Newsline for Feb. 22, 2012




"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice . . . to share your bread with the hungry?" (Isaiah 58:6a, 7a).

Quote of the week:

“You celebrate my glory in the beauty of the earth,
In love that brings forgiveness, in the miracle of birth.
You offer up your gratitude in worship and in prayer.
But what I really want from you is willingness to share.”

-- First verse of the theme song for this year’s One Great Hour of Sharing offering scheduled for March 18. A video to accompany the song is at www.brethren.org/oghs as one of the offering resources along with sheet music and lyrics, orders of worship, sermon starters, a children’s sermon, activities for youth, and more. The song, “One Great Hour to Share,” was written especially for the occasion by Leslie Lee and Steve Gretz.

NEWS
1) Financial report for 2011 includes hopeful signs and cause for concern.
2) Annual CCT meeting has anti-racism, anti-poverty focus.
3) Tax credit for health care expenses can help a church save.
4) Brethren couple to teach another semester at university in N. Korea.
5) Church representative attends World Interfaith Harmony week at UN.

PERSONNEL
6) Paynes called to lead Southeastern District.
7) Youth Peace Travel Team is named for 2012.

UPCOMING EVENTS
8) Leadership summit is planned for late March.
9) May is Older Adult Month on theme, ‘Aging with Passion and Purpose.’

FEATURES
10) Stewardship is a team effort: A reflection on fundraising results for 2011.

11) Brethren bits: Remembrance, personnel, jobs, Annual Conference, district news, much more.

Now online: General registration for the Church of the Brethren’s 2012 Annual Conference has opened at www.brethren.org/ac . The Conference takes place July 7-11 in St. Louis, Mo., at the America’s Center convention center. Those who register online will receive a link to reserve rooms in the Conference hotel block. Also available is information about registration costs, a general schedule of the Conference, hotel listings, local transportation information, age group activities for children and youth and young adults, a listing of meal events and ticket prices, fliers for insight sessions and other special offerings during the Conference, and much more that is part of the Information Packet for the event. Go to www.brethren.org/ac . (See Brethren bits below for more updates on Annual Conference.)

1) Financial report for 2011 includes hopeful signs and cause for concern.

Financial results for Church of the Brethren denominational ministries in 2011 include both hopeful signs and cause for concern. Positive results were seen in the Conference Office budget and in certain restricted giving. However, the Core Ministries and other self-funding ministries realized expenses in excess of income.

Total gifts received for the denominational ministries were lower in 2011 than 2010. Congregations gave a total of $3,484,100, down 14.2 percent from 2010. Total individual giving of $2,149,800 was down 30.5 percent from the previous year.

Giving to Core Ministries declined $148,200, or 4.6 percent, for a total of $3,083,200. Giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF), which fluctuates based on the severity of disasters, remained relatively strong at $1,811,500, but was lower than 2010 by $270,900. The Global Food Crisis Fund and Emerging Global Mission Fund both received more gifts than in 2010, totaling $318,500 and $72,900, respectively.

The primary source of funding for Core Ministries is donations from congregations and individuals. A steady decrease in donations over time continues to challenge budget and program planning. Staff were able to hold expenses below 2011 budgeted amounts, but expenses still exceeded income by $65,800.

Projections for the 2012 Core Ministries budget revealed a large gap between anticipated income and expense. In order to match the two, nine positions were eliminated as of Sept. 28, 2011. Other changes were made to reduce expenses or identify additional sources of income.

The New Windsor Conference Center (NWCC) sustained a net loss of $176,400 in 2011. Sales were slightly higher than 2010, and the loss was not as large as the previous year. However, this result increased the accumulated deficit to $689,400.

Four other ministries identified as self-funded also rely on sales of goods and services for income. Solid attendance and offerings at Annual Conference, coupled with staff efforts to curtail costs, helped the Conference Office end 2011 with income over expense of $237,200. The positive result eliminated the prior accumulated deficit.

“Messenger” magazine also ended the year in the black, with a modest income over expense of $200.

Brethren Press sustained its first loss in three years with a deficit of $68,900. Factors included decreased sales and the conclusion of a Gahagen grant that had bolstered income for a number of years.

The Material Resources program experienced increased costs in supplies and transportation that led to expense over income of $31,200.

In the midst of financial struggles, the staff and board continue to be grateful for the faithfulness of donors. The ministries of the Church of the Brethren exist only through the support of those who give generously even during lean economic times.

The above amounts were provided prior to completion of the 2011 audit. Complete financial information will be available in the Church of the Brethren, Inc., audit report, to be published in June 2012.

-- LeAnn K. Wine is executive director of Organizational Resources and treasurer of the Church of the Brethren. (See a related feature below for reflections on the year 2011 from stewardship staff.)


2) Annual CCT meeting has anti-racism, anti-poverty focus.

Bernard Lafayette was one of the speakers at the 2012 annual meeting of Christian Churches Together
Photo by Wendy McFadden
Bernard Lafayette was one of the speakers at the 2012 annual meeting of Christian Churches Together (CCT). Co-founder of SNCC and a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights movement, he was one of several speakers who guided the group of church leaders in reviewing the history of struggle against racism and the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

Christian Churches Together (CCT) completed its annual meeting Feb. 17 in Memphis, Tenn. Attending were 85 national church leaders from the organization’s five “faith families”: African-American, Catholic, Historic Protestant, Evangelical/Pentecostal, and Orthodox Christian. The group of men and women of many colors and ethnicities sought together to better understand and more effectively organize to combat racism and poverty in America.

