January, 2011
                 The Virginia


Hoffmeyer will speak

at men's gathering


           Dr. John Hoffmeyer, a Virginia Synod native who teaches at Philadelphia Seminary, will be the keynote speaker for the annual gathering of Virginia Synod Lutheran Men in Mission at Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond April 29-May 1.

            Hoffmeyer, a son of the late Pastor Ralph Hoffmeyer who served at St. Mark, Luray, and the Stephens City Parish, will speak on the theme, "Empowered by Our Triune God." A graduate of Haverford College and Pacific Seminary, he is associate professor of systematic theology at Philadelphia, working in theological education with youth. He is working on a book on Trinitarian theology and consumerism and he has done graduate study at Boston College and in Paris and Germany.

            Pastor Chip Gunsten, assistant to the bishop, will be the chaplain. Bible study and small group discussions are planned.  The cost of the gathering will be $210 for double occupancy; $255 for singles and $115 for commuters. For reservations or information, contact Dolph Moller at fritzheinrich@aol.com or 804-378-6164, or John Schallhorn at jsbutler@msn.com or 804-862-4949.
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In This Issue
Hoffmeyer men's speaker
Lutherans in the news
Lakeside votes to stay
Linking stable and cross
Lutheran migration retreat
Rhoads on church and environment
Backpack program
VICPP advocacy day
First call pastors
First English anniversary
Christmas Eve in a barn
100 congregations give to ULA
Survey says less government
Grace-Filled stewardship
Highlands Epiphany celebration

Lutherans in the news

            Pastor C. Richard Duncan
has retired after serving at St. Peter, Stafford, for almost nine years. A Hickory, N.C. native, Duncan came to St. Peter after 27 years as a Navy chaplain, rising to director of professional development training for all Navy chaplains, fleet chaplain of Naval forces in Europe and senior chaplain at the U.S. Naval Academy. A graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne College and Southern Seminary, he served at Redeemer, Pearisburg, and Holy Trinity, Charlotte, before Navy service.

            Pastor Robert Vogl, Messiah, Virginia Beach, accepted a call to Zion, Staten Island, N.Y., effective Dec. 27. He had served at Messiah since his ordination in 2001.

            Retired Pastor George E. Handley, Synod secretary from1977 to 1987, was recognized as Distinguished Alumnus for 2010 at Philadelphia Seminary. Handley, who lives at Falls Church, has been board president of the Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia for 10 years. 

            The congregation of Trinity Ecumenical Parish has voted unanimously for a change in calls for Senior Pastor Gary Scheidt and Associate Pastor Philip Bouknight so they will serve as co-pastors. The action is subject to approval by the Virginia Synod and the Presbyterian and Episcopal governing bodies. Bouknight, a pastor of  Virginia Synod, said "this new call allows us all to celebrate a unique partnership in ministry." Scheidt is a Presbyterian pastor.

            Prof. Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Colmbia University, New York City.will be the Theologian in Residence for St. Stephen, Williamsburg, on March 4-6. A preparatory session for his lectures will be held in the congregation's adult faith formation class Feb. 13-27.

            David Hively, who served as an intern at Peace, Charlottesville, was ordained at Goshen, Ky., and he is serving a church at Corydon, Ind.

            Dan Landis has retired after 20 years as music director at St. Mark, Yorktown, and a career of 46 years in church music. After serving at more than a half-dozen churches, he said, "I have never known a congregation that loved to sing as much as this one does." After growing up in a small Missouri church, Landis said he "never felt attending services was anything but a great experience."

            Roanoke College students spent almost $358,000 in a Maroon Card program in the 2009-2919 academic year, according to reports from 17 Roanoke Valley businesses. A 2008 economic impact study found that total spending by the college in the community amounted to $98 million a year.

            Our Saviour, Norge, presented an historic Thanksgiving service, recognizing the 1619 arrival of English colonists to Berkeley Plantation on the James River. The service used the 1549 Anglican Book of Common Prayer and period music by adult and children's choirs. The church's adult and children's choirs presented a Ceremony of Carols, by Benjamin Britten on Dec. 12.      

            After a fall trip to Ecuador, Vicar Ben Kifer of St. Mark, Yorktown, remembered "poverty-and-disease-stricken people of communities outside Santo Domingo...children washing and drinking in water visibly contaminated with garbage and sewage..school rooms with dirt floors...We live in a paradox. Some have so much that it is bound to spoil  while others scrape by each day just to live Maybe God has blessed us so that we can bless and give it to others."

