Newsline for Aug. 26, 2015

1) Called to help rebuild, we became part of a new family

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries notes accomplishments of Hurricane Katrina response

3) Children’s Disaster Services changed the lives of children and families after Katrina

4) On the road to Damascus: When the scales fall from our eyes

5) Christian leaders urge Congress to vote for diplomatic agreement with Iran

6) Prayer is requested for those affected by wildfires in western states

7) Brethren volunteers in Nigeria renew wedding vows after 48 years of marriage

8) Brethren Disaster Ministries restructures, makes personnel changes

9) Brethren Volunteer Service unit begins work at project sites

10) Congregations invited to plan special prayers, events for Peace Day

11) Covenant Bible Studies shed light on 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Peter, Jude

12) Brethren bits: Annual Conference groups meet, “Gospel of Mark and 21st Century Ministry,” Day of Confession on Sept. 6 called by AME Church, webinar focuses on hunger issue in Congress, Shively speaks at Virlina retreat, FOR centennial, and more

IN NEXT WEEK’S ISSUE: Brethren reflect on the one-year anniversary of Ferguson


1) Called to help rebuild, we became part of a new family

By John and Mary Mueller

John and Mary Mueller, who for several years headed up the Hurricane Katrina response of Brethren Disaster Ministries, are shown here kneeling behind a handmade cross with a group of volunteers who helped rebuild homes following the storm. A Katrina survivor had fashioned the cross from wreckage of his fishing boat. He refinished the opposite side of the cross, to signify his new life in Christ.

When we watched the news in 2005 that Hurricane Katrina had hit the Gulf Coast, we were pretty sure that Brethren Disaster Ministries would be available to help with the rebuilding. We had no idea that it would mean a major change for us, that it would bring us into an experience that we now consider to be one of the highlights of our lives.

Feeling a call to help, we went to the Brethren Disaster Ministries project site at Chalmette, La., in March 2007 for what we thought would be a year of service.

Rather sheepishly, we admit now that when we looked at the map and saw how close Chalmette was to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans we wondered what we were getting ourselves into. There had been plenty of television coverage about the crime and looting in the area, so we started to question both our sanity and our safety.

We needn’t have worried. As we drove into the area that first Sunday in March, a feeling of calmness came over both of us. We knew we were in a good place, and, odd as it may sound, we could feel the goodness of the community and the people even as we were in the car driving the deserted streets and seeing the devastation for the first time in person.

The television coverage did not adequately prepare us for what we saw!

Later we found that the majority of the residents were living in FEMA trailers gathered any place where they could hook up to utilities. We ended up living in and housing our volunteers in trailers parked right along with the storm survivors, allowing us to be immersed in their community at a much deeper level than we had experienced at any other disaster site. We became part of the community, and consequently our time in St. Bernard Parish is part of our lives, not just another experience.

Another thing we were not adequately prepared for was personally experiencing Southern hospitality! We fondly remember how Miss Karen insisted on feeding all the volunteers every day. This was a lady who lost everything and had three generations of her family living together with her, trying to recover. Yet, despite our protests that it wasn’t necessary, she insisted on cooking–and cook she did! Spaghetti, fried chicken, seafood–again and again she would be asked for her recipes and we would all roar with laughter as she always began her answer, “Well, you start with a pound of butter….”  Karen’s is just one of so many stories.

It would take four years, not the one year we had planned to stay, before we felt the ministry had achieved the goal of helping the community rebuild to a level where residents were once more able to make it on their own. At one point we remember thinking, how will we ever be able to leave this place? Partly because the rebuilding task seemed so daunting, and partly because we had developed so many deep friendships in the community.

But the day did come that we saw the local rebuild committee all nodding their heads as we reported that Brethren Disaster Ministries had neared the end of its time in their community. We had finished our mission to help them rebuild, and they were now sufficiently recovered and strong enough that we could go on to serve another need in some other part of the country.

When we drove out of town, it was with the promise of visiting our friends again someday, and keeping in touch via phone and e-mails, which indeed we do.

We are grateful for having had the opportunity to expand our “family.”

— John and Mary Mueller are receiving a Points of Light Award for their work leading the rebuilding program of Brethren Disaster Ministries in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Find the news release about the Points of Light award, titled “Daily Point of Light Award Celebrates Volunteers During the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,” at .

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries notes accomplishments of Hurricane Katrina response

By Jane Yount

Photo courtesy of CDS
A child in a Welcome Home Center after Hurricane Katrina

The largest and longest domestic response in Brethren Disaster Ministries history ended when the work at its sixth and final Hurricane Katrina recovery project, in St. Bernard Parish, La., was completed in June 2011. During the nearly 6-year response, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers repaired or rebuilt homes for 531 families in 6 communities along the Gulf Coast, giving an estimated value of $6,776,416.80 in labor (2010 dollar value). Project consultants John and Mary Mueller oversaw this project for more than four years.

From Sept. 2005 through June 2011:

— Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers repaired and rebuilt homes in six communities affected by Hurricane Katrina: Citronelle, Ala.; Lucedale, Miss.; McComb, Miss.; Pearl River, La.; East New Orleans, La.; and Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish, La. The program also contributed to a New Orleans Ecumenical Build in cooperation with Church World Service and a number of other Christian organizations.

— The ministry served 531 families affected by the hurricane.

— Put a total of 5,737 volunteers to work at Katrina rebuilding, who gave 40,626 work days or 325,008 work hours representing a value of donated labor of $6,776,416.80.*

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a ministry of Brethren Disaster Services, also worked in the Gulf region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

— CDS cared for children in area in the Gulf that were directly affected by the storm, as well as in places that received families displaced by the hurricane, and in New Orleans when displaced families began to return. The 12 communities where Katrina-related child support was provided are Los Angeles and San Bernardino, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; Lafayette, La.; Norfolk and Blackstone, Va.; Kingwood, W.Va.; Mobile, Ala.; Gulfport, Miss.; and the Welcome Home Center in New Orleans.

— From  Sept. 7- Oct. 27, 2005, 113 CDS volunteers cared for 2,749 children, with volunteers putting in a total of 1,122 working days.

— A year and a half later, CDS caregivers served children and families in the “Welcome Home” center in New Orleans where, from Jan. 3-Sept. 11, 2007, 61 volunteers cared for 2,097 children, putting in 933 working days.

— CDS made a total of 4,846 child contacts related to Hurricane Katrina. A total of 174 volunteers with the program served 2,055 days doing Katrina relief work, amounting to 16,440 volunteer hours valued at $342,774 in donated labor.*

Brethren Disaster Ministries Hurricane Katrina cumulative statistics
Sept. 2005-June 2011

 Location  Volunteers  Workdays  Work Hours  Families Served
 Citronelle, Ala.  141  1,020  8,160  81
 Lucedale, Miss.  809  5,167  41,336  94
 McComb, Miss.  352  2,442  19,536  52
 Pearl River, La.  773  5,654  45,232  32
 East New Orleans, La.  144  1,019  8,152  4
 Chalmette, La. (St. Bernard Parish)  3,477  25,081  200,648  257
 New Orleans Ecumenical Build  41  243  1,944  11
 Total   5,737  40,626  325,008*  531

*Value of donated labor (2010 dollar value) at $20.85 per hour = $6,776,416.80. The 2010 value of $20.25 per hour for volunteer time is based on the average hourly wage for non-agricultural workers, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, plus 12 percent for estimated benefits.

— Jane Yount up until recently was coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries. For more about Brethren Disaster Ministries, which is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service, go to .

3) Children’s Disaster Services changed the lives of children and families after Katrina

Photo courtesy of CDS
Playing in a children’s care center after Hurricane Katrina

By Kathleen Fry-Miller

Hurricane Katrina changed the lives of children and families. They were profoundly affected throughout the evacuation process, as they moved into new states and communities or returned to rebuild, and as their families created a way forward over the past 10 years.

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS, then known as Disaster Child Care) was a part of the resilience effort to reach as many children as possible at the time. Coordinator Helen Stonesifer deployed the CDS teams in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to 14 different sites across the country, and she also provided ongoing support to each team out on assignment.

From Sept. 7-Oct. 27, 2005, 113 CDS volunteers cared for 2,749 children, putting in 1,122 working days.

A year and a half later, CDS caregivers served children and families in the “Welcome Home” center in New Orleans. From Jan. 3-Sept. 11, 2007, 61 volunteers cared for 2,097 children, putting in 933 working days.

It was truly both hard work and a blessing to care for the children of Hurricane Katrina. I served with an outstanding team of caregivers in Lafayette and Gonzales, La., five weeks after the storm. A vivid memory that stands out in my mind was the focus of the children’s experience on houses–after so many houses had been destroyed. They played house, they drew and painted houses, they talked about houses, they created houses out of boxes or blocks or any play materials they could find.

While we saw some difficult and disturbing behaviors at times, we also saw joy in the smiles of the children as they played. One little boy got inside a cardboard box, closed the “doors” (the cardboard flaps), and began to pound on the sides of the box. We were a bit concerned about what kind of deep-felt emotion he might be expressing. But then he opened up the sides and announced, “We’re having a party in here. This is some party!”

It was a profoundly moving experience to share in the hope and resilience of the little ones. We were touched by the family members who stopped in to tell us their stories of grief and loss, as well as to express appreciation for the time their children were able to be with us.

To learn more about the unique perspective of teens and young adults who were children in New Orleans when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, check out the Katrina Voices storytelling project of the Louisiana Children’s Museum at . The stories of these children portray journeys of personal growth, from adversity and uncertainty to love and resilience, in the 10 years following Hurricane Katrina.

— Kathleen Fry-Miller is associate director of Children’s Disaster Services, a program of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service. Find out more about Children’s Disaster Services at .

4) On the road to Damascus: When the scales fall from our eyes

By Gimbiya Kettering

In Aug. 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated our country. It not only flooded cities, destroyed buildings, and displaced people from the Gulf region–it somehow displaced all of us. I remember being struck by a photo of an older, Black woman, suddenly homeless, wrapped in an American flag. It seemed impossible to believe that this could happen to “us”–Americans in America.

The storm unfolded layers of complications and injustices that revealed people of color were disproportionately impacted by the storm–in part because their lives were tenuous before the storm began. That systematic racism and poverty had swept them away like so much debris in the force of the storm and the country’s response to it.

Ten years ago, it felt like the scales had fallen from our eyes and in the bright, new light we repented. From the robust conversation about power, privilege, and prejudice, it seemed we were on the verge of understanding something fundamentally “wrong” with ourselves and how we treat one another. That with this understanding we would be able to bring about the kind of change that would genuinely support our national vision where all people are created equal, with right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness–where no one would be abandoned on their rooftop in times of storm or calm.

Like now, in 2005 the conversation about race in our nation seemed urgent and important. Then it went silent. Not all at once, but gradually fading away. There was other news. The post-storm “normal” was not worth reporting and we became swept up in our daily lives. We forgot the urgency around race. We left the conversation mid-sentence. The underlying realities, inequalities, and injustices remained and we forgot that the next storm would mean people returning to the roof.

Now, current events related to race, are sweeping the nation like a storm and breaking the levees of the status quo. After the shootings in Charleston and the publicity about mass incarceration and the public awareness about police brutality, we are again on the road to Damascus. We are seeing with new eyes and a repentant heart that racism is a sin that destroys us all. We are vowing to make a change.

And I can only pray this is true. That, this time, we will stay the course. I pray that we will finish what we have begun, truly addressing the issues and social forces that divide us from one another. I pray that we will heed the call to care for the widow, the orphan–those most vulnerable in our society. My hope is that our hearts will remember the urgency to see the work to completion.

My fear is that we will look away, work unfinished, again.

— Gimbiya Kettering is director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, and on the staff of Congregational Life Ministries. This blogpost is the most recent in a series on the theme “Continuing Together,” focused on a conversation about how race, culture, ethnicity, and language impact our relationships with one another and how we do ministry. Find the blog series at . To join the conversation leave a comment or e-mail .


5) Christian leaders urge Congress to vote for diplomatic agreement with Iran

Two Church of the Brethren denominational staff have signed on to a letter from Christian leaders to the US Congress, urging approval of the diplomatic agreement with Iran. General secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger and Office of Public Witness director Nathan Hosler are among some 50 Christian leaders who have signed the letter, according to a release from the National Council of Churches and the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Also signing on to the letter are a number of ecumenical partners of the Church of the Brethren, among them Paul Nathan Alexander of Evangelicals for Social Action; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Legate, Armenian Orthodox Church; J. Ron Byler, executive director of Mennonite Central Committee; Carlos Malave, executive director of Christian Churches Together; John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service; Roy Medley, general secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA; Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The letter follows in full:

Dear Member of Congress:

As Christian leaders in the United States, we are writing to urge you to vote in support of the negotiated settlement over Iran’s nuclear program. We live by God’s call to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). After decades of hostility, the international community has crafted a nuclear accord to limit Iran’s nuclear program and prevent the United States from moving closer toward another devastating war in the Middle East.

