— “In the aftermath of a grievous miscarriage of justice–what do we do?” asks Heeding God’s Call, a movement working against gun violence that had its start at a conference of the Historic Peace Churches in Philadelphia. Brethren leaders involved in Heeding God’s Call include former Annual Conference moderator and Harrisburg, Pa., pastor Belita Mitchell. “Heeding God’s Call grieves for Trayvon Martin’s senseless gun death, as we do all the senseless gun deaths and injuries that occur daily in this country. And, we commit ourselves to keeping on to our faithful work to make such deaths and injuries less likely,” said a message today from executive director Bryan Miller, in part. “This has meaning far beyond Trayvon’s death, as sad and depressing as that is, especially for people in the two dozen or so states, including Pennsylvania, which both have such ‘Shoot First’ laws and allow individuals to legally carry concealed and loaded handguns in public…. This deadly combination makes certain that some future arguments, disagreements, even physical fights, will turn deadly, as one opponent makes a life and death decision that will only have an effect on the other. This is lethally out of balance and on par with a license to kill. People will die who shouldn’t. This is drastically and morally wrong.” The message went on to state that Heeding God’s Call “renews its commitment to engage people of faith in becoming activists to prevent gun violence” and pledges to “undertake a new direction, as well–namely, we will seek to move the faith community to action to eliminate bad gun laws, like ‘Shoot First’ and concealed carry laws, and to enact good and effective gun regulation to prevent violence.” For more go to www.heedinggodscall.org .
— The National Council of Churches (NCC) has renewed its call for racial justice in the wake of the Zimmerman acquittal. NCC president Kathryn Lohre released a statement that said, in part: “This summer as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we are reminded that racism is alive and well. We have seen this in the Supreme Court’s recent invalidation of parts of the Voting Rights Act and now in the shocking impunity granted by a Florida jury to a man who stalked and killed a black child. But even when the headlines fade, we witness every day in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities how our culture of violence preys upon all of us, with the most deadly impact on the lives of people of color.” The statement also included support for gun control measures and action against gun violence, and prayer “for the family and friends of Trayvon Martin, for George Zimmerman and his family and friends, for the members of the jury and their family and friends, and for all who have suffered and will continue to suffer as a result of this tragedy. The NCC includes a number of member communions from the historic Black Christian community. For more go to www.ncccusa.org/news/120326trayvon.html , www.ncccusa.org/NCCpolicies/endinggunviolence.pdf , and www.ncccusa.org/NCCCalltoActionRacialJustice.pdf .
— The National Youth Conference (NYC) office is accepting entries for the Youth Music Contest and the Youth Speech Contest, as well as applications for youthworker positions for the 2014 event. Youth who enjoy writing music are invited to write a song based on the theme “Called by Christ, Blessed for the Journey Together” (Ephesians 4:1-7) and submit it to the NYC office. The winner will have the opportunity to perform the song on stage during NYC. Youth also are invited to prayerfully consider what message the NYC 2014 theme has for them, their congregations, and the larger denomination, and express that in a speech. Two speech contest winners will share their messages during a worship service at NYC. All entries to the two contests must be submitted by Feb. 16, 2014, either by uploading via a link on the NYC website (coming soon) or by mail to the NYC office. The NYC office is accepting youthworker applications until Nov. 2. Youthworkers are dedicated volunteers (college age and older) who help carry out the plans of the National Youth Cabinet during the week of NYC. For more information on all three of these opportunities, go to www.brethren.org/yya/nyc/forms.html . Contact the NYC office with any questions at email@example.com or 847-429-4385. Or visit the recently updated NYC webpage: www.brethren.org/NYC .
Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Request the application packet by contacting Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; firstname.lastname@example.org . The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
— Erika Fitz has accepted the position of program coordinator for the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) and will assume her duties on Aug. 1. A search committee composed of Donna Rhodes, David Hawthorne, Del Keeney, and Craig Smith was formed to find a replacement for Amy Milligan who recently resigned as program coordinator. Fitz grew up in York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren and is currently affiliated with the Lancaster Friends Meeting. She earned a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Emory University. The SVMC office is located on the campus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. SVMC is a ministry partnership of the districts of Atlantic Northeast, Southern Pennsylvania, Middle Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania, and Mid-Atlantic, along with the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership and Bethany Theological Seminary.
