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

We did it!
     by Eric Carlson
           We did it! The ELCA Malaria Campaign reached its financial goal of $15 million. Thank you! Working together with our Lutheran companions and partners, malaria programming has taken place throughout 13 countries in Africa. By working together, we have brought about lasting change.
"Thank You!"
            Although the fund-raising goal of $15 million has been met, our commitment to ending deaths from the preventable treatment has not. Additional gifts may be given to expand the malaria efforts until Jan. 31. In the coming years, support to our companions and partners to address malaria will come through gifts to ELCA World Hunger which has a long history of supporting health-related work.
            The Virginia Synod is also supporting our companion synod in Papua New Guinea as they fight against malaria. Since the Synod Assembly in June, over $5,000 has been received for this effort. How about your congregation? How about making a recurring monthly gift of $20.17 through to help fight malaria in Papua New Guinea?
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
LFS adoption fills an empty nest
Synod launches $2.5-million Endowment Campaign
Bishop Eaton's column
511 Roanoke College freshmen move in
Lutheran Arne Sorensen
Small churches have assets
Faith in Action focuses on justice
African-American history tour
Two-century Tannenburg organ...rededicated
God's Work, Our Hands
Churches respond to call to end racism
St. John, Abingdon, starts weekend food program
Committee to lead bishop election process
"Bold Women" meet at Yorktown.
Worship "Extravaganza"
Lutherans in the news
Walters Family
             David Walters, a life-long member of First Lutheran, Norfolk, was ordained at his home congregation on Sept.11. He was installed as associate pastor of Holy Cross, Wheaton, Ill. A leader in Synod youth activities, he is a graduate of Southern Seminary and he served as vicar at Trinity Lutheran, Robesonia, Pa. He and his wife, Amanda, are shown with their daughter, Virginia Mae.
            St. Philip, Roanoke, is one of 144 congregations in the nation to receive a grant for pastors' sabbatical and renewal for the congregation. Pastors David and Kelly Derrick plan to use the grant for reflection and renewal during extended travel in Great Britain and Germany next summer. The congregation will explore spiritual gifts, strengthen relationships with one another and enjoy food, fun and fellowship, according to St  Philip Invitation newsletter. Pastor Bob Ward, Brandon Oaks Retirement Community chaplain, will be available for pastoral emergencies and some worship leadership. St. Philip members also are planning a second visit to a sister parish of Mponela in Malawi, Africa, in October 2016. In September, Lutheran Cooperative Ministries (LuCoM) presented a plaque for special
Rev. Ken Lane (l) and Margaret Mitchell
recognition of Margaret Mitchell, for her work in coordinating the Red Cross blood drive at St. Philip for over 20 years, resulting in donation of over 5,000 units of blood, providing life-giving support to over 15,000 people.
            Pastor Lou Florio, Messiah, Mechanicsville, has been named chaplain for the Virginia Crime Clinic, an organization of law enforcement government and private people. He has been volunteer chaplain for the Hanover County sheriff's office. On Oct. 17, Florio again will be team coordinator for the annual "Over the Edge" Special Fund-raising event of rappelling from the 24-story SunTrust building in Richmond.
            David Wiley, conductor of Roanoke Symphony for 20 years and also a pianist, accompanied his children, Misha Wiley, a cello student, and Mara Wiley, a violin student, in a concert at Christ Lutheran, their home church, on Sept. 12.
            Christ the King, Richmond, celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sept. 26 with a Homecoming Banquet. Former Pastors Bruce Wilder and Roger Bruns were the scheduled speakers.  As part of the anniversary, members are contributing for 50 Tent of Nations trees to be planted on a farm near Bethlehem, Palestine.
            St. John's, Winchester, held its first homecoming with a cake and chicken luncheon and a time to renew friendships, share memories and start new connections. Pastor Sonya Williams-Giersch gave the homily. An historical display, hymn sing, slide show and a cup of kindness for each guest were featured. Pastor Bill Rosenow, who served the congregation in 2002-2003, and his wife, Jan, were guests.      
            Tristan Shin, an intern at Holy Trinity, Wytheville, last year, has completed seminary and accepted a call to Bethany Lutheran, Palmyra, N. J.
            Lutherans at the Lincoln, the annual talent show of the Highland Conference, will be held Sunday, Oct. 18, at the Lincoln Theater in Marion. Musicians---bands, handbells, soloists and sing-along songs---are planned. An offering will be contributed to Hungry Mother Camp and expenses.
Pleasant memories of the National Youth Gathering in Detroit in July linger among many Synod youth. At Christ, Fredericksburg, Pastor Anne Jones wrote in the congregation newsletter, "We have a big announcement to make....We're going to Houston for the 2018 National Youth Gathering!"
            Our Saviour, Williamsburg/Norge, celebrated the start of church programs in September with a bluegrass service featuring Elder Berry Jam, a local band. Among fall programs are classes on the Old Testament, led by Pastor James Nickols, Christ in comics, led by Vicar Nathan Huffman; an annual Oktoberfest  fund-raiser for a commercial kitchen, including a wine tasting and a beer garden on Oct. 10; a chorale mass for Reformation and a choral Evensong service with neighboring Hickory Neck Episcopal Church for All Saints Sunday.
            Twenty-three service projects at Lutheran Family Services operations were reported for the "God's Work. Our Hands" emphasis in September. Many congregations worked on projects in their communities.
            At First, Norfolk, Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, Trinity Ecumenical Parish and Grace and Glory, Palmyra, members sent letters to Congress in the annual Bread for the World emphasis urging legislators to help end hunger at home and abroad.
            The council of Prince of Peace, Basye, voted to use reserve funds to match up to $2,000 for the refugee ministry of Lutheran Disaster Response in its campaign to help thousands of refugees entering Europe as they flee from danger.
            Our Saviour, Richmond, has changed its altar flower ministry to a Milestone Ministry program. Instead of flowers, members may donate but "we're going to give it away," according to the Good Tidings newsletter. Members were asked to decide on a milestone date, such as a birthday, anniversary, new baby, graduation, loss of a loved one or a first tooth lost, and then contribute to a charity.
            An annual music and arts festival at Konnarock Retreat House, at the foot of Whitetop Mountain is planned for Saturday, Oct. 3, at 10 a.m. to raise funds for restoration of the former Konnarock Lutheran Training School. Traditional music, children's activities, a yard sale and silent auction are planned.
            Members of St. Stephen, Williamsburg, are asked to serve at The Harbor, a new day shelter for the homeless opening Oct. 5. It will provide a place of respite, a mid-day meal, showers and computer access.
            Bethel, Winchester, will dedicate a memorial garden on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 3 p.m.. Financial support and prayers were asked for the ministry Jon Coughlin, former youth director, who is serving with Care Corps International, an organization working with families who have experienced tragedies in the Middle East. The goal is to equip and mobilize people to be agents of emotional and spiritual healing.  
LFS adoption fills an empty nest
     by Carole Todd
Clanahan Family
            Kelly and Mark Clanahan could have enjoyed life as empty nesters but they knew they still had time, energy and love to share. They believed they could change a teenager's life. That teenager turned out to be Nick, an athletic 16-year-old they saw on Wednesday's Child web site, which profiles kids in need of families.
            They called. Lutheran Family Services called back within 30 minutes "and the ball started rolling," Mary said. "You take that leap of faith," Mary said. "You accept what God has blessed you with."
            Nick had been in the Clanahans' care for a year when a judge signed his adoption order last month---making friends at Stonewall Jackson High School, playing basketball and running track and cross country and attending Bethel Lutheran in Hamburg.
            Now Nick has advice for teenagers still in foster care, hoping to find a permanent family: "Just don't quit," he says. "Whatever happens, don't ever quit." For more information, foster care or other Lutheran Family Services programs, call 1-800-359-3834 or visit
            In mid-September, LFS received almost $2,300 for the adoption program through the Amazing Raise from people in Richmond and throughout the state. Now in its fifth year, that event is a 36-hour online giving campaign hosted by the Community Foundation of Richmond and Central Virginia that helps non-profits get the word out and fund their programs too. All of the money we raised will go to support and strengthen our adoptive families. We are so thankful for the people who believe in us!   

