A letter from Bishop Eaton
Dear friends in Christ,
Grace and peace to you during this season of Lent. It is a time when we, as Christians, reflect on our life together in Christ and the ways in which our identity in Christ is reflected in the world. Being able to articulate that identity can help guide us to a better understanding of ourselves and each other as God continues to call us to respond to the needs of the world.
There are many ways to reflect on our identity as Christians and Lutherans, one of which is by engaging each other across our global Lutheran family. As part of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), we seek to contribute our North American Lutheran perspectives to the larger Lutheran tapestry, made up of 77 million members across 99 countries! And like the ELCA, the LWF has a rich history of theological study processes that can help us better understand ourselves and what it means to be church.
In 2019, the LWF launched a study process to explore the ways our global Lutheran identities are lived out through biblical interpretation, worship and the work of justice, peace and reconciliation. As a member of the LWF, the ELCA is taking part in this unique study process in a number of ways as we examine our Lutheran identity in our own context here in North America. We hope this process will allow us to experience the diverse ways our Lutheran tradition is being lived out. This is an opportunity to discern the ways in which we, in our own contexts, express law and gospel, faith and works, nature and grace, justification and sanctification, freedom and vocation – all parts of our common theological identity.
This Lent, I invite you to reflect on your Christian and Lutheran identities by participating in the Global Survey on Being Lutheran/Encuesta Mundial Sobre lo Que Significa Ser Luteran. We also ask that you invite others in your churches to participate. The survey will be open through March 31, and responses gathered will help to shape the 13th LWF Assembly in 2023.
In addition, between now and June you are invited to take part in a larger conversation that will transpire across the LWF communion. The LWF has produced a discussion guide titled We Believe in the Holy Spirit: Welcome to a Global Conversation on Being Lutheran/Creemos en el Espíritu Santo: Bienvenido/a a una Encuesta Mundial Sobre lo Que Significa Ser Luterano/a. This guide will help lead your congregation’s Christian education and/or youth group on a journey of mutual discovery and learning.
Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences. They will contribute to furthering our understanding of what being Lutheran means in this time and place as we continue to journey together in Christ through these next 500 years of reformation.
With peace and gratitude,
Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
At its heart, Christmas is a celebration of the wondrous power of God’s love breaking into the weary world through the birth of a savior. Christmas is a celebration of hope, of joy! It’s a celebration we await with hopeful expectation every year, but perhaps with even more longing this year.
While it may not be exactly as years past this year, St. Philip will joyfully celebrate the coming of our savior again this Christmas Eve. There will be two different opportunities for worship. Please make plans to attend!
At 7:00pm there will be a Community Candlelight Celebration on the lawn beside the church. The whole Roanoke community is invited to come for a short service where folks will hear the Christmas story and sing Silent Night by candlelight. This will be an outdoor, masked, and socially distant event.
Then, at 9pm, join on Zoom for a live Christmas Eve worship service. This service will look more familiar to a traditional Christmas Eve service and will be accessible through computer or phone. The Zoom gathering will open at 8:30pm to allow for a half hour of fellowship before the service begins. To access the meeting go to www.zoom.com and enter meeting i.d. 875 0473 1483. The passcode is 24019. Please You do not need a computer or internet to join! Just call into the meeting from your landline or cell phone at 13017158592. At the prompt use the meeting i.d. and passcode above.
On December 27, the congregation will celebrate the First Sunday of Christmas with a service of Lessons and Carols. This service will be shared in our typical digital and conference call formats.
While it may look different than we’re used to, celebrations this year will be as joyful and meaningful as ever. Please make plans to attend worship at St. Philip.
Dear beloved St. Philippians:
We are writing to inform you that at the November 10 meeting of the St. Philip Church Council, the leadership body voted to postpone a return to indoor worship.
This decision was not made lightly, as numerous communications have already gone out and preparations had been made for the planned November 15 return date. Unfortunately, since council met and approved the November 15 plan at the October meeting, the coronavirus situation in our Roanoke area has changed. Roanoke and much of Southwest Virginia are now “hot spots,” and our local positivity rates are now running between 10-12%. Roanoke Memorial Hospital has its highest numbers of Covid19 patients yet and now has two floors dedicated to treating Covid patients.
This was a weighty decision. Council is aware that every single one of us longs to be back to worshipping in the sanctuary. We are certainly all feeling the frustration, fatigue, and sadness of not being able to gather in our traditional ways. But, we are called to care for our St. Philip community and our neighborhood community and gathering in groups in an enclosed space, even briefly, risks those we love. Again, this decision was not made lightly. We – your pastors and your church council – very much miss worshipping as we did prior to this pandemic season. We miss you and eagerly await the time when we can gather again!
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, remember always that we continue to be a community of faith. Our mission has not and does not stop – we will always seek to Live Like That, like Jesus, as we love, feed, and serve. At this time, we plan to continue to worship in creative ways using our online resources and conference calls, as well drive-up options. While worship brings us much comfort and joy, worship is primarily about God, who is the audience. So while worshipping in these formats may not be our preference, we are indeed still giving thanks and praise to God. If you have not yet connected with the worship options available, we do encourage you to do so.
As we continue through this season, feelings of isolation and loneliness are so prevalent. We all very much need each other and ask you to connect with one another. The St. Philip family is such a gift and we encourage you to check in with one another. We, your pastors, also want to connect with you and encourage you to connect with us. Most importantly, as challenges and disappointments are prevalent, remember always you are not alone. Nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
In God’s Promise,
Pastor David and Pastor Laura