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

December 15, 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?

From sadness and anger to depression and suicidal thoughts, the Mental Health and Care webinar series helps pastors and individuals understand and better cope with heightened stress. Therapeutic and pastoral experts discuss the practical and spiritual disciplines needed for surviving this season. Register...
  • How can you be an influencer this week?

Connecting with new people is more important than ever this year. New ways of being and doing church present some natural opportunities for outreach during Advent and Christmas. Explore six ways your church can share joy and hope with the community with United Methodist Communications. Read more...
  • How can you serve this week?

More than 300 missionaries serve as doctors, educators and evangelists around the world.
Your support makes an impact. Learn more...

Virginia News


Last e-Advocate of 2020

The December 15 edition of the e-Advocate will be the last of 2020. The conference newsletter will resume on January 5, 2021. The conference Communications Office hopes you and yours will have safe and happy holidays!

New staff announced in Connectional Ministries

Three new associate directors and one administrative assistant will begin in the conference Connectional Ministries office effective Jan. 1, 2021. A more in-depth description of each of these ministries will be shared on the conference website at the beginning of the year.

Mr. Dwayne Stinson will be Associate Director of Influence. Stinson, prior to the conference office, served as Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Shady Grove UMC in Mechanicsville, Va. The Influencing Ministries office will deal primarily with congregational development.

The Rev. Nickie Moreno Howard will be Associate Director of Learning. She most recently served as associate pastor at St. Matthew’s UMC in Annandale, Va. The Learning Ministries office will focus primarily on discipleship.

The Rev. Seungsoo “RJ” Jun will be Associate Director of Serving. Jun most recently served as lead pastor at Raleigh Court UMC in Roanoke, Va. The Serving Ministries office will focus primarily on mission and justice opportunities.

Ms. Glenda Blackwell will be an administrative assistant in Connectional Ministries. She recently served with the Virginia State Police.

“We welcome these four new staff members to our Connectional Ministries Team,” the Director of Connectional Ministries The Rev. Dr. Steve Summers said. “We know that they will bring many gifts and talents to help us realize the vision of the Annual Conference which is to be disciples of Jesus Christ who are lifelong learners who influence others to serve. We ask that the Virginia Conference hold the entire staff of Connectional Ministries in prayer during this season of challenge and opportunity.”

Take Annual Conference 2020 survey

Whether you were a clergy person, an elected lay member, or an observer, please use this survey to describe your experience of the October 31, 2020, virtual Annual Conference session. It will assist Bishop Sharma Lewis, the Cabinet, Director of Connectional Ministries, the Annual Conference Planning Committee, and others in planning future Annual Conference sessions. Please take the survey by January 10, 2021. Take survey...

Two of the questions asked for multiple choice answers, but only one answer could be marked. Please use the following link to properly answer those two questions. Click here for the two-question survey.

Join the 2021 Bible Challenge

Bishop Lewis has encouraged the clergy and laity of the Virginia Conference to read the Bible in a year since 2017. Each year has featured a different way of reading.
  • 2017- read the Bible straight through
  • 2018- read the Bible chronologically
  • 2019- read the Bible in a blended style; a mixture of Old Testament readings and New Testament each day.
  • 2020-read the Bible with a thematic reading plan
  • 2021- read the Bible straight through from Genesis –Revelation
Join in 2021 and commit to reading the Bible all the way through Genesis-Revelation in one year. You can access the daily readings by visiting the conference website or
Reminder: the 2020 Bible Challenge will finish up on January 13, 2021. You can still access the readings at the conference website.

Tips on reading the Bible daily:
  1. Set aside a specific time and place each day. Set your schedule and then stick to it. Mornings are great, but feel free to use any time that works consistently with your schedule.
  2. Get a good study Bible to help to illuminate the meaning of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text.
  3. Choose a translation to use during your reading.
  4. Say a short prayer to God before you begin, asking the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and understanding.
  5. Dive in and enjoy the richness of God’s Word! Apply God’s Word to your life. Bible study should be practical and applicable. These seven steps will help you begin a journey in becoming a “lifelong learner” of God’s Word.
bright spots

Look out for 'Bright Spots' video series

'Bright Spots' is a video series that highlights where God is working in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can view the videos on the conference Facebook page or on the conference YouTube page. So far, the video has covered a childcare facility, a church helping their members make their home sacred places, and a 'Hope tree' that is an uplifting spot for the entire community. Email [email protected] if you have a 'Bright Spot' we should feature. View the video series...
tumcu logo

The United Methodist Credit Union offering Christmas loan

Christmas expenses can be hard on working families, and The United Methodist Credit Union (TUMCU) wants to help. TUMCU is offering a convenient way to get that Christmas shopping done, or to help pay the bills when they arrive just after the holidays. With no credit check, TUMCU will loan any member in good-standing (active for more than a year) up to $1,000. The rate is fixed at 14% APR, and repayment can be anywhere from 3-12 months. The only fee is a $25 application fee. Learn more...
va roots

New video series curriculum focuses on race relations

On May 29, 2020, Bishop Sharma Lewis asked the question, “When do we as children of God in the second largest annual conference in The United Methodist connection decide to have the crucial conversations and examine our own experiential and inherited stories of race and racism?” The Race and Race Relations Subgroup of the Bishop’s Cabinet began work to help answer that question.
The Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship curriculum is a first step to address racism in the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. This series includes videos and interviews that acknowledge and document Virginia’s role in forming and continuing race prejudice and racial discrimination embedded in laws, customs, and institutions, including the church.
This resource is a work in progress with three sessions currently with more to come in the next few months. The resource includes a participant’s guide, facilitator’s notes, a one-minute introductory video for each episode, and 12-14 videos when completed.
The small group study encourages participants to listen, learn, and engage in healthy dialogue about history, race, and discipleship. The goal is for all clergy and laity to acknowledge racism as a sin and take action to dismantle racism in our families, houses of worship, our community, and the workplace.
Learn more and access curriculum and videos at

Apportionments will be prioritized for 2021

The Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) recognizes the continued impact of the pandemic on Virginia Conference churches going into 2021. In response, the 2021 Apportionments will be prioritized similarly to the 2020 Apportionments. This will allow churches to pay the critical and essential amounts to support the Virginia Conference clergy and connection. Local churches are asked to first pay all of Priority 1 and they will be considered having paid 100 percent of the 2021 Apportionments. Churches are encouraged to pay Priority 2 after Priority 1 is satisfied, as their financial situation allows. The overall Conference Apportionments for 2021 have not changed, they have just been strategically prioritized. Read more...
melvin umfs logo

Support high-risk children & families across Virginia through the UMFS December offering

Your gift to the United Methodist Family Services (UMFS) December offering supports high-risk children and families across Virginia. Your donation will support youth like Melvin. When he was 15, Melvin’s life changed dramatically. He entered foster care. Melvin thought his dreams of college were shattered, but then he got involved in the UMFS Project LIFE program. Melvin attended support groups, worked with a volunteer mentor, and took on leadership positions. At UMFS, Melvin was able to achieve his dream. Today he is a student at Old Dominion University, where he is giving back and inspiring other youth in foster care to achieve their dreams as well.

Visit to learn more. If your church would like to participate in the December UMFS offering, visit for more information and resources. Please contact Jill Gaynor ([email protected] or 804-254-9463) with any questions.
wesley seminary

Wesley Doctor of Ministry in Soul Care for Pastors, Chaplains and Clinicians: New Track Begins May 2021

2020 has been a year like no other, particularly for those called to care for the souls of persons and congregations: pastors, chaplains, and clinicians. Renew, refresh, and support your essential ministry in care and counseling by starting your Doctor of Ministry in Soul Care for Pastors, Chaplains, and Clinicians at Wesley in May 2021. Deadline to apply is February 15, 2021. For more information, contact the Rev. Dr. Chip Aldridge at [email protected] or call 703-736-1549. View the course schedule: To apply, visit
pinnacle living logo

