South/Central Indiana District has shared a photo by Tina Rieman, “capturing this glorious reflection on the back door of the district office. May we all reflect God’s glory so well!”
— Illinois and Wisconsin District staff report on Facebook today that Canton (Ill.) Church of the Brethren and its members are okay following a large gas explosion in the downtown area of Canton. One person was killed and more than 10 injured in the explosion that has shut down the center of the city and closed all the businesses in the area. “There was a gas explosion in Canton last night that happened about 3 1/2 blocks away from the Canton COB,” the district’s post said. “No damage to the meetinghouse and all of our folks are okay. Many buildings in the downtown area sustained damage, a few near the explosion site with heavy damage. Many broken windows…. Canton is a community that has weathered difficulties throughout its history (a tornado in 1975, major fires, economic downturns) and has remained resilient. With prayers and strength, I’m confident the city will bounce back again. Please pray for the family who lost a loved one, emergency personnel, business people, and all who are assisting in any way.”
— Remembrance: Raymond Begitschke, 93, died on Nov. 2 at the Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights, Ill. He worked as a an offset stripper and camera operator for Brethren Press from January 1971 through December 1986. Services were planned for Nov. 17 at Glueckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights. The full obituary is posted at http://glueckertfuneralhome.com/obituaries/2016/11/07/raymond-e-begitschke
— Nicole and Jason Hoover, who are members of Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren and are from Mifflinburg, Pa., are beginning a term of service in the Dominican Republic. They will work with Iglesia de los Hermanos (the Church of the Brethren in the DR) on behalf of the Global Mission and Service of the Church of the Brethren. The Hoovers will support the Dominican church in the areas of church growth and outreach, service, and reconciliation, and are helping the church to strengthen its voice of Anabaptism and peace. They also will assist in various educational and agricultural activities of the church. The couple and their children are moving to the DR this week. Said a prayer request from the Global Mission and Service office: “Pray for God’s peace in this time of transition and settling in. Pray for the Spirit’s guiding in making connections and building relationships.”
— SERRV honored retiring staff Bob Chase, Susan Chase, and Barbara Fogle at an annual recognition dinner of employees and board members on Nov. 10 at the Brethren Service Center, New Windsor, Md. Bob Chase is in his 27th year as president of SERRV, a nonprofit founded by the Church of the Brethren following World War II. SERRV’s mission is to eradicate poverty by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.
— Brethren Woods is looking to hire a Peace and Justice director. “Do you have plans for summer 2017?” said an announcement. “The Peace and Justice director is a summer-long position that will teach daily classes to campers about the peace tradition of the Historic Peace Churches (Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers), offer biblical and theological bases for Christian peacemaking on an age-appropriate level, and teach practical conflict resolution skills.” Qualified applicants will have a working knowledge of all of the above, experience working with children and youth, and gifts in teaching. When not teaching classes, the Peace and Justice director will be an integral part of the camp community, working to build relationships, and assisting the program directors and assistant program directors in implementing all camp activities. The position will begin in late May and run through the end of July. Salary for this position will take the candidate’s level of education and experience into account. Brethren Woods seeks to continually diversify its staff. Persons of color are highly encouraged to apply. Fill out an application at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSelUubhUwO4ncfZdyhgzb_c0kWR0gIy1j8ncQdfsjqf2UFKvw/viewform
— Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has completed its work in North Carolina following Hurricane Matthew, after serving children and families in a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center and Red Cross shelters for a couple of weeks. CDS left North Carolina this past Sunday, having seen a total of 146 children. They set up child care centers in 4 different locations throughout the time they were there, with a total of 15 volunteers participating in the response. Here’s a reflection from one of the volunteers, Jane Lindberg: “As always, it was a pleasure to work with my CDS teammates and serve the families we were able to. I think what I will remember most was one particular little fellow who had been through some pretty traumatic circumstances and lost the things that his mom said mattered most to him (favorite blanket, toy etc.), not to mention his home. He was initially very frightened when he separated from his grandmother and mother (I’m sure he feared that he might lose them too) and they had to come back many times to reassure him they were still in the building. But then he began to play and recapture the joy of being a child. It seemed to me that seeing him play and laugh became a true blessing to the adults who loved him as well. I am grateful for the opportunity to share in this caring ministry.” For more about the work of Children’s Disaster Services go to www.brethren.org/cds
— The Clergy Tax Seminar 2017 sponsored by the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, and Bethany Theological Seminary is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The registration deadline is Jan. 20. Students, pastors, and other church leaders are invited to attend either in person at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., or online. Ministers may earn .3 continuing education units. Sessions will cover tax law for clergy, changes for 2016 (the most current tax year to file), and detailed assistance as to how to correctly file the various forms and schedules that pertain to clergy, including housing allowances, self-employment, W-2s clergy reductions, etc. Cost is $30 per person. Current Bethany, TRIM, EFSM, SeBAH, and Earlham School of Religion students may attend at no cost, although registration is still required. Leadership is provided by Deb Oskin, EA, NTPI Fellow, who has been doing clergy tax returns since 1989. For more information go to https://bethanyseminary.edu/brethren-academy/clergy-tax-seminar
— A partner organization in the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and EYN has begun working with the United Nations to train committees on IDP camp coordination and management. “The Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives (CCEPI) has been mandated by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to train 1,500 camps committees on camp coordination and camp management in 27 Camps in Borno State,” reports CCEPI leader and EYN member Rebecca Dali. “Some of the places are highly risky and dangerous places we have to go by plane UN Air services, some by military escorts,” she added in a short e-mail note to Church of the Brethren staff. “We need your prayers…. Eight of us will be going to the camps.”
