The Advent season begins on Sunday, Nov. 29, and groups across the denomination already are announcing special Advent and Christmas events. Here is a gleaning:
A Christmas concert by the Hershey Handbell Ensemble is hosted by Black Rock Church of the Brethren in Glenville, Pa., on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 3 p.m. The ensemble was formed in 2004 and is based in south-central Pennsylvania, said a release from the church. “It was formed to fulfill the need for an auditioned community ensemble comprised of persons able to play advanced literature, interested in advancing the art of handbell ringing through education and performance, while uniting people through the musical arts. The 15-member group under the direction of Dr. Shawn Gingrich performs on 7 octaves of Malmark Handbells, handchimes, and other assorted instruments. The Ensemble will have their selection of popular CD recordings available for purchase at the concerts.” A free-will offering will be taken. Refreshments will be served following the concert. For more information, see www.hersheyhandbellensemble.org or call 717-298-7071. For information and directions to the church, visit www.blackrockchurch.org or call 717-637-6170.
McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren and the Cedars retirement community in McPherson are jointly involved in an 11th annual Alternative Christmas Gift Market. The church sponsors the event and the Cedars will host it at the Cedars Conference Center on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Attendees donate to the charities represented, some 22 in all according to report in the “McPherson Sentinel,” while learning more about their work for the community and enjoying Christmas music and cookies. The market also offers fair trade goods for purchase. The report said that more than $180,000 has been raised in the event’s 10 years. Read more at www.mcphersonsentinel.com/article/20151112/LIFESTYLE/151119776 .
A First Annual Topeco Free Christmas is being planned by Topeco Church of the Brethren in Floyd County, Va. The church is collecting gently used and new children’s items to give away on Saturday, Dec. 5, 9 a.m.-12 noon, in an event for members of Church of the Brethren congregations in the area. Depending on availability of items, the event may be continued the morning of Dec. 12, when it would be opened to the public. According to an announcement from Virlina District, the Topeco church is inviting all of the local Church of the Brethren congregations to donate and promote this effort. Free gift wrapping will be available. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
“Come to Bethlehem and see…” says an invitation to a Dec. 5 outdoor live nativity program at Bethlehem Church of the Brethren in Boones Mill, Va. Visitors will experience the story of Christmas as they walk by scenes of Mary and Joseph, shepherds with their sheep, angels, and Wise Men. The church will be offering cookies, hot chocolate, and warm fellowship to guests. Golf cart rides are available to those who need assistance. The event is open from 5-8 p.m., rain or shine. For more information contact Sharon G. Grindstaff at 540-493-7252.
The Truck Stop Ministry in Southern Pennsylvania District will be active again this Advent, collecting and distributing Christmas cookies. Cookies will be collected on the last Monday in November and the first three Mondays in December. Last year some 12,200 bags of cookies were collected and distributed. “They are such a blessing to the trucking community,” said an announcement. “Please continue to pray and give so we can continue to serve the least, the lost, and the lonely. It is an incredible ministry touching lives literally across the nation.”
A perennial Christmas favorite returns to Bridgewater (Va.) College when the Oratorio Choir presents G.F. Handel’s “Messiah” at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 13 in the Carter Center for Worship and Music. The concert is directed by John McCarty, assistant professor of music and director of choral music. It will feature all of Part I (the Christmas portion) and the “Hallelujah Chorus.” The choir of nearly 80 students, faculty, staff, and community members will be accompanied by an orchestra of students and professionals. Featured soloists include students Caroline S. Caplen, a sophomore music major from Alexandria, Va.; Katelynn Hallock, a senior music major from Frederick, Md.; Jordan M. Haugh, a senior music major from Frederick, Md.; Adam Kelly, a sophomore music major from Salem, Va.; Aaron Lavinder, a senior music major from Glade Hill, Va.; Marvin Purnell, a junior Spanish major from Withams, Va.; Traci Sink, a senior music major from Snow Camp, N.C.; Demetra Young, a senior music major from Boones Mill, Va.; and Katrina Weirup, a junior music major from Blue Ridge, Va. The concert is open to the public at no charge. Doors open one hour before the performance.
The Fahrney-Keedy retirement community near Boonsboro, Md., began its annual wreath display on Nov. 8, in preparation for the Holiday Festival on Dec. 11 from 4-7 p.m. The festival features a silent auction and Festival of Wreaths, and Nov. 8 will be the first day the uniquely decorated wreaths will be on display and open for bidding. Visitors to the Holiday Festival will “enjoy scrumptious holiday refreshments, festive music,” said the announcement from Mid-Atlantic District. “Bring the kids and grandkids, as Santa will be here for pictures.” A quilt made by beloved resident Arminta Reynolds, and donated in her memory, will be sold in a special live auction. A luminaria display will be presented by the Fahrney-Keedy Auxiliary. Proceeds benefit the Pastoral Care Ministries of the retirement community.
