Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
1) Brethren respond to Syria crisis, participate in fasting and prayer, prepare $100,000 grant to aid refugees.
2) Workcamp ministry closes out successful 2013 season, announces theme for 2014.
3) Haitian Church of the Brethren holds its first annual conference.
4) Haiti Medical Project grows and develops, with help from individuals, churches, and denomination.
NEWS FROM NOAC
5) Round up report from National Older Adult Conference 2013.
6) Feeders? A Deacon Ministry reflection on NOAC 2013.
7) Brethren Revival Fellowship to gather for 2013 General Meeting.
8) Brethren bits: Remembrance, prayer for Colorado, job opening in CDS, new registration deadline, concern from northeast Nigeria, church anniversary in Kentucky, and much more.
Quote of the week:
“We have had 170 responses so far. It is not too late for people to contact the President and their senators and reps!”
— Jan Fischer Bachman, web producer for the Church of the Brethren, reporting on the response to an Action Alert on Syria posted by the Office of Public Witness. The alert offers a sample letter for Brethren to help say “no US military action in Syria.” The letter reads, in part, “As a member of the Church of the Brethren and your constituent, I urge you to oppose US military action in Syria and support intensified diplomatic efforts that will produce a negotiated political settlement. Military strikes will do nothing but further destabilize an already volatile situation. The US government itself has recognized that there is no solution to the crisis other than a political one. Instead of pursuing military strikes and arming parties to the conflict, we urge the United States to intensify diplomatic efforts to stop the bloodshed, before Syria is destroyed and the region further destabilized. On top of this, the United States must increase its humanitarian assistance to help the almost 2 million Syrians, of which 1 million are children that have been forced to flee their country as a result of this conflict….” Find the online form at https://secure2.convio.net/cob/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=251 .
1) Brethren respond to Syria crisis, participate in fasting and prayer, prepare $100,000 grant for refugee needs
Church of the Brethren leaders, congregations, schools, participants at National Older Adult Conference, and other individual members of the church have been responding to the crisis in Syria in a variety of ways, including participating in fasting and prayer for peace in Syria (see the call to a day of fasting and prayer at www.brethren.org/news/2013/day-of-fasting-for-peace-in-syria.html ) .
In the latest response from the denominational staff, Brethren Disaster Ministries is preparing a grant of $100,000 from the church’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) in support of the needs of Syrian refugees, with the numbers of refugees anticipated to increase with the increasing severity of the conflict. The grant will go to ecumenical partner agency ACT Alliance, which has been helping to coordinate humanitarian aid since the civil conflict in Syria began (see the full report below).
Also, general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger has written a letter to President Obama from the office of the general secretary of the Church of the Brethren (see below).
General secretary writes to President Obama
Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger has sent the following letter to President Obama on the Syrian crisis, dated Sept. 9:
In 2011, I was a guest of the Vatican to the Day of Reflection, Dialogue, and Prayer for Peace and Justice for the World, held in Assisi, Italy. There I received a copy of your October 13, 2011, letter commending all faith leaders to “interfaith dialogue, [to unite] in common cause to lift up the afflicted, make peace where there is strife, and find the way forward to a better world for ourselves and our children.”
On that world stage I committed to urge leaders of Nations to make every effort to create and consolidate, on the national and international levels, a world of solidarity and peace based on justice. I committed to work for a world in which peace and justice, restorative justice to be specific, are recognized as basic human rights.
It is therefore within the context of the Church of the Brethren’s historic peace tradition, the public declaration I committed to in Assisi, and your own words commending us to a better way forward, that I prayerfully ask you to more fully count the cost of action that destroys human life, life that has been created in God’s own image, and pursue with all due diligence, interventions that are non-violent and which include the wisdom and leadership of the global community.
Mr. President, you are in my daily thoughts and prayers, as you seek peace, and pursue it.
May God’s shalom and Christ’s peace be evident in your every word and deed.
Stanley J. Noffsinger
Church of the Brethren
Grant of $100,000 will aid Syrian refugees
A grant of $100,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund is being prepared by Brethren Disaster Ministries, to go to the ACT Alliance for the humanitarian crisis in and around Syria.
Brethren Disaster Ministries is challenging the Church of the Brethren and its members to provide additional resources to expand the Brethren support of this response. To give to this response online, go to www.brethren.org/edf ; or send to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.
“As the civil war in Syria extends into its third year, the resulting humanitarian crisis has resulted in more than 4,000,000 internally displaced people in Syria and nearly 2,000,000 refugees that have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and northern Africa countries,” writes Roy Winter, associate executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service.
“Those trying to live inside Syria have been displaced multiple times as they flee the violence. Those traveling to other countries are experiencing a growing intolerance and resentment from their host countries. Recent developments including use of chemical weapons are one of several indicators of an increasing severity of the conflict. The result is a humanitarian crisis that ACT Alliance defines as both a mega and protracted emergency.”
The ACT Alliance has been helping coordinate humanitarian aid since the Syrian civil conflict began. Implementing partners include the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), Lutheran World Federation, Finn Church Aid, the Middle East Council of Churches, and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (the Evangelical Church in Germany). Brethren Disaster Ministries intends half of this initial grant of $100,000 to support the IOCC work in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, with half designated to be applied where it may be needed most.
The ACT Alliance response prioritizes food, water, safe sanitation, shelter, household supplies, education, and psychosocial interventions. The Brethren grant will help provide aid to 55,700 people displaced in Syria, 326,205 Syrian refugees in Jordan, 9,200 refugees in Turkey, and 40,966 refugees in Lebanon. Goals include providing direct aid to more than 432,000 Syrian people throughout the next year.
|Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford|
|NOAC participants sign a letter to President Obama, urging “life-giving” means in Syria.|
More than half of NOAC participants sign letter to President Obama
A letter urging President Obama to “seek life-giving means to assist Syrians as they would seek peace and pursue it” was signed by close to 500 of those participating at the 2013 National Older Adult Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C., last week. The registration at NOAC 2013 was about 800 people.
After the Thursday evening concert at NOAC, and Friday morning before and after closing worship, many NOAC attendees took advantage of an opportunity to sign the letter. The letter, along with many pages of signatures, has been submitted to the White House by the church’s Office of Public Witness. Find the text of the letter at www.brethren.org/news/2013/noac-2013/letter-to-president-on-syria.html .
Bethany Seminary, McPherson College invite students and faculty to fast and pray
At least two of the institutions of higher education related to the denomination–Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., and McPherson (Kan.) College–called their student body, faculty, and staff into prayer and fasting for peace in Syria over the weekend.
At Bethany, the call to a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria was shared with the entire seminary community as well as the neighboring seminary at Earlham School of Religion. Nicarry Chapel was made available as a place to come and pray for peace during the day on Saturday, Sept. 7.
The e-mail invitation sent from the Bethany Community Life Team (Eric Landram, Karen Duhai, Nick Patler, Amy Gall Ritchie) also offered a prayer, and the opportunity for those in the seminary’s distance learning program to send in prayers, stories, or poems to be shared in the chapel space that day:
“Our hearts are heavy with concern for Syria and for our world leaders this week. We have been seeking the will of God and yearning for peace in our world. In efforts for continued prayer and discernment, we have made Nicarry Chapel available for you tomorrow, Saturday, September 7th from 8am to 4pm as a place to offer up your prayers. Come and set your mind and heart towards peace. Seek God’s shalom. Pray that all my know the peace of Christ.
“Come, light a candle for peace. Come, write a letter to our leaders voicing your desire for peaceful resolution and place it in the basket on the worship center. Come, sit in the dark with the Holy as you seek discernment in your own way of living and being.
“Below is an email from the Church of the Brethren’s General Secretary, Stan Noffsinger. You are invited to be a part of this conversation, the act of fasting, and the voice of our church’s call for peace.
“If you are at a distance but wish to offer your prayer in this space, please email the Community Life Team your prayer, or story, or poem and we will read it in your place or simply place it in the basket for you. Peace be with us all–and with our world. –The Community Life Team”
The McPherson College faculty of Philosophy and Religion also shared the call to a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria with the whole campus. An e-mail sent by Tom Hurst on behalf of the group of faculty said, in part, “As individuals, at times like this, we often feel impotent to impact the decisions of our national political leaders. This does not need to be the case. Those who believe in prayer should pray. Those who believe in fasting as a way to help focus one’s beliefs should use Saturday to fast. Those who believe in writing to the President and to Congress should write emails. Other ideas follow in the letter below.
“In the spirit of this letter which has come from the General Secretary of this college’s founding denomination, the Church of the Brethren we, the faculty of the McPherson College Philosophy and Religion Department, recognizing that diverse views do exist on our campus related to this issue, ask that we each respect one another’s opinions and also ask you to consider finding a way to express your desire for a peaceful solution to this crisis.”
The communication was signed jointly by Dr. Steve Crain, Dr. Kent Eaton, Dr. Paul Hoffman, Dr. Tom Hurst, and Dr. Herb Smith, and included the full text of the Newsline announcing the day for fasting and prayer.
Elizabethtown Church places ad for peace in Sunday paper
Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren’s Peace Group on Sunday placed a paid advertisement in the area newspaper, the Lancaster “Sunday News.” Reported pastor Greg Davidson Laszakovits, “our Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren Peace Group decided it was time to make a bold and public proclamation of peace, even as the US considers military action on yet another country. We hope others might do the same in their communities.”
The full text of the advertisement follows:
A GRAVE AND URGENT PLEA FOR LASTING PEACE
As followers of Jesus who seek to practice his nonviolent teachings we grieve over the chaos in Syria. We abhor the senseless deaths of 100,000 people, the displacement of 2 million refugees, and the heinous gassing of 1400 people by chemical weapons. We have prayed for and will continue to pray for peace and stability in Syria and the surrounding region.
We confess that we do not live in Syria or in its region. Nor are we threatened by these atrocities. Nevertheless, we are compelled by our Christian conscience to speak out in the interest of all people as children of God.
We believe that nonviolent means are the only way to secure a stable and lasting peace. We are convinced that violence only begets more violence–that an eye for an eye soon spirals into endless blindness. Responding to violence with violence will only inflame more evil actions.
Specifically, we ardently plead for President Obama and the US Congress to immediately stop planning any military action against Syria for ten compelling reasons:
1. The unintended consequences of such strikes are dangerous and simply unknown.
2. There is no certainty that US attacks will prevent the future use of chemical weapons.
3. US strikes will give license for other nations to respond to American attacks and set off a regional inferno. Though the US hopes not to put “boots on the ground,” make no mistake, this will lead to greater loss of life.
4. US strikes are not an act of self-defense. The US is not under any imminent danger or threat. Any military action will only further entangle the US in yet another conflict.
5. US attacks against a sovereign nation without provocation or the endorsement of the United Nations is a violation of international law. In doing so we lose all moral clout to persuade other nations not to strike sovereign nations without provocation.
6. The U.S. cannot and should not try to impose its will on other countries. Have the hard and ugly lessons of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq been so quickly purged from our memories?
7. U.S. military strikes will play into the view of America as the Great Satan.
8. Military action may incite contagious anger—producing a new generation of suicide bombers threatening U.S. interests.
9. Neither violence nor the threat of violence will win the hearts and minds of friends or enemies.
10. The proposed attacks violate the very essence of the life and message of Jesus, who overcame evil with good and who always responded to violence with non-violent action.
We urge all people of peace and goodwill who share our concerns to immediately express their views to President Obama and to their U.S. representatives and senators. Act now! Congressional discussions are already underway. They will begin in full tomorrow, September 9.
“I object to violence because, when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” –Gandhi
This statement is sponsored by the Peace Group of the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren
Individual Brethren respond with expressions of concern
Communications staff and the office of the general secretary have received a number of statements of concern about the situation in Syria from individual members and friends of the church. Following is a sampling of the concerns and prayers that have been received:
“Shalom. The situation Syria is on our mind and [we] pray for them.”
“Again, we desperately hope….”
“Thank you for mentioning the Orthodox priests who were violently abducted this spring. They have been on my heart for some time. Many in the Orthodox community fear they have already been or will soon be beheaded. May our prayers for peace be heard and answered swiftly!”
“Fasting and prayer can clear our mind and help us discern the spirit, but the next step is research and investigation, and then speaking truth to power. The problem is that there currently is no public media outlet that will speak the truth. Could it be that the COB has come to be what it is ‘for such at time as this?’ Esther risked her life and confronted the king.”
“Please we shall pray together. Syria is a country just north of my country a few kilometres and maybe we shall be impacted over this war. We shall stand to pray for peace and cry for God to help.” (Sent in by a Newsline reader in Kenya.)
“The question of what to do about chemical weapons is urgently serious, and cries out for a response. The world is rightly being reminded of the 1925 Geneva convention against the use of such weapons. But [I am] afraid America is not in a great position to take the moral high ground on this issue–remembering our heavy use of napalm and other chemical products in various “little wars,” like Vietnam. We’ll never know how many lives were wasted by the heavy use of agent orange and other “sprays” in that long, destructive war which still searches for a real reason to have been waged over a 10-year period against a peasant people. And while deploring the “new” chemical warfare in Syria, wiping out more than 1,000 lives, other questions come to mind–such as the simultaneous use of so-called conventional weapons that already has taken the lives of more than 100,000 persons in Syria. And thus even the horror of chemical weapons should in no way excuse or allow the use of a whole range of other killing materials and machines–which also serve as instruments of horror. War is not the answer. War is the problem. Too simplistic, yes. But I think there are times to say NO, even as we search for the best YES possible.”
2) Workcamp ministry closes out successful 2013 season, announces theme for 2014.
The Church of the Brethren workcamp ministry closed out a successful summer season in 2013, holding 23 workcamps at a variety of sites across the nation for Brethren junior and senior high youth and adults.
The ministry also has announced a theme and theme scripture for next year’s workcamps, to be held in summer 2014.
This year’s 23 workcamps included 3 new locations, and involved 363 participants including adult advisors and youth. The workcamp office reports that 35 people contributed to leadership at workcamps this summer, along with the two Brethren Volunteer Service workers who were assistant coordinators for 2013–Katie Cummings and Tricia Ziegler–and staff director Emily Tyler.
Next summer’s workcamps will be held on the theme, “Teach With Your Life,” based on the scripture theme 1 Timothy 4:11-16. Debbie Noffsinger designed the 2014 workcamp logo.
New in 2014, the workcamp deposit amount will be raised to $150. Next summer will see workcamps offered for young adults, Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) senior highs, intergenerational groups, and junior highs. The number of senior high workcamps will be restricted because 2014 is a National Youth Conference year.
Jenna Stacy has begun a term in Brethren Volunteer Service as assistant workcamp coordinator, working with Emily Tyler. Stacy is a native of Campobello, S.C., and began work at the Church of the Brethren General Offices on Aug. 20. She will attend the fall orientation Unit 303 of BVS. She is a 2013 graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College with a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy.
More information about 2014 workcamps will be available by late September at www.brethren.org/workcamps .
3) Haitian Church of the Brethren holds its first annual conference.
|Photo by courtesy of Global Mission and Service|
|Pastors are dedicated with laying on of hands and prayer, at the first Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren in Haiti.|
The first official Annual Conference of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) was held from Aug. 12-14 in Croix des Bouquets, Haiti, at the Brethren Ministry Center campus. Approximately 60 delegates represented more than 20 churches and preaching points.
On Monday the 12th, each delegate received a copy of the constitution of Eglise des Freres. This constitution was put together by a committee of Haitian Brethren leaders, led by pastor Freny Elie of Cape Haitian, along with the participation of US field staff Ilexene Alphonse. The document combined articles found in the constitution of Iglesia de los Hermanos in the Dominican Republic and the constitution of Miami Haitian Church of the Brethren.
During worship that night, the message was delivered by Onleys Rivas, a pastor in the Dominican Republic and president of the Junta of Iglesia de los Hermanos. The theme of his message was “Discerning the Winds of God.” His main text came from Acts 2:1-4 and he preached on the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church.
On Tuesday, Aug. 13, after a time of reflection and questions, the delegates were asked to vote on each of the 50 plus articles in the constitution. The document was accepted, with a few amendments, by a unanimous vote. The message on Tuesday night was brought by Ariel Rosario, also a pastor in the Dominican Republic and moderator of Iglesia de los Hermanos, using the story of Jairus’ daughter found in Mark 5:21-43 to encourage the delegates to follow the example of Jairus when confronting difficult situations in life.
On Wednesday, delegates from each of the represented worshiping bodies presented reports of membership, offerings, and other statistics to the larger assembly. Also on Wednesday, an election was held for the position of moderator-elect in which Samson Dieufait, pastor of the New Jerusalem Fellowship in Canaan (just outside of Port-au-Prince) was elected. Yves Jean has served as moderator of the National Committee of Eglise des Freres for the past five years and will be the presiding moderator for the 2014 Annual Conference.
The conference concluded with a special ordination ceremony for six pastors: Duverlus Altenor, Georges Cadet, Freny Elie, Diepanou St. Brave, Jean Bily Telfort, and Romy Telfort. These leaders are serving as pastors and have participated in the annual week-long theological training held in Haiti beginning in 2007. Elie was ordained in another denomination and his ordination was accepted via transfer. Volunteer mission coordinator Ludovic St. Fleur, pastor of Eglise des Freres in Miami, Fla., joined Jean and Alphonse in the laying on of hands for these newly ordained church leaders.
St. Fleur shared a teaching message on what it means to be “called” in the Brethren tradition. A choir of more than 30 members from the Marin congregation sang at the closing service. A special reception for the newly ordained pastors and all the delegates, complete with a cake frosted with the symbol of the Church of the Brethren, followed the service.
–Jeff Boshart and Jay Wittmeyer contributed to this report.
4) Haiti Medical Project grows and develops, with help from individuals, churches, and denomination.
Nancy Young provided the report below on efforts at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren to help grow the Haiti Medical Project–but McPherson is just one of the congregations, groups, and individuals across the country who, along with the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service department, are helping make the project a success.
The project recently attained the key level of $100,000 in its endowment fund, reports Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service. In addition a new Haiti Medical Project website has been established within the Church of the Brethren website, in order to provide information and online donation capabilities. Find it at www.brethren.org/haiti-medical-project .
The endowment for the Haiti Medical Project has attained the $100,000 goal required by the denomination’s financial policy to be considered an established endowment fund. Fundraising for the project has encouraged congregations and individuals to contribute 80 percent of their gifts to the endowment fund, and 20 percent to ongoing program.
The Haiti Medical Project sends a mobile unit of three Haitian doctors into communities which have little if any medical services, and where Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) has a presence to support the clinics. Many clinics are hosted in churches. The mobile clinics ensure that individuals can see a doctor for periodic check-ups.
“Dale Minnich, development officer for the Haiti Medical Project, has been greatly encouraged at the generosity of the Brethren to get behind the project, as the endowment was established much faster than was hoped,” Wittmeyer commented. “However, it is still just the beginning and more funds are need to ensure that the program can continue.”
McPherson Church gets behind the Haiti Medical Project
Thus far, McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren has raised $40,900 for the Haiti Medical Project, with the goal of raising $100,000 by Easter 2014.
McPherson member and physician Paul Ullom-Minnich, who is one of the Brethren medical professionals involved in the founding of the project, said he has been pleasantly surprised by how many different people are willing to come on board to either donate money or support fundraisers to bring healthcare to people they don’t even know. “This mobile clinic project is a fantastic example of how people of faith can come together and make a difference in the lives of others–even without leaving the country.”
McPherson Church of the Brethren has been a hub of fundraising activity. Judy Stockstill, a Haiti Medical Committee member, explained how church members are helping: “We gave to anyone in our congregation an envelope containing $20 to be used as seed money to start a project that would grow into a larger amount to be donated back to the Haiti fund. Individuals, couples, families, and children have gotten involved.”
An apple dumpling seed money fundraiser coordinated by Jeanne Smith was the first of many. She raised over $2,387.82 selling 368 apple dumplings, with the help of many volunteers.
Another initiative is Marketplace Sundays the first Sunday of each month. Church members are able to bring items to sell to other church members and guests. Items for sale have included homemade bread, t-shirts, caps, books, vegetables, and even stuffed animals.
Recently, members of the community had an opportunity to get involved through a Community Wide Garage Sale at the McPherson Church held Aug. 23 and 24. In conjunction with the garage sale, baked goods, ice cream, and hot dogs were sold. Organizer Kristen Reynolds commented, “This is going to be big–really, really big. You do not want to miss it.” Big ticket items included a couch, vintage flute, two adult tricycles, and old seats from the balcony of the church.
For more information on the Haiti Medical Project, see the new website at www.brethren.org/haiti-medical-project .
NEWS FROM NOAC
5) Round up report from National Older Adult Conference 2013.
|Photo by Patrice Nightingale/BBT|
|The famously funny NOAC News Team with NOAC coordinator Kim Ebersole.|
National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) 2013 concluded last Friday, Sept. 6, after a week of world class speakers, concerts, dramas, and shows, envigorating worship, and energizing opportunities for recreation and fellowship. Held at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina, the conference was attended by some 800 people, and organized by the denomination’s Older Adult Ministry and Congregational Life Ministries.
The conference coordinating leadership included Kim Ebersole, NOAC coordinator, and Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, along with the NOAC Planning Committee of Bev and Eric Anspaugh, Deanna Brown, and Delora and Eugene Roop. In addition, many other volunteers and staff were on hand to help make this year’s NOAC a success.
Financial sponsors included Brethren Benefit Trust, Hillcrest, Peter Becker Community, Pinecrest Community, and the Palms of Sebring.
NOAC by the Numbers
Registration: About 800 people
Church World Service kits collected for disaster relief: 444 School Kits, 217 Hygiene Kits
Offering total: $19,574.25
Trekkin’ for Peace, a walk/run around Lake Junaluska to benefit the Youth Peace Travel Team: 93 walkers and runners, $1,110 raised
Golf Outing, results provided by host agency Bethany Theological Seminary:
62 score by 1st place team of Grant Simmons, Philip Wine, Paul Wampler, David Rogers, and 2nd place team by tie that included Byron Grossnickle, Ginny Grossnickle, Leon Renner, Ed Martin; 64 score by 3rd place team of Woody Ziegler, Bob Hanes, Howard Brounce, John Wenger
Preachers call older adults to help heal the world
Dava Hensley, who preached for the opening worship service and pastors First Church of the Brethren, Roanoke, Va., brought a “glow in the darkness” to NOAC–complete with glow sticks handed out to worshipers to wave at the close of the service. Speaking on Isaiah 58:6-10, Hensley asked, “Have we blowed out our light? We are to glow in the darkness!” God’s people were challenged by the prophet Isaiah to understand that “true worship is concrete action,” she said. Her challenge to the congregation of older adults: “What is holding us back from allowing our light to glow in the darkness? I challenge us. When was the last time we allowed our light to shine in the darkness?”
|Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford|
|“We may not be technologically astute, and we may not be familiar with social media, but we know the power of touch for healing people.” This quote from Edward Wheeler, recently retired president of Christian Theological Seminary who preaching for evening worship during National Older Adult Conference, might well describe the power of the NOAC experience.|
A leader in the Baptist World Alliance and president emeritus at Christian Theological Seminary, the Rev. Edward L. Wheeler gave the Wednesday evening sermon and continued the challenge to NOACers to be out and active in the world. His message, “The Race Is Not Over Yet,” was based on Hebrews 12:1-3. He called on worshippers to follow the example of Jesus, remember the cloud of witnesses, and run the race of faith and life to the finish. He also lauded the efforts of civil rights leaders as well as those ordinary people who stood up–and still stand up–against the dehumanizing powers of the world in the name of Jesus Christ. “ I don’t know about you, but I’ve been blessed by the faith and example of parents and aunts and uncles who kept the faith and ran the race.” Seniors have much to give, and have every reason to run the race of faithfulness no matter how hard it may seem to continue that struggle to the finish line, he emphasized. “We are loved and the world needs us to love back.”
