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                                                                                          DECEMBER 2018
                         The Virginia 
Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921.

Danville's Chrismon tree
will be shown December 9-24
          Continuing a custom of almost 50 years, the chrismon tree at Ascension, Danville, will be open to the public from Dec. 9 to Christmas Eve. Frances Spencer of Ascenson made the first chrismons in 1970 and the tradition of the Christian monogrms hanging on church trees has spread throughout many churches around the world.
           The schedule for seeing the tree: Sundays, 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7-9 p.m. Those scheduling group visits should call Ascension at 434-792-5795. Three chrismon workshops were held during the fall and the tree is being placed in the sanctuary today, Dec. 1.
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Vietnamese Congresswoman-A remarkable story
From cradle to grave by Presiding Bishop Eliz. Eaton
Equality Virginia holds transgender events.
Seminarians explore justice for women
Hampton quilt pattern sent to Maryland
Jim Wallis:...Jim Crow...pushback
A Christ sighting at Goodwill Industries.
Salem churches get grant for student food pantry.
Roanoke students go to Lutheran semester in Washington..
Lutherans in the news
      Two Synod pastors have accepted calls to congregations within the Synod. Pastor Lauren Miller, who has served at Peace, Charlottesville, for four years, will move to Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg, on Jan. 1. Pastor Lou Florio will become associate pastor of Christ, Fredericksburg, on Jan. 16, after 11 years of service at Messiah, Mechanicsville. Miller, a graduate of Valpariso
University and Gettysburg Seminary, came to Virginia from the post of associate pastor at Hope Lutheran, Farmington Hills, MI. 
Florio, a former policeman, will leave his position as dean of the Richmond Conference. A graduate of VMI, he holds degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University, Union Presbyterian and Gettysburg seminaries. He served six years as an Alexandria policeman and he has received awards for law enforcement and chaplain service.           
          Pastor Sherrie Hofmann, a former Army master sergeant and interim pastor at two Pennsylvania congregations, has accepted a call to Lakeside Lutheran, Littleton, NC. A West Virginia native and graduate of Pacific Lutheran University, Air University and Gettysburg Seminary, she was a chaplain in Maryland Health System and interned at Grace Lutheran, Petersburg, WVA. Since she was ordained in 2005, she served a five-point parish and churches at Rockwood, Roaring Springs and Claysburg, Pa. She and her husband, Scott Hofmann, also a retired Army mast sergeant, have two children, four grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
            Pastor Alexis Witt was ordained last month after she accepted a call to Our Saviour, Norge. An active member of
Epiphany, Richmond , she is a graduate of the University of Richmond and the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. She served a intern year at  United Lutheran, Lincoln, NE. She worked in campus ministry at Epiphany
            Bryan Katz is wearing at least three or maybe four hats after he starts in January for a year as an intern at St.  Philip, Roanoke . He is campus minister at Virginia Tech for Luther Memorial,  Blacksburg, and he teaches Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech while  taking courses at Luther Seminary. He holds three degrees from Virginia Tech and he is in the process of becoming a deacon, a minister of word and service. He and his wife, Katie, who teaches nursing at Radford University, have two children and are members at St. Michael, Blacksburg .
    At Our Savior, Richmond, Lucas Cochran, a candidate for ordination, has started as a ministerial fieldwork student. A native of Annandale in Northern Virginia, he's a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary. He will be leading worship, teaching preaching,visiting, having lunch with members and supervision by the pastor.
          Pastor Hank Boschen, a former mission developer, has retired as supply pastor after 13 years at Bedford Lutheran. He was honored at a service on Oct. 7.
          The Virginia Synodical Women's Organization is asking its members to focus on the needs of local children's organizations for their 2019 service projects. Three suggested organizations are Knots of Love, whose volunteers knit caps for children who have hair loss from medical treatment; Project Linus, which provides blankets for children who are seriously ill, and Ryan's Case for Smiles, offering whimsical pillowcases for children in hospitals.
           Members of Epiphany, Richmond, are holding a six-month trial of an Alzheimer's support group, facilitated by Steve Rhodes.
            Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, marked the 65th anniversary of its building by showing a series of home movies of the groundbreaking, construction and dedication, filmed in 1953-54 by Dr. Harry K. Royer. Holy Trinity will hold its annual German language Christmas service, led by Pastor Dennis Roberts, on Dec. 9, at 7 p.m.
            St. Mark's Roanoke, continued a long tradition of delivering 50 Thanksgiving food bags to Social Services clients. Food also is distributed at Christmas and Easter and food pantry openings twice a month. St. Mark's annual Carols by Candlelight, featuring Roanoke Brass and the congregation choir, will be held Sunday, Dec.15, at 5 p.m. The service will support refugee and resettlement work of Commonwealth Catholic Charities.
          Peace, Charlottesville, has a Christmas Miracle, "offering an opportunity to shift from the craziness of endless gift-giving to meaningful sharing by spending half as much on gifts and setting aside the other half for those in need, such as Lutheran Disaster Relief and the Tent of Nations, near Bethlehem."
           Proceeds from the annual Fall Bazaar at Brandon Oaks, Roanoke, amounted to $8,177. This will be used for simulative laboratory training for residents in the nursing and memory center.

