Brethren Bits for Sept. 16, 2014

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) held a volunteer and project manager trainings last weekend in Honolulu. “We were able to get an all new Rapid Response task force/steering committee set up, with representation from each island, as well as a plan for moving forward,” wrote CDS associate director Kathy Fry Miller, in a Facebook post about the trainings held in Hawaii. “Mahalo and thank you to all the new and returning volunteers,” she added, “to Maria Lutz and Angela Woolliams (American Red Cross) for all the wonderful arrangements, Candy Iha (American Red Cross volunteer) for putting together eight Kits of Comfort which will be housed on each island, our training host Darrell McCain (Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention and VOAD), Judy Braune (CDS volunteer and co-trainer), as well as partners Michael Kern (FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison) and Marsha Tamura (Citizen Corps Volunteer Coordinator, State of Hawaii Civil Defense Division). What a great experience!” For more about Children’s Disaster Services, which is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Disaster Ministries, go to www.brethren.org/cds .

— Brian Gumm is beginning a new role in Northern Plains District, where he will serve as minister of communications and leadership development. The former communications intern for the district, Jess Hoffert, gave “three years of faithful service” to the district, said the district newsletter announcement. Lois Grove also has concluded her work in leadership development for the district, the announcement said. Gumm was ordained to the ministry in March and is a 2012 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University’s Seminary and Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. He and his family live in Toledo, Iowa, where he also works as an online education design specialist for Eastern Mennonite University.

— This Sunday, Sept. 21, is the suggested date for the Church of the Brethren Mission Offering Emphasis. A reminder from the Global Mission and Service office notes that the offering is a day for congregations to focus offerings on supporting international mission partners “and encourage generous giving to the work of the Brethren in the world–be it theological training in Haiti and Spain, agricultural development in North Korea, or caring for the needs of the displaced amidst the horrible violence in Nigeria.” Worship resources relating to the offering theme, developed by stewardship staff, are available at www.brethren.org/missionoffering .

— Bethany Theological Seminary is inviting congregations to join in celebrating Bethany Sunday. Worship materials for congregational participation are available at www.bethanyseminary.edu/resources/BethanySunday . One opportunity to observe Bethany Sunday is by joining Living Stream Church of the Brethren, the first online Brethren congregation, which will broadcast Bethany Sunday worship with leadership from seminary president Jeff Carter and current students on Sunday, Sept. 21, starting at 5 p.m. (Pacific time, 8 p.m. eastern). Visit www.livingstreamcob.org for information about logging in to the service.

— September is National Preparedness Month, and a free one-hour webinar is offered by Church World Service (CWS) on Tuesday, Sept. 23, from 2-3 p.m. (Eastern time) to help equip a congregation or organization with practical ways to prepare for disaster and get ready to help a community recover. An announcement says, “Don’t miss this special opportunity to learn from the co-editors of the valuable new how-to guide, ‘Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations.’” For more information and registration, go to www.cwsglobal.org/newsroom/news-features/when-disaster-strikes.html .

— Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has donated $17,000 to the EYN Compassion Fund, responding to the needs of Nigerian Brethren affected by insurgent violence. The congregation has announced its commitment to raise a total of $50,000 for the fund, according to the Global Mission and Service office. The Lititz Church is just one of the congregations across the Church of the Brethren that have held fundraisers and donation drives to aid the Nigerian church and its people, following an Annual Conference resolution stating support of the American church for the Nigerian Brethren.

Photo courtesy of Linda Williams
Children at an Islamic Center help raise funds for victims of violence in Nigeria

— Members of First Church of the Brethren in San Diego, Calif., have a new partner in the Islamic Center of San Diego, which has joined in efforts to offer support and comfort to those suffering from violence in Nigeria. Linda Williams of First Church in San Diego reports that the Islamic Center has been raising funds to support the Nigerian Brethren and other victims of the violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram insurgent group, through the sale of Eucalyptus Stoneware ceramic baskets, handmade in America. Lallia Allali is coordinating the fundraising effort, with $500 raised to date and efforts ongoing. The intent is to reach out to the Christian victims of Boko Haram violence in Nigeria, said Williams. Allali is a graduate student at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and leads a Muslim Girl Scout Troop which meets at the mosque, where her husband is imam. Members and children at the mosque also have written notes of compassion to be sent to the Nigerian Brethren, Williams reports. An Oct. 15 interfaith event is being planned in San Diego under the banner, “Standing Together in Peace,” which Williams notes will be an opportunity “to celebrate our Muslim sisters’ and brothers’ generosity during the Interfaith Sharing portion of that event.”

— Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., is hosting a Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) volunteer training workshop this weekend, Sept. 19-20. CDS is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren and part of Brethren Disaster Ministries, and provides care for families and children affected by disasters in cooperation with the American Red Cross and FEMA. The volunteer workshop will train prospective volunteers, who may then apply for certification to serve with CDS. The workshop takes place 5 p.m. Friday through 7:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information contact Susan Finney at 260-901-0063 or go to www.ChildrenDisasterServices.org .

