Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
5811 Heritage Landing Dr., 2nd Floor
East Syracuse, NY  13057
(315) 632-5698
August 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 and supportive. In other words, we hope that these things will matter. Your input is valued, and your comments are always welcomed.
Mission Stories

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
     In our prayers together this week... 
  • Please pray for elder Dan DeBrucker-Cota as he recuperates from surgery. Dan had his left foot amputated on July 20 and is looking forward to being fitted with a prosthesis (he already has one for his right leg) so that he can walk around Central Park unaided and "hands free." Dan is a Candidate under Care in our presbytery and currently studying at Columbia University in New York City.
  • Pray for schools, students, teachers and administrators as they make plans for the new year of learning. Read a prayer for the 2020 school year.
  • 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: First, Cazenovia; First, Chittenango; United Church of Collamer; Pebble Hill, DeWitt; First United Church of East Syracuse 
If you'd like to share a particular joy or concern with the Presbytery, please contact:

Photo of the Week
This week's "Photo of the Week" is a little different. This is a photo taken by Communication Coordinator Sarah Buckshot of Lake Ontario in Sterling, N.Y. During the last 6 months of social distancing we've been displaced from our pews, and we have collectively agreed that church is not a place, but rather "we are the church." For the next few weeks, we are asking that you share where you feel God. For Sarah, she feels God every time she is near the water. Send a photo (one that you took) of a place where you feel God to

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.
Resource Presbyter   
Dear Cayuga-Syracuse,
The bridge of the Starship Enterprise lists to the port as it takes a direct hit. Sirens blare as the hapless crew is tossed about. The entire crew is in battle mode, and their one focused goal is survival.
Yeah, I'm a bit of a Trekker.
This archetypal scene (which always makes me wonder why they didn't wear seatbelts) has been resonating with my life during a pandemic. The year 2020 seems like one unending battle against unknown forces. There have been days when I've imagined this novel coronavirus as some sort of alien that has invaded us as some external threat.
Sometimes the perceived threats are from a bit closer to home.
At last night's Presbytery meeting I shared that one of our members criticized our June meeting as it did not engage the Presbytery in regards to the issue of police brutality and racism. I also shared my initial response that was akin to the Enterprise taking a shot to her hull. My shields were fully engaged, red lights were pulsing and I felt a bit nauseous from the tossing about (again, seatbelts).
This wasn't an attack, however. It was a correction.
The difference between the two is not based on my reaction, but rather on the intent and approach of a colleague. His letter was steeped in theology, reminding me of the foundation on which we both stand. This wasn't a snide comment on my inappropriate dress for church (which has happened!), this was a focused effort to realign a community back toward the theology it espoused.
My hunch is that there will be other opportunities in the near future for me -- for us -- to raise our shields. My hope and prayer is that we will discover that those "attacks" are also an effort to realign us to the theological values that we share. This is what we are called to do for one another - we are to firmly and lovingly hold one another accountable.
Now, excuse me as I toss out the red shirts in my closet.[1]

[1] In Star Trek, The Original Series, those who wore red shirts were part of the security team and were generally the ones who were killed. It's hard to stay in dialogue if you're wearing a red shirt.


Our Resource Presbyter is curating resources regarding anti-racism.  If you have resources that have been helpful in your context, please let her know so she might share them with others!  You can find the "page in process" here:

We are still collecting stories and photos of Vanderkamp for the Celebrating Vanderkamp webpage:

If you have a something you'd like to share, please contact Karen.  

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  
Coffee with Clergy resumes on August 20.  
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!
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.
Lift Every Voice: How to engage a broader response to issues of Social Justice
(you'll need to register in advance!)
Tuesday, August 25th at 4 p.m.
Join us for a conversation around the topic of how to encourage a broad-based response to issues of social justice ... specifically dismantling racism.
All too often there are a few voices (soloists). How can we engage the entire choir?
Note: No experts present, just good folks wanting to explore ideas together!   
2021 Budget 
2021 Budget Presented at Presbytery
The Finance Property Work Group is asking for input and feedback on the budget first read, which can be found HERE. We encourage questions you may have and would love to engage in dialogue regarding the budget proposal. Please feel free to contact me at any time.
Bob Davenport
Finance and Property Workgroup Chair
Nominating Committee   
From the Nominating Committee: 
Cayuga-Syracuse is entitled to send two minister members and two elders to serve as Commissioners to the Synod Assembly October 23-24, 2020. Elders Sharye Skinner (Cazenovia) and Dan DeBrucker-Cota (Robinson Elmwood), and the Rev. Pam Gnagy (member at large) have been elected.
We still have a vacancy for a second minister member. If you are a minister member of presbytery willing to serve in this capacity, please contact the Rev. Tom Oak (, 316-641-5454) or Linda Russell (, 315-730-6930) by August 20 for more information or with your offer to serve.
Thank you,
The Nominating Committee  
Presbyterian Week of Action
The Presbyterian Week of Action, August 24 - 30, is an endeavor to provide a public witness that facilitates education, viability and action that reinforce our PC(USA) statements and policy that support eradicating racism and acknowledge that God loves all Black lives.   
The Presbyterian Church (USA) affirms that all Black Lives Matter.  The national office of the PC(USA) invites its congregations to participate in a Week of Action.   
The daily schedule of events and digital toolkit can be found here:
Dates to Remember
November 14    Presbytery Stated Meeting, Westminster-Auburn
Around the Presbytery
Westminster Presbyterian:  
Faith evolves through doubt

