March, 2011
                 The Virginia


Bishop election, "Sharing the Story;

Living the Faith" will be highlights

of Synod Assembly, June 3-5  


           Planning is under way for the annual Virginia Synod Assembly to be held at Roanoke College on June 3-5 under the theme, "Ambassadors for Christ: Sharing the Story, Living the Faith." A highlight of the Assembly will be the election by ecclesiastical ballot (no nominations) for bishop.


Bishop Mauney 

           Bishop Jim Mauney is completing his second six-year term as bishop. He was elected to succeed Bishop Richard Bansemer in 1999. Mauney had served as assistant to the bishop for 11 years.

            The Rev. Jessica Duckworth, an ELCA pastor who teaches at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, will present the theme.  The ELCA representative will be David Swartling, secretary of the national church.

            Other elections will be held for four seats on the Synod Council; eight seats on the Consultation Committee and three for the Committee on Discipline. Nominations for these positions are due at the Nominating Committee by March 13. Information or questions about nominations should be sent to Pastor Chip Gunsten at the Synod office, 540-389-1000 or   
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In This Issue
Synod Assembly highlights
Lutherans in the news
Lutheran Writers Project
Fishwick rehab center
LWR quilts collected
Truth shall make us odd?
Praying with another
Sixth Roanoke Habitat House
RC students raise endowment
Synod begins year with surplus
Three approved for ordination
Feeding hungry kids
Quick Links

Lutherans in the news



           Pastor John Ericson was installed as pastor of Living Water, Kilmarnock, on Feb. 13 by Pastors Chip Gunsten and Larry Shoberg. A graduate of Gettysburg Seminary, he has served at Holy Trinity, Martinsville, Trinity, Stephens City and St.Peter's, Stafford  and now is pastor of mission and outreach at St. Mark's United Methodist Church, Hampton. Living Water has been a congregation under development since 2001. Ericson and his wife, Oneita, have three sons.

            Pastor Dennis Roberts was honored for 20 years of service at Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, on Jan. 30. The congregation contributed $15,000 in his honor to an endowed scholarship fund at Gettysburg Seminary, his alma mater. Bishop Jim Mauney expressed "joy and commendation" for Roberts' leadership. A son of Grace, Rural Retreat, and a graduate of Washington and Lee University, he served an internship in Germany which led to continuing youth and adult exchanges. He has been chair of the Synod Worship and Music Committee and he heads the Trust Fund for Leaders in Mission Task Group.

            A 250th anniversary class featuring the work of ordained leaders at Grace, Winchester, is being offered by Pastor Jim Utt. Commenting on the congregation's history, Utt said, "There is no other Lutheran congregation in America with a global mission heritage like that of Grace." Also, through a grant from the Winchester Medical Foundation  Grace has received an automatic external defibrillator (AED) to be used in an emergency for a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest.

            In the Christmas season, St Mark's, Charlottesville, installed a 26-pointed Moravian star above the chancel. The star is a symbol of awaiting the promised coming of Christ and of Christ, the light of the world and dispeller of darkness.

            Tree Fredericksburg has planted trees around Christ, Fredericksburg, to replace some of the hundreds of trees destroyed by storms and disaease. Also, John Pearce, former director of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, was scheduled to talk about "Mapping Fredericksburg History" at a meeting of the Men's Group at Christ Church on Feb. 26.

            At Lakeside, Littleton, N.C., Vicar Julie Scheibel is creating a digital resource library, starting with Luther's Works, the Book of Concord, Logos Bible software and a commentary series to be placed on a computer for use by the congregation as a hub for resources. Scheibel said she sees Lakeside as "a gathering of well-educated people who would like to know more about the Bible, church history and their faith."

            Pastor Ken Lane, Trinity, Roanoke, led a Valentine Marriage Renewal Service for couples to reaffirm their wedding vows, followed by a free dinner at a Mexican restaurant across the street from the church.

