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

December 1, 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?

If you're worshiping at home this season, this Advent Candle Lighting Liturgy from Discipleship Ministries can easily be adapted for your family! Learn more...
  • How can you be an influencer this week?

How can your church partner with people worshiping at home this Advent and Christmas season? Learn more in this episode of Worship Matters podcast from Discipleship Ministries. Learn more...
  • How can you serve TODAY?

Today is #GivingTuesday! All donations to UMFS today will help purchase Christmas presents for children in foster care & related programs. Please join me and visit to make your gift.

Support Heart Havens for #GivingTuesday! Their goal this year is $4,000 for an urgent bathroom update at our Macleigh home. The bathroom needs to be made accessible to better support the resident. This project is 75 percent funded by a grant from KOVAR and we are asking our supporters to help us fully fund this project on Giving Tuesday by meeting our goal. Learn more...

Virginia News

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Register now: Virginia Conference Forum on In-Person Worship on December 3 at @7 p.m.

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 7:00-8:00 p.m., these issues are 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:

The Rev. Beth Anderson, Courthouse Community UMC, Virginia Beach

The Rev. Walter “B” Failes, Thrasher Memorial UMC, Vinton

The Rev. Seungsoo “RJ” Jun, Raleigh Court UMC, Roanoke

The Rev. Chris McLain, Shady Grove UMC, Short Pump

The information and experiences shared at this event should be particularly helpful as we enter Advent and as COVID-19 cases are rising. Bishop Lewis sent a separate letter on November 25 to the conference about continuing to worship in person during Advent and Christmas despite the increase in COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

To register for the December 3 online event, visit After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. To ask questions during the event, please e-mail Alex Joyner at [email protected].
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New resources available for UMFS December offering

United Methodist Family Services (UMFS) is the Virginia Conference designated offering for December. UMFS deeply appreciates the support of local churches in this ministry, helping high-risk children create a brighter future. They have created a variety of digital assets to support the offering this year, and help you share the work of the ministry with your congregation. You can find the following resources at four short videos, an electronic bulletin insert, church offering scripts, and images for newsletters, emails, social media, and websites. Please contact Jill Gaynor ([email protected] or 804-254-9463) with any questions. UMFS thanks you for your support!
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.

#GivingTuesday: Join on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, a global day of unity and giving to help the organization with their goal of $4,000 for an urgent bathroom update at our Macleigh home. The bathroom needs to be made accessible to better support the resident. Learn more...

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.
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In-Person Worship can continue during Advent and Christmas Day

In a letter from November 25, Bishop Lewis shared more about in-person worship during the holiday season. "Healthy Church Teams throughout the Commonwealth have been formed to advise local clergy and to utilize the TAM to implement in-person worship that is most appropriate for their church community, such as drive-in worship, gathering in a sanctuary, or other means. Please understand that it is safe for our churches to have in-person worship services if you review your health before attending, wear your face covering, and socially distance in the service. On occasion, the local clergy have also made the wise but difficult decision to refrain from or to suspend in-person worship given the local context and are using online or telephonic services to continue worship. Please understand no church should feel pressured to have in-person worship, nor should any church rush into doing so.

"We must continue to emphasize safety and always stay informed of the latest scientific findings and health recommendations. Simultaneously, we must avoid having a spirit of confusion, paranoia, and/or fear. As Paul tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” [2 Timothy 1:7].

"I do not believe it is likely that circumstances will arise that will cause me to have to suspend in-person worship throughout the Conference. However, to reiterate, events will continue to be monitored. Local and regional outbreaks of COVID should also be monitored in case local clergy, in consultation with the Healthy Church Team and the District Superintendent, decide to suspend in-person worship. The Conference is ready to provide expertise and resources to help in this decision-making just as it has been doing since March." Read more...

Adventus: Ancient Practices for an Advent at Home

Take a meaningful break from technology during this Advent spent at home. A new study, based on the ancient monastic practice of Lectio Divina, or divine reading, will guide individuals, families, and small groups through meditative reading of Scripture and listening for the Holy Spirit. Learn more...
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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.

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College scholarships for students preparing for Christian ministry

Whether one feels called to be a pastor, a youth minister, a music minister, a religious studies professor, a faith-based nonprofit leader, military or hospital chaplain Randolph-Macon College’s Bailey Scholars Program could help individuals afford college and find a supportive community for vocational discernment as they grow in college and prepare for seminary. Application deadline is Feb. 8, 2021. If you have questions, email [email protected]. Learn more at:
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 (Jan. 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.
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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

Planning for a more inclusive church

UNITED METHODIST NEWS --The United Methodist Church stands to lose more members and churches because of the issue of race than debate over LGBTQ inclusion, said Bishop LaTrelle Easterling. Nevertheless, she said, United Methodists should not back down from the denomination’s commitment to dismantle racism. “We don’t have time to wait,” the Baltimore-Washington Conference bishop said. “People can’t breathe.” Easterling was among 18 United Methodist leaders who spoke with urgency about the issues confronting the church during the fourth annual Inclusiveness Conference, organized by the United Methodist Association of Retired Clergy. Read more...

Taking concrete steps to move against racism

UNITED METHODIST NEWS --On Oct. 26, Walter Wallace Jr. became a statistic — another name to add to a long list of Black people shot and killed by police. Wallace, a Philadelphia resident, was having a mental health crisis and his family called for emergency help. His mother, begging the police not to shoot, watched her son gunned down in the street. His shooting prompted protests in a year already punctuated by tears and cries for justice. In the aftermath of the shooting, Philadelphia Area Bishop Peggy A. Johnson called on people of God to pray for justice and peace and comfort for the family. But she also took action, organizing a Zoom call with pastors and laity to come up with concrete steps to move them to dismantling racism. United Methodist conferences around the world are responding to the calls for anti-racism and justice through prayers, training, education on white supremacy and investing in the lives of people of color. Read more...

One Last Word

First Sunday of Advent
Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications
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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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