Brethren Bits for October 29, 2016

November is Open Enrollment Month. Don’t be caught off base!” says a reminder from Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). New for 2017 from BBT is accident insurance, along with short-term disability, long-term disability, critical illness, Medicare supplement, dental, vision, and supplemental life. “Accidents are inconvenient, expensive, and put a dent in your savings.  Accident insurance is now being offered through Brethren Insurance Services.” To find more information about rates, options, and enrollment forms for all the insurance services offered by BBT, go to .

Mark Pickens has begun as a field associate for Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADN) to promote disability inclusion in Pennsylvania churches. He is the most recent Church of the Brethren volunteer to join ADN, following Rebekah Flores who is serving as a field associate and relating in particular to Church of the Brethren congregations. ADN field associates are volunteers who work from their home location in program areas that contribute to ADN’s mission. “Blind since he was in high school, Mark has been drawn to study the writings of scholars with disabilities who interpret the Bible and reflect theologically on God’s relationship with disability,” said an announcement from ADN. He is a graduate of Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, Ky., and Lancaster (Pa.) Theological Seminary. He lives in Harrisburg, Pa., where he attends Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.

Photo by Glenn Riegel
General secretary David Steele at a listening session in Atlantic Northeast District.

Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele will be holding a listening session in Shenandoah District next week. All are invited to the event at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, at Maple Terrace on the campus of Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community.

Last week the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) hosted governors from more than 10 states in northern Nigeria. The effort sought to assist in addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. The series of meetings and discussions included top US government officials as well as academics and other civil society organizations. Due to the Church of the Brethren’s close connections, extensive relief efforts, and ongoing advocacy, Nathan Hosler of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness was asked to speak on a panel to the governors and their deputies. The panel focused on demographics and the humanitarian crisis. Building on the previous speakers’ presentations on the urgent food crisis, Hosler urged attention to the risk of further discontent and potential violence if the government is not seen to be adequately addressing the emerging famine and religion as both a potential source of peace as well as distrust.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is offering a “Webinar on Ending Statelessness” on Nov. 4, at 1-3 p.m. (CET). Nate Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, is one of the panelists, along with Zahra Albarazi, co-founder and senior researcher, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, the Netherlands; Radha Govil, Legal Office, Statelessness Section, UNHCR, Switzerland; Maha Mamo, international relations manager at Agro Betel Live Export, stateless, Brazil; Suzanne Matale, general secretary, Council of Churches of Zambia; Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. “It has been two years since the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) launched its Global Action Plan to End Statelessness a few days following the first ever Global Forum on Statelessness in the Hague, the Netherlands, where an ecumenical delegation was present and shared their recommendations,” said an announcement. “The purpose of this webinar is therefore to mark this anniversary and also assess the work achieved during the launch of this global campaign. Statelessness is an often overlooked or misunderstood issue. Yet, the UNHCR estimates that there are at least 10 million stateless people in the world. Most of them have not left their birth country, i.e. they are not refugees. There is an additional estimated more than 1.5 million who are both refugee and stateless. Resulting from their lack of nationality, stateless people in most cases are not able to enjoy their basic human rights, and are denied many of the rights we–who have citizenship–generally take for granted: right to health, to education, to own property, to open a bank account, to travel abroad, etc. Their lack of legal documents is an obstacle to the wide spectrum of rights.” Attend the webinar and ask questions (via the chat room) by clicking on this link: . More information is at

A seagoing cowboys event and luncheon takes place today, Oct. 29, at the Zigler Hospitality Center at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Peggy Reiff Miller will be the guest speaker. “She will discuss her research on the seagoing cowboys, her new book, and several of the original cowboys will be present before and during the luncheon to share their stories,” reported the “Carroll County Times” in an article previewing the event. Tickets are $10 and include a social at noon, followed by a hot buffet lunch at 1:30 p.m., and the opportunity to purchase signed copies of “The Seagoing Cowboy,” the children’s book by Miller which has been published by Brethren Press. Also in the newspaper report: an interview with David Haldeman, a 97-year-old former seagoing cowboy who planned to attend. Find the article at .

“If you’re considering becoming a Bethany student in spring 2017, the deadline to apply for admission is December 1,” said an announcement from Bethany Seminary, the Church of the Brethren graduate school of theology based in Richmond, Ind. “Anyone interested in enrolling for the spring term should have all admissions materials submitted by this date. This is also the date for new students to submit financial aid materials for the spring.” Instructions to apply for any of Bethany’s programs including three new specialized certificates in theopoetics and theological imagination, biblical interpretation, and conflict transformation, are found at .

In more news from Bethany, associate professor of Brethren studies Denise D. Kettering-Lane will speak on “Forming Our Narrative: Women and Pietism” this evening, Oct. 29, at 7:30 p.m. in Nicarry Chapel on the seminary campus in Richmond, Ind. The lecture commemorates her promotion to associate professor and being granted tenure with the 2016-17 academic year. Kettering-Lane provides this description: “In the seventeenth century, the Christian revival movement called Pietism swept across the European continent, bringing with it an emphasis on the involvement of everyday Christians in the life of the church as well as lived religious experience. The story of this movement has most frequently been told from the perspective of the male theologians who led the reform within the Lutheran church or a few prominent separatists. However, the emphasis on the laity’s involvement meant that a significant number of women found their own voice within the Pietist movement. Females found expression for their religious experience in hymns, autobiographies, spiritual works, letters, and even theological treatises. By looking at these women’s writings and stories, we can form a more expansive narrative about Pietism.” Kettering-Lane joined the Bethany faculty in 2010 as assistant professor of Brethren studies, bringing experience in the Brethren Historical Library and Archives and as a research fellow at the Institute for European History and the University of Iowa. In fall 2016 she began serving as director of Bethany’s MA program and edits “Brethren Life and Thought.” The lecture will be recorded and posted at .

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2017 will be held on the theme “Confronting Chaos, Forging Community: Challenging Racism, Materialism, and Militarism.” This national gathering will be held April 21-24 building upon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final book and the fiftieth anniversary of his historic, final speech at Riverside Church in New York City. “The gathering marks the 14th annual event where nearly 1,000 Christians come to Washington, D.C., to learn, network, and advocate before Congress on federal policy issues that the ecumenical community is concerned,” said an announcement. “This year, perhaps more than ever, EAD calls on participants to come and make a loud, faithful witness to a new Congress and a new Administration.” The gathering will be held at the DoubleTree Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Va., just across the Potomac River from the US Capitol Building. The event concludes with a Lobby Day where a prepared legislative “ask” is taken to members of Congress by the participants. Registration is now open at . Young adults may apply for a scholarship.

West York (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is observing its 50th Anniversary on Nov. 12-13. On Nov. 12 a special time of music begins at 7 p.m. led by former pastor Warren Eshbach. On Nov. 13 during the 10 a.m. worship service there will be biblical teaching through music and mime by Drama Ministry from Lancaster, Pa. Also, Eshbach will lead in looking back; current pastor, Gregory Jones, will lead in looking at today; and ministerial son of the congregation, Matthew Hershey, will lead in looking ahead. “Please join us for this special weekend where we celebrate ‘the crowd of witnesses’ whose faith laid the spiritual foundation of our church, and the faithful today who ‘run with endurance the race God has set before us,’” said an invitation from the church, sent in by secretary Barbara Sloat. For more information contact the church at 717-792-9260.

Reading Church of the Brethren in Northern Ohio District celebrated a mortgage burning on Aug. 27. “Due to a generous gift from the Hoffer family, the congregation was able to pay off the mortgage on the church,” said the district newsletter. “Larry Bradley, pastor of Reading, shared that the congregation is extremely grateful for the generosity of the Hoffer family. Let us rejoice with our brothers and sisters!”

