New Pastor Appointed to First United Methodist Church
By MARCIA KOZUBEK
The Rev. Casey Bradley of Richfield Springs has been named pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Oneonta. He will begin July 2, filling the spot held for five years by the Rev. Marti Swords-Horrell, who is retiring.
Bishop Hector Burgos appointed Bradley, 36, after the local staff-parish committee interviewed him and gave a positive review. Bradley holds a bachelor’s degree in social work received in 2009 from SUNY Plattsburgh. He graduated from the Boston University School of Theology in 2012.
Bradley then went on to serve various churches over the next decade, including Lake Luzerne Methodist Church, South Corinth Methodist Church and, most recently, the Richfield Springs Methodist Church. Bradley will be ordained at the Upper New York Conference session on June 2 in Syracuse.
“I am very excited to serve a church that is open to the community, a very affirming church. I want to take time to see what’s working and see how I can have an impact on the church and community,” he said.
Past experience with technology should serve Bradley well in his new position.
“I have had a computer in my house since I was born. I am happy to see this church has embraced it,” he said.
In fact, in his former job in Richfield Springs he had to work hard to get the church streaming.
“Closing the church [during the pandemic] helped convince people that technology is an important part of ministry,” he added.
Rev. Bradley will move to Oneonta with his wife, Heather, a clinical social worker, and their dog Cyder, a beagle mix.
Rev. Swords-Horrell arrived in Oneonta on July 21, 2018. She became the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Oneonta and her spouse, the Rev. Dana Horrell, became pastor of the United Methodist Church in Cooperstown. The couple previously served small churches in Albany and Troy.
Rev. Marti, as she is known, said she became the “pandemic pastor.” When the church closed for eight months, she began live-streaming Sunday services from home.
“I am proud of the way we responded, using our gifts, graces and talents. Just like libraries and hospitals, we joined the digital generation. We are in a new world and we have to adapt,” she said, noting the church will continue to Zoom services.
“I want to give thanks to our staff. They did 110 percent all the time,” she continued.
Swords-Horrell also praised the church’s team of nurses, who helped members register on-line for vaccinations.
Swords-Horrell was ordained on June 11, 1983 and again on June 9, 1985 and she applied her organizational skills while here. The church hired the Rev. Paul Nixon, a pastor and consultant, to begin a long-range planning process, she explained.
Swords-Horrell said the church is particularly concerned about families with small children, who are being stretched economically and socially.
“So many who are working from home are socially disconnected. Some really don’t have a family here, so the church can become their family,” she said.
Swords-Horrell and her husband are moving to Cincinnati, Ohio to join daughter Maddie, 32, and spouse Ross, who will soon move from Austin, Texas to Ohio. Son Nathan, 35, and his wife, Rio, will remain in San Francisco.
Rev. Marti will be feted at a Farewell Luncheon on June 11, following a 10:30 a.m. service at celebrating her retirement. The First United Methodist Church is located at 66 Chestnut Street.