The group visited the National Civil Rights Museum, site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s martyrdom; the Slave Haven Museum, an Underground Railroad safe house; and the historic Mason Temple where King delivered his last speech before he was assassinated. They also heard from speakers such as Bernard LaFayette, co-founder of SNCC and a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights movement, and Virgil Wood, an organizer for the March on Washington.

Brethren leaders at the meeting included Annual Conference moderator-elect Bob Krouse, attending in place of moderator Tim Harvey (who currently is visiting a new Brethren movement in Spain); general secretary Stan Noffsinger; and Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden.

“It was really a wonderful meeting,” Krouse said in a telephone interview. He highlighted the impact of back-to-back visits to the National Civil Rights Museum and Slave Haven Museum, in a few hours being vividly reminded of the long history of racism in the US, and the struggle against it. Visiting the place where King was killed “was so powerful,” he said. “There it was, the balcony where he was shot. . . . And to be reminded of the church’s failure to deal with those issues, slavery, busing. It was humiliating, really, to see the failure of the church.”

One of the learnings Krouse takes away from the gathering is the appropriateness of what he characterized as a Christian sense of “heart-ache and profound moral failure” in the face of racism. The meeting as a whole was characterized by a mixture of joy, as well, he said--“joy that we could be there as the church.”

What does this mean for the Church of the Brethren? “It’s been hard for us to get handles,” Krouse answered. “A lot of the issues we’ve addressed as political rhetoric,” he said, adding that Brethren have not addressed racism in a practical way as some other denominations have been trying to do. One concrete suggestion coming out of the CCT meeting is to focus church planting on multi-ethnic plants in urban areas. Another is to actively acknowledge how racism hurts people in the dominant culture as well as those who are being discriminated against.

“One of the things that was brought home to me . . . was that we on the other side, we also have been victims of it. Our lives have been less rich because of not facing exposure to black culture and issues they have struggled with because of racism.

“The more isolated we are--theologically, culturally, ethnically--it does really limit our lives. The most beautiful quilts are the richly colored.”


Following is the statement issued by consensus of the participants at the CCT gathering:

Feb. 17, 2012 - One in Christ for the Sake of All

Representatives of the churches and organizations of Christian Churches Together in the United States assembled in Memphis, Feb. 14-17, 2012, to respond to one question: How might the Holy Spirit use the witness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” to help the church live the Gospel more fully and proclaim it more faithfully?

In our time together, our hearts and our minds have been engaged by Jesus’ announcement that: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Companions of Dr. King have shared with us their first-hand experience in the Civil Rights movement and of their continuing work. We reconnected with the story of the students on the Freedom Ride. We journeyed to Slave Haven Museum and confronted the national memory of the slave trade, the millions of Africans who lost their lives or their freedom in the forced journey from Africa to the New World. We visited the Lorraine Motel and the National Civil Rights Museum, coming face to face again with the things that necessitated the Civil Rights movement and the Poor People’s Campaign. We recognized our call to the “fierce urgency of now” that Dr. King named.

We declare unequivocally that racism, extreme wealth disparity, injustice and poverty, and violence are inextricably linked together. Dr. King said that “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered” when “profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people.” We call upon the church to say and act unambiguously for people. An anti-racist church advocates for equity, pursues justice, and embodies nonviolence. We know this. We have experienced the reality of God’s in-breaking kingdom in our relationships with each other. Gathered by the Spirit, as children of Our Father, in the name of Christ Jesus, we have known both truth and trust in the presence of each other.

From the perspective of an outsider looking in on our gathering, we may seem like unlikely partners--Christians of African, European, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific, Native American, and Middle Eastern descent meeting in friendship; Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Catholics, Orthodox, Historic African-American, and Historic Protestants exchanging ideas and living in mutual hope. We belong together. We have heard God’s “Yes” to our relationships and we say, “Amen to the glory of God.”

Our gathering as Christian Churches Together is a joyful fellowship for which we give thanks and pray is pleasing to God, for in gathering together we experience Christ tearing down the walls that otherwise divide us.

With Dr. King, we affirm: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

From our unity in Christ, we say to everyone in the United States that there is room for people from any land or language in this country. The color of one’s skin is a gift from God; to welcome the other is an act of our common humanity. The relationships that one has and the possibilities that one is extended are how we each realize what God promises for all. There are many ways in which our society limits the kinds of relationships people have and the possibilities for advancement people are given. We who met together in Memphis call upon the church to resist these socially imposed limits by engaging in new relationships with those who seem different and creating possibilities for people in poverty to acquire equity and experience economic security.

Our common humanity and our witness to the Christ of all peoples summons our churches to act for the wellbeing of all, to advocate for equity for the poor, to pursue justice, and to practice the love and nonviolence that Jesus teaches. Therefore we commend to our churches and organizations that they:

1. Examine their participation in the structures and personal choices that ignore the reality of poverty and perpetuate the effects of racism.

