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News from the Virginia Conference - October 15, 2019

Best practices for church finances
As with any business, churches can find themselves vulnerable to situations such as embezzlement and fraud if proper procedures are not put in place to safeguard funds. Learn more about best practices for your church in regards to church finances with this article providing information from the conference Treasurer's Office.  More...

Plan to study at Wesley Theological Seminary
Start 2020 off right – plan to study at Wesley Theological Seminary! Need a time of refreshment following the busy Advent/Christmas season? Why not take a retreat week and come to J-Term at Wesley? Exciting courses will be taught over an intensive one- or two-week period in January 2020 – take the course for credit or audit (Attention, Wesley graduates: all alumni may audit one of these J-Term classes for free).
Some of our J-Term courses:
•    A Black Theological Critique of Spike Lee  -  Dr. Asa Lee
•    Worship in Popular Culture – Dr. Anna Petrin
•    Faith on Film – Dr. Deryl Davis
•    Bodies, Books and God – Dr.  Katherine Brown

Wesley’s spring term class selections have just been announced. Choose from a wide range of challenging topics in a format that fits with your busy life – days, evenings, weekends, online, and hybrid. Choose from courses like:

•   BioEthics and Pastoral Care – Dr. Sondra Wheeler (daytime/afternoon)
•   Caring for Community Through Non-Profit  Organizations – Dr. Jana Strukova (Hybrid -online/weekend)
•   The Holy in Washington, D.C. Art: Art as Embodiment – Dr. Aaron Rosen (daytime/afternoon)
•   Swords, Spaceships and Salvation – Dr. Rick Elgendy (online)
•   Ecology and Moral Community - Dr. Joe Bush (daytime/afternoon)
•   When does life begin and end? - Rabbi Fred Reiner (daytime/morning)
•   The Art of Toni Morrison and the Problem of Theodicy – Dr. Josiah Young (evenings)

Deadline to register is Dec. 15, 2019. For more information about Wesley’s J-Term or spring courses in 2020, contact Wesley Admissions today at or call 202-885-8659 or go to

Five ways to help church staff succeed
How can your congregation help those in paid staff roles perform most effectively? Ann Michel of the Lewis Center staff outlines five ways to clarify expectations and help church staff develop their professional skills. More... 

Discipleship Ministries: How to start small groups online teaching series to open Oct. 28
One of the gifts the church offers is community - specifically, small groups where participants can gather to experience acceptance, belonging, and nurture as well as challenge and encouragement for the journey of faith. You and your church are invited to be part of this online course, along with other churches, to enhance your small group ministry. To preregister for this free course from Discipleship Ministries, visit the link. More...

Register now for Wounded Hearts-Healing Love Retreat
From Dec. 6-8, 2019 there will be the Wounded Hearts-Healing Love Spiritual Retreat for the single again from divorce, separation, or death at Overlook Retreat in Keezletown, Va. Partipants will eat together, study together, discuss and delve into hurts and pains in a weekend girded in prayer. Register online for the event at

Richmond Youth choir JAM turns 25
Richmond Youth Choir JAM is celebrating 25 years of singing God’s praises. This ecumenical youth choir festival is open to singers in grades 6-12 and draws participants from several different denominations in the Richmond area as well as from Northern Virginia, the Tidewater area, southwest Virginia, and North Carolina. Youth choirs of all sizes as well as individual singers are welcome to join. This year’s festival will be Nov. 22-23 at Reveille UMC, 4200 Cary Street Road, Richmond, VA 23221. Mark Miller of Drew University will be the guest director. The festival chorus will be performing several of Miller’s compositions as well as other selections. The final concert will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23 at Reveille UMC. It is free and open to the public. A love offering will be taken. As an encore following the program, all Youth Choir JAM “alumni” singers and directors in the audience are invited to join the chorus in singing “Creation of Peace” by Mark Miller. For more information or to get the link for this piece, contact Ruth Lewandowski at or 804-837-7541.

Special Sunday: United Methodist Student Day is Nov. 24
Celebrate United Methodist Student Day Sunday on a date that is convenient for your congregation. Official date: Nov. 24, 2019. Across the country, the people of The United Methodist Church are serving the people God loves in Jesus’ name. We’re doing it at home, but so often we’d like to do more.

