The weekend of April 29-30, the Virginia Synod Ministerium and the community surrounding Hebron Lutheran Church in Madison all took part to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Hebron! Organized in 1717 by German settlers and built in 1740, Hebron is known as the oldest Lutheran worshipping community in the south.
This Saturday and Sunday the Virginia Synod and Hebron community celebrated the long life of Hebron with worship services led by ELCAPresiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, assisted by Virginia Synod Bishop James Mauney and Hebron Pastor Patricia Covington.
In Bishop Eaton’s sermon, she focused on overlooking Jesus in our everyday lives, as the disciples in Luke 24 do not recognize the risen Jesus, “If you saw someone come back from the dead, wouldn’t that make you stop for a moment?” maybe not!
Despite the predicted shock and awe, we might face, Bishop Eaton pointed to a social experiment put on by the Washington Post. The Post had Joshua Bell, one of the nation’s great musicians, perform in a metro station to see if he could cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour. Could morning commuters recognize extraordinary beauty in our everyday? Like the disciples, many commuters were so caught up in their own lives, and problems that they were not able to stop and take notice of the wonder happening before them.
In Luke 24, Jesus makes his presence known to the disciples by preaching, and in her sermon, Bishop Eaton charged those present to open up the beauty of God in word as well as deed, “Preaching is an important part of how people come to know and understand what God is about and who Jesus is.”
During the Sunday worship service, an estimated 400 guests took part, with roughly 200 people filling the pews in Hebron, and an additional 200 worshiping in a tent outside, listening and viewing the service from monitors.
Following the worship service on Saturday, several presenters took the time to honor Hebron’s life, as well as the 175th Anniversary of Roanoke College, and to recognize the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther and the protestant reformation.
The afternoon featured a historic presentation on Hebron, “God’ s People Together: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow ” told by Ms. Judy Ann Fray, Chairperson of the Historical Committee and Longtime Church Member. Ms. Fray gave a great detailed background on Hebron’s historical foundation, looking all the way back to the original German settlers journey to Virginia and what brought them to organize the congregation that makes up Hebron today.
Regards came from Roanoke College President Michael C. Maxey on Saturday as well. President Maxey presented “Roanoke Rising: From a Small School in a Humble Cabin to a First Class College on a Beautiful Campus” a reflection of Roanoke College’s own 175 years serving students. President Maxey joked, “When you’re 175 years old, you’re not accustomed to being the youngester in the crowd.” In his talk, President Maxey shared great thanks to the Hebron community, as it was from a donation early in the college’s life that greatly aided them in continuing to educate and support the college’s Lutheran roots.
Bishop Eaton also spoke on Saturday, sharing”Being Forward in Faith: A 501 Church”, taking the time to look at where we as the church are being called, and how that call is working to strengthen new leadership and grow our congregations. She paid particular attention to diversity and multi-cultural inclusion being lifted up in the Lutheran Church, stating, “We still in some ways need to step beyond our own cultural understandings to see how the message that has been entrusted to us can be heard by people that are not of European decent.”
On Sunday, several exhibits were presented, showcasing Hebron’s history in picture and word through the years. Among these exhibits was The Church Glebe Tract, Early German families land patents, photographs of Hebron across decades, and most notably, a rare 1560 edition of a Martin Luther Bible written in German was featured. The bible was restored in 2010 and is now kept secure in a vault.
The History of the Church and Congregation was presented on Sunday afternoon by The Rev. William Hall. Rev. Hall served as pastor for Hebron from 1970 to 1980.
Hebron’s 1802 Tannenburg Organ history was also showcased on Sunday by George Taylor, of Taylor & Boody, Organbuilders, examining the history that brought this unique instrument to Hebron in the 1800s.
Following this weekend’s historic celebration, Hebron is looking forward to the next chapter in the congregation’s long life.
If you’d like to see more photo coverage from this weekend’s event at Hebron, click here to view the Flickr album for Hebron’s 300th Anniversary.