Newsline for March 23, 2011

“Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

Newsline will have a guest editor for several issues this year. Kathleen Campanella, director of partner and public relations at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., will edit Newsline during three periods of time in April, June, and July/August when news director Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford will be on sabbatical. Readers are invited to look for Kathleen’s first issue of Newsline on April 6. Please continue to submit news items to .

1) Denominational board adopts a Strategic Plan for the decade.
2) Work team worships and works with Haitian Brethren.
3) McPherson couple gives course in Brethren history to CNI seminary.

4) Palsgrove resigns from Brethren Service Center staff.

>5) Fasting initiative focuses on world’s vulnerable.
6) Registration is now open for National Older Adult Conference.

7) Invest in education: A note from the president of Manchester College.

8) Brethren bits: Personnel, job opening, Year for People of African Descent, more.

1) Denominational board adopts a Strategic Plan for the decade.

Above, Mission and Ministry Board chair Dale Minnich reviews the purpose of the Strategic Plan for the decade of denominational ministry, 2011-2019: “Provide a Christ centered focus for MMB program that fits the gifts and dreams of the Brethren.” Below, one board member raises an enthusiastic green card in favor of the Strategic Plan. Find a photo album from the board meeting at . Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A Strategic Plan for denominational ministry in this decade, 2011-2019, was adopted by the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board at its spring meeting. The meeting took place March 10-14 at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The board used a consensus style of decision making, led by chair Dale E. Minnich.

Also on the agenda was a thorough overview of the current financial situation of denominational ministries, approval of the annual report, and reports on new church development, work in Haiti and southern Sudan, a delegation to Israel/Palestine, and the Christian Churches Together annual meeting that centered on the continuing problem of racism in US churches, among others.

The board spent an afternoon in private conversation to seek a working relationship while dealing with controversial issues facing the church, including the Special Response conversation on matters related to sexuality.

Strategic Plan:

As in its fall meeting last year, the board spent much of its time on a Strategic Plan. It adopted a final document at this meeting. (Find the Strategic Plan at .) The plan received verbal accolades from board members, both in a discussion of the plan by the Executive Committee, and in comments in the full board meeting.

“This is a major step for us,” said Minnich as he introduced the item of business. In a slide explaining the process used to arrive at the plan, he identified its purpose in this way: “Provide a Christ centered focus for MMB (Mission and Ministry Board) program that fits the gifts and dreams of the Brethren.”

“I desperately want members of the church engaged with this (plan) and to see what we’re doing,” said vice-chair Ben Barlow.

Repeatedly, board and staff leaders emphasized the interrelated nature of six sets of directional goals and objectives for ministry in the program areas of “Brethren Voice,” church planting, congregational vitality, international mission, and service, and an organizational goal of sustainability. Each is based in scripture. The objectives were written with help from small working groups of staff and board liaisons, and in some cases advisory groups from the wider church.

Commenting on the objectives for church planting, Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively told the Executive Committee, “These objectives only work when they’re paired with the objectives for Brethren Voice and others.”

“None of them can stand alone,” Barlow said in agreement. He characterized the goals in their entirety as “envisioning a vital and dynamic church…into the future.”

At previous meetings the board had approved several sections of the plan including a preamble prayer, six broad directional goals, and next steps such as how the plan will be implemented. The organization’s vision, mission, and core values statements ( ) are considered foundational understandings.

The objectives for congregational vitality, which in the words of Ministry Office executive Mary Jo Flory-Steury lay out a vision of what a vibrant and vital church is, began receiving positive responses even in advance of the board meeting. Board member Tim Peter already has written about them for a newsletter, and told the Executive Committee “how this particular directional goal resonated with people in Northern Plains District…. Yes, this is important to us!” he said.

The board spent an afternoon discussing the new objectives, asking questions, and giving feedback. One point of clarification requested was how the specific number of 250 new church plants for the decade was decided. Shively explained that the assumption is not that denominational staff are planting the churches, but that the denomination’s ministry is to support church planters in the districts. The number of 250 new plants is an achievable objective in terms of that support, he said.

“We can’t do this on our own power,” he added. “This is a spiritual discipline…. That’s the spirit in which that number was imagined and offered.” Shively also told the board that as he meets with district leaders, he is seeing the church planting movement “finding its wings.”

