~Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921~
Mask making ministry
In a new ministry, members of Peace, Charlottesville, are making masks for use in the pandemic by patients of Dr. Nancy Schmitz in her Orange Family Practice and at the University of Virginia Hospital. Dr. Schmitz, a member of Peace, said her practice uses 100 masks a day. Peace members were asked to donate fabric, elastic and ribbon.
Lutherans in the news
Pastor Erik W. Feig
(right) has accepted a call to serve at
Faith, Suffolk, following
Pastor Scott Benson
, who retired. Feig, who has been an interim pastor at Huntsville, AL, for four years, is a native of North Dakota. A graduate of Luther College and Luther Northwestern Seminary, he holds master's degrees from the seminary and U.S. Army War College. He recently retired as an Army colonel after nearly 38 years of service in the National Guard and Army Reserve and three combat deployments. He has served small congregations and the second largest ELCA congregation.
(left with Pr. Laura Dunklin, St. Philip, Roanoke),
a student at
United Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg
, will be serving as vicar at
, following the retirement of
Pastor Ken Lane
. A native of the Central Valley in Pennsylvania, Swanson is a graduate of Millersville University, Lancaster, PA. He worked as a Young Adult in Global Mission, volunteering with a Lutheran congregation and a community for people with intellectual disabilities in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both of his parents are Lutheran pastors---Rev. Mark Swanson and Rev. Laura Csellak. He is serving on a mission trip to Guatemala this spring.
Pastor David Derrick, St. Philip, Roanoke, has been named dean of the Southern Conference, following the retirement of
Pastor Ken Lane.
In what was described as "a momentous day in Bedford," on Feb. 23,
Bedford Lutheran was recognized by
Bishop Bob Humphrey as an organized congregation of the ELCA, after 15 years as a mission church. Bishop Humphrey preached and the congregation held its annual Shrove Tuesday pancake and sausage brunch.
Pastor Tim Fease preached at a Bedford Community Lenten service at Main Street United Methodist Church in Bedford.
Blacksburg ELCA Fellowship was formed "during this time of preventative social distancing as we seek to manage the spread of COVID-19, protect our most vulnerable populations and assist healthcare providers." The Fellowship was formed by
Pastors Monica Weber, Luther Memorial, and Michelle Stramiello, St. Michael, and Vicar Bryan Katz, of New Mt. Zion and Shiloh, and Rachel Peterson, campus minister ar Luther Memorial.
St. Stephen, Williamsburg, Heather Macdonald received the Thomas Jefferson Award, given annually to a member of College of William and Mary family for significant service through personal activities, influence and leadership. She was recognized for her service "in the classroom and throughout the discipline of geoscience."
Trinity Ecumenical Parish members have contributed more than $100,000 to a financial and spiritual partnership in Tanzania since the Door of Hope Maasai Ministry and Hai Institute of Technology was approved by Trinity's Global Partners Team in 2005. This program has been led by Pidge Morgan from the beginning.
Yanet Limon-Amado, an immigrant justice organizer at
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, was scheduled to talk about "The Face of Immigration in Virginia Today" at a Third Sunday program at
Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, on March 15.
Trinity, Pulaski, the council voted to tithe 10 percent of income from apartments to share with a Feed My Lambs school-age weekend meals program and an Emergency Needs Task Force.
St Paul's, Jerome Parish, Edinburg, members planned a virtual caring garden during Lent. Following the theme. Simple Things Matter," they planned to count the hours spent during Lent, using their time and talents to care for others. They are tracking the hours in care of the community, family and congregation in such everyday tasks as taking food to a neighbor, helping a child with homework or taking a friend to a doctor. For every 10 hours recorded, a flower will be placed in a virtual caring garden in the sanctuary.
Hebron Women/ELCA provided Christmas gifts for patients at Western State Hospital at Staunton. Their contributions enabled the hospital's volunteer services to provide gifts for 254 patients.
God is with us even during times of sickness
by Pastor Paul Pingel
Pastor Pingel (right), Grace, Waynesboro, wrote this column for the Waynesboro News-Virginian.
No matter where you look, or who you talk to these days, it's all about the coronavirus. It certainly has impacted our lives: my daughter has been sent home from college for at least the next 30 days, all college classes are now taken online. A doctor on TV recommends that people over age 75 give serious thought to not attending any public event, even going to an exercise class.
Should people visit my 96-year-old mother at her nursing home? The doctor on TV says "to err on the side of caution."---facilities should curtail all visits beyond necessary medical or other functional visits. The NBA has cancelled its season after a player tested positive.
