Virginia Synod Logo New


                                                                                                                       August, 2013       
                         The Virginia 
                "Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921."
Vol 1, Issue 1

Tim Cywinski works
to meet human needs
Cywinski helps volleyball players.

            Tim Cywinski's passion for service, meeting human needs and understanding the causes of social inequity led to his selection as a winner in the youth category of  the Lutheran Family Services Heart and Hands Gold Service Award. He's a member of Our Saviour, Warrenton, and a rising senior at Roanoke College.

            Cywinski said his first service experience came at the age of 14 when he joined a trip to Hurley in Buchanan County, to help local people restore and upgrade their homes. "For the first time I understood what poverty meant and that it could span generations," he said. "I wanted to be a person who could give a little hope." He later took three more mission trips.

            For five years, he organized a 30-hour famine at Our Saviour so that participants could better understand hunger. At Roanoke College, as philanthropy chair of his fraternity, he helped with a fund-raiser for PUSH America, a non-profit that holds summer camps for children with disabilities. "Supporting people with disabilities is important to me," he said. His grandmother was blind.

            Cywinski gave speeches to generate interest in the Synod's youth-to-youth projects, supervised the Synod Youth Podcast and participated in the Malaria Campaign. He was president of the Lutheran Youth Organization in the Synod.

            A political science major, he added a second major in international studies. "When it comes to service, you need to know how the world works to have an impact beyond our borders," he said.
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
B'burg bus hauls meals
Calling all Ecumenical Groups
Pastor serves as fire department chaplain
Faith in Action:...Mission training
Motorcycle riders, Mennonites visit Gladesboro.
Drebes is chaplain at Episcopal camp.
Lynchburg youth in Germany
May was May-laria Month
A prayer for the homeless.
Power in the Spirit was full of joy
Three interns serving in Highlands
Pastor James Daley arrested
Poverty increases 40 percent
Children learn about neighbors
Prayer retreat
VCIPP works with coalitions.
LFS bikers raise $3,367
"Bold Women" are celebrated.
Mission growth conference
Quick Links


Lutherans in the news


            Judge Charles Poston, First, Norfolk, will serve on the Reference and Counsel Committee and Nancy Reed, St. Mark, Luray on the Task Force for the Justice at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly which opens in Pittsburgh on Aug. 12.

            The congregation of St. Stephen, Williamsburg, voted to begin the process of calling a second pastor, according to Pastor Andy Ballentine.

            At Trinity Ecumenical Parish, Smith Mountain Lake, Pastor Gary Scheidt said the Parish Council has appointed a Transition Team to plan for his retirement. He did not give a retirement date but he said he hopes to have the plan and the date for the congregation annual meeting Dec. 1. The team is meeting with officials of the Synod, Episcopal Diocese and Presbyterian Presbytery to prepare for the retirement. Scheidt is a Presbyterian minister and he serves with Pastor Philip Bouknight of the Virginia Synod.

            Brent Hege, former member of St. Mark, Charlottesville, received the Young Alumni Achievement Award, Career, from Gettysburg College. He's an instructor of philosophy and religion and director of the Summer Religion Institute at Butler University. Pastor Sandy Wisco, St. Mark, is offering a training series on healthy visitation for the benefit of the one visiting and the one being visited. She calls it "a ministry of presence, Christ's presence, and can be so much more than a social exchange."

            Three members of St. Stephen, Williamsburg, have been recognized. Dr. June Henderson was honored for volunteering at the Fan Free Clinic since 2009. Dr. Heidi Flatin received a teaching award for outstanding contribution and commitment to pediatric education. Paul Reier received an award for outstanding wildfire prevention service.

            Laura Scardina, St. Andrew, Portsmouth,  received a scholarship from Old Dominion University and several academic excellence awards.

            The Lion's Roar newsletter of St. Mark, Yorktown, reported that Cleaning for a Reason provides free house-cleaning once a month for four months for women who are undergoing chemotherapy. Information is available at  A doctor must fax a note confirming the treatment. The nationwide organization will have a participating maid service in that zip code area arrange for the service.

            Lakeside, Littleton, N.C., is celebrating 10 years of food deliveries to people in need. More than 70 members have delivered food on Saturdays and Tuesdays and every 5th Friday. Also, Virginia Lang of Pine Tree Pottery has made a communion set for the church.

           On Hebron Heritage Sunday, July 21, at Hebron, Madison, visitors from the Germanna Foundation Reunion worshiped, heard a history talk and had music and exhibits. The visitors are descendants of the original 1717 founders of Hebron. The congregation has started a Loaves and Fishes Ministry, working with the Boys and Girls Club of Madison to distribute supplemental food for weekend meals for children. Funds for this new ministry came from an award given by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans to recognize excellence in fund-raising for a spaghetti supper. 

Blacksburg bus hauls thousands of summer meals


Backpack bus
Micah's Mobile Backpack Bus is ready to deliver food in Blacksburg

            At St.Michael, Blacksburg, the Micah's Mobile Backpack Bus is traveling around the community delivering weekend meals in a ministry which has provided thousands of meals to children.  In July, 3,294 meals and 549 backpacks were delivered, exceeding a goal.

            In the first two months of summer, 5,616 meals and 936 backpacks were delivered. William Allen drives the bus and Betty Falta and Olivia Hodge distribute food.

            Fran Shepherd coordinates a partnership with Price's Fork Elementary School, whose  faculty and staff share summer reading books from the bus. A Spanish-speaking volunteer from the Language and Cultural Institute at Virginia Tech talked to families who speak Spanish.

            Volunteers from a cooperative community garden shared such produce as almost 80 pounds of blueberries, carrots, beans, cucumbers and squash.  Micah's Backpack program collected 400 fruit chews in June and a goal of 450 cans of chicken noodle soup was set for July.


Calling all Ecumenical Groups    

     by Pastor Kate Costa, St. Luke's, Culpeper


The Virginia Council of Churches is seeking information on locally meeting ecumenical and interfaith groups.  This information will help to get a snapshot of the interdenominational and interfaith work that is being done across the state. It will also help the council to have better communication and to share the resources of the Virginia Council of Churches that are of benefit to local groups.

If you know of a locally meeting ministerial group, interdenominational prayer group, LARCUM (Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, United Methodist) group, clergy circle, or other ecumenical group, please share any information you have. 

            The Virginia Council of Churches also invites you to mark your calendar for its annual meeting on November 6-7. It will be an opportunity for learning, networking and experiencing the work of the Spirit in the midst of many churches.


Pastor serves as fire department chaplain
     by Rev. Jonathan Boynton, 
     North Mountain Parish, Toms Brook, Strasburg
Boynton at fire truck
Chaplain Boynton on duty


A fireman told me recently that when he came out of a burning building carrying an injured person, the first thing he could see as he came out of the smoke was a green helmet.

 Earlier this year I joined the Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department.   When we selected uniform parts it was thought wise for the chaplain to wear a different colored helmet than the rest of the firefighters so that it could be easily spotted. 

            I often wear my clerical collar when I am present in my community as a symbol of the office of the pastor.  When people see the collar they typically associate that person as a representative of God.  Much like when you see a police officer in uniform you associate it with one who is there to help keep society safe.  I wear a green helmet to fire scenes as the chaplain for the department. 

            I saw this as an opportunity to connect my faith with daily living, and connect the Christian community with the service community.  As I serve the North Mountain Parish, I have quickly come to realize that the parish extends far beyond those who walk in the doors of the three congregations.  The primary goal for the chaplain is to be present for the firefighters and their families.  The chaplain also offers support for the victims at the scene of tragedies. 

            Firefighters and their families anxiously await the pager to sound without knowing if they will be running into a burning building, responding to a vehicle wreck, or another incident. The firefighters see very traumatic events and they and their families are left to cope with the stress associated with trauma.

 In our world where tragedies seem to happen far too often, this is a field where we as Lutheran Christians can share the peace offered through Christ. 


Faith in Action: Mission training

results in new outreach to community 

     by Libby Lipscomb Boyer, Apostles, Gloucester


             The Church Council of Apostles Lutheran Church in Gloucester,  has completed the first offering of a new "mission school" development workshop, which they are calling Faith inAction. The purpose of the program is to help define the mission of the congregation in the community.

            This three-session program (Awareness, Direction, Adventure) utilizes the content of the New Visions Leadership for Mission Training, developed by Dr. Peter Steinke (author of the Healthy Congregations program). Council president Linda Hodges and Education ministry team director Libby Boyer attended the leadership training, conducted by Dr. Steinke and Rev. Paul J. Blom at Grace, Waynesboro in April. Participants were encouraged to take the materials back to their congregations and lead additional workshops.

            The Apostles leaders modified the materials from the Waynesboro workshop to be more specific to their congregation. Church participants were required to read assigned chapters in  Steinke's book, A Door Set Open prior to each session.  In their workshops, they watched the companion video, "To Make A Difference," and engaged in a number of small group activities.

            Some of these activities were:

  • Learning techniques to deal with congregational conflict
  • Looking at their spiritual gifts
  • Writing a press release focusing on different age groups
  • Learning how to write a congregational mission statement
  • Looking at current programs and how they reflect the mission statement of the congregation
  • Brainstorming mission possibilities
  • Choosing a mission project  

As a result of personally attending the training, Libby Boyer took the initiative to begin a Kindermusik program (called Lifesong-For-Kids) in the church as an outreach to families in the community with young children. This initiative addresses an important issue being faced by the congregation (lack of young families) and it also uses the educational and musical talent of members in the church (there are five talented teacher-musicians already signed up to volunteer).  garden logo

            The second mission project, selected by the church council, is called God's Garden. This project involves having members use church property to grow vegetables for the local food pantry. This ministry is accessible to all members regardless of age. People can even contribute produce from their home gardens if they are unable to work in the church garden.

            The participants in the mission school training sessions were enthusiastic about the program. It will be offered again in the fall as a one, two, or three session option. The hope is to ultimately have all members of the congregation take part in at least one of the sessions.


Motorcycle riders, Mennonites visit Gladesboro

        Gladesboro motor cycle  

            Two diverse groups---Carroll County Christian Motorcycle Club and the Island Creek Mennonite Church---worshiped with the Gladesboro congregation in rural Caroll County in June.

            "We could hear them coming before they came into view," said interim Pastor Joe Shumate, who rode over from his Wythe County home on his own motorcycle. Fifteen cycles, many carrying a co-rider, pulled up at the church and stopped for a picture by the church sign.

            The visiting riders "were truly welcomed and during the exchange of  peace, every member of the church extended to each of them the Peace of the Lord," Shumate said.  Most joined in holy communion. After worship, they enjoyed a light lunch and fellowship in the social hall. "They parted amid a mighty roar and hand-waving. They were so welcomed that a number of them spoke of coming back to Gladesboro on another trip.

            On another Sunday, 35 Mennonites arrived before church school. Their ministers presented a brief history of their church. During worship, the entire group gave a song service. They sang, as is their custom, without musical accompaniment, using only  a pitch pipe to start each song. The harmony was outstanding and their music was greatly appreciated by the congregation.

            The Mennonite church dates back to Menno Simons in the 16th century. Members oppose taking an oath, infant baptism, military service and holding public office. They are Christian in their faith and and their lifestyle is plain dress, plain living and showing love for others. They have more than one minister for each congregation and these ministers have no advanced theological education. They have a school extending through grade 12.

            Shumate said the Mennonites were persecuted by Lutherans during the Reformation, primarily for their condemnation of infant baptism  "This was a part of our confession at the beginning of worship and there was healing in hearing the absolution in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," he said.

            The two congregations gathered in the Social Hall for a potluck lunch and fellowship after the service. "This was a small step in the process of getting to know our neighbors better and to have a greater respect for their traditions and customs," Shumate said.

Lutheran Drebes is chaplain at Episcopal camp

     by Emily Cherry


(A blog from the Shrine Mont summer camps of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in Shenandoah County tells of a new project for Pastor David Drebes of Prince of Peace, Basye.)

Drebes at work


What started as a chance meeting in a parking lot resulted in a new chaplain for Shrine Mont Camp. Pastor David Drebes of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, just up the road from Shrine Mont in Basye, first met Bishop Ted Gulick when the bishop was searching for a cell phone signal in the Prince of Peace parking lot. The two got to talking and before too long got to thinking about a natural partnership between the young pastor and the nearby Shrine Mont Camps.

Each session of Shrine Mont Camps has a chaplain who leads the group in prayer and reflection every day at the camp session. More often than not, that chaplain is an Episcopalian. But with his local community connection-coupled with the fact that the Episcopal Church is in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church-David made a good fit for St. George's Session II (10-11-year-olds).

David is a graduate of an ecumenical seminary (he earned his master of divinity at Princeton University) and he has a good number of Episcopal parishioners in his own congregation. So his biggest learning curve wasn't the Episcopal part, but rather learning about the unique traits of Shrine Mont camps. "I'm enjoying getting an understanding of the traditions for Shrine Mont," most notably the Shouting Prayer, David said. He served as a camp counselor at a Lutheran camp before, so it's not all new territory.

During Chaplain's Time, David spends time with the 90 or so kids surrounding the theme of St. George's Camp: The Body of Christ. He focuses on story-telling to connect abstract images to concrete ideas. "In general, I like just letting them ask their questions."

For Shrine Mont Camps, it's an added plus that Davis is a part of the local community. He's served at the nearby Prince of Peace for three years. "What's really exciting is that he's a pastor from the area," said Paris Ball, director of camps. "It's great to see our camp programs building connections with the local community."

David agrees. "My parishioners were really happy that I'm serving up here,"he said. Shrine Mont "holds a special place in the hearts of this community.

Lynchburg, Bedford youth

bond with hosts in Germany


Youth in Germany
Senior youth from Holy Trinity with host youth at Luther Church in Holzminden, Germany
(Photo courtesy of Taglicher Anzeiger)

The Senior Youth Group from Holy Trinity, Lynchburg--- including four youth from the Bedford Lutheran Mission--- returned July 10 from a 17--day Luther Heritage Tour to Germany and Austria. It was a packed itinerary for the 26 youth and four chaperones as the group celebrated the 25th anniversary of Holy Trinity's sister congregation partnership with the Luther Church in Holzminden, Germany.

 "The German host families and youth, who had never met us before, gave us hugs, handshakes, and were openly caring," said Susan Williams, director of youth and campus ministries at Holy Trinity. "Being witness to their immediate acceptance of us was a highlight of my trip. Our partnership and history had been established over 25 years, but the bond for our group began at that moment of welcome," she continued. A festival worship service, special presentations, and a congregational meal were among the highlights of the anniversary observance. 

The youth from both congregations traveled together to visit several historic cloisters, Martin Luther historical sites in Wittenberg (Castle Church, Luther House, City Church) and Eisenach (Wartburg Castle). In addition, they visited Halle because of its connection to Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the patriarch of Lutheranism in North America; and Salzburg, Austria, where they learned more about the expulsion of Lutherans and Protestants there in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Other highlights of the tour were excursions in the Solling and Harz Mountains; a tour of the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg; Frederick the Great's palaces and gardens in Potsdam; Berlin's Holocaust Memorial, Berlin Wall Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, and German Reichstag; the Documentation Center at the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nürnberg; and the Bavarian Alps, including a trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain. Along the way, there were a number of opportunities to discuss and process the experiences of the trip, put them in historical and theological context, and consider how people of faith can make our world a better place today and in the future.

Reflecting on the trip, Holy Trinity youth Kim Fleck remarked, "I benefitted by experiencing the different culture, food, and scenery. It was made more memorable by all of the new friends I made." Sam Fedeler, another youth participant, added, "I met new people from a completely different culture that I quickly grew to know and like, and that was a great experience." These friendships will be renewed next summer when the Luther Church youth visit Holy Trinity. 

May was May-laria Month 


At Gloria Dei, Hampton, May was declared "May-laria Month".  The confirmation class of 7th & 8th graders took on as a service project the Malaria campaign of the Virginia Synod.

 Each Sunday congregants were "bitten" by mosquitoes and then given the opportunity to go to the clinic to buy a cure and/or a bed net to prevent future infection.  During the month they raised $3,500.69.  That total includes $1500.00 in matching funds from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans as well as a generous gift of $500.00 from the JOY (Just Older Youth) luncheon group. 

Gloria Dei Conf students
Confirmation class with mosquitoes

          Not only did the class learn about malaria, but they also had the opportunity to interact with members of the congregation as they "bit" them with stick-on mosquitoes.  A great experience for all.

            (Through July $130,000 had been contributed to the Malaria campaign in the Synod.)




A prayer for the homeless

      by Pastor Joanna Stallings for the Daily Bread

      Luther Memorial, Blackburg


As many of you know, I was in Asheville last week.  I was there with an assortment of cycling friends to do a charity ride and relax.  It was marvelous to catch up with everyone (during the weekend there were 11 of us).  I got to meet the youngest set of twins who were born seven weeks ago, reconnect with someone I haven't seen since she moved from the area five years ago, and revel in the relationships that have been built around biking, running, and swimming.  The visit to the Folk Art Center, the food, and the bike rides were pretty good too!  

These women are my traveling troupe. They are widows, married for years, new mothers, divorcees, and young singles who are strong, thoughtful, adventuresome, and above all caring women.  We are intertwined in each other's lives when there is a crisis, a celebration, we trade training tips, or a cup of tea. We look after each other.  I am truly blessed to know these women.

On one of our trips into downtown Asheville we saw a woman that I am still thinking about.  She was a nameless soul dressed in a dirty tank top and lime green capris. I don't know her-I will never see her again, but I wonder who looks after her? 

We were waiting for a light to change at a busy intersection.  She appeared out of nowhere; stumbling and lurching across the street.  The runway lines of the crosswalk couldn't guide her drunken gait.  She came to an abrupt stop when she fell in the gutter.  The tender flesh of her face took the brunt of the impact.  She was presumably trying to sit on the curb next to an equally stoned young man. Who was he; her son, a friend, a protector, or a pimp?   

What happened to this woman?  Was she a victim of circumstances that forced her on the streets? Did she make some bad choices-although blaming her isn't particularly helpful.  She is a vulnerable human being and a child of God.  Despite her disheveled behavior, who looks after her?

We could go back and forth about the reasons or the solutions.  Most likely no response will emerge, just frustration and maybe anger. However, this prayer has helped me to think about this encounter with a stranger who needs mercy.

Hear our prayer today for all women and men, boys and girls who are homeless this day.

For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations.

For those who can only find shelter for the night but must wander in the daytime.

For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.

For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.

For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are.

For those who are afraid and hopeless.

For those who have been betrayed by our social safety net.

For all these people, we pray that you will provide shelter, security and hope.

We pray for those of us with warm houses and comfortable beds

that we not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.

Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet

so that we may be empowered through word and deed,

and through the political means we have,

to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless.  Amen.

Power in the Spirit was full of joy


            Joy in words, music and art filled the eyes, ears and hearts of 170 Lutherans at the annual Power in the Spirit weekend at Roanoke College on July 11-13. "Joy is a way to live out your Christian faith," said the keynote speaker, the Rev. Rolf Jacobson, and his audience agreed enthusiastically.

            Joyful people cultivate generosity and gratitude, said Jacobson, an Old Testament professor at Luther Seminary in Minnesota, as he developed the conference theme, "Joy in the Journey." "Even if you're having a bummer day, you can be grateful." People want to be around people who at least act joyfully, he said. "Being joyful affects others."

            Jacobson rolled out in a wheelchair and explained how he lost his legs to cancer as a teenager yet he lives a happy, productive life. "Celebrate God's abundance...Learn to be joyful," he said.

            Bishop Richard Graham of the Metropolitan Washington Synod, Bible study leader, said, "To love God is to talk about God. We Lutherans are almost to the point that we love God so much that we're almost ready to say so." Speaking of the admonition in Matthew "to love your neighbor," he added, "lots of people have a problem in loving their neighbors because they don't know them."

Bethel Choir
Bethel, Winchester Ensemble

          A major feature of Power in the Spirit was the uplifting music by the worship ensemble of Bethel, Winchester, led by George Donovan Jr. Praise music brought out joyful clapping and participation by the audience.

            In a closing sermon, Pastor David Young of Bethel, Winchester, said, "Sometimes we have to work a little bit to find joy in a fractured world.(but) joy is to be found in the midst of brokenness...You will find joy wherever your journey takes you." Anna Havron, a seminary student at Bethel, said in a sermon that "God's love is going on all around us..Be mindful of God's you love your neighbor and yourself.".

            Michael Card, a prolific musician/composer from Tennessee, entertained in a popular Friday night program. An early morning foot-washing service was held. A commemorative mug was sold for the benefit of the Power Ambassador Fund to provide scholarships for pastors who have never attended Power in the Spirit. This was done in memory of Pastor Chip Gunsten, assistant to the bishop, who died in December.

            Concurrent sessions were held on a wide variety of topics---laughter, worship, prayer, Christian heresy, chalk talk, choral reading, church renewal, the Malaria Campaign, quilting, making communion bread and many others.

 Three interns serving in Highlands


            A South Korean student and two Pennsylvania natives will serve as interns in the Synod for the coming year. All three are in the Highlands Conference.

            Tristan Shin, a native of Inchon, South Korea, and a fourth year student at Philadelphia Seminary, has started work at Holy Trinity, Wytheville. As he grew up, he lived in Toronto, Canada, and Brooklyn , N.Y.  He studied forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and worked as a case manager in housing for the homeless at Lutheran Social Services of New York. At seminary, Shin is working toward a master of arts in public theology and a master of divinity degree.

            Beth Hawks from Lancaster, Pa., a third-year student at Gettysburg Seminary, is serving at Rural Retreat Parish. Her goal is ordination and serving as a parish pastor. She anticipates help in growth as a future church leader through worship, serving the sacraments and studying God's word.

            Paul Tomkiel, a vicar at the Immanuel/Central Parish in Bluefield, W. Va., and Burkes Garden, discerned a call to ministry at a confirmation camp after his eighth grade year. A native of the Hazelton, Pa. area, he attended a National Youth Gathering and served on the maintenance staff at a Lutheran camp. He majored in religion and economics at Susquehanna University and married Megan in June. Tomkiel is in his third year at Gettysburg Seminary.

Pastor James Daley arrested, resigns


            Pastor James Daley of the Stoneyman Parish, Luray, has been arrested on criminal charges of misconduct with a child. On July 18, he resigned his call at Stoneyman Parish and from the ordained roster of the ELCA.

            "The Virginia Synod and our ELCA congregations do not tolerate inappropriate sexual behavior by a member of the clergy. We desire the safety and care of all children and are concerned about the child involved with these charges," said Bishop Jim Mauney.

            Daley, who was ordained in 1972, previously served at Bethlehem, Waynesboro, and Lebanon-St. Stephen Parish, Lebanon Church.

Poverty increases 40 percent in 21st century 


            Poverty has increased 40 percent in the last decade, said Dr. Keith Kilty, professor emeritus at Ohio University College of Social Work at a Roanoke conference, but the country is at a cusp 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty. The challenge is that "we can undo what we have done" or continue the war.

            Poverty is part of daily life, not just an economic issue, he said. Kilty directed the filming of a documentary, "Ain't I a person?" illustrating the many faces of poverty. He was the main speaker at a conference on "Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities," hosted by the Cabell Brand Center for Global Poverty and Resource Sustainability  Studies in Salem and the Shepherd Program at Washington and Lee University.

            The official poverty line is "far too low...You can't possibly break out of poverty with a minimum wage." The U.S. is the wealthiest nation and one of the most unequal, he said. Members of Congress "have no idea what life is like at the bottom." Kilty spoke of the "amazing gap" between the vastly wealthy people at the top and the poor at the bottom. He said the myth that the poor don't work was created by people who want to get elected.

            Poverty can be eradicated, he said, "but we need to bring about the spirit of 'we can do it.'" Kilty supports grassroots efforts, "sharing what we have with others...We have to open doors more. We are closing the doors of opportunity for young people."

            When asked about the role of churches, he said. "We need to work in our own community...We need to focus on local and state government... We have to become less individualistic."

            Dr. Mimi Abramovitz, a social policy professor at the Hunter School of Social Work in New York City, said poverty "has fallen off the public policy agenda. Our job is to make it more visible. Women have the highest poverty rate as they struggle for economic security, she said. Since 1963, the wage gender gap has closed at the rate of ½ cent per year "but it will take another 45 years for women to have equal pay."

            A W&L University student told of her study of the elderly. She said 12.5 percent of the elderly live in poverty and 10 million need daily health care. Half of those who are in assisted living facilities suffer some dementia, she said.

            Robert Humphrey of TAP, a community action agency, said that of recent job growth of 11,000, some 8,500 work in service jobs paying less than $1 an hour.

Children learn about neighbors around the world


Thirty children sang "Together, Together, Kids coming together!" to open each morning's session of Vacation Bible School at Reformation, Newport News the week of July 15.

In "Everywhere Fun Fair," children learned how being part of Jesus' resurrection family makes us neighbors in a special way to people around the world and in our own families. Neighbors are friendly, giving, bold, forgiving and welcoming.


Jerry Plassman worked as Telly Ticket

           The children who attended are Tyler Anderson, Lauren Finnegan, Shaine Henderson, Robert Knight, Drake Parker, Madison Pride, Austin Williamson, Alayna Davidson, Carson Janke, Knzi Knight,  Walker Lehmann, Ryan MacMullen, Laney Parker, Chase Wison, Cameron Wright, Daniel Arana, Vann Brock, Aniya Evans, Nathan Jennings, Tara Morris, Dominik Richard, Kayla Collins, Kiarra Collins, Jaclyn Jackson, Michael Koutsigiannis, Khvanigton McMullen, Quinterius McMullen, Christopher Olive-Stalling, Mason Shaw and Grace Spielberger.

            Jerry Plassman served as overall coordinator and doubled as "Telly Ticket." VBS volunteers were Signe Whiteside, Becky Gunderlach, Ann Horton, Judith Amdal, Hal Harter, Katie Coyle, Linda Lamma, Bryanna Cloud, Kahlia Cooks, Emily Stoll, Dorothea Cloud-Gary, Joyce Gunderlach and Randy Chapman and his magic bounce house, plus Reformation Child Care teachers Tina, Cindy, Stephanie, Delores and Mimi.

Two-day retreat focuses on prayer

     by Pastor Dave Gunderlach 


Reformation prayer retreat
Prayer group (l-r) Carmen and Christine Fragapane, Dorothea Cloud-Gary, Jerry Plassman


Eight members of the Prayer Group of Reformation, Newport News traveled to Richmond on June 28-29 for a prayer retreat at Richmond Hill Retreat Center. The Prayer Group meets monthly at the church and decided earlier this year to get away for a day to enhance its focus on prayer.

In the retreat, members participated in the community "Rhythm of Life" as well as our own group prayer and study. We took turns leading prayer and making presentations on the privilege of prayer, a conversation on Centering Prayer, and the relationship of prayer to the Eucharist.

            Members of the Prayer Group who attended are Jerry Plassman, Carolyn Jackson, Dorothea Cloud-Gary, Joyce Gunderlach, Cindy Watson, Pastor Dave Gunderlach, and Carmen and Christine Fragapane. At the conclusion of the retreat, several members commented that we should plan a similar retreat next year.

VCIPP works with 

coalitions to help people in need 

viccp logo  

            Marco Grimaldi, president of the Interfaith Center for Public Policy, gave a brief overview of his organization's ecumenical work "serving people in need" at a small gathering at St. Mark's, Roanoke, on July 25.

            VICPP is trying to pull together consumer voices for health care to educate Virginians about the importance of health reform, especially Medicaid expansion. Grimaldi said his organization is working with AARP, American Lung Association and the Virginia Poverty Law Center. If  Medicaid expansion were approved in Virginia, health insurance would be provided to more than 420,000 low-income people who are uninsured.

            He said VICPP works with a coalition of "people who care" about gun violence. At least 500 people carried automatic weapons to the state capitol in Richmond on Gun Day, "very intimidating...We ought to be able to show them that there are more of us than of them," Grimaldi said.

            VICPP helps the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights "to welcome immigrant neighbors." The Commonwealth Institute has estimated an economic impact of $700 billion by immigrants and refugees in the state over 10 years.

            Through its Virginia Power & Light program, VICPP has a goal of helping a church save 10 percent in energy costs over 10 years, he said.

            Working on poverty and hunger alleviation, VICPP supports the national Half in Ten Campaign, seeking to reduce the number of poor and hungry people by half in 10 years.  And the organization is a partner with the Virginia Organizing Project on lobbying for Medicaid and its "representing real people, not hospitals."

            The ELCA supports VICPP but Grimaldi said the Virginia Synod is not represented on its ecumenical board at present.

            He asked for interest in starting a Roanoke VICPP chapter. An active New River Valley chapter in Blacksburg-Christiansburg is the only chapter in western Virginia.

LFS bikers raise $3,367 


LFS bikers in Iowa
Ethan and Ray Ratke at Fort Madison, Iowa

Two Virginia bikers pedaled more than 400 miles across Iowa last week to raise $3,367.80 for living expenses of foster children who are going to college. Ray Ratke, vice president for programs of Lutheran Family Services, his son, Ethan and two friends made the ride.

            "It was a long, hard, fantastic week," Ray Ratke said, as they finished the ride at Fort Madison, Iowa. The funds, raised from online donations, will be used for expenses rarely covered by grants. LFS offers foster and adoption care, among many services.

"Bold Women" are celebrated


            Julie Swanson, chief executive of Lutheran Family Services, talked about "bold women of the Virginia Synod who have acted on their faith by making a difference in the world" in a keynote speech on the theme, "Rejoice with Bold Women" at the annual convention of Virginia Synodical Women's Organization at Roanoke College, July 19-21.

            A love offering of $1,787 was given to A Common Thread, a program which teaches women who are victims of domestic violence how to weave for therapy. The women also collected hundreds of school supplies for Lutheran Family Services. In a new statewide service project, the women plan to make 1,000 pillow case dresses to be donated to Little Dresses for Africa, a non-profit organization.

Risse Snelgrove (right), re-elected president of the Virginia Synodical Women's Organization, with Patti Evans, representative of the Women of the ELCA

         Risse Snellgrove, Bethel, Winchester, was elected to a second two-year term as president. In a  president's message on the theme, "Who are we?" she said Women of the Synod and the ELCA are "all about using our hands, feet and mouths to do what we are called to do." She thanked those attending for being bold women and encouraged them to continue to do God's work on behalf of the Women of the ELCA.

            Entertainment was provided by Anita Gutschick from Maryland, who gave monologues of women in the Bible. Pastor Katheen Miko, a chaplain at Brandon Oaks, was chaplain for worship services and Bible study. Patti Austin of Decatur, Ga., was the representative of Women of the ELCA.

            Awareness sessions were held throughout the weekend. Pastor Miko led a Bible study; Pastor Terri Sternberg, Trinity, Pulaski, led a session on spiritual writing; women from Lakeside, Littleton, N.C., demonstrated how to make pillow case dresses; Patti Austin led a study of a book on change; Mary Lou Blevins of Lutheran Family Services talked about "Self-Care for the Caregiver" and Vicki Thorpe of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans spoke on "Real Money Talk for Women."

            Delegates elected to a triennial convention of Women of the ELCA at Charlotte, N.C., in July 2014 are Pastor CeCe Mills, St. Timothy, Norfolk; Annette Griffith, Our Saviour, Virginia Beach, and Jana Snelgrove, Bethel, Winchester. Peggy Baseler, Toms Brook, was elected treasurer, to succeed Anna Barb, St. Paul, Edinburg.

            Four board members elected  are Crystel Williams, Our Saviour, Richmond; Connie Saunders, Immanuel, Bluefield, W. Va.; Iris Wils and Anna Babrb.

            Three women aged 18 to 40 attended on Young Women Guest Program scholarships, a priority of the convention.

Synod pastors examine mission growth

     by Judy Tavela, St. Timothy, Vinton 


            In late July, 19 Virginia Synod pastors had the privilege of attending a Missional Leaders Training Conference in Baltimore, Md., thanks to a generous grant from the Synod. It is obvious that the Synod takes mission seriously and a new mission team has been organized.

            Once there, it seemed as if the hand of the late Chip Gunsten was leading us through the conference. The conference was for developers of new mission starts and for redevelopers of small dying congregations. The training was led by the staff of the congregational and synodical mission office from ELCA offices in Chicago and other well-informed speakers from throughout the nation.

            Topics ranged from natural church growth models to knowing the emerging context of our communities. Some interesting statistics were the exponential growth of the Hispanic Latino population throughout America and the number of  people who have smart phones to stay connected through social media. It seems that more people in the world have smart phones than those who have toothbrushes. (There must be a teaching moment in this somewhere.)

We hope the conference will lead to redevelopment strategies and dialogues among Synod pastors and congregations. 





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