Newsline for Aug. 22, 2020

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). 

A glimpse of two of the postcards in the set that is the pictorial Annual Report from the Church of the Brethren for 2020.

NEWS
1) Church of the Brethren Annual Report ‘Living Letters’ is available in three formats
2) ‘A Fall Sunday Off from Preaching’ offered by Annual Conference moderator
3) Disaster ministry cancels Nebraska flood response, monitors needs after Derecho and earthquake
4) Children’s Disaster Services invites parents to new Facebook group

PERSONNEL
5) Kevin Kessler resigns from leadership of Illinois and Wisconsin District

RESOURCES
6) ‘We Bear It in Tears’ shares voices of Nigerian Brethren affected by Boko Haram violence

UPCOMING EVENTS
7) Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center to postpone or hold fall events virtually
8) ‘The Church in Black and White’ symposium is planned for Sept. 12

9) Brethren bits: Remembering Phyllis Kingery Ruff, personnel and jobs, district conferences, news from international partners, Camp Bethel’s “safe and in-person” 5K, the August “Brethren Voices,” MAA receives award, Partners for Sacred Places study, more


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Find our landing page of Church of the Brethren COVID-19 related resources and information at www.brethren.org/covid19 .

Find Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship at www.brethren.org/news/2020/church-of-the-brethren-congregations-worship-online.html .

A listing to recognize Brethren who are active in health care is at www.brethren.org/news/2020/brethren-active-in-health-care.html . To add a person to this listing, send an email with first name, county, and state to cobnews@brethren.org .

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1) Church of the Brethren Annual Report ‘Living Letters’ is available in three formats

This year’s Annual Report from the Church of the Brethren denomination is now available in three formats: an inspirational video sharing stories from selected ministries, a set of colorful postcards, and the full written report that ordinarily would appear in the Annual Conference booklet. Find the video, the full report, and a “flip” view of the postcard set at www.brethren.org/annualreport .

The report is titled, “Living Letters,” with a theme scripture from 2 Corinthians 3:2-3: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

In the context of the pandemic, the report highlights the people of faith as living letters who reach out to each other and minister together even in a time when the church may be unable to meet in person. It evokes the New Testament letters of Paul and other early apostles, which continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ today, across time and distance.

The video version centers on the stories told in the postcard set and features the voices of those who are sharing their own ministry stories. The video may be shown at district conferences this fall, and congregations are invited to download it for use in worship services. A version is available with captioning in Spanish.

The postcard set is being distributed widely for church members’ own information and inspiration and to send to family and friends; for congregations to share with their members and visitors; and for congregations to do outreach in their neighborhoods.

The postcard set will be mailed to Annual Conference delegates and distributed as an enclosure in the September issue of the Church of the Brethren magazine “Messenger” and in the September/October “Source” packet that is mailed to each congregation. Copies also are available to order from Karen Stocking at Brethren Press, contact kstocking@brethren.org . Feel free to ask for a quantity.

2) ‘A Fall Sunday Off from Preaching’ offered by Annual Conference moderator

Paul Mundey

By Nancy Sollenberger Heishman

At the invitation of the Office of Ministry, Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey is preparing a Sabbath rest-themed sermon designed to encourage preachers to take a Sunday off from preaching sometime this fall.

Given the heavy demands on pastoral leadership during the pandemic, it is difficult for many ministers to take time away. For that reason, the Office of Ministry is pleased to work together with the moderator to provide a resource to congregations that will enable them to support their pastor taking time away from the responsibilities of preaching.

Mundey’s sermon will be posted on the Church of the Brethren website, www.brethren.org , by Friday, Sept. 18, and will be available for streaming or downloading anytime during the fall.

Flowing out of the hymn, “O God in Restless Living,” Mundey’s sermon is titled “Finding Rest Amid Restless Living.” Words from Jeremiah 31:25, “I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish,” assure us that there is a God in restless living who accompanies us in upheaval, offering sanctuary amid stormy anxiety, doubt, and fear. Congregations and their ministers are encouraged to partner together to find rest and refreshment in the midst of these days.

