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

Musical concerts
planned for Christmas 
            Across the Synod, choirs and musicians are preparing special musical events to celebrate the birth of Christ this month. Among the concerts planned:
            In the Shenandoah Valley, the Masterworks Chorus will present four concerts this week. The first will be at St. Paul, Strasburg, Friday, Dec. 4, at 7:30; next will be at Emmanuel, Woodstock, Saturday, Dec. 5, at 3 p.m.; Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg, Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m., and at Reformation, New Market, Sunday, Dec. 6, at 3 p.m.

In the Roanoke Valley, the choir of St. Mark's Roanoke, led by Steven Lawrence, will join soloists and musicians to present Carols by Candlelight on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 5 p.m..The concert, in its third year, will support Lutheran Family Services. The choir of College, Salem, will be one of five local choirs singing in the annual Swedish St. Lucia concert and Festival of Light at St. Andrew's Catholic Church on Friday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m.  
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Appalachian ministry discussion
VP Charles Downs, Jr. is a committed Lutheran
Bishop Eaton's column-The unsettled season of Advent
Chrismons are 59 years old
College poll finds strong buyer sentiment
Interfaith leaders address hunger
Dr. Paul Jersild-Living as Christians in a Divided World
Overcoming hatred.
Let's celebrate Advent
History of St. John, Winchester
Town Hall stewardship meetings
Virginia's Bluegrass Mass now available
In the Breaking of the Bread-Finding Christ in Full Communion
Lutherans in the news
             State Sen. John Watkins, Midlothian, a member of Christ the King, Richmond, will be recognized as Legislator of the Year by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy at its annual meeting Dec. 8 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Richmond. One of two active Lutherans in the General Assembly, the Republican senator is retiring at the end of the year. The Virginia Interfaith Center also announced that its annual legislative day, the 2016 Day for all People will be held at Virginia Union University's Living and Learning Center in Richmond on Jan. 20.
            State Sen. John Edwards of Christ Lutheran, Roanoke, the other active Lutheran in the General Assembly, was re-elected in November. A Democrat, he has served in the legislature for almost 20 years.
            Claire Elverum, First Lutheran, Norfolk, has received a $30,000 Rotary Global Grant Scholarship to help fund her work on a master's degree in economic development after she graduates from James Madison University next spring. She is considering study in Tanzania, where she worked last year, or South Africa or the United Kingdom. On a Global Studies Scholarship, she worked on an interactive environmental project at a school in Tanzania. She also participated in a service-learning trip to the Dominican Republic.
            First, Norfolk, has been recognized as one of the top 200 congregational supporters of the ELCA Malaria Campaign. The ELCA reached a goal of $15 million for the campaign. Through church donations, an estimated 700 lives are saved every day.
            On Nov. 20, Roanoke College faculty members organized a teach-in, an academic discussion of the Syrian conflict, the refugee crisis, the Paris attacks and the Roanoke mayor's position. Faculty members from history, political science and fine arts departments addressed the topics for a student audience.           
"Journey Stories," an exhibition from the journeys of immigrants coming to America, is on display at Roanoke College through mid-December. The images, audio and video recordings and stories were produced by Museum on Main Street, a program by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The display is in the gallery space of the newly renovated Bank Building on Main Street in Salem. Terri Cobb, who grew up in Trinity, Newport News, is a Roanoke graduate and registrar for Museum on Main Street. She brought the exhibit to Salem.
            St. Michael, Blacksburg, has started Early Childhood Head Start in two classrooms for children aged six weeks to three years in a new partnership with TAP (Total Action for Progress), Rainbow Riders Preschool. The classrooms were outfitted with help from federal and local grants. The curriculum is tailored to each child's needs and stages of development.
            At the Minnick School in Wytheville, 21 students are taking home nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods with the help of Holy Trinity members.
            College, Salem, is making plans to finance a new faith nurture ministries position on the church staff.          
A musical Bible study based on the book, Mary Had a Baby, was scheduled to start at St. Paul's, Hampton, on Nov. 30. The book focuses on the origins and meaning of African-American spirituals associated with the Christmas season.
            A generous parishioner at Our Saviour, Warrenton, donated an air conditioning unit installed last summer. The gift raised the congregation's account balance by $2,100.
            At Ebenezer, Marion, members are joining with others from Christ Episcopal Church for a study of the meaning of Advent during the four Sundays of the season. "The stones will shout! The babes will leap!" according to the Ebenezer newsletter.
            A Blue Christmas Service of Support and Healing for those living with loss, grief and other concerns during the Christmas season is scheduled for the chapel at Village at Orchard Ridge, Winchester, on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 4 p.m. The service will offer a time of hearing words of hope and promise amid struggle.
            The congregation of Trinity, Pulaski, will hang all of the chrismons on three trees as an act of worship on a Sunday in Advent. Members will hear the story of God's love made flesh in the person of Jesus as foretold by the prophets in scripture readings that day.
            Grace, Winchester, has an extraordinary record of extending a hand to children in Japan or Tanzania, youth of Grace or preschoolers from the community, according to Tidings, the congregation newsletter.              
            At St. Philip, Roanoke, four pet therapy evaluation sessions have been held for 17 teams.under a Witnessing Paws program. This has enabled 10 teams to volunteer in pet therapy in the community. Teams must renew their license every two years as a safety measure.      
            Five choirs offer music at Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, Richmond. They area Voices of Faith, Hallelujah Bells and Jubilate Ringers, for middle and high school students and adults; Bells in Motion, for preschool children, and Children's Choir, for preschool through 5th grade.
            WELCA members at Glade Creek, Blue Ridge, purchased Christmas gifts for 30 veterans living at Cave Creek Home in Troutville.
Appalachian ministry discussion set for Dec. 3

