-- Remembrance: Samuel H. Flora Jr., 95, a former district executive in the Church of the Brethren and a former member of the denominational board, died Nov. 18 in Bridgewater, Va. He was born on Dec. 11, 1923, in Snow Creek, Va., son of the late Samuel H. Sr. and Annie Leah (Eller) Flora. He was a graduate of Bridgewater College, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Bethany Biblical Seminary. An ordained pastor for 76 years, he served several congregations in five districts of the Church of the Brethren. He served on the General Board for five years. He also was a district executive for a term of five years, and was on the original planning committees for the Bridgewater Home and Camp Brethren Woods. He is survived by his wife, Lillie Ann Baldwin Flora, whom he married on June 27, 1948; and sons Kenneth L. Flora, John W. Flora, and Paul R. Flora, and their families. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Nov. 23 at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren, where he was a member. The family will receive friends following the service. Memorial contributions are received to Bridgewater Healthcare Foundation and Bethany Theological Seminary. Find a full obituary at www.johnsonfs.com/obituaries/Samuel-Henry-Flora-Jr?obId=9010401#/obituaryInfo .
-- Remembrance: Ernest G. Barr, 93, died Nov. 24 at Timbercrest Retirement Community in North Manchester, Ind. Among other volunteer service to the church, he filled two top leadership positions in the Church of the Brethren including chair of the former General Board and chair of the board of Bethany Theological Seminary. In addition, he served as chair of the South/Central Indiana District board and as moderator of that district, and served as member of the Manchester College Board of Trustees. He was born in Chicago, Ill., on Sept. 7, 1926, the second son of the late Francis H. Barr and Rebecca (McKonly) Barr Fike. As a conscientious objector he served 20 months in Civilian Public Service in 1944-46. He graduated from Manchester College with a degree in chemistry and from Purdue University with a master’s degree. He was an emeritus member of the American Chemical Society and worked his entire career of 37 years at Eli Lilly and Company. Following retirement, he worked 17 years in Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis, and Lutheran Hospital, Fort Wayne, as a volunteer chaplain. In 1994, Manchester College honored him with a Manchester College Alumni Award and in 1999 an honorary Doctor of Science degree. On June 3, 1949, he married Cleona Neher of Gettysburg, Ohio; she died May 24, 2018. He also was preceded in death by daughter Carol Barr Miller. He is survived by daughter Kathleen (Stephen P.) Barr Hollenberg of Goshen, Ind.; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 29, at Timbercrest Chapel in North Manchester, with visitation one hour prior the service. Memorials gifts are received to the Ernest and Cleona Barr Endowment for Peace Studies at Manchester University.
-- Camp Eder’s executive director, Bryan Smith, resigned on Oct. 11, according to the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter. “The camp staff and board members are working to continue and improve the ongoing ministry of Camp Eder,” said the announcement. “Please continue to support us with your prayers, participation, and donations.”
-- Camp Pine Lake, a Church of the Brethren camp that borders Pine Lake State Park near Eldora, Iowa, is seeking an enthusiastic, multitalented individual to serve as camp director. The position is open as of Jan. 1, 2020. The position includes working with the camp board, general operation of the camp (including program, office and business management, personnel management, maintenance, etc.), district/public relations, and other responsibilities. In addition to hosting Church of the Brethren camps and events, Camp Pine Lake’s facilities are available for rental by other church groups, families, and individuals. Qualifications include strong hospitality, program, administrative, and accounting skills; enthusiasm for the mission of Camp Pine Lake; leadership skills; a spirit of cooperation; and a desire to promote the ministries provided to the Northern Plains District through outdoor experiences. The camp director should be a committed Christian who supports the principles of the Church of the Brethren. A college degree is preferred, along with experience in Christian camping leadership, education, public relations, promotional activities, and communication. Health benefits are not included but a salary, on-site housing (in the form of a separate dwelling), and utilities are provided for the camp director. For more information call 641-751-0998 or visit www.camppinelake.org/employment-opportunities . To apply send a cover letter and resumé to Camp Pine Lake, 23008 W. Ave., Eldora, IA 50627 or by email attachment to Camp Pine Lake Joint Committee Chair, Paul Neher, firstname.lastname@example.org .
