Church of the Brethren
Virlina District
3402 Plantation Road, NE
Roanoke, Virginia  24012
(800) 847-5462
(540) 362-1816
Virlina District

Church of the Brethren
Continuing the Work of Jesus.  Peacefully. Simply. Together.
Continuing the Work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.


View our Events Calendar here! 

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The Virlina District Board - Church of the Brethren, Inc. has called Mary Sink St. John to serve as Director of District Conference, Nurture and Witness.  She began work on March 1, 2019. This new 2/3 time position replaces the former Associate District Executive Minister position.

Mary graduated from the Lord Botetourt High School in Daleville, Virginia in 1983 and from Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts Degree (English) in 1987. Mary is a member of the Ninth Street Church of the Brethren in Roanoke. She formerly served the district as the first full time Program Director at Camp Bethel (1991-96) and as Director of Children, Youth and Young Adult Ministries (2007-16). She has served denominationally on the Outdoor Ministries Association Steering Committee and on the national junior high youth conference team. Mary has coordinated the last three Virlina District bus trips to National Youth Conference. She is married to Frank St. John. They are the parents of three children, Sam, Maggie and Betsy.


Joy A. Murray began as Coordinator of Children, Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Virlina District of the Church of the Brethren on August 1. She has been a member of Central Church of the Brethren for 14 years. During that time she has served as Youth Director/ Minister. Joy brings 39 years of experience working with youth to the position. The position is funded by “Seed, Scattered and Sown: Reaching Beyond This Generation.”

Born in Chicago, Ilinois, she grew up in Nebraska and graduated from South Vigo High School in Terre Haute, Indiana. She has taken college classes from Shenandoah Bible College and Virginia Western Community College. For more than twenty years she has been employed as an Instructional Assistant in Special Education at Mountain View Elementary School in Roanoke County. She has been married to Mike for 39 years. They have two married sons and four wonderful grandchildren.

Joy was fortunate to be raised in a Christian home. She spent many hours on the front pew of churches as a child. Her mother is a gifted and talented organist/pianist/musician. She become a Christian as a young child. Joy feels very strongly about helping people become all that God means for them to be, to have a growing faith, and to be comfortable sharing the Gospel with others, be it by word or deed. She may be reached at <> or at <>. 


The District Resource Center has a large volume of printed resources, including books and periodicals.  We need volunteers to record which resources we have so we can make them more easily accessible for others to borrow.  This would be a great project for youth who are looking for community service or volunteer hours.  Call the office or email Mary Sink St. John if you are interested: 95400 362-1816 or <>.


The District Resource Center has one copy of the 2019 Annual Conference Wrap Up DVD available for loan. This is the perfect resource for delegate reports to congrega-
tions. Please contact Mary Sink St.John to reserve your slot at


The next class to be held at the Roanoke Center will be CHURCH LEADERSHIP AND ADMINISTRATION, taught by David K. Shumate. Textbooks and resources for the class are: Becoming Barnabas: The Ministry of Encouragement. Paul Moots, The Alban Institute, 2004, Foundations for Purposeful Church Administration by Alvin J.  Lindgren, Abingdon, 1965 (1988 edition – two new copies available at the DRC for $10 per copy) and the Church of the Brethren Manual of Organization and Polity found on the internet at

The Sunday afternoon classes will be held on August 4, August 18, September 8 and September 22, 2019 from 2:30 – 6:30 p.m. at the District Resource Center, 3402 Plantation Road, NE, Roanoke, VA. Tuition for the class will be $75.00 (except that it is free for Virlina students living more than 75 miles one-way from the DRC in Roanoke) and students are responsible for purchasing the necessary textbooks.

For more information or to obtain a registration form, please contact Gary L. Basham, Director of Ministry Formation by telephone at (540) 890-3818 or by electronic mail at Make checks payable to the VIRLINA DISTRICT and send with the registration form by July 26, 2019 to: Gary Basham, 2526 Parkview Drive, Vinton, VA 24179-1612. CEU credit is available for ordained ministers taking the class.