            An ELCA Appalachian Ministry Consultation will be led by Dr. Harvey Huntley, ELCA Region 9 coordinator, and the Rev. Andrew Tucker, pastor of Christ, Radford, Thursday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m. at Christ Church, 201 Harvey St., Radford.
The national church is re-envisioning Appalachian ministry and wants to hear about the opportunities and challenges in Appalachian contexts from the people who live and work there. The conversation will seek input for strategic planning for future work in Appalachia as well as provide occasions for future partnerships working to better Appalachian communities.
People of faith from across the region have been invited to the session. The intent
of the event is to explore needs and opportunities related to hunger, poverty, homelessness, race, gender, environment, business, economics and education, as well as to determine how God is calling people of faith to work for redemption and renewal in the Appalachian region.
            Tucker is asking for response to the invitation at or 540-639-2671.

VP Charles Downs, Jr. is a committed Lutheran 
          "My family has taken advantage of everything the Virginia Synod has to offer," said Roanoke lawyer Charles Downs Jr., newly elected vice president of the synod. He came up through the ranks from boyhood in Portsmouth to Christ Lutheran, Roanoke, and leadership at synod youth events and eventually to two terms on Synod Council..
            Downs, an affable 43, has a pleasant outlook on life and a deep commitment to the church and the synod. He's responsible for Synod Council meetings and the annual Assembly and he has breakfast with the bishop twice a month. "It's a joy to work with Jim Mauney. He lights up the room when he walks in," Downs said. He learned about his post, the highest lay office in the synod, when he went to Chicago for a vice presidents' gathering.
The Downs family: Charles, Kristi, Chas and Arthur.
            The Downs family moved to Roanoke when his father, Charles Downs, formerly provost at the Frederick College in Portsmouth, was named president of Virginia Western Community College. Now retired, the senior Downs is an active volunteer in Roanoke. His wife, Elizabeth Downs, died four years ago.
            The younger Charles Downs graduated from Cave Spring High School in Roanoke County and with the influence of a friend, went on to graduate from Virginia Military Institute. Uncertain about his next move, he was substitute teaching until he followed a suggestion from then Assistant to the Bishop Jim Mauney to consider the ELCA Youth Global Mission program.
            That led to a year of teaching in Slovakia in Eastern Europe. He met Pastor Paul Hinlicky, who was teaching at a seminary before moving to the Roanoke College faculty. On a visit to the Hinlicky home, Downs enjoyed brownies, made by Ellen Hinlicky, now on the synod staff.
            He followed his sister, Elizabeth, to Penn State Law School and found a position with a Norfolk law firm. But when an opening emerged at the Roanoke firm of Leclair Ryan, he jumped at the chance and moved back. Downs practices medical malpractice and health law, representing hospitals and physician groups. This serves him well as a board member of Virginia Lutheran Homes. His brother, Christian, works in a Northern Virginia community cancer center.
            Downs met his wife, Kristi, at a synod youth event. They have two sons, Chas (Charles), 12, and Arthur, 9. Kristi Downs is a graduate of Roanoke College and Jefferson College of Health Science in Roanoke. She works part-time as a physical therapist in Salem. She volunteers for the school PTAs where the boys are students and she serves on the board of a swim club where the family swims the year around. Her sister is Pastor Kelly Derrick, St. Philip Lutheran, Roanoke.
            Lawyer Charles coaches soccer and takes the boys to Caroline Furnace and a recent trip to Lost and Found at Eagle Eyrie with Chas. He obviously enjoys his new position. In October, he went to the Ministerium Gathering of pastors at Virginia Beach because he wanted to support the clergy, "to help them do what they do best, to care for the caregivers."  Downs, who follows Judge Charles Poston of Norfolk as vice president, says the synod is "blessed with incredible leadership."