2. Embrace one or more of the initiatives from the CCT Statement on Poverty as a church-wide priority which seeks the elimination of poverty in this nation.

3. Partner with another church who is representative of being an “unlikely partner” in our anti-poverty work, so that our common witness may be to the God who reconciles us in Christ.

4. Proclaim publicly, in their own ways and in alliances of joint action, that the new forms of racist and unChristian behavior toward the immigrant, the impoverished, and the non-Christian are abhorrent to God and a denial of the grace which God in Christ Jesus offers to everyone.

5. Seek ways to collaborate in their anti-racism and cross-cultural ministries and to share their resources and experiences in this work with each other and, as appropriate, with multi-religious partners.

6. Be mutually accountable to each other by regular reporting of their actions on these recommendations through a forum identified by Christian Churches Together.

7. Finally, working in collaboration through Christian Churches Together, develop an appropriate public witness and presence in Birmingham on April 16, 2013, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” and publicly report what the church is doing to overcome the sin of racism and to ensure economic “justice for all.”

(Richard L. Hamm, executive director of Christian Churches Together in the USA, contributed to this report. For more information contact dhamm@ddi.org or 317-490-1968.)


3) Tax credit for health care expenses can help a church save.

BBT logoAre medical premiums hurting your church budget? Your church may be eligible for a significant tax credit on health insurance premiums it paid for full-time or part-time employees in 2011.

In conjunction with health care legislation known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Internal Revenue Service now offers up to a 25 percent credit for small tax-exempt employers who paid at least half of their employees’ insurance premiums in 2011. Even if taxes have already been filed for fiscal year 2011, a church may file an amended return to receive this credit.

“It took a little bit of work to figure it out, but to get a reinvestment in our ministry was well worth it,” said Russ Matteson, pastor of Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. He and his church’s stewardship chairwoman pursued the credit last year after reading an announcement from Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) that was published in Newsline.

That “little bit of work” paid off for the church--Modesto received a refund of around $2,700, according to Matteson.

Does this sound like something your church or organization should pursue? Learn more about how you can claim this credit by reading a letter and summary of information provided by BBT and the IRS at www.brethrenbenefittrust.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/Insurance%20pdfs/tax-credit-web.pdf .

-- Brian Solem is publications coordinator for Brethren Benefit Trust.


4) Brethren couple to teach another semester at university in N. Korea.

Robert and Linda Shank celebrate a birthday with help from their students
Photo courtesy of Robert and Linda Shank
Robert and Linda Shank celebrate a birthday with help from their students at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The couple have been working in North Korea with sponsorship from the Global Mission and Service program of the Church of the Brethren.

Robert and Linda Shank are preparing to return for another semester teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The couple have been working in North Korea with sponsorship from the Global Mission and Service program of the Church of the Brethren.

This past semester at PUST has been a good one for the Shanks, who express gratitude for the unique opportunity. The North Koreans “are excellent hosts,” said Linda, in an interview held when the couple stopped by the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., last month. They were in the US for a Christmas leave.

Robert Shank, who is dean of the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences at PUST, has taught three courses: a biotechnology course for graduate students, a plant breeding course for graduate students, and a botany course for undergraduates. Linda Shank is an adjunct English teacher, assisting students with research projects and providing an English clinic for graduate students as well as “listening sessions” to help students learn verbal English in order to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Classes at PUST are taught in English and students enter the English department when they first enroll, and then move on to classes in their major areas.

The Shanks list a number of accomplishments of their work at PUST: a marked increase in the level of trust they experience, increasing development of good relationships with the school administration, all reflected in Robert’s promotion to dean of his department and the extra levels of responsibility that carries. One particular accomplishment has been providing 400 microscope slides of plants and other organisms for PUST, provided with help from McPherson (Kan.) College.

A highlight of the past semester has been the students with whom the Shanks work. Smiles brightened their faces as the couple spoke of the joys of teaching a group of outstanding young men. For example, the eight graduate students the Shanks have related to since they started at the university, three now doing graduate study in plant breeding and five in genetic engineering. In another example, the botany student who kept saying, “I want to know exactly,” pushing Robert to expand his own knowledge of the subject and to invite more input from the class. And then there are the students who routinely illustrate their lab exercises with elaborate artistic drawings, where students in other countries would be content with providing a rough sketch.

A special memory from the Fall are the birthday parties students threw for Robert and Linda--on very slim student budgets, even somehow finding a bouquet of fresh flowers in mid-November. Birthdays are celebrated “with gusto” in North Korea, the Shanks said. They explained, “Here’s how you have a birthday party with no money”: for one party, the students put up pictures of flowers downloaded from the Internet, and used cut-outs from shiny red foil wrapping for the decorations.

Find out more about Robert and Linda Shank’s work at PUST at www.brethren.org/partners/northkorea .


5) Church representative attends World Interfaith Harmony week at UN.

United Nations representative Doris Abdullah attends World Interfaith Harmony WeekChurch of the Brethren representative to the United Nations, Doris Abdullah, recently attended the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2012 at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Following is her report from the event:

“The Committee of Religious NGOs (non-governmental organizations) at the United Nations did a wonderful job bringing together representations from the world’s five mainstream religious communities (Jewish, Christian, Islamic, plus Hindu and Buddhist) in addition to many of the smaller religious bodies (Shinto, Baha'i, Sikh, Native, and Traditional) around the theme ‘Common Ground for the Common Good.’

