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United Methodist City Society Annual Meeting 2014

MAY 18, 2014 3:30 p.m.
CHURCH OF ST. PAUL AND ST. ANDREW 263 Wesxt 86th Street (86th and West End Ave.) Manhattan, New York, NY 10025


Ms. Jennifer Jones Austin
Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Mayor deBlasio’s Transition Team

Special music: See the renovated church facilities and tour the Largest Food Pantry Program in New York

No tickets required – Free will offering – Light Refreshments

Special Parking arrangements for those driving. Take the 86th Street #1 Subway

For more information contact:
Leticia Johnson, Office Manager
The United Methodist City Society
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1922, New York, NY 10115 Phone:212-870-3095

2014 Urban Ministry Scholarship Program


Dear Friends in Christ,

A copy of the application form for the Urban Ministry Scholarship Fund of the United Methodist City Society is available at the United Methodist City Society website,

Download the Application Form (PDF)

Limited funds are available for those persons who have demonstrated experience and interest in urban ministry, along with some level of financial need.  The Scholarship Fund is designated primarily to assist those persons who are planning to enter full‑time ordained ministry in a United Methodist Church with special interest in urban ministry.

All candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Membership in a church in the New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church; and
  • Enrollment in a seminary approved by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church.
  • Will be a full- or part-time student for the academic year 2014/2015
  • Provide proof of financial need

Priority in the awards will be given to persons who have a desire to enter full time ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church in an urban setting.

The Scholarship Committee will NOT review applications from persons that:

  • Are not members of churches in the New York Annual Conference;
  • Are not involved in urban ministries at their local church;
  • Are pursuing additional advanced degrees (i.e. second master’s degree or doctoral degree); and
  • Are not pursuing programs that will lead to a degree or certificate.
  • Do not submit the application by the deadline.

The deadline for 2014 scholarship applications is FRIDAY, MAY 9TH at 12 Noon (sent by email, fax or hand delivered).   Late and/or incomplete applications will not be accepted. All reference letters must come by separate cover. (Your application will not be denied if we do not receive a reference letter from your pastor, District Superintendent, and/or Candidacy Mentor by the May 9th deadline. The scholarship committee of UMCS will meet mid-May.)

Scholarship Awards will be announced at the New York Annual Conference Session during the UM City Society Report (usually Friday of annual conference).

Feel free to contact me by email at or by phone at (212) 870-3094, if you have any questions or need any further information concerning the Scholarship Fund.

In God’s love, joy and humor,

Reverend Dr. William S. Shillady
Executive Director / CEO


Annual Meeting of the United Methodist City Society


May 19, 2013
3:30 PM
144 West 228th Street and Marble Hill Avenue
(# 1 Subway: 225th Street Stop)

Download Flyer with Reservation Form


We invite you to attend the annual meeting of the United Methodist City Society on Sunday, May 19th, 2013 at the St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, at 144 West 228th Street and Marble Hill Avenue.

This annual meeting of all member churches of the City Society from the Long Island East, Long Island West, Metropolitan and the New York-Connecticut districts are entitled to a vote in conducting the business of the Society and the election of the Board of Directors for the coming year. All churches within the bounds of these districts are members of the Society.

This annual meeting will launch the 175th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the United Methodist City Society by Methodist Women in 1838 who founded the New York Sunday School Society for the purpose of caring for the poor, especially children.

Bishop Woodie White

Bishop Woodie White

Our featured speaker will be Bishop Woodie White, the Bishop in Residence at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta Georgia.  A retired Bishop of the United Methodist Church, he remains active in the vital ministry for racial justice and urban ministry of the denomination.

Bishop White began his ministry at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Worcester, Massachusetts and then moved to the East Grand Boulevard Methodist Church in Detroit, Michigan. He then became the Urban Missioner for downtown Metropolitan Methodist church in Detroit.  Following that ministry he was elected General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race and served from 1969-1984.  He 1984 he was elected Bishop and was the Resident Bishop of the Illinois Area 1984-1992 during which time he led the anti-legalized gambling effort in the state.  In 1992, he became Bishop of the Indiana Area and led the Indiana church to help build the UM-related Africa University in Zimbabwe and ongoing missional partnerships with the church in West Africa (Operation Classroom, Operation Doctor).   He served as the President of the Council of Bishops in 1996 & 1997.

Bishop White has written many books, has many awards and degrees.  He was born in Harlem, New York and is married to Kim Tolson and they have five children and seven grandchildren.

