Newsline for Jan. 31, 2020

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

NEWS

1) Annual Conference ballot for 2020 is announced
2) Tod Bolsinger and Michael Gorman are featured resource people for 2020 Annual Conference
3) Global Food Initiative and partner organizations carry out evaluation of agriculture project in Haiti
4) Bethany Seminary administrators visit EYN students and leaders

UPCOMING EVENTS

5) NOAC planning team announces theme for 2021 gathering of older adults
6) Ventures online courses to focus on society and the environment

RESOURCES

7) Brethren Disaster Ministries offers resources and recommendations on Coronavirus

FEATURE

8) My brother’s keeper: Remembering the Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010

9) Brethren bits


Quote of the week:

“WCC and its member churches cherish their relations with Jewish partners in dialogue and collaborative action, and reaffirm our commitment to working with Jewish partner organizations and communities to counter the current trend towards ‘normalization of hatred’ against ‘the other’ in many parts of the world.”

— From a statement of the World Council of Churches commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. See www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/wcc-joins-in-solemn-commemoration-of-holocaust-anniversary .

1) Annual Conference ballot for 2020 is announced

Paul Liepelt and Tim McElwee are candidates for moderator-elect in 2020

The Annual Conference office has announced the ballot to be presented at this summer’s Conference on July 1-5 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Topping the ballot are two candidates for Annual Conference moderator-elect: Paul Liepelt and Tim McElwee. Candidates for numerous additional offices also have been announced.

Paul Liepelt is a pastor at Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, and lives in Annville. He is on the executive committee of the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board; his term ends during the 2020 Conference. In past experience on the denominational staff, he taught at Kulp Bible College in Nigeria for three years 2004-2007. He is an ordained minister and holds a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary.

Tim McElwee lives in Wolcottville, Ind. Now retired, his leadership experience in the Church of the Brethren includes a number of roles at Manchester University over more than 30 years, including vice president for advancement, vice president for academic resources, and associate professor of peace studies. While an ordained minister he served as Manchester’s campus pastor and later as a chaplain at Timbercrest, a Church of the Brethren retirement community. In the 1990s he was denominational staff in Washington, D.C. He also has worked as senior director of development for Heifer International. He holds a master of divinity degree from Bethany Seminary and a master’s degree and doctorate from Purdue University.

Additional nominations:

Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: Beth Jarrett of Harrisonburg, Va., and Walt Wiltschek of Easton, Md.

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, representing laity: Richard E. Allison of Claysburg, Pa., and Arthur Fourman of Dayton, Ohio.

Mission and Ministry Board, Area 1: Josiah Ludwick of Harrisburg, Pa., and Mandy North of Manassas, Va. Area 4: Daniel L. Butler of Grundy Center, Iowa, and Kathy A. Mack of Rochester, Minn.

Bethany Seminary trustees representing clergy: Chris Bowman of Manassas, Va., and Frances R. Townsend of Onekama, Mich. Representing laity: Irene Beltran of Pomona, Calif., and Jacki Hartley of Elgin, Ill.

Brethren Benefit Trust board: Janis Fahs of North Manchester, Ind., and David L. Shissler of Hummelstown, Pa.

On Earth Peace board: Erick Flores of Hermitage, Tenn., and Drew G. I. Hart of Harrisburg, Pa.

For more information about the Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac .

2) Tod Bolsinger and Michael Gorman are featured resource people for 2020 Annual Conference

Michael Gorman and Tod Bolsinger will be featured resource people for the 2020 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren.

Tod Bolsinger, vice president and chief of leadership formation at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md., are featured resource people for Annual Conference this year. The Conference takes place July 1-5 in Grand Rapids, Mich., on the theme “God’s Adventurous Future.”

Bolsinger will be the featured speaker at an all-Conference “equipping session” on Friday, July 3, where he will address “Doing Church in Uncharted Territory.” On Thursday, July 2, he will speak at the Moderator’s Dinner on the topic “Adventure or Die,” and will lead an insight session on “Standing the Heat, Surviving the Sabotage.” He also will speak at a breakfast on Friday, July 3, on the topic “The Fire and the Anvil.”

