Brethren bits for Feb. 8, 2018




 The Trail Welcome Bench at Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of the Brethren
 “Come unto me and I will give you rest” is the theme scripture for a Trail Welcome Project at Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of the Brethren. The church “has taken that biblical invitation to heart, working with the city to place a bench along the Spirit Trail,” reports the Missouri and Arkansas District newsletter. “Spirit Trail, a biking and walking trail in Warrensburg which runs along the north side of church property, will eventually go through Knob Noster State Park and reach Whiteman Air Force Base. The bench is part of the church’s Trail Welcome Project. Plans are to further develop a labyrinth and create a landscape/garden surrounding the bench. The church has already received expressions of gratitude from the city and from runners and walkers from the community who have appreciated a place to sit and rest along the trail.”

-- Remembrance: Lois Baumgartner, 99, of Elgin, Ill., passed away on Jan. 16 at Hospice in Strongsville, Ohio. She was an employee of the former Church of the Brethren General Board from 1960 until her retirement in 1984. She held various positions during more than 20 years of service for the church, working in the former Central Services office, the former World Ministries Commission, and retiring from the Office of Human Resources. A full obituary is posted at www.legacy.com/obituaries/dailyherald/obituary.aspx?pid=187936186 .

For the latest Brethren news go to the main Newsline page

-- Vita Olmsted has been hired by the Church of the Brethren as director of Information Technology for the Information Services department at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. She is a graduate of the University of Phoenix, where she earned a bachelor’s degree and a master of Management Information Systems. Most recently she worked with the Center: Resources for Teaching and Learning in Arlington Heights, Ill. She begins her work on Feb. 19.

-- Mishael Nouveau is the new program assistant in the Church of the Brethren’s Ministry Office. She brings experience as an executive administrative assistant and also as an operations manager in previous employment settings. She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in the field of business and management, and a master of divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. She is a resident of South Elgin, Ill.

-- The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry has named assistant coordinators for the 2019 season: Lauren Flora and Marissa Witkovsky-Eldred. Flora, of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren, will graduate from Bridgewater College in May with a degree in art and a concentration in digital media. Witkovsky-Eldred, originally from First Church of the Brethren in Roaring Spring, Pa., graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2015 with a double major in botany and zoology. The two will begin their work in August.

-- The Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) seeks applicants for its Archival Internship Program to develop interest in vocations related to archives and libraries and/or Brethren history. The program will provide the intern with work assignments in the BHLA and opportunities to develop professional contacts. Work assignments will include processing archival materials, writing descriptive inventories, preparing books for cataloging, responding to reference requests, and assisting researchers in the library. Professional contacts may include attending archival and library conferences and workshops, visits to libraries and archives in the Chicago area, and participation in a Brethren Historical Committee meeting. BHLA is the official repository for Church of the Brethren publications and records, located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Term of service is one year, beginning in June (preferred). Compensation includes housing at Church of the Brethren volunteer house, stipend of $550 every two weeks, and health insurance. A graduate student is preferred or an undergraduate with at least two years of college. Other requirements include an interest in history and/or library and archival work, willingness to work with detail, accurate word processing skills, ability to lift 30 pound boxes. Submit a resume to COBApply@brethren.org , Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039, ext. 367. All submissions must be completed by April 1.

-- The World Council of Churches (WCC) seeks a field and security officer for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The program was founded in 2002 in response to a call from the local heads of churches in Jerusalem and brings internationals to the West Bank for a protective presence, accompaniment, and international advocacy. The position is based in Jerusalem and responsible for analyzing and monitoring the political and security situation in Israel and Palestine (East Jerusalem and the West Bank), evaluating socio-political developments and their implications for EAPPI, the role and safety of personnel and placement priorities, advising the local program coordinator on changing trends and shifts in priorities, training and guiding personnel as they carry out the placement priorities, and disseminating output from personnel to designated partners locally, among other responsibilities. Among others, qualifications and special requirements include at least five years of experience in the West Bank, understanding of Palestinian and Israeli history, knowledge of the political context, commitment to collaborate towards a just peace in Palestine and Israel, commitment to ending the illegal occupation, a university degree in a relevant field, and knowledge of and familiarity with the church bodies in the Holy Land and the three Abrahamic religions. The deadline for applications is March 1. For more information contact the Human Resources Department at recruitment@wcc-coe.org . Find out more about the application process at www.oikoumene.org/en/get-involved/job-openings . The WCC is an equal opportunity employer.