2013 Urban Ministry Scholarship Program

Limited funds are available for those persons who have demonstrated experience and interest in urban ministry, along with some level of financial need.  The Scholarship Fund is designated primarily to assist those persons who are planning to enter full‑time ordained ministry in a United Methodist Church with special interest in urban ministry.

All candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Membership in a church in the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church; and
  • Enrollment in a seminary approved by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church.
  • Will be a Full or part time student for the academic year 2013 – 2014
  • Provide proof of financial need

Priority in the awards will be given to persons who have a desire to enter full time ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church in an urban setting.

The Scholarship Committee will NOT review applications from persons that:

  • Are not members of churches in the New York Annual Conference;
  • Are not involved in urban ministries at their local church;
  • Are pursuing additional advanced degrees (i.e. second master’s degree or doctoral degree); and
  • Are not pursuing programs that will lead to a degree or certificate.
  • Do not submit the application by the deadline.

The deadline for 2013 scholarship applications is FRIDAY, MAY 10TH at 12 Noon ( sent by email, fax or hand delivered).   Late and/or incomplete applications will not be accepted. All reference letters must come by separate cover. (Your application will not be denied if we do not receive a reference letter from your pastor, District Superintendent, and/or Candidacy Mentor by the May 10th deadline. The scholarship committee of UMCS will meet mid-May.)

Scholarship Awards will be announced at the New York Annual Conference Session during the UM City Society Report (usually Friday of annual conference.

Feel free to contact me by email at or by phone at (212) 870-3094, if you have any questions or need any further information concerning the Scholarship Fund.

Materials for the 2013 Urban Ministry Scholarship Program may be downloaded here:

2013 UMCS Scholarship Cover Letter

2013 Scholarship Guidelines

2013 UMCS Scholarship Application

Hurricane Sandy: A Letter from our CEO

Download this letter as a PDF
Make a donation here

When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me (stand by me);
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me (stand by me);
When the world is tossing me
Like a ship upon the sea
Thou Who rulest wind and water,
Stand by me (stand by me).

Dear Friend of the City Society,

Today, the devastation from Hurricane Sandy – an unprecedented event – is visible all around us. I hope that you and your family were able to weather the storm without too much incident.

With a grateful heart, I report that most City Society missions are functioning. Our city churches … Anchor House … children’s program – all have only minor damage, plus the predictable challenges to staff who are without power or full transportation.

All except our Far Rockaway program – as I’m sure you can imagine.

As I write, the Far Rockaway program is still without power and communication. But throughout – our mission has continued to serve the community. On Thursday following the storm, without power, all perishable food from the refrigerators and freezers was distributed to those who had gas stoves. On Sunday, November 2nd, the Mission had a worship service with soup being provided.

Four days after the storm a generator arrived from the NYAC Disaster team. Since that time, the mission has been serving minimal food – coffee, rolls, and soup – to those who are hungry and neighbors affected by the storm. While the generator is helping to keep lights on and some refrigerators working, the electric stoves are not.

We have an opportunity to be of great service to the decimated Rockaway community. Today I ask for help from our generous City Society contributors so that we can offer the Rockaway mission whatever supplies and services they need to be a place of comfort.

Today I remember the story of the disciples as they sailed across the Sea of Galilee and a storm arose. In Mark 4: 35-41, Jesus is awakened by his disciples in the midst of this terrible squall and he calms the storm. He says to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone – and no one was able to calm the wind and the waves. But now our faith must be strong as we seek to respond in hope, love and ministry to those who continue to be afraid of what their future holds.

If you are able, please make an extra contribution that will work through the City Society to the people of Far Rockaway. Thank you!


William S. Shillady Executive Director


June Executive Director’s Report

Rev. Dr. William S. Shillady
Board of Director’s Meeting
June 15, 2012

I want to thank all of you for your participation in our annual meeting on May 20th, 2012 at Salem United Methodist Church.  Our theme for the meeting was from Mark 2: 21-22.:

21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

And we modeled what it means to do new things in new ways.  Our annual meeting itself was different from the recent past. Yes, I am sure some missed the dinner, but over 200 people attended and close to 50 churches were represented.

So did it succeed?  I think of the story of Thomas Edison, who was asked if he had ever been disappointed since he failed 4000 times in experiments before he perfected the light bulb.  He said, “No, in each of those times I learned something new.”

So my friends, we can never do new things without risk and the willingness to fail.  “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.”

