Newsline for April 18, 2020

John Ballinger submitted this photo of his grandson’s hands to Newsline: “A reminder in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic: God’s got us all in the palms of his hands!”

“Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord” (Psalm 134:2).


1) Zoom call yields creative ideas for this year’s National Youth Sunday
2) Churches for Middle East Peace affirms global cease fire movement


3) Shawn Flory Replogle begins interim role with organizational resources for the Church of the Brethren


4) Annual Conference leadership issues update
5) Brethren Benefit Trust cancels annual fitness challenge
6) Earth Day marks 50 years on April 22

7) Brethren bits: Prayer request for the Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities and related news, Brethren Press shares story about an inspiring use of its Shine curriculum, Camp Eder announces new leadership, RNS reports on the black church and how it is being affected by COVID-19, and more.

Quote of the week:

Ways to care for each of our most vulnerable folk:

1. Create a list of folks with limited mobility and access. Make sure these lists contain primary ways of contacting the individuals.

2. Create a phone tree and card tree for folks who with limited access.

3. Check with local government and law enforcement officials regarding neighborhood needs.

4. Review deacon funds and outreach funds to ensure resources are available to those who may need assistance.

5. Schedule pastors or deacon time when individuals can talk about specific areas of concern-this via phone or available means of communication.

6. Activate and utilize prayer chains

Sabbath rest and self-care:
1. Tune in to churches that are going on-line with their worship services.
2. Read one of the gospels in one sitting.
3. Have an extended time of prayer and praise.
4. Have a family hymn sing around the piano.
5. Find a quiet spot in nature and enjoy a time of praise and meditation.
6. Cultivate spiritual practices that we may have been neglecting.
7. Spend extra time praying for people to come to know Jesus.
8. Spend extra time praying about whatever’s on your mind or just praising God.
9. Spend extra time praying for your church, your family, and your government leaders
Take care of yourself and others! Keep the faith! We’ll all be together again soon.

— A list shared by Torin Eikler, district executive of the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Indiana District.

Many Church of the Brethren congregations are offering online services to welcome regular attenders as well as visitors to join in worship while COVID-19 prevents in-person gatherings. Go to www.brethren.org/news/2020/church-of-the-brethren-congregations-worship-online to find these congregations listed alphabetically followed by a map of geographical locations. If your church is offering online worship that is open to the public, and is not yet listed here, please send the following information to cobnews@brethren.org : church name, city, state, day and time of service (if streamed live), and link to connect–or for a Zoom gathering the church contact information to request the link.

1) Zoom call yields creative ideas for this year’s National Youth Sunday

By Nolan McBride

On April 14, the Church of the Brethren Youth and Young Adult Ministries hosted a Zoom meeting for youth advisors to share ideas for celebrating Youth Sunday in the era of COVID-19. This year, National Youth Sunday is scheduled for May 3. Given the fact that most congregations cannot currently meet in person to worship, many youth leaders are exploring the possibility of a virtual Youth Sunday.

Most congregations are learning new technology for worship, and now more than ever is a great time to highlight our youth leadership and allow them to take the lead with technology.

Participants in the Zoom meeting included three members of the National Youth Cabinet, who helped shape the theme for this year: “Through My Fear, I Trust in God,” based on Psalm 56:1-4. The National Youth Cabinet met in February before COVID-19 became a major concern in the US, and the theme has only become more relevant since then.

Ideas shared included waiting to hold Youth Sunday until the congregation can meet in person for worship again; coordinating and editing together a recorded service; holding worship over Zoom or similar platforms; and splitting the difference by creating something together now and holding an in-person Youth Sunday once stay-at-home orders and social distancing have been lifted.

