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                                                                                MAY, 2020
                         The Virginia 
~Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921~

Messiah, Mechanicsville reminder

In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Lutheran president leads Company in virus crisis
Roanoke College reopens admissions
Taking medical supplies to Guatemala
Highlands Conference gets equipment grant..
We said, "Yes, with the help of God".
LFS adjustments as services continue
Lutherans urged to fight
The ELCA and World Religions
Synod has matching grant.
Virus with no cure is "humbling"
Wash your hands and pray.
Lutherans in the news
            Mycah McNett, who is finishing her first year at United Lutheran Seminary, was scheduled to preach from a distance at the online service of her home  congregation, Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg, on April 29. During her first year of seminary, she was assigned to Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd,  Coatesville PA. Muhlenberg has been approved for a $112,000 loan under the Payroll Protection Program under the federal CARES Act, to cover payroll and  benefits for staff and employees for eight weeks.
            Pastor Leslie Weber, Good Shepherd, Chesapeake, will be on parental leave from approximately May 10 to July 4. During that time, pastoral care will be handled by Pastor Cathy Mims, First Lutheran, Norfolk.
            Members and friends of Bethel, Winchester, in three days made 384 cookies, 23 Rice Krispie treats, 30 face masks and donated them with two bags of apples to the emergency room at Winchester Medical Center. They decorated baggies with church logo stickers and Bible verses to support doctors, nurses and support staff as work extra hard dealing with the coronavirus.
            Members of St. Paul's, Jerome, tracked their hours of community .service toward a goal of 2,500, for every 10 hours, a flower was placed in a Caring Garden. Records of service hours were placed in the offering during Lent.
            A $20,000 bequest from the estate of Lelia and Ed Myrick, former members, was given to T rinity, Roanoke. This will be placed in an endowment fund.
            Red Cross bloodmobile operations have been scheduled at Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg, on May 21 and at Prince of Peace, Basye, on May 12. The congregation announcements said the operation will follow health regulations for masks and protective equipment during the coronavirus.
            Members of Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, were reminded that the Rivermont Area Emergency Food Pantry has an increase in demand for services during  the coronavirus so they were asked to contribute an extra loaf of bread or two when grocery shopping. Two loaves are placed in each food order.
            While schools are closed during the virus quarantine, teachers in the pre-school of St. Stephen, Williamsburg, are continuing contact with their  students. Through Zoom, some teachers meet weekly to read stories and enable the children to interact with each other. E-mail, texts and phone calls keep the  children active and continue honing their skills.
            Christ, Fredericksburg, will use a plot in the Fredericksburg Community Garden as a ministry to produce fresh produce to a food pantry throughout the
growing season.    

Lutheran president leads company in virus crisis

Change is difficult but Newport News Shipbuilding has "to redefine how we operate," said Jennifer Boykin (right), president of Virginia's largest industry and a  member of First Lutheran, Norfolk, The company reported 19 cases of  COVID-19 virus among its 23,000+ employees at late April.
The president makes weekly reports  to employees. The changes made by the company "and will continue to make," are aligned with guidelines of the  Center for Disease Control centering on "social distancings and protective  equipment  temperature checks, sanitation, use and disinfection of common and  high-traffic areas and  business travel," she said.
In a facebook message online, she thanked employees for the ideas and questions they have provided. Their feedback is "helping us solidify our plans."  Childcare, transportation and face masks are the main issues  of employees' concern during the virus crisis.  The company is working with the YMCA of the  Virginia Peninsula for emergency childcare and with Hampton Roads Transit on transportation problems. And 50,000 face masks are on order.
 Boykin, a St. Louis native, holds degrees from the U.S Merchant Academy and George Washington University. In a long career, with the company which  designs, builds and maintains the world's most complex ships, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines, she has held responsible positions as vice president  of engineering and design, vice president of quality and process excellence, director of facilities and waterfront support and program manager for the nuclear  engineering division. The first woman to head the $4 billion company, she was named president in 2017.

