Council Notes

In-Person Gatherings at St. Philip Suspended Until May 17

Hopefully many of you heard the telephone message earlier this week from the Council President about the decision to extend the suspension of our in-person worship gatherings until May 17.

Due to the continually evolving circumstances this can change, so continue to check for updates from your church council and the pastors. 

This decision was difficult and arrived at by Church Council after prayerful consideration and discussion with our pastors in a special meeting of Council Tuesday night, March 24th.

Some may wonder, are we overreacting?  That’s possible.  In fact, I hope we are!  The only other alternative is that our actions turn out to be inadequate…too little, too late.  I hold no hope that our actions prove to be the PERFECT response.  So, we really do have only the two options, and I think most would agree that if we err, we need to err on the side of caution.

Stay plugged in.  Watch for email updates each week. Listen to telephone messages.  Follow St. Philip on Facebook.  Be a regular visitor to the St. Philip website. Read the Bible. Participate in online worship, bible study, and more upcoming events available online. Read your mail.  Participate in programs being developed to reach members who cannot connect digitally.  Join the Prayer Chain.  Be creative and resourceful.  Spend time in Prayer. After all, we ARE in the Wilderness and we have an opportunity to make THIS Lenten experience the most memorable one ever.

Although we are suspending in-person gatherings, we are NOT suspending our expenses. So, bills need to be paid, salaries need to be paid, and our ministry continues to move forward.  Steps have been taken to reduce expenditures as much as possible, but it is still VERY important for us all to prayerfully consider maintaining our regular level of giving.  This should be easiest for members who have set up electronic automatic drafts. For those of you who have not done this, please consider this option*.  Otherwise please mail your checks to the church office so we can sustain our vibrant ministry.

God’s Peace be with you, and I look forward to us all being able to get together soon.

Gary Sahm, Council President

*click on the “Generosity Matters” tab, then “Give Now”.  You can make a one-time donation, or set up a regular, recurring donation.


Prayer Partners

During this anxious time, connecting with God and community is all the more important. We hope you’ll consider being a Prayer Partner to connect with other St. Philippians to care and pray for one another. Please contact Pastor Laura at with interest or questions!
COVID19 News

In this unfamiliar wilderness – A letter from your pastors

Dear beloved St. Philippians,

Months ago, when we decided to use Wilderness as our theme for the season of Lent, we had no idea what would transpire over the past few weeks. Indeed, this present time feels like we are entering into an unfamiliar wilderness filled with rapidly evolving updates and recommendations for social interactions. We chose the theme of Wilderness for our Lenten journey together because throughout scripture, God’s people and even Jesus spent time in the wilderness. While these wilderness journeys were never easy, God was present in the midst of it. The rapid changes of this present wilderness can make us feel overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, and lonely. While all of those feeling are valid, we nevertheless lean into the goodness of God. The faithful One who walks with us in the Wilderness. Today seems like one of those times for the spiritual practice (very Lenten) of reciting verse 10 of Psalm 46 while inhaling and exhaling. Breathe in “be still”. Breathe out “and know that I am God”. Breathe in, breathe out. Be still. Know that God is God. God is with us and God will see us through this wilderness.

We will indeed continue to be the community of St. Philip during this time, but rather than announcing further plans or trying to set a date for a return to normal, we, your pastors, want to encourage us all to take a deep breath. To pray. To give yourself the space and grace you need in this overwhelming time. God’s promise in Jesus is as much the gift of grace today as it was a week ago. Remember nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). You are a beloved child of God.

We care about you. We value the community we are at St. Philip. And now more than ever are listening for God’s call for us all to Live Like That (like Jesus) to love, and feed and serve. God’s mission still has a church and we, pastors and congregation together, will live into that mission fully even now. The ways that we love, feed, and serve our neighbors now may look a bit different, but the calling is no less legitimate. We are listening! Help us to serve you and to lead with faith and hope.