            Redeemer, Bristol, held a one-day choral workshop led by Wayne Millet, minister of music at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Pensacola, Fla. in June, Millet will bring his senior youth choir for a concert at Redeemer while on tour.

            The Sysquehanna University Choir will present a concert at Gloria Dei, Hampton, on Monday, March 7, at 7 p.m.

            As part of the 125th anniversary of Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, the Concordia College Choir, Bronxille, N.Y., presented an a cappella concert on Feb. 25.

            The Salem Choral Society, directed by Aaron Garber, music director at College, Salem, will present A Symphony of Psalms on Sunday, April 10, at 3 p.m. at the Shaftman Performance Hall in the Jefferson Center in Roanoke. The music, composed for voice and instrument by Garber, features 12 of King David's most beloved psalms-23, 25, 100 and 145.

            Hans York, a recording artist, will present a concert, Music for Bread and Water, at St. Philip, Roanoke, on Sunday, April 3, at 7 p.m. The concert, in memory of Helen Miller, a longtime leader in the congregation's food ministry, will be for the benefit of St. Philip's Malawi mission project and the food pantry of St. Mark's, Roanoke.

            A  Career Crossroads

spiritual retreat for finding work that fits gifts and mission in life will be held March 4-6, Friday through Sunday, at Southern Seminary. Leaders will be Pastor Harvey Huntley, Region 9 coordinator for ministry leadership, and Sandra Holland, associate in ministry (AIM) for Christian formation at St. Andrews Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C.


Lutheran Writers Project at Roanoke College

supports creativity, spiritual and literary depth  


            The Lutheran Writers Project, a national organization supporting literary writers and readers, hosting events and supporting programs from a base at Roanoke College, sponsored its first campus event, a symposium on writing about grief, at the college on Feb. 16.

            That event featured a reading by Jill Alexander Essbaum of Austin, Tex., associate editor of  the National Poetry Review and author of three collections of poetry. She is the author of Necropolis, a meditation on the deaths of her parents while she was young and the impossible mystery of the Resurrection. Essbaum also gave a poetry reading at Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, on Feb. 17. She is visiting several campuses on a tour organized by the Writers Project.

            Participants in the workshop tried writing exercises and strategies giving life to their writing about loss, loved ones and healing. Other leaders of the event were Paul Shepherd, a Charlottesville prize-winning novelist; Ned Wisnefske, Roanoke College theology professor and author of God Hides, and Gary Fincke, creative writing professor at Susquehanna University, author of over 20 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction and  director of the Writers Institute.

            The Lutheran Writers Project grew out of conversations of novelists Paul Shepherd and Mark Mustian leading to a Lutheran Writers Festival at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, drawing almost 300 people in 2007. Roanoke College was selected as the administrative base and Robert Scholtz, an English professor at Roanoke, became the administrator. His novel, The Madhouse Nudes, was selected as one of the first recommended titles of the former Lutheran Writers Project Book Club.

            Scholtz, Shepherd and Mark Mustian, a Tallahassee, Fla. lawyer and novelist, form the Project's governing board. Two other leaders of the Project are Anna Basye of Seattle, Wash., director of communications and church relations and a writer and associate director of global resources for the ELCA, and Carol Gilbertson, English professor at Luther College and director of the Lutheran Writing Festival there.

            The college is working with the founders to build an endowment that will finance the Project's program goals and perpetuate its work, Scholtz said. All of the leaders have Lutheran connections.

            The mission of the Project is to engage the imagination of the Lutheran church, to serve those who create works striving for spiritual and literary depth, to recognize literary gifts of writers engaging Lutheran imagination and to provide information resources for dialogues among writers, readers, teachers, pastors and institutions.

            The Project plans annual symposia to bring writers to Roanoke College to read and discuss their work on specific issues. Other proposed projects are a literary reading consortium to build relationships among Lutheran colleges and writers, a major book prize for a work of fiction, poetry or non-fiction exploring the human experience in its largest dimensions and an annual journal.