-- Meetings have been held this week in Nigeria between leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and representatives of the Church of the Brethren and Mission 21. The group is discussing the EYN Disaster Response team’s 2017 report and proposed 2018 budget. Representing the Church of the Brethren was Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, who also has planned meetings with agricultural representatives to discuss EYN’s soybean project and with leaders of the EYN Women’s Ministry to discuss livelihood programs for widows.

Goats are distributed in Nigeria
Photo by Zakariya Musa / EYN

Goats are distributed in Nigeria

-- Goats have been distributed in Nigeria through a “Small Ruminant Project,” reports Zakariya Musa of the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Another set of beneficiaries have received goats through this project that is a collaborative effort between EYN’s agricultural program, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Global Food Initiative, funded through the Nigeria Crisis Fund. The project provided “eight beneficiaries with one goat each last year. Some have gained two or one more kids over the season and have shared them with the new set of beneficiaries, who will also share them out next year,” Musa reports. The beneficiaries are mostly EYN staff. Addressing the audience at this year’s goat-giving event, EYN president Joel S. Billi charged the beneficiaries to “maximize what has been given to them, encouraging that the project would grow.”

-- Global Mission and Service is requesting prayer for victims of violence in Syria, where civil war rages on between government and rebel forces. “Fighting has escalated recently, killing hundreds of civilians,” said the prayer request. “Air strikes by the Syrian and Russian governments have killed at least 47 people this week. The United Nations is investigating reports that government forces also dropped bombs of chlorine gas on civilians in rebel-held areas. Pray for those who mourn the loss of loved ones. Pray for the injured and the displaced. Pray for a ceasefire so that much-needed humanitarian aid can be delivered. As impossible as it may seem, pray for a permanent peace in Syria.”

-- “Tell the government your service story!” invited the Office of Public Witness, in a recent action alert. Citing scripture texts including Luke 6:27-28 and Matthew 7:12, and Annual Conference statements about peace, the alert invites church members to submit comments to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, which has been established to study the current draft requirements and to propose changes to the draft and national service system. “Their mission is ‘to recommend ideas to foster a greater ethos of military, national, and public service to strengthen American democracy,’ and is meant to consider the need for ‘increased propensity for military service’ among Americans,” the alert says. It encourages submission of comments “to urge the commission to highlight the benefits of non-military service, in programs like Brethren Volunteer Service and AmeriCorps. Are you a conscientious objector? Have you served in a service program like Brethren Volunteer Service or AmeriCorps? Have you seen a community positively impacted by national volunteer programs? This is a great opportunity for you to share your story and impact the focus of this commission.” Submit comments at www.inspire2serve.gov/content/share-your-thoughts . Find the action alert at http://cob.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?em_id=37117.0&dlv_id=45210 .

-- Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) director Dan McFadden is one of the featured speakers on the most recent Dunker Punks podcast. Joining him on the podcast is Dana Cassell, pastor of Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren in Durham, N.C. The two exchange stories from BVS throughout the years. “Find out why BVS will ‘ruin your life’ in the best way possible,” said an announcement. The Dunker Punks podcast is an audio show created by more than a dozen Brethren young adults across the country. Listen to the latest at http://bit.ly/DPP_50 or subscribe on iTunes at http://bit.ly/DPP_iTunes .

-- Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya will be a special guest at the Gathering Chicago on Sunday, Feb. 11, at 5 p.m. The Gathering is a local and global prayer center ministry and new church plant of Illinois and Wisconsin District, based in Hyde Park. Participants will gather for a dinner and prayer service, “praying especially for our Church of the Brethren friends, congregations and ministries globally and locally,” said an invitation. “In particular, we ask you and your churches and ministries to be welcome to send your prayer requests and prayer petitions by Feb. 9 to gatheringchicago@gmail.com that we may join in prayer with and for you.... If you are able to join us in person, please let us know.” LaDonna Sanders Nkosi is the convening pastor for the project.

