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                                                                                             January 2015
                         The Virginia 
Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921.

Virginia Feeds Kids!


       The Virginia Synod Childhood Hunger Task Group now has an initial webpage, Facebook page and Twitter account.  Check us out online.

     Read our approved charter on our Webpage:


     Like us on Facebook:

     Follow us on Twitter:  


     E-mail us at:  


     We are looking for people willing to serve as Lutheran liaisons to various organizations throughout the Commonwealth.  So if you are involved with scouting, education, business, recreation, county or local government, or social organizations beyond church, let us know if you'd like to be our liaison to that group!  If you have friends in other denominations who would like to get involved, let us know.  This is an interagency and ecumenical effort!  We Lutherans are just helping to bring folks together.

Have a blessed new year full of possibilities for ending childhood hunger in Virginia!

In This Issue
Virginia Feeds Kids!
Lutherans in the news
Bishop Eaton's column
Christmas should be for giving, not consuming
LARCUM Conference highlights
PNG seminarian supported by Synod
Two barn services celebrate Christmas
The gift of time
Historic cemetery restored
Southern Seminary plans leadership summit
" Offerings" shared at Peace, Charlottesville
Quick Links

Virginia Synod, ELCA


Lutherans in the news


             Pastor Joseph Bolick, former associate pastor at St. Matthew, Charleston, S.C., has been installed as associate pastor at Epiphany, Richmond.  He is a son of Bishop Leonard Bolick of the North Carolina Synod. His wife is Pastor Sarah Lang, who grew up in St. John, Abingdon, and has also served as associate pastor at St. Matthew. They have a daughter, Lucia. A North Carolina native and a graduate of Appalachian State University and Southern Seminary, he was a counselor at Lutheridge Camp and served in Lutheran Volunteer Corps. After ordination, he served at Our Saviour, Johnson City, Tenn., before he was called to Charleston.

            Blythe Scott, First Lutheran, Norfolk, has been appointed to serve an unexpired term on Synod Council, following Pastor CeCee Mills, who resigned at St. Timothy, Norfolk, and moved to work with a congregation in Charlotte. 
            In a listing of 18 Roanoke Valley nursing homes, Brandon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was the only one with 0 deficiencies in state inspections, according to The Roanoke Times. The numbers of deficiencies for the other 17 homes ranged from 1 to 45. The state average was 8.5 and the national average was 6.8. Brandon Oaks has 62 certified beds.
            Melissa May was scheduled to tell about her work with On Eagle's Wings, an ecumenical ministry serving people in remote areas of northern Canada, at the Dec. 21 service at St. Paul's, Jerome Parish, Edinburg. She is the daughter of Pastor and Mrs. Jeff May, St. Paul's.
            At Grace and Glory, Palmyra, members were urged to join a Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service program to send holiday cards to women and children held in family immigration detention facilities. The families were fleeing their home countries in Central America to seek protection in the U.S. LIRS encouraged letter writers to send encouraging messages of hope in Spanish on seasonal greeting cards "to bring light and joy to families in detention."
            Members of St. Mark, Yorktown, collected 194 pairs of shoes to be sent to developing nations for school children and to barter for goats producing needed milk.
            At Bethel, Winchester, seven families followed a book, Holding Your Family Together, by Dr. Rich Melheim, by meeting in homes for food, sharing, mutual support, learning and FUN. They learned about "Faith5," steps to take each night before bedtime. The steps are Share highs and lows, Read one Bible verse, Talk about high and lows related to the Bible verse, Pray for one another and Bless one another.
           At Trinity, Pulaski,  a prayer box has been installed to invite members of the community who pass by to leave a prayer request. 
            Trinity, Roanoke, reported that Huntington Court United Methodist, a neighboring congregation, took funds normally used to buy Christmas poinsettias and contributed the money to Trinity's Helping Hands ministry. Huntington Court volunteers also helped Trinity cook Brunswick stew to benefit Helping Hands.
            Members of Christ, Radford, have been asked to join Grace, Episcopal, Radford Presbyterian and St. Jude Catholic in To Our House, a New River Valley partnership providing housing and meals to people who need a place of safety and security in winter months. Christ members will be asked to commit to offering meals and act as overnight hosts and drivers.
            At St. Michael, Blacksburg, Micah's Soup for Seniors delivered over 90 bags of food to low-income adults and over 275 volunteers fed 266 children with Micah's Backpack weekend food packages in November.

