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


Planting pinwheels for awareness


Amaya Hudskissnweb holds a pinwheel

About 1,200 blue and silver pinwheels were "planted" at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 30, at St. Paul, Hampton, to bring attention to National Child Abuse Prevention and National Autism Awareness months. Lutheran Family Services or Virginia, church members and seven Exchange Clubs on the Virginia Peninsula invited the public to plant a pinwheel and raise awareness about the role everyone can play in valuing children and increasing understanding of autism.

The pinwheels represent the healthy and happy childhoods and bright futures all children deserve. Each pinwheel stands for 10 children who were victims in reports of abuse and neglect in our state last year and for 10 children who are on the Autism Spectrum. Each pinwheel also represents a child waiting in foster who is available to be adopted.

The pinwheel garden will be "harvested" on Rachel's Day, Sunday, May 4, in a nationwide observance of Women of the ELCA to protest violence against children and to serve the families affected by violence. 

In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
A wonderful dream letter from Pastor Tobby Eleasar
Sharp sword, polished arrow from Presiding Bishop Eaton
From pastor to chaplain
Christian formation is Assembly theme
Youth use puppets in worship
"Changed by the Good News"
Fasting to fight hunger for 10 yeaars
Jesus told us to help the poor
Progress being made in malaria prevention
Trinity, Stephens City expands
Church is challenged
Kairos ministry brings light
Boundary training
College chaplains are vital


Lutherans in the news


            Daniel V. Speckhard. Redeemer.McLean, a former ambassador to Greece, has been named president and chief executive of Lutheran World Relief. Speckhard, who has held several diplomatic posts, most recently has been a senior advisor at Palantir Technologies and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institutiion. He's a descendant of a line of Lutheran pastors.


Julie Swanson, president and chief executive of Lutheran Family Services, has been appointed to the board of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the oldest faith-based advocacy group in the state and the Virginia office for the ELCA public policy network, supported by ELCA World Hunger.

            Pastor Elijah Mwitanti has moved from St. John, Roanoke, a former Synod congregation but now independent, to accept a call to Epiphany, Dale City, in the Washington Metro Synod.

            Pastor Andy Ballentine, St. Stephen, Williamsburg, is planning a sabbatical from May 19 to Aug. 11. He plans a bicycle trip and conversations with seminary professors and pastors with new approaches to faith formation.           

Pastor Christine Hunsinger of Christ, Richmond, has accepted a call to a Lutheran church at Long Valley, N. J.

            Retired Pastor Jim Zimmerman has moved from North Carolina to Rockbridge Baths in Rockbridge County. He is a member of Good Shepherd.,Lexington.

            Marge Vorous, Bethel, Winchester, is receiving the Outstanding Alumna Award from East Tennessee State University.

            Members of Bethel have been urged to buy Mission Shares to support a team of more than 20 youth and adults from the congregation who will work with Lutheran Disaster Response to rebuild infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Sandy at Brick, N.J., on Oct. 29, 2012.  The support funds will be used to buy building supplies and part of the cost for youth to participate. Bethel members were invited to join Pastor Dave Young in a service on May 1, National Day of Prayer, at the church labyrinth, weather permitting. In inclement weather, the service will be in the sanctuary.

            A concert, "Sounds of Spring," was planned by youth and musicians at St. Mark, Yorktown, on April 5. Easter baskets were provided Wounded Warrior military familes by St. Mark.

            A "send-off" luncheon" was given for a Honduras mission team at Peace, Charlottesville, on March 16.

            Our Saviour, Virginia Beach, observed Stations of the Cross on Good Friday by following the cross through the streets of Virginia Beach, a joint venture of Bayside Ecumenical Council.

            At Mount Calvary, Mt. Jackson, Hands of Harmony Ringers traveled to Chesapeake to participate in a festival sponsored by a chapter of Handbell Musicians of America for the third year.

