Newsline for Dec. 11, 2020

“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us…” (1 John 4:10a).

Pixabay / image by Ben Kercks

NEWS
1) Insurance benefit supports Ministerial Assistance Fund, compelling vision translation, among other expenses

2) Annual Tripartite Meeting of Nigeria partnership is held virtually this year

3) Elizabethtown congregation adopts statement ‘Working Toward Racial Justice’

UPCOMING EVENTS
4) Price breaks are announced for 2021 FaithX trips

5) Brethren bits: Remembering Lisa Hazen, upcoming streaming event “The Light of Hope Returning” is composed by Shawn Kirchner, ministers are reminded of the deadline to register for the annual Clergy Tax Seminar, and more


Quote of the week:

“God is love–a love for all, not just for the lovely or the lovable. It’s a love that is as wide and deep as the ocean. And it’s perfectly embodied in Jesus, who gives mercy and unconditional love to all. This Jesus is the center of our Advent worship and celebration. The good news is that we, too, can embody that love.”

James Benedict from the devotion for today in “Give Light,” the Advent devotional for 2020 from Brethren Press.


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 .


1) Insurance benefit supports Ministerial Assistance Fund, compelling vision translation, among other expenses

Those present for the February 2020 presentation of the check from Mutual Aid Agency and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company included (from left) LeAnn Harnist from the MAA board; MAA general manager Kimberly Rutter; Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele; Church of the Brethren treasurer Ed Woolf; and Karl Williams from Brotherhood Mutual. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

The Church of the Brethren this year received a check of $50,000 from Mutual Aid Agency (MAA) and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, representing a benefit earned through the Ministry Partner Program.

In May, the denomination’s Leadership Team approved $25,000 of the $50,000 be directed to the Ministerial Assistance Fund, and $1,000 to the Church of the Brethren finance office to help cover administrative expenses related to the funds.

In November, the Leadership Team approved the remaining balance of $24,000 be set aside for expenses of the compelling vision effort. Additional costs are expected associated with technological support due to the hybrid planning for Annual Conference 2021, where the compelling vision is to be presented for approval by the delegate body, as well as the need to translate the compelling vision documents into Spanish and Haitian Kreyol.

The Leadership Team will revisit any remaining balance after Annual Conference next year.

MAA is the sponsoring agency for the Ministry Partner Program for the Church of the Brethren. This denominational partnership includes the denominational organization and those Church of the Brethren congregations, camps, and districts that also participate.

MAA is an independent insurance agency based near Abilene, Kan. Since its beginning in 1885, the agency has become a highly respected provider of property insurance to the Church of the Brethren and its members and beyond. Visit www.maabrethren.com for more information or contact 800-255-1243 or maa@maabrethren.com .


2) Annual Tripartite Meeting of Nigeria partnership is held virtually this year

By Roxane Hill and Roy Winter

On Dec. 8, the annual Tripartite Meeting between the Church of the Brethren, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and Mission 21 (a German and Swiss mission organization) was held via Zoom. EYN staff participated from the Technology Center in Jos, Nigeria, that was constructed with support from Bethany Theological Seminary.

Attending the meeting from EYN were the President, General Secretary, Director of Finance, and four members of the EYN Disaster Ministry. Mission 21 was represented by its Country Coordinator, Program Officer, and Head of International Relations. Church of the Brethren representatives included the Executive Director of Service Ministries, Interim Directors of Global Mission, and Interim Office Manager for Global Mission.

EYN general secretary Daniel Mbaya began the meeting with a devotion on the topic “Strengthening Partnership in the Face of Hardship.” He stressed the importance of working together in these difficult times by putting relationship over resources, upholding equality over superiority, reciprocity over control, learning over teaching, and cultivating healthy dependency.

