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

Bella is a friendly dog
at LFS' Minnick School 
           Shay, a student at the Roanoke Minnick School of Lutheran Family Services, plays with Bella, an American Kennel Club dog owned by Mark and Sybille Nelson, members of St. Philip, Roanoke. The Nelsons bring their dogs on regular visits to the school, giving students a chance to relax and buddy up with gentle creatures whose love is unconditional. 
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Bass to discuss religion and culture
Appalachian concerns discussed
Bishop Eaton-Time to get to know each other
FaithFormation reaches $450,000
Gettysburg, Philadelphia to build "unified" seminary
Braaten to retire at Ferrum
Lutheran Student Movement being relaunched
Molter, Havron to be ordained
Pastor Charles Spraker dies at 82
United Appeal collects almost $2 million in 21 years
Seeking justice at the General Assembly
Organ Re-Dedication at Grace, Waynesboro
Lutherans in the news

           Tim Peifer, Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg has been named director of philanthropy for the Village at Orchard Ridge, Winchester, and the Legacy, Staunton. Peifer, formerly vice president retail sales manager for Blue Ridge Bank in Harrisonburg, will work with individuals in the two communities to enhance giving programs and raise awareness of the mission of the parent National Lutheran Communities & Services. Peifer attended Northern Virginia Community College and serves as Finance Committee chair at Muhlenberg and president of People Helping People. His wife, Kristy, is vice president of Peak Construction, Massanutten Resort.
            Tim Jones, St. Mark's, Roanoke, deputy police chief in Roanoke, will serve as interim chief during a search for a replacement for Chief Chris Perkins, who is retiring.
Jones, who supervises the Uniform Operations Division, joined the department in 1981.
            Dr. James Kenneth Echols, director for theological resources and networks for the ELCA, spoke at Martin Luther King Day services at Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach, Sunday, Jan. 17, on the topic, "King's Beloved Community, Then and Now."
            Julie Swanson, president and CEO of Lutheran Family Services, was elected treasurer of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy at its annual meeting in Richmond in December. Also. retiring State Sen. John Watkins, Christ the King, Richmond, was honored as VICPP Legislator of the Year.
            Bishop Emeritus Richard Bansemer has retired after producing the monthly crossword puzzle in The Lutheran magazine for 21 years. "It was fun to do but that was enough," he said. Also, the computer program he used is no longer available. Andrea Kulik of the magazine staff, his successor on the puzzle, said she has great respect for Bansemer's work.
            Following the ELCA World Hunger 40 Days of Giving Lenten focus, First, Norfolk, members have set a goal of raising $2,000 beyond normal giving for hunger, as well as raising awareness of hunger locally, nationally and worldwide. Beginning Sunday, Feb. 7, and extending through Lent, ELCA congregations are urged to join in raising $2 million to benefit the ministries of ELCA World Hunger.      
            Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach, will celebrate its 61st year of ministry on Sunday, Feb. 21, with a special offering for a Master Server Award and for Senior Recognition Quilts.
            Youth members at Resurrection, Fredericksburg, are collecting food, bedding and cat litter for dozens of cats and dogs at Spotsylvania County Animal Shelter.
            Over the Christmas holiday, volunteers at Lakeside Lutheran, Littleton, NC, helped workers from other churches deliver food to four apartment complexes for the elderly. Pastor Rusty Campbell said the volunteers followed "what the Bible says..that we clothe the naked, feed the hungry." Workers from five churches distributed 12,278 pounds of food from Food Lion from August through November, 2015.
            Since February is Heart Month, the Community Outreach Committee at St. Mark, Yorktown, will host a family Heart Pillow project on Saturday, Feb. 6, from 9 a.m. to noon. The goal is to cut, stamp and sew from 70 to 75 pillows for open-heart surgery patients at Riverside Regional Medical Center.
            In the Micah's Backpack program at St. Michael, Blacksburg, workers are feeding 261 students in 10 schools. More than 540 snacks were sent home each weekend in January. Under a Micah's Soup for Seniors project, 90 bags of food are provided to senior adults to help alleviate hunger every month.  
            Grace, Waynesboro, was host for homeless men and women in the WARM (Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry) program the last week of January. The cold weather shelter program rotates among local churches from November to March.
            Members of Christ, Fredericksburg, delivered 26 pairs of men's and women's boots to the Micah Cold Weather Shelter two days before Christmas. Other cold weather items were donated to the shelter also.
            A Highlands Conference Epiphany Celebration was postponed from a snowy Jan. 24 to Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. at Holy Trinity, Wytheville. Handbell ringers and other musicians, as well as prayers, readings and hymns were planned, ending with the Hallelujah Chorus. An offering is to be divided between World Hunger and Hungry Mother Lutheran Camp.
            Youth members of several congregations are planning Souper Bowl events to collect cans of food and money for hunger programs during the Super Bowl weekend. At First English, Richmond, members raised a total of $580 last year. The suggested donation was a dollar to buy someone a bowl of soup. Proceeds were divided between Virginia Supportive Housing and CrossOver Health Care Ministry.
            A talk about Notre Dame battling the Ku Klux Klan in South Bend,
Ind, in 1924 was given at Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, by Julie Doyle, president of the Education Research Foundation. The talk raised awareness of the presence of hate activities.

