“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for the Lord has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant” (Luke 1:46-48).
1) Brethren Faith in Action grants go to camps and congregations
2) Observance of the 2020 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
3) Trail thoughts on empathy
4) Economic peace
5) Brethren bits: Remembering Clyde Shallenberger, personnel, Dec. 14 deadline to apply for the Brethren Volunteer Service Winter orientation, support BVSers with Christmas cards, action alert on federal executions, Barrier-Free Grants from Anabaptist Disabilities Network, and more
Quote of the week:
“Mary’s song begins with rejoicing in the work of God. This work was a significant calling on her life. Her world was imbued with the action of God but also turned upside down by a call to participate in this work. And this was not passive participation and observing, but a co-creating and forming of the Christ Child. Not only did this radically change her life but would turn the world upside down–scattering the proud, bringing down rulers, lifting the humble, filling the hungry, and sending the rich away empty.”
— From the worship resources for the Church of the Brethren’s Advent Offering, written and arranged by Nathan Hosler and Naomi Yilma of the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and Jacob Crouse of Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren. The suggested date for this offering to support denominational ministries is Sunday, Dec. 13. Download worship resources from https://www.brethren.org/testblog/2020/advent-offering-2020.
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 email@example.com .
1) Brethren Faith in Action grants go to camps and congregations
The Brethren Faith in Action Fund has announced its latest round of grants to Church of the Brethren congregations and camps. The fund created with monies generated by sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., gives grants to ministries that honor and continue the legacy of service that the center has epitomized, while also addressing the dynamics of the present age. Guidelines and application forms are in English, Kreyol, and Spanish at www.brethren.org/faith in action.
Akron (Ohio) First Church of the Brethren received $5,000 to expand its radio ministry from one broadcast per week to two. This small congregation has a radio ministry outreach to the broader community and its homebound members, with as many as 3,000 people tuning in each week from hospitals, homes, and vehicles. The congregation works with a radio station in Canton, Ohio, where a Church of the Brethren member is on staff. The radio ministry is fully supported by the congregation and listeners are not asked for donations.
Camp Alexander Mack in Milford, Ind., received $5,000 to increase wireless connectivity throughout the camp in order to expand its ability to serve working retreat groups, provide supervised virtual education with support activities to families, assist staff in the productivity of their work, and serve a broader and more diverse population with its hospitality ministry. The camp was granted a waiver of the matching fund requirement.
Camp Carmel in Linville, N.C., received $5,000 for three projects: a virtual camp, rebuilding an existing rain shelter, and construction of an outdoor classroom/amphitheater. Funds supported the purchase of a subscription for Zoom, materials for each building project, meals for volunteers, hiring a contractor if necessary, and maintenance of construction tools.
Camp Mardela in Denton, Md., received $5,000 to help replace the King Retreat facility’s 30-year-old roof. In addition to housing summer staff, the facility also hosts the camp office and is the only winterized facility for Fall and Winter weekend retreats. Due to its versatility, the facility is used by many community groups free of charge during the offseason.
Camp Placid in Blountville, Tenn., received $5,000 for renovation of an existing building to serve as an Outdoor Learning Center. Work began this summer, while the camp was closed due to the pandemic and local regulation. Improvements include installing a floor, improving the walls, installing electricity and a water source, roof repair, siding, steps, and doors.
Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Peoria, Ariz., received $5,000 for outdoor “pop up” worship services. This growing congregation has a small worship space in a church building with low ceilings and narrow hallways that are inappropriate in the era of COVID-19. The grant helped procure audio and livestreaming gear, children’s ministry supplies, sanitary supplies including hand sanitizer and masks, supplies for hospitality and signage, and publicity Circle of Peace was granted a waiver of the matching fund requirement.
Haitian Church of the Brethren Fellowship in Naples, Fla., received $5,000 to purchase audio/visual hardware and musical instruments. The congregation is working to strengthen its presence in the surrounding community to make worship and church life more contemporary. The purchase of a laptop and accessories supports virtual worship services, web presence, and fundraising capacity. Acquiring musical instruments engages youth and young adults as musicians.
Memorial Church of the Brethren in Martinsburg, Pa., received $3,500 for the church’s Family Pantry outreach, started at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak to provide food for people in the community and congregation. People can come to the church and receive shelf stable, refrigerated, and frozen food to meet their household needs. The effort is meeting spiritual needs as well, as some people coming to the pantry for food have started to attend the Wednesday Night Meal and programs. The congregation hopes to continue the pantry after the pandemic.
