Newsline for June 11, 2016




Ministry Summer Service intern Rudy Amaya leads prayer during a chapel service at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. He was one of 13 new MSS interns who participated in orientation before going to their summer service sites at congregations, retirement communities, and other ministries across the denomination. Find the full list of the interns and their placements in
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Ministry Summer Service intern Rudy Amaya leads prayer during a chapel service at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. He was one of 13 new MSS interns who participated in orientation before going to their summer service sites at congregations, retirement communities, and other ministries across the denomination. Find the full list of the interns and their placements in "Brethren bits" below.

NEWS
1) Interfaith letter raises concerns, urges greater transparency on drone warfare
2) India Brethren hold 101st annual meeting
3) Network of spiritual directors meets for annual retreat
4) Northern Indiana congregations sponsor project to share Nigeria t-shirts

UPCOMING EVENTS
5) On Earth Peace announces theme for Peace Day 2016

RESOURCES
6) Ministry of Reconciliation manual is made available as an online resource
7) New Covenant Bible Studies series invite readers to ‘love Leviticus,’ study Jesus’ miracles

8) Brethren bits: Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Sentencing Reform, Global Mission exec. recommends “Nigeria Fractured and Forgotten,” CDS needs 100 more hand-made toys for Nigeria, “Racial Justice Field Report from Flint,” more


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Quotes of the week:

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.”
-- Muhammad Ali in 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War. His draft status had been revised making him eligible to be drafted into the military, “leading him to say that as a black Muslim he was a conscientious objector, and would not enter the US military,” according to an article in “The Atlantic.” His stand against the Vietnam War “transcended not only the ring, which he had dominated as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, but also the realms of faith and politics,” the article said. Find “Muhammad Ali and Vietnam” at www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/06/muhammad-ali-vietnam/485717 .
 
“According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the number of US hate groups on the right spiked 14 percent in 2015, rising for the first time in a half decade. A recent analysis by the think tank Demos found that on average, 10,000 racial slurs are tweeted per day. America, argues SPLC, is as angry as it’s ever been and seeing levels of polarization that may be unmatched since 1968.”
-- Cited in a "Think Progress" article "Trump Supporter Milo Yiannopoulos Furthers Racial Hatred At DePaul University" by Sharon H. Chang and published June 7. Find the SPLC report at www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2016/year-hate-and-extremism . Find the Demos analysis at www.demos.co.uk/files/DEMOS_Anti-social_Media.pdf .

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The Virtual Blood Drive for Annual Conference 2016

Preparing for Annual Conference 2016:


Messenger Online, the new website of the Church of the Brethren magazine, features a preview of the 2016 Conference to be held in Greensboro, N.C., beginning June 29. The preview includes two delegate briefing videos. Go to www.brethren.org/messenger/articles/2016/quick-guide-to-annual-conference.html  .


Brethren Disaster Ministries is announcing a Virtual Blood Drive as an alternative for those not going to the Annual Conference in Greensboro. “Now you can pledge to give blood and set up an appointment through our Red Cross Sleeves Up Campaign,” said the announcement. “If you keep your appointment, the Church of the Brethren will get credit for getting you to the drive. One pint of blood saves three lives! Help us add to the number of lives saved through the Church of the Brethren!” Find out more at https://sleevesup.redcrossblood.org/campaign/church-of-the-brethren-virtual-blood-drive .
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1) Interfaith letter raises concerns, urges greater transparency on drone warfare

Church of the Brethren interim general secretary Dale Minnich and On Earth Peace executive director Bill Scheurer were among 28 faith leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh traditions who sent an interfaith letter on drone warfare to President Barack Obama. Staff of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness were among those who created the letter on behalf of the Interfaith Drone Network.

The letter notes the importance of governmental transparency and commends the administration’s announced, yet unfulfilled pledge to make public a “playbook” on its drone warfare program. The letter also challenges the morality and effectiveness of the US drone warfare program, which has killed thousands of innocent people. “God weeps and our hearts ache at such unnecessary loss of human life,” the letter said, in part.

