Newsline for March 11, 2015


Quotes of the week:

“The issue of desegregation is now upon us, and we are confronted by both its great promise for a just and morally strong America and by many practical difficulties. This is the testing ground of democracy and the measure of faith and commitment to the ideal of human brotherhood under God.”

Ralph E. Smeltzer, working in Selma, Ala., from late 1963 to mid-1965 as a behind-the-scenes mediator and peacemaker. This quote appears on page 1 of the book that tells the story of Smeltzer’s work in Selma, “Selma’s Peacemaker: Ralph Smeltzer and Civil Rights Mediation” by Stephen L. Longenecker (Temple University Press, 1987). At the time, Smeltzer was a member of the Church of the Brethren denominational staff for peace and social education, and was passionate about the Civil Rights struggle and encouraged Brethren to be active in it. But when he went to work in Selma as an unofficial mediator he focused on getting to know the people of the city–both black and white, moderate and segregationist–and his main tasks were to listen to the different factions and encourage communication between them. “I need to stay behind the scenes,” he wrote, “work quietly, work through others, suggesting or encouraging a little here and a little there. But never getting impatient” (“Selma’s Peacemaker,” p. 31).

“We note with gratitude that our own church has responded in some measure of concern and creativity to a healthy ministry of reconciliation in the Civil Rights struggle. We commend those who have spoken and acted courageously and creatively. We commend and encourage the work of mediation and reconciliation which has been carried on by a few of our Brethren in crucial tension areas.”

From a Church of the Brethren General Brotherhood Board Resolution on Race Relations, March 19, 1965.

1) Nigerian BEST group, Women’s Fellowship Choir to be at Annual Conference, tour districts

2) BBT explores feasibility of offering group medical insurance for church employees

3) Winners of Bethany Seminary’s Peace Essay Contest are announced


4) New faculty in Theological Studies named at Bethany Seminary

5) On Earth Peace calls Anti-Racism Transformation Team


6) One Great Hour of Sharing offering emphasis is March 15

7) Webinar will help those planning community gardens


8) Breaking the chains: Criminal justice reform and God’s liberation

9) Brethren bits: Camp Harmony seeks program director, stuffed toys for Nigeria, general secretary’s “selfie” with Staunton Church, BVS Connections Dinners, updated video on Nigeria, Roundtable at Bridgewater, International Women’s Day, Mennonite pastor facing deportation, Capstone gets media attention, and more from congregations and districts

One Great Hour:

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“Everyone, regardless of economic or social location, has a gift to give. Our God supplies the gifts and resources so that we can give back…. In giving to God, we give to others. The act of giving is an act of faith, believing that our gift will be part of transforming a life, a community, and indeed, the whole world.”

— An excerpt from worship resources for One Great Hour of Sharing, written by Amy Gopp. One Great Hour of Sharing is an offering emphasis that supports and empower denominational ministries like Global Mission and Service, Congregational Life Ministries, Brethren Volunteer Service, workcamps, and many others. The suggested date for the offering is Sunday, March 15. Find more information and resources at .

 1) Nigerian BEST group, Women’s Fellowship Choir to be at Annual Conference, tour districts

photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A cloth worn by the ZME women’s group of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria

Two Nigerian Brethren groups will be attending the 2015 Annual Conference and touring in the eastern and midwestern districts from June 22-July 16. Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is the sponsoring congregation. A 2015 EYN Planning Committee includes members from Lancaster and two other Pennsylvania churches: Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren and Mountville Church of the Brethren. Monroe Good, a former mission worker in Nigeria, is chairing the committee.

The two groups are from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria): the Brethren Evangelism Support Trust (BEST), a group of businesspeople and professionals; and an EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir. The groups are in the process of getting passports and visas to enter the US this summer.

BEST, which regularly sends groups to visit with the American Brethren, decided this year to invite the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir to join them. The choir hopes to perform “Appreciation Concerts” in as many Church of the Brethren districts as possible during the three-and-a-half-week visit, according to a letter from the planning committee to the districts. The choir will express EYN’s appreciation for all the support given by the American Brethren during a time of persecution, violence, and hardship in Nigeria.

