New York Conference Report – April 2013

New York Conference Report – April 2013

Report to the UEK Forum – April 2013
New York Conference United Church of Christ

Renewal of Covenant:  After five years of partnership with the Protestant Church in Hessen and Nassau (EKHN), the Annual Meeting of the NY Conference (UCCNY) voted in June of 2012 to reaffirm and continue the partnership.  The following November, the EKHN Synod in Frankfurt also approved the renewal of the partnership agreement (Partnerschaftsvereinbarung), in a nearly unprecedented unanimous vote.  This mutual approval of a continued relationship reflects the rich blessings we have already shared and the hope for new initiatives in our shared ministry. 

Visits: Hospitality has been extended on both sides of the ocean for a variety of visitors.  In January, 2012, members from Lakeville UCC and the Genesee Valley Association attended the installation of Kerstin Peiper in Michelstadt.  Also in January, Horst Janus, a leader of the Reformed Church in Bremen, visited New York during his sabbatical.  During a spring visit to the UCCNY, Hille Richers (an EKHN fund-raiser) made some important statewide contacts for her research project.  In the summer, Andreas Wagner and his son Max attended Broadway UCC in NYC while Andreas was on sabbatical there.  A joint pastors’ retreat was held in NYC and Silver Bay, from September 27- October 3, 2012.  Lieve Van den Ameele, a local church pastor and consultant from Frankfurt-Fechenheim, spent a sabbatical in the US from January through March, 2013, studying interim ministry and serving at Henrietta UCC.  In addition, David Seiple delivered a paper in Germany, Ruby Wilson went to a summer fair, and Sondra Proctor continues her annual organ concerts.  Some of these visits have sprung up organically and are not initiated or directed by the UCCNY, but are nevertheless fruits of the partnership.

Youth Exchanges: Ten German young people visited Binghamton and New York City this past April, for a work camp, congregational fellowship and sightseeing.  That same month a lively entourage from Mommenheim, Germany – 10 youth and their organizer – visited Broadway UCC. Three of our young adults – Kaitlin Meyer, Kim Junkins and Dana Harris – attended the EKHN’s “Global Youth Village” from June 7-10, 2012, along with several dozen other young people from different EKHN partner Churches around the world.

Interns: One of the mainstays of our partnership has been the internship program, whereby a pastoral intern works at a congregation of the partner Church for up to one year.  Two EKHN interns are scheduled for the near future (pending Homeland Security documentation): Anneke Pereboom, to serve at Plymouth UCC in Syracuse, and Peter Gurth, to serve at Saint Stevens-Bethlehem UCC in Buffalo.  We are also pleased to report that for the first time the UCCNY has an American intern ready to serve in Germany: Rosalind Gnatt, an M.Div. student at Union Theological Seminary who has lived in Germany and is fluent in German, is hoping to begin an internship with the EKHN this fall.  In general, salary and airfare are paid by the sponsoring denomination, while housing and transportation are provided by the hosting congregation. 

Spontaneous Gifts: We are grateful for the generous gifts of €5,000 from the EKHN for relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy, and $600 from the Evangelische Kirchengemeinde in Fechenheim to Henrietta UCC to purchase one of the new windows in their building renovation.  In addition, the children of Henrietta UCC collected a mission offering of $100 for the children in Fechenheim.  These gifts indicate an increasing sense of connection between the two partner Churches and among their congregations.

EKHN Delegation to UCCNY Annual Meeting:  Eight EKHN delegates will attend our meeting in Tarrytown, June 7-9 2013.  They will tour NYC and visit local churches there for a few days before the meeting.  In the past we have shown delegations a lot about the UCCNY but not much about the UCC overall.  One suggestion for the future is that our guests might want to fly to Cleveland to see the Church House and Amistad Chapel.  Another is that the itinerary for delegations might include a work project, e.g. at a soup kitchen or regional food bank.

Visit to Israel & Palestine:  A trip to explore justice issues in Palestine and Israel is in the works for late summer or early fall of 2014.  The proposal is to send 8-10 people, with 4-5 each from EKHN & UCCNY.  We are still working on the composition of the group.  Our focus in this first trip would be on scoping out what steps we can take with our ecumenical partners toward peacemaking in the long run.  (The original proposal, aimed at a time of study, reflection, pilgrimage, and encounter with other customs, for anyone with interest in the Holy Land and interfaith relationships, may be taken up at a later date).  Bob Loesch has agreed to coordinate the planning process with our German partners.  Plans will proceed in consultation with leaders from the UEK and with Peter Makari, the UCC Executive for the Middle East and Europe.

Martin Luther Study Tour: This is in the works for October, 2013, to include folks from UCCNY and EKHN. The group would travel together to Wittenberg and surrounding locations, and perhaps spend some time in the EKHN as well.  They would stay in hotels near Wittenberg, and have home hospitality in the EKHN.  Participants will be asked to pay their own way.  We will make an open invitation and take first 8 people who commit.  We see this as a way to build relationships within the partnership.  Sunny Panitz is coordinating the tour.

Annual Meeting Workshop: The UCCNY Commission on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations will offer a session about its work during the UCCNY Annual Meeting in June, in which we will advertise the Luther trip, report on the Israel-Palestine event, and recruit possible Commission members.  The format will be a “Marketplace” with parts of our work highlighted in different corners of the room.  Participants will visit each station, where Commission members will share some of the “aha” moments that happen in our projects and relationships.  One station will have newsprint where people can write what their home congregations are doing in ecumenical and interfaith relations.  The marketplace will be followed by a time of conversation with the whole group, where we ask “What is your congregation up to?  What new things might you like to try?”

Leadership Changes & Contact Info: After many years of faithful leadership, David Seiple has resigned as chair of our Commission on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations so that he can devote more time to his teaching and writing.  Martha Koenig Stone will now serve as chair.  To coordinate communications for the partnership, we have established a “partnership committee” with three people from each partner Church: 

Respectfully Submitted,
Rev. Martha Koenig Stone