February 25, 2021
A word from our DS....
Finishing Strong – The Essence of Courage

In 1992, Derek Redmond was favored to win the 400-meter race in the Barcelona Summer Olympics. However, about 250 meters from the finish line, he pulled up – his hamstring had torn. He hobbled to the ground in pain. As stretcher bearers made their way over to him, he knew he had to decide. So despite the pain, he stood up and began to hobble along the track.

As he hobbled along, suddenly a man pushed through the crowds, fighting back security. The man was his father. “You do not have to do this,” he told his weeping son. “Yes, I do,” his son declared. “Well then,” replied his father, “we are going to finish this together.” The father wrapped his arms around his son and helped him hobble through the track. Shortly before the finish line, the father let go of his son and his son completed the race with a standing ovation from the crowd of 65,000, many of whom were in tears.

Derek Redmond may not have finished first place, but he managed to finish his race. Despite the pain and tears, he was determined to give his all, motivated by a love so strong of a father who picked him up when he fell. What made his father do that – to leave the stands and meet his son on the track? It was the pain on his son’s face. His son was hurt but wanted to finish the race. So his father came to help him finish.

Jesus is like that! When we are hurt, and fighting to finish, He comes and helps us. He picks us up when we fall. Like Derek, each of us is running a race, sometimes in pain and sometimes on the verge of quitting. But Jesus wants us to finish strong because He loves us. Finishing strong is the essence of courage.

Paul articulates this courage when he writes to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). He points to Jesus as the source of his strength because his strength was rooted in his own weakness. Our weakness could be social, mental, physical, or spiritual, which could cause suffering. However, weakness, pain, and suffering does not stop there; it makes us stronger. So, we pray that despair, failure, self-torture, or bone-deep loneliness do not get the best of us during this difficult time. And even if it did, we know that weakness emerges as something powerful.

In the midst of our difficulty and suffering, Jesus is with us! This is when we should seek Him more. Those moments of weakness when we plead with the Lord to take it away could be the beginning of something great – perhaps an entry point for His mercy and grace to manifest more gloriously in our life. That is why we look to Jesus when dealing with brokeness, pains, tears, loneliness, suffering, and when we fall. He picks us up, places us on His shoulders, hobbles with us to the finish line, fills us, and perfects us. For when we are weak, then He is strong!

Let us think about what defines us in life. Is it fear and quitting? Or is it perseverance? We extend the invitation to finish strong. It is dark right now, but there is light on the horizon – Jesus is that light. He is pushing through the crowds, fighting back our insecurities, apprehensions, uncertainty, and fears. I am excited about the breakthrough that is on the horizon. Are you? As you finish this article, we invite you to click on a link below to listen to "You Raise Me Up" performed by Fredericksburg UMC Associate Pastor Josh Hagstrom, Tenor, and Robert Baird, accompanist. You can view it via Facebook or YouTube.

Blessings to you!


Note: Recording below was made before strict Covid restrictions were in place.
Return to In-Person Worship Work Group Releases Technical Assistance Manual (TAM) Update

Date: February 24, 2021
The work group created by Bishop Sharma D. Lewis to help move back to in-person worship safely has issued its first update to its Technical Assistance Manual (TAM) since December 11. The new update from the Return to In-Person Worship Work Group takes into account new research and best practices and provides new guidance in the following areas. Specific requirements are in the latest TAM found on the conference webpage at www.vaumc.org/return. Churches that update their plans as a result of these changes should resubmit their plans to the District Superintendent.
            in outdoor settings only, preachers may be unmasked while preaching as long as they are distanced at least 25 feet from the nearest participant. Masks are required at all other times.

            in outdoor settings only, congregational singing with masks is allowed as long as all other mitigation methods are in place. Singing in every case should be limited in time (e.g. 5 minutes or less, about 2 hymns per service)
            allowance for indoor partaking of prepackaged communion elements with brief removal of masks (less than 60 seconds)

            allowance for children’s time in the front during services with mitigation measures in place

            use of multiple exit doors

            greeters/Ushers may hand out bulletins provided they wear gloves and use outstretched arms to retain maximum distance

            offering receptacles may now be passed in the pews with ushers gloved. Ushers are required to wear gloves. Offering receptacles on poles encouraged. Outstretched arms otherwise to retain maximum distance.