            Christ, Fredericksburg, has received a $5,000 Economic Outreach Bridge Grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation in recognition of the "significant impact" of its outreach service programs," including a food pantry, community meal for the homeless, homeless shelter meals, accessibility ramp ministry and use of facilities by community groups. The grant is to be used to strengthen these ministries. The congregation also is eligible for an additional matching grant of $10,000 if matching funds are donated by Feb. 28. Also, student groups from Christ and the Canterbury Club at Trinity Episcopal, Fredericksburg, are planning a spring break trip to help rebuild homes in New Orleans.

            Maureen McDonnell, Virginia's first lady, recognized Learn Today, Lead Tomorrow, an after-school program at Holy Trinity, Wytheville, at the First Lady's Opportunity Hall of Fame Awards luncheon in Richmond on Dec. 2. The program recognizes programs, organizations or individuals who embody the ideal of getting involved and giving back.

            Michael Samerdyke gave three lectures on the ancient Near East at Christ, Wise, in December.

           The choir of Redeemer, Bristol, participated in the annual Latino tradition of Journey's End, an interpretation of the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where they went from inn to inn, seeking lodging.

            The congregation of Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach, is sponsoring the four children of Pastor Giro Muro, Barema Lutheran, Papua New Guinea. The congregation is raising money for the children's annual school fees. Sunday offerings from Christian Formation classes are designated for this fund. Lutheran pastors in Papua New Guinea often are forced to leave the ministry to send their children to school.


Lakeside votes to stay

in ELCA, two others will leave

            The congregation of Lakeside, Littleton, N.C. has voted by a margin of 86 to 27 against a proposal to leave the ELCA while two other congregations voted to leave.

            Reformation, Culpeper, voted 57 to 7 and United, Crockett, Wythe County, voted 33 to 3 to leave. Reformation plans to join the North American Lutheran Church, according to Pastor Bradley Hales. United will be affiliated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, according to Dickie Pack, president of the congregation council.

            This adds up to five Synod congregations voting to leave, following the 2009 ELCA Assembly action allowing congregations to call clergy in a same-gender relationship. Others who voted to leave earlier are St. John, Roanoke; Apostles, Chesapeake, and Morning Star, Mount Jackson.

Linking the Stable and the Cross

     by Pastors Jim and Carol Kniseley

cross and stable

            We wanted to do something out of the ordinary for Christmas Eve worshippers  at Resurrection in Fredericksburg.  Our vision was to use the entire chancel area as a visual statement of what we believe is the true meaning of Christmas.  The photograph (by Brian Dickerson) shows what the worshipers saw on Christmas Eve.

            The Bethlehem Stable was designed by Pastor Carol and created by Kurt Wohler, a member of Resurrection who is a medical doctor by profession and a carpenter by avocation.  The Stable was placed over the Altar and below the Cross.  Visually, the Cross appears to be rising out of the Stable. 

            Pastor Jim explained in his Christmas Eve homily that the Bethlehem Stable has little meaning apart from the Cross of Calvary.  Jesus could have been born of a virgin,  lived and done all the wonderful things recorded in the gospels and simply died in his old age, leaving us a wonderful example for living.  This is not the reason he came into this world!  Jesus came to give his life as a sacrifice in order to take away the sin of the world. 

            It is also true that the Cross of Christ would not have the power it has without Bethlehem.  The One who died that sacrificial death needed to be more than a man.  He needed to be more than God Himself.  He needed to be both God and man, God incarnate.

            Two "serendipities" occurred as we created the Visual Christmas Message.  First, the Bethlehem Stable was placed over the altar where the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion become the Body and Blood of Jesus.  The name "Bethlehem" in Hebrew means "House of Bread."  We found this visual to be very appropriate for the Celebration of Christ's Birth and his renewed presence in the elements of Holy Communion. 

            The second serendipity occurred on Christmas Eve when we turned out the overhead lights.  The outside spotlight shone through the cross window above the Stable and Cross and reflected a symbol on the sanctuary ceiling.  Do you know what the symbol is?  It's a peace symbol.  Again, how appropriate that the symbol for peace should be so evident during our celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Lutheran migration

retreat set for April 25-29

            A Luther Hostel retreat on "Lutheran Migration: the Revolutionary Era," originally scheduled for last fall, will be held at Signal Knob, Strasburg, on April 25-29. The retreat is planned to tell the story of the Lutheran church and its growth and impact during the early years of the nation.

            The leaders will be Pastor George Handley, longtime president of the Lutheran Archives at Philadelphia and former Synod secretary, and retired Pastors Dick Berry and Bill Hall.