-- First Church of the Brethren in Pottstown, Pa., will celebrate its 100th anniversary on May 20. The church began as a mission church of the Coventry Church of the Brethren. The morning worship service led by pastor Scott Major will be at 10 a.m., with a luncheon following at noon. A celebration anniversary service inviting former pastors and members to attend with the theme “100 Years of Serving Jesus” will be at 2 p.m. Four stained-glass windows from the original 1888 Methodist church building have been restored and will be hung in the current church building. The windows will be dedicated during the celebration. A skit entitled “100 Years in the Making” will be performed and a remembrance time will be offered.

-- Children have participated in creating a design for the Tree House community playground that will be hosted by Lititz Church of the Brethren, reports the Lititz Record Express. The church and partner Play By Design unveiled plans for the “all-inclusive playground designed by local children during Tree House Design Day,” the newpaper reports. Also partnering in the project is Warwick School District. Special features that “only a child could come up with” include a round entrance through the center of a tree trunk, a pirate ship, a telephone, a wheelchair swing, towers based on the four seasons, a maze, a twisty snake slide, a fireman’s pole, and a preschool area with a tunnel and mushrooms, among others. Jim Grossnickle-Batterton, pastor of spiritual care at the Lititz Church, was one of the church members who went with a designer to interview elementary school children. “Modeling empathy and inclusion with our children, building these things into their play, helps them believe that working and existing in a cooperative manner with all kinds of people is possible even when the world outside the playground tells them otherwise,” he said. The playground is be constructed later this year with volunteer labor and funding organized by the church and community. Find the article at http://lititzrecord.com/news/kids-hand-designing-tree-house-playground . Find out more about the playground at http://treehouselititz.com .

-- Eleven people from Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren in Mifflinburg, Pa., are in the Dominican Republic this week to work on a new church building in the village of La Batata, reports pastor Eric Reamer in the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter. “This is the fourth consecutive year that Buffalo Valley has been in the Dominican Republic and each year has provided valuable time to make connections with our Dominican brothers and sisters,” the newsletter reports. “This trip also provides an opportunity to serve with Jason and Nicole Hoover, Church of the Brethren missionaries to the Dominican Republic. We ask for your prayers that God's plans for this trip will be accomplished.”

-- Shenandoah District has announced formation of a Blue Ribbon Committee, to meet throughout 2018. The task of the committee is “focusing on ways our congregations can covenant anew to work together through divisions that threaten our unity as followers of Christ,” said the district announcement. The committee will be chaired by Jon Prater, pastor of Mt. Zion/Linville Church of the Brethren and immediate past chair of the District Leadership Team. Other members are Jonathan Brush of the Lebanon church, Heather Driver of the Bridgewater church, Hobert Harvey of Bethel/Mayland, Terry Jewell of the Knights Chapel church, LaDawn Knicely of the Beaver Creek church, David R. Miller of the Montezuma church, Carter Myers of the Mill Creek church, Nate Rittenhouse of the New Hope church, and Karen Shiflet of the Mt. Bethel church. The district newsletter requested prayer for the effort. “As 2018 unfolds, be in prayer for each of these committee members who have stepped forward to serve the Shenandoah District for a critical and necessary assessment of who we are and who we serve.”

-- Southern Ohio District is planning a special all-district meeting on Sunday, March 17, from 1:30-4 p.m., hosted at Happy Corner Church of the Brethren. Special guest David Steele is general secretary of the Church of the Brethren. “The purpose of this gathering is to engage one another about some of the deep divisions that are becoming more prominent and are a distraction to our common witness of Jesus,” said a district announcement. “The General Secretary’s presence will be to share basic information from polity regarding the withdrawal process if congregations choose to begin those conversations.” The announcement noted that “the purpose of this gathering is NOT to encourage congregations to leave. Unfortunately, however, we have heard that some congregations in our district have already begun conversations about leaving the Church of the Brethren.... It is our sincere desire that we stay together and share in ‘continuing the work of Jesus, peacefully, simply, TOGETHER,’ but if there are those who feel they can no longer do this, we wish to explain the process of withdrawal. We do not desire a process utilizing legal action, but rather a process of discernment and prayer filled with grace, love, and care for one another.” The announcement included a request for prayer: “We also ask that all members hold their congregation, the district, and the denomination in prayer as we face an uncertain future and the deep divisions of our fellowship.”