“The program highlighted the common ground spoken of by Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the General Assembly, in the keynote address, and by William F Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace. The world religions share common ground, with four shared values elaborated on by the speakers: their desires for mediation and peaceful settlements of disputes, United Nations reforms, improvements in disaster prevention and response, and sustainable development.

“While many of the things that were said could be quoted, one stood out for me above all the others: ‘To be religious is to be interreligious.’ I cannot be religious by myself or just in my tradition alone. We share this planet with all its people and life forms. We are not alone, nor loners with our God. There is one religious quote that is found in most world religions, traditions, and beliefs: the Golden Rule that we in our Christian tradition find in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’

“Yuka Saionji from the Byakko Shinko Kai and the Goi Peace Foundation spoke of many prayers that came to Japan from around the globe after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, and her own personal belief in the power of prayer. Prayer is our hope for a better tomorrow, and we must continue in faith to pray for compassion and love so that we may overcome the evils of our world with good. Together we can do this.”

-- In addition to serving as the UN representative for the Church of the Brethren, Doris Abdullah also is chair of the Human Rights Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.


PERSONNEL

6) Paynes called to lead Southeastern District.

Russell and Deborah Payne have accepted the call to serve Southeastern District as co-district executives beginning June 1. They will make their home and establish the new Southeastern District Office in Sulphur Springs, Tenn.

Russell Payne is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren with 30 years of experience as pastor of Coulson Church of the Brethren in Hillsville, Va. (1982-86 and 1994 to the present). He also has served as associate pastor and pastor of congregations in Tennessee and Indiana. He is a 1980 graduate of Steed College with a degree in business, a 1984 graduate of Graham Bible College, and has completed the three-year reading course of the Christian Growth Institute in Virlina District.

Deborah Payne has many years of experience in office and organizational management, most recently as executive director of Hope House of the Good Shepherd Inc. in Galax, Va. Previously she was business manager for Joy Ranch Inc. in Woodlawn, Va., and worked in the Parent Involvement/Teacher Resource Center of Carroll County Public Schools in Hillsville. She is a 1999 graduate of Wytheville Community College with a degree in education, and a 2003 graduate of Bluefield College with a degree in organizational management and development.

The Paynes’ volunteer leadership in the denomination has included Russell’s service as moderator of Virlina District, as a speaker for the Southeastern District Conference, and as a revival speaker in a number of locations. Deborah has served on the District Board and Witness Commission in Virlina District, and has been a young adult retreat leader, camp counselor, youth advisor, and has provided pulpit supply. She is a lay speaker in Virlina District, having completed the three-year reading course.


7) Youth Peace Travel Team is named for 2012.

The 2012 Youth Peace Travel Team has been named. As they spend time with junior and senior high youth this summer at camps across the Church of the Brethren, the team will teach about peace, justice, and reconciliation, all core values throughout the Church of the Brethren’s more than 300-year history.

The Youth Peace Travel Team is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Advocacy and Peace Witness Office, Brethren Volunteer Service, On Earth Peace, and the Outdoor Ministries Association.

Members of the 2012 team are Katie Furrow of Boones Mill, Va., whose home congregation is Monte Vista Church of the Brethren in Callaway, Va.; Hunter Keith of Kokomo, Ind., and Mexico (Ind.) Church of the Brethren; Kyle Riege of Wakarusa, Ind., and Camp Creek Church of the Brethren in Etna Green, Ind.; and Molly Walmer of Myerstown, Pa., and Meyerstown Church of the Brethren.

Throughout the summer, follow the ministry of the 2012 Youth Peace Travel Team by visiting www.brethren.org/youthpeacetravelteam .


UPCOMING EVENTS

8) Leadership summit is planned for late March.

At the invitation of the General Secretary, 25 to 30 Church of the Brethren members will convene on March 28-30 for a leadership summit in northern Virginia. Participants hold both formal and informal leadership positions within the Church of the Brethren. The purpose of the summit is to prayerfully examine the dynamics of leadership needed in the church today.

“Given the current state of the church,” said general secretary Stan Noffsinger, “now is an important time to gather together a group of leaders from across the Church of the Brethren, in order to consider how the church may move forward from this place and time.”

According to Mary Jo Flory-Steury, associate general secretary, the summit has been convened neither to set policies nor to make any decisions. Rather, said Jayne Seminare Docherty, one of the facilitators for the event, “We are seeking to create a kind of ‘learning laboratory’ where leaders will engage in conversations about how they can more effectively assist the whole church engage Christ’s call to live according to kingdom values while engaging in deliberation and decision making about difficult issues.”

A professor of leadership and public policy at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., Docherty recently returned to the US from four years in Myanmar (Burma), where she worked to develop inclusive peace processes and culturally appropriate negotiation practices. Co-facilitator Roger Foster, a graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, also spent the last six months in Myanmar with Docherty, working with religious and civil society organizations who were focusing on strategic leadership development.


9) May is Older Adult Month on theme, ‘Aging with Passion and Purpose.’

