December, 2012
                 The Virginia


Florio rappels 25
stories for Special Olympics


florio rappels
Florio rappelling  (Photo by Devin Brown)

            They pushed Pastor Lou Florio of Messiah, Mechanicsville, over the edge of a 25-story building in Richmond and he raised $6,000 for Special Olympics Virginia.

             Florio, a former Alexandria policeman who stays "pretty active" physically, rappelled from the top of the SunTrust building. He once climbed walls and completed parachute training in the Army.

            He challenged his parishioners and friends to "push their pastor over the edge" to help an effort which raised over $120,000 for the Special Olympics program of sports training and competition for over 11,000 adults and children with intellectual disabilities in the state. Florio is trying to recruit other pastors to rappel the 400-foot structure next year. He volunteers as a chaplain in a sheriff's office and works in a local program helping people with intellectual disabilities.

            Florio was influenced by an aunt who had an intellectual disability. Family and friends urged his grandmother to place her daughter in an institution but she stayed at home with a full and happy life under loving care, he said.

            Florio has supported Special Olympics through its annual Law Enforcement Torch Run and he serves as a volunteer chaplain in the Hanover County sheriff's office.

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In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
A different Thanksgiving
College students talk about faith and vocation
Christ, Fredericksburg, will finish renovation.
Focusing on the child in the manger
Consumer expectations drop
Pastor Stephen McGinnis died
Charlottesville Mission Team.
VICPP Day for All People Day set
Warrenton church receives Thrivent grant.
Steele honored as pastor emeritus
Quick Links


Lutherans in the news

             Roanoke College students and faculty have shipped 10 boxes of clothing to a church relief organization in New Jersey for victims of  Hurricane Sandy. Also, a check for $2,500 was sent from collection at the Lessons and Carols concert of the college choir to the New York Synod Relief Fund.

            Pastor Viktoria Parvin, new interim pastor at Peace, Charlottesville, is a native of Budapest, Hungary, once behind the Iron Curtain. She studied at the University of Budapest, earned a master's degree from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and served an Illinois church for 10 years. Also, Christ congregation is preparing for its annual Christmas Miracle Offering in which members have a goal of reducing their commercial spending by half to contribute to local charities.

            Pastor John McCandlish, former interim pastor at Glade Creek,Blue Ridge, has accepted a call and has been installed as pastor there.

            Pastor Cathy Mims, Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach, has been named vice pastor of St. Andrew, Portsmouth. Pastor Joel Neubauer of St. Andrew, accepted a call to Grace, Chesapeake.

Travis Wilson, formerly of St. Stephen, Williamsburg, was ordained at St. James Lutheran, Jackson, Mich.

            Grace and Glory, Palmyra, has started a Thomas Place program in which members meet to "wrestle with their doubts and questions without fear of rejection or quizzical looks." The first topic for discussion was "How can a good God allow suffering?" They wear "Ask Me About Thomas Place" buttons and consider questions about God, faith, the Bible or anything they struggle with, according to Pastor Kenneth Albright. In November, Presbyterian Pastor Gordon Lindsey was scheduled to talk about "Jonah: the Petulant Prophet." More than 20 youth and adults from Grace and Glory have registered for a Haiti Mission Trip next July.

            First, Norfolk, will join the annual stuffing of 1,000 Christmas gift sacks for foreign merchant seamen visiting the port during the holidays. The congregation's lunch ministry, which provides food for over 3,000 of the homeless and working poor in the Norfolk area, is seeking volunteer cooks to prepare special holiday meals.

            Shenandoah Valley Ministries is providing 82 children with Luke's Backpacks each weekend and the numbers are growing. Middle school students have been added to the program.Under a Rising Star program at Emanuel, Woodstock, last summer, children were served breakfast, spent the morning in many activities, received a hot lunch and took Luke's Backpacks home. A goal is to find other churches to join the program. A Turkey Trot race to benefit Luke's Backpack was held at Massanutten Military Academy Nov. 17.

            Marco Grimaldo, president of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, will talk about current advocacy issues and how the faith community can act on them at Our Saviour, Richmond, on Jan. 27.

