Brethren bits for July 18, 2020

Intercultural Ministries has made #RacialJustice resources available online at www.brethren.org/intercultural/racial-justice-resources-2020-7.pdf . “Join us as we journey together through July and August as we share racial justice educational resources online.  Please visit the Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministries Facebook page for updated posts and share with others,” said LaDonna Nkosi, the director of Intercultural Ministries. Stay tuned for more updates and a series of upcoming webinars and #ConversationsTogether for further online discussions and resources for this new initiative called “Journey Through July and August.” To receive information by email go to www.brethren.org/intouch and subscribe to Intercultural Ministries updates. 

— Andie Garcia has resigned as system specialist for Information Technology for the Church of the Brethren, working at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. He began in the job on July 15, 2019, and will conclude on July 21, 2020. He has accepted a position as desktop support analyst at Kane County (Ill.) Government.

— Susu Lassa will end her year with Brethren Volunteer Service as an associate with the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., on July 17. She focused on issue areas such as immigration, worked with the Advocacy Network for Africa, and coordinated the Nigeria Working Group. She intends to attend Bethany Theological Seminary in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in theology with a focus on peacebuilding.

— The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry is announcing assistant coordinators for the 2021 season: Alton Hipps and Chad Whitzel. They will start their service on Aug. 10. Hipps, who originally is from Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren, graduated from William and Mary College in 2020 with a degree in geology and environmental science. Whitzel is from Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren and is a 2019 graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College with a degree in accounting/finance.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries has announced that Evan Ulrich will serve at the new tornado rebuilding site in Dayton, Ohio, through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) beginning July 24. Ulrich is from Homer, N.Y., and is a recent graduate of Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., where he earned a degree in physics and mathematics. He has attended and has served as a camp counselor at Camp Blue Diamond, a Church of the Brethren outdoor ministry center near Petersburg, Pa.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries has been directing grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to COVID-19 relief work in several countries around the world. The staff recently shared a Facebook post by Ann Clemmer expressing gratitude for one of those grants to a hospital in Goma, a city of about 1.2 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “One of the few designated hospitals for COVID-19 isolation and treatment is Heal Africa, which is already overwhelmed and overtaxed,” she wrote. “Thanks to an unexpected and generous donation from one of our partners, Church of the Brethren, Heal Africa received a much-needed allotment of protective equipment for staff and patients (gloves, masks, gowns, etc.) God continues to provide all our needs even before we ask.”

A food distribution in Gisenyi, Rwanda, with Etienne Nsanzimana

— Etienne Nsanzimana has sent photos of a recent food distribution in Gisenyi, Rwanda. Nsanzimana is a leader in the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda, which has received funding for COVID-19 related relief efforts through the Emergency Disaster Fund and Brethren Disaster Ministries. With the photos, he reported, “Currently the lockdown is partial here in Rwanda, people can move beyond their districts but with social distancing and wearing face masks all the time. The churches are still closed, markets are working at 50 percent, borders with neighboring countries making many of our people in Gisenyi to be very affected because many live by cross -border businesses. They are planning to open up the airports on August 1, 2020. Thank you so much for your help.”

“Thank you Living Peace Church-Plymouth!” said a Facebook post by Brethren Disaster Ministries thanking Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Plymouth, Mich., for its support to Children’s Disaster Services (CDS). The church stepped up to create Individual Kits of Comfort for CDS to distribute to children affected by disasters during the pandemic, when CDS volunteers are unable to serve children and families in person at disaster sites. Associate director Lisa Crouch recently picked up 120 kits from the church for use during this coming disaster season.

“Thank you Living Peace Church-Plymouth!” said a Facebook post by Brethren Disaster Ministries thanking Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Plymouth, Mich., for its support to Children’s Disaster Services (CDS). The church stepped up to create Individual Kits of Comfort for CDS to distribute to children affected by disasters during the pandemic, when CDS volunteers are unable to serve children and families in person at disaster sites. Associate director Lisa Crouch recently picked up 120 kits from the church for use during this coming disaster season.

— The Discipleship Ministries of the Church of the Brethren was a co-sponsor of “Inhabit 2020 at Home,” an online conference of the Parish Collective. “Given the revelation of this moment with COVID-19 and systemic racial injustice–is it too late to reorganize the church in the neighborhood for a more equitable future?” said a description of the event, which took place July 16-17. Speakers included Willie Jennings, Shane Claiborne, Majora Carter, Lisa Sharon Harper, John McKnight, and Jonathan Brooks. Ticket purchasers will have access to all live content for four weeks after the conference. Go to www.eventbrite.com/e/inhabit-2020-at-home-tickets-109059114748 .

— “Messenger” magazine has posted a racial justice page at www.brethren.org/messenger/articles/racial-justice.html . This page offers a collection of the magazine’s articles addressing race in recent years, plus some excerpts and images from key pieces.

— On Earth Peace is offering a four-part webinar series on “Raising Race-Conscious Kids” with topics including how parents and teachers can address race, the myth of color-blindness, the role of racial scripts, and the future of racial justice. The webinars will take place on Thursdays from July 23 through Aug. 13, at 8-9 p.m. (Eastern Time). Go to www.onearthpeace.org/webinar_series_raising_race_conscious_kids .

— A staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 at Pinecrest Community, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill. “No residents with symptoms have been reported as of Monday, July 13,” reported the “Ogle County News.” Pinecrest CEO Ferol Labash reported the case in a letter to residents and resident representatives, the newspaper said, reporting that last week, Pinecrest “performed COVID-19 testing of residents and staff to establish a baseline as recommended by CMS. It received the results of 202 tests and is still waiting for the results on 60 tests.” Read the article, which includes details about Pinecrest’s extensive COVID-19 protocols, at www.oglecountynews.com/2020/07/15/pinecrest-staff-member-tests-positive-for-covid-19/atp55ot .

