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                                                                                DECEMBER, 2019
                         The Virginia 
~Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921~

Danville chrismon 
tree on display-again
            The members of Ascension, Danville, will have their classic chrismon tree ready for the public to see by next weekend. The chrismon tradition was started by Frances Kipps Spencer of Ascension 63 years ago---in 1957. The home-made ornaments  with  Christian symbols have been used around the world.
            The 2019 schedule for public viewing of the trees will be from Dec. 8-24, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and on Sunday, from3 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. Groups are welcome to call or email the church at 434-792-5796 or
            Patterns and chrismon design books are available for purchase at the church. Three workshops on making the chrismons were held this fall. Spencer once said that a tree was never finished until someone came to see it and had the story of the Christ symbols explained.
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Midnight Stillness
Ratke, LFS ceo receives award
LIRS challenges Trump order on refugee resettlement
Synod Fund for Mission Grants approved
Let the Lutheran voice be heard
100 women glorify God at retreat
Missionaire Aho
William Rosenow dies at 86
Christ, Fredericksburg, shares $50,000
ELCA takes first step in declaration to people of African descent
VICPP supports sick leave for 1.2 million workers
Leadership development conferences planned for 2020

Lutherans in the news

            Two new pastors are moving into the Synod to fill vacancies.  Pastor Michelle L Stramiello has been called to  St. Michael, Blacksburg, and  Pastor Janice Lowden is moving to  Trinity, S tephens City.
Stramiello, a graduate of Trinity College and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, interned at  Luther Church of the Palms, Palm Harbor, FL She was a hospice chaplain and served as family faith formation director at Cross and Crown Lutheran in Indianapolis, IN., and as pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran in Paducah , KY. She helped organize two non-profit organizations. Her husband is John Stramiello.
Lowden, a Waynesboro native, will be returning to Virginia, She is a graduate of James Madison University and Gettysburg Seminary and earned a master's in studies in aging from the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. She served at Lutheran Church of the Living Word, Columbia, MD, as campus pastor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus; Christ Lutheran, Pasadena, MD., at Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries , Baltimore, and with her husband, Pastor Bob Lowden, as ELCA representatives in Tanzania and Rwanda. She then served at Zion , Landisville, PA.
            Dr. Paul Hinlicky, professor of Lutheran Studies at Roanoke College, has been invited to lead a seminar for the International Congress on Luther Research to be held at California Lutheran University on Aug. 14-22, 2022. The topic will be "Luther and Trinity in Postmodern Theology." Hinlicky said he will be fully retired for a year then so he will be able to perform this "capstone venture of my theological career." He said his "twin theological passions are captured in the topic: the era of Christendom in the West is irretrievably past but from the ashes emerges a fresh perception of the Trinity as the God of the gospel."
            Pastor Michael Weaver has come from North Carolina to serve as interim pastor at Ascension, Danville. He has not retired, as was previously reported.
            Pastor Monica Weber, Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, is a member of the Virginia Values Coalition, an organization of 140 faith communities in the state dedicated to advocating for the end of discrimination against LGBTQIA+ persons. She signed a petition expressing the need for new protective legislation in the General Assembly.     
            At St. Luke, Richmond, Sarah Mills is the new program coordinator. She follows Becky Wade, who has gone back to school.            
            The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation named its preservation recognition as the Kegley Preservation Awards for George Kegley, St. Mark.s Roanoke.
Mt. Tabor, Augusta County, has been selected to receive the 2019 Best of Staunton Award for Places of Worship.
            Heather Macdonald. St, Stephen, Williamsburg, a chancellor professor in the College of William and Mary Geology Department, was recognized by the Geological Society of America for her contributions to earth science education at two-year colleges.  St Stephen is among the congregations using the reverse Advent calendar which starts with an empty box. One item is added on each of the 24 days of Advent. When the box is full, the items will be donated to a food pantry.
            A Holiday Brass Concert will be sponsored by Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. Those attending have been asked to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry.
            Bethel, Winchester, has joined the Foster Friends Coalition, a group of about 20 local churches who provide support to foster parents and families. By meeting practical, emotional and spiritual needs, they work to create a culture of caring for the community to end the current foster care crisis.
            First English, Richmond, provided shoe boxes filled with gifts for children at a Community Thanksgiving Feast organized by the Giving Heart, a volunteer organization that focuses on providing food, fellowship and essential items for those in need.
            St. Philip, Roanoke, provided food at Feeding America's Community Solutions Center and helped provide 360 Elijah's Backpacks of snacks for school children over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
            Volunteers at St. Mark's, Roanoke, continued a long tradition of distributing 50 bags of food to clients of Roanoke Social Services. Another 50 will be distributed at Christmas and Easter.

