Brethren Bits for March 31, 2015

— Remembrance: The World Council of Churches (WCC) is celebrating the life and witness of Philip Potter, 93, who died today, March 31, in Lübeck, Germany. He was the third general secretary of the WCC, from 1972-84, and “a global ecumenical leader known for accompanying churches around the world in their struggles for unity, justice, and peace,” said a WCC release. Born in Dominica, in the West Indies, Potter began his ecumenical involvement as part of the student Christian movement in the Caribbean. He was a youth representative to the first two assemblies of the WCC at Amsterdam (1948) and Evanston (1954). He was the first person from the newly independent countries in the world to be elected as general secretary of the WCC. Among his most memorable achievements were theological consensus document on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, and the continuation of a campaign against apartheid in southern Africa and against other forms of racism throughout the world, the release noted. “Potter made significant contributions to the vigorous debate on the nature of post-colonial Christian mission and evangelism, the churches’ witness for peace amidst East-West tensions, the raising of questions concerning the ecological crisis, and encouragement of campaigns challenging the threat of nuclear annihilation. In this era the WCC also sponsored the development of new forms of spirituality, common prayer and music drawing on the diverse traditions and confessions of diverse churches.”

— Remembrance: Ira Buford Peters, Jr., 94, of Roanoke, Va., died on March 25. He served as moderator of the 192nd recorded Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren in Indianapolis, Ind., in 1978. The theme of that Annual Conference was “The Spirit of the Lord Is Upon Us.” He also served in many other denominational, district, and congregational leadership roles, and was a long-time executive with the Appalachian Power Company. Peters was born July 20, 1920, to Ira B. and Etta L. Peters. He was a member of Williamson Road Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. He was preceded in death his wife, Doris Trout Peters. The funeral service was held at the Williamson Road Church on March 28.

— “How Does Your Garden Grow? The How-Tos and Many Benefits of Community Gardening” is the topic for this evening’s webinar at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). The webinar will focus on basic gardening how-to’s, such as site selection and ways to get started in a new space, as well as learning how your congregation can start growing through Going to the Garden. Participants also will take time to reflect on why it is important for people of faith to consider where food comes from and the role of gardening in our own lives. Presenters include Gerry Lee, Dan and Margo Royer-Miller, and Ragan Sutterfield. This is the first webinar in a spring series about community gardening, sponsored by Going to the Garden. Register for this webinar at www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EB56DB87874A3B .

— A letter sent March 16 to President Obama has asked the US Administration to “address root causes of violence in Syria and Iraq.” The letter from a number of American religious leaders including Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger also marked two significant anniversaries in the current crisis in the Middle East: the March 19, 2003, US-led invasion of Iraq, and the March 15, 2011, beginning of the uprising in Syria. “As US churches and Christian organizations with long and deep ties to the churches and faith communities of the Middle East, we are especially concerned about the possible repercussions of continued, and possibly renewed, US military intervention in the region,” the letter said, in part. “The voices we hear tell us that the violence and death must end, on all sides; it must not be stoked with the recourse to lethal action.” The letter noted that before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, “many warned of the dangers of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction–a claim later proven to be false. Similarly, Iraqi church leaders expressed a concern shared by many Iraqis that a military invasion would open the way for extremist manifestations of political religion. They were prescient.” It also noted that “Syrians were particularly anxious that their country would not become as unstable and insecure as Iraq had become over the previous decade, but in many ways, the war in Syria has been even more devastating: civilians continue to bear the brunt of the violence, in what the United Nations has now termed ‘the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.’” The letter urges the US president to prioritize diplomatic and political solutions, dedicate “ample” funds to humanitarian needs in the region, commit to address the increasing refugee crisis, enforce human rights, and “support civil society groups and religious leaders working to build relationships of peace and reconciliation.”

— Loretta Wolf, director of the Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., has provided this round up of 2015 shipments of relief materials: Church World Service (CWS) blankets have been shipped to Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Washington, Montana, and Indiana, for aid to homeless persons. CWS blankets and hygiene kits have been shipped to Arizona for Mexican migrant workers. A cooperative shipment of 15,000 CWS school kits were shipped to Syria by IOCC, an Orthodox organization. One 40-foot container of layettes and personal care kits was shipped to Angola for Lutheran World Relief (LWR). A shipment of 1,500 bales (approximately 45,000) quilts went to India for LWR. A 40-foot container of IMA purchased items was destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Wolf added her appreciation for volunteers who help make the Material Resources program possible, in particular a group from Western Pennsylvania District, led by Herb Ewald. “The group are extremely quick and hard workers who have lots of fun while they work,” she wrote.

— May 3 is National Youth Sunday in the Church of the Brethren, on the theme, “Always Loved, Never Alone” (Romans 8:28-39). Worship planning resources will be posted April 1 at www.brethren.org/yya .

— The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership will hold its annual Training Ministry (TRIM) and Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) orientation on July 30-Aug. 2, at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. For a fact sheet, orientation flier, and additional information, contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu or call 800-287-8822 ext. 1820. “Please give thoughtful and prayerful consideration to those who might be called to enter these ministry training programs,” said an invitation from the Brethren Academy staff.

— A “Mother’s Day 5K for Peace” will be held at the Bridgewater (Va.) Lawn Party Grounds on Sunday, May 10, with all proceeds benefitting the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren. The effort is led by staff of the Global Mission and Service office and Brethren Disaster Ministries, in cooperation with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Registration will start at 12:15 p.m., with the race taking place from 1-3 p.m. The 3.1-mile course is on paved roads in the rolling hills around Bridgewater. The event is suitable for large-wheeled strollers. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome. Generous merchandise awards will be awarded to the over-all male and female winners, as well as other age groups. Water and post-race picnicking will commence after the race. Teams and individuals are welcome to run in honor of a lost friend or relative. Registration is required. For more information or to purchase tickets online, go to www.brethren.org/mothersday5k . For questions or to volunteer on race day, e-mail peterhbarlow@gmail.com or call 540-214-8549.

— A Nigerian Brethren pastor, and the father of two of the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok, Nigeria, last April, was quoted in an article from the Associated Press, published on March 18 by Fox News. “Restless nights have been the lot of the Rev. Enoch Mark, a pastor with the Church of the Brethren whose two daughters are among the kidnapped girls,” the article reported. “He said he is in hiding because he has become a wanted man by Boko Haram because of his role as a spokesman for parents of the Chibok girls. ‘I have been spending the nights sleeplessly worrying about what condition my daughters might be in,’ Mark told AP by telephone. ‘I am so disturbed, thinking of my daughters, thinking of the other Chibok girls.’” Find the article at www.foxnews.com/world/2015/03/18/nigeria-military-no-news-21-kidnapped-chibok-girls-as-jets-bomb-boko-haram .

— Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren was one of the congregations involved in a first interfaith build of Habitat for Humanity in Fort Wayne, Ind. “There’s a new homeowner at Fulller’s Landing, a neighborhood completely filled with homes built by Habitat For Humanity,” reports WANE.com, the website of WANE TV Channel 15 in Fort Wayne. “Habitat leaders passed the keys over…to the new owner of the first-ever local interfaith build home. The new home was made possible thanks to the hard work and collaboration of more than a dozen diverse faith groups.” Read the news report at http://wane.com/2015/03/19/first-interfaith-build-home-dedicated-at-habitat-for-humanity-neighborhood .

— The Shenandoah District Congregational Care Advisory Team is sponsoring a workshop on “Worship Design,” from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on April 11 at Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren. The district newsletter reports that the event will be Led by Leah J. Hileman, an ordained Brethren minister, freelance writer, and independent recording artist. The workshop will cover topics such as song selection; understanding keys, chords, and musical transitions; flow of worship; basics of sound equipment and mixing boards; and copyright law. Cost is $25 and includes lunch. Continuing education units will be available for ministers. Musicians are encouraged to bring their instruments. For more information contact the Shenandoah District at districtoffice@shencob.org or 888-308-8555.

— Also from Shenandoah District, a consecration service for the new Brethren Disaster Ministries utility building and kit assembly room will be held Sunday, April 26, from 3-6 p.m. “Plans are being finalized and will include refreshments and tours of the building and the District Office in addition to the consecration,” said the district newsletter.

— Virlina District holds its annual Ministry and Mission event on May 2, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at Cloverdale (Va.) Church of the Brethren. The theme is “Let Your Light Shine,” which is the 2015 District Conference theme, the district newsletter reports. Angela Carr, pastor of the Laurel Branch Church, will preach for morning worship. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., with worship at 9 a.m. Following worship, the four commissions and committees of the district board will host workshops. Continuing education credit will be available for ministers. Lunch will be provided by the host congregation. An Annual Conference Delegate Briefing takes place after lunch.

— Shepherd’s Spring, an outdoor ministry center in Mid-Atlantic District, holds its 19th Annual Golf Tournament on June 15 at Black Rock Golf Course near Hagerstown, Md. “We invite you to join us for a day of fellowship and fun with all proceeds going to Camper Scholarships!” said an announcement from the district. Cost includes breakfast, a complimentary bucket of balls, beverages on the courses, a goodie bag, and a picnic lunch. The event includes a variety of prizes. Purchase a “Super Ticket” which includes two mulligans, one power ball, and one putt chance at a $5,000 cash prize, for $20. For more information see www.shepherdsspring.org .

— May 15 is the date of the 17th annual golf tournament for the Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction. The tournament will be held at Heritage Oaks in Harrisonburg, Va., reports the district newsletter. Registration forms received with payment by May 8 qualify for a discount $85 per player or $340 per foursome; after May 8 fees go up to $100 and $400. The fee includes 18 holes of golf with cart, lunch, a golf shirt, a sleeve of golf balls, and a ticket to the auction’s oyster and country ham dinner that night at the Rockingham County fairgrounds. Find a registration form at www.shencob.org .