Members of the finance staff also offered helpful explanations about the objectives for sustainability–that the goal is to be forward looking, with objectives designed to sustain the Church of the Brethren’s mission into the future, and not necessarily tied to current program and staffing structures. “We are not trying to sustain an organization,” said LeAnn Wine, assistant treasurer and executive director of Systems and Services. “It is about creating sustaining resources for the mission. As the mission changes, we need to be flexible.”

Two ex-officio board members raised concerns about whether the objectives give enough prominence to the peace witness, and whether an objective for interfaith relationships ought to be added. Their concerns were discussed but led to no changes in the Strategic Plan.

Work toward this new Strategic Plan began when the former General Board and the former Association of Brethren Caregivers merged to become the Church of the Brethren, Inc. Then, using an “appreciative inquiry” process focused on identifying strengths of the organization, data was gleaned from a five-year evaluation of the work of the General Secretary and a survey of leadership groups in the denomination. Rick Augsburger of the Konterra Group based in Washington, D.C., served as consultant. A Strategic Planning Working Group of board members and executive staff guided the effort.

A reading of the plan’s Preamble Prayer closed the business sessions of the board. Brian Messler, a board member from Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, also shared how he will be bringing ideas from the service objectives back to his congregation, suggesting that other board members do the same. “The juices are flowing, the Spirit is moving, and praise be to God!” said Minnich.

Financial reports:

A review of the financial situation for denominational ministry centered on a smaller than expected net loss in the Core Ministries Fund in 2010, which reduces the anticipated deficit that had been budgeted for this year.

Other positive points came with news that since 2008 the denomination’s investments have rebounded and have regained $4 million in value–more than half of the value lost in the economic downturn of three years ago. Congregational giving continued strong in 2010 given the overall economic situation in the nation, beating budget projections. Online giving increased significantly. In addition the Annual Conference experienced a turnaround, reversing a deficit that had been greatly increased by poor attendance at the 2009 Conference.

While income to the Core Ministries Fund was less than anticipated overall, giving to all Church of the Brethren ministries was up significantly when the more than $1 million in donations to disaster relief work in Haiti was taken into account.

However, finance staff also reported several negatives, chief among them the negative net asset balance for the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center, which doubled to over a half million dollars by the end of last year. In her report about a situation she called “very daunting,” Keyser said the problem is a result of the wider economic downturn that has affected use of the conference center, along with costs associated with the older buildings and staffing. “We’ve never had a half million dollars” in a negative net asset balance before, she told the board. “Everything is being discussed by your staff. We’re talking about all the options.”

The extensive financial reporting reviewed pre-audit income and expense results for Church of the Brethren ministries in 2010, designated fund balances, net assets balances, stabilization strategies for investments, cash flow analysis, a 10-year budgeting history of the organization, and other areas of concern as the board anticipates a difficult financial situation next year. The projection given by Keyser is that denominational ministries will enter 2012 with a potential shortfall in income of some $696,000.

During the meeting, a collection to support the work of the church received donations from board members and staff. A final gift following the meeting brought that total to around $2,500.

A detailed report of pre-audit financial results from 2010 appeared in Newsline on March 9, find it at . A photo album of the meeting is at  .

2) Work team worships and works with Haitian Brethren.

Above, the team at work in Haiti, alongside members of the Haitian Church of the Brethren. Below, the group also distributed Bibles during their trip. Photos by Fred Shank

A work team recently spent at week (Feb.24-March 3) worshiping and working together with the National Committee of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti). The group was jointly sponsored by the Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Mission Fund of the Brethren Revival Fellowship.

The team, consisting of 14 members, was led by Douglas Miller of New Oxford, Pa., Marie Andremene Ridore of Miami, Fla., and Jeff Boshart of Fort Atkinson, Wis.

During the week the group helped lead Vacation Bible School activities in two churches and two schools, joined church members in Morne Boulage and Saut d’Eau to assist in church construction projects, distributed Bibles to church leaders, and spent one day working on a guesthouse being built by Brethren Disaster Ministries to house volunteers in Croix des Bouquets. The group was able to visit permanent homes being built by Brethren Disaster Ministries, and to meet Haitian Brethren living in temporary housing provided by the program.

This was the first team to be hosted by the National Committee of the Haitian Brethren. Treasurer Romy Telfort thanked the team for its presence and expressed what a blessing it was to serve together in this way. General secretary Jean Bily Telfort shared his appreciation for the support of the Church of the Brethren in the US.