            attendance pads and offering envelopes may now be put in the pews and used across multiple services (Congregants must bring their own writing instruments). Outstretched arms to pass or place attendance sheets at ends of row.

            congregations may open restrooms during drive-in and outdoor services

            worship materials do not have to be placed 24 hours ahead of time

            cleaning of high-touch areas is still encouraged, but extensive deep-cleaning, use of spray sanitizer is no longer required
            no online RSVP requirements or temperature check at the door requirements
            non-worship outdoor gatherings have a limitation of 25 or fewer people as of March 1, 2021, reflecting the governor’s recent announcement. Indoor non-worship gatherings are still limited to 10 or fewer. (These do not apply to worship services.)

In releasing this TAM revision, the work group considers the Annual Conference to be at Stage 2.2, with Stage 3 representing the point at which a ‘new normal’ has arrived. The work group will continue to monitor and make modifications as the conference moves to that stage. The group included this statement in the current revision:
COVID-19 remains a serious and deadly threat. At this point, our aim is to limit spread of COVID-19. Current science has shown that a single person with mild or no COVID-19 symptoms may lead to a dramatic outbreak, and most outbreaks come from just a few people—about 80% of spread arises from 10% of infected people. Such spread often occurs in settings of prolonged exposure in crowded poorly ventilated indoor settings, and with activities like singing, shouting, or aerobic exercise.
At this time, the protocols are aimed toward reducing spread by these measures:
   Wear masks. We recommend following CDC recommendations, and these include using medical masks (droplet, KN95, KN94, or N95 if available), and especially double masking, a medical mask covered by a cloth mask.
   Avoid crowding--maintain physical distance of six feet or more.
   Adequate ventilation as recommended by the CDC, through opening doors and windows when possible and safe, and improving ventilation through HVAC settings.
   Use outdoor settings more than indoor settings, and large rooms more than small.
   Stay at home when possible.
   Limit duration of exposure. Even five minutes in an indoor poorly ventilated setting may result in spread.
   Avoid singing, shouting, or loud talking.
Omitting two or more measures--like taking off a mask for a prolonged period indoors--means a much higher risk of spreading infection. Therefore, to reduce spread, we aim to use all measures if possible, and omit no more than one measure in any situation.

Click below to go to the conference webpage at www.vaumc.org/return

Have you subscribed to the e-Advocate?
Don't miss the latest Virginia UMC news by subscribing to the E-Advocate today! It's free and comes out every Tuesday.

Last week's articles included a Lenten Devotional by a UMC Bishop, Virtual Mission Discovery Opportunities, a new Video series sharing education and positivity, stories of ways that other Virginia churches are reaching out to people in need and so much more!

Here is a link to a past editions and a link to subscribe: https://vaumc.org/e-advocate/.
The scammers are hitting our district again. This time they are sending emails to church staff (or church members) supposedly from the pastor asking them to mail a gift card to someone.
It has the pastor's name and a very similar email address. A sample of a recent one is below:

"Can you do me a favor. I need to send out a few gift cards ? can you help me get them at the store ? "

Please ignore these emails. None of our pastors will ever email or text you asking for gift cards.
An Outdoor Ministry of the United Methodist Church
February 22, 2021
Dear Campers and Parents,
We know the past year has been a tough one for you and your family. Virtual learning, virtual friendships, and virtual meetings just aren’t the same as seeing each other face to face. I know my own daughter missed her friends and school tremendously. Fortunately, we have some fantastic news:

Governor Northram just announced that summer camps will be allowed to open in 2021!