On Friday morning, the closing message for NOAC 2013, “I Thought There Would Be Refreshments,” was brought by Kurt Borgmann, pastor of Manchester Church of the Brethren in N. Manchester, Ind. The challenge continued, as he called NOAC attendees to “be the refreshment” of the world, not just seek their own refreshment in the church. Although he drew laughs by imagining answers to the question, “When two or three Brethren gather together what do you think they do?”–number one answer (ding, ding, ding) eating ice cream–Borgmann wasn’t content to let NOAC conclude simply by celebrating the sharing of good things. Noting that many Christians think “the primary purpose of the church is to provide refreshments primarily for ourselves,” he reminded NOAC that Brethren can do better and often do better than that. “Maybe church should look less like an ice cream social and more like a sandwich for the homeless,” he said. Borgmann challenged the congregation, packed and ready to depart at the end of worship, “You don’t need refreshment. You are refreshment…. What refreshment are you prepared to offer the world?”
Other devotional opportunities beyond the three main worship services included a daily morning Bible study led by Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary; and two different early morning devotions led by Joel Kline, pastor of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., and Dana Cassell, youth pastor at Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren. “Meet the New Day” activities led by the Young Adult Ministry also included meditative movement, group singing at the cross above Lake Junaluska, and a labyrinth walk.
Keynote speakers include Tickle, Mouw, and Lederach
Phyllis Tickle kicked off the keynote speeches at NOAC on Tuesday morning of the conference. After hearing her theory of a “500-year cycle of change and distress” one might have felt alarm at the assertion that “we are living through a time of great upheaval,” but Tickle tied it all together with humor, insight, and hope. Known for her Divine Hours series on observing fixed-hour prayer, as well as more than two dozen books on religion and spirituality, Tickle is an expert on “emergence Christianity” and a lay eucharistic minister and lector in the Episcopal Church as well as a former college professor and academic dean at Memphis College of Art. Noting that the nature of home life has inevitably changed, as women gain equality in employment, and there are fewer parents teaching the biblical story to children, Tickle gave a homework assignment to older adults: “It is up to us who are grandparents and great-grandparents, who are the ones who know the stories, we must go back and weave those stories into the lives of our grandchildren and great grandchildren.” If the older generations don’t do their homework, and children don’t learn the Bible story, Christianity may survive, Tickle said. But, she warned, “the church may not.” She emphasized not only the importance of story in human life, but also the rising generations’ new understanding of fact versus truth–that the beauty of a story lies in its “actuality, not factuality”–and the healing nature of storytelling, both for individuals and society.
Richard Mouw, recently retired president of Fuller Theological Seminary, in the second keynote address of the week challenged the NOAC congregation to move beyond the world where people hear only what they want to hear or listen only to people who agree with them. Lines drawn sharply, separating differing perceptions of reality, have intruded on the world of faith, he said, asking if it is possible for us to act and treat each other in a civil fashion within the Christian communion. Mouw is the author of 17 books including “Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World,” and his address was titled, “The Call to Be a Compassionate People: Spiritual Resources for a Kinder and Gentler Discipleship.”
Closing out the series of three keynotes, John Paul Lederach called on NOAC to “dream a new global dream.” A Mennonite author, professor, and peacemaker, he spoke about “The Art and Soul of Building Peace.” Lederach is professor of International Peace Studies at Notre Dame University, and has been on the ground personally in many different hot spots around the world, assisting local communities in their efforts to build peace amid violent conflict and war. His books include “When Blood and Bones Cry Out: Journeys Through the Soundscape of Healing” and “Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies.”
Concerts, dramas, and shows
The line up of entertainment at NOAC also was world class, and included Ted Swartz’ one-man show “Laughter Is Sacred Space,” the in turns amusing and tear wrenching story of his personal struggle following the loss of Lee Eshleman, his friend and former partner in “Ted & Lee,” who in 2007 took his own life.
Also on the NOAC stage, among others:
Josh and Elizabeth Tindall gave an evening piano and organ concert. The Church of the Brethren couple perform throughout the country as soloists, duo pianists, accompanists, and as members of “The Headliners.” They have established the Keynote school of music in Elizabethtown, and both teach music in various capacities. Josh is pastor of Music Ministries at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren.
Michael Skinner brought the show “Birds of Prey: Masters of the Sky” to the Stuart Auditorium one afternoon, complete with a bald eagle among other hawks, falcons, and owls. Using a falconer’s thick leather gauntlets, Skinner displayed birds–each nonreleasable in the wild because of injury or other handicap, gave information about each species, and answered questions from an interested audience. The show went a half hour over time as the crowd stayed on for more, and concluded with an opportunity for volunteers to help fly one of the powerful and striking birds. Skinner is executive director of the Balsam Mountain Trust, which administers the environmental education and research arm of the Balsam Mountain Preserve. He was the Emmy nominated host of “Georgia Outdoors” on Georgia Public Television and is an experienced field ecologist, naturalist, nature photographer, environmental educator, taxidermist, and musician.
|Photo by Eddie Edmonds|
|Josh and Elizabeth Tindall pose with members of their congregation from Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren.|
Other highlights of the NOAC week
Memorial Tribute: Each year, Brethren Benefit Trust produces a Memorial Tribute that honors Brethren Pension Plan members and their spouses, as well as denominational leaders who passed away during the preceding year. The special presentation for NOAC honored those who have died from June 2011 to June 2013.