Please do know that we are constantly trying to be creative in ways we might be community with one another while also still engaging with our neighbors. Continue to practice disciplines of faith during this season of Lent:

  • Pray – Pray without ceasing lifting one another and the world in a time of crisis.
  • Give alms – Share what you can, where you can.
  • Practice generosity – Give grace to everyone (including yourself) as we get through this time.
  • Fast – Maybe not in terms of not eating but refrain from hoarding so that everyone might have food to eat.

We very much need each other and encourage you to connect with one another! Through letters, emails, texts, calls – isolation can be incredibly difficult, so check in with your neighbors. Remember always, that even as we walk through this time of wilderness, we do not walk alone. We walk with one another as a church family and we walk with the love of God in Christ, know always that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

In God’s promise,

Pastor Laura and Pastor David


Pastoral UPDATE to COVID 19

Dear beloved Philippians, 

Out of deep love and care for this community and in response to Jesus’ call to care for the vulnerable and marginalized, we have decided to suspend all-in person events until April 1. At that time we will re-evaluate and consult the relevant authorities. We do not make this decision lightly, but after consulting reports from agencies and recommendations from the Virginia Synod, we feel that it is the best way for us to care for one another during this COVID-19 outbreak. As a letter from Bishop Humphrey stated, “there is a growing consensus among health organizations that our best chance to slow the spread of this virus and to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system is to immediately respond as calmly, but as aggressively, as possible to limit person-to-person direct contact.”

As Paul wrote to the early church in Rome, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We give thanks that while this time is chaotic, nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ! And just because we are not meeting together physically, does not mean cease to be church! The Holy Spirit abides with us and connects us in every time and place. During this time, we will utilize the gifts of technology and stream our worship services. The services will be available here. We will stream the services at 8:30 and 11:00 with both pastors facilitating each service. Please join us! We look forward to worshipping together through this online platform. Additionally, Monday Morning Bible Study will continue at 9:30am through Zoom. On your computer or mobile device, follow this link to join in as we delve into God’s Word together. 

You may access these links and find other helpful information on the church website. Please continually check the church website as this will be the go-to place for sharing information with the congregation.

This can feel like an anxious time for all of us. Please know that Pastor David and Pastor Laura are available for pastoral conversation and prayer. In times of uncertainty and fear, we are held together by the love of God in Christ Jesus. We also acknowledge that in this time of uncertainty, providing for yourself and your family can be difficult. If you are in need of food assistance or help with utilities, please contact one of the pastors and they will confidentially work to provide some assistance to you. 

While there feels like so much chaos going on around us, God’s love is still present. God’s love is present in the medical workers who work selflessly to care for the community. God’s love is present in agency workers who are working tirelessly to keep our communities safe. God’s love is present in each of you and we give thanks for all of the ways you are reaching out to care for those most impacted by this pandemic. Please continue to use great care and discernment as you go about your daily activities. Below are links to resources you may find helpful during this time. 

St. Philip Lutheran Church Website

ELCA Churchwide Resources – Video Message from Presiding Bishop Eaton

Pastoral Message from Bishop Humphrey

In God’s care, 

Pastor David and Pastor Laura 

Christian Education

Cross Generational Faith Formation

Mark your calendars for another Cross-Generational Faith Formation event on Palm Sunday, April 5! Gather at 10am in the Fellowship Hall for an interactive time of learning, faith conversation, and creativity! Don’t miss out on this awesome opportunity to grow in faith as we journey to the cross. Disciples aged 0 to 100 are invited, make plans to join in the fun!


Thrivent Financial Programs Update

Reminder to direct any remaining 2019 Choice Dollars. If you are eligible to direct Choice Dollars based on your insurance premiums or contract values, you have until March 31st to direct any remaining 2019 Choice Dollars. Over 40,000 churches and non-profits have been recommended by a member and enrolled in this program, including St Philip. Log on to or speak to Financial Consultant Max Holland if you have any questions.

Help Out With Your Action Teams. If you are a Thrivent member, please consider touching base with St. Philip’s Action Team Committee (Pastor David, Pastor Laura, team leader Maribeth Schermer, Donna Spradlin, or Max Holland). The committee can help you use your Action Teams to support ministry at St Philip. You can lead an Action Team project, or be a Team member by applying for an Action Team. Benefit Members can apply for two Action Teams each year, and Associate Members can apply for one each year.

Thrivent Financial Membership. Become a Thrivent Benefit Member by purchasing a qualifying Thrivent insurance or annuity product. Or you can become an Associate Member by paying an annual fee of  $19.95, or purchasing a product from a Thrivent subsidiary (such as Thrivent Mutual Funds), or joining the Thrivent Federal Credit Union. For more information on Member Benefits, go to or speak to Financial Consultant Max Holland.

Congregational Life Uncategorized


This event has been cancelled.

Does your family enjoy camping?

Camp Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center is revving up for the 2020 season, and you are invited to an informational event to learn about the Camp Caroline Furnace camping experience.

On Sunday, March 22 at 5:00pm, College Lutheran Church in Salem will be hosting a Family Night event. Join in the fun – dinner, games, and a campfire for s’mores. Bring your questions about summer camp and retreats. All are welcome.


An RSVP is requested to or respond to the Facebook event, found at the College Lutheran Church Facebook page at

Blood Drive

26 Years of Life Giving Ministry

For the past 26 years one of the most gratifying ministries at St. Philip has been a semi-annual blood drive held in May and October each year. Started by St. Philip members Margaret Mitchell, Ruth Farmer, Virginia Cassell, and Helen Miller in 1993, blood drives hosted by St. Philip Lutheran have collected a total of nearly 9,000 units of blood and have saved over 26,500 lives.

St. Philip Lutheran’s next blood drive is Monday, May 11, 2019, 11:30am – 7:00pm. The last day to donate blood elsewhere and still be eligible to give whole blood at St. Philip is March 10.

Please consider donating blood. Extend an invitation to your neighbors, friends, and colleagues to donate on May 11.

Lots of help from the congregation is needed to make sure the blood drive will be a success. Please look for a sign up sheet in the gathering space later in March or speak to Debbie Kanode to volunteer.


Congregational Life

CANCELLED – Celebrate Life Seminars

PLEASE NOTE: All in-person gatherings have been all-in person events have been suspended until April 1. Please see this note from the pastors regarding the response to COVID 19.

Have you ever had questions about end of life care, legal options, funeral planning, or legacy giving? These are hugely important topics that often bring up a lot of questions. St. Philip is hosting a three-part event to learn more about how we can celebrate life as aging adults. This month there will be three sessions covering many important aspects of caring for elderly adults, including hospice care, legal processes, funeral planning, and legacy gift giving.

These sessions will be held on March 1, March 15, and March 29. Each session will follow the 11:00 service on Sundays and include a light lunch. Please RSVP to the church office by February 24 if you would like to attend these informative sessions! If you have questions, please see Pastor Laura.

Worship Events

The Wilderness of Lent

Lent is a season of the church year that begins on Ash Wednesday and culminates on Good Friday where we remember the crucifixion of our savior, Jesus Christ. Lent is an important time in the church year, because it’s a time set apart for us to acknowledge our sinfulness and all that draws us from God while at the same time, giving thanks for the immense love, mercy, and faithfulness of God displayed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate the season of Lent this year at St. Philip, we will be embracing the theme of wilderness. Lent begins in the wilderness. The Spirit guides Jesus into the wilderness where he comes face to face with temptation and struggle. Yet, in his forty days of fasting, resisting, and wandering, Jesus is shaped and formed for ministry. Similarly, through the wilderness of Lent, we are invited to surrender to the wild leadings of the Spirit. We rarely enter the wilderness willingly, but hopefully through our wandering we remember who we are and whose we are.

There is no wilderness space too harsh or threatening for God’s love. This Lent, we welcome you to the journey. We pray that your Lenten journey through the wilderness will be holy, enriching, and draw you more deeply into relationship with God.