We hope you are as thrilled as we are to be back together again this summer! We missed camp so much last year, and we can’t wait to see you again this summer! Camp registration is open and filling up fast. We will of course be following all health guidelines put out by the CDC, the state health department, and the American Camping Association to keep everyone safe. If you have any questions, feel free to call our office at 804-457-4210 or register online at www.westviewonthejames.org. We can’t wait to see you soon!
God Bless,

Bobby Boyd
Westview on the James
Please join the United Methodist Creation Justice movement for LOVING PEOPLE AND PLANET IN THE NAME OF GOD: ENGAGING THE LOCAL CHURCH a five-evening workshop from February 25 to March 14 that will help you understand creation care and climate justice for action in your church.
For more detailed information on the course, including descriptions of each session, the course text, and course syllabus please use this link: https://umcreationjustice.org/loving-people-and-planet-in-the-name-of-god-engaging-the-local-church/  

Assistance for Texas through UMCOR's Advance
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) responds to natural or civil disasters of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community’s ability to recover on its own. Through UMCOR, United Methodists extend loving care to people within the United States. When disaster strikes, it is local churches that provide the first response to their communities. This basic understanding—that disaster response is local—forms the foundation for UMCOR’s U.S. disaster training and response.
You may send a check to the Virginia Conference (PO Box 5605, Glen Allen, VA 23058) earmarked Advance #901670 to assist people in Texas and other states. Or you may make an online donation at https://advance.umcor.org/p-620-umcor-us-disaster-response-and-recovery.aspx
Specific questions about this Advance project may be directed to Lara S. Martin at lmartin@umcor.org.
Free online Devotionals available from Amplify, an extension of the United Methodist Publishing House
Find encouragement each day in these short videos from pastors and authors offering words of comfort in times of uncertainty.

Click on the link below.
Nominations and Applications Open for 2021 Session of Shenandoah University Youth Theology Institute (July 18-31, 2021)
Is there a 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, all while earning college credit that they can carry with them wherever they go after high school? 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). Through a daily rhythm of worship, academic study, experiential and service learning, and (of course) sabbath rest, students will learn to become stronger Christian leaders and return home equipped to be change-agents for the reign of God. The 2021Institute will run from July 18-31, 2021 on Shenandoah University’s main campus in Winchester. 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. However, 2021 will be our final session, so now is the perfect time to apply!

To nominate a student or to apply, visit https://www.su.edu/campus-life/spiritual-life/institute-for-church-professions/youth-theology-institute/. For more information, contact Ian Urriola, Director of the SUYTI, by calling (540) 665-5453 or emailing iurriola@su.edu.
"People like me don't have people like this
 in my life"

“People like me don’t have people like this in my life.”

Hearing these words brought tears to my eyes: from a young woman experiencing the love of Christ through a non-judgmental relationship with Open Table volunteers who have committed to accompany her and her family on a year’s journey to make goals and work together to realize these goals. The Open Table model of surrounding and walking with people who don’t have the loving, supportive relationships needed to move forward in life is a very real, hands-on way of being the hands and feet, eyes, ears, and mouth of Jesus. We call them “Friend.”
Each Table is made up of 6-8 volunteers who make a year-long weekly commitment and complete on-line training. 
The first Open Table in the Rappahannock River District began with on-line training of eight volunteers and is now walking with a family. In this season, we are walking on Zoom. There is now another Friend who is seeking a Table. 
The old hymn, “Are Ye Able?” comes to mind. Are you able to sacrifice some time and energy to help change the course of someone’s life? Are you able to make a commitment to be a part of a Table? Are you able to open your heart and enter into a loving and non-judgmental relationship with a Friend?
Open Table webinars are available to learn more about this opportunity to serve Christ by serving others. For more information please send an email to gayleporias@vaumc.org.  
40 Days of Lent: Find your own spiritual path
Please click link below for an article by Joe Iovino of the UMC Communications Office.

General Conference Postponed to 2022
Meeting on February 20, the Commission on the General Conference made a decision to further postpone the 2020 General Conference until August 29 – September 6, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minn. as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the safety of mass gatherings and travel.

It is the Commission’s responsibility to select the site and set the dates of General Conference. Further, the Book of Discipline requires the Commission on the General Conference to "take necessary measures to assure full participation of all General Conference delegates." The Commission concluded that mandate was not achievable by means of either an in-person meeting in 2021 or a virtual meeting.

In making the decision, the Commission determined that it was not feasible to safely hold an in-person meeting involving all delegates as currently scheduled for August 29 - September 7, 2021 due to a number of barriers:
•   The number of COVID cases continues to rise, with nearly 2.49 million confirmed cases the week of February 15.
•   Vaccine is not expected to be widely available this year in many countries, and new variants of the virus which may be resistant to vaccines are emerging globally.
•   International travelers to the U.S. must show proof of negative COVID-19 test results no more than three days prior to travel, but in many places, testing is not readily available or provided free of charge. 
•   Visa services remain limited in some areas.

