May, 2011
                 The Virginia



Power in the Spirit

offers 25 years of storytelling

2011 Power in the Spirit 

           Plans are shaping up for the 25th anniversary of Power in the Spirit, featuring the theme, "25 Years of Telling the Story" and keynote speaker Walter Wangerin Jr., at Roanoke College July 14-16.

            Wangerin, former longtime columnist for The Lutheran magazine, teaches literature and creative writing and is writer-in-residence at Valpariso University in Indiana. A widely known storyteller and author of more than 30 books, he has been a radio announcer and book reviewer, he has traveled with migrant farm workers, participated in an Indian sun dance and served as pastor of an inner-city church.

            Pastor John Largen, a Virginia native who is pastor to the community at Southern Seminary, will be the Bible leader. He grew up in St. John, Roanoke, served the former Quicksburg Parish in Shenandoah County and is a member of Gladesboro, Carroll County. The music presenter will be Kevin Barger, music director at Epiphany, Richmond, and a singer and assistant accompanist with the Richmond Symphony Chorus.

            In a service project, Books for Children, participants will collect new and used books for the West End Center, a Roanoke facility offering after-school programs for children of low-income families. Pastor Cynthia Long, a grief support specialist with Lutheran Family Services, will offer free grief consultations on Friday, July 15. Workshops will be offered on prayer beads, making homemade paper and bookbinding.

            Thirty-nine workshops are planned in four sections during the three-day event. Among them are sessions on developing a regular devotional practice, use of hand puppets, a look back at 18th century stewardship,  events of the past 50 years observed by Pastor Jean Bozeman, learning to listen, comedy and comedians in Scripture and a history of God's people.

            The resident package registration fee for the event is $251 and the commuter package fee is $191. 
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In This Issue
25 years of storytelling
Lutherans in the news
Fools for Christ
Good Gifts Catalog
17 Virginians tour
Salem group presents psalms
ACTS course
Ordination at Assembly
Bozeman honored
"Elijah" big hit
Saving work of Christ
Hoffmeyer lectures
LFS seeks donations
Shenandoah LFS award
Congregations close
Supplies for Costa Rica
Easter baskets donated
Quick Links

Lutherans in the news




          Pastor Cynthia Keyser has accepted a call to serve as a pastor of Christ, Roanoke, focusing on Christian education and evangelism in addition to sharing general  duties with Pastor David Skole, starting July 1. She has been a pastoral associate at Christ since last August. A graduate of Luther Seminary, she was ordained in 1999 and served at churches in Des Moines, Iowa, and Largo, Fla. Her husband, Eric Rothgery, is assistant professor of religion at Roanoke College. They have three sons.

            Dr. Paul Hinlicky. A Roanoke College professor since 1999, has received the 2011 Dean's Award for Professional Achievement at the college. As Tise Professor of Lutheran Studies, he has written three books in the past four years with "Luther" in the title. Hinlicky has written or contributed to 17 books and over 75 academic articles. A faculty colleague said the professor's work "is at the forefront of scholarship" and a student said Hinlicky "does big-boy scholarship, battling with the highest order questions."




           Pastor Chip Gunsten, assistant to the synod bishop, and his wife, Kris Gunsten, are grandparents for the first time!  Their granddaughter, Meredith Anna Krell, arrived at Ann Arbor, Mich., on April 20, weighing 7 pounds and 13 ounces. Her parents are Sarah and Robert Krell.

            Mike and Tammie Neeble, Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, have been chosen as the Virginia State Ambassador Family for the March of Dimes. The Neebles set a goal of each running 475 miles to raise awareness and support for the March of Dimes. The financial goal is to raise a mile of dimes, close to $10,000. The March emphasis on research and services for premature birth hit the Neebles when their son, Cooper, was born three months early, weighing only 2 pounds and 6 ounces, the equivalent of 475 dimes, and this led to the 475-mile goal.