Ethics training is mandatory for all ministers and students in the Christian Growth Institute and other ministry training programs. Both the basic unit for ministerial students and licensed ministers, taught by Janet OberLambert, as well as the advanced unit for commissioned and ordained ministers, taught by Jim Benedict, will be available at Practice of Ministry Day at the Cloverdale Church on August 3. This will be the only basic unit offered in our district.

Advanced sessions for ordained and commissioned ministers, as well as licensed ministers who are serving as pastors and have previously had the basic unit, will be held as follows:

      September 14 Charlottesville 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

      September 15 Linville Creek 3 p.m. - 8 p.m.

      September 16 Coulson 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

      September 17 Collinsville 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

      September 18 Lynchburg 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Registration forms are available by contacting us at <>.


National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) is “a Spirit-filled gathering of adults who love learning and discerning together, exploring God's call for their lives and living out that call by sharing their energy, insight, and legacy with their families, communities, and the world" It is scheduled for September 2-6, 2019 at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center located in the mountains of western N.C.

Registration will open online on May 1. The cost per person is $195 if you register before July 15. After that date the cost will be $225. First time attendees will get a $20 discount. Your registration fee does not include housing or meals. After you register you will be able to go to the Lake J housing reservations website to make your lodging reservations. Go to <> for more information.


We have received inquiries about a district-sponsored charter bus to the National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) on September 2-9. Expressions of interest will determine whether this option is pursued. Please contact the District Resource Center to register your interest at (540) 362-1816 or <>.


“Tune My Heart To Sing Thy Grace” is the first-ever Virlina District Choir Festival. It will be held on September 13-14, 2019, at the Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Virginia. The guest director will be S. Reed Carter, IV. Carter serves as Minister of Music at the Salem Presbyterian Church and as director of the Salem Choral Society. Robert “Bob” Iseminger, instrumentalist of the Central Church, will serve as our accompanist.

We will learn and rehearse four or five anthems on Friday evening and Saturday. The festival will conclude with a service of worship filled with music and the Word at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. It will be open to the public. We hope to have 100% participation from the Church of the Brethren Choirs (and all others who love to sing) in the area! You’ll be able to take your anthems home to share with your congregation!

If you live out of the Roanoke area, and would like the blessing of staying in a Church of the Brethren family host home overnight Friday, let us know!!  A schedule and fee information (to cover music and food) will be shared soon! If you have questions or need more information, please contact Carol Elmore by e-mail at or by telephone at (540) 774-3217! This event is planned and sponsored by the Spiritual Development Retreat Committee of the Virlina District.


The next Children's Disaster Services (CDS) workshop is scheduled for September 20-21 at Oak Grove Church of the Brethren. CDS trains volunteers to provide specialized childcare in disaster assistance centers. To register for this workshop or find out more about CDS, visit the CDS website at or contact Sharon Flora at or (540) 427-2233.


The Annual Day of Prayer for Peace Service will be held at the Germantown Brick Church of the Brethren on Sunday, September 22, 2019, at 3 p.m. This service is sponsored by the Virlina District's Peace Affairs Committee. 


All members of the Roanoke City congregations (Central, First Church, Hollins Road, Ninth Street and Williamson Road) are invited to participate in a discussion of some of the insights and wisdom about Kingdom Building that Paul Mundey shared at the Kingdom Building Conference on May 31 and June 1. Paul’s presentation included much food for thought. This follow up gathering will give others the opportunity to benefit from his counsel. We will meet at Hollins Road Church on Thursday evening, September 26, at 7 p.m. Topics include “The Person I Must Become” and “Stories of Churches Growing Young.” There will be opportunities to share what has worked in your congregation and the problems that your congregation has experienced in seeking to follow Christ’s commandment to make disciples of all people. This opportunity is for anyone who has an interest in Kingdom Building, not just pastors or leadership team/board members. So, invite a friend! Materials shared by Paul can be accessed at For more information contact Harry Rhodes at (540) 588-1663 or Mary Sink St.John at the District Resource Center at (540) 362-1816 or


‘‘CONQUERING CLUTTER: MIND – SPIRIT – BODY” is the theme of the 2019 Fall Retreat of the Northern Area Women’s Fellowship of the Virlina District. This event will be held on Saturday, September 28, 2019 from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the Peters Creek Church of the Brethren at 5333 Cove Road, NW in Roanoke, VA 24019. The registration fee, which must be pre-paid, is $12.00 and includes the cost of the luncheon meal. Registration starts at 9 a.m. and the program begins at 9:30 a.m.