Gorman will be the keynote speaker for the Minister’s Association pre-Conference gathering June 30 and July 1, focusing on “1 Corinthians: Challenges for Today’s Church.” He will be the Bible study leader for each morning of the Conference, studying passages from Revelation. He will lead an insight session on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, July 2-4, on “Reading the Bible Missionally.” On Saturday, July 4, he will speak at a luncheon on the theme “Nonviolence in the Writings of Paul.”
 
Bolsinger is vice president and chief of leadership formation at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. Previously, he served the seminary as vice president of vocation and formation and assistant professor of Practical Theology. Holding hold a doctorate in theology and master of divinity from Fuller, Bolsinger also is an executive coach in transformational leadership for corporate, nonprofit, educational, and church organizations. For 17 years he was senior pastor of San Clemente (Calif.) Presbyterian Church after serving for 10 years at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. The most recent of his three books is “Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.”

Gorman holds the Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md. He has taught at St. Mary’s since 1991, and served as the dean of St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute 1995-2012. Gorman holds a master of divinity degree and doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he taught Greek. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and an elected member of the Society for New Testament Studies. A United Methodist layperson, Gorman is a frequent lecturer at churches, institutions of higher education, and clergy gatherings of many traditions in the US and abroad. His nearly 20 books include several on Paul, the atonement, Revelation, and John, as well as volumes of biblical interpretation and short books on topics in Christian ethics.

For more information about Annual Conference, entitled “God’s Adventurous Future,” visit the Annual Conference website at www.brethren.org/ac/.

3) Global Food Initiative and partner organizations carry out evaluation of agriculture project in Haiti

An aquaponics system at the Church of the Brethren compound in Croix des Bouquets, Haiti. Photo by Jeff Boshart

The Global Food Initiative (GFI) director Jeff Boshart, and a member of the GFI review panel, Pat Krabacher, have traveled to Haiti for a year-end evaluation of an agriculture project carried out jointly with Eglise des Freres Haitiens and Growing Hope Globally. The evaluation is ongoing under the direction of Klebert Exceus, former Haiti disaster response coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Boshart took part in the first part of the evaluation and also was able to visit 7 of the 14 communities that are participating in the Soil Conservation and Income Generation project.

Krabacher participated in the GFI visit with potential collaborators in Cape Haitian. She then stayed on with her husband, John, to meet with Dale Minnich and the staff of the Haiti Medical Project as they met to plan for 2020 activities. Krabacher will be sharing her expertise in grant writing and knowledge of working with governmental agencies in order to strengthen the capacity of the staff of Haiti Medical Project, if there is a desire to seek funds beyond the Church of the Brethren.

“As part of the evaluation, we learned of the disastrous impacts of last year’s civil unrest or ‘lock down,’ as it was called by the political opposition to the current administration in Haiti,” reported Boshart. “Roads were closed from September through November. Schools were closed and life became even more of a struggle than it normally is in Haiti. During the ‘lock down’ it became difficult for people to get medical care and lives were disrupted in other ways (postponed weddings, lack of commerce, halted infrastructure projects). Schools opened again in January in the major cities but school administrators are dealing with not receiving school fees during the first semester of the school year, which means that teachers went unpaid and students lost a half year of schooling.

“The animal raising projects of Eglise des Freres saw significant deaths of animals as veterinary services were not able to get to remote villages,” he continued. “Many rabbits died. The goat projects fared a bit better, and the fish projects looked excellent. The silver lining for the agriculture projects is that we learned which communities are more resourceful when outside help is unable to reach them. Some projects thrived due to the commitment of local project committees and others did not. The evaluation is giving us a clear direction of interventions in the third and final year of this project, which will begin in April.”

For more information about the Global Food Initiative, go to www.brethren.org/gfi .