Sharing Our Healing: At the back of Stuart Auditorium, bulletin boards were available each day to help participants reflect on that day’s theme of healing. One bulletin board included information about denominational programs on the daily theme. The second bulletin board provided space to share personal thoughts on the theme. Themes were: How you heal…yourself (Tuesday) …your community (Wednesday) …our world (Thursday).
Trekkin’ for Peace: A group of close to 100 NOACers walked or ran a 2.5 mile path around Lake Junaluska on Thursday morning before breakfast. The $10 registration fee and additional gifts benefited the Youth Peace Travel Team of the Church of the Brethren. Trekkin’ for Peace was sponsored by Brethren Benefit Trust and the Youth and Young Adult Ministries.
Afternoon bus trips: Busloads from NOAC visited a variety of sites during afternoon field trips including the Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt’s 250-room French chateau; the Balsam Mountain Nature Center; and the Cherokee Oconaluftee Indian Village.
What wisdom have you gleaned from the years?
For each day’s “NOAC Notes” newsletter, several people were asked a “Question of the Day.” Thursday’s question was asked of nonagenarians 90 years old and older: What wisdom have you gleaned from the years? Here are some responses:
“Take a day at a time.” — Charlotte McKay, Bridgewater, Va.
“Live within God’s loving presence.” — Lucile Vaughn, Bridgewater, Va.
“I would like to say it was very difficult for me to sell my home and move into Brethren Village. [But] as it says in the Bible, ‘…I have learned to be content with whatever I have [Philippians 4:11].” — Betty Bomberger, Lancaster, Pa.
“Back when my children would say, ‘Life’s not fair,’ I’d say, ‘Get used to it. That’s the way life is.’ It sounds better in French, ‘C’est la vie.’” — Esther Frey, Mt. Morris, Ill.
For more news and photos from NOAC 2013, go to www.brethren.org/news/2013/noac-2013 .
— The reporting from NOAC 2013 was carried out by the NOAC communication team of Frank Ramirez, reporter; Eddie Edmonds, tech guru; Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor and photographer; with help from BBT staff photographers Nevin Dulabaum and Patrice Nightingale.
6) Feeders? A Deacon Ministry reflection on NOAC 2013.
|Virginia Crim was the oldest person at NOAC 2013, at 96 years of age. Photo by Eddie Edmonds.|
I just returned from our denomination’s National Older Adult (50+) Conference (NOAC), at which the collective wisdom was palpable. This year a new banner, “Sages Through the Ages,” was introduced, onto which the name of each year’s oldest attendee will be added during the NOAC gathering. What a terrific reminder of the importance of this group’s lifelong contributions to the life and spirit of the church!
Something else new happened at NOAC this year. In addition to the 800-plus “regular” attendees, a group of young adults were present as well. They were there mainly as helpers and workshop leaders, but their collective enthusiasm for the work of the church and love of our denomination was just as obvious and infectious as that of their elders. The interactions between young and old were inspiring, including the challenge given to the older attendees to encourage the youth in their congregations, their families, their communities, to attend the NOAC “feeder conference” also known as NYC (National Youth Conference).
Not surprisingly, a number of people at NOAC are deacons, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many folks I’ve met during a workshop. With the young adult presence I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if our deacon bodies developed “feeders” for our ministry, mentoring and encouraging younger people in the ministry of pastoral care. What would that look like?
We might start by simply looking around. Who are the young (or middle-age) adults in your faith community you could see as deacons? Take a minute to mention to them that you see gifts that would lend themselves nicely to deacon ministry. Plant the seed. Help them understand what deacon ministry is all about in your faith community. Help them understand what deacon ministry is not–to dissuade them from thoughts that they might not be “good enough” to be a deacon. Talk to your deacon sisters and brothers about inviting others to retreats or training events so they might begin to consider a call to caregiving.
Isn’t this what discipleship is all about? “…So that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
— Donna Kline is director of the Church of the Brethren Deacon Ministry.
7) Brethren Revival Fellowship to gather for 2013 General Meeting.
The Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) General Meeting will be held Saturday, Sept. 14, beginning at 10 a.m. at New Fairview Church of the Brethren, located some three miles south of York, Pa. The all-day program will consider “Pressing Toward the Goal: A Positive Witness for Christ.” Among the speakers will be Walter Heisey, Jordan Keller, Ken Leininger, and Craig Alan Myers. A report of Annual Conference and approval of BRF Committee members will occur as well.
On the front of every “BRF Witness” newsletter is this statement: “The Brethren Revival Fellowship of the Church of the Brethren works in the interest of proclaiming and preserving Biblical values for living today. We believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God, the final authority for belief and practice, and that to personally accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the only means of salvation.” This statement has been the BRF core mission since very near the beginning of the BRF movement in 1959.
The emphasis of this year’s general meeting will be on the positive influence that the BRF has been over the years in being a witness for Christ and how to move forward in the future. The gathering will look at BRF efforts both in word and deed.
All who support the ministry of the BRF are invited to attend, along with people who have participated in Brethren Bible Institute, the BRF Brethren Volunteer Service units, and workcamps. The meeting will include testimonials from some of the participants.
Childcare will be provided. Participants should bring their own lunch, the host church is providing the beverage. For those coming from a distance, there are several hotels within a convenient distance.
For more information go to the BRF website at www.brfwitness.org .
(This report is taken from a Brethren Revival Fellowship release.)
