“The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness” (Luke 3:2).
1) Annual Conference moderator shares Bible study for December
2) EDF grants are directed to aid refugees from Syria, Burundi
3) Global Food Initiative supports agricultural work in Haiti, garden projects in US
4) Brethren complete Nigeria workcamp
5) Interfaith vigil at University of La Verne responds to hate letter
6) Brethren Press carries new study resources for Advent, Winter quarter
7) Brethren bits: Remembering Ferne Baldwin and Barbara McFadden, On Earth Peace internships, update of the Manual of Organization and Polity, Healthy Boundaries 101 webcast, registration for Christian Citizenship Seminar, distributions of food in Haiti, and more
Quote of the week:
“Where does the word of God come? Not to the powermongers or their centers of power. The word of God does not ring out in the palace or the temple or the courthouse. It comes to the wilderness–a place free from distraction and corruption.”
— Christy Waltersdorff in “Witnesses to Jesus: Devotions for Advent Through Epiphany,” the Brethren Press daily devotional for Advent and Christmas 2016. Go to www.brethrenpress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=8488 .
The Conference Office reminds congregations and districts that there will be no early registration for their Annual Conference delegates in January as in years past. Both delegate and non-delegate registration will open online on the same day, Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Annual Conference will be held in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 28 to July 2. More information can be found at www.brethren.org/ac/2017
1) Annual Conference moderator shares Bible study for December
Annual Conference moderator Carol Scheppard shares the following reflection as a Bible study for December 2016, in preparation for the Conference that takes place June 28-July 2 in Grand Rapids, Mich. The month’s theme is “Facing Anxiety: False Hope vs. True Hope.”
Facing Anxiety: False Hope vs. True Hope, Part I: Lessons from Isaiah to Judah
Scriptures for study: 2 Kings 17:1-18; Isaiah 1:1-26, 7:1-17; 8:11-15, 31:1-5, 36:1-37:38
“Risk Hope,” the 2017 Annual Conference theme, emerges as a recurring chorus from an Old Testament saga of tragedy and redemption–the story of Israel’s progressive descent into exile. Staring down obstacles and situations very reminiscent of our 21st century challenges, our ancestors in faith made mistakes, suffered consequences, and endured darkness, but in the midst of it all they found their footing in their identity story, and ultimately welcomed God’s powerful presence in their midst. That presence launched them on a new path to abundance and blessing.
We remember from last month Amos’ condemnation of Israel as they turned their back on God: they enslaved the righteous, abused the poor, committed incest and child abuse, and engaged in a variety of idolatrous acts. God had blessed them to bless others, but they squandered it in corrupt living and injustice. So Amos warned Israel, “Do not be so sure of God’s endorsement. Just because you are the Chosen of God, doesn’t mean he’s not out to get you.” But Israel persisted in her sin. King after corrupt king “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” And God raised up a mighty force in the Empire of the Assyrians and scattered Israel to the winds.
Read 2 Kings 17:1-18.
God’s judgement fell hard on Israel and “none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.” So we turn our sights this month to the smaller southern kingdom of Judah. There we see quickly that, even with the example of God’s wrath directed at Israel, Judah too struggled to do what was right in the sight of the Lord. The challenge from the prophet Isaiah to the city of Jerusalem echoes Amos’ warnings to Israel.
Read Isaiah 1:21-26 and 8:11-15.
Judah, like Israel, has forgotten who they are–the Chosen of God and the Servant of God. They worship idols of their own making and neglect to care for those in need. Worse yet, they fear principalities and powers, at the same time that they discount the power of God. Isaiah warns them, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear and let him be your dread.” Do not underestimate the wrath of God–it will make the wrath of the Assyrians pale in comparison.
At the same time, Isaiah offers Judah a prophecy of hope, reminding them not to underestimate the power of God to bring blessing in the midst of challenging times. God holds out for them an option for redemption beyond the judgement. Even as the power of Assyria (Aram) increased and conspired with Samaria against tiny Judah, God promised deliverance beyond destruction.
Read Isaiah 7:1-17.
Isaiah gives Judah’s King Ahaz a three-part riddle of encouragement, leaving the third part unsaid: “It [destruction at the hands of the northern alliance] shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the Head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin…. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.” How will Ahaz complete the riddle? The head of Judah is Jerusalem and the head of Jerusalem is who? Should Ahaz answer “Ahaz” he has sealed his fate. But should he answer “God” he can proceed without fear.
God, through Isaiah, further encourages Ahaz and Judah with two signs of hope–the vision of two sons: one son is named “Shear-jashub” which means “a remnant shall return,” and the other son is named Emanuel which means “God with us.” In the midst of the time of trial, God will be present, and a remnant of God’s people shall survive destruction to live again.
But the promises of God fell on deaf ears–the people of Judah sought ways to “help” God’s plan, to give themselves some insurance. They put trust in an alliance with Egypt to bolster their defense against Assyria. The prophet Isaiah chastises them for trusting in horses and chariots more than in the power of God.
Read Isaiah 31:1-5.
The alliance with Egypt does not hold back the Assyrians, and “in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.” King Hezekiah, under siege in Jerusalem, faced complete destruction.
Read Isaiah 36:1-37:38.
Isaiah encourages Hezekiah to hold fast and to trust in God. God will remain true to God’s promises; God will bless God’s people. “The surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upwards; for from Jerusalem a remnant shall go out, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
Read Psalm 46:1-3:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
Though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea:
Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”
Questions for consideration:
— In many ways the things we fear tell more about us than the truths we profess. How do you see this adage at work in the world today?
— Do we fear God? How is this evident? Why or why not?
— According to Isaiah, what is the difference between false hope and true hope?
— How do we fall victim to false hope? How do we differentiate false hope from true hope in our world today? What challenges do we face in making the differentiation?
— How do we support one another in true hope?
2) EDF grants are directed to aid refugees from Syria, Burundi
Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to aid Syrian and other refugees sheltering in Lebanon, and refugees from Burundi who have fled to Tanzania.
Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon
An allocation of $43,000 supports the work of the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development with Syrian refugees and other refugees in Lebanon. After seven years, the Syrian civil war has displaced nearly 10 million Syrians, even as other conflicts in the Middle East have displaced millions more people. Lebanon now has 1.5 million Syrian refugees and another half million Palestinian refugees. With this crisis continuing and children out of school for years, the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development has expanded its focus on refugee children and has developed an intervention for Syrian and Iraqi refugee children in the public school system working closely with the Ministry of Education. The project will provide refugee children with the opportunity to enhance interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, and emotional awareness to promote healthier coping skills and better psychosocial well-being. The society plans to provide these services in 10 public schools during the 2017 calendar year, with a budget of $42,728 per school or a total budget of $427,280.
Burundi refugee crisis in Tanzania
An allocation of $30,000 supports the work of Church World Service (CWS) to assist refugees from Burundi who are sheltering in Tanzania. Since April 2015, Burundians have been fleeing their country following election violence and a failed coup. More than 250,000 Burundians have fled their country, and more than 140,000 are living in 3 camps in Tanzania. Due to a continually worsening situation in Burundi the three established camps in Tanzania–Nyarugusu, Mtendeli, and Nduta–need additional support to be scaled up and to provide appropriate humanitarian assistance. Funds will support the CWS focus on livelihood opportunities and self-reliance among refugees living in Nyarugusu Refugee Camp. This work complements the ongoing ACT Alliance response that focuses on water, sanitation, hygiene, cash grants, distribution of non-food items, community-based psychosocial counseling, primary education, livelihoods, and self-reliance. A previous EDF grant of $60,000 was made for this appeal in June 2015.
For more about the Emergency Disaster Fund and to contribute to disaster relief efforts, go to www.brethren.org/edf .
3) Global Food Initiative supports agricultural work in Haiti, garden projects in US
The Global Food Initiative of the Church of the Brethren is giving grants to support agricultural work in Haiti and garden projects in the United States. Other grants will help carry out program evaluations in a number of African nations.
An allocation of $35,000 for the agriculture work of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) is the final grant supporting a proposed five-year post-earthquake agricultural development project. This grant will provide funds for 17 mini-projects ranging from animal raising, soil conservation, tree nurseries, and crop production for rural communities, to economic generation activities such as fruit drinks and peanut butter sales, as well as soap-making for urban communities. Both the budget and the evaluation were completed in Haiti before the onset of Hurricane Matthew, and likely many of the animals and crops observed during the evaluation have been destroyed, notes the grant request. Haitian Brethren church leaders are doing a complete needs assessment in impacted communities. Some of the relief work will be focused on food security and replacing lost animals.
An allocation of $5,000 support a part-time garden advocate at Capstone 118 in New Orleans, La. The garden advocate will have various responsibilities including communicating advocacy needs to the Office of Public Witness of the Church of the Brethren, relating to local elected officials, grant writing, scheduling volunteer groups, and handling publicity. The grant funds will be used to pay a portion of the stipend or wage for this newly created position.
An allocation of $2,000 helps fund a church-school-community partnership spearheaded by Community of Joy Church of the Brethren in Salisbury, Md. This grant will cover a consulting fee for the Camden Community Gardens and is seen as “seed money” or a “bridge grant” for a much larger effort that will include 10 churches, Salisbury University, an experienced organic farmer, and local elected officials. Two projects will be used to grow organic vegetables for the school system: the first will grow vegetables year round in high tunnels for consumption in the cafeterias, and the second will establish instructional gardens at elementary schools. This grant also will help compensate an organic farmer with 40-plus years of experience for the work of adapting a plan previously designed for Salisbury University to grow vegetables to serve in the university cafeteria.
Grants are funding program evaluations in a number of African countries where the Global Food Initiative is involved in supporting agriculture. All of the evaluations will be conducted by the staff of Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An allocation of $2,140 funds an evaluation of sponsored projects in Burundi. An allocation of $2,540 funds an evaluation of sponsored projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An allocation of $2,320 funds an evaluation of sponsored projects in Rwanda.
