A selection of Advent and Christmas events at Church of the Brethren congregations and organizations across the country:The Chicago Area Churches of the Brethren are holding a Holiday Bazaar Fundraiser on Dec. 6, from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., hosted by York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill. The event will benefit Heifer International. Sponsoring congregations include York Center, Highland Avenue, First Church Chicago, and Neighborhood Church. “Start the Christmas season off right and make a purchase that will help change the world!” said an invitation. Gifts will be available from Heifer International, Brethren Press, Equal Exchange, Ten Thousand Villages, and Cal’s Candy. Baked goods also will be on sale. The event will feature Christmas music, children’s activities and crafts, and refreshments including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cider, and popcorn.
“Come to Bethlehem and See…” is the theme for an outdoor live nativity program at Bethlehem Church of the Brethren in Boones Mill, Va., on Dec. 20 between 5 and 8 p.m. “Come experience the story of Christmas as you walk by scenes of Mary and Joseph, shepherds with their sheep, angels, and wisemen,” said an invitation. “Then come into Bethlehem Church of the Brethren for cookies, hot chocolate, and warm fellowship. Golf carts rides are available to assist your tour.” The program will be held rain or shine. For more information contact 540-493-7252.
Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., is holding an Advent Prayer Vigil on Dec. 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the chapel. “Please join us during this season of darkness, of diminishing light, in remembering the people in the world, particularly our Nigerian brothers and sisters, victimized by the pain of violence, separation, and poverty,” said an invitation in the South Central Indiana District newsletter. “Let us join together as a community of faith. Utilizing scripture, prayer, and song, may we be reminded of the promise of the coming hope of the one who would bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.”
A Festival of Wreaths takes place at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md., on Dec. 13 from 3-7 p.m. “Join us for our Holiday Spectacular!” said an invitation. “Come see our display of more than 50 uniquely decorated wreaths and bid on your favorite at the Silent Auction, beginning Nov. 15. Enjoy baked goods from our Bake Sale while listening to holiday music, and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through our community to see our dazzling Luminaria, presented by the Auxiliary.” Proceeds from the event benefit the Pastoral Care Ministries at Fahrney-Keedy.
Liberty Mills Church of the Brethren in South Central Indiana District is holding a new Live Nativity on Dec. 14 at 6 and 7 p.m. Also at Liberty Mills Church this year, on Dec. 13, at 5:30 p.m., the congregation will enjoy a “Fun and Crazy Christmas Sweater Soup Supper and Caroling” event.
Camp Eder’s Fourth Annual Christmas Tree Festival is Dec. 12, 13, and 14 from 5-8:30 p.m. This free event features a Christmas Tree Decorating Contest, cookies and hot beverages, Christmas carols at the campfire, and a candle-lit reading of the Nativity story each evening at 8 p.m. “Come and experience Camp Eder covered in Christmas Lights, vote on your favorite Christmas tree, and worship at one of the candlelight services,” said an invitation.
At Logansport Church of the Brethren in Indiana, members of the church are invited to celebrate Christmas Eve Communion from 4-6 p.m. on Dec. 24. “This is a time where people can take time from their busy schedules to pray, rejoice, thank the Lord for His blessings, or all of these. People come anytime they like and when they are ready they can remember why we celebrate Christmas through communion. One of the pastors administers communion to each family and prays a blessing over them for the new year,” said the district newsletter.
Peru (Ind.) Church of the Brethren is having a blanket give-away on Dec. 6, from 9 a.m. to noon.
The Open Table Cooperative issued an invitation “to engage the Advent season with creativity and an eye toward seeking God outside the lines. Based on Keri Smith’s ‘Wreck This Journal’ we hope you will join us as we use daily activities to discover where we are being called this Advent and Christmas season.” The invitation notes this all-ages journal can be used individually or as a family. “This journal is meant to be wrecked, as you may be able to tell from the title. The instructions may seem odd, but think outside the box and allow yourself to be surprised by where you are led! Have fun with it! Be open to finding renewal and new birth in unexpected places.” Download the journal from www.opentablecoop.org/advent-journal/?mc_cid=64f599faee&mc_eid=d8fdc70623 . The Open Table Cooperative also will collect photos of favorite journal pages on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #AdventJournal14 .
