June 4, 2020
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Welcome to the weekly update of the Rappahannock River District of the UMC 
Tears of Pain

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12 NKJV).
Scripture teaches that Jesus would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment because His mission to the world was to expose the world’s sin, expose false righteousness, and expose the fact that judgment is coming for all who are not in Christ. In this opening text, the things that Jesus needed to tell the disciples would require supernatural understanding. This was the thing they currently did not possess. They would, however, possess it very shortly once they all received the Holy Spirit. But how long Lord; how long. Your people are dying of starvation of the Holy Spirit; they cannot breathe.

I cannot breathe! I cannot breathe! Those were some of the final words of George Floyd as he pleaded for his life. His death has sent waves of protests across the nation and world. I have kept silent until now because I did not want to write based on the emotional overflow of my tears of pain and anguish. I feel ethnically traumatized and I need help. I am gasping for breath, the most essential element of life. I am wondering who among you will come to my aid and rescue me. I am wondering who among you will idly stand by and watch me take my last breath and not do anything to help me.

I am devastated and broken. In a season of uncertainty, I am searching for help but not sure who is willing to stand with me, suffer with me, kneel with me, or pray with me. The racial divide and tension in America are real. In addition to COVID-19, we continue to experience racial pandemic, housing pandemic, financial pandemic, economic disparity pandemic, and the list continues. The rigidity of the privileged has come full circle and the suppression of the minority is ever-present. I submit that the moment of reckoning has arrived to deal with institutionalized and systematic racism. These social injustices must be addressed, and the church must lead. However, it begins with each of us because we are the church.

To address the above concerns, we must pay attention to the inequality in housing, jobs, and other social constructs that are deeply institutionalized. Belligerent and violent rhetoric and division do not help the cause. I want to breathe a breath of fresh air but how can I breathe when I am being denied the necessities of life? As I write to you, I feel dehumanized as a human being, needless to say, a Black man. I know what it means to experience deprivation. At times my well runs dry, and the current situation in the country has not helped to quench my thirst. What’s about you! Are you hungering and thirsting for peace and tranquility? If so, how can you help bring these things to bear? Will you fight with me? Will you stand with me? Will you kneel with me? Will you pray with me?

As you give thoughts to how you might participate, think about anything comparable to the murder of an unarmed, helpless, dying Black man calling for his mother? What feelings or emotions emerge for you? The ways I most think, feel, and behave, and my ability to process my thinking, feeling, and modify my behaviors, are grounded in the challenges I encounter each day as a Black man. I constantly look over my shoulders and wonder; why should this way of life be acceptable in the United States?

I know what it means to be broken, to be down and get up again. I know what it means to silently fight for your life, to be marginalized, to rise above the fray, and to choose to live. Do you? I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. So, this is a time that I need your feedback. I want to speak with you on these matters. Pastors, find out from your laity through calls, emails, text messages, or send a Facebook message. I would like to know what forum would be appropriate for such a discussion. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.


Moving to Stage 2 for In-Person
 Worship Services
Dear Virginia Annual Conference:

I give thanks to God for all the hard work being done by Healthy Church Teams across our Conference as we continue the return to in-person worship. Drive-in services and in-person worship by Pioneer Churches gives us confidence that we can be creative even as we strongly emphasize safety in this COVID-19 environment. With that in mind, it is time for us to start implementing Stage 2 of our Plan to Return to In-Person Worship and I have new information to share.
All churches with an appropriate plan that has been approved by their District Superintendent can proceed to this stage of in-person worship starting June 21, 2020. The Cabinet reviewed the pros and cons of moving to Stage 2 with me today and I approved the move to Stage 2. The Handbook for Local Churches has been revised as of June 3, 2020 with the requirements for Stage 2. It can be found at:  https://vaumc.org/return/   . No church should feel obligated to return to in-person worship at this time. If your local clergy is not ready to move to Stage 2, please continue to worship in the way that is in the best interests of the congregation.

Also, there is a new document on communion for Drive-In, Pioneer Churches that are hosting in-person worship now, and all churches moving to Stage 2. The requirements for communion are contained in the Handbook for Local Churches and on the Conference website at  http://doc.vaumc.org/News2020/Holycommunion_return.pdf  .

Drive-In services can continue in Stage 2. A brief summary of the requirements for Drive-In services is in Appendix 1 below. A brief summary of the requirements for churches in Stage 2 is in Appendix 2. The full requirements for each type of service are contained in the Handbook. Many churches will continue their Livestream worship services every Sunday.

For those attending in-person worship, we also have developed a fillable Health Acknowledgment Form that anyone can complete online:  https://www.evc.vaumc.org/home/ . After it is completed, the form goes directly to your local clergy. If you need to complete the form manually, you can download it and print it. If you do not have a computer, contact your local clergy and he/she will walk you through the process. A Spanish language form is also available at  www.vaumc.org/return .

Here are the highlights of In-Person Worship in Stage 2:
·   Beginning on June 21, 2020, all churches can return to in-person worship if they comply with physical distancing requirements. This includes, but is not limited to, having proper physical distancing in the sanctuary, chapel, and the fellowship hall. This means that the pew/chair in front of each person is empty and the pew/chair behind each person is empty so there is at least six feet between all people;
·   Besides the distancing requirements, all other in-person worship requirements must be met and practiced by the local church;
·   Children seven years of age and above will be allowed to attend;
·   Weddings and funerals can take place, but they must comply with the in-person worship requirements in the bullet points above; and
A brief summary of the requirements for in-person worship in Stage 2 are in Appendix 2.

