Welcome to Do Justice, a semi-monthly newsletter of the Virginia Synod, lifting up God’s call and command that we, God’s people, do justice. You will find helpful info about justice ministries in congregations, around Virginia, and through the ELCA. If you have stories of justice to share from your congregation, please share those with me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can share them with others in the synod!
The Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick
Assistant to the Bishop
We pray for the human family (adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship)
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son. Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and, through our struggle and confusion, work to accomplish your purposes on earth; so that, with our divisions healed, we might live in justice and peace; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This issue of Do Justice highlights several opportunities to honor, commemorate, and celebrate the whole human family, opportunities which also invite repentance for and confession of the “arrogance and hatred that infect our hearts.”
The New Virginians: 1619–2019 & Beyond
The New Virginians: 1619–2019 & Beyond is a Legacy Project of the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, produced jointly with the Library of Virginia and Virginia Humanities. The exhibition – both on location at the Library of Virginia in Richmond and as a traveling exhibition around the Commonwealth – explores the changing demographics of the Commonwealth on the eve of the 2020 federal census through a series of interviews with first-generation immigrants and refugees who arrived in Virginia after 1976.
“Recent estimates place the number of foreign-born Virginians at just under one million, or about one in every eight people in the state. The composite portrait of Virginia is becoming more complex, challenging an older, simpler understanding of what it means to be a Virginian. Whether our roots in the state go back ten thousand years, ten generations, or ten weeks, we must create the future of the Commonwealth together. New Virginians: 1619–2019 & Beyond explores the historical and continuous journey toward the ideals of America and seeks to foster an honest discussion about the immigrant and refugee experience and Virginia’s increasing diversity.”
This link provides information on the traveling exhibition schedule. For more information, please contact Barbara C. Batson, exhibitions coordinator, at email@example.com or 804-692-3518.
Bishop Humphrey reflects on “Faith Journeys in the Black Experience”
My wife, Barbra, and I attended a powerful event co-sponsored by the Virginia Council of Churches at Virginia Union University featuring scholars presenting papers to mark the 400th anniversary of people of African descent brought “forcibly in chains, many dying on the way” to Virginia shores. The following is a description from the conference materials:
“2019 marks the 400th anniversary of events in Virginia which continue to define America. These events have shaped the democratic process, cultural diversity, historical traditions, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the United States.
The 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution™, highlights the significance and modern relevance of several important events that occurred in Virginia in 1619. These events strongly influenced the development of the colony and shaped the foundation of the United States.
On March 20-21, theological scholars and historians from across the country gathered together to dive into Virginia’s religious roots in 1619. Exploring the impact of this pivotal year on African Americans, the scholarly conference, Faith Journeys in the Black Experience: 1619-2019, uncovered the evolution of a religious and culturally diverse United States in the 21st century.
American Evolution partnered with the Virginia Council of Churches and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University (VUU) to present the scholarly conference. The event explored the faith journey of Africans and African Americans over 400 years, beginning when the first Africans were enslaved and forcibly migrated to the Virginia colony…. [One day included a panel discussion] featuring panelists from Virginia Indian tribes, Virginia government officials, church and academic institutions.
‘Let’s go back and get the story right. Let’s lead the way for America because America’s story began here.’ Kelly Thomasson, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, urged. The Faith Journeys conference highlighted the importance of taking a deep dive into our past, and learning from history to move forward.
Virginia Senator Jennifer L. McClellan concluded a panel discussion, ‘Before we talk about where we go from here, it is important to note how we got here.’” (Excerpted from Faith Journeys in the Black Experience: 1619-2019)
The Virginia Synod is proud of our long and strong partnership with the Virginia Council of Churches. Bishop Humphrey reports the event was a clarifying and pivotal time to come to terms with the dominant culture’s deeply rooted racial biases and misconstrued history, saying, “We need to be open to hearing the truth, and changing society and the church to reflect and respond to that truth. Who is better equipped to lead that effort than followers of Jesus, THE Truth?”
Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp & Retreat Center: Reclaiming History
We recognize that the rich history and former lives of this place come with a price of settlement, violence, slavery and hardship. As a privately owned iron furnace in the 1800s, the original Caroline Furnace operated on slave labor. Prior to that, the fertile land was colonized by Europeans and taken from Native American who called it home.
Rather than hiding or ignoring the past, let’s explore and learn from it. We do this not to create division, but as a reminder that we all fall short of the glory of God. Santayana and Churchill claimed that history forgotten is history repeated; let’s remember those who came before us and use their stories as a reminder to love another as Jesus taught us.
Some passionate individuals have helped us uncover parts of our story. We are working to piece together story more thoroughly so we can share it. Our hope is to reclaim a historic 19th-century cemetery on property and verify the families and slaves who are buried here. As part of this project we’ll be working closely with our local Ruritan Club and other volunteers to create a memorial path that includes the cemetery.