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                                                                                             AUGUST 2016
                         The Virginia 
Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921.

Warrenton, Culpeper youth
repair homes on a mission trip

Nineteen Warrenton and Culpeper youth reported hard work on homes in Hurley, Buchanan County.
            Continuing a long tradition, the youth of Our Saviour, Warrenton, joined by others from St. Luke, Culpeper, traveled to Hurley, a small town in far west Buchanan County to build and repair homes, hot and sweaty work.
            They were led by Tommy Springman, who first made the mission trip as a high school youth. They worked in daily rain storms to improve homes in a rural poverty area.
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Bishop's column
Planting a Luther tree
youth learn how Germans live
Servant events provide a first glimpse
Service projects planned
God's grace is most certainly true
Will Pokemon seekers go to church?
Messiah school to close
Wind damages Messiah building.
Lutheran named Roanoke police chief.
First, Norfolk, studies refugees
Bedford Lutherans completes renovations
Lutherans in the news

       Dr. Mark Allan Powell, New Testament professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, and an internationally known biblical scholar, will be the Theologian in Residence at St. Stephen, Williamsburg, Sept. 16-18. His topics will be "Jesus Gets Passionate: The Driving Concerns that Determined his Life and Death, Christ and Culture: Paradigms for Social Transformation, and Things that Divide Us." He is editor of the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary and author of more than 30 books on the Bible and religion.
       Dr. Terri Martinson Elton, associate professor of children, youth and family ministry and director of the center for this ministry at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, will lead the fall ACTS course on "Biblical Models of Leadership" on Saturday, Oct. 1 and Saturday, Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Grace, Waynesboro. She holds graduate degrees in congregational mission and leadership and she was an associate to a bishop and parish pastor for 16 years. 
            Pastor Scott Maxwell, who formerly served at Bethel, Winchester, 2004-2009, and Mt. Zion, Woodstock, 1999-2001, will be installed as pastor of St. Mark's Lutheran, Wilmington, Del., on Sunday Sept. 25, at 3 p.m. He has been serving at St. Paul, Erie, Pa.  
            During Virginia Private College Week, July 25-30, high school students visited Roanoke College to see classrooms, residence halls, athletic facilities, the library and the Dining Commons. Dr. Brenda Poggendorf, dean of admissions, said visitors often comment "about the gem they find Roanoke to be; they love the mountains, Main Street Salem, the vibrancy of downtown Roanoke and the well-kept campus. The best part of Roanoke, though, is the community of people drawn here."
            Portsmouth Police Crime Prevention Unit held a training session on "Security and Safety for Places of Worship on July 15. The purpose was "to educate and inform leaders and increase awareness regarding safety and security in the faith-based community."
            A 50th anniversary lakefront worship service will be held at Saunders Parkway Marina on Smith Mountain Lake, Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 6:45 p.m. Pastor Philip Bouknight, Trinity Ecumenical Parish, and six other pastors will lead the service. At Trinity, planning is under way for a Living the Nativity event on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3. This will be an interactive and interpretive event featuring a guided tour of five places, depicting Palestine during the birth of Christ with live animals, music and entertainment. The Bethlehem Towne Council is making the arrangements.
            Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach, held a Christmas in July celebration on Sunday, July 24. Christmas carols, a St. Nicholas Shoe Tree collection of shoes for needy children and a Christmas cookie exchange were featured.
            At Hebron, Madison, more than 100 participants riding the Trail of Spotswood's Knights of the Golden Horseshoe and members of the Germanna Foundation visited the church in mid-July. The Foundation commemorates the original 1717 indentured servants who started the congregation. Also, a concert of "Masterpieces for Violin and Organ" was presented at Hebron by Alessio Giacabone, a Staunton organist, and violinist Fiona Hughes, Charlottesville, on July 24.
            Our Saviour, Warrenton, plans to name a playground in memory of Kim Ulrich, to honor her work in social ministry.
            Dr. Vera Rhyne, chaplain at Fluvanna Women's Correctional Center, was scheduled to preach at Grace and Glory, Palmyra, in July. Contributions designated for United Lutheran Appeal were earmarked for Grace Inside Prison Ministry, according to Pastor Ken Albright. Pastor Paul St. Clair will lead a Grief Resolution Workshop at Grace and Glory on Saturday, Aug. 27, from 9 a.m. to noon.
            St. Mark, Yorktown, is sponsoring Yu Liang, for a Life Skills Camp in Beijing. She is an orphan who has aged out of the Chinese adoption system at the age of 14.
            At St. Michael, Blacksburg, more than $5,000 has been received for Blacksburg Church's Endowment Fund for the Soup for Seniors, Micah's Closet and Mobile Backpack programs. In May, the Mobile Backpack sent home over 1,050 bags of food to approximately 275 children.
            Nine women from Peace, Charlottesville, traveled to Honduras, taking medicine and supplies, to spend a week working with a partner congregation.
            Bethel, Winchester, will hold its 15th annual Harvest Sunday on Aug. 7 when members will share their fruits and vegetables for the benefit of Lutheran World Relief. Purchases and donations will be for Lutheran World Relief work in the continuing crisis of Syrian refugees.
            Ben Higgins, administrator of Brandon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Roanoke, is the only Virginia representative selected to participate in the 13th annual Future Leaders of Long-Term Care in America program hosted by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. He was chosen among 37 other professionals for a 12-month program, starting with a three-day training session in September.
           Gloria Dei Lutheran School in Hampton was awarded the Gold Award in the Best in Private Schools and Best in Child Development Center by Coastal Virginia Magazine for the third year.              

A proclivity for paradox   
     by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton
Bishop Eaton 
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all (Martin Luther in Freedom of a Christian).  

            Wow, Lutherans love paradox! Law and gospel. Saint and sinner. Free and bound. David Swartling, former ELCA secretary, often noted that we are a "both and church" in an "either or world."
            This proclivity for paradox, or at least the recognition that this is part of the Lutheran tradition, was often cited as a strength during the churchwide conversation phase of Called Forward Together in Christ (
            For four months synod assemblies, synod councils, the Conference of Bishops, the ELCA Church Council, ELCA ethnic associations, churchwide staff, the Faith Formation Network, individuals, agencies and institutions have been praying and considering together what might be God's priorities for the ELCA. It has been an engaged and energetic process.
           Definite themes emerged all across this church. The next phase of the process will present these themes for consideration for all of us in the ELCA- once again in synods, congregations, agencies, colleges and universities, seminaries and at the Churchwide Assembly.
           Spoiler alert: I'm going to lift up two of the themes now. First, in describing what it means to be an ELCA Lutheran or in answering the question "What is God calling the ELCA to become?" we overwhelmingly answered "a diverse, inclusive, multicultural church." In the settings where I led the conversation, I gently admonished pastors to let the laypeople speak so all of the baptized could be heard. Diversity was understood to be ethnic, economic and generational. We said congregations should reflect the communities in which they are planted. Marvelous!
            The second theme I will raise now is that the ELCA is constituted so there is very little enforceable accountability. ELCA members can decide to participate in the life of their
congregation or not. Congregations can decide to participate in the life of the synod or greater church or not. Pastors can decide to be engaged beyond their congregations or not. Even synods and bishops are often caught between their specific contexts and participation in churchwide decisions.
            We aren't bad people. The overwhelming majority of us don't intend to be oppositional. There are forces at play that exacerbate this lack of accountability. The first is cultural-American Christianity is congregational and the autonomy of the individual is darn near sacrosanct. This started long before the breakdown of trust of institutions in the 1960s and '70s. Church membership is understood as a voluntary association. One can opt in and out as one chooses. In the American context faith is a private affair.
            The second is that it took great sensitivity to care for the histories, polities and ecclesiologies of our predecessor church bodies (the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, American Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church in America) as the ELCA was being born. It was an enormously daring leap of faith to become the ELCA. I believe we are still working on trusting each other.
             Our conversations in the Called Forward Together in Christ process show that we believe God is calling us to be a diverse and inclusive church. We need to be clear about our motivation. If it is a desire, no matter how well-intentioned or noble, to diversify the church, I don't believe God will bless our efforts. But, if it's our earnest desire to share the intimate and liberating love of Jesus, then we will have to hold each other accountable as we take the hard but holy steps to open up a 94 percent white church.
            Which brings me to the Luther quote at the beginning of this column. Faith is personal-God loves each one of us-but it is never private, nor is it lived apart from other Christians. In Christ we have been set free and in that perfect freedom we are subject and accountable to one another.
A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Her email address is
Planting a Luther tree in Wittenberg    
Youth from Lynchburg and Germany dedicate a Luther tree.

         The Senior Youth Group from Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, joined the youth from Luther Church, Holzminden, Germany, to sponsor and dedicate a Silver Linden tree in Wittenberg, Germany, as a part of the "500 Trees for Wittenberg" Luther Garden project commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
            Pastor Hans W. Kasch, from the Lutheran World Federation Center in Wittenberg, presided at the July 1 service, joined by Pastor Ruediger and Claudia Schmidt from Holzminden; director of youth and campus ministries Susan Williams, chaperone Lisa Taylor, and Pastor Dennis Roberts from Holy Trinity, Lynchburg; and 34 youth from the two congregations. The dedicatory scripture verse was "...that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:23)
            Churches from all confessions are sponsoring trees as a concrete sign of solidarity, connectedness, and reconciliation of churches worldwide. The first tree was sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, followed by trees from the Orthodox Church, Patriarchy of Constantinople; the Anglican Communion; the World Alliance of Reformed Churches; and, the World Methodist Council.
           The Luther Garden, which is planted on the grounds of the former town fortifications, was inspired by the optimism expressed in Martin Luther's statement that "Even if I knew that the world were to collapse tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree today." The Luther Church/Holy Trinity tree is located in the section of the garden near the New Town Hall in Wittenberg.
Lynchburg youth learn how Germans live    
             "This trip was special because, not only did we get to see new places, but we got to see them with new friends," said rising senior Danny Bass as he described his experiences on this summer's Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, Senior Youth Luther Heritage Tour. New friendships were made and old friendships renewed on the 17-day excursion through Germany with the youth from Luther Church, Holzminden, Holy Trinity's German sister congregation. 2016 marks the twenty-eighth year of partnership between the two congregations.
            The youth spent a week with Luther Church host families as they attended school, met with local government leaders and visited a number of historical and culturally significant places in north-central Germany. Susan Williams, director of youth and campus ministries at Holy Trinity, noted that "The relationships formed between our youth and the German youth and families were amazing to witness. There was complete openness and acceptance. The youth continue to Skype, text, and email their new friends."
             Youth member Thomas Schwab, speaking of his time in Holzminden, said that he "enjoyed being able to bike practically everywhere we went. I think I benefited by being able to see how people live in Germany, and which things I'm more than grateful for."          
             One moving experience in Holzminden was a round table discussion with refugees from Syria, Iran, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Chechnya who have sought safety in Germany. The refugees shared stories about their harrowing experiences and what it is like as they try to rebuild their lives, not knowing if they will ever be able to return to their home countries. The role of churches and people of faith assisting the refugees was highlighted.
               After leaving Holzminden, the group visited some of the Martin Luther sites in Wittenberg, including the Castle Church, the City Church, and the Augustinian "Black Cloister" that later became the home of Katie and Martin Luther. There were also tours of Erfurt's Augustinian Monastery where Luther became a monk, and the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach where he was hidden away following the Diet of Worms.
                The youth spent several days in Potsdam and Berlin, where they visited Frederick the Great's palaces and gardens, the Brandenburg Gate, the German Reichstag, the Berlin Wall Memorial, the Berlin Dom, the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Castle, which is currently under reconstruction, and enjoyed a sightseeing tour on the Spree River.
                 The tragedy of the Nazi era was brought into graphic focus with tours of Nuremberg's Nazi Party Rally Grounds and Documentation Center Museum and the Dachau concentration camp on the outskirts of Munich. The youth held a service of remembrance in the Protestant Church of Reconciliation at Dachau, and later had the opportunity to discuss their impressions and reflect on voices of intolerance and hate in our current world. "The youth were able to witness the past and its impact on the Germans and the world," said Williams. "This, added to meeting with the refugees in Holzminden, emphasized how history can repeat itself. My hope is that our youth will be aware, accepting and willing to take a stand in the fight against the horrors of our world."
                  The youth concluded their tour in the Bavarian Alps, with hiking and a trip to the top of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain. In the opinion of youth group member Matthew Fleck, "The best part about the Germany trip was having fun at and in the Alps. I loved the region and the trip." Since the European Football Championship series was underway during the tour, Fleck said that he also "loved being able to have fun watching the Germany soccer games and to play soccer" with the German youth. The German youth will visit Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, in Summer 2017.
Servant events provide a first glimpse    
         Youth from Our Saviour, Warrenton, and others from across the Synod (pictured below) packed food, cleaned and organized a pantry at Virginia Beach for the annual Junior High Servant Event at Virginia Beach in the last week of July. Youngsters who take part in this event in their junior high years are more likely to stay involved with the church through high school and beyond, said Pastor Michael Church of Our Saviour. This servant event "provides young people with a first glimpse at a way of life they may never have known existed," he added.   
Service projects planned for September     
            Among the many projects planned across the Synod for the fourth annual Week of Service under the ELCA program will be a second annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Mount Trashmore, Virginia Beach, on Saturday, Sept. 10th at 8:30 a.m. Participants from the Tidewater Conference will be wearing yellow shirts bearing the ELCA theme, "God's Work. Our Hands."
            Some congregations will be working on the Lutheran Family Services listing of projects. The six Minnick schools need help with landscaping and maintenance projects and support of student activities, such as hosting a kitchen shower, library book or craft supply drive.  
God's grace is most certainly true   
           God's grace was studied and celebrated for three days in the 30th annual Power in the Spirit at Roanoke College, July 14-16. The theme, "By God's Grace: This is Most Certainly True" was explored by Dr. Kathryn Kleinhans, a former ACTS leader and faculty chair at Wartburg College, and the Bible study leader, retired Episcopal Bishop Ted Gulick Jr.
            In two keynote talks, Kleinhans talked about Luther's Large and Small Catechisms, "the ABCs of Faith." She opened by leading a verse from the hymn, "The Church of God in every age, " and then combined recollections of Martin Luther's work with reflections on the national pattern of violence.
           Gulick chose not to use "grace" because it is a word not understood in today's culture. In his Bible study, he referred to two passages where grace was implied but not used. "The power of Jesus is at work today," he said.
            Judge Charles Poston, former Synod vice president, explained the voting process for bishop at the 2017 Assembly. He serves on the Coordinating Committee which is making arrangements for the ecclesiastical balloting. A profile of the Synod will be distributed.
           The 2017 Power in the Spirit on July 13-15 will feature a keynote address by Philadelphia Seminary Church History Professor Emeritus Timothy Wengert and Bible study led by New Jersey Synod Bishop Tracey Bartholomew, who once served at St. Mark's, Roanoke, and Good Shepherd, Lexington. Wengert has led ACTS studies.
            A wide range of subjects was explored in four concurrent sessions. Martin Luther's 95 Theses are timely today, according to Dr. Paul Hinlicky, Luther studies professor at Roanoke College. Bill Franz, physics professor and provost of Randolph-Macon College, said more than 800 references to water are in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Pastor David Drebes of Prince of Peace, Basye, talked about Luther's references to exorcism in the context of expulsion of demons. Drebes will follow Elizabeth Smythe as ccordinator of Power in the Spirit next year.
            Kidz Zone events for children, including a Martin Luther re-enactment by Pastor Michael Church of Our Saviour, Warrenton, were a new feature this year. In a Micah's Backpack project, 74 bags of food were collected for distribution to children in a Salem school and others in Montgomery County.
            Outstanding music was led by Jonathan Rundman, Minneapolis musician/composer, and his group. Diet of Worms, a musical group from Ebenezer, Marion, provided musical entertainment on Friday night.
Will Pokemon seekers go to church?  

