Brethren bits for April 11, 2020

Brethren Village, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in Manheim Township in Lancaster County, Pa., reported the deaths of three residents due to COVID-19 as of April 10. As of that date, it reported 11 positive COVID-19 cases: 6 team members (staff), and 5 residents in skilled nursing memory support.

     “Our deepest sympathies are with the families,” said the Brethren Village in a statement posted on a webpage of coronavirus updates.

     The community reported its first two cases of COVID-19 on April 1–a resident of skilled nursing memory support and a non-caregiving staff member in an administrative role.

     On April 4 it reported that two more residents in the same unit of skilled nursing memory support tested positive, and one of those two passed away.

     On April 6 the community reported two more positive tests–an additional staff member in an administrative role and a CNA in skilled nursing memory support.

     On April 8 the community reported the deaths of two residents in skilled nursing memory support who had COVID-19 tests pending. It also reported that two more residents in skilled nursing memory support and two more CNAs in skilled nursing tested positive.

     In its posted statements, Brethren Village said it has been taking “all necessary precautions…to ensure the well-being of our team members and other residents. We have notified public health officials as required and are following procedures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. We are taking every step as recommended by authorities.” Find the Brethren Village COVID-19 updates at www.bv.org/coronavirus-update .

Juniata College’s Dr. Gina Lamendella, professor of biology at the church-related school in Huntingdon, Pa., has developed a new way to test for COVID-19 in collaboration with the Central Pennsylvania Clinic in Belleville, Pa. Lamendella also is co-owner of Contamination Source Identification (CSI). The new test has been developed “in order to serve one of our most vulnerable communities, the Amish and Mennonite,” said a release from the college. “Dr. Lamendella reports that ‘our test directly detects the viral genome of Covid-19,’ which is important because RNA viruses can change quickly; this particular method reveals the entire viral genome and how it is changing,” the release said. “Drive-through testing sites that accommodate the community’s horse and buggies have been established, and the CSI lab is able to process several hundred tests per day.” The release added, “Juniata has long cultivated the problem solving skills that are a hallmark of a liberal arts education, and this global pandemic has revealed Juniatians’ dexterity and innovation. Not only do Juniatians step up to solve the hard problems, they look to address those in need and those who might be overlooked.” CSI is housed in the Juniata Sill Business Incubator and its team led by Gary Shope, a 1972 graduate of the college, also includes Juniata professor Dr. Kim Roth and 10 alumni and a current student. The development has been reported by CNN at www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/us/amish-coronavirus-drive-through-testing-horse-and-buggies-trnd/index.html .

— A “New Yorker” piece on the new role hospice care is playing in China features the ground-breaking work being done by Ruoxia Li to establish a hospice unit at You’ai Hospital in Pingding, Shanxi Province, China. Li and her husband, Eric Miller, recently signed a service agreement with the Church of the Brethren regarding their continuing work in China. This is an insightful, compassionate, and clear-eyed look at hospice in the Chinese culture. Go to www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/04/06/chinas-struggles-with-hospice-care .

— The Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry invites pastors to apply to participate in its Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program. Open to any Church of the Brethren pastor serving in a congregational role that is less than full-time, the program offers support, resources, and companionship for the 77 percent of the denomination’s clergy who serve as multivocational pastors. Pastors who join the program will receive one-one-one encouragement and consultation with a regionally based “circuit rider” who will schedule an in-person visit to encourage and help identify specific challenges and places where some extra support could be helpful. The circuit rider will work to connect pastors with colleagues, educational resources, and experts who can offer guidance, companionship, and encouragement. This grant-funded program is free of charge to Church of the Brethren multivocational pastors. Find more information and the online application form at www.brethren.org/part-time-pastor . Contact Dana Cassell, program manager, with questions at dcassell@brethren.org .

— In news from the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry:

     A National Youth Sunday Idea Swap has been announced for Tuesday, April 14, as a Zoom teleconference call. The idea resulted from a Facebook poll for youth advisors posted by Becky Ullom Naugle, director of the Youth and Young Adult Ministry, asking if it would be helpful to gather online for a conversation with other youth advisors to discuss ideas about how to do National Youth Sunday this year. Sign up for the Zoom meeting at http://ow.ly/hipP50zahQq?fbclid=IwAR2vynLll4-Top0h9TWg8aFntmrUKyUDfbtaBGW5ItLIbIj-GiDc6u0NDGk .

