“For now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12a).
1) Presidential inauguration highlights Bethany Seminary trustee meeting
2) Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust supports Church Alliance filing of Amicus Brief in clergy housing exclusion case
3) Global Food Crisis Fund to assist Fisherfolk’s Association in Philippines
4) Brethren Press offers summer curriculum
5) Water, Holy Water: Praising God on Earth Day
6) The history of International Cane Awareness Day in Vietnam
7) Brethren bits: Medical volunteers needed at Conference, project leaders needed by Brethren Disaster Ministries, continued prayer needed for Nigeria, plus the SVMC board meeting, May 1 deadline for NYC, 150th anniversary of John Kline’s death, and lots of news from churches, districts, colleges, and more
Quote of the week:
scarring your face
and a place
in the sun
–A poem by Kenneth I. Morse that appeared on the cover of the March 15, 1971, issue of the Church of the Brethren magazine “Messenger.”
1) Presidential inauguration highlights Bethany Seminary trustee meeting
By Jenny Williams
The inauguration of Jeff Carter as Bethany Theological Seminary’s tenth president was the central event of the seminary’s spring 2014 board of trustees meeting, held March 27-30 at the seminary campus in Richmond, Ind. (The link to view the inauguration online is at www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts .)
In addition to several action items and reports from departmental committees, the board also devoted time to discussing issues presented by each committee pertaining to the operation of a seminary like Bethany in today’s social and cultural climate.
On the morning of Saturday, March 29, nearly 170 people attended the presidential inauguration service in Nicarry Chapel. The theme chosen by Carter was “Can I Get a Witness?” a reference to 1 John 1:1-2: “The Word that gives life was from the beginning, and this is the one our message is about…. The one who gives life appeared! We saw it happen, and we are witnesses to what we have seen.” Guest speaker Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, spoke to this theme with an address entitled “Faithful Witness: Engaging the Senses.”
Long is widely known and respected in the field of homiletics, having also taught preaching at Princeton, Columbia, and Erskine Seminaries. The author of numerous books and articles on preaching and worship as well as biblical commentaries, he has served as senior homiletics editor of “The New Interpreter’s Bible” and is an editor-at-large for “Christian Century.”
A number within the Bethany community took part in the service, offering prayers, instrumental and vocal music, scripture reading, and introductions. Dan Ulrich, Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies, presented a “Witness of Bethany Theological Seminary” incorporating both historical and philosophical perspectives. Board chair Lynn Myers led the commissioning of the president and was joined by trustee, student, and faculty representatives in the laying on of hands. The gathering also heard statements from representatives of the Church of the Brethren, Manchester University, and the neighboring Earlham School of Religion.
Those gathered for the event attended a celebratory lunch following the service, and members of the Bethany community joined the board for an inaugural dinner that evening.
Board activity and actions
Carter opened the board’s general session with an overview of objectives to help Bethany meet current challenges. Emphasizing the value of what Bethany has to offer, he focused on continued strengthening of recruitment and retention strategies, balancing the needs of residential and Connections students, and increasing the accessibility of the seminary’s programs. The board also viewed comparative data from peer schools of similar size and programming, including enrollment and acceptance rates, student body demographics, faculty, cost of education, giving, and investments.
To help the board engage in current issues specific to each area of the seminary, questions for discussion were brought by the committees for Academic Affairs, Institutional Advancement, and Student and Business Affairs: What can Bethany do to prepare people for bivocational ministry? How do we communicate the concept of stewardship and habitual giving to younger generations? How can we use current resources to further our mission without hurting long-term strategy? Common discussion themes were the importance of building relationships, whether with new educational partners or millennial donors, and of creative and thoughtful planning.
Two faculty appointed to endowed chairs
Among the board’s action items was the opportunity to recognize the contributions and achievements of longtime faculty members with new appointments to endowed chairs.
Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, in her 16th year at Bethany, was named the Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship. The Alvin V. Brightbill Endowed Chair of Ministry Studies was established by Bill and Miriam Cable in 1982 to honor the 45-year tenure of Alvin Brightbill in teaching church music and speech.
Scott Holland, in his 15th year at Bethany, was named the Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture. Established in 1985 by Bethany alumnus and longtime Brethren pastor Foster Myers, the Warren W. Slabaugh Endowed Chair of Theological Studies honors a “master teacher” who taught at Bethany for 40 years before serving as interim president in 1952-53.
Budget, graduates, officers, committee chairs approved
In addressing items that appear on each spring’s agenda, the board approved the list of potential graduates for the current year, providing all academic requirements are met.
The board approved officers and committee chairs for the 2014-15 academic year: Lynn Myers, chair; David Witkovsky, vice chair; Marty Farahat, secretary; Jonathan Frye, chair of the Academic Affairs Committee; Miller Davis, chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee; Greg Geisert, chair of the Student and Business Affairs Committee and the Audit Committee; and Paul Brubaker, chair of the Investment Committee.
