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News from the Virginia Conference - January 14, 2020

Bishop Lewis shares updated statement on "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation"
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis shared an updated statement Jan. 17 on the "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation." Learn more at the link. More... 

View recorded livestream concerning "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation"
It was love of The United Methodist Church that brought 16 — sometimes hostile — people to a point of agreement for a path forward for the worldwide church. Even though the agreement is to split, participants still talked about loving each other in a livestreamed discussion Jan. 13 to explain how the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation was formed. “We started with quite a bit of tension and, really, hostility in the room,” said Bishop Christian Alsted, Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area. “But a sense of hope and the possibility of finding common ground emerged. This was a rollercoaster ride … sometimes we wanted to get off but all stayed.” Front and center of the group was famed mediator Kenneth Feinberg, who helped the United Methodists representing strongly held, diverse viewpoints, get to a yes. This unofficial group of representatives from various United Methodist advocacy groups and bishops from across the world has agreed on a proposal (released Jan. 3) that would provide a pathway for separation of churches or annual conferences that wish to leave the denomination to start a new denomination(s), but only if approved by the United Methodist General Conference in May. Read more about this proposal and others coming before the General Conference. United Methodist News conducted a live-streamed interview on Jan. 13 with a panel of group members.  You can view the recording at the link. More...  Learn more about the panel discussion with this UM News story.

Participate in Scout Sunday
Scout Sunday is of particular importance this year as 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the formal relationship genesis between the Boy Scouts of America and The United Methodist Church. The original agreement was signed on February 12, 1920.  Each and every church in the Virginia Conference is highly encouraged to recognize this milestone event.  Even if your church has no Scouting, you can still support the program. The United Methodist Church is the number one sponsor of Scouting BSA units with more youth and more adults than any faith denomination in the United States! The UMC generally celebrates with Scouts clearly serving in the Sunday program: Scouts can usher, present performing arts, read Scripture, sing, as well as be presented their recognition awards from their efforts in the PRAY/God & Country program. This year, celebrations occur on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Contact Virginia Annual Conference Scouting Coordinator Bill Chaffin with any questions at More...

UMFS shares statement on A Way Forward
United Methodist Family Services (UMFS) President and CEO Greg Peters shared on Jan. 21 a statement regarding their commitment to being unwavering champions for all children and families. "At UMFS, we celebrate diversity, we value inclusion, and we believe in a world where caring, opportunity and generosity are passed on from generation to generation. We believed this yesterday. We believe this today. And we will believe this tomorrow." More... 

Tom Berlin featured in podcast about adaptive churches
The Rev. Tom Berlin, lead pastor of Floris UMC in Herndon, Va., was featured in a Lewis Center for Church Leadership focused on "The New Face of Missional Ministry." More... 

Mark your calendars for 2020 Lay Servant Academy
Lay Servant Academy will be held from Friday, July 17 to Sunday, July 19 at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. Course listings and registration will be available in March. The 2020 theme is "God's Work, Our Hands." To be added to the mailing list, email

Submit nominations now for Harry Denman, One Matters awards
Is anyone in your congregation someone who goes above and beyond when it comes to discipleship?  Perhaps they are involved in youth or family ministry and have helped many people to have a relationship with God or they are involved in a local mission that has influenced lives for Christ. They can be clergy, laity and/or youth.  Each year the Board of Discipleship recognizes one person in each category who displays discipleship in their lives.  Nominations for Harry Denman awards are due no later than midnight on Mar. 2, 2020.
Are you a church that has experienced a positive turnaround in professions of faith and/or baptisms?  Has your church gone from zero Professions of Faith in the past to a positive number of Professions of Faith in 2019?  If so, you may be eligible for the One Matters Award. Applications are due no later than midnight on Mar. 2, 2020. Nominations forms may be sent to

Mentor opportunities: All God's Children Camp
All God's Children Camp, a camp for children ages 7-12 with an incarcerated parent, is looking for mentors to volunteer one week at summer camp for 2020. The children spend a week at overnight camp where, through Bible study, worship and devotions, they learn they are somebody and that God truly loves them. They also participate in all the activities camp has to offer (archery, swimming, paddle boarding, canoeing, fishing and much more). Please consider giving a week of your time this summer and come be a mentor at camp!  For more information, contact Lori Smith at or 571-245-9591.  You can also check out for forms and other information.  The weeks are below:

June 14-19 (Camp Chanco on the James)
July 26-July 31 (Occohannock on the Bay)
August 9-14 (Camp Chance on the James)

Is God calling you? Learn more about Calling 21 internships
Calling 21 is inviting college-aged young people who are discerning a call into ministry for a nine-week internship in local churches. During the internship, participants will acquire knowledge on the ins and outs of the church life from the perspective of the staff and lead volunteers. This may include leading in worship, meeting with small groups, hospital visits, working with youth in mission, or many other ways the church is actively involved in the community and world. Calling 21 is also seeking host churches for the Calling 21 summer internship. Interns spend eight weeks with the host church, learning what it means to work in the church environment. Calling 21 interns are discerning a call to ministry, which may be toward ordination or as laity. The church's role is to provide opportunities to experience church life from a staff perspective. Host churches also provide room and board for the intern. For more information, visit the link. More...