     Starting Monday, April 13, there will be a  Good News Youth Devotional published on the Church of the Brethren blog. This daily online devotional, including an extension activity, will be written with a youth audience in mind. Scripture texts are from the Book of Common Prayer. Content will come from a wide variety of Church of the Brethren voices. Gabe Dodd, pastor for youth and young families at Montezuma Church of the Brethren in Virginia, initiated the project in cooperation with the Youth and Young Adult office. Find the Church of the Brethren blog at https://blog.brethren.org .

— The staff of “Messenger,” the Church of the Brethren magazine, have provided a new online form to submit information for the “Turning Points” pages. This form is posted and ready to use at www.brethren.org/turningpoints .

— The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is offering a sign-up for those interested in receiving updates and action alerts. “Utilize your voice, and practice democracy by taking action by holding our policy makers accountable to ensuring that the infinite worth of every individual in our country is respected and protected,” said an invitation. Sign up for newsletters and action alerts at www.brethren.org/intouch .

— Bethany Seminary is offering a “Ministering to Ministers” Zoom meeting from 12 noon to 1 p.m. (Eastern time) on Wednesdays. “Given the rapidly changing guidelines and restrictions being used to control the spread of COVID-19, many ministers have found themselves needing to quickly change the way they do ministry,” said an announcement. “For that reason, Dan Poole, Janet Ober Lambert, and Karen Duhai, as the Pastoral Care Team at Bethany, are hosting a Zoom meeting…. This is a place for pastors and ministering persons to chat about how they are doing, how their ministry is evolving under current social restrictions, and to share prayer and ideas. Starting at 11 a.m., the meeting will be open so that Enten Eller may answer questions about live streaming for worship. Go to https://bethanyseminary.zoom.us/my/pooleda .
 
— “Read Alouds: Children’s Books on Peace, Justice, and Courage” are offered by On Earth Peace for “this time of physical distancing and homeschooling,” said an announcement. “On Earth Peace is featuring some of our favorite children’s books on peace, justice, and courage.  The books are read aloud every Monday and Wednesday on our Facebook page. If you’d like to contribute a video reading one of your favorite children’s books about peace, justice, and courage, please contact Priscilla Weddle at children@onearthpeace.org .” This week, a bonus video features Marie Benner-Rhoades of the On Earth Peace staff reading the Easter story from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s “Children of God Storybook Bible and God’s Dream.” Watch it and other “Read Alouds” at www.facebook.com/onearthpeace .

— “Nurturing the Spirit of the Child without Squelching the Spirit” is the final course of the year from the Ventures in Christian Discipleship program at McPherson (Kan.) College. The class will be held online Saturday, May 16, at 9 a.m. to 12 noon (Central time), taught by Rhonda Pittman Gingrich. “Jesus said, “Let the children come.” In doing so, he invited children to enter into relationship with him and to participate in the practices of the community that gathered around him, thereby shaping their identity in new ways as beloved children of God. As we seek to nurture the spiritual lives of our children, we can do no less,” said an announcement. The course will explore the cultural context that shapes the lives of children today (including nature deficit disorder); the innate spiritual capacity of children; spiritual styles and how they are embodied in children; and a variety of specific spiritual practices that can be used with children to help them notice and name God’s presence and activity in their lives and in the world around them, deepening their relationship with God. The unique role of nature in nurturing the spiritual lives of children will be explored. All classes are donation-based and continuing education credit is available for $10 per course. To learn more about Ventures and to register for courses, visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures .

— Living Stream Church of the Brethren is gaining interest as one Anabaptist church who has been doing “Internet church” long before the pandemic. Reports an article in the “Mennonite World Review”: “As churches respond to the spread of coronavirus by shifting temporarily to online worship, one Anabaptist congregation has been exclusively in that position for years. Living Stream Church of the Brethren is an online-only church, and these days its pastors are fielding questions from leaders of other congregations. Unlike traditional worship services streamed or broadcast from a physical sanctuary, a Living Stream worship service is entirely online, with all participants logging in, wherever they may be.” the profile piece on Living Stream notes that the congregation’s first online worship service was held on the first Sunday of Advent in 2012 by founding pastor Audrey DeCoursey of Portland, Ore., working with Enten Eller, now pastor of Ambler (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. At the time of the online church’s start, he was a staff member for electronic education at Bethany Seminary and was part of a group seeking to meet the needs of small congregations west of the Mississippi. Read more at http://mennoworld.org/2020/04/06/news/online-only-congregation-draws-growing-interest .