Another aspect of life that we've seen impacted is economic and financial. Beyond the stock market losing at least 20% of its value to date and its impact on retirement funds, employment in any areas involving public events, travel etc. I'll use a couple of mundane (self-focused) examples: What about the significant money I've paid for college room and board, the facilities my daughter normally uses at the school, now unused? Will the coronavirus impact our family's planned travel to see family? Is it too dangerous to fly?
It's more than money, isn't it? It's time and plans and all the ways we organize our lives or expect our lives to work transactionally---when I pay, something specific is supposed to happen. When I do this or that, I can expect this or that result.
And then there's the impact on our personal freedom: the quarantining of hundreds of people on ships; the fact that whole towns, cities, even most of Italy, now is
on lock down. Everything closed except grocery stores and pharmacies. What will happen next? What will happen to my life?
It's the lack of certainty. We all want this in our lives and the coronavirus pandemic is affecting that sense of certainty. It's the unknown. One of the results of uncertainty, of the unknown, is fear. And when we are afraid, well, things start to get away from us, like caring, loving our neighbor.
Almost 500 years ago, in 1527, Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, wrote a tract called, "Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague." It was written as the plague washed across Europe yet another time---a pandemic that 200 years beforehand had killed up to 40% of Europe's population.
One can easily imagine that people were on edge. Luther's response 500 years ago is surprisingly modern: he wrote that doctors, those holding public office and pastors, had particular responsibilities to care for the people. He spoke about having adequate hospital facilities to care for plague patients. He spoke about common sense and he also spoke about not forgetting that we are in this together.
"God has created medicines and has provided us with intelligence to guard and take care of the body...Use medicines; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence."
The last line is key: "wherever your neighbor does not need your presence." Some members of the congregation I serve went to Costco this week. Costco is the place to buy 36 rolls of toilet paper or five-pound boxes of cereal! The members were shocked to find the toilet paper entirely cleaned out and also noted there were signs limiting the amount of 36-roll packs of toilet paper one could buy---meaning that people were trying to leave with multiple monster rolls of toilet paper.
Putting the best construction on everything, as Jesus asks me to do, I guess someone might be buying for their friends or neighbors, but there's still a fair question to be asked of our fear: why in situations of fear is there the temptation to hoard for ourselves and not to think of the common good? Or to allow fear to excuse poor behavior, like the story of an Asian-American woman assaulted by another woman in New York, apparently the scapegoat over fear of the coronavirus?
Fifty-eight times in the Bible, God's people are reminded, "Do not fear." "Do not be afraid." These words are spoken in time of real peril, real risk, real disease, but God promises his presence in danger and suffering and sickness.
Followers of Jesus Christ live by faith. We live knowing that, as Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America concluded her recent letter about the coronavirus; "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." (Romans 14:8)
Augusta Health has put out some great information on the coronavirus. Currently, we live in one of the lower risk areas for Covid19. It should be noted that for all the concern for the coronavirus, we regularly live through flu seasons that claim tens of thousands of lives in the U.S. alone each year. Augusta Health actually tells us that flu risk is really of greater concern in our area right now.
To live by faith does not mean to be foolhardy. Wash your hands regularly. Be careful in public events. Follow your doctor's advice. At Grace Lutheran, as I know in many Waynesboro-area congregations, we are taking many precautions in public worship and providing live-stream opportunities for those who are concerned.
But we do not forget who we are; people called not to fear, but to know God's promise of love and mercy and to love our neighbor in need and care for others, even when we ourselves are careful.
Editor's note: This was written before many virus regulations were imposed.
Nicaragua mission trip
by retired Pastor Mark Radecke
Violent civil unrest returned to Nicaragua in April 2018 causing, among other things, the cancellation of almost all visits by US mission teams. The Centro Infantil Cristiano Nicaragüense (CICRIN), a school and refuge for 150 children and youth on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua, received no visiting teams for 22 months. A mission team sponsored by Muhlenberg Lutheran Church, Harrisonburg, was the first to return to CICRIN. They accomplished much during their February 14-22 time there.
+ A dental clinic (right) staffed by the team's dentist and two hygienists treated 80 children and workers, providing restorative work, extractions, fluoride treatments, and sealants.
+ Two adults who required more extensive work to save their front teeth were referred to dentists off the island, with funds provided to cover the cost of their treatment.
+ Six members of the team primed and painted two new classrooms and the cafeteria at CICRIN's growing school.
+ Two members conducted a Vacation Bible School exploring "Dios el Constructor" (God the Builder).
+ The team also provided funds to replace ceramic tile floors in three rooms, pay the salaries of the workers laying the tile, and purchase materials to continue work on the roof at CICRIN's entrance.