The unsettled season of Advent 
     by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton
In incarnate Christ, God finds us
and gives restless hearts rest

Bishop Eaton
O come, O come Emmanuel,  
and ransom captive Israel,  
that mourns in lonely exile here  
until the Son of God appear   
(Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 257)
           Advent. We were just here it seems. It's a season of preparation and anticipation. It can become exhausting and relentless. The commercial run-up to Christmas has certainly gotten longer. Sometime right after Labor Day the holiday displays appear in stores, ads pop up on our laptops and hand-held electronic devices, and carols creep into Muzak. And the annual holiday worship war between pastors and people will be waged over whether to sing Christmas carols in church during Advent. I will not weigh in on that epic debate in this column.
         Instead, I want us to consider the deep and holy longing that is part of this season. It is significant that the words of the prophets and the yearning of Israel in exile are so prominent in the lessons appointed for Advent. The people longed for the Lord to come, to act, to redeem them, to take them home. Their exile in Babylon was no longer harsh. Many had made good lives, raised children and settled in. But it wasn't quite right. They were physically present in Babylon, but their hearts were not there.
           I think Advent is that way for us. The earth is God's good creation. We find much joy in this life. As Lutherans we do not withdraw from the world but engage it, believing that it is a gift. But we also know that it is not quite right. That there is brokenness and pain - the pain we experience, the pain others cause, the pain we cause others. And, because of our brokenness, we turn in on ourselves trying, in futile self-sufficiency, to make ourselves whole.
         In some ways Advent creates a certain restlessness. It may be one of the few seasons of the year when we become more aware of our longing for wholeness and more alert to the signs that something is approaching. It's like hearing a sound in the distance that heralds something, but we just can't quite make it out. I believe Advent is a liminal time, a threshold. The Celts called this a "thin place," a place and time where heaven and earth seem to touch. It's just there, just out of sight, just out of reach. And we are filled with a holy longing. Isaiah said it: "O that you would tear open the heavens and come down ..." (Isaiah 64:1).
           What is it about us that makes us care, that makes us restless? Isaiah also wrote: "Yet, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand" (Isaiah 64:8). It seems that this Advent longing is an awareness that apart from God we are not whole. In Advent we find ourselves in the unsettled and restless time between the ending of the old year and the beginning of the new, a thin place where we draw near to God realizing, as Augustine wrote, "You have formed us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you" (Confessions).
           But we can't get there by ourselves. This is not our work, but God's. Trustful waiting for the Lord is the purpose of Advent: waiting, yearning, expecting, believing.
           And God is faithful. We hear from the prophet Zephaniah that God promises: "At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you ..." (Zephaniah 3:20).
           But the One for whom we wait is not content merely to draw us in, but fulfills this promise by coming to us as Emmanuel, God with us. In the incarnate Christ, God comes to us, finds us and gives our restless hearts rest.
           A friend of mine said, "The world is longing for a deeper sense of spiritual connection, but we haven't figured out how to meet the world in that conversation and longing. How can Advent be the start of that new conversation? How different would Advent look if we could start to think of that deep longing as part of our Advent journey?"
           Being unsettled in this season might be good for us. God will not disappoint.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel  
shall come to you, O Israel  
(ELW, 257)
(A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This article first appeared in The Lutheran's December 2015 issue. Reprinted with permission.)
Chrismons are 59 years old 
      by Pastor Meredith Williams 
Chrismon tree at Ascension, Danville 