Vietnamese Congresswoman
            The remarkable story of a Vietnamese family rescued in the South China Sea and their daughter growing up to be elected to a Florida seat in Congress gives credit to the compassion of  members of Christ Lutheran, Fredericksburg.
            The story came to light when Rep. Stephanie Murphy, (D-FL, 7th District), was the keynote speaker at the fall convocation of the College of William and Mary. She was the first Vietnamese immigrant elected to national office and a 2001 William and Mary graduate.
Murphy as a baby.
        Murphy told the students of her family's escape from Communist Vietnam while she was still a baby in 1979. The family fled at night and their small boat ran out of fuel and began to drift until it was rescued by a U.S. Navy ship and they stayed in a Malaysian refugee camp.
            Through the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the family settled in Fredericksburg when President Jimmy Carter increased the number of Southeast Asia refugees entering the U.S. "This policy change set the stage for the big-hearted members of a Lutheran church in Virginia to sponsor my family's passage  to the U.S.," she said.
            Pastor James Cobb, then serving at Christ Lutheran, told a Fredericksburg newspaper on Aug. 3, 1979, that members of the church were looking for a job and providing other items for the family of Dang Hieu Liam, Murphy's father. Cobb now lives in Williamsburg in retirement.  
Congresswomen Murphy
            An aide for Murphy said the congresswoman wants to express her "deep gratitude in person" to Cobb. Pastor Anne Jones of Christ Lutheran said she was "pleasantly surprised" to learn of her congregation's action 39 years ago. "What a wonderful story of the faith and ministry of this congregation in the past, that continues in the present and will stretch into the future." Murphy told the college students her family "became the beneficiary of American courage and kindness."
            Pastor Andy Ballentine of St. Stephen, Williamsburg, reported the story after he heard the convocation talk by Murphy. Ballentine said he went to hear Katherine Rowe, new president of William & Mary, and he found that both Murphy and Rowe were "very impressive." In her Williamsburg talk, Murphy said, "I experienced firsthand that with hard work, a healthy dose of humility and a helping hand from others, you can change your life for the better within the span of a single generation.
Credits Christ, Fredericksburg