— Church World Service (CWS) relief materials have been distributed in West Virginia and Colorado, through the Church of the Brethren Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The shipments to Moundsville, W.V., and to various locations in Colorado were made from the Brethren warehouses that process, store, and ship disaster relief goods on behalf of CWS. On behalf of CWS, Material Resources shipped 600 Hygiene Kits, 500 Emergency Clean Up Buckets, 75 Baby Kits, and 60 blankets to Appalachian Outreach in Moundsville, which has West Virginia’s only warehouse for voluntary agencies’ response following disasters, including recent flooding and Superstorm Sandy, said a CWS release. Some 206 homes in Roane County and about 140 homes in Kanawha County in West Virginia suffered flooding during the past three weeks, and areas of the state are still doing repairs following Superstorm Sandy. The Springs Adventist Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., received a shipment of 1,020 blankets, 510 School Kits, 540 Hygiene Kits, and 500 Emergency Clean Up Buckets for distribution to wildfire evacuees and first responders. Also send to the Pikes Peak (Colo.) Chapter of the American Red Cross were 300 Emergency Clean Up Buckets and 300 Hygiene Kits for distribution to wildfire evacuees and first responders.
— John Mueller began July 1 as district executive minister for Atlantic Southeast District, serving in a half-time position. He and his wife Mary also serve as co-pastors of Jacksonville (Fla.) Church of the Brethren. The Atlantic Southeast District office has moved to the Muellers’ home. The district’s new address is 1352 Holmes Landing Drive, Fleming Island, FL 32003; 239-823-5204; email@example.com . The former office location in Sebring, Fla., and the former post office box for the district both closed on June 30. “There will be no forwarding of mail,” said an announcement from the district. “Please make sure you start using the new District Office address.”
— Tomorrow, July 18, Bridgewater (Va.) College breaks ground on a $9 million Nininger Hall renovation and building project. A 10 a.m. ceremony is planned. Nininger is the oldest athletic facility in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and was last refurbished in 1988, said a release from the college. The transformation of Nininger, which was built in 1958, will increase the facility’s footprint by as much as 16,000 square feet and will provide a renovated gymnasium, updated classrooms and laboratory for the health and human sciences program, renovated faculty and coaches offices, new locker rooms, training/rehab center, strength/conditioning facility, and team room. Other features include a new, multi-sport flexible locker room, new building façade and lobby, and new Athletic Hall of Fame celebration area. Jopson Field will be included in the makeover, receiving a turf field and the installation of lights. Bridgewater has launched a capital campaign to raise funds for the project, which was designed by the Greensboro, N.C.-based architectural firm of Moser Mayer Phoenix Associates and will be executed by Lantz Construction in Harrisonburg, Va.
— Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) announces the start of the summer orientation unit, to be held July 16-Aug. 3 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. This unit will be the 301st for BVS and will consist of 25 volunteers including 17 Americans and 8 Germans. They will spend three weeks exploring project possibilities and topics of community building, peace and social justice, faith sharing, vocation, and more. Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren is hosting the unit for their middle weekend of service.
— A Deacon Ministry workshop will be offered prior to the Western Plains District Conference. Led by Donna Kline, director of the denomination’s Deacon Ministry, the workshop is planned for July 26, from 1-3:45 p.m. at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren. From 1-2:30 p.m. the event will focus on “The Art of Listening”; from 2:45-3:45 p.m. the workshop will be on “Offering Support in Times of Grief and Loss.”
