Newsline for July 25, 2020

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

1) Creating community at virtual National Young Adult Conference
2) Brethren Mutual Aid Share Fund responds to COVID-19 crisis, Mutual Aid Agency announces new name
3) Brooklyn First voices speak in the midst of COVID-19 and racism pandemics
4) EYN members are among aid workers executed by insurgents in Nigeria

5) Jon Kobel’s service with the Annual Conference Office ends

6) Brethren Volunteer Service fall orientation is going virtual

7) New Brethren Press resources include a Bible study on the Psalms and a new book for children’s worship

8) Brethren bits: Remembering Gene Hipskind and Timothy Sites, celebrating the class of 2020, personnel, jobs, free webinars and online courses, Global Mission prayers, news from districts, World Council of Churches executive committee, music by women at Ephrata Cloister, a children’s book by Gimbiya Kettering, and more

Find our landing page of Church of the Brethren COVID-19 related resources and information at .

Find Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship at .

A listing to recognize Brethren who are active in health care is at . To add a person to this listing, send an email with first name, county, and state to .

1) Creating community at virtual National Young Adult Conference

Selection from a screen shot of the National Young Adult Conference shows participants displaying images of love in action during the pandemic.

By Jenna Walmer

The tagline for the Church of the Brethren is “Continuing the Work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.” Because of COVID-19, the “together” part for the 2020 National Young Adult Conference presented a difficulty in our ability to create a sense of community. Young adult conference favorite activities include playing late-night board games, singing hymns and campfire songs, gathering for meals, dissecting the scripture in messages and in small groups, and generally just being together.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, the Young Adult Steering Committee dealt with the questions of how to build a similar community in a virtual space. Through Zoom capabilities and with the leadership who already had been secured for the conference, we brain-stormed ways to have these similar connections of hymn sings and small groups.

Going into the weekend, I was worried about how it would turn out. Would people attend? Would they participate? How would a hymn sing feel without harmonization?

As always, the Brethren community showed up and made the most of what we had. As people logged into the welcoming session, I was smiling ear-to-ear seeing so many familiar and new faces! In this virtual space, everyone was able to introduce themselves and say why they came to National Young Adult Conference. It was encouraging to hear so many young adults express gratitude for being able to attend, since it was online.

One of my favorite parts of in-person young adult conferences has been the hymn sings, where people requested certain hymns and we all sing, creating community through our harmonization. This year, Jacob Crouse did not disappoint with his various instruments at hand and knowledge of different renditions of favorite Brethren songs, including “Move in Our Midst.” The same type of community was established during the campfire jam, where people requested their favorite camp songs and, depending on the leader, participants learned a different version from the one sung at their home camp.

As Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). Despite the constrictions from COVID-19 and the inability to meet in person, we were able to build a unique community that I cherished.

Thank you to all those who showed up and created a sense of “togetherness” even though we were not physically together! This was a reminder that a building does not make the church, the people do.

— Jenna Walmer is a member of the Church of the Brethren’s Young Adult Steering Committee. Find out more about the Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the denomination at .

2) Brethren Mutual Aid Share Fund responds to COVID-19 crisis, Mutual Aid Agency announces new name

From Mutual Aid Agency releases provided by Amy Huckaba

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the Brethren Mutual Aid Share Fund is announcing that any grant requests related to the virus will be eligible for double matching through the fund.

The Brethren Mutual Aid Share Fund is a nonprofit corporation created to provide financial assistance to Church of the Brethren-related congregations, camps, and organizations in their caring and sharing ministries. To learn more about the fund or to submit a grant application, visit .

In related news, the fund’s parent agency is announcing a name change in celebration of its 135th anniversary. The former Brethren Mutual Aid Agency is now known as the Mutual Aid Agency, or MAA. The choice to simplify MAA’s name was made in an effort to communicate continued relevance in an ever-changing world and culture. MAA welcomes individuals and churches from across the nation to participate in mutual church, personal, farm, and commercial insurance plans. By emphasizing the word “mutual,” MAA is reinforcing its continued commitment to service and community, as well as the Church of the Brethren tradition of seeking peace and unity.

“Our Brethren heritage and values remain at the forefront of our priorities,” says Kim Rutter, general manager of MAA. “We are grateful for these roots that inspire us to work together and to do good.”

The MAA is an independent insurance agency based near Abilene, Kan. Since its humble beginning in 1885, the agency has been providing peace of mind to its clients, becoming a highly respected provider of property insurance to the Church of the Brethren and its members. Visit for more information or contact 800-255-1243 or .