Midnight Stillness
     by Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop, ELCA
Bishop Eaton

            For me, that time always came after the 11 p.m. candlelight service. After the congregation went home, after I turned off the lights and locked the doors, as my daughters and I drove home through the dark and quiet streets, I would then settle into silence. Once home and after my husband and children went to bed, I could continue in that Christmas Eve stillness and reflect on the mystery of Advent and Christmas.
            Advent-a season of expectation. God is up to something. We are urged to watch and wait. "Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, 'Here is your God!'" (Isaiah 40:9). "At midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him'" (Matthew 25:6).
            There are Advent calendars, with each opened window drawing one closer to Christmas. Advent wreaths light the way. In Cleveland in the late '50s and early '60s, every child would rush home from school to catch Mr. Jingeling on TV. (Trust me, every Clevelander of a certain age can sing the Mr. Jingeling song.)
            Advent is our time and is filled with longing-for peace, for a just world, for restored relationships, for God. The Advent lessons from the prophet Isaiah are filled with the sorrow of exile and the persistent hope that God still cares for God's people and will bring about their return to Israel. We sing, "Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee" ( Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 254).
            And come Jesus does, into our world and into our lives. For a brief time, generosity and goodwill break out. We wish strangers a "Merry Christmas." We even practice a little patience in traffic and with relatives. Life is filled with possibility.
            I think about all these things in the midnight stillness of Christmas Eve. I consider the miracle of the incarnation-that God is ever faithful; that God is not far off but is Emmanuel, God with us; that in Jesus the Divine set aside all glory in order to take on our nature and be truly glorified on the cross. A helpless baby in a wooden manger, a broken man on a cross-these are the gifts of Christmas.
            The Christmas carol declares that the angels' announcement to the shepherds "came upon the midnight clear" ( ELW, 282). All of creation became the land of the midnight Son. The good earth and all its creatures, sun and moon, and stars and planets orbit in harmony around this center of love.
            In the stillness, I think of another midnight-the Easter Vigil. It is the first celebration of the resurrection. In the vigil these words of the Exsultet (Easter proclamation) are sung: "This is the night when Christ, the Life, rose from the dead. The seal of the grave is broken and the morning of a new creation breaks forth out of night." All Advent expectations and longings are met and exceeded. The ephemeral peace and hope we may feel at Christmas take substance and permanence. God's promise has been fulfilled.
           There is a lot for the Christ child to do before the work on earth is done. Jesus will grow into adulthood. He will teach and feed and heal. Jesus will suffer the betrayal of his friends and will die that we might live. I think about this on Christmas Eve and pray, "Rest now, dear midnight Son."

Ratke, LFS ceo receives award

Ray Ratke, chief executive officer of Lutheran Family Services, received the 2019 Leadership Award from the Virginia Network of Private Providers at the annual conference in Richmond. In accepting the award, Ratke said, "With all the frustration and disappointments of trying to do this work, we still get to go home at the end of the day and feel we're doing the work of making a difference in people's lives."
The organization works with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, substance abuse problems or mental illness. Its members are organizations licensed by or working with state agencies.
LFS also reported the 15 members of its board will be led in 2020 by Pastor Richard Goeres of First Lutheran Norfolk, as chair. He follows Frederick G. Kraegel of Henrico, outgoing chair, who will serve as treasurer next year.
Other board members: Bishop Bob Humphrey; Lisa Alderman, Wytheville; Robert Burger, Glen Allen; Pastor Debra Dukes, New Market; Dr. Wanda Fisher, Richmond; Pastor Lou Florio, Fredericksburg; Dr. Judith Greene, Poquoson; Kathy Kanter, Middletown; Helen Keck, Ceres; George Marget III, Midlothian; Stephen James Sikkema, Bedford; Chauncey Strong, Alexandria, and Bruce Swanson, Roanoke.