While the new format did not save as much money as we had hoped, and we need to improve the reception to prevent long lines, I do think the annual meeting was successful in many new ways.  So, as Edison, we learned a few things from an event that was a learning experience on our path to new ways of doing things.

Speaking of failure and success, I will tell you that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church seemed to put new wine into old wineskins.  Even though the General Conference was billed as creating something new and vital, I found it actually to be an experience of expecting different results yet doing the same thing.

Besides the physical and emotional exhaustion, there seems to be a spiritual “pall” that has fallen over those of us who attended general conference in Tampa.  Personally, I continue to feel a deep sense of grief over the fact that many were wounded by the interactions that transpired during the conference.  There was nothing new created, but simply the old politics of conservative versus liberal.

We came away with clear winners and losers on several issues and no winners on others.  I also was left with a feeling that we need some corporate confession –particularly around the ways we clearly manipulated our brothers and sisters from countries outside the United States and in the ways others were hurt in conversations that were intended to be holy.

Beyond the exhausting unpleasantness of critically important yet often tedious gatherings, the resulting mood of disappointment in your denomination and chagrin over your church can be debilitating.  But it can also teach us something about Christian witness.

At General Conference, all the worship and public talk is about Jesus, “holy conferencing,” evangelism, and where God is calling the church.  But then the proceedings devolve into gridlock, turf defense, rancor, manipulation and bitterness – distrust and fear riddle the room.  The dissonance, the schizophrenia, is harrowing.

How do we recover back home?  Actually, if the real church isn’t some sprawling international institution but the local body of Christ, this helps – a little.  Then we can do what God is calling us to do – where we are.

But we are bound by mystical bonds with our brothers and sisters around the globe, or even across the street.  So we look for hope, little shimmering glimpses that the church really is of God and will be preserved to the end of time.  It really is God’s church, and I’m not entirely panicked about our future because I’m amazed we’re still here in the first place.

We express our disappointment.  We try to learn to love each other; for all our talk about love we’re not very good at it.

Many folks continue to struggle with the question, “What have we done?”  The majority of the questions I am hearing center around the Hamilton-Slaughter amendment on human sexuality intended to acknowledge our disagreement over the issue of homosexuality.  The most frequent questions from clergy continue around the ending of guaranteed appointments.  However, this change is before the Judicial Council for the question of constitutionality because of Fred Brewington’s motion.  The Divestment resolution concerning the Israeli – Palestinian issue was turned into a positive investment in Palestine and peace building.  Even though we are told not to applaud speeches or decisions, I still came away feeling like there was smugness on the faces of those who got “their” way and frustration on those who did not.

The issues of Divestment and Human Sexuality were the headlines but they are not the whole story.  I truly think the struggle is bigger than any particular petition or issue.

Right from the start of General Conference, we spent a significant amount of time wrangling over the rules by which we would order our conversation and debate.  From my perspective, special interest groups were solidified early-on and continued to function throughout General Conference.    The “positioning” during our early plenary sessions and presentations seemed to permeate all of our deliberations and conferencing throughout the meeting and was evidenced not only by delegates but also by general conference staff.

Attempts at Holy Conferencing were less than holy, as a sense of confusion, disorganization, and misunderstanding derailed the process.  Personal agendas seemed to be more important than our shared commitment to Jesus Christ.

I am not convinced that we know how to truly be a global church, or even that we want to learn.  We have not found ways to effectively communicate with each other and we do not know how to make decisions together.  Apart from the challenges of multiple languages, we were a body that at many turns could not talk to one another, let alone stop and listen to one another.  We are a people that are better at monologue than we are at dialogue, even though Scripture reminds us time and again that our relationship with God has always been dialogical.

Walter Brueggemann once wrote:

“My simple thesis is that the church, summoned, formed, and empowered by the God of all dialogue, has in our anxiety-driven society an opportunity to be deeply dialogical about the most important issues, dialogical in a way that keeps our judgments penultimate before the holy throne of God.”  Disruptive Grace, page 208.

General Conference did not emulate the true church in many ways.

Theological understanding, dialogue or agreement of our foundational Wesleyan theology was lacking during our conversations.  The primacy of God’s prevenient grace, a balance between personal piety and social holiness, a commitment to holy conferencing, and the Church’s ministry of reconciliation were lacking.

