The Annual Battle of Dranesville Remembrance and Peace Service at Dranesville Church of the Brethren in Herndon, Va., will be held Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. This is the 153rd anniversary of the Battle of Dranesville, according to the church newsletter. “On Dec. 20, 1861, about 5,000 Union forces and 2,000 Confederate forces fought near the intersection of Georgetown Pike (Rt. 193) and Leesburg Pike (Rt. 7), resulting in 50 men killed and 200 men wounded,” the newsletter reported. “Dranesville congregation members have discovered the names of about 35 of the 50 men who died that winter day. At the service, candles will be lit in their memory–and then extinguished, one by one, to demonstrate war’s dreadful cost in human suffering. The service will include readings and hymns from the Civil War period, and the message will proclaim the ‘gospel of peace’ (Ephesians 6:15). After the service, there will be Civil War artifacts (some from the Battle of Dranesville) on display in the fellowship hall, and Dranesville member/amateur historian John Waggoner will give a talk about the battle.” All are welcome to attend. For more information on the battle, see www.civilwar.org/battlefields/dranesville.html .
— Carol Berster is retiring after eight years of service as Peter Becker Community’s president and CEO. The community’s Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Suzanne Owens as new president and CEO, beginning Jan. 19. Peter Becker Community is a continuing care retirement community affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, located in Harleysville, Pa. Owens earned a master’s degree from Penn State University and a bachelor of science from Henderson State University in Arkansas. She has over 23 years of experience in the senior living field in executive management roles. Most recently, she served as operations and marketing consultant with Mennonite Health Services Consulting. Prior to that, she was senior vice president of operations for a Pennsylvania based senior living organization, providing oversight for operations for five sites that served more than 1,000 residents in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
— Bethany Theological Seminary is seeking candidates for the new position of director of educational technology. This position will serve the seminary internally and externally by providing support for distance education and coordinating Bethany’s electronic presence in various settings. It is a full-time, salaried, exempt position, and applications will be reviewed until the position is filled. Major responsibilities including providing educational technology support for teaching faculty; webcasting and facilitating electronic communication for classes, events, and meetings; envisioning and providing for, facilitating, overseeing, and training others in internal and external communications based in electronic technologies; keeping the seminary current with technological advances in these and related fields. Qualifications include understanding of and commitment to the mission of Bethany Theological Seminary; a bachelor’s degree in computer science, educational technology, or related field; ability to organize a complex workload, set priorities, and learn new skills independently; thorough knowledge of the Moodle Course Management System; thorough knowledge of the Microsoft Windows and Mac OS platforms as they relate to educational technology and electronic communications; ability to work collaboratively from an office on campus in Richmond, Ind. A detailed description of responsibilities and qualifications can be found on Bethany’s employment opportunities webpage at www.bethanyseminary.edu . Apply by sending a letter of interest, resume, and contact information for three references to the Academic Dean’s Office, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374; 765-983-1815; email@example.com .
— In news from Nigeria, Kulp Bible College has resumed classes at a new location, reports Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer. The new location is reported to be in central Nigeria at a place where Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) previously had a school named in honor of former mission worker Monroe Good. An e-mail received from a leader at the college said that this week lectures started for the final year diploma and degree students with encouragement and support from EYN president Samuel Dante Dali and his team.
— On Sunday, Oct. 12, Little Swatara Church of the Brethren in Rehrersburg, Pa., celebrated 50 years of being in its “new” church. The original dedication services were Oct. 13 and 14, 1964, writes Richard E. Frantz in a report on the celebration. “The congregation, which is 257 years old, originally met in 4 meeting houses on a weekly rotating basis. During the 10:30 a.m. worship service, Sandra (Forry) Kauffman, the Historical Committee Chair, welcomed everyone and listed a few of the conveniences we now take for granted including indoor plumbing, a nursery, a dependable heating system, a sound system, a library, Sunday school classrooms with walls instead of classrooms created by pulling curtains on pipes, a kitchen to prepare meals, and a fellowship hall.” Three former pastors were able to attend and bring greetings: Jeffrey Copp of Columbia City, Ind., who pastored the congregation for 23 years; Ervin Huston of Mt. Wilson, Pa., who was interim pastor for 2 years; and Robert Krouse of Florida who pastored for 5 years before recently retiring. Matt Christ, who began his pastorate in September, brought the message of the morning. Worship was followed by a church picnic in the fellowship hall. Frantz added: “We even had a flash mob of former teenagers who rolled in a piano and sang their youth choir music of several decades ago.”
— Living Stream Church of the Brethren on Sunday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. (eastern time) will feature a presentation by Musa and Sarah Mambula during the live streaming of the congregation’s online worship service. The Mambulas are on a tour of the Pennsylvania area speaking to Brethren churches about the crisis in Nigeria. They will be hosted at Ambler (Pa.) Church of the Brethren for the filming of the online service. The service will highlight connections with the Advent Offering of the Church of the Brethren for global outreach, scheduled for that same day, and the Nigeria Crisis Fund. “Since we worship online, Living Stream Church of the Brethren is inviting everyone in the country (and beyond!) to join our worship that evening to hear the Mambula’s presentation,” said Ambler team pastor Enten Eller, who also is on the pastoral team of Living Stream. “We see this as a way that Musa and Sarah can reach practically every congregation to share their stories and perspective about Nigeria, not just the churches to which the Mambulas can drive.” To participate in the online service go to www.livingstreamcob.org where there will be a prominent link to the evening’s worship. Questions may be sent to Enten@LivingStreamCOB.org .
— Another round of Advent and Christmas announcements from Church of the Brethren congregations and organizations:
“For us, it is a witness tool,” pastor Earl Stovall told the Shippensburg (Pa.) News-Chronicle in an article about the live nativity at Ridge Church of the Brethren, slated for Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13. “We try to stay as true to the scripture telling as we can.” Find the article at www.shipnc.com/news/local/article_ba6edb0c-7f2a-11e4-a2f0-8b235eb1023c.html .
Mt. Pleasant Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg, Va., presents its annual Live Nativity from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 11 and 12, and 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13. The program starts with live music and then presents eight scenes telling the story of Jesus’ birth. Crafts and refreshments follow in the Marketplace, according to an announcement in the Shenandoah District newsletter.
A group from Danville Church of the Brethren performed Christmas songs in the line up for the annual Christmas parade in Keyser, W.Va., reports the “Mineral Daily News-Tribune.” The parade took place Dec. 5. Find the extensive line up listed at www.newstribune.info/article/20141204/NEWS/141209837 .
“Ring the Bells,” a lyrical ballet for the Christmas season, was presented on Sunday Dec. 7 at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren and will be repeated at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12, at Otterbein United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg, Va. The ballet produced by InMotion School of Dance benefits the New Community Project’s Give a Girl a Chance providing education for girls around the world who might otherwise have no opportunity to go to school. Admission is free; an offering supports Give a Girl a Chance project.
Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community holds a Christmas Open House at its Houff Community Center from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 14. Come for music, beautifully decorated Christmas trees, and refreshments, said an invitation from Shenandoah District.
During the month of December, Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren is calling church members and the community to pray, fast, worship, and give for the crisis in Nigeria, according to the church newsletter. “Pray at every meeting, every worship, every small group, and every day for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria,” said the announcement inviting support for the effort. “Spend time during the month of December fasting as a sign of support and interceding on behalf of those in Nigeria…. Call to Worship–join us for a LOVE EYN Worship Night on Saturday, Dec. 13…. Call to Give–an offering will be taken at the Worship Night to go directly to support EYN needs. Give a donation as an alternate Christmas gift for your family, friends, and coworkers.” The announcement noted that all monies up to $500,000 will be matched by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board.
A Live Nativity sponsored by Mill Creek Church of the Brethren and the community will be hosted by Vern and Mary Jane Michael at 8218 Port Republic Road, Port Republic, Va., from 7-9 p.m. on Dec. 21-23. “Enjoy scripture, music, and scenery along with Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, and the wise men, shepherds, and animals, including camels,” said an invitation.
“A Medieval Christmas from Chapel to Hall” by Nutmeg and Ginger, a musical ensemble dedicated to the recreation of Medieval/Renaissance music, was performed in concert on Dec. 7 at York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. The concert was given to the congregation in honor of the church’s generosity and support to the Hollinger family. “We are forever grateful to God for you,” said a note from the family in the church newsletter.