4) Bethany Seminary administrators visit EYN students and leaders

Current EYN students enrolled in Bethany Seminary classes that are held at the Tech Center in Jos, Nigeria, posing for a picture with Bethany president Jeff Carter and dean Steve Schweitzer (center back). Photo courtesy of Bethany Seminary

By Jenny Williams

Members of Bethany Theological Seminary’s administration recently traveled to Jos, Nigeria, as part of the seminary’s educational partnership with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). From Jan. 9-16, president Jeff Carter was joined by Steve Schweitzer, academic dean, and Lori Current, executive director of admissions and student services, in visiting EYN leadership and EYN students enrolled at Bethany.

The Bethany group received affirmation for the seminary’s efforts to provide graduate-level education to Nigerian students via a synchronous video program. Current EYN students are enrolled in the Certificate in Biblical Peacemaking, developed with the interests of EYN in mind. It was also a chance to hear concerns and discuss ways of improving the program and the students’ experience.

With interest in the program coming from outside EYN, the group also visited with administrators from major theological schools in the region: the Jos ECWA Theological School, affiliated with Evangelical Church Winning All; the seminary of Church of Christ in Nigeria; and the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. The meetings confirmed mutual interest in exploring possible educational collaboration.

Read the full story at https://bethanyseminary.edu/academic-programs/educational-partnership-with-eyn/strengthening-the-partnership-a-visit-to-nigeria .

— Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Seminary.

5) NOAC planning team announces theme for 2021 gathering of older adults

The planning team for NOAC 2021. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The planning team for the 2021 National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) has announced the theme for the gathering, the list of preachers, and two of the keynote speakers. The team, which held meetings this week at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., includes (from left) Paula Ziegler Ulrich, Karen Dillon, Christy Waltersdorff (coordinator), Glenn Bollinger, Pat Roberts, Jim Martinez, and (not shown here) Rex Miller, and Discipleship Ministries co-coordinators Stan Dueck and Josh Brockway as staff.

“Overflowing with Hope” is the theme, inspired by Romans 15:13 (Christian Standard Bible): “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Preachers for the five daily worship services at NOAC 2021 are Christy Dowdy, a retired minister living in Rockingham, Va.; Paula Bowser, an ordained minister from Englewood, Ohio, who led the Bible studies at the 2019 NOAC; Andrew Wright, a retired minister living in New Carlisle, Ohio; Don Fitzkee, pastor of worship at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; and Eric Landram, a pastor at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

Ken Medema, a Christian musician and a popular performer at Church of the Brethren conferences, and Ted Swartz, a Mennonite comedian and lead actor at Ted & Co., are two of the keynote presenters for the conference. Additional keynote speakers are yet to be confirmed.

The Older Adult Ministries website at www.brethren.org/oam features information about this Church of the Brethren ministry including a link to detailed information about last year’s NOAC. The conference is held every two years.

6) Ventures online courses to focus on society and the environment

By Kendra Flory

The February and March online courses offered by Ventures will focus on society and the environment. Ventures in Christian Discipleship is a program of McPherson (Kan.) College.

In February, the Ventures online course will be “Examining the Disconnect Between Society and the Environment.” The environment is our home, and we rely heavily on it for all aspects of our lives. Technology is becoming so much a part of our everyday lives that some experience nature simply through images on a screen. Running items across the scanner or clicking “Buy Now” has made the purchase of products from foods to electronics to vehicles so easy it comes often without a second thought–without thought of excess, of where these products come from, or of the natural and social environments impacted in the making of the products. This course will explore the disconnect between society and the environments on which we are so dependent and don’t even realize it anymore.

The class will be held online on Saturday, Feb. 29, at 9 a.m. to 12 noon (central time) and taught by Dustin Wilgers, associate professor of biology at McPherson College. Wilgers has been on the faculty since 2011 teaching a variety of courses in biology and environmental stewardship. He has a passion for conservation and efforts that lead toward sustainability. He strongly believes that most people do the best they can for their situation but simply may not be aware of the implications of their everyday actions. Much of his work in and out of the classroom and with students of all ages focuses on increasing awareness of our impacts on the environment.

The March course will be “Creation Care and the Gospel of John.” This course looks to the Gospel of John as a resource for renewing our love for God’s creation and overcoming complacency about the current environmental crisis. We will learn from John’s prologue that Jesus is the embodiment of the divine wisdom that gives light and life to all creation. The prologue can then serve as our guide for reading other portions of John, including stories where Jesus continues to work for the transformation of humanity and the healing of creation.

