Brethren Bits for April 5, 2013

— The agreement between the Church of the Brethren and the National Council of Churches (NCC) to jointly support a staff position in the area of peacemaking, based in Washington, D.C., ended last month. The person holding that position, Nathan Hosler, is continuing as a Church of the Brethren staff member and coordinator of the newly renamed Office of Public Witness (formerly Peace Witness Ministries). Contact information for the office remain the same, except for a new telephone number: 202-481-6933.

— In more personnel news, Marcus Harden has been named the new program director/youth coordinator for Atlantic Southeast District.

— On April 9 the Church of the Brethren and over 40 other religious organizations are joining forces again for a day of advocacy on gun violence, announces the denomination’s Office of Public Witness (formerly Peace Witness Ministries) based in Washington, D.C. The event follows up on the Faiths Calling event on Feb. 4 that generated 10,000 calls to Congress, said an Action Alert. The Office of Public Witness is encouraging Brethren to join in the effort to contact senators. “The success of the first event spurred the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism to organize another call during a week that important gun violence measures will be debated in the Senate,” said the Action Alert. “The Church of the Brethren has always mourned the abundance of violence in our world, and has consistently worked for peace and called on its members to be powerful witnesses to this tragedy.” The Action Alert cited Annual Conference statements as well as a recent Mission and Ministry Board “Resolution in Support of the National Council of Churches of Christ, USA: Ending Gun Violence.” It also acknowledged differences in perspective among the members of the church. “We ask you to express whichever policies that you are comfortable supporting,” the Action Alert said. It listed the different types of legislation that Congress is considering including requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases, banning semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making gun trafficking a federal crime, enhancing school and campus safety, and improving access to mental health services. Find the full Action Alert online at http://cob.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?em_id=21801.0&dlv_id=27121 .

— Individuals, families, and congregations are invited to celebrate God’s good gift of aging during Older Adult Month this May. The theme for this year’s observance is “Vessels of Love” based on the great commandment to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Meditations, worship resources, suggestions for recognition of older adults, and an intergenerational activity are available online at www.brethren.org/OlderAdultMonth or by calling Kim Ebersole, director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministries, at 800-323-8039 ext. 305.

— Stover Memorial Church of the Brethren in Des Moines, Iowa, has announced its 37th Annual Music Festival. “We invite any and all congregations to join us April 28 at 4 p.m. for special music, congregational singing, and fellowship. After our music fest in the sanctuary, we will retire to the fellowship hall for light refreshments and fellowship,” said the announcement. For more information contact 515-240-0060 or bwlewczak@netins.net .

— Walnut Grove Church of the Brethren in West Marva District will host a benefit hymn sing for its pastor, Donnie Knotts, to assist with his medical expenses. The district newsletter reported that Knotts recently underwent his third liver transplant. The sing is on April 13 beginning at 7 p.m., featuring the Potomac Valley Men’s Choir and the Calvary Singers.

— Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., has announced that it will host the 2013 Progressive Brethren Gathering on Nov. 15-17. The announcement noted that this sixth annual event is expected to “draw progressive minded persons from Church of the Brethren congregations from across the United States for a time of mutual support, conversation, learning, worship, and activism.” The theme will be “Holy Longing: This Is My Body.” Sharon Groves, religion outreach coordinator of the Human Rights Campaign, will be the featured speaker. The gathering is sponsored by the Open Table Cooperative, the Brethren and Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, Womaen’s Caucus, and On Earth Peace.

— West Marva District is calling a special District Conference on April 20 at 10:30 a.m. at Moorefield Church of the Brethren to consider an expenditure for maintenance and improvements to the District Office and residence, and to introduce a proposed plan of reorganization to replace the district’s present Constitution and By Laws, in advance of the regularly scheduled District Conference in September. The special District Conference was announced in the West Marva newsletter for April.

— The new District Resource Center for Virlina District will be dedicated with a special service at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 5. The new center is located at 3402 Plantation Road, N.E., in Roanoke, Va. The dedication service will begin at Williamson Road Church of the Brethren at 3110 Pioneer Road, N.W., in Roanoke, and conclude at the new location. Fred M. Bernhard, a past moderator of Annual Conference and a long-term pastor, will deliver the address. Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, will deliver greetings from the denomination.

— The next date for assembly of Emergency Clean-Up Buckets in Southern Ohio District is April 16 at Eaton (Ohio) Church of the Brethren. The district’s Disaster Ministry is sponsoring the event.

— McPherson (Kan.) College president Michael Schneider was named the Diversity Research Center’s Spring 2013 Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University in New Jersey. A release from the college reported that he gave a keynote address on leadership and its role in diversity on March 5, and visited the business school at Rutgers on March 6. Sharon Lydon, associate dean of the Rutgers Business School, interviewed Schneider in an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” style format. “We were delighted that President Michael Schneider, who has a reputation as an innovative and visionary leader in higher education, accepted the invitation to serve as Visiting Scholar for the Diversity Research Center at Rutgers University,” said Mark D. Winston, assistant chancellor and director of the John Cotton Dana Library at Rutgers. The visiting scholar program at Rutgers was founded in 2010 to bring top scholars, public figures, and experts on diversity issues to the university.

