Newsline for June 1, 2019

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield
Photo by Joel Brumbaugh-Cayford


1) Children’s Disaster Services responds to Missouri and Iowa tornadoes
2) Southern Ohio and Kentucky Brethren begin tornado response
3) Eastern Shore Brethren celebrate sesquicentennial
4) Faith leaders gather in Flint for environmental justice tour, plan for ecumenical water justice action
5) Church and Peace celebrates 70 years of active peace work in Europe


6) Lamar Gibson resigns from On Earth Peace staff

7) Brethren bits: Remembering Monroe Good, personnel, job openings, Pentecost Offering, workcamp in China, Candlelight Vigil on Family Separation, African Dialogue Series at the UN, continued prayer for Nigeria, action alert on civilian casualty reporting, letter on Cuba, more

Reminder: Online registration for Annual Conference ends on June 10, as does the link to reserve Conference housing at the host hotel. The 2019 Annual Conference takes place July 3-7 in Greensboro, N.C., on the theme “Proclaim Christ; Reclaim Passion.” This year delegates and nondelegates alike may participate in compelling vision conversations designed to help the Church of the Brethren discern a vision for the future of the denomination. Find detailed information about the Conference and a registration link at .

1) Children’s Disaster Services responds to Missouri and Iowa tornadoes

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) volunteer Bill Grove cares for a child at a MARC following a spate of tornadoes that caused devastation in several states. Photo courtesy of CDS

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has begun a response to the tornadoes that devastated areas of Missouri and Iowa in recent days. CDS is a program of Brethren Disaster Ministries that since 1980 has been meeting the needs of children and families by setting up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers. CDS volunteers are specially trained to respond to traumatized children by providing a calm, safe, and reassuring presence in the midst of the chaos created by disasters.

“We have a team in the MARC [multi-agency resource center] in Jefferson City, Mo.,” said CDS associate director Lisa Crouch. “They saw 58 children yesterday [May 30] on the opening day of the center. Today is a shorter day, and tomorrow they move to nearby Eldon, Mo., for the final day of the current resource center. We have five CDS volunteers currently responding.”

CDS also responded to a MARC in Davenport, Iowa, last week, Crouch reported. However, the volunteer team there saw much lower numbers of children, with only five children served.

“Overall, CDS is monitoring the severe weather situation across the US and along with Red Cross continue to assess needs for childcare in the heavily affected areas,” Crouch said.

A grant of $5,000 has been requested from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) for initial work by Brethren Disaster Ministries and CDS in response to the Missouri tornadoes and other recent storms. The money will fund staff and volunteer travel to support relief efforts including CDS volunteer travel for the Missouri response. To donate to this effort go to .

Find a MissouriNet news report on the situation in Jefferson City and Eldon, Mo., listing CDS among the responding groups, at

2) Southern Ohio and Kentucky Brethren begin tornado response

Members of the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Ohio and Kentucky District have begun responding to those affected by the tornadoes that hit west-central Ohio, in and around the city of Dayton, on Monday, May 27.

“Wow! What a crazy night,” said an initial email report from the district office sent on Tuesday, May 28. “We know of at least two Southern Ohio/Kentucky District families who have suffered extensive loss of property in the storms last night. There quite possibly are more. Please keep them and others in your prayers as clean up begins and damage is assessed.”

Since then, district executive minister David Shetler has reported that “to the best of my knowledge, none of our church buildings had damage, but quite a few of our members did.  Several families have had homes completely destroyed and significant numbers have had damage.”

Shetler said the official count from the National Weather Service confirmed 14 tornadoes touched down, most in the EF1 through EF3 range although one was classified as EF4 with winds up to 170 miles per hour (see and ). He expressed concern as well for the large amount of rain that has fallen on the region.

“Along with this latest round of storms, we have had so much rain that many of our farmers cannot get into the fields to get crops planted,” he added. “By now, we are usually close to 100 percent planted and the last count I heard was around 9 percent. Some farmers are stating that they may not even try to plant this year, but utilize crop insurance. With the trade war as well, crop price futures are very low.