            Faith, Suffolk, reported 17 families enrolled in a Financial Peace University session during which more than $104,000 in debt was paid and over $16,000 was accumulated in savings. Several Navy and Coast Guard families became debt free, marriages were strengthened and participants learned to live on less than they earn.

            Members of Bethel, Winchester, spent Good Friday morning "returning thanks to God by participating in simple repair and clean-up work for those needing helping hands within our community, in recognition of this most holy day."

            A Norwegian service at Our Saviour, Virginia Beach, was led by the Rev. Cecilie Strommen, wife of  Wegger Christian Strommen, Norwegian ambassador to the U. S.  The service was held because the Norwegian government wanted to provide an opportunity for its military personnel serving in NATO to worship in their native language. Also at Our Saviour, Bruce Prichard and his firm designed a building, the Williams Mullen Center, chosen as Richmond's Best Project in a commercial real estate awards ceremony. And Karen Bauer was named Diabetes Educator of the Year by the Eastern Virginia Association of Diabetes Educators.

           Members of Grace & Glory, Palmyra, have received an altar, lectern, baptismal font, bookcases, desk, many chairs, communion trays and cups, a Lutheran flag and choir robes from Messiah, Virginia Beach, which has closed after 30 years of service. The Fluvanna County congregation is planning to build a church.

            St. Jacob's-Spaders, Mt. Crawford, assembled 817 Easter baskets which were distributed to underprivileged children in the Harrisonburg-Augusta County region by a number of agencies. Fifty community volunteers joined congregation members to prepare the baskets.

            Mike Bankert, a Roanoke College junior, will spend the summer riding a bicycle across the nation in support of PUSH America, a philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity promoting understanding of people with disabilities as part of the Journey for Hope program. Bankert, from Centerville, plans a career in social work.

            John Krallman, St. Michael, Blacksburg, was promoted to director of business and financial affairs for information technology at Virginia Tech.

            Dr. Gretchen Diemer, daughter of Sally and Davis von Oesen, Holy Trinity, Lynchburg,  an assistant professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, was honored for outstanding contributions to the senior class and her portrait was presented to the university.

            Kate Proctor, a seminary senior eligible for ordination after a call, is from Redeemer, Bristol. Her home church was incorrectly reported in March.


New River area youth gather at Fools for Christ event 

  Fools for Christ

             More than 40 youth and adults met at St. Michael, Blacksburg, on April 1-2 for Fools for Christ, an overnight retreat and service project. The event was "a great experience uniting youngsters from Luther Memorial, St. Michael and Shiloh, Blacksburg;  Our Saviour, Christiansburg, and Trinity, Pulaski, to worship, learn and serve Christ," according to Pastor John Wertz of St. Michael.


Good Gifts catalog helps familes in need

Pastor Lynn Bechdolt of Holy Trinity, Martinsville, has helped create a model Good Gifts catalog outlining ways to present "special gifts that make a difference for local families and children in need."

            Her local catalog tells how gifts of $25, $50 or $100 can help local service organization projects, such as the United Way Crisis Fund providing food and shelter, counseling high school students about risky behavior, offering money management classes for single mothers and Boy Scout seats along trails at Philpot Lake in Henry County.

 Gifts also can be designated for Grace Network, a local first-stop center for people in crisis, supported by more than 80 congregations and many individuals and civic groups. The network helps pay bills for housing, utilities and supports a food pantry, providing a two-week supply of food. 

            A catalog of reasonably priced gifts has been used by the Heifer Project and other organizations but Bechdolt said her plan came from a family problem. "I was trying to figure out what to give as Christmas gifts to my two brothers who manage to get for themselves the things they really want. How could I say, 'I love you' with a Christmas gift that was truly meaningful?" In her part-time work for a non-profit social service organization serving low-income people, she saw "the immense need of the people in my own community."  So she challenged herself to give to local causes as much as she spent for Christmas presents.