The board approved the seminary’s budget for the coming academic year. The 2014-15 budget is $2,649,240, a negligible increase from the previous year. Following discussion of current endowment policy and the seminary’s financial position, the board suspended the stabilization fund policy for the coming academic year, requesting Bethany’s administration to recommend revisions. The policy was established to help ensure financial security in the leaner years during relocation to Richmond.
A revision of the articles of organization of the Brethren Journal Association also was approved.
Departmental reports and activities
The Academic Affairs Committee reported that with the resignation of Malinda Berry, assistant professor of theological studies and director of the MA program, these roles within the faculty will be reviewed before a new search is begun by the end of 2014. Berry noted that current MA students are pursuing a variety of topics for study, with equal numbers choosing the traditional thesis option and the new portfolio option. The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership introduced Carrie Eikler as the new coordinator of TRIM and EFSM and continued to highlight the success of SeBAH-COB, the Spanish-language ministry training program in cooperation with the Mennonite Church. The board also heard from visiting staff member Donna Rhodes, director of the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, regarding changes in personnel and class formats and Bethany faculty involvement in teaching. The center has a goal of making its partnership with Bethany and Elizabethtown (Pa.) College more explicit to constituents.
The Institutional Advancement Committee noted that with the four-year Reimagining Ministries campaign drawing to close this June, while the initial dollar goal has been reached more work is needed in building relationships with new donors. Conversations with individuals and groups around the denomination will continue for the next few months. Current giving numbers are positive, with the total of $2.25 million for calendar 2103 as the highest in the past eight years. Giving to date for fiscal 2013-14 is comparative with recent years and higher than a year ago due to a large grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. Month-to-month annual fund giving has kept pace with or exceeded amounts in recent years; however, the 2013-14 goal of $900,000 is higher as part of the Reimagining Ministries campaign. A new website design, coordinating with Bethany’s new admissions materials, has been in process during the current academic year. The board saw sample pages of the new look, which was expected to go live within the next month.
The Student and Business Affairs Committee focused on issues of balancing resources for current mission priorities–such as enrollment–with long-term financial viability. Brenda Reish, executive director of Student and Business Services and treasurer, gave an orientation to the seminary’s financial practices and goals and the breakdown of its assets. This included a historical overview of investment return and endowment draw and their relationship to the operating budget. Tracy Primozich, director of Admissions, and Amy Ritchie, director of Student Development, spoke to the importance of engaging with both prospective students and those in the Connections program. Calling out persons with gifts for ministry who can connect with the distinctives of a Bethany education falls to mentors and leaders in the church as well as to Bethany staff. Those who commit to follow this call as distance learners are at a higher risk for withdrawal without the benefit of community support and involvement.
The Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults task team reported on progress since its formation last year. Charged with developing the potential of the institute, it has reviewed programs, the plan for sustainability, staffing, and the advisory board structure. A three-year plan has been established to manage finances, maintain staffing, and develop additional activities or events. Advisory board terms and membership and a procedure for communication with the board of trustees have been formalized. The mission of the institute was clarified as helping church leaders minister to young people through educational programs that relate to Bethany’s mission–a purpose that differentiates it from other programs within the Church of the Brethren.
— Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.
2) Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust supports Church Alliance filing of Amicus Brief in clergy housing exclusion case
The Church Alliance–a coalition of the chief executive officers of 38 denominational benefit programs including Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT)–has filed an amicus curiae brief in the Seventh Circuit US Court of Appeals (Chicago) in the case challenging the constitutionality of the clergy housing exclusion under Section 107(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (Code).
BBT participates as a member organization of the Church Alliance, where BBT president Nevin Dulabaum serves as the Church of the Brethren representative. Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger and associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury have signed on in support of the brief on behalf of the denomination.
The case is Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., et al. v. Jacob Lew, et al. (FFRF v. Lew). The US government is appealing a decision by Judge Barbara Crabb, US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (November 2013), that Code §107(2) is unconstitutional.
Clergy housing exclusion
Code §107(2), commonly called “clergy housing exclusion” or “clergy housing allowance,” excludes from income taxation the cash compensation provided to “ministers of the gospel” (clergy) toward the cost of their housing. This section of the IRS code essentially excludes the value of clergy-owned housing from income taxation. It is related to Code §107(1), which excludes from a minister’s taxable income the value of church-provided housing (commonly called a parsonage, vicarage, or manse). The FFRF v. Lew appeal does not involve a challenge to Code §107(1).
