— Remembrance: Phyllis Kingery Ruff, 87, who served as secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference from 1978 to 1988, passed away Aug. 3 in Altoona, Iowa. She was born on the Kingery family century farm in Mt Etna, Iowa, on July 1, 1933, to Everett and Anna (McCune) Kingery. She completed her bachelor’s degree at McPherson (Kan.) College, studying to be a school teacher. After college she volunteered with Brethren Volunteer Service. She began teaching in Omaha, Neb., where she taught kindergarten until she retired from teaching after marrying her husband, Cliff Ruff, in 1977. In addition to her love for the church, reading was her passion. She also enjoyed travel, including that associated with her work for Annual Conference. She was honored by McPherson College as a distinguished alumna in 1988, in recognition of her service to the church, the college, and her community. She is survived by her husband, his son Brad Ruff of Omaha, and grandchildren. A memorial service was held Aug. 12 at Ankeny (Iowa) Memorial Funeral Home. A full obituary is available at http://hosting-24883.tributes.com/obituary/show/phyllis-kingery-ruff-108492348 .
— Esther Harsh has resigned as Northern Ohio District youth coordinator, a position she has held for more than three years. She is returning to school full-time to pursue a master’s degree, reported a district newsletter. The district has named Jenny Imhoff as interim youth coordinator, serving through the end of 2020.
— Founa Augustin-Badet has been named director of Haitian Ministries for Atlantic Southeast District in a new part-time staff position established by the district board on July 1. She will have the responsibility of working directly with the seven district churches who use Kreyol as their primary language. The membership of those seven churches makes up 40 percent to 45 percent of the district, according to the announcement from district executive Terry Grove. The first goal of the new position will be to help Kreyol-language churches move from fellowship status to congregational status by the time of district conference 2021. The work also will include involving the members of Kreyol-language churches more deeply in the overall program of the district and helping them improve their worship facilities either by new lease agreements or purchase of property. Augustin-Badet will join a district staff made up of the district executive, director of ministries, director of program, and director of finance, all part-time. “Our current staff now reflects the ethnic, cultural, gender, language, and age diversity of our Atlantic Southeast District,” Grove wrote.
— Camp Pine Lake in Eldora, Iowa, is opening a host/camp assistant position. The part time, seasonal position is flexible to adapt to the gifts of the right applicant, but may include anything from hosting weekend groups, general maintenance, special projects and more. The compensation for the position is housing in the manager’s residence, a value of more than $7,000. While the position is seasonal, the host may live onsite year round. Utilities will be paid by the host. See the complete description for details at www.camppinelake.org/employment-opportunities . For more information or to apply contact email@example.com or 641-939 5334.
— Almost all of the district conferences across the Church of the Brethren denomination have been canceled or are online this year. According to a calendar that is kept by the General Secretary’s office:
Holding district conferences online are Atlantic Northeast (Oct. 2-3, led by moderator Karen Hackett), Illinois and Wisconsin (Nov. 6-7, led by moderator Rick Koch), Michigan (Aug. 14-15, led by moderator Mary Lorah Hammond), Missouri and Arkansas (Sept. 11-12, led by moderator Paul Landes), Northern Plains (July 31-Aug. 2, led by moderator Lucinda Douglas), Pacific Northwest (Sept. 18-20, led by moderator Ben Green), Pacific Southwest (Nov. 13-15, led by moderator Mary Kay Ogden), Southern Ohio and Kentucky (Oct. 9-10, led by moderator Sandy Jenkins), Virlina (Nov. 13-14, led by moderator Cathy Huffman), and Western Plains (July 23-26, led by moderator Vickie Samland).
Cancelling their district conferences are Atlantic Southeast, Northern Indiana, South/Central Indiana, Mid-Atlantic, Northern Ohio, Middle Pennsylvania, Southern Pennsylvania, Shenandoah, and West Marva.
Idaho and Western Montana District’s decision whether to meet virtually is pending, and date and location of Puerto Rico’s district conference are yet to be determined.
