Greetings St. Paulians! My name is Steve Beyers and I am chair of the St Paul’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee, or SPR. According to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, the first duty of SPR is to encourage, strengthen, nurture, support, and respect the pastor(s) and staff and their family(ies).
I have very good news to share, so I’ll get right to it: Bishop Mark Webb of our Upper New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has informed us, through our District Superintendent Vonda Fossett, that he intends to appoint the Rev. Rebekah Sweet as the next pastor of St. Paul’s, effective July 1, 2021. This is great news for St. Paul’s.
For those unfamiliar with the process for pastor appointment, let me provide you with a little summary. Our District Superintendent (“DS”), Vonda Fossett, met with SPR back in mid-December to learn more about the church and to help discern what type of leader would best serve our needs. She already had all the basic information on the church through annual reports and the like, but before, during, and after her meeting SPR provided the DS with information on our values, our hopes, our spiritual journey, and our concerns for the church; together we painted a picture of what we felt St. Paul’s represented and the journey we saw ahead. The DS took all of this information – and it was a lot – back to the Bishop and his cabinet, and they met and prayed, consider all of the various leaders available within the conference and beyond, and discerned the choices which best meet the spiritual needs of all of the congregations involved.
In the end, they selected Pastor Rebekah Sweet, better known as Pastor Beckie, as the person who would best serve St. Paul’s. Pastor Beckie is currently pastor at the United Methodist Church in Kenmore, NY, right outside of Buffalo; her congregation is also just this Sunday (2/28) learning of this selection, so please include the Kenmore church in your prayers as they prepare for this pastoral change.
I first met Beckie through a virtual conference Thursday night (2/25), but what a great first impression! Those that have known her longer, including some of my fellow SPR members and our own Pastor Teressa, all attest to her warmth, her compassion, her support for the reconciling ministry and for the respect for all, and for her deep convictions and belief in the Christian message of love and redemption. Some of you may also know that she is currently active in the Commission on Religion and Race and has led groups seeking a greater understanding of the prevalence and impact of racism throughout society, and what we might do to help spread the message of love for all.
Now, here are some basics:
- Beckie was born not far away in Binghamton, NY, the child of UM Pastor.
- Being a pastor’s child, she and her three siblings moved around the state a bit, and graduated from Oneonta High School
- She earned a B.A. from Lycoming College with majors in religion and in music – I’m sure our choir director and organist will appreciate that!
- She earned her Master of Divinity from Drew University Theological School and then served in all manners of churches – rural, suburban, and urban – since her original appointment as a deacon in 1985.
- She spent time as a Program Director at Sky Lake Camp and Retreat Center so you might guess that, as she says, she just loves children.
- For those of you on the other end of the age spectrum, you might also be interested to know that Beckie’s mother will also be joining her at the parsonage come July. Beckie advises that you might expect her mother to be an active participant in church social activities
- Beckie also has three adult children (two young men and one young woman) who continue to add joy to her life, along with two cats and a French Angora rabbit appropriately named Jacques.
So I’ll stop there and say – we are blessed! Please join SPR in praying for Pastor Sweet and her current congregation, and for Pastor Teressa and her family, as we move through this bittersweet transition. In the coming weeks, look to our website and bulletins to learn a little more about Pastor Beckie; we will also be offering her current mailing address and encourage all to send best wishes directly to Pastor Beckie. We will also be offering opportunities for other church members to meet in small groups with Pastor Beckie in coming months as we prepare for her ministry starting in July.
In closing, let me express my appreciation to Pastor Teressa and to the entire SPR committee for the support and grace they have shown throughout this process. We look forward to the continuing leadership of Pastor Teressa in the coming months as we move forward in our spiritual journey as children of Christ.
Praise be to God!
Listen to the announcement from our February 28, 2021 Sunday service below: