August 2014 (Previous issues are available at the bottom of this page)
The mission of the Virginia Conference is to make disciples of Jesus Christ
for the transformation of the world
by equipping its local churches for ministry and
by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church;
all to the glory of God.
Here are some of the recent ways churches and ministries of the Virginia Annual Conference have been equipped and connected. Thank you to the churches of the Virginia Conference for your support of the Conference Mission and Ministries (401) and Conference Services (402) apportionments that help to make these ministries possible.
Annual Conference Held on June 20-22
The 232nd session of the Virginia Annual Conference was held in Hampton on June 20-22. This annual gathering of clergy and elected laity of Virginia Conference congregations and districts is supported by conference staff and conference volunteers. 1,353 laity and 1,153 clergy registered their attendance at this year’s annual conference. Conference highlights include:
• At the Service for the Ordering of Ministry, 13 were ordained as elders, one ordained deacons, 22 commissioned as provisional members, and 27 licensed as local pastors. One elder also had her orders recognized.
• Establishment of 3 new faith communities bringing the total number of new faith communities established since the approval of All Things New in 2008 to 29.
• Approval of conference wide initiative to support Imagine No Malaria during the 2014-2015 Conference Year through a two-fold focus of saving 100,000+ lives and having every church in the conference participate. A $10 gift provides protective netting and medical care to prevent and treat malaria.
• General Board of Global Ministries’ recognition of the Virginia Conference for:
Leading The United Methodist Church in the highest giving to “The Advance for Christ and His Church” ($2.5 million in 2013)
Leading the Southeastern Jurisdiction in giving in missionary support ($396,934 in 2013)
Contributing $1.1 million in 2013 to the United Methodist Committee on Relief
• Commissioning of the Rev. Pat Watkins as a missionary for “Care of God’s Creation” through the Council of Bishops and the General Board of Global Ministries
• Commissioning of Laarni Bibay and Anselma Samson as Deaconesses assigned to Resurrection United Methodist Church on the Elizabeth River District
• Collection of 41,218 health kits for ministry of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (total value of $533,834) and more than 85,000 pounds on non-perishable food items for the Peninsula Food Bank
• Approval of a 2015 Conference Budget of $32,720,000 (1.08% decrease from 2014 budget) divided into Conference Apportionments of $9,400,000 ($225,000 decrease from 2014), Clergy Benefit Apportionments of $17,320,000 ($75,000 decrease from 2014), and General Church and Jurisdictional Apportionments of $6,000,000 ($45,000 decrease from 2014)
Safe Sanctuaries Training
104 persons attended a June 18-19 conference sponsored Safe Sanctuaries training event led by Rev. Dr. Joy Thornburg Melton, an attorney and ordained Deacon in The United Methodist Church who has devoted her law practice and ministry to the protection of vulnerable individuals — children, youth, and older adults. Through the sharing of personal experiences, facts, and stories, Melton offered guidance to assist local churches in developing and evaluating protection policies for children, youth, and vulnerable adults appropriate for their ministry contexts. According to Melton, faith communities must "teach to the Gospel, but be prepared to defend our actions according to state law."
Melton outlined six steps and talked in detail during the 10-hour training about procedures which should be considered.
1. Establish a Safe Sanctuaries Task Force for your church. This Task Force should include representatives of ministry areas focusing on children, youth, and vulnerable adults: nursery, children, youth, older adults, disability ministries, and leisure/recreation ministries. Church leadership should also be involved, especially representatives of Staff-Parish Relations, Trustees, and Finance. Other church members who work within the medical, legal, and law enforcement fields can bring important expertise.
2. Evaluate what is being done currently. If you have a protection policy in place, evaluate it based on your current membership needs, insurance requirements, state legislation, and community setting. If you do not have a policy in place, start by looking at the policy and procedures adopted by the Virginia Conference Common Table for Church Vitality for Conference events and sample policies found at www.vaumc.org/SafeSanctuaries.
3. Determine areas of weakness. This requires that you evaluate current ministries and anticipate future needs.
4. Write a policy statement: The Covenant. Melton calls this your theological statement and intent of the congregation to reduce risk.
5. Write procedures to support the policy: The Commitment. These procedures should address application and screening procedures for staff and volunteers, orientation to service, supervision of participants, use of facilities by outside groups, reporting requirements, and regular review of procedures.
6. Implement the plans. This may not be easy as you are called upon to address the challenges presented by the “Yes...but…” members of your faith community. The “Yes…but” folks are those who will question why protection policies and procedures are needed and may be hesitant to follow guidelines once they are in place. Education and awareness will be required to address their concerns.
For those unable to participate in the training, all of Rev. Dr. Melton’s booklets in the Safe Sanctuaries series of resources can be purchased from Cokesbury or other on-line book retailers. For more information about Virginia Conference protection policies and resource links, visit www.vaumc.org/SafeSanctuaries.