From cradle to grave 
     by Elizabeth Eaton

             Christmas comes at a descending time. The old year is coming to an end, the new year is not yet here. It is too late to accomplish goals set on the previous New Year's Day, and just enough time to realize that whatever shape or state you are in will be the shape or state in which you end the year. There is a hefty dose of "what might have been."
             In the Northern Hemisphere the trees are bare, fields are barren, birds have migrated, animals are hibernating, the days are short and the nights are long. The earth's colors are muted, and when there is snow the world becomes silent. Sometimes during these short days and long nights I find myself thinking about the brevity of life. This conflicts with my tendency to believe that the possibility of self-improvement and renewal is limitless: there is always another day, more time, another chance.
            I remember watching our first child as she slept in her cradle, thinking about the future before her and, at the same time, the reality that there would be an end. The Ash Wednesday declaration, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return," became more pointed and more poignant. The cradle-to-grave progression is our path; the inevitable and inexorable decline of our strength.
             As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more (Psalm 103:15-16).
Maybe this is why the Christmas season can be so fraught. Of course, there is anticipation and celebration, but there is also pressure and stress. Perhaps we are trying to greet the Lord's birth with our best efforts (when I was a girl, Christmas preparations were not complete until the silver was polished, and that job fell to me), but desperation can creep into the urgency to get Christmas right, to hold back the night. "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight" (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 279). This is freight that Christmas can't carry when Christmas depends on us.
            Christmas comes at an opportune time. God did not come to us that first Christmas when we were at the top of our game or when the world was perfect. Even the circumstances of Jesus' birth were a sharp reminder that all was not well-forced migration
to Bethlehem, no room for the young family, born in a stall. Emmanuel-God with us-came to us and comes to us precisely at the time when our need is greatest.
          Our attempts to bring about perfection actually get in the way of receiving the gift. When we try to fit into an unrealistic ideal of who we ought to be instead of welcoming God into our real self, no matter how messy, what then is left on the 13th day of Christmas? Fatigue, certainly, but also the dull acceptance that life moves from cradle to grave.
          But on Christmas, God has reversed the cradle-to-grave progression. The angel announced to the shepherds: "I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:10-12).
            Here is the new reality. Here is the truth. Our lives are not a meaningless trudge from cradle to grave, but a joyful journey-true and lasting joy-from grave to cradle. All our brokenness and death meet life and healing and hope in the child in the manger. His cradle defeats the grave. We are loved. We are alive. Now we are free to greet this holy season.
           Merry Christmas, dear church.

           A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Her email address is: This column originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Living Lutheran. Reprinted with permission.

Equality Virginia holds transgender events
by Rev. Leslie Scanlon, Grace, Chesapeake
       A couple of months ago, Equality, Virginia reached out to the Lutheran churches in Tidewater, looking for a place to host a Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau event. The purpose of these events is to give people a chance to get to know a transgender Virginian from their local community.
Pastor Scanlon (left)
with Juji
      As part of Grace's ongoing conversation about what it means to be a truly welcoming congregation, the Council agreed to host such an event on Wednesday, Nov. 14. That evening, a group of members from Grace, Chesapeake, First, Norfolk, and St. Andrew, Portsmouth, gathered for a potluck dinner and the presentation.
            Our guess speaker, Juji, spoke about her life journey--family, faith and sense of self. As she began sharing the story of journey and transition, I could see that she was tense, maybe even a little uncomfortable. At first, I thought maybe she just wasn't comfortable with public speaking, but as she got to the part of her story where she was first able to understand why she never felt comfortable with her parents' traditional expectations, I could see her muscles relax and her genuine smile show through.
            This spoke volumes to me and really summarizes many of the stories that I have heard from my transgender siblings in Christ. Such unease in your own body, with your identity and with societies often binary expectations might not be something that you have experienced in your own life, and that is why it is so important to take the time to listen to stories of people who are not like you. Getting to know someone whose experiences are different than yours the first step to being able to truly welcome them and loving them as God loves all of us.
            St. Andrew,Portsmouth, hosted a similar event on Thursday, Nov. 29. These events have been great opportunities to gather in a safe place, to hear holy stories, to ask questions and to experience the wideness of God's mercy. You can find out more at

Seminarians explore justice for women
Melissa Woeppel presenting 
"Scripture, Women, and Justice: A Survey"
The Hein-Fry Book of Faith Challenge is a project jointly sponsored by the seminaries of the ELCA, the Hein-Fry Planning Team, and the Book of Faith Initiative. This challenge began in 2015 to enliven the biblical engagement of the whole church. One student from each ELCA seminary was invited to take on the challenge of creating an innovative class or encounter that engages scripture in some way.
            The challenge for 2017-2018 focused on projects that brought people together with a range of scriptural understanding: those who are biblically literate to those who are largely or completely unfamiliar with scripture.
          Melissa Woeppel was selected as the United Lutheran Seminary student representative. Her project, entitled "Scripture, Women, and Justice: A Survey," was conducted at Peace Lutheran Church in Charlottesville, Melissa's internship site.
             Born out of discussion of the ELCA Draft Social Statement on Women and Justice, this four-week study explored scripture as it relates to social justice for women. As the draft social statement was discussed, it became clear that members of the congregation had the social language to talk about issues of women's justice, but most struggled to articulate a theological or scriptural understanding.
            The first session included an introduction to Lutheran interpretation of scripture and methods of study. The following three sessions each engaged a passage of scripture. Readings from Ruth, Luke, and 1 Timothy were selected to represent the variety of voices found in the biblical canon.
             Together, they wrestled with how to interpret and address scripture that excludes and silences women. Together, they celebrated the places where the bible points to inclusion and empowerment. This communal study and discussion equipped participants to incorporate scripture and faith into their daily lives and gave them a better grasp of the breadth of the scriptural witness.
            Five other students also participated in the challenge: Aston Roberts from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Erika Tobin from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Tania Schramm from Wartburg Theological Seminary, Kristina Hill from Luther Seminary, and Marissa Becklin from Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
            To learn more about the Book of Faith Initiative and the Hein-Fry Challenge, visit All presentations were recorded and will be available for viewing in the coming weeks.

Hampton quilt pattern sent to Maryland 
            A quilt pattern from St. Paul's, Hampton, was sent on request to St. Paul's Lutheran, Utica, MD, as part of its 250th anniversary celebration for a quilt with each square from a different state.
             Mary Ann Smith of Hampton said the pattern is the Star of Virginia, printed in the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. The central square is from a St. Paul's polo shirt with a polyester knit fabric. The other fabrics, from her sewing room, remind of the waters of Chesapeake Bay and the starry fabric of the border represents the space exploration of NASA Langley Research Center where the original Mercury astronauts began their training. Hampton, 400 years old, describes itself as "First from the Sea, first to the Stars."

Jim Wallis:  Jim Crow 
pushback  follows racism progress
              Racism is a sin, a social construct, idolatry, said Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourner magazine, authior and a leading advocate for social justice,
            In a Roanoke College talk Nov. 29. His theme, "America;s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America," was presented by Ivies Inc.   of Roanoke Valley in partnership with the college's Offices of Community Programs and Multicultural Affairs.
            The soul of a nation and the integrity of faith are at stake, he said. Martin Luther King wrote that the church is the conscience of the state. By 2040-2045, whites will no longer be the majority group in the U.S., Wallis predicted. "Out of this comes the following racist agenda: to prevent demographics from changing democracy in the U.S...It's a white problem."
As Christians enslaved people of color, they said that "these were not made in the image of God, as a way to justify their greed for free land and free labor.
            This is how white Christians created the original sin, saying that blacks and other people of color are inferior. It's still a lie today."
Wallis said that some ask if this is the last grasp of racism, as we see it, today? "There has always been a pushback whenever progress against racism has taken place. There is always new, new Jim Crow progress, then double down, then progress, then doubling down."
             The theological issue in the middle of all of today's noise is "in whose image are we made? In Genesis, God says, "Let us make all humankind in our image to have dominion over all creatures." God referred to dominion over non-human creatures but Wallis said some have interpreted thisas having dominion over all peoples.
            In the original sin of racism in the U.S. Donald Trump has become the chief tempter of the sin. Like Pontius Pilate, politicans today make the people believe there is no longer any danger."

