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

Over the edge
for Special Olympics 
          For the third year, a Virginia Synod team safely rappelled the 25 stories of the SunTrust Center in Richmond to raise funds for Special Olympics. Amy Delph of Messiah, Mechanicsville is shown going Over the Edge..
            During the three years, the team has raised over $18,000 for Special Olympics. Team members are Pastor Lou Florio, Messiah, Mechanicsville, Vicar Nathan Huffman, Our Saviour, Norge, and Delph.  
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Church should be fun
Camp receives gifts
Bishop Eaton's column
Children have gifts
Go "On Safari"
Leaders learn, worship and play
Trinity School is "Blue Ribbon"
St. Peter starts building
Thirty college prospects
Reforming the Church
Brandon Oaks to offer home health care
Touring Women's Prison
Helping the poor in Nicaragua
Lutherans in the news
            June Nabers has been named to the new post of development coordinator for Lutheran Family Services in the northern Shenandoah Valley. She will focus on developing community relationships, engaging volunteers and raising funds for such programs as community-based services, therapeutic day treatment and foster care/adoption services in Winchester, the Minnick School in Harrisonburg and the Charlottesville day support program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nabers, who is the wife of Pastor Bill Nabers of
St. Paul, Strasburg, has experience in community engagement and connection with the Lutheran community in the valley.
            Mary Whelchel, director of retail marketing for The Roanoke Times since 2006, has been named director of sales and marketing for Brandon Oaks LifeCare Community in Roanoke. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, she attended the Batten Leadership Institute at Hollins University and started with the Times as a national account executive.
            Col. Deacon Maddox. son of Shirley Maddox, St. Paul, Strasburg, took command of the Letterkenny U.S. Army Depot in Pennsylvania in August. He said he will be adjusting from leading soldiers in the field to the business side of the Army.
            Dr. Graham Mitchell, a religion professor at New River Community College, Dublin, led a healing service at Christ, Radford. A native of South Africa, he has spent time in Reformed, Baptist and Charismatic traditions. The congregation has started the Rough Draft Coffee House, an initiative in theology and the arts. The first guest was Charles Swanson, a published poet and Virginia pastor.
            An Oktoberfest and Bar-B-Que at St. John, Norfolk, was a fundraiser to support local servicemen and women through the USO of Hampton Roads.
            A performance of The Messiah will be held at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion on Nov. 15, benefiting the new RAM (Remote Area Medical) clinic to be held near the Smyth-Wythe County line next spring. Singers are invited to bring a score and join in rehearsal at 3 p.m., before the performance at 5 p.m., according to the newsletter of Ebenezer, Marion. Organizers of the clinic expect 2,000 people will seek free medical, dental and eye care to be held at Mountain Empire Airport on Saturday and Sunday, April 30-May 1. During Advent, members of Ebenezer and Christ Episcopal Church, Marion, will engage in a Faith5 learning opportunity.
            Salem, Mt. Sidney, announced Camp Dragonfly, a weekend camp for any child or teen, aged 6-18, who was grieving the death of a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend. This was sponsored by the Augusta Health Foundation.
            Members of Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, visited a Sufi Muslim community in Bedford County for an interfaith conversation following a breakfast lecture series on "The Jesus Fatwah: Love your (Muslim)Neighbor as Yourself."
           Trinity Ecumenical Parish has eliminated the staff position of coordinator of Christian formation, held by David Fox for seven years.The Council and Personnel Committee decided that a "more directive specialized position is required, one that will support all ministries serving children, youth and families." Trinity's Hunger/Poverty Action Group reported the congregation has gleaned over 16,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables this growing season. Trinity exceeded a goal of $11,000 in a memorial walk which raised a total of over $50,000 in the Smith Mountain Lake community.
            Vicar Nathan Huffman, a seminarian at Gettysburg Seminary who is an intern at Our Savior, Norge, is leading an in-depth study of the Book of Concord. To participate, follow this link:!/general  
            A Health Fair at Resurrection, Fredericksburg, on Oct. 17 featured talks on the caregiver, living wills, power of attorney, frauds and scams.
            Christ, Fredericksburg, is providing over 11,400 pounds of weekend food for 150 elementary school children in Spotsylvania County who are on the federal free lunch program.
            Dr. Kennon Callahan will be holding another Seminar for Key Leaders at Callaway Gardens in Georgia on Feb. 22-25. Registration can be completed online at Callahan's latest book, "Living in Hope," will be available on Amazon Nov. 3.
Church should be fun
     by Pastor John Schweitzer

