Brethren bits for Nov. 14, 2020

How to be a living letter: “Do you need more copies of the ‘Living Letters’ postcard sets distributed earlier this fall?” said an announcement. Copies of the Church of the Brethren annual report–a booklet of 12 postcards that can be detached and mailed–are still available. “In a time when people have had to be more separated than usual, those sending the postcards can be ‘a letter of Christ’ that was written with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2 3).” Individuals and congregations may request quantities by contacting Karen Stocking at kstocking@brethren.org.

The Disaster Relief Ministry team of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) with some orphans and family members during a scholarship presentation at Dille in Askira Uba Local Government Area of Borno State, Nigeria. Pastors in the area have solicited prayers for farmers, reports EYN head of media Zakariya Musa. “A day before our visit, one widow was kidnaped and was released later in the day. Praise God that she could trace her way home from the forest. Dille is close to Sambisa Forest and many villages around are abandoned to Boko Haram. One of the villages we visited during the week is Kidlindla, the home town of Yuguda Z. Mdurvwa [leader of the EYN Disaster Relief Ministry]. Some members of the community have relocated to other areas after repeated attacks. Pray for the actualization of Borno State Governor Babagana Umara Zullum’s plan to return the displaced communities to their home lands from within and outside Nigeria. Pray for the EYN leadership as it prepares for staff transfers and promotions, an exercise considered to be tough by both the employer and the employee.”

Coming up next week Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. (Eastern time), is the next Moderator’s Town Hall featuring Mark DeVries, founder and president of Ministry Architects. He will be joining Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey to discuss “Innovative Ideas for a Hard Season.” Register at http://tinyurl.com/modtownhallnov2020.

Open enrollment for Brethren Insurance Services offered through Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is now thru Nov. 30, for people who work for a Church of the Brethren employer. That means employees of churches, districts, camps, retirement communities, and other church agencies that receive their insurance through Brethren Insurance Services. “During Open Enrollment, you can sign up for new insurance products, add coverage for products you already use, increase limits, and make other changes. And you can do all this without medical underwriting,” said the announcement. Go to https://cobbt.org/open-enrollment to see the array of insurance products Brethren Insurance Services makes available to people who are employed by the many different organizations of the church.

The garden project supported by Osage Church of the Brethren. Photo by James Therrien

Osage Church of the Brethren in McCune, Kan., has published pictures of its community garden project on Facebook, one of the community gardens that has received funding from the Global Food Initiative. Go to www.facebook.com/james.therrien1/posts/10157866519293310.

Bridgewater (Va.) College has received a $1 million contribution from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, said a release from the school. The donation honors Dr. A. Edward “Ed” Burgess, a Bridgewater graduate from the class of 1962 who passed away in February, and will be used to lower the cost of attendance for students, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Burgess worked in public education in Virginia as a teacher and high school principal, then after earning a doctorate from Duke University he went on to teach there and at North Carolina State and St. Mary’s College in Raleigh, N.C. Burgess was a dedicated alumnus, the release noted. He served as president of the Bridgewater College Alumni Association 2003-2004, co-chaired his 50th Reunion Committee, and worked with classmates to establish the Class of 1962 Endowed Scholarship Fund, presented to the College during the class’s 50 year reunion celebration in 2012. His class set the record for the largest 50th reunion class gift at that time and established a new standard for 50th reunion class gifts. The momentum from the class of 1962 has resulted in $4.5 million raised collectively from 50th reunion class gift initiatives alone since 2012. The $1 million gift has been divided between two funds: $900,000 established the A. Edward Burgess Current Scholarship Fund, from which scholarships will be distributed over several years according to student need, and $100,000 established the A. Edward Burgess Endowed Scholarship Fund, which is permanently invested in the Bridgewater College Endowment and will award scholarships from investment earnings.

McPherson (Kan.) College president Michael Schneider has had an opinion piece published in the Wichita Eagle newspaper titled “How to Pay as You Go and Graduate Debt Free.” Writes Schneider: “Roughly, one out of every six Americans owe student debt. Even more alarming, about 20 percent of those in debt are over 50–parents and grandparents spending their retirement nest egg to pay off their families’ college loans. Student debt permeates generations.” The piece shares stories of students benefiting from McPherson College’s innovative Student Debt Project as a way to get through college on a pay-as-you-go basis. About 170 students are in the program and on a path to graduate with little to no student debt. “And it’s working–even amidst a pandemic,” Schneider writes. “Despite COVID-19 cutting short their work schedules this spring, the students participating in the 2019-2020 Student Debt Project were able to reduce their projected student loan debt, on average, by $10,000 each. That’s more than a 30 percent reduction in anticipated debt at graduation in just a few months in the project.” Read the full piece on the college website at www.mcpherson.edu/2020/11/how-to-pay-as-you-go-and-graduate-debt-free.

The latest episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast discusses dismantling injustice and deconstructing racism. “Classism, racism, sexism all are intertwined and [undoing] the thread of one will loosen the whole. Educate yourself and spread the word,” said an announcement. In this episode, Naomi Yilma from the Church of Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy discusses these struggles with the LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. Listen online at bit.ly/DPP_Episode106 or subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast app.

The Brethren Voices television show produced by Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore., is announcing its episode for November and December on “Alternative Christmas Gift Suggestions.” The producers are encouraging alternative giving to three Church of the Brethren-related programs: Brethren Disaster Ministries and its Rebuild Program that engages volunteers to repair and rebuild homes that have been damaged in disasters; the New Community Project’s Give A Girl A Chance project aiding girls who need assistance to gain access to schooling and other opportunities in countries like Malawi, where the project is providing girls with bicycles to get to high school; and Heifer International’s gifts of animals providing families in need with a hand-up, increasing access to medicine, school, food, and a sustainable livelihood. Find Brethren Voices episodes on YouTube.

“Imagine! God’s Earth and People Restored” is the theme for next year’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) to be held as a virtual gathering on April 18-21, 2021. Said an announcement: “This annual event of Christian advocates and activists will delve deeply into the pressing issues of the day and speak truth to power on Capitol Hill…. EAD 2021 is an opportunity to support this global movement centered on and led by the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts due to historic racial and colonial inequities.” Registration details will be announced soon.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has published a “Global Health COVID-19 Response Framework” as a four-page full color document of guidance for church communions around the world. The document was put together out of “ongoing consultations between church and healthcare leaders from many countries…the product of collaboration by more than 40 organizations,” said a release. It “provides practical ways to translate the church’s prophetic voice into action in ways that demonstrate love and compassion.” Said Dr. Mwai Makoka, program executive for Health and Healing: “Many church partners are in the forefront dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and are keen to collaborate with governmental and other stakeholders, especially to re-imagine a better post-COVID world.” An encapsulation of faith engagement with the pandemic, the framework focuses on short- to medium-term responses to protect and preserve lives and livelihoods. It also creates a context for accelerating progress toward longterm goals for resilience, human sustenance, and development. The vision behind the framework embraces a holistic approach to health through mechanisms that provide accurate information, resources to promote resilience, and possibilities to assess and respond to health needs in integrated ways. In a table format, the framework identifies core challenges and response strategies, and also recommends specific actions to advocates, practitioners, researchers, and others. Download the publication at www.oikoumene.org/news/wcc-publishes-global-health-covid-19-response-framework.

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