-- “Do you love Brethren workcamps?” said an announcement for the position of 2021 assistant workcamp coordinator. The position is open to those who will serve through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) to help plan and lead the 2021 summer workcamp ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Application deadline is Jan. 27, 2020. A link to the application form and a position description are online at www.brethren.org/workcamps .
-- Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) is inviting Church of the Brethren congregations to send Christmas cards and holiday greetings to the current BVS volunteers. “Our volunteers love receiving cards and greetings from Brethren congregations!” said an announcement. To request a list of the current BVS volunteers contact email@example.com .
-- The Church of the Brethren Service Sunday will be recognized the first Sunday in February 2020. Congregations and leaders are asked to use the day to celebrate the church’s history of service and recognize all who serve. The 2020 theme is “Voices for Peace” based on Romans 15:1-6. “This scripture tells us that our lives sing in harmony to God when we lend a helping hand and serve one another,” said an announcement. Worship resources on the 2020 theme are available at www.brethren.org/servicesunday .
-- Registration opened Dec. 2 for the 2020 Christian Citizenship Seminar. This event for high school-age youth and their adult advisors takes place in New York City and Washington, D.C. It is designed to give youth the chance to explore the relationship between faith and a particular political issue and then act from a faith perspective regarding that issue. This year’s seminar focuses on pursuing economic justice. Dates are April 25-30, 2020. Go to www.brethren.org/yya/ccs .
-- Dec. 18 is the registration deadline for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership online course “Nurturing Vital Spirituality in a Changing World,” taught by Rhonda Pittman Gingrich. The course is offered Jan. 22-March 17, 2020. Go to https://bethanyseminary.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Nurturing-Vital-Spirituality-brochure.pdf .
-- Jan. 15, 2020, is the last day to register for the Clergy Tax Seminar taking place Jan. 25 online and onsite at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. It is recommended for pastors, church treasurers and board chairs, and others who wish to understand clergy taxes and how to comply with regulations while maximizing tax deductions. For more information go to https://bethanyseminary.edu/brethren-academy/clergy-tax-seminar .
-- Canton (Ill.) Church of the Brethren is featured in an exhibit that opened at the Canton Area Heritage Center on Nov. 22. The “Canton Daily Ledger” noted, “Throughout the world, including Fulton County, churches have been focal points of communities for centuries. With that in mind, a new exhibit called ‘Historic Churches’ is coming to the Canton Area Heritage Center. The exhibit will feature history, pictures, documents, momentos, and more from six area churches including Canton Church of the Brethren, First Presbyterian Church of Canton, First Presbyterian Church of Lewistown, Salvation Army of Canton, Trinity Lutheran Church of Canton, and Wesley United Methodist Church of Canton.” The display featuring the first six churches will continue through May 2020, with other area churches scheduled to be featured through December 2020. See www.cantondailyledger.com/news/20191119/historic-churches-exhibit-to-open-at-canton-area-heritage-center .
-- Every year several Church of the Brethren congregations in various parts of the country offer live nativity events for their communities. Here are a few:
The aptly named Bethlehem Church of the Brethren in Boones Mill, Va., on Dec. 7 hosted “Come to Bethlehem and See...” as an outdoor, walk-through live nativity program followed by cookies and hot chocolate.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. a drive-through live nativity will be offered by Chambersburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.
Potsdam (Ohio) Church of the Brethren also is having a live nativity this Saturday from 5-7 p.m. The event includes “delicious homemade cookies and cocoa, and even a visit with Santa!” said an invitation.
On Dec. 21-23 from 7-9 p.m. Mill Creek Church of the Brethren in Port Republic, Va., will hold a live nativity at Michael’s Barn at 8218 Port Republic Road.
-- York (Pa.) Second Church of the Brethren/Iglesia Arca de Salvacion helped host a unique Christmas experience, the fourth annual “Walk-a-Christmas Mile” in the city of York’s east end. It was one of four churches acting as waystations for a walk that took participants along on the Christmas journey via scripture, song, and prayer. The theme was “Follow the Star” for the event on the evening of Dec. 9. Transportation was available for those unable to walk all or part of the distance.