            Our calendar of social events at First English and the pictures of youth activities and young adult alumni of these events illustrate something I used to emphasize during my first time here 14 years ago: church should be fun.
            Notice on the calendar that none of these social events take place in our worship space in the nave and they involve recreation, not worship. The month began with Oktoberfest (great fun, adult Teutonic beverages), the Youth Group's trip to Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens, the Reformation potluck dinner after Reformation Sunday service and a Halloween party for all ages.
            I guess I say church should be fun because I was fortunate to grow up in a congregation where having fun at church was a given, at least for the most part. True, we children were expected to sit quietly through the worship service, starting at a tender age, but we all enjoyed Sunday school, vacation Bible School, church picnics, numerous social events throughout the year at which children and adults were welcome. Children made a contest out of trying to outdo each other in memorizing Bible verses or the liturgy itself---all in the King James English.
            But there's no reason this should not be part of what we're about as Lutheran Christians at First English as well. After all, we believe in the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ, not out of any merit on our part but because God loves us. Jesus himself said John 10:10, I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.
            In other words, since we don't have to spend our lives trying to please God, we can spend them thanking and serving God and having a grand time in the process. As part of our mission statement says, we are "striving toward faithful living in God's world." That includes rejoicing in the Lord always, which itself is a faithful witness to a loving God, a good example which will prove infectious and make people want to come to this church where we have so many good times together.
As long, of course, as it all emanates out of that which is at the center: the weekly gathering for prayer, praise and thanksgiving, for hearing God's word and sharing Christ's supper.Therefore, let's present an alternative to the uptight, upright Lake Wobegon Luther Church that Garrison Keillor so masterfully parodies on "A Prairie Home Companion." If we've heard the message, we can't help but be joyful and share that joy with others.
(Pastor John Schweitzer wrote this message for the newsletter of First English, Richmond.)

Caroline Furnace receives gifts 
            Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp is celebrating road resurfacing, a new truck and kitchen equipment, and a financial gift from the estate of the late Pastor Dick Neal, a longtime board member and supporter of the camp, who died Dec. 21.
Neal (left) discusses camp
plans with V.A. Moyer
Neal, part of the leadership team that oversaw the construction of Moyer Lodge and the cabin village, was a volunteer counselor before the days of paid summer staffs.
            He was pastor of St. Thomas Lutheran, Charlestown, W. Va., until his retirement in 2003. He was a member of the former Virginia Synod until the 1987 merger. He was survived by his wife, Carroll Neal, and four children.                  
            Reuben Todd, executive director of Caroline Furnace, said the camp is "grateful for Pastor Neal's many years of service and leadership."
            The camp road was scraped smooth,
New camp truck
drainage ditches repaired and a load of gravel added to the surface. Work was done by Lew Manhart and Bill Mantz of Fort Valley Excavation, through the generosity of the Natural Bridge Thrivent chapter.
            The camp expressed "a half a ton of thanks" for a half-ton truck donated by Clark Construction and to Mark Chandler, who coordinated the gift and also coordinated the services of workers who completed an electrical upgrade in the cabin village.
            In the camp kitchen, a new icemaker was donated by St. Luke Lutheran, Culpeper, and a stand mixer was contributed by St. Michael, Virginia Beach.