Fishwick rehab center planned at Brandon Oaks 

            Virginia Lutheran Homes has plans to build 18 intensive assisted living units in a new John P. Fishwick Rehabilitation Center as an addition to its nursing home at Brandon Oaks Retirement Community in Roanoke.

            Fund-raising has started for the $2.5-million project. The family of John P. Fishwick, retired Norfolk & Western Railway chairman who died last fall, has made a commitment to the center. Fishwick was a resident of Brandon Oaks.

            To be located adjacent to the present therapy laboratory, the center will provide for expanded physical, occupational and speech therapy for short and long-term stays, according to Skip Zubrod, Virginia Lutheran Homes president. The expansion will have approximately 9,000 square feet and a parking area will be provided underground. The center will have a separate entrance leading to private rooms and a private dining room.

             The start of construction will depend on fund-raising efforts which began recently, Zubrod said. The project will expand the nursing home capacity from 62 to 80 beds with the addition of rooms to care for less abled persons in intensive assisted living, he said. This adds a fourth level to the independent, assisted living and nursing care at Brandon Oaks.

            The Pines, a 12-apartment construction project is under roof at Brandon Oaks and 10 of the 12 units have been committed, according to Zubrod. The units, costing about $4.8 milllion and averaging about 1,500 square feet, replace six cottages. The remaining 12 cottages are to be replaced by larger units later. 


LWR quilts, kits to be

collected at Weyers Cave, Richmond 


            Virginia Synod quilters who have been delivering their handiwork to a Church World Service warehouse at New Windsor, Md., can make an easier delivery to Weyers Cave and Richmond from March 1 through April 21. LWR will join Church World Service for the spring collections.

             Lutheran World Relief will hold an ingathering of quilts at the Shenandoah District Church of the Brethren office at 1453 Westview School Road, Weyers Cave, from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday through Thursday. The Richmond ingathering will be at Bon Air Christian Church, 2071 Buford Road, from 8:30 a.m. to noon from Monday through Friday.

             As the intensity of humanitarian needs increases worldwide, the requests for LWR quilts and kits are also on the rise, said Melanie W. Gibbons, quilt and kit coordinator at LWR headquarters in Baltimore. Women's groups, confirmation classes and congregations who gather quilts and kits "truly make a difference in the lives of people all over the world," she said.

             Revised guidelines for making quilts and kits are in an LWR guide which may be requested by calling 800-597-5972. A donation record should accompany each delivery, according to the LWR. 


Truth shall make us odd?

     by Pastor Bill King


(Pastor Bill King, regional campus ministry director, writes about a new book by Pastor Frank Honeycutt, formerly of St. John, Abingdon, and now of Ebenezer, Columbia, S.C.)


            My friend,  Frank Honeycutt, has just published a book entitled The Truth Shall Make You Odd.  The title comes from Flannery O'Connor's wry editing of John 8:32, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd."  Frank's book is about how pastors are sometimes called to speak uncomfortable things if they are to serve with integrity.  But the book and the quotation raise a broader question:  Just how odd are we willing to be?

            That's our worst fantasy isn't it, to be declared odd by those who matter to us?  If the truth be told, our fondest desire is to cozily swim in the cultural mainstream, carried smoothly along like a canoe on a gentle river.  We are afraid that being too up-front in declaring our Christian identity will get us lumped in with those who are ignorant and proud, who believe that being passionate excuses lack of compassion, who think that quoting a biblical text is a substitute for understanding basic science, history, law and courtesy. You need not look very hard to find people doing strange, rude, or vicious things and justifying them all as faithfulness to God.  No indeed, we do not want to be like those folks; we do not want to be odd.

             But that is not the kind of odd which Frank, Flannery-or Jesus-have in mind.  There is a difference between being a "fool for Christ" and just being a fool.  Having fire in the belly does not mean you have to give everyone around you heartburn by being blindly self righteous.  Prophetic and obnoxious are not the same thing.

