Advocate 2022 logo

August 22, 2023

To submit news items, stories, or corrections for inclusion in the newsletter, email the conference Communications Office at [email protected].

In this week's edition of the Advocate, you will find:
  • Event calendar
  • Denomination Resources
  • Virginia News
  • General Church News
  • One Last Word
Events (1)
To view conference and local church events, visit the Virginia Conference website at

To submit an local church event for inclusion, submit this form.

Experience the Holy Land with young people’s ministries in 2024

DISCIPLESHIP MINISTRIES--Visiting the Holy Land provides infinite opportunities to deeply engage with scripture and walk in the same spaces where the footsteps of the great cloud of witnesses continue to echo. Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and other sites on this trip hosted incredible moments from the Bible – they also continue to exist, with a mixture of people and faiths that find themselves in tension or various states of conflict in the modern world. You are invited to deepen your discipleship by exploring the Holy Land with Young People’s Ministries.
The trip is designed for 18-35-year-old participants and is a unique way to explore the Holy Land. This trip will mix historical site visits with off-the-beaten-path experiences, as well as chances to interact with a wide variety of community leaders. Our experience onsite will be organized through a Bethlehem-based and tour-accredited company that specializes in custom experiences that go beyond a “get on the bus, get off the bus, get back on the bus” experience. While adventurous, this company also prioritizes safety and will monitor all activities and situations onsite. Learn more...
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Webinar available on environmental, racial justice

BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON CONFERENCE-- The Baltimore-Washington Conference released a helpful webinar that shares about environmental justice and racial justice. View webinar...

How to be authentic in public ministry

LEWIS CENTER FOR CHURCH LEADERSHIP-- How can professional Christians be their authentic selves when in the spotlight of public ministry? The Center spoke with church musician and author Sarah Bereza about the challenges of being authentic, knowing how much to share, and how to avoid oversharing when in a public ministry role. Listen to podcast episode...

4 characteristics of good discipling relationships

LEWIS CENTER FOR CHURCH LEADERSHIP-- Phil Maynard and Eddie Pipkin say education-based approaches to spiritual formation often fail to form disciples committed to Christlike living. They suggest doing what Jesus did — focusing intentionally on spiritual growth and development within a context of relationality and accountability. Read more...

5 principles for pastoring a vibrant older congregation

LEWIS CENTER FOR CHURCH LEADERSHIP-- Karl Vaters highlights the importance of building a strong, vibrant congregation of seniors with intentionality, training, and a focus on the future. He emphasizes the potential impact seniors can make in the ministries of the church and the need to be intentional about engaging seniors in the life of the congregation. Read more...

Virginia News

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Virginia pastor co-hosts local radio show

The Rev. Ryan LaRock, Deep Creek UMC, Coastal Virginia District, cohosted the morning show with Mike Powers on 94.9 The Point, a Hampton Roads local radio show, on Thursday, August 17. LaRock grew up listening to The Point in Virginia Beach; it was a morning staple on the way to school every morning, discussing hot topics among other relatable subjects.
After being appointed to Deep Creek, LaRock reconnected with the station and the morning DJs via their regular text channel, contributing regular comments on their discussions around grief, mental illness, and justice. When the shooting happened at the Chesapeake Walmart last fall, the station highlighted the vigil Deep Creek hosted for the community.
Mike Powers, one of the DJs, was recently down a cohost for the week, and he invited LaRock to join others in a discussion about wellness from a spiritual angle.
"As someone who has experienced the incredible gift of therapy and counseling, I spoke with him about the de-shaming of mental illness in the religious sphere and how we can reclaim a healthier language around those conversations in our daily discourse," LaRock said. "For me, with the public persona of Church brushing up against Christian clichés that either silence mental illness or sanitize the human condition, it is imperative that clergy and laity seek opportunities to show how the Church can advocate for mental health resources without stigma and with a focus on the belovedness of every individual."
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Blog: LA ministry focuses on connection, ministry

