Advocate 2022 logo

September 12, 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:
  • Renewal Opportunities
  • Event calendar
  • Conference & Denomination Resources
  • Virginia News
  • General Church News
  • One Last Word
renewal (1)

Registration ends midnight on September 13: VAUMC Clergy Day Apart

Have you been feeling weary, downtrodden, or just plain tired? Have the pandemic and disaffiliations got you down? Come and charge your spiritual battery and work on your well-being by spending a day apart with other clergy from across the conference on Thursday, September 21, 2023. You can either attend a full day in person at a location on your district, or just join the webinar and small group portion.

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson will greet everyone through the welcome webinar and Rev. Dr. Elaine Heath will be our keynote speaker presenting on “Trauma Informed Evangelism.” To prepare for this event, you are encouraged to read “Trauma Informed Evangelism: Cultivating Communities of Wounded Healers” by Charles Kisner and Elaine A. Heath.

The focus for the day is fellowship, sharing, and worship. Host church pastors will provide worship experiences including the sacrament of Holy Communion. Lunch will be provided for a time of fellowship. Spiritual directors will facilitate the small group time. See the schedule below to choose how you would like to attend. Click the following link to register...

Cost is $20 for those who attend in person to cover the cost of lunch. 0.5 C.E.U.’s will be available for those who attend and read “Trauma Informed Evangelism: Cultivating Communities of Wounded Healers.” Learn more...

Study Leave Program for Ministry Professionals at Duke Divinity School

Find time to read, reflect, research, or just relax with Study Leave for Ministry Professionals. Over the span of five to seven days, participants can immerse themselves in learning and renewal through self-directed study, worship, and prayer on the Duke University campus. Study is a great opportunity to work on commissioning or ordination papers, engage in worship planning or to simply take a week to escape the rigors of ministry.
Designed for Christian institutional leaders, pastors, program staff, or laity, participants select their topic and Duke Divinity School provides the resources needed for a relaxing and productive week.

Registration for Spring 2024 opens October 1

Session dates:
January 22-26, 2024 | February 12-16, 2024
March 4-8, 2024 | March 18-22, 2024
April 8-12, 2024

To register, visit the Study Leave website...
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 by September 15: Symposium on Faith & Science: "God on the Brain – the Nexus of Religious Faith & Mental Well-Being"

The Virginia United Methodist Foundation is co-hosting the Fox Endowment symposium on faith & science: "God on the Brain – the Nexus of Religious Faith & Mental Well-Being" at Randolph-Macon College. Virtual participation is also possible.

Join on Saturday, September 23, as we explore how faith affects the brain and what we can do to combat the need for mental health care among those in our areas of ministry.

Renowned neurotheology researcher, Dr. Andrew Newberg, pioneer in the field of Neurotheology, will give the keynote presentation. Dr. Newberg uses brain scans of individuals in prayer and meditation to research the effect of faith and prayer on brain physiology.

In addition, six breakout sessions will be offered on topics including self-care, depression and dementia.

Students, faculty and staff of Randolph-Macon College attend free of charge (must have an email address).

Admission for clergy, United Methodist laity and community members at large is $25. A box lunch may be ordered for an additional $15. CEUs are available for United Methodist clergy.

If you are unable to attend in person, you can also participate in the symposium virtually via Zoom.

Breakout Sessions
Participants can attend two workshops from among the following topics:
• Sacred Pause: Inhabiting Practices of Mindfulness as Soul Care
• Anxiety & Depression: Signs, Strategies & Hope
• Life is a WE Thing -- The Importance of Togetherness
• Love Thyself -- Theology & Practices of Self-Care
• Dementia Doesn't Diminish a Person

Registration is required for both in-person and virtual attendance. Limited spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please email to [email protected] whether you will participate for CEU credit. Registrants can select their top three choices for breakout sessions and will then be assigned to two of those three based on availability. Learn more...

NOVA District offering hybrid training day on January 20, 2024

The 2024 NoVa District Training Day will welcome Rev. Matt Miofsky, author of Let Go: Leaning Into the Future Without Fear to the Northern Virginia District.

The event will focus on “The E Word” as we all continue to work to make disciples for the transformation of the world. This will be a HYBRID event with opportunities in person, online, and as teams.

Registration will open in November. Learn more...

Facing the Future 2023 Conference: November 14-16

Facing the Future is an experientially oriented conference from General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) geared explicitly toward clergy serving across differences throughout our United Methodist connection, coming together to be supported and encouraged as they journey faithfully with God and God’s people. With the help of recognized leaders within The United Methodist Church, Facing the Future will equip, inspire, and commission clergy serving in Cross-Racial/Cross-Cultural/Multi-cultural communities and settings to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a time such as this.

For more information, please visit website and register...
resources ac

Service of Lessons and Carols available on Christmas Eve

VIRGINIA CONFERENCE-- The conference Office of Connectional Ministries and the Center for Clergy Excellence will be partnering together to share a Service of Lessons and Carols for Christmas Eve. Please use and share this resource if it will be helpful for your ministry context. The service will be shared on the conference Facebook page and on the conference website.