            Her plan led the Non-Profit Leaders Network of the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville to sponsor the Good Gifts Catalog, partially funded with a $1,500 grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. In a community hard-hit by furniture and textile company closures and unemployment, the catalog provides a way to make small contributions to help the hungry and homeless who need medical care and children who need assistance.

            The catalog tells how to use a coupon with a check or a visit to a website for a credit card contribution directly to the agency in the catalog.  Other congregations are using the catalog along with Bible studies. Reports are provided by the United Way on the number of people served by the gifts.

            Bechdolt may be reached at or 276-638-2950.

Seventeen Virginians tour Holy Land


Virginia pilgrims.


           Seventeen Virginia Lutherans were among a group of 34 who took a recent ELCA Book of Faith tour of the Holy Land, led by Dr. Diane Jacobson, the Bible study leader for Power in the Spirit last year and recently retired faculty member of the Luthean Seminary at St. Paul, Minn. The group photo was made in front of the Treasury Building at Petra, Jordan. The tour was described as "a special spiritual pilgrimage, being in the Word as they traveled."

 The traveling Virginians were John and Ann Hess, Steve and Kay Ritchey, Our Saviour, Christiansburg; Pastor Scott Benson, Faith, Suffolk; Peggy Bizjak, Leroy Hamlett, Pastor John and Leslie Herman, Ed and Deb Meyers, David and Ruth Poole, Barbara Price, Bill and Linda Roberts and Nancy Schmitz, Peace, Charlottesville.



Aaron Garber's Salem group presents psalms work 


An outstanding performance of "A Symphony of Psalms" was presented by the Salem Choral Society, led by Aaron Garber, its music director and director of music at College Lutheran, Salem, on Sunday, April 10, at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke.

The settings for more than a dozen psalms were composed by Garber. Instrumentalists were Melia Garber, piano and organ, the College Lutheran handbell choir and Roanoke Chamber Brass.

            Garber also conducted the Jefferson Choral Society of Lynchburg and the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra, featuring the commissioned premiere of his Dies Irae and Te Deum by Dvorak on May 1. On April 2, the Masterworks Chorus of the Shenandoah Valley and the Arts Academy Choral of Winchester premiered Garber's commissioned work, Three Dickinson Settings, poems by Emily Dickinson set to music.


ACTS course looks at Christian's call


            The Rev. Ruben Duran, an ELCA official, and Prof. Mary Sue Dreier of Luther Seminary are leading the Spring 2011 ACTS course, "The Christian's Call Today." Saturday lecture sessions are held at Grace, Waynesboro, on April 16 and May 21 and small-group sessions are held other churches.

            Duran,  director of new congregational development in evangelical outreach for the ELCA, has spoken at a synod assembly. Dreier is associate professor of congregational mission and leadership at the St. Paul, Minn. Seminary.

An ordination is expected at June Assembly 


            At least one ordination is expected to occur during the Virginia Synod Assembly at Roanoke College on June 3-5. Three candidates have been approved for ordination by the Synod Candidacy Committee.

            Highlights of the annual assembly will be the election of bishop and seats on the Synod Council, Consultation Committee and the Committee on Discipline as well as presentations on the theme, "Ambassadors for Christ: Sharing the Story, Living the Faith," by Dr. Jessica Krey Duckworth, professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. David Swartling, ELCA secretary, will be the official representative of the national church. 


Christian Formation Fund

to honor Pastor Jean Bozeman




             As Dr. Jean Bozeman marks her 50th anniversary of service to the Lutheran church with her retirement scheduled for June 30, the Synod Council has established a Christian Formation Fund in her honor. All Council members have contributed.

            A $2.5-million fund is intended to endow synodical reinforcing of congregations and families in forming Ambassadors for Christ for children until they leave home for school, for military service, employment and for adults who are learning faith and to be a mentor more profoundly for their children, younger sisters and brothers of the congregation and their neighbors.