+ The group enjoyed time with the children, taking them to a local pool (left Pastor Radecke and friend, Tiffany) and beach, and hanging out with them while not working.
This was the twentieth mission trip to CICRIN led by Mark and Tami Radecke, and the second such trip sponsored by Muhlenberg. A similar trip is anticipated next year.
Just Because: A progress report
by Pastor Karen L. Caspersen
It began over pizza. I was chatting with my friend, a 5th grade teacher, when she began to share her frustrations with teaching. "But I love my students. I love my job!" Afterwards, I wondered if there was anything I could do.
I understand the challenges today's educators face as two of my sons are teachers --- insufficient supplies, mandatory testing and students with behavioral issues. The majority of teachers spend over $500 of their own money to purchase essentials such as dry erase markers, pencils, folders, tissues and hand sanitizers.
Teachers work an average of 52.5 hours per week; summers are spent planning for the upcoming school year and continuing education. Educators feel unappreciated, undervalued and frequently blamed for higher school taxes. It's easy to look at the magnitude of the problem and feel powerless to make a difference. Just Because was born in October 2017 to show public appreciation for our educators and to make a difference.
Initially Just Because was a project that included a few friends who provided small items for the educators in the elementary school which included all the staff as everyone contributes to the learning environment. Since becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit in August 2018, the kindness project has grown substantially.
Presently we provide quarterly goodie bags to the 900 teachers and support staff of the Shenandoah County public schools. Each bag includes items like snacks, bottles of water, drink mixes, tissues, hand sanitizers, pens/pencils and notepads. In 2018-19, $9,100 worth of gifts were given. In the three packings of 2019-20, $11,000 was distributed. (the April packing has been cancelled.) The Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce named Just Because one of the three finalists for their 2019 Award of Excellence -Nonprofit.
The community support to our educators has been overwhelming! Businesses, churches and civic groups provide financial gifts, promo items, items for the bags, volunteers and host packing sites. The recipients are so grateful.
One paraprofessional wrote, "I know it's going to be a good day, when I arrive at school and find a Just Because bag in my mailbox. In fact, on those days, the whole staff is abuzz. Sometimes we trade items in the bag with a colleague. We go through them carefully, like kids exploring Christmas stockings! It is really special to know that someone is thinking of us educators, and they care. So, I am grateful for Just Because."
(Right-Christine Blakely and Massanutten Military Academy cadet fill a bag for Just Because.)
Luke 2:46 - 47, "After three days they found him (Jesus) in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers."
"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25.
Kindness matters. If you would like more information about ways you can contribute or how you can start a group in your area, contact Pastor Karen Caspersen, (540) 233-0989,
, P. O. Box 631, Woodstock, VA 22664. Like us on Facebook, make Just Because your charity for Amazon Smile and direct your Thrivent Choice Dollars our way. We also would appreciate Thrivent Action Team funds. You make a difference!
Junior helping out on 'front line' of virus spread
Caitlin "KK" Sharkey '21 was getting valuable experience from her internship at the Bradley Free Clinic in Roanoke.
She got to sit in on board meetings and shadowed Executive Director Janine Underwood. Sharkey was convinced this internship would set her apart from other applicants as she prepared to apply to physician assistant school in the future.
Then everything changed.
As COVID-19 relentlessly spread around the world, the Bradley Free Clinic was caught in a whirlwind of a public health crisis. Many of the volunteers, Underwood said, have had to tend to their families or focus on their full-time jobs during this time. Fortunately for the clinic and its clientele, Sharkey was there.
Sharkey, who's from Roanoke, volunteered to stay and help keep the clinic afloat. Now, she's spending much of her time in a tent outside the clinic, screening patients for COVID-19 and other ailments.
"She's on the front line of everything we're doing here," Underwood said. "She's been amazing."
Sharkey continues to take all of her classes, doing so from under the red tarp in the clinic's parking lot. Sharkey is the first person people talk to as they come to the clinic. In many cases, they are people who have benefited from the clinic's services in the past and are returning for their usual medication or appointments.
In some cases, though, people are dropping by because they fear they might have the virus. Sharkey screens them there under the tent, taking their temperature and asking a variety of questions. If a person has symptoms matching those of COVID-19, Sharkey administers flu and strep throat tests. If those tests come back negative, Sharkey helps refer them to Carilion Clinic, where they can be tested for the virus.
Sharkey and her co-workers at the Bradley Free Clinic are covered head to toe in protective gear. Sharkey said it's somewhat frightening to come face-to-face with the virus, but she said she's willing to take that risk.
