Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
5811 Heritage Landing Dr., 2nd Floor
East Syracuse, NY  13057
(315) 632-5698
February 13, 2020
Dear Friends of Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery,

Welcome to this week's edition of our e-letter, Presbytery Matters. Our goal is to highlight things going on throughout the Church: within our Presbytery, in our congregations, as well as in the Synod of the Northeast and across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We hope that these are things that will be helpful, informative, challenging, encouraging, supportive. In other words, we hope that these things will matter. Your input is valued, and your comments are always welcomed.
Mission Stories
'Back to the Bible'
Korean Church of Syracuse hosts  
successful, fulfilling New York Bible Conference  
The Korean Church of Syracuse hosted the New York Bible Conference on January 9 to 11 at the White Eagle Conference Center in Hamilton.  
Each year the conference focuses on a few chapters of the Bible and this year -- the 14th year -- the conference was able to finish all 66 books of the Bible.  
Under the motto, "Back to the Bible," NYBC focuses on its mission for Christian students and adults to reestablish their faith in the Word of God through Jesus Christ.
The conference is targeted for those in Upstate NY in areas like Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithaca, Rochester and Syracuse.    
"The goal is to revive the gospel in this area , but we had many attendees from New York City, and many other states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Florida, California, and even from Canada, France and Korea,"
said Yunhee Kim, of the Korean Church of Syracuse.  
Kim said the church is blessed to be able to hold this ministry.  

" We thank God for giving this wonderful opportunity to serve and work for His Words and His Kingdom with all difference churches, areas, people and even denominations," Kim said.

We want to hear about the mission stories from our Presbytery's worshiping communities. What mission work are you involved in? How are your members working in the community? What story would you like to share with others in the Presbytery?
Send any mission stories from your congregation that you would like to share to:  
Deadline is 12 p.m. on Wednesdays for the current week's edition of
Presbytery Matters.
We want to share your stories, missions, activities and more. Also, make sure to like our Facebook page by clicking the "Like us on Facebook" tab at the top of this letter.

Joys and Concerns around the Presbytery
  I n our prayers together this week...

  • Please pray for Jim Cooper who has just been diagnosed with lung cancer and is scheduled for surgery this week. Jim is related to Linda Russell. Jim, his wife (Donna Russell Cooper) and their two young adult daughters live in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Pray for all those who are sick, battling cancer and fighting silent diseases.
  • Pray for Jim Russell as he continues his fight with esophagus cancer.
In the cycle of prayer for our Presbytery, please pray for these congregations, faith communities,and individuals: Port Byron Federated; First, Scipioville; Sennett Federated Church; First, Skaneateles 
If you'd like to share a particular joy or concern with the Presbytery, please contact:

Photo of the Week

Guests celebrated the installation of the Rev Jeanine M. Haven on Sunday
 as the pastor of the Baldwinsville congregation.

To have your photo considered for "Photo of the Week" post it to your church's Facebook page and tag the Presbytery of Cayuga Syracuse's Facebook page.
From the Resource Presbyter 
  Hello, Cayuga-Syracuse!

A few weeks ago I left an important meeting and when I got to my car and looked at my reflection I realized I had something stuck in my teeth. After a brief struggle it was dislodged and after some forensic maneuvers on my part I determined that it had likely been there for hours. I found myself wondering not just why that wee bit of kale had taken the road less traveled, but also why the many folks I had interacted with that day hadn't said a word.

I know there are many reasons we don't say things to each other. We might not comment on the spot on someone's shirt (or the teeth thing) because there is a cultural understanding that we look beyond those sorts of things. There are times we keep silent because we know that what we might say would make matters worse.
There is another silence, however, that has permeated our culture. It comes from worshipping the Idol of Niceness. This is deeper than the whole "if you can't say anything nice" mantra, because it really isn't about concern for the other. This idol represents our need to be seen as being "nice."

The church is supposed to be nice. It's not supposed to upset the status quo, or talk about racism or blatant inequity. It's not supposed to choose sides. The church supposed to be a place of tranquility where we don't talk politics, or economics or world events (except maybe the Olympics ... as long as we don't get too political).   The church is supposed to be that place where we can find peace away from all of those conversations and debates.

This is where we get into trouble.

This is where niceness becomes a form of idolatry.

I understand the desire for church to be a place not of this world, where we can find the energy and peace we need to tackle another week in this world. I mean, isn't that why we call it a sanctuary? Here's the thing ...

In order for it to be a sanctuary, it needs to be a place of peace for all people. It can't be a sanctuary, if the only folks who can claim it as such look like me.

Jesus never asked us to be nice.

Jesus asked us to love.

Those two ideas aren't the same.