The class will be held online on Saturday, March 21, at 9 a.m. to 12 noon (central time) and taught by Dan Ulrich, Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary. Ulrich has taught at the seminary since 1996. He is writing a book about the four gospels as guides for envisioning life-giving ministries in the 21st century, and recently completed a chapter on the Gospel of John. Hiking, camping, and canoeing are activities that have nurtured his love for God and God’s creation since childhood. He has enjoyed continuing those activities, when possible, with his spouse, Paula, and their young-adult children. Ulrich is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren with a doctorate. in biblical studies from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va.

All classes are donation-based and continuing education credit is available for $10 per course. To learn more about Ventures and to register for courses visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures .

— Kendra Flory is advancement assistant at McPherson College.

7) Brethren Disaster Ministries offers resources and recommendations on Coronavirus

The following information about the Coronavirus has been offered by Brethren Disaster Ministries as a resource to help Brethren congregations and members better understand the outbreak and ways to respond, and are informed of trusted websites to visit frequently for updates and suggestions. Contact Brethren Disaster Ministries at 800-451-4407 or go to www.brethren.org for more about the disaster relief work of the Church of the Brethren.

Background

The current outbreak of the respiratory illness that is caused by a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, at the end of December 2019. Health officials are monitoring the spread of the virus that has affected thousands of people in China, with a growing number in other countries.

While most of the cases and deaths from this virus have occurred in China, occurrences have been discovered throughout the world including a small number on the mainland US, including person-to-person transmission. Yesterday, Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared an international health emergency defined as “an ‘extraordinary event’ that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.”

Many of the precautions and resources listed below also apply to prevention of Influenza (the flu) and other illnesses that are more common in the US but can also be deadly.

Websites to track

The following websites are updated frequently with applicable information as the virus is being tracked:

Center for Disease Control (CDC) Coronavirus page www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html

World Health Organization (WHO) Novel Coronavirus 2019 page also is tracking and addressing myths about the virus www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Travel advisories

As of today, Jan. 31, travel warnings from the US State Department have been issued recommending all travel to China be avoided. This alert status can be tracked on this website for future changes: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/china-travel-advisory.html

Screenings have started at select US airports for travelers from China, with expanded screening by Customs and Border Patrol. Some commercial airlines have limited or cancelled flights to and from China.

Future CDC Travel updates and recommendations can be tracked at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

Prevention methods

There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The CDC recommends these everyday, preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

— Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.

— Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

— Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

— Staying home when you are sick.

— Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.

— Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
(source: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html )

Ideas for churches to prevent the spread of illness

Give permission for peace signs, fist bumps, and elbow touches to replace hugs and hand shaking.

Make hand sanitizer available throughout the church.

Place a box of tissues in every pew.

Encourage people to wash their hands and post reminder signs throughout the church. ( www.cdc.gov/handwashing/materials.html ).

Wipe down everything touched by churchgoers, like door handles, pew tops, and railings.

Limit potlucks and other nonessential large gatherings.

Host conference calls or video chats as alternatives for face-to-face meetings, as possible.

Printable prevention resources

Here are websites where you can find posters to download and display to help with the spread of a variety of illnesses in your community: www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public ;
www.cdc.gov/handwashing .

Please share these resources with the members of your church and district, and track the websites for up-to-date information on this outbreak and prevention.

— Jenn Dorsch-Messler, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, provided this report to Newsline. 

8) My brother’s keeper: Remembering the Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010

A deacon of the church plays his accordion in the ruins of the Delmas 3 Church of the Brethren, Jan. 20, 2010. This photo was taken by Roy Winter of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, just a week after the 7.0 quake that devastated the capital city of Haiti. Winter traveled to Haiti just days after the earthquake with a small delegation that also included Jeff Boshart, director of the Global Food Initiative. Photo by Roy Winter

By Ilexene Alphonse

January 12 is a date forever engraved in my heart for two reasons: first, January 12, 2007, I married the love of my life, Michaela Alphonse; second, January 12, 2010, the worst natural disaster in my time, a massive earthquake, destroyed my native country of Haiti and my people. It was the darkest hour for every Haitian everywhere. We as a people lost family members, loved ones, homes, places of worship, businesses, and most importantly hope.