— “Brethren Voices” produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren for airing on community access cable television, is offering two episodes in December. A special produced at Lebanon (Pa.) Valley Brethren Home titled “The Search For The Elusive White Squirrel,” reports that the retirement community is home to “the Elusive White Squirrel…a white squirrel named Snoball,” writes producer Ed Groff. “According to Rob Nelson, an ecologist of the University of Hawaii, these white squirrels are a rare version of the eastern grey squirrel. There are a few types of genetic aberrations that cause the white coats.” The December episode features Madison Avenue Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., and its “Reverse Offering” which is handed out once a year. “Everyone in attendance is given an envelope and inside is a $20 bill, which is to be given to someone in need,” Groff wrote in an announcement of the episode. “Several weeks later, during the worship service, the people of the congregation share their stories about giving the money away to someone who really needs it. The sharing of the reverse offering can be very creative, depending on the needs in the community.” A second segment features the “Gold Standard” and the 100 Strong Program of Aurora, Ore. In January, “Brethren Voices” will feature the ministry of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. DVD copies of “Brethren Voices” are available from Portland Peace Church of the Brethren. Contact Ed Groff at Groffprod1@msn.com . Many of the “Brethren Voices” programs can be seen at www.youtube.com/brethrenvoices .
— The Southern Ohio District Board has approved a donation of $10,000 from district reserves, recently increased through receipt of some assets from the recently closed Poplar Grove congregation, to the Nigeria Crisis Fund, reports the district newsletter. The newsletter notes that this donation will be matched by an amount set aside by the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren. “The board is asking congregations and district individuals to consider gifts to this special fund as well,” the newsletter reported.
— Northern Plains District reports that the quarter tubes that have been collecting change in the various churches across the district have now collected enough donations to purchase six arks from Heifer International. “This sixth ark is given in honor of the BVSers [Brethren Volunteer Service workers] from the Northern Plains District,” said the newsletter report by Diane Mason.
— “As we look to the end of the year, Pleasant Hill Village in Girard [Ill] has so much to be thankful for,” said a note in the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter. The retirement community raised more than $37,500 at its 18th Annual Fall Dinner and Auction on Oct. 18, the report said. More than 220 people attended the event. The proceeds will help pay for new tables for the Pleasant Hill Healthcare dining room as well as new vital sign monitors, equipment for the new assisted-living rooms at Pleasant Hill Residence, and landscaping and beautification projects.
— “Being in the Light; Sharing the Light” is the title for the Springs of Living Water Spiritual Disciplines folder for the season of Epiphany, running from Jan. 11-Feb. 21, 2015. Springs of Living Water church renewal initiative is led by David and Joan Young. “This Season of Light in the midst of a dark world is one of the two seasons of joy in the Christian year and runs up until Lent,” said an announcement. “Using Sunday and daily lectionary readings that follow the Brethren Bulletin Series, the folder helps individuals and congregations in a daily prayer pattern to follow the age old Brethren practice to live the meaning of the text that day. On the insert, persons can select the next spiritual discipline they feel God is leading them to.” The folder includes Bible study questions written by Vince Cable, pastor of Uniontown Church of the Brethren south of Pittsburgh, Pa. The folder can be used for individual or group Bible study. Find the folder and Bible study questions on the Springs website at www.churchrenewalservant.org . In a related announcement, Suzie Moss who was formerly secretary for Western Pennsylvania District office, has retired from that position and is now volunteer administrative assistant for the Springs initiative. For more information contact David and Joan Young at 717-615-4515.
— Manchester University has been named to President’s Service Honor Roll for an eighth year. The school based in North Manchester, Ind., “is also on the Interfaith Community Service Honor Roll,” said a release. The President’s Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions whose community service efforts achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities. Manchester University has a long reputation for its many service projects and volunteer opportunities, the release notes. These programs include volunteer projects at Camp Mack, American Red Cross blood drives, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, and the Indiana Reading Corps. Last year, Manchester students contributed more than 49,000 hours to their communities, their churches, their country, and nations around the world.