Roanoke College reopens admissions process

Roanoke College, reacting to the impact of  the coronavirus, has reopened its application process for freshmen and transfer s tudents to apply for admission next fall. The impact of the virus may lead students to stay closer to home, the college said.
 To help students navigate this new selection process, the college has admission counselors for each prospective student and virtual tours of the campus will be offered,
  While classes are online, in another response to the coronavirus, several students have organized Maroons Make Masks, a drive to get fellow students and faculty to sew simple cloth masks. A friend in healthcare told them of the mask shortage. The students have a website that provides instructions on how to make masks and donate them from home.
    Donations will go to the Bradley Free Clinic in Roanoke. "Even though we're not with our Roanoke family right now, we're doing what we can to help our home away from home," said Chloe Van Dyne, a sophomore.
     During this time of remote learning, another group of students has formed RC Craft, a server designed to build an online community for students to interact with their peers during their time away from the campus. Any member of the college community can get information on the server from its website.
     At a time when the importance of staying socially connected is emphasized, one Roanoke student has a nationally recognized research project that is timely. Hannah Guthrie, a senior, has been working for a year on a research project on the relationship between social connection and childhood obesity. Guthrie, who grew up in Salem, was particularly interested in the 42 percent of Roanoke children who were overweight or obese. The Council on Undergraduate Research in Washington selected her project among hundreds for a posters session and she was one of 30 chosen to present their work to members of Congress.
     The Roanoke campus has been recognized by the Arbor Foundation as a 2019 Tree Campus USA. The program honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in conservation. To obtain this ranking, Roanoke met five core standards for sustainable campus forestry: establishment of a tree advisory committee, evidence of a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for a campus tree program, Arbor Day observance and sponsorship of student service-learning projects. The college is known for its trees. Dr. David Bittle, first president, planted a number and a rock elm next to the library was placed on the National Register in 2010.

Taking medical supplies to Guatemala
     by Janet Gomez

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about travelling to Guatemala for my FIRST MISSION TRIP EVER! We left for the airport at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 1st - thanks to Gerald and Tina Britt for getting Abby and me to the airport!!
We arrived in Guatemala around 2:00 p.m. and boarded the bus to the Hotel Bambu. It was a long drive but the view was spectacular--- mountains, volcanoes, plants, flowers and beautiful purple flowering trees. What a beautiful country. The hotel was great, a beautiful setting with a pool and air conditioning! We ate breakfast and most dinners at the hotel --- the food was excellent.
On Monday and Tuesday we held clinics in Xojola, on Wednesday and Thursday, we   held mobile clinics in small barrios (Spanish for neighborhood) and on Friday, we held a clinic in Ixtacapa at the Partners in Development (PID) building. My main job was to help entertain the children while they and their mothers and fathers waited to be seen by the nurses and the doctors.
Mission members from Apostles,
             Gloucester, on a trip to Gustemala.
 I worked with Linda Hodges and while the children colored pictures, we would show them how to brush their teeth and wash their hands (Linda was VERY good at this!!). I also got to help hand out health kits and reading glasses to people. On Wednesday, the clinic was at a school. It was a day of celebration for this village. Dr. Pete said it was really something for a medical clinic to come to their neighborhood.
The mayor stopped by and we met the principals of the school. They served us a delightful soup for lunch and they had music. That evening, Maria from PID invited us to her parent's home for dinner. It was delightful!! On Thursday, we were in a very small building with lots of people to be seen so I spent most of the day helping Betsy Liljeberg with the pharmacy by counting and bagging medications and vitamins, There is so much else I would like to share with you about this incredible trip and the people and children that I met.