Brethren Mutual Aid Share Fund COVID-19 grants
After a comprehensive discussion during its May meeting, the fund board felt an increase was a necessary response to the growing needs of Church of the Brethren individuals, families, and communities brought on by the global pandemic. The decision was made official after a vote that enacted the new policy immediately.
Applicants will need to state how the beneficiary of the grant has been affected by COVID-19, be it a job loss, reduction of hours, medical expenses, or other unforeseen emergency circumstances. An administrator of the fund will then review the request and grant up to $1,000 per eligible church insured through the Mutual Aid Agency.
This policy will remain in place for applications submitted through 2020. Individuals and congregations are welcome to contribute to the fund and can contact the Mutual Aid Agency by telephone or mail with questions or donations. 

3) Brooklyn First voices speak in the midst of COVID-19 and racism pandemics

Photo courtesy of Doris AbdullahThe Brooklyn First Church family, in a pre-pandemic gathering in the church sanctuary

By Doris Abdullah

One of the first things that I noticed about white privilege is my white friends are never asked to speak for other white folks. People of color are always asked to speak for the entire community. Words of any Black person is taken as the gold standard for the feelings, commitments, and actions of not just that person, but all Black people.

The men, women, and children at Brooklyn (N.Y.) First Church of the Brethren speak with a wide variety of voices based in their identities as people of color, trapped for 100 days in their homes by the twin pandemics of coronavirus and racism. Listen carefully and you will hear their anger, beliefs, Christian praises, fears, joys, and hopes for tomorrow.

We called our first Zoom meeting topic “Struggling in the Midst of COVID-19 and Racism Pandemic.” The biblical scripture was taken from Isaiah 56:7. From the first meeting came forth “Worship for Change: A concert by Brooklyn First SonShine Praise Team” on Facebook Live in honor of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Brooklyn First SonShine Praise Team gave voice to peace, love, and justice through Christ.

Voice – Luidgi Altidor letter to councilman:

“Dear Councilman,

“Blessings to you and your family during these times of unrest in our city. In the midst of pandemic and just when we felt that we had enough distance between us, the nation stands further divided, because of George Floyd’s killing by a police officer while three other police officers stood by. The video is traumatizing to watch, leaves a feeling of uneasiness in me, and makes me immediately think of my own encounter with the police.

“I am a 30-year-old African American male, married to my high school sweetheart, with two wonderful sons, ages 3 years and 3 months, have a master’s degree in special education, a music teacher in the public school, and lead guitarist in my church praise band. The color of skin representing immediate danger and fear and not my identity as a Brooklyn husband, father, son, teacher, and Christian came to mind when I was stopped by two white police officers. One officer approached my side while the other approached the passenger side with hands on hip. I was told to roll down all four windows, told of my offense which was: running a red light and not following proper protocol for a traffic stop.

“Fear passed through my body as my chest tightened, breathing became difficult, sweat formed on my forehead, and water formed in my eyes. I gave them my license, registration, and a PBA card. My father-in-law was a retired police officer and thus the source of the PBA card.

“Everything changed in the encounter because of the card. The officer took her hands off her hip and the officer on my side reached in to shake my hand. My encounter was changed by a card, but George Floyd did not have a PBA card. He was not treated with any respect, courtesy or professionalism. I was not shown any of those things either until I showed a piece of plastic that let them know that I knew one of their kind.

“I want my sons to grow up in a nation where they are not looked upon as a threat because of the color of their skin. I want them to receive the same courtesy, respect, professionalism, and justice accorded to white men. The badge of an officer should not represent authority, fear, and power for one group of people over another. Let us come together as a community and hold those in power accountable for the job they do as we recognize that we are all members of the human race.”

Voice – Melissa Marrero:

“Yes, I agree something does need to come out of talks and letter writing is definitely one way of getting the message across to those who may benefit from hearing the message in writing.

“I would want my words to be heard by those who have turned a blind eye to the burdens of others, rather than to those leaders and politicians who are already supporting the protest and legal reforms.

“While those who are helping move this country in the right direction still need support, it is those who are not utilizing their leadership roles to thwart or exact injustice that probably need our prayers.”

Brooklyn First conversation on police reform:

Brooklyn First members want the police held accountable for their actions. They want better training for all police and those with disciplinary and mental health issues cared for and relieved from duty.

They feel that they should be able to call on the police in a time of crisis and not be fearful that they will become a victim rather then being cared for. In 2000 a West African immigrant named Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by the police. All four officers were acquitted of the charges of second degree murder and reckless endangerment. Black Lives Matter because the color of skin is a gift from God that identifies one group of humans from another group of humans. Black is not a crime nor does it denote being less than human. Eric Gardner was also unarmed and represented no threat to the police, yet they choked him to death. The police were not held accountable for his death. Black should not make one a target for terror at the hands of the police. Black Lives Matter.