 Pastor Bozeman has served as a synodical youth staffer, director of Christian education in a parish, in churchwide offices for youth ministry, as dean of students and teacher of  Christian education and Christian formation at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and in church relations with Lutheran Family Services. Since 1989, she has been an assistant to the bishop, serving the eastern part of the Synod from Norfolk, her home city. Working with lay and clerical leader, she created the ACTS (Ambassador Community for Theological Study) program, Roots & Wings for parents and grandparents raising infants and children in the faith and Power in the Spirit for lay leadership in Christian formation..

            Bishop Jim Mauney said Bozeman "has touched the lives and hearts of us all" so this is an opportunity to honor her at her retirement.

The ongoing foundation stones for the Christian Formation Fund are adult education, young parents and grandparents sharing faith at home, forming young children of faith, youth and youth servant events and healthy families.

            In a changing culture, Christian formation within the home is considered important to children and parents. A large community for sharing faith and building relationships is a profound building block for faith formation. Parents need help in a community that supports, reinforces and equips them to share the story of the gospel. Also, families need reinforcing as they seek to raise children in faith. 


"Elijah" was a big hit at First Lutheran, Norfolk


Elijah and friends sing in musical.

            An eager cast of more than ??? children and youth presented an "unforgettable" musical performance of "Elijah! God's Faithful Prophet," at First Lutheran Norfolk, on Sunday morning, April 10. They sang, danced, joined the chorus, stage crew, played hand bells and worked on costumes and lighting.

            Keyton Springer, an 11-year-old Elijah, said he was "really nervous" in the lead role, "but I just kept on praying." His favorite song in the production was "Waiting to Decide," telling about the time when the Israelites "had to pick between Baal and God."

            Co-director Ginny Fox said the musical was chosen for its "beautiful music and clever lyrics written by Mark Patterson." She said theme of "God Will Provide" was moving and stayed on her mind. Auditions were held on two Sundays to select a cast of children and youth of all ages. Many adult members had forgotten or weren't familiar with the story of Elijah so it became an education venture for the congregation.

             Co-director Janine Brown said this was a first for First Lutheran, "an attempt to teach an important Bible story in a totally new way, through teaching the story, doing crafts, making sets and creating a musical production within the time frame of Sunday School." Getting older youth and younger children to work together was previously unheard of, she said. Brown called the performance "a day I will never forget, a true gift to our congregation from our children and youth."

            Pastor Rick Goeres said the wide spectrum of children and youth in the project "was fun to see and beneficial to all in learning and serving together. The children and youth learned the important truth that God does provide even as they celebrated learning it with new 'big' and 'little' sisters and brothers in the faith. Our congregation was blessed by the enthusiasm generated in the project and by teaching this mighty act of God in an exciting way to a new generation."


Exploring the saving work of Christ

     by Pastor Bill King


daniel bell


 What does it means to say we are "justified by his blood?"  Daniel Bell, professor of theological ethics at Southern Seminary, addressed that question during his recent time as the visiting theologian in Blacksburg.  The visiting theologian, an endowed program of Luther Memorial congregation and Lutheran Campus Ministry at Virginia Tech, seeks to enrich the intellectual and spiritual climate of both the congregation and the greater Blacksburg community.

            This year's presentations explored how the church has understood the saving work of Christ.  Through preaching, teaching, and table conversation, Bell helped audiences understand how atonement has been understood in a variety of ways, both in Scripture and the Christian tradition.

 One of Bell's major foci was rethinking blood sacrifice as it relates to Good Friday.  "Although Christians have never practiced blood sacrifice, the logic of blood sacrifice often shapes the way Christians think about God and, consequently, how we act in the world...Christianity is permeated with images of a wrathful, angry God who demands blood and suffering and threatens to inflict terrible violence as the just punishment for sin."