             In a society where religion often wears a snarling face we have some legitimate concern about being identified with those who slander Jesus by claiming his name and despising his vision.  But if you are reading these words, I suspect you, like me, are more likely to dishonor Christ by silence and inaction than by flawed witness.

            Anyway you slice it Jesus was odd.  He lived with minimal material possessions.  He loved those who hated him. He preferred to hang out with the sketchy folks rather than the pillars of the community.  He valued faithfulness to God over loyalty to family, religion, or nation.  He suggested that service and sacrifice are the keys to fulfillment in life. 

             Look at that list again; does it look like the priorities which drive the world in which you live each day?  Think about one way you can be a little odd today, a little out of sync with those around you.  Flannery O'Connor was right, if we know (and try to live) the truth it will make us odd-and if we aren't a little odd, we might wonder why....


Praying with another

     by Pastor Mark Briehl


              Any time we ask a person, "What can I do to help?" may also be a really good time for asking, "Is it OK with you if we pray about that?" 

            When talking with someone who is carrying a burden we may wonder if we can lighten the load a bit. So we say, "Let me know if there is anything I can do." The offer to help comes from the heart. But those words can ring a little hollow. Is there anything we can do in the moment of asking?

            That "anything" was made clear to me during a visit with a fellow in the hospital. It was an occasion to catch up with his daughter who was also there. She had heard about my brother Greg's car accident. As I turned to go she said, "I will walk out with you because I want to pray with you for Greg." In the waiting room she did just that. Her prayer to God was also a help and encouragement to me.

            "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46). Of course! Any time we ask a person, "What can I do to help?" may be a really good time for asking, "Is it OK with you if we pray about that?" The thought of praying with another can be scary. It can feel like one sixteen year old asking another out on a date. But maybe we discovered it is not that big a deal-you just do it. Praying with someone is pretty much the same. It is not scary, for in the moment that we pray God gets involved. 

            One way God helps is by supplying words. Think of each verse below as a prayer starter.  Begin to pray by saying a Psalm verse. Then recall the other person's need or situation. Let the verse suggest a direction and words for praying. Go with it and do not be concerned with how it sounds. You are not praying alone. God is involved and will help things along.

            God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . . (Psalm 46)   

            The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . (Psalm 23)     

            O sing to the Lord a new song, who has done marvelous things. . . (Psalm 98)

            The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. . .  (Psalm 104)  

Work planned on sixth                                               Thrivent Habitat house in Roanoke  


Mohamed Suliman, Amira Nimir and children await start of their Thriven Builds with Habitat house in Roanoke.

            Construction is scheduled to start in April on the sixth Thrivent Builds with Habitat house in the Roanoke Valley. The occupants, Mohamed Suliman and Amira Nimir and their Sudanese family of three children, met with the Roanoke Valley Thrivent Financial for Lutherans chapter in a planning meeting at College, Salem, on Feb. 27.

            Ten Roanoke Valley Lutheran congregations are participating in the construction. Since 1986, a total of 163 Habitat houses have been built in the Roanoke Valley.

            Suliman, a welder who holds diplomas from Sudan and Egypt, works at Freight Car America and his wife, Amira, is a parts inspector at Dynax, an auto parts company. They arrived in the United States seven years ago and they became citizens last year. They are living in a two-bedroom apartment.  


Roanoke students raise endowment investments


            In a Student Managed Fund at Roanoke College, student investors have boosted a $100,000 investment in the endowment in 2004 to more than $685,000 today, a 47 percent increase! Dr. Larry Lynch, student advisor, said the college takes 5 percent of the earnings and lets the students build on the investment in the stock market.

            Each student monitors a sector, reports on performance and discusses proposed changes in investment strategy at class meetings.

            College Chaplain Paul Henrickson is leading a group of 20 students on a Habitat construction project in Columbia, S.C. He has led more than 40 fall and spring student mission trips.

            Dr. Melanie Almeder, associate professor English at the college, has received a 2011 Outstanding Facultry Award from the State Council of Higher Education and Dominion Resources. The award recognizes superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service.

