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

'14 United Appeal raised $75,251

Lutheran Partners in Mission Logo  

            The Synod's United Lutheran Appeal raised $75,251 last year, more than $13,000 than in 2013. Members of 83 congregations participated.

            Feb. 15 has been designated as United Lutheran Appeal Sunday and materials for the 2015 Appeal have been mailed to congregations, according to Ellen Hinlicky, director of Lutheran Partners. Information about the Appeal is available at

            Peninsula Conference congregations led in contributions with $13,741 reported. Other conferences and amounts given for the Appeal in 2014: Richmond, $12,573; Southern, $9,380; Tidewater, $8,318; Germanna, $8,159; Southern Valley, $7,942; Central Valley, $6,123; Highlands, $2,913;New River, 2,730; Northern Valley, $2,027, and Page, $50.

In This Issue
2014 Appeal raised $75,251
Lutherans in the news
Bishop Eaton's column
Forming faith
Schwerdtfeger wins Henrico award
Let's feed the hunger...for education
Planning for action
ELCA health assessment
Lenten devotions feature Mark
Morgan named to LFS program post
Parsonage Quilt honored
Henrickson goes back to college
Virginia organizations receive grants
Village at Orchard Ridge
Wilsons at Madagascar.


Lutherans in the news


           Pastor Kathryn Pocaoyko has accepted her first call to serve Our Saviour, Richmond, starting Sunday, Feb. 1. She comes from Connecticut and she interned in New York City. She follows Pastor Ken Ruppar, who retired last year.
           Sheri Bansemer, Ebenezer, Marion, has been elected president of the board of 
Hungry Mother Lutheran Retreat Center, near Marion. Dr. Chelsea Hamman, wife of 
Pastor Jonathan Hamman, Rural Retreat Parish, is the new vice president of the board.
           Pastor Steve Bohannon, St. Michael, Virginia Beach, was named to an unexpired term on Synod Council, replacing Pastor CeCee Mills, who moved to North Carolina. Blythe Scott, an attorney and a member of First Lutheran, Norfolk, and a lawyer, was chosen to fill the unexpired term of Rose Booker-Greger, who resigned from Council.
          Dr. Rolf Jacobson, assistant professor Old Testament at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., will speak at Southern Seminary on Feb. 6 as part of Lenoir Rhyne University's 2014-15 Institute for Faith and Learning speaker series. He will speak on "God's Story as Resistance to the Empire: The Role of Biblical Narrative in Counter-Cultural Christian Mission."
          Virginia Synod youth are raising money at Lost and Found and Winter Celebration to bring a representative from Papua New Guinea, Virginia's Global Companion Synod, to attend the ELCA National Youth Gathering in Detroit this summer.                       
          Gloria Dei, Hampton, is planning a series of events to mark its 50th
anniversary this year. A '50s sock hop, youth dance and bowling will lead up to an anniversary dinner Nov. 14 and an anniversary worship service and reception the next day.            
          Members of Christ, Roanoke, are making a banner, creating a quilt, writing a poem and seeking a logo for their 100th anniversary next year.            
          Members of Grace and Glory, Palmyra, meet on second Sundays to assemble food packets for distribution to patients and their families at University of Virginia Medical Center who are undergoing treatment and have severe financial problems. This is done through the Interfaith Humanitarian Sanctum. On first Sundays, they gather to tell the main story of the day in worship through an intergenerational effort to help everyone comprehend in greater depth the story of scripture.            
         At Trinity Ecumenical Parish, members gave almost $10,000 for projects in Tanzania through an Alternate Christmas Tree. Pidge Morgan reported that the funds will be distributed among Door of Hope, Hai Institute of Technology, Godparents for Tanzania and the Tanzania Water Project.
          A Global Christmas at Bethel, Winchester, collected $11,783 for their missionpartners in India, the Philippines and Tanzania. A group of Bethel members planned a trip to Tanzania in late January. 
         In December, 17 groups in Blacksburg sponsored food drives, sharing over 5,700 food items with Micah's Backpack at St. Michael, Blacksburg. A Gingerbread House Contest funded over 1,400 meals to feed children. Also,  a Micah's Soup for Seniors project is distributing 90 bags of food to senior adults each month. 
          A Highlands Conference Handbell Festival will be held at Holy Trinity, Wytheville, on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 4 p.m. Ringers from Grace, Rural Retreat, Ebenezer, Marion and Redeemer, Bristol, will join those from Holy Trinity. A mission trip to work with 
Sea Island Habitat, Charleston, S. C. on a Thrivent Builds project April 19-25.
         Members of Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, contributed to an 
Interfaith Food Pantry which serves approximately 550 families each month. Improvements are being made to the von Bora House, a ministry of Luther Memorial in partnership with New River Family Shelter, providing emergency housing for families.
         St. Mark, Yorktown, has started a live broadcast of its worship services throughout the church property, using a low-power FM transmitter at 88.3 MHz.
         At Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, a strength and balance class is meeting on Monday and Friday mornings, led by Sarah Singer, a certified health fitness specialist. A goal of the class is to help prevent falls.   