The July 2015 diplomatic agreement with Iran will dramatically shrink and impose unprecedented constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. In exchange, the international community will begin to lift sanctions on Iran. It also establishes the most robust monitoring and inspection regime ever negotiated to verify Iran’s compliance with the restrictions on its nuclear program.

As Christians, we feel called to speak out for the possibility of peace. As faith leaders from the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons in war, we have a particular responsibility to speak boldly when opportunities arise that lead to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at home and around the world. This historic accord moves us one small step closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.

This agreement helps de-escalate tension in a region that is already suffering the effects of war and violence in ways unimaginable to most of us in the United States. It is also a testament to the effectiveness of diplomacy to take countries from the brink of war and resolve concerns peacefully.

This is a moment to remember the wisdom of Jesus who proclaimed from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).This agreement moves us further away from the possibility of war and another nuclear-armed nation. There is no question we are all better off with this deal than without it. Rejection of this deal would be a rejection of the historic progress our diplomats have made to make this world a safer place.

The stakes on this matter have never been higher. That is why more than forty national organizations, including more than a dozen faith-based groups, wrote a letter earlier this year urging lawmakers to vote in support of this deal. The groups noted that this “will be among the most consequential national security votes taken by Congress since the decision to authorize the invasion of Iraq.”

As people of faith, we urge you to support the international agreement with Iran and reject legislation to undermine the deal. We will be praying for you.

— Find the full letter with signatures posted at .

6) Prayer is requested for those affected by wildfires in western states

Prayers have been requested for those in the state of Washington and other areas of the western United States who are affected by wildfires. Late last week, Pacific Northwest District executive Colleen Michael reported that the community of Tonasket, Wash.–where there are two Church of the Brethren congregations–has been affected by mandatory evacuations.

“Colleen has family there, who have all been evacuated safely,” said the prayer request from the Office of the General Secretary. “Three firefighters have lost their lives and another is in critical condition in the burn unit of Seattle’s Harborview hospital.

“Please pray for the responders, for those who have lost homes or loved ones, for those who are temporarily displaced, and for all communities under evacuation order.”

Also last week, Bethany Seminary shared a prayer request for Brethren and others affected by the fires after associate professor Debbie Roberts’ travel back to the seminary was hindered. Wildfires had closed a main highway south of her home in Tonasket.

In a follow-up telephone message, Roberts’ husband Steve Kinsey reported that at least a 10-mile stretch of the main highway south of Tonasket had been closed, and many homes had been lost to the fires. High winds were causing separate fires to join together, causing a very serious situation.

This week, news reports from the northwest indicate that high winds and warm weather continue to worsen fire conditions. Dozens of wildfires are spread across the western United States, forcing evacuations from Washington State to southern California. As of this past Sunday, fires were reported to be raging in the states of Washington, California, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.

7) Brethren volunteers in Nigeria renew wedding vows after 48 years of marriage

By Zakariya Musa

Photo by Zakariya Musa
EYN National Standing Committee with Janet and Tom Crago and Jim Mitchell

Tom and Janet Crago, Church of the Brethren volunteers in Nigeria, celebrate their 48th year of marriage at the Annex Office of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), located in north central Nigeria where they assist the Brethren who relocated from the church’s headquarters at Kwarhi in Adamawa State. The event took place during the morning devotion of the EYN headquarters staff.

EYN president Dr. Samuel Dali commended the couple for the occasion he said was worth imitating by pastors and non-pastors who witnessed it. “We are happy that you agree to celebrate this time here with us in Nigeria,” he said.

Jim Mitchell, who is another Church of the Brethren volunteer currently working in Nigeria, officiated for the celebration of joy amidst pastors, officials, and staff of EYN. Some commented on the unusual celebration, where the couple restated their commitment in marriage like they did on their first day.

Josiah Dali, coordinator of the Pastoral Development Program of EYN, said, “I have learnt so many things this morning because I have not seen such before. We are going to emulate it in EYN.”

