Newsline for March 3, 2017

Church of the Brethren Newsline
March 3, 2017

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:13-14a).

1) Moderator’s Bible study for March asks, ‘Can these bones live?’
2) Business items coming to the 2017 Annual Conference are now online
3) Disaster Recovery Support Initiative launches

4) More listening sessions with the general secretary are scheduled
5) Bridgewater College to present symposium on nonviolence in 21st century

6) Brethren bits: Correction, Brethren affected by tornado, remembering Martin Gauby, personnel, jobs, prayer for areas of famine, EYN grieves death of minister and victims of Boko Haram, Healthy Boundaries 101, On Earth Peace racial justice organizing clinic, and more


NOTE to readers: The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline will appear after the spring meeting of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, which will be held March 10-13 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.
On the Mission and Ministry Board agenda: discussion of “Query: Living Together as Christ Calls,” discussion of mission philosophy and potential new mission sites, and an update on the Brethren Service Center and a proposal for use of proceeds from the sale of the “upper campus” property in New Windsor, Md., among other business items and numerous reports. The Brethren Service Center will continue on the “lower campus” of the property in New Windsor, following any sale of the upper campus, and will continue to house offices and warehouses of Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, and Material Resources.


1) Moderator’s Bible study for March asks, ‘Can these bones live?’

By Carol Scheppard, Annual Conference moderator

“Risk Hope” is the theme for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in 2017

Brothers and sisters, as we set our sights on the Annual Conference in Grand Rapids we continue our journey through the story arc that will be the foundation for our work and worship there. This month we return to the people in exile. With the stunning revelation that God is not dead, but lives and abides with God’s people in the land of the Chaldeans, the question remains: can God’s people likewise live?

God challenges the prophet Ezekiel to “risk hope” in God’s eternal promises and to believe in God’s power to breathe life into dry bones. The desolation of the exile challenges God’s people to remember who they are and why they are–the Chosen of God and the Servant of God. Stand, breathe, and be the people of God!

Can These Bones Live? Risk Hope in the Storm (Part II)

Scriptures for study:
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Genesis 15:1-21
Exodus 3:1-22
Deuteronomy 5:1-21
Isaiah 40:1-5; 42:1-9

“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 and emergence from 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.

Last month we held Judah in her agony at the cataclysmic loss of the land, the temple, the promise, and even perhaps the very life of God. And we joined her in wonder and amazement as Ezekiel’s vision of the Throne of God borne aloft in a magnificent chariot appeared in the midst of them in the land of the Chaldeans. Joyously they sang out, “Our God reigns!”

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14.

God now challenges Ezekiel, “Mortal, can these bones live?” The answer is obvious for anyone with a brain to think rationally, “Of course not, they’re dead, and dead is dead.” But Ezekiel has seen enough to know that God is not bound by the limitations of a rational mind, and dead may not be dead at all. Cautiously, Ezekiel offers, “Oh Lord God, you know.” Indeed God does know. God knows from long experience that it is only when humans are dead, completely dead to their own goals and objectives, opinions, vices, presumptions, accomplishments, powers, resources, and idols, that they are most perfectly poised to come alive. God tells Ezekiel, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”

Step out Ezekiel and prophesy, be bold in the power of God, risk hope that God will do what God will do. If one man dares to risk hope in the power of God, think what a nation can do! God proclaims, “I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.”

Wait a minute! Doesn’t that sound a little familiar? Like we have heard it before?

As the dead people of Judah begin to come back to life, to look around at their surroundings and ask, “Where are we and how did we get here?” they begin to remember. They remember their ancestors, and the story of the ancient call of Abraham.

Read Genesis 15:1-21.

Abram was called from this very land of the Chaldeans, bought up by God from Ur to the land between the Nile and the Euphrates, promised by God to possess land and progeny and blessing. The story of God’s people has been here before! And there’s more–the people in exile remember the story of the call of Moses.

Read Exodus 3:1-22: “Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me saying: I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to…a land flowing with milk and honey.’”

There it is! I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Up and out of the land of misery/the land of your graves and back to Israel, a land flowing with milk and honey. God and God’s people have been here before–God has rescued God’s people from the land of slavery in Egypt and will rescue them again from the land of exile. Risk Hope! Remember who you are–the people called out by God and heard by God and remembered by God and delivered by God. The stories of the ancients are not dead in the past any more than God’s people are dead in the present. God lives in the midst of God’s people yesterday, today, and tomorrow–the promises and the power of God abide.

Read Deuteronomy 5:1-21.

Moses tells the people, “Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us who are all of us here alive today.” Ten Commandments point to two basic principles: love God alone and take care of each other. The people in exile hear Moses’ sermon with fresh ears. The time has come to worship God and to worship God alone. No more wealth and privilege, no more useless alliances, no more pride in right belief and proper worship, no more false hope in a fancy temple. Worship God alone. And, take care of each other. Take care of widows and orphans, of strangers and those without resources or power, of those who can’t pay you back or gain you special privileges. You are the Chosen of God and the Servant of God. When you stay present in that relationship with God, committed to that covenant, God can build on your maturing faithfulness and call you to new and more significant work.

Read Isaiah 40:1-5; 42:1-9.

The time of suffering has passed and Isaiah proclaims comfort to Israel and a new expanse to God’s covenant of love. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and ALL people shall see it together. God’s outreach has moved from the nation of Israel to all nations. And Israel has a new job. Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. The Chosen of God and the Servant of God is now a light to the nations. The brilliance of those dry bones brought back to life far exceeds the light of their former selves, and Isaiah calls out the creation of a magnificent highway through the desert for God glorious return to the Promised Land.

Questions for consideration:

— The Bible tells us of many instances where God deliberately overturns the natural order: God consistently calls out prophets who are unable for the tasks before them, passes inheritance to the second son, spotlights the faithfulness of the lowly, brings forth progeny from infertile couples, and carries out powerful acts through the hands of the powerless. The story of the valley of dry bones is one such story. The people in exile are “dead” in many ways–without their homeland, without resources, and without hope. In a very real sense, Judaism itself should have died out in exile. But it didn’t, and that is miracle. Emboldened by God’s presence in their midst, the people not only remembered the stories of their ancestors and of God’s promises–they wrote them down and then acted upon them. Memories led to the creation of documents, which led to the sharing of common practices, which rebuilt their identity and their resolve. Can you think of a time of crisis in your own life or the lives of those you know where a cascade of losses threatened a kind of “death”–the death of group, or initiative, or institution much beloved by its members? What was the outcome of the story? Were there unexpected ways that the group righted itself? What role does hope play in the life and or death of such special groups?

— Does death always have to precede rebirth? Why is it that the nation of Israel seems best able to love God and take care of each other when circumstances are most difficult? (They are at their best when they are at their worst.) Why is it that we often seem most open to God’s love and presence when we are overcome with loss and failure?

— Notice how Judah’s understanding of many of the stories of the ancients shifted with their experience in exile. Can you think of a time where difficult circumstances helped you see new meaning in a familiar biblical story?

— The suffering Israel enduring in exile prepared them to take a new role in God’s plan for the future. Can you think of other examples, from the Bible or from your own life, where a substantial failure brought about new learning that proved foundational for a whole new venture? Do you think our most valuable lessons come from our successes or our failures? If we consider the lessons from failures most valuable, why do we try so hard to avoid them?

2) Business items coming to the 2017 Annual Conference are now online

Eight of nine items of new and unfinished business coming to the 2017 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren are now available online. The Conference is held in Grand Rapids, Mich., on June 28-July 2 (registration is open at ).

The four items of new business:
— “Polity for Agencies: A Recommendation from On Earth Peace”
— “Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience: A Recommendation from On Earth Peace”
— “Brethren Values Investing”
— “Polity for Electing Brethren Benefit Trust Board Directors”

The five items of unfinished business:
— a report and recommendations from the Review and Evaluation Committee
— an interim report from the Vitality and Viability Committee, with a request for an additional year to bring a final report to the 2018 Conference
— “The Authority of Annual Conference and Districts regarding the Accountability of Ministers, Congregations, and Districts” responding to “Query: Same Sex Weddings”
— an interim report from a study committee on “Creation Care,” with a request for one more year to complete the work
— “A Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century” (this document is not yet available online).

For links to these business items go to .

3) Disaster Recovery Support Initiative launches

Staff of the new Disaster Recovery Support Initiative, a joint endeavor of the disaster ministries of the United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Church of the Brethren: (from left) Tim Sheaffer and Rachel Larratt. Photos courtesy of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

When a natural or technological disaster strikes a community, beginning the process of long-term recovery quickly is essential. Yet, it can be a daunting task for local leaders who may not have experience in disaster recovery and may have suffered damage and loss themselves.

Community-based long-term disaster recovery groups (LTRGs) focus on the unmet needs of disaster survivors beyond what they can handle out of their own resources and/or with FEMA and other governmental assistance. LTRG functions include case management, volunteer coordination and hospitality, and construction management. It is not unusual for it to take six months or more to get long-term recovery up and running. Time can be the enemy–frustration increases, public interest decreases, and resources go toward temporary assistance instead of long-term solutions.

The ecumenical Disaster Recovery Support Initiative (DRSI) is working to help communities shorten the time between the immediate disaster response and long-term recovery by encouraging, modeling, mentoring, and supporting the development of local Long-term Recovery Groups through the sustained on-site presence of a Disaster Recovery Support Team (DRST).

DRSI is a joint endeavor of the disaster ministries of the United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Church of the Brethren. All three are members of National VOAD–Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

The initiative builds on the three partners’ year-long collaboration in Columbia, S.C., where they responded to the destructive flooding that occurred in October 2015. By December 2015, denominational long-term disaster recovery volunteers were on the ground. “We helped a long-term recovery group get started there and did construction and volunteer management, helping more than a dozen households recover early,” said UCC disaster ministries executive Zach Wolgemuth.

In the coming year, the DRSI will seek to build on what partners learned in South Carolina, to help communities access, leverage and account for resources. Disaster Recovery Support Teams will stay with the community for 2-6 months, as needed, to resource the local recovery effort, offering training, mentoring and assistance. In disasters where unmet construction needs exist, the team may help recruit work teams to begin repairs in an effort to expedite recovery and model long-term recovery in collaboration with local leadership.

“By living in community and walking alongside local recovery leaders, the Support Team will assist with a smoother, quicker transition from response to recovery,” offered Josh Baird, director for Disciples Volunteering with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

“As local leaders make decisions about the recovery efforts in their communities, the DRSI will provide consistent one-on-one support,” Jenn Dorsch of Brethren Disaster Ministries added.

The Disaster Recovery Support Initiative has hired two staff to guide this next phase in the project’s development:

Rachel Larratt, Long-Term Recovery Group Formation advisor. She led recovery efforts in Columbia, S.C. Her experience includes serving as the chair of an LTRG; forming and running her own community relief foundation; and, as a flood-affected individual, navigating her own recovery process.

Tim Sheaffer, Construction Management advisor. He is a long-term Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer who has served in recovering communities for 8 years leading rebuild sites and working with local partners. He most recently assisted ecumenical recovery support in Columbia, S.C., and helped UCC Disaster Ministries and Brethren Disaster Ministries assess next steps in West Virginia.

“When early recovery happens, everyone benefits,” Wolgemuth said. “Leveraging funds early allows families to return home faster. Documented early success allows LTRGs to receive grants, new partners, additional funding, and more volunteers. And engaging volunteers when passion and energy levels are high increases the likelihood for repeat support.”

— Jenn Dorsch, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, provided this release to Newsline. Find out more about Brethren Disaster Ministries at .


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

Additional listening sessions with David Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, have been announced. Steele is holding listening sessions in church districts around the denomination. The meetings are a way for him to listen closely to people within the church, and an opportunity for church members to meet the general secretary.

Here are the listening sessions that have been scheduled for March:

March 21 at 2 p.m. at Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind. (N. Indiana and South Central Indiana Districts)

March 21 at 7 p.m. at Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, Ind. (N. Indiana District)

March 22 at 7 p.m. at Anderson (Ind.) Church of the Brethren (South Central Indiana District)

March 27 at 2 p.m. at the Brethren Home Community in Windber, Pa. (Western Pennsylvania District)

March 27 at 7 p.m. at Greensburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren (Western Pennsylvania District)

March 29 at 2 p.m. at the Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village in Boonsboro, Md. (Mid-Atlantic District)

March 29 at 7 p.m. at Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren (Mid-Atlantic District)

March 30 at 7 p.m. at Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va. (Mid-Atlantic District)

Additional listening sessions are in the works for upcoming months, and will be announced as they are finalized. For more information contact Mark Flory Steury in the Church of the Brethren Donor Relations office at or 800-323-8039 ext. 345.

5) Bridgewater College to present symposium on nonviolence in 21st century

Andrew Loomis. Photo courtesy of Bridgewater College.

