Newsline for Feb. 1, 2014

"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one" (John 17:22).

1) Puerto Rico churches to become 24th district in the Church of the Brethren
2) Annual Conference secretary attends meeting on legislative priorities with Senate committee
3) Work and prayer on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic
4) Chinese healthcare professionals visit with Brethren during study tour on aging
5) EYN staff report more deaths in another terrorist attack in Nigeria

6) Malinda Berry to conclude tenure at Bethany Seminary

7) Shine partners with Faith Forward for 2014 children’s ministry event

8) Congregational Life Ministries announces new ‘Basin and Towel’ series

9) Brethren bits: Remembering Walt Bowman, young adults invited to apply to be WCC stewards, song about BDM volunteers and the polar vortex, ceasefire in S. Sudan, Souper Bowl of Caring, Mundey headlines Cultivating for a Great Harvest, Pacific Southwest District celebrates ‘Spirit of God Moving,’ and more.


Quote of the week:
“We can help the world to reconnect. By the grace of God and the model of Jesus our Christ, we can show another way: Instead of borders, we build bridges. Out of conflict, we create conduits. As the church, our counter-cultural stance is to create spaces where people can love and connect, where we remember whose we are and that we are truly already one in Christ. Imagine what the world would be like if we chose, consistently, to model this unity.”

-- Amy Gopp Vigne in the theme interpretation for the 2014 One Great Hour of Sharing offering emphasis “We Are One” (John 17:22-24). For almost seven decades, the eight dominations that participate in One Great Hour of Sharing--including the Church of the Brethren--have made a difference in lives and communities around the world. This special offering empowers ministries like the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service, Brethren Disaster Ministries, Brethren Volunteer Service, workcamps, and many others. The suggested offering date is Sunday, March 16. Visit for worship resources, to order printed offering materials, or make a gift.


1) Puerto Rico churches to become 24th district in the Church of the Brethren

The Church of the Brethren congregations in Puerto Rico acted Saturday, Jan. 25, to begin the process of becoming the denomination’s 24th district. Up to now, the Puerto Rico churches have been part of Atlantic Southeast District, grouped together with the congregations in Florida.

“It was a very good meeting. An historic day as they described it!” said Mary Jo Flory-Steury, associate general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, in an announcement of the decision by the Puerto Rican Church of the Brethren Assembly.

As part of the process of becoming a new district, the Puerto Rico churches will be selecting a district executive and working on the process and other structures to form the new district. Said Atlantic Southeast District executive ministry John Mueller in his e-mail about the decision, “I look forward to this new chapter in our relationship and extend my best wishes and support to this endeavor.”

2) Annual Conference secretary attends meeting on legislative priorities with Senate committee

Annual Conference secretary James Beckwith was one of those speaking at a meeting of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. He was one of 14 speakers representing faith groups and organizations invited to send representatives to talk with senators about legislative priorities.
Photo provided by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee

Annual Conference secretary James Beckwith was one of those speaking at a meeting of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. He was one of 14 speakers representing faith groups and organizations invited to send representatives to talk with senators about legislative priorities.

The Church of the Brethren was represented at a meeting of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee by Annual Conference secretary James Beckwith. The Church of the Brethren was one of several faith groups invited to send representatives to the meeting on Jan. 29 at the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., to speak with senators about legislative priorities.

An excerpt from Beckwith’s summary of the meeting

Fourteen representatives of faith groups were invited to speak with this Senate Committee about legislative priorities. Ten senators were present at some time during the meeting; there may have been more. The meeting was chaired by Senator Mark Begich. Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid was present and spoke at the outset. 

I spoke briefly with Senator Cory Booker after the meeting, and I spoke with Senator Tim Kaine to let him know I appreciated his comments during the session. On my way out of the building I greeted the assistant to Senator Reid for faith concerns. Other senators I observed listening in for a length of time were Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Chris Coons, Senator Mark Pryor, Assistant Majority Leader Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Vice Chair of the Committee Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Some of them spoke interspersed with our presentations.

I spoke toward the end. By that time most of the points had been addressed, so I chose to reinforce them with anecdotal comments (see below).