Cross Keys Village-Brethren Home Community holds a “Grand Illusions” Jewelry Sale on Nov. 13 from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Friends of the Cross Keys Village. Most items are only $6, and the sale features scarves, wallets, and watches. The event is held in the Nicarry Meetinghouse. “It’s the perfect time to pick up early Christmas presents!” said an announcement.
A 32nd annual Christmas Tree of Stars will be displayed at the Brethren Home Community in Windber, Pa. “Your donation will not only honor or memorialize a loved one or friend, it will help provide benevolent care for our residents. The names of those being remembered will be displayed on the Christmas tree located in the Home’s Circle Lounge,” said an announcement. Contact the Church of the Brethren Home, 277 Hoffman Ave., Windber, PA 15963 to donate a star for the tree in memory of a loved one.
“Mark your calendar now for Timbercrest’s Third Annual Festival of Trees,” said an invitation from South Central Indiana District. The event at the Timbercrest retirement community in North Manchester, Ind., will be held on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Camp Harmony is holding a Children’s Christmas Party on Dec. 12 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. featuring Snapology, a Lego activity. The camp is located near Hooversville, Pa. “Come and bring a friend,” said an invitation from Western Pennsylvania District. Ages five through seven will make Lego creations including a snowflake and a sled for racing down the Snapology race track. Ages 8 through 10 will build a Christmas scene and accessories for making an animated Christmas card. Registrations are due by Dec. 4. Contact email@example.com or 814-798-5885, or go to www.campharmony.org .
— A good overview of the history of the Church of the Brethren and its relationship with the Mennonites is offered in a new article from “Mennonite World Review.” For the article titled “Anabaptist Siblings: Brethren Renew Historic Connections with Mennonites,” published Nov. 11, author Rich Preheim interviewed a number of leading Brethren including general secretary Stan Noffsinger, Bethany Seminary professor Denise Kettering-Lane, and Jeff Bach of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, along with a member of one of three jointly affiliated Brethren and Mennonite congregations–Tim Lind of Florence Church of the Brethren-Mennonite in southern Michigan–among others. This year for the first time the Mennonite World Conference chose to include the Church of the Brethren in its global census of Anabaptists. The census includes groups like the Church of the Brethren that are not members of the conference. Noffsinger clarified that the Church of the Brethren is “not looking to join MWC or merge with other bodies,” the article said. Noffsinger also emphasized that the Brethren have “never left Anabaptism but have always maintained traditional positions such as pacifism, believer’s baptism, and the church as voluntary community.” Cesar Garcia, general secretary of the Mennonite World Conference, said the decision to include the Church of the Brethren in the census of Anabaptists was made because of stances on baptism and peacemaking. Read the article at http://mennoworld.org/2015/11/11/news/
— The Brethren Historical Committee will hold its annual meeting this coming weekend, Nov. 13-14, at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.. The members of the committee will meet with the staff of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives. Committee members who will be attending include Denise Kettering-Lane, Tim Binkley, Jeff Bach, and Dawne Dewey.
— The Conference Office welcomes the new Vitality and Viability Committee to the General Offices on Nov. 16-18. This Annual Conference study committee was formed by the 2015 Conference as a response to the business item on district structure. Members of the committee who will be coming to Elgin, Ill., for the meeting are Larry Dentler of East Berlin, Pa.; Sonja Griffith of McPherson, Kan.; Shayne Petty of West Milton, Ohio; and Craig Smith of Elizabethtown, Pa. Associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Stuery also is a member of the committee.
— Workcamp assistants for 2017 are sought by the Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry. Workcamp assistants typically are young adult college graduates and serve through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). The office of the Workcamp Ministry is located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Find a link to the online application form and more information about the Workcamp Ministry at www.brethren.org/workcamps . Applications are being accepted until Jan. 8, 2016.