I have come to believe that our crisis is not structural, but relational – our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.  We experienced the very lack of trust during General Conference 2012, identified early-on by the Apex Report which was part of the Call to Action.  Clergy and laity don’t trust each other or the institution.  We all know that trust cannot be legislated and it is very difficult to achieve among a body which only meets every four years and with different participants, but we must find ways to begin the difficult process of rebuilding relationships of trust throughout our denomination, for indeed, the Church is not ours, but is “of God.

I remain hopeful that we as United Methodists around the world can increasingly, in an attitude of trust, focus our energy and resources on creating and sustaining vital congregations and communities of faith.  I hope that we can begin to create new ways of ministry to new people in new places.

“Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!  They are renewed every morning.  Great is your faithfulness.  I think: The Lord is my portion!  Therefore, I’ll wait for him.”   (Lam 3: 22-24, CEB)

We will need to process what all this means for the New York Annual Conference.

I experienced hard working people in my legislative section on Finance and Administration as we worked on providing sustainability for the denomination moving forward.  The overall quadrennial budget was reduced by 6.3 %.  Various benefits are reduced.  What I felt in the section was that compromise and negotiation critical to achieving results did happen in my particular section, if not overall at the GC.   Issues that were important to me were passed by the GC.

Our delegation was effective.  New York delegates were recognized on the floor to help with procedural issues and for debate.  And now we gear up for the Jurisdictional Conference in Morgantown, West Virginia.

I am grateful to the Board for the support you have given to me and to our denomination by allowing me to participate in these endeavors.

For a summary of the actions of GC, I provide the following from the UM News Service:

By Rich Peck*

May 5, 2012 | TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS)

United Methodists from five continents addressed a wide range of challenging issues, including church structure and human sexuality, and engaged in an Act of Repentance toward indigenous people during their 10-day legislative gathering.

Meeting in the Tampa Convention Center, steps away from the waters of Tampa Bay, the 988 delegates recalled through worship, song and sermon the healing and transforming ministry of Jesus beside the Sea of Galilee.

As storms on the Sea of Galilee alarmed the disciples, so too, conflicting stands on structure and social justice issues troubled the delegates and some 4,000 visitors and staff. Perhaps the most surprising lightning strike occurred at 4:30 p.m. on May 4, the final day of the assembly, when the delegates received word from the church’s supreme court that a major piece of legislation regarding restructuring violated the denomination’s Constitution.

Afterward, Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster of the Charlotte (N.C.) Area, outgoing Council of Bishops president, sought to comfort a frustrated assembly at the start of the evening session. “God always provides a way,” he said.

In addition to restructuring and the Act of Repentance, General Conference addressed a wide range of topics during its April 24-May 4 gathering. The delegates:

  • Retained the church’s position regarding homosexuality, deciding not to adopt language that would have said United Methodists are not of one mind on this issue;
  • Did away with “guaranteed appointments” for clergy;
  • Rejected a proposal for setting aside a bishop to serve as full-time president of the Council of Bishops;
  • Entered into full communion with a number of historically black pan-Methodist denominations;
  • Approved making the United Methodist Women an autonomous organization rather than operating it under the church’s missions agency;
  • Created a national ministry plan for Pacific Islanders;
  • Adopted a $603.1 million budget for the 2013-2016 period; and
  • Decided not to divest from three companies whose products are used by the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The delegates, from more than 60 nations, processed some 1,200 petitions during the assembly. General Conference meets every four years and is the only body that speaks for the 13 million-member denomination.

Structure ruled unconstitutional

Church restructuring received more attention from delegates than any other issue. Plans for a new structure that had been evolving over the last year and finally hammered out after a weeklong struggle took a major hit when The Rev. L. Fitzgerald “Gere” Reist, secretary of the conference, announced that the Judicial Council had ruled the newly established structure unconstitutional.

Delegates and visitors reacted in stunned silence and scattered applause. After a 10-minute recess, delegates returned to their chairs.

“We need time to consider what just happened,” said Bishop Jeremiah L. Park of the New York Area, who was presiding over the session. The body adjourned until 7:30 p.m.

The Judicial Council found several problems with the new structure. The nine-member “Supreme Court” of the denomination said that the plan called for the creation of a 45-member General Council on Strategy and Oversight that would have “authority for consolidation of administrative services to the extent practicable. …”

“The Constitution authorizes Council of Bishops to bear the responsibility for general oversight,” the court said.

Judicial Council members said they did not review the “tortured process” by which the plan had been approved “outside established legislative processes.” They did review the plan itself.

“We have reviewed the plan to determine whether any part, portion, or all of Plan UMC can be saved and conclude that it cannot. The broad delegation of legislative authority and the commingling of the role of oversight so inextricably permeate the plan as to render it constitutionally unsalvageable.”

Reshuffled agenda

During the dinner hour, delegates and agencies huddled to consider next steps. Members of the General Council on Finance and Administration, which had earlier agreed to withdraw $3 million from the Episcopal Fund and give it to the World Service Fund, reconsidered their action. Instead, they agreed to give general agencies $1.5 million to help compensate them for losses when $12 million was removed from their budgets to create a line item for theological education outside the United States and the recruitment and training of young clergy in the United States.

The rest of the evening was spent trying to make certain the budget remains intact and proposed agency reductions are carried out. The agencies proposed to reduce their boards by 266 directors, or about half. Those reductions will move forward because they were not part of the restructuring plan.

Human sexuality

One of the most troubling actions occurred May 3 when some 100 people entered the plenary area following the defeat of an effort to add a statement to the Social Principles that urged unity and co-existence in spite of opposing views on homosexuality.

The assembly retained the current stance saying the denomination considers all persons are “individuals of sacred worth [however, the church] does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Indiana Bishop Michael Coyner, presiding officer, adjourned the May 3 morning session after only 20 minutes as the singing of protesters made it difficult to conduct business.

When the assembly gathered after a longer-than-planned lunch break, Kansas Bishop Scott Jones, was the presiding officer for the afternoon session.

Some 100 people seeking changes in denominational policies related to homosexuals gathered around a communion table at the center of the assembly hall.

“I feel your pain,” said Germany Area Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops, in an opening prayer. The Rev. Frank Wulf, a supporter of changing the policies and clergy person from the California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference, offered a second prayer, asking God for a way for the “broken community [to find] a voice that promotes healing and hope.” After the prayers, the demonstrators left peacefully.

Since only the morning session had been set aside to discuss issues related to human sexuality, the conference did not address petitions calling for changes in the present policy of denying clergy the right to conduct services of union for persons of the same gender or policies prohibiting the ordination and appointment of self-professed practicing homosexuals.

An earlier “holy conversation” on issues related to human sexuality also was cut short because of an extended discussion on the rules.

Difficulties with homosexuality did not originate in Tampa, and the journey through these difficult waters will not end here. Advocates for change proclaimed they will not leave the church; they will live out their calling within the denomination.


The Judicial Council decision does not significantly affect budgets approved by the assembly.

General Conference approved a quadrennial budget of $603.1 million for seven general church funds during 2013 to 2016; that total is 6.03 percent less than the amount apportioned in the 2009 to 2012.

That sounds like a whopping amount, but local churches should not count on huge savings, since only 2 cents out of every dollar in a collection plate goes to support general church ministries.

Delegates approved two new line items in the World Service Fund. They created a $5 million fund for theological education in central conferences – church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines — and $7 million to recruit and train young clergy in the United States.

That action, combined with earlier recommendations to reduce agency budgets by 6 percent, means general agencies will receive nearly 10 percent less money in 2013-16 than they received in 2009-2012. That action will be softened by a grant of $1.5 million from the General Council on Finance and Administration to the World Service Fund. That grant is partly the result of the finance agency decision to reduce the Episcopal Fund by $3 million. Agency members also granted $1 million to help offset deficits experienced by the Commission on General Conference and returned $500,000 to the General Administration Fund.

While agencies may experience some savings in a reduced number of agency board members, those savings will be less than the 10 percent reduction in funds and the rate of inflation over the next four years.

Since all local churches do not pay the full apportionments, the amount received by all funds is less than the amount budgeted.

Act of Repentance

On Friday, April 27 before legislation reached the plenary floor, delegates participated in “An Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples,” recognizing and repenting of actions taken against Native peoples of all nations. In a moving ceremony in the plenary hall, they confessed that the church has “participated in the violation, the exploitation, and even the killing of indigenous people.”

At the close of the service of repentance, delegates picked up symbolic stones from the “river of life” scattered in the worship area. They were asked to take them back to their communities “as a covenant to continue to listen and to walk the journey of healing with one another.”

End to guaranteed appointments

Many delegates were surprised when the conference placed a proposal that would effectively end guaranteed appointment for clergy on the consent calendar, a device used to expedite legislation when there are fewer than 10 members of a legislative committee opposed to a proposal.

