Newsline for June 19, 2020

“If you indeed cry out for insight,
    and raise your voice for understanding….
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
    and equity…” (Proverbs 2:3 and 9).

Artwork in downtown Elgin, Ill., photographed by Fabiola Fernandez.

1) Brethren Volunteer Service makes statement supporting Black Lives Matter
2) Celebrating Juneteenth with news of Brethren actions, statements, and opportunities
3) Brethren Faith in Action Fund issues grants
4) Fellowship of Brethren Homes member communities share gratitude for grant
5) Fall reopening plans announced by Bethany Theological Seminary
6) Church World Service kit depots to re-open in mid-August

7) Jocelyn Siakula resigns as orientation coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service

8) Denomination invited to gather online for worship and music on July 1 and 2
9) Bethany Seminary announces new courses
10) July Ventures course is on ‘Brethren in the Age of Pandemic’

11) Brethren bits: Personnel, Peacebuilding and Policy director signs letter to Congress calling for police reforms, BVS holds virtual celebration of volunteer houses, children’s video from Children’s Disaster Services, Elizabethtown’s “Drop the Needle” sermon series, Soybean Innovation Lab features article on EYN, 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 recognition of 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 .


Correction: In the Newsline article from June 5 about the upcoming sale of the longterm BVS volunteer house in Elgin, Ill., and the purchase of a new house near the General Offices, it is the Church of the Brethren denomination that is selling the house, not Brethren Volunteer Service.


1) Brethren Volunteer Service makes statement supporting Black Lives Matter

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) has posted the following statement on its website, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, confessing and repenting of complicity in white oppression and systemic racism, and committing to “purposefully create space to amplify black and brown voices during our orientations and in our office as a staff.”

Here is the full text of the statement:

“As a ministry of the Church of the Brethren, BVS has been the hands and feet of Jesus by advocating justice, working for peace, serving human need, and caring for creation for more than 70 years. The horrific recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and a long list of others before them, has brought further attention to the oppression of and violence towards our black brothers and sisters and demands that we continue to be Christ’s hand and feet by advocating justice today. BVS stands firmly that Black lives matter and that racism is sin.

“As a BVS community, how are we using our voices to advocate justice in this time?

“We confess that we have been silent during times that marginalized communities have suffered and that our silence has made us complicit in giving power to white oppression. We repent of these sins and commit to increasing our listening, education, and dialogue about anti-racism. While working to understand how we perpetuate systemic racism, we will purposefully create space to amplify black and brown voices during our orientations and in our office as a staff. Micah 6:8 says, ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ May it be so.”

Find out more about Brethren Volunteer Service at .

2) Celebrating Juneteenth with news of Brethren actions, statements, and opportunities

Photo courtesy of Christy Waltersdorff

Today is Juneteenth, an annual celebration of the day the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the whole population of the United States. People who were still enslaved in Galveston, Texas, received the news of their freedom on June 19, 1865–some two-and-a-half years after the proclamation was made on Jan. 1, 1863. Juneteenth is a celebratory holiday promoting and cultivating knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and culture, freedom and achievements, while encouraging continuous self-development ( ).

To join in this celebration, Newsline shares some of the recent actions, statements, and opportunities from Church of the Brethren congregations, pastors, and church members, and the denomination’s Intercultural Ministry:

— “Join us for a Critical Cultural Competency Workshop hosted online by Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism,” says an invitation from LaDonna Nkosi, director of the Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministry. “Space is filling up quickly. Be welcome to join us!” The all-day workshop is on Wednesday, June 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Central time) with a lunch break from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. (Central time). “This workshop is designed to help participants create the spaces to be self-reflective about our cultural shaping as individuals and institutions, understand the power dynamics in society that impact us, develop the skills to interrupt old patterns and inequitable practices that limit access and exclude some people from our institutions, build trust and clear communication and begin to understand how to make decisions based on multiple perspectives where all people can be heard and represented,” said an announcement of the event. This interactive workshop will be hosted by two facilitators on Zoom, a link will be sent to participants before the workshop starts, and participants will be sent materials before the workshop that can be printed or accessed digitally. Register and purchase tickets at . There are some scholarship funds available from the Intercultural Ministry office, contact .