            This year, the Ascension Lutheran Chrismons Tree is well on its way to proclaiming the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is our 59th Chrismons tree, a tradition that was begun by Francis Kipps Spencer in Danville.
             Mrs. Spencer wanted to find a way of decorating a congregation's tree that was not secular. She was inspired by Christian symbols around the world, and by Greek letters spelling Jesus Christ. The first Chrismons (Christ's Monograms) were combinations of the letters in Jesus' name in Greek. New ornaments are still being made by people from around the world.
            We will harvest our tree on Black Friday and put the tree up on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year's tree is about 20 feet tall and 13 feet wide. Then the real fun begins! As soon as the worship service ends on November 29, we start to decorate our tree. We bring in the "cherry-picker," lay out all the ornaments, cover the chancel floor, and get to work. The whole decorating process takes about a week, and an almost endless, tireless supply of volunteers. 
            Our Chrismons Tree will be dedicated on December 6th, and viewing begins that afternoon. We have daily viewing and explained tours of the Chrismons Tree, from 7-9pm. If you would like to come visit us and learn more about this tradition, a daytime host can be arranged through the secretary (434) 792-5795. I pray that everyone will have a Merry Christmas, and grow in faith as we prepare to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ. 
College poll finds strong buyer sentiment   
A strong consumer buying season for the Christmas holiday, based on higher incomes, low prices for some goods and plans for increased spending, was projected by the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research in a Roanoke College poll. The poll was based on 603 interviews across the state in early November.
 Virginians said they are better off financially than they were a year ago and many said they plan to spend at least as much this holiday season in some categories, such as recreation and apparel. Consumer sentiment was reported stronger than at any time since the beginning of the recession, but sentiment was slightly lower than the preliminary national value.. Rising income was the primary cause of optimism.Short-term inflation
was expected to remain at 2.2 percent, lowest in three years.
  In a separate poll of 601 Virginians by the college institute in the second week of November, Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for president, was tied statistically with Republicans Ben Carson and Marco Rubio. But Clinton led Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz. The interviews also suggested that none of the candidates on either side were seen very positively by the public.

Interfaith leaders address hunger  
Participants mull over strategy at Hunger Conference
              Over 60 Interfaith leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist communities came together on Nov. 18 at Virginia Union University in Richmond with the goal of ending Childhood Hunger in Virginia. Representatives from statewide nonprofits, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Office of First Lady McAuliffe attended the Interfaith Conference on Childhood Hunger..
            This diverse group united to address a common goal, that every child in Virginia should have access to healthy food. "There is more than enough food on the globe to feed the human family," said Rev. Dr. Charles L. Shannon III, president and CEO of Faith Leaders Moving Forward. "I am excited to be a part of this effort to get food on the tables for our young people."
            "This is so exciting for me to see people coming together from all across the Commonwealth, number one to recognize that there is hunger in the state of Virginia and number two to do something about it.," said Pamela Irvine, CEO of Feeding America Southwest Virginia at the Salem office.The Interfaith Conference on Childhood Hunger was organized by the Virginia Synod as part of its effort to have every child in the state fed on October 31, 2017, the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.
            "It's important that we work together because our networks are all different and we don't know how well we are coordinating in our efforts," said Bishop James Mauney. "The hungry children come from all of our networks and all of our faiths, therefore to work to end childhood hunger, we must be unified."
            Part of the focus of this conference was to strategize a unified effort to advocate for increased participation in school breakfast in Virginia public schools. In the 2013-2014 school year, according to the Food Research and Action Center's School Breakfast Scorecard, almost half of the students who utilize the free/reduced National School Lunch Program are not enrolled in the Free & Reduced Breakfast program. Stigma, rushed mornings and bus schedules all play a role in decreased participation in the School Breakfast Program.
            To address the barriers that prohibit children from eating a healthy breakfast each morning, draft legislation was introduced by the Childhood Hunger Task Force of the Virginia Synod. The possible legislation proposes that each school in Virginia provide free breakfast to all students and it also encourages alternative breakfast models such as serving breakfast in the classroom.
             After discussing the draft legislative document, there was general consensus to move forward with this proposal that could make universal breakfast in Virginia a reality. Participants from the Interfaith Childhood Hunger Conference plan to work with the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy to introduce this draft bill into the legislative process.  
Living as Christians in a Divided World
     by The Rev. Paul Jersild 