LIRS challenges executive 
order on refugee resettlement

           Ann Hess of Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, called attention to a recen t action by
the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service challenging President Trump's recent exe cutive order giving state and local officials authority to block refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions.
            LIRS joined Church World Service and HIAS, a refugee resettlement agency, in the action. They said this unprecedented order could prevent refugees who have waited years from being reunited with their U.S.-based families and prohibit communities from welcoming refugees even if they have long-standing and successful resettlement programs. A preliminary injunction was filed at the same time.
            The law suit charges that the order is yet another attempt by the Trnmp administration to dismantle the nearly 49-year-old federal resettlement infrastructure and restrict refugees from entering the U.S.

Synod Fund for Mission Grants approved

The Virginia Synod Council has announced the recipients of the 2019 Virginia Synod Fund for Mission Grants.  This year, eight grant applications totaling $133,061 were received for consideration.
 Each of the grants represented a congregation's vision for a new expression of ministry that would share the good news about Jesus with the wider community.  While each of the applications provided an exciting opportunity, the following five ministries will receive a portion of the $30,000 in available grant funding for this year.
            Trinity Ecumenical Parish will receive $5,000 to support the development of an intentional caring community in specific geographic locations in the community.
            College Lutheran, Salem will receive $1,500 to support the expansion of a student food pantry.
            Peace Lutheran, Charlottesville will receive $7,000 to support 'Building Peace' which will build connections with the neighborhoods around the congregation.
            Our Saviour, Warrenton will receive $6,500 to create a volunteer management ministry to help connect and serve the greater community and create opportunities to share the story of Jesus through service in the world.
            PALS (Presbyterian and Lutheran Services) Church, Bealton will receive $10,000 to help create an ecumenical, not-for-profit coffee shop to provide a welcoming environment to promote community and share God's love.
            For more information about the Virginia Synod Fund for Mission, visit  

Another  View
Let the Lutheran Voice 
for justice and peace be heard
     by Paul Jersild

It took a while for us as Lutheran Christians to make our way into America's mainstream churches. A major reason for this is quite simple: we didn't speak English. Our ancestors were immigrants from Europe, mainly Germany and the Scandinavian countries - Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. The Episcopalians, Methodists, and Baptists from England, and the Presbyterians from Scotland, didn't experience that barrier.
Now in my 80's, I remember my childhood in a Danish Lutheran congregation in Los Angeles. It was a kind of ghetto experience, with most all of our members being Danish immigrants or of Danish extraction. My father, who was the pastor, would conduct worship services in Danish as well as English. There was also a pervasive Danish nostalgia, and a strong pietistic spirit that was rooted in Denmark's pietistic movement. The name of our national church was United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, headquartered in the little Nebraska town of Blair.
It wasn't until the post-World War II years that the word "Danish" was dropped.
Given this background, it's not surprising that we were unable as a national church to address the cultural and political issues of the day. Speaking a prophetic word to our society was beyond our horizons. The editor of our national church paper, The Ansgar Lutheran, managed to comment on just two issues during the first half of the twentieth century: the candidacy of the Roman Catholic Al Smith for President (thumbs down), and Prohibition (thumbs up).
It wasn't until the 1950's and '60's, with the Civil Rights movement, that we Lutherans began to take seriously the church's responsibility to address the issues of the day. Of course, with the passing of generations has come the inevitable Americanizing of our church, with greater capacity and confidence in addressing issues of social justice.
Thus today, as a much larger church following several mergers, the ELCA is able and equipped to speak with a more influential voice when it comes to the public square. But the evolution has not been automatic. There's no longer the language barrier, but other obstacles of a cultural type can get in the way. For example, we all know how emotionally charged such issues as race and white privilege, abortion, homosexuality and gun control legislation can be. Because they are potentially divisive, we are tempted to avoid them altogether, even in the Sunday classroom. With a shrug we repeat the old adage, "Religion and politics don't mix," and are content to leave it at that.
My point is that our theological convictions carry ethical imperatives which compel the church to get involved in the life of the larger society. Recognizing this fact, the ELCA has affirmed that it is not just a worshiping community, but also "a center of moral deliberation." Our church has published materials designed to help us fulfill that affirmation. At the core of every social issue is a clash of values which requires analysis and discernment. The church is equipped to carry out that task, lifting up the imperative of compassion and the quest for justice and mercy in all of life's relationships.
That conviction quite naturally moved the ELCA assembly last August in Milwaukee to protest the treatment of migrants at our southern border and to offer sanctuary to defenseless, suffering people. It's a turbulent, threatening time in which we live, a time for people of faith to stand up in protest against those economic and political forces that divide and weaken our nation.
We Lutherans now have a voice that can be heard; let it ring loud and clear on behalf of justice and peace throughout the world.  
The Rev. Paul Jersild, retired professor at Southern Seminary, is a member of First
Lutheran, Norfolk.

