November, 2011
                 The Virginia


St. Peter's is making a difference

 hungry children

            With childhood hunger affecting one in four children in America, St. Peter's, Churchville, a small rural church, answered the call. St. Peter's created a program to fill the week-end food gap by supplying healthy meals and snacks to those students who rely on breakfast and lunch assistance provided by the schools.

            Named in honor of Martin Luther's wife, "Katie's Snacks" has embraced the idea of church as community. St. Peter's has recruited surrounding churches, civic organizations, businesses and individuals supplying food, money and labor. Serving 43% of the children that are eligible, Katie's Snacks is supplying 79 children at the local elementary school with food for the weekends.

            Their message to fellow Lutherans is that they can make a difference! If a congregation is interested in creating a similar program, contact Susan Vass c/o St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church, P.O Box 303, Churchville, VA 24421.

Members of St. Peter's, Churchville preparing "Katie's Snacks."
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In This Issue
Making a difference
Lutherans in the news
For the glory of God
Roanoke College gains
Siberia adventure
State employees may support chaplaincy
Ratke named to LFS
Contributions remembered
Religion important for Virginians
LFS creates new division
Caroline Furnace needs "push"
Covenant at LARCUM
Quick Links


Lutherans in the news



          Leymah Roberta Gbowee, a Lutheran Liberian leader who studied at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg in 2006-2007, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Gbowee, who organized a non-violent women's movement that ended a 14-year civil war in Liberia, received a scholarship from an international program of the ELCA for study in peace building at Eastern Mennonite.

            Bishop Jim Mauney will be the guest preacher for the annual meeting of the Virginia Council of Churches on Nov. 3 at Virginia Union University in Richmond. Mauney, a past president of the ecumenical council, will join the university choir in a chapel service at the university.

            Pastor Kenneth Ruppar of Our Saviour, Richmond, has been appointed vice pastor of St. Luke, Richmond, following the resignation of Pastor Dorothy Nimal.

            Sister Kim Szogi has started work as a parish deaconess intern at Holy Trinity, Wytheville. A graduate of Southern Seminary, she trained as a hospital chaplain in Columbia, S.C, and worked in her home congregation in Florence, S.C. Sister Kim said she will follow the Deaconess Community's mission statement, "proclaiming the Gospel through ministries of mercy and servant leadership." Her husband, Ariel Szogi, works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Florence.

            Aaron Garber is the new director of music ministry at Trinity Ecumenical Parish, Moneta. Garber, who recently completed 11 years as director of music at College, Salem, continues as conductor of the Chorus of the Blue Ridge in Salem and conductor of the Jefferson Choral Society in Lynchburg. He is a prolific composer of choral works. His wife, Melia, is organist and choir director at Virginia Heights Baptist Church in Roanoke.

            Pastor Chris Price, Epiphany, Richmond, will lead a tour of the Holy Land with the Center for Biblical Studies Jerusalem on April 15-28, 2012. Dr. Monte Luker, a professor at Southern Seminary and a Hebrew and archeology scholar, will be the guide. Persons interested in the trip may contact Price at 804-282-6066 or at

            At Grace, Winchester, the congregation approved expenditure of $493,500 for a steeple repair/restoration project, roof repairs to the sanctuary and for a capital reserve fund. This will be provided from cash holdings in the Cornelia Revell Trust Bequest. Also at Grace, Theresa "Te" Roberson has been named director of T.E.A.M. Grace, an after-school program. She follows Brooks Nanna as leader of the seven-year-old ministry.

            Susan Manion was honored at a reception marking her retirement as parish administrator of Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, after more than 17 years of service. Also at Holy Trinity, Tatjana Kovacevic from Germany was welcomed for three months of volunteer community outreach ministry at an early learning center and a family development center. She lives at Neuhaus im Solling, near Holzminden, Germany, where her mother is a Lutheran pastor.

            At Bethel, Winchester, George Donovan Jr., has started as director of music ministries. A Winchester native, he graduated from Southeastern University and has served at several churches, recently at Sunrise Church of the Brethren, Harrisonburg.

Bethel is planning a family mentoring ministry-helping a family and supporting them in  finding sustainable work-to start early next year. A Reformation Bowl, an afternoon touch football game matching youth and adults, was a Reformatioin Sunday feature at Bethel.

            At St. Mark's, Roanoke, Sandi D'Alessandro was one of only 80 artists selected for the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia exhibiton in Boulder, Colo. She received the Clebsch Family Award for Abstraction at the exhibition.

