Newsline for Oct. 7, 2009

Newsline is the Church of the Brethren e-mail news service. Go to www.brethren.org/newsline to subscribe or unsubscribe.
Oct. 7, 2009 

“Rescue the weak and the needy…” (Psalm 82:4a).

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries responds to Indonesia, flooding in Georgia.
2) Brethren staff take part in national conversations on disaster guidelines.
3) 128 faith communities participate in On Earth Peace campaign.
4) Community development program in DR gains new ecumenical partners.

5) Anna Emrick to be program coordinator for Global Mission Partnerships.

6) Brethren Press offers early order special for Advent devotional.

7) An ‘Amen’ to a Historic Peace Church effort on gun violence.
8) A reflection on arriving in Nigeria.

Brethren bits: Personnel, jobs, economy letter, flu resource, and more (see column at right).

New online is a five-minute video overview of the recent National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), produced by David Sollenberger and featuring as a soundtrack the NOAC 2009 theme song performed by Jonathan Shively. Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gFqi1LMS3E  .

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries responds to Indonesia, flooding in Georgia.

The Brethren Disaster Ministries program is responding to recent disaster situations with a grant for relief work following an earthquake in Indonesia, and the sending of a Children’s Disaster Services team following flooding around Atlanta, Ga.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has been monitoring the situation since two earthquakes hit Indonesia last month, and a massive tsunami swept over the South Pacific island of Samoa and surrounding islands in late September.

Disaster staff have been monitoring both situations through Church World Service, a longtime ecumenical and international partner. CWS Indonesia staff have reported that the level of damage in the earthquake that hit Sumatra at the end of September was “far worse” than the Sept. 2 earthquake that rattled West Java. CWS is responding to both earthquakes in Indonesia, providing non-food relief items such as family tents, blankets, and relief kits.

An allocation of $15,000 has been given from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund to CWS for work in Indonesia following the Sept. 2 earthquake, a 7.2-magnitude quake that struck West Java Province.

The grant will help provide supplies and shelter to 900 households, or about 4,500 people, in four remote communities that are among the worst-affected. In the four villages, most of the houses were destroyed by the quake and only a limited amount of aid has been able to reach the area in part because of limited road conditions. CWS has been assisting with food, blankets, tarpaulins, tents, hygiene kits, baby kits, and mosquito nets, and now plans to help the villagers with new shelters made from bamboo sheet walls, beams, and tarpaulin roofing.

In the Atlanta, Ga., metro area severe flooding has affected thousands of families. Judy Bezon, Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) associate director, returned on Sunday from a week-long CDS response in Marietta, which she coordinated with a team of six volunteer caregivers. The team provided care for more than 100 children affected by the floods.

Brethren Disaster Ministries also is continuing three rebuilding project sites in the United States: a new project site in the Winamac, Ind., area in response to severe flooding last year; an ongoing project in Hammond, Ind.; and an ongoing site in Chalmette, La., where homes are being rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.


2) Brethren staff take part in national conversations on disaster guidelines.

Leading staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services have been part of two efforts to draft guidelines for disaster response:

Judy Bezon of Children’s Disaster Services has contributed to an interim report from the National Commission on Children and Disasters about the needs of children in disasters.

Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries has contributed to a document from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) defining how to minister emotionally and spiritually to people in times of disaster.

Winter has been part of the NVOAD Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee since it began shortly after the 9-11 attacks of 2001, and currently is NVOAD board liaison to the committee.

“I think it is an amazing piece of work in that a very broad group–interfaith actually–could develop a consensus,” Winter said about the new document titled “Disaster Spiritual Care Points of Consensus.” He explained how the document will serve the church’s ministries, saying, “This is intended to give guidance on how we interact with disaster survivors, no matter our role–even if rebuilding homes or caring for children.”

Some 49 organizations are part of NVOAD, according to a release from Church World Service. The NVOAD organizations “are the driving force behind disaster recovery in the United States,” CWS said. “National VOAD facilitates cooperation among every major nonprofit and faith-based disaster response organization in the US. National VOAD agencies focus on all stages of disaster–preparedness, relief, response, recovery, and mitigation. In 2008, these organizations provided more than $200 million dollars in direct financial assistance and more than 7 million hours in volunteer labor.”

This is the first time that minimum standards of care have been set for how to minister emotionally and spiritually in times of disaster, CWS said in the release that focused on the respectful nature of the cooperative effort among faith-based organizations ranging from Catholic to Scientologist, Protestant to Buddhist and Jewish.

