— Discipleship Ministries staff have shared a prayer request for the Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities. “We ask that the church be in prayer for the 21 retirement communities that are part of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes,” said Joshua Brockway, co-coordinator of Discipleship Ministries. “Please pray for the administrators as they steward their resources to provide care in the midst of a pandemic. Pray for the nurses and staff as they care for the community members physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And most of all, pray for the mental and physical wellbeing of the community members themselves. May God watch over each one, granting wisdom and peace.”
Go to www.brethren.org/homes/directory for the listing and web addresses for the 21 communities in the Fellowship of Brethren Homes.
— One of the Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities, Brethren Village in Lititz, Pa., is suffering an outbreak of COVID-19 among residents and staff. As of April 17, the community had reported on its website the deaths of 4 residents in a skilled nursing memory support area. The community reported an additional 17 positive COVID-19 cases among staff and residents: 10 team members, and 7 skilled nursing memory support residents. Brethren Village has expressed its deepest sympathies to the families of the residents who have died. Its website updates have included detailed information about the measures being taken to conduct testing, prevent further spread of the disease, meet CDC and department of health requirements, enhance guidelines for staff, and more. Find the Brethren Village coronavirus updates at www.bv.org/coronavirus-update .
— The Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community reported on April 8 that one staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.
— Retirement communities have been sharing suggestions for ways to help their residents and staff during the pandemic:
Financial donations for purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) may be particularly helpful during this time. Several of the church-related communities, including Fahrney Keedy Senior Living Community in Boonsboro, Md., have made such requests.
Some retirement communities are welcoming donations of home-sewn masks for staff and residents. There are many websites offering instructions for making masks, here is one recommended by Pinecrest, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill.: www.regmedctr.org/webres/File/031920%20Properfit%20Clothing%20Co_%202_5%20PM%20Surgical%20Mask%20Sewing%20Instructions.pdf .
Also from Pinecrest comes this suggestion to help residents who may be feeling isolated as their facilities are closed to visitors. “If you’re looking for ways to keep your children busy while they are off school, would you consider having them make a card or a picture for our residents? You could mail them to ‘Any Resident,’ Pinecrest Manor, 414 S. Wesley Ave., Mt. Morris, IL 61054.”
— The Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, shared a unique story via Facebook, with reporting from the “Advocate” newspaper. Mike and Carol Williams, owners of The Winery of Versailles, have donated hand sanitizer to the community that was made with excess wine. The effort was a collaboration between the Versailles Winery and Belle of Dayton distillery. “The Williams saw the need and filled it, giving it to front line health care organizations and first responders. John L. Warner, President & CEO of Brethren Retirement Community, commented, ‘Thank you Mike and Carol, I am very grateful for this generous support.’ Carol is no stranger to BRC, she has been a volunteer for us for many years.” Find an “Advocate” article about the endeavor to turn wine into hand sanitizer at www.dailyadvocate.com/news/86697/winery-contributes-to-making-sanitizer .
— The deadline for applications to the Renz Scholarship has been extended through April 30. The James E. Renz Pinecrest Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship striving to honor and recognize a graduating high school senior who, through unselfish acts and future plans, has demonstrated a commitment to healthcare, social work, or ministry studies. Eligible seniors will either be a member of a congregation within the northern region of the Illinois and Wisconsin District of the Church of the Brethren, or a high school senior in Oregon, Ill., or a Pinecrest employee or dependent, or a home-schooled or private school student from within the Oregon school district. The Pinecrest Board of Directors established the scholarship, first awarded in 2014, to recognize the lifetime contributions of Jim Renz, which included 40 years on the board, 24 years as secretary. Download the requirements and application from www.pinecrestcommunity.org/images/pdfs/2020_Renz_Scholarship_Pinecrest.pdf . For questions contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-734-1710.
