Brethren bits for Dec. 19, 2019

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Brethren Community Ministries, the community development and social service arm of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, recently reported that “our Agape Students continued to celebrate the holidays by spreading some peace, love, and cheer to those serving death row sentences in Pennsylvania! Over 15 youth, staff, and volunteers helped to make over 130 holiday cards for the inmates! Pennsylvania has recently banned 24/7 solitary confinement for death row inmates, a step in the right direction for human treatment of prisoners.” See www.bcmpeace.org . Image courtesy of BCM

— The latest post in the Church of the Brethren’s Nigeria blog shares “Stories from Maiduguri” by Roxane Hill. The stories and pictures come from a recent visit to the city of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria by Roxane and Carl Hill, and feature an interview with a young peace activist and the stories of three young women who escaped after having been captured by Boko Haram. Find the blogpost at https://blog.brethren.org/category/nigeria .

— The Global Food Initiative (GFI) has announced a change in the membership of its review panel. “We wish to thank Tara Mathur of Wichita (Kan.) First Church of the Brethren for her service,” said an announcement in the GFI fall newsletter. “Taking Tara’s place on the panel will be Pat Krabacher of New Carlisle (Ohio) Church of the Brethren.” Mathur works for Worker Rights Consortium, an organization that monitors compliance with labor standards in the production of garments made around the world for consumers in the US. Krabacher has been a Brethren Volunteer Service worker involved with the Nigeria Crisis Response and with Brethren programs in Haiti. Find out more at www.brethren.org/gfi .

— Jan. 20 is the opening date to register for the 2020 National Young Adult Conference, to be held May 22-25 at Montreat (N.C.) Conference Center. The theme is “Love in Action” (Romans 12:9-18). Speakers will include Drew Hart, Paul Shaffer, and Richard Zapata, among others. Worship coordinators are Jessie Houff and Tim Heishman. Music coordinator is Jacob Crouse. The planning team is the Young Adult Steering Committee: Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred, Briel Slocum, Jenna Walmer, Karly Eichenauer, Krystal Bellis, and Mario Cabrera. Registration cost varies depending on the participant’s travel distance. Some scholarship assistance may be available. “Early bird” registration discount is available during January only. The conference is for participants ages 18 to 35. Infants up to 12 months old are welcome with a parent participant; childcare is not provided, contact the Youth and Young Adult Ministries office at cobyouth@brethren.org . Registration and more information will be posted at www.brethren.org/yac .

— The fall issue of “Bridges,” the Church of the Brethren youth and young adult online newsletter, is now available at https://issuu.com/brethrenyya/docs/bridge_newsletter_fall2019/6 .

— On Dec. 22, Luray (Va.) Church of the Brethren will dedicate a peace pole to the memory of pastor Rebecca Harding who served the congregation from 2012 until her death in 2015.

— “The Prairie Farmer” publication has featured a story on two Church of the Brethren men in Polo, Ill., and the 15-year-old Growing Project that is supported by several northern Illinois congregations. The article titled “How One Illinois Farm Community Feeds Another in Nicaragua” highlights the work of Jim Schmidt and Bill Hare. Find it at www.farmprogress.com/farm-life/how-one-illinois-farm-community-feeds-another-nicaragua .

— On Jan. 20, 2020, a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on the theme “Celebrating the Dream, Continuing the Journey,” will be held in the Bridgewater, Va., area and on the campus of Bridgewater College, according to the Shenandoah District e-newsletter: “The event begins at Oakdale Park, where guest speakers will give their remarks, and will be followed by a march of event attendees from the park to the college campus.”

— At its December meeting, the Brethren World Mission group reviewed Church of the Brethren mission projects that it supports. The organization, which is independent of the Church of the Brethren denominational mission program, works to offer funding to mission efforts. Actions taken at the meeting include approval of $2,200 to assist with a mission trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in early 2020; $1,650 to help with the Gesenyi building project in Rwanda; $3,000 for church planting in Venezuela and $5,000 to reimburse Global Mission and Service for funds spent on a vehicle purchase for the emerging church in Venezuela. The group also elected officers for 2020: Bob Kettering, chair; Eric Reamer, vice chair; Phil Hollinger, treasurer; Carolyn Fitzkee, financial secretary; Dennis Garrison, recording secretary.

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has issued a statement rejecting the revised US position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The statement follows on a news conference Nov. 18 in which the US Secretary of State said, “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.” CPT has placed teams of peacemakers in Israel and Palestine since 1995 and has worked for peace within the West Bank. It noted that the comment from the Secretary of State reversed a 40-year US foreign policy position and “has been condemned by Palestinians, the United Nations, and the European Union among others.” The CPT statement added that “this policy reversal is unsupported by any process of international consultation or ratification and has no weight in defining international law…. International law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention to which both the United States and Israel are signatories, clearly outlines the legal status of occupied territories and their populations. People under occupation by any power anywhere must be able to appeal to these basic principles. Otherwise, millions of people would disappear into special extra-legal zones where their rights are determined at the point of a gun–the situation already faced by occupied Palestine.” CPT reported that over the last month it has observed an influx of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and an increase in violence toward Palestinians. CPT is supporting legislation in the US House of Representatives titled “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act” (HR 2407).

— In a pastoral letter to the world’s Christians, World Council of Churches general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has expressed urgent concern over the climate emergency and urges churches and individuals to take action, said a WCC release. “In fact, our futures, the well-being of our common home, and the very existence of our species are at risk,” he wrote. “The call to our churches and ourselves could not be clearer; and our unity, solidarity, and determination have never been more needed by the world.” The dangers and damage of climate change are even worse than feared, Tveit noted, and the time remaining to halt climate damage is less than hoped for. “In this context, I write to urge your creative action, your advocacy, and your prayer before prayer becomes our only recourse. It is almost too late, but we can still make a difference if we act now! …The world is accountable to young people and the vulnerable people in the world, and it is morally inadmissible to look the other way.” He urged people across the world to press relentlessly for action by public officials, governments, and businesses. Read the letter at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-general-secretary-pastoral-letter-on-climate-emergency .

— “They Showed Us Unusual Kindness” (Acts. 28:2) is the theme for the 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Worship and other resources for this annual occasion celebrating the unity of the worldwide church are available online and in print. Suggested dates are Jan. 18-25, a week that incorporates both Ecumenical Sunday and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. A sample kit is available including a copy of the daily scripture prayer guide for the week, an ecumenical celebration service, prayer card, poster, and worship bulletin. Go to www.geii.org/order .