Sebring (Fla.) Church of the Brethren received $5,000 for facility improvement projects to upgrade accessibility. The congregation was recognized in 2019 as a member of the Open Roof Fellowship for its efforts for people with disabilities. It has a significant ministry with the elderly. The congregation requested funding for enhancements that strengthen the congregation’s commitment to providing an ADA accessible space. The grant also helps free up funds to provide meals to the community, after priorities shifted during the pandemic to focus on feeding people in the community through a weekly free hot meal in addition to a weekly food pantry.
Shepherd’s Spring, a camp and outdoor ministry center in Sharpsburg, Md., received $2,400 to cover the cost of the accreditation application process with the American Camping Association. ACA accreditation assures partner organizations that the camp meets national standards of operation for safety and quality, assures parents of their children’s safety, and is an indication to donors that the camp is being responsible with funds. The camp received a waiver of the matching funds requirement.
2) Observance of the 2020 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
By Doris Theresa Abdullah
The Palestine Committee meeting on the morning of Dec. 1 at the United Nations was in commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. All too often I hear “Palestine” and it does not register that about 2 million Palestinians live under occupation in the densely populated area of the Gaza Strip, under a 13-year blockade, in a place where 90 percent of the water is undrinkable. The people depend on international humanitarian aid in order to survive from day to day.
All the people in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza live in a modern-day Bantustan or legal segregated land surrounded by a wall. The Dec. 1 observances revealed an exhibit of the wall titled “The Writing Is on the Wall–Annexation Past and Present.” It was rather disturbing to see how the people express their frustrations, anger, and humiliation on the wall drawings.
Palestinians must show, on demand, an identity card to move even a few feet within the occupied territories, where self-representation is denied and ongoing violence is a fact of life. Violence from the occupying army, violence from the settlers who are allowed to roam freely with guns, violence from within, violence from their deprived existence–and the violence of nonexistence to us, on the other side of the wall.
— Doris Abdullah is the Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations. This report was first published by the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy.
3) Trail thoughts on empathy
By Paul Mundey
Division continues to advance. Whether it’s division in our body as we fight-off COVID-19, division in our country as we fracture over a contentious election, or division in the church as we label each other rather than cherish each other, we are tearing apart.
Recently, historian Jon Meacham reflected on cultural division. Surprisingly, he remarked: “Division is part of the oxygen of democracy.” The problem: most are unwilling to learn from “the other,” typecasting “the other” as an enemy rather than a companion. But we are companions. Thus, Meacham calls for respect, for “democracies depend on empathy. If we can’t see each other as neighbors, we’re not going to make it” (www.today.com/video/-we-ve-always-been-divided-historian-jon-meacham-says-95306821678).
So too for churches; if we can’t see each other as neighbors, we’re not going to make it. Thus, among life choices, we must opt for understanding, electing empathy. It’s striking that most of the Apostle Paul’s letters were written to Christ-followers in conflict. Rather than surrendering to rancor, Paul sought reconciliation. Mind you, such peacebuilding didn’t expunge differences; that’s unrealistic. But Paul tempered difference, amplifying humanity over hostility. “[D]on’t let the passion of your emotions lead you to sin! Don’t let anger control you or be fuel for revenge, not for even a day…. And never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others…. Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another” (Ephesians 4:26-32, TPT).
Such self-control emerges as we view difference as strength, bolstering life. Recently I hiked Half Moon Mountain in the George Washington National Forest. As I trekked, I was engulfed in stunning autumnal beauty, remembering that a prime reason for the glory was the wide variety of species all around me–all kinds of different mammals, leaves, trees, insects, birds. Eager to know specifics, I researched the forest, discovering that surrounding me on that fall day were 40 species of trees, 2,000 species of shrubs and herbaceous plants, 78 species of amphibians and reptiles, 200 species of birds, 60 species of mammals, and 100 species of freshwater fishes and mussels (www.fs.usda.gov/main/gwj/about-forest). Without such variety and difference, the beauty that apprehended me would not have occurred.