Points raised by the faith representatives

The religious groups and faith-based organizations included Bread for the World, Interfaith Worker Justice, Sojourners, Sisters of Mercy, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Episcopal Church, Church World Service, Presbyterian Church USA, Franciscan Action Network, National Council of Churches.

Points raised included:

-- the need to get increased minimum wage legislation passed, with the minimum wage increase characterized as a winning issue for politicians;

-- the importance of putting people into a position to take advantage of their opportunities, specifically mental health and family empowerment, with churches as safe places;

-- a new moment for working on poverty issues, with both political parties talking about it and with fresh energy from Pope Francis I on the topic;

-- disparity between the rich and the poor, and the need to deal with inequality issues;

-- the militarization of the budget, and great concern about the military increases in the federal budget;

-- immigration reform, the need to provide for immigrants, and how money influences the issue;

-- the need to work at housing affordability;

-- the need to fund schools and the direct link between education and overcoming poverty;

-- the need for food stamps and the SNAP program, with comments that middle class students and returned military personnel are now coming to food pantries and soup kitchens for help;

-- mosques and churches being the local first responders to poverty concerns, concern about how suspicion and threats to mosques stymie their role in providing for the people, and the connection between prejudice and safety for all religious groups and the work to overcome poverty;

-- a focus on economic security rather than on income equity, noting that we will be judged on how we treat the most vulnerable;

-- the need for economic security among gay people, who can lose their jobs simply upon being known as gay and have no recourse in many states;

-- reducing the time that people must spend in refugee camps;

-- violence as a critical part of poverty concerns, particularly gun violence, and the need for legislation to curb gun violence;

-- mass incarceration, which is being called the new Jim Crow problem; the need for support for the smarter sentencing act and the need to reintegrate prisoners into community life.

The Church of the Brethren witness

I introduced myself as a local church pastor as well as corporate secretary for the denomination, and said the Church of the Brethren is concerned about many of the topics that had been discussed. I commented about how we are in budget crunches as well and need to make moral decisions about how we will live within our means. We are concerned that during a budget crunch the government has increased spending for a militarized presence around the world at the expense of programs desperately needed for dealing with poverty in our communities. 

I mentioned our “Going to the Garden” program and how we have worked at that in my neighborhood, doing our part but seeing very clearly that government efforts to end hunger are crucially needed. I shared specific concern about how the latest omnibus spending bill reversed some Pentagon spending cuts that the sequester had put in place, and how despite the winding down of overseas wars, spending in the Overseas Contingency Operations budget received a $5 billion increase. 

“Increasing the amount of money spent to destroy life is dangerously reducing the amount of money available to improve lives around the world,” I said. “That needs to change.” 

I noted that people fall into poverty when the breadwinners in their households are gunned down on the streets, identifying the work of local congregations with “Heeding God’s Call” action against gun violence, confronting gun shops that allow straw sales. I noted we need legislative action on this.

And I spoke about the people from Cambodia and Thailand in my congregation, some of whom still do not have proper documentation decades after being resettled in this country. The scriptural admonitions are so very clear, I said, that we are commanded to help the aliens who live among us to be able to provide for themselves and their families. We are concerned about immigration reform to deal with the problems of children being separated from their parents, the need for health care and education, and we hope that when Congress deals with immigration reform, it will work at overcoming modern-day slavery and human trafficking. A couple of senators wrote down a note in response to that comment.

 I closed with an additional admonition from the scriptures: “May God grant you wisdom and courage to overcome evil with good.” Heads nodded around the table.

-- James Beckwith is secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, and pastor of Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

3) Work and prayer on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic

By Carolyn Fitzkee

A highlight from a recent mission trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic was a time of prayer on the border between the two countries. Two groups of volunteers traveled to the DR in December and January to help build a church in La Descubierta, with funding from Global Mission and Service, Brethren World Mission, and both volunteer groups. Located near the border with Haiti, La Descubierta is a community primarily of Haitian immigrants.

A group prays for peace at the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic during a recent mission trip to the two countries. The group had helped with a work project and Vacation Bible School at a Church of the Brethren in the DR and staffed a medical clinic at a Church of the Brethren in Haiti, two neighboring countries that have been at odds.
Photo courtesy of Carolyn Fitzkee

A group prays for peace at the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic during a recent mission trip to the two countries. The group had helped with a work project and Vacation Bible School at a Church of the Brethren in the DR and staffed a medical clinic at a Church of the Brethren in Haiti, two neighboring countries that have been at odds.

