“My covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:10b).
1) Statement from Annual Conference moderator, general secretary mourns cycle of violence in Syria
2) Camp cohort completes the Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar
3) Nigerian church holds annual conference after insurgency
4) Nigerian Brethren leaders make trip to Cameroon refugee camp
SPECIAL SECTION: CONCERNS OF IMMIGRANT BRETHREN
5) Intercultural leaders share concern for immigrant members: ‘The fears are real’
6) Please help them: Reflection of a Latino Brethren
7) Filipenses puede guiar a la iglesia en relación con personas indocumentadas
8) Philippians may guide the church in relating with undocumented people
9) God lives! Now repent and be faithful
10) Sing, sing, sing: A reflection to prepare for Palm Sunday
11) Brethren bits: Corrections, remembrances, personnel, job, SERRV offers tours on April 30, We Are Able workcamp seeks assistants, pre-NOAC gathering for pastors, Healthy Boundaries 101 training session, “Pray for CCS" asks Office of Public Witness, and more
Quote of the week:
“While we are reconciled to God and one another through the work of Christ, we reaffirm our convictions that militarization of conflict will not bring peace.”
-- From a statement on Syria by Annual Conference moderator Carol Scheppard and Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele. The full statement appears below, as story number 1 in this issue of Newsline.
1) Statement from Annual Conference moderator, general secretary mourns cycle of violence in Syria
“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).
“Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (Isaiah 32:16-17).
“The Church of the Brethren has consistently spoken to the sinfulness of war--of the human cost both in lives lost and lives irreparably changed, in the financial cost and the priority that military spending is given over humanitarian efforts, and in the cost to our souls as we rely on violence for our security rather than the vision of God.” --From the 2011 Annual Conference “Resolution on the War in Afghanistan” ( www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2011resolutionafghanistan.html )
As citizens under the reign of God, we mourn the violence of these days. We are appalled by the use of chemical weapons and the intentional targeting of civilians in Syria. Yet, as followers of the non-violent Jesus we know that the bombing by the government of the United States in response to Syria’s recent actions continues the cycle of violence. While we are reconciled to God and one another through the work of Christ, we reaffirm our convictions that militarization of conflict will not bring peace. And recognizing that violence is a way of the world that has yet to be fully redeemed, we commit ourselves to another way of living, to speak and work for peace in the righteousness of Christ our Lord.
Carol Scheppard, Annual Conference Moderator
David Steele, Church of the Brethren General Secretary
2) ‘God’s Green Earth’ witnesses to Creation care
By Jenny Williams
From food deserts to sabbath keeping, Bethany Seminary’s recent Presidential Forum and Young Adult Event touched on many aspects of our relationship with God’s creation. “Guests for God’s Green Earth, A Call to Care and Witness” gathered March 16-19 at the seminary campus in Richmond, Ind., for presentations, discussion, Bible study, and worship intended to generate new awareness, creative thinking, and communication about our impact on the planet we call home.
Although the diversity and complexity of creation care issues--well represented at this event--can generate questions, concern, and even discouragement, a sense of hope and engagement was present in word and thought throughout the weekend.”
Noted teachers, speakers, and activists joined Bethany faculty and students at the podium over the weekend, including Barbara Rossing of the Lutheran School of Theology and Betty Holley of Payne Theological Seminary. To address God’s vision for creation, Rossing began with the conclusion of the biblical texts: Revelation. Offering a message of hope, she spoke of the Bible’s message as being that the world is about to turn, not to end. For ancient people, the concept of apocalypse spoke to the imagination and not their fear. If we live into the alternative world provided by the apocalypse, we can grasp this amazing moment for the church in today’s world: helping others find abundant life. The image of the tree of life can convey the connectedness of creation, a vision for the earth as well as of heaven.
Betty Holley, an associate professor of ecological theology helped demonstrate the broad scope of the weekend’s theme with the Earth Charter, describing it as the “most inclusive civil society document ever negotiated.” Both a document and a movement, the Charter was completed in 2000 with the input of thousands of people worldwide. The themes of the Charter--respect and care for the community of life; ecological integrity; social and economic justice; and democracy, nonviolence, and peace--are defined by principles to which all can aspire, no matter one’s profession or walk of life. The Charter can help us develop a global ethic, and many practices and materials derived from it are being used around the globe.
Scripture was again the focus in two creation-themed Bible studies by Rossing and Dan Ulrich, Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies at Bethany. Focusing on Genesis 1, Rossing emphasized the original Hebrew wording: God saw that it was beautiful, from the diversity of life to the perfection of the atmosphere that enables life. Ulrich examined the opening verses of the Gospel of John from a first-century Christian mindset. Jewish poetry often paired the Word (logos) with wisdom (sophia), which was venerated as the means by which God created the world. With these terms and concepts present in John’s first chapter, we can read this Gospel as a witness for valuing creation.
The Bethany faculty was also represented by Nate Inglis, assistant professor of theological studies. He presented three viewpoints of understanding creation: ecological imperialism, the right to use creation as we wish; ecological stewardship, equating our own self-interest with God’s interest; and ecological kinship, seeing intrinsic value in the community of life as a whole. Listeners were guided to reflect with each other on their own creation views, and Inglis concluded with the relevance of Anabaptist values to the ecological kinship view: Being in relationship is essential to practicing one’s faith, and the well-being of others need not come at the expense of one’s own.
The relationship of science and faith was affirmed by two of the featured speakers. A PhD student in geographical science, Rachel Lamb is a young, impassioned voice for addressing climate change. Her defining moment came while observing Native Americans struggling with a changing environment, and through research and personal discernment, she found a vocational call. Realizing that her Christian identity included responsibility for protecting the world God created, she became a leader with Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. God’s command to love our neighbor means accepting responsibility for contributing to problems that less-advantaged people face; the call to be in right relationships means pursuing reconciliation with all of creation, having participated in its brokenness. She offered two fundamental responses for Christians: “Fight skepticism in pursuit of truth,” and “fight despair because we can claim hope.”
A seasoned professor of natural science at McPherson (Kan.) College, Jonathan Frye revealed how science can inform our ethics of natural resource stewardship. He began with an overview of scientific processes--describing them as the “most collaborative work in the world”--and noted how gathering information to formulate theories can impact personal attitude and conviction. As the source of our understanding of the natural world, science can help us approach stewardship with humility, cooperation, advocacy, and the assumption of responsibility for consequences.
The event was cosponsored by Seminary Stewardship Alliance (SSA), a consortium of schools committed to incorporating good stewardship practices into their educational objectives. Members of Bethany’s chapter, called Green Circle, helped bring Matthew Sleeth and A. J. Swoboda into the group of speakers. A former medical doctor who underwent a radical lifestyle change, Sleeth founded the creation care organization Blessed Earth, which launched SSA in 2012. In speaking about the importance and challenges of creation care ministry, he reflected on the references to trees and wood throughout scripture and the need to teach how they represent spiritual and relational connections.
Pastor, author, and professor A. J. Swoboda, executive director of SSA, challenged guests to truly observe the sabbath, part of God’s plan that is often overlooked as part of creation. As the only day of creation that scripture calls holy, this time of rest is necessary for well-being and even survival. Stories of his own family’s observance of sabbath illustrated how this concept is contrary to the culture we have created, a lifestyle damaging not only to ourselves but to other forms of life on the planet.
Bethany seniors Jonathan Stauffer and Chibuzo Petty, both involved with Green Circle at Bethany, addressed the social issue of food justice. Since World War II, the shift in farming to more corporate and industrial processes, the use of more petrol-based products, and a population exodus from rural communities have affected availability of food. Higher quality food goes to those who can pay, even though it may come from less food-secure areas. In addition to food deserts, we can refer to “food prisons” in urban areas--a lack of food due to socioeconomic and political forces rather than to a naturally occurring phenomenon.
