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                                                                                             MARCH, 2019  
                         The Virginia 
Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921.

kids are buying a cow!

Stuart and Isaac display their cow cookies
       The children of Messiah, Mechanicsville, have been selling cookies and notecards to buy a $500 cow through the ELCA Good Gifts God's Global Barnyard. Program.
            In the past, they bought chicks and a goat until a little girl said, "Next year, we'd like to buy a cow." A tall order for a small budget. They sold notecards until Williams Bakery graciously offered to donate 60 cow cookies for sale for the cause. At last report, the children had collected 80 percent of their goal.
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Bishop's Day is opportunity for youth
New Mission Fund
VICPP helps stop church gun law
Fasting, hunger are Lenten themes
Stewardship one day event
Marion College Alumna luncheon planned
Caroline Furnace promotes creation's care
Racism and the congregation
Female pastors gather for retreat
What are you taking on for Lent?
Lutherans in the news
            Pastor Jason Darby and his wife, Pastor Jessica Darby, are moving from Larimore, North Dakota, to fill two vacant pulpits in the Germanna Conference. Pastor Jason Darby has accepted a call to Hebron, Madison, and his first sermon there will be on Easter Sunday, April 21. He comes from Our Saviour Lutheran. Pastor Jessica Darby, from Bethel Lutheran, has accepted a call to St. Luke, Culppeper.
            Two Lenten concerts are planned in the Shenandoah Valley. On Saturday, March, 17, Christ, Staunton, will hold its second annual Bach Around the Clock concert, starting at 9 a.m. Twelve performances of Johannn Sebastain Bach will be performed on a variety of such instruments such as the organ, strings, banjo and keyboard with a closing concert of Cantata 182 with a professional choir and instruments.
            On Wednesday, April 10, Tom Keesucker, composer and pianist, will perform in a quiet hour of piano music, reflection and poetry after a soup and supper at 6:45 p.m. at Grace, Winchester, for congregations in the North Valley Conference. He has served as a musician for Lutheran and Catholic churches.
            Semi-retired Pastor Kaye Hute has been named interim pastor at Faith Suffolk, following the retirement of Pastor Scott Benson. A second career pastor, she was ordained in 2008 at St. Andrew, Portsmouth, her home congregation, and she has served two congregations in Pennsylvania.
        Lutheran Pastor Khader El-Yateem will be the visiting theologian at Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, on April 27-28. His documentary, "Father K" will be shown at the Lyric Theater in Blacksburg on April 27 at 3 p.m. El-Yateem, a graduate of Philadelphia Seminary, is a community organizer and former candidate for New York City Council.
            Mount Calvary, Mt. Jackson, is preparing to celebrate its 175th year of ministry. In that time, the congregation has worshiped in four church buildings, guided by 24 pastors. This year, newsletters and church bulletins will highlight significant facts from the long history of the congregation. Mount Calvary is known as a "community of faith sharing history for 175 years."  
             Grace, Winchester, through its Global Mission Team, is joining four other churches in a $16,000 project to install solar power at a medical clinic in Sevi laSouis, a village in Haiti . Dr. Dick Nanna, Grace member, has been serving the people of Haiti since the earthquake. He and his wife, Brooks, joined missionaries who travel to Haiti regularly.
            At Trinity Ecumenical Parish, Moneta, a four-member pastoral care team extends Christian comfort and compassion weekly to about 25 to 35 persons with acute health care needs in homes and hospitals in the Roanoke-Rocky Mount-Bedford-Lynchburg area. They are Pastors Philip Bouknight and Bea Miller, Tami Akin, parish nurse, and Margaret Oosterman, Episcopal lay minister.
            College Lutheran, Salem, St. Philip and St. Mark's, Roanoke and Wheatland, Buchanan, have been invited to participate in a Lay Leaders Training Pilot, supported by an ELCA grant. In a two-year commitment, the training, led by Synod staff, is expected to empower congregational lay leadership to do well. Four persons from each congregation will participate in a retreat at Roanoke College, use of webinar internet tools and a Synod event.
            The Roanoke College choir will present a free concert of Broadway music on Saturday, March 16, at 6 p.m. at Heights Community Church, Roanoke, for the benefit of Habitat for Humanity and Congregations in Action Pack-A-Snack program.
            Peace, Charlottesville, has started a mission endowment fund to support missions beyond the operating budget of the congregation. Operating guidelines and an initial board of directors are in place.
            Christ, Fredericksburg, established a Terri Ministry, providing a reception after a funeral, in memory of Terri Ann Modelski, who died at the age of 25. Food is provided by members.
            St. Paul's, Hampton, has been invited to help with a remote build for Habitat for Humanity to be held in the parking lot of Gloria Dei, Hampton, on Saturday, April 13. The primary work will be framing walls to be transported to the build site.
            At First English, Richmond , the Leisure Group will take a trolley tour of Richmond on Wednesday, April 3. They will see such landmarks as Monumental, St. John's and St. Paul's churches, Libby Hill, Old City Hall and the Maggie Walker House.
            First, Norfolk, is providing laundry debit cards with other congregations in an effort "getting to know our neighbors."
            At Peace, Charlottesville, the Homestead Collection, Caitly Devinger and Ben Morin, a folk duo, will sing. They are known for their melodies and haunting lyrics.
Bishop's Day is opportunity for youth

