— Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele has signed a “Statement in Support of Armenia and Armenian Church” from the National Council of Churches member communions. The statement calls for peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia and supports US diplomacy to end the violent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. “The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) reiterates its lament and deep concern about the continuing conflict and rapidly deteriorating situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, known by its Armenian residents as Artsakh,” the statement said, in part. “In the last three weeks, since the NCC issued an earlier statement and prayer, the people of the region have continued to be victims of Azerbaijani aggression, and a violation of the cease fire agreement brokered by Russia and supported by the United States and others. The NCC supports the new cease-fire agreement brokered by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo between the parties–Armenia and Azerbaijan–as a first step towards ending the conflict. We pray that it will bring peace to Artsakh, and urge that this new cease fire agreement be observed immediately, even while a more robust resolution of the conflict is being pursued.” The statement added a particular concern that the conflict “has revealed again the heavy hand of other regional powers to fuel belligerency” and noted that several nations have provided military arms and weaponry including Turkey, Israel, and the US, and that Russia has a military base in Armenia. “The militarization of the area has only served the interests of outside powers, and not the interest of the people who live there,” the statement said. “Let us be clear: there can be no military solution. We urge the US, the International Community, and indeed all involved, to intensify efforts to bring an immediate end to the current crisis, and to resolve outstanding issues in a just manner so that Armenia and Azerbaijan may live in peace as neighbors.” Find the full statement at www.nationalcouncilofchurches.us/statement-in-support-of-armenia-and-armenian-church.
— Jennifer Lynn Summy has been announced as the next administrator of Camp Mardela in Denton, Md., beginning on Jan. 4, 2021. She is a graduate of Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., and currently is working to complete a master’s degree in Business Administration and Ministry from Mount Vernon (Ohio) Nazarene University. She has worked as a bank teller and as a counselor at Camp Swatara in Bethel, Pa., and brings extensive experience in music and theater as well as Spanish-speaking abilities and a deep faith life. She recently spent a year as a worship coordinator for the World Race, with time in a variety of contexts on four continents. She succeeds Gieta Gresh, who has served the camp as administrator since spring 2005.
— The Ecumenical Stewardship Center board “has made the difficult decision to dissolve the Ecumenical Stewardship Center corporation in 2021,” according to a release. The Church of the Brethren is a member denomination of the center. Church of the Brethren member Marcia Shetler is the center’s executive director/CEO. Ecumenical Stewardship Center ministry programs will continue until the end of March 2021, including planned events, professional group gatherings, and access to resources. “It will be our joy and privilege to continue to serve you for the next six months,” the release said. More about the center is at https://stewardshipresources.org.
— “It’s been quite a year. Take some moments to de-compress, to pause, to be,” said an invitation to a Journaling Experience Afternoon Mini-Retreat with author Camelle Daley as facilitator. The event is online on Nov. 19, from 2-5 p.m. (Eastern time) or Nov. 21 from 2-5 p.m. (Eastern) sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Intercultural Ministries and the Office of Ministry’s Part-time Pastor, Full-time Church Program. Attendees will need a book to journal in as well as pens to write with, should wear comfy clothing with slippers recommended, and be seated in a comfortable, quiet environment. “I am British so a cup of tea in your favourite mug would be perfect,” wrote Daley in the announcement. Daley is the author of Finding Divine Flow and the Finding Divine Flow Podcast. Register for one of the two time slots. Limited space is available. Go to https://journalingminiretreat.eventbrite.com.
— The last two online town halls offered by Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey are available as recordings with study guides at the webinars archive of the Church of the Brethren: www.brethren.org/webcasts/archive. The town hall featuring Phil Stone, president emeritus of Bridgewater (Va.) College, discussed the topic “Leading in a Time of Crisis.” The town hall featuring civil rights leader and former UN Ambassador Andrew Young discussed the topic “Racism: Deeper Awareness, Bolder Action.”
— 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.
— Joshua Brockway, co-coordinator of Discipleship Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, has been named vice president of the board of directors of the Justice Renewal Initiative. The organization is “an empowerment program designed to help support men and women, ages 18-32, with their transition out of the criminal justice system” (www.thejri.org).
— Here are prayer concerns that have been shared by denominational staff, districts, and ecumenical partners this week:
“The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b). The family of Marlin Houff requests prayer as he is a patient at Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center’s ICU struggling with COVID-19. Houff served for many years as administrator of Camp Swatara in Atlantic Northeast District and also was that district’s representative to Standing Committee.
Global Mission staff are sharing prayer requests from Venezuela and Ecuador, among others. In Venezuela, pastor Robert Anzoategui and several other church leaders have been traveling for about two weeks to some of the churches that are farther afield, providing COVID-19 relief to these church groups. Food was served to people at a dialysis center, several hospitals, members and neighbors of the Mi Refugio Church of the Brethren, and a children’s ministry. “Pray for the leaders of the church in Venezuela as they continue to minister and share the gospel,” said the request.
The Global Food Initiative requests prayer for La Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU, the Brethren and United Foundation), which is facing multiple challenges on top of the pandemic. FBU is affected by a lengthy drought in the northern part of Ecuador where its farm/campus is located and the pastures for its dairy herd. The pandemic “has crippled the foundation through loss of revenue from schools and universities (both domestic and international) that utilize the facilities for courses and retreats,” the request said. “The FBU director and board request prayer for discernment on the survival of the nearly 50-year-old institution that grew out of the work of the Church of the Brethren mission in Ecuador. FBU is looking into the viability of selling assets, including animals and land, to maintain staffing levels.”
Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Global Mission staff are sharing a prayer request from Chet Thomas, a Church of the Brethren member who directs Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG) in Honduras, for all those affected by Hurricane Eta. Wrote Thomas: “Tens of thousands of families throughout Honduras have been evacuated and many have lost their homes, rural farmers have lost their corn and bean crops that were ready for harvest, rural communities have also lost their water systems and hundreds more have lost access to other communities due to rivers overflowing the roads and damaging bridges.” PAG is working to respond to the critical needs of neighbors, Thomas wrote. “However, because we were involved in trying to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 virus, we have few resources to respond to this national emergency caused by Eta. This is an emergency that requires an immediate response because of massive flooding, the lack of food supplies, potable water, sleeping mattresses, blankets, and family health supplies (which PAG is putting together right now) needed to attend the most affected families. PAG´s entire field staff is now being mobilized throughout the central and western rural areas where we have our regular development programs and presence and they are preparing to evaluate their needs so that we can provide the needed relief. As Hurricane Eta is still in Honduras and causing more flooding, we are facing an unbelievable challenge beyond our current capabilities and we need your help and prayers.”
Last weekend, a prayer request was received from the Disaster Relief Ministry of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The disaster ministry team, while on a trip to present scholarships to orphans who lost their parents as a result of Boko Haram activities in Chibok, received news of an attack on the village of Takulashe, 15 kilometers away. EYN head of media Zakariya Musa reported that those who were killed included nine EYN members, two vigilantes, and the pastor of a COCIN Church, and the village was burned by Boko Haram on Sunday morning. Said the email: “Thanks God, Christians could finish their Sunday worship as early as possible and fled to the bush which reduced the massacre. Many are still missing as access to communication network is difficult in the area. Pray for many vulnerable villages in southern Borno State and other areas.”
— Mountain View Fellowship Church of the Brethren in McGaheysville, Va., will have an outdoor Mortgage Burning Service at 5 p.m. on Nov. 22, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Quoted in the Shenandoah District e-newsletter, pastor Wayne Pence remarked, “We are so thankful for the support of many churches and individuals within our district, and invite you to attend.” Bring a lawn chair for seating. There will be refreshments and a time for fellowship with social distancing.
— Greencastle (Pa.) Church of the Brethren was one of the churches hosting polling places on election day. The church got attention in the Echo-Pilot newspaper, which interviewed several poll workers and reported on the enthusiasm of the voters who turned out on the day. “One man arrived at Greencastle Church of the Brethren at 5:50 a.m. so he could be the first person to vote at the polling place for Greencastle 2, according to Linda Burkholder, judge of elections. Before the doors opened at 7 a.m., the line stretched around the corner on South Carlisle Street and a block down East Franklin Street to South Washington Street.” Find the article at www.echo-pilot.com/story/news/2020/11/04/greencastle-antrim-vote-presidential-election/6162365002. Also making the news for serving as a polling place were First Church of the Brethren in Pottstown, Pa. (www.dailylocal.com/news/photos-voters-swarm-the-polls-things-go-fairly-smoothly/article_3ef25273-50ec-559f-8100-5b21344abdee.html) and Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren (www.witf.org/2020/11/03/in-lebanon-and-lancaster-counties-potential-voter-intimidation-incidents-appear-to-be-resolved-at-polling-places).
— Middle Pennsylvania District and its Disaster Team are partnering on a spaghetti dinner drive-through fundraiser hosted at Memorial Church of the Brethren in Martinsburg, Pa. The event is on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 4-7 p.m. (Eastern time). Meals are first-come, first-served, and will include spaghetti, meatballs, a roll, salad, and dessert for a $10 donation to support the district ministries.
— University of La Verne president Devorah Lieberman has been appointed to the honorary senior advisory panel of the Hague Institute for Global Justice, reports a release from the university. The institute is an independent, nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands that aims to shape discourse and bridge gaps between research, policy, and practice on global issues at the critical intersection of peace, security, and justice. Through its partnerships, the institute aims to contribute to, and further strengthen, the global framework for preventing and resolving conflict and promoting international peace. “Lieberman’s appointment to the advisory panel extends ongoing collaboration between the university and the institute,” the release said. “In November 2019, Lady Sohair A. Salam Saber, president of the Hague Institute, spoke at the launch of the university’s Ludwick Center for Spirituality, Cultural Understanding, and Community Engagement. After rich discussions on shared principles around religious and cultural tolerance, both Lieberman and Salam Saber entered into an agreement to explore partnerships between the institute and university around areas of common interest…. As a member of the senior advisory panel, Lieberman will collaborate with distinguished former leaders from around the world, including ambassadors, religious leaders, and politicians.”
— In more news from ULV, the university is phasing out in-person instruction at its campuses in Oxnard and Victorville, Calif., and will be seeking to end those lease agreements. An announcement from university provost Jonathan Reed, posted on the school’s website, said, “We will continue to serve future students in the High Desert and Ventura County regions through our online programs and other initiatives. Current students at these campuses will have the options of continuing their studies online or at other campuses at which their programs are offered. To be clear, the University of La Verne remains strong financially, and the teaching and learning at these locations has been excellent. However, after reviewing the enrollment and financial outlooks for these locations, we believe we can best meet our mission by concentrating our resources and support on other campuses that are better positioned to help the most adult learners achieve their educational goals.” Find the full announcement at https://laverne.edu/news/2020/11/03/university-to-phase-out-in-person-instruction-at-oxnard-and-victorville-campuses.
— On Earth Peace has announced the theme for its Read Aloud Project in November will be highlighting books about Native American culture to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. The Read-Aloud Project will be highlighting holiday books for December. “We are also still looking for child readers,” said the announcement. “If you are a child or teen and would like to read for the project, we will mail you the book of your choice from a list of justice and peace books.” Email Priscilla at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
— “As Womaen’s Caucus and Supportive Communities Network work for justice and healing in the Church of the Brethren, we have invited On Earth Peace to facilitate an exploration of the power and possibility of Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation as a method for interpersonal and group conflict, and nonviolent social change organizing,” said an announcement. The online workshop will explore the meaning of nonviolence, consider the three social dynamics of nonviolence, and introduce the six principles and six steps of Kingian Nonviolence. Facilitators are Matt Guynn, Mary Lou Finley, and Joan May Cordova. The 90-minute workshop is offered on Nov. 10 at 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time). To attend, write registrant’s name and “KNV Registration” in the subject line of an email to email@example.com.