— Red Hill Church of the Brethren in Virlina District celebrated the 50th anniversary of its sanctuary on Nov. 6. The celebration included a meal and the opening of a time capsule from 1966, according to a Facebook post from district executive minister David Shumate.
— West York (Pa.) Church of the Brethren observed its 50th anniversary on Nov. 12-13. On Saturday there was a special evening of music led by former pastor Warren Eshbach. On Sunday the morning worship service included biblical teaching through music and mime by a drama ministry from Lancaster, Pa., and leadership by Eshbach along with current pastor Gregory Jones and a “ministerial son of the congregation,” Matthew Hershey.
— Union Bridge (Md.) Church of the Brethren and the Joanne Grossnickle Scholarship committee has awarded scholarships to seven college students for the 2016-17 school year. According to the Carroll County Times, the scholarships were presented during a Sunday morning worship service in late summer. Recipients include Alan Bowman and Rachel McCuller, who are studying at Bridgewater (Va.) College; Hannah Himes, West Chester University; Taylor Hook, Messiah College; Zachary Plank, Penn College of Technology; Melinda Staub, Towson University; and Emily Zimmerman, Hood College. Scholarship recipients have graduated from area high schools or have membership or family ties to the congregation. The scholarships are awarded in memory of Joanne Grossnickle who “was killed in 1984 while working with an interdenominational task force dealing with violence against women,” the newspaper reported.
— Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren hosted a spiritual renewal event over the weekend, titled “Seeking the First Kingdom,” according to LancasterOnline.com. “Americans are yearning for change, says the Rev. Jeff Carter, and that change goes deeper than a presidential election,” the news site reported, quoting the president of Bethany Seminary who was a keynote speaker for the gathering focused on ways to involve people in the church. “Political yearnings are one thing,” Carter said, “but they’re all based off of a deeper yearning. How do we (the church) provide answers?” Other speakers include Glenn Mitchell, director of training and programs at Oasis Ministries; John Zeswitz, executive vice president at Lancaster Bible College; Jamie Nace, director of children’s ministries at the Lancaster Church; Lee Barrett, professor of systematic theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary; and Michael Howes, youth pastor at the Lancaster Church. See the news report at http://lancasteronline.com/features/faith_values/church-of-the-brethren-gathering-looks-for-ways-to-engage/article_690a0d9c-a78f-11e6-8dbb-b778354f04e3.html
— John Barr, organist at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren, was commissioned by Emmert and Esther Bittinger to compose a choral anthem to raise awareness of the plight of the abducted schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria, reports Global Mission and Service. The piece featured in Bridgewater’s worship last week, with a bulletin cover of Chibok artwork by Brian Meyer of First Church of the Brethren in San Diego, Calif.
— Stony Creek Church of the Brethren in Bellefontaine, Ohio, is supporting an effort by senior high member Brandi Motsinger, 17, to start a nonprofit called Wide Arms Security Blankets. Motsinger “is like many another busy Sidney High School senior,” says a report in the Sidney Daily News. “Here’s how she’s different from many another SHS senior: she spends as much as 15 hours per week running the nonprofit organization…. She collects blankets and funds for blankets to be donated to homeless shelters.” The newspaper reports that the idea came from a child Motsinger encountered while volunteering at a homeless shelter, who asked her for a blanket but there weren’t any available. “The disappointment in the child’s eyes and God’s tug on my heart founded Wide Arms Security Blankets,” Motsinger told the paper. Her church is serving as fiscal agent for the nonprofit, the legal entity for managing donations and expenses. Read the article at https://sidneydailynews.com/news/52314/teen-starts-blanket-nonprofit
— Martin Hutchinson, who pastors Community of Joy Church of the Brethren in Salisbury, Md., and is founder of Camden Community Gardens, was this year’s recipient of the WET Award for Environmental Advocacy from the Wicomico Environmental Trust. WET is a grassroots nonprofit that works to protect the scenic beauty and environmental health of Wicomico County and the Chesapeake Bay. The award was presented at the organization’s Annual Dinner and Environmental Advocacy and Stewardship Awards event in October.
— The 2016 district conference season has come to a close, with the last two district conferences held by Virlina District on Nov. 11-12 in Roanoke, Va., and by Pacific Southwest District on Nov. 11-13 at Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren.
— Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community will hold its first ever pre-Christmas yard sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. “Come for lots of holiday decorations in addition to quality yard sale items,” said the Shenandoah District announcement. Proceeds of the sale benefit local agencies including the Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad.
— Manchester University will host a presentation by Anthony Ray Hinton, who was falsely accused and convicted of murder and spent nearly 30 years on death row in Alabama before being exonerated and released in 2015. He will speak Dec. 6 at the university in N. Manchester, Ind., according to a release. “His release, covered at the time by the Washington Post, New York Times and all of the major networks, was the subject of a CBS News ‘60 Minutes’ presentation,” the release said. “Hinton will be introduced at Manchester by Sia Sanneh, a senior attorney at the Equal Justice Initiative, which secured his release after tireless efforts over more than 12 years of litigation. According to the EJI website, Hinton was convicted based solely on the assertion that a gun taken from his mother’s house was used in two killings and a third uncharged crime. No bullets used to commit those crimes, however, were a match to that gun. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction and he was released following a new trial.” Related events on campus will explore racial bias in the justice system, leading up to Hinton’s talk at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6, in Cordier Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public, sponsored by the Jon Livingston Mock Memorial Lectureship and the Office of Academic Resources.
— The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary provide funds to congregations to support renewal leaves for their pastors. Congregations may apply for grants of up to $50,000 to underwrite a renewal program for their pastor and for the pastor’s family, with up to $15,000 of those funds available to the congregation to help cover costs for ministerial supply while the pastor is away. There is no cost to the congregations or the pastors to apply; the grants represent the endowment’s continued investment in renewing the health and vitality of American Christian congregations. Find out more at www.cpx.cts.edu/renewal
— Religion News Service is reporting newly released data from the FBI showing “spikes in anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic incidents” in the United States. “Though Jews remain the most frequent victims in America of hate crimes based on religion, the number of incidents against Muslims surged in 2015, according to newly released data from the FBI,” the article said. “Hate crimes against Muslims spiked 67 percent from 2014 to 2015. That represents 257 anti-Muslim incidents. Robert McCaw, government affairs director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the jump in anti-Muslim incidents continues to rise and even accelerated after the Nov. 8 election. The FBI data show 664 incidents against Jews and Jewish institutions motivated by anti-Semitism–an increase of about 9 percent.” Find the full RNS report at http://religionnews.com/2016/11/15/fbi-report-surge-of-anti-muslim-spike-in-anti-semitic-incidents
— A new Jewish-Muslim alliance has formed to work against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, according to Religion News Service. On Nov. 14 the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America Monday launched a new group called the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. “Though Jewish and Muslim groups have cooperated before, the size and influence of these two particular groups–and the prominence of the people who have joined the council–marks a milestone in Jewish-Muslim relations,” the RNS report said. Read more at http://religionnews.com/2016/11/14/jewish-muslim-alliance-formed-against-anti-semitism-islamophobia
— The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs “has raised the alarm that more Nigerians may be displaced in the coming days as a result of the resurgence of Boko Haram,” according to an article published on AllAfrica.com. OCHA humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria Peter Lundberg is quoted as saying that up to 1.8 million people remain displaced across the six states of northeast Nigeria, and that the dry season will see an increase in the number of attacks on civilians. “Data provided by OCHA shows that 338 Boko Haram related incidents have been recorded this year alone in the north-east with at least, 2,553 fatalities recorded within same period.” Find the full article at http://allafrica.com/stories/201611160111.html
— Improved inter-Korean relations and peace on the Korean peninsula were the focus of a conference attended by 58 people from churches and related organizations from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and 11 other countries, according to a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC), which organized the meeting. The group met in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China, from Nov. 14-16 as the International Ecumenical Conference on a Peace Treaty for the Korean Peninsula. The meeting was hosted by the Hong Kong Christian Council. In a communique, participants reaffirmed the WCC 10th Assembly statement that “it is the right time to begin a new process towards a comprehensive peace treaty that will replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement.” The communique said, in part: “The absence of a formal end to the Korean War still colours and obstructs inter-Korean relations today, and encourages the escalating arms race and militarization of the peninsula and region. The DPRK has repeatedly called for a peace treaty, but the USA has rejected such calls. Progress towards a peace treaty is needed now, in order to interrupt the spiralling cycle of mutual antagonism, confrontation, and militarization, to reduce tensions and build trust, to ensure the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Korean peninsula, and to promote an environment in which current issues in inter-Korean relations can be addressed and, God willing, resolved.” Find the communique at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/commissions/international-affairs/international-ecumenical-conference-on-a-peace-treaty-for-the-korean-peninsula