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To submit news items, events, or corrections, email the conference Communications Office at [email protected].

January 11, 2022

let us pray (1)

Let us pray...

Periodically, a prayer focus will be shared in the e-Advocate. As you see fit, share in your contexts, including your Sunday worship services.

January 16: Hope Beyond Bars
Hope Beyond the Bars is a prison art ministry designed to introduce inmates in the Virginia Department of Corrections to the glory of God through the gifts of their own artistic talents.

Heavenly Father, I bring before You the many men and women who are incarcerated behind prison bars and have been deprived of their freedoms, due to their various crimes.
Father, You alone know the heart of each one and the reason why they are imprisoned, and You alone are the One that can bring these men and women to repentance, and to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I ask you to be with each of them this day, as well as their loved ones who are in a prison of their own pain and sorrow. Let your spirit of peace and comfort be upon them.
Where there is a feeling of hopelessness in the heart of any prisoner or a doubt that God could ever forgive their crime, I pray that You would help them see their need to turn to Christ for forgiveness and to believe in His redemptive work on the cross, knowing that He is willing and able to forgive all their sins, simply by believing in Jesus Christ as Savior.
I pray for the ministries of Hope Beyond the Bars and ask that You prepare each heart to receive the message of Salvation with joy and hope, and may many prisoners be brought into a saving faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thank You, Father. In Jesus' name I pray,

How can you take part in learning, influencing, and serving this week?

  • How can you be a lifelong learner?

This Sunday, January 16, is Human Relations Day, a time to highlight the social justice commitment of The United Methodist Church and to partner in supporting outreach to underserved communities. Learn more...
  • How can you be an influencer?
Small churches have an incredible opportunity to exercise influence with powerful and creative worship. Blogger Teresa Stewart offers her insights into how small churches can create powerful worship in this podcast from The Lewis Center for Congregational Leadership...
  • How can you serve?

United Methodists in East Ohio celebrated Global Migrant Sunday on January 9, 2022. Read about the ways local churches support migrant communities with tutoring and transitional housing.

Virginia News


Bishop, Cabinet, PRG Team give update during omicron surge

January 6--Bishop Lewis, the Virginia Cabinet, and the conference PRG Team shared an update last week amidst the omicron surge. In part they wrote:
"As the Omicron variant surges throughout the nation and the Commonwealth becomes a hotspot for this new variant, we encourage the local PRG teams to continue evaluating their context and adherence to the best practices. There is a spike in the number of cases related to our local churches, and we learned that the tools in the toolkit: vaccination, masking, and social distancing are effective in stopping the spread. We are thankful for the vigilant effort of each PRG team in implementing effective mitigation strategies.
Not only will the next 4-6 weeks be one of the toughest tests for the churches, as members return from their Christmas holiday gatherings, but also a critical point in the battle against COVID. This is a good time to reevaluate and adjust plans accordingly. While we know that the decisions before our local churches, pastors, and local PRG teams are not easy, know that your bishop and Cabinet have every confidence in you to make the best decisions for the safety of your members and communities. " Read more...

Annual conferences asked to raise funds for Survivor Trust Fund

January 10-- A news release was shared conference-wide yesterday at the request of the BSA United Methodist Leadership Team addressing the status of the Boy Scouts bankruptcy proceeding. Additional information stemming from this release will be provided by the Virginia Annual Conference soon.
Of note in the release, it was shared:
"Pending court approval of a settlement agreement in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) bankruptcy case, United Methodists have agreed to contribute $30 million to a $3 billion Survivor Trust Fund that will receive contributions from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), insurance companies and charter organizations. Every annual conference is asked to raise funds to contribute toward the $30 million and the Virginia Annual Conference has a goal to raise $988,456 toward the Survivor Trust Fund.
"The fund will be used to compensate persons alleged to have experienced abuse while in Scouting. The BSA filed for bankruptcy as it faces more than 80,000 claims for alleged child sexual abuse over the last 80 years. United Methodist congregations sponsor more than 6,000 Boy Scout troops and Cub packs.
United Methodists participated in the bankruptcy mediation process with five goals.
  1. Healing and support for survivors
  2. Releases from claims related to sexual abuse for United Methodist congregations that chartered Boy Scout troops and Cub packs
  3. Releases for all charter organizations
  4. Preservation of congregations’ and annual conferences’ insurance
  5. A fair and just financial settlement"
Read full news release...

Blog: Journey Faith Community is a blessing to the community

Journey Community started as a New Faith Community in 2011, sponsored by the Virginia Conference, with a specific focus on reaching out to the community. As this faith community is approaching its 11th anniversary, they have served the community in a variety of ways. Journey Community started as a Thrift Store in 2009. It was run by volunteers and donations to serve the community. Read blog...

Conference delegation prepares for General Conference

Though the initial General Conference session has been postponed since May 2020, the Virginia Conference delegation has been continuing to meet and do work. Learn more about what the delegation has been working on in their time together with this update...

Bishop Lewis announces new District Superintendent

Bishop Sharma D. Lewis is pleased to announce one new District Superintendent (DS) appointment effective July 1, 2022.

