Weekly Update
Announcements From Around the Virginia Synod
REMINDER: The Virginia Synod Office will be closed December 9-11 for the Winter Staff Retreat
"Who's My Neighbor?"
Part Two: A Neighborly Christmas
This week our lead article is the second of three by Dr. Mary Sue Dreier, our speaker from the 2015 Synod Assembly for the theme of "Knowing your congregational neighborhood to do God's will".


"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." John1:5

Our church had a Christmas mitten tree every year. Members hung new mittens and gloves of all sizes and colors on the tree as the decorations. A local social service organization distributed them to people in the community who could not afford to buy them for themselves. In Minnesota, these were a necessity against the bitter winter cold!

When my daughter Sarah was about five years old, she helped pick out a pair of little pink mittens for the tree. She really  loved those mittens. And so, even though she knew they were for a little girl who didn't have any mittens, big tears welled up in her little eyes when she bravely hung them on the tree. Naturally, we bought her an identical pair for Christmas.

A few weeks after Christmas, Sarah and I were in the bank together. A mother and daughter walked in, and the little girl was wearing the identical pink mittens that Sarah was wearing. Her little voice echoed brightly through the lobby, "Mommy, Mommy, is that little girl the poor??"

I was horrified as I glanced across the bank lobby at the mother and daughter, and then looked down at Sarah. She excitedly held up her tiny mittened hands. It took me a few moments to mentally piece the story together: ever since Christmas, little Sarah had been on the lookout for the anonymous recipient of the mittens she had lovingly placed on the mitten tree.

A little child shall lead them.  For Sarah, it was not enough to know that
some little girl  somewhere got those precious pink mittens. She had a desire to  know the little girl-to have a  relationship with her.

Ours is a God of loving relationships. The Trinity is a loving community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Congregations are communities shaped by this Trinitarian love. This is the love we have to share with the world!

I'm always inspired how God's love seems unleashed in the world during the Christmas season. Congregations participate in mitten trees, caroling at nursing homes, delivering food baskets-and innumerable other caring Christmas traditions. Thank y ou for these wonderful, loving activities in your communities!

But perhaps these activities could teach us something about connecting to our neighbors. Here are a few thought-starters:

 

1.   What do your Christmas activities tell you about people and their needs in your community? Consider doing some research on the places and partners you are associated with during the Christmas season. Learn more about them, their mission, and some of your common concerns.

 

2.  Visit. Allow a little more time at each caroling stop. Talk to the residents and staff at the nursing home. Make an appointment to talk to the administrators in January and find out more about the needs and concerns of the residents, families, and staff.

 

3.  What other gifts might spring from your Christmas traditions? In addition to a Christmas party, consider coming back in February with a few Valentine's Day cookies, in March with Easter carols, and so on. By returning, you will begin to develop relationships with the people in these places. And you'll probably look forward to coming back more often!

 

4. What new habits might your congregation develop for relating in the neighborhood? Christmas activities really demonstrate God's heart for the world. We can see God at work in the joy and generosity around us. Reflect on why these activities matter to your congregation, to the people around you, and to God. What new habits and routines might grow from them?

 

5. Be ambassadors of God's  constant and ongoing love  for God's people. By returning beyond the Christmas season, we demonstrate God's faithful love for all people in all seasons of life. 

 

I especially love the outdoor lights strung around homes, storefronts, trees, bushes during the Christmas season. When I turn down each street I remember: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." Without even knowing it, the people of this world are proclaiming the Christmas story!



I wish the lights would stay up at least throughout the twelve days of Christmas-and beyond. For too many, the good news is short-lived. They haul out their ladders on Dec 26 and take down the lights.

The darkness is powerless in every way, in every room of our lives. The infant light of Christ has come. And so, when people dismantle the lights of the season, we must shine so that the wonder of the Christ light shines into the world, into the new year.

As your congregation brings light through the Christmas season this year, watch and pray for God's mission to find new beginnings through the wonderful activities you're doing.
Announcements
 
Winter Celebration*  
is our annual weekend retreat for youth in grades 9 through 12 and their adult advisors. We have 
Large Group  and 
Small Group  gatherings that consist of singing, comedy, worship, faith sharing and presentations on our event theme. On Saturday afternoon during 
Free Time  we will also hold out annual 
"Talent Show"  and in the evenings you will have time to relax in your 
Cottage 
and talk with with other youth and adults from your congregation and other congregations about how Winter Celebration is going.


 
 

Caroline Furnace opened registration in time for Christmasgift giving!  The full Summer 2016 Schedule is on our website and we encourage you to  #givecamp  to a favorite child in your life.

Registration is Now Open!