Pinnacle Living offers matching grant opportunity

Since the doors of the Virginia Methodist Home for the Aged first opened in 1948, benevolent care has been an integral part of the mission of Pinnacle Living. In their five communities – Hermitage Richmond, Hermitage Northern Virginia, Hermitage Roanoke, Cedarfield, and WindsorMeade, there are residents who have been blessed with longevity but have outlived their financial resources. From now until Dec. 31, 2020, the Jessie Ball DuPont Foundation will match online donations to the Samaritan Program. Gifts can be designated for where the need is greatest or for a specific community. To make a gift, visit For any church or individual who would like to know more, please contact Charles Wickham, Director of Donor Development, by email at [email protected] or by phone at 804-474-8724.
umcor kits

Information shared about Kit Collection

Although a postponed Annual Conference session affected the yearly collection of kits in 2020, work is continuing to create a regional kit collection plan for 2021 and moving forward. For kits created in 2020, churches can either drop off their completed kits in their district (once a location has been identified for pickup by a conference kit coordinator) or transport kits on their own to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) depot in Mechanicsburg, PA. For more information visit the website at At this time, points of contact have been identified for nine districts. These persons will work with the conference kit coordinators and questions may be directed to them by individuals in their respective district. Learn more...

Fundraiser for All God's Children Camp

All God's Children Camp is hosting a fundraiser on their Facebook page with a goal of $5,000 to send 12 kids to camp. Please help the organization meet their goal by donating any amount you can. Camp was canceled in 2020 and camp leadership is looking forward to being back with their special young friends in 2021. If you do not have a Facebook account and would like to donate, you can send a check to: All God's Children Camp, P.O. Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23060, Attn: Becky Tate. If you have any questions, please email Lori Smith at [email protected].

Bishop Lewis releases letter about Boy Scouts of America, charter issues

Bishop Lewis shared a letter on December 7 clarifying the respective roles of local churches and the Virginia Annual Conference with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Read the letter...
Heart Havens

Several ways to support Heart Havens this month

This holiday season there are several ways you can support Heart Havens. Heart Havens is a nonprofit organization that empowers adults with a developmental disability to live and thrive in their community.

Holidays at Heart Havens: Heart Havens takes pride in providing a joyful holiday for all our residents. There are people in our homes who would not otherwise receive gifts. Would you or your church or community group help by sponsoring Christmas for a Heart Havens home with donations to buy gifts for the residents? Holiday donations allow staff closest to the resident to shop for items they know they will love, giving joy to our residents and staff. You can note "Christmas for Heart Havens" with your donation or contact to learn more at [email protected].

Target Circle: Heart Havens is part of the Target Circle program in Central Virginia. Now through December 31, 2020, vote for them to help determine how Target’s donation will be divided up. You can vote multiple times. How to vote for Heart Havens:
Using the Target app:
- Download the Target app to your mobile phone or tablet. If you already have a Target account, sign in. If not, follow the next steps to make a new account.
- Link your RedCard or another payment card that you will use at the checkout and earn votes on eligible purchases and help direct where Target gives in your community.
- To vote, open the Target Circle app and go to your profile in the bottom right corner. Then, click where it says Circle at the top of the page.
There, it will say "Vote for Nonprofits" and tell you how many votes you have. Click on "Vote for Nonprofits," where you will see the list of all the nonprofits Target Circle is spotlighting at this time. Use the "Plus" and "Minus" signs under the Heart Havens profile to designate votes to us and submit.
- If you are in the store and have any questions, please ask the cashier or customer service desk to help you.
Using a web browser:
- Go to to create a Target Circle account. If you already have one, sign in.
- If you have a Target RedCard, add it to your account. If you are prompted, designate that you are opting into the community outreach voting program. You will have to designate that you want to earn votes using the Target Circle app when you shop.
- To vote, access your dashboard by going to Votes are totaled at the top right of the screen based on how much you have used your RedCard. Use them to vote for Heart Havens
- If you are in the store and have any questions, please ask the cashier or customer service desk to help you.
reopening churches

