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                                                                                             JANUARY 2016
                         The Virginia 
Bringing you news of the Virginia Synod since 1921.

Synod history
nominated for national award

           Journey Together,
the history of the Virginia Synod from 1988 to 2012, has been nominated for a national award by the Concordia Historical Institute for "making a significant contribution of preserving American Lutheran History during the previous year."
ELCA Secretary Dr. William Chris Boerger nominated the book in the category of "District or Regional History---Historical works that cover a group of congregations within a church body---the Lutheran Church/Missouri Synod districts or circuits, ELCA synods, geographical regions such as states, cities or counties." The Concordia Historical Institute Awards Committee will review nominations and announce awards early in 2016.
The history was written by retired Pastor Jim Utt, Winchester, with editing assistance from retired Pastor Jean Bozeman, Norfolk, and George Kegley, Roanoke.
Concordia Institute, located at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, is the Department of Archives and History of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Started in 1847, the Institute was incorporated in 1927 to provide for the preservation of Lutheran records. Its facilities collect books, periodicals, parish histories, pamphlets, tracts and other publications relating to the history of Lutheranism in North America.
In This Issue
Lutherans in the news
Hinlicky is co-editor of a Lutheran encyclopedia
Mike Maxey heads network of ELCA schools
Bishop Eaton-Putting the pieces together
Kudos from a retired pastor
Blythe Scott, an organized Norfolk lawyer
FaithFormation Campaign "off to a good start"
LFS reports on the past year-impact of support seen
Projects to receive $85,500
12 Brandon Oaks cottage -apartments started
Thomas Moss, ex-speaker of House, dies at 87
Roanoke College wins grant for Theology Institute
Pray for peace and calm
Herman will discuss parables at Men's Gathering
Lutherans gather with LARCUM parrtners
Christmas possibilities.
Lutherans in the news
        Pastor Sandy Wisco is retiring after 7.5 years at St.  Mark, Charlottesville, and she has been appointed dean of Germanna Conference. A former medical technologist, she's a graduate of Trinity Seminary. She has worked in ecumenical, interfaith and campus ministry and the congregation's preschool has expanded.
Pastor Larry Ugarte is retiring after service at First Lutheran, Portsmouth, since 2001.
            Trinity Ecumenical Parish has engaged Father Stephen Stanley, an Episcopal priest as a temporary pastoral assistant during the congregation's search for an associate pastor, according to Pastor Philip Bouknight. Stanley retired at St. Mark Episcopal, Fincastle, and serves as ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia.
            David Wiley, a member of Christ, Roanoke, and conductor of Roanoke Symphony Orchestra for 20 years, has been selected as Roanoke's Citizen of the Year. A Roanoke City Council citation said Wiley was cited "for his major contributions for his many services to the community to enhance and support the special quality of life in Roanoke." Wiley and his children, Mara and Misha joined Pastor Philip and Tara Bouknight of Trinity Ecumenical Parish for two musical performances in the Roanoke Valley during the Christmas season.
            Gloria Dei, Hampton, received a proclamation from the City of Hampton in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Mayor George E. Wallace commended members of Gloria Dei "for their continued dedication and effort to make our community a better place." The congregation was cited for its school and daycare enrollment of 400 students, its Sunrise House Adult Day Care serving seniors and veterans and its Willow Oaks School campus dedicated last June. An anniversary banquet was held in November. Andi White, music director, wrote a liturgical setting, the Gloria Dei Setting to commemorate the anniversary. She emphasized the meaning of Gloria Dei---glory to God. The congregation surpassed an anniversary goal of sending 100 school supply kits to Lutheran World Relief.
            A celebration of the 25 years of "tireless leadership" of Pastor Dennis Roberts at Holy Trinity, Lynchburg, will be held after the service on Jan. 24. Bishop Jim Mauney will preach the sermon. Roberts and his wife, Maria, will be recognized for the anniversary of his acceptance of a call in December 1990. An annual German Language Advent Service was led by Roberts on Dec. 13.
            Members of Bethel, Winchester, raised $50,000 to help Doug Newill receive a kidney transplant. Kelly Francis of Bethel will participate in a mission to Jamaica in February. With other students at Duquesne University, she will work at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf.
            Musical performances by Rachel Kurtz and Agape Dave are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 9, at Bethel, Winchester, and Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg. Kurtz has been a singer at the last three ELCA Youth Gatherings and Agape combines rapping, dancing, story-telling and fluency in Spanish.
            St. Mary's Players from St. Mary's Pine Lutheran, Mt. Jackson, presented "A Cricket County Christmas Card" on Dec. 20. The invitation for a Christmas Day service at St. Mary's read "Come as you are, even pjs are o.k., to celebrate this most holy day with word, sacrament and song."
            The council of Lakeside, Littleton, N.C., approved funding for software and hardware to improve basic business operations and records and information management practices as part of a computer technical refreshment and replacement.
            Several members of College, Salem, built an altar for Sunday School, planned "to inspire the children to follow Christ's invitation to 'Come, follow me.'"
            A 12th Night Madrigal Feast is planned at Our Saviour, Norge, on Sunday, Jan. 3, at 5 p.m. The feast is a fundraiser for an area charity each year. The recipient this year will be motel ministry, "Into His Hands.". Churches prepare and deliver food to families living in motels on Fridays. The church hall is decorated like a medieval court. Dancing, singing, readings about the magi and period costumes of a king, queen and jester are featured. Our Saviour also has raised $100,000 for a kitchen renovation project. A commercial kitchen will be installed for use by non-profits and for rental income.
            A group of volunteers from Grace & Glory, Palmyra, worked for four days helping to clean homes and a business after severe flooding at Georgetown, S.C.
            At St. Philip, Roanoke, Jan. 31 will be recognized as Global Sunday to celebrate partnership with Mponela Parish in Malawi. A Mission Fest is planned for April and a mission trip to Malawi is scheduled for October. A family event, "Come Together, Right Now," on March 4 will be a time for members to see one another as individuals with unique gifts.
            St. Paul, Hampton, participates in the city's Adopt-a-Spot program requiring five clean-up projects around the church property and the adjoining area each year. The church council has challenged members of the congregation to exceed the requirement and complete 20 clean-up activities.