— A Black Lives Matter Statement from Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren begins: “As followers of Jesus we stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters enduring racial violence and systemic oppression.” It goes on to denounce racism resulting in police brutality, mass incarceration, and unjust legal systems that disproportionately harm black and brown people, and “the evil principalities and powers at work in our world that seek to kill, steal, and destroy people made in the image of God.” The congregation committed itself to “doing justice and peacemaking in the way of Jesus” and confessed the times “we as a church have been complacent about the suffering of others, we confess our complicity. By God’s grace we repent and courageously align ourselves with the Spirit’s activity and the Messiah’s reign on earth. And in obedience to God we seek to set things right where every valley is lifted up and every mountain is made low. Jesus teaches us how to struggle against oppression through his example of standing in solidarity with those who were considered ‘the least’ and ‘the last’ in his society. And because Jesus affirmed that poor people’s lives mattered, that Samaritans’ lives mattered, and the lives of those crucified by Rome mattered, we affirm that black and brown lives matter too, and are precious to God.” The statement concluded with commitments to particular actions including “creating intentional intergenerational space where the stories of our black and brown brothers and sisters are received with love…deepening our understanding of the history and present systems of racism in the United States, as well as the complicity of the western church in the legacy of white supremacy…taking public action because we are called to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” Find the statement online at .

— Intercultural Ministries has begun offering Facebook Live conversations between various Church of the Brethren leaders and LaDonna Nkosi, director of Intercultural Ministries. So far, conversations have taken place with Annual Conference director Chris Douglas, Thriving in Ministry Progam director Dana Cassell, and a group of pastors and youth pastors about healing racism resources. The page also features a video statement from La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren pastor Susan Boyer and the statement from First Harrisburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, among other helpful resources. Go to .

— La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren has issued a statement naming the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd as showing “the continued disregard by law enforcement and the judicial system in our society when serving and protecting our African-American and minoritized communities…. The La Verne Church feels that the continued ignorance of these issues is contrary not only to the laws of our land, but to the fundamentals of a Christian faith our leaders profess our country was founded upon. As a member of one of the three historic peace churches, this congregation strongly condemns not only the actions above, but society’s willing acceptance of these acts.” The congregation issued a call to other Church of the Brethren congregations “to stand with us to jointly condemn these acts and call out racial injustice in their communities. The La Verne Church calls upon our Brethren colleagues to continue to be guided by the 1991 Report of Committee on Brethren and Black Americans (Hayes, et al., 1991) that calls out ‘racism as a sin–a sin again God and against our neighbors–and mount a concerted effort to combat it.’” The statement highlighted one particular recommendation out of the 14 in that Annual Conference report: “We recommend that congregations stand in solidarity with black Americans and other victims of racial hate by speaking out against overt expressions of racially motived violence and offering assistance to its victims.” It closed by committing to the work of anti-racism “for the long haul, even when acts of racial injustice are not in the headlines. We are committed to continual education of ourselves and others. We are committed to participate in and stand in solidarity with racial justice coalitions locally and nationally. We are committed to dismantling racism through our actions, words, relationships, and practices.”

— A “Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington” is planned for this weekend as “the largest digital gathering of poor, dispossessed, and impacted people, faith leaders, and people of conscience,” said organizers. The event sponsored by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and a variety of other partner groups, is recommended by the Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministries. It takes place three times this weekend: Saturday, June 20, at 10 a.m. (Eastern time); Saturday, June 20, at 6 p.m. (Eastern time); and Sunday, June 21, at 6 p.m. (Eastern time), for the purpose of “sharing stories, demands, and solutions of poor and dispossessed people across every line of division,” said an announcement. Discussion will focus on “the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and a war economy, ecological devastation, and a distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.” Also addressed will be how society “ignores the needs of 140 million people who are poor (or are a $400 emergency away from being poor).” Broadcasts will be interpreted into Spanish and ASL (American Sign Language) and will be open captioned in English. Go to .