In an additional grant directed to the DRC, an allocation of $1,150 supports an outside facilitator to work on strategic planning with the emerging Brethren group and its community development ministry, Shalom Ministry for Reconciliation and Development (SHAMIRED). The outcome of this planning would be a blueprint for the future with concrete organizational goals to strengthen the ministries and capacity of the church group and SHAMIRED. Funds will cover the cost of the facilitator for three days, transportation for the facilitator, food for the other participants in the consultation, and the ensuing compilation of a comprehensive strategic document to be utilized for future organizational programs.
For more information about the ministry of the Global Food Initiative or to contribute financially to its work, go to www.brethren.org/gfi
4) Brethren complete Nigeria workcamp
By Jay Wittmeyer
With blue and yellow t-shirts marking the occasion, a group of Brethren from the United States joined Nigerian counterparts in a workcamp with the motto, “Come Let Us Rebuild.” The workcamp was sponsored by the Brethren Evangelical Support Trust (BEST) and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Nine American Brethren led by Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer traveled to Nigeria for a two-week church construction project from Nov. 7-18.
The Nehemiah Project, EYN’s new emphasis on rebuilding its devastated infrastructure, seeks to recover from years of attacks on its community and the destruction of churches and church properties, estimated at 1,600 worship centers. The project is seeking to initiate a spirit of volunteerism and support from local churches to assist in the construction of churches in communities affected by violence. EYN as a church community has never had the practice of operating workcamps and is hoping, with the push from the US Brethren, that a workcamp program will get started at this time.
The first workcamp began the construction of a large church in the village of Pegi, located on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital city Abuja and serving families displaced from the district of Chibok. Along with the American Brethren, members of BEST, and EYN leaders including the president Joel Billi, busloads of volunteers came from local churches in the Abuja district to work on the project, as did the district secretary of Abuja. The pastor of Pegi and local church members participated daily in the camp.
BEST member Abbas Ali, the architect of the building and leader of the project, laid the foundation of the church and built toilets so that the site would be ready for workcampers to raise walls and pour lintels. After the two weeks of effort, the workcamp closed with worship and singing, celebrating completion of the walls in preparation for the roofing of the new church.
A young boy of eight, Henry, who came daily after school to join in the project asked if people would come to burn this church one day.
The Church of the Brethren is partnering in at least three Nigeria workcamps. A second workcamp is scheduled in January to complete the Pegi building, and a third is scheduled in February.
The denomination also is raising funds for church reconstruction to assist Nigerian congregations to rebuilt their structures in secure areas. The Nigeria Crisis Fund continues to be the main focus of the Church of the Brethren, as a fund to meet the humanitarian needs in Nigeria. For more information go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .
— Jay Wittmeyer is executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren.
5) Interfaith vigil at University of La Verne responds to hate letter
An interfaith vigil held at the University of La Verne (ULV), a Church of the Brethren-related school in southern California, in collaboration with the Inland Valley Interfaith Network. The vigil was held after an anonymous threatening letter was received at the Islamic Center of Claremont, Calif., one of several such hate letters that have been sent to mosques and Islamic centers.
University chaplain Zandra Wagoner, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren who serves the school as a “interfaith chaplain,” was a leader for the candlelight vigil on the evening of Nov. 29. The event was held outdoors on a lawn on the university campus with more than 150 people in attendance, including community members from a wide variety of faith backgrounds.
Leadership also included ULV president Devorah Lieberman; a board member of the Islamic Center of Claremont; a leader from Unity of Pomona, Calif.; a cantor from Temple Beth Israel; the president of the NAACP chapter in Pomona, Calif.; a representative of Latino Roundtable; and a number of student leaders in the university including a student who helps maintain Native American heritage on campus, the president of the Black Student Union, and the student president of Common Ground.
In an invitation to the event, Wagoner wrote, “The vigil comes less than a week after our local mosque received a threatening letter, and at a time when some people are feeling the weight of increased acts of hate toward specific groups. This is an opportunity to strengthen bonds of compassion and solidarity within our community.”
In her remarks during the vigil, she said, in part: “To our Muslim friends, neighbors and family members, please know our hearts are with you, we pray for safety, and please feel our collective presence tonight as a tangible expression of our unwavering commitment to be in solidarity with you.”
At the conclusion of the vigil, participants were given an opportunity to write letters of support to the Islamic center, and were invited to sign a Charter for Compassion that is part of a local effort called “Compassionate Inland Valley” to encourage cities in the area to become Cities of Compassion.
The vigil received coverage in the area newspaper and on television news in southern California. The Daily Bulletin covered the event with a story posted online at www.dailybulletin.com/social-affairs/20161129/crowd-of-all-faiths-come-to-vigil-to-support-islamic-center-of-claremont . NBC News posted a video report on the vigil at https://goo.gl/oeRQBJ . Fox News posted a video clip at https://vimeo.com/193721583 . The university posted a video of the event on Facebook, view it at www.facebook.com/ULaVerne/videos/1234047413321211
6) Brethren Press carries new study resources for Advent, Winter quarter
Several new study resources for the Advent season and the Winter curriculum quarter are now available from Brethren Press. The new resources include “Unwrapping the Gift of Advent” in the Vital Ministry Journey study series; the Winter quarter of the Shine curriculum exploring the life and ministry of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Matthew; a new Believers Church Bible Commentary on Philippians.
Vital Ministry Journey study for Advent
“Unwrapping the Gift of Advent” was developed in a collaboration between Congregational Life Ministries and the Vital Ministry Team at Black Rock Church of the Brethren in Glenville, Pa. “Waiting, preparing, anticipating, celebrating. It is all part of the journey of new life,” said an announcement. “Both in the prophet Isaiah, and in the accounts of Jesus’ birth, we are reminded how the roots of our faith lead us to refreshment and redirection. As you unwrap the gift of Advent with the Vital Ministry Journey, allow yourself to ask tough questions, examine the times of scripture both in Israel and in Bethlehem, and place yourself in the hearts of these biblical figures. Surprise yourself by inviting God to speak new insights into the understanding of the painfully exciting gift that is newness, a newness that comes with the unforgiving reality of time.”
The Vital Ministry Journey offers resources and support for congregations interested in renewing their vitality and mission. This new booklet in the Vital Ministry Journey series of resources is arranged in six study sessions. Order from Brethren Press for $6 per booklet, one booklet per person, at www.brethrenpress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=2123 .
The Winter 2016-17 quarter of the Shine curriculum from Brethren Press and MennoMedia includes the Advent and Christmas season, and explores the life and teachings of Jesus as told in the book of Matthew. “Children will have the opportunity to memorize the Beatitudes from Jesus’ well-known Sermon on the Mount. Teachers and children will enjoy parables about wise builders and treasure seekers, and reflect on what it means to love an enemy,” said an announcement. “With stories from Nazareth, Bethlehem, Egypt, the desert, a mountainside, the Jordan River, and the Sea of Galilee, you won’t want to miss these journeys with Jesus!” Call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 to place Shine orders.
A new commentary has been published in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series published jointly by a group of denominations including the Church of the Brethren. The new volume on Philippians is written by Gordon Zerbe. According to a release from the series, the new commentary “challenges readers to allow Paul’s prison letter to interpret their own lives–not by extracting lessons out of historical and cultural context but by imagining themselves in the ancient Roman world.” Zerbe is vice president academic at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The Believers Church Bible Commentary series is designed to be accessible to lay readers, useful in preaching and pastoral care, helpful for Bible study groups and Sunday school teachers, and academically sound. The series also carries an underlying Anabaptist reading of scripture. The volumes are a cooperative project of Brethren in Christ Church, Brethren Church, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Brethren Church, Mennonite Church Canada, and Mennonite Church USA. Order from Brethren Press by calling 800-441-3712.
Find out more about Brethren Press and the resources it offers at www.brethrenpress.com
7) Brethren bits
“Praise God for the ongoing distributions of food and supplies to Haitians affected by Hurricane Matthew and the resulting flooding that continues in many communities,” says a prayer request from Global Mission and Service. Eglise des Freres d’Haiti, the Church of the Brethren in Haiti, is leading the distributions with support from the Emergency Disaster Fund. Recent efforts have provided aid to 818 families in communities such as Saint Louis du Nord, Cap Haitian, Ouanaminthe, and Morne Boulage. “Continue to pray for all those affected by this large-scale disaster,” the request said.
— Remembrance: (Alma) Ferne Strohm Baldwin, 97, of North Manchester, Ind., died at Timbercrest Health Care on Nov. 26. She served in the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria with her husband, Elmer, from 1944-62. Her work there included teaching in mission schools, language translation, producing books in a Nigerian language, keeping the mission books, and other office and deputation work. While home on furlough in 1958, she graduated from Manchester College with a degree in philosophy. After earning a master’s degree and a doctorate in social services from Ball State University, she served as professor of sociology and social work at Manchester College from 1969-89, and became department chair. She continued to teach part time after becoming the archivist, until 1999. She moved to Timbercrest Senior Living Community in 2004. She was born Sept. 29, 1919, in Kansas to John Alonzo and Mary Matilda (Derrick) Strohm. She went to Chicago in 1936 to attend Bethany Bible School where she met Elmer Rufus Baldwin. They were married in 1938. She also attended Nebraska Wesleyan University, the University of Wichita, and Bethany Seminary. She was preceded in death by her husband, Elmer, and her middle daughter and son-in-law, Louise and Phil Rieman. She is survived by daughters Barbara (Tim) Bryant of Jackson, Tenn., and Lois (David) Good of North Manchester, Ind.; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held today, Dec. 3, at Manchester Church of the Brethren. Memorial gifts are received to the Baldwin Scholarship Fund and the Baldwin Rieman Peacemaker Fund at Manchester University and to Timbercrest Charitable Assistance.
— Remembrance: Barbara McFadden, 81, of North Manchester, Ind., died Nov. 22 at Timbercrest Health Care Center. She worked in the Brethren Press/SERRV store at the Church of the Brethren General Offices beginning in 1972, and was a temporary employee in the stewardship area from 1973 into the early 1980s. She also served as switchboard operator/receptionist for the Church of the Brethren into the early 1990s. She was born Jan. 25, 1935, in Chicago to Raymond and Kathryn (Eller) Peters. She married Ralph McFadden in 1955. She was married to Ralph Royer, father of Nigeria Crisis Response coordinator Roxane Hill, from 2006 until his death in 2012. She was a teacher of home economics and English, counseled youth in several capacities and enjoyed working in both the SERRV shop in Elgin, Ill., and at Show of Hands in Denver, Colo. Also also was an accomplished organist and pianist. She was member of Manchester Church of the Brethren. She is survived by son Joel (Laura) McFadden of Thornton, Colo.; daughter, Jill (Anne Tapp) McFadden of Boulder, Colo.; and a grandchild. Memorial gifts are received to Manchester Church of the Brethren and Timbercrest Senior Living Community. Plans for a memorial service are pending. The full obituary is posted at http://mckeemortuary.com/obituaries.aspx .
— On Earth Peace has immediate internship opportunities. The agency is seeking interns to fill the following roles: Dayton/Miami Valley (Ohio) Racial Justice Organizer, Social Media Organizer. On Earth Peace internship opportunities are intended for young adults ages 18-24 and college students, recent graduates, and seminary students regardless of age. Interns work closely with the executive director, program directors, and program partners. Internships are paid. For more information including how to apply, contact Marie Benner-Rhoades at email@example.com .
— The December 2016 edition of the Church of the Brethren Manual of Organization and Polity has been posted at www.brethren.org/ac/ppg . “Very little has changed since the 2015 edition,” reports Annual Conference secretary James Beckwith. “The few additions are identified in the Preface of the Overview chapter. As much as possible, this manual reflects the exact wording of Annual Conference polity decisions. It purpose is to unite, strengthen, and equip the Church of the Brethren to follow Jesus together.” Revisions were approved by the Leadership Team: David A. Steele, general secretary; Carol A. Scheppard, moderator; Samuel Kefas Sarpiya, moderator-elect; James M. Beckwith, secretary; and Conference director Chris Douglas as staff support.
— The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership will offer the “Healthy Boundaries 101–Basic Level Ethics in Ministry Relations” training via webcast on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern time). This session is for ministry training students and newly licensed or ordained clergy who have not yet had the training. Academy executive director Julie M. Hostetter will lead the training. The webcast will use the Zoom technology. The fee to participate is $30 for newly licensed or ordained clergy, which includes a book and a certificate for continuing education units. The fee is $15 for students currently at Bethany Seminary or in the TRIM, EFSM, or ACTS ministry training program. The registration deadline is Dec. 19. No registrations will be received via phone or e-mail after this deadline. A website link will be e-mailed to participants a few days prior to the webcast. Dan Poole, director of educational technology at Bethany Seminary, will provide technology support for this event. For questions and more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Registration has opened for Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS) 2017. CCS provides high school aged students the chance to explore the relationship between faith and a particular political issue, and then act from a faith perspective regarding that issue. The theme for next year’s event, which takes place in New York and Washington, D.C., on April 22-27, is “Native American Rights: Food Security.” Find out more and register at www.brethren.org/yya/ccs .
— The Soybean Innovation Lab newsletter for November 2016 features a front-page article on a recent Church of the Brethren visit to the Soybean Management and Appropriate Research and Technology farm in Ghana. Brethren from the United States joined Brethren from Nigeria in the visit to learn more about soybean agriculture. The trip was sponsored by the Global Food Initiative. Find the article at
— Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) put volunteers on alert to go to Tennessee to aid families and children affected by fires, but it now seems that childcare services will not be needed. “It sounds like the rain has been quite a blessing for the areas of the fires… So, at this time we are anticipating no calls out for childcare,” said an e-mail from staff to volunteers who offered to be on call. “However, we will keep you all in mind on our list, as we all know how quickly things can change.” For more about the ministry of CDS go to www.brethren.org/cds .
— The Office of Public Witness continues its exploration of how Christians can respond to displaced peoples in the latest episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast. Emerson Goering, a peacebuilding and policy associate, interviews Mark Charles about Native American history and the intersection of Columbus and other Europeans coming into the land. The Dunker Punks Podcast is an audio show created by more than a dozen Brethren young adults across the country. Listen to the latest episode at http://bit.ly/DPP_Episode18 or subscribe on iTunes at http://bit.ly/DPP_iTunes .
— “We have been collecting books for Nigeria for months,” reports Sharon Billings Franzén, office manager for Brethren Disaster Ministries. The deadline to collect books was Nov. 20. On Nov. 29-Dec. 1 she and others from Brethren Disaster Ministries and Brethren Volunteer Service gathered with volunteers from Bush Creek Church of the Brethren, Westminster Church of the Brethren, and Greenmount United Methodist Church to sort and pack books into boxes headed to Nigeria for school students and for Kulp Bible College. “Books came from all over the country. One of the farthest away was from San Diego First Church of the Brethren which mailed two boxes of books weighing over 100 pounds. Volunteers from the church worked with Rowan Elementary School which donated books.” A blessing service was held for the books, prior to their shipment to Nigeria early in the New Year.
— An updated alternative gift catalogue from Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services is online at www.brethren.org/bdm/gift . These online purchases benefit the disaster relief ministries of the Church of the Brethren.
— An announcement for those living near the Brethren Service Center campus in New Windsor, Md., or anyone who likes holiday cookies delivered by mail: Zigler Hospitality Center is making what one announcement described as “those huge, delicious cookies” for $4 per dozen. Information is at www.brethren.org/ziglerhospitality .
— “Making Friends at Camp Safari” is the title of an article published by Anabaptist Disabilities Network, written by Karen Dillon, director of Camping and Retreats for Southern Ohio District. Camp Safari was a new camp this year for the district, she writes. “The camp focused on providing a Christian camping experience for campers with special needs. Leadership was provided by Kylie and Matt Shetler, the deans, and District Camp staff. Campers hiked, swam, laughed, sang, and did all the things expected at camp. The exciting activities of clowning around, making kazoos from detergent jugs, to interactive Bible stories, a talent showcase, and closing campfire brought everyone in the camp close together in the family of God. The campers came as strangers, but left as friends. They knew they were accepted and celebrated for who they were. Such joy that abounded throughout this camping experience was wonderful to witness.” Read more about Camp Safari at www.adnetonline.org/Blog/Pages/2016/Camp-Safari.aspx .
— On Earth Peace is hosting several web-based “meet ups where participants will share in conversation about faithful Christian peace and justice work under the new administration, Congress, in state and local realities, and within church institutions,” said an announcement. “We are inviting you to offer up your ideas, plans, hopes, resources, and needs. During this time you will get to meet others with similar passions and join together in prayer as we seek spiritual power and nourishment for these times. These conversations will inform OEP’s nonviolent social change organizing in 2017 and beyond. You will also learn about organizing, training, and leadership development opportunities for social change leaders in the coming months.” A first event was planned for Friday, Dec. 2. The next two events are planned for Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. (Eastern); and Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 12:30 p.m. (Eastern). For questions contact email@example.com . For more information and to sign up to participate, go to http://bit.ly/OEPDecMeetUps .
— EYN female theologians have conducted a seminar on forgiveness and reconciliation, reports Zakariya Musa of the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). “A five-day workshop was organized by the EYN Female Theologians on Forgiveness and Reconciliation,” he writes in a release to Newsline. “It was held at Hometell Suite, Yola, the capital of Adamawa State. Thirty one EYN female theologians attended the seminar with two renowned facilitators. The Mission 21-sponsored event was facilitated by the Mission 21 country coordinator Yakubu Joseph, Ph.D., and Ephraim I. Kadala, EYN peace coordinator. EYN president Joel S. Billi and the EYN general secretary also met with the female theologians during the workshop. One of the participants, Ester Emmanuel from Kulp Bible College, shared that the workshop was a rich one ranging from the accommodation, feeding, and teachings on forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation, and on accepting God’s gifts. Female theologians headed by the first EYN female theologian Dr. Yamtikarya J. Mshelia have played roles in church development in diverse means despite none receiving ordination so far.”
— Oakley Brick Church of the Brethren in Cerro Gordo, Ill., is experiencing a surge of new life, according to the News-Gazette. The congregation is planning to rebuild after strong winds destroyed its church close to a year ago, on Dec. 23, 2015. Pastor David Roe told the newspaper that he has trouble counting the blessings that have poured in since then, thanks to strong support from the community and from neighboring churches. Read the article at www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2016-11-26/cerro-gordo-congregation-counting-their-blessings.html .
— Champaign (Ill.) Church of the Brethren was one of the participants in a first Thanksgiving program sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of Champaign County, according to an article in the News-Gazette. Groups that came together for the event also included, among others, the Sinai Temple, a Jewish congregation; Community United Church of Christ, Champaign; First Mennonite Church, Urbana; the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center; New Life Church of Faith, Champaign; and the Baha’i Center, Urbana. “The alliance, which meets once a month, came up with the idea of the Interfaith Thanksgiving Program as a way to grow and affect the community beyond the group’s monthly meetings at different places of worship,” the article said. See www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2016-11-19/thanksgiving-program-grow.html .
— Dranesville Church of the Brethren in Herndon, Va., has participated in a rededication of the Battle of Dranesville marker. The church is located at the battle site, and its annual Peace Service remembering those who were killed in the Civil War battle is planned for Sunday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m.
— The pastor and others from First Church of the Brethren in Lansing, Mich., are sending “love letters of support” to the Islamic Center in East Lansing, reports a Facebook post from the church. The supportive letters respond to a hate letter that was received by the center, among other mosques and Islamic centers around the country. Read news articles from the “Lansing State Journal” at www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2016/12/02/east-lansing-mosque-among-many-get-photocopied-hate-letter/94799278 and from the “Los Angeles Times” at www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-mosque-letters-trump-20161126-story.html .