— Nancy Sollenberger Heishman directs the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry.

3) Disaster ministry cancels Nebraska flood response, monitors needs after Derecho and earthquake

Image courtesy of the National Weather Service. A radar time-lapse image of the Derecho that hit the Midwest on Aug. 11, 2020.

By Jenn Dorsch Messler

Brethren Disaster Ministries has cancelled a short-term response to flooding in Nebraska, that was to take place in late August, and is monitoring needs following the Derecho that hit Iowa and Illinois and the earthquake that struck North Carolina earlier this month.

Nebraska flooding response canceled

The Brethren Disaster Ministries short-term response in Nebraska scheduled for Aug. 16-29 has been cancelled due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the Omaha area the week prior to the start date. Staff will explore future opportunities to reschedule this response to the flooding that took place in 2019.

Derecho response

Relief and clean-up efforts are still very active following the Derecho that hit Iowa and Illinois on Aug. 11. A Derecho is described by the National Weather Service as a widespread, long-lived windstorm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. This event is estimated to have traveled almost 800 miles in 14 hours, leaving significant damage and debris from winds topping 100 miles per hour. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds reported that thousands of people are still without power, as many as 8,200 homes have been destroyed or damaged, and about a third of the state’s agriculture acreage has been affected.

Northern Plains District disaster coordinator Matt Kuecker and others in the district have been doing some clean up in their communities. They are looking to schedule additional opportunities at the beginning of September to support families that were affected.

North Carolina earthquake

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck near Sparta, N.C., on Aug. 9. There were reports of more than 500 businesses and homes with structural damage, and at least 20 homes have been condemned. Brethren Disaster Ministries has been in communication with pastor Tim Sizemore at Peak Creek Church of the Brethren, whose congregation has been active in responding by supporting families in the community.

— Jenn Dorsch Messler is the director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Find out more about the ministry at www.brethren.org/bdm .

4) Children’s Disaster Services invites parents to new Facebook group

The Church of the Brethren Parent Connection Facebook group was create in Aug. 2020 by Children’s Disaster Services to offer support to parents who are caring for children during the pandemic.

The Church of the Brethren Parent Connection Facebook group was create in Aug. 2020 by Children’s Disaster Services to offer support to parents who are caring for children during the pandemic.

“We are ready to welcome new members to the Parent Connection Facebook group,” announced Lisa Crouch, associate director of Children’s Disaster Services, a ministry within Brethren Disaster Ministries. The new Facebook group is found at www.facebook.com/groups/3428257077208792 .

Also newly available to parents is a “Parenting in a Pandemic” resource page on the Church of the Brethren website at https://covid19.brethren.org/parenting-in-a-pandemic . The page offers links to selected resources including videos, webinar recordings, presentations, and articles provided by a variety of organizations ranging from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology to PBS to the Humanitarian Disaster Institute of Wheaton College, among others. Topics include creating new rituals with children, new habits for working and schooling under one roof, children and family ministry at a distance, and many more.

Church of the Brethren Parent Connection

The new Facebook group is intended to offer support for parents who are balancing the work/school struggle at home this year. It is a private group (posts can’t be seen outside the group) but should be searchable in Facebook for parents wanting to join. It will feature resources, webinars, discussion starters, and creative interactions to engage parents in a positive way.

In the group, parents will find helpful resources and “a safe, faith-based place to connect and ask each other questions during this crazy time and beyond,” Crouch said. 

The group is moderated by the Church of the Brethren’s Children and Family Committee. As well as Crouch, those serving on the committee include Joan Daggett of Dayton (Va.) Church of the Brethren, who is project director for the Shine curriculum that is a joint project of Brethren Press and MennoMedia; John Kinsel of Beavercreek (Ohio) Church of the Brethren, who is an early childhood mental health educator; Jamie Nace, director of Children’s Ministry at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; and Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Church of the Brethren.

For questions, contact Crouch at Children’s Disaster Services, 410-635-8734 or 517-250-7449 or lcrouch@brethren.org .

PERSONNEL

5) Kevin Kessler resigns from leadership of Illinois and Wisconsin District

Kevin Kessler has resigned as district executive minister of the Church of the Brethren’s Illinois and Wisconsin District, effective Dec. 31. He has filled the half-time role for 14 years while also serving as pastor of Canton (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, a role he will continue to maintain.

Kessler began his service with the district on Jan. 1, 2007, and is one of those with the longest tenure on the Council of District Executives. He currently serves the council as historian as well as representative to the Brethren Benefit Trust board, and has served on numerous committees of the council including the executive committee. He also has served on the Ministry Advisory Council during the creation of the denomination’s 2014 Ministerial Leadership polity.

His accomplishments in the district have included consistent work toward unity, enabling the district to achieve a cohesiveness in the midst of differences. In recent years he supported the establishment of two new church plants and encouraged the formation of a district endowment fund. He has served as co-chair of the Illinois Conference of Churches.

Kessler was ordained in 1997. He completed his ministry preparation in the Education for Shared Ministry program with the Canton congregation.

RESOURCES

6) ‘We Bear It in Tears’ shares voices of Nigerian Brethren affected by Boko Haram violence

Brethren Press is publishing a book in which Nigerian Brethren who have suffered violence at the hands of Boko Haram tell of their experiences and their heartache. Titled “We Bear It in Tears,” the book is a collection of interviews recorded by Carol Mason, with photographs by Donna Parcell. It may be pre-ordered from Brethren Press at www.brethrenpress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=9780871782915 .

Mason recorded the interviews from Feb. 16-March 29, 2017. Each person who was interviewed was asked “Where were you when the Boko Haram attacked?” and “How did it affect you?” The people who were interviewed represented a wide variety of experiences and various populations and areas of northeast Nigeria. “Together they are a significant effort at establishing a sustainable peace in Nigeria,” said the Brethren Press description of the book.

Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has suffered untold violence. Hundreds of thousands of EYN members have been displaced at one time or another over the course of the Boko Haram insurgency. Tens of thousands Nigerian Brethren have been abducted or killed, including the 276 girls abducted from the school in Chibok in 2014. Hundreds of churches have been looted and burned.

“The outside world has seen the pictures and tallied the numbers but has not truly heard from those affected by the violence,” said the Brethren Press description. “This book attempts to share the experiences of those involved in the crisis of northern Nigeria and gives voice to the women, men, and children who have suffered. By hearing their stories, we share their burden of tears. By seeing their faces, we witness an enduring faith and a commitment to nonviolence. These are not merely symbols of violence, but individuals with real stories, real families, and real pain.”

Go to www.brethrenpress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=9780871782915 or call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

UPCOMING EVENTS

7) Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center to postpone or hold fall events virtually

Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) has announced that its continuing education events this fall will be postponed or held virtually via Zoom. SVMC is a Church of the Brethren ministry education partner with Bethany Seminary, the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, and the districts of Atlantic Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Middle Pennsylvania, Southern Pennsylvania, and Western Pennsylvania.

“The pandemic continues to push us to be as wise as possible in our health management and interactions with others,” said executive director Donna Rhodes in the announcement. The decision was made “due to the unknown of the next several months, and the fact that both Elizabethtown and Juniata Colleges [in Pennsylvania] have closed their campuses to outside visitors,” she wrote.

The following events will be held via Zoom:

“Stories of Transformation in Luke-Acts and their Expression in Narrative Art” takes place Oct. 5 led by Chris Bucher and Bob Neff. Register at http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07eh8wrlyda3582656&llr=adn4trzab .

“Science Fiction and Theology: Connections with Culture” takes place Nov. 11 led by Steve Schweitzer. Register at http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07eh91k6draa07afe2&llr=adn4trzab&showPage=true .