Highlands Conference gets equipment grant
     by Pastor Jonathan Hamman

It is one of the few times in my life that I felt like a thief.  You probably need some background for that statement. I was traveling back home from a Renew-145 meeting with Pastor Colleen Montgomery. We were following Pastor John Wertz to Vicar Brian Katz's house in Blacksburg to pick up some computers and TV's.
However, Vicar Brian wasn't home, so he gave Pastor Wertz the pass code to his garage and the three of us loaded six 55" TV's, computers, video cameras, small CPU's, and various cords into my Suburban. You should also know that our Suburban is probably a former government vehicle and is now loaded to the gills because 6 55" TV's is all you can get into a Suburban..
But the timing! It could not have been any better. If I was writing this in Greek and I could get away with it, I would use a divine passive. This had to happen because God made it happen. Within a week of receiving the TVs, small CPU units, and cameras, the COVID-19 pandemic struck home with consequences not seen in our country or in our churches in a long time.
These TVs and other equipment came to us through a "holy innovation" grant from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). As a part of the grant, we are exploring how to work more closely together in the Highlands Conference of the Virginia Synod, ELCA. As a part of this grant, we met as pastors of the Highlands Conference last spring at a Retreat Center and read together a wonderful book, entitled Canoeing the Mountains.
We dreamed about how we could work better together, find new ways to do ministry together, and continue to support one another in a conference that encompasses most of Southwest Virginia. The TVs and other equipment enable us to zoom with each other, plan and provide worship together and the eventual hope is to place one in almost every congregation in the conference in order to facilitate worship services, Bible studies, meetings, and whatever us we dream of. One of the emphases is that Christian leadership needs to change in this day and age.
And what changes we have seen in the past few weeks! When we began to realize worship with our congregations was probably not a great idea on Sunday March 15th, our pericope group turned into a discussion about how to provide worship together. This was a natural outflow from our work together, and we never really considered providing worship without working together.
We continue to provide worship for the churches of the Highland's Conference via Facebook, YouTube, and any other method w can explore and use! We know that zoom, Facebook live, and YouTube are not always perfect venues, especially since these corporations seem to be overwhelmed with the demand on their systems these past few weeks. However, it was great to worship together, and our congregations seemed to appreciate the fact that we are working together during these unprecedented times.
Who knows what will come from this? We have talked about various ways to continue to provide ministry to the congregations in this area, especially the smaller and more remote congregations. We've talked about ways to streamline our ministry, take out some redundancy, and work together to provide pastoral care, encourage ministry, and empower all congregations and peoples of the Highlands conference to love and serve God and neighbor.
  This grant could not have come at a better time. Common equipment has become a valuable tool in the ministry we continue to do during these difficult times. We don't know what our future ministry may look like, but we are more and more certain that whatever it looks like, it will be done together.

(Pastor Jonathan Hamman, dean of the Highland Conference, 
serves the Rural Retreat Parish.)

We said, "Yes, with the help of God"
Reflections on 50 years of ordination of women
     by Rev. Jean Bozeman
(Editor's note: In this 50th anniversary year of the ordination of women  in the ELCA, Retired Pastor Jean Bozeman (left), first woman to be ordained in the  Virginia Synod 44 years ago, reflects on the changes in this half-century. Of  the  103 pastors in parish calls today, 46 or 44%, are female and 57 or 54% are male. Twenty-four females and 111 males are retired.)