Coming to grips with happiness
     by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton
                                  It's a cultural thing, not at all the  
                                  joy to be found in crucified Christ 
         In her book, Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about the relentless pressure she faced to be upbeat while undergoing treatment for cancer. Any lapse in positive attitude would give aid and comfort to the cancer cells attacking her body and she would somehow be responsible for the failure of her treatment. Positive thinking leads to positive results that inexorably lead to happiness!
         The pursuit of happiness in American culture has become an obsession. Discomfort, unease and disease are to be avoided if possible and dealt with firmly with the aid of the appropriate analgesic-medical, emotional, social or religious-if necessary. Tension in relationships or within oneself isn't to be tolerated. Relief becomes the greater good.
          We have become a pain-averse, anesthetized society. We believe that everything is just right the way it is. Or at least we believe that everyone else leads a model life in a perfect family and finds happiness and fulfillment in an awesome career while doing Nobel Peace Prize-caliber volunteer work, dissertation-level research in their hobby of studying 19th-century French rural history and working on sustainable organic gardening in their spare time. All effortlessly. And if we're not living that vision of the good life, then we need to perk up.
          In this sense, happiness, as defined by our culture, is overrated.
          There are times in our lives when we should feel pain. There are times when tension shouldn't be resolved too quickly. There are times when we should struggle. I'm not advocating the when-I-was-your-age-we-walked-uphill-to-school-both-ways-in-the-snow-while-chewing-on-lead-based-paint-and-wrapped-in-asbestos kind of toughness. Rather, I'm raising the possibility that "happiness" that avoids all discomfort is a desperate and fruitless illusion. It's life-dulling and can become a kind of captivity, an all-consuming search for relief that, significantly, leads to a life of consumption. We end up being desperately happy.
         Life in Christ offers an alternative. Joy. This is an active, living participation in the gracious love of God demonstrated in Christ's death and resurrection. The crucifixion wasn't a painless event. The Passion was Jesus' deliberate stripping away of anything that could mitigate or dull the agony of sin and death assailing life and love.
         "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).
         This ultimate act of radical presence and vulnerability by a passionate God gives us life, hope and a future even and especially in the face of all of the ugly and deadly things life throws at us. This is diametrically opposed to a "happiness" that immures us in empty comfort. This is true joy.
         It's an odd and difficult thing that the cross is a symbol of joy. It might be even more odd and difficult to believe and trust that a life conformed to the suffering, serving and death of Jesus is, in fact, the good life. The world offers "happiness"; Christ gives joy. The world wants "easy"; our life in Christ gives simplicity. The world promotes an anesthetized life; the cruciform life makes it possible for us to be completely present. The world touts positive thinking; we're invited to have the same mind that is in Christ.
         And so, dear church, what form might this joy take? Joined in baptism to the death and resurrection of Christ we can be fully aware of suffering-our own and that of others-and not turn away from it. Acknowledging pain, we are compelled to bring healing. Living in the tension between God's merciful will and the brokenness caused by human sin that the cross brings into greater relief, we can point to the ultimate victory of God even as we work to realize it in our communities.
         Jesus didn't die to make us happy. Jesus died so that his joy may be in us and that our joy may be complete.
(A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This article first appeared in The Lutheran's November 2015 issue. Reprinted with permission.)
Children have gifts for the church
     by Dr. Phyllis Milton, Synod Minister for Christian Formation 

