From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[UMNS-ALL-NEWS] UMNS# 554-Bishop Hassinger steps out of retirement to lead area

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Fri, 15 Sep 2006 16:19:00 -0500

Bishop Hassinger steps out of retirement to lead area

Sep. 15, 2006 News media contact: Linda Green * (615) 7425470* Nashville {554}

NOTE: Photographs are available at

By Sandra Brands*

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (UMNS) - Bishop Susan W. Hassinger is a quiet, soft-spoken woman who spends a great deal of time listening to the people with whom she meets.

Hassinger, 63, brought her experiences and skills to the United Methodist Church's Albany (N.Y.) Area when she stepped out of retirement and became the interim bishop of the denomination's Troy and Wyoming annual (regional) conferences Sept. 1. She replaces Bishop Susan Morrison, who had served as the resident bishop since 1996 and had announced last winter that she would retire Sept. 1 for health and personal reasons.

Since Morrison's retirement occurred in the middle of her four-year assignment to the Albany Area, she recommended Hassinger serve out the remainder of the term. The Northeastern Jurisdiction, along with the other U.S. jurisdictions of the church, will elect bishops in 2008 to follow those who retire.

Hassinger said her first response to the request was concern for Bishop Morrison. Her second reaction was discomfort.

"I had become somewhat comfortable in my environment these past two years in a home that was my own, teaching part time at Boston University School of Theology, training and practice in spiritual direction." She also serves as spiritual director for Carter Memorial United Methodist Church in Needham, Mass.

After prayerfully considering the request, she said she "discerned that I should simply follow the process and see where God was leading. Now I am feeling excited about the opportunity, yet still sad to see Bishop Morrison retiring."

She looks forward to serving Troy and Wyoming Annual Conferences. "I am excited about working with the leaders, both lay and clergy, in the two annual conferences," Hassinger said.

She said part of her role as bishop will be to provide leadership, support and resources for the work the churches and leadership of the conference have already started as well as to prepare the conferences for the future.

"The church in the United States still behaves as though it is 'entitled' in the society, and will be facing reality that we are living with a variety of religious expressions," she said. "Local churches will need to provide lively worship, small group opportunities for growing in faith and knowledge, and mission outreach both locally and globally. Increasingly, that worship and training and mission will need to be done multi-culturally and often multi-lingually."

Her interests include a commitment to dismantling racism and helping Christian communities communicate more effectively about their faith. She advocates a weekly celebration of Holy Communion in local United Methodist churches because "it is at the center of our worship. ... It is as we gather at the table and receive the Eucharistic elements that we are fed with a sense of Christ's presence and are strengthened to feed others."

Decades of service

Hassinger was ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church in 1968 and served in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference until her election as bishop in 1996. In 1983, she was appointed the first female district superintendent in Eastern Pennsylvania, and in 1988 she served on the conference staff with Morrison, then the resident bishop of the Philadelphia Area.

Upon her election as bishop, she was assigned to the Boston Area, where she served until retiring in 2004.

Originally from Hanover, Pa., Hassinger earned a bachelor's degree from United Methodist-related Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pa., and a master of divinity degree from Lancaster (Pa.) Theological Seminary. She grew up in the Evangelical United Brethren Tradition, which merged with the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church.

A special worship service and a reception are being held to welcome Hassinger to the Troy Annual Conference. The first service and reception will be Sept. 17 at First United Methodist Church in Schenectady, N.Y. The second will be held on Sept. 24, at First United Methodist Church in Burlington, Vt. Both services will be at 3 p.m.

*Brands is the editor of The Connection, the newspaper of the Troy Annual Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or


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