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NovusWay Ministries Elects Bo Harris, IV to Executive Director

posted Nov 21, 2017, 11:51 AM by Carolyn Davis   [ updated Nov 21, 2017, 11:51 AM ]

Arden, November 20, 2017- NovusWay Ministries today announced that its Board of Trustees has elected Boyd W. Harris IV as its executive director and chief executive officer, effective January 1, 2018. Harris succeeds Keith Johnson, who had earlier announced his intention to retire at December 31 after 24 years as its executive director.

Mr. Harris (Bo) has successfully led businesses and ministry organizations through times of transition, growth and change. Three guiding principles have been the hallmark of his leadership. First, he seeks to be a servant leader - developing a vision in collaboration with others, managing with a pastoral heart, and fostering a continuous improvement culture based on trust and care. Second, he works with the team to develop succinct, measurable strategic plans to accomplish key goals and objectives. Third, Bo welcomes, invites and inspires stakeholders to bring the best of their unique God-given gifts, talents and abilities to support the organization’s mission and vision.

Harris has held senior-level positions in both the public and nonprofit sectors. He served as president and CEO of a high-end furniture manufacturing company in the Boston area, and as COO of FOCUS, a national Christian youth ministry in New Canaan, CT. For the past seven years, he has been Executive Director/CEO of Asheville-based Helps Ministries. He brings a longstanding passion for Christ-centered activities including education, camping, and retreats. Bo has continued to support community and nonprofit groups by offering pro-bono strategic planning workshops, together with consultation and coaching for corporate leaders and boards of directors.

Bo grew up in Durham, NC and attended preparatory school in Alexandria, VA. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Together with wife Amy and three children, they live in Arden, NC where they are members of Calvary Episcopal Church.

“I feel very privileged,” intimated Harris, “and am happy to build upon the accomplishments that Keith Johnson – along with the leadership team and the entire NovusWay family - has made over this quarter-century in fulfilling this mission: providing places set apart to inspire and empower all in Christ’s love
About NovusWay Ministries –
Headquartered in Arden NC, NovusWay operates four conference centers and Christian camps: Lutheridge in Arden NC; Lutherock near Boone NC; Luther Springs outside Gainesville FL; and Lutheranch in Tallapoosa AL They offer programmed retreats and camping experiences for all ages, as well as events and meeting spaces for organizational planning and team building. NovusWay Ministries, Inc. is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue and Prayer Service

posted Feb 1, 2017, 9:08 AM by Carolyn Davis   [ updated Feb 1, 2017, 9:12 AM ]

Sunday evening,  January 22, 2017, was a hallmark day in the Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile, AL and the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  Jointly sponsored, Our Savior parish in Mobile hosted “From Conflict to Communion: 5 Ecumenical Imperatives.” The guest speakers for this dialogue were Dr Michael Root 
of the Catholic University of America (pictured far left) and Presiding Bishop Emeritus Mark Hanson of the ELCA (pictured far right.)  They spoke separately, together, and fielded wonderful questions from an audience of about 130 , including Catholics from Mobile and Lutherans from across the Gulf Coast. 

The evening shifted its focus as everyone made way from the church hall to the church itself for a shared prayer service based on the service of Common Prayer produced specifically for occasions like this. Led by Catholic Archbishop Thomas Rodi (pictured right) and Southeastern Synod Bishop H. Julian Gordy (pictured left), the service featured Taize musical chants. 

The planning committee received many warm and wonderful comments of gratitude for the evening. It was a step—how many more steps we are willing and able to take remains to be seen, but walls of ignorance (thank the Lord, not of prejudice) were broken down, and we were truly able to live, “for one brief, shining moment” the joy of Jesus Christ as brothers and sisters. Similar events are being planned with the Southeastern ELCA Synod and the various Catholic dioceses in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi, as well as Alabama.

Lutheran Services of Georgia Names John Moeller as Chief Executive Officer

posted Feb 1, 2017, 7:20 AM by Carolyn Davis

Atlanta, Ga. (January 30, 2017) – Lutheran Services of Georgia (LSG), a nonprofit social services agency, recently announced the selection of Rev. John Moeller as its new Chief Executive Officer. In this key leadership role, Moeller will steer the statewide organization as it looks to expand and enhance its services and programs and to strengthen its position as an industry leader. Moeller will begin his new role effective February 15, 2017. At that time, Gary Johnstone, who has served as Interim CEO, will resume his position as Chief Operations Officer.

“The LSG staff and Board are thrilled to welcome John, and we anxiously await his expertise and leadership as we continue in our commitment to serve many of Georgia’s most vulnerable populations with an unwavering passion and the highest quality of services,” says Rev. Dr. David Hardy, Chair of the Board of Directors, Lutheran Services of Georgia. “John has a reputation in the community as a visionary leader and as a builder and grower of organizations. Our Board and senior leadership unanimously agreed that John is the dynamic leader needed to propel LSG to the next level – to grow its programs and improve its services, so that ultimately we can better serve our clients and our community.”

“Lutheran Services of Georgia is known throughout the state as a leader in the program areas it serves. I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead this established and respected organization into the future,” says John Moeller. “I am eager to get to work and look forward to increasing LSG’s impact around the state and advancing our vision and mission in the communities it serves.”

A veteran of the nonprofit industry with extensive experience leading faith-based organizations, Moeller comes to LSG from Action Ministries in Atlanta, where he has served as President and CEO for the past five years. Under Moeller’s leadership, Action Ministries expanded its service territory and increased its revenues while re-vitalizing its relationship with its United Methodist Church (UMC) roots. Prior to Action Ministries, Moeller served as CEO of MUST Ministries in Marietta for ten years. Ordained as a minister in the United Methodist Church, Moeller served as Pastor to UMC congregations in North Georgia from 1991 to 2001 before being called to work in nonprofit human and social services. Moeller retains his ordination status and currently serves as an ordained elder.

As an outdoor enthusiast, Moeller spends much of his leisure time hiking, biking and pursuing other activities in nature. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and received his Masters of Divinity from Emory University.

LSG partnered with BoardWalk Consulting, a national firm specializing in nonprofit executive search.

For more information on Lutheran Services of Georgia, call 404-875-0201 or visit

Lutheran Services of Georgia is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting services that enhance the stability, wellness, health, and safety of individuals and families in Georgia. For more than 30 years, Lutheran Services of Georgia has provided assistance to people in need throughout the state, helping tens of thousands transform their loss, grief and trauma into happy, hopeful futures. LSG combines the resources of staff, financial donors, various governmental agencies, volunteers, and Lutheran congregations in its efforts to bring quality programs and services in the areas of Adoption, Specialized Foster Care, Family Intervention Services, FACES (disability services), Refugee and Immigration Services and Disaster Relief. LSG offers services in Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Columbus, Rome and Savannah.

Lutheranch Ground Breaking: McKanna-Sandrock Retreat Center

posted Jun 8, 2016, 5:59 PM by Carolyn Davis

Lutheranch Ground Breaking
McKanna-Sandrock Retreat Center


In a year already filled with significant accomplishments at Lutheranch, Saturday, May 28, 2016 will long be remembered as a truly historic day when ground was broken for the McKanna-Sandrock Retreat Center. The service began at the Southeastern Synod Assembly in Birmingham. Paul Schabacker, who chaired the Site Selection Team highlighted how God’s hand was evidenced throughout the ten year journey that began in 2006 when hundreds packed the 755 Club at Turner Field to learn about plans for a new outdoor ministry site and the following March when 600 from all across the south converged on Lutheranch for the first open house.

Pastor John Weber leads Ground Breaking Service

A real highlight was in January 2011 when Bill Stender, Huntsville, refinanced the $2.6 million debt on Lutheranch land at 0.5% interest, which will save the ministry over $2 million in interest. The Board of Trustees recently named the campus under development the “Stender Campus” in recognition of Bill’s generosity, which was recently dedicated in memory of his parents, the Rev. William and Roberta MacDougal Stender. Schabacker also recognized the development staff team of Libby Bedenbaugh, Pr. Jan Setzler and Pr. David Hart who worked tirelessly in leading the campaign throughout the Southeastern Synod. God blessed their efforts with nearly $9 million given to make Lutheranch a reality.
Schabacker completed his remarks by introducing Doctors Jim McKanna and Vivien Casagrande (right), Nashville, who made the $2.2 million naming gift for the retreat center. Jim McKanna was inspired to give through his German Lutheran ancestry of pastors who were pioneers in this country and instrumental in starting Wartburg Seminary and Wartburg College in Iowa. Jim’s uncle Sandrock, another
Lutheran pastor brought him to Long Lake Lutheran Camp in Wisconsin. McKanna and Casagrande were afforded a rousing standing ovation by the assembly.


Dr. Vivien Casagrande and Dr. James McKanna

Dr. Vivien Casagrande and Dr. James McKanna

Bishop Julian Gordy led a “symbolic groundbreaking” for the assembly and indicated that the dirt came from Lutheridge, Lutheranch and from congregations throughout the Southeastern Synod. He went on to explain that the dirt will be placed in a planter at the new retreat center to symbolize the partnership of congregations and members throughout the southeast. As the plants grow, so will the ministry of Lutheranch.


Laynee Hurley, St. Paul Lutheran Church- Vonore,TN adds her dirt

Doctors McKanna and Casagrande were the first to turn the earth followed by Bishop Gordy who chaired “The Challenge” campaign before being elected Bishop and Pr. Gary Christensen, who chaired the “Standing on the Promise” campaign. John Schuerholz, Atlanta Braves, served as the honorary chair for both campaigns. Four board members also turned the earth including Mary Peterson, Pr. Dale Sillik, Pr. Everett Flannigan and Paul Schabacker.
The assembly was then surprised with a live “simulcast” of the actual groundbreaking service that was occurring simultaneously at Lutheranch on the site of the new McKanna-Sandrock Center. Pr. John Weber, Peachtree City, led the groundbreaking service with Development Director, Keith Trout. Mike Mynhier, chair and John Didicher, building committee members were the first to turn the earth followed by youth members of SESYLO, youth organization of the Southeastern Synod. Others present then turned the earth and enjoyed hospitality courtesy of Grace Lutheran, Carrollton.

SESYLO shares in the ground breaking

Pr. Dale Sillik, a member of the NovusWay Board of Trustees and Lutheranch Task Force chair concluded the presentation at the assembly by outlining the construction timetable and what is needed to “Complete the Dream” for the new center. Less than $500,000 is needed to fully fund the center and if all goes as planned the center will be dedicated on March 11, 2017. Inspired by the groundbreaking, eleven pastors and congregations expressed interest in conducting campaigns and over $30,000 was committed by individuals. Sillik concluded his remarks with emotion filled words of thanksgiving, “We have an amazing God.” In those words Sillik expressed the feelings and thanksgiving of the entire synod to our faithful and awesome God!

If you would like to help “Complete the Dream” for Lutheranch contact Keith Trout, development director,, 864-313-1453.
      Amiel Trott, age 6
2016 Lutheridge Camper
signs the ground breaking


NovusWay Ministries  •  28 Spruce Drive  •  Arden, NC 28704

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Dedication Day at Lutheranch

posted Mar 17, 2016, 3:00 PM by Carolyn Davis   [ updated Mar 17, 2016, 3:02 PM ]

March 12, 2016 will long be remembered as the day when Lutheranch took a giant step forward in ministry with the dedication of the Stender Campus, the Lake Stender Worship Area and St. Timothy Outdoor Chapel. Bishop H. Julian Gordy presided at the dedication, along with Bishop Herman Yoos, South Carolina Synod and
the Rev. Darrel Peterson, Marietta, GA.

The Lake Stender Worship Area was named in memory of the Rev. William Harold and Roberta MacDougalStender (right). Pastor Stender’s ministry began in South Carolina at which time the family started attending family camp at Lutheridge. Pastor Stender later served at Emmanuel, Atlanta and was responsible for integrating the congregation during the Civil Rights era. 

Upon retirement they joined Redeemer, Atlanta. The Stender family (left) was represented at the dedication by Bill Stender, Jr., Ellen Chorba, Bobbi (Stender) and Ed Butler, and Bobbi’s pastor, the Rev. John Rossing, Dalton, GA. Anne Elise Falgout, a third Stender sibling from Louisiana was unable to be present because of severe flooding in her state.

The Stender Campus, that comprises approx. 80 acres that is currently under development, was also named in memory of the Rev. William Harold and Roberta MacDougal Stender. Naming privileges were awarded by the Board of Trustees in recognition of Bill Stender Jr.’s refinancing the debt on the property that will ultimately save the ministry $2 million in interest. An artist’s rendering depicts the archway entrance to Lutheranch (right) that will mark the new entrance to the site.

Those present for the dedication were awestruck at the beauty of the St. Timothy Outdoor Chapel that was designed by NovusWay’s Vice-President of Site and Facilities, Craig Rieger. Rieger and his staff also undertook construction with assistance from Ed Buehler, the “volunteer” Volunteer Coordinator along with Pat Rutherford and Howard Helms. Several volunteers from Grace, Carrollton helped including Paul Scheufler, Bob Adams, Jim Dathe, Shane Dathe and John Larson along with David Troutman
from South Carolina. St. Timothy church made a gift to name the “great room” in the new retreat center, along with the altar that is featured in the outdoor chapel. Mrs. Arolue Flemmen-Prater, who made the gift to fund the chapel was present for the dedication with her husband Ron, along with many other members of St. Timothy that are pictured (left).

Keith Johnson, NovusWay Executive Director indicated that this won’t be the last dedication at Lutheranch; “Construction should begin in June 2016, or when construction documents for the retreat center are completed, and if all goes as planned the McKanna-Sandrock Retreat Center will be dedicated on Saturday, March 11, 2017. A “symbolic” groundbreaking is planned on May 28, 2016 at the Southeastern Synod Assembly in Birmingham. Assembly participants are invited to tour Lutheranch on Sunday afternoon, May 29, 2016 as they return home.”

Johnson concluded his remarks by indicating that $609,000 is still need to fully fund the center. If you would like to help “complete the dream” for Lutheranch, you are encouraged to contact Keith Trout, Development Director at, or 864-313-1453. 

Cross and Crown, Chamblee, GA Leaves Legacy at Lutheranch

posted Mar 13, 2016, 4:36 PM by Southeastern Synod   [ updated Mar 13, 2016, 4:36 PM ]

On August 9, 2015, Cross and Crown Lutheran Church conducted its final worship service and fellowship meal, and the buildings and property were sold on December 7, 2015. This concluded several years of efforts to “turn around” the ministry of Cross and Crown church, which also operated a preschool. Pastor Gary Christensen was called as pastor in December 2008 following his service as Mission Director for the ELCA in the Southeastern Synod. Despite their best efforts, the “turnaround” wasn’t successful, and Pastor Gary concluded his ministry at Cross and Crown in spring 2015. When asked about his service, Pastor Gary had this to say, “Although our efforts at transformation weren’t successful in the traditional sense, we were very successful in our discernment of God’s will for the congregation of CCLC. The resulting two million dollars in legacy gifts will continue to bear witness to our unswerving belief that, at the end of our ministry, God richly blessed us to be a blessing to others.”

The congregation then wrestled with whether to merge with another area congregation, to sell the property and operate as a “storefront” congregation, or to enact a “holy closure.” They opted for “holy closure,” as explained by Gary Olson, congregation president, who led Cross and Cross through the difficult process. It is interesting to note that Olson was a member of the congregation back in the 1970’s before leaving the Atlanta area because of a transfer in his work. It was natural for Olson to reconnect with Cross and Crown church upon his recent return to the Atlanta area.

Congregational members allocated the proceeds to a variety of ministries with nearly $185,000 going to Lutheranch. The largest contribution went to Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary to establish a tuition endowment for students. Other ministries receiving sizeable gifts included Lutheran Disaster Relief, Christ the King Lutheran, Norcross, where many members are worshipping, ELCA Mission Development, Lutheran Services Georgia and the ELCA World Hunger/Malaria Campaign. Together with over $40,000 that congregational members had previously contributed to Standing on the Promise campaign for Lutheranch, the congregation was able to name two “corridors” in the new retreat center at Lutheranch. A schematic of the retreat center is pictured at left. If all goes as planned, construction on the retreat center will begin in summer 2016!

Cross and Crown joined two other Southeastern Synod congregations, who had previously made legacy gifts to Lutheranch when they concluded their ministry as congregations. St. Timothy, Forest Park concluded its ministry in 2012, and they made a gift to name the St. Timothy Great Room in the center, which will serve as the location for dining, worship, and meeting. St. James, Norcross, GA made a gift in 2014 to name the entrance road that will be known as St. James Way.

While it is difficult to close a congregation after 48 years of ministry, Cross and Crown members can rejoice in knowing that their congregation’s ministry will continue to live on at Lutheranch and many other Lutheran ministries. Pastor Gary concluded his remarks by saying, “I hope and pray that more congregations faced with a decision of “holy closure” will follow the bold example of Cross & Crown and share their remaining financial assets with the larger church and our church-related institutions and mission initiatives.” His inspirational words of hope and promise are echoed through the scripture now found on the Cross and Crown Lutheran Church Facebook page, “Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For he has been resurrected, just as he said.”

The Cross and Crown church gift helped enable the Standing on the Promise campaign to reach the $4.9 million goal to build the retreat center at Lutheranch. However, construction costs have increased significantly since the building was designed and an additional $800,000 is needed to fully fund construction. If you would like to “Complete the Dream” for Lutheranch, contact Keith Trout at or phone (864) 313-1453.

Lutherock Conservation Easement News Release

posted Feb 16, 2016, 1:05 PM by Southeastern Synod   [ updated Mar 13, 2016, 4:48 PM ]

NovusWay Ministries recently entered into a conservation easement on 518 of the camp’s 750+ acres. This step culminates a seven year process of working with the Blue Ridge Conservancy to find a way to preserve and protect the wilderness nature and character of the camp for future generations.

Designated by the state of North Carolina as “Lutherock Natural Area,” this camp represents one of the top areas in the state to preserve and protect. With two globally endangered ecosystems (Northern Hardwood of Beech, Birch and Sugar Maple), High Elevation Rock Summits, and three globally endangered species, it is no wonder the Blue Ridge Conservancy was eager to enter into an easement. The Clean Water Management Trust Fund also desired to protect the water quality of the North Toe River (also on the property), a primary source of drinking water for Spruce Pine, NC.

The easement is in accord with the Natural Resources Management Plan authored by Dr. Ed Hauser, who chaired NovusWay’s Environmental Stewardship Advisory Council and the North Carolina Synod’s Task Force on Caring for Creation. It also affirms the desire of the original twelve congregations that owned and operated Lutherock for four decades that the site remain a wilderness place and not be over-developed. Hauser had this to say about the easement, “I’m delighted at this action that will insure the visual scenic beauty, ecological integrity of endangered ecosystems and species, and natural streams and their riparian zones which support populations of the Wheller’s Salamander, a globally endangered species, and native brook trout. Camp Lutherock is literally a treasure for today and for future generations.”

Lutherock program directors, Kara and Jacob Ridenhour, are actively working to develop the “Living Waters Outdoor School” that focuses on environmental and adventure education at Lutherock. The site will utilize the unique Lutherock ecosystem as an outdoor classroom to help students not only experience the grandeur of God’s creation, but learn to better care for it.

Chief Operating Officer Susan Troutman, who guided the easement process for NovusWay together with board members, the Rev. Greg Williams, Hendersonville, and Joanna Britt, Winston-Salem, commented about the easement, “We were very careful to protect the camp’s facilities and future program and development potential, while at the same time respecting the unique ecosystem and treasures of Lutherock.”

The Blue Ridge Conservancy and Clean Water Management Trust Fund purchased the easement on 518 acres, but the camp maintains use of that part of the property. This means that the camp can continue to use and maintain hiking trails, undertake rock climbing, use and install tent platforms, picnic sites and overnight camping sites and ropes courses. However, the camp cannot build permanent structures or roads in the easement area. Troutman also indicated that all camp facilities (including the staff residence, climbing tower, recreation field, and the area known as the “saddle) are outside of the easement area. Also outside of the easement are all locations of potential future development.

There are additional benefits to the easement. Many readers will remember how Lutherock battled to keep Mountain Electric from running a transmission line through the site in 2012. With the easement no transmission line can run through the property. When the Blue Ridge Conservancy conducted a survey at its expense, they created a trail around the boundary, which now is a benefit to maintaining and monitoring the land. The Board of Trustees was unanimous in voting to enter into a conservation easement that both enables the ministry of Lutherock to continue to grow and develop in the future, while preserving the unique ecosystem and wilderness nature of the site.

McKanna-Sandrock Retreat Center Named at Lutheranch

posted Jan 25, 2016, 12:57 PM by Carolyn Davis   [ updated Mar 13, 2016, 4:49 PM by Southeastern Synod ]

When Dr. James Andrew McKanna (pictured left with his wife Vivien) learned that funding wasn’t yet in place to build the full 40-room retreat center at Lutheranch and the Board was considering phased construction, he became very concerned.  McKanna had been a NovusWay donor for several years, and he was part of the major gifts team in the Nashville area for the “Standing on the Promise” campaign for Lutheranch.  Based on his own camping experience at Long Lake Lutheran Camp in Wisconsin, McKanna knew the importance of the retreat center in developing programs at Lutheranch and the benefits it would bring to Lutherans across the southeastern United States.

After discussions with Bishop H. Julian Gordy, Southeastern Synod, to determine what it would take to build the full 40-room retreat center McKanna and his wife, Vivien Casagrande, have responded by making a very generous $2.2 million commitment over a three-year period (2015-2017).  This extraordinary gift prompted the NovusWay Board of Trustees to authorize the architect to finalize construction documents for the retreat center.  If all goes as planned, construction on the McKanna-Sandrock Retreat Center will begin in summer 2016. The center will feature 40 double occupancy guest rooms with private bathrooms, three conference rooms, and a large meeting/dining room, scenically set overlooking Stender Lake.

                             The future McKanna- Sandrock Retreat Center                 T

Bishop Gordy had this to say about the significance of the commitment and what it will mean to the members and congregations of the Southeastern Synod, “While Dr. McKanna’s generous gift will bless the whole church, its meaning to the congregations and people of the Southeastern Synod is hard to overstate. Here is a beautiful piece of God’s handiwork that will be a setting for faith development and renewal for many generations to come. I believe it will have the kind of impact that Lutheridge and Lutherock have had for Lutherans in the South over the years. I’m particularly glad that Dr. McKanna makes this gift to honor his ancestors and hope that many of us will be inspired to do likewise. We always stand on the shoulders of those people of faith who have come before us.”

When asked about his commitment, the largest in the history of NovusWay Ministries or any of the four Lutheran camps, McKanna was very modest, “The Lord’s blessings in our lives that enable us to make a gift like this are much like grace – undeserved but inspiring our gratitude as recipients.  This is one of the better things that I can do with my life, and I’m pleased to leave a legacy for future generations.  I trust this gift will also prompt others to remember their own ancestors, who importantly influenced their lives by passing on the Christian faith to them.”

McKanna is proud of his German Lutheran heritage that goes back to the Wilhelm-Loehe-Missionare-Schule in Neuendettelsau on the Sandrock side of the family.  In fact, several of his ancestors emigrated from Germany in the 1850s as missionary pastors to North America, including Great-Great-Grandfather Georg Grossman who founded Wartburg College and Wartburg Seminary in Iowa. Pastor Sigmund H. Sandrock, Jim’s grandfather, served numerous congregations in Wisconsin and Iowa before “retiring” as founding administrator of the Bartels Lutheran Home for Aged in Waverly, IA. The family’s camping ministry evolved in the 1960s at Long Lake Lutheran Camp in northern Wisconsin, where Jim’s mother Margaret Sandrock-McKanna served as camp nurse and uncle Pastor Sigmund G. Sandrock as director.  McKanna first visited Lutheranch in June 2015 with a delegation from the Lutheran Church in Bavaria.  He exclaimed, “While driving home, I felt a call to explore whether Vivien and I could move the project forward.  So many others had done their part, and now it was our turn to help make the dream a reality.”

McKanna is an active member of Christ Lutheran Church in Nashville where the Rev. Morgan Gordy is pastor.  He spends a significant amount of time volunteering at Christ church.  On Christmas Eve 2015, several of his family visiting from out of town even participated in the choral concert prior to the midnight service.  Pastor Morgan Gordy had this to say about McKanna and his participation at Christ Lutheran Church “Jim has a deep love for and commitment to the church, frequently asking about ways to put the Gospel into action, through Word proclaimed and through ministry of daily life.  He and Vivien have been faithful members of Christ for many years. It is no surprise that they have chosen to gift this ministry in such a generous way."

After a prominent career investigating growth factors in development of the brain, eye and kidney, Dr. Jim McKanna is Emeritus professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology, School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  His wife of 40 years, Dr. Vivien Casagrande, studies visual pathways in the brain and teaches in the Neuroscience program as Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Psychology at Vanderbilt. In 2013 she received the prestigious Vanderbilt University Chancellor’s Award “for a ground-breaking paper in Nature Neuroscience, in which a novel linkage was identified between primary visual cortex of the brain and the thalamus, which controls the ability of the visual system to focus.” Over the years, both Vivien and Jim trained many PhD and MD students, including several from Eastern Europe and China.

It is interesting to note that Vivien’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Germany/Austria just before WWII, and her father Arthur, as professor of civil engineering and soil mechanics at Harvard, was recruited in 1942 by the US Army Corps of Engineers to train nearly 400 officers to build safe, durable foundations for battle-zone airfields. Through 1980, he was responsible for design of many earthen dams and foundations for high-rise buildings throughout the free world. Vivien’s mother Erna Maas was raised in Stellingen, a small suburb of Hamburg, Germany, where the Lutheran Church was the center of all activity. Erna and Arthur were married in a Lutheran church in Cambridge, MA in 1940. Jim’s father, James Bernard was a banker and civic leader in Green Bay, WI; his mother, Margaret nee Sandrock, was an RN and served as Instructor at Bellin College of Nursing.

Jim and Vivien have two adult children, James Arthur and Paul Grayson.  James graduatedwith a triple major in computer science, psychology and neuroscience, earned his PhD in Medical Informatics at Oregon Health Science University (Portland), and presently is a post-doctoral fellow at Northeastern (Boston).  Paul is currently a student majoring in Finance at Belmont University (Nashville). 