-We want to serve those in other places who are suffering.
-We want to offer spiritual words of hope and life.
-And we want to be well-equipped to do both!
But the reality for most of us is that our responsibilities—home, family, work—don’t allow us to engage with every need we’d like to meet. Right now there are UMC young people—who might not have had the resources to attend a school of their choice, or, for some, any school at all—who’ve been sent by you into the world God loves because of your giving to United Methodist Student Day. When you give generously you are support these students as they prepare for a life that unites faith with knowledge. What no one person or congregation can do alone, we’re doing together. More...

Sign up now for conference fall youth retreat
In divided times it's easier to stick with our tribe, our comfort. Jesus offers another way that seems harder but could change the world! The conference Center for Next Generation Ministries can't wait to see the youth for the conference youth retreat on Nov. 15. Join hundreds of middle and high school youth exploring what it takes and what it looks like to be ONE! Spots are limited this year, so move quickly. Find updates, speaker bios, and videos at For questions, email or call 804-521-1135.

Share your favorite Christmas/Advent hymns in final Advocate magazine
The final Advocate magazine, the December Advocate, will share stories about hymns sung for the Advent and Christmas seasons. Share with us: what are your favorite songs to sing at Advent and Christmas? What songs are meaningful to you during these seasons or have a special memory attached to them? Send your thoughts to by Oct. 21.

2020 Initiatives of Hope pilgrimage heads to Cambodia
Travel with the Rev. Glenn Rowley, director of the conference Center for Justice and Missional Excellence, to visit the rapidly-growing Methodist Church of Cambodia (MCC) from Jan. 25- Feb. 8, 2020. You will experience the energetic faith of Cambodian Christians while visiting several churches, schools, dormitories, and mission projects of the MCC. You will have opportunities to share your faith, learn about the strength of a mission partnership and  experience the beauty of this ancient culture tempered by a history affected by war and genocide.Cost is $1,850 which includes airfare, hotel rooms, ground transportation, meals and emergency health/accident insurance. There are only 10 spots available. For details and to apply to go, contact Rowley at or 804-521-1143.

Cabinet issues updated policy on clergy salary increases
Effective Sept. 1, 2019, charge conferences may give Cost of Living Increases (COLA) (2.6 percent in 2019) for clergy for the year 2020, if the church/charge has improved by a minimum of 10 percent in their conference and district apportionment giving in 2018. For charge conferences 2020, setting salaries for 2021, another cost of living increase may be given for churches/charges that have improved by an additional 10 percent in their conference and district apportionment giving in 2019, provided a written plan to work toward paying 100 percent as soon as possible has been approved by the district superintendent. The Cabinet will revisit this policy in June 2021 for the 2021 charge conferences, for 2022 salaries. District superintendents have discretion to call special charge conferences in January 2020, if churches/charges who did not improve 10 percent in 2018, but do improve 10 percent in 2019, so that clergy may receive a COLA increase for 2020. As per current policy, churches/charges that pay 100 percent of their conference and district apportionments may give unrestricted salary increases to their clergy. More...

2020 dates announced for All God's Children Camp
All God's Children Camp 2020 dates are set!  At camp, children, ages 7 to 12, with an incarcerated mother or father, spend a week at camp, participating in activities such as boating, swimming, hiking, archery, music, crafts, Bible study, and conflict resolution.  Partnering with Virginia United Methodist camps, All God’s Children Camp provides a week of sanctuary for children who face so many challenges in their lives: economic poverty; temporary living conditions; loneliness; low self-esteem; violence; and drugs.
Check out the dates below and then pray about becoming one of the 90 mentors needed to make this summer possible. After that, download the mentor application and send it to the address on the application form.
June 14-19 @ Camp Chanco on the James (Richmond area)
July 26-31 @ Occohannock on the Bay (Eastern Shore)
August 9-14 @Camp Chanco on the James (Richmond area)

For more information, contact Lori Smith at or 571-245-9591.  Visit the website at for more information and to download applications.

Join UMMen for United Methodist Give Day
Join the conference United Methodist Men on Oct. 21 for United Methodist Give Day. Learn more about how to take part and give at the link. More...

Common Table offering local church ministry grants
The Rev. Dr. Ted Smith, Virginia Conference Director of Connectional Ministries, is pleased to announce the availability of grant funds specifically for new local church ministries. The grant is a Special Ministries Grant for the 2020 calendar year. Fund eligibility includes: ministries that are specifically through local churches, ministries that began in the 2019 calendar year or proposed 2020 ministries, ministries that have not previously been funded by any conference funding organizations. Funds are also limited below the normal $10,000 grant level. Applications are available at and should be submitted by Nov. 1 to be considered.

