new e-Advocate logo (1)
To submit news items or events, email conference Director of Communications at [email protected].

August 18, 2020

Conference Vision

In 2017, Bishop Sharma D. Lewis shared the vision of the conference is "to be disciples of Jesus Christ who are lifelong learners who influence others to serve."

  • How can you be a lifelong learner this week?

The new screen reality has introduced church leaders to many new tools. Make worship more dynamic whether in-person or via screen with fresh storytelling ideas. Add dimension with these tips from United Methodist Communications. Learn more...
  • How can you be an influencer this week?

"How to Have a Courageous Conversation" is a new online teaching series designed to give you the tools needed to nurture disciples who are willing to engage in difficult conversations. By the end of this course, your church will be a model for the world on how to respectfully disagree in love. Available for Free or CEU credit through Discipleship Ministries. More...
  • How can you serve this week?

Mission is: Resiliency. Discover how the work of mission enables people, places, and communities to meet challenges with creativity, strength, and hope. Global Ministries connects The United Methodist Church, its people, and congregations to partner with others engaged in God’s global work, which takes place in a variety of settings, countries, and cultures. More...

Virginia News

Thank you!

Staffing changes announced in conference Connectional Ministries

Effective August 28, 2020, Nick Ruxton, videographer/digital media specialist, will be resigning from his conference position. The Rev. Dr. Ted Smith, conference director of Connectional Ministries, shared that the annual conference and the conference staff greatly thank Ruxton for his five years of service and talents.
“Please join me in thanking Nick for his important ministry and wishing him well in all his future endeavors,” Smith said.

Starting September 8, 2020, MaryKaye Cochran will shift from interim conference director of Congregational Excellence to executive administrator for the Richmond District. Smith shared appreciation for Cochran’s ministry in the Center for Congregational Excellence and her willingness to step into the interim director position this summer. “MaryKaye will be missed on the Connectional Ministries staff, but we know she will be a great addition to the Richmond District staff,” Smith said. To direct questions to this office after September 8, please contact the Rev. Dr. Ted Smith at [email protected].

After assessing the Connectional Ministries budget, conference staff and ministry needs, and Annual Conference preparation needs, Common Table has confirmed that staff funding is available to enable a renewed hiring search process after the conference hiring freeze ends on September 1, 2020.
This hiring process will be a multi-position search and will include the position of digital media specialist as well as associate director of Influence Ministries, associate director of Serve Ministries, assistant director of Learning Ministries, and an administrative position in Connectional Ministries. Descriptions for available positions are in process and will be released soon.
pace center

Campus ministry creating space for conversation

The Pace Center on Virginia Commonwealth University's (VCU) campus is diverse in its makeup whether politically, culturally, or religiously. Starting in 2017, students were hungry for meaningful conversations to share personal stories from diverse perspectives and "Community Conversations" was created.

“Community Conversations” has addressed uplifting and difficult questions such as:
  • What makes your culture beautiful?
  • How has your community impacted your mental health?
  • What is motivating you to vote?
Students have turned again to learn and grow through Community Conversations following the shutdown of the campus due to COVID-19 and with the death of George Floyd.

Director the Rev. Katie Gooch said, "The focus is less on sharing one's story, but listening and learning from others' stories. These conversations have led to very different people from very different perspectives connecting on deep levels. It is because our students had developed these relationships and trust with one another that they were so willing to engage in more and more difficult conversations such as racial injustice."

Students were inspired to invite local United Methodist churches to be a part of the listening and growing opportunity. In the time of physically distancing, the Pace community has found Community Conversation to be more important than ever to cross boundaries and bring people together.

"Time and time again, I have seen students express a sense of value and worth after participating in Pace's Community Conversations," Gooch said. "One student remarked during the reflection part of a Community Conversation, 'Tonight, I learned for the first time that I am worthy of being loved. I want to be loved and I want to share love with others.'"
Learn more about the work of the Pace Center at their website.
2020 Annual Conference

Book of Reports now available; check conference website for future AC 2020 updates

The 2020 Book of Reports is now available for online viewing. Printed copies are currently in the mail to clergy and lay members.

