Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
5811 Heritage Landing Dr., 2nd Floor
East Syracuse, NY  13057
(315) 632-5698
June 11, 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 and supportive. In other words, we hope that these things will matter. Your input is valued, and your comments are always welcomed.
Mission Stories
First United Church of East Syracuse Elder takes action to help Samaritan Center feed hundreds

For years the First United Church of East Syracuse has supported the Samaritan Center in serving the needs of the vulnerable in Central New York by making sandwiches after worship on the third Sunday of the month.

"When the pandemic began, not only could we no longer gather together to make the sandwiches, but it also became harder to find the sandwich making ingredients to deliver to them due to limits on bread and other items," said the Rev. Debra L. Thomas. "We were able to help at first with a financial donation, but thanks to one person with a heart of compassion and a desire to put faith into action, we were able to do more."

Elder Di ck Law read an article that highlighted the difficulties the Samaritan Center was having as they continued to provide 400 meals/day with far fewer volunteers and resources, and he took action. Dick sent an email to the congregation asking for help in providing food and items from a list given by the center of their specific needs, and asked them to bring the items to the church on a specific day when he would be waiting to collect them. By God's grace, and the congregation's generosity, the response was huge. Keeping socially distant, Dick and a few helpers gathered the items as people left their donations outside the door. When Dick took the much needed supplies to the Samaritan Center, they were gratefully received by a seriously understaffed group of volunteers. 

In the letter he sent to the congregation, Dick said he wanted to do this "in the name of the Father, the Son, and OUR Spirit."

"I am grateful for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that motivated Dick's spirit and the spirits of the congregation of First United Church of East Syracuse in this important work of ministry and local mission. To God be the glory!" Rev. Thomas 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 Annette Bell, and her husband the Rev. Larry Bell, as Annette faces yet another cancer diagnosis. Annette is an elder and beloved member of Westminster-Auburn; Larry served the church in Genoa and was active in our presbytery for many years.
  • Please pray for MaryLou Miller - elder and clerk of session at New Hope - she was in a bicycle accident and is at Upstate with multiple injuries.
  • Pray for the family of George Floyd and all those impacted by his murder. Please pray for our country during this time of unrest.
  • Pray for all the doctors, nurses and medical staff on the front lines fighting to save COVID-19 patients.
  • Please pray for all those who are sick with COVID-19 and all those who have lost loved ones.
In the cycle of prayer our Presbytery, please pray for these congregations, faith communities,and individuals: United Church of Fayetteville; First United Church of Fulton; God's Vision Christian Church, Hannibal; Jamesville Community Church; First, King Ferry.
If you'd like to share a particular joy or concern with the Presbytery, please contact:

Photo of the Week
Standing together in solidarity at the Black Lives Matter rally at City Hall in downtown Syracuse on Saturday, June 6, 2020.
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.
Presbytery Meeting   
Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery holds first virtual stated meeting