Help celebrate Heart Havens Month
February is Heart Havens month. Help Heart Havens share the message of inclusion and empowerment across the conference. Heart Havens is an organization that empowers adults with a developmental disability to live and thrive in their community. Electronic resources for Heart Havens month can be found on their website. There is still availability for speakers in February whether it's Sunday morning worship or a UMM/UMW or other small group meeting, Heart Havens would love to visit your church and share about Heart Havens. Please contact Jennifer Boyden at 804-237-6097 or to learn more or if you'd like to schedule a Heart Havens speaker visit your church. More...

Seminary is affordable: Learn more from Wesley on Jan. 16
Are you or someone you know wanting to respond to God’s call to service, but not sure how to take on more student debt for theological education? Wesley recognizes this challenge, and is committed to helping their students as much as possible to graduate without additional debt that constrains their choices in ministry. Wesley has many merit scholarships that offer partial or full tuition for your Master degree. The deadline to apply is Feb. 1, 2020 for the upcoming academic year.

A few of scholarships include:

•    The Next Call Scholarship offers support for “second career” vocations. Available to both full- and part-time students, up to six 50 percent tuition awards will be awarded,
•    The Rising Generation Scholarship Rising Generation Ministry Awards 2020 offers 100 percent tuition-free merit scholarships for 10 Award Recipients.  To support them, this scholarship affirms Wesley's ongoing support for those daring to follow God's call and discern how they will serve at this challenging time in the life of the church – and helping those called to stay the course.
•    The 100 percent tuition Latinx Scholarship seeks to support emerging Latinx/Hispanic leaders for ministries both within and beyond the church. Available for both full and part-time students, up to six 100 percent tuition awards are offered each academic year. 

Find out more about all of Wesley's merit -based scholarships at an upcoming webinar, The Wesley Hour, Jan. 16, 2020, noon-12:45 p.m. Eastern. Join current seminarian Liz and recent graduate Elijah to answer all your questions, and get all your questions answered about scholarship, degree programs and more. More...

Applications and nominations for Shenandoah University Youth Theology Institute now open
Do you have a current high schooler in your life who is ready to learn about how their faith in Jesus Christ calls them to live and be in the world in a way that seeks justice? Nominate and encourage them to apply for the Shenandoah University Youth Theology Institute (SUYTI). SUYTI is a two-week, credit-bearing program for any young person who is currently in high school (that is, any student who will be a rising sophomore through recent high school graduate this summer). Students spend one week on SU’s campus in Winchester, Va., and one week on the campus of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, and through a daily rhythm of worship, academic study, experiential and service learning, and (of course) sabbath rest, learn to become stronger Christian leaders in their local communities. The 2020 Institute will run from July 19-August 1, 2020, and thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment, students will have all that SUYTI has to offer (room and board, program expenses, and three college credits) at a cost of only $200 per student. To nominate a student or to apply, visit For more information, contact Ian Urriola, Director of the SUYTI, by calling (540) 665-5453 or emailing

Bailey Scholar application deadline Feb. 3
Do you know a young person who is sensing a call to ministry? The A. Purnell Bailey Pre-Ministerial Program at Randolph-Macon College (R-MC) in Ashland is a scholarship that offers half-tuition during a student’s freshman and sophomore years at R-MC and full-tuition during the junior and senior years. The Bailey Program includes weekly meetings for vocational discernment, creating a strong, supportive peer group. During a student’s tenure in the program, there are many opportunities to visit with theology school representatives, spend time with persons in a variety of professional ministry roles, and reflect on a personal sense of call.  There are two internship opportunities, one for academic credit and one with a financial stipend. Randolph-Macon College enrolls over 1,500 undergraduate students who pursue their academic paths in 54 areas of study.  The oldest United Methodist college in continuous operation, the college is proud to be home to the Bailey Scholars program helping to prepare a new generation of leaders in the Church. Online Bailey Scholar applications are being accepted now, with a deadline of Feb. 3, 2020.  The program is open to Christian students of any denomination or Christian tradition.  Learn more at or by contacting the Rev. Kendra Grimes, director of the Bailey Scholars Program, at or (804)752-7374.

Fresh Expressions grant available
Are you considering a fresh expression of church?  A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet part of any church.The Church Development Team is pleased to announce the availability of $500 microgrants for new Fresh Expressions of church.To apply, please visit and click on the link under Fresh Expression Grant Request.

Church in Mozambique continues to grow
The Rev. Glenn Rowley, conference director for the Center of Justice and Missional Excellence, traveled to Mozambique in mid-November to meet with the bishop of the Mozambique Conference and explore new options for multiple conferences to continue in partnership with the country. During Rowley’s visit with Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala, he and three persons from the Missouri Conference met the bishop’s staff and members of the 2020 General Conference Mozambique delegation. They also discussed ideas for a model for multiple conferences to work together in new partnership with the United Methodist Church in that country and to learn how U.S. partners can be supportive of the Mozambique delegates and the partnership with Mozambique. The time spent talking about partnership made Rowley reflective on his own connection to the conference and the Virginia Conference’s ongoing connection to it. More...

