Weekly Update
Announcements From Around the Virginia Synod
Family Stays In Virginia For Faith
Nikki Smith has watched not one, but two of her children be on planning team for Winter Celebration and this year it was her turn. Three planning groups would have looked radically different if she and her family would have moved to Vermont 10 years ago, but she said that she stayed in Virginia for her children's faith.

This year Nikki was one of the adult leaders on the planning group that helped plan Winter Celebration, the winter youth event for hundreds of high schoolers in the Virginia Synod. While the second weekend at Eagle Eyrie Camp in Lynchburg was canceled, hundreds of high schoolers and their adult leaders gathered for a life changing weekend during January 15-17.

The high school students on the planning team were Madison Belcher, Tyler Wertman, Aaron Bock, Liam Wiecher, Valerie Wessel, and Katy Gattuso. Along with the adults, they came up with the theme "Take Your Mark" which centered around Hebrews 12 and not only running the race of faith but also being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
Nikki (far right)praying with the Winter Cel planning group during large group

Each large group session included a presentation skit where the planning group students showed off their acting skills and at the end of each skit one student would give his or her own faith testimony.

"It has been really neat to watch the kids grow in their faith and watch them develop their own thoughts," Nikki said.

Nikki wouldn't have been able to experience this planning group and their strong faith if she and her family had altered one life decision in their past.

"In 2005 is when my husband retired from the military, we started talking about moving up to Vermont," she said. "All of my husband's family is up there and he always knew that when he retired from the military, he wanted to go back."

"We started looking for houses and then it came to the point where we had to make a decision."

Nikki reading scripture at this year's Winter Cel
Nikki and her family moved to Suffolk, Va. in 2002 and, with her three children, Marcus, Mikaela, and Monique, in mind, they began going to Faith Lutheran Church in December of 2002 because they noticed the importance of children and youth in the church.

Nikki said that her son Marcus, the oldest of the three, was so tall for his age that their Pastor, Scott Benson, began telling him about 7th day, a Virginia Synod event for 5th and 6th graders, when he was only in 3rd grade.

"The first event I went to was Lost and Found with Mikaela and I was completely blown away," Nikki said.

After that first experience, all three of her children attended Virginia Synod Youth events.

"Marcus was the one that caught really my attention when he was filling out a form for one of the Synod events," she said.  "There was a question that asked about his faith and what bible verse helped him in his faith."

"He didn't have to crack the bible open and he was able to refer to a chapter in Romans. I looked at him, laughed, and said, 'do you even know what those verses say?' He was able to talk to me and explain what those verses meant to him."
When Nikki and her husband really began to consider moving, she had images of her children at youth events in her head.

"I told my husband, 'I know that we have been talking about moving up North but my concern is that my kids won't be able to build their faith.' We decided to stay in Virginia because there was nowhere else that we felt like could provide the kids with the growth that they were experiencing here."

"The biggest things that I saw in my kids and what has impressed me the most was that they were able to take the bible and use the bible in ways that I felt like I hadn't even developed and learned. They could hold conversations that meant something with their peers and also with adults."

Mikaela (right) with Lizzie Franz during the 2015 Winter Celebration
Because of that decision to stay in Virginia, her life and her children's lives have been altered forever in the most positive way possible. Nikki has served for many years as a small group leader at the events and both Mikaela and Marcus served as members of planning groups.

"It is an intense moment when your 18 year old daughter comes home and has a conversation with you as parents about how to incorporate prayer into your daily routine in the morning or before we go to bed at night," she said while talking about her middle daughter Mikaela.

Her youngest daughter Monique is still attending the youth events at age 16 and is already talking about feeling the call to explore full time ministry. Because of the connections she has made at all the Virginia Synod youth events she has plenty of pastors she can call on to talk with about discernment.

"You know that phrase it takes a village to raise a child?" Nikki said. "I don't think I would have been able to give my children the strong faith that they have without the leaders that they have met along the way."

"The Synod Events are not just about coming and singing. It's not a program, it's a family."