— Atlantic Northeast District is holding a drop-in celebration for retiring district executive minister Craig Smith and his wife, Vicki Smith, to thank them for their years of service. “Following worship, please join us at the Hempfield Church of the Brethren on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, from 12:00-3:30 p.m.,” said an invitation from the district. The event will include food and refreshments and time for conversation to bless the couple in the next steps in life. Said the announcement: “We are so grateful for Craig and Vicki’s faithfulness and hope that you can be a part of sharing in this together.”
— The Pinecrest Community’s annual craft and vendor fair and bake sale “is bigger and better this year at our new location!” says an announcement. The fair will be held Saturday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m., throughout the Pinecrest Grove Community Center in Mount Morris, Ill. More than 30 crafters and vendors will be on hand and a “huge holiday bake sale” will be part of the event. All proceeds benefit the Good Samaritan Fund. This fund was established in 1988 to help cover the cost of care for seniors who have outlived their personal financial resources. Pinecrest is a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community.
— Manchester University has received a $300,000 grant to support efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, and enhance victim support. “This is the only such grant awarded to an Indiana institution this year by the US Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women,” said a release from the university. “It is among 61 such grants given nationwide totaling $25 million.” The three-year award allows Manchester to implement its CARE Initiative–Creating a Respectful Environment–for the North Manchester and Fort Wayne campuses in Indiana. The proposal calls for Manchester to partner with victim services providers Hands of Hope, the Beaman Home (Warsaw), the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center and Crime Victim Care, as well as the police departments in North Manchester and Fort Wayne. The grant will fund a CARE coordinator for the duration of the award.
— While meeting in China from Nov. 17-23, the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee issued a “Statement on Climate Justice” that “reiterates the urgent concerns of churches in relation to climate change, and calls on all states to fulfill the commitments of the Paris Agreement,” said a release. “The Paris agreement, adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015, has come into legal effect after a rapid ratification process in which both China and the United States of America joined. The Paris Agreement commits countries to keeping the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, making every effort to limit the rise to the lower threshold of 1.5 degrees. The WCC executive committee statement acknowledges and welcomes the example offered by the government of China in its ratification of the Paris Agreement, and ‘in leading the world in investing in development of renewable energy.’ The statement encourages the government of China to ‘show further global leadership by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement commitments.’ The statement also reaffirms the importance of continuing ecumenical advocacy and action for climate justice in the framework of a pilgrimage of justice and peace, and intensified interfaith cooperation for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.” See www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/executive-committee/statement-on-climate-justice .
— In more news from the World Council of Churches, Stan Noffsinger was one of the ecumenical leaders who led by example at a World AIDS Day 2016 event. Noffsinger is the former general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and currently serves on the WCC staff in Geneva, Switzerland. He was one of the church leaders who volunteered to be tested for HIV on Dec. 1, which is commemorated as World AIDS Day. “It is an opportunity to remind ourselves that HIV has not gone away; that there is still a vital need to increase awareness, fight prejudice, stigma and discrimination, improve education, increase access to testing and treatment, raise funds and promote human rights,” said a release from the WCC, which has launched a campaign called “Leading by Example: Religious Leaders and HIV Testing.” The release continued: “We are encouraging religious leaders to promote HIV testing and get tested for HIV. The aim is to overcome the stigma of HIV testing by showing that having the test done is not a statement about morality, but a health practice that all should do. At present, fewer than 50 percent of people living with HIV know their HIV status. Faith leaders and communities can make a huge difference in overcoming the stigma surrounding HIV testing! We can show that knowing your status is important for everyone, because HIV is a virus, not a moral condition.” For more information go to www.oikoumene.org/en/what-we-do/religious-leaders-and-hiv-testing .
— “See how we helped create the most beautiful ad of the season,” says a release from the National Council of Churches (NCC). “You may have seen it. Millions have, either on TV or in social media shares. People everywhere are talking about it, and the National Council of Churches helped create it. Here’s how it happened: Associate General Secretary Tony Kireopoulos was contacted by Amazon Prime and was asked to consult on the creation of this ad. They wanted to make sure the sensitivities of both Christians and Muslims were protected. Tony was involved throughout the production process. Together with input from other organizations, Amazon created an ad that appeals to our highest ideals and reflects the values of interreligious respect, peace, and kindness the National Council of Churches works for every day. The advertisement tells a story of a Christian Pastor and a Muslim Imam who are lifelong friends but aren’t as sprightly as they were in their youth. One day the pastor has a moment of inspiration and decides to do something to make the Imam’s life and work a little easier. What the pastor doesn’t know, is the Imam also has the same idea for the pastor.” The Church of the Brethren denomination is a founding member of the NCC. View the ad at http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/pages/amazon-ad .
— The current episode of the NCC Podcast features Catherine Orsburn, director of Shoulder-to-Shoulder, speaking about the recent uptick in anti-Muslim incidents in the US, and the signs of hope she sees for the future. Every week NCC communications director Steven D. Martin interviews faith leaders, activists, and people from across the NCC’s 38 member communions and affiliated organizations. The Church of the Brethren denomination is a founding member of the National Council of Churches, and is a member of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign through its Office of Public Witness. For more information or to subscribe to the NCC podcasts go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/national-council-churches/id1082452069 .
— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has published a new perspective on the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, called “Saint Paul and Saint Luke on Lesvos–a new light on the refugee crisis from a Christian perspective” written by Annelies Klinefelter. The reflection begins: “In 56 A.D., Luke the Evangelist, the Apostle Paul and their companions stopped on Lesvos briefly on the return trip of Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 20:14), having sailed from Assos (about 50 km away). From Mytilini they continued towards Chios (Acts 20:15). In 2016, Luke and Paul would have been picked up by coastguard ships and denied entry. Paul was a Turk and Luke a Palestinian. European governments now associate both of these nationalities with terrorism. In the many thousands of refugees now on the island there may be many Pauls and many Lukes….” Find the full reflection at https://cptmediterranean.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/saint-paul-and-saint-luke-on-lesvos .
— A Fourth Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence will be held at St. Marks Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on the fourth anniversary date of the Sandy Hook tragedy. The event is sponsored by the hosting church along with the Newtown Action Alliance and the Newtown Foundation, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Organizing for Action, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Everytown Survivor Network. “We will be joined by hundreds of families of victims and survivors of gun violence and advocates from Sandy Hook, Aurora, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Chicago, Oakland, Hartford and elsewhere,” said an announcement. The coalition has hand-delivered an invitation to the National Vigil to every member of Congress on Capitol Hill and is extending an open invitation to join in the vigil. For those living outside the Washington area, there are 200 local vigils being planned across the nation. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
— “A Child Born for Us; Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” is the title for the Advent Disciplines folder for daily Bible reading and prayer provided by Springs of Living Water. Springs is an initiative for church renewal in the Church of the Brethren. “The entire congregation joins in following these scripture readings which follow the lectionary readings using the Brethren bulletin series starting Nov. 27,” said a release. “The spiritual life and unity of the congregation grows…. With Christmas Eve being one of the most attended services, a Spiritual Disciplines folder can serve as a guide for daily discipleship and can be given out as a gift to all attendees. In this manner the entire congregation can continue on the next day with a pattern to move into the New Year and the first season of joy in the New Year, known at Epiphany or Season of Light.” In an additional note, the release includes a reminder that the next Springs Academy for pastors via telephone conference call begins Jan. 10, 2017. David and Joan Young lead the initiative. Vince Cable, pastor of Fairchance Church of the Brethren and moderator of Western Pennsylvania District, composed this disciplines folder. An interpretative DVD is on the front page of the website at www.churchrenewalservant.org . For more information call 717-615-4515 or e-mail email@example.com .
— The story of a Conestoga wagon that originally helped members of a Dunkard or Brethren family–the Wine family–head west in the days of the pioneers, is told by the Greeneville Sun newspaper. The wagon is now on display at the state museum in Nashville, Tenn., “after having spent decades on exhibit in Johnson City, first at the museum of the East Tennessee State Teachers College (now East Tennessee State University) and then the Carroll Reece Museum,” the newspaper reports. “In 1837, Christian Wine, of Forrestville, Va., in Shenandoah County, commissioned a wagon maker by the name of Garber to build the large curved wagon with extra-tall wheels for ease of fording rivers and keeping the contents dry.” The Wine family included carpenters who helped build the churches at French Broad in Jefferson County, Tenn., and Fruitdale and Cedar Creek in Alabama. Jacob Wine’s carpentry tools became part of a collection at a museum at Bridgewater (Va.) College, the article reports. See www.greenevillesun.com/features/wine-conestoga-wagon-trekked-from-virginia/article_fa5ac1ea-78f4-51eb-85e4-25ba1cdba1b1.html
— Todd Hammond, pastor of Agape Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., has preserved the Saturday before the attack on Pearl Harbor with a model of the US military base in Hawaii as it was on its last day at peace Dec. 6, 1941. The 1-2,400 scale model has gained media attention recently. “Pearl Harbor and the world changed the next morning, Sunday, Dec. 7…. Hammond chooses to remember the last day before that dramatic and permanent change. It’s still a bright Saturday on Hammond’s little, peaceful Pacific island,” says a report from KPC News. The model is to go on display soon at the National Museum of the US Navy in Washington, D.C., after Hammond’s 25-year project won the support of a survivor of the attack. Find the story at http://kpcnews.com/news/latest/northwest/article_7bdb08a2-32ff-53ee-84e0-79cdfa272c22.html
— Steve Schwartz, who had served for 11 years as executive director of the Brethren Housing Association in Harrisburg, Pa., has been hired as the first director of development for Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area in Harrisburg. CCU is a collaboration of more than 100 Anabaptist, Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, and Catholic member congregations uniting in collaborative ministry to combat homelessness and poverty, and to support ex-offenders as they transition back to the community.
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include James Beckwith, Jeff Boshart, Sharon Billings Franzén, Kathy Fry-Miller, Bryan Hanger, William Kostlevy, Ralph McFadden, Nancy Miner, Zakariya Musa, Randi Rowan, Carol Scheppard, Steve Schwartz, Zandra Wagoner, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, David Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Newsline will not appear during Thanksgiving week. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Dec. 9.