— A young Nigerian woman living in Michigan who is threatened with deportation is receiving support from some Church of the Brethren members and congregations in Michigan and northern Indiana. The woman is affiliated with Skyridge Church of the Brethren in Kalamazoo. Those leading the effort to help her report that despite the woman’s status as a single mother of a US-born child, from a community in northeast Nigeria that has suffered attacks by Boko Haram Islamist insurgents, the ICE authorities in Michigan recently reversed previous assurances that she could work toward a green card at her place of employment. She also has been accepted as a student at a Michigan university. The group leading the effort is requesting prayer and contacts from people who are willing to write letters of support to the ICE authorities in Michigan. Contact Joanna Willoughby at firstname.lastname@example.org for detailed information about how to help.
— The first in a series of “12 Baskets and a Goat” benefit events for Heifer International–a cooperative effort with Ted & Co. and the Church of the Brethren–will be Saturday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Sale Barn on Sunny Slope Farm in Harrisonburg, Va. (1825 Sunny Slope Lane). Ted & Co. will present an original play, “The Jesus Stories: Faith, Forks, and Fettuccine.” An auction will feature baskets of bread and Heifer farm animals. Admission is free with registration at www.universe.com/12basketsandagoat .
— “Back by popular demand!” said an announcement of Chocolate Night at Maple Spring Church of the Brethren in Hollsopple, Pa. The event on Nov. 17 starts at 6:45 p.m. “Come enjoy this night of: Chocolate, praise and worship, devotional thoughts, and fellowship with Jesus’ daughters,” said the announcement from Western Pennsylvania District. The event is sponsored by the Sisters in Christ Women’s Ministry.
— The last two district conferences of 2015 are this coming weekend in Virlina and Pacific Southwest Districts. Virlina District meets Nov. 13-15 in Roanoke, Va., on the theme “You Are the Light of the World…Let Your Light Shine,” with leadership from moderator Dava C. Hensley. The Virlina conference will hear from preacher Mary Jo Flory-Steury, associate general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and executive of the Office of Ministry, and from Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray, and will take up an offering for the Nigeria Crisis Response as well as a collection of disaster relief kits. Pacific Southwest District will meet Nov. 13-15 at Brethren Hillcrest Homes in La Verne, Calif., led by moderator Eric Bishop on the theme “Called to Be Just Christians” (Matthew 5:1-12, 25:33-45). The Pacific Southwest event is preceded by a continuing education event for ministers and other church leaders on the topic of “Finding Hope,” led by Jeff Jones, associate professor of Ministerial Leadership and director of Ministry Studies at Andover Newton Theological School.
— At Camp Harmony, a Faith Promise Dinner celebrates the camp’s centennial. The dinner on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. will receive donations, with a minimum donation of $100 requested to “help Camp Harmony reach 100 years of ministry,” said an announcement from Western Pennsylvania District. The theme scripture is from Psalm 105:44: “And they fell heir to what others had toiled for….” For more information contact the camp near Hooversville, Pa., at email@example.com or 814-798-5885.
— For the eighth time, the Brethren Home Community in Windber, Pa., was voted 2015 “Simply the Best” retirement facility by the readers of the Johnstown (Pa.) “Tribune Democrat.” “We always keep in mind that this honor isn’t a scientific survey,” said an announcement in the Western Pennsylvania District newsletter, “but it is a compliment to our staff to have such a good reputation for superior care in the Johnstown community.”
— The 2015 Founders Club Dinner at Cross Keys Village-The Brethren Home Community in New Oxford, Pa., will feature a presentation by Marie Roberts Monville, the wife of the man who shot and killed Amish children at the Nickel Mines school in 2006. No one was more affected by the amazing lesson in forgiveness shown by the Amish than Monville, an announcement of the event noted. She went on to write the book “One Light Still Shines: My Life Beyond the Shadow of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting.” The dinner will be held Saturday, Nov. 14, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. The dinner is open to those who join the Founders Club by supporting its annual project. To find out more about the dinner and the Founders Club, call the Brethren Home Foundation at 717-624-5208.
— “What Good News for all of us is found in the celebration of the birth of the Savior! While the Christmas season has become a hectic time of the year for most of us, we desperately need to hear again the words that speak to us of promise and hope.” So begins the Advent/Christmas spiritual disciplines folder from the Springs of Living Water initiative for church renewal. The initiative is led by David and Joan Young. The new folder begins on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29, and runs through Jan. 9. Following lectionary texts from Luke, and the Church of the Brethren Sunday bulletin series, the folder offers congregations a daily scripture with a five-fold prayer pattern to encourage individuals to read the text of the day in a slow meditative manner, and follow its guidance. Vince Cable, retired from ministry at Uniontown Church of the Brethren, has helped create the folder and has written Bible study questions for individual and group use. Find the study questions on the Springs website www.churchrenewalservant.org . For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-615-4515.