           The recent terrorist attack in Paris sets us on edge once again. The shooting in cold blood of innocent people is sickening and outrageous. A natural and immediate reaction is to call for the troops and bomb Isis into oblivion. What our nation should actually do, however, when all factors are considered in this very complicated situation, is likely something quite different.
          We can be thankful for knowledgeable people in civil and military positions who are there to respond on behalf of the nation, even if we don't always agree with the actions they take.
          In this respect we Christians are like other citizens, harboring opinions on political, military, economic, and social issues that place us in opposition to each other. (Would you believe it, even Lutherans may occasionally find themselves in disagreement!) And yet at the same time, there are expectations of Christians that we can justifiably hold when it comes to our responsibilities as citizens.
            We can expect Christians to put the best construction on the motives of those with whom they disagree; to seek avenues of cooperation and agreement on issues that divide them; to recognize the plight of the poor and underprivileged; to challenge every expression of racism and harmful bias; and to earnestly commit themselves to serving the common good.
              In our present situation, these expectations are particularly pertinent in our relations to Muslim citizens. We know that many Americans have been quick to use a broad brush in their attitudes toward Muslims, willing to believe that all or most of them are terrorists under the skin and not to be trusted. Besides being a gross injustice toward Muslims, this attitude is destructive for our society as a whole. It is divisive, it incites fear and suspicion, and it consigns innocent people to second class citizenship. Could professing Christians actually be guilty of such an attitude?
              We live in an amazingly heterogeneous society. Its diversity should be recognized as both a gift and a challenge. It is broadening for all of us to live among diversity, and that is a tremendous gift; but it also can be a challenge to maintain respect and understanding for people who are different from ourselves. When it comes to Muslims, I believe it is particularly we Christians who are responsible to help them on the path to integration. Why? Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because they are religious brothers and sisters whose lineage goes back to the same Abraham we claim as a father of the faith. And - need we say it? - because the world thinks we should be enemies and we want to show them that we are not.
              One of the greatest challenges we face in this shrunken world is to live in a way that repudiates the divisions and animosities of the past; to live in a way that breaks the spirit of vindictiveness and violence that has plagued Christian-Muslim relations right up to the present. We do this by   respecting our Muslim neighbors, supporting them when they are victims of discrimination, and recognizing them as fellow children of God. To do that is the only way to bring hope and promise to our common future. Better yet, it is the way to fulfill our calling as followers of Jesus Christ.
(The Rev. Paul Jersild is a member of First Lutheran, Norfolk,and a retired professor at Southern Seminary)
Overcoming hatred
     by Pastor Joanna Stallings 

  As-salm alykum. This morning I heard this phrase while I was reading in a local café. I knew what was being said.  "The peace be upon you" or "may the peace of Allah be upon you." I haven't been taking a language class. 
I have to say that there was a visual clue in that both young women were wearing a hijab---I could safely assume they were Muslim.  An energetic conversation ensued. There were smiles and laughter. Although I had no idea what they were saying, a good vibe filled the air.
I knew what was being said because I attended the #Hokies Don't Hate rally on Tuesday evening and learned this is the typical greeting and parting used by Muslims. Each speaker at the rally began and ended with these words. Every speaker invited the audience to engage in conversation, to reach across the barriers of hate, ignorance, and fear to participate in change. Each presenter acknowledged the courage it will take to stand together when hate threatens members of our community. 
Other things that were said at the gathering rang true; standing together means being uncomfortable, it means sharing the cache of power and privilege. The journey to creating a diverse community is a marathon, not a sprint.  The voyage of inclusivity will be measured by minute actions like a nod or smile, purposeful conversation, and changes in attitude as commonalities emerge. All of these things will make a difference in how we treat the Muslims in our community, women, men, and children, how we address race, and members in the LGBTQ community.   
There is nothing new in the ideas that were shared at the rally, just a recognition that we have to persevere in overcoming hatred.  This message has been heard over the centuries. Just because we recognize that these things have been said for a long time doesn't mean that we can blow by it or chalk it up to failure. 
Fortunately, God doesn't give up. God keeps loving and showing us how to care for others.  God offers his extravagant grace.   May we accept God's invitation to overcome ignorance, fear, and hatred by sharing that love with all whom we meet.
(Pastor Joanna Stallings wrote this Bread for the Journey column for the newsletter at Luther Memorial, Blacksburg.)
Let's celebrate Advent
     by Pastor John Schweitzer 

            Today as I opened the newspaper I was greeted by an ominous warning in the upper right-hand corner: "27 shopping days until Christmas." Actually I merely noted it with detached amusement, because I realize it's just a ploy to get us into the malls and spend, spend, spend.
            The headline across the bottom half of the same page stated, "Shoppers embrace tradition, head out early to jump on deals."
             In church tomorrow we'll hear a somewhat different message. Oh to be sure there's a warning there, but not that there's less than a month to go until the big day. Rather, our Lord states, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."
              In both cases a warning. In the first: "get your shopping done, there's not much time left." In the second, "Get your life in order, don't be caught sleeping, for the kingdom of God is near."
              The secular world has begun its count down to Christmas, the so-called "holiday season" (no need to embarras yourself or offend anyone by using the name of Christ if you call it that). "The most wonderful time of the year" they call it. Whoever said that must live in a tropical climate! Of all the church holidays that the world has redesigned, this one is the most flagrant example.
                In the church, however, we've begun Advent: a time of quiet reflection, of introspection, of prayer, of watching, of waiting. The lessons, hymns, even the liturgical colors: blue for hope or the older violet for repentance, set the tone: be ready, for he is coming. He comes every year, and I don't mean Santa Claus, to remind us that God's promises are true and can be trusted. And he will come at the end of time to make all things new and take us to live with him in the New Jerusalem.
       So the next time you're struggling to find a parking spot that's not half a mile from the entrance to Macy's, while the weather is getting worse, and it's only two days till December 24, remember what the real meaning of Christmas is: Christ the Savior is born. To this end Advent serves us well: it refocuses our spirtual lens and helps us concentrate on what is essential and lasting, rather than on that ticking "shopping days until Christmas" time bomb (and let's face it: they're all shopping days--the stores are open every day, we don't have blue laws anymore!).  
History of St. John, Winchester, completed 
          Pastor Sonya Williams-Giersch received a copy of It is a Good Work, a new history of St. John's, Winchester, from William Andrews, am acolyte, and Ivan, crucifer, in the photo above. They are the sons of Shelly Andrews, lead editor of the book, who serves as a reader and singer of psalms at the congregation.
            The theme of the history is that church and community are an inseparable joy. It covers the congregation's first 150 years, from 1787 to 1937. The book, illustrated in color, is the result of four years of research. The congregation contributed pictures and historical material. Copies of the 196-page history are priced at $22. They may be ordered by calling John, a volunteer, at 304-581-3992.     
Town Hall stewardship meetings to continue in '16
     by Cary Mangus and Ellen Hinlicky, Synod Stewardship Specialists

      Learn about successful stewardship in 2016
Last year, the Synod's Stewardship Team hosted a series of Town Hall meetings for all those who are interested in stewardship ministry. Fifty-eight churches participated in 13 meetings last year, bringing together almost 200 Virginia Lutherans!
This year, we will once again give pastors and laypeople the opportunity to meet to:
1) Look at some examples of successful stewardship activities and ideas from our own Virginia Synod churches;
2) Share some creative ideas from Kennon Callahan's excellent book, "Twelve Keys to an Effective Church," and
3) Save time for conversation about what you are doing in your church to encourage strong, joyful stewardship practices. Please bring 20 copies of what your church did in stewardship ministry in 2014-2015 ministry to share with each other.
          And we'll share a meal too-after all, Lutherans love to eat!!! Compliments of the Synod!!!! The same old Subway sandwiches. Come straight from work. You will eat!
These Town Hall Meetings will be scheduled within Conferences and are designed for
pastors, stewardship teams, and church leaders. Be on the lookout for the meeting in
your Conference.
           This process is a true example of the way the Body of Christ functions. We look so forward to sharing in this ministry with all of you. Instead of 58 churches, we pray that all 150 of our Virginia Synod congregations will participate. 
Virginia's Bluegrass Mass is available worldwide
     by Pastor David C. Drebes 
Players for a special Bluegrass Mass service held by Prince of Peace congregation at Shrine Mont, Orkney Springs, were (from left) Pastor Jim Baseler, Dennis Scott, Joe Kittle, Norman Racey and Pastor David Drebbs. 
A "Bluegrass Mass," created by Virginia Synod pastors and already popular in many of our congregations, is now available for free from the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. Visitors to can download individual music files and ready-to-use worship books.
This liturgy follows the traditional pattern of the mass while setting sung parts to bluegrass tunes including "Wayfaring Stranger" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
            Synod pastors Jim Baseler, Terry Edwards and Jeff Marble created and popularized the Bluegrass Mass during their time as "The Kingdom Stompers" in the early 2000s, when they traveled from congregation to congregation sharing the gospel in the key of bluegrass. Baseler is now retired in Woodstock. Edwards serves Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Mount Vernon, IL. Marble serves Morning Star Lutheran Church in Luray.
            In an introduction to their Bluegrass Mass worship book, the trio writes of their evangelical motivation in setting the traditional mass to Appalachian indigenous music. "What we have attempted to achieve in this liturgy," they write, "is nothing less than what Martin Luther presented with his Deutsche Messe-matching the liturgy with popular tunes."
            The Bluegrass Mass is very much in the tradition of Luther's German Mass. As the Reformation progressed, Luther became increasingly concerned that the official liturgy of the mass had come to be performed more as a sacrifice by the priest and less as an opportunity for the congregation to participate in the celebration of God's Word and Sacraments. One solution, the reformer decided, was to offer worship services in the vernacular language with hymns sung to familiar tunes.
            Luther's concern for his local context, and then matching the ancient traditions of the Church to his particular time, place, and people, continues to be the work for all who lead worship in congregations today. The Bluegrass Mass is but one "homegrown" version of this ongoing ministry.
This article is a (heavily) edited and (much) shorter version of "Introducing the Bluegrass Mass" by David Drebes in the most-recent issue of Lutheran Forum (Winter, 2015). To read the full article, subscribe to Lutheran Forum at There, you will also find links to download the Bluegrass Mass at
            Lutheran Forum provides Lutheran theological resources for clergy and laity alike. It is published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, a pan-Lutheran publishing house established in 1914 with the stated mission to make "the theological, liturgical, and devotional resources of our confessional heritage accessible and relevant to all."
"In the Breaking of the Bread:
Finding Christ in Full Communion"
A retreat for Lutheran and Episcopal clergy and rostered leaders 

            Renowned scholars Gordon Lathrop and Neil Alexander will serve as keynote presenters for a retreat held May 16-18, 2016, at Shrine Mont Conference Center in Orkney Springs, Virginia. "In the Breaking of the Bread: Finding Christ in Full Communion" will gather clergy and rostered leaders of Lutheran and Episcopal churches, equipping them for shared ministries of word and sacrament. The Virginia Lutheran-Episcopal Joint Committee plans for this retreat to foster deep reflections rooted in the full communion relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
           Coming together in the peaceful setting of Shrine Mont, retreat participants will share in worship, fellowship, and education with one another. Bishops will lead "instructed eucharist celebrations" in Lutheran and Episcopal traditions, and national denominational representatives will be present throughout the gathering. Participants will also learn about local partnership possibilities in their home settings.
            Keynote presentations, provided by the Rev. Gordon W. Lathrop and the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, will focus on the impact of the liturgical reform movement and its implications for shared ministry of Episcopalians and Lutherans. Lathrop is Professor Emeritus at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and an ordained pastor of the ELCA. Alexander is Dean of the School of Theology in Sewanee, where he is also Professor of Liturgy and Charles Todd Quintard Professor of Dogmatic Theology. Alexander formerly served as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.
The majority of the retreat will be held in the Virginia House on the grounds of Shrine Mont, a conference center of the Diocese of Virginia (ECUSA) and home to the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration. Originally the Orkney Springs Hotel, the Virginia House is a beautiful four story clapboard structure built in 1873 and restored in 1987. Shrine Mont hosts congregational retreats, summer camps, and music festivals throughout the year. 
            The registration fees, including room and board, are $160 (double occupancy room) and $190 (single occupancy). For more information and to register online, visit: Printed registration materials will be available soon.
           The Virginia Lutheran-Episcopal Joint Committee includes the Diocese of Virginia (ECUSA), the Diocese of Southern Virginia (ECUSA), the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia (ECUSA), the Virginia Synod (ELCA), and the Metro DC Synod (ELCA). Its mission is to foster deeper relationships in the full communion partnership of the Episcopal Church and the ELCA. 




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