Church of the Brethren Newsline
July 20, 2017
“Since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:8-11).
1) Raising awareness and solutions on Capitol Hill for the crisis in Nigeria
2) Latest Brethren grants from the EDF and GFI are announced
3) CDS serves in New York, puts teams together for California wildfire response
4) Disabilities Ministry celebrates 27 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act
5) Unmuting silenced voices: Planning a gathering to remember those who resisted World War I
6) One year in: An interview with EYN president Joel S. Billi
7) Brethren bits: Job openings, We Are Able workcamp, NCC podcast features director of Office of Public Witness, Global Food Initiative manager interviewed by “Seed World,” and more news
Quote of the week:
“The country’s religious congregations will have to add $714,000 to their annual budgets each year for the next decade to make up for the drastic cuts.”
— Bread for the World, in a release analyzing the administration’s federal budget proposal. The release cited Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that more than half of the administration’s proposed fiscal year 2018 cuts, or $2.5 trillion over 10 years, would come from programs that help low- and moderate-income Americans. Bread for the World (www.bread.org) is “a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.”
1) Raising awareness and solutions on Capitol Hill for the crisis in Nigeria
by Emerson Goering
One week after attending the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., on July 10 leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) attended several meetings in Washington, D.C., organized by the denomination’s Office of Public Witness.
Meetings included conversations with the US Institute of Peace, US Department of State, and 21st Century Wilberforce, a partner in work on Nigeria focusing on international religious freedom. EYN members were able to share extensively on their experiences during the years of crisis in their country, and advocate for an appropriate response from US leaders.
The following day, the Office of Public Witness along with the Nigeria Working Group organized a briefing on the crisis in Nigeria. The event targeted policy makers and their staff members to provide knowledge on local solutions, US policy, and interfaith organizing. A variety of congressional offices attended the briefing, representing 12 House representatives and five Senate offices, as well as many humanitarian and advocacy groups.
Panelists included Roy Winter, associate executive Director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, and speakers from Search for Common Ground, Oxfam International, and Mennonite Central Committee. The briefing was standing room only, in a room intended for 40 people. Held in the Russell Senate Building, the briefing was attended by at least 64 people who officially signed in.
The continued outreach to congressional offices through meetings and briefings increases the visibility of the Nigerian crisis, and brings solutions to the attention of policymakers. The Office of Public Witness convenes the Nigeria Working Group, a combination of humanitarian and advocacy groups and faith groups, which keeps this work in motion in the nation’s capital. These efforts supplement and support the ongoing work of the Nigerian Crisis Response in addressing the food shortages, displacement by Boko Haram, and peacemaking in Nigeria.
A summary of the key points made by the panelists at the briefing can be found below. The continued dialogue on these key points is critical to get legislators active on such a vital issue. Further information about the Nigeria Crisis Response, which is a joint effort of EYN and the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, can be found at www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis . For more information about the ministry of the Office of Public Witness, go to www.brethren.org/publicwitness .
Responding to a Food Crisis and insecurity: Northeast Nigerian Possibilities
Recent attention to emerging famines is encouraging, but increased capacity, access, and funding mechanisms are essential.
Ongoing displacement and continued violence in northeast Nigeria and lack of access to communities and displaced persons has resulted in a food crisis and famine, alongside a wider humanitarian crisis. Some 14 million people in the 6 most-affected states are currently in dire need of humanitarian assistance, with 8.5 million of these cases directly related to the Boko Haram conflict–the main driver of hunger and malnutrition in the region.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandiat this February called upon the international community to “ensure a principled and suitable approach in the search for solutions.”
It is critical to address the socio-economic factors driving hunger and insecurity in northeast Nigeria, including social exclusion, inequality, marginalization of some groups, tension and violence within and between groups, as well as the critical needs of the displaced: nutrition, food, shelter, health, education, protection, water, and sanitation.
— Emerson Goering is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker serving with the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.
2) Latest Brethren grants from the EDF and GFI are announced
The latest grants from two Church of the Brethren funds–the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) and the Global Food Initiative (GFI)–have been given to Brethren Disaster Ministries work following flooding in the area of Columbia, S.C.; the church’s mission in South Sudan, where staff are responding to needs of people affected by the country’s civil war; the Shalom Ministry for Reconciliation in the Democratic Republic of Congo serving people affected by conflict; and community gardens related to Church of the Brethren congregations.
The staff at Brethren Disaster Ministries have directed an EDF allocation of $45,000 to support the rebuilding project near Columbia, S.C., to help the community continue the recovery from flooding that occurred in October 2015.
Brethren Disaster Ministries first worked through a partnership with the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to help repair some of those damaged homes, as part of the Disaster Recovery Support Initiative (DRSI). That site closed at the end of October 2016. To continue the recovery work, a Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site was opened in the same area of South Carolina at the beginning of October 2016 and is ongoing.
Since arriving, Brethren Disaster Ministries has been awarded $175,000 in grant money from the United Way of the Midlands for construction materials needed to contribute to the rebuilding work. The organization anticipates working in the Columbia area through the rest of the summer, and is monitoring other locations within the state as possible sites to move the project in the fall, to continue to help with Hurricane Matthew recovery.
The grant money will underwrite operational expenses related to volunteer support, including housing, food, travel expenses incurred on site, training, tools, and equipment needed for rebuilding and repair. This includes some larger repairs to Brethren Disaster Ministries vehicles to keep them safe for everyday volunteer use, and the cost of setting up a new shower trailer.
Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed an EDF grant of $10,000 to respond to needs in South Sudan. The country’s civil war has forced more than 3 million people to flee their homes, and nearly 7.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, according to the United Nations.
The area is afflicted with a combination of multiple and deepening crises including war, inter-communal violence, economic decline, disease, and climatic shocks. A famine was declared in February 2017 in parts of South Sudan, affecting mostly Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and their host communities, which already were affected by the on-going conflict.
Until recently, the violence has been mostly north and west of the Church of the Brethren mission point in the Torit area. Since March, clashes between the Government of South Sudan Security forces (GOSS) and the militia from the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) has brought violence to this area. Ifoti, a community near Torit, was attacked in March 2017 by the South Sudan army, with 224 homes burned.
In June, the Church of the Brethren Peace Center in Torit was looted by GOSS, with some buildings and security fencing damaged, and clothing, personal items, and supplies taken.
This grant will provide $5,000 to assist the Ifoti community with emergency food and supplies, and $5,000 for initial repairs and replacement of supplies at the Church of the Brethren Peace Center.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed an EDF allocation of $5,000 to assist families displaced by violence in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Church of the Brethren partner Shalom Ministry for Reconciliation and Development reported increased armed conflict in the eastern DRC in early July. The ministry is assisting a growing number of displaced families.
This initial grant of $5,000 will assist the ministry in providing emergency food and household supplies to displaced families from North Kivu villages. Additional grants to support a larger response are anticipated, as the fighting between the government focuses and local militias is anticipated to continue.
Allocations from the Global Food Initiative are made to support community gardens that are related to Church of the Brethren congregations. An allocation of $1,000 has been given to support a new community garden of GraceWay Church of the Brethren in Dundalk, Md., part of the congregation’s efforts to reach out to African immigrants in the area where there is an urgent need for attention to poor diet and health practices. An allocation of $500 supports the purchase of a van to be used in the community gardening work and other ministry efforts of Bill and Penny Gay in Circle, Alaska, in a ministry related to the couple’s home congregation at Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren in Decatur, Ind. The Gays have been gardening in Alaska for eight summers, and have been asked to begin leading Vacation Bible School activities; they are inviting other Brethren to join with them in this ministry.
3) CDS serves in New York, puts teams together for California wildfire response
Children’s Disaster Services volunteers have responded following flooding in New York State, and the program has been put on alert to send teams to respond to wildfires in California.
In related news, a training for CDS volunteers is scheduled at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren on Sept. 22-23. For more information or to register, go to www.brethren.org/cdsor contact onsite coordinator Gladys Remnant at 540-810-4999.
Also, CDS is distributing information about the American Red Cross “Sound the Alarm” campaign promoting the installation of smoke alarms in homes across the country. CDS and Brethren Disaster Ministries are official partners in the campaign, which began two years ago as the Home Fire Campaign. At least two Church of the Brethren volunteers have been active in installing smoke alarms through this program. The American Red Cross is looking to recruit 35,000 volunteers to combat the tragic statistics on home fires. Go to www.soundthealarm.org .
CDS volunteers carried out a two-day deployment in response to recent flooding in the area of Utica, N.Y. The first day’s location was in Whitesboro, and the second day’s response was in Chadwicks. CDS provided three volunteers, who assisted a total of seven children. “All the families seemed very appreciative of the volunteers’ support and assistance,” said a report from the CDS staff.
CDS associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller reports that the American Red Cross has asked CDS to put together teams to respond to shelters set up for wildfire evacuees close to Mariposa, Calif. The Red Cross request was for teams to support 6 shelters with a population of 450 people displaced by the fire around Mariposa. “Many families have been evacuated. Would you be able to assemble teams to assist? They need them as soon as possible,” the request read. More information about the CDS response in California will be shared as it becomes available.