Hinlicky is co-editor of a Lutheran encyclopedia   
Dr. Paul Hinlicky of the Roanoke College Religion and Philosophy faculty is senior co-editor of the Oxford University Press Research Encyclopedia of Martin Luther. This will contain approximately 120 entries of 6,000 to 8,000 words, covering Luther from four angles---historical context, genres, theology and ethics, and reception and transformation. Prof. Derek Nelson of Wabash College is the other co-editor.
   Hinlicky will write entries on Luther in contemporary systematic theology and Luther in and against Marxism. As a research encyclopedia, this will be the source for researchers to see the shape of past and present scholarship and discover the cutting edge questions for the future, Hinlicky said. It will be introduced at the International Congress for Luther Research in Wittenberg, Germany, in August 2017. Hinlicky will lead a seminar on Luther's teaching about human nature at the Congress.
             He also is publishing two books this spring. Divine Simplicity: Christ the Crisis of Metaphysics is about the unstable synthesis of the Christian understanding of God as a triune community of love with Greek philosophical ideas of divine changelessness. He has dedicated this book to Roanoke College. Later in the year, his study of Samuel Stefan Osusky, a Slovak bishop and theologian who endured fascism and communism, will be published. 

Mike Maxey heads executive committee
of new networks of 26 ELCA schools 
            The national church has created a Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities and Mike Maxey, Roanoke College president, has been named chairperson of the executive committee, to be comprised of four to eight institution presidents and an executive director. The committee will have oversight of the network.
    This newly formed structure of 26 colleges and universities is "groundbreaking," Maxey said. "We believe it will develop and sustain a stronger, more viable vision of Lutheran higher education in the ELCA. The links between and among our colleges and universities and the ELCA will make all of us stronger, separately and collectively."
      A better vehicle was needed for the schools collectively to be the community that is ELCA higher education, said the Rev. Mark Wilhelm, ELCA program director for colleges and universities. He is the first executive director of the network.
      The structure was established to promote the institutions' shared mission and identity and to help maintain a dialogue among them. Wilhelm said he hopes that with all of the pressures on higher education today, the new network will assist the Lutheran colleges and universities to continue as effective institutions of character, citizen and faith development, highlights of distinct characteristics of Lutheran higher education.
      Wilhelm said the network is not intended to operate as a central system of higher education like many state university systems. The schools will continue their own governance and operation but the network will facilitate collaborative work, he said.
        The institutions will develop curricular and co-curricular offerings that model the resources across the network. One example of a co-curricular initiative for undergraduates is the discussion about awareness of interfaith relationships. Wilhelm said he hopes that through conversation and a shared mission, the network will enhance the capacity to improve the student experience of interfaith engagement.

Putting the pieces together  
     by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton
Bishop Eaton 
2016 dedicated to setting directions,
priorities across all the church.

     It has been just more than two years since I began this call. I'm often asked what has been the greatest surprise. Certainly the amount of travel has been a surprise, but the greatest has been the complexity and scope of the ELCA. As bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, I had a pretty good grasp of the ministries in its 20 counties, but now my territory includes all of the counties in all of the states and the Caribbean, along with international partnerships.
      This church does a lot. All over the world. All of the time. At your churchwide office, spreadsheets track the progress of the six goals we set for ourselves in the 2013-2016 operational plan. This just tracks the work of churchwide staff, not that of congregations, synods, social ministry organizations, colleges and universities, seminaries, conciliar relationships, camps, campus ministries, separately incorporated ministries, federal chaplaincies and missionary personnel.
      At its November 2015 meeting, the ELCA Church Council received the report of the Theological Education Advisory Council. One of the striking revelations in this report was the number of ways we deliver theological education in the ELCA. We do this through seminaries, of course, but also through colleges and universities, lay schools, certificate programs, synodical schools and congregational schools.
      This can be seen as a rich flourishing of creative and diverse delivery of theological education, or it can be seen as a symptom of a disconnected approach. With the best intentions, groups within the church see a need and develop a solution for a particular issue without considering what else might be in place or even how the solution fits in with the mission of the whole. We have one synod that has two lay academies and neither one knew the other existed.
      The ELCA constitution states: "The congregations, synods and churchwide organization of this church are interdependent partners sharing responsibility in God's mission." This is constitutional language for "We are church together." Some days we are, but many days and in many ways we aren't. I'm not singling out theological education as an egregious example, but as one instance among many where we aren't really connected with each other. This exposes the cultural sense that the church is a voluntary association like the Rotary or the Girl Scouts, where one can come and go as one chooses, and not a new creation joined to Christ in baptism.
      As Peter wrote to the churches in Asia Minor: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10). God created the church. God has put us together through baptism as the body of Christ. You just don't opt in or out of that.
      Looking through the lens of Martin Luther's explanation of the eighth commandment, I believe that good and faithful members, congregations, synods and the churchwide organization have tried to carry out God's mission. The issue, I think, is that the mission has become at once universal and very particular. We are doing everything and we are doing it in pixels-pixels that don't come together to make a complete picture.
      Throughout 2016 we-all of us-are going to take a look at the future directions and priorities of this church. We will build on the work already done on this issue. We will engage all the expressions of this church, it will be part of the work of the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, and it will clarify and sharpen our mission.
      Apart from God our work is in vain. This process must depend on the Spirit's guidance. This isn't merely a technical problem to be solved, but a time for this church to engage intentionally and consistently in a process of communal spiritual discernment. We aren't just inviting God into this process at the beginning and thanking God at the end. Instead we, as a church, will open ourselves up to the invitation of God to be part of God's reconciling work through Christ in the world. Join me.
(A monthly message from the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This article first appeared in The Lutheran's January- 2016 issue. Reprinted with permission.)
A Virginia Lutheran reader in Florida    