— Jeff Boshart is coordinator of the Brethren Disaster Ministries response in Haiti, and a consultant for Global Mission Partnerships.

3) McPherson couple gives course in Brethren history to CNI seminary.

Herb and Jeanne Smith recently taught a course in Brethren history and traditions at Gujarat School of Theology, a seminary of the Church of North India (CNI). Affiliated with McPherson (Kan.) College, the Smiths have taken students and alumni on international trips every January interterm. They also have taught at universities in Japan and India during sabbaticals. This second experience in India, however, of all their travels and teaching was the most impactful. Following is their report:

India assaults the senses, intrigues the intellect, and inspires the spirit. In this land of enchanting diversity, the Church of the Brethren initiated its mission in 1895. Eventually over 90 schools were founded along the central western coast in an area of over 7,000 square miles.

As we were anticipating flying to Ahmadabad to teach at the Gujarat School of Theology, we were naturally apprehensive. Both of us during our educational training had experienced presentations by guest professors from other cultures, not usually in sync with the students. The apprehension was heightened when upon arrival we found out that our teaching would be translated line by line from English to a Gujarat dialect.

To our surprise, the sessions on Church of the Brethren history and traditions were very well received by both the seminary students and the professors who attended.

The School of Theology is the graduate seminary for CNI. In 1970, amid considerable controversy, the Church of the Brethren joined this consortium consisting of six denominations. The school is located in the semi-arid city of Ahmadabad, where Mahatma Gandhi had his ashram and began the long trek of his epic salt march.

Because most of the seminarians and faculty had come from other denominational backgrounds, the history and traditions of the Brethren were almost entirely new to them. The service motif and the pacifist stance were highlighted. Since CNI has adopted both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, we featured the Brethren emphasis on the teachings of Christ, which are totally omitted by the creeds. Also, much emphasis was placed on the monumental change when the fourth century Roman emperor Constantine militarized his understanding of the Christian faith.

One of the seminary students shared about his background and decision to join the Christian faith and prepare for the ministry. His decision was made under threat of death in a province where the right-wing BJP political party promotes a brand of Hindu fundamentalism, and Christianity is not well received by the general population.

Stirring the emotions was a visit to the leprosy settlement supported by CNI. Everyone has heard of Mother Teresa, but few have been told about Father Albert–except for people who beg throughout north India. Lame since birth, this saint personally applies salve to the wounds of those with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and directs an orphanage of 76 children whose parents have died of this debilitating disease. In India, those with leprosy often are shunned by their families and are left homeless in the streets. Father Albert’s compound provides warmth in the context of Christian love.

From the pioneer era of Mary and Wilbur Stover along with Bertha Ryan, the Church of the Brethren continues to have an impact on the lives of many in India.

— For more about Church of the Brethren relationships in India, where the denomination relates to both the Church of North India and the Church of the Brethren India, go to .

4) Palsgrove resigns from Brethren Service Center staff.

Ed Palsgrove, director of Buildings and Grounds at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., has announced his resignation effective May 10. He has worked most of the last 35 years improving, fixing, and re-creating the rooms and buildings needed for ministries housed there.

Palsgrove began working at the Brethren Service Center on Oct. 15, 1975, as a truck driver. His breadth of skills also includes plumbing, electrical, HVAC, fire fighting, phone system management, construction coordination, locksmithing, and much more. He is known for approaching the work at the center with integrity, careful stewardship, and care for God’s creation. He plans to continue living in New Windsor, where he will start in a new position with a local manufacturer of high tech testing equipment.

5) Fasting initiative focuses on world’s vulnerable.

The Peace Witness Ministries of the Church of the Brethren, located in Washington, D.C., and the Global Food Crisis Fund are highlighting a fasting initiative scheduled to begin March 28.

Appealing to Americans to seek divine guidance by humbling themselves before God, hunger advocate Tony Hall announced he will begin a spiritual fast on March 28 to reflect on the condition of the poor and hungry in the US and around the world. He is inviting others to join personally and collectively in the venture.

Concerned over the impact of rising food and energy prices and Congressional budget cuts on the poor, the former Ohio Congressman envisions collective fasting and prayer forming “a circle of protection” around the vulnerable people of the world.