Dennis Beckner shared links for compressing and converting video files to make them easier to send online for those planning to edit a video together. National Youth Cabinet members shared how Zoom may provides a way for people to plan for Youth Sunday or continue to meet for youth group during social distancing, even if a congregation is not using it for worship. One topic of discussion was how to perform the staple Youth Sunday skit, for example having a single person perform the whole thing while changing hats or costumes to show different characters. Others recommended if there is a large enough family in your youth group, ask if they would be willing to perform the skit together.

Youth and Young Adult Ministries has given permission for the Youth Sunday resources to be used for a live-streamed service, and has provided a Google document of composers and musicians who have given permission for their music to be used for streamed services. Some members of the National Youth Cabinet have offered to write additional resources or revise current ones to suit the current need as requested.  

If you or your youth create something you think would be helpful for other congregations and/or would like to share it with others, please send your creations to Youth and Young Adult Ministries. We also would appreciate any photos or videos you want to send via our Facebook page www.facebook.com/BrethrenYYA , the Youth Advisors Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/140324432741613 , or by email to BUllomNaugle@brethren.org .

— Nolan McBride is a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker with the Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Find out more about the ministry at www.brethren.org/yya . Resources for the 2020 Youth Sunday scheduled for May 3 are at www.brethren.org/yya/national-youth-sunday .

2) Churches for Middle East Peace affirms global cease fire movement

From a CMEP release

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) applauds UN secretary general António Guterres’ March 23 call for an immediate ceasefire in all corners of the globe. The ceasefire is especially critical in the Middle East as an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic by reinforcing diplomatic action, creating conditions for the delivery of life-saving aid, and bringing hope to places where people are the most impoverished and vulnerable.

[The Church of the Brethren is a member denomination of CMEP. Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, is serving as chair of the CMEP board.]

As an organization representing nearly 30 Christian denominations and organizations in the US, CMEP is proud that Pope Francis and many other church leaders have stepped forward to endorse the Secretary General’s call. Reinforcing diplomatic action for peace and advocating for robust assistance to the most vulnerable populations in the Middle East, is a primary focus of CMEP’s work.
While some in the region have accepted the ceasefire call, many have not. In Syria, the Russo-Turkish ceasefire appears mostly to be holding. In Libya, General Hifter’s organization said it accepted the call but then launched new attacks. Likewise, in Yemen, the government and other organizations expressed limited support for the Secretary General’s ceasefire call, but violence has dramatically increased. Violence continues unabated in Iraq.

CMEP calls on all parties to conflicts in the Middle East to adhere to the ceasefire and make use of it to gain progress on resolving their conflicts, to allow aid to reach the victims, and to create an environment for reconciliation and justice.

CMEP’s executive director Mae Elise Cannon says, “As Christians around the world have just celebrated Easter, we remain in a season of hope. A global ceasefire would not only allow for the temporary resolution of conflict, but also the pursuit of permanent resolutions that would promote human rights, justice, and peace.”

CMEP is particularly concerned about recent actions by leaders in Israel who are working to create an emergency unity government in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Realities and human rights concerns caused by the occupation continue unabated during the pandemic. One of the main policies being discussed in the formation of the proposed emergency government is an agreement to vote on the annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank.

Any annexation efforts would eliminate diplomatic action, foster violence, perpetuate the withholding of aid by the US government, and deprive both Palestinians and Israelis of hope for future reconciliation–the exact opposite effect desired during a global ceasefire.

CMEP joins other US organizations in calling for Israel’s government to cease movement toward annexation, and joins the many members of Congress in calling on the Trump administration to stop facilitating the confiscation of Palestinian land.

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 29 national church communions and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.


3) Shawn Flory Replogle begins interim role with organizational resources for the Church of the Brethren

Shawn Flory Replogle has been hired by the Church of the Brethren as interim director of organizational resources, beginning April 13. He will work remotely from his home in Kansas and from the General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

He is a graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College with a bachelor of science degree in political science and a minor in economics and peace studies. He also holds a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary and a master of science in degree in organization development from Friends University. He is the founder/executive director of the consulting business Matchlight Organization Development.

His volunteer work and leadership positions with the Church of the Brethren denomination include service as Annual Conference moderator in 2010, a member of the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee 2014 to 2016; and as a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker, workcamp coordinator in 1992-1993 and coordinator of the 1994 National Youth Conference. He also has served as Western Plains District youth coordinator from 2012 to the present. An ordained minister, he has served pastorates in Iowa and Kansas.


4) Annual Conference leadership issues update

2020 Annual Conference Logo

An update from the Annual Conference officers and the Program and Arrangements Committee

In March, we shared through Newsline that our planning is continuing for the 2020 Annual Conference. Since then the Annual Conference Office has received a number of emails from members who ask either: 1) Are you going to cancel Annual Conference? Or 2) Why haven’t you cancelled Annual Conference yet?

We want to assure you that we are thinking carefully and praying about how to proceed. We also want to assure you that the health and safety of all those related to Annual Conference is our first priority.

From the outside, it can appear like this is a simple decision in light of the headlines related to COVID-19. However, it is quite involved, with many steps, given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 crisis and our commitment to work mutually with our partners in Grand Rapids.

To that end, we are in close conversations with the Devos Place Convention Center and three hotels in Grand Rapids with whom we have contracts. Our reality is that because we signed legal contracts five years ago, the Annual Conference Office and Church of the Brethren would owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancellation penalties if we unilaterally cancel our conference. But if there is a mutual decision with our partners in Grand Rapids to not have Annual Conference this year, they may opt not to charge cancellation penalties.

Thus, we have chosen to take the slower path of working together with our partners in Grand Rapids, staying in conversation, discussing options, and negotiating next steps.

For your information, the convention center and two of the three hotels are currently completely closed. They do not know when they will open again. So that is yet another unknown as of today. Our partners in Grand Rapids are well aware of the serious challenge of COVID-19 because they are also living in the middle of it.

Overall, we want to make a decision that, most importantly, protects both the health and well-being of everyone involved with the Annual Conference and secondarily protects the church against major financial losses.

We realize this is a longer, slower process than many might wish for, but be assured we are moving forward prayerfully. Please know that it is still a possibility for Annual Conference to be cancelled, but we hope that will not be the case, even though we recognize attendance might be smaller. For now, the Annual Conference staff persons (Debbie Noffsinger, Jon Kobel and Chris Douglas) are working from their homes to continue the many details of putting together a conference. We understand the tremendous spiritual importance of the Annual Conference gathering, if it is possible to do so safely by July.

We do want to remind you that if you are already registered, or if you are considering registering, Annual Conference has a very generous cancellation/refund policy that protects you. Up until a week before Annual Conference begins, you can receive a full refund. www.brethren.org/ac/cancellation-refund-policy .

In closing, please know that any decision about Annual Conference will be made in a timely manner, prayerfully and carefully, prioritizing the health and safety of those who would attend. Please join us in prayer that God will give us the wisdom, patience, and courage to make the best possible decisions.

Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee:
Paul Mundey, moderator
David Sollenberger, moderator-elect
James M. Beckwith, Annual Conference secretary
Jan Glass King
Emily Shonk Edwards
Carol Hipps Elmore
Chris Douglas, Annual Conference director (ex officio)

5) Brethren Benefit Trust cancels annual fitness challenge

A release from BBT

The annual walk walk/run will not go on as planned…at least not this year.

Brethren Benefit Trust has cancelled its Annual Conference 5K Fun Run, long known as the 5K Fitness Challenge, in light of all the unexpected issues this year on both the medical and financial fronts. The event had been scheduled for Saturday, July 4, in Grand Rapids, Mich.

BBT did not hold the Fitness Challenge last year at Annual Conference in Greensboro because it did not want to interfere with a Conference schedule that was meant to give attendees quality time working through the issues of the denominational compelling vision process. 

“We planned to get the event back on the schedule this year with a new twist–changing it from a timed race to a fun run/walk and also making it a fundraiser,” stated BBT president Nevin Dulabaum. “However, in light of concerns over both health and finances, we believe it is in everyone’s interest not to hold this event this year.”

BBT staff had chosen the Nigeria Crisis Fund as the recipient of fundraising efforts through the fun run/walk, and still plan to make a donation to this worthy cause. “When our team met and agreed to cancel the event, we also agreed that we still wanted to give a portion of the money we would have spent hosting the 5K Fun Run/Walk to the Nigeria Crisis Fund,” Dulabaum continued.

If you would like to make a donation to the Nigeria Crisis Fund, go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .

6) Earth Day marks 50 years on April 22

Photo by Jan Fischer Bachman

An Action Alert from the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day! The 2018 Annual Conference statement on “Creation Care” reiterates the need for a new path forward in care for God’s beloved creation by caring for our neighbors and the earth. This statement reminds us:

“To walk this path, we must first accept that climate change is a moral, spiritual, and human issue, and not a political debate. We must confess our role in the problem and be willing to reflect, pray, and have loving conversations about these complex challenges. We must seek and support solutions that restore dignity to the underprivileged, promote peace, and protect God’s earth.”

In order to embrace God’s call to peace with all creation, following are some of the ways you can get engaged.

Utilize Creation Justice Ministries’ Earth Day Sunday resources. The 2020 theme is focused on “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” and features stories of congregations taking climate action, liturgical resources, and a faith-rooted interpretation of the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports. Find the Earth Sunday resources at www.creationjustice.org/urgency.html .

Join Interfaith Power and Light for Faith Climate Action week. These 10 days of action, taking place from April 17-26, focus on how we can all take action to protect our climate. This year’s theme is “Love Made Visible: Engaging in Sacred Activism to Protect the People We Care about Who Are Most Affected by Climate Change,” and all activities are taking place online. Explore Faith Climate Action Week at www.faithclimateactionweek.org .

Join the Washington National Cathedral Multi-faith Earth Day service. On Sunday, April 19, at 2 p.m. (Eastern time), leaders from Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, and other spiritual communities will share their traditions’ gifts through sacred text, commentary, and song. Connect with the Multi-Faith Earth Day Service at https://cathedral.org/event/multi-faith-earth-day-service .

— Susu Lassa is an associate at the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker in Washington, D.C.

7) Brethren bits

— Discipleship Ministries staff have shared a prayer request for the Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities. “We ask that the church be in prayer for the 21 retirement communities that are part of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes,” said Joshua Brockway, co-coordinator of Discipleship Ministries. “Please pray for the administrators as they steward their resources to provide care in the midst of a pandemic. Pray for the nurses and staff as they care for the community members physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And most of all, pray for the mental and physical wellbeing of the community members themselves. May God watch over each one, granting wisdom and peace.”
     Go to www.brethren.org/homes/directory for the listing and web addresses for the 21 communities in the Fellowship of Brethren Homes.

— One of the Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities, Brethren Village in Lititz, Pa., is suffering an outbreak of COVID-19 among residents and staff. As of April 17, the community had reported on its website the deaths of 4 residents in a skilled nursing memory support area. The community reported an additional 17 positive COVID-19 cases among staff and residents: 10 team members, and 7 skilled nursing memory support residents. Brethren Village has expressed its deepest sympathies to the families of the residents who have died. Its website updates have included detailed information about the measures being taken to conduct testing, prevent further spread of the disease, meet CDC and department of health requirements, enhance guidelines for staff, and more. Find the Brethren Village coronavirus updates at www.bv.org/coronavirus-update .

— The Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community reported on April 8 that one staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.

