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To submit news items or events, email conference Director of Communications at MadelineWhite@vaumc.org.

December 8, 2020

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

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  • How can you be a lifelong learner this week?

This Advent, invite your church family to a new and deeper relationship with God, to the world yet to come, to the world as it should be. Use these devotions from The United Methodist Church in your to inspire you all this season. Learn more...
  • How can you be an influencer this week?

Are you a fan of Baby Yoda? In a recent Religion News Service article, a connection is made between the hit Star Wars show "The Mandalorian" and faith. 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

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 www.vaumc.org/racerelations.
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 https://missioncentral.org/. 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...
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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...
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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 lttlelori@gmail.com.
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: https://vaumc.org/return/. View a write-up of the forum at the link. More...
Jadie swing umfs

Support high-risk children & families 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 children like Jadie. After years of seeking support to help manage her anger, Jadie and her mother finally got the help they needed at UMFS. "Jadie learned to solve problems, and she learned to control her anger," her mother shared. "I've come a very long way," Jadie added. Now Jadie is making new friends and enjoying her school internship. Visit www.UMFS.org/donate to learn more. If your church would like to participate in the December UMFS offering, visit www.UMFS.org/church for more information and resources. Please contact Jill Gaynor (jgaynor@umfs.org or 804-254-9463) with any questions. Thank 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.

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 jennifer.boyden@hearthavens.org.

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 https://circle.target.com/ 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 https://circle.target.com/dashboard. 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.
umcom kathryn price advent

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...
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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...
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: https://na.eventscloud.com/annualconferenceleadershiptraining. Please feel free to contact Kellie Schmeal (kschmeal@gcfa.org ) of the Connectional Relations team for additional questions about this event.

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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: vaumc.org/return/. Learn more...

General Church News

Do you see what I see? Planetary alignment to create a ‘Christmas star’

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE --A star, a star will dance in the night on Dec. 21. Actually, it won’t be a star, but the so-called “great conjunction” of two planets — Jupiter and Saturn — creating something similar to what some astronomers suggest the Wise Men may have seen in the biblical account of the birth of Jesus. Read more...

New progressive Methodist denomination starts

UNITED METHODIST NEWS --A group of progressive United Methodists and other Christians launched a new denomination named the Liberation Methodist Connexion, or LMX. The new church aims to center on the voices of people of color as well as queer and transgender individuals — those the LMX organizers see as marginalized in The United Methodist Church. “We are a grassroots denomination of former, current, and non-Methodist faith leaders working on the unfolding of the kin-dom of God,” the Connexion says on its website. “We intentionally invite the full participation of all who are living out their God-given identities and expressions.” Organizers announced the new denomination’s formation with an online worship service, presentation and after-party on Nov. 29, the first Sunday of Advent and the start of the Christian year. The online gathering had more than 400 registrants. But because of technical difficulties, a number of those registrants were unable to log on, including United Methodist News. The new Connexion is getting off the ground after decades of intensifying debate within The United Methodist Church about how inclusive to be of LGBTQ Christians. Read more...

Bill Murray stars in online reading of religious text

ASSOCIATED PRESS --Against the backdrop of a pandemic’s blight and wounds from an acrimonious election, a group of acclaimed actors on Sunday, Dec. 6, staged an online reading of a religious text with remarkable relevance to the current moment: the Book of Job.

Audience members may have been drawn to the production by the casting of Bill Murray as Job, the righteous man tested by the loss of his health, home and children, but the real star was the format. Staged on Zoom, it was aimed at Republican-leaning Knox County, Ohio, with participation from locals including people of faith, and designed to spark meaningful conversations across spiritual and political divides.
By using Job’s story “as a vocabulary for a conversation, the hope is that we can actually engender connection, healing,” Doerries said. “People can hear each other’s truths even if they don’t agree with them.” Learn more...

Salvaging Christmas amid coronavirus concerns

UNITED METHODIST NEWS --United Methodists aren’t thrilled about observing Advent and Christmas seasons amid COVID-19, but many are looking at ways to safely add personal interaction to virtual worship. “It’s very challenging,” said the Rev. Sheron C. Patterson, senior pastor at Hamilton Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, informally known as The Park. “People are fatigued with Zoom and webinars. Getting people in the Christmas spirit with the COVID is challenging.” Fatigue or not, Zoom, Facebook and other Internet portals will be the pipeline through which many experience church during Advent and Christmas this year. But there are efforts afoot to find creative ways to augment and enhance the experience. Read more...

Cooped up by pandemic, entrepreneurs turn to chickens

UNITED METHODIST NEWS --In a year dominated by a global pandemic, food insecurity and other crises, some United Methodists in Zimbabwe are celebrating bright spots, including booming business ventures and new career opportunities. When United Methodist Women funded a poultry project under the Ministry with Women, Youth and Children in the Masvingo District in February, little did they know that the beneficiaries would need the income more than ever amid lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19. Many of the 78 women who each received 20 chicks and feed as part of the $8,000 project ventured into other business endeavors. Now, they are benefiting from eggs and meat — sold to restaurants and people in the community — and even manure, which is used in the production of organic crops. Some have used the proceeds to open home-based banks, creating a culture of saving. Read more...

Delegates discuss mapping new church vision

UNITED METHODIST NEWS --Christine Schneider describes her time at General Conference as some of the worst experiences in her life as a United Methodist. “We must definitely learn to do things differently because what we’ve done there has brought us to, well, you all know to where,” said the veteran delegate about the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly. The United Methodist Church has reached a point where it is facing a potential split over its longtime debate over LGBTQ inclusion — much of the most heated disputes taking place at General Conference. Simultaneously, the international denomination faces the ravages of the global COVID-19 pandemic. In this chaotic time, Schneider is among an informal group of General Conference delegates who see an opportunity to map a new vision for the denomination’s future. The group, called “Out of Chaos … Creation,” held its second set of webinars Dec. 1 to share some of the international feedback it already has received on what that vision might look like. Read more...

One Last Word

Second Sunday of Advent
Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications
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FacesofCare
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: https://vaumc.org/return/

Please send any issues or concerns to communications@vaumc.org. If the formatting gives you trouble in forwarding (especially in Outlook), you can use the following link. More...
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