Diana Bass to discuss religion and culture    
Diana Butler Bass, an author, speaker and independent scholar who specializes in American religion and culture, will give the James H. Taylor Memorial Lectures on "Religion & Spirituality in a Changing Society" at Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, on Friday night at 7 and Saturday morning, March 11-12.
  Her topics will be "Spiritual Revolution: the Rise of the Mystics" on Friday night; "Experiencing God in Nature: Challenge and Promise" at 9 a.m., and "Experiencing God in Our Neighbors: Great Command in Action" at 11 a.m., Saturday. There is no charge for the lectures. Among the books by Bass are Finding God in the World-A Spiritual Revolution, Christianity After Religion, The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, A People's History of Christianity, The Other Side of the Story and Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith.

Appalachian concerns discussed at Radford
     by Pastor Andrew Tucker, Christ, Radford 
            On December 3rd, Christ Lutheran Church, Radford, hosted an Appalachian Ministry Consultation in conjunction with the ELCA Appalachian Task Force. Led by the Rev. Dr. Harvey Huntley, Region 9 coordinator, and Rev. Andrew Tucker of Christ, nearly 40 people attended the two sessions.
             This was the first of nearly a dozen consultations the Task Force will hold across the region, each focused on discerning the future of God's mission and ministry in Appalachia.
            The conversation acknowledged the negative of drug use, lack of living wage jobs, and unsustainable environmental practices related to business. Concerns about racial and socio-economic divisions also appeared. Opportunities that arose included explorations of new partnerships. Ideas included the opportunity mission/cultural immersion trips through camps like Hungry Mother and Caroline Furnace, as well as connecting with local organizations to combat food insecurity by creating community gardens that reintroduce people to the land that may help provide low cost, high quality food.
            While the Task Force must wait until the completion of all consultations to make recommendations to the synods and churchwide office for ministry opportunities, one key learning was deceptively simple: We're better equipped to meet the needs of our region if we work together. This includes networks not just of congregations, but connecting with educational institutions, not-for-profit organizations, business and other local stakeholders with a vested interest in the health and development of our region.
            Of course, we bring a unique perspective, namely that we believe God's committed not just to the development of Appalachia, but the redemption of all creation, including Appalachia and the people that call this region home. That message of grace and hope remains central to whatever shape ELCA Appalachian ministry takes in the future.