Synod launches $2.5-million Endowment Campaign
The Virginia Synod Council has launched a $2.5 million ForwardingFaith Campaign which when fully funded will provide $2 million for youth ministry and faith formation in the Virginia Synod and $500,000 for ELCA youth ministry. A new $50,000 gift from an anonymous donor will be added to $25,000 from Bishop Jim and Linda Mauney, announced earlier for the campaign..
            A steering committee will be chosen and work will begin at once by Council members to seek lead gifts, Bishop Mauney said. Pledges may be made over five years.
Ellen Hinlicky of the Synod staff, who has been the director of the Lutheran Partners in Mission program, will be campaign chair. Pastor Mike Ward of  Arden, N.C., is the consultant for the campaign.
When the campaign is completed, endowment income will provide an estimated $80,000 a year for youth ministry and faith formation in our Synod. From that steady, annual income, the bishop and Synod Council will have the freedom to maintain the excellence of the Synod's youth and faith formation program for future generations and to improve these ministries.
The $500,000 will be sent to the Churchwide Youth Ministry section of the ELCA Always Being Made New Campaign. Synod donors to ForwardingFaith may designate their gifts to either the Synod project or the ELCA program or both.
The Council and the bishop may staff a position of oversight for youth ministry and faith formation as is done with Dr. David Delaney at present. Or they may fund two part-time positions, one for youth ministry and one for Christian formation.
            The ForwardingFaith campaign will allow the creation of an endowment designated to faith-deepening youth ministry and faith formation which have been central to the synod for 97 years, the bishop said. "We will have a tool to keep it strong so that generations to come will know the hope and life that is found in Jesus Christ," he added.  