— Noted Quaker author Philip Gulley will speak on “The Evolution of Faith” at 7 p.m. April 11 for the spring Religious Life Convocation at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.

— Juniata College from April 7-12 will host a Genocide Awareness and Action Week on its campus in Huntingdon, Pa. Most events are free and open to the public. Here are a few highlights of the week’s activities: A 7 p.m. showing on April 8 of the documentary “Tak for Alt,” hosted by Holocaust survivor Judith Meisel in Neff Lecture Hall. “The film follows Meisel as she retraces her steps back to eastern Europe through the Kovno ghetto, to the concentration camp where she was transferred and to Denmark, where she escaped and recovered from her harrowing ordeal,” said the release. On April 9 at 7 p.m., Holocaust scholar and expert on the psychological causes and effects of war and political violence Robert Jay Lifton will speak in Neff Lecture Hall. Lifton is the recipient of a Nobel lectureship and received the Holocaust Memorial Award and the Gandhi Peace Prize. Sasha Lezhnev, senior policy analyst for Enough: The Project to End Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, will speak at 7 p.m. on April 11 about conflict minerals and the role they play in the ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On April 12 at noon, Celia Cook-Huffman, professor of conflict resolution, will host a lunch discussion on “Post-Genocide Reconciliation” in Rockwell Seminar Room in the von Liebig center for Science.

— The Juniata College Concert Choir will give a concert featuring a mix of secular, sacred, and international choral classics at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 6, in Rosenberger Auditorium in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts. The concert is free and open to the public. The 50-person choir tours every spring semester, focusing its program on historical sacred music, according to a release. The choir is conducted by Russell Shelley, Elma Stine Heckler Professor of Music, and during spring break made a multi-concert international trip to Guatemala.

— The Bridgewater (Va.) College Concert Choir and Chorale is presenting several concerts as part of a spring tour. On Saturday, April 13, at 8 p.m. the chorale joins the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and choirs from around Virginia in a concert celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation at CenterStage in Richmond, Va. The choir and chorale will together present a program at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 14, at Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., in a concert that is open to the public at no charge. The Concert Choir and Chorale are conducted by John McCarty, assistant professor and director of choral music.

— Also coming up at Bridgewater College, Suraya Sadeed, founder of Help the Afghan Children, will speak about her experiences confronting the Taliban and drug lords and delivering aid to thousands of children at 7:30 p.m., April 16, in the Carter Center for Worship and Music. Born and raised in Kabul, Sadeed immigrated to the US in 1982 following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and became a successful business woman. In 1993, at the height of the Afghan civil war,  a release reported, she returned to Afghanistan and was shocked by the horrific conditions of children and the destruction of her homeland. That year she founded the nonprofit Help the Afghan Children, and since then has helped provide humanitarian aid, medical care, education, and hope to an estimated 1.7 million Afghan children and their families. Following the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001, she was selected as an educational commission adviser for the Transitional Government of Afghanistan and delegate to the Grand Assembly of Afghanistan. The program is sponsored by the Kline-Bowman Endowment for Creative Peacebuilding and is free and open to the public.

— Manchester University has received its first LEED Gold certification for the design and construction of its Fort Wayne (Ind.) campus College of Pharmacy structure, said a release. The first students in the professional Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program began classes last August at the new campus at Dupont and Diebold roads in Fort Wayne. “This is our first LEED certified building at Manchester and we are very pleased. We were aiming at Silver and struck Gold,” said CFO Jack Gochenaur. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building program for the entire lifecycle of a building, with measurable design, construction, operation and maintenance solutions. Buildings that the US Green Building Council certifies as “LEED” curb operating costs, conserve energy and water, reduce landfill waste and harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and provide a healthy working environment. The Fort Wayne campus and College of Pharmacy structure were designed with energy-saving low-flow valves and faucets and high-performance insulation. Almost 32 percent of the construction used recycled materials and 35 percent of the purchased energy is renewable, or “green.” The project diverted 75 percent of its construction waste from landfills. Almost half the Fort Wayne campus is vegetated, true green space. Even the storm water is captured and recirculated for cooling the two-story structure and watering the lawns, plants and trees. The design-builder was Michael Kinder and Sons Inc., working with Design Collaborative, both of Fort Wayne. For more visit www.manchester.edu/pharmacy .