— Peoria (Ill.) Church of the Brethren in conjunction with the neighborhood Hines School has assembled more than 510 “Snack Pacs” for children in kindergarten through fourth grade. “As the new school year gets underway hundreds of students face the weekend and holidays without enough to eat,” noted the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter article about the effort. The snacks are distributed at the school on Friday afternoons. Last school year the church assembled 2,214 “Snack Pacs” with 8,856 nutritious snacks to feed 550-plus gradeschool children. The school allows the inclusion of a written note in the packs telling the students “Each snack pack is assembled with love and care for you,” as well as the church name and invitations to church events like Bible school, picnics, and movies. The program is made possible with a grant from the “Missions and Motor” fund of the district.

Photo by Larry Ditmars
General secretary Stan Noffsinger (left) was the featured speaker at Antelope Park Church of the Brethren’s 125th anniversary. The celebration took place this past weekend in Lincoln, Neb.

— Four Church of the Brethren districts are holding their annual district conferences this weekend, Sept. 19-20. The Northern Indiana District will meet at Goshen City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. The Missouri and Arkansas District Conference will be held at Windermere Conference Center in Roach, Mo. Southern Pennsylvania District holds its conference at Codorus Church of the Brethren in Dallastown, Pa. West Marva District will be meeting at Moorefield (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren.

— Northern Plains District is offering two ways to continue “the district responses to the horror in Nigeria,” according to the district newsletter. A Prayer Event for Nigeria will be held on Monday, Sept. 22 at Panora Church of the Brethren in Iowa, at 2 p.m. “Those who are unable to come to Panora on September 22 are encouraged to post their prayers for Nigeria on the Northern Plains District Facebook page www.facebook.com/NorthernPlainsCoB ,” said the announcement. “You may also email your prayers to pastors Barbara Wise Lewczak ( bwlewczak@minburncomm.net ) or Dave Kerkove ( davekerkove@gmail.com ) and they will post them on the Northern Plains District Facebook page.” Also, Fairview Church of the Brethren is extending the denominational week of prayer and fasting for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) by praying and fasting on the 17th of each month. “You are invited to join them,” said the district announcement.

— Southern Ohio District is holding an Adult Bible School on Sept. 29-Oct. 3, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Salem Church of the Brethren. “Do you remember attending Vacation Bible School as a child?” said an announcement. “The games, the music, the crafts, the food, the fellowship? …Games! Music! Classes! (cooking, bells, painting, etc)! and much more! Lunch is included. Bring a friend or two.” Contact the Salem Church office at 937-836-6145 .

— The Brethren Disaster Relief Auction at the Lebanon (Pa.) Valley Expo Center is scheduled for Sept. 26-27. Events and activities include a Main Hall Auction, sales of arts and crafts and coins, a Farmers Market, a Heifer Auction, a Pole Barn Auction, sales of quilts, Share a Meal, theme baskets, and Amish-made pretzels and donuts among the baked goods and other food that will be available. Children’s activities will include balloon twisting, barrel train rides, pony rides, a children’s store, and a children’s auction. New and free for children this year is the Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary which will present a show on Friday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. in the tent, said an announcement.

— “Thank you for your continued support,” said the Middle Pennsylvania District newsletter, reporting that approximately $10,000 was raised for the district ministries and Camp Blue Diamond by the Brethren Open Golf Tournament on Aug. 12 at Iron Masters Golf Course near Roaring Spring, Pa. “Despite some rain showers, 94 golfers enjoyed 18 holes of golf followed by a meal at Albright Church of the Brethren Fellowship Hall served and donated by Ann’s TDR Catering.”

— “The Book of Job and Brethren Tradition” is a continuing education event on Nov. 5 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College co-sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the college Department of Religious Studies. Scheduled from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Susquehanna Room. Cost is $60 (includes breakfast, lunch and 0.6 CEU) Registration deadline: October 22, 2014. For more details or to register go to www.etown.edu/programs/svmc/files .

— Shenandoah District’s Pastoral Support Team is hosting a Pastor’s Appreciation Dinner on Oct. 2 at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren. The event includes hors d’oeuvres and a full-course candlelight dinner with a dessert table, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries for the Church of the Brethren is the featured presenter. Free child care is provided. “Congregations, are you looking for another way to show your gratitude to your pastor during Pastor Appreciation Month in October? You can encourage her or him to attend the Pastor’s Appreciation Dinner…. Maybe even pick up the tab for both pastor and spouse!” said an announcement in the district newsletter.

— “Can you help at outdoor school?” asks Brethren Woods, a camp and outdoor ministry center in Shenandoah District. “Here at Brethren Woods we are excited that outdoor school is starting again! This year we are again in need of volunteers. We would love for you to consider helping us out a few dates this fall,” said the invitation in the district newsletter. Brethren Woods is welcoming nine elementary school groups on 12 dates in mid-September through October, in the scheduled published so far. Pieter Tramper is the outdoor school coordinator. Contact him at adventure@brethrenwoods.org or 540-269-2741.