            Members of the Service and Outreach Committee at Grace, Winchester, give either a $10 food or gas voucher to each needy person who comes to the church on the first working day of the month.

            Pastor Conrad Braaten, interim pastor and Nancy Brower, council president at Christ, Radford, reported "a bustling of activity," renovations to physical facilities and a schedule of future events in a review of 2013. Among the activities were an ecumenical council workshop, a Christmas service simulcast by web from a Lutheran church in Palestine and Washington National Cathedral, a healing service, dedication of a memorial garden and fellowship events.

            Trinity Ecumenical Parish has developed a Temporary Pastoral Assistance Plan, effective after Pastor Gary Scheidt retires on Nov. 1. Pastor Philip Bouknight, a Virginia Synod member, will be assisted by a team of six retired pastors who are members of

Don and Joann Tolmie

Trinity, 10 Stephen ministers and a parish nurse "to sustain quality pastoral needs," instead of an interim pastor, according to the parish newsletter.

            At First, Norfolk, Don and Joann Tolmie reported that 92 students in the Faraja School in Tanzania are doing well. Over 50 members of First have traveled to the school., supported by First Lutheran. The Tolmies have moved to a retirement home in Charlotte. 

            "Acteon," a Baroque opera, was presented at First Church by singers from Juilliard Opera on April 15. 


"And what a wonderful dream it was..."

     A letter from Pastor Tobby Eleasar


(When Pastor Tobby Eleasar returned to his native Papua New Guinea after his two-week trip across the Virginia Synod in March and April, he sent this letter describing his visit and thanking his Virginia hosts.)


Greeting my friends in the Lord, 
Pastor Tobby Eleasar was welcomed at Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach, and many other congregations.
            As the bus I was travelling in from Hoskins airport was about two kilometres from my house and the church, I suddenly realised that this was the reality. This was my world; this was where my life was because this was where I lived. For the past weeks the world that I was in was a dream world. That is exactly what I told my friends, it was just like a dream and now I am back in my real world. 
           And what a wonderful dream it was; to be in America, to experience a different culture, to experience a different climate, to enjoy different food and the way it was prepared, seeing different congregations and their wonderful and beautiful sanctuaries, spectacular country sides, towns and roads, the vegetation and animals.  
            One thing I will treasure most in my heart is all of you who have made me feel at home and who have kept me warm in the heart. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the congregations that I have visited for making me feel welcome. I am very grateful to all leaders and pastors and to all of you congregation members. The visit was a very good experience and a blessing to me. I have learnt a lot as a person, a pastor and a president. I will begin my own visit to my Island congregations and will tell them of my visit and of you wonderful people. 
            I would also like to thank my brata (brother) Bishop Mauney who has given his time and 
accompanied me on my visits. I have also learnt a lot from him during my time with him. I  thank him and his wonderful wife Lynda for allowing me to stay with them. He is getting better and better with his pidgin. As for Diane, to whom I am greatly indebted for making my whole trip successful, I am very grateful. I thank her for her time and commitment. I also would like to thank her and her husband Dick for allowing me to stay with them. 
            In a Papua New Guinean society and culture when you provide shelter to someone it means a lot. Thank you so much to Jim and Diane for that. 
            Finally, I have photos to prove that my trip to America wasn't a dream and the people I have met and talked to were real. And so, friends in the Lord, we have a task that is to remember you all in our prayers and I hope you will all do the same for us. 

God bless you all. 
Pastor Tobby Eleasar 
ELC-PNG, New Guinea Island District 
Papua New Guinea



A prayer for our companion synod


            The Companion Synod Program of the Global Missions Committee is beginning a series of monthly Papua New Guinea Partnership Prayers. Use of the prayers in newsletters and Sunday bulletins is encouraged by the committee. Here is the first:

            "Gracious Father, we give thanks for President Eleasar's safe return to his home in Papua New Guinea. As Pastor Tobby begins traveling throughout his district by land, sea and air, protect him from harm's way. We ask that all the people who hear about his visit here in Virginia REJOICE together in the strengthening of our companion synod relationship."