The following events are postponed, with registration information to be shared at a later time:

“Binocular Vision: Seeing Through the Eyes of Faith and Science,” rescheduled date yet to be determined.

“Pastoral Care and Crisis, Part 3″ is rescheduled to March 27, 2021, at Huntsdale Church of the Brethren. This event will include parts 3 and 4.

“Neurocognitive Disorders: Supporting Parishioners through the Journey” is rescheduled to May 10, 2021, at Cross Keys Village in New Oxford, Pa.

“Kingdom Building in Worship” is rescheduled to Oct. 30, 2021, at Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa.

For more information see www.etown.edu/svmc or contact 717-361-1450 or svmc@etown.edu .

8) ‘The Church in Black and White’ symposium is planned for Sept. 12

A release from the Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center

The Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., announces “The Church in Black and White,” a one-day symposium on the racial history and future of the Brethren and Mennonite churches, Saturday, Sept. 12, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, and virtually via Zoom.

Brethren and Mennonite churches in America typically pride themselves on their progressive history on issues of race. As pacifist communities they refused to participate in the institution of slavery, they sent mission efforts across the globe to engage peoples of many nations and races, and their institutions were some of the first to desegregate in the middle of the twentieth century.

But this history is also far more complicated. Even while seeing themselves as removed from mainstream American culture and politics, these denominations happily benefitted from and embraced their whiteness, and often used their nonresistant and quietist ways to justify ignoring the plight suffered by their neighbors of color. Martin Luther King Jr. himself called attention to this fact in 1959 when, after years of struggling to gain white allies, he turned to a Mennonite minister, and asked, “Where have you Mennonites been?”

Though initially planned for last spring but delayed because of COVID-19, now, after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the resulting protests and national debates driven by the Black Lives Matter movement, this one-day symposium is more timely than ever as many historically white Mennonite and Brethren congregations are looking in earnest at their own racialized histories.

The symposium features five speakers from across the United States, each addressing different aspects of racial relations, past and present, of these two denominations. They include:

— Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations, on ways to address international issues of religious intolerance, greed, racism, bigotry, and ignorance;

— Eric Bishop, superintendent/president of Ohlone College with campuses in Fremont and Newark, Calif., on how historic peace churches can and should react to the racial issues of today;

— Drew Hart, professor of theology at Messiah University in Pennsylvania, on his books, “Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism” (2016); and “Who Will Be a Witness: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance” (2020);

— Stephen Longenecker, professor of history at Bridgewater (Va.) College, on Brethren and Mennonite responses to slavery in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the 19th century; and

— Tobin Miller Shearer, director of African-American Studies at the University of Montana, on his recent book, “Two Weeks Every Summer: Fresh Air Children and the Problem of Race in America” (2017).

Continuing education credits are available for ministers in the Church of the Brethren. Students of Brethren and Mennonite institutions may register for free. For full details and registration information, visit https://brethrenmennoniteheritage.org/events-calendar/the-church-in-black-and-white .

9) Brethren bits

— Remembrance: Phyllis Kingery Ruff, 87, who served as secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference from 1978 to 1988, passed away Aug. 3 in Altoona, Iowa. She was born on the Kingery family century farm in Mt Etna, Iowa, on July 1, 1933, to Everett and Anna (McCune) Kingery. She completed her bachelor’s degree at McPherson (Kan.) College, studying to be a school teacher. After college she volunteered with Brethren Volunteer Service. She began teaching in Omaha, Neb., where she taught kindergarten until she retired from teaching after marrying her husband, Cliff Ruff, in 1977. In addition to her love for the church, reading was her passion. She also enjoyed travel, including that associated with her work for Annual Conference. She was honored by McPherson College as a distinguished alumna in 1988, in recognition of her service to the church, the college, and her community. She is survived by her husband, his son Brad Ruff of Omaha, and grandchildren. A memorial service was held Aug. 12 at Ankeny (Iowa) Memorial Funeral Home. A full obituary is available at http://hosting-24883.tributes.com/obituary/show/phyllis-kingery-ruff-108492348 .