The Rev. Dr. LaKeenya Cooper, conference Director for Missional Engagement, and Rev. JoAnn Batteiger, conference Assistant Director for Missional Engagement, visited Los Angeles in August to attend The Gathering hosted by Homeboy Industries. Homeboy Industries started in the 1980s out of Dolores Mission Church, the poorest Catholic parish in East Los Angeles, an area that had the highest concentration of gang activity in all of Los Angeles.
In wanting to care well for all of their neighbors, and seeing the deep need for more intervention resources besides law enforcement and the criminal justice system, Homeboy Industries was started to help respond to that need and also to form and cultivate relationships with the folks who the world has said were unworthy of connection.
With relationships as the foundation and center of their work, Homeboy Industries is now “the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry service in the world.” Learn more about the experience in this blog...
recognition (1)

Soccer field named for pastor's husband

Coach Gerald Pentsil, husband of Rev. Camille Pentsil, Crossroads UMC, Coastal Virginia District, was recognized in a ceremony at Eldorado High School on Wednesday, August 16 as the soccer field was named after him. Pentsil helped lead the school to win the state title in 2013 and retired after 28 years of coaching the program in 2016. Read more...

Bishop calls for prayer for Christians in Pakistan

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson released a video statement to the Virginia Conference on August 17, 2023 asking the conference to join in prayer for Christians in Pakistan.
“There is disturbing video out of Pakistan where they topple crosses as they burn churches and they are terrorizing Pakistani Christians, and it’s a matter of great concern to all of us,” Bishop Sue said.
Bishop Sue asked in the video for prayers for the people in Pakistan and Christians around the world and called upon the entire United Methodist connection to prayer.
According to a BBC report, more than 100 people have been arrested in Jaranwala in east Pakistan after thousands of people joined in to burn churches and vandalize homes. This took place after claims surfaced that two Christian men had torn pages from a copy of the Quran. Watch video statement...

UMC and BSA agreements remain the same from 2022

It is that time of year when your church may consider renewing or establishing agreements with community organizations or ministries, including the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

On December 21, 2022, the conference shared information about BSA and approved agreements for churches to use with the organization. The information in this communication remains in effect.

There are only two approved agreements related to BSA for local churches. Charters should not be used by any United Methodist Church.

The Virginia Conference believes that churches can be well served with the revised Annual Affiliation Agreement, which can be found here. We also believe local churches can be well served by using the September 2022 Facilities Use Agreement if the Annual Affiliation Agreement is not the best option. The Facilities Use Agreement can be found here.

This change came as a result of the class -action lawsuit against BSA and the subsequent bankruptcy case. Use of these agreements, rather than charters, allows churches the choice in how they engage with Scouting ministries. These forms establishing the legal relationship between a local church and BSA still allow local churches to partner in ministry with scouting in rich and meaningful ways.

If you have any questions, please contact your district superintendent or Assistant to the Bishop the Rev. Dr. Steve Summers.
umcor pray for hawaii

Update on Maui wildfires

Please continue to pray and stay updated on the wind-driven wildfires on Maui that have prompted evacuations and caused significant loss of life and widespread damage.

As of an August 14 update, UMCOR is coordinating with the California-Pacific Annual Conference to process an initial grant for emergency supplies such as shelf-stable food, water, hygiene items and tools to help survivors recover belongings as first responders continue to provide initial aid in the area.
Gifts can be made in the following ways:
  • Online at
  • By toll-free telephone call: 1-888-252-6174
  • By check made out to Global Ministries/UMCOR with “Advance #901670-Hawaii” written on the memo line and mailed to Global Ministries/UMCOR, GPO, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY, 10087-9068
  • By check made out to Global Ministries/UMCOR with “Advance #901670-Hawaii” written on the memo line and given to any United Methodist church.
As far as VIM (Volunteers in Mission) teams to Maui, it is still too earlier in the process for teams to be sent out. VAUMC's Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Bob Pihlcrantz shared that recovery efforts are still underway to recover the deceased. When this changes, the VAUMC will be notified conference-wide.
Learn more from UMCOR...

Apply now for Benevolence Grant, Special/Sustaining Grants

Apply now through the conference Office of Connectional Ministries for two grant opportunities.

Benevolence Grant Applications are due September 1, 2023. Learn more and apply here.

BENEVOLENCE GRANTS are for connectional ministries beyond the local level to cover administrative expenses. They are funded through the Conference Benevolence apportionment from local churches.