            Messiah, Mechanicsville, was one of three congregations which formed Mechanicsville Churches Emergency Functions which paid essential bills totaling more than $41,000, assisting 212 families in the past year.

            Lakeside Lutheran, Littleton, N.C.,   held a grand opening for an Equal Exchange Coffee Cart, a partnership between Lutheran World Relief and Equal Exchange.

            Pastor Lynn Bechdolt reported that she and her congregation, Holy Trinity, Martinsville, both observed their 60th birthday in August. She was born on Aug. 25, 1951 and the first worship service at Holy Trinity was held the next day at the Henry Hotel. Bishop Jim Mauney is scheduled to preach at Holy Trinity on Nov. 6, the anniversary Sunday.


For the glory of God

     by Bishop Jim Mauney


Bishop Mauney

On Reformation Sunday, the Synod staff completed its 2011 Conference Gatherings "For the Glory of God" in the Highlands Conference!  Youth and adults drove in to Ebenezer Lutheran in Marion from Bluefield, Wise, Wytheville, Bristol, Abingdon, Rural Retreat, Whitetop, Konnarock, Chilhowie and Bland.  Following a full fellowship hall of faith sharing at tables, the sanctuary was filled to the brim as a musical ensemble of piano, organ, several guitars, bass fiddle, recorder, and drums led the liturgy and hymns.

Over 1,000 youth and adults participated in the 11 gatherings through the year. Pastor Dave Delaney led singing with youth and wrote a curriculum for small groups. Pastor Chip Gunsten moved them into small groups and shared with youth about our college, Roanoke College, as a wonderful opportunity for consideration as a place for higher education. There was a small group for the youth leaders and adults who brought the youth at each gathering as well. The afternoon had youth consider how to live as ambassadors for Christ, living for the Glory of God.

            The highlight of the gatherings turned out to be the faith sharing at tables between youth and adults. Sometimes there were three youth and five adults; sometimes there were four youth and two adults. Once there was only one youth! Once there were six adults and two youth! But in every setting, the fellowship hall of a congregation was filled with tables as laughter would erupt from time to time and as the conversation would be quieter as youth with adults at the same table answered questions like:

            Who at your congregation seems to live for the Glory of God and why?

Who is a meaningful Bible character for you and why?

What is your favorite Bible story and why?

What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

What is your favorite part of the liturgy or your favorite worship service of the year and why?

What was the most significant thing that has happened to you in the life of the church?

What does it mean to be an Ambassador of Christ in your home? 

What does it mean to live for the Glory of God among your friends and neighbors?

Tell your table how much the Lord had done for you and the great mercy that has been shown to you.

            The fellowship hall at Mt. Calvary in Mt. Jackson could not have brought in one more chair as every table and possible space and corner were filled with adults and youth from Central Valley sharing the faith.

            The people of the Peninsula Conference heard a special Evening Prayer Service with combined choirs from St. Mark, Yorktown and Gloria Dei, Hampton.

            Youth and adults in the Northern Valley Conference were led in worship with an ensemble of piano, drums, violins, guitars, and singers.

           And while just about every one of the conferences had dozens of youth singing and meeting one another, the size of the group didn't matter. In the Page Conference we had six youth who were able to come. Pastor Dave, Pastor Chip, and I had the great joy of having two hours of getting to know them even more personally and treasuring their faith!

            I am grateful for over 150 pastors, youth leaders, and adults who accompanied the youth during the afternoon youth gatherings, who led small groups and who participated fully in every way. I want to thank our 11 deans for their participation and leadership in sharing the importance of our coming together across the synod. How important it was for our youth to see their pastors engaged in faith sharing and singing with them!

            I want to thank the 42 congregations that allowed the Synod staff to be present on a Sunday morning for preaching, teaching and sharing the good news that we get to live for the Glory of God!

            I give great thanks for the eleven HOST congregations who prepared for a long day of hospitality!!!  In every setting, the staff and pastors went to great lengths to make us feel welcome and to provide the best food and facilities for our gatherings! We are so appreciative of the musical leadership of their organists and music directors!!!

            I want to thank President Michael Maxey, Chaplain Paul Henrickson, and Roanoke College for being a partner with us as they too seek to fulfill their mission For the Glory of God!