It was June, 1970 and I went to the LCA convention in Minneapolis for an event that would change my life and ministry in more ways than I could ever imagine. At the time I was a staff member for the Lutheran Church in America Commission on Youth Ministry. Our commission had worked hard in support of the Study on Confirmation that was to be presented. This document would affect the youth and the ministry which we supported and ultimately, my own life. We were also very supportive of ordaining women which was to come before the convention.
Ordination of women was not new to our church, at least in the form of papers, debates and grass-root discussions. Still, there was an air of excitement and nervousness as we wondered what would happen with these pages of biblical and theological study and societal reflections. When it came time to act, I was only surprised with the degree of unanimity that existed.
The Lutheran Church in America voted to change its constitution by striking the word "man" and inserting the word "person." According to the convention minutes, this was "adopted with a resounding voice vote." There was one recorded negative vote. Did you hear that? The LCA never actually voted to approve the ordination of women....they just voted to change one word for another.
For years, then and now, we have debated the importance of language in shaping people's attitudes, understandings and actions. And then, with one vote on language, the LCA took one of its most important actions that would shape the ministry of our church far into the future. And some say language doesn't matter.
   I had supported the ordination of women and was thrilled to share that joyous time when this officially became a reality, but I had not planned to be ordained. Now 50 years later it is hard for me to understand why I resisted. In some ways, I don't think I knew that I was resisting. Women could not be ordained in 1961 when I began to professionally serve the church. From 1961-1970 I had been blessed by the opportunity for service and felt that God had already called me to some exciting ministry in parish settings and the LCA.
 However, a year later the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago called me to their faculty. When I arrived we had about six women preparing for ordination and another six preparing to become a deaconess or church educator. Then the ordination of women took on a new reality as I became a mentor and supporter for these young women. I came to LSTC as the only faculty woman at any of our Lutheran seminaries. We had NO models for what it meant for a woman to be ordained.
  Remember that I said there was the Study of Confirmation and the Ordination of Women that would change my life? The Study of Confirmation came as a startling change for many of us but it enabled us to live into new understandings and appreciation for both baptism and confirmation. Actually, with hindsight of these 50 years, I would see amazing links especially between baptism and the ordination of women. I never thought documents of the church would so change my life. This 1970 document was the basis for some of the education classes I taught and specifically those on baptism and confirmation.
    Along the way, things began to change for me. Through my studies, my teaching, my working with women students, listening to the church and struggling with old/new ways of seeing women and men living out God's call, I began to grow and change. This idea of ordained ministry was something I began to realize was grabbing me in a new way. There was no question that I supported and fought for the ordination of women. For years I kept hearing that the essential passage for the ordination of women was Galatians 3:28, "...there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." But the transforming part for me was seeing the preceding verse with new eyes: "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."(3:27).
  Because we have been baptized, we are new people......we are those who have put on Christ and changed forever to live out our baptism in many and various ways. For me, this became my burning bush; my blinding light on the way. I always felt inadequate to even give any thought to being a pastor. However, clothed with Christ and putting together the many ways God was calling me, my eyes were opened. When people debated the issue of a woman representing Christ at the altar, I could stand tall and know that when women, like men, step up to preach, baptize or commune, they have put on Christ. I could hear anew that God was calling me, the church was calling me. The other partner, me, could now say yes, because through my baptism I have put on Christ and know that I can represent Christ at the altar.
Newly ordaikned, Bozeman            presided at her first baptism of Sarah Pederson in Norfolk.
   On November 14, 1976, in the church of my baptism, First Lutheran, Norfolk, yes, with the help of God I took that final step to become a pastor in the Lutheran Church in America--- the first woman to be ordained by the Virginia Synod. What a blessing to serve this church---to preach, preside, offer communion, baptize, marry, walk with our students in a new way, be their sponsor for ordination and the list goes on as God has led me through another 45 years of serving in the seminary, the Virginia Synod and throughout our church.
     Those early days were times of many joys but I must admit there were times of hesitation, second-guessing, questioning, looking over your shoulder and yes, fear. There was so much unknown and that was true for women as well as men, for congregations, for bishops, synods---for all of us. We lived into---and we became. We didn't have to work at being the "first" to do something because if you walked down the street backwards, it would be the first time an ordained woman had done it that way.
