—Brethren Benefit Trust through the Church Workers Assistance Fund has created a COVID-19 Emergency Grant Program. The program has a streamlined application process to provide financial support to church workers (pastors, office staff, etc.) whose financial situation is adversely affected because of COVID-19 related issues. This would include help for bi-vocational pastors whose non-church work is eliminated or reduced. Inquiries should be directed to Debbie Butcher at 847-622-3391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Remembrance: Doris Walbridge, 91, passed away on Saturday, March 7, at Pinecrest Manor in Mt. Morris, Ill. A long-time employee of Brethren Press, serving from April 1956 until her retirement in September 1991, she was the administrative assistant in the Publishing House at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and served as director of Marketing and as staff for Brethren Press marketing. During her tenure, she managed bookstores at 36 Annual Conferences. Prior to her employment she served a year and a half in Kassel, Germany, through Brethren Volunteer Service. A memorial service will be held at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., at a later date. The full obituary is available at www.prestonschilling.com/obituaries/Doris-M-Walbridge?obId=12398916 .
— The director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Church of the Brethren, Becky Ullom Naugle, has sent a letter to youth leaders across the denomination. Find it at www.brethren.org/yya/documents/letter-to-advisors.pdf . “As you imagine how to connect with and support your youth in a constantly changing environment, remember that our most important call as ministering people is to take care of people in the name and spirit of Jesus,” she writes in part. “Right now, we can’t do ministry in the ways we’ve become accustomed to, but we can (and must) do it! I will try to provide you with resource ideas and a place to connect with others who are doing the same work.” For now, the place to connect is the Youth Advisors of the Church of the Brethren group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/140324432741613 .
— The Church of the Brethren’s “Messenger” magazine has won three awards at the Associated Church Press (ACP) Best of the Church Press Awards this year. The event was held as an online meeting after the once-a-decade Religion Communicators Congress planned for Washington, D.C., area in mid-March was canceled. “Messenger” won three honorable mentions in the following categories: convention coverage of the 2019 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference written by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, Frances Townsend, and Tyler Roebuck; humor piece “Will It Blend?” by Wendy McFadden and Walt Wiltschek; and theological reflection “Creation and the Cross” by Wendy McFadden.
— Spring Creek Church of the Brethren in Derry Township, Pa., is temporarily hosting Cocoa Packs, a program started by Christine Drexler to aid children in need at the Derry Township School District. The organization helps children with physical and emotional wellbeing from offering food, clothing, and personal care items to toys during the holidays. During normal times, they also host educational programs. The program had to seek a new location when its permanent location at Derry Township Middle School had to close with all of the other schools in the state. The school is providing the breakfasts and lunch they normally serve, and Cocoa Packs is handing those out, along with the additional food they would normally provide. Read the full story at www.pennlive.com/news/2020/03/hershey-mom-leads-group-feeding-kids-in-need-coronavirus-hero.html .
— Pastor Craig Howard of Brake Church of the Brethren in Petersburg, W.Va., was featured in a story by the “Washington Post” for his leadership role in helping the churches of the community begin to take measures to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. “For those of you saying, ‘we’re trusting God,’ I understand that sentiment,” Howard said in a key radio address to the local community. “But part of God providing for us and taking care of us is giving us information and giving our officials information to guard against making decisions that could have a negative impact.” Find the story at www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/22/pro-trump-west-virginia-fight-convince-residents-pandemic-is-coming .
— Woodbury (Pa.) Church of the Brethren was featured in a story in the “Bedford Gazette” for beginning new ways of holding funerals during the coronavirus crisis. “During the past week, as the national threat of the coronavirus spread rapidly, the traditional visitations and large funerals came to a halt,” the news report said. “Restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in one location imposed by the government mean in most cases only immediate family can come to pay final farewell to loved ones.” Woodbury pastor David Ulm told the paper that although it is difficult for the families, “Unfortunately this is how we have to handle the situation for now for the good of the entire country.” Read the article at www.bedfordgazette.com/news/families-improvise-funerals-amid-virus-scare/article_2a8fe8fc-c815-556d-9d36-adbcae51f2dc.html .
— The joint Meat Canning Project of Mid-Atlantic and Southern Pennsylvania Districts of the Church of the Brethren has been cancelled for 2020 and postponed to 2021. “The canning committee will focus on planning for the project when it resumes in 2021,” said an announcement. “Donations for canning and volunteer meals received for this year’s canning will be put towards next year’s project. Please keep this project, the volunteers, the organizations that distribute the chicken and all those who depend on those organizations in your prayers. Also, please continue to support next year’s project. With additional funds for 2021, more chicken can be purchased and more canning days planned.”
— Brethren Woods, a Church of the Brethren camp in Virginia, has figured out a creative and safe way to continue with its Spring Workday today, March 28. According to the camp director Doug Phillips, in an announcement for the Shenandoah District newsletter: “The large Spring Workday is going to happen, but it will be over the course of many days…. We are modifying our plans for work days in order to comply with current COVID-19 orders…. We are grateful for all of the support of our friends in the Shenandoah District. All of us are in uncharted territory in many ways, but we know that God will bring beauty ‘Out of the Ashes.’” The newsletter listed the best practices they will employ: Volunteers will be working outside on the Ash tree projects – cutting, chipping, clearing, and stacking wood. Participants are asked to bring their own packed lunch and drinks. The camp will not be serving lunch, and volunteers will be eating outside and in separate areas, away from other persons in order to allow for social distancing. Hand washing facilities and cleaning supplies to disinfect bathrooms will be available and used regularly. There can only be 10 or fewer volunteers on the Brethren Woods property at one time. Anyone who wants to volunteer must call Phillips to schedule in advance and indicate the number of participants.
— The Spring Volunteer Workday at Camp Bethel in Virlina District has been rescheduled for May 2, according to the district newsletter. It begins with a free “to-go” breakfast provided from 7:30-8:15 a.m. No groups, but individual workers are welcome. Workday projects are available rain or shine; indoor and outdoor for all skill levels and all ages. Please reserve breakfast before April 25 by telephone to 540-992-2940 or CampBethelOffice@gmail.com . The Summer Camp Open House scheduled for March 28 has been postponed until May 23. Please refer to www.CampBethelVirginia.org/workday for more information.
— Also from Camp Bethel, an announcement that the Sounds of the Mountains annual story-telling festival is now an “at home” festival offering five one-hour online “shows” available beginning April 4 to watch anytime at www.SoundsoftheMountains.org . “We can’t gather, but we can laugh and sing!” said an announcement. “It’s all to raise funds to help Camp Bethel weather significant losses due to COVID-19 cancellations.” Support the camp and the festival at www.soundsofthemountains.org/donate.html .
— An Elizabethtown (Pa.) College student has tested positive for the coronavirus COVID-19, according to an announcement from the college and an article posted by LancasterOnline. College president Cecilia McCormick said the student traveled overseas during spring break and has been in quarantine since March 12. “Elizabethtown and other local colleges and universities are completing the spring semester remotely as the virus continues to spread,” the article reported. McCormick said the college immediately started contacting individuals who may have had contact with the student. Read the full article at https://lancasteronline.com/news/local/elizabethtown-college-student-tests-positive-for-coronavirus/article_a328f5ea-6c96-11ea-b33a-73c6878421f0.html .
— “Coronavirus worries got you down? Social distancing making you feel, well…distant? We’ve just started a brand new season of the Dunker Punks Podcast!” said an invitation to listen to Brethren from across the country talk about life and the struggles of a modern-day Anabaptist. In Episode 94, titled “Will You Let Me Be Your Servant?” the podcast features a conversation about Brethren Volunteer Service from the McBride triplets who are all currently in BVS. The most recent episode delves into “The Making of a Dunker Punk” as Ben Bear talks to Donna Parcell about her life as a counter-cultural Brethren and her joys and struggles with raising another Dunker Punk. Listen to these episodes and the podcast’s extensive archive of almost 100 episodes at arlingtoncob.org/dpp or on iTunes at bit.ly/DPP_iTunes . Participate in the continuing conversations on social media by searching @dunkerpunkspod.
— The National Council of Churches, of which the Church of the Brethren is a member denomination, is offering daily scriptures, prayers, and meditations by Christian leaders from a wide variety of church traditions. Yesterday’s meditation, for example, was written by Timothy Tee Boddie, a minister at the Alfred Street Baptist Church and immediate past general secretary and chief administrative officer of the Progressive National Baptist Convention in Washington, D.C. Find this daily devotional resource at http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/topics/daily .
— A joint statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in USA (NCC) and the Council of Churches of Cuba is calling for new measures to lessen the suffering due to inequalities between the two countries. Citing Revelation 22:2, and the close working relationship that the two have been working to build in recent years, the joint statement calls for the US government to immediately lift the economic, financial, and commercial blockade imposed on Cuba for over 60 years; calls for the cessation of “all manipulation and use of political and economic interests in the face of the current global health crisis, worsened and visualized by the COVID-19 pandemic”; requests the global community “to come together in a global effort to petition for the immediate lifting of the blockade and the cessation of all sanctions on any country or region”; and salutes ecumenical organizations including the World Council of Churches, the ACT Alliance, Religions for Peace, and Church World Service for making statements calling for an end to the blockade and sanctions. “We are grateful for the thousands of Cuban doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals who are selflessly providing lifesaving assistance throughout the world,” the joint statement added. “We know that goodwill between Cubans and Americans will help the entire world in this moment.”
— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has condemned recent violence in Kabul, Afghanistan, in which a gunman claiming to represent the “Islamic State” attacked a Sikh temple complex. WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit condemned the attack and offered condolences to those who have lost loved ones. The gunman stormed a temple used by Sikh and Hindu minorities in Kabul on March 25, killing 25 worshipers during an hours-long battle with Afghan security forces, the WCC release said. Security forces rescued 80 others from the site. “People who are gathered to worship should not suffer from senseless acts of hate,” said Tveit. “Particularly during a time when the world is drawing together as one human family, this attack stands out as an offense against God and humankind.”
— Grace Ziegler of Myerstown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has received the Service to Mankind Award from the Lebanon Valley Sertoma Club. Her service experiences have included 25 years as a volunteer at the Lebanon Rescue Mission; serving as a deaconess and Sunday School teacher and helping out as a kitchen worker at the Myerstown Church; time spent as a teacher’s aide for special needs children in the ELCO School District; mission trips to Honduras, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Mexico; 16 years with the Church of the Brethren Disaster Relief Sale; with her late husband Victor, using their home as a private nursing home for senior citizens in the 1960s; and together sponsoring international refugee families, foreign visitors, recently released prisoners, and families displaced by fire and other disasters. At the celebration, Representative Frank Ryan said, “Sometimes with all the strife in the world it’s easy to forget that God does place people like Grace Ziegler in our lives to make us better. Grace is truly a gift from God.” Read the full article at https://lebtown.com/2020/03/27/sertoma-club-honors-grace-ziegler-with-annual-service-to-mankind-award .