The women’s choir may number as many as 27 singers if all receive visas, and the two groups together may bring more than 30 Nigerian Brethren to the Annual Conference.

Good reported that the Nigerian groups are looking forward to attending Annual Conference in order to meet many American Brethren and enjoy Christian fellowship together. In addition, the groups hope to visit and share with Church of the Brethren congregations and in homes.

Confirmed dates of the tour are June 22-July 16. The EYN groups will fly in to Washington Dulles Airport on June 22, and begin the tour at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The tour will proceed west, and will include a visit to the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on June 26. The groups will attend Annual Conference in Tampa, Fla., from July 11-15, and fly back to Nigeria the day after the Conference ends.

The itinerary of the Nigerian groups and dates and locations of concerts will be shared as that information becomes available. For questions contact Monroe Good at 717-391-3614 or .

2) BBT explores feasibility of offering group medical insurance for church employees

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is carrying out a feasibility study on the question: Has the time come for Brethren Benefit Trust to offer group medical insurance to employees of Church of the Brethren congregations, districts, and camps? The agency has posted an online survey to help with the study. Employees of Church of the Brethren congregations, districts, and camps are encouraged to take the survey at .

A letter about the study from BBT, which is an agency of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, was sent to some 1,900 people and also was provided to the districts, which were asked to circulate the letter and survey as well.

Segments of the letter follow:

“A new BBT medical plan could offer the following advantages–
— Simplified access: The Affordable Care Act has made securing medical insurance complicated even as it has made it more readily available. A new BBT plan would simplify the process for you.
— Superior design: A new plan for pastors and for lay employees of congregations, districts, and camps could offer a superior design, compared with individual and exchange markets.
— Use of pre-tax dollars: In such a plan, premiums would be paid in pre-tax dollars, saving you money, and preserving a key tax advantage that was lost to many pastors in 2014.
— Competitive pricing: The pricing would allow the plan to compete favorably with other plans.
— Portability: The plan would be portable, meaning a pastor or church/district/camp staff member could stay in the plan as he or she moves from job to job within the denomination.

“In 2007, Annual Conference voted to discontinue the Brethren Medical Plan for staff of churches, districts, and camps, but asked BBT to continue looking for creative ways to find insurance for these folks. Much has changed since then.

“For example, the old requirement of 75 percent participation at the district level has been removed. With the recent changes to the ACA, we would now like to proceed with a better plan, better positioned to endure and prosper.

“You can help by taking this survey. Please complete the survey if you are a full-time or part-time employee of a church, camp or district.

“If you are a volunteer leader in your Church of the Brethren congregation, please pass the survey along to your full-time or part-time employee(s).

“Why is this feasibility study important? It will show us the size of the pool of possible plan members. The larger the pool, the greater the possibility that BBT can offer a top-grade plan that is competitively priced and rich in features…. The results will simply help us decide whether or not to offer a new plan. This is why your honest answers to the questions are important to us.”

Take the survey at . The deadline to complete the survey is March 23. For questions, please call 800-746-1505.

3) Winners of Bethany Seminary’s Peace Essay Contest are announced

By Jenny Williams

Bethany Seminary has announced the winners of the 2015 Peace Essay Contest on the theme “Peacemaking, Creation Justice, and the Beloved Community.” Katerina Friesen, a student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, received first place for her essay “Planting the Church: Toward an Anabaptist Theology of Place.” Second place went to Jillian Foerster, a student at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University for her essay “Powering a Movement with Stories.” Gabriella Stocksdale from Larkin High School in Elgin, Ill., received third place with the essay “Small Things.” Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, and $500 were awarded, respectively.

Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture at Bethany, said the theme was selected as important for our time, and one generating increased interest. Through his connections with students of theology and science as well as persons in agriculture and related fields, he has heard common concerns: “The conviction that it will be difficult to achieve peace among the nations unless we together make peace with the gift of God’s creation through responsible stewardship of the land.” Holland oversees the seminary’s peace studies program, which sponsors the contest.