100 women glorify God at retreat
     by Joann Barfield and Lois Hinkle

            On the 7th, 8th, and 9th of November, Joann Barfield and Lois Hinkle of College Lutheran, Salem, began a spiritual adventure at the Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center. But, for both of them, it began at Power in the Spirit in July. They attended a Biblical Storytelling class, and listened to the stories by teachers who transformed the scriptures into animated stories.
             A brochure was available, telling about the 2019 All Lutheran Women's Retreat (ALWR), theme of Ecclesiastes 3, "For everything there is a season," led by Donna Marie Todd, who is a motivational speaker, master storyteller and a beautiful singer. YouTube research about Donna Marie captivated them both and they decided to attend the 2019 ALWR.
            The history of ALWR began in 1981 at Massanetta Springs Conference Center and has continued for 38 years, meeting every two years, usually at a different location in Virginia. Women from the four branches of the Lutheran faith met together and organized this retreat which is a separate non-profit entity unto itself. The women serving on the planning committee are members of the four branches of the Lutheran faith.
            Over 100 women attended from many Lutheran Churches from Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina and Oklahoma. We met each day in a spacious setting, The Washington Hall, filled with big windows, beautiful chandeliers, large round tables with comfortable chairs and a stage. Each morning began with singing our beautiful, With One Voice, hymns and those walls rang with 100 women singing their hearts out! What a joyous way to begin each day, glorifying God!
            Our leader, Donna Marie Todd, was born in West Virginia and daughter of a Methodist minister. She is a storyteller, widow, certified grief recovery specialist, editor of the Biblical Storyteller Magazine and a beautiful singer. Her stories were powerful, passionate, peaceful, emotional, spiritual, inspiring, captivating and full of animation and enthusiasm! She had you sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting for her next sentence that might make you laugh, or cause tears to fall. She was absolutely the star of the retreat!
           Our days consisted of different Sessions that we worked and shared with our table members. Session One, "Your Life is a Miracle"; Session Two, "Growing in Faith and Love";- and Session Three, "Giving Back." We grew to know our table members and how these sessions affected each of our lives as we shared our life stories with one another. We were a noisy group, full of joy, laughter and fun. Many times, the leader had to say, "The Lord be with You" to quiet us down and get our attention! The wonderful feeling of love and friendship permeated throughout this retreat.
             On the last day, the committee wanted to know who was the oldest woman in the group. Countdown began at 80 and continued until 85. Lois Hinkle found herself still standing and when asked her age, at 88, a thunderous ovation was given her! The youngest was age 36.
             The final day ended with a worship service, conducted by Pastor Laura Dunklin, newly ordained, serving at St. Phillip in Roanoke. Psalmody was sung, followed by her sermon, communion, blessing, prayer and final song. The 19th All Lutheran Women's Retreat was closed. The next retreat is set for November 4-6, 2021.

