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To submit news items or events, email conference Director of Communications at [email protected].

October 20, 2020

Conference Vision: "to be disciples of Jesus Christ who are lifelong learners who influence others to serve."

  • How can you be a lifelong learner this week?

Whether your church traditionally launches stewardship programs each fall or the discussion goes year-round, discover three ways to encourage those who are able to continue donating to the ministries of the church, even in times of pandemic. More...
  • How can you be an influencer this week?

Let's minister to our ministers. October is set aside as a time for clergy appreciation in The United Methodist Church. This year, it seems even more essential to show love and care for pastors who have tirelessly served in the face of uncertainty during the pandemic. A new article offers five ideas for celebrating your pastor. Learn more...
  • How can you serve this week?

Local churches and laity are invited to join in giving love, joy, hope, and peace through the mission and disaster response agency’s end-of-year campaign. Between November 1 and December 31, churches will have the opportunity to share stories of the transformational work of The Advance and discover how financial gifts made through The Advance impact lives with their congregations. More...

Virginia News

2020 Annual Conference

Annual Conference 2020 is scheduled for Oct. 31

The rescheduled Annual Conference session will take place Saturday, October 31, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. You can now view a tutorial video about the new virtual platform for the event at the link More...

Bishop Lewis presented with scouting award

The Virginia Annual Conference Ministry of Scouting team presented the Silver Torch Award to Bishop Sharma D. Lewis on Monday, Oct. 12. Mr. Bill Chaffin, conference director of Scouting, said, “I first met our new bishop in May of 2016. From day one, she has exemplified everything that would identify a candidate for the Silver Torch.” The Silver Torch is awarded to an adult whose exemplary service to these programs shine beyond their own annual conference. Many laity and clergy serve above and beyond supporting youth. “Bishops hold a special place within the Silver Torch,” said Chaffin. “They provide encouragement and growth for spiritual well-being of youth within the church and surrounding communities. The torch itself is an emblem of Christian faithfulness. A torch bearer carries the light with them. They share the light with others extending the reach of ministry. This award recognizes builders of Christian character and service to others.” Chaffin said in an early meeting with Bishop Lewis when she was new to the Virginia Conference, “She immediately embraced our Scouting Ministry and has continued. Bishop Lewis has supported and lived this calling to ‘go into all the world.’This has been seen not just by us in the Virginia Conference but her ministry has shown far and wide.”
return to worship icon

New documents from Return to In-Person Worship Work Group posted

October 15, 2020--Three new documents have been shared by the Return to In-person Worship Work Group, including a modest revision to the Technical Assistance Manual (TAM). This is now the third revision since the TAM’s initial release in June. The three significant changes in this version include:
1) a provision for the use of paper bulletins when they are placed by masked and gloved volunteers 24 hours before the service,
2) guidance for Sunday school classes that want to meet at times adjacent to worship, and
3) a clarification on distancing seating in pews to ensure 6 feet of separation.
In addition, the Work Group has posted guidelines for recording and streaming sessions to encourage best practices in these settings. Also, there are some new ventilation recommendations. The Work Group continues to meet regularly to review and consider revisions based on the feedback of United Methodists from all across Virginia. Learn more...
greg peters retirement

Longtime CEO of UMFS announces retirement

Greg Peters, LCSW, the dedicated President & CEO of United Methodist Family Services (UMFS), has announced his intention to retire, effective April 2021. His visionary leadership over the past two decades has transformed UMFS from a local foster care services organization to a statewide provider of some 18 social service programs for children, teens, and families. A 40-year veteran of UMFS, half of that time as CEO, Greg Peters has overseen the agency’s exponential growth, broadening its footprint from Central Virginia into Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Fredericksburg, Shenandoah Valley, and Southside Virginia. Mike Giancaspro, chairman of the UMFS board, announced that the board has named Nancy Toscano, Ph.D., LCSW, as the new President & CEO. Nancy Toscano is a 13-year veteran of UMFS, serving the last three years as the Chief Operating Officer. Click here for more information.
wesley seminary

Register now for 2021 J-Term and Spring online courses at Wesley

As we look forward to the end of 2020...why not launch 2021 by taking an online class at Wesley Theological Seminary? Whether it's your first class ever, continuing a degree or certificate program, or taking a class for continuing education, Wesley has a wide range of online courses that will explore your areas of interest, deepen your understanding with the latest scholarship, and will reveal God's workings in the important social and political concerns of our day.

Pick the online format that fits with your schedule: J-term classes (short, intense courses that run 1-2 weeks in January 2021 and can earn full credit) or full-term Spring Term classes (January 21- May 8, 2021) Here are just a few of the upcoming courses:
J-Term Classes:
• Race, Religion + Resistance - Dr. Asa J. M Lee
• Prayer in the Early Church - Dr. Anna Adams Petrin
• Pastoral Care LGBTQIA+ Persons - Rev. Leo Allen Yates
• Planting New Faith Communities - Dr. Paul Nixon
Spring Term 2021 Classes:
• Exploring Digital Worship - Dr. Timothy Snyder
• Faith, Politics & The Public Square - Dr. Sondra Ely Wheeler, and Prof. Michael D McCurry
• James Baldwin AS Social Critic and Theologian - Dr. Josiah U. Young
• Theological conversations for Dismantling Racism - Audrey Coretta Price
Registration is now open - apply early to save your space! To register or for more information, go to or contact Admissions at [email protected] or call (202) 885-8659.

