Boy Scout Troop 15 touched the lives of many young men since 1978

Lew Boyer accepted the position of Scout Master and Gene Larrick Assistant Scout Master. The Troop was relocated from Kernstown to Stephens City and became Troop 15 after receiving sponsorship from Stephens City UMC in February, 1978. Boyer would continue his leadership position for 32 years and Larrick would eventually leave because of an employment transfer to Pennsylvania and was replaced by Bob Wells in 1988.

See Royal Examiner article.

Stephens City Church shelters homeless Nov 19-26 to support local WATTS week-long event

Stephens City UMC (SCUMC) hosted the Winchester Area Temporary Transitional Shelter (WATTS) during the week of November 19-26, 2022, including Thanksgiving Day. Altogether, nineteen churches will rotate the weekly assignment between November 5, 2022 and March 25, 2023. The people we serve (our guests) come from all walks of life and all levels of education. Some are newly homeless; others have been homeless most of their adult life. They are mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. Many have mental health issues, especially PTSD, and substance abuse. But all need our love and care, and that is what we offer for 7 days. Our guests are fed, clothed, warmed, and kept safe.

A huge thank you to all the groups that volunteered. The list includes the Clawson’s Bible Study group, United Women in Faith, the Koinonia Sunday School class, the Caring Outreach Group, and the Stephens City Preschool from SCUMC. Groups that partnered with SCUMC included the Stephens City Mennonite Church, Grace and Mercy Ministries, Grace UMC in Middletown, and Shenandoah University Cross-Country team.

The article was written by Deborah Phillips.

Deborah Phillips is one of the Co-Leader Volunteers of the SCUMC week-long WATTS event and serves as Secretary, Board of Directors for WATTS. Phillips has a MS in Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She worked in research labs for over 15 years, including at the CDC, Emory University, and Indiana University and as a Medical Editor for over 20 years before retirement. Phillips currently owns two businesses. She creates memory art from heirlooms as Heartsong Hill Designs ( She also owns a hobby farm with chickens, goats, and rescue dogs. Her second business, Heartsong Hill Hungry Goats, ( employs her goats to offer a natural and chemical-free way to clear land.

See Royal Examiner article.

Caring Outreach Team donates gift basket to support upcoming WATTS Gala.

The Stephens City UMC Caring Outreach Team donated items for a basket to be auctioned to support the upcoming WATTS Caring and Sharing Gala at Bowling Green Country Club North in Front Royal. The event is to take place on Saturday, October 1, 2022.

The annual fundraiser is a fun evening with dinner, live music, dancing, raffles, and awards, with recognition for all the volunteers, churches, community organizations and businesses who make WATTS a success each and every season. The event is also the major source through which WATTS secures the necessary funding for their organization and the upcoming winter shelter season.

WATTS is truly a community effort in the fight to alleviate homelessness. Donations from generous individuals, churches, community organizations, businesses, and foundations, in combination with successful fundraising efforts, are the life-blood that allows WATTS to successfully continue their mission and keep expanding services.

Thanks to all for the SCUMC donations and also to Mildred Smith and Jane Young for creating such a beautiful gift basket!

Winchester woodworker restores historic Methodist church doors

Design Review Guidelines for the Town of Stephens City Historic District, Section Porches, Doors, Entrances, states: “In rehabilitation, every effort should be made to save original doors. If the original doors cannot be saved and replacement is necessary, the new doors must be the same size, design and type as used originally, or sympathetic to the building style. In all cases, design assistance should be sought from the Historic Preservation Commission.”

The Trustees agreed to follow the Historic District Guidelines. They voted to save the doors and a capable woodworking contractor was sought. Shelly’s Custom Woodworking based in Winchester was selected to refurbish the wooden doors and also the choir room door which was always painted white and never removed from its framework.

See Royal Examiner article.


Sunday Worship at Newtown Commons

Stephens City United Methodist Church (SCUMC) hosted a Sunday worship service on July 31st at Newtown Commons. Pastor Bertina Westley provided a sermon on Zephaniah 3:14-20, “God’s Great Compassion.”
The service took place at 10:00 am. The congregation brought lawn chairs to worship under the open summer sky with the Commons Stage substituting for the pulpit. “Our church is taking advantage of the Newtown Commons location to be able to reach out to people that are passing by on Main Street. We are in the process of building community at SCUMC,” Westley said. The folks in Stephens City were invited to share in this time of fellowship and prayer. 71 adults and children attended the morning service. “It is all about touching those who have left the church for some reason and also welcoming potential newcomers who may be seeking faith programs for their families,” Westley added.