Missionaire Aho
    by Jaime Kokkenen, Reformation, New Market

 In the Malagasy Official dialect, "aho" (pronounced ow, since H's are silent) translates to "I" in English.  Missionaire aho; I am a missionary.
Whether it be Malagasy or English, this is a statement I hardly ever make. In a Malagasy context, I hardly ever need to state to anyone that I am here as a missionary because it's something they already know. I am the eighth volunteer with Young Adults in Global  Mission to come through my site placement, and in many ways, it feels as though my host community is more familiar with what my role is here than I am. In an English context, I hardly ever state to anyone that I am serving as a missionary because, well, it's a term that makes me uncomfortable.
              There are still ramifications today of the long and traumatic history of white colonialism perpetrated across the globe by Christian missionaries from the West. So, in the months between accepting the call to serve in Madagascar and actually leaving for my year of mission work here, I found myself avoiding using the term "missionary" at pretty much all costs. Instead, I opted for (and quite regularly continue to opt for) the term "volunteer" because I feel it is far less likely to invoke the assumption that the reason I am here is to "save souls" or "bring" God, the gospel, and/or some political agenda to Madagascar. Presenting myself as a "volunteer with the Lutheran church from America" as opposed to an "American missionary" may be more of a mouth-full, but in my mind at least, there is less room for negative connotation.
              But the problem with hiding behind the guise of volunteer, is that the more I dive into life alongside my host community and come to understand God's mission in the world, I realize that by shying away from or altogether avoiding my identity as a missionary does a disservice to what my year as a YAGM is really about.
              Aside from whatever baggage or assumptions that come along with the term, to be a missionary simply means to go into the world as a participant in the mission work of God. The ELCA engages in global mission following the model of accompaniment, which it defines as, "walking together in solidarity in a manner that practices interdependence and mutuality. In this walk, gifts, resources, and experiences are shared with mutual advice and admonition to deepen and expand our work within God's mission." During our week of orientation in Chicago, the YAGM program director, Dan Beirne, described accompaniment as "an intentional photographic negative of Colonial Christianity." 
              I am the eighth YAGM to come to Fianar and live among my host community at the SALT. This means that every year my host community has asked for a YAGM presence to be here. The students and faculty are able to reap the benefits of having a native English speaker around while we build relationships with each other and equally participate in God's mission to restore community on earth. 
              I have been living, learning, and serving as a missionary in Fianar for a little over a month now. I showed up here unsure of what to expect and was immediately welcomed in by the community that was waiting for me, eager for our paths to merge so we could travel on alongside each other.
I am learning that living into my identity as a missionary, along with whatever baggage or assumptions it may bring  means leaning into the community around me and sharing my whole self with them, as they so graciously share their whole selves with me. It means leaning into the moments when Maharo, my host dad's nephew, sees me in the market and waits alongside the road so we can walk home together despite his lack of English skills and my lack of Malagasy skills that keep us from having any real conversation; or when Germaine, my host mom, comes by my apartment to make sure I'm eating enough protein and not feeling too lonely during my first week here; when Danie, one of the women theologians at the seminary, drops by and we spend the morning sharing with each other some of our favorite Christmas memories and traditions; or when Fara, a relative of my host family, sits on her couch flipping through her family photo albums with me and then asks to see any pictures I have on my phone of my own family back home. This past month or so has been full of moments like these- moments when connections are made and actual relationships begin to bud. 
              To hide behind the guise of volunteer might be a more comfortable choice for me. However, it does a disservice to what this year is about because I'm here to do more than just donate my time. I have come into the world to participate in the mission work of God; the reconciling, mutually-empowering, and community-restoring work of God. 
            Missionaire aho; I am a missionary.

