Brethren bits for March 13, 2019

— Stanley J. Noffsinger has begun as chief executive officer of Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind. He is a former general secretary of the Church of the Brethren (2003-2016) and most recently director of the Office of the General Secretariat for the World Council of Churches (2016-2018). Previously he served as manager and executive director of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. (1999-2003). He also has spent 10 years in various positions in health care administration in Kansas. He is a graduate of Manchester University and grew up in northern Indiana. A press release from the community noted that he accompanied his father and mother, who was a “North Manchester native,” to the groundbreaking for the construction of Timbercrest. Noffsinger began his tenure at Timbercrest at the beginning of March and will be living in the North Manchester area.

— Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) communications office has requested prayer for challenging situations as well as uplifting events this month. “Pray for EYN Founder’s day the 17th March to mark the day it started in 1923 at Garkida,” wrote communications staff Zakariya Musa this week, noting as well the EYN Men’s Fellowship is holding its annual meeting this week at EYN headquarters in Kwarhi.
     Prayer for the continuing challenge of insurgent violence also is requested, as church members and their neighbors are facing an increase in violent attacks from Boko Haram. EYN officials have reported that in some areas, people are living in fear and many are relocating or sleeping in caves. EYN has requested specific prayers for church members who lost loved ones in an attack on the town of Madagali on March 1, when a suicide bomber entered the house of a church member and killed the family, and a rocket attack killed seven people. The congregation of EYN Bwaguma and church members in the community of Gatamwarwa were attacked in February. The Bwaguma community’s food stores were looted, and a seven-year-old was abducted from an EYN family, among other losses.

— Global Food Initiative (GFI) manager Jeff Boshart and volunteer Chris Elliott have been traveling to meet with partners and visit agricultural projects in the African Great Lakes region. Their first stop was Burundi to meet with Church of the Brethren partner organization Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS) and its founder David Niyonzima. They then planned to visit projects and members of the Brethren Church of Rwanda, led by Etienne Nsanzimana, and also meet with leaders of Eglise de Freres au Congo (the Church of the Brethren in Congo).

— Ellis and Rita Yoder of Monitor Church of the Brethren in McPherson, Kan., have been honored as the McPherson County 2018 Farm Family of the Year. “My first thought was I didn’t think we were worthy, but we’re very honored and grateful,” Ellis told the McPherson Sentinel, which reported that “Ellis represents the fourth generation of Yoders to farm in McPherson County. His great-grandfather bought land between McPherson and Inman around 120 years ago.” A note from Connie Burholder, one of the ministers at their church, added that the Yoders “have been extremely generous and involved in Growing Hope Globally (formerly Foods Resource Bank).” Find the McPherson Sentinel article at .

The 2019 Ware Lecture on Peacemaking at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College features artists from Silkroad. Founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 1998, the group is named after the historical Silk Road that Ma “claims can serve as a model for productive cultural collaboration, for the exchange of ideas and tradition alongside commerce and innovation,” said a release. “In a radical experiment, he brought together musicians from the lands of the Silk Road to co-create a new artistic idiom, a musical language founded in difference, a metaphor for the benefits of a more connected world.” the event takes place April 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Leffler Chapel and Performance Center at Elizabethtown College. Tickets are free but required. Reserve by calling 717-361-4757 or emailing . The Ware Lecture on Peacemaking is part of the Judy S. ’68 and Paul W. Ware Colloquium on Peacemaking and Global Citizenship and is sponsored by Judy S. ’68 and Paul W. Ware and Elizabethtown College’s Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking. For further information contact Kay Wolf, program manager, at or see .

The Appointed Quartet in concert at Forest Chapel Church of the Brethren
The Appointed Quartet in concert at Forest Chapel Church of the Brethren. Image courtesy of Forest Chapel Church of the Brethren

— The “Appointed Quartet” will be at Forest Chapel Church of the Brethren in Crimora, Va., on April 14 for the morning worship service. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. and the concert will be from 10:50 a.m. to 12 noon. “This group has opened for Gold City, The Kingsmen, Triumphant Quartet, Karen Peck and New River, The Hoppers, The Guardians, The Perry’s, Heirline, The Talleys, and Brian Free and Assurance,” said an announcement from the church. A covered dish meal will be offered after the concert and a free will offering will be taken for the group.

— Doris Abdullah, the Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations, took a group of Church of the Brethren workcampers to one of the Civil Society events at the United Nations Department of Global Communications. The group that attended the “Chat Series” on March 5 included workcampers from the Brooklyn (N.Y.) First Church and from Church in Drive and Saganaw Valley State University congregations in Michigan. “Tuesday was their first chat for 2019 titled ‘New Year, New Name–Who We Are and What We Do,” Abdullah reported to Newsline. “The group was able to gain a better understanding of how the UN works, the role of civil society, and Church of the Brethren importance to the workings via interactions with GCCSO ( global communication civil society organization) staff and other members of civil society.” The Chat Series and briefing are carried live on Facebook and other UN media. 

— Brethren Voices has been produced for March, April, and May, already, said an announcement from producer Ed Groff. March program features the Lybrook Community Ministries in New Mexico; the April program is titled “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival”; and the May program invites viewers to “Meet the Moderator” featuring Donita Keister, 2019 Annual Conference moderator. Brethren Voices now has 410 subscribers on , has had over 175,000 views during the past 7 years, and has been broadcast on over 50 stations around the country.

— In the latest episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast, listeners will learn about a project to support the outcast and forgotten in society. Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred interviews Rachel Gross about the Death Row Support Project, and what she and others like her are doing through small acts of kindness, sincerity, and love. Listen at or subscribe to Dunker Punks Podcast on your favorite podcasting app.

 “Searching for…participants in the fall of 1969 BVS Unit,” said an announcement from four of the unit members living in the area of North Manchester, Ind.: John Hartsough, Mary Shearer, Bob Gross, and Cliff Kindy. The group is planning a reunion of the unit for the “50-year point since our training in the fall of 1969.” The reunion will take place near North Manchester at Joyfield Farm, where the Gross and Kindy families live and have hosted large gatherings before. Attendees may tent, stay in the barn, stay in extra rooms in hosts’ homes, or reserve a room in a nearby motel or bed and breakfast. Unit members are invited to gather this late summer or early fall to re-acquaint and reminisce. Members of the fall 1969 BVS Unit who are interested in a get together, or who have contact information for other unit members, are asked to contact Cliff Kindy at 4874 E 1400 N, North Manchester, IN 46962; 260-982-2971; .

— A joint delegation of representatives from the historic African-American churches within the National Council of Churches (NCC) and from the South African Council of Churches has traveled to Palestine and Israel. The trip took place Feb. 21 to March 1. The NCC email newsletter included a report on the trip from NCC president and general secretary Jim Winkler, who accompanied the group, and a “Group Pilgrimage Statement on Israel and Palestine.” The statement reviewed the activities of the delegation, outlined prayers and commitments that they brought home with them, and stated support for the work of peace and justice in the area, among other content. Find the NCC newsletter at .

— Bread for the World, a Christian anti-hunger group that has been a partner organization for Church of the Brethren food security work, has released a devotional guide to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Va. “Lament and Hope: A Pan-African Devotional Guide” was dedicated at a prayer service in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, the last day of Black History Month. “The free guide addresses past and current issues of unequal access to land, housing, and education,” reported Religion News Services (RNS). “It begins with verses from the Bible’s Book of Lamentations that speak of homelessness and affliction and conclude with a proclamation of the steadfast love of the Lord.” Angelique Walker-Smith is the editor. The devotional is being released during the year in which many activities commemorating the arrival of the first African captives in Jamestown are planned, RNS reported, including some by the US Department of the Interior’s 400 Years of African-American History Commission. Find the devotional at .

— An Earth Day Sunday 2019 toolkit is available from Creation Justice Ministries, of which the Church of the Brethren is a partner communion. This year, the suggested date for Earth Day Sunday is April 20, as the Sunday closest to Earth Day on April 22. “Since 1970, communities have taken one day each year to be especially mindful of the Earth and its many gifts,” said an announcement. “Soon after, churches started celebrating God’s creation on the Sunday closest to Earth Day…. The Bible is full of beautiful language and theology for celebrating God’s Creation. Yet sometimes, in the rhythm of the liturgical year, it can be challenging to find a specific time to focus as a church community on the theme of Creation. Earth Day Sunday provides just such an opportunity.” Creation Justice Ministries is an ecumenical organization that continues the work of the former Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches. Each year, Creation Justice Ministries focuses on a particular ecological theme chosen by its members. This year’s resource from Creation Justice Ministries is designed to equip church leaders with preaching, teaching, prayer, and action materials at . To connect with others who are planning Earth Day Sunday activities, join the Earth Day Sunday 2019 Facebook event.

— Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), of which the Church of the Brethren is a member communion, has issued a public statement titled “Weaponizing Anti-Semitism Harms Free Speech.” The statement is recommended by the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. “Over the past several weeks, the political discourse relating to Israel/Palestine has rapidly deteriorated,” the statement says, in part. “We have witnessed members of Congress attack their colleagues by name, making accusations of anti-Semitism, often talking over and distorting what was actually said. As an organization committed to advocating for U.S. policies that will help bring about justice, equality, and human rights for all in Israel-Palestine and throughout the Middle East, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has been dismayed by the tenor of these conversations. They reflect just how far we are as a nation from helping to foster a sustainable end to the conflict in Israel-Palestine…. CMEP calls on leadership not only to repudiate all forms of bigotry, but to be clear in differentiating between actual hate speech and critiques of policy….” Find the full statement at .

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) is mourning the loss of a staff member in the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10. The plane crashed soon after taking off near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with 157 on board. It was on its way to Nairobi, Kenya, where the UN Environment Assembly began Monday. In a release expressing condolences on the passing of all on board the aircraft, the WCC reported that “environmental advocates and UN staff members were among those who died, including Rev. Norman Tendis, WCC consultant for Economy of Life. Tendis was instrumental in helping local churches invest their resources to make a better planet…and had worked very hard together with colleagues to develop a ‘Roadmap for Congregations, Communities and Churches for an Economy of Life and Ecological Justice,’ which he was to present Monday morning.”

— Mac Wiseman, who died Feb. 24 at age 93, is being remembered as a “country and bluegrass great” by USA Today, MSN, and other media outlets. He also is remembered for his connections with the Church of the Brethren in Crimora, Va., where he grew up. “Remembering Mac Wiseman” by Peter Cooper, museum editor at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tenn., reviewed Wiseman’s life and connections to Crimora including ways the church helped shape him and his music. “In later life, he spent every day sitting in a chair in front of a large photo of the Crimora Church of the Brethren, where he was confirmed at 13 and where his mother played the pipe organ,” Cooper wrote. Noting there were two Brethren congregations in town, he wrote that “at Mac’s Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren, they dunked you forward in the South River. At the other church they dunked you backwards. Faith was important to Mac.” Wiseman’s musical accomplishments were many, including working as a promoter and record executive, recording more than 65 albums, helping found the Country Music Association, and receiving a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship, among others. He was called “The Voice with a Heart,” and USA Today noted that “at the time of his death, Wiseman was the last surviving original member of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys.” Find one of the many remembrances of Wiseman at .

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