Brethren bits for Feb. 25, 2017




For the latest Brethren news go to the main Newsline page

-- Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) reports that its team of volunteers who were working with families and children affected by evacuations in Oroville, Calif., have returned home. “They were a team on the move, following the river flow downstream from the Oroville Dam area to Sacramento to San Jose,” said a CDS Facebook post yesterday. “Shelters closed as families were able to return home. The team cared for 106 children and also for each other! Thank you to the volunteers who were able to go and to other volunteers who were willing to be in the next group to go if the need for services had continued!” For more about the ministry of Children’s Disaster Services go to www.brethren.org/cds .

-- Brethren Disaster Ministries has published its Winter 2017 newsletter, available online as well as in print. This issue includes updates on the Nigeria Crisis Response and work in Haiti responding to Hurricane Matthew, as well as 2016 statistics for the domestic rebuilding program and Children’s Disaster Services, and a wrap up of the project site in Detroit, among other articles. Find the newsletter at www.brethren.org/bdm/files/bridges/bridges-winter-2017.pdf .

-- Global Mission and Service this week is requesting prayer for three initiatives for Church of the Brethren mission around the world: this weekend’s Asamblea, the annual conference of Iglesia de los Hermanos (Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic), meeting on the theme of resting in God’s grace based on 2 Corinthians 12:9; a gathering of ministers affiliating with the developing Brethren group in Venezuela, where organizers expect 200 people from 64 churches and ministries to attend a conference that will include continued instruction in Brethren beliefs and practices and discussion on how to further develop and organize the church; and a trip to Nigeria by Church of the Brethren members Carol Mason and Donna Parcell who will be recording interviews and take photographs for a future book project in partnership with Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The vision of the book is to paint a large-scale picture of the crisis of violence in northeast Nigeria featuring narratives from EYN denominational leaders, pastors, and displaced persons.

-- An insightful article about Boko Haram by Charles Kwuelum, a Nigerian man now working in Washington, D.C., who grew up in the neighborhood of young men who joined the Nigerian insurgent group, is recommended by the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. The article is published by Sojourners. Find it at https://sojo.net/magazine/march-2017/my-neighbor-boko-haram .

-- “Looking ahead to spring!” announced the newsletter of the Shine curriculum published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia. The Spring 2017 quarter includes the season of Lent and Easter, and begins on Sunday, March 5. “The curriculum invites children to explore Jesus’ journey to the cross and the wonder of his resurrection as told by Matthew and John,” said the announcement. “After Easter, Primary through Junior Youth will have a series of six stories under the theme ‘God Cares for the Weak.’ Both Old and New Testament stories help children and youth know that God cares for the weak and powerless, and calls each of us to do the same. In late spring, preschool children hear stories from both the Old and New Testaments that encourage them to ‘Follow the Way of Peace.’” To order curriculum call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

-- On Earth Peace is planning a Palestine Witness Delegation to focus on conflict transformation, nonviolent social change, and community building in the West Bank. The announcement of the delegation in the agency’s e-mail newsletter noted that the Palestine Witness Delegation “focuses on the Israel-Palestine conflict from the Palestinian perspective. Delegates will have the rare opportunity to experience first-hand the interlocking complexities of Israeli occupation and apartheid, and explore the conditions which must be addressed to achieve a realistic, sustainable, and just peace in the region.” Participants will experience local immersion through an intensive two-week program, with local service providers and guides; engage in interdisciplinary, intersectional, and holistic dialogue through daily reflections, group debriefing, and seminars; hear a wide diversity of Palestinian and Israeli perspectives; build spiritual solidarity rooted in Christ, across cultures, religions, and nations; among other aspects of the trip. The delegation will travel in August, with specific dates to be announced. Cost is $1,990 including all in-country expenses. The cost excludes airfare and travel insurance. To learn more contact coordinator Sarah Bond-Yancey at impact@onearthpeace.org .

-- The National Council of Churches (NCC) has denounced recent anti-Semitic incidents and is condemning the rhetoric that fuels such acts in a statement released this week. “We stand firmly with our Jewish brothers and sisters during this difficult time,” the statement said, in part. “As a community of 38 Christian communions in the United States, the National Council of Churches continues to pray and work for a nation in which all persons may freely worship as they wish without fear.” The NCC statement notes the sharp rise in threats made against synagogues and Jewish community centers. “There have been at least 67 incidents at 56 Jewish Community Centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the beginning of 2017. This week, bomb threats were called in to Jewish organizations across the nation, and a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri, was vandalized,” the NCC said. The statement also lifted up the “acts of love, moral courage, and solidarity among faith groups in response,” citing Jewish community leaders aiding members of a mosque that was destroyed in an apparent arson in Victoria, Texas, and Muslims raising funds to repair the Jewish cemetery that was vandalized. “We encourage churches to reach out to Jewish communities being threatened and offer similar acts of friendship and solidarity.” Find the full statement at http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/statement-on-recent-anti-semitic-incidents .

-- Henry Fork Church of the Brethren in Rocky Mount, Va., is teaming up with Living Waters Assembly of God to provide a free meal to seniors, reports the Franklin News-Post. The once-a-month meal is prepared by master chef Robert Iuppa. The event has attracted as many as 100 people to share in food and fellowship. Read the article at www.thefranklinnewspost.com/news/seniors-enjoy-good-food-and-fun/article_baeedb4a-fa98-11e6-a900-ab49dcbfbdbc.html .

-- Holmesville (Neb.) Church of the Brethren has returned to an old practice of holding a “Founders Day” program each spring. On March 4, the congregation invites all interested persons to an afternoon event beginning with a lunch at 12 noon followed by two afternoon sessions and a hymn sing. The first session from 12:45-2:15 p.m. is on “The Power of Words” presented by Dylan Dell-Haro. The hymn sing will take place from 2:15-2:45 p.m. The second session from 3-4:30 p.m. is on “Unity in the Church” presented by Alan Stucky.

-- Manchester Church of the Brethren in N. Manchester, Ind., is hosting a concert by Friends with the Weather on March 11 at 7 p.m. The group is founded by singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalists Seth Hendricks, Chris Good, and David Hupp. They will be joined by drummer/
percussionist Dan Picollo and trumpet player Ross Huff. Admission is free; an offering will be taken. More information can be found at www.friendswiththeweather.com .

-- A member of Plymouth Church of the Brethren in South Central Indiana District, Kate Finney, has published a collection of children’s stories that she has presented in worship at the church. The book is titled “Worship With Kids! Sunday Morning Worship Stories for Children of All Ages.” Additionally, she is hosting the website www.worshipwithkids.net where she adds a new story every other week, and is developing a community page where others can contribute and collaborate. Contact her at worshipwithkids@gmail.com .

-- “Great news!” said the Western Plains District newsletter. “We have now reached $166,305 in donations to the Nigeria Crisis Fund!” The newsletter reported that the district has achieved 83 percent of a goal of raising $200,000. “Would it not be great to celebrate meeting our goal at District Conference?” the newsletter asked.

-- McPherson (Kan.) College is offering a Ventures course exploring the season of Lent, on Saturday, March 11, 9 a.m.-12 noon (central time). Steve Crain, pastor of Lafayette (Ind.) Church of the Brethren, is leading the event. He is “passionate about Christian spirituality and will help deepen our bonds of spirituality,” said an announcement. The title for the course is “Christ Is My New Me: A Lenten Exploration” (Galatians 2:19-20). A goal is for course attendees to explore the depths of what Paul means, interpret the passage in its context, ponder how spiritual teachers have understood it, and open hearts to its meaning for here and now.  Ventures in Christian Discipleship is an online program of McPherson College, designed to equip church members with skills and understandings for faithful and dynamic Christian living, action and leadership. All courses are free, but donations are welcome to help continue this effort. Registration information is available at www.mcpherson.edu/ventures

-- A group of Bridgewater (Va.) College students and a faculty member “will trade suntan lotion and swim suits for hammers and tool belts as they spend spring break volunteering as construction workers with Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge Spring Break 2017,” said a release from the college. The students are accompanied by Dr. Jason Ybarra, assistant professor of physics, and Louis Sanchez, admissions counselor. They will work in Hattiesburg, Miss., on March 5-11. Lauren Flora, a junior art major from Bridgewater, is serving as the student leader for the group. She is making her third Habitat trip. She has participated in Spring Break Collegiate Challenges in Athens, Ala., and Tucker, Ga. Flora said that one of the best and most rewarding parts of the experience for her is working alongside the family who will soon live in the house being built. “I get to see the joy and dedication they have and that always makes the long workdays worth it,” she said. This is the 25th year that Bridgewater College students have used spring break to work on various Habitat projects, including three trips to Miami and one each to Atlanta, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Independence, Mo. and Austin, Texas.

-- “Lent is just around the corner and it’s not too late to sign up for GWP's annual Lenten Calendar!” said an announcement from the Global Women’s Project. To order a free paper copy send an e-mail to cobgwp@gmail.com , or request to receive a page-a-day by e-mail.

-- The Death Row Support Project directed by Church of the Brethren member Rachel Gross recently published a review of the state of the death penalty across the country last year. “It is a time of optimism and hope of the possibility of the abolition of the American death penalty,” the project’s February newsletter reported, adding however, that “in 2016, setbacks tempered that hope. Some troubling initiatives were voted in during the recent presidential election. The outlook isn't entirely bleak, and there is some good news that will hopefully lead to change and reform in the future.” The project reported a continued downward trend in executions and death penalty sentencing. In 2016 there were 18 executions, down from the previous year’s 28, and “along with the above reduced numbers, national death penalty support was at its lowest in 50 years, with polls showing 40 percent of the nation against it.” However, the report noted setbacks in Oklahoma, Nebraska, California, alongside good news from Florida, Texas, Oregon, Washington, and Alabama, and an announcement from drug company Pfizer that it will not allow its drugs to be used in lethal injections. Find the newsletter at http://support.brethren.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=36240.0 . Contact the project care of Rachel Gross, Director, P.O. Box 600, Liberty Mills, IN 46946; www.brethren.org/drsp ; www.facebook.com/deathrowsupportproject ; www.instagram.com/deathrowsupportproject  .

-- Joel S. Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), has spoken out about the Nigerian government’s war on corruption. According to the Nigerian newspaper “The Guardian,” Billi said in a statement during EYN’s ministers’ conference that, “As a church, we support the anti-corruption crusade of the Federal Government, but the war against corruption should be executed within the ambit of the law.” Billi warned that an agency for fighting corruption may be seen as a government tool for witch-hunting opposition party members in the country. “He further urged the government to intensify efforts to ensure that the remaining Chibok girls are released,” the newspaper report said. Find it online at https://guardian.ng/news/your-anti-corruption-war-is-lopsided-church-leaders-tells-buhari .

-- “Standing at the threshold of the Sustainable Development Goals, the World Council of Churches (WCC) believes it is time for the church to reaffirm the role it has played over centuries as leader in global health, and to consolidate efforts towards health and healing for all,” said Dr. Mwai Makoka, WCC program executive for Health and Healing, in a WCC release. At a meeting in Lesotho next week, the WCC is starting the process of developing a Global Ecumenical Health Strategy, following the legacy of churches’ high profile in health care and mission historically. “The church has been engaged in health services for centuries,” Makoka explains, “and has insisted through the years that there is a unique Christian understanding of health and healing which should shape the way churches provide healthcare. The church realised and affirmed early, that health is more than medicine, more than physical and or mental well-being, and that healing is not primarily medical,” Makoka added. The consultation will bring together church leaders from Africa, heads of African Christian health associations, and church organizations from Europe and the USA. A second consultation will follow in May at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.

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