Brethren bits for May 4, 2019

— Remembrance: Ruby K. Shenk, mother of Annual Conference moderator Donita Keister and a former coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) training units, passed away on April 29. She and her husband, John R. Shenk, were active with the BVS program for about 15 years, coordinating the training for the joint BRF/BVS units over that time. She was a member of Mt. Olivet Church of the Brethren near Newport, Pa., for most of her life. A service of celebration of life will be held at New Buffalo Alliance Church in Duncannon, Pa., on Sunday, May 5, at 3 p.m., with family visitation from 2-3 p.m. An additional time for visitation will be held at Chiques Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., from 9-11 a.m. on Friday, May 3, followed by a private interment in Chiques Cemetery. “Please hold Donita and her family in your prayers for peace and comfort during this time of loss,” said a request from the General Secretary’s Office of the Church of the Brethren.

— A celebration of life for Sue Cushen Snyder will be held June 1 at 3 p.m. at Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren. A light meal will be served following the service. Memorial gifts are received to the church. Snyder passed away unexpectedly on Aug. 16, 2018, in Murfreesboro, Tenn., following a brief illness. She had served the Church of the Brethren as coordinator of the General Secretary’s Office from June 1988 to January 1999, serving as assistant to general secretary Don Miller for the majority of that time. Following Miller’s retirement, she worked with interim general secretary Karen Peterson Miller and interim executive director Joe Mason and briefly with general secretary Judy Mills Reimer. Later, she joined Brethren Volunteer Service, serving for seven years at the Westside Food Bank in Surprise, Ariz., then returning to the Church of the Brethren General Offices as a volunteer assistant in the BVS office.

The Compelling Vision Process Team at work during spring meetings at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.
The Compelling Vision Process Team at work during spring meetings at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.

The Compelling Vision Process Team has issued a prayer calendar for participants at Annual Conference to use to prepare spiritually for this year’s annual meeting.

     “From the beginning, the Compelling Vision Working Group articulated a guiding statement grounding the compelling vision process in Christ. When it began its work, the Compelling Vision Process Team affirmed this guiding statement and further articulated a desire that the process be a deeply spiritual one because we are not developing our own vision, but discerning God’s vision for us in these times,” writes Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, chair of the process team. “Beginning in November, the team began posting reflections on its Facebook page to invite the Holy Spirit to prepare our spirits for discernment.

     “In this same vein, moderator Donita Keister and the team have prepared a prayer calendar to begin on Sunday, May 5, and guide us through Annual Conference. The calendar includes scripture passages and prayer prompts for each day; some days also include a suggestion for a spiritual practice to encourage deeper engagement. Please join us on this journey as we prepare our hearts and minds to be receptive to the promptings of God’s Spirit as we continue to discern God’s vision for us as the body of Christ in these times.”

     Download the prayer calendar from

— The World Council of Churches seeks to fill two program executive positions: a program executive for Mission and Evangelism/Mission from the Margins to facilitate and support an inspiring and effective involvement of indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups in the life and work of the WCC, its member churches, and ecumenical partners; and a program executive for Church Relations to monitor and coordinate the collaboration and cooperation of member churches, among them and with other churches on all programmatic areas of the WCC, and to follow up on all membership matters. The WCC is an equal opportunity employer. Selection is made without distinction as to race and gender and takes into account confessional and geographical representation of its member churches. Find the full job announcements at and .

— Bethany Theological Seminary will hold commencement for the class of 2019 on Saturday, May 11, in Richmond, Ind. Master of divinity and master of arts degrees and graduate certificates will be granted to 18 students. The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. in Nicarry Chapel. Those interested in attending may contact the President’s Office at or 765-983-1803. The commencement address will be given by Bishop Staccato Powell, presiding prelate of the Western Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and adjunct professor in the doctor of ministry program at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, N.C. He also is a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. A worship service open to the public will be led by graduating seniors on Friday, May 10, at 5 p.m. in Nicarry Chapel.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries will be running an online store for a limited time, from May 10 to May 30. This store will offer different items than those found at the disaster project sites, including polo shirts, short- and long-sleeved wicking shirts, zip-up hooded sweatshirts, cooling towels, lunch box, and safari hat–all displaying the Brethren Disaster Ministries logo. The items may be purchased online during this month’s sale, and will be shipped directly to your home. Visit from May 10-30 to find the link to the store and make your purchase.

— The next Spiritual Directors Retreat in the Church of the Brethren is planned for June 10-12 at Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministry Center near Sharpsburg, Md. The theme is “The Deepening Spiritual Journey.” Leading the event will be Tilden Edwards, an Episcopal priest and founder and senior fellow at Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, with his wife, Mary Edwards, a Quaker and a clinical social worker specializing in the role of mediation. For more information contact .

The group of ministers celebrating graduation in the Dominican Republic
The group of ministers celebrating graduation in the Dominican Republic

— Global Mission and Service is sharing prayers of praise for the graduation of 35 students from the theological training program of Iglesia de los Hermanos, the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic. The ceremony was held in January in the capital city of Santo Domingo with 2 Timothy 3:16 as theme scripture. The graduates attended classes regularly, weekly or biweekly depending on location, for about two-and-a-half years. “Pray that the graduates may continue their spiritual growth as they serve the church,” said the prayer request.

— Prayer has been requested for Nigeria where violence has continued during this Easter season. Markus Gamache, staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), shared the request after Boys Brigade members were killed in the town of Gombe in northeast Nigeria. “During the funeral of the boys on Saturday there was another crisis which led to curfew for safety,” Gamache reported in an email to the Global Mission and Service staff. He also reported that there had been a gun battle between security forces and Boko Haram insurgents in the areas of Madagali and Wagga, and that insurgents attempted to attack an EYN church in Wagga Lawan but only succeeded in taking some musical instruments. In Madagali town they were able to steal some food stuff and animals. In the meantime, the Gurku interfaith camp for displaced people has welcomed more families returning to Nigeria from the Minawawoo refugee camp in Cameroon, and also some more people displaced from the Madagali area. “We want to thank you for all your prayers and support,” Gamache wrote.

EYN's disaster ministry brings aid to a Christian center near Benin
EYN’s disaster ministry brings aid to a Christian center near Benin. Photo by Zakariya Musa, courtesy of EYN

— In more news from EYN, the Nigeria Blog has posted two new stories recently reporting on an effort to provide “one-on-one lay counseling” to assist survivors of Boko Haram violence, and a visit to a center housing orphans and vulnerable children by Salamatu Billi, wife of EYN president Joel S. Billi, and members of the EYN Disaster Relief Ministry Team. The International Christian Center in Edo State, in southern Nigeria, is located just outside Benin City and in recent years has been taking in many people affected by the insurgency in the northeast. “Since so many of the children at the International Christian Center are from the Northeast, leaders from EYN have made several visits to the Center,” reported the blog by EYN communications staff Zakariya Musa and Nigeria Crisis Response coordinator Roxane Hill. “One of the main reasons for the visit was to provide food assistance to the NGO. This was a large undertaking and included: 500 Yam tubers, 140 Gari bags, 53 bags of rice, a pallet of Plantains, 25 Jerri cans of palm oil and 42 bags of sugar.” Find the report on “Entrepreneurship and One-On-One Lay Counseling” at . Find the report “Disaster Relief Ministry visits IDP’s near Benin City” at .

— The Spring 2019 issue of “The Bridge” young adult ministries newsletter is online at . This issue includes articles about Young Adult Conference and the keynote speakers for the event, about young adults in ministry, and poetry, among other features.

— The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is recruiting organizers for an anti-drone warfare conference in late September. The Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare is sponsoring a national training conference to equip people of faith interested in organizing on the issue of drone warfare within the faith community. It will be held at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J. Those attending should be willing to organize their communities on drone warfare until at least Feb. 1, 2021. The conference will begin with dinner on Friday, Sept. 27, and end with lunch on Sunday, Sept. 29. Cost including room, board, and registration fee is $50, and some financial help will be provided to cover travel costs. To learn more about the Church of the Brethren’s view on drone warfare go to . To express interest in attending the conference contact .

— The Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADN) announces a new barrier-free grant program that offers financial assistance to congregations for projects that facilitate barrier-free community life. This is one of several ways that the network is a partner with congregations to create mutual awareness, caring support, and accessibility education. Grants range from $100 to $500. For more information contact 574-343-1362, 877-214-9838, or . Download a grant application at by clicking on “Get Involved,” then “Barrier-Free Grant.”

— This season marks the 15th year of the Polo (Ill.) Growing Project supported by partner churches in Polo, Dixon, Tinley Park, and Elgin. Over the years, earnings of $466,000 have been invested in agricultural programs in several countries, most recently Honduras and Nicaragua. The Polo venture is one of 165 growing projects across the US under the aegis of Growing Hope Globally, formerly Foods Resource Bank. The ecumenical agency will commemorate its 20th anniversary with a Summer Celebration July 25-27 at Conrad, Iowa, where a cluster of churches including Ivester Church of the Brethren formed one of the earliest growing projects.

— Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren is hosting “Praise the Lord: A Celebration of Music and Faith,” a choir workshop on May 18-19. The event starts at 4 p.m. on the 18th led by Jonathan Shively and Ellen Wile with help from the congregation’s choir. Shively will be rehearsing three choral compositions “using various techniques in achieving choral blend, dynamics, singing with style, and a unifying spirit,” said an announcement. The Sunday morning service on May 19 will feature choral singing from the workshop and is part of a series of events celebrating “150 Years of the Brethren on the Eastern Shore.” Contact .

— Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Kettering, Ohio, is hosting a Cost of Poverty Event (COPE) on May 11 from 9-11:30 a.m. “One in five children in America live at or below the poverty line,” said an announcement. “These numbers should disturb us, yet statistics can have a numbing affect. The COPE experience offers you an opportunity to walk in the shoes of families in or community who face poverty every day. Think Tank developed COPE with individuals who have lived experience in poverty. Their stories offer an opportunity to move beyond assumptions or stereotypes to a more holistic understanding of the causes and affects of poverty.” The two-hour hands-on training will offer an experience of a month in the life of families struggling to get by and will develop understanding of the complexities of poverty, paving the way for the community to be better allies and advocates for under-resourced families. For a flier, go to .

— Lucile Vaughn will be recognized at Shenandoah District’s Living Peace Award banquet or Peace Feast on May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Brethren Woods near Keezletown, Va., in the Pine Grove building. New Community Project director David Radcliff will be the guest speaker. Cindy and Doug Phillips will provide special music. Cost is $17 for adults and $10 for students.

— “Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace” is the first-ever Virlina District Choir Festival to be held on Sept. 13-14 at Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. Guest director will be S. Reed Carter, IV, minister of music at Salem Presbyterian Church and director of the Salem Choral Society. Robert “Bob” Iseminger, instrumentalist at Central Church, will be accompanist. “We will learn and rehearse four or five anthems on Friday evening and Saturday,” said an announcement. “The festival will conclude with a service of worship filled with music and the Word at 4 p.m. on Saturday. It will be open to the public. We hope to have 100 percent participation from the Church of the Brethren choirs (and all others who love to sing) in the area! You’ll be able to take your anthems home to share with your congregation!” For questions or more information contact Carol Elmore at or 540-774-3217.

— Two Oak Grove congregations in Virlina District have been holding unique worship services.
     Oak Grove South Church near Rocky Mount, Va., held a Cow Bell event on April 27 including a meal followed by the Bluegrass Gospel Band with the Cow Bell Service at the close of the evening. “Each of the speakers will have 10 minutes to preach,” said an announcement. “At that point, a cow bell will ring and the next speaker’s time will begin. It will continue until all five speakers have spoken.”
     At Oak Grove Church in Roanoke, Va., the Peace and Justice group is sponsoring a prayer service for an end for gun violence on Sunday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m. “We will pray that hearts will change, the God’s vision for peace on earth will be realized and that gun violence will come to an end,” said an announcement.

— The 39th annual Disaster Relief Auction in Mid-Atlantic District is this weekend at the Carroll County (Md.) Agriculture Center. The event starts at 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 4. The auction benefits Brethren Disaster Ministries and the work to alleviate the effects of disasters around the world. Find an article interviewing committee chair Jeff McKee about the event at . “For the last 38 years, we’ve raised almost $1.9 million,” McKee told the “Carroll County Times.” “The last number of years it’s been on the order of $60-some odd thousand per year.”

