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The 309th Stated Meeting of the Albany Presbytery was held on October 1, 2016 at the Korean Presbyterian Church in Schenectady, 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 October 1st meeting listed below include the following reports.  See below for more details.

Major Agenda Items

  • Meeting Overview – Jerry McKinney, Moderator, Albany Presbytery
  • Theological Education Fund – Jim Reisner, TE Westminster
  • Mission Partner: Schenectady Inner City Ministry – Rev. Phil Grisby
  • Transitional Presbyter’s Report – Shannan Vance-Ocampo
  • Committee on Ministry – Holly Cameron & Sam Jackling
  • Albany Presbytery 2017 Budget – Arthur Fullerton
  • Speak Out – Announcements and Events
    • Viki Brooks
    • Guatemala Sewing Women’s Group – Kathy Gorman-Coombs
    • Albany Presbytery Men’s Mission Trip to Guatemala
    • African Family Night at Westminster – Jim Reisner
    • Annual HS Youth Forum to the UN in NYS – Glenn Leupold
    • Supporting the Presbyterian Brothers & Sisters in Syria – Kate Kotfila
  • Congregation Revitalization opportunities with PnueMatrix – Deborah Wright
  • New Ministry Plan for Albany Presbytery – Tim Coombs

Brief Reflections

Jerry McKinney, Moderator, Albany Presbytery
Meeting Overview
“The Presbytery gathered on Saturday, October 1st, at the Korean Presbyterian Church.  The members of the Church and their pastor, Rev. Youngbern Mun, welcomed us warmly.  They also prepared a delicious Korean lunch for us.  We want to thank them for their wonderful hospitality.

We opened with a prayer for World Communion Sunday.  As a part of the prayer, Rev. Glenn Leupold offered a remembrance Rev. Robert Merrill Garvin, an honorably retired member who had died in July.  We heard a challenge from Rev. Jim Reisner concerning the Theological Education Fund.  We also heard an inspiring mission story from Rev. Phil Grigsby, the director of Schenectady Inner City Ministries.

The docket was full, and there were many important matters to consider.  The Council presented three reports for first readings—the Structure Reportthe Ministry Plan, and the 2017 Budget.  We had a good discussion of the Structure Report and the Budget.  Unfortunately, we had to postpone the Ministry Plan presentation until the end of the meeting, but in November we will have a chance to discuss this important proposal more fully.   

The Committee on Preparation for Ministry had a sensitive matter to bring to the Presbytery after lunch.  During the Committee on Ministry report, we examined Lynn Brown for ordination to the office of Teaching Elder.  We will be ordaining Lynn on October 23rd at St. Peter’s Church!  We also took action recognize Rev. Pat Davies as honorably retired.  Several members of the Presbytery offered inspiring memories of Pat’s ministry.  The Presbytery also adopted changes in Terms of Call (please check out those changes on the website!)  Rev. Deborah Wright made a presentation of Pneumatrix, a program for congregational revitalization.  She will be working with several congregations during the next year.  If you would like to know more, contact Rev. Tim Coombs.

During the COM report, we said farewell to Rev. David Bennett.  David was transferred to Northern New York Presbytery in order to begin a new call as Resource Presbyter.  We give thanks for David’s ministry with us and with the Ballston Spa congregation.

Finally, we heard reports from the Nominating Committee and the Board of Trustees.

Following our business, we concluded with the worship.  Rev. Katy Stenta, pastor of the New Covenant Church, preached an inspiring, challenging sermon based on Luke 17:5-10.  We heard the text in Spanish, Korean, and English.  Following the Proclamation of the Word, we celebrated the Lord’s Supper.  Rev. Youngberm Mun led the celebration, and Ruling Elders from the Korean Church served us.  This service of worship reminded us that we are part of a worldwide community that is expressed in different languages and with different customs.  We are joined together by the love of God in Jesus Christ—and for this we give thanks!“

Jim Reisner, TE from Westminster, Albany
Theological Education Fund
“Jim Reisner, from Westminster, Albany, briefly reported on the Theological Education Fund (TEF). The TEF is the only way funds are raised in the PCUSA to support our seminaries. Jim thanked the congregations who are participating, and commended the practice of every congregation creating a line item in their annual budget for the fund. Even if the suggested goal of 1% of program budget cannot be reached, every gift is added to a whole which supports seminarians.”

Rev. Phillip Grigsby, Schenectady Inner City Ministry
Albany Presbytery Mission Partner
I shared with Presbytery members several stories of people helped by the Schenectady Inner City Ministry (SICM) with your support:  Melissa who was embarrassed to come to our emergency food pantry, one of too many who have “too much month at the end of the money;” a young girl who came to our free summer meal program which was her only time out all day; a victim of domestic violence we could help get into permanent housing; and a participant reflecting on her participation in the Dialogue to Change structured sessions addressing racism.  I focused on the African proverb, “Hope is the Foundation of the World” and described how hope is present both for the individuals shared through the ministry but also for the community as we “seek the welfare of the city of which we are a part.”  SICM  developed several initiatives and provided new ways to address community issues and concerns such as homeless, human trafficking, and homelessness.  SICM will celebrate 50 years of service next year; our thanks to the Presbytery for remaining a strong partner in ministry; please visit our website www.sicm.us for updates.

Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Transitional Presbyter
Transitional Presbyter’s Report
A video of Shannan’s Presentation is available here: https://youtu.be/Y70osvZDTk0

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Holly Cameron & Sam Jackling, Co-Chairs, Committee on Ministry
We welcomed and examined for ordination Lynn Brown who will serve as the Interim Pastor for the Amsterdam Church beginning October 2nd.