Roanoke College gains

reported by President Maxey

 Roanoke College

 Roanoke College President Mike Maxey had an upbeat message for the school's Roanoke Valley alumni at a reception in October. Roanoke climbed 25 spots to No. 133 in the U.S. News & World Report ranking and it placed among the top 9 percent of colleges for a ranking in Princeton Review's Best 376 Colleges, he said.

            Maxey said a new 65,000-square-foot, residence hall will be a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building when it opens in August 2012.

            Roanoke had the 18th most beautiful campus in the Princeton rating and it was described as "among the nation's great schools for majors in business and finance, computer science and engineering and psychology."  In the U.S.News rating, Roanoke was commended for improvement in opinions of high school guidance counselors and warm reception of its new core curriculum.

            Maxey said the college now has a television broadcasting agreement with Valley Vision TV to air certain sporting events and a Tuesday Night Live athletics talk show. All Roanoke home games and the Tuesday Night Live schedule are available as webcasts at 

            The college also has announced that its Lucas Hall has received a silver rating as a certified LEED project. The structure, built in 1941, has had an extensive transformation, adding features that cut energy use and protect the environment.

            Some of the energy-saving components of Lucas Hall are high-efficiency fluorescent lamps, motion-activated faucets and light fixtures, dual flush toilets and a storm water treatment system that captures and removes rainwater runoff. Other features of the 18-month project are classrooms with retractable walls, televisions throughout the lobby, a high-tech media class space and a rooftop garden terrace. The building was expanded by 12,551 square feet.

            The college has a goal of building environmentally friendly buildings, said Larry Walker, manager of planning and projects for the school.


Traveling across Siberia, a "great adventure"

     by  Elizabeth Smythe, Ebenezer, Marion

Elizabeth Smythe is sitting at    the Euro-Asian Divide
at Yakaterinburg.


I have always been interested in Russian history, so when my brother, William, suggested that I join him and his wife on a trip across Siberia aboard the Trans-Siberian Railroad last summer, I jumped at the chance. William is fluent in the Russian language, so I knew I would be in good hands. We traveled 6000 miles (9288 kilometers) from Moscow to Vladivostok by train, with four stops: Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Irkutsk (Lake Baikal.)

            In Kazan, sometimes considered the 4th capital of Russia with over a million people, we visited the magnificent Kremlin, a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church, the Kul Sharif Mosque  rebuilt by the Saudi Arabian government and the Raifa Monastery, closed throughout Soviet times, but slowly refurbished by  the Orthodox Church.

            Yekaterinburg (population 1.3 million) where the last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks today is the site of a huge, glorious Orthodox Church, the Spas Na Krovi, a monastery and a memorial to the victims of Joseph Stalin's purges. Stalin was responsible for the deaths of more than 20 million of his own people in 1937-1938. Novosibirsk, ( population 4 million--3rd largest city in Russia), showcases a magnificent year-round  opera and repertory theater. .

            Irkutsk (population 550,000), on the Angara River draining from Lake Baikal, is  ready to celebrate its 350th anniversary. We saw a statue of Alexander III, the initiator of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, torn down by the Bolsheviks but recast and re-erected, and Lake Baikal, about 30 million years old.  The lake contains 20% of the world's fresh water and is just a bit smaller than all of our Great Lakes combined. We visited a museum housing two Nerpas, seals found nowhere else and a Buryat settlement of indigenous people where we had a blessing ceremony from a Shaman. .

            We arrived in Vladivostok (population 600.000 and Russia's largest port), a city  completely closed even to Russian citizens until the fall of the Soviet regime. We flew home after a great adventure full of wonderful, new, treasured memories.

One of the most interesting aspects was the state of religion. There was NO religion during Soviet times (1919-1991) when almost all churches were destroyed or turned into warehouses or recreation venues. (The Lutheran church in St. Petersburg was turned into a swimming pool.) However, a rebirth of religious activity came after the fall of the Soviet regime. Every village, town, and city showcases at least one beautiful new church, complete with shining domes and the Orthodox cross on top.

  I asked each of our guides about her faith story and got a wide range of responses. Vera is very devout-- faithful to the ritual of the church and extremely moved by icons. Veronica claimed to be religious, but seemed to be much more interested in the rules of her faith than in stories. Olga avoided responding. Katya "might" be interested in going to church, but she didn't really understand the faith concept and would probably rather not! Lena wanted to have faith but was very clear about her distrust of priests. .