Judge Crabb ruled that Code §107(2) is unconstitutional because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Under the Establishment Clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” Judge Crabb stayed the effect of her ruling until all appeals are exhausted. The government’s opening brief was filed on April 2.
The Church Alliance brief adds a perspective not duplicated in the government’s brief, focusing on the jurisprudential history of permitted legislative accommodations of religion. The brief argues that Code §107(2) is a constitutionally permitted accommodation of religion when viewed in the context of Code §107(1), the parsonage exclusion, and Code §119, which excludes employer-provided housing from employees’ incomes in numerous secular circumstances.
“The Church Alliance has a substantial interest in the validity of Code §107(2) because of the immediate impact on compensation and housing of active clergy in the benefit plans of its member denominations, and also because of the indirect impact on retirement benefits,” said Barbara Boigegrain, chair of the Church Alliance and chief executive of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church.
Religious organizations represented
The members of the Church Alliance stand with other religious organizations in their vested interest in the outcome of this litigation. The clergy housing exclusion is important to millions of active and retired clergy from the 38 Church Alliance-represented denominations including, in addition to the Church of the Brethren, the American Baptist Churches in the USA, Church of the Nazarene, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Brothers Services, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Joint Retirement Board for Conservative Judaism, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reform Pension Board, Southern Baptist Convention, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church, among others.
Numerous other churches, associations or conventions of churches, and other religious organizations with religious leaders eligible for the clergy housing exclusion under Code §107(2) are additional signers of the brief, supporting the filing of the Church Alliance’s brief and the positions advocated in it. They include the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Moravian Church, Rabbinical Assembly, Salvation Army, Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and Wisconsin Council of Churches, among others.
The Church Alliance first formed in 1975 as the “Church Alliance for Clarification of ERISA” to address the problems presented for established church plans by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The Church Alliance advocated for changes to the church plan definitions in ERISA and the Code. As a result of these efforts, Congress revised the definition of “church plan” in both ERISA and the Code when it passed the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (MPPAA) to make clear that a church plan can provide retirement and welfare benefits to employees of all church agencies. The Church Alliance continues to ensure that benefit-related legislative and regulatory initiatives fully address the unique nature of church plans.
— Much of this report was provided by M. Colette Nies, managing director of Communications for the United Methodist Church General Board of Pension and Health Benefits.
3) Global Food Crisis Fund to assist Fisherfolk’s Association in Philippines
A grant of $10,000 from the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) has been allocated for replacement of fishing equipment in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. The recipient of the grant is Barangay District 1 Fisherfolk’s Association of Babatngon, Leyte, the Philippines.
The grant is going to a community which was visited by Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service associate executive Roy Winter and Peter Barlow of Montezuma Church of the Brethren in Dayton, Va., during a recent assessment trip to the Philippines. Barlow worked with this community during his service with the Peace Corps.
The money will be used to acquire a new community fishing boat, for nets and materials to build cages destroyed during Typhoon Haiyan, and to purchase Milk Fish fingerlings that will be reared in the cages.
For more about the work of the fund go to www.brethren.org/gfcf .
4) Brethren Press offers summer curriculum
Brethren Press is offering a variety of curriculum for this summer, including the final quarter of Gather ’Round, the predecessor to the new Shine curriculum; A Guide for Biblical Studies on the topic “The People of God Set Priorities” written by Al Hansell; and a Vacation Bible School curriculum from MennoMedia focused on biblical hospitality, titled “Give and Receive God’s Great Love.”
Also new from Brethren Press: “Behind the Drama: The Old Testament You Missed,” a Covenant Bible Study by Eugene F. Roop.
To purchase any of these products from Brethren Press call 800-441-3712 or go to www.brethrenpress.com . A shipping and handling fee will be added to the listed price.
— “Behind the Drama: The Old Testament You Missed” is a Covenant Bible Study by Old Testament scholar and former Bethany Seminary president Eugene F. Roop. “Our reading of the Old Testament is colored by dramatic texts in which God acts in extraordinary ways, calling and saving God’s people through fire and flood,” explains a description of this new Bible study. “But too often we focus on these familiar stories alone and ignore the seemingly unimportant parts, or avoid altogether the hard parts we don’t understand. This study explores a few of these scriptures–some overlooked, some troubling–and shows how God works in and through everyday situations and conflicts to bring hope and faith to ordinary lives.” Covenant Bible Studies are relational Bible studies for small groups. Each contains 10 sessions that promote group interaction and open discussion about practical aspects of the Christian faith. “Behind the Drama” is available for $7.95 per copy, plus shipping and handling.
— Summer Gather ’Round: The final four-year cycle of Gather ’Round comes to a close this summer. “Stories of God’s People” is the summer theme for multiage (grades K-5), preschool (ages 3-4, with tips for 2s), and youth (grades 6-12). Lessons cover the weeks of June 1-Aug. 24. Stories focus on people around Jesus–Matthew, Mary, Martha, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, Peter, John–and leaders in the early church–Paul and Ananias, Barnabus, Philip and the Ethiopian, Lydia, Aquila, Priscilla. Call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 for pricing details.