The set of standards outlines protections for disaster survivors at a time of physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological challenge. The 10 points of consensus include: basic concepts of disaster spiritual care; types of disaster spiritual care; local community resources; disaster emotional care and its relationship to disaster spiritual care; disaster spiritual care in response and recovery; disaster emotional and spiritual care for the care giver; planning, preparedness, training, and mitigation as spiritual care components; disaster spiritual care in diversity; disaster, trauma, and vulnerability; and ethics and standards of care.

To learn more about NVOAD and to review the Points of Consensus in its entirety go to http://www.nvoad.org/ .

Children’s Disaster Services was part of a subcommittee that contributed to a section on shelter needs for children in the interim report from the National Commission on Children and Disasters. CDS is a Church of the Brethren ministry and the oldest organization of its kind in the US, having started caring for children in disaster situations in 1980.

A release quoted Bezon on how children may be neglected in disasters. “Child neglect is generally not intentional,” she said. “Parents are left thinking about food, clothing, and shelter and whether they still have a job to provide clothing, food, and shelter.” The work of Children’s Disaster Services has been to help care for children while parents are focused on other priorities. “At the same time we’re supporting the children, we’re supporting the parents and the family because if they are living in a shelter they get a break and know that their children are safe with us,” Bezon said.

The National Commission’s interim report identifies areas for improvement in disaster assistance for children, references recent disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in which children’s needs were not met, and makes recommendations to improve care. Recommendations include assuring academic continuity following disasters, giving priority for housing assistance to families with school-aged children and especially those whose children have special needs, providing appropriate play and recreation options following disasters, and providing children access to crisis, bereavement, and mental health services.


3) 128 faith communities participate in On Earth Peace campaign.

On Earth Peace organized 128 Church of the Brethren congregations and other groups in the US, Puerto Rico, and Nigeria to participate in the International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDOPP) on or around Sept. 21. On Earth Peace is a peace education, action, and witness agency of the Church of the Brethren.

Many churches prayed about local economic conditions, immigration issues, or religious tolerance, while others prayed for relief from local violence involving gangs or guns. Still others prayed for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some held prayer walks, asking God to help them see their neighborhoods in new ways. Others planted peace poles, which expressed blessings of peace in several languages. Still others held concerts and theater presentations. Everywhere people prayed for God’s presence in their lives and in their communities.

Vigils in at least two cities where local violence was the prayer concern have contributed to positive community change. In Rockford, Ill., pastor Samuel Sarpiya of Rockford Community Church (Church of the Brethren) and fellow clergy had been engaged in a listening project since April with many communities within Rockford. They were planning a Sept. 21 vigil around the theme of better education for youth. All of that changed on Aug. 24, when two police officers shot and killed an unarmed black man at a church childcare center. The clergy found themselves in a tense situation with potential for further violence. The focus of their vigil suddenly needed to also address the more immediate issue and its aftermath. The clergy provided prayer leadership for Rockford’s observance of the International Day of Peace, a four-hour community gathering about both educational issues and how to move forward in the immediate crisis.

Through Sarpiya’s leadership, a group of civic, business, and religious leaders in Rockford have asked On Earth Peace to come alongside the situation. In the coming weeks, On Earth Peace will provide both organizing support and training in nonviolent community leadership for religious, business, and civic leaders who are addressing the unrest in the city.

In Philadelphia, a vigil for the International Day of Prayer for Peace sponsored by a multi-faith action group “Heeding God’s Call” capped nine months of weekly rallies in front of Colosimo’s Gun Center (see feature below).

The International Day of Prayer for Peace was first proposed in 2004 during a meeting between World Council of Churches general secretary Samuel Kobia and then-United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan as one of the initiatives of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence. It is celebrated annually on Sept. 21, the UN International Day of Peace.

— Mimi Copp was a co-coordinator for the International Day of Prayer for Peace Campaign of On Earth Peace along with co-coordinator Michael Colvin. Contact her at 215-474-1195.


4) Community development program in DR gains new ecumenical partners.

The community development program of the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic is set to become a broader ecumenical venture involving partnership with Church World Service, the Foods Resource Bank, and Servicios Sociales de Iglesias Dominicanas (SSID, the Dominican partner of Church World Service).

The new partnership has received support and encouragement from the church’s Global Mission Partnerships, DR mission coordinators Irvin and Nancy Heishman, Felix Arias Mateo of the Church of the Brethren in the DR, and Howard Royer of the church’s Global Food Crisis Fund, as well as staff of the Foods Resource Bank and CWS.

This ecumenical program will include five Brethren communities at the outset. “The (total) project will engage 610 families in 32 ‘bateye’ or ethnically Haitian communities in organizing to overcome hunger and poverty,” Royer reported.

In other news from the DR mission, students in the Theological Program are in the process of teaching “Introduction to the History of the Church of the Brethren,” written by Galen Hackman originally for the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program in Nigeria and re-published this spring in Spanish and Haitian Creole. “There are currently over 30 students in the program (both pastors and laity),” the Heishmans reported. “The reception in the churches to the book has been enthusiastic as they celebrate their history and story.” Copies have been shared with the Brethren mission in Haiti and Brethren churches in Puerto Rico. The book can be ordered through Brethren Press for $10 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712.

This summer, 32 volunteers from two Church of the Brethren congregations in the US as well as a denominational workcamp helped six Dominican Brethren churches hold Vacation Bible School, reaching approximately 1,100 children. “Many more of the 20 Dominican Brethren churches held VBS as well,” the Heishmans said. “Thanks to assistant mission coordinator Jerry O’Donnell and the work team members for a job well done!”

In related news, the DR will be the site for the first-ever “international CROP Walk” held by CWS. The Brethren mission workers have been invited to participate as well as partner organization SSID. Novelist Julia Alvarez is involved in arrangements for the event, which will be connected with a CROP Walk in Middlebury, Vt. For more about the CROP Walk in the DR go to www.churchworldservice.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7903&news_iv_ctrl=1261 .


5) Anna Emrick to be program coordinator for Global Mission Partnerships.

Anna Emrick has accepted the position of program coordinator for the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships, working at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. She will begin on Oct. 12.

She brings previous experience working for the Church of the Brethren and other nonprofit organizations, having served as a Brethren Press intern in the summer of 2007, having worked for the Brethren Volunteer Service office in recruitment from August 2004-August 2005, and having served an initial BVS assignment with the Human Resource Development Council in Havre, Mont. She also has studied overseas in Greece.

Emrick is a Church of the Brethren member and a graduate of Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., where she earned a bachelor of science degree in nonprofit management. She lives in Mason, Mich., and will be relocating to the Elgin area.


6) Brethren Press offers early order special for Advent devotional.

The annual Advent devotional from Brethren Press this year is written by Yvonne R. Riege, titled “Discovering the Holy in the Ordinary.” An early order special is making the booklet available for a discounted price of $2 per copy for orders received by Oct. 30. After that date, the price goes up to $2.50 each. A shipping and handling charge will be added.

In another special offer, Brethren Press is now inviting regular readers of the Advent and Easter devotionals to become “seasonal subscribers” for only $4 per year. Seasonal subscribers will automatically receive both devotional booklets at the discounted rate, plus shipping and handling.

The Advent devotional is designed for congregations to offer for members’ use during Advent, and for individuals who desire a daily meditation to prepare for Christmas. The booklet includes a scripture reading, a short meditation on the scripture, and a prayer for each day of the Advent season. Order from Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.


7) An ‘Amen’ to a Historic Peace Church effort on gun violence.

As soon as we had said “Amen” to close our morning prayer time, my community member gave me the news: late the night before she learned that Colosimo’s Gun Center had been charged by the federal government for illegally selling guns to straw purchasers.

Two days earlier, on Sept. 21, more than 60 people of faith from across Philadelphia had gathered in front of the gun shop to hold a prayer vigil as part of On Earth Peace’s International Day of Prayer for Peace Campaign.

By Sept. 30, the business owner of Colosimo’s Gun Center had pleaded guilty in court, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) had permanently revoked the store’s license to sell firearms, and the store had been closed down.

These are the dramatic, recent developments in a string of actions, vigils, and protests by many faith communities in Philadelphia to do something about the gun violence choking our city. In the last two and a half weeks, over 50 people have been shot. Over the last five years, on average 304 people have been shot down and killed each year in the city. The “Philadelphia Inquirer” has tracked gun homicide details for the past 10 years (for more go to www.philly.com/inquirer/multimedia/15818502.html ).

More people die in Philadelphia alone by gun violence each year than the total number of people killed through gun violence in any of the countries in Western Europe, Japan, Canada, or Australia (http://www.ceasefirepa.org/ ). The great majority of the guns used in these shootings are illegal guns.

This past January, I went with four other people, including former Brethren Witness/Washington Office director Phil Jones, into Colosimo’s Gun Center. The five of us had come together for Heading God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace, which was organized by the Historic Peace Churches. The organizers of Heeding God’s Call knew they must put words into action and address the violence in the host city of Philadelphia. Colosimo’s Gun Center had long been known by both law enforcement and criminals as a prime source of illegal guns.

The latest ATF data revealed that one-fifth of all crime guns used in Philadelphia were traced back to this store, in a statistic prior to 2003. (Since then, ATF data has been suppressed by the National Rifle Association through the Tiahrt Amendment that is attached to the ATF appropriation bill each year so the public can no longer find out the latest statistics on crime guns and where they come from.)

We went to the store to ask the owner to sign a code of conduct created by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition and Wal-Mart, that is intended to help stem the flow of handguns to the illegal market by reducing the “straw buying” that feeds it. Straw buyers stand in for gun traffickers at gun shops to make bulk purchases that end up on the street, and Colosimo’s was involved in these kinds of sales.

This was not the first time the store owner had heard of the code of conduct or had been asked to sign it. Before the five of us came into his store, he met multiple times with a Heeding God’s Call delegation of religious leaders to learn about the code and listen to a plea to sign it. He said he would not sign it.

He also told the five of us who came into his store that he would not sign it. While we waited for him to sign it, we were arrested and then spent the night in jail. Two days later, another seven people connected to the peace gathering attempted to ask him to sign the code. They also were arrested. The 12 of us stood trial in May on charges of criminal conspiracy, defiant trespassing, disorderly conduct, and obstructing a public highway. As we stood trial, so too did the violence that chokes our city. After a one-day trial, the 12 of us were found not guilty.

Before and after the trial, and since January, we have held weekly Monday and Saturday protests in front of gun store, calling on the owner to sign the code of conduct. Over 250 Christians came to the store on Good Friday for a vigil, remembering the violence that took the life of Jesus, the gun violence that takes the lives of so many in Philadelphia, and this gun shop’s role in it. And most recently, we were there for the International Day of Prayer for Peace.

Later that same week, articles in the Philadelphia papers were reading “The Strength of a Prayer” and “Faith Triumphs over Firepower.”

We are sending a message to our neighbors that we are paying attention, that we will not accept the violence on our streets, that we will persist and persevere in our insistence that all share the responsibility of ending gun violence. Through organizing and faithfulness we contributed to the actions taken by the Federal government to charge the gun shop for its participation in straw purchase sales. And we stand, and will continue to stand, with the people who have been fighting against gun violence for years upon years in this city.

— Mimi Copp is a Church of the Brethren member of Shalom House, an intentional Christian Community in Philadelphia dedicated to pro-active peacemaking (http://www.shalomhouse.us/ ).


8) A reflection on arriving in Nigeria.

Jennifer and Nathan Hosler arrived in Nigeria in mid-August as Church of the Brethren mission staff serving with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). They are teaching at Kulp Bible College and working with EYN’s Peace Program. The following reflects on their first month in Nigeria:

“September 29, 2009: On Monday, we learned that a funeral was to be held at EYN headquarters. A staff person at the dispensary was returning from a nearby village on motorcycle the night before and was fatally injured in an accident.

“Life is fragile everywhere, all of the time. However, the environment of Nigeria often places people into precarious circumstances. It seems as though the heightened awareness of life’s fragility affects the speech of Christians in Nigeria. When speaking of plans, people do not assume that those plans will be met and verbally admit so. A common phrase added to plans is, ‘By His grace.’ For example, ‘We will leave for Jos on Tuesday, by His grace.’

“This heightened awareness of life’s fragility also produces an increased level of thankfulness to God for all types of circumstances such as rain for crops to grow or safety during travels. Even a cool breeze (welcome relief in a hot environment) elicits a ‘Mugode Allah’ or ‘We thank God.’

“This perspective on life brings to mind the words of James: ‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.’

“Privileged people in North America (which is most of us) typically assume that everything will work out. Only during extreme tragedy (a car accident, a terminal illness, the death of a child, etc.) do our thoughts ponder life’s fragility.

“The attitude of our Nigerian brothers and sisters provides a needed reflection for North Americans on the delicate balance of our lives and how easily that balance can be broken–in North America but especially so around the world. We should be challenged–as James wrote–not to assume anything about our lives, our health, our wealth, and act accordingly, and especially to exhibit thankfulness for both large and small things.

“When I feel the cool breeze tomorrow as I wake in Nigeria (by His grace), I will say, ‘Mugode Allah.’”

New photo albums from Brethren Disaster Ministries are online at www.brethren.org (click on “News” and then on “Photo Albums” to find the links). The two new photo albums highlight a disaster rebuilding project in Lake County, Ind., and the training for new project site leaders that was held in the summer. The albums were compiled by Brethren Volunteer Service worker Don Knieriem.

Nathan and Jennifer Hosler have provided a reflection “On Arriving in Nigeria,” following a month serving in a new position as mission workers with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Read their reflection below.

A witness against gun violence that began with a Historic Peace Churches meeting in January has borne fruit in Philadelphia, as reported in a feature by Mimi Copp (see feature story below). Shown here is one of the witnesses outside Colosimo’s gun store during the Heeding God’s Call gathering.


Brethren bits

Camp Swatara has announced a program coordinator staff change. Natasha Stern has ended her service as program coordinator as of Sept. 30. She has served in this position for the last two years. On Oct. 12, Aaron Ross will begin as the new program coordinator at Camp Swatara. Ross has spent the last three summers on the program staff at the camp and has been a student at Millersville University.

The New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center is welcoming Maxine and Wade Gibbons of Denver, Colo., as volunteer hosts for the Old Main building in October and November.

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., seeks applicants for a faculty position in Brethren Studies. The seminary invites applications for a three-year renewable part-time faculty position beginning Fall 2010. A candidate holding a PhD degree is preferred; ABD will be considered. The appointee will be expected to teach two graduate-level courses per year (at least one as an online offering), and offer one academy-level course biennially. Other duties will include student advising and the supervision of MA theses in the area of Brethren Studies as needed. The area of expertise and research may come from a variety of fields, such as historical studies, theological studies, Brethren heritage, or sociology and religion. Commitment to the values and theological emphases within the Church of the Brethren is essential. The seminary encourages applications from women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. The application deadline is Dec. 1. More information is available online at www.bethanyseminary.edu/about/
. To appply, send a letter of application, curriculum vitae, and names and contact information for three references to Brethren Studies Search, Attn: Dean’s Office, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Rd. West, Richmond, IN 47374; deansoffice@bethanyseminary.edu  .

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks a director of Financial Operations to fill a fulltime salaried position based in Elgin, Ill. BBT is a nonprofit agency of the Church of the Brethren that provides pension, insurance, foundation, and credit union services for 6,000 members and clients nationwide. The primary responsibility of the position is to direct the accounting operations of BBT, insuring an accurate reflection of its financial position through reporting and interpretation of financial information. In addition, the director is responsible to design, implement, and maintain systems as they affect financial reporting in order to provide management with timely and accurate information; direct all activities related to the supervision of Finance staff; assist staff in planning, operating, and controlling financial operations; direct reporting for the accounting of all entities under BBT; direct planning and budget activities; direct, prepare, and file all required tax returns and communication with the Internal Revenue Service; travel to board meetings and other events as appropriate. Knowledge and experience required includes a graduate degree in accounting, business, or related field, along with advanced certifications or degrees such as CPA or MBA; eight years of experience in finance, administration, and personnel supervision, preferably for not-for-profit organizations; with strong knowledge of accounting systems and business planning desired; current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren preferred; current and active membership in a faith community required. Salary is competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. Full benefits package is included. Apply as soon as possible by sending a letter of interest, resume, three references (one supervisor, one colleague, one friend), and salary-range expectation to Donna March, 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; dmarch_bbt@brethren.org  . For questions call 847-622-3371. For more about BBT see http://www.brethrenbenefittrust.org/  .

— The Church of the Brethren seeks a coordinator of online gift invitation to fill a fulltime position in the Stewardship and Donor Development department, working at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Starting date is Dec. 1 or as negotiated. A position description and application form are available on request. Responsibilities include promotiong and securing of online gifts to support ministries of the Church of the Brethren; working with multiple areas to develop and follow a comprehensive plan for e-community building and online giving; working with outside contractors if necessary for e-mail communications and to streamline online giving systems; working collegially with Brethren Press and communications staff on electronic media messages; developing and maintaining the Stewardship and Donor Development website pages and other web-based donor communication and gift invitation activities. Qualifications include public relations or customer service experience; familiarity with web-based communications (Convio database preferred); commitment to Church of the Brethren goals and objectives; positive, affirming, collaborative style of team participation; membership in the Church of the Brethren preferred. Required education and experience include a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience. Contact the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; kkrog@brethren.org  or 800-323-8039 ext. 258.

The Church of the Brethren’s Inter-Agency Forum, made up of executives of the four Annual Conference agencies, has released a pastoral letter on the economy. The letter signed jointly by Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger, Bethany Theological Seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen, Brethren Benefit Trust president Nevin Dulabaum, and On Earth Peace executive director Bob Gross, was distributed by e-mail to Brethren congregations, pastors, districts, and denominational staff. “The economic crisis we are experiencing this year continues to demand attention from all levels of the church,” the letter says in part. “We have been led during this particular crisis to review the bigger issues and to refocus our life and work together to move beyond fear to a renewed emphasis on our spiritual gifts and strengths…. We have been heartened to remember particular gifts that we believe God has given to the Brethren–gifts that may help us move forward with energy, vitality, and vision for our faith and the work of Christ in the world.” The letter invites the church to join in considering a list of eight Brethren gifts, such as “courage, and a radical commitment to Jesus Christ,” and “the study of scripture in community.” The full text of the letter is available at www.brethren.org/economy  linked to an index page of a number of related resources offered by the agencies.

An upgrade has been completed for “Find a Church” at http://www.brethren.org/  . The tool allows visitors to search for a Church of the Brethren congregation. New features include options to search by proximity by entering the first three numbers of a zip code; to search by district by choosing one of the 23 Church of the Brethren districts from a drop-down box; and to use a “new search” button that clears all previously entered information. Go to http://www.brethren.org/  and click on the link to “Find a Church” at the top of the page.

Caring Ministries staff are recommending a government website http://flu.gov/professional/community/
 that offers helpful advice for churches concerned about the flu. Heddie Sumner, a member of the Older Adult and Disability Ministry cabinets, has provided the recommendation. The site offers a document on the H1N1 flu with sections on what organizations can do to help people stay healthy, suggestions for reducing the spread of flu at religious meetings and gatherings, child and youth programs, vaccine distribution, vulnerable populations, and more. Also at www.brethren.org/flu  is a Church of the Brethren document with suggestions for congregations in the event of a serious pandemic.

Brethren in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia have created a tax-exempt enterprise called the John Kline Homestead to preserve the house and other historic buildings on the original farm of Elder John Kline, a Brethren leader and peace martyr during the Civil War era. The homestead is in Broadway, Va. “If we do not purchase the property by Dec. 31, 2009, we will lose the opportunity to preserve the homestead as a Brethren heritage center to share the legacy of Elder John Kline’s life and ministry,” reports a bulletin insert that is being made available about the effort. The group has set up a “Rescue Fund” that has received about $150,000 in gifts and pledges toward the needed $425,000 to purchase the house and one acre of property. The nearby Linville Creek Church of the Brethren has given $60,000, and pastor Paul Roth is a leading member of the preservation effort. In a related event, Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a benefit performance of the play “The Final Journey of John Kline,” on Saturday, Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m. The play was written by Lee Krahenbuhl for the 1997 John Kline Bicentennial, and is performed by the New Millennium Players of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. An online photo album of the John Kline Homestead is available at www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?AlbumID=5449&view=UserAlbum  . For more information contact the John Kline Homestead Rescue Fund, P.O. Box 274, Broadway, VA 22815; or go to http://www.johnklinehomestead.com/  .

Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Boonsboro, Md., has unveiled a newly designed website. The website designed by InfoPathways Inc. in Westminster, Md., features an extensive list of services, multiple event calendars, rotating photographs, an online employment application, and more. Go to http://www.fkhv.org/  .

Enrollment has reached a record high at McPherson (Kan.) College this fall. A release from the college announced that the enrollment of 542 fulltime students represents a number that has not been surpassed at the college since the late ’60s. “The college has been on a steady increase since 2003 when full-time enrollment was at 386,” the release said. “The swift increase in enrollment can be attributed to two key factors–recruitment and retention…. Spring to fall retention was 88 percent, the highest McPherson College has seen in over 15 years.”

The New Community Project is lead organizer for the One Mile Challenge, an initiative to encourage non-car forms of transportation for shorter daily trips. “In the United States, 25 percent of all travel is under two miles in length, and these short trips are the most environmentally harmful as emissions are at their worst in the first few minutes of vehicle operation,” said a release from director David Radcliff. The challenge was launched on Oct. 3 in Harrisonburg, Va., with the hope that other communities will follow the city’s example in promoting alternative transportation. Go to www.svbcoalition.org/events/one-mile-challenge  for more information.

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. Marlin D. Houff, Cindy Kinnamon, Karin Krog, David Radcliff, Glen Sargent, Marcia Shetler, Brian Solem, Zach Wolgemuth, and Jane Yount contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for Oct. 21. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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