            Linda Miller, college archivist and senior lecturer, has been recognized with the Service to all Roanoke award given to an individual who acts above and beyond the call of duties of his or her position. Miller, who is in charge of the archives for the Virginia Synod, has been a staff member for more than 25 years.  

  Synod begins year with a surplus of $21,139


            The Virginia Synod started the church year, February 2011-January 2011 "in good shape" with a surplus of $21,139, according to Keith Brown, Synod financial  advisor. Receipts for 2010 came to $1,794,706 and expenditures totaled $1,773,566.

            The expenditures included a remittance to the ELCA of $658,965 or 37.1 percent of mission and ministry support from synod congregations. January income was "quite good," Brown said, as several congregations submitted more than $34,000 for the year 2010. 

 Three approved for ordination


            The Synod Candidacy Committee has approved two senior seminarians and a former Baptist pastor for ordination pending acceptance of a call. Ten other candidates for ministry are serving internships during their middle year in seminary, according to William C. Solomon, committee chair.

            Paul T. Christian of Our Redeemer, Petersburg, Cathryn "Kate" Proctor of St. John, Abingdon, and Dr. Phyllis Milton of Reformation, Newport News, were approved for ordination at a December meeting of the committee..

            Christian, a graduate of Colorado Technical University and a senior at Gettysburg Seminary, interned at St. Paul's, Lutherville, Md. He served in the Air Force, worked at a medical center and as a program assistant at Petersburg National Battlefield. He and his wife, Dee, have two daughters.  Proctor, a graduate of the College of William and Mary and a senior at Philadelphia Seminary, was assigned to the American Church in Berlin under a Horizon International Internship through ELCA Global Mission and Vocation and Education.

            Dr. Milton, who holds degrees from Morgan State University, Georgia State College and Bethel Seminary, served Baptist churches in California, Hawaii and Newport News. She worked as a trainer and adjunct professor at the John Leland Center for Theological Studies at Hampton Roads. She and her husband, Nathaniel, a retired Navy chaplain, have a son and a daughter.

            Solomon said he is encouraged by the "quality and sense of call of potential candidates and those already in the process." The Holy Spirit "continues to work in the lives of those who continue to discern their calls to rostered service in this church," he added.

            The 10 interns: Phyllis W. Diamond of Christ, Roanoke, studying at Southern Seminary, interning at New Hope, Columbia, Md.; Tonya L. Eza, Grace, Waynesboro, Gettysburg Seminary, interning at Holy Trinity, Lancaster, Pa.; Daniel G. Kuckuck, Resurrection, Fredericksburg, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, interning at Christ, Fairbanks, Alaska; Brian J. Penman, St. Timothy, Virginia Beach, Philadelphia Seminary, interning at St. Luke, Devon, Pa.

            Haley Vay Poynter, St. Stephen, Williamsburg, Gettysburg Seminary, interning at Trinity of Manhattan, New York City; Brett M. Wilson, Christ the King, Richmond, Philadelphia Seminary, interning at Christ, Lancaster, Pa.; Keith A. Long, St. Luke, Richmond, Luther Seminary, interning at Grace, Dawson, Minn.; Leslie A. Scanlon, First, Norfolk, Philadelphia Seminary, interning at Prince of Peace, Dublin, Ohio; Deanna Scheffel, Our Saviour, Amissville, Southern Seminary, interning at American Lutheran, DeSmet, S. Dak., and Travis W. Wilson, St. Mark, Yorktown, Trinity Seminary, interning at First, Muskegon, Mich.


Luke's backpacks will feed

hungry Shenandoah County children

     by Connie Fauber


Lukes backpacks

Pastors Kate Schroeder and Matthew Diehl and Sonya Giersch, Associate in Ministry (AIM), fill Luke's backpacks.


              Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries, Inc., in cooperation with Shenandoah County public schools, has joined forces to provide weekend meals to hungry children in our school system.