— In more news from Brethren Woods, its newest facility, Pine Grove, will be dedicated on Sunday, Sept. 28, at 2:30 p.m. A time of worship will be led by Shenandoah District executive minister John Jantzi followed by fellowship and refreshments. RSVP by Sept. 23 to the camp office at 540-269-2741 or camp@brethrenwoods.org .

— A five-star rating has been attained by Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md. This is the “best possible” rating from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, notes a release from the community. “Our dedicated staff worked diligently to regain our 5-star rating,” said president and CEO Keith Bryan in the release. “This reveals the type of associates we have serving our residents and demonstrates their insistence on providing quality care.” Each nursing home in the nation receives an overall rating of from one to five stars, with five indicating the facility is considered “much above average” in quality of its services, according to the release. “The overall rating is based on a combination of three others for each home: health inspection findings, data on nurse-staffing hours and quality measures.  In these categories, Fahrney-Keedy received 3, 4, and 5 stars, respectively.” Find out more about the rating system at www.medicare.gov/NHCompare .

— Bridgewater (Va.) College is hosting a presentation by Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis who was one of the 20 children shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. She will speak on Thursday, Sept. 18, at 7:30 p.m., in Cole Hall. She has written a book, “Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness,” telling the story of her son’s life and the hardships she has faced since losing him when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot the 20 children and six adult staff members of the school. She also has founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation that collaborates with professional educators to bring lasting meaning to Jesse’s death through the development of school-based educational programs. The presentation at Bridgewater is sponsored by the Harry W. and Ina Mason Shank Peace Studies Endowment, and is free and open to the public.

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College is offering a Diversity Film Series beginning Sept. 22. All films are free and are shown at 7 p.m. in Gibble Auditorium. Following each film is a discussion led by a member of the faculty. The first film, “Promised Land,” is directed by Gus Van Sant and stars Matt Damon and Hal Holbrook, the story of hydraulic fracturing and two corporate salespeople who visit a rural town in an attempt to buy drilling rights from residents. It will be shown Monday, Sept. 22, as part of the college’s Social Justice Week. “Pink Ribbons Inc.” is shown on Monday, Oct. 20, as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Week, based on the 2006 book “Pink Ribbons Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy” by Samantha King. The final film for the fall semester is “Black Robe,” shown on Monday, Nov. 17, as part of National Native American Heritage Month. It is adapted from a novel of the same name by Irish Canadian author Brian Moore, telling the story of the first contacts between the Huron Indians of Quebec and the Jesuit missionaries from France.

— In October, “Brethren Voices” community television program from Portland’s Peace Church of the Brethren features National Youth Conference 2014. Three youth who attended NYC–Addison, Saylor, and Alayana Neher–are interviewed and joined by their mother Marci Neher, who served as a chaperone. The program also features excerpts from the “National Youth Conference 2014 Wrap-up Video” produced by David Sollenberger. In November, “Brethren Voices” will feature the Meat Canning Project of Southern Pennsylvania and Atlantic Northeast Districts, which canned 24,000 cans of chicken in April for distribution to community food banks as well as a project in Honduras. “Brethren Voices” is viewed in approximately 25 community access stations around the country, reports producer Ed Groff. Contact Groffprod1@msn.com to ask how it can be broadcast in your community. Many of the programs also may be viewed online at www.YouTube.com/BrethrenVoices .

— The Heeding God’s Call initiative against gun violence in America’s cities is creating videos about its work, and making them available on YouTube. Heeding God’s Call got its start at a meeting of the Historic Peace Churches, including the Church of the Brethren, in Philadelphia some years ago, and since then has grown to include a number of chapters in various cities. Watch their first video at www.youtube.com/channel/UCKAzT8utcOXq71Sa2_1IHTw . As part of this effort, the organizers are asking for video clips of witnesses held at murder sites, from supporters. “Our diligent and committed videographer is hard at work creating a short video all about our work combating gun violence,” said an announcement “He has put together almost all of the footage he needs, but he needs your help! If you have footage you have taken at one of our Murder Site Witnesses, and would be willing to send it to him, it would be a huge help in his efforts to complete the video.” Contact films4good@gmail.com or 215-601-1138.

—  The National Council of Churches (NCC) is among 14 religious groups calling on the Federal Communication Commission to assure free and open access to the Internet. “Net neutrality” is essential for NCC member communions and partners to “freely convey their faith messages to their parishioners and the public,” said a release from the NCC. “For us, this is as much an evangelical issue as a justice issue,” said Jim Winkler, NCC president and general secretary. “The Internet must be equally available to all religious groups and advocates of justice to proclaim their faith, promote their programs, and teach their messages.” Smaller Internet service providers have become concerned that web giants including Comcast and Verizon have the means of curtailing access. The message from religious groups to the FCC said, “Communication is an essential element of religious freedom and freedom of conscience: we fear the day might come when people of faith and conscience, and the institutions representing them, would have no recourse if we were prevented from sharing a forceful message or a call to activism using the Internet.” The United Church of Christ Office of Communication Inc. spearheaded the effort.