Sharp sword, polished arrow

     by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton



         Picture this: Surrounded by an alien culture; worried about keeping young people engaged; a nonfunctioning government; a religious establishment in disarray; the economy is a mess; competing and beguiling demands on people's attention, time and loyalty; a worship facility in serious need of repair; a dizzying rate of change; and people either tempted to throw out all forms of the past or to cling mindlessly to tradition for fear of change.

            Sound familiar? This describes the people of God in exile in Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem.

            This was the world to which the prophet Isaiah was called to speak God's word of judgment, promise and hope. Isaiah 49:1-7 is the Old Testament reading for Tuesday of Holy Week. It's the day when our pastors, associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers are invited to renew the vows they made when consecrated, commissioned or ordained. It is the day when the oil for baptism or healing is blessed. It's a time for these dear servants of the gospel to come to be fed with word and sacrament. It's also a time to be encouraged to continue their ministry and the ministry entrusted to God's servants throughout the ages.

            The world in Isaiah's time was in turmoil. It's clear he doubted anything was being accomplished: "I have labored in vain, I spent my strength for nothing and vanity" (Isaiah 49:4).

          We feel that way sometimes-the "parking lot meetings" that take place after church council, years of preaching and teaching about the death and resurrection of Jesus and yet we still argue about which group gets to use the church parlor (I once had two committees arguing over the use of a slotted spoon), or worship wars over styles of music, contention between parishioners while wearing WWJD bracelets.

          But it is to this wonderful, often frustrating, ever-changing mission that we have been called and have been equipped. Like Isaiah, God has given us God's word that has the power of life. And, equipped with God's word, we are armed with a sharp sword and a polished arrow (Isaiah 49:2).

          It is likely Isaiah might have felt a little underequipped when contending with kings. After all, in a world that decides the rise and fall of nations with real swords and arrows (or guns, money or political power), the metaphorical weapon of God's word might seem like a feeble piece of equipment. In difficult, conflicted, intractable situations I sometimes feel a little naked armed only with the word of God. But time and time again God has sent prophets into the breach equipped only with God's word of life.

            One can imagine the reaction of opponents armed with real weapons when faced with the Lord's servants armed with God's word.

          Think: Pharaoh when he saw Moses. The Canaanite kings when they saw Deborah. The lions when they saw Daniel. Really? Haman when he saw Esther. Goliath when he saw David. An ossified and compromised church when it saw an Augustinian monk. Really?  Institutional racism when it saw Martin Luther King Jr. The Montgomery Transit Authority when it saw Rosa Parks. The Salvadoran generals when they saw Oscar Romero. The Liberian warlords when they saw Laymah Gbowee. Death when it saw Jesus hanging on the cross. Really? A culture of cynicism and materialism. A culture gripped by anxiety. The indifferent and the hostile. The angry and the desperate ... when they see you. Really!

            "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart' " (1 Corinthians 1:18-19).

            In his commentary on Second Isaiah, Harvard Divinity School Old Testament professor Paul D. Hanson wrote, "For the human servant called to serve the world-embracing purposes of God, one of the chief temptations is to scale back the assignment to human dimensions." We all do that from time to time. We lose sight of the cross. We are distracted by threatening forces around us. But it is to us, we earthen vessels, and for such a time as this that God's mission has been entrusted. We may not see the fruits of our labor, but through us God will bring hope to God's people.


This column originally appeared in the May issue of "The Lutheran."


From my hometown pastor to my college chaplain

 An interview with RC student Rachael Autenreith


 Q. What led you to choosing Roanoke College?

 A. I actually chose to look at Roanoke College when applying for schools because we had a member of our congregation attending at the time. Once I visited the campus, I fell in love. I've really built a home here. I became a Resident Advisor, a cheerleader, a choir member, and I started the co-ed a cappella group, The RoaNotes. I will be sad to leave it all behind on Saturday when I graduate.


