April Devotional from Rev. Suzanne Block

Growing In Discipleship

Matthew 22: 36-39 Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? Jesus said, ”‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

According to “Theology (the study of the nature of God) is not just about God. It is also about us. We live out of our understanding of who we are in relationship to God, to one another, and to the world. The Christian faith is grounded in the love and grace of God, experienced through Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is our response to God’s love and grace.”

“The church calls our response to God Christian discipleship. Discipleship focuses on actively following in the footsteps of Jesus. As Christian disciples, we are not passive spectators but energetic participants in God’s activity in the world. Because of what God has done for us, we offer our lives back to God. We order our lives in ways that embody Christ’s ministry in our families, workplaces, communities, and the world.”

When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, his response was: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. (Matt. 22:37-38. See Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; and Luke 10:25-28)

Discipleship is about loving God. It is the deep desire to know God, to be a faithful follower of his Son Jesus and to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We grow as disciples through a process called Spiritual Formation. “Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ, a journey into becoming persons of compassion, persons who forgive, persons who care deeply for others and the world, persons who offer themselves to God to become agents of divine grace in the lives of others and their world—in brief, persons who love and serve as Jesus did.” From Invitation to a Journey by Robert Mulholland

Here is a list of some Spiritual Disciplines:

Ø Prayer: Is a conversation with God. Leave some time for silent listening. Philippians 4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. If you need some additional guidance for prayer check out John, Chapter 17.

Ø Fasting: "More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us" (author Richard Foster). “Technically, fasting is abstinence from food for some period of time. It is an ancient practice that is mentioned frequently in the Bible. John Wesley fasted every Friday as part of his spiritual discipline. The discipline of fasting can relate to abstaining from anything that we habitually depend upon in order to increase our dependence on God." (Peace United Methodist Church, Orlando, FL). But as Richard Foster points out, “We should give up anything that controls us and reduces our dependency on God.”

Ø Stewardship: So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? (Luke 16:11). Stewardship of the earth was the first responsibility God gave Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). “Stewardship of the Garden was Adam's act of worship and gratitude for all that God had given to him. Stewardship is our act of worship and gratitude to God for all that he has given to us. We primarily think of our finances when we hear the word 'stewardship,' but this discipline applies to anything and everything that God has given us to take care of. When we think of everything we have as belonging to God (Deut. 10:14), then we make different decisions with our resources.” (Peace United Methodist Church, Orlando, FL)

Within our United Methodist Membership Vows we say: “As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts (tithes and offerings), your service and your witness (your faith stories and the way you live your lives)?

In relationship to our monetary giving, did you know that in the United Methodist tradition, the starting point is the 10% tithe? 

Ø Worship: Jesus tells us in John 4 that we are to worship "in spirit and truth." Worship is our response to the work of God’s love in our lives. Worship is to be corporate. Worship is to be in community, together as the Body of Christ. It is giving glory and praise to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Ø Scripture: Studying the scriptures includes hearing, reading, and meditating on God’s Word. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2). 

“Some of John Wesley’s suggestions for the most effective reading of scripture include:

1.   Set apart a little time every morning and evening for that purpose;

2.   At each time read a chapter out of the Old Testament and one out of the New Testament;

3.   Read with a fixed resolution to know and do the whole will of God;

4.   Have a constant eye for connection with the grand doctrines of the faith;

5.   Pray before and following reading;

6.   Pause throughout reading to examine your heart and life.” From John Wesley’s Message Today by Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Ø Solitude: "The movement from loneliness to solitude is not a movement of growing withdrawal but is instead a movement toward deepening engagement in the burning issues of our time. The movement from loneliness to solitude can make it possible to convert slowly our fearful reactions into a loving response" (Henri Nouwen).

“The greatest threat to spiritual growth is not creating enough white space in our calendars and our heads to spend listening to God. Hurry is the enemy of transformation. In unhurried silence we can see and hear things that are normally drowned out in the rush of our days. If we retreat into the desert of our minds, we allow God to reveal himself to us. He will also reveal those thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are preventing us from growing closer to him. God instituted the observance of the Sabbath as one of the critical parts of the holy life of Israel (Exodus 20:11). As God's people, we also need to observe Sabbaths in our days, weeks, and years when we dedicate time to God and pay attention to what he is doing in our lives."(Peace United Methodist Church, Orlando FL)

Growing in our own discipleship, through Spiritual Disciplines helps us to become more Christ-like and more confident in sharing our faith stories of how God’s love through Jesus Christ with the transforming power of the Holy Spirit has changed our lives.

It is my hope and prayer, as we continue our focus on Intentional Discipleship, each one of us will begin to practice one or more of the Spiritual Disciplines listed in this article, on a regular basis. Remember this is a lifelong journey. In doing so we will grow stronger in our own personal discipleship, be able to encourage others in their growth as disciples and as the Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church desires: “To live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places; making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Rejoicing in Our Risen Lord,


Online Safe Sanctuaries Training April 17

The Upper New York Annual Conference Team will be hosting our standard Basic Safe Sanctuaries training via ZOOM from 9 am to 12:30 pm Saturday, April 17. This training is brought to you and paid for by your Upper New York Ministry Shares. This basic training is required for anyone working with children, youth and vulnerable adults as stated by the Minimum Standards. This training is a must no matter if you are meeting in-person or online.

UNY_SafeSanctuaries_Minimum_Standards_updated_2016.pdf (

If you have already taken this training you DO NOT need to take it again.