A Christ sighting at Goodwill Industries 
          Jodi Henrickson of St. Philip, Roanoke, reported a life-saving story at
Goodwill Industries, where she works as vice president-commercial services.
            A person at Goodwill was choking until Andrew Thomsen administered the Heimlich maneuver and an object lodged in the throat flew out and Thomsen was credited with saving a life. Thomsen, who has been a guest in the men's shelter at the Rescue Mission in Roanoke, was gaining experience through the Mission's partnership with Goodwill.
            Goodwill gave Thomsen a recognition ceremony. Henrickson called Lee Clark, Mission chief executive, to tell him that she believes God "sent Andrew here for this reason.  They thought they were saving him but he saved them."                                                      Clark called this "a wonderful story of a saved life saving others...This is Jesus in the midst of a community helping hurting people to become life savers, who help others to see Him. A Christ sighting!"

Salem churches get grant for student food pantry
            A group of Salem churches, nonprofits and government agencies received a two-year, $59,450 grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) to launch a Healthy Communities Action Team (HCAT) to initiate and support a student-led food pantry, beginning with Andrew Lewis Middle School.
            Salem Area Ecumenical Ministries' (SAEM)'s HCAT team held an open house and ribbon cutting to officially open the "Giving Light" Food Pantry on Oct. 26 at Andrew Lewis Middle School.
            College Lutheran, Salem, one of the partners supporting the food pantry initiative, has partnered with Andrew Lewis to provide food items, mentors and financial support. Garry Lautenschlager, College Lutheran, serves as the project coordinator, Stephanie Leiser, St. Mark's, Roanke, and Thrivent Financial, is on the HCAT Team, representing the business community.
             Andrew Lewis Middle School is so fortunate to have the support of the Salem Area Ecumenical Ministries/HCAT team and the local community. This opportunity will allow our students to learn first-hand about service and fellowship. We will also have the capability to provide food and educational outreach opportunities for our families in need" says Jamie Garst, principal at Andrew Lewis Middle School. SAEM is honored to support the Healthy Community Action Team to implement this grant," Lautenschlager said.,. "I firmly believe that creating a way for students to help students will impact them for the rest of their lives."
            The grant runs from July 2018 through June 2020. It's part of VFHY's HCAT childhood obesity prevention program, which supports the formation of community coalitions to prevent and reduce childhood obesity in Virginia by improving access to healthy foods and increasing opportunities for physical activity.
            The VFHY funds 20 HCAT coalitions statewide, including the Salem group. These coalitions serve as coordinators and conveners for community activities, working locally to implement policy, environment and systems changes across a wide range of initiatives. These include creating shared-use agreements for improved access to areas for physical activity, increasing access to farmers' markets for low- income participants, working with local schools to enhance school wellness policies, creating environmental changes to promote healthy foods and supporting and promoting breastfeeding.
            Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, the VHFY is responsible for statewide efforts to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use, childhood obesity and substance use. Since the Foundation began its work in 2001, youth smoking in Virginia has been cut more than 75 percent!
            The Virginia Foundation directly reaches about 50,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, day cares and other youth centers across the state. VFHY's award-winning marketing campaign delivers prevention messages to more than 450,000 children annually through TV and radio ads and Internet content.
            For more information about the VHFY, visit the website at

Strong group of Roanoke students 
go to Lutheran semester in Washington
            Thirteen Roanoke College students participated in the 32nd annual Lutheran College Washington Semester program in the nation's capitol.
            These students collectively are "one of the strongest groups" that the college has placed in the program, said Dr. Todd Peppers, coordinator of the program.
            Their talents and academic records are reflected in the internships  they hold, he added.
             Several reported on their experience.  Hannah Schroeder, '19,  interned at Jubilee USA, an interfaith, non-profit alliance of religious development and  Advocacy. She said she has "a passion for non-profits and wanted to have more experience with them..It's been really cool for me to see my major in action here in D.C."
          Elizabeth Janmes, '20, a history major, was a research major at the National Women's Party, an organization formed in 1916 to fight for women's suffrage. As a research intern, she looked at the history of the party  to tell the stories of courageous suffragists and to prepare to face contemporary issues of gender/inequality.
           Kathryn Overby, '20, is a business administration major who interned in the office of Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. She  answered constituents' phone calls and attended Senate committee meetings. Overby said the program offered a great opportunity because she wants to pursue law after graduation.




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