“Your prayers are appreciated as our area recovers from these storms and for the livelihood and related industries of our farmers.”

District disaster coordinators Burt and Helen Wolf are at a Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project in Lumberton, N.C., but have worked long-distance with colleague Sam Dewey to help coordinate a response back home. They reported in a district email that “Southern Ohio/Kentucky BDM hit the ground running.”

The Wolfs said that on Thursday, May 30, Dewey led 25 volunteers who worked on 17 different properties in the Northridge community. “People showed up with the right equipment and were able to cut up and remove many trees, remove much debris, and put tarps on the roofs of four houses.”

On Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, volunteers are continuing the clean-up effort. The assembly point is Happy Corner Church of the Brethren in Clayton, Ohio, at 7 a.m. each morning. Volunteers are to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, work shoes, eye wear or eye protection, hats, and sunscreen. For questions or to volunteer contact Dewey at 937-684-0510. Information on more opportunities to volunteer will be forthcoming.

Equipment also is needed for the clean-up effort, such as chain saws, wood chippers, four-wheel drive vehicles with chains for pulling debris, etc. The district is compiling a list of equipment in the area that could be made available for the response. Send an email to

Trotwood (Ohio) Church of the Brethren will provide lunch for those in need on Saturday, June 1, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the church parking lot. During this time, Threads of Miami Valley along with Trotwood Little League Baseball also will be passing out clothing and personal items for those in need, reported pastor Jen and Laura Phillips in a district email. “If you would like to donate hot dogs, hot dog buns, snack size bag of chips, cookies or brownies, as well as bottled water that would be greatly appreciated. We will need volunteers to prep the food and serve the meal to our Brothers and Sisters of the community.” Contact

The district disaster coordinators also are in communication with the state disaster response network, Ohio VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). “From our position at the BDM project in Lumberton, N.C., we have been in touch with Ohio VOAD and are keeping them appraised what our volunteers are doing,” the Wolfs wrote. “They in turn will be giving us assistance as they can with various aspects of the clean-up project.” 

The district thanked those who are answering the call to volunteer and help out. “For those who can’t, pray for our safety and for the families affected by these storms.”

3) Eastern Shore Brethren celebrate sesquicentennial

Eastern shore Brethren celebrate
Brethren gather at Camp Mardela in Denton, Md., on May 19 to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Brethren arriving on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Photo courtesy of Walt Wiltschek

By Walt Wiltschek

About 80 people gathered at Camp Mardela in Denton, Md., on May 19 to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Brethren arriving on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In 1869, Jacob Kline and his family settled in Caroline County, near where the camp is now located. Brethren built their first meeting house about a decade later, in 1880, near Easton. Seven Mid-Atlantic District congregations are located on the Eastern Shore today.

The anniversary worship celebration, held as part of Mardela’s Camp Appreciation Day, included remarks from district executive Gene Hagenberger, a mini-concert and special music by Jonathan Shively of ArtistryLeads, robust hymn singing, and a litany of rededication that said, in part, “We rededicate ourselves, our congregations, our camp to being beacons of God’s light on the Eastern Shore.” The service concluded by singing “Go Now in Peace,” followed by a picnic dinner.

Other events are planned this year to celebrate the sesquicentennial, including vespers at the historic Round Top meeting house in Easton on Aug. 21 and a heritage-flavored love feast service in late fall.

Find an in-depth article about the Eastern Shore Brethren published by the Star Democrat of Easton, Md., at .

— Walt Wiltschek is pastor of Easton Church of the Brethren and serves on the editorial team of the Church of the Brethren magazine “Messenger.”

4) Faith leaders gather in Flint for environmental justice tour, plan for ecumenical water justice action

The Creation Justice Ministries board meeting in Flint, Michigan
The Creation Justice Ministries board meeting in Flint, Michigan. Photo courtesy of CJM

A release from Creation Justice Ministries

From May 13-14 in Flint, Mich., 23 board members of Creation Justice Ministries, an ecumenical eco-justice organization, gathered to pray, learn, and act for water justice. The Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is an active member, and membership affords opportunities to network with other Christian communions, denominations, and fellowships with active commitments to protect, restore, and more rightly share God’s creation.

Since 2014, Flint has not had reliable and accessible clean drinking water. Although the local government has closed their water and food distribution centers, lead is still present in much of the water supply, making it still undrinkable in 2019.

“Collectively, religious communities have had a long-standing presence in Flint, before and after the notorious water crisis. During the crisis, our communities mass-mobilized for direct relief, solidarity, and advocacy,” said Creation Justice Ministries executive director Shantha Ready Alonso, speaking to why the board gathered in Flint in 2019. “Today, the news cameras have gone away, but communities of faith must continue to renew our relationships in Flint. The city has powerful lessons for faith communities as we consider how to grapple with racial inequities, crises in our democracy, and a just transition away from extractivism.”

As the Brethren representative to the Creation Justice Ministries board, standing in for Nathan Hosler, Monica McFadden had the opportunity to engage with local activists, faith leaders, and other partners.

“Meeting in Flint, a community continually impacted by environmental racism, was an excellent opportunity to learn about the current state of the water crisis and what we can do to work for water justice and care for God’s creation,” said McFadden.

Prior to the meeting, she talked to Bill Hammond of Flint Church of the Brethren about the church’s involvement in water distribution at the peak of the crisis and what struggles face Flint now. Some of the church’s long-term work focuses on early childhood issues like childhood literacy and community-building events in order to help mitigate some of the impacts of the lead crisis.

The board meeting began with an exclusive pre-screening of “Flint: The Poisoning of an American City,” a documentary by David Barnhart and Scott Lansing of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. This was followed by an environmental justice tour. The tour guides, Jan Worth-Nelson of East Village Magazine and Pastor Greg Timmons of Calvary and First Trinity United Methodist Church, explained how poverty and race deeply intersect with access to potable water.

The board saw sites of both city negligence and community resilience. The tour wove through many neighborhoods with houses abandoned due to plummeting value, seeing clear segregation firsthand, but also saw the Flint Culture and Arts Center, a community garden started by a United Methodist community, and a Field House rich in history and current sporting activities.

The board meeting ended the following day with a planning session for Creation Justice Ministries’ further justice work in Flint and beyond.

Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, historically black churches, peace churches, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at .
— This release was provided to Newsline by the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy.

5) Church and Peace celebrates 70 years of active peace work in Europe

From a Church and Peace release

About 150 people from peace churches, peace organizations, communities, friends, and guests–from 10 denominations and Christian traditions and 14 countries–met to mark the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the European ecumenical network Church and Peace. They gathered on May 18 for a ceremony in the Reformation Church of Moabit in Berlin to celebrate the network’s past, present, and future with the theme, “‘I will give you future and hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11): 70 years of living nonviolence and resisting militarization.”

In 1949, dialogue began between the historic peace churches (the Mennonites, Quakers, and Church of the Brethren), the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the World Council of Churches on differences regarding a consistent theology and practice of peace. It was this dialogue which later led to the founding of Church and Peace.

In her welcoming address, the chair, Antje Heider-Rottwilm, pointed out that this is still a controversial issue today. “In spite of the (ecumenical) paradigm shift from just war to just peace, which is so important…. The ‘mainstream churches’ are still moving very cautiously and timidly away from the justification of military violence as ultima ratio to nonviolent conflict transformation as both prima and ultima ratio.”

In his address, ambassador Volker Berresheim from the Federal Foreign Office emphasized that Church and Peace is particularly important where politics reaches its limits, i.e. where prevention of the escalation of violence or overcoming religious and cultural conflicts is concerned. It is often people in religious communities who are trusted and who build trust as a basis for reconciliation.

Bishop Markus Dröge, EKBO (Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia), highlighted that “today forces which seemed to have long been overcome are becoming strong again. Every country, every people seems to be anxiously concerned about establishing their place in tomorrow’s world…and they are throwing overboard so much, in terms of rapprochement and agreements between powers and political forces, which has been worked out through constructive negotiations in order to secure peace. The European peace project is turning into talk of ‘us’ and ‘them’ once again…. That is why I am thankful for your commitment, which has served steadily over so many years to promote peace.”

Catherine Tsavdaridou of the Ecumenical Patriarchate delivered greetings from the Conference of European Churches to “such a valuable partner organization.” As moderator of the Thematic Working Group on Peacebuilding and Reconciliation, she has worked very closely with Church and Peace and has depended on the “expertise, motivation, but most of all perseverance, in serving peace and nonviolence in Europe…. Church and Peace has been instrumental within the Conference of European Churches in calling on the European institutions to prioritize peacebuilding and reconciliation instead of militarization of the European Union.”

Jan Gildemeister, director of the Action Committee Service for Peace (AGDF), thanked Church and Peace for “70 years of continuous peace work and the important impulses which have come out of this work–for AGDF as well.”

The network also received written greetings from the peace commissioner of the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany), Renke Brahms: “I hope and wish that Church and Peace will continue to be just as committed and passionately involved in our societies and churches in the future.”

Olav Fykse-Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, stressed that for him Church and Peace was synonymous with “obedient discipleship in Christ and a prophetic witness for peace and nonviolent action…. You constantly remind the ecumenical movement of the preferential option for nonviolence as a response to Christ’s love and God’s gift of justice and peace as signs of God’s reign to come.”

Hildegard Goss-Mayr, who, on behalf of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, has contributed to nonviolent solutions in wars and conflicts in many countries, encouraged Church and Peace to intensify dialogue with Islam “in order to discover and teach common elements of faith which foster peace and to implement these in practical ways in personal and social life.”

The evening’s program was devoted to the question, “What is needed for peace in Europe and beyond? What role can Church and Peace play?” Six speakers were asked to shed light on current fields of active peace witness in Europe from their perspective: Steve Rauhut from Refo Moabit, a member of the young community which is active in the locality; Rebecca Froese, a climate researcher at the Rhineland-Palatinate Peace Academy; Yasser Almaamoun from the Centre for Political Beauty in Berlin; Nadežda Mojsilović from interreligious and interethnic (youth) work in Sarajevo; Andreas Zumach as a journalist on the escalation of the nuclear threat; and Andrew Lane from the Quaker Council for European Affairs in Brussels.

The commitment of the members of Church and Peace became visible in all its diversity through a wide variety of contributions which also pointed to key areas of work for the future. Among other things, it was decided to intensify efforts for nuclear disarmament once again. In this context, people from the western Balkans reported on the long-term consequences of the bombing of Serbia with uranium-enriched ammunition 20 years ago. Others spoke about the effects of the “silent wars,” especially in Africa, over uranium.

On May 19, one week before the European elections, participants of the Church and Peace General Assembly joined the demonstration “1 Europe for All” in Berlin as a sign of their commitment to the European peace project. They spoke out against nationalism and in favor of democratic, social, and nonviolent living together in Europe and throughout the world.

— This Church and Peace release was provided to Newsline by Kristin Flory, coordinator of Brethren Service Europe, who noted that “the Brethren Service office in Europe has always been a member of Church and Peace and of course we were involved in the early peace church conversations.” For more about Church and Peace go to .

6) Lamar Gibson resigns from On Earth Peace staff

Lamar Gibson
Lamar Gibson. Photo courtesy of On Earth Peace

On Earth Peace has announced that Lamar Gibson, development director for the agency, has resigned as of May 25. Gibson began work for On Earth Peace in September 2016, coming out of a background of almost a decade of experience in both private business and the nonprofit sector as a fundraiser and a consultant on business operations and development.

He “played key roles in helping move On Earth Peace forward with our values, vision, mission, and strategic directions, along with our anti-racism/anti-oppression commitments, and of course in developing a culture of philanthropy and renewal in our fundraising efforts,” said the announcement.

Gibson will be relocating to Durham, N.C., to take a new position with Democracy North Carolina.

7) Brethren bits

— Remembrance: Monroe Good, 95, of Lancaster, Pa., a former Nigeria mission worker and district executive for the Church of the Brethren, passed away on May 3. He served in Nigeria with his wife, Ada, from 1952-64, working at a mission-operated primary school, and again from 1984-88, when they both taught at Kulp Bible School, working with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). In the years between the service in Nigeria, he was pastor of Dundalk Church of the Brethren, Baltimore, Md., for 15 years and was district executive for Middle Pennsylvania District for 4 years. Information about services will be announced. Memorial gifts are received to the Emergency Disaster Fund, earmarked for the Nigeria Crisis Fund. A full obituary is at .

Photo by Glenn Riegel

The Church of the Brethren’s Pentecost Offering is scheduled for Sunday, June 9, to support denominational ministries. Worship resources are available at

— Tori Bateman, who has served for two years in the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., is completing her term with Brethren Volunteer Service. She will begin work as policy advocacy coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that puts faith into action by promoting lasting peace with justice. She will continue to represent the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy this summer at National Junior High Conference and Annual Conference.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks a systems specialist to fill a full-time hourly position in information technology at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The systems specialist provides strategic and tactical support by analyzing and interpreting system data to provide creative solutions; plans, coordinates, tests, and implements changes to computer databases; assists in website-related projects including online registration forms; maps data from web applications into the Raiser’s Edge database. Required skills and knowledge include skilled competency in database management and queries; communication and problem solving skills; ability to tend to multiple simultaneous projects; detail orientation; customer service skills; ability to maintain confidentiality. Computer software and database experience is required. An associate’s degree or equivalent experience is required. A bachelor’s degree is preferred. The following experience is helpful: Raiser’s Edge or other customer relationship (CRM) system; Convio or other web-building solution experience; and/or Crystal Reports. Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Send a resume to or to Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

— Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., seeks a full-time admissions recruiter to oversee contact with potential students to help generate robust enrollment and to work with students to complete the application process. This person will engage in face-to-face interactions and must be able to demonstrate excitement and enthusiasm in a wide variety of recruitment situations, and discuss discernment with prospective students to solidify a start date. This position requires extensive travel in the US. Salary will be commensurate with qualifications. Among responsibilities are increasing potential student lists and engaging in proactive recruitment; promoting and creating interest in Bethany; assisting the Youth Engagement Office with summer youth programs; initiating connections with potential students using social media and electronic communication; carrying responsibilities for admissions web pages; supporting a goal to develop a more multicultural student body; connecting with college and university personnel to increase referrals and a presence on their campuses; attending and tabling at conferences and fairs. Qualifications include admissions or relevant sales and marketing experience in higher education; bachelor’s degree; familiarity with seminaries and theological education; affinity with the values and mission of the seminary; understanding of the Church of the Brethren in the Anabaptist-Pietist tradition; collaborative working style; oral and written communication skills; use of active listening and discernment skills; command of computer software; facility with marketing and promoting on social media and through electronic communications. Physical requirements include ability to plan and independently travel via car, bus, or plane; valid driver’s license; good driving history; ability to set up displays and handle boxes up to 50 pounds. Send a letter of interest, resume, and contact information for three references to or Attn: Lori Current, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374. Bethany Seminary’s policy prohibits discrimination in employment opportunities or practices with regard to race, gender, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, or religion. Find a full job description at .

Young adult workcamp in China, June 2019
Young adult workcamp in China, June 2019

— The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry has tweeted a picture from the young adult workcamp group in China. “The China workcamp is off and running!” said the tweet. “Day one…The Great Wall! #cobworkcamps2019.” The workcampers will partner with You’ai Care (hospice) and You’ai Hospital, organizations inspired by the Church of the Brethren mission that was active in China from 1910 to 1951. Work will include preparing food for and visiting with the patients as well as beautifying the hospital grounds. Participants will learn about the Church of the Brethren legacy in the area. Emily Tyler, director of Brethren Volunteer Service, and Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, are leading the workcamp. Ruoxia Li and Eric Miller, Church of the Brethren members and directors of You’ai Care, are site coordinators.

— A Candlelight Vigil on Family Separation will be held at the 2019 Annual Conference in Greensboro, N.C., sponsored by the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. The office invites Brethren to join the vigil immediately after worship in the North Lobby of the convention center on Wednesday, June 3, at around 8:30 p.m. The vigil will “stand in solidarity with those impacted by family separation policies. We will sing and pray together, hear stories from members of the Church of the Brethren, and learn about ways to get involved in the issue.” Find a Facebook event page with more information and the option to RSVP at .

