News and Resources from the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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Updates

Update: Synod Office Moving

On Wednesday, October 15, 2014 the Upstate New York Synod offices will relocate to 5811 Heritage Landing Drive, 1st Floor, East Syracuse, NY 13057-9360. To facilitate the transition from Camillus to our new location in East Syracuse, the synod office will be closed October 14 – 17. Please note that Monday, October 13 is a holiday so the office is closed that day as well. We anticipate only 1 or 2 days without email and will get our phone service transitioned as quickly as possible.

During the move you may leave messages on the synod phone number. Staff will be checking the messages and return calls as necessary. We ask your patience and prayers as we move furnishings, phones and internet service from one location to the other.

2015 Portico Health Benefits Decisions

By Patsy Glista, Assistant to the Bishop for Operations

There are 17 days left for employers to make their 2015 health benefit option selection on Portico EmployerLink. All congregations who plan to participate in Portico health plans and offer Portico health coverage to their pastor and/or employees in 2015, even those who may not currently have a called pastor, need to make a selection. It will not be possible to sign someone up after the November sign-up period. That means that if a congregation anticipates calling a pastor in 2015, they need to make a selection now by the October 17 deadline.

Your congregation’s 2015 Custom Comparison Report is available on EmployerLink. Please review the information and be in conversation with your pastor as you consider your choice of health plan option for 2015. On EmployerLink you will also find the Open Enrollment Center – a comprehensive section on the ins and outs of 2015 health care options including:

  • Open Enrollment
  • Health Benefit Options
  • Planning and Tools
  • Support Plan Member Enrollment

Considering looking on the NYS Exchange for other plan options? The ELCA benefit program, Portico, is a comprehensive benefit program that supports members throughout their lives and ministry, from first call or hiring through retirement. It is portable from one synod to another should your pastor change calls. Localized Exchange plans are most often not portable. Guidelines regarding waivers from the Portico health plan can be found in the ELCA Benefit Program Description, January 1, 2014 located on the Portico website. Note that to be eligible to remain in the other Portico benefits including pension, survivor benefits, and disability an employee must “purchase coverage through a state, federal, or state/federal partnership health insurance exchange and receive a premium tax credit (also called a subsidy) in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.”

Remember, your selection is required on EmployerLink by Oct. 17. Your plan members will enter their 2015 benefit decisions Oct. 27 – Nov. 21. If you need assistance Portico Customer Service Representatives are available at 800.352.2876.

The Use of the Means of Grace, A Conversation

You may recall that the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly approved an action designed to call ELCA members into a conversation about The Use of the Means of Grace, particularly on the matter of Holy Communion. The action came as a memorial from the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod. While all people are welcome to worship, the recommended practice in our church has been that people who are baptized are invited to receive Holy Communion. Despite what our statement on the practice of word and sacrament, The Use of the Means of Grace, says, there is wide variety of practice in this church.

The ELCA Church Council approved a process of finding ways to engage the entire church in conversation about this important matter before determining if there is need to open The Use of the Means of Grace for possible revision. The recommendation also suggests that this matter not be studied in isolation from the rest of the statement, but rather that we take this opportunity to encourage a renewed study of and conversation about The Use of the Means of Grace in our congregations.

The churchwide organization’s Worship and Marketing Communications teams have worked together to provide resources to guide this church’s conversation. Diverse perspectives, offered by Lutheran authors, are available at www.ELCA.org/worship.

The Installation of Rev. John Stanley Macholz as Bishop

By Rev. Katie Yahns, St. Peter’s, Verona

On Saturday, September 6, the air outside was cool, humid and still, but inside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Rochester, a slight breeze stirred the long, thin red streamers as they swayed slowly and gracefully on their poles over the heads of the congregation. They reminded the people the Holy Spirit was present as the installation of the Rev. John S. Macholz as bishop of the Upstate New York Synod began.


The Holy Spirit’s presence was clear throughout the service-in the preaching and worship leadership of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, the soaring notes of the choir and brass ensemble, the presence and prayers of ecumenical leaders and guests, and the sense that both Bishop Macholz and the synod as a whole were called to embark on a new journey together. The service began at the back of the nave, as members of Atonement, Rochester bade farewell to their pastor of 24 years. There was a moment of goodbye before the celebration of new beginnings could start.

