Newsline for Nov. 6, 2015

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The globe and a candle are at the center of a worship center at Bethany Seminary’s 2015 Presidential Forum.

“The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18, RSV).

1) Presidential Forum at Bethany Seminary explores the intersections of Just Peace
2) New unit of Brethren Volunteer Service completes orientation
3) Office of Public Witness issues action alert on refugee crisis
4) Heifer partners with the Brethren and Ted & Co. for new creative funding initiative
5) Material Resources program logs a busy October
6) BBT announces Medicare Supplement open enrollment through November
7) EYN Disaster Team brings relief for Maiduguri’s displaced
8) EYN offers seminar on trauma healing for displaced pastors
9) At UN, anti-nuclear majorities challenge nuclear-dependent minority

10) Advent Offering supports Church of the Brethren ministries, focuses on the Magnificat
11) Advent devotional, winter quarter of Guide for Biblical Studies provide seasonal focus on gifts

12) Brethren bits: Personnel notes, volunteer positions, experiential learning trip to S. Sudan, Congregational Life leader attends evangelism event, BDM leader visits Syria refugee camps, Shoulder to Shoulder pledge, Congregational Outreach Forms, sermon award contest, and more

Quote of the week:

“The Christian pilgrimage toward peace presents many opportunities to build visible and viable communities for peace. A church that prays for peace, serves its community, uses money ethically, cares for the environment, and cultivates good relations with others can become an instrument for peace.”

— A statement of the World Council of Churches, and one of the foundational statements about Just Peace that was presented at the recent Bethany Seminary Presidential Forum 2015. Fernando Enns, a German Mennonite theologian and a member of the WCC Central Committee, was one of the keynote speakers.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
James Samuel Logan addresses the 2015 Presidential Forum at Bethany Seminary

1) Presidential Forum at Bethany Seminary explores the intersections of Just Peace

An array of speakers addressed many intersections of Just Peace at the 2015 Presidential Forum at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., on Oct. 29-31. With a focus on “Rejecting Cruelty, Creating Community, Rediscovering Divinity” the event juxtaposed a variety of ways to address and understand the concept of Just Peace. It was the seventh Presidential Forum held by the seminary and the first hosted by Bethany’s president Jeff Carter.

“I have dreamed of this gathering since the moment I was called to be president of the seminary,” Carter said as he welcomed the congregation to the opening worship service of the main forum event. Bethany Seminary is more than just committed to Just Peace, it is engaged in Just Peace, Carter said, “as an ongoing conversation of faith and faithfulness.”

Over the course of the two-day forum and pre-forum, the history of Just Peace was presented with a theological analysis of the concept and what it means for churches, biblical exegesis addressed Joshua–a text traditionally considered most difficult for peace churches, and added input came from presentations on current “hot” topics including the Syria refugee crisis, mass incarceration that targets Black people in the United States, racism and #BlackLivesMatter, ethical eco-tourism, and other challenges for Christian peacemakers.

Other peace church members presented “break out” sessions on related questions. Concurrent with the forum, Bethany also held an “Engage Visit Day” for prospective students.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Fernando Enns (left), a German Mennonite theologian and one of the main speakers at the Bethany Seminary Presidential Forum, listens intently to a presenter. At right is Bethany Seminary president Jeff Carter.

Worship helped shape the event

“Peace is not easy, or popular, or even possible,” said Richmond pastor Matt McKimmy in the opening worship service of the pre-forum. “But we cannot ignore what Jesus said about peace.” McKimmy was one of several speakers at the first of the four worship services that were interspersed with speakers’ presentations.

Preaching for the opening worship of the forum was Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She called the gathering–and, implicitly the peace churches–to live “as if” God’s reign of justice and peace proclaimed in Isaiah 61 and re-proclaimed by Jesus in Luke 4 is a reality today, in this world.

“Jesus calls us to live ‘as if’…as if the reign of God is already here, as if justice and peace have already kissed,” she said. “Living ‘as if’ means giving up privilege, releasing comfort…. Can we join that pilgrimage? That’s where Jesus calls us to be.”

In a question and answer time following the service–an opportunity also offered after every major presentation–Watkins fielded questions about inclusion of those on the margins and focused attention on racism, noting “the nature of injustice that is in our society…because of racism…. This demon racism, that will not be completely exorcised.” Asked how she leads her church in addressing such injustices, she called Christians to be in touch with places of brokenness, and to “travel light” by leaving behind lesser concerns that she characterized as weighing churches down in this 21st century.

Watkins told about how the Disciples have tried to maintain a “touchstone” in order to “find our way back when we start to get lost from each other,” reporting that her denomination’s touchstone has been their profession of faith in Jesus Christ. That has enabled them to maintain unity at Christ’s table despite differences. “You come to the table with your differences…realizing it’s Christ’s table. We don’t invite and we can’t exclude. It’s Christ’s table.”

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Bethany Seminary professor Scott Holland was one of the group of ecumenical colleagues who wrote the main Just Peace document for the World Council of Churches.

What Just Peace means for Christians and churches

Fernando Enns repeated the call for Christians to be in places of brokenness in his address the next morning. Enns is a German Mennonite theologian and a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee. He has been a leader in the Decade to Overcome Violence, and is a leading proponent of Just Peace in ecumenical circles.

He presented the history of Just Peace and the process that brought it to the consideration of the WCC, which has adopted a major document on Just Peace. “Just Peace is embedded as a new model of doing theology and ecumenical [work],” he told the forum.

Simply stated, Just Peace is “a pattern of life that reflects human participation in God’s love for the world,” Enns said, quoting from a WCC document.

He presented a theological framework for understanding Just Peace as a trinitarian approach, based on the work of German Lutheran theologian Dorothee Sölle, who he said has been influential in ecumenical circles in recent decades.

Sölle’s work and theological concepts help place Just Peace in the realm of spirituality, not just peacemaking techniques, Enns said. “To be agents of God’s peace requires putting on the mind that was in Christ Jesus,” he said, referencing Philippians 2:5. This is what is necessary to keep hope alive, for Christians concerned with justice and peace, and also what is necessary for those involved in Just Peace to be in regular and deep communion with God, he added.