But there’s more. The variety surrounding me needed to learn to co-exist in a respectful, balanced ecosystem, creating, in the words of National Geographic, a “bubble of life.” Continuing, National Geographic observes, “Every factor in an ecosystem depends on every other factor, either directly or indirectly” (www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/ecosystem). For example, animals depend on plants for food and shelter, and plants depend on balanced temperature. So too for us: we need a sense of dependence, valuing each other, differences and all. The Apostle Paul underscores this: “Just as the human body is one, though it has many parts…so too is Christ. For by one Spirit we all were immersed and mingled into one single body. And no matter our status–whether we are Jews or non-Jews, oppressed or free–we are all privileged to drink deeply of the same Holy Spirit…. Think of it this way. If the whole body were just an eyeball, how could it hear sounds…. A diversity is required, for if the body consisted of one single part, there wouldn’t be a body at all!” (1 Corinthians 12:12-19, TPT).
The takeaway: a diversity is required to create a bubble of life. Thus, Biden supporters need Trump supporters, and Trump supporters need Biden supporters. Episcopalians need Pentecostals, and Pentecostals need Episcopalians. Younger adults need older adults, and older adults need younger adults. Such mutual respect is a stretch, but needed, for God desires a day, Isaiah reminds us, when “the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together…. They will neither harm nor destroy…for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9, NIV).
It’s important to note that affirming diversity does not preclude discernment. Openness to others is not synonymous with openness to abuse, immorality, and apostasy (e.g., the flat-out denial of Jesus as “Son of God, Savior of the World, and the Head of the Church, according to the Scriptures,” www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1991-religious-pluralism). But openness to others does mean openness to new ideas, broader perspectives, and untraveled terrain. Thus, greater diversity often equates greater discomfort (for all the right reasons) as we plumb the depths of God’s Creation, discovering in persons different from us a texture and breadth stretching us toward all God intended us to be. It’s interesting to note the value God places on diversity as he addresses the seven churches of Revelation (Revelation 2-3). As God does, it’s evident. Eugene Peterson notes that “no single congregation exhibits the wholeness of Christ…[thus] one phrase is repeated without variation [to all] seven churches. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’” (Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination. New York: Harper One, 1988, p. 47). We too need to hear what the Spirit says as it speaks through diversity, for no one of us exhibits the wholeness of Christ. Thus, we have much to learn from “the other” as we empathize with those different, even those with whom we’re “over-against.”
In 2008, J. K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, gave the commencement address at Harvard University. She had two main points: the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. Persons assumed that Rowling would speak of imagination from the perspective of her creative writing. Not so. Rowling advanced the necessity of imagination from the perspective of stretching toward persons different and divided from us. “Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not…. In its…most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared” (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2008/06/text-of-j-k-rowling-speech).
And so, I call us to imagination, stretching toward those far from us, envisioning redemptive breakthroughs beyond our most entrenched assumptions. That happens as we dare to engage with those varied and different–opting for understanding, electing empathy. In doing so, “divided we’ll stand,” transforming division into oxygen and life, not just for us and our tribe, but for all of God’s children.
- Jon Meacham contends democracies require both division and empathy. Why are both elements needed?
- Reread Ephesians 4:26-32. What aspect(s) of Paul’s counsel do you struggle with?
- Reread 1 Corinthians 12:12-19. Paul observes, “If the whole body were just an eyeball, how could it hear sounds…. A diversity is required.” Paul’s analogy (e.g., the body’s diversity) hits home, but often we struggle to affirm diversity in other aspects of life. Why?
- Moderator Paul contends: “Affirming diversity does not preclude discernment. Openness to others is not synonymous with openness to abuse, immortality, and apostasy.” Where have you experienced too much diversity, contributing to ill and not gain?
- J. K. Rowling contends that imagination is “the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.” Who can you imagine empathizing with, who is not currently part of your relational network/world?
To dig deeper:
Lauren Casper. Loving Well in a Broken World. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020.
Miroslav Volf. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996.
— This is the Fall 2020 pastoral letter from Paul Mundey, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. Find the moderator’s quarterly letters, “Trail Thoughts: Trekking Toward God’s Adventurous Future,” online at www.brethren.org/ac2021/moderator/#trailthoughts.
4) Economic peace
By Nathan Hosler
Jesus had much to say about the use and distribution of material resources as well as issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation. From loving enemies and confronting for reconciliation in Matthew 5 and 18, to the “rich young ruler” and not being able to “serve God and wealth” in Matthew 10 and 6.