          In the late 1970's, some of us began to feel it was important to hold a 10th anniversary conference for ordained women. This was to be more than an anniversary. While we were a number of years away from the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, it seemed that whatever we did should include our future partner churches---the American Lutheran Church and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The numbers (about 225) of ordained women were growing, but when you spread us out across the church, we were distant from one another. Women needed to see one another, we needed to share experiences both good and bad and we needed to study and worship together. This conference, sponsored by the three church bodies, was attended by 107 ordained women, some seminarians, church-wide staff, seminary faculty and our three church presiding Bishops. Many issues came out of the conference, directed at all phases of our church i.e. congregations, synods/districts, theological education, language and sexuality. However, the primary concern for ordained women was, "Synods aren't helping us with the call process."
        The church listened, heard their cries and established a working group, which I chaired, to begin preparing bishops and their staffs for "... more effective recommendation, calling and support of women in the congregations, agencies and institutions of our church bodies. The Ministry Divisions of each church body provided monetary and professional support. A large grant was provided by Aid Association for Lutherans, now Thrivent. All synodical and district bishops and one staff member, the Steering Committee, a representative group of women pastors and seminarians plus church-wide staff and the three presiding bishops, participated in these events. We struggled with issues that still haunt our church, but we did search together for new directions, for models and for patience and understanding as we moved forward.
         Throughout the '80s and '90s ecumenical gatherings as well as Lutheran retreats, inter-seminary conferences and international events were important opportunities for women to gather and explore biblical and theological issues, challenge old models as new insights emerged, explore issues such as sexuality, language and new roles for women and men. Women in graduate studies and seminary faculty began meeting in the '80s and I am pleased to share that this group is still meeting annually to share papers on theological and biblical studies as well as keep women's names visible for positions in colleges, seminaries and the church.
         I know that women still complain about the difficulty of finding satisfactory clerical blouses and vestments. For many years there were NONE. My mother made me a dress with clerical collar tab-opening for my ordination. We were expected to buy men's shirts and try to add darts at the appropriate places, take in cuffs and forget those loose collars and long tails. The church supply store said there were not enough women to design clothing for us.
     At one of our ecumenical gatherings, the women of other denominations were complaining about the lack of attire for women. Many of these groups did not have a tradition of wearing clerical symbols, but indicated that, as women, they were finding them necessary to gain entrance to hospitals and nursing homes. I went home and wrote to our church publishing house once more. This time I could agree that the number of Lutheran women might be small, but with our ecumenical women now needing this clothing, our numbers were growing dramatically. Immediately, they responded that they would make demo blouses for me to test with our LSTC women. I do wish I had thought to take pictures of or keep some of those first shirts.
       In 1989, when I was called to serve on the synod staff there were five women pastors in the Virginia Synod. Those numbers have steadily changed so let's look at some current figures. In 2020 there are 260 rostered ministers in the Virginia Synod with 79 (30%) women and 181(70%) men. We see a different view when we look at the 103 parish calls in this synod with 46 women (45%) and 57 males (55%). The other large group would be 111 men and 24 women who are retired.
  Some look at figures with alarm and others see joy. I just see a wonderful group of colleagues who are leading this church in healthy directions. I pray that we will support them as they work to serve God in the variety of settings and ways in which they have been called.
  You have heard it said that some churches used to "refuse to consider" a woman as a pastoral candidate for their congregation. My memories as a seminary teacher haunt me as I remember students receiving a rejection letter or negative call from the bishop even before a dossier had been read. I remember clearly hearing those words myself when I heard, "Our church isn't ready for a woman.....yet." As a member of this synod's staff, I would visit with a pastoral search committee and at the first meeting it was so sad to hear, "Don't give us a woman's name." But what is even sadder, after all these years of experience and widening vision, is that there are some congregations who continue to be afraid or refuse to even consider a woman pastor. How can we continue to think that God creates women with gifts for leadership, but then would not want her to use those God-gifts as a pastor, "just because she is a woman?"
    These 50 years of ministry have been filled with joys, tears, growth of character, new models for doing ministry, new language, new patterns of worship and many aspects of ministry that have become so familiar we have forgotten that this was not always the way we did things.
    As we reflect on this anniversary, I find myself with a strong sense that this did not "just happen." We stand on the shoulders of so many women who went before us as missionaries, deaconesses, Christian educators and youth directors who modeled ministry and paved the way for the ordination of women. I am grateful to the theologians and scholars who led the way with their research and scholarship; I especially remember with thanksgiving our church-wide and synodical women's organizations who wrote, spoke and supported women for leadership. Our church has come to this place with the dedication of families, colleagues and congregations who have raised up and supported women in ministry.
     We have come a long way since that 1970 approval of the ordination of women. Thousands of women and congregations have experienced joyous relationships and shared ministry enriched by those for whom God would have previously called, but the church would not have accepted. Yes, with the help of God the church has seen a fullness of God's creation and a richness of shared ministry as women and men, plus lay and ordained ministers have joined in every aspect of sharing the Gospel.
      Thanks be to God.

