Brethren bits for May 16, 2020

New from Messenger magazine:
     Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen, a member of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., and a professor of epidemiology and global health at George Mason University, has given an interview to the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine, answering questions about the COVID-19 pandemic with down-to-earth and sensible responses. The interview addresses common concerns like if or when churches should return to in-person worship. Jacobsen has provided technical expertise to the World Health Organization (WHO) and other groups. Her research portfolio includes analyses of emerging infectious diseases, and she frequently provides health and medical commentary for print and television media. Read the interview at .
     The new Messenger Radio “COBCAST” series has published a second episode at Messenger Online. Walt Wiltschek reads the Potluck editorial from the June issue of the denominational magazine titled “At a Loss.” Wiltschek is pastor of Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren and is a member of the Messenger editorial team. He reflects on: “Grief. Loss. Sorrow. These are familiar words in the practice of ministry–sometimes all too familiar. And they have been on my mind with some frequency in recent weeks…. I found my datebook and church calendar littered with a collection of horizontal lines slashing through words and numbers that had been on those pages. A visit with friends in Washington. Gone. A planned trip to Japan for a wedding. Gone. Our camp auction, my work at a local college, dinners, other special events, and, of course, being face-to-face with my congregation for worship and fellowship. All gone, one by one.” Find the text and the audio COBCAST at .

— Remembrance: Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is mourning the loss of Marcus Vandi, director of the ICBDP program that includes community and agricultural development as well as health services, among other work. Vandi was sick for a while at the EYN headquarters before he was taken to a federal medical center in Yola, but died before EYN staff could arrive in Yola to visit him in the hospital. The burial took place in the community of Bazza in the Michika area.

— The Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADN) has named Jeanne Davies as its new executive director, effective June 1, following Eldon Stoltzfus’ resignation for health reasons as of May 1. Davies is currently the ADN program director and will increase her time commitment as she assumes new responsibilities. In addition to her current responsibilities for resources, advocacy, volunteer coordination, and social media, she will be adding organizational leadership and fundraising. Davies is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and also serves as pastor for Parables Community, an accessible and inclusive new church start in Dundee, Ill. She holds a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary and is working on a Certificate in Disability and Ministry at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich. ADN relates to multiple denominations and supports church congregations, families, and individuals touched by disabilities to nurture communities where everyone belongs. Find out more at .

— Brethren Village in Lititz, Pa., suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 among residents and staff in April and early May. On May 7, the community’s website reported the final death in an outbreak that claimed seven lives among residents in skilled nursing memory support. A total of 13 residents and 11 staff had contracted the disease, but as of May 7 the community had “zero COVID-19 positive residents on our campus and all team members who have tested positive have recovered from the virus and returned to work.” The online statement expressed sympathy to the families who lost loved ones, and to the staff team who cared for residents “as they would their own family.”

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is sponsoring a series of webinars under the theme “A Call to Faith Communities During COVID-19: Healing and Helping.” The webinars are offered free of charge. “Everyone is welcome,” said the announcement. Call the church office at 717-367-1000 to request the Zoom link for these webinars.
     “Part 1: Healing ourselves: Recognizing the traumatic impact of COVID-19″ will be held on May 26 from 7-8:15 p.m. (Eastern time). The webinar description: “When we experience massive upheavals in our lives and feel we have lost agency and control, we are entering the territory of trauma. Social isolation, sheltering in place, fear of the unknown, uncertainty about what a new ‘normal’ will look like, risking our lives to work, heartbreak over the loss or illness of loved ones, the economic upheavals have resulted in massive social trauma on a scale unimaginable just a few months ago. This workshop focuses on the traumatic impact COVID is having everyone and offers tips and tools to help us cope with it.”
     “Part 2: Protecting children from sexual abuse during COVID-19″ takes place June 2 at 7-8:15 p.m. (Eastern time). Said the announcement: “1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. Because of COVID, children are no longer in regular contact with teachers, pastors, nurses, program directors and others who could help them. Mandated reporting is down 50% and many children are sheltering in place with perpetrators, as most of sexual abuse happens within a child’s intimate circles. People in congregations can play a vital role in protecting children during COVID by learning to recognize and respond to possible signs of sexual abuse in any child we come into contact and conversation with from our front porches, on our farms, or in small gatherings of neighbors and friends.”
     “Part 3: Helping survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence during COVID-19” is set for June 9 from 7-8:15 p.m. (Eastern time). “Fear of the unknown, and loss of control over daily routines, is particularly hard for survivors of sexual abuse with trauma-sensitized neurobiological systems,” said the invitation. “Many do their best every day to live with the long-term impacts of trauma–such as PTSD, acute anxiety, and depression. The social conditions of COVID-19, including isolation, can trigger reactivation of earlier trauma. In addition, many women (and some men) are sheltering in place with abusive partners. Calls to Domestic Violence hotlines are down, while all indications are that domestic violence is rising. Many survivors of past or current abuse remain invisible to their congregations, silenced by shame. Learn how you can help.”

