Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
5811 Heritage Landing Dr., 2nd Floor
East Syracuse, NY  13057
(315) 632-5698
July 9, 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
 'For every sign you destroy, 10 more will rise'
Westminster Presbyterian Church's Black Lives Matter sign vandalized days after stolen, returned

By the Rev. Patrick Heery
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn

Sometime, on Sunday night, our church's Black Lives Matter sign was vandalized. The same sign that had spoken such hope into our lives when it was stolen in hat e and returned in love, in solidarity with both Black Lives and our police. Someone saw that beauty, and decided to stomp on it.
They cut out the "Black" from All Lives Matter, which has been the problem all along. All lives do matter; the problem is we're not acting like it; the problem is that the lives of some people -- whether Black, or immigrant, or LGBTQ, or woman, or poor, or disabled, or abused -- are not allowed to matter equally.

A banner is just fabric, but behind that fabric stand the lives of Black and Brown people and their allies who are hurting. Behind that fabric are all the parents who are afraid every morning to send their child out into a world that hates, and might kill, their child.

On Monday, that child had to ride their bike past a sign, where their identity, the very value of their life, had been erased. Consider that. A gaping hole that says: You don't belong; you don't matter; you are invisible. I wish I could say it was just one bad person. But the truth is that racism is very alive in Harriet Tubman's hometown. We like to think we are better than this; we are not. While a uniformed police officer and I stood outside the church talking on Monday, people drove by and smirked. One woman slowed down and shouted, "They fixed that sign!" brazenly applauding an act of vandalism and hate.

While we may not be better than this, as Abraham Lincoln once said, our angels are. "The better angels of our nature" have been singing loud and clear. The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. People have donated enough money to put up 10 signs or more! Artists have volunteered to make signs. People, formerly on the sidelines of this movement, are speaking out and getting to work. Phone calls poured in from community members and the press. Auburn's Police have once again been amazing. This time it was Officer Guzalak who answered the call; you might remember her from the national photo of a Black Lives Matter demonstration, where she and her fellow officers took a knee in solidarity with George Floyd. Once again, this officer and I had a powerful, loving, joyful conversation about working together to end racial injustice and to become a people who honor the humanity in one another, including hers as a police officer.

That morning, I crafted a somewhat crude poster that says in big bold letters "BLACK." I duct taped it to the sign, restoring the message. The scars are still there, a visible reminder of violence and division. But Black is Back, a message that we will not be silenced, Black lives will not be erased, Black children do belong. As I made the sign, I felt an odd import come over me -- like it wasn't just a sign I was repairing, like I held in my hands precious life, that child riding his bike.

Now there is talk of placing signs all over our community. To all the haters out there, hear us: For every sign you destroy, ten more will rise in its place.

We will not be deterred. Your hate only feeds our love. Your hate only makes us stronger, louder. You have shown who you truly are; we see you. We see that when you said "All Lives Matter," you lied, because you just literally cut out Black Lives. And without Black Lives there are no All Lives.

Why will we not be deterred? Because we serve a God who takes what you mean for evil and uses it for good. We follow a brown-skinned Savior who took your cross, your hate, your violence, and turned it into Easter resurrection. Like Jesus, we rise! We rise! We rise! Just try to hold us down.

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 James Russell, a member of Westminster Syracuse. His esophagus cancer has returned.
  • 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.
  • Pray for our leaders and officials as they continue to make difficult decisions regarding social distancing and COVID-19.
In the cycle of prayer our Presbytery, please pray for these congregations, faith communities,and individuals: Isaiah's Table, Syracuse; Korean Church of Syracuse; Park Central, Syracuse; Robinson Elmwood United Church, Syracuse; South Valley, Syracuse.
If you'd like to share a particular joy or concern with the Presbytery, please contact:

Photo of the Week
The Rev. Shawn Rayburn volunteered to come out to the First Presbyterian Church  
of Cazenovia on Saturday, July 4, 2020 to perform a small baptism ceremony outside  
on the lawn. Congratulations to the Siggins family! The church was thrilled to be  
able to make this happen during this time of social distancing.   
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 
Dear friends,
Do you believe in magic? [i]
Not the sleight of hand or "where did the elephant go?" sort of stage magic, but the sense that certain things must be done in certain ways in order for something to happen? Not a recipe, per se ... but a way of controlling something normally beyond our control. It's the lucky shirt you wear to the game or Grandma's pie plate that has never failed to turn out a perfect crust.
It's that pew you sit in every week; perhaps because it's the pew your grandfather sat in or it's the first pew where you honestly felt comfortable in church. If you had to move? Change pews? The magic is gone. (For those of you feeling somewhat smug, imagine if we didn't sing Silent Night on Christmas Eve. It's that sort of thing.)
We've had a few months of not being able to sit where we know we belong, where we've felt the magic happen, and for some folks it may feel like we're losing our religion (or that we've lost God).
I wonder if that is why we so desperately desire to go back to our sanctuaries. It's beyond a sense of comfort and familiarity, but rather a desire to connect with that which has seemed fleeting via Zoom or Facebook Live. We miss one another, yes, but I think on some level for many have never found God anywhere else. We miss that sacred space ... that sacred geography.
We profess that we worship a God who cannot be enclosed by the boxes we create. We worship a God who has spun the very stars into existence and who also knows every hair on our head. We claim to be in relationship with One who is not bound by space (or time) but is our very breath, and yet our pew is still our pew. Our church building is still our church building, and if we aren't there we have no real access to God.
This understanding of magical and sacred space happens outside of church as well. As we begin as a Presbytery to make decisions about Vanderkamp, it's helpful to remember that this has been sacred ground for many. It is a place where, like your favorite pew, there are memories and moments that are held dear. For some it is where their relationship with Jesus was kindled around a campfire, or in the quiet of a cabin. This is more than a camp -- it's a place where folks regularly encountered God.
Breathe deep, friends. Grieve. Lament. Mourn ... and know that this relationship we have with God is so much more than place. I don't know what the future will bring. I do know that the Spirit will be there in the middle of it ... regardless of whether we are in our sacred spaces or at home on our couches. There's nothing magical about it.
Blessings -

[i] The anthropologist in me understands the difference between magic and religion is one of control. Magic, by definition, is defined by human agency. By doing things in the right way, things normally understood as beyond the ability of humans to influence are impacted. Crops grow. Sickness is cured. Weather patterns change. With religion, adherents may become supplicants - those pray or beg deities they believe in for crops to grow, sickness to be cured, etc., but the power to do so belongs to the supernatural. Of course, this is a simplistic explanation, and the lines I've just drawn are blurred in any number of ways.
Special Meeting 
In accordance with Article V of the Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse Bylaws, at the request of two elders and two ministers, the Moderator of the Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse has called a special meeting for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 for the purpose of discussing issues related to Vanderkamp. This will be the only business discussed at this meeting and no other business will be considered.

This meeting will be held on the Zoom online platform. Please choose commissioners to attend this meeting as soon as you are able.
Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
If you need to phone in, please contact Karen at (908) 217-7725 prior to 3 p.m. on July 14th (if possible!) so that she can make certain you are properly identified in the room.  If you are dialing in you can raise your hand to speak by dialing *9.  You can also use this function to vote -- simply wait for the Moderator's prompts. If you would like to speak, raise your hand (*9), and when recognized, unmute yourself using *6.
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.  
  Join Zoom Meeting:  
Password: 216956  
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: 
Password: 798822
"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 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!
  If you are unable to participate in worship, or know someone who  
would appreciate a liturgy that can be used at home, please contact Karen at 
From the Stated Clerk
Stated Clerk Open Office Hours

Greetings friends! In order to keep some consistent communication and to offer you the best service possible, I am posting the following as the "official" office hours for the Stated Clerk:

 Mondays: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
 Wednesdays: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
 Fridays: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

When you send communication to, please be mindful that emails and calls will generally be answered during these times.  If you have an urgent matter, please text or call (814) 249-3331 and I will respond ASAP.  

