Advocate 2022 logo

May 21, 2024

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:

  1. Quick Links
  2. Virginia News
  3. 2024 Annual Conference News
  4. UMC News
  5. Resources
  6. One Last Word

Quick Links

Virginia News


Church celebrates ground-breaking for new collaborative community venture

Kingstowne Communion, NOVA District, celebrated on Sunday, May 19 the groundbreaking of a new worship location and cross-denominational, multi-generational, mixed-use, collaborative community venture, including multiple faith communities, residential senior living, a preschool, community theater, and more, set to open mid-2025.

"Over the past five months, the Kingstowne Communion has been working through a multi-step process of discernment and approval, supported and guided by DS Sarah Calvert, regarding a permanent space for our ministry in the future," Rev. Michelle Matthews, lead pastor, said.

This collaborative project began when, in early 2023, Virginia Hills Church & Learning Center demolished their original 1959 building located on a seven acre property right next to Franconia District Park off Telegraph Rd in Alexandria, VA. They begin renting and sharing space at Mt. Vernon UMC while they awaited the ground-breaking and construction of their new building, made possible by the sale of five out of seven of their acres of land to Brightview Senior Living.

Virginia Hills’s preschool has been for some time a staple within the Kingstowne, Virginia Hills, and Hayfield communities, they recognized their congregation is aging and desired for their worship space to be remarkably outward-facing. They then invited the Kingstowne Communion UMC into a collaborative, rental and missional partnership beginning in preparation for and upon the completion of the building in spring 2025.

In such a partnership, Kingstowne, as a growing congregation of predominantly young families, will be able to match the demographics and meet the spiritual and relational needs of the ever-widening preschool community, while Virginia Hills will be able to intentionally tune-in to and pivot some of their energy toward the new Brightview Senior Living residents on property, offering spiritual community and care, and building an cross-denominational and truly multi-generational spiritual and communal hub at the center of our neighborhood.

Local Church location for Pharrell Williams movie

In early February, Good Shepherd UMC in Henrico was presented with a unique opportunity. A local production company, in collaboration with the Virginia Film Office and Universal Studios, was scouting locations for the movie Atlantis. This movie, a hope-filled tale of a young man's journey to adulthood in 1970s Virginia Beach, is loosely based on the life of Pharrell Williams, a globally recognized musician, artist, and designer.

"Church life was foundational in Mr. Williams's early life, and the film scouts were looking for a church with a warm community feeling. They found that in the sanctuary and classrooms at the former Chamberlayne Heights UMC location," shared Rev. Lisa McGehee, Executive Pastor of Good Shepherd UMC. After the first visit, the Good Shepherd Leadership Board excitingly approved moving forward. Many visits later, the site was selected as one of the sites for the film, primarily made in the Richmond and Virginia Beach areas.

"We are delighted to have the opportunity to partner with community businesses and leaders. When Chamberlayne Heights UMC merged with Good Shepherd UMC, our prayer was and continues to be to seek ways to reach new people and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ in a world that is hurting. To have a role in a musical movie appropriate for children and families is one way we can be the church in the world," said Lead Pastor Rev. T. Bryson Smith.

Connect students to campus ministries

As high school seniors graduate this season, you can help connect those planning to attend college with a ministry home away from home. The Virginia Annual Conference supports 13 campus ministries and 4 United Methodist colleges/universities across Virginia. Our chaplains and campus ministers are excited to connect with students from your congregation as they head off to school.

Please take a moment to provide us with contact information for every student who will be enrolled in a college or university this fall (Para. 232 and 256.3d in the Book of Discipline). Our VAUMC campus ministers and chaplains reach out to incoming students over the summer, and welcome freshmen as they arrive on campus in the fall. You can find the form to submit information here.

Here's a video featuring our campus ministries, and more information about contacting our ministries is available here.

Please contact Dwayne Stinson ([email protected]) if you have questions or would like to learn more about connecting with a campus ministry.

British podcast features VAUMC delegation head

The Religion Media Centre interviewed Bishop Mande Muyombo; the Rev. Lindsey Baynham Freeman, VAUMC delegation head; and others about General Conference decisions on LGBTQ inclusion. Listen here...

Peace with Justice Sunday is May 26

A renewed focus on social justice in our troubled world make this the perfect time to support the goals of Peace With Justice Sunday. The offering on this Special Sunday supports programs and ministries to educate, equip, and mobilize actions in support of Economic, Health, and Gender Justice Priorities, and initiatives for peacemaking and non-violence.

The official date set to celebrate Peace with Justice Sunday is May 26, 2024. However, congregations are encouraged to celebrate on a date that is most convenient their schedules. Resources to celebrate and promote this this Special Sunday can be found here.

50% of your donation remains in the Virginia Conference. 50% supports peacemaking ministries and grants. Write 'Peace With Justice’ on your check or online offering to your local church. Information: Kenn Speicher, Peace With Justice Coordinator, Virginia Conference. 703-328-2607.

Peace With Justice Grants Available to Congregations. Recent PWJ grants have assisted United Methodists in a variety of initiatives:
  • a Community Legal Clinics program for migrants
  • a “Community Experience” to help reentry partners in Ohio provide a more supportive pathway for people to reenter society after incarceration
  • Pennsylvania students taking action to educate their community about sex-trafficking at home and abroad
  • Volunteers operating a network to welcome and assist refugee newcomers resettling in northern Virginia.

Register: Why Regionalization Matters webinar

The 2024 United Methodist General Conference endorsed Worldwide Regionalization - a plan that will reshape our denomination and enable us to remain united in mission and ministry across diverse contexts around the world. This plan represents the biggest change to our denomination in a generation - and will need to be ratified by Annual Conferences before it takes effect.

On May 29 at 7:00 PM, members of the Virginia Conference Delegation will host a webinar to help explain why regionalization matters, what it is (and what it isn't), and how it's an essential step forward for the future of The United Methodist Church. This webinar will be recorded for later viewing. Register now...

Register now for "Growing Young Retreat"

Registration is now open for the "Growing Young Retreat: Six strategies to help young people discover and love your church" hosted by the Virginia Annual Conference from October 18-19, 2024.

Where: Roslyn Retreat Center, 8727 River Road, Richmond, VA 23229
Cost: $75 per person (includes lodging and meals); $50 per person if commuting
This event is open to all: Clergy, Laity, Children's Ministry Leaders, Youth Ministry Leaders, Family Ministry Leaders, Staff, Volunteers, etc. Register now...

Annual Conference News

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Take part in Lunch Labs

As Annual Conference 2024 draws near, the Office of Missional Engagement is thrilled to introduce something exciting and experimental– Lunch Labs!
Lunch Labs are experiential learning opportunities that will equip and resource members and guests of the Annual Conference as they seek to connect with each other, their church, their community, and the world. Participants will engage with seasoned practitioners and hear their stories of joys, failures, and lessons learned. They’ll also have opportunities to dream, experiment and (hopefully) leave the labs feeling more inspired, equipped and encouraged to embody God’s love and hope in the world. Topics include:
  • The Heart of It All: United Methodist Theology of Mission 101
  • Who is My Neighbor? Reimagining and Transforming Community
  • Taste and See: A Lunch Church Fresh Expression
  • Follow Thee More Nearly: Advocacy as a Foundation for Faithful Living

Registration is highly encouraged, but not required! If you’re ready to sign up and join us in the laboratory, please click here.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to The Office of Missional Engagement at [email protected].
Learn more...

