Brethren bits for Oct. 3, 2020

Naomi Yilma has begun as an associate in the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., working through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). This role was previously held by Susu Lassa, who just finished her year with BVS. Yilma is a recent graduate of Manchester (Ind.) University where she studied economics and management. She is originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Over the year, she will be working with various ecumenical and interfaith advocacy coalitions to bring issues of concern for the Church of the Brethren to government officials and related organizations.

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich has been appointed as program director for Camp Pine Lake in Northern Plains District. She had been interim program director during 2020 and spearheaded the planning and holding of a virtual camp, according to the district newsletter. She is a lifelong member and ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. She has had experience of various Church of the Brethren camps as a camper, counselor, and volunteer staff, and for the past 10 years has been dean of Middler Camp at Camp Pine Lake. On the denominational level, she has become well known as a leader in the work of formulating a compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and attends Open Circle of the Brethren.

Ron Wedel has been named Church Services Agent for the Mutual Aid Agency (MAA), a Church of the Brethren-related insurance agency. He will work with the agency’s commercial church-related accounts by providing quotes, assisting with questions and claims, and generally serving clients when the need arises. Before joining MAA, he worked as an insurance agency owner and insurance educator, accumulating over 20 years of experience in the business. He has spent the last year working alongside MAA, making the move to full-time team member an easy transition, said an announcement.

Global Mission staff request prayer for a leading family among the Brethren in Spain. Iglesia de los Hermanos “Una Luz en las Naciones” (the Church of the Brethren in Spain, “A Light to the Nations”) reported the death of Doña Hilaria Carrasco Peréz, mother of pastor Fausto Carrasco and Santos Terrero and a beloved matriarch of the church. She died on Sept. 30 after being hospitalized with COVID-19. The congregation in Gijon has been hit by an outbreak of the disease affecting many of the church members. In their remembrance for her, the Spanish Brethren shared Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”

A view of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives has announced a virtual tour of its collection on Nov. 10 from 10 to 11 a.m. (central time) via Facebook Live. “We miss being able to give these tours in person, but this presents a unique opportunity and enables us to share the archives with so many people,” said an announcement. Archive director Bill Kostlevy will direct the virtual tour and answer questions during this Facebook Live event. The tour will include unique items you might be surprised to see, and lots of Brethren history. Questions about the archives may be submitted during the tour in the discussion section of the event or by Facebook Messenger to the BHLA Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BrethrenHistoricalLibraryandArchives .

Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., has issued an invitation to join in the ministry of Oakton Partners in Learning. “You may have seen the Oakton Partners in Learning (OPIL) tutoring program, hosted by the Oakton Church of the Brethren, was featured in this summer’s virtual Annual Conference worship,” said the invitation. “OPIL continues to meet important needs for students and families during these difficult times. OPIL currently tutors students online through one-on-one and group tutoring. Have you wondered if a similar program would be possible in your congregation? Or are you interested in giving of your time and gifts in a significant way? Well, you’re invited to join the OPIL team! While we remain virtual, anyone from anywhere can become a tutor or learn more about what OPIL is doing.” To learn more about OPIL and/or become a tutor, contact pastor Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey at pastors@oaktonbrethren.org .

Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren’s director of youth ministries, Linda Dows-Byers, has put together a video about the church’s “Giveaway Garden.” The video is recommended by Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global Food Initiative (GFI), which has given grants to support many church-related community gardens. Dows-Byers also serves on the GFI review panel. She and her husband, David, previously were Global Mission workers with the Bahamas Methodist Habitat.

Northern Plains District executive Tim Button-Harrison has signed “Racism in Iowa: A Faith Leader Statement” that was put together by the Iowa Interfaith Alliance. The alliance “has been hosting a large group of faith leaders meeting by Zoom each Wednesday morning for several weeks to work on how Iowa’s faith community can work together to address racism in Iowa through teaching and learning, but also using our voices and taking action,” wrote Button-Harrison in the district newsletter this week. Alliance executive director Connie Ryan wrote: “You may know of the murder of Michael Williams in Grinnell and the horrific burning of his body. There have been several other less severe but still violent actions this summer against our black neighbors and family in Iowa. This must stop. And, the faith community has a particular platform that must be used to address the racism, bias, and prejudice tying the violence together.” A smaller portion of that Wednesday faith leader group worked together to write the statement about racism, bias, and prejudice in Iowa. Find it at https://forms.gle/xQVDSKbADLkGGgQv5 .

Atlantic Northeast District is offering a monthly roundtable for those planning and implementing the technical aspects of an online worship service. “Moving Forward with Video Streaming” will be held by Zoom every second Thursday of the month, with the next meeting on Oct. 8. A basic session will begin at 7 p.m. (Eastern time) and an advanced session will start at 8 p.m. Many churches “are experiencing challenges in finding the right equipment and techniques to create a meaningful and effective worship experience online,” said an announcement. The basic session will serve “those who are hoping to learn more about where to start, and the basic equipment and techniques needed to stream worship services online.” The advanced session will “move beyond the basics for a more detailed discussion for those who may have more experience in video streaming and have specific technical questions.” The roundtables will be led by Doug Hallman, lead tech at Lampeter Church of the Brethren who works as a video systems designer and integrator for different touring productions, and Enten Eller, who pastors Ambler Church of the Brethren and is on the pastoral team at Living Stream Church of the Brethren–the denomination’s only fully online congregation. The district requests RSVPs that include church name, tech goals, and any specific questions, go to
https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ehbfqltq4185c830&oseq=&c=&ch= . Eller provided this link for the roundtable: http://bit.ly/ANE-StreamingRoundtable .

Missouri and Arkansas District has announced outcomes of its virtual district conference including election of new leadership. Gary Gahm has begun as district moderator, with Lisa Irle as moderator-elect. Others elected to hold office include Nancy Davis as clerk, Jason Frazer and Gabe Garrison named to the district leadership team, Judy Frederick named to the district Program and Arrangements Committee, Evelyn Brown named to the Gifts Discernment Committee, and Myron Jackson as Standing Committee delegate. “Paul Landes, of the Messiah Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, ended his year as district moderator on Saturday, September 12, by handing the gavel virtually to Gary Gahm, also of the Messiah Church,” said the district newsletter. “Eight district churches were represented by 19 delegates. Business items included two amendments to the district constitution and bylaws; the recognition of three closed congregations–Plattsburg, Shelby County, and Broadwater; the adoption of a 2021 District budget; and the election.” The virtual conference was “attended” by 35 devices, “which included more than 1 person on many devices and groups at Cabool and Warrensburg for an estimated attendance of over 70. The service was also broadcast on the Cabool community radio station and posted on the Cabool Church of the Brethren Facebook page, which had over 35 views. So, it is estimated that over 100 people heard and/or viewed this service!”

Southern Ohio and Kentucky District disaster volunteers on Sept. 24 “completed our second emergency cleanup bucket assembly in 2020,” the district newsletter said. “We have now filled 1,000 much-needed buckets for Church World Service (CWS).”

Also among prayer concerns shared by Southern Ohio and Kentucky District is prayer for the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, where COVID-19 testing “continues among residents and staff. Procedures are being conducted to keep our residents and staff safe.”

Camp Bethel located near Fincastle, Va., has announced an advocacy effort for overnight summer camps in Virginia. “Overnight Summer Camp was the only industry not allowed to operate during any of Virginia’s reopening phases. Camp Bethel has joined a coalition of Virginia Overnight Summer Camps urging state representatives to provide financial support for our industry, so that we may continue to serve children and families across the Commonwealth in 2021 and beyond,” said an email from the camp. To learn more about “Save Next Summer” see https://mailchi.mp/3bf8648c42c4/coalition-of-virginias-overnight-summer-camps .

Brethren Voices has release its October episode. This video show is suitable for use on community access television, sponsored by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren with Ed Groff as producer. “In 2008, the Church of the Brethren recommitted to educating ourselves and others about the many forms of modern-day slavery, supporting anti-slavery action at home and abroad,” said the announcement. “Ten years later the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference was held in Cincinnati and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which lies on the banks of the Ohio River, provided an opportunity for Brethren to educate ourselves on slavery and its modern-day forms.” The focus on the evils of slavery is paired with another Annual Conference-related event, the annual quilt auction. The program includes an interview with Tara Bidwell Hornbacker, who has been working for more than 30 years with the quilt auction sponsor, the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren. Find this episode and many more on the Brethren Voices YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/BrethrenVoices .

The last session of a Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders for this year, offered by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center, will be held Nov. 16-20. The five-day event is intended to help participants deal more effectively with interpersonal, congregational, and other forms of group conflict. Tentative dates for next year are March 1-5, May 3-7, June 21-25, Aug. 2-6, Oct. 4-8, and Nov. 15-19, 2021. Participants for this online training event require access to a device with both a camera and a microphone. For questions contact admin@LMPeaceCenter.org or 630-627-0507. To receive a $200 tuition discount for the November 2020 session, register no later than Oct. 16. Register at www.brownpapertickets.com/producer/720852 .

Faith-based groups involved in service to refugees are expressing outrage over an announcement from the US administration that again severely limits the maximum number of refugees to be admitted into the country in the coming year. “Once again, it is a historic low: 15,000,” reported Religion News Service (RNS). “This year’s proposed refugee ceiling is a drop from 18,000 in the fiscal year that just ended in September. The US actually resettled 11,814 refugees in that time, according to LIRS, and AP reported refugee resettlement was halted in March amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump had set that number at 45,000 in his first year in office, then 30,000 and 18,000–each a historic low in the US refugee resettlement program, which has been around since the 1980s.” Several faith-based groups had asked the administration to raise the resettlement number to its past average of 95,000, RNS said. “Those groups expressed outrage Thursday (Oct. 1) over a number that came nowhere close.” The release quoted Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: “At a time of unprecedented global need, today’s decision to further cut the refugee admissions ceiling is a complete abdication of our humanitarian and moral duty.” John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service–an ecumenical partner organization of the Church of the Brethren–called the administration’s cuts and delays to the refugee resettlement program “moral failures and a disgrace to the American legacy of welcome…. I urge all Americans to insist that Congress hold the White House accountable to operating the refugee program as required by US law.” Other organizations making statements opposing the decision include World Relief, an evangelical Christian group, and HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the US (NCC) are calling for prayer for the violent conflict in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region “following an attack by Azerbaijan’s military forces–which has already resulted in dozens of casualties including civilians, and which risks provoking a wider armed conflict,” said the WCC in its release. The NCC is calling for an immediate end to the fighting in solidarity with the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. “We deplore the use of military force by Azerbaijan and the Syrian rebel fighters that are funded and sent by Turkey to assist their assault on the Armenian community,” said the NCC release, which urged Turkey to end its involvement and expressed compassion for the fighters from Syria who “have been displaced from their homes and are desperate to feed their families, which may have caused them to be recruited into this destructive conflict.” Find the WCC release at www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/wcc-gravely-concerned-by-escalation-of-conflict-in-nagorno-karabakh-region . Find the NCC release at www.nationalcouncilofchurches.us/ncc-calls-for-an-immediate-end-to-the-armenia-azerbaijan-conflict .

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