(Pastor Bozeman has served the church in so many ways. A Norfolk native, she's a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne College which later awarded her a doctor of divinity degree. She holds master's degrees from Temple University and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago where she taught and served as dean of students. Returning to Virginia, she was installed as assistant to the bishop and a staff member at Lutheran Family Services in 1989 and retired in 2011.)

LFS adjustments as services continue under virus
     by Christina Feerick, Communications and Marketing Director

During these challenging times, Lutheran Family Services of Virginia is committed to  ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of all of those we serve and of our staff members, who remain our most valuable resource. The Executive Team has been meeting often regarding our COVID-19 response to ensure that our 400 staff members have the support and information they need to assist the 800 children and adults we serve each day across the state of Virginia.
Since this crisis began, employees have received frequent all-staff communications from  leadership and their individual supervisors, answering day-to-day questions and offering best practices in terms of self-care for our staff and health care for the people with whom we work.
Each of our programs has been altered by this virus -- but not derailed. LFSVA has made necessary adjustments to continue our services and we are grateful to be a mission partner of the Virginia Synod. We were founded 132 years ago by Lutherans, and we cherish our history and connection.
We have a very specific need in our schools that the Virginia Synod is helping us to achieve providing Wi-Fi access in homes until the end of the academic year so that our 200+ Minnick School students will have equitable access to remote instruction and continued support. 60% of students qualify for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch - meaning the families have little or no access to the internet for at-home learning. All students live with a disability which makes it challenging to find success in school. LFSVA educators are innovating distance learning by producing lesson modules individualized for each student, grade level, SOLs remaining for the year, and for students graduating with an applied or standard diploma.
You can learn more here about the VA Synod's goal: We are Church Together .
We also have made the necessary adjustments in our group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our direct support professionals (DSPs) are "hidden heroes," working 24/7 to ensure that residents continue to have the supports and activities they need to thrive. Without DSPs, many of the people in our community who need the most support would be suffering terribly.
Many of the people we work with also have physical disabilities, use wheelchairs, or have underlying health concerns that make them especially at-risk during this pandemic. It is not an option for DSPs to stay home and take care of their own families -- they must work and have continued to serve our residents with dedication and love. Like doctors, nurses, firefighters, and police officers they cannot "work from home." Our DSPs were recently showcased in a TV news story: Click here to watch video on WTVR .
Many of the people we serve have had their daily routines changed drastically, whether it be a job or community event they now can't attend. Therefore, our DSPs must find alternative ways to engage them while remaining home and safe. The statement "they wear many hats" has never been truer!

Minnick student shows his dog to his teacher by long distance learning.

For Virginians with disabilities who rely on them, Direct Support Professionals are the very definition of essential. Because staffing could be severely compromised in the event of multiple illnesses in a group home, our employees are taking extra precautions, including wearing masks, taking their temperature twice a day, and staying away if they are experiencing any symptoms.
LFSVA counselors have changed their model to adjust to social distancing and are now offering telehealth options. The anxiety of the COVID-19 crisis can bring on new stresses or can trigger past difficulties. From the comfort of home, adults and children can participate in therapy with a trained counselor.
We have IMMEDIATE AVAILABILITY. Our counselors have varying hours and specialize in grief and loss, anxiety, depression, parenting support, adoption, and coping strategies.  If you would like to schedule an appointment call 888-841-4835 or email: .
  Meanwhile, our work to recruit new foster and adoptive families hasn't stopped! Dozens of children still need loving homes. We are working on virtual events to feature experts and allow those who are interested the time to "chat" and learn more about this growing need and the services we offer.
LFSVA is committed to supporting our staff and those we serve throughout the COVID-19 crisis with the same high level of care and commitment we have always had across all of our programs. Though we have made significant adjustments, our services continue each day. For that -- and for the people we serve - we are grateful.

Lutherans urged to join coronavirus fight

The ELCA has approved a special coronavirus fund-raising appeal and Lutheran World Relief and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy have asked congregation members to sew face masks to protect health care workers. Lutherans on local, regional and national levels are working to stop the virus.
   In an April 8 teleconference, the ELCA Church Council approved a fund-raising effort to support congregations, synods, relief and development, global mission and affiliated ministries that have been negatively affected by the pandemic, The Council asked that churchwide organization units and offices provide periodic reports on the appeal.
   Lutheran World Relief has launched a70,000 Face Mask Challenge and asked volunteers to sew cloth face masks that will be sent overseas to slow the spread of the virus.
    Kim Bobo, VICPP director, said face masks are needed for patients, bus drivers and farm workers. She suggested congregations with supplies of hand sanitizers, hand soap or wipes donate them to local fire stations or emergency transportation teams.