            Participants will have an opportunity to create a Bible box or a stitching project, both typical crafts from the Revolution era. The retreat also will feature a visit to Hebron, Madison, oldest Lutheran congregation in the nation holding continuous services; lunch at the Graves Mountain Lodge, a trip to Woodstock to learn more about the Muhlenberg family and to New Market and Timberville. The retreat also offers meaningful worship, thought provoking Bible study, good food and interesting adventures.

            For more information, contact Vikki Shelor at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp & Retreat center, 540-933-666 or vshelor@carolinefurnace.org. 

Rhoads will talk about

the church and environment


            Dr. David Rhoads, director of the ELCA Green Congregation Program, will make a return visit to Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, for its Visiting Theological Weekend, Feb. 27-March 1. His theme for the weekend will be "Down to Earth: The Church's Response to the Ecological Crisis." He spoke at this event last year.

            The weekend will start with an Ecumenical Green Congregations Training Workshop Saturday, Feb. 27, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The workshop will provide practical hands-on steps to care for creation in congregations. Churches have been invited to send a team of three to five people. Questions about the free workshop may be sent to Rebekah Paulson at rebekah.paulson@comcast.net or 540-552-0066.

            Rhoads, who teaches at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, will lead an adult forum and preach at 8:30 and 11 a.m. services at Luther Memorial on Sunday morning. On Monday, he will speak at a noon luncheon on "Who Will Speak for the Sparrow? Reading the Bible in an Environmental Age." Advance registration is requested. On Monday evening, Rhoads will speak on "Conversion to Earth: a Theology of Creation" in Room 3100 of Torgerson Hall on the Virginia Tech campus.


Shenandoah Ministires

starts backpack program

            Shenandoah Valley Ministries plans to start its first long-term outreach ministry-an ACTS (Ambassadors for Christ Through Service) backpack program for school children at risk-in February at Ashby Lee Elementary School in Shenandoah County. The organization  of churches and partners will begin providing nutritional food and snacks for five children on weekends.

            The backpack program has expanded at St. Michael and Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, and it is in use across the synod.  Other congregations are providing weekend food for low-income children who participate in school lunch programs during the week.

            Students take filled backpacks home on Friday afternoon and return the empty packs on Monday to be restocked for use the following Friday.  The backpacks contain such items as cereal, breakfast bars, oatmeal, juice, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter crackers, soup, apple sauce, vegetables and milk.

            Sherrill Miller, backpack coordinator, may be reached at 540-333-2217 or jbhfarm@shentel.net.

VICPP schedules advocacy

day in Richmond, Jan. 18

vicpp logo

               The annual Day for All People of Faith of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy at the General Assembly in Richmond has been scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 18. The event, for Lutherans and all denominations, will be at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, 2000 East Cary Street Road.

            Those attending may learn about direct advocacy opportunities through beginner, intermediate and expert tracks which will be coordinated by VICPP policy staff members. Participants will meet with their legislators, attend committee hearings and hear speakers.

            The cost of the ecumenical program is $20, which covers a continental breakfast, lunch and materials. The museum has free parking. Transportation will be provided to the General Assembly. Information on the program is available at the Interfaith Center's website, www.virginiainterfaithcenter.org. VICPP is a partner of the ELCA, serving as an associate office in the national church's state public policy network.

First call pastors share joys and fears
by Pastor Heidi David-Young
Heidi David-Young

            We came from all over Virginia. We met at Massanetta Springs Retreat Center near Harrisonburg. We shared our stories, our concerns, our joys and our fears. We did so because we were either first call pastors in our first three years of ministry or because we are serving as a partner to a first call pastor. Yes, we were at the Virginia Synod's First Call Retreat Dec. 6-7, led by Pastor Chip Gunsten, assistant to the bishop.

            I am in my first year as an ordained pastor, serving at Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Winchester. I am serving there with my husband, the Rev. Dr. David Young, who has been a pastor for 13 years. We came from Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was a solo pastor for those 13 years and I was working in a non-profit and raising our kids. We are having a wonderful time getting to know the amazing people at Bethel and getting to know the ins and outs as we work together for the first time.

            With all of the exciting ministry happening at Bethel and all of the new and exciting things we are learning and doing, comes a certain amount of stress and anxiety. In these times of stress, knowing that a listening, empathetic ear is available is tremendous. This is one of the benefits of participating in the First Call Theological Education process which begins with the First Call Retreat.

            I have been given a ministry partner, the Rev. Kelly Derrick, who has been an ordained pastor four years and serves with her husband, the Rev. David Derrick, at St. Phillip, Roanoke. Since our ministries are similar in appearance, she was a natural choice to be my ministry partner.

            She and I will walk together, along with the other first call folks and their ministry partners, the first three years of my ministry. We will meet or talk monthly about whatever it is that needs tending to in our respective areas of ministry.

