Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.
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 Congregation.

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.

Infancy: 1983-1984
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 communities. 

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, coordinate everything." 

We found some records from the same period that document the following information:
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 28, 1984. 

Early Childhood Years 1984 -1989 (1-6 years old)

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 date.

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 reads:

CERTIFICATE OF AMMENDMENT OF THE CERTIFICATE OF INCORPORATION OF RAY OF HOPE CHURCH, INC.
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 Number 19870311).

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, INC.

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 old)

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 generations. 

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 years old) 

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 be closeted. 

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, 1998. 

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 with. 

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. 

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