May 18, 2020
Reflection from Bishop Humphrey
My Dad was what they referred to in 1953 as “a GP” (General Practice Physician). He served in solo practice in rural NC community after medical school at Wake Forest. I’ve thought of him often in these times because he taught us how to properly wash our hands carefully and thoroughly!
 
He always said, “There is a reason they call it ‘The Art of Medicine’ and for the same reason say Doctors ‘practice’ medicine – because it really is more trial and error and trial again than we would like to admit.” More art and crafting than scientific fact and certainty.  
 
I don’t recall anyone saying Pastors “practice ministry,” but in these last couple of months, it certainly has felt a lot like that to me. I have frantically searched my inbox or the internet for the latest information or amazing new ideas so I can speak and write intelligently on something I never studied and never thought I would need to know. Ministry – and at times – life, have taken on a kind of surreal quality.
 
But then I realize – I don’t actually need to be an expert on pandemic patterns and transmission rates or even live-streaming worship. It is certainly helpful when actual experts offer insights, but what God’s people want and need from us as rostered and lay leaders are not epidemiology or technology skills.
 
They look to us to hear God’s Good News; to receive our compassion and ability to listen carefully and care widely – even if it is over the phone – about their deepest fears and foibles; their highest hopes and joys, even in the midst of a pandemic. They look to us for prayer, support, worship, learning, and serving.
 
Ministry is not scientific certainty – (which doesn’t actually exist in this case anyway), but it is incredibly important. We won’t be able to keep everyone safe no matter how hard we try. (And, we should absolutely try really, really hard! – so pay attention to the ELCA guidelines – they really are essential!)
 
But what we can do – and what we are already doing well – is sharing the incredible good news of Jesus, who forgives our sins; walks with us in the darkest valleys, and promises us that COVID-19 or even death cannot separate us from God’s embrace and love. With God, no mask, no hand-washing is needed! 
 
That is way more than my Dad could ever offer as a GP. So, be kind to yourself if your not an expert at Zoom or interpreting the latest CDC report. Just do your best, with other leaders, to decide why, when, and how to return to in-person gatherings. In all things, do your best and trust God will do the rest!
 
It’s not science. It’s not art. It’s Gospel Ministry! Thank you for offering it faithfully! Thanks be to God!

18 May 2020 – Invitation to SE Synod Webinar on Racism
This Thursday, May 21st, at 7:00 PM I invite you to join me in an ELCA Webinar on Racism being offered by the Southeastern Synod and featuring ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton and several experts to guide our conversation so we can learn more about what it means to be “working toward a deeper understanding of slavery and its legacy, of institutional and structural racism, of white privilege, and of attitudes and foundations of white supremacy.” (2019 Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent). Register at: www.elca-ses.org

And, while you are at it, mark your calendars for June 17, 2020. Our Synod, along with the ELCA will commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the murders of the “Emmanuel Nine” in Charleston, SC. Our Virginia Synod TAPESTRY Team is planning an online conversation and other resources for your use.

-Bishop Bob Humphrey
Office of the Bishop Statement
on Gathering Again
May 14, 2020 - Due to the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, the lack of available testing, the absence of an effective treatment for the disease, and the time needed to prepare for gathering again leads the  Bishop’s Office to recommend abstaining from in-person gatherings through Forward Virginia Safer at Home Phase 1, Phase 2, and possibly beyond.  As each new Phase of reopening occurs in Virginia, congregational leaders will need to consider how to protect the health and well-being of the entire community, not simply do what is allowable or legal. 

Use the links below to access the recommendations from the Office of the Bishop on Gathering Again, resources from the ELCA on Returning to In-Person Worship, and the Forward Virginia website from the Governor Northam’s Office. Please carefully review the information found in the four links as you begin preparations for gathering again.