            Attending the First Call Retreat was a wonderful experience. It allowed me to be in community with others in ministry; it allowed me to get to know my ministry partner, Kelly, much better and it allowed me to rest and find renewal during the busy season of Advent. What a great way to start ministry! Much gratitude and thanks goes to Pastor Chip Gunsten and the whole Virginia Synod staff for making First Call Theological Education a priority!

First English plans
anniversary celebration
by Joyce Smith

In May,  First English, Richmond, will be celebrating its 135th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of our current location on historic Monument Avenue. Join us for our celebrations each Sunday in May,  If you were confirmed at First English, please send us your contact information and note the Reunion of the Confirmands date below.

Saturday evening, Feb, 12,7 p.m., silent auction to support the Centennial Celebration

Saturday morning, Feb, 26, 9 a.m., Yard Sale to support the Centennial Celebration

            Sunday, May 1, guest preacher, the Rev. Robert Miles of St. Michael, Greenville, N.C., grandson of Dr. J. J. Scherer, longtime pastor of First English. Presentation on Scherer Family History by Kate Foreman of Blue Ridge PBS, Roanoke, at hospitality

            Sunday, May 8, guest preacher, the Rev. Richard Olson, former First English pastor. Surprise celebrity guest at 10:30 service and hospitality

            Sunday, May 15, guest preacher, the Rev. Scott Ickert of Resurrection, Arlington, former First English associate pastor. Reunion of the confirmands, 10:30 a.m., service and at hospitality. Richmond Boys Choir concert, 3 p.m.

            Sunday, May 22, guest preacher, Bishop James MauneyCelebration Luncheon and festivities following the 10:30 service (reservations required)

            Telephone number for First English: 804-355-9185; email: info@felcrichmond.org.


Christmas Eve in a Winchester barn
by Anna Havron

            Hay bale pews, an historic barn, the timeless Christmas story to warm hearts and hot cider to help warm toes-Bethel, Winchester's annual Christmas in a Barn service, a community outreach and worship event, hosted over 100 people in Fort Collier barn. This was the site of a Civil War fort and the third Battle of Winchester in 1864.

            The Christmas Eve afternoon service began nine years ago. It's a wonderful worship service for young families, concluding before sundown, and also a welcoming venue for those who would like to attend a Christmas service but who may feel uncomfortable at a formal church service.

            The ambience of the barn recalls the first Christmas. The traditional carols by Bethel's singers and musicians playing acoustic instruments gave the event an old-fashioned "Currier and Ives" feel. Communion was offered. Those attending were encouraged to dress warmly and to bring blankets for the hay bale seating.

            The service has been held at several Winchester/Clarke County locations. This was the first Christmas in a Barn service for new Pastors David Young and Heidi David-Young.

             Anyone interested in starting a similar event may contact Anna Havron at Bethel, 540-663-3245, extension 106.

100 congregations give
over $82,000 to U. L. Appeal


          During 2010, a total of $82,223 was contributed to the United Lutheran Appeal by 100 Synod congregations for eight agencies and institutions. Pastor Floyd Addison, appeal coordinator, extended a special "Thank you" to the participating congregations for their support in a year of economic downturn.

            These agencies and institutions meet needs that no individual or congregation could respond to alone as they provide care, compassion and comfort, Addison said.

College survey finds
preference for less government


            In a state survey of 601 people, 83 percent trust state government to do what is right at least some of the time but they are divided on whether the state is heading in the right direction, according to the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College. The survey found that 45 percent said the state is heading in the right direction while 43 percent said things have gotten off track.

            Only 51 percent trust the national government and 72 percent said the country is off track. Of those surveyed, 57 percent approve of the job Gov. Bob McDonnell is doing as governor while only 36 percent approve of what Barack Obama is doing as president.

            The college institute found that 57 percent believe government is trying to do what should be left to individuals and businesses while 34 percent said government should do more. And 68 percent said government should provide fewer services with lower taxes.  

Grace-Filled Stewardship
by Pastor Jim Kniseley


            Every one of the 159 congregations in our Virginia Synod is called to face the opportunities and challenges of financial stewardship.  Congregations of every size, small and medium and large, are called to practice Grace-Filled Stewardship Ministry.

           No congregation has the luxury these days of not providing education, coordination and inspiration for all members as healthy ministry is planned and carried out.  In this regard, we are all in this together.  We are truly "one in mission."

