Brethren bits for June 5, 2020

At least three Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities have suffered COVID-19 cases or outbreaks recently:
Peter Becker Community in Harleysville, Pa., has dealt with an outbreak that started April 21, when a first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in a staff member in skilled nursing. In regular online posts, the community reported that as of June 4 there have been no new cases since May 22. The outbreak affected 50 or more residents and employees who tested positive, and included the deaths of several residents in skilled nursing. The last death of a resident due to COVID-19 was reported on May 26.
     Expressing sympathy to the families of those who died in the outbreak, the community posted on its website: “We have been so blessed by the tremendous outpouring of support we have received from residents, family members and community members during such a challenging time…. Your support is making a huge difference for our team members. And, thank you also for those who include Peter Becker Community and its staff in your prayers. It is deeply appreciated.”
     The community reported putting stringent protocols in place including placing affected staff in quarantine at home, notifying public health officials, and following procedures recommended by the CDC. It established an isolation wing for COVID-19 positive residents, and twice tested all residents in skilled nursing.
Cross Keys Village in New Oxford, Pa., on May 18 started administering COVID-19 tests to all residents and staff in its Health Care Center, following a statewide directive from the Department of Health. “Although Cross Keys Village had reached that date without a positive diagnosis among residents or staff, we welcomed the ability to perform this testing on a large scale,” said a statement on the community’s website. On May 21, the community reported that a few residents and staff had tested positive. As of May 22 the number of positive results included three residents and six staff, none of whom were showing symptoms. On June 2, the community’s website reported results for the “Week-2″ tests for residents and team members in the Health Care Center, in which two staff and no residents had positive test results, with none of the people testing positive showing symptoms. “The few residents that had tested positive in May have tested negative upon re-testing twice,” said the update. “Starting on June 8, Cross Keys Village will continue testing in the Health Care Center on an as-needed basis.”
Fahrney Keedy Senior Living Community in Boonsboro, Md., in an online post reported that it re-tested 89 skilled nursing residents for COVID-19 on May 26 and 27, with no positive results, after an employee had tested positive for the virus. The employee later tested negative. “We remain very cautious and proactive,” said the online statement that listed extensive measures that have been taken. “We appreciate the kindness and support we have received from our families, residents, staff, and community. We continue to ask for your thoughts and prayers!”

—  A reminder from the Annual Conference office: Please fill out Annual Conference Refund/Donation Form. Each registered delegate and non-delegate has now received three emails from the Annual Conference Office asking them to fill out the refund/donation form. The vast majority of those who registered for Annual Conference have submitted the forms to indicate if they want a refund or wish to make a donation to Annual Conference. However, there are still people who have not yet submitted a form. The deadline for responses is Wednesday, July 1 (the day that Annual Conference would have begun). Find the form at

— Remembrance: Mark Ray Keeney, 93, a former mission worker with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, passed away on Easter Sunday, April 12, at Porter Hospice in Centennial, Colo. He was born May 10, 1926, on a farm in Bethel, Pa., to William Miles Keeney and Anna Maria Ebling Keeney. After World War II he volunteered as a “seagoing cowboy” with Heifer Project (now Heifer International). It was on that journey that he met his Swedish wife of 29 years, Anita Soderstrom. They studied at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, during which time he pastored a church in Morgantown, W.Va., for two years, and returned to graduate from Elizabethtown. They earned degrees at Bethany Seminary in Chicago. In 1957, they were ordained and commissioned by the Church of the Brethren to serve in Nigeria, where they moved with their two young children and worked from 1957 to 1967. Mark Keeney worked closely with Nigerian villagers and leaders in church ministry, agriculture, community development, education, and construction of churches and schools. Anita Keeney worked in education and with groups of women and girls. Their third daughter was born in Nigeria, and a Nigerian girl joined the family for a few years. After leaving Nigeria at the onset of the Biafran War, they lived in Sweden for a year and then returned to the US where he completed post-graduate studies at Bethany Seminary. The family moved to Indiana and then to Boulder, Colo., where he earned another master’s degree in education and taught 6th grade for 23 academic years. During summers and after retirement he painted houses, led short-term mission trips, and took continuing education classes. After his first marriage ended, he met and married Joan McKemie and gained two stepdaughters. Together they enjoyed extensive travel, participated in Habitat for Humanity among other volunteer projects, and remained active members in the First Presbyterian Church. He also volunteered as a chaplain in the Boulder hospitals and several senior living facilities. He was preceded in death by his wife of 37 years, Joan McKemie Keeney, who passed away in 2016. He is survived by daughters Ruth Keeney (Vernon) Tryon of Fort Morgan, Colo.; Wanda Keeney (Rob) Bernal of Gainesville, Texas; Anna Keeney (David) Fish of Palmer Lake, Colo.; Sharon McKemie (Scott) Bauer of Homer, Alaska; and Pam McKemie of Atlanta, Ga.; grandchildren; great grandchildren; and Nigerian “daughter” Glenda. A celebration of life will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, Colo., and a memorial service and interment will be held in Bethel, Pa., with dates and times to be determined. Memorial gifts are received to Grace Commons Church (previously First Presbyterian Church) in Boulder; North Georgia Community Foundation in Gainesville, Ga.; Porter Hospice in Centennial, Colo.; Heifer International; and the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service.

— Camp Mardela is seeking a camp administrator. Camp Mardela is a Church of the Brethren-affiliated 125-acre retreat and summer camp facility bordering Martinak State Park on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The camp seeks a gifted and visionary individual with a passion for outdoor ministry to serve as the next camp administrator. This full-time position is open as of Jan. 1, 2021. The duties of the administrator include overseeing the overall development and operation of the camp, building and coordinating the retreat and conference programs, promoting the camp, supervising other part-time staff and volunteers, and networking with the camp’s various stakeholders. A full position description is available upon request. Qualifications for this position include strong skills in administration, organization, communication, marketing, program development, hospitality, and leadership, along with basic computer and finance skills. A bachelor’s degree and/or appropriate certification is required, along with at least two seasons of camp supervisory experience and knowledge and an understanding of ACA core competencies. Candidates must be at least 25 years of age. The administrator should be a Christian and a member of the Church of the Brethren or have an appreciation and understanding of Brethren beliefs and values. Health benefits and on-site housing and utilities (in a separate home near the camp office) are included, along with annual funds for professional growth. To apply, send a letter of interest and resumé to Camp Mardela board chair Walt Wiltschek c/o Easton Church of the Brethren, 412 S. Harrison St., Easton, MD 21601, or via email to by Aug. 15.

— The staff of the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program have returned to work at the warehouse facility at the Brethren Service Center In New Windsor, Md. The Material Resources staff inventories, packs, and ships disaster relief materials and other goods on behalf of ecumenical partners and humanitarian organizations. The state of Maryland classifies warehouse operations providing material aid for relief an essential operation. The warehouse was closed in March to protect staff’s health until there was more information about the pandemic and safety protocols could be put into place. Donations of disaster relief kits are now being accepted at the facility. For more information contact .

— An ecumenical letter to Congress opposing unilateral annexation of the Occupied West Bank has been publicized by Churches for Middle East Peace’s (CMEP) and signed by 27 church and Christian organizational leaders from across the US including Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy for the Church of the Brethren. “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to proceed with annexation of parts of Area C in the Occupied Palestinian territories as early as July 1,” said a release. In the letter, the Christian leaders call on “Congress to wield its power of the purse and not allow any United States funds provided to Israel to be used for the recognition, facilitation or support of annexation….” The release noted that annexation of occupied Palestinian land is in direct contravention to international law and would have a devastating impact on the prospect of reaching a just and lasting end to the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Find the full letter at .

— Brethren Disaster Ministries is asking for help with supplying cloth face masks. “Whenever serving is possible again, these will be used to provide to those volunteering on rebuilding project sites who do not have their own,” said an announcement. “Depending on the supply available, more could be provided to homeowners, other partners in the areas of our sites, or other places as identified. Two suggested options with instructions on how to make the masks can be provided.” If you, a group at your church, or your district can help with
making and supplying masks contact Terry Goodger at 410-635-8730 or .