Q.  How do you feel about your hometown pastor following you to college as chaplain?

 A.  I've known Pastor Chris Bowen since his first child wasn't even born yet. He and his wife, Cynthia, were called to my home church, St. Michael Lutheran, when I was about 10 years old. He has been a huge influence on me ever since. He has held my hand through the roughest moments in my life and he has celebrated with me during the happy times. He actually wrote one of my recommendation letters when I applied to Roanoke College.  He takes joy in the fact that he introduced me to my husband a few years ago. We were married at St. Michael last month during spring break.



Q. Were  you surprised to learn that Pastor Chris was going to be the next chaplain at your college?

 A. Last spring, I was standing in The Commons when I heard his voice. I had no idea if it was really Pastor Chris. I turned around and there he was. I ran right up to him and gave him a hug. He seemed surprised to see me there. A few weeks later he was announced as our new chaplain and I put two and two together. I couldn't have been more excited. I was happy to spend my senior year of college with a chaplain that I already knew was awesome. I was sad that he would no longer be my pastor at home, but it was so nice to have him here. He has made such an effort to attend a lot of events that I was part of. He has been a great chaplain. I was able to go to him when I needed advice or prayer. I don't go to church often while at school, but I did attend St. Marks for a while. 


Q. Do you know many other Lutherans on campus?

A. The Lutheran presence on campus seems to be growing. I always happened to make friends with Lutheran students, but I never made a point of doing so.


Q. How do you feel about the years you have spent at Roanoke College.

A. I am a Theatre Major and Communications Minor. Right now, I am going to work for Gold Key PHR in Virginia Beach, until I find something else. Roanoke College has helped me become a better person. I am not the same woman as I was four years ago. I feel like I examine life more and ask questions. Roanoke College has helped me become a lifelong learner. 


Christian formation is Assembly theme


            Bishop Jon Anderson of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod will report on the current mission and ministry of the ELCA and three seminary faculty members will explore the theme of "Christian Formation for 2017 and Beyond" at the 27th annual Assembly of the Virginia Synod at Roanoke College on May 30-June 1 at Roanoke College.

            Anderson, who spoke at the Virginia Assembly six years ago, also will tell of the special relationship of companion synods the Minnesota and Virginia bodies have enjoyed for more than 10 years. Anderson and Bishop Jim Mauney have formed a longstanding friendship and he and the late Pastor Chip Gunsten were in the same class at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. A tree will be planted in memory of Gunsten, assistant to the bishop, who died a year and a half ago.

            Voting members of the two synods sit together at churchwide assemblies and their leaders exchange their perspectives. Gwen Arneson, vice president of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod, also will talk about their companion relationship. The Minnesota body has as its companion international synod, the Southeastern Diocese of South Africa.


            The three seminary professors who will talk about Christian formation are Dr. Susan McArver of Southern Seminary and Drs. David Lose and Andrew Root, both of Luther Seminary at St. Paul. They will speak on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, followed by workshop discussion of the theme.


            McArver, director of the Center on Religion in the South, also is associate professor of Christian Education and Church History at Southern. She has served as president of the National Lutheran Historical Conference.  Lose holds a chair in Biblical Preaching and is a teaching fellow and visiting professor at Princeton Seminary. He began as assistant


professor of homiletics in 1905. Root is assistant professor of children, youth and family ministry and director of the Center for Children, Youth and Family Ministry.

            An election will be held for four seats on the Synod Council.  

            Bishop Mauney will preach at a Saturday night service at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Roanoke. Pastor Chris Price will be installed as a part-time assistant to the bishop.



Youth use puppets in worship


Puppets and actors were used at Youth Sunday worship at Reformation, Newport News. Youths took leadership of worship, especially the proclamation, even building the stage, according to Pastor David Gunderlach.

            They wrote and performed a drama, using actors and puppets to proclaim God's love in the way Jesus ministered to blind people. Those in the cast were Jerry Plasman, Dorothea Cloud-Gary, youth leaders, and Bryanna Cloud, Kahlia Cooks, Loriana Stoeckl and Katy Stoll. 


ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

to talk on "Changed by the Good News"



            "Changed by the Good News" will be the theme, the keynote speaker will be the new  Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and the Bible study leader will be the Rev. Rolf Jacobson for the annual Power in the Spirit on the Roanoke College campus July 10-12.

            Power in the Spirit, sponsored by the Virginia Synod and Roanoke College Office of Church Relations, is designed for anyone who wishes to explore God's call to service through worship, Bible study, keynote addresses and fellowship.

            Bishop Eton will be making her first visit to the Roanoke campus since her election last August and installation in October. Formerly bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod for six years, she graduated from the College of Wooster, earned a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School and served three Ohio congregations before her election as the first female bishop of the ELCA.


          Jascobson, a repeat speaker at Power in the Spirit, has been an assistant Old Testament professor for 11 years. He said the Scriptures  must be used in pastoral care, personal spiritual growth and for the shaping of Christian mission and theology. He's contributed to August Fortress's Handbook series.

            In addition to worship and Bible study, the three-day inspirational conference will feature 22 classes on such subjects as prayer, synod history, music in community, how a church looks to outsiders, Lutheran theology, liturgy, martyrs and mystics, protection of children and faith-seekers stuck in the middle.

            The package fee for residents is $255 and for commuters, $195.  For information, contact Elizabeth Smythe at 276-783-5804 or, or Debbie Worley in the synod office at 540-389-1000 or

Fasting to fight hunger for 10 years

Warrenton youth "cross the Amazon" on boards.

Youth at Our Saviour, Warrenton, played games during a 30-hour fast to learn about hunger-related problems around the world while raising $22,054 for World Vision, a humanitarian organization which works on poverty and injustice. This was the 10th year for the youth event which has collected a total of about $190,000 for World Vision..

            Thirty youngsters and nine adults participated in the fast, extending from Friday after lunch until a communion service, followed by a fellowship meal Saturday evening.  This was the largest amount raised in the 10 years,

            This year, the hunger-related problem was the Amazon basin in South America. The youngsters walked on boards to illustrate the need to cross the basin to get to school.

            "Going without food for the weekend helps the kids experience a bit of what it might be like to live with hunger on a daily basis," said Pastor Terri Church of Our Saviour. She worked with Sarah Dumbrowski, leader of the event, and Tom Bartkiewicz, key lay leader.

            They  played crab soccer, reminding the youth that the children they are helping also like soccer  and other games but a lack of food, clean water and medicine can keep them from being able to play. Another game was Peligro ("Danger!") in Spanish, in which teams or tribes raced to collect emergency supply kits as if a volcanic eruption has occurred in the mountains above their village. In a three-legged race, they pulled each other on emergency blankets, learning how natural disasters add one more layer of difficulty to already difficult lives.

            During the fast, a funeral service was held for all of the children in the world who have died from hunger and malnutrition. A member of the congregation struck a drum once for every death during the service.           

`World Vision helps provide emergency supplies when disaster strikes so one thing the kids were providing was money for supplies, said Pastor Church. "Helping the poor and the need is what drew me into ministry and it's one the primary things that the church does," she said..

Jesus told us to help the poor

     by Pastor Alfred Fogleman, Bethany, Lexington 


Today, because of economic disparity and lack of good-paying jobs, many of our people are forced to rely upon WIC, SNAP (food stamps), unemployment compensation and Medicaid to pay their utilities, feed their families and acquire medical care. Many are working part-time for meager salaries, little or no benefits and with little hope for anything more.

Many others have lost their jobs to outsourcing or were fired for little or no rational reason, with no meaningful resource. Our politicians are big contributors to these circumstances and many of them and their advocates excuse their political inactions for improving these condition by claiming these unemployed and part-time employed are too lazy  to work. Thus, the politicians say they are fraudulently milking the system to take advantage of our social safety nets.

I find most of the arguments for not doing more to help these unfortunate victims of circumstances, much of which are totally beyond their control, to be stupid and ludicrous. Unemployment assistance limited to four months for any two-year period because we don't want to disincentivise  the unemployed from job seeking thereby making them dependent upon the government, is tea party nonsense. Many of them are on drugs, so let's test them. If they fail the test, all assistance is cut off. A better idea-let's drug test our politicians and their supporters who think this way. 

            Some politicians claim those of us who would like to improve our government programs to help the poor are either communists or socialists and that most of those we seek to help are fraudulently pretending to be in dire need of help. Therefore, we should not require higher taxes, especially from the rich, because this would be socialistic or communistic redistribution of wealth. So, I suppose Jesus the Christ and the Bible are fraud, communists and socialists.

            I do not find it strange that many multimillionaires, radio and TV jocks and politicians are the main ones supporting such absurdities. The sad part about all this is many of our people in need are brothers and sisters in Christ. Sadder yet is that many of those who don't want to help the needy claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ. I wonder why?
            Hurrah for the new Pope Francis! All our Christian churches should join him and rally around the cross. What a dramatic difference we can make. Let us get on God's side with all this!

            I Timothy 6: 17-19: As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty; nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy; They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of life which is life indeed.

Luke 6:24  Blessed are the poor; for yours is the Kingdom of God." Remember Mother Mary!

            Luke 6:24  "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation," Remember Lazarus and the rich man!  

            Galatians 6:7 "Make no mistake about this; God is not to be fooled; a man reaps what he sows."

            Remember, God is listening to what we are saying and watching everything we do! And Jesus said, "as surely as you did it to the least of these, you did it unto me."


Progress in malaria prevention, treatment


Most congregations recognized World Malaria Sunday on April 27th, encouraging members to participate meaningfully in global efforts to combat malaria.  Here are some interesting facts from the United Nations on the efficacy of our global malaria efforts:

- Malaria efforts have saved approximately 3.3 million lives globally since 2000.

- 700 lives are saved each day due to our efforts. 

- Malaria still killed an estimated 627,000 people in 2012. 

- 90% of malaria-related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

- A child dies from malaria every 60 seconds (down from every 30 seconds in 2009).

- It costs only $1 to buy and deliver treatment for a child.  

-Sleeping with proper netting (only $10 per net) can reduce child mortality by 20%.

       - Nets can also reduce illness in highly affected areas by 50%.

The ELCA has raised over $11 million so far, and will soon launch a new effort in Namibia with funds raised this past week.  Namibia is one of eight African countries that are on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of a 75 percent reduction of malaria cases by 2015.

 A strong governmental malaria program and the participation of many other organizations have positioned the country to strive for a further decrease in malaria incidences in the coming years. Lutherans are honored to be a part of the final push toward the 2015 goal.

Of the congregations that have reported results this week, on average a little over $1000 was given in each congregation - right on target!  Results of the Bishop's 100 Net Challenge will be announced at the Synod Assembly.  If you missed World Malaria Sunday, you can still participate by giving on-line at


Trinity, Stephens City, adds major expansion


Trinity, Stephens City expansion

            Trinity, Stephens City, is near completion of construction of a parish hall/ministry center, kitchen, administrative wing with four classrooms and many other improvements costing $2.3 million, completely subscribed in a three-year capital campaign called "Growing in God's Grace."

            Pastor Cameron P. Keyser said, "It appears that we will be out of the funeral home (site of Sunday services) and back into our building by mid-summer!" The capital campaign will end in 2015, coinciding with the congregation's 250th anniversary.            
            When he was called to Trinity in September 2011, only 18 people came to the first worship service, "the faithful remnant of several years of congregational trauma and discontent." Last year, numbers reached 100-110 weekly but that declined to an average of 80-85 since they have been meeting in a funeral home and have  had "to temporarily cut back on educational and service  projects" because of a lack of space during construction.

            The 10,500-square-foot addition will provide a state-of-the-art multi-media capability in the parish hall/ministry center, a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, parlor and reception areas, new narthex and sacristy, four flexible classrooms for conference, music and storage space, second floor with elevator access, prayer garden, columbarium, enlarged chancel, refinished floors in the 1906 sanctuary, addition of a video camera with feed capability throughout the building, total restoration and revoicing of pipe organ, a fenced exterior courtyard for congregational gatherings, re-plastering, re-painting and new lighting of the sanctuary and lighting for the expanded parking area.           


Church is challenged to see the poor and hungry


Dr. Paul Wee served as the 2014 Visiting Theologian for Lutheran Campus Ministry at Virginia Tech and Luther Memorial congregation. This annual program brings a scholar to Blacksburg to preach and teach in both the congregation and the university.  Borrowing from an e.e. cummings poem, Dr. Wee took "Now the Eyes of my Eyes are Open:  Pursuing Peace and Justice" as the overarching theme for his presentations.

            Wee challenged his audiences to see with new eyes.   Preaching on the healing of the man born blind he noted, "The issue is not the healing of the blind man.  He is fine.  The question is whether the good religious people around him will respond to the outpouring of God's love and power."  The challenge for the church, Wee said, is to see the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, and the abused among us.

            As an example of the church seeing and responding Wee gave a presentation on Martin Luther's inauguration of a common chest in Wittenberg, an initiative which responded to the problem of widespread begging.  "This was the church, early on, working out of its confession, with the government, to respond to poverty."  Wee suggested that this was the church going beyond mercy and compassion to seeking great justice in the society.

            Wee has mediated for peace in war zones of Central America and Africa.  His keynote address explored how religious symbols can both exacerbate and mitigate conflict.  "Religion is dependant upon symbols;" he said, the great danger is that we absolutize our symbols.  All symbols point to something bigger beyond themselves; the danger is when our symbols become static and petrified."  Citing theologian Paul Tillich, Wee suggested that our symbols must be "broken," acknowledged as imperfect, partial pointers toward truth.  "Our goal is to find the deeper truth toward which many symbols point, perhaps there finding common ground."

            Wee asserted that both Christ and his church are broken symbols in the sense that they reveal God through a paradoxical willingness to give up absolute claims.  In being willing to die, they become that which they confess.


Kairos Ministry brings the light of Christ 

into the hearts of "dark and bitter people"


(Cary Mangus, Christ, Roanoke, reflects on his experience while participating in a Kairos Walk at Red Onion State Prison, a maximum security prison in Pound, Wise County, April 3-6. Mangus works in stewardship ministry for the synod.)


The Kairos Program is overseen by the Chaplain Service Prison Ministry of Virginia,  one of the eight partners benefiting from the United Lutheran Appeal.  I came away from the Kairos Walk with an incredible appreciation of the Kairos Ministry program.

It is a community that gives and gives and gives some more, for only one reward--- to see the light of Christ enter the hearts of dark and bitter people.  Is this ministry making a difference?  A resounding YES.  An example was the story at the closing for Kairos No. 2 by an inmate who attended the Kairos No. 1 walk at Red Onion in the spring of 2013.  He shared his testimony about a father who had him steal things at ages 12 and 13 by explaining that if he got caught, it would not be bad as he was a minor.

After learning the "trade," he stole his uncle's life savings while living with him.. 

His uncle got a gun, threatened to kill him, and kicked him out of the house with only his clothes on his back at age 14, assuming correctly that this nephew stole the money.  He turned to the street and to drugs, got caught, and received a lengthy prison sentence.   As a result of last spring's Kairos experience, over 20 years later, he was able to communicate the message of forgiveness by letter.  He forgave his father and asked for forgiveness from his uncle.

 His father, who was dying of cancer, came to Red Onion and asked his son for

forgiveness, which he readily received.  His uncle and aunt forgave him by return letter for the theft of their money.  Over 20 years of hatred and resentment---gone---swept away through the love of the Lord Jesus Christ as presented by the Kairos Ministry. 

            Forgiveness is a huge part of the Kairos message.  Both forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others is presented against the backdrop of the greatest act of forgiveness the world has ever known---the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.

 One of the most memorable times of the weekend came at the conclusion of the Forgiveness of Self talk, the last of the day, followed by a music session.  A good friend, Steve Stuttsman, and I presented the music, and we began to sing, "Amazing Love." The spirit of God came into that gymnasium through that song.  The residents were already touched by the message, and the song drew them deeper into a time of reflection.

  As we sang those lyrics with the men, "I'm forgiven, because you were forsaken, I'm accepted, you were condemned, I'm alive and well, your Spirit is within me, Because you died and rose again, amazing love, how can it be, that you my King would die for me?" Some of the residents turned to team members at their tables and began to weep.  These tough, mean men of survival were broken down and claimed by the Spirit.  I'll never forget watching in awe at the work of the Lord in the lives of those men at that moment.  As one of the leaders of the Kairos ministry said, "It is amazing how far down in a hole the Lord will go to claim His children".

            One of the unique parts of being a Kairos team member is that each is required to recruit volunteers to make homemade cookies for the residents.  Initially, many of the men said they came to Kairos only because they had heard about the cookies from the residents who attended the walk the previous year.  Isn't that just like God!  He takes a cookie and lures a man into His presence!

However, as the weekend progressed, more and more men were moved by the fact that someone had made cookies for them. No one does anything for these men.  The folks who make the cookies pray over them as they are being made.  Those prayers were answered.  Those cookies were a presentation of Christ.  For over 10,000 times (!!), Christ was presented.

            Another great thing about the Kairos weekend is the 36-hour prayer vigil.  Beginning Thursday and occurring in -hour time slots for the duration of the event, people are on their knees praying for these men who they do not know.  A poster has the names and times of folks who are participating in the prayer vigil.  It was amazing  how many times I saw residents walk up to that poster and stare in awe as they pondered the fact that people were praying for them all night and all day.

            Did God answer those prayers?  Oh yes.  At closing, seven men stood and said they had given their lives to Christ over the weekend.  Numerous others, Christian in belief but not necessarily in lifestyle, rededicated their lives to Christ.  A Muslim actually stood up during the open mike time and stated that what he found was nothing like what he expected.  Who knows how that will be manifested in the days and weeks ahead. .

            I walked away from this experience with a more acute awareness of how big my Lord is.  We serve an awesome and mighty God. I used to think I understood His love.  I now know I have so much more to learn and to experience about His love.  To God be the glory.


Boundary training led by ELCA representative


            Boundary training in a variety of subjects was led by Barbara Keller, ELCA consultant for prevention of misconduct, at Epiphany, Richmond, Reformation,New Market, and Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, from April 28-May 1. Topics for discussion included power and vulnerability, friendships, dating, dual relationships, gifts, boundary  issues in the pulpit, hugs and touch,, transference, sexual intimacy, work-life balance and appropriate use of social media.


College chaplains are "vital"


            How to get college and university undergraduates to discern and reflect on vocation is a major concern of campus chaplains today, according to a recent conference of chaplains of Christian schools in Chicago, attended by Roanoke College Chaplain Chris Bowen and President Mike Maxey. Bowen, a new man in the field, was chaplain for the conference.

            Chaplains are vital  and central for vocational education at Christian colleges, Bowen said. The national conference talked about what chaplains will look like in the future and the "ever-growing interfaith councils" who are learning about religion.

            More than 125 chaplains and college executives explored "how to foster a community that provides a healthy environment for all faiths to participate fully and the freedom to live out their faith on campus." Greg Jones, a theologian who is dean of Duke University, was the keynote speaker.





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