Jennie Sue Murdock will speak on “Making More Room for Happiness” from Romans 12:2, Three for Glory, a vocal trio from the Peters Creek Church, will provide music. Carol Jensen will provide tips on “decluttering” and how to organize important papers, along with a question and answer session. The luncheon meal will be catered by Second Helpings Café.

Come and be with us for this special event! Invite a friend! Registration forms are available by sending an e-mail request to or at the website. Please return the form with a $12 registration fee to Gwen Kropff at 1830 Woodmere Court in Salem, VA. 24153.


The Heritage Day Festival at Camp Bethel will be Saturday, October 5, 2019. Please encourage everyone in your congregation to participate and help in this vitally important fund raiser for Camp Bethel. Tell your friends and help us advertise. Heritage Day forms, fliers and information are available at , or from your Pastor or Camp Representative.


Our Brethren Heritage bus tour is planned for Saturday, October 19, 2019. This year’s fall foliage outing, sponsored by the Historical Committee of the Virlina District, will include visits to a number of congregations in central Virginia. Among those visited will be Lynchburg, Bethel, West Richmond, Hopewell, Wakefield Chapel and New Covenant. Several historical presentations will be a part of this tour and (0.6) continuing education credits will be available for ordained ministers.

The cost, including continuing education credit, transportation and the luncheon meal, is a bargain at $49.99. The tour will depart from the District Resource Center in Roanoke at 7:00 a.m. The luncheon meal will be provided by the West Richmond Church. We plan to be back in Roanoke by 6:30 p.m. This will be a great opportunity to learn about Brethren life in the Piedmont of Virginia!

Please contact Betty M. Wills at the District Resource Center to reserve your spot and make your check out to Virlina District Board – Church of the Brethren (put “Heritage Tour” in memo spot).


The annual Disaster Response Volunteer Appreciation Dinner will be held at the Antioch Church on Sunday, October 20, beginning at 5:00 p.m. Invitations will be mailed to volunteers, but all persons interested in disaster response or those who have supported disaster response through making kits, financial aid, or prayers are invited to attend. 2018-2019 volunteers will be recognized as part of the program. To reserve your place, contact Mary Sink St.John at the District Resource Center at (540) 362-1816 or <>.


Virlina District congregations gather annually to worship, fellowship, learn, and transact business items. The 2019 Virlina District Conference will be held on November 8-9 at the Grandin Court Baptist Church (2660 Brambleton Avenue, Roanoke, Virginia). The theme will be "Don't Hide the Cross" with the scripture focus "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." I Corinthians 1:18 (KJV)

Dana Beth Cassell, pastor of the Peace Covenant Church in Durham, NC, and Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Director of Ministry for the Church of the Brethren, Inc. will be our preachers. Nancy will speak at the Ministers and Spouses Dinner and preach at the Saturday morning worship service. Dana Beth will preach at the Friday evening worship service. Some original pieces of music will liven our services.

The following are our conference officers: Roy U. Turpin, Moderator, Cathy S. Huffman, Moderator-Elect, and Pamela K. Clark, Clerk. The District Conference Committees, Program and Arrangements and Nominating and Personnel, are busy making preparations for conference and for the ballot respectively. Further information and registration forms will be in the September 2019 HEADLINER. For information or questons, please call Mary Sink St.John, Director of District Conference, Nurture and Witness, at (540) 362-1816 or by e-mail at


The Program and Arrangements Committee concluded their planning meeting for 2020. Registration fees for the 2020 Annual Conference in Grand Rapids will be $125 for non-delegates and $305 for delegates. The hotel costs will be $119/night (+tax) for the Amway Grand Hotel and Courtyard by Marriott, and $129/night for the JW Marriott. All three hotels will have free self-parking. 


Intercultural Ministries of the Church of the Brethren has launched a new and exciting venture called the Xenos Project. The word Xenos is a Greek word meaning stranger or alien. The purpose of Xenos is to build a community of congregations feeling called to speak up and take action supporting immigrants within our nation. A website has been created where congregations who are involved and working on immigration can communicate with each other and with other congregations interested in becoming involved. The Xenos website will be a place for a respectful, biblically centered conversation, building into a network of those concerned about our brothers and sisters in need—about immigration / family separations / refugee / asylum issues and justice.

You can learn more about the Xenos project by visiting the website at Begin by taking our survey of congregational concerns and actions about immigrant, refugee, and asylum issues. Ir a la encuesta en español. To become more involved in the project, or if you need additional information, please contact us at


Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate in an event. In preparation, please: pray for the church and the Spirit’s guidance as we move through this process; visit the Compelling Vision website at, and read about the Compelling Vision process (especially if you were not at Annual Conference and are unfamiliar with it); reflect on scriptures that inform our ministry and life together as the body of Christ; and bring a Bible and, if possible, a smart phone, tablet, or laptop to the event. 


Who can go on a trip?  What is a disaster response trip like?  Do I need to be a skilled carpenter or electrician to go?  How can I help children?  The Disaster Response Committee welcomes the opportunity to speak to congregations who want to learn more about Brethren Disaster Ministries.  Contact Virlina's Co-Coordinators, Ed and Susan Mckimmy, by phone (540)354-5345 or e-mail <> to schedule a presentation for your congregation.


Did you know that the District Resource Center can run background checks for church employees and volunteers?  Completing background checks for those persons who work with minors or volunteer regularly is a good practice to start and maintain.  Congregations looking to hire new staff who will be interacting with minors, operating church vehicles, or managing funds, need to seriously consider having a background check run on applicants.  Each check costs only $15.00.  To learn more or request an authorization form for a background check, contact the office (540) 362-1816.




Brethren Disaster Ministries Still Seeking Volunteers in North Carolina, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico!

Brethren Disaster Ministries is sponsoring several weeks of clean-up help in St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Puerto Rico.  The Disaster Response Committee of the Virlina District will provide a total of $750.00 to help with airfare to and from St. Thomas and Puerto Rico if going in the upcoming months.  There is a limit to $150.00 per person.   Please do not hesitate to contact us about this opportunity!!  Volunteers from Virlina congregations can contact Ed or Susan McKimmy (540) 354-5345 if interested in going and if interested in applying for financial aid.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is not just for those who like to work in clean-up and construction. Children’s Disaster Services is another way to volunteer your time when disasters strike. Children often experience trauma and need nurturing individuals to care for them and play with them.  These volunteers need specific training, however.  If you are interested in receiving this training, please let Ed and Susan know at (540) 354-5345, so that a training session might be organized for people in our district.

bridgewater college's church travel team available!

The mission of the Bridgewater College Church Travel Team Program is to strengthen the church/college relationship and prepare students for future church leadership. This mission is carried out through student Church Travel Teams that provide fresh and energetic leadership for worship services, Sunday school classes and other events in local congregations.

For many years, Bridgewater College students have generously given of their time and talents to provide leadership in Church of the Brethren congregations. These Church Travel Teams provide significant ministry experience for our students and a valuable service to the congregations that host them.  

If you have hosted a Bridgewater College Church Travel Team in the past, we hope you will do so again. If not, we encourage you to have a team of our talented and dedicated students serve your congregation!  Please feel free to contact Chaplain Robbie Miller any time at and our Student Church Travel Team Coordinator Christa Craighead (after August 28) at with any questions you may have.

The form to request a team can be accessed here: BW Church Travel Team Request Form