— In related news, Carole Miller-Patrick, who directs the Manchester University Center for Service Opportunities, spoke this fall at a White House conference. The university was among just three schools nationwide asked to present on “Interfaith Programming that Works” among hundreds of representatives from higher education at the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, said a release. “We like to say we are feeding the mind as well as the body,” said Miller-Patrick. She helps organize the North Manchester Community Dinners, offered 4-6:30 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday at Zion Lutheran Church in North Manchester. What sets the program apart is that the dinners, offered at one site, are hosted by individual churches in the community on a rotating basis, each taking responsibility to provide food for a month or particular dinner, the release said. The churches are aided by university students who set up for meals, serve them, and clean up afterward. The community meals are part of the university’s effort to meet a Campus Challenge issued in 2011 inviting higher learning institutions to commit to programming aimed at increasing literacy and fighting hunger. Virtually every church in town participates through the Fellowship of Churches. Church of the Brethren congregations that help with the Community Dinners include Manchester, Eel River, and Liberty Mills. An average of 150 people attend each dinner, sometimes 50 at one meal and 200 at the next, and about 10 students volunteer at each meal, according to the release. When she was asked to talk about Manchester’s success at the White House conference, Miller-Patrick said others were astounded by the level of cooperation here. “The big question they kept asking was, ‘Why aren’t these churches complaining?’” She said the answer is simple, “It works.”
— A release from the National Council of Churches (NCC) following the decision of a grand jury not to indict a police officer in the choke hold death of Eric Garner in New York, quoted from Luke 12:6-7: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” The NCC is calling on prosecutors and police forces, juries and judges, “to hold police officers accountable when they kill,” the release said. “The appropriate place to judge innocence or guilt is not in the grand jury but in a trial setting where defense and prosecution come together to carefully present the facts of a case.” The release quoted a “Wall Street Journal” analysis published Dec. 2 that looked at 105 police departments from 2007-2012 and found that 550 police killings were missing from the national total, and found that in those 105 police agencies at least 1,800 people were killed by police, the release said. “The current indignation is not based only on the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. We believe that no one can be above the law, including one whose job it is to enforce it.” NCC general secretary Jim Winkler said in the release: “As a society we must rid ourselves of the notion that one life is worth more than another.”
— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has issued an expression of appreciation for a recent religious leaders’ declaration for the eradication of slavery. The declaration, issued at the Vatican, brought together signatories from the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican communion, and Orthodox churches, with Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim leaders. The joint document declared a commitment against modern-day slavery. “Each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman, or man, and is destined to exist for the good of all in equality and fraternity,” the declaration said, in part. “Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.” At the event, a new Global Freedom Network was announced to struggle against modern-day slavery and human trafficking from a faith basis. Fulata Mbano-Moyo, the WCC program executive for Women in Church and Society, who was present at the event, has invited WCC member churches to sign the joint declaration, if they have not already done so. The WCC release included the following link for those interested in signing the Declaration with the Global Freedom Network: United to End Slavery: www.globalfreedomnetwork.org/declaration .
— In more news from the WCC, general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has extended sympathies for those affected by an attack on a major mosque in northern Nigeria. Following the attack on the Great Mosque of Kano on Nov. 28, resulting in the deaths of over 100 people, Tveit extended sympathies for those bereaved or wounded, offering prayers for Nigerians who, he said, are “so full of potential” yet “wounded by violence and injustice.” Tveit said the attack is a “salutary reminder that both Muslim and Christian communities are threatened by, and suffering from, the extremist violence which is impacting the lives of so many of the people of northern Nigeria…. There is a particular evil in any attack on people at a place of worship,” he added. Read more at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/statements/statement-on-nigeria-mosque-attack .
— “Sunday, Dec. 14 will be the second anniversary of the gun tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 schoolchildren and 6 teachers and administrators. Heeding God’s Call believes it is important to take time from our daily lives to remember those lost to gun violence that day at Sandy Hook and every day in Philadelphia, Chester, Camden, and all across America,” said a recent announcement from Heeding God’s Call, a movement against gun violence that started at a meeting of the Historic Peace Churches in Philadelphia. The group is inviting supporters to attend “any or all” remembrances of victims of gun violence this week. Heeding God’s Call is helping to host an Interfaith Commemoration on Friday, Dec. 12, at 10:30 a.m. at Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia, in cooperation with CeaseFire PA and Mothers In Charge. Heeding God’s Call also is helping to host a Vigil of Remembrance on Saturday, Dec. 13, from 9-11 a.m. at Sherwood Ministry Center in Southwest Philadelphia, in cooperation with CityLights. For more information go to http://heedinggodscall.org or contact Heeding God’s Call, 8812 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19118.