1) Ministry Summer Service interns and mentors complete orientation
2) Church of the Brethren sends representative, helps support Bread for the World anniversary gathering
3) ‘World’s bravest orchestra’ to visit US for the first time
4) UCC ecumenical partner involved in the struggle for religious freedom in Nigeria
5) Updates on Nigeria
6) Collections at Annual Conference benefit YWCA shelter, express concern for Nigeria
7) Torin Eikler named executive minister of Northern Indiana District
8) It’s not about the pastor: A reflection on the Vital Ministry Journey
9) Brethren bits: Correction, personnel notes, summer Guide, BVS Coast to Coast to reach Chicago area, BVS connections dinner at Manassas, concerns in DRC Congo, a weekend in memory of Elder John Kline, and much more.
1) Ministry Summer Service interns and mentors complete orientation
The 2014 class of Ministry Summer Service interns and mentors completed orientation last week at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. During their orientation, the group of nine interns led the Wednesday chapel service for the General Offices community. Following orientation, the interns began work at their summer placements.
Ministry Summer Service is a leadership development program for college students in the Church of the Brethren, who spend 10 weeks of the summer working in the church at a congregation, district, camp, or national program.
The interns participating in this summer’s program:
Chris Bache of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren in Pacific Southwest District
Christy Crouse of Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of the Brethren in Missouri and Arkansas District
Jake Frye of Monitor Church of the Brethren, McPherson, Kan., in Western Plains District
Renee Neher of York Center Church of the Brethren, Lombard, Ill., in Illinois and Wisconsin District
Caleb Noffsinger of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, Elgin, Ill., in Illinois and Wisconsin District
Lauren Seganos of Stone Church of the Brethren, Huntingdon, Pa., in Middle Pennsylvania District
Amanda Thomas of Marilla Church of the Brethren, Copemish, Mich., in Michigan District
Shelley Weachter of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren in Mid-Atlantic District
Shelley West of Happy Corner Church of the Brethren, Clayton, Ohio, in Southern Ohio District
This year’s mentors are Gieta Gresh, Marlin Houff (for the Youth Peace Travel Team), Dennis Lohr, Pat Marsh, Pam Reist, and Megan Sutton.
Staff who work with the program include Mary Jo Flory-Steury, associate general secretary and executive director of the Ministry Office; Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry; and Dana Cassell, who is contract staff for Ministry Formation. For more about Ministry Summer Service go to www.brethren.org/yya/mss .
2) Church of the Brethren sends representative, helps support Bread for the World anniversary gathering
The Church of the Brethren was represented at the Bread for the World 40th anniversary gathering by Office of Public Witness director Nathan Hosler. The denomination helped provide financial support for the gathering, held in Washington, D.C., on June 9-10, through a $1,000 grant from the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) in honor of the anniversary, reports GFCF manager Jeffrey S. Boshart.
Bread for the World ( www.bread.org ) is a collective Christian voice urging the nation’s decisionmakers to end hunger at home and abroad. Dubbed “Bread Rising,” its 40th anniversary gathering aimed to lay groundwork for ending hunger by 2030, said a release from the organization.
The anniversary celebration also was Bread for the World’s annual National Gathering and Lobby Day. Announced speakers included travel expert Rick Steves, Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and CARE policy advocate Tony Rawe, among others. This year’s program educated activists on issues of immigration, mass incarceration, and sustainable food security. On Lobby Day, hunger advocates from across the country met with their representatives to urged reform of US food-aid programs and the immigration system.
“Behind our four decades of achievements for hungry people are strong activists, friends, and supporters working tirelessly to eradicate hunger and poverty in their communities, their country, and around the world,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “It’s important that we not only celebrate where we came from and who helped us along the way; we must also map out how we will merge our collective talents, contacts, and faith to get the job done in 15 years.”
Learn more about Bread for the World’s 40th anniversary celebration at www.bread.org/40 . For more about the Global Food Crisis Fund, go to www.brethren.org/gfcf .
— This report includes excerpts from Bread for the World releases from Fito Moreno, media relations specialist.
3) ‘World’s bravest orchestra’ to visit US for the first time
In 2009, the 17-year-old Iraqi pianist Zuhal Sultan realized a dream to unite the youth of her country. Her vision involved bringing together young Kurds and Arabs by offering a program of peace through music. Thus the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (NYOI) was born. Every year the orchestra holds auditions via YouTube and selects 43 musicians between the ages of 18 and 29 who join together to overcome ethnic, religious, language, and gender barriers, forming against all odds this unique and vibrant orchestra.
This summer the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra (EYSO)–which has its offices at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.–will act as NYOI’s hosts for an intensive three-week music course, the most important instruction in orchestral playing and instrumental techniques that these Iraqi players will receive all year. The NYOI, supported by musicians from the EYSO, will perform public concerts in Elgin, Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago, reaching communities of artists, Iraqis, diplomats, and peacemakers.
By traveling abroad, not only do the musicians find a safe place to study and perform together, but they also learn the skills needed to rebuild the artistic landscape back home. Iraq is still a very unstable, dangerous place and there is little infrastructure, public or private, to nurture something like this orchestra. Music director Paul MacAlindin has always known that a wider international visibility and the support of global patrons would be necessary to ensure its viability.
Since 2009, NYOI has performed to sold-out audiences in Germany, France, and the UK. Now it is time to bring these courageous young musicians–many of whom participate at significant personal risk–to the US to expand the reach of their message and give Americans the opportunity to support them.