I will continue to monitor the COVID-19 statistics from the Virginia Department of Health and I will continue to review any data from our various churches as we track the health of our members and guests that have attended Drive-In and Pioneer Churches. I want us to enter Stage 2 safely and if there is a reason to move back to Stage 1 or temporarily end in-person worship, I will not hesitate to do what is necessary to keep us safe.

I encourage all churches that wish to do so to start planning to move into Stage 2. This will require working with your District Superintendent closely. Our District Superintendents have been involved in planning and implementing a variety of worship options and they are a wonderful and quite helpful resource.

Many are ready for Stage 2 and some are not. The most faithful decision for your congregation may be to wait until the pandemic further subsides and we enter Stage 3. In consultation with your Healthy Church Team, your local clergy and District Superintendent must discern together what is in the best interest of your local church. I will be praying for everyone in the Conference and I hope you will pray for me.

Thank you for your attention to these matters.

Peace and Blessings,
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis

From the Handbook - for more details, see the links above:

STAGE 2: Timeline: Beginning no earlier than June 21, 2020.

We will move to allowing all churches return to in-person worship as long as they follow the rules, requirements, and protocols in Attachment C in handbook. No local church shall go over the 50% total occupancy rule.

Worship Options: Drive-In Worship, Online/Conference Call Worship, and in-person worship under these requirements, rules, and guidance.

In Stage 2, we anticipate churches may have in-person worship services while maintaining physical social distancing (stay 6 feet or more away from others) at all times. Continued health and safety protocols, including the use of face coverings at all gatherings (indoor or outdoor) and proper sanitation measures, will be strictly adhered to and enforced. In no event should any local church hold a service in any location that exceeds 50% capacity of the sanctuary, chapel, or fellowship hall. If the local church is holding an outdoor service, the outdoor service must adhere to the same social distancing requirements as if the service was conducted in the building. 
Mock Annual Conference

The Mock Annual Conference set for June 9 has been canceled. This had been scheduled for the parlimentarians to have a practice session. Thanks to those who had agreed to come help.
The Heartwood Center Update

“Just as (this hope laid up for you in heaven) is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.” Colossians 1:6

The Heartwood Center ministries continue despite the challenges of Covid-19. Through the dedication and persistence of the volunteers we have been able to schedule summer food distributions at 4 sites. Fauquier and Caroline distributions have started. Stafford and Spotsylvania distributions will start June 13 th and end August 8 th. We have begun the collection of food items.

Any support would be welcomed. Monetary donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 187 Hartwood, VA 22471.

We have not been able to plan the Youth Mission Camp as a week-long event due to the social distancing requirements. Instead, we are exploring how to engage the youth in mission in other ways. Stay tuned as the summer progresses and restrictions are modified.

The Open Table program is bearing fruit. Open Table is a mentoring model that provides churches and other community groups a way of being with people experiencing economic and relational challenges that is transformative rather than the usual transactional and limited way of doing ministry. Volunteers are trained to form and build relationships that open the door to a new, healthy and sustainable way of living and lifts people up rather than keeps them in the same circumstances.

An Open Table introductory webinar was facilitated by The Heartwood Center and several members of New Hope UMC participated.  A group from New Hope is eager to take the on-line training and form an Open Table. Would you or your church like to hear more about The Open Table? Another introductory webinar via Zoom is being planned. Contact me at gayleporias@vaumc.org.
Nominations getting ready
The District Nominating Committee will begin work next month on filling district positions. If you're interested in volunteering on a certain committee, please let Lynn know at rappahannockriverdistrict@vaumc.org.
Please note that the District Office is closed at this time. We are working from our homes. To reach Lynn call 804.304.8566. To reach DS Ledlum-Bates, please call 804.724.0202 or through our email addresses:

DS Ledlum-Bates-

Emmanuel UMC

Searching for a pianist for their 9:30 am service. The pianist would play hymns and lead the choir anthem. 

There is no choir practice during the week. 
All those who are interested in may contact us via  beumcva@gmail.com  and 804-462-7376 (Geri Vick, Worship committee chair) 
Liberty UMC

Seeking a Pianist/keyboardist (Organ too if possible) to play at Sunday morning church service. Part time position for small vibrant church. Opportunity for growth in the position.
To find out more details, please call 540-439-0267 or message us through our facebook page: Liberty UMC-Bealeton
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Ebenezer UMC, Stafford, VA, is seeking a part-time Assistant Property Manager to assist the Property Manager in maintaining the church building and grounds to provide a clean, safe, and welcoming environment that supports Ebenezer’s strategic vision. The selected individual will complete routine tasks on Sunday morning prior to worship, such as Café set up and breakdown, sidewalks and parking lot clear of debris, vacuuming, windows, trash removal, bathrooms, etc. as needed; ensure facilities are in good working order for worship services; perform basic repairs and maintenance to the various areas of the church building to include, but not limited to, plumbing, carpentry, painting, and lighting. For details, visit the Virginia Conference website at  www.vaumc.org/jobs

Director of Music Ministry
Regester Chapel UMC is seeking applications for its Director of Music Ministry. The purpose of the Director of Music Ministry is to help musicians and our congregation grow as disciples of Jesus Christ through our worship and music. A Bachelor’s Degree in Music is preferred with previous experience and leadership in Music performance and direction. The candidate must have knowledge of and experience with traditional music and possess the leadership qualities to inspire and lead a Chancel Choir, musicians and the congregation. This is a part-time position. To apply, send a letter of interest and a copy of your current resume to Office@RegesterChapel.org. For more information, contact Barry Dillon, SPRC, Regester Chapel UMC, 85 Bells Hill Rd., Stafford, Virginia, 22554.


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 rappahannockriverdistrict@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)