Pastors discuss white supremacy as part of blog

October 6, 2020--The Rev. Jason Stanley, coordinator of Church Revitalization in the Elizabeth River District, talked with the Rev. Lindsey Baynham, conference director of the Center for Congregational Excellence, on the topic “White Supremacy is Sin.” This was part of Stanley's "Tuesday Talks," a series of conversations offering practical help for your church and your ministry. Learn more...
Crisis of Younger Clergy Webinar

Join 'The Crisis of Younger Clergy in the UMC' webinar

The number of ordained clergy age 35 and under in The United Methodist Church has fallen nearly to the record low recorded 15 years ago, erasing a decade of progress, according to the findings of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership's 2020 Clergy Age Trends report.

Wesley Theological Seminary and its Lewis Center for Church Leadership invite you to a free webinar panel discussion on October 21, 2020, from noon until 1 p.m. EDT where young clergy and candidates will explore the motivations, challenges, and needs of younger people pursuing a call to ministry. Register now...

Openings for Scouting district coordinators

The Virginia Conference Ministry of Scouting team needs you. There are openings for District Coordinators in a number of districts. The Scouting program supports Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Girl Scout, and BigBrother/BigSister programs through Virginia Conference churches. If you have the passion, if you have the time, if you care about youth, contact Bill Chaffin, conference Scouting coordinator, at 804-356-6075 or [email protected]. For more information about Scouting Ministries in the Virginia Conference, visit .
larcum covenant

LARCUM event to be held Dec. 4-5

Imagine what it might have been like if the best things Luther had to say—about the centrality of the Gospel and its power to give us Christ—could have been heard as a proposal for the church catholic rather than an attack on the pope that split the church (for which Luther bears plenty of responsibility). How might the church catholic hear that proposal today, when most of us do not have quite the same anxieties as the 16th century—the vivid fear of hell and “terror of conscience,” as Luther called it? How might such a hearing of Luther’s proposal about the Gospel help us think about being church in a post-Christian and post-modern context?

Bishop Sharma D. Lewis will be participating in the Friday evening worship of "Being Formed by the Gospel in a Post-Christian Age." Dr. Phillip Cary is the presenter. Learn more...
foundation logo

Foundation now accepting 2021 grant applications

The Virginia United Methodist Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2021 Grant Awards. To apply and be considered for a grant, please visit their website ( to learn more about the process and qualifying criteria. Deadline to apply is October 30, 2020 at 5 p.m.
Please contact them at [email protected] if you have any questions about Foundation grants or the grant application process.

New Workgroup announced on Mission & Ministry

At the September 24 Town Hall by the Virginia Conference In-person Workgroup, the ongoing work of this team was shared as well as an announcement of the formation of a new group.

The Rev. Doug Forrester, Roanoke District superintendent, will be leading the Mission & Ministry (M&M) Workgroup. The group was formed in early September by Bishop Lewis. The M&M Workgroup, as shared by Forrester in the Town Hall, will “develop policies and guidelines for congregational life in addition to corporate worship in this time of global pandemic. Building on the work of the Virginia Conference Back to In-person Worship Workgroup, the group seeks to enable faith communities to gather and grow and serve in ways that promote the safety of our congregations in the communities in which God has placed them.”

As part of this, the workgroup will create a resource document that will serve in addition to the Technical Assistance Manual (TAM). In beginning their work, this group has three priorities:
1. schools and school partnerships
2. food and food events
3. ministries with the homeless population

“It is the hope and prayer of the M&M workgroup that we can build on the success of the Healthy Church Teams from all over the conference who have in so many ways developed their 'sea legs' as they have written policies for returning to in-person worship,” Forrester said. “We believe that by working with excellence within the five layers of mitigation a variety of ministries can be implemented in our diverse context around the conference.”

More information about this workgroup will be available soon on the conference website. Find the latest information about the In-person Workgroup and other resources for churches during the pandemic at the conference website.