“The 2014 visit is founded on the successful experiences and lessons learnt from previous years, and we know we can create great concerts, relationships, and publicity for everyone,” said Paul MacAlindin, music director. “Moreover, this project is part of a deeper viral strategy to learn best practice in America and spread it throughout Iraq. The National Youth Orchestra of Iraq is a series of concerts, but more than that, it is the public face of young Iraqis, determined to show themselves in the best possible light to America and the world. As previous years have shown, the American tour will change their lives, and the lives of everyone connected to the visit.”
Concerts to be performed in Elgin
The NYOI will cap three weeks of intensive study in the US with two collaborative concerts with the EYSO at the Elgin Community College Arts Center on the college campus at 1700 Spartan Dr., Elgin, Ill. Dates for the concerts are Saturday, Aug. 16, and Sunday, Aug. 17, at 7:30 p.m. Works to be performed include Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto with soloist Angelia Cho, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and two new commissions by Iraqi composers Amir ElSaffar and Abdullah Jamal Sagirma. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students with ID and seniors age 65-plus). VIP tickets are $35 and include a meet and greet with the NYOI and EYSO artists following the performances. Tickets go on sale June 16. For tickets or more information call 847-622-0300 or visit tickets.elgin.edu .
These concerts are made possible with support from the following collaborating organizations: National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, Northern Illinois University, Elgin Community College Arts Center, the Iraq Foundation, the US Embassy, and the Iraqi Ministry of Culture.
The Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, under the artistic direction of Randal Swiggum, is an in-residence ensemble in the Arts Center at Elgin Community College and is home to five orchestras and a brass choir with 350 students from more than 60 communities. Founded in 1976, the mission of the EYSO is to create a community of young musicians, enriching their lives and the lives of their families, schools, communities, and beyond, through the study and performance of excellent music.
Learn more at EYSO.org/NYOIraq and support the tour at kck.st/QKiVOy .
— Rachel Elizabeth Maley of the EYSO contributed this report.
4) UCC ecumenical partner involved in the struggle for religious freedom in Nigeria
By Connie N. Larkman, managing editor and news director for the United Church of Christ
Bring back our girls. Many Americans are familiar with the international outcry surrounding the April 14 kidnapping of almost 300 Nigerian schoolgirls. An Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, stormed a school in Chibok in northeast Nigeria and spirited the girls away. The girls have not been rescued, even though on May 26, Nigerian officials said they know where they are.
“The tragedy of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria is not an isolated incident, but part of a global pattern of the abuse of women and girls,” said Jim Moos, United Church of Christ (UCC) national officer and co-executive of Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. “Sadly, religion is often used to justify the ideology of male superiority instead of proclaiming the liberating good news that women equally bear the image of God.”
While much of the outrage over the conflict in Nigeria centers around the abduction and the abuse of women and girls, the terrorism inflicted by Boko Haram on the people in Nigeria is not gender specific. The underlying issue is religious freedom.
“Boko Haram proclaims a distorted and cruel version of the Muslim faith,” Moos said. “it serves as a warning to people of all faiths that privileging any single belief system at the expense of all others inevitably results in oppression.”
‘Violence is rampant’
Stanley Noffsinger has seen the lethal results firsthand. As general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, a UCC ecumenical partner and birthing church of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, or EYN, he hears horrific stories of destruction and death from his brothers and sisters in EYN almost daily. Of churches bombed, and members abducted and killed. And the trouble is escalating. Boko Haram’s attacks started out focused on the churches, the Christian community, because they wouldn’t support shariah law. The terrorist group wants to convert Christians to Islam and the church is the problem. But now, Noffsinger says it’s no longer that simple. The extremists no longer discriminate between Christian and Muslim. Boko Haram is targeting all who are not with them in their ideology. Their territory is the northeast region of Nigeria, where most of the EYN churches are concentrated.
“Borno state is where a lot of violence is taking place. As of this weekend, all civil authority has left the Borno state,” said Noffsinger. “That’s a Boko Haram mainstay, and it’s critical for us–our church is strongly located in northeastern region and we’re in the middle of the violence.”
More than 350 EYN members have been killed and many more injured in this violence. A great deal of property has been burned, including 22 church buildings, 9 local churches, and more than 2,500 homes, affecting thousands of members. Many people no longer feel safe sleeping in their homes. They sleep in the bush instead. “Violence is escalating so quickly that there are new reports every day,” said Noffsinger, indicating it’s becoming very difficult to track the details of what is happening in Nigeria because of the hostility.
EYN President Samuel Dante Dali said EYN has no contact with Boko Haram. “They will not even agree to work with the church because the church is their primary target of destruction,” he said. “We, as a church, can only present our petition to God to seek for his mercy and his own will to liberate the girls from Boko Haram.”
The US Brethren are working to support their Nigerian brothers and sisters, with prayers, financial assistance ($100,000 has been sent to Nigeria to date through the EYN Compassion Fund, with more assistance being received daily) and their presence. Noffsinger has spent a lot of time with the people of EYN. He last visited Nigeria in April, and was flying home the evening of April 14 when the girls were kidnapped from a school founded by the Church of the Brethren.
“The history of the US church with Nigeria dates back to 1923, when Church of the Brethren was established as a mission outpost,” Noffsinger said. “Our ties are long and deep with the church in Nigeria. It was viewed as a mission church until the early 1970s, when both churches decided that the Nigerian church needed to be recognized as its own entity. It was about the same time that the Chibok School was turned over to the government to become a government school, in an area where there are a lot of Brethren people. Education for Nigerian Brethren has been around for a long time, as a holistic part of the mission program. Health and wellness and education were part of it as well as spirituality and faith formation.”
