-- Remembrance: John Conrad Heisel, former manager of both the Nappanee, Ind., and Modesto, Calif., Brethren Service Centers, passed away on Jan. 14 in Modesto. He was born in Empire, Calif., in 1931 to Dee L. and Susie Hackenberg Heisel and was raised in Empire Church of the Brethren. He graduated from Modesto High School in 1949. Following employment with the Southern Pacific Railroad he entered Brethren Volunteer Service in 1953, BVS Unit 18. and served one year as a “guinea pig” at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor and at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md. A second year of BVS was served in Falfurrias, Texas. After returning to California he married Doris Eller in 1958. He was named manager of the Brethren Service Center in Nappanee, Ind., in 1959. In 1971 the Nappanee site began to limit its operations due to decreasing requests for clothing overseas and he transferred back to manage the Modesto location. During this time he was released to work half-time with Church World Service/CROP. The Modesto Brethren Service Center ceased operations in 1974 and John went to work for Goodwill Industries. He returned to California in 1971 as manager of the Modesto Brethren Service Center, working half-time for Church World Service/CROP. After the closure of the center, he went to work for Goodwill Industries of San Joaquin Valley, where he was director of transportation, sales, and community relations. At retirement in 1996, he was working for Orchard Supply Hardware. He was preceded in death by his wife, Doris Eller Heisel, in April 2018. He is survived by daughters Gail Heisel (Butzlaff) of Upland, Calif., and Joy Heisel Schempp of Lansdale, Pa., grandchildren, and a great grandchild. A memorial service was held at Modesto Church of the Brethren on Feb. 1. Memorial gifts are received to Casa de Modesto and Modesto Church of the Brethren.
To celebrate Martin Luther King Day of Service, students from the University of La Verne in southern California volunteered their time and energy to 13 community organizations (above). “They are shown here working at the Peace and Carrots community garden at the Church of the Brethren, where thousands of pounds of produce are donated annually to the hungry,” wrote Don Kendrick, Mayor of La Verne, in a Facebook post about the event. “Great job to all involved!”
“Thank you. Thank you one and all! We did it again!” said a thank you note to the Church of the Brethren General Offices from Joe Wars, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Food Drive in Elgin, Ill. The warehouses at the General Offices served as collection and distribution point for the food drive this year, as it has done for eight years. Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren was one of the contributing congregations, and youth and adults from Highland Avenue volunteered at the food drive. This year, the drive “exceeded our goal of 30,000 pounds of food, personal care items, and household supplies,” Wars wrote. The 12,000 pounds of collected food was combined with the “buying power” of more than $6,000 donated by local churches, schools, and other supporters. Wars noted that each donated dollar bought about eight pounds of food. “Because of your hard work, faith, and compassion, there are many families in our community who will be able to eat a decent meal and not worry about having food for their children,” he wrote.
After Jerry Crouse and Morris Collins became friends on a Sankofa Journey in 2014, their two churches have begun to share worship together to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. Collins pastors Jesus Saves Pentecostal Church, an African-American congregation. Crouse pastors Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of the Brethren. On Jan. 27, the Sunday after Martin Luther King Day weekend, Jesus Saves Pentecostal Church traveled across the city to worship with the Warrensburg congregation, and the Church of the Brethren provided a meal. On Feb. 17, Warrensburg Church of the Brethren will join in worship at the Jesus Saves Pentecostal Church, and will be hosted for a meal there. Collins approached Crouse with the idea for the exchange, reported the “Daily Star-Journal” of Warrensburg. Find the article “Unity in Christ, Not Segregation by Color” at www.dailystarjournal.com/religion/unity-in-christ-not-segregation-by-color/article_8c813694-3d3d-5ced-9287-aba80726e28d.html .
To commemorate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., pastor Gary Benesh of Friendship Church of the Brethren in North Wilkesboro, N.C., staged a one-man protest of the government shutdown in front of the Wilkes Heritage Museum on Jan. 21. Benesh “was speaking out against injustice in American government,” reported the Wilkes Journal-Patriot. “The sign he made and displayed said it all in red dry-erase ink.... ‘Not paying workers for their work is immoral. Support non-paid government workers. Speak out. Donald and Nancy, let’s talk.’” His personal statement about the shutdown cited Leviticus 19:13, “You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning,” as well as Jeremiah 22:13 and James 5:3-4. See www.journalpatriot.com/news/benesh-endures-cold-to-publicly-decry-government-shutdown/article_d1f6f92c-1e4e-11e9-83d5-2ffbfa37a80b.html .
-- Brethren Benefit Trust seeks an employee benefits specialist. This is a full-time, non-exempt position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The primary function is to perform the daily operations of the Pension Plan and Church Workers’ Assistance Plan, as well as to provide plan information to staff and participants when requested. Duties include maintaining a working knowledge of all pension systems and products; reviewing and analyzing Church Workers’ Assistance Plan grant applications; maintaining/processing daily operational work for the Pension Plan; assisting with maintaining the Pension Plan Summary Plan Description and maintaining the Legal Plan Document Supplements. The ideal candidate will have knowledge of employee benefits including an understanding of 403(b) Pension Plans. This position requires a person who is very detail oriented, with the ability to prioritize workloads; proficiency with computer systems and applications; exceptional organizational and telephone skills; and impeccable follow-up abilities. The candidate must be able to interact effectively with customers to provide information in response to inquiries about products and services and to handle and resolve complaints. BBT seeks candidates with strong verbal and written communications skills, proficiency in Microsoft Office, a demonstrated track record of providing superior customer service, and a willingness and ability to expand knowledge and effectiveness applicable to the role and as assigned by the director of Retirement Operations. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. Send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary-range expectation to Donna March at 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust visit www.cobbt.org .
-- The Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry has launched a “Calling Stories” project. This collection of videos features pastors from across the country sharing short glimpses into their calls to ministry. The project is intended to be a resource for the whole church, especially those people and groups engaged in the work of calling people into set-apart ministry. Each two-minute video is available to view or download for use in personal discernment, Sunday school discussions, the work of District Ministry Commissions, and anywhere else Brethren work together to consider God’s call to set-apart leadership. Videos can be found at www.brethren.org/callstory . For questions or to share your own call story, contact Dana Cassell in the Office of Ministry at email@example.com .
-- Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministry for the Church of the Brethren, will be guest preacher for the online worship service of Living Stream Church of the Brethren this Sunday, Feb. 10. “Kettering seeks to continue and expand the conversation and ministry work for those working in intercultural and cross-cultural settings,” said an invitation to join in the worship service. “Worship online with Living Stream on Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern time, 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain, 5 p.m. Pacific time. Or you may access the recorded worship at www.livingstreamcob.org any time that suits your schedule.”
-- A call to remember and pray for two of the women who have been abducted in Nigeria is shared by Pat Krabacher, a Brethren Volunteer Service worker with the Nigeria Crisis Response. Feb. 19 is the one-year anniversary of the abduction of Leah Sharibu, a schoolgirl abducted from Dapchi, Yobe State. March 1 is the one-year anniversary of the abduction of Alice Loksha Ngadda, also known as Alice Adamu, a nurse and aid worker abducted from Rann, Borno State.
-- On Earth Peace in January convened an online gathering of 12 people from various constituencies of On Earth Peace and the Church of the Brethren to share insights and discuss the “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.” Another online discussion is planned for Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. (Pacific time, or 7 p.m. Eastern time), On Earth Peace will convene the meet-up via webcam. “To learn more about this opportunity to organize around systemic racism and poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy, please join us,” said an announcement. “The meetup will be convened by Sara Haldeman-Scarr (pastor, San Diego First Church of the Brethren), Alyssa Parker (OEP racial justice organizing intern), and Matt Guynn. Participants will share about our own experiences with the PPC, any questions we have. We will specifically talk about how to engage our own congregations and denominations in the Poor People’s Campaign. Advance readings will be suggested to provide a baseline understanding of PPC before the call.” Contact racialjustice@OnEarthPeace.org for more information and to register.
-- The March offering from the “Ventures in Christian Discipleship” program at McPherson (Kan.) College will focus on “Growing an Inclusive Multicultural Church.” “As the world becomes more diverse, church leaders and lay people will need an understanding of what is inclusivity/multiculturalism,” said an announcement. “Instruction includes a non-threatening approach to invite and help bring more people, especially people of color, into the churches or agencies of the Church of the Brethren. Learning new information can help change the trajectory of people, whereby they see with new lenses of compassion and inclusivity.” Participants also will learn tips about how church members can be more welcoming and inclusive.
The class will be held online Saturday, March 2, at 9 a.m. to 12 noon (central time) taught by Barbara Avent, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren living in Littleton, Colo. She graduated from Iliff School of Theology earning a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in justice and peace. She is co-coordinator of high school trainings about peacemaking, reconciliation, and bullying prevention through Agape Satyagraha, a program of On Earth Peace. All classes are donation-based and continuing education credit is available for $10 per course. To learn more about Ventures and to register for courses, visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures .
-- “Make friends with change and come alive!” said an invitation to listen to the latest Dunker Punks podcast. “The start of the new calendar year always seems to bring about a sentiment of self-reflection and re-orienting on the direction our lives are taking. Join Laura Weimer as she shares some concepts she’s discovered through researching ways to deal with upcoming changes in her life.” Listen at bit.ly/DPP_Episode76 or subscribe on iTunes .
-- Week of Prayer for Christian Unity devotions are offered this year by four heads of communion in the United States and Canada: Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop and primate, the Episcopal Church; Fred Hiltz, primate, Anglican Church of Canada; and Susan C. Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. The series of devotions are for the ecumenical celebration on Jan. 18-25. Each year, churches from around the world mark a week to pray together for Christian unity. The theme for 2019 is based the 16th chapter of Deuteronomy, which states, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue.” The ELCA is providing a download of the devotions at https://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Four-Way-Week-Devotionals-2019.pdf .
-- Each year before Earth Day, Creation Justice Ministries offers materials to equip faith communities to protect, restore, and more rightly share God's creation. The 2019 theme for this ecumenical resource is "Next Generation Rising" focusing on children and youth leading the way for creation justice. A Bible study, sermon starter, liturgical, and action materials may be downloaded from www.creationjustice.org/nextgeneration.html . To connect with others who are planning Earth Day activities, join the Earth Day Sunday 2019 Facebook event at www.facebook.com/events/1997969343573458 .
-- An event at the UN focused on ethical financing for development was co-sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC). The 5th Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs was held at the UN headquarters in New York on the theme, “Financing for Sustainable Development: Toward an Economy of Life.” “Financing for sustainable development represents the expression of an ethic of solidarity and sharing, including with generations that come after us and who will inherit whatever good or evil we have wrought,” said Peter Prove, director of International Affairs at the WCC. A release from the WCC noted that the Financing for Development process is centered around supporting follow-up to the agreements and commitments related to the outcomes of major United Nations summits in the economic and social fields, including the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The 2019 symposium was co-organized by the WCC, ACT Alliance, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, Islamic Relief USA, and the United Religions Initiative, in partnership with the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Sustainable Development and the NGO Committee on Financing for Development Conference of NGOs.
-- A special World Council of Churches (WCC) campaign is tackling abuse and violence in “loving” relationships. Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, falls on a Thursday this year, and is being connected to the Thursdays in Black campaign against rape and violence. “Recognizing that Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love, the WCC states that for too many people, ‘love’ comes with abuse and violence,” said a release. “The WCC is inviting reflections and participation on social media, including encouraging people to use a special profile picture, to be made available on Feb. 7, for Valentine’s Day itself.” The campaign kicked off on Jan. 31 by inviting reflections on a scripture passage often used to express love, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Reflections shared with the WCC will be incorporated into a video and feature story for Valentine’s Day. For more about Thursdays in Black go to www.oikoumene.org/thursdays-in-black .