The letter urges the administration to halt its drone warfare program, arguing that drone warfare fuels recruitment for extremist groups and makes Americans less safe. It suggests creative alternatives to drone warfare that can better address the root causes of conflict and extremism, such as cooperation with international partners on diplomacy, development, promotion of human rights, intelligence sharing, and international policing. The signers urge the President to leave a more peaceful and democratic legacy as the country prepares to transition to a new administration in 2017.

A recent report from the Stimson Center gave previous efforts to reform the US drones warfare program a failing grade. This June 6 letter follows the recent resignation of US Army Chaplain Chris Antal, a Unitarian Universalist minister, who resigned due to similar objections to the US drone warfare program.

The full text of the letter follows:


June 6, 2016

Dear President Obama,

As faith leaders, we feel called to express our continuing concern about the Administration’s drone warfare program. Our faith traditions call us to recognize the goodness and inherent worth of people, and this program that arbitrarily and unaccountably takes human life runs counter to these values, and the values of many Americans.

In recent years, the U.S. lethal drones program has expanded rapidly with little accountability. In that light, we commend the Administration’s recent plan to release a drones “playbook” and reports of combatant and noncombatant casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes. We urge the Administration to fully implement these promises of greater transparency as we raise specific concerns about the U.S. lethal drones program. 

First and foremost, we are concerned by the thousands of intended and unintended deaths caused by U.S. drone warfare policy. These numbers are staggering, especially given the questionable legality of covert drone strikes.

Because drone strikes are often preemptive measures against potential threats, targets are often presumed guilty with little or no evidence. The assumption of guilt not only ignores due process, but also strikes targets with total lethality, ignoring protections guaranteed by international human and civil rights law. Drone strikes result in the death penalty for every alleged crime, even when arrest, prosecution, and appropriate punishments could easily be pursued. 

In addition, the false claim that drones are precise weapons misrepresents the large number of innocent civilian casualties, including numerous children, caused by drone strikes. God weeps and our hearts ache at such unnecessary loss of human life. 

Beyond the immense loss of human life, we are also troubled by the secrecy surrounding the U.S. drones warfare program. As our nation seeks to model democracy for the world, the lack of transparency regarding drone strikes stifles the ability of citizens or legislators to fully judge and understand the impact of lethal drone technology.

Releasing the Administration’s reports is a necessary step to improve transparency and promote accountability, but this must be accompanied by an honest reflection on the efficacy of lethal drone strikes.

Lethal drone strikes place the U.S. in a perpetual state of covert war that reduces national and international security more than it helps. The massive loss of innocent lives generates opposition to U.S. power, fuels recruitment for extremist groups and makes us less safe. Alternatives through including cooperation with international partners on diplomacy, development, promotion of human rights, intelligence sharing, and international policing could address the root causes of extremism without being counterproductive to sustainable resolution of conflict.

While we oppose the Administration’s expansion of the U.S. drone warfare program, the recent promise to disclose information on drones gives us hope. In addition to releasing these reports, we urge the Obama Administration to halt the drone warfare program during its final months in office. While a halt in drone warfare cannot reverse the loss of innocent lives, this step can honor their loss, lessen recruitment by terrorist groups, and increase the chance that future administrations will operate with greater accountability and transparency.




2) India Brethren hold 101st annual meeting

Leadership at the 101st annual meeting of the First District Church of the Brethren in India, held on May 12-13.
Photo courtesy of Darryl Sankey

Leadership at the 101st annual meeting of the First District Church of the Brethren in India, held on May 12-13.

The 101st Jilla Sabha was held in Champawadi, Vyara District, Tapi, on May 12-13. The meeting included the appointment of new leadership for the First District Church of the Brethren in India.

“Our long serving secretary of more than 25 years, Deacon Dhansukhbhai Christian, retired from this position hence ushering a leadership change in a key position,” wrote Darryl R. Sankey in an e-mail report to the Global Mission and Service office. “Brother Ramesh Makwan has been elected unanimously to serve as secretary of the First District Church of the Brethren, whereas Deacon Jeevanbhai Gamit has been appointed as the treasurer.”