— A report on an African Dialogue Series at United Nations headquarters in New York on May 21-22 was provided to Newsline by Church of the Brethren UN representative Doris Abdullah. The event focused “Towards Durable Solutions for Forcibly Displaced Persons in Africa.” The African Union 2019 Series provided a two-day program highlighting the complexity of the situation of refugees and internally displaced people in Africa from a humanitarian model. “Jesus’ model, welcoming the stranger with compassion and taking responsibility to treat the stranger as you would want to be treated, meet in the African Union’s humanitarian and development model,” Abdullah wrote. “The discussants spoke on IDPs’ inclusion and integration into the host country where valid documents are issued allowing for work, children attending school, medical care being provided and a life beyond fear, being free of fear behind walls, trying to climb walls, or living in dangerous overcrowded tent cities. The fear for millions of fleeing refugees and IDP persons [is] being labeled as criminals and imprisoned or the nightmare of being trafficked into slavery.” Expected outcomes from the series include increased awareness of the solutions to forced displacement of refugees in Africa; a showcase of best practices and lessons learned on African solidarity in dealing with forced displacement, including those to support women and girls; bringing out the voice of IDPs in finding solutions; concrete and action-oriented recommendations and UN-coherent support on the key issues; and regional conferences leading to a Global Forum for Refugees to be held in December. Abdullah added, “80 percent of the refugees and Internally Displaced Persons around the globe are fleeing violent conflicts and all too often meet with more violence at the border or internally in the country where they flee. The humanitarian model reminds us that we are all humans in this world together and whatever happens to my neighbor can happen to me.”
— Continued prayer is requested for Nigeria. In an email from the Global Mission and Service office, prayer is requested “for members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and all those in northeastern Nigeria suffering from continued violence by Boko Haram. Militants recently attacked the villages of Dille and Lassa, located roughly 30 miles from EYN headquarters. Yuguda Mdurvwa, director of EYN’s disaster ministry, reports, ‘The security situation is getting worse in our region. People have fled these communities [Lassa and Dille], while the neighboring villages are living in panic. We only trust and depend on God for his mercy.’” More information on the attacks can be found on the Church of the Brethren blog at .

— Civilian casualty reporting is the topic of the latest action alert from the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, highlighted in the context of the office’s work against the use of military drones in warfare. “Since 2013, the Church of the Brethren has stood firmly against the use of drones in warfare,” said the alert. “The ‘Resolution Against Drone Warfare’ specifically called out the US drone program for it’s secretive nature, saying that ‘concealment of covert activities generates confusion, results in the deaths of countless targeted people and bystanders, and undermines international law and cooperation.’ This past March, President Trump officially stopped reporting the number of airstrikes carried out by the CIA outside of areas of active hostility, as well as the number of civilians killed by these strikes. This is a huge gap in the information available to the US public. Without this reporting, we don’t know where the CIA is carrying out drone strikes, how frequently it happens, or how many civilians have died as a result.” The alert gives Brethren the opportunity to encourage an effort currently underway in Congress to fix this problem by including reporting requirements in the National Defense Authorization Act. Find the alert at .

— An ecumenical and interfaith letter supporting religious travel and remittances to Cuba faith communities has been signed by Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren, among various other faith leaders in the US. The letter was sent May 16 to the White House. The letter expressed concern “about the measures recently announced by Trump Administration officials to place new limitations on travel by US citizens to Cuba and to tighten restrictions on remittances to Cuban citizens.” It said, in part, “The proposed restrictions will have a harmful impact on the churches, temples, and communities of faith with whom we partner in Cuba. Accordingly, we write to urge the retention of the current rules for religious travel under general license and for the ability to express support to Cuban religious organizations through remittances. People of faith in the United States, including staff of national denominations and religious bodies, faith-based agencies, and members of local faith communities, travel to Cuba regularly to engage with and support sister communities. We share with them in worship, offer our human solidarity, support their pastoral and social service programs, and learn from them in return. Our visits, our moral support, and our financial assistance in many cases help sustain these faith communities and contribute to religious expression and religious liberty in Cuba.” Signers represented Church World Service, the National Council of Churches, American Friends Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee US, Alliance of Baptists, United Church of Christ, Union for Reform Judaism, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Reformed Church, Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), state councils of churches, and Roman Catholic religious congregations and orders.