The ELCA and World Religions
     by Paul Jersild

ELCA members may not have paid much attention, but their church adopted a significant policy statement at the churchwide assembly last year entitled, "A Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment." To anyone familiar with our history, this statement will be seen as truly historic. Our particular theological heritage as Lutherans has been marked by a spirit of exclusivism which has discouraged building relationships with other religious traditions. For that matter, we have not been at the cutting edge of ecumenical (church) relations either. So what lies behind this event?
Besides an enlightened leadership in our church, one can see two factors exerting an influence: culture and theology, which, as always, are intertwined. For centuries, the world religions have lived as relative strangers to each other. They have occupied different corners of the world, shaping their own culture in virtual isolation from each other. Living today in a shrunken world, we are recognizing the imperative to reach out to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and so on. This greater contact has encouraged the building of relationships.
As to the theological factor, churches are rethinking the exclusiveness that has dominated their past. When those of other religions have been strangers, it has been too easy to judge or even condemn them. This statement makes the point that Lutheran theology is relational, with an understanding of faith as trust. Thus faith is not primarily about affirming beliefs, which should keep us from judging our religious neighbors simply on that basis.
At the core of religious faith is one's relation to God, and we should rejoice wherever we see the Spirit of God at work in the lives of people who are adherents of other religious traditions. When it comes to the Bible, it doesn't convey a uniform perspective regarding people of other religions. However, there are numerous stories in the Old Testament in which God is portrayed as working through those who practice other religions, and in Acts 10 we see the Apostle Peter recognizing that God is at work in the lives of righteous Gentiles.
We know that our non-Christian neighbors today, particularly Jews and Muslims, are
experiencing discrimination of all kinds. In response, the statement relates Luther's explanation of the Eighth Commandment to our neighbors of other religious traditions, that we should "come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light."
The statement recognizes that working to achieve justice and peace in the world is a
concern for every religious tradition, a divine calling for people of faith. In this statement our church enhances that calling when it commits itself to pursue justice in cooperation with those of other religions. Given the critical importance of religion to the common life of humanity, I for one am thankful to God for my church's expression of love and understanding toward those nurtured by the traditions of other world religions.

(Dr. Paul Jersild, First Lutheran, Norfolk, is retired from the faculty at Southern Seminary.)


Pastor Mary Louise Brown, longtime nurse, died March 27
The Rev. Mary Louise Brown (left), interim pastor at St. Paul, Strasburg, died Friday, March 27. She was 81. A longtime nurse at hospitals in California, Washington, D. C, and Virginia, she also taught nursing until she earned a degree from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and was ordained in 2006. She served at St. Luke, Woodstock until her retirement in 2014,
            A native of New Jersey, she held degrees from the University of Maryland, Catholic University of America and the University of Pittssburgh. A life-long learner, she earned a doctoral degree in nursing and master of divinity degree while continuing her career as a registered nurse. She was the founding dean of a school of nursing in Milwaukee, WI.
She is survived by three sons, Barry Brown, Marion, IL; Jeffrey Brown, Altoona, PA, and Robert Brown, Rileyville; two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for June 13 at Luray In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Shenandoah County Health Ministries Coalition (SCHMC), an organization she founded to bring faith community nursing to small parishes in Shenandoa h County. Contributions may be sent to SCHMC. P. O. Box 255, Woodstock, 22664.

Julie Meaders Moyer, bishop's wife, died March 25
Julie Meade rs Moyer, wife of Bishop Emeritus Virgil A. "Buck" Moyer, deceased, died at her home in Salem, VA on March 25.  
She served as Secretary to the Bishop in the Virginia Synod office and worked at Lutheran Family Services. She was married to the bishop for 18 years following his retirement. 
She is survived by a daughter, a son and a step son and their families.
No memorial service has been scheduled at the time of publication.