            I reflected about where we might be as a country and as a church if we had had no church and no communion of believers for 70 years, a sobering and uncomfortable thought. And I came away with a more sincere and a more defined appreciation of our freedoms and our blessings and God's grace and our community of faith together. I thank

God for that.

State employees may support prison chaplaincy 


Chaplain Service Prison Ministry of Virginia, Inc. is the official agency that provides chaplains to Virginia's state prisons and juvenile correctional centers.  Virginia is unique in that its prison chaplains are not state employees.  They are not compensated by the state (i.e. no federal or state taxpayer monies are utilized) and they receive no state benefits such as health insurance or retirement.

The chaplains serve as prison pastors and religious program coordinators in 31 state adult prisons and at three state juvenile correctional centers.  The chaplains conduct worship services, teach, counsel and coordinate the many volunteers who assist in ministering to the male, female and youthful offenders incarcerated in the state prison system.

            The chaplains are supported by denominations, churches, foundations, and individuals, as well as by some of the profits from the Department of Corrections' Commissary Fund.

            Chaplain Service is a registered charity with the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC).  The CVC Code for Chaplain Service is 3002.  This presents a unique opportunity for state employees from all of the various state agencies to support prison ministry and to help change lives and ensure safer communities.  State employees are able to give a one-time donation to Chaplain Service or to give to the ministry throughout the year via payroll deduction.  This year's CVC Campaign goes from October 1st through November 30th.  State employees may contact their agency/facility Human Resources officer for additional information.

            Chaplains are essential to the Commonwealth of Virginia in that they ensure equal access to religious programming and services as required by the First Amendment and the federal RLUIPA (Religious Land Usage and Institutionalized Persons Act) law.

            Churches or individuals who would like to contribute to this ministry can obtain additional information by calling (804) 358-7650 or by visiting the organization's web site:  Promotional pamphlets, a promotional DVD and/or presenters are available for any church, group or organization upon request. 

Ratke named LFS programs vice president



            Ray Ratke, a former state special adviser for children's services, has been named vice president of programs for Lutheran Family Services. Based in Richmond, he will oversee adoption and foster care, community-based services, educational services for children with complex needs and programs for older adults and adults with disabilities.

            Working under former Gov. Tim Kaine and Gov. Bob McDonnell, Ratke led a multi-agency effort to develop a statewide practice model and expand services to help at-risk children and families stay together and be more successful. This program, the Children's Services System Transformation, resulted in a variety of positive outcomes for youth.

            Ratke also served seven years as chief deputy commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and as executive director of Hanover County Community Services Board and as director of its mental health and substance abuse services.

            At LFS, he will guide efforts to create permanency for children, expand services to families with children on the autism spectrum, increase educational and vocational opportunities for students in LFS schools and help merge developmental services for adults with disabilities into the agency's service mix. Julie Swanson, LFS president and CEO, said Ratke is a champion for the underserved and an advocate for those whose voices are not always heard.

Contributions of people

of African descent remembered


Sankofa mythical bird, symbol of "learning from the past."

            Sunday, Nov. 20, has been designated by the Virginia Synod African American Outreach Team as a day of remembrance for the contributions of people of African descent across the Synod.

            A memorial approving the recognition of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent was adopted at the Synod Assembly in June. The memorial acknowledged both the hardships and contributions by people of African descent around the world.

            The team encourages congregations to be in dialogue with one another in efforts to research and remember how these people have impacted them personally, locally, nationally and globally. The team said it hopes that congregations will spend several weeks discovering different places of impact.

            The team is providing a litany that will help to share all that the congregations have discovered. Another suggestion is to have Sankofa moments in worship for short remembrances of contributions of people of African descent.

 Sankofa is a concept from the Akan people of West Africa teaching that "we must go back to our roots in order to move forward." The symbol of Sankofa is a mythical bird  which flies forward while looking backward, with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth or taking an egg off its back.

The Synod team encourages congregations to be creative and its members are willing to help plan activities or suggest resources. Congregations may contact the Synod office to request assistance from the team.

This focus is not to exclude achievements of other peoples but to show how richly all lives are intertwined, the team said. As the ELCA continues to struggle to be more reflective of the communities it serves, this is an opportunity to celebrate what God has done through people of African descent to benefit all people, according to the team.


Roanoke College poll finds that

religion is important for Virginians


            Religion is an integral part of the lives of most Virginians and daily prayer and frequent attendance at services and reading scripture are common practices, according to a Roanoke College poll of 600 residents in early October. Also, the poll found that clergy are highly regarded, compared to other professions. The  poll has a margin of error of 4 percent.