2012 Older Adult Month logoThis May, the Church of the Brethren’s Older Adult Ministry invites congregations to celebrate God’s gift of aging and the contributions of older adults to our lives and faith communities.

“Aging with Passion and Purpose”--the theme for 2012’s observance--calls people of all ages to grow in wisdom and revelation, so that we may know the hope to which we have been called (Ephesians 1:17-18).

Worship resources and suggestions for honoring older adults are available online at www.brethren.org/olderadultmonth or by contacting Kim Ebersole, director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministry, at kebersole@brethren.org or 800-323-8039.


FEATURE

10) Stewardship is a team effort: A reflection on fundraising results for 2011.

Mandy Garcia, stewardship staff, says thank you for support for the Church of the Brethren ministries
Photo by Church of the Brethren
Mandy Garcia, coordinator of donor invitation, says a big "Thank you" for all the support for the Church of the Brethren denominational ministries.

In 2011, a new way of thinking about donor communication has taken place in the Church of the Brethren. Fundraising has taken on the flavor of a team effort, with staff from across many ministry areas starting to take responsibility for articulating the value of Church of the Brethren ministries--and their cost.

For example, letters that were sent to donors almost every month last year had lots of variety of color, photos, and voices, because they were written by different authors. Jonathan Shively’s letter about Congregational Life Ministries (which he serves as executive director) generated a great response, as did general secretary Stan Noffsinger’s mid-year letter about Haiti. These personal, specifically Brethren letters have proven successful, unique voices asking Brethren to support this church they love.

New in 2011, a quarterly newsletter called  “Simply Put” took the place of the former “Another Way of Living” and many people have specifically subscribed to it. “Simply Put” now has its own mailing list.

“eBrethren,” an e-mail newsletter focused on stewardship, prompts appreciative e-mails from readers after nearly every issue. In 2011, various “eBrethren” pieces were featured in everything from district newsletters, to blogs, to Bible studies, and even sermons. It is encouraging that people seem to not only find it worth reading, but worth sharing.

One special story about “eBrethren” is that the last issue prepared in 2011 mentioned Nancy Miner, who works in the General Secretary’s Office, in connection with the nursing scholarship program. Her college roommate read the story and was inspired to e-mail the offices to reconnect with Nancy after several years! People-connecting is one of those things that happen frequently as we do the work of stewardship, and “eBrethren” helps to make the world seem a little smaller for many readers.

The bottom line for the denomination’s stewardship efforts in 2011 is that we saved more than $100,000 in printing and mailing costs by creating direct mail “in-house.” Over all, individuals donated $2,149,783. A large chunk of that giving came in the form of a very generous bequest to the Emergency Disaster Fund for the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

It seems that church members are starting to get more excited about supporting the church’s Core Ministries, and that they understand better what such ministries do--older adult and youth/young adult programing, international partnerships, Deacon Ministry, workcamps, communications, intercultural ministries, Brethren Volunteer Service, basic costs of the mission program, efforts to resource church planters, and so much more.

-- Mandy Garcia is coordinator of Donor Invitation for the Church of the Brethren.


11) Brethren bits: Remembrance, personnel, jobs, Annual Conference, district news, much more.

A Guide for Biblical Studies, spring quarter
Greg Davidson Laszakovits has written the spring “A Guide for Biblical Studies,” a Bible study and small group curriculum from Brethren Press. Frank Ramirez continues as writer of the “Out of Context” feature. The theme for the spring quarter is “God’s Creative Word.” The lessons for the weeks of March 4-May 27 focus on a variety of topics and biblical texts ranging from “Wisdom’s Part in Creation” (Proverbs 8) to “The Word Became Flesh” (John 1) to “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14). Order for $4.25 (or $7.35 large print) from www.brethrenpress.com or call 800-441-3712.

-- Remembrance: Esther Craig, 95, passed away Feb. 12 in South Bend, Ind. She retired in 1981 from Brethren Press, after working for 25 years for the Church of the Brethren. She also was an early Brethren Volunteer Service worker, volunteering at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., after World War II, and was a longtime supporter of Heifer Project and later Heifer International. Her father, George, was instrumental in the beginning of Heifer. She was featured in the Feb. 1995 "Messenger" for having a personal goal to contribute the cost of one heifer a year ever since the start of the project. "Many years her donation did not reach that goal," the magazine reported. "She joyfully remembers 1957, when she first achieved it. There is rich reward, she explains, in pondering how many offspring may have been passed along since that first heifer she bought 37 years ago." Craig was born Dec. 14, 1916, in Plymouth, Ind., to George and Ada (Berkeypile) Craig. She was a member of Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, where funeral services were held on Feb. 16. Memorial contributions are received to Crest Manor Church of the Brethren, Heifer International, or the Center for Hospice Care in Mishawaka, Ind. Online condolences may be shared at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com .

-- After serving both the Brethren Pension Plan and the Church of the Brethren Credit Union, Jill Olson has resigned from her position as a member services representative at Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). Her final day of employment will be March 9. She was originally hired to work as the loan officer for the credit union in November 2008. When the denominational credit union merged with Corporate America Family Credit Union in June 2011, she joined the Pension Plan department as a customer service representative and to work on special projects.