“Lights of Love” at Spindale Church of the Brethren in North Carolina offers church members an opportunity to honor a loved one with a light that will be lit through the month of December, according to a communication from Southeastern District. A suggested donation of $2 per name supports the effort.
Dupont (Ohio) Church of the Brethren presents an annual Christmas Dinner Theater on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. and Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. This year the church presents “The Journal.” Call the church office for tickets at 419-596-4314; cost is by donation but a ticket is required for the meal. The meal includes ham, potato, vegetable, dessert, and drink.
— Brethren Disaster Ministries has been including non-Brethren denominations in its trainings, reports the disaster ministries office. At a hands-on Disaster Project Leadership Training in Bayville, N.J., from Aug. 26-Sept. 4, 5 of the 13 participants were members of the Disciples of Christ or United Church of Christ. Brethren Disaster Ministries is developing partnerships with other denominations, which eventually may lead to joint disaster response project sites.
— A briefing on Nigeria in the Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., featured an interfaith delegation connected with EYN. The briefing was co-sponsored by the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, the Islamic Society of North America, and the National Council of Churches, USA. It featured an interfaith delegation that has connections with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and included EYN member and leader Zakaria Bulus. Bulus is the former EYN national youth chairman and has been the youth coordinator of the African Continental Assembly of Mission 21. Presently he is the church secretary of the local congregation of Maiduguri, the largest congregation of Brethren in Nigeria, as well as a committee (board) member of the EYN peace program. In addition to his education in marketing (business), he has completed a theological basic education through distance learning, and has completed numerous ecclesiastic continuing education courses. For more information contact Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Public Witness, at email@example.com .
— In recent news from Nigeria, the town of Garkida has suffered a major attack by the Boko Haram insurgents. Garkida was the place where Church of the Brethren mission began in Nigeria, when mission founders H. Stover Kulp and Albert D. Helser settled there in March 1923 with assistance from three Nigerian men: Garba from Zaria, John from the Igbo tribe in the southeast, and translator Mr. Danboyi of the Pabir people. For more than 50 years Garkida served as the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria and in addition to churches was the location of a hospital and a world-renowned leprosarium, and schools including a mechanics school. Staff liaison Markus Gamache of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) reports by e-mail that the town is not under Boko Haram control although the situation is unclear. Some people who fled Garkida have taken refuge in central Nigeria, he reports, but others are still in hiding in the area. He writes, in part: “Garkida was attacked and most people run away. Many were also killed. As I am writing this mail there is no BH in town of Garkida based on some report but people are afraid to go back…. There is confusion always when it comes to BH attack. We are not sure of any continuity in Garkida at the moment. Places like Hong and Gombi are said to be reclaimed back only few agreed to go back. Mubi recapture is not very clear yet. Most of the information are not showing the true picture of safety…. Thanks a lot for all your prayers and concern.”
— “We express our disappointment with the international community that with over 11,000 persons killed and over one million displaced, the international community has refused to notice the pogrom on northern Nigerian Christians. Rather they have shifted their attention and resources only to Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Afghanistan, as if those killed in Nigeria are not human beings,” said a statement coming out of a meeting of Christians in northern Nigeria, hosted in the city of Jos by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). “This Day” newspaper reported on the meeting along with a statement from a former Commonwealth Secretary-General in Nigeria who spoke about the need for all religions to treat one another with mutual respect. The statement from the Christian gathering came out of a meeting of some 2,000 people displaced from northern Nigerian states. Speakers at that meeting included the chair of the Christian Association of Nigeria North Central Zone Youth wing. He quoted the following figures regarding Nigerian Christians affected by the insurgent violence: more than 11,000 Christians killed including 8,000 members of EYN; over 700,000 members of EYN, mostly women and children, displaced among 1.56 million Nigerians displaced. “The Christian body therefore called on the United Nations to intervene and declare the North-eastern Nigeria its territory without further delay and send in peacekeeping troops to secure the lives of the remaining traumatised people,” the article concluded. Read the full article, dated Nov. 19, at www.thisdaylive.com/articles/power-sharing-religious-extremism-responsible-for-boko-haram-says-anyaoku/194494 .
— A ruling has been issued by the Indiana Court of Appeals in a dispute over a church property in Roann, Ind. “We received word on Nov. 17 that the Indiana Court of Appeals issued their opinion, rejecting our arguments on appeal with regard to the dispute with the Walk By Faith Community Church in Roann,” said an update from Beth Sollenberger, district executive minister of South Central Indiana District, in the December issue of the district newsletter. “I believe it is important to remember that the purpose of the appeal had far more to do with understanding our polity than with regaining the property,” she wrote. “As we all know, polity is generally most called upon in times of disagreement–this round of court appeal was primarily to discern whether or not our polity would stand up in a court process. In this instance, polity did not prevail. Our experience will be valuable as we work together to discern what makes useful polity for us as a denomination. Please keep the Roann Church of the Brethren in your prayers as we continue forward in faith.”
— Western Plains District has issued a “Save the Dates” notice of an upcoming leadership training evening in Great Bend, Kan. The event on Feb. 9-10, 2015, will feature leadership from Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.
— Among the notable actions taken at the 2014 district conference in Shenandoah District was the receiving of an offering of more then $4,500 to aid emergency relief efforts in Nigeria, according to the district newsletter. The offering will go toward the matching challenge issued by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, so that amount will be matched to “boost the response to more than $9,000,” the newsletter noted.
— The Living Gift Market held at Timbercrest, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in North Manchester, Ind., on Nov. 15 “raised a whopping $22,000 for Heifer International!” reports South Central Indiana District. “Thanks to all those who participated.”
— The 2014 Heifer Global Village season at Shepherd’s Spring camp and outdoor ministry center near Sharpsburg, Md., “saw over 1,000 participants come from all over the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic United States to discover a little bit more about what life might be like for those less fortunate living in the US and around the world,” said a report in the Mid-Atlantic District newsletter. “We gladly welcomed the new addition of Alpacas to our livestock crew, which serve as valuable teachers in explaining Heifer International’s goal to end hunger and poverty through the gift of livestock.” For more information about the Heifer Global Village go to www.shepherdsspring.org/heifer.php .
— An Advent/Christmas Spiritual Disciplines folder on the theme “Proclaim: For There Is Born to You a Savior Who is Christ the Lord” is available from the Springs of Living Water church renewal initiative, suitable for individual and congregational use. The folder is available on the Springs website under the “Springs” button. Using Sunday and daily lectionary texts, the folder follows the Brethren Press bulletin series. “A suggested prayer pattern has a Lectio reading of scripture along with use of a devotional guide which tells of others living the faith,” said an announcement from Springs leader David Young. “On the insert, persons can select the next spiritual discipline to which they feel God is inviting them during this Advent/Christmas season.” Young reports the creativity of congregations in using the folders is spreading. In one example from Kansas, churches will be using the folders with their congregations, pastors will write a daily devotional guide following the lectionary, and donations for the use of the devotional will be sent to the migrant ministries at Garden City, Kan. As an extension of the Uniontown Church of the Brethren, pastored by Vince Cable who has written study questions for the folders, copies continue to be sent to the Fayette County prison south of Pittsburgh, Pa. Find the current folder at www.churchrenewalservant.