TROY CONFERENCE HISTORY

(Methodist church conference 1832 - 2010)

 

Early Days

The first Methodist preaching in New York State was in our area in 1765 by Captain Webb while he served as Barrack Master at Albany. Thomas Webb was known as Captain Webb though he had declined the commission of Captain and retired in 1763 as a Lieutenant from the 48h Regiment to remain in America. He returned to England briefly after his young wife died. There in England Webb's "burden was removed, peace and joy through believing filled his heart." John Wesley granted Webb the status of a local preacher and he became an evangelist. Back in Albany, Webb conducted simple religious services in his official residence and closed with a word of exhortation. Webb also preached to the troops and elsewhere. Webb's sphere widened and he joined the New York [City] Society and regularly preached in uniform there and elsewhere on the Atlantic seaboard.

 

An early founder of Methodist societies in Troy Conference was Philip Embury (from New York City and originally Ireland), starting with the Ashgrove Society in 1770 near Cambridge, New York. Such early folk prepared the way for the later horse-back circuit riders (of whom Ballston Spa folks said "The weather is so bad that nobody is out there except crows and Methodist preachers"). Gradually services moved from houses, barns, schools, etc. into Methodist-built meeting houses. Freeborn Garrettson dedicated the first chapel in Albany in June of 1791 on the comer of Pearl and Orange Streets.

 

Round Lake, now an incorporated village in Saratoga County, started as a camp ?neeting ground in 1W, after Methodist laymen of Troy formed an association. With railroad service to the grounds, Round Lake had among the largest camp meetings ever held in the United States with over twenty thousand in attendance one Sunday.

 

Conference boundaries

Troy Conference was one of many conferences that came from the large original territory of the New York Conference. Conference and district boundaries changed regularly and were done by the national General Conference until the 1939 Uniting Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church turned this responsibility over to the new Jurisdictional Conferences.

 

"Troy Conference" was proposed by New York Conference in 1831 and then officially split off from New York Conference by the May 1832 session of General Conference. It included the "Saratoga, Middlebury [western Vermont], and Plattsburg Districts, and that part of the Troy District not included in the New York Conference." The two-conference joint session in June 1832 determined that the Troy Conference would hold its first session August 28, 1833 in Troy, New York. This made the first Conference year about 15 months long so each circuit and station was to have an extra quarterly meeting. While the boundaries have been revised various times, Troy Conference continued as such.

 

The situation of Vermont was more volatile. New England Conference was established in 1796 by the General Conference@a@nd eastern Vermont was split off from New York Conference to become part of it. In 1829 New England Conference voted to set apart the churches in New Hampshire and eastern Vermont for the New Hampshire and Vermont Conference.

Then in 1844 Vermont Conference was formed. In 1860 in a controversial move Burlington and St. Albans districts were added to Vermont Conference from Troy Conference. In 1868 General Corif6rence returned the Burlington District to Troy Conference, in 1880 moved it back to Vermont Conference, and then in 1884 returned Burlington District to its original home territory of Troy Conference. After much maneuvering, in 1940 Vermont Conference was merged with Troy Conference, now known as Troy Annual Conference (see map). With this merging of the two conferences, eastern Vermont made its sixth change of affiliation.

 


In 1962 the six Methodist churches of western Massachusetts - which had been a part of Troy Annual Conference - were assigned to the New England Conference.

Charles Schwartz, co-author of A Flame of Fire published in 1982 by Troy Annual Conference, wrote he wondered at the 1941 session of the merged Conference at Saratoga Springs whether there would be a line of division between the Vermont and the Troy members and how a newcomer (such as himself) would be received. "Before he had actually entered through the church door, however, he could sense the warmth of welcome on the parlor the Conference membership and the lack of any sense of separation among those gathered there" and forty years later repeated what another man had noted, "It has been that way ever since."

In 2008 it was reported that the 300-church Troy Annual Conference had shrunk in membership by 40 percent since 1964. Time for our conference to be on its own is ending.

Upcoming changes

Scheduled to happen July 1, 2010, Troy Conference will split and merge. All of Vermont will be combined with New England Conference and the remaining part of Troy Conference will merge with three other New York State conferences to form an upper New York annual conference. The other three merging conferences are North Central Conference, Western New York, and Wyoming Conference (with the Pennsylvania portion of Wyoming Conference going to the Central Pennsylvania Conference).