The Church in Central New York founded and consistently fostered by the GLBTQIS community. Now in our 34th Year of Ministry.
His/herstory of Ray
Of hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ at the 18th anniversary of the
NEWS RELEASE TO THE PINK PAPER FOR THE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2001 ISSUE
RAY OF HOPE CHURCH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST TURNS 18!!
A look back at the infancy, childhood, early adolescence and beginning
adulthood of the Syracuse based ministry.
Early Childhood 1984 - 1989 (1-6 years old)
Late Childhood 1990 - 1995 (7-12 years old)
Early Adolescence 1996 - 1999 (13 - 16 years old)
Beginning of Adulthood 2000 - 2001 (17 - 18 years old)
Eighteen years ago in July of 1983 fourteen people gathered to form what became
Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We thought you might enjoy
reviewing some of the story of the only Christian Church in Central New York
State that was founded, and has been continually fostered and supported by the
GLBTQS community. Eighteen consistent years is worthy of celebration,
especially when we look back over the hardships suffered by our community in
the same period. Through it all God has sustained the determined hearts of the
members and friends of Ray Of Hope to be here, to lay a foundation, and to
build a church that will remain in place for the future generations of gay,
lesbian, bisexual, transgender, multigender, asexual, heterosexual, celibate,
questioning, curious, pansexual persons God will gift our world with. This is
our goal, to follow God and to welcome all God's People to worship and learn
about God with us.
There is one mention in the remaining early records of the possibility of an
earlier ministry known as the Syracuse MCC under the leadership of a Rev. Bob
Jones. A phone message from Harry Freeman-Jones confirms the congregation did
exist around the late seventies here in Syracuse and did fold. Anyone having
records, letters, or articles of this congregation are asked to share them with
us as we would like to add this to the overall story. This article, however, is
about Ray Of Hope; the current Syracuse based Christian Church of the GLBTQS
Some of the persons Ray Of Hope owes a great debt to for their vision and
fortitude amidst many challenges, many who have gone home to be with the Lord
Jesus, and some who have left the area, include: Ted Ewald, Michael J. Royce,
Bobby F. Owens, Ronald E. Derby, Kathy Gillespie, Robb Bacon, Rev. Judson Day,
Therese Hogle, Frank Benware, Jeanne Staunton, Tim Moon and many others whose
names appear in the early records.
Here are some highlights of the his/herstory of Ray Of hope Church Of Our Lord
Jesus Christ pertaining to the first year of existence.
Birth and Infancy 1983 - 1984
We found a letter dated October 23, 1984 where Mr. Ted Ewald wrote the
following information; of which this is only the highlights.....
"I am the founder of this church and I am currently the worship coordinator....
Our church began July of 1983, with the beginning of a feasibility study; the
first meeting was attended by 14 people. On October 31st at the District
Conference of the Northeast District, we were accepted as a Study Group which
is our current status. Our membership has grown from the original 14 to 29 at
the present time. We have weekly attendance between 25 and 35 persons. We have
an organist and have recently started a choir. We have everything in our favor
for building a strong church here in Syracuse, and over the past year we have
proved that. We have five active people on our board of directors and I Ted,
We found some records from the same period that document the following
First attendance on record: 18 September, 1983 14 in attendance
25 September - 20 in attendance
16 October 18 in attendance and Mr. Ted Ewald gave the sermon.
Membership classes were offered on November 6, 13, and 20, 1983. In a letter
dated January 11, 1984 Ted Ewald wrote: "We have conducted our first
membership classes and have taken in 9 members, we are currently conducting
another membership class, so by the end of January we expect to have 15 members
and 25 to 30 people in attendance."
During a Congregational Meeting on May 13, 1984 Rev. Dr. Roger Harrison was
called to serve as Interim Pastor. He accepted the call.
During the First Annual Congregational Meeting, held on October 14, 1984, Mr.
Robb Bacon was elected to a three-year term on the board. Mr. Robb Bacon
remains an active Member in Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ as of
this September 5, 2001.
Another letter says: "An anniversary dinner" was planned for October
Early Childhood Years 1984 -1989 (1-6
A special Congregational Meeting was called on March 10, 1985 for "the
sole purpose of determining whether or not to call The Rev. Joseph C. Fischer
to be our pastor and worship coordinator." Rev. Fischer was called on this
According to the N.Y.S. Department Of State Division Of Corporations And State
Records the church incorporated under Rev. Fischer's leadership. The document
CERTIFICATE OF AMMENDMENT OF THE CERTIFICATE OF INCORPORATION OF RAY OF HOPE
under Section 803 of the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law
The name of this corporation is RAY OF HOPE CHURCH, INC.
The date of incorporation was August 25, 1986, and the incorporation document
was filed with the Department of State under the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law
of the State of new York on June 3, 1987, in Albany, New York (State Index
The original name of the incorporation was Ray Of Hope Church, Metropolitan
Community Church. This name was changed by amendment by the Board of Directors,
pursuant to the By Laws of the Corporation at a duly called meeting held on
July 14, 1996 to Ray Of Hope Church, Inc. This amendment has been registered
with the Department Of State (Index number 1-961104000553).
The corporation is a corporation as defined in subparagraph (a)(5) of Section
102 (Definitions) of the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law. The corporation type
under Section 102 is Type B.
The certificate of incorporation is amended to change the name of this
corporation as follows:
Paragraph 1 of the certificate of incorporation is amended to read as follows:
1. The name of the corporation is RAY OF HOPE CHURCH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST,
The N.Y.S. Department Of State Division Of Corporations And State Records shows
as of 12/28/2000 our name was officially changed to Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord
Jesus Christ, Inc.
The Ray Of Hope Church phone number, 315-471-6618 was noted as installed in the
April 8, 1985 Board Of Director's Meeting minutes. This is still the phone
number of the congregation.
Late Childhood 1990 -1995 (7-12 years
There followed a period in the late 80's where there was no pastor again, as
then Rev. Fischer did not continue.
Unfortunately we have lost many of the official Clerk's records of the Church
from much of this period as of this writing. Our firm records pick up with
January, 1995. We are asking anyone with records of Ray Of Hope Church from the
period beginning when Joseph C. Fischer was no longer Pastor until January,
1995 to please turn them over to us to complete our records for future
During much of this period the congregation met in the home of Mr. Robb Bacon.
In the early 90's there was another Interim Pastor, Rev. Keith Herrick. Pastor
Herrick was not an MCC pastor but was helping Ray Of Hope with the permission
of the denomination District Coordinator, Rev. Jeff Pullen. Under Rev.
Herrick's leadership Rev. Fischer was again called for weekday ministry in late
1993. Later, by May, 1994 the Pastoral Team was formed and per a letter from
the District Coordinator of that date, to include Pastor Keith Herrick, Rev.
Fischer and MCC student clergy Rev. Leo Mc Dermott, a member of the
congregation since September 5, 1993, known as Rev. Br. Benedict after June 15,
1996. A letter written by Rev. Fischer to Rev. Rawls indicates the congregation
attendees in the 1995-1997 era had almost completely changed since the early
years. The letter indicates many of the original congregation had passed away
and others had left the Syracuse area. In many ways therefore, the period with
Rev. Herrick was a second start of Ray Of Hope.
In 1995 Rev. Herrick resigned and the congregation asked permission to retain
the remaining two members of the Pastoral Team, Rev. Fischer and Rev. Mc
Dermott as co-pastors. The District Committee would not agree to the request.
The local congregation struggled with its parent, the Northeast District over
many months to find some way the will of the people in Syracuse and the will of
the District Committee could work together. The local Syracuse congregation was
firm in its resolve to keep their remaining Pastoral Team members as
co-pastors, and the District Committee was equally firm in its resolve to not
allow that decision as many letters on file can show. There was a lot of pain
for everyone involved as there often is between parents and their teenage
offspring as the offspring move toward adulthood and want to make their own
decisions. Appeals were made as far as possible but finally a mutual parting of
ways seemed to be the only solution. It is hoped this is a temporary situation
and indeed, some reconciliation has already occurred as all parties involved
strive for a more mature and cooperative working relationship sometime in the
future. Our parent organization has continued to be supportive of us and
frequently recommends people to visit and worship with us as well as to use our
website. Our current pastor, Rev. Brother Benedict was welcomed with open arms
at a recent informal visit with denominational leadership. We have a warm
working relationship though different than the parent and "mission"
work relationship we were formally in.
Early Adolescence 1996 - 1999 (13 - 16
In 1996 Ray Of Hope Church became an independent Christian Church. On June 15,
1996 the ordination of Rev. Joseph C. Fischer was re-affirmed and Rev. Leo Mc
Dermott replaced a previous ordination, taking this one as his authentic
ordination since in his previous one he was in the "closet" about his
sexual orientation. The ordaining ministers were Father John J. McNeill (author
of "The Church And The Homosexual"), Rev. George Mc Dermott, UFMCC
and Rev. Ron Anderson, UFMCC. Additionally Rev. Leo Mc Dermott professed
life-long religious vows as a Benedictine monk of Ray Of Hope Church. The
monastic vows were blessed by Fr. John J. McNeill who is Jesuit in his
spirituality. A new name was given as part of the monastic vows: Rev. Brother
Shawn Francis Benedict. Brother Benedict's name was legally changed to his
religious name. Ray Of Hope Church does not require celibacy or chastity of its
clergy or professed religious, in fact we want them to integrate their
sexuality into their spirituality so there is no organic conflict of having to
On July 14, 1996 as stated above the name of church was changed to Ray Of Hope
Church, Inc. by the Congregation. The name was changed again by the
Congregation to Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ in September of
2000, though the change wasn't filed with NYS until December, 2000. Also on
July 14, 1996 the motion was made to "…officially call Rev. Joseph C.
Fischer and Brother Shawn Francis Benedict as our co-pastors, and to draw up
job descriptions for each by August 11th." The motion was submitted by
Robb Bacon. The motion passed. Mr. Joseph C. Fischer became a retired Pastor of
the congregation as of December 31, 1998. Mr. Fischer is no longer a Member of
Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ and does not currently hold Clergy
Credentials with Ray Of Hope or the Universal Fellowship Of Metropolitan
Community Churches according to our available records as of December 17, 2000.
The Congregation thanks Mr. Fischer for his many years of good service and
wishes him many blessings and goodwill.
The ministry of Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ has grown
significantly since 1996. The Syracuse area was reorganized as an Extension of
the church. An Extension of the church was established in Elmira, New York in
September, 1996. A Bible Study was established in Ithaca, New York in October,
The government of the congregation was changed between 1996 -1998 to be a
region-wide representative Church Council with seats being elected from all
throughout Central New York, rather than just from Syracuse. Additionally the
new structure allows for non-clergy persons to be the Moderator, something not
allowed by the UFMCC. The congregation passed new Bylaws at a special
Congregational Meeting October 6, 1996 to reflect these governmental changes.
Leadership Committees were set up in the Syracuse and Southern Tier Extensions
to cover the local ministry needs and separate those needs from the regional
needs. Ithaca isn't large enough yet to elect a Leadership Committee and
remains a Bible Study group. The two Leadership Committees and the Church
Council are made up of diverse individuals representing various gender
expressions and sexual orientations. This is the most diverse and democratic
government the church has had in its eighteen-year story.
The Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ Council licenses and ordains
its own clergy. The Council and the Congregation review the performance and
calling of each licensed and ordained clergyperson annually. After the review
the Council decides to renew, suspend, or cancel the license to practice
ministry. This is a vigorous system of accountability and is taken seriously by
everyone involved. As part of our new structure all licensed and ordained
clergy of Ray Of Hope are required to attend a Vocational Ministry Colloquium
once a month. The Vocational Ministry Colloquium is a discussion and/or writing
seminar, which may be used to read and discuss a theological article or book,
view a media piece on theology or current issues, invite a guest speaker, or
some other way to continue the education and spiritual development of our
clergy. The Colloquium may also be used to discuss issues the Congregation may
be dealing with. Ray Of Hope Vocational Ministry Candidates are required to
participate in the Colloquium to help them assess if they are willing to keep
up this kind of commitment of participation in the Colloquium during their life
of ministry. This is the most developed continuing education program Ray Of
Hope has ever had.
The Elmira area Extension is known as the Southern Tier Extension. The
congregation of Ray Of Hope Church meets there every week for Bible Study on
Tuesday nights and worship on Saturday mornings. The congregation has moved
around between Elmira, Horseheads and Corning in homes and gay establishments
trying to find the best way to connect with people who need our ministry. The
Southern Tier Extension has a fully operating Leadership Committee with elected
seats and contributes two Members to the elected seats of our region-wide
Church Council. The Syracuse Extension meets every week for worship on Sunday
nights, currently at the Trexx Video Dance Club on the main dance floor, and
every Thursday at 7:00 PM at Border's Books and Music Café at the Carousel
Mall. Currently we have an even mix of persons between teen-age years to early
80's who are regular attendees and participants in our region-wide Central New
York State ministries.