— Esther Harsh has resigned as Northern Ohio District youth coordinator, a position she has held for more than three years. She is returning to school full-time to pursue a master’s degree, reported a district newsletter. The district has named Jenny Imhoff as interim youth coordinator, serving through the end of 2020.

— Founa Augustin-Badet has been named director of Haitian Ministries for Atlantic Southeast District in a new part-time staff position established by the district board on July 1. She will have the responsibility of working directly with the seven district churches who use Kreyol as their primary language. The membership of those seven churches makes up 40 percent to 45 percent of the district, according to the announcement from district executive Terry Grove. The first goal of the new position will be to help Kreyol-language churches move from fellowship status to congregational status by the time of district conference 2021. The work also will include involving the members of Kreyol-language churches more deeply in the overall program of the district and helping them improve their worship facilities either by new lease agreements or purchase of property. Augustin-Badet will join a district staff made up of the district executive, director of ministries, director of program, and director of finance, all part-time. “Our current staff now reflects the ethnic, cultural, gender, language, and age diversity of our Atlantic Southeast District,” Grove wrote.

— Camp Pine Lake in Eldora, Iowa, is opening a host/camp assistant position. The part time, seasonal position is flexible to adapt to the gifts of the right applicant, but may include anything from hosting weekend groups, general maintenance, special projects and more. The compensation for the position is housing in the manager’s residence, a value of more than $7,000. While the position is seasonal, the host may live onsite year round. Utilities will be paid by the host. See the complete description for details at www.camppinelake.org/employment-opportunities . For more information or to apply contact camppinelakedirector@gmail.com or 641-939 5334.

— Almost all of the district conferences across the Church of the Brethren denomination have been canceled or are online this year. According to a calendar that is kept by the General Secretary’s office:
 
     Holding district conferences online are Atlantic Northeast (Oct. 2-3, led by moderator Karen Hackett), Illinois and Wisconsin (Nov. 6-7, led by moderator Rick Koch), Michigan (Aug. 14-15, led by moderator Mary Lorah Hammond), Missouri and Arkansas (Sept. 11-12, led by moderator Paul Landes), Northern Plains (July 31-Aug. 2, led by moderator Lucinda Douglas), Pacific Northwest (Sept. 18-20, led by moderator Ben Green), Pacific Southwest (Nov. 13-15, led by moderator Mary Kay Ogden), Southern Ohio and Kentucky (Oct. 9-10, led by moderator Sandy Jenkins), Virlina (Nov. 13-14, led by moderator Cathy Huffman), and Western Plains (July 23-26, led by moderator Vickie Samland).

     Cancelling their district conferences are Atlantic Southeast, Northern Indiana, South/Central Indiana, Mid-Atlantic, Northern Ohio, Middle Pennsylvania, Southern Pennsylvania, Shenandoah, and West Marva.

     Idaho and Western Montana District’s decision whether to meet virtually is pending, and date and location of Puerto Rico’s district conference are yet to be determined.

     Southern Plains has postponed its district conference to January 2021 at Antelope Valley Church of the Brethren in Billings, Okla., led by moderator Matthew Prejean.

— In related news, the Northern Indiana District Board sent the following announcement on Aug. 12: “Last night, after much discussion, the board made the difficult decision to cancel our District Conference for 2020. We will not be meeting in person or online this year. While we will miss the opportunity to gather together for conversation and worship, we feel like this is the course that will ensure that everyone remains safe and that we avoid the risk of spreading infection across the district.” However, a live-streamed district worship service will be held Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. with Evan Garber preaching. Also, the district will deal with two items of business by mail: electing leadership and affirming the district budget for 2021.

