Newsline for Dec. 12, 2015




Carry the light, Christmas party ornaments and candle
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones” (Proverbs 3:7b-8, NLT).

1) Church of the Brethren general secretary speaks out against anti-Muslim rhetoric
2) Haiti Service Ministry Consultation strengthens partnerships, assesses ministries
3) Review and Evaluation Committee holds second meeting
4) Press conference urges support for US refugee resettlement
5) Congregations host Ted & Co. event, help raise funds for Heifer Arks
6) Kindness is good for your health, research shows

UPCOMING EVENTS
7) Winter and spring workshops are offered by Children’s Disaster Services

8) Brethren bits


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Quote of the week:

“There is great relief that comes from trusting in God.... Have mercy on me, O Lord, when I think I have things figured out. I turn away from my limited insight to your infinite understanding.”

-- From the devotion for Dec. 12 in Anita Hooley Yoder’s Brethren Press Advent devotional, “In the Fullness of Time.” See www.brethrenpress.com for more information about the pocket sized devotional series.
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1) Church of the Brethren general secretary speaks out against anti-Muslim rhetoric

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger has issued a statement against the current escalation of rhetoric that seeks to demonize Muslims. Citing Jesus’ commands to love God, and love neighbor as self, and the parable of the Good Samaritan, the statement also calls church members to revisit portions of the 1991 Annual Conference statement “Peacemaking: The Call of God’s Peace in History” that direct the church to “explore avenues of interfaith dialogue leading toward a visible expression of God's plan for human unity.”

The statement follows in full below, with a shorter video version available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ymd5uQ6b9kg .

General secretary statement against anti-Muslim rhetoric

Our nation is struggling to respond to violence and terrorism in Paris, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, and elsewhere. However, I am troubled by the hateful rhetoric that seeks to demonize Muslim neighbors and friends.  More profoundly troubling is that the words of hate and demonization are surfacing among Christians.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus implores us to “love the Lord your God” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In Luke, however, a scholar of the law presses Jesus further, asking, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus’ response is the parable of the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite ignore a dying man on the road to Jericho, but a Samaritan – a cultural and religious outcast – stops, bandages the dying man’s wounds, and finds him shelter for the night.

Equating radical Islamic ideology with the faith Muslims misrepresents and muddies Christ’s message with fear. We must resist the temptations fear elicits, holding strong to faith in the redemptive power of Christ. Suffering knows no religion.

As the conflict in Syria escalates, our mercy and compassion cannot be selective. Refusing to aid those fleeing violence and injustice, especially on the basis of religion, likens us to the priest and the Levite who ignored the dying man on the road to Jericho. Giving in to words that demean Muslims betrays our belief that everyone is a child of God.

In 1991, the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference reissued a call for peace among people of all religions in the “Peacemaking: The Call of God’s People in History.”  It states in part:

“Therefore, the Church shall:
a. initiate and participate in efforts to overcome strife and differences within the Christian family;
b. work with those of other denominations, nations, and religions in the interests of peace, while maintaining our Christian witness and proclaiming God's love for all humanity;
c. engage in the creation and support of ecumenical, cooperative, and coalitional efforts in peacemaking;
d. provide informational and educational materials to assist in a better understanding and love of people of other religions and faith traditions;
e. explore avenues of interfaith dialogue leading toward a visible expression of God's plan for human unity.”

Finally, there is a word of hope. “God still wills wholeness and unity for God's people.”

Jeremiah writes, “I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare (shalom) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:10-11).

-- Find the full 1991 Annual Conference statement on peacemaking at www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1991peacemaking.html .

Participants at the Haiti consultation join hands. The consultation brought together some 30 Haitian church leaders and leaders in the Haiti Medical Project with about 20 American Brethren and leaders from the United States who are involved in the ministries in Haiti.
Photo by Bob Dell

Participants at the Haiti consultation join hands. The consultation brought together some 30 Haitian church leaders and leaders in the Haiti Medical Project with about 20 American Brethren and leaders from the United States who are involved in the ministries in Haiti.