For the past two years, Bethany senior and Green Circle member Katie Heishman has made a significant effort to live more simply by reducing her consumption of resources. She shared her story, describing her topic with the question, “What do homemade recipes, reducing waste, and unpackaged groceries have to do with following Jesus and loving our neighbor?” From refusing straws at restaurants to refusing paper handouts that are also online, she encouraged broader thinking about our endless consumption of resources. (Her experience is also described in a recent post on the Brethren Life & Thought blog at www.brethrenlifeandthought.org/2017/03/30/zero-waste-guest-blogger-katie-heishman .)
Second-year student Elizabeth Ullery Swenson acknowledged that starting a church plant during one’s first year in seminary is not something she would recommend. But the time was right for this venture, an innovative way to experience worship called WildWood Gathering in Olympia, Washington. Ullery Swenson gave listeners a taste of the WildWood community by leading them through a worship experience, with time for creative expression and mindfulness of the larger community of life surrounding them.
Bethany welcomed back teacher, lecturer, and scholar Frank Thomas as preacher for the closing worship service. Thomas is the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and is considered one of the most creative and prominent thought leaders of this generation. His sermon, “You Never Know What Will Be Required,” drew upon the words of Jesus in Luke 9:57-62. To those who would first attend to personal business when called to follow him, Jesus replies, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
God’s Green Earth opened and closed with panel discussions, dialog not just among panelists but with the audience. Guests also gathered in affinity groups to further explore the weekend’s topics with presenters. Acknowledgment of compassion fatigue, the possibility of Christianity coexisting with consumer capitalism, and suggestions for personal action are but a small sample of what guests prepared to take home with them. Perhaps these settings best represented how to begin answering the call to care and witness: listening, learning, and working together.
Writings from some of the presenters at “God’s Green Earth, A Call to Care and Witness” are being featured in the Brethren Life & Thought blog at www.brethrenlifeandthought.org
. Current and past posts are available.
“Can there be a healthy church on a sick planet? If you say yes, you have bought into a divorce between heaven and earth that is not biblical.” --Barbara Rossing
-- Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.
3) Camp cohort completes the Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar
A release from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership
The fourth and final retreat for the Camp Cohort of the Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar took place March 19-22 at Quaker Hill Retreat Center in Richmond, Ind. Congratulations to Barbara Wise Lewczak of Camp Pine Lake, Northern Plains District; Karen Neff of Camp Ithiel, Atlantic Southeast District; Linetta and Joel Ballew of Camp Swatara, Atlantic Northeast District; Jerri Wenger of Camp Blue Diamond, Middle Pennsylvania District; and Wallace Cole of Camp Carmel, Southeastern District.
They are pictured here with Janet Ober Lambert, the director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, and Julie M. Hostetter, the cohort facilitator and former executive director of the academy.
The Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar, which is funded by the David J. and Mary Elizabeth Wieand Trust, is the successor to the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.
The Camp Cohort’s final retreat included a session on “How Appropriate Use of Technology Can Enrich Your Outdoor Ministry Programs” led by Dan Poole, Bethany Seminary coordinator for Ministry Formation and director of Educational Technology, and Ryan Frame, computing specialist at Bethany Seminary and Earlham School of Religion. Hostetter led sessions on “Reframing Perspectives for Leadership” and “Visioning, Planning, and Evaluating.” Ober Lambert led a session on “Campfire Stories.” Joel Winchip, executive director of the Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association in North Carolina, met with the group via Zoom to talk about “The Ecumenical Future of Outdoor Ministry.”
The group celebrated the completion of the program with a special meal, the receiving of continuing education certificates and gifts, story sharing, and picture taking. Participants also shared updates on their in-context projects and shared a closing worship service that included communion.
4) Nigerian church holds annual conference after insurgency
By Zakariya Musa
The largest church denomination in northeastern Nigeria convened its annual conference at its Headquarters in Kwarhi, the first to be held there since the two years since the Boko Haram insurgency overran the area.
The Majalisa, the annual conference of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), was started 70 years ago. This year’s conference was titled “Peace with God.” As a peace church heavily affected by the insurgent activities, it is obliged to strengthen the church’s resilience to peace, reconciliation, and encouragement while many of its members return home from displacement.
EYN president Joel S. Billi for the first time since his election addressed the conference’s participants, about 1,500 from within and outside Nigeria.
The highest decision-making body of the 94-year-old church, the Majalisa presents reports and presents awards to the deserving members and pastors. Representatives of the World Council of Churches, the Church of the Brethren in the USA, Mission 21 from Switzerland, and the TEKAN president took part in the historic events. Others included the bishop of the United Methodist Church of Nigeria, the chairman of the Hong Local Government Area, and the Brethren Evangelism Support Trust (BEST).
The three-day conference started with a worship service on April 5, where Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren, preached. Guest preacher for the occasion was Philip A. Ngadda, who delivered his sermon based on Romans 5:1-5.
In more news from EYN
The denomination’s Agricultural Department has conducted workshops for representatives from farming communities to receive teaching on the importance and how to rear sheep and goats, and to train farmers in soybean production. The expectation is for participants to maximize farm management and production in their respective communities and improve income and livelihood. The effort is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative, and pushes to improve the Muslim and Christian farmers. The soybean production workshop was attended by 18 people, with about 50 percent women in attendance.
The EYN Women’s Fellowship (ZME) recently held its first Majalisa or annual meeting since the Boko Haram insurgency began. Titled “Let us forgive one another” (Luke 11:4), the gathering attracted good participation. Over 1,000 women from across the denomination within and outside Nigeria converged on the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi. The guest preacher was Salamatu Billi, wife of EYN president Joel S. Billi, and the national adviser of the Women’s Fellowship. ZME director Awa Moses chaired the meeting and urged women to forgive and remain one reflecting on the text from John 17:21-22.
The Minister’s Council inducted to-be-ordained pastors in a three-day seminar organized at the EYN Headquarters, Kwarhi, for candidates who were confirmed for ordination into probation and into full ministry. The candidates who were invited from across the church benefited from presentations on numerous related topics, such as “Pastor as an Administrator,” “The Work of a Pastor,” “Pastor’s Home,” and other practical aspects of ministry. EYN general secretary Daniel Y.C. Mbaya, one of the resource people for the seminar, encouraged the 196 candidates with their wives to be dynamic and effectively absorb the changing world in their pastoral duties. EYN president Joel S. Billi encouraged churches to strategize evangelism work and to be united in preaching the gospel. “Even if it means mounting Public Address Systems at a market square, let’s preach Jesus,” he said.
After the Minister’s Council the Men’s Fellowship of EYN also converged on Kwarhi for an annual three-day conference themed, “The Man God Uses.”
-- Zakariya Musa is on the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
5) Nigerian Brethren leaders make trip to Cameroon refugee camp
By Markus Gamache
I was privileged to travel to visit a Christian and Muslim refugee camp in Cameroon. The president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) Joel S. Billi, the general secretary, administrative secretary, EYN spiritual adviser, and and six others including myself traveled to Minawawuoa in Maruoa Province, Cameroon, to visit a refugee camp on March 11.
This camp was established on July 2, 2013, by Ali Shouek with 851 people from Gwoza Local Government Area in eastern Nigeria, mostly Christians. After two months the United Nations Committee on Human Rights Commission (UNCHRC) took over. The refugee camp is now under the control of UNCHRC through the government of Cameroon.
The refugee camp is a world of its own. There is no end to the camp, to human eyes. It is very large and over populated. The current population is about 32,948 Christians, and a total estimated number of Muslims of about 15,000. Out of this number, our church has up to 16,728 members. Up to 13 places of worship belonging to EYN are within the refugee camp. The camp has different church bodies as well, and they all have their places of worship. There is a mosque for the Muslims also.
They are facing some challenges, as are other camps. There is the issue of rape against women. The women are facing high rates of rape whenever they go out to the bush to fetch firewood. Some youth have been killed by Cameroon’s indigenous people. There are signs of hunger. Feeding is becoming a problem after having large numbers of people for years. Medical care, not enough toilet facilities, and water for domestic use is more critical. There is no place for farming, and no other thing to do. More immorality and crime among the refugees themselves are on the increase.
But, generally, I sincerely appreciate the effort of the people handling the refugees. They are sincerely doing all their best to satisfy them, but the number is big.