The Rev. Dr. Cecelia Brooks, Ph.D., currently serving as the lead pastor at Franktown UMC on the Eastern Shore District, will be the new District Superintendent of the Elizabeth River and Eastern Shore. She will replace the Rev. Seonyoung Kim who has served as a District Superintendent for the last eight years.

A Richmond native, Dr. Brooks graduated from Duke University Divinity School and Oklahoma State University and has served churches and campus ministries in Oklahoma and Virginia. She has a passion for preaching, mission, and African American history. She has published several articles and authored two books in 2021. Please join Bishop Lewis in welcoming Dr. Brooks to the Virginia Annual Conference Cabinet.

Bishop Lewis announces new Extended Cabinet Member

Bishop Sharma D. Lewis is pleased to announce that Mrs. Madeline Pillow White, conference Director of Communications, will be a new member to the Virginia Annual Conference Extended Cabinet effective January 18, 2022. “I believe that Madeline (Maddie) will add her gifts and skills as an effective communicator to the Virginia Annual Conference Extended Cabinet.” Please join Bishop Lewis in welcoming White to the Extended Cabinet.
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Join weekly conference Chapel service

The Virginia United Methodist Center hosts a weekly public Zoom chapel service every Wednesday. Guests from around the conference lead worship each week. Tune in to sing, pray, and study. The same Zoom link is used each week. Service participants for January 12:
Preacher: The Rev. Youtha Hardman-Cromwell, Retired Elder
Liturgists: The Rev. Crystal Sygeel, Associate Director of Call & Candidacy; and the Rev. John Stelzl, Pastor at Bethel and John Wesley United Methodist churches on the Winchester District
Download bulletin...
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 950 8909 4606
One tap mobile
+13017158592,,95089094606# US (Washington DC)

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Clergywomen share prayers for 2022

To ring in the new year, 24 United Methodist clergywomen from across the United States put together a video sharing their prayers and blessings for 2022. Among the clergy participating were Rev. Deborah Porras and Rev. Dawn-Marie Singleton from the Virginia Conference. Watch video...

January message shared from Conference Lay Leader

Conference Lay Leader Martha Stokes shared a January message on "Voice" on the conference webpage. Read blog...

Phishing attempts continue to plague Virginia Conference

Phishing emails continue to be sent out purporting to be from Bishop Sharma Lewis and clergy from around the Virginia Conference.

Phishing is when an email is sent using words in the email or pretends to be from an account they are not. Usually, they are asking for action from you, such as sending funds, sending an email, your credentials, etc. These are almost always sent from criminal organizations.

If you recognize a future phishing email, DELETE it. Please know Bishop Lewis and our clergy would not issue this type of request.
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UM Day is now moving to virtual format on Jan. 27

Leadership for United Methodist Day at the General Assembly had hoped to be in person this year, but with limited in-person access at the General Assembly and the increased infection rates, the event is moving to Zoom. Join to learn how your Christian faith, the Methodist Tradition, and the government interact and intersect. The keynote will address practical examples of faith and tradition leading to impactful change and improved justice.
Register here.
Learn more about the event...
WTS - Spring 2022 - Instagram

Still time to take a Spring course at Wesley Seminary in 2022

It's not too late to choose to study at Wesley Theological Seminary in 2022! Spring Term registration is still open - classes are starting January 19, 2022. Study your way - online, in-class or take a weekend hybrid course that meets in person only three times on campus, and all other coursework is completed online.
Choose from a wide range of courses such as "Faith, Politics & Public Square"; "Toni Morrison & Theodicy"; "Cross, State, & Citizenship" and "Godly Play". Interested in trying a class at Wesley, grabbing a CEU, or using your WTS alumni audit benefit? Apply now...
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Scholarships available for United Methodist students

The United Methodist Higher Education Foundation (UMHEF) is accepting scholarship applications for the 2022-2023 academic year between January 1 – March 1, 2022. Students who are members of The United Methodist Church and planning to attend a United Methodist-related school, college, university, or seminary full-time are eligible to apply. More information on eligibility criteria, the application process, and FAQs can be found at Applications and supporting materials must be submitted/postmarked no later than March 1, 2022.

Bi-District Training Day open to Virginia Conference

The Alexandria and Arlington Districts will host its annual Bi-District Training Day (BDTD) on January 15, 2022. This year’s event will take place virtually, and registration is open to all of the Virginia Conference.
At BDTD speakers offer training sessions and workshops in a multitude of ministry areas to help attendees learn and grow. This year’s event will feature the Rev. Michael Beck, author of Fresh Expressions in a Digital Age: How the Church Can Prepare for a Post Pandemic World and Contextual Intelligence: Unlocking the Ancient Secret to Mission on the Front Lines. Bi-District Training Day will be online only in 2022, with a wide variety of topics. Choose from 66 workshops — including three live sessions with Michael Beck and five live Zoom lunchtime conversations for networking and fellowship. Prerecorded content from more than 50 speakers will be available. Learn more...
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Help celebrate Heart Havens Month in February

Heart Havens Month (February) will soon be here. The Virginia Conference has designated February as Heart Havens Month, one of six special offerings throughout the year. There are six Heart Havens homes across the conference, where men and women with a developmental disability are empowered to be full members of the body of Christ, and active participants in their communities.
The theme for Heart Havens Month this year is "A New World." Online donations can be made and donors can choose monthly under the frequency drop-down menu or click here to learn other ways to give.
Additional Heart Havens month resources are also available for download. If you would like a virtual speaker for Sunday morning worship or a UMM/UMW or other small group meeting, please contact Heart Havens.