View the September Town Hall recording at:
wesley seminary class

New Methodism Doctor of Ministry program begins January 2021

Are you ready to lead in the new Methodism that will emerge following General Conference 2021? Wesley Theological Seminary invites leaders to a new kind of Doctor of Ministry program - one where congregational leaders will work with other leaders in real-time, those eager to move beyond the present debate to design and lead congregations which are:
• broadly inclusive
• incorporating the disruptive challenges wrought by the pandemic, the recession and the new civil rights movement
• seeking both personal and social holiness
• an economically viable model for this new Methodism
Respected denominational leaders -- the Rev. Tom Berlin of Floris UMC in Herndon, Va., and Wesley President David McAllister-Wilson -- using the resources of a strong Wesley faculty and the Lewis Leadership Center have fashioned this program, which will result in project/theses grounded in a Wesleyan practical theology. The program will begin in January 2021 and includes attendance at GC2021. Deadline to apply is November 15, 2020. For more information, email President David McAllister-Wilson at [email protected] or go to .
lay servant ministries

Date announced for 2020 Lay Servant Academy

The 2020 Lay Servant Academy will be held via Zoom on Saturday, November 14. Four courses are being offered: I Love to Tell the Story, Older Adult Ministries, Online Worship, and the Spanish language class Formacion Spiritual/Spiritual Formation." Each course costs $30. Registration may be found at

The schedule is as follows:
8:45-9:00 Sign into Zoom
9:00-9:20 Opening worship
9:30-12:30 Part One of Course
12:30-1:00 Lunch Break
1:00-4:00 Part Two of Course

Each course will have a reading and written assignment due prior to the Academy. There will also be a post-assignment that will be due by Nov. 28. Zoom links and assignments will be sent in October. Questions? Please contact Tianna Durbin, Lay Servant Academy Director, [email protected]. Learn more...
lewis moxley masks

Pandemic update: Why continue wearing a mask?

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released a document, a resource shared with the conference by Dr. George Moxley of the conference's In-person workgroup, which is a consensus statement designed to provide national guidance for the public on wearing face coverings to decrease the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It was developed by the AAMC Research and Action Institute in conjunction with leading experts in public health as part of The Way Forward on COVID-19: A Road Map to Reset the Nation’s Approach to the Pandemic released by the AAMC on July 29, 2020. View the document.

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 in April 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...

General Church News

Confronting pandemic-related food insecurity

UNITED METHODIST NEWS--United Methodists and their partners are putting resources together to address worsening food insecurity in Zimbabwe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government-imposed lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus left many people without income and the ability to access food, leading to chronic household food shortages. Many in the country already were vulnerable because of the country’s economic crisis and poor rain and erratic weather patterns that have affected crops. The World Food Program said that 7.7 million people — half of the population in Zimbabwe — will face food insecurity this year.
The dire situation has compelled local church members and other groups to intervene.
The Nyadire Connection, an all-volunteer group founded by individuals from a network of United Methodist churches in Pittsburgh, has turned its attention to food relief during the pandemic. Read more...

Forging stronger ties as women of faith

UNITED METHODIST NEWS --Mozambique Area Bishop Joaquina Nhanala, the first and only female United Methodist bishop in Africa, has learned to weigh when and how to respond to falsehoods prompted by blatant acts of sexism. “At the beginning, I would try to clear my name by responding to it,” she explained during a virtual gathering to promote and celebrate women’s leadership in the church. But that took energy and time. Eventually, Nhanala realized that “deeds speak louder than words.” The bishop’s deeds so far have included appointing eight women among her area’s 20 superintendents. The pandemic scuttled plans by the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women to gather 200 to 250 women in the Chicago area this fall. But the Oct. 8-10 virtual women’s leadership summit attracted that many, with others registering to view a limited-time archive afterward. “Maybe God envisioned something bigger,” said Dawn Wiggins Hare, the commission’s top executive, as participants checked in from locations across the U.S. and in Europe and Africa. The goal was to confront present realities but also to celebrate sisterhood, build relationships and learn from the experiences of each other and of summit presenters. Read more...

Yom Kippur Zoom reunites Holocaust survivors 71 years later

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE (RNS) --Holocaust survivors Ruth Brandspiegel and Israel “Sasha” Eisenberg call their reunion a miracle that began on the holiest day in Judaism, and it only happened thanks to a prayer service that was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. Decades ago their families, who came from the same city in Poland, escaped the Nazis, crossed into the Soviet Union and were sent to different labor camps in Siberia, where Eisenberg was born. They later met at a displaced persons camp in Austria, where they became close friends. They last saw each other there, in 1949, before losing track of each other’s whereabouts. More than 70 years later, Brandspiegel, now a Philadelphia resident, heard a familiar name being called out in a Yom Kippur service held in late September via Zoom by her son’s synagogue in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Read more...

Ask The UMC: Is The United Methodist Church involved in politics?

Ask The UMC--The people called Methodists have been actively involved in social and political matters from their founding in 18th century England. Methodists were among the primary advocates for the abolition of slavery across the British Empire, the organization of labor unions to protect workers from dangerous working conditions, the ending of the debtors prison system, and the creation of new systems of care for poor children. Given this heritage, Methodists have continued to advocate for other social or political issues since that time -- women’s suffrage, temperance, civil rights, health care and care for the environment, to name a few. Learn more...

One Last Word: Share your appreciation

clergy appreciation
The month of October is Clergy Appreciation Month. Let your pastor know this month what they mean to you. #thankaclergyperson #prayforyourclergy
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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