Filling in the gaps while reading Mark's Gospel

UNITED METHODIST NEWS-- Amy-Jill Levine, New Testament and Jewish studies professor, will discuss with Josh Scott her new study, “The Gospel of Mark: A Beginner’s Guide to the Good News.” Mark is the focus of the lectionary year starting this coming Advent season. The Amplify Media webinar is set for 11 a.m. U.S. Central time Sept. 19.

How churches can celebrate Deaf Awareness Week

BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON CONFERENCE-- As International Deaf Awareness Week approaches on Sept. 25, hearing and Deaf congregations alike can celebrate Deaf culture during that week, and well into the future. The United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Ministries offers several ways to celebrate the community.

United Methodist Communications offers week-long training

UNITED METHODIST COMMUNICATIONS-- United Methodist Communication (UMCom) has announced the return of its week-long ecumenical training opportunity launching this fall for anyone in ministry seeking to enhance their communications skills. Communications Learning Week: Communications that Transform will be held October 16-20, 2023 and is designed with busy schedules in mind. All of the learning week content will be recorded and stored in a learning portal that participants will have access to for six months following the event. Registration is open September 12 – October 12, 2023, with an early bird 20% discount available for people signing up by Sept. 30th.
During the learning week, church leaders and communicators will get access to a vast library of on-demand resources including recorded videos, tutorials and podcast episodes and self-guided eLearning modules curated by the UMCom training team. Workshops led by experts on a variety of topics will be presented followed by Q&A sessions with each facilitator. Opportunities for discussion and networking round out the week’s activities.
Sessions will include:
• Tik Tok for Churches
• Personal Branding
• Things I Wish I'd Known About Communications as a Senior Pastor
• Disaster Communications
• Content for Digital Congregations
• Next Level Canva Tools
• Combatting Disinformation

Learn more...

Virginia News

Annual Conference 2023: Rise Against Hunger update

One of the Mission Opportunities at the 2023 Virginia Annual Conference was packaging 20,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger. The meals that the Virginia Conference packaged are now headed to Turkey.

Turkey is a country located in the Anatolian Peninsula in West Asia that borders Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. In February 2023, Turkey was the epicenter of two earthquakes measuring over 7.7 on the seismic intensity scale. Turkey and neighboring country, Syria, were deeply affected with tens of thousands killed, large scale destruction of buildings and infrastructure, and millions of people impacted. The Global Hunger Index, which assesses food insecurity based on indicators that measure undernourishment and undernutrition, categorizes Turkey as having a “low” level of hunger. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that due to the severity and location of the earthquake, there have been more than $5 billion in losses to the food sector in the country, impacting the food security of people and communities across the country and region.

Community builds relationship with LEGOs

This past summer, the campus ministries of Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU) in partnership with Haygood UMC, spent every Thursday evening building community relationships with Legos. The Parks After Dark program under the guidance of the City of Virginia Beach offered fun, free activities for children and teens during the summer months at a local park. This program was a key component of the Mayor’s Youth Violence Prevention Task Force. Each weekend, community organizations and police showed up to play and engage with families and teens. VWU and Haygood UMC made a commitment to be part of the program by hosting a Legos table. VWU graduate student, Lauren Ford, observed, “Typically people build the LEGOs, but this summer LEGOs built community.”
The LEGOs table was extremely popular with all ages. It began with one table in June and expanded to four tables by August. Rev. Beth Givens of Haygood UMC said, “In Parks after Dark, I saw the Holy Spirit offering a clear opportunity for Haygood to enter a community space and live into our vision to share love in our neighborhood. As a partnership of the city, police department, and other community agencies, Parks After Dark sought to provide a safe space for our community to gather during the summer months. The relationships we made over the weeks of building with LEGOs resonated with joy. We look forward to continuing those connections indoors in the coming months at the nearby recreation center.”

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].

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...

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...

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.
umc news

General Church News

What comes after General Conference deadline?

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—A lot has changed since the pandemic postponed The United Methodist Church’s top lawmaking assembly from its original May 2020 schedule to now 2024. Those changes include new legislative proposals for General Conference delegates to consider. Preparing all the legislation to be available in multiple languages takes time. Read more...

Yambasu grant helps mission farms flourish

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—Four United Methodist mission farms saw bumper harvests after receiving support from the Board of Global Ministries’ Yambasu Agriculture Initiative. The money provided seeds and fertilizer, along with equipment and technical support. Morgan Jeranyama, Yambasu Agriculture Initiative national project consultant in Zimbabwe, said the funding also provided support to farmers in the rural communities. Learn more...

Hollering for Change: Why are men discouraged from being vulnerable?

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—In the latest installment of the “Hollering for Change” series, the Rev. Dr. Tori Butler interviews the Rev. Romal Tune, author of “I Wish My Dad: The Power of Vulnerable Conversations between Fathers and Sons.” Also in the conversation are the Revs. Vance P. Ross and Joe Daniels, two United Methodist pastors who contributed their stories for the book. Learn more...

One Last Word

Members of Thrasher Memorial UMC in Vinton held their annual Prayer Circle around the church the morning of September 10. The congregation surrounded the church, joined hands, and turned inward--first praying for the church, its members, and its mission. After five minutes of silent prayer, the church bell was rung and the circle faced outward praying for the community in Vinton and the world at large.
thrasher umc
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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