Noffsinger believes spirituality, strong faith, and an unwavering belief that God is walking with them is sustaining the Nigerian Brethren in this time of crisis.
“EYN leaders and members have been writing to me with resolve in their voices that nothing can shake them from their commitment to Christ and the Church,” said Noffsinger. “The Nigerian Brethren believe deeply in the power of prayer. They are emphatic about that.” He told the story of a young man he met in Nigeria who attends one of the Brethren schools. “His responses continue to amaze me, because his faith is absolute. He told me, ‘Nothing can happen to me that can separate me from the love of God.'”
And despite the horrific uncertainly with which the Nigerian Brethren live, they continue to reach out to help their neighbors.
Rebecca Dali, the wife of EYN president Samuel Dali, created a nonprofit organization CCEPI (Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives) to assist women and children affected by the violence, orphans, and refugees who have been fleeing to neighboring countries and those displaced within Nigeria. She can often be found, at great personal peril, traversing the countryside taking supplies to those in need. She loads up her car and takes food to refugees. She documents the missing so they will be remembered, and has interviewed the girls’ families, and all the returning girls who were able to escape their captors. The US Brethren sent her $10,000 to support her work.
“We need your prayers,” she wrote to the US church. “Now there is virtually no security in Borno State. Many have fled to Cameroon. In refugee camps in Cameroon and [for] some who are displaced, there was no food, medical, or other kinds of help. The government, even when warned, does not stop the violence. People are suffering.”
“Although Global Ministries does not have partner relationships in Nigeria, it is important that we care about the recent kidnapping of school girls because of our commitment to a shared life with justice,” said Sandra Gourdet, Global Ministries Africa office executive for the UCC. “We are connected as human beings and our solidarity demands that we reach out to the girls and their families in their struggle to cope with such an atrocious act.”
Noffsinger says the Nigerian Brethren are asking their brothers and sisters in the United States to do two things–to fast, and to pray for them. From candelight vigils to Mother’s Day events, the call to prayer has been picked up by Brethren and other denominations’ congregations across the country.
“We have tried to approach this from a point of engagement of spiritual disciplines,” Noffsinger said. “Because we want to honor and respect the request of the Nigerian church saying, ‘Here’s what you as a North American church can do as a sister church: prayer and fasting.'”
The people of EYN believe that with God, all things are possible. That spiritual partnership, sharing their stories, documenting their history and their struggles will help them get through this crisis.
“The Church of the Brethren is an historic peace church,” said Geoffrey Black, UCC general minister and president. “As they and their partner churches and institutions in Nigeria face the challenges resulting from religiously motivated violence in that country, we stand with them in prayerful solidarity. Our affinity with them comes out of our shared commitment to peace and just peace making.”
Our grief and our love are being held at the same place,” said Noffsinger. “We, like the Nigerian church, must not be overcome by this great darkness, but rather, walk forward in the light of Christ. The darkness will not overcome us. Love is stronger than grief and will overcome this time.”
To help the people of EYN through the UCC International Disaster Relief Fund, indicate you want your gift to go to the Women and Children in Nigeria. We will send your support to our ecumenical partner, through the EYN Compassion Fund for the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
— Connie N. Larkman is managing editor and news director for the United Church of Christ. This UCC release is reprinted here with permission.
5) Updates on Nigeria
Here are various updates on Nigeria and current events affecting Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), as well as continuing expressions of support from Brethren in the United States and ecumenical partners:
— Cards for Nigeria will be collected at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, which takes place July 2-6 in Columbus, Ohio. All congregations are invited to send with their Conference delegate a card of encouragement and prayerful concern for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Cards will be gathered on Saturday, July 5, at the beginning of the afternoon business session during a time of remembrance and prayer for EYN. The cards will be delivered to EYN by staff at the next available opportunity.
— Under the subject line, “A trying moment,” the EYN staff liaison sent an e-mail to Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer reporting on continuing violent events in Nigeria. The Gwoza area near the Cameroon border has suffered repeated attacks by the Boko Haram insurgent group, in an area where reprisal attacks by communities against Boko Haram and bombings by the Nigerian military have begun as well. Christians are no longer able to live there, the EYN staff member reported, and are fleeing to nearby towns and even as far away as Lagos in the south of the country. He told the story of a retired minister and EYN trustee who also is a traditional ruler and district head in one of the areas that were attacked more than a week ago. “God speared his life through a Muslim who whispered to his wife about the terrorist group arriving in Ngoshe in large numbers, and he should not come out of his house and he should try by all means to hide because there will be a major operation of killing Christians in Ngoshe area by the terrorists. He managed to take a handful of his clothes, Bible, and hoe…. He left over 50 bags of grain, more than 35 goats, sheep, and cows behind, and many other things. He said he is grateful to God for his life despite the fact that he lost everything, but he is happy to be alive. He said no one remembers to take his wife or children when the fire is hot. He is urging all believers to please run for their lives.” In the attached picture, the retired minister stands with another young refugee who has been sheltering with the EYN staff liaison’s family for over a month. “My house became a small refugee camp but we are happy to have people alive in another way. We have only two bedrooms and a sitting room but we can still make it with the help and His grace. Feeding is becoming my major concern,” he wrote. His e-mail added details about areas where Muslims as well as Christians are in danger and need help, and the fact that neither Nigerian security forces nor government agencies have been coming to aid those communities. “Relocating Muslims and Christians together will build a stronger understanding for their future life,” he noted. “Both faiths are in pains…. May peace prevail on earth.” His note closed, “We thank you for your prayers also.”
