Today at NOAC – Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019

Paula Bowser, Bible study leader for NOAC 2019. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13).

Quotes of the day

“That’s our God! Reaching out for us at our very worst times…. Are we reaching out to each other with the same kind of passion and commitment as God has reached out to us?”

— Paula Bowser, Bible study leader. She is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and a writer for Brethren Press, living in Englewood, Ohio.

“Never ever understimate your importance in the life of future generations….. They’re going to ask us about gun violence…climate change…white supremacy…kids in cages, and we’re going to have to be ready for those conversations.”

— Paula Bowser speaking about the work of youth climate activist Gretta Thunberg, who recently sailed from Sweden to the US on a solar-powered boat.

“I’d do anything for the Brethren.”

— Sr. Joan Chittister, a writer and speaker on Benedictine spirituality and a advocate for peacemaking and social justice. She is currently co-chair of the UN-sponsored Global Peace Initiative of Women. She opened her keynote address by telling the NOAC congregation that she interrupted a writing sabbatical to come to NOAC, something she would do for the Brethren but perhaps not many others. She recalled how the Brethren were supportive of her and her order, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pa., when they first started speaking out against nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War many years ago.
Sr. Joan Chittister. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“I want us to begin to remember some of the things that have been written down for us…. When we know what we’re doing and why, that sense of compass directs us.”

— Sr. Joan Chittister speaking about how to return to a core understanding of what the “common good” is for humanity, identifying the Sermon on the Mount and specifically the Beatitudes given by Jesus as a guide for both personal happiness and how to “make common cause with strangers from strange places.”

“The best years of the Church of the Brethren are yet to be!”

— Paul Mundey, Annual Conference moderator, bringing greetings to NOAC.
Jennifer Keeney Scarr

“No more do-overs. This is the story we get to live…. The promise God put into the clouds…through Jesus is now written in our bones.”

— Jennifer Keeney Scarr preaching the evening sermon on the creation story in Genesis and the story of Noah and the great flood. She spoke of God making a new choice after the flood, reaching into “this mess” of a world “like a baker reaches into the dough,” giving Jesus to the world as “God’s most creative and vulnerable choice.”

“What stories have you received from the generations that came before you? How do you continue to share them? What have you added to the story? How do you see God moving in these stories?”

— Questions shared for silent reflection after the evening’s sermon.

Sr. Joan Chittister challenges Brethren to remember the common good

Sr. Joan Chittister’s keynote speech today laid down a challenge for Brethren to remember who we are as peacemakers, seekers of justice, disciples of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and people committed to the common good.

Chittister recalled how the Brethren supported her and her order in their early days of peacemaking. She then, with stories both humorous and serious, with statistics and notes from history, reviewed the many ways the United States has understood the common good as a goal.

But Chittister said that quest has lost its way, and pointed to the need to return to Judeo-Christian roots and the core of our understanding of the common good. The Sermon on the Mount, and particularly the Beatitudes, lay these values out clearly, she told NOAC. The Beatitudes are given to us by Jesus Christ as a means for seeking individual happiness as we place ourselves and our own needs in the light of compassion and justice for the lives of all people and all creation.

She received a standing ovation for her address, and was greeted in the bookstore with a long line of people waiting for her to sign books.

Day two of NOAC 2019

In addition to the keynote by Sr. Joan Chittister, this second day of the older adult conference also included Bible study, and then more Bible study–two different early morning sessions led by Fred Bernhard and Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, followed by the all-NOAC Bible study led by Paula Bowser which continues for the next two mornings.

In the afternoon NOACers went on hikes and bus trips, enjoyed interest groups and arts and crafts, danced with the J Creek Cloggers, played golf, ate at Bethany Seminary’s ice cream social, shared at a talent night, explored the exhibit hall and bookstore, and more.

The day’s service project took a busload of people to read to students at Junaluska Elementary School, which also will receive donations of children’s books later this week.

Evening worship was led by preacher Jennifer Keeney Scarr, who spoke of the story of Creation and the story of Noah under the title, “In the Clouds and in Our Bones.”

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