  (Retired Pastor Sid Nelson wrote this note to George Kegley, Virginia Lutheran editor.)
            The Virginia Lutheran has meant a lot to me through the years of my ministry. Having served 33 years in Virginia, Virginia is truly my home. For three years, I served Immanuel, Bluefield. For 30 years, I served Saint Timothy, Norfolk. I moved to Virginia in my senior year of high school. While in Virginia, I graduated from high school, college, and went to the University of Virginia school of law for one year.
            All of that time I was connected to the Virginia Synod through the Virginia Lutheran. Now, I'm retired in Florida, and yet so many of my friends are in parishes in Virginia. The Virginia Lutheran still brings me home each month. Virginia will always be my home, even while I live in my new home, Florida.
            Thank you for all the years of your service to the Virginia Synod and people like me. You do such a wonderful job with every issue. You add value to the lives of so many. I just want to be one voice that thanks you. I hope that my email finds you doing well.
            God bless you real good.
            Sid Nelson
Blythe Scott, an organized Norfolk lawyer     

          Blythe Scott, holder of two important Synod posts, is a Norfolk lawyer with a reputation for organization dating back to her childhood in Halifax County when she placed items on the shelves of her father's store. "I got it from my father," she said. Her mother was a banker so that was an influence too.
This organizing ability carried over to a law practice, serving on several Norfolk boards as well as election as Synod secretary and appointment as chairman of the new Transition Team. She and her husband, Simon Scott, and their three children are members of First, Norfolk. New Lutherans, they joined in 2012. Scott, raised as a Baptist, had not been attending church. After her mother died, she met Pastor Rick Goeres of First Lutheran and that church was "exactly what I needed in such a time of loss and sorrow."
In the Scott family (from left) are Davis, Blythe, Jessica, Simon and Ashley
The Transition Team, "a wonderful group"of representatives from the 11 conferences, will prepare a recommendation before the 2016 Synod Assembly for the process of electing a bishop to succeed retiring Bishop Jim Mauney. The team wants to be "open and available." As Synod secretary, she works with new Vice President Charles Downs in keeping Synod Council records. Downs is "kind-hearted and disciplined."
Scott is pleased with the Lutherans she's met at First, Norfolk, and across the state. "Everybody makes you feel welcome...It warms my soul." She likes the work of ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. "She's the epitome of what I felt Virginia Lutherans are."
She gives Bishop Mauney high marks. "I've never met a better person who has laid a better foundation" for his position. "He certainly leads by example..His confidence warms my heart...He's always smiling." The bishop said Scott smiles too.
The Synod secretary compliments retired Judge Charles Poston, former Synod vice president and a fellow member at First Church, and Anita Poston, his wife. Poston
"has been a mentor, a friend and a sponsor, someone who is willing to speak up for you and champion you when you are not in the room."
The new secretary/team chairman has an impressive professional background. She earned an English literature degree from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of Virginia. In a law practice of 15 years, she handled real estate transactions and longshoremen cases and once managed three law offices simultaneously. Scott has served on the boards of Norfolk Airport Authority and Board of Zoning Appeals, YWCA and Norfolk State University. Last May, she moved to the office of general counsel for the PRA Group, a debt servicing company. For recreation, she spends time with her family and reads.
           Simon Poston is assistant director of labor relations for Norfolk Southern Railway. Their three children are Ashley, 17, a student at Phillips Academy in Massachusetts; Davis, 14, at St. Andrew's in Delaware, and Jessica, 13, Williams School, Norfolk.

 FaithFormation Campaign "off to a good start"  