Vibrant Faith: An Event about Adult Faith Formation
Early bird registration for the 2016 Grace Gathering ends in just two weeks, on Jan. 31, so reserve your spot today! 

The Grace Gathering will be held in partnership with the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans Aug. 10-13.

The gathering will bring people together from across the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Participants will see the church in action, worship with Churchwide Assembly voting members, engage in experiential learning, and attend a variety of workshops that will equip congregations and synods with tools to prepare for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

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. 

Pipe Organ Rededication Service In Waynesboro 
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Waynesboro, recently undertook a rebuilding of its   pipe organ which was built in 1890s.    Grace will celebrate the rededication of the instrument on Sunday, January 31,       at 3:00 PM.  In addition to the church's Organist and Music Director Mike Myers, local    organists from the surrounding area    will be playing at the service. The public is invited. 

VBS Showcase Events in Richmond, VA

Cokesbury, a not-for-profit Christian organization, is hosting three VBS Showcase Events on the following days in Richmond, VA:

Thursday, February 11th, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
Friday, February 12th, 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.  
Saturday, February 13th, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

These events will be held at the Resource Center in  Kingsley Hall on the 4th Floor at Virginia Union University (1500 North Lombardy Street Richmond, Virginia 23220)

Come explore new themes, resources, ideas and get the scoop on VBS 2016!  For more information or to save your spot, contact Brian Koontz  804-839-7105 or bkoontz@cokesbury.com

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

ELCA Congregational and Synodical Mission Event
Stewardship leaders are invited to an event where there is the opportunity to either attend the event in person in Chicago or to attend remotely via online participation. 

The event will be Starting at 10:30 AM to Noon CST on Sat. Feb. 27 with s pecial Presenters: Presiding Bishop Eaton  and c  Rev. Stephen Bouman, Executive Director of the   The Lutheran Center.
Participation in this event requires online registration.  This can be done at    https://community.elca.org/ELCAStewardCastFeb2016  until midnight on Friday, February 12.   
If you have any questions, please contact  keith.mundy@elca.orgor  neil.bullock@elca.org.

Hunger Rumble Youth Retreat in Richmond
Your youth group and advisors are invited to participate in an overnight retreat and juice fast with learning & service based on hunger related issues. 
WHERE:  Christ the King Lutheran Church
FOR:  8th - 12th Graders.
GROUP RSVP TO: 804-272-2995 or info@ctkrva.org
WHAT TO BRING: a Canned Food item, an Adult Advisor, Juice to drink during the fast, Rice or Beans to break the fast, your Bible, overnight bed & toiletry item s

This event is co-sponsored by Epiphany & Christ the King 
"Religion & Spirituality in A Changing Society" Lecture
Diana Butler Bass presents the James H. Taylor Memorial Lectures " Religion & Spirituality in a Changing Society." There will be three FREE lectures at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynchburg, VA. On Friday, March 11 at 7:00 pm the topic will be "Spiritual Revolution: The Rise of the Mystics". On Saturday, March 12 at 9:00 a.m. the topic will be "Experiencing God in Nature: Challenge and Promise" and at 11:00 a.m. the topic will be "Experiencing God in Our Neighbors: Great Command in Action". Please click here for more information.  Please Click Here For More Information
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. 
Director of Music in Norfolk Virginia
First Lutheran Church of Norfolk has an opening for a Director of Music (part-time position).  First Lutheran is a large, urban, liturgical congregation.  Salary competitive with experience.  Interested candidates should contact Lisa Geiger at  757-625-1953  or by email at  lgeiger@flcnorfolk.com  for a complete job description and search committee requirements.

Part-time Executive Director of 
Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries
Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries is seeking a part-time executive director.  The position involves organizing and carrying out day-to-day operations of SVLM, working with the Board of Dirctors and volunteers, representing SVLM in the community.  Candidates should have administrative and managerial skills plus experience in fundraising,, grant writing and working with non-profit organizations.  If you are interested in being the 'public face' of SVLM or know someone who might be, respond to Cathy Christovich  valleycathy@gmail.com  and request a full job description.

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