After a few delegates discovered what they had passed, an attempt to reconsider the issue was rejected by a margin of 564 to 373. On May 4, the final day of the meeting, the conference agreed to ask the Judicial Council for a ruling on whether the measure violates the Constitution. That ruling will come at a later meeting of the Judicial Council.

Delegates were far more cautious on other issues. Less than the required two-thirds of the delegates voted to seek a constitutional amendment that would allow for a bishop to serve as president of the Council of Bishops without responsibility for overseeing a geographic area. They also didn’t approve a proposed amendment to allow budgets to be adjusted between sessions of General Conference.

Somewhat like the advance billing for a high wire act that turns out to be a foot off the ground, so too, this General Conference was billed as the assembly that would make the most sweeping changes

By the time exhausted delegates shuffled their way out of the assembly hall shortly before 11 p.m., the denomination looked very much like it had before the delegates arrived.

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany, the new president of the Council of Bishops, sent the delegates forth on an encouraging note during the conference’s closing worship.

“At the end of all our business ‒ unfinished though (it is), as we are ready to go, let us pause for a moment,” she said. “Let us listen as the risen Christ says to us, ‘Fear not! I am with you. And, therefore, follow me.’”

*Peck is a retired clergy member of New York Annual Conference attending his 12th General Conference, four times as editor of the DCA and three times as a member of United Methodist News Service staff

Associate Executive Director’s March Report

United Methodist City Society Board of Directors Report
March 16, 2012
Prepared by Ms. April Callender, Associate Executive Director

Head Start

Both of our centers are fully enrolled and meeting the daily attendance requirement set by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).

Our Child Care Committee, parents and staff are in the process of completing our annual self-assessment. Everyone has been separated into teams that will evaluate our center in four key areas: Education and Disabilities; Family and Community Partnerships; Health and Mental Health; and Program Design and Management. Each team will visit both of our centers, conduct observations and/or review certain documents and provide a score on a scale of 1-7 based on what they saw.  These scores along with corrective action plans for areas where there are deficiencies are submitted to ACS. This process needs to be completed by March 30th.

As was shared with you in my January 2012 report, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is in danger of losing their direct Federal grant for the operation of child care programs in NYC.  Since we have still not been given any information on our status with regards to Early Learn funding, it is our strategy as an agency to take advantage of as many funding opportunities as possible to try to secure our programs. On March 5th UMCS submitted a proposal to the NYC Department of Education for a direct grant to provide Universal Prekindergarten services to four years olds within our Head Start programs.  We currently offer UKP services through a grant from ACS for Head Start.

Our next plan of action is to prepare an application to become a direct Federal grantee of Administration for Children and Families. We will know better how to proceed when that RFP is released at the end of this month (new release date).

Olmsted Center

Retreat Program

The retreat program at Olmsted Center served 159 people representing 8 groups during the period of January through March 2012. Retreat participants included 3 Methodist Church groups (32 participants), 3 groups from other denominations (79 participants) and 2 not for profit groups (48 participants).

Olmsted Summer Camp Program 

Registration for the 2012 summer camp season is already underway.  As mentioned previously, summer camp will begin on June 25th and end on August 10th, which includes a 3 session schedule with the option for an extended second session.

At this writing we have confirmations from most of the leadership team from last year that they would like to return – the director, program director, nurse and cook!! We anticipate having a limited number of openings for male and female counselors. If you know anyone who might be a good candidate for a job at Olmsted, please have him/her contact our office.

Children’s Program

On February 21st we held a training session for the Children’s Program directors on Youth Outreach and Building Relationships with Public Schools. The facilitator was a parent Coordinator from the Bronx who has also been a partner with us for camp registration. Our next workshop will be on April 11th and the topic will be Program Planning and Best Practices for programs serving children and youth.

UMCS Summer Task Force

The UMCS Summer Task Force applications were mailed out in December and were due the first week in March. There were 16 proposals submitted by the March 1st deadline. However, one proposal was not eligible for funding because they did not submit a final report for their summer 2011 program.

At the Child Care Committee meeting on March 14th board members will review and discuss the proposals and make preliminary funding decisions on grants for this summer. Grant awards will range from $400 – $2,500.  Letters will go out to churches approved for grant awards by the first week in April.

March Executive Director’s Report

Rev. Dr. William S. Shillady
Board of Director’s Meeting
Christ United Methodist Church
New York, New York
March 16, 2012

Mark 2:21-22 “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” NRSV

As the winds of change blow unpredictably through our nation, our world and the church, Jesus provides an intriguing sound bite in this Gospel lesson: “One puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

In a few weeks, as 988 delegates will gather in Tampa, Florida for the General Conference that marks 228 years of our church’s life, we all know that we need new wineskins.   I look forward to joining with fellow dedicated United Methodist Christian friends to earnestly seek God’s will for our church.  We will be a diverse group of clergy and laity from all over the world, and we are entrusted with a heavy responsibility.

There will be many differing perspectives on many issues facing us.  There is the Call to Action and the restructuring that comes from the Connectional Table and the IOC team.  There will be concern about the powers of the Episcopacy.  There will be Holy conferencing over issues of human sexuality.  There will be struggles over the ordination process and “secured appointments”.  There will be debate over finances, divestment, and world issues.

We will be focusing on a worldwide United Methodist Church – since 39 % of the delegates come from outside the United States.  They come from Africa, the Philippines, and Latin America.  An additional 10 delegates will come from “concordat” churches with which the denomination has a formal relationship: four from Great Britain and two each from Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Caribbean & the Americas.

It is impossible to predict what new wine will be fermented, what the outcomes may be, but I trust in God’s Holy Spirit to move at its own pace – “the wind bloweth where it will (John 3:8).”

Some of our old ways of looking at things, some of the old ways of doing things may not be adequate for the United Methodist Church of today and especially tomorrow.

If it is difficult for us personally to make changes in our lives, we can be sure that it is even harder for corporate communities like the church to change!  Accepting new wineskins for the fermentation of the Spirit will be our challenge for the foreseeable future.

But I am reminded that God’s church is a church of renewal and second chances.

As I read the Bible, I see God as a leader who beckoned the Israelites into a new future.  I believe that God is calling us, as individuals in our own spiritual journey, as individual congregations, as the United Methodist City Society, as the New York Annual Conference, and as the General conference into a new future as well.

I say this recognizing that it may be necessary to wander for a while in the wilderness – but it is the path that leads us to the Promised Land.

Old wineskins, like old slippers, are comfortable.  Even when the children of Israel were led from Egypt to the Promised Land, there was a strong “back to Egypt movement.”  But God is a God of the future and those who follow the spirit cannot back into the future.  Risktaking for the future means the front windshield of the car must be bigger than the rear view mirror.  How often do we hear, “I remember when the church had 500 in attendance every Sunday”, rather than “How can we reach the new people who have moved into the neighborhood”?

Have you ever noticed how often the word “new” appears in the New Testament?

     “Behold, I make all things NEW.”

     “If anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation; the old has passed away, behold         the NEW has come.”

     “I saw a NEW heaven and a NEW earth.” 

     “This cup is the NEW Covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.”

Our God is a God of the present and the future, not the past.

In his book, The Parable He Told, David Redding, gives some wise observations regarding this idea: “People still divide into two groups, one applying the brakes, the other accelerating; one group caressing antiques, the other in love with the latest models.  Our faith does not vote a straight ticket.  It selects treasure from both the past and the future.  It believes that the God of our Fathers and Mothers IS our God today with even more to say!”

“Nostalgia is a thing of the past,” a bumper sticker proclaims.  Standing still, opposing the future, yearning for the past are ways of insisting on the old wineskins.  The play, “Inherit the Wind” is a fictionalized account of the famous Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee.  In the play, William Jennings Bryan asks Clarence Darrow: “Why are you moving away from me?  We used to be so close.”  Darrow looks up and answers, “Perhaps it is you who’s moving away from me … by standing still.”

God invites us to keep up and not move away from the Spirit by standing still.  God invites us to accept the new wineskins for tomorrow.  Don’t allow your mind to become like an old wineskin, unable to give enough to accommodate new thoughts and new ideas.  “For no one puts new wine into old wineskins if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”

Fresh wineskins – as faith communities experiment with alternative worship rituals.  Fresh wineskins – as local congregations adopt new administrative structures.  Fresh wineskins – as congregations seek to help the hungry, the economically challenged, the homeless, and the helpless.  Fresh wineskins – as denominations reshape their organizational patterns and purposes.  Fresh wineskins – as the City Society continues to be financially prudent and invest in people and ministry.  Fresh wineskins – as we seek to use our properties and programs in creative ways to attract new people and new possibilities.  Fresh wineskins – as we search for ways to minister in a new social, economic, and cultural landscape.

