Start with Good News: Rediscovering the Why of Evangelism

We’re excited to be hosting  “Start with Good News: Rediscovering the Why of Evangelism” at Union Presbyterian Seminary, September 27-29, on our Richmond campus, and lived streamed to our Charlotte campus.

This three-day conference will help re-educate ourselves on how to talk about the gospel and why it matters in the world, a fitting topic in our changing church.  “Start with Good News” will provide leadership and information relevant to church members of all denominations, sizes, and viewpoints.

However, the registration deadline is September 20! We don’t want you to miss this unique opportunity to be in conversation on the topic of evangelism in the 21st century.

Led by UPSem Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism John Vest, the conference will feature four key leaders in the field of post-modern evangelism: Nikki MacMillan (M.Div.’99), stated clerk and mission coordinator for the Cherokee Presbytery; Roger Ross, senior pastor for First United Methodist Church in Springfield, Illinois; Anthony Smith, teaching pastor at Mission House in Salisbury, North Carolina; and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author and speaker.

Richmond campus housing is full, but the SpringHill Suites in Glen Allen is offering a special rate of $83 per night for this conference.

For those in the Charlotte area, we are live-streaming the conference to the Charlotte campus of UPSem, at 5141 Sharon Road.  You will participate fully through the live feed in plenaries and worship, and for small group time, you’ll meet together in groups just as we are doing in Richmond.  Cost is the same, and lunches will be served.

The cost of $25 per person (max of $100 per church) for the entire conference, including two lunches, is so low due to the generous support of our partners, the Presbytery of Charlotte, Presbytery of the James, and the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic.

Please consider getting a group from your church together to attend, or just come by yourself.  Registration will close on September 20, so don’t miss your chance to be part of this exciting and timely conference.

Click here
for biographical sketches of the leaders.

Click here for a schedule of the conference.

Click here to register for Start with Good News:  Rediscovering the Why of Evangelism

Sweet potatoes, BBQ Church, Convocation kick off fall term

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Service Day at Shalom Farms

We welcomed new and returning students to the Richmond campus for the fall term with a Service Day on a farm to benefit low-income Richmond communities. Nearly 30 students were joined by seminary staff at Shalom Farms to pick several bushels of sweet potatoes and sort them for distribution to after-school programs, food banks, and community kitchens.

Relay games on the quad

Earlier in the week, students were treated to a picnic and relay games on the quad that tested their coordination and athletic skills. The Joyful Feast sponsored a special edition of BBQ Church inside Lake Chapel, where they celebrated worship and a meal in a wonderfully hospitable way.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism leads BBQ Church

After classes began, we paused midweek to celebrate our 205th Opening Convocation. Professor of Preaching and Worship Richard Voelz, our newest faculty member, presented “#ForTheSakeOf” inspired by Psalm 122.  

Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship Richard Voelz

In response to the sermon, congregation members were invited to live tweet using the sermon title as the hashtag.


Director for Alumni Development Clay Macaulay (D.Min.’85) presided at the communion table. Students, staff and faculty joined together in a litany to commit themselves to their academic and professional work throughout the 2016-2017 year.  The service was followed by a community photo shoot and lunch in Lake Chapel.

Opening Convocation procession

We look forward to the year ahead!

Union Named Seminary that Changes the World


RICHMOND, VA (September 16, 2016) Union Presbyterian Seminary has been recognized as a Seminary that Changes the World, Class of 2016-17 by The Center for Faith and Service. Each year, Seminaries that Change the World identifies a select group of seminaries and divinity schools offering innovative courses, programs, and opportunities for students seeking to engage in social justice and service work while in seminary. UPSem’s recognition reflects the ongoing work the school is doing to prepare future faith leaders.

“We are pleased that the many efforts of our students, staff, and faculty, and indeed the work of the institution itself, have been recognized as we respond to God’s call to engage in and participate with the transforming work of God’s Reign in our world,” said UPSem President Brian K. Blount. “Our commitment to serving God in this way neither begins nor ends with this wonderful recognition, but we are delighted to be counted among such wonderful company.” 

UPSem’s engagement with and for the world spans a variety of programs, partnerships, and courses. The seminary is engaged with the local community as an institutional partner with Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities (RISC), an initiative that brings congregations and leaders together to address root causes of injustice in the greater Richmond area. 

In the coming year, UPSem will begin a partnership with Shalom Farms which promises to create one of the largest Urban Farms in Virginia. The collaboration will help to provide food for people in food deserts in Richmond, teach basic gardening, and address theological issues around ecology and stewardship.

UPSem also has initiated a new set of course requirements designated “The Church in the World,” which includes specialized topics of study on evangelism, interfaith relations and community engagement. Course offerings include Wealth and Poverty in the Bible, Intercultural Religious Education, Sex, Money; and Politics in the Ancient Church, Urban Ministry: Surviving and Thriving.

A partnership between UPSem and The Presbytery of the James has brought Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism John Vest to teach academic courses in evangelism, offer training to local congregations, and begin a new spiritual formation platform called The Joyful Feast which seeks to engage those on the edge of the religious community. 

Katie Geneva Cannon, Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Ethics, recently received Union Theological Seminary of New York‘s Union Medal at the 178th Commencement. That seminary’s highest award honors persons of faith whose lives reflect the mission of the seminary in the world. Cannon focuses her work in the areas of Christian ethics, womanist theology, and women in religion and society. Cannon was the first African American woman ordained in the PC (USA). 

The list of Seminaries that Change the World is published by The Center for Faith and Service, an organization that works to help seminaries, service programs, denominations and local congregations connect faith with service and social justice work. Reflecting on this year’s list, Wayne Meisel, Executive Director of The Center for Faith and Service, said “Anyone seeking to change the world ought to at least consider seminary or divinity school as an option to grow personally in one’s faith and to inspire, sustain and deepen his or her commitment to neighbor, community, country and the world. Through their commitment to collaborate, this diverse group of schools named on this year’s list of Seminaries that Change the World embody the best of faithful and justice-seeking communities.”

For more information about Seminaries that Change the World, visit