Newsline for December 29, 2011

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2a).

Quote of the week

Oh, happy New Year, welcome now;
For we are very glad to greet
The day in which we may begin
To lay our lives at Jesus’ feet….

— Opening lines of “Welcome New Year,” originally published in “The Inglenook” magazine on Dec. 31, 1907. The poem is the current entry on the “Wit and Wisdom” page at Brethren Press’ . The website invites visitors to help create a new cookbook in the Inglenook tradition and offers glimpses into Inglenook publications of the past. Posted just in time for New Year’s celebrations: a classic recipe from the 1911 cookbook for Sauerkraut and Knep (

1) GFCF gives grants to Rural Service Center, Brethren group in Congo.
2) EDF sends money to Thailand, Cambodia for flood response.
3) Brethren staff leave North Korea for Christmas break.
4) Hoslers conclude their service in Nigeria, report on peace work.
5) NCC condemns attack on worshipers in Nigeria.
6) BVS Europe welcomes largest number of volunteers since 2004.
7) Juniata takes action during Sandusky investigation.

8) Royer retires as manager of Global Food Crisis Fund.
9) Blevins resigns as advocacy officer, ecumenical peace coordinator.

10) World Interfaith Harmony Week is Feb. 1-7.

11) Peace meditation: Reflections from a BVS volunteer in Europe.

12) Brethren bits: Remembrance, jobs, youth opportunities, registration deadlines, more.

1) GFCF gives grants to Rural Service Center, Brethren group in Congo.

Recent grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) have gone to the Rural Service Center in India and an agricultural development project of Brethren congregations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A grant of $8,000 has gone to the Rural Service Center for its work in tribal and small-holder communities in the Ankleshwar area of Gujarat State, India. The money will support center operations that link small farm operators to resources such as soil testing, biogas development, animal vaccination, and greenhouse produce.

The Rural Service Center is an extension program begun by the Church of the Brethren in the late 1950s. This support for the center allows the church to stay actively involved in a region of India that is fast becoming a modernized breadbasket, according to the GFCF grant request. Within range of Mumbai, the area has an insatiable appetite for food, energy, and technology. While agribusinesses may flourish, smallholder farmers find the complexities of technology and capitalization overwhelming. The suicide rate of Indian farmers is among the highest in the world, the grant request said.

“For an Indian family to lose land that it has possessed for generations is devastating,” said Jay Wittmeyer of the church’s Global Mission and Service program. “A Global Food Crisis Fund grant of $8,000 enables the Rural Service Center to help vulnerable farm families navigate the tumultuous times of globalization.”

A grant of $2,500 supports reconciliation and agriculture work in the DRC. A cluster of Brethren congregations in the Congo are working at mediation with displaced Pygmy and Bafulero communities. The funds will help enable displaced people to return home and restart agriculture, with reconciliation work remaining the prime focus.

For five years, Brethren in the DRC have been actively engaged in a peacebuilding program titled SHAMIREDE (Shalom Ministry in Reconciliation and Development). Initially funded by the UN Development Program, the endeavor more recently is being supported by the Church of the Brethren in the United States, and also works in collaboration with the Quaker Peace Network.

Two displaced groups, the Pygmy and Bafulero, have been engaged in a violent conflict for a number of years, according to the GFCF grant request. The conflict recently escalated, with people killed, villages burned, and many families displaced. The source of the conflict has been a degrading of hunting-gathering resources for the Pygmies, and the slow creep of the Bafulero into Pygmy regions for slash-and-burn agriculture. Both groups have recognized the need for mediation, which the Congolese Brethren are working at by visiting communities in the mountains to carry mediation forward. Families are beginning to trust the process and want to return to their home areas. This funding helps them restart agriculture and get farming back on track.

For more about the Global Food Crisis Fund go to .

2) EDF sends money to Thailand, Cambodia for flood response.

Grants have been made for flood response in Thailand and Cambodia by the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). Also in recent grants is support for disaster relief following wildfires in Texas.

A grant of $20,000 responds to a Church World Service (CWS) appeal following monsoon rains in Thailand, which resulted in extensive flooding. Funds support CWS work through partner Church of Christ in Thailand and the ACT Alliance, providing emergency food, survival packets, and shelters to survivors.

Heavy monsoon rains plagued southeast Asia this fall and severely affected one-third of Thailand’s land mass, according to the CWS appeal. A total of 3.4 million acres of farmland–an area 13 times the size of Hong Kong–was submerged under water with more than 12.3 million livestock affected and more than 2 million tons of un-milled rice destroyed. Authorities said the death toll exceeded 307. More than 2.4 million people including 700,000 children were affected.

In Cambodia, a grant of $10,000 responds to a CWS appeal following extensive seasonal flooding. The money helps provide emergency food and water purification tablets for the most affected and poorest families. According to CWS, Cambodia has experienced its worst seasonal flooding in more than a decade, with 17 of 24 provinces affected. Some 1,500,000 people have been affected and more than 90,000 families displaced. About 13 percent of Cambodia’s rice crop was flooded, and almost half of it destroyed. Shortages and high prices are likely to make rice unaffordable through to the next harvest period in Dec. 2012. CWS is responding as part of a joint six-month effort of ACT Alliance members. Distribution of rice and other food has begun, with an overall objective to provide food and water purification tablets to 8,859 of the most affected and poorest families in six of the nation’s provinces.