Ben Brazil, assistant professor and director of the Ministry of Writing Program at Earlham School of Religion, served as a planning committee member and a judge of the essays. “Our prompt asked writers to do something hard–to think about the environment not just as an isolated issue but as a central part of a much bigger fight for social justice. I was really impressed by the very different ways our writers rose to the challenge.”

Representatives of the Historic Peace Churches–Mennonite, Quaker, and Brethren–were invited to assist with the contest. Along with Holland, “Messenger” magazine editor Randy Miller,  and Joanna Shenk, a pastor at First Mennonite Church in San Francisco, Calif., served on the planning committee and as judges. Additional committee members were Kirsten Beachy, assistant professor of visual and communication arts at Eastern Mennonite University; and Abbey Pratt-Harrington, alumna of Earlham School of Religion. Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach relations at Bethany, chaired the committee and helped administer the contest.

Reinstated in 2014, the Bethany Peace Essay Contest is meant to encourage creative thinking and writing across faith traditions about various manifestations and conceptions of peace. It is underwritten by the Jennie Calhoun Baker Endowment, funded by philanthropist and educator John C. Baker in honor of his mother. Described as a “Church of the Brethren woman ahead of her time,” she was known for actively pursuing peacemaking by meeting the needs of others, providing community leadership, and upholding the value of creative and independent thinking in education. Baker and his wife also helped establish the peace studies program at Bethany with an earlier endowment gift.

The winning essays will appear in selected publications of the Church of the Brethren, Quaker, and Mennonite faith communities.

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


4) New faculty in Theological Studies named at Bethany Seminary

By Jenny Williams

Photo courtesy of BTS
Nathanael Inglis

Nathanael L. Inglis will begin as assistant professor of theological studies at Bethany Theological Seminary on July 1. Inglis graduated in 2014 from Fordham University with a doctorate in systematic theology. In addition, he has a master of arts in religion from Yale Divinity School and a bachelor of arts in philosophy from the University of Washington.

With a primary focus on contemporary Anabaptist theology in his professional work, Inglis used the theology and work of Mennonite minister, educator, and scholar Gordon Kaufman as the basis for his dissertation. Inglis taught religion and theology for several years at Fordham, and has published and presented on themes of Anabaptist thought and practice, formation of Christian identity, and creation and community.

Inglis is an active member of Olympic View Church of the Brethren in the Pacific Northwest District and has spoken at National Young Adult Conference and Christian Citizenship Seminar. He currently is finishing an assignment with Brethren Volunteer Service in Guatemala, serving as a solidarity and human rights worker with an indigenous community.

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

5) On Earth Peace calls Anti-Racism Transformation Team

From an On Earth Peace release

On Earth Peace has called a new eight-member Anti-Racism Transformation Team. The eight members are:

Image courtesy of OEP

Carla Gillespie of Englewood, Ohio, a board member of On Earth Peace and a grant writer;

Tami Grandison of Quinter, Kan., a former teacher, trainer, and nonprofit director;

Caitlin Haynes of Baltimore, Md., a member of the On Earth Peace board and a healthcare worker;

Patricia Levroney of Westminster, Md., a school administrator and trainer;

Carol Rose of Chicago, Ill., a pastor, peacemaker, and a former director of Christian Peacemaker Teams;

Alfredo Santiago of Baltimore, Md., a social worker;

Amaha Sellassie of Dayton, Ohio, a doctoral student and community organizer; and

Bill Scheurer of Lindenhurst, Ill., On Earth Peace executive director.

The team will begin its work with training facilitated by Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training, consultants who have worked with On Earth Peace since 2012. The team is empowered to:

— Lead and hold On Earth Peace accountable for dismantling racism within the organization, by partnering with the board, staff, and stakeholders to create policies, practices, norms, and spaces consistent with racial justice.

— Move On Earth Peace from being an organization that is simply aware of its institutional racism, to a fully transformed multiracial, multicultural, and anti-racist institution.

