Brethren bits for May 1, 2020

— “We want to recognize your seniors! Tell us who they are and send a picture!” said an invitation from “Messenger” magazine and the Youth and Young Adult Ministry. This is an effort to give special recognition to the high school and college/university classes of 2020, who because of the pandemic are missing out on many beloved, land-mark events like high school proms and in-person graduation ceremonies. “Messenger” plans to publish a spread of names and photos. Submit information and photos at .

— Newsline would like to collect and publish a list of Brethren active in health care across the denomination in order to help us recognize, thank, and pray for Church of the Brethren members who are caring for people’s health right now. Newsline readers are invited to submit the first name, home county, and state of Brethren active in health care–from nurses and doctors, to pharmacists and aides, to chaplains and EMTs, to hospital volunteers and staff of clinics and retirement communities, to dentists and physical therapists, and other roles in direct health care. In order to maintain confidentiality the listing will feature only first names and location by state and county, so as not to fully identify anyone online. Submit by email to .

The Brethren Press Poetry Collection gift package for Mother’s Day 2020

 “Brethren Press is an excellent source for Mother’s Day gifts,” said an announcement of a Brethren Press special offer of gift packages for Mother’s Day. “Whether you are looking to remember Mom with a good book, awesome apparel, or a unique gift package, Brethren Press has you covered. Orders received by May 5 will be shipped out in time for Mother’s Day delivery, so don’t delay.” Visit to find out more about the special offers that include significant discounts on some of the publishing house’s best sellers such as the Inglenook Cookbook series and recent volumes of poetry. To order, go to .

— Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has added a number of new resources for children and families to its COVID-19 resources page. Go to .

 The Death Row Support Project, a Church of the Brethren-related project, is publicizing an essay written by Joel Freedman about corresponding with a death row inmate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find it at .

— Tim Button-Harrison, district executive minister for the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Plains District, was among denominational leaders in Iowa who released a joint statement of concern about the state governor’s declaration allowing a resumption of in-person religious gatherings. “As denominational leaders in the Christian tradition, we are united in our concern regarding Governor Kim Reynolds’ declaration to allow spiritual and religious gatherings in Iowa,” the joint statement said, in part. “It was with surprise we learned of the Governor’s proclamation and, as such, we feel compelled to provide clarity and guidance of what it means for congregations to be faithful and safe during these extraordinary times. In the spirit of ecumenism, we join together in asking congregations and members across the state to take faithful action by refraining from in-person religious gatherings, including worship. We encourage and hope that congregations will worship and gather in community from afar continuing the use of technology and other means. Decisions to return to in-person gatherings in our congregations should be based on science, the best practices recommended by public health officials, and in consultation with the leaders of our faith communities.” The statement continued: “It is by our faith that we are compelled to love our neighbor. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, that love comes to expression by remaining physically apart. Loving our neighbor, and thereby the whole community, includes putting public health and the well being of others ahead of the natural desire to be physically present together in community and in worship.” Find the full statement a list of the church leaders who signed it at .

A creative handwashing station in Elgin, Ill. Photo courtesy of Highland Ave. Church of the Brethren

— Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., has been instrumental in advocating for a handwashing station for residents who don’t have shelter in downtown Elgin. Cheryl Gray, a church volunteer who leads the congregation’s Community Engagement Team and ongoing Soup Kettle ministry, helped advocate with city leaders to provide restroom and hygiene facilities for the homeless population. Reported Gray in the church newsletter: “As businesses and other facilities shuttered mid-March at the urging of our Governor, Elgin residents who lived unsheltered in downtown Elgin found themselves without any restroom facilities. Even the lobby of the Elgin Police Department was deemed off-limits due to COVID-19. The City placed two port-o-lets in Carleton Rogers Park but were reluctant to provide more facilities for handwashing because of potential vandalism or other misuse.” After some weeks of communications with city officials, a creative handwashing station was built by the city’s Public Works Department. The newsletter described the handwashing station as having three spigots and a drinking fountain that use a fire hydrant as a water source. The church is providing bars of soap that hang by the water spigots in nylon stockings–“a Brethren-like move,” the newsletter commented. Signs posted at the site indicate that users can get individual bars of soap at the Soup Kettle.

— West Green Tree Church of the Brethren is planning an online “Worship Hymn Sing Along” via its YouTube channel. “Enjoy your favorite hymns as we praise and adore our mighty God,” said an invitation. Participants are invited to sing along during the live-streamed event on Monday, May 4, at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). Go to .

— Illinois and Wisconsin District disaster response coordinator Loren Habegger has shared an urgent message from the state’s VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters) on the need to support food banks and pantries. “The food bank /pantries are facing imminent substantial shortages from an increased demand in part related to families with bread winners being unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the email. “Food banks are seeing 70 percent more people seeking assistance with 40 percent of people first-time users.” The email went on to list the eight regional food banks that are coordinated by Feeding Illinois, for the purpose of sending donations. Each state will have its own list of regional food banks in need of donations and volunteer support at this time. “Alternatively, donations can be made directly to various local food pantries in your area that coordinate with the regional banks. Donation of ‘shelf-stable’ items to local pantries is also encouraged,” said the email. “Thank you for considering your participation in addressing this urgent need.” Find a national listing of food banks at .

— Northern Ohio District youth coordinator Esther Harsh has announced a “Training on Suicide and Adolescents” as a virtual online event on Tuesday, May 12, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Eastern time). “This training is designed for youth leaders, pastors, parents, and those working with youth,” said the announcement. “We will be learning from Arin Wade, Suicide Prevention Specialist from the Center for Suicide Prevention Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Some of the topics being discussed are risk factors and warning signs of teen/adolscent depression and suicide, what to do if suspected, the importance of adults empowering youth, and emotional wellness.” The training will be presented online via Zoom. Registration is required, go to .

— In a camp update from Northern Plains District, Matt and Betsy Kuecker have been hired as directors of Camp Pine Lake. “Matt has served as the property manager for more than 10 years, and he and Betsy worked as camp managers from 2009-2013. The whole Kuecker family is excited to serve the camp community,” said the district newsletter announcement. “Rhonda Pittman Gingrich will be the 2020 program director. The camp board and staff have not made a final call on the 2020 camp season. Expect communication regarding summer camp dates in mid-May.”

Camp Brethren Woods director Doug Phillips offers to undergo a large-size Dunk the Dunkard Bucket Challenge. Photo courtesy of Shenandoah District

— Camp Brethren Woods has published an update in the Shenandoah District newsletter, written by camp director Doug Phillips. The piece announced that the camp’s annual Spring Festival is happening in a new and different way this year. “Friends of the Camp are all doing their part to make the Spring Festival a success with 5K walks and runs, a half marathon, and funds donated,” Phillips wrote. “At the moment, about 15 pastors are lined up for the Dunk the Dunkard Bucket Challenge, or to contribute in some way. Here’s a serious bucket challenge: If 20 pastors agree to do something for the Spring Festival and friends of the camp raise $1,000, Doug will be tractor-bucket poured. You can send a check to the camp at 4896 Armentrout Path, Keezletown, VA 22832, or go online to donate. Doug needs to get wet, and he also needs a haircut!” Also still in the works is an auction, one of the most popular events at the Spring Festival, this year being held via Facebook. Find out more at . 

— Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., has been sharing “Camp Bethel…At Home,” a series of fun videos posted on its website. Camp staff and volunteers are participating by posting videos of themselves offering typical camp activities as they stay “safe at home,” for example video clips titled “Wesley Cooks Indoor S’Mores” and “Jenny and Spencer Sing ‘Hey Burrito.’” Find these video clips and more information from the camp at .