Enns presented Sölle’s trinitarian formula as a three-step process for living into Just Peace:

— First, to take the “via positiva” or the way of blessing, celebrating the blessed and life-giving nature of God and the Creation;

— Second, to take the “via negativa” or the pilgrimage of discipleship to Jesus Christ that leads inevitably to the cross, and leads Christians to witness to the gospel of Christ in the midst of brokenness–which Enns characterized as seeking out the places where the Crucifixion is happening today; and

— Third, to take the “via transformativa” of becoming one with Christ through the Holy Spirit, being saved and being healed ourselves, and in the process gaining strength to face and heal violence in the world.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Sharon Watkins, preaching at Bethany Seminary for the opening worship service of the forum.

Speakers address hot topics in connection with Just Peace

A number of speakers addressed some of the current “hot topics” for the peace churches. Another of the architects of the WCC’s Just Peace document, Scott Holland, asked whether religion has a role in peace anymore, given the widespread questioning of religion around the world. Holland is Bethany’s Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture and director of Peace Studies. Telling a story about an encounter he had with young people in Indonesia, he pointed out that “radical politics and radical religions do not lead to peace in the public sphere.” He emphasized the positive nature of Just Peace, as opposed to the negative ways that religion–Christianity as well as Islam and others–have influenced the world in recent decades, marked by terrorism and radical right-wing religious groups. Just Peace is a positive peace, he said, and means among other things efforts at eco-justice or peace with the earth, as well as economic justice or peace in the marketplace, peace between the nations, and just policing rather than the use of military force.

A review of the world’s refugee crisis was presented by Elizabeth Ferris, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. She reviewed the unprecedented numbers of refugees and displaced people around the world, and the places where movements of populations are occurring. This crisis of displaced people is a clear sign that our global order is breaking down, she said. Factors include the lack of concerted international effort to care for refugees, in particular the Syrian refugees who are making their way into Europe by the thousands every day. Another sign of global break down is the lack of enough trained humanitarian workers to serve in the numerous places that are experiencing population shifts all at the same time. The Syrian crisis has become a focal point, and an indicator of the depth of the concern and the desperation of the refugee population, she told the forum. At the nexus of the Syrian crisis, however, are the besieged communities within Syria, where there is no hope for relief from the outside. These besieged communities are the result of government bombing, where “people have starved to death,” she said. In 10 years, she warned, we will look back in shame on the Syrian crisis, because the international community did not act. She called for Americans to work without ceasing to convince their own government to carry out the measures that are proved to actually aid refugees, such as giving effective humanitarian aid to the countries surrounding Syria, and radically simplifying and shortening the application process for Syrian refugees to come to the United States.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Christina Bucher led in an exercise of studying Joshua, a book of the Bible which has often been ignored by the peace churches.

Christina Bucher, Carl W. Zeigler Professor Religion at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, took on the question of “Pondering Joshua in Search of Just Peace.” The Old Testament book of Joshua with its injunctions to slaughter the enemies of ancient Israel, characterized in the text as divine commands, and the genocide of the Canaanite people that resulted, has been a difficult text for peace churches. Bucher acknowledged that often Christian peacemakers simply ignore Joshua, and offered five possible ways of reading and interpreting it. In the end, she recommended a “reader response approach” that takes the Bible story seriously, yet engages it as a “conversation partner” and allows for dialogue between the text and the reader. This approach encourages attention to details and “fractures” in the Joshua story that may lead to new understandings, she said. “Jesus does not treat his scripture as objects,” she noted. “He engages with the Torah and the prophets and we should treat scripture in the same way.”

The question of ethical tourism, how to travel in a just and peaceful way, was tackled by Ben Brazil of the faculty of Earlham School of Religion. A former journalist and freelance travel writer, he presented the variety of ways that concerned organizations are promoting eco-tourism and ethical tourism, analyzed them, and offered a critique of each. No one answer deals with all the challenges, which include the carbon footprint of air travel, the numerous ethical questions raised by cruise ships that dump waste at sea and pay low wages to their workers, the privilege enjoyed by white North Americans in many of the tourist destinations in the southern hemisphere, among others.

Challenges of the world’s many oppressions, and how to undo them in our personal lives and in our churches, were presented by Carol Rose. She is a former director of Christian Peacemaker Teams who is now serving as co-pastor of Shalom Mennonite Fellowship in Tucson, Ariz. Rose focused on racism as a foremost oppression faced in the United States. Among other questions raised during her presentation, she talked about the way institutional racism has affected the peace churches in many detrimental ways.

Also focusing on racism was James Samuel Logan, National Endowment for the Humanities Endowed Chair in Interdisciplinary Studies at Earlham College, and a Mennonite minister. In a frank and hard-hitting presentation, he read a personal account by a young Black man about the sexual abuse and torture endured during a prison sentence. He then addressed the reasons why Black Lives Matter is so important for the United States today. Logan characterized the mass incarceration that unjustly targets Black people as key for an understanding of race relations. However, key for the peace churches is making connections with the young activists who are leading what he calls the “Everywhere Ferguson” movement, and their “hip hop” generation. He made it clear that the work at undoing racism and collaborating with young Black activists is the make-or-break challenge for the peace churches today–a challenge that has huge moral significance for American Christianity as a whole.

For a photo album of the forum, go to .

Photo courtesy of BVS
The volunteers in BVS Unit 311: (front row, from left) Penny Radcliff, Rachel Ulrich, Jonathan Hollenberg; (second row) Chris Kaake, Olivia Arlt, Nils Tulke; (third row) Cathrin Strickler, Amanda McLearn-Montz, Franzi Martin, Deanna Beckner; (fourth row) David Rauwolf, Robin Krueger, Ann Sophie Lorych, and Katy Herder.

2) New unit of Brethren Volunteer Service completes orientation

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Unit 311 has completed orientation, and the volunteers in the unit have begun work at their project sites. Following are the names, congregations or hometowns, and project sites of the new BVS volunteers:

Olivia Arlt from Kaleva, Mich., and Marilla Church of the Brethren, has been placed at Blue Rose Ranch in Springfield, Colo.

Deanna Beckner of Columbia City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren, and Amanda McLearn-Montz of Panther Creek Church of the Brethren in Adel, Iowa, will serve as assistant workcamp coordinators at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Katy Herder from Claremont, Calif., and La Verne Church of the Brethren, will serve with Su Casa Catholic Worker House in Chicago, Ill.

Jonathan Hollenberg of Sebring (Fla.) Church of the Brethren, and Penny Radcliff from Annville, Pa., have been placed with Cross Keys Village in New Oxford, Pa.