— Create and help carry out the Anti-Racism Transformation Plan, to become a genuinely multiracial and multicultural organization and peacebuilder community.

— Help On Earth Peace become more accountable to the communities of color with whom it is connecting, especially as it seeks to expand its constituency within and beyond the Church of the Brethren.

— Share the story of this institutional anti-racism work with, and provide continued anti-racism education to On Earth Peace staff, board, constituencies, and stakeholders.

On Earth Peace understands racism to be racial bias (which social science research shows most people have in some form) plus the misuse of systemic power. This team is an outcome of On Earth Peace’s commitment to respond to personal and institutional manifestations of racism, by addressing racism within its own structure and culture. On Earth Peace recognizes the perpetuation of institutional racism and its ability to maintain unearned power and privilege through formal policies, practices, teachings and decision-making–thereby excluding or limiting full participation in the organization by people of color. Through the creation of this team, On Earth Peace intends to effectively and credibly help its constituent peacebuilders end violence and war by addressing injustices and walking a path toward full ownership and participation by people of all racial identities.

— This report appeared first in the “Peacebuilder,” an e-mail newsletter from On Earth Peace.


6) One Great Hour of Sharing offering emphasis is March 15

The suggested date for the One Great Hour of Sharing offering emphasis is Sunday, March 15. Gifts given through this special offering empower ministries like the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service, Congregational Life Ministries, Brethren Volunteer Service, workcamps, and many others.

The focus verses are 2 Corinthians 8:12-13: “For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has–not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.”

“One Great Hour of Sharing reaches those near and far, sometimes changing the life of someone in distress in your own community, while at other times impacting the lives of those we may never meet but who are in need of our compassion,” said the website for the offering emphasis. “God provides the resources so that we can give back. It’s not the size of the gift that matters; it’s that we give of what we have. We’re simply giving back to God what is already God’s–and that means everyone has a gift to bring!”

Worship resources for this year’s offering are by Amy Gopp, and are available online at . Bulletin inserts, giving envelopes, and posters were mailed to Church of the Brethren congregations by Feb. 6. Order paper copies of these materials by e-mailing or calling Matt DeBall at 847-429-4378.

7) Webinar will help those planning community gardens

By Katie Furrow

“How Does Your Garden Grow? The How-To’s and Many Benefits of Community Gardening” is the topic for a webinar on Tuesday, March 31, at 7 p.m. (Eastern time).

Spring is right around the corner, and that means it is time to start thinking about planting a garden! Gardens are more than a space to grow food or flowers. They can also strengthen communities through a common purpose and bring our attention to larger issues of food security and creation care.

This 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. We also will take the time to reflect on why it is important for us, as people of faith, to consider where our food comes from and the role of gardening in our own lives. Presenters include Gerry Lee, Dan and Margo Royer-Miller, and Ragan Sutterfield.

Join us for this first webinar in our spring series about community gardening! If you have any questions about this webinar or Going to the Garden, please e-mail . To register for this webinar, go to .

— Katie Furrow is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker serving as food, hunger, and gardens associate for the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. She is working closely with the Going to the Garden grant initiative to help congregations establish, maintain, and expand community gardens in their areas.


8) Breaking the chains: Criminal justice reform and God’s liberation

By Bryan Hanger

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).

When Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah in the temple, he announces that he has come to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and set the oppressed free. This proclamation is a harbinger of what the coming Kingdom of God will be like. Human sin and corrupt systems of justice have combined for a world that only a redeeming and restorative God can fix. As followers of this God we must take seriously the idea of a world where the liberation of the oppressed and the freedom of the prisoners is an achievable reality.

But how shall we take part in God’s good work to liberate the oppressed? Our 1975 Annual Conference Statement on Criminal Justice Reform gives us a three-pronged approach: 1) Work with individual offenders. 2) Reform the system. 3) Live an alternative.

Through prison ministries such as the Death Row Support Project, Brethren have become engaged with individual offenders and gotten a glimpse of what life for the incarcerated person can be like. Reforming the system is a much taller order, but Brethren can still have an impact.