Information on Annual Conference offering

For our Annual Conference offering this year, we are excited to share that we will be supporting two important initiatives who are engaged in the work of mission and service in the world. Our first one is supporting the ongoing connectional work with our VAUMC Partnerships of Hope countries: Brazil, Mozambique, Cambodia, Haiti, Vietnam, and Native American Ministries. The other half of our offering will be given towards our conference-wide Undue Medical Debt Campaign(formerly RIP Medical Debt) to help eliminate medical debt in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is our hope that through this debt campaign, we are able to raise $390,000 that would help eliminate $39 million of medical debt that continues to hurt the most vulnerable in Virginia. This campaign will start with the Annual Conference offering and continue through the end of the calendar year.

To give to the Annual Conference offering, you can make your check out to the Virginia United Methodist Conference with AC Offering in the memo line, and mail it to:

Virginia United Methodist Conference Center
P.O. Box 5606
Glen Allen, VA 23058

Or, you can give online using this link: VAUMC Donations and then selecting “Annual Conference Offering”.

For more information about Partnerships of Hope, please visit:

For more information about Undue Medical Debt (formerly RIP Medical Debt), please visit:

Thank you for your generosity in supporting these two initiatives!

Join Game Night at Annual Conference

Annual Conference Game Night is back this year. Join Friday, June 21 for a fun night of fun and fellowship. If you are interested in participating in Dungeon and Dragons, registration is open here...
umc news

Historic assembly sets United Methodists on new path

General Conference brought big changes, particularly the removal of constraints on ministry with and by LGBTQ people. Now the challenge is to remain a big-tent denomination that can evangelize in diverse communities and countries. Read more...

United Methodist Church Bishops clarify relationship with Global Methodist Church

The Global Methodist Church has no official relationship with The United Methodist Church, the Council of Bishops clarified in a recent press release shared on May 14. Learn more in full press release...

Faith Story: Bishop Minnick led with openness, grace

Bishop Carlton P. Minnick, who oversaw conferences in Mississippi and North Carolina and championed women clergy, has died at age 96. Read more...
resources ac

Register now for Lewis Center Leadership Certificate Program

Designed as an equivalent to an executive leadership program, the Lewis Center for Church Leadership Certificate Program delivers an online, cohort-based learning experience for pastors that combines self-study and interactive peer learning. Participants will learn strategic actionable insights that enhance their ability to be effective in their ministry settings. Guided by experienced faculty from Wesley Theological Seminary and the Lewis Center, this certificate program includes five courses over the course of a year that help pastors explore visioning, administration, stewardship, innovation, and building key partnerships. You can learn more in the attached flyer and by visiting here (click on the green “Lewis Center Church Leadership Certificate Program” logo). Enrollment ends on August 30, 2024.

One Last Word: The Long History of Missional Partnership

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Picture: Rev. Mark Ogren hands Jacques Umembudi Akasa a booklet of African Tales.

It would be fair to call The United Methodist Church a tapestry. As such a connected denomination at all levels of the Church, it is hard to know which threads of the tapestry may connect individuals across state lines or even the world.
The Rev. Mark Ogren, retired elder and member of the VAUMC delegation, recently had such an interaction with Jacques Umembudi Akasa who has been traveling around to several VAUMC churches to share about the Central Congo Wings of Caring Ministry. Not only is Akasa a pilot for this ministry, but he is also a missionary with his wife to Congo and a lay delegate from the Central Congo Annual Conference.
While sharing a meal during Akasa’s time in Virginia, Ogren asked him if he knew Ogren's spiritual mentor, Rev. Charles William Chappell, who served as a missionary to Democratic Republic of Congo (at the time it was named Zaire) from 1938 to 1970.
After some phone calls, Akasa reported that several people knew Chappell and remembered him.
As their conversation progressed, Ogren related that Chappell gifted an original copy of African stories called, "Why the Crocodile has Large Lumps on His Back...and Other African Folk Tales" to him before his death in 1996.
Ogren knew that Chappell would have wanted Akasa to have the original copy, and Akasa called it a “wonderful treasure.”
"I think it is a wonderful story of the United Methodist Churches long history of mission partnership that goes all the way back (in this story) to 1938. I feel privileged to have been a participant in this ongoing story!" Ogren said.
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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