Tag Archive for: SCUMC

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 (www.heartsonghill.com). She also owns a hobby farm with chickens, goats, and rescue dogs. Her second business, Heartsong Hill Hungry Goats, (www.heartsonghillgoats.com) employs her goats to offer a natural and chemical-free way to clear land.

See Royal Examiner article.


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.

Crazy for quilts: Group makes 15 quilts in two days for good cause

STEPHENS CITY — How many quilts can you make in two days?
A Bink-A-Thon organized by local resident Jacquetta Owen produced 15 children’s quilts that will be donated to the Stephens City Police Department to comfort youngsters in stressful situations.
For the unfamiliar, a Bink-A-Thon is an event where a group makes as many quilts as possible to give to a good cause.
Owen’s Bink-A-Thon was held March 20-21 at Stephens City United Methodist Church. Participants in the “Binky Patrol” included Diane Clawson, Denise Jensen, Janet Foote, Deborah Phillips and Mary Beth Powell.

Jesse Curry – Cook can’t leave the kitchen behind

Jesse Curry, a resident of Stephens City, used to cook for the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (now Seniors First) senior program at Stephens City United Methodist Church. Jesse also donated a copy of the Rev. Robert Orrick portrait to our church which is located in the Orrick Chapel Fellowship Hall.

See the Winchester article about Mr. Curry below.


On Saturday, August 3, 2019 an event celebrating soul food and honoring African American chefs of the Shenandoah Valley was held at Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, Virginia. Belle Grove Plantation is a key legislated partner of Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. The event was free and open to the public with tours of the Manor House and talks throughout the day.

“We have had tremendous response to this idea,” said Robin Lyttle President of the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project. “There were so many amazing chefs recommended to us who are so worthy of recognition. We look forward to honoring these individuals and will invoke the name of many others who shared their talents and passion for cooking with our community.”

The honored chefs include:

  • Mr. Ira Iverson Becks Sr., Mr. Ira Iverson Becks Jr., and Mrs. Viola E. Becks, Chefs at Ingleside Hotel, Staunton, VA
  • Mr. Jesse Curry, Chef and Owner of Rustic Tavern, Winchester, VA
  • Mrs. Catherine W. Dunn, Chef at Belle Meade Hotel and Lloyd’s Steak House, Harrisonburg, VA
  • Mr. Jerome Grant, Executive Chef, Sweet Home Café, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC
  • Mrs. Ellen Williams Gant and Mrs. Lucille Kent Williams, Chefs at the Wayside Inn, Middletown, VA
  • Mr. Edwin Green, Chef and Owner, Po’ Green’s Southern Food & BBQ, Front Royal. VA
  • Mrs. Geneva Jackson, Caterer, Berryville, VA
  • Mrs. Vivienne Jackson, Chef and Owner, Ruth’s Tea Room, Winchester, VA
  • The Newman Family, Chefs at Wayside Inn, Middletown, VA
  • Mr. Henry Stewart, Chef Kavanaugh Hotel, Harrisonburg, VA
  • Mrs. Sue Tokes, Chef and Owner, Tokes Inn, Opequon, VA
  • Mr. William Tutt, Mrs. Edith Tutt, Mrs. Ella Twyman Tutt, Chefs, Luray, VA and Managers of Lewis Mountain Lodge in the Shenandoah National Park
  • Mrs. Savilla Toliver Vickers and Mrs. Edna Toliver Rhodes, Chefs and Caterers in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, VA
  • Mr. Kenneth Williams, Caterer, Winchester, VA