The church has also grown with the 21st Century electronic media. The church
has operated an international 800-line phone service since about 1995.
Currently hundreds of calls are logged each month from all over the USA and
sometimes from other countries. People who use the service are often not able
to be "out" about their sexual orientations with family, friends or
for fear of losing their employment. Others use it when they are on the street
and in need of help, or when financially challenged and need someone to talk
Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ has an elaborate website:
www.rayofhopechurch.com. This website is visited many times a week by people
from all over the world. On the website we have sermons, our Statement Of
Purpose, Statement Of Faith, a Youth Resources page, a Christian Resources
page, the Church Bylaws, some of the policies, an extensive Bible study on
Homosexuality and the Bible, and the outline to our home-based seminary
program, The Vocational Ministry Training Program.
One of the greatest developments since 1996 is our home-based seminary program
leading to full licensure and ordination to Ministry as a priest/pastor,
bishop, deacon, religious sister, religious brother, communion minister for
home and institutional visiting, licensed teachers, and other ministries.
Currently we have two candidates studying for professional ministry, Mr. Frank
Ward and Mr. Larry Fuller. Those of you who are familiar with these two men can
see they are very involved in the ministry of the church. Our candidates assist
Brother Benedict in all aspects of ministry as well as give sermons and take
strong leadership in church administration.
Another development since 1996 is the growth of the St. Benedict of Nursia (480
- 547 AD) Memorial Library. The library has over 6,000 volumes specializing in
Biblical theology, sexuality, gender, Western civilization, and
liturgy/worship. This library is the core of our research for our classes,
Bible Studies and seminary programs.
Beginning of Adulthood 2000 - 2001 (17 -
18 years old)
Currently it is the goal of our extensions (Syracuse and Southern Tier) to
purchase property so that permanent locations may be secured for the next
generation of GLBTQS believers. Persons interested in this type of endeavor are
encouraged to contact us.
As we approach our eighteenth anniversary we look back over the past and give
thanks to God for helping us grow from infancy to childhood and through
adolescence. Eighteen is adolescent in many ways and yet is considered to be
adulthood in as many ways. The eighteen-year-old adolescent/adult pull is just
about where we experience ourselves as an institution at this time. We are on
the threshold of the beginning of adult independence in terms of purchasing
property and setting down permanent roots. We expect by twenty-one to be
established in our own buildings with more extensions and with additional
ordained ministers in all areas of ministry. Like many GLBTQS teenagers who are
18, the last six years of our story have been rough with many emotional highs
and lows, and we endured all the usual things that happen to GLBTQS teens
(including losing the home we were born in)! We expect many of those
relationships will heal as we go through our twenties as they often do.
Fortunately Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ has Members who are in
their 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and yes even their 80's who often give us
wisdom and encouragement on how to survive the remaining teenage years and the
new challenges of early adulthood. This may sound like a tongue-in-cheek
analogy but actually the parallels are startling. Much has happened in eighteen
short years and so it is time to stop, celebrate and give thanks.
Please join us for worship on Saturday October 27 at 10:30 am in Corning at the
home of Martha and Burton Cummings - 62 Goff St. or Sunday night October 28 at
6:00 PM at Trexx Video Dance Club for our anniversary services and desert. Come
and assist us as we give thanks to God and thanks to our founders for their
vision of a Church for all God's people in Central New York State. We also want
to thank the many people who have made great sacrifices through the years to
keep the ministry of Ray Of Hope alive. We promise all of you our congregation
is here to stay and we will faithfully serve you any way we can in the Name of
God. Thank you Syracuse and Central New York for the first eighteen years and
let's journey on to many more years together in God's Love.
Disclaimer: There is no intention to misrepresent any information in this
article. There is no intention to defame, embarrass or slander any person or
group of persons or to misrepresent them or their intentions in this article.
Information was gathered from the collective memory of many people and what
records could be located. Ray Of Hope supplied this article to the Pink Paper.
The Pink Paper, its editor and staff are in no way responsible for the content
of this article. Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. apologizes
in advance for any mistakes or errors that may have been included or omitted
and hereby claims no harm or damage is intended.