The director of Evangelism Daniel Bukar Bwala said, “Tom and Jennet’s celebration of 48 years of marriage have taught me a lot. With Mr. President, ministers, secretary, and Pastoral Development coordinator in attendance, it could now be introduced officially in EYN,” he suggested.

Markus Vashawa had this to say: “There are things women know better than men, and there are things men know better than women in marriage.”

Rose Joseph said, “We can learn from this, because it is not EYN practice.”

“God joined you together,” said Jim Mitchell, who officiated. “Every wedding is the occasion of joy. Be thankful to God for bringing you this moment.” He also prayed for the couple to remain strong and have many more years to come in love, experiencing peace and joy, and remaining faithful. “God we are witnesses, we celebrate with them.”

“In this wedding we support each other,” the Cragos said. “We had 6 of these 48 years in Nigeria, so we are somehow almost Nigerians.”

— Zakariya Musa is on the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).


8) Brethren Disaster Ministries restructures, makes personnel changes

Brethren Disaster Ministries is restructuring and reshaping its staff and support staff positions to better serve a growing rebuilding ministry and Children’s Disaster Services.

Three new positions have been created and filled: office manager for Brethren Disaster Ministries, a salaried staff position reporting to Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries; program assistant for Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding program, a support staff position reporting to Kathy Fry-Miller, associate director of Children’s Disaster Services; and program assistant for Children’s Disaster Services, a support staff position reporting to Jenn Dorsch, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

The three new fulltime positions replace two fulltime positions, one part-time position, and one position for a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) volunteer.

Coordinator position is ended

The position of coordinator of Brethren Disaster Ministries has been closed out. Jane Yount, coordinator of Brethren Disaster Ministries, ended her service to the Church of the Brethren on Monday, Aug. 24. For more than 30 years, Yount served in a variety of roles to support the mission of the denomination at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. She began her work for the church in the role of pricer for SERRV in 1982. She then moved to the position of secretary for the Food Preservation System in 1983, and to secretary for the Refugee/Disaster Program in 1984. As the needs in Brethren Disaster Ministries changed, her role evolved to its most current position of coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries.

“We are grateful to Jane for her years of service to the Church of the Brethren,” said an announcement from the Human Resources department.

Three fill new positions

Three new employees have been hired as part of the restructuring of the Brethren Disaster Ministries staff:

Sharon Billings Franzén of Westminster, Md., has been hired as office manager for Brethren Disaster Ministries. In addition to teaching and tutoring, her work experience over the years has included responsibilities in communications, database management, financial processing, volunteer coordination, event management, and client relations, among others. Most recently she has been administrative assistant at Meadow Branch Church of the Brethren in Westminster, Md., and concurrently has worked as member support consultant at Christian Connections for International Health, a networking membership organization promoting and advocating for the work of Christian agencies involved in global health. She also worked for Christian Connections for International Health from 2005-12. In intervening years, from 2012-13, she was a client services coordinator and English tutor at Comprehensive Language Services in Rwanda. From 2000-05 she was a pre-school teacher in Tanzania. Her volunteer and church-related work has included a term of service in the Peace Corps in Tanzania, and work for the Lutheran World Federation in New York and in Zambia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science, with a minor in Spanish, from High Point (N.C.) University; and a master’s degree in International Development from the American University, School for International Service, in Washington, D.C. She will begin her work for Brethren Disaster Ministries on Sept. 8.

Kristen Hoffman has been hired as program assistant for Brethren Disaster Ministries-Children’s Disaster Services. Most recently, she has volunteered in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., serving through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). She coordinated this year’s Christian Citizenship Seminar and National Junior High Conference among other duties. She is a life-long member of the Church of the Brethren, and in other service to the church was a youth leader and intern at Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren, and has participated in Ministry Summer Service as well as church workcamps and National Youth Conference. Her previous employment includes work as a dietary aide at Bethesda Nursing Home in Goessel, Kan. She is a 2014 graduate of Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., where she majored in sociology and minored in peace studies, and also spent a semester of social work studies in a study abroad program in India. She begins her work for Brethren Disaster Ministries on Sept. 16.