— Walt Wiltschek, pastor of Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren, was one of the faith leaders in the local ministerium to sign an open letter to the community published in “The Democrat Star” newspaper. “We write to condemn the brutal murder of George Floyd of Minneapolis and to commit to working toward a more just and equitable future,” the letter said, in part. “The risk of police brutality makes living as a person of color dangerous. Protests, vigils and letters help us to express anger and grief, yet alone they will not change the learned behavior of racism. In order to curtail violent acts based on skin color, policies should be changed, and practices and behaviors should be punished so that inequities can be abated…. Our respective faith traditions call us to be accountable to one another and to the greater power that holds us together,” the letter said, concluding with questions to challenge the community: “How are you being changed by Mr. Floyd’s death? How will these past two weeks guide your time and attention, and sharing of resources this next year? How will you help end racism? Since seeing these images, has anything changed in you? As we hold the memory of Mr. Floyd in our prayers, we fall short if we leave these questions unanswered.” Read the full letter at .

3) Brethren Faith in Action Fund issues grants

Formed by funds generated from the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., the Brethren Faith in Action Fund provides grants to fund outreach ministry projects that serve their communities, strengthen the congregation, and expand the reign of God. Such ministries will honor and continue the legacy of service that the Brethren Service Center has epitomized while also addressing the dynamics of the present age.

Recent grants include:

— $5,000 to Tabernacle Restoration Church of God, a new Haitian church project in Atlantic Southeast District located in Lauderdale Lakes, Broward County, Fla., to support a food pantry. The project will identify families in the community struggling to have sufficient food and will distribute groceries to individuals and families in need. The congregation will collaborate with Feeding South Florida and Farm Share to secure the food. The pantry will be open every Wednesday and a community lunch will be provided on the last Saturday of each month.

— $4,250 to Inspiration Hills Camp and Retreat Center near Burbank, Ohio, for a “Virtual Camp” this summer. Daily camp activities will be incorporated into a virtual experience to renew and build on participants’ relationship with Christ. Daily Bible lessons and devotions led by chaplains will give campers a connection to camp and help develop their spiritual foundation. Crafts, nature segments, and campfire songs will tie into the spiritual learning. Registered campers will receive a variety of resources including a water bottle, a t-shirt, a name tag, a daily message and Bible verse, song sheets, craft packets, and ways parents can talk to their children about the lessons. Throughout the week, age-appropriate live-streamed and pre-recorded segments will be available. Live segments will be interactive and led from various camp buildings and sites so that participants can still feel a part of camp. Camp Inspiration Hills was granted a waiver of the matching funds requirement.

— $4,000 for repair of a lagoon at Camp Mount Hermon near Tonganoxie, Kan. The camp must meet Kansas state regulations regarding water capacity and condition of the lagoon in order to schedule and host camp activities. Repairs will enable the camp to continue to offer an outdoor ministry to campers. The work includes fixing the banks, cleaning out and replacing the clay, site excavation, and seeding sections of the campground where clay is drawn for the lagoon. Total cost of the project is $6,000.

— $3,500 to Príncipe de Paz Church of the Brethren in Santa Ana, Calif., to purchase audio/visual hardware and software to enhance and expand a live streaming ministry. The church has been using Facebook Live to provide worship services and Bible meditations. Some 2,000 to 5,000 people have viewed the live stream worship service on Sundays, in part because church members have shared about it family and friends in different parts of the US and around the world. The church reports that hundreds are viewing the Bible meditations. A team of young adults with technical skills work on the video, lighting, editing, and set up, using personal cell phones and free video editing applications. Principe de Paz envisions this virtual church project to continue as an active congregation after the pandemic.

For information on the fund and how to apply for grants see .

4) Fellowship of Brethren Homes member communities share gratitude for grant

Photo courtesy of Hillcrest HomesA “Hope Notes” board at Hillcrest Homes in La Verne, Calif., for residents to share encouraging notes with each other.

The Fellowship of Brethren Homes received a grant of $500,000 from the Church of the Brethren’s Health Education and Research Fund in April (see the Newsline report at ). The money was disbursed to the 21 member retirement communities in amounts relative to the dues they contribute to the fellowship.

Now several of those communities have sent thank you notes to denominational staff expressing their gratitude for the grant money and sharing information about how it is being used.

From Ken Neher, executive director of Garden Terrace in Wenatchee, Wash.:

The grant money went towards “sanitizers, masks, and gloves.”

From LaMonte Rothrock, CEO of the Cedars in McPherson, Kan.:

“We have been blessed in that we have no residents or staff test positive during this time. Our staff has stepped up and taken on the additional responsibility of not only being safe at work but being smart and safe out in their personal lives. With this challenge, there has been additional stress on our staff. We have chosen to use these fund to create an employee enhancement fund to address not only celebrations needed to keep our team’s morale up but also to help out in emergencies with staff such as lack of child care that might have prevented them from coming to work. I have been reemphasizing the Church of the Brethren and our origins for ‘Why we exist.’ This gift has been a great example of what this relationship can mean.”

From Maureen Cahill, administrator at Spurgeon Manor in Dallas Center, Iowa:

“The grant was a very welcome gift. Spurgeon Manor used the funds to purchase an additional Nustep exercise bike. With residents restricted from moving throughout the facility, an addition piece of equipment helps make a normal routine more accessible.”

From Matthew Neeley, president and CEO of Hillcrest Homes in La Verne, Calif.:

Photo courtesy of Hillcrest Homes
A video chat station for residents at Hillcrest Homes in La Verne, Calif.

“We are so grateful for this kind and generous gift. It has helped cover the cost of our efforts to meet the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of our residents. Here a few of the recent projects:

“We set up three video chat stations with large screen TVs around campus–two in care environments, and one for residential living. This helps residents connect with loved ones who at this time are not allowed to visit their loved ones in their homes. (see pic)

“It helps defray the cost of constant printing and distribution of information to keep residents, associates, and family members informed.
“It supports the Resident Life and Wellness Department that each week creates, prints, and distributes a ‘Home Isolation Wellness Kit’ to all residents (and emails them to any others who sign up to receive them) with games, puzzles, journal prompts, contests, and senior-friendly exercise routines to help residents cope with the boredom of being at home all day, every day (see attached example). BTW: Anyone can sign up to receive the weekly email. Just go to: .

“This gift helps cover the cost of making the needed changes in dining services…to prepare and serve either to-go meals or home-delivered meals.
“It helps support smaller projects, such as the ‘Hope Notes’ project and our basket of thanks. We purchased six large whiteboards and pens…and put them on easels around campus with the title ‘Hope Notes’ where people could write encouraging thoughts to each other. We also have a ‘Basket of Thanks’ where residents can choose a thank you card or blank card to brighten another person’s day. The cards are free and restocked regularly. They may be sent to anyone in the world with two rules or caveats: 1) residents may take only one card a day, and 2) they must send the first card before taking another card.
“In a myriad of ways, both small and significant, Hillcrest is responding to the challenges of this day and the kind and unexpected gift from the Church of the Brethren was a shot in the arm and a real morale boost. It has helped Hillcrest directly bless the residents of Hillcrest and the staff who care for them. Please pass along our thanks.”

For more about the Fellowship of Brethren Homes go to .

5) Fall reopening plans announced by Bethany Theological Seminary

A release from Bethany Seminary

Bethany Theological Seminary has announced a plan for a phased reopening of its campus in Richmond, Ind., in preparation for the fall semester.

President Jeff Carter noted that the plans are based on guidance from the federal, state, and local governments, and that they prioritize the health and safety of the extended Bethany community while emphasizing the educational needs of students. Using the mission as a guide, seminary leadership are placing the first priority on classroom and educational activities with campus community activities and support activities given second and third priority.

Following is a summary of the reopening timeline:

Phase 1 (current phase): only essential staff (finance, maintenance, and custodial) are working on site, and only for limited periods of time. Other staff are working almost exclusively from home. The Bethany Center is closed to students and visitors.

Phase 2 (beginning July 15): in addition to essential staff listed above, employees with direct student responsibilities will begin working from the Bethany Center with rotating schedules and other measures to limit exposure to the coronavirus.

Phase 3 (beginning of the fall semester): classes will be offered on campus with students in the classroom. Most employees will continue to spend a large portion of their working time at home. The seminary will put measures in place to allow for proper social distancing, limit the number of people in the building, and require self-screening, hand washing, mask wearing, and other measures to protect the health and safety of students and employees.

“We are asking all in our community to commit to ‘Golden Rule Practices’ in order to keep one another healthy and safe,” says Carter. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Bethany community has shown a remarkable ability to show care for one another and to adapt to unusual circumstances. I am confident that whatever else happens, we will continue to provide an excellent education to our students and that we will remain a close knit and mutually supportive community.”

Bethany plans to communicate about these plans in more detail in the coming weeks.

6) Church World Service kit depots to re-open in mid-August

“CWS is planning to open many of its spring kit depots from Aug. 17-Sept 4!” Brethren Disaster Ministries shared on its Facebook page this week. “Thank you for continuing to care for and send blessings to those affected by disasters. These kits make a real difference!”

Church World Service (CWS) has announced the re-opening of kit depots following their closing earlier this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. “CWS wanted to make sure our passionate donors could still provide help to our neighbors in need,” said an email from Matthew Stevens, director of Congregational Giving for CWS. “We appreciate the Church of the Brethren collecting kits in Elgin and New Windsor.”

After CWS staff met with other agencies who collect kits to learn how they are reopening their kit collections, they developed a Safe Depot Plan to implement best practices of social distancing and safe collection procedures, Stevens reported. “We are confident that we can open our depots safely. So far, we have had a great response from our spring kit depot volunteers with their willingness to open their doors.

“We have many Church of the Brethren congregations that assemble CWS Kits, so I am sure they will be happy to hear they can continue to serve in this mission again,” Stevens wrote.

An online list of CWS Kit Depots that will be collecting kits is being updated regularly at . Find a CWS Kits promotional video at .


7) Jocelyn Siakula resigns as orientation coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service

Jocelyn Siakula has resigned as orientation coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), a position that she has held since Jan. 5, 2015. She will conclude her work with the Church of the Brethren on July 18.

During the five-and-a-half years Siakula has been orientation coordinator she has led 13 orientations. Her first orientation was with the volunteers in BVS Unit 308 and her last with Unit 324. Prior to joining the staff she was a BVS volunteer herself, a member of BVS Unit 299, serving for two years with the Africa Inland Church in Torit, South Sudan. Previously, she had spent three years as a volunteer in Zambia with Mennonite Central Committee. She holds a degree in Youth Ministry from Malone College in Canton, Ohio.

Siakula and her family will be moving to Ohio, where she has accepted a position as director of Special Needs Ministry with GentleBrook, a nonprofit serving people with developmental disabilities, seniors, and community members.


8) Denomination invited to gather online for worship and music on July 1 and 2

Photo by Glenn Riegel
Ken Medema’s hands at the keyboard, playing a concert for the 2011 Annual Conference. A long-time friend of the Church of the Brethren, Medema has agreed to write and record a song specifically for the denomination’s virtual concert.

Photo by Glenn Riegel

Ken Medema’s hands at the keyboard, playing a concert for the 2011 Annual Conference. A long-time friend of the Church of the Brethren, Medema has agreed to write and record a song specifically for the denomination’s virtual concert.

