Brethren bits for March 13, 2020

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— This year’s National Youth Sunday theme is “Through My Fear I Trust in God” based on Psalm 56:1-4. Resources are available at www.brethren.org/yya/national-youth-sunday.html .

— The Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry invites pastors to apply to participate in its Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program. Open to any Church of the Brethren pastor serving in a congregational role that is less than full-time, the program offers support, resources, and companionship for the 77 percent of the denomination’s clergy who serve as multivocational pastors. Pastors who join the program will receive one-one-one encouragement and consultation with a regionally based “circuit rider” who will schedule an in-person visit to encourage and help identify specific challenges and places where some extra support could be helpful. The circuit rider will work to connect pastors with colleagues, educational resources, and experts who can offer guidance, companionship, and encouragement. This grant-funded program is free of charge to Church of the Brethren multivocational pastors. Find more information and the online application form at www.brethren.org/part-time-pastor . Contact Dana Cassell, program manager, with questions at dcassell@brethren.org .

— The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is informing church members of the humanitarian effects of US sanctions on Iran, causing food insecurity. In a blogpost dated March 12, the office’s food insecurity intern Priscilla Weddle reviewed the effects on food insecurity and hunger in Iran from sanctions re-imposed in 2018 covering shipping, finance, and energy, aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear capabilities. “These sanctions have had a devastating impact on the country’s economy and its citizens,” she wrote. “Iran’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted an estimated 4.8% in 2018 and was forecast to shrink another 9.5% in 2019 (International Monetary Fund, 2019). Living costs have also risen as a result of inflation. Inflation is estimated to reach 38% with rates being especially high for food items; for example, the cost of meat has gone up 116 percent (World Bank, 2019). The rising food prices and unemployment rate has resulted in many families being unable to purchase basic items…. The Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy has strong concerns about the welfare of the Iranian people because of the ways in which economic sanctions are correlated with insecurity and deprivation.” Find the full blogpost at https://blog.brethren.org/2020/us-sanctions-on-iran-food-insecurity .

— Northern Indiana District has announced a change of leadership for its district conference this year. “The District Board would like to share that there has been a change in leadership for the 2020 District Conference,” said an announcement sent to Newsline. “On February 10th, Brother Craig Alan Myers submitted his resignation as Moderator for the district. After prayer, discussion, and consultation with Moderator-Elect, Sister Kara Morris; the District Board has moved to appoint Brother Evan Garber to fill the position pending final approval at conference. Brother Garber has been the pastor at Bremen since 2013 and has served on District Board for six years. Please be in prayer for the district and our new leadership leading up to District Conference.”

— The Pinecrest community in Mount Morris, Ill., one of the Church of the Brethren-related retirement facilities, is on the list for Sterling Federal Bank’s Third Annual Employee Charity Challenge. “Sterling Federal Bank is excited to give back to the organizations who give so much to our communities!” said an invitation. “Please vote for your favorite charity and continue voting throughout March!” The webpage for the event offers a selection of charities to vote for, including Pinecrest. The organization with the most votes will receive $20,000, with the second place charity receiving $10,000 and the third place receiving $5,000. Go to https://sterling-federal.app.do/2020_3_ecc .

— Congregations wanting to plan Earth Sunday celebrations may consider using the 2020 theme materials for this year from Creation Justice Ministry. This year’s theme is “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” taken from a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” To connect with others who are planning Earth Sunday activities, join the Earth Day Sunday 2020 Facebook event at www.facebook.com/events/597350101062579 where congregations may share what they are doing and interact. Earth Sunday resources from Creation Justice Ministry are at www.creationjustice.org/educational-resources.html .

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is currently accepting applications for membership in its Peacemaker Corps. CPT got its start as an initiative of the historic peace churches including the Church of the Brethren. “Join us in building partnerships to transform violence and oppression!” said the invitation. The next Peacemaker Corps training will be held Nov. 12-Dec. 11, 2020, in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan. Application deadline is July 15. Direct questions and send completed applications by email to personnel@cpt.org . Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and have completed a short-term CPT delegation or internship by Aug. 17 to be eligible. Qualified candidates may be invited to participate in the training, which culminates in mutual discernment with CPT staff regarding membership in the Peacemaker Corps. Trained Peacemaker Corps members are eligible to apply for open positions on CPT teams.

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including canceling or postponing certain meetings, limiting travels, closing the Visitors Program through April, and offering online communication in lieu of person-to-person gatherings. In a letter to staff, WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit commended their important work, commitment, and competence. “We also do the work with some risks,” he wrote. “Now we are in a situation where we together have to handle the risk related to COVID-19.” The WCC will do what is relevant and necessary to avoid spreading the virus to others who can become seriously ill, Tveit stated. “We have to do it to protect those in our constituency who live in contexts with health systems that would struggle to handle such an outbreak,” he said. “We also have to avoid that our work is blocked by absences and quarantine measures, here or elsewhere.”