8) Brethren bits.
|Photo by Manchester University|
|Wilbur in Wilbur’s: Dr. Wilbur McFadden enjoys the new cafe and study “hot spot” at Manchester University which has been named in his honor.|
— Remembrance: Norman Yeater of Cornwall, Pa., passed away on Sept. 11 as the result of a traffic accident. He was serving as chaplain at the Lebanon Valley Brethren Home in Palmyra, Pa., and was secretary of the Atlantic Northeast District Ministry Commission. He was a member of the non-salaried ministry team at Chiques Church of the Brethren, Manheim, Pa. Yeater also recently began serving as a consultant to the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry on revisions to the Ministerial Leadership Polity Paper as it relates to the plural non-salaried ministry. He is survived by his wife, Heather; college age daughter, Rachel; high school age daughter, Joanna; and middle school age daughter, Lois. Arrangements are pending and will be handled by Spence Funeral and Cremation Services in Manheim ( www.spencefuneralservices.com) . “Please keep the Yeater family, the Chiques congregation, and the Lebanon Valley Home community in your prayers during this difficult time of loss,” said a prayer request from the office of the General Secretary of the Church of the Brethren.
— Prayer is requested for those affected by the extreme flooding occurring in the Front Range of Colorado after a storm brought inches of rainfall over the past few days. “Please keep in prayer our sisters and brothers in Colorado,” said an e-mail sent out today from Western Plains District. So far, none of the Church of the Brethren churches in the Denver area or farther north in the front range are reporting flooding of their church buildings or property, but individual members are affected by the closing of many roads and highways, and some live in or near areas where evacuation orders are in effect. A Mennonite congregation in Boulder, which has hosted a Brethren fellowship group, has experienced flooding of its basement.
— The Church of the Brethren seeks a full-time associate director for Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a ministry within Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Global Mission and Service department. Major responsibilities include providing oversight, leadership, and administration of CDS. Additional responsibilities include leading the response of CDS volunteers, leading and coordinating new program development and expansion of CDS, managing and supporting the development of ecumenical relationships, and providing sound financial management of CDS. Required skills and knowledge include strong written and verbal skills in English, ability to communicate effectively with multiple agencies and constituencies and deal gracefully with the public, ability to work with minimal supervision, skill in program development and management and volunteer management, effective training and presentation skills, appreciation for the church’s role in mission with an awareness of mission operations, knowledge of child development and the impact of trauma on development, and the ability to act within a multicultural and multigenerational team environment. Training or experience making effective presentations, managing staff and volunteers, and working directly with children (teaching, counseling, providing program, etc.) and skilled competency in Microsoft Office component applications is required. Previous disaster response experience is preferred. A bachelor’s degree is required, with a preference for an advanced degree. This position is based in the Brethren Disaster Ministries Office at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Applications are being received and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Request the application packet by contacting the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; email@example.com . The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
— Early registration has been extended to Sept. 15 for “The Great Multitude: A Symposium Bringing Us Together,” an intercultural ministries event on Oct. 25-27 at the Skelton 4-H Center in Wirtz, Va., co-sponsored by Virlina District and the denomination’s Intercultural Ministries. For details and online registration, go to www.brethren.org/intercultural/greatmultitude/ .
— Concern about government efforts to demolish churches and church schools in Maiduguri, a large city in northeastern Nigeria, has been shared with the office of Global Mission and Service by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). So far EYN has not let the US church staff know of any Brethren churches or schools on the demolition list. On Sept. 9 a Nigerian newspaper reported on an intensifying of state government “efforts to demolish over 20 churches and schools built by the churches…. Sources hinted that the Borno State government has already dispatched a notice to the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, and owners of farmlands in the area, intimating them of the plan to acquire the structures for 1,000 housing units.” The general secretary of CAN confirmed the development and called on Borno State government to rethink it, the newspaper said. The paper emphasized the increase in tension in Maiduguri, which has suffered from terrorist violence related to the extreme Islamist group Boko Haram, as well as retaliatory violent incidents and rioting in recent years.
— Flat Creek Church of the Brethren in Manchester, Ky., celebrates its 70th anniversary on Sept. 15, with morning worship at 10 a.m. and a carry in dinner at noon. An afternoon service will start at 2 p.m. “Everyone welcome,” said an invitation in the Southern Ohio District newsletter. “Please join us in a Day of Celebration. Share memories, visit with old friends.”
— Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosts a meet-and-greet with Jeff Carter, the new president of Bethany Theological Seminary, from 2-4 p.m. on Sept. 14. Carter is a Bridgewater College graduate, holds advanced degrees from Bethany and Princeton Theological Seminary, and is the former pastor of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren.
— Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren in Bridgewater, Va., is offering a song and story time every Sunday at 9:45 a.m. for special needs adults, age high school and up. Reports Shenandoah District: “The group meets in the fellowship hall for singing and stories from ‘The Beginner’s Bible,’ wraps up with a snack, and adjourns about 10:30, allowing time for those who want to attend 11 a.m. services at their home churches. It is non-denominational and open to those from all faith backgrounds. New participants are welcome!” Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-828-4015 for more information.
— The Bittersweet Gospel Band, a group of Brethren musicians who gather from across the country, will tour this fall in Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. Worship concerts feature Gilbert Romero of Los Angeles, Calif.; Scott Duffey of Staunton, Va.; David Sollenberger of North Manchester, Ind.; Leah Hileman of Somerset, Pa.; Dan Shaffer of Johnstown, Pa.; and Trey Curry of Staunton, Va. The band also will be showing its new music video “Jesus in the Line.” All concerts are open to the public. The tour schedule: Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m., Intercultural Symposium Concert at the Skelton 4-H Center in Wirtz, Va.; Oct. 27, 6 p.m., Green Hill Church of the Brethren in Salem, Va. (concert follows a 4 p.m. meal served by the congregation’s youth as a fundraiser for National Youth Conference); Oct. 29, 7 p.m., West Charleston Church of the Brethren in Tipp City, Ohio; Oct. 30, 6 p.m., New Carlisle (Ohio) Church of the Brethren; Oct. 31, 12-1 p.m., Bethany Seminary Peace Forum in Richmond, Ind.; Oct. 31, 9 p.m., Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind; Nov. 1, 7:15 p.m., Columbia City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren (concert follows a 6:30 p.m. food bank fundraiser); Nov. 2, 6 p.m., Pleasant Chapel Church of the Brethren in Ashley, Ind. (concert follows a 5 p.m. dinner); Nov. 3, 9 a.m. worship at Decatur (Ind.) Church of God. Find out more at Bittersweetgospelband.blogspot.com or contact Scott Duffey at email@example.com or 540-414-1539.