            In the early phase of the Synod's FaithFormation campaign, about $165,000 has been raised from rostered leaders. Lead gifts are sought in the campaign to endow youth and faith formation activities, events and programs. The 150 congregations will be asked to participate later in the new year,. according to Ellen Hinlicky, campaign director. Pledges will be taken from three to five years toward the goal of $2 million.
            With the first 32 gifts in, "we are off to a good start," said Mike Ward, campaign consultant. "We are seeing people take seriously just how generous they can be to support the long-term strength of the ministry here," he added.
            Pastor David Penman of St. Timothy, Norfolk, said he and his wife, Gail, are giving $30,000 to the campaign because "we have seen and experienced the profound impact on faith development" the Synod's ministries have made on lives here. As a family with two sons, "we grew up in the Virginia Synod, sharing in the growing ministry from folks like Dwayne Westermann, Paul Henrickson, Chip Gunsten, Dave Delaney and Bishop Mauney." Both sons attended many Lost and Found and Winter Celebration events and their parents were small group leaders. "Together, our family grew in faith." The Penmans have been active in the ACTS program and "we have seen adults grow in their faith in remarkable ways."
            Their son, Bryan Penman, is an ELCA pastor at St. Mark's, Conshohocken, Pa.
            "We have a long history of investing in our faith formation and we want to see that continue into the future," Penman said.
            For more information on the campaign, see the website,  
LFS reports on the past year    

             Synod members can see the impact of their support for Lutheran Family Services programs through the annual report online, featuring photos and a look back at the past year. Another way to keep abreast of LFS stories is to visit and "like" LFSVA Facebook page.Take a "scroll" around the page and see posts requesting prayers for the people served by LFSVA, a profile of the agency's newest board member, Fred Kraegel, and stories about families whose lives have changed for the better. More information is available at For questions, visit or email
Seven community impact 
projects to receive $85,500  
Seven grants for a total of $85,500 have been awarded for senior projects in the Synod territory by National Lutheran Communities & Services (NCIS). They were part of a total package of 21 grants for $221,250 the NCIS Community Impact Council awarded in Maryland, District of Columbia, Delaware and Virginia for the 2015-2016 grant year.Kathryn Baerwald, NCIS chief philanthropy officer, spoke of "the wonderful work that all of these organizations are doing to enhance the lives of seniors throughout this area.
     The Virginia awards:  

> Colonial Heritage Community Foundation, Williamsburg, $17,500

> Grace Network of Martinsville and Henry County, $5,000

> GraceInside, Richmond, $15,000

> Mental Health America of Fredericksburg, $10,000

> Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Warrenton, $10,000

> Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, Winchester, $8,000

> Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries, Toms Brook, $20,000

          The Williamsburg grant will be used for adult day care at Our Saviour's Lutheran and New Zion Baptist churches. A dozen participants and six volunteers are at each church one day a week.  
          The grant for GraceInside will be applied to eldercare for geriatric inmates at
Deerfield, a state prison. This is the third year for the Community Impact program, established "to enhance NCIS' commitment to the greater community through working collaboratively with other organizations and continued efforts to enrich the lives of seniors," Baerwald said.
Each organization's proposal met one of these needs identified in a community assessment: chronic disease management, navigating and accessing health care and social services, dealing with Alzheimer's, dementia and memory loss, social isolation and financial insecurity.
12 Brandon Oaks cottage-apartments started 

            A groundbreaking ceremony was held Dec. 3 for Pine Ridge, a 12-unit cottage-apartment hybrid at Brandon Oaks LifeCare Community, an addition to the Pines cottages built in 2010.
            The luxury apartment homes will range in size from 1,500 to 1,700 square feet. They will have underground parking, porches and patios, a community room and gym.
Lionberger Construction Co. is the contractor and SFCS is the architect. Both are in Roanoke.
            Eight of the units are reserved. Key factors in marketing are the personalization of the homes prior to construction, the peaceful setting and the security and peace of mind offered by the lifestyle at Brandon Oaks, said Mary Whelchel, director of sales and marketing.
            In the past five years, growth at Brandon Oaks has included construction of Pine Crest and opening of the John P. Fishwick Rehabilitation Center. Home health care will be offered in 2016. Joe Hoff, executive director of Brandon Oaks, said, "It is our duty to provide the best quality living accommodations for current and future residents." Recent growth is "proof of our commitment to constant improvement and innovative approaches to senior living."
Turning earth for construction of Brandon Oaks cottage-apartments are (from left) Charles Downs Jr., Virginia Lutheran Homes board; Sam Lionberger III, Lionberger Construction; Heather Neff, president of VLH; Chris Morrill, Roanoke city manager; Joe Hoff, executive director of Brandon Oaks; Joyce Waugh, president of Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce; State Sen. John Edwards and Rev. David Skole, VLH board.
Thomas Moss, ex-speaker of House, dies at 87  
            Thomas W. Moss Jr., speaker of the House of Delegates from1991 to 2000 and a member of First Lutheran, Norfolk, died Nov. 26. He was 87. Moss, a Norfolk lawyer, served in the House from 1966 to 2000. He later served as treasurer of the City of Norfolk for 12 years. The campus of Tidewater Community College in Norfolk and a building at Virginia Tech were named for him in recognition of his service to the state.
            Survivors include his wife, Norma Jean Moss; a daughter, Elizabeth Adamson; a son Thomas W. Moss III, and nine grandchildren. A memorial service was held at First Lutheran Church on Dec. 3.
Roanoke College wins
grant for Theology Institute