What is Lutheran?    
     by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton 
We have a particular way
of understanding the Jesus story.
        For the past two years, I've organized my work around these four emphases: we are church, we are Lutheran, we are church together and we are church for the sake of the world.
           I want to spend a little time thinking with you about what it means to be Lutheran in the 21st century. What do we mean when we say we are Lutheran? The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is fast upon us, and this month, as in every October, we will observe Reformation Sunday.
           Maybe a good place to start is to ask why it's important and helpful to have a Lutheran identity. Some would say that denominations and denominational loyalty are things of the past. There is some truth to this, especially if our denomination is defined by ethnicity and culture and our loyalty is primarily to the denomination and not to our Lord.
            There was a campaign during the 1980's church growth movement to get rid of any denominational markers whatsoever. The stolid St. Paul Lutheran Church on the corner was supposed to be renamed something like "The Church at Pheasant Run." How evocative! How cool! How vaguely woodsy! A simple name change would accomplish two things at once: stop scaring the denominationally averse away and attract tons of people. It didn't.
            In an attempt to become more attractive we became generic. Having a clear sense of who we are and what we believe isn't a detriment but an asset. If we are well-defined and well-differentiated, we are more able to engage in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and can be a clear voice in the public square.
            But what is "Lutheran"? We chuckle at author Garrison Keillor's loving caricature of Lutherans. He does describe many of us, but not all of us. I would never disavow the western and northern European heritage of thousands of our people. It's part of our story. But we also have thousands of sisters and brothers of African, Asian, Latino/Latina, Native American, and Arab and Middle Eastern descent, some of whom have been Lutheran for generations.
          And the Lutheran church is experiencing its greatest growth in the "global south" (Africa, Central and Latin America, and most of Asia). There are more Lutherans in Indonesia than in the ELCA. There are more Lutherans in Ethiopia and Tanzania than in the U.S. There are Lutherans in El Salvador and Japan and India and Mexico and Palestine and Jordan and China and Ireland. The newest Lutheran church is being formed in the world's newest country. We are working with Sudanese Lutheran pastors to establish a Lutheran church in South Sudan. Jell-O doesn't routinely show up at the potlucks of these Lutherans. Being Lutheran is not fundamentally about ethnicity.
            If culture and cuisine don't define us, our theology must. Lutherans have a very particular way of understanding the Jesus story. It's not a movement from unbridled freedom to submission. Rather, it's the story of God redeeming us from sin, death and the devil, setting us free from our bondage to sin so that, liberated and alive, we may serve God by serving the neighbor. And it's not about our effort or goodness or hard work. It's about God's gracious will to be merciful.
          Try this at home: ask family or friends what they must do to be in a right relationship with God. After picking their jaws up off the floor that they were asked such a question, my guess is that people will talk about keeping the commandments, being a better person, reading the Bible more. No. The love of God at work in the crucified Christ creates this right relationship. Our part is to receive this gift in faith.
            This is a shattering reversal of the way things have always worked. We don't have a transactional relationship with God-if I do this then God will do that. It is a transformational relationship. We who were dead in sin have now been made alive. We are free to respond to that deep abiding love. What we eat, what hymns we sing, what jokes we tell, what counties we hail from, what color we are, what we wear-none of this binds us together or makes us Lutheran. It is God's grace. And that is good news in any language. 
(A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This article first appeared in The Lutheran's October 2015 issue. Reprinted with permission.)
Comics-another way to tell God's story 