            The poll found that 94 percent said they believe in God and 72 percent of the believers said they can have a relationship with God. A majority, 68 percent, are Protestants and 13 percent are Roman Catholic. Almost half, 42 percent, are Baptists, 17 percent are Methodist and 57 percent said they are evangelical or born again; 69 percent are official members of a church or house of worship.

            In the  poll, 78 percent said they believe their holy book (Bible for Christians, Torah for Jews and Koran for Muslims) is the word of God and 48 percent of them believe their holy book should be taken literally. Attendance at weekly or daily services was reported by 55 percent and daily prayer was reported by 80 percent.

            Religion is very important in the lives of 71 percent and 50 percent said their faith provides meaning in their lives all of the time; 23 percent said their religious beliefs are most influential in matters of government and public affairs and 41 percent said religion is the most important factor in determining questions of right and wrong.

            In the poll, 55 percent rated the honesty and ethical standards of clergy as high, compared with military officers, 54 percent, teachers with 48 percent, doctors with 46 percent and elected officials, only 7 percent. Only 22 percent said clergy scandals weakened their trust in religion and 66 percent said the scandals made no difference.

            A belief in life after death was reported by 80 percent; 87 percent believe in heaven and 79 percent believe in hell.

            In comparison with a similar national poll four years ago, Virginians were more likely to be Christian and born again/evangelical. For many of the questions, Virginians were about 15  percent higher on the "more religious" response.       

LFS is creating an adult disabilities division


             With the purchase of the Lamano Agency of Bedford, announced in August, Lutheran Family Services of Virginia will create a Developmental Services Division which will help adults with disabilities live fulfilling lives in their own community setting by providing group homes, day support, respite care, sponsored residential services and in-home support. Plans to expand these services to other areas of the state are under way.

            LFS is eager to for the Lamano staff to lead the way in providing services to adults with disabilities, said Julie Swanson, LFS president and CEO. She said her agency has long wanted to serve these adults and this purchase brings an experienced, skilled staff and the ability to expand these programs to areas not served.

            Daily operations of the Lamano Agency will not change as the two organizations blend. Swanson said the two agencies share the same goals, values and mission. LFS, based at Roanoke, offers foster care and adoption, education and community-based services, as well as services to older adults in five regions of the state.


Caroline Furnace needs "a healthy push"


            Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp & Retreat Center has reported a good year with visits by campers, youth and adult leaders from congregations and non-profits. "It's time to take a strong, growing ministry and give it a healthy push toward even greater heights," said Pastor Wayne Shelor, executive director, in a fund-raising letter.

            The camp has replaced roofs on two cabins, cleared a collection of dead trees, painted, screened, repaired and repurposed, Shelor said.

            Service fees cover a lot of costs, he said, but support is needed for ongoing upkeep and year-around operation.

            Running Caroline Furnace for a half-hour costs $25.23; for one hour, $50.46; for a day, $1,210.96; for a week, $8,476.72, and  for a month, $33,906.


Bishops to talk about

Covenant at LARCUM Conference 


            The annual LARCUM (Lutheran/Anglican/Roman Catholic/United Methodist) Conference will hear Bishop Jim Mauney and bishops of the other three bodies speak on their "personal joys, struggles and hopes for the 20 action points of the LARCUM Covenant" through presentations, panels and worship in Waynesboro, Dec. 2-3. The theme will be "Living into the LARCUM Covenant."

            Regional table discussions are planned to help form relationships and build networks for local ecumenical initiatives. The conference is to be centered on living out the intersections of common ministries in communities, instead of trying to work alone in individual parishes.

            The Bishops Forum on Saturday afternoon will enable rostered leaders and involved lay leaders to dialogue with the bishops and offer comments on hoped-for plans chosen for work together. This will be the result of meetings of the bishops, ecumenical staff and state LARCUM Committee members, held on Friday and Saturday morning. The bishops will also ask, "What are you committing to do as parishes in the community?"

            The Friday session will be at the Main Street United Methodist Church; Saturday morning at 8, St. John Episcopal Church, and Saturday, 9:45 a.m.-3 p.m., at Grace Lutheran in Waynesboro.

            Brochures and registration forms are available through rostered leaders or they can be sent from the Synod office or by contacting Pastor Eric Moehring, Synod ecumenical representative, at 804-266-5775, or at Early registration is requested. 




Editor:  George Kegley   
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