— More women have been kidnapped from the Chibok area by Boko Haram, in media reports from Nigeria. Gunmen reportedly kidnapped 20 women and 3 men who tried to help the women, from a village of the Fulani people near the place more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted in mid-April. The abduction reportedly took place last Thursday. The Nigerian military claims to have killed more than 50 of the militants last weekend, after an incident last week when the insurgent group reportedly killed hundreds of people in three villages in the Gwoza area, Nigerian media said.
— Bryan Hanger of the Office of Public Witness has written an insightful blog post reflecting on a Subcommittee on African Affairs hearing in May with testimony from the State Department, USAID, and Pentagon about the nature of Boko Haram and what the United States may or may not be able to do in response to the kidnapping of the Chibok girls. “By the end of their testimony it was clear that although the concern was great, there are many tangible realities limiting any effective outside response to the kidnapping,” he writes, in part. “As Brethren are all too aware, life in northern Nigeria is tough, and it has been that way for a while. This kidnapping did not happen in a vacuum, but rather is a grotesque manifestation of the insecurity that exists there all the time. The lack of good governance, quality education, reliable infrastructure, widespread peacebuilding practices, and stable local policing has created a region in northern Nigeria where corruption is rife and many Nigerians are left to fend for themselves. Especially children. We heard in a separate Congressional briefing the day before that 10.5 million of the world’s 57.5 million primary school aged children that do not attend school are Nigerian. And of those 10.5 million Nigerians, 9 million are from the North. According to A World At School, these figures mean Nigeria has the largest number of out of school children in the whole world.” Read the full blog post, titled “#BringBackOurGirls: Zooming Out But Staying Focused,” at https://www.brethren.org/blog/2014/bringbackourgirls-zooming-out-but-staying-focused .
— Lower Miami Church of the Brethren in Dayton, Ohio, held a prayer service for the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram on May 21. Gale Stephenson and Clarence Griffith read the names of the girls, reports Nan Erbaugh, who wrote: “Toward the end of the service, each person was invited up to choose a bead to take with them as a reminder of the girls, as we sang ‘Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying.’ I encouraged everyone to keep the bead with them, perhaps in a pocket, as a reminder to pray. One person put the bead on a piece of yarn hanging from their purse. Another strung the bead and hung it on their rear view mirror. Another took several beads and made a necklace which she wears all the time.” The wooden beads were shared out of Ugandan and Kenyan dishes, placed on green cloth from Sudan. “We have decided to keep the Nigerian flag flying until the situation is resolved,” she added.
— Dranesville Church of the Brethren in Herndon, Va., is including prayer for Nigeria in its “Sweet Hour of Prayer” during June, July, and August. A time for silent prayer in the church sanctuary is scheduled from 9:30-10:30 a.m., with the congregation invited to come and pray for the whole hour, or for whatever time they wish. Other prayer ideas shared in the church newsletter included prayer for the church, for other crises in the world, and for personal and family needs. “You are also encouraged to thank and praise God for who He is and what He does!” said the newsletter. “It will be a sweet time of communion with the Lord.”
— Recent statements on the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls by ecumenical partners of the Church of the Brethren include a statement from the African Methodist Episcopal Church Council of Bishops. Their official statement dated May 7 and presented by Jeffrey N. Leath, 128th Bishop, and acting president, reads in part: “While we are experiencing many emotions, from outrage to grief, we are united in prayer and loving concern for these young women, their families, and those who live in insecure communities. We support the efforts of President Obama, other world leaders, and the international community in seeking the return of those abducted. We join the cry, ‘Bring Our Daughters Back!’ In our tradition of advocacy for liberation and reconciliation, we affirm the importance of a world order where all people may live in peace. We also assert that human trafficking and gender based violence are unacceptable as God has endowed all of humanity with intrinsic value.” Find the full statement at www.ame-church.com/statement-on-nigeria-abductions .
— The Board of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church also has made a Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Praying for the Abducted Nigerian Girls. Among other “whereas” statements that start off the proclamation, the bishops note that: “Whereas, this horrific action takes place during this period of history when exploitation of women, children, the poor, and the otherwise vulnerable is accepted by many as sound perspective, the justifiable use of strength, and even aligned with Christian principles; and Whereas, we applaud the efforts of the Obama administration and other world leaders to lend support to the Nigerian government in their attempt to rescue the girls; but Whereas our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ taught us that to dispel some evils requires more than power and might, but are not affected ‘except by prayer and fasting’ (Matthew 17:21)…. NOW, THEREFORE, we petition all communities of faith who call upon the one Sovereign God, to join us in a day of fasting and praying to petition the Almighty to visit us with God’s amazing power and grace to effect the resolution of this grave insult to the humanity of the Nigerian school girls and the wretched grief of their families, and to give us a witness that will urge upon the hearts of humankind the cessation of exploitation, abuse, and other wickednesses toward disenfranchised people all over the world.” The document proclaimed May 30 to be a day of fasting and prayer “in the name of the one God who is in us all and above us all.”
6) Collections at Annual Conference benefit YWCA shelter, express concern for Nigeria
The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference partners this year with the YWCA/YMCA of Columbus, Ohio, for an annual Witness to the Host City. An offering of donations of items needed by the YWCA shelter for women will be received at the Thursday night worship service on July 3. In another collection at the Conference, cards expressing concern and prayerful encouragement for the Nigerian Brethren will be received on the afternoon of July 5.
Annual Conference 2014 takes place in Columbus on July 2-6, led by moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman.
Witness to the host city
Each year, the Witness to the Host City service project invites Brethren to aid the city that hosts the denomination’s annual meeting. The YWCA shelter for women in Columbus, called Rebecca’s Place, works with women and children in a significant ministry providing educational opportunities, job training, employment services, and more to equip women and families for a better future.
Below are some of the most pressing needs that Brethren may respond to. An offering of these donations will be taken at the Thursday night worship service on July 3. Conferencegoers are invited to bring one or all of the following items:
— Socks, both men’s and women’s are needed
— Disposable baby diapers, any size
— Hygiene kits. Each kit should include 1 hand towel (not a finger tip or bath towel), 1 wash cloth, 1 one-gallon zipped plastic bag that is filled with 1 bath-size bar of soap, 1 bottle of shampoo, 1 container of deodorant, 1 nail clipper, 1 wide-tooth comb, 1 container of dental floss, 6 bandaids.
Cards for Nigeria
Cards for Nigeria also will be collected at the Annual Conference, during a time on Saturday afternoon, July 5. All congregations are invited to send with their Conference delegate a card of encouragement and prayerful concern for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
Cards will be gathered on July 5, at the beginning of the afternoon business session during a time of remembrance and prayer for EYN. The cards will be delivered to EYN by staff at the next available opportunity.
7) Torin Eikler named executive minister of Northern Indiana District
Torin S. Eikler has been called to serve Northern Indiana District as district executive minister, a four-fifths time position beginning Sept. 1. Currently he is a team co-pastor at Morgantown (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren, which also is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Carol Spicher Waggy has been serving as interim district executive for Northern Indiana.
During his seven-year tenure at the Morgantown Church, Eikler has provided leadership for West Marva District through Bible study, the Peace Team, and Matthew 18 seminars, and he has been a member of an Allegheny Mennonite Conference committee for conference structure redesign. He has served on the Church of the Brethren’s Committee on Interchurch Relations, Anti-Racism Team, and as guest director for youth workcamps. During a term in Brethren Volunteer Service he was coordinator for the Church of the Brethren workcamp ministry in 1998-99, and served at the Capital Hill Soup Kitchen in Washington, D.C., 2001-02.
He holds a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., and a bachelor of arts degree in biology and environmental studies, with a minor in French, from Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.
He and his family will move to Northern Indiana District sometime in August. His wife Carrie Eikler is coordinator for the ministry training programs (TRIM and EFSM) of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, a ministry training partnership of the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Seminary.
8) It’s not about the pastor: A reflection on the Vital Ministry Journey
The Vital Ministry Journey, an initiative of the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries, is a process that empowers congregations to recapture a dynamic vision and mission to live abundantly and be God’s blessing to the community. This reflection on the Vital Ministry Journey is by Chris Bowman:
One of the best things about Vital Ministry Journey is that it is not about the minister. More accurately: it’s not about the pastoral minister.
The VMJ process is about the church. It is about the journey as this “fellowship of Jesus-followers,” together. It is not about the pastor.
Ministry is the calling of every Jesus-follower. Our baptism is our ordination. Our personal giftedness shared in community is our training. Wherever God sends us is our “mission field” as God calls us to do our part in the unfolding Kingdom of Heaven with whomever God sends to us.
To keep alive, empowered, vital, and connected to God, we gather to read the scripture, share our insights, and pray.
This kind of gathering is not new. Reading the Oakton Church minutes for 1903-1913 we see this kind of vital ministry journey was part of every church Council meeting (though by a different name).
Every three months the whole church would gather and share about how things were going and where the needs were in their community. Then someone would “admonish the Brethren.” Nowadays the word “admonish” means “to scold” but back then it meant “to encourage” or “urge forward.”
In the same way this year we meet together to hone, sharpen, and stay relevant as these individual gifts are knit together in the ministries of the Body of Christ. Thus, here at Oakton Church, VMJ is laity led.
This is what a rePurposing church is: It continually connects people to their ministry purpose.
It is not about the pastor! For too long church pastoral leadership has been heard saying, “We professionals can do it; you can help.”
The emerging church is different. We are to be more like that Home Depot slogan: “You can do it! We can help.”
Let me put it another way: “If your minister is the one doing your Vital Ministry Journey, you’re doing it wrong.”
— Chris Bowman’s blog post about the Vital Ministry Journey is reprinted from the website of Oakton Church of the Brethren, with permission. Find out more about the Vital Ministry Journey at www.brethren.org/congregationallife/vmj .
9) Brethren bits
— Correction: In the “Brethren Bits” of the last Newsline, dated June 2, the listing of districts supporting the meat canning project was incorrect. The project is a joint effort of Southern Pennsylvania and Mid Atlantic Districts.
— The Church of the Brethren staff position of coordinator of the Office of Public Witness has been upgraded to a director level position. Nathan Hosler began his work in this office in a joint position with the National Council of Churches. The title is being changed to acknowledge the scope and ecumenical nature of the work. For more about the Office of Public Witness, go to www.brethren.org/peace/office-public-witness.html .
— Atlantic Northeast District has announced the calling of Mary Etta Reinhart as the new director of Witness and Outreach, beginning June 15. She presently serves the district board as chair of the Church Development and Evangelism Commission and a member of the executive committee. She is a long-standing member at Mechanic Grove Church of the Brethren and resides in southern Lancaster County, Pa. Reinhart is a licensed minister and has completed the Training in Ministry (TRIM) programs in preparation for ordination. She recently completed an interim pastorate at Shippensburg Church of the Brethren and will be completing an interim pastorate at Swatara Hill Church of the Brethren in August. She is a graduate of Manchester University. Employed in customer service in the banking industry for 27 years, she spent much of her work career employed by the Bank of Lancaster County / PNC Bank. Reinhart follows Pat Horst in the district position; Horst continues chaplaincy work at Hershey Medical Center, as well as spiritual direction.
— The Indiana Camp Board, which is the camp board for the districts of Northern Indiana and South Central Indiana, has announced that as of June 1, Galen Jay is serving as interim executive director at Camp Mack. Rex Miller has retired from the position. The announcement came in a letter to all the district congregations, and went on to read in part: “We have discovered that due to financial issues at camp, funds have been misallocated from the Growing From The Ashes fundraising campaign to cover operating expenses and capital improvements. We are in the process of securing an independent audit and most likely the services of a business/financial consultant(s) to assist us in dealing with these concerns. As a board, we are working to maintain the property and programs in a way that shares holy hospitality and a sense of God’s presence with all who set foot on Camp Mack. We seek your prayers as we work through this uncertain time. If your congregation has given a gift to the Growing From The Ashes campaign, then as soon as we have an accurate accounting of our financial situation, we will be in touch with you regarding the funds you have already shared. From this day forward, all gifts received for the campaign will be placed in a separate Lake City Bank certificate of deposit, which will be administered by board-appointed trustees. Thank you for your support.” The letter was signed by J.D. Wagoner, chair of the Indiana Camp Board.
— Robby May has been called as interim camp manager at Camp Galilee by West Marva District and the trustees of Camp Galilee. This position needed to be filled following the resignation of Phyllis Marsh, long-time manager for over 30 years. May is originally from Westernport, Md., and attends Westernport Church of the Brethren where his wife Diane May is pastor. He has participated at Camp Galilee since he was five years old and has been at the camp as a camper, counselor, director, member of the Camp Planning and Promoting Committee, and a member of the Trustees. Additionally, he has served several summers on the program staff at Camp Swatara in Atlantic Northeast District and has many friends throughout the Outdoor Ministries Association. He holds a bachelor of science degree in Social Science Secondary Education from Frostburg State University and a master of science degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Drexel University. He is a Nationally Board Certified Social Studies Teacher and continues as a lifetime Boy Scout leader and Eagle Scout. Additionally, he has volunteered as an Emergency Medical Technician with LaVale Volunteer Rescue Squad for more than 10 years. For more information about Camp Galilee go to www.camp-galilee.org .
— “The People of God Set Priorities” is the title of the 2014 summer quarter of A Guide for Biblical Studies, the Brethren Press Bible study curriculum for adults. Written by Allen T. Hansell, with the “out of context” feature by Frank Ramirez, this issue of Guide offers weekly study sessions for Sunday school classes and small groups. The three themes for the study are: “Hope and Confidence Come from God,” “Living as a Community of Believers,” and “Bearing One Another’s Burdens.” Order from Brethren Press at www.brethrenpress.com or call 800-441-3712.
— “We’re biking across the country advocating justice, encouraging the gift of service, and working for peace. Follow us in our journey!” write bicyclers Chelsea Goss and Rebekah Maldonado-Nofziger. Their cross-country tour, BVS Coast to Coast, promotes Brethren Volunteer Service and is on schedule to reach the Chicago area by the end of this week. Goss, of Mechanicsville, Va., and Maldonado-Nofziger, of Pettisville, Ohio, began the trip in May on Virginia’s Atlantic coast, and plan to reach Oregon’s Pacific coast by August. Follow the journey at http://bvscoast2coast.brethren.org or catch tweets and photos by following @BVScoast2coast. Communities interested in hosting them, or fellow cyclists interested in riding along for part of the journey, may contact email@example.com or leave a telephone message with the BVS Office at 847-429-4383.
— Brethren Volunteer Service and Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren are partnering for a BVS Connections Dinner on Thursday, June 26, at 6 p.m. These dinners are free and open to anyone who has served, supported, or may be interested in volunteering in the future with Brethren Volunteer Service. The menu will be a taco salad bar. Ben Bear, a current staff volunteer working with recruitment and orientations, will be hosting the event. There will be a time for BVS alumni in attendance to share how their time of service has shaped their priorities, faith, and world view. Please RSVP to 703-835-3612 or firstname.lastname@example.org or indicate your attendance on the Facebook event page “BVS Connections Dinner–Manassas, Va.” If you would like to see a BVS Connections Dinner event in your area or would be interested in having some BVS representation at a local or regional event, please contact Ben Bear for more information.
— Lubungo A. Ron, a leader in Eglise des Freres au Congo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has sent an e-mail sharing concern about a massacre of people in the Bafulero community, in a nearby village. “It is very sad to inform you about killing of more than 35 persons and 62 wounded with machete, gun, and knife yesterday night from Bafulero community in Mutarule, one of the villages of Uvira territory South Kivu province of DRCongo,” he wrote earlier this week. “People fled and numerous persons arrived here in the town. The wounded people were transferred in the hospital of Burundi, Bukavu, and Kenya yesterday by Red Cross International. People who were killed all were Christians who celebrate the Pentecost day in Mutatrule…under a Pentecost church for praying God. This killing is the outcome of land conflict between two ethnic groups in this area.” Concerns included the need for help for survivors and the displaced people. Eglise des Freres au Congo is a self-identified Brethren group in the Congo, who have been developing a relationship with the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service.
— On June 13-15 the John Kline Homestead has organized a weekend of events in memory of Elder John Kline, a Civil War-era leader in the Church of the Brethren and a martyr for peace. The highlight of the weekend is the play, “Under the Shadow of the Almighty,” depicting the last days of Elder Kline. The John Kline Riders will hold a heritage tour on horseback during the weekend. Other special events include activities for children and youth, lectures, historic house tours, and vesper services. Morning and afternoon activities based on Elder Kline’s interests and talents are planned for children age 6-11, junior highs age 12-14, and senior highs age 15-18, including crafts, music, scavenger hunts, and hikes, plus information about his gardening and medical practices. Most events are in the Broadway, Va., area. A full schedule and a weekend registration form are at http://johnklinehomestead.com/events.htm . On the registration form, senior adult prices are intended for those 65 and older.
— Peters Creek Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., on June 22 will have a day of worship and education to remember the Battle of Hanging Rock and its effect on the church, according to an announcement from Virlina District. The Civil War battle took place June 21, 1864, and was fought near the Peters Creek Church at 5333 Cove Road, NW, in Roanoke. “The worship will include only hymns from before 1861 and be in the style of worship used by the Brethren at that time. David K. Shumate, Virlina District executive minister, will be the preacher for the worship,” said the district newsletter. The day will include educational presentations given by Clive Rice, whose wife Betty was a member of Peters Creek, and who has spent many years researching the Battle of Hanging Rock and is considered to be the expert on the battle. Rice’s presentations will be give before worship that morning, and again at 3 p.m. that afternoon. The afternoon event will include a hymn sing.
— A Salvadoran sister church to Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., is celebrating a 50th anniversary, according to the Manchester Church newsletter. “We pray for our sister church in El Salvador, Emmanuel Baptist,” the note said, adding prayer for “renewal of strength, new vision, and increased support.” Brad Yoder represented the congregation in worship and fellowship in El Salvador on the anniversary weekend.
— First Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., is hosting a “Raise the Roof” concert and meal to raise funds to repair the roof of Camp Bethel’s Shelter-by-the-Spring. “Join us on Saturday, July 26,” said an invitation. Donations will be accepted. The meal begins at 4 p.m., with hot dogs, chili, baked beans, cole slaw, desserts, and drinks. At 5 p.m. is a steel drums concert. Please RSVP by July 22 to email@example.com .
— Northern Plains District is announcing “some exciting new events” at this year’s District Conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Aug. 1-3. A Women’s Prayer Breakfast will be held Aug. 2 at 7 a.m. with leadership from Tara Hornbacker, professor of Ministry Formation, Missional Leadership, and Evangelism at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. The theme will be “Keep Calm and Pray Without Ceasing.” Coffee and juice will also be available for men during this time, said the district newsletter. A Young Adult Dessert and Discussion on Aug. 2 at 12 p.m. will be held on the theme “A Real Life Faith: God in the Daily Details.” Childcare activities are being expanded with leadership from Katie Shaw Thompson, and will include exploring a prairie labyrinth at the Indian Creek Nature Center. Youth will have a chance to meet with McPherson (Kan.) College representative Jen Jensen and enjoy the Noelridge Aquatics Center. The Witness Commission is collecting names of those who served as cowboys for Heifer Project, now Heifer International, and the names of Brethren Volunteer Service workers and college students. Also, the Witness Commission will be collecting donations of supplies for Church World Service Clean-Up Buckets and Hygiene Kits, and diapers for Haiti. More information is at nplains.org/dc .
— In related news, members of Fairview Church of the Brethren will make a trip to Haiti to personally deliver diapers in advance of the Northern Plains District Conference. “The Northern Plains District has been sewing diapers for Haiti for several years,” reported the district newsletter. “The ladies sewing at Fairview talked about how fun it would be to take the diapers there and put them on the babies themselves. That conversation has taken wing…airplane wings, to be exact.” Three women from the congregation–Vickie Mason, Sarah Mason, and Diane Mason–will fly to Haiti in July to deliver more than 500 diapers sewn at Fairview, Ivester, and Panther Creek Churches of the Brethren. They will stay at the guesthouse operated by the Church of the Brethren in Haiti, and will participate in many projects with the Haitian Brethren as well as deliver the diapers and meet the babies, the newsletter said.
— The Shenandoah Valley Writing Academy (SVWA) at Bridgewater (Va.) College takes place July 7-18. The SVWA provides teachers for elementary, middle school, and high school the opportunity to hone writing skills and learn to teach writing more effectively. Participants have two options to earn teacher licensure renewal points. “The focus is always on the students we teach,” said SVWA co-director Jenny Martin in a release from the college. “We write, read, and engage with new technology to meet students’ writing needs in the classroom.” The first option for registration is the course EDUC/ENG 475: Shenandoah Valley Writing Academy Writing Workshop in the Classroom, a team-taught course associated with registration in the SVWA. Upon completion of the course, participants receive three hours of undergraduate credit, which qualifies for 90 recertification points under option 1 of teacher licensure renewal. In addition to the two-week summer program, course registrants also take part in three Saturday seminars during the fall: Aug. 23, Oct. 4 and Nov. 15. Total cost for the course option is $325. Registration for the two-week summer program only costs $125. The deadline for registration is June 20. For more information see www.bridgewater.edu/writing-academy or contact Jenny Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-271-0378.
— Steven J. Schweitzer, academic dean and associate professor of Old Testament at Bethany Theological Seminary, will be the featured speaker at the Virlina District Practice of Ministry Day, Aug. 2, at Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren. He is the author of “Reading Utopia in Chronicles.” Practice of Ministry Day is required for students of the Christian Growth Institute and provides an opportunity for continuing education credits for ordained ministers. Cost is $50 for students in the Christian Growth Institute and $25 for ordained ministers or non-CGI learners. The fee covers registration, lunch, and .6 continuing education units. For more information and a registration form, contact email@example.com .