The Church of the Brethren is holding online celebrations for the whole denomination on July 1 and 2, the days when the now-canceled 2020 Annual Conference would have begun. These events are planned and sponsored by the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee.

A Denominational Worship Gathering on July 1 starting at 8 p.m. (Eastern time) will be preceded at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern) by a Children’s Worship Experience. On the next evening, July 2, a Church of the Brethren Online Concert will start at 8 p.m. (Eastern time). Details are at . Links to the online events will be available at .

Denominational Worship Gathering – July 1 at 8 p.m. (Eastern time)

The Denominational Worship Gathering will center around the theme, “New World Coming!” and will feature the preaching of Kayla Alphonse and Paul Mundey, with a wide array of music, including selections by Jacob Crouse, Janelle Flory Schrock and Kendra Flory, the Keister Sisters, Shawn Kirchner, Nancy Faus Mullen, and Josh Tindall. Two of the hymns of the denominational virtual choir will be offered: “Move in Our Midst,” and “I See a New World Coming.” General Secretary David Steele will offer prayers for the church. A wide array of additional people from across the denomination also will be involved in leading the worship. A series of congregational stories will lift up the outreach of the Church of the Brethren around the world.

“In a season of disruption and despair, the service will point to the God in Christ who makes a way where there seems to be no way (Isaiah 43:19)–encouraging us to build new worlds in God’s name (Luke 4:18-19)–seeing with eyes of faith, the vision of the Lamb (2 Corinthians 5:7)–as a weary earth sings, nevertheless, a New Song of New Creation, in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:1-8)!”

A bulletin will be posted a week before the service at so that people can print it out in advance if they wish.

Children’s Worship Experience – July 2 at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern time)

This special experience for children and families–as well as others who want to join in worship together–will offer 25 minutes of activities tailored for children of all ages. Featured are the puppeteers Dotti and Steve Seitz of Manheim, Pa.; storyteller Linda Himes of LaVerne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren; songleader Carol Hipps Elmore of Oak Grove Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va.

Online Concert – July 2 at 8 p.m. (Eastern time)

An hour-long music celebration will feature musicians from across the country and around the world, presenting musical offerings with a wide variety of styles and instruments. Contributors include Church of the Brethren musicians Joseph Helfrich, Michael Stern, Shawn Kirchner, Seth Hendricks, Terry and Andy Murray, Jacob Crouse, the Bittersweet Gospel Band, and members of Miami (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren. The women’s choir from the Mubi congregation of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) will be featured as well as several memorable excerpts of music from recent Annual Conferences. In addition, a long-time friend of the Church of the Brethren, Ken Medema, has agreed to write and record a song specifically for the event. The concert is hosted by Program and Arrangements Committee members Emily Shonk Edwards and Carol Elmore.

9) Bethany Seminary announces new courses

A release from Bethany Seminary

Bethany Theological Seminary has announced two new courses with appeal for both current seminary students and ministers who are seeking opportunities for additional professional development. One of the courses will be offered as a one-week August intensive while the second will take place during the Spring semester. 

“Theology and Ministry in Response to Crisis” is an August intensive taught by Russell Haitch, professor of Theology and Human Science. This course will consider the opportunities for ministry presented by crises of various kinds–personal, churchwide, national, or even global. The course will consider such important questions as: “What do we believe about evil and about suffering?” “How can we listen, speak, and pray with those who are experience a current crisis or recalling past trauma?” “How does a national or global crisis change our understanding of what it means to be and do church?” As a resource for discussion, students will be encouraged to reflect on their own experiences of crises, including the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Shape of Ministry in a High-Tech World” will be taught in the Spring semester 2021 by Dan Poole, assistant professor of Ministry Formation. This course will explore how ministry can remain grounded in the core principles of pastoral care and discipleship in the digital age. Students will ponder such questions as: “How does the ministerial leader avoid substituting high touch ministry with high-tech gadgets?” “What is the role of the ministerial leader in reminding communities of faith about healthy boundaries in the building of community that furthers the life of discipleship through electronic platforms and social media?” “How does the ministerial leader maintain healthy Sabbath practices in a 24/7 connected world?” The class participants will examine the responsible engagement of these digital tools in the work of serving God’s people as ministers of the gospel.