For more information about the ministry of Children’s Disaster Services go to www.brethren.org/cds .
4) Disabilities Ministry celebrates 27 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act
by Debbie Eisenbise
“Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dig through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay” (Mark 2:3-4).
July 26 marks the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Find more information at https://www.adaanniversary.org . This year at Annual Conference, Congregational Life Ministries welcomed the 27th congregation into the Open Roof Fellowship. Over the past 13 years, these congregations have intentionally embraced and invested themselves in disabilities ministries.
Just as the friends of the paralyzed man opened the roof to make a way for him to find his way to Jesus, we are called to welcome persons of all abilities into the church. The 2006 Church of the Brethren resolution, “Commitment of Accessibility and Inclusion,” asks Brethren “to work to ensure that all may worship, serve, be served, learn, and grow in the presence of God as valued members of the Christian community,” and “to examine barriers, both physical and attitudinal, that prevent people with disabilities from living fully in church community and work to rectify these situations.”
Congregations committed to this ministry are invited to join the Open Roof Fellowship (go to www.brethren.org/disabilities/openroof for more information). Applications for the Open Roof Fellowship are ongoing. The Center Church of the Brethren in Louisville, Ohio, will be the first to join in 2018.
Self-assessment tools are available through the Anabaptist Disabilities Network at www.adnetonline.org/Resources/AccessibilityAwareness/Pages/Auditing-Accessibility.aspxfor congregations interested in analyzing accessibility. Education begins with the “5 Stages: the Journey of Disability Attitudes,” as well as works cited in a bibliography available at www.brethren.org/disabilities/openroof.html . Congregations may call on denominational disabilities advocate Rebekah Flores for consultation about programs and facilities accessibility. Contact her at email@example.com .
Flores also serves with me on the Disabilities Advocacy Team, along with Mark Pickens, Sarah Steele, and Carolyn Neher. Out team is developing a network of individuals and families interested in increasing accessibility in the church and our communities. An online Church of the Brethren Disabilities Community is active on Facebook and welcomes all who are interested.
— Debbie Eisenbise is director of Intergenerational Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, and as a member of the Congregational Life Ministries staff carries responsibility for the denomination’s Disabilities Ministry.
5) Unmuting silenced voices: Planning a gathering to remember those who resisted World War I
by Andrew Bolton
“The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict.” These are the first words of British historian John Keegan in his book, The First World War. It was unnecessary because it was preventable–a local conflict that did not need to escalate. Eventually, 100 countries were involved. It was tragic because at least 10 million people died and 20 million were injured in the war, and another 50 million died from the Spanish flu epidemic that incubated in the trenches.
What is called “The Great War” happened from 1914-18, and now we remember it 100 years later. The United States entered the war on April 6, 2017–ironically, on Good Friday that year. It was a war to end all wars, promised President Wilson, but he was not a true prophet, just a politician. The seeds of World War II were sown with World War I.
What of those who resisted? Should they not be remembered? Brethren, Mennonites, Hutterites, Quakers, and others who would neither fight, nor buy war bonds, nor fly the flag. At the time, their voices often were intimidated, muted into silence. Brethren, Mennonites, and Hutterites who spoke and worshipped in German suffered twice, both as resisters to the war and as people who were identified with the enemy.
“Conscientious objectors were the shock troops of anti-war dissent in World War I,” according to historians Scott H. Bennett and Charles Howlett. There are many moving stories of conscientious objectors in the US, Canada, and Europe. Perhaps the most moving for me is the story of four Hutterites from South Dakota. These Hutterites were part of a 400-year tradition of resistance to war. Jacob Hutter, an early leader, wrote in a letter in 1536: “We do not want to harm any human being, not even our worst enemy. Our walk of life is to live in truth and righteousness of God, in peace and unity…. If all the world were like us there would be no war and no injustice.”
In 1918, three Hutterite brothers–David, Joseph, and Michael Hofer–with their brother-in-law Jacob Wipf, were absolutist objectors. They were in their twenties, married with children, and farmers with an eighth grade education. However, they clearly understood that Jesus said no to war.
They were court martialed and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment. In Alcatraz, they were subjected to torture. In November 1918, they were transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where Joseph and Michael died. The authorities said they died from the Spanish flu. Their families and fellow Hutterites considered them martyrs who died from their ill treatment.
I felt called to help tell these stories 100 years later. A group from the Historic Peace Churches, and Peace History Society scholars, first met in January 2014 to begin planning a symposium. We wanted to tell the stories of those who resisted and dissented to World War I out of conscience, and help make connections for today. Bill Kostlevy organized the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) to be a first co-sponsor of the event. We met at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, and were welcomed warmly by president and CEO Matt Naylor and his staff. As a humanitarian and personal friend, Naylor committed the museum to be the venue for the conference. This symposium, “Remembering Muted Voices: Conscience, Dissent, Resistance, and Civil Liberties in World War I Through Today,” will be held Oct. 19-22.
More than 80 paper proposals were submitted including from scholars outside the United States. Among other topics, papers include Brethren topics such as “Darkness Seems to Be All Over the Earth: Brethren Experiences in Military Camps during World War I” by Kostlevy of the BHLA; and “1917-1919: A Proving Time for Maurice Hess” by Timothy Binkley, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. This feast of papers will be an encouragement to those who are committed to a nonviolent discipleship and seek to express it faithfully today.
Keynote speakers include Georgetown historian Michael Kazin, who will talk about American resistance; Ingrid Sharp from Leeds University in the UK, who will talk about Germans against the war; Erika Kuhlman, who will address women in World War I; and Goshen (Ind.) College professor Duane Stoltzfus and Hutterite German teacher Dora Maendal from Manitoba, Canada, who will tell the Hutterite story.
At the end of the symposium, on Sunday morning Oct. 22, a memorial ceremony for the Hofer brothers and all conscientious objectors during World War I, is planned at the museum. This will be followed by a tour of Fort Leavenworth, Kan., including the old hospital where Joseph and Michael Hofer died.
In addition, the traveling exhibition “Voices of Conscience–Peace Witness in the Great War” will premiere at the symposium on Oct. 19-22. A collaboration between Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers in Kansas City will host the exhibition for a week after the symposium ends, at Rainbow Mennonite Church. To book the traveling exhibition contact Annette LeZotte of the Kaufman Museum at Bethel (Kan.) College, at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also see http://voicesofconscienceexhibit.org .
The co-sponsors of the symposium are headed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Peace History Society, Plough Publishing House, and the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, with the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, American Friends Service Committee, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Bruderhof, Community of Christ Seminary, Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, Historians Against the War, John Whitmer Historical Association, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Historical Society, Mennonite Quarterly Review, Peace Pavilion, PeaceWorks in Kansas City, and Rainbow Mennonite Church.
For more information about the symposium program, keynote speakers, registration, and more, go to www.theworldwar.org/learn/remembering-muted-voices .
— Andrew Bolton is an organizer of the symposium, “Remembering Muted Voices: Conscience, Dissent, Resistance, and Civil Liberties in World War I Through Today.”
6) One year in: An interview with EYN president Joel S. Billi
by Zakariya Musa
Joel Stephen Billi was elected president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and assumed his duties on May 3, 2016, alongside other principal officers of the church. He came into leadership at a time when the church was in a state of disarray following the incessant attacks on its members by insurgents. After spending one year in office, this interview was conducted to take stock of his stewardship as the leader of the church at such a hard time in the history of EYN. Here are excerpts from the interview:
Question: Can you briefly tell us how the going has been so far, what are your experiences, expectations, and challenges?
Answer: Glory is to God, and thank you for organizing the interview. It is a rare privilege to share our experiences. I want to start by thanking God and acknowledging his sovereignty over our lives, and for seeing us through this one year of service.
The journey so far has been so good, despite some ups and downs. We are making some achievements, but not without some challenges.
EYN Headquarters was relocated to the Annex Headquarters in Jos, Plateau State, when the insurgents attacked Kwarhi. We faced the challenge of relocating back to Kwarhi. It was a hard decision to take, but we just had to do it so that we could come closer to the majority of our members and share in their pains. We equally had to embark on a tour of the church across the country, to sympathize with our displaced members and those who lost their beloved ones and properties.
Q: What is the state of the church now?
A: Glory to God, EYN is coming out of the devastation gradually. The reason why we embarked on the nationwide tour was simply to see for ourselves the situation of our members, how they were faring, and to assess the level of damages meted on the members. The visit also was to the most affected areas, to give them some encouragement, comfort, and to revive their hope by informing them that the challenges are not the end of the world for them. Rather, God in his infinite mercy will heal and revive the church.
On the state of the church now, I am not being ungrateful to God but EYN is yet to recover from the devastation. For example, our people in Gwoza and its surroundings, including the four districts behind the Gwoza hills, are still displaced. We are not talking of one local congregation let alone a district–four organized districts around Gwoza are still at large. I said at large in the sense that they are displaced in different Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps. While the majority of them are in Cameroon, many children and a few parents are in Benin, in Edo State. Also many others are in Adamawa, Nasarawa, Lagos, and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Also a very good number of them are in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. There is hardly any part of this country that you don’t find our people; they are scattered all over the country and beyond.
So in times of restoration, while we thank God for everything, we thank the Nigerian security agencies such the military, police, and the local vigilantes who are working tirelessly to restore peace in the northeast for the safe return of our members.
At the height of the insurgency, there were only 7 functional church districts out of the 50, but now we have over 50 church districts. Pretty soon, it is our hope that the areas mentioned earlier would come back as the security situation improves. This would also pave the way for the process of rebuilding houses and churches in most of the affected areas.
Unfortunately, as we speak, we could not visit any part of Gwoza because of the insecurity situation in the area. We are still praying and hoping that as soon as the security situation improves, we shall visit them. Just as the Bible says, if 1 sheep got missed, the shepherd will leave the 99 to go and look for the 1 sheep. I want to assure you that EYN will sing “Hallelujah” and “Jubilate” when all its members and churches are recaptured back from the hands of the insurgents.
Q: There are some EYN staff who are either displaced or serving without a salary for more than a year, for example staff of the Integrated Community Based Development Program and the Literacy Program who are mostly not clergy. Is there any effort to help such staff?
A: Yes, it’s disheartening to hear that some workers are stranded and have not been paid salaries for over a year. We are doing everything possible to see that nobody is laid off and their salaries are paid. I think most of the departments and institutions were under pressure and were thinking of downsizing their staff strength. But as leaders, it pricks our hearts if we hear of any intention to lay off or downsize the staff–it’s never a good news.
So as long as someone has interest to have any kind of job, either with the church, private sectors, or with the government, we are strongly supporting them. We are praying that God will open doors and windows of heaven to give us opportunities, so that we engage them.
All the affected staff had been assisted in one way or the other. We are therefore calling on all well-meaning members of the church to support the efforts of the leadership to improve the Rural Health, Community Development, Rural Development and Agriculture programs of the church as that will open more doors of employment for our teeming youth.
Q: Borno State government had rebuilt a few of the churches destroyed by the insurgents which include EYN churches. What is your take on this?
A: We must be grateful to the executive governor of Borno State for demonstrating a gentleman’s attitude, for doing what ordinarily a Muslim governor would not do for the church. From all indications, Governor Kashim Shetima is a gentleman. He is a man we know. He may have his weaknesses, but for us as a church, if he has built or renovated one church EYN remains grateful for the gesture.
The Borno State government has renovated and erected some churches under the first phase of the reconstruction project at a cost of over N100,000,000 [Naira, the Nigerian currency]. Currently, the state government has commenced phase II and has selected some churches in Hawul and Askira Uba Local Government Areas. They have already mobilized the site, and have started work especially in Shaffa, Tashan Alade, and other places whiere EYN is the major beneficiary with more than 95 percent [of the churches]. I will send a delegation from the EYN Headquarters to ascertain the level of the projects, after which the leadership will pay a thank you visit to Governor Kashim Shetima for the good work he is doing. We shall also request him to do same for Gwoza and Chibok areas after they have been fully recaptured [from the insurgents].
Q: You broke the good news of the rebuilding of 20 EYN churches by the Church of the Brethren in the USA. Can you shade more light on how you arrived at the number of 20 local churches?
A: Yes, we would like to thank our brother Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, who initiated the move for rebuilding churches in the northeast. Some other individuals and churches have equally indicated interest to support this noble idea. I must confess that we didn’t send them the list of the 20 churches on time, but he kept on following up. Only recently, we sent the list and they [the Global Mission office] have sent the money for the project to commence.
Let me make it clear that they sent $110, 000 for phase I, and promised to send more as time goes on. As these monies are disbursed, we shall be sending them comprehensive reports on the utilization of the funds. For the next phase, we know more funds are coming. This would go a long way in assisting our smaller churches to have a place of worship again.
Part of the money (about $10,000) was used to complete the new EYN Headquarters Office Complex, out of which $250 was used for hosting the workcampers who came from US to help reconstruct the office complex. Also the workcampers alongside EYN had constructed a church auditorium at Pegi, near Kuje, in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.
Currently, a workcamp is going on at the Brethren College Chinka for the construction of a hostel accommodation with capacity of about 200 students. We have selected a few affected churches in Mubi, Michika, Hawul, and Askira Uba Local Government Areas. There was no church selected from Chibok and Gwoza areas because of the security challenges in these two areas. If more money comes, we will try to touch other areas.
Q: Any support received so far from the Federal Government. and what call do you have for them on the situation of our church?
A: Our mission partners are doing a good job, likewise the Borno State government, but from the Federal Government of Nigeria–despite the establishment of the Presidential Initiative for the North East–we are yet to receive any support. We are therefore calling on the Federal Government of Nigeria and especially the Presidential Initiative for North East to see that EYN is given adequate support. We are not dictating to them what they are to do for us, but to inform them that EYN is the worst hit church. We are calling on the Federal Government and other international NGOs to help in rebuilding our churches, members’ houses, and business places. It shall be a gross oversight if the government does not come to the aid of EYN, and that would be too shocking to any Nigerian to hear. We have lost a lot of lives, and properties worth millions of Naira, and we are yet to recover and return back to our base.
Q: Do we have the exact number of the destroyed churches and members so far?
A: This is the serious challenge we are facing. I have discussed this with the EYN General Secretary on the need to have the actual figures. One of the major challenges we have is most of the members are displaced, and it becomes difficult to get accurate data. I want to assure you that the information will be available in no distant time.
Q: What is your message to our church members?
A: I urge you to stick to your faith in Christ Jesus more than ever before, for the days are evil and turning to be more evil than ever before. To our young stars, you need to put Jesus first on your agenda, and other things will follow. Never relent in your studies, because education is the bedrock of every human development. You cannot make any reasonable achievement, gainfully employed or engaged in any gainful business if you are not well educated. This is my clarion call to all our youths: to be creative and be employers of labor by engaging in different trades and skilled work.
And to my fellow colleagues at the EYN Headquarters, I congratulate you for the successful one year in office. To other colleagues at the Headquarters, districts, and congregations, I crave your indulgence for more support and team work more than ever before, so that we can serve our God and his people together.
— Zakariya Musa serves on the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). This is excerpted from an interview that first appeared in the EYN magazine.
7) Brethren bits
— Atlantic Northeast District seeks a district executive minister to fill a fulltime position. The district comprises 70 congregations, 6 fellowships, and 3 projects for a total of 79 churches. It is culturally, theologically, and geographically diverse, and has a strong interest in unity, cross-cultural ministry, and service. The preferred candidate is a spiritually wise pastoral leader who offers inspiration and works collaboratively to envision, guide, and oversee the work of the district. Responsibilities include serving as the administrator of the board of the district and providing oversight and administration of the district office and staff, assisting congregations and pastors with placement, facilitating and encouraging the calling and credentialing of persons to set-apart ministry, building and strengthening relationships with congregations and pastors, fostering unity in the district, and using mediation skills to work with congregations and/or agencies in conflict internally, with one another, or with the district. Qualifications include a clear devotion to Jesus Christ demonstrated by a vibrant spiritual life with a commitment to New Testament values and to Church of the Brethren faith, heritage, and polity along with strong relational and communication skills, mediation and conflict resolution skills, administrative and organizational skills, technological competence, flexibility in working with staff and volunteers as well as pastoral and lay leadership. Membership in the Church of the Brethren, ordination, and pastoral experience are required. A bachelor’s degree is expected, with a master’s degree, a master of divinity, or higher degree preferred. Apply for this position by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to OfficeofMinistry@brethren.org . Applicants are requested to contact three or four people who are willing to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of the resume, a candidate profile will be sent that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. The application deadline is July 31.
— Pacific Southwest District seeks a district youth advisor and a ministry training coordinator for the district. These are part-time contracted positions, which will be paid for hours worked, and the rate will be determined based on the employees’ skills and experience. The district youth advisor is responsible for calling and working with the District Youth Cabinet, coordinating youth events at District Conference and other times throughout the year, and, for the year ahead, coordinating district support of National Youth Conference 2018. The expectation is for 20-25 hours per month, with heavier work time around district events. A new position beginning this summer will be the ministry training coordinator. This individual will work with licensed ministers in TRIM, EFSM, and SeBAH, overseeing their progress, and working with students and leadership of the Brethren Academy. The expectation is for 15-20 hours per month. Apply by sending a cover letter outlining interest in and experience for the position, to the attention of Russ Matteson, District Executive Minister, at email@example.com . Attach a brief resume that details relevant education, training, and experience. Application review will begin Aug. 1 and will continue until the positions are filled.
— A National Council of Churches podcast features Office of Public Witness director Nate Hosler speaking about the Going to the Garden ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Specifically, he talks about how churches are relating to community gardens, and about the unique Capstone Community Garden founded in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans by Church of the Brethren member David Young. Find the podcast, plus more information on community gardening, at www.brethren.org/publicwitness/going-to-the-garden.html .