Chris Kaake from Burbank, Ohio, and Paradise Church of the Brethren, is going to work at Enable in Northern Ireland.

Robin Krueger of Breidenbac, Germany, is going to Lancaster (Pa.) Area Habitat for Humanity.

Ann Sophie Lorych from Bad Nauheim, Germany, and Cathrin Strickler from Erkelenz, Germany, will serve at Project PLASE in Baltimore, Md.

Franzi Martin from Bochum, Germany, and Nils Tulke from Erkelenz, Germany, are going to work with ABODE Services in Fremont, Calif.

David Rauwolf from Neuwied, Germany, is going to work with Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren and Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministries.

Rachel Ulrich from Greenville, Ohio, and Richmond (Ind.) Church of the Brethren, has been placed with Highland Park Elementary School in Roanoke, Va.

For more information about Brethren Volunteer Service and to find out how to volunteer, go to . The next orientation unit of BVS is scheduled for Jan. 24-Feb. 12, 2016, at Camp Ithiel in Gotha, Fla.

3) Office of Public Witness issues action alert on refugee crisis

The Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness has issued an Action Alert calling church members to urge their congressional representatives to take action to help and welcome refugees. With a commitment to resettle 85,000 refugees, the US needs to allocate funds to ensure a smooth transition. A number of partner organizations are organizing dinners for the Thanksgiving recess, to bring together community members, refugees, and a congressperson to help humanize this crisis.

“Would you or your congregation be willing to host or attend an event like this?” said an invitation. “If so, please contact Jesse Winter at to discuss this opportunity further. If you need more information about the Syrian refugee crisis or want more information about hosting a dinner RSVP for a webinar on Monday, Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. (Eastern time).” The webinar registration is at . Also available is an online toolkit at .”

The Action Alert follows:

URGENT: Tell Congress to Help and Welcome Refugees

Background: As we grapple with increasingly heartbreaking and tragic reports of Syrian refugees seeking safety in the region and in Europe, coupled with the over 60 million people displaced worldwide, it is clear that the United States must respond with leadership. President Obama recently announced that the United States will resettle 85,000 refugees in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017, up from 70,000 last year. While this is a proportionally small increase in the context of the global need and the robust responses of other countries, it is critical that this increase is met with increased international assistance and adequate funds to ensure local communities have the resources they need to help refugees integrate as they rebuild their lives.

Congress must pass a budget to fund all parts of the government by Dec. 11, so now is a perfect time to let your senators and representatives know that, as a person of faith, you care about refugees overseas and those resettled in the United States. It is time to act with historic leadership and compassion and stand with those seeking safety and the opportunity to build a new life.

Take Action TODAY: Call 866-940-2439 to be connected with your senators’ and representative’s offices.

Call your senators and representatives TODAY and every day until Dec. 11.

— Urge your senators to co-sponsor S. 2145, The Middle East Refugee Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act introduced by Senators Graham (R-SC) and Leahy (D-VT).

— Urge your representatives to sign onto a Dear Colleague Letter on refugee funding led by Representative Vargas (D-CA).

Here’s a sample of what to tell your member of Congress’ staff when you call:

— Senate: “I’m a constituent from [City/State] and I urge the Senator to CO-SPONSOR S. 2145, the Graham-Leahy supplemental to provide vital help for Syrian refugees abroad and ensure that refugees resettled in the U.S. have initial assistance to rebuild their lives.”

— House: “I’m a constituent from [City/State] and I urge the Representative to SIGN the Dear Colleague letter led by Representative Vargas calling for increased funding for refugee assistance, processing and resettlement.”

— Jesse Winter is a peacebuilding and policy associate at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., serving through Brethren Volunteer Service. For more information about the public witness ministries of the Church of the Brethren contact Nathan Hosler, Director, Office of Public Witness, 337 North Carolina Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003; or 717-333-1649.

Image courtesy of Heifer International

4) Heifer partners with the Brethren and Ted & Co. for new creative funding initiative

By Jay Wittmeyer

A new original play by Ted and Co. Theaterworks, titled “12 Baskets and a Goat,” will begin a campaign in partnership with the Church of the Brethren to support Heifer International. The campaign begins in Harrisonburg, Va., on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. when “12 Baskets and a Goat” will be performed at the restored old Sale Barn on Sunny Slope Farm. All proceeds from the production, including an auction of home-made breads, will support Heifer’s work to bring families and communities out of poverty.

Already, more performances of “12 Baskets and a Goat” are in the works, hosted by Church of the Brethren congregations. The play will be performed at Tipp City, Ohio, at West Charleston Church of the Brethren on Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m.; and in Elizabethtown, Pa., at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren on Nov. 22 at 3 p.m. Find links for more information below.

The Church of the Brethren, Ted and Co., and Heifer International have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to produce and promote the play and to raise funds for Heifer’s poverty alleviation programs. It is a natural point of collaboration for our organizations, we all share Dan West’s vision to find a dignified means of passing on our gifts to help others, who in turn can pass on their gifts.

The partnership has set a goal of 20 performances of “12 Baskets and a Goat” and is actively seeking churches, districts, and other organizations who would like to host performances of the play. The partnership also is seeking sponsors to underwrite performances. More information is at .

Information about the Harrisonburg, Va., performance at Sunny Slope Farm (1825 Sunny Slope Lane) on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. is at and at .

Information about the Tipp City, Ohio, event at West Charleston Church of the Brethren on Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. is at and at .

Information about the Elizabethtown, Pa., performance at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren on Nov. 22 at 3 p.m. is at and at .

— Jay Wittmeyer is executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren, and represents the denomination on the board of Heifer International.

Photo courtesy of Terry Goodger
The Material Resources staff celebrated Roger Burtner’s 89th birthday with a group picture at the warehouse at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. “Roger is a long time volunteer at both Material Resources and SERRV,” said a Facebook post in his honor. “He is a retired United Methodist Church pastor and a founder of the CWS Crop Walk. What a rich and full life he has had.”

5) Material Resources program logs a busy October

“October was just crazy (in a wonderful way),” said an update on the work of the Material Resources program of the Church of the Brethren, provided by office coordinator Terry Goodger. Material Resources processes, warehouses, and ships disaster relief goods and other humanitarian aid on behalf of a number of ecumenical partners, based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

“October sure turned out to be a busy, busy month!” Goodger reported. “Material Resources was blessed with 368 volunteers (22 groups). Box car season began with donations coming in via train. And even with our loading dock under repair/reconstruction.”