The Presbytery meets the day after Valentine's Day. We'll hear a bit about the Poor People's Campaign. We'll undoubtedly debate a few things. We'll tell each other if there is kale in our teeth. We'll be civil and spirited and passionate because we will love deeply. We will hold each other accountable to our ordination vows. We will not worship the Idol of Niceness ... but will instead worship Jesus the Christ.
If you can be there, I'll look forward to seeing you. If you cannot - please hold us in prayer. Help us to speak the truth in love in all things.

Blessings -

The Salon was developed in the 16th century as a way for individuals to share ideas.

You are invited to exchange ideas at a modern-day virtual Salon.

What is Generative work? How can we equip our councils to think more generatively?


11 a.m. Feb. 13 .

Join us for a conversation and sharing of ideas and resources around the topic of Generative Thinking!

What: Implicit Bias Training
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, March 13
Where: First Presbyterian Church of Oneida, 304 Broad Street    

Presented by Office of the General Assembly Colleagues Jihyun Oh, director of Mid-Council Ministries and Molly Casteel, manager of Equity and Representation   

Who should attend: Leadership Team, members of COM, Leadership Workgroup,   Church  PNCs, those engaged in anti-racism training in local congregations.    

What to expect: In this 1-day training, we will first learn and discuss concepts to  help build frameworks and mental maps that enable us to engage in equity and   cultural proficiency work, then we will apply key learnings to our own contexts.  Finally, we will reflect on how both the concepts and the application might help to  build Christ's kin-dom in our communities.   

To register, please contact:
Resource Presbyter's Mobile Office Day 

Our Resource Presbyter, the Rev. Karen Chamis, will be working remotely at the following locations:
Date: Thursday, February 20, 2020
Time: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.  
Place: Bailiwick Cafe, 441 NY-5, Elbridge 
Feel free to drop in for a conversation -- or just to say hello
Karen can be reached at 315-632-5698 (option 1) or
Information for Stated Meeting
The Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse will hold a stated meeting on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church of Weedsport, 8871 S. Seneca Street, Route 34, Weedsport, NY 13166. The gathering will begin with registration at 8:30 a.m. and a special program at 9 a.m. followed by the call to order at 10 a.m.
Things to know:
  • Childcare is available by reservation. Please RSVP by calling (315) 834-9212 by Monday, Feb. 10 
  •  Lunch will be served at a cost of $7.00 
  • Internet service will be available
  • Names of new commissioners may be sent to for nametags by Feb. 13
  • Requests to be excused should be sent to by Feb. 13
  • The gathering is handicap accessible
  • Parking is available on the street and in the church parking lot behind the church.All participants are encouraged to enter the building using the handicap ramp off the parking lot at the back of the church. Registration will be just inside that entrance.
  • This gathering may be recorded and pictures will be taken. Please inform Communications Coordinator Sarah Buckshot if you do not want your image used.
Things to anticipate:
  • Displays of church mission projects related to poverty
  • Presentation about "The Poor People's Campaign" during the pre-meeting Special Program
  • Worship with communion and special music; the Rev. Beth DuBois preaching
  • Necrology Report as part of our worship service
  • "Good News" from our congregations and worshipping communities
Papers for this meeting can be found here, and include:

Stated Clerk
Liberation Polity: Discernment and Equity

There is a pervasive view of Presbyterian Polity that is kind of, well, negative. It is the view of polity as a limiting or restrictive force in the life of the church. I confess, I have been peeved more than once by the citing of polity; but, as I began the work of studying and engaging polity, it became clear to me that I was being a touch reactive. The problem, in my very humble opinion, is a tendency to utilize polity as a way of either being "right" or as a vehicle for reducing church to a black and white set of standards. The use of polity disconnected from its foundational intentions leads to a sort of governmental fundamentalism that simply doesn't serve the church or its members. In fact, fundamentalist policy becomes more a tool of abuse and division than a common set of operating principles.

So, as your grateful Stated Clerk, I want to spend some time lifting up the foundations of our polity that serve as its, and our, principles and values for governing the church. As my own work is ultimately to serve and to represent you, I think we can gather around these principles as a way of you knowing my personal operating values and as a way learning how to best serve the mission and the moving of the Spirit here in the Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse.

As I have already suggested, polity get a bad rep as some kind of wall that prevents us from moving forward in the reforming and reimagining of the church. This concept seems to forget that fact that polity was, in fact, a significant part of reforming the church and a basis for reimagining the church's future. Polity is comfortably at home in the revolutionary reforms of history and it is comfortably at home in the movements of reform today. What actually stands out, in my mind, as a stumbling block is polity's role in two basic concepts of Presbyterian church life ... discernment and equity. So, let's start this week with these two ideals that cause so much grumbling in the life of a Presbyterian.