— A round-up of news from international partners, shared by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service office:

     From the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ron Lubungo shared news of the reopening of discos, stadiums, and performance halls in the DRC on Aug. 15. He characterized it as “disturbing news,” writing by email that “the end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of the COVID-19 epidemic in our country.” The president has emphasized the importance of respecting barrier gestures, compulsory wearing of masks in public places, washing hands, and taking temperatures, he wrote. The DRC with a population of 80 million has recorded 8,534 cases from March 10 to Aug. 17 (the date of Lubungo’s report), including 196 deaths and 4,528 recoveries. The vast majority of cases are concentrated in the capital city of Kinshasa. “This assessment places us on the African level in ninth place in terms of number of cases and in twelfth place in terms of number of deaths.”

     From the Haiti Medical Project, Dale Minnich wrote: “Leaders of the Haiti Medical Project are asking for prayer support from their US Brethren as they prepare for a series of Zoom meetings on August 29 and 30 dealing with a funding crisis. Losses in income from factors related to COVID-19 and from support previously shared by congregations in process of separating from the Church of the Brethren will require the 2021 budget for Haiti Medical Project to be pared by more than $100,000. Nine leaders from Haiti and seven from the US are expected to join hands across the waters to seek God’s leading through these difficult times.”

A child receives a meal at the Gurku camp, an interfaith IDP camp for displaced people in northern Nigeria.

From Nigeria, Markus Gamache–staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)–and Renate Ellmenreich of Widowscare have reported on the situation at Gurku, an interfaith IDP camp for displaced people.

     Gamache wrote: “Since the global pandemic, activity in the Gurku Interfaith Community has been adversely affected in different ways; the normality of the people’s social coexistence has been twitched by fear and curiosity that COVID-19 has created, most livelihoods were affected due to less economical activities and hikes in the prices of food and agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, seeds, pesticides and herbicides for farmers. Currently, activities are beginning to go back to a normal state at a good pace, though…the children’s feeding program has recorded a daily increase in the number of children that partake in the feeding program, thus, budget for the food items increase so as to meet the nutritional and dietary needs of the children. Prices of food have increased by more than 100 percent…. Challenges and sickness among the widows is always an area of concern. We may need to look into it. I know that some of their businesses are doing very well but that may not be enough at this trying time to support them at all levels. The treatment takes more than food…. Fulani militias have renewed their attacks on Christian-dominated villages in Kaduna, Benue, Plateau States, and other parts of the middle belt region. These coordinated attacks have forced villagers to abandon their homes and farms to seek refuge in IDP camps…. More and more people are coming to settle in Gurku and hence our facilities are overstretched.”

     Elmenreich wrote: “We are grateful that the school meal program has so far been able to continue and that the children do not have to go hungry. Now the stocks are exhausted and everything is becoming more and more expensive. New refugees are constantly arriving at the camp, including widows. Boko Haram and ISAW (IS West Africa) are intensifying their terror against the population…. I cordially ask that you also think of the people for whom corona measures make life much more difficult…. The situation looks bleak in Maiduguri too…. There, the kidnapping of women by Boko Haram has increased again. Please don’t forget them in your prayers either!”

— Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., is planning its annual 5K as a “safe and in-person” event taking place on Sept. 5. Said an announcement: “In-person safety adaptations include ‘wave-starts,’ room to physically distance, pre-wrapped food, and more. The 5K is a fundraiser. Plans, sponsors, and registration are at www.CampBethelVirginia.org/5K .

— “Brethren Voices” producer Ed Groff has reported to Newsline that for the past five months, the community television program produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren “has had to be muted as our wonderful studio has been closed because of the pandemic. Just recently, Metro East Community Media has begun a process of reopening. We have been able to complete the program featuring four BVSers who were serving in Portland prior to the pandemic. Unfortunately, three of these volunteers had to return to their homes in Germany following our studio taping. Their dedication and commitment to assisting the homeless has been so appreciated during these times.” Toni Egner shared about her experiences at Sisters of the Road in downtown Portland. Jasmin Sprengel shared about her work at Energy Assistance at Human Solutions. Lea Kroener shared her experiences of volunteering at SnowCap Community Charities. Alex McBride, a graduate of Manchester University in Indiana, discussed the needs of the 5,000 families served by SnowCap in Portland. Find the August episode of “Brethren Voices,” titled “Brethren Volunteer Service Workers Extend a Safety Net for a Community,” at
www.youtube.com/brethrenvoices .