            Bell suggested that the substitutionary mode of the atonement, generally associated with St. Anselm, has often been erroneously interpreted, so that the problem becomes an angry God, rather the broken relationship between humanity and God.  "Read rightly, Anselm's account of how humanity is redeemed is not about diverting the arrows and appeasing wrath of a bloodthirsty, angry god.  Instead, it is a story about the depths and lengths to which God goes so that we might share in the triune life of God (John 3:16)"

            It is not blood sacrifice which saves us, said Bell, rather it is Jesus' obedience and fidelity.  "Christ is our substitute, not in the sense that he takes our place in the execution chamber and suffers our punishment for us, but in the sense that he offers God the fidelity, devotion, and obedience that we should have but did not, and subsequently could not."

            Bell noted that how we understand the atonement is not merely of academic interest because an emphasis on blood sacrifice implicitly validates the notion of "redemptive violence."  "We see and hear the message reinforced all around us:  violence secures, violence redeems.  Good violence is the only thing which can save us from bad violence."  It is not violence but God's faithfulness which is finally redemptive, he said. 
Hoffmeyer: Don't tie down the Holy Spirit



            The Holy Spirit comes in works that always fit with Jesus Christ, Dr. John Hoffmeyer, a Philadelphia Seminary associate professor and Virginia native, told the annual Virginia Lutheran Men in Mission gathering at the Roslyn Episcopal Center in Richmond April 29-May 1.

            "We can't predict or tie down the Holy Spirit...Sometimes we overuse the Holy Spirit," he said as he referred to descriptions of the "fruits of the spirit" in Galatians and I Corinthians. Exploring the doctrine of trinity, Hoffmeyer said pastors face Trinity Sunday with "trepidation."  Development of a friendlier relation with the trinity starts with a concrete experience and this leads to questions, he said.

            The professor, a Luray native, said the doctrine has had "a bad rap" but it does have "practical application for daily living in Jesus Christ."

            Pastor Chip Gunsten, gathering chaplain and assistant to the synod bishop, said the church has gone through a period of disruption but the Spirit is at work.  "Will we allow it, will we welcome the stranger?...Life is too important to bring up issues that divide us." He urged the men "to make sure that you put Christ, not issues, at the center." Gunsten also asked the men to celebrate the date of their baptism.

            The men heard a report that their disaster response trailer project has received a contribution of more than $4,200 from a craft show at Peace, Charlottesville. This brings the total amount received to $10,327, enabling the organization to buy a shell for a mobile shower and laundry facility, needed in disasters. The craft show donation was boosted by the gift of a week of beach housing by Bob and Karen Brown. The project now has four optional groups of materials and equipment needed to make the trailer operational. Lutheran Family Services will hold the title for the vehicle and it will be available for use by congregations and synod auxiliaries.

VLMM Officers

John Schallhorn (right), new VLMM president, and Jim Somerville, new vice president, stand before the organization's banner.

          The men's governing board elected John Schallhorn, Our Redeemer, Petersburg, as president to succeed Orville Wolters, Christ, Staunton, retiring president. Jim Somerville, St. Timothy, Norfolk, was named vice president.  John Lasher, Christ, Staunton, secretary, and Dolph Moller, Christ the King, Richmond, were returned to office.

            Tim Crout of South Carolina, Region 9 director for the national Lutheran Men in Mission, urged the men to teach Sunday School and to work with young people who are leaving the church by age 19. He asked the men to build relationships with youth.

                        Moller, chairman of the VLMM Committee for 100, reported that this special mission fund has raised more than $80,000 since it began in 1998. 


LFS seeks donations for Virginia disaster relief


            Lutheran Family Services, designated Virginia partner for Lutheran Disaster Response, said it is working closely with Lutheran congregations and other disaster relief groups to help home-owners and others who had an impact from recent tornadoes and storms.

            A request for donations for supplies and material needed by the building teams came from Julie Swanson, chief executive of Lutheran Family Services, and Bishop Jim Mauney. All donations will go toward the long-term efforts to rebuild homes and lives, they said. Donors' "care and concern will help these families heal from life-changing disaster."  Some congregations sent cleanup crews to Pulaski where tornadoes damaged many homes.