Robin DeYoung of Hampstead, Md., has been hired as program assistant for the rebuilding program of Brethren Disaster Ministries. DeYoung is a recent graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College and attends Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren. Previous volunteer and work experiences have include a college internship at Hutchinson Community Foundation in Kansas, work as a section editor and photographer for the McPherson College paper “The Spectator,” and some public relations, marketing, sales, and customer service experience with a variety of companies. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in communications from McPherson College. She begins her work with Brethren Disaster Ministries on Sept. 8.

9) Brethren Volunteer Service unit begins work at project sites

Photo courtesy of BVS
The 309th unit of Brethren Volunteer Service: (front from left) Adam Weaver, Grael Weaver, Anna Zakelj, Debbie Kossman, Annika Fuchs, Elena Anderson-Williams, Maggie Phoenix; (back from left) Emily Landes, Isa Mahmut, Kathi Muller, Bernd Phoenix, Abel Tewelde, Gillian Miller.

The summer unit of Brethren Volunteer Service, which is the 309th BVS unit, has completed training and the volunteers have been assigned to their project sites. The names, home towns, and project sites of the members of BVS Unit 309 follow:

Elena Anderson-Williams of Mountain View, Calif., will volunteer with Quaker Cottage in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Annika Fuchs of Freiburg, Germany, is volunteering at the Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren.

Debbie Kossman of Dulsburg, Germany, will volunteer with Sisters of the Road in Portland, Ore.

Emily Landes of Centennial, Colo., is going to Quaker Cottage in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Isa Mahmut of Herford, Germany, and Kathi Muller of Schwarzach, Germany, will work with ABODE Services in Fremont, Calif.

Gillian Miller of Colstrip, Mont., is serving with the Ecumenical Women’s Initiative in Omis, Croatia.

Bernd and Maggie Phoenix of Santa Fe, N.M., are serving as co-directors of the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, Japan.

Abel Tewelde of Goppingen, Germany, is working at Project PLASE in Baltimore, Md.

Adam and Grael Weaver of Kalona, Iowa, have been posted to East Belfast Mission in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Anna Zakelj of Modoc, Ind., is serving with SnowCap Food Pantry in Portland, Ore.

For more information about Brethren Volunteer Service, go to .


10) Congregations invited to plan special prayers, events for Peace Day

By Ellen Brandenburg

Image courtesy of On Earth Peace

Peace Day, Sept. 21, is quickly approaching, and On Earth Peace is urging your congregation to participate in building peace in your community by planning special prayers for peace that week, or including peace-focused prayers in Sunday services on Sept. 20. The Church of the Brethren holds the belief that seeking and standing for peace is the duty of followers of Jesus, holding to verses such as Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

On Earth Peace is inviting each congregation to develop a Peace Day prayer focus or event designed around what is going on in our world and in your own communities. Discernment questions for planning events are available at . Reports from groups already planning 2015 events can be found at .

We encourage each congregation to develop a prayer service that is an authentic expression of your own calling and concerns related to violence in your community and our world. Potential themes include interfaith understanding, racism, military recruitment, reconciliation across divided communities, exclusion from the church or other institutions, war and occupation, refugees, gun violence, and healing after shootings and homicides. This year, some congregations may choose to focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, violence and peacebuilding in Nigeria, or the Israel/Palestine conflict. Please pick topics close to your members’ or neighbors’ hearts, or issues that God is calling you to lift up.

When your group or congregation has created its own theme and plans, please share them with others in On Earth Peace’s community by posting a paragraph (or more) and a picture to the Facebook group .

For questions or support in developing Peace Day activities or posting to the group, send an e-mail to .

— Ellen Brandenburg is the 2015 Peace Day organizer for On Earth Peace. Contact her at 240-405-9336.


11) Covenant Bible Studies shed light on 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Peter, Jude

New Covenant Bible Studies from Brethren Press are tailored for small group Bible studies or for adult Sunday school classes. Most recent titles in the series focus attention on the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings, and the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Peter and Jude.

1 and 2 Kings: Kings and Their Prophets

Written by the father-son team of Robert Bowman and Christopher Bowman, this study of 1 and 2 Kings reflects on the balance between king and prophet in the history of Israel. The study asserts that both are needed: without prophets, religion tends to be self-serving; without administrators, organizers, and kings the faithful may drift, dream, and do nothing. This study provides a closer look at some of these kings and their prophets, and the background on why these Bible stories were written.

1 and 2 Peter and Jude: Letters of Encouragement

Written by Galen Hackman, this study of the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Peter and Jude reveals letters written to Christians facing despair as a result of hardship and persecution in their communities. These letters encourage downtrodden Christians to hold true to the sound teachings they’ve been given, and to stand firm. This Covenant Bible Study will reward study groups with deeper understandings of faith in Christ, encouraging perseverance in obedience and faithfulness.

Purchase Covenant Bible Studies for $8.95 each. A shipping and handling fee will be added to the price. It is recommended to purchase one copy for each member of a study group. Order from Brethren Press by calling 800-441-3712 or going to .

12) Brethren bits

Shown above: the Program and Arrangements Committee and Annual Conference officers (from left) Founa Inola Augustin-Badet, James Beckwith, Andy Murray, Carol Scheppard, Conference Office director Chris Douglas, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, and Shawn Flory Replogle.The Annual Conference officers, Program and Arrangements Committee, and Worship Planning Team have been holding meetings this week at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, to begin planning for next year’s Annual Conference in Greensboro, N.C. The Annual Conference officers are moderator Andy Murray, of Huntingdon, Pa.; moderator-elect Carol Scheppard, Mount Sidney, Va.; and secretary James M. Beckwith, Lebanon, Pa. The Program and Arrangements Committee includes the three officers along with elected members Shawn Flory Replogle, McPherson, Kan.; Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Minneapolis, Minn.; and Founa Inola Augustin-Badet, Miami, Fla. The Annual Conference Worship Planning Team includes Shawn Flory Replogle along with Greg Davidson Laszakovits, Elizabethtown, Pa.; Stafford Frederick, Roanoke, Va.; Jan Glass King, Martinsburg, Pa.; Shawn Kirchner, La Verne, Calif.; Jesse Hopkins, Bridgewater, Va.; and Terry Murray, Huntingdon, Pa. “Kindly keep them in prayer as they begin this important work for the church,” said a request from the Conference Office.

Shown below: the Annual Conference Worship Planning Team for 2016 (from left) Shawn Kirchner, Stafford Frederick, Greg Davidson Laszakovits, Jan Glass King, Jesse Hopkins, Terry Murray, and Shawn Flory Replogle.

— “Register now for SVMC’s fall Continuing Education event!” said an invitation from the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, highlighting the upcoming continuing education symposium “The Gospel of Mark and 21st Century Ministry.” The event is held on Nov. 9 at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. Bethany Seminary professor of New Testament Dan Ulrich will talk about the implications of Mark’s gospel for renewed ministry in the changing contexts of 21st century Christianity. The following panelists will respond from different ministry contexts: Belita Mitchell, pastor of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren; Eric Brubaker, pastor of Middle Creek Church of the Brethren; David Witkovsky, chaplain at Juniata College; Steven Schweitzer, academic dean of Bethany Theological Seminary; Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary. Cost is $60 and includes a light breakfast, lunch, and .6 continuing education units. The registration deadline is Oct. 19. A flier and registration form are online at . For more information and questions contact or 717-361-1450.

— From Intercultural Ministries and On Earth Peace comes an invitation for Brethren to join in a Day of Confession on Sunday, Sept. 6, called by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. This is an invitation for congregations across the nation to take time for confession related to racism during their Sunday services on Sept. 6,using the theme “Liberty and Justice for All: Day of Confession, Repentance, Prayer, and Commitment to End Racism.” An announcement explained the AME Church initiative: “Founded because of racism and injustice, the African Methodist Episcopal Church is preparing to celebrate its bicentennial next year. Once again, they are committed to leading the nation to move the nation to face, confront, and act on the issue of race.” The invitation reads: “Racism will not end with the passage of legislation alone; it will also require a change of heart and thinking. This is an effort which the faith community must lead, and be the conscience of the nation. We will call upon every church, temple, mosque, and faith communion to make their worship service on this Sunday a time to confess and repent for the sin and evil of racism, this includes ignoring, tolerating, and accepting racism and to make a commitment to end racism by the example of our lives and actions.” For more information and resources go to .

— The Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs which is based in Washington, D.C., is hosting an informational webinar on Congress’ fall agenda on Monday, Aug. 31, at 4-5 p.m. (Eastern time). Brethren are invited to take part by the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness and its Food, Hunger, and Gardening ministry. The webinar is offered in part through Bread for the World which is urging people to faith to be in touch with their congressional representatives to strengthen national child nutrition programs. “A series of high-stakes deadlines greet lawmakers as they return to Washington next month,” said an invitation to the webinar. “On the agenda: keeping the government open, passing a child nutrition bill, tax extensions, raising the debt limit, extending funding for highways. The consequences will be significant.” The webinar will address a number of questions including: What do all these fall policy cliffs mean for families struggling in poverty? What’s the latest on Capitol Hill? What are the threats? Where are the opportunities? What role can people of faith play to make poverty and hunger a true priority in these decisions? What is the one thing members of Congress most need to hear but aren’t? A flyer and a link to the registration page are at . Click the “RSVP for this event” button to register.

— Jonathan Shively, executive director of the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries, is the main speaker for “Growing Leaders in New (and Older) Congregations,” a retreat offered in Virlina District on Oct. 9-10. The district’s New Church Development Committee is hosting the retreat, which will be held at Camp Bethel’s House of Pillars. The theme will focus on leadership development in congregational life, with a special focus on new church plants. The registration fee of $60 includes admission to the retreat as well as dinner on Friday and breakfast and lunch on Saturday. The retreat opens with an optional session at 2 p.m. on Oct. 9. The main retreat will begin with registration at 4 p.m. on Oct. 9, and will continue through that Saturday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. Continuing education units will be available for ministers. For further information, including how to register, contact the Virlina District Resource Center at .

— Several district are advertising special events around their annual district conferences this year:
South Central Indiana District is offering a continuing education event for ministers on Sept. 18 from noon to 5:30 p.m. at Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind. Steven Schweitzer, academic dean at Bethany Theological Seminary, will present a Bible study on covenant.
Bethany dean Steven Schweitzer also will lead an event in advance of the Illinois and Wisconsin District Conference on “The Book of Chronicles and the Church: Theology, Continuity, Innovation, and the Kingdom of God.” The workshop will be held Nov. 5 from 7-9 p.m. and Nov. 6 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Peoria (Ill.) Church of the Brethren. Ministers may receive .8 continuing education units. Cost is $40, with an additional fee of $10 for continuing education units. A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided on Nov. 6. Contact the district office at 309-649-6008 of .
Pacific Southwest District Conference will be preceded by an event for ministers and other congregational leaders, with congregations encouraged to send a team of one to three lay leaders along with their pastor. The pre-conference event is titled “Finding Hope” and will be presented by Jeff Jones, associate professor of Ministerial Leadership and director of Ministry Studies at Andover Newton Theological School. The date is Nov. 13, from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., and the location is Brethren Hillcrest Homes in La Verne, Calif. Cost is $40 per attendee, or $100 for groups of three or more from the same congregation. Registration includes Friday lunch with the Women’s Fellowship, and copies of Jeff Jones’ book for all participants.

— “Please save the date for this event” says a note from Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village near Boonsboro, Md. The retirement community is planning a Water Tower Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Sept. 24 at 11 a.m.

— The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) Centennial is planned for Seabeck, Wash., next July. The Fellowship of Reconciliation, a faith-based peacemaking organization with ties to the Historic Peace Churches, “for a century has been ‘leading from behind’ in social movements throughout the world,” said a release. The FOR will celebrate its 100th anniversary from Nov. 11, 2015, until its “blowout centennial conference” on the theme “Persevering FOR Peace” at the Seabeck Conference Center in Washington on July 1-4, 2016. Keynote speakers will be Erica Chenoweth and Jamila Raqib, researchers in how the use of nonviolence may overthrow despotic regimes. “Their research has shown that nonviolence is far more effective than violence when it come to social and political change,” said the invitation. “A special emphasis is being made to invite and give training to young nonviolent social activists, and scholarship funding will be available.” For more information see the FOR Centennial event page at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Deborah Brehm, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Kathleen Fry-Miller, Katie Furrow, Kate Gould, Matt Guynn, Nathan Hosler, Jessie Houff, Gimbiya Kettering, Jon Kobel, Michael Leiter, Jeff Lennard, Steven D. Martin, John and Mary Mueller, Stanley J. Noffsinger, Roy Winter, Jane Yount, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. 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. The next issue of Newsline is scheduled for Sept. 1.

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