Recently, criminal justice reform has become one of the few bipartisan issues on Capitol Hill. This is mostly in response to the growing awareness of the unconscionably large prison population in our country (the Prison Policy Initiative estimates 2.4 million people are locked up), the prevalence of books like “The New Jim Crow” that have reported the racial injustices in our justice system, and the success that states like Texas have had in reforming their state-level prisons.

This new Congress already has introduced a couple bipartisan bills related to criminal justice reform, with the most ambitious being the Smarter Sentencing Act. The Smarter Sentencing Act seeks to address the over-incarceration of nonviolent offenders by reducing federal mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, thus saving billions of dollars and gradually reducing the population of people in federal prison. (Find more detailed information here: .)

This is an important measure and you should write your elected officials encouraging them to support it, but as the church we also must commit to a more radical way of manifesting God’s love in light of this unjust system. These bills do not address the totality of sins present in our justice system, and we must seek out alternative ways to address these.

This year’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) is one of these ways to think and imagine an alternative. This year’s theme is “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation,” and during this conference hundreds of Christians from across the country will gather to worship together, reflect on the problems of mass incarceration, advocate legislatively in Washington, D.C., and learn how to be an advocate for justice back home in our congregations and communities. EAD takes place in Crystal City, Va., on April 17-20, and we invite you to join us!

Achieving this alternative and working for reform may seem farfetched or beyond our ability, but Christ has shown us the way and we as a church have accepted our responsibility to be servants in God’s work of liberation.

“The righteous judgment of God empowers our human justice, letting God’s will for justice be expressed through us…. We join with the afflicted, the brokenhearted, the captives, the bound (Isaiah 61:1). Thus we live out our response to the love of God in Jesus Christ, participating with him in his ministry of reconciliation and redemption.” — 1977 Annual Conference Statement on Justice and Nonviolence

Advocate and join us!

— Encourage your elected officials to support the Smarter Sentencing Act. Use the message below as a template and add your own voice. “Dear [insert elected official name here], please co-sponsor and support the Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 502 / H.R. 920). This bill seeks to redress some of the unjust policies of our criminal justice system regarding nonviolent offenders and would be a step in the direction of true justice. As a Christian I believe that the problems present in our justice system are a moral issue that must be addressed. Please support this bill and other legislation that advances justice, builds trust, values human life, and ensures equality.”

— Find and contact your representative at .

— Find and contact your Senators at .

— Come to Ecumenical Advocacy Days, “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation,” April 17-20. More information about EAD and registration are at .

For questions contact Office of Public Witness director Nate Hosler at .

— Bryan Hanger is advocacy assistant in the Office of Public Witness of the Church of the Brethren, 337 North Carolina Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003; 717-333-1649.

9) Brethren bits

Among those raising money for the Nigeria Crisis Response is Sandy Brubaker of Chiques Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., a congregation that has been very active in raising money for the Nigeria Crisis Fund. She has been making elephant and giraffe stuffed toys and offering them for sale to benefit the fund. So far her project has contributed $570. In a letter accompanying the check to the fund, she and her husband Paul Brubaker write that she is “planning to make 100 of these toys, and they will be offered for sale at various activities through the summer and fall. We hope that this small offering might benefit our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.” They added in a follow up e-mail their hopes that the effort also “will encourage other congregations and individuals to find creative ways to support this fund.”

— Camp Harmony near Hooversville, Pa., seeks a program director. “In August 2015, Cortney Tyger, program director at camp, will be leaving her position at camp to enter back into the teaching field. We will be sorry to see her go, but we wish her well in her new endeavors,” said an announcement from Western Pennsylvania District. Applications are being accepted for this position. Apply by submitting a job application, resume, and letter of recommendation from a person other than family. Forms are at or contact Camp Harmony at 1414 Plank Road, P.O. Box 158, Hooversville, PA 15936-0158; ; 814-798-5885. A job description and additional information may be obtained by contacting Janice at the camp. The deadline for applications is the end of March.

— Long-time supporters and those interested in learning more about Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) are invited to upcoming BVS Connections Dinners. “BVS will be providing a (free!) simple meal of pasta and salad while we gather to share stories from any BVS alumni present. One of the BVS staff will be present to talk about BVS and its work in our world and how you can become involved,” said an invitation from volunteer assistant for recruitment Ben Bear. “See you there!” Dinners are scheduled for Tuesday, March 17, at 5:30 p.m. at Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren; and Tuesday, March 24, at 6 p.m. at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren. RSVP to or call or 703-835-3612 (call or text) or by “attending” the corresponding Facebook event on the BVS page.

— An updated documentary about the situation in Nigeria, created by freelance Church of the Brethren videographer David Sollenberger, is being made available to each congregation in the denomination. A DVD of the new Nigeria video is included in the April Source packet, which is mailed to each church. Church members may request to view their congregation’s copy of the DVD, or request a copy from the Global Mission and Service Office, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 388; .

— In related news, David Sollenberger and his documentation of the Nigerian Brethren received coverage in “The Journal Gazette,” a newspaper in northern Indiana. Sollenberger traveled to Nigeria in late 2014 to videotape and photograph the Nigerian crisis response. He talked to the paper about how Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and its members in recent years were working with Muslims on projects for the common good, such as economic development. In previous decades the Muslims and Christians in the area had “lived together, they’ve intermarried and worked together, and now, all of a sudden, this new strain (of Islam) has taken root,” Sollenberger is quoted. “There are a lot of Muslims who have also been displaced–if you’re not with them [the Islamist insurgents], with their radical jihadist approach to the Muslim faith, they (members of Boko Haram) will just kill them.” The article close with Sollenberger’s conclusion that “the only thing left is to try to help those affected by the crisis to rebuild their lives.” Find the news article titled “North Manchester Filmmaker Shows Refugee Plight” at .

— A “Mental Health Workshop” is being presenting by the Deacon Body/ Transforming Lives Team of West Charleston (Ohio) Church of the Brethren. Two sessions of the workshop have already occurred, on March 1 and 8 on the topics of depression and bi-polar disorder. A session on March 15, at 7-8:30 p.m., will be on Alzheimer’s and dementia. The workshop is open to deacons and others interested in strengthening the emotional and physical health of their congregations. The presenter is John D. Kinsel, MS, LPCC-S, who has been a Licensed Clinical Counselor in the state of Ohio for more than 30 years, working in community mental health settings and in private practice. He is a member of Beavercreek Church of the Brethren in Ohio.

— Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren is hosting a production of “Peace, Pies, and Prophets–How to Buy an Enemy” by Ted and Co. on Saturday, March 14, at 7 p.m. Sponsors for this benefit for Christian Peacemakers Teams are the Washington City Church, Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore, and other groups. “This satirical and FREE performance will be stopped at various stages to auction off pies, the proceeds of which will go to the Christian Peacemaker Teams,” said an announcement in the Mid-Atlantic District newsletter. A flier with more information is available at . More about Ted and Co. is at .

— First Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., is hosting a “Celebration of God’s Power and Glory” benefit concert for Nigerian Christians on Sunday, March 15, at 2 p.m. The concert features the musical talents of Cathy Carson and Jacqueline LeGrand, both of Waynesboro Church of the Brethren. Preceding the concert and immediately after morning worship is a lunch benefit for the Nigeria Crisis Fund, a “Third Annual St. Patrick’s Day Baked Potato Bar” hosted by the church’s youth group.

— First Church of the Brethren in Wichita, Kan., held a Benefit Concert for Nigeria on March 5. Performers included Delores and the Pickin’-Fretter, the Wichita-based acoustic duo of Jeffrey Faus and Jenny Stover-Brown, teaming up with Mutual Kumquat. According to the Western Plains District newsletter, all proceeds went to the Nigeria crisis response.

Church of the Brethen general secretary Stan Noffsinger took this “selfie” with Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren, his host for the weekend. The church’s Spring Renewal Weekend included leadership from Noffsinger for a “Town Hall Meeting” about the denomination’s international ministries, two worship services, and a Sunday school presentation on the denomination’s US ministries. In his Facebook post, Noffsinger thanked the congregation: “What an amazing and wonderful weekend at the Staunton Church of the Brethren. Thanks to each of you for gracious hospitality.”

— The children at Diehl’s Crossroads Church of the Brethren in Martinsburg, Pa., have raised $500 to purchase a cow through Heifer International, reports the Middle Pennsylvania District newsletter. “Their next goal for Heifer is to raise money for lots of rabbits. They are saving now to help the Nigerian children,” said the report.

— The Roundtable regional youth conference is held at Bridgewater (Va.) College on March 20-22, on the theme “Follower and Friend: Our Relationship with God” (John 15:12-17). Leadership is provided by Carol Elmore, music and youth minister at Oak Grove Church of the Brethren. The event includes worship, small groups, workshops, a variety show, singing, vespers, recreation, and more. Participants stay on the college campus for the weekend and eat meals in the college dining hall. “Brethren from different districts come together to reconnect with NYC friends, or to make new friends,” said an announcement from Virlina District. Estimated cost is $50 per participant. Roundtable is open to senior high youth in grades 9-12. Pre-registration is recommended. For more information, go to or contact .

— West Marva District events coming soon include a March 15 District Bible Study hosted at Westernport Church of the Brethren and led by presenter Dave Weiss, an ordained minister who is serving as Minister of Creative Arts at Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. The Bible study is scheduled from 3-5:30 p.m. The district’s Praise Gathering is scheduled for Sunday, May 3, at 3 p.m. at Danville Church of the Brethren. An Equipping the Saints event is on Sunday, May 17, at 3 p.m. at Moorefield Church of the Brethren, with a segments to be led by Brethren Benefit Trust’s Scott Douglas and Jan Fahs on readiness for retirement and congregational financial procedures. Each session will enable credentialed ministers to receive .1 continuing education units, said the announcement in the district newsletter.

— Idaho District is publicizing a Southwest Idaho Pledge Campaign to help Boise Valley Church of the Brethren, which is “spreading its wings and building a new structure.” A note from district clerk Ann Roseman reported: “The land has been paid off and now the beginning stages will be defined. The plans have been approved and the contractor is on-board. Anyone who has commenced a project like this knows there are infrastructure costs that pave the way before the actual construction. This is where the campaign begins…. We all know just how important it is to get the wheels turning quickly. God is so much in charge and we in the Southern Idaho/Western Montana District follow where he leads. Stay tuned for progress reports.” For information about making donations to the project, contact Roseman at or 208-484-9332.

— Camp Brethren Heights in Rodney, Mich., is holding a Spring Rally and Brethren Belief Weekend on March 20-22. “Join us for a weekend filled with fun and fellowship this spring season,” said an invitation in the Michigan District newsletter. Activities will include a Minute to Win It challenge, service project, getting in touch with our faith, and more. Cost is $35. Contact Denise Rossman at 989-236-7728. There is a $5 price reduction when bringing a friend.

— Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., holds its annual Sow the Seed Scholarship Banquet on March 26 at 6:30 p.m. This is a rescheduled date and time for the event. “Plant seeds of FAITH in the lives of children, youth, and young adults!” said an invitation. Cost is $50 per person, with larger gifts accepted. The evening is a benefit for “camperships,” or scholarships for campers. Singer-songwriter Maggie St. John of Ninth Street Church of the Brethren will perform a set of original songs. RSVP by March 23 to 540-992-2940 or .

— A group of Bridgewater (Va.) College students and a faculty member will “trade suntan lotion and swim suits for hammers and tool belts” on a spring break with Habitat for Humanity, said a release from the college. The group is participating in Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge Spring Break 2015. The students are accompanied by Lou Pugliese, assistant professor of business administration, and will be volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Athens/Limestone County Alabama. “To raise money for the trip, the group held a chili cook-off and helped a Bridgewater College alumna move to the Bridgewater Retirement Community,” the release said.