Mourning the death of William "Bill" Rosenow
Bill and Janice Rosenow
        The Reverend William Bill" Rosenow, 86, of Broadway, died on Saturday, November 2, 2019.  He was an ordained Lutheran Pastor in the ELCA serving in South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida and West Virginia for a period of sixty years.
             Survived by his wife of 64  years, Janice Rosenow, and their six special  children, Kim and  Doug Fawley, Karla and Jeff May, Kathie Rosenow, Kristee Trumbo, Kevin Rosenow and Kariâ and Mark Blosser; ten grandchildren, Erin Sauder, Melissa May, Nathan May, Michael Fawley, Beth Driver, Katie Hundley, Kara Blosser, Victoria Trumbo, Will Rosenow and Anne Rosenow, as well as 10 great-grandchildren.

Christ, Fredericksburg, shares
$50,000 grant for neighbor support

              Christ, Fredericksburg,and Micah Ecumenical Ministries have been awarded a $50,000 ELCA grant to support a staff person who will work to strengthen relationships with neighbors.
            Specific actions have not been planned but these ideas were suggested at a meeting of the congregation's Social Ministry Team: Planting a community garden with clients bringing produce to the church kitchen for a community meal; a church member and a client may sit down for dinner, share stories and get to know one another; an avid reader, artist, knitter, fisherman, coffee drinker or animal lover may share time with a Micah client around a common interest leading to friendship and serving together.
            According to the church announcement, Micah and the ELCA "affirm that it is in relationships with neighbors that we meet Christ and that Christ meets us." As a staff person is employed, adult forums and conversations are expected to lead toward relationships with neighbors.
            Micah Ministries was organized by Christ Lutheran and eight other congregations who work to cultivate community and care for neighbors. They work on housing, providing meals every day and reducing repeat hospitalization by providing post-hospital respite. Christ members host a community meal every Wednesday night, offer rides and help at a new Community Café , a pay-what-you-can restaurant providing job training for clients.
            Pastor Anne Jones Martin said she likes to think of Micah "as a key bridge in the city of Fredericksburg that connects congregations of different denominations, neighbors of different political and social-economic backgrounds, ethnicities and ages to care for neighbor and cultivate community...Micah's ministries care about the neighbor \you are serving."

ELCA takes first step in 
declaration  to people of African decent
      by the Rev. Dr. Phyllis Blair Milton

Recently, George Kegley asked me to share my thoughts about the apology, the Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent, that was presented and accepted at the Churchwide Assembly in August 2019.
            In this apology, the ELCA recognizes and takes responsibility for this Body of Christ's lack of fulfillment of its baptismal promises in not following the example of Jesus to strive for justice for all people (my interpretation).
            It is good to confess, and it is good to receive forgiveness, but it is even better to begin to take the action steps that are needed toward full inclusion and equity for all.
            When George asked me for my response, I must admit that I said, "Why me?" Oh, yeah, I was the "rostered person of color representative elected by the Virginia Synod".  
            An article that I thought would be an easy task to write, has turned into an introspective look at not only my role as an ordained pastor in a predominately white denomination, but an honest and realistic look at what may be my own Synod's struggle as well.
            I became a Lutheran in 2006, affirming my baptism at Reformation Lutheran Church, Newport News. Until that time, I was a tried and true Southern Baptist. But in 2006, discerning a different path for my life which would include pastoral ministry, I left the Southern Baptist Convention in search of a more inclusive faith group. I was looking for diversity, and the opportunity to share my gifting as an African American female, giftings which were often not appreciated because of my gender and skin color. I set out to find a place I could call home. And that place was the ELCA.
I did not know at the time, but the ELCA was having its own challenges with inclusion. But in my opinion, the difference was, the ELCA was trying to be better and do better, which brings us to the Declaration.
           I was excited to be elected to be one of our Synod's representatives at our Churchwide Assembly. I enjoyed the worship and seeing how we as Lutherans take care of the business of the Church. I especially enjoyed being around other Lutherans of color and sharing our varied experiences.
            I have to admit I wasn't aware of the Declaration before it was presented at the Assembly. I researched the origins of the Declaration. The African Descent Lutheran Association in 2015 called upon the 2016 Churchwide Assembly to "draft a formal letter of repentance" for the Church's past complicity in slavery and its present struggle with racism. This apology was offered and accepted by the African Descent Lutheran Association at this summer's Assembly. As I understand it, the request had its basis in the1993 social statement on Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity and Culture.
            So, we (African Descent Lutherans) received an apology that we had to ask for? Does that mean that no apology would have ever been given? Did we not recognize or were we not aware that processes (e.g., call process, compensation) were not equitable for all within our denomination? A look at comparative statistics within our denomination would have easily shown us that all was not well.
            Romans 15:7 (Voice) says, " So accept one another in the same way the Anointed has accepted you so that God will get the praise He is due."
To me, The Declaration has come to mean that my denomination is moving from just being welcoming, toward being intentional in offering respect, acceptance and opportunity. I feel that the varied expressions of bishops that were elected this year clearly speaks of new levels of respect, acceptance and opportunity.  
            The Declaration, hopefully, is the first step toward many more steps, where my denomination makes "a recommitment to the process of right and equitable relations with this church" for all of us.
            Rev. Dr. Phyllis Milton is senior pastor and head of staff at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and School, Hampton.