— The 2013 John Kline Lecture has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at the John Kline Homestead in Broadway, Va., according to an announcement in the Shenandoah District newsletter. The lecture on “Gettysburg Brethren on the Battlefield” will be given by Steve Longenecker, professor of history at Bridgewater (Va.) College, drawing from his book “Gettysburg Religion” to be published later this year by Fordham University Press. Reservations are appreciated. Call 540-896-5001.

— With the positive reception to its first class, the Springs of Living Water Academy for Church Renewal has announced two fall classes for pastors using telephone conference calling. A release announced that the “Foundations for Church Renewal” course will be offered one day a week over the two-hour lunch period from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on five Wednesdays starting Sept. 11 through Dec. 4. Participants will use David Young’s third book “Springs of Living Water, Christ-centered Church Renewal” with foreword by Richard Foster. A level two course titled “Servant Leadership and Application to Church Renewal” will begin the second week of September with five sessions that run until early December. Participants in the level two course will use the book “Servant Leadership for Church Renewal, Shepherds by the Living Springs,” along with other resources. Both classes will have the opportunity to participate in spiritual disciplines folders as a group, which has added to the richness of the academy through discussion of focused topics. To complete the course, participants write a seminal paper with application in their local church. Continuing education units are available. For course descriptions, general brochure about the Springs of Living Water Academy, and registration forms, e-mail David Young at davidyoung@churchrenewalservant.org .

— This year’s Earth Day Sunday resource from the National Council of Churches (NCC) Eco-Justice Programs is titled “Sunday Morning Sustainability.” The resource highlights ways that individuals and congregations can transform their regular Sunday morning activities in order to better care for God’s creation and God’s people, said an NCC announcement. Download the resource from http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1845/signup_page/earth-day-2013 . For a printed copy of “Sunday Morning Sustainability” e-mail a request to elspeth@nccecojustice.org making sure to include a mailing address and the number of copies needed.

— A unique global online directory of more than 7,000 theological education institutions has been launched, according to the World Council of Churches (WCC). The directory is intended “to promote mutual sharing and dialogue between establishments in different parts of the world.” The Global Directory of Theological Education Institutions is located within the Global Digital Library on Theology and Ecumenism (GlobeTheoLib), a joint project of the WCC and Globethics.net, a foundation promoting dialogue on ethical issues. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) in Boston, Mass., is one of the partners that developed the directory, together with the WCC’s ecumenical theological education program, the Institute for Cross-Cultural Theological Education of McCormick Theological Seminary, and Globethics.net. “The directory is interdenominational and inclusive in its widest sense,” said the release, “including all types of Christian institutions of theological education and ministerial formation: church based theological seminaries, Bible schools, university departments of theology, faculties of religious studies and mission training institutes. Institutions listed in the directory can register to update their details. Institutions not listed can apply for inclusion.” Users can search directory entries by denomination or affiliation, types of institution, language of instruction, city and country, world region and degrees offered. Records include information about faculty and students, contact details and the accreditation for degrees offered. Register for GlobeTheoLib at www.globethics.net/gtl .

— Pope Francis’ decision to wash the feet of two women during a Maundy Thursday Mass at a Rome youth prison has been criticized by Catholic traditionalists “who say that the rite is a re-enactment of Jesus washing the feet of the 12 apostles before his death, and thus should be limited only to men,” according to a report by Religion News Service (RNS). Traditionally, popes have washed the feet of 12 priests during a Mass in Rome’s St. John Lateran Basilica, the report noted. “But including women in the rite is a widespread practice in the United States and elsewhere,” the report added. “As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio regularly included women in the rite.” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the pope’s decision was “absolutely licit” and took into account “the real situation, the community where one celebrates…. This community understands simple and essential things; they were not liturgy scholars,” Lombardi said. “Washing feet was important to present the Lord’s spirit of service and love.” Read the full report posted by the Presbyterian News Service at www.pcusa.org/news/2013/4/3/vatican-defends-pope-francis-washing-womens-feet .0

— Chet Thomas, executive director of Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG) in Honduras, has made an appeal for donations of two hay binder units in fairly good condition to help power a ferry boat. The ferry functions near a large hydroelectric dam called El Cajon, or “the box,” in an area where several PAG programs work. Two decades ago an access road between two rivers was cut off by the dam, greatly increasing the length and hardship of the trip between peoples’ homes and markets in northern Honduras. The connection of this area to the north is very important economically and politically, but the dam is too wide and deep to support a bridge. Volunteers built the first ferry in 2000, “Miss Pamela,” using out-of-date steel propane tanks, steel girders, etc. In order to move the 40- to 60-foot boat, a power unit was installed using motorized hay binders. The system has worked for 12 years, moving people, vehicles, heavy equipment, and cattle across a three-mile stretch of water 11 hours a day, 7 days a week–but the original hay binder units are now in need of replacement. Once donated, PAG staff will prepare units for shipment to Honduras. Contact Chet Thomas at chet@paghonduras.org or 305-433-2947.