A symposium exploring “Anabaptist Non-Resistance in the Age of Terror” will be held at Bridgewater (Va.) College March 16-17. The symposium, which is co-sponsored by the Forum for Brethren Studies and the Kline-Bowman Institute for Creative Peacebuilding, is free and open to the public.

“Traditionally, Anabaptists have condemned military action as sin and refused to participate in military activity, including non-combatant roles,” said Stephen Longenecker, the Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of History and organizer of the event. “The symposium will ask whether the changing global landscape has created a situation in which old definitions need to be rewritten.”

A critical question, said Longenecker, is the line between police and military action–the former being generally acceptable to Anabaptists and the latter not. “Is a special forces raid on a group plotting terror a police or military action?” he said. “Similarly, do people of faith endorse armed force to provide security at refugee camps, prevent terrorists from flying airplanes into skyscrapers, subdue pirates, or rescue school girls kidnapped by terrorists, and do they fight shooters in their classroom or workplace?”

These and other complications will be explored in the symposium.

The event will begin in Cole Hall on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., featuring Andrew Loomis, senior foreign affairs adviser for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the US Department of State. Loomis is a specialist in violence prevention.

On Friday beginning at 8:30 a.m., speakers include Elizabeth Ferris (refugee security, Georgetown University), Robert Johansen (policing instead of military force, Kroc Center emeritus, Notre Dame), Donald Kraybill (Nickle Mines shooting and non-resistance on the personal level, Young Center emeritus, Elizabethtown College), Musa Mambula, (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, Bethany Theological Seminary) and Andy Murray (Baker Institute emeritus, Juniata College).

For information contact Robert Andersen at and Steve Longenecker at .

— Mary Kay Heatwole is editorial assistant in Media Relations for Bridgewater College. Find out more about the college at .

6) Brethren bits

At least one Church of the Brethren family has been directly affected by the rash of tornados and severe storms that hit central Pennsylvania and north and central Illinois, among other areas in recent days. A property in York County, Pa., owned by Bob and Peggy McFarland of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren sustained damage from a direct hit by a tornado. Pastor Pamela A. Reist reported by e-mail, “We had crews helping with clean-up (200-year-old barn flattened) Sunday and Monday.” The McFarlands expected two or three members from the Elizabethtown Church to show up and told Newsline that they were “shocked when a group of over 30 folks showed up with tractors, chain saws, and equipment to help clean up after the tornado. We have been truly humbled by the sense of community and outpouring of help given to us. Our hearts are filled with joy and blessings!” So far, Newsline has not received word of other Brethren directly affected by the recent storms.

— Correction: A mention of Plymouth Church of the Brethren in last week’s “Brethren bits” incorrectly identified the district where the congregation is located. The church is in Northern Indiana District.

— Remembrance: Martin Allen Gauby, 82, of Boise, Idaho, died on Feb. 6 at a local hospital. A former district executive minister of the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Plains District, he also had served as executive secretary of the former Tri-District (Northern Plains, Missouri-Arkansas, and Mon-Dak) from 1972-76. His ministerial career of 46 years also included pastorates in Oregon, Indiana, Idaho, Texas, and Kansas. He was born on Sept. 10, 1934, in Washington, Kan., to Harvey and Mabel Gauby, and grew up on various farms in Kansas and Texas. He attended McPherson (Kan.) College, where he met his wife, Edith, and graduated with a degree in religion. He also earned a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary in Chicago, Ill. He was remembered by Northern Plains District with the publication of a letter her wrote last year, that was read at the 2016 district conference marking the 150th annual conference of the district. “Dear Brothers and Sisters,” his letter began, “The letter from your District Office inviting us to attend your District Conference in Des Moines this coming August was a wonderful offer which I would very much like to accept. However, my health at this time is not good enough to consider our being with you at that time.  We will be in prayer for your conference and your District life and work….” Gauby is survived by his wife of 60 years, Edith; daughter Norma Lockner, son Sidney (Katherine) Gauby, and son Jeffrey Gauby; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A celebration of his life was held on Feb. 11 at Nampa (Idaho) Church of the Brethren. Memorial gifts are received to Boise Valley Church of the Brethren Building Fund and to Nampa Church of the Brethren. Find a full obituary at .

— Kendra Flory has resigned as administrative assistant for Western Plains District,effective March 31. She has served in the position for seven years. An announcement from the district noted her “outstanding commitment to the work of the district and to the broader church.”

— The Church of the Brethren’s Western Pennsylvania District seeks candidates to fill the full-time position of district executive minister. The position is available Jan. 1, 2018. The district is made up of 67 congregations, including rural, small town, and urban congregations, and extends from the northern border to the southern border of Pennsylvania. The district is interested revitalizing its congregations, and the preferred candidate is a pastoral leader who offers motivation through spiritual guidance, and will work together with district and congregational leaders to envision and carry out the work of the district. Responsibilities include serving as administrator of the leadership team of the district, facilitating and giving general oversight to the planning and implementation of its ministries as directed by district conference; assisting congregations and pastors with placement; encouraging congregational and pastoral vitality and spirituality, and continued personal, spiritual, and professional growth; building and strengthening relationships with congregations; ensuring effective means of communication at all levels within the district; supporting the mission and values of the Western Pennsylvania District and the Church of the Brethren. Qualifications include a clear commitment to Jesus Christ demonstrated by a vibrant spiritual life with a commitment to New Testament values and to Church of the Brethren faith and heritage; membership and ordination in the Church of the Brethren required, with ministry experience preferred; a bachelor’s degree required, with a master’s degree or higher degree preferred; strong relational, communication, and conflict resolution skills; competence in administration, organizational skills, and electronic communications; passion for the mission and ministry of the church; flexibility in working with staff, volunteers, and pastoral and congregational leadership. Apply by sending a letter of interest and resume via e-mail to . Applicants are requested to contact at least three people to provide a letter of reference to . Upon receipt of a resume, a candidate profile will be sent that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. The application deadline is May 19.

— The trustees of Camp Galilee in West Marva District are looking for an individual to serve as camp manager. Applicants should have a solid Christian foundation, live a life that reflects these values, have a love for children of all ages, and have a love for the outdoors. A minimum of a high school education and basic computers skills are required. Responsibilities include inspecting and coordinating with the caretaker to maintain the buildings and grounds; working with cooks to prepare menus and food orders; keeping records for the camp including finances, insurance, regulatory agencies, etc..; and overseeing all other operations of the camp with the help of the trustees. Most responsibilities are during the months of April through October. The manager must be willing to stay at the camp when campers are present. An apartment and all meals are provided as well as a limited mileage allowance for travel. Salary is negotiable. Request an application from the West Marva District Office, 301-334-9270 or . Questions may be directed to one of the following trustees: Mark Seese, 304-698-3500; Bob Spaid, 304-290-3459; or Cathy McGoldrick, 301-616-1147.

— Prayer is requested for the more than 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and northeastern Nigeria who are facing devastating levels of food insecurity, as reported by the UN. This prayer request from the Global Mission and Service office notes that “violent conflict, with the ensuing displacement and agricultural disruption, is the root cause of the food crises in all four countries” and points up the situation in South Sudan in particular. “Famine has officially been declared in two South Sudanese counties, and other areas are heading toward this final level of food insecurity.” Specific prayer requests are for generous giving to supply immediate aid, for rains to end the droughts in places like Somalia and South Sudan, that aid workers and resources are able to reach those most in need, for sustainable agriculture and development, and for peace.

— A Healthy Boundaries 101 training session is offered on May 8, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (eastern time). This web event sponsored by the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership is an entry level ministerial ethics training led by former academy executive director Julie Hostetter and provided for seminary students entering ministry formation placements and also suitable for EFSM, TRIM, and ACTS students and newly licensed or ordained ministers who have not yet taken ministerial ethics training. Said an announcement: “We will focus on Healthy Boundary issues in the morning: part 1, boundaries, power, and vulnerability; part 2, dating, friendships, dual relationships and gifts; part 3, the pulpit, transference, hugging and touch, intimacy; and part 4, personal needs and self-care, red flags, and final reflections. The topics of social media, Internet, and finances are not part of the DVD series but will be explored briefly. The afternoon session focuses on Church of the Brethren specific materials: a review of the 2008 Ethics in Ministry Relations Paper, a PowerPoint overview of the process.” Contact or . A website link will be e-mailed to participants a few days prior to the webcast. Registration and payment of $30 or $15 for current students must be sent to the Brethren Academy by April 21. No phone or e-mail registrations will be accepted after this deadline date.

— “Are you a college student, a seminary student, a graduate school student, or a high school student? Or do you know somebody who is? Enter the Bethany Theological Seminary Peace Essay Contest!” said an invitation. The theme is “Where Do You See Peace?” The deadline to submit essays is March 27. The contest offers a first-place prize of $2,000, a second-place prize of $1,000, and a third-place prize of $500. Learn more about the theme, essay guidelines, and details at . Submit essays at .

— On Earth Peace has announced its next Racial Justice Organizer clinic, a “web event” scheduled for March 15 at 7 p.m. (eastern time). “This clinic provides an opportunity to share and receive invaluable resources and support for your racial justice work,” said the announcement. The event will offer time to share about participants’ congregations or communities and goals for catalyzing them; ideas and encouragement from others who are stepping up to catalyze their communities; and upcoming opportunities to get involved in national and regional networks. This event also corresponds with the Movement for Black Lives’ policy webinar on March 8, focused on economic justice. In addition to participants in the clinic, On Earth Peace congregational peace and justice organizer Bryan Hanger is looking to meet in person with active organizers or people hoping to be active organizers; contact . Find more information and register for the free organizer clinic at .

The funeral for pastor Bitrus C. Mamza. Photo by Zakariya Musa.

— “It was another sad moment for EYN…when it buried another young pastor at Kele, Dille area,” reported Zakariya Musa, communications staff for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). EYN president Joel Billi has declared the health situation a state of emergency, counting the young ministers who have died of Hepatitis over the years, and has called for action against the killer disease, Musa wrote in an e-mail to Newsline. This latest death is that of pastor Bitrus C. Mamza, who died at age 48. He was born in February 1969, and served as a pastor at Attagara, Dille, Chibok, and Biu. The memorial service was conducted under a tree beside his burned-out church building. He left behind a wife and children. The service was attended by hundreds of pastors and members, who were there to pay their condolences, even in an area of Borno State that has been devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency.

— In more news from EYN, Boko Haram attacks continue on the village of Bdagu. In recent weeks villagers from Bdagu have fled several attacks, and many have been sheltered in Lassa with help from the EYN congregation there. Zakariya Musa, communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), reports that the village was attacked again and the insurgents killing at least three people and abducted six men and four women, and burned most of the houses. “According to people from the neighboring villages, that have access to [communications] network, they attacked the village at about 5 until 10 p.m.” he wrote. “A pastor from Dille briefed that people are fleeing the area for their life and that the attackers dropped a letter that they will come back. Military men were said to have reached the the place.” Musa’s e-mail added that Bdagu is located not far from the notorious Sambisa Forest, which has been a Boko Haram hideout.

 “Celebrate Black History Month” at Germantown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, the “mother church” of the Brethren in North America located in the Philadelphia area, drew a full house. A newspaper article published by the Philadelphia Tribune reported that the “evening of African drumming and dancing, gospel music ensembles, poetic recitations, praise dancing, and short sermons” centered on Isaiah 53:5, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” This scripture was chosen because the event was about healing during this time, pastor Richard Kyerematen told the paper. Highlights of the program included a dramatic presentation of “Lord, Why Did You Make Me Black?” by poet RuNett Ebo, accompanied by Kira Brown-Gray, a young actress at the FreshVisions Youth Theatre, along with interpretive dance by dancer and choreographer Carmen Butler. Read the news report at .

— English River Church of the Brethren is hosting a performance of “Vang” on March 26, at 2 p.m. The church is located in South English, Iowa. The drama about recent immigrant farmers is a collaboration between Poet Laureate of Iowa Mary Swander, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Dennis Chamberlin, and Kennedy Center award-winner Matt Foss, with a musical score by Michael Ching, past executive director of the Memphis opera, said an announcement from Northern Plains District. “Vang has been on tour since 2013 and has had performances throughout the U.S.  from farmers’ barns and church basements to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Cambio de Colores Conference, Penn State University, and New York University.” The announcement noted that stories told in the play include those of a Hmong family who fled Communist Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand, a Sudanese man who was thrown into prison in Ethiopia for helping the Lost Boys, and a Mexican woman “who taught herself English by looking up the meaning of the profane words hurled at her at her first job in a meat packing plant,” among others. The production stars Rip Russell and Erin Mills, two well-known actors who reside in Iowa City. Admission at the door will be a free-will donation.

— Standing in the Gap, a Church of the Brethren campus ministry at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, is sending 21 students on a service trip to Haiti. The group will support l’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Church of the Brethren in Haiti) with hurricane cleanup and will also work on projects for the Haitian church’s guesthouse and ministry center.

— Cabool (Mo.) Church of the Brethren hosted “Ground Hog Breakfast,” a community event sponsored by the Cabool Revitalization Group, on Jan. 28. The Missouri and Arkansas District newsletter reported that the event, which was held annually for many years and was initiated again for 2017, allows a church to designate a specific community mission project and that church receives all the profit for that project. More than $600 was raised for Boomerang Bags, the church’s weekend food program through Cabool Elementary School. In a bonus for the congregation, leftovers from the breakfast event allowed the Fellowship Committee to follow up with a Valentine Breakfast for the whole church on Feb. 12.

— A House of Prayer Retreat is sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania District Spiritual Formation Team, hosted at Camp Harmony on April 1, from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. “Come and get away for time with the Lord and other brothers and sisters in Christ,” said an invitation. Dick LaFountain will be the speaker. The cost of $15 includes lunch and snacks, along with .5 continuing education credit for minister. Registration is due by March 15 to Western PA District, 115 Spring Road, Hollsopple, PA 15935.

— Mid-Atlantic District has announced an upcoming meeting of the Tri-District Peace Fellowship, a group originally based in the Atlantic Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southern Pennsylvania Districts. “Taking literally the prophetic message of the angels at Jesus’ birth, we gather to worship, fellowship, and learn how better to live out ‘Peace on earth; goodwill to all,’” said the announcement. The next gathering is hosted by Ruth Aukerman in Union Bridge, Md.., on Saturday, May 13, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., including a potluck lunch. To register or for more information call or text Joan Huston at 717-460-8650.

— Cross Keys Village is offering “Embracing Moments” Memory Care workshops. The Church of the Brethren-related retirement community is located in New Oxford, Pa. This is a free series of six dementia workshops for caregivers, starting March 15 and running every other Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. For more information and to register go to .

— The Board of Directors of Lebanon Valley Brethren Home has decided to change the public name of the organization to Londonderry Village, according to an announcement from president and CEO Jeff Shireman. The announcement emphasized that the legal name of the corporation will remain the Lebanon Valley Brethren Home. “Londonderry Village is more appropriately known as a ‘doing business as’ or DBA name,” said the announcement. “Other than the name change, everything else is staying the same. Our mission of service to the elderly, our commitment to providing benevolent care when needed, our affiliation with the Church of the Brethren, our nonprofit status…everything will remain exactly as it has been for the past 38 years. It will be difficult to get out of the habit of referring to ‘the Home,’ and instead calling ourselves ‘the Village,’ but we hope this will become more natural as time goes by.”  Find out more about the community at .

— The Fellowship of Brethren Homes is highlighting two books, Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End” and “Color Me a Memory.” Executive director Ralph McFadden writes that Gawande, a physician, “has a perspective that is compelling and draws one into one of the most difficult issues confronting us as we are involved with those who are aging: ‘What it is like to get old and die…and where our ideas about death have gone wrong.’ …Gawande’s stories are on target and, for me, awaken a certain despair and fear for the future. I will, as a result of reading, be more aware of how I and my family might prepare for and consider the inescapable future.” The second book, “Color Me a Memory,” is an outcome of a program developed with the residents of Pinecrest Terrace Memory Care Community, connected with the Church of the Brethren-related Pinecrest Community in Mt. Morris, Ill. “The first 11 pages will give you, the reader, an understanding and history of an exciting painting process that has been beneficial to residents and families. There is also information about how you might carry out a similar program,” McFadden writes. For questions about “Color Me a Memory” contact Jonathan Shively, director of Advancement at Pinecrest Community, at . Both books may be purchased through Brethren Press: find “Being Mortal” online at ; find “Color Me a Memory” online at .

— Shepherd’s Spring outdoor ministry center in Mid-Atlantic District is offering a Lenten Quiet Day on March 8, from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Leadership is provided by Ed Poling, on the theme “What! Me worry?” with Matthew 6:25-34 as the scripture focus. Cost is $35 and includes lunch. Register at .