            The Eli Lilly Foundation has awarded Roanoke College a $100,000 grant to establish a Theology Institute for rising high school juniors and seniors, starting with a week-long session for 30 youths next summer and hopefully continuing annually for three or four years.
            "The idea is to raise up a new generation of lay and ordained leaders, young people who need to be attuned to what's going on in the world," said Dr. Ned Wisnefske, chair of the college's Religion/Philosophy Department. The 2016 session will have a faculty of four: Dr. David Delaney, assistant to the bishop; Dr. Paul Hinlicky, Roanoke College religion and philosophy faculty; College Chaplain Chris Bowen and Wisnefske. An application process will be set up through the Synod office.
            "We will look for students with intellectual curiosity to explore their faith in light of current events," Wisnefske said. The Institute will look at a critical reading of the Bible and meet other faiths with an imam and a rabbi and look at poverty, the prison system and perhaps sexuality, challenging issues, he said. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, will be a model for reflecting deeply on faith in light of challenges in the world today. The Institute will address relevance and "the riches in our tradition can be explored as we help them address issues in the world," Wisnefske said.
             "We would like to extend an invitation to the Episcopal Church and perhaps others" to participate, he added.
Pray for peace and calm 
     by Pastor Richard Carbaugh

            As we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace at Christmas, we are all too aware that our world is very much not at peace. Everywhere we look there is division, hatred, killings and war---in communities and around the world. Families and neighborhoods are torn apart for all kinds of reasons. And for many people, our own hearts are divided about what to do and how we ought to feel about many of the needs and issues that confront us. It is a turbulent time and there are no easy or quick solutions.
            Still, we gather on Christmas Eve and sing: "Hail the Heaven born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!" We will receive the blessing which says: "The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord." There will be lots of words about peace. But can they be more than just words? Can they, like the disciples on the stormy sea, become words of calm? "Peace, be still," Jesus said.
            Peace, you see, the kind of peace God brings to us in the Peace Child Jesus is not merely or simply the absence of war or conflict. This Peace is Shalom---that which becomes not the absence of something but the fullness of something. Shalom is life that is fully and completely whole. This is what God wants.
            Yes, we want an end to wars and all the problems that come with them. But even more, we want what God wants. I am under no illusion that sin will go away and people will stop hurting other people. But I am also under no illusion that God will go away and stop healing other people. I pray for peace---the peace that brings calm to the world, but also the peace that is Shalom. I pray that the peace of God, that peace which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, no matter what else is going around you in the world.
            (Pastor Richard Carbaugh wrote this article for the December newsletter of Christ, Fredericksburg.)
Pastor John  Herman will discuss parables
at Men's Gathering in Richmond May 14-15  