(Vicar Nathan Huffman writes about Superman and other heroes for a class on Christ in comics he is teaching at Our Saviour, Williamsburg/Norge.)

A fundamental connection throughout most religious traditions is that God is revealed in story. Within a Christian context we pay special heed to story as the foundation upon which our faith is grounded. Story continues to reinterpret and re-present stories that have been told for generations. I realized this when I read stories to my children, recognizing the stories I grew up with, reinvented and represented.
  The same is true of superheroes. Stanley Lieber (Stan Lee), Jacob Kurtzburg (Jack Kirby), Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster are considered by most to be the founders of the superhero comics and stories we are still exploring today. They created heroes like Superman, Spiderman, Hulk, and the X-Men to name but a few. What is most interesting about the creation of these characters and stories is that they came from the minds of the children of Jewish immigrants. The creation of these story lines occurred during the rise of Nazi Germany and the persecution of Jews across Europe.
These stories carry the theme of a world in need of a Messiah to liberate the weak and the suffering. Does such a theme sound familiar? It is rather familiar throughout comic superhero genres and it gives an interesting opportunity to address themes through a new medium. Asking why Superman finds it necessary to live the existence of Clark Kent allows us to ask why Jesus Christ found it necessary to live a human existence as both fully divine and fully human.
Asking how significant Wonder Woman is as a female superhero in a male- dominated storytelling universe leads to the question of what Deborah means in a Hebrew book dominated by male... well... superheroes! When we ask why Captain America is the idealized national hero we are given the chance to engage the question of a similar nationalistic view of King David.
The opportunity to engage these questions in a way that is entertaining, engaging, and revealing gives us a chance to explore complicated theological topics in a way that seems lighthearted at first glance. This is why I have been teaching a class to both adults and youth for the past four years in various congregations. Doctrines such as original sin, Christology, anthropology, and reconciliation are explored by talking about Batman, Iron Man, and yes, even Thor! Each time this class has been taught I have found that the class has explored deeply rooted questions of faith. The subject matter has allowed those issues to rise to the surface by utilizing stories that are not as light-hearted as one would think at first glance.
With the recent renaissance of the superhero genres on both the small and big screen there are numerous resources to revisit the story through a new medium. These stories present an opportunity to open doors to complicated theological and philosophical ideas that deeply impact our faith daily. You don't need a phone booth, a radioactive spider bite, or prolonged exposure to gamma radiation to explore such a topic. The parallels are prevalent and there are many resources available. You might just be amazed by the incredible, super, and uncanny adventures as ways to retell God's story.
Lutheran Arne Sorensen:
Marriott's doors are open to everyone 
Arne Sorensen, a life-long Lutheran who heads the international Marrriott Corp., said his business opens its doors to everyone, at the annual Rev. Dr. James R. Crumley Jr. lecture and a class at Roanoke College Sept. 22. A lawyer who has worked for Marriott for 18 years, he is chairman of a company with 350,000 employees who work in 4,300 facilities in 85 countries. The lecture honors the Lutheran Church in America Bishop Crumley, a 1948 graduate of Roanoke who died earlier this year.
 While dealing with significant cultural and legal differences in these countries, he said, "if you are in business, you have got to serve the public." Speaking of his opposition to recent Indiana legislation discriminating against gay people, Sorensen said, "we have an obligation to speak up."
            He told the students he's been wrestling with the question of "when do you speak" What are the right characteristics of an issue for speaking out?" Business leaders are increasingly asked to speak on issues debated in society, Sorensen added