It is the refugees’ prayer that the Nigerian government, churches, mosques, and other related bodies reduce the population of the camp by taking them back to Nigeria. Widows, orphans, and those who are disabled or wounded by guns are ready to come back now for safety and proper feeding. The biggest challenge is that they are mostly from Gwoza, with only a few from Madagali, and these are places where it is not safe to return.
Our interfaith effort and the church need to talk more about how to address the issue. It is very clear that to start this process is a big task, but we will try and see the road ahead.
-- Markus Gamache is the staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
SPECIAL SECTION: CONCERNS OF IMMIGRANT BRETHREN
This is a first Newsline special section highlighting the current climate for immigrants and refugees, and how it is affecting the Church of the Brethren, its congregations, church leaders, and individual church members. Newsline hopes to be able to present upcoming special sections to continue sharing stories of immigrant Brethren, and Church of the Brethren DREAMers, among other reports anticipated for future issues.
6) Intercultural leaders share concern for immigrant members: ‘The fears are real’
By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Pastors of intercultural congregations are working to serve church members who are immigrants during a time when the nation’s immigrant community is feeling threatened. Leaders connected with the Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministries are expressing concerns for the wellbeing of immigrants--documented and undocumented--in their congregations.
No one knows how many Church of the Brethren members are undocumented, or how many congregations have members who are undocumented, said Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries and staff of Congregational Life Ministries. “We don’t have a way of knowing this or tracking it,” she said.
Kettering’s best guess is that there are more than 20 congregations who have members and attendees who may be undocumented or in deferred status or have family members who are not documented and vulnerable. Most often these are majority Hispanic/Latino congregations, majority Haitian congregations, and perhaps congregations that have been welcoming refugees or displaced Nigerians.
“However, we are also hearing from youth pastors in congregations that we think of as ‘traditional, Anglo’ Brethren congregations because the youth reflect the diversity of their community--in districts as diverse as Atlantic Northeast, Virlina, Atlantic Southeast, Pacific Southwest, and everything in between,” Kettering said. In this she includes youth and young adults who may be “DREAMers” in various churches.
So called because of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act first introduced in the Senate in 2001 as a means for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as children to gain a pathway to permanent legal status, “DREAMers” are young people who were brought to the country as children without documentation, but have grown up as Americans, have assimilated to the culture, and have been educated in US schools. In 2012 the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program was introduced to provide some form of temporary relief to the “DREAMers.”
Churches where “DREAMers” are worshiping have become “real sanctuaries” for these young people, Kettering said. Being accepted by a welcoming congregation offers young “DREAMers” a sense of community, she said, and the church becomes a resource for their increased success both at home and in school.
Kettering emphasized that the current anti-immigrant feeling and the uptick in racism and hate crimes is not just affecting undocumented church members but also others. She has heard about Church of the Brethren pastors and congregational leaders who have been racially profiled--asked if they are citizens in both official and non-official settings because of their ethnicity. In one case, the person being stopped has been a US citizen for decades.
Her emphasis at the moment? “Co-creating answers” for dilemmas faced by immigrant church members in cooperation with congregations interested in becoming sanctuary churches. Find an invitation to this effort at www.brethren.org/news/2017/intercultural-ministry-connects-with-sanctuary-jurisdictions.html .
‘Incredible prejudices are being unleashed’
Their congregation is about one-third Hispanic, with a number of families from Guatemala, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. The rest of the church “is a mix,” and includes people with experience of living in Latin America. Some members are US citizens, some are documented immigrants, others are undocumented--with some in a very vulnerable situation because they are in the process of gaining documentation and legal status. Some members of the church have no possibility of a legal pathway to citizenship.
It seems like an understatement to hear these pastors, Irvin and Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, say about their intercultural congregation: “We’re feeling a bit of a pinch.”
And it is not just undocumented people in the church who are feeling the pinch, the Heishmans emphasized. US citizens in the congregation have been affected by anti-immigrant sentiment. “Incredible prejudices are being unleashed,” said Irvin, and church members are suffering the emotional effects. He remembers one desperate call from a church member who was in the midst of “a complete emotional breakdown,” and had to counsel the person over the phone. Another church member, a US citizen who works as a factory supervisor, has been the recipient of racist comments at work, and fears he is being stalked by the police.
The group showing the most stress is the children. A goal for these pastors is to find ways to support the church’s children, and allow them to talk about their fears. “The fears are real, that their parents might be deported,” Nancy said. Undocumented parents have been making plans for “worse case scenarios” by choosing guardians for their US-born children in the event that they are deported, and finding trustworthy people to give power of attorney to safeguard their property and belongings in the US. The church has been arranging for attorneys to help immigrant families understand their rights. Undocumented immigrants “do have some rights,” Nancy said, but the political landscape “is changing so fast that people don’t know what they can and can’t do.”
The congregation is setting up a legal aid fund to help immigrant members. “A lot of Americans don’t understand how incredibly expensive it is to gain legal status,” Irvin said. He estimates a cost of $5,000 to $7,000 per person for attorney fees and other expenses. This is beyond reach for some families. Others can afford to seek documentation for only one parent. Some families have put only the father through the process of gaining legal status, leaving the mother and children vulnerable to deportation.
For one family with a legitimate case to seek asylum in the US--they had fled outright violence in their home country--“the process was brutal,” Irvin said. It included a prohibition on working, and a prohibition on having a driver’s license, among other things that prevented the family from being able to support themselves. In this case, the church stepped up to provide financial assistance. “If it hadn’t been for the church, they wouldn’t have made it,” Irvin said.
“Each story is different,” he added. “The decisions to leave family and homeland to go to a strange place are difficult. We tend to blame the individuals by using the term illegal, but the real fault can be laid at the door of systems created by governments, which make so many people vulnerable.”
The church’s leadership team is considering how to make a solid statement of support for all its members. However, there are worries about making a public statement because sanctuary churches may become targets for immigration enforcement. When the church considered taking down a sign that says “Bienvenidos” on one side and “Welcome” on the other, they decided not to, however. “No, we don’t give in to fear.”
While grieving for members living under threat, the pastors see one bright spot of hope: the opportunity for evangelism through a clear welcome to the immigrant community. “Think about the potential for growth,” said Nancy. Churches across the denomination “could be growing if we are willing to provide the kind of welcome Jesus would offer. There’s a hunger for that kind of welcome right now.”
“In reality, someone of a different color or who has a different name could be susceptible” in this anti-immigrant political climate, said Carol Yeazell. She is on the pastoral team of a Church of the Brethren congregation that includes members from a wide variety of national backgrounds. The congregation includes “DREAMers” as well. One of these young church members is “routinely afraid” of what may happen to her and her family.
“Definitely for certain people there’s a sense of anxiety, a sense of concern,” she said, but that feeling is not keeping people from coming to church. She interprets that as a sign that the threat of mass deportations is not yet immediate. “They might voice their anxiousness but at this point I don’t see anyone in real distress or facing [immigration authorities] knocking on their door.”
In her opinion, the nation needs to rectify the whole issue of immigration. “If the law is to be kept, it should be done fairly and justly,” she said.
She herself has been working on immigrant concerns for many years, both locally and as an advocate for intercultural ministries across the denomination. For example, some years ago she helped church members avoid road blocks that had been set up by a county sheriff who chose to aid ICE immigration enforcement although he was not required to. “I didn’t want any of them to have a problem unnecessarily,” she explained.
In another example, her church has helped the family of a church member who was deported some years ago because documentation had been filled out incorrectly. The woman’s family remained in the US, and so she missed her children’s graduations, and a family wedding. When such concerns surface among church members, “we do what we can to assist,” Yeazell said.
Asked whether undocumented people may join the church seeking some kind of “cover,” she asserted, “They’re not coming to church as a cover up.” One man recently brought a friend to church, a co-worker who had gotten into drugs and alcohol and realized he needed Christ in his life. No one questioned his motives, she said. “It was obvious that a major transformation had come to him.”
Her church does not ask about documentation, “because that’s not our purpose. We’re not in the church determined by our race or color or legality, but because of our relationship with Christ.”