Trinity Ecumenical Parish, Moneta, has voted to make a special focus next year on the "desperate need around the world for clean and sustainable water." Addressing water issues is an effective means to combat hunger, poverty and disease, according to Ecumeni News, the parish newsletter. Each of the three denominations in the parish-Lutheran, Presbyterian and Episcopal-will be urged to support funding for their water-related projects. Lutherans are supporting the 100 Wells Challenge. Also, Trinity is joining Lutheran Family Services to offer Caregiver Support U, a series of classes designed to help caregivers improve their own well-being, starting Feb. 4.

            Retired Pastor Dwayne Westermann, president of the Godparents for Tanzania scholarship program in Tanzania, spoke at an Advent Gathering on the work of his organization and its partnership with the Global Mission Team at Grace, Winchester. Food from Tanzania and India was served.

            Seven Lutheran churches are expected to join in an annual Cookie Pack for the Virginia Beach jail at Our Saviour, Virginia Beach. They need 7,750 cookies for 1,550 inmates.

            Lakeside Community Chorale will present "Majesty of Heaven," a cantata, at Lakeside Lutheran on Dec. 16.

            Lessons and Carols, a Christmas by Candlelight service at St. Mark's Roanoke, will be led by Steve Lawrence, organist/choir director, on Dec. 16.

            Prince of Peace, Basye, will sponsor a Santa for Seniors drive providing Christmas gifts for needy seniors in the Shenandoah Valley. An Empty Stocking project with a Ruritan club provides Christmas gifts for children who may not receive anything.

            Reformation, Newport Newsis inserting a Prayer of the Month in its Sunday folder and the congregation is invited to read the prayer aloud. A prayer group meets on the third Saturday morning of each month.


A different Thanksgiving

     by Pastor Fred Marcous, St. Luke, Richmond


            It was Thanksgiving, 1966. I was still in the Franciscan Friars and was not able to get home to celebrate the day. Out of the goodness of his heart, fellow Friar Roderick DeGruccio invited me to his parents' house in Brooklyn to spend the day with his family.

            The house was packed with people: aunts, uncles, cousins, married brothers and sisters with their children They took me in and all but adopted me; toasted to my good health with a fine Chianti wine while I tried hard to remember names and faces.

            The dining room had a table that sat 18 people with various card tables set up for the children. In the corner was a small statue of Saint Anthony of Padua-the patron saint of lost causes whose intercession was often evoked by Roderick's mother as she fretted through the teen years of her children

            It was all very wonderful-but it was very different Thanksgiving day. Menu: tortellini and spinach soup, antipasto, trays of bubbling lasagna, pan-fried veal smothered in marinara sauce, cannolis, tall plates of Italian cookies, followed by homemade blackberry wine. Nary a roasted turkey in sight. Different yes, but wonderful too because the food brought everyone together with a deep thought of prayer before we ate and the telling of family stories all through dinner. The variety of foods was like servants supporting the primary reason for the gathering.

            Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to have been able to attend many different forms of worship: a Quaker meeting waiting for the Holy Spirit to arrive; high mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral; on my feet clapping and singing at Second Baptist Church in Harlem; folk music worship at a beach, Taize worship in the round and much more. Each one of these worship gatherings had a different menu in the way they were structured. Nevertheless, the primary reason for each gathering was always evident; we were there to bring our praise to God as the only valid ones. Martin Luther described such traditions as adiaphra-important, yes, but secondary to the primary purpose.

            When it comes to Thanksgiving Day dinner, I was brought up to think in terms of the New England tradition of roast turkey-after all, was that not one of the items on the menu of the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving? Well, yes it was. But then-who knows what might have happened if they had experienced Mrs. Di Gricco's superb Italian cooking.

(This article appeared in the St. Luke Messenger.)


College students talk about faith and vocation


(seated from left) Katie Larribee, reporter George Kegley, Bridget Gautieri; (standing from left) Griffin Pivarunas, Pastor Dave Delaney, Stephanie Wickett, Chaplain Paul Henrickson, Alex Berryman and Ryan Hughes.