-- In more news from Southern Ohio, a task force in the district has teamed up with Catholic Social Services to assist refugees who wish to resettle in the Miami Valley area of Ohio. The Brethren are assisting with organizing and maintaining an inventory of items that are donated for refugee families and stored in a warehouse. “When a refugee family comes to this area, they have access to the items in the warehouse to set up their homes and begin their new life,” said an announcement from the district. District members are being invited to a series of work days at the warehouse next week, starting on Monday, Feb. 12. Contact 937-667-0647 or lindabrandon76@gmail.com for more information. 

-- Western Pennsylvania District is celebrating “a wonderful offering for Puerto Rico,” according to the district newsletter. “When Hurricane Maria caused so much devastation on the island of Puerto Rico, our district initiated a special offering for Disaster Relief for the island. A special offering was taken at our District Conference on Oct. 21, 2017, and we continued to receive offerings up through Christmastime. The total amount given by churches and individuals in our district for Puerto Rico was $22,419!” The newsletter notes that this money will be sent to a disaster relief fund administered by the Church of the Brethren denomination, and “will go a long way to helping with the needs of our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters.”

-- Northern Plains District executive minister Tim Button-Harrison is one of numerous Christian leaders and other faith leaders who have signed on to a public letter opposing the death penalty in Iowa. “It is with heavy hearts that we come together as one voice to speak up and stand against the introduction of the death penalty in Iowa,” the letter says, in part. “For many reasons, based on the spectrum of our faiths and religious traditions we represent as well as the clear societal concerns surrounding the implementation of the death penalty, we fervently oppose the death penalty and ask you as elected officials to oppose it as well. We come with heavy hearts because our beloved Iowa is considering legislation we know to be wrong, immoral and contrary to the facts that have become so apparent across the nation. The data and facts are clear. The implementation of the death penalty is influenced by the racial undertones of our nation’s history. African American men are adversely and disproportionately impacted. They are more likely to be given the death penalty upon conviction, especially if the victim is white. This alone is argument enough against the death penalty, but we have additional concerns. We, along with most Americans, are concerned about innocent people being sentenced to death....” The full letter and list of signers has been published by the Des Moines Register at www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2018/01/31/iowa-faith-leaders-speak-out-against-calls-enact-death-penalty/1079028001 .

-- The organizers of a “Brethren Prayer and Worship Summit” planned for April 20-21 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg, Va., are publicizing the event as a follow-up to a gathering held in Moorefield, W.Va., last August. At the Moorefield gathering, “much concern was expressed about the direction of the denomination, especially related to the issue of homosexuality,” said an announcement. “It was determined that the next step should be to hold this Prayer Summit to seek God’s direction for our future.” The announcement notes that “the nature of this gathering will not be to conduct any kind of official business. We will not be discussing issues or making motions or signing petitions or taking votes in any manner. The over-arching theme of this event will be found in the great revival verse of the Old Testament, 2 Chronicles 7:l4.’” The announcement listed speakers who have been invited to focus on themes of repentance and confession, grace and forgiveness, and healing and hope. There is no cost to attend, but free-will offerings will be received toward expenses. For additional information and registration go to www.brethrenprayersummit.com .

-- “Free to Forgive” is the theme for the 2018 Regional Youth Conference to be held March 2-4 at McPherson (Kan.) College. The scriptural theme is Ephesians 4:31-32. The event is open to all high school youth, youth advisors, and college students from the Church of the Brethren districts of Northern Plains, Southern Plains, and Missouri Arkansas. Special guest this year is Shawn Flory Replogle. Activities include workshops, small group study, games, and more. Cost is $75, which includes a t-shirt but does not include dinner on Friday night (available for $4.50 in college cafeteria), or $40 for college students who volunteer to assist with various activities throughout the weekend. Go to www.mcphersoncollege.edu/ryc or contact Jamie Pjesky at pjeskyj@mcpherson.edu .