About 80 people participated in the virtual stated meeting of the Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery that was held on Tuesday evening.  
It was the first time our Presbytery, like many around the country, held a virtual stated meeting, but we did it! 
Social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have kept us in our homes, but important presbytery business was conducted. Read some highlights below:
  • Our worship for the meeting was written by Music Director Alan Beyel, of Marcellus First Presbyterian Church. Alan said any church interested in using the music, is free to use it, but asks to be credited. Download sheet music HERE.
Watch video:  
With Unity of Heart & Mind 
With Unity of Heart & Mind
  • The Rev. Ben Fitzgerald-Fye was approved to a 2-year term as stated clerk. The associate stated clerk position has been dissolved. The stated clerk position will now merge the responsibilities of the two positions. Read the updated job description HERE.   
  • Linda Russell held the position of associate stated clerk for the past year. The Presbytery thanks Linda for her dedication and commitment. Linda helped pull the Presbytery through a difficult time. The Presbytery is forever grateful for her leadership and hard work. During the meeting Linda said, "It's been a privilege and an honor."
  • Teaching Elder Stephanie Weaver from Robinson Elmwood was elected as the Presbytery's next moderator.
  • There was an outpouring of gratitude for the Rev. Dr. Tom Oak as the outgoing moderator. Thank you, Tom for your service, leadership and dedication to the Presbytery.
  • We were joined by the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann during the meeting. Cindy was co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly. She led the commissioning of the 224th General Assembly commissioners. She said "this will be a historic assembly!"
 Visit our Facebook page for more updates and photos from the meeting.  
From the Resource Presbyter 
Isaac Watts
Hello, Cayuga-Syracuse!
On June 9th my spouse and I celebrated 30 years of marriage. Our wedding picture shows us both in 18th century clothing -- he in a white wig and I dressed in a robe à la française (also known as a "sack back"). We met as Revolutionary War re-enactors and fell in love at Old Fort Niagara... so this all made sense to us at the time (although it undoubtedly mystified a few neighbors).
So, when I had a chance to preach at the Springfield Church in N.J., I jumped at the chance ... although I did preach in my usual Sunday pulpit gown and not my 18th century kit. This charming colonial church is the site of a famous tête-à-tête (also known as a "head to head") between the British and the Continental forces. The Rev. James Caldwell, a Presbyterian pastor whose wife had been killed by the British at the Battle of Connecticut Farms, was at the Springfield church likely in his role as a military Chaplain.
During the battle the Continentals ran out of the paper used to roll cartridges. Rev. Caldwell reportedly ran into the church and grabbed some hymnals. He threw them to the army shouting "Give them Watts' boys", referring to several of the hymns that were penned by Isaac Watts. As a result, the Battle of Springfield was a Continental victory.  
There are a variety of reasons folks express concern about the mixing of politics and faith. For some its based on confusion over the principle regarding the "separation of church and state," which prevents the State from endorsing any particular faith system. Other folks will cite the Johnson Act [1]. But at its root I think we don't like to mix politics and faith because it is messy. It is also risky.
The Rev. James Caldwell didn't live long after his "Give them Watts' boys!" moment: a Continental soldier who was rumored to have been bribed to kill the chaplain succeeded in doing so.
The Rev. Virginia Gerbasi was the victim of "tear gas" and flash bombs last week as she handed out water on the patio of St. John's Episcopal in Washington, D.C.
Messy. Risky.
These are the sorts of actions that make folks uncomfortable, and we will do anything to avoid discomfort ... including making our churches political safe zones. Instead of engaging one another in difficult conversations about how faith impacts our understanding of politics, we silently agree not to discuss it.
J. Herbert Nelson, the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) raises this question: "How deep is our faith? How deep is our commitment to get into places we aren't familiar with and proclaim the gospel?"
For Caldwell and Gerbasi the answer was clear, and messy and risky.
Where does your faith lead you? What is your commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel?
Blessings -

[1] Churches and other faith groups are forbidden from endorsing political candidates by the IRS. This doesn't mean a church that does this will be arrested/sued/forbidden to meet, its intent is to limit the power of organizations that do not pay taxes to sway their population.
The Presbyterian Planning Calendar offers more than nice pictures and a space to write in your meetings -- it also offers many resources that are keyed to certain months of the year.  You can order the calendar through the PCUSA store for $16.95 ea., OR you can join the Presbytery in its bulk order and pay only $9.75 per calendar. These 2020 - 2021 calendars begin with September. If you're interested, send an email to by July 1st indicating the number of calendars you are requesting.

Resource Presbyter's Virtual Gatherings 

Our Resource Presbyter, the Rev. Karen Chamis, will be holding virtual office hours from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesdays.

Karen will be available for drop-in conversations on Zoom. Come say hello, share concerns or learn a bit on how to use this important tool.  
or call 
One tap mobile 
+16465588656,,839671809# US (New York) 
+13126266799,,839671809# US (Chicago)
Pastoral leadership is invited to a Thursday morning Virtual Coffee for connection, support and fellowship.  
The Zoom meeting will start at 10 a.m.  