In Psalm 121:1-2 we read, “I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth.” God didn’t send down angels from heaven to rescue the Haitian people but he sent our brothers and sisters in Christ from the other side of the ocean, the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

When the earthquake happened, many big organizations collected millions of dollars to help rebuild Haiti but they didn’t do anything to help the Haitian people out of the rubble. They made promises that they didn’t keep, they had their pictures taken with the children on the streets, and they got richer over the misery of the Haitian people.

We looked up and saw a small light shining over Haiti–God always has a plan for his people. The Church of the Brethren, a small church, heard the call of God and said, “Here I am, send me,” as a church and as individuals. They didn’t come with jets, helicopters, and promises they wouldn’t keep, but they came with love. Roy Winter, associate executive director for Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, and others came to Haiti a couple of days after the earthquake to visit, assess, and evaluate the situation with the leaders of l’Eglise des Freres Haitien (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti).

The Church of the Brethren provided hot meals for schools, temporary shelters, food, and household kits for thousands shortly after the tragedy. Right after the earthquake, Brethren Disaster Ministries organized mobile clinics all over Haiti, which became the Haiti Medical Project that is still at work today. Brethren programs supported the giving of animals, seeds, water filters, and more–which became a development community that today serves thousands of people all over Haiti. Brethren Disaster Ministries repaired houses and rebuilt hundreds of homes for people affected by the earthquake.

This photo from 2011shows a family in front of their new home in Canaan, Haiti–one of the 14 homes built there, along with a new church, after the 2010 earthquake. Brethren Disaster Ministries worked with Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) to help residents who were displaced from Port-au-Prince by the earthquake. Photo courtesy of Jeff Boshart

They didn’t just rebuild houses but also lives, after such a disaster where people lost everything and were traumatized. Brethren Disaster Ministries invested in a trauma resilience awareness program, providing classes for people to come to listen, to share, and to learn about their trauma. In those meetings, people who thought they were fine realized their trauma and need for healing. They also trained many people to go all over Haiti to hold classes and trainings.

Those services weren’t limited to the Haitian Brethren church members but anyone in need. Those actions spoke louder than words–people came to Christ, and people from other denominations joined the Haitian Church of the Brethren, not because most of them needed anything from the church but because they wanted to be a part of a loving body.

The Church of the Brethren also built relationships when Brethren Disaster Ministries organized workcamps in Haiti to help the rebuilding. Brothers and sisters from the church in the US came to Haiti to share themselves in every way possible and to help the Haitian people get back on their feet. Some of them did not have any skill to work in construction, some had never traveled outside of the US, but they came. They brought hope, they played with children, they hugged those who had never hugged before, they smiled with those who had no reason to smile, they sat with those who could not stand, they sang and prayed with them, they shared communion, they listened and cried with them.

The Haitian people felt that they weren’t alone in the situation, for brothers and sisters in Christ they didn’t know took the time to come and spent time with them. It was Jesus’ words in action: “I am with you always.” Church of the Brethren US really showed the Haitian people that they are their brothers’ keeper.

Brethren treated Haitians as human, with dignity, love, and compassion. The Church of the Brethren aided the Haitian Brethren in creating a holistic ministry serving body, mind, and soul. The action of the US Brethren, led by Global Mission and Service staff Jay Wittmayer, Roy Winter, and Jeff Boshart, boost the morale of the Haitian people.

Everything can be destroyed in one day, from animals to houses and more, but the love the Brethren have shown will never perish. When God asks, “How are your brothers and sisters on the other side of the ocean?” the Brethren will be able to respond positively and say: “Yes indeed I am my brother’s keeper.”