Also, in order to foster more personal connections and fellowship, please feel free to request a Zoom meeting during the office hours to discuss any issues of process, polity, etc. with your friendly neighborhood Stated Clerk.

I hope you are well and send you peace!

Rev. Ben Fitzgerald-Fye 
Stated Clerk
From the Bookkeeper
Churches should mail their checks to
Paula Lamberson, bookkeeper of Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery, at the following address:

Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
5811 Heritage Landing Drive, 2nd floor
East Syracuse, NY 13057

Please DON'T write "c/o Synod of the Northeast" on the envelope due to it causing confusion at the post office. Thank you!
Around the Presbytery
Isaiah's Table seeks partners  
to help families in need
Isaiah's Table is partnering with PEACE Inc. to supplement their weekly food distribution on the Near Westside of Syracuse. Each month they hand out toiletries. In their first distribution in June, they supplied 66 family units totaling 171 children and adults with toilet paper, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant and activities for youth and Spanish speaking adults. Isaiah's Table wants to continue this distribution once per month while the neighborhood is in such tremendous need. Each family pack costs from $5-$10 depending on the size of the household.

Isaiah's Table is hoping that some folks in the Presbytery might want to partner with them in this endeavor. Any donation would be appreciated -- it will directly support families in need in the neighborhood of Isaiah's Table. Donations can be sent to: Isaiah's Table, 223 Marcellus Street, Syracuse, NY 13204 or can be made through its website. Please contact Nancy Wind at for more information.

Call 4 Care Cards! 
Calls for justice, peaceful protests and rallies to end racism are happening all over the nation. People living alongside and inside the grim realities of racism, structural poverty, pandemic isolation and demoralizing violence need to know you care!
Could you/would you?....                      
Write and send along a Care Card? A simple sheet of paper with a note of encouragement? A prayer for peace? A wish for safekeeping? A hope-filled drawing? All caring needed! Adult to adult, kid to kid, people to people. 

Send to:             The Syracuse Peacemaking Project
601 Tully St.
Syracuse, NY 13204
The Syracuse Peacemaking Project is envisioning Care Days with care packages, care circles and care-filled conversations and hopefully, your Care Cards -- one or two in each package for each participant.

Get your children involved! No "Caremaker" is too young or too little. 
People Promoting More and More Caring
Dates to Remember
July 14              Special Presbytery Meeting
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.)
How Christians can respond to unjust policing
Union Presbyterian Seminary forum offers up challenges, ideas
By Mike Ferguson
Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE - Panelists, some of them with firsthand accounts, discussed how Christians can respond to unjust policing during a Tuesday webinar hosted by two organizations affiliated with Union Presbyterian Seminary.

The Rev. Melanie C. Jones, a UPS instructor of ethics, theology and culture and the director of the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership, moderated the panel, which also featured:
"I believe we as a church can and must do better," Martinez said, suggesting a process that includes turning back and recognizing the harm that's been done to people of color, seeing what's been broken, and continuing the process "until that which has been broken is made whole again."


Virtual reality platform for churches creates 'unparalleled ground for Christian evangelism'
CHVRCH+ launched thanks
to '1001' grant

By Paul Seebeck
Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - The Rev. Dr. Christopher Benek has developed a plan to help expand the Church in virtual reality (VR), which he says "is unparalleled ground for Christian evangelism." Based in South Florida, Benek serves as the pastor of First Miami Presbyterian Church and is also the founding pastor and CEO of CoCreators. The validated ministry of the Presbytery of Tropical Florida is an emerging tech-based ministry whose motto is "Better People, Better Tech, Better World."

Benek said that he first considered the potential of ministry in VR while studying at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He was part of a cohort in the world's first Doctorate of Ministry program focused on science and theology. While at seminary, Benek focused his work on emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics and transhumanism and how they impact ministry. He came to envision the tremendous ministry potential of VR platforms - and he wanted to find a way to help church leaders advance their ministries in virtual spaces.

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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