            We have begun the program at Ashby-Lee Elementary School, based on the number of children who are currently enrolled in the school system's free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs. Over 40 percent of students enrolled in county schools are eligible for these programs.  Ashby-Lee has the greatest number.

            A Luke's Backpack is filled with meals and snacks for qualifying children to take home on Friday afternoon. Each backpack contains single serving packages of healthy foods that provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for the child during the weekend.  The backpacks are returned to school on Monday morning to be repacked by a host of volunteers for the following weekend.

            The school system identifies students who are eligible to receive these very special backpacks.  Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries, the Lutheran churches throughout the Central Valley Conference and many other churches, businesses and friends have taken on this mission with us.  We have received donations, both food and moneył from across the county.  We have volunteers ready to be trained and begin packing, delivering and cleaning out returned backpacks.

            Shenandoah Valley Ministries has been astonished by the support given to this ministry and we are in hopes of providing Luke's backpacks in all three of our elementary schools before the end of the current year term.  Feeding the hungry has become the number one priority of Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries, Inc.  and we are working hard to make connections and form partnerships with agencies, churches, civic organizations, businesses and individuals throughout Shenandoah County to strengthen Luke's Backpack and possibly begin a summer feeding program for children.  People working together can make a big difference and we can care for our neighbors.   


If you would like more information about the S.V.L. Ministries backpack program, you may contact Sherrill Miller, Coordinator of Luke's Backpack Taskforce.  She may be reached by calling 1-540-333-2217 or email her at

Shenandoah Lutherans plan to feed hungry children;

New federal law will provide more food for kids




            Nineteen million American children receive free or reduced lunches and breakfasts, 17 million children do not get the meals they need, especially in summer, and 42 million people receive some type of food assistance, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official told a Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries community forum on Jan. 30.

            In this land of plenty, one in seven are getting food assistance, according to Max Finberg, director of the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He gave alarming statistics on the rapidly growing problem of hunger. The forum met to hear about and discuss hunger in Shenandoah County.

            After sharing these disturbing statistics, Finberg talked about ways communities can help to feed the hungry. He shared ways of accessing programs through the USDA to assist in financing the costs of feeding programs, especially summer feeding programs for children.

           The group of about 50 people decided to meet again in March and pursue ways to work together to sponsor programs to feed hungry children year around.  The group decided to look for avenues churches, social agencies, businesses and individuals can use to connect, share thoughts, ideas and resources to build a summer feeding program for children in the community.

           Finberg relayed a message from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commending the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in December. Bishop Jim Mauney made a trip to Washington to urge passage of that legislation in a meeting with Vilsack last year.

          Vilsack said he has been fighting for this "major victory for our kids" since the earliest days of this administration. The act "strengthens our safety net against hunger" by increasing the number of eligible children enrolled in the school meals program by using Medicaid data to determine their eligibility. In select high-poverty communities, paper applications will be eliminated, more meals will be provided for at-risk children nationwide by reimbursing providers of after-school meals and nutritional standards for school meals will be updated to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and less sodium, sugar and fat.

           The agriculture secretary said it was inspiring to see many faith communities came together to urge passage of this landmark legislation. ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson "raised the legislation during a November meeting with President Obama and National Council of Churches leaders in Washington."  On behalf of President Obama, Vilsack said he wants "to commend the ELCA, its member churches and Lutherans around the country for helping to create a brighter future for our nation's children."

            Beyond this legislation, he said, ELCA World Hunger provides "critical grants to community organizations fighting hunger" and congregations are fighting hunger in communities by running food pantries, gleaning extra food, serving meals to those in need and helping spread the word about nutrition assistance programs like SNAP, formerly food stamps.


Miller leads Roanoke workshop
miller leads workshop
Dr. Marcus Miller, Southern Seminary president, led a full table of pastors at a workshop at St. Mark's, Roanoke, on Feb. 4. He led other workshops at Hampton and New Market on "Preaching the Lenten  Texts."




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

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