Associate Pastor Phyllis Milton, Gloria Dei., Hampton, told of attending the National Acolyte Festival at Washington National Cathedral, with over 670 acolytes from 92 churches. The theme was "We are marching, singing, serving in the Light of God." Milton reported that "the pageantry of the procession was awesome, the vestments beautiful and the participants beamed with the type of pride that comes from the joy of serving." The procession was so long that it took six hymns for all the participants to process in.

            Weldon Bradshaw, a teacher/coach at Collegiate School in Richmond, talked about his book, My Dance with Grace (Reflections with Death), at a December meeting of
Women of the ELCA at First English, Richmond.
            The Evangelism Committee of Christ, Roanoke, plans to offer "a hot beverage and a blessing to our neighbors who drive, walk or ride by our building," starting the first Monday of January. Lots of volunteers are needed to "share the love of God in our commuity," according to Christ's Communique, the congregation's newsletter.
            St. Stephen, Williamsburg, plans to offer a Wednesday evening word and sacrament service year-round, starting January. An informal service is planned to feature interaction with worshipers reading lessons and offering prayers from their seats, a conversation rather than a formal sermon, contemporary music-style worship songs and a spoken communion liturgy.


Baptism begins real new year

        by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

Resolutions will always come up short

in our attempts to remake ouselves.


            A new year. Time to start over. A fresh set of possibilities. Out with the old, in with the new. New Year's resolutions are made---usually along the lines of self-improvement. And so, with a combination of optimism and grim determination, we set out into the New Year.

            But how long does our resolve last? Day? Weeks? It's a good bet that the gym will be a lot less crowded at the end of January than it was at the beginning.

            New Year's resolutions are symptoms of our underlying dis-ease. We have an obscured image of the beauty and wholeness of God's good creation. There is a gap between who we are and who we have been created to be. So we try to fill that gap ourselves. We are going to eat right, work out, fix our relationships, floss regularly, lose weight, corral our calendars, clean the garage, learn another language, etc., etc., etc.

            These are all worthy goals and might actually be beneficial, but they can't fill the gap. Maybe we can sustain this aggressive schedule for self-improvement past January but probably not. Discouraged and dispirited we make it to the beginning of Lent only to do the spiritual version of New Year's resolutions. And we wonder, like Martin Luther, is it enough?

            All of our efforts to achieve self-justification and self-righteousness are futile and may, in fact, be harmful. They twist and distort our relationship with God, with each other, even with creation. They become a means to an end; food, instead of something to enjoy, becomes a dietary supplement; our bodies, instead of being a gift from the Creator, become our enemies in our quest for physical perfection; other people, instead of being a loving community, become competitors. Exhausted and frustrated in our attempts to save our lives resentment sets in.

            And that's really it, isn't it? We are trying to save our own lives, to stave off death. We cannot and we do not have to.

            "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." (Romans 6:3-5)

            There it is. In baptism we have already died the only death that really matters. The death of  Christ Jesus into which we are buried is the end of death. It is the breaking of the power of sin. It is the beginning of our new life. To borrow a pop culture image, we are now the undead.

            The early church understood this and enacted it in its baptismal practice. Candidates for baptism were stripped and, naked as the day they were born, went into the water. When they came out they were anointed with oil and clothed in new garments. This practice will probably not be renewed in most of our congregations---the strain on the altar guild alone would prohibit---but it made it physically and visually clear that the baptized had left their old life and entered Christ's new life by death and resurrection.

            Theologian Robert W. Jenson wrote in Christian Dogmatics: "My baptism broke the bond of the past on the future." In baptism freedom from the past and new possibility come together.  In baptism we are now in Christ. "So if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17). It's been done. We are justified. We have been made righteous. We have been set free.

