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                                                                                             January 2014
                         The Virginia 
Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921.

ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

to speak at Power in the Spirit


ELCA Bishop
Elizabeth Eaton

           ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will be the keynote speaker on the theme, "Changed by the Good News!" at Power in the Spirit on the Roanoke College campus July 10-14. 

          Formerly bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, Eaton was installed on Oct. 5 to begin a six-year term. The first woman to head the ELCA, she's a native of Cleveland and a graduate of the College of Wooster in Ohio and Harvard Divinity School. Her husband is an Episcopal priest and they have two adult daughters.

        Rolf Jacobson is making a return appearance as music director for the summer event, according to Elizabeth Smythe, Power in the Spirit coordinator.

In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
VLH offices moving
Malaria Emphasis planned
Disaster shower/laundry unit
Day of Service
No room at the inn
Cookies for inmates
Pastoral leadership groups meet
140 years marked
Ready for Jesus dinner
Adoption, best gift ever
Autistic children benefitted
Questions raised in Ritter case


Lutherans in the news



           Pastor Gary Scheidt, first called pastor of Trinity Ecumenical Parish at Smith Mountain Lake 20 years ago, has announced that he will retire on Nov. 1. The Lutheran-Episcopal-Presbyterian parish has started planning for a transition. Pastor Philip Bouknight is the co-pastor at Trinity.

            Pastor Stephen Bohannon has resigned at Christ the King, Richmond, to accept a call to St. Michael, Virginia Beach.

            Pastor Marissa Harris Krey, daughter of Sue Harris, Christ, Roanoke, and the late Pastor Richard Harris, Roanoke, was ordained and installed on Nov. 24 after accepting a call to the Lutheran Church of God's Love, Newtown, Pa., in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod. Retired Assistant to the Bishop Jean Bozeman, Norfolk, was a sponsor.

            Retired Pastor John Herman, an adjunct pastor at Philadelphia Seminary, will lead the spring ACTS course on the theme, "Practicing the faith: equipping disciples to be the church today," on Saturday, March 8, and Saturday, April 5, from 9 a.m. to 4p.m, live at Grace, Waynesboro, and by Skype at First, Norfolk.  The course will focus on nurturing adults in faith practices and life commitments of the baptismal covenant in their journey to be disciples of Jesus, living in the world for God's purpose.

            Dr. Paul Hinlicky, Lutheran studies professor at Roanoke College and a prolific author, has written a book on Lutheran dogma, "Beloved Community: Critical Dogmatics after Christendom."

            Kim Bain, a licensed practical nurse and unit manager at Brandon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Roanoke, was a finalist in the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Award Contest for Virginia. She was in the Long-Term Care/Geriatric Nursing category.

            Members of St. Philip, Roanoke, were recognized in a front page story in The Roanoke Times for their Christmas Day dinner served to about 50 residents of two federal housing projects who were taken to the church for the feast.  In addition to the 30 members who served, "what's really important is that we sit and eat with one another," said Pastor Kelly Derrick.

            Our Saviour, Christiansburg, observed its 30th anniversary on Dec. 8 by dedicating a wooden, chancel cross installed above the altar. It was provided as a memorial to Malcolm McPherson. On Jan. 12, Our Saviour congregation will celebrate Jesus' baptism with a party and brunch. Members will sit at a table corresponding with the month of their baptism.

            St. Andrew, Portsmouth, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a sermon by Bishop Jim Mauney at a homecoming service and luncheon on Nov. 10. Among those participating were Curtis Black, a seminarian, and Ellen Greene, diaconal candidate.

            Christ, Radford, was host to a live-stream simulcast of an ecumenical Christmas service connecting with Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem, Judea, and Washington National Cathedral.

In the newsletter of St. Paul's, Jerome Parish, Edinburg, Jeff Dellinger, vice chair of council, said the council recommends that the congregation "prayerfully consider joining with another rural ELCA congregation or congregations in order to best continue the ministry and mission of St. Paul's." Dellinger said St. Paul's is one of six rural churches in the Central Valley Conference, between Harrisonburg and Winchester, who are seeking a pastor.

            For Wednesday evening Advent services at St. Mark, Yorktown, the Coptics were invited to speak about conditions of churches in Egypt, Susette Goff talked about her trip to Ecuador and the sponsored ministry there and Teresa Haskin told of St. Mark's ministry at an orphanage in China. The congregation plans to stuff 70 to 75 pillows for open-heart surgery patients during February, Heart Month. Youtherans at St. Mark are working in a number of projects to raise funds for a pilgrimage to Spain in June.

            Hebron Women/ELCA have planned a workshop on Jan. 11 for a Virginia Synodical Women's Outreach project, Little Dresses for Africa. Hebron women hope to make as many pillowcase dresses as possible to help the synodical organization reach a goal of sending 1,000 dresses for African children.

At Gloria Dei Lutheran School, Hampton, a cookie sale earned over $11,700 to enhance the school's programs and benefit the children.

Ebenezer, Marion, has scheduled a Faith 5, six-week program as "a way to enrich your family and yourself and help everyone draw closer to the Lord on a daily basis." The five components are "share, read, talk, pray and bless."

First, Norfolk, held a Nighttime of Our Souls worship service on Dec. 11 offering "an opportunity to support one another when loved ones are absent and to remember family and friends who have died."

Sandy Peterkin said the people who were served meals at St. Stephen, Williamsburg, during the Community of Faith Mission for the Williamsburg Homeless,  "expressed so much gratitude...showing thankfulness for the simplest of things-a second serving of meatloaf, a refill of iced tea, homemade cookies. I am humbled at how little it takes to bring a smile and overwhelming gratitude."


VLH offices to move to Brandon Point


           Virginia Lutheran Homes has bought an office building adjacent to its Brandon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and its executive and financial staff will move there in February or March, according to Heather Neff, chief executive officer. The building, named Brandon Point, was purchased from Clear Channel.

           The offices on Sheraton Drive, off Virginia 419 and near Int. 81, will be sold, she said. VLH operations have been directed from that location for more than 10 years.

           Neff said the new location is a move toward a visible campus. The 50,000-square-foot  building will have rental space. The large Brandon Oaks Retirement Center is directly across Lee Highway from Brandon Point. Construction continues on a major rehabilitation center addition.

 Three special days of Malaria Emphasis planned 

            by Eric Carlson


Bishop Jim Mauney has designated three days of special emphasis at worship in 2014 on the global fight against Malaria.  As you plan your worship services and ministries around these dates, please encourage prayerful giving to help the church provide life-saving health care, including mosquito nets, medicine and education to treat malaria in Africa:

An African boy can benefit       from a mosquito net

1.  January 26th -- Matthew 4:12-23 - In addition to the "net" theme of the fishermen, we emphasize the call of Jesus in our lives to bring hope to our sisters and brothers in Africa.  Moms and Dads who were sitting in the darkness of malaria, but through their churches are now seeing a ray of hope in overcoming this deadly disease -- those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light has dawned.

           2.  March 30th -- 1 Samuel 16:1-13 - Our cup overflows here in America, yet 150 years ago we were in a desperate struggle of violence in Civil War and at the same time battling the dark scourge of malaria right here in Virginia.  With our children now safe from malaria, we ask "are these all the children - or do some still suffer and die from this disease which we know how to overcome?" We must not sit down until we can help these children in Africa, so we take the horn of medicine and mosquito nets and education and we anoint the children in Africa and pray the Spirit of the LORD - the light of the world --to come mightily into the lives of those families who suffer.

            3.  April 27th -- World Malaria Sunday - As ambassadors of Christ we pray that the Spirit will use our gifts to help make known to others the path of life that we enjoy - that others may have life in the name of Christ Jesus.  As ambassadors we will not abandon our sisters and brothers in Africa to the agony of death from malaria, but will raise them to new hope!  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

            The ELCA has raised over $10 million of our $15 million goal to help fight malaria.  Virginia Lutherans have given $170,000 thus far.  Thanks to the following congregations who have exceeded the 2013 goal of giving one mosquito net ($10) for every baptized member in the congregation:

  • St. Timothy Norfolk
  • Resurrection, Fredericksburg
  • Trinity, Keezletown
  • Good Shepherd, Front Royal
  • Living Water, Kilmarnock
  • Salem, Mount Sidney
  • St. Paul's, Hampton
  • Trinity, Stephens City


Disaster Shower/Laundry Unit

helped Hurricane Sandy recovery

LFSVA Board member, the Rev. Jim Larsen (top row, far right) with church volunteers.


The Lutheran Family Services of Virginia Disaster Shower and Laundry Unit that was delivered to Long Branch, N.J., in June to help in Hurricane Sandy recovery is a key part in enabling volunteers at two churches help the New Jersey coast rebuild.

Amy Pennenga, the disaster recovery coordinator with the Lutheran Disaster Relief affiliate in New Jersey, writes, "I  would like to thank you and all of the others involved in sending us that shower trailer. It has been an immense help to us! At that 'double' host site consisting of two churches partnering together, they have hosted 125 volunteers in about three months. This would not have been possible without the shower trailer. We will be having volunteer groups in throughout the winter months, so it will continue to be used."

            Volunteers from Apostles Lutheran Church in Gloucester spent some time at the Long Branch site and can attest to how essential it is to have shower and laundry facilities! The Rev. Jim Larsen hopes to return with another team to continue assisting the recovery effort. For information on disaster planning for a congregation, visit The unit was assembled by Virginia Lutheran Men in Mission for Lutheran Family Services.


Day of Service planned for Jan. 20


Congregations across the Synod are planning projects for In the Name of Love: a Day of Service and Sharing God's Love, sponsored by the Synod and Lutheran Partners in Mission for Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 20.

 Some are planning to work with other area congregations on several simple projects, such as a food drive, preparing cookies for first responders and assembling health kits.

In the Blacksburg-Christiansburg area, Luther Memorial members plan to join with St. Michael, Our Saviour, Shiloh and New Mt. Zion congregations to repair a house which hosts families from New River Family Shelter, assembling towels, combs and other items for health kits for the church in Malawi, conducting a Souper Bowl of Caring food drive and providing cookies for first responders.


No room at the inn 


Asia and East Indies nativity set

A display of more than 80 international nativity sets at Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, highlighted the need for adequate and affordable housing in Lynchburg through the "no room at the inn" aspect of the Christmas story.

            Coordinated by Holy Trinity member Marjorie Huiner, the varied nativity sets were loaned  by members and friends of the congregation and were grouped by geographical regions: Africa, Asia and East Indies, Central and South America, Europe, North America and the Middle East. Huiner noted that the sets varied in monetary value, but each was priceless in its own way. Some were handcrafted, some were small presents from grandchildren and others were elaborate sets collected at art fairs or while traveling to or living in foreign countries. Each set had a unique history, but they all told the same story: the birth of our Savior in a stable because there was "no room at the inn."

           "It's a great opportunity for the public to see the different nativities and the way different nations perceive Christ's birth," church member Faye Hesson said in a feature article by Holy Trinity member Casey Gillis in the Lynchburg News and Advance. Some sets were very simple while others included villagers, animals and other figures. One Spanish set portrayed the three kings arriving on a camel, an elephant, and a white horse, and a figure bringing paella as a gift for the Christ Child.

            Free-will gifts from visitors to the December 7 display, plus a grant from the local Thrivent chapter, resulted in a contribution of almost $1,700 to Greater Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity. Holy Trinity has had a 25-year partnership with the local Habitat chapter and has constructed several houses during that time. The congregation is the lead sponsor for Lynchburg Habitat's 2013 "Home for the Holidays" house which will be dedicated in early January, but this contribution was above and beyond what the congregation had pledged for the house it is currently building.

Norfolk inmates received 7,000 homemade cookies


Tidewater women prepare cookies.

More than 7,000 homemade cookies were delivered to 1,500 inmates of the Virginia Beach Correctional Center through the efforts and baking talents of Lutheran Women of the Tidewater.

The cookies were packed at Our Saviour Lutheran Church by 32 volunteers on Dec. 11.  The air was filled with the scent of hundreds of pounds of baked butter and sugar mixed with dashes of vanilla, ginger, cinnamon and mint. Swift, efficient hands bagged five or six cookies for each recipient, while other volunteers tied them with bows and Christmas tags.

During the year, an estimated 60 people representing six area Lutheran Tidewater churches bake, create gift tags, or participate in bagging and delivering the baked goods.  This year, so many cookies were donated, hundreds of extras were sent to the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center in Virginia Beach.

The group also collects contributions for several other Christmas outreach programs: gifts for youth in the Norfolk Juvenile Detention Center, gifts for Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital patients, and cards that allow inmates of the Hampton Roads Regional jail to send messages home to their families.

Participating Tidewater churches were four from ELCA congregations: Our Saviour, Emmanuel, St. Timothy and St. Andrew.  Two, Trinity and Prince of Peace, were from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Two pastoral leadership groups are meeting

    by Mindy S. Reynolds, synodical leader for healthy leadership and wellness


            Last summer the synod resumed its formation of Pastoral Leadership Consulting Groups, from years past, with two groups currently meeting. One in northern Shenandoah Valley is facilitated by Dr. J. Paul Balas, retired Gettysburg Seminary professor, whose wife is Pastor Shelby DePriest of Faith, Fort Valley. A second group in southwest Virginia is led by retired Pastor James Bangle, Marion, who has a second graduate degree in social work.

The groups meet for eight sessions, approximately once a month for three hours. They are designed to deepen participants' theological and behavioral understanding of, and capacity for, leadership as it pertains to the pastoral office.  The theological foundation for these groups is rooted in Luther's theological tradition.  Their predominant theoretical and practical basis in the social sciences is Bowen Family Systems Theory, with particular attention being paid to the work of Edwin H. Friedman and his integration of Bowen theory and practice into the life and work of clergy and congregations.

One of the leadership goals of our synod is to have every pastor--those new to the ministry and those with years of experience in ministry--participate in a basic consulting group. Completion of First Call Theological Education is a prerequisite.

 St. John's, Winchester 

marks140 years in one church

Pastor Sonya Williams-Giersch 
holds Book of Worship


           St. John's, Winchester, completed a blanket drive for a local shelter and held a bake sale collection over $600 for the ELCA Malaria Campaign on Nov. 24.

            Music CDs featuring songs written and recorded by Richard Giersch, husband of Pastor Sonya Williams-Giersch, contributed significantly. Donations of $5 gift cards and canned goods for charity and an annual Christmas gift fund to benefit a family in need were given an outpouring of support set in motion by celebration of Holy Communion on the exact date 140 years after the Communion service in the church building.

            A Book of Worship presented for the pulpit in November 1873 was on display. The book, with an embroidered leather cover and gilded edges, is the 1869 edition adopted by the United Synod of the South from an original worship book composed by the General Synod.

            An historical display about Nov. 24, 1873 featured an early photo of the church, portraits of Pastor E. H. Jones and guest pastor, the Rev. D. M. Gilbert, images of two lead carpenters and of a couple from the congregation who recorded the events. Also shown was a print of the deed to the land for the church's new location, adjacent to the land, given previously by the same family, for the site of two earlier churches.


Getting ready for Jesus dinner


Loriana Stoeckl (right) served 
Janice Bunting (left), Cindy Watson 
and Tom Kellen at dinne

At Reformation, Newport News, those members who live alone became the "guests" at dinner on December 7.

          The Advent season usually finds Reformation involved in some sort of outreach ministry, but this year the "outreach" became an "inreach," as they invited members who live alone to be the congregation's guests at dinner. Many of the "guests" are usually among those doing the various ministries, but this time the table was turned as 13 faithful servants simply came, sat down and ate, but did nothing else!

           The midday dinner was preceded by a morning gathering, "Getting Ready for Jesus," where they sang, prayed, heard an Advent story and made crafts for church decoration.


Adoption: the best gift EVER!

        by Carole Todd


"My best present I ever received was getting somewhere to live and stay and feel like that's my home. I've never gotten to stay and be somewhere for a long time and now I have a family that loves me and cares about me. That is my best present."

Those  words were written by a 16-year-old who will soon be adopted with the help of Lutheran Family Services. In more good adoption news, the agency recently became part of a grant awarded by the state of Virginia to increase the well-being of adoptive families in the Piedmont area. The grant will use Training for Adoption Competency, a best-practice, cutting-edge approach to developing a clinical workforce to support adoptive families.

Help us spread the word about the need for foster and adoptive parents. Find out more by calling 1.800.359.3834 or email visit our web site at


Bag & Basket Bingo benefits autistic children


              More than 225 people attended the second annual Lutheran Family Services Bag & Basket Bingo Fund-Raiser held in Winchester in November that benefited the agency's Essential Pieces program. The sell-out crowd helped raise almost $7,000, which will provide videos, sensory supplies, activities, sensory friendly parties, iPad's, and games for the children's social groups held during the parent program. 

             Many community businesses supported the event and the dozens of businesses and community members gave in-kind donations for one-of-a-kind prize bags and baskets. Now in its sixth year, Essential Pieces is a place where parents and professionals come together to help families with children on the autism spectrum. Essential Pieces means that families do not face a devastating diagnosis alone, and that they will hear about the best our area has to offer in resources, supports and services. 

              For more information about Essential Pieces in the northern Shenandoah Valley or Tidewater Region, call 1.800.359.3834 or email  


Questions raised in Ritter case


          The December issue of The Virginia Lutheran reported the Nov. 19 death of former professor, retired Pastor Guy A. "Tex" Ritter Jr.  Since that report, questions have been raised concerning the outcome of the criminal charges that had been filed against the former pastor before his death.  

            In 2012, Ritter was indicted by a Botetourt County grand jury on six counts of taking indecent liberties with children. These incidents of child abuse allegedly occurred between 1958 and 1976. It is the Synod's understanding that those charges did not get resolved due to Ritter's inability to stand trial. Anyone with additional questions or concerns is invited to contact the Synod office.





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