Above: Latvian Christians have created the resources for this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This is a photo of Latvia’s oldest baptismal font, which stands at the very center of the Lutheran Cathedral in the country’s capital, Riga, speaking "eloquently of the relationship between baptism and proclamation, and the calling shared by all the baptized to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord." Photo courtesy of the WCC
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is set to begin on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 18. The week is celebrated every year from Jan. 18-25 in the northern hemisphere, or at Pentecost in the southern hemisphere. It is sponsored by the World Council of Churches with leadership from a different country each year. “As they prepared materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016, Christians in Latvia reflected on this year’s theme from 1 Peter 2:9, ‘Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord,’” said a WCC release. Since 1968, liturgical and biblical resources for the week of prayer have been coordinated jointly by the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order and the Roman Catholic Church through its Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The organizers are proposing three questions for reflection during this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: How do we understand our common call to be “God’s people”? In what ways do we see and respond to God’s “mighty acts”: in worship and song, in work for justice and peace? Knowing the mercy of God, how do we engage in social and charitable projects with other Christians? Resources are available in English, French, German, and Spanish, and include an introduction to the theme. Local congregations are encouraged to adapt the theme in their own local liturgical, social, and cultural contexts. Materials are also available through a new app in collaboration between the WCC and YouVersion, developer of the “Bible App.” For more information go to www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/week-of-prayer/week-of-prayer . Find the app at www.bible.com/reading-plans/2120-week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity-2016 .
-- Remembrance: Marianne K. Michael, 98, a former mission worker in Nigeria, passed away on Dec. 17, 2015, in Iowa City, Iowa. She had served with her husband Herbert Michael as a Church of the Brethren missionary for 13 years from 1948-61, working at the mission headquarters in the village of Garkida. Her primary work in Nigeria was with women and girls, visiting in homes and teaching Bible, literacy, and sewing classes to women who had not had an opportunity to attend school, and founding and supervising Girls Life Brigade clubs. She was born in Guthrie County, Iowa, on Sept. 14, 1917, to Charles and Helen McLellan Krueger, and grew up on the family farm. She was a graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College, where she also worked as secretary to the college president. Later in her career she also attended Bethany Bible School in Chicago. After teaching high school for a time, she married Herbert D. Michael on May 28, 1944, and joined him at a Civilian Public Service camp for conscientious objectors during World War II. Their oldest child, son Jan, was born while they lived in a tent along the shore of the Columbia River at Cascade Locks in the Columbia Gorge in Oregon. During her time in Nigeria, she also wrote articles for the denominational magazine, then called the “Gospel Messenger.” After returning from Nigeria to Iowa, she earned her master’s degree in social work at the University of Iowa and was a social worker at University Hospital until age 70. In recent years she continued her interest “in all the Nigeria news,” said a remembrance from her family. She is survived by her children Jan Michael and Susan Garzon of Stillwater, Okla.; Rosemary Michael and Robert Wennerholm of Iowa City, Iowa; Peter and Donna Barr Michael of Indianapolis, Ind.; and Elizabeth Michael of Iowa City; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband Herbert in 2013. Memorial gifts are received to the Nigeria Crisis Fund and to the Free Lunch Program of Iowa City. A full obituary may be found at www.lensingfuneral.com/obituaries/obituary-listings?obId=691271#/obituaryInfo .
-- Brethren Woods has announced the hiring of new program directors Tim Heishman and Katie (Cummings) Heishman, starting on March 1. The couple are second-year students at Bethany Theological Seminary. Both have served in Brethren Volunteer Service at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and have helped coordinate National Youth Conference. Katie was a summer counselor at both Brethren Woods and Camp Bethel. Tim spent three summers at Camp Swatara and was a member of the 2010 Youth Peace Travel Team. Brethren Woods is a camp and retreat center in Shenandoah District.
-- The Church of the Brethren’s Southeastern District is seeking a district executive. This is a half-time position which could be filled by an individual or a team. The position is available Aug. 1. The district includes 42 congregations in the states of Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and a portion of the states of North Carolina and Virginia. The churches are in rural settings, with many small congregations. The district also has two camps, one in Linville, N.C., and the other in Blountville, Tenn. The preferred candidate is someone who upholds the teachings of the New Testament and recognizes that the Bible is the inspired word of God. Responsibilities include to serve as executive officer of the District Board, giving general oversight to the planning and implementation of the ministries as directed by District Conference and the District Board; interpret and share the guidance, direction, and polity of Annual Conference, providing a link between the congregations/district and the wider church by working collaboratively with Annual Conference, its agencies, and their staff; assist congregations and ministers with pastoral placement; encourage pastors and congregations to have open communication and good working relationships; articulate and promote the vision and mission of the district; facilitate and encourage the calling and training of persons to set-apart ministry and lay leadership. Qualifications include strong personal faith expressed through membership in and commitment to the Church of the Brethren; commitment to the vision, mission, and statements of Southeastern District; ordination, with a minimum of five years of pastoral experience; commitment to the New Testament and its values; strong administration and communication skills; experience in leadership development and church growth; following biblical precepts in problem solving, addressing the needs of all parties involved for peaceful, Godly solutions. Apply by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to email@example.com . Applicants are requested to contact three or four people to provide letters of reference. Upon receipt of the resume, the applicant will be sent a candidate profile that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. The application deadline is March 11.
-- This week the Conference Office has welcomed the Nominating Committee of Standing Committee to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., for the committee’s annual meeting. The committee members are George Bowers of Woodstock, Va.; Jaime Diaz of Adjuntas, P.R.; Duane Grady of Goshen, Ind.; Kathy Mack of Rochester, Minn.; Jim Myer of Lititz, Pa.; Roger Schrock of Mountain Grove, Mo.; Ellen Wile of Hurlock, Md.; John Willoughby of Wyoming, Mich. Annual Conference secretary James Beckwith also meets with the committee. The announcement asked, “Please keep them in prayer as they go about their important work for the denomination.”
-- Brethren Volunteer Service is announcing the start of the 2016 BVS Winter Orientation to be held Jan. 24-Feb. 12 at Camp Ithiel in Gotha, Fla. This orientation will be the 312th unit of BVS and will consist of seven volunteers from across the United States. Church of the Brethren members will attend, and the remaining volunteers come from varied faith backgrounds, adding a healthy diversity to the group’s orientation experience. A BVS Potluck is open to all those who are interested on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m. at Camp Ithiel. “Please feel free to come and welcome the new BVS volunteers and to share your own experiences. An evening of contra dancing will follow,” said an invitation from the BVS office. For more information contact the BVS office at 847-429-4384. The announcement also requested prayers for the new volunteers: “As always your thoughts and prayers are welcome and needed. Please remember this new unit and the people they will touch during their year of service through BVS.”
-- The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) has announced the first of two continuing education events on the topic “Memory Care.” The first event will be held on April 4, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Nicarry Meetinghouse at the Brethren Home in New Oxford, Pa., with a focus on “Memory Care: Embracing the Journey.” Jennifer Holcomb will lead this course exploreing the world of dementia and what it means to live in the moment. Students will learn about the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s, the physical changes that take place in the brain, and the need for sensitivity throughout the aging process, aiming to prepare students for interactions with those diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder. Students will participate in hands-on experiences throughout this course. A second workshop will be offered on July 25. Attendance at both is helpful, but not required. The registration deadline is March 17. Register online at www.universe.com/events/memory-care-embracing-the-journey-tickets-new-oxford-JKPCVF . The registration fee of $60 includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and .5 continuing education units.
-- The latest issue of the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) newsletter reports on development of community gardens by Tokahookaadi Church of the Brethren congregation and the Lybrook Community Ministries at Lybrook, N.M. An article by James Therrien reports that “the gardening focus for the 2015 season was to reach out to the community and try to establish two small gardens located on the reservation. The mission has two garden spots on the mission and we are assisting with two gardens on the reservation. Our responsibility is to supply water when needed and assist in any other areas such as tilling, planting, and harvesting. The only thing the mission asks in return is for these families to give 10 percent percent of the produce in the gardens to families in the community. They have also have agreed to assist next year in establishing two more gardens at different locations.” More about the work of Lybrook Community Ministries can be found at www.lcmmission.org .
-- Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is celebrating a record 1,500-plus prayer breakfasts over 30 years, according to an article by Earle Cornelius in Lancaster Online. “On a brutally cold Wednesday morning 30 years ago, 16 people gathered for a prayer breakfast at Lancaster Church of the Brethren.... On Saturday, the group will hold a special prayer breakfast to commemorate having met every week for the past 30 years,” he reported. The breakfast will be held at 8 a.m., prayers will be offered at 8:30, with closing remarks at 9:30. Jack Crowley, president of Water Street Ministries, will be the keynote speaker. Read the full article at http://lancasteronline.com/features/faith_values/lancaster-church-of-the-brethren-still-going-strong-after-prayer/article_a96d6c1c-bb9a-11e5-be9e-93648ecb219c.html .
-- Mid-Atlantic District has announced a mission of building a Habitat for Humanity house for a family in need in Washington County, Md. A Ground Breaking Service has been scheduled for noon on Saturday, March 19, at the site in Hagerstown, Md. The district is inviting each of its congregation to send a representative, and has announced a goal to $65,000 to complete the new house by Advent 2016.
-- Virlina District’s Pilgrimage XX will be held April 1-3 at Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va.. “Pilgrimage is a spiritual retreat for adults of all ages, and God is working through this ministry in wonderful ways,” said an announcement. “The structure of the weekend includes talks, small groups, fun times, inspiring worship services, and much more. God knows where we are on our spiritual journey, and He meets us right there. Whether you need peace, or joy, or forgiveness, or encouragement, or hope, or revival, or a little extra time with Him...He gives more than we even desire.” The district is inviting prayerful consideration “if this is your year to attend.” For more information go to www.experiencepilgrimage.com or contact Karen Haynes at 336-765-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
-- Daniel D’Oleo, a Church of the Brethren pastor and leader in the Renacer movement of Hispanic congregations, has published a commentary piece titled “Latino Voices: Five Reasons Why the Church Matters to Roanoke's Latino Community. The piece appeared on LaConexionVa.org , and cited the nature of the Latino immigrant population as “a very devoted community with a deep faith,” that sees the church “as more than just a place of worship.... For Latino immigrants, “faith goes with them without regard to the experiences emigration has given them. It seems to me that the experiences of immigrants intensify the need to see more in the church than just a place of worship.” Read the full commentary at http://laconexionva.org/en/content/latino-voices-5-reasons-why-church-matters-roanokes-latino-community .
-- Peggy Reiff Miller is publicizing a newly revised and updated website focused on the experience and history of the Seagoing Cowboys who helped transport heifers and other animals to places of need through the Church of the Brethren’s Heifer Project--now Heifer International. The website is “up and running,” she wrote in a Facebook announcement. “Still some tweaks to do, but it feels like a milestone passed. Check it out.” The website is titled, “Seagoing Cowboys: Delivering Hope to a War-Torn World,” and may be found at http://seagoingcowboys.com .
-- Christian Peacemaker Teams is publicizing three CPT Colombia delegations for 2016. “Sign up now!” said an announcement. The three delegations are planned for:
May 28-June 11 to the Las Pavas community where community members repeatedly have been displaced from their land over the last 20 years by various different armed groups including most recently a palm oil company named Aportes San Isidro. The theme of the delegation is “Free Trade Agreements and Human Rights.”
June 16-30 to El Guayabo, where 250 families have been working the land to provide sustenance for themselves for more than 30 years. “They have lived peaceably up until two years ago when they found themselves in the middle of a land dispute. By standing up for their right to remain on the land, members of the Guayabo community have received death threats, received brutal treatment from the police, and face a daily fear of displacement from their homes,” said the announcement. The theme of the delegation is “The Phenomenon of Land Grabbing.”
Sept. 10-24 to Garzal and Nueva Esperanza, two farming communities along the banks of the Magdalena River. “These fertile and prosperous lands have been at the epicenter of a civil war in Colombia for over 50 years. Constant threats from demobilized paramilitaries make life difficult on the land, and the farming community lives in a perpetual state of fear. The state has declared that these lands belong to small farmers, but the titles are caught up in corrupt bureaucracy.... These communities attribute their perseverance to their strong Christian faith...as the country moves through a process of peace negotiations,” said the announcement. The theme of the delegation is “Conflict, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation.”
The fundraising expectation for participants is $2,800, which includes round-trip airfare from a designated US or Canadian city. Those planning to travel from other countries should contact the CPT office. CPT has limited funds available for scholarships to assist applicants who otherwise couldn’t participate. CPT is committed to undoing racism and will give preference to funding assistance applicants from communities which have been disadvantaged by racism. Physical rigors are involved in most CPT delegations, which could involve hiking in mud, heat, or mountains, hours-long trips by boat or truck, and generally long days. Contact email@example.com or go to www.cpt.org for more information.
-- Michael Himlie, a Church of the Brethren member from Harmony, Minn., and David Jones of Wickenburg, Ariz., are planning a bicycle expedition in 2016 to raise money for peace organizations. “They hope to raise $100,000 for Christian Peacemaker Teams and other organizations devoted to nonviolence,” said a CPT release. The two met last year in Israel/Palestine while participating in a delegation with Christian Peacemaker Teams. Jones, age 60, is retired from the healthcare software industry; Himlie, age 22, is a student at Manchester University in Indiana. They came up with the idea of riding 100 miles in each state over 50 consecutive days. “We are calling it ‘Fifty Centuries in Fifty States in Fifty Consecutive Days,’” said Jones. In May they fly to Hawaii for the first leg of the journey, which starts at midnight on Saturday, May 14. They will ride the same route as those competing in the Ironman Triathlon on the big island of Hawaii. Immediately after completing this initial leg they will fly to Los Angeles to begin riding in the lower 48 states, using support vehicle and drivers to drive them from state to state following each day’s ride. They hope to to stay in churches and community centers in each state. Their route around the lower 48 states will end in Portland, Ore., from where they will fly to Anchorage, Alaska, for the final day of the ride on Saturday, July 2. Find out more at www.cpt.org/biking-for-peace . For more information contact David Jones at 928-415-1037 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
-- The National Council of Churches (NCC) has issued a statement applauding new limits on gun purchasing. The NCC “expresses its gratitude and appreciation for President Obama’s bold announcement of an executive order strengthening background checks and limiting access to loopholes for gun sales in the United States,” said an NCC release. “We applaud him also for his order to provide new funding for access to mental health care, and for additional personnel to perform background checks. We urge Congress to allow these restrictions to remain in place. We hope that, with God’s help, these measures will save lives.” The release added, in part: “While we are grateful for the measures that have been taken, we are aware that additional action is required. The ‘Gun Show Loophole’ needs to be closed completely. Every gun sale should be preceded by a background check. Guns should not be sold to persons on terrorist no-fly lists.” The statement noted that this is not a new position for the organization to take, as the NCC has for decades called for a reduction in gun violence in the nation. Read the full statement at http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/ncc-applauds-new-gun-rules .