During the month of October, Material Resources processed:

— 4 Church World Service shipments in the US totaling 959 pounds of disaster relief kits and blankets

— 1 IMA World Health shipment of medical supplies to Haiti, weighing 19,703 pounds

— 1 IMA World Health shipment of relief supplies to the Democratic Republic of Congo, weighing 43,869 pounds

— 1 Lutheran World Relief shipment of quilts and disaster relief kits to Ukraine, weighing 32,278 pounds

— 1 International Orthodox Charities (IOCC) shipment of relief supplies to Serbia, weighing 35,366 pounds

— 1 IOCC shipment of school books to Chicago, weighing 7,205 pounds

— 1 IOCC shipment of relief supplies to South Carolina, weighing 8,320 pounds.

For more information about the ministry of Material Resources, go to .

6) BBT announces Medicare Supplement open enrollment through November

A release from Brethren Benefit Trust

If you missed signing up for Medicare Supplement insurance during the six-month enrollment period that immediately follows your Medicare eligibility date, you now have a one-time opportunity to do so.

Who is eligible for Medicare Supplement insurance through Brethren Insurance Services? Church of the Brethren employees, and retirees (and Medicare-eligible spouses) who are age 65 or older, and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B.

For eligibility information, call Connie Sandman at 899-746-1505, ext. 366.

You can still get on board! Open enrollment continues through the end of November.

Get on board with other products offered by Brethren Insurance Services for 2016:

Medical: Open enrollment will take place in November for currently enrolled Brethren Medical Plan participants. Specific details will be provided by your human resources representative just prior to open enrollment.

Dental: Choose from one of three dental plan options for you or your family. These plans can cover checkups and other preventive services, as well as fillings, oral surgery, and orthodontia. This coverage is offered in partnership with Delta Dental of Illinois.

Vision: Three plan options are available to you and your family through EyeMed Vision Care. These plans offer various levels of coverage for eye exams, lenses, and frames.

Supplemental Life: This insurance is available to members who already have Life Insurance coverage through Brethren Insurance Services. This age-rated product is available for up to $50,000 of additional insurance for those who have not yet reached their maximum benefit amount.

Short-Term Disability: Cover the gap between the onset of disability and the start of Long-Term Disability coverage with Short-Term Disability Insurance. This plan will pay up to 60 percent of your salary–up to $1,250 per week.

For eligibility requirements specific to your employer, please contact your employer’s human resources representative. For general information, visit . For more information about open enrollment go to .

*Supplemental Life applies to current Life insurance members, who are eligible to add up to $50,000 of additional coverage.

7) EYN Disaster Team brings relief for Maiduguri’s displaced

By Yuguda Mdurvwa

By the special grace of God, we took off for Maiduguri, Nigeria, on the 15th of October to bring much needed food and household items to the displaced people in Maiduguri. Amos Dwala, also a member of the Disaster Team of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and I passed through the towns of Potuskum, Damaturu, Beneshek, and many others on our way to the capitol of Borno State.

Indeed, the Boko Haram insurgency has done much damage to these towns, and many places remain desolated. As we traveled, we were moving with fear and pain in our hearts, seeing the kind of damage that has been done. One positive thing we noticed on the road is that the military are patrolling and stationed in these dangerous zones leading to Maiduguri.

When we arrived on Thursday, we witnessed three bomb blasts, one in Moloi (a section of Maiduguri) at a mosque. More than 50 people were killed, and the next day another bomb blast at Ajalari killed 20 more. On Saturday, the 17th, another bomb was exploded at Ummurari where 8 other people lost their lives. On Sunday, a lady suicide bomber was about to enter Maimalari Army Barracks but was shot dead by the soldiers.

The people in Maiduguri are always living in fear of the unknown, but despite all these violent things happening, God is still in control. We distributed food and household items to 544 households. The items included were: rice, blankets, mosquito netting, cooking oil, detergent, salt, Vaseline, Maggi Cubes and sugar. The IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) were happy to receive this kind of help. They said this was the best assistance they had received, so far.

Those that are living in the camps in and around Maiduguri are 7,572 in number, while the people living with host families and rented houses are over 3,000. These are the people we gave out assistance to because the Borno State government is taking care of the ones in the camps.

After the distribution, I worshiped in my former church, EYN Maiduguri, which was burnt by the insurgents in July 2009, when I served as pastor there. We rebuilt it in two years and the final improvements were completed this year. Worshipers that day were up to 3,700 in number.

What a great God we are serving, in him we put our trust. On Monday 19th of October, we returned safely back to Jos and the EYN headquarters.

— Yuguda Mdurvwa is manager of the EYN Disaster Team. For more information about the Nigeria Crisis Response, a cooperative effort of EYN and the Church of the Brethren, go to .

Displaced pastors in Nigeria receive theological books, at a trauma healing seminar offered by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The seminar was put on with funding help from the Nigeria Crisis Response joint program of EYN with the Church of the Brethren.

8) EYN offers seminar on trauma healing for displaced pastors

By James K. Musa

A seminar on trauma healing for displaced pastors of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), was offered at Yola from Sept. 7-12. This seminar was organized by the office of the Ministers Council in conjunction with the EYN Disaster Relief Management financed by the Church of the Brethren. It was offered for 100 displaced pastors.

The purposes of the seminar were:

1. To offer a seminar on trauma and reconciliation to these displaced pastors so that they can be of help to their members who are scattered all over.

2. To brief them of the activities of the Church of the Brethren through Disaster Relief Management in EYN.

3. To correct some misconception among the pastors, that EYN and the Church of the Brethren do not care about their welfare, especially their salaries.

4. To encourage them to work among the displaced in camps and other places instead of being idle waiting for Boko Haram to finish their activities before going back to work.

5. Lastly, to assist them with some amount (20,000 Nigerian Naira, about $100) to buy food for their families.

Initially the seminar was organized for two days but because there was not enough accommodation for 108 people at the center we had to split it into two groups which took us five days instead of two. The first group of 50 came on Monday to Wednesday morning and the second group came on Wednesday to Friday.

God inspired Jim Mitchell, a Church of the Brethren volunteer, who gave a wonderful message about trauma. Most of the pastors testified at the end of the seminar that they have gained a lot and now are ready to face their members to encourage them.

Another interesting session was that of Joseph T. Kwaha, who had just returned from a one month course in South Africa on reconciliation organized by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). He emphasized the need of reconciliation among displaced people as they go back home. He said pastors are key to achieving that, being a representative of Christ here on earth.

The EYN president Samuel Dante Dali took time to explain to the pastors the activities of the Church of the Brethren in EYN through the Disaster Relief Management, and corrected the misconception that the pastors were left out. At this point also, many pastors confessed that they have said many things out of ignorance. They asked the president to ignore what happened in the past and focus on the current plan with the Church of the Brethren. They asked Jim Mitchell to extend their appreciation to the Church of the Brethren.

Yuguda Mdurvwa, manager of the EYN disaster team, also briefed the pastors on the work of the Disaster Relief Team serving jointly with the Church of the Brethren.

Finally, I encouraged the pastors to go out and minister to the displaced people in camps and churches. That will keep them busy and it will attract the attention of other people to think of their welfare.

Immediately after the seminar, five of the pastors–Amos Maina, Meshak Madziga, Yunana Tariwashe, James Tumba, and Dauda Madu–went and settled with displaced people in different camps, conducting Sunday services and helping in counseling and other things. I have visited three out of the five places.

Another success is that complaints  among the displaced have reduced drastically and relationships have improved.

We are organizing the same training for pastors who were directly affected by the insurgency, even though they have returned back to their stations. They have numerous challenges before them. This will be for pastors from locations from Gombi to Madagali, and the Chibok and Lassa/Dille areas.

Once more, on behalf of the entire ministers of EYN, I wish to express our deepest appreciation to the Church of the Brethren for deciding to offer help in this aspect. May the Lord continue to bless you and keep you fit for his job.

— James K. Musa is an EYN minister and serves as secretary of the EYN Ministers Council. For more information about the Nigeria Crisis Response, a cooperative effort of EYN and the Church of the Brethren, go to .

9) At UN, anti-nuclear majorities challenge nuclear-dependent minority

A release from the World Council of Churches

Important votes at the United Nations in early November give an indication of how much of the world wants new action to eliminate nuclear weapons, and how determined the main nuclear powers and their allies are to resist such long-overdue change.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has a special stake in this year’s votes, after accompanying church leaders from seven countries that rely on nuclear weapons on a pilgrimage to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August. A goal of the trip was to engage each government to reconsider its continued reliance on nuclear weapons in light of what happened to the two cities and what is now known about the effects of such weapons.

This week the seven governments have been showing their colors in votes at the United Nations. The United States and South Korea voted against three widely supported General Assembly resolutions calling for nuclear abolition on legal, humanitarian, and ethical grounds. Germany and the Netherlands joined them in these “no” votes twice, and Norway joined them once. All three countries are NATO allies of the United States.

On a more positive note, Norway, Japan, and Pakistan abstained on the key resolution that calls for filling the legal gap around nuclear weapons. Also, Japan voted for the resolution condemning the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Pakistan abstained.

Meanwhile, all three resolutions passed with majorities of between 124 and 133 governments out of the 154 to 175 governments voting.

“Even if these UN votes are no breakthrough yet in getting the nuclear powers and nuclear-umbrella states to take serious steps toward disarmament and abolishing nuclear weapons in the long run, this vote shows the wide support for a movement in that direction. We as churches will not grow tired in encouraging our governments to join in!” said Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and a member of the pilgrimage to Japan.

“In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our delegation visited with some of the first victims of the atomic age. Their witness was a blessing and an inspiration to us. Ever larger majorities voting for nuclear disarmament at the UN today are a welcome sign of how many share their belief that nuclear disarmament is possible–and I would add, especially by the grace of God,” said Stephen Sidorak, a United Methodist Church official and member of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.

“The three resolutions on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, the humanitarian pledge, and the ethical imperative are encouraging signs of the power of many people of good will–governments and civil society–to make the right decisions in ensuring a shared future safeguarded from the sin of nuclear weapons,” noted Emily Welty, acting moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. “May this be another step along our journey toward justice and peace.”

Members of ICAN, the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, which includes the WCC, worked to build support for the resolutions.


A children’s coloring picture from the activity sheet that is one of the worship resources for the 2015 Advent Offering. Find this resource and more at .

10) Advent Offering supports Church of the Brethren ministries, focuses on the Magnificat

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46).

The annual Advent Offering for Church of the Brethren ministries is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 13, the third Sunday of Advent. The theme, “Rejoice: The Lord Has Done Great Things,” is inspired by Luke 1:46-49, the opening verses of Mary’s “Magnificat.”

The special emphasis also includes worship resources as well as a biblical study of the theme scripture. Resources may be downloaded free of charge from .

The biblical exegesis for Luke 1:46-49 was written by Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship for the Church of the Brethren, and a staff member of Congregational Life Ministries.

Other worship resources include a communion service tailored to that Sunday in Advent, along with a call to worship, prayers, hymn suggestions, a children’s sermon and a children’s activity sheet, offering invitation and prayer, a benediction, and more, all written by Matt DeBall and Cherise Glunz of the denomination’s Donor Relations staff.

Following is an excerpt from the children’s sermon, available in full at

“This is a magnifying glass. We know that magnifying glasses were created to make objects appear bigger and easier to see. When we hold this magnifying glass over a Christmas light or even your hand, it makes it clearer to see and we can see it in better detail. In our Bible verse today, we hear Mary say: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” … When we bring praise to God like Mary, we are like this magnifying glass–showing the world even the smallest details of how great God truly is!”

11) Advent devotional, winter quarter of Guide for Biblical Studies provide seasonal focus on gifts

New resources from Brethren Press provide a seasonal focus on gifts, with the 2015 Advent Devotional on the topic “In the Fullness of Time,” written by Anita Hooley Yoder, and the Winter quarter of A Guide for Biblical Studies on the theme “Sacred Gifts and Holy Gatherings,” written by Herb Smith, with the Out of Context feature written by Frank Ramirez.

Advent devotional

“In the Fullness of Time” focuses readers’ attention on the birth of Jesus Christ as a gift from God “when the fullness of time had come” (Galatians 4:4). This theme calls Christians to celebrate the arrival of God into the material messiness of our world–an appropriate theme in preparation for the Advent and Christmas seasons and the birth of the Christ child. This pocket-size paperback is suitable for individual use or for congregations to provide to members. Purchase copies for $2.75 each or $5.95 for large print by calling 800-441-3712 or ordering online at . The devotional also is available as an e-book in two formats, EPUB and PDF, for $2.75 each.

A Guide for Biblical Studies

“Sacred Gifts and Holy Gatherings” provides the theme for the Winter quarter of the adult study curriculum from Brethren Press. Written from a Church of the Brethren perspective, it follows the International Sunday School Lessons/Uniform Series and includes daily texts for individual meditation as well as weekly lessons for small group study, and questions for both individual preparation and classroom use. Focused themes are provided for each month in the quarter: “What We Bring to God” in December, “Four Weddings and a Funeral” in January, and “Holy Days” in February. Lessons will explore some of the traditions by which we honor God, observe special occasions in life, and celebrate holy times together. The Winter quarter covers the Sundays from Dec. 6 through Feb. 28. The price per book is $4.50, or $7.95 for large print, plus shipping and handling. Study groups should purchase one copy per student, per quarter. This resource may be purchased online at or by calling Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

12) Brethren bits


The Fairfield Four, an influential gospel quartet, will perform at Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa., at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8, with sponsorship from Juniata College and its Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies along with the Huntingdon Rotary and the Comfort Inn. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at and at the Baker Institute during business hours. After the performance, the group and Jerry Zolten, a musicologist and Penn State Altoona associate professor of communication arts and sciences, will lead a discussion on how gospel music and the Fairfield Four’s music in particular, has helped reduce racism, said a release. “The Fairfield Four has been a driving force in gospel music nearly since the group’s inception in 1921. Organized by original member, pastor J.M. Carrethers of the Fairfield Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., the quartet was, along with such groups as the Bessemer Sunset Four and the Birmingham Jubilee Singers, one of the first gospel quartets to reach a regional and nationwide audience through radio airplay. Their seamless vocal interplay deeply influenced early rhythm-and-blues and rock ’n’ roll groups such as the Orioles, the Platters and many others. Although no original members of the group remain, the current lineup retains family ties to the founders of the Fairfield Four. Joe Thompson, lead singer and leader of the group, is related to the Carrethers brothers who formed the first incarnation of the Fairfield Four. The group’s vocalists are: Thompson, Levert Allison, Larrice Byrd Sr. and Bobbye Sherrell.” The group has received many awards, including recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, Tennessee Lifetime Achievement Award, James Cleveland Stellar Award, and the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Gospel Recording for “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray.”

Mark Flory Steury has been appointed by the Shenandoah District Leadership Team as acting district executive, through the end of the year. Shenandoah executive minister John Jantzi, has entered a time of Special Circumstance Leave through Dec. 31. Flory Steury brings 31 years of ministerial service to the role, including 11 years as district executive in Southern Ohio District. The district’s leadership team also has approved two temporary, part-time positions as support staff from Nov. 1, 2015, through May 31, 2016: Glenn Bollinger, pastor of Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren, will serve as director of placement; Gary Higgs, a member of Melrose Church of the Brethren and chair of the district’s Development Advisory Team, will serve as director of finance.

The Brethren Volunteer Service office has welcomed Elizabeth Batten to the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Originally from Grand Rapids, Mich., she has spent the last year serving as a BVS volunteer at L’Arche Community in County Kilkenny, Ireland. She began on Nov. 2 serving in the BVS office as an assistant for volunteer recruitment.

The Church of the Brethren has hired Guy Almony to fill the temporary part-time position of box car helper, working within the Material Resources department at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. His first day of work was Oct. 22.

Emily Van Pelt, program director at Brethren Woods camp and outdoor ministry center of Shenandoah District located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, has resigned effective the date of the arrival of her first child, due in March. “Emily has completed three summers as program director and has made a positive impact during each of those summers and year-round,” said an announcement from the district. “She has brought energy and creativity to the position and will truly be missed. The camp will be hosting a time to celebrate Emily’s service among us. Keep on the look out for information about that party.” Brethren Woods is seeking applicants for the job opening of program director. Find a job opening announcement at and a job description at .

Applications are being received for the 2016 Youth Peace Travel Team. The Youth Peace Travel Team is a joint project of the Church of the Brethren, On Earth Peace, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the Outdoor Ministries Association. The team members serve through Ministry Summer Service, spending the summer traveling to Church of the Brethren camps to teach and engage youth around issues of peace and justice. The team is open to three or four Church of the Brethren young adults, age 18-23. Applications for the summer of 2016 are due by Jan. 8. Find more information and the application form at .

The Heifer Farm in Rutland, Mass., is seeking full-time residential volunteers. The farm is part of Heifer International, a nonprofit humanitarian organization working to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth, which was originally begun by the Church of the Brethren. The Heifer Farm offers “powerful global education programs inspiring visitors to take action,” said an announcement. The volunteer positions offer a cost of living reimbursement stipend of $196 per two-week stipend period; on-site, communal-style housing provided; access to farm vehicles for local transportation; access to free health insurance through MassHealth if needed; and a Heifer Gift Shop discount during term of active service. Specific time commitments vary by position. Current openings for 2016 are for education volunteers, farmer chef volunteers, and farm hand volunteers from Jan. 29-Aug. 21; and garden volunteers and education volunteers from April 12-Dec. 16. Responsibilities vary by position. Detailed position descriptions are available upon request. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age by starting date of volunteer service; must pass a background check; must be fluent in the English language and possess excellent verbal and written communication skills. To apply contact Heather Packard, operations and volunteer manager at Heifer Farm, at or call 508-886-2221. For more information visit and .

An experiential learning trip to South Sudan is hosted by the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service. The trip in January 2016 will be led by J. Roger Schrock, a former mission executive of the Church of the Brethren who has served in mission in Sudan and Nigeria. Based at the Brethren Peace Center in Torit, South Sudan, the group will visit with church and community partners and will witness the refugee and educational ministries the Church of the Brethren has supported. Total participation cost is $3,000 plus airfare difference from Dulles airport. For more information, contact Kendra Harbeck in the Global Mission and Service office at or 847-429-4388.

