By Frances Stebbins Frances Stebbins has been covering events in western Virginia, especially those relating to faith communities, since 1953. She lives in Salem.
Lightweight plastic bags get a bad rap these days, but I for one would miss them greatly if they are outlawed entirely.
The bags, colored blue, tan, gray and occasionally other colors, have largely replaced the paper sacks that everyone formerly used for grocery shopping. I can’t recall when they first came into common usage, but today they are found everywhere, at least where they are not prohibited.
For, like everything else, the bags have their bad side. Clean environment advocates say they are a major source of pollution, for like dirty tissues, they are often pitched in rivers or other public places where they contribute greatly to litter. Unlike paper that decomposes over a period of months from being rained on, the flimsy plastic takes years to disintegrate. It can, however, blow easily into trees where it hangs untidily forever.
The bags are air-tight. Warnings now appear on them as dangerous for children who might pull them over their heads and suffocate. I have heard that they can become a means of suicide.
Along beaches, the plastic is washed into the ocean and in time strangles or entangles fish and other aquatic life. With too much strain it can break though not as readily as the paper bags for which it has become a frequent substitute.
In Roanoke City recently an effort is being made to discourage the use of the bags in favor of paper or, preferably, the shopper’s own fabric bags. A tax has been levied on the plastic which is added to the total bill. The new rule is in effect at two Food Lion stores at which I used to shop often in northwest and southwest Roanoke.
Today I stick with Salem’s Kroger and Food Lion where plastic is still used. Some clerks are aware enough of the strength of older shoppers to put fewer items in the plastic bags. A paper bag filled too full recently split at a southwest Food Lion as I loaded it.
But again, the polluting bags are almost an essential to line a garbage container where they can contain small amounts of liquid. Cat owners, like I was for many years, also place litter box contents in a plastic bag rather than directly in a curbside container. When gardening, the plastic holds damp plants and waste products.
So, everything has its place.
After 30 years in the position of Executive Minister of the Virlina District of the Church of the Brethren, the Rev. Dr. David K. Shumate is retiring at 65.
Summer is a time for such transitions. It’s also the time for the annual shift of pastors to United Methodist and some other churches, for school adjustments are easier for the families in vacation time. I have written often of this summer event, for the Roanoke area always has a few coming and going.
Among the retirees this year is a pastor I’ve written of for more than 30 years. He’s Douglas Paysour who was honored last Sunday at his final service at Windsor Hills United Methodist Church which serves especially the southwest city and county neighborhoods. Paysour is completing 38 years as a pastor.
I first encountered Paysour when he was assigned to the former Highland Park United Methodist Church near the Wasena Bridge in one of Roanoke’s older neighborhoods; that church itself has had a long history, for it once was First Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) when I was learning about the many denominations in Roanoke. Declining membership caused its closure decades ago; a Pentecostal congregation now uses the building.
Paysour next showed up at Fincastle United Methodist and then, after a few years, he was back in the Roanoke District at Windsor Hills. A woman pastor, the Rev. Jennifer Fletcher, who has been an associate at Blacksburg United Methodist, will follow Paysour.
Church of the Brethren pastors –men and a few women—are not rotated as the Methodists are. Newcomers to the valley may find the many Church of the Brethren congregations a novelty. The church dates from the early 18th Century in Germany with adherents coming to the New World of Pennsylvania and then south into the Shenandoah Valley and its terminus around Roanoke.
Shumate, the retiring district executive, is not a bishop such as Methodists have, but he has filled an important role in coordination of the many human service ministries these rural and peace-oriented folk hold dear. Steps are already in place to find his successor.
He was one of the many denominational leaders who made my work as Religion Writer for daily and weekly newspapers possible and constantly educational.
There was news of another retired Bishop this week. The Rev. Dr. James Mauney, who coordinated ministries of many Virginia parishes that are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is home after emergency surgery to remove a tumor that was affecting his eyesight. A report from the pastor of College Lutheran Church where Mauney still worshiped, asked for prayers of thanksgiving for the elderly pastor’s rapid treatment and recovery.