— A Guide for Biblical Studies: “The People of God Set Priorities” is the summer theme of this Bible study for adults, written by Al Hansell. The quarter uses texts from Haggai and 1 and 2 Corinthians to study the people of God in community. The first unit focuses on the call to community through the rebuilding of the temple. The second and third units turn to the New Testament and look at the church at Corinth in order to learn how to build and maintain community among believers. The lessons give emphasis to prayer, forgiveness, love, cooperation, and sharing. Order for $4.25 per copy or $7.35 for large print.
— Vacation Bible School: “Give and Receive God’s Great Love” (MennoMedia) is the Vacation Bible School curriculum available from Brethren Press for this summer. It highlights Bible stories about God’s people who showed hospitality, inviting children to learn about God who welcomes each one of us. The curriculum is organized around five stories adaptable to a daily program, or a midweek or club plan. Stories are drawn from Genesis, 1 Samuel, Luke, and Acts. The curriculum offers worship resources, games, crafts, and a drama of each story. A starter kit may be purchased for $159.99.
For more information, go to www.brethrenpress.com .
5) Water, Holy Water: Praising God on Earth Day
By Bryan Hanger
April 22 is the day when the whole world pauses to celebrate the planet we call home. But for Christians there is a unique dimension to Earth Day, for creation cannot be spoken of without first remembering and praising the God who gave us this wonderful home.
It can be easy to forget the true miracle of creation, but before there was anything, God already had in mind the details of our world and how we humans would be the ones to inhabit and steward over it. What a wonderful vocation to be given! But the responsibilities of stewardship can sometimes get beyond us, and occasions like Earth Day give us time to pause and reflect upon the successes and failures of our attempted stewardship.
One of these failures has been our protection of the world’s water. As we continue to see the effects of environmental degradation, climate change, and pollution on our water we are reminded that we have not fully heeded God’s calling in scripture to be stewards of our water. Ezekiel reminds us of God’s admonition to care for our water so that all may enjoy it and be nourished: “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet?” (Ezekiel 34:18).
Water is sacred and vital to humanity’s existence, but how we consume and use water has an effect on how others access and enjoy it. Our actions and inaction connect us to one another. When we abuse or take for granted this gift of water we can inadvertently affect others’ ability to live and thrive.
Jesus understands how important water is, and that’s why he chooses it as a metaphor to explain how vital he is to our lives. When Jesus offers us living water, he very bluntly is telling us that we can’t survive and thrive without him.
But God not only offers us living water that will quench our spiritual thirst, God also blesses us with physical water to give us relief, help us grow, and nourish creation. The Psalmist reminds us of how God’s great gift of water sustains and nurtures creation’s development: “You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work” (Psalm 104:10-13).
We know that the Lord’s work is good, but what has been the fruit of our own work and stewardship? As we examine the effects of pollution, climate change, and other factors we see that more and more we have disrupted this beautiful cycle of life. We have been given the gift of water and have taken it for granted, used more than we needed, and distorted our relationship with creation. It is time for us to collectively realize this, repent, and begin anew as faithful stewards of God’s creation. The health and vitality of God’s creation depends on it.
This is the message that our friends at Creation Justice Ministries are raising up in their new publication “Water, Holy Water.” This publication has revealing stories from around the world, information about the state of our world’s water, prayers to use during worship, and other resources for your congregation to use. We join them in lifting up this important issue, and encourage you and your congregation to reflect on these issues. Download “Water, Holy Water” from www.creationjustice.org .
Also, don’t forget to check out the Climate Change Study Resource our office helped put together. We encourage you to study and reflect on it before this year’s Annual Conference when the official statement in response to the Climate Change query will be presented and voted on. The study resource is at www.brethren.org/peace/documents/climate-change-study-resource.pdf .
— Bryan Hanger is advocacy assistant at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness.
6) The history of International Cane Awareness Day in Vietnam
By Tran Thi Thanh Huong
The first event of International Cane Awareness Day in Vietnam occurred in October 2011, at Nguyen Dinh Chieu Blind School, Ho Chi Minh City. An overall theme was chosen for this event: “The white-tipped cane is an adaptive, functional cane used by blind persons, which alerts people to give priority to the person using the cane.”
This message was the dream of a blind teacher and trainer in Mobility and Orientation. His name was Le Dan Bach Viet, a well-known leader of the disability rights grassroots movement in Ho Chi Minh City. Bach Viet was the first in Vietnam to receive a master’s degree in Mobility and Training. He got his degree from Philadelphia’s School of Optometry in 2006. The Ford Foundation provided for the necessary scholarship funding to achieve this goal.