— Southern Ohio District has a Special District Conference on July 27 at Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Kettering. “The focus for this special district conference will be Camp Woodland Altars and recommendations prompted by the directives that were passed at the October 2012 district conference,” said an announcement. The recommendations concerning Outdoor Ministries are: 1. To reorganize and rename current Outdoor Ministries to encompass a larger scale by changing the name to Camping Ministries, which can include both outdoor and indoor ministries. 2. To combine the newly named Camping Ministries, Shared Ministries, and Disaster Ministries under a new ministry title called Connection Ministries. 3. To hire an Associate District Executive of Connection Ministries. Recommendations concerning property are: 1. To cease all operations at Woodland Altars as of Sept. 1. 2. To sell the property and facilities at Woodland Altars. Find the full document of recommendations at http://media1.razorplanet.com/share/511272-2452/resources/288707_Publication1.pdf . A timeline of related district decisions is at http://media1.razorplanet.com/share/511272-2452/resources/288434_Timelinefinal.pdf . The district e-mail included guidelines for respectful communication to help the district conference “be able to discern God’s spirit moving among us. May our conversation be pleasing to God, our personal wants and needs shared respectfully, and our prayers be for the good of others and for building up the body of Christ.”
— Others are holding district conferences on the same weekend: Northern Ohio District meets July 26-28 in Ashland, Ohio; Southeastern District meets July 26-28 in Mars Hill, N.C.; and Western Plains District meets July 26-28 at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren and McPherson College on the theme “Transformed by the Light of Christ.” The Western Plains District Conference planning committee had issued an invitation to the people of the district to bring their concepts of the theme to life in artwork for a display at the conference, and Western Plains also is holding its first Mission and Service Dinner on the evening of July 27.
— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is calling for help from its supporters to replace volunteers to whom Israel has denied entry. “On two occasions in the past week, Israeli officials at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport refused entry to members of CPT who had traveled to Israel to join the Christian Peacemaker Team in the Israeli-occupied West Bank,” said the release. On July 2, Israeli authorities interrogated a CPT reservist from the Netherlands and held him in the airport for 14 hours before placing him on a flight home, and three days later they interrogated a CPT reservist from the US for 10 hours before sending him home. Each had served in Israel-Palestine before. “CPT’s sudden inability to get team members into the country is especially worrying given Israeli authorities’ recent ban on CPT activities near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil, apparently intended to halt international nonviolent protective presence in the most sensitive and volatile area of the city,” the release said. Since May, Israel’s Border Police have prohibited CPTers from wearing their uniform, vests, and hats, and from recording the obstructions imposed on Palestinians’ daily life between the two main checkpoints that control movement past the mosque complex, which also includes a synagogue and visitors’ center. In response, the CPT team in Palestine wants to initiate a quick surge of volunteers traveling through Israel to join its project within the next few weeks. Find out more and read the full release at www.cpt.org/cptnet/2013/07/10/al-khalil-hebron-urgent-action-help-replace-volunteers-whom-israel-denied-entry-la .
— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has announced dates for the 2013 World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel on Sept. 22-28. An initiative of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the WCC, the event “invites churches, faith-based communities, civil society organizations, and other agencies working for justice to join a week of prayer, education, and advocacy for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and a just end to the conflict.” Theme for this year is “Jerusalem, the City of Justice and Peace.” A variety of new resources including worship resources have been created by partner congregations and peace activists. Find resources and more information at www.worldweekforpeace.org . To share details about local plans for the week with the WCC, contact John Calhoun, convenor of World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Brethren Voices features Jerry O’Donnell as a special guest in July. This public television program is provided through Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore. “Our Man In Washington D.C.” is hosted by Brent Carlson, and interviews O’Donnell about his personal history and work as press secretary for Rep. Grace Napolitano of California’s 38th Congressional District. “As a second grader, Jerry O’Donnell was the only student in his class who was politically engaged,” said an announcement from producer Ed Groff. “He wore a political campaign button during the 1992 presidential election. For Jerry O’Donnell…that served an indication at an early age of his interest in government.” O’Donnell has been active in various congregations including Royersford and Green Tree Churches of the Brethren. He is a graduate of Juniata College in Huntington, Pa., and served in Brethren Volunteer Service as well as in the Church of the Brethren mission in the Dominican Republic working with Irv and Nancy Heishman. Recently, he celebrated his third year anniversary on the staff of Rep. Grace Napolitano. The Brethren Voices August episode also will feature O’Donnell discussing how to communicate to Congresspeople and upcoming legislation. Approximately 40 Brethren Voices programs can be viewed on WWW.Youtube.com/Brethrenvoices . Contact email@example.com to order a copy of the July episode on DVD.