‘It is heartbreaking’
The situation of “DREAMers” in his district is heartbreaking, said Russ Matteson, district executive minister for Pacific Southwest District of the Church of the Brethren. In one congregation, half of a youth group numbering about 40 are “DREAMers.” This same dynamic is playing out in other congregations in the district, as well.
He told the story of one “DREAMer” who has been active in the district and at Annual Conference, “a bright kid who wants to go to pharmacy school.” Accepted into a pharmacy program at an out-of-state college where “DREAMers” are welcomed, the decision to leave family and move several states away at this time is a difficult one.
Families of “DREAMers” are experiencing a complicated mix of concerns, Matteson noted. The parents may be undocumented, with older children who are “DREAMers,” and younger children who are citizens born in the US. In some families, there are further complications such as parents who come from two different countries. Often various individuals in the same family have very different immigration status.
How does a district executive serve intercultural congregations at this time? Matteson tries to keep in touch with pastoral leaders to “keep apprised of the ways that families are feeling the impact and effect of what’s going on.” He is concerned to do this “without raising the alarm about things that aren’t happening yet,” for example the threat of mass deportations. He wants to help the district focus on “what we know, rather than what we fear.”
People from majority white congregations in the district have been asking how to help. Matteson emphasizes the need to first listen to the immigrant community and learn from them how to be supportive.
His district also includes people concerned about how undocumented people are breaking the law. Concern about the legalities may change when people “encounter a sister or brother in crisis in the same denomination,” he said. “They realize that they are serving in district positions together and on the same committees. The more people get to know and understand the complexities of the situation the more they understand it is not an easy thing to resolve,” he said.
The only criteria to serve in district leadership is to be a member of a Church of the Brethren congregation in the district, he noted. “The documentation we need is: you are a sister or brother in Christ.”
He knows that some congregational leaders he works with are undocumented, and he feels deeply for their situation. “Your heart breaks, these are people I know and love.”
-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren, and associate editor of “Messenger” magazine.
7) Please help them: Reflection of a Latino Brethren
By Daniel D’Oleo
The result of the presidential election and the politics in regards to immigration issues has impacted America in so many ways. Being a Latino pastor in a country where the Latino population reaches close to 60 million people gives me the opportunity to not only share the gospel in Spanish, but also to be concerned with the issues that affect my community.
My heart feels for those who are facing the uncertainty of their current immigration status. Moreover, I am writing from the bottom of my heart to present a plea for my brothers and sisters who at this time are concerned with their future and the future of their children. My intention here is to beseech my own denomination to intentionally reach out and help the Latino community in United States.
The Church of the Brethren is known for the size of its heart in regards to social issues, humanitarian concern, and humane relief. It is in our DNA to respond to injustice, be concerned with people in need, and help those without a voice. Since we have the heart for those who are suffering, it will come naturally that we as a church respond to the current situation with the love of Christ to the many families affected by deportations. It seems to me that we have been silenced to this issue, thus losing the opportunity to preach the gospel of love in the language we know best: helping others in need.
We have helped people in other countries during hurricanes, tsunamis, and arson, yet it seems to be that we have failed to see and respond to needs of the Latinos in our own back yard. For instance, “The Obama administration deported 414,481 unauthorized immigrants in fiscal year 2014.... [also] A total 2.4 million were deported under the administration from fiscal 2009 to 2014, including a record 435,000 in 2013,” according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the data.
The question is this: are we as a church ready to see this reality not as a political issue, but as an opportunity to minister to those who are in need? Are we ready to be intentional in reaching out to the largest minority group in this country? Are we ready to establish an office, focused to deal with the social and spiritual issues of the Latino community? Could our congregations make a meaningful presence in our communities by providing a welcoming space? Can our congregations become a part of a social/spiritual movement in which the gospel of Christ is taught with a serving love that breaks all language barriers?
Here is an example of what I have been experiencing: A couple of weeks ago I picked up six of the kids who normally come to our Wednesday night program. The difference this time was that the conversation among them became a bit intense due to the current immigration news we have been experiencing. I noticed that the conversation among them became more and more political as they discuss the future of their parents, if they were to be deported.
That is when a nine-year-old boy with a Honduran undocumented mother said to me, “Pastor, my mother told me that if she was deported I should go and live with you. Can we?” At the exact moment, his little sister also asked the same question: “Pastor, will you let us stay with you? “My immediate response was, “But of course!”
But as the days passed I began to reflect on what had happened. I pondered; what is the true role of the church toward those with whom we minister? Where do we draw the line? Are we only interested in their eternal future or are we also concern for the struggles they are experiencing?
As an immigrant myself, having had four different visas and having to wait almost 25 years in this country before becoming a United States citizen, my heart feels for those who may never have that privilege--no matter how long they wait. I can honestly say that my denomination played an important part in helping me get the legal documents needed to establish my life and make my future in this country. I am not only an immigrant, I am also the product of what a loving church can do for those who struggle with a broken immigration system.
After more than 20 years of being a Latino pastor in this country, I see the need for our denomination to do more. We can be united in a nation-wide program to alleviate members of our Latino congregations in this country. We can create venues in which we support Latino immigrant families left behind without their bread winners. We can redirect money invested in failing programs to nurture social outreach program sponsored by our Latino congregations. My plea is for those whom we are pastoring and who are afraid of even driving to church or being in large gatherings. So, let us:
a. Find ways to provide free immigration consultation for Latino immigrants in our communities.
b. Partner with Latino Church of the Brethren congregations in their efforts responding to Latino social needs.
c. Open the doors of our congregations for Latino community events such as quinceañeras, baby showers, birthday parties, etc. (This will extend our love and show that we are concerned more about people than our buildings).
d. Challenge the members of our congregations to know and be friends with the Latinos in their neighborhoods.
e. Find volunteers in our congregations who would teach English classes, tutor, or even provide interpretation for Spanish speakers.
f. Do a congregational “Latino small business support day”: gather 20 to 40 people from a congregation and go to a Latino grocery store and purchase something all at the same time.
g. Adopt a family. Find out how possible it would be for a congregation to adopt and support a single Latino mother. Some mothers are now the sole bread winners for their families, because their husbands have been deported and they are left with the children.
I believe our denomination has a huge potential to minister to the immediate needs of the Latino community in this country. We must be sensitive to what is happening around us and in our congregations. Please listen to the plea of a Latino Brethren. Let us help our brother and sisters.
I am a Latino Brethren and this is my reflection!
-- Daniel D'Oleo is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and a leader and pastor in the Renacer movement of Latino congregations.
8) Filipenses puede guiar a la iglesia en relación con personas indocumentadas
Por Irvin Heishman
Filipenses es un buen recurso para la iglesia para consultar, ya que reflexiona sobre cómo responder a los indocumentados que viven en nuestro país. El escritor primario de la carta, el apóstol Pablo, no era muy diferente de muchos Mexico-Americanos de hoy. Era un ciudadano, pero muchos de su pueblo no lo eran.
Como judío de Judea que vivía en el extranjero, Pablo entendía la experiencia de los inmigrantes. Su pueblo proviene de “poblaciones colonizadas y dispersas” (“Believers Church Bible Commentary: Philippians” por Gorgan Zerbe, p.51). La ley romana hacía tan difícil obtener la ciudadanía que sólo el 10 por ciento de la población disfrutaba de sus beneficios (Zerbe, pág. 281).
Muchos miembros de las primeras iglesias eran esclavos no ciudadanos y “trabajadores indocumentados” pobres. Algunos sin embargo, especialmente en Filipos, habrían sido ciudadanos con el poder social necesario para construir una buena vida para sí mismos dentro del imperio. Pablo desafió a estos miembros en lugar de tener la mente de Cristo qué en “no consideró el ser igual a Dios como algo a qué aferrarse. Por el contrario, se rebajó voluntariamente, tomando la naturaleza de siervo y haciéndose semejante a los seres humanos. Y, al manifestarse como hombre, se humilló a sí mismo y se hizo obediente hasta la muerte, ¡y muerte de cruz!” (Filipenses 2:6-8).