Sadly, Bach Viet died of cancer in February 2011. Due to the voice of Bach Viet’s spirit of advocacy, a group of resource experts and advocates work tirelessly in being focused on the needs of blind students, mobility, and orientation training.
At the moment, there is a scarcity of trained individual instructors throughout Vietnam. Bach Viet trained the students on orientation and mobility. Grace Mishler, Global Mission volunteer was one of the benefactors upon her arrival in Vietnam. This group of experts is helping to shape a future field of studies in Mobility and Orientation Training. The primary advocate is headmaster of a well-known blind school, Nguyen Quoc Phong. Tran Thi Thanh Huong, Saigon Times journalist, is in charge of media activities in promoting the need of cane awareness in Vietnam. Within eight months after the death of Bach Viet, they were able to organize a first-time event in Vietnam from an idea suggested by Bach Viet before he died: our own International Cane Awareness Day.
2011 International Cane Awareness Day
Over 200 participants gathered in October at Nguyen Dinh Chieu Blind School, Ho Chi Minh City, where Bach Viet was a teacher, instructor, and trainer in Mobility and Orientation. Participants included blind students of special high schools like Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, Thien An School, Nhat Hong Center, Huynh De Nhu Nghia Shelter, and National College of Education 3, along with many individuals, teachers, people with disabilities, NGOs, and volunteers.
This event held a press conference in which journalists asked questions to experts and blind people about the conditions and difficulties in mobility of blind people. Participants and blind students then marched with their white-tipped canes on the streets around Nguyen Dinh Chieu School. That image attracted special attention of the press, and was reported and broadcast on many prestigious national newspapers and television channels. The slogan of the event was, “Please give priority to the persons with white canes.”
2012 International Cane Awareness Day
In 2012, the location changed to National Vietnam University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City. It was initiated by social work students in relationship to the Faculty of Social Work. The message conveyed by the planning committee was, “Blindness is not from the eyes, but from the look.” This slogan was inspired by a saying of a blind student: “I don’t wish that I can see because it is impossible. I only wish that I am seen in people’s eyes.”
This message was to remind the community and society to recognize the existence and needs of blind people, including the needs for education, mobility, communication, assistance, and simply an effort to live a normal life. Through the talk and sharing between the students and blind persons, the students had a chance to understand more about blind people’s needs for communication and education. The event ended with marching collectively together with white canes.
2013 International Cane Awareness Day
The location of the event remained at National Vietnam University of Social Sciences and Humanities. The message or theme of this year was to “Walk happily and independently.” This message was chosen so that with mobility and orientation training, blind students can have more confidence in their navigation with helpful assistance like the cane and peer helpers. A banner of the event read, “Walk happily with the white cane.”
This year there was a shift that occurred prior to the event. Social Work students, volunteers, and blind students practiced for hours over a course of one month in presenting a “flash mob” dance with the cane in which, the blind students were able to perform a complex motion of hands, canes, and feet from a traditional Vietnamese country song. Additionally, blind students engaged in a talk show, a Braille game show, and a contest in naming a piece of music.
The sighted and blind students danced together with the canes in a Vietnamese traditional song. What came out of this momentous event was mutually benefitting. Blind students were empowered and felt like equal participants and took leadership, while social work students learned better understanding of the life of a blind student. It gave everyone confidence to mobilize community events through a team work approach. The primary benefactors of this event were Nhat Hong and Thien An Blind Schools who together have 17 blind students attending university.
The students said that they were very impressed and touched by the inner strength to overcome difficulties and the optimistic spirit of the blind students. Since the blind students this year had time to prepare and practice in advance before the Cane Awareness Day, they were not just passive participants, but rather active, excited, and equally contributing. In other words, they were not just guests but they were given empowerment, as being the hosts to present their life experience with a voice of confidence and ability.
The media was also pretty successful in delivering the message. Many images about the life of blind people, their independence, and confidence in life, were uploaded into websites and recognized, well-known newspapers.
Blind people in Vietnam still have many messages needing to be delivered to the society, so that they can have a better and more independent life.
These past three years can be summarized:
1. It takes a collective teamwork effort in the spirit of volunteerism to keep this yearly public service educational event happening.
2. The hope of being based at the university follows the dream of Bach Viet and ongoing advocates that the university will be an anchor in training much needed degrees in Mobility and Orientation and Low Vision Rehabilitation.
You can see more about the Cane Awareness Day in Vietnam at www.facebook.com/ngay.caygaytrang?fref=ts&ref=br_tf .