Sankey also shared news of the death of the moderator of last year’s 100th Jilla Sabha, Elder M. M. Gameti, who passed away in December 2015. Elder Kantilal S. Rajwadi was appointed as interim moderator in his place, and was confirmed as moderator for the 101st Jilla Sabha.

“The Jilla Sabha paid respect to Elder Rev. M. M. Gameti by observing a minutes silence and praying for him and his family,” Sankey reported. “A condolence resolution was also passed remembering and appreciating his long and dedicated service to the church. His absence was felt during the Jilla Sabha.”

Sankey also reported that apart from the regular business no major decisions were taken at the annual meeting this year. He added that litigation between First District Church of the Brethren and the Church of North India “still continues...regarding possession of churches at several places. A resolution has been passed to counter CNI by all available legal remedies.”




3) Network of spiritual directors meets for annual retreat

By Debbie Eisenbise

The group that met for the 2016 Spiritual Directors Retreat, held at Shepherd's Spring outdoor ministry and retreat center near Sharpsburg, Md.
Photo courtesy of Debbie Eisenbise

The group that met for the 2016 Spiritual Directors Retreat, held at Shepherd's Spring outdoor ministry and retreat center near Sharpsburg, Md.

For over a decade, spiritual directors from throughout the Church of the Brethren have met annually for a retreat and continuing education. Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministry and Retreat Center in Sharpsburg, Md., provides a beautiful and quiet setting for this event, which includes opportunities for worship, prayer, silence, creative expression, peer supervision, and keynote presentations.

This year’s keynote speaker at the retreat held in May was Josh Brockway, director for Spiritual Life and Discipleship, who presented four sessions based on his upcoming book, “Becoming Prayer: The Contemplative Asceticism of John Cassian for Today.” Attention was given to the role played by John Cassian (360-435 CE) in establishing Western monastic prayer practices and spiritual understandings. Central was Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” Those present were challenged by Cassian’s admonition that “we should be, outside the time of prayer, what we are during prayer.”

The retreat offers Brethren spiritual directors a unique opportunity to meet with peers and explore the practice of spiritual direction from within a shared tradition. Speakers in previous years have included various writers, lecturers, and spiritual directors, most recently Phileena Heuertz and Roberta Bondi. Continuing education units are offered for participants, and opportunity is given for peer supervision and support.

Next year’s retreat will focus on creativity and prayer and will be held May 22-24, 2017, at Shepherd’s Spring. In the meantime, to experience sessions on various forms of prayer led by members of the network, attend the Jubilee Afternoon events at this year’s Annual Conference in Greensboro, N.C., on the afternoon of Friday, July 1.

The Spiritual Directors Network is open to all who are receiving or have completed training in contemplative practice and who offer spiritual direction to individuals and/or groups. An online application process is being developed to make it easier to sign up with the network, and to provide a comprehensive list of Church of the Brethren directors to districts, camps, and Bethany Seminary.

-- Debbie Eisenbise is director of Intergenerational Ministries for the Church of the Brethren and a member of the Congregational Life Ministries staff. To find a Church of the Brethren spiritual director, or to express interest in joining the network, contact her at deisenbise@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 306. 

Text that appears on the t-shirts for Nigeria, a project of churches in Northern Indiana District.
Image courtesy of Rosanna McFadden

Text that appears on the t-shirts for Nigeria, a project of churches in Northern Indiana District.




4) Northern Indiana congregations sponsor project to share Nigeria t-shirts

By Rosanna McFadden

Sometimes the Spirit moves in mysterious ways--even with turquoise tie-dyed t-shirts!