Help provide aid to Bahamas through UMCOR
As Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on the Bahamas, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) awarded a solidarity grant to Bahamas Methodist Habitat, the Disaster Ministry of the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church. This grant provides immediate, emergency short-term funding to address the basic human needs of those affected by this catastrophic storm. You can join with UMCOR by donating to our disaster response and recovery funds. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.
Give to International Disaster Response and Recovery (Advance # 982450)
Give to United States Disaster Response and Recovery (Advance # 901670

Upcoming events for youth, young adults
Exploration 2019, Nov. 1-3, is an event for college students who are exploring a call into ministry. Exploration creates sacred space for young adults, ages 18-26, to be in meaningful fellowship, passionate worship,theological reflection, and practical workshops as they discern whether God’s call on their life is to ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church and what faithful steps they can take in response. For more information, go to Exploration 2019 or contact Joanna Dietz in the Center for Clergy Excellence at

Valuing the Voices in Our Church is an opportunity for high school  sophomores, juniors, and seniors to come together to explore their own gifts and graces for leadership, consider what vocation God is calling them to and to hear and grow in appreciation of a diverse chorus of voices who are leading in the church today. Participants will gather at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. on Saturday, Oct. 26. The remaining meetings will be virtual throughout the year. For more information, go to Valuing the Voices in Our Church.

Scholarships and Loans are available for seminarians. Contact Joanna Dietz ( in the Center for Clergy Excellence for more information about scholarships and loans or either of the above events. Due date for scholarships and loans is Oct. 13. More...

Applications now open for Foundation grants
Now is the time for churches, districts and ministries across the conference to consider how they may apply for available grants from the Foundation. The deadline for completed applications is Oct. 31, 2019.  Distributions will be made in January 2020. To learn more about Foundation grants, you may visit:

United Methodist churches invited to Unwrap Christmas in communities around the globe
When it comes to what matters most at Christmas, people say that it’s spending time with family and friends. United Methodist Communications’ 2019 Unwrap Christmas event campaign is designed to help local churches offer meaningful places for people to connect with one another throughout the Advent season. United Methodist Communications is supporting these outreach efforts by offering event grants and other resources to local United Methodist churches. Congregations are encouraged to plan events, such as free cocoa stands in busy shopping areas, toy giveaway or food packaging experiences, holiday music concerts in parks or live Nativity scenes, as a way to connect people with faith communities. Grant recipients will receive promotional items and resources for the events. Congregations that are interested in hosting an Unwrap Christmas event may apply for a limited number of event grants while they are still available. Even without an event grant, churches can host an Unwrap Christmas event using a planning guide developed by United Methodist Communications to make organizing for Advent outreach simple. In addition to the Unwrap Christmas events, United Methodist Communications is offering customizable Advent resources to all churches. A limited number of $300 grants to offset the costs of the invitational items are available. Learn more at

Learn more about 5 Talent Academy fall event
The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis will be one of the presenters at the 5 Talent Academy event on Thursday,  Nov. 14. This event will be livestreamed 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. from Woodlake UMC and 11 satellite locations around the state. Lewis is senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church, a 1,100-member multiethnic, welcoming, and inclusive congregation in New York City.  To register, visit For more information, contact the Center for Congregational Excellence at 804.521.1155 or

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... 

Register now for The Big Silence Retreat
Register now for The Big Silence Retreat, a four-day, mostly silent retreat offering a deeper experience of solitude, silence, and prayer at the beautiful St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, N.C., from Sunday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 19-22, 2020. Start the new year off right by setting an inner course of connection with God to support your life and ministry in the months to come. Praying the hours in community is complemented by a variety of silent prayer practices and wonderful spaces just to be present with the Spirit. More... 

Learn more about Convergence 2020
The Convergence High School Youth Theology Institute on faith and science brought 37 high school students to Randolph-Macon College this past June to discover where their Christian beliefs and scientific principles intersect. Convergence 2020 will be held June 20-28, 2020. Applications and nominations for current 9th, 10th, and 11th-grade students interested in participating in Convergence 2020 are open now on the website. The cost to participate is only $400 for this 9-day program. Upon high school graduation, if a Convergence participant chooses to attend Randolph-Macon, they will receive a $1,000 annual scholarship for each year they participated in Convergence.  Please contact the Rev. Kendra Grimes or Laura Ruxton ( with any questions about the program. More...


Videos offer insight into the UMC-Episcopal dialogue on Full Communion
The United Methodist – Episcopal Church Dialogue Committee has released a series of videos highlighting shared ministries between the churches and discussing the current full communion proposal developed by the committee. The videos include a conversation between Bishop Gregory Palmer (co-chair of the dialogue committee) and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry, and take up issues related to baptism, joint celebration of communion, partnerships in theological education, and other relationships of full communion shared by The United Methodist Church and The Episcopal Church.  The series of six videos can be viewed online. More...

Mourners surprised by cut of estate
Dennis G. Valstad lived a modest life in Ripon, Wisconsin. But as it turns out, he didn’t have to. Six weeks after Valstad’s funeral, the publisher of the Ripon Commonwealth Press-Express got a surprise when he met a friend who attends Ripon Immanuel United Methodist Church to play golf. “He said, ‘I can’t wait to show you something,’” Tim Lyke said. “And he pulled a letter out of his golf bag and he showed it to me.” The letter informed those who had attended Valstad’s visitation or funeral that they would receive a portion of $500,000 Valstad had set aside. Everyone who signed one of the registers got a letter. The pastor and other participants in the service were also included. “I was stunned and in disbelief when this happened,” said Lyn Herriot, a realty agent in Ripon. “I didn’t have the slightest idea that he had any money.” Valstad died after suffering a stroke in July. He was 69. More...

Empowering women through entrepreneurship
United Methodist Women is aiming to empower women in Sierra Leone through an unusual microfinance program and entrepreneurship training. With the national economy in escalating double-digit inflation, the twin scourges of poverty and illiteracy weigh heavily on the rural poor, and women bear the brunt of that, said Ethel Sandy, women’s coordinator for the Sierra Leone Conference. “The majority of the rural women are illiterate and depend on farm work and fishing, depending on their environment, and a little bit of trading for subsistence living,” she said, adding that many have no source of income and suffer from low self-esteem. “In their relations, the man controls all the finances. If he feels like giving the wife (money), he does not care if it’s enough. And the woman dare not ask; she’s beaten. All of these things make them not feel good enough to even mix with their fellow women.” The women’s group is hoping to change that with a loan program modeled after a successful Malawian venture that has helped many women there become self-reliant. About 55 United Methodist women from across Sierra Leone received training Sept. 3-6 on the new loan program. More...

5 Talent Academy fall event- Nov. 13,14
The theme for this year’s 5 Talent event is Engage 2019: Community Transformation.  There are two events: one just for clergy and one for clergy and laity.
Wednesday, Nov. 13 will be a Clergy-only Pre-event at Woodlake UMC and will feature Bishop Ken Carter, Florida Conference UMC.  He will speak about redefining the UM connection and evangelism, the role of fresh expressions, and how to shape missional relationships in the current cultural landscape.
Thursday, Nov. 14 will be the main Clergy and Laity event at Woodlake UMC and livestreamed to 11 satellite locations around the state.  Bishop Carter will be preaching and speakers will be the Rev. Michael Adam Beck, Wildwood UMC, Wildwood, Fla.; the Rev. Jaqueline Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church, New York, N.Y.; and the Rev. Andy and the Rev. Anjie Woodworth, Neighborhood Church, Atlanta, Ga.  They will address what it looks like to be a neighborhood church, what is a community partner, and what is a fresh expression. If you plan to attend in a group from your church, every fifth person in a group registration goes free. Fees for the events are as follows: Nov. 14 event - $35; Nov. 13 & 14 events - $60; Nov. 13 event only - $50. Registration prices increase after Sept. 30.  To register, visit For questions, contact MaryKaye Cochran at

For in-depth news and features about United Methodist mission and ministry, subscribe to the Virginia United Methodist Advocate, the Virginia Conference’s award-winning monthly magazine — now available in both print and digital formats. Click here to subscribe. Or call the Communications office at 1-800-768-6040, ext. 110, or (804) 521-1110. Or email For information about the Virginia Conference and resources for ministry, visit the Virginia Conference website at

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