Time to get to know each other   
     by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton
Bishop Eaton 
And get ready to consider
priorities, future direction of ELCA  
            Sometimes I just don't get us. We are the least likely of all people to speak enthusiastically about our church. I don't know if it is some cross-cultural Lutheran modesty that compels us to hide our light under a bushel, but the effect is that the ELCA is one of the best kept secrets-from ourselves.
            Other people in this country and around the world value who we are as a church and the work we do in Jesus' name. Recently I was in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan observing the work of the Lutheran World Federation. The Syrian refugees knew what is Lutheran. Our colleges and universities affirmed the value of a Lutheran education-our tradition of free inquiry, vocation and service to the neighbor. Chris Kimball, president of California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, proudly states that "Lutheran" is the school's middle name. Non-Lutheran students attending the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia refer to the school simply as "Lutheran." Lutheran Services in America is the largest social service-providing entity in the country, serving 1 in 50 Americans. I bet most of you reading this column didn't know that.
            Of course I understand that our primary identity is Christian and that baptism doesn't make us Lutheran, it makes us part of the body of Christ. But the Lutheran witness to the gospel has something important and distinctive about it that is valued by other Christian and religious traditions, and by the secular world as well. Other people see it. We don't.
            I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Many sociological explanations for this probably could be cited: the erosion of trust in large institutions, our culture of individualism, increased secularization-the list could go on. But here's my theory: We don't know who we are and don't know each other.
            Kenn Inskeep, director for ELCA Research and Evaluation, notes that the ELCA's predecessor church bodies had a strong and widely shared Lutheran identity in the 1950s. There was a strong Lutheran theological identity. Theology was primarily the domain of the clergy, but many lay members knew the basics and could recite from Martin Luther's Small Catechism. And people knew of and supported the agencies and institutions of the church.
Before you worry that I'm going to get all Ozzie and Harriet Nelson on you, I'm not advocating a return to the '50s. There were many things in our church and in our country in those years to which I would never retreat. My point: We have lost something that helped us understand God and the world and that connected us to each other.
              This isn't the first time the Lutheran movement needed a little shoring up. In 1527 and 1528, Luther took part in the Saxon Visitation, an assessment of congregations and clergy in the German state of Saxony. He wrote: "The deplorable, wretched deprivation that I recently encountered while I was a visitor has constrained and compelled me to prepare this catechism, or Christian instruction, in such a brief, plain and simple version. Dear God, what misery I beheld! The ordinary person, especially in the villages, knows absolutely nothing about the Christian faith. ... As a result they live like simple cattle or irrational pigs and, despite the fact that the gospel has returned, have mastered the fine art of misusing all their freedom" (preface to the Small Catechism).
            Luther also piles on pastors and bishops with stronger language. His Small and Large Catechisms were written, in part, to address this need.
           We are going to have our own Saxon Visitation in a process requested by the ELCA Church Council. We are going to have a churchwide conversation about the priorities and future direction of this church. When I say we, I mean all of us-members, congregations, synods, rostered, lay, seminaries, colleges and universities, agencies and institutions, bishops, churchwide staff-all of us.
             But we can't talk about priorities and future directions if we don't know who we are or what we do. We are developing a tool kit that will help us all engage in the same conversation. I'm hopeful that, with the Spirit's guidance, we will come up with something terrific. I'm equally hopeful that we get to know each other and come together as a church.   
(A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This article first appeared in The Lutheran 's February-2016 issue. Reprinted with permission.)
FaithFormation reaches $450,000      
            The Synod FaithFormation campaign has reached $450,000 and it is making "good, solid progress," said Bishop Jim Mauney. Contributions and pledges are coming from Synod Council members, staff and rostered leaders who are making lead gifts, he said. The campaign seeks support to endow faith formation and youth activities with a goal of $2 million and a pledge period of three to five years.

Gettysburg, Philadelphia
to build "unified" seminary
             After much planning and discussion, the boards of Gettysburg and Philadelphia seminaries have adopted resolutions calling for "creation of a new school of theology and leadership formation." A move toward a "unified Lutheran seminary" is to begin at the April board meetings of both institutions.
            This will not be a merger, they said. "Mergers are created out of past realities; our vision is to embrace what God is beckoning from the future," said a joint announcement from President David Lose of Philadelphia and Michael Cooper-White of Gettysburg.
            The heart of the plan, they said, is "the opportunity to engage the larger church in a conversation about what the church needs from a seminary today and then build that kind of seminary, not simply try to adapt existing institutions to a world very different from the one in which they were initially launched. We believe a new seminary will be among the leading institutions of theological education and leadership formation."
            The new seminary is to be "one school on two campuses with multiple points of access." A founding board will search and select administrative leaders and faculty for the new seminary.The presidents reassured current students that they can complete their work under present curricular requirements. Efforts are under way to offer coordinated learning opportunities with online courses and short-term intensive formats available even before the new school starts.
            The proposal developed by the two presidents follows a comprehensive review of theological education by the ELCA. In 2012, Southern Seminary merged into Lenoir-Rhyne University, becoming the school of theology of the Hickory, N.C. Lutheran university, offering new programs and a new master's of Lutheran studies.
            "Changes in both society and the church call for new experiments in theological education," said the Rev. Jonathan P. Strandjord, ELCA program director for seminaries. This move "opens the door to a wide range of very promising experiments."
            Gettysburg, founded in 1826, is the oldest Lutheran seminary in the Americas. It is well known for its location on Seminary Ridge in the major Civil War battle. Philadelphia Seminary, started in 1864, also has played a significant role in Lutheran and American history. Philadelphia's outreach to ecumenical partners, especially historic African-American churches, has created a more diverse learning environment in theological education.
Lutheran Jennifer Braaten to retire at Ferrum     
Dr. Jennifer and
The Rev. Conrad Braaten