Bulletin insert, Sunday Advocate, available in English, Spanish
The Sunday Advocate is a weekly, single-page digest of United Methodist information, news, and resources distributed electronically across the Virginia Conference and suitable for reproduction as a Sunday bulletin insert. It is sent out each Tuesday and the Spanish translation is available every Thursday. Visit the website to view; you can also have it sent to you via email each week by emailing More...

Begin 2020 right: Start the 2020 Bible Challenge
Bishop Lewis is challenging the Virginia Conference once again to join her in reading the Bible all year long--this year with a thematic reading plan. Information can be found on the conference website. More... 

Job opportunities available on conference website
You can find job opportunities from around the connection on the conference website. For details, follow the link. More... 

Death notices, obituaries available on conference website
For informational purposes, you can access recent death notice and obituaries on the conference website. More... 

Reimbursement for Advocate magazine subscriptions available
If your subscription to the Virginia Advocate runs past 2019, you may contact the conference Communications Office to get a reimbursement or to donate your remaining balance to ongoing communications efforts or UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). Contact the Communications Office at 804-521-1110 or email expiration date can be found on the mailing label of the magazine. Reimbursements will be accepted until Feb. 1, 2020.

Bishop invites laity to February 2020 gathering
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis is inviting laity from around the conference for a time of connection following her return from medical leave on Feb. 8, 2020 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Woodlake UMC in Chesterfield and at five other satellite locations. "It is my deep desire to reconnect with you in a personal and special way having been away from you for six months on medical leave,” Lewis said. “Let us come together both in person and through satellite locations to have a time of worship, fellowship, anointing, sharing our hearts, and reconnecting.  I want to hear from you and I want to share my journey with you." More...  View video about the event.

Danville flood recovery nearly complete
In October 2018 Hurricane Michael dumped six inches of rain on the city of Danville in 90 minutes. Less than four weeks before the remnants of the hurricane hit, the Dan River had been at levels not seen in Danville since the remnants of Hurricane Fran in the fall of 1996. The excess rushing water flooded homes and businesses and destroyed roads. Now the recovery is nearly complete but teams are still needed for early 2020. More... 

Register now for 2020 Faithful Aging Conference
The 2020 Faithful Aging Conference will be held on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020, at Bonsack UMC in Roanoke. The Rev. Dr. Richard (Rick) H. Gentzler Jr., Tennessee Conference director of Encore Ministry of The United Methodist Church, will be the opening keynote presenter. Gentzler, a much sought after speaker, teacher, and writer, is an internationally recognized leader in the field of aging and older adult ministries. He is author of numerous books and hundreds of articles on aging and older adult ministry. His latest book, An Age of Opportunity: Intentional Older Adult Ministry, was published in 2018. Other books and resources written by him include: Aging & Ministry in the 21st Century: An Inquiry Approach; The Graying of the Church; Designing an Older Adult Ministry; Aging: God’s Challenge to Church and Synagogue; Forty-Sixty: A Guide for Midlife Adults Who Want to Make a Difference; and, Rock of Ages (a large print worship and song book). For additional information or questions, contact Martha Stokes, director of Church and Community Relations with Pinnacle Living, by phone at 804-474-8718 or by email at More...

Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation event to be held in 2020
"Songs for the Journey" will be the theme for the Virginia Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation event from Mar. 15-20, 2020. The event will be held at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond and will be a week of renewal, worship, prayer and learning with faculty, Dr. Don E. Saliers and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. More...


Christians should practice ‘unusual kindness’
“They showed us unusual kindness” is the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a 112-year ecumenical tradition seeking to encourage Christians to overcome divisiveness. “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a highly appropriate call for all of us to pray for that divine gift,” said Bishop B. Michael Watson, ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops and bishop-in-residence at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mountain Brook, Ala. “Now is a wonderful time for United Methodist Christians to unite in prayer for fresh expressions of unusual kindness.” The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is Jan.18-25. More...

Music educator devoted to preserving spirituals
A 9-year-old boy attending his great-grandmother’s funeral sat listening, enraptured by “Certainly Lord,” an old spiritual song. In that moment, the direction of James W. Story’s life was settled. “I just sat there listening to the worship and the rhythm,” said Story, the director of music at Gallatin First United Methodist Church in Gallatin, Tennessee. “I knew at that point in time that music moved me.” During his long career teaching music at two area high schools and Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Story pursued his self-appointed mission to keep African American spirituals relevant to future generations. He’s produced two stage shows and a CD so far on the topic. The CD is “New World Spirituals: 1619-2019.” “There’s a generation of young folk that really have no idea,” he said. “A lot of people don’t want to talk about African American (spiritual) music because they are old slave songs. But one must remember that those songs were part of the civil rights struggle.” Story was influenced by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), whose most popular work, “New World Symphony,” was influenced by African American melodies derived from slavery in North America. “I am now satisfied that the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies,” Dvořák said to The New York Herald in May of 1893. “These must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.” The stories behind many spirituals are just as interesting as the melodies and lyrics, Story believes. More...

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