The 2020 Annual Conference will take place on Saturday, September 19, 2020, in a virtual, one-day format. Currently, you can find information about Kits, view photos and video from the ordination service, and more on the conference website. As information is received, you will find the latest news about the event at the following link. More...
end of life bedside

Join discussion on end-of-life ministry during COVID-19

Tomorrow, The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) 's e-panel discussion series, "Coronavirus at the Crossroads of Faith and Science" continues with a new discussion on ministering to those who are sick or dying during the pandemic. The experts will answer the question, "Does end-of-life ministry need to be in-person?" Listen to the discussion on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, at 11 a.m. CDT.

Moderated by GBHEM's the Rev. Greg Bergquist, the panel will host palliative care specialist Dr. Austin Dalgo of the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare system in Memphis, Tenn., and pastoral care and counseling expert the Rev. Dr. Trina Armstrong of Garrett-Evangelical Seminary. The panel is FREE and will be streamed live on GBHEM's Facebook page and YouTube channel. More...

Apply for position within Clergy Excellence office

The Advisory Team of the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Appointive Cabinet are pleased to announce that applications will be received for the Associate Director of Call & Candidacy in the Center for Clergy Excellence. This part-time (28 hours per week) position, beginning this fall, will focus on missional areas of call, candidacy mentoring, and District Committee on Ordained Ministry support. For details, visit the Virginia Conference website at

Share stories of racial justice on conference website

Bishop Sharma Lewis issued a call to action against systemic racism on May 29, 2020. As part of this communication, Lewis formed the Call to Action Workgroup which helped in planning the August 11 paneled discussion with Attorney General Mark Herring. You can view the upcoming work from this group as well as stories and testimonies related to racial justice by clergy and laity in the conference on this page. Stories can be submitted to [email protected] for posting. Learn more...

Participate in survey for Bishop's In-person Workgroup

In April, Bishop Sharma D. Lewis formed a workgroup to develop policies and procedures for resuming in-person worship in Virginia Conference churches. Through the course of over a dozen meetings, this team has labored to provide churches with both policies and guidance designed to help enable congregations to “do no harm” as they seek to safely minister to members and communities. The fruit of this labor can be found at

In this survey, the workgroup seeks to hear back from people regarding the lived experiences with its work and how they can continue to be a help and guide to ministryt. By completing this short survey, you will provide the workgroup with invaluable feedback that will help inform their work for the road ahead. Deadline to complete survey is Friday, Aug. 21. Take survey.

Watch recorded dialogue on policing reform

“Virginians Speak: A Dialogue on Policing Reform, Community, & Law Enforcement in Virginia” was a jointly sponsored event that featured a panel of prominent Virginians in the fields of law enforcement, community engagement, and faith communities. This event was co-sponsored by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.View the recorded webinar broadcast from August 11, 2020 at You can also view an overview at the conference website.
lewis moxley masks

Bishop, Virignia physician discuss importance of wearing masks

Bishop Sharma D. Lewis talked with Dr. George Moxley, VCU Health, about the continuing work Virginia United Methodists must do, such as wearing face masks, as the nation and world continue to manage the effects of COVID-19. Dr. Moxley is one of the medical professionals on the In-person workgroup which was formed by Bishop Lewis to oversee how churches in the Virginia Conference could safely return to worship.

This video has English, Spanish, and Korean subtitles. Part 2 is also now available. Stay updated on how the Virginia Conference churches are going back to worship by visiting: Learn more...

Response and recovery efforts begin in wake of Tropical Storm Isaias

August 5-- Tropical Storm Isaias passed through Virginia on August 3-4 and brought with it rain and tornadoes.There was a confirmed ESF2 tornado that did significant damage to the James River District area of Carrolton and Suffolk. Another hard hit area is in the Rappahannock River District. The conference Disaster Response Coordinator, the Rev. Bob Pihlcrantz ([email protected]), is working and coordinating with Emergency Management officials as well as the District Disaster Coordinators in the affected areas. A coordinated response and recovery effort with other Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) member agencies will begin as soon as it is safe to do so and assessment information is received from the Emergency Management agencies.

