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The 310th Stated Meeting of the Albany Presbytery was held on November 16, 2016 at the United Presbyterian Church of Cambridge, NY.  Below are a few snippets/reflections offered from some of the shared business.  Official minutes will be offered at the next Presbytery meeting.

Major agenda items from the November 16th meeting listed below include the following reports.  See below for more details.

  • Meeting Overview – Jerry McKinney, Moderator, Albany Presbytery
  • Guatemala Partnership –  Rev. Kathy Gorman-Coombs
  • CRTC Award & CRTC Update – Martha Reisner
  • Council Report – Cara Molyneaux
  • Congregational Revitalization and Pastoral Leadership Plan: 1st Reading – Tim Coombs
  • Speak Out – Announcements and Events
  • BAT Update – Kate Kotfila
  • Transitional Presbyter’s Report – Shannan Vance-Ocampo
  • Nomination Committee – Kevin Dwyer
  • Committee on Ministry – Holly Cameron & Sam Jackling
  • CPM Report – Elizabeth Shen O’Connor
  • East Hebron AC Report – John McAuley

Jerry McKinney, Moderator, Albany Presbytery
Meeting Overview
“The Presbytery gathered on Wednesday, November 16th, at the United Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, NY.   After opening in prayer, we heard the Stated Clerk’s report, and we were welcomed by host pastor, Kate Kotfila.  The docket was full, including transitional reports from the Presbytery Council and a report from the East Hebron Administrative Commission.

Here are a few highlights from the meeting:

Kathy Gorman-Coombs reported on behalf of the Guatemala Partnership.  We had hoped to welcome members of the Mam Presbytery to the meeting, but unfortunately they were denied visas for travel.  Kathy’s report expressed frustration and called us to pray for our Mam partners.

Martha Reisner, Executive Director of the Capital Region Theological Center, presented their Volunteer of the Year Award to Alexandra Lusak, an honorably retired member of the Presbytery.  Shannan Vance Ocampo and Abigail Norton-Levering (RCA) recognized the work of Martha Reisner, and expressed our thanks for her leadership of CRTC.

During the Speak Out time, we heard about the many ways our congregations are engaged in mission and ministry.

The East Hebron Administrative Commission Report presented and action item that led to the creation of our newest congregation:  the Hebron United Presbyterian Church.  Members of the Commission, who have worked tirelessly for three years, were recognized and thanked.  

The Presbytery closed with worship.  Ken Applegate, Parish Associate at First Church, Glens Falls, preached.  He reminded us that our primary mission is to love one another in Christ’s name.  The Lord’s Supper was celebrated by Laura Mitchell, pastor of the Hebron United Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery Moderator.  Members from our newest congregation helped serve the Lord’s Supper.  The final act of worship was the installation of the new Moderator, Ruling Elder Cara Molyneaux, and the new Vice Moderator, Ruling Elder Arthur Fullerton.”

Rev. Kathy Gorman-Coombs
Guatemala Partnership
“For years, the Guatemala Partnership Task Force has been hoping to bring some of our friends from the Mam Presbytery here to Albany to visit.   The signing of a new partnership agreement seemed like an appropriate occasion to celebrate in both Presyteries, and so we invited 3 representatives—Maura Perez, Pedro de Leon, and Elizabeth Hernandez, to visit us for about 10 days centered on the this November Albany Presbytery meeting. On November 2 they applied to the US Embassy in Guatemala City, for Visas to be able to visit the US, and all three of them were denied.  Here is a summary of the report I gave to Presbytery on the day we had hoped they would be visiting with us:

On Tuesday evening, November 1, I was in the midst of a Presbyterian CREDO event, and even though we were supposed to have given up social media for the week, I was actively facebook messaging with Maura de Perez of the Mam Presbytery Women’s Association, about the next day’s interview in Guatemala City where she and Elizabeth Hernandez, and Pedro de Leon Perez, would find out whether or not they would be granted Visas to come and visit us here in Albany.  We had equipped them with letters of invitation from Albany Presbytery, with official letters from the headquarters of the PCUSA, and letters of support from Paul Tonko’s office.  Maura was contacting me to ask me to e-mail them a copy of our partnership agreement, which she thought might help them prove that their request was for “legitimate travel”; fortunately I had it on my laptop and was able to do that . . . but even with all that, with stable jobs in Guatemala and strong family and community ties—which is what the Embassy told me in a letter is what a person needs to demonstrate in order to be granted a Visa—that they have good reasons to go home again—even with all that—all 3 of them were denied that next day.  We can go to their country any time we please, almost as easily as we can travel in the states, but this is the 4th time in 3 years that we’ve invited folks to visit us, and our Embassy has turned them down.  While continuing to accept the fees for applications for Visas that time and time again . . . are turned down.  We of course covered those costs for them, but nonetheless—in that past 3 years, the US Embassy has absorbed probably more than $1000 of Albany Presbytery mission funds—not to mention a number of other church bodies—in fees for Visas I’m beginning to suspect they have no intention of ever granting.