As a pastor of Creekside Church of the Brethren in Northern Indiana District, I attended a Pastor’s Sabbath at Camp Alexander Mack in April. It was led by Carl and Roxane Hill, co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response. My congregation, and others in the district, had raised money for crisis relief in Nigeria through a benefit auction in June 2015, and have been considering ways to continue to generate spiritual and financial support for our brothers and sisters of EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

Children at ZME Primary School, EYN Headquarters, Kwarhi, Nigeria, wear t-shirts as part of the project sponsored by churches in Northern Indiana District. During their June trip to Nigeria, Carl and Roxane Hill shared some of the t-shirts with children and youth. The Hills are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response. “The kids were so excited to receive these shirts,” they reported. “CSS (the secondary school) came and asked for shirts after they saw the elementary kids wearing them! A big success.
Photo by Carl & Roxane Hill

Children at ZME Primary School, EYN Headquarters, Kwarhi, Nigeria, wear t-shirts as part of the project sponsored by churches in Northern Indiana District. During their June trip to Nigeria, Carl and Roxane Hill shared some of the t-shirts with children and youth. The Hills are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response. “The kids were so excited to receive these shirts,” they reported. “CSS (the secondary school) came and asked for shirts after they saw the elementary kids wearing them! A big success."

The Hills shared a story about t-shirts that were donated for relief, and which an enterprising Nigerian teacher used for a sports teams at a refugee camp. I asked if my congregation could print shirts that said “Church of the Brethren” and send them to kids in Nigeria. The Hills offered to hand-carry the shirts in their luggage when they returned to Nigeria this June. 

Creekside’s Outreach Team committed to buying 50 shirts to send, and members of the congregation wanted shirts to wear themselves. We opened up the idea to other churches in Northern Indiana District, and other congregations sponsored shirts and bought them for themselves.

At the end of May, we sponsored 85 shirts to send to Nigeria, where the Hills passed them out to delighted third through sixth graders, and a few enthusiastic adults as well.

Our intent for these shirts is for them to be a sign of hope for Nigerians, and a sign of commitment and prayer from Brethren in the United States. The shirts say: “Church of the Brethren. Mun daya ne cikin Kristi. We are one body in Christ.”

You are invited to be part of this show of support and prayer. Here’s what you can do:

-- Shirts in youth and adult sizes, from youth small (6-8) through adult XXXL, will be available at Annual Conference in Greensboro, N.C., at the Friday, July 1, evening insight session on the Nigeria crisis. The t-shirts also will be available throughout the week at the Red Cross blood drive check-in. Pick up a shirt to wear to Saturday evening worship on July 2 and/or the Nigeria insight session that same evening.

-- Make a donation to the Nigeria Crisis Fund designated for “T-shirts.” Our cost for the shirts is $10 for youth and regular adult sizes, $14 for XXL, and $15 for XXXL. Any donation above that cost will be given to the Nigeria Crisis Response.

-- Take a photo of yourself and/or members of your congregation wearing the shirts. Send the photo, along with your name and the name and location of your congregation, to the News Services office at cobnews@brethren.org . We can share this tangible sign of support with children and adults in Nigeria.

-- Pray for healing, hope, and peace in Nigeria.

-- Sponsor shirts to be printed and sent to Nigeria. E-mail the number of shirts you want to sponsor to Rosanna McFadden at pastorrosanna@creeksideconnected.com by July 30. We will choose the sizes for you. Please donate at least the cost of the shirts to the Nigeria Crisis Fund designated for “T-shirts.” The shirts will be carried to Nigeria and distributed by staff and volunteers, who will take photos of the children and adults who receive them.

We cannot mail shirts to individuals in the US. If you have an order of 50 shirts or more for a congregation or district conference, contact Rosanna McFadden at pastorrosanna@creeksideconnected.com by July 30 to make arrangements to have shirts printed and delivered to you.

We are one body in Christ. Praise God!

-- Rosanna McFadden pastors at Creekside Church of the Brethren in Elkhart, Ind.