In this piece, I make the case that issues of economics/economic justice are part of a vision of peace and the work of peacemaking. This includes addressing economic systems and practices as a form of peacemaking as well as identifying the presence of economic grievance or lack of economic opportunity as a driver of many violent conflicts. Versions of this are often discussed in our work at the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy: international migration caused by lack of jobs and violence which is caused by collapsed economy; conflict caused by some mixture of politics, economic strain, environmental degradation, injustice, and identity.
The biblical understanding of shalom keeps all parts of life in view, and is not simply the absence of violence or conflict. Elsewhere, I have defined peace in the following way: “Peace is the presence of wholeness in relationships that are characterized by justice, mutuality, and wellbeing. Peace is not a universal or homogenous experience but is experienced in the appreciation and celebration of diversity and between individuals, communities, nations, and with the environment (non-human world)” (Hosler, Hauerwas the Peacemaker? 20).
In the “Ecumenical Call to Just Peace” of the World Council of Churches there is a section on “For Peace in the Marketplace.” This also recognizes that peace is wholeness. And that economic realities are part of this. Additionally, the WCC statement asserts that “over-consumption and deprivation are forms of violence (13).” And frames a positive vision as well, “Peace in the marketplace is nurtured by creating ‘economies of life.’ Their essential foundations are equitable socio-economic relationships, respect for workers’ rights, the just sharing and sustainable use of resources, healthy and affordable food for all, and broad participation in economic decision-making (13).” Such thinking prioritizes the well-being of all over the profits of a few.
Should, however, Christians or the church have a defined economic theory or position on policy details? Should we, as was discussed on a webinar on the global economy, support the movement of percentage rates by the Federal Reserve from X percent to Y percent? While we may not have theory based on abstraction–say a mathematically beautiful symmetry (not of course discounting aesthetic value in general)–we may have a position based on developing concrete steps to address a lack of economic peace. For those of us not mathematically inclined, the terms and numbers and percentages are quite difficult to manage. However, the impacts of these are real.
So–we are concerned about economic peace.
— Racialized economic inequality is one instance of a lack of economic peace.
— This exists due to policies (explicit and implicit).
— While disagreement will occur on the best policy to address inequality, concrete decisions must be made.
While churches may not have economists on staff, it is within the purview and appropriate for churches and Christians to have and express an opinion on how to move toward more just and peaceful communities, society, and world. There are many complicated theological, ethical, and philosophical questions about the role of religious institutions in relation to the state; is it or should it be subservient, dominating, acquiescing; it is “just another” civil society organization or something more (or less); and many others. Despite these complicated questions, the Church of the Brethren has long affirmed engagement in such matters.
Economic policy and practice, like all others, is not neutral. The economic system and policies embody particular values as well as have specific impacts on individuals, communities, and nation-states. We are called to the work of peacemaking, justice, and caring for all. Seeking economic peace is one important facet of well-being for all.
— Nathan Hosler is director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, which has been publishing a series of blogposts on the economy and peace.