Worship and Community
Digital Evangelism Webinar
Pastor Rob James, ELCA Program Director for Learning and Evaluation and the Mission Developer of GPS (God’s People Serving) Faith Community in Machesney Park, IL, will be offering a one hour workshop of pastors, deacons, and congregational leaders on Digital Evangelism on Thursday, May 21 at 2 PM. Pastor James will discuss tips and tools to strengthen digital ministry and increase engagement. If you aren’t able to join on Thursday, the webinar will be recorded and posted on the Synod website.

Time: May 21, 2020, 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)


Meeting ID: 874 1972 9699
Password: 069674

Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 646 876 9923 US (New York)
Bishop Eaton to Provide Sermon for Trinity Sunday
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will provide a video sermon for congregations to use as a part of their digital worship service on Sunday, June 7. She will be preaching on 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 and Matthew 28: 16-20. The sermon will be ready for release on May 31st. As soon a link to the sermon is available, the Virginia Synod will make that link available to congregations.
Virginia Synod Rostered Minister Prayer Service Gathering May 20, 2020
The Virginia Synod Ministerium will gather by Zoom for a Service of Word and Prayer on  Wednesday, May 20 at 1 PM  and following that a time of conversation with the Synod staff at  1:30 PM . In this time of physical distancing, we look forward to gathering rostered ministers together to hear God's Word and join in prayer for one another and for the world.

The link below will work for tomorrow's service as well as  all future Wednesday prayer services and gatherings .

  • Join Zoom Meeting
  • Meeting ID: 541 796 597
  • Password: 719750
  • Dial in by location:
  • +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
  • +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
Accompaniments for Hymns During Easter Season
Below are links to downloadable mp3 audio files providing organ accompaniments for hymns that are appropriate for use during the Easter season. All are in the public domain, so there are no copyright restrictions on playing the mp3 for your streaming worship or posting the words on your video feed or an accompanying bulletin. (Thanks to Nancy Delaney and Christ L utheran Church in Roanoke for providing these.)

Hymns for the Fifth-Seventh Sundays of Easter:
Stewardship and Financial Resources
SBA Issues Clarification on Certification of Need for Payroll Protection Loans
A number of church leaders have asked about the updated language around the good faith certification of need for the Payroll Protection Program in the second stimulus package passed by Congress.

Last week the SBA issued written clarification stating that for PPP borrowers with $2 million or less in loans, the certification of need will be presumed in good faith for the purpose of loan forgiveness. Specifically in FAQ #46 it says that, “Any borrower that, together with its affiliates, received PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith.” 

It appears, therefore, that the SBA will only require those receiving more than $2 million to demonstrate that they did not have access to additional lines of credit or other unrestricted funds as a part of qualifying for loan forgiveness.

One additional note on this document. FAQ #32 also reiterates that a housing allowance is included as a forgivable expense.
SBA Releases PPL Forgiveness Application
On Friday, May 15, the SBA released the Payroll Protection Loan Forgiveness Application that loan recipients will use to seek forgiveness at the end of their eight week (56 day) loan period. While it is likely that Payroll Protection Loan Lenders will have a lender-specific way to submit this paperwork and it is possible that the application will get revised in the weeks to come, this application provides the first clear look into what the SBA will require for loan forgiveness. You can download the application using the button below.

Forbes put together an extensive discussion of the forgiveness application. You can read that article at: SBA Payroll Protection Loan Forgiveness Deep Dive .
Best Practices for Payroll Protection Program Loan Forgiveness
To date, the SBA has not issued final guidance on forgiveness for Payroll Protection Loans or the application required to file for loan forgiveness. To help congregations prepare to seek forgiveness, accountants who specialize in working with non-profits and religious organizations have looked at the available information and are offering suggestions for how to maximize Payroll Protection Loan forgiveness. You an access a summary of that information and links to webinars and articles on Payroll Protection Loan forgiveness using the button below.
Faith Formation
Spark Family Sunday School Available
Guess what's new from your friends at  Sparkhouse ? Each week Sunday school curriculum developer (and former summer camp Arts & Crafts director) Dr. Dawn Rundman and her family will host  Family Sunday School