Special and Sustaining Grant Applications are due on October 16, 2023. Learn more and apply here.

SPECIAL PROGRAM GRANTS are designed for programs outside of normal conference and local church funding processes. They are intended to provide funding for the first three years of innovative programs of tangible and caring outreach that is beyond a local church’s current financial resources.

SUSTAINING PROGRAM GRANTS are designed for programs outside of normal conference and local church funding processes. They are intended to provide funding for the sustaining of innovative programs of tangible and caring outreach that is beyond a local church’s current financial resources. They are for churches of all ethnic groups and should help the church requesting the funding to relate to the ethnic groups within its community.

Questions may be sent to [email protected].
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Thank you from Sister Servant Scholarship Board

The Sister Servant Scholarship Board would like to give a hearty thanks to the clergywomen of the Virginia Conference who raised over $2,000 at the 2023 Annual Conference luncheon. The board is grateful for all the ways VAUMC clergywomen support those who are discerning a call to ministry.
The scholarship was created to honor the clergywomen who have come before us and to connect with those who will come after us--uniting all clergywomen together. The board seeks to award scholarships to women seeking continued learning towards licensing and or ordination.
The board has a goal of raising $25,000 in their fund and we are $7,000 away from our goal! Your church could make a donation in honor or memory of the impactful clergywomen along the journey.
You can send donations to support our fund to the Virginia United Methodist Foundation. If you or someone you know is a certified candidate and are working on your education, applications for the scholarship are July 1 and October 1 each year.

General Church News

Study shows shift in disaffiliations

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—The Lewis Center for Church Studies has done a second study comparing U.S. congregations disaffiliating from The United Methodist Church with those staying. Mostly, the Lewis Center’s latest findings about the two groups of churches are in line with the first study. Disaffiliation numbers have grown rapidly in 2023, and the new study finds the pool of departing churches is less dominated by the Southeastern and South Central jurisdictions. Departing churches remain more likely to be majority white and led by a male pastor than churches remaining United Methodist. Read more...

Church responds to “homelessness epidemic”

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—The Spirit leading a church toward something new sounds exciting, even if a bit daunting. For 25-member St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, a calling to emergency housing ministry may seem beyond their means, but God is providing in amazing ways. “There is an epidemic of homelessness and the church needs to respond,” said Pastor Kimberlynn Alexander. “We are doing Matthew 25: feed, clothe and shelter.” St. Matthew’s UMC had space, but they lacked other necessary resources, so they connected with church and community partners to fill the gaps. The collaborative ministry has grown and is bringing together a variety of talents and gifts that are all vital as the effort gains momentum. Read more...

Radio network transforms to reach more people

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—United Methodist Radio Network is rebranding to United Methodist Broadcast Network to embrace new digital technologies and reach more people. Broadcast channels will include television, web streaming and social media in order to reach people previously not reached by radio. The decision affirms the network’s commitment to engage people in new ways with the theme, “Many voices, one message.” Read more...

Summer programs nourish bodies and soles

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—Every Tuesday evening this summer, Trinity Community Commons and Open Table Nashville offer a community supper and foot clinic aimed at connecting neighbors.
Volunteers and recipients are encouraged to sit and get to know each other in an environment that promotes fellowship and positive relationships through diversity and across socioeconomic lines.
Open Table Nashville was co-founded by a United Methodist pastor, and Trinity Community Commons is housed in a former historic United Methodist church building. Read more...

United Methodists join prayer vigil for gun reform

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—Gun reform supporters, including United Methodist clergy and church members, gathered for an early morning prayer vigil at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 21. The gathering came as lawmakers begin a special legislative session focused on public safety and mental health following a mass shooting at the Covenant School here in March. The Rev. Ingrid McIntyre, a United Methodist pastor, helped organize the vigil. United Methodists have long looked for ways to stop gun violence in all its forms. The denomination’s Book of Resolutions encourages congregations to advocate for such measures as universal background checks for all gun purchases and bans on large-capacity ammunition magazines and weapons designed to fire multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled, as were used in the Covenant School shooting. Read more...

One Last Word

communication quote
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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