2) Haiti Service Ministry Consultation strengthens partnerships, assesses ministries

A map shows locations of project sites of the Haiti Medical Project
Photo by Bob Dell

A map shows locations of project sites of the Haiti Medical Project

By Dale Minnich

Thirty leaders of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) gathered with about 20 persons from the United States for the first Haiti Service Ministries Consultation on Nov. 19-23. The focus was learning about Brethren ministries underway in Haiti, and building bridges of partnership among the Haitian Brethren and American Brethren. It was sponsored by the Global Mission and Service of the Church of the Brethren and organized by Dale Minnich, a volunteer with the Haiti Medical Project, with help from many persons.

The consultation included broad involvement from Brethren groups that are related to the ministries in Haiti, and to the Haiti Medical Project, including Global Mission staff, a representative of the Mission and Ministry Board, the Annual Conference moderator, representatives from the Brethren Revival Fellowship and the Brethren Mission Fund, representatives of Brethren World Mission, leaders from the Plains districts, and leaders of the Haitian-American community in the Church of the Brethren. Also on the trip were members of the family related to the Royer Foundation, and participants from the University of Maryland.

The theme of Haitian pastor Romy Telfort’s opening worship, 1 Corinthians 12, focused on the unity in Christ of persons of different gifts and backgrounds. “One body, one spirit” emerged as a point of emphasis many times during the group’s four days together.

The group spent two mornings visiting rural communities, meeting local leaders, and experiencing the flavor of the development ministries of the church in Haiti. The group saw two recently completed water projects, visited with newly trained rural health workers, saw recently installed medical dispensaries, experienced the warm hospitality of congregations, and worshiped with Haitian Brethren congregations.

A large crowd of hundreds gathers at the mobile medical clinic held at Acajou
Photo by Bob Dell

A large crowd of hundreds gathers at the mobile medical clinic held at Acajou

Visit to a mobile medical clinic

A highlight was experiencing a mobile clinic of the Haiti Medical Project in Acajou. Word had spread that there would be more doctors and nurses available than on most clinic days. As a result, more than 600 people filled the local school and church buildings and congregated under nearby shade trees, hoping to receive care. By the end of the day, 503 patients had been seen--by far a daily record for the program--still leaving 100 or so who could not be treated that day.

The mobile clinic team worked in hot and crowded conditions until late afternoon without a lunch break. The team was expanded with the addition of two of the consultation group members: physician David Fuchs and nurse Sandy Brubaker, both from eastern Pennsylvania. Sandy and her husband, Dr. Paul Brubaker, represented the Brethren World Mission.

Water projects

In addition to two “pure water” projects that were visited--a capped spring in Acajou and a system for harvesting and treating rain water in Morne Boulage--the group heard a presentation on the new cistern and water filtration system at New Covenant School in St. Louis du Nord. This project provides clean water for 350 school children and others in the community. Harris Trobman and Dr. Chris Ellis from the University of Maryland partnered with the Brethren to provide excellent technical assistance in planning and implementing the project, that also includes a rooftop garden, a small soccer yard, and other child-friendly features.

The community development team of the Haitian church also shared plans and emerging ideas for six additional communities where new water projects are under study. Helping communities find ways to have safe drinking water is an emerging priority for the Haiti Medical Project and represents one of the needs for additional funding from congregations and individuals.

Health care in remote villages

In Morne Boulage, the group experienced the plight of remote communities in Haiti. Access to the mountain village by auto is very difficult. Two of the group’s mini-vans got stuck on muddy tracks. Everyday needs often require a two- or three-hour journey by foot to a more suitable road where villagers catch a ride into a town that has a market or needed supplies. Purchases of simple health remedies are not practical in many cases just because of the remote location.

However, through the Haiti Medical Project there is now a small dispensary with common medicines available at modest prices, right in the village. It is administered by one of several trained rural health volunteers and represents a gain for the community. 

Another difficulty related to the remote location is the birthing process. Births in this mountain village are almost all in homes, few with any experienced or trained care. However, in recent months several of the local persons who attend births have been through a course in basic sanitation, have been provided with sanitary birthing kits, and have received other instruction. Additional “matrons” will be trained. Regular visits are being made by a teaching maternal care nurse. Perhaps, as a result, future maternal deaths may be prevented.