“These new courses are examples of Bethany’s ongoing efforts to adapt its educational offerings to the evolving needs of the world,” says dean Steve Schweitzer. “We believe these courses will be helpful both to students who are currently pursuing degrees and certificates as well as alumni who are seeking opportunities for professional development.”

10) July Ventures course is on ‘Brethren in the Age of Pandemic’

By Kendra Flory

A special course from the Ventures in Christian Discipleship program at McPherson (Kan.) College is coming up in July. “Brethren in the Age of Pandemic: A Century Ago and today” will be presented by Frank Ramirez. The class will be held online on Tuesday evening, July 7, at 6:30 to 8 p.m. (Central time).

This isn’t the first rodeo for the Brethren, when it comes to closing churches and changing habits in the face of a global pandemic. What happened to the Brethren a century ago, and what lessons can we learn as we redefine what it means for us to be the church? This special hour-and-a-half Ventures course will explore the history of Brethren in times of pandemic.

Frank Ramirez, pastor of Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, Ind., is a prolific writer, well known for his feature “Out of Context” in the Brethren Press Bible study series “A Guide for Biblical Studies.”

Registration and more information are at . Due to website conversion, payments for continuing education credits cannot be accepted online at this time. For questions, contact Kendra Flory at . To donate to this program, on the McPherson College website select “Ventures in Christian Discipleship” on the designation menu by scrolling to the bottom.

— Kendra Flory is advancement assistant at McPherson College.

11) Brethren bits

— Liana Smith has completed a year of Brethren Volunteer Service working with the Church of the Brethren as an assistant workcamp coordinator. Her last day was June 12 but she will continue to assist with virtual workcamps this summer. She has returned home to Palmyra, Pa., where she also will work with a landscaping company and attend Harrisburg Area Community College in pursuit of a degree as an occupational therapy assistant.

— The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry has announced the assistant coordinators for the 2021 season: Alton Hipps and Chad Whitzel. Hipps of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren graduated from William and Mary College in 2020 with a degree in geology and environmental science. Whitzel of Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren is a 2019 graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College with a degree in accounting/finance. They will begin in August as Brethren Volunteer Service workers at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

— Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, has signed on to a letter to Congress calling for police reforms and demilitarization of law enforcement. The letter was submitted by the Washington Interfaith Staff Community, an organization to which the Church of the Brethren belongs. The letter is in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and people of color who disproportionately experience the effects of police brutality. “We call on Congress to enact long-overdue policing reforms, such as eliminating federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement,” the letter said, in part. “Congress needs to raise the use-of-force standard for police and require the use of de-escalation techniques. Congress should also deem excessive measures federal civil rights violations (such as neck holds, chokeholds, and other maneuvers that restrict blood flow to the brain).” The letter includes a call to enact justice for people of color who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter calls on Congress to “enact laws that reverse policies that perpetuate the racial income and wealth gap in our nation…. This preference for the wealthy was seen once again in the CARES Act that gave 46,000 millionaires more money than was given to all of the hospitals in dire need. This must stop.” The office shared this information in an Action Alert citing Amos 5:24, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” and Annual Conference statements and the recent statement by Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele.

— Join Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) on Monday evening, June 22, for a virtual celebration of the BVS volunteer house on Highland Avenue in Elgin, Ill., and the many memories that have been created there over the years. The celebration will be in two parts, said the BVS announcement: a celebration and a virtual walkthrough of the house, which is being sold following the purchase of a new house much closer to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, while sharing memories and telling stories; and a walkthrough and blessing of the new house that has been purchased on Stewart Avenue. Those interested may choose to participate in one or both walk-throughs, but should note that there are separate registrations for each. The Highland Avenue house walkthrough will begin at 7 p.m. (Central time) and the Stewart Avenue house walkthrough will begin at 8 p.m. (Central time). For the Highland Avenue celebration and walk-through register at . For the Stewart Avenue house walk through and blessing register at . For those who are not able to attend live, the event will be recorded. Contact the BVS office for a copy of the recording by sending an email request to .

— The latest children’s video provided by Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) and led by Jamie Nace is a children’s story suitable for churches to use in their online worship services. Find this and other resources for ministry with children and families at .

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has gone “back to the future” with its “Drop the Needle” sermon series for the church’s online worship services. At the end of each week’s service, the scripture for the following Sunday will be randomly generated giving the preacher a week to bring a sermon on that scripture text. This creative experiment mimics “both Classical music professors who randomly drop the needle in the middle of a vinyl album and ask the students to name that tune, and the Hip Hop DJs of the 1980s who dropped the needle too on existing tunes to create entirely new creations!” said an announcement. However, it also reaches back to earlier decades in Brethren history when “preaching was said to be ‘spontaneous, circular, repetitive, and “earthy”’ (Carl Bowman, Brethren Society)” and “both preachers and scripture were often determined by lot–hence the extemporaneous, repetitive nature!” the announcement said. “These days, we place value on planned, thematic, and thoughtful sermons. But truth be told, that planning can come at the expense of spontaneity and Spirit; any honest preacher will tell you they have less-than-favorite books of the Bible that they rarely preach from. ‘Drop the Needle’ offers a solution to these dilemmas in a fun way…. Let’s see where the Spirit leads us!” Join the live-streamed worship on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern time) at .

— The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) newsletter this week featured an article by Dr. Dennis Thompson about his work in northeast Nigeria in support of efforts implemented by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and the Global Food Initiative (GFI). “I’ve worked with EYN since 2016 to provide technical assistance on soybean production,” Thompson reported. “Last year, EYN formed an inaugural cohort of 15 young men and women to serve as Volunteer Extension Agents (VEAs), responsible for establishing and operating demonstration farms throughout Northeast Nigeria, which they used as training and consulting platforms to help farmers adopt improved soybean and maize production practices. To support the VEAs with capacity building and continuing education, I utilized SIL’s Integrated Pest Management and Pesticide Safety Training Course, developed by the lab to support soybean practitioners, development agencies, the private sector, and extension agents in better identifying, controlling, and managing common soybean diseases and pests encountered in tropical environments.” The newsletter included reviews of Thompson’s work from students like Solomon R. Dzaram, one of the VEAs in Nigeria, who wrote, “You boost up my brain with this online [course], unlimited thanks to you. I scored a 90% on my quizzes and also on my final exam. I will be collecting my certificate today.”

— A statement on Juneteenth from Church World Service (CWS) and its Board of Directors, and a new CWS advocacy platform on Racial Justice were announced to member communions today including the Church of the Brethren. In the statement, and the new advocacy platform, CWS lifted up “Black freedom, resistance, and the active struggle of African Americans for justice” and committed to “hold the US accountable to the democratic principles embedded in its Constitution. We stand with our Black sisters and brothers who demand immediate justice and equality, and we stand against systems and practices that obstruct these values. CWS staff and Board band together in frustration, sadness, and anger against persistent racism and violence plaguing our communities across the nation. We applaud the reforms that are taking place, even as we join the work for further reform and new and just policies to divest and invest; demilitarize and decriminalize; provide equal access to justice; and to work for climate and environmental justice and gender equality.” The CWS board and staff pledged to a number of measures in its new platform, such as accountability to racial justice, equality, and inclusion practices; promoting resources created by Black-led organizations; working with Black community leaders and organizations; commemorating Juