Newsline for July 16, 2009


The Church of the Brethren e-mail news service. Go to www.brethren.org/newsline to subscribe or unsubscribe to Newsline. For more Church of the Brethren news go to www.brethren.org and click on “News.”
“Commit your work to the Lord…” (Proverbs 16:3a).

1) Delegation celebrates church anniversary, Brethren connections in Angola.
2) BBT reports progress in changing pension assumption rate.
3) Project leaders are trained for disaster response.
4) Archives deemed ‘treasure’ in book on conscientious objection.

5) Bohrer ends service as director of Sudan mission initiative.
6) Farmer is called as director of computing for Bethany Seminary.
7) Cyndi Fecher joins Gather ’Round staff as managing editor.

8) Brethren Volunteer Service summer orientation begins.
9) Conference calls prepare for International Day of Prayer for Peace.

Brethren bits: Remembrances, personnel, health care statement, and more (see column at right)

A new resource from the Church of the Brethren is “e-Brethren,” a newsletter produced by the Stewardship and Donor Development department along with communications staff. The newsletter is sent by e-mail every other week (on Newsline’s “off” weeks) offering a handful of brief descriptions to help readers connect with ministries of the church. Visit www.brethren.org/ebrethren to subscribe.

1) Delegation celebrates church anniversary, Brethren connections in Angola.

A Brethren delegation to Angola has helped celebrate church connections built through disaster relief efforts there, attending the 125th anniversary celebration of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola. Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, and Dale Minnich, chair of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, traveled to Angola on May 19-28.

Reporting on the experience, both men highlighted longterm connections that Brethren Disaster Ministries has built with the Bie Province, or district, of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola through relief efforts following the civil war that ended in 2002, and the unique relationships that Brethren enjoy in the central African country. “It was a great trip, and we were warmly received,” Minnich said in a telephone interview following his return. “They value the Church of the Brethren relationship, even though it is fairly recent.”

Since 2001, the Church of the Brethren has supported 10 relief projects in Angola with grants chiefly from the Emergency Disaster Fund, but also from the Global Food Crisis Fund, Minnich said. The Bie Province has been a partner in disaster relief work for several years, and representatives of Bie Province attended the Brethren 300th Anniversary Conference held in Virginia last July.

Another partner has been SHAREcircle, a nonprofit development organization based in Evanston, Ill., and led by Angolans now living in the United States. Over the years, Brethren Disaster Ministries has taken an active role in helping SHAREcircle gain support for its work, Winter said. On the trip to Angola, the Brethren accompanied a number of SHAREcircle representatives. According to Minnich, SHAREcircle’s executive director Guerra Freitas attends Reba Place Church in Evanston–a congregation that for many years was connected with the Church of the Brethren as well as the Mennonite Church.

While in Angola, Winter and Minnich were recognized at a Jubilee celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola. The celebration that took place over several days was attended by upward of 22,000 people, according to a count by church leaders. The executive director of the Angolan Council of Christian Churches brought the sermon for the main worship service.

The event also included a presentation by Minnich, who was asked to review Brethren mission work–past, present, and future–and new ways of working in mission that the Brethren are creating, for example in Haiti. “They were really interested in the global mission relationships,” Minnich said. For his part, he commented that he had “no idea what the size of the crowd was going to be…. The fields and forest around were full of people.”

Winter was impressed by an “amazing offering celebration” during the five-hour worship service. “People bringing forward what they had to offer God–fish, goats, furnishings for a new school, grains, beans, and much more. The whole time everyone was celebrating and dancing.”

The anniversary celebration was held at the Camundongo Mission, 12 miles outside the town of Kuito in central Angola, where Winter observed evidence of the church’s success in rebuilding following the war. “In the two years since my last visit, a church has been built to replace one destroyed in the war. Two new schools, a health clinic, and housing for teachers have all been completed through a partnership with the government,” he reported.

SHARECircle is now focusing on an ambitious project to build a university in the central highlands of Angola. Winter and Minnich visited the proposed site, four square kilometers of land provided by the Angolan government some distance outside of Kuito. There is no other higher education possibility in the area, said Minnich, who described the university as “a really important development step for the highlands of Angola…. It’s a great vision.”

While Brethren Disaster Ministries is not directly involved in the university, Church of the Brethren organizations and individuals interested in the project are encouraged to contact Roy Winter at rwinter@brethren.org .

2) BBT reports progress in changing pension assumption rate.