— The chair of Mid-Atlantic and Southern Pennsylvania Districts’ joint Meat Canning Project, Richard Shaffer, has reported that this year the project processed 46,480 pounds of chicken. The canned meat is used to aid the hungry, with district churches helping to support their own food pantries, local food banks, and community with this free chicken. “On behalf of the Meat Canning Committee please pass our sincere thanks on to the folks who had any part in making this possible,” Shaffer wrote in an email shared by the districts. “It does not happen without a lot of volunteers and financial support.”

— Middle Pennsylvania District is holding its Disaster Response Turkey and Waffle Fundraiser Dinner on June 8 from 4-7 p.m. at Roaring Spring (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. Eat in or take out. Donations for tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for ages 5-12, free for ages 4 and under. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door.

— McPherson (Kan.) College is holding its 20th Annual CARS Club Motoring Festival this Saturday, May 4, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on campus.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has announced several awards to student leaders in the areas of faith, religious life, and service:
     Christa F. Craighead received the Merlin and Dorothy Faw Garber Award for Christian Service, named in memory of the Garbers who were Bridgewater alumni and deeply involved in the life of the Church of the Brethren as pastors. Craighead is a history and political science major with a minor in communication studies, a member of the college Spiritual Life Board and Interfaith Board, coordinator of the Church Travel Teams that provide leadership for worship services in congregations, and has volunteered at Camp Bethel in the Church of the Brethren’s Virlina District.
     John R. Hill has received the Melissa D. Jett Community Service Award for outstanding leadership in community service. The award is named in memory of Jett, who would have graduated with the class of 1999 but died Jan. 15, 1997, as the result of a traffic accident on campus. Hill is a business administration major with a minor in political science, a member of the Student Senate and co-chair of its Special Volunteerism Committee, founder and president of the campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, a member of the Eco-Action Club, has participated with Loads of Love by doing laundry for the homeless, and founded the Biggest Turkey annual Thanksgiving food drive.
     Joshua A. Layton received the Esther Mae Wilson Petcher Memorial Scholarship named in memory of Petcher, a member of the Bridgewater class of 1944 and a former missionary to Nigeria. The grant is given each year to a rising senior in good academic standing who demonstrates leadership in campus activities with emphasis on religious life. Layton is a music major, a member of the Flory Honors program, a member of National Association for Music Education, and performs with numerous music groups on campus. 
     Laura A. Michaelis, Jared A. Russell, and Sterling M. Senger were recognized by the department of philosophy and religion for academic excellence. Michaelis, who received the Philosophy Award, is a senior philosophy and religion major with a minor in psychology, a member of the Philomathes Society scholastic honor society, a member of Psi Chi international psychology honor society, and a member of BC Allies LGBTQ advocacy group. Russell, who was presented the Ruth and Steve Watson Philosophy Scholarship Award, is a junior philosophy and religion and political science double major, a member of the Flory Honors Program, and serves on the college Interfaith Board. Senger, who received the Religion Award for most extensive record of excellent academic work in biblical religion and theology courses, is a senior biology major with a minor in philosophy and religion.

— “Brethren Voices” producer Ed Groff has announced that future episodes of this community access television show are postponed indefinitely because of unexpected health concerns among those involved with the show and their families. “Brethren Voices” has been a project of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren and is offered for congregations around the country to share on public access cable stations in their areas. The show also is posted on YouTube. In a phone call to Newsline staff, Groff asked for prayers for those affected by health concerns. He is the show’s longtime producer working along with Brent Carlson, the host of the show. Groff reports that “Brethren Voices” has had “a great run as a terrific way to share stories about Brethren” and to highlight ministries of church members and congregations across the denomination. More than 100 episodes of the show are available on YouTube, go to .

— “There are many images of Christianity in fantastic stories that we love to immerse ourselves in for fun!” said an announcement of the latest Dunker Punks Podcast. “This week we welcome a new contributor, Christa Craighead, as she explores some of these connections and how God is also present in the mundane.” Listen to this episode at . Give feedback through filling out a survey at .

Christian Churches Together (CCT) has announced its annual meeting for 2019, to take place Oct. 2-4 in Montgomery, Ala. The theme is “A Historic Moment of Lament and Transformation” focused on the quad-centennial of the forced migration of enslaved African people to Jamestown, Va.

