Conference Videographer:
Nick Ruxton

Award-winning videographer Nick Ruxton joined the Virginia Conference staff in October 2014. In his role, he is responsible for creating and sharing videos about conference, district and local church activities throughout the Virginia Annual Conference.

 A graduate of Shenandoah University's Class of 2014, Nick majored in Mass Communication, with a Certificate in the Faith Seeking Justice Christian Leadership Program (formerly known as the JustFaith Christian Leadership Program), and a concentration in Outdoor Leadership and Education. He is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.

Nick is Shenandoah University's Class of 2014 recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, which recognizes one male student who has exemplified excellence in character and service to humanity. 

Nick was born and raised in Chesterfield, Va., and is a lifelong member of Trinity United Methodist Church-Chesterfield. He has served both his local church and the district in a variety of roles, including his current role as  Annual Conference Lay Member for Trinity and six years on the James River District Youth Council. 

Stand-up paddleboarding, mission work, adventures with his fiance Laura, food, family and his Newfoundland dog Izzy, are just a few of the things Nick is most passionate about. 

Nick Ruxton can be reached for video inquiries, an encouraging word or a good joke at (804) 521-1112 or Nickruxton@vaumc.org


RSS Feed
Through the Lens of a guy in a museum
5/10/2017

Have you ever been in a place where you overheard a conversation between two people and you chime in with an “Amen” or laugh? This may be called eavesdropping but it recently happened to me in close quarters in front of an exhibit in a museum. 

My fiancé and I recently visited the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. We were standing at an exhibit that featured the American Civil War, through the lens of Virginia’s experience. There were artifacts ranging from military uniforms to children’s toys. The specific artifact that was in front of us was a pole where slaves were beaten in Virginia. I had a sick feeling in my stomach looking at it. 

There were two older African-American gentlemen beside me reading the description about the pole. One of them said, “It just makes me sick looking at this. How could anyone think this is humane?” 

This is when I opened my mouth and blurted out “AMEN!” I thought to myself, “That was an inside thought, not an outside one!” To my surprise, the man turned and started talking to me. He noticed that I was wearing a Virginia United Methodist Conference shirt and praised the United Methodist Church for the amount of reconciliation we are pursuing surrounding race and culture issues. We continued to have a conversation about our churches and Bishop Sharma Lewis, and next thing you know, I invited him to church.

The Rev. Mark Ogren, director of Congregational Excellence for the Virginia Conference, shared a shocking statistic with me: the average person invites someone to church only once every 20 years. I don’t know about you, but that is another thing that makes me sick to my stomach. Why aren’t we inviting people more often? I know I don’t want to go door knocking, but we can find other organic and authentic ways to show people the love of Christ and invite them to church. Sometimes it’s as simple as wearing a T-shirt and saying “Amen” in a museum. Whatever it is, I challenge you to invite someone to the place we love to go, church. How you go about doing it is up to you. Don’t fall into that statistic, let’s make a new one.

Capture each moment,
Nick

 

 

Through the lens of a sanctuary for all
4/7/2017

Last month I had the honor of visiting First Grace UMC while in New Orleans for the annual United Methodist Association of Communicators (UMAC) conference. First Grace is a diverse and lively church with a very rich history.


  First Grace UMC

Before Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, First Grace UMC was nonexistent. This church was formed when two churches, First UMC and Grace UMC, noticed its membership decline after the storm and they wanted to do something about it. It all sounds like a smooth transition complete with butterflies and flowers, but it wasn’t. The two churches were polar opposites. One was more traditional and predominantly white, while the other was more contemporary and predominantly African American. There were a lot of questions going into the merge like, “What is our worship going to look like?” “Who is going to be serving in leadership roles?” 


  First Grace sanctuary

During the first joint worship, the sanctuary was divided – Grace sat on one side and First was on the other. Seeing that this would not work, one member commented after the service, “We’re supposed to be united, well next Sunday prove it.” This marked an internal shift. From then on, the church has been a vital part of the community.

First Grace UMC has many programs to help its community members from a Hispanic ministry that helps immigrants with legal issues and job opportunities, to a homeless shelter that welcomes people of all genders and ages. One of the most striking things to me was how inclusive they are to those from the LGBTQ+ community. 

The whole time I was at First Grace, I just kept thinking, “What if all our churches were like this?”. They had so much pride for the work they were doing and loved to share it with others. They welcomed everyone into their church without question and treated them like family. To see the love and respect the congregation had for each other was a breath of fresh air. Some may say the church is divided and in decline, but if you look in the right places you can see the exact opposite. 