In the sad, angry, frustrated internet based conversation that flew around after that, our Mam brothers and sisters emerged as ever with so much grace, so much faith, expressing sadness, but focusing immediately not on the loss of their opportunity to travel, but on looking forward to and preparing for our next visit to them – and over and over expressing their gratitude for the love and support of the partnership.  But, I think the person who captured the combination of the joy of the partnership with the anger over the system is our dear friend Emerson Morales of CEDEPCA, who wrote in an e-mail that Wednesday afternoon:

‘I am sure they [the Mam folk] are sad but with the satisfaction of doing everything in the right way.  Pastor Pedro said they are very grateful for this opportunity and for all the support of Albany Presbytery and CEDEPCA. Pastor Pedro said now they need to focus on the next visit of Albany to the Mam Presbytery. 

When I learned about this I had to walk outside and take some seconds to calm down, we invested a lot of time and did everything we had to do and this is not the answer we were expecting.  There is something wrong in this world, and that is why our work is very important, we need to change this unjust system.’

And so we move forward, seeking with God’s help, to ‘be the change we want to see.’”

Martha Reisner, Executive DIrector, CRTC
CRTC Award & CRTC Update
“CRTC awarded the Rev. Alexandra Lusak its Community Service Award, recognizing her extensive volunteer contributions to many organizations and efforts in the greater Capital Region community.  In retirement, Alexandra’s volunteer service is an example of her generous spirit and tireless energy in supporting sisters and brothers of our community.  She volunteers in and leads efforts for advocacy, literacy, hospitality, inclusion, civil rights and social justice.  Alexandra uses her time in retirement as a volunteer, believing we are called to stand with those who are marginalized and forgotten.

After fifteen years of service to the Capital District community, the Capital Region Theological Center’s Board of Directors has decided to enter into a time of organizational dormancy effective January 1, 2017 as the next steps for the organization are developed. This is not a closure, but a time of re-visioning and recalibration in a rapidly changing religious landscape.  All current staff will complete their work assignments by the end of 2016.

For the last 15 years, the Capital Region Theological Center (CRTC) has been host to 15 large-scale public theology events and 260 educational events. It has resourced hundreds of congregations and ministries and engaged over 4,000 participants. The mission of CRTC is with individuals, congregations and communions to: Equip with tools for developing and expressing faith; Connect people and resources, creating community; and Inspire a commitment to renewed discipleship and spiritual growth. It was founded in 2001 by a partnership of the regional governing bodies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ. It has been affiliated with a number of regional educational institutions, including New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Auburn Theological Seminary and Siena College.

The Board of Directors wishes to express its deepest thanks and gratitude to all who have participated in our programming, events and resourcing over the last fifteen years. We are grateful for our strong and capable staff and to all of those who have offered their time, labor and gifts to this organization. We look forward to exploring our next steps with great faith and Hope.”

Cara Molyneaux, Council Report
 “Presbytery Council reflections.
        Council has been doing a lot of hard work this year.  They have looked at each element of the Transition planning and made suggestions and then passed them on to Presbytery.  At this meeting Presbytery had a first reading of the Staffing Report and the Ministry Plan.  Both received comments that will be incorporated into the reports that will come to the next Presbytery meeting on February 4th for a second reading.  The Structure Plan has been sent back to Council for further consideration.  The Budget for 2017 was approved.  It was announced that Council had voted to recognize the end of the contract of The Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo on June 30, 2017 with prayer and thanks for the work she is doing.”

Tim Coombs, Congregational Revitalization and Pastoral Leadership Plan
The entire report and recommendations are listed here:

Speak Out: Announcement & Events

  • Vets2Farm – Mission Project, Broadalbin First Presbyterian Church, Rev Linda Martin
    “Learn all about this mission in the blog article: Waiting with our Veterans.”
  • Broadalbin First Presbyterian Church, Ruling Elder Sam Jackling
    Broadalbin’s 3rd Stop Hunger Now – meal packaging event, held on Sat 11/19.  Over 250 volunteers from our church and school community packaged 25,200 meals. Glory to God Alone!
  • TAUM Furniture Program Testimony – Donna Elia
    “A mother and her children had no furniture, and our furniture program furnished the whole house. As good a thing as that was, here’s what made the biggest impression: the daughter had books on the floor and awards on her wall, even though she didn’t have a bed yet. Tara, our program director asked, ‘Oh, do you like to read?’ The girl replied, ‘I’m one of the best readers in my class, and now I can look at my awards from my bed!’ She went on to say, ‘There’s just one more thing that would make my room complete, a desk.’ Tyara had one on the truck and gave it to her. The girl was thrilled, because she didn’t think she would ever get a desk.
    Human hands are still frequently the way God works on the world.”
  • Upcoming Men’s Mission Trip to Guatemala – Tim Coombs
    Upcoming Men’s Guatemala Trip would like to lead a group of Men to engage in a joint study. 
  • Annual HS Youth Forum to the UN in NYS – Miriam Lawrence-Leupold
    Learn more about this great youth event on the Albany Presbytery Youth Landing Page.
  • Supporting our Presbyterian Brothers & Sisters in Syria – Kate Kotfila
    Continued prayers requested for our brothers & sisters in Syria: A Message to the American Church from Syria
  • Thank you to Trinity Presbyterian Church for becoming a More Light Presbyterians Church
    Trinity’s “More Light” Story by Kathy Gorman-Coombs
  • Albany Presbytery New Website – Kim Deal, Communications Manager, Albany Presbytery
    “Have you noticed we have an updated website? We launched Phase II of the Albany Presbytery website in early November. I plan to create an introduction, but in the meantime, feel free to visit and see if it is easier for you to find what you need.  Feedback is ALWAYS welcome!”