"It's just more worth it for these people because they don't have anywhere else to go," Sharkey said. "If we close down, they aren't going to get the medications they need or the treatment that they need."
Sharkey has even taken the extra measure of living alone during this time. Her father had bronchitis recently, and Sharkey said she doesn't want to put him at risk.
Growing up in the Roanoke area, Sharkey has always been well aware of the services the Bradley Free Clinic offers. She said she's known people who have benefited from the clinic, and she's seen the clinic make major positive changes in people's lives. As a Public Health major, Sharkey is required to do an internship before she graduates and interning at the clinic ended up being a perfect fit.
"It's just more worth it for these people because they don't have anywhere else to go. If we close down, they aren't going to get the medications they need or the treatment that they need."
The opportunity to work with the clinic arose in the fall semester of 2019, when Underwood came to speak at Roanoke College. Sharkey's advisor, Dr. Kristen Schorpp, made sure to introduce Sharkey and Underwood beforehand. After talking to Underwood and then hearing Underwood speak, Sharkey decided she wanted to do her internship with the clinic.
Schorpp, an assistant professor of sociology and the internship coordinator for public health and sociology at the College, said Sharkey's work with the clinic is "admirable" and that it represents the kind of opportunity a student can get at Roanoke.
"Her experiences in community outreach, clinical care, and grant writing are exactly what public health internships are all about - supporting community health initiatives while gaining valuable, career-building experience," Schorpp said.
It's been an eye-opening experience for Sharkey, and one she won't soon forget. When she started this internship, she hoped that it would help her stand out on her application for PA school as she competed against biochemistry majors. After this experience, she'll certainly stand out.
But personal gain isn't at the top of Sharkey's mind as she serves a population that desperately needs the help. And she's learned much more at Bradley than just how to run a board meeting or take someone's temperature.
"I just think that being a CNA, a doctor, whatever you want to be, it's all about helping people and not about getting paid," Sharkey said. "A lot of people want to be a doctor for the money, but here, everyone is here because they want to help people."
Virus closes churches
but worship continues online
The threat of the pandemic virus has closed church buildings throughout the Synod but ministries and preaching of the Gospel continue through Lent as congregations
are challenged to find creative ways to worship online.
They are using Zoom video conferencing, Facebook, live-streaming and a variety of digital operations to carry Sunday morning church into the homes of members on quarantine from the virus. The Synod provided each congregation with a two-month Zoom subscription for digital meetings.
Extending this technology during the week, many resourceful rostered leaders (pastors and deacons) are offering devotions, Bible study and even small groups, council and committee meetings online. Who would have dreamed that all of this could be virtual?
An example is the Highlands Conference where Dean Jonathan Hamman and new Pastors Daniel and Sarah Lyon Hess are sending online daily prayers and scripture as well as a video for families in the hills, hollows and small towns of Southwest Virginia.
A multitude of cancellations and postponements followed after Bishop Bob Humphrey suggested that worship and any in-person meetings be called off until April 1. He later extended that date to May 17. Synod Council has not made a decision on Synod Assembly, scheduled for June 12-13.
What about services on Easter Sunday, the high point in the church year? The bishop expressed his regret over that cancellation in a message to the Synod: "Like you, I feel heartbroken to realize we should not gather to celebrate the highest festival on our Church Calendar--Easter! The Resurrection of our Lord! It seems unbelievable and somehow wrong." But based on information from public health information officials and ELCA leaders "all direct in-person contact should be avoided...for the time being.
"There is a growing consensus among health organizations that our best chance to slow the spread of this virus and to avoid overwhelming the health system is to immediately respond as calmly but as aggressively as possible to limit person-to-person direct contact," Humphrey said,
The bishop said last week he is "delighted by and proud of our Rostered Ministers and congregation leaders for the multitude of ways they are faithfully and boldly responding to the unique challenges of this time, serving their congregations, institutions, agencies and the world!"
After a spring break, Roanoke College shifted to remote classes and students went home to study online. President Mike Maxey said the "entire college community has risen to meet an ever-changing, ever-expanding challenge...Students, while sharing their initial disappointment, have since expressed their thanks and understanding."
THE VIRGINIA LUTHERAN
A MONTHLY NEWS PUBLICATION OF THE VIRGINIA SYNOD, ELCA
Editor: George Kegley
Post: 301 Tinker Creek Lane, NE, Roanoke, VA 24019
Deadline for submission of articles is the 15th of each month.
Articles received after the 15th will be published the following month.
Photographs must be separate from text and in .jpg or .png format only.
Any portion of this publication may be reprinted
for use in local church publications with appropriate credit.