          "My brain was crammed full by the end of the day! It was a great workshop!" These words express the excitement and sentiments of Pastor Terri Sternberg and 20 others who took part in a day of lecture, discussion and practical application during Roots & Wings Forming Faith 2015 held recently at Grace Lutheran Church in Waynesboro.
            Dr. Marcia Bunge, professor of religion and Bernhardson Distinguished Chair of Lutheran Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, was the guest presenter. Dr. Bunge explored Lutheran commitments to children and youth in three sessions centering in on theological foundations, spiritual practices and creative ministries in pluralistic contexts.    
            The overriding theme was that the concepts that we have about children are reflected in our commitments to them. We are to see children as valuable to God and to God's people, possessing gifts and having those gifts to offer to the church. If we see children as complete human beings, we will commit to their nurture in every aspect; spiritual, moral, physical, and emotional.
            Dr. Bunge challenged the participants to deepen the faith of children with practical but important practices; reading the Bible, worshiping with family, daily returning to one's baptism, participating in communion, confessing sins and forgiving others, teaching and talking about faith, singing together, serving others together, being grateful and giving thanks, cultivating a reverence for creation and praying together.
            Roots & Wings Forming Faith is an event that focuses on the most effective ways of ministering to children and equipping caregivers of children to facilitate faith formation in the home.
Go "On Safari" to Tanzania
Godparents for Tanzania invites you to join a small group of like-minded Lutherans for a Discovery Safari to Tanzania, May 17-June 1, 2016. See the beauty of Kilimanjaro, the amazing Ngorongoro Crater, the vastness of the Serengeti and, of course, the wonderful animals of Africa! At the same time, we will be learning from Godparents students and staff, what growing up in a developing country is like. For more information, visit our website (click on Safari at, and/or contact the trip leader, Pastor Dwayne Westermann, to learn more: (,
(540) 353-6341.   

Leaders learn, worship and play
     by  Pastor David Derrick 
           Each October rostered leaders (pastors, associates in ministry, diaconal ministers, deaconesses) from around the Virginia Synod gather for an annual event called the Gathering of the Ministerium.
The time together is designed to be a time for reunion with colleagues, a time to catch up and hear about what is happening throughout the state of Virginia in our synod, and a time to learn and develop professionally through some continuing education. The Gathering was held in Virginia Beach at the Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel October 12th through 14th. This facility was new to the Gathering this year.
While acknowledging that partnership, collaboration, and collegial relationship are important you may be asking the question--- "But what do you do?" Several components are a part of the gathering every year.
-          We worship. We confess, we sing, we hear God's Word, we are fed by the sacrament.
-          We talk theology and practice; how is God active not only in congregations but in the whole church.
-          We exchange resources and ideas. Some of the very best ideas and ministry is already being done somewhere else.
-      We share our joys and concerns. Often times someone with similar experiences is able to empathize more fully.
A game of cornhole during a break at the Gathering
-          We play. For some it means a game of cornhole, for others it is a brisk walk along the boardwalk, for others it is a round of golf, for others it is a nap.
-          We renew our covenant with one another. The Virginia Synod has a ministerium covenant that holds us together as pastors and rostered leaders.
If you are interested in seeing what the covenant says please check it out at:
Rev. Linda Mercadante
At this year's Gathering of the Ministerium we particularly focused on the growing trend of people in the United States who identify themselves as "Spiritual But Not Religious." Leading our conversation was the Rev. Dr. Linda Mercadante, author of the book Belief Without Borders. Dr. Mercadante challenged us to listen to and engage with this expanding segment of the population as we try to live faithfully and authentically as Lutheran Christians.
         This is such an important event, encourage your leader(s) to be a part of the Gathering of the Ministerium October 10-12th next year.
Trinity School is "Blue Ribbon" nationally 

Trinity Lutheran School (TLS), Newport News, has been recognized as a 2015 Department of Education Blue Ribbon School.  This distinguished award from the U. S. Department of Education highlights TLS as an exemplary, high-performing school with student achievement in the top 15% nationwide in math and reading.
The Department of Education invites National Blue Ribbon School nominations from the top education official in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) nominates private schools.
A total of 420 schools nationwide may be nominated, with allocations determined by the numbers of K-12 students and schools in each jurisdiction. The U.S. Secretary of Education invites nominated schools to submit an application for possible recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School.
"This award is a shining example of the high-achieving students, talented and hard-working teachers, and supportive families at TLS," said Kevin Goetz, head of School at TLS.  "This prestigious award coupled with our distinction of being the only private school in Hampton Roads to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program further cements Trinity Lutheran School's stellar academic credentials as a leader not only across the state, but across the nation."
The Blue Ribbon recognition is added to TLS's growing list of accreditations and affiliations:
  • AdvancEd - the world's largest education community, accredited TLS in 2014
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) - May 2013, TLS received authorization as an IB World school offering the Primary Years Programme
  • Preschool Partners of Virginia - TLS's preschool has a consistent 4-star rating
  • Hampton Roads Magazine - "Best of the 757" winner
Dr. Jacob Wessler, chair of the board of trustees at TLS, said, "we are so lucky to have such a strong faculty and staff at Trinity.  It is their hard work and dedication that led to this national recognition.  I cannot wait to see where Trinity goes from here."
            Following the recent retirement of Pastor Fred Guy, Dr. James G. Cobb, interim pastor at Trinity, said he enjoys the school's two chapel worship services each week, the dedication of the faculty and staff and the school spirit.
St. Peter starts multipurpose building 