— Brethren Press staff are sharing a story from customer Linda Williams of First Church of the Brethren in San Diego, Calif., who is having Shine curriculum student books mailed directly to her guitar students. Shine is a joint Sunday school curriculum of Brethren Press and MennoMedia. Wrote Williams to Brethren Press: “After 10 years of my offering free guitar lessons as a ‘side-door ministry,’ I had just about come to the conclusion that it was a dead-end for any possibility of church growth! Then, one guitar kiddo and his Spanish-speaking mom became my Sunday school students in December…and kept wondering if/when any of his friends might join him! After numerous conversations/invitations that basically went nowhere, I offered a Zoom gathering for my guitarists to play the songs we were going to do at the Easter Egg Hunt on April 11. During our time together, I invited them to join me the next day–Easter Sunday–and Youth Church was born! With 6 participants, grades 3-7! So, I’m thrilled that we’ll all have these way-cool learning tools in our hands as we Zoom together for as many weeks as needed! Many thanks for your support!”
— Camp Eder in Fairfield, Pa., has announced new leadership. The camp board reported in an email from Southern Pennsylvania District “a new hire, and a restructuring of our current employees that will help Camp Eder move into the future for God’s glory. We are happy to introduce Dennis Turner (Denny) as our Co-Director/Maintenance Manager…. In addition to Program Director, Mike Kovacs will also now serve as Co-Director. Thaddeus Smith is our Hospitality Supervisor, and serves faithfully in the kitchen as well. The board also has now outsourced our finances in an effort to secure your donations to Camp Eder, which are desperately needed in order to continue sharing the Gospel with children for winters and summers to come!”
— Religion News Service (RNS) this week published an extensive report on the black church and how it is being affected by COVID-19. The article titled “Black Clergy Memorialize the Dead, Ask Government to Address Disparities” by Adelle M. Banks interviewed black clergy across the country. “Black clergy say the coronavirus is touching–and sometimes taking–the faithful who until a month ago were accustomed to meeting weekly in their pews. Some are mourning losses in the highest echelons of their denomination. Others are counting the dead, sick and unemployed.” The Church of God in Christ “has reportedly lost close to a dozen of its bishops and other leaders to COVID-19,” the article said. In the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s First Episcopal District including hard-hit areas of New York as well as New Jersey and Delaware, as of April 15, 48 members have died, 258 have been infected, and 1,913 have become unemployed. “Some African American pastors are joining forces to demand the Trump administration and congressional leaders take actions ranging from setting up testing sites in black and poor communities to providing masks to low-wage essential workers, prisoners and people living in homeless shelters. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a March report that showed 33 percent of hospitalized patients in a 14-state study were African American; comparatively, blacks constitute 13 percent of the US population.” Said William Barber II, a leading black clergy and presidents of “Repairers of the Breach”: “Black people are more likely to be essential workers, keeping us safe and fed. But these are the very people the stimulus bill did not provide (with) the essentials of health care, living wages or even guarantee that no water would be shut off. While corporations in less than three weeks got $2.5 trillion.” Find the RNS report at https://religionnews.com/2020/04/16/black-clergy-funeralizing-the-dead-asking-government-to-address-disparities .
— San Diego (Calif.) First Church of the Brethren has made the news for donating community garden space to a program that is donating produce to those in need during this pandemic. The program is featured in a video from ABC 10 News San Diego posted at www.onenewspage.com/video/20200326/12942761/Gardeners-donate-extra-produce-during-Coronavirus-Pandemic.htm .
— Boones Mill (Va.) Church of the Brethren, with leadership from pastor Jerry Naff, has found a visual way to share the Easter story with its community during this time. As reported by the “Franklin News-Post,” the church has set up roadside scenes to share Lent and Easter with its neighbors. “The first scene for the season of Lent featured Jesus teaching the disciples at the Sermon on the Mount. The following week, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The third week’s scene featured Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. After that, Roman soldiers were scourging Jesus at the whipping post. For the week before Easter, Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha before being placed on it between crosses of two thieves. On Easter, and with the soldiers nearby, Jesus was presented off the cross and resurrected.” Read more at www.thefranklinnewspost.com/news/boones-mill-church-stages-roadside-scenes-to-share-easter-story/article_0e538827-8471-520d-afdd-7411037e4cab.html .
— Troy (Ohio) Church of the Brethren in has received a $2,000 grant to support a Laundry Outreach Program to assist those in need of laundry services. The grant was awarded by the Troy Foundation among grants totaling $277,220.33 to 23 organizations. The grants will be used in support of the foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for the community by connecting donors to charitable causes for a better tomorrow, said a news article. Find it at www.tdn-net.com/news/82390/troy-foundation-awards-grants-6 .
