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2010 Troy Annual Conference

Tears, celebration surround closing of Troy Conference

The gavel came down, and with a few words, the Rev. Greg Smith, conference secretary, ended the 178th Troy Annual Conference Session. Instead of announcing a next annual session, the Secretary stated that members in Vermont will convene June 17 with the New England Annual Conference, and members from New York will meet June 19 for the uniting of a new annual conference in Upper New York.

The Troy Conference itself will close permanently on June 30, and divide along state lines with the Vermont churches becoming part of the New England Annual Conference and the New York churches becoming part of a new conference in the Upper New York area.

Officially, the new conference in Upper New York does not open until July 1, but clergy and lay membership will officially transfer to either New England or Upper New York on June 17. The early transfer allows members to vote at their respective conferences--in New England, June 17 through 19, or at the Uniting Conference in Upper New York, June 19.

Troy Conference is the first of the four conferences with churches in the Upper New York area to hold its final session. North Central New York will meet to pass legislation necessary to close the conference and transfer membership on June 18 in Liverpool, N.Y.; Western New York June 5 at Asbury United Methodist Church in Rochester, N.Y.;and Wyoming June 4 and 5 at Scranton University and Elm Park United Methodist Church in Scranton, Pa. Also closing will be the Central Pennsylvania Conference, June 4 and 5 at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. The churches of Central Pennsylvania will unite with the Pennsylvania churches of Wyoming Conference to form the Susquehanna Annual Conference, effective July 1.

Troy Conference Session opened with a memorial worship, with candles lit in memories of those in conference leadership who have died since last year's annual conference session. Lamentations were also sung for the laying to rest of Troy Conference.

"A lament gives us permission to be honest with God and with each other," said Bishop Susan W. Hassinger, episcopal leader of the Albany Area, in the morning sermon. "This morning, there's a strong possibility that there are multiple laments in our midst. There are laments about the closing days of Troy Conference. When we gather together [to mourn] we are joined together in a communal thanksgiving for [the lives of those being remembered]."

Bishop Hassinger said that the values, passion and mission of Troy Conference have shaped clergy and laity and shaped their ministries.

"Naming and claiming what you celebrate [about the conference] and what you will miss are essential for moving forward," she said. Referencing Psalm 137:1, Bishop Hassinger said that by the rivers of the Mohawk, the Connecticut, the Hudson, "we sat and wept when we remembered Troy Conference."

She reminded those gathered that though Troy Conference will be separated, nothing will separate "us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. That is the thread that runs through all of us--through New England or through Upper New York."

As part of the worship, a prayer, laying Troy Conference to rest, was read, with parts written for those going to New England, those going to New York and for all voices together.

The primary work of the conference was to review and vote on assignment of clergy and lay membership, a Plan of Union and Assets Allocations. The three components were:

  • A Plan of Union, outlining that the assets, property and pension funds of Troy Conference would be divided, with 30 percent going to the New England Conference and 70 percent going to the Upper New York area conference.

  • The transfer of clergy and lay membership based on where clergy will be appointed as of July 1 and lay members' home churches.

  • A set of resolutions were passed to meet the legal and organizational requirements of The United Methodist 2008 Book of Discipline and New York State laws governing religious corporations. Technically, Troy Conference approved the dissolving of Troy Conference and the changes in New York and Vermont conference membership at a special session held in October 2007, and the Northeast Jurisdiction approved the plan in 2008. The new resolutions represent the completion of work authorized by that earlier action.

All resolutions were passed quickly and unanimously.

"These have been complex processes, and this has been engaged in prayerfully -- not perfectly, but prayerfully," said Bishop Hassinger at the end of the vote. "

In other business of the conference:

  • The Board of Ordained Ministry presented two candidates for ordination as elders, Jim Knapp and Esther Lee, and one candidate for commissioning, Matthew Bowles. Knapp and Lee will both be ordained in the new Upper New York Area conference, and Bowles will be commissioned in New England.

  • Resolutions designating the United Methodist Global AIDS fund as the recipient of the conference offering, and to contribute $15,000 in reserves to the Central Conference Pension Fund were approved. During clergy session on May 21 at Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church, over $3,000 was collected and will be given to the Mozambique Area for clergy education.

  • A petition recommending that the new conference in Upper New York give consideration to continuing ministry through the Albany United Methodist Society and Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus United Methodist Church (RISSE) was also approved.

  • Five churches--Tomhannock, North Hoosick, Chilson and Brainard in New York, and MacKenzie Memorial United Methodist Church in Northfield, Vt., were declared abandoned. A resolution dissolving the Embury District was also approved.

  • Ted Vickery, chair of the Conference Committee on Finance and Administration, and Conference Treasurer Bob Heron presented a plaque from the General Council on Finance and Administration honoring Troy Conference for giving 100 percent of their share of the church's World Service funds, which supports mission and ministry through the world.

  • Julius Archibald, a member of Plattsburgh United Methodist Church, N.Y., received the CORR-ageous Award for Racial Justice from the Conference Committee on Religion and Race. Ilah Sisson Walser, conference lay leader, received the Denman Evangelism Award for Laity. Sandra Brands, a member of the Queensbury United Methodist Church in New York, received the Stimmel Peace with Justice Award.Camping volunteer awards were presented to Richard Nason, and posthumously to the Rev. Oren Lane.

Retiring clergy members were honored at a special worship service held on May 21. Retiring clergy of Troy Conference were Richard Hibbert, G. William Pattison, Eileen Deming,Pamela Pearson, Virginia Pierce, Jan Rathbun,Herman Benjamin, Cheryl Heater, Peter Kelly, William Sheldon, Denise Stringer, David Dempsey, Samuel Newton, Elizabeth Griffin,and Robert Zittel. Also retiring is the bishop's assistant Jane Schweikert.

Conference ended with worship and Communion and the conference closed at 3:30 p.m.