Discernment is a word that enters into multiple levels of church life. As a minister, I am called to discern a number of things from call to church service. Elders and deacons are asked to discern the most effective way to serve and nurture the church. Presbytery leaders and commissioners, are asked to discern the best way to serve, govern, nurture, and unify the larger collective of churches that makeup the presbytery. To those ends, polity has a multitude of roles in the process. There is one role; however, that probably causes more cranky faces and impatience than most and can be summed up in the following statement: Polity's role in the discernment of the church is to intentionally slow things down and to intentionally invite the diverse voices of councils to have voice in any given process. This kinda sucks; but, if you really think about it, we are a church that values a certain degree of intentionality in our theology and in our process. We are simply not a "seat of your pants" kinda people. That said, we see that discernment is an inherent piece of the processes outlined in polity. The folks who wrote the polity of the church did not simply add steps or additional review because they were sadistic micro-managers, they did so because they understood that the best decisions are ultimately made through true, spiritual, and Spirit-guided discernment. So, whether you like it or not, they are forcing you to stop and think about what you are doing. Sometimes, that means that issues and ideas we care about take more time to be realized (I know this as a married gay man); but, it also means that once those ideas and issues are realized and acted on, there tends to be a larger and more thoughtful consensus on the ideas and the issues themselves. Discernment is our tool for educating and being educated, for healthy debate, and for reaching consensus.


Anyone, like myself, who has been on the side of battling for certain social justice issues who hears the word "equity" used to describe polity might stop reading at this point and send me a stern email; but, fellow justice warriors bear with me! First, the nerdy stuff...

Reformed church denominations were present in our colonial heritage and had more than a little influence on the governing structures of municipalities and their constitutions. Presbyterians were also present at the drafting the Constitution of the United States. We are a church that pioneered the concept of democracy as something based in our understanding and expression of God's grace and Christ's liberating work. In fact, in comparison with the church's democratic roots, we might say that America is a little baby democracy in many ways. Of course the history of both is more complex and much longer; but, this is a newsletter not a dissertation.
If democracy is our guiding form of governance and if we are going to be serious about it, a few things must be held sacred: freedom to speak, open debate, voting rights, diverse representation, and ultimately shared authority that is mindful of God's supreme authority. Some of this probably sounds familiar in the secular sense too. Equity arises when we value both majority and minority voices on any given issues, when we are mindful that diversity exists even in the illusion of homogeny, and when we respect the fact that faith values are as individual as fingerprints. This means that in our quest for equity, we do not listen only to loudest or the most indignant voices, we listen to all voices. Believe me, I know how this can be a pain! I know that that the world, and the church, would be so much better off if everyone just listened to me ... of course! Alas, my appetite for equity tells me I need to listen as much as I talk.
Equity does not just happen by the way, it often requires a leadership and a process that actively seeks to encourage minority participation, that sees quiet folks and engages them.

There is an example I use from my experience at the last General Assembly. I was a theology student assistant and had one of the best behind-the-scenes views of the whole process in action. There was a serious, sincere, and sometimes tense debate on the floor concerning fossil fuels. All around the plenary hall activists were lobbying for support and expressing a true concern for the future of the planet. The debate was respectful and efficient and it also included voices from people who live in parts of this country that depend on the income earned by work in the fossil fuel industry. Thousands of congregants were represented by pastors and elders explaining that communities could be dragged into poverty if the fossil fuel industry disappeared. The truth of the matter was that these voices of rural America that depended on fossil fuels were more numerous than folks expected. The vote was close and the look of disappointment and sadness on the faces of the environmental activists was devastating. This was a setback, a setback, on their journey; but, if you really look at it, the system ultimately worked. Those concerned about the church's relationship to fossil fuels weren't rejected, though I am sure it felt like it, they were asked to take a moment to consider the livelihoods of thousands of people, to strengthen their message by becoming aware and empathetic to those whose lives depend on the very things they were fighting against. They were ultimately asked to discern a message that speaks to both the environment and the employment issue. Equity in action meant that the church had to listen to both the voices of the activists and the voices of economic concern. Any of us who engaged in the marriage debates remember what this feels like, a process that asks us to be equitable can cause pain; and yet, it can ultimately cause consensus and greater understanding.

Okay, enough for one article! In the coming weeks we will be looking at some other principles and foundations of our polity ... our liberating polity! Stay tuned ...


The Rev. Ben Fitzgerald-Fye
Stated Clerk
Around the Presbytery

What: Slow Smoked Pull Pork Dinner
When: 4 p.m. until Sold Out on Saturday, Feb. 15
Where: Sennett Federated Church, 7777 Weedsport-Sennett Road, Sennett
Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for 5 to 12 year olds, free for children under 5 years old
Takeouts available

 Commission on Christian Leadership Formation

The Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley's new Commission on Christian Leadership Formation (C-CLeF) has set up a workshop for worship leaders and preachers on Preparation for Lent. It will be held at Nineveh Presbyterian Church on Saturday, Feb. 15, led by the Rev. Allen Presby. Click here for registration form.

