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                                                                                             APRIL, 2019  
                         The Virginia 
Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921.

Lutherans will help
build large Habitat house
            Three Roanoke area Lutheran congregations---Christ, St. Philip and College, Salem---are among 22 churches who form the Apostles Build group preparing to construct a seven-bedroom Habitat house for the 13-member Ayamba family, African refugees. A wall-raising Kickoff Ceremony is planned by volunteers for Saturday, April 6, at 9 a.m.
            Area churches are asked to provide $60,000, almost half of the total cost of the home, with dedication expected at completion by August or September. Volunteer groups of 8 to 12 people from the ecumenical group will be at the site, 1716 Loudon Ave., NW, Roanoke on work days.  Pastor Paul Henrickson heads the Habitat volunteer organization in Roanoke. The seven-bedroom home is "the most ambitious project Habitat has encountered in Roanoke, said Jenny Lee, development director.
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
24-hour Synod Assembly Planned
History provides a key to where we are going
All created Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
We can change the world
Conferences aligned in partnerships
Men learn to tell Bible stories
Wise Minnick School meets local need
New book tells of "American Apartheid"
Piety for Lent
Shore to head Southern Seminary
Women's prison tours offered
New center will reduce health inequities
Lutherans in the news
             Roanoke College President Mike Maxey  has been elected chair of the board of the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America, an organization of 40 Lutheran liberal arts colleges and universities.
            Pastor Gerald F. Wise, a Woodstock native who has served at Reformation Lutheran, Lakeland, Fl., has accepted a
call to Prince of Peace, Basye, Shenandoah County, starting May 12. The son of Pastor Gerald Wise, he is a graduate of Lord Fairfax Community College, Roanoke College and Gettysburg Seminary. Wise was a financial planner before ordination and almost 29 years of parish ministry at Mt. Olive, Mount Pleasant, NC, and in Florida. Donna Wise, his wife, is also a Shenandoah Valley native. Her grandfather and brother are pastors. The Wises have two sons and two daughters and a home at Edinburg.
        Pastor David Gunderlach is retiring from the staff at Peninsula Pastoral Counseling Center on May 1. A Chicago native, he served two congregations in upstate New York before 29 years on active duty as a Navy chaplain. After retirement from the Navy, he joined the Counseling Center. He and his wife, the former Joyce Ann Blocker, have two adult children.
            Pastor J. Austin Propst has resigned at Redeemer, Bristol, and moved to his native Western Carolina. He said he is excited about opportunities there. His wife, Tanya, will work for anon-profit organization, ABCCM Veterans Restoration Quarters. The Propsts moved to Bristol in 2015 after serving as country coordinators for Young Adults in Global Mission of the ELCA. He's a graduate of Appalachian State University and Wartburg Seminary and he formerly was assistant program director at Lutheridge, Arden, NC
        Deacon Lisa Geiger, operations manager at First, Norfolk, since 2015, has accepted a call to serve at St. Michael, Virginia Beach. She will continue her Synod   work with the ACTS program and administrative work with the Candidacy Committee.
            The estate of the late Irving Overstreet, St. Paul's, Hampton, left more than $101,000 to the congregation for a church parlor, roof work and for social ministry, to be determined.
            At Fredericksburg, Resurrection members have raised almost $230,000 toward a DREAM capital campaign goal of $750,000 for a new roof, refreshing the narthex and replacement of heating and air conditioning systems and parking lot maintenance.
            First Lutheran, Norfolk, is highlighting its Global Mission work during its 125th anniversary year. The congregation is working with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services to support an immigrant family, supported a school for disabled children in Tanzania, raised $5,000 for the ELCA mosquito nets for Africa campaign, made 45 quilts annually, provided 150 school supply bags for world-wide distribution and supported Bread for the World and ELCA World Hunger.
            The 5th annual Artisans' Mini-Fair will be held at the Village at Orchard Ridge central lobby at Winchester Saturday, April 6, 10 .am. to 2 p.m. Sale items will include jewelry, art, prints, note cards, clothes, knitted and crocheted pieces. Part of the proceeds will go to the Winchester Benevolent Endowment Fund.
           The campus program at the University of Mary Washington held a student-led forum on religious understanding with a conversation with interfaith leaders and faculty about the importance of healthy interfaith dialogue.    
            Grace and Glory, Palmyra, has been asked to join Love Your Neighbor---the Fluvanna County Orange Ribbon Campaign, in which members display their support by hanging an orange ribbon at their front door to show that they believe in the power of love. They are following Matthew 22:37 to "love your neighbor as yourself."
            St. Paul's, Hampton, is planting a garden of blue pinwheels in the church garden to commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month.
            At Holy Trinity, Wytheville, Pastor Colleeen Montgomery and Deacon Lavelva Stevens, choir director, will swap positions on Sunday, April 28. Stevens will tell of a trip to the Holy Land and Montgomery will help lead the music.
            A group of women at St. Stephen, Williamsburg, held a weekend retreat "slowing down to listen to God" through worship and song. In a service project, they made six blankets and a scarf for Child Savers, a Richmond organization that works with troubled children.
           At St. Mark, Yorktown, participants in a Heart Pillow Project cut, stamped and sewed heart pillows donated to the Riverside Regional Medical Center's Open Heart CSICU.                                                                                                                                 
24-hour Synod Assembly Planned

