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

LFS has "broad 

footprint" across the state 

LFS logo new  

            Men and women with a variety of intellectual disabilities were eating, watching television and talking to visitors who toured the new Lutheran Family Services developmental services location at Brandon Point last week. About 20 were content during their four-hour stay.

            Julie Swanson, LFS CEO, and Eric Gordon, manager of the Roanoke center, explained the operation is part of a network across the state-in Bedford, Danville, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, Tidewater and northern Virginia. They continue the services once provided by the former Lamano Agency purchased by LFS in 2011.

            They don't make money but they provide an important service, Swanson said.

            They are part of almost 700 people served by LFS. "Our foot print is pretty broad," she added. The list of services includes five Minnick Schools (two in Roanoke and others in Harrisonburg, Wytheville and Wise) for children with disabilities, adoption and treatment foster care for a total of 60 children in Roanoke, Bedford, Lynchburg, Tidewater, Richmond and Winchester. Therapeutic day treatment for children with autism is offered at Winchester.

In This Issue
LFS' broad footprint
Lutherans in the news
Bishop Eaton's column
A Tazanian student's visit
Synod feasabilty study
Look at the hungry and homeless
Appalachia Coalition closes
Two named to state Campus Violence Task Force.
Warner leads Gillespie
Terrorism works sometimes.
Quick Links


Lutherans in the news


            The congregation of St. Philip, Roanoke, will join Abundant Grace Assembly to prepare a Thanksgiving community feast at two locations on Saturday, Nov.29. Two crews of people will be serving turkeys, hams and pies. A total of 124 units of blood were collected Oct. 13 in the semiannual drive at the church, making a total of 4,884 units collected in the 20-year history. St. Philip also has raised $20,000 toward a cost of $25,000 for a parsonage for the pastor of Mponela Parish, a partner church in Malawi.

            Members of Resurrection, Fredericksburg, are well on their way toward  meeting a minimum balance of $50,000 in order to begin distributing funds for outreach in the local community, ELCA ministries and extraordinary program/capital improvements or other congregation ministries. The Mission Endowment Fund was created to promote, encourage and enable the congregation to carry out its mission work at home and around the world beyond the programs supported by offerings. In September, Resurrection celebrated its 25th anniversary with a slideshow of its history and greetings from former pastors.

            A support group for members who are caring for elderly parents or in-laws has been formed at Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg. Participants are welcome to share stories, advice, helpful hints, frustrations and joys. Two musical events are planned for November at Muhlenberg. An All Saints Choral Concert will be presented on Sunday, Nov. 3, at 4 p.m. The Valley Collegium will present "With Peace and Joy," a concert featuring music of Martin Luther and J. S. Bach on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. Seven members of the congregation plan to join three from Sterling in Northern Virginia on a mission trip to Rwanda next summer.  Donations are sought for the expense of $8,000 for the trip.

            At Christ, Fredericksburg, volunteers are needed for a card ministry to send cards to those who are sick or grieving, celebrating a joyous occasion or sharing God's love with home-bound and military members. "A card ministry allows our congregation to show that we care even when we are not physically present," according to the congregation newsletter.

            At First English, Richmond, the Benevolence Mission Fund Committee is seeking grant requests for up to $1,200 for non-congregational projects which are compatible with the mission and ministry of the church. A major source of these funds is 10 percent of undesignated gifts and bequests. The funding will be approved at the January annual meeting.

            The congregation council of Grace, Winchester, said 20 percent of a gift of $400,000 from the estate of Margaret Holliday will be placed in a Mission Endowment Fund, following guidelines for receipt of undesignated gifts. The council tabled a decision about recommendations for use of the remainder of the funds.

Dr. Paul Wee, who has taught international affairs at George Washington University and led Lutheran World Ministries for the Lutheran Council of  U.S., will present "Where Do We Go From Here?" the third play in a Reformation-based trilogy, at   Christ, Radford,  on Sunday, Nov. 2, at 6:30 p.m. To start the Advent season, an organ rededication and hymn sing will be held at Christ Church on Dec. 7 at 4 p.m.

Retiring Pastor Gary Scheidt and his wife, Liz, were honored at a celebration at Trinity Ecumenical Parish on Oct. 19. Bishop Jim Mauney,  Bishop Mark Bourlakas of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, and Rev. Nancy Dawson from the Presbytery of the Peaks celebrated the work of the ecumenical parish and Scheidt's leadership at an ecumenical celebration on Oct. 12.

At St. Paul, Hampton, plans are made for distribution of 10 Thanksgiving food baskets and 50 weekend food bags will be delivered to Burbank Elementary School.

The Social Ministry Committee at St. Mark's, Roanoke, will continue its tradition of delivering 50 food bags to Social Services clients at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.


Spruce up our spiritual house

        by Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

Disciplines help us glorify God 

while serving in ways that are abundant, clear.


             "I'm spiritual, not religious." How many times have we heard that, usually from people who consider their unchurched status a mark of honor. When I heard this as a parish pastor, I became frustrated, especially when folks waxed lyrical about a spiritual experience engendered from contemplating the beauty of a mountaintop. This was perplexing because I served in Ohio. There are no mountains. I was tempted to dismiss it as laziness. But now I think they are on to something.

            This coincides with what I am thinking after a year in office. The four "emphases" or "strategic intents" or "things" I've identified-we are church, we are Lutheran, we are church together, we are church for the sake of the world-have resonance across the ELCA. It's how I'm organizing my work.

            A clear sense that worship is at the heart of what we do together and at the heart of our worship is the crucified and risen Christ-this is the essential foundation for our life and work together. Being clear about our confessional Lutheran identity facilitates our witness to the gospel and makes possible authentic ecumenical, interreligious and secular engagement. Being church together is a manifestation of the unity we have through baptism into the body of Christ. It is a source of strength. It is scriptural. Being church for the sake of the world is the natural extension of being church, Lutheran and church together. We get to participate in God's renewing and reconciling work in the world God so loves.

            I'm still developing these emphases, but the "we are church" is claiming my immediate attention.

            We are church. We do many wonderful things as the church. We feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the sick. Why do we do these things and how are we able to do them? As I have written before, we are not the American Cancer Society or a nongovernmental organization. Peter instructed us that "like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5). We are ekklesia-an assembly called out from the world and to God.

             There is nothing wrong with employing the best practices of the business world, but before the strategic planning, goal-setting and program implementation we need to be about tending our individual and corporate spiritual life. As a church we need to engage in basic spiritual practices: prayer, silence, corporate worship, Scripture study, giving, service. These are ways God comes to us. These disciplines create a space in us, an openness, for God's Spirit. They chip away at our willfulness. They make us aware of God's presence in our lives.

            These spiritual practices aren't magic or a kumbaya fad. They have been part of the Christian tradition for millennia. They are part of the Lutheran tradition. Martin Luther's morning and evening prayers are precious models of spiritual practice (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 1166). Unfortunately, we've lost this part of our tradition. We've become religious, not spiritual. There is strong evidence that tending the spiritual life is what millennials are longing for. I think the rest of us are too.

            However, the intention must be there also. We are such active, useful people. We are "distracted by (our) many tasks" (Luke 10:40). We might mean to practice spiritual disciplines, but there is real work to do. Attending to God is our real work. Set aside the time. Mark it on the calendar. Then show up. Show up with our whole selves. Give God our complete attention. Practicing these disciplines is not about productivity-it's about being fully and expectantly present to God. Spiritual life is not multitasking.

            We might shy away from this whole business because it seems so inward focused and self-absorbed. It's not. It's the spiritual equivalent of putting our oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Practicing these disciplines is so that we can glorify God and serve in ways that are abundant and clear.

             We have a rich tradition as Lutherans: theological rigor, liturgical worship, musical excellence. Engaging in spiritual practices doesn't supplant any of this. It's part of our life as church. We can be spiritual and religious.


A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the ELCA. Her email address This column originally appeared in the November issue of The Lutheran. Reprinted with permission.


"Will I vomit when the plane goes up and down?"   

       by Pastor Dwayne J. Westermann President, Godparents for Tanzania


           Rogathe "Roggy" John Tippe texted me as he pressed his nose against the glass of the departure lounge at Kilimanjaro International Airport: "Wao! Ndege hii ni kubwa sana sana!" ("Wow! This plane is very, very big!")  He was watching the KLM Boing777 slowly come to a stop just outside the widow as it prepared to offload passengers from Amsterdam and board those for the 11 hour return trip.

Roggy with hosts Pastor Andy and Patty Ballentine in Williamsburg, VA.

           We had been preparing for this day ever since Pastor Andy Ballentine and Roggy's sponsors at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Williamsburg, asked if it would be possible to bring Roggy over for a visit. I told them it "might" be possible if and when he was able to obtain a U.S. visa.  He would have to go through the process of getting a passport and then applying for the visa before we would know for sure.  Having tried and failed with another Tanzanian, I was aware that the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam was increasingly circumspect about granting visas to young 20-something men from this heavily Muslim country even though Roggy was a Lutheran!  I gave him a one in four chance of approval.  Naturally, Roggy sailed through the process and had passport and visa in hand on his first try! So, on the evening of Aug. 27, he climbed the long, steep flight of stairs to the door of the plane and found his seat, anxiously preparing for his first flight and his first time to leave Tanzania on his way to America. And, there were many more "firsts" yet to come!

             Roggy was a scholarship student of Godparents for Tanzania* since he began high school.  He grew up in the village of Shlahamo where he lived with his parents who are subsistence level farmers.  They have no electricity or running water in their small house of clay block with an iron sheet roof. I happened to be visiting in that village in 2002 when I first met Roggy's parents who asked if we could help their son attend high school. Otherwise, because they had no money, his education would end with seventh grade. Fortunately, we were able to provide a scholarship.

            Six years later, upon completion of the advanced level of high school (equivalent to our freshman year of college) with excellent grades, Roggy hoped to study for his Bachelor's degree in Wildlife Management.  He was again very fortunate. St. Stephen Lutheran Church agreed to sponsor him for the three-year degree program.  He completed all his course work this past June, again with top grades, and will participate in graduation exercises next month.  While waiting for graduation, he had time and opportunity to make the U.S. visit.

            It is difficult for us to imagine the enormous distance, not only in air miles, but in culture and environment, that Roggy travelled this past July.  A couple of his questions prior to departure provide insight:  "Are there toilets on the plane?"  "Will I vomit when the plane goes up and down?"  It took real courage to climb those steep steps to the door of the Triple7 and leave all things familiar behind!  "Wao!"

Roggy's visit to Washington, D.C.

       It was a wonderful relief for all of us when Roggy exited the U.S. Customs area at Dulles International Airport! And, it was a real joy to have him spend time with us in Virginia as he was introduced to many more "firsts:" interstate highway, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, lawnmower, dishwasher, refrigerator, shopping malls, food pantry for the poor, riding a Skee-Doo, Washington, D.C. and a great many new friends.  Now we are counting the months to June of next year and our annual trip to Tanzania to visit with all of our Godparents for Tanzania students as well as some of our alumni including Rogathe "Roggy" John Tippe.


*Learn more about the work of Godparents for Tanzania at: www.godparents4tz.


Feasibility study started for capital appeal 


            The Synod Council has employed a Harrisonburg firm to conduct a feasibility study for a synod-wide capital appeal in conjunction with the ELCA campaign on the theme, Always Being Made New. The study, involving 40 interviews, will be conducted from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31. The results will be turned over to the council.

            The ELCA campaign goal is nearly $200 million "to invest in the future of this church, deepen relationships and expand ministry opportunities that serve our neighbors and communities in the U.S. and around the world." An ELCA spokesperson said the campaign "will establish a strong culture of stewardship in which this church will be well-positioned to do God's work in Jesus' name throughout the world, for decades to come."


Looking at the hungry and homeless  

     by Pastor Kelly Derrick, World Hunger Team Chair


Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; 

I have called you by name, you are mine.  (Isaiah 43:2)


Several years ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to gather with a few people who had lived or were continuing to live homeless.  They were able to share their stories with our group, enabling all of us to see one another as brothers and sisters in the one body of Christ.  At the close of their presentation, someone asked them: "What can we do to help?"  Without pause, all three people said: "Look at us when you walk by.  Look us in the eye.  And smile.  This way you can really see us as people and not as homeless."  Wow!  That was a real eye-opener for me and for my ministry in general. 

            Many congregations and individuals will serve holiday meals to their communities this year.  This is such a gift to our sisters and brothers who are hungry.  The number of hungry people in our communities continues to rise and the need is ever-present.  I give thanks for your faithful service to our neighbors.

            I would encourage you, as you serve, to look people in the eye as you serve them.  And smile.  Maybe even ask their names, sit down and hear their stories, talk to one another as brothers and sisters in the one body of Christ.  In this way, we offer hospitality in Christ's name along with some good food. 

            Too often, food assistance is given to those who are hungry in a way that can perpetuate a separation of those who have from those who have not.  Jesus met people where they were, ate with everyone - saint and sinner alike, and spoke to people by name.  Jesus recognized the humanity of everyone with whom he came in contact.  As followers of Jesus, we should go and do likewise. 

            We are all one body because of God's love for us in Christ Jesus.  May we share that love in dignity, grace, and humanity.  We have nothing to fear.  God has redeemed us and called us all by name.  Together, we all belong to God.




Pastor Carroll Wessinger dies at 83

           Pastor Carroll Wessinger, Appalachian regional counselor based at Wytheville under the former Lutheran Church in America for almost 20 years, died Oct. 27. He was 83.

            A North Carolina native, he served at Lutheran Church of the Nativity at Arden, N.C., before moving to the Appalachia post at Wytheville. He led the Appalachia ministry in the 11 synods which had all or part of their territory in the Appalachia Region extending from Mississippi to New York State. A major accomplishment of this strategy was the Lutheran Mountain Ministries including 18 congregations in Wythe, Smyth and Bland counties and Burkes Garden in Tazewell County.

            Survivors include his wife, Gloria Smith Wessinger; a son, Mark Messinger; a daughter, Beth Cochran, and four grandchildren. The funeral was on Oct. 30 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Wytheville, with burial in St. John's Lutheran Cemetery.


Retired Pastor Richard Boye dies at 86

            Retired Pastor Richard E. Boye, 86, of Devon, Pa., and formerly of Radford, died Oct. 25. In his 41 years of active ministry, he served congregations in Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Minnesota before retiring in1993.

            Survivors include a son, Erik Boye; daughters, Carol B. Russo, Leanne Boye-Buckley and Kirsten B. Herman, and 10 grandchildren. The funeral was held on Oct. 29 at Our Saviour, Christiansburg. Burial was private.


Appalachia Coalition closes for lack of support


            The Evangelical Lutheran Coalition for  Mission in Appalachia (ELCMA), an organization of Virginia and 15 other synods, has closed its Punxsutawney, Pa. headquarters because of decreased funding and less calls from congregations and synods.

            Pastor Dan May, interim coordinator, said the office closed Oct. 23 in what ELCMA called an "orderly dissolution."  After checking hundreds of files and gathering thousands of pictures, he and his staff have 11 boxes of records to be archived at ELCA headquarters in Chicago.

            The coalition of 16 synods and a number of congregations and individuals in the Appalachia began in 1990 "joined together for Christ's mission" in the region extending from Mississippi to New York State. This continued the ministry of Appalachia led by the late Pastor Carroll Wessinger, regional counselor, from 1970 until the late 1980s under the former Lutheran Church in America. Based in Wytheville, Wessinger served 11 LCA synods in 13 states.

            As recently as 2012, Virginia Synod was represented on the ELCMA Coalition by Bishop Jim Mauney, the late Pastor Chip Gunsten, Pastors Meredith Williams, Martin Saarinen, Steve Ridenhoujr and Terry Edwards, as well as Connie Saunders and Shaaron Goodman. As reported in the 2012 Synod Assembly, some of the projects where the Coalition made an impact were grant proposals from hundreds of food pantries and  clothing closets, a South Carolina recreation center for under-served youth, an evangelism effort by two Pennsylvania congregations and new ministry starts in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.

            May, the interim coordinator, said a planning team from an Appalachian Consultation held last January has met a number of times  "to look into what new form of ministry the ELCA could be considering in the Appalachia territory." He said they are in the early stages of this "important work." May said there are "many people throughout Appalachia and all creation who love and serve our Lord and share God's grace with others."

Judy Casteele, Michael Maxey

named to state Campus Violence Task Force  

     by Kayla Fuller



With the disappearance and death of Hannah Graham at Charlottesville, the ongoing conversations about safety on college campuses have become more frequent in Virginia and across the nation. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe made this topic a priority in our state in August when he announced that he was forminga Task Force to Combat Sexual Violence at the state's colleges and universities.

            Two of our Virginia Lutherans are part of this 30-member Task Force. Judy Casteele, executive director of Project Horizon in Buena Vista and a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lexington, was appointed to the task force over the summer and sees it as a way to be an ambassador for Christ. "I think it's important for people to see how your day in the pew affects the rest of your everyday life," Casteele said.

Roanoke College, one of the Virginia Synod's eight mission partners, is also represented on the task force by President Michael Maxey. 

Maxey, Mike

The task force created to promote prevention of sex crimes, to form a safe environment for victims to come forward, and to properly punish those responsible, met on Oct. 9, headed by Attorney General Mark Herring. Casteele said the task force will meet quarterly and the three committees focused on prevention, response and law enforcement will meet monthly.

"Across the commonwealth there is a broad range in the ways that colleges respond to sexual assault," she said. "We are supposed to look at everything and make a recommendation on how the commonwealth should go forth." Each committee is expected to bring recommendations to the governor in June 2015.

Bringing 26 years of experience in working in violence against women and providing victim services, Judy Casteele was a natural choice to serve as a member of the task force.

Project Horizon, where she is now the executive director, is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to reducing domestic, dating and sexual violence in the Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County area. Their outreach programs and direct services to clients include a 24-hour hotline (463-2594), emergency shelter, crisis intervention, counseling, applicable referrals, and legal advocacy. 

As well as being invested in ending violence against women in Virginia, Casteele is also the Virginia Synod representative on the ELCA's Women and Justice Task Force.

"For me there is an obvious connection between what I believe and what I do," she said.  "This work is my calling. My life calling is working in the area of violence against women. It's all about justice and there is no greater justice than making sure people are safe from harm."


Olivia Hodge, Blacksburg, earns $1,000 food grant


Olivia Hodge (right) and 
Rachel Hosig, a fellow volunteer at Micah's Backpack. 

            Olivia Hodge, a Blacksburg High School junior and a volunteer at St. Michael Lutheran, wrote a grant to expand the summer Mobile Backpack program which won a $1,000 ABC Summer Service award from Youth Service America. The grant is to help expand the route of Micah's Mobile Backpack next summer.

            Last summer, Hodge and other volunteers delivered 988 backpacks containing 1,820 donated food items and more than 416 pounds of fresh vegetables and blueberries. Also, 5,928 meals were shared.

            "We positively impact lots of kids' lives every time they open a bag and have weekend meals to eat," Hodge said. "I knew that we could feed more kids if we had the funding to expand our summertime route." Her plan to expand the route was in response to a mother asking for the food pantry to visit her neighborhood.

            For this grant, Youth Service America asked for submissions from young people who create lasting, positive change through volunteer and community service projects. The organization said it likes ongoing, youth-led projects that highlight the creativity and commitment of young people working to meet the needs of others.

            Youth Service America, based in Washington, D.C., said that when young people have the chance to serve their communities everyone benefits, young people gain skills necessary to success in school, in the workplace and in life. Also, the community develops strong, diverse groups of inspired, civically-engaged young people.

            Micah's Backpack, an active program at St. Michael, shares weekend meals and snacks with children and youth in seven Blacksburg public schools and two income-based pre-schools. During the academic year, schools partner to deliver weekend food and summer deliveries are made directly to children at their homes.

Warner leads Gillespie 45 to 32% in college poll


            In a poll of 738 likely Virginia voters, a Roanoke College poll found that Democratic Sen. Mark Warner held a 13-point lead over Republican challenger Ed Gillespie for a U.S. Senate seat. Warner had 45 percent of the vote to Gillespie's 32 percent in mid-October. Libertarian Robert Sarvis had 3 percent in the poll.

            In a generic ballot for Congress in the Nov. 4 election, Republicans were polled at 41 percent to Democrats' 39 percent. The college poll had a +3.6 percent margin of error.

            Support of the candidates was reported as firm: 81 percent of Gillespie supporters and 77 percent of Warner backers said they are very certain of their choice. But many have unfavorable views of  both  political parties; 47 percent of Democrats had an unfavorable view and 33 percent, favorable; 46 percent of Republicans had an unfavorable view and 28 percent, favorable.

            When asked about the most important problem facing the country, 22 percent said the economy; 13 percent, unemployment or jobs; 9 percent, budget or taxes; health care, 9 percent; leadership gridlock, 9 percent, and education, 5 percent.

            Less than half, 45 percent, believe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statement that the Ebola virus can only be spread by contact with bodily fluids; 31 percent do not believe it and 24 percent are unsure. More than half, 58 percent are somewhat concerned that someone in their family will contract the disease. Nearly half, 48 percent, think President Obama is doing enough to fight the spread of Ebola while 39 percent said he is not doing enough. 

            A larger number, 80 percent, are somewhat or very concerned that ISIS, the Islamic radical movement, will attack in the U.S.; 53 percent are very concerned and only 38 percent believe the President is doing enough to stop ISIS while 47 percent say he is not doing enough.   


Terrorism works sometimes


            Sometimes terrorism does work, Dr. Marek Payerhin, a Lynchburg College professor, told a meeting at Holy Trinity, Lynchburg. Both the creation of Israel in the 1940s and the Palestinian cause "have been greatly helped by terrorist campaigns," he said.

            Payerhin, professor of international relations and political science, said, "Similarly, terrorists are not necessarily unredeemable crazies." As examples, he cited statesmen Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Samir and Yasser Arafat. (Begin and Arafat even received Nobel Peace Prizes.)

            Speaking on "Persistent Myths about Terrorism," he said terrorism is not an ideology  but only a strategy: extremists from the political left and right , religious militants, separatists and state-sponsored agents have very different values and preferences but they all use terrorism. Terrorists are not necessarily isolated from their communities, he continued. In fact, they recruit from and keep addressing their reference groups; very often, the terrorist organization is just an underground wing of an official political movement (think the IRA or Hamas).

            As history, Payerhin said terrorism is not a new phenomenon as some 2,000 years of evidence suggest, from the sicarii in ancient Palestine to medieval Asssassins to 19th century anarchists and others. Also, he added, "we may be deluding ourselves that introducing democracy will eliminate terrorism: many Western democracies have been plagued by terrorism throughout this and previous centuries and the success of Hamas and similar movements shows that people may democratically elect extremists." 





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