"What is a Commission on Christian Leadership Formation?" Read more here

What: The Syracuse chapter of the American Guild of Organists will present "Pedals, Pipes and Pizza"
When: 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19
Where: Park Central Presbyterian Church, 504 E. Fayette St. Syracuse
Cost: Free

Ben Merchant will be on hand to introduce young people to the technical mysteries of the pipe organ, and Will Headlee will play a marvelous piece, Rex, King of the Instruments, scored for organ and rap narrator, designed to help young people explore the full resources of the pipe organ!

Lunch is provided for all parents & their children afterwards. If interested, please RSVP by Feb. 15 to Vincent Guarneiri --

What: 2020 InterFaith Dinner Dialogues 
When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 
Register by Feb. 7  
Diverse groups of 8-12 guests gather together for a friendly, facilitated conversation about faith and spirituality at homes across Central New York. Participation is free. Your host will provide a simple vegetarian meal. For more information, contact Daryl Files at (315) 449-3552, ext. 208, or email 
When we share stories and ideas with others, we gain understanding and compassion about our many similarities and also find respect for our differences.  
"I feel heaven as I sit with a group of strangers who quickly burrow themselves into my heart to become my brothers and sisters," said Jenifer Moss, a mother of eight children and active community volunteer who participated in a Dinner Dialogue.  
In previous dialogues, guests included those of the Jewish, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Sikh, Protestant, Agnostic, Baptist, Mormon, Buddhist, Episcopal, Methodist and Hindu traditions.
Dates to Remember
February 14     Clerk's Annual Questionnaire due (online)
February 15     Presbytery Stated Meeting, Weedsport
February 24     Leadership Team Meeting
March 23          Leadership Team Meeting
April 27            Leadership Team Meeting
May 12             Presbytery Stated Meeting, Robinson Elmwood United Church
June 4              Spring Senior Fun Day at Vanderkamp 
June 20-27       General Assembly, Baltimore
July 23-24        Board of Pensions Thrive Seminar (for clergy age 50+)
Around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Free webinar on 'Basics of Reformed Theology' set for Feb. 20
Presentation led by the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Rigby, called 'one of the great theologians of our time'

By Tammy Warren
Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE -- What is Reformed theology?

Learn the basics during a one-hour webinar led by theologian, speaker and author the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Rigby, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and co-chair of the Reformed Theology and History Unit of the American Academy of Religion. Rigby is also an associate editor for the Journal of Reformed Theology and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.
The free webinar is set for 1 p.m. through 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, Feb. 20. Registration is available here.

The webinar is being offered by the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) in partnership with the Office of Christian Formation of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. It is ideal for people new to Christian education, volunteers and seasoned veterans, said Stephanie Fritz, associate coordinator for Christian formation in Theology, Formation and Evangelism.

"The Presbyterian Mission Agency's Office of Christian Formation partners with five organizations that support faith formation ministries across a lifetime," Fritz said. "We refer to this group as the  Christian Formation Collective. We are excited about initiatives and projects that we are working on with each of these organizations to support leaders in faith formation."

Study uncovers barriers to addressing mental health issues in the PC(USA)
About 6,000 people participated in surveys commissioned by Compassion, Peace & Justice  
By Darla Carter
Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE - Although Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) members and leaders desire to address mental health issues in their communities and churches, many feel unprepared to do so.

That's according to a churchwide study recently conducted on behalf of the leadership staff of the Presbyterian Mental Health Initiative called for by the 2018 General Assembly.

The study was commissioned by the Presbyterian Mission Agency's Compassion, Peace & Justice Ministry, which is responsible for implementing the initiative.

"The purpose of the study was to get an overall picture of mental health ministry across the PC(USA) at this point in time," said Donna Miller, Associate for Mental Health Ministry within CPJ. "The study helped clarify that churches are often in the role of 'first responders,' but many don't feel equipped to respond when someone is struggling with mental health. The study also showed the need to address stigma and make churches safe places to talk about mental health struggles."

For the study, the PC(USA)'s Research Services last year surveyed five different demographic groups - church members, ministers, local church leaders, mid-council leaders and seminaries - as part of an effort to take a broad look at mental health ministry within the PC(USA) and to identify strengths as well as areas for improvement.

About 6,000 people, including nearly 4,000 ministers, responded, and more than 2,000 individual comments were received, many expressing gratitude for the study and the attention being paid to mental health by the PC(USA). The study generated nearly 400 requests for follow-up information about resources, Miller said.

The outpouring of responses "helped us to see the level of interest and motivation, and it helped us to see where it is that people are looking for help and what the barriers are," she said.

5811 Heritage Landing Dr., 2nd Floor
East Syracuse, NY  13057
(315) 632-5698
"I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them
bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5
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