Brethren bits for July 25, 2020

Brethren in the class of 2020–graduates from high school, college, and beyond–make up the “centerfold” of the July/August issue of the Church of the Brethren magazine “Messenger.” The feature section includes musings on what it means to graduate during this pandemic year. Subscribers, look for your copies to arrive in mailboxes soon. For those who do not yet subscribe, subscription information is at . Extra copies of this special issue celebrating 2020 graduates may be available for purchase, contact subscriptions staff Diane Stroyeck at .

— Remembrance: Gene Hipskind, 78, a former district executive minister in the Church of the Brethren, died on July 11 at his home in Boise, Idaho. Hipskind led Pacific Southwest District as district executive for almost eight years, from Sept. 1994 through July 2002, when he retired. Following retirement he moved to Idaho. His volunteer work for the church continued following retirement, including service as a district coordinator for the Training in Ministry program of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, in which he represented Idaho and Southern Plains Districts. He was born in 1941 in Wenatchee, Wash., to Glenn and Frances Hipskind. He attended La Verne (Calif.) College, now the University of La Verne, where he met his wife, Linda L. Ashby. They married in 1965. He also was a graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary and was ordained as a Church of the Brethren minister in 1968. He pastored churches in Oregon, California, Indiana, Idaho, and Ohio, prior to serving as a district executive. He was a member of Pomona (Calif.) Fellowship Church of the Brethren and in Boise he attended Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship. He was preceded in death by his wife, Linda, who passed away in 2016. He is survived by daughter Joy (Jason) Shaffer of Boise, son Kirk of Spokane, Wash., and grandchildren. Memorial gifts are received to Heifer International and the Boise Philharmonic Master Chorale, with which Hipskind sang before he was restricted by health concerns. Services will be announced at a later date.

— Remembrance: Timothy Sites, 60, interim pastor of Leake’s Chapel Church of the Brethren in Stanley, Va., has passed away from COVID-19. His is one of the first deaths to COVID-19 of an active pastor currently serving a Church of the Brethren congregation. Shenandoah District shared its grief in a district newsletter announcement: “Sisters and Brothers, it is with heavy hearts we share Brother Timothy L. Sites, 60, passed away this morning [on July 16] at University of Virginia Hospital from the effects of COVID-19. Brother Tim was former pastor with Fairview Endless Caverns and most recently served as interim with Leake’s Chapel. Please hold his wife, Brenda, along with the entire family in your thoughts and prayers through this time.” A graveside service was held Sunday, July 19, at the Bethel Mennonite Church Cemetery near Broadway, Va.

— Steve Lipinski, manager of Brethren Foundation Operations for Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) for nearly 13 years, has announced his retirement, effective Aug. 5. His last day of work at the BBT offices at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., was July 20. Sherri Crowe, client manager for the Brethren Foundation, will assume the duties of manager of Brethren Foundation Operations on Aug. 5. BBT has announced an opening for a new client manager for the Brethren Foundation.

— Pauline Liu started as interim volunteer coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) on July 20 after serving for the last three months BVS orientation assistant. She is a 2018 graduate of the University of Colorado with a degree in psychology. She was a BVS volunteer in Unit 319, working from 2018-2019 at a L’Arche community in Kilkenny, Ireland. She will continue to work remotely from Colorado.

— Jon Prater has been hired by Shenandoah District as part-time director of Ministerial Services, as of July 21. He pastors Mt. Zion-Linville Church of the Brethren and has served the district in a number of positions including chair of the District Leadership Team and most recently chair of the District Discernment Team. He will be developing and strengthening the process leading up to licensing of ministerial candidates including working with individuals who indicate interest in ministry, strengthening cohort groups, working with mentors and candidates, providing opportunities for growth and fellowship for those engaged in the process, and working with the district executive in developing continuing education and fellowship opportunities for pastors.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks an executive director of Global Mission to fill a full-time salaried position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The major responsibility is to guide and implement the international mission program of the Church of the Brethren; direct and administer denominational mission efforts; generate a responsive and integrated denominational mission structure with grassroots support and involvement; and nurture an ongoingconversation about mission (evangelism, church-planting, service, peace, and reconciliation) among membership. Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision and mission of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board; significant understanding of mission theology and practice, with specific knowledge of relief, development, and/or church planting mission operations in the international context; extensive management and organizational skills developed through experience supervising multiple staff and administering multi-site programs; skills to coach highly educated and self-motivated professionals, many of whom are off-site domestically and internationally; ability to coordinate multiple processes and projects; strong skills in verbal and written communications; knowledge of cross-cultural adjustment, dependency issues, ecumenical cooperation, and interfaith challenges gained from working internationally; language capabilities in addition to English. A seminary degree or master’s degree in a relevant field is required. Applications are being received and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Send a resume to or to Human Resources Manager, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

— Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is seeking a client manager for the Brethren Foundation to provide field presence and backup support for the director of the Brethren Foundation and the manager of Brethren Foundation Operations. Duties include office operations support and assisting with implementing activities that strengthen relationships with asset management and deferred gift clients. The ideal candidate will have an undergraduate degree in business and a strong working knowledge of investments. The successful candidate may be required to obtain additional financial credentials. This position requires a person who enjoys working with people; is detail oriented and has the ability to prioritize workloads; is proficient with computer systems and applications; and possesses exceptional organizational skills. Impeccable follow-up abilities are a must. BBT is seeking candidates with strong verbal and written communications skills, proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, and a demonstrated track record of providing superior customer service and a willingness and ability to expand knowledge and effectiveness through classes and workshops. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. This position requires some business travel. The position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Salary and benefits are competitive with organizations of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. To apply, send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary-range expectation to Michelle Kilbourne, 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or . For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust, visit .

— The Pennsylvania Council of Churches seeks a fulltime executive director. The council, with offices in Harrisburg, Pa., seeks a leader to help the organization address the issues facing the Christian community. The successful candidate will be a skilled and committed ecumenist combining broad scriptural/theological scholarship, passion for and demonstrated experience in ecumenism, with strong leadership and relationship-building skills. Find the full announcement and more information at .

— Registration is now open for a free webinar from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership titled “Defining Set-Apart Ministry Within the Multivocational Reality: Exploring the Special Rewards and Challenges of Pastoral Ministry in a Multivocational Context.” The online event takes place on Aug. 13 at 7-8 p.m. (Eastern time). The presenter is Sandra Jenkins, pastor of Constance Church of the Brethren and a full-time public school music teacher and regular instructor for the Brethren Academy. Ministers may receive 0.1 continuing education credit. Register at .

— The Church of the Brethren Global Mission office is sharing prayers of praise for positive developments in Haiti, including completion of an Internet project serving the headquarters compound of L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) in Croix des Bouquets, funded jointly by Global Mission and Service and the Haiti Medical Project, and for the arrival of a vegetable seed shipment that is part of a Global Food Initiative grant. However, Romy Telfort, general secretary of the church in Haiti, also reported that COVID-19 seems to be spreading through the churches with many people having fevers and extreme tiredness. “Continue to pray for the church in Haiti, those sick with COVID-19, the Haiti Medical Project, and GFI work,” said the Global Mission prayer request.

— In another prayer request from Global Mission, the director of Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU) in Ecuador, Alfredo Merino, has asked for prayer for the COVID-19 spike in the city of Quito. “He reports that it is out of control and the health system is overrun,” said an email from Global Food Initiative manager Jeff Boshart. The email mentioned a nurse who has been hospitalized in ICU on a ventilator for over a week, and also the chef who was to be featured in an online cooking class fundraiser for FBU, who has tested positive for COVID-19 along with his entire family.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries’ new tornado rebuilding project is getting attention from the “Dayton Daily News.” With a headline reminding homeowners of an Aug. 1 deadline to apply for free help with rebuilding from the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group, the article gave a nod to Brethren volunteers who “despite the pandemic…pulled into town earlier this week with tool trailers and regional volunteers to tackle larger projects–starting work Monday on a two-story house on Valley Street in Dayton.” Find the article at .

— Online peacebuilding courses are available from the US Institute of Peace (USIP) in a program recommended by the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. These courses are free through the end of the year. “USIP’s online training can help professionals already working in peacebuilding roles–and those seeking to start or build their careers in that direction,” said an announcement. “The current responses to COVID-19 and systemic racism have created an increased demand for resources and training to help today’s peacebuilders transform violent conflicts in their communities and to assist people who are seeking nonviolent change around the world. To meet that demand, the U.S. Institute of Peace is offering its entire catalog of online courses tuition-free from now until the end of 2020…. USIP has built its Global Campus–an online training center with 33 courses in basic conflict resolution skills and peacebuilding tools–to help policymakers, practitioners, and people working to build peace internationally or in their own communities. The online training includes introductory micro-courses that require at most three hours of study and full-length courses that may require 10 to 20 hours to complete. Online trainees receive a certificate of completion.” Go to .
— Mid-Atlantic District has announced the cancellation of its 2020 district conference. “Your Program and Arrangements Committee has been in prayer and consideration of how best to address the realities of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the annual District Conference scheduled for October 2020,” said a letter from district moderator Allen O’Hara in the district newsletter. Citing scriptural commands to love others, the letter said the decision to cancel was made “out of this care and concern, this love for our neighbors, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.” The 2021 district conference is now planned for next Oct. 8-9 at Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren on the same theme as the 2020 conference was to focus on, 1 Corinthians 13. Preliminary arrangements have been made for Christian musician Ken Medema to be the guest leader. Two 2020 agenda items normally handled by a vote of the delegate body–affirmation of the ballot and approval of the budget–will be handled by mail this year.

— Mid-Atlantic District also shared a report on distribution of meat canned in 2019 by the Meat Canning Project. Rich Shaffer, chair, wrote that distributions from 2019 included 3,600 cans distributed by Christian Aid Ministries to Liberia for a “Food for Orphan” program; and 4,800 cans distributed by the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resource program based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., to hurricane relief work in the Bahamas partnering with Feed the Children. Meat canning has been canceled for 2020, but the report asked, “Please start encouraging folks to consider volunteering in 2021 as the need will be great.”
— Southern Ohio/Kentucky District of the Church of the Brethren has announced “Monies or Masks for BRC” as the service project for its 2020 district conference. “We invite congregations to donate monies for the purchase of masks or make masks for staff and residents at the Brethren Retirement Center” in Greenville, Ohio, said an announcement. “Let’s spread the love and compassion of Jesus Christ as we care for all our BRC folks.” Send monitory donations to Southern Ohio/Kentucky District marked “Monies for Masks.” Send completed masks to BRC, 750 Chestnut, Greenville, OH 45331, identified as “district conference service project.”

 “Heritage Fair 2020 begins now…and ends on October 15,” said an announcement from the Church of the Brethren’s Middle Pennsylvania District. “Heritage Fair is going to look different this year, but it hasn’t been totally cancelled!” The Heritage Fair Planning Committee announced that although there will be no physical gathering, there will be many opportunities to participate online or at a distance. The district shared a poster listing opportunities including preparing and selling a favorite Heritage Fair item to raise funds, taking a special offering, sponsoring a “Walk/Run for Heritage Fair” and challenging other church members “to walk the total of 100 miles, or more and ask for sponsors. Perhaps 10 people will walk 10 miles. Make it a hike and two or three people can do it together.” Other opportunities include sponsoring an online auction, having a curb-side pick-up meal, having an online concert and getting sponsors, putting together a Heritage Fair cookbook for sale, accepting the “Ice Water Challenge and drench your Pastor, Camp Rep, or Choir Director…. If congregations raise $25,000, or more, for Heritage Fair 2020, Camp and District leadership will be drenched with ice water from the camp tractor’s bucket–of course, it will be videoed and shared.”

— Music composed by three women who lived in the Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County, Pa., in the mid-1700s may be the first compositions by women of the American colonies, according to National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” on July 24. Ephrata Cloister was an offshoot of the Brethren movement, an intentional religious community begun by Conrad Beissel in 1732, not too many years after Brethren first arrived in North America from Europe. Beissel and the cloister were known for devotional music and hymn-writing. NPR interviewed Chris Herbert, a vocalist and musicologist who discovered small notations of names written beside musical compositions while working on digitizing the Ephrata Codex music manuscript in the Library of Congress. “Three of those names belonged to women: Sister Föben, Sister Katura, and Sister Hanna,” NPR reported. Herbert “deduced that these names indicated authorship. After continuing his research, Herbert could not find any evidence of compositions that predate the ones composed by the sisters listed in the Ephrata Codex.” Herbert went on to record an a cappella quartet singing those compositions in the meetinghouse at the cloister, which is still standing, “the original building the music would have been intended for,” NPR noted. The cloister is now a state-owned historical site and museum of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The album titled “Voices in the Wilderness” is due out in spring 2021 via Bright Shiny Things. Read more at .

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee meeting on July 20-24 approved new dates for the WCC 11th Assembly to be held in Karlsruhe, Germany: Aug. 31-Sept. 8, 2022.
     The meeting also focused on racial justice and concerns related to the pandemic. The executive committee heard a report from Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary, that highlighted the WCC’s plans for addressing both sustainability and racism. A history of WCC engagement on racism was presented in “A Concept Paper on Programmatic Initiative on Overcoming Racism, Racial Discrimination and Xenophobia,” and the executive committee requested that detailed plans and budget for a “transversal” on overcoming racism be presented at its next meeting in November.
     One of the public statements from the executive committee addressed Nigeria and the violent insurgency in the northeast of the country, noting that the northwest has recently suffered extremist attacks as well, creating “a situation of endemic insecurity for many communities and vast numbers of people” exacerbated by rises in food insecurity and gender-based violence accompanying the coronavirus pandemic, prompting calls for legal and social reforms. Lebanon’s decades-long civil struggle was also a concern, as was Jerusalem and the struggles of its Christian communities to ensure their rights and to continue the Christian presence in the Old City. The executive committee acknowledged the reconversion as a mosque of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Turkey, and invited prayerful solidarity and support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate [an Orthodox church organization] in its efforts to challenge and reverse this decision by the Turkish government.
     In other business related to the pandemic, a group was appointed to review documents and considerations regarding electronic communications for consultation and decision, to report back in November, and a financial strategy will be updated to include the year 2022, also for discussion in November before submission to the WCC Central Committee. Grave concern was expressed over the situation in Brazil in relation to the pandemic, and particularly its impact on indigenous peoples and Quilombola communities.
     Read the full press release at .

— Gimbiya Kettering is writing a children’s book titled “A to Z of Staying Home,” in instalments posted online. Kettering is the former director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. She is writing the story of second grader Amandla and her family and their experiences during the pandemic in real time, imagining how the events, crises, worries, and struggles that have surrounded and coincided with COVID-19 would affect Amandla’s life.
     Amandla, “who would rather be in medical school,” suddenly sees everything that used to be part of her life–tardy slips, substitute teachers, birthday parties, and more–disappear “when the COVID-19 epidemic breaks out and her city declares that everyone needs to STAY AT HOME,” says the online introduction to the book.
     Kettering’s inspirations were the Judy Moody and Ramona Quimby books, which she started reading with her daughter a few weeks before the coronavirus quarantines began. “She immediately loved them and related directly with the characters,” Kettering said. “However, as the quarantine began and the weeks stretched longer and longer, I realized that she still liked the books but her immediate connection to the stories changed. It went from her exclaiming, ‘That is just like me!’ to reflectively remembering, ‘We used to do that.’ So much of children’s literature is about going out and being in social spaces–it focuses on the dramas of going to school, on field trips, to the library, and playgrounds…. All of these things are suddenly very distant in the lives of children. After several days of looking for an early chapter book that would relate to what it means to be in quarantine and not finding it, I realized that I have the tools to write it myself.”
     The book is for younger readers, timed a few weeks behind current events, set in Washington, D.C., drawing on Kettering’s life and also what she is hearing from other families in the area. She is publishing a chapter every week or so and making it available for free for families “who might want access to a story that their children can relate to about what it is like to be in quarantine,” she said.
     Fourteen chapters are now available, from Chapter 1, “A Is for Amandla,” through Chapter 14, “O Is for Obstinate,” and all of the letters in between. The letter J is represented by an author’s note on “J Is for Justice.”
     Find the book beginning with Chapter 1 at .

Go to to subscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline free e-mail news service and receive church news every week.

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]