Congregational Life Ministries executive Jonathan Shively attended an ecumenical conference focused on ethical evangelism, held Oct. 30-Nov. 1 in Nashville, Tenn., with support from the World Council of Churches. An ecumenical group of about 50 Christians gathered at United Methodist Discipleship Ministries for the first North American ecumenical evangelism conference. The gathering–organized by the WCC in consultation with the Canadian and National Councils of Churches–brought together scholars and pastors from traditions as varied as Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant, and Pentecostal Christianity, said a report from the United Methodist Church. The event named “Reclaiming Evangelism: Celebrating Change and Collaboration” focused on the question of how Christians can share the good news of Christ in a way that actually imitates Christ. Read more at .

The Global Mission and Service office has asked for prayer for associate executive Roy Winter, who heads up Brethren Disaster Ministries. He recently traveled to Lebanon to visit Syrian refugee camps there.

The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign that promotes peaceful interfaith relations has sponsored a “Beyond Tolerance” event and has launched a related pledge drive calling on political leaders to pledge to work for peace between faith communities. In information shared by the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness, the campaign represents “religious communities standing up for religious freedom by speaking out against bigotry and discrimination.” An event held at the Washington (D.C.) National Cathedral last week gathered religious leaders and community members for a multi-religious service called “Beyond Tolerance: A Call to Religious Freedom and Hopeful Action,” followed by a press conference introducing the Religious Freedom Pledge. Rabbi David Saperstein, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, was the keynote speaker, focusing “on the call from each of our faith traditions to commit ourselves to caring for one another, moving beyond mere tolerance of the other in our multi-religious society. The community gathered together celebrated religious freedom in the United States as a good in and of itself to be cultivated and protected, and as a model of robust religious freedom for communities and countries across the globe,” said a release from Shoulder to Shoulder. The group is called on public officials to demonstrate their commitment to religious freedom by signing the pledge, which reads: “I pledge and commit to the American people that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals by rejecting and speaking out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment, and violence based on religion or belief.” For more information go to .

Congregational Outreach Forms for 2015 are due soon, says an announcement from the Church of the Brethren’s Donor Relations office. Congregations are encouraged to fill out the form as an important budget planning tool for the Church of the Brethren and its related agencies. Find printable and fillable versions of the report form at . Send questions to or call 847-429-4363. Reports are due Dec. 1.

Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosted a presentation by Toma Ragnjiya, a leader in Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) on Sunday, Nov. 1. Special guest Abu Nahidian, Imam of Manassas Mosque, was to join Dr. Ragnjiya in a discussion and question/answer time following worship, said an announcement from the church. Ragnjiya is a past president of EYN and recently served as provost of Kulp Bible College. He has spearheaded the Christian and Muslim Peace Initiative of EYN and runs the pastor peace-training program for the Nigerian church.

On Oct. 17, several churches in northern Illinois came together to celebrate the harvest of corn at the Polo Growing Project. The sponsoring churches include Polo Church of the Brethren, Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, Faith United Presbyterian Church of Tinley Park, and Dixon Church of the Brethren. Growing projects contribute to the work of the Foods Resource Bank. The Polo project supports sustainable food projects in the Congo and Honduras.

Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., is hosting a presentation by Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) member Yousef Natsheh, a talented human rights photographer from the city of Hebron in Israel and Palestine. He will speak on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m. following the morning worship. His presentation “will share his experiences as a peacemaker and resident in Occupied Palestine,” said an invitation. “Hear stories and see images that bring the occupation and local nonviolent resistance and peacemaking efforts to life.”

Two district conferences are planned for this coming weekend. Illinois and Wisconsin District meets on Nov. 6-7 at Peoria (Ill.) Church of the Brethren. Bethany Seminary dean Steven Schweitzer will lead a continuing education event in advance of the Illinois and Wisconsin conference on “The Book of Chronicles and the Church: Theology, Continuity, Innovation, and the Kingdom of God.” Also on Nov. 6-7, Shenandoah District Conference will gather in Harrisonburg, Va., under the theme “He Calls Me Friend” with leadership from moderator Cole Scrogham.

Missouri and Arkansas District participated in a Festival of Sharing held at the Sedalia (Mo.) Fairgrounds on Oct. 16-17. “For over 30 years our district has taken a peace witness booth to share our belief in nonviolence,” said a report in the district newsletter. “The day started with a worship service and continued with work for many different populations in need by bagging rice, beans, and potatoes, and packing kits. Martha Baile serves our district on the Festival of Sharing Board and has coordinated our effort for some time. There is great support for this witness as evidenced by those who staffed the booth and participated.” The district’s peace table offered On Earth Peace materials and other literature about nonviolence and the biblical basis for peace, along with brain-teaser puzzles to encourage interaction by passersby. Peace bumper stickers and small bars of fair-trade chocolate were distributed free to visitors. The district report noted that “the Festival of Sharing began in the 1980s as an ecumenical in-gathering of community assistance for those in need. Youth from all over Missouri come together to process bulk food and ready items such as school kits for distribution to low-income children in our own communities. Health kits for Missouri and for Church World Service and disaster cleanup buckets are also shipped from the festival. Other programs…help incarcerated families…. Fair-trade items are sold…. Mobility issues for the disabled are supported. All in all, the congregations that share in the experience feel blessed.”

The Children’s Aid Society Annual Dinner is Saturday, Nov. 7, hosted by the Lehman Center in York, Pa., and held at New Fairview Church of the Brethren. This dinner is an occasion to celebrate another year of service to children, and to raise funds to support the CAS mission, said an announcement. Funds support services to children in crisis, in particular low-income children. For more information go to or call 717-624-4461.

“Faith Informed Justice: Reconstructing Private and Public Life” is the topic of the Fall Learning Circle planned by the Pastors for Peace group in Shenandoah District. The event on Saturday, Nov. 21, from 8:45 a.m.-3 p.m. is held at Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren in Weyers Cave, Va. “With so much emphasis on how our legal system is working, on the building of new jails and prisons, and frustration with longer and increasingly expensive incarcerations, Pastors for Peace is inviting pastors and other interested persons to learn about Restorative Justice,” said an announcement. “Restorative Justice mirrors the way God works with each of us in our failings and it offers a framework that values the human spirit’s capacity to give and receive forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing. It moves us past the good guys/bad guys syndrome and pushes us to redefine punishment, accountability, and mercy in the context of relationships with God and others.” The presenter will be Carl Stauffer, assistant professor at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacemaking, who has long experience as a peacemaker in southern Africa and has worked in the fields of criminal justice and substance abuse, and is an ordained Mennonite pastor. Cost is $25 and includes lunch. Ordained ministers may earn .5 continuing education credit at no additional charge. The registration deadline is Nov. 16. Find more details and a registration form at .

The Fall Lecture of CrossRoads will feature a panel discussion on refugee resettlement, “For We Are Strangers No More.” CrossRoads is Brethren and Mennonite heritage center in Harrisonburg, Va. The event at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15, will be hosted by Community Mennonite Church (70 S. High Street, Harrisonburg). The panel will include Jim Hershberger, program director for the Harrisonburg refugee resettlement office of Church World Service; Sam Miller of Community Mennonite Church; and Dean Neher, a member of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren and coordinator of the Shenandoah District Refugee Resettlement Task Team.

McPherson (Kan.) College has issued an invitation to its 2015 Religious Heritage Lecture featuring guest speaker J. Roger Schrock. “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” is the topic of the lecture at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8, at McPherson Church of the Brethren. Schrock is a 1967 alumnus and has spent most of his career in Christian ministry for the Church of the Brethren, and working in health and human services. He has been a mission executive for the denomination, and has served in Nigeria and Sudan, the Middle East, and South Asia. He most recently was pastor of Cabool (Mo.) Church of the Brethren from 2000 until his retirement in 2015, and continues as a member of the denomination’s Mission Advisory Committee. The public is invited and encouraged to attend this free event.

Bridgewater (Va.) College hosted Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger as speaker for its recent forum for Brethren Studies. The forum was moderated by Stephen Longenecker, Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of History. “I had the distinct privilege of sharing a brief summary of the most important experiences and learning from the perspective of the general secretary over the past 12 and a half years, followed by almost an hour of question and answer time that came from an audience of Brethren from the Shenandoah District and faculty and students of Bridgewater College,” Noffsinger reported. Following the event, Noffsinger was hosted in the home of Bridgewater president David Bushman and his wife Suzanne Bushman.

Bridgewater College also is hosting staff of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University–Carl Stauffer and Johonna Turner–speaking about “Justice from the Margins” on Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Cole Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public, sponsored by the Harry and Ina Shank Peace Studies Endowment, said a release. “Justice from the Margins” will focus on what peace and justice look like from the viewpoint of those who have suffered the most from violence and oppression. The presentation will highlight bottom-up forms of justice that are emerging from communities in the US and Sierra Leone.

European bishops and church leaders are calling for safe passage for refugees, reports the World Council of Churches (WCC). A group of 35 bishops and church leaders from 20 countries gathered in Munich, Germany, to discuss refugees and the role of the churches in Europe. The group has made a recommendation for safe passage to those seeking refuge: “As Christians we share the belief that we see in the other, the image of Christ himself (Matthew 25), and that all human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1. 26-27),” they said in a message after their one-day meeting on Oct. 29. Those present represented Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic traditions in the most affected regions, along with representatives from ecumenical organizations and from church-based humanitarian and refugee organizations. “The experience of migration and crossing of borders is known to the Church of Christ. The Holy Family were refugees; the very incarnation of Our Lord is a crossing of the border between the Human and Divine,” the bishops and church leaders said in their message. “Today there is evidence of a renationalization of politics…. However, the Church is both local as well as universal, and in the life of Churches we resist tendencies to work in isolation, and we affirm our deep commitment to a universal and ecumenical horizon.” Read the full release and find a link to the church leaders’ communiqué at .

Heeding God’s Call, an organization begun at a conference of the Historic Peace Churches focused on the problem of guns on the streets of America’s cities, has announced a new name and a new logo. The organization is now known as Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence. “There are many ways to heed God’s call in the world. We have always focused on just one–to end gun violence. Now our updated logo says it all,” said the announcement. The organization is still based in Chestnut Hill, Pa., and its address and contact information remain the same. Find out more at .

The “Brethren Voices” community television program of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren in November features the story of Athanasus Ungang, a Brethren mission worker in Torit, South Sudan. “It’s another reminder that one person or one small church can make a difference,” said an announcement from producer Ed Groff. “During the 1990s, Rev. Athanasus Ungang, pastor of the Africa Inland Church, Torit, South Sudan, and his family became refugees of the long civil war of Sudan. They were settled by the Lutheran Church and sponsored by a relative to establish a home in Sioux Falls, S.D. Years earlier, as a pastor in southern Sudan, Athanasus had his first encounter with the Church of the Brethren through Roger and Carolyn Schrock as well as Louise and Phil Rieman who were serving in southern Sudan. Athanasus was impressed by these Brethren and the peace position of the Church of the Brethren. He shares his story about his ‘calling’ to return to South Sudan, with the support of his family to continue the ministry. This is a story of one person making a difference in a land where people lack resources for dealing with the trauma of war.” Ungang is serving in South Sudan with the support of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service office, and has established a Brethren Peace Center in Torit as a licensed NGO (non-government organization) to provide “trauma healing and services to the community.” For DVD copies of “Brethren Voices” contact Ed Groff at . Many of the “Brethren Voices” programs may be viewed online at .

Three sermon award contests focused on including scientific research in preaching have been announced by Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical multidenominational seminary with a main campus in Pasadena, Calif. The contests are open to anyone serving in a ministerial role. Fuller has received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to hold the series of sermon award contests as part of a pilot project for a larger initiative, said a release. The pilot project has two goals, to facilitate preacher engagement (and their ministries/audiences) with scientific and theological research concerning gratitude, purpose, and the cosmos; and to design mechanisms that nurture this type of engagement with other research areas. The project also will increase the accessibility of such research for pastors, priests, vicars, and others who deliver sermons, and will develop a website that presents accessible summaries of new research to be readily appropriated into sermons, the release said. The award-winning sermons will be part of this website. “The hope is that such resources will not only extend the reach of important research that affect people around the world, but also provide preachers around the world with excellent resources that speak to their respective ministry needs and audience.” The first sermon contest will cover the topic of gratitude and opens Nov. 15. A total of six winners will be chosen for each competition, with the top three winners of each competition receiving a monetary award and a donation to their respective ministries. More information can be found at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Deborah Brehm, James Deaton, Terry Goodger, Ed Groff, Kendra Harbeck, Mary Kay Heatwole, Carl and Roxane Hill, Jessie Houff, Yuguda Mdurvwa, Reed Metcalf, James K. Musa, Bettina Perillo, Jonathan Shively, John Wall, Jesse Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, 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 regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Nov. 12.

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