Do Justice
Welcome to Do Justice, a bi-monthly newsletter of the Virginia Synod, lifting up God’s call and command that we, God’s people, do justice. You will find helpful info about justice ministries in congregations, around Virginia, and through the ELCA. If you have stories of justice to share from your congregation, please share those with me at bayerderrick@vasynod.org so I can share them with others in the synod!

The Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick
Assistant to the Bishop
We pray for those serving in civil authority and leadership in the United States:

Almighty God, bless the public servants in the government of this of the United States of America, that they may do their work in a spirit of wisdom, charity, and justice. Help them use their authority to serve faithfully and to promote our common life; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Different Side of Washington
by The Rev. Amy E. Reumann for the ELCA Advocacy Blog
Today the 116th Congress is sworn in to serve our nation.

Before members get down to the business of government, many mark the opening of a new Congress with a bipartisan and interfaith prayer service at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill. This tradition shows a different side of Washington, reflecting the rich pluralism of our elected representatives and their respective faith traditions. The bipartisan spirit was evident as Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., teamed up to lead the music and congregational singing of “Here I Am, Lord” and “Prayer of St. Francis.” They joked that they hadn’t practiced and needed us all to sing loudly to cover any mistakes.

This year, current and new members shared readings that expressed yearning for wisdom in their leadership and for their service to be a blessing to others. Selections included the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 12, Psalm 33:12-22 and James 3:13, 16-18), the Bhagavad-Gita, an Islamic Prayer, a hymn by Edna Dow Cheney and a reading from Thomas Merton. The Chaplain of the House of Representatives, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, S.J., encouraged new members as they leave their former positions and “start over as freshmen.” To seasoned members, he counseled that they continue to serve with honor and faithfulness. Prayer petitions were offered by members, lifting to God the work of government, the Supreme Court and work of justice, Armed Forces and veterans, and people who are displaced or facing difficulty or struggles. 
As I left the church, I overheard someone joke, “We’ll see how long this bipartisan spirit lasts. I’ll give it two hours.” Yet this moment, though fleeting, encourages me as a new Congress commences. It represents a hope that when we come together in our diversity to pray together, to sing and to hear one another’s faith testimony, bonds of understanding and community are built.

Cooperation and communication across partisan lines are more common than is reported. Shared work together built on faith commitments to justice, equity and compassion doesn’t make headlines, but it can and does open doors for compromise on issues we care about. This morning’s service and prayer prepared a foundation for the work of the 116th Congress.
Lutherans in the 116th Congress
by by Andrew Fuller, Advocacy Coordinator for the ELCA Advocacy Blog
The start of the 116th Congress begins this week. As five new Lutheran lawmakers are sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives, check out some of the Lutheran legislators who will serve our country in this new Congress.

Both incumbent ELCA Lutherans who ran for re-election to the U.S. Senate, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, successfully won their respective races in November. They will rejoin their other Lutheran Senate colleagues when the new Congress starts in January 2019, including ELCA members Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; as well as  Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) member Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) member Cory Gardner, R-Colo.

Five new Lutheran-affiliated members will be joining the U.S. House of Representatives this year., Lutheran colleagues now include Rep. David Trone, D-Md.; Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn.; Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D.; Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M.; and LCMS member Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn. Two incumbent Lutheran members did not win their bides for re-election this year: self-described Lutheran member Rep. David Young, R-Iowa; and LCMS member Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn.

The seven incumbent ELCA House of Representatives members who won re-election and will continue serving in the 116th Congress include Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.; Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif.; Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Pa..; Rep. John Carter, R-Texas; and Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash. Re-elected LCMS representatives include Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.; Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind.; and Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis. WELS member Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., also will rejoin the House. Other self-described Lutherans re-elected to the House are Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich.; and Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J.

Special Mention:
Four Lutheran members did not seek re-election last November, including ELCA Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.; Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.; Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.; and LCMS member Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash. Among those not seeking re-election, former Congressman Tim Walz won the gubernatorial race in Minnesota and will be joining the state house at the start of 2019. We are grateful for their leadership in Congress and look forward to engaging with them in the future!
Make Sure Your Member of Congress Knows You!
Get a jump start on building relationships with your lawmakers with ideas from the interfaith guide below.
Congress begins the 116th Session in January 2019. Whether your members of Congress have been in office for years, or are just beginning in their roles as elected officials, now is the perfect time to introduce yourself, welcome them into the work that your community is active around, and build a lasting relationship with them and their staff.

Establishing and nurturing relationships with your Senators and Representatives is crucial to enacting policies that are rooted in shared faith values, and also to stopping proposals that would negatively impact our communities. You should make sure that your Senators and Representatives are aware of your priorities.

Three Ways to Build a Relationship
1. Invite your Senators and Representative to your place of worship
When your member of Congress is home, make sure they know the door is open for them to come worship with you! Regardless of whether your member of Congress shares a faith with you or not, let them know that they are always welcome at your place of worship. You can even build a service around a special welcome for congressional leaders by including a special prayer to foster the important work they do for your community.

2. Schedule an in-district meeting - January 19-January 27 OR February 16-24
Every Senator and Representative has an office – often multiple offices – in their home state. They work from these local offices during "congressional recesses," making it convenient for your voice to be heard. You can schedule visits in these offices by following directions on each members’ website for requesting visits or calling the D.C. office and asking to be connected to the Scheduler. Before the visit, get a strong team together that represents various sectors within your community. Do some research on your representative and put together a plan for what you want to share. Have this be one of many opportunities for you to start building a relationship and working together on issues that are important for your community.

3. Hold a community event
Members of Congress look for opportunities to learn more about their state or district, and you can create an opportunity for them to visit a place of significance by holding a special event for them. Think about places that illustrate how your community is already putting faith into action, and how federal legislation can bolster these efforts. Does your community care about ending hunger? Consider holding an event at a local food pantry. Does your community welcome refugees? Work with a local resettlement office to host a meet and greet with recently resettled refugees. Does your community practice environmental stewardship? Invite your member of Congress to see your community center’s solar panels or rain garden. Each event can help inform the conversations your legislator will have with their colleagues.
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