Newsline for Sept. 26, 2014

 “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2, NIV).

1) Disaster grant of $100,000 is directed to Nigeria
2) EYN leaders visit refugee camps, pilot relocation project starts
3) General secretary and Public Witness staff reiterate support for nonviolent measures in Syria and Iraq, CPTer comments from Iraqi Kurdistan
4) Global Mission executive returns from visit to Democratic Republic of Congo

5) ‘Side by Side: Imitating Christ’s Humility’ is 2015 workcamp theme
6) Webinar on urban mission offered under title ‘Telling the Truth and Shaming the Devil’

7) Lowell Flory to retire from Bethany Seminary
8) Cori Hahn resigns from Zigler Hospitality Center at Brethren Service Center

9) Brethren bits: Correction, personnel, job openings, BVS orientation, teleconference on Palestine and Israel, Brethren Blog, breakfast for Heifer’s 70th, district and camp celebrations, Bittersweet Gospel Band, more.

Quote of the week:
“The Ebola health crisis threatens to become a political crisis that could unravel years of effort to stabilize West Africa.”
— The opening of a Statement on Ebola and Conflict in West Africa from the International Crisis Group (ICG), a think tank described as “an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.” The ICG statement was shared with Newsline by Nate Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. Find the full statement online at .

A note to readers: The editor apologies that this Newsline appears a few days later than planned, because of other unexpected priorities this week. The issue planned for next week will be postponed to the following Tuesday, Oct. 7.

1) Disaster grant of $100,000 is directed to Nigeria

Photo courtesy of EYN/Markus Gamache
EYN staff visit the land for a pilot project site, where a Care Center is being built for refugees

Brethren Disaster Ministries is directing a grant of $100,000 to provide for the basic needs of displaced Nigerians and other needs in Nigeria, where members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) as well as families of EYN denominational staff are among the thousands of people who have fled violence.

The grant comes from the Church of the Brethren Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). Gifts to support this disaster relief effort can be made online at . Gifts to support the Nigeria mission of the Church of the Brethren can be made at .

In related news, some EYN denominational staff reportedly have been returning to the area of the EYN headquarters, which was mostly evacuated more than three weeks ago when Boko Haram insurgents made swift advances to secure territory. Recently, EYN leaders have been visiting makeshift refugee camps where thousands of church members have fled seeking safety.

This week, news reports from Nigeria are quoting Nigerian army claims to have killed the Boko Haram leader and hundreds of insurgents in fierce fighting near Maiduguri. There also are claims that hundreds of Boko Haram fighters have surrendered. A BBC report, however, warns “the claims are impossible to verify.” In the meantime, other reports indicate continued insurgent attacks and killings in communities in both Nigeria and Cameroon.

Grant extends aid to thousands of displaced

The grant of $100,000 continues the Church of the Brethren response to the relentless violence in northeast Nigeria, where people have suffered displacement, killings, kidnappings and property destruction.

“As the largest church body in this area, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria leadership report that more EYN churches and members have been impacted than any other denomination,” said the grant request. “This now includes 7 of the 51 EYN districts and parts of other districts that are no longer functioning as they and have been overrun by Boko Haram. As a result of this violence, over 650,000 people are displaced, including as many as 45,000 EYN members.”

In addition, “the stories of more horrific atrocities are being reported,” the document said. “Many have fled to the mountains for refuge, while in other settings as many as 70 people are living in one temporary shelter intended for two families.”

Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service staff have outlined a three-stage response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, but a swiftly changing and fluid situation has caused changes to plans made just a few weeks ago. For example, a grant of $20,000 given at the end of the summer was intended to support a pilot relocation project. However, with realization that the ongoing violence requires a more rapid response, the large $100,000 grant has been given sooner than expected in order to move forward.

Details of the large-scale disaster response plan and some implementing partners continue to be developed, but the following phases have been announced:

Phase 1: Emergency Response, focuses on providing for basic human survival in the midst of the emergency.  This includes the building of care centers for displaced families, temporary shelters, rent or purchase of land, providing of household supplies, emergency food rations, tools for agriculture, transportation, and development of risk management/security for EYN focused on violence avoidance through effective planning and early evacuation.