At this time, the best response Virginia United Methodists can provide is to “be the church.” Reach out to your neighbors and help provide meals, shelter, water etc. A “Just In Time” UMCOR training titled Connecting Neighbors that each church can use to see how best to help their local church communities is available on the conference website at

The Rev. R. Kirk Culpepper ([email protected]) added, “If you are in the districts hit, please coordinate with the individual District Disaster Coordinators to see what they need. If you are outside of those districts, please do not self-deploy and wait until they reach out for help beyond their districts or to the Virginia Conference Disaster Coordinator.” Culpepper is the pastor of Community-St. Mark Charge, Elizabeth River District, and the conference Early Response Team (ERT) coordinator.

Please also remember that any response, relief, and recovery effort costs money. Please consider a donation to the VAUMC Advance Special #5037 Disaster Response to assist in these efforts. Remittances for the Treasurer’s Office should be mailed to P.O. Box 5605, Glen Allen, VA 23058.
school kits

Information about Kits for Annual Conference

Local churches are encouraged to continue the collection of Kits for Conference. Specific collection details still underway, but will very likely include the organization of regional, or district-wide, drop-off locations. More information will be forthcoming as the new plan is created and finalized.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is currently focusing efforts on Cleaning Kits (aka Flood Buckets), Hygiene Kits, and School Kits. Cleaning kits provide supplies to help individuals and families clean up after flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. Hygiene kits replace basic necessity items lost in a disaster such as toothbrushes, hand towels, and soap to help people stay clean and healthy. School kits include school supplies for children as they return to the classroom.

If you prefer to make a financial contribution to enable UMCOR to purchase relief kits, you can contribute $75 for each cleaning kit; $12 for each health kit; and $11 for each school kit. Additionally, UMCOR asks for $1 per kit ($3 for cleaning buckets) to cover processing and shipping and $1 for toothpaste for each health kit. Please do NOT bring checks to Annual Conference. All checks (for processing and shipping, for toothpaste, and in lieu of providing kits) should be made payable to “Virginia Conference UMC,” earmarked for “kits” and mailed to Treasurer, Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 5605, Glen Allen, VA, 23058 any time prior to Annual Conference. More...
wesley seminary

Online courses available this fall at Wesley Theological Seminary

Fall registration is now open at Wesley!

Below is a sampling of the online courses offered this Fall at Wesley, all which can be taken for CEU credit:
  • Reviving Dying Churches + Community
  • Pastoral Practice and The Hebrew Bible
  • Teaching + Learning in Ch Ed
  • Cultivating Mental Health
  • The Methodist Response to Disease
  • Old Testament Exegesis: Isaiah
  • New Testament Exegesis: John
  • The Rest of the Story: Parables + Parallels
  • Jewish Art
Learn more about all their fall courses or apply at Contact Admissions for questions at (202) 885-8659 or [email protected].
thank you

Send gift in honor of current Conference Lay Leader

Virginia Conference Lay Leader Warren Harper is ending his term after eight years on September 19. A gift in his honor is very appropriate. A presentation will be made during the virtual Annual Conference session on Saturday, September 19. It is customary that two gifts are presented -- a monetary gift to an organization of his choice, and a gift for Warren and his wife, Sandy. If you would like to take part, please send a check to:

Virginia Conference Center
Attn: Bev Myers
P.O. Box 5606
Glen Allen, VA 23058

Please make the check payable to VA Conference UMC and mark "CLL Gift" in the memo line. All gifts must be received by September 1.
apply now for grant

Local churches encouraged to apply for technology grant

While the Virginia Annual Conference is starting to expand in-person worship, many of our churches will continue to offer worship, Sunday school, and other ministries online. The Board of Communications has allocated funding to provide grants to local churches to help purchase the item(s) they need to maintain or improve their online ministry. The grant can help fund equipment, software licenses, and more.
In addition to grants, the board is also offering free technical consultations to assist local churches with their online ministry. All local churches in the Virginia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church are encouraged to apply. Applications must be submitted by Aug. 31, 2020 for consideration. For more information, email the conference Communications Office at [email protected]. Click following link to access grant form. More...
Prayer Wall (1)