            Six Roanoke College students talked frankly about their calling to serve others and the church at a Discernment Group  gathering with Chaplain Paul Henrickson. Every Thursday at noon, they consider how their calling intersects their faith and talk about their hopes and dreams and anything that's serious or fun over sandwiches at the Colket Student Center.

            Ryan Hughes, a senior theology major, has his eye on graduate school where he will study denominations, faith, dogma and systematic theology. His grandfather was a pastor. Alex Berryman, a sophomore whose hobby is working on cars, is thinking of working for a non-profit. A family loss caused him "to evaluate life and the direction I'm heading...I want to get an education to benefit someone else, not myself."

            Stephanie Wickett, a senior, has already landed a part-time job as youth ministry at College Lutheran, Salem. After several years of work experience, she wants to attend seminary and work in urban and inner city ministry. As the daughter of Pastor Stan Wickett, who once served at Mt. Tabor, Augusta County, she said, "Church was always a part of my life. I felt called, specifically what God was calling me for."

Katie Larribee, a sophomore, is considering the Peace Corps or working to help people find an opportunity to live the best life. She isn't rejecting community service. Griffin Pivarunas, a freshman, may be a missionary after mission trips to Namibia, El Salvador, Haiti and Slovakia. "I felt most alive" on the missions, he added. Bridget Gautieri, also a freshman, may study toward ordination at a seminary. "That's what God wants me to do. When I'm giving a message, it's incredible. I feel I'm at my best."

            Hughes and Larribee have grown up, worshiping at Lutheran and Catholic churches, finding "not much difference." Larribee laughingly described herself as "a confused Catholic." She turned toward Lutheran worship after attending evensong services.

            Henrickson and Pastor Dave Delaney, synod director of youth and young adult ministry, ask leading questions and encourage conversation at the discernment gatherings. "What is your passion, when are you most alive, at your best?" Henrickson asked.



Christ, Fredericksburg, will finish renovation


            The congregation of Christ, Fredericksburg, has voted to finish the $1.4-million renovation of its church. Work has been completed on making the sanctuary accessible and bringing the old sanctuary back to its original appearance, using it as a welcome hall for gatherings and meetings, according to Pastor Richard Carbaugh.

            In the final part of the renovation, the old parish house will be removed and it will be replaced with a two-story building, containing offices, pre-school rooms and a food pantry. The old narthex and an outside patio for gathering are part of the plan. Carbaugh said a significant goal of the renovation is to make the church more welcoming, accessible and connected. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.


Focusing on the child in the manger

     by Pastor Kenneth Ruppar


            Here we go again-the last month of the year. It seems as if we barely started the new year and here we are at the end! As I get older, the year moves along faster than when I was a child. Then it seems time almost stood still. Maybe you notice this, too.

            As I approach Advent and Christmas, I need the perspective of a child concerning more than time. More than any other season, this is when the perspective of young children can help us most appreciate the story we celebrate, the story of Christmas.

            After all, when you think about it, Christmas is a story about a child, our Lord Jesus Christ. This special child comes to show God's love for us by his life, death and Resurrection. With the excitement of  the shepherd and the joy of the angels, we can come together at the manger. It is there, that we first meet the Lord. He is the same Lord we will meet again much later at the hill called Golgotha. He is the same Lord we will seek in the garden on Easter morning.

            With all the unrest and terror, war, natural disasters and confusion in our world today, maybe focusing more clearly on the child in the manger will help us regain a helpful perspective. The child brings light into dark places and hope into times of despair and confusion.

            Join us in our Advent worship as we prepare each week for our Christmas celebration. It is my hope and prayer that our worship together will give us a renewed joy for life and a deeper sense of amazement at how God works in our world. Stand at the manger and know that the child born there is the one who walks with us now to give us hope in the midst of difficult and tragic world events. He is the one who gives us hope to enter into the joy of God's eternal kingdom one day.

 (This article was in the Good Tidings newsletter at Our Saviour, Richmond.)