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Two key ecumenical organizations in which the Church of the Brethren participates–the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS)–celebrate President Obama’s “Immigrant Accountability Executive Action,” according to press releases. “The National Council of Churches welcomes President Obama’s announcement of new steps on immigration,” said the NCC release. “The President’s proposals will make life better for millions of immigrants who are exploited and live in fear of deportation. Still, less than half of the undocumented immigrants living in the US will benefit from the changes announced by the President.” The NCC has long stood for the rights of immigrants, the release notes, citing NCC statements from 1952, when the organization stated its concern for displaced people in the aftermath of World War II, along with subsequent statements on immigration made in 1962, 1981, 2008, and most recently 2010 when the NCC called for action on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. CWS “welcomes President Obama’s decision to offer millions of US undocumented community members the opportunity to apply for temporary relief from deportation,” said a release from that church-based humanitarian organization. “Our immigration system has been broken for far too long,” said CWS president and CEO John L. McCullough in the CWS release. “The president has the full constitutional authority, and a moral obligation to keep families together and stop needless deportations. We applaud his historic leadership and we urge all members of Congress to support the implementation of this executive action. We celebrate alongside millions of our immigrant brothers and sisters who will be able to shed the fear of deportation and live anew. But we also remember the millions who are still in need of relief. As people of faith, we believe in the dignity of all people, in the unity of all families, and in the power of redemption, and that the implementation of this executive action should reflect those values.” Read the full CWS release at www.cwsglobal.org/newsroom/news-releases/cws-celebrates-president-obamas-action.html .
— The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) issued a statement today about the outcome of the grand jury case in Ferguson, Mo., and included a collection of statements from a wide variety of partner groups and ecumenical and interfaith organizations. “Our shared work to end torture in US policy, practice, and culture is rooted in the reality that our religious traditions teach us that we belong to one another in community,” NRCAT said. “When and where human rights and human dignity are violated, where systemic violence, racism, and brutality are met with impunity, whether on our streets or in our prisons and places of confinement, we must stand together and work boldly for justice.” The list of statements from other groups included:
American Friends Service Committee “MO grand jury shows impact of systemic racism” http://afsc.org/story/mo-grand-jury-shows-impact-systemic-racism
Central Reform Congregation “Letter From Missouri: Why I Stand With the Ferguson Protestors” http://zeek.forward.com/articles/118430
Methodist Federation for Social Action “Press Release: United Methodist Justice-Seekers: Ferguson Cannot Be an End to Conversation of Power and Privilege in the Church” http://mfsaweb.org/?p=8381
National Council of Churches “National Council of Churches statement on the grand jury action in Ferguson, MO” www.nationalcouncilofchurches.us/news/2014-11fergusonnoindictment.php
Presbyterian Church (USA) “PC(USA) Stated Clerk responds to Ferguson grand jury decision” www.pcusa.org/news/2014/11/24/pcusa-stated-clerk-responds-ferguson-grand-jury
Reconciling Ministries Network “Practicing Biblical Obedience in a racist nation” www.rmnblog.org/2014/11/fergusondecision.html
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference “Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference Response to the Refusal to Prosecute Darren Wilson for Killing Michael Brown, Jr.” http://sdpconference.info/samuel-dewitt-proctor-conference-response-to-the-refusal-to-prosecute-darren-wilson-for-killing-michael-brown-jr
Sojourners “A Sad Night for America” http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/11/25/sad-night-america
T’ruah The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights “T’ruah responds to the Michael Brown grand jury verdict” http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5149/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1313485
Union for Reform Judaism and Central Conference of American Rabbis “Reform Movement Responds to Ferguson Grand Jury Decision” http://rac.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=23647&pge_prg_id=18080&pge_id=2541
United Church of Christ: “After Ferguson decision, Geoffrey Black calls for courage in the struggle for justice and peace” www.ucc.org/news/ferguson-grand-jury-11242014.html .
For an updated list of statements and other resources, visit the NRCAT website at www.tortureisamoralissue.org .