A grant of $2,500 from the Emergency Disaster Fund has been given to a CWS appeal following multiple wildfires in east-central Texas in September and October. In Bastrop County fires destroyed 1,700 homes of which approximately half were not insured. Additionally four churches were destroyed. In the Spicewood area approximately 5,600 acres were burned and 52 homes were destroyed. Most families affected were lower middle class. The grant supports CWS efforts to assist local Long Term Recovery Committees with start-up grants and group training.

To support the work of the Emergency Disaster Fund go to .

3) Brethren staff leave North Korea for Christmas break.

Photo courtesy of Robert Shank
Robert Shank (center) was one of the speakers at the recent international conference at PUST, a university in Pyongyan, North Korea. Shank is dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. He and his wife, Linda, are teaching at PUST with sponsorship from the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service program.

Robert and Linda Shank, Church of the Brethren staff in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), were free to leave as scheduled for a Christmas break, reports mission executive Jay Wittmeyer.

Many worried that the death of Kim Jong-il would cause political instability with repercussions for the Shanks and other expatriates in the country, but there were no difficulties.

The Shanks heard about the death of Kim Jong-il through a CNN broadcast, which they saw on the campus of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology where Robert is dean of the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Linda teaches English. This news was then shared with PUST staff and students.

When the Shanks arrived in Beijing, their plane was met by a throng of Chinese reporters wanting to hear details of events in Pyongyang since Kim’s death. The Shanks arrived in Chicago Tuesday afternoon.

The Elgin (Ill.) “Courier-News” yesterday ran an interview with Howard Royer, manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund, about the Shanks’ work at PUST and prospects for N. Korea now. Royer has been one of the denominational staff responsible for Church of the Brethren connections in North Korea. Go to .

— Wendy McFadden, publisher of Brethren Press and communications for the Church of the Brethren, contributed to this report.

4) Hoslers conclude their service in Nigeria, report on peace work.

Church of the Brethren mission workers Nathan and Jennifer Hosler have concluded their service in Nigeria and returned to the United States in mid-December. Following is an excerpt from their final newsletter reporting on their work at Kulp Bible College of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria):

We have had much time for reflection lately–with farewell parties, goodbyes, and graduations–and feel content at the progress that has been made since we arrived in 2009. A peace and reconciliation curriculum is now complete and included in the course of studies at Kulp Bible College (KBC). An interfaith steering committee, CAMPI (Christians and Muslims for Peacebuilding Initiatives), has been in existence for more than one year, it has completed its first peace initiative and is currently planning the second. Through CAMPI, imams and pastors have been brought together, have dialogued with each other, and have built relationships across religious divides. A KBC Peace Club was formed and it is actively pursuing peace initiatives within communities around KBC.

Photo courtesy of the Hoslers
The CAMPI Committee shown in 2011 at a farewell event for Nathan and Jennifer Hosler, as they finished their term of service in Nigeria. CAMPI (Christians and Muslims for Peacebuilding Initiatives) at the time had been in existence for more than a year, bringing together Muslim imams and Christian pastors to dialogue with each other and build relationships across religious divides.

We leave thankful that we can see fruit of our labors and the labors of our colleagues. The EYN Peace Program has assigned new Nigerian staff to the organization and the denominational leadership of EYN has expressed its commitment to further strengthening peacebuilding in EYN. We know that the work will move forward and pray for a continued strengthening of the Peace Program, CAMPI, and peace education within EYN. We look forward with expectation and hope that we will hear more about the progress for peace which will come in the future: Christians and Muslims living together peacefully, EYN churches modeling reconciliation, conflict transformation, and justice to their surrounding communities.

Peace Club update: When we think of peace, we typically assume that the opposite of peace is conflict or violence. However, when we think about the broader practice of peacebuilding and the biblical theology of peace, we must expand our thinking to include many other aspects of life. For many people the absence of peace means poverty. When your children are hungry, susceptible to treatable diseases, and are unable to attend school because of poverty–this is the absence of peace. Additionally, resource scarcity tends to lead to conflict. This semester, the KBC Peace Club prepared two dramas and two sermons addressing the issues of peace and poverty. They suggested that we can deal with poverty through working together (literally in Hausa it is “putting heads together”) and challenging injustice. The program was conducted on Nov. 5 and 6 as well as Nov. 12 and 13. Between the two services, more than 2,000 people attended the programs. They constituted the third and fourth outreach events conducted by the KBC Peace Club.

Documentary: In early November, videographer Dave Sollenberger visited Nigeria and EYN. He conducted filming for a documentary on the conflicts in Nigeria and EYN’s response to conflict through its Peace Program. He attended the Peace Club event on Nov. 6. He also filmed a CAMPI meeting, KBC peace classes, the Peace Resource Library, and interviewed many EYN workers and members.