— Upcoming online courses offered by the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership include “Death and Dying” taught by Debbie Eisenbise from Sept. 4 to Oct. 29, with a registration deadline or July 13; and “Interim/Transitional Ministry: More than Mere Maintenance” taught by Tara Hornbacker from Sept. 25 to Nov. 19, with a registration deadline of Aug. 21. Contact the Brethren Academy at or go to .

Photo courtesy of Shenandoah District

— Shenandoah District’s “Shenandoah Journal” features a story about Flora Coffman, who “at age 102…could be resting on her laurels, wrapped up in one of her many quilts, reminiscing about the dozens of sewing projects she has been a part of since 1980. Yet, she and her daughter, Phyllis Zimmerman, along with the remnants of the Women’s Fellowship at Valley Pike Church, have donated countless quilted items to the Shenandoah District Disaster Auction for nearly three decades.” The story by Brenda Sanford Diehl appears in the most recent issue, which focuses on the disaster auction and people who make it happen. The newsletter features a collage of faces from the auction along with the stories of Ned Conklin and his carved ducks and songbirds, and the late Ray Foster of the livestock auction committee whose grandchildren Hanna and Eston Foster, with their friend Wesley Cupp, have stepped up to carry on his legacy. Find links to past issues of the Shenandoah Journal at .

— The University of La Verne, Calif., received attention in a piece published by the “New York Times” titled “The College Dropout Crisis.” The article reviewed 368 colleges across the country and why students are more successful at some rather than others, said an email from ULV president Devorah Lieberman. “This is a much-deserved recognition of the meaningful work we do to support our students and enhance our community,” she wrote. “The report identifies University of La Verne as ‘one of the country’s most impressive colleges’ due to our success in supporting and graduating lower-income and middle-income students. The piece highlights several reasons for that success, including: our connection with students; the $1 million set aside to help seniors overcome financial barriers to graduation; and the La Verne Experience academic initiative. And the article also highlights something deeper. It quotes Anyssa Ramirez, who graduated from University of La Verne in December with a degree in education (she plans to join Teach for America this summer). Anyssa described finding a welcoming environment and a connection to classmates and professors during her time in La Verne. Connections like these are the essence of the La Verne Experience, and evidence that our campus is a place where students, faculty, and staff feel that they belong.”

— “Your commitment to eco-theology as a theme for ecumenical theological education is very important for the way we want to engage the churches,” World Council of Churches general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit told more than 30 theological educators, theologians, researchers, ministers, and practitioners at a meeting about eco-theology and theological education in mid-May at the Ecumenical Institute Bossey in Switzerland. Participants came from the Pacific, Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America, and Europe to discuss the contribution of indigenous traditions to the understanding of human relations with creation. The discussion addressed “how this connectedness with all creation shapes a new approach in eco-theology,” said a WCC release. The consultation was planned by the WCC department on Ecumenical Theological Education and the Association of Protestant Churches Missions in Germany. “As the event closed, participants decided to continue the reflection on a green reformation and its significance for theological education,” the release said. “They will prepare a message with recommendations to churches and theological institutions.”

— Abigail Houser of the youth group at North Liberty (Ind.) Church of the Brethren as well as North Liberty Church of Christ, was named valedictorian of the graduating class at John Glenn High School. She has participated in the National Honor Society, theatre company, student council, class board, League of Extraordinary Falcons, Spanish club, Suzuki Music School, and more. A news item in the “La Porte County Herald-Argus” notes that “Abigail’s GPA is 4.36 on a 4 point scale. Abigail plans to attend Saint Mary’s College in South Bend to major in Mathematics.” Find the news item at .

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