EYN president Joel Billi gave a brief overview of the escalating insecurity in northeast Nigeria and throughout the country. He shared deep concerns about increasing numbers of kidnappings, abductions, killing of civilians, Boko Haram attacks, and destruction of churches and property, which shows a growing lawlessness in Nigeria. Amazingly, even in this violent environment, EYN continues to grow and plant new churches. Despite all government universities being closed, EYN’s Kulp Theological Seminary continues to meet and is winding up its semester.

Billi encouraged the continuation of EYN’s Disaster Relief Ministry but stated that as yet EYN has no blueprint for how to sustain the ministry with crisis funds from the US and Mission 21 continuing to decline.

EYN director of Disaster Relief Ministry Yuguda Mdurvwa presented a PowerPoint overview of the work completed in 2020. The report showed quality programing with good accountability, as the ministry focuses shrinking resources toward those with the greatest needs, and areas with new attacks. The report also covered the COVID-19 response focused on emergency food rations and sanitation, made possible through grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund.

The Nigeria Crisis Response 2021 plan budget (by the Disaster Relief Ministry accountant) was presented and discussed. Food insecurity continues to be a main focus for 2021, with agriculture, medical care, and education also highlighted. The budget reflects the decrease in funding provided by the Church of the Brethren and Mission-21 and plans for EYN to raise an additional $137,660.

Roy Winter, executive director of Service Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, gave a brief overview of the impact of COVID-19 on the Church of the Brethren in the United States and related support programs that have been developed. The report mentioned reduced giving to the Nigeria Crisis Response and Emergency Disaster Fund, continued support of agricultural projects through the Global Food Initiative, and the splintering of a portion of the denomination. Interim directors of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren, Norm and Carol Spicher Waggy, pointed out the challenges and opportunities of the Global Church of the Brethren Communion and mentioned the upcoming Zoom meeting of that group on Dec. 15.

Jeannie Krucker, Mission 21 country program officer, gave a presentation that included the impact COVID-19 was having on fundraising and the Mission 21 programs along with Mission 21’s new Strategies for Humanitarian Action.

Yakubu Joseph, Mission 21 country coordinator, shared about the ongoing violence and insecurity in Nigeria and the everyday risk for citizens. He stated that the Nigerian government has been unable or unwilling to address the insecurity. A driving force causing the insecurity are the large and growing numbers of unemployed youth, without much hope of finding jobs, who are demanding change. Making matters more difficult, the media has been compromised or suppressed, especially in northeast Nigeria, while criminal activity is on the increase. He gave praise to EYN for continuing to preach the gospel of peace.

Two key recommendations were given for the way forward. One was for other countries to provide international pressure on the Nigerian government for reform and to stop the problems in northeast Nigeria. The second was for the tripartite partners to improve communication between themselves and for good transparency about all of their work.

Roxane Hill is interim office manager for the Global Mission Office of the Church of the Brethren. Roy Winter is executive director of Service Ministries for the Church of the Brethren.


3) Elizabethtown congregation adopts statement ‘Working Toward Racial Justice’

On Nov. 22, the church council of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren adopted the following statement, titled “Working Toward Racial Justice.” The statement is posted on the church’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EtownCOB with a note that “our congregation unanimously endorsed this Anti-Racism Faith Statement. We look forward to putting these words into action.”

Working Toward Racial Justice
Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren

God’s Call

We hear the call of our faith to:
do justice love mercy and walk humbly with the God of Love (Micah 6:8)
continue the work of Jesus, simply, peacefully, together
practice peace, service and openness to all.

