Newsline for April 25, 2020

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with wisdom from the Book of Job. Find Church of the Brethren resources for caring for God’s good creation at . Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you.”
–Job 12:7-8a


1) EDF grants available to congregations and districts for humanitarian relief in their communities
2) Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding sites are suspended for weekly volunteers
3) Unprecedented virtual love feast events get large audience


4) National Young Adult Conference to be held virtually in 2020, in-person in 2021
5) Intercultural Ministries offers an online author event with Mungi Ngomane
6) Brethren Academy offers two-part webinar on ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Pastoral Care’


7) First, don’t forget your faith

8) Brethren bits: Remembrance for Jane Wood, moderator’s Easter greetings, video discusses online offerings, personnel notes, prayer request for flooding in the DRC, worship resources for Older Adult Month in May, Messenger magazine is offering online puzzle pages, and much more.

Quote of the week:

“Working together and supporting each other we can share God’s light and love even in the hardest of times.”

— From an announcement of the new Emergency Disaster Fund grant program for congregations and districts to respond to humanitarian needs in thier communities.

A new landing page has been created to help church members find all the Church of the Brethren pandemic-related resources and information in one place. Go to .

1) EDF grants available to congregations and districts for humanitarian relief in their communities

Church of the Brethren congregations and districts may now apply for grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) in a new program responding to the humanitarian needs caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Working together and supporting each other we can share God’s light and love even in the hardest of times,” said an announcement.

The program is one of several financial resources that denominational staff are publicizing or expanding in order to support the ministries of congregations, districts, church-related organizations, and church staff in this difficult time. Find a new landing page of COVID-19 related resources at .

EDF pandemic grants

The COVID-19 Pandemic Grants program was created by Brethren Disaster Ministries and an initial program funding of $60,000 was approved by the Mission and Ministry Board in order to enable the EDF to provide grants to congregations and districts. Additional funding will be requested from the Mission and Ministry Board when needed.

Congregations may apply for grants of up to $5,000 to provide humanitarian relief for vulnerable people among their church members and communities.

Districts may apply for grants of up to $25,000 to provide humanitarian relief for vulnerable people in their congregations and communities.

The grants may be used for a variety of purposes including providing food, shelter, emotional and spiritual care, care of church leaders, support for children, and more. These grants are only available to Church of the Brethren congregations and districts in the United States and Puerto Rico.

To apply or for more information go to or email or call 410-635-8731.

Additional financial resources are available through several already existing funds and programs of the denomination:

The Ministry Assistance Fund, administered by the Office of Ministry, assists credentialed ministers and licensed ministers serving as pastors. Applications for assistance will be channeled through district executives or designees of the ministers/families experiencing hardship. Go to or contact your district executive or email the Office of Ministry at .

The Church Worker’s Assistance Plan is a program of Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) to aid current and former clergy and lay employees of Church of the Brethren congregations, districts, or camps who have no other means of financial assistance. Contact or 847-622-3391.

The Brethren Faith in Action Fund created with funds generated from the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., continues to receive applications from congregations for grants up to $5,000 for outreach ministry projects that serve their communities, strengthen the congregation, and expand the reign of God. Go to or email or call 847-429-4343.

The Going to the Garden program of the Global Food Initiative and the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy addresses food insecurity with grants of up to $1,000 to create or supplement a community garden. Congregations and other groups that have received grants in the past are now eligible to apply for larger amounts. Contact or 920-568-8177.

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding sites are suspended for weekly volunteers

By Jenn Dorsch Messler

All Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding sites are currently suspended for weekly volunteers. Here are the details on these schedule changes based on the COVID-19 environment:

The reopening date of the Brethren Disaster Ministries site in the Carolinas has been suspended until June 7, but discussions are ongoing with local partners in case there need to be further changes. That site was previously planned to be completed and close on Aug. 1.