Phase 2: Recovery, will focus on the emotional and spiritual needs of Nigerian leadership and families, and peace building efforts within churches and communities. This will include helping to expand the EYN Peace Program, providing trauma and resiliency training to pastors and church leaders, financial support for displaced pastors, spiritual care and worship opportunities in Care Centers and other locations where families are displaced.

Phase 3: Rebuilding Communities, will focus on long-term recovery and helping families become self-supporting again. At this point in the conflict it is difficult to know the full scope of needs for rebuilding, but this will likely include transitioning temporary Care Centers into permanent communities, and rebuilding homes, churches, water sources, and other community needs in damaged hometowns.

Gifts to support the disaster relief effort in Nigeria are received at or may be mailed to the Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. Gifts to support the Nigeria mission of the Church of the Brethren are received at or may be mailed to Church of the Brethren, Attn: Global Mission and Service, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

2) EYN leaders visit refugee camps, pilot relocation project starts

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Dali
A displaced family in Nigeria, with Rebecca Dali who has been one of the Nigerian Brethren visiting the makeshift camps where people have fled the violence in northeast Nigeria. Dali writes on Facebook that this rough shelter is the place where a woman and her four children are making their home at the moment.

Over the past couple of weeks, leaders and staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have shared about the hardships faced by Brethren and others fleeing the violence in northeast Nigeria, and the struggle of EYN and its leadership in the midst of the crisis. The news has come through reports to Church of the Brethren staff in the US, and piecemeal through brief e-mails, calls, texts, and Facebook posts.

Violence in recent weeks has centered around Michika, north of the city of Mubi close to the border with Cameroon, forcing thousands to flee to the town of Yola where EYN leaders have reported makeshift camps of thousands of displaced people and a desperate food situation.

In the area around Maiduguri–a large city in northeast Nigeria–Boko Haram seizure of several community and the ensuring fierce fighting between the Nigerian army and the insurgents have caused many thousands of people to seek refugee in Maiduguri. A recent statement from the Catholic Archbishop of Maiduguri also indicated food shortages there.

Also reported by EYN leaders via Facebook posts and photos, was a meeting last week in the capital city Abuja aimed at interfaith cooperation and conversation with Muslim leaders as well as the wider Christian ecumenical community.

EYN staff have been among those losing loved ones in the violence of recent days. Family members of one EYN staff person were killed in a Boko Haram attack on a hospital, and after coming out of hiding to find food. Another EYN leader lost a nephew who had been in the army and was part of the fighting near Maiduguri.

Progress on pilot relocation project

EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache has reported progress in the pilot project to purchase land to relocate displaced people in central Nigeria. As of last week, a fenced plot of land had been given to construct metal houses for temporary use.

A blessing for the pilot project was held on Sept. 20 with Filibus Gwama, a former president of EYN, joining Gamache at the site to bless the first group of youth helping to receive people who are relocated there.

“More of these metal housing is needed now since mud blocks are not possible because of rain,” Gamache wrote. “We cannot serve all people, only the lucky ones get in here. We have identified orphans and widows from Gwoza  up to Michika who are ready to occupy this kind of facility. Families are joining other families in the bush to wait until when construction is done for them.”

In his most recent update on the project, received late last week, Gamache reported:

“The relocation project is necessary to give people hope and little rest [from] running every day. Helps from different sources [are] still not sufficient. The relocation project is just starting but it seems the help needs to be expanded because of the pressure from families that want to completely leave the entire North East….

“Our biggest challenge at the moment is how to reach the most in need camps. Some of these camps are not easy to access being surrounded by BH [Boko Haram]. Children are dying of different ailments, old people left at home and those that were on sick bed before the attack are also dying one after the other. Families that are separated are worried [about] their families members, more especially mothers are much worried of their young children that might have fallowed another family and no connection to know about their well being. Some people are being killed in the process of moving from one camp to another in order to trace their younger ones.”

For more about the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria and about EYN, go to . To help contribute to the relief effort, give to the Global Mission and Service program through the donate button on the Nigeria page of the website, or give to the Emergency Disaster Fund at .

3) General secretary and Public Witness staff reiterate support for nonviolent measures in Syria and Iraq, CPTer comments from Iraqi Kurdistan

In a week when US President Barack Obama has announced new air strikes on Islamic State in Syria by a coalition of the US military and several Arab nations, Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger and the denomination’s Office of Public Witness have reiterated a commitment to nonviolent means of change in Syria and Iraq.