— Retirement communities have been sharing suggestions for ways to help their residents and staff during the pandemic:
     Financial donations for purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) may be particularly helpful during this time. Several of the church-related communities, including Fahrney Keedy Senior Living Community in Boonsboro, Md., have made such requests.
     Some retirement communities are welcoming donations of home-sewn masks for staff and residents. There are many websites offering instructions for making masks, here is one recommended by Pinecrest, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill.: www.regmedctr.org/webres/File/031920%20Properfit%20Clothing%20Co_%202_5%20PM%20Surgical%20Mask%20Sewing%20Instructions.pdf .
     Also from Pinecrest comes this suggestion to help residents who may be feeling isolated as their facilities are closed to visitors. “If you’re looking for ways to keep your children busy while they are off school, would you consider having them make a card or a picture for our residents? You could mail them to ‘Any Resident,’ Pinecrest Manor, 414 S. Wesley Ave., Mt. Morris, IL 61054.”

— The Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, shared a unique story via Facebook, with reporting from the “Advocate” newspaper. Mike and Carol Williams, owners of The Winery of Versailles, have donated hand sanitizer to the community that was made with excess wine. The effort was a collaboration between the Versailles Winery and Belle of Dayton distillery. “The Williams saw the need and filled it, giving it to front line health care organizations and first responders. John L. Warner, President & CEO of Brethren Retirement Community, commented, ‘Thank you Mike and Carol, I am very grateful for this generous support.’ Carol is no stranger to BRC, she has been a volunteer for us for many years.” Find an “Advocate” article about the endeavor to turn wine into hand sanitizer at www.dailyadvocate.com/news/86697/winery-contributes-to-making-sanitizer .

— The deadline for applications to the Renz Scholarship has been extended through April 30. The James E. Renz Pinecrest Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship striving to honor and recognize a graduating high school senior who, through unselfish acts and future plans, has demonstrated a commitment to healthcare, social work, or ministry studies. Eligible seniors will either be a member of a congregation within the northern region of the Illinois and Wisconsin District of the Church of the Brethren, or a high school senior in Oregon, Ill., or a Pinecrest employee or dependent, or a home-schooled or private school student from within the Oregon school district. The Pinecrest Board of Directors established the scholarship, first awarded in 2014, to recognize the lifetime contributions of Jim Renz, which included 40 years on the board, 24 years as secretary. Download the requirements and application from www.pinecrestcommunity.org/images/pdfs/2020_Renz_Scholarship_Pinecrest.pdf . For questions contact giving@pinecrestcommunity.org or 815-734-1710.

having Shine curriculum student books mailed directly to her guitar students. Shine is a joint Sunday school curriculum of Brethren Press and MennoMedia. Wrote Williams to Brethren Press: “After 10 years of my offering free guitar lessons as a ‘side-door ministry,’ I had just about come to the conclusion that it was a dead-end for any possibility of church growth! Then, one guitar kiddo and his Spanish-speaking mom became my Sunday school students in December…and kept wondering if/when any of his friends might join him! After numerous conversations/invitations that basically went nowhere, I offered a Zoom gathering for my guitarists to play the songs we were going to do at the Easter Egg Hunt on April 11. During our time together, I invited them to join me the next day–Easter Sunday–and Youth Church was born! With 6 participants, grades 3-7! So, I’m thrilled that we’ll all have these way-cool learning tools in our hands as we Zoom together for as many weeks as needed! Many thanks for your support!”

— Camp Eder in Fairfield, Pa., has announced new leadership. The camp board reported in an email from Southern Pennsylvania District “a new hire, and a restructuring of our current employees that will help Camp Eder move into the future for God’s glory. We are happy to introduce Dennis Turner (Denny) as our Co-Director/Maintenance Manager…. In addition to Program Director, Mike Kovacs will also now serve as Co-Director. Thaddeus Smith is our Hospitality Supervisor, and serves faithfully in the kitchen as well. The board also has now outsourced our finances in an effort to secure your donations to Camp Eder, which are desperately needed in order to continue sharing the Gospel with children for winters and summers to come!”

— Religion News Service (RNS) this week published an extensive report on the black church and how it is being affected by COVID-19. The article titled “Black Clergy Memorialize the Dead, Ask Government to Address Disparities” by Adelle M. Banks interviewed black clergy across the country. “Black clergy say the coronavirus is touching–and sometimes taking–the faithful who until a month ago were accustomed to meeting weekly in their pews. Some are mourning losses in the highest echelons of their denomination. Others are counting the dead, sick and unemployed.” The Church of God in Christ “has reportedly lost close to a dozen of its bishops and other leaders to COVID-19,” the article said. In the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s First Episcopal District including hard-hit areas of New York as well as New Jersey and Delaware, as of April 15, 48 members have died, 258 have been infected, and 1,913 have become unemployed. “Some African American pastors are joining forces to demand the Trump administration and congressional leaders take actions ranging from setting up testing sites in black and poor communities to providing masks to low-wage essential workers, prisoners and people living in homeless shelters. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a March report that showed 33 percent of hospitalized patients in a 14-state study were African American; comparatively, blacks constitute 13 percent of the US population.” Said William Barber II, a leading black clergy and presidents of “Repairers of the Breach”: “Black people are more likely to be essential workers, keeping us safe and fed. But these are the very people the stimulus bill did not provide (with) the essentials of health care, living wages or even guarantee that no water would be shut off. While corporations in less than three weeks got $2.5 trillion.” Find the RNS report at https://religionnews.com/2020/04/16/black-clergy-funeralizing-the-dead-asking-government-to-address-disparities .

— San Diego (Calif.) First Church of the Brethren has made the news for donating community garden space to a program that is donating produce to those in need during this pandemic. The program is featured in a video from ABC 10 News San Diego posted at www.onenewspage.com/video/20200326/12942761/Gardeners-donate-extra-produce-during-Coronavirus-Pandemic.htm .

— Boones Mill (Va.) Church of the Brethren, with leadership from pastor Jerry Naff, has found a visual way to share the Easter story with its community during this time. As reported by the “Franklin News-Post,” the church has set up roadside scenes to share Lent and Easter with its neighbors. “The first scene for the season of Lent featured Jesus teaching the disciples at the Sermon on the Mount. The following week, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The third week’s scene featured Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. After that, Roman soldiers were scourging Jesus at the whipping post. For the week before Easter, Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha before being placed on it between crosses of two thieves. On Easter, and with the soldiers nearby, Jesus was presented off the cross and resurrected.” Read more at www.thefranklinnewspost.com/news/boones-mill-church-stages-roadside-scenes-to-share-easter-story/article_0e538827-8471-520d-afdd-7411037e4cab.html .

— Troy (Ohio) Church of the Brethren in has received a $2,000 grant to support a Laundry Outreach Program to assist those in need of laundry services. The grant was awarded by the Troy Foundation among grants totaling $277,220.33 to 23 organizations. The grants will be used in support of the foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for the community by connecting donors to charitable causes for a better tomorrow, said a news article. Find it at www.tdn-net.com/news/82390/troy-foundation-awards-grants-6 .

— April 3-4 would normally have been Camp Bethel’s annual Sounds of the Mountains Storytelling Festival, a big fundraiser for the camp in Fincastle, Va. According to a note from director Barry LcNoir, the festival usually accounts for 6 percent of the camp’s total annual budget and involves more than 100 volunteers. “Instead, the storytellers submitted video ‘sets’ and the camp staff assembled five free online shows for families to enjoy at home,” LeNoir reported. “Each video includes links that encourage donations for Camp Bethel. Since Aprll 4, the videos have over 1,700 views and have netted over $8,000 in donations.” Watch the Sounds of the Mountains “At-Home” Storytelling Festival at www.SoundsoftheMountains.org/watch . “Camp Bethel hope this provides a little joy for your families during these unprecedented months,” wrote LeNoir. “Enjoy!”