— Tran Thi Thanh Huong is a Saigon Times News journalist. Grace Mishler, whose work in Vietnam is supported by the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service office, helped review this report for Newsline. It was translated by Nguyen Vu Cat Tien. Photos were taken by Tran Thi Thanh Huong, Grace Mishler, Pham Do Nam, Pham Dung (Nguoi Lao Dong Newspaper).
7) Brethren bits
— The Annual Conference First Aid Room is looking for trained medical personnel who are planning to attend the Conference this July in Columbus, Ohio, who are willing to volunteer for a few hours. If you are an RN, LPN, MD, DO, or EMT and could serve at least a few hours, would you please contact Dr. Judy Royer at: email@example.com .
— Brethren Disaster Ministries is seeking new project leaders. A two-week training in August will give new leaders the tools needed to help manage the volunteer household, manage weekly volunteers, and support the construction projects. No specific skills are required, but some construction experience is very helpful. Project leaders stay on the work site for a month or more each year. Contact Jane Yount at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-451-4407.
— “Please pray for EYN,” said an e-mail from a leading member of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), after more than 200 girls attending a government secondary school in Chibok in northeastern Nigeria were kidnapped last Tuesday, April 15, by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The school was in Chibok, which is in the former Church of the Brethren Mission area in Nigeria, and the e-mail reported that most of the kidnapped girls are EYN members. “The media is not presenting true picture,” the e-mail added. Media reported incorrectly over the weekend that most of the girls had been rescued by the Nigerian military, a statement that was revealed to be incorrect in a Voice of America interview with the headmistress of the school. “Since the government decided to close down some schools in Bama, Maiduguri, and northern part of Adamawa State due to continued attacks on schools, southern Borno State became a save heaven for final year students,” reported another EYN staff member. “Chibok Government Girls Secondary School is an old school and has produced notable EYN members.”
— Jordan Run (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren in West Marva District will host an “Evening to Share About Bethany Seminary” on May 27 at 7 p.m. Ted Flory of Bridgewater, Va., will be the guest facilitator, and any interested persons are encouraged to attend, said the district newsletter. For additional information contact 304-749-8172.
— Two Praise Gatherings are planned this Spring in West Marva District. Each gathering will include a statement on the District Conference theme from moderator Steve Sauder, said the district newsletter. Adam and Katie Brenneman, Praise and Worship Leaders at Oak Park Church of the Brethren in Oakland, Md., will be among those leading worship at Living Stone Church of the Brethren in Cumberland, Md., on April 27 at 3 p.m. Music will be shared by the Bear Creek Church of the Brethren Choir as well as the Living Stone church’s Bluegrass Praise Band. The second gathering is to be at Shiloh Church of the Brethren near Kasson, W.Va., on May 25 at 3 p.m. An offering to support district ministries will be received at each event.
— Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a “Creative Church Workshop” on May 3, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., led by Dave Weiss of AMOK Arts. “How do you take the unchanging message of the Gospel to an ever-changing world? Very creatively!” said an announcement in the Atlantic Northeast District newsletter. The event is for pastors, church leaders, “and creatives of all disciplines.” Cost is $30 per person. For more information contact email@example.com .
— Gettysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is planning ahead for the fall with a Peace Witness Event titled “Peace, Pies, and Prophets” on Sept. 21, presented by Ted and Company. “You will be entertained by a hilarious and poignant satire that explores peace, justice, and the American way–starring Ted Swartz and Tim Ruebke,” said an announcement. “This thought-provoking show allows us to laugh at ourselves, while engaging us to think about how to work for peace and justice worldwide.” The show “I’d Like to Buy an Enemy” will be interspersed with a pie auction fundraiser. Homemade pies will be auctioned for the cause of peace. Admission is free, but opportunities will be given for freewill offerings.
— Western Pennsylvania District has designated April 27 as “Tithing Sunday” focusing on a text from Deuteronomy 16:16-17, “…Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord God has blessed you.” The district is providing a special bulletin insert that also includes other biblical references to giving and tithing, as well as quotes from famous people about giving and why we give. “Our tithe is our way of thanking God who gives so much to us,” said the document from the district Stewards and Finance Team.
— Atlantic Northeast District will hold its district conference on Oct. 4, with the theme “Building up the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-16). The district newsletter has announced sectional meetings in September that will commit the district conference to prayer: Sept. 9 at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, Sept. 17 at Parker Ford Church of the Brethren in Pottstown, Pa., and Sept. 18 at Hershey (Pa.) Spring Creek Church of the Brethren. The district conference will be voting on a sectional reorganization of the district, among other items of business, the newsletter said. Sherry Eshleman is moderator of the conference.
— Also in Atlantic Northeast District, several opportunities for senior adults are planned. The district is holding two Senior Adult Spring Banquets: April 24 a lunch and program at Hanoverdale (Pa.) Church of the Brethren features the Bollinger Family Music group (cost is $12.50); and May 7 a lunch and program at Indian Creek Church of the Brethren in Harleysville, Pa., features the Miracles Quintet (cost is $14). Three senior adult trips are planned for June and July: a bus coach trip to Cape Cod and area attractions June 16-19, $649; a bus coach trip to Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, July 2-6, $549; and a Pacific Northwest tour from Seattle to San Francisco including several national parks July 14-25, $4,598. Brochures with more information are available, contact 717-560-6488 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
— The 20th annual Family Fun Walk will be hosted by COBYS Family Services at Peter Becker Community in Harleysville, Pa., on May 4. Registration begins at 3:15 p.m., the walk at 4 p.m. The three-mile walk will be followed by ice cream and refreshments, and door prizes. Walkers donate or enlist sponsors to benefit COBYS ministries to children and families. For more information contact 800-452-6517 or email@example.com .
— Good Shepherd Workshops at Good Shepherd Home in Fostoria, Ohio, in April focus on the topics “Loving Well Through Difficult Times” on April 23, with refreshments at 6:30 p.m. and the workshop at 7-8 p.m. (this workshop is free and open to the public); and “Caring for the Caregivers” on April 24, starting with lunch at 12:30 p.m. and the workshop at 1-4:30 p.m.; and a second time on April 25, with continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and workshop at 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (cost is $20 to cover workshop, meal, and CEU credits). The presenter is Susan Parrish-Sprowl, Ph.D., LCSW, president of Parrish-Sprowl and Associates Inc. in Indianapolis. These workshops are sponsored in part by Northern Ohio District. Continuing education credit for either workshop is .325 for clergy through the Brethren Academy, 3.25 for nurses through the Ohio Nurses Association. Call the chaplain’s office at 419-937-1801 ext 207 with questions.
— Camp Swatara dedicates a Memorial Garden on May 18 at 3 p.m. Funds to establish the garden were given in memory of Grace Heisey, who with her husband Adam served as Family Camp managers, and in memory of Ron Mellinger, said the Atlantic Northeast District newsletter. People connected to the camp can request permission to use the garden for depositing ashes following cremation.
— Camp Galilee in West Marva District will host a Senior Citizen’s Camp on June 3. The morning events are led by David and Ann Fouts of Jordan Run Church of the Brethren, who will lead a discussion on opportunities to serve as volunteers and the choice to “wear out” and not “rust out.” A musical finale led by Jeannie Whitehair will follow lunch. A freewill offering will go toward repairs of a dam, as a local ministry. Register by May 27. Call the West Marva District Office at 301-334-9270.
— The John Kline Homestead is remembering John Kline’s life, 150 years later, with a special event on June 14-15. The homestead in Broadway, Va., will remember the Civil War-era Brethren leader and martyr for peace with a two-day event for all ages on the 150th anniversary of his death. The commemoration will include activities for children and youth, tours of the homestead and other historic sites, lectures by noted historians, worship, a closing memorial service, and a play written by Paul Roth, “Under the Shadow of the Almighty.” For more information contact 540-896-5001 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Jeffrey W. Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., will provide the 2014 commencement address at Bridgewater (Va.) College on May 17, at 10 a.m. The topic of his address is “A Lasting Impression,” said a release from the college. As many as 385 seniors are expected to receive degrees at the commencement exercises, which will take place on the campus mall. W. Steve Watson Jr., associate professor of philosophy and religion, emeritus, will deliver the message at the baccalaureate service on May 16, at 6 p.m., on the campus mall. He will speak on “Why a Liberal Arts Education in a Christian Context?” Watson was a member of the Bridgewater faculty and community for 43 years, retiring at the end of the 2013 academic year. His students also included Dr. Carter. For more information go to www.bridgewater.edu .
— Manchester University’s union has a new name: Jo Young Switzer Center. D. Randall Brown, chair of the Board of Trustees, announced the naming at an April 10 donor appreciation dinner that quickly turned to a celebration of the leadership of President Switzer, said a release from the college. President Switzer retires June 30. “At the dinner, Brown praised the president for contributing a legacy of strategic and mission-focused leadership that has transformed the university’s academic breadth, financial strength, enrollment, and visibility,” the release said. “During the Switzer tenure, Brown noted, the university has increased enrollment 25 percent, added a four-year Doctor of Pharmacy program on a new Fort Wayne campus, raised more than 95 percent toward a Students First! $100 million campaign, and dedicated several new learning facilities, including the union. Manchester also embraced a new name: University.” Switzer and her husband, professor Dave Switzer, also were recognized at the dinner as members of the Otho Winger Society–donors who have included the university in their estate plans. The $8 million Jo Young Switzer Center opened as the Union in 2007.
— Composer Shawn Kirchner, of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, will share his Middle Earth guide to daily creativity with his alma mater when he will be on the Manchester University campus in North Manchester, Ind., to give a lecture. Kirchner will talk about his unconventional process and perform his music on April 28 in the Jo Young Switzer Center. The free lecture begins at 7 p.m.; reservations are not necessary. “It’s about the ability to see big possibilities in small things,” he said in a release. “I call it a ‘Middle Earth’ schedule, because my day is divided into hobbit time, elf time, dwarf time, and human time,” he explained, referring to characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Kirchner is the Swan Family Composer in Residence for the Los Angeles Master Chorale. He provided vocals for box office hits “Avatar,” “The Lorax,” “Frozen,” and “X-Men First Class.” His choral compositions are performed throughout the United States and abroad in concert halls, churches, schools, and on radio, television, and YouTube. The release noted that he is best known for his arrangement of the Kenyan song “Wana Baraka.” More information is at shawnkirchner.com .
— Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., will dedicate its first single-room residence hall and the first new dormitory on campus since the 1970s, on April 25. A dedication ceremony will start with tours and refreshments at 4:15 p.m. at the building located off Cold Springs Road, said a release. The building is named Hilda Nathan Residence Hall in honor of Hilda Nathan, a longtime Juniata employee who worked in the treasurer’s office 1946-76. “Hilda throughout her time at the college became well known to students for her efforts to do all she could to help them pay for a Juniata education,” said Gabriel Welsch, vice president for advancement and marketing, in the release. “Hilda’s compassion for students is legendary among our alumni from the ’50s to the ’70s. She loaned students money, found scholarships, and helped them stay at Juniata when finances may otherwise have stood in the way of their earning their degrees.” The dedication ceremony itself will begin at 4:45 p.m. with several people bringing remarks including Juniata president James A. Troha, board of trustees chair Robert McDowell, chaplain David Witkovsky, president of student government Anshu Chawla and president-elect Kunal Atit, and Carly Wansing, project manager for Street Dixon Rick Architecture.
— In more news from Juniata, the college gained third place in an AVCA Top 15 Coaches Poll. In a release, Jennifer Jones, director of Sports Information, reported that “a couple days after earning their second consecutive Continental Volleyball Conference (CVC) championship, Juniata College men’s volleyball held onto its No. 3 national ranking, the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll announced.” To see the full coaches poll go to www.avca.org/divisions/men/3-poll-4-15-14 . Stay up-to-date on the Juniata College Eagles by logging onto www.juniatasports.net or following on Twitter @JuniataEagles .
— In his Easter reflections, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit called this year an “opportunity for shared testimony to the Resurrection” since churches from both eastern and western traditions of Christianity celebrated Easter on the same day, April 20. “It is something that ought to happen every year, for the sake of Christian unity and common witness in the world,” said Tveit, who invited the churches to “press on with greater determination in seeking a way forward to the recognition of a common date for this festival.” He also offered prayers for people everywhere, particularly mentioning Syria and the Middle East, Ukraine, South Sudan, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic. Read the Easter letter at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/messages-and-letters/easter-letter-2014 . The WCC has posted a FAQ document about the date of Easter at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-commissions/faith-and-order-commission/i-unity-the-church-and-its-mission/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-date-of-easter .
— In more news from the World Council of Churches, an international consultation on peace, reconciliation, and reunification of the Korean peninsula will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in June. The announcement was made April 9 by WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit at a press conference in Seoul, Republic of Korea. This follows on a statement on peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula adopted by the WCC Assembly in Busan last year, said a release. Those invited to the consultation will include representatives from the Korean Christian Federation in North Korea, South Korean churches, and other ecumenical partners committed to work for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. Find the WCC statement on Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/assembly/2013-busan/adopted-documents-statements/peace-and-reunification-of-the-korean-peninsula .
— Kristen Bair, former administrative secretary for Northern Ohio District, appeared in Ashland (Ohio) County Common Pleas Court yesterday for a sentencing hearing. She was convicted in February of embezzling $400,000 from the district. She received a six-month sentence in the Ashland County Jail for the crime of aggravated theft. The judge suspended two months of the sentence, making the length of her incarceration four months, after which she will serve five years probation, reported the district office in an e-mail yesterday. In addition she must receive counseling for her problems with handling money, serve 400 hours of community service, and pay $395,000 in restitution to the Northern Ohio District.
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include John Ballinger, Jeff Boshart, Chris Douglas, Nevin Dulabaum, Bryan Hanger, Mary Kay Heatwole, Tim Heishman, Tran Thi Thanh Huong, Phil King, Jeri Kornegay, Nancy Miner, Grace Mishler, M. Colette Nies, John Wall, Jenny Williams, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is planned for Tuesday, April 29.