On the first afternoon of General Conference in Buffalo, N.Y., full-to-overflowing crowds were rewarded with high quality seminars.

At the “Transforming Presence” seminar, Kyle Ray and David Drury introduced a new resource for local churches. The book and video series has been prepared for use by small groups, but can also have a parallel sermon series. Based on the Gospel of John, the book and 10 videos highlight how actually experiencing the presence of Jesus makes all the difference for personal transformation. Seminar participants formed small groups and enthusiastically launched into discussions on the topic of one of the chapter titles: “Stuck.” Kyle Ray is pastor of Kentwood Community Church in Michigan and David Drury is chief of staff for the General Superintendent. The new resource is available from Wesleyan Publishing House here.

At the “Thriving Clergy” seminar, information was provided about the generous multi-million dollar grant from Lilly Endowment which is being implemented to assist pastors. Rev. Mark Rennaker, the Wesleyan director of Thrive Financial Initiative, unpacked the results of the Lilly research and the way the program works for local pastors and churches. Pastors frequently experience financial stresses on many levels which limits their capacity for fulfilling their calling. Through the initiative, local churches can build thrive teams, make assessments, develop plans to address real solutions, and tap into thousands of dollars of financial help and educational assistance which can help spiritually, intellectually, relationally, and financially. Find out more at Wesleyan.org/TFI, as the program will begin on August 1, 2016.

The room was packed with 150 participants at the “Faithful Presence” seminar, where Wesleyans and guests told stories of God’s movement in urban Buffalo. For 27 years, the evidence of God’s work in Buffalo, a place where many refugees have sought refuge, has been evident. Wesleyan churches have partnered with many other organizations, leading to a powerful faithful presence in the community. Faithful presence can be defined as humble immersion, holistic and participatory, compassionate grace, mutually transformative, and place-based and empowering.

After the session, participants gathered in breakout sessions to hear more about specific vibrant ministries with a powerful presence in Buffalo: Urban advocacy, Jericho Road Community Health Center, P.A.T.H. (People Against Trafficking Humans, Inc.), Wesley Service Corps, AmeriCorps, and Buffalo Urban Mission Partnership or (B.U.M.P.), and Houghton College Buffalo Program. For more about faithful presence, visit Wesleyan Life magazine.