-- Brethren Press and MennoMedia seek a project manager to develop new Sunday school curriculum for children and youth. This begins a process for a new joint curriculum to launch in 2014, the successor to and building on the current Gather ’Round curriculum which continues through the next two years. Responsibilities include project oversight, staff recruitment, and supervision. Must have experience or education in theology, Christian education, or publishing. This is a full-time, salaried position for the length of the project, projected to be three to five years. Preference will be given to candidates who can work out of a MennoMedia or Mennonite Church office. Applications will be reviewed beginning March 1. Submit applications to searchcommittee@mennomedia.org .

-- The Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., has an opening for an archival intern. The purpose of the Archival Internship Program is to develop interest in vocations related to archives, libraries, and Brethren history. The program will provide work assignments in the BHLA and opportunities to develop professional contacts. Work will include processing archival materials, writing descriptive inventories, preparing books for cataloging, responding to reference requests, and assisting researchers. Professional contacts may include archival and library conferences and workshops, visits to libraries and archives in Chicago area, and participation in a Brethren Historical Committee meeting. BHLA is an official repository for Church of the Brethren publications and records. The collection consists of over 10,000 volumes, over 3,500 linear feet of manuscripts and records, over 40,000 photographs, plus videos, films, DVDs, and recordings. Term of service is one year, beginning in July. Compensation includes housing, stipend of $540 every two weeks, and health insurance. A graduate student is preferred, or an undergraduate with at least two years of college. Requirements include interest in history or library and archival work, willingness to work with detail, accurate word processing, ability to lift 30-pound boxes. Request an application packet from the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; dbrehm@brethren.org . Submissions must be completed by April 1. For more about the position contact the BHLA at 800-323-8039 ext. 294 or tbarkley@brethren.org.

-- Conference Office director Chris Douglas has sent a letter to district leaders asking for help to encourage Brethren to reserve rooms set aside in the Annual Conference hotel block in St. Louis. Because contracts for Conference locations are made five years in advance, she explained to district leaders, the Conference is contracted to fill more than 970 hotel rooms on each “peak” nights of the event and pays for those rooms whether they are booked by Conference-goers or not. “Paying for hotel rooms that no Brethren stay in could cost us thousands and thousands of dollars,” she warned. “Ultimately, it will result in us having to have a two-tiered registration price: $105 (non-delegate) if you stay in the conference housing block or much higher if you choose to book outside of that block, risking that we will have to pay for unused rooms.” A second reason for booking at the Conference hotels is that those hotels pay the convention center for a portion of the meeting space rental based on the number of hotel nights used, which decreases direct charges for the convention center. “If you could please get the word out in your district and encourage people to book at one of the three conference hotels (Renaissance Grand, Holiday Inn, and Hyatt), I would be grateful,” Douglas said. In an update on hotel prices, the room rate at the Hyatt Hotel has dropped from $125 to $115. For more information or questions about Conference hotels and lodging, contact Douglas at cdouglas@brethren.org .

-- In more news from Annual Conference, moderator Tim Harvey is providing a number of short video clips between now and the 2012 Conference called “Moments with the Moderator.” They will be available at www.brethren.org/ac and via the Annual Conference Facebook page. A first clip is online at www.cobannualconference.org/StLouis/ModeratorMoments.html .

-- The Church of the Brethren has joined with 60-plus groups to submit a “Friend of the Court” or amicus brief to the Supreme Court. The national, state, and local organizations filing the brief support Medicaid expansions in the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the expansions more completely address the original intent of Medicaid to fulfill the moral imperative to assist those who are poor and sick. The brief has been submitted by Faithful Reform in Health Care and the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) Health Care Working Group, which said in a release, “It is the calling of government to bring justice and protection to the poor and the sick, a goal that is consistent with the US Constitution. For this reason, amici have long supported Medicaid, our nation’s program for health care for the poor. The brief argues that the Affordable Care Act does not force states to continue to participate in Medicaid. Rather, states must continue to participate in Medicaid, and indeed expand their programs, because it is the right and moral thing to do.” To view the brief and the list of signers go to www.faithfulreform.org .

-- Action Alerts from the denomination’s Advocacy and Peace Witness Office are asking Brethren to support calls for an end to American involvement in Afghanistan, and warns church members of increasing international tensions with Iran. “On Feb. 1, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced for the first time that the US will end combat operations in Afghanistan as early as the middle of 2013,” said one alert. “A bipartisan group of members of Congress is currently circulating a letter to the President expressing their strong support for this accelerated timeline for ending the war in Afghanistan.... The President needs to know that Americans support ending combat operations in Afghanistan as quickly as possible.” With regard to Iran, an alert said, “It is time to be proactive, and act to prevent the next (war). The standoff with Iran over its nuclear program is highly volatile. Urge the Obama administration to commit to active diplomacy, giving inspections and targeted sanctions time to work in Iran, and telling Israel not to make a pre-emptive attack on Iran.” To take action on these issues, go to the full text of the alerts online. Find the alert on “Ending Combat in Afghanistan” at http://cob.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?em_id=15621.0&dlv_id=17621 . The alert about Iran is at http://cob.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?em_id=15681.0&dlv_id=17801 .