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College’s 13th Annual Open Door Recital welcomes all on March 28. “Children and their parents are invited to the 13th Annual Open Door Recital at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 28, in the College’s Zug Recital Hall,” said a release from the school. “All expressions of joy are encouraged during the free interactive program of short pieces performed by the Elizabethtown College music therapy students. A reception follows the unique experience so children can meet the performers.” Reserve tickets by calling 717-361-1991 or 717-361-1212.

— The Global Women’s Project celebrated International Women’s Day with an e-mail to supporters highlighting the importance of the day. “Women’s rights around the world are an important indicator to understand global well-being,” wrote Carol Leland, on behalf of the Steering Committee. “A major global women’s rights treaty was ratified by the majority of the world’s nations a few decades ago. Yet, despite many successes in empowering women, numerous issues still exist in all areas of life, ranging from the cultural, political to the economic. For example, women often work more than men, yet are paid less; gender discrimination affects girls and women throughout their lifetime; and women and girls are often are the ones that suffer the most poverty.” The group highlighted the women’s rights issues in many Muslim nations, but noted that such problems exist worldwide. It called for attention to the progress made by women since the United Nation’s Women’s Treaty, but warned that “the world is still far from the vision articulated in Beijing.” The e-mail closed with a question: “How might you work to empower women in your community this International Women’s Day?”

— Tony Asta, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren, will give a presentation about a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation to East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron in Dec. 2014. The presentation is March 20, at 7:30 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church in Naperville, Ill., sponsored by End the Occupation Coalition of Northern Illinois. The public also is invited to a pre-program “Peace Builders” potluck at 7 p.m. Bring a dish to share. For more information about the event call 773-550-3991. For more about the work of CPT go to .

— Mennonite Central Committee’s Washington Office is asking for help to stop the deportation of an Iowa pastor, Max Villatoro. The office has created an online petition to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) St. Paul Field Office in Minnesota, and ICE director Sarah R. Saldaña, asking ICE to “immediately release him from detention and grant him a stay of removal so that he can return to his wife and four US citizen children–and serve his Iowa City congregation.” The MCC staff also are asking for phone calls to ICE at 888-351-4024 option 2, urging a stay of removal for pastor Max Villatoro (A# 094-338-085). Max Villatoro is pastor of Iglesia Menonita Torre Fuerte (First Mennonite Church) in Iowa City, and has lived in the US for more than 20 years. He was detained on March 3 by ICE outside his home and was not given a chance to say goodbye to his wife and children. “His detention is absolutely devastating to his family, his church, and the community where he has been a leader for years,” the petition said. “As a pastor, community leader, and father of US citizen children, Max clearly presents no public safety or security threat and therefore might qualify for relief through the President’s recent immigration executive order. And, even though a federal judge has temporarily delayed some of the President’s immigration actions, ICE guidelines state that immigrants like Max should not be a deportation priority.” Find the petition at .

— A report about Church of the Brethren member David Young’s community gardening initiative in New Orleans was published in “The Guardian,” a UK-based newspaper. Titled “Developing Food Security in Post-Katrina New Orleans, One Lot at a Time,” the article appeared March 4 in a series on “resilient cities.” David Young originally went to New Orleans as a Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer, helping rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Now he is heading up Capstone, a nonprofit he founded in 2009. Capstone takes vacant lots and turns them into community gardens and orchards, and space to raise chickens and goats and bees, helping feed the Lower Ninth Ward which is a “food desert” without access to healthy groceries. Capstone is one of the community gardening projects that has benefited from a Going to the Garden grant from the Church of the Brethren Global Food Crisis Fund and Office of Public Witness. The Guardian reported: “David’s operations respond to the needs of the local community as voiced by its own members. As he understood before he even started, ‘what these people didn’t want to see was an organisation come in and do something for them–or to them–without them being involved or having taken into account what they would want to see happen.’” Read the Guardian article at .

Contributors to this Newsline include Ben Bear, Jean Bednar, Katie Furrow, Monroe Good, Anne Gregory, Bryan Hanger, Elizabeth Harvey, Mary Kay Heatwole, Ann Roseman, Jenny Williams, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for March 17. 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.

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]