Church building

While not a feature of Haiti Medical Project, American Brethren also are helping local congregations in Haiti build suitable church buildings. The consultation group learned that a new church building in Raymonsaint is nearly completed. Another priority is a larger facility being built by the Croix des Bouquets congregation, not far from the Brethren Ministry Center. Consultation member Dale Wolgemuth of Manheim, Pa., represented the Brethren Mission Fund that is one of the supporters of this project, and made a point of visiting the construction site.

The Haiti National Committee represents the top leadership of l'Eglise des Freres Haitiens
Photo by Bob Dell

The Haiti National Committee represents the top leadership of l'Eglise des Freres Haitiens

Grant support from Royer Foundation, GFCF

On the final evening of the consultation the group celebrated two new grants to assist about 20 communities with agricultural production and addressing community health.

The Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund awarded $35,000 for a series of agriculture projects and to enable an expanded program of teaching improved practices.

Grants from the Royer Family Foundation provide 2016 support to the Haiti Medical Project for about half of the 48 mobile clinics held annually; support for the community development staff who work with community health and water projects; funding for specific aspects of these ministries; funding for staff training; and funding for an interpretive video to be produced for the 2016 Annual Conference. The Royer Family Foundation also is providing a grant for the Haiti Medical Project’s endowment fund. The new series of grants from the Royer Foundation total $124,205.

The consultation group enjoyed getting to know four members of the Royer family who participated in the trip, including founder Ken Royer. The family member were present to see the work in Haiti for the first time.

Ken Royer speaks at the Haiti consultation
Photo by Bob Dell

Ken Royer speaks at the Haiti consultation

“Most of what we at the Foundation were hearing has been in writing or through some photographs. It was just a powerful experience to see those words come to life, to see a medical clinic, to meet the people doing the work,” commented Becky Fuchs, who is a member of the Royer family and a Church of the Brethren pastor.

Interviewed by phone after her return from the trip, Fuchs spoke about the value of seeing the work in Haiti first-hand. The people who have organized and are carrying out the Haiti Medical Project “had a spiritually motivated vision, and took the risk, and did the work to make that vision become part of our overall call to God’s shalom,” she said.

“We come away deeply impressed with the caliber of the people doing the work in Haiti, their deep compassion for the people they are trying to help. I think all of us in our family feel a deeper partnership, we are more involved.

“Haiti is a beautiful country,” she added. “We lose sight of that because of the deep level of poverty.” However, she also pointed to the enthusiasm of the Haitian Brethren and their leaders. “There’s a lot of hope and there’s actual progress. The amount of progress in the last two years is phenomenal.”

The participants

Both the Haitian and American Brethren appreciated the strong, affirming role of Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray. He brought greetings in several settings, and served well as the “face” of the Church of the Brethren in the US.

Global Mission and Service staff and volunteers included onsite mission workers Ilexene and Michaela Alphonse, who coordinated the daily worship led by Haitian pastors and other leaders; Paul Ullom-Minnich, a physician from Kansas and volunteer convener of the Mobile Clinics Coordinating Committee; and Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund.

Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray preaches for a congregation in Haiti
Photo by Bob Dell

Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray preaches for a congregation in Haiti

Ludovic St. Fleur, a pastor from Miami, Fla., and an advisor to the National Committee of L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens, was among the Haitian pastors and spiritual leaders who shared moving personal stories of the amazing emergence of the Haitian church during a 12-year period that saw devastating disasters. St. Fleur was an illegal immigrant to the US, imprisoned for a while, who became the founder and pastor of Miami Haitian Church of the Brethren. More recently he has been a driving force in the movement to start churches in Haiti. Jean Bily Telfort was a children’s worker who became a pastor and led the development of the Croix des Bouquets church. Freny Elie was a school administrator who was challenged to begin a Bible study that grew into a large Brethren church in Cap Haitian. Romy Telfort was a taxi driver who drove St. Fleur to hold preaching meetings, and grew into the role of pastor of a large congregation in Gonaives. All told, the Haitian Brethren have begun 20 congregations since 2003, with active participants now totaling about 1,500 persons.