            Faithful+Bold+Serving, the new Synod vision, will be the theme of the Synod Assembly shortened to a 24-hour session at Roanoke College from 12:30 p.m. on June 7 to 12:30 p.m. on June 8.
            The focus will be on "a worshiping common gathering for a business meeting," said Pastor Kelly Bayer Derrick, assistant to the bishop, who is arranging the session. The shortened Assembly time was selected by voting members at last year's meeting. This allows pastors and lay leaders to meet and return to their home congregations for Sunday services.
            All sessions will be in the college's new Cregger Fieldhouse. A Friday night festive service, traditionally held at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Roanoke for many years, will be held in the fieldhouse. Bishop Bob Humphrey will be the preacher.
Dr. Sandy Chrostowski, director of Evangelical Mission relationships for the ELCA, will be the ELCA representative for the Assembly.A former occupational therapist in Florida and Illinois and a pastor in Wisconsin, she was director for Evangelical Mission in the Greater Milwaukee Synod before moving to her present post 
in 2016. She holds degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago where her doctoral work focused on preaching.
            Elections will be held for vice president, a post now held by Charles Downs of Christ, Roanoke, and for secretary, currently Blythe Scott, First Lutheran, Norfolk.  Also, the Assembly will vote for six seats on Synod Council, including two for persons of color and/or whose primary language is other than English, approved by the Synod Council in January.
            Pastor Keith Olivier, chaplain for Virginia Lutheran Homes, will be the Assembly chaplain. Offerings will be divided between the Caribbean Synod for its repair and rebuild program in the Virgin Islands and the Virginia Disaster Fund, for local disaster response.
History provides a key to where we are going

            In one of many pithy comments at a Roanoke College lecture March 28, Pulitzer winner Jon Meacham said history provides "an open aperture for conservatives and liberals to have a conversation." In a Henry Fowler Public Lecture before a packed house, Meacham had an optimistic view of the divided nation today.
            Without taking sides, he said this is an "unremitting moment in an unfolding story." A century ago, he said, the Ku Klux Klan was active and there was a fear that a Bolshevik revolution was coming to this country. Later, fear was widespread in the Great Depression years but capitalism won and it will again, he said.
            A recognized biographer of George H. W. Bush, the Roosevelts and Andrew Jackson, he said, "If we don't look at where we started, we surely don't know where we're going."  His recent book, "The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels," examines the present by looking at critical times in the past.
            After describing Thomas Jefferson's statement that "all men are created equal" as the most important sentence in history, he said, "This country has always grown stronger when it has opened its arms." Meacham said we do better when we are curious, have humility and show empathy.
            In the audience for the lecture was Lucy McCandlish, Meacham's aunt and the wife of Pastor John McCandlish of Glade Creek, Blue Ridge.
All created things
     by Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
Bishop Eaton
God's entire divine nature is wholly and entirely in all creatures, more deeply, more inwardly, more present than the creature is to itself (Martin Luther).
            I am formed by the Lutheran movement, so I tend to look for law and gospel, judgment and promise in everything. This quote from Luther is no exception. It does speak a word of judgment and, at the same time, a word of promise that brings hope.
            First the law. "God's divine nature is ... more present than the creature is to itself." There is a tendency, especially in Western culture, for humans to see themselves as distinct from the creation. This positioning of human creatures as separate from the creation causes harm to the creation.
           We become the actors and creation is acted upon. The rest of creation becomes a commodity to be used as humankind sees fit. This has had dire consequences for our planet, the atmosphere around it and even space, which is now littered with our cast-off machinery.
             But setting ourselves apart from the creation is also physically and spiritually deadly for humans. The burden of climate change falls disproportionately on people who are poor. Access to clean air and water and to sustainable living is often blocked in impoverished communities. Eventually income won't guarantee anyone an escape. Hurricanes and wildfires visit destruction on rich and poor alike.
            Physical alienation has spiritual consequences. If "God's entire divine nature is wholly and entirely in all creatures, more deeply, more inwardly, more present than the creature is to itself," then denying our creatureliness sets up an internal dislocation for the human and separates us from God. It isn't possible to be whole apart from the rest of creation. We miss the divine all around us and deny the intimate presence of God within us. What a lonely way to live.
             Somehow the church has been heard as setting spiritual against material, that the highest goal is to transcend creatureliness. This attitude discounts the witness of Genesis where "God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31). Even after the rebellion in the garden, God never stopped caring for creation.
            And in the incarnation, God became a creature in Jesus Christ. Lutherans hold fast to the belief that "Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father in eternity, and also a true human being, born of the virgin Mary, is [our] Lord." (Small Catechism; Apostle's Creed, Article 2). The Reformers insisted the human nature of Christ is not an abstract concept. Jesus is true God and true human being. "Therefore, we believe, teach, and confess that God is a human being and a human being is God." (Epitome, Article VIII).
            In communion, Lutherans also hold fast to the real presence of Christ. "We believe, teach, and confess that in the Holy Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present, truly distributed and received with the bread and wine." (Epitome, Article VII).
            Humans are Earth creatures, formed from the Earth (Genesis 2:7). God has entrusted us with the care of creation. Our social statement, "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice," reminds us that "we are to love the earth as God loves us."
            April 22 is Earth Day. Let us be especially mindful of the gift of creation and our place in it.
             Here's the gospel. Human beings are part of the creation. Human beings are connected to everything in the cosmos. Human beings are connected to God. We are not doomed to alienation. That God is more present than we are to ourselves gives us a path to reconnect with God, each other and all of creation. The judgment is that we do not even perceive that the One who created all things is intimately present. The promise is that the One who created all things is intimately present.  We-all created things-are family.
A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Her email address: This column originally appeared in the April issue of Living Lutheran. Reprinted with permission.
We can change the world
     by Eric Peterson

           "You can change the world . . . but be ready to be tired, tired, tired." That was one of the messages that Bryan Stevenson brought to Old Dominion University in Norfolk on March 19th as one of the featured speakers of the 2019 Old Dominion President's Lecture Series. Stevenson is a lawyer who founded and now leads the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization which last year opened the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. This groundbreaking museum documents the history of slavery, lynching, and discrimination in the U.S.
            Stevenson's visit to Norfolk was noticed by members of a group named "Christians United For Social Change" (CUFSC). CUFSC was formed in 2018 as a partnership between First Lutheran Church, Norfolk, a historically white congregation, and the Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, a historically African-American Roman Catholic congregation also located in Norfolk. CUFSC was organized by members of both churches who are concerned by the persistence of racial discrimination and bias in our society, and a rising tide of racial tension and division in our country stoked by the cynicism of political leaders who seek to profit from those divisions.
            CUFSC has adopted the mission to "Promote cultural understanding and inclusion by challenging bias and barriers in order to build a genuine, trusting, and connected society," so when one of the group's co-leaders, Eric Peterson, congregational council president at FLC Norfolk, heard about Stevenson's impending visit to Norfolk, he immediately contacted Jimmy Gray, parish council president at the Basilica of St. Mary's and fellow co-leader of CUFSC. "I have used Bryan Stevenson's TED talk to generate discussion in adult Sunday School class, and his message is profound and inspiring. I got in touch with Jimmy to tell him that this was an event we all needed to attend."
            CUFSC passed the word to members of both congregations, and more than 30 members from FLC and the Basilica of St. Mary's showed up on a Tuesday night to hear Bryan Stevenson deliver his message. "We can change the world if we do four things," Stevenson told the crowd. "We need to get proximate with the poor, the excluded, and the disfavored. We need to have the courage to change the narrative. We need to stay hopeful, since hopelessness is the enemy of justice, and we need to will ourselves to do things that are uncomfortable and inconvenient. Justice prevails only when good people commit to do the uncomfortable and inconvenient."
            In discussing the need to change the narrative, Stevenson noted that here in Virginia, and in Norfolk in particular, we are "surrounded by the history of racial inequality, a history that doesn't allow us to be free until we talk about things we haven't talked about, such as the real sin of slavery: the narrative of white supremacy."
            After Stevenson's lecture concluded, members from both churches gathered at Peterson's home to discuss what they had heard and talk about ways to turn Stevenson's words into action. All agreed that Stevenson's visit was timely, in that the CUFSC group was searching for ways to turn hope into action. "We're making a commitment to get proximate with the people living in the public housing project near the Basilica who are faced with a city initiative to redevelop their community. They need to know that we are their neighbors and care about what happens to them in this time of transition," Peterson reported after the group discussion, "and we are going after the monuments. We need to change the narrative in our city, and throughout the entire commonwealth."
Conferences aligned in partnerships

           Synod Council has approved the creation of five partnerships among the 11 conferences to provide for their communication with the Synod, to promote or provide assistance for programs or projects and to provide balanced representation to organizational units.
            These partnerships were formed:  Coastal: Tidewater and Peninsula;
 Piedmont: Richmond and Germanna; Valley: Northern Valley, Central Valley, Page; Blue Ridge: Southern Valley and Southern; Appalachia: New River and Highlands.                     
Men learn to tell Bible stories

            The old hymn, "I Love to Tell the Story" rang out at Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond several times over the March 23-24 weekend as Pastors Chris Carr and Patrick Freund led the annual Gathering of Virginia Lutheran Men in Mission in a biblical story-telling event. 
            "Hearing the Word: Learning it by Heart" was the theme. After learning instructions and demonstrations, three groups of men gave their versions of parables.  Biblical story-telling is deeper than memorization, said Carr, pastor of Christ the King, Richmond. " Not in your head, you are asked to write on your heart. It's a different way of hearing the text, a matter of personal discipline."
            Some of his tips on Biblical story-telling:  Start with prayer that the Spirit will be present. Tell the story, word by word, as found in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. It is connecting with emotion; hearing the word, internalizing  words as you hear them; listening to the story and telling it. Carr used body language---with his arms, taking steps, reaching, subtle movements, not overly dramatic.
            Freund, Gathering chaplain and pastor of the North Mountain Parish,Toms Brook,  said stories "make meaning for the world around us....Writing or inscribing on our hearts brings God's story into our lives." 
            Carr told of the Network of Biblical Storytellers International which holds an annual festival in August, the Shenandoah Valley Biblical Storytellers who tell in churches and other organizations and usually a Biblical story-telling workshop at Power in the Spirit in July.         
Wise Minnick School meets local need

            Lead teacher Tonya Miller calls it a "mighty little school." She means Lutheran Family Services' newest Minnick School: The Wise Adapted program for children with intellectual disabilities. While small - four students so far - it addresses an important need in the Wise County area, and it's off to a great start since its January opening.
"My experience thus far with Wise Minnick Adapted has been one of constant excitement and wonder, which is just what we have lovingly nicknamed our school and amazing students: They are our Natural Wonders," Miller says. "We want them to understand how unique and full of wonder they are as well as encourage an environment of curiosity that leads to learning and growth."
            Parent Tomarra Pokusasays it's working for her daughter, Maddie.
"Maddie is so much happier when she comes home," Pokusa says. "I can tell she has been interacting all day instead of just sitting. There has already been such a big change, and she seems excited about going to school now."
            Students who are fully engagement and looking forward to learning? That was always the plan. "When you visit the Wise Minnick-Adapted Program, you will immediately notice that everything in the building is student centered," says Terri Webber, LFSVA's director of education.
            "Adults are important, but the kids are the focus of every minute, every activity, every meal, down to the art on the wall, which is meant to be touched or interacted with.
"There's no question as to why the incredible staff is in that building. It's all about moving the kids forward to greater skill acquisition, better socialization, increased communication," Webber says. "It's an extraordinary place."
            "I can't wait to see where these wondering and wandering paths will take us," Miller says.
New book tells of "American Apartheid"

