Brethren Bits for Dec. 11th, 2015

— The Office of Public Witness is publicizing the annual simulcast ecumenical Christmas Service broadcast from a church in Bethlehem, Palestine, on Dec. 19. This ecumenical service of worship is held jointly by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land,  the Jerusalem Diocese of the Episcopal Church, and the Washington Cathedral, and will be telecast simultaneously from the Christmas Lutheran Church of Bethlehem and the Washington Cathedral on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 10 a.m (eastern time). Access the service online at .

— An action alert for the nonprofit community, including churches and their boards, has been issued by Board Source and is being shared by the Church of the Brethren General Secretary’s Office. “The IRS needs to hear from nonprofit board leaders,” the alert says. “A proposed change in IRS rules would require some nonprofits to collect their donors’ social security numbers…. By requiring nonprofit organizations to collect social security numbers, the IRS will be opening organizations–and their board members as fiduciaries–to significant liability and place a tremendous burden on nonprofit organizations to invest heavily in cybersecurity measures to protect this valuable data from hackers. It will also create confusion, alarm, and distrust among potential donors who may–as a result–choose not to support our important missions.” The IRS is asking the public for feedback, and nonprofit leaders including leaders of religious nonprofits may also submit comments by next week’s deadline of Wednesday, Dec. 16. The National Council of Nonprofits has developed and posted free materials on its website to help in this process, including an analysis, various talking points, and sample comments. Find these resources at .

— Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., has announced a Music and Worship Weekend Event led by Shawn Kirchner, a Brethren musician and composer and member of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. The event is scheduled for Feb. 6-7, 2016. Kirchner will lead an all-day Saturday workshop on music and worship, will sing and play for the Sunday morning worship service, will guide an adult Sunday school class, and perform at a Sunday evening coffee house.

— In related news, an album that includes music by Shawn Kirchner among other musical contributors has been nominated for a Grammy award for best choral performance. The album is by Conspirare, a choral ensemble under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson. Titled “Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings,” it includes two of Kirchner’s choral settings of poems by Neruda. Find out more at .

— Southern Pennsylvania District’s Nurture Commission is planning a “Man 2 Man Workshop 2016,” a men’s spiritual leadership summit and breakfast on the topic “Deeds and Destiny: Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do.” The event will be led by Ron Hostetler, who is an author, educator, and speaker. The date is Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, from 8 a.m.-12 noon, hosted by Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Registration costs $16.

— There is an opportunity for pastors to apply to the Lilly Endowment’s Clergy Renewal Programs. The programs at Christian Theological Seminary provide funds to congregations to support renewal leaves for their pastors. Congregations may apply for grants of up to $50,000 to underwrite a renewal program for their pastor and for the pastor’s family, with up to $15,000 of those funds available to the congregation to help cover costs for ministerial supply while the pastor is away. There is no cost to the congregations or the pastors to apply. The grants represent the Endowment’s continued investment in renewing the health and vitality of American Christian congregations, said an announcement. For more information go to .

— The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has elected new officers for 2016-17. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will serve as chair of the Governing Board. She has been serving as vice chair for the past two years. She will be known to Brethren as one of the preachers at the recent Presidential Forum at Bethany Theological Seminary, and as one of the ecumenical leaders who attended the recognition event for Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley Noffsinger at the 2015 Annual Conference. Watkins succeeds A. Roy Medley of the American Baptist Churches in the USA in the office of chair. Medley will assume the title of past chair and is also retiring from his role as general secretary of his denomination. Other new leaders are: vice-chair Bishop W. Darin Moore of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; treasurer Barbara Carter of the Community of Christ; secretary Karen Georgia Thompson of the United Church of Christ.

— In more news from the National Council of Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East has become the NCC’s newest member communion. The church was welcomed with these words from Tony Kireopoulos, associate general secretary: “This venerable church, with its membership across the United States and its roots in biblical lands, brings new energy to the NCC as we work together for justice and peace. The suffering of Assyrian Christians is deeply felt by the millions of Christians associated with the National Council of Churches.”

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