Haitian and BDM workcamp volunteer rebuild following earthquake. Photo by Sandy Christophel

Like fertilizer for the church

The partnership and support received from the Church of the Brethren was like fertilizer for the church in Haiti. L’Eglise des Freres Haitien grew from 11 churches to 24 churches and 8 preaching points. It is all new church planting; the Haitian Church of the Brethren is still not accepting any organized church as a member. Actions speak louder than words, as mentioned earlier those services were provided to everyone in need. I heard many testimonies from different people saying that this is the first church that they saw doing something good not just for themselves but for people they didn’t even know, whether Christian or not.

After this decade of recovery I can happily say things are going well for the Church of the Brethren in Haiti. Because the Church of the Brethren didn’t just give us fish, but taught how to fish, the mobile health clinics and the agriculture program continue.

When you hear about the Haiti Medical Project, this was a seed of Brethren Disaster Ministries work after the earthquake. Paul Minnich, one of the doctors who served in a series of medical clinics just a few weeks after the earthquake, went home to Kansas thinking that more had to be done. Today the Haiti Medical Project has local doctors, nurses, and volunteers going to different places in Haiti every Saturday to give care to people. The project also has established dispensaries with medication in the communities where the Haitian Brethren congregations are located, with trained local agents to serve immediate needs.

From the earthquake recovery efforts, the development community was created. They provide seeds, animals, water projects, and latrines in remote areas of Haiti with support from the Global Food Initiative and Jeff Boshart. They tap creeks, collect rainwater, dig wells and cisterns, and use reverse osmosis to provide clean and safe water.

Child at temporary shelter in Delmar, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Because of the good example of the Church of the Brethren, the Haitian Brethren were able to create BDMH (Brethren Disaster Ministry in Haiti). When in 2016 Hurricane Matthew hit the south of Haiti, BDMH led the recovery efforts for the church with support from the Emergency Disaster Fund and Brethren Disaster Ministries. We were able to hold workcamps and we called skilled church members to join us to work together to support each other, just like the US Brethren in our time of need. We organized workcamps to work alongside American Brethren and also held workcamps just for Haitians. We worked in Croix des Bouquet Church, Remonsant, Cayes, Saint Louis, and currently BDMH is working in Pignon and Saint Louis du Nord.

For the earthquake recovery, Brethren Disaster Ministries built a guesthouse and a staff house in Croix des Bouquet for the church. Very soon after, that place became the denominational headquarters for l’Eglise des Freres Haitien. Inside the gates there are the guesthouse and staff house and offices for the denomination’s National Committee, Community Development, Haiti Medical Project, as well as depots and a well that provides water for the community–and more.  

Thank you for your continuing prayers and support. We thank God for each one of you every time we remember you!

— Ilexene Alphonse is an ordained minister and pastor at Miami (Fla.) Haitian Church of the Brethren.

9) Brethren bits

Bethany Theological Seminary president Jeff Carter has been presented with the Excellence in Higher Education award from the Wayne County (Ind.) Chamber of Commerce. The award, in its inaugural year, was presented Jan. 17, during the chamber’s annual dinner. It honors an individual who has served the higher education population in Wayne County–where the seminary is located–with exceptional leadership, innovative techniques, and community involvement. In presenting the award, chamber CEO Melissa Vance noted Bethany’s partnership with Earlham School of Religion and the schools’ collaboration on a new Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing degree, Bethany’s sponsorship of Richmond Symphony Orchestra’s Kids of Note program, a partnership with the symphony in offering the Recital Series featuring RSO musicians performing in Bethany’s Nicarry Chapel, the seminary’s Pillars and Pathways Residency Scholarship requiring student recipients to volunteer locally and reside in renovated housing near campus, the intentional hiring of local contractors for Bethany’s recent capital improvements, and the sponsorship of a farm-to-table fundraiser for Richmond Farmer’s Market. The Bethany campus is in Richmond, Ind.