The McKanna family
Over the years, the family has enjoyed skiing, sailing, tennis and cycling, including a bicycle tour with Germans and Hungarians from Vienna south around the Plattensee up to Budapest, and another led by Bike China from Chongqing south along the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges to the new dam at Yichang. As Jim says, “In this shrinking world, personal interactions on the ground provide small but significant avenues for expressing the love of Christ.”

McKanna has been inspired by his German Lutheran heritage and the dedicated successes of his ancestors in applying Christian principles to religious and secular institutions.  It is his prayer that God will use Lutheranch to raise up visionary and passionate leaders for the Lutheran Church to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in the future.  If you would like to make a gift and help “complete the dream” for Lutheranch, contact Keith Trout at or phone 864-313-1453.

Hardscape Plan for Lutheranch Being Developed

posted Nov 12, 2015, 1:09 PM by Carolyn Davis   [ updated Mar 13, 2016, 4:50 PM by Southeastern Synod ]

Two landscape architects are volunteering their time to develop a “hardscape” plan for Lutheranch that will include the roads, trails and site features.  It is important that these features be in place prior to construction of the new retreat center.  With the architect authorized to develop detailed plans and construction drawings for the center, Lutheranch is very fortunate to have two volunteers step forward to begin work on the plan.  Stephen Schrader is from Birmingham, Alabama where he is a member of Shades Valley Lutheran Church.  Jim Burtt is from Lawrenceville, Georgia.

The renderings, below, show the new entrance to Lutheranch on Salem Church Road, which is less than 15 minutes off of I20.  The renderings also depict a future residence for the site manager and office.  While plans are still being developed, it is likely that Laurel Oaks will line the entrance road that passes by Stender Lake on the way to the new retreat center.

The hardscape plan will include the trails and road network and locating sites for the high ropes course, community dynamics course, labyrinth, recreation field, tent sites and other site features.  The team is also giving input on the design for the new outdoor worship area that is being developed on the shores of Stender Lake.  Thanks Jim and Stephen!

Be watching for more information on Lutheranch as the architectural plans for the retreat center are finalized and a general contractor is selected to assist with cost analysis and preparation for the new retreat center.  Funds are still needed to fully fund the retreat center, but efforts are in place to raise the funds with the hope that construction can begin in 2016.  For more information on how you can help to “complete the dream” for Lutheranch, contact Keith Trout at (864) 313-1453 or

LSTC student Louis Tillman tapped as leader for climate justice

posted Nov 2, 2015, 11:08 AM by Carolyn Davis   [ updated Mar 13, 2016, 4:53 PM by Southeastern Synod ]

Mr. Louis Tillman is a member of Christ the Lord Lutheran Church, Lawrenceville, GA. This LSTC press release was originally published in July of this year.

Last month, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago student Louis Tillman joined thousands of marchers to thank Pope Francis for his recent encyclical on climate change. The march, “One Earth, One Family” brought together people of diverse faiths from around the world. It was organized by OurVoices,, FOCSIV, and others. Marchers carried banners and flew kites in the shape of white doves. Others carried green, leaf-shaped signs inscribed with verses from Scripture about God’s care of creation and the poor. (Continue.)

Tillman was in Rome to be part of the GreenFaith Emerging Leaders Multi-faith Climate Convergence. He was one of 100 young leaders, ages 21-40, selected from around the world. He says, “I have had the honor of being in Rome among 100 amazing and incredible climate activists from every corner of the world. We all came from different faiths but we breathe the same air, we share the same trees and we live on the same earth. One person's voice can make a difference but together all can be heard by world leaders - just like Pope Francis heard us and came to his window to give us a special mention as we marched through the streets.”

The convergence was held to connect, train, and support this diverse community of leaders to help spur faith-based environmental projects in countries around the world.
“The multicultural and enriching discussions exploring the deeply connected faith teachings we all have showed me that our common cause of protecting our environment transcends borders, cultures, religions, race and background and means we are truly one family of God's creation on earth appointed to protect all the things we love. Now let's start changing the world, one person at a time,” Tillman says.

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