In related news, Church of the Brethren member Peggy Faw Gish who serves with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraqi Kurdistan also has published reflections on the military campaign in Iraq.

Ecumenical groups urge nonviolent means of change

Photo courtesy of Stan Noffsinger
General secretary Stan Noffsinger (at right) with a Russian Orthodox representative at a consultation on Syria held in Armenia on June 11-12, 2014. Fr. Dimitri Safonov represented the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Interreligious Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, while Noffsinger was one of the American church leaders to attend the gathering.

Noffsinger was one of the religious leaders who have held three international ecumenical consultations on the crisis in Syria over the past months, organized by the World Council of Churches. He also was one of the American church leaders to sign an ecumenical letter to President Obama in late August urging the United States to lead out in nonviolent measures in Iraq and Syria.

“Stop US bombing in Iraq to prevent bloodshed, instability, and the accumulation of grievances….” headed up the letter’s list of eight nonviolent ways the United States and the international community may engage with the crisis. The letter, reported in Newsline on Sept. 2 (see ) suggested “better, more effective, more healthy, and more humanizing ways to protect civilians and to engage this conflict.”

The list continued with seven more items: to provide “robust” humanitarian assistance to those fleeing the violence; engage with the UN and all political and religious leaders in the area on “diplomatic efforts for a lasting political situation for Iraq” and “a political settlement to the crisis in Syria”; support community based nonviolent resistance strategies; strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region through measures such as disruption of the Islamic State’s oil revenue; bring in trained unarmed civilian protection organizations; uphold an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict; and support civil society efforts to build peace, reconciliation, and accountability at the community level.

Noffsinger reaffirmed the letter this week, saying, “As a historic peace church we have to evaluate the situation very carefully. This is about the wellbeing of the whole planet, not just about American interests.” He reported continuing contacts from ecumenical colleagues, church leaders in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, who are standing by the ecumenical commitment to seek the wellbeing of the region through nonviolent means.

In Washington, D.C., the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness continues to work on this issue with the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, which helped organize the letter that Noffsinger signed. Director Nate Hosler echoed Noffsinger’s perspective.

“Here in Washington, lawmakers are debating how much the United States should get involved without appearing to give much thought to the long-term consequences of such an intervention,” Hosler said. “While the situation is certainly dire, intervening militarily in Iraq and Syria not only affects today’s reality, but sows the seeds for more violence and instability in the future.”

CPTer issues hard-hitting commentary on military action

Photo by CPT
Peggy Gish serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams

Gish titled her reflections on the US air strikes in Iraq, “The new military intervention in Iraq–on not repeating what has not worked.” The hard-hitting commentary was originally posted on her personal blog, and was published by CPTNet this week.

Acknowledging that many Americans feel President Obama is “finally doing something” and that many people in Iraq are generally hopeful that the bombing campaign will stop the militant fighters calling themselves the “Islamic State,” she stated a warning that “I believe Obama’s plan will not diminish global terrorism; it will only expand and strengthen it.”

She noted that the Islamic State’s ability to capture areas of Iraq “was possible because the US had destroyed its society and supported the Shia government that excluded Sunni populations” and that “the US and Iraqi forces bombed and destroyed whole neighborhoods and cities in the name of anti-terrorism, generating more anger toward America,” she also noted that “the US failed to support the progressive, mostly nonviolent, uprisings, around the country, against government abuse and corruption.

“Throughout the years of occupation, it was clear to us that US military actions in Iraq were not really directed at protecting the Iraqi people, but for protecting American personnel and US economic and military interests in Iraq and the Middle East,” she wrote, in part. “Each time the US puts forth an alarmist scenario, and tells us there is no other way but military action to stop an evil force, intelligent people–who know that our wars have been robbing our society of money for human needs and giving it to corporations–are once again seduced by fear.”

Her list of “strong non-military measures” echoed much of the list in the ecumenical letter to President Obama, including urging to stop the airstrikes, “since they serve to strengthen the extremist movements”; deal with underlying problems that fuel extremism and terrorism; develop political solutions to the crisis such as pressuring the Iraqi government to “reverse years of anti-Sunni sectarianism” and in Syria, to “push the UN to restart real negotiations to end the civil war, bringing everyone involved to the table–nonviolent activists, women, refugees, armed rebels, and regional and global players,” among others.