           Bishop's Day, scheduled for youth in grades 7-12 at St. Mark, Charlottesville on Saturday, March 16, from 1:30 to 3:45 p.m., is an opportunity for youth to learn more about the call to ministry in the church, especially the public ministry of pastors and deacons.
            Pastor Dave Delaney, Synod director for youth and young adult ministries, said adult leaders, mainly rostered ministers, are invited to accompany youth to Charlottesville for an afternoon of conversation with the bishop's staff and other rostered and lay ministers..
            Invitation letters have been sent to youths identified as "gifted for ministry," by leaders at youth events, Delaney said, but any youth is welcome to attend, along with his or her pastor. If the pastor is not available, a youth leader or an adult can come instead. Participants are urged to come early for fellowship and snacks. Call stories from rostered ministers, reflection on gifts and sense of call will be offered in small groups, along with an orientation to the candidacy process. The day ends with worship.
            Delaney said he hopes leaders will share their call story and talk about what a life of public ministry in the church is like during the drive to Charlottesville. Pre-registration is not required but he asked that names and grades of anyone planning to attend be sent to him. Any questions may be sent to Delaney at the Synod office.  
ForwardingFaith making ministry possible

            When the ForwardingFaith Campaign was launched, one of the goals was to support and expand faith formation ministries across the Synod.   Even as the campaign continues in congregations, the Synod is investing gifts generated by the ForwardingFaith campaign to make ministry happen.
            In January, a group from around the Synod reached out to the Synod Council to ask for support in launching a new ministry program with young adults. This group, which will be led by young adults, wants to build relationships and strengthen faith. Thanks to funding from ForwardingFaith, the Synod Council was able to approve their request, and this exciting new ministry is moving forward. Look for retreat dates and other information on the group coming soon.
            If you have any questions about ForwardingFaith or need help sharing the story of Forwarding Faith in your congregation, please contact Pastor John Wertz, Jr., director for Evangelical Mission. You can email Pastor John at: or call him at the Eastern Synod Office at: 757.622.9421.
New Mission Fund awards two grants

            A new Fund for Mission, created by Synod Council, has awarded its first two grants to Resurrection, Fredericksburg, for a new worship live-stream, and Good Shepherd, Orange, for a second language ministry.
            Resurrection received a grant of $10,000 for a worship process to reach those not able to attend or those who choose to attend worship. Good Shepherd's grant of $20,000 will help those who are interested in learning to speak English.
            Applications for future grants may be submitted to Pastor John Wertz Jr., Synod director for evangelical mission and assistant to the bishop.
            The fund was created by Council from the sale of a former church in Virginia Beach and a church property in Chesterfield with the intent of establishing an ongoing source of mission grants for new expressions of ministry.
            Some of these new expressions might be a new worship location, worship style, feeding ministry, after-school program, or a community faith formation event. This would involve sharing the gospel outside the walls and boundaries of existing congregations.
            Wertz said a new expression would not typically include such items as facility repairs or activities reaching only current members of congregations. The intent is for new neighborhoods, new communities and new people to have access to the gospel through these grants.
VICPP helps stop church gun law
     by Julie Swanson
          For the second time in two years, the Virginia General Assembly failed to pass a bill that would have allowed anyone to carry dangerous weapons, including guns, in houses of worship. SB 1024, introduced by Senator Dick Black (R-Loudon County), passed the Senate but died in the House Rules Committee. The bill would have repealed a law that's been on the books since the 1950s.
            On February 7, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) held a news conference where faith leaders from churches, synagogues and mosques stood together to speak out to oppose this dangerous bill. VICPP also organized a state-wide effort arranging more than 30 constituent meetings with legislators and an extensive letter-writing campaign, launching three online petitions and inviting faith leaders to serve as witnesses in hearings to oppose SB 1024. As a result of this extensive advocacy work, VICPP has been credited with helping to kill this bill.
            Julie Swanson, former CEO of Lutheran Family Services of Virginia and current board president for VICPP, was involved in the advocacy campaign and served as the press conference moderator.  "As people of faith we want our worship spaces to be sanctuaries; places of refuge and peace. This bill violates the freedom of religious communities to determine their own security plans," Swanson said. Reporters from more than 10 media outlets covered the press conference and heard powerful speeches from religious leaders from Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Baptist, and Korean Presbyterian houses of worship.
            Currently, Virginia law prohibits people from bringing weapons and guns into places of worship  "without good and sufficient reason." Only police officers, security guards and those who have a reason to carry a weapon into a house of worship are permitted to do so. If Senate Bill 1024 had become law, it would have allowed anyone - including untrained or unstable congregants or guests - to carry dangerous weapons into houses of worship.
            Faith leaders believe that unskilled people using guns in a stressful situation will likely result in more harm than help. They are also concerned about the potential for accidents as people move around during worship. A gun could easily fall from a coat pocket and be picked up by a child.
            In the event of an actual attack, the presence of armed persons within the congregation would likely result in more injuries, and create confusion for first responders arriving at the scene trying to identify the attacker.
           Religious leaders recognize the need to keep their congregants safe and this bill would have undermined their authority to design a security plan for their own communities. Since 1950, Virginia legislators from both parties have supported the continuation of the ban on carrying weapons into houses of worship. SB 1024 would have put faith communities and all Virginians at risk.  
            Our faith values teach us to live in compassion and concern for the common good - that  is why we stand with those working to ensure a decrease in gun violence. Houses of worship are sacred spaces that teach messages of peace and love of neighbor. The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy was at the forefront of this critical legislative victory and continues to fight for social justice in the Commonwealth.
            The Virginia Interfaith Center is the ELCA and Virginia Synod Public Policy Office. For additional information about the Center and its public policy work on such issues as wage theft, criminal justice, and environmental justice visit: .
Please sign up to receive updates and join this dedicated group of people doing important advocacy work:
Fasting, hunger are Lenten themes
           Many congregations have chosen new ways for their Lenten journey. In addition to traditional reflection and devotions at Wednesday night suppers, members are looking at fasting, hunger awareness meals, a hike along Stations of the Cross and cultivating and letting go devotions,written by members.
            In Blacksburg, Luther Memorial will join four other congregations in an ecumenical series on the Seven Virtues Jesus presented from their counterparts, the Seven Deadly Sins.           
             Traditional Third World beans and rice from Africa. South and Central America will be served in a hunger awareness meal at Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg.
            Holy Trinity, Wytheville, will join the Walker Mountain Parish as pastors reflect on Bible stories about food and the importance of gathering around a table together on the theme, "Open My Life, Lord."
            At Bethel, Winchester, several area Lutheran pastors will share monologues as characters from the passion story of Jesus.
Stewardship education event

            The Synod and the Presbytery of the Peaks are offering a one-day Stewardship education event at Three Chopt Presbyterain Church in Richmond Saturday, March 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
            Charles R. Lane, author of "Ask, Thank, Tell" will lead the program. The cost is $15 and registration closes Monday, March 13. Registration for a simulcast closes March 21. Questions may be sent to Pastor John Wertz Jr., Synod director of evangelism mission, at or Dr. Deborah Rexrode at An outline for the day may be downloaded at
Ask, Thank, Tell; Growing Generous Stewardship Preliminary Schedule.
            Time is built into the schedule from 2 to 3 p.m. for congregational groups to work together on specific dates. This will require teams. If more than one person is registering, they should fill out "Attendee #1 info" and click on the "Add Attendee" button to register additional attendees.
            When registering, those planning to participate in the online simulcast should select the simulcast ticket; those attending the event should select the in-person ticket and mark any dietary restrictions for lunch.
Five Marion College Alumna luncheons planned

            Five luncheons have been planned this year by the Marion College Alumni Association. Marion College was a junior college of the Lutheran church from 1873 until it closed in 1967.
            The dates, all on Wednesdays, and places: Wednesday, April 10, Westminster Canterbury, 1600 Westbrook Avel., Richmond. May 15, Roanoke College, Colket Center. July 17, Gettysburg College dining hall, Gattysburg, PA. Oct. 9, Graves Mountain Lodge, Syria, VA. Nov. 20, Westminster Canterbury, Winchester.
Caroline Furnace promotes creation's care
            As an organization promoting faith, education and renewal in God's creation, we've been discerning how to make Caroline Furnace a more environmentally sustainable organization. It is our aim to continue seeking ways to better serve the Lord and our communities in ways that are feasible for our staff, meaningful to our retreat groups and educational to our campers and students. Here are some ways we would like to improve our relationship with the Earth and promote creation care.

            Some of our current practices include waste reduction, property and facility improvements and "unlittering."
            To reduce waste, we have behind of our kitchen recycling bins in Moyer Lodge and recycling bins available to on-property retreats. We run a "scratch kitchen in Moyer Lodge, meaning we order ingredients in bulk and minimize processed foods. We sell all unwanted metal as scrap, including aluminum and tin cans, which leads to reduced waste and additional revenue.
            Property and facility improvements include the updates to our wastewater treatment plant this winter as well as use of a solar-powered composting toilet at the swimming area, addition of a herb garden at Moyer Lodge and use of our tree farm for improvements near the lake.
           We believe in leaving things better than we find them and live this out through the Bread Tag Club, our community building and educational tool, that reminds us to clean up litter and microtrash wherever we are and to leave others better than we find them by treating them kindly and sharing God's love. We also sponsor an Adopt-A-Highway section of Camp Roosevelt Road and work with interested user groups to keep our road clear of trash.
         Goals for 2019:
            Reduce kitchen waste by finding a productive use for food scraps. Reduce use of single use plastics. Add group recycling at Moyer and Buttonwood lodges. Use hand-made natural hand soaps and lotions. Encourage distributors to source food locally for things we can't grow ourselves. Offer a "simplicity meal" for retreat groups. Stock more local and hand-made camp store items. Install timer-based light switches and LED nightlights. Research and seek funding for water bottle stations.  
                                                                        Caroline Furnace staff and board of directors
Racism and the congregation
     by Paul Jersild

            Racism is often called the original sin of our country. To many Christians that may sound offensive, but the history of our country does compel one to recognize its truth. Slavery, with its underlying racism, was here from the beginning of the colonial era and was written into the constitutional foundation of the United States.
            Our nation was founded by white people, for whites, with blacks commonly regarded as less than human. They were classified as property (chattel) along with horses and hogs. Their sole purpose was to serve the white population. It has created a horrendous legacy which continues to afflict not only black people but the character of our whole society.
            To be sure, slavery has been abolished, and since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 60's many overt forms of racist activity are now illegal. Yet, racist policies and practices subtly and stubbornly persist. By now we should know that racism does not go away; it simply adapts.
              As an essential part of the white establishment, churches are tempted to ignore or even dismiss the burden that white privilege imposes on the lives of black people. Is there anything that we should be doing as dominantly white congregations of the ELCA in facing up to this reality? Is there anything that we can do?
First Lutheran, Norfolk
              At First Lutheran Church in Norfolk we've embarked on an experiment in attempting to answer that question. Last year we reached out to a black congregation of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary's Basilica, located at the edge of downtown Norfolk. The current political scene was an impetus in taking this action, but more fundamentally, it was an effort to express our Christian conviction that we blacks and whites are brothers and sisters in Christ, and it's tremendously important in this critical time that we witness to that truth.
St. Mary's Basilica, Norfolk
             From our experience, still in its infancy, let me note some things that may be helpful for interested congregations. It's essential that the pastors/ministers/priests of both congregations are on board and supportive, but don't expect them to lead - this should be a lay movement. Start a study group intent on informing itself through books of reputable authors and viewing documentaries on the racial history of our country.
             To know that history is essential to understanding both the nature of racism and its impact on our society today. It will also build confidence as it provides subject matter for conversation with members of the black congregation. The group might meet on Sundays (which we did last fall) or during the week, and if there isn't a logical person to lead the class, members can rotate in leading the discussion.
            Inform yourselves concerning the varied nature of current racist activity. Whites typically understand racism in terms of individual acts of prejudice, such as "hate crimes" and acts of discrimination which are clearly offensive. Actually, more threatening and with greater impact on black people are those activities that we call "systemic" or "institutional" racism, where blacks find themselves excluded, denied access, and subject to suspicion simply on grounds of color. If this isn't recognized, it can result in blacks and whites talking past each other when it comes to racist activity.
             We decided that each congregation would form a committee consisting of church council members and others who are deeply committed to racial understanding. Our two committees (which have named this effort, "Christians United for Social Change") are meeting together on a monthly basis, planning activities that involve both congregations.
            They've included attending a worship service of the other congregation, going to a baseball game, sharing a meal at a local restaurant, cooperating on a meal for the homeless and attending a Martin Luther King, Jr. prayer breakfast. Still on the docket are small group meetings to establish personal relationships and a service venture which not only serves the larger community but will bring a significant witness to our unity in Christ.
             This kind of bridge building, while rare, is not unique. It does face obstacles, including the historical isolation of black and white congregations from each other. But we are convinced that this kind of bridge building is the work of God's Spirit among us, and we hope it will prompt other congregations of the Virginia Synod to embark on similar ventures. "God's Work, Our Hands."
            Dr. Paul Jersil, First Lutheran, Norfolk, is retired from the faculty at Southern Seminary.

Female rostered ministers gather for retreat
     by Pastor Colleen Montgomery

           Forty-five of our Synod's female rostered ministers gathered at Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond on Feb. 24-26 for a time of retreat, conversation, worship and renewal. The concept was inspired by similar gatherings held in the North Carolina Synod.
            Dr. Mindy Makant, professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University and a deacon in the North Carolina Synod, guided our conversations as we unpacked the blessings and challenges of being a woman rostered in the Virginia Synod. We had some of our most experienced female pastors with us as well as our newest female ordained Pastor Alex Witt. Next steps as a result of the retreat will be taken over the coming months and years to ensure that all whom God calls may serve faithfully and boldly.
45 female pastors gather for a photo
Worship was a powerful component of the retreat. During three of our worship times, we sang versions of Mary's Magnificat in Luke 1. While some may think that singing three inter- pretations of the same text would be too repetitive, I experienced it as a beautiful reflection of my sisters in Christ. We are all rooted in the same God, but each of our calls and each of our journeys is different.
            This was also shown forth in the Blessing of Hands that concluded our time together. We blessed each other's hands with lavender oil but no set words of blessing were provided. Each one, led by the Spirit, blessed the hands of her sister with unique words of God. We are united in Christ with all of children of God, but each created, chosen and called to serve in their own way.
            The retreat was planned by Assistant to the Bishop Pastor Kelly Bayer Derrick, Pastors Phyllis Milton, Katie Freund, Wanda Childs and Colleen Montgomery, with the support and skill of Lenae Osmondson.
            All those gathered give great thanks to the organizations, congregations and individuals whose financial contributions made this experience possible.
What are you taking on for Lent?
     by Pastor David Young

            During our midweek gatherings for Lent this year, we will be highlighting the classic Lenten disciplines of prayer, almsgiving, fasting and confession. We are doing so by hearing from various characters of the passion story and how their life and part of the passion expresses the disciplines of Lent.
            Lent is a season for spiritual discipline. It is a season for making time and space to consider what it means to live a Christian life. It is a season for being open to change of heart and habit, of reorienting our lives toward Jesus, and of deepening our relationship with Him. It is a season for acknowledging the parts of our lives that need forgiveness  and clearing out space in our lives so Jesus can enter in.
            In keeping with this desire, I want to share one of my favorite Lenten stories and the learning that it continues to teach me.
            When I was in college at Lenoir-Rhyne, some friends and I started a spiritual retreat weekend called "Pathway." It was patterened after Teens Encounter Christ, Emmaus Walk and Via de Christo weekend retreats. It was a formative experience for my faith journey and often put me into relationships with students with whom, other than our faith, I had very little in common.
            One student was altogether different from me. We had very little in common and while we shared similar values, we were not close nor were we particularly friendly. We were not antagonistic, mind you, just not chummy.
            One day we were talking after class with some other folks. It was standard surface conversation. How are you? Class was pretty boring, huh? Then we started talking about what we were giving up for Lent. Some said chocolate, others said TV and still others, like me, said we had not decided yet. Then she was asked what she was giving up. I'll never forget what she said..
            "Well, I am not giving up anything. Jesus did not give up his cross, he took it on. And so, I always try to take something on, something sacrificial that, like the cross, will ultimately make a difference for others."
            So often we make Lent about what WE are giving or TV, or something else that only affect us. My Lenten observances have been like this.
            She went on to say that she was taking on the sacrifice of not eating one meal a day (usually lunch) and then putting the money she would have spent on that meal toward an end of Lent offering to a women's shelter in town. She said that she wanted to sacrifice to mirror Jesus's sacrifice, something that affected the lives of others.
            So, my challenge this year and one that I offer to all of us is to heed her words of wisdom. As we reflect on our Lenten observance this year, let us do so by finding a way that our sacrifice can benefit others.
            Pastor David Young wrote this column for the newsletter of Bethel, Winchester.




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