Join Zoom Meeting: 
Meeting ID: 510 749 428
"Allegiance to Empire" is a series of seven films featuring Walter Bruggemann, Miguel De La Torre, Reggie Williams, etc. providing ways in which the Christian community can serve the world and at the same time be faithful to God's vision of  the  Peaceable Kingdom.
We will meet for Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. for seven weeks.  Each night begin with worship, followed by the viewing of a short film and discussion.  Come and go as you like!
Beginning Monday, June 29th at 7:30 p.m. 
Interactive Worship Service for all: 
Karen and the Rev. Ben Fitzgerald-Fye, our stated clerk, will hold an interactive worship service on Zoom every Sunday evening at 7 p.m. Register in advance for this meeting: 
If you are unable to participate in worship, or know someone who would appreciate a liturgy that can be used at home, please CLICK HERE.
Around the Presbytery
Learn more HERE

Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church Summer Forums
This summer on Thursday evenings from 7 to 8 p.m., Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church will be running a series of forums examining the issues of race and racism. Because of recent crowd size expansions, the church will hold these sessions in person using Fellowship Hall in the basement, which will allow for social distancing. If the weather is nice, the crowd can move outside, so throw a lawn chair in your car! Masks will be required.
To start us out, please watch the film "Just Mercy" based on the book by the same name. The story will land us right in the middle of the issue that is absorbing so much attention now, the relationship between police and the justice system and African Americans. As you watch the film, please consider the following questions:
  • How does the film shine a light on systemic racism in policing and the justice system?
  •  Are these issues present outside the south?  
  • Brian Stephenson encounters resistance from a number of different people. How does he overcome that resistance and what does his technique suggest about responding to person based barriers to change? 
You can find Just Mercy on a number of streaming services and online. Various options for free viewing are listed HERE.  
What: Chicken BBQ 
When: 11 a.m. until gone on June 20, July 18 and August 15 
Where: Columbian Presbyterian Church, Routes 11 & 20 in LaFayette
Cost: SAME PRICE since 2015 ** Half chickens $6  ** Full dinners $11
Dinners include ½ chicken, applesauce, savory bacon-baked beans, salt & butter potatoes, roll & butter
Pre-order: Call 315-677-3293 before noon on the Friday before or email
Dates to Remember
June 20-27       General Assembly 
July 23-24         Board of Pensions Thrive Seminar (for clergy age 50+)
August 11         Presbytery Stated Meeting, TBD  
November 14    Presbytery Stated Meeting, Westminster-Auburn
Around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
'We unreservedly condemn the  
killings of African Americans'
The PC(USA)'s African Presbyterian Leaders Alliance releases response to the killing of George Floyd

By Gail Strange
Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have caused an uproar across the nation and in countries around the world against the oppression and injustice suffered by black Americans as a result of centuries of systemic racism. Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer who held his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

On Tuesday, as Floyd is laid to rest and in an act of solidarity, the African Presbyterian Leaders Alliance (APLA) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has released a video stating, "We the APLA wish to unreservedly condemn the latest in the long line of killings of African American persons in the United States of America. Africans on the continent have long stood in solidarity with their African American family that was first held in slavery in North America."

"Our black siblings are subjected to inhumane acts of oppression such as wrongful incarceration, lynching, violence and every imaginable disenfranchisement."
APLA states, "We are appalled at the lack of accountable leadership that would hold such inhumane practices in contempt. Hence, we now call upon the leaders of the United States to firmly condemn the actions of the four officers responsible for the arrest, abuse and subsequent murder of George Floyd."

In the statement, APLA calls for legal actions against the four officers and future officers who exercise similar excessive force toward black people in the United States.

"As members of the church of Christ, we cannot stand idly or silently by, year after year, while systemic racism continues the modern-day lynchings of our African American family #Saytheirnames. We say it is enough."


Stated Clerk says don't
rush to get back into a church building for worship
J. Herbert Nelson, II, urges caution as the COVID-19 pandemic continues

By Rick Jones & Randy Hobson
Office of the General Assembly

Don't rush to re-open your church sanctuary for face-to-face gatherings. That's the word from the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

As local, state, and federal governments continue their work to re-open businesses and allow for houses of worship to hold services once again, Nelson believes caution is still the best action to take.
Stated Clerk says don't rush to get back into a church building for worship
Stated Clerk says don't rush to get back into a church building for worship

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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