By Frances Stebbins
Frances Stebbins has been covering events in Western Virginia, especially those relating to faith communities, since 1953. She lives in Salem.
Earlier this month, when I wrote of my experience with a summer vegetable garden, it was brought to my attention that some congregations, where the church building sits on enough ground, maintain a garden. Vegetables are grown to obtain fresh food for pantries that serve low income households.
In Salem there is such a space off Clay Street near Salem Presbyterian Church; it’s called The Giving Garden. Folk who are willing to give a little time to weed, can come on the first Saturday morning in each month.
Volunteers are reminded that while “things that grow” garbage can enrich the soil as compost, discarded meat attracts undesirable animals; egg shells and coffee grounds are acceptable.
College Lutheran Church –and probably others—also has a garden for donation of vegetables.
Speaking of food: When I shop at a Kroger grocery store, I usually buy a parsnip, but apparently few others do, for I have not seen the pale yellow root vegetable that tastes like a sweet carrot at any other store. One of my paternal aunts of southern background had them frequently when I visited her, and sometimes my mother would purchase one in our small Piedmont Virginia town.
I have eaten parsnips at Hotel Roanoke’s dining room, which should make them acceptable, yet when I pay for mine, the cashier often does not recognize them and charges me for a carrot. Get them fresh, not wrinkled, slice them and cook briefly until tender. Then sauté them in a butter substitute.
I am grateful that the small group of Roanoke Valley folk who worship as a Society of Friends (Quakers) have become the local sponsor in a program to exchange guns for groceries. In response to a story in the daily newspaper, I sent a small check to The Roanoke Quaker Meeting, 505 Day Avenue SW, Roanoke, Virginia 24016, and received thanks from two leaders of the group, Dr. Michael Heller and Dr. Catherine Koebel, along with Dr. Brenda Hale, president of the Roanoke Branch of the NAACP, which is sponsoring the effort to reduce gun violence in the valley. Roanoke Police are also supportive, the story stated.
Quakers traditionally have been activists for non-violence following the Biblical mandate of “turning swords into plowshares.”
The idea is to turn in a gun and receive in exchange a grocery gift card in return. The thank-you letter I received said that on June 25, when the most recent Buy Back Day was promoted, 151 guns were taken in, and 100 gun locks were distributed thus reducing the risk of murder and suicide. To learn more, those interested can use the email address of firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s the time of year when people active in their religious communities are often in the midst of pastoral transitions. For clergy with families, school vacation time is easier to adjust to in a new community. (When I began covering the big annual meeting United Methodists hold to conduct business and transfer pastors, it was in October, but now they, as well as several Pentecostal and other faith groups, meet in June or July.)
Clergy and lay leaders in Virginia’s predominant Lutheran group, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), with which Roanoke College is affiliated, also gather for business and fellowship in summer.
This year, the big news is the retirement of Bishop Robert Humphrey who at 68 is completing 41 years as pastor of congregations and as administrative head of this group in most of Virginia. He has served for the past five years as bishop. Unlike bishops in several other denominations, Lutherans regard theirs as mainly executives rather than in an “apostolic succession.”
United Methodists are also making some administrative changes by reducing the number of districts in the Virginia Conference governed from Richmond.
For those in parishes nearby, this means that the current District Superintendent Douglas Forrester will be administrator of districts in both Roanoke and Staunton. There will continue to be an office in each but they will be called the Valley Ridge District and designated North (Staunton) and South (Roanoke.) A drop in membership and shifting population patterns are causing similar adjustments around the nation, materials from the national press office indicates.