The consultation also heard from Klebert Exceus and Ullom-Minnich about the way the Haiti Medical Project grew out of the large Brethren Disaster Ministries response that followed the 2010 earthquake. Exceus coordinated disaster response for several years, and Ullom-Minnich was one of the doctors for the first series of mobile health clinics held after the earthquake. These served as something of a prototype for a longer-range plan of mobile clinic care that he was instrumental in planning and inaugurating.

On Sunday of the consultation, members of the group joined in worship in one of three congregations accessible to Mirebalais. In each service the consultation provided a guest preacher: at La Ferriere, Murray preached; at Sodo, the preacher was Becky Fuchs, pastor of Mountville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; and at Acajou, the preacher was Vildor Archange, coordinator of Community Health and Water Projects.

We enjoyed coming together to experience our unity with Haitian Brethren, to form new friendships, to learn first-hand about the ministries of the Haitian church, and to envision a future that includes a fruitful and growing Brethren presence in Haiti.

-- Dale Minnich is retired from many years of service on the denominational staff of the Church of the Brethren, currently is a volunteer with the Haiti Medical Project. Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford also contributed to this report. Find out more about the church in Haiti at www.brethren.org/partners/haiti . Find out more about the Haiti Medical Project at www.brethren.org/haiti-medical-project .

3) Review and Evaluation Committee holds second meeting

By Leah J. Hileman

The Review and Evaluation Committee has met twice this fall to begin the work given to them by the Annual Conference. The first meeting was a conference call in late October, which focused on understanding the full scope of the mandate. The second meeting occurred Dec. 1-2 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The committee comprises Tim Harvey (chair), Leah J. Hileman (recorder), Robert Kettering, David K. Shumate, and Ben Barlow.

During the December meeting, the group spent significant time considering denominational structure and programs and prioritizing the items of our mandate that we believe require greater attention than others.

Considerable time was spent compiling an initial list of persons at every level of church life and structure to be interviewed. This list is merely a starting point for conversation. The ultimate goal is to creatively solicit feedback from as many people as possible related to questions of the effectiveness of existing church structure. We are developing a process for information/feedback gathering including but not limited to: online feedback forms, personal interviews, e-mail surveys, and an Annual Conference hearing.

The Review and Evaluation committee also feels strongly that we want to dialogue with the Viability and Vitality Committee. These groups are two sides of the same coin; much of what they discover will affect future Review and Evaluation Committee goals and outcomes. As we examine existing structures, we recognize that a key component of whatever we do involves a spiritual dimension that needs to be kept in the forefront of our minds.

The Review and Evaluation Committee plans to meet again Jan. 3-4 in Bridgewater, Va., and again in March at a meeting that will coincide with the spring meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board.

-- Leah J. Hileman is a Church of the Brethren minister and a member of the Review and Evaluation Committee.

4) Press conference urges support for US refugee resettlement

By Jesse Winter

On Tuesday, the Office of Public Witness attended a press conference where Senators Leahy, Durbin, and Kaine, and several faith leaders urged Congress to support resettlement of Syrian refugees. Even though 4.3 million Syrians seek refuge from the violence in Syria, policy riders on a budget bill threaten to bar even a small fraction of this vulnerable population from the United States.

Senator Leahy pointed out that welcoming refugees is a moral issue, one that transcends politics and directly deals with the human condition. Senator Kaine followed up by saying, “As the Book of Job tells us, challenges in life are a test of whether we will be true to our principles, or whether we’ll abandon them in the face of adversity. In the debate over refugees, we cannot abandon the core principles that we stand for as a nation. Refugees are not our enemies.”

Sponsored by Church World Service, the press conference is part of a larger advocacy effort by faith communities to welcome refugees. The Church of the Brethren is committed to being a welcoming voice of compassion in the refugee resettlement debate. In November, Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger signed a letter with other faith leaders that offered a prayer to policy makers: “As people of faith, our values call us to welcome the stranger, love our neighbor, and stand with the vulnerable, regardless of their religion. We pray that in your discernment, compassion for the plight of refugees will touch your hearts. We urge you to be bold in choosing moral, just policies that provide refuge for vulnerable individuals seeking protection.”

The panelists also expressed concern for the anti-Muslim rhetoric amid the refugee debate. Speaking on behalf of the Nation’s Mosque, Sultan Muhammed said, “Islam is a religion of peace. Sadly, due to the actions of a few, it has been associated in the media with the violence seen from extremist groups that have no foundation or place in Islam. We must welcome refugees as survivors of this violence and offer them the same safety and welcome that the United States has so proudly offered generations of immigrants and refugees before them.”

Noffsinger has released his own statement rejecting anti-Muslim rhetoric; see the story above or go to www.brethren.org/news/2015/general-secretary-speaks-out.html for the full text and a video of the statement. 

In the midst of the Advent season, we are reminded of the hope and light that come with Jesus’ birth. This hope emboldens us as people of Christ to conquer the language of fear that darkens efforts to aid persons fleeing violence and injustice. May Christ’s light shine on policy makers debating these important issues. 

-- Jesse Winter is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker and a peacebuilding and policy associate at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.

5) Congregations host Ted & Co. event, help raise funds for Heifer Arks

12 Baskets and a Goat, a new play by Ted & Co. in partnership with Heifer International and the Church of the Brethren

Two Church of the Brethren congregations have hosted the new Ted & Co. production, “Twelve Baskets and a Goat,” which is a cooperative venture to raise funds for Heifer International. Between them, the two events at West Charleston Church of the Brethren in Tipp City, Ohio, and Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren raised enough funds to support two “arks” for Heifer–a goal for the series of events.

The Global Mission and Service department of the denomination is seeking more congregations to host future events.

West Charleston event

Ted and Co. helped West Charleston Church of the Brethren raise funds for Heifer International. Many creative and generous persons worked together to create a delightful evening of support for Heifer through an event entitled “12 Baskets and a Goat” that brought Ted and Co. of Harrisonburg, Va., to a crowd of nearly 200 people from the West Charleston Church and surrounding community of Tipp City, Ohio.

More than two dozen creative gift baskets were assembled, children’s classes gathered their change, and several Hispanic families of the congregation even spent a day making delicious tamales which they sold to co-workers and friends, donating $500 toward the total cost of bringing the show to town. 

In the end a grand total of $7345.76 was raised which easily bought a Gift Ark of animals and much more.

Having some “seagoing cowboys” within the congregation’s history made the support of Heifer International that much more special. All agreed the Nov. 21 event was a wonderful way to begin the Thanksgiving celebration!

Elizabethtown event

Ted and Co. returned to a full house at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren on Sunday, Nov. 22. Energy and spirits were high in anticipation of the debut performance of “12 Baskets and a Goat.” Admission was free, but many attendees came bearing baked goods for auction during the show.

Homemade breads, including many special family recipes, piňa colada muffins, best-ever sugar cookies, chocolate cupcakes, pumpkin rolls, and many other delectable and delightful treats added to the “flavor” of the auction. Proceeds from the auction plus generous donations totaled $6,689.

With the goal of addressing hunger near and far, the total was split between Heifer Project International and the Community Cupboard food bank of Elizabethtown, each receiving $3,344.50.

Ted and Co. delighted the audience with hilarious dramas, which were at the same time poignant in their message. People came prepared to laugh for sure, encounter the gospel in a new and moving way, and support charities addressing hunger near and far. No one left disappointed.

The event addressed hunger, in that if we share, there is more than enough for all to be fed.  That’s the theology of the basket! What an appropriate way to spend the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving! The event was planned and sponsored by the Spiritual Growth Team of Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren.

-- Nancy S. Heishman of West Charleston Church of the Brethren and Pamela A. Reist of Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren contributed to this report.

Be kind

6) Kindness is good for your health, research shows

From a Brethren Benefit Trust release

Research shows that kindness and generosity have positive physiological effects. Researchers sometimes call this “helper’s high.” Two studies found that older adults who did volunteer work were living longer. Another study found a significant reduction in early death for people who volunteered often. This actually had a larger effect than regular exercise. In the 1990s, a study looked at personal essays written by nuns in the 1930s. The nuns who expressed the most positive emotions lived about 10 years longer than those who were less positive.

A few studies point to lowered stress and improved immunity when one is feeling empathy and love. Older adults who gave massage to infants lowered their stress hormones. In another study, students who watched a film on Mother Teresa showed an increase in protective antibodies associated with immunity. Students watching a more neutral film showed no change.

Another study identified high levels of oxytocin, a “bonding” hormone, in generous people. The oxytocin levels in children’s urine were studied, and it was found that levels in orphaned children were lower than in children raised in a caring home. Some researchers want to suggest that altruistic actions and caring physical touch increase oxytocin levels.

Oxytocin triggers the release of nitric oxide in blood vessels, which causes them to expand, lowering blood pressure. Thus oxytocin is a “cardioprotective” hormone, and kindness might be said to protect the heart. Oxytocin also reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system, which play a major role in heart disease--another reason kindness is good for the heart.

A recent study reports the extraordinary story of a 28-year-old who walked into a clinic and donated a kidney, setting off a “pay it forward” ripple effect that spread across the country. It resulted in 10 people receiving new kidneys, all triggered by that one anonymous donor.

This is just a short summary of a few of the many studies of the effects of kindness and generosity. Science seems to verify what many of us know by intuition and common sense--that being kind and loving is good not just for those around us but for ourselves as well. When we read stories about random acts of kindness, or think of all the interesting things that have come from the “Pay it Forward” movement, we see that people do these many good acts not in order to be healthier or live longer, they do them...well, why do they do them?

We know that the impulse to do good is one of the profound, wonderful, and mysterious traits of human beings. Although it is deeply spiritual, we can be grateful for this research that shows how deeply physical it is too.

-- This release was provided by Brethren Benefit Trust, and includes information adapted from “The Science of Good Deeds” by Jeanie Lerche Davis and “The Five Side Effects of Kindness” by Davie R. Hamilton.

UPCOMING EVENTS

CDS volunteers care for children in Moore, Okla., following a devastating tornado
Photo by Patty Henry

CDS volunteers care for children in Moore, Okla., following a devastating tornado

7) Winter and spring workshops are offered by Children’s Disaster Services

By Kathleen Fry-Miller

Children's Disaster Services (CDS) has issued a winter-spring workshop schedule for 2016. The CDS training obtained at these workshops is a unique kind of disaster preparedness training. The trainings will include logistics of disaster response work, all through the lens of compassionate care for children and their families, as well the caregivers themselves.

Here are the 2016 locations, dates, and contact information:

Jan. 29-30, 2016, Sebring (Fla.) Church of the Brethren; local contact Terry Smalley, 863-253-1098 or sebringcob@outlook.com

March 18-19, 2016, Florida Christian Center in Jacksonville, Fla.; local contact Tina Christian, cdsgulfcoast@gmail.com or 561-475-6602

April 1-2, 2016, Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency Windham, Maine; local contact Margaret Cushing, 207-892-6785 or cushing@cumberlandcounty.org

April 16-17, 2016, La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren; local contact Kathy Benson, 909-593-4868.

In addition, CDS is holding two specialized employer-sponsored workshops: in New Orleans, La., on Jan. 12 for the Agenda for Children (Child Care Resource and Referral); and in Orange, Calif., on Feb. 29-March 1, for the Social Service Agency, Orange County Government.

Children's Disaster Services trains and certifies volunteers to provide care for children and families following disasters, working with the American Red Cross, FEMA, and other disaster response agencies. Anyone 18 years old or older is welcome to attend this 27-hour overnight training.

The training is an overnight experience, simulating a shelter situation, and includes an overview of the work of CDS, understanding phases of disaster and how CDS fits in, working with disaster partners, children and family needs following disaster, supporting resilience in children, setting up a children's center with a Kit of Comfort, ethical guidelines, and the certification process.

The website for registration is www.brethren.org/cds/training/dates.html .

-- Kathleen Fry-Miller is associate director of Children's Disaster Services and a member of the staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

8) Brethren bits

-- The Office of Public Witness is publicizing the annual simulcast ecumenical Christmas Service broadcast from a church in Bethlehem, Palestine, on Dec. 19. This ecumenical service of worship is held jointly by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land,  the Jerusalem Diocese of the Episcopal Church, and the Washington Cathedral, and will be telecast simultaneously from the Christmas Lutheran Church of Bethlehem and the Washington Cathedral on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 10 a.m (eastern time). Access the service online at www.cathedral.org .

-- An action alert for the nonprofit community, including churches and their boards, has been issued by Board Source and is being shared by the Church of the Brethren General Secretary’s Office. “The IRS needs to hear from nonprofit board leaders,” the alert says. “A proposed change in IRS rules would require some nonprofits to collect their donors' social security numbers.... By requiring nonprofit organizations to collect social security numbers, the IRS will be opening organizations--and their board members as fiduciaries--to significant liability and place a tremendous burden on nonprofit organizations to invest heavily in cybersecurity measures to protect this valuable data from hackers. It will also create confusion, alarm, and distrust among potential donors who may--as a result--choose not to support our important missions.” The IRS is asking the public for feedback, and nonprofit leaders including leaders of religious nonprofits may also submit comments by next week's deadline of Wednesday, Dec. 16. The National Council of Nonprofits has developed and posted free materials on its website to help in this process, including an analysis, various talking points, and sample comments. Find these resources at www.councilofnonprofits.org/trends-policy-issues/gift-substantiation-proposed-regulations .

-- Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., has announced a Music and Worship Weekend Event led by Shawn Kirchner, a Brethren musician and composer and member of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. The event is scheduled for Feb. 6-7, 2016. Kirchner will lead an all-day Saturday workshop on music and worship, will sing and play for the Sunday morning worship service, will guide an adult Sunday school class, and perform at a Sunday evening coffee house.

-- In related news, an album that includes music by Shawn Kirchner among other musical contributors has been nominated for a Grammy award for best choral performance. The album is by Conspirare, a choral ensemble under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson. Titled “Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings,” it includes two of Kirchner’s choral settings of poems by Neruda. Find out more at http://conspirare.org .

-- Southern Pennsylvania District’s Nurture Commission is planning a “Man 2 Man Workshop 2016,” a men’s spiritual leadership summit and breakfast on the topic “Deeds and Destiny: Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do.” The event will be led by Ron Hostetler, who is an author, educator, and speaker. The date is Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, from 8 a.m.-12 noon, hosted by Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Registration costs $16.

-- There is an opportunity for pastors to apply to the Lilly Endowment’s Clergy Renewal Programs. The programs at Christian Theological Seminary provide funds to congregations to support renewal leaves for their pastors. Congregations may apply for grants of up to $50,000 to underwrite a renewal program for their pastor and for the pastor’s family, with up to $15,000 of those funds available to the congregation to help cover costs for ministerial supply while the pastor is away. There is no cost to the congregations or the pastors to apply. The grants represent the Endowment’s continued investment in renewing the health and vitality of American Christian congregations, said an announcement. For more information go to www.cpx.cts.edu/renewal .
 
-- The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has elected new officers for 2016-17. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will serve as chair of the Governing Board. She has been serving as vice chair for the past two years. She will be known to Brethren as one of the preachers at the recent Presidential Forum at Bethany Theological Seminary, and as one of the ecumenical leaders who attended the recognition event for Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley Noffsinger at the 2015 Annual Conference. Watkins succeeds A. Roy Medley of the American Baptist Churches in the USA in the office of chair. Medley will assume the title of past chair and is also retiring from his role as general secretary of his denomination. Other new leaders are: vice-chair Bishop W. Darin Moore of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; treasurer Barbara Carter of the Community of Christ; secretary Karen Georgia Thompson of the United Church of Christ.

-- In more news from the National Council of Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East has become the NCC’s newest member communion. The church was welcomed with these words from Tony Kireopoulos, associate general secretary: “This venerable church, with its membership across the United States and its roots in biblical lands, brings new energy to the NCC as we work together for justice and peace. The suffering of Assyrian Christians is deeply felt by the millions of Christians associated with the National Council of Churches.”


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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jean Bednar, Bob Dell, Kathleen Fry-Miller, Nancy S. Heishman, Leah Hileman, Nate Hosler, Bill Kostlevy, Dale Minnich, Stan Noffsinger, Pam Reist, Jesse Winter, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Dec. 18.

Go to www.brethren.org/Newsline to subscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline free e-mail news service and receive church news every week.