— A Weekly Virtual Campfire is being held by Camp Mack via Facebook Live each Sunday at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). “Join us singing along, enjoying your popcorn, and being in community,” said an invitation. Go to www.facebook.com/events/2491707141142969 .

— Dunker Punks has released a new podcast. “As Earth Week approaches, we tend to amplify our thinking about the environment and how humans interact with it,” said an announcement. “How has your connection to nature and the environment changed during this pandemic? In this interview with Mandy North, listen to how her perspective on what’s important changed when she decided to go on one of New Community Project’s Learning Tours.” Listen to this episode by going to bit.ly/DPP_Episode97 or find an archives of Dunker Punks podcasts at bit.ly/DPP_iTunes .

— The next episode of the video series “Brethren Voices” features Brethren Volunteer Service and the Portland BVS Intentional Living House, which is celebrating 10 years of service to the Portland community. “Unfortunately, because of the tragic coronavirus epidemic, we have not been able to complete this program which was initially planned to be our April 2020 edition,” reported producer Ed Groff. “MetroEast Community Media, the wonderful studio used to produce the program over the past 15 years, has been closed temporarily. Three of the four BVSers who were assigned to the Portland BVS project had to return to Germany during the second week of March. Prior to leaving, we were able to do a studio interview with filming at their respective projects. In the meantime, we invite you to tune into www.Youtube.com/Brethrenvoices for a look at what Brethren do because of their faith. You’ll find over 100 Brethren Voices programs. These programs have been downloaded 1009 times by 62 community access stations around the country for rebroadcast.”

— US church leaders and the World Council of Churches (WCC) have expressed dismay over President Trump’s suspension of funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) and are urging reversal of the decision. Reports a WCC release, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the US (NCC) has made a statement that reads, in part: “This is dangerous, immoral and wrong. Even though international institutions such as the WHO are not perfect, suspension of funding…is irresponsible and ill-timed.” Jim Winkler, NCC president and general secretary, said he is proud that the US is to date the largest WHO funder. “Whatever improvements that can be made in WHO are worthy of consideration but right now, as the entire world is fighting the coronavirus, it is not the time to suspend our funding,” he said. “That would be a disaster.” WCC acting general secretary Ioan Sauca “expressed deep dismay that blame with regard to the coronavirus response is being shifted to WHO–the best instrument currently available for a coordinated and coherent global response to this common crisis,” said the release. Said Sauca, “This will not serve the interests of the people of the world.” When this crisis has passed, the world should work together to identify needed reforms in the global health architecture, added Sauca. “But now, the urgent need is for the spread of the virus to be contained, and its threat managed, using all available instruments,” he said. “Uncounted lives and livelihoods depend on it.” The NCC statement is at https://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/us-must-not-suspend-funding-to-who .

— Jay L. Christner of Somerset, Ore., has been honored for many years of service and leadership to the Somerset Area Food Pantry. Reports the “Baker City Herald”: “Christner is the former longtime pastor of the former Rockwood Church of the Brethren. Because of the current restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a plaque of appreciation was presented on behalf of the pantry’s Board of Directors by Debbie DiLoreto, his daughter, at her residence.” The report noted that Christner was a longtime educator for the Somerset Area School District, and his role with the Somerset Area Food Pantry started in 1982 and continued through January this year. Go to www.bakercityherald.com/coronavirus/national/christner-lauded-by-food-pantry/article_d590c270-2d8e-5332-a56b-af7d873d0b14.html

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include John Ballinger, Jean Bednar, Josh Brockway, Shamek Cardona, Jacob Crouse, Chris Douglas, Torin Eikler, Ed Groff, Susu Lassa, Nolan McBride, Becky Ullom Naugle, Karen Warner, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to cobnews@brethren.org . All submissions are subject to editing. Find the Newsline archive at www.brethren.org/news . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren emails, or make changes to your subscription, at www.brethren.org/intouch .

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