— The online cooking class “Elaboración de Pasta Artesanal” sponsored by La Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU) in Ecuador as a special fundraiser has had to be postponed. The chef who was to give the class has tested positive for COVID-19. FBU has announced a new date and time for the online course: Aug. 7 and 8, from 7-9 p.m. (central time). The event will be held in Spanish. Go to www.facebook.com/events/1190173101333110/ .

— Missouri and Arkansas District will hold its 29th district conference through Internet and telephone connections using Zoom on Sept. 11-12. The district leadership “has decided that it is in the best interest of the people of our district,” said an announcement. “We have worked very hard to provide a conference that will be safe for everyone and accomplish the work of the district as well as providing opportunities for worship and fellowship. The schedule will be much the same with a Friday afternoon workshop open to everyone, an insight session, Bible study, worship, special music, and a Sunday message from Annual Conference moderator-elect David Sollenberger.” The workshop led by Sollenberger will center around the compelling vision proposal to come before the 2021 Annual Conference, with opportunities for questions and small group discussion (ministers will receive .3 CEUs for participating). The insight session will be led by staff of the Church of the Brethren (ministers will receive .1 CEUs for participating). The Bible study will be led by staff of Bethany Theological Seminary (minister will receive .1 CEUs for participating). Following Bible Study, there will be a worship service with district moderator Paul Landes speaking. The event also will include business sessions, a time of remembrance for district members who have passed away since the last district conference, and a virtual talent show and ice cream social.

 “Domestic Violence: An Online Opportunity for Increased Awareness, Education, and Support” is offered Aug. 1 by the Virlina District Commission on Nurture Family Life Ministries Committee. The virtual event includes worship led by Patrick and Susan Starkey of Cloverdale Church of the Brethren; a workshop led by Stephanie Bryson of the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley on the topic “Barriers in Domestic Violence Situations and the Dangers of Staying and Leaving”; and a workshop with Stacey Sheppard of Total Action for Progress, Domestic Violence Services, on the topic “Dynamics of Domestic Violence and Special Considerations with Underserved Populations.” Videos will be available on the Virlina District website at www.virlina.org starting Aug. 1.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has announced a test-optional admission policy for three years, starting with undergraduate applicants for the 2021-22 academic year. A release said the college’s “personalized and holistic approach to student success is now being applied to the college’s admission process…. Bridgewater’s admissions team recognizes that standardized test scores are not the main determining factor of student success. In addition, the college understands some students may have difficulty scheduling a test date due to complications related to the COVID 19 pandemic.” The release said undergraduate students applying to Bridgewater for the 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years may choose whether to submit SAT or ACT scores, alongside application information such as grades, overall classroom performance, and extracurricular activities. “Our admissions staff members have always examined every component of a student’s application, but the record of course selection, grades, GPA and the strength of the curriculum has consistently provided the most accurate predictor of a student’s chance for future success at BC,” said vice president for Enrollment Management Michael Post. At the end of the three years, the college will determine whether to reinstate a testing requirement or extend the test optional policy.

— A “bonus” summer episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast continues Josiah Ludwick’s series on Intercultural Ministries. “He takes us on an international visit to learn about the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda,” said an announcement. “Be inspired as you hear from church leaders across the pond and reflect on your own sharing of the gospel along with host, Emmett Witkovsky Eldred.” Listen now by going to bit.ly/DPP_Bonus12 or subscribe
at bit.ly/DPP_iTunes .

— The World Council of Churches is advocating with Turkey to keep Hagia Sophia as the shared heritage of humanity, said a WCC release. In a letter to H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, WCC interim general secretary Ioan Sauca “is expressing his fervent hope and prayer that Hagia Sophia will not become once again a focus of confrontation and conflict, but will be restored to the emblematic unifying role that it has served since 1934.” Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage site that, until President Erdogan’s recent decision to turn it back into a mosque, had been a museum since 1934 by decree of the Turkish republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Originally built in the sixth century as a Christian cathedral when Constantinople (now Istanbul) was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after 1453, when the Ottomans laid siege to and took Constantinople. “Since it began functioning as a museum in 1934,” the WCC letter said, in part, “Hagia Sophia has been a place of openness, encounter and inspiration for people from all nations and religions, and a powerful expression of the Republic of Turkey’s commitment to secularism and inclusion and of its desire to leave behind the conflicts of the past. Today, however, I am obliged to convey to you the grief and dismay of the World Council of Churches…. By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey’s openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division. Regrettably, this decision has also been taken without prior notice or discussion with UNESCO regarding the impact of this decision on Hagia Sophia’s universal value recognized under the World Heritage Convention…. The WCC together with its member churches has spoken out in defence and support of other religious communities, including Muslim communities, for their rights and integrity to be respected. The decision to convert such an emblematic place as Hagia Sophia from a museum back to a mosque will inevitably create uncertainties, suspicions and mistrust, undermining all our efforts to bring people of different faiths together at the table of dialogue and cooperation. Moreover, we greatly fear that it will encourage the ambitions of other groups elsewhere that seek to overturn the existing status quo and to promote renewed divisions between religious communities.” Find the WCC letter at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-urges-in-open-letter-to-president-erdogan-to-keep-hagia-sophia-as-the-shared-heritage-of-humanity/ .

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