Pablo se identificó no con los ciudadanos, sino con los esclavos, honrando así la humildad de aquellos en sus iglesias sin estatus. La carta se abre de esta manera: “Pablo y Timoteo, esclavos de Jesucristo” (Filipenses 1:1).
Los cristianos con ciudadanía debían declarar su estatus privilegiado “basura” (Filipenses 3:8). Pablo hizo esto pero tuvo que tener cuidado de usar palabras codificadas. Después de todo, era su ciudadanía romana la que “lo mantenía vivo por un hilo” (Zerbe, p.210). Declarando su ciudadanía romana “basura” habría sido suicida (Zerbe, p.210). Así que Pablo habló solo de sus credenciales de Judeanas cuando declaró: “Y todo lo que he obtenido, he venido a considerar como pérdida por causa de Cristo” (Filipenses 3: 7).
Era peligroso cambiar la lealtad de la ciudadanía terrestre a la celestial como ésta, no importaba cual cuidadosa se declarara. Cristo era un rival político de César que se proclamaba digno de adoración en los templos y festivales romanos como “hijo de Dios, salvador del mundo” (Zerbe, p. 308).
Las leyes de ciudadanía en el reino de Cristo crean un tipo de comunidad marcadamente diferente de la de los imperios terrenales. Cuando dejamos que las leyes del cielo determinen a quiénes damos la bienvenida y ofrezcamos refugio en nuestras iglesias, bien podemos encontrarnos en desacuerdo con las autoridades terrenales.
No es el estado secular que merece nuestra lealtad final como cristianos. Un nuevo cuerpo político, la iglesia, se está formando con Jesús como Señor. Como Pablo dijo: “En cambio, nosotros somos ciudadanos del cielo, de donde anhelamos recibir al Salvador, el Señor Jesucristo” (Filipenses 3:20). Este tema se recoge en Efesios que declara: “Por lo tanto, ustedes ya no son extraños ni extranjeros, sino conciudadanos de los santos y miembros de la familia de Dios” (Efesios 2:19). Esta es la buena noticia que tenemos que proclamar cuando invitamos a los indocumentados en la carne a unirse a la nueva comunidad política de Jesús, donde pueden recibir sus documentos de ciudadanía celestiales.
Siguiendo los ejemplos de Pablo y Jesús, los hermanos hoy deben humillarse por el bien de Cristo reclamando su identidad como descendientes de la fe de los primeros hermanos que fueron inmigrantes a las colonias Americanas. Como pueblo migrante, nosotros, los Hermanos, no debemos reclamar ningún estatus terrenal que nos clasifique como más merecedores de privilegios que cualquier otro. No, nuestra misión es invitar a otros a venir y obtener la ciudadanía celestial con nosotros.
Así, como “brethren” y hermanas, “siguen firmes en un mismo propósito, luchando unánimes por la fe del evangelio” (Filipenses 1:27).
-- Irvin Heishman es un ministro ordenado y pastor en la Iglesia de los Hermanos, que anteriormente sirvió como trabajador misionero en la República Dominicana. Lupita Hernandez Lozoya asistió con la traducción.
9) Philippians may guide the church in relating with undocumented people
By Irvin Heishman
Philippians is a good resource for the church to consult as it ponders how to respond to undocumented people living in our country. The letter’s primary writer, the Apostle Paul, was not unlike many Mexican-Americans today. He was a citizen, but many of his people were not.
As a Judean Jew living abroad, Paul understood the immigrant experience. His people came from a “colonized and dispersed people” (“Believers Church Bible Commentary: Philippians” by Gorgan Zerbe, p. 51). Roman law made it so difficult to obtain citizenship that only the top 10 percent of the population enjoyed its benefits (Zerbe, p. 281).
Many members of the early churches were non-citizen slaves and “undocumented” working poor. Some though, especially in Philippi, would have been citizens with the social power needed to build a good life for themselves within the empire. Paul challenged these members instead to have the mind of Christ who “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
Paul identified not with the citizens but with the slaves, thus honoring the humility of those in his churches without status. The letter opens this way: “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1).
Christians with citizenship were to declare their privileged status “rubbish” (Philippians 3:8). Paul did this but had to be careful to use coded words. After all, it was his Roman citizenship that was “keeping him alive by a thread” (Zerbe, p. 210). Declaring his Roman citizenship “rubbish” would have been suicidal (Zerbe, p. 210). So Paul spoke only of his Judean credentials when he declared, “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ” (Philippians 3:7).
It was dangerous to shift loyalty from earthly to heavenly citizenship like this, no matter how carefully it was stated. Christ was a political rival to Caesar who proclaimed himself worthy of worship in Roman temples and festivals as the “son of God, savior of the world” (Zerbe, p. 308).
Citizenship laws in Christ’s kingdom create a markedly different kind of community from that of earthly empires. When we let heaven’s laws determine whom we welcome and offer refuge to in our churches, we may well find ourselves at odds with earthly authorities.
It is not the secular state that deserves our ultimate loyalty as Christians. A new political body, the church, is being formed with Jesus as Lord. As Paul said, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). This theme is picked up in Ephesians which declares, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). This is the good news we have to proclaim as we invite those undocumented in the flesh to join the new political community of Jesus where they can receive their heavenly citizenship documents.
Following the examples of Paul and Jesus, Brethren today should humble themselves for the sake of Christ by reclaiming their identity as faith descendants of the first Brethren who were immigrants to the American colonies. As a migrant people, we Brethren must claim no earthly status that would rank us as more deserving of privilege than any other. No, our mission is to invite others to come and obtain heavenly citizenship with us.
Thus as “hermanos” and sisters we “stand...firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
-- Irvin Heishman is an ordained minister and pastor in the Church of the Brethren, previously serving as a mission worker in the Dominican Republic.
10) God lives! Now repent and be faithful
By Carol Scheppard, Annual Conference moderator
Scriptures for study: Zechariah 1:1-6 , Jeremiah 29:1-14
“Risk Hope,” the 2017 Annual Conference theme, emerges as a recurring chorus from an Old Testament saga of tragedy and redemption--the story of Israel’s progressive descent into and emergence from exile. Staring down obstacles and situations very reminiscent of our 21st century challenges, our ancestors in faith made mistakes, suffered consequences, and endured darkness, but in the midst of it all they found their footing in their identity story, and ultimately welcomed God’s powerful presence in their midst. That presence launched them on a new path to abundance and blessing.
Last month we stood with Ezekiel to hear God’s history lesson. Through Ezekiel, God reminded the people that God had delivered their ancestors from exile in the past and can deliver them as well. This dead people can rise again. From the time of Abraham God has called God’s people to abundance and blessing if they can but walk in God’s ways and keep God’s commandments. This month we hear some simple instruction for setting out on that path.
Read Zechariah 1:1-6.
The opening verse sets our context--Zechariah is from a priestly family and has been called as a prophet to the people in Babylon during the reign of King Darius. His name, Zechariah, means “Yahweh has remembered” and it underscores God’s faithfulness. Ezekiel called the people to remember God’s promises to their ancestors and God’s deliverance of the exiles in Egypt. Zechariah, by his very name, reassures them that God’s promises to the ancients hold for them as well. Yes, Zechariah tells them, The Lord was very angry with your ancestors who did not hear or heed and continued in their evil ways and evil deeds. But God says to them, Return to me…and I will return to you. Zechariah reports, so they repented and said, “The Lord of hosts has dealt with us according to our ways and deeds, just as he planned to do.” How astonishing is that simple sentence! So they repented and said, “The Lord of hosts has dealt with us according to our ways and deeds. We are responsible for the mess we are in, and we are sorry.”
Can you sense the pause there? The quiet time for the people to recognize their role in their own demise, and to feel remorse. That quiet space is the point of all turning. The moment when the people give up all of their excuses, their “Yes, buts,” their claims to righteous indignation and simply let God be God. That quiet space is the portal to all possibility--the opening on a new beginning, a new chapter for the relationship between God and God’s people.
Read Jeremiah 29:1-14.
One of the challenges to full repentance in exile had been the false prophets who, predicting a short stay in Babylon, encouraged the people to revolt. The prophet Jeremiah condemned those reports and rallies, and pressed the hard reality--the exile is going to last a while, so get used to it. Exile is the new normal.
So what should the People of God do?
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. Tend to the everyday business of living, making the very best of the situation you are in. Jeremiah’s letter answers the question Ezekiel faced: Can these bones live? Jeremiah says, “Yes, if they stop acting like they’re dead.”
In the film The Shawshank Redemption, the prisoner Andy tells his friend and fellow prisoner Red that the secret to having hope during a long period of darkness comes down to a
“simple choice.” One must choose to “get busy living or get busy dying.” Jeremiah tells the exiles the same thing. “Get busy living.” But, Jeremiah adds, living is not enough. The exiles must “get busy living” specifically as God’s people.
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. God has sent you, God’s people, to a faraway land, but you are still God’s Chosen and God’s Servants. Do the work of the Lord in this foreign land with this foreign people, and God will bless you in their midst. For all you know, God may have prepared you specifically for this work at this time in this place.
History played out the truth in Jeremiah’s advice and projections. The work the exiles did to prosper in Babylon, to be the Chosen of God and the Servant of God in the land of the Chaldeans, to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land, did indeed bear much fruit. Their hope and dedicated worship of God proclaimed “Our God Reigns” in the midst of their captors. The stories and texts they collected, copied and collated established an experienced account of God’s work in the world that would go on to ground a new era for Judaism in the return to the Promised Land. And, their new understanding of their role as the Servant of God--to be the light to the nations--pointed directly to the coming of Jesus the Christ.
Questions for consideration:
-- We know that repentance is an essential part of our faith walk, yet we find it difficult. What kind of tactics do we use to avoid full repentance? What do those tactics accomplish? Why do we persist in avoiding that hard look in the mirror?
-- With reassurance of the steadfast love of Christ, true repentance can bring new life, provide a fresh perspective, or open a new path forward. Can you think of stories from the Bible or from your own life where repentance helped open access to new life?
-- The writer of Ecclesiastes says, To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; ...a time to mourn, and a time to dance. How do these words apply to God’s people in exile? How do they apply to the challenges we face in our world today?
-- Jeremiah instructs the exiles to seek the welfare of the city, to work for the good of their captors and to pray to God on their behalf. How does a captive people following Jeremiah’s advice accomplish the work of God? Can you think of other times in history when a captive people provided a powerful witness for Christ? There are some who would claim that the Persecuted Church is, in fact, the best witness for Christ. Do you agree? Why or why not? What implications does such a perspective have for our work in the world today?
11) Sing, sing, sing: A reflection to prepare for Palm Sunday
By Theresa Eshbach
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 118:26a).
Arrange the festal branches.
Open the doors, the windows, the gates.
Vocalize! Prepare a mighty chorus. Flood the streets with alleluias:
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
How can we sing a hymn of praise,
When Chibok girls, Syrian children, sex-trafficked slaves, homeless addicts, and broken families
Remain hostages--separated, ostracized, bound?
How can we enter a joyful parade, process, and sing:
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”?
How can we not remember God’s faithfulness?
Like the Jews preparing for Passover, how can we not prepare for our Jerusalem journey?
Will we overlook God’s presence when we are faced with a cross?
Will we forget God’s endless streams of mercy and steadfast love?
“The Lord is my strength and my might.”
We must sing!
We will not fail to join the mighty chorus for the One who comes to join us in our weakness.
We will remember God’s never-ending love and medicine of mercy.
“Blessed is the one who comes to us in the name of the Lord.”
O Lord, you are my God, and I will give thanks and praise to you in all of life’s circumstances.
-- This is the April 8 meditation from “Medicine of Mercy: Devotions for Ash Wednesday Through Easter” by Theresa Eshbach, this year’s Lent devotional from Brethren Press. For more about the annual Lent and Advent devotional booklets published by Brethren Press, go to www.brethrenpress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=8496 .
SERRV will offer tours of its Distribution Center at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., on April 30 preceding the afternoon Worship Service for the Upper Campus. The Worship Service at 4-5 p.m. will be a closing event for the Upper Campus portion of the Brethren Service Center property. Sale of the Upper Campus is expected to be completed in May. The service will be held outdoors on the lawn, weather permitting; please bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating. From 2:30-3:30 p.m. tours will be offered of the office and warehouse facilities on the Lower Campus, which will continue as the Brethren Service Center. Included in the tours will be the SERRV Distribution Center and the offices and warehouse facilities of the Church of the Brethren’s programs Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, and Material Resources. SERRV’s small store that serves volunteers in the Distribution Center also will be open with a display of products during this tour time. For more information or questions contact the Office of the General Secretary at 800-323-8039.
12) Brethren bits
A recent Newsline story that listed Nigeria Crisis Response partners in Nigeria, incorrectly included WYEAHI. That group is no longer being sponsored for 2017, reports Roxane Hill, coordinator for the Nigeria Crisis Response.
Newsline’s mention of the “Forum on Poverty” held on March 23 named the host church incorrectly. The event was held at Canton (Ill.) Church of the Brethren.
In an item on Pearl Beard’s 100th birthday, the name of the retirement community where she lives was named incorrectly. It is Cross Keys Village--The Brethren Home Community (CKV-TBHC).
-- Jacob Calvin (J.C.) Wine, Jr., 102, died on March 12. He and his late wife, E. Jean Weaver Wine, served with the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria, and in numerous congregations throughout the South and in Atlantic Northeast District. He had been called to the ministry when he was 18 years old. He was born Sept. 11, 1914, near Meridian, Miss. He was the son of Jacob Calvin Wine, Sr., and Mary Ellen (Thornton) Wine, and the foster son of Edward and Bertha (Hoover) Culler. He attended Bridgewater (Va.) College, received a bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State College, and held degrees from Bethany Seminary and Temple University. In 1941 he married E. Jean Weaver and they began married life by accepting pastoral leadership of First Church of the Brethren, Johnson City, Tenn. His career continued with various pastorates, serving in education and the public school system, and serving as district representative for the Church of the Brethren in Tennessee and Alabama. In 1949, the couple were called to serve as houseparents at Hillcrest School in Jos, Nigeria, for seven years. On returning to the US they settled in East Petersburg, Pa., where he returned to church ministry, began an 18-year career teaching psychology at Millersville State College (now a university), and worked independently as a clinical psychologist. Following retirement, he filled numerous interim pastorates. He was preceded in death by his wife, Jean, in 2006 after almost 64 years of marriage. He is survived by daughter Jeanine Wine of North Manchester, Ind., a granddaughter and great-grandchildren, and by foster daughter Phealay Thiak of Charlotte, N.C., and her children. Memorials are received to East Petersburg Faith Outreach, c/o Hempfield Church of the Brethren, and the Nigeria Crisis Fund of the Church of the Brethren.
-- Manny Diaz died on April 3 in Pennsylvania. He served a brief term on the staff of the former Church of the Brethren General Board in 1997-98, as a Congregational Life Team (CLT) member for the denomination’s Area 4 serving the plains states.
-- Todd Knight has been hired as administrative assistant for institutional advancement at Bethany Theological Seminary. He has a decade of experience in fundraising management, including donor solicitation and communication and database maintenance. He has worked for nonprofit organizations in the Richmond, Ind., area including Right Sharing of World Resources and Wernle Children’s Home, and also the City of Richmond Engineering Department.
-- Camp Bethel’s Food Services coordinator, Brigitte Burton, will enter law school this fall. Her last day at the camp will be July 31. “We celebrate with a big ‘Thank You!’ to Brigitte for seven excellent years of service in Camp Bethel’s Ark Dining Hall,” said a note from camp director Barry LeNoir.
-- Camp Bethel seeks a full-time salaried Food Services coordinator. The camp is located in Fincastle, Va., in the Church of the Brethren’s Virlina District. Culinary experience or training is required, and staff management experience is preferred. This position is available beginning May 30, and must be filled no later than July 1. The new employee will overlap and work with the current Food Services coordinator until July 31. A starting benefits package includes $29,000 starting salary, optional family medical insurance plan, a pension plan, and professional growth funds. Read the online application instructions, a detailed position description, and more at www.CampBethelVirginia.org/jobs or e-mail questions to Camp Director Barry LeNoir at Barry@CampBethelVirginia.org .
-- The Church of the Brethren seeks individuals to fill two open support positions in the offices of the Brethren Disaster Ministries domestic rebuilding program and Children’s Disaster Services (CDS. The positions are located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.
The responsibilities of the rebuilding program assistant include providing volunteer management, program support, administrative and clerical support to the director, and assisting with program interpretation. Required skills and knowledge include administrative office skills, ability to relate with integrity and respect, strong interpersonal and written communication skills, ability to manage multiple simultaneous priorities, ability to learn and competently utilize new software, ability to keep information and records confidential, and ability to uphold and support the basic beliefs and practices of the Church of the Brethren. An associate’s degree or high school graduation with equivalent work experience is required, as is proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, particularly Word, Excel, and Outlook.
Responsibilities of the CDS program assistant include supporting the programming and administration of CDS; providing administrative, programming, and clerical support to the associate director; providing support for volunteers, volunteer training, and response; and assisting with general administration of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Required skills and knowledge include administrative office skills, ability to relate with integrity and respect, strong interpersonal and written communication skills, ability to manage multiple simultaneous priorities, ability to learn and competently utilize new software, ability to keep information and records confidential, and the ability to uphold and support the basic beliefs and practices of the Church of the Brethren. An associate’s degree or high school graduation with equivalent work experience is required, as is proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, particularly Word, Excel, and Outlook.
Applications are being received and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the positions are filled. Request an application form by contacting Human Resources Manager, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; email@example.com .
-- The World Council of Churches (WCC) seeks a program executive for the Ecumenical United Nations Office in New York. Start date is June 1 or as soon as possible. This full-time position reports to the director of the Commission of Churches on International Affairs and deputy general secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia. Responsibilities include coordinating the Ecumenical United Nations Office; building relationships with others involved in the UN system and with the WCC team in Geneva, Switzerland; analyzing trends and issues in the UN agenda relevant to the concerns in the ecumenical movement; engaging the ecumenical movement in advocacy, action, and reflection on behalf of the WCC and with member churches and other ecumenical partners; facilitating the advocacy role of leaders in the ecumenical
movement. Core competencies include capacity to lead and facilitate ecumenical engagement in the forums and processes of international governance, in particular at the UN, based upon a deep ecumenical commitment and understanding of the role of churches and faith-based organizations in international relations, and expert knowledge of the intergovernmental system. See www.oikoumene.org/en/get-involved/job-openings/vacancy-pe-wcc-ecumenical-un-office-in-new-york .
-- The We Are Able workcamp is currently searching for assistants (ages 18-plus) for the upcoming 2017 workcamp July 10-13 in Elgin, Ill. This workcamp provides an opportunity to serve in a community of persons of all abilities. Those who are studying to teach those with developmental disabilities, and/or want an experience where service is rooted in personal relationships will find it particularly rewarding. Recently money has become available to help offset the cost for assistants to attend the workcamp. More information about the We Are Able workcamp is available at www.brethren.org/workcamps . If you or someone you know is interested in attending as an assistant, please contact Emily Tyler, coordinator of the Workcamp Ministry, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-429-4396.
-- “If you are a member of a Church of the Brethren congregation that is mostly aged 50-plus, please let your pastor know of a special pre-conference opportunity hosted by the Office of Ministry,” said an invitation from the National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) office. Pastors are invited to arrive for NOAC in Lake Junaluska, N.C., on Sunday evening Sept. 3, spend the night, and then attend a day-long professional growth event focusing on congregational vitality. “Please encourage your pastor to come and then stay for the week,” the invitation said. More information is available from the Office of Ministry at 800-323-8039 ext. 381 or email@example.com .
-- A Healthy Boundaries 101 training session will take place on Monday, May 8, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Eastern time), with a one-hour lunch break. This is an entry-level ministerial ethics training provided for Bethany Seminary and Earlham School of Religion students entering ministry formation placements, and also is suitable for EFSM, TRIM, and ACTS students and newly licensed or ordained ministers who have not yet taken ministerial ethics training. The morning focus will be on healthy boundary issues: Part One: Boundaries, Power, and Vulnerability; Part Two: Dating, Friendships, Dual Relationships, and Gifts; Part Three: The Pulpit, Transference, Hugging and Touch, Intimacy; Part Four: Personal Needs and Self-care, Red Flags, and Final Reflections. The topics of social media, the Internet, and finances will be explored briefly. The afternoon session focuses on Church of the Brethren-specific materials: a review of the 2008 Ethics in Ministry Relations Paper, a PowerPoint overview of the process, and more. The registration deadline is April 21. Go to www.bethanyseminary.edu/brethren-academy .
-- “Pray for Christian Citizenship Seminar 2017, which will feature the theme ‘Native American Rights: Food Security’ on April 22-27,” said an Action Alert from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS) is a week-long event bringing high school youth and adult advisors to New York and Washington, D.C., to learn about a current issue and how to speak with legislators. This year, CCS will relate to programs like Lybrook Community Ministries, an independent not-for-profit organization charged with re-vitalizing the ministries of the historic Lybrook Mission of the Church of the Brethren. Originally formed in 1952, the ministry has an outreach with the surrounding Navajo community. Lybrook Community Ministries “has had a significant and continuous impact” said the Action Alert, noting that it currently also is involved with Going to the Garden, a Brethren initiative that “works to effectively address food insecurity locally through support for community gardens while also encouraging education and action on related broader problem like environmental degradation.”
-- The Action Alert from the Office of Public Witness also calls on church members to observe April 22 as International Earth Day, a day dedicated to Earth conservation and Creation care. One aid for the effort is Creation Justice Ministries (CJM), which offers “great educational resources that can help to create pivotal points in your contribution to keeping God’s earth clean,” the alert said. Download a “Care for God’s Creatures” resource from www.creationjustice.org/creatures.html and find other resources at www.creationjustice.org/educational-resources.html .
-- “Save the date!” says an announcement of an Advocacy Summit of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), shared by the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. The event will take place in Washington, D.C., on June 4-6. “Join us for three days of training/education and meetings with congressional offices. Ask Congress to make peace, justice, and security for ALL Palestinians and Israelis a priority,” said the announcement. CMEP expects constituents from all over the country to attend. More information and registration is at www.cmepsummit.org . In related news, the executive director of CMEP, Mae Cannon, will be the speaker for the Global Mission and Service luncheon at Annual Conference this summer in Grand Rapids, Mich.
-- On Wednesday this week, Bethany Theological Seminary welcomed Annual Conference moderator Carol Sheppard to the campus in Richmond, Ind., according to a note from president Jeff Carter. She preached on “Whom Do You Serve?” (Isaiah 7:1-17 and 8:11-13, 16-18) and joined the seminary for a common meal after worship, and a meeting with students.
-- “Please join us for an Online Orientation to Kingian Nonviolence,” said an invitation from On Earth Peace. The Online Orientation takes place April 20-June 1, Thursdays, at 6 p.m. (Eastern time). For a full description and registration go to https://goo.gl/forms/KiOROF3rH0kQqDhE3 . A one-hour online informational call about the course via webcam is offered on Thursday, April 6, at 6 p.m. (Eastern time). Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the connection information. A face-to-face introduction to Kingian Nonviolence will be held in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday, June 28, in advance of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. For information and registration go to https://goo.gl/forms/69LzlYEfT5QuUqgx1 .
-- On Earth Peace Environmental Justice intern Annika Harley has interviewed Pablo Fajardo in a Facebook Live event posted online on April 5. Fajardo is “the leading lawyer in the 23-year-long class action lawsuit against Chevron-Texaco, which began after Chevron intentionally dumped billions of liters of toxic wastewater into streams and rivers in the Ecuadorian Amazon,” said an announcement of the event. “This interview will be centered around how this case parallels other cases of environmental injustice around the world including the Dakota Access Pipeline and more. The interview will be conducted in Spanish and an English transcript will be made available following the interview.” Find the recorded interview at www.facebook.com/onearthpeace .
-- Southern Ohio District on March 25 held a Dessert Auction to raise funds for the Nigeria Crisis Response. The funds will help with a tractor project, reports coordinator Roxane Hill. “Plans for the project include two tractors, one around Abuja area and one for the Kwarhi area. The tractors will assist in clearing larger tracts of land and special co-ops are being formed for planting and harvesting. This larger scale farming will result in more crops; this food will be shared with others or sold for use by the co-ops to pay for medical costs and school fees.” The fundraising event was held at Salem Church of the Brethren, planned and hosted by the Salem and Potsdam congregations. Hill gave a presentation following a light soup and salad dinner. Special guest for the evening was Annual Conference moderator Carol Scheppard, who shared some stories from her visit to Nigeria in December. Both speakers emphasized the continuing needs in Nigeria. About 80 people attended, and the group raised $6,400.
-- Shenandoah District is again hosting a Kit Depot to receive donations of school kits, hygiene kits, and emergency cleanup buckets for Church World Service. “Just bring your finished kits and processing fees to the Brethren Disaster Ministries Center,” said an announcement. The center is adjacent to the District Office at 1453 Westview School Road, Weyers Cave, Va. It is open to receive donations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday through May 11, with the exception of Easter Monday, April 17. For the current list of items for the kits, go to www.cwskits.org .
-- “Raingardens and Pollinators” is the theme for a Senior Day on April 19 at Camp Eder near Fairfield, Pa. Meet and greet begins at 9:30 a.m. followed by morning activities and lunch, which is included. The afternoon program starts at 1 p.m. Find out more at www.campeder.org/events-retreats/senior-citizens-days .
-- Paul E. Mundey, a visiting scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary and former pastor of Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, will deliver the message at Bridgewater (Va.) College’s baccalaureate service on Friday, May 19, at 6 p.m., on the campus mall. The title of his message is “It's All a Game, Isn’t It?” Mundey is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and has been a pastor, church administrator, writer, speaker, and teacher for more than 40 years. In addition to guest lecturing in classes, he is working on a number of writing projects, including a manuscript on time and faith and a devotional book on the Sermon on the Mount. During the 13 years prior to his pastorate at Frederick, he served on the denominational staff as director of evangelism and congregational growth, and staff for Korean ministry. He established and directed the Andrew Center, a multi-denominational resource organization that fostered congregational development and renewal. Dr. Mundey also developed “Passing on the Promise,” a national church renewal program used by more than 400 congregations. He is currently a member of the board of trustees of Bridgewater College, moderator of Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren, and a member of the Church Extension and Evangelism Committee and Ministerial Ethics Assessment Task Team of the Mid-Atlantic District.
-- Irma Gall, the first woman to graduate with a degree from the peace studies program at Manchester College, now Manchester University, is returning to the campus to speak on “From Peace Studies to Service in the Mountains of Eastern Kentucky.” The presentation takes place in the upper level of the Jo Young Switzer Center on the campus in N. Manchester, Ind., at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11. It is free and open to the public. Gall graduated from Manchester College in 1955. In 1958, she co-founded the Lend-A-Hand Center, a nonprofit community organization that continues to serve the needs of the Stinking Creek watershed in Knox County, Ky. She has worked in rural Appalachian Kentucky for more than 60 years, teaching in one-room schoolhouses, pioneering War on Poverty programs, promoting health education, providing health services, and coordinating youth and agricultural activities, said a release from the school. Gall’s presentation is part of the Values, Ideas and the Arts series at Manchester, designed to offer academic credit to undergraduate students who, through the process, gain cultural exposure, artistic experiences, and intellectual enrichment. Find an online release with directions to campus and related information at www.manchester.edu/about-manchester/news/news-articles/gall-via-2017 .
-- Death Row Support Project (DRSP) director Rachel Gross has announced that pen pal assignments have reached the 10,000 mark. DRSP began in 1978 with the support of the Church of the Brethren Washington Office and continues to be supported through the Global Mission and Service Office. In 39 years, over 7,500 individuals have responded to Jesus’ call to visit those in prison, by requesting the name of someone on death row for correspondence. About 4,200 death row prisoners, including 2,500 of those currently on death row, have been assigned pen pals by DRSP. To learn more visit www.brethren.org/drsp .
-- “The Season of Joy” is the Easter Season resource from Spring of Living Water initiative for church renewal. Find the folder on the website at www.churchrenewalservant.org . The season begins with Easter Day, April 16, and concludes on Pentecost, June 4. The folder offers daily readings of the Bible text, with a daily topic to get readers started on their time of devotion. “Renewal was the theme in the early church; sightings of the risen Lord were celebrated, and baptisms were performed,” said an announcement of the new resource. “As we go through this season of Joy may it be one of joy for being able to serve the Risen Lord.” For more information on Springs events at Annual Conference and the Springs Academy for pastors, which starts Tuesday morning, Sept. 12 via telephone conference calls, e-mail email@example.com .
-- Last week, the “Circle of Protection” gathered in front of the US Capitol for prayer and a press conference to oppose proposed cuts in social programs that provide assistance to people in need, according to a report from the National Council of Churches. In addition to the NCC, the circle includes the National Association of Evangelicals, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sojourners, Bread for the World, the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, and other groups. “We also met with members of the US Congress and their staffs to drive the point home,” said the report from NCC general secretary and president Jim Winkler. NCC board chair Sharon Watkins commented, “A federal budget that takes away from our neighbors, food, shelter, medicine, schools, air to breath and water to drink--a budget that guts SNAP, Medicaid, health care, the environment, education, diplomacy, and foreign aid--a federal budget that channels those same resources to an unnecessary military spending increase and gives tax cuts for those who already have more than enough--is an immoral budget. It’s not America at our best. We can do better.” Find the report in the NCC’s most recent e-newsletter at http://newsletters.getresponse.com/archive/ncc_newsletter/NCC-Weekly-News-Fighting-for-a-Moral-Budget-425041705.html .
-- The AME Zion Church has “made history” with its efforts to establish the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, N.Y., according to a report from the denomination. AME Zion Church leaders joined with the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc., and the National Park Service in the effort. A signing ceremony for the new historical park was held in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 10 at the US Department of the Interior. The National Park Service acting director Michael Reynolds presided, and former Department of Interior secretary Sally Jewell gave remarks “explaining the role of the National Park Service as the nation’s storyteller, and how important it is, now more than ever, for Tubman’s story to be known to all,” said the report. Find out more at www.soznews.org/single-post/2017/02/20/AME-ZION-Makes-History-The-Harriet-Tubman-National-Historical-Park-Established .
-- A joint north-south Easter prayer has been created by the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and the Korean Christian Federation (KCF), the two ecumenical Christian bodies in North Korea and South Korea. The prayer expresses the joy of the resurrection and the sorrow of 70 years of separation between South and North Korea, said a release from the World Council of Churches. “We have lost the hopes of ‘becoming one with God,’ and have sought after earthly goods instead of peace,” reads the prayer, in part. “Clear away the pain-filled memories of separation, and also the rusty barbed-wires.... Lord, help us first open our firmly closed hearts, so that we can embrace each other with tenderness. Let us sow the seeds of tolerance, love and service, and with God’s blessings, may that land bear much fruit, and bless our people with a life full of joy and harmony.” The WCC is encouraging people around the world to join in the prayer, which calls for a life of harmony and peace on the Korean peninsula. “We encourage you to share it with your communities and to use it in Easter services where it is appropriate.” Find the WCC release and a link to the full text of the prayer at www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/joint-north-south-korea-easter-prayer-published .
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Joshua Brockway, Jeff Carter, Jenn Dorsch, Jan Fischer Bachman, Markus Gamache, Emerson Goering, Anne Gregory, Rachel Gross, Matt Guynn, Mary Kay Heatwole, Katie Heishman, Roxane Hill, Julie Hostetter, Barry LeNoir, Fran Massie, Zakariya Musa, Carol Scheppard, David Steele, Emily Tyler, Jenny Williams, Jeanine Wine, David S. Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.