There also remains the possibility that a temporary six-month visa bond program which requires bonds of $5,000 - $15,000 per person for residents of some countries could cost up to $2.5 million in bonds for affected delegates if the program should be extended beyond June.

The Commission’s decision was informed by the report of the Technology Study Team appointed to explore the implications of options for accommodating full participation at General Conference, including but not limited to the possibility of utilizing technology and online voting, in considering whether the meeting should be held virtually.
According to their report, “The study team considered a number of challenges and implications, including how to keep participants safe, providing for global participation, safeguarding the integrity of the voting and credentialing process, and meeting legal requirements …”

The Technology Study Team analyzed a variety of options, including an entirely electronic General Conference with participation from individual locations; an entirely electronic General Conference with delegates gathering at regional satellite hubs; and two sessions, with the first part being electronic and the second part in-person when it is safe to convene. None of these options were determined by the study team to be viable. 

The study team did find that a more traditional method—utilizing mail ballots to vote on emergency actions—could help The United Methodist Church to address important, urgent matters through the General Conference. Their report recommended utilizing mail ballots for making a limited number of “Emergency Interim Actions” on which the General Conference delegates would indicate a yes or no vote for each item. 

“The Commission shared the study team’s findings and recommendations with the officers of the Council of Bishops in a collaborative effort to jointly explore how this alternative might be utilized to address critical matters until an in person gathering of delegates can be safely convened next year,” said commission chair Kim Simpson.

Some of the concerns mentioned in the report regarding having a virtual session include:
•   Lack of infrastructure in some areas, including Internet access, Internet speed, and electricity
•   Lack of technology for equitable Holy Conferencing
•   Complexity of the legislative committee process
•   Concerns about accurate credentialing and verification of identity
•   Difficulties in seating reserve delegates properly
•   Security of voting
•   Safety concerns about regional satellite gatherings

Simpson said the August-September dates in 2022 will mean that General Conference will be one day shorter than planned for 2021; however, these dates were the only option available. Simpson said that the Commission regrets the fact that these dates once again conflict with the start of the academic year in the U.S. which a group of young adults had asked the Commission to avoid, but there were no other dates available.
About General Conference
General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church. The assembly meets at the beginning of each quadrennium to consider revisions to church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs for the next four years. 
Media contact:
Diane Degnan ddegnan@umcom.org
615.742.5406 (o) 615.483.1765 (c)
Heart Havens’ month is February and we can't wait to celebrate with you. The Virginia Conference has designated February as Heart Havens Month, one of six special offerings throughout the year. There are seven Heart Havens homes across the Conference, where men and women with a developmental disability are empowered to be full members of the body of Christ, and active participants in their communities.
The theme for Heart Havens Month this year is "A Different Perspective." Heart Havens' goal is 100 monthly Heart Havens donors. Please visit hearthavens.org to see our video and additional electronic resources to share. You can also find Heart Havens month posts on social media – sharing will help us spread our message of empowerment. Thank you for your continued support of Heart Havens!
We are working remotely until further notice. Please contact us on our cell phones.

District Superintendent: Rev. Charles F. Ledlum-Bates, Ph.D.
DS Cell: 804.724.0202

2020 District Co-Lay Lay Leader:

2020 District Co-Lay Leader:

Lay Servant Director: Rev. Kevin Elmore kevinelmore@vaumc.org
Heartwood Director: Rev. Gayle Porias gayleporias@vaumc.org
Crossroads Minister: Rev. Mark Roscoe markroscoe@vaumc.org
Youth Coordinator: TJ Oliver, rrdyouth@vaumc.org
Office Manager: Lynn Manley rappahannockriverdistrict@vaumc.org
Cell 804.304.8566
Administrative Assistant Connie Devenport conniedevenport@vaumc.org

Mailing Address: PO BOX 100, Ladysmith, VA 22501 Phone   804.448.8326
Office Location: Inside Wright’s Chapel UMC at 8063 Ladysmith Road, Ruther Glen, VA (do not use for mail)