VICPP supports sick 
leave  for 1.2 million workers
      by Charles Hite
The "biggest issue" in the upcoming Virginia General Assembly is to require all state businesses to provide workers at least five paid sick days a year, a lobbyist for a social justice group told an interfaith gathering in Roanoke.
"One point two million workers in Virginia have zero paid time off," said Ben Hoyne, policy director for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. Among those hardest hit, he said, are workers in day care, home health, and restaurants.
Employers lose $160 billion annually in productivity when employees show up for work despite illness or injury, Hoyne noted. Providing paid sick days reduces turnover and saves businesses money, he said. More than half of all Norovirus outbreaks can be traced to sick food service workers who were forced to choose between working sick and losing pay or their job, he added.
The Interfaith Center is backing legislation to create a paid sick day standard mandating that all employers with six or more employees provide five paid sick days (40 hours) each year to full-time workers. The hours could be used for themselves or to care for sick children. Part-time employees would accrue fewer paid sick hours based on hours worked.
Hoyne spoke on November 19 to a regional gathering of faith organizations interested in the Interfaith Center's legislative priorities. Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) and Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) addressed the gathering. Both supported the paid sick days initiative.
Rasoul and Edwards also backed another proposal high on the Interfaith Center's legislative agenda: providing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. An estimated 272,000 people live in Virginia who are currently undocumented. Many of these people end up driving without a license, which means they are driving without insurance and flee the scene of accidents because of fear of police, according to an Interfaith Center background document.
Both legislators predicted the General Assembly would take significant action on gun control. Edwards said he was interested in bills to that would reign in high prescription drug prices, expand the use of solar energy, and restore the rights of felons who had served their time.
Other legislative priorities for the Interfaith Center discussed at the gathering include:
  • Curbing "wage theft" that would allow workers to sue employers who owe them back wages. Currently, only the state Department of Labor and Industry can do that and Virginia law allows employers to fire employees who file a claim for not receiving wages.
  • Allowing undocumented immigrant students who meet Virginia's residency requirements to pay in-state tuition.
  • Requiring state agencies to consider the environmental justice impact of projects and programs and report their findings.
  • Establish a carbon-dioxide emissions limit via an auction and use half of auction proceeds to invest in energy efficiency and lower electricity bills for low-income communities.
(Hite is a member of Central Church of the Brethren)

Three leadership development
conferences are planned for 2020

              Three conferences for leadership development will be held at St, Paul, Hampton, on Saturday, Jan., 11, at Muhlenberg, Harrisnburg, Feb.1, and at Christ, Roanoke, Feb. 22. All will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
            The conferences on Effective Practices for Innovative Congregations are designed to strengthen congregational leaders for their ministry in the congregation and the world, according to Pastor John Wertz Jr., synod director of evangelical mission.
            Among the possible workshop topics council presidents, vice presidents and financial officers, introduction to Tapestry 101, growing younger, creating a good digital first impression, opening giving doors, congregational vitality and ministry with older adults. Participants may register by visiting




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