-- The Young Center Durnbaugh Lecture on March 22, 7:30-9 p.m., will offer an “Update on the Boko Haram Crisis in Northeastern Nigeria” and “The Founding of CCEPI and Its Mission to the Displaced.” Speakers are Samuel Dali, former president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and Rebecca Dali, founder and executive director of the Centre for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives (CCEPI), which is aiding women and others affected by violence in northeastern Nigeria and across the border in Cameroon. The event takes place at Esbenshade Gibble Auditorium on the campus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Contact 717-361-1470 or youngctr@etown.edu .

-- Bridgewater (Va.) College has received a $250,000 challenge grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation of Richmond, Va., to help fund the renovation of the Alexander Mack Memorial Library to create the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons. “In order to obtain the grant, Bridgewater must raise $500,000 in cash and pledges by November 2018,” says a release from the college. “The Forrer Learning Commons will serve as an active learning space and focal point for engaged learning for Bridgewater’s academic community. The facility will house the library’s collections and serve as a learning hub with media production, peer coaching and tutoring, writing center, career center, IT help desk, and research and information literacy support. The facility will also hold multiple flexible study spaces for students, from small and large group meeting spaces to two engaged learning classrooms and a practice presentation room. The learning commons will also feature private study carrels, conversational gathering spaces and a café.” Groundbreaking for the Forrer Learning Commons will take place in May.

-- The Peace and Justice Group at Cross Keys Village-the Brethren Home Community, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in New Oxford, Pa., is holding a series of discussions on the topic, “On Waging Peace,” based on a study booklet written by David Radcliff of the New Community Project. The sessions take place at 10-11 a.m. on three upcoming Thursdays: Feb. 15, Feb. 22, and March 1. Leading the sessions is retired pastor Norman Cain.

-- Cliff Kindy and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) are featured in the February episode of “Brethren Voices,” a show produced by Ed Groff and Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren. “What if Christians took their peacemaking as seriously as warriors do for war making?” said an announcement. “Out of that vision, in the mid-1980s, members of the historic peace churches, the Church of the Brethren and the North American Mennonites, were seeking new ways to express their faith. At the same time, there was a consciousness that by using the creative energy of organized nonviolence, ordinary people could stand in front of the weapons and encourage less violent ways for change to happen. In 1988, Christian Peacemaker Teams  was founded and by 1992, CPT had put together a series of delegations to Haiti, Iraq, and the West Bank, Palestine.” Kindy, a Church of the Brethren member who has been a reservist with CPT since 1990, is interviewed by Brent Carlson for this episode. Kindy has served with CPT in Vieques, P.R.; Colombia’ the Gaza Strip and West Bank in Palestine; Chiapas, Mexico; Iraq; and with First Nation communities in New Brunswick, Canada, South Dakota, and New York. For a copy contact groffprod1@msn.com or find Brethren Voices on YouTube.

-- A webinar on “Racism and Afrophobia” is offered by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The webinar is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 12, from 9-10:30 a.m. (central time). It will be moderated by Evelyn L. Parker, a member of the commission and associate dean for Academic Affairs at Perkins School of Theology. Speakers and their topics include Ulysses Burley III speaking on “Being a Black Man in the USA in 2018,” Tracy D. Blackmon on “The Intersectionality Between Racism and Sexism,” Jennifer Harvey on “White Supremacy and the Difference Between Reconciliation and Reparations,” and Sharon Watkins on “The Role of US Churches in Addressing Racial Injustice.” Connect using the following link: https://fuze.me/36426490 . Download the Fuze app ahead of the training for the best experience. The training may be accessed by calling from a mobile phone: dial the number 855-346-3893, then enter the meeting identification number 36426490 followed by the pound key.

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