Brethren bits for June 19, 2020

— Liana Smith has completed a year of Brethren Volunteer Service working with the Church of the Brethren as an assistant workcamp coordinator. Her last day was June 12 but she will continue to assist with virtual workcamps this summer. She has returned home to Palmyra, Pa., where she also will work with a landscaping company and attend Harrisburg Area Community College in pursuit of a degree as an occupational therapy assistant.

— The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry has announced the assistant coordinators for the 2021 season: Alton Hipps and Chad Whitzel. Hipps of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren graduated from William and Mary College in 2020 with a degree in geology and environmental science. Whitzel of Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren is a 2019 graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College with a degree in accounting/finance. They will begin in August as Brethren Volunteer Service workers at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

— Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, has signed on to a letter to Congress calling for police reforms and demilitarization of law enforcement. The letter was submitted by the Washington Interfaith Staff Community, an organization to which the Church of the Brethren belongs. The letter is in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and people of color who disproportionately experience the effects of police brutality. “We call on Congress to enact long-overdue policing reforms, such as eliminating federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement,” the letter said, in part. “Congress needs to raise the use-of-force standard for police and require the use of de-escalation techniques. Congress should also deem excessive measures federal civil rights violations (such as neck holds, chokeholds, and other maneuvers that restrict blood flow to the brain).” The letter includes a call to enact justice for people of color who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter calls on Congress to “enact laws that reverse policies that perpetuate the racial income and wealth gap in our nation…. This preference for the wealthy was seen once again in the CARES Act that gave 46,000 millionaires more money than was given to all of the hospitals in dire need. This must stop.” The office shared this information in an Action Alert citing Amos 5:24, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” and Annual Conference statements and the recent statement by Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele.

— Join Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) on Monday evening, June 22, for a virtual celebration of the BVS volunteer house on Highland Avenue in Elgin, Ill., and the many memories that have been created there over the years. The celebration will be in two parts, said the BVS announcement: a celebration and a virtual walkthrough of the house, which is being sold following the purchase of a new house much closer to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, while sharing memories and telling stories; and a walkthrough and blessing of the new house that has been purchased on Stewart Avenue. Those interested may choose to participate in one or both walk-throughs, but should note that there are separate registrations for each. The Highland Avenue house walkthrough will begin at 7 p.m. (Central time) and the Stewart Avenue house walkthrough will begin at 8 p.m. (Central time). For the Highland Avenue celebration and walk-through register at . For the Stewart Avenue house walk through and blessing register at . For those who are not able to attend live, the event will be recorded. Contact the BVS office for a copy of the recording by sending an email request to .

— The latest children’s video provided by Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) and led by Jamie Nace is a children’s story suitable for churches to use in their online worship services. Find this and other resources for ministry with children and families at .

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has gone “back to the future” with its “Drop the Needle” sermon series for the church’s online worship services. At the end of each week’s service, the scripture for the following Sunday will be randomly generated giving the preacher a week to bring a sermon on that scripture text. This creative experiment mimics “both Classical music professors who randomly drop the needle in the middle of a vinyl album and ask the students to name that tune, and the Hip Hop DJs of the 1980s who dropped the needle too on existing tunes to create entirely new creations!” said an announcement. However, it also reaches back to earlier decades in Brethren history when “preaching was said to be ‘spontaneous, circular, repetitive, and “earthy”’ (Carl Bowman, Brethren Society)” and “both preachers and scripture were often determined by lot–hence the extemporaneous, repetitive nature!” the announcement said. “These days, we place value on planned, thematic, and thoughtful sermons. But truth be told, that planning can come at the expense of spontaneity and Spirit; any honest preacher will tell you they have less-than-favorite books of the Bible that they rarely preach from. ‘Drop the Needle’ offers a solution to these dilemmas in a fun way…. Let’s see where the Spirit leads us!” Join the live-streamed worship on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern time) at .

— The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) newsletter this week featured an article by Dr. Dennis Thompson about his work in northeast Nigeria in support of efforts implemented by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and the Global Food Initiative (GFI). “I’ve worked with EYN since 2016 to provide technical assistance on soybean production,” Thompson reported. “Last year, EYN formed an inaugural cohort of 15 young men and women to serve as Volunteer Extension Agents (VEAs), responsible for establishing and operating demonstration farms throughout Northeast Nigeria, which they used as training and consulting platforms to help farmers adopt improved soybean and maize production practices. To support the VEAs with capacity building and continuing education, I utilized SIL’s Integrated Pest Management and Pesticide Safety Training Course, developed by the lab to support soybean practitioners, development agencies, the private sector, and extension agents in better identifying, controlling, and managing common soybean diseases and pests encountered in tropical environments.” The newsletter included reviews of Thompson’s work from students like Solomon R. Dzaram, one of the VEAs in Nigeria, who wrote, “You boost up my brain with this online [course], unlimited thanks to you. I scored a 90% on my quizzes and also on my final exam. I will be collecting my certificate today.”

— A statement on Juneteenth from Church World Service (CWS) and its Board of Directors, and a new CWS advocacy platform on Racial Justice were announced to member communions today including the Church of the Brethren. In the statement, and the new advocacy platform, CWS lifted up “Black freedom, resistance, and the active struggle of African Americans for justice” and committed to “hold the US accountable to the democratic principles embedded in its Constitution. We stand with our Black sisters and brothers who demand immediate justice and equality, and we stand against systems and practices that obstruct these values. CWS staff and Board band together in frustration, sadness, and anger against persistent racism and violence plaguing our communities across the nation. We applaud the reforms that are taking place, even as we join the work for further reform and new and just policies to divest and invest; demilitarize and decriminalize; provide equal access to justice; and to work for climate and environmental justice and gender equality.” The CWS board and staff pledged to a number of measures in its new platform, such as accountability to racial justice, equality, and inclusion practices; promoting resources created by Black-led organizations; working with Black community leaders and organizations; commemorating Juneteenth; and more.

— The Lombard (Ill.) Mennonite Peace Center is offering upcoming events to do skills training for church leaders. “Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders” on Aug. 3-7 will be an intensive 5-day event to help clergy and other church leaders deal more effectively with interpersonal, congregational, and other forms of group conflict. “Conflict Transformation Skills for Churches” on July 18 will include sessions on “Finding Renewal in Conflict” and “How to Be Effective when People Are Angry,” among others. “Healthy Congregations” on July 21 will teach participants how to keep anxiety within their congregations from becoming infectious, put limits on invasive behavior, manage reactivity, focus on strengths, and more. “Breaking Free: Finding Resilience in an Era of Collective Trauma” on July 16 and July 30″ is frounded in Family Systems Theory and offered in the context of COVID-19 and the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, to help participants identify the impact of trauma on themselves and others, discuss strategies to break free from trauma, and find resilience. Go to , call 630-627-0507, or email .
— Erik Rebain is writing a biography of Nathan Leopold and seeks contact with Church of the Brethren members who knew or worked with Leopold when he was a Brethren service worker. “If anyone has information on Leopold they would like to share, from his time working in Castañer, P.R., his appearances at Annual Conferences, or any other memories you may have, that would be greatly appreciated,” Rebain wrote to Newsline. Contact Erik Rebain, 3032 N Clybourn Ave., Apt. 2, Chicago, IL 60618; 734-502-2334 for both texts and phone calls; .

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