The remaining volunteers scheduled for the Puerto Rico rebuilding site have been cancelled through May 23. These were the last volunteers scheduled for Puerto Rico because the volunteer side of the project was already set to finish on that date. Brethren Disaster Ministries is still supporting some families by providing materials so that they are now able to complete the work themselves as they are staying home. Other cases will continue to have support from Brethren Disaster Ministries through local contractors completing the rebuilding work.

As was previously planned, the Tampa, Fla., site has closed and the location of Project 2 is scheduled to move to Dayton, Ohio, for tornado recovery. Brethren Disaster Ministries is projecting that the move and set up for construction work can take place at the end of June for a mid-July opening date. However, volunteers serving in the month of July on that site must be Ohio residents who can commute easily to the project location daily and stay at their homes at night. If possible, the usual schedule for volunteers will begin in August. More details will be available in the coming weeks for local Ohio residents to sign up to help as possible.

All dates named for these project sites are subject to change depending on CDC guidance, restrictions from officials in the project site areas and states, and local partners in those areas being willing to accept volunteers. We are in close contact with those partners while monitoring when it will be acceptable to send volunteers without imposing any health concerns for our volunteers, the host community, and most importantly the homeowners. If any further extension of these dates is needed in the coming weeks or months, it will be announced first with the volunteer groups and leaders on the schedule, and then publicly.

— Jenn Dorsch Messler is director of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

3) Unprecedented virtual love feast events get large audience

Two virtual love feasts offered during Holy Week gained a large online audience. The two were unprecedented, church-wide events, held in addition to the virtual love feasts offered by individual congregations in the Church of the Brethren.

As of April 15, a week after the live-streamed event, the love feast coordinated by the Office of Ministry and the recording of the event had received 10,323 “page views.” View the recording at .

The Dunker Punks virtual love feast podcast has had more than 4,500 engagements as of this week. Organizers noted it took a month of planning and included more than 20 Church of the Brethren voices as well as several people working behind the scenes. Listen at .

‘The service likely touched 10,000 people’

As reported by Enten Eller, who provided technical support for the live-streamed event coordinated by the Office of Ministry, “from this data, we can tell that the service was viewed (sessions) over 10,000 times.” He qualified the data with the comment that “while some of those viewings would have been repeats and refreshes, given that there were nearly 4,000 unique devices used, we can say with a high degree of confidence that the service likely touched over 10,000 people live or within the 24 hours following the service.”

He offered some further analysis of the geographic reach of the online event. “We can also tell that viewers connected from most all parts of the denomination across the United States, plus at least a dozen more countries.”

‘Innovative and adaptive mustard seeds’

Matt Rittle, one of the pastors involved in the Dunker Punks virtual love feast podcast, has reported to Newsline about the success of the event:

“The Dunker Punk movement has been calling and gathering people to live out Brethren values in ‘innovative, adaptable, and fearless’ ways since its inception at the 2014 National Youth Conference, striving to ‘drop mustard seeds along new paths of connection and expression.’ We are honored, then, to have dropped our innovative and adaptive mustard seeds along the well-worn path of the Brethren love feast experience and are so thankful to everyone who collaborated to make it a success.

“Spanning over a month of planning, 20 voices were heard on the special episode and several more worked less visibly behind the scenes. The Virtual Love Feast represents over 200 cumulative volunteer hours from people collaborating together to make this special love feast experience possible, which, as Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred said, ‘Wasn’t a replacement, but a reminder of what love feast is and why it matters.’

“We are as in awe of this massive effort as we are with the impressive response. Between the Virtual Love Feast itself and the separate video of the postlude, an eight-part Dunker Punk rendition of ‘Move in our Midst’ by Jacob Crouse, over 4,500 people engaged with us in our journey. We cannot say this loudly or clearly enough: thank you to everyone who engaged and listened! Seriously, thank you!

“If you enjoyed the Virtual Love Feast episode, consider checking out other episodes too. Two timely episodes recently released include Episode #96 led by Dana Cassell encouraging people to turn to God through prayer and meditation, and an Earth Day Episode #97 focusing on how this pandemic might move us to further examine our caregiving for the Earth by way of a dialogue between Emmett and Mandy North. Stay tuned to each episode offered by Brethren young adults as we move quickly toward our landmark 100th episode!”


4) National Young Adult Conference to be held virtually in 2020, in-person in 2021

By Becky Ullom Naugle

Double dipping! Who doesn’t love two scoops rather than one? National Young Adult Conference (NYAC) will happen two years in a row: once virtually in 2020, and in-person in 2021.

The NYAC 2020 theme, “Love in Action,” based on Romans 12:9-18, invites us to make our love for God’s children visible. Staying home, rather than traveling and gathering in person, is a perfect embodiment of the theme. The Young Adult Steering Committee hopes avoiding an in-person event will help protect the health of our sisters and brothers.

Although the committee is still working out exactly what the shift to a virtual event means, it is clear there will be several free, virtual connecting points for young adults at the end of May.

We are excited to work at being a virtual community and offering mutual support in these tough times. Young adults should stay tuned for more information about how and when to connect at the end of May for the experiment with virtual NYAC. Young adults should also put NYAC on their calendars for May 28-31, 2021.

As we experience this epidemic, Romans 12:12 reminds us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” May it be so!

— Becky Ullom Naugle is director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Church of the Brethren.

5) Intercultural Ministries offers an online author event with Mungi Ngomane

“Everyday Ubuntu” author Mungi Ngomane

“Join us for #ConversationsTogether with Mungi Ngomane,” said an invitation from Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministries director LaDonna Nkosi. “Share the invitation with your churches, friends, family, and peoples, and plan to join us!”

The event will take place online via Zoom on Tuesday, May 5, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. (Central time). Ngomane is author of the book “Everyday Ubuntu: Living Better Together the African Way,” which is the featured book for the ministry’s current online book discussion. Since early March, a group of people from churches across the US have been sharing in an online discussion of “Everyday Ubuntu” under the title #ConversationsTogether.

“She brings a very special perspective of Ubuntu which means ‘I am because we are’ and ‘people are people through others,’ and its meaning for our global and local contexts today,” said the invitation. “The granddaughter of Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Mungi Ngomane writes and engages conversation in Ubuntu’s meaning especially in these times.”

Go to to register and receive the Zoom link for the event. Nkosi will be the moderator and host.

6) Brethren Academy offers two-part webinar on ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Pastoral Care’

“The Impact of COVID-19 on Pastoral Care” is a two-part webinar for pastors, chaplains, and other ministering people, offered by the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. The presenter is Debbie Eisenbise, a pastor, spiritual director, and cofounder of Through the Threshold: End of Life Doula Services providing assistance in advance care planning and honoring death and dying.

Part one of the webinar will be held on Friday, May 1, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Eastern time) via Zoom. The topics to be discussed include pastoral care at a distance: managing expectations, complicated grief, and exacerbated situations, considerations in delegation; and self-care: embracing vulnerability, seeking support, prayer practices when retreat is not an option.

Part two will be held on Friday, May 8, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Eastern time) via Zoom. The topics to be discussed include re-imagining rituals for healing, dying, death, and after death; and congregational engagement and involvement.
This webinar is offered free, and will be oriented toward participation. Therefore, space is limited to the first 15 registrants. To register, email your name and expressed interest in this webinar to . A Zoom link will be sent prior to May 1.
Participating clergy may apply for 0.4 continuing education units by sending your name, mailing address, and $10 after the webinar to Fran Massie, Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374. Make checks payable to “Brethren Academy.”
For more information about the academy go to . For questions contact 800-287-8822 ext. 1824 or .


7) First, don’t forget your faith

By Nevin Dulabaum, president of Brethren Benefit Trust

In the 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams,” Doc Graham states, “You know, we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening.”

While that statement is poignant in the movie and is generally correct in everyday life, we obviously understand the magnitude of what is currently happening throughout the world. We all know we are going through an extraordinary time where lives, good health, jobs, community, material wealth, and perhaps even relationships and our personal faith are all being tested and/or threatened. When a vaccine is approved and distributed and COVID-19 is finally eradicated throughout the world, the landscape will be forever changed from that of pre-March 2020.

Will online meetings and working from home be even more common than they were? Learning from home? Shopping online with home delivery? Ordering food to go or to be delivered instead of dining in at a restaurant? Will we ever enter a large gathering again without expecting to see hand sanitizer stations placed everywhere? Will we feel secure being in public without wearing masks? Is six feet of separation among people a new normal? While I don’t profess to know what changes will become normalized, I do believe some will, and that in the future we’ll look back to March 2020 as the moment of significant cultural change.

So what can we do to establish new norms to carry us through the shelter-at-home and social-distancing mandates, while we wait for the “all clear” to sound?

First, don’t forget your faith. The Church of the Brethren is steeped in the belief of the existence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. While I have long avoided talking publicly about my personal spiritual beliefs, this extraordinary time has me wanting to share just a bit of what I believe–that we’ve been given a canvas of life, and we have been given intellect to make decisions, which is our way of “painting” our personal canvas. I  believe God is with us, but that we can decide during this time whether to use masks, stay at home, and keep our distance from others. Faith does not mean our prayers are answered the way we want them to be. Rather, it is the knowledge that we are not alone, and that a better place is in store for us beyond this world. Please, if you can afford to do so stay in, stay away from all but your closest family members, and utilize delivery services where you can. I never thought I could afford to have my groceries delivered to my house; now I feel like I can’t afford not to. At the same time, reach out to family and friends and communicate and be social (from a distance). We actually tried having a Zoom meal with a relative who is alone at home; you, too, can be creative using technology to reach across the quarantine void.

Second, as Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is a financial institution and the markets are being heavily affected by the COVID-19 era, I encourage you to stick with your investment plan and to have a conversation with your investment adviser. The markets have always gone up…and down. To become skittish and to exit an investment strategy is to lock in your losses and to perhaps stifle your ability to grow them back. You should adopt a long-term strategy to get you to retirement, and stick with it.

Third, it is ok to grieve the losses that are felt, whether they are the deaths of people we knew and loved, our jobs, our material resources, or even long-planned activities that needed to be cancelled. The losses experienced today are so profound in many ways that grieving is necessary to address the issues and to try to move on emotionally.

Fourth, be grace filled. Everyone is experiencing loss, change, and disappointment. Let’s be supportive of each other at a time when there’s a lot of need all around.

At BBT, staff are working from home during the shelter-in-place directive, trying to support our members and clients with services and information as best we can. We’ve not only addressed making changes so that each of our team members can successfully work from beyond our office space, but we’re also positioning ourselves to be nimble and adaptable with whatever new realities emerge from this crisis.

The bottom line is that BBT was created to serve members and organizations within the Church of the Brethren, and others of like mind, and we will continue to do so faithfully, doggedly, and responsibly.

Blessings to each of you during this difficult time.

— Nevin Dulabaum is president of Brethren Benefit Trust. This is slightly adapted from his reflection first published by BBT.

8) Brethren bits

New videos:

— Paul Mundey, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, has posted a video Easter message. The message frames the COVID-19 crisis in the hope of Easter/Eastertide, in a video filmed at the historic Dunkard Church on the Antietam Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Md. The video titled “God’s Glad Surprise” can be viewed at .

— “Spend a few minutes with Josh Brockway and Traci Rabenstein thinking about online offerings!” said an invitation to view a video conversation about online offering possibilities for congregations during a time when traditional offerings are not being received during in-person worship services. Find the video featuring Brockway of the Discipleship Ministries staff and Rabenstein of the Mission Advancement staff at .

— Remembrance: Jane Marchant Wood, 87, passed away on April 14 in Boones Mill, Va. She served on the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren from 1988 to 1993, and was a member of the Standing Committee of Annual Conference from 1985 to 1986. Her other volunteer work for the denomination included serving on the Committee on Interchurch Relations from 1994 to 1998. She worked at the Virlina District office, and served on the district’s Staff Counseling Committee from 1984 to 1990. There will be a private burial, with a possible memorial service at a later date. The full obituary is available at .

— Allison L Snyder will begin June 22 as the 2020-2021 intern in the Brethren Historical Library and Archives. She is a graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College with a bachelor of arts in history and English. She currently works as a lead/co-teacher for Little Tigers Learning Center and volunteers as a youth advisor for Panther Creek Church of the Brethren.

— The Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy has welcomed Galen Fitzkee as a new intern working remotely from his home in Manheim, Pa. Fitzkee is wrapping up his junior year at Messiah College where he is majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies and minoring in Spanish and politics. He is a member at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

— The Global Mission office is requesting prayer for the Democratic Republic of Congo where the Mulongwe River has flooded in the Uvira area. This devastating flooding has occurred as the people continue to struggle with the effects of the pandemic. Reports from the DRC said 3,500 homes were destroyed, 27 people perished, and thousands are currently displaced. Some 25 families related to the Church of the Brethren in the DRC are among those affected. Please pray for the Uvira area.

— The Older Adult Ministry is posting worship resources for Older Adult Month in May on the older adults page of the Church of the Brethren website. The theme is “Still Bearing Fruit” (Psalm 92:14) and the worship resources can be used for online worship. The ministry also is inviting congregations to share their experiences of ministry with older adults. “We, in the Church of the Brethren, are blessed by the presence and wisdom of the elders in our congregations. Perhaps you can set aside one Sunday in May to honor your older adults. Maybe you can ask younger folks to share stories of how an older adult has been a blessing in their life.” Go to the Facebook page of the National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) to share your experiences of worship honoring older adults, at . Find the downloadable worship resources at .

— Messenger magazine is offering online puzzle pages for children and families staying safe-at-home during the pandemic. The two pages of puzzles have been put together with help from Zoe Vorndran, intern at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, based on the Church of the Brethren camps at and the church-related colleges and universities at . “Zoe, thank you for the challenging clues!” said a note from the Messenger editorial team. Messenger is the denominational magazine of the Church of the Brethren.

— On Earth Peace is publicizing a “Song & Story Fest Campfire/Concert in Place” as an online gathering of “folks who enjoy each other, jokes, folk songs, and stories of community solidarity and hope!” The events take place via Zoom as interactive open meetings during which participants may share a joke or a short story, a reflection on these times, a song, or a word of hope for the peace and justice community. Contact host Ken Kline Smeltzer at to request the Zoom meeting link and login instructions. The next gathering is planned for 90 to 120 minutes on Friday, May 1, starting at 7 p.m. (Eastern time).

— Shenandoah District has shared a document created by Ken Fox to assist congregations with cutting costs and properly maintaining church buildings and their HVAC systems. Fox is pastor of Cedar Run Church of the Brethren in Virginia, and manager of HVAC systems for James Madison University. “We extend our thanks to Ken for sharing his expertise through these thoughtful tips,” said the district newsletter. Find the document at .