Previous blogposts include:
“Climate Justice Is Economic Justice, and Economic Justice Is Racial Justice” by Susu Lassa at https://www.brethren.org/testblog/2020/climate-justice-is-economic-justice-and-economic-justice-is-racial-justice
“Racial Inequality, Economic Injustice, and the Pandemic” by Naomi Yilma at https://www.brethren.org/testblog/2020/racial-inequality-economic-injustice-and-the-pandemic
“Simple Living and Consumer Culture” by Naomi Yilma at https://www.brethren.org/testblog/2020/simple-living-and-consumer-culture
5) Brethren bits
— Remembrance: Clyde R. Shallenberger, a former chair of the Church of the Brethren General Board, passed away on Dec. 2 at Broadmead Retirement Community in Baltimore, Md. He served on the General Board 1968-71 and 1973-81, serving as board chair 1974-81. An ordained minister who also held degrees in clinical counseling and psychotherapy, he retired in 1993 from a 30-year career as the first director of the hospital chaplaincy service at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Upon his retirement the hospital named a lectureship in medical ethics in his honor. Shallenberger served on at least two Annual Conference study committees, helping to write the “Life Stewardship” statement of 1975 (www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1975-life-stewardship) and the “Christian Ethics and Law and Order” statement of 1977 (www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1977-christian-ethics-and-law-and-order). Born in Connellsville, Pa., to Belle and Nathaniel Shallenberger, at age 3 he moved to Uniontown, Pa., where he grew up in Uniontown Church of the Brethren. He studied at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree; Bethany Theological Seminary in Chicago, where he earned a master of divinity; and Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a master’s degree in clinical counseling and psychology and a certificate of advanced studies. He completed his clinical training at Western State Hospital in Staunton, Va. He was awarded honorary doctorates by Elizabethtown College and by Bridgewater (Va.) College. He was a member of numerous professional organizations and advisory groups including the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education and the Committee on Religion and Health, Medical and Chiurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland. “God Is a Big Boy. He Can Defend Himself” was the title of just one of the many articles about Shallenberger’s groundbreaking hospital chaplaincy ministry, published by the Johns Hopkins Magazine. His first call to ministry came during his senior year at Elizabethtown, when he started at Reading Church of the Brethren as an interim pastor. It was during that time that he met and married Helen Louise Kaucher in 1950. He went on to pastor congregations in Virginia and Maryland before going to work for Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1963. He was a longtime member of Columbia United Christian Church (CUCC) in the Church of the Brethren’s Mid-Atlantic District. Pastor Philip Curran wrote in a remembrance from the district: “Clyde was a groundbreaker in the field of pastoral care at Johns Hopkins Hospital and led a life of peace and kindness. To the CUCC community, Clyde was a model of Christian discipleship and devotion. To his family, he was husband of 70 years to his beloved Helen and proud father to Karen, Nancy, and Rick. All who knew Clyde loved him and he will be sorely missed.” A service of remembrance will take place in late spring or summer next year.
— Terry Goodger has resigned as program assistant for Brethren Disaster Ministries, as of Dec. 31. She is leaving to take another job. She has been the program assistant for the disaster rebuilding program for more than three years, since June 2017. Her work has included scheduling and interacting with weekly volunteer groups and district disaster coordinators, tracking and updating rebuilding program information, among numerous other tasks to help keep the rebuilding project sites running. Goodger previously worked for the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program for 10 years, starting in Sept. 2006 and ending in Sept. 2016, serving as office coordinator. Her work for the Church of the Brethren has been at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.
— Creation Justice Ministries, the ecological justice counterpart to the National Council of Churches, is currently hiring for three positions: A new Washington, D.C.-based advocate to help facilitate faith communities’ ocean-climate action, embedding in the Washington Inter-religious Staff Committee and establishing strong relationships in the Biden-Harris Administration and with key committee staff in Congress (see www.creationjustice.org/join-our-team-public-witness-advocate.html). Two fellowships based in California; if an applicant emerges who is well-qualified to complete the scope of work in both job descriptions, Creation Justice Ministries is open to employing the same person to do both for up to a total of 1,000 hours: A California Conservation Equity Fellow to center narratives of Black and Indigenous peoples in California, helping to form a network of relationships with California stakeholders for equity in the US public lands and waters system, with a particular focus on Indigenous and Black leaders, among other tasks (see www.creationjustice.org/join-our-team-conservation-equity-fellowship.html). A California Truth and Healing Fellow to closely follow the work of the California Truth and Healing Council, as well as the Reparations Task Force, among other tasks (see www.creationjustice.org/join-our-team-truth-and-healing-fellowship.html).
— There are still openings for the Winter orientation unit of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). Dec. 14 is the application deadline for this virtual training for volunteers in Unit 328, to take place Jan. 31-Feb. 12, 2021. Following the same format as the summer and fall units, the winter orientation will be two weeks long and will be done while volunteers are already at their project sites. This builds in a two-week quarantine time so that volunteers are ready to begin serving as soon as orientation is completed. The BVS staff is working hard to include as many aspects of the traditional orientation as possible including growing in faith; learning about Brethren history, service, and social justice issues; building community; working together to accomplish common tasks; and having fun. Because of this new format, staff will be working with volunteers to discern their project placements ahead of the orientation. The application form is online at www.brethren.org/bvs/volunteer/apply. To express interest and request more information send an email to BVS@brethren.org.