The group from the Chiques Church and Rockford Community also helped provide a one-day medical clinic at the largest Church of the Brethren congregation in Haiti on Jan. 9.

Coordinated by Earl Ziegler, a group of 12 volunteers from the Lititz, Lampeter, Curryville, and Conewago congregations in Pennsylvania completed latrines and a concrete roof during the week of Dec. 7-14, 2013. The second group of 18 from the Chiques congregation in Manheim, Pa., and seven from Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren led by Carolyn Fitzkee and Jeff Boshart, traveled from Jan. 4-11 and helped complete the concrete floor, paint the interior walls and ceiling, and begin work on a cistern.

Both groups also spent time with the children of the community. The first provided crayons and coloring books based on Psalm 23. The second group, in partnership with Dominican pastors Anastacia Bueno (San Luis) and Cristina Lamu Bueno (Sabana Torsa), provided an abbreviated three-day Vacation Bible School. The pastors coordinated the songs and spiritual content, while the US group led games and crafts. The first day 50 children attended under the pavilion next to the church. The second day at the local school 300 children attended. On the final day 60 children--including some not affiliated with the congregation--came to the church for activities and worship that featured a Spanish language puppet show on the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

Gran Bwa medical clinic

The group from the Chiques Church and Rockford Community also helped provide a one-day medical clinic for 339 patients at the largest Church of the Brethren congregation in Haiti on Jan. 9.

The Gran Bwa congregation is in a remote mountainous area of Haiti near the border with the DR. A winding and rocky path provides the only access. The group rode on the back of Daihatsu pick-up truck up a very rocky, steep road for two-and-one-half hours, and then hiked for another hour-and-three-quarters to get to the church.  A group coming from the Haiti side spent nearly a day getting to Gran Bwa.

Part of the Haiti Medical Project, the clinic was coordinated by Jean Altenor of the National Committee of the Haitian Church of the Brethren, pastor Duverlus Altenor, and Ilexene and Michaela Alphonse. The US group provided a doctor, Paul Brubaker of Chiques, and four nurses/ The Dominican church provided an optometrist, pastor Onelys Rivas of Betel Church. The Haiti Medical Project provided two Haitian doctors and a nurse, plus translators and supplies.

Altenor said it was hard to put into words how much it meant for this community to be ministered to in this way, knowing the sacrifice of those who volunteered. He said the church was “hungry” for this clinic, which was very evident from the turnout.

For those from the United States, being able to serve alongside and minister to brothers and sisters in Christ was truly a mountaintop experience.

A prayer for peace

The prayer was for peace between the two countries, Haiti and the DR, which have historically been at odds. A recent court ruling threatens to strip Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship. It was also a prayer for Christians to model Christ’s love for all people, no matter their differences.

The moment of prayer on the border grew out of the experiences of the Chiques and Rockford volunteers growing closer with members of Iglesia de los Hermanos in the Dominican Republic as they worked together on a church construction project and an abbreviated Vacation Bible School for the children of a Haitian immigrant community in the DR.

They grew even closer when 38 were physically squeezed together in the back of a pick-up truck with a 12-foot bed for a long, bumpy ride up the side of a mountain, and then continued on foot on winding rocky and sometimes muddy paths to reach Gran Bwa, the largest Church of the Brethren in Haiti to provide a one-day medical clinic for 339 people.

As the group worshiped together throughout the week, singing and praying in English, Spanish, and Kreyol, God had been teaching us that we were “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12). As we prepared to cross back into the Dominican Republic at the end of a long day, it felt right to kneel together in prayer at the border of the two countries to pray for peace and unity.

-- Carolyn Fitzkee recently was appointed an officer of Brethren World Mission, where she serves as financial secretary.

4) Chinese healthcare professionals visit with Brethren during study tour on aging

The Chinese guests at Good Samaritan Hospice with Sue Ranson, a member of Roanoke (Va.) First Church of the Brethren.
Photo courtesy of Ruoxia Li

The Chinese guests at Good Samaritan Hospice with Sue Ranson, a member of Roanoke (Va.) First Church of the Brethren.

By Ruoxia Li

Eric Miller and Ruoxia Li hosted a small group of Chinese healthcare professionals and business people who visited the United States from Jan 7-20. The mission of their trip was to learn about elder care and hospice in America.

The group visited Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community, which is a Church of the Brethren related facility, as well as Good Samaritan Hospice, Adult Day Services at Virginia Tech, and the Yale Program on Aging. In Roanoke, Va., they joined the Wednesday night fellowship at Central Church of Brethren. Becky and Harry Rhodes from Central Church hosted the guests in their home, where the Chinese guests experienced hymn singing, home-cooked meals, and American hospitality.

They also visited Washington, D.C., and New York City during their trip.

Previously, a group of physicians from Pingding, Shanxi, where Brethren missionaries founded a church and hospital, participated in a similar tour of the US, and church members and medical professionals from Virginia have visited China.

Media in Roanoke, Va., covered the trip in articles in the Roanoke Star newspaper and on WDBJ Channel 7: ; .

5) EYN staff report more deaths in another terrorist attack in Nigeria

“It is always very difficult to report about a Boko Haram attack,” writes one of the staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), reporting yet more violence in northeastern Nigeria. The EYN staff member wrote in an e-mail to the Global Mission and Service office this week that the attack on Sunday in his village at Wagga Chakawa “came as a surprise to many people.”

Boko Haram is an extremist Islamist sect that has been attacking villages in remote areas, government facilities such as police stations and army posts, banks, mosques and moderate Muslims, and churches and Christians.

The EYN staff reported: “Boko Haram...are divided into different groups and their strategy of operation differs. The operation in Wagga Chakawa started with a road block. Wagga Chakawa is a place where different tribes from Borno and Adamawa settled for farming, and it is close to a forest where most people go for fire wood. On Jan. 26 the sects mounted a big road block particularly screening the passengers that were going for fire wood.

“A report from a Muslim eye witness said he was freed at the first and second road blocks because they only asked him his religion. He said he postponed his business of the day because he witnessed many Christians being slaughtered in his presence. It was after the road check that they went to the Catholic church for killing and burning. About four houses were burnt, the church was also burnt, and about 22 people died as a result of the attack.”

The EYN staff member closed his message with the prayer, “God have mercy.”

Find a “Christian Post” article about the attack at .

Refugee numbers are growing

In related news, the numbers of refugees fleeing northern Nigeria because of the terrorist violence is growing. Reports posted at including a lengthy article from the UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), say that up to 37,000 people have fled the violence in northeastern Nigeria since early 2012, but the government has not updated that number since September last year. Many refugees are going to neighboring countries including Niger and Cameroon.

“The aid response thus far has been patchy,” said the IRIN report. “Government efforts to register the displaced have been slow, and the refugees among them have yet to be given refugee status.... A recently completed joint food security assessment by the World Food Program and UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) revealed that nutrition centers in the main sites sheltering displaced populations have higher rates of severe acute and moderate malnutrition than in May 2012, when the displaced started to arrive.... The situation is very volatile, with people crossing the border weekly, and new waves still arriving.”


6) Malinda Berry to conclude tenure at Bethany Seminary

Malinda Berry

Malinda Berry, assistant professor of theological studies and director of the MA program at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., has announced that she is taking the position of assistant professor of theology and ethics at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Ind., effective July 1.

As an active presence in Mennonite Church USA and a graduate of AMBS, Berry has an opportunity to contribute to her home denomination in this new position.

Berry began her tenure at Bethany in the fall of 2009, teaching a range of courses in theology and guiding MA students in research and the writing of theses. Bethany Seminary president Jeff Carter acknowledged her accomplishments during her time at the seminary, including establishing a distance learning Connections track for the MA program and giving leadership to the strengthening of the MA curriculum during the seminary’s recent curriculum review.

-- Jenny Willliams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations at Bethany Seminary.


7) Shine partners with Faith Forward for 2014 children’s ministry event

Shine logo - Brethren Press and MennoMedia Christian education curriculum for Sunday school, starting fall 2014

Shine, the new curriculum from Brethren Press and MennoMedia, has joined Faith Forward as a presenting partner for their 2014 gathering. Faith Forward is an organization dedicated to bringing together children’s and youth ministry leaders for collaboration, resourcing, and inspiration toward innovative theology and practice.

The 2014 Faith Forward gathering will be May 19-22 at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tenn. Participants at this gathering will hear inspiring presentations, experience innovative workshops, and be empowered by conversations with others on a common quest to forge new approaches and re-imagine ministry with children and youth.
Speakers include Phyllis Tickle, Mark Yaconelli, Sandy Sasso, Brian McLaren, Melvin Bray, Anne Streaty Wimberly, Ivy Beckwith, Andrew Root, and Bonnie Miller-McLemore.

For more information, and to register for the 2014 Faith Forward gathering, visit . For more about Shine: Living in God’s Light go to .


Basin and Towel series focused on congregational vitality, 2014

8) Congregational Life Ministries announces new ‘Basin and Towel’ series

By Donna Kline

To celebrate its fifth year of publication “Basin and Towel” is beginning a new series on congregational vitality with the January 2014 issue. “Basin and Towel” is a magazine published by the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries.

The four-issue series will follow the rhythms that often make up both the decades-long life of a congregation as well as an individual worship service: the rhythms of gathering, calling, forming, and sending disciples.

The first issue in the series will include reflections and practices from pastors and other church leaders as they share their thoughts on the theme “The Gathering Community.” Readers will learn about congregations that excel as inviting and welcoming communities, growing as they reflect the diversity of surrounding cities and towns; and how congregations reflect their unique “Brethren-ness” through service, simplicity, community, and an emphasis on peacemaking. Changing, evolving, maturing worship practices will be shared, and readers will be encouraged to provide spaces in their own gathering places for people to share important questions of life and faith.

Go to for bonus materials including a video interview, and to subscribe. An individual 1-year (3 issues) subscription costs $12. Order for multiple leaders in a faith community and the price is just $8 per person for 3-19 copies, and $7 per person for 20 or more copies (all copies are sent to one location; a minimum of three copies must be ordered). Subscribe online or contact Diane Stroyeck at or 800-323-8039 ext. 327.

-- Donna Kline is director of the Deacon Ministry and editor of “Basin and Towel.”

9) Brethren bits

-- Remembered: Walter (Walt) Dean Bowman (90), who died on Jan. 19 following a brief illness. He served the Church of the Brethren in a position overseeing camping and outdoor ministries in the 1970s and ’80s. He was born Feb. 9, 1923, in Norwalk, Ohio, to Dean and Evelyn (Krieger) Bowman. He graduated from Manchester University (formerly Manchester College), where he met and married Frances Gibson, with whom he shared 45 years. After a summer pastorate, he entered Bethany Seminary in 1944 in Chicago then volunteered for relief work in postwar Italy. In 1948 he returned to Bethany, where he completed a master of divinity degree. For 20 years he served pastorates in Illinois, Ohio, and Kansas. In 1968, Southern Ohio District called him to lead its camping and Christian education ministries. He assumed responsibility for developing year-round programming for Camp Woodland Altars in Peebles, Ohio. Under his leadership, the camp grew to include summer camping, retreats, and outdoor education for public school groups. He represented the denomination in ecumenical ministries, including the Ohio Board of Ministry in Higher Education, which he chaired for three years, overseeing ecumenical ministry to students on all state university campuses. Beginning in 1975, he divided his time between the district and a position overseeing Church of the Brethren outdoor ministries. He developed a nationwide association of camp directors and program leaders to strengthen and unify programs in the denomination's 33 camps. He served as the Brethren liaison to ecumenical groups working to develop programs and curriculum for outdoor ministries. He worked closely with the Council of District Executives, serving terms as chair and chairing the professional growth committee. In 1988, he took a sabbatical to study Spanish with Fran in Costa Rica, preparing to volunteer in El Salvador. This goal was never realized because of illness resulting in Fran's death in 1989. In 1991, he married Barbara Fessenden. He is survived by his wife Barbara (Marino Fessenden) Bowman; children Wayne (Annie) of Brandon, MB; Phil (Cathy Koolis) of Sarasota, Fla.; Theresa (Jeff) Plotnick of Calgary, AB; Christine (Robert) Guth of Goshen, Ind.; Steven (Diane) of Cincinnati, Ohio; Christopher Fessenden of Toluca Lake, Calif.; David (Vanessa) Fessenden of Las Vegas, Nev.; Brian (Christine) Fessenden of Canoga Park, Calif.; and grandchildren. A memorial service was held Jan. 22 at Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and St. Charles in Granada Hills, Calif. Memorial gifts are received to Heifer International and Habitat for Humanity.

-- The World Council of Churches (WCC) is inviting young adults to apply now for the Stewards Program 2014. Young adult stewards will serve at the WCC Central Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from June 26-July 10. “I encourage Brethren young adults to apply to be a steward at the WCC,” said Becky Ullom Naugle, director of the Church of the Brethren Youth and Young Adult Ministry. “This program offers exposure to ecumenism on international scale and allows for intercultural understanding and relationship building. The World Council of Churches and the stewards program is a visible affirmation that in Christ there are many gifts, but one Spirit.” Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30. Before the meeting begins, stewards will follow an on-site ecumenical learning program, exposing them to the key issues of the worldwide ecumenical movement. During the meeting, stewards will assist in the areas of worship, floor management, documentation, communications, and other administrative and support tasks. Following the meeting, stewards will design ecumenical projects that they will implement in their churches and communities on their return home. Completed application forms are due to the WCC youth program no later than Feb. 21. More information and the downloadable application form are at .

-- Church of the Brethren denominational leaders met together

A food collection by Elgin, Ill., hosted by the Church of the Brethren General Offices on Martin Luther King Day 2014

The Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., hosted a food collection drive for the City of Elgin on Martin Luther King Day. The denominational offices have provided warehouse space for the annual collection for several years. Shown below: a group of the youth who volunteered to sort and help distribute the food to local pantries and soup kitchens; and the group of leaders on hand to help out, including Church of the Brethren staff member Don Knieriem (second from right) who helped organize the event. Photos are by Cat Gong

 The group of youth who helped at the Martin Luther King Day food collection 2014
 Leaders at the Martin Luther King Day food collection 2014

-- “Here's a tribute to our fearless BDM volunteers braving the ‘polar vortex’ in New Jersey,” writes Brethren Disaster Ministries in a Facebook post. Lyrics by Felix Bernard are sung to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”:

Hammers ring--are you listenin’?
As volunteers are a-whistlin’.
They face unafraid
The snow God has made,
Workin’ in a winter wonderland.
Volunteering makes you tired.
Your muscles ache and you perspire.
But up North, you bet
It’s too cold to sweat.
Workin’ in a winter wonderland.
Volunteer in frosty Toms River
And pretend that you’re in New Orleans,
Soakin’ up the rays and you won’t shiver--
You’ll stay warm as long as you can dream.
Gone away is the sadness
As you spread joy and gladness,
Singin’ songs of God’s love
From Heaven above,
Workin’ in a Winter Wonderland!

-- A ceasefire agreement for South Sudan signed Jan. 23 has been applauded in a release from the ACT Alliance, an international partner organization for Brethren Disaster Ministries. South Sudan has faced a grave humanitarian crisis since a coup attempt sparked violence in December. More than half a million people were forced from their homes, with 86,000 fleeing to neighboring countries, the release said. South Sudan will continue to need international assistance for a long time to come, but ACT Alliance general secretary John Nduna said the ceasefire was an important first step. “Leaders of both sides must now insist their forces lay down their weapons immediately and allow humanitarian organizations the chance to care for the wounded and those forced from their homes. We hold out hope that South Sudan can return to peace.” The release anticipated ongoing efforts by ACT members, which includes the Church of the Brethren, as well as the All Africa Conference of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and South Sudan Council of Churches to support church-led peace and reconciliation efforts. 

-- A YouTube video about the Shine curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia is at . The short video clip illustrating the statement from scripture, “Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world, let your light Shine,’” promotes the new Christian education curriculum that will be available starting this fall, following the last summer of its precursor curriculum Gather ’Round. The “Shine On” storybook Bible for children will be available in March. For more information go to .

-- The Souper Bowl of Caring has been one way youth groups help fight poverty and hunger in their communities on Super Bowl Sunday. The Youth and Young Adult Ministry office is encouraging participation by Brethren youth. Ideas for activities including taking up a collection in a soup pot on that day at church, asking for congregations to give money or food items for people in need. The youth groups give 100 percent of donations directly to the local hunger-relief charity of their choice. “In 2012, more than 10,000 groups collected more than $9.8 million in dollars and food for local hunger-relief charities. That's a total of more than $90 million collected since the movement began in 1990!” says the Souper Bowl website. Find more ideas, register a youth group to participate, and report results at .

Cultivating a Great Harvest, in Shenandoah District 2014

-- Paul Mundey, senior pastor at Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, will lead the annual church development event in Shenandoah District. Cultivating for a Great Harvest will be March 1 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Mountain View Fellowship Church of the Brethren in McGaheysville, Va., on the theme, “Behold, I Am About to Do a New Thing” (Isaiah 43:19), with additional scripture text from 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” Mundey has been senior pastor at 1,100-member Frederick Church of the Brethren for 17 years, and previously was director of Evangelism and Congregational Growth for the Church of the Brethren for 13 years. Find the registration brochure at .

-- A group from Goshen City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren is planning a 10-day trip in June to Bexbach, German, to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of Goshen’s sister city relationship. The trip will include a boat ride down the Rhine River, and a three-day stay with a host family, at a cost of from $1,400-1,600. Contact .

-- Camp Mack’s Annual Dinner is March 7, starting with hors d’oeuvres at 6:15 p.m. Rex Miller, Camp Mack’s executive director, will speak about the future of the new Becker Retreat Center at the site of the former Becker Lodge, which was destroyed in a fire, and the future vision for the camp. Cost is $25 for undesignated seating; or $300 and more for reserved tables for six through eight people. The camp’s Growing from the Ashes Capital Campaign is raising funds to build Becker Retreat Center, and is $442,000 away from the amount needed to start the building process, said the announcement. For more information go to .

-- “Plant seeds of FAITH in the lives of children, youth and young adults!” said an invitation to the Sow the Seed Scholarship Banquet at Camp Bethel on March 6, starting at 6:30 p.m. The $50 cost and all donations from the evening fund "camperships" and summer camp ministries. RSVP by Feb. 27 to 540-992-2940 or

-- Pacific Southwest District has announced the theme and shared the logo for its 2014 District Conference led by moderator Erin Matteson on Nov. 7-9 at Hillcrest retirement community in La Verne, Calif. The theme, “Spirit of God Moving,” is inspired by Isaiah 43:18-19. Matteson is blogging and posting resources related to the theme at including a bookmark and the following reflection:

Pacific Southwest District logo for 2014, by Erin Matteson

“God enfolds all creation in the Spirit,
     cradles and carries us,
     invites and challenges us to be part of a healing movement...
Yearning for more justice, love, peace, and joy for God’s world,
She whispers and sings, swirls and swoons as she goes...
Dance and play, serve and sing, with me, and one another and strangers, too.
Take up your shovel and pick, basin and towel, signs of protest, cups of cold water...
Till all creation be fresh and green again.
Wholeness at hand, for all...
True salvation, come at last.”

-- Bridgewater (Va.) College hosts three events Feb. 3-9 focusing on global hunger, Haiti, and food insecurity in the United States, according to an announcement. On Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m., Tony P. Hall, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, will speak on his global efforts to alleviate hunger and improve human rights conditions. Nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Hall has served as US Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture and as executive director of UNICEF. Jonathan Myerson Katz, the only full-time American news correspondent in Haiti when the Jan. 2010 earthquake struck, will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 4. His book, “The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster,” details the terror and devastation of the earthquake and the relief efforts that followed. On Feb. 9 at 3 p.m., the documentary "A Place at the Table" will be shown. The film examines hunger in America through the stories of three people struggling with food insecurity. All three events, sponsored by the Kline-Bowman Endowment for Creative Peacebuilding, will take place in Cole Hall and are open to the public at no charge.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include James Beckwith, Jeff Boshart, Carolyn Fitzkee, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Mandy Garcia, Kendra Johnson, Donna Kline, Ruoxia Li, John Mueller, Jenny Williams, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is planned for Feb. 7. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at . Newsline appears at the end of every 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 .

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