We need to talk 

        by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton


Church is the appropriate place for deep, 

honest, even painful conversation about race.


            This summer and fall our country was shaken by violence-the violent encounters between police and young African-American men in Ferguson, Mo., New York and Cleveland, and the violence of communities of color reacting to decisions of grand juries. And, just before Christmas, we were saddened and sickened by the assassination of two New York City police officers as they sat in their patrol car. So much loss of life. Such a forfeit of hope.

      What had happened to us that our country and communities should so quickly fracture? And how could it be that people living in the same place and time, breathing the same air, could have such different experiences of life in the U.S.?

      Just after the grand jury announcement in the Ferguson case, the staff at the Lutheran Center in Chicago got together for lunch and conversation. Staff members who are people of color talked about their experience of race in the U.S. Person after person told stories of being followed by store employees when shopping; of uncomfortable encounters with law enforcement; of the need to teach their children, especially their sons, specific ways to behave when stopped by police; and which neighborhoods to avoid.

      These are your staff. They are decent churchgoing family people who work for the ELCA because they believe in our mission and want to make the world a better place in Jesus' name.

      I also think about all the members of law enforcement whom I've served as a parish pastor. I can't think of a single one who made the decision each day to harass people of color. These were decent churchgoing family people who went into law enforcement because they wanted to make the world a better place, even at the potential risk of their own lives.

      At its root this is not about law enforcement and the legal system. I wouldn't want to live in a community that didn't have police. This is a broken and sometimes dangerous world. The first use of the law (the commandments) is that "external discipline may be maintained against the unruly and the disobedient" (Formula of Concord, Article VI). In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther teaches us that an orderly community and good government are part of what we ask for when we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."

     No, the tension now between communities of color and law enforcement and the different perception of and reaction to Ferguson and New York by white Americans and African-Americans is a symptom of a deeper issue-the issue of race in this country. It's difficult to talk about this for many reasons: we don't want to believe racism still exists in 21st-century America, we want to believe that we're past that as a society, it makes the majority culture feel defensive, we don't want to be thought of as racist, and it's just plain hard to talk about.

      But not talking about it won't make it go away. Some might argue that the church is no place for such a "political" issue, that we should be concerned with the spiritual, not the temporal. But I'm convinced that not only is the church the appropriate place for this conversation, it might be the only place where the deep, honest, even painful conversation about race can take place so people feel they have been heard, and change and healing can happen.

      The church has many resources to help members and congregations talk with each other about race. "Talking Together as Christians about Tough Social Issues" and "Talking Together as Christians Cross-Culturally: A Field Guide" are two ELCA publications available online (search for these titles at Our bishops and synod staffs are ready and willing to walk with congregations as we engage in this.

      But the greatest resource we have comes to us new every day: baptism. In baptism we are claimed by Christ-held fast by Christ, loved by Christ with a love so strong no power in heaven or earth can separate us from it (Romans 8:31-39). In baptism, sin and death have been beaten. In baptism, we have been made new. Redeemed, loved, free people can talk to each other about race.

           We need to talk.


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.


Thinking out loud about forming faith

       by Dr. Phyllis Milton, Synod minister of Christian formation


Faith Formation is the intentional shaping of an individual's faith through as many different ways that faith can be experienced.  Those of us involved in the activity of faith formation are concerned not only with variety of experiences, but with the outcome.  Deuteronomy 6:4-7 gives us our motivation to "get God's word inside of us and inside of our children" (MSG).  

We want to produce adults, youth and children who not only have God's word in their heads (biblical literacy) but who can also express God's love through their hearts (service to all) and in doing so, the Word becomes visible to the world.  Formation that is Christian has at its center educating the community about the works of God found in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospel of God in Christ as found in the New Testament.

            Whatever our unique ministry opportunity may be, my philosophy has always been to "teach what we know, the best way we know."(PFD)  Our standard medium to do this has been through our Sunday school programs, children sermons, children's church, vacation Bible school, day camps, and other traditional models of delivery.  But with our busy and over- scheduled lives, we are finding that our standard times of formal Christian education instruction needs to be supplemented with other ways of "getting God's word inside of us and inside of our children". 