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) has reported on its work to lower the annuity assumption rate for the Church of the Brethren Pension Plan, in a letter from BBT president Nevin Dulabaum sent in mid-June to all annuitants. The Pension Plan has provided retirement benefits to ministers and lay employees of the Church of the Brethren and its agencies since 1943.

The decision to lower the rate came in late April, in response to losses incurred because of the economic recession. The BBT Board approved the change of all past and future annuity assumption rates to 5 percent, a significant decrease from rates that have been in the range of 6 to 8 percent in recent years.

As of Dec. 31, 2008, the Retirement Benefits Fund held by BBT had enough assets to meet only 68 percent of its current obligations. The decision to reduce the assumption rate has been made in an effort to return the Retirement Benefits Fund to fully funded status. Returning the fund to fully funded status “is our first priority,” BBT has stated on its website.

Monthly pension payments at the new rate will begin Sept. 1. An estimated 1,450 people will be affected. The group includes retired pastors, former district and denominational staff, and others who are receiving annuities.

“Based on our preliminary calculations, the reduction (in monthly payments) will be in the 15 to 20 percent range for most annuitants, but there are a number of variables that could have your individual rate falling above or below that range,” Dulabaum wrote.

The organization has worked diligently to make this conversion accurately, the president reported. However, converting the rate for members who retired several decades ago, when calculations were made by an earlier computer system or by hand, has required much more work and a longer process than expected, he said.

BBT has employed three temporary staff to serve as a data compilation team. The team has had to pull paper files and worksheets dating back decades, and then input that information into a new computer database. The team also is researching and cross referencing other records and information to ensure that the figures used are accurate.

Hewitt Associates, a national employee benefits consultant, has been retained to compute the new monthly payments based on the 5 percent annuity assumption rate. Once that work is complete, BBT will send letters informing every annuitant of the amount of his or her new monthly benefit.

Retirees who experience great financial hardship because of the reduction will be able to apply for a new grant program. BBT has appropriated non-Pension Plan assets from its operating reserves to provide special assistance, up to the amount of the benefit reduction. The BBT Board will review and evaluate the grant program each year.

“We know that this process is difficult and that this change is a disappointment to you and to all of our Brethren Pension Plan annuitants,” Dulabaum wrote in his letter. “We have also received support for making an extremely tough decision. Our first responsibility is to ensure that the Plan can cover its payments for decades to come.”

He also noted that “the 5 percent rate to which we are moving is still on the high end of annuity assumption rates being offered today. While this news provides little consolation, it does help to put into context just how severe of a loss in equities we have gone through over the past 20 months…. This current downturn continues to present problems to all pension plans nationwide, whether church-based or secular.”

For more information go to http://www.brethrenbenefittrust.org/  where BBT is offering an online link with answers to the most frequently asked questions about changes in the Pension Plan.

3) Project leaders are trained for disaster response.

“I always knew there was a lot that went on behind the scenes but I had no idea…” stated one participant during a Brethren Disaster Ministries’ project leadership training held May 26-June 4.

The 10-day training event brought 16 individuals from across the country to the Brethren Disaster Ministries project in Louisiana, focusing on servant leadership, teamwork, and communication. The event also included workshops on safety, volunteer management, household management, cooking, construction management, record keeping, and much more.

Interspersed between workshops, participants were given hands-on opportunities to participate in construction activities as they learned new skills and honed skills in areas such as drywall, window and door installation, flooring, trim carpentry, etc. During a day-long workshop presented by On Earth Peace, participants learned about different personality types and how they affect teamwork, communication, and interpersonal relationships.

Labeled a success by both participants and trainers, a similar model for workshops is expected to be used in future trainings. “Brethren Disaster Ministries project leaders are the backbone of the domestic rebuild program and vital to this ministry. While we are excited about the newly trained leaders and the possibilities that lie ahead, we have seen an increase in weekly volunteerism and recognize the need to train more leaders to meet that demand,” said Zach Wolgemuth, associate director.

Brethren Disaster Ministries expects to offer another project leader training in the near future; interested individuals are invited to contact 800-451-4407.

— Zach Wolgemuth is associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

4) Archives deemed a ‘treasure’ in book on conscientious objection.

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives has been called a “national treasure” by Steven J. Taylor, author of the new book “Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors” (Syracuse University Press, 2009). The archives are located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

In the book’s acknowledgments, Taylor praises the Brethren Historical Library and Archives along with the Mennonite Church Archives in Goshen, Ind., and the Swarthmore (Pa.) College Peace Collection. The author did extensive research at each location, and says, “There are endless books to be written based on the rich historical documents maintained at these archives.”

Taylor’s book documents how a group of young conscientious objectors who worked in mental hospitals as part of their Civilian Public Service (CPS) during World War II, attempted to reform the mental health system after the war. They made public the abuse and poor services endured by patients, and led a reform movement to improve conditions in mental institutions.

CPS was created and funded by Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers as an alternative to military service during World War II. With the approval of the US government, young men who expressed conscientious objection to the war were assigned to work of national importance, such as fighting forest fires, serving as guinea pigs in scientific experiments, and working as attendants in mental hospitals.

“Acts of Conscience” is available from Brethren Press for $45 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712.

— Ken Shaffer is the archivist at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

5) Bohrer ends service as director of Sudan mission initiative.

The position of director of the Church of the Brethren’s Sudan mission initiative is being eliminated, as part of a re-evaluation of the needs of Global Mission Partnerships. Bradley Bohrer leaves the position on July 31, after which he will receive a three-month severance package.

The Sudan mission was initiated by the former Church of the Brethren General Board in Oct. 2005. It will continue as a program of the church’s Global Mission Partnerships, under the leadership of executive director Jay Wittmeyer. “We are committed to the mission in Sudan, although we are eliminating the director position. We continue to maintain a position vacancy for mission workers in Sudan,” Wittmeyer said.

All designated gifts to the Sudan mission continue to be held in a special fund to support future in-country work by Brethren mission staff.

Bohrer has directed the Sudan initiative since Sept. 11, 2006. During his tenure, the Church of the Brethren has explored the feasibility and foundational understandings for a mission in Sudan; explored locations for mission workers and possible partnerships with other churches and nonprofit organizations in southern Sudan, with the help of a volunteer assessment team that included Enten Eller and the late Phil and Louise Rieman; and established a working relationship with RECONCILE, a peace and justice ministry in southern Sudan related to the Sudan Council of Churches. A short-term Brethren mission worker was placed in Sudan to work with RECONCILE, under Bohrer’s leadership.

In previous work for the church, Bohrer pastored Brook Park (Ohio) Community Church of the Brethren for over 22 years. In 1995-97 he taught at Kulp Bible College in Nigeria. He also has worked in Northern Ohio District as director of Pastoral Continuing Education. He holds degrees from Manchester College, Bethany Seminary, and Ashland Seminary.

6) Farmer is called as director of computing for Bethany Seminary.

Edward R. Farmer has been called as director of seminary computing for Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., beginning Aug. 1. The director provisions, manages, and secures technology resources for the seminaries; advises them on the use and development of information technology; and coordinates resources between the seminaries.

Farmer has extensive experience in computer systems management and netware integration and administration. He has been a systems engineer for Dayton Cincinnati Technology Services since 2004 and tech coordinator for Precious Blood Elementary School in Trotwood, Ohio, since 2007. He holds degrees from Albion (Mich.) College and the University of Texas at Dallas, and also has been an adjunct instructor for use of computer software at Indiana Vocational Technical College.

7) Cyndi Fecher joins Gather ’Round staff as managing editor.

Cyndi Fecher has been named managing editor of the Gather ’Round curriculum project of Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network, as of Aug. 3. She will work out of the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Fecher was Gather ’Round project assistant from 2006-07, and more recently has been doing writing, editing, layout, and proofreading as publications coordinator for Brethren Benefit Trust since Jan. 2. Of additional benefit is her teaching experience in South Korea, where she taught English as a second language to students age four through adult. She also brings technical expertise in website management and publishing software.

8) Brethren Volunteer Service summer orientation begins.

The 2009 Summer Orientation unit of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) will be held July 19-Aug. 7 in Harrisonburg, Va. This will be the 284th orientation unit for BVS and will consist of 18 volunteers from across the US, Germany, and the Netherlands.

This unit is sponsored by the Little Hill Community Urban Farm and the New Community Project, and will focus on sustainable living and localization. Volunteers will learn about global and local issues of social justice, care for creation, poverty, and peacemaking. Highlights will include hiking a mountain, biking to the grocery store, a weekend immersion in Washington, D.C., and spending a final week at Brethren Woods Camp and Retreat Center in Keezletown, Va.

A BVS potluck on Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. at Brethren Woods Camp is open to all who are interested in helping welcome the new BVS volunteers. For more information contact BVS office staff volunteer Beth Merrill at bmerrill@brethren.org .

9) Conference calls prepare International Day of Prayer for Peace.

On Earth Peace is calling on churches and organizations to join its annual campaign to participate in the International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDOPP) on Sept. 21. The commemoration is an initiative of the World Council of Churches. This year, a special emphasis of the campaign is how the recession is affecting local communities.

Conference call training sessions for congregations and individuals interested in carrying out “Listening Initiatives” in their local communities as part the campaign are offered on July 20 and 28 at 12-2 p.m. Eastern time. The sessions will be facilitated by David Jehnsen, chair of the board of Every Church a Peace Church, and founder of the Institute for Human Rights and Responsibilities. Jehnsen will be basing the training on a process of community organizing originally used by Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement.

In addition to Listening Initiatives, churches and other groups may participate in the campaign through an observance or a vigil, depending on each group’s interest and experience with peace and social justice issues. So far, about 60 congregations and groups have registered. Visit http://idopp.onearthpeace.org/ . To participate in a call, contact idopp@onearthpeace.org.

Dale Minnich reports on a delegation to Angola, to a pre-Annual Conference meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board. Click here for more photos from Conference events. (Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford)

Brad Bohrer is ending his service as director of the Sudan mission initiative. In this photo he is shown (third from right) meeting with staff of RECONCILE, a peace and justice organization in southern Sudan, as part of his work with the Sudan mission. Read the personnel announcement below.

The International Day of Prayer for Peace is one way congregations may promote ‘Peace on Earth,’ this year scheduled for Sept. 21. This sign, spotted some years ago at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., is an example of peace promotion in a community. On Earth Peace invites Brethren to hold vigils, listening initiatives, or other events on Sept. 21. Go to
(Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford)

Brethren bits

In remembrance: 
Jeannette W. Patterson, 67, died on July 2. She was a key employee of the Church of the Brethren’s Virlina District and its predecessors for 38 years, from 1968-2006. She is survived by her husband, Wessley, her son, Keith, and grandson, Dusty. Funeral services were held on July 6 in Roanoke, Va.
Tom Mullen passed away June 19. He had taught at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind.,  and his courses were attended by students at Bethany Theological Seminary following its move to Richmond. Mullen is known to Brethren as a popular humorist who has spoken at National Older Adult Conferences and Caring Ministries Assemblies. He was the author of a number of books including “Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences.” He is survived by his wife, Nancy Faus-Mullen, who is a former professor at Bethany Seminary.
Sheri Layman Fecher, 53, passed away July 11 at her home in Elgin, Ill., after a long battle with cancer. She was employed by the Church of the Brethren General Board in 1996 and 1997 as Yearbook assistant. She is survived by her husband of 31 years, Donald Fecher, a former director of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes; daughter Cyndi Fecher, publications coordinator for Brethren Benefit Trust; and son Leland Fecher and fiancee Alison Mulert. She was a dedicated teacher who taught at Larkin and South Elgin High Schools for 12 years, and was active at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin. A memorial service will be held July 25, at 10 a.m., at Highland Avenue Church. A memorial scholarship fund has been created at South Elgin High School.

Personnel notes:
Stephen E. Abe concluded his service as district executive of West Marva District on June 30, rather than Sept. 30 as previously announced. The district’s new e-mail address is wmarva@brethren.org .
Justin Barrett has resigned as program assistant for the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships, effective July 30. He began in the position on Sept. 24, 2007. Previously, he served as office coordinator for Student Services at North Park Theological Seminary in the Chicago area. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University and North Park Theological Seminary, with a master’s degree in Christian Ministry. He will be relocating to Massachusetts.
Cristian Villegas has begun as a baler in Material Resources at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. He graduated last year from Francis Scott High School, and last fall worked with the boxcar crew in Material Resources.

A health care statement from religous leaders has been signed by Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger. The statement declares that current economic conditions have made health care reform an urgent priority. The declaration was drafted with the assistance of the National Council of Churches Health Task Force. “No longer can we afford to squander the hopes and dreams of the American people through a much-too-costly system that contributes to economic despair,” the statement said in part. “Families and individuals must be able to rely on affordable care in times of illness or accident and preventative care to safeguard health and well-being. Go to www.ncccusa.org/news/090707
 for the full statement.

Brethren Volunter Service (BVS) is moving forward with an initiative to develop community living opportunities for volunteers. Supported by BVS and local congregations, each volunteer community will house four-to-six volunteers serving in full-time BVS projects and committed to intentional practices of life together. The first BVS house, sponsored by Cincinnati (Ohio) Church of the Brethren, is expected to begin hosting volunteers as early as August. The new community emphasis is part of a partnership with Volunteers Exploring Vocation through the fund for Theological Education and a grant from the Lilly Foundation. Congregations and volunteers interested in the new community houses may contact Dana Cassell, volunteer staff for Vocation and Community Living, at dcassell@brethren.org .

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is offering four more Level 1 Workshops before the end of the year. Workshops train volunteers to minister with children and families following disasters. Workshops will be offered on Aug. 10-11 at the Native American Ministry United Methodist Church in Milwaukee, Wis., with Lorna Jost as local coordinator (contact 605-692-3390); Sept. 25-26 at Virden (Ill.) Church of the Brethren with Charlot Cole as coordinator (217-370-5382); Oct. 9-10 at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren with Elva Jean Naylor as coordinator (620-241-3123); and Nov. 6-7 at Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church in Sykesville, Md., with Mary K. Bunting as coordinator (410-552-1142). For more about registration and cost go to http://www.childrensdisasterservices.org/  or call 800-451-4407, ext. 5.

Brethren mission coordinators for the Dominican Republic, Irvin and Nancy Heishman, have been visiting congregations on the West Coast since Annual Conference ended. They have given presentations at a number of congregations in Oregon and Washington District, and traveled to Nampa (Idaho) Church of the Brethren. Nancy Heishman was one of the preachers for worship at the Conference that ended in San Diego on June 30.

Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren in York, N.D., has decided to close. A celebration of the church and a final worship service is scheduled for Aug. 30, according to the Northern Plains District newsletter. The district is calling for letters of support to Pleasant Valley Church, care of pastor Steve Cameron, cameron@stellarnet.com .

A Bible study group at Brethren Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Lancaster, Pa., has now been in existence for more than 45 years, according to a note from Charles Bieber who serves as teacher. The group recently motored to Carlisle, Pa., to visit the Church of the Brethren there and encourage newly installed pastors Marla and James Abe.

Champaign (Ill.) Church of the Brethren has announced a priority of working with the local police department, following a reassessment of its ministry, in an announcement in the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter. “Late last summer the congregation started praying for the officers of the police department every Sunday,” the report said. “The officers and the Chief were stunned that someone would pray for them, then they were thankful, then they each and all asked us to continue.” The church regards prayer as a first step, with a next step to encourage police to interact with children in the neighborhood in a non-threatening manner, and ultimately to become more responsive to neighborhood needs. “The church is trying to position itself to be the center, or hub, of the neighborhood activities, in essence to be the agent of change.”

A team of volunteer builders from Carpenters for Christ on June 2 kicked off construction to rebuild Erwin (Tenn.) Church of the Brethren, which was destroyed by fire last summer. A Tennessee news website has posted a video clip and photos, go to www.tricities.com/tri/news/local/article/

A new district website is under construction in Northern Plains District, thanks to the efforts of Ida Van Weston and Kathy Mack, according to the district newsletter. Go to http://www.northernplainsdistrict.com/

The 2009 district conference season begins with two conferences on July 31-Aug. 2: Northern Plains District meets at Pine Lake Christian Camp in Eldora, Iowa, on the theme, “Faith, Hope, and Love: The Greatest of These Is Love” (1 Cor. 13:13) with Alice Draper as moderator; Western Plains meets at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren on the theme, “Become New!” with Leslie Frye as moderator.

A program at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village may lead to a long-term partnership with Washington County Hospital Wound Center, according to a release from the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md. Debra Manahan, certified wound-care specialist, is a member of a team of healthcare professionals dedicated to wound care and wound healing who once a week meets at Fahrney-Keedy to make “wound rounds” among residents.  “Our long-term goal is to become the facility of choice to facilitate optimal care for those who suffer with wounds or other skin issues,” Manahan said. The team also includes three Washington County Hospital physicians,  staff from Flagship Rehabilitation, and other Fahrney-Keedy staff.

Ellen K. Layman has received the 2009 Merlin and Dorothy Faw Garber Award for Christian Service from Bridgewater (Va.) College. Layman is a 1965 graduate who has worked at the college in many capacities: as part-time instructor in journalism from 1979-82, director of public information 1991-95, associate director of development 1995-2000, director of media and church relations 2000-01, director of alumni and church relations 2001-07, and director of special projects since 2007. Layman also has had a career in journalism and politics. She is a member of Dayton (Va.) Church of the Brethren.

Harmony Cafe opened June 1 as the second open-to-the-public restaurant at Cross Keys Village-The Brethren Home Community in New Oxford, Pa. The cafe in the Harmony Ridge Community Center is part of a recent expansion that includes the 56-unit Harmony Ridge West Apartments and the Harvey S. Kline Wellness Center. The new facilities were dedicated in a ceremony on May 29 with Nevin Dulabaum, president of Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT), as guest speaker. Harvey S. Kline was an original trustee of BBT.

The Brethren Revival Fellowship has announced registration for this summer’s Brethren Bible Institute to begin July 19. The institute will be held July 20-24 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. This year, some classes will be designed with extra study and assignments suitable for licensed ministers. Contact Brethren Bible Institute, 155 Denver Rd., Denver, PA 17517.

The John Kline Homestead has a new brochure, and has started a newsletter. In addition, the Board of Directors has begun a formal capital fund campaign to raise at least $425,000 by the end of 2009, in an effort to preserve the homestead of John Kline, a Brethren elder and martyr during the Civil War era. The homestead project is contacting several congregations in Shenandoah District with encouragement to raise $10,000 each to support the preservation of the historic homestead in Broadway, Va., near Linville Creek Church of the Brethren. Contact Linville Creek pastor Paul Roth at proth@bridgewater.edu .

Nine Brethren departed July 14 for a New Community Project Learning Tour to El Salvador. The New Community Project is a Brethren-related nonprofit organization. In El Salvador, the group will be hosted by Emmanuel Baptist Church and will receive briefings on the current political, social, and economic situation in the country; will visit the site of Oscar Romero’s martyrdom; and will live and work in a community assisting in housing construction. The delegation is led by New Community Project director David Radcliff and Jim Dodd of Midland, Va. In other news from the project, a grant of $6,000 has been given for a women’s gardening project, tailoring training, and reforestation programs in Nimule, Sudan. This follows grants of $30,000 given earlier this year for these projects and for girls’ education in Sudan. For more visit http://www.newcommunityproject.org/

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is holding its tenth Christian Peacemaker Congress on Sept. 17-20 in Denver, Colo., on the theme, “Restoring Balance: Peace Through Right Relationships.” The congress will be hosted by the Student Action Committee at Iliff School of Theology. Presenters include George Tinker, Baldridge Professor of American Indian Culture and Practice at Iliff; Elizabeth Garcia, a CPT worker and immigration activist; and Harley Eagle, coordinator of Indigenous Work for Mennonite Central Committee. Go to www.cpt.org/participate/congressX

A CPT reservist has been charged with littering for leaving water bottles for migrants near the US-Mexico border. On June 1, John Heid and two other people placed three-dozen gallons of water on a migrant trail in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge near Tucson, Ariz., according to a release from CPT. The three were confronted by a US Border Patrol agent “armed with an M-16 assault rifle,” and by a Fish and Wildlife officer, and escorted out of the area. “The date (June 1) marked the beginning of the most lethal month of the year in the Tucson Sector of the US-Mexico borderlands,” CPT said. “One hundred degree days become the deadly norm. This year, migrants crossing this desert are dying at a record rate; 89 bodies have been recovered.”

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has sent an update on a letter on Holy Land Peace sent by Christian leaders to President Obama on June 4. Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger was one of those who signed. Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, has responded with a letter expressing appreciation for the Christian leaders’ “work to advance our collective goal of realizing a comprehensive Middle East peace,” and laying out the obligations that the US administration has placed on all parties including Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab states. CMEP continues to gather signatures for the Holy Land Peace letter, go to www.cmep.org/boldaction

An ElderQuest walking retreat for older men is led by Brethren minister Roger Golden on Sept. 20-25 in Abingdon, Va. “The Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34 mile rails-to-trails project, will provide four days of walking, reflection, and life planning,” he reported. The group will walk 34 miles to Whitetop Mountain, Va., and return. Pre-retreat training is required. Deadline for registration is Aug. 1. Go to http://www.elderquest.info/

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Frank Buhrman, Mary K. Heatwole, Karin L. Krog, Patrice Nightingale, David Radcliff, Paul Roth, Glen Sargent, Marcia Shetler, Anna Speicher, Jay Wittmeyer contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for July 29. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

Forward Newsline to a friend

Subscribe to Newsline

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]