Brooklyn First is home, since its 1899 founding, to immigrants from many lands. New arrivals, elders, and dual-language speaking second and third generations blind easily together in their love for each other and love of God. It is an urban church in the wide meaning of the word where one hear dozens of languages and dialects including Chinese, Spanish, French, and English. The church founders were white farmers from rural Pennsylvania. The founders and the immigrants have been and are still being transformed by the unique dynamics and interrelationships between those from European heritage and those from African heritage that have defined American for 400 years.

Skin color, in America, is a weapon. One does not need to know the history of 200 years of chattel slavery and 100 years of legal segregation to know that being Black in America can cost you your life. Those deemed Black do not get to choose their destiny and are always subject to violence. White privilege means you are not held accountable for your actions in dealing with those of color. White privilege allows you to get away with unspeakable crimes.

Early Brooklyn First immigrants tried to accommodate by turning away from their heritage and even changing their last names. Since the 1960s’ Black rebellion in Watts, Calif., by southern sons and daughters of African heritage, many immigrants have embraced their native heritage. They rejected changing their names to blend in. They embraced their indigenous, European, and slave heritage. And many rejected the false notion that white is better and black is of less value. The cultural explosions in the arts, entertainment, and sports, dominated by African Americans, amassed followers among the youth. They found pride in the contributions of artists and sports figures from their native countries.

At the same times, immigrants’ skin colors expose them to the same terror as their African-American counterparts. The white police officer patrolling the neighborhood does not care about their country of origin. They are/were classified as non-white and became targets of violence. This has been truer over the last three years and the current administration in Washington, DC.

Some at Brooklyn First are experiencing the anxieties of child separation, as immigrants. That is, their children are born here, but if exposed by the authorities the parents can be deported to their country of origin. Their children would remain in the US without their parents, which is a terrifying notion for any parent. New York City is a Sanctuary City and there is less chance of this happening here, but nerves are still frail. Also, the DACA program that shields from deportation those who were brought here as children is under attack by the administration.

With the pandemic have come loss of jobs and looming fears of homelessness, deportation, loss of medical care when sick, as well as death alone.

Biblical scriptures shared:

“So God created humankind in his image. In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

“These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my alter; for my House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7).

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:11-12).

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

— Doris Abdullah is one of the pastors of Brooklyn (N.Y.) First Church of the Brethren and the Church of the Brethren’s denominational representative to the United Nations.

4) EYN members are among aid workers executed by insurgents in Nigeria

Two members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) were among the five humanitarian aid workers who have been killed execution-style by a faction linked to Boko Haram.

The two EYN members were Ishaku Yakubu and Luka Filibus. Yakubu “lived with his widowed mother in Monguno, is from Kautikari, Chibok LGA [Local Government Area]. He left behind a wife and two children,” reported Zakariya Musa, head of EYN Media. Filibus was from Agapalawa in the Gwoza Local Government Area, and his parents “are living in one of the IDP camps [for internally displaced people] managed by EYN in Maiduguri,” Musa said by email.

The humanitarian workers were abducted in June while traveling on a main route from the northern town of Monguno to Maiduguri, the capital city of Nigeria’s Borno State. Musa reported that “the Nigerian government identified the victims as employees of the country’s State Emergency Management Agency as well as international aid organizations Action Against Hunger, International Rescue Committee, and Rich International.”

The killing of the aid workers has gained international attention and has been condemned by a leading representative of the United Nations in Nigeria. Edward Kallon, humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in a July 22 statement:

“I am utterly shocked and horrified by the gruesome killing of some of our colleagues and partners by non-state armed groups in Borno State. My most heartfelt condolences go to their loved ones, families, friends and co-workers. They were committed humanitarians who devoted their lives to helping vulnerable people and communities in an area heavily affected by violence….

“I strongly condemn all violence targeting aid workers and the civilians they are assisting. I am also troubled by the number of illegal vehicular checkpoints set up by non state armed groups along main supply routes. These checkpoints disrupt the delivery of lifesaving assistance and heighten the risks for civilians of being abducted, killed or injured, with aid workers increasingly being singled out.

“This is tragically not the first killing of kidnapped aid workers. We have repeatedly called for such devastating fate and blatant violation of international humanitarian law to never happen again. And yet, it does. I implore all armed parties to step up to their responsibilities and stop targeting aid workers and civilians.”

Musa’s report noted that other residents of the IDP camp in Maiduguri also have been affected by abductions. He told of an IDP family whom he knows personally, having come from the same village of Gavva in the Gwoza area. The 75-year-old Jatau Ngwadva Ndarva, who is visually impaired, is “in total devastation over his daughter Lami and niece Renate Bitrus, who were kidnapped on their farm outside Maiduguri,” Musa wrote. “Renate’s grandfather was in the hands of Boko Haram for about three years before being rescued. Renate is a name-sake of the late Sister Renate Muller, one of the Mission 21 missionaries from Germany who worked in my village of Gavva, behind the Mandara Mountains in Gwoza Local Government Area.”