I think it behooves the City Society, as the urban mission arm of the United Methodist Church, to wrestle with and discern what changes we need to make ourselves, what changes we need to encourage in our urban churches, and what fresh wineskins are needed to keep us faithful and open to the Spirit.

So this year, I hope that Lent may be not only a time for renewing our spiritual lives, but an introduction of new wineskins for ministry – sharing the power of God in Christ to “make all things new.”

On February 1, 2012, Bishop Park invited me to the Cabinet meeting to discuss many issues facing our urban ministry.   Paramount to this discussion was property related issues.  I was given the opportunity to share with the cabinet on a number of concerns of the Society and the overall general issue of the asset base represented in many church properties.

As part of this meeting, the Cabinet has approved our desire to move forward on the Madison Avenue property to find a development partner to provide a new mixed use building that would house a new facility for a United Methodist Community of faith.    Our Real Estate and Ecclesiastical Loans Committee will approach the consultants we had spoken to in the past to see if they are still interested in pursuing the development of an RFP for this project.   They would meet with us and the local congregation for input into the concept design that would be a part of such an RFP.

We discussed many other property issues and insurance issues, with some specific properties in mind, but the major decision was Madison Avenue.  The cabinet is pursuing the issues of vitality in certain congregations and whether or not they can survive.

I believe we will continue in conversation with the Cabinet and we will continue to be the major proponent of investing in ministry and people by turning non-liquid assets into funds that can be used to do so.  Our prime example is the New Jerusalem UMC in Brooklyn and the shared facility of the San Pablo and People’s congregations.

In early February, through our relationship with the Council of Churches of the City of New York, we became the key leader for United Methodist congregations and the Tax Exemption of the properties in NYC.   After about a 10 year hiatus, the city Department of Taxation began an aggressive campaign of renewal on property tax exemption for non-profit and religious corporations.  Through the council, we were given the listing of many churches that did not comply with the renewal.   UMCS helped to get the word out and I have made some important contacts with the Department of Finance.   Through this process and research, it has come to light that some UM church properties are no longer exempt.   We have discovered unpaid water bills (one such church owes $450,000 in back water usage), unpaid DOB fines, ECB fines, and a myriad of problems.   This is just a small sampling.

I would like to find a summer intern that could utilize the on-line databases of the City to investigate all NYC related United Methodist property for all the issues outlined above.   We are looking into some programs that may provide such interns to us.

As you may hear from the REEL report, we have completed a land lease agreement with Bronx Pro Reality.  Our land on which the dilapidated parsonage at Trinity, which we demolished, has become a new revenue stream for the Society.   This developer is leasing the land as a staging area for their building which is being built just south of our property.

Their description of the project reads:

The proposed project is located at 1070 Washington in the Morrisania community of the Bronx.  La Preciosa will be developed through a combination of financing with federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHC) equity, conventional bank financing, New York City HOME Funds, private equity, Bronx Borough President’s capital dollars and construction and operating financing from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) through its Replacement Housing Factor (“RHF”) capital fund.  La Preciosa will consist of forty-nine (49) newly constructed rental including twenty-one (21) public housing units, twenty-seven (27) non public housing units and one (1) unit set aside for an on-sight superintendent. Ten (10) of the rental units are studio apartments with ten (10) units to be set aside for persons in need of supportive housing, targeting NYNY III and Veteran populations.

In a separate condominium structure, the first four floors of the building (34,000 square feet) is designated community facility space for a new charter school.  The community space will be developed utilizing a separate private financing and ownership structure from the residential portion of the project.  1070 Washington Avenue will be developed and owned through a joint venture between Bronx Pro Real Estate Management, Inc., TNS Development/Great American Construction and Services for the Underserved, a tax exempt 501 (c)(3) organization.

They are hopeful to continue discussion with us about the entire neighborhood.  They see our congregation as an anchor to the block.  They also see our property as a potential development site that could be adapted through creative ways to provide a new church facility for the congregation.  We want to continue this conversation.

Finally, I wanted you to know that I am taking my election to General Conference very seriously.   There is a great deal to read, to discern, and to discuss with others.   As I mentioned at the beginning of this report,   there will be monumental issues that will affect the future of our denomination.   I am honored to be a part of this time of potential transformation.  I also think, our role as a Society concentrating on urban mission for so many years, helps to give me a unique perspective as I represent the Society and the New York Annual Conference.   Pray for me and the General Conference.  It is only 38 days away.

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