Synod has matching grant 
for pastors' debt reduction

To offset pastors' educational debt load, the Virginia Synod and other synods in Region 9 have received a matching grant from the Lily Foundation. Virginia is eligible to receive $125,000 in matching funds over the next three years to help  address the burden facing ministers and to strengthen stewardship education and ministry.
The average educational debt load for a pastor or deacon is approximately $47,000, according to Pastor John Wertz Jr., Synod director for evangelical mission and assistant to the bishop. This debt has a direct impact on a rostered leader's ability to accept a call and their ability to be a steward leader in their congregation.
The synod is planning a program to invite financial gifts matching the grant money for pastors' debt reduction. Last fall, the synod received the first gift of $20,000. With the match from the grant, $40,000 is available for the new ministry.
Rostered ministers may apply for an educational debt reduction grant which will be paid directly to their lender.
Applications will be reviewed by a grant administrator who will process the application. Awards will be made, based on available funds and individual need, by a team of lay and rostered leaders from Synod Council. Successful applicants will participate in a financial education program before receiving the grant.                                                                       

Virus with no cure is "humbling"

"It's very humbling to have a disease for which there is no cure," said Dr. Steven Mussey, a Fredericksburg physician and a member of Christ Lutheran.
  That disease, coronavirus, has caused "a lot of busy time" in his practice. His staff is busy screening patients electronically by "televisits," as well as seeing them in the parking lot.
   His staff was alarmed when the daughter of a receptionist appeared to have the virus but she recovered and the mother stayed on quarantine.
   His office does not do testing so he doesn't know if they are positive. He's keeping track of two people "but they can go from not sick to sick very quickly."
   Mussey said Fredericksburg does not appear to be a hot spot for the virus as a result of good isolation. Isolation "has really kept the cases down." He favors "a cautious release" of restrictions.
      Bishop Bob Humphrey said several synod congregations have reported infections among members and their families but he has not heard of any deaths caused by the virus.        While doctors, nurses and medical staff cope with the crisis that hit the nation seven weeks ago, Virginia Synod congregations and their members responded to the challenge with what Humphrey called "a multitude" of services, Bible studies and ways to worship online. Some met in parking lots and worshiped by radio. Music, council meetings, a prayer chain and even virtual fellowship were reported.
      June 10 is the date the governor's "Stay at Home" order expires but Gov. Northam has said there may be a phased relaxation of the restriction after 14 days of declining infection. Humphrey said a return to worship and in-person gatherings will require careful planning and restrictions to keep people safe.

At right: Leaders from four congregations who held a joint Easter service at St. Michael, Blacksburg, were (from left) Vicar Bryan Katz, Shiloh and New Mount Zion; Pastor Monica Weber, Luther Memorial; Rachel Peterson, campus minister, Luther Memorial, and Pastor Michelle Stramiello,
St. Michael,Blacksburg Lutherans worshiped in their cars at Easter.

     "The last thing we want is to act impulsively out of our understandable desire to return to worship and deeply regret it later as we see members or their families become ill. The church needs to be a good leader and model for the rest of society on how to respond with patience and always with great care and caution for the sake of others," the bishop said.
       With time on their hands, Virginia Lutherans faced the isolation challenge in many ways. Many walked through their neighborhood or on greenways or hiking trails. Others worked puzzles, read, cooked or cleaned house. Pastor Scott Mims wrote about this extra time in the Shepherd's Horn, newsletter of Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach: "..there is an upside to having fewer places to be and less busy and frenetic schedules and that is that we have more time---more time to connect with one another and especially right now, more time to connect with God. Perhaps in all these things we are experiencing, it is an important thing to remember these bright spots, especially as we celebrate the season of Easter."

Wash your hands and pray

Gail Midkiff, parish nurse at Holy Trinity, Lynchbnrg, reminded her members of the importance of washing hands and  praying during the coronavirus:  "Another important health choice is therefore frequent and effective hand washing. The ancient Celtic Christians gave  us a good example by having special prayers for all routine daily tasks. The 30 seconds (some say 20) it takes for effective hand  washing could be an occasion for a short prayer. We could thank God for good health, pray for continued health, pray for healing   for those who are sick and those who are suffering financial hardship, pray for the safety of workers who are on the front line of   danger and pray that the virus will be soon under control.




Editor:  George Kegley     
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