2023 Pastor's Report
5. The Pastor shall give a report on the state of the church and an account of pastoral ministry as it relates to (¶ 340): providing support, guidance, and training to the lay membership in the church; ministering within the congregation and to the world; and administering the temporal affairs of the congregation. Include as a part of the report a statement outlining the pastor's program of continuing education and spiritual growth for the past year and plans for the year to come (¶ 349).
Since our last Church Conference in November 2022, Cobleskill United Methodist Church has seen sustained and healthy growth in every facet of its ministry. We are finding new and deeper ways of living out Christ-centered lives. We are sharing the message that each person is a beloved child of God just as they are. We are creating space to belong for all ages and walks of life. And together we are making a tangible difference in our community.
Worship is at the heart of our church life. Over the course of the year we’ve walked through many different worship series including a series focusing on generational legacies leading up to the birth of Christ (From Generation to Generation, Advent 2022), a season of asking spiritual questions (Seeking: Honest Questions for Deeper Faith, Lent 2023), an Eastertide series focusing on God’s creation in peril and how we can help (Holy Ground, Spring 2023), a series on the foundations of John Wesley’s vision for a Christian life (Three Simple Rules, Pentecost 2023), a summer of learning life lessons from the imperfect families of our tradition (A Summer of Genesis, Summer 2023), a back-to-school series exploring the intersectionality of a childhood favorite and Jesus (The Theology of Mister Rogers, Fall 2023), and an autumn series digging deeper into the radical message of Jesus’ enduring prayer (The Greatest Prayer, Fall 2023).
In-person attendance has grown more than 20% in the last twelve months as we’ve welcomed new people of all ages to our Sunday morning service. Online worshippers have also increased and we’ve improved our sound and camera system to better stream what happens in the sanctuary.
Our church has leaned into its role as a voice for justice in the community. In December and January we stood beside our sister congregation, Warnerville UMC, supporting the reopening of their Warming Station to house the homeless. Our special focus on caring for God’s creation in worship has spilled over into practice. Styrofoam collection has doubled this year and our youth have gotten involved in its recycling. More and more families in our church are starting to recycle as we see our discipleship to Christ reflecting in our ecological stewardship.
Outreach ministries at CUMC continue to play a big part of our neighborhood’s overall health. The Food Pantry and Thrift Store have seen increased usage this year and our Summer Lunch Program once again offered free meals during the summer break. We participated in a brand-new Mosaic initiative this year to help relieve housing insecurity in our community by providing teams to do needed repair work for our neighbors. Eighteen adults and youth from CUMC joined this effort working on four different housing projects.
Energy and excitement around children and youth programming has been on the rise. Our Sunday School has been taught by wonderful volunteers who bring their love for children and Jesus into a beautiful hour of learning and engagement. It’s wonderful to see the number of children in Sunday School has doubled during the last 12 months. A week-long Compassion Camp this summer brought together a dream-team of experienced volunteers leading over 40 children in fun and learning about how to care for God’s creation. Our youth are always active and busy keeping their leaders on their toes. In addition to taking an active part in our home repair projects this summer, the youth also helped lead worship, baked pies for Christmas baskets, and went on a Six Flags trip this summer. Proceeds from our busy Thrift Store plus donations from the congregation enabled 14 children and youth to go to camp this summer on scholarship. This was the most campers of any church in the conference!
In order to keep our ministries safe for everyone, a pop-up team of volunteers revised our church’s Safe Sanctuary policy this summer and all new Sunday School teachers were trained. As of this fall, we now have our own Safe Sanctuary Trainer, Lori Lasher, who is ready to lead local trainings at our church in the future.
Music at CUMC provides a creative outlet for our congregation members and adds beauty and meaning to our worship services. We have been blessed with the expansion of two musical groups this year, our adult chancel choir and a new handbell choir. We’ve greatly enjoyed the gift of a 4-octave handbell set from a neighbor congregation and volunteers have helped make tables and storage space for this large collection.
We’ve tried a variety of small groups at CUMC over the years but this year brought several new forms. In February we launched Fellowship Groups which are small groups with no agenda except getting to know one another over a meal. Six different lay-led groups have been meeting monthly and sharing a meal. During Lent a small group enjoyed reading Kate Bowler’s The Lives We Actually Have and during our Spring creation-care series a small group met for discussion of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The summertime saw the launch of a pilot Covenant Discipleship Group which has continued to meet weekly supporting one another in keeping a shared covenant of personal discipleship goals.
Last but certainly not least, our church embarked on Phase II of its accessibility plan this year which included making our sanctuary and chancel area completely handicap accessible. This ambitious project was spearheaded by our Trustees and designed by our Lay Leader, Scott Barton. Planning for the project began in January and by September we were worshipping in the new space. The remodel incorporates woodwork from the previous layout while opening the front of the sanctuary to allow for more versatility and flexibility. It is a beautiful addition to our worship space while also making worship leadership possible for all bodies. Additionally, two pews were shortened to make space for wheel chair seating.
My own continuing education has included a year-long Eco-Preacher course offered by the BTS Center and a 6-week course through the Upper New York Conference on Asset Based Community Development. Both classes have been super. I plan to take a part two in the ABCD course on practical applications in the congregational environment this Spring. Additionally, I was very humbled to be able to take a 10-day pilgrimage this summer to Iona, Scotland for spiritual renewal. This trip gave me space to unwind and soak in the silence and liturgy of a sacred community rooted in ancient practice. I plan to share more of this experience with the congregation during the Epiphany season.
1. Those received into baptized membership:
Charlotte Burdett (4/16/23)
Margaret Agen (10/29/23)
2. Those received into professing membership:
a) On profession of faith
Katelyn Roe (4/16/23)
Michael Roe (4/16/23)
Elizabeth Agen (10/29/23)
b) From other UM churches
Naomi Pickett (10/29/23) from Richmondville UMC
c) From non-UM churches
Henry Mau (6/4/23) from Zion Lutheran Church
Brittany Noble (6/4/23) from Fusion Community Church
Beth Cash (10/29/23) from St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
Chris Cash (10/29/23) from St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
William Courtney (10/29/23) from St. John’s Lutheran Church
Tristan Peterson (10/29/23)
Sandra Manchester (10/29/23)
3. Those who have been removed from professing membership:
a) By action of Church Conference, trial, withdrawal
b) By transfer to other UMC churches
c) By transfer to other non-UM churches
d) By death
Valerie Pendas (6/2/23)
Sally Bennett (7/3/23)
MacDonald Holmes (8/30/23)