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“Let’s Travel This Road Together For Awhile:
An Unexpected Partnership"




First, the headline: First United Methodist Church and Hinton Ave. United Methodist Church are entering into a new partnership to explore ministry together beginning July 1.

The new partnership, which involves my appointment to both churches, comes at the request of Bishop Sharma D. Lewis and the Cabinet of the Virginia Conference following the recent approval of medical leave for Rev. Robert Lewis, who had been serving Hinton Ave. UMC. Our pastor emeritus, Rev. Harry Kennon, will be the interim pastor at Hinton Ave. UMC until the end of June.


What will this mean?

One of the first visible signs of this partnership will be that both congregations will worship together at First UMC each week beginning July 10.

In addition, a transitional team of church members from both churches, supported by a consultant with funding from the district, will explore what a faithful next step could be and will make a recommendation to the bishop and Cabinet about that next step. There will be many opportunities for input and leadership for all church members during this process.


Why are our two churches being asked to join together in this process?

One of the important features of United Methodism is its sense of connection. Local churches are not isolated but are part of a greater network of congregations that are organized into districts and annual conferences. When there are unexpected changes, such as the pastoral vacancy at Hinton Avenue, congregations can rely on the connection.

First Church members planted Hinton Avenue Church in the 1890s as a way of extending the Methodist witness into the Belmont neighborhood. First & Hinton Avenue members have cooperated in recent years on a number of projects and worship services, including the recent Maundy Thursday presentation of the Last Supper. We are neighbors serving the downtown area of Charlottesville.


What will this mean for leadership in both churches?

First UMC and Hinton Avenue UMC leadership teams will remain in place and will maintain their financial structures. They will cooperate to pay the pastoral salary and to provide pastoral housing.


What will it mean for Rachel’s Haven?

Hinton Avenue UMC has been working for many years toward the establishment of Rachel’s Haven, a low income housing project, slated for construction on the Hinton Avenue site, that will provide dedicated space for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Piedmont Housing Alliance and the Charlottesville District Vision Team are taking the lead on this project and their work will continue.


What will it mean for the FUMC Vision: ‘Love the Whole City & Love the City Whole Starting Right Here’?

All conversations between the two congregations will be conducted with this vision in mind. I am committed to maintaining our momentum in connecting with our surrounding community. New possibilities for living out this vision may come in our conversations and I am excited about those opportunities.


Do you have more questions?

So do I. There is a lot to think about as we consider things like finances, property, and having the congregations get to know each other. I encourage you to share your questions and thoughts with me and our First UMC leadership. We will be having a town hall discussion of plans for this new cooperative arrangement following our worship service on June 12.

And please pray that God will bless this season of partnership. The God who inspired the creation of both of our congregations will show us even more wonders if we have eyes to see.


In Christ,
Alex Joyner