— Two lead gifts have generated momentum for Bridgewater (Va.) College’s multi-million dollar library expansion and renovation, reports a release from the college. “A $4 million commitment from Bonnie and John Rhodes names the facility the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons, honoring her father. A $2.5 million grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation names the Morgridge Center for Collaborative Learning, which will occupy the main floor of the facility and will integrate career development; assistance in writing, research and information, and media production; information technology help desk and peer tutoring. Once completed, the project will be the first in the college’s history to be fully funded through charitable donations,” the release said. The facility is planned as a “new-generation library” flexible environment complete with a café, indoor and outdoor learning and gathering spaces, group meeting rooms, and private study spaces throughout the building. John Kenny Forrer, for whom the Learning Commons will be named, was a deacon in Mount Vernon Church of the Brethren in Waynesboro, Va., president of the Bank of Stuarts Draft, and a prominent farmer and community leader. Fundraising for the Forrer Learning Commons will continue, with the intent to break ground in May 2018 for a formal opening of the building in August 2019.

— “Experiencing Nigeria” is the theme for the March edition of Brethren Voices, a television show produced by Peace Church of the Brethren in Oregon for use on community access cable, and suitable for use in Sunday school classes and other small group settings. “In January 2016, the group from Elizabethtown, Pa., ‘Take 10, Tell 10,’ took a two-week learning tour to Nigeria with the goal of experiencing the African country, ‘like it really is,’” said an announcement from producer Ed Groff. “The group of 10, consisting of college students  and older adults were invited to make the trip, in support of the Nigerian EYN Church, which has partnered with the Church of the Brethren. Members of ‘Take 10, Tell 10,’ were treated to numerous opportunities, beyond their wildest imaginations. They came back to share their stories and experiences. Brethren Voices host Brent Carlson sat down with some of the members of the journey. Contact for more information, or view episodes online at .

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is accepting applications for its Peacemaker Corps. CPT got its start as an initiative of the peace churches including the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers. “Join us in building partnerships to transform violence and oppression!” said the announcement. Applicants must be 21 years of age or older and have completed, or plan to complete, a short-term CPT delegation or internship. Qualified applicants may be invited to participate in CPT’s intensive, month-long training from July 13-Aug. 13 in Chicago, Ill., where membership in the Peacemaker Corps is discerned. Trained Peacemaker Corps members are then eligible to apply for open positions on CPT teams. CPT builds partnerships to transform violence and oppression in situations of lethal conflict around the world, committed to work and relationships that: 1) honor and reflect the presence of faith and spirituality, 2) strengthen grassroots initiatives, 3) transform structures of domination and oppression, and 4) embody creative nonviolence and liberating love. CPT is a Christian-identified organization with a multi-faith/spiritually diverse membership. CPT seeks individuals who are capable, responsible, and rooted in faith/spirituality to work for peace as members of violence-reduction teams trained in the disciplines of nonviolence. CPT is committed to building a Peacemaker Corps that reflects the rich diversity of the human family in ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender identity, language, national origin, race, and sexual orientation. The application deadline is March 15. Direct questions to .

— The Ecumenical Water Network began its annual Lenten campaign “Seven Weeks for Water” with an ecumenical prayer service on Ash Wednesday in St. Mary’s (Sealite Mihret) Cathedral of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This year’s campaign raises awareness of water justice issues in Africa. “Water, the source of life and a gift from God, has yet become the issue of justice,” said World Council of Churches (WCC) moderator Agnes Abuom at the service. “We know that the water crisis here falls heavily on women and children, who are walking miles and miles to look for a water. On behalf of World Council of Churches, I invite everyone to resist commodification and commercialization of water at the expense of poor people.” A sermon by WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit reflected on Amos 5:24, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” This is the 10th year the network has provided weekly theological reflections and other resources on water for the seven weeks of Lent. Reflections, liturgies, and other worship resources will be uploaded to the network’s website every week, starting March 1. Find the resources at .

— Facts and figures about water access and scarcity, from the World Health Organization and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (as shared by the Ecumenical Water Network):
— Around 663 million people are without access to safe drinking water.
— 1 in 3 people, or 2.4 billion, are without improved sanitation facilities.
— The vast majority of the above live in sub-Saharan Africa.
— 319 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are without access to improved reliable drinking water sources.
— 695 million out of the global 2.4 billion people who are living without improved sanitation facilities live in sub-Saharan Africa.
— Women and girls are responsible for water collection in 7 out of 10 households in 45 developing countries.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jenn Dorsch, Jeff Lennard, Mary Kay Heatwole, Fran Massie, Ralph McFadden, Zakariya Musa, Pamela A. Reist, Carol Scheppard, Jeff Shireman, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for March 17.

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