History Book of St. John's Winchester Released
St. John's Winchester has a new history book! The theme of the book, that church and community are an inseparable joy, covers the congregation's first 150 years from 1787 to 1937. It is the result of four full years of research and is fully illustrated, in color, thanks to a bountiful assortment of pictures from the whole congregation. 

Copies of the 196 page history are $22 each and are available by calling John, the book's project volunteer, at 304-581-3992. All books will be sent by priority mail. 
"In the Breaking of the Bread: 
Finding Christ in Full Communion"
A retreat for Lutheran and Episcopal clergy and rostered leaders
 

Renowned scholars Gordon Lathrop and Neil Alexander will serve as keynote presenters for a retreat held May 16-18, 2016, at Shrine Mont Conference Center in Orkney Springs, Virginia. "In the Breaking of the Bread: Finding Christ in Full Communion" will gather clergy and rostered leaders of Lutheran and Episcopal churches, equipping them for shared ministries of word and sacrament. 
 
Coming together in the peaceful setting of Shrine Mont, retreat participants will share in worship, fellowship, and education with one another. Bishops will lead "instructed eucharist celebrations" in Lutheran and Episcopal traditions, and national denominational representatives will be present throughout the gathering. Participants will also learn about local partnership possibilities in their home settings.
 
The registration fees, including room and board, are $160 (double occupancy room) and $190 (single occupancy). For more information and to register online, visit: www.VirginiaLutheranEpiscopal.wordpress.com. Printed registration materials will be available soon.

Lutheran Campus Ministry Retreat
All college students are invited to attend the Lutheran Campus Ministry and Friends Retreat, February 19-20, 2016, at Massanetta Springs in Harrisonburg, VA. Join college students from all across the state to connect with old friends and meet many new ones! The retreat starts Friday evening and ends Saturday after lunch. For more information and to register by February 8, please  CLICK HERE

2016 Trip to Germany
 

There will be a 9 day trip to Germany endorsed by the North Carolina Synod and co-sponsored by the Virginia Synod ACTS in 2016. Inlcudes Basic Tour & Guided Sightseeing, Roundtrip International Airfare from cities listed (Additional baggage & optional fees may apply, see fine print for details) Fuel Surcharges and Government Taxes (Subject to Change) . Admin. Fees, Entrance Fees, Gratuities & Program Fees . Daily Buffet Breakfast & Dinner . Deluxe Motorcoaches . First Class Hotels and Much, Much More!
Click here to see the full brochure with registration information. If you would like a brochure mailed to you, please email  milton@vasynod.org

AGAPE and RACHEL KURTZ in Concert in Harrisonburg
A gape and Rachel Kurtz are coming to Muhlenberg Lutheran in Harrisonburg on January 9th at 7:00pm. AGAPE and Rachel Kurtz are singers, songwriters, and speakers who will have shared their faith and talent at many of the ELCA National Youth Gatherings and churches across the country. Everyone is invited to join in on the fun! Tickets are $5 at the door and children 4 and under are free. 
Job Opportunities

All posts can also be found online at www.vasynod.org/job-opportunities. If you have job opening you would like posted, email fuller@vasynod.org. 
Job Opportunity:
 
Full Time Prison Chaplain for 
Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women

GraceInside seeks a Prison Chaplain for Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW), the state's largest women's prison. The chaplain serves as a Christian pastor and as the coordinator for religious services and programs for inmates of all faiths for all women incarcerated at FCCW.

Qualifications:
(1) Formal Education: An undergraduate degree from an accredited college/university and a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) or equivalent degree from an accredited theological seminary. (Equivalent educational degrees and/or ministry experience may be considered.)
(2) Ordination: Fully ordained and currently in full connection and in good standing with his/her denominational body, church, etc.
(3) Endorsement: Where applicable, endorsed by his/her responsible denominational agency as to current good standing and confirmation of abilities to perform the duties related to chaplaincy.
(4) Preferred, but not required: 12 months of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and three to five years of pastoral ministry or other ministerial experience; experience in jails/prisons or criminal justice system a plus.
Interested candidates should send a cover letter and resume as email attachments (and request an application) to  kateshelton@graceinside.org. For more information about our ministry, please visit our website at  www.graceinside.org.   DEADLINE to receive all application materials: January 5, 2016
Job Opportunity:
Director of Ministry to Children, Youth, and Families in Moneta, VA

TRINITY ECUMENICAL PARISH in Moneta, VA seeks an energetic and enthusiastic person of integrity who is dedicated to engaging children, youth, and families in a life giving transformative faith. Click here for a list of competencies and job description and go to www.smltep.org for information on Trinity. Interested candidates should send a resume including educational training and ministry experience, a cover letter explaining your vision for children, youth and family ministry and references to  blfuzi@centurylink.net by 1/15/16.

Do You have an announcement, upcoming event or news story Idea? Send it to fuller@vasynod.org!
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