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 so I can share them with others in the synod!

The Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick
Assistant to the Bishop
On Thursday, December 6, the church commemorates St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra [in modern Turkey] (270-343). Many know him now as Santa Claus, because of the many legends which surround his care and concern for children. For many in northern Europe, December 6 is the day of gift giving. During this Advent and Christmas season, let us remember Nicholas' love for God and for God's people:

The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic God's giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves. (Nicholas)
Traveling Through Thousand Oaks
The Rev. Rob McCarty of Christ Lutheran Church in Staunton recently traveled to West Hollywood, California with his wife Elizabeth and son Jamison during the Thanksgiving holiday. During their stay, they traveled through the Thousand Oaks area, recently impacted by a deadly mass shooting, as well as the Southern California wildfires. Below Pastor McCarty shares about his family's experience and what they witnessed. 
The McCarty family spent Thanksgiving with Elizabeth’s brother who lives in West Hollywood, California. And because Jamison’s dream school is on the beach, we drove north on CA Highway 101 to check out University of California at Santa Barbara. CA 101 goes right through Thousand Oaks, home to California Lutheran University and one set of the wildfires that burned earlier in the month of November. Nothing was burning Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We saw no smoke nor anything smoldering, but we saw scarred remnants of trees and brownish black burnt ground.
At times along the way, we saw places where the highway must have served as a firebreak. The right side of the highway held charred remnants of vegetation and the left side of the highway showed untouched vegetation, as well as a scattering of trees with withered leaves that dried out from the heat of the fire but did not burn away. The contrast between the green vegetation and burnt land created a striking image.

Outside of these visuals, life seemed to move along at a normal pace. The sun shined bright in the vivid blue sky. The highway gave us full use of all the lanes. We stopped at a Burger King in Camarillo California at that wonderful 30 minute time when they served both breakfast and lunch. They seemed to have a full menu.
I took these pictures while riding along--in the passenger seat in case you were wondering. I quickly snapped a picture of Thank You messages on an overpass, including one where the artist replaced the O in “You” with a big red heart. A timely reminder that in times of stress and tragedy, people find ways and take the time to say “Thank You.”—to first responders, to those who show compassion and to God the Creator. Also, in these times, the efforts of a few to say thank you often speak for the whole community. After mentioning this sign during my Sunday morning sermon, I would see it that afternoon in a television commercial during the Steelers game.

Through all of this, the Lutherans have had an active and caring presence through one of our ELCA colleges. California Lutheran University. Their facilities provided shelter to people displaced from their homes by the fires. Also, you may remember at the beginning of the month, a mass shooting took place at a nearby dance club. The counseling psychological services at CLU made available a helpful handout “When People Don’t Get It” for those coping with either of these tragedies. The handout helps identify the stresses of coping and the importance of caring for yourself. The advice offers wisdom to people in a variety of circumstances and reminds all who read it, “You are valuable and important.” 

Glad to share this side trip from my Thanksgiving vacation with you.

Robert McCarty
Pastor, Christ Lutheran Church
World AIDS Day
On Dec. 1st, the ELCA had the opportunity to join with our neighbors around the world in commemorating the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. On this day, we remember all who have been and continue to be affected by HIV and AIDS. We also take this day to raise awareness and recommit to a faithful and dedicated response.

AIDS has claimed the lives of more than 25 million people worldwide. Millions of children under the age of 18 in sub-Saharan Africa have lost one or both parents to AIDS. The ELCA, along with the international community, has pledged both resources and action. There is cause for great hope.

Real progress has been made to:
  • halt the spread of HIV through effective prevention, treatment and care;
  • eliminate the stigma and discrimination experienced by those who are HIV-positive; and
  • reduce the conditions of poverty that contribute to the spread of HIV.

Your action makes a difference as we do God’s work in the world together. See the links below with more information on World Aids Day and ways you can join the ELCA to help today.

Tidewater Conference: Living Truth: A Transgender Virginian's Story
Grace Lutheran Church in Chesapeake and St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Portsmouth both recently hosted a Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau in partnership with Equality Virginia. Below The Rev. Leslie Scanlon shares about the importance of events like this and the opportunities they can provide.
A couple of months ago, Equality, Virginia reached out to the Lutheran churches in Tidewater, looking for a place to host a Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau event. The purpose of these events is to give people a chance to get to know a transgender Virginian from their local community.

As part of Grace's ongoing conversation about what it means to be a truly welcoming congregation, the Council agreed to host such an event on Wednesday, Nov. 14. That evening, a group of members from Grace, Chesapeake, First, Norfolk, and St. Andrew, Portsmouth, gathered for a potluck dinner and the presentation.

Our guest speaker, Juji, spoke about her life journey--family, faith and sense of self. As she began sharing the story of journey and transition, I could see that she was tense, maybe even a little uncomfortable. At first, I thought maybe she just wasn't comfortable with public speaking, but as she got to the part of her story where she was first able to understand why she never felt comfortable with her parents' traditional expectations, I could see her muscles relax and her genuine smile show through.

This spoke volumes to me and really summarizes many of the stories that I have heard from my transgender siblings in Christ. Such unease in your own body, with your identity and with societies often binary expectations might not be something that you have experienced in your own life, and that is why it is so important to take the time to listen to stories of people who are not like you. Getting to know someone whose experiences are different than yours the first step to being able to truly welcome them and loving them as God loves all of us.

St. Andrew,Portsmouth, hosted a similar event on Thursday, Nov. 29. These events have been great opportunities to gather in a safe place, to hear holy stories, to ask questions and to experience the wideness of God's mercy. You can find out more at
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