According to Westley, healthy worship comprises inspiring faith, building community, and connecting people to the congregation’s mission.  As church attendance increases, there is an enhanced opportunity to spread God’s message and ensure people love and follow Jesus.

Deanna and Steve Morris began attending SCUMC services a few weeks ago and reside in Lake Frederick. They were referred to SCUMC by a neighbor who told them about the church’s many local ministries. “During the early service the congregation made us feel at home and Pastor Bertina presented the sermon in a very lively and interesting manner. We thought the outdoor combined service and picnic were a great way to have fellowship with the community and meet other church members,” said Deanna Morris.

The service was followed by a picnic of hot dogs, chips, cookies, and ice cream under the Newtown Pavilion.
The Worship Team and United Methodist Men collaborated to provide an outdoor worship service and picnic for the congregation and welcomed any passerby to join in the church service.

VBS, then and now…

Photo courtesy Marty Barley.

Many people look back at their youthful times and remember the delightful summers of  Vacation Bible School (VBS). Heavens, that was so much fun. Some say VBS is one of the greatest evangelism tools of the modern Christian Church. VBS is positive, purposeful and exciting.

Back then…

VBS began in 1894 when Mrs. D.T. Miles, a Methodist pastor’s wife, decided to give the children of Hopedale, Illinois, a productive activity during the summer. Miles, a former public-school teacher, enrolled about 40 children in that first Bible school, which lasted four weeks. Parents contributed $1 per child for supplies, and the Bible Society donated Bibles. Classes were held in the local school, and an adjoining park was used for recreation. Miles and her teenage assistants led the children in singing, storytelling, contests, recreation and crafts.

Mention VBS and adult’s whole mood change. They become animated in their discussion and remember something noble about church. They remember a time and place when a child could innocently enjoy crafts and recreation, learn about God and Jesus Christ and have a blast too!

VBS is a great way for churches to connect with their local neighbors. VBS offers an opportunity to provide a child with an unforgettable experience and lasting recollections. This phenomenal event generates memories that help lock Bible truths in a child’s heart and mind for a lifetime. The church needs the kind of training which when instilled in a child, they will never forget.

Stephens City United Methodist Church (SCUMC) has run Vacation Bible School at least since the 1940s when Ray Ewing attended (1942-43). Until sometime in the early 1990’s SCUMC did not have Bible themes or pre-prepared VBS lessons. Each teacher and their helper had to develop their own plans, stories, lessons, crafts and music.

The ladies of the church would serve either homemade or store-bought cookies and Kool Aid from the upstairs kitchen and brought downstairs to each class. Snacks were always eaten in separate classrooms. The kitchen and Bible classrooms were in the old fellowship hall that was torn down in 2000 to make room for an improved, completely accessible, 19,000 square foot addition.

Music was played in each separate classroom with individual turn table record players bought by the church and every class room had one. When Pam Barley assisted with Vacation Bible School in the 1980’s, most of the teachers and helpers were the youth group members. There was no specific individual in charge to lead like Jacquetta Owen does today. We never had a combined presentation in the fellowship hall, programs always remained in separate classrooms. Until about 1995,  it was never referred to it as VBS, we always referred to the event as Vacation Bible School. There were no VBS kits or decorations to purchase. Everything was made by the teaches and helpers.

Mary Levesque was the first person to facilitate the entire VBS at our church which she led from 1995 until 2003.  Levesque started the issuance of VBS tee-shirts, hand screened by the late Bill Owen. Bill printed the VBS tee-shirts until his passing in 2008. The shirts were $2.00 each and Levesque would buy a shirt for any child who could not afford one. Levesque bought the VBS lessons at the former Jane and Jan shop in Winchester, Virginia. She also remembers store bought VBS kit’s being available during her time with VBS at our church.