— The Church of the Brethren’s Michigan District seeks a district executive minister. The district includes 20 congregations in the lower peninsula of Michigan, north of the southern tier of counties. Camp Brethren Heights is associated with the district and the district office location is negotiable. The district is theologically diverse and seeks creative and biblically centered leadership with a broad, unifying perspective to find common foundation to continue to build God’s Kingdom together. This half-time position of approximately 25 hours per week is available on March 30. Travel is required both within and outside of the district. Responsibilities are in three main focus areas: 1. Direction, coordination, management, and leadership of the district program, as authorized by District Conference and implemented by the District Leadership Team; 2. Work with congregations in calling and credentialing ministers and in the placement/call and evaluation of pastoral staff, providing support and counsel for ministers and other church leaders and sharing and interpreting program resources for congregations; 3. Providing a crucial link between the congregations and the district and the wider church by working collaboratively with the Council of District Executives, Annual Conference and its agencies and their staff. Qualifications include ordination through an accredited program, with a master of divinity degree preferred; skills in organization, administration, and communication; commitment to the Church of the Brethren locally and denominationally, along with ecumenical skills; demonstrated leadership skills; pastoral experience preferred; biblical leadership. To apply, send a letter of interest and resume to Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Director, Office of Ministry, via email at officeofministry@brethren.org . Applicants are requested to contact three or four people willing to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of a resume, a candidate profile will be sent that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

— Bethany Theological Seminary seeks a communications and marketing coordinator as part of the Institutional Advancement Department. Responsibilities include interacting with and developing materials for a myriad of constituencies, developing and maintaining web content and a social media plan, creating copy for various print and digital communications, managing advertising campaigns, assisting in fundraising and donor communications. Qualifications include a bachelor’s degree; development, alumni relations, admissions, and/or marketing experience; experience with design software, web design software, e-communications, and social media; excellent communication abilities; strong project management skills; affinity with the values and mission of the seminary, required; understanding of the Church of the Brethren in the Anabaptist-Pietist tradition, preferred. A full job description is at bethanyseminary.edu/about/employment . Application reviews will begin immediately and will continue until an appointment is made. Send a letter of interest, resume, and contact information for three references to gailc@bethanyseminary.edu .

— Bethany Theological Seminary president Jeff Carter has been presented with the Excellence in Higher Education award from the Wayne County (Ind.) Chamber of Commerce. The award, in its inaugural year, was presented Jan. 17, during the chamber’s annual dinner. It honors an individual who has served the higher education population in Wayne County–where the seminary is located–with exceptional leadership, innovative techniques, and community involvement. In presenting the award, chamber CEO Melissa Vance noted Bethany’s partnership with Earlham School of Religion and the schools’ collaboration on a new Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing degree, Bethany’s sponsorship of Richmond Symphony Orchestra’s Kids of Note program, a partnership with the symphony in offering the Recital Series featuring RSO musicians performing in Bethany’s Nicarry Chapel, the seminary’s Pillars and Pathways Residency Scholarship requiring student recipients to volunteer locally and reside in renovated housing near campus, the intentional hiring of local contractors for Bethany’s recent capital improvements, and the sponsorship of a farm-to-table fundraiser for Richmond Farmer’s Market. The Bethany campus is in Richmond, Ind.

— Registration opens Feb. 6 for the New and Renew Church Planting and Church Renewal Conference on May 13-15 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. “Are you looking for a spiritually rich and creative space to worship, learn, network, and grow?” said an invitation. “Are you looking to be in conversation with other Jesus followers who are exploring new forms of mission, church planting, church renewal and shaping community? If so, be sure to join us.” The theme is “The Reward of Risk.” Early registration will be available through April 15 with a special rate of $179 that includes two lunches and an Intercultural Celebration Dinner. On April 16 all registration rates will return to the regular rate of $225. Attendees are responsible for their own housing; conferences rates are available at local hotels but reservations must be made by April 19. To register and for more information Go to www.brethren.org/churchplanting/2020 .

— Food insecurity is the topic of this week’s action alert from the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. “Over 40 million Americans face food insecurity, which means lacking consistent access to nutritional food,” said the alert, in part. “Food banks play a crucial role in combating food insecurity by giving donated food to food insecure individuals. Following the holiday season, food donations to food banks begin to decline even though the need is still there.” Citing the Church of the Brethren 2006 resolution, “A Call to Reduce Global Poverty and Hunger,” the alert urged Brethren to call on the President and Congress to provide more funding for food programs like the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to help get more food to food banks. The alert include a link to look up legislators and a link to locate local food bank. Find the action alert at https://mailchi.mp/brethren/food-insecurity?e=9be2c75ea6 .

