Advocate 2022 logo

September 5, 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
  • VAUMC / UMC Grant Opportunities
  • 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.

Register for 2024 Virginia Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation

In partnership with The Upper Room, The Virginia Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation will be held March 3-8, 2024 at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond, Va. The focus will be on basic spiritual formation practices, church history, and opening up the scriptures while “Claiming The Promises” God has in store for each of us. This is a setting in which lay and clergy persons can enhance their sense of call to follow Christ and serve the church and the world. It will provide for participants an in-depth and comprehensive experience in spiritual formation, educate participants in the history and development of the Christian spiritual life, and encourage participants to live out their call through the recovery of the disciplines of daily prayer and the ongoing participation in personal and group spiritual guidance. Register by check or credit card at Limited Scholarship Assistance is available, please contact John Hall at (804-837-2025) for info. Learn more...
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3 tips for starting conversations with new people

DISCIPLESHIP MINISTRIES-- Chances are that you’re beginning to think that you and your church need to start doing something different. The pandemic, disaffiliations, cultural changes, and the tone and direction of political discourse all have contributed to a decline in church attendance. You have noticed a few more empty pews; the people that you once saw every week are no longer present, and you notice their absence. Fewer people are using their gifts and talents within the life of the church and few are coming in to fill those gaps. You also notice that what the church has been doing to try to attract new people isn’t effective. But you know that you have good news to share, the good news of Jesus and the difference it has made in your own life; the hope, strength, sustaining love, and fullness of life found in your purpose. So you’re committing yourself to meeting new people in the community.
Sometimes it is uncomfortable to walk into a new space with unfamiliar faces. You might lack confidence or feel pressure to have all the answers. The reality is that we are never walking alone. God is with us. We will not have all the answers in this lifetime, so give yourself permission to let go of that pressure. Be okay with saying, “I don’t know; let’s find out together.” It’s risky and can be scary to put yourself out there to meet someone new and to find moments to share your faith. Learn more...

Courageous conversations: Why kindness beats niceness

DISCIPLESHIP MINISTRIES-- Courageous conversations have nothing to do with being nice and everything to do with being kind, gentle and loving. The Rev. Dr. Scott Hughes of The United Methodist Church’s Discipleship Ministries asserts that engaging in structured dialogues of learning – or courageous conversations – could create space for the most radical hospitality of all, a place of deeper and more welcoming community within the church. Learn more...

Six ways to protect your congregation from scammers

DISCIPLESHIP MINISTRIES-- A recent article from TIME Magazine explores the concerns and dangers inherent in an act that purports to provide greater protection for personal data. It sounds like a sci-fi movie until you realize that it is the world we live in. The irony is that the legions of humans out there hoping to scam us have now been joined by armies of AI-driven “bots” that gather information on us at the speed of electrons moving across the internet. Bots (derived from the word “robot”) are software programs that perform automated, repetitive, pre-defined tasks across the internet. Bots can be programmed to explore websites and look for specific things such as email addresses, phone numbers, or even account numbers.
Framed by this terrifying story as a backdrop, let me ask the question: “What is your church doing to protect your church members’ personal data and the potential trauma of getting scammed?” Learn more...

Apply now for Special/Sustaining Grants

Apply now through the conference Office of Connectional Ministries for a grant opportunity.

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].

Apply now to Mustard Seed Migration grants

The Mustard Seed Migration Grant program is designed to encourage local United Methodist churches to engage in ministry to migrants in their midst. UMCOR will award grants of $2,000 USD to up to 100 United Methodist local churches to engage in new, one-time community-based service projects and ministries focused on migrants and refugees.
The goal of this program is to nurture a deeper understanding and care for the most vulnerable in our communities. We also encourage participating congregations to think about what they might do on a long-term basis, how they might get involved in advocacy to address systemic injustices present in immigration policy or consider how they might more completely live into a new understanding of church as the kingdom of God, actively engaged in caring for the most vulnerable in the community.

Completed applications will be evaluated on an ongoing basis. Though the final deadline is October 1, 2023, churches are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible, since awards will be given on a first-come first-served basis. Applicants will be notified within four weeks of the application submission date. Applications must be signed by the church’s senior pastor and lay leader. Submit a completed, signed application via email to [email protected].

Virginia News

Initial information shared about Oct. 7 Annual Conference session

September 1--Virginia Annual Conference clergy and lay members were sent an email reminder about the Saturday, October 7, 2023, Special Annual Conference to be held via Zoom Webinar.
  • At 8:30 a.m., an optional Q&A will be held for any members who have questions concerning the Special Annual Conference.
  • At 9 a.m., the Annual Conference will convene for the sole purpose to consider the ratification of local churches seeking to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church over matters of human sexuality using Paragraph 2553. This is the last scheduled Special Annual Conference in the Virginia Conference related to the 2553 legislation before the legislation sunsets on December 31, 2023.
Further information concerning the Special Annual Conference session, including an agenda and voting credentials, will be shared later in September.

In the interim, clergy and lay members should ensure their "preferred email" is updated in the Unity Database in order to receive voting credentials to their correct email address later this month.

Clergy are encouraged to check in with their lay members to make sure they are well-equipped to access and engage in the Zoom webinar Annual Conference in October.

Questions concerning the October Special Annual Conference may be directed to Dwayne Stinson, Director of Connectional Ministries for Discipleship & Congregational Vitality, at [email protected].

Conference clergy members and lay members received an email from Rev. Joshua King, Conference Secretary, on Monday, August 14 as a reminder to share through a Google form if they will be absent from the October 7 virtual Annual Conference. Questions may be sent to [email protected].

All October Annual Conference-related information will be posted on the Virginia Conference website at

Video highlights staff in Connectional Ministries, Treasurer's Office, Clergy Excellence and Episcopal Office

A recent video was created to reintroduce conference staff to the Virginia Conference as new staff has been added. The offices of Connectional Ministries, Treasurer's Office, Clergy Excellence and the Episcopal Office were featured as a series of separate parody videos of well-known TV shows. Rev. Lindsey Baynham Freeman, Clergy Head of the VAUMC Delegation, and Martha Stokes, conference lay leader, introduce the video. Watch now...

Faith-based effort in Winchester takes on food insecurity

Two recent articles in the Winchester Star highlighted how a faith-based effort is continuing to meet the needs of people who suffer from food insecurity.
View the articles:

Community refrigerator opens in Winchester

Second Freedge opens near Stephens City

Rev. Dr. John Copenhaver, retired elder in the VAUMC, and his wife Marsha have set aside funds to buy refrigerators for a Freedge ministry. Such a ministry is a commitment, Copenhaver says, on the part of the church or community. It needs to be cleaned and refilled daily and should be located in a place that is accessible to persons on foot. If your United Methodist church would like to provide such a ministry, please reach out to Copenhaver at [email protected].

Former president of VWU passes away

Former Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU) president William T. Greer, Jr., passed away on August 30. During his 23-year tenure as president, Virginia Wesleyan experienced significant growth, including expanded enrollment, a successful fundraising capital campaign, the implementation of a new four-credit curriculum focused on experiential learning, and new construction and renovation of campus facilities such as the Jane P. Batten Student Center and Brock Village. He was named President-Emeritus upon his retirement in 2015, and the Greer Environmental Sciences Center was dedicated in his honor in 2017.
Another major accomplishment during Dr. Greer’s tenure was the establishment of the Birdsong Community Service Program, greatly increasing opportunities for student volunteerism and support for community needs. This program evolved into Wesleyan Engaged, which has become a cornerstone of the University’s mission.

Current VWU president Scott Miller offered his thoughts in a community press release that was shared following the news. "Dr. Greer saw his mission at Virginia Wesleyan as both building on successes and expanding the College's vision and image. Upon the announcement of his retirement, Dr. Greer said, 'My time here has been a labor of love. I look forward to leaving the College well-positioned for a successful future.'
And he did. We owe a significant debt of gratitude to Dr. Greer, his wife Fann, and their family for more than two decades of dedicated service to Virginia Wesleyan. He was well loved by many students, staff and faculty members and will be dearly missed," Miller said.
A funeral service is planned in Asheville, North Carolina. In lieu of flowers, the Greer family has asked that gifts be made to VWU Athletics.

Support U.S. disaster relief efforts

If you’ve been following the news, you’ve surely seen images of the devastation from the recent wildfires in Hawaii, the flooding in California or the hurricane in Florida. Whenever there is a national disaster, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is there on the ground providing food, water and other forms of humanitarian aid to affected communities. When you give to one of UMCOR’s designated funds, you know that 100% of your donation goes directly toward providing relief to those in need. I want to help...

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.
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General Church News

United Methodists begin Idalia recovery

UNITED METHODIST NEWSAfter the monster storm roared onto land, United Methodists in the U.S. Southeast were assessing the damage and responding to immediate needs. Church members from neighboring states also were quick to offer a helping hand. Learn more...

Water project improves lives in the Philippines

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—Davao Area Disaster Management Office disaster management team distributes drums to harvest rainwater to more than 30 families and three community centers in neighborhoods that don’t have a reliable source for clean water. Learn more...

COB President Bishop Bickerton calls United Methodists to focus on love

COUNCIL OF BISHOPS—The Council of Bishops President Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton on Sunday called on United Methodists to focus on love because the church’s greatest success depends upon mutual love and meaningful relationships throughout the world.

“The quality of our love for one another among Christians makes the church an effective witness for the gospel because it is what the human spirit longs for, dreams of and desired,” Bishop Bickerton said during the worship service in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Bishop Bickerton is attending the Africa Colleges of Bishops meeting, representing the Council of Bishops with Bishop Gregory Palmer.

“When we demonstrate our genuine desire for unity in Jesus Christ, God draws us into a perfect love that exists between us and God and between us and the world. God calls the church to become a community of mutual love in the world so that people will see and experience the love that believers have for one another but also the love that God has for us.” Learn more...

Leaders, scholars confront racism in the church

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—Three new books by United Methodist authors reflect the discussion over racism in the church, and how to put an end to it. “I think we've got a fighting chance to get it right,” says author Chris Momany. Learn more...

Short docket brings more church-exit questions

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—The United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council has set its shortest fall docket in years, but it continues to face questions related to church exits and the COVID-delayed General Conference. Learn more...

One Last Word: Disciple Spotlight

Mildred Dickerson was born Mildred Tripp in Pitt County, NC in 1933. She moved to the Fentress area of Chesapeake in the late 1940’s where she lived with the James and Mary Harris family who were members of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church. She started attending church with them.
In 1958, she married Doc Dickerson, a local firefighter. In 1967, they adopted their only child, a daughter they named Nancy Gail. When Nancy was old enough to attend Sunday School, Mildred brought her to Sunday School every Sunday, and stayed for the adult class. That was 1970.
Since that first day of Sunday School in 1970, Mildred has had perfect attendance every year. On Sunday September 3, 2023 Pastor Bob Pihlcrantz presented Mildred with her 51st year pin for perfect attendance in Sunday School. She is the first person in the building on Sunday mornings. She turned 90 years old in May and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Mount Pleasant UMC is located in Chesapeake, Virginia and is part of the Coastal Virginia District. Mount Pleasant was founded in 1836.

Pictured below: Mildred Dickerson, Pastor Bob Pihlcrantz, CLS Dr. Johnna Byrd-King
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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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