            Many of our congregations follow the model of a Consecration Sunday.  This is a time, usually in the fall or spring, when folks are given education and inspiration through sermons, temple talks, Bible studies and newsletter articles.  Folks are encouraged to indicate on a response form what they intend to provide for the following year as their tithes and offerings.  Then the operating budget (mission and ministry) is established, based on the pledges and other expected income.  Finally, the congregation meets to approve the spending plan for the coming year.

            There are variations on how responses are received from members.  Some do a relay method where packets of information and pledge forms are taken from one household to another.  Some do a fellowship meal where presentations are given and pledge forms are provided.  Some have every member visits.  Some have small group meetings in homes.  Others provide mission festivals.

            A rule of thumb is that at least every three years you vary the method in order to create new interest and enthusiasm.  Keith Mundy, my mentor at the ELCA Office of Stewardship, highly recommends that congregations try two or three of these methods each year.  It might be that 1/3 of the congregation receives an every member visit and 1/3 has small group meetings and 1/3 hears the message exclusively at worship and in the newsletter.

            One of the best recommendations for congregational leaders is this: people give to mission and not to budget.  No one gets excited about simply fulfilling a budget or erasing a deficit.  What excites people and encourages increased giving is passion for ministry.  Congregation leaders (pastors and congregation council) need to pray about, study and plan for vision and mission in each congregation.  Healthy congregations make sure to separate the budget planning process from the stewardship campaign.  During the year, leaders would do well to lift up and remind folks about the mission and vision of the congregation and encourage participation at worship.  Folks who attend worship are far more likely to give tithes and offerings than folks who do not attend worship.

            If I can be helpful to any congregation, I am available to meet with pastors, congregation council and stewardship committees.  Please contact me at TxBe2Godx2@comcast.net. or 540-786-7778.

(Pastor Jim Kniseley serves part-time as the Virginia Synod stewardship  coordinator.  He is co-pastor at Resurrection in Fredericksburg with Pastor Carol Haynes Kniseley.) 

Highlands Conference
plans Epiphany Celebration


          The Highlands Conference plans an Epiphany Celebration featuring handbell choirs at Holy Trinity, Wytheville, on Sunday, Jan. 30, at 4 p.m. A service of readings, prayer, congregation singing and other music is planned, according to Pastor Murray Ziegenfuss, conference dean. Lavelva Stevens, associate in ministry and music director at Holy Trinity, is coordinating the celebration. A light supper will follow the service.

Making grassroots ecumenism work
by Pastor Eric Moehring


           Each year Virginia Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and United Methodists gather together to renew relationships and strengthen a commitment to the church that is called to be ecumenical.

           Among the participants at the annual LARCUM Conference in Fredericksburg pictured below were (from left): Bishop Richard Graham, Metro DC Synod; Bishop James Mauney, Virginia Synod; Bishop Davilarc participantsd Jones, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia; Catholic Bishop Paul Loverde, Diocese of Arlington, and the Rev. George Handley, retired secretary of Virginia Synod.

           On December 3-4 in Fredericksburg, Bishop James Mauney led the group of about 140 participants in the theme, LARCUM Covenant: Growing Grassroots Ecumenism.  Bishop Mauney congratulated the planners of the conference for moving the covenant from being "a side dish" to becoming "our daily bread" through an emphasis of the practical implications contained in the document.

            Then through his perspective as a bishop, pastor and member of a congregation, he unpacked the 20 points of the covenant by dividing his time between the formation points such as education, prayer and worship that can grow us together spiritually and physically, and those points of the covenant that make us most visible in our communities, our public action and witness together.

            An important part of the 2010 conference was to bring participants from local areas around a common table to discuss very practical ways of this forming and partnering for the good of their communities.  It began with Bishop Mauney starting conversations in groups of 2s and 3s, then expanding to include full tables in an ecumenical Bible study.  By the second common table conversation, participants were actively making concrete plans to be implemented locally when they returned home.

            Throughout the conference, Bishop Mauney charged both congregations and judicatories to come together again for more practical planning among the bishops and between congregations of the four traditions.  He committed himself to working with the other bishops and the planning committee to make that happen at the next conference.

            An added bonus was the Friday Convocation led by the Rev. George E. Handley, for many years secretary of the Virginia Synod, LCA.  He offered a full and informative conversation about Lutherans in the Americas and particularly in Virginia under the topic, 400 Years of Christian Friendship, beginning with the observation, "For Lutherans it is more like 300 years."

            The next LARCUM Conference will be held December 2-3, 2011,  possibly in Waynesboro.  It is open to all congregational members of the four traditions along with pastors and other rostered persons in Virginia.  Mark your calendars now; brochures will be available through your church in September.  This will be another one you won't want to miss!




Editor:  George Kegley   
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Deadline for submission of articles is the 10th of each month.

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