Local Pastors Fellowship Continuing Education Event
Christine Parton Burkett, visiting professor of Speech at Duke Divinity School, shared creative ways to craft the ancient message for today's environment at the recent Associate Members and Local Pastors Fellowship continuing education event at River Road UMC in Richmond.About 85 people attended this continuing education event on preaching. Burkett’s topics included non-verbal messaging in the pulpit, reducing fillers that cloud sermons, and improving public proclamation.
Lord, Teach Me to Pray
The Conference Board of Discipleship sponsored “Lord, Teach Me to Pray — Practical Applications for Prayer" on May 17 at Timberlake UMC. Thirty persons participated in this regional follow-up to the Bishop’s Convocation on Prayer.
Voices of Youth
The Voices of Youth choir, composed of students representing congregations from around the Virginia Conference, conducted its 28th annual summer mission/concert tour with a mission work in the Bahamas with the Bahamas Methodist Habitat organization. Choir members did home repair work in very poor areas amid difficult conditions. Student Michelle Hayes said she grew tired of friends teasing her before the trip that she “had to” spend a week in the Bahamas. “The vast majority of people (in the Bahamas) do not live in the luxury of the resorts that the islands are known for,” she said. “In fact they are very poor.” Hayes said that a few times on the first work day she had to step away and gather herself because the conditions the people are living in are so bad. Jacklyn Crabtree, another young Voices participant, said that like any mission work, the workers probably benefitted more than the recipients of the work. “We think we are the ones doing the good work, but it’s God,” Crabtree said. “We’re just the vessels.” Following the work week with the Habitat project, the group spent several weeks touring around the conference, combining singing and testimony about their mission work.
Peace With Justice Grants
The Virginia Conference Board of Church and Society awarded three Peace with Justice Grants totalling $13,060 to three churches: Resurrection UMC in Chesapeake received $4,400 for its Creation Care Ministry; Eastland UMC in Fredericksburg received $3,660 for its Just Faith Study Program; Rising Hope UMC in Alexandria received $5,000 for its Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) program. Funds for Peace with Justice grants are generated from Peace With Justice Sunday offerings which are divided between the General Board of Church & Society and the conference board.
2014-2015 Mission Opportunities guide available
"Imagine" is the theme of the 2014-2015 Mission Opportunities booklet which is included as an insert in the August issue of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate and was distributed to participants of Mission Encounter at Blackstone Conference and Retreat Center July 25–27 and July 28-30. All clergy and local church lay leaders will also receive copies. The booklet includes information about first- and second-mile giving, apportionments, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Advance specials, missionaries and a variety of other mission opportunities. Extra copies are available by contacting the conference office of Justice and Missional Excellence at (804) 521-1139 or 1-800-768-6040, ext. 139. This guide is a cooperative effort of the Office of Justice and Missional Excellence, Communications Office, and Treasurer’s Office.
Those who were present at this year's Annual Conference will recall the times of witness from churches and ministries of various types and sizes across the Virginia Conference. At the request of the Small Church Leadership Team, videos for two of those churches, Norfolk UMC, Elizabeth River District, and Westover UMC, Charlottesville District, have been added to the Kingdom Sightings blog page of the conference website. The Kingdom Sightings blog offers an opportunity to all small membership churches (those with average worship attendance up to 149) to share stories of faith and help one another grow in recognizing the presence of the Kingdom and its grace in unique places and settings across the conference. You will find instructions for how to post a story on the website page: http://www.vaumc.org/kingdomsightings. The Small Church Leadership Team receives staff support from the Center for Congregational Excellence.
Helping Hands, a two-day mission experience for rising 4th - to 6th-graders, parents and adult leaders was held at Marquis Memorial UMC, Staunton and Woodlake UMC, Chesterfield in July. Helping Hands is a ministry endorsed by the Conference Common Table for Church Vitality.
Formerly known as the School of Christian Mission, Mission Encounter is a cooperative event sponsored by the Virginia Conference Board of Global Ministries, the Virginia Conference United Methodist Women and resourced by the Center for Justice and Missional Excellence. 184 people participated in the two Mission Encounter Events this year.
All God’s Children Camp
All God’s Children Camp provides a week of fun and sanctuary for children, ages 7-12, who have an incarcerated mother or father. A camp was held for 31 campers at Camp Occhannock on the Bay in Belle Haven during the week of August 3. This ministry is coordinated through the Conference Office of Ministries With Young People.
Camp Rainbow Connection
The first session of Camp Rainbow Connection was held at Blackstone Conference and Retreat Center in July. Camp Rainbow is a week-long respite camp for individuals with intellectual disabilities. A ministry of the Virginia Conference Commission on Disabilities, it has been in operation since 1985 and is resourced by the Center for Inclusivity and Lay Leadership Excellence. There was 114 campers and 109 volunteers participating at this session of Camp Rainbow Connection.
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