— Western Pennsylvania District is planning a 2015 mission trip to Puerto Rico, to take place Jan. 17-24. “Are you ready to escape the cold and frigid air in January? Then think about a working vacation in sunny Puerto Rico,” said the announcement in the district newsletter. “God truly blesses everyone that spends time giving to others, no matter how small or large.” The mission trip will help the community of Caimito. Contact Shirley Baker, coordinator, at 724-961-2724.
— Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village’s Auxiliary is selling daisies as a new aspect of its annual bake, food, and soup sale, on June 14 starting at 10 a.m. The Auxiliary is calling the event “Daisy Day,” said a release from the Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md. Baked goods will be for sale in the Main Lobby. Other food including ham (country and regular) sandwiches, hot beef sandwiches, hot dogs, soup, and slices of cake and pie, may be purchased in the Dining Room. Cut daisies, at $5 a bunch, will be available in both locations. Ending time is about 1 p.m. or whenever food sells out. Pre-order daisies to be picked up at the sale by calling Diane Giffin, vice president of the Auxiliary and organizer of the flower sale, at 301-824-2340. Proceeds will be used for projects to enhance the lives of Fahrney-Keedy residents. Since its founding in 1955, the Auxiliary has contributed at least $500,000 for a wide variety of projects at the retirement community, the release said.
— The National Council of Churches (NCC) “reset” its agenda at a Christian Unity Gathering–its first national meeting in more than three years, said a release. Member communions and partners came together in Washington, D.C., on May 19-20 for an event “filled with worship, music, Bible study, and a discussion of crucial national issues on which members will focus their attention,” the release said. “Foremost among those issues is the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States.” A Bible study on Isaiah 58 focused on mass incarceration, led by NCC Governing Board chair A. Roy Medley. A panel on the issue included Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, Iva E. Carruthers of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, prison reform activist Janet Wolf, and Harold Dean Trulear of Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Prisoner Reentry Project of Philadelphia. Carruthers said the prison system was “the most virulent crisis at the heart of America’s moral center” and “a new caste system affecting millions of African-American and Hispanic families.” Also on the agenda: a celebration service and inaugural address by new NCC president and general secretary Jim Winkler; a new structure of four “convening tables” that include Theological Dialogue and Matters of Faith and Order, Interreligious Relations and Collaboration on Matters of Mutual Concern, Joint Action and Advocacy for Justice and Peace, and Christian Education, Ecumenical Faith Formation, Leadership Development; a tribute to Civil Rights leader Vincent Gordon Harding, who passed away during the time of the gathering. Officers and the governing board also condemned the death sentence in Sudan for Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag, whose only “crime” was to marry a Christian; thanked Habitat for Humanity for naming its summer building project in Vietnam in honor of the late Bob Edgar, NCC general secretary 2000-07; issued calls for human rights, peace, and security for Christians in the Middle East, Sudan, Syria, and Egypt; and issued a resolution on the violence and genocide in Darfur and South Sudan.
— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has published a release about the court case on the death of US peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an Israeli military bulldozer more than a decade ago. Her parents Craig and Cindy Corrie were present in the Supreme Court of Israel on May 21 this year, appealing a verdict handed down last year by a judge in the Haifa District Court. The judge ruled that Corrie was responsible for her own death by entering Gaza during a time of conflict. The CPT release raised concerns that such a decision by an Israeli court “opens up the doors for legitimized attacks on internationals across Israel and Palestine,” and quoted the Corries’ attorney at the Haifa hearing: “While not surprising, the verdict is yet another example of impunity prevailing over accountability and fairness and it flies in the face of the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law–that in a time of war, military forces are obligated to take all measures to avoid harm to both civilians and their property,” said attorney Hussein Abu Hussein. Titled “Jerusalem: The Case of Rachel Corrie,” the full CPT release may be found at www.cpt.org/cptnet/2014/06/09/jerusalem-case-rachel-corrie .
— A court sentence in Sudan ordering flogging and the death penalty for Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag has prompted an expression of “profound concern” from Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, according to a WCC release. He urged Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir to “prevent the implementation of this unjust and unconscionable sentence.” Ishag, a 27-year-old Sudanese woman, was criminally charged for converting from Islam to Christianity and charged with committing adultery for marrying a Christian man. In his letter, Tveit expressed shock over the court’s decision. “Whether Mrs. Mariam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag was born of Muslim parents or Christian parents, such a sentence runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Sudanese Constitution,” Tveit said. According to the Sudanese constitution, he added, all citizens have the “right to the freedom of religious creed and worship.” Tveit said that condemning Mariam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag violates a fundamental principle of international human rights law. Read full text of the letter at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/messages-and-letters/concern-over-mariam-yahya-ibrahim-ishags-death-sentence-in-sudan .
— Betty Kingery has been honored by the United Methodist Administrative Council in Greene, Iowa, for her faithfulness and dedication to being the church pianist for the yoked congregation of the Church of the Brethren and the United Methodist Church. She also has been faithful in bringing a Heifer International Project quarter tube to church every Sunday, noted the announcement in the Northern Plains District newsletter. “Because of this, May was declared as ‘Betty Kingery Month’ and all donations to the Heifer Program were in her honor.” At the end of the month, $581.59 was given in her name.
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Ben Bear, Jeffrey S. Boshart, Chris Bowman, Deborah Brehm, Kendal W. Elmore, Nan Erbaugh, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Mary Kay Heatwole , Connie N. Larkman, Rachel Elizabeth Maley, Fito Moreno, Becky Ullom Naugle, Stan Noffsinger, Glen Sargent, 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, June 17.
Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org . Newsline appears at the end of every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to www.brethren.org/newsline .