Finishing up our work: Dec. 13 we will be leaving KBC. Our final weeks have included the expected packing up procedures and farewells, as well as handing over Peace Program documents, tasks, and projects, working to organize the Peace Club so that it will continue, and finishing all of the other relatively small but numerous tasks.

We are grateful for the prayers, support, and encouragement that sisters and brothers have given to us during our time of service. As we head back to the United States, we look forward to three months of home leave where we can rest, regroup, visit with family, attend a staff meeting in Elgin, Ill., and speak at Church of the Brethren churches about peace ministry in Nigeria.

Prayer requests: For travel preparations and travel. The Christmas season is expected to bring more incidences of violence. For peace in Nigeria in this time when the angels proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” For a smooth transfer of our work to other Peace Program staff.

5) NCC condemns attack on worshipers in Nigeria.

The National Council of Churches (NCC) has condemned the Christmas Day bombing of a Roman Catholic Church in Madella, Nigeria, as “intrinsically evil.” Incoming NCC president Kathryn Mary Lohre joined Pope Benedict XVI and other religious leaders in denouncing the terrorist acts that claimed the lives of 39 people and injured hundreds.

“The National Council of Churches deplores any attack on Christian communities anywhere in the world,” Lohre said. “But more than that, we condemn any violent act so contrary to the common understanding of God’s love as it is expressed among Christians, Muslims, and persons of all the major faith traditions.”

Lohre called on the council’s member communions “and all persons of good will to pray for the families in Madella who have lost loved ones, and to ask God’s healing mercies for all who have been touched by this tragedy.”

Pope Benedict termed the attacks as “absurd.” “Violence is a path that leads only to pain, destruction, and death,” Benedict said. “Respect, reconciliation, and love are the only path to peace.”

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by an Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.

— Philip E. Jenks of the NCC communications staff provided this release. As of today, no word has been received that congregations or members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) were affected by the attacks on Christmas Day in the capital city of Abuja and the city of Jos in central Nigeria.

6) BVS Europe welcomes largest number of volunteers since 2004.

Photo by Don Knieriem
Some of the Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) workers who went to project sites in Europe recently. The Europe program this year logged its largest number of volunteers since 2004.

The Europe program of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) welcomed many new BVS volunteers this year, 2011–16 in all, “which is more than we’ve seen since 2004,” reports coordinator Kristin Flory in a recent newsletter. Flory works out of an office in Geneva, Switzerland.

Following are the BVS volunteers who have served in Europe this year or are currently serving, listed by country, along with information about their projects:

In Belgium, Bahirah Adewunmi has worked in Brussels in the Pax Christi International office.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Samantha Lyon-Hill has worked in Mostar with the OKC Abrasevic Youth Cultural Center. Julianne Funk Deckard has been in Sarajevo with Mali Koraci, an interfaith peace network.

In Hungary, Jill Piebiak is in Budapest has worked in the World Student Christian Federation’s European regional office.

In Germany, Marie Schuster has lived and worked in Tecklenburg at the Arche community there. Kendra Johnson has been in Hamburg with Peace Brigades International’s German office. Susan Pracht has been in Laufdorf at the international office of Church and Peace. Katarina Eller has lived and worked at the Brot und Rosen community in Hamburg.

In Ireland, Joe Pittoco has worked in Callan, Co. Kilkenny, with the L’Arche Community. Michelle Cernoch has been living and working in Cork with the L’Arche Community there.

In Northern Ireland, Courtney Klosterman and Samantha Carwile have worked in Belfast at the Quaker Cottage family center. Micah and Lucy Loucks have been living and working with the L’Arche Belfast Community. Megan Miller has been with the East Belfast Mission, a project of the Methodist church. Rebecca Marek has worked with Holywell Consultancy and with the Junction community relations center in Derry/Londonderry. A. J. Detwiler, Adam Stokes, and Cori Miner have been at Greenhill YMCA in Newcastle, Co. Down. Tiffany Monarch has been in Coleraine with the Kilcranny House peace farm/residential center.

For more about Brethren Volunteer Service go to .

7) Juniata takes action during Sandusky investigation.

Juniata College, a Church of the Brethren-related school in Huntingdon, Pa., has been named in news reports of the investigation of charges against Jerry Sandusky, former football coach at Penn State. ESPN reported that in May 2010, Sandusky applied for a volunteer football coaching job at Juniata but was rejected after failing a background check ( ). Other media outlets followed up with reports that Sandusky continued to be on the Juniata campus parts of last year. On Dec. 16, Juniata president Thomas R. Kepple Jr. released the following open letter on the college website:

Taking Action: Juniata and Steps Taken During Sandusky Investigation

Dear Juniata Community, in the last several weeks, as the alleged actions of Jerry Sandusky have dominated news headlines, we have been talking with various media about the facts of Sandusky’s having been present on our campus and around our football team during the 2010 season.

The story has rightly caused concern among our alumni, students, families of our students, and other friends of Juniata. To aid in your understanding of what happened and to give you confidence in what Juniata is doing about it, I will share three things: facts regarding our initial response, the facts about Sandusky’s presence as we have known and have communicated them, and what we are doing to ensure such a situation does not occur again.