The training will follow the reformatted ZOOM curriculum developed by the Upper New York Annual Conference Safe Sanctuaries Team, educating those involved in ministries who work with children, youth and vulnerable adults on risks and prevention strategies related to abuse. There will be a link to the handout that should be printed and available to you for the training.

You must REGISTER for the training. If you register and are no longer able to attend we ask that you let us know as soon as possible so we can fill your spot with someone else who is waiting to take the training. The training will be facilitated by Safe Sanctuaries Conference Committee Co-Chairs Arlene Schmidt and Pastor Christine Mitchell with the assistance of 8 co-trainers. Click on the link to register:

If there are any questions please contact one of the co-chairs of the committee at

For more information on Safe Sanctuaries, and on background checks, click here.


Follow-Up to Jason Moore's December 2020 Workshop

Last December the Upper New York Annual Conference hosted Jason Moore’s Both/And: Maximizing Hybrid Worship for Online & In-person Audiences. This webinar was helpful in equipping so many churches to be engaged in hybrid worship and other settings.

Much has happened in the online and in-person world of our churches since then. Jason Moore has hosted this webinar with more than 35 Annual Conferences and para-church ministries since then. Jason will be back to host just over an hour of follow-up on Monday, April 19, at 6:30 pm. The follow-up includes a time of recap. The recap includes hearing what Jason has learned in the last 4 months and sharing with Jason the things you have learned. We will then open up the conversation for discussion and Q&. This follow-up will take place by Zoom.

  • What have we learned about in-person and online Worship since December?
  • What questions remain or have surfaced as you have engaged in Hybrid worship?
  • What questions have you been dying to ask Jason?

Join your fellow hybrid and on-line planners and presenters in this discussion with Jason Moore, Monday, April 19 at 6:30 pm. To register for the follow-up zoom conversation please Email here to Northern Flow District Office. A Zoom invite will be sent to you closer to the time of the presentation.

Registration Open for UNY Annual Conference

Registration is now open for the 2021 Annual Conference Session. This year, Annual Conference will be held virtually June 17-19. Click here for more information.

All eligible voting members must preregister by June 1 to be able to participate and vote. Registrations cannot be accepted after June 1 due to online voting.

This year, there is a small registration fee to help cover the cost of virtual meeting support and voting. Click here to register.

Questions about registration can be addressed to Erica Wentworth at

Current COVID-19 Protocols for Churches

Friends – below are the revised guidelines for churches. To be frank, they are not radically different. We have no guidance related to any difference being fully vaccinated makes, so we are not advising special seating or arrangements. Here’s what I suggest you share:

  1. As of February 2, 2021, New York State allows any church not in a restricted cluster to worship at 50% capacity.
  2. All other COVID protocols remain in place: a. Social distancing of 6 feet (12 feet for singers allowed); b. Masks; c. Disinfecting of hands, surfaces and objects.
  3. Based on current guidance from the NYS and CDC, vaccination status does not change the requirements stipulated in #1 and #2.
  4. Effective April 1, NYS will no longer require domestic travelers without symptoms to quarantine on arrival in NY for 14 days. 



Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding,

Director of Connectional Ministries/ 

Executive Assistant to the Bishop


The United Methodist Center

of The Upper New York Conference

7481 Henry Clay Blvd                                                  

Liverpool, NY 13088

(315) 898-2011

Extension of Direct Bill Arrearage Policy through 12/31/2021

In 2020, the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits (CBOPHB) had approved delayed enforcement of the direct bill arrearage policy through December 31, 2020. Understanding the continued struggle faced by many congregations, the Board has approved to extend that delay through Dec. 31, 2021. If your church is still able to pay their direct bills, they should. If a church is experiencing financial hardship as a result of reduced giving during this time, the church is asked to notify their District Superintendent as well as the Benefits office (Susan Latessa) to discuss their situation. The Upper New York Conference will work with churches on a case-by-case basis.

Church & Clergy Listings in Directory Updates

Follow this link to find the updated Church & Clergy Listings in our District Directory.

UPDATE - COVID-19 Guidelines for Local Churches

As we know, guidelines for church reopening are being updated frequently. Here is a link to the most up-to-date guidelines (New York State and Upper New York Conference): 

For frequent updates related to COVID-19, including whether or not a specific address is in a microcluster, go to

NYS County Health Department links

Churches are required to have developed a Safety Plan and have it available/on file at the church and to submit a form that affirms that guidelines are being followed prior to reopening.

Upper New York also is requiring that churches affirm their compliance with safety requirements by submitting this form. Any changes (worship from in-person to online, etc.) require that the form be resubmitted.

As always, please contact any of the following if you have concerns/questions:, 716-860-7860, 716-665-2423, UNY Director of Benefits & Human Resources, 315-898-2002


Visiting the District Office

The District office observes guidelines recommended by the Upper New York Conference and New York State. You must make an appointment to visit the office (Monday or Thursday). The day of your appointment, we ask that you complete the Health Questionnaire and bring it with you. Please park in the church's handicapped parking on Lakeview Avenue. Call the office (716-665-2423) when you arrive to gain entrance to the building. Please wear a mask and observe social distancing; hand sanitizer will be available when you enter the office. If you have any questions, please call or email the office, 716-665-2423 or

New Mailing Address for District Office

Please note our new mailing address: PO Box 842, Jamestown, NY, 14702. The physical address for the Cornerstone District Office is the same, on the second level of Christ First UMC, 663 Lakeview Ave., Jamestown, NY