April 7, 2010
“We, who are many, are one body in Christ” (Romans 12:5).
1) Special Response Resource Committee concludes its work.
2) Denomination’s new Vision Committee holds first meeting.
3) Gather ’Round is ‘starting over.’
4) On Earth Peace board plans for a future with hope.
5) Brethren Digital Archives group introduces new website.
7) Young Adult Conference to meet on ‘Community.’
Brethren bits: Correction, remembrances, personnel, jobs, disaster giving, more (see column at right)
1) Special Response Resource Committee concludes its work.
The Special Response Resource Committee has completed its work and has provided a bibliography of suggested study resources and a study guide for congregations to explore issues of human sexuality. The resources are posted online at www.cobannualconference.org/special_response_resource.html .
The special response group was named by the Church of the Brethren’s Standing Committee of district delegates following an action by the 2009 Annual Conference to accept two items of business as “special response” items to be dealt with using a process for strongly controversial issues. The group was charged with developing resources in order to aid the church in a conversation process set in motion by the Conference decision.
Last year’s Conference action identifying the two business items–“A Statement of Confession and Commitment” and “Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships”–as “special response” items has set in motion at least two years of intentional denomination-wide conversation on the two documents.
The members of the Special Response Resource Committee are John Wenger, chair; Karen Garrett, recorder; Jim Myer; Marie Rhoades; and Carol Wise. Jeff Carter has served as the liaison from Standing Committee.
Next steps in the special response process include two hearings at the 2010 Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., one on Saturday evening, July 3, and another on Tuesday evening, July 6. After this year’s Conference, districts are encouraged to schedule special hearings or discussions, and congregations are encouraged to use the study guide and resources recommended by the Special Response Resource Committee.
Also posted at www.brethren.org/ac are a number of other documents relating to the 2010 Conference, including the unfinished business and new business items, the biographical ballot, and the daily Conference schedule.
In other news from the Annual Conference Office, June 7 is the closing date for advance registration. Those who register in advance through the online process save 25 percent of the on-site fee. Hotel rooms also are still available. “The Hilton Hotel is the only one of the six hotels booked by Annual Conference that still has rooms available, but there are 80 rooms still available there,” notes Conference director Chris Douglas. “Please remember that by booking into the hotel room block reserved by the Annual Conference Office, the rental cost of the Convention Center meeting rooms is reduced.”
To register and for more information about the 2010 Annual Conference go to http://www.cobannualconference.org/ .
2) Denomination’s new Vision Committee holds first meeting.
The committee called to help the Church of the Brethren discern a vision for the current decade held its first meeting March 29-31 at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The Vision Committee is considered a committee of the denomination’s Standing Committee of district delegates.
The Vision Committee is gathering data in order to prepare a vision that will provide the general direction for denominational mission in the next decade. Committee members will be present at several Church of the Brethren gatherings this year including the Young Adult Conference in late May, National Youth Conference, and Annual Conference this summer in Pittsburgh. The committee also will be accepting input through various web-based, social media outlets.
The committee discussed creating a statement that will inform not only church-wide agencies but also districts, congregations, and individual church members. The committee is seeking ways of creating the statement that include means to implement it within the life of the church.
Committee members appointed by Standing Committee are Frances Beam, Jim Hardenbrook, Bekah Houff, and David Sollenberger. Members appointed by the four Annual Conference agencies are Steven Schweitzer of the Bethany Theological Seminary faculty, Jonathan Shively of the Church of the Brethren denominational staff, Jordan Blevins representing On Earth Peace, and Donna Forbes Steiner representing Brethren Benefit Trust.
The Vision Committee invites input through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Vision Committee, c/o Annual Conference Office, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.
— David Sollenberger, a member of the Vision Committee, provided this report.
3) Gather ’Round is ‘starting over.’
Gather ’Round, a Christian education curriculum project of Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network, is starting over. That is to say, the curriculum is completing its four-year cycle through the Bible, and returns this fall to Genesis.
As congregations launch into the next round of the curriculum, they will notice a few new features. The most visible change is a completely new version of the “Talkabout,” the signature item that connects church and home.
Previously a three-dimensional item intended for congregations to purchase for each family, the “Talkabout” is now provided on CD or as a computer download so that material can be copied or e-mailed to families in weekly or monthly formats. Bonus content gives parents a summary of the Sunday school quarter, commentary on each week’s Bible story, and additional items such as children’s pages or articles for teachers. Congregations need to purchase only one copy of the CD per quarter, and may decide which format is best for their setting.
The youth unit, called “Search,” now offers more options for group exploration of Bible stories and their application to the everyday lives of high school teens. Also new this coming year is a full youth resource for the summer quarter. Previously the youth material for summer was a supplement to one of the other teacher’s guides. The new “Summer Search” includes ways to adapt the material for junior high youth, and is provided on CD or as a download.
The multiage teacher’s guide, which serves congregations with a small number of children that span a wide age range, is now coordinated with both the primary and middler student books. Teachers may select one or both levels of student books based on the particular mix of children in the group, and the teacher guide identifies parallel activities in both student books.
Session plans for all age levels have been revised to be simpler and easier to use. The curriculum will once again cover the whole Bible, so that families hear the story of God’s faithfulness over the generations. Many new stories are added in this outline, and there are two completely new quarters: “God’s Good Creation” and “Stories of God’s People.”
Gather ’Round: Hearing and Sharing God’s Good News, published by Brethren Press and Mennonite Publishing Network, is a Sunday school curriculum for children and youth and their families. Partner denominations include the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Mennonite Brethren, Moravian Church in America, United Church of Canada, and United Church of Christ.
— Anna Speicher is editor of the Gather ’Round curriculum.
4) On Earth Peace board plans for a future with hope.
During its spring meeting, the On Earth Peace board of directors discussed ways the organization is continuing to help youth, children, families, congregations, and community leaders work toward a more peaceful and hopeful future. At this meeting, the board continued to conduct discussion and decision-making by consensus, led by board chair Madalyn Metzger.
The biannual gathering took place March 19-20 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Major items of business included revisions to the organization’s bylaws, which will be presented for approval at the On Earth Peace breakfast at Annual Conference in Pittsburgh in July; and updates on expansions of the Agape-Satyagraha program, the Ministry of Reconciliation, and the International Day of Prayer for Peace.
The board welcomed new member Louise Knight of Mechanicsburg, Pa.
The On Earth Peace board and staff also participated in a three-hour session on the elimination of institutional racism led by Valentina Satvedi, anti-racism program director for Mennonite Central Committee and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. Elimination of racism is an issue the On Earth Peace board and staff are committed to addressing, both within and outside of the organization.
— Madalyn Metzger is chair of the board for On Earth Peace.
5) Brethren Digital Archives group introduces new website.
The Brethren Digital Archives (BDA) group has a new website at http://www.brethrendigitalarchives.org/ . The website includes background about the digitization project for Brethren publications, the mission statement of the group, a list of the partners, news, and contact information. There are plans to add an option for online contributions.
The website was introduced at the BDA meeting on March 4-5 in Winona Lake, Ind., hosted by the “Brethren Missionary Herald” office. A significant portion of the meeting was spent evaluating vendors interested in digitizing Brethren periodicals. Also considered were digitizing standards, fundraising, promotion, and by-laws. The group toured the Manchester College library and archives, the Grace College library and archives, and the facilities of the HF Group in North Manchester, one of the potential vendors.
The mission of the Brethren Digital Archives is to digitize Brethren periodicals produced from 1851-2000 by each of the Brethren groups that trace their origin to the first Brethren baptisms in Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708. The first Brethren periodical was begun in 1851 by Henry Kurtz, titled “The Monthly Gospel-Visiter.”
The first periodicals to be digitized will be those published before 1880, documents that are common to all the groups. Plans are being made to raise funds for the first phase, which includes 49 volumes, 1,504 issues, and 23,000 images or pages. The first phase could cost up to $40,000.
This was the sixth meeting of the BDA. The next meeting is scheduled for June 28 in Ashland, Ohio.
— This report was provided by Liz Cutler Gates, Ken Shaffer, and Jeanine Wine.
6) Mark Flory Steury resigns from S. Ohio District.
Mark Flory Steury has resigned as district executive of the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Ohio District, effective June 30. He has served in the position for more than 10 years, since Oct. 1, 1999.
Previously he served as co-pastor of Troy Church of the Brethren and as pastor of Mack Memorial Church of the Brethren, both in Southern Ohio District. He is a graduate of Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., with a degree in elementary education and an endorsement in special education, and holds a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary.
Steury has accepted a call to serve as pastor of Neighborhood Church of the Brethren in Montgomery, Ill., beginning July 1. He and his wife Mary Jo Flory-Steury, who is executive director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry, will move to the Elgin, Ill., area.
7) Young Adult Conference to meet on ‘Community.’
Another year of planning and work for the young adult steering committee has begun. This usually includes hours of praying, thinking, processing, and even an impressive amount of laughter. All the ingredients needed to create a successful, meaningful, and more importantly, blessed young adult conference!
This year’s Young Adult Conference is simply themed “Community.” Such a small word packed with meaning for young adults in the Church of the Brethren as well as the church as a whole.
After taking a close look at the first churches of Christ in the book of Acts, it becomes quite clear that the church today does not fully resemble the church we see there. During that time, the followers of Christ lived in close-knit groups and shared everything they had. They created a community amongst themselves.
Now we find ourselves far from this original set up, with modern technology and the idea of “every man for himself.” We are surrounded by constant pressure to make money, live comfortably, and put ourselves before others. Online options such as Facebook and Google replace older forms of personal relationships, and even our dependence on one another for finding and learning new information.
“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness” (Romans 12:4-8).
All of us have been given gifts from the Lord, some of which are mentioned in Romans 12. Many people attend church and just become a face in the crowd because they do not know where they fit in, or where they feel comfortable. Helping other people find their place in the body of Christ is just as important as finding our own. We are all one body in Christ and cannot survive while another part suffers.
At Young Adult Conference we will explore how we can create community, starting by looking within. What talents has the Lord given us? How can these talents be used to better the church community? How can we help others discover their gifts and gain confidence to use them for Christ? How can we as young adults of the Church of the Brethren get back to our roots? This year’s conference will try to answer these questions by taking a deeper look at what the Lord tells us about community. How do we define it? Build it? Seek it? Maintain it?
Join us this Memorial Day weekend, May 29-31, at Camp Blue Diamond in Petersburg, Pa., to help us build a community of young adult believers. There will be workshops, worship services, a coffeehouse, campfires, and amazing fellowship. Young adults ages 18-35 are invited, and registration is open now! Go to www.brethren.org/site/PageServer?pagename=grow_young_adult_ministry_YAC.
— Jennifer Lynn Quijano is a member of the Young Adult Steering Committee.
8) On attending the funeral for Evangelist Obida Hildi.
On Jan. 27 I attended the funeral service for evangelist Obida Hildi. He was someone I counted as a friend to myself, to the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN), and to Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS).
Security officials had helped his church members recover his body from his house, where he was killed by Muslims on the morning of Jan. 19. He was buried in a plot of land where he had been in the process of building a new house. At the Bukuru congregation of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) his fellow church members, still fearful, consoled each other with the Word of God and stories of the friend they had lost in such painful circumstances.
Others knew him much better, but let me share a brief sketch of this faithful witness.
He had been born and brought up in a Muslim family, but in his teens gave his life to Christ and was baptized in 1958. He suffered fierce persecution for his faith and became an outcast as far as his family was concerned. However, he did not allow anything, even childlessness in his marriage, to divert him from following Jesus. Thus he came to Jos, a city in central Nigeria, in 1960 and was able to find work, fellowship and opportunity for service.
He still worked at relationships with his people back home in Hildi, Adamawa State, so much so that when his tribal chief, a Muslim, phoned to inquire how his people–hundreds of them–were faring in the Jos crisis, he inquired by name regarding only two. One of them was his friend evangelist Obida.
After some other casual jobs, his first engagement in Christian ministry came through the Lutheran gospel radio station in Jos. From there he moved to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and then to the newly created Plateau Radio and TV station (PRTV). There he acquired a nickname, “Mr Official,” because in a situation where corruption was common, he was known for checking that every job was being properly treated as official duty. He was compulsorily retired when there was a command to retrench all workers who were not indigenes of Plateau State.
Already recognized by his denomination as a part-time evangelist, his retirement from PRTV was the prompt he needed to launch himself even more fully into working for the church. Today many congregations of EYN owe their beginning and early progress to his efforts. The Bukuru congregation started in his home near TCNN, and I remember first meeting him when I was invited to preach there.
He was very gifted at rallying congregations to sacrifice for the cause of the gospel. He was a visionary who saw the need to push forward with new projects–including acquiring a site for Africa Christian Textbooks. He and his wife were key partners in advising and encouraging the general manager in the pursuit of the land where ACTS headquarters now stand. Furthermore, he was a man who could not rest until he had finished a project. He had another nickname, “Now or never,” because he always was challenging people that we should serve God now while we have life and health, remembering that we do not know about tomorrow.
True to the peace-loving tradition of his denomination, he worked hard at peacekeeping in his neighborhood. He always had practiced a shuttle diplomacy wherein he would talk to the Christians encouraging them to have patience, then say to the Muslims, we will not attack you, securing their agreement that they too would not attack the Christians.
There had been tension in the area before, but never trouble. What happened this time took many by surprise. Obida probably continued to trust that his efforts for peace and understanding would prevent him from losing his life. In the end, he was hacked down and burned to death close to his home–perhaps by outside elements bent on violence. But his testimony as a man of peace stands firm.
As I greeted and sympathized with the congregation at his funeral, I pointed to the large sign behind the pulpit–“Jesus is Alive”–and reminded them of the great passage on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15, which ends with this challenge and assurance: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work to the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
The death of dear evangelist Obida is a loss for us, but not a waste. He has entered his reward, and the work and loving gospel witness for which he invested his life will go on. But we feel for his wife Habiba, and their seven year old adopted son. We also pray that the peace and understanding he worked for will be restored to Plateau State and Nigeria.
— Sid Garland is executive director of Africa Christian Textbooks at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN) in Bukuru, Plateau State, Nigeria.
9) A reflection on Iraq, after seven years of war.
After seven years of war, Iraqis live with…
…A society (other than the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region) broken from the invasion and occupation, with the loss of civil society and the deterioration of trust and cohesion necessary for a peaceful society. There has been some reconstruction, but most infrastructure remains unrepaired. There is still contaminated water, an average of only four to six hours a day of electricity, and inadequate medical care.
…Violence, killing, and torture still the norm in the northern Iraqi Kurdish region because the United States supplied and supported Saddam Hussein during the Anfal campaign (the genocide against the Kurds).
…Deaths of an estimated million Iraqi civilians since 2003 (statistic from a Sept. 2007 poll by British polling agency ORB).
…Continued economic crisis. Sixty percent of families rely on food rations, which have been reduced. Unemployment is over 50 percent. Prices of food and fuel have increased, but not wages.
…Iraqis in control of prisons and “security,” but with many innocent detainees forced, through torture, to confess to acts of terror they did not commit. Iraqis often feel terrorized by Special Forces. Many Iraqis say that the ways of Saddam continue.
…Continued widespread anger and despair about the conditions of their lives.
…Decreased violence on the streets in central and southern Iraq, but without the deeper problems being resolved. Iraqis still live in daily fear of kidnaping or other violence. Many say the groups doing greater acts of terror have moved to areas such as Mosul and Baqubah where higher rates of violence continue.
…Women subjected to increased violence and loss of personal rights and freedoms.
…Children growing up seeing violence and killing as the norm.
…A country polluted with radioactive depleted uranium from US weaponry used in the 1991 and 2003 wars with Iraq, resulting in increased cancers and birth defects.
…A ratified constitution and current elections, but a government plagued with power struggles. Kurds in Kirkuk and other northern disputed areas are afraid of civil war between Arabs and Kurds.
…The US government still giving military intelligence to Turkish military planes to fly over Iraqi airspace and bomb civilians in villages along Iraq’s northern borders. The US turning a blind eye to Turkish attempts to destabilize the Kurdish region, while using the actions of the armed resistance group, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), as their excuse. Turkish bombing and Iranian shelling across the borders cause destruction of hundreds of villages and displacement and disruption of thousands of residents’ lives.
…An estimated 4.5 million Iraqis having fled to other countries or living as displaced people in their own country, because of the hardship and dangers.
Although Iraqis suffered from brutal policies under Saddam Hussein’s regime and US and British interventionist policies before 2003, words cannot express the anguish that the Iraqi people have experienced in these last seven years of the continued war. Occupying forces have exacerbated ethnic conflicts and oppressive political forces in their country that will continue to cause suffering and hardship for generations.
— Peggy Gish is a Church of the Brethren member who works in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) on a regular basis. An initiative of the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers), CPT seeks to enlist the whole church in organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict. For more go to www.cpt.org.
The 2010 Young Adult Conference will meet this Memorial Day weekend, May 29-31, at Camp Blue Diamond in Petersburg, Pa., on the theme, “Community.” Register online at www.brethren.org/site/
The Gather ‘Round curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network is “starting over,” announces editor Anna Speicher. That is to say, the curriculum is completing its four-year cycle through the Bible, and returns this fall to Genesis. (For more, see story at left).
— Correction: The Newsline report from the Mission and Ministry Board meeting omitted the board’s appointment of Melissa Bennett to a second term of service on the Committee on Interchurch Relations.
— Remembrance: Mildred Grimley of Ephrata (Pa.) Manor died on March 21. She and her late husband John Grimley, who died on Sept. 17, 1997, served 21 years as Church of the Brethren missionaries in Nigeria. She also was the author of several books including Children of the Bush Country (Brethren Press, 1959) and Mattie Loves All (Brethren Press, 1985). She is survived by her daughters Milly (Phil) Kruper, Joane (Ron) Eby, Peg Grimley, and son, John (Iris Brower) Grimley. The funeral was held on March 27 at Akron (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Memorial contributions are received to Akron Church of the Brethren.
— Remembrance: Elizabeth ‘Dianne’ Morningstar, 65, composer of the music for the hymn, “For We Are Strangers No More” (#322 in “Hymnal: A Worship Book”), died on March 22 at Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center after a 10-year journey with metastatic melanoma. She was born April 30, 1944, in Timberville, Va., a daughter of Paul H. and Anna Crist Huffman, who both survive her. She is also survived by her daughter, Amy Rist (Brian) Korsun, and a granddaughter. As a young adult she served as organist at Timberville (Va.) Church of the Brethren. She earned a degree in Music Education at Bridgewater (Va.) College and later entered the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Ill., and pursued postgraduate study at Westminster Choir College, Princeton, N.J. She held teaching positions in Illinois at Glen Ellyn High School and at Elmhurst College, and was director of the Bethany Theological Seminary Choir. In Pennsylvania, she taught at Elizabethtown High School and Messiah College. She was a published hymn-writer and church music clinician. In 1999 she was honored by the National Association of Performing Arts Educators as guest clinician and performer at the Winter Choral Festival at Carnegie Hall. For 27 years she was minister of music at Trinity United Methodist Church in New Cumberland, Pa. Memorial contributions are received by Trinity United Methodist Church or Timberville Church of the Brethren.
— Mary Osborne will begin a one-year internship in the Brethren Historical Library and Archives on Aug. 16. She currently is completing two degrees at Indiana University–a master of Library Science and a master of arts in Public History–and works for the Indiana Historical Bureau assisting with historical marker applications. Previously she served an internship with the Indiana Historical Society.
— The Church of the Brethren seeks candidates for the new position of website producer. The website producer oversees the Church of the Brethren website, and seeks ways to build community through the church’s web presence. Candidates should have the relational skills to collaborate with other individuals and organizations within the Church of the Brethren, the technical skills to work closely with the website vendor, the organizational skills to manage complex projects, and the communication skills to create and oversee the content of the website. The position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and strong preference will be given to an active member of the Church of the Brethren. Request a copy of the position description and application from the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258; email@example.com .
— The Church of the Brethren seeks candidates for the position of director of Interpretation. The director of Interpretation communicates the mission and ministry of the church using a variety of media including web, e-mail, print, and graphic display. This person writes extensively, serving the needs of both the Communication Team and the Stewardship and Donor Development Team. Candidates should have a deep understanding of the Church of the Brethren, experience with the denominational scope of the church’s identity and ministries, superior skills in writing and editing, and experience with digital media. The position is based at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and strong preference will be given to an active member of the Church of the Brethren. Request a copy of the position description and application from the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258; firstname.lastname@example.org .
— The Church of the Brethren seeks candidates for a coordinator of Donor Invitation. The position will serve as part of the stewardship and donor development team, building relationship and inviting participation in Church of the Brethren mission and ministries through electronic and traditional communication strategies. This work will require the applicant to be a “team player” working closely with the communications staff toward a consistent Brethren voice. Also desired are above average Internet communication experience, experience with CONVIO if possible, as well as excellent writing abilities that are at once inspirational, motivational, and invitational. The position is expected to be full-time and located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The position is open until filled. Request a copy of the position description and application packet from the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258; email@example.com .
— The Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program is seeking volunteers at its warehouse facilities at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. “Due to the AMAZING response we have had for kits to be sent to Haiti, Material Resources is in need of volunteers and are now scheduling for the month of April,” said an announcement. “We welcome any help age 18 and older. Benefits of volunteering are not only the joy of giving but if you work a full day (six hours) lunch is provided at no cost.” Youth ages 14-18 also can volunteer, but must come with supervision. A typical volunteer work day is Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., but volunteers can set their own hours within that time frame. The program will take groups as small as one person and as large as 25. Call Terry Riley at 410-635-8794 to schedule a volunteer opportunity.
— Gifts to the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) this year have now exceeded $1 million. The total given to the EDF from Jan. 1 through March 31 comes to $1,028,759–a huge jump in disaster relief giving compared to the $74,840 received by the fund during the same period in 2009.
— The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, jointly funded by the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary, is offering a new series of Lilly Endowment Inc. funded educational experiences for Church of the Brethren pastors. New cohort groups will be started in August for the Advanced Foundations for Church Leaders program, and in September for the Vital Pastor program. While open to all ordained pastors who have not previously participated in the SPE program, special invitations will be extended to pastors who have served congregations for 2-10 years. Contact Linda and Glenn Timmons at Bethany Seminary, 800-287-8822 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Shiloh Church of the Brethren near Kasson, W. Va., which lost its church building to a fire on Jan. 3, reports that the congregation has received a “string of blessings.” Pastor Garry Clem’s comments came in an e-mail to the denominational communication staff. Blessings include a local contractor who cleaned up the site without charge. “We had a wrap up meeting with our contractor, architect, and the company that is going to build our building yesterday, March 23, and all our plans are now in place,” Clem wrote. “We are hoping to get into our new building by the end of summer or early fall.” He also expressed appreciation to the church members, writing: “We are able to build so quickly because of the total cooperation of the congregation…. Our council meetings have progressed with a spirit of cooperation and the determination to move forward.” A shortfall in insurance coverage of about $75,000 “is being made up by the generosity of people all across the country,” he added. “To this point we have had contributions from 11 Churches of the Brethren, 18 donations from churches of other denominations, two businesses, and 60 individuals.” Donations include 80 copies of the old red Brethren Hymnal from Brethren Press, which was specially requested by the congregation.
— The Church of the Brethren’s Southern Pennsylvania District has a work project scheduled in the Dominican Republic on April 13-20, working with members of Mendoza Haitian Church of the Brethren as they continue work building a second floor to the church building.
— The annual Sounds of the Mountains Festival at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, Va., will be held on April 16-17 featuring the musical talents of Bill Harley, Beth Horner, Kevin Kling, and Acoustic Endeavors. Tickets, schedule, and more are at http://www.soundsofthemountains.org/ .
— The board of directors of the Indianapolis Peace Institute (formerly Indianapolis Peace House) has announced that it has discontinued on-site student programming. The program is a six-year-old inner-city collaboration of Indiana’s three historic peace colleges. “The economic downturn has put an unbearable burden on the nonprofit project of Earlham, Goshen, and Manchester colleges,” said a release. The institute provided an innovative urban service learning opportunity for students interested in peace-building. Over the six years, institute students contributed almost 22,200 volunteer hours to some 100 community organizations. The board has placed its 6,500-square-foot, four-level historic structure in the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis on the market. The institute opened in 2004, and generous funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. supported peace studies initiatives on the three campuses as well as creation of the institute.
— Two Bridgewater (Va.) College alumni will be honored at an annual Alumni Weekend celebration on April 16-18: Samuel H. Flora Jr. and Gerald W. Roller will receive the 2010 Ripples Society Medals. The Ripples Society comprises alumni who graduated from the college 50 or more years ago. Flora is honored for his role as peacemaker, extending back to 1944-46 when he was pastor of North Baltimore (Md.) Church of the Brethren, a small group expelled from a larger congregation in a theological disagreement. During a lengthy career as a pastor he also was on several district boards including the Shenandoah District Board, moderated the Second Virginia District Conference, was a member of the Annual Conference Standing Committee, and was involved on the committee that purchased and developed Brethren Woods. Roller, a physician, is recognized for his life devoted to medicine. “His was one of the first medical offices in Roanoke to have a single, desegregated waiting room, reflecting his commitment to and support of equality,” the announcement said. He is a member of the Church of the Brethren and has served on many local and Virlina District committees, and was district moderator in the 1970s. Since retirement, he and his wife have been medical consultants to the Church of the Brethren Nigeria mission five times since 2000. They also have led marriage-strengthening seminars and retreats both in the US and Nigeria.
— Bridgewater College also has announced the establishment of two new academic chairs and a science institute. The A. LeRoy and Wanda Harmon Baker Chair of Science honors the couple’s contributions to science, society, the community, and the college, and their commitment to education. The late A. LeRoy Baker, who graduated from Bridgewater in 1961, was a prominent national leader in the development of recombinant DNA technology for human health care applications. Wanda Harmon Baker, who also graduated from Bridgewater in 1961, was present at the Founder’s Day ceremony for the announcement of the establishment of the chair. The John W. Martin Summer Science Research Institute has been established to honor the late Bridgewater professor and his expertise as a teacher and exceptional caring and mentoring for students. He taught chemistry at the college from 1961-85. The William Thomas Chair of Humane Letters was established to honor the late William W. Thomas, class of 1954, who bequeathed nearly $2 million to the college through his will. He was a professor of philosophy and religion at James Madison University from 1971-97.
— Ellen Catlett and Bill Wantz have joined the board of directors at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Boonsboro, Md. Catlett is a retired registered nurse from Fairplay, Md., and a member of Grossnickle Church of Brethren in Myersville, Md., and an associate member of First Christian Church in Hagerstown, Md. Wantz of Hagerstown practices law in Washington County.
— For four consecutive years, “Brethren Voices”–the community television program of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren–has produced programs featuring interviews with Annual Conference moderators. Shawn Flory Replogle, 2010 moderator, is interviewed in the April edition. In the program, Replogle shares about some experiences while serving in Brethren Volunteer Service from 1992-94 that have changed his life, discusses his thoughts about being the moderator as well as his hopes and goals, and shares his perceptions of the needs of the various generations that today make up the Church of the Brethren. For more information about “Brethren Voices” contact Ed Groff at Groffprod1@msn.com . Copies are available from Peace Church for a donation of $8. The May edition of “Brethren Voices” will feature storytellers from the annual Song and Story Fest family camp co-sponsored by On Earth Peace.
— The New Community Project has given a grant of just over $25,000 to programs in Nimule and Narus, Sudan. The majority of the funds will support girls’ education, women’s tailoring and gardening projects, and a reforestation initiative partnering with the Girl Child Education and Development Association. A portion of the funds sent to Nimule were donated by Northview Church of the Brethren in Indianapolis, in honor of the late Phil and Louise Rieman, former pastors and long-time advocates for Sudan. In Narus, a smaller grant will support girls’ education in a Toposa community partnering with the Sudan Council of Churches. This summer, the New Community Project also plans to send solidarity workers to Sudan for the fourth year of the program, with volunteers to be stationed in Nimule and assisting in schools, with women’s programs and with the reforestation effort. A Learning Tour to Sudan is set for February 2011. For more information, contact email@example.com .
— The 2010 Earth Day Sunday Resource from the National Council of Churches, “Sacred Spaces and an Abundant Life: Worship Spaces as Stewardship,” is available to download from http://nccecojustice.org/resources/
— The National Council of Churches is calling for a common Easter date, after this year’s celebration was observed on April 4 in all Christian traditions. Most years, Easter is celebrated on different dates in western and most Orthodox churches because of ancient discrepancies in calculating the calendar. In a letter to member communions, NCC general secretary Michael Kinnamon and Antonios Kireopoulos, senior program director for Faith and Order and Interfaith Relations, lamented the fact that “almost every year the Christian community is divided over which day to proclaim this Good News. Our split, based on a dispute having to do with ancient calendars, visibly betrays the message of reconciliation.” The letter proposes continued movement toward a common Easter date based on the recommendations of the Aleppo Conference of 1997, to adhere to the decision of the first ecumenical council at Nicea to celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox, thus maintaining the biblical association between Jesus’ death and Passover.
— Church World Service (CWS) has become a founding member of the new ACT Alliance, one of the world’s largest humanitarian bodies. The new alliance includes more than 100 member churches and church-based humanitarian groups working in 125 countries with a combined operating budget of $1.5 billion. The new alliance combines the former ACT International (est. 1995), which focused on longtime disaster relief and rehabilitation with the former ACT Development, which focused on sustainable development and further expands its work to include advocacy. Alliance members retain individual identities while working collaboratively.