— Mt. Morris (Ill.) Church of the Brethren and its Loaves & Fish Food Pantry alongside Northern Illinois Food Bank are announcing an extra distribution of food using a Mobile Food Pantry on May 20. The truck will be located at the from 10 to 11:30 a.m. (Central time) open to anyone in Ogle County. “Every 1 in 7 people across Northern Illinois is food insecure, meaning that they aren’t sure of where their next meal may come from,” said the announcement from the church. “Northern Illinois Food Bank partners with over 800 feeding program partners across 13 counties to serve our neighbors needing food. However, even with the outstanding efforts of the Food Bank, there are individuals who can’t make it out to those partners that provide nutritious food.” This extra food distribution is in addition to the normal monthly allotment available to Loaves & Fish Pantry clientele–anyone in the Mount Morris and Leaf River area is eligible–on the first and third Thursdays of the month from 4:30-7 p.m. and the second and fourth Mondays from 2-4:30 p.m. “You do not need to have a referral, and no proof of income is required,” said the announcement. For questions, call 815-734-4250 or 815-734-4573 and leave a message.

— Plumcreek Church of the Brethren in Shelocta, Pa., has started a soup ministry for the community in the hope the idea would inspire other churches to do something similar, reports the “Indiana Gazette.” Pastor Keith Simmons told the newspaper that “several of our members had a vision from God. The vision was to serve soup to our local community, Shelocta and Elderton…. The time came with the dedication of a few people who believed in the saying, ‘To the Glory of God and our Neighbors’ Good,’ which is an old Brethren credo. That’s the spirit in which we’re doing this.” The ministry is distributing quarts of soup in an effort to give a good meal to neighbors and to give a contact with others in a time of isolation, Simmons said. “Many are lonely and even fearful; we believed that this would give a glimmer of hope for them. To help with these concerns, we put a devotion in each serving of soup. Finally, and most importantly, it was to show the love of God to our community.” Find the article at .

— Woodbury Church of the Brethren hosted a drive-in National Day of Prayer service on May 7, according to a report in the Morrisons Cove (Pa.) Herald. “People of all denominations were invited to come together in prayer,” said the report. The event was organized by the Southern Cove Ministerium on the theme “Praying God’s Glory Across the Earth.”

— On Earth Peace’s prison justice group will be hosting an eight-week community engagement and development program online beginning May 26. This program provides opportunities for building connections with a network of other people concerned about prison justice issues, learning more about the challenges facing prisoners and preparing as a leader through exposure to principles of nonviolence and tactics of advocacy, and taking action in the community through completing program engagement activities. The program is intended for those interested in getting more involved in their communities, prison justice awareness, and taking action. Program activities correlate to point values, and participants who earn enough points will win a free On Earth Peace Prison Justice t-shirt. Group activities include watching short prison justice analysis videos and discussing them as a group, teading and discussing short excerpts from “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, and attending webinars on principles of Kingian Nonviolence. For more information contact Jennifer Weakland at . Join the On Earth Peace prison justice Facebook group .

— “Strengthening Hope for US Churches” is a new cooperative effort of the three major ecumenical groups in the United States–Christian Churches Together, Churches Uniting in Christ, and the National Council of Churches–joining in unity for training and support and offering “voices of hope and reconciliation” in preparation for Pentecost. In addition to two webinars the effort includes an ecumenical resource sheet (go to…/1SzClo1qSVDtNGb0dzxBvJuz8Y9n…/edit ). The first webinar on “What Communities Need to Know about COVID-19 and Reopening” took place Thursday, May 14, with representatives from the CDC and ecumenical leaders. The next webinar on “Pentecost Voices: Reclaiming Hope in the New Normal” is offered on May 28 at 1:30 p.m. (Eastern time) with “leading Christian voices in the US sharing about how to reclaim hope in life after the pandemic,” said an announcement. Register at .

— Church World Service (CWS) has created a new nonprofit focused on advocacy for refugees, called Voice for Refuge. “Voice for Refuge Action fund is a 501(c)4 organization, with a separate board independent from CWS,” said an announcement that characterized the entity as a “new separate first-of-its-kind 501(c)4 organization…. This organization will promote the representation of refugees in government by holding elected leaders accountable and working to support former refugees and pro-refugee candidates running for office at the federal, state and local levels.” Find out more at .

— The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new urgency to adopting an “Economy of Life” and global religious groups are saying now is the time, according to a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC). The joint message from the WCC, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, and Council of World Mission urged governments to bolster support for healthcare and social protection, called for debt cancellation and the implementation of the Zacchaeus Tax proposals including the initiation of progressive wealth taxes at national and global levels to resource the critical response to the pandemic. “The public health emergency is symptomatic of a deeper economic crisis that undergirds it,” the message read, in part. “Moreover, ineffective and corrupt governance at national levels has exacerbated the inability of governments to support those who are most vulnerable to the pandemic.” The ecological crisis facing the world today is closely related to COVID-19, the message noted. “Measures to address the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic have been merely palliative and have been mainly directed to bailing out corporations rather than people.” People who are already vulnerable are bearing the brunt in terms of loss of lives and livelihoods, the text continued. “This crisis highlights the immense value of healthcare, the care economy, and women’s intensified care work burden…. The human causes and systemic roots of this pandemic point to the exigency of systemic change if we are to be converted by the revelation COVID-19 is offering us.” Read the full message at .

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