Find Gish’s reflection in full at or on her blog, .

4) Global Mission executive returns from visit to Democratic Republic of Congo

Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer spent several days visiting the fledgling Brethren group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), returning on Sept. 18. Wittmeyer flew into Bujumbura, Burundi, and then traveled overland into the Congo, first to Uvira in South Kivu and then south to Fizi and Ngovi.

He reported that the self-identified Brethren group in the DRC now has grown to include seven congregations, under the overall leadership of Ron Lubungo. Wittmeyer participated in a two-day strategic planning workshop that helped the community identify its needs and list out its priorities over the next three years.

During his visit to central Africa, Wittmeyer and Lubongo also visited some Quaker congregations and leaders in Rwanda and Burundi. These groups and leaders have been partnering in peacemaking and agriculture initiatives that focus on Twa (pygmy) people and have been supported by the Church of the Brethren.

A high point of the trip, Wittmeyer said, was participating in the baptism of five new church members in Lake Tanganyika.

A link to an online photo album from the trip will be made available in an upcoming issue of Newsline.


5) ‘Side by Side: Imitating Christ’s Humility’ is 2015 workcamp theme

The Workcamp office announces the theme for the 2015 Church of the Brethren Workcamp season: “Side by Side: Imitating Christ’s Humility” (Philippians 2:1-8).

Philippians 2:1-8 teaches the importance of living in community and putting one another’s interests above one’s own. In Philippians, Paul writes about Christ’s perfect example of humility, which immediately follows a call to communion with one another.

The 2015 workcamp curriculum will focus on how to serve others humbly, as Christ taught, to become more like-minded and foster meaningful relationships. The daily themes of community, service, faithfulness, prayer, renewal, and light will reflect aspects of faith that enable humble, community-based living.

More information about the 2015 workcamp schedule, dates, locations, and fees will be made available in upcoming months.

— Theresa Ford is an assistant coordinator for the 2015 workcamp season, working alongside co-assistant coordinator Hannah Shultz. They are serving in the Workcamp office through Brethren Volunteer Service. Emily Tyler is the coordinator of Workcamps and BVS Recruitment.


6) Webinar on urban mission offered under title ‘Telling the Truth and Shaming the Devil’

“Telling the Truth and Shaming the Devil: A Postcolonial Take on Urban Mission in the 21st Century,” is the title of an Oct. 9 webinar jointly sponsored by the Church of the Brethren, Baptist Mission Society, Baptists Together, Bristol Baptist College, and Urban Expression UK.

The online workshop will offer an assessment of urban mission in the 21st century “by means of a Black theological analysis, offering critical reflections on the challenges of undertaking urban mission and the post-colonial realities to be found across the global north, where issues of plurality and power abound, within the all-enveloping shadow of empire,” said an announcement of the event from Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices for the Church of the Brethren.

The presenter will be Anthony Reddie, professor of Christian theology at Bristol Baptist College in England and a coordinator for community learning. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history, and a doctorate in education and theology, from the University of Birmingham. He has written more than 60 essays and articles on Christian Education and Black theology and is author or editor of 15 books including “Is God Color Blind? Insights from Black Theology for Christian Ministry” (SPCK, 2009) and “Churches, Blackness, and Contested Multiculturalism” co-edited with R. Drew Smith and William Ackah (Macmillan, 2014). He also has edited “Black Theology,” an international academic periodical.

The webinar date and time are Thursday, Oct. 9, 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Eastern time). Register at . Attendance is free but donations are appreciated. Ministers may receive 0.1 continuing education unit for attending the live event online. For more information contact Stan Dueck at .


7) Lowell Flory to retire from Bethany Seminary

Lowell Flory, executive director of institutional advancement and gift planning at Bethany Theological Seminary, will retire on March 31, 2015. Flory has served in this capacity at Bethany since July 2004, overseeing fund-raising, donor relations, planned giving, communications, and alumni/ae relations. He previously served as Bethany’s director of gift planning, beginning in July 2000.

As of January 1, 2015, Flory will move to half-time in his current position as part of a transitional period. He will focus on administrative duties, relinquishing most travel responsibilities.

During his tenure, Flory gave leadership to two major fundraising campaigns, both well surpassing the original goals. The completion of Inspired by the Spirit-Educating for Ministry coordinated with the celebration of the seminary’s centennial in 2005-06, to which Flory also gave direction. The Reimagining Ministries campaign concluded this past June. He also expanded the seminary’s advancement staff, contributed to the launch of the seminary’s current “Wonder and Word” magazine, taught seminary courses on leadership, and co-led the Advanced Foundations in Church Leadership program, a continuing education track offered through the Brethren Academy’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program from 2003-2013.

Flory began his association with Bethany on its board of trustees in 1986, then served as board chair from 1992-1996. It was during these four years that Bethany closed its Oak Brook, Ill., campus, relocated to Richmond, Ind., in a cooperative venture with Earlham School of Religion, and constructed a new facility on the Earlham College campus. While on the board, Flory was able to welcome the first students to Bethany’s new location; his retirement comes as the seminary recognizes 20 years in Richmond.

“In Lowell’s long-standing relationship with the seminary as a member of the board and the administration, he has displayed a strong commitment to having Bethany be a place where those of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives can live, study, and worship together,” said Jeff Carter, president of Bethany. “Via extensive travel and bridge-building, Lowell has invested his time deepening relationships with alumni/ae and supporters to make Bethany a first thought in theological education and a resource for the Church of the Brethren. We give thanks for his many years of service and wish him well in his retirement.”

— Jenny Williams is director of communications and alumni/ae relations at Bethany Theological Seminary.

8) Cori Hahn resigns from Zigler Hospitality Center at Brethren Service Center

Cori Hahn has tendered her resignation as hospitality coordinator at the Zigler Hospitality Center, located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Her last day at the hospitality center will be Nov. 14.

Hahn began her work at the Brethren Service Center in Sept. 2007 as the conference coordinator for the New Windsor Conference Center. She also held a part-time position in human resources and in Aug. 2012 was promoted to hospitality coordinator of Zigler Hospitality Center. While in this position, she provided steady leadership during the transition from the New Windsor Conference Center to the Zigler Hospitality Center. Her dedication to quality of customer service and personal attention to detail has been appreciated by guests and staff, alike.

She has accepted a position as park manager at the Palms Estates of Highland County in Lorida, Fla.

Brethren Disaster Ministries posted a Facebook photo album from the week when youth from Mohican Church of the Brethren in Ohio volunteered at the disaster rebuilding project site at Toms River, N.J. “Mohican CoB Youth Group rock out a house in a week–June 9-13, 2014! From decking to trusses,” read the Facebook post. Find more pictures at .

— Correction:  Newsline previously gave an incorrect link for a flier and registration information for “The Book of Job and Brethren Tradition.” This continuing education event sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, Elizabethtown (Pa.) College Department of Religious Studies, and Bethany Theological Seminary, takes place at the college on Nov. 5. Find the correct link at .

— Church of the Brethren program volunteers Linda and Robert Shank are returning this fall to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) to teach for a ninth semester at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). From the Global Mission and Service office comes this prayer request: “Pray for health and energy as they continue English and agriculture instruction.” Find daily prayers for other mission workers and areas of Brethren mission work around the world in the Global Prayer Guide at .

— Northern Indiana District is giving thanks for the service of interim district executive minister Carol Spicher Waggy, who closed out her term of service with the district on Sept. 20. She began as interim district executive in January 2013. “We are grateful for the ways that Carol facilitated our transition to a permanent DE, but also for the faithfulness, commitment, and compassion which she has shared for years in the service of Christ and the church,” said a note from Rosanna McFadden, District Board chair. There was a recognition of Spicher Waggy’s service at the district conference on Sept. 20.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks candidates for a director level position in Congregational Life Ministries. This full-time salaried position is located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and is available in January 2014. Congregational Life Ministries is in a staffing transition and seeks a gifted and dynamic colleague to sustain a variety of commitments. The director will have comprehensive oversight and responsibility for planning the biennial National Older Adult Conference (NOAC). Over the course of the two year cycle of the event, approximately one half of the director’s time is committed to NOAC. With the other half time in the portfolio, the director will provide leadership in one or more of the following areas: children and families; disabilities, mental health, child protection and domestic violence; aging; intergenerational ministries; church planting; deacon ministries; publications editing. Final determination of work responsibilities will be made by the Executive Director of Congregational Life Ministries in consultation with the General Secretary. Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Church of the Brethren; experience relevant to the areas of responsibility, project management, group facilitation, work as part of a team, public speaking, and organizational best practices. A bachelor’s degree is required, with a master’s degree in a related field preferred. Ordination is preferred. Applications will be reviewed beginning Oct. 20 and thereafter on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Request the application packet by contacting the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; . The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks to fill two temporary positions located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.: temporary full-time baler, and temporary full-time box car helper. Both positions work within the Material Resources department which processes, warehouses, and distributes relief goods on behalf of a variety of ecumenical and humanitarian organizations.
The baler supports the work of Material Resources by using a baler to bale quilts, folding quilts, filling tables, lifting boxes, and assisting with cardboard baling and other warehouse duties. The preferred candidate must be age 18 or older, able to use baling equipment, able to lift up to 65 pounds, and able to stack bales three high on pallets. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required.
The box car helper is responsible for loading and unloading boxes from train cars and trailers, working mostly outside with some warehouse duties included. The preferred candidate will have experience assisting with loading and unloading train cars and trailers, must be able to lift a limit of 65 pounds, must work well with a team and be reliable and flexible.
Applications will be received and reviewed beginning immediately until the positions are filled. Request the application packet and complete job description by contacting the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; . The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

— Orientation for Unit 307 of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) will be held from Sept. 28-Oct. 17 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The 17 new volunteers come from half a dozen states in the US as well as Germany. During the orientation there will be sessions on diversity, peacemaking, spirituality, conflict resolution, homelessness, globalization, and other challenging issues that affect the world today. The volunteers will participate in workdays in the local community, at the Brethren Service Center, and in Harrisburg, Pa. For more information about BVS, please visit .

— An invitation to a teleconference on “Advocating for a just peace in Palestine and Israel–What can US Christians do?” comes from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. The event is offered through the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy on Oct. 1 from 8-9 p.m. (Eastern time). Dial 866-740-1260 and use participant access code 2419972#. The event will take a look at recent events, notes the announcement. “The aftermath of 50 days of fighting has left devastation in Gaza which still struggles under a suffocating blockade. More and more land continues to be confiscated for expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The occupation of Palestinian lands continues unchecked. Israelis and Palestinians both suffer from the lack of a peaceful resolution.  Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers look to the international community for support in their efforts to change the status quo and work toward a just peace. With the breakdown in peace talks, what direction should U.S. policy take? How can persons of faith be part of the solution through their public policy advocacy? Presenters are Catherine Gordon, representative for International Issues for the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness; Mike Merryman-Lotze, Israel-Palestine program director for the American Friends Service Committee; and Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, director of Mennonite Central Committee US Washington Office.

— Several new blog posts are available on the Brethren Blog, including stories and pictures from this summer’s Youth Peace Travel Team, reflections on the recent work of the Office of Public Witness, more about the “Dunker Punks” movement that started at National Youth Conference, and stories from Brethren Volunteer Service. Find the blog at .

— As part of the 70th anniversary observance of Heifer International, York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., will host a Beyond Hunger Breakfast on Friday, Oct. 9, at 9 a.m. The breakfast will be followed by a presentation from Oscar Castañeda, vice president of Heifer’s Americas Programs.

— District conferences are coming up this weekend in Middle Pennsylvania District at Camp Blue Diamond in Petersburg, Pa., on Sept. 26-27 (see more below); and in Pacific Northwest District at Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore., on Sept. 26-28.

— On Sept. 26-27, Middle Pennsylvania District and Camp Blue Diamond will celebrate with a big weekend on the theme “Blessed” that combines the 2014 District Conference and the camp’s 34th annual Heritage Fair. Events will take place at Camp Blue Diamond near Petersburg, Pa. The conference will begin on Friday evening with a dinner, followed by a celebration of Camp Blue Diamond’s 50th Birthday. Saturday will be the day for the Heritage Fair, beginning with breakfast and continuing with music, food, fellowship, children’s activities, demonstrations, and auctions. All proceeds will support the ministries of Middle Pennsylvania District and Camp Blue Diamond. The District Conference will continue on Saturday afternoon, held under the tent from 2-5 p.m. Special offerings this year will be received for the EYN Compassion Fund, the Prince Gallitzin Park Ministry, and Pennies for Witness.

— On Oct. 4, Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a Middle Pennsylvania District Disaster Response Ham and Turkey Benefit Dinner, from 4-7 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children.

— Camp Eder in Fairfield, Pa., is holding its 36th Annual Fall Festival on Oct. 18, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. “Things to do” include a meal of pit-roasted pork and turkey, a Live Auction starting at 9:30 a.m., live music by the C.B. Pickers, apple butter making, a petting zoo, craft vendors, glass blowing demonstrations, children’s crafts and games, a bounce house, a food court and bake sale, and more. “Fall Festival is a Harvest and Heritage celebration designed for the whole family,” said the announcement.

— Also on Oct. 18, Camp Placid will host its Annual Fall Festival. Camp Placid is an outdoor ministry center of Southeastern District, located near Blountville, Tenn. The festival features events such as a Cornhole tournament, fishing tournament, story telling, children’s activities, as well as sales of handcrafts, food, theme baskets, and a silent auction. Items are donated by Church of the Brethren congregations and local businesses. Proceeds go to the Camp Placid Operating Fund. To contribute to the silent auction, contact 423-340-2890 or . To set up a booth as a vendor at the festival, contact 423-340-1501 or .

— “It’s coming! Plan now to attend,” said an announcement of the annual Gathering in Western Plains District. The Gathering is Oct. 24-26 in Topeka, Kan., with the theme “Blessed, Broken, and Inspired.” Registration is online at . Early bird registrations are due Oct. 13.

— The Bittersweet Gospel Band will tour from Oct. 22-26 in four Church of the Brethren districts: Northern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, Middle Pennsylvania, and Mid-Atlantic.  The schedule for Worship Concerts is: Oct. 22, 7 p.m., at Dupont Church of the Brethren in Ohio; Oct. 23, 7 p.m, at Ashland Dickey Church of the Brethren in Ohio; Oct. 24, 7 p.m., at Freeburg Church of the Brethren in Ohio; Oct. 25, 7 p.m., at Maple Spring Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania; Oct. 26, 10:30 a.m., at New Enterprise Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania; and Oct. 26, 4 p.m., at Manor Church of the Brethren in Maryland. The Bittersweet Gospel Band, made up of Church of the Brethren musicians, uses a variety of music styles to communicate a message of hope for all ages. Band members on this tour will include: Gilbert Romero (Los Angeles, Calif.); Scott Duffey (Staunton, Va.); Trey Curry (Staunton, Va.); Leah Hileman (East Berlin, Pa.); David Sollenberger (North Manchester, Ind.); Jose Mendoza (Roanoke, Va.); Andy Duffey (New Enterprise, Pa.). The band’s ministry began as an outreach project of Bittersweet Ministries, as a tool to reach out to young people to combat a drug and alcohol culture, and now it touches on a variety of justice issues and serves as a ministry of spiritual renewal. Gilbert Romero and Scott Duffey write most of the music. More information can be found at and on Facebook.

— Eight more governments are ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty during this week’s high-level meetings at the United Nations, reports a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC). “The latest actions mean that 53 governments, including several lobbied by the member churches of the WCC, have ratified the new treaty. The treaty will now come into effect by the end of 2014.” Armed conflict in the Middle East has preoccupied world leaders gathered in New York, the release noted. “To watch the news is to be reminded daily of how sorely a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty is needed,” said WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit. “Human life and human dignity, God’s great gifts to each of us, are being battered by armed violence in many places. Controlling the arms trade is a requirement for stopping the terror and violence in the world today.” Church advocates led by the WCC have lobbied for a strong and effective ATT with up to 50 governments for the past four years, often in collaboration with civil society partners. The ecumenical campaign has a focus on Africa, given the number of countries and communities suffering the consequences of the illicit arms trade in the region. In the Middle East, “recent research in Iraq and Syria shows that weapons made in the United States and China are being used by the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a report by Conflict Armament Research,” the release added.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jan Fischer Bachman, Ben Bear, Deborah Brehm, Stan Dueck, Scott Duffey, Theresa Ford, Markus Gamache, Peggy Faw Gish, Bryan Hanger, Nathan Hosler, Nancy Miner, Stan Noffsinger, Emily Tyler, Jenny Williams, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next issue of Newsline is scheduled for Oct. 7. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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