Bishop Lewis, Dr. Hyo Lee, hosting trip to Greece and Turkey

Bishop Sharma Lewis and the Rev. Dr. Hyo Lee are hosting a Greece and Turkey trip, Nov. 7-18, 2022. Four CEUs will be awarded for the first 32 participants. For more information, contact Dr. Lee at (540) 336-9297 or email [email protected]. Learn more...

Virginia Disaster Response Team shares information related to recent Midwest tornado outbreak

December 14--The Virginia Conference Disaster Response team is working closely with neighboring conferences to assess the need and where we can help. Today, the Conference Disaster Response Coordinators for both the Kentucky/Tennessee annual conference are in Mayfield, KY. A status update via the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), will be shared with the conferences as information becomes available.
View more from the conference Serving Ministries Office and Disaster Response Team statement...
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New videos released from Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship curriculum

The Race and Race Relations Team introduced the Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship curriculum and videos in 2020. The newest three segments are centered on segregation and desegregation in the Methodist Church, public schools, and nonviolent protests. The topics include:

• The Central Jurisdiction (a racially-segregated body of the Methodist Church from 1939 to 1968)
• Massive Resistance in Farmville, Virginia
• Bloody Monday, nonviolent protests and police brutality in Danville, Virginia in 1963

For more information and to view the videos currently offered, visit the Virginia Conference website at The direct link for the curriculum and videos is at Korean and Spanish translations of the curriculum will be posted as soon as possible.
For more information or for questions, contact the Rev. Dr. Charles F. Ledlum-Bates at [email protected].

Intern, host church applications now live for Calling 21

Intern and host church applications are now live for Calling 21. Calling 21 is a young adult, local church internship program. It is a partnership ministry among the Virginia Conference Center for Clergy Excellence, the Cabinet, and Shenandoah University. The purpose of the program is for college students to explore their calling. For questions, email the Rev. Meghan Roth Clayton at [email protected] or the Rev. Crystal R. Sygeel at [email protected]. Learn more about the program...

All God's Children Camp needs your help!

The dates for All God's Children Camp have been set (June 19-24, Richmond area; July 24-29, Chesapeake/Eastern Shore area; and August 14-19, Richmond area) and now the camp needs volunteers to act as camp mentors. Please consider volunteering a week of your time to help make it possible for kids to enjoy a week of camp and engage in all that camp life. This is also a great way for groups such as Sunday school groups, Sr. High youth groups, or other small groups to be in mission together.

As a ministry of the Virginia Annual Conference, All God’s Children Camp (AGCC) is a weeklong overnight camp for children ages 7 to 12, with an incarcerated parent. Campers have an opportunity to participate in all the physical activities the camp has to offer such as boating, swimming, hiking, archery, music, crafts, Bible study, along with a conflict resolution/self-esteem building class. AGCC is built on the basis of a one-to-one mentoring program where campers have an adult who walks alongside them for the week cheering them on, building them up, and encouraging them daily.

Learn more about the camp at the link. For more information, contact Lori Smith at [email protected] or 571-245-9591.

General Church News

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Trailblazing Bishop Wilbur Choy dies at 103

UNITED METHODIST NEWS--United Methodists remember Bishop Wilbur Choy, the denomination’s first Asian American bishop, for helping the church grow more ethnically and racially diverse. He also had a great sense of humor. Choy died Dec. 28 at 103. Read more...

What to Watch in 2022

LEWIS CENTER FOR CHURCH LEADERSHIP--F. Douglas Powe Jr. and Ann A. Michel of the Lewis Center staff name some of the changes church leaders should keep top of mind as we embark on 2022. They include still evolving patterns of worship and congregational life, worrying attendance trends, churches reevaluating their building needs, and underlying demographic changes that challenge assumptions many churches hold regarding their future. Read more...

Was Mary Magdalene really from Magdala? Two scholars examine the evidence

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE--The findings were heralded with bold headlines. Archaeologists excavating near the Israeli town of Migdal, also known as Magdala, had found remnants of a first-century synagogue. “2nd-Temple-period synagogue found where Gospel’s Mary Magdalene was born,” the Jerusalem Post’s Dec. 12 headline declared. Newsweek, Express UK and the Smithsonian magazine followed up with similar headlines.The discovery of the ancient synagogue in the town on the western edge of the Sea of Galilee is surely significant and adds tangible evidence of Jewish life in first-century Palestine at the time of Jesus’ ministry. But two scholars from the United States and the United Kingdom are calling into question the quick assumption that the town is the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ earliest followers and the first witness to his resurrection. Read more...

One Last Word

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Please send any issues or concerns to [email protected]. If you have issues with the formatting trying to forward (especially in Outlook), you can use the following link. More...
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