— The 31st Annual World Hunger Bike Ride in Virlina District “will be new and different” this year because of concerns presented by the COVID-19 virus, said a district announcement. “Rather than riding designated courses on a single day, cyclists are invited to ride routes of their choosing in accordance with social distancing practices and record their mileage from May 1 through September 1. As always, they are asked to seek pledges or donate an entry fee to participate. Cyclists will be asked to submit their donations and the number of miles they ride by September 5. A donation of $500 will be made to the Auction in honor of the one with the most total miles.” Contact World Hunger Auction, 130 Hickman Road, Rocky Mount, VA 24151.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has announced a number of awards:
     The Nelson T. Huffman Award for Musical Excellence has been given to Christopher A. DeFreeuw, a senior music major from Suffolk, Va. The award is made in honor of the late Nelson T. Huffman, longtime professor and chair of the department of music.
     The Stephen Tayman Memorial Music Scholarship was given to Cayla L. Riddick, a junior music and mathematics double major. The scholarship is given by his family in memory of Stephen Tayman, a member of the class of 1999 who died while a student at Bridgewater.
     Rachael M. King received the Esther Mae Wilson Petcher Memorial Scholarship. The award is named in memory of Esther Mae Wilson Petcher, a member of the Bridgewater class of 1944 and a former missionary to Nigeria. King is a health and exercise science major from Fredericksburg, Va.
     Kayla D. Wilson has received the Melissa D. Jett Community Service Award in memory of Melissa D. Jett, who would have graduated with the class of 1999. She died Jan. 15, 1997, as the result of a traffic accident on campus. Wilson is a sociology major with a minor in social work and a gender studies concentration, from Virginia Beach, Va. She is a member of the Spiritual Life Board at the college, raised money and material items for people who lost possessions or had homes damaged from Hurricane Harvey, has served as a student leader for the CROP Meal and Hunger Walk, among other service activities.
— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has announced a webinar and a new e-book offering examples of “best practices” from churches across the world that are taking their ministry and services online because of COVID-19.
     The webinar on “New Ways of Being the Church” is scheduled for 9 a.m. (Eastern time) on April 29. “The webinar will bring inspiration and knowledge to churches who want to develop their ministry online, discovering how churches continue to pray and worship together,” said an announcement. “Via livestreamed speakers, the hour-long webinar will also offer time for questions and discussion. A video will be available for replay as well. Speakers will include pastors and communication experts from around the world.” The webinar is organized by the WCC in partnership with the Lutheran World Federation, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Global Christian Forum, World Association for Christian Communication, and European Christian Internet Conference.
     A new publication by one of the featured speakers at the webinar, Heidi Campbell, professor of communication at Texas A&M University and director of the Network for New Media, Religion, and Digital Culture Studies, is called “The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online.” This e-book was created with input from 30 practitioners and researchers sharing their current experiences and observations. Contributors come from 10 different countries, representing 12 different Christian denominations. “The goal is to get this material out to those who will most benefit from a project of this nature–religious communities wrestling with the sudden move from offline to online ministry through digitally-mediated contexts,” said Campbell.
     Find out more at .

— An interfaith message issued for Earth Day, April 22, calls for “ambitious and urgent action to address the climate emergency, urging that efforts to rebuild economies put people’s health before profit,” said a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC). The message acknowledges and mourns the trauma, anxiety, vulnerability, and loss of life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among already vulnerable communities, the release said. The message reads, in part: “We are appalled by the increase in human rights violations, including racism, extreme surveillance, xenophobia, misuses of emergency powers and domestic violence…. The choices we now make will shape our society for years and it is crucial that efforts to rebuild economies put people’s health before profit. Governments have pledged extraordinary amounts of money to prevent economic disasters because of this pandemic, but that money must not be used to finance future environmental degradation…. The plans for a just recovery from COVID-19 must take into account the necessary measures to tackle climate change with a managed, planned and fair approach. We call for a rebuilding which upholds the human rights, health and wellbeing of citizens as critical to the stability and security of all countries…. This is the time to create a healthier and more resilient society together.” The message will be sent from the Interfaith Liaison Committee of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Read the full message at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Shamek Cardona, Lisa Crouch, Jenn Dorsch-Messler, Nevin Dulabaum, Enten Eller, Jan Fischer Bachman, Roxane Hill. Fran Massie, Nancy Miner, Paul Mundey, Becky Ullom Naugle, LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, Matt Rittle, Roy Winter, 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 . All submissions are subject to editing. Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren emails, or make changes to your subscription, at .

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