Southern Plains has postponed its district conference to January 2021 at Antelope Valley Church of the Brethren in Billings, Okla., led by moderator Matthew Prejean.
— In related news, the Northern Indiana District Board sent the following announcement on Aug. 12: “Last night, after much discussion, the board made the difficult decision to cancel our District Conference for 2020. We will not be meeting in person or online this year. While we will miss the opportunity to gather together for conversation and worship, we feel like this is the course that will ensure that everyone remains safe and that we avoid the risk of spreading infection across the district.” However, a live-streamed district worship service will be held Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. with Evan Garber preaching. Also, the district will deal with two items of business by mail: electing leadership and affirming the district budget for 2021.
— A round-up of news from international partners, shared by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service office:
From the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ron Lubungo shared news of the reopening of discos, stadiums, and performance halls in the DRC on Aug. 15. He characterized it as “disturbing news,” writing by email that “the end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of the COVID-19 epidemic in our country.” The president has emphasized the importance of respecting barrier gestures, compulsory wearing of masks in public places, washing hands, and taking temperatures, he wrote. The DRC with a population of 80 million has recorded 8,534 cases from March 10 to Aug. 17 (the date of Lubungo’s report), including 196 deaths and 4,528 recoveries. The vast majority of cases are concentrated in the capital city of Kinshasa. “This assessment places us on the African level in ninth place in terms of number of cases and in twelfth place in terms of number of deaths.”
From the Haiti Medical Project, Dale Minnich wrote: “Leaders of the Haiti Medical Project are asking for prayer support from their US Brethren as they prepare for a series of Zoom meetings on August 29 and 30 dealing with a funding crisis. Losses in income from factors related to COVID-19 and from support previously shared by congregations in process of separating from the Church of the Brethren will require the 2021 budget for Haiti Medical Project to be pared by more than $100,000. Nine leaders from Haiti and seven from the US are expected to join hands across the waters to seek God’s leading through these difficult times.”
From Nigeria, Markus Gamache–staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)–and Renate Ellmenreich of Widowscare have reported on the situation at Gurku, an interfaith IDP camp for displaced people.
Gamache wrote: “Since the global pandemic, activity in the Gurku Interfaith Community has been adversely affected in different ways; the normality of the people’s social coexistence has been twitched by fear and curiosity that COVID-19 has created, most livelihoods were affected due to less economical activities and hikes in the prices of food and agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, seeds, pesticides and herbicides for farmers. Currently, activities are beginning to go back to a normal state at a good pace, though…the children’s feeding program has recorded a daily increase in the number of children that partake in the feeding program, thus, budget for the food items increase so as to meet the nutritional and dietary needs of the children. Prices of food have increased by more than 100 percent…. Challenges and sickness among the widows is always an area of concern. We may need to look into it. I know that some of their businesses are doing very well but that may not be enough at this trying time to support them at all levels. The treatment takes more than food…. Fulani militias have renewed their attacks on Christian-dominated villages in Kaduna, Benue, Plateau States, and other parts of the middle belt region. These coordinated attacks have forced villagers to abandon their homes and farms to seek refuge in IDP camps…. More and more people are coming to settle in Gurku and hence our facilities are overstretched.”
Elmenreich wrote: “We are grateful that the school meal program has so far been able to continue and that the children do not have to go hungry. Now the stocks are exhausted and everything is becoming more and more expensive. New refugees are constantly arriving at the camp, including widows. Boko Haram and ISAW (IS West Africa) are intensifying their terror against the population…. I cordially ask that you also think of the people for whom corona measures make life much more difficult…. The situation looks bleak in Maiduguri too…. There, the kidnapping of women by Boko Haram has increased again. Please don’t forget them in your prayers either!”
— Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., is planning its annual 5K as a “safe and in-person” event taking place on Sept. 5. Said an announcement: “In-person safety adaptations include ‘wave-starts,’ room to physically distance, pre-wrapped food, and more. The 5K is a fundraiser. Plans, sponsors, and registration are at www.CampBethelVirginia.org/5K .
— “Brethren Voices” producer Ed Groff has reported to Newsline that for the past five months, the community television program produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren “has had to be muted as our wonderful studio has been closed because of the pandemic. Just recently, Metro East Community Media has begun a process of reopening. We have been able to complete the program featuring four BVSers who were serving in Portland prior to the pandemic. Unfortunately, three of these volunteers had to return to their homes in Germany following our studio taping. Their dedication and commitment to assisting the homeless has been so appreciated during these times.” Toni Egner shared about her experiences at Sisters of the Road in downtown Portland. Jasmin Sprengel shared about her work at Energy Assistance at Human Solutions. Lea Kroener shared her experiences of volunteering at SnowCap Community Charities. Alex McBride, a graduate of Manchester University in Indiana, discussed the needs of the 5,000 families served by SnowCap in Portland. Find the August episode of “Brethren Voices,” titled “Brethren Volunteer Service Workers Extend a Safety Net for a Community,” at
— The Mutual Aid Agency (MAA) has received the “Mid-Size Agency of the Year” award in the Central Regional Category from Brotherhood Mutual. MAA is a Church of the Brethren-related agency offering homeowners, farm, auto, church, business, and renters insurance, Said a release from MAA: “Thank you, Brotherhood Mutual, and congratulations to all our fellow award-winners!”
— Sarah Farahat, who has been a member of York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., but who is living in Oregon, had a part in the state’s roll call video on Tuesday evening at the Democratic National Convention. Farahat headed up a team of artists who created the mural that provided the backdrop for the video. The mural, titled “We Choose Love,” is at the Hollywood Transit Center in Portland, “where white supremacist Jeremy Christian killed two men on a MAX train in May 2017, after they and others stepped in to defend fellow passengers who were the targets of Christian’s racist slurs,” according to a “Portland Monthly” piece on how the video was made. See www.pdxmonthly.com/news-and-city-life/2020/08/how-oregons-contribution-to-that-viral-dnc-roll-call-video-came-together . Find a TriMet story about the mural’s significance at https://trimet.org/tribute .
— “Disruptions caused by the pandemic have almost completely reshaped what occurs in sacred places across America,” said a Partners for Sacred Places study revealing a disturbing loss of community serving programs based in churches and other religious buildings, alongside a dramatic increase in faith congregations pre-recording or live-streaming worship and intending to continue some form of that after in-person worship resumes. The report “Impact of COVID-19 on Building Use and Community Programs in Sacred Places” used data gathered between June 26 and July 10 from 19 faith traditions and 37 states. It revealed a potential loss of up to two thirds of community serving programs based in faith congregations. “In late June and early July of 2020, only 18 percent of sacred places surveyed were using their buildings for worship, but 61 percent were in use for community serving programs. Yet, the number of community serving programs has fallen dramatically…. 85 percent of community serving programs stopped during the pandemic. The most commonly cited reasons were guidance from government (73 percent), the need for social distancing (72 percent), the need to protect vulnerable volunteers (66 percent), and guidance from judicatories (49 percent). Only 4 percent of respondents reported a lack of participants as a reason to stop programs, and only 2 percent reported a lack of funding…. Of the 549 surveyed community serving programs that were active before social distancing, only 34 percent are currently active. An additional 28 percent are expected to open by the end of the calendar year. However, 38 percent of community serving programs that existed prior to social distancing are not expected to resume by the end of 2020.” With regard to worship and other activities, there was “a dramatic increase in the number of congregations pre-recording or live streaming both worship (increase from 20 percent to 85 percent) and education or small group activities (increase from 7 percent to 72 percent). Most of the live-streaming is planned to end after in-person activities resume, but some will continue, resulting in a long-term increase in congregations’ capabilities.” The study found that 28 percent of congregations have no plans to return to in-person worship by the end of 2020. Go to https://sacredplaces.org/covid-19-impact-survey-of-building-use-and-community-programs-summer-2020 .
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