— April 3-4 would normally have been Camp Bethel’s annual Sounds of the Mountains Storytelling Festival, a big fundraiser for the camp in Fincastle, Va. According to a note from director Barry LcNoir, the festival usually accounts for 6 percent of the camp’s total annual budget and involves more than 100 volunteers. “Instead, the storytellers submitted video ‘sets’ and the camp staff assembled five free online shows for families to enjoy at home,” LeNoir reported. “Each video includes links that encourage donations for Camp Bethel. Since Aprll 4, the videos have over 1,700 views and have netted over $8,000 in donations.” Watch the Sounds of the Mountains “At-Home” Storytelling Festival at www.SoundsoftheMountains.org/watch . “Camp Bethel hope this provides a little joy for your families during these unprecedented months,” wrote LeNoir. “Enjoy!”
— A Weekly Virtual Campfire is being held by Camp Mack via Facebook Live each Sunday at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). “Join us singing along, enjoying your popcorn, and being in community,” said an invitation. Go to www.facebook.com/events/2491707141142969 .
— Dunker Punks has released a new podcast. “As Earth Week approaches, we tend to amplify our thinking about the environment and how humans interact with it,” said an announcement. “How has your connection to nature and the environment changed during this pandemic? In this interview with Mandy North, listen to how her perspective on what’s important changed when she decided to go on one of New Community Project’s Learning Tours.” Listen to this episode by going to bit.ly/DPP_Episode97 or find an archives of Dunker Punks podcasts at bit.ly/DPP_iTunes .
— The next episode of the video series “Brethren Voices” features Brethren Volunteer Service and the Portland BVS Intentional Living House, which is celebrating 10 years of service to the Portland community. “Unfortunately, because of the tragic coronavirus epidemic, we have not been able to complete this program which was initially planned to be our April 2020 edition,” reported producer Ed Groff. “MetroEast Community Media, the wonderful studio used to produce the program over the past 15 years, has been closed temporarily. Three of the four BVSers who were assigned to the Portland BVS project had to return to Germany during the second week of March. Prior to leaving, we were able to do a studio interview with filming at their respective projects. In the meantime, we invite you to tune into www.Youtube.com/Brethrenvoices for a look at what Brethren do because of their faith. You’ll find over 100 Brethren Voices programs. These programs have been downloaded 1009 times by 62 community access stations around the country for rebroadcast.”
— US church leaders and the World Council of Churches (WCC) have expressed dismay over President Trump’s suspension of funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) and are urging reversal of the decision. Reports a WCC release, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the US (NCC) has made a statement that reads, in part: “This is dangerous, immoral and wrong. Even though international institutions such as the WHO are not perfect, suspension of funding…is irresponsible and ill-timed.” Jim Winkler, NCC president and general secretary, said he is proud that the US is to date the largest WHO funder. “Whatever improvements that can be made in WHO are worthy of consideration but right now, as the entire world is fighting the coronavirus, it is not the time to suspend our funding,” he said. “That would be a disaster.” WCC acting general secretary Ioan Sauca “expressed deep dismay that blame with regard to the coronavirus response is being shifted to WHO–the best instrument currently available for a coordinated and coherent global response to this common crisis,” said the release. Said Sauca, “This will not serve the interests of the people of the world.” When this crisis has passed, the world should work together to identify needed reforms in the global health architecture, added Sauca. “But now, the urgent need is for the spread of the virus to be contained, and its threat managed, using all available instruments,” he said. “Uncounted lives and livelihoods depend on it.” The NCC statement is at https://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/us-must-not-suspend-funding-to-who .
— Jay L. Christner of Somerset, Ore., has been honored for many years of service and leadership to the Somerset Area Food Pantry. Reports the “Baker City Herald”: “Christner is the former longtime pastor of the former Rockwood Church of the Brethren. Because of the current restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a plaque of appreciation was presented on behalf of the pantry’s Board of Directors by Debbie DiLoreto, his daughter, at her residence.” The report noted that Christner was a longtime educator for the Somerset Area School District, and his role with the Somerset Area Food Pantry started in 1982 and continued through January this year. Go to www.bakercityherald.com/coronavirus/national/christner-lauded-by-food-pantry/article_d590c270-2d8e-5332-a56b-af7d873d0b14.html