— The Mutual Aid Agency (MAA) has received the “Mid-Size Agency of the Year” award in the Central Regional Category from Brotherhood Mutual. MAA is a Church of the Brethren-related agency offering homeowners, farm, auto, church, business, and renters insurance, Said a release from MAA: “Thank you, Brotherhood Mutual, and congratulations to all our fellow award-winners!”

— Sarah Farahat, who has been a member of York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., but who is living in Oregon, had a part in the state’s roll call video on Tuesday evening at the Democratic National Convention. Farahat headed up a team of artists who created the mural that provided the backdrop for the video. The mural, titled “We Choose Love,” is at the Hollywood Transit Center in Portland, “where white supremacist Jeremy Christian killed two men on a MAX train in May 2017, after they and others stepped in to defend fellow passengers who were the targets of Christian’s racist slurs,” according to a “Portland Monthly” piece on how the video was made. See www.pdxmonthly.com/news-and-city-life/2020/08/how-oregons-contribution-to-that-viral-dnc-roll-call-video-came-together . Find a TriMet story about the mural’s significance at https://trimet.org/tribute .

— “Disruptions caused by the pandemic have almost completely reshaped what occurs in sacred places across America,” said a Partners for Sacred Places study revealing a disturbing loss of community serving programs based in churches and other religious buildings, alongside a dramatic increase in faith congregations pre-recording or live-streaming worship and intending to continue some form of that after in-person worship resumes. The report “Impact of COVID-19 on Building Use and Community Programs in Sacred Places” used data gathered between June 26 and July 10 from 19 faith traditions and 37 states. It revealed a potential loss of up to two thirds of community serving programs based in faith congregations. “In late June and early July of 2020, only 18 percent of sacred places surveyed were using their buildings for worship, but 61 percent were in use for community serving programs. Yet, the number of community serving programs has fallen dramatically…. 85 percent of community serving programs stopped during the pandemic. The most commonly cited reasons were guidance from government (73 percent), the need for social distancing (72 percent), the need to protect vulnerable volunteers (66 percent), and guidance from judicatories (49 percent). Only 4 percent of respondents reported a lack of participants as a reason to stop programs, and only 2 percent reported a lack of funding…. Of the 549 surveyed community serving programs that were active before social distancing, only 34 percent are currently active. An additional 28 percent are expected to open by the end of the calendar year. However, 38 percent of community serving programs that existed prior to social distancing are not expected to resume by the end of 2020.” With regard to worship and other activities, there was “a dramatic increase in the number of congregations pre-recording or live streaming both worship (increase from 20 percent to 85 percent) and education or small group activities (increase from 7 percent to 72 percent). Most of the live-streaming is planned to end after in-person activities resume, but some will continue, resulting in a long-term increase in congregations’ capabilities.” The study found that 28 percent of congregations have no plans to return to in-person worship by the end of 2020. Go to https://sacredplaces.org/covid-19-impact-survey-of-building-use-and-community-programs-summer-2020 .


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Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Tim Button-Harrison, Shamek Cardona, Lisa Crouch, James Deaton, Jenn Dorsch Messler, Renate Ellmenreich, Jan Fischer Bachman, Markus Gamache, Ed Groff, Terry Grove, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Amy Huckaba, Rachel Kauffman, Jeff Lennard, Wendy McFadden, Nancy Miner, Dale Minnich, Donna Rhodes, Paul Roth, Walt Wiltschek, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for 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 . Find the Newsline archive at www.brethren.org/news . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters or make subscription changes at www.brethren.org/intouch . All submissions are subject to editing. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren.