June 4, 2024- Binghamville and beyond

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I shared in worship on Sunday that effective July 1, I will be appointed as the coordinating pastor of Binghamville United Methodist Church (in Fletcher) in addition to my full-time responsibilities at UCU. Specifically, this means I am on call for weddings, funerals, and occasional coaching of lay worship leaders as they desire. 

In many ways, this will mean minimal changes for both us and Binghamville. I will still be here on Sunday mornings; lay leaders will continue leading their worship services. Providing backup coverage for weddings and funerals is an offer made all the time amongst colleagues both within and across denominations. In other words, this is not an altogether new responsibility on my plate.

Yet what this official appointment opens up is a more formal channel for cross-congregational sharing and learning. They offer monthly drive-through community dinners from June through October, a model UCU may want to check out as we consider options for future feeding ministries. We have a worship livestream that might prove a helpful backstop when their leaders aren’t available. And who knows what else we might discover as we get to know each other in the coming year.

But beyond specific programming, there are great benefits when congregations connect, whether through clergy appointments or shared mission (think: EJU Ecumenical Ministries). The fellowship and uplift that come with collaboration can be energizing all around. As one of the books on my reading list says, No Congregation Is an IslandConnecting with other churches is proving one of the best ways for congregations to navigate the very real and unique challenges of our day.

Over the last several years, the New England Conference UMC’s Vision Forward Team has been working on recommendations that will allow local churches to face these challenges while experiencing renewal, or even revival! Among those recommendations is to rely increasingly on cooperative parish and collaborative ministry models.

At this year’s session (June 19-22), the body will vote on a resolution, “Assessing and Planning for Potential in Ministry.” Within that resolution is a call for all churches to undergo an assessment process over the next four years that will result in a congregation choosing one or more pathways: 

  • Flourish in a plan for ministry that makes disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and/or 
  • Serve as a support or mentor (an “anchor” or “hub”) for other churches and ministries, and/or 
  • Join with other churches, ministries, or organizations in sustainable collaborations for mission and ministry, and/or 
  • Form into sustainable cooperative, blended, or merged parishes, and/or
  • Discern a legacy of mission and ministry that might include closure or changing form

As a federated church, we are not bound by UM legislation, and surely, we have several sustainable collaborative ministries already. But this invitation, especially to serve as a support or mentor for other congregations, caught my eye. Like all churches, we have our struggles, but we also have many strengths. We are generous with our time, our resources, and our attitude. We are determined and organized when it comes to large-scale, long-term efforts. We provide meaningful worship and educational opportunities across the lifecycle, and we care for one another as well as the wide world.

And, even with all those assets, we know there is room for further growth and learning. We know God isn’t finished with us yet. Closer connections with our neighbors may indeed shed new light or ease the burden of the tasks that lay before us. And so I, for one, am grateful for this new opportunity and others that may yet come.

Speaking of growth and learning, I can’t wait to celebrate our Christian Education year in worship on Sunday! Join us at 10 as the children lead and share about their program year.

Pastor Jen