We are happy that TE Beth Illingworth will serve as Temporary Supply for St. Peter’s Church for 3 months.

And Presbytery approved an increase of 2% for the Minimum Terms Of Call (TOC) by 2% and encourage congregations and session to increase all existing TOC by 2%.  The 2017 TOC will be posted soon.”

Arthur Fullerton, Current chair of the Budget Committee and Vice Moderator elect of Albany Presbytery
Albany Presbytery 2017 Budget
The budget committee presented a draft budget with three scenarios and we posed a series of choices to the presbytery to help direct the committee toward the creation of a final budget. We learned a lot from the presbytery meeting. 

We believe there was consensus at the presbytery meeting to use the reserves in 2017 to cover the transitional costs of moving to a new model of how the presbytery works. There was a recognition that each of the draft budgets reduced the support from presbytery to GA as part of this realignment. The presbytery also supported splitting the chaplaincies from the other mission activities. This will allow the evangelism function of these specialized ministries to be evaluated separately from the support of local mission agencies. We also heard more support for staff cost of living raises in budget A than for budget option B which omitted them. 

The presbytery indicated a desire to keep the basic witness support at $43 (though there was some support for a higher per capita). In addition, there was an acknowledgment that the shared witness support has been declining. We plan to survey the churches who have had a history of contributing to shared witness support about their expected 2017 contribution levels. If it is possible we will try to conduct this survey before Council meets so Council can have a better sense of the 2017 revenue numbers.  

Using all of this feedback we will begin to take steps to consolidate toward one budget for a second reading at our November presbytery meeting. 

Still to be resolved are the last two elephants in the room: 1) staffing levels and 2) whether (with the exception of chaplaincies) the presbytery should act primarily as an ecclesiastical body and not a joint funding foundation.

We plan to wait until after Council gives direction on these two critical questions before we schedule a further webinar/video presentation on the budget.”

Congregation Revitalization opportunities with PnueMatrix – Deborah Wright
“You can read about the work that is beginning in a few congregations in this article: Albany’s Adaptive Adventure

New Ministry Plan for Albany Presbytery – Tim Coombs
“Tim Coombs shared a brief summary of the Ministry Renewal plan and the suggested strategy regarding Pastoral Leadership for the presbytery.  Time did not allow for questions.  For more details read the report on the website.

Proposed New Ministry Plan:

Speak Out: Announcement & Events

Supporting a local refugee family from Syria – Viki Brooks
Emmanuel Freidens Church of Schenectady made the commitment to sponsor a refugee family from Syria.  In their attempt to find a volunteer who speaks Arabic, they contacted Viki Brooks, our Campus Protestant Minister.  Over a short weekend, a translator was found and as a result of one email addressed to a social list serve at the college, over $1,200 was collected to help the ten member family purchase winter clothing.  In addition many useful household products and clothing were donated.  

For the most part these generous donors do not belong to communities of worship.  They are members of an intellectual community that grasps the importance of helping others but as a result of their often insular pursuits don’t always have the chance to act on their sense of compassion.  The Campus Protestant Ministry at Union College gave some of these people a tangible way to respond to the overwhelming reality of loss and need that exists in the refugee community.  

The following week a group of students, called Union Scholars, held a bake sale that raised almost $200 for the family.  The Muslim Student Association is discussing some non-monetary ways to assist the family.”

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.  More details are available here: Men’s Trip to the Mam Presbytery

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Guatemala Sewing Women’s Group – Kathy Gorman-Coombs
“Kathy shared a little about the Sewing School in Guatemala.  If we are able to bring the 3 from Guatemala, they will be bringing things they’ve made, so a way to support them will be to buy some of those things, but we won’t know for a few weeks yet whether or not they will be coming.  Please pray for our friends to get Visas:  Maura, Pedro, & Elizabeth are their names.”

African Family Night at Westminster – Jim Reisner

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5:00pm – 8:30pm
Transforming the Lives of Children in Ghana, Liberia & Sierra Leone

Keynote Speaker: Mr. Neil Golub – 6:15pm

Mr. Golub is a founder and sustainer of the World of Difference® Institute in the Capital Region of New York, which aims to counter prejudice, bigotry and racism in our area. You can learn more here: http://newyork.adl.org/albany/

Please bring a “Dish-to-Pass” to share at dinner if you are able. RSVP by Nov 1: (518) 436-8544 or office@wpcalbany.org

This year, our fundraising goal is $15,000. We invite you to join our Honorary Committee.  Please contact the office for more information.  As always, you can give at our website: Westminster Presbyterian Church Give Page or please make checks payable to: Westminster Church and designate “African Family Night” in the memo line.  We look forward to your support in any way.  

Annual HS Youth Forum to the UN in NYS – Glenn Leupold

Learn more about this great youth event at: High School Youth Leadership Seminar at the United Nations in NYC

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Supporting our Presbyterian Brothers & Sisters in Syria – Kate Kotfila
“The atrocities in Syria are ongoing and yet the Presbyterian Church continues as a place of hope and support.  Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Syria.  If you want to follow what is happening and perhaps find a way to support them, the following places on Facebook post regularly.

Tami Dekrmnjian Nseir (Pastor RevIbrahim Nseir’s wife) – Facebook

Pastor RevIbrahim Nseir – Facebook

The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon – Facebook

Scott Parker: Mission Co-worker in the Middle East – Facebook

The Outreach Foundation – Facebook

Thank you all for your service.  Official minutes will be offered at the next Presbytery meeting.  See you at United Presbyterian Church of CambridgeWednesday, November 16, 2016 from 3:00pm – 8pm.

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