Kate Kotfila, Trustees
BAT Update
Kevin Aubin continues to be available to do building assessments. Any church interested in a professional analysis should contact Kate Kotfila at 518-727-0719 or In several cases Kevin’s work has helped churches address unseen problems before they become serious.

Please continue to pray for the session and pastor of the Hudson Church as they navigate their building’s structural problems. They can no longer use the building because it has been deemed structurally unsound. Together, as a presbytery we will need to join in supporting them as all buildings are held in trust by the presbytery for the congregations.”

Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Transitional Presbyter
Transitional Presbyter’s Report
You can watch Shannan’s Presentation here:

Kevin Dwyer, Nomination Committee Report
“Elected to the Board of Trustees: 

  • TE Bill levering was elected to a second 3-year term on the Board of Trustees – Class of 2019.
  • TE Donna Elia was elected to her first 3-year term on the Board of Trustees – Class of 2019.
  • There is still one vacancy in the Class of 2019.”

Holly Cameron & Sam Jackling, Co-Chairs, Committee on Ministry
“Presbytery acted to approve a one-year contract between the Charlton Freehold Church and the Rev. Jeffrey Palmer for part-time temporary stated supply pastor and moderator, effective 11/20/16.

For reflections of the Presbytery Meeting:

  • Presbytery acted to dismiss the COM Restoration Team that has been working with the Rev. Chris Garrison.  It was noted that three former staff members at the Brunswick Church do not feel their concerns have been addressed and the current COM co-chairs will continue to meet with them to provide information, answers, and pastoral care, as needed.
  • Presbytery approved a change in the 2017 Terms of Call Form, stating that Albany Presbytery considers hrs>=40/week full-time. The 2017 form is now available on the Presbytery website (note: the IRS mileage rate will be updated when the new rate is available).
  • Pneumatrix Adaptive Change program has started in the Scotia Trinity, Cambridge, New Scotland, Albany New Covenant, and Delmar churches.
  • The new COM Policies and Procedures Manual was presented for a first reading. No feedback was received. The manual is still on the Presbytery website for any who wish to review it before the second reading in February.
  • Presbytery recognized the upcoming retirement of the Rev. Susan Schultz from the Stephentown Church. (Susan is not Presbyterian, so we have no authority to designate her as honorably retired.)  Effective date is 12/31/16. This is a federated church and according to their bylaws the next called pastor is to be from the PC(U.S.A.).
  • Presbytery acted to designate Mary Woodman as honorably retired when she retires from Hospice 12/31/16.

Elizabeth Shen O’Connor, CPM Report
At its November meeting, Albany Presbytery received the Manual of Operations from the Committee on Preparation for Ministry for a first reading. With the changes ushered in by the New Form of Government in 2011, standards for the preparation for ministry process were set but presbyteries were able to define for themselves a process specific to their context. As a result, CPMs (among other committees) have been working to put into writing their processes and policies. There were no significant policy changes with the writing of Albany Presbytery’s CPM Manual. It has simply captured what the Presbytery and CPM have committed to in practice under the guidance of PC(USA). In the Manual, CPM worked to define the roles of the individual seeking ordination, the Committee, and the Presbytery and to capture what has been historical policies and processes for Albany Presbytery and its CPM. Overall, our goal was to strike a balance between clear expectations in the preparation for ministry process, while allowing for the uniqueness of each call to ordained ministry of Teaching Elder. We look to present the Manual to the Presbytery at its January meeting for a second reading and vote for approval.

East Hebron AC Report – John McAuley, Teaching Elder
“The November 16th Presbytery meeting marked a wonderful day in the life of the East Hebron and West Hebron churches as the vote of consolidation was approved by the Presbytery.  This consolidation was the result of much prayer and discernment and mutual respect as both congregations considered how God might work through the two bodies of believers to create one new body – together seeking to glorify the Lord and share the love of God within the Hebron community and beyond.  Both congregations should be greatly commended for their willingness to humbly submit their ministries to the Lord as they sought God’s guidance. And such mutual submission and compassion is certainly the fruit of the leadership shown to each congregation over the past years – many that have gone before, and most especially those who have guided this process, including, most especially, Laura Mitchell and Barbara Wheeler.  It will be exciting to see the new work that God will do in and through the congregation of Hebron United Presbyterian Church – to God be the glory!”

Thank you all for your service.  Official minutes will be offered at the next Presbytery meeting.  See you at New Covenant Presbyterian Church, Albany, Saturday, February 4, 2017 from 9:00am – 4pm.

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