Deeper Awareness

In response to this call, the eyes of the white majority members of our diverse congregation are being opened to:

— centuries of systemic racism during which people of color were violentl y enslaved, terrorized, lynched, imprisoned, and exploited economically to build the foundation of our nation

— continuing dehumanization of people of color through systemic racism, such as in housing, education, citizenship (voting rights), healthcare, law enforcement, employment, and economic development

— racist remarks and slights to which people of color are exposed every day

— our implicit racism formed by the culture into which we were born, live, and participate

— our failure to recognize the deep connections between our well being and the well being of people of color

We recognize our complicity in racism:

— each time we fail to listen to the stories and experiences of people of color

— each time we contribute to racism by our thoughts, words, and actions

— each time we do not stand up for people of color when we hear racist remarks or witness racist acts

— each time we do not advocate for people of color with our votes, our voices, our bodies

— each time we benefit from racism such as through generational wealth, and educational, employment and connectional advantages

Bolder Action

As a congregation we commit ourselves, individually and as a diverse body, to healing and justice making by:

— building genuine relationships with a diversity of people

— developing a deeper understanding of systemic racism [racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organization]

— educating all generations within our congregation and beyond about racism

— discerning the implicit biases in our congregational policies and practices and working to eliminate them

— advocating for an end to racial injustice

Challenge

We challenge all who read this statement of faith and commitment to join us in the journey of working together toward healing and racial justice.

Hope

Isaiah 58:6-8
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly.”


UPCOMING EVENTS

4) Price breaks are announced for 2021 FaithX trips

By Hannah Shultz

FaithX–formerly known as the Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry–is excited to announce price break options for 2021 FaithX trips. Price breaks are available for those participating in Tier 2 and Tier 3 FaithX experiences.

The cost for Tier 2 is $235 per person. However, if 25 or more individuals register and pay a deposit for a single Tier 2 FaithX trip by April 15, 2021, the price will drop to $200 per person.

The cost for Tier 3 is $285 per person. However, if 30 or more individuals register and pay a deposit for a single Tier 3 FaithX trip by April 15, 2021, the price will drop to $225 per person.

Additionally, if 50 or more individuals register and pay a deposit for a single Tier 3 FaithX trip by April 15, 2021, the price will drop to $200 per person.

Registration for all FaithX opportunities will open March 15, 2021. Visit www.brethren.org/faithx for more information regarding 2021 FaithX tier options and costs. Contact the FaithX office at faithx@brethren.org or 847-429-4337 with questions or for more information.

Hannah Shultz is coordinator of short-term service for Brethren Volunteer Service and the Church of the Brethren.


5) Brethren bits

“The Light of Hope Returning: An American Folk Oratorio” is a new, concert-length Christmas work for women’s choir by Shawn Kirchner of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. The inaugural performance is scheduled to stream live Dec. 21 at 9 p.m. (Eastern time). Subscribe at www.thelightofhopereturning.com for free admission.

Presented by WomenSing and Elektra Women’s Choir with soloist Allison Girvan and members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, the music is by Shawn Kirchner with animation by Kevork Mourad, an Armenian artist living in New York. Kirchner worked with Newbery Award-winning author Susan Cooper of The Dark Is Rising series, who provided several Christmas lyrics.

In the December Messenger, Kirchner wrote about his inspiration in the New Testament figure of Anna, the prophetess who lifted her voice in praise of the Christ child as Mary and Joseph presented their newborn at the temple.

“I wanted to let the audience lean on the strength of an old woman who had ‘seen it all’ and lived to tell about it,” he wrote. “I imagined her welcoming each one to her fireside, sitting with them as they told of their troubles…. Someone who had lost–but regained–her hope. Someone with deep patience and faith who could sit with others until their own ‘light of hope’ returned.”

Two of the carols will be familiar to Brethren, having been first arranged for the denomination’s CBS Christmas Eve Special in 2004: “Brightest and Best” and “Lo, How a Rose.”

Remembrance: Lisa L. Hazen, 54, a former member of the Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees and a former pastor, died on Nov. 27 at the Laurels of West Carrolton, Ohio. She served on the Bethany Seminary board for some years, elected as secretary of the board in 2008. Her work for the Church of the Brethren also included service on the Congregational Ethics Study Committee that submitted its report to Annual Conference in 2011. She filled pastorates for Beavercreek (Ohio) Church of the Brethren 1999-2004 and First Church of the Brethren in Wichita, Kan., 2004-2012. She held a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton, Ohio, and a master of divinity from Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind. She was preceded in death by her mother, Patricia Hazen. She is survived by her father, Richard Hazen, brother Rick (Rita) Hazen, nephews, great nephews, and a great niece. A graveside service and burial was held at Miami Cemetery in Waynesville, Ohio, on Dec. 2, with pastor Tim Heishman officiating. Memorial gifts are received to the Alzheimer’s Association. Find a full obituary at www.stubbsconner.com/obituaries/Lisa-Hazen/#!/Obituary.

A reminder that the registration deadline for the annual Clergy Tax Seminar is Jan. 6, 2021. This virtual, online event takes place Jan. 16, sponsored by the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, and Bethany Theological Seminary. It is recommended for seminary and academy students, pastors, and other church leaders who wish to understand clergy taxes. Participants will learn how to prepare clergy taxes correctly and legally and how to comply with regulations while maximizing tax deductions, and may earn .3 continuing education units for attending the first session. Registration costs $40 per person. Current students at Bethany Seminary and Earlham School of Religion and students in the academy’s TRIM, EFSM, and SeBAH programs may attend at no cost although registration is still required. Go to https://bethanyseminary.edu/brethren-academy/clergy-tax-seminar.

Boxes of relief goods shipped to Beirut, Lebanon, by the Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center appear in a short video about relief efforts following the Beirut explosion, posted by Lutheran World Relief. Brethren Disaster Ministries directed a grant of $10,000 from the Church of the Brethren Emergency Disaster Fund to support the effort. “This will show you some of our response to the Beirut explosion that Church of the Brethren were important donors for,” said a note from staff of Lutheran World Relief. “It is very LWR-focused but still should show you some of the work we are doing with your support.” Find the video at https://youtu.be/JIrXrgGbB5U.

A prayer request for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been received from Ron Lubungo, a leader in the Church of the Brethren in the DRC. “Tensions between supporters of Félix Tshisekedi and Joseph Kabila have reached an unprecedented level,” Lubungo shared from news reports about an “open war” that has broken out between political leaders and their respective parties. Lubungo’s email to the Global Mission Office detailed episodes of violence, even in the Parliament building, and media reports of allegations of corruption by national leaders.

Atlantic Southeast District has announced a new lead contact person and a new mailing address for the district following the untimely death of district executive minister Terry Grove. Bill Schaefer, chair of the district Leadership Team, will serve as contact person at go4itlife@gmail.com or 419-606-3531. The new mailing address is Atlantic Southeast District, c/o Camp Ithiel, P.O. Box 25, Gotha, FL 34734.

One of the latest photos from the West Charleston Church of the Brethren celebration with “Flat Mack” features Dr. Aldo Estella. The congregation in Tipp City, Ohio, created Flat Mack as a fun, socially distanced way to celebrate the congregation and its members and what they are thankful for in a difficult Thanksgiving season 2020. Find the Newsline story at www.brethren.org/news/2020/w-charleston-celebrates-with-flat-mack.

In a third episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast series on the New Community Project, listeners will learn about two unique communities trying to live in peace with their members, the people around them, and the environment. Two of the project coordinators, Tom Benevento and Pete Antos-Ketcham, paint a picture in their talks about what’s happening in Harrisonburg and Starksboro in their talks with Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred. Listen to Episode #108 at bit.ly/DPP_Episode108 or on your favorite podcast app.

Tim Joseph was awarded Volunteer of the Year by the Outdoor Ministries Association of the Church of the Brethren in recognition of his 50 years of dedicated service to Camp Brethren Heights in Michigan. The board of Camp Brethren Heights heard the announcement on a Zoom meeting with camp director Randall Westfall. In a normal year, the award would have been made during Annual Conference.


Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jacob Crouse, Irv Heishman, Tim Heishman, Roxane Hill, Shawn Kirchner, Hannah Shultz, David Steele, Frances Townsend, Roy Winter, Ed Woolf, 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.

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