— The Illinois and Wisconsin District Potluck is April 25, 9:30 a.m.-3:15 p.m., at Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren on the theme “Imagining the Image of God.” In addition to a potluck lunch and fellowship, the event includes worship and morning and afternoon workshop choices. Joshua Brockway, spiritual life director for the Church of the Brethren, will present a morning workshop on “Deacons and the Ministry of Reconciliation” and an afternoon workshop on “Prayer and the Life of the Deacon.” Mandy Garcia, formerly of the denomination’s donor communications, will present morning and afternoon sessions on “God’s Profile Pic.” Peg Lehman, a folk singer and music educator from Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., will lead a morning workshop on “The Light of Love.” Jim Lehman, a freelance writer also from the Highland Avenue Church, will provide a morning workshop titled “Some Friends of Mine: Stories About Good People.” The Lehmans together will lead an afternoon “Joint Song and Story Session: Gathering of Spirits.” Childcare will be available and sessions will be provided for elementary age children. A field trip to Fermi Lab has been arranged for students in grades 6-8 (pre-registration is necessary to secure a tour). Senior highs are encouraged to participate in workshops. Registration costs $10 or a maximum of $20 per family, “but no one will be turned away,” said the district announcement. Registrations are due April 9. Contact the district office at 309-649-6008 or bethc.iwdcob@att.net .

— A “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself” fundraising campaign has been announced by the Northern Plains District Stewards Commission, in the district newsletter. “The District Board has decided to share half of our 2015 Fundraising income with the Nigerian Church,” said the announcement. “You may recall that in the past three years the District has relied on Fundraising efforts beyond the congregational allocations to meet our budget. We have also been blessed the last three years by generous donors who have matched our first $5,000 received for Fundraising which enabled us to more quickly meet our budgeted goal of $10,000. This year’s pledge means we will all need to dig deeply into our pockets this year if we will still meet our $10,000 budget after we share half of what we raise in fundraising this year with the Denomination’s Nigeria Compassion Fund.” The commission encouraged congregations to think of creative fundraising ideas and encouraged members to give generously to the Northern Plains District fundraising campaign. Fundraising campaign bulletin inserts were provided for the month of April.

— April 18 is the date of Camp Mardela’s Auction and Flea Market. The camp is located on Maryland’s eastern shore in Denton, Md. The event begins at 9 a.m., with “browsing” starting at 8 a.m. The auction is led by Tommy Trice Auctions. Contact campmardela@gmail.com or 410-479-2861.

— Camp Harmony near Hooversville, Pa., holds a Craft and Flea Market Bazaar on April 23-25. The event is open on Thursday from 1-8 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Booths will be available for crafters, direct sales, and flea market items sold by individual and groups including congregations. “Plan now to be a part of this bazaar to help the ministry of camp.” For more information contact 814-798-5885 or harmony@campharmony.org .

— Northern Plains District notes a special honor received by Cletus Miller. The Iowa State basketball program this year included a profile of Miller from the Iowa High School Athletic Association, “with a particular focus on his long career in public education and high school sports,” reported Brian Gumm, district minister of Communications and Leadership Development, in the district newsletter. “We in Northern Plains have good reason to honor Cletus as well.” Cletus Miller and his wife, Dorothy, attend the Iowa River congregation. In retirement he is involved in the community and church, is active on the boards of community and civic organizations, and has served the district and its camp in a number of ways. In particular, he was moderator of the district conference in 1989.

— On March 23 the Korean Christian Federation and the National Council of Churches in Korea, two bodies of Christians in the South and North of the Korean peninsula, jointly issued a “2015 Easter North-South Joint Prayer” and are inviting Christians around the world to join them in the prayer. “Every year since 1996 the Easter joint prayer has been jointly worked out by the KCF in North and the NCCK in South,” said an invitation. The prayer follows in full:

2015 Easter North-South Joint Prayer

70 years since the joys of incomplete independence were reduced to the pains of separation
On this morning when we reminisce of the jubilance of resurrection
The voice of forgiveness and reconciliation resonates in our hearts

70 years, but still a broken culture rages among us
In the face of the rule of the dead powers of the military industry
We repent for our feeble faith that confessed words instead of actions

We see ourselves frightened to meet even before considering forgiveness
Such is rooted in our distrust
We confess that no love and faith for each other had ever existed

No blame was put upon the crowd that cried for the cross
Following Jesus who has revealed the path of salvation through forgiveness,
After 70 years of separation, we pray that the fire of forgiveness and reconciliation kindle in every nation of the world
Lord, lead our way

Before we fault others,
Help us purify ourselves, as we are filled with hate, anger and violence
Grant us the inner courage to reflect back on our true past
Face the hidden truth
And reunite with those who suffered unrighteous death

Give our weak selves the Holy Spirit
Let us not give up on our pursuit for forgiveness, reconciliation and unification
Amidst the despairs of death, you have shown us great hope through resurrection
Bring the new life of resurrection to this dying land

In the same way that Jacob, after crossing the Yabok River embraced Esau and danced,
Armed with forgiveness, let us cross the river of hate and enmity to unite, North and South
Wash away the agonies of separation
To give our sons and daughters one, living nation

We believe that the road of this journey would save people and give hope to mankind
In the name of Jesus Christ who never ceases to call
Into the world of resurrection,
We pray sincerely, Amen.
— The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and the Korean Christian Federation (KCF)