— “Church and related organizations’ response to food crises globally may need to be strengthened”following findings projecting that millions will be without food due to climate change, conflict, and insecurity, reported Fredrick Nzwili on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Nzwili is an independent journalist based in Kenya. The findings come from the Global Report on Food Crises 2019. “An estimated 113 million people across the world experienced hunger to levels requiring urgent food and livelihood assistance due the same factors last year. The majority of the people who suffered shortages last year were in Africa and in conflict countries, including Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Syrian Arab Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, and northern Nigeria…. The effects of climate change were felt most in Africa, with Ethiopia accounting for 8.1 million people out of those affected,” said Nzwili in his article. “Churches are mounting response in some of these countries,” he added. The Global Network Against Food Crises is a group of international humanitarian organizations and development partners. Their report was released April 2, following a UN Environment Assembly “during which churches discussed their role in helping mitigate against climate change and related environmental degradation, key causes of food shortages. At a side event in Nairobi, church leaders called for action beyond resolutions.” Go to .

— The World Council of Churches’ intergenerational climate justice project is a finalist for the Keeling Curve Prize for initiatives that offer solutions to reduce global warming. A WCC release said the project stems from Churches’ Commitments to Children, a partnership between the WCC and UNICEF. “Many WCC member churches worldwide expressed their readiness to support adolescents engaging around initiatives for climate justice through church-run schools, Sunday schools, and summer camps. The intergenerational climate justice project aims to provide these churches worldwide with tools and know-how to enable effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through youth engagement initiatives, with a focus on influencing policies and legislation, and promoting good practices,” the release said. “By January 2020, the WCC aims to have 50 percent of its constituency with activities in place that build the capacity of young people to act as climate activists and measure the footprint of their community and key institutions.” Winners of the prize will be announced June 28. See .

— On May 1, faith communities delivered a public statement to the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. “They called attention to the pressing need to work productively for a world free from the most destructive weapons ever created,” said a release from the World Council of Churches. “Our respective faith traditions and our lived experience as people of faith compel us to speak together, regardless of our differences, to denounce this threat to our shared humanity,” the statement reads, in part. “We recognize the fearfulness that has driven nations to take up arms against threats to their security but we collectively choose to face that fear not with additional posturing or intimidation but with continued action for a world based on trust, compassion and equality…. Our faith-based traditions have given us both the imperative to continue this humanitarian disarmament work, even, perhaps especially, when there are so many voices of despair and pessimism. We share and value the basic human right to live in a world free from the fear of total destruction, in an environment free from contamination.” The faith leaders also expressed joy over the growing support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Find “WCC Statement towards a Nuclear-Free World” at .

— Anna Osborne of Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., has been named valedictorian for the graduating class of 2019 at Manchester Jr.-Sr. High School. The “Times Union” reported that “Osborne has maintained Highest Honor Roll and Academic Excellence status from 2011-19″ and that “she has been a member of the National Honor Society for two years. Her academic awards include IHSVCA Academic All-State Volleyball Team, Regional Indiana Academic All Star, Indiana Rising Star, and was first place at State Science Olympiad Competition in Green Generation as a freshmen.” She is the senior class vice president and is active in the Manchester church youth group. See .

— Gene Palsgrove and Mary Baucher of Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren were honored at the 25th annual MLK Commemoration at Modesto Junior College in late March. “They helped found the Modesto Peace/Life Center, among many efforts,” reported the “Modesto Bee.” “Palsgrove and Baucher married eight years ago…. Palsgrove was a World War II conscientious objector, a Church of the Brethren minister, and a teacher and principal in Modesto City Schools for 30 years. He helped start the Community Rehabilitation Project in south Modesto, the MLK Commemoration Committee, the Interfaith Ministries food bank, and Modesto’s Sister City program with Khmelnitsky, Ukraine. Baucher worked with Friends Outside, which connects with prison inmates, and helped start a child care program at Sierra Conservation Center near Jamestown. She was a facilitator for the Bereaved Parent Support Group at Via, which merged with Community Hospice…was involved with Habitat for Humanity, the West-Care Adult Daycare Center, the SERRV International Gift Shop, and the Cooperative Disaster Child Care Program through the Church of the Brethren.” Find the full article at .

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