— Brethren Disaster Ministries has received an award of $5,000 from the National Organizations Active in Disaster through funding provided by UPS. This grant supports recovery from flooding in the Midwest in 2019. Plans are being made to offer a short-term response in Nebraska during the weeks of Aug. 16-29. Those interested in volunteering should contact Kim Gingerich, long-term project leader, at 717-586-1874 or Brethren Disaster Ministries will be monitoring the COVID-19 situation prior to the scheduled dates, and changes or cancellations may be made based on travel restrictions or guidance in August, and in conversation with local partners. If this response takes place, there will be specific COVID-19 safety protocols in place and all volunteers will be expected to follow them. Onsite project expenses from Monday to Friday will be covered but travel expenses to and from the site are the volunteer’s responsibility. Brethren Disaster Ministries is not responsible for non-refundable travel expenses if cancellations occur due to COVID-19.

— “Love Your Neighbor” is the latest short devotional video from Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), with leadership from Jamie Nace. It focuses on our discipleship to Jesus Christ and what it looks like for us to follow Jesus’ commands to love our neighbors, seek justice, and more. Included is a song, a Bible story, discussion questions, and a prayer activity to help us remember to pray with love for neighbors and family near and far. This is designed for children to engage with their families, and adults will find it meaningful too. Find the video at . Find many more CDS resources for children and families at .

— The former associate director of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), Kathy Fry-Miller, has published a new children’s picture book about the coronavirus titled “Helpers Win: Yucky-rus Virus.” Fry-Miller is the author of the book that is illustrated entirely by children. The book also is a fundraiser, and donations are being received to CDS. Find out more at

— The latest Messenger Radio “CoBcast” is online at . It features Office of Ministry director Nancy Sollenberger Heishman reading her Potluck piece for the June issue of Messenger, “Today, we have a sponge cake.”

— Also from Messenger Online, publisher Wendy McFadden’s latest column on “Healer of our every ill” is published at . She reflects on the racial terror of lynching in light of current events.

— The Gathering Chicago, a Church of the Brethren church plant in Chicago, Ill., is holding a 4th anniversary event focused on “Prayer Strategies for These Times.” Leadership includes LaDonna Nkosi, who pastors the church and also serves as director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren denomination. The virtual event is being held via Facebook, starting today, Friday, June 5, at 7:30 p.m. (Central time). “Tune in, share widely, or later watch the replay or host a watch party,” said an invitation. Go to .

— Prayer is requested for Capon Chapel Church of the Brethren in Keyser, W.Va., which has been hit with an outbreak of COVID-19. The “Hampshire Review” newspaper has reported that the church “is now considered an epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak–even though it followed all the guidelines for the one Sunday its doors were open for worship.” Nine people who attended a Mother’s Day service were diagnosed with the virus and a couple more church members have since contracted the disease. The article, dated June 3, is online at .

— Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren made the news for being one of the area churches that returned to in-person worship through an outdoors service. The “Frederick News-Post” reported that “outside services are part of the church’s own Phase 1, which includes both online and outside service options. Under this phase, study groups meet online, at-risk people are encouraged to stay home, masks are required and the FCOB campus remains closed. Phase 2, expected to start in mid-to-late June will be similar but include indoor services.” The article quoted lead pastor Kevin King: “Certainly we’re trying to be cautious but also recognizing that there’s different spectrums…. There’s some who don’t want to come out and be with anyone. There’s others who can’t wait to be out amongst people and so our initial phase is to meet outside. We’re going to do that for at least two weeks. That helps us not only get the kinks out as we’re dealing with individuals and some of the different processes that we have to undergo but also helps us gauge numbers so that when we do go back inside, we’ll be able to have the appropriate number of services to accommodate the social distancing.” Find the article at .