— The weekend of Sept. 14-15 features “wonderful events” in McPherson, Kan., according to a note from the Western Plains District office. Tracy Primozich, director of Admissions for Bethany Theological Seminary, leads an afternoon workshop on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 1-4:30 p.m. at McPherson Church of the Brethren on the topic of “Eve,” focused on re-interpreting the images of Eve in Genesis and imagining new and positive ways our culture can portray women. The workshop is free and open to the public, donations will be accepted to help with expenses. Snacks will be provided. Contact 785-448-4436 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Also in McPherson on Sept. 15, Sister Helen Prejean will give the McPherson College Religious Heritage Lecture at 7 p.m. at McPherson Church of the Brethren. Prejean is author of “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty” and a longtime advocate against capital punishment and for victims’ rights. A member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille for nearly six decades, she began her prison ministry in New Orleans in 1981 and there encountered Patrick Sonnier on death row. Her experiences led her to write the book, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and rose to number one on the New York Times Best Seller List for eight months, and was adapted into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. The movie was nominated for four Oscars and Sarandon received the Best Actress Oscar. For more information go to www.mcpherson.edu/news/index.php?action=fullnews&id=2336 .
— Pacific Northwest District Conference is held Sept. 13-15 at Camp Koinonia, Cle Elum Wash.
— Bridgewater (Va.) College is reporting a higher enrollment than at any other time in its history, a full- and part-time student enrollment of 1,849. A press release compared this year’s enrollment with that of 2012, which was 1,760 full- and part-time students. “Bridgewater’s record enrollment is the result of an enterprise-wide effort to recruit, enroll, and retain quality students who seek a challenging academic environment coupled with a supportive, close knit community,” said Reggie Webb, vice president for enrollment management. Figures released by the college reveal that women make up 55 percent of the freshman class while 76 percent of incoming students are white. Other ethnicities represented in the freshman class are African Americans, 10 percent; Hispanics, 2 percent; multiracial, 6 percent; and Asian, 1 percent. Of the 536 first-time freshmen arriving at Bridgewater in 2013, 76 percent are residents of Virginia. Four percent of these students claim they are affiliated with the Church of the Brethren. For more about the college go to www.bridgewater.edu .
— Manchester University in N. Manchester, Ind., is fourth in the Midwest in the “Best Value” rankings–the highest for an Indiana school in the 2014 Best College rankings of “US News & World Report,” according to a release from Manchester. This also is the 20th year the news magazine has recognized the undergraduate program at Manchester as a “Best College.” “On the heels of its largest graduating class in years, Manchester University is sprinting into a new year with an estimated 1,350 students,” the release said. “About 23 percent of the new undergraduate students are the first in their families to attend college…. Manchester continues its leadership in affordable excellence with a remarkable 86 percent of its May graduates receiving their degrees within four years or less.” For more about the university go to www.manchester.edu .
— “See you at Wilbur’s, MU’s new hot spot for study and friendship,” said a release from Manchester University highlighting a new namesake study café in the school’s renovated Funderburg Library: “Wilbur’s” honors four generations of McFadden students. “Students want a comfortable place to study outside of the classroom,” said Wilbur McFadden, namesake of the new café and 24-hour study lounge. “The gift of Wilbur’s celebrates the Manchester spirit of four generations of McFaddens,” said the release. Wilbur McFadden is a family physician with service in Puerto Rico, California, and mission work in Indonesia before settling at the Manchester Clinic for 30 years. At least 19 other McFaddens “have Manchester in their blood” including McFadden’s parents W. Glenn McFadden and Eva Burkholder McFadden. Wilbur and the late Joyce Snyder McFadden’s four children are Manchester alumni including Dave, executive vice president and dean of the College of Pharmacy at Manchester University; Dan, on the Church of the Brethren staff as director of Brethren Volunteer Service; and Tim and Joy. A dedication for the café will be held during Homecoming, at 10 a.m. on Oct. 5.
— The Children’s Aid Society’s Third Annual Banquet is Oct. 18 at Green Grove Gardens, New Oxford, Pa., with reception and appetizers starting at 5 p.m., and dinner and program starting at 6 p.m. Cost is $50 for adults and $20 for children. The program will be led by motivational speaker Michael Pritchard. Proceeds will benefit the society’s program and help make it possible to aid children without regard to their ability to pay for the services they need. To reserve seats at the dinner, call 717-624-4461. The Children’s Aid Society is a ministry of Southern Pennsylvania District of the Church of the Brethren, and is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013. Find out more at www.cassd.org .
— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Palestine coordinator Tarek Abuata will lead two days of nonviolence training sessions in Akron, Pa., on the Saturdays of Nov. 9 and 16. The sessions, sponsored by the “1040 for Peace” group, are planned as “intensive experiential workshops giving participants a comprehensive introduction to Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy and strategy of nonviolence,” reports Harold A. Penner, who is one of the organizers for the events. He adds that “the training is useful for a variety of individuals, including those who work with young people, people who respond to conflict situations, people of all ages and backgrounds who experience different levels of violence in their daily lives, and those individuals seeking justice, equality, and human rights through nonviolent social change. It provides a framework for conflict management, mediation, and ultimately reconciliation.” The workshops will be held at Akron Mennonite Church from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Cost is $100 per person for both sessions. Scholarships are available upon request. Registration will close on Oct. 15. Contact Harold A. Penner, 108 S. Fifth St., Akron, PA 17501-1204; 717-859-3529; email@example.com .