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, one of the Church of the Brethren-related schools, is offering an interactive and informative speaker series regarding topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each Wednesday throughout April, Etown faculty and staff will present on issues surrounding this global issue. For information on each session and instructions on how to participate, go to www.etown.edu/covid/speaker_series.aspx .

— Also from E-town, Jeff Bach and David Kenley offered a webcast that included discussion of the history of the Church of the Brethren in China. The lecture was recorded and can be viewed at www.etown.edu/covid/speaker_series.aspx . The lecture given via Zoom featured Kenley as a faculty member teaching Chinese history at the college talking with Bach, who has researched the Church of the Brethren mission in China in the early 20th century, talking about the misrepresentation of the coronavirus as a Chinese virus. The story is told of the Brethren medical missionaries in China who helped to stop the pneumonic plague epidemic in 1917-1918, a “page from Brethren history to talk about the importance of collaboration and cooperation to fight disease, and also about the Brethren emphasis on service because of their faith.”

— Residents at Timbercrest, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in N. Manchester, Ind., were delighted by a surprise serenade on April 3. Reported Fox Channel 55 in Fort Wayne, the serenade was “from their music therapist who they haven’t seen in a while since a no-visitor policy was instituted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Emily Paar, a music therapist of Visiting Nurse, joined the care team’s chaplain coordinators to play guitar and ultimately sing to the senior residents at Timbercrest.” Paar told the station, “I just wanted to bring a sense of joy and a little sense of normalcy during this time.” See www.wfft.com/content/news/Timbercrest-Senior-Living-Community-receives-surprise-serenade–569372401.html .

— Southern Ohio/Kentucky District Disaster Ministries is sharing a requests for volunteers to sew masks for the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio. “Medical masks are in short supply at the Brethren Retirement Community, as they are everywhere,” said an announcement from the district. “Sewers are invited to help meet this need. BRC has provided a pattern.” Contact Barb Brower for the pattern and additional information at barbbrower51@yahoo.com .

— “The world feels sideways these days. What are we followers of Jesus supposed to be doing?” asked an invitation to an episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast. “How do we continue living the radical Dunker Punk life, now? Good news: we’ve already got all the tools we need to be faithful.” Listen at bit.ly/DPP_Episode96 and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher for more great Dunker content.

— The Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center in Virginia will be posting an Easter Sunrise service with footage from the sunrise over the Shenandoah Valley, as well as a meditation by Church of the Brethren minister Paul Roth titled “From Fear to Joy.” The service will be available 8:30 a.m. (Eastern time) on Sunday morning. The link will be posted at  www.brethrenmennoniteheritage.org .

— Africa is “last in queue for life-saving ventilators amid global shortage” reported AllAfrica.com (https://allafrica.com/stories/202003290006.html ). On April 2 the “Washington Post” quoted Mathsidiso Moeti, Africa director of the World Health Organization (WHO): “There is a severe shortage of ventilators across the African continent to deal with the expected explosion of coronavirus cases and no easy way to get more,” the article said. Africa so far has not seen severe outbreaks of COVID-19, but “cases are slowly growing, and local health systems in most cases are much weaker than elsewhere in the world. Dense living conditions in many cities also make social distancing a challenge.” Moeti said in a briefing that “there is an enormous gap in the numbers of ventilators needed in African countries for this covid outbreak.” The article continued: “The wealthy countries of Europe and North America have struggled to produce enough of these machines to meet the demand, so there is little on the international market for Africa to buy, Moeti added. South Africa, which has the most advanced health system in Africa and about 1,300 coronavirus cases, is believed to have about 6,000 ventilators, while Ethiopia, with a population of 100 million, has only a few hundred. The Central African Republic, which has been torn by war since 2013, has an estimated three.”