Musa requested prayer. “As I write on these, more villages are being attacked, killed, kidnapped, and displaced in Chibok and Askira/ Uba areas in the southern Borno State. We are not safe. Continue praying as you have never prayed for us before.”


5) Jon Kobel’s service with the Annual Conference Office ends

Jon Kobel

Due to Annual Conference budget shortfalls, Jon Kobel will conclude his work with the Church of the Brethren as conference assistant on July 31. He has worked for the Church of the Brethren denomination for 21 years, serving at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Kobel began his work with the denomination on June 21, 1999, as manager of the Office of the General Secretary. In that role, he assisted former general secretaries Stan Noffsinger and Judy Mills Reimer, and served as recorder of minutes for the denomination’s board. In recent years, since June 2009, he has been the conference assistant in the Annual Conference Office.

Kobel’s work for Annual Conference has included assisting committees and other groups that relate to the Conference, helping with logistics and being part of site visits at the different locations for the annual meeting of the Church of the Brethren, helping to schedule Conference events such as meal events and children’s activities, working onsite during each Annual Conference to assist director Chris Douglas, among many other tasks.

He is a member of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Elgin, where he directs the choir and leads the music during worship. He also is a licensed massage therapist.


6) Brethren Volunteer Service fall orientation is going virtual

By Hannah Shultz

In June, Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) made the decision to transition the summer orientation for Unit 325 from in-person to virtual. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in communities around the country, the staff have made the decision to also offer a virtual orientation for the fall orientation for Unit 327. BVS staff are excited to be able to continue sending volunteers to project sites while prioritizing the health and safety of incoming volunteers and the communities where they will be serving.
Following the same format as the summer unit, the fall 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.

BVS staff are working hard on planning both virtual orientations to include as many aspects of the traditional orientation as possible. The volunteers will gather virtually to grow in faith; learn about Brethren history, service, and social justice issues; build community; work together to accomplish common tasks; and have fun. Because of this new format, BVS staff will be working with volunteers ahead of orientation to discern project placements, which is typically done during the traditional three-week orientation.

The fall orientation will take place Sept. 27-Oct. 9. The application deadline is Aug. 7. Anyone interested in joining this unit who has not submitted an application by the deadline should reach out as soon as possible to . There is still time to join!

— Hannah Shultz is coordinator of short-term service for Brethren Volunteer Service. Find out more about BVS at .


7) New Brethren Press resources include a Bible study on the Psalms and a new book for children’s worship

“People of faith across the centuries have used the Psalms, laden with powerful images and emotions, in their devotional life,” said an announcement from Brethren Press about its newest Covenant Bible Study. “God’s Steadfast Love in the Psalms” is written by Christina Bucher, a professor of religion at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.

Also new from Brethren Press is a book for ministry with children titled “Small Wonders: Stories for Worship with Kids” by Kate Finney.

Additional special resources currently available from the Church of the Brethren denominational publishing house include a set of recommended books on racial justice, currently offered at a discount with free shipping; a set of face masks featuring Brethren messaging; and new digital resources from Shine, the Sunday school curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia. These and more resources are available at .

“God’s Steadfast Love in the Psalms”

“We see God portrayed as a good shepherd, a generous host, a strong deliverer,” said the announcement of this new Covenant Bible Study. “God is our rock and refuge. Water is a metaphor for the spiritual life–it nourishes and quenches our thirst, but it can also destroy like a flood.

“The Psalms plumb the depths of human emotion, from despair to joy and from anger to gratitude, and encourage us to express ourselves authentically before God. In these gifts, we will know God’s steadfast love.”

This Bible study resource suitable for both small groups and individual use sells for $10.99 per copy. Purchase one copy for the leader and each member of a study group.

“Small Wonders: Stories for Worship with Kids”

“Children’s worship time is much more than telling children a story,” said the Brethren Press announcement of this new book. “It’s about showing them how to connect with God and the world around them.” During children’s worship, the church creates spiritually enriching experiences that shape children’s understanding of God’s family and build healthy relationships that last a lifetime. The worship stories in this book “will spark the wonder of a child and foster Spirit-led discovery for everyone.”

Author Kate Finney writes from her home in Plymouth, Ind. The book is available from Brethren Press for $15.99.

Digital products for Sunday school this fall

Shine curriculum has two new digital resources: “Shine at Home” and “Shine Connect.”

“Shine at Home” is a simple option for families to do at home if congregations are not resuming regular Sunday school. “Shine at Home” includes weekly mini-sessions, complete with a prayer practice, ideas for sharing the Bible story, questions and conversation prompts, media suggestions, and activities that help children and families explore the Bible story. Use with Shine’s storytelling, music, and student resources. “Shine at Home” is available for preorder and will be released Aug. 1 as a downloadable PDF to email to all the families in the purchasing congregation.

