February, 2018

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

The Virginia Lutheran you received yesterday had incorrect information in one of our stories. The information has been fixed in the newsletter below. We apologize for the error and thank you for reading! 

Emily Pilat 
Director of Communication

Hoffman to Lead
ACTS Course on Parables 
The Rev. Dr. Mark Vitalis Hoffman, Glatfelter professor of Biblical studies at United Lutheran Seminary, will lead the spring ACTS course on "To Speak in Parables: Proclamation of the Gospel in the Parables of Jesus" on March 10 and April 21.
            Hoffman, a graduate of Luther Seminary, holds a doctorate from Yale. He was ordained in 1988 and he and his wife, Kathy, also an ELCA pastor, served congregations in Minnesota and North Dakota and he taught at Concordia College. A New Testament scholar, he has focused on teaching Greek, the Gospel of Mark, biblical geography and the parables of Jesus.
            He will lead the ACTS course at Grace, Waynesboro, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and it will be simulcast to Holy Trinity, Wytheville, St. Mark, Yorktown (on March 10), and Gloria Dei, Hampton (on April 21). The required textbook for the course is What are they Saying about the Parables? by David B. Gowler. The registration fee is $175.
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Humphry will speak to men
Is there a Clergy Shortage?.
Correction: St. John's, Winchester, has second history
405 Virginia youth will go to Houston
Martha Cooley honored for 50 years of teaching
LuCoM ends long program
New funds available for mission starts.
Listening in Charlottesville
Northam backs Medicaid expansion.
Lutherans in the News
             Three synod pastors have moved away. Pastor Russell "Rusty" Campbell, who has served at Lakeside, Littleton, NC, for almost five years, returned to his native Texas in late December to care for his parents and a small family business.
             Pastor Phyllis Diamond is leaving the River of Life Parish at Shenandoah to accept a call to Mosham Lutheran, Johnstown, PA, on Feb. 15. She has served there five years.
             Pastor Andrew Tucker, formerly at Christ, Radford, accepted a call to serve as chaplain at Capitol University, Columbus, Ohio.
             Retired Pastor Sandy Wisco, Charlottesville, will be serving as a volunteer witness at the Capitol for Virginia Interfath Center for Public Policy during the current General Assembly session.      
             Bethlehem, Lynchburg, is facing a very special year of challenges and oppoturnities" for its 60th anniversary this years, said Pastor Stephen Shackelford. The theme is "Beyond 60 Years, Living Our Mission." Its logo states "Called to Grow, Know, Invite, Community" with Christ at the center.        
               Six youths---David Christie, Brian Currin, Austin Nickle, Matt Sharpe, Paul Kell and Jonathan Kanode---attained the rank of Eagle Scouts at St. Michael, Blacksburg. St. Michael also reported shipment of 276 Christmas shoeboxes to Head Start children at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.            
                 The Kenyon College Chasers, Gambier, Ohio , were scheduled to present an a cappella concert at Epiphany, Richmond, on Jan. 4.
               Members of First, Norfolk, were invited to a concert by Ciaramella, a woodwind-based ensemble, presenting "1517: German Music Before and After the Reformation,"on Jan. 22 at Old Dominion University. The Council of First Lutheran approved a contract for $442,000 to replace the church's HVAC system.
                 "Reformation Rib," a chancel drama celebrating the life of Katie Luther with Martin Luther, was presented at St. Mark, Yorktown. on Jan. 31. Pastor Jim Cobb, author of the drama, and his wife, Pastor Judy Cobb, were guests.
                 At Bethel, Winchester, the estate of Louise Hostetter left over $88,000 to the congregation. The council will make a recommendation for use of the funds at its February meeting.
               At Grace and Glory, Palmyra, an education hour for adults and teens is studying "Discover Islam," a six-part series developed by the ELCA and the Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace. The intent is "to seek a better understanding of Islam and to to form positive relationships with our neighbors."
               A talk on "Iran: Past and Present" by Mitra Nafissian-Rash, a senior program officer at Legacy International, was scheduled at Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, on Jan. 21.
