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2017 Virginia Conference News

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2017 Featured Articles

Preserving history for future generations


Spotsylvania Courthouse in May 1864. Artillery shelling of the courthouse area by the Union Army caused major damage to the sanctuary, and there was a period after the Civil War when the congregation attendance fell significantly.  When asked to service as historian, I gladly accepted the challenge. The church historians before me did a great deal of work which made my job easier, but after accepting the duties, I realized there was still more work to do. More...

Persons UMC: Steeped in history


Persons UMC in Southampton, also known as the Old Church, is steeped in history and probably can best be described in the words of the late Marie B. Turner as a microcosm of Southampton County, the state of Virginia and the United States of America. The first church was established here while Virginia was still a colony of England. Persons has stood the test of time and dates back to the early days of 1838 when the circuit riders were sent out to spread the gospel. More...

Four conference pastors reflect on Charlottesville violence


The Risk of an Honest Reckoning by the Rev. Dave Rochford
I heard a Virginia historian - whom I rather like - lament that the violence in Charlottesville was especially tragic, given that the city and its esteemed university “honor like no other place on earth the architect of American democracy and freedom.” He meant Thomas Jefferson, of course, who enshrined the American bedrock-principle of equality in our seminal document, the Declaration of Independence. And were I not a Christian, I would likely still believe that the story was that simple.  Thus, in condemning Nazi sympathizers, these angry young men with torches and truncheons, I would otherwise get to hold high the true flame of American democratic principles, too. But I am a Christian - not that I merely use Jesus’ name or claim membership in his tribe, but that I strive, not always successfully, to follow his words and actions while living the distinctive life of his holy community. It’s a daily job. I find I need a lot of help doing it. (Read the whole story)

From left, Sarah Payne, Erin Geoffrion.

Seeing Sunday morning on a Thursday afternoonby the Rev. Erin Geoffrion
Like most people, I watched the events of August 11 and 12 unfold with shock and horror. I wouldn't wish this kind of tragedy on any community, but this one hit especially close to home because I serve in the Charlottesville District. I was grateful for the witness of the members of Ivy Creek UMC who organized a prayer vigil at Emancipation Park on Monday evening. And I knew other clergy and community members were holding vigil at the scene of the horrific car crash. But the images from the University of Virginia on Friday night haunted me the most (no doubt by design): flame-lit faces filled with malice, the flickering parade slithering through the grounds , the mob of hundreds of torches swarming around another statue and a dozen or so UVA students. These people planned ahead. They chose their symbols wisely for maximum terror and intimidation. (Read the whole story)

Wisdom from Grandma Thelma by the Rev. Derrick Parson
Please allow me to share the wisdom of my Grandma Thelma which is still prevalent and profound today. When I was 13, I was coming home when a NARC vehicle ran onto the sidewalk barely, missing me. Two officers jump out the vehicle and started yelling at me. I raised my hands in surrender, but they slammed me against the car, went into my pockets throwing my contents to the ground. One officer turned me around and said to his partner, “This is not the (n word) that we were looking for!”  He grabbed my face and came close and said, “If you tell anyone about this we will come back to see you. Got it?”  I said yes as they released me and I ran into the house. I was terrified. It was two weeks before I could leave my home on my own. I was hurt, angry and scared. (Read the whole story)

If You Are Not Outraged You are not Paying Attention by the Rev. Dr. Keary Kincannon
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” This was Heather Heyer’s last Facebook Post.  Heather is the 32-year-old paralegal, with a passion for social justice, who, participating in the counter protest in Charlottesville was run down and murdered. Nineteen others were injured in an act of terrorism for which white supremacist Alex Fields has been charged.  Yet on two separate occasions President Trump makes clear that he believes and blames many sides for the violence.  If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.  (Read the whole story)

Pastor leads summer devotions on the water

“There’s a lot of grace out here,” the Rev. Gary Heaton says as he paddles his canoe on the Roanoke River to what’s known as “Downriver Devotion.” Heaton, over the last four years, has paddled this same course and knows where the rocks are as well as the sandbars. Having seen the river at high and low water, he is in active relationship as he paddles. Every Wednesday during the summer, Heaton has paddled to the sycamore tree at the Greenway mile post 22.7 at noon. More...

Guest Commentary: The Mirth and Mockery of Methodism

Professor Terry Lindvall teaches Religious Studies Department in the areas of faith, film and humor at Virginia Wesleyan College. Greg West is chaplain at the college and co-teaches a course in Methodism and leads tours of the Wesleyan Revival in Great Britain.  More...

Before she even tells us that Monday nights are her favorite night of the week at Braddock Street UMC, you can see it on her face. Joanna Dietz is a deacon and minister of Mission and Service at the church in the middle of Winchester. It’s a position that takes her an hour and 10 minutes to get to everyday, but it’s a commute that doesn’t bother her. “I have an hour-and 10-minute commute every day to and every day home from,” she said, “and I love that it does not bother me at all that I have that commute. I just love being here.” Her position is rare to find in many places in Virginia. It’s being done by lay people at Floris UMC in the Arlington District and at a few other locations in the conference. More...


Apportionment Series:
What are apportionments?

One of the ways the connection of The United Methodist Church is exemplified is through apportionment giving. Apportionments are defined as a vital expression of faithful stewardship; a way local churches can connect with annual conferences to be in mission together and add to that mission in a way that is stronger through interconnectedness.  This form of Methodist giving started with founder John Wesley. Wesley noticed that classes of people rather than individuals could assist each other in sharing responsibilities for projects such as the construction of buildings and supporting preachers.  This format has continued today with what we know as apportionments. More...


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