Each FREE episode is a lectionary-based lesson that families can watch together. The Bible story, illustrations, and other content are based on  Spark: Activate Faith Lectionary  Sunday school lessons. You may distribute, post, and reproduce the materials for your church families in whatever way works. Look for a new lesson every Tues. for the following Sun. through Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020.
Upcoming Webinars and Online Tutorials
ELCA Coaching Weekly Zoom Conversations
You are invited to join the ELCA Coaching weekly gathering designed to provide encouragement and support for ELCA leaders across the church and throughout society. Participants will hear topical presentations related to how we are called to be Church in the time of COVID-19, as well as an opportunity to be in small group discussions with an ELCA group coach facilitating the conversation. All of this is designed to help us process our feelings in this strange and fearful time and to create a space where we can each name our next most faithful step forward in our unique context. You are welcome to share this invitation with any other ELCA leader, rostered or lay. Join us on Wednesday, May 20, at 1:00 PM Central.

Our weekly gathering on May 20 will focus on children and youth.  What is it they have been absorbing, and what is it they can teach us? How do we as leaders support their care-givers and prepare for re-entry into a world that has changed around them? Each of our speakers will share reflections from their perspectives and experiences.  The conversation will be facilitated by  Linda Staats, founder of HomeGrown Faith  and ELCA Coordinator for  The Generosity Project .  Across the miles, Linda cares for her 101- year-old mother and extended family members of the Millennial and Alpha generation in Kenya.

Meeting ID: 180 439 412
Password: 648160

Dial by your location
    +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
    +1 646 876 9923 US (New York)
Digital Ministry Conference
The eFormation learning community invites you to worship, learn, and connect with digital ministry leaders at eFormation 2020. This all-day, all-online, one-day event will include 8 ecumenical presenters, worship, and conversation on  Wednesday, June 3,  from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The event will feature opportunities for prayer and small groups throughout the day.  
We Are Church Together
for the Sake of the World
Virginia Synod Partners with LFSVA for WiFi for Minnick
Thank you for your tremendous response to the WiFi for Minnick students project. Thanks to your generosity the Virginia Synod is currently providing WiFi for 20 students to allow them to continue their education while at home. With your help, we will meet and exceed our goal of providing WiFi to 25 Minnick students who were without WiFi. While we established 25 as the initial goal, with every student sponsored beyond 25, Lutheran Family Services will be able to expand this project to include more students.

If your congregation hasn’t participated yet, use the button below to find resources to help you participate in our Synod Church Together for the Sake of the World partnership with LFSVA to provide WiFi for Minnick students impacted by the closure of schools.

For questions about how you can get involved, contact Pastor John Wertz, Jr at: wertz@vasynod.org . Thank you for sharing your gifts to proclaim God’s love to the world!
Synod Office Contact Information
A reminder that the Virginia Synod Office of the Bishop has asked its staff to work remotely from their homes in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. We ask at this time should you need to contact our staff to do so directly via email (you can find all staff persons email contacts on our website ).

Should you need to phone either our offices, please know the Eastern Office of the Bishop plans to have phone calls received during office hours (8:00 AM- 4:30 PM) forwarded directly to Lenae Osmondson.

The Salem Office of the Bishop phone will have a voicemail message recorded directing callers to leave a message, or to call a separate phone number during office hours (8:00 AM- 4:30 PM). The number is 540-855-7455 and will be answered by Tammy Kasper. Messages left on the Salem Office of the Bishop phone will be checked as we are able to do so.

In addition, please do not plan to visit either the Salem or Eastern offices in person. Messages and mail will be checked regularly, but please be patient during this time.
We continues to update the Virginia Synod COVID-19 web page with information from the ELCA, CDC, and covering a number of  prepardness and response resources, as well as  liturgical resources.

If you have suggestions for needed resources, please contact Pastor John Wertz at wertz@vasynod.org.