             Dr. Jennifer Braaten, an ELCA educator at a United Methodist college, has announced her retirement at the end of the academic year after 14 years as president of Ferrum College in Franklin County.
            Under her leadership, Ferrum's student body grew from 900 to 1,500, new academic programs were added, $30 million was spent on construction and renovation, two capital campaigns raised $45 million and the endowment increased to $50 million.
            Braaten said the college was the best place she has ever been. She said family health problems led her to the decision to retire. "She will go down in Ferrum's history as one of the progressive visionaries," Bobby Thompson, a former staff member, told The Roanoke Times.
            Her husband, the Rev. Conrad Braaten, retired as senior pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington several years ago. Their daughter, Kirsten, is chief operating officer of a South Florida company and their son, Conrad, attended the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg and works in internal medicine in Arkansas.
            Braaten has held a number of education leadership offices. She is chair of the Audit Committee of the National Association of Independent Colleges, vice chair of the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities and chair of the New President's Advisory Committee for the national Council of Independent Colleges. She has been chair of the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia, the Appalachian College Association and the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church.
            Before she came to Ferrum in 2002, Braaten was the first female president of Midland College in Nebraska and she taught history and served as vice president at Lynn University in Florida.  
            Sam Lionberger, a Lutheran who heads Ferrum's trustee board, said a search committee will look for a successor as president.
Lutheran Student Movement
being relaunched in Chicago
            Students from Radford University joined 50 representatives across the country for the relaunch of Lutheran Student Movement USA at a national gathering held in Chicago from December 30-January 2nd.
            Hosted by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Nicholas Hodges, Christ, Radford and Marta Paulson, Shiloh, Blacksburg, joined other students in worship, workshops, business sessions and service projects with the RTW Veterans Center in Washington Park. LSM-USA now has a board of seven representatives to guide the organization going forward, and plans to reconvene for a yearly gathering meant to unite students from across the country in our Lutheran heritage and service to God's creation.

Molter, Havron to be ordained      
             Bishop Jim Mauney will preside at two ordination services this weekend:
Mark Molter will be ordained at St. Peter, Stafford, his home congregation, Saturday, Jan. 30, at 3 p.m. The service for Anna Havron will be at Bethel, Winchester, her home church, Sunday, Jan. 31, at 3 p.m.
             Molter has accepted a call to serve Community Lutheran Church, Frankford, Del., in the Delaware-Maryland Synod. A graduate of Radford University, he worked with the Young Adults in Global Mission Program in Slovakia for a year, followed by two more years of teaching in Slovakia through the Global Mission teaching program. Molter is a graduate of Southern Seminary. His internship was at Grace
Lutheran, Petersburg, WVa. and he spent a year as chaplain resident at Palmetto Health, Columbia, SC.
            Havron has been called to Mountain View Parish, Mt. Zion and St. Luke, at Woodstock. A graduate of the University of Texas, she holds master's degree from Gettysburg Seminary and the University of Connecticut. Havron previously worked in research, consulting and communications. She and her husband, Dean Havron, have a daughter and a son in college.
Pastor Charles Spraker dies at 82       
           Pastor Charles E. Spraker, longtime counselor and director of the geriatric treatment center at Western State Hospital in Staunton, died Jan. 11. He was 82.
            A native of Tazewell County and a graduate of Roanoke College and Southern Seminary, he earned a master's degree at the University of Virginia. He was ordained in 1958 and he served at Our Saviour, Norge, and Faith, Staunton. Surviving are his wife, Marceil Harris Spraker; a daughter, Cynthia Mills, and a brother, Thomas Spraker. A graveside service was held at Evergreen, Roanoke.
United Appeal collects
almost $2 million
in 21 years    
             The Synod has closed the United Lutheran Appeal after collecting $60,124 last year and a total of almost $2 million during the last 21 years of raising funds for agencies and institutions, according to Ellen Hinlicky, who has led the effort in recent years. Congregation totals will be listed on the Synod's website.
            Conference totals for the Appeal in 2015:
            Central Valley, $4,290; Germanna, $14,365; Highlands, $1,268; New River, $3,178; Northern Valley, $360; Page, 0; Peninsula, $7,384; Richmond, $13,224; Southern, $6,031; Southern Valley, $2,785; Tidewater, $6,978.
Seeking justice at the General Assembly      
Congregations present included these members of Grace and Glory, Palmyra; Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg; and Peace and St. Mark, Charlottesville. 

            Three reports came in from Charlottesville, Grace and Glory in Palmyra and Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg, about the recent Day for All People in Richmond.
Retired Pastor Sandy Wisco of Charlottesville gave this report:
             Wednesday, Jan. 20th, was the Day for All People at the capital of our Commonwealth. Quite a few Lutherans were present for this event, organized by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) at the start of the legislative session of the General Assembly. Hundreds of people attended this annual event from many faith traditions: Christian, Unitarian, Jewish, Muslim. We worked together, in unity for justice.
            Social Justice efforts come in many forms. Some do not demand a lot of time and
yet those efforts have a big impact in diminishing unjust practices. YOUR VOICE is important. EVERYONE's voice makes a difference. We, as people of faith, must speak the truth with our prophetic voices to maintain good policies and change unjust policies, change hurtful community attitudes, and make a difference as a loving neighbor.
            As our Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminds us, racism is, unfortunately, still active. Therefore, we need to pay attention to even the subtle implications of consequences of language and behavior. Being attentive and vigilant will bring about some personal change and improvements. We need to subdue the toxic power of racism in our nation and in our hearts. Racism is a consequence of not attending to ALL the needs of ALL our citizens.
            The VICPP mission: to empower Virginians to create social justice for all by advocating for systemic change. This is expressed in the logo: Learn. Pray. Act. That is what we did together on Jan. 20th. There were about 30 Lutherans present among the hundreds, including Julie Swanson, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Virginia and our Bishop Jim Mauney who was recognized for his/our work in reducing childhood hunger in Virginia.
            We were given packets of information about the VICPP policy priorities identified for this year: Access to healthcare, issues of criminal and economic justice, immigration, and gun violence prevention. AND the ongoing efforts for environmental justice, fair redistricting and easing voting restrictions. These packets helped us LEARN about the issues before the legislative body. The booklet contained pertinent details and statistics. People well versed in these issues highlighted some House and Senate bills coming up for a vote this session.
            We began and ended in PRAYER with a fabulous and meaningful presentation/sermon delivered by the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, former pastor of Riverside Church in New York City. He began with an image of a tree where all the leaves matter and each leaf contributes to the healing of the world. He skillfully moved to the issues of racism and powerfully lifted up issues we, as people of faith, need to recognize and act on and stop being afraid of black retribution.
            Seeking justice together is what matters most. Do not be discouraged. Fear and discouragement control and separate people. The bible text (Genesis 45) was the story of Joseph finding that his brothers had come to Egypt, in need of relief from the famine. They feared what Joseph might do, yet Joseph was in awe of how God had used something terrible for good. "You sold me, but GOD sent me to preserve life." ALL LIVES MATTER. All of us need a sense of purpose and meaning to live fully.
            ACT was what we did when we went to visit our State senator and House delegates. An easy to use link to find/verify who our legislators are and the issues at hand is on, or call 804-643-2474, or write, or Like on, or Follow on twitter @vainterfaith. USE these resources and ACT on your faith by encouraging those we elect to move and act with purpose for justice for all. 

Joe Shaver of Grace and Glory, Palmyra, added these comments:
            This year's agenda, established in collaboration with the membership, addressed five primary issues. First was access to healthcare in urging legislators to pass the governor's budget, including the expansion of Medicaid, which currently finds about 400,000 Virginians excluded from coverage. Also, under this item was the initiative to reduce childhood hunger.
            Criminal justice issues were addressed in attempting to raise the level of felony theft from the current $200 which can result in state imprisonment. Virginia is one of only two states that have a level that low. In addressing economic justice, we were asking our legislators to raise the minimum wage and place tighter controls on payday lending and car title loans. On immigration reform, we believe that our state legislatures and our national government need to press for real reform in giving immigrants a distinct path to citizenship and acknowledging their human rights. We spoke to the issue of gun violence prevention and urged greater controls with background checks with the purchase of all weapons and the closing of the gun show loopholes.
Organ Re-Dedication at Grace, Waynesboro       
             Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Waynesboro, recently undertook a rebuilding of its pipe organ.  The original instrument was built in the 1890s by the Carl Barckhoff  Organ Company; it was subsequently moved into the church's present location in 1959 and rebuilt at that time by Mark Wetzel. The present project, completed by organ builder and technician D. K. Smith, encompassed a complete overhaul with re-leathering of the wind chests, the rebuilding of the console with a new computerized control system and the addition of digital voices.  
        The original instrument and the 1959 version contained substantial numbers of components manufactured by Klann Organ Supply, located in the Basic City section of Waynesboro.  The integration of the new computerized control system and the rebuilding of the console was accomplished by Klann as well, so a discernible connection with the organ's history and the local area is maintained in the present iteration of the instrument.  
         Grace will celebrate the re-dedication of the instrument on Sunday, January 31, at 3:00pm.          
          In addition to the church's Organist and Music Director Mike Myers, local organists Roger Daggy (First Presbyterian Waynesboro), Florence Jowers (Christ Lutheran Staunton), Richard Maryman (St. John's United Methodist Staunton) and Robert Moody (New Providence Presbyterian) will be playing at the service.  Selections by J. S. Bach, Francois Couperin, Maruice Durufle, Robert Hobby, and Camille Saint-Saens will be offered; in addition, each organist will accompany a congregation hymn. The public is invited.  




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