View recording of Virginia Conference Forum on In-Person Worship

Clergy, healthy church teams, and church members have shown grit and resilience throughout the Virginia Annual Conference as we continue to worship during the pandemic. Many churches have made successful, even inspiring returns to in-person worship. For others, it remains most appropriate to worship exclusively online or via telephonic services. The wonderful thing is that we are worshiping safely during this particularly challenging time. We are all looking for wisdom and best practices.

On Thursday, December 3, from 7-8 p.m., these issues were part of an online forum with Bishop Sharma Lewis, Chancellor Steve Brown, District Superintendent Alex Joyner, and four pastors who have been conducting in-person worship. View the recording of the forum at: View a write-up of the forum at the link. More...
umcom kathryn price advent

Gov. Northam’s Dec. 10 Executive Order means modest changes for Virginia Annual Conference churches

On Thursday, December 10, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 72 (EO 72) which instituted new, temporary restrictions due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases throughout Virginia. EO 72 went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14, 2020. Learn more with this letter from Bishop Lewis. More...
self care during holidays

The Rev. Dr. Maurice Graham shares about self-care during the holidays

Madeline Pillow White, conference Director of Communications, and the Rev. Dr. Maurice Graham, Shepherd’s Staff Ministry, Inc., talk about self-care and mental health and how individuals can best navigate changes to their holiday gatherings in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch...
free training

GCFA hosting free training event in January 2021

The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) will be hosting a free three-day training event for several annual conference leadership positions Jan. 26-28, 2021. The virtual sessions are intended for newly elected and returning office holders. Chairpersons and members of conference committees are encouraged to attend. If you are interested in attending to learn more about a specific position’s responsibilities, you can view the agendas for each track and then select one of the eight tracks to register.
Available training tracks:
• Board of Trustees
• Committee on the Episcopacy
• Committee on Equitable Compensation
• Committee on Finance & Administration
• Conference Secretary
• Personnel Committee
• Statistician
• Treasurer

The training will begin Tuesday, Jan. 26, 10 am CT with an opening plenary session with Bishop Cynthia Harvey as the keynote speaker. Here is the link to the registration site where you can view the agendas: Please feel free to contact Kellie Schmeal ([email protected] ) of the Connectional Relations team for additional questions about this event.

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

Building churches and numbers in East Congo

UNITED METHODIST NEWS --Thousands of United Methodist faithful in eastern Congo have a new place to worship with the completion of a large, modern church in Amani. The church is the 33rd new church to be built since 2012 as part of Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda’s “Rise and Build” campaign to strengthen evangelism. According to 2020 annual conference reports, there are more than 500 United Methodist churches and some 850,000 members in the Eastern Congo Episcopal Area, which includes the East Congo, Kivu, and Oriental and Equator conferences. That number is up from the more than 665,000 professing members noted in the General Council on Finance and Administration’s 2017 central conference data, the most recent report compiled by the agency. Read more...

Group pursues liberation within denomination

UNITED METHODIST NEWS --For one progressive group, liberation doesn’t mean liberating themselves from their United Methodist ties. The Liberation Project is a new group getting off the ground that aims to provide United Methodist congregations and church leaders with resources and a sense of community in furthering what it calls “the Gospel of Liberation.” By liberation, the group means much more than working toward LGBTQ and interracial inclusion. “The Liberation Project creates space for United Methodist leaders to get together and do the work of justice-oriented, healing ministry, rather than talk to one another about how we probably should be doing it,” said the Rev. Jonah Overton, lead pastor of Zao MKE Church, a new United Methodist congregation in Milwaukee. Read more...

One Last Word

The third Sunday in Advent sees the lighting of the rose candle. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.
Third Sunday of Advent
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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