            Publishers of Christian education (CE) material have responded to this challenge by providing literature that has become more inter-active, user friendly, and service project- oriented.  Some congregations have found "success" with programs offered by Faith 5, Group Publishing, and Vibrant faith; all recognized leaders in faith formation.  But these programs are not necessarily "silver bullets," resources that might quickly and easily solve our CE challenge. 

             We also know that our curriculum is not just the literature, but the whole spectrum of what our churches offer to their congregations.  We know that congregations in our faith communities are complex, so no two are alike.  What may work in one ministry situation, may not work in another.  We can provide opportunities, but there is no guarantee that our congregants will make use of them.  Then the question becomes one of maintaining and growing active participants, for we know that formation is a process that happens over time through an individual's involvement and through the relationships that are made. 

            No matter what resources we use, components such as flexibility (variety in time, place, and level of commitment), small groups (8-10 individuals), inter-active involvement (participant centered), service projects ("rolling up your sleeves" opportunities), family participation (children, youth, parents, grandparents), relevancy (addressing the "why" question), mentoring (a supportive presence), and some form of technology (whether providing internet access to actually view "bible lands" to "live streaming" of worship or other congregational activities or to having an "app" to access bible studies or other resources) would seem to be necessary ingredients to maintaining and growing active congregants.

Although our primary directive to "get God's word inside of us and inside of our children" will always remain the same, it is obvious that the landscape of "what resources to use and how to present them" is constantly changing and, yes, it can prove interesting trying to keep up with it all.  But our objective is to always to be faithful in helping our congregants in their growth and development as "Ambassadors for Christ." 


Judy Schwerdtfeger wins Henrico award


Schwerdtfeger, right, 
with Chief Middleton

Judy Schwerdtfeger, Messiah, Mechanicsville, recently received Henrico County's prestigious Community Service Award from Chief Douglas A. Middleton, Henrico County Police. As only the second citizen to receive this award, she has been an active participant and president  of Henrico County's Triad-SALT Council for decades and assists as a volunteer with other county services. Triad-SALT is a crime-fighting and service partnership between law enforcement, seniors. The organizations that form the Triad are the AARP, (American Association of Retired People), IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) and NSA (National Sheriffs' Association). SALT stands for Seniors and Law Enforcement Together.


Let's feed the hunger...for education

            By Bishop James Mauney


(Bishop Mauney wrote this article for 

the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sunday, Jan.25.)


Every school morning, our commonwealth has 321,000 children who come to school hungry, hungry for food. No wonder Governor McAuliffe in his State of the Commonwealth address said, "A key element of increasing student achievement is ensuring that every single child has access to quality nutrition."

Before we feed their hunger for education, we need to feed their hunger for food. On the day of the Standards of Learning tests, schools make certain that every child has eaten before they take the important SOLs. But most mornings, hundreds of thousands of our school children come for education with their stomachs empty. Educators say the hunger pains of these children affect their interest, attention, behavior, attendance, creativity and their hunger for education.

Lutherans in Virginia are humbly and enthusiastically joining with every concerned denomination of faith, civic organization and corporate sponsor that feeds hungry people in their communities. In the more than 150 towns, cities and rural communities of our congregations, we join with others in feeding those who hunger - for food.

We now desire to join with the whole commonwealth in feeding our children's hunger for education by first ending their hunger for food. One way to make things better for our children is to expand upon a growing effort among the states to allow breakfast in the classroom. Eating breakfast at school, and even in the classroom, helps children focus and do better in class. Students who participate in school breakfast show improved attendance, behavior and standardized achievement test scores, as well as decreased tardiness.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, less than 42 percent of eligible students receive free and reduced-priced meals, and still fewer participate in school breakfast. Eating breakfast in the classroom makes eating breakfast a socializing time for all students; this has demonstrated, over and over again, a rise in the classroom participation of once-hungry children. When all students eat together, the stigma of being identified as poor is removed, and the participation of hungry children goes up.

For the sake of their education, let's feed their hunger! They are the very ones who will be caring for us and the world when we are long past retirement. We will hunger for their talents when we need well-educated and compassionate caregivers, leaders and skilled workers.

The more we set up our students for success now, the more successful we will be as a commonwealth later. The students who come to school hungry now, if given the proper nutrition and the opportunities to learn, could be the leaders of tomorrow.

In April 2013, the West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Bill 663, the West Virginia Feed to Achieve Act. Executive Director Richard Goff of the Office of Child Nutrition sent a memo on Oct. 23, 2013, to each county food services director in West Virginia. He wrote, "Successful breakfast programs can be an essential part of student well-being and academic success. Research consistently shows that children who eat a well-balanced breakfast perform better on standardized tests, have higher math scores, and lower rates of absenteeism and tardiness. Therefore, the Legislature is placing the nutritional needs of its WV children at the forefront by declaring that an effective school breakfast program is not an interruption of the school day, but an integral and vital part of that day."

We humbly encourage our General Assembly, schools, civic organizations, churches and faith communities to be unified in our quest that every child be able to hunger for education and not hunger for food. Churches, charities and private organizations already do a great deal, but it will not be done without the commonwealth and the common will of the public sector and its leaders acting to provide this smart start for all our children.

We lift up for this historic General Assembly to consider "Breakfast in the Classroom" as a program for us all to act together and support together to feed our children's hunger - for education.

(Bishop Mauney has been appointed to the 

Governor's Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide.) 

Planning for action


  An op-ed article by Bishop Jim Mauney in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (see article above) and several events were planned by the Virginia Synod Childhood Hunger Task Group at a meeting at St. Mark,  Charlottesville on 21 January.

            All congregations are encouraged to incorporate the feeding of children into your Sunday School and Vacation Bible School programs to help feed kids on weekends and in the summer. 

            SAVE THE DATE: Sunday 13 September - God's Work Our Hands.  Please plan a project that helps alleviate childhood hunger in your community.  Maybe start a community garden or start a weekend feeding backpack program with a local school.  Be on the lookout for more ideas from our team!

           SAVE THE DATE: Saturday 31 October, the 498th Anniversary of the Reformation!  Please plan to have your congregation open its doors with a well-advertised community meal where you feed all your neighbors for free! 

          INDIVIDUAL LUTHERANS:  Are you a member of a civic organization outside of church?  If you would be willing to be a liaison officer from our Task Group to your organization (especially at the state-level) please let us know at


ELCA health plan members

should complete assessment


            All eligible ELCA health plan members have been urged to complete their Mayo Clinic Health Assessment before April 1 in order for the Synod to earn a 2 percent discount on health contributions if there is a 65 percent response rate. That response rate was 71.6 percent last year and it reached a high  of 85.2 percent in 2013, according to Mindy Reynolds, synodical minister for healthy leadership and wellness.

            Those with ELCA primary health benefits are asked to take 30 minutes to complete the assessment, Reynolds said. That will earn $150 in wellness dollars that can be used to offset out-of-pocket medical expenses. If a spouse takes the assessment, that will earn another $150. Perhaps most importantly, Reynolds said, "completing the assessment is an act of stewardship, which benefits you, our churches and our Virginia Synod."


Lenten devotions feature Mark


Fifteen writers, many with Virginia Synod ties, have again prepared free Lenten devotions to be read on a computer, tablet or smart phone this year. An added practice to this year's devotions is the opportunity to read through the entire Gospel According to Mark over the course of Lent. Each devotion will include a section of Mark for daily reading.

            To subscribe for a daily email, beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 18, visit Each devotion includes a meditation on scripture, questions for use alone or in a small group, and a seven-word prayer for use throughout the day.

            The project is led by Pastor Paul Walters, Church of the Master, Troy, Mich., and formerly of Grace, Massaponax. Other writers serving in the Virginia Synod are Pastors Kate Costa, St. Luke, Culpeper; David Drebes,  Prince of Peace, Orkney Springs, and Brett Davis, Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg. Retired Pastor Bob Holley, formerly of the Synod, also contributed. Other writers include April Davis Campbell, Terry Daly, Manisha Dostert, Paul Gateman, Rachel Manke, Judi McMillan, Will Stenke, David Tinker, Scott Torkko, Bill Trexler and Rob Zahn.

            The devotions are "an invitation to be intentional about prayer and reflection throughout this holy season," the text's introduction states. "It is our hope these brief devotions will help you mark the days of the season and through this simple practice Jesus may work through doing that which is good in the sight of God."


Lisa Morgan named to LFS program post



            Lisa Morgan, a veteran of more than 20 years of leading and providing services for people with disabilities, has started directing strategic program development for Lutheran Family Services of Virginia. She came from the post of Virginia director of St. John's Community Services, a multi-state organization providing services to adults with disabilities.

            During the last nine years, she has provided vision, leadership and direction in developing innovative and best practice employment practices for individuals with developmental disabilities.

            LFS reported that on any day, the organization provides services to 726 people, helping children, families and individuals have more complete and abundant lives. Among these services are autism support and services, adoption and foster care, therapeutic day treatment programs and developmental services.

            Ellen Bushman has been promoted to vice president of development for LFS.

            Also, a vicarious trauma and self-care workshop for human service professionals will be offered by LFS at its Newport News location on Feb. 18.   


Parsonage Quilt honored after 127 years


Parsonage Quilt

A quilt containing the names of 1,377 members of St. Paul, Strasburg, who contributed to the church parsonage in the late 19th century, will be in Volume 2 of an upcoming book, Quilts of Virginia. The Parsonage Quilt was photographed and documented by the Virginia Consortium of Quilters.

Completed about 1888, the quilt raised $184.35, a large amount at that time. The quilt, using a Wheel of Fortune pattern, is reported in good condition, with no stains, tears or missing threads. It is on display in St. Paul's Good Shepherd Room.

 Measuring 82 by 821/2 inches (almost 7 feet square), it is hand stitched and made of cotton fabric. Its colors alternate between dark and light red and the wheel design is beige. Each of the 81 wheels has 17 names clearly visible.

The church parsonage was built a few years after the Civil War. St. Paul bought the house in 1884 and the church used it for a century until it was sold. The present owners, Liz and John Schillinger, said the house is "rock solid and we are benefiting from the Lutheran's generous and far-sighted maintenance."


Paul Henrickson goes back to college



         Retired Roanoke College Chaplain Paul Henrickson starts a third career this month-as director of church relations for the college. Henrickson said he hopes "to keep the relationship between the church and the college alive and well."

            The longtime pastor said he will always keep his eyes open for people in leadership positions on campus. Henrickson, also interim pastor at Our Saviour, Christiansburg, will be serving at such events as the annual Assembly and Power in the Spirit.

            His first career was as an aerospace engineer at the NASA Manned Space Center in Houston, followed by five years as a pastor at Manassas and 30 years as chaplain.

Seven Virginia organizations receive grants


Seven grants totaling $96,568 for Virginia organizations to enrich the lives of seniors have been awarded by National Lutheran Communities & Services Community (NLCS) Impact Council.  They were part of a total of 15 grants for $198,567 in Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia and Delaware.

A significant increase in applicants was reported in the second year of the Community Impact Program of the Rockville, Md. Firm.

The Virginia grants:

     Grace Network of Martinsville and Henry County, $5,000 to enable impoverished older adults to remain in their homes

     Colonial Heritage Community Foundation in Williamsburg, $20,000 for adult day care and respite services

     St. Timothy Lutheran, Norfolk, $14,520 for services for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer's

     Our Saviour Lutheran, Warrenton, $14,550 for programming for residents of low income senior housing

     Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, Winchester, $11,720 for management of chronic disease, including training of volunteers

     Valley Program for Aging Services, Buena Vista, $8,778 for training church leaders to assist older adults

     Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries, Toms Brook, $22,000 for a nursing program for isolated, rural parishes.

            NLCS said each organization's proposal met one of these greatest needs identified by a community needs assessment: chronic disease management, navigating and accessing health care and social services, dealing with Alzheimer's, dementia and memory loss, social isolation and financial insecurity.  

Village at Orchard Ridge

plans a total of 460 residents


The Village at Orchard Ridge at Winchester has started construction on a second phase, adding an anticipated 150 residents to its present count of 310 by the time construction is completed in early 2017. Phase 2 residences will range in cost from $229,369 to $655,584.

The Village has received tax exempt bond financing for approximately $68 million to fund construction costs for Phase 2. This phase will have 104 independent living apartments, 10 skilled nursing suites, a 15,000-square-foot wellness center, an indoor pool and a 150-seat dining expansion. The bonds also will partially fund18 independent living cottages available for occupancy, beginning this month. 

Wilsons teach and learn at Madagascar

Sarah and Andrew Wilson and three friends from the Malagasy Church.


            Prof. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson and her husband, Dr. Andrew Wilson of the Institute for Ecumenical Research at Strassbourg, France, recently spent two weeks teaching at a graduate seminary on the island of Madagascar. Wilson, daughter of Prof. Paul and Ellen Hinlicky of Roanoke County, said Madagascar, one of the most ecologically diverse places on earth, located in the Indian Ocean off southeast Africa, also is "less known as the home of a large, vibrant and growing Lutheran church of  at least 3 million members."

            The Wilsons offered an in-depth study of Martin Luther's writings on the ordained ministry, the priesthood of all believers and Christian worship, with special attention to Luther's liturgical reforms.

            However, the Wilsons did not go to Madagascar only to teach, but also to learn, according to a report from the Institute. "The Malagasy Lutheran Church has developed church offices to suit its particular setting and ministry needs, including catechists, evangelists and shepherds. The last category is a ministry of healing and exorcism that arose from indigenous Lutheran revival movements with the church."





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