College poll: 

Consumer expectations drop 9 percent


            A Virginia Index of Consumer Sentiment, measured by a Roanoke College poll, is 81, just under a national number, significantly higher than a year ago but down from last February, driven by a substantial reduction in expectations of the future.

            Household finances and business conditions are improved from a year ago, pushing an Index of Current Conditions up 4 points from February, a good sign for holiday retail sales. The nation is reportedly more positive about current personal finances and business conditions.

            Consumer worries about the impending fiscal cliff and economic uncertainty could be behind a decline of 9 percent in an Index of Consumer Expectations since February. National expectations also fell in November.

            Sentiments varied across the state. People in the Shenandoah Valley were positive about today and the future as consumer expectations rose 15 percent since February, boosted by new jobs announced by the McKesson Corp., Navy Federal and McKee Foods. Although Northern Virginia indexes were higher than the average for the past year, they showed drastic reductions to one of the lowest regions in the state.

            Inflation is expected at 2.2 percent for the next year and the long-term outlook is 3.6 percent. Across the state, 76 percent believe prices will increase in the next 5-10 years. The quarterly poll interviewed 651 Virginia residents.


 Pastor Stephen McGinnis died


            Pastor Stephen McGinnis, who served as interim pastor at Holy Communion, Portsmouth, for an extended period, has died. He was a Naval officer and he served two Florida churches. The funeral was at First, Norfolk, on November 6.

Charlottesville Mission Team 

helps coalfield county

     by Bill Roberts


cville mission team
Mission team from two Charlottesville churches.

Fifteen people from Peace and St. Mark, Charlottesville, traveled as a Southwest Virginia Mission Team to the Cumberland Plateau region of Appalachia in Dickenson County, a coalfield county, Oct. 28 through Nov 3, taking clothing and food and working in housing construction and repairs while serving in care ministry.  This was the first joint trip-first for St. Mark and third for Peace..

            In response to Peace and St. Mark prayers, support and generosity, the mission team took 689 pairs of children's socks/underwear, 28 children's shirts, sweaters, trousers, light-weight jackets, and shoes, a game, 22 "Feed the Hungry" food boxes, four medium-size boxes of canned goods, 14 bags of candy for children for Halloween and Christmas, and an electric kitchen range, donated by a friend of Peace.

            Over one-third of the housing in Dickenson County is mobile homes or trailers, much less sturdy than traditional housing and requiring more upkeep. Many elderly people live in aging wooden frame houses. There seems to be little or no money to repair or rebuild many deteriorated and burned houses and structures.

            We worked out of the Binns-Counts Community Center there. The name, Binns-Counts, honors founder Episcopal Deaconess Margaret Binns, and her early ministry there, along with Kathleen Counts, one of the original members of what evolved as the Church of the People who worked to bring indoor plumbing and water to residents of the county. Kathleen Counts was a coal miner who was killed in a mine explosion.

The center receives no state or federal funding in its serving and caring for residents of Dickenson County as well as some in nearby Russell and Wise counties, and it desperately needs whatever help can be provided because of high poverty and unemployment levels.

            The SW VA Mission Team's work in housing construction and repairs involves reworking an existing bathroom to replace a tub with a handicap shower, moving a vanity and the light over it and completely rewiring and changing the plumbing. We did the needed wiring and plumbing for a kitchen, which the house did not previously have. Plumbing for a sink and wiring for outlets and an electric range were completed, along with installation of the sink and cabinets to make a complete kitchen for the man living there. Other work was completed in installing closet shelves and closet rods in another rebuilt home. The original home had been lost to a lightning strike and fire.

dilapidated house
Dilapidated house in Dickenson County.

         The SW VA Mission Team had opportunities each day of serving in care ministry, with pairs going out and visiting, sitting and talking and listening to and praying with the folks in their homes. Those undergoing particular difficulties or having considerable needs or experiencing difficult medical conditions were given prayer shawls on behalf of Peace and St. Mark.

            Our SW VA Mission Team went there trying to share God's love and trying to be a blessing. In trying to make a difference in the lives there that have known and still know so much poverty, despair and hopelessness.  However, what many, if not all, of us found in our caring and witnessing in Christ were joys and blessings being returned multifold to us from that strong faith community we experienced there.

