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


Christian formation to be

explored at Synod Assembly 




Bishop Jon Anderson of the Southwest Minnesota Synod, companion to Virginia Synod, will be the official ELCA representative for the annual Synod Assembly meeting at Roanoke College on May 30-June 1 under the theme, "Christian Formation for 2017 and Beyond." Gwen Arneson, vice president of the companion Minnesota Synod, also will participate.

            The theme will be presented by three speakers---Dr. Susan McArver of the Southern Seminary faculty, Dr. David Lose and Dr. David Root of the faculty of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. Breakout sessions are planned for Saturday afternoon and a service at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Roanoke on Saturday night.

In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Men working on their faith
Norge church helps start adult care center
President Toby Eleasar faces busy schedule
Outreach team plans training
Bansember writes about Prayers of the People
Upward trend in consumer sentiment
Building in El Salvador
Fill your spiritual tanks
Juniors will intersect poverty
Quilters at Christ the King
Synod finances improved
Mission trip to Charleston


Lutherans in the news



            Pastor Lauren Miller of Hope Lutheran, Farmington Hills, MI, has accepted a call to serve at Peace, Charlottesville, starting April 1. Originally from Pittsburgh, she is an alumna of Valpariso University and Gettysburg Seminary. She is active in the ELCA Lifelong Learning Partners network, served on the board of Lutheran camping ministries in Michigan and has been active in an interfaith association. Her husband, Terry, is an Episcopal priest who has served both Lutheran and Episcopal parishes. They have two children, Keira and Brendan.

            Judge Charles E.  Poston, Synod vice president and Norfolk Circuit Court judge since 1994, has retired and he will join a mediation firm. A member of First Lutheran, Norfolk, and a native of Greenville, S.C., he practiced law in the Hampton Roads area from 1974 to 1988 when he became judge of Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for six years before moving to the Circuit Court post.

            Pastor Christine Farrow, St. Paul, Hampton, recently was elected treasurer of  the executive board of Hampton Ecumenical Lodging and Provisions (HELP), an organization providing assistance to those in need of job training, housing and shelter, bag lunches and clothing services.

            Reuben Todd, new executive director of Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp, said he has been overwhelmed by "a sense of gratitude at being part of this ministry." Todd invited Virginia Lutherans to a spring work weekend at the camp on April 4-6. He said he wants first-time and returning campers, retreat guests, faithful volunteers and alumni to know "You are welcome here."

            At St. Philip, Roanoke, Margaret Mitchell was honored by WSLS-TV, Roanoke, in its Shine a Light Campaign, focused on giving back to the community. Mitchell, who is 81, has spent decades helping people who donate blood to the Red Cross. St. Philip's regular blood collections lead all other organizations in the Roanoke area.  Also at St. Philip, Pastor Kelly Derrick and four other women are preparing to take health kits and other supplies on a mission trip to Malawi in July. The congregation is planning another Mission Fest on April 12 to raise funds to support St. Philip's sister parish, Mponela, in Malawi.

            At Southern Seminary, Rev. Paul H. Summer has been named executive director of advancement after serving as assistant to the bishop of the Southeast Synod.

            Maryville College Concert Choir will sing at Gloria Dei, Hampton, on March 17 at 7 p.m.

            At Grace and Glory, Palmyra, Mary Pat Hanson of the Alzheimer's Association, was scheduled to speak about dementia and care-giving resources on Feb. 4. The congregation of Grace and Glory created and published its own set of devotionals for the 40 days of Lent. Forty members were expected to write short devotions.

            Micah's Closet, a new ministry at St. Michael, Blacksburg, provides new clothes for children at Price's Fork and Kipps elementary schools and school-age clients at New River Valley Community Services who have autism. Since it started in October, Micah's Closet has provided over 700 items of new clothing for 38 children in need. Volunteers for Micah's Soup for Seniors at St. Michael, packed and distributed 90 bags of food to seniors at Warm Hearth retirement center.

            At. St. Paul, Strasburg, 42 windows in the Sunday School/Fellowship Hall wing have been replaced in honor or in memory of a loved one. Six windows remain.

            New organ chimes have been installed at St. Andrew, Portsmouth, donated by Ingie Borchers, in memory of her husband, Hank, who died in 2012.

            Youth at Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, are planning a springtime flea market and a middle school dance as fund-raisers and to work at painting, cooking and serving meals at Habitat projects.  


Men working on their faith


henrickson 2


            Retired Roanoke College Chaplin Paul Henrickson will present the theme, "Caution---Men at Work on Their Faith," at the annual gathering of Virginia Lutheran Men in Mission at Roslyn Center in Richmond on May 16-18.

            In a statement on the theme, Henrickson said men are missing in the church and "perhaps more importantly, men are missing church." The purpose of the gathering is to focus on the practice of faith in the daily life of men and to imagine a synod-wide program for the faith-building of men, particularly those under 40.

            Henrickson, a former aerospace engineer at the NASA Manned Space Center in Houston, Tex.., studied at Hamma Divinity School in Ohio, served a church at Manassas and came to Roanoke College as assistant chaplain in 1983 and became chaplain three years later. He retired last year and was named chaplain emeritus and a fund for community service was named for him.

Pastor Andrew Bansemer of Ebenezer, Marion, will return for a second year as

chaplain for the gathering. Bible study, small group discussions, personal growth presentations and a blend of contemporary and traditional music also will be featured.

Registration of $230 for double ocupancy lodging and meals at the Friday

to Sunday event may be sent to 2014 VALMM Gathering, c/oAdolph Moller, 1442 Tannery Circle, Midlothian, VA 23113-2644.  Single occupancy registration is $275. Day commuting cost is $130. 


Norge church helps start adult day center


             Our Saviour, Norge, and Pastor Jim Nickols have joined an ecumenical, pilot program to develop an adult day center enabling seniors to remain in their homes in the Wiliamsburg area. To start what is called the Innovative Senior Champions Program, the Langley Federal Credit Union made a $10,000 donation, to be matched by Colonial Heritage Community Foundation.

Pastor Jim Nickols (right) met with other organizers of a Williamsburg area adult day center to receive a $10,000 startup check from Langley Federal Credit Union.

            "There are a lot of seniors in the home who do not have social engagement," Nickols said. "It is a good thing to get seniors involved with other seniors," he told the Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg. As an observer of the aging of the local population, he also cares for his mother, who is 88. He said he looked at his own personal need and the needs of the community.

            Beginning March 4, participants in the program will meet once a week for four hours at New Zion Baptist Church and a month later, they will switch to Our Saviour, Norge, for four weeks. Although starting small, the program has the potential to grow. The ultimate goal is to expand the program to other churches, offering services five days a week throughout the year.

            The Williamsburg-Norge area is in the midst of rapid older adult growth. The local senior population is at 36 percent, more than double the state average of 12 percent and the national average of 13 percent, according to the Administration on Aging and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Census Bureau research reports that one of every three residents in the Greater Williamsburg area will be at least 60 years old.

            Volunteers are being assembled to help in implementation and specific activities. Participants will have the option of participating in such activities as creative expression through art, music and gardening therapy, nutrition and wellness. An event will be held to display the creative work. Organizers hope to get more churches involved and more support. Surveys and data collection will be used to make improvements and modifications if needed. 


President Toby Eleasar faces busy travel schedule


            The postponed Virginia visit of  President Tobby Eleasar of the New Guinea Islands District of Papua New Guinea last fall has been rescheduled for March 19-April 9. His trip is the latest in a series of visits by church leaders between Virginia and the companion district in Papua New Guinea.

            Diane Giessler, chair of the Global Mission Committee and coordinator of the Companion Synod program, arranged his itinerary and will travel with Eleasar, along with Bishop Jim Mauney. Eleasar is expected to fly into Roanoke, visit the Synod offices at Roanoke College and travel across the Synod, stopping at St. Mark, Willis; Zion, Floyd;  St. Paul, Strasburg; Prince of Peace, Basye; Grace, Waynesboro; Mt. Tabor, Augusta County; Holy Trinity, Wytheville; Ebenezer, Marion; Our Redeemer, Bristol;  Christ the King, Richmond; Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach; St. Michael, Virginia Beach; St. Mark, Yorktown; St.. Stephen, Williamsburg; St. Mark, Luray; Our Saviour, Warrenton; Resurrection, Fredericksburg; St. Luke, Culpeper; Hebron, Madison; Grace, Winchester; Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg; College, Salem; Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, and Luther Memorial, Blacksburg. 

            On March 31-April 2, Bishop Mauney will take Eleasar to Washington for a meeting of ELCA bishops with Congress and sight-seeing in the capitol. 


All-inclusive Outreach Team plans training 


In an effort to improve the Synod's and congregations' witness/ evangelism/ outreach, the former African-American Outreach Team (AAOT), has evolved into the All-Inclusive Outreach Team (AIOT).  This should make clear the commitments of the Synod to truly make welcome all people in every neighborhood where Lutherans are planted.

The team, comprised of Melinda Barnhardt, Jud and Cecee Mills, said it takes seriously the vision statements of the ELCA and the Virginia Synod that this church shall have as priority goals (1) an inclusive outreach across the color line and other social boundaries and (2) an intentional, visible, public discipleship, that is a mission posture of welcome and compassion and partnership in service in the communities where members live out the faith.

  The models are the Lord Jesus in his first sermon (Luke 4) on his mission of liberation;  his sojourn in 'Galilee of the gentiles'(Matthew 4);  his welcome table (Mark 2);  his universal call to follow and serve with him in going out to "heal and say the Kingdom of God has come near" (Luke 10), and his death for the life of the world.

 The team said it will resemble the acts of the apostles in going to the Ethiopian, to Cornelius the centurion, and Paul's crossing into Europe. Members will partner and be allies in social ministry (recall, for example, the churches' efforts to end child labor, to develop family service, to support the civil rights movement). The team hopes many will respond and join in this mission of openness, compassion, hospitality and servanthood.

The team has developed a training program based on the ELCA's "Talking Together as Christians Cross-Culturally, A Field Guide" and they will be offered at St. Paul's, Hampton, on two Saturdays, April 26, and May 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with small group meetings in between. Other sessions will be held on Sept. 20 and a fall reunion at a later date.

The sessions will explore the Field Guide's three guiding principles for mission: "Listening to God in Scripture and Prayer," "Listening to the Household of Faith" and "Listening to the Community Outside our Doors."


Bishop Emeritus Richard Bansemer

writes about Prayers of the People


            Bishop Emeritus Richard Bansemer has written his 11th book, Prayers of the People, 197 pages of prayers for every Sunday of the church year, as well as others for additional holy days. His intent is that these prayers "might help congregations each week to engage in the conversation with God that is true prayer."

            The prayers relate to scripture lessons in the three-year Revised Common Lectionary used by most Lutherans and in wide use by Christian denominations in the U.S. and Canada. Purchasers of the book will receive a zip file of all of the prayers with instructions for use, emailed upon request.

            The people who have heard God speaking through the reading of scripture and its exposition through a sermon, bring before God their response to what has been said in a way that expresses their hope, thanksgiving, admiration, struggle and joy, Bansemer said.

            The book, published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, may be ordered for $11 from         

            Bansemer retired after serving 10 years as bishop and parishes at Rural Retreat and in Colorado and Florida. He was ordained in 1966.


Consumer sentiment and

real estate are looking up


            An upward trend in consumer sentiment and optimism by real estate sellers were reported in two recent polls of 601 Virginians, conducted by the Institute for Policy and Opinion research at Roanoke College.

            The Virginia Index of Consumer Sentiment in February rose 6.5 points since November and 8 points above a year ago, slightly above the preliminary national value for February. The poll found that Virginians are considerably more optimistic about the future of the economy than the nation as a whole.

            However, according to the poll, 58 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of low income households believe the next five years will be a period of high unemployment and recession. But 43 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of blacks are more likely to believe the coming years will be a time of economic prosperity rather than contraction.

            Consumer sentiment rebounded from November losses in all regions except the Shenandoah Valley and Tidewater. Sentiments are generally low and stagnant in the Shenandoah Valley and have been since August of last year. Expectations about the future there have been on a downward trend since November 2012. Manufacturing is the largest industry outside of government in the valley.

            The Index of Current Conditions in Tidewater has been falling since last August. Defense spending in Hampton Roads fell about 4 points from 2011 to 2013, according to a study of the Regional Studies Institute at Old Dominion University.

            Over 62 percent of Virginians believe the condition of the real estate market has improved since last year and 52 percent believe conditions will improve over the next year, a 3-point increase since November.

Building a house in El Salvador   

     by Pastor Steve Ridenhour, Holy Trinity, Wytheville


"What does the Lord require of you?  Do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God." Micah 6:8.   

      It is the goal of Habitat for Humanity and Thrivent Build Worldwide to partner with others in the global village to build homes, to build community and to build hope for a better life for the present generation and for generations to come.  


Holy Trinity building team

   A 10-member team, led by Pastor Steve Ridenhour, Holy Trinity, Wytheville, participated in a Global Village Trip to El Salvador, Feb. 1-9. Team members were from Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland and others from Virginia were Pat Hunter, Redeemer, Bristol;  Linda Meyers, Grace, Waynesboro, and Rick Corliss, St. Timothy, Norfolk.  Also, Maria Melendy, born in El Salvador in 1995, made her first trip back to her native country with her father..

     We arrived in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, on Saturday, Feb. 1. With other Thrivent Builds teams from around the U.S., we were treated to an authentic El Salvadorian meal. Sunday, we worshiped at Resurrection Lutheran Church with the Rev. Medardo Gomez, bishop of the Lutheran Church in El Salvador.   Following worship, we traveled to Lake Coatepeque for a picnic with other Habitat volunteers who had just arrived and we were housed in a hotel at Ahuachapán. .  

     Each day, we traveled to the Gethsemane Community where we would work on a house for the week.  There we were officially welcomed by community leaders and thanked for coming.

     We worked side by side with masons who are hired by Habitat to be the construction managers, along with family members and local volunteers who provide additional sweat equity for the house.  Our jobs included mixing concrete and mortar, hauling concrete, sanding walls, shifting sand, hauling dirt and gravel, tamping floors, painting and doing whatever else was needed.  Each member of the team worked at his or her own pace and in accord with his/her skills.  

       In addition to the work, highlights included a visit to the community cooperative where  community leaders shared the story of how Thrivent and Habitat had worked with them to organize the cooperative. We purchased local coffee, handmade jewelry and such items as hand-sewn bags and quilts.  Members spent one morning at the community center with local children, playing games, teaching one another Spanish and English, and working together on crafts.

       Each night we gathered for dinner and a time of reflection.  We processed our day and through the lens of scripture and prayer we considered how God was present with us through the new relationships we were forming with one another and with our new friends on the job site and in the community.

       On Friday, after our work was completed, our team gathered with the new home owners for a house blessing and then the children and community leaders thanked our team for coming and we celebrated with a Mariachi band, dancing and a traditional piñata for the children.

       Friday night, our team gathered to celebrate the work that we had the privilege to share and with the Eucharist we celebrated the love of the one who had brought us together that week. On Saturday, we headed back to San Salvador, visiting a Coffee processing plant and several small towns along the way.  .

        This trip was about far more than just building homes.It also was about building relationships, sharing justice, loving kindness and walking ever so humbly with God. 

        Thrivent Financial contributes $8,000 to the El Salvadorian Habitat affiliate for each team of eight or more who participate in a Thrivent Builds Global Village Trip.  The average cost to build a house in El Salvador is $6000.

Fill your spiritual tanks at Lent

     by Pastor Bil King, Luther Memorial, Blacksburg


"You can't give what you haven't got." I guess I first encountered that statement long ago in a pastoral care course during seminary. The professor was warning his class of bright-faced seminarians (a cadre of budding pastors who thought we were both immortal and possessed of infinite energy) that before you can bring spiritual care to others you have to take time to receive it, that before you can communicate the care of God you must make experiencing it a priority.

We are on the cusp of Lent. Many think of this season as a time of denial and dirges, a grim march through the dismal days of the passion before we emerge into the brightness of Easter. To tell you the truth, I think there is something to be said for acknowledging the darkness of world and pulling back from the indulgence of every whim, but that is the stuff of another meditation. Here, I invite you to think of Lent as a chance to fill up your spiritual tanks.

Most of us are running on empty. We often work too hard and pray too little. For some of us the circumstances in our lives mean we are expending an unusually large amount of energy in trying to be loving and compassionate. Maybe it is hanging in there with a troubled teen. Maybe it is watching the decline of a beloved parent. Maybe it is just trying to not kill the jerk who sits in the next cubicle. Whatever it is, we may feel as though our love bucket has a slow leak in it.

I invite you to take advantage of the Lenten opportunities noted in this newsletter. Treat yourself to some moments of fellowship, reflection, and perhaps just quiet in the presence of God. Whether you are a seminarian or not, the fact is the same: You can't give what you haven't got.


            (Pastor Bill King wrote this column for his congregation's newsletter.)


Juniors will intersect poverty


            A Junior High Servant Event promoting an "Attitude of Gratitude" and an understanding of the cycles of poverty is planned for Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach, July 27-Aug. 1. Sixth-eighth graders will travel to service organizations for experiences daily.

            A maximum of 40 youths will work together in small groups, hold individual devotions, build relationships and understanding that matters and have fun with the whole group. Their agenda includes beach time, singing, prayer, worship, work and much conversation and play. The cost of the Sunday evening-Friday morning event is $100 by  th e congregation and $105 online. A website and registration form are planned soon.

            Contacts for the week are Pastors Scott and Cathy Mims, David Penman, John Wertz and Juliet Hutchins.                    


Quilters work at Christ the King


Richmond women are working hard.

Last fall, women from seven congregations in Ohio, New Jersey and Virginia attended a retreat/servant event in New Windsor, MD at the Lutheran World Relief and SERRV warehouses. 

Under the theme, "Covering the Earth with God's Grace... One Quilt, One Kit at a Time," the women learned about the countries where kits and quilts were sent in 2012. They also heard about a congregation in New Hampshire which organized a community quilt day for Lutheran World Relief after the tsunami.

  Retired Pastor Ruth Fortis decided that the next time there was a major disaster, she would do the same in Richmond.  Along came the typhoon in the Philippines. So on January 18th, Christ the King, Richmond, hosted a community quilting bee to make relief quilts.

            Letters went to churches and a synagogue in the neighborhood and to other Lutheran congregations in Richmond.   A short article in the newspaper drew 70 volunteers to make quilts.   Some cut fabric; some sewed squares; some ironed backings; some knotted quilts; some designed quilts and packaged squares in bags for future sewing. At the end of the day there were 36 finished quilts and many more in some stage of the process.

            Volunteers came from 12 different congregations.  Several unchurched people,  interested in making a difference in people's lives, joined the fun.

Students from two universities came to help.  One family came and while the dad ironed, mom designed, and the kids knotted and learned to iron under dad's supervision. The son earned volunteer hours for school.  Accomplished seamstresses and those just learning to sew worked side by side. 

            Fellowship was enhanced over a continental breakfast and sandwich lunch provided by Thrivent Financial reps.  No doubt there is now a new annual community service event at Christ the King!


Synod had a good January and 2013, financially


 January was a very good month and 2013 was a good year for the Synod's finances, according to Keith Brown, financial consultant for the Synod.

            For the financial year ending Jan. 31, total mission and ministry support was $1.6 million. Total expenses came to $986,496, which was 95.67 percent of the budgeted amount of $1,031,106, leaving a surplus of $45,764 for the year, The Synod sent $626,261 for ELCA churchwide causes

            In January, total income was $164,727 and expenses came to $79,065. This left a surplus of $24,066 after $61,595 was sent to the ELCA.


Thrivent Builds & Habitat for Humanity

mission trip to Charleston, S.C. islands


Our annual mission trip this year will be to the Charleston, SC, area. No recent hurricanes have been reported in that area. Sea Island Habitat started building affordable housing for those who service the tourists who visit historic Charleston, SC.

They have built almost 300 homes since the 1970s  on James and John's Islands. It takes over 2,000 volunteer hours to build just one house. We will be working in a development of 22 affordable homes in Laurel Oak Grove subdivision located on James Island.

 The houses are designed to meet LEED certification for site design and energy efficiency. Phase II of this development which will contain the remaining housing, garden spaces, and children's play spaces recently had its groundbreaking event.

We have 19 team members registered. This allows us to have two teams, and Thrivent Builds will be donating $8,000 for each team for a total of $16,000 to Sea Island Habitat. Bob Ballard and Pastor Steve Ridenhour will each lead a team.

 Team members will be Naomi and Dickie King, Ann Laing, Pastor Buddy Beaver, Vicar Tristan Shin and Martha Ballard from Holy Trinity; Pastor Ed and Ellen Schaack from Rural Retreat; Catherine Schaack, from Bristol, Pastor Andrew Bansemer and Carol Edmiston from Marion; Chris Stevens from Troutdale; Sandy and Dick Atkinson from Waynesboro; Pastor Harold Burnette from Woodstock; and Wendy and Jerry Morrison from Wytheville.

We will be traveling to Charleston after worship on Sunday, March 31, and work at the site through Friday, April 4. We ask for your continued prayers during our travel and work. 





Editor:  George Kegley   
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