The Peace Witness Ministries office for the past several months has been calling on church members to contact their representatives in Congress on issues ranging from the federal budget to the situation of the Gulf Coast, from the war in Afghanistan to gun violence. “What is perhaps even more important, however, is that these actions grow out of our spiritual practices, and be grounded in a sense of worship,” said advocacy officer Jordan Blevins.

In 1993 Hall fasted for 22 days to call attention to what he termed “the lack of conscience in the US Congress for hungry people.” “But,” he reflected, “everything we planned didn’t work, but what did work was greater than anything we planned.”

“What fasting is about is God–putting God first,” he continued. “It’s way beyond us. We need to humble ourselves and get out of the way. When you both fast and pray, fasting puts a real edge to your prayers.”

Hall invites those who join with him to define for themselves what sacrificial participation means. Where the fasting leads and how long it will go on are unknown, but what is known is the fervor that Hall has “to grow the circle” around the country.

With support from the Alliance to End Hunger, the organization that Hall heads, along with Bread for the World, Sojourners, World Vision, and a host of other organizations engaged in hunger advocacy and action, the focus on fasting will utilize the social media. The fast will be announced at a prayer vigil on Capitol Hill in partnership with Ecumenical Advocacy Days, where more than 600 Christians will gather.

An action alert from Peace Witness Ministries at provides information about Ecumenical Advocacy Days. The website spells out principles, rationale, and platform for the fast. Bread for the World offers a guide to fasting as a spiritual discipline at

— Jordan Blevins and Howard Royer provided this information. Royer manages the Global Food Crisis Fund and participated in a March 15 conference call in which Hall and Alliance staff convened leaders of faith-related hunger groups. He welcomes ideas about how Brethren may take part in the fast, contact  or 800-323-8039 ext. 264. Blevins is advocacy officer and ecumenical peace coordinator for the Church of the Brethren and the NCC. For information about worship and advocacy opportunities contact him at .

6) Registration is now open for National Older Adult Conference.

Registration has begun for the 2011 National Older Adult Conference (NOAC). Brochures have been mailed to past participants, congregations, district offices, and retirement communities, and a copy is in the April “Source” packet mailed to each church in the denomination. Complete conference information and online registration is available at .

Participants may register online with a credit card or print the form to pay by check through the mail. Reservations for lodging at the Lake Junaluska (N.C.) Conference and Retreat Center must be postmarked or faxed April 1 or later. Those with special lodging needs are encouraged to make their reservations between April 1-15 for priority consideration.

NOAC begins Monday, Sept. 5, with evening worship featuring Robert Bowman as preacher, and concludes following the closing worship service on Friday morning, Sept. 9, when Susan Boyer delivers the message.

In between, participants will enjoy keynote presentations by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, David E. Fuchs and Curtis W. Dubble, and C. Michael Hawn; a musical performance by Amy Yovanovich and Chrystian Seay; a hymn sing; and a concert by Mutual Kumquat. Cherokee tales will be offered by Freeman Owle, while Philip Gulley will share humorous and poignant stories of small-town life. Gulley also preaches for Wednesday evening’s worship. Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm will lead morning Bible studies. There also will be many opportunities for learning, recreation, creativity, service, fellowship, and enjoying the beautiful conference grounds.

NOAC would not be complete without the ice cream socials sponsored by the Fellowship of Brethren Homes, Bethany Seminary, and the six colleges and university associated with the Church of the Brethren. NOAC organizers appreciate the financial sponsorship of Brethren Benefit Trust (morning Bible studies), Brethren Village (Fuchs and Dubble keynote speech), the Palms of Sebring (concert by Amy Yovanovich and Chrystian Seay), and Everence (Robert Bowman’s presentation).

For additional information about NOAC contact 800-323-8039 ext. 302 or . Information also is at .

— Kim Ebersole is conference coordinator for NOAC and serves as director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministries in the Church of the Brethren.

7) Invest in education: A note from the president of Manchester College.

The following reflection on budget decisions at the state and federal levels, and their potential effect on college students, was shared by president Jo Young Switzer of Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind. It appeared March 1 as a reflection in her “Notes from the President”:

“Budget decisions at the state and federal levels are dominating the news. The State of Indiana and the nation are struggling to bring their budgets under control, work that is long overdue. When I was responsible only for my own classes and students, I did not understand the powerful impact of budget policies on students’ access to college.

“My hope for this process is that our representatives and senators would a) cut areas that are overfunded or not central to our most important priorities and simultaneously b) invest in initiatives and programs that will spur economic recovery. How disappointing it is that both in Indianapolis and in Washington, D.C., the conversations moved quickly to reductions in aid for the financially neediest of college students.

“Manchester College receives no direct funding from the state. Our students, however, qualify for state and federal need-based grants. How disappointing that the legislators are choosing to increase funding for students at for-profit universities, several of which are under investigation for encouraging excessive student loan borrowing and for garnering 90 percent of their revenues from these student loans, many of which are in default. How disappointing that several public universities hired teams of lobbyists to persuade legislators to decrease scholarship levels for Indiana students at independent colleges and universities in the state.

“We will continue to advocate for financial aid for students whose families cannot carry their college expenses alone. We hope you will join us in that advocacy. At the same time, the college also has chosen to provide significant financial aid for our students. We cannot, however, continue to make up for such large decreases in state and national grants. State aid alone has decreased 38 percent over the last two years. Manchester has long welcomed students with modest means and we now find it harder and harder to provide enough scholarships to keep those students in school.

“In the end, the state and the nation must invest in education. Educated citizens bring the abilities to address complex problems, including reducing the national debt. Educated citizens have the skills and dispositions to overcome differences and find imaginative solutions to difficult problems. Education is an investment in the future. In the days ahead, I hope our politicians realize that.”

8) Brethren bits: Personnel, job opening, Year for People of African Descent, more.

— The positions of dishwasher and Conference Center secretary at the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center have been eliminated as of March 22, and the services of David Zaruba and Connie Bohn ended on the same date. The elimination of these positions occurred due to the significant budget shortfalls at the Conference Center over the past several years and the budget reduction measures put in place to remedy the situation. Both Zaruba and Bohn will receive a three-month severance package for regular salary and benefits as well as outplacement services. Zaruba was hired as dishwasher in Dining Services on May 8, 2003, and Bohn has served in the Conference Center secretary position since June 2, 1999.

— Bethany Theological Seminary seeks a full-time director of communications. Bethany is the graduate school and academy of the Church of the Brethren, located in Richmond, Ind., offering MDiv and MA programs with local and distance tracks. The director will have education and experience in communications to strengthen, expand, and manage the image and awareness of the seminary; develop and execute communications plans, strategies, and tactics; serve diverse stakeholder groups, both internal and external; work collaboratively with director of electronic communications; share the vision of an inquiring thoughtful Christian faith. Candidates should have strong organizational abilities, interpersonal skills, excellent writing and oral communication, knowledge of electronic technology and software for design and production of communication pieces, and an eye and imagination tuned to newsworthy developments in the Bethany community to be sent as timely printed and electronic news releases. Bachelor’s degree with experience and knowledge of the Church of the Brethren preferred. Letters of application, resumes, samples of work or portfolio should be sent to: Director of Communications Search, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374; or . Application deadline is May 1 or until the position is filled.

— Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations, will bring opening remarks at the International Day for the Elimination of Racism program at the UN tomorrow, March 24. She is co-chair of the Subcommittee for the Elimination of Racism of the NGO Committee on Human Rights. The focus will be the International Year for People of African Descent in 2011, which “aims to advance the integration of people of African descent into all political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of society and to promote a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture.” The program will consist of panel presentations, a poetry performance, and audience interaction. Speakers include Howard Dodson of the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, along with representatives of the missions to the UN from Colombia, Ghana, and Jamaica, and James Jackson of the University of Michigan. Performing will be Anis Mojgani, two-time National Poetry Slam Champion and Winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam. The event is 3-6 p.m. on the 10th floor of the Church Center in New York.

— A new Spanish language certificate-level ministry training program, Seminario Biblico Anabautista Hispano-de la Iglesia de los Hermanos (SeBAH-CoB), is available through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. This program is a partnership between the Brethren Academy and the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA)-Hispanic Pastoral and Leadership Education office. Twenty students from Atlantic Northeast District attended an orientation weekend Jan. 20-23 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Seven students from Pacific Southwest District will participate after attending orientation March 6-12. Rafael Barahona, associate director of MEA and director of SeBAH, was the orientation instructor. Both districts are providing significant spiritual, academic, and financial support for their students in this ministry training program. For information contact the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership at  or 800-287-8822 ext. 1824.

— Photographs of Brethren “extending the table” are sought for a presentation during the closing worship service of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The service is Wednesday, July 6, in Grand Rapids, Mich., on the theme, “Jesus Extends the Table to Us.” Photographs will be displayed on large screens during an act of commissioning for the congregation. The worship planning team asks for help from Brethren photographers in acquiring photos of ways in which congregations extend hospitality and welcome to others, because Jesus welcomed us. Images may be from celebrations of Love Feast, but also may show ways congregations greet people as they arrive for worship, reach out into the community, and engage in service ministries. Photographers are requested to contribute only their own original works, and to have the permission of people pictured in any photos that are submitted. Send photographs as jpg attachments to an e-mail to Rhonda Pittman Gingrich at , along with credit information and written permission for their use by the Annual Conference.

— Bethany Theological Seminary is offering “Sabbath space” on its campus in Richmond, Ind., on March 27-28. An announcement said: “At this moment in our national and denominational life, and taking Jesus seriously, Bethany Seminary is opening a Sabbath space for all people beginning on Sunday, March 27, at 5 p.m. with a simple fellowship meal and closing on Monday, March 28, by 3 p.m. The purpose of our gathering is to remember together that God is our creator, that we belong to God, and that we find our freedom and our joy in reconciliation with God and one another.” The event will include worship, opportunities for prayer in small groups, and space for individual meditation. There is no charge, but those who plan to attend are requested to register. A registration form is at .

— Churches interested in becoming sites to provide food to hungry children through the federal Summer Food Service program are invited to the USDA’s “Summer Food Service Program Webinar for Faith-Based Organizations” on March 29 from 3-4 p.m. (eastern time). Each summer, 22.3 million students are at risk of going hungry when the school year ends. For many children, school meals are the only complete and nutritious meals they eat, and in the summer they go without. The Summer Food Service Program helps fill the gap for low-income children. It is federally funded and administered by states that reimburse organizations for meals served to children during the summer. Participants in the webinar will need access to a phone line and a computer with Internet access. To participate, complete the registration form at . More information is at .

— Lakeland Song and Story Fest takes place June 26-July 2 at Camp Brethren Heights near Rodney, Mich. This is the 15th summer in a row for the annual intergenerational family camp co-sponsored by On Earth Peace. Ken Kline Smeltzer serves as director. This year’s theme is “Between the Waters.” The camp features Brethren storytellers, musicians, and workshop leaders. Registration is $250 for adults, $200 for teenagers, $120 for children ages 4-12, children 3 and under welcome at no charge. Maximum fee per family is $750. Daily fees also are available. Registrations after June will be charged a late fee. Register online at . For more information go to or contact .

— Washington City Church of the Brethren in Washington, D.C., is part of a new rainbarrel project to prevent pollution in the Anacostia River from stormwater runoff from buildings in Washington, D.C. A 650 gallon rainwater cistern will collect rain water from the church roof, thanks to a grant from the District Department of the Environment. The project is a community partnership bringing together Capitol Hill houses of worship and neighborhood groups for stormwater education, cistern installation, and garden care. Partner organizations are Anacostia Riverkeeper and Groundwork Anacostia, which employs local youth to help install the cisterns.

— “Is Pacifism a Core Christian Value?” is the theme for a March 26 event of Mid-Atlantic District Peace and Justice Committee, at University Park Church of the Brethren in Hyattsville, Md. Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, is keynote speaker. Panel members include Jordan Blevins, ecumenical peace advocate for the Church of the Brethren and National Council of Churches; Marie Benner-Rhodes, coordinator for peace education, On Earth Peace; and Jeff Scott, JD, of Westminster Church of the Brethren. The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Attendees are to prepare by reading “Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terror(ism),” available at (scroll down to “Visioning Conversations” and click “Full Text of the Five Vision Papers”, then select the above paper). Register by contacting Terri Meushaw at or 410-635-8790.

— The Shenandoah District Office in Weyers Cave, Va., is serving as a kit depot for Church World Service (CWS) through April 21. Health kits, school kits, baby layette kits, and clean-up buckets are being accepted. Drop off completed kits at the lower level of the office from 9 a.m. to noon, Mondays through Thursdays. All kits must be boxed in order to be loaded onto the truck for delivery to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Boxes and tape are provided. Plastic buckets are available for a $2 donation. Kits will be loaded onto the truck on April 25.

— Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village has received high scores in Maryland’s survey of residents’ families, according to a release from the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro. For 2010, the survey contacted 16,765 persons representing residents at 224 homes. “This is the fourth year of the survey, and the Boonsboro facility has received some of the state’s highest ratings every time,” the release said. For example, of Fahrney-Keedy’s responding parties in 2010, 98 percent said they would recommend the nursing home to others, compared with a 90 percent average statewide. For overall care received, Fahrney-Keedy respondents rated the home at 9.3 on a 10-point scale. Statewide in this category, homes received an average rating of 8.4.

— The Ann and Steve Morgan Auditorium Dedication Week at the University of La Verne, Calif., will feature journalist Mark Pinsky speaking on “Faith, Media and Pop Culture,” March 31 at 7:30 p.m. A release from the university noted that Pinsky has authored books on faith and entertainment including “The Gospel According to Disney,” “The Gospel According to the Simpsons,” and “A Jew Among the Evangelicals: A Guide for the Perplexed.” The event is free, seating is limited. Visit or call 909-593-3511 ext. 4589.

— The Young Center at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College holds its Durnbaugh Lectures on April 7-8 with Dale Stoffer, academic dean of Ashland Theological Seminary. The lectures commemorate the scholarship of Donald and Hedda Durnbaugh. Stoffer will present “The Pilgrim and the Printer: The First Two Bibles in Colonial America” at 7:30 p.m. on April 7 in the Susquehanna Room of Myer Hall. The lecture follows the annual Young Center banquet. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the dinner at 6 p.m. Stoffer also will present a seminar, “From Berleburg to Germantown: Radical Pietist Readings from the Bible,” at 10 a.m. April 8 at the Young Center. A lunch is available after the seminar. Lecture and seminar are free. Cost for the banquet is $18. Cost for the luncheon is $10. Reservations required by March 24, call 717-361-1470.

— A new book from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College professor Michael G. Long marks the first publication of early letters of Thurgood Marshall. “Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall” was published by Amistad/HarperCollins in February. Long is associate professor of religious studies and peace and conflict studies. “I undertook this study partly to supplement our image of Thurgood Marshall as the first African American justice on the Supreme Court,” Long said in a press release. From 1967-1991, Marshall was the most important and influential civil rights leader in the US before the emergence of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1955. Almost 20 years prior to the Montgomery bus boycott, Marshall began work as an attorney for the NAACP and played a critical role in the growth of the civil rights movement.

— The Global Women’s Project Steering Committee met on March 3-5 in Richmond, Ind. Founded in 1978, the project is a Brethren-related group with the purpose to “educate about wealth, power and oppression, encouraging one another to live more simply and be mindful of our luxuries and join in empowerment with women around the world, sharing resources with women’s initiatives.” The committee reaffirmed and released funds to partner projects in Rwanda, Wabash, Ind., Uganda, and Sudan, and planned for education and outreach in the coming year. They had the opportunity to speak at a Peace Forum at Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion, and provided leadership for a chapel service. Sister Stella Sabina, from a partner project in Uganda, spoke about the oppressive tribal traditions in her homeland and her efforts to educate and support women and girls there. The group also met with Roland Kreager, general secretary of Right Sharing of World Resources, a Quaker organization. On the committee are Kim Hill Smith of Minneapolis, Minn.; Anna Lisa Gross of Richmond, Ind.; Carrie Eikler of Morgantown, W.Va.; and Nan Erbaugh of W. Alexandria, Ohio.

— Ruby Sheldon, a pilot and active member of Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren in Scottsdale, Ariz., was celebrated in a newsletter from Pacific Southwest District. “At age 92, Ruby is only 70 years older than the younger pilots in last June’s 34th annual Air Race Classic,” the newsletter said. She and about 100 other female pilots flew 2,000 miles in four days. She has often been among the top 10 finishers of the race, taking first place in 1995.

— The unusual blog “Who are the churches in your neighborhood” comments on a recent visit to an unidentified Church of the Brethren congregation, during week 12 of a year-long project to worship with the 50 closest churches to the author’s home. The post titled “Who’s in Charge Here Anyway?” celebrates the way each person “acted as if this church was their home.” Find it at .

Contributors include Lowell Flory, Elizabeth Harvey, Julie Hostetter, Karin Krog, Terrell Lewis, Glen Sargent, Kim Hill Smith, Julia Wheeler. Look for the next issue of Newsline on April 6.

Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact editor  Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford 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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