          When Pokemon Go seekers began to visit the parking lot of Trinity, Stephens City, Pastor Cameron Keyser responded with evangelism and hospitality by inviting the seekers in for worship. (See photo above).
            "People have been driving, walking and biking through our parking in quest of the little boogers so I decided on a little Lutheran evangelism," Keyser said in mid-July. Two weeks later, he reported, "the hordes have diminished a lot but there are still a couple dozen cars that pass through over a day/night span. I haven't noticed many of the searchers in worship yet but I think there were a couple this past week."
            Pokemon Go is a popular video game in which players hunt for fictional creatures on their smartphones. Stephens City is in the historic Shenandoah Valley near Winchester, scene of many battles.
Messiah school to close Aug. 26  
            The school at Messiah, Mechanicsville, will close after the summer session because of "decreased demand for services," according to Pastor Lou Florio.
            After more than 20 years of educating and care-giving," the school will close Aug. 26. "This is deeply regrettable for all of us," the announcement said.
            Infant/toddler care, preschool, day care and after-school care, as well as special summer programs have been offered to the community. Florio said an intentional effort has been made "to welcome our lower income neighbors in need of such services" but "unfortunately the demand has continued to decrease."
            Although the congregation is "sad to see this time of ministry pass...(they are) actively discerning new ministry efforts for the years ahead."
            At the same time, Luther Memorial, a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod school in Richmond, announced that it is closing after 160 years. It is the oldest parochial school in the state, Florio said.
Wind damages Messiah building    
Damaged roof at Messiah, Mechancisville
            A June 16 windstorm blew part of the roof off a utilities room and took down several trees, causing an estimated $15,000 in damage at Messiah, Mechanicsville. Pastor Lou Florio said area damage was reported to be as significant as during Hurricane Isabel in 2003.       
         Florio said donations to pay for repairs and/or support of ministry may be sent to Messiah at 8154 Atlee Road, Mechanicsville, VA 23111 or securely online at
Lutheran Tim Jones named Roanoke police chief  
           Tim Jones , a member of the choir and former Sunday School teacher at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, has been named chief of Roanoke's police force of 246 officers. A 35-year veteran in the department, he had been acting chief following the retirement of former chief Chris Perkins in March.
            A Roanoke native. Jones is a graduate of William Fleming High School and he holds bacher and master's degrees in criminal justice from Radford University. He started as a patrol officer in 1981. He was chosen from a field of 42 applicants. Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill said Jones "knows the community, he's a part of the community and that's what is critical to us at this time...very few police departments in the country are doing what we're doing right now and that's progressive policing."
            Jones heads a department recognized for its community policing.While he was interim chief, he told a racial vigil responding to national violence, "We can choose to respond to what is hate or what is hope." He said it is time to increase dialogue on racial matters.
            Soon after he was chosen as chief, Jones had a leading role in a new Roanoke Valley Hope Initiative shifting police focus from arresting drug addicts to helping them. "Let this valley stand together and help those who are suffering from addiction of any type," he said. After announcing that drug overdoses cost the lives of a dozen people in the Roanoke Valley in the last year, Roanoke Mayor Sheman Lea offered help to "anyone suffering from any kind of substance abuse, opioids, meth and other addictions, including alcoholism." The program is designed to get individuals the treatment they need at a free clinic and enhance the quality of life in the valley, Jones said.
First, Norfolk, studies refugees     

            On several Sundays this summer, First Lutheran in Norfolk devoted its education hour to the topic of immigration and the current refugee crisis. On the first Sunday, Amanda Sheldon from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service spoke, addressing the misunderstandings and misrepresentations that surround the crisis.
            The second session featured two immigrants, one from Iran who is now a member of First, and the other from Poland who was sponsored by the congregation some decades ago. They spoke and fielded questions about their experiences in getting acclimated to a new cultural setting. On the final Sunday, Sharon Powell, an immigration lawyer and a member of St. Stephen, Williamsburg, spoke about her experience in representing refugees, noting the extensive legal hurdles faced by these vulnerable people as they seek refuge in our country.
            The series was sponsored by the congregation's Global Mission Committee, which is considering ways in which the congregation can respond to the humanitarian issues posed by immigration and the plight of refugees.
Bedford Lutherans complete renovations     

           Bedford Lutheran worships at the Bower Center for the Arts at 305 North Bridge Street in Bedford. For more information, go to their Facebook page, or email
           On Sunday, June 26, Bedford Lutheran Church resumed worshiping at the Bower Center for the Arts at 305 North Bridge Street. Displaced for nearly a year by significant renovations, the folks of Bedford Lutheran are thrilled to reclaim the upstairs gallery every Sunday with new furniture, fabrics, pottery and more.
            "Rather than return to what we knew before, we've decided to try new things," said Pastor Jon Myers. "We've asked a local woodworker to create a new altar and podium using reclaimed oak, a local potter to fashion new communion ware with her hands, and our own quilters to bring together new fabrics to tie it all together." The congregation is also experimenting with a new horseshoe-shaped seating arrangement.
            The new furniture is portable, so that the mission congregation can clear out the space to serve as an art gallery, yoga studio, performance venue and more throughout the rest of the week. Over the last year they've met in the Bower Center's basement, and when construction pushed them out of that space, they were graciously hosted by the Bedford Library.
             The renovated Bower Center features huge glass windows across a new foyer, an elevator for accessibility and one more surprise as construction wrapped up. Built as an Episcopal church, the brickwork was long painted white. Now the Bower Center is a very bright salmon or coral pink. It's now one of Bedford's most visible and unmistakable landmarks!
             Their time in "exile" has given them lots of time to reflect on what holds them together and continue to invite their neighbors to come and see. Recently one member noted that what Bedford Lutheran might lack in numbers-people, money and programs-it more than makes up for with one key quality: "This is a church with a heart!" This has become our new rallying cry and is emblazoned on pink banners, yard signs and T-shirts that can be seen all around Bedford.




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