“Shine Connect” is a free resource for teachers leading children through online Sunday school sessions. “Shine Connect” materials are free with the purchase of any Shine teacher’s guide starting with Fall 2020 materials. The early childhood resource includes a two-page outline and tips for creating fun, online sessions for preschoolers using the activities in the teacher’s guide and storytelling pictures in the resource pack. A more robust guide with weekly online session plans for elementary children accompanies the primary, older elementary, and multi-age teacher’s guides. “Shine Connect” for junior youth provides a simple framework and tips for facilitating discussion around the Bible story and connecting via the at-home devotional, “Quest.” The “Shine Connect” free resources are available with the fall curriculum.

Find out more about the Shine curriculum and its new digital products at .

Books to further racial justice

“To grow in understanding about the deep roots of racism and the need for transformation, reading is essential,” said a Brethren Press announcement of a set of books that the Church of the Brethren publishing house is recommending for those interested in furthering racial justice. “Through the books recommended here, find challenge, learning, and inspiration to build a world of equality and justice for all.

Brethren Press is currently offering the following titles at special discounts with free shipping:

“Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad

“The Color of Compromise” by Jemar Tisby

“Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism” by Drew G. I. Hart

“The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander

“I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown

“They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of the Struggle for Black Lives” by Wesley Lowry

In addition to the above titles, Brethren Press’s website offers an extensive selection of books on race and racial justice. Click on the “Books on Race” banner at .

Brethren face masks

Face masks in three patterns make for a unique Church of the Brethren witness. They display three Brethren messages of caring in the name of Christ: “Speak Peace,” “For the Glory of God and My Neighbor’s Good,” and “Peacefully, Simply, Not So Close Together.” Order at .

Find out more information about these resources and order online at or call Brethren Press customer service at 800-441-3712.

8) Brethren bits

Brethren in the class of 2020–graduates from high school, college, and beyond–make up the “centerfold” of the July/August issue of the Church of the Brethren magazine “Messenger.” The feature section includes musings on what it means to graduate during this pandemic year. Subscribers, look for your copies to arrive in mailboxes soon. For those who do not yet subscribe, subscription information is at . Extra copies of this special issue celebrating 2020 graduates may be available for purchase, contact subscriptions staff Diane Stroyeck at .

— Remembrance: Gene Hipskind, 78, a former district executive minister in the Church of the Brethren, died on July 11 at his home in Boise, Idaho. Hipskind led Pacific Southwest District as district executive for almost eight years, from Sept. 1994 through July 2002, when he retired. Following retirement he moved to Idaho. His volunteer work for the church continued following retirement, including service as a district coordinator for the Training in Ministry program of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, in which he represented Idaho and Southern Plains Districts. He was born in 1941 in Wenatchee, Wash., to Glenn and Frances Hipskind. He attended La Verne (Calif.) College, now the University of La Verne, where he met his wife, Linda L. Ashby. They married in 1965. He also was a graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary and was ordained as a Church of the Brethren minister in 1968. He pastored churches in Oregon, California, Indiana, Idaho, and Ohio, prior to serving as a district executive. He was a member of Pomona (Calif.) Fellowship Church of the Brethren and in Boise he attended Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship. He was preceded in death by his wife, Linda, who passed away in 2016. He is survived by daughter Joy (Jason) Shaffer of Boise, son Kirk of Spokane, Wash., and grandchildren. Memorial gifts are received to Heifer International and the Boise Philharmonic Master Chorale, with which Hipskind sang before he was restricted by health concerns. Services will be announced at a later date.

— Remembrance: Timothy Sites, 60, interim pastor of Leake’s Chapel Church of the Brethren in Stanley, Va., has passed away from COVID-19. His is one of the first deaths to COVID-19 of an active pastor currently serving a Church of the Brethren congregation. Shenandoah District shared its grief in a district newsletter announcement: “Sisters and Brothers, it is with heavy hearts we share Brother Timothy L. Sites, 60, passed away this morning [on July 16] at University of Virginia Hospital from the effects of COVID-19. Brother Tim was former pastor with Fairview Endless Caverns and most recently served as interim with Leake’s Chapel. Please hold his wife, Brenda, along with the entire family in your thoughts and prayers through this time.” A graveside service was held Sunday, July 19, at the Bethel Mennonite Church Cemetery near Broadway, Va.

— Steve Lipinski, manager of Brethren Foundation Operations for Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) for nearly 13 years, has announced his retirement, effective Aug. 5. His last day of work at the BBT offices at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., was July 20. Sherri Crowe, client manager for the Brethren Foundation, will assume the duties of manager of Brethren Foundation Operations on Aug. 5. BBT has announced an opening for a new client manager for the Brethren Foundation.