-- Congregational Life Ministries has received a good response to the Stuart Murray/Juliet Gilpin workshop and webinar March 10, reports Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices. Due to requests new ticket options have been added. Those who cannot attend the workshop or webinar may register for the recorded session. Tickets may be purchased online and an e-mail link will be sent after March 10. To purchase a ticket for the recorded session or for more information go to www.brethren.org/webcasts/changing-world-future.html . Also, group prices are now available.  For group registration contact Randi Rowan at rrowan@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 208, or Stan Dueck at sdueck@brethren.org or 717-335-3226.

-- The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center is hosting an educational fundraising event at the Dunker Meeting House on the Antietam National Battlefield on April 28. The event begins at 11 a.m. at Manor Church of the Brethren with Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, and John Frye, an interpretive guide for the National Park Service. A lunch and program will be held at the Manor Church prior to traveling to the battlefield, where a time of worship will be held in the Mumma Meetinghouse (Dunker Church). Cost including lunch is $30. Continuing education credit is available for an additional $10. The deadline for registration is April 16. Early registration is encouraged as the event is limited to 75 participants. Contact SVMC at 717-361-1450 or svmc@etown.edu .

Carol Smith
Mission worker Carol Smith is providing online posts from her work with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Her current report includes news of a Church Leadership/Pastor's Conference at the EYN Conference Center, as well as a ZME women's conference, a new church started at the EYN Headquarters, and a new banner hanging in front of the Kulp Bible College chapel with the theme for 2012: “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Phillipians 2:5). Go to www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/updates/smith/news-about-eyn.html .

-- The newest “Hidden Gem” from the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) is a biography and set of photographs of Ted Studebaker, a Brethren martyr for peace during the Vietnam War (go to www.brethren.org/bhla/hiddengems.html ). His story also is featured on a new section of the Civilian Public Service website focused on the work of conscientious objectors in Vietnam, at http://civilianpublicservice.org/storycontinues/vietnam . “It seems important to revisit the service of a man whose philosophy seems more relevant than ever in our conflict-ridden world,” writes archival intern Virginia Harness.

-- Roxbury Church of the Brethren in Johnstown, Pa., is celebrating its 120th anniversary.

-- The New Beginnings Fellowship in Batavia, Ill., is no longer meeting, according to the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter. The district Leadership Team has decided to sell the property. A closing service at the New Beginnings meetinghouse will be held March 3 at 2 p.m.

-- Blue Ridge Chapel Church of the Brethren near Waynesboro, Va., dedicated an addition to its church facility on Feb. 5. It addition includes a fellowship hall that seats around 300, a new kitchen, new offices, bathroom facilities, storage, and an elevator for handicapped access.

-- Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is hosting “Stories of Conscience and Taxes in a Culture of War” at 3 p.m. on March 11. Speakers include Kelly Denton-Borhaug, a Lutheran minister and professor of religious studies at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., and author of “US War--Culture, Sacrifice, and Salvation”; Pat Hostetter Martin, a chaplain, hospice volunteer, and war tax resister from Harrisonburg, Va.; Jack Payden-Travers, executive director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund; and Shane Claiborne of the Simple Way in Philadelphia and a speaker at the Church of the Brethren’s National Youth Conference in 2010. Sponsored by Every Church a Peace Church and 1040 for Peace, the program will address the challenges of praying for peace while paying for war. For more information contact H.A. Penner at 717-859-3529, or Berry Friesen at 717-471-9691.

-- Audio recordings of a forum hosted by San Diego (Calif.) Church of the Brethren with former Marine sergeant Corey Gray are now available online, in an announcement from Pacific Southwest District. Gray is speaker for an On Earth Peace insight session at the 2012 Annual Conference, on July 10 at 9 .m. The forum in San Diego was held Oct. 30 on the topic, “From Marine Sgt. to Pacifist!” In December Gray was granted conscientious objector status. Audio of his presentation is in two parts at www.4shared.com/music/xva65r6q/11_4_11_6_07_PM.html and www.4shared.com/music/ohh8RoAD/11_4_11_11_55_PM.html .

-- Shenandoah District holds its 10th Annual Disaster Ministries Auction Kick-Off Dinner at Bridgewater (Va.) College on March 10. The event at the Kline Campus Center Dining Hall starts at 5:30 p.m. with a display of auction items. Tickets are $22. Contact Brenda Fawley 540-833-2479, Karen Fleishman 540-828-2044, or Betty Morris 434-985-7571.

-- The Shenandoah District Church Development and Evangelism Team sponsors "Cultivating for a Great Harvest" on March 10 from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren. Leaders are Fred Bernhard, staff member at Bethany Theological Seminary and Christian Community who has written extensively on hospitality and faith-sharing; and Steve Clapp and Melissa Lopze of Christian Community. Cost is $25 or $20 per person for a church group of five or more. Pastors may earn .35 continuing education units for an additional fee of $10. Lunch is included with registration. Register online at www.shencob.org .

-- Atlantic Southeast District holds its Venture Fun(d) Day at Camp Ithiel in Gotha, Fla., on March 10, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The event is an annual Church Development Council “fund giving” day to support church planting, church revitalization, and new ministry programs and church planter development in Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico, according to an announcement. Highlights includes an auction of home-made pies, sales of food and crafts, church booths, games, and fellowship. Music is by Saltwater Soul from Jacksonville Church of the Brethren.