— Global Food Initiative manager Jeff Boshart has been interviewed by “Seed World” magazine, in an article titled “Faith Based and Seed Focused International Agricultural Development.” His opening statement: “I see incorporation of seed as an investment in capacity building, allowing our international partners to enhance their own skills and programs focused on food security and ultimately economic development.” Find the full interview, which reviews Boshart’s personal story, his professional experience in international development, and his philosophy of church involvement in agriculture, at http://seedworld.com/faith-based-seed-focused .
— Jeff Boshart, Global Food Initiative manager, is sharing news of an important break-through collective bargaining agreement for farmworkers. A release that Boshart shared with Newsline reported: “On June 16, 2017, Familias Unidas por la Justicia and Sakuma Berry Farm signed an historic two year collective bargaining agreement…. We rejoice with the farm workers that they now have better wages and protections,” the release said, in part. Among the benefits union members will receive is an average $15 an hour wage. The contract will be in effect for two years, from June 16, 2017, to June 15, 2019.
— The members of Loon Creek Church of the Brethren in South Central Indiana District have voted to disband their congregation, according to the district newsletter. The district board has appointed a committee to consider the future of the church building, have invited representatives from neighboring congregations to join in their discussions, and have asked the district to contribute ideas as they consider the future of the property on State Route 5, south of Huntington, Ind.
— On July 10, First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, Ill., voted unanimously to support the Palestinian Christian churches’ call to boycott HP. “As a community of faith, we recognize that mass incarceration, restrictions on movement, and illegal settlements and occupation are unjust, unsustainable, and irresponsible practices,” said a statement provided to Newsline by Joyce Cassel, chair of the congregation’s Servant Leadership Board. “Until Hewlett Packard ends it complicity in the illegal Israeli occupation and ceases to profit from the violation of Palestinian human rights, we pledge to not buy Hewlett Packard products, including printers, computers, and ink. We encourage other churches to consider to this call.”
— La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren awarded the annual Benton and Doris Rhoades Peace Award to Sarah Hamza, a student from the City of Knowledge School in Pomona, Calif. Hamza was honored for her video “All Around Me I See….” Dr. Haleema Shaikley, principal of the City of Knowledge School, accepted the award on Hamza’s behalf at the church’s Celebration of the Arts. A copy of the poem that narrated the video was published in the church newsletter in June. Here is the closing stanza:
“One day, as I fall asleep at night,
I dream of a world of peace and light.
But then around me I see,
People uniting and doing big and small things to regain peace,
And I realize no more do I need to dream.” — Sarah Hamza
— An article on a Master Gardeners Garden Walk in the “Goshen News” noted the participation of Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. “The adventure started at the hospitality center at the Middlebury Church of the Brethren along C.R. 8 just west of the Krider Gardens. A plant exchange and craft sale of healthy potted plants and garden-related crafts contributed by Master Gardeners was attended to by this year’s willing participants who were eager to make the walk yet another successful experience,” the article said. Find the full article at http://www.goshennews.com/news/lifestyles/the-dirt-on-gardening-another-successful-master-gardener-s-garden/article_9c0f60cf-9d4e-5229-9ab1-39eed9544e52.html
— Church of the Brethren members will lead Vespers at CrossRoads, the Valley Brethren Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., on July 23 and July 30. The John Kline Riders, representing several Church of the Brethren congregations, will share the story of Elder John Kline for Children’s Night at vespers ton Sunday, July 23, at 7 p.m. On July 30, at 7 p.m., Youth Night vespers will feature a message by Walt Wiltschek of Linville Creek Church of the Brethren and music by Jonathan Prater of Mt. Zion/Linville Church of the Brethren. Bring lawn chairs, and relax in the peaceful outdoor setting.
— “Created to Create,” a spiritual development retreat, takes place Saturday, Sept. 30, in the House of Pillars at Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va. The scripture focus will be Isaiah 64:8, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Stephanie L. Connelly, an artist and a member of New Covenant Church of the Brethren, will be the retreat leader. For more information contact the Virlina District at firstname.lastname@example.org .
— African American pastors and church leaders have been speaking with Republicans and Democrats to protest a “devastating budget and its adverse effects on the poor of this country,” according to a release from the National Council of Churches. “The National African American Clergy Network came to Washington, D.C., to call on black clergy from around the country to stand up for justice and human dignity for all Americans,” the release said. “On July 18, a diverse coalition of Black clergy and lay leaders met with key members of Congress, including staff of House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senator Chuck Schumer to plead on behalf of the most vulnerable Americans are protected and that our leaders pass a budget that is faithful, just, and cares for all of God’s children.” Eleven clergy leaders spoke at a rally and prayer vigil outside the US Capitol. Their comments addressed the need for affordable health care, and the problems of militarization, deportation, and incarceration. “Our law book (the Bible) says, ‘Woe unto those who legislate evil, and rob the poor of their rights, and make women and children their prey.’ These people here make a big deal out of putting their hands on the Bible to be sworn into office; we have come to tell them what is inside of it,” commented William Barber, architect of the Moral Mondays movement, and founder of Repairers of the Breach. A follow up social media campaign is designed to magnify the concerns people of faith have about the federal budget and health care proposals currently in Congress, follow the hashtags #BlackClergyUprising and #BlackClergyVoices.
— Christian leaders in Jerusalem have issued a call to maintain access to al-Aqsa Mosque and its courtyard, as well as other holy sites in the city, according to a release from the World Council of Churches.
The WCC staff are expressing deep concern and request prayer following today’s news of flaring violence in the area. “Three Palestinians have been killed and dozens if not hundreds were hurt in clashes with Israeli police across the West Bank and East Jerusalem as tensions that began in the Temple Mount spread,” reports the newspaper Haaretz. “Police presence in Jerusalem was virtually unprecedented on Friday as prayers and protests on the Temple Mount turned violent” (find the Haaretz update at www.haaretz.com/israel-news/LIVE-1.802668 ).
In their letter about the situation around the mosque, the patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem expressed concerns over changes in the historical status quo of holy sites. “Any threat to its continuity and integrity could easily lead to serious and unpredictable consequences, which would be most unwelcome in the present tense religious climate,” the letter reads. The WCC reported that “last week, after three Palestinians and two Israeli police officers were killed in a gun battle in the mosque compound, Israeli police closed and cancelled Friday noon prayers at the mosque, marking the first time in decades for such a closure.” Find the church leaders’ letters at www.elcjhl.org/2017/07/19/jerusalem-heads-of-churches-release-statement-concerning-haram-ash-sharif .
— The WCC is reporting on a launch event for the first-ever action plan specifically designed to enable religious leaders to prevent incitement to violence. The Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes was launched by secretary-general António Guterres at a meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on July 14. The Action Plan was developed in response to “an alarming spike in recent years in hate speech and incitement to violence against individuals or communities, based on their identity,” the release said. “Incitement to violence, in public discourse and the media, is both a common warning sign and a precursor of atrocity crimes. The Action Plan is the first document to focus on the role of religious leaders and actors in preventing incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes and the first to develop context specific regional strategies with this objective.” The WCC release gave the history of the plan, which was “developed over two years of intensive consultations at the global and regional levels organized by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, with the support of the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), the World Council of Churches (WCC), and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. A total of 232 religious leaders and actors from 77 countries took part in the consultations. Participants included Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs from different groups and denominations, as well as representatives from various religious minorities, including Baha’i, Candomblé, Kakai, Yazidi and humanists. At least 30 percent of participants at all meetings were women.” Read the plan at www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/documents/Plan%20of%20Action%20Advanced%20Copy.pdf . On social media, follow #FezProcess.
— Brian Flory, pastor of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., made the news this week when he was one of those interviewed by the “Journal Gazette” at a health care demonstration outside the E. Ross Adair Federal Building and US Courthouse. “Regardless of what you may have heard the last six months, health care is not a political issue, it’s not a fiscal budgetary issue. It’s a human being issue. It’s also a faith issue,” Flory told the newspaper. “I’ve not met anyone yet who believes the Affordable Care Act is perfect. But the answer is to work together to improve coverage and to ensure quality health care for everyone.” He told the paper that he obtained medical insurance through the Affordable Care Act, “so this is personal for me.” Find the newspaper article at www.journalgazette.net/news/local/20170718/dozens-demonstrate-against-gop-health-care-bill .
— Lowell Miller of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren will celebrate his 100th birthday on July 28.
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Andrew Bolton, Jeff Boshart, Joyce Cassel, Sherry Chastain, Joe Detrick, Debbie Eisenbise, Sharon Billings Franzén, Emerson Goering, Jon Kobel, Steven D. Martin, Nancy Miner, Zakariya Musa, Margie Paris, Roy Winter, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Over the summer, Newsline will go to an every-other-week schedule, to allow for vacation time for staff. Please continue to send news tips and submissions to the editor at email@example.com .
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