Why we support VBS…

The Barna Group, a Christian research firm indicates nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. Additionally, the trajectory for a person’s lifetime habits and behaviors—including spiritual behaviors—are often set in childhood. How many unchurched children does our VBS register each summer?

VBS 2022…

Pastor Bertina Westley said “Make Waves” will commence on July 17 thru July 21, from 6 pm – 8:30 pm Sunday to Thursday. The church fellowship hall will be transformed into a beach party atmosphere for the whole summer season. A strong emphasis is placed on small groups to help children connect and focus on Bible school curriculum. Registration for the five-day class is free on the Stephens City UMC website. For more information, contact Vacation Bible School (VBS) Facilitator Jacquetta Owen at 540-450-4601.

Pastor Wesley invites children 4-12 years old to join us at Stephens City UMC located at 5291 Main Street for this wet and wild VBS adventure. “Children will learn that what you do today can change the world tomorrow. When you put your trust in Jesus, you can “Make Waves,” said Pastor Westley. “Through exciting activities, engaging lessons, and God’s Word, children (Little Wave Makers) will understand how they can share God’s love with the people in their lives.  A special thanks to all the church volunteers that make this event an annual success,” Pastor Westley said.

The biblical content built into the VBS curriculum lays foundational truths that can help kids to grow spiritually.  Kids who attend VBS will come to believe that Jesus gives them confidence so they too, can make positive change in the world. VBS offers an opportunity to provide a child with an unforgettable experience and lasting recollections. This phenomenal event generates memories that help lock Bible truths in a child’s heart and mind for a lifetime.

According to Facilitator Jacquetta Owen, VBS is one of the favorite annual events at our church and a flagship program. “Every year we explore a different theme and design activities, crafts, skits, songs and games that reflect that theme.  For children, these early interventions can become the foundation of a Christian life as they understand that God loves them and cares for them. Everything is upbeat and positive as we present various stories from the Bible and reenact some of the events,” Owen said.  The program allows kids to participate in recreation, take part in hands-on mission projects, make discoveries and enjoy snacks together.

Deborah Phillips is a volunteer who assists with class registration and crafts. “VBS allows us to meet kids and their parents from all walks of life and education levels. Many do not attend church regularly, so it is an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus and reveal that church can be a fun and relaxing atmosphere,” Phillips said.  She believes that VBS lets kids learn how to interact with each other and to respect others like Christ teaches. As an adult volunteer, Phillips said she enjoys the opportunity to meet parents in the neighborhood and to evangelize in a fun, low-key manner.

2022 SCUMC Summer VBS was 5 nights of Bible lessons, music, games, singing, dancing, puppet shows and dramatic retelling of familiar Bible stories all to the theme of “Making Waves” for Jesus. Using our Time Machine, VBS was highlighted by visits with “Adam & Eve” and “Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch.”

Thank you…

Stephens City UMC would like to thank Virginia Hills Church in Front Royal for offering their VBS theme decorations. Virginia Hills generously donated scenery, backdrops and even a tiki hut from their recently completed VBS session. We are so grateful that they thought to pass this gift along to us.

We also thank Garber’s Ice Cream Company of Winchester for their donation to support our awesome Ice Cream Party on the last night!

Reflections on our Community Easter Egg Hunt

Submitted by Cathy Barley

As head of missions at our church, I was tasked with organizing a community Easter egg hunt. Our church has been actively trying to reach our Stephens City “neighbors” and what better way than to sponsor this event on the Newtown Commons Park area off Main Street. The committee spent several months in preparation, and the help of many, many volunteers, but the event was well worth the work it took to organize. We are estimating that about 500 to 1,000 adults and children visited on Saturday, April 9th.

The Commons parking lot was filled to capacity with the attendee’s vehicles plus overflowing vehicles spilling onto the adjacent streets to park. I was overjoyed at the positive impact that this event seemed to have on all who volunteered and participated. The egg hunt was more of a carnival atmosphere than the usual Easter event. All participants were requested to stop by the registration table next to the inflatable Easter bunny to sign in to hunt for 4,000 plastic eggs filled with candy and toys.