When Sandusky was initially arrested, Juniata administration received information and communication from individuals close to and employed by our football program. We interviewed athletics staff still here, reviewed public safety reports, and worked to ensure we understood the facts. We contacted the state police on Nov. 9, 2011, and let them know Sandusky had been around our team. We offered to be of assistance should they want to interview people or perform any other investigative work. To date, they have thanked us for calling, but have chosen not to do any work here.

Our current athletic director, Greg Curley, and current head football coach, Tim Launtz, communicated with players, reminding them of campus resources if they wished to speak with counselors. We encouraged players and coaches that, if they had information of any wrongdoing, to contact police. We also shared with players that if they were approached by media, to feel free to talk with them. We also offered players, if they wished, to work with our media relations professionals, to help them know what to expect if talking with press. We also ensured that our media relations professionals had the facts as best we knew them to respond to press, and urged campus staff to send all inquiries through them.

In the days and weeks that followed, various media outlets chose to accentuate some facts rather than others, and some outlets have made errors of fact. We have responded to news media as they have contacted us. While CBS 21 in Harrisburg first chose to break the story, we have shared facts with other media outlets prior to speaking with CBS 21, none of whom opted to run the story.

In August 2009, Jerry Sandusky gave a motivational talk to players, as one of several individuals who gave similar talks during the preseason. The former head coach, Carmen Felus, had numerous contacts in central Pennsylvania and asked them to come and talk with players.

In May 2010, Felus, then the football coach, asked to have Jerry Sandusky serve as a volunteer coach with our football program. As is standard practice with anyone who wishes to do significant volunteer work or work on our campus, Juniata ran a background check on May 27, 2010. We received notice on June 2, 2010, that Sandusky was under criminal investigation.

Sandusky did not mention the investigation on the form for his background check. He was informed in a letter sent to his home that he was to have no association with Juniata’s football program.

At this point Juniata College did not know the full nature of the criminal investigation affecting Jerry Sandusky. We knew only that he was under investigation in Clinton County.

Our athletic director at the time, Larry Bock, and provost, Jim Lakso, instructed Felus twice in June 2010 that Sandusky was not to be associated with the program. When Sandusky was spotted in the press box at the Franklin & Marshall game on Sept. 25, 2010, Larry Bock again informed Felus that Sandusky was not to be part of the program.

We have learned recently that assistant coaching staff present in Fall 2010 were unaware of the ban on Sandusky, despite Felus having been directed to inform his staff and players. Juniata administration was not aware of Sandusky’s reappearance and its increasing frequency late in the fall 2010 semester until the following spring semester, by which time the former head coach had resigned.

We have spoken with several current players and coaching staff and accounts of the degree to which Sandusky was present after Sept. 25, 2010, are varied. We now know Sandusky attended Sunday coaching meetings (at which players are not typically present), but do not know which practices he did or did not attend.

We do not know and will not speculate on the relationship between Sandusky and the former head coach, nor do we know or wish to speculate on the reasons Felus had for continuing to enable Sandusky to be present.

Juniata administration heard neither complaints nor commentary from any students, coaches, or athletes about Sandusky’s presence during the fall 2010 semester.

Juniata made changes as soon as the former head coach resigned on March 3, 2011.

The first thing we did was to hire an upstanding member of the Juniata community to serve as head coach–Tim Launtz. Launtz’s background as director of public safety and residence life made him student- and academics-centered, and he had a record of excellent communication and assistance with students, faculty and administration. Tim was made clear that we expected significant communication and collaboration, and he readily and enthusiastically agreed.

Since then, Tim has built positive relationships with the enrollment office, the Dean of Students office, the provost, alumni relations, and a host of other campus bodies. Tim has clearly and repeatedly shared the mission he has for Juniata football. I quote him here: “The mission of the Juniata football program is to make Juniata men. A Juniata man is a man who treats women with respect; does not lie, steal, cheat; does not use drugs; and respects the cultural differences of his teammates and the campus community. We want our student/athletes to receive a degree in four years, have a plan for their future, and know that they had a positive experience at Juniata.”

I have spoken with Tim many times this fall both before and after this situation. He has elevated and broadened the communication and connection between Juniata football and the rest of the community.

When Larry Bock left for a new full-time coaching position at Navy in February 2011, we discussed the limitations (which Larry had pointed out and helped us to consider) of having an athletic director who coached at a time when he or she could give limited attention to football. As the sport with the largest roster, largest attendance, and largest gross budget, football had to have better oversight from an athletic director.

Our current athletic director, Greg Curley, a longtime Juniata basketball coach, has a season that begins after football ends. He has been able to work with Coach Launtz, be present at games, and provide oversight for our larger-roster sports (football, as well as field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, cross country, track and field) while they are in season, given that basketball’s season runs at a time with few other sports active.

Greg’s focus with our coaches has reiterated communication and the primacy of Juniata’s educational mission. We have an excellent coaching staff, and their words and actions repeatedly underscore that the education of our students is our top priority.

In January 2012, we will convene a meeting of Juniata’s leadership team, comprised of supervising directors in administration across all campus units. In these meetings we discuss enrollment, budgets, operations, and generally the ways we can improve. Given the human resource issues this situation has involved, we will be discussing proper use and administration of chain-of-command, documentation of key communications, and a review of our whistleblower policies (recently strengthened by our Board of Trustees Audit Committee).

We have also started reviewing with our Office of Public Safety how to ensure people understand reporting burdens in the event of various crimes and access issues. We have emergency notification protocols in place, and routinely perform practice exercises with key administrative staff, so I am confident we will be able to update and remind key personnel of our collective duties and responsibilities.

Finally, our Board of Trustees has been fully informed along the way about these issues and our actions.

I cannot say enough good things about our faculty, students and staff here at Juniata. They are the source of all that is great on this campus, and their work is what defines us. Juniata is far more than the actions of any one individual. We are the collective achievements of many people who work to serve others, to promote peace and learning, and to change their communities and their world for the better. And because we are a community of learners, we will learn from what happened here, and work toward better things.

If you have questions, please contact me.

–Thomas R. Kepple Jr., President

8) Royer retires as manager of Global Food Crisis Fund.

Howard E. Royer is retiring as manager of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) on Dec. 31. He has completed eight years as GFCF manager, serving three-quarter time on a contract/volunteer basis.

Also ending its work is the GFCF Grant Review Panel composed of three former international mission workers: Shantilal Bhagat of La Verne, Calif.; Peggy Boshart of Fort Atkinson, Wis.; and Ralph Royer of Claypool, Ind. The three served as volunteers.

This is the second time that Howard Royer has retired from service on the Church of the Brethren staff. He previously served on the denominational staff for 50 consecutive years from 1953-2003, starting out as a 1-W conscientious objector and volunteer in stewardship. He then filled successive roles as youth editor, news director, editor of “Messenger” magazine, coordinator of a salvation and justice program, and director of interpretation.

Over the span of his career, he served terms as national president of the Associated Church Press and the Religious Public Relations Council and as executive of the Council on Church and Media. He has carried out media assignments with the National Council of Churches, Church World Service, Religion News Service, and the World Council of Churches. He served six years on the board of SERRV International, eight years on the board of the Foods Resource Bank, and as a regular participant with inter-faith hunger directors.

Royer is credited with initiating the REGNUH campaign to “Turn Hunger Around” and a very successful food pantry matching grant project. He encouraged Brethren congregations across the country to become involved in growing projects to fight hunger and build denominational ties with the Foods Resource Bank, having the Brethren take the lead on FRB hunger projects in such places as Nicaragua, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and most notably North Korea. His efforts were instrumental in establishing a Church of the Brethren staff presence in North Korea.

The Global Food Crisis Fund continues as a program of Global Mission and Service. Since its beginning in 1983, the fund has issued grants of several millions dollars to foster sustainable food security in more than 30 countries. It issued grants totaling approximately $325,000 in 2011. Find out more at .

9) Blevins resigns as advocacy officer, ecumenical peace coordinator.

Jordan Blevins has resigned as advocacy officer and ecumenical peace coordinator for the Church of the Brethren and the National Council of Churches (NCC), effective March 1, 2012. He has served the Church of the Brethren, seconded to the NCC, since July 1, 2010, giving the denomination a new kind of witness and presence in Washington, D.C., and giving staff support to the peace witness of the NCC.

In that time, more than 450 Brethren have called on their members of Congress to support policies more reflective of Brethren values and have given voice to issues including poverty and hunger, creation care, and issues of violence. The NCC has actively supported the ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, passed a General Assembly resolution calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan, and pursued a United States conversation following the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence.

“Jordan’s work in Washington for both the Brethren and the National Council of Churches has raised the Brethren voice on peace and justice on the national and international stage,” commented general secretary Stan Noffsinger. “He is well respected and has received appreciation from many who have worked with him.”

Previously, Blevins served in the NCC’s Eco-Justice Program and Domestic Poverty Initiative. His last day of work will be Feb. 29.

10) World Interfaith Harmony Week is Feb. 1-7.

On Oct. 20, 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted a resolution designating the first week in February to be an annual World Interfaith Harmony Week. The General Assembly called for dialogue among the different religions internationally, nationally, and locally to enhance interfaith harmony and cooperation.

In this historic action the UN General Assembly recognized the possibility and necessity for the believers in the major world religions to facilitate peace building and to engage in the global moral issues of poverty, hunger, health care, environmental destruction, and other world challenges. Clergy and congregations are asked to focus during this week on (1) learning about the faith and beliefs of followers of other religious traditions, (2) remembering interfaith cooperation in prayers and messages, and (3) sharing together in cooperative compassionate care for persons suffering and marginalized in local communities.

Increasingly, American diversity has persons of other faith traditions living with us as neighbors. In the cacophony of misunderstanding and mistrust, harmony is a recognition of the moral impact of learning about each other’s faith, religious beliefs, and practices, and the increased possibilities of helping local people in need through cooperative service. The World Interfaith Harmony Week is an opportunity to expand compassion locally by reducing our fears and prejudices.

For further information and resources go to .

— Larry Ulrich is the Church of the Brethren representative on the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches.

11) Peace meditation: Reflections from a BVS volunteer in Europe.

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker Susan Pracht has completed a term of service with Church and Peace in Laufdorf, Germany–the first BVSer to serve there since the late 1980s. Church and Peace is an ecumenical organization of more than 110 corporate and individual members from all over Europe. Before departing Europe, Pracht posted the following meditation on Facebook:

In a few weeks we will be back to the unlit bare bones of trees gracing our landscape on whatever walk we can convince ourselves to endure in below freezing weather. The cloak of the festive holiday season will be stripped away, and we will be left to face January on our own.

For these short weeks of Advent and the Christmas season, we are awash in the best qualities of humanity and God: peace, joy, love, hope, family, comfort, gratitude, beauty, grace, selflessness. A few years ago I worshiped at a midnight Mass in a very formal Anglican church. With the incense, the bells, and the choir, it was easy to believe that it was magic, that the coming of the Savior really had changed everything, ourselves, all the beings of the world.

In the cold bleakness of January, it’s just harder to maintain that belief. Does our attachment to the beautiful sentiment of “righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10) mean anything after Jan. 1, 2012? In my ministry with Brethren Volunteer Service, I have had the great privilege of meeting people and communities that have dedicated decades of their lives to the peace movement. What does it take to sustain such a commitment? Based on what I have seen, these people have given themselves as a “living sacrifice.” As a member of Church and Peace’s Administrative Committee put it, peace is not a church project; it is the way of Christ.

So how do we bring the way of Christ into our everyday lives? As “The Message” translation of Psalm 85:10-13 phrases it: “Love and Truth meet in the street.” Love and Truth meet on the bus. Love and Truth meet in the grocery store. Any time you recognize the Inner Light, the image of God within another being, and treat them as such.

“Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss!” Or, in the words of W.H. Bellinger Jr., a professor in the United States: “God’s unchanging love and trustworthiness come together to bring the community into right relationship with God and each other” ( ). When we accept that gift of redeemed relationship and strive to live our lives accordingly, with grace, mercy, and compassion from God, God gives us peace and acceptance with ourselves, and out of that, we can give that to others. But it’s not easy. There are many voices in our heads and in our hearts. Do something every day that helps you separate yourself from the autopilot in your mind, whether it is centering prayer, meditation, cooking, taking a walk….

“Truth spouts green from the ground, Right Living pours down from the skies!” When in doubt, step outside. Breathe deeply. Look. Listen.

“Oh yes! God gives Goodness and Beauty; our land responds with Bounty and Blessing. Right Living strides out before him, and clears a path for his passage.”

— Susan Chase Pracht, Advent 2011

12) Brethren bits.

— Remembrance: Teresa Anne “Terri” Meushaw, 62, died on Dec. 17 after a long battle with cancer. (The story of her struggle with cancer is told in an online journal, find it at .) She had retired as administrative assistant for the Church of the Brethren’s Mid-Atlantic District. She was a long-time presence at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., having also been a part of SERRV, a former administrative assistant to Miller Davis when he was director of the center, and director of the New Windsor Conference Center. Her memorial service will be held on her birthday, Dec. 31, at noon at Uniontown Bible Church in Union Bridge, Md. Memorial contributions are received to Uniontown Bible Church in support of missions. “Please keep Terri’s husband Bill and her children in your prayers,” said a prayer concern from the district.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks a coordinator of Workcamps and Volunteer Recruitment. This full-time salaried position located at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., provides oversight and administration of youth and young adult workcamps and supports recruitment of volunteers for Brethren Volunteer Service. Applicants will need the following: Experience in leadership during workcamps or mission trips; experience working with youth; strong interpersonal skills and an ability to take initiative without regular supervision; experience working in a team; excellent ability in organizational skills; demonstrated ability in communication skills (verbal and written); demonstrated ability in providing faith/spiritual leadership in group settings; experience in word processing, database, and spreadsheet software. In addition the candidate will be well-grounded in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and practices, and be able to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren. Recruitment experience in a college or equivalent volunteer service setting preferred. Understanding of managing a budget required. Experience managing a budget preferred. Willingness to travel extensively is required. A bachelor’s degree is expected, with a master’s degree or equivalent work experience helpful but not required. Request an application packet and full job description by contacting Director of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; .

— The Church of the Brethren seeks a manager to fill a three-quarter time salaried position with benefits to provide oversight and administration of the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Emerging Global Mission Fund. This includes fundraising, grant making, and education and support of the Church of the Brethren regarding hunger issues. A bachelor’s degree is required, a master’s degree or equivalent experience is preferred in sustainable agriculture, economic development, community development, or a related field. Requirements also include strong interpersonal skills; ability to take initiative without regular supervision; strong verbal and written communication skills; willingness to travel; experience in word processing, database, and spreadsheet software; and understanding of budget management, with experience with grant management preferred. Knowledge of Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity strongly preferred. Request an application packet and full job description by contacting Director of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; .

— The Church of the Brethren seeks a program assistant in Human Resources, a part-time hourly position located at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The program assistant will facilitate human resources activities such as employment, compensation, labor relations, benefits, training, and employee services. Requirements include an associate’s degree, with a bachelor’s degree strongly preferred; two to four years generalist experience and/or training in the Human Resources field, business, or equivalent combination of education and experience; knowledge of the ADP Workforce Now human resource and payroll system a plus. Request an application packet and full job description by contacting Director of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; .

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has publicized vacancy notices for four positions: Manager Income Monitoring and Development (deadline for receiving applications is Jan. 25, 2012); Associate General Secretary for Programmes Public Witness and Diakonia to set strategic directions for the WCC’s programmatic work in the area of Public Witness and Diakonia (deadline for receiving applications is Jan. 25, 2012); Programme Executive for Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation to facilitate reflection and action on dialogue and cooperation with other religions, especially in relation to East Asian religions (deadline for receiving applications is Jan. 10, 2012); and EAPPI Communications Officer. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is a program of the WCC that brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses, and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace and for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law, and implementation of UN resolutions (deadline for receiving applications is Jan. 16, 2012). Vacancy notices are at . Applicants should apply online to within the planned time frames.

— Applications for the Church of the Brethren’s Youth Peace Travel Team for summer 2012 are due Jan. 13. Each year four young adults ages 18-23 spend the summer visiting Brethren camps and conferences to educate youth about Christian peacemaking, with sponsorship from the Youth and Young Adult ministry, On Earth Peace, the Outdoor Ministries Association, Brethren Volunteer Service, and Global Mission and Service. Find information and application form at .

— Also due Jan. 13 are applications for Ministry Summer Service 2012. MSS is a leadership development program for college students in the Church of the Brethren who spend 10 weeks of the summer working in the church either in a local congregation, district office, camp, or denominational program. The 2012 orientation is June 1-6. For more about the program go to .

— A number of online registration opportunities begin in the next few days:

Jan. 2 is the opening date for early registration for congregational delegates to the 2012 Annual Conference in St. Louis, Mo. Registration opens at noon (central time) on Jan. 2 at . The early registration fee is $285 per delegate. The fee increases to $310 on Feb. 23. Congregations will be able to register their delegates online and will be able to pay either by credit card or by sending a check. A memo and registration form has been mailed to every congregation. Nondelegate registration and housing reservations will begin Feb. 22. Contact the Conference Office at or 800-323-8039 ext. 229.

Jan. 6 is when online registration opens for National Young Adult Conference. Registration opens at 8 p.m. (central) on Jan. 6 at . The conference is June 18-22 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with the theme, “Humble Yet Bold: Being the Church” (Matthew 5:13-18). Go to the YAC web page above for more information about the conference.

Jan. 9 is the opening day of registration for the 2012 workcamps. “Get ready, get set, and get registered!” says a reminder from the Workcamp Office. “Can’t wait to see you this summer!” Workcamp registration opens Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. (central). Go to to register. For questions, please contact Cat Gong or Rachel Witkovsky in the Workcamp Office by e-mail at or by phone at 800-323-8039 ext. 283 or 301.

— A draft revision of “Ministerial Leadership Polity in the Church of the Brethren” as well as resources to help explain and interpret the paper are posted at . The revision will come to the Annual Conference for a first read in 2012, to be voted on in 2013. “Until Annual Conference approves a new polity document on ministerial leadership, the Church of the Brethren follows polity laid out in the paper on Ministerial Leadership adopted by Annual Conference in 1999,” explains an introductory note from the Ministry Office. “Calling and sustaining leadership for the church are the responsibilities of the whole church. Individuals, congregations, districts and the denomination work together to call forth leaders for our life together. Our hope in making this draft widely available is that we might read, study, and consider all that it includes–together.” Plans are for each district to host a listening and information session for its District Ministry Commission, facilitated by Office of Ministry staff and representatives to the Ministry Advisory Council, in the early months of 2012. Available at are the draft revision, timeline, and responses to frequently asked questions.

— “Benign Neglect Imperils Children after a Disaster” is the title of an article contributed by Judy Bezon, associate director of the Church of the Brethren’s Children’s Disaster Services, to the “The Dialogue,” a journal published by the Disaster Technical Assistance Center of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The journal provides information and resources to disaster behavioral health professionals. Find the article at .

— The Brethren Historical Library and Archives has acquired a historic chest originally belonging to the Kurtz family. The chest reportedly was brought over to the US from Europe in 1817 by Henry Kurtz (1796-1874), first Brethren publisher (“Monthly Gospel-Visiter”). Measuring two feet by two feet by 55 inches, made of wood with metal fastenings and handles, the chest stayed in the family long after the death of Henry Kurtz. It was donated to the archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., by Edward and Mary Jane Todd of Columbiana, Ohio, members of Zion Hill Church of the Brethren. The chest is a companion piece to a pipe organ (1698) brought over to America by Henry Kurtz in 1817. For a “Hidden Gems” page about Henry Kurtz go to .

— The Church of the Brethren in Hollidaysburg, Pa., is only one of many Brethren congregations who received media coverage this month. A video report from WTAJ TV News reviews the Hollidaysburg live Nativity at . The rebuilt Black River Church of the Brethren in Spencer, Ohio, was featured by WKYC-TV NBC in Cleveland with a report and slide show at . Dranesville Church of the Brethren in Herndon, Va., held a candlelight peace service Dec.18 to commemorate the loss of life in the Civil War Battle of Dranesville in 1861, and pastor Glenn Young gave an interview to the “Fairfax Underground” at . Find the latest “Brethren in the News” links for December at .

— The Third Peace Gathering of the Historic Peace Churches in Florida will be held Jan. 28, 2012, from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. hosted by Sebring Church of the Brethren. The $20 registration fee includes lunch and snacks. A special peace testimony will be given by Enten Eller, former draft resister and now staff at Bethany Theological Seminary, who also will lead a morning workshop on “Social Networking and Electronic Communications for Peace.” Other workshops will address praying for peace, peace education, witnessing to lawmakers, and more. Contact Phil Lersch, facilitator of the coordinating committee, at 727-544-2911 or .

— Emmert F. Bittinger’s book, “Allegheny Passage: Churches and Families of the West Marva District of the Church of the Brethren, 1752-1990,” is being reprinted and will be made available in early 2012 by West Marva District. The book had been out of print for some years. A group from West Marva, working with the Bittinger family, facilitated the reprinting. A pre-publication discount price of $64.95 (plus $6 shipping and handling per copy by mail) is available for those purchasing the book by Dec. 31. After the first of the year, the cost will be $79.95 plus shipping and handling. Contact West Marva District Office, 384 Dennett Rd., Oakland MD 21550.

— The Milestones in Ministry dinner was again a part of the Shenandoah District Conference this year. Twenty-eight ministers were recognized for years of service since ordination: Fred Bowman and Emerson Fike, 65 years; Bob McFadden, 60 years; Dee Flory, David Rittenhouse, and Albert Sauls, 55 years; Auburn Boyers and Fred Swartz, 50 years; J.D. Glick, 45 years; Ed Carl and John Foster, 40 years; Sam Sligar, 35 years; JuliAnne Bowser Sloughfy, Don Curry, and Bruce Noffsinger, 30 years; Jim Jinks and Elaine Hartman McGann, 25 years; Bill Abshire, Shelvie Mantz, Julian Rittenhouse, and George Yocum, 20 years; George Bowers, Walt Crull, Bill Fitchett, and Don Guthrie, 15 years; Gary Major, Daryl Ritchie, and Glenn Shifflett, 5 years.

— At least two other districts also honored ministers for terms of service: Virlina District Conference honored L. Clyde Carter Jr. for 50 years of service. Atlantic Southeast District Conference recognized the following ministers: Steve Horrell and Jaime Diaz, 5 years; Jimmy Baker, 20 years; Jerry Hartwell and Benjamin Perez, 35 years; Terry Hatfield, 40 years; Wendell Bohrer and Merle Crouse, 55 years. Also, Berwyn Oltman received the Gemmer Peace Award at the Atlantic Southeast District Conference.

— Feb. 3, 2012, is the Annual Dinner and Meeting of the Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at Shady Oak beside Weavers Mennonite Church. In addition to food prepared by the Rhodes Sisters and provided by a generous donor, guests will see a preview of the play, “Jordan’s Stormy Banks.”

— The December edition of “Brethren Voices,” the community television program produced by Portland’s Peace Church of the Brethren, features the Intentional Community Houses of Brethren Volunteer Service. Since 2009, BVS has created Intentional Community Houses in Elgin, Ill.; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Portland, Ore. These projects offer volunteers a community living experience and the opportunity to volunteer with local organizations serving the needs of  the nearby community, along with relationship to a local congregation. This edition of “Brethren Voices,” hosted by Brent Carlson, features five volunteers who have been the first to serve in the Portland project. Members of the congregation provide insight into how a small church was able to bring this into reality as part of its ministry. The  January 2012 “Brethren Voices” features 2012 Annual Conference moderator Tim Harvey of Roanoke, Va. “Brethren Voices” is offered as community television resource and isbeing used by some congregations as a resource for Sunday school classes. Contact Ed Groff at for more information.

— A children’s book by Jan West Schrock, daughter of Heifer International founder Dan West, has been made into a play. Schrock reports, “My little children’s book, ‘Give A Goat,’ is featured in the Dec. 2011 ‘Library Sparks’ magazine. It has become a play in the Reader’s Theater for children Grades 3-5.” Find an interview with Schrock at , click on “Meet the Author.”

— Two Church of the Brethren members have co-authored “Beneath the Tip of the Iceberg: Improving English and Understanding US Cultural Patterns” (Univ. of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor). Darla K. Bowman Deardorff of Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren in Durham, N.C., is executive director of the association of International Education Administrators based at Duke University where she also teaches cross-cultural courses, and on the faculty at North Carolina State University and the University of N. Carolina, Chapel Hill. Kay M. Bowman of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren is a retired minister’s wife, speaker, author, and writer for more than 50 years. Their book introduces students who are new to the US to deeper levels of American culture in order to help improve their interactions with others in their communities.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Terry Barkley, James Deaton, Kristin Flory, Ed Groff, Karin L. Krog, Howard Royer, Larry Ulrich, Rachel Witkovsky, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Look for the next regularly scheduled issue on Jan. 11. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Newsline appears every other week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to

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