            Dr. Gene Betit of Bethel, Winchester, a retired Army intelligence analyst, has tackled a timely topic with his new book, Collective Amnesia: American Apartheid, African Americans' 400 years in North America, 1619-2019.
             The book is described as "a comprehensive study of the treatment African Americans have received since they arrived in Virginia in 1619." The history documents racism and white supremacy, often omitted by schools. The text is supplemented by tables, photographs, maps and charts.
            Among the topics are chapters on slavery, U.S. colored troops in the Civil War, the devastation of the South, evolution of Emancipation and Reconstruction, the Freedmen's Bureau, Jim Crow, significant military contributions of black soldiers in World Wars I and II, the Great Migration from the South, civil rights movement and the backlash that continues today. A narrative of a Virginia lynching is included.
            Betit has written two other books: War's Cost: The Hites' Civil War and Manhattan's Walloon Settlers: Jesse DeForest's Legacy. He earned master's and doctoral degrees from Georgetown University and worked as German and Russian linguist. In retirement, he is librarian for the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation and a docent at Belle Grove.
Piety for Lent
     by Pastor Tim Feaser
            After the baptism of his baby brother in the church service, seven-year-old Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "The pastor said that he wanted us kids brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys!"
            The idea of living a Christian life is really more of an art and not an exact science. The church word for this is "Piety," or how we live our faith. What is your piety? Hopefully, your piety includes regular worship, prayer, ongoing Bible study and using your talents and gifts for God's work in the world.
            But piety is something that should be periodically reviewed. When was the last time you took an inventory of your spirituality? Is it meeting your needs? Do you have a meaningful spiritual perspective to the problems you may face in every day life?
            This is the gift of Lent. Each year, we observe a 40-day period of reflection and evaluation. It is a chance to start over or adjust our spiritual lives. May this Lent be a time that the Holy Spirit will renew in you a walk of faith that will provide the wisdom you need to cope with the challenges of everyday life/
            Interim Pastor Tim Feaser wrote this column for Bedford Lutheran Church.
Dr. Mary Hinkle Shore to head Southern Seminary

            Dr. Mary Hinkle Shore, a former professor and associate dean at Luther  Seminary and a South Carolina pastor, has been named rector and dean of Southern Seminary. She will serve as the lead academic and church administrator for the Seminary, now part of Lenoir-Rhyne University.
            "I look forward to deepening our relationships with congregations and other innovative ministries to which our students will be called," Shore said "Our alumni are crucial partners in helping to strengthen connections within the ELCA and with our ecumenical partners. Together, we are stronger and more imaginative as we prepare leaders for mission."
           Shore, a former member of the Seminary's trustee board, is a graduate of Capitol University and she holds a master's degree from Luther Seminary and doctorate from Duke University. She is the author of a book, "Signs of Belonging: Luther's Marks of the Church and the Christian Life," and she has published articles in the Christian Century magazine, Word and World Journal and Journal for Preachers. She has been pastor Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Brevard, SC, since 2013.
             Dr. Fred Whitt, Lenoir-Rhyne president, said Shore has "extraordinary credentials and was clearly the top candidate recommended by the students, faculty and staff" of the Seminary. He said she is "highly qualified" to represent the Seminary.
Women's prison tours offered
            GraceInside, the state prison chaplaincy program supported by the Synod, is offering a tour of women's prisons in late April and May. Anyone interested should notify Tentative dates for the tours are April 28, 1:30-3:30 p.m., and May 16 or 23. Support continues to be in need at women's prisons and the Greensville Correctional Center, according to Pastor Lynn Litchfield.`

New center will reduce health inequities

            Roanoke College has established a new Center for Community Health Innovation planned to support programs to reduce community health inequities across the Roanoke Valley The program, directed by Dr. Liz Ackley, associate professor of health and human performance, has these functions:
  • Directing a Community Healthy Living Index that monitors health outcomes, engagement in healthy behaviors and barriers to youth healthy living in Roanoke City
  • Helping residents and partner organizations collaborate on equitable community development projects and practices
  • Providing grant support and technical assistance to partner organizations that are seeking strategies to promote a culture of health in the Roanoke Valley.
  • Positioning students as agents of change through engagement in service-driven research experiences.
           The center serves as a neutral space for partners in the government, private and non-profit sectors to develop targeted strategies to overcome the community's challenges in health and equity, Ackley said.




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