            So make New Year's resolutions if you want, but understand that in baptism God has given us a new life, a new year, a new day. Freed from all of the emotional and spiritual energy  that had been invested in the impossible task of freeing ourselves we are now free to love God and serve the neighbor.

            Happy New Year!


A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the ELCA. Her email address This column originally appeared in the January, 2015 issue of The Lutheran. Reprinted with permission.


Christmas should be for giving, not consuming

       by Pastor Lynn Bechdolt, Holy Trinity, Martinsville 


(Pastor Bechdolt responds to an article about a Roanoke College poll showing strong consumer sentiment in the December issue of the Virginia Lutheran.  She wrote this in early December.) 


We are just starting Advent, a time when we in the church are trying very hard

for this to NOT be the retail season of pre-Christmas buying. So, I wonder what this

article is doing in our synod newsletter.

 "Consumer" confidence is about the willingness of us consumers to buy. Often, we are urged at this time of year, even more than others, to purchase so that the economy won't collapse. After all, the biggest portion of our economy is driven by consumerism. Right?

If anyone should be standing up and rejecting this approach to life, it is we who

worship the LORD God and not what we can buy. Believe it or not, our economy will

not crash tomorrow if we spend less at the cash register this year for Christmas gifts.

There will still be Christmas even if we have nothing to spend.

Advent is about preparing ourselves to RECEIVE a gift no money can buy-the

redeemer of this fallen world. He is the one who teaches us to give and to share what

we have, not to buy and have more things that don't satisfy us. In fact, Jesus warned us

about having too much stuff. "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."(Mat 6:21) So, I'd like to know that I can read my synod newsletter and not hear how the economy is better because we consumers have more confidence in our ability to

consume our way into oblivion.

 What about our neighbor who is poor? What about our planet that cannot tolerate the trash from those things we no longer want? What about our trust in God who has always provided for us what we really need? "But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Mat 6:33)  


LARCUM speaker John Armstrong: 

   "The church exists for mission"

     by Pastor Eric Moehring



Bishop Jim Mauney signs
the LARCUM Covenant.

Participants at the Dec. 5-6 LARCUM conference received the hospitality of four historic downtown Norfolk churches: First Lutheran; Ghent UMC; Christ and St. Luke's Episcopal; Sacred Heart Catholic.

The theme of the annual Lutheran/Anglican/Roman Catholic/United Methodist gathering was "The New Landscape of Post-Christian Christianity." Pre-registration held at 104 attendees with a number of others enjoying portions throughout the two-day conference.

            The speaker, John Armstrong, professor of missions at Wheaton College and founder of ACT 3 Network, based his very practical remarks on the following three assumptions:

  • Americans remain deeply religious yet increasingly reject organized religion; they retain a deep desire for spirituality and a strong interest in "church" and its purpose.
  • The next generation wants to belong to community before they can believe anything that is taught in that community.
  • We need to form a renewed understanding of church and its mission in order to respond to this new mission field in America.

Pastor Armstrong, who was raised in a strong Pentecostal tradition and currently attends an ELCA congregation, began his remarks with some significant statistics about the current state of not only main line denominations but also the Pentecostal/Evangelical communities.

 He concluded that the problems stem "not from secular culture but a secularism (ideology)" where there seems to be "no place for the role of faith."

            He then tackled the two things that the church must remember to be missional. First, the "what" of church always must lead to "who we love and serve: Jesus Christ." And secondly, to understand church is to see the church as not "doing mission," but "being the mission of God. Just as fire exists for burning, the church exists for mission."

             Armstrong concluded his remarks by stressing the importance of the church being ecumenically-minded: "The Trinitarian God and the Incarnate Christ birth a people who desire relationships" with this Trinitarian God and Incarnate Christ, with each other, and with the community it serves.

 Information about John Armstrong and ACT 3 Network is available at: His blogs are published at Bishop Jim Mauney gave the opening prayer.

 Mark your calendar for the 2015 LARCUM Conference: December 4 and 5.  Place and topic will be announced early in 2015.


PNG seminarian supported by Synod


In Papua New Guinea, Sasanang Bahata (right), a seminary student, carries books provided by Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, and Our Redeemer, Petersburg.  After seminary,  he plans to return to serve a congregation in the NGI District. Virginia Synod donors sponsor seminarians, paying tuition and travel expenses for an annual trip home to see their families and home congregations. 


Two barn services celebrate Christmas

           More than 600 people gathered in barns to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve at Grace, Rural Retreat, and Bethel, Winchester.  Both continue a long tradition of worshiping in a stable. Almost 300 met at the Rural Retreat barn along with a donkey, a lamb, two goats and a calf for two services, said Pastor Jonathan Hamman. Over 300 assembled at the Winchester barn (above). About half were visitors at the outreach worship for people who don't go to church or haven't been for awhile, said Pastor David Young.


The gift of time 

     by Pastor Andy Ballentine, St. Stephen, Williamsburg


            (In an Advent message for The Quill, the newsletter of St. Stephen,
Williamsburg, Pastor Andy Ballentine wrote about "The Gift of Time---To Step Back from the Emotion, to Breathe, to Pray.")


     Are you tired of Christmas yet?

            I'm only partly facetious when I ask that. It's been "Christmas" for a month. (Here's a sad joke that was going around in late October. Q. How can you tell it's almost Halloween? A. Because of all the Christmas decorations that are up!)

            Many of us get caught up in frenzied excitement during these weeks. Others of us find ourselves carrying heavy emotion at this time. Many feel grief that is especially sharp as Christmas approaches, because we are mourning loved ones who have died. Some of us feel depressed because we can't make ourselves feel as happy as we're supposed to feel!

            Since it's been "Christmas" for a month, here's another question. Are you tired because of Christmas yet? (Do you notice how this is different from the first question?) The season of Advent is a gift of time from God! Our God, who loves us and desires healing for us, offers us time for consciousness, for stepping back from the emotion, to breathe and to pray.

            During this season of Advent, how can you practice calm confidence and hopeful expectation in the middle of everything swirling around in the culture? "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." How can you practice watchful waiting during this season of Advent? How can that affect your prayer?


St. Jacobs-Spaders restores historic cemetery

     by Pastor Evan Davis, St. Jacobs-Spaders
Paul Driver (foreground) and friends
clean up Dungeon's Chapel Cemetery.


St. Jacob's-Spaders Lutheran, just outside Harrisonburg, is cutting, mowing, and clearing its way into history.  That is, the people of St. Jacob's have been partnering with their neighbors for several months to help restore an historic cemetery just across the road.

 The cemetery is that of Dungeon's Chapel, also known as Pleasant Valley United Brethren in Christ, one of the first predominately African-American congregations founded in Rockingham County in the years following the Civil War.  The congregation ceased active worship in the 1930's, when members presumably moved away looking for work during the Great Depression. 

Since then, various neighbors and descendants of the Dungeon's Chapel community maintained the cemetery.  However, it has in recent years become totally overgrown with thick brush.  Until it was recently knocked down in a storm, a church building also stood on the site.  This building once sat on the grounds of St. Jacob's as a school for the African-American community, but was moved to the Dungeon's Chapel site in the 19th century to serve as worship space in addition to continued use as a school.

            While there was always a vague collective memory of the cemetery among St. Jacob's members, the connection was highlighted when our members started to meet our neighbors.  As we went door-to-door to get to know our neighborhood, we met several neighbors who knew about Dungeon's Chapel and even had helped restore a similar African-American cemetery elsewhere in the county.

 Together we decided it was time to restore the site to honor the sisters and brothers in Christ buried there as well as their congregation.  In September and October, the cemetery restoration became our "God's work, Our hands" project.  Most of the ground is now cleared, and we hope to finish the project in the coming year, possibly even with the placement of a state historical marker.  Getting to know our neighbors and lifting up a story of faith - it's just "God's work, our hands" kind of stuff!


Rear Adm. Ross Trower dies at 92

Rear Admiral Ross Trower, 93, former Navy chief of chaplains and pastor of St. Mark, Springfield, when it was in the former Virginia Synod, died Oct. 31. When he retired last August, he was the longest/oldest serving pastor in the ELCA. He started at St. Mark in 1984.


Pastor Diane Jackson dies at 68

            Pastor Diane Jackson, who served at Redeemer, Pearisburg, from 1998 to 2005, and also at Holy Cross, Herndon, in the pre-ELCA Virginia Synod, died Oct. 28 at Ivins, Utah. She was 68.


Remembering Cornelia Revell at Grace, Winchester

            At Grace, Winchester, they won't forget Cornelia Revell, who died in September, 1992. She left a charitable trust valued at $5.6 million after surviving relatives died and it was received by the church in 2009.

            Funds from the trust have been used to pay off a remodeling loan, for repairs to stained glass windows, steeple and roof. Under its managers, the principal fund continues to grow while the congregation uses the interest to help meet budgeted expenses, according to Grace Tidings, the monthly newsletter of the church.

            A friend remembers Revell had "a regal bearing but a good sense of humor." Retired Grace Pastor Jim Utt remembers her as thoughtful, with respect to her life values, her relationships, her church. She wanted to make a difference, quietly and with no fanfare, he said..

            A Winchester native and a member of Grace, she married Wyatt Henkle Richard, a wealthy apple orchard owner, international fruit broker and also a Grace member.. After his death, she married Haslup Fourree Revell of Philadelphia and after his death, she married his brother, Robert Fitchue Revell. She died at the age of 90

            Revell "blessed her church, our church, with an enormous gift. We are charged with being good stewards of the funds. We can also take her generous example and continue to bless Grace Lutheran Church with our own time, talents and treasure," according to the newsletter. 


Southern Seminary plans leadership summit

   ltss logo

            On Jan. 5, Southern Seminary will start a monthly Southern Leadership Summit, a breakfast gathering on campus "to discuss and promote the importance of leadership as an essential component in highly effective and thriving organizations of all kinds.:

             Approximately 50 community leaders in the Midlands of South Carolina are expected to hear about challenges and risks of leadership, characteristics of a strong leader, signs of toxic leadership, to network with other leaders, strengthen community connections and promote professional development.  

Members of Peace, Charlottesville, 

share "Miracle Offerings"


 Members of Peace, Charlottesville, have raised more than $140,000 in Christmas offerings for "miracles, large and small, local, regional and global," according to Tidings of Peace, the congregation's monthly newsletter. Christmas is not your birthday was the headline on an article about the annual Christmas Miracle Offering.

            The unique ministry began in 2005 when several Peace members traveled to Gignhamsburg Church in Ohio for a Change Conference. The Miracle Offering was one of the ideas they brought back.

            The practice is to "spend less money on gifts for ourselves and friends and the other commercial trappings of the Holiday Season; spend more time in loving and caring relationships with one another, our family, friends and neighbors and take the money we might have spent on ourselves and others for 'stuff' that we really don't need and give it as a 'miracle' gift-a cause or causes where collectively we can make a difference."

            That first year they raised almost $17,000 and the average annual collection since has been about $10,000. Receipts from that first year helped a mission partner in Togo, on the verge of losing a church, and another in Honduras facing problems with a Christian school. The total for 2014 hasn't been calculated yet.

            Thee gifts have helped finance an orphanage, schools and medicines; to Lutheran World Relief, the ELCA Malaria Campaign, to the Binns-Counts Community Center in the mountains of Dickenson County, to the Bridge Ministry in Buckingham County, to the Virginia chaplaincy program and to such local causes as the Salvation Army for playground equipment, On Our Own mental health services, PACEM homeless ministry, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Loaves and Fishes.

            Three causes are chosen each year. The Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, Bright Star of Bethlehem, a peace program in Israel, and a Cambodia program were the 2014 recipients. The Miracle Offerings have "changed a lot of attitudes about what is Christmas, what would Jesus want for his birthday and what is the true meaning of sacrificial giving," according to the Peace newsletter.




Editor:  George Kegley   
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