“Called, Equipped, Sent”

Posted By Beckie Sweet on Jun 19, 2023 | 0 comments

June 18, 2023 ~ Third Sunday after Pentecost

Rev. Beckie Sweet


During the first couple of days of this month, the “United Methodists of Upper New York” (our new branding), gathered at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.  We, clergy and lay members of the Conference, had been invited, called, summoned to the first in-person gathering in four years!!  As anticipated, when those who serve Christ are called together, it is a grand reunion.  So, the first thing that many of us experienced as we filled the arena, was long-awaited hugs, scanning the large crowded room for beloveds, rushing to check-in with those with whom we longed to have conversations.

The published theme of the 2023 Annual Conference was “TOGETHER: Living the Gospel. Being God’s Love.”  Indeed, it felt good to be Together, and the presence of the Spirit of the Risen Christ was palpable.  Our new bishop, Hector Bergos Nunez, offered an Episcopal Address which reminded everyone of the power of Unity as we serve Christ as United Methodists.  While acknowledging the inherent grief associated with even a single church leaving the denomination, those who choose to remain United Methodists must be ever more resolved to faithful witness for Christ in the world, based on Christ’s love which knows no boundaries.

While introducing the new branding for the Conference, going from Upper New York Conference to United Methodists of Upper New York, it became clear that the Conference is transitioning to a fresh start, with a more open and progressive episcopal leader and new opportunities to grow into creative ministries which will help the church to be more relevant in a post-pandemic, denomination re-shaping reality.

Jessica White, the Conference Lay Leader, addressed the conference in a similar vein, coining the word “CLAITY.”  Claity unites clergy and laity in all kinds of cooperative, collaborative ministries, which capitalizes on the gifts, leadership, and passions we have together for serving Christ in our communities and in the world.  Our Lay Member, Jami Breedlove Crouch reports that Jessica’s presentation was followed by that of Rev. Mike Weeden and dean of the Cabinet.  He asked us to expand our gifts of grace and forgiveness, in order to Discover, Develop, and Deploy these gifts in our congregation.  Discover, Develop, and Deploy, sounds a lot like Called, Equipped, and Sent ~ our theme for today.  As Christ called the disciples, naming them as if identifying the reason they were called, he trained them by modeling servant leadership right in front of them.  And then Jesus sent them out, deployed them to engage in the ministry for which they were equipped.

Sometimes we don’t even realize that God is preparing us for a specific ministry, or that we have what it takes to be deployed.  At Annual Conference, as we worshiped together twice each day, we were engaged, inspired, and challenged to increasing faithfulness and willingness to serve.  We were engaged by those who responded to a call (like an old fashioned altar call) at the Service of Ordination, Commissioning and Recognition.  By the way, it was a joy to offer support to our neighbor, Rev. Alison Schmeid, who serves the Lansing UMC, as she was ordained!  We were inspired by those engaging in non-traditional, creative ministries, like First UMC in Watertown where they offer free childcare and spiritual nurture to young children on Wednesday evenings.  We were challenged to be God’s love in our communities by determining the unique needs of each ministry setting and going forth boldly to meet those needs.

When folks from Buffalo announced the first four recipients of the Buffalo 10 Scholarships given in memory of those who perished in the racist mass shooting in Buffalo just over a year ago, I was proud to be a part of this congregation who had given generously to establish those scholarships.

Recovering from any loss is not easy, and we realize that we need to care for these new ministries with diminishing resources.  We grieve that 35 more churches were approved for disaffiliation.  Added to the churches previously approved for this separation: 8 in 2022 and 18 in March of this year, that makes 61 churches in the process of leaving the denomination so far.  Another 10 churches were approved for closure.  The Conference is still grappling with lawsuits based on partnership with the Boy Scouts of America during a sad time of some child sexual abuse there, and in some of our local churches based on the Child Victims Act.  We must rectify the harms done in the past, and compensate the individuals and families for their pain and suffering.  That reduces the resources available for other ministries, but it is the right thing to do.

We are once again engaging in preparations for a General Conference in the Spring of 2024, the next opportunity to remove discriminatory language from our Book of Discipline.  I invite you to pray for the delegates to that General Conference, including two newly elected lay delegates who will join in the vital and daunting preparations for that service.


Friends, Christ calls, equips, and sends each of us in a variety of ministries to serve and witness to our faith in a world so desperately in need of the unifying and compassionate love of Christ.

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