— The Office of Chaplain at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College is taking part in a nationwide study called the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS), according to the campus newspaper “The Etownian.” Tracy Sadd serves as chaplain and director of Religious Life for the college. She told the student paper that the study researches religious and non-religious views of students, and their understanding of other people’s worldviews. The study was offered to all first-year students, and respondants will be asked to answer a similar survey in their sophomore and senior years. The survey is run by the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core. The college “has been working with the Interfaith Youth Core in recent years to advance the interfaith studies programs” with goals of increasing global understanding and peacemaking as well as “inclusive excellence,” the report said. Elizabethtown is one of around 130 schools around the nation that are carrying out the IDEALS survey.
— Arthur “Skip” Roderick, men’s soccer head coach at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, has become only the seventh men’s soccer coach in NCAA Division III history to amass 500 career victories, according to the campus newspaper “The Etownian.” He himself graduated from the college in 1974, and is in his 33rd coaching season. “Roderick took over the men’s soccer program in 1983 and has reached the NCAA tournament 17 times,” said the report, dated Oct. 29. “This year’s team has a chance to add to those totals, as the team currently stands at 15-1-1 and have clinched the top spot in this year’s Landmark Conference postseason.”
— In more news from Elizabethtown College, professor of sociology Conrad L. Kanagy will present “Anabaptists Around the World” on Nov. 17, at 7 p.m., at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. He will report preliminary findings from the Global Anabaptist Profile, a study of 22 Mennonite groups from 18 countries. “This presentation is the first public report of the results of the GAP, which is sponsored by Mennonite World Conference and the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism (Goshen College, Ind.),” said an announcement on the Young Center website. John Roth of Goshen College is a co0director of the study. For more information, call 717-361-1470 or visit www.etown.edu/youngctr/events .
— Bridgewater (Va.) College has released its biennial Speakers Bureau list of faculty and staff available to give presentations on a wide range of topics, available to clubs, schools, churches, and other organizations. “Bridgewater’s Speakers Bureau is a service to the local community and there is no charge for the presentation,” said a release. The Speakers Bureau is listed at www.bridgewater.edu/events-news/speakers and requests may be submitted online. The list features a wide range of topics for all ages, such as information on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the United States, how parenting skills can influence a child’s behavior, what “environmental justice” is, how women’s images are crafted and circulated in the media, how to set up and use social media accounts, election laws and requirements, the life and works of C.S. Lewis, a hands-on DNA workshop for elementary and home-schooled children, help for high school students preparing for college, understanding the college admissions process and financial aid, learning what it is like to be a college student, realizing the power of a liberal arts education, foreign policy, international affairs, terrorism, the crisis in the Middle East, and the emergence of China as a world power, among others.
— An effort called “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” is involving churches and other organizations in work against violence based on gender. The 16 days begin on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and end Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. Education for girls and young women is a special focus. “Education provides the foundation for girls’ development on their journey toward adult life,” said an announcement from the World Council of Churches (WCC). “It plays a vital role in helping women realize their potential economically, politically, and socially. Schools, universities, and other places of education must be safe environments for girls and young women. Too often, they are not. We want to change this.” Participating organizations include the WCC along with the Anglican Communion, the Church of Sweden, Finn Church Aid, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Lutheran World Federation, Mission 21, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and the World YWCA. Activities include sharing prayers, ideas, and actions for each of the 16 days, and gathering sacred narratives and stories from the Christian and Islamic traditions that empower and give voice to girls and women, the announcement said. Visit www.oikoumene.org/16days for resources and updates throughout the 16 days of the emphasis.
— Brian Gumm, a Church of the Brethren pastor, is one of 20 contributors to the anthology “A Living Alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World.” Sections of his chapter were quoted in a recent review of the book in “Mennonite World Review.” The book offers stories of spiritual pilgrimages, experiments, and experiences in being the church, as well as observations on post-Christendom and living out the Christian faith, the review said. Gumm’s chapter “Seeking the Peace of the Farm Town: Anabaptist Mission and Ministry in the Midwest” describes an approach “sometimes called ‘slow church,’ where you emphasize getting to know the community and becoming an everyday part of it,” the review said. “This approach bears in mind that God is already at work in a given community, so one shouldn’t ‘parachute’ into a situation attempting to change or fix things, especially when your ‘fix’ might not be right for the local context.” The book is edited by A.O. Green and Joanna Harader, and published by Ettelloc Publishing. Find the review at http://mennoworld.org/2015/11/09/columns/book-review-bright-new-anabaptist-voices .