            Virginia Lutheran Men in Mission are preparing for their annual gathering at Roslyn Center in Richmond on Saturday-Sunday, May 14-15, when Pastor John Herman will lead a discussion on the theme, "The Parables of Jesus: Hear Them Again for the First Time." Pastor Andrew Bansemer of Ebenezer, Marion, will return as chaplain.
            Retired Pastor Herman said, "Through the parables, Jesus invites us to imagine and enter a new world-the kingdom of God. As we step into this new world, our orientation and vision is changed. We will study together 10 of Jesus' parables, seeking to hear them through first century Jewish ears and then trying to realize their meaning for today."
            Retired from Peace, Charlottesville, Herman serves on the ELCA Faith Practices Team and as an adjunct instructor for two Lutheran seminaries. He holds degrees from Princeton, Trinity and Philadelphia seminaries. He has written a five-volume discipleship curriculum and books on the Sermon on the Mount and biblical reflections on money. He and his wife, Leslie, live on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
Lutherans gather with LARCUM parrtners
     by Pastor Eric Moehring, chair Synod Ecumenical Relations Committee 
On December 4 and 5 in Sterling, VA, Lutherans from the Virginia and Metro-D.C. synods met with those of the Episcopal, Roman Catholic and United Methodist traditions to mark a three-year observance of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.
A total of 87 laypersons and pastors worshiped together, networked and listened to the Rev. Dr. Gerald Christianson, emeritus professor of church history at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary, as he offered four sessions under the title, "The Church, always reforming - ecclesia semper reformanda."
            During one of the several opportunities for worship, Bishop Young Jin Cho of the United Methodist Conference and Bishop Paul Loverde of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, both soon to retire, were recognized for their years of faithful support of ecumenism in Virginia.
            From the beginning, Dr. Christianson assured the participants from the four traditions that the reformation was not a moment in time that we mark as October 31, 1517 when Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, but an ongoing reform and renewal throughout the Church's history. Thus Christians have experienced and still will witness many times and types of reformation. He explored some of these past reformations in the remaining sessions.
            Dr. Christianson began Friday afternoon's session by describing the tension between Religion and Gospel, a tension that can never fully come into balance. Then he suggested a replacement of the usual division of the Church into four periods (Early, Medieval, Reformation and Modern) with three periods: Pre-Christendom, Christendom and Post-Christendom. He defined Christendom as the Church being a part of the center of power and influence in the society.
            For the closing session, Dr. Christianson offered on screen the magnificent group of paintings in the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald on the birth, death and resurrection of Christ with the backdrop of a portion of a Paul Hindemith opera. This provided a fitting meditative amen to this study of the Church Reforming.
            The Virginia LARCUM Conference is a yearly event, usually taking place on the first Friday and Saturday of December.
Christmas possibilities 

             Driving down to South Carolina to visit family for the holidays I was listening to the radio and heard an interesting thesis.  We all know how excited children get about Christmas, much more than adults
One commentator suggested that the reason children love Christmas so much is not just because they like getting presents (though that should not be discounted), but because they see the world as filled with infinite possibilities.  Before they go into the family room and see what Santa has brought, literally anything is possible.  There are no limits to what they can imagine.  The future is wide open and they can dream as boldly as they wish.  That sense of limitlessness is itself a source of great joy.
In contrast, adults are more likely to come to Christmas looking back.  Our thoughts often turn to a mythical, perfect day against which we measure every present Christmas-and of course it never quite measures up.  Rather than focusing on possibilities the day prompts us to reflect on what has been lost:  a loved one, our innocence, a simpler time.  Instead of embracing an open future we are more likely to attempt to freeze the past and desperately try to recreate it anew.
Can we learn from the children?  Surely we would never deliberately squelch the wonder and hope which a child feels at Christmas; reality will intrude soon enough.  There are already too many children whose innocence has been prematurely stolen by poverty, war, death, and abuse for us to go out of our way to deliberately add to their numbers.  Much better to receive their gift.
If we are struggling with this season we might do well to borrow a little of their attitude.  Yes, things are not going to ever be the way they used to be.  There are some times and people whose loss we should and do mourn.  Yet, as the children remind us, there are also new possibilities opening before us if we dare to be open to them:  new relationships to be formed, new directions to be explored, new dreams to bring to fruition.  Beyond all the commercial, sentimental accretions, isn't this what Christmas is all about:  God was faithful in the past; give thanks.  God has new possibilities waiting to be born out of divine love; welcome them.

(Pastor Bill King. Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, wrote this Bread for the Journey column.)




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