We invited Mayor Diaz to kick off each of the 4 different age group egg hunts. The children were eagerly searching for the golden eggs to get the Easter basket with additional goodies. To challenge
the older children, the 7 – 9-year-old children participated in a Freeze Egg Hunt. When the music was playing, children could look for the eggs but as soon as the music stopped, they had to freeze
– and they did! Mayor Diaz said that this was his favorite egg hunt. Large numbers of parents surrounded each egg hunt roped off area.

For the oldest group of 10 to 12-year-old children, we devised a 3-Dimensional maze with ropes, hula hoops and pool noodles. Some of the eggs were even hanging from the ropes. The children began to gather around the maze an hour prior to the event. Never seeing one before, they tried to figure out in advance how they could best accumulate the most eggs. Younger children wanted this to be their hunt area.

In addition to the egg hunts, we also featured face painting. Volunteers from Sherando High School (Leo’s, Art Club, and National Honors Society) assisted with this activity as well as other old-fashioned games like the potato sack race and the egg and spoon race. There was a line all day with parents and children patiently waiting for their turn. Mike Bulley, our balloon man made 350 free animals and other things out of balloons. He had a non-stop line from 12 to 4. Mr. Bulley is a member of the Disabled American Veterans Department of Virginia, Chapter 9, Winchester.

The Easter Bunny arrived at 1 pm and was located on the Commons music stage. Many photos were taken by Marty Barley and Mary Beth Powell. The children were so excited to get to see the EB. Stephens City Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department brought their much beloved mascot, Sparky the Fire Dog. Many children wanted their picture taken with him. The fire truck blared its siren to alert children that another egg hunt was about to begin. Stephens City police officers were on hand to manage traffic control around the Commons and provide oversight.

Pastor Bertina Westley attended this event with her son participating in the activities. Pastor Bertina took the opportunity to meet and greet our “neighbors.  Many new relationships were established between pastor and the local community. ”When I asked several people if they would like us to sponsor this event again next year, I was given a unanimous response of  Yes, please!” This was our first time sponsoring a community egg hunt. Like all events, we have had suggestions for things we could add or do differently next year. We will do this again next year. I can’t wait.

Afterward, the Church Facebook page was jumping with activity as photos were posted and many viewers were commenting on what they experienced at our event. In a world that seems at present to be inundated with sadness and pain, what better way to bring our community, our neighbors together for a free, fun filled family day.

Trunk-or-Treat touches many lives in Stephens City community

Be the Salt and the Light!

14 “You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

The 2021 Saturday Trunk-or-Treat event was not a success by coincidence.  It was all about good and simple planning, strategy, design and of course, plenty of congregation volunteers.  Our church knows parents would appreciate a free, safe, easy alternative to the traditional Trick or Treat night.  An afternoon Trunk or Treat event allows kids to have all the fun of Halloween while reducing some of the hazards they face walking door-to-door.  The event also provides access to Halloween festivities for families who do not live in a typical residential neighborhood.

During September, we collaborated on promotional activities to include church web site and Facebook notifications, public service announcements, signage, newspaper bulletins and feature articles.  Church organizers solicited donations by placing a candy drop off station near the administration office to supplement the chocolate inventory.  Due to the strong possibility of inclement weather, a Rain Date was made for Sunday, however the Good Lord provided for a rain free occasion and only a drizzle arrived at the conclusion of the afternoon activity.  On event day, ministry leaders pre-staged their harvest theme decorated vehicle trunks loaded with traditional Halloween treats.  Photographers were on site to capture the special moments.

Our small church parking lot was strategically laid out to handle fifteen vans and SUV’s, numerous games and one humongous RWB garbage disposal truck from Boyce also distributing treats.  Entrance and traffic flow signs were liberally placed to keep families moving in the proper direction and make the best use of limited space.  The large parking lot across Germain Street provided ample space and traffic control was managed by volunteers who routed visitors to the entrance on Filbert Street and exiting cars via Germain Street.  A volunteer guided families through the crosswalk which allowed for a steady stream of children seeking Halloween treats while providing proper safety management.  Two Stephens City police cruisers, maintained traffic control around the church property area streets during the Trunk-or-Treat.