— Camp Mardela has postponed the camp auction that had been scheduled for May 9 in Denton, Md. This annual fundraiser for the camp is rescheduled to Saturday, Oct. 3, at the camp pavilion. More details will follow in the months ahead as they become available. “As always, we are grateful for the support of the camp and its ministries, especially during this challenging time,” said Camp Mardela board chair Walt Wiltschek, in an announcement of the decision.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has announced more awards being given to students this year in honor of retired faculty.
     Three seniors–Lane S. Salisbury of Frederick, Md., Autumn F. Shifflett of McGaheysville, Va., and Sarah K. Wampler of Nokesville, Va.–received the Donald R. Witters Psychology Awards. The psychology awards are named in honor of Donald R. Witters, who retired at the end of the 2005-2006 academic year as professor of psychology, emeritus. He joined the Bridgewater faculty in 1968 as a professor of psychology and served as chair of the department from 1990 to 1996.
     Sydney D.  Cook of Gloucester, Va., and Virginia P. Nordeng of Broadway, Va., were presented Raymond N. Andes Awards for Spanish. The awards honor the late Dr. Andes, a 1940 graduate who was a former chair of the world languages and cultures department and taught French from 1946 until he retired in 1983.

— The Global Women’s Project has announced its annual Mother’s Day Gratitude Project. “Rather than buying more material gifts for your loved one, express your gratitude with a gift that helps other women around the world. Your donation allows us to fund projects focused on women’s health, education, and employment. In return, your chosen recipient(s) will receive a lovely, hand-written card indicating that a gift has been made in her honor, with a brief description of GWP. Contact Global Women’s Project via its website at .

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is holding an online event on May 7 at 12 noon (Central time) to hear from teams in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, and the Turtle Island Solidarity Network. “Representatives from each team will be providing updates about our partners, what’s happening on the ground, and how we are continuing our work during these uncertain times,” said an announcement from the organization that had its start as an initiative of the three historic peace churches including the Church of the Brethren. “There will also be a space for the teams to answer any questions you might have. We hope to see you there! Go to .

— An economy of life in a time of COVID-19 was the topic of a series of two e-conferences on April 17 and 24. The events co-sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation, World Communion of Reformed Churches, and Council for World Mission brought together some 25 participants to reflect on the socio-economic-ecological impact of the COVID-19 crisis and how it offers the world an opportunity to rethink and reshape financial and economic systems to prioritize ensuring and investing in the health and well-being of communities and the planet. “In the harsh light of COVID-19, we see more clearly the great inequality of income and wealth. We see the massive gender inequities and generational disparities of our economies,” said Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary, in a release. “Our responses to the pandemic could very well rewrite the world for the better, and fundamentally transform the way we live, what we eat and buy, what we produce, how we distribute goods and where we invest.” The e-conference sessions were part of an initiative of the four organizations called “New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA),” which seeks to promote an alternative financial system that should emerge from the imagination of the margins, from those who have been left out of social-economic and political decision-making. The two sessions led to the development of a common message from the convening organizations as the basis of advocacy with key financial and economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, G20, and United Nations. Read the release at .

— A total of 50.8 million people around the world were recorded as internally displaced last year, forced from their homes by conflict and disaster, according to a new report published in “The Guardian” newspaper out of the UK. “This is the highest number ever, and 10 million more than in 2018,” the article said. Find the report at .

— “China Christian Daily” has republished online an article first published by the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine in 1989. The piece by Dorotha Winger Fry, titled “The Saga of China’s Pastor Yin,” tells the story of Yin Ji Zeng, son of Yin Han Zhang who was the first Chinese elder in the Church of the Brethren. Yin Ji Zeng was born October 31,1910, in Shandong Province, but his family moved to Shanxi Province when he was 18 months old and it was there that he grew up in the Church of the Brethren. Read the full article as republished by “China Christian Daily” at .

Face masks sewn by Rhonda Bingman of the Church of the Brethren congregation in Ankeny, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Northern Plains District

— Rhonda Bingman’s home-sewn masks were featured in a collection of pictures from around Northern Plains District. Bingman is a member of the Church of the Brethren congregation in Ankeny, Iowa. “She has been sewing masks for friends, family, and the community,” said the district newsletter.

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