCA Women’s Studies at NBTS. An RCA minister of the Word and Sacrament, she holds degrees from Hope, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Union Theological Seminary in New York. In addition to her teaching at Hope, Lynn has been a prolific author of books, articles and resources for the church, and a busy preacher, teacher, and workshop leader. Most recently, she is the author of Loyalty and Loss: The Reformed Church in America, 1945-1994 and Preaching the Women of the Old Testament: Who They Were and Why They Matter.

Elizabeth (Liz) Testa is a pastor, visionary leader, community builder, and sister in Christ. She currently leads RCA Women’s Transformation and Leadership, a ministry that encourages, equips and empowers women to embrace their gifts, honor their stories and live into their God-given callings. Prior to joining the RCA staff in 2014, she spent 12 years on staff at Marble Collegiate Church in NYC. Raised bi-culturally in New York and Spain, with degrees from Syracuse University and Drew University Theological School, Liz is passionate about building bridges between diverse cultures and contexts and is certified in Unconscious Bias Training through the Cultural Intelligence Center (CIC). She lives with her husband, Nick, a NYC high school teacher, and their two teenage daughters in South Orange, NJ.

Liz and Lynn will each present, briefly, looking at the history of women in RCA theological education and where we are now, after which we will have time for questions and discussion.

This is a free program, but participants must REGISTER HERE
  to take part.



Albany Synod School of Ministry

This winter the School of Ministry will be offering Systematic Theology taught by Dr. Matthew van Maastricht. This class is open to all and is a required for those seeking to become commissioned preaching elders.

Course description: Christians are called to love God with their hearts and their minds. These go together, and we cannot neglect either one or the other. This course helps us to grow in our ability to love God with our minds. Beginning with Creation to the Final Consummation and everything in between, this course surveys the major doctrines in Christian theology. In doing so, we learn from the long history of Christian theology, with a particular emphasis on the Reformed tradition, to connect the faith of the church to the lived experience of the church today. 

Instructor: Matthew van Maastricht is the pastor at Altamont, New York. He is a Fellow of the Reformed Church Center at New Brunswick Theological Seminary and an adjunct in Reformed Church Studies at New Brunswick, teaching the Reformed confessions and church polity. Matthew is pursuing a PhD at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and regularly presents on the Reformed confessions, Reformed Church history, and church polity. 

Registration: The Systematic Theology course begins January 12, 2021 and concludes March 9 from 7 PM to 10 PM via Zoom videoconferencing. Registration and payment ($300) are requested by December 31.

 For full registration information contact: Sandy Cornwell, School of Ministry Administrator at crccsandy@gmail.com.
Giving Thanks

The Albany Synod gives thanks to all the congregations and individuals who have supported our ministries so faithfully and generously during this year. It has been a difficult year for everyone as we’ve all had to adjust and adapt our worship and ministry services. Thanks to your ongoing support we’ve been able to make those adjustments successfully.
As in past years, contributions for Albany Synod for 2020 will continue to be accepted through January 15, 2021.


SMB Grants Can Help

As the church considers when, how, and if regathering in person for worship is safe, you may need things to do so. The Synod Ministries Board offers grants for up to $1000 for new endeavors in Revitalization, Discipleship, and Mission. As the practical and physical considerations of ministry change, you are invited to apply for grant support.

The process is easy.
  1. Check out the application. It's on the website in two forms.
  2. Work with your committee or consistory to answer all the questions.
  3. Get approval for this grant from your consistory and your classis. If you don't know what the process of approval is for your classis, check with your clerk. This double endorsement for the grant request is in keeping with our polity in how churches communicate with the Regional Synod.
  4. Send the completed grant requisition to rsa.comscoordinator@gmail.com. This happens when you hit "submit" on the Google Doc and no further action is necessary. If you're using the downloaded form from the website, simply scan (or photograph) the completed pages and email them as at attachment.
  5. Your grant will then be considered by a small committee of SMB members. They read every grant, discuss, ask questions, get clarification, and ultimately approve the request. We want to disperse grant money.
  6. The approved grant gets emailed to Bob Hoffman, Administrator for the Regional Synod. He writes a check and the Ali Stone, our Bookkeeper and Office Manager extraordinaire puts that check in the mail to you. Once a grant is submitted, the approval process ideally takes about two weeks.

Already have an idea that just needs a little funding boost?