Share prayers related to racial justice

In response to Bishop Sharma Lewis' Call to Action letter on May 29 to stop systemic racism, a task force was assembled by Bishop Lewis to begin work that will stem from her initial action steps. One of the first action steps is a Facebook group on the conference Facebook page titled "Prayer Wall for Racial Justice." On this wall, clergy and laity of the Virginia Conference can visit and pray for racial justice and reconciliation and share your written or video prayers or other creative avenues to be prayerful in this space. The group emphasized that prayer and action must go hand in hand to stop systemic racism. This virtual prayer wall can serve as a means of igniting prayer movements toward stopping systemic racism. To learn more about the next steps in the conference on racial justice, visit At the link below, visit the Facebook group, join, share your prayer for racial justice, and share this group as a prayerful space with your Facebook community. More...

General Church News

Sierra Leone bishop dead at 63

UNITED METHODIST NEWS--Sierra Leone Area Bishop John K. Yambasu, who died in a car accident Aug. 16, is being remembered for his courage, leadership and love of The United Methodist Church and Jesus Christ. Yambasu, 63, had many titles — bishop, chancellor of Africa University and president of the Africa College of Bishops. But the one he most cherished was beloved child of God. United Methodist leaders from around the world mourned the bishop and praised his faithful leadership in bringing together a diverse group of United Methodists to collaborate on a proposed agreement for the separation of denomination. They also recalled his leadership during the worst Ebola outbreak in history, a deadly landslide and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Rev. Tom Berlin, Floris UMC in Herndon, his friendship with Yambasu started in 1997 on a Volunteers in Mission trip to Sierra Leone. Yambasu was the host pastor. That trip led to “one of the most important relationships in my adult life,” said Berlin. Yambasu was a frequent guest in the home of Tom and Karen Berlin and baptized one of their children. “I never trust people who say they are Christians but are sour,” Tom Berlin said. “John was just the opposite. John’s joyful spirit would enable us to see the trust he had in the Lord.” Read more...

Motorbikes keep pastors moving during COVID-19 in Zimbabwe

Equipped with new motorbikes, 10 rural pastors are conducting vital ministries — delivering messages of hope and even medication — during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bikes, donated by church partners and supporters, offer a safer option for clergy who otherwise would be walking long distances or using public transportation to reach members. “(The pastors) can now safely do their errands where necessary with the assurance of safety through the use of these motorbikes, which they can personally sanitize,” said the Rev. Alan Masimba Gurupira, assistant to Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa. “Praise be to God almighty for such a timely intervention.” Simon Mafunda, Zimbabwe East Conference lay leader, said the motorbikes will help advance ministries in rural communities separated by rugged terrain. “This donation came as a great relief and is well-timed as public transport has been banned by the government in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19, leaving many commuters stranded,” he said. Read more...

Coronavirus exacerbates economic, racial disparities

St. John’s United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, sits on what its lead pastor calls “the corner of wealth and poverty.” On one side of the church is the Louisiana State University campus and its surrounding affluent homes. On the other side are working class Hispanic neighborhoods. “Our mission field is both the affluent and the immigrant struggling to make ends meet,” said the Rev. Lane Cotton Winn. Of course, as economic hardship caused by COVID-19 drags on, it’s even more vital to reach out to those neighbors who were already struggling. Economic disparity existed long before the coronavirus appeared, but the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the reality that so many are barely getting by in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. St. John’s runs The Shepherd’s Market food pantry, a member agency of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank that offers clients meat, dairy and produce in addition to canned or boxed items. The pantry was closed for just two days after the initial coronavirus shutdown order. “We knew neighbors would become even more desperate as the shutdown continued so we put in a safety protocol for volunteers to be able to reopen,” Winn said. “For a while we were one of the only pantries operating.” Read more...

One Last Word

do everything in love
The use of face masks is one way that United Methodists can continue to show their care and concern for all of their neighbors as the nation and world continue to grapple with COVID-19. Thank you, Virginia Conference, for showing your ‘Faces of Care.’

Learn more from a two-part series in which Bishop Lewis talked with Dr. George Moxley, VCU Health, about the importance of wearing masks.

Learn more about the three-stage return to in-person worship at Virginia Conference churches:

Please send any issues or concerns to [email protected]. If the formatting gives you trouble in forwarding (especially in Outlook), you can use the following link. More...
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