Weekly Update
Announcements From Around the Virginia Synod
The Wideness of God's Kingdom:
Justice Conversations in 2016

This article is written by  Rev. Aaron Fuller, who serves as Pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran and Holy Communion Lutheran Churches, both in Portsmouth, VA.  In addition he serves bi-vocationally as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and is a member of the All-Inclusive Outreach Team, the VA Synod's steering team on diversity and inclusion.
 While my wife Kelly and I were in Minnesota visiting family and friends over Christmas vacation, we visited a congregation both of us attended during my time in seminary.  The pastor there is a dear friend and mentor for both of us, and we went out to grab coffee.  

He asked us,  "So let me get your read on this: How's Jack and Jane[1]doing?"  

Our friend's congregation is located in North Minneapolis, which has been the center of attention lately because the #Blacklivesmatter group has been organizing protests over the death of a young African-American person by the gun of a police officer.  The congregation's younger, more liberal, and white membership has participated in the protests and sit-ins and has been vocal about the issue of racial justice.  However, that has been difficult for members like Jack and Jane, Jack being a law enforcement officer; for a young man in the congregation, who is African-American and wants to be a law enforcement officer; for older African-American members who hold more conservative views on the matter.
This scenario is likely representative of the culture of all our churches: a wide range of perspectives, assumptions, and beliefs all in tension with each other.  I think in 2015 conversations around issues of diversity were such that the range of conversations that were acceptable was too narrow .  Lines were drawn, people lumped into categories, and initiatives were hastily pushed and all the while the body count of people being pushed to the margins kept climbing, voices were silenced, and people both new and familiar quietly exited out the back door of our communities.  In light of such things we ask, "How do we hold it all together?"
"There's a wideness to God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea; there's a kindness in God's justice which is more than liberty."[2]
The conversation of justice is necessary and crucial for congregations today.  Yet, the conversation is about God's justice, which contains two aspects working simultaneously: accountability and grace.  As individual Christians and as collectively as the church we are held accountable, and hold each other accountable for what we say and do, and for existing attitudes that run contrary for God's desire for people to live freely as children of God.  However, this accountability must be accompanied by God's inclusive grace; it must leave space for the other in Christian community, even those who it is hard for us to love.  Grace demands we not just demand justice, but also listen to how people are experiencing God's ongoing process of restoring justice in the world and allow them to voice that experience.  Yet grace is not saying whatever you want, nor is it avoiding or shutting the conversation down altogether.  Grace and accountability leads the community of faith in discerning, living, and growing into God's dream of justice together.
In 2016, let us make room for conversations concerning diversity and racial, social, and religious justice in our congregations.  As it was done in the South Carolina Synod, maybe that means watching the movie "Selma" together and reflect on that historical experience.  Maybe that means beginning conversations with an African-American congregation or Muslim community, as some of our congregations across the Synod are currently doing.  Perhaps that means having internal conversations in our congregations about our own attitudes and perspectives.  God's Kingdom is certainly wide enough to draw all people together in grace and mercy, and it is also large enough to hold our conversations as we struggle to live into God's dream of justice.

Names changed to protect privacy.
Faber, Frederick W., "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy," (2007: Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Augsburg Fortress), #588.
One way to begin conversations about racial justice is to tune into the ELCA LIVE Webcast TONIGHT at 9 (see announcement below) and participate on social media using the hashtag, #ELCAConfrontingRacism. 
TONIGHT at 9pm
ELCA LIVE Webcast--Confronting Racism, A Holy Yearning

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton and William B. Horne II, an ELCA member from Clearwater, Fla., will continue their conversation on racism - a violation of God's intention for humanity - in another live webcast Jan. 14, at 8 p.m. (CST). (REMEMBER That's 9:00 p.m. EST in Virginia) Eaton and Horne will be joined by other ELCA members who bring various perspectives on the U.S. criminal justice system. A live stream will be available at www.elca.org/webcast or at www.facebook.com/lutherans. Participate in the conversation on social media by using #ELCAConfrontingRacisim
Food Packaging in Quicksburg, VA 

There will be a Food Packaging event to benefit Luke's Backpack (part of Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries) and The New Market Food Pantry on Monday, January 18th from Noon-3p.m. in the cafeteria of Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg, VA. Everyone is invited to come out and serve! Follow along on social media with #serverural.
Virginia Interfaith Center For Public Policy's Day for All People in Richmond, VA

T he 2016 Day for All People  will be held on Jan. 20 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Virginia Union University's  Claude G. Perkins Living and Learning Center. Virginia Union University is located at 1500 N. Lombardy Street in  Richmond.

viccp logoTickets are $30 for the daylong advocacy event, or $15 for students (need to register with a university email address); includes breakfast, lunch and transportation to/ from the VUU Campus and the General Assembly.

Vibrant Faith: An Event about Adult Faith Formation
It's time for every church to commit to  adult faith formation. Spent a day exploring effective adult faith formation in the congregation at the Vibrant Faith event on Feb. 16, 9:00am - 3:30pm at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Richmond, VA. Click here for more details. 

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

"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.

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

Choir Robes--Free to a Good Home
Faith Lutheran Church in Suffolk Virginia has 24 gently used white choir robes and stoles  (red, green, blue, and purple) that are no longer need. They are willing to donate them to a good "home" if someone can use them. Please contact Melanie Burch by calling 757-686-0468 or emailing faith_lutheran@verizon.net if you are interested in picking them up or  I paying for them to be shipped. 

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