Small churches have assets
     by Pastor Jim Baseler 
Seven pastors wearing Thrivent shirts at the small church event were (from left) Pastors Lance Braun, Jim Baseler, Bill Hall, Matthew Diehl, Ken Lane, Nate Robinson and Barbara Krumm.
              Twenty-eight pastors from across Virginia, as well as Jeannie Coffman, our new Faith community nurse with Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries, met at Mt. Calvary, Mt. Jackson on September 22nd to talk about small congregations in Virginia. 
              Led by our presenter, Dr. Gil Waldkoenig, professor of Church in Society and director of the Town and Country Church Institute at Gettysburg Seminary, we heard the message loud and clear that small, rural congregations have a place in our church.   Being small doesn't have to be a liability but can have assets that need to be affirmed.
            We learned that in our ELCA, 62% of congregations have an average worship attendance of 100 or less.  In the Shenandoah Valley, that average is even lower.  Throughout the US, statistics for all Christian congregations show that over 71% worship 100 or less.
              Small membership congregations with small worship attendance are capable of doing great things--serving meals to their community, assisting with school backpack programs like Luke's backpacks in Shenandoah County, supporting a Faith community nurse in a multiple-congregation setting, volunteering at food pantries and clothing closets in their communities.  However, the idea of each congregation being served by its own pastor is becoming less and less viable for the small church. 
              In our discussion on September 22nd, various models of cooperative ministry and shared pastoral leadership were highlighted.  Dr. Waldkoenig mentioned a book by Brandon O'Brien entitled The Strategically Small Church, as affirming the mission and ministry of the small church. 
              Lunch for the event was provided by the Thrivent Action Team from the Central Valley Conference.  We appreciate this opportunity for continuing education as we faithfully serve as leaders of smaller membership congregations in this part of God's kingdom.
Faith in Action focuses on justice 
Faith in Action participants.

             Over 200 people gathered on Sunday, September 27, at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Harrisonburg, to celebrate and bless the public launch of Faith in Action, a new coalition of congregations working to seek justice for people in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  Two Virginia Synod congregations - Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg, and Trinity, Keezletown - are represented in Faith in Action as Covenant Congregations.
            Faith in Action leaders announced that in its first full year of operation, it will focus on justice for neighbors who have immigrated to the area.  This issue was selected by the 16 Covenant Congregations at the first Community Issues Assembly, held on September 10 at Muhlenberg. 
             Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are home to significant communities of immigrants from Latin America, Russia and Ukraine, the Middle East, and parts of Africa.  Harrisonburg has received families through the refugee resettlement ministry of Church World Service for many years.
            Harrisonburg's Mayor Chris Jones offered his support both as a member of city council and as a person of faith.  The event included a drum circle and vocal ensembles from local Mennonite congregations.  Isabel Castillo, a leader of Virginia Organizing, shared several challenges faced by immigrants in the area, including relations with the police and working conditions in local poultry plants.
            Faith in Action leaders will be working to arrive at a workable plan of action with civic leaders by the spring of 2016, however work may take longer.  The proposal will be shaped by the testimony of immigrants themselves.
            "We realize immigration is, in many ways, a national and even international issue, but there are things we can do locally to ease the transition and integration of these families.  We don't have to solve the whole problem, but we can make the system more just here," reflected Rev. Evan Davis, pastor of Trinity and St. Jacob's-Spaders Lutheran Churches and member of the Faith in Action steering committee.
            Faith in Action began organizing in the summer of 2014 and leaders expect several more congregations to join in the coming months.  Faith in Action seeks not simply to alleviate suffering, but to transform unjust systems and address the root causes of social problems.  Its congregations decide on one general issue to pursue each year.  For more information, visit  
Childhood hunger legislation to be addressed
     by Eric Carlson
The Virginia Synod will host the second Virginia Interfaith Conference on Childhood Hunger on Wednesday, Nov. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the L. Douglas Wilder Library of Virginia Union University.  The focus for that forum will be on legislative advocacy. 
At the first summit at Waynesboro in July, representatives of major denominations and organizations began planning actions to help feed some of the most vulnerable children throughout the Commonwealth. Representatives came from the General Baptist Convention, the Church of God in Christ, the Episcopal Dioceses in Virginia, the United Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church both LCMS and ELCA, Catholic Charities, and the Unitarian Church.
For the second conference, leaders from the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Unitarian faith communities are expected to attend. and we will be discussing if there is a common word of advocacy that we might make to this year's Virginia General Assembly.
 The conference will be reviewing draft legislation to put forward to the assembly, and we are currently working with the Governor's office to provide training and education opportunities for congregations who could use help in starting weekend and summer feeding ministries.
For more information, please visit our Synod's Childhood Hunger Task Group website at:
Two-century Tannenburg organ 
rededicated at Hebron, Madison
     by Jane Volchansky 
1802 organ rededicated at Hebron, Madison.