               A Highlands Conference Epiphany Celebration will feature handbell ringers and other musicians, ending with the Hallelujah Chorus at Holy Trinity, Wytheville, Sunday, Feb. 11, at 4 p.m.
                 At Christ, Roanoke, members of the Evangelism Committee are seeking faith stories from members during the 100th anniversary last year, to be told at a worship service.
                 Pastor Lauren Milller, Peace, Charlottesville, was scheduled to preach at a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service on Jan. 31 the Church of the Incarnation.
              The Virginia Synodical Women's Organization has again chosen to collect health kits for Lutheran World Relief as its 2018 service project.
                   An education program on memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's disease will be presented by the Alzheimer's Assn. at St. Stephen, Williamsburg, on Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Retired Pastor Judy Cobb will lead a women's retreat for St. Stephen on March 10. She will explore the topic, "Connections: Our Life Story, Our Faith Story."                  
                   Youths at First English, Richmond, and St. Philip, Roanoke, and in many other cities across the state will be collecting canned food on Super Bowl of Caring next Sunday. The collection at First English will benefit several charities and the cans from St. Philip will go to St. Mark's food pantry.
Bishop Humphrey Will Speak to Lutheran Men in Mission
            New Bishop Bob Humphrey will be the keynote speaker for the annual gathering of Virgini a Synod Lutheran Men in Mission at Roslyn Retreat Center Saturday and Sunday, April 7-8. Pastor Andrew Bansemer of Ebenezer, Marion, will return for the sixth year as chaplain of the Gathering.
             The Gathering is offered as a "Call to reflection, reconciliation and renewal in time of conflict." The event features a time to consider together some ways God is calling the church to serve as a critical connecting point with the world. Christ is the cornerstone, making peace and creating a witness for the world that people very different from one another can indeed be transformed into one holy and apostolic body of Christ.
            Humphrey was elected bishop last June after serving at Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg, for seven years and at Grace and Zion, Waynesboro previously.
Is There a Clergy Shortage?
    by Dr. Ned Wisnefske 
            Is there a clergy shortage? It depends. If a congregation cannot afford a full-time pastor, the answer is probably yes. If a congregation can afford a full-time pastor, the answer is probably no.
            The most recent study of this question was done in 2016 by the Research and Evaluation Department of the ELCA. Here are some of the key figures from the report. In 2015 there were 455 retirements and 249 ordinations, a difference of 206. In 2019, the study estimates that the difference will be 197.
             Ordinations are not making up for retirements. That, you might say, is the supply-side of the equation. On the demand-side, the number of congregations during this same period has been decreasing by about 66 a year, and the number of congregations that can afford a full-time, first-call pastor has decreased by around 103 a year. On balance, even though the number of congregations has declined, the demand for pastors is greater than the supply.
            The study's conclusion is that, of the approximately 2,000 congregations that cannot afford a full-time pastor, "Either these congregations will become part of sharing relationships or they will find supply, part-time, or lay licensed pastors." With fewer congregations able to afford full-time pastors, bi-vocational clergy may become more common.
            A few other factors are important to consider. In 2013, 32% of pastors were over 60 years of age. In 1988 only 9% were. There are not enough students entering seminaries today to offset the number of expected retirements. In addition, in 2014, 75-80% of seminary graduates had a geographical preference for their first call. This may make finding a pastor more difficult for remote congregations who will need to share pastors, and where spouses will need to find employment.
            We might conclude that the church needs to reach out to young people today, both to become part of Christian congregations, and to encourage those with the abilities to serve as leaders of congregations. We can all help in that effort.
Dr. Ned Wisnefske is the Charles and Helen Schumann Professor of Lutheran Theology
at Roanoke College, chairnan of the Synod Candidacy Committee and a member of Christ, Roanoke.

Correction: St. John's, Winchester, Has Second History

    The congregation of St. John's, Winchester, has completed a second history, "Records and Remembrance," a 400-page companion volume, "It Is a Good Work."  
            This makes 600 pages of history completed in three years. The latest history contains cemetery records and stories of over 80 families.
           For information on copies, call the church at 540-877-9407. No price for the second volume has been set yet.

At left: Ericka Pitcock, whose adoptive family dates back to 1790 in the church, holds a copy of the history with Pastor Sonya Williams-Giersch.  

405 Virginia Youth Will Go to Houston Gathering 
            Across the Synod, 405 youth have registered for the 2018 Youth Gathering in Houston, Texas June 27-July 1. Youth are holding silent auctions, car washes, bake sales and other events to pay for the trip, said Teresa Shafferman of Grace, Winchester, synod coordinator for the summer event.
            Every three years, 30,000 high school youth and adult leaders meet for a week of faith formation, interactive learning, worship, Bible study, service and fellowship. The theme is "This Changes Everything," based on Ephesians 2:8: "By grace you have been saved..."
            Blast off for Books, a collection of books for Houston school children, will be a feature of the Gathering. A list of needed books is on the Gathering website, ELCA.org/Gathering. Houston school authorities say parents of an estimated 74 percent of pre-K-6th grade children in the city school district struggle to buy books.
            Two pre-Gathering events will be for Multicultural Youth Leadership and a meeting of tAble youth who have disabilties.
            The Virginia youth will stay at the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown. Shafferman can be reached at tshafferman@gracewin.org or 540-327-5190. Early registration was $350; regular, $390; after Feb.15, $440. 
Martha Cooley Honored for 50 Years of Teaching 
Pastor Keyser honors Martha Cooley
        It isn't often to be able to recognize someone for doing anything for 50 consecutive years. But, that's precisely what Trinity Lutheran Church in Stephens City did last month in honoring lifelong member Martha Cooley for having taught children's Church School for 50 years straight. 
          "When she told me - probably two years ago at the end of the programming year - that it was "time to let it go," and she would be retiring from her volunteer (and our only) children's teaching position, I panicked," Pastor Cameron Keyser recalled. "What were we going to do?  You don't replace a 50-year veteran of anything in a two-month period.  But, we began right then - in the quietest of ways - to find a way to permanently honor her for her lengthy gift to the children of our community. 
            The church had just completed a $2.3 million addition which included new space for education. "We'll give her her own room!" Keyser recalled. "And now we have!"
            This is one of the very few times in its 252-year history that Trinity has singled out an individual for permanent recognition. "We're all a part of the 'priesthood of all believers," Keyser said; "and were called to be servants and ambassadors for Christ's Kingdom. But, once in awhile, a 'priest' achieves - if not 'sainthood' - then surely 'bishop-hood" ...and Martha is one of those.  We are so honored to be able to recognize her in this way."
            Cooley was presented with a plaque noting her half century of service by Bishop Bob Humphrey and toasted at a reception following the morning's worship service. The plaque will be mounted in the "Sewing for the Savior" room (which doubles as a Sunday classroom and for which Cooley is the coordinator) in the church's new educational facility so that "generations to come will remember the significant accomplishments of this humble servant of God," Keyser said. 
            Trinity Lutheran is one of the oldest Lutheran congregations in Virginia founded by 13 families migrating southward from Pennsylvania in 1765. It is a mission-oriented congregation anxious to continue sharing Christ's Love with the world. But, right now, it's looking for a Sunday School teacher willing to take on a 50-year contract.
LuCoM Ends Long Program 
            The board of Lutheran Cooperative Ministry (LuCoM) of Roanoke Valley has voted to dissolve after 60 years of activity, primarily camperships, among eight Roanoke area congregations. A lack of adequate participation is the main reason for ending the program.
            However, plans are underway to continue camperships as a separate operation. They were started by the late Elba Dyer of Christ, Roanoke, who drove campers to Lutheran Camp Caroline Furnace.
            More than 1,000 campers, mainly from inner-city Roanoke, were transported to camp by a team of volunteers from Christ, St. Mark's, College, Trinity and St. Philip of Roanoke, St. Timothy in Vinton and Blue Ridge and Wheatland in Botetourt County. Earlier, St. John and St. Paul, Roanoke, participated.
            LuCom has sponsored Habitat house construction and supported prison ministry and other programs, including a Sunday afternoon forum. Garry Lautenschlager of College, Salem, has served as president. He follows Larry Payne, St. Philip; Pastor Judy Tavela, St. Timothy; Pastor Ken Lane, Trinity, and Lynda McConnell and Keith Brown, formerly of St. John. George Kegley, St. Mark's, has been camp coordinator.    
New Funds Available for Mission Starts 
             Under a new Mission Grant Policy, the Synod Council has set aside funds from the sale of two former church properties to create an ongoing source of money as incentives for new mission starts. The funds come from the sale of a former church site in Virginia Beach and a former property in Chesterfield.
            The policy is intended to make grants from the interest generated by the principal. This could potentially at 4 percent allow $30,000 a year for grants as an incentive for new missions. "We hope this will be for new start projects," said Charles Downs, council vice president. "We don't want it for a new parking lot."
            The intent is to receive applications at the synod office and the grants will be paid out next January. The Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick, new assistant to the bishop, will receive the applications and an ad hoc council committee will review the proposals. The new director of evangelical mission/assistant to the bishop, now being sought, will be in this process.
            Consistent with the hope when the properties were sold, the council said it is
ready to use the principal of the fund if a new start, new development is begun for
purchase of land or the beginning of a mission developer in a new area.
            The council said it is looking for new ministry, a new congregation, worship location or worship style. It means the church sharing the gospel outside the walls and boundaries of existing congregations but it excludes ministries reaching only current members of congregations.
            Congregations will be urged to bring the mission director and synod staff into the planning process for the applications. March 15 is the deadline for submitting grant applications to the synod's mission strategy team for the first year.
Listening in Charlottesville 
            Members of St. Mark, Charlottesville, have been invited to join the Charlottesville Listening Project, an online pen pal effort to bring Lutheran listeners together with local residents in one-to-one pairings. The program, open to anyone, originated in the Sierra Nevada Synod.
            Through the efforts of a bishop and Mark Holmerud, Sierra Pacific Synod vice president, they are offering dialogue and support to the Charlottesville community, following the racial and white supremacy event last August. Lutheran listeners from throughout the nation have volunteered to support Charlottesville residents.
            Each Lutheran listener will be matched with a Charlottesville resident by Elaine Whitney from the Sierra Pacific Synod. Whitney may be reached at eh_whitney@yahoo.com. The identity of listeners is confidential, said Pastor Viktoria Parvin of St. Mark.
            Through this project, "we hope to promote greater communication and perspectives on diversity, inclusion and extinguishing of racism in our country," Parvin said. For Lutheran listeners, "this project is an expression of our being church for the sake of the world."
Northam Backs Medicaid Expansion
     by Joe Shaver 
             Again this year a group from our own Grace and Glory Lutheran Church in Palmyra, attended the Day for All People in Richmond, an annual occurrence sponsored by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
Individuals from numerous Christian denominations as well as various other faith traditions come together to spend the day lobbying with our representatives in the General Assembly regarding issues that are before the legislature which have impacts and are affecting "the least of these." VICPP promotes this day of advocacy in being present to represent those who have no voice or formal lobbying organizations.
            This year's event was held at the historic St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Richmond across from the capitol building. As can be seen in the picture here the sanctuary was quite full of over 400 people attending.
The morning began with an address from newly elected Gov. Ralph Northam, who expressed to us his top legislative priority was the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia to take advantage of the federal revenue available for doing so. Virginia is just one of 19 states that has not participated in the program, and it is estimated that it would cover some 400,000 citizens who are currently uninsured.
              Other issues of priority for the VICPP were wage theft and welcoming all on behalf of our immigrant population. Also, increasing the felony threshold on theft offenses, currently at $200, the lowest in the nation. And finally, weapons in church. Currently the law prohibits the carrying of a firearm in any church in Virginia, and there is legislation proposed to repeal that law.
             After lunch, the group heard from Dr. Daniel Carey, secretary of health and human resources in Virginia. He gave an excellent talk on being aligned with the governor's priorities and also encouraged that we must always remember that those whom we serve are precious individuals that deserve our utmost care. Dividing into work groups for discussion and planning ended the day.
             Pastor Albright and I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Silcox. She is the daughter of Pastor Scott Silcox of Our Savior Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Hinckley, Ohio. Amanda is working for VICPP for a year on a paid fellowship by the ELCA. She said she is blessed to be doing this work here in Virginia. She is pictured here with Pastor Albright.

Joe Shaver is a member of Grace and Glory, Palmyra.




Editor:  George Kegley   
Voice: 540-366-4607;  Email: georgekegley@verizon.net
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.