Choral ensembles from northeast Indiana–Fort Wayne, Wabash, and North Manchester–are coming together to perform Karl Jenkins’ “The Peacemakers” on Sunday, Nov. 6, at 4 p.m. at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. “Jenkins’ monumental work draws texts from international peacemakers including Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, and Gandhi,” said a release from the university. “The composer dedicated it to the memory of all who have lost their lives during armed conflict.” The performance is under the direction of guest conductor Bob Nance, president and artistic director of Heartland Sings. The Manchester University A Cappella Choir and Cantabile will be joined by Heartland Sings of Fort Wayne and choirs from Northfield and Manchester high schools. Area elementary and high school students have been invited to submit works by Nov. 1 to be judged for presentation during the concert. Students in grades K-5 were asked to create art; those in grades 6-8 were invited to submit essays; and those in grades 9-12 were asked to compose poetry. The winning entries will be displayed, printed, or read. Tickets are $10 general admission and $8 for students K-12. For more information go to .

Springs of Living Water in Church Renewal has announced its next academy for pastors and ministers meeting by telephone conference call, to begin Jan. 10, 2017. “With the thirst for new life, congregations can discover spiritual renewal through the Springs of Living Water initiative in church renewal,” said an announcement. “Like the woman at the well who found life giving water, they have their life transformed, and discern and implement their mission. Congregations develop a closer walk with Christ using spiritual disciplines folders, build on strengths through congregational gatherings, and implement units of revitalization.” For leadership training in renewal, pastors and ministers can enroll in the next Springs Academy over the phone for five morning, two-hour group calls over 12 weeks starting Jan. 10. During the calls, those enrolled in the academy share new life-practicing spiritual disciplines, learn a seven-step path that builds renewed spiritual energy and, using servant leadership, build on the strengths of their churches. A group from each church walks alongside and “shepherds” the pastor or minister. Instructor David Young teaches a thorough class with a structured syllabus. For spiritual growth, participants use a spiritual disciplines folder and Richard Foster’s book “Celebration of Disciplines, The Path of Spiritual Growth.” The text for the course is Young’s “Springs of Living Water, Christ-centered Church Renewal” with foreword by Foster.  Interpretative DVDs are available at . To allow time for reading and handouts, register by Dec. 28. Continuing education credit is available. Contact 717-615-4515 or .

Christian Peacemaker Teams reports that its CPT-Indigenous Peoples Solidarity group has been invited to accompany the Sacred Stone Camp where members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and supporters, which include other numerous indigenous peoples and environmental activists, are protesting construction of an oil pipeline. This week “law enforcement officials arrested 141 people in North Dakota after police surrounded protesters, deploying pepper spray and armored vehicles in order to clear hundreds of Native American activists and supporters from land owned by an oil pipeline company,” reported the “Guardian” newspaper of London. “The move marked the beginning of an aggressive new phase in ongoing police efforts to thwart a months-long demonstration by hundreds of members of more than 90 Native American tribes to prevent the construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, which they say would threaten the regional water supply and destroy sacred sites.” Christian Peacemaker Teams is seeking financial support to send volunteers to accompany the encampment. “Can you support a volunteer?” asks a recent Facebook post from CPT. Go to for more information or to .

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is requesting help to end the  use of torture in the Lewisburg federal penitentiary in central Pennsylvania. “This week, NPR and The Marshall Project published a series of stories uncovering the harrowing use of torture at the Lewisburg federal penitentiary in central Pennsylvania, where incarcerated people are routinely forced to face double-celled solitary confinement in a 6 by 10 foot cell for nearly 24 hours a day with a cell mate they fear, or are shackled in restraints for refusing their cell assignment. Since 2009, at least four incarcerated people at Lewisburg have been killed by their cellmates,” said an NRCAT release. “This torture is unacceptable. Join us in calling on the Attorney General to ensure an independent investigation of the federal Bureau of Prisons practices at the Lewisburg federal penitentiary, including the use of double-celled solitary confinement, restraints, and lack of mental health treatment.” Find out more at .

Cher Johnson, a member of the “Lord’s Laughing Ladies” group of knitters at Lakewood Church of the Brethren in Millbury, Ohio, won Best of Show in both the Wood County Fair and the Pemberville Fair. “Cher has never entered any needlework competition, and was really surprised to learn she won top prize in both fairs,” said a report by Barbara Wilch in the Northern Ohio District newsletter. “Her knitted sweater is both stylish and practical. She was also awarded a Blue Ribbon for a knitted cowl she entered.” Wilch noted that the Lord’s Laughing Ladies always welcomes new members.



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