 By Jill Fandrich  
Special to The Citizen  
"We value questions as much as answers."
My church's welcome statement includes this sentence. This summer, we tested whether we really mean it. Turns out we do.
Throughout July, our pastor, Patrick Heery, abandoned his usual sermon format, and instead used the sermon time in worship for a series called "Stump the Pastor." He encouraged us to ask questions about faith, religion and what we believe (or don't believe).
The questions started to pour in.
"What is sin?"
"Who or what is the Holy Spirit?"
"Is Christianity the one true faith?"
"Does prayer really do anything?"
Every question brought more! As we worshiped on Facebook Live, the comments section was abuzz with more inquiries and follow-ups, all of which Pastor Patrick attempted to answer within a self-imposed two-minute time limit. The conversations continued throughout the week on Facebook.
Our church has always been open to honest struggling with faith, but not all churches are. I grew up in a church that was pretty dogmatic in matters of theology. It was a church full of lovely, loving people, but there wasn't much room for diverse theological thought.
I remember when I first started to question what I believed. I was a teenager in the late '60s/early '70s, the years of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Godspell." I remember looking at Christianity with new eyes. I also remember the fear and guilt I felt at questioning what I'd always been taught.
The Auburn Citizen features a weekly column about church and faith in its Sunday papers, and Westminster Church, Auburn, is a monthly contributor. Westminster invites members, as well as Pastor Patrick Heery, to write its columns so that the church's diverse voices can be heard. This column, "Faith Evolves through Doubt," appeared in the August 9 edition, and was written by Elder Jill Fandrich.  
Around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Is healing at the core of
our congregations?
Jesus' ministry was about more
than preaching and teaching

By N. Graham Standish for Presbyterians Today
Special to Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - As a seminary student I heard a constant refrain from our professors: Jesus came to preach and teach. It was the pretext underlying our whole seminary education as they trained us to preach and teach.

It made sense to me. Isn't that what pastors do, spending our weeks preparing to preach on Sundays? Isn't our mandate to offer Bible studies, small groups and classes to nurture faith? We might lead boards and committees and offer pastoral care to those in need and in crisis, but our primary role is to preach and to teach.
Something happened early in my ministry to change my perspective. I was an associate pastor at the time, and a youth group member spoke with me about his recent experience. He prefaced it with, "Graham, do you believe in healing prayer?" I told him that I wasn't sure. He proceeded to tell me about something amazing that had happened over the previous few weeks. His girlfriend, a champion high school swimmer, was set to race in the state finals - her swan song for competitive swimming. That week she tore her hamstring and her doctor told her it would be impossible to race. She was devastated.

Listening to her despair, he told her that he had been reading in the Bible how Jesus healed someone who couldn't walk. He said that perhaps they could pray for her healing. They agreed. Not knowing how to actually pray for healing, he improvised. He stretched out his hand, asking Jesus to let it be a channel for healing. He then placed it on her leg as they continued to pray. Nothing happened. Oh well, it was worth trying.

The next morning, though, something did happen. She got up, took a shower, and while drying off realized that all her pain was gone. Her leg had been healed. She ended up competing in the state finals and won.

Whoa! What do I do with that story? It hasn't been the only one I've heard like it. Over the ensuing months others told me of their healing experiences. It was disorienting. We Presbyterians are rational people who don't easily succumb to tales of prayer and miraculous healings. So I did what I always do in cases of cognitive dissonance -- I decided to learn more about it.


  Pew survey: Most worshipers support COVID-19 precautions churches are taking
Many are viewing worship services from multiple churches, and millions head outdoors or watch a movie to cope with the pandemic

By Mike Ferguson
Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - Nearly eight in 10 Americans say houses of worship should be required to follow the same rules about social distancing and large gath  erings as other organizations and businesses in their local area, a Pew Research Center survey released Friday states.

While left-leaning respondents say they are more likely than those who lean to the right politically to say houses of worship should be required to follow the same social distancing rules as other organizations, a two-thirds majority of Republicans also expressed this view.

More than 8 in 10 people who attend religious services said their congregation should either be closed altogether or open only on a modified basis. Among the most commonly mentioned modifications were staying 6 feet apart during worship (51%), requiring masks (44%), limiting the number of worshipers (41%) and limiting singing (29%).

Seventy-nine percent of worship attendees surveyed said their house of worship is streaming or recording its services.


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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