— Brethren Volunteer Service is inviting Church of the Brethren congregations and members to help support BVS volunteers this Christmas by sending cards and greetings. “Our volunteers love receiving cards and greetings from Brethren congregations!” said an announcement. For a list of current BVSers and their mailing addresses, formatted for printing on labels, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
— The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy this week issued an action alert calling for support to “halt executions scheduled by a lame-duck administration.” The alert called on Brethren to contact their congressional representatives to oppose the current administration’s “record-setting number of executions before they leave office in January.” The alert noted that on Nov. 19, Orlando Hall was the eighth person to be killed by the US federal government since July this year; the Attorney General has announced five scheduled executions this month; and the Justice Department is proposing amending regulations so that federal killings can take place in state facilities and may use other means than lethal injection. The alert cited the Church of the Brethren’s 1987 statement against the death penalty: “Our Christian sense of justice compels us to abolish the death penalty. While we share society’s concern regarding violent crime, we support other methods far more effective and humane than the death penalty. We must redouble our efforts at effective crime prevention and, for victims of crime, creative means of reparation and healing.” The alert included a sample script for contacting legislators, and also a link to sign a petition at https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/president-trump-please-stop-the-federal-executions. For the full action alert go to https://mailchi.mp/brethren.org/halt-federal-executions.
— “Congratulations to our first two groups of grant recipients for our Community Engagement Grants for Youth Groups,” said an announcement from On Earth Peace. The two recipients are the Borderless Relations Committee of Findlay, Ohio, which will use the grant to learn about anti-racism and the dynamics of race within their community through providing books and workshops to elementary schools; and the Agape Satyagraha Graduate Program with their project Peace Through Art. Read more at www.onearthpeace.org/youth_group_grant_recipients.
— The Parables Community, a fellowship of Illinois and Wisconsin District that has focused on serving those with disabilities and their families, will close on Dec. 31. “The COVID pandemic contributed heavily to the decision to close,” said an announcement from the fellowship’s board. “The Parables Community ministry incorporates many sensory elements when meeting for worship and other events. When in-person gathering ceased because of the pandemic, using non-sensory virtual methods for meeting were inadequate to meet the needs of ministry participants. In addition, a significant fundraising event, which would have helped to sustain the ministry, had to be canceled due to pandemic restrictions. The converging of the aforementioned factors impeded the ability of Parables Community to sustain operations.” The board expressed hope that the fellowship has helped the district learn and grow “in ways which will translate into future opportunities for unique ministries to emerge and serve among us.” The closure will be affirmed at the 2021 district conference.
— Cabool (Mo.) Church of the Brethren’s ministry team and deacons are planning an abbreviated observance of Los Posadas, a Hispanic Christian tradition, at each door of the 25-some households in the congregation during the week of Dec. 14. Reported the Missouri and Arkansas District newsletter: “Bearing a three-piece nativity of a pregnant Mary, Joseph, and a donkey (created by Nathan Ferree, a fine potter raised among us), we will knock on each door, distanced and masked, asking ‘Will you make room for Jesus?’” The team will leave small lamps at each household, symbolizing light during the long Advent nights, and symbolizing “welcome of Christ and all the least of his sisters and brothers throughout the world. In the year ahead, anticipating some months of continued distancing, we will ask that these lamps be lit as symbols of our commitment and unity when prayer concerns, local and international, are expressed.”
— Walnut Grove Church of the Brethren in Johnstown, Pa., on Sunday honored Kenneth Reed and Arn Locher, both in their 80s, for 30 years of service with the church’s food pantry. The men have been working with the food pantry ministry since 1992. Pastor Brad Griesheimer told WJAC Channel 6 that the men have touched the lives of 60 to 70 families per month. Find the news report and a video of Reed and Locher being honored by their congregation during Sunday morning worship at https://wjactv.com/news/local/two-men-honored-for-30-year-service-with-walnut-grove-church-of-the-brethren-food-pantry.
— Children in Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren’s child care outreach recently made cards to be delivered to homebound elders who have been significantly impacted by social distancing requirements this year, according to the Shenandoah District newsletter. The cards were part of a project through the Virginia Program for Aging Services, which delivered them on behalf of the children. “Children are finding ways to serve in small but impactful ways,” said the newsletter, “even when person-to-person contact is not possible.”