These were two churches that had two different congregations and worshiping styles, but in a time of crisis, came together to be one. Because of that merger, individuals and the community have support and the knowledge that the Lord is with them.

I strive to be like the members of First Grace every day – to always have radical hospitality and meet people where they are. My challenge to you is to do the same. 

Capture each moment,
Nick

Through the lens of a videographer in Cambodia
2/16/2017

Have you even been sick as a dog boarding a 14.5 hour flight and thought, “What am I about to get myself into?” This was my exact thought stepping onto the plane heading to Cambodia in January.

I did my research about Cambodia and their Methodist Church, but there is nothing to prepare you for actually being there. When traveling you should be flexible and have an open mind, but Cambodia has a relaxed culture that made traveling both eye-opening and comfortable. By far my favorite thing about the Cambodian lifestyle is the afternoon naps! I think we should adopt them in the States.

There are thousands of things I want to share from my trip. I have been processing the experience for over a month, and I still struggled writing this blog. How do I talk about some of the stories I heard? Do I talk about the struggles I had? 

I Liked:

Cambodia’s predominate religion is Buddhism. The growing Cambodian Methodist Church (CMC) is roughly 30 years old and most members are first-generation Christians. We had the opportunity to worship and be in conversation with members of the CMC and their passion and desire to learn was a joy to see. While worshiping with them, these Christians sang at the top of their lungs. They did not care how well they sang—they were making a joyful noise! One of my favorite parts of worship was the prayer. With everyone praying aloud in their native tongue, it was so beautiful to hear their passionate praying, lifting their prayers to the heavens. It was a holy moment.

I Learned:

There are many lessons to learn while traveling internationally, like wearing compression socks on a long flight to keep the swelling down (thank you, Granddaddy for your diabetic socks!).

Another lesson I learned was gratefulness for the small things and putting trust in God. I met an older gentleman who lost both of his legs to a land mine. After some conversation through a translator, I asked him if he would mind sharing about the loss of his legs. He told me that it happened when he stepped on a mine while fighting in guerilla warfare against the Khmer Rouge. The only thing that kept him alive, he said, was knowing that God was watching out for him and would get him through this situation. Throughout his recovery, he prayed to God asking for guidance and strength. After recovering from this injury, he felt the call to ministry and is now a pastor in the CMC. He put his trust in God and did not dwell on the small things. This man could have easily given up on life, but he decided to become a pastor and use his injury as an example of how God blessed him with a second chance. 

I Wish:

Seventy percent of the population in Cambodia is under the age of 30 and 50 percent is under the age of 20. The same can be said about the CMC congregation. It was a beautiful sight to see a whole building packed with over 150 kids worshiping. Some churches have separate services because they cannot fit everyone in at one time (even without having the fire codes we have here in the United States) The CMC is reaching out into the community for example by hosting soccer leagues, after school programs, traditional dance lessons all to introduce individuals to Christ. They are reaching outside of the church walls to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. My wish is for others to travel to Cambodia to see The United Methodist Church connection in action and to learn from our brothers and sisters in Cambodia and bring that knowledge back to help the churches in Virginia and beyond. 

Even though our trip was providing knowledge to the leaders of the CMC, we learned just as much from them, if not more. We are a connectional church that grows by gleaning ideas from each other. 

Capture each moment,

Nick

 

 

Through the lens of a waitress
9/14/2016

Every Monday, a group of us from the Conference office goes out for lunch. Normally we try to support the local small businesses when we eat. On a recent Monday, we had a rather large group so they put us at this huge circular table. Because we were at this large table we were able to talk to each other and not really have small side conversations. This also meant we got a little loud and energetic. When the waitress came by to take our orders, she made a comment on how much fun it looked like we were having and said it was nice to see a group like that going out to eat. 

As the meal went on we continued our lively conversation and enjoyed our lunch together. When our waitress came around to refill the drinks, she stood and talked with us for a few minutes. She asked if we were teachers or something from a nearby school. When we told her we all worked for the United Methodist Church you would have thought she had seen a ghost. Our waitress said she did not know church people could have this much fun. That small comment led to us telling her how much fun our work environment is and how our churches are energetic and welcoming of everyone. 

Later we found out she grew up in a very strict religious family, and that experience turned her away from organized religion. We invited her to try out one of our churches and shared a little about what the United Methodist Church is all about. 

This encounter made me really think about how I carry myself as a Christian or, better yet, a United Methodist. I know I have flaws and make mistakes, but I hope people see how welcoming and friendly I am and want to come to church. Not the other way around. 
My challenge for you is to go and show God’s love. Show those who do not go to church what a Christian/United Methodist truly is. Go make disciples of Jesus Christ through the transformation of the world. Or just grab a meal out and maybe someone will ask you about church…. Hey it could happen!

Capture each moment,
Nick

Through the Lens of a Small Town
8/4/2016

By the Rev. Kendra Grimes
Guest blogger is the Rev. Kendra Grimes. She is chaplain and director of Church Relations at Randolph-Macon College. She holds a B.A. in Religion and Psychology from Berry College in Rome, Ga., and a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology, Emory University. She transferred from the North Georgia Conference in 2006. She enjoys writing, cooking and gardening.

There’s something about growing up in a small town. Just ask John Cougar Mellencamp, right? No matter where life takes me nor how far I’ve travelled, my roots in the small south Georgia town of Statesboro still matter to me. I haven’t lived there in 26 years, but I still sometimes accidentally call it “home” in conversation.


  Statesboro, GA

Imagine my surprise as I read our new Virginia Conference Bishop Sharma Lewis’s biography and realized that she grew up in the same small town and attended the same high school as I did. I can’t wait to meet her. She will know about things like Claxton Fruitcake and Vidalia Onions. She will know about the Rattlesnake Roundup, Eagle Creek and Sweetheart Circle. There’s nothing like shared language and experience to spark a connection!

What happens next is confessional: I thought to myself, “We are both from Statesboro, but I don’t know her.” I looked at the year she graduated from college, did the math and realized that she would have graduated from Statesboro High School before my older brother even began 9th grade. “So, of course I don’t know her,” I said to myself, “She is much older than me.”


  Pittman Park UMC

Then I immediately wondered, “But she’s United Methodist… so I wonder where she went to church?” And that’s when the trouble started, when I saw a part of myself I thought I had left behind. I never considered that Bishop Lewis’ family might have gone to the same church my family went to. Because they are black and we are white. I hope things are different now back home, but I worry that they are not. Because miles north of where I grew up, our churches still tend to be racially segregated for the most part. I know that Bishop Lewis will have shared the same small town traditions, but she won’t have the same church family traditions… the mission trips and “Come to Christmas” events, the huge Easter Egg Hunts and Vacation Bible School, the intimate connection with the GSU Wesley Foundation. Those memories are for those of us who were members at Pittman Park UMC.


  Brannen Chapel UMC

So where did she go to church as young person, I wondered? If not my church, then probably not First UMC either. I searched online a bit more and came across Brannen Chapel UMC. I had no idea we had an African American Methodist Church in our small town. I… had… no… idea… that… there… was… an… African… American… Methodist… Church… in… Statesboro. Let that sink in. Statesboro is a small town, one middle school and one high school when I was growing up. How could I not know that there was another Methodist congregation so close by? I was the kid who went to Epworth-by-the-Sea every February and November for Youth Weekends along with a week of Youth Annual Conference and a week of camp every summer. I was connectional before I knew what that word meant. But I wasn’t connected to Methodist brothers and sisters in my own town who were African American.

Brannen Chapel UMC. It sounds vaguely familiar, maybe I was aware of it years ago and have forgotten over time. “Brannen” is a common name in Bulloch County. I looked online and found a photo and a map of its location. It’s located in the one part of town that I don’t know well, that I can’t name the streets and businesses. The only time I was in that part of town was when I had a softball game at the old “Blitch Street fields.” There were nice new fields on Fair Road where I grew up playing ball, and there was another, older park on Blitch Street in the part of town I did not know. The two facilities were a prime example of “separate but not equal” in the South.

The more I dug around online, the more I thought and remembered, and the more my mood shifted. I had been so excited to be welcoming this new sister in faith who shares my roots. But I realized gloomily: we share a town name, but our experiences growing up must have been dramatically different. It’s almost certainly not because she’s 10 years older than I that I didn’t know Sharma Lewis or her family.

It is painful to look at a memory you treasure and to notice for the first time — or if not for the first time, at least in a bright new light — that your memory has a giant, glaring broken place right through the middle of it.

Having lost my dad to an early death and losing my mom still year-by-year to growing dementia, those Statesboro roots are precious to me. My hometown memories of the kind and generous people and the warm town spirit — those memories sustain me when I’m lonely and feeling orphaned. I am crying as I write, not wanting to look at my idealized childhood thorough the lens I just saw it.

But there’s no turning back. And just as I caught a glimpse of my childhood home, I immediately began thinking of my current home, the small town I so treasure today. Sure, there’s progress in race relations compared to the realities of a generation ago. But there is so, so, so far to go. My beloved home church in Statesboro just celebrated its 60th anniversary. To mark the occasion, I wrote a letter of gratitude to my home church family. I would never be the person I am, the minister that I am, without Pittman Park UMC. I am forever grateful.

Now, I am writing this as a letter of gratitude to Brannen Chapel UMC. I am confessing and mourning that I did not know your church family when I was growing up in Statesboro. I regret that mutual invitations to share a van ride to Epworth, to serve together in missions, to worship together on special occasions never happened. But I am grateful to you because you faithfully nurtured a young woman who is about to become my bishop, the spiritual leader of the conference where I serve.

Recognizing the brokenness of our past is key to bring healing to our future. I can’t wait to meet Bishop Lewis. I am eager to see where she feels called to lead the Virginia Conference. I also want to learn about where she has come from. I want to hear about my hometown from her experience.

Bishop Lewis, I have a jar of Braswell’s Preserves on my pantry shelf at home. I’ll save it for when we can get together to work for the future of the church and share stories about the past. Welcome to Virginia!

Through the Lens of a fly on the wall
7/21/2016

Recently at the Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) Conference, I was able to attend a clergywomen celebration for the two newly elected female bishops. Walking into the room, I did not know what to expect.  What I found was a room full of excited women, both clergy and lay, with a few males. It was an honor to witness history and celebrate with this group of individuals.


  From left, Bishop Kammerer, Bishop Haupert-Johnson, Bishop Lewis.

Before the group prayed for Bishop Sharma Lewis and Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, Bishop Charlene Kammerer, the first female bishop elected in the SEJ, told a very interesting story. This story was the history of female bishops in the SEJ. The first to be chosen as an episcopal candidate was the Rev. Helen Crotwell in the 1980s. The SEJ clergywomen bought the Rev. Crotwell a pottery bowl and pitcher to celebrate her nomination. Sadly, she was not elected a bishop. Little did the clergywomen know, the pottery broke while it was shipped to her. 

The Rev. Crotwell said she would not fix the pottery until a female was elected as bishop in the SEJ. In 1996, history was made when Bishop Kammerer was elected. Bishop Kammerer and the Rev. Crotwell then sat down and restored this pottery in celebration of a great milestone. This pottery is now kept in the North Carolina Conference in honor of the Rev. Crotwell’s legacy.

After hearing this story I looked around me at all the women, lay and clergy, and realized what they have had to go through to shatter the glass ceiling and prove to others that they are capable of ministry. It hit me standing there surrounded by these women how sad it is that these women had, and continue to have, to prove themselves in a way that is different from their male colleagues. Why can’t we live in a world of acceptance and encouragement where anyone can foster his or her call, whether it be to ordained ministry or lay ministry? History was made at this year’s SEJ, but why did it take so long? This should not be a problem that we are facing in 2016.

Bishop Kammerer and other clergywomen blazed a path for women in ministry. It was an honor to be in the room with these individuals as they celebrated five active women bishops in the SEJ. I encourage you to look around and help foster each other’s calls to whatever it may be. Be there for one another, lift each other up, don’t put others down.

Capture each moment,
Nick

 

What happened to John Wesley's Three Simple Rules?
5/18/2016

By Meghan Clouspy

Guest blogger is Meghan Clouspy, a rising senior at Shenandoah University majoring in Exercise Science. She is a student in the Faith Seeking Justice program. As part of that program, she is attending her first United Methodist General Conference.

It has been a wonderful opportunity being here in Portland, experiencing my very first General Conference. As a non-United Methodist student from Shenandoah University, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when walking through the doors of the Oregon Convention Center.

While sitting in the plenary over the past two days, I have been overwhelmed in a state of confusion trying to understand who was who, where I stood on each position being debated, and the fact that there is a strong potential of the church experiencing a schism. This is supposed to be the UNITED Methodist Church and I am seeing a strong lack of unity. Alongside of seeing a lack of unity, I have seen this conference bring a lot of confusion, growth, heartache, hostility, challenges, exhaustion and division within The United Methodist Church.

As a Christian insider and a United Methodist outsider… what frustrates me most about this conference is the fact that the three simple rules are overlooked here at General Conference. We learn in our Christian Leadership classes that John Wesley created the three simple rules of do no harm, do good and stay in love with God. The first of the three rules is being overlooked here at General Conference. If we are harming people on the way to doing good, we aren’t living the life that God intended for us. Our job as Christians is to love others in the way that Christ did.

I understand that we will always disagree with people. Families disagree daily, but they don’t stop loving each other because of their disagreement. So why would we harm others with our words and actions? We are the body of Christ and a family. We are one in Christ. We need to accept other people’s different beliefs. At the end of the day, I am not most passionate about sexuality issues. I am most passionate about having honest and just relationships; treating others with love, respect and humility.

On the ride to the airport, members of the Faith Seeking Justice Christian Leadership Program at Shenandoah were asked whether we expected to experience a situation similar to the tower of Babel or the day of Pentecost. Would we see a division or unity as a result of this conference and the discussions it brings to light? The Bible shows us how God can work not only through Pentecost but through Babel as well.

Through my studies at Shenandoah University with Faith Seeking Justice classes, I learned about Phyllis Tickle’s concept of a 500-year rummage sale. The 500-year rummage sale is a time when the Church periodically goes through its beliefs and practices, re-evaluates and makes changes. 499 years ago, the Protestant Reformation occurred. This was the division from the Roman Catholic Church, which produced the Protestant denominations we have today.

Approaching General Conference, my hope was that The United Methodist Church would be unified through this conference. My perspective is changing. Now, I don’t see the division as a necessarily bad thing in order to eliminate hostility. Feeling excluded and unwelcome is a terrible feeling that no one should feel as a child of God. I feel as though this division would eliminate hostility because people would be able to worship where they wanted to and to feel welcome without harm.

So maybe we are experiencing the 500-year rummage sale this week. Maybe this is also a scattering from the tower of Babel. Or maybe we will see another Pentecost in which we see the Holy Spirit binding us together through our differences in the name of Jesus. God’s plan is perfect and just, and I believe that sometimes God has to wreck us in order to help us see that a change needs to occur. Whatever the result may be that comes from General Conference. It is difficult because this impacts so many people. But change can be good, we just have to be open minded and not lose sight of John Wesley’s simple rules.

Through the Lens of an official member of the General Conference press team
5/14/2016

Have you ever thought about what goes into reporting on General Conference? Have you wanted to see what the Press Room looks like? Well lucky for you and all UMC nerds, I will give you the inside look.

During General Conference, just as our delegates do, members of the press come from around the world. Members of the press include communicators from United Methodist annual conferences, boards and agencies, caucuses and special interest groups as well as secular local news media. These communicators have special rooms and access to the floor. The Press Room is set up like a little city. There are interview rooms, editing rooms, a dining area, and an area where the conference is being broadcast live on two large screens. One thing is for sure – it is a well-oiled machine!

Coming into my first General Conference as a member of the communications team, I did not know what to expect in this area or how to report on such a huge conference. I was like a deer in headlights: What do I take video and pictures of? Who do I interview? Will they take time out of their day for me? Where do I set up my shot so I don’t get run over by an enthusiastic conference participant?

Luckily, the Virginia Conference delegates are awesome, well-spoken, and always volunteer for an interview. This has been a great experience and has really tested my editing skills. I never thought I could film, interview, edit and publish in less than an hour. Below are some pictures from behind the scenes.

Capture each moment,

Nick

 

Through the lens of a “Richmonder”
4/7/2016


You know you’re a Richmonder if:

  • You remember Ukrop’s before it was Martin’s.
  • You know any time is a good time for a Sugar Shack doughnut.
  • You know all about the random festivals that seem to pop up weekly and attend them.
  • You take an Uber to church.

Before I go on, let me explain what an Uber is to those of you who do not know. Uber is a taxi service used in cities around the world. A user will use their smartphone to call the car. All money exchanges and feedback are through the phone, which means you do not have to carry cash. These cars are much safer and cleaner than your average taxi. (In my not so humble opinion!)

My fiancé and I walk to Boulevard UMC on Sunday mornings from her apartment in Richmond. It is normally a pretty mile walk to church, but on this day it was far from pretty. While eating breakfast before church, we noticed it was cold and windy. Add spring’s pollen into that mixture, and no one wants to be outside. Because of our horrible spring allergies and the not-so-warm day outside, we decided to Uber to church. Just the thought of Ubering to church made me feel like such a city-dweller.

We called for the Uber and went downstairs to wait for it. When we got in the car a very nice older gentleman welcomed us and asked where we were going. We told him we were going to church. He looked amazed that younger people were dressed and ready to go to church on a Sunday morning. He told us that we were the first people ever that he has dropped off at a church. Later, he said, “Normally I am picking up people your age that look rough from overindulging the night before. It is nice to have someone your age in the car that knows what’s important.” This gentleman was very nice and got us to church quickly - one of the best drivers I have ever had!

Since we took an Uber to church we arrived about 10 minutes early. We took a seat, and shortly after, the Rev. Rachel May walked up and greeted us. She was surprised to see us there so early, especially the Sunday after Easter. We explained how we were lazy and did not want to walk in the cold wind and got a ride. She seemed really excited that one of her parishioners took an Uber to church. I must admit this is another time where I felt like a Richmonder!