-- Paul Brockman, a senior music major at Bridgewater (Va.) College, will present “A Service of Choral Evensong” at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 26 at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren, according to a release from the college. The event is Brockman’s honors project and will feature hymns, prayers, readings, the “Magnificat” (Song of Mary), and the “Nunc dimittis” (Song of Simeon). He has composed much of the music for the service and will conduct the choir, which includes Bridgewater students, faculty, and alumni. Larry Taylor, associate professor of music, will serve as organ accompanist. Robert Miller, Bridgewater College chaplain, will serve as cantor.

-- The John Kline Homestead invites Sunday school classes to hold a Sunday morning session at the historic home of the Civil War-era Brethren leader in Broadway, Va. Teacher and light refreshments are provided. Morning worship afterward with nearby Linville Creek Church of the Brethren is optional. The homestead can accommodate a class size of 40 people maximum. Contact Steve Longenecker at 540-828-5321 or slongene@bridgewater.edu .

Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village employees receive recognition as 2012 dinner
Photo courtesy of Fahrney-Keedy
Evan Bowers and David Goldsborough, both LPNs, at left and right, were among those receiving Service Excellence Awards at the Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village Employee Recognition Dinner. Here they are congratulated by director of nursing Kelly Keyfauver and assistant director of nursing Julia McGlaughlin, left and right middle.

--  Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Boonsboro, Md., has recognized a number of employees for service excellence and years worked. Six received Service Excellence Awards, and 16 were honored for their years worked, at an employee recognition dinner. The six awarded for their service were Rayanna Staley, laundry; Janet Cole, RN, assisted living; David Banzhoff, dining services; Ginny Lapole, housekeeping; and David Goldsborough, LPN, and Evan Bowers, LPN, both nursing. Employees were recognized whose length of time at Fahrney-Keedy is in multiples of five years: at five years were Andrea Betts, GNA, Deb Manahan, RN, and Nicole Moore, GNA, all nursing; Heather Cleveland, CNA/Med Tech, assisted living; Mike Leiter, vice president of Marketing and Community Development; Kathy Neville, assistant director of Activities; Doug Ridenour, director of Maintenance; Bonnie Shirk, accounting; and Fran Wilson, central supply. At 10 years were Angie Keebaugh, LPN, Naomi Keeney, GNA, Stephanie Teets, CMA/GNA/unit clerk, all nursing; Julia McGlaughlin, RN, assistant director of Nursing; Renia Talbert, laundry; and Paula Webb, GNA, assisted living coordinator. At 20 years was Joyce Grove, GNA, assisted living.

-- Manchester College’s Doctor of Pharmacy program has been granted pre-candidate status by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. A release reported that the college has received authorization to begin enrolling students in its new School of Pharmacy in Fort Wayne, Ind. Said Dave McFadden, interim dean and executive vice president, “This is a critical achievement for the School of Pharmacy because it validates the strength of our leadership team and it enables us to enroll our first class of 70 students.” The decision demonstrates that the School of Pharmacy is on track to achieve full accreditation in May 2016, upon graduating its first class of students. The school has received more than 300 applications and expects to receive more before the March 1 application deadline. For more visit www.manchester.edu/pharmacy .

-- Elizabethtown (Pa.) College welcomes Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate, at 8 p.m. on April 4 as keynote speaker for the 2012 Ware Lecture on Peacemaking. Yunus originated the concept of Grameen Bank--banking without collateral--for the poor in Bangladesh. In 2006, Yunus and the bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The lecture titled "Creating Hope and Success: Peace and Development through Entrepreneurship and Social Activism" is free and open to the public. Reserve tickets by calling 717-361-4757.

-- The death penalty will be a topic of debate at Bridgewater (Va.) College when an opponent and proponent meet in Cole Hall on Feb. 29. According to a release from the school, death penalty opponent Bud Welch, whose daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, and Jeff Jacoby, long-time proponent of the death penalty, will debate at 7:30 p.m. sponsored by the Anna B. Mow Endowed Lecture Series. Welch is president of the board of Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, serves on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and has received “abolitionist of the year” awards. Jacoby is a columnist for the “Boston Globe.”

-- In more news from Bridgewater, the college celebrates Black History Month by hosting an area observance of the 23rd National African-American Read-In on Feb. 25, from 2-4 p.m. in the Boitnott Room. The event is free and open to the public.

-- The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee has sent a pastoral message to churches in Syria expressing hope for an end to violence there and a national dialogue to emerge from the conflict, based on peace with justice, recognition of human rights and human dignity, and the need to live together in mutual respect. The message supports a joint letter from the three heads of churches in Syria that was sent to congregations in December condemning the use of any type of violence while encouraging members "not to fear and not to lose hope." WCC member churches are asked to engage in actions of solidarity during this difficult time in Syria.

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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jordan Blevins, Charles Culbertson, Chris Douglas, Kim Ebersole, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Mary Kay Heatwole, Michael Leiter, Amy J. Mountain, Stan Noffsinger, Harold A. Penner, Howard Royer, Glen Sargent, Amy Trowbridge, Becky Ullom, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Look for the next regularly scheduled issue on March 7. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. Newsline appears every other week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to www.brethren.org/newsline.

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