            It is our hope that these mission efforts in Southwest Virginia will grow to include other congregations within the Virginia Synod.  If your congregation would like to obtain

additional information about either the mission work we have been doing in Dickenson County or the Binns-Counts Community Center, please contact our team leader Barbara Price ( or access the web address

VICPP Day for All People

set for Jan. 22 in Richmond

          viccp logo

            The annual Day for All People, Advocating for Social Justice, of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at Richmond Convention Center, 403 North 3rd Street, Richmond.

            Marco Grimaldo, chief executive officer/president of the center, will open the day at 8:30 a.m., followed by an opening address on the context of the 2013 General Assembly and breakout sessions for beginners, intermediates and experts (those who have attended before).

            After these introductions, the groups will visit legislators, attend committee meetings and tour the General Assembly Building and the Capitol. After attending the opening of the House of Delegates or a Senate floor session, the group will return to the Convention Center for lunch and a keynote address. The center has not announced who will give the opening and main addresses.

Warrenton church receives Thrivent bridge grant


            Our Saviour, Warrenton, is receiving a $5,000 Economic Bridge Grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, to be divided equally between Fauquier Family Shelter Services and People Helping People of Fauquier County, enabling both to continue their mission in the community.

            The family shelter, the only emergency shelter in the county, housed over 450 people last year. Opened as a nine-bed facility in 1988, the shelter has 52 beds, modern kitchen and dining area, washer/dryer facilities, library and reading room, group meeting area and staff office space. The Vint Hill Transitional Housing Program, started in 1991, provides 21 units for transitional and permanent low-income housing; 69 people live there now. With the loss of over $450,000 in state and federal funding, the shelter has made drastic budget cuts and increased fund-raising, while relying on grants, contributions and donations.

            People Helping People provides emergency financial assistance to Fauquier County residents undergoing hardship, such as family death, unemployment or health issues. Assistance is provided for utility bills to avoid disconnection of service and rent or mortgage payment to avoid eviction. The agency provides gas vouchers to clients who are looking for jobs. The organization does not receive any government funding, depending on donations from private citizens, local businesses, churches, grants and Piedmont United Way.

Duane Steele honored as pastor emeritus


Pastor Duane Steele

          Pastor Duane Steele, who has retired after serving 32 years at Gladesboro, Carroll County, was named pastor emeritus at a homecoming service in October. Now living in Arlington, Mass., Steele preached at the service, read the Braille wording on an emeritus plaque and gave a piano concert afterward.

          When he graduated from Gettysburg Seminary in 1978, the Gladesboro congregation did what no other Lutheran church had done. They called as their pastor a seminary graduate who was sightless from birth. Steele had graduated from Shenandoah Conservatory of Music and served as organist, choir director and piano tuner while playing and singing at night clubs in the Washington area.

          A faculty member at Gettysburg told Steele he probably would not be able to accomplish everything required to become a parish pastor but his response was, "I will do it" and he did.

          His long service at Gladesboro was unusual for a congregation where the average length of a pastorate was four years. He brought a sense of stability to the parish, said Pastor Joe Shumate, current interim pastor at Gladesboro.

          The parsonage was almost a mile from the church but Steele learned the road and walked unassisted to the church office. Local people would stop and give him a lift but he enjoyed the walk, regardless of weather or time of day. Members provided transportation for him to visit in homes, hospitals and meetings out of the area. Some helped with mail and office work and it became a strong joint ministry for the congregation and the community. Improvements were made to the church during his service.

          Steele was active in the Carroll County ministerial association, as a volunteer chaplain for the Blue Ridge Highlands Nursing Home, a board member for Laurel Meadows Nursing Home and he preached on the Protestant Hour radio program twice. He was a popular performer in concerts at youth events, churches, at fund-raisers and at local restaurants.

          In retirement, he fills in as organist and pulpit supply at Lutheran churches in the Boston area. He continues to work on behalf of the sightless, especially in development of worship materials in Braille. 




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