This was a “Main Street” event and parents brought their children by car and many town locals came by foot, dressed in costume, collecting candy as they visited each car, all located in one parking lot.  The Trunk-or-Treat event comprised a wide range of activities including tossing a Velcro ball to stick to a pumpkin, carrying an eyeball in a spoon across the great church lawn, lobbing a beanbag into hula hoops and of course, the now mandatory, Corn Hole.  Visitors could register for the hundred-dollar, fifty dollar and twenty-five-dollar gift cards.  Artist Michael Bulley, created balloon animals for the kids.  Children patiently waited in long lines to receive over 200 balloons and were ever fascinated by the magic from the timeless art of balloon twisting and balloon animals.  Mr. Bulley is a fund-raising member of the Disabled American Veterans Department of Virginia, Chapter 9, Winchester. Attendance was estimated at between 300-400 people.

Children entering from the west parking lot had the opportunity to take photos with Sparky the Fire Dog.  Stephens City Fire and Rescue provided an engine on site which included tours of the customized equipment used during firefighting operations and members to assist with the static display.  Kids met firefighters and learned about fire safety basics.  The fire truck blared its siren at precisely 1 PM to commence the Trunk-or-Treat activity and again at 3 PM to conclude the candy give-away.  The Trunk-or-Treat Costume Parade began at 3 PM along the sidewalks on Main, Filbert and Germain Streets.  Church Elders carried the new SCUMC banner.  The parade had oversight provided by Stephens City police cruiser escort.  The cruisers, with lights flashing, led and trailed the parade, offering caution to pedestrians and safety awareness to vehicle traffic along the short route.  The parade, with spectators lining the streets, provided children an exciting opportunity to play act what it is like to transform into someone or something else for one afternoon.

Pastor Bertina Westley had the chance to meet with visitors who were unfamiliar with our church or who once attended in the past.  Pastor took the opportunity to speak with these families and let them know about other events we are planning and about possibly registering with our pre-school, daycare, senior center, bible study, vacation bible school, and STEM camp with an open heart to God’s Word.  She also asked for suggestions on how next year’s Trunk or Treat could be improved.  Pastor believes with continued careful planning, Trunk-or-Treat can easily become an event that the entire Stephens City neighborhood looks forward to each year.  May God bless our church as we actively demonstrate generosity, care and compassion for the Stephens City community.

Vacation Bible School was great success with thirty students attending

  • Dates: June 27 – July 1
  • Time: 6 pm to 8:15pm each night
  • Place: Stephens City UM Church on Main Street
  • Theme: Wilderness Escape – Moses leads the Israelite’s through the desert
  • Ages: 4 years old through 12 years old
  • Activities: singing, stories, crafts, snacks, games!

Stephens City Vacation Bible School (VBS) on Main Street just completed an exciting adventure through the wilderness as kids walked through the parted seas, ate manna and learned to trust God. Wilderness Escape is where God guides and provides. Kids grabbed their tunics and got prepared for an exciting journey with God’s people, the Israelites as each evening brought God’s Word to life. Kids joined a caravan with Moses and the Israelites as they escaped Egypt. They discovered the truth straight from Moses—one of history’s greatest God-followers. Everyone experienced what it might have been like to live in the Bible-times wilderness! Moses was obedient to God in his faith and the Red Sea parted for the Hebrews to escape from slavery in Egypt!

The biblical content built into the curriculum taught foundational truths that helped kids understand who Jesus is and why they need a personal Savior. The relationships established with kids and their families provided many opportunities which reflected the love of Jesus and revealed the truth of the Gospel.

The five-day Vacation Bible School (VBS) ministers’ children in the church and establishes outreach to the surrounding communities. VBS is supported by a creative theme of Bible study, game activities, worship and even time for some delicious snacks.

VBS offers an opportunity to provide a child with an unforgettable experience and lasting recollections. This phenomenal event generates memories that help lock Bible truths in a child’s heart and mind for a lifetime.

Participants experienced stories from the Bible, met new children, had a good time with friends and learned new and exciting activities. They learned Bible verses, acted out Bible stories, shared the Gospel, sang fun educational songs, watched and participated in skits, created crafts, participated in recreation, took part in hands-on mission projects, made discoveries and enjoyed a meal together.

And that’s a wrap! Vacation Bible School was a great success! Fun, friends, food and learning for over 30 kids this week!

A special thank you to Garber’s Ice Cream for donating the awesome creamy treats for a great party on our last night!