— The Northern Plains District Board is providing Brethren Press gift certificates to all its ministers and churches in an action “taken as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is straining the financial resources of Brethren Press and putting extra demands on churches and ministers,” said the district newsletter. “Northern Plains District recognizes that we are all in this together–ministers, churches, Brethren Press, district.” The district is sending the certificates “with encouragement in these challenging times and with gratitude for our partnership in the gospel ministry.” The district board is using special funds to provide a $25 gift certificate to each minister and TRIM student in the district, and a $50 gift certificate to each of the district’s congregations, fellowships, and church projects.
— Western Plains District has announced a “Celebration of Transformation/the Gathering” as a feature of the 2021 District Conference next July. Dale Minnich wrote the announcement in the district newsletter on behalf of the Gathering Banquet Celebration Team. The event will celebrate the district’s initiatives for transformation since 2003, when “a series of Spirit-led events led to new district leadership, development of an Area Ministry Team, study by district leaders of a book on transformation, the calling of a Transformation Team to help Western Plains ‘take transformation seriously,’ and the creation of a Gathering conference that began a 15-year run in 2005,” said the report. “It also resulted in creation of a visionary mission statement, the redesign of the district leadership system, and the development of a pastor/leader training system resulting in some 40 training events over the years. These events have featured Junior High and Youth retreats at all 15 conferences, as well as interaction with each Annual Conference moderator the past 10 years. Gathering was a strongly supported event with attendance reaching 340 in its early years…. The transformation movement, by which Western Plains in now well known across the Church of the Brethren, deserves a reflective thank you from our district.” The report noted that the celebration may be in-person or virtual depending on the pandemic situation by mid-year 2021.
— Southern Pennsylvania District is thanking Rich Shaffer for his many years of serving as chair of the Meat Canning Committee and chief coordinator of the annual meat canning events that are co-sponsored with Mid-Atlantic District. “Rich resigned this position to devote more time to his dear wife, Joy,” said the district newsletter. “Rich’s service has provided countless meals for hungry people all over the world.”
— The National Council of Churches (NCC) is inviting participation in “40 Days of Prayer to Transform: A Journey to Newness.” Beginning Dec. 12 and continuing daily through Jan. 20, 2021, members of the NCC and partner communions will offer prayers for hope, unity, and healing, said a release. “During this Advent/Christmas season and into the New Year we put our hope in the ability and desire of God, through Jesus Christ, to heal and transform hearts and minds. We look for the Holy Spirit to breathe God’s newness into individual lives, faith communities, the soul of our nation, indeed, the whole world.” Beginning Dec. 12, more information will be posted at www.nationalcouncilofchurches.us/topics/weekly.
— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has announced a gathering of Advent songs from across the world intended to unite people in hope. The initiative is in partnership with Red Crearte, a Latin American network that produces spiritual and liturgical material. Titled “A Common Song for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany,” the collection “seeks to make visible our unity in diversity through the gift of music. This is achieved by highlighting the musical contributions of composers from different confessional families and cultural backgrounds. All the music is based on a common text but presented in various languages.” The songs will be rolled out throughout Advent and Christmas, ending on Epiphany on Jan. 6, on the WCC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/WCCworld. The WCC has shared more information and the first two songs in the collection—“Florescer em Esperança” by Louis Marcelo Illenseer of Brazil, and “Vi Anar Dig Jesus, i Ljusen” by Per Harling of Sweden–at www.oikoumene.org/news/gathering-of-advent-songs-from-across-the-world-will-unite-people-in-hope.
— H. Lamar Gibble was recognized for his 65 years as an ordained minister by the Illinois and Wisconsin District conference in November. Gibble served for many years on the denominational staff of the Church of the Brethren, working in the areas of peace witness and ecumenical and international relations.
— Peggy Reiff Miller has announced her first-ever Zoom presentation on seagoing cowboys, for the Indian Valley Public Library in Telford, Pa. “Five young men from Telford, Pa., took to the seas after World War II to deliver horses, heifers, and mules to war-devastated countries in Europe. Seagoing cowboy historian Peggy Reiff Miller will share their fascinating stories and more,” said the description of the event on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). Register at https://ivpl.assabetinteractive.com/calendar/seagoing-cowboys.
Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Doris Abdullah, Shamek Cardona, Jeanne Davies, Stan Dueck, Nate Hosler, Pauline Liu, Nancy Miner, Paul Mundey, 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 email@example.com . 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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