Nigeria t-shirts are worn by members of Creekside Church of the Brethren Nigeria t-shirts are worn by members at Rock Run Church of the Brethren
 Nigeria t-shirts are worn by members of Creekside Church of the Brethren (above left)  Members of Rock Run Church of the Brethren sport the new Nigeria t-shirts (above right)




UPCOMING EVENTS

5) On Earth Peace announces theme for Peace Day 2016

“Called to Build Peace” is the theme for Peace Day 2016, held annually on Sept. 21, which is the International Day of Prayer for Peace. This year’s campaign from On Earth Peace invites churches, peacebuilders, and seekers of justice to participate. “Plan a prayer service or community action event and reflect on how you and your community are called to build peace during the week surrounding Sept. 21, 2016,” said an invitation from organizer Bryan Hanger.

This year’s theme is based on God’s call to build peace and create just communities in the biblical story, including the story of Abraham’s call in Genesis 12:1-3, Moses’ call in Exodus 3, Samuel’s call in 1 Samuel 3, Esther’s call in Esther 4:14, Mary’s call in Luke 1:26-55, and Jesus’ call in Luke 4:18-19.

“Like our spiritual forebears, we are all called to different places and to different ministries to do God’s work and to bring God’s peace and justice in the world,” said the announcement. “We are each called to build peace in a unique way and in a unique place. Some are called to resist and undo racism, some to pray without ceasing, others to heal God’s creation, and others to stop war. Some are called to build peace in their neighborhood, in their church congregation, in their local community, or somewhere across the world.

“We are all called to build peace in unique and transformative ways, and this Peace Day we invite you to follow God’s call to wherever you and your church community can build peace together to God's glory and your neighbor’s good.”
 
Church of the Brethren members and congregations are invited to learn more about Peace Day and get involved by telling the organizers what the congregation is planning, and what would be helpful. The e-mail address for the 2016 campaign is peaceday@onearthpeace.org . Find out more at http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com . On Twitter, follow @peacedaypray . Join the Peace Day Facebook group conversation at www.facebook.com/groups/OEP.PeaceDay .




RESOURCES

6) Ministry of Reconciliation manual is made available as an online resource

From an On Earth Peace release

About a year ago, in the wake of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR) as a program of On Earth Peace, program director Leslie Frye wondered if it might be worthwhile to revise the 1995 “Ministry of Reconciliation Discipleship and Reconciliation Committee Handbook.”

Marking pencil in hand, she read it cover-to-cover and was amazed at how relevant--even inspiring--the material remained even 25 years later. “Perhaps we might want to look at making additions at some point,” she reflected. “But the collective wisdom still shines, so with the help of MoR Communications intern Lauren Seganos Cohen, we’ve converted the document from WordPerfect to PDF files and are making them available online.”

Contents include:

Chapter One: The Biblical and Theological Basis of Reconciliation by Dale Aukerman
Chapter Two: Statement of Purpose for Discipleship and Reconciliation (D and R) Committees by Enten Eller
Chapter Three: Calling of D and R Committees by Jim Kinsey
Chapter Four: D and R Committee Training by Marty Barlow
Chapter Five: D and R Committees as Educators by Bob Gross
Chapter Six: Intervening in Conflict: General Guidelines by Barbara Daté
Chapter Seven: Intervening in Conflict: Adaptable Four-Step Model by Bob Gross
Chapter Eight: Intervening in Conflict Comprehensive Model by Jim Yaussy Albright

Discipleship and Reconciliation Committees pre-dated what are now called “Shalom Teams” and the Ministry of Reconciliation--then, as now--provided primary training and support. Volunteers Janice Kulp Long (chair), Phyllis Senesi, and Enten Eller comprised the Ministry of Reconciliation Handbook Task Team in order to provide a resource that would assist congregational leaders in their efforts to “deal with conflict.”

The manual is now available online at http://onearthpeace.org/reconciliation/shalom-team-support/mor-discipleship-reconciliation-committee-handbook .




7) New Covenant Bible Studies series invite readers to ‘love Leviticus,’ study Jesus’ miracles

There are two new books in the Covenant Bible Studies series from Brethren Press: “Ten Reasons to Love Leviticus” and “More Miracles of Jesus.” Also newly available from the Church of the Brethren publishing house is the 2016 camping curriculum on DVD, titled “Branching Out.”

New Brethren Press resources include two new books in the Covenant Bible Studies series, and the 2016 camping and outdoor ministries curriculum

The Covenant Bible Studies series is published by Brethren Press for people committed to living authentic Christian lives. Each 10-session study encourages small groups to reflect, pray, and learn together. Purchase one copy for each member of a study group, for $10.95 each (shipping will be added). Call 800-441-3712 or go to www.brethrenpress.com .

Ten Reasons to Love Leviticus

Written by Robert W. Neff, professor emeritus of Old Testament at Bethany Seminary and a former general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, and Frank Ramirez, senior pastor of Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, Ind., this is a unique study of a difficult Old Testament book. The authors intentionally make Leviticus inviting using humor and good biblical scholarship.

Leviticus “has become a synonym for a number of things--boredom, arcane obscurity, condemnation, repressive laws, confusing dos and don’ts (mostly don’ts), along with absurd and  antiquated rituals,” the authors write. “So why are we writing a study guide about it? We love Leviticus! Why? Leviticus is the book where we live. Leviticus recognizes that we are bound together, whether we know it or not, and that our actions have consequences that either ennoble us or coarsen us.... Leviticus challenges us to live lives of integrity seven days a week.”

The study focuses on four themes: an ethical connection to food, he call to be holy as God is holy, Sabbath rest and festival living, and the Jubilee.

More Miracles of Jesus

The 10 lessons in this book by James L. Benedict, pastor of Union Bridge Church of the Brethren in Maryland, explore some of the signs, wonders, and works of power that Jesus performed and that are recorded in the New Testament.

This book is a continuation of the study of Jesus’ miracles begun in a previous Covenant Bible Study by Benedict, titled “Miracles of Jesus,” which also is available from Brethren Press.

Branching Out

This new summer camping and outdoor ministries curriculum is sold on DVD-ROM for $375. Order by Oct. 15 and save 10 percent.

“Camp lasts only one week. What campers take home from camp lasts a lifetime,” said a Brethren Press announcement of the curriculum. “This summer, remind campers they can take that camp feeling with them everywhere they go. Remind them they are connected to one another and to God by Christ.”

Bible stories in “Branching Out” encourage campers to use prayer, relationships, family, and more to stay  connected throughout their lives. Included are seven days of material for each of five age levels, plus eight weeks of original Day Camp materials. Age levels are: younger children, older children, younger youth, older youth, and family/intergenerational.

Daily themes are:
Day 1: The Place Where We Camp, Joshua 4:1-9, John 15
Day 2: I Am the Vine, 1 Corinthians 11:23b-26;
Day 3: Love One Another, John 8:2-11
Day 4: I Chose You, Luke 15:11-32
Day 5: I Have Spoken to You, 1 Kings 19:11-13
Day 6: Abide with Me, Luke 24:13-35
Day 7: I Abide in You, Romans 8:35, 37-39.

Order from Brethren Press. Call 800-441-3712 or purchase from www.brethrenpress.com .




8) Brethren bits

The 2016 Ministry Summer Service interns who will be serving with congregations, retirement communities, the Youth Peace Travel Team, and other ministries across the denomination. The group includes Kerrick van Asselt serving at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Indiana; Nolan McBride serving at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village in Maryland; Rudy Amaya serving at Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; Ruth Ritchey Moore serving at Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania; Sarandon Smith serving at Blackrock Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania; Tyler Roebuck serving with Church of the Brethren communications and “Messenger” magazine; and Youth Peace Travel Team members Jenna Walmer, Kiana Simonson, Phoebe Hart, and Sara White.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The 2016 Ministry Summer Service interns who will be serving with congregations, retirement communities, the Youth Peace Travel Team, and other ministries across the denomination. The group includes Kerrick van Asselt serving at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Indiana; Nolan McBride serving at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village in Maryland; Rudy Amaya serving at Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; Ruth Ritchey Moore serving at Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania; Sarandon Smith serving at Blackrock Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania; Tyler Roebuck serving with Church of the Brethren communications and “Messenger” magazine; and Youth Peace Travel Team members Jenna Walmer, Kiana Simonson, Phoebe Hart, and Sara White.

-- The Office of Public Witness is joining with other faith based groups for a special event in support of Congress passing comprehensive criminal justice reform this year. “We will gather with national faith leaders, people, and families directly impacted by incarceration, Senators, and civil rights leaders to pray for justice, fairness, and quick action by Congress to implement reductions in federal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses,” said a recent Action Alert. The Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Sentencing Reform is planned for June 15 at 9 a.m. on the grounds of the US Capitol, in Washington, D.C., across from the United Methodist Building located at 100 Maryland Ave. NE. “The 1975 Annual Conference recognized the need for criminal justice reform since ‘most of our correctional centers--prisons, jails, and lock-ups--dehumanize and brutalize individuals, especially those who are poor, members of minority ethnic groups, and generally the helpless members of our society,’” the alert cited as support for Brethren involvement. Also cited was Hebrews 13:3: “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them.” Said the alert: “This event is a great way to continue that advocacy and the advocacy of the youth that attended Christian Citizenship Seminar.” This event is sponsored by the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition, which includes the Office of Public Witness, the National Council of Churches, and the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights. For more information contact Nathan Hosler, Director, Office of Public Witness, nhosler@brethren.org or 717-333-1649.

-- The June 15 webinar “Forming a Christian Community in the Midst of Struggle for Good Mental Health: Reflections from The Geoff Ashcroft Community” features Phil Warburton, leader of a missional faith community (E1 Community Church) that is “sincerely concerned about people in its local area,” said an announcement. “Aware of the risk factors of people struggling with poor mental health, the Geoff Ashcroft Community (GAC) was launched in 2006 to provide care as well as combat stigma and discrimination in relation to poor mental and physical health. GAC invests itself in culturally appropriate mental health promotion.” Join the webinar on June 15 at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern time) at www.brethren.org/webcasts . A continuing education credit of .1 is available for those who attend the live event. For more information contact Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices for the Church of the Brethren, at 800-323-8039 ext. 343 or sdueck@brethren.org .

-- Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer is recommending a new report titled “Nigeria Fractured and Forgotten: Discrimination and Violence Along Religious Fault Lines” from the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. “If immediate action is not taken, religious minorities in northern Nigeria will continue to face policies and practices that seek to remove their very presence, while the violence of Boko Haram and Fulani militants will further compound one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world,” says the introduction to the report, which is available online. The lengthy and detailed report includes chapters on discrimination throughout northern Nigeria, discrimination and underdevelopment in northern Nigeria, discrimination within northern Nigeria against religious minorities, defining the roots of this foundational discrimination, Boko Haram as “an explosion of violence,” the four stages of Boko Haram development, Fulani militants threatening to engulf the Middle Belt of Nigeria, an introduction to the Fulani, accelerating inter-communal violence in the Middle Belt, rationales for an escalating trend among Fulani militants in the Middle Belt, the devastating and potential impact of Fulani militants to fracture Nigeria, and case studies from Kadarako in Nasarawa State, Sho and Jol in Plateau State, and Agatu in Benue State. Find the report at www.standwithnigeria.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/NIgeria-Fractured-and-Forgotten.pdf .

-- Children's Disaster Services (CDS) is seeking 100 more dolls and stuffed animals for traumatized children in Nigeria. “We have been working with women theologians of EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) on the Healing Hearts Curriculum, trauma healing for children affected by the violence of the Boko Haram,” said a request. “This spring, over 300 hand-sewn dolls and stuffed animals were given to 7 teams of trainers as part of a Kit of Comfort to take back to their local communities to share with children and adults who will then work with children. We invite anyone who likes to sew to help us make 100 additional hand-sewn soft dolls and stuffed animals (new only, not used) to use as examples of the kinds of comfort items that could be made locally in the future.” Find a Newsline article about the effort, and a pattern that fits onto an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper. Dolls should be dark-skinned with bright dresses or shirts/pants. Stuffed animals should have a simple face or no face. Dolls and animals will be collected by Aug. 1, and then again by Oct. 1. Mail toys to Children's Disaster Services, P.O. Box 188, New Windsor, MD 21776. They also can also be brought to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference to be delivered to CDS. For more information contact Kristen Hoffman, CDS program assistant, at khoffman@brethren.org .

-- On Earth Peace’s Racial Justice Organizing Community of Practice is presenting a “Racial Justice Field Report from Flint” on June 21, 8-9:30 p.m. (Eastern time) in the form of a telephone conference call. The call will provide a multi-ethnic and multi-denominational reflection and update on the Flint, Mich., water crisis, with an exploration of issues of underlying racism. “Hear from people actually living with this water crisis, about how they are dealing with the everyday aspects of ‘Bottled Water Life,’” said an invitation. “Members of the local Church of the Brethren will discuss what has been the federal, state and local government response as well as volunteer efforts. Churches involved in direct relief will share some of what they’ve experienced and how it has molded their focus. The panel will discuss aspects of the role racism and white privilege has played. Has it been heightened by institutional racism, or are there more deliberate actions in both the cause and response? The call will include a spiritual power moment, and information about how to get involved in ongoing racial justice organizing initiatives.” For more information and to register to participate, go to http://goo.gl/forms/G6gDSshux0uXRrUs2 . Registration closes on June 19 at 8 p.m.

-- Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., is presenting a Solar Panel Forum in cooperation with Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light on June 18 from 2-4 p.m. “Join us to learn more about the positive impact of solar panels in your organization’s mission, reducing energy costs and Earth Care,” said an announcement. Special guest speaker Ray Wilson is chair of Indy Green Congregations and project leader for the Using Energy Prudently program, and will speak about the financial benefits of solar panel installation as well as the process for starting installation. RSVP by calling 260-482-8595.

-- Camp Bethel in Virlina District, located near Fincastle, Va., is hosting special 150th anniversary events this weekend, June 10-11. The program “150 Years of District Ministry” takes place on June 11 from 10:30 a.m.-12 noon, with guest speaker Andy Murray, the 2016 Annual Conference moderator and a native of Cloverdale Church of the Brethren in Botetourt County, Va. All are invited. Additionally, activities on June 10 include at 5:30 p.m. a Summer Staff Commissioning Dinner (for reservations contact 540-992-2940 or CampBethelOffice@gmail.com ); at 7-9 p.m. open pool; and at 9:30 p.m. campfire songs and s’mores. Events on June 11 also include at 5:15 a.m. a sunrise hike and devotions on Vesper Hill; at 7:30 a.m. Morning Watch at the Spring Pond; at 8 a.m. continental breakfast in the Ark (suggested donation is $8); at 9 a.m., and 1-4 p.m. a variety of games such as 9-Square-in-the-Air and GaGa Ball on the Ark Lawn or the Pool Lawn; at 2-4 p.m. open pool. Overnight lodging and camping are available, contact 540-992-2940 or CampBethelOffice@gmail.com .

-- At an interfaith prayer service on June 7, people from diverse faith communities issued a call to action to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, according to a World Council of Churches (WCC) release. “The call focuses on reducing stigma and discrimination; increasing access to HIV services; defending human rights; and ensuring testing and treatment for all, including children,” the release said. The service, held at the United Nations (UN) Church Center in New York, preceded a UN High Level Meeting on AIDS held on June 8-10. The service was presented by the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.


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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Stan Dueck, Debbie Eisenbise, Leslie Frye, Carl and Roxane Hill, Jeff Lennard, Rosanna McFadden, Chibuzo Kelvin-Shayne Petty, Darryl R. Sankey, Jesse Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, 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 June 17.

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.