— The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) supported by five Church of the Brethren districts and based on the campus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, continues to share “Calling Stories” under the theme “Your Call…Your Journey…Your Education.” In the eighth story in the series, which features people from each of the five districts sharing their journey of calling into church ministry, Doris Theresa Abdullah contributes her story. Abdullah is the Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations and a minister in Brooklyn, N.Y. Find her story and the previous seven contributions of “Calling Essays” by Joe Detrick, William Wenger, Jody Gunn, Beverly Skopic, Linda Titzell, Harvey Wason, and Jill Keyser Speicher at www.etown.edu/svmc.
— The Global Women’s Project has announced “good news in this challenging year. Thanks to your generosity, we have met the goal of raising an extra $3,000, matching that with our savings of $3,000, and the truly good news is what we will tell our partner projects.” The announcement listed partner projects that will each get and extra $2,000 from the Global Women’s Project this year to provide essential support to women, families, and communities: Chiapas Integrated Health, ECHOPPE Togo, and Growing Grounds in Wabash, Ind.
— “The storms of the climate crisis do not only affect our physical lives, burning and flooding our homes and churches. These events have an extreme impact on our spiritual and psychological lives, traumatizing whole communities in their wake. And yet, churches can serve as beacons of spiritual resilience in our communities, providing support in the midst of the spiritual storms of the climate crisis,” said an announcement of a virtual workshop on “Spirituality, Trauma, and Climate Resilience.” The event is offered by Creation Justice Ministries, formerly a department of the National Council of Churches (NCC). The online event is planned for Nov. 17, from 6-7 p.m. (Eastern time) with leadership from Beth Norcross, executive director of the Center for Spirituality in Nature; Jan Holton, associate professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Care at Duke Divinity School; and Avery Davis Lamb of Creation Justice Ministries and Duke Divinity School and the Nicholas School of the Environment. Register at www.creationjustice.org/resilience.html.
— The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary provide funds to congregations to support renewal leaves for their pastors. Congregations may apply for grants of up to $50,000 to underwrite a renewal program for their pastor and for the pastor’s family, with up to $15,000 of those funds available to the congregation to help cover costs for ministerial supply while the pastor is away. There is no cost to the congregations or the pastors to apply, “the grants represent the endowment’s continued investment in renewing the health and vitality of American Christian congregations,” said an announcement. Applicants will find information about the 2021 programs, application materials, and other content related to clergy renewal at www.cts.edu/clergy renewal.
— Janet Fike of Friendsville, Md., at age 80 has created around 1,000 dolls to be packed into shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, for distribution by Asher Glade Church of the Brethren and Oak Grove Church of the Brethren. She is featured in an article by Brenda Ruggiero in the WVNews from West Virginia. Fike, who has professional experience in sewing and shirt-making, got involved with Operation Christmas Child. about 10 years ago, the article reported. “This involved traveling to Boone, North Carolina, to inspect shoeboxes before delivery. On that trip, she saw a pretty doll made out of a sock. She was inspired to come home and make her own doll. That one doll soon grew into many. Without using a pattern, she makes dolls that are about 10 inches in height. She also found a dress and hat pattern on the internet and designed them to fit her dolls. At first, Fike used the fabric she had on hand to make the dolls. But as word got out, people started giving her fabric and boxes of lace.” Find the article at www.wvnews.com/friendsville-women-creates-1-000-dolls-and-counting/article_07e46496-33ea-5d6f-ba55-05e1d22b3dd2.html.
Find more Church of the Brethren news: