…So they are no longer two, but one…

(Mark 10:8, NRSV)

The District Initiative Core Team has been working diligently to respond to the Bishop’s request for all district superintendents to begin the work of combining two districts into one new district. As the Team does its work for the July 1 arrival, as with the arrival of a new baby, we can’t wait until the last minute to plan! This process has really been life-giving for the Core Team. We appreciate those of you who completed surveys or attended listening sessions to give useful feedback. The focus of the Core Team’s work was to respond to the increasing demands and time constraints placed on the DS as she now serves both the Alexandria and Arlington districts. It was clear to the team that the districts would need to function differently to support Sarah, but they also seized the opportunity to think critically about the structure and how the new district could become more effective and fruitful.

As we continue to pray and plan for the arrival of The Northern Virginia District, we anticipate two significant changes. We want to create a better flow for Sarah to stay connected to all 106 churches and 156 clergy, and we plan to reduce the number of administrative district meetings that need to be attended by the district superintendent.

To support Sarah in terms of staying connected with the churches and clergy, the Core Team recommended the addition of a part-time staff person. Working with the Bi-District Personnel Committee, the Bi-District has created a new Director of District Operations position to serve Alexandria and Arlington leading up to the transition, and The Northern Virginia District beginning July 1. The District Director of Operations is an appointed position responsible for the administrative ministries of the Northern Virginia District, attending to the organizational teams and functions of the district. On March 21, 2022, we will welcome Rev. Larry Thompson as the new Director of District Operations. Rev. Thompson is a retired elder, who has served as a pastor, district superintendent, and interim pastor.  He brings a very specific wealth of knowledge to the role. We are excited to have Rev. Thompson with us and are VERY excited that he is willing to lend his experience and expertise to help us in this season of transition toward one district. (Learn more about Larry here!)

Many of you have heard of the Simplified Accountable Structure (SAS). Did you know that SAS was not just for churches, but also for conferences and districts? Sarah has sought the wisdom of Kay Kotan, the co-author of Mission Possible, the handbook for moving towards a SAS, to help the Core Team think through what it would look like for our district to be a SAS district to address the number of committees and meetings for the DS.

Recognizing that while the new district begins on July 1*, the District’s SAS structure will not be in place until January 2023. On July 1 we will shift from two separate district administrative structures to one combined structure as the first step toward SAS.

If you would like to read more information about the new Northern Virginia District, including a list of FAQs, a timeline of the process, and more, please visit https://novaumc.org/new-district/. Also, be on the lookout for opportunities to attend a listening session in May, where you will hear updates and have an opportunity to ask questions.

*At Annual Conference in June, lay and clergy members will vote on reducing the number of districts in our conference from sixteen to eight. If we discern that eight districts is how we wish to align ourselves, then we will put into effect the excellent work done by District Initiative teams across Virginia.