             When the Lutherans came to Virginia from Germany in 1717, they probably never even dreamed that their impact would be felt for years afterwards.  But here we are, nearly 300 years later, still in the same location at Hebron in Madison County and still worshipping in the same church, built in 1740.   The most remarkable feature of the old church, the oldest Lutheran Church in America in continuous usage by Lutherans, is its Tannenburg organ, recently rededicated.
           David Tannenburg, who had come from his native Germany in 1765, was an organ builder and member of the Moravian community in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  From 1765 until his death in 1804, he built at least 40 organs for Moravian, Lutheran and German Reformed churches along the eastern seaboard.
             Installed in 1802 at a cost of 200 pounds sterling, Hebron's organ was one of the last that he built and the only one still in its original place of installation, making it stand out among the nine remaining Tannenburg organs in existence.  The organ has performed beautifully for all these years.  It has only four octaves and the keyboard is a complete reversal in color.  There are eight stops which produce, either alone or in combination, many different sounds-some sweet and tender and some piercing.  The two lever pumps behind the organ are still there but not used because the organ has been electrified. 
             In 1970, the organ received major cleaning and tuning by Taylor and Boody, organ builders at Staunton. Pastor William H. Hall was serving as pastor at the time.  It seemed appropriate to invite Pastor Hall back as guest preacher to the service at which we rededicated the organ after another restoration by Taylor and Boody.  On September 20, after weeks of cleaning and tuning, the organ was rededicated.  Hebron Pastor Patricia Covington led the service.  Guest organist was Alessio Giacobone, a young organist from Italy who was apprenticing with the organ builders.
            On December 12, at 5:30 p.m., Dr. James Litton, former choirmaster at the National Cathedral in Washington, D. C., will give a program of music in a candlelight concert at Hebron.  Refreshments will follow the concert. 
            The organ has gladdened the hearts of God's people for many generations and the congregation feels truly blessed to have it.
(Jane Volchansky is a member of Hebron Church Council)
God's Work, Our Hands
     by Pastor Cathy Mims

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.  
John 1:5

            My brother, Gregg, lived with mental illness for most of his adult life.  He rode the roller coaster of manic-highs and depression-lows, coupled with visual and auditory hallucinations.
             The stigma of his mental illness weighed upon him as he bore not only the disdain and misunderstanding of most of society but also the loss of friendships, the loss of dreams (he was an electrical engineer by training), and the loss of his own sense of self-worth.  The weight became too much to bear, and in October 2003, my brother took his own life.
             So when it was suggested at a recent pastors' meeting that our Tidewater Conference of Lutheran congregations participate in the Out of Darkness Walk on September 12, I eagerly agreed to participate.  The walk coincided with the ELCA Day of Service:  God's Work, Our Hands.
            The Out of Darkness Walk raises awareness of and voices solidarity with those affected by suicide-both survivors of suicide and those who have lost loved ones to suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and the 2nd leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds.  Suicide rates among our service men and women are at a 30 year high. 

             Thousands of people came to walk on this day, but I was particularly heartened by the sea of people in goldenrod T-shirts - all emblazoned with "God's Word Our Hands - who gathered together to walk on this day.  We came from many different congregations in the Tidewater Conference, but we came for one purpose:  to show our solidarity with those who are depressed, with those who feel like there is no hope, and with those who have lost a loved one by suicide.  We shared our stories; we encouraged one another; we prayed together; and we walked.
            It was a different kind of service than we typically participate in, but it was no less vital, as we stand as people of faith with those who suffer.  Sharing in the suffering of others is part of what it means to be church together, for the sake of the world, doing God's work with our hands (and our feet) by shining the light of Christ into the darkness. 