With the first note of the service, the congregation knew they were listening to world-class music-no wonder, with the Eastman School of Music right down the street. From the Skinner pipe organ to the brass ensemble to the choir, all led by Dr. Jim Jeffris and Mr. Thatcher D. Lyman, the musicians deeply inspired and moved the people, while leading them in compositions both ancient and contemporary. The liturgical setting was a musical sampler, including pieces from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the Lutheran Book of Worship, The Word Goes Forth, the Anglican Psalter, and various other composers. The final blessing, entitled “Peace I Leave With You” and composed by Jonathan Thomas Madden (son of synod Vice President and assisting minister Thomas Madden), was originally composed for a friend suffering with cancer.)


In her sermon, Eaton spoke conversationally but directly to remind the congregation that instead of celebrating what we are doing, God is always the one doing a new thing through us. She reminded Macholz that while people often treat bishops deferentially, he was called to be a servant at heart. “God’s promises have found a servant,” she declared. “We are called to care for the sometimes fractious, always precious, people of God.” She reminded all that like Moses, we are called to do important things-but also like Moses, we can only do them because God is with us.

The installation portion of the service began with a choral prayer composed by Dr. Paul O. Manz, noted composer, organist, and professor at Christ Seminary-Seminex, where Macholz also earned his master’s of divinity. The traditional address from the Scriptures and questions pertaining to the duties of the office followed. As the choir and congregation sang the ancient chant “Creator Spirit, Heavenly Dove,” bishops from other synods and ecumenical partners, including companion churches in Zimbabwe and Zambia, came forward to lay hands on Macholz and pray for him. The last to offer prayer was former Bishop Marie Jerge.

Macholz was presented with the pectoral cross of the Upstate New York Synod and a crozier, symbols of the office of bishop. The cross serves as a reminder to serve Christ and his people, and the crozier reminds everyone that the bishop also serves as a shepherd, called to keep watch over the whole flock.

After the service, the people spilled out onto the St. Paul’s lawn for a reception with plenty of food and the music of a string trio. The most popular attraction of the reception appeared to be the chance to take a “selfie” with Bishop Macholz and Presiding Bishop Eaton (tagged with #selfiewiththebishop on social media).

From beginning to end, the service was fitting for the beginning of a new chapter in the history books of the Upstate New York Synod. It’s not every day you install a bishop-and this worship service was more than worthy to mark such a momentous occasion.

Please view all of our pictures on our photo gallery. If you would, take some time and add comments as you recognize people there.

Time to make 2015 Health Benefits Decisions

By Patsy Glista, AIM, Assistant to the Bishop for Operations

Congregations should have received an email communication earlier this week letting them know that your organization’s 2015 Custom Comparison Report is available on EmployerLink. Between September 15 and October 17 all employers need to review this material and go on EmployerLink and indicate the health plan option your organization will offer to your pastor and other employees. Your organization’s customized report will help the congregation’s decision-makers understand how:

  • the 2015 health benefit options compare to the health benefit option you offer now,
  • each health benefit option would affect your plan members, and
  • your organization’s contribution amounts will change.

Basic group life insurance, pension and retiree support contributions will remain the same in 2015. Contribution rates for health and disability benefits will change in 2015. In 2014 all employers benefited from Portico’s waiving the contribution of 0.8% for disability due to lower than average usage in the previous year. For 2015 the disability rate will be 2.5%. The 11% increase in the health rate is primarily driven by greater than average use of health care dollars by plan members.

There are tools available on EmployerLink to help you in your decision-making. You will find information to help you and other decision-makers select your option including:

  • A short welcome video
  • Your estimated 2015 benefit costs in the Custom Comparison Report
  • Details about your options

Remember, your selection is required on EmployerLink by Oct. 17. Your plan members will enter their 2015 benefit decisions Oct. 27 – Nov. 21. If you need assistance Portico Customer Service Representatives are available at 800.352.2876.