After these reactions from both a stranger and a clergy person, I really started thinking, “What is so crazy about taking an Uber to church?” Is it the fact that a young person got in an Uber and was so eager to go to church that he told the driver all about it? Is it the fact that a young person paid for transportation to go to church? Is this what Christ was talking about when he said we should be making Disciples? Are Uber rides just the newest form of evangelism? 
Have you ever gotten a strange reaction when telling people you were going to church? I would love to hear about how you used it as a way to connect with someone and serve as a witness to them.

Capture each moment,
Nick

Through the Lens of a tired Video Editor
3/3/2016

 Having fun with
Pam Culler's 60th
Birthday!

With General Conference, Annual Conference and Jurisdictional Conference all coming up in the next few months, to say the conference office is busy is an understatement. We all have our projects and presentations we are starting to work on to prepare for these conferences in May, June and July respectively. Yes, I know it is only March 3! Normally, it is somewhat quiet as we are working. But sometimes, we like to have fun.

When I create a video I normally like to sit back and let my creative juices flow before diving into the nitty gritty. Sometimes these juices do not flow right away, or in the midst of hammering out the edits, I just need to get my mind off a video. It is at these times that I find myself tired and lose concentration. It is hard to stare at a computer screen for eight hours a day and stay on task. If you are like me, you know that mental breaks make all the difference. Having a mental break lets me recharge my mind while I think of new avenues to start or finish a video. These mental breaks could be as easy as a quick Google search of something interesting, a time where I tinker with videos mindlessly, or play a practical joke on someone in the office. Yes, even the employees here at the conference office take breaks to mess with each other. 


  Paulo Lopes, Bishop (Santa) Cho, Nick.

Having a mental break can be beneficial to multiple parties. Normally when I take a break, I like to walk around the building and talk to people. During this time I can see what others are working on in the building and get new video ideas, and even help with some of their projects. 

Maddie Pillow, Advocate editor, has a huge dry erase board in her office that she uses to brainstorm. I like to see what’s on the board and see if I can help her find a story or give her ideas on subjects. I believe this is where the most fruitful work comes from. We are collaborating together and looking at the big picture. This big picture can then be broken down into smaller projects and articles. 


  Was it 2-ply?

My challenge for you is to think about mental breaks at work.  How can they help you? What can you do during your break that can help others do their work? I would love to hear from you about how you take mental breaks at work. What do you do? Any fun office pranks that you have pulled on someone?

Through the lens of a weary traveler
2/2/2016

Two weeks ago Madeline Pillow (Advocate editor), Linda Rhodes (Director of Communications), and I traveled to Portland, Oregon, for two conferences. One was the United Methodist Association of Communicators, where some 100 communicators from around the United States came together to network, share wisdom about the field, and gain new insight into effective ways to communicate. 

The second conference we attended was the Pre-General Conference gathering. This is where communicators and General Conference delegates can come and get a preview of what is going to happen in May. We caught up with Martha Stokes, Rob Vaughn and Denise Honeycutt, all of whom are delegates from the Virginia Conference. This conference was really insightful for me because I have never seen this side of General Conference. 

Enough with all the serious stuff! Between the meetings and busy schedules we were able to have fun. Brenda Capen (Database Manager/Webmaster) was unable to come with us to this conference, but hated to miss the Portland experience. So Madeline had a very ingenious idea – a flat Brenda! Yes, kind of like a flat Stanley, but instead it was Brenda. We decided that throughout our adventure, we would take pictures of flat Brenda enjoying the trip with us, and share them on Facebook. 

We arrived in Portland a day early, so we decided to explore the city, taking flat Brenda wherever we went. We sampled plenty of the fine cuisine that Portland had to offer, as well as the sights around the river. Portland reminds me of a larger version of Richmond. If you took Richmond, put it on the West Coast, and stretched it some, you would have Portland. 

The group of Virginians attending the conferences gathered for a meal at one of the most interesting restaurants I have ever been to, Oregon Public House.  What made it so interesting was that it is 100% non-profit. Not only did you get to choose your meal, you also had the opportunity to choose a charity to which your meal’s proceeds would be donated. Oregon Public House was opened by a pastor who wanted to do something for the community while providing education on non-profits. I would highly recommend checking out their website for more information. http://oregonpublichouse.com/ Who wants to start one of these in Virginia? You have the support of both my time, money and taste buds! 

Courtesy of Winter Storm Jonas, we were given more time to explore Portland while waiting on the East Coast to dig itself out. By this point, I was ready to be home playing in the snow with my Newfie, but no ... we were STUCK! I had to think of the positive in this situation. Because of the storm, I was able to get to know Martha, Rob and Denise much better than I did before the trip. I was also able to see another part of the country that I had not seen before. But the best part about being stuck in Portland, was NOT being stuck in an airport.

This weary traveler finally made it home and in bed around 2 a.m. Monday.

When is a time when you have had to find the good in a bad situation? I would love to hear about it in the comments below! I would also love to hear any Portland travel and dining tips for our trip back in May. 

Capture each moment, 
Nick

The Reality of Human Trafficking
1/12/2016

Susan Pullin is our guest blogger for this post. She is an intern in the Communications Office and is a senior at Randolph-Macon College.

Through the Lens of an Intern

True or False:

1. Human trafficking requires moving foreigners across national borders or at least involves some form of travel or transportation.

2. A trafficking victim might be free to go places, appear happy, and even advertise for more customers.

3. A woman who comes to your hotel cannot be a victim of human trafficking because she is obviously not being held against her will.

4. A woman who agrees to engage in prostitution can still be a victim of human trafficking.

5. Pimp-controlled prostitution is a form of human trafficking.

6. If a girl is 16 and she has willingly decided to work for a pimp that does not use force, fraud or coercion in any way, she is a child prostitute and cannot be considered a victim of human trafficking.

7. Only girls who are brought in from foreign countries to perform prostitution can be considered victims of human trafficking.

8. A person can’t be considered a trafficking victim unless there is evidence of physical violence or kidnapping.

9. A person who is paid for their work in the commercial sex industry can’t be considered a victim of human trafficking.

10. Victims of human trafficking are desperate to escape and will immediately identify themselves as victims to potential rescuers.

Before last Thursday I’m not sure if I could answer some of these questions correctly. I can freely admit that I had no idea what human trafficking really was and how often it occurred right here in the United States. My name is Susan, and I am the one responsible for the media blitz on human trafficking yesterday (Monday, Jan. 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day) on the conference Facebook page. I am an intern with the conference Communications Department. Part of my job as an intern is to help maintain the conference’s social media pages. So I was excited to be able to handle this assignment by myself.

There were two things that I never knew about human trafficking. The first was that human trafficking is the second largest crime industry in the world. In 2015, the United States had over 4,000 reported human trafficking cases. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to control victims for the purpose of commercial sex acts or labor services.

Human trafficking is broken down into two specific types of trafficking. Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues within the sex industry,including residential brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs and street prostitution. Sex trafficking generates $9.5 billion in revenue every single year in the U.S. Labor trafficking has been found in diverse labor settings, including domestic work, small businesses, large farms and factories. Men, women and children are affected by human trafficking.

The second thing I learned is that Virginia is ranked ninth out of all 50 states in the number of trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. In 2015, there were 112 cases. Of the 112 cases, 91 were female, 14 were male, 71 were adults and 23 were minors.

There is a positive side to all of this negativity. There are two groups that are very prominent groups in Virginia that are advocating for human trafficking victims. The first is the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative. The second is Richmond Justice Initiative. Both of these groups are advocates for educating people about what human trafficking is and what steps we as a community can take to help eradicate human trafficking in Virginia. The largest step that Virginia has taken in the past five years is getting a law passed that clearly states that human trafficking is illegal. In April 2015, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a law making human trafficking a Class 3 felony in Virginia.

Human trafficking can be stopped, we just need to be there to help out. Some of the things we can do are: get educated about what human trafficking is and what the signs are, host a fundraiser, donate to/volunteer with an established rescue movement, and, finally, pray. Pray for healing and hope that one day soon we can say that human trafficking is no longer a problem in our nation and around the world. Together we can help end human trafficking.

Go back and look at those true or false questions. How do you think you did? Check out the answers below, and let us know how you did.

Grace and Peace,
Susan Pullin

1. False. Under the federal trafficking statutes, the crime of human trafficking does not require transportation.

2. True. Human trafficking is about exploitation, not movement and not restraint.

3. False. A person can be a victim of human trafficking even if there are no elements of physical restraint, physical force or physical bondage.

4. False. It is impossible to consent to being trafficked.

5. True. Any woman whose actions are controlled and coerced by a pimp can be considered a victim of human trafficking.

6. False. Anyone under 18 is a child. Any child that is being sexually exploited is automatically considered a victim of human trafficking, even if there is no force, fraud or coercion. Consent is irrelevant.

7. False. It can also happen to boys, men and women.

8. False. In many cases, traffickers use a combination of direct violence and mental abuse.

9. False. Paying a victim does not invalidate the crime of human trafficking if there is evidence of exploitation, force, fraud, deception, abuse of power or coercion

10. False. Often victims do not identify themselves as trafficking victims. Victims frequently blame themselves and feel shame when they shouldn’t.

The Top Five in 2015
1/5/2016

The Communications office decided to compile a list of our top five most viewed videos on Facebook and the top five conference news stories of 2015 as we look back on the past year.

The Five Most Viewed Videos: 

To View the videos click on the hyper link 

1. The United Methodist Day at General Assembly with 2,459 views. This video was created when over 200 VAUMC Members joined together in Richmond. They spoke with their representatives and shared their concerns on bills and leglislative matters. 

2. Warsaw UMC: How to Reach New People with 2,108 views. The Rev. Emily Moore and her congregation have embraced this training and have thrived because of it. This video was created to highlight the accomplishments that they have had in reaching new people. 

3. "Did You Know?" Clergy Facts with 1,909 views. "Did you know" is a video series created to provide viewers with facts about different parts of our conference. This series covers anything from clergy facts to different missions that are happening around the conference.

4. All God's Children Camp   with 1,868 views. This camp is "a place where kids can be kids." The conference helps sponsor a camp where inner-city children with an incerated parent can come and have no worries. They participate in a wide range of activities while also taking classes to help with their future. 

5. Fieldstone UMC Celebrates 15 years of Worship with 1,861 views. Fieldstone was a new church start that has flourished over the past 15 years in the New River Valley. This worshipping community focuses on mission outside of the church walls while bringing others closer to Christ. 

The Editor's Choice: 

1. The Imagine No Malaria Initiative
This  initiative was introduced by Bishop Young Jin Cho with the support of clergy and 
laity at the 2014 Annual Conference with the goal of raising $1 million dollars to save at 
least 100,000 lives from malaria. As of Sept. 30, 2015, the goal was met and surpassed 
and continues to be supported by the conference. In 2008, the United Methodist Church 
as a denomination committed to join the global fight against malaria, pledging to raise 
$75 million dollars for the campaign. 
Learn more: http://vaumc.org/pages/news/2015va-news/2015vanews_conference-exceeds-inm-goal 


2. Discipleship Circles gained momentum
Discipleship Circles is a new movement with a new purpose: new opportunities that 
will help leaders throughout the Virginia Conference support each other spiritually, 
collaborate with each other for increased fruitfulness and hold each other accountable 
for constant improvement. 
For additional information about Discipleship Circles, contact the Center for Lay 
Leadership Excellence at (800) 768-6040 or (804) 521-1154 
or cheryledleyworford@vaumc.org. 
Visit the conference page at http://www.vaumc.org/discipleshipcircles.   

3. Delegates voted on at Annual Conference, Petition 14 moves to General Conference 
Delegates for General Conference, Southeastern Jurisdictional and alternates were 
voted on at Annual Conference. For a full list, visit: 
http://www.vaumc.org/BallotsAC2015. 
By a 989-868 vote, the Virginia Annual Conference session approved a petition to 
General Conference to remove the following language from the Book of Discipline: “The 
United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and 
considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” Read Bishop Cho’s letter 
about the vote and Petition 14: 
http://www.vaumc.org/pages/bishop/bishopchopetitionletter.

4. ‘A Day of Holy Conversation’ Advocate issue one of the most popular issues
Following the ‘A Day of Holy Conversation’ on Nov. 22, 2014, the January 2015 issue of 
the Advocate brought together in-depth reaction and coverage of the event for its 
readership, making the issue one of 2015’s most popular Advocate issues. 
The event took place as a result of Bishop Cho's request that the Virginia 
Conference Common Table for Church Vitality facilitate conversation around the 
conference on the subject of human sexuality. 
Learn more about the event, here: 
http://www.vaumc.org/pages/news/2014vanews/2014vanews_holytalkwrap.

5. Bishop Young Jin Cho expresses solidarity with Richmond area faith leaders
Joining nearly 100 other Richmond area faith leaders on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, Bishop Cho expressed solidarity with the Muslim community and condemned recent public expressions of religious discrimination. Learn more about this story: 
http://www.vaumc.org/pages/news/2015va-news/2015vanews_standtogether.

 

The Cross and Flame is a registered trademark, and the use is supervised by the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) of The United Methodist Church. Permission to use the Cross and Flame must be obtained from the GCFA, Attn: Legal Department, PO Box 340029, Nashville, TN 37203-0029; phone 615-369-2334; fax 615-369-2330

Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

The Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church
10330 Staples Mill Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060
P.O. Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23058-5606
1-800-768-6040 or (804) 521-1100
Click here for directions to the Center