—Compelling Vision conversations continue in Church of the Brethren districts across the country. Shown here is a recent Compelling Vision gathering in Mid-Atlantic District, hosted at Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren (photo by Regina Holmes). A Compelling Vision Spiritual Connection page has been started on Facebook to help church members connect with the process from around the denomination. Find it at www.facebook.com/COB-Compelling-Vision-Spiritual-Connection-Page-1050919648604889.
—Nominations for denominational offices appearing on the ballot at the 2019 Annual Conference are sought, with a deadline of Saturday, Dec. 1. “You can help shape the future of the church!” said an announcement from the Conference Office. “Each member of the Church of the Brethren is invited to recommend possible nominees for the 2019 Annual Conference ballot. As you pray about this, who comes to mind? Whom will the Lord prompt you to nominate?” A list of open positions, forms, and more information about the nomination process are at www.brethren.org/ac/nominations.
—Brethren Disaster Ministries seeks a program volunteer for the Puerto Rico disaster response. A Spanish speaking long-term volunteer or contract worker is needed to support the Brethren Disaster Ministries project in Puerto Rico, ideally starting in Feb. 2019. This is an exciting and critical role necessary for the home rebuilding project in Puerto Rico to continue. The right person will provide Spanish translation that supports the project by communicating with the clients served, the local churches, and other partners. The volunteer/contractor will be part of the project leadership team providing support to short-term volunteers, coordinating the volunteer household, transporting volunteers to the airport, and providing administrative support for the project. This role can also be shared by the right married couple. A minimum term will be four months, but a longer term is preferred. For more information contact Jenn Dorsch-Messler at 410-635 8737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Brenda Sanford Diehl of Calvary Church of the Brethren has been hired as Shenandoah District director of communications, starting Jan. 1. She comes to the position with a background in public relations and writing for various religious groups, and has worked in diverse capacities including as a 4-H extension agent, recreation superintendent, and with the Handley Regional Library System. A student in the Christian Growth Institute, she is a graduate of James Madison University and earned a master of public administration degree from Virginia Tech. During December she will be oriented to the position by working with Ellen Layman, current communications assistant, who is retiring Dec. 31.
—Registration for the 2019 Christian Citizenship Seminar opens in just five days on Dec. 3 at 12 p.m. (central time) or 1 p.m. (Eastern). “Make sure to register ASAP, it’s limited to the first 60 people,” said an invitation from coordinator Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred, who is serving as Youth and Young Adult Ministries assistant. CCS provides high school-age students the chance to explore the relationship between faith and a particular political issue, and then act from a faith perspective regarding that issue. “Creative Solutions to Violence Conflict Worldwide” () is this year’s theme. The $425 registration fee includes event programming; lodging for five nights; two dinner meals, one in New York City and one in Washington, D.C.; and transportation from New York to Washington. Participant bring additional money for most meals, sightseeing, personal expenses, and subway and taxi fares. Dates are April 27 – May 2, 2019. For more information and to register, go to www.brethren.org/ccs.
—The Global Mission and Service office seeks prayer for Grace Mishler as she travels in Hong Kong. Mishler is a Global Mission worker in Vietnam. In Hong Kong, she will be presenting at an international forum at the City University, sharing with faculty, students, and the blind community about her work with babies afflicted with the vision-impairing condition of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). “Pray that her presentation can increase awareness of ROP and help generate resources to prevent the condition,” said the prayer request.
—Bethany Theological Seminary has announced a new podcast series, “Like a Mustard Seed.” Faculty, staff, students, and guests are being invited to share perspectives on a variety of theological, global, and cultural topics. Initial episodes feature Bethany president Jeff Carter; Rebecca Dali, a member of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria); and Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship. New episodes will be created and posted about twice a month when semesters are in session. Go to www.bethanyseminary.edu/events-resources/podcasts.
—In September, Tucson (Ariz.) Church of the Brethren “decided that the time had come for them to conclude their ministry at the end of 2018,” reports Pacific Southwest District in a recent newsletter. “There will be a final worship giving thanks for the work of this congregation through the many years on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 3 p.m. followed by a time of refreshments and visiting. All are welcome at this time of remembering and thanksgiving. If you cannot come we encourage you to hold the congregation in your prayers as they gather.” Part of the closing will be a blessing for the ministry of Fuenta de Vida Assembly of God church, which is purchasing the space to move from their current location. Funds from the sale of the property are being held aside by the district for a period of five years to support the possibility of new Church of the Brethren work in Tucson in the future.
—Ankeny (Iowa) Church of the Brethren celebrated its 150th anniversary on Sept. 29-30. The theme “150 Years and Our Story Is Still Unfolding” was the focus of the celebration. Barbra Davis preached on Saturday on “The Cornerstone” from Ephesians 2:17-22. On Sunday, Keith Funk preached on “The Priority of Jesus” from Matthew 6: 33-34. Many former pastors sent messages and shared memories, and several were present to share during the service, reported Barbara Wise Lewczak. “Some of the special features were a slide show of photos from the past, several photo albums and other memorabilia, a hymn sing, a choir including present and past members and guests, children’s time led by Natalie and Krystal Bellis, with a history of the Ankeny Church of the Brethren written by the children of the congregation many years ago. It was a precious way to hear the history shared.” A memory book was prepared by Dee Reynolds and daughters Rhonda Bingman and Terri Hansen and presented to all attendees. The composite photo for the anniversary celebration is courtesy of Max Bechtol.
—Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock, Va., has been celebrating its 150th anniversary throughout 2018. After selecting the theme, “To God Be the Glory for 150 Years,” the church chose “To God Be the Glory” for its theme song and installed theme banners in the sanctuary and by the road outside, according to a report from George Bowers. In April, the church shared an “Old Tyme Sunday” complete with old-time dress, separate seating for men and women, and a slide show of past members and events. In July, an outdoor worship service and picnic were held at a park with children’s games and cakewalks. In September, a Celebration and Homecoming were held with a fellowship meal. Part of the celebration has been sale of 150th Anniversary Cookbooks, commemorative mugs, and t-shirts. Throughout the year, weekly trivia questions from old minute books were shared in the bulletin and during announcements in worship. Along the way, long-time members were interviewed and recorded memories. Monthly articles on Antioch’s history appeared in the church newsletter. One additional event is planned for December, a Beard Contest. “Prizes will be awarded for longest, scraggiest, fullest, and most Brethren,” Bowers writes. “Antioch looks forward to what God will do in the years to come!”
—University Baptist and Brethren Church in State College, Pa., is celebrating 50 years as a congregation jointly aligned with the Church of the Brethren and the American Baptists. An article in the Centre Daily Times, “‘Welcoming love’: How 2 State College Churches Joined 50 Years Ago, with a Lasting Effect,” quoted pastor Bonnie Kline Smeltzer on why the relationship has worked so well over the years. “The American Baptists and the Church of the Brethren share some core values and principles,” she told the paper. “Both are congregational in authority and practice the priesthood of all believers.... Both practice Believers’ baptism.... And both denominations believe that people are responsible for their relationship with God and their spiritual growth. There is no force in religion and belief.” Read the article at www.centredaily.com/living/article221904595.html.
—Southern Ohio/Kentucky District seeks prayer for the Constance congregation, which has vacated its building due to structural concerns. The district e-newsletter reports that “worship is being held in space provided by the nearby Hebron Lutheran Church” and that the congregation is selling its current property and seeking a new permanent location.
—“Somewhere in the world, 250 victims of a disaster will have a small head start on rebuilding their lives thanks to efforts by the Annville Church of the Brethren,” reports the Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News. The report went on to note that “church members have good reason to believe their 250-bucket project will ultimately help many more people.” Some 50 volunteers from the church and Lebanon Valley College packed the clean-up buckets in an effort benefiting Brethren Disaster Ministries and Church World Service, which will distribute the buckets to families and communities affected by disasters. “These buckets are going to people who are experiencing one of the worst times in their lives, and we pray that our love and Jesus’ love is felt by those who receive these buckets,” pastor Paul Liepelt said. Find the news report at www.ldnews.com/story/news/2018/11/29/annville-church-brethren-lvc-come-aid-disaster-victims/2147778002.
—A letter to supporters of the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC), following on the center’s 25th anniversary celebration, included a list of impressive accomplishments. The letter from executive director Donna M. Rhodes listed more than 480 courses held through SVMC; more than 375 instructors who have taught graduate, TRIM, or ACTS courses; more than 680 students who have participated in ACTS or TRIM courses; 535 graduate course registrations since 1993; and 1,700 continuing education certificates given. “We rejoice in our firm foundation, celebrate the present, and anticipate the future,” Rhodes wrote. SVMC serves five Church of the Brethren districts: Atlantic Northeast, Southern Pennsylvania, Middle Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania, and Mid-Atlantic. Find a Newsline report about the Nov. 3 celebration hosted at Chambersburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/news/2018/svmc-celebrates-anniversary.html .
—The latest episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast features Alyssa Parker, Racial Justice Organizing intern for On Earth Peace, with her mother, Jennifer, and grandmother, Sandra. The three discuss their hopes for the future of the church in terms of growing youth and racial diversity. The podcast is an audio show created by more than a dozen Brethren young adults across the country. Listen on the episode page at http://bit.ly/DPP_Ep71 or subscribe at http://bit.ly/DPP_iTunes .
—Each December, “Brethren Voices” features an alternative gift giving suggestion. This year the show is encouraging a financial gift to Brethren Disaster Ministries. “As last year, the number of disasters has almost reached the countless number and Brethren Disaster Ministries has been very busy,” said an announcement from producer Ed Groff. Also in December, the show features a song by Andy Murray, “A Christmas Carol,” as a music video accompanying photos of volunteers with Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children's Disaster Services. The show also received permission from Ken Medema to share one of his improvised compositions about Children’s Disaster Services, “Teach Me How to Play Again.” Find “Brethren Voices” at www.youtube.com/brethrenvoices or request a copy by contacting email@example.com .
—“Justice, Only Justice, You Shall Pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20) is the theme for the 2019 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The event is observed annually, with recommended dates of Jan. 18-25. A variety of print resources are available to order including a daily scripture and prayer guide, worship service, prayer card, poster, bulletin cover, and more. Purchase resources at www.geii.org/order . For more about this world-wide ecumenical observance and additional online resources go to www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/week-of-prayer .
—Global church organizations including the World Council of Churches (WCC), Lutheran World Federation, and ACT Alliance are calliong for renewed global solidarity and urgency of action to support communities most affected by climate change, as a United Nations climate summit kicks off in Poland. “There is no more time to waste in short-term self-interestedness," said WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit, who urged the UN to ramp up pledges from participating nations in order to still be able to meet the goal of no more than 1.5 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures. “Urgent adaptation and mitigation measures, transformation of economic systems, deep behavioral change, and supportive national and global policies and institutional arrangements are needed now to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change," he said. Find the WCC release at www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/cop24-global-church-bodies-urge-transformative-action-to-protect-the-most-vulnerable . A Nov. 7 statement from the WCC Executive Committee is at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/executive-committee/uppsala-november-2018/statement-on-cop-24-and-just-transition-to-sustainable-economy/view .