              St. Peter, Stafford, held a ground-breaking service for a 2,500-square-foot, multipurpose building to be connected to the church. Pastor Paul Toelke said the $650,000 building was financed with ELCA Mission Investment Funds. The building will be used for community outreach and special events. Toelke hopes the building will be occupied by Easter.   
Thirty prospects attend Lutheran Day at College 

            Bishop Jim Mauney, Pastor Dave Delaney, director of youth and adult ministry, and Pastor Paul Henrickson, church relations director at Roanoke College, welcomed 30 prospective students and their families for the annual Lutheran Day at the college in September.
            They learned about the value of a liberal arts education, heard an in-depth presentation on "How to Pay for College" and a panel discussion with students and faculty. Many were high school sophomores and juniors, beginning their college search. The process of choosing a college has become a multi-year process for many young people and the financial part is an important issue to talk about, Henrickson said.
Reforming Church is LARCUM theme 

            Dr. Gerald Christianson, emeritus professor of church history at Gettysburg Seminary, will be the presenter for the annual LARCUM (Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, United Methodist) Conference to be held at Sterling, Loudoun County, Dec. 4-5. The theme will be "The Church, always reforming---ecclesia semper reformanda" on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Bishop Jim Mauney will give the closing devotions. Community Lutheran Church in the Metro DC Synod is one of the host churches.
Brandon Oaks to offer home health care 

            Brandon Oaks Retirement Community in Roanoke plans to offer home care, home health and hospice services through a subsidiary of Westminster-Canterbury, starting next year.
            Brandon Oaks, a unit of Virginia Lutheran Homes, is seeking licensure to deliver "the same high caliber care that is provided to residents to those in their homes," according to Heather Neff, Virginia Lutheran Homes president, and Joe Hoff, executive director of Brandon Oaks. They said they hope to receive the license to operate next April.
            The parent Virginia Lutheran Homes has chosen Senior Options, LLC, a subsidiary of Westminster-Canterbury on the Chesapeake Bay to help develop and advise in the operation of home care, home health and hospice services. Neff said the VLH board has encouraged expansion into these services. "We know it's what seniors want and need," she added.
            Plans are to offer some medical care in the home, such as skilled nursing, physical, occupational or speech therapy and pain management. Nurses, therapists and social workers will be employed. Also, such non-medical, personal care services as assistance with personal grooming, medication reminders and activities of daily living, housekeeping and errands will be offered, employing home care aids, CNAs and housekeepers.
            Hospice services, expected to be available in 2019 due to licensing restrictions, will offer end of life, comfort services for the terminally ill. This will involve managing patients' pain and symptoms, as well as addressing emotional and spiritual needs, employing nurses, CNAs, social workers and chaplains.
            Brandon Oaks is serving over 280 residents in independent living, assisted living, intensive assisted living, skilled nursing care and short-term rehabilitation.
            Also at Brandon Oaks, construction is to start in late fall on a dozen large, villa-style, apartments with patios and under-building parking. Nine of the 12 apartments are already reserved for The Pines II, similar to The Pines.
Touring Goochland Women's Prison   
            A group of four members of Christ the King, Richmond, joined others from around the state on a tour of Goochland Women's Prison, a low risk institution, on Sept. 14.
            After going through security, several officials of GraceInside, former Virginia Prison Ministry, led a tour. The leaders were Lynn Litchfield, program development; Rev. J. Randy Myers, president, Chaplain Karen Powell of GraceInside and several staff members. .
            "During the tour, we saw the restricted or segregated section of the prison where inmates are required to stay in their small bedroom, except for an hour a day for exercise. They are checked on every half-hour and their food is handed to them through a slot in the door.
            "The staff explained that this facility has inmates that are being held for investigation. They can only keep them for 15 days. If inmates fight or break other rules, they can land up here also.
            "We also visited the regular quarters for inmates, barracks with a bed and a shared desk. They can take class at the school in food service, get their GED and educational courses. There will be a graduation in October and families are invited to come.
            "We toured the green house and saw a lot of beautiful plants. There is a flower sale every year on the first Wednesday in May. They grow their plants from seeds and they have a gentleman who instructs and guides the participating inmates. We saw the religious library. They have an inmate librarian and a room full of books where inmates can come and study. They can bring in a TV and show films.
            "We had lunch of fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, greens, a salad bar and dessert, prepared by the inmates. After lunch, we visited the chapel and heard from several inmates abut their work at the facility. We were introduced to several of the inmates who had a story to tell.
            "The first one was a team leader for the worship service. Her testimony was that she had gotten in trouble with cocaine and her sentence was 38 months. She is to get out in February 2016. She said she had been raised in the church and knew God but since coming to prison she had given her heart to God. She said, 'We are locked in, but not locked out of God's love.' An inmate works with dogs they get from the pound. They train them and put them up for adoption. Later, members delivered collected items donated during the summer to Chaplain Karen Powell at the prison. Those taking the tour were Retired Pastors Ruth Fortis and Liz Yates, Louis Angell and Sherry Frye.
            GraceInside needs funds to bring more of their chaplains to full-time status. Donations may be sent to GraceInside, 2828 Emerywood Parkway, Richmond.
            (This account first appeared in the newsletter of Christ the King, Richmond.)
Helping the poor in Nicaragua 

            (Jessica Kercher of Bethlehem, Lynchburg, writes about a mission trip to Nicaragua. She can be reached at
Smiling children of Nicaragua received supplies from a mission group.
Jessica Kercher is at left rear
            This past July I had the opportunity to have an amazing experience in Nicaragua with the Save Them One by One mission group and I am so excited to share some of the details with my church family.
            Save Them One by One, founded in 2008, works in response to the Great Commission, existing as an advocate for poverty-stricken people of Nicaragua to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty. The Nicaraguan government requires each child to have a uniform, pencil and paper before stepping into a classroom. Imagine your gross income being less than $1 a day and having to make a choice whether to feed your children's growling tummies or provide them with an education.
            Save Them One by One helps these Nicaraguan families by finding individuals to sponsor a child for $25 annually in order to purchase school supplies. This can help break the cycle of poverty and provide life-changing opportunity! There are currently 930 children enrolled in the program.
            Flying into Nicaragua, you notice a community of small houses lumped together under one roof, a community of pieces of tin, tarps, sticks and rope. It has more culture , spirit and strength than anything I have ever seen. Speckled between fields of mango and banana trees, past rows of sugar cane are strong people, women and children who do not know what they do not have so they do not wish for more.
            Basic necessities like clean water and food can be hard to come by for these poverty-stricken communities, yet the faith that God will provide is evident. I've seen the joy on children's faces over a balloon, tears in a mother's eyes over a bag of rice and beans, silent gratitude from a pastor over teaching resources, a baby's thirst for water quenched and smiles from ear to ear over the opportunity to attend school in the coming year.
            I thought I was going on this trip to help save the kids, when in reality they changed me. I am so grateful for Save Them One By One, Jennifer Chappell, the founder, the mission team and sponsors. More sponsors are needed.




Editor:  George Kegley   
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