            Donations designated for 2011 Virginia Tornado Relief may be sent directly to LFSVA at 2609 McVitty Road, Roanoke, VA 24018 or through the LFS website,  


Shenandoah LFS office wins award


            The Northern Shenandoah office of Lutheran Family Services won top awards from The Arc, the Winchester-based chapter of a national organization that works to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities and from the Community Commitment for Change Conference, a group of child-serving organizations that collaborate to create the best systems of care for children and their families.

            The LFS office won 2011 Community Service Provider of the Year and Lynn Waymouth, a services worker, won the 2011 Direct Care Professional of the Year Award from The Arc. Amber Brown, an adoption worker, received the Tigger Award for extraordinary commitment to children, finding adoptive families for older hard-to-place children. The award is named for the never-give-up Winnie the Pooh character.


Three small congregations close


Declining membership is a major reason for three Synod congregations-Corinth in Wythe County, Furnace Hill in Smyth County and Rejoice, Chesapeake-to close.

            A celebration service to recognize faithful members of Corinth and their gifts will be held on July 17 at 2 p.m. The communion service will be followed by a time of refreshments and fellowship, according to Ellen Schaack, chair of the Celebration Committee. She is seeking "special memories and pictures." The congregation was organized in 1892 in the Black Lick section of western Wythe County. Membership has dropped to six people.

            Furnace Hill, formed in 1921, was served for many years by "Mountain Missionary" Pastor Kenneth Killinger until only one member remained. The church is located about two miles south of Marion.

            Rejoice, Chesapeake, started as a mission in 1998, has been served by Pastor "Cece" Mills. Eleven members voted to close. A celebration will be held there on May 14 at 1 p.m.



Valley churches send school supplies to Costa Rica 

     by Pastor Patti Covington


            God moves in mysterious ways! The story of how we became aware of an educational outreach to the children and women of Costa Rica is long and complicated. The congregations of St. Paul and St.Peter's, Shenandoah, and St. Luke, Stanley, became aware of a need and decided to reach out to our sisters and brothers on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

            Members of the congregations contributed enough school supplies to fill four large and heavy suitcases. One of the pastors who was going on a family vacation in Costa Rica delivered the supplies and they were received with great joy by the children and their teachers.

            This outreach came through the Abriendo Mentes (Opening Minds) community-based literacy project. Its mission is "to offer enhanced educational opportunities in rural areas of Costa Rica, where access to learning materials, resources and continuing education are scarce."

            A video of the presentation of the gifts to the children is on Youtube:


            More information on the project is on the website of Point Break Surf:

            www:pointbreaksurf/site/outreach. These sites were the conduit through which the Holy Spirit worked to make this project possible.

Vietnam War historian to speak at Roanoke College


            Dr. George Herring, an authority on the Vietnam War and a 1957 graduate of Roanoke College, will be the commencement speaker at the college on Saturday, May 7.

            Herring, of Lexington, Ky., has taught at Ohio University and the University of Kentucky and has been acting director of the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

            He and David and Susan Goode of Norfolk will receive honorary degrees. Goode is former chairman of Norfolk Southern Corp. and formerly of Roanoke. Susan Goode, his wife, helped create the Virginia Symphony Partners in Education program. Their gifts established the Goode-Pasfield Center for Learning and Teaching at the college's Fintel Library.

            College Dean of the Chapel Paul Henrickson will be the baccalaureate speaker on Friday, May 6, at 4:30 p.m. 

Easter baskets donated

St. John's baskets 

St. John's, Winchester- Members of the Children's Church gather the Easter baskets made by the congregation for donation to the local CCAP charity. In its fifth consecutive year of making baskets, this year's collection of 44 by St. John's is its largest to date. 

 And, speaking of dates, the congregation is celebrating its 215th Anniversary this year!




Editor:  George Kegley   
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