— Ted & Co. is touring over coming months, with Church of the Brethren districts and congregations among hosting groups. Ted & Co. is led by Ted Swartz, a Mennonite comedian and a favorite at many Church of the Brethren conferences.
     On Feb. 29, at 7:30 p.m., Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., will host a performance of “We Own This Now,” which looks at love of land, loss of land, and what it means to “own” something. Accompanying Swartz in this production is Michelle Milne. Said an announcement, “Chris has farmed the land his grandmother found as a home in Kansas after fleeing Russia almost 100 years ago;  his daughter Riley is learning more about who was on that land before her Oma arrived, and the jarring connections she has to the fate of those people. We follow Chris and Riley as they navigate their changing relationship to each other and to the land their family has farmed for several generations.” Admission is free.
     On March 15 at 7 p.m., a new Ted & Co. and Ken Medema production called “Can We Talk?” is hosted by Southern Ohio/Kentucky District at Northmont High School Auditorium in Clayton, Ohio. Said an announcement: “Can We Talk?” is a rollicking 90 minutes of story, song, laughter, and moments of serious reflection around listening and conversation, especially when there is seemingly so much disagreement on issues in the church and society. The show includes classic and new material from Ted Swartz and Ken Medema. You will never be more than a few minutes from a laugh or a moment that makes you hold your breath. Don’t miss this opportunity.” Donations will be received to the district’s Brethren Disaster Ministries Memorial Day Tornado Relief project.

— Quoting from Jeremiah 6:14, “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace,” Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has issued a release on the peace plan for Israel and Palestine announced by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. The CMEP board is currently chaired by Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. The release was signed by CMEP’s executive director Mae Elise Cannon. The plan is “nothing less than a recipe for endless oppression and injustice,” the release said, in part. “Palestinians for far too long have suffered under Israeli military control…. The proposed plan would further entrench the Israeli security establishment, ensuring that generations of Israeli young men and women will serve in a military tasked with continuing control of the Palestinian people. The inevitable result will be more human rights abuses, trauma, and violence…. It is clear that Christian values are being weaponized in an attempt to give a veneer of moral legitimacy to a plan that is, in fact, meant to facilitate further Israeli control over Palestinian lives, land, and resources. The use of Judeo and Christian religious and spiritual imagery to justify political aims and agendas is idolatry.” The release condemned parts of the plan, including the “land swap” that the release said in “meant to maximize the amount of land under Israeli control while minimizing the number of Palestinians living on the land.” Palestian despair, which leads to violence, is rooted in “decades of dispossession, violence, and lived humiliation–a perpetuated dynamic that is not without consequences for Israeli society,” the release asserted. “For Israelis to have hope for a future without fear, where their legitimate security needs are met, there must be a peace plan where U.S. and Israeli governments recognize and commit to just resolutions in response to the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people.” See https://cmep.org/2020/01/29/response_trump_plan .

— “The Fierce Urgency of Now” is the theme for Creation Justice Ministries resources to equip congregations to celebrate Earth Day Sunday 2020. “Our 2020 materials include theological insights on what it means to live in this kairos moment for God’s creation, stories of faith communities taking action, sermon starters, liturgy ideas, and action steps,” said an announcement. The landing page and supplemental materials are at www.creationjustice.org/urgency . Find more information about Earth Day Sunday, including materials from previous years, at www.earthdaysunday.org .

— World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has been named presiding bishop for the Church of Norway. His inauguration will take place during the church synod in Trondheim on April 26 in the Cathedral of Nidaros. He will step down from his post at the WCC at the end of March, after serving two terms in office. As WCC general secretary, Tveit has led the fellowship of churches through such gatherings as the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (Kingston, Jamaica, 2011) and the 10th Assembly of the WCC (Busan, Republic of Korea, 2013). He has also been instrumental in leadership of international consultations on such topics as climate change, peacemaking, and refugee resettlement.