— Pauline Liu started as interim volunteer coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) on July 20 after serving for the last three months BVS orientation assistant. She is a 2018 graduate of the University of Colorado with a degree in psychology. She was a BVS volunteer in Unit 319, working from 2018-2019 at a L’Arche community in Kilkenny, Ireland. She will continue to work remotely from Colorado.

— Jon Prater has been hired by Shenandoah District as part-time director of Ministerial Services, as of July 21. He pastors Mt. Zion-Linville Church of the Brethren and has served the district in a number of positions including chair of the District Leadership Team and most recently chair of the District Discernment Team. He will be developing and strengthening the process leading up to licensing of ministerial candidates including working with individuals who indicate interest in ministry, strengthening cohort groups, working with mentors and candidates, providing opportunities for growth and fellowship for those engaged in the process, and working with the district executive in developing continuing education and fellowship opportunities for pastors.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks an executive director of Global Mission to fill a full-time salaried position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The major responsibility is to guide and implement the international mission program of the Church of the Brethren; direct and administer denominational mission efforts; generate a responsive and integrated denominational mission structure with grassroots support and involvement; and nurture an ongoingconversation about mission (evangelism, church-planting, service, peace, and reconciliation) among membership. Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision and mission of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board; significant understanding of mission theology and practice, with specific knowledge of relief, development, and/or church planting mission operations in the international context; extensive management and organizational skills developed through experience supervising multiple staff and administering multi-site programs; skills to coach highly educated and self-motivated professionals, many of whom are off-site domestically and internationally; ability to coordinate multiple processes and projects; strong skills in verbal and written communications; knowledge of cross-cultural adjustment, dependency issues, ecumenical cooperation, and interfaith challenges gained from working internationally; language capabilities in addition to English. A seminary degree or master’s degree in a relevant field is required. Applications are being received and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Send a resume to or to Human Resources Manager, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

— Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is seeking a client manager for the Brethren Foundation to provide field presence and backup support for the director of the Brethren Foundation and the manager of Brethren Foundation Operations. Duties include office operations support and assisting with implementing activities that strengthen relationships with asset management and deferred gift clients. The ideal candidate will have an undergraduate degree in business and a strong working knowledge of investments. The successful candidate may be required to obtain additional financial credentials. This position requires a person who enjoys working with people; is detail oriented and has the ability to prioritize workloads; is proficient with computer systems and applications; and possesses exceptional organizational skills. Impeccable follow-up abilities are a must. BBT is seeking candidates with strong verbal and written communications skills, proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, and a demonstrated track record of providing superior customer service and a willingness and ability to expand knowledge and effectiveness through classes and workshops. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. This position requires some business travel. The position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Salary and benefits are competitive with organizations of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. To apply, send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary-range expectation to Michelle Kilbourne, 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or . For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust, visit .

— The Pennsylvania Council of Churches seeks a fulltime executive director. The council, with offices in Harrisburg, Pa., seeks a leader to help the organization address the issues facing the Christian community. The successful candidate will be a skilled and committed ecumenist combining broad scriptural/theological scholarship, passion for and demonstrated experience in ecumenism, with strong leadership and relationship-building skills. Find the full announcement and more information at .

— Registration is now open for a free webinar from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership titled “Defining Set-Apart Ministry Within the Multivocational Reality: Exploring the Special Rewards and Challenges of Pastoral Ministry in a Multivocational Context.” The online event takes place on Aug. 13 at 7-8 p.m. (Eastern time). The presenter is Sandra Jenkins, pastor of Constance Church of the Brethren and a full-time public school music teacher and regular instructor for the Brethren Academy. Ministers may receive 0.1 continuing education credit. Register at .

— The Church of the Brethren Global Mission office is sharing prayers of praise for positive developments in Haiti, including completion of an Internet project serving the headquarters compound of L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) in Croix des Bouquets, funded jointly by Global Mission and Service and the Haiti Medical Project, and for the arrival of a vegetable seed shipment that is part of a Global Food Initiative grant. However, Romy Telfort, general secretary of the church in Haiti, also reported that COVID-19 seems to be spreading through the churches with many people having fevers and extreme tiredness. “Continue to pray for the church in Haiti, those sick with COVID-19, the Haiti Medical Project, and GFI work,” said the Global Mission prayer request.

— In another prayer request from Global Mission, the director of Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU) in Ecuador, Alfredo Merino, has asked for prayer for the COVID-19 spike in the city of Quito. “He reports that it is out of control and the health system is overrun,” said an email from Global Food Initiative manager Jeff Boshart. The email mentioned a nurse who has been hospitalized in ICU on a ventilator for over a week, and also the chef who was to be featured in an online cooking class fundraiser for FBU, who has tested positive for COVID-19 along with his entire family.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries’ new tornado rebuilding project is getting attention from the “Dayton Daily News.” With a headline reminding homeowners of an Aug. 1 deadline to apply for free help with rebuilding from the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group, the article gave a nod to Brethren volunteers who “despite the pandemic…pulled into town earlier this week with tool trailers and regional volunteers to tackle larger projects–starting work Monday on a two-story house on Valley Street in Dayton.” Find the article at .

— Online peacebuilding courses are available from the US Institute of Peace (USIP) in a program recommended by the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. These courses are free through the end of the year. “USIP’s online training can help professionals already working in peacebuilding roles–and those seeking to start or build their careers in that direction,” said an announcement. “The current responses to COVID-19 and systemic racism have created an increased demand for resources and training to help today’s peacebuilders transform violent conflicts in their communities and to assist people who are seeking nonviolent change around the world. To meet that demand, the U.S. Institute of Peace is offering its entire catalog of online courses tuition-free from now until the end of 2020…. USIP has built its Global Campus–an online training center with 33 courses in basic conflict resolution skills and peacebuilding tools–to help policymakers, practitioners, and people working to build peace internationally or in their own communities. The online training includes introductory micro-courses that require at most three hours of study and full-length courses that may require 10 to 20 hours to complete. Online trainees receive a certificate of completion.” Go to .
— Mid-Atlantic District has announced the cancellation of its 2020 district conference. “Your Program and Arrangements Committee has been in prayer and consideration of how best to address the realities of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the annual District Conference scheduled for October 2020,” said a letter from district moderator Allen O’Hara in the district newsletter. Citing scriptural commands to love others, the letter said the decision to cancel was made “out of this care and concern, this love for our neighbors, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.” The 2021 district conference is now planned for next Oct. 8-9 at Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren on the same theme as the 2020 conference was to focus on, 1 Corinthians 13. Preliminary arrangements have been made for Christian musician Ken Medema to be the guest leader. Two 2020 agenda items normally handled by a vote of the delegate body–affirmation of the ballot and approval of the budget–will be handled by mail this year.

— Mid-Atlantic District also shared a report on distribution of meat canned in 2019 by the Meat Canning Project. Rich Shaffer, chair, wrote that distributions from 2019 included 3,600 cans distributed by Christian Aid Ministries to Liberia for a “Food for Orphan” program; and 4,800 cans distributed by the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resource program based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., to hurricane relief work in the Bahamas partnering with Feed the Children. Meat canning has been canceled for 2020, but the report asked, “Please start encouraging folks to consider volunteering in 2021 as the need will be great.”
— Southern Ohio/Kentucky District of the Church of the Brethren has announced “Monies or Masks for BRC” as the service project for its 2020 district conference. “We invite congregations to donate monies for the purchase of masks or make masks for staff and residents at the Brethren Retirement Center” in Greenville, Ohio, said an announcement. “Let’s spread the love and compassion of Jesus Christ as we care for all our BRC folks.” Send monitory donations to Southern Ohio/Kentucky District marked “Monies for Masks.” Send completed masks to BRC, 750 Chestnut, Greenville, OH 45331, identified as “district conference service project.”

— “Heritage Fair 2020 begins now…and ends on October 15,” said an announcement from the Church of the Brethren’s Middle Pennsylvania District. “Heritage Fair is going to look different this year, but it hasn’t been totally cancelled!” The Heritage Fair Planning Committee announced that although there will be no physical gathering, there will be many opportunities to participate online or at a distance. The district shared a poster listing opportunities including preparing and selling a favorite Heritage Fair item to raise funds, taking a special offering, sponsoring a “Walk/Run for Heritage Fair” and challenging other church members “to walk the total of 100 miles, or more and ask for sponsors. Perhaps 10 people will walk 10 miles. Make it a hike and two or three people can do it together.” Other opportunities include sponsoring an online auction, having a curb-side pick-up meal, having an online concert and getting sponsors, putting together a Heritage Fair cookbook for sale, accepting the “Ice Water Challenge and drench your Pastor, Camp Rep, or Choir Director…. If congregations raise $25,000, or more, for Heritage Fair 2020, Camp and District leadership will be drenched with ice water from the camp tractor’s bucket–of course, it will be videoed and shared.”

— Music composed by three women who lived in the Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County, Pa., in the mid-1700s may be the first compositions by women of the American colonies, according to National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” on July 24. Ephrata Cloister was an offshoot of the Brethren movement, an intentional religious community begun by Conrad Beissel in 1732, not too many years after Brethren first arrived in North America from Europe. Beissel and the cloister were known for devotional music and hymn-writing. NPR interviewed Chris Herbert, a vocalist and musicologist who discovered small notations of names written beside musical compositions while working on digitizing the Ephrata Codex music manuscript in the Library of Congress. “Three of those names belonged to women: Sister Föben, Sister Katura, and Sister Hanna,” NPR reported. Herbert “deduced that these names indicated authorship. After continuing his research, Herbert could not find any evidence of compositions that predate the ones composed by the sisters listed in the Ephrata Codex.” Herbert went on to record an a cappella quartet singing those compositions in the meetinghouse at the cloister, which is still standing, “the original building the music would have been intended for,” NPR noted. The cloister is now a state-owned historical site and museum of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The album titled “Voices in the Wilderness” is due out in spring 2021 via Bright Shiny Things. Read more at .

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee meeting on July 20-24 approved new dates for the WCC 11th Assembly to be held in Karlsruhe, Germany: Aug. 31-Sept. 8, 2022.
     The meeting also focused on racial justice and concerns related to the pandemic. The executive committee heard a report from Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary, that highlighted the WCC’s plans for addressing both sustainability and racism. A history of WCC engagement on racism was presented in “A Concept Paper on Programmatic Initiative on Overcoming Racism, Racial Discrimination and Xenophobia,” and the executive committee requested that detailed plans and budget for a “transversal” on overcoming racism be presented at its next meeting in November.
     One of the public statements from the executive committee addressed Nigeria and the violent insurgency in the northeast of the country, noting that the northwest has recently suffered extremist attacks as well, creating “a situation of endemic insecurity for many communities and vast numbers of people” exacerbated by rises in food insecurity and gender-based violence accompanying the coronavirus pandemic, prompting calls for legal and social reforms. Lebanon’s decades-long civil struggle was also a concern, as was Jerusalem and the struggles of its Christian communities to ensure their rights and to continue the Christian presence in the Old City. The executive committee acknowledged the reconversion as a mosque of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Turkey, and invited prayerful solidarity and support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate [an Orthodox church organization] in its efforts to challenge and reverse this decision by the Turkish government.
     In other business related to the pandemic, a group was appointed to review documents and considerations regarding electronic communications for consultation and decision, to report back in November, and a financial strategy will be updated to include the year 2022, also for discussion in November before submission to the WCC Central Committee. Grave concern was expressed over the situation in Brazil in relation to the pandemic, and particularly its impact on indigenous peoples and Quilombola communities.
     Read the full press release at .

— Gimbiya Kettering is writing a children’s book titled “A to Z of Staying Home,” in instalments posted online. Kettering is the former director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. She is writing the story of second grader Amandla and her family and their experiences during the pandemic in real time, imagining how the events, crises, worries, and struggles that have surrounded and coincided with COVID-19 would affect Amandla’s life.
     Amandla, “who would rather be in medical school,” suddenly sees everything that used to be part of her life–tardy slips, substitute teachers, birthday parties, and more–disappear “when the COVID-19 epidemic breaks out and her city declares that everyone needs to STAY AT HOME,” says the online introduction to the book.
     Kettering’s inspirations were the Judy Moody and Ramona Quimby books, which she started reading with her daughter a few weeks before the coronavirus quarantines began. “She immediately loved them and related directly with the characters,” Kettering said. “However, as the quarantine began and the weeks stretched longer and longer, I realized that she still liked the books but her immediate connection to the stories changed. It went from her exclaiming, ‘That is just like me!’ to reflectively remembering, ‘We used to do that.’ So much of children’s literature is about going out and being in social spaces–it focuses on the dramas of going to school, on field trips, to the library, and playgrounds…. All of these things are suddenly very distant in the lives of children. After several days of looking for an early chapter book that would relate to what it means to be in quarantine and not finding it, I realized that I have the tools to write it myself.”
     The book is for younger readers, timed a few weeks behind current events, set in Washington, D.C., drawing on Kettering’s life and also what she is hearing from other families in the area. She is publishing a chapter every week or so and making it available for free for families “who might want access to a story that their children can relate to about what it is like to be in quarantine,” she said.
     Fourteen chapters are now available, from Chapter 1, “A Is for Amandla,” through Chapter 14, “O Is for Obstinate,” and all of the letters in between. The letter J is represented by an author’s note on “J Is for Justice.”
     Find the book beginning with Chapter 1 at .


Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Doris Abdullah, Jan Fischer Bachman, Jeff Boshart, Shamek Cardona, Chris Douglas, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Nathan Hosler, Amy Huckaba, Jeff Lennard, Wendy McFadden, Michael Munk, Zakariya Musa, Becky Ullom Naugle, Hannah Shultz, Jenna Walmer, Jill Welsh, 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 . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters or make subscription changes at . All submissions are subject to editing. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren.

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