(Pastor Cathy Mims serves at Good Shepherd, Virginia Beach)
Two Portsmouth churches respond
to ELCA Bishop's call to end racism
    by Pastor Aaron Fuller 

             Presiding Bishop of the ELCA Elizabeth Eaton called congregations across our church to a day of "Confession, Repentence, and Commitment to ending racism" across America.  Bishop Eaton invited congregations to preaching and prayer in their worship on September 6th. 
            Seven members from Holy Communion and St. Andrew Lutheran churches, part of the Tidewater Conference, responded to the Bishop's invitation in a unique way.  On the suggestion of their pastor, these members attended and worshipped with Emanuel AME Church in downtown Portsmouth on that Sunday. 
             Emanuel AME Church was part of the underground railroad that hid runaway slaves in the 1800s.  The church also shares the namesake of the same church in Charleston, SC, where nine members were tragically killed by 21-year old Dylan Roof, who was a member of an ELCA church.  Details of Roof's life suggest the killings were racially motivated.
            "Our pastor was out of town that Sunday, and so some of us seized this opportunity - there was no sermon at our churches because we were unable to obtain a supply pastor.  We saw it as a chance to get to know our neighbors, and to acknowledge what happened this summer," remarked one member who attended.
             It was a unique experience for these seven, who noted many differences in
worship styles.  Yet they heard and saw similar themes.  For one, the AME congregation is small like their congregation, and they utilize liturgy in their worship services.  Rev. Granger Flythe's sermon preached a theme that "just because we're sitting in here doesn't mean we're with God" and that being with God is a "heart matter."  "He talked about taking it outside the walls of the church," remarked another in attendance.
           In the end, Phyllis Shannon, member at St. Andrew reflected, "The most meaningful aspect of the experience was to think about the young man going into a Bible study at a similar church in Charleston, be warmly welcomed, witness the sincere worship and fellowship of the members, and then stand up in hatred and racism and shoot them.  I found myself feeling quite incredulous that someone can be so consumed with hatred and fear when sitting in the midst of people similar to the ones we were with last Sunday."
           All who participated said they gained appreciation for getting to know their neighbors, and came away with similar reflections of neighbors whose lives are much different, simply because of the color of their skin.  They also hope that there will be more opportunities to deepen this relationship, and to proclaim God's love and justice in racial equality for their African-American brothers and sisters.
                        (Pastor Aaron Fuller serves Holy Communion and St. Andrew)     
St. John, Abingdon, starts weekend food program 

            St. John,  Abingdon, has started a backpack program providing 15 bags of weekend food for children who received free lunches at E. B. Stanley Middle School during the week but may not have adequate food on weekends. St. John members (at right) prepare bags, choosing nutritious foods that are ready to eat or easily prepared. 
Transition Committee 
to lead bishop election process 

            Following Synod action at the June Assembly requiring a process for election of a bishop in 2017, Synod Council has established a Transition Committee to lead the process and report to all congregations 60 days before the 2016 Assembly.  Bishop Jim Mauney has announced that he will retire in 2017,
            Twelve members from the conferences and Lutheran Youth Organization have agreed to serve and the first meeting of the committee will be Saturday, Nov. 7 at 10:30.a.m. at Grace, Waynesboro. Blythe Scott of First Lutheran Norfolk, the new Synod secretary, has agreed to serve as chair for the committee.
            Duties of the committee will be to publish a recommendation on the process two months before the 2016 Assembly, to plan and lead conference gatherings on the process this fall and next spring, to give oversight for recognition of the bishop and his staff at the 2017 Assembly, to provide assistance for the new bishop in transition and to support planning for installation of the new bishop in September 2017, to schedule committee meetings, to request needed funds and report to Synod Council.
            Members of the Transition Committee are Maren Corliss, St. Timothy, Norfolk, Lutheran Youth Organization president; Charles Poston, First, Norfolk, past vice president of Synod, Tidewater Conference; retired Pastor Larry Shoberg, Peninsula; Pastor Lou Florio, Messiah, Mechanicsville, Richmond; Steve Frederiksen, St. Peter, Stafford, Germanna; Mark Reed, St. Mark, Luray, Page; retired Pastor Jim Utt, Northern Valley; Pastor Karen Van Stee, St. Mary's Pine, Central Valley; Pastor Karen Taylor, Bethlehem, Waynesboro, Southern Valley; Robert Yates, College, Salem, Southern; Dr. Jody Smiley, St. Michael, Blacksburg, New River, and Elizabeth Smythe, Ebenezer, Marion, Highland.
            Bishop Emeritus Roy Riley of the New Jersey Synod will be a consultant for the committee and Synod Council on the process. He will be at the November meeting.
"Bold Women" meet at Yorktown
     by Jody Smiley 

            "Bold Women Called by Christ" was the theme of the Virginia Synodical Women's Organization Convention held August 14-15 at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Yorktown. The convention scripture was from 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."
            Jackie Wilson of Hot Springs, Arkansas (and formerly of the Virginia Synod) brought greetings from Women of the ELCA staff and board, and led an awareness session for convention attendees. Rachel O'Neill, founder of Little Dresses for Africa, was our keynote speaker.  The attendees were blessed this year with the presence of the Rev. Dr. Phyllis Milton, who served as convention chaplain.   Rev. Chris Price, assistant to the bishop, brought greetings from the Virginia Synod.
            The event was full of fun, fellowship, inspiration, and ministry.  Here are just a few of the highlights.  The women of the Virginia Synod generously gave $2,521.50 in a love offering to be shared between Natasha House and Little Dresses for Africa.  Awareness sessions were offered on Human Trafficking, Essential Oils of the Bible, Bible Study and learning more about the CWO. 
            Officers and board members elected were Lisa Taglauer, St. Luke, Stanley,  president; Edith Blake, treasurer; and board members Kristen Snelgrove, Renee Ballentine, Ellen Greene and Linda Lowry.  Continuing on the board are Carol Bailey, vice president; Helen Weaver, secretary; Sara Barb; Annette Griffith; and Bonnie Mannta.  The voting members approved the 2016-2017 budget of $30,300.
           Three young women guests who attended convention were Molly Byer, Rebecca Crawshaw and Melissa Lowry.  Attendees heard an inspiring presidential message from outgoing president, Risse Snelgrove.   She reviewed the work that had been done during her four years as president and encouraged the VSWO to continue to "keep planting your seeds."
            Next year's two-day convention will be held at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Richmond on August 5-6.  In the coming months, for more details visit
Worship "Extravaganza" 
emphasizes Vocation, Reformation, Mission
     by Kevin Barger

A national worship event, called an Extravaganza by some, drew 800 people to Atlanta in July and marked the first time that the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America joined forces to create a conference opportunity focused on being the living voice of the gospel. 
The event was full of rich worship opportunities, each unique and embracing the
theme of "Called to Be a Living Voice."  These services included opportunities for all Lutheran sisters and brothers to join together in anointing for ministry.  Participants could join in Holy Communion in the great Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip.  Different styles of Morning Prayer were held each day.  Evening Prayer services were offered to allow participants to enjoy and learn from local congregations who included in worship that was specific to their tradition, including worship at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
            There were options for being a part of the integration of art into worship as well.  The experience of talking with our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, and worshipping together with her and hundreds of fellow Lutherans was uplifting.  As one lucky enough to attend together with my pastor, we as a team, were able to reflect and build up that partnership of musician and pastor.
            Plenary sessions provided timely insight to our chosen vocation and how we might make a difference and use our living voice.  Workshops were plentiful - whether you wanted to focus on new music or musical integration in worship or look more closely at cultural diversity in worship practices, there were the frequent cries that there wasn't enough time in the day to do them all!
 "Beer and Hymns" or "Cocktails and Chorales" provided options for singing some great hymnody in perhaps less than "typical" settings.  Important time was set aside for open conversation as well as structured learning.  The opportunity to close out our week with small group focus as we looked closely at the ongoing renewal of worship in the ELCA - how we will continually offer that fresh and timely living voice as we look forward to continued quality worship in our lives and our Church. 
            One of the most poignant moments of the event was the compilation of art, songs and reflections of reformation realized in a magnificent hymn festival that considered those 16th century German roots, modern day practice and some glimpses to the next 500 years.  Fantastic resources were made available to all participants for adaptation in our own contexts.  We look forward to the vision of making this more broadly experienced through our own Synod.
            This event provided rejuvenation, excitement and renewal of our vocation in this Church.  It is important not so much that we focus so intently on what has been but rather that we develop an eye to the future.  How do we engage our congregations in worship that will be fresh, inviting and invigorating for generations to come?  We are called to be a living voice and make that happen.

(Kevin Barger is  director of music ministries at Epiphany, Richmond, and also
secretary/treasurer of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians.)




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