— Camp Alexander Mack will begin construction of an $85,000 challenge course on its property near Milford, Ind., made possible by a grant from the K21 Health Foundation, reports the “Times Union.” Executive director Gene Hollenberg made the announcement to supporters of the 95-year old camp, said the news piece. “This challenge course will increase our ability to reach out to the communities around us,” Hollenberg said. “Research shows that physical activity is crucial for social, emotional and physical health; however, when that activity is outdoors, the benefits are multiplied.” Find the article at .
—  McPherson (Kan.) College recently announced its plans for a condensed fall semester that will begin with on-campus classes on Aug. 17 and conclude before Thanksgiving break on Nov. 24. A release reported that while McPherson maintained its day-to-day operations remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is working toward a gradual reopening of the campus that is consistent with the state’s phased plan to lift restrictions. The college has worked with task forces from across campus and with community partners to develop a plan that focuses on a healthy and safe environment when students, faculty, staff, and visitors return to campus. Faculty is preparing for several different scenarios that allow classroom and on-campus instruction and will be ready to deliver courses in hybrid formats. All classrooms, labs, studios, shops, and other campus facilities will be accessible to students provided there are no mandates from local health officials. In the event of health restrictions, the college is prepared to implement social distancing measures. The fall semester will begin with fewer students living in the residence halls and limitations on common spaces as well as practicing personal hygiene behavior. Residence hall staff will be prepared to implement social distancing with single-point entry, bathroom assignments, and one-way stairwells. The college is finishing a health and safety plan to guide students and staff through the fall semester and beyond. Custodial crews began cleaning and sanitizing residential halls, classrooms, labs, athletic facilities, the dining hall, and administrative offices as soon as students were safely off campus using guidelines from the CDC, state, and local health offices. Increased sanitizing will continue as campus reopens. The college is working with its campus health clinic partner to assure that students, faculty, and staff will have access to virus testing when classes resume. There is still some uncertainty about what the fall sports season will look like. More details are on the college website at .

— Hillcrest, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in La Verne, Calif., is receiving attention for its service to a vulnerable population during the COVID-19 pandemic. The community has not yet experienced a case of the virus, noted the article published on PR Newswire at .

— Growing Hope Globally has announced that its Summer Celebration will be held online as a webinar-style gathering. Growing Hope Globally is a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative. The online celebration will take place on Aug. 11 starting at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). “The event will include an update on Growing Hope Globally and will also feature video updates from some of our programs around the world and more. Please join us!” said an invitation. Register at . Find out more at .

— “Are you or a loved one in the military and having concerns about being mobilized to patrol the Black Lives Matter demonstrations?” asks the Center on Conscience and War. The CCW has produced a new online information page meant for members of the National Guard and other military who may disagree with orders to respond to peaceful demonstrations across the country. The CCW, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, is a longterm partner of the Church of the Brethren–one of the founding members of its predecessor organizations during the World War II era. “You may have options available to you to protect not only you and your conscience, but also your and others’ lives,” said the document. “This is general guidance only. There is not a one-size fits all solution. Please reach out to us to speak directly to your situation and about specific options you (or your loved one) may have.” The CCW’s general guidance covers the areas of preparing a plan for the event of being mobilized, lawful vs. unlawful orders, making a conscientious objection claim, your right to join protests. Find the document at . For more information or questions call 202-483-2220, visit the CCW website at , or email .

— Eli Kellerman, a graduating senior and member of the youth group at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., who plans to study to become a nurse and midwife, has received the James E. Renz Pinecrest Memorial Scholarship from the Pinecrest Retirement Community Board.

— Thomas E. Lynch III, who has been a board member for Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren’s Learning Center, was honored as an “influential Marylander” by “The Daily Record” during a virtual event on June 1. The Influential Marylander award recognizes those who are leaving a mark on the community throughout the state. He is a lawyer and principal for 40 years with the law firm Miles & Stockbridge and has served on “countless” nonprofit boards and community organizations for more than three decades. He also is the longest serving member of the Maryland State Bar Ethics Committee and was voted “Best Attorney” by “Frederick News-Post” readers in 2019. Find the full article at ttps:// .

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