-- Living Stream Church of the Brethren, an online congregation based in Pacific Northwest District, is planning a special event on the longest night of the year. The “Longest Night Retreat” takes place at 7:30-9:30 p.m. (Eastern time) on Saturday, Dec. 21, for those who experience the holidays as a difficult time. This is true “for many people, especially those of us who are grieving a lost loved one or an estranged relationship, or who do not have the means to celebrate in the contemporary fashion of our culture,” said an invitation. “Entering into the shortest days of the year can also be challenging for those of us who are energized by sunshine and warmth. Yet there is a wisdom also in the darkness: the tomb is also a womb of resurrection and rebirth. We will gather to reach out to one another across the miles and hold each other tight through the darkness, praying and reflecting together with scripture, poetry, images, and music. Both pain and joy are part of the story of Incarnation, and we will be present to and make room for both.” The event will be led by pastor Bobbi Dykema. Join in at https://livestream.com/livingstreamcob/Advent2019 .
-- Dranesville Church of the Brethren in Herndon, Va., is holding an event called “Civil War/Civil Peace” on Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. It commemorates a battle between Union and Confederate troops on the church’s grounds that took place five days before Christmas, and was one of the earliest Civil War battles. “It was the first Union victory in the East against the Confederacy,” said a flier. Participants will “find out how the battle unfolded, what scars the battle left, and what the Church of the Brethren, one of the oldest peace churches, teaches about war.” The evening will include a lecture on the battle, with a time for discussion, and refreshments. The evening benefits Cecilia Cornejo School of Music and the University Arts and Entertainment Council. “All welcome!” said the flier. Contact 703-430-7872.
-- Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has announced the next phase of its $7 million building project. “Beginning in early 2020 and lasting 4-6 months, this next phase will involve preparation of building specifications in consultation with program leaders and building users including Sunday School teachers, deacons, commission members, pastors and staff, and the congregation at large, along with representatives from building occupants Elizabethtown Community Child Care Center and Elizabethtown Community Nursery School,” said a release. Following the design and development phase, the congregation will be consulted for approval of a final bid and financial package.
-- “A small group can make a big difference,” reported the Baltimore Sun in an article about a disaster relief trip by a group from Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren “That’s what a dozen local residents found when they traveled...to Jacksonville, Florida, in late September for a week filled with hard work--but laughter, too--as they labored to rebuild three homes for families in need.” Find the article with photos at www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll/news/cc-nh-jacksonville-trip-120419-20191202-6ug6lwtoczdrhmts7x7sjzsafe-story.html .
-- Leslie Sperry of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren has published a reflection in the “Journal Gazette” newspaper on a return trip to the US/Mexico border at McAllen and Brownsville, Texas. “Mission to provide meal for asylum seekers reveals policy cruelties” tells of the experience of returning to the border with fellow church members a year after a first such trip by a Beacon Heights group. “We were expecting to see many differences, and we did. Our visit was challenging, informative, enriching, and ultimately reaffirms our commitment to justice,” Sperry wrote. The group visited with Team Brownsville, an organization serving those waiting in Mexico to claim asylum. Read the reflection at www.journalgazette.net/opinion/sunday-centerpiece/20191124/food-and-thought .
-- The Climate Justice Task Force of Southern Ohio and Kentucky District will meet on Jan. 8, from 7-9 p.m., at Salem Church of the Brethren. The meeting is open to all, according to the district e-newsletter. “Pastor Doug Kaufman from the Mary Lea Environmental Center will join us via ZOOM and hopefully a member of the local Climate Reality group will join us personally,” said the announcement. “We also hope to show a video recently done by former Vice President, Al Gore, on the science of climate change and what we might do.” The group also hopes to hold a climate retreat for the Southern Ohio and Kentucky Churches of the Brethren next fall. Contact Mark Lancaster for more information at 510-809-6721 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
-- In more news from Southern Ohio and Kentucky, the district is “adopting” families who were affected by Memorial Day tornadoes earlier this year. “During this season of giving, many congregations look for ways they can reach out to our neighbors and friends who may be struggling,” said an announcement. “This year, especially, we have families in our backyard who are still reeling from devastating losses during the Memorial Day tornadoes. What many may not understand is if a family's house was made uninhabitable by the tornado their mortgage payments don't stop. Now they have their monthly mortgage payment plus rent for their temporary home or motel bill. FEMA and insurance benefits are running out. Just imagine if each of our 48 congregations would adopt just one or two families for Christmas what an impact we could make!” The effort is led by Sam Dewey of Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren, working with the Trotwood Madison School and the Trotwood school systems.
-- Western Pennsylvania District held its 14th Annual District Auction at Camp Harmony, receiving total income, before expenses, of $10,500. “The top three churches in donations were: Maple Spring, Pleasant Hill, and Fair View,” said the district newsletter. “Camp Harmony will receive 10 percent of the profits, after expenses, toward their debt reduction. Looking forward to the 15th Annual District Auction, Nov. 7, 2020. Mark your calendars!”
-- The 2019 Northern Indiana District Conference recognized two ministers for 55 years of ordination: Donald Jordon and Verne Leininger.
-- Camp Inspiration Hills in Northern Ohio District is hosting a New Year’s Eve Celebration retreat for junior and senior high youth in grades 6 to 12. “Grab your friends and celebrate NYE at camp! You will be the first to experience the 2020 summer camp theme ‘Shout to the Lord!’” said an announcement. The retreat will include worship, Bible study, hands-on activities, night hikes, glow-in-the-dark outdoor games, and more. “As always, we will have a live countdown and ball drop,” the announcement added. The retreat begins Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. and ends Jan. 1 at 10 a.m. Cost is $45 if registered before Dec. 15. Go to www.inspirationhillscamp.org .
-- Manchester University has successfully reinvigorated its Camp Mack Day event, as reported to Northern Indiana District Conference by Laura Brubaker. This year about 625 students attended.
-- Hosted by the Interdistrict Youth Cabinet at Bridgewater (Va.) College, the southeastern regional youth conference called “Roundtable” takes place Feb. 28-March 1, 2020. Kyle Remnant, a musician and speaker from Bridgewater, will speak on the topic “2020 Vision: Seeing as Jesus Does.” The event will include Bible study led by the immediate past Roundtable speaker Dennis Beckner, small groups, workshops, fellowship, a variety show, vespers, and more. The Interdistrict Youth Cabinet serves the six southeastern districts of the Church of the Brethren: Mid-Atlantic, West Marva, Shenandoah, Virlina, Southeastern, and Atlantic Southeast. Roundtable also welcomes youth from neighboring districts. Questions? Email email@example.com .
-- “Live in such a way that those who know you but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you.” In this crossover episode of Dunker Punks Podcast with the Choose Wisely Podcast, Logan JP Schrag interviews his father, Rick, about his career in chaplaincy and hospice care. How do you keep true to your beliefs in your daily life? Listen on your favorite podcast app or by following the link bit.ly/DPP_Episode92 .
-- The Womaen’s Caucus, a Church of the Brethren-related group, has published an issue of its “Femailing” newsletter featuring “Feminist Advent Resources.” An announcement directed interested readers to the November “Femailing” at www.progressivebrethren.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Femailings-Nov-19-v2.pdf .
-- “Brethren Voices” is suggesting an idea for alternative gift giving this season in its last episode for 2019. Writes producer Ed Groff, the program “encourages a financial gift this year to the Brethren Disaster Ministries, in the name of that special someone on your list.” The December episode features the work that continues to be provided by Brethren volunteers to the survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. “For Brethren Disaster Ministries, those being assisted with home rebuilding are those who have fallen through the cracks,” Groff writes. “They are people who do not qualify for assistance from FEMA, the state or federal government. For BDM, one does not have to be a ‘card carrying Brethren’ to receive assistance.” Also in this episode, Andy Murray, known by many Brethren as a pastor, educator, and musician, shares one of his songs, “A Christmas Carol.” (Video and photos were provided by David Sollenberger and Brethren Disaster Ministries.) View the Brethren Voices show on www.youtube.com/brethrenvoices .
-- On Saturday, Dec. 14, the Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., holds “A Heritage Christmas” event from 2-6 p.m. The event includes crafts, live music, singing, and refreshments. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for students, and free for children age 5 and under.
-- “If we should be true to our faith, we cannot be quiet when we see what is happening,” reads the declaration of the Interfaith Liaison Committee to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The declaration was made to the UN climate change summit called “COP25,” taking place in Madrid, Spain, on Dec. 2-13. “We are voices that are driven by hope and compassion. In a most urgent situation to bend the emissions down faith traditions must contribute to the urgent transformation.” Said a release from the World Council of Churches, the group has been seeking “to offer a positive and empowering voice of hope over fear, of compassion over indifference, and urgent and fair action as a moral obligation.” A group of 10 people representing different parts of the world, indigenous people, youth, and different religions hand delivered the declaration to UN officials, “inspired by the conviction that faith traditions from all over the world can be the pivotal force in coming to terms with the climate emergency,” said the release. Read the full text of the declaration at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/faith-communities-demand-climate-justice-interfaith-declaration-on-climate-change-for-cop25-madrid-2019 .
-- Raymond Johnson of Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., has written a reflection for “The Upper Room” November-December 2019 issue on the topic “True Freedom” (Galatians 5:9). In the past, Johnson has shared with the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine his story of being discipled into the church while on death row. For “The Upper Room” devotion for Nov. 30, he wrote, in part: “I am currently imprisoned on death row because of mistakes I made when I was a prisoner to gangs, money, and drugs. But the apostle Paul tells us that ‘it is for freedom that Christ has set us free’ Christ offers me a freedom that releases me spiritually from my cold, damp prison cell to live as a follower of his way.”
-- Carl Harman participated in his 66th consecutive love feast and communion at Spruce Run Church of the Brethren in Lindside, W.Va., on Oct. 26. The Virlina District e-newsletter reported that his first communion at 14 years old was in “the old church building” in 1953. “Bro. Carl has served the Spruce Run congregation faithfully in the Church of the Brethren Youth Fellowship (CBYF), in the men’s fellowship leadership, in the choir, on the ministerial board, and as a deacon,” the newsletter said.
-- Sisters Kendra Flory and Janelle Flory Schrock have been featured in the media as part of a new bell choir in Newton, Kan., called Prairie Bronze. An article in the “McPherson (Kan.) Sentinel” reported that “bell ringing has been a part of the sisters’ lives since they were children, and in high school they were part of a church choir that helped light the fire for both of them.” Flory has directed a bell choir at McPherson Church of the Brethren for several years and works at McPherson College in the admissions office. Flory Schrock works at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains. The paper reported that the sisters have performed duets in recent years but until they joined the new group have not been able to ring bells together in a choir. “I am glad to have the opportunity to do it again with her,” Flory said. “Ringing in a choir is something that we both enjoy more than anything else.” Find the Sentinel article at www.mcphersonsentinel.com/news/20191128/ringing-in-season-new-bell-choir-forms-in-newton .
-- Shaun Deardorff, a high school senior and Church of the Brethren member, has completed his Eagle Scout project at Campus Hills Park in Durham, N.C., with the help of a team of 45 volunteers. The “World Peace Garden and Anti-Gun Violence and Terrorism Memorial” is meant to “counteract violent events that have occurred in our nation and internationally, as well as local gun violence” and “encapsulates and epitomizes optimism and hope, and provides a meaningful place for peace contemplation and is a catalyst for change,” Deardorff said in a release. The garden and memorial site is inside a roundabout in front of the community center at Campus Hills Park. At its center is a 15-foot aluminum sculpture designed by Deardorff and fabricated by his project mentor Joseph Lemmens. Incorporated are a heart symbolizing that “love is the cornerstone of peace”; a three-dimensional peace sign forming a globe shape, symbolizing world peace; and four pedestal legs symbolizing the four corners of the Earth. An aluminum tube that forms the globe is meant to be one continuous piece of metal, symbolizing the never-ending goal of peace. Behind the sculpture stands a peace pole with the phrase “May peace prevail on Earth” in seven languages chosen to symbolize a significant conflict with the US: Cherokee, Russian, Vietnamese, Japanese, German, Arabic, and English. It also states, “May peace be in our schools,” to memorialize mass shootings and domestic terrorism in schools--including a gun threat at C.E. Jordan High School where Deardorff is a senior, made the week before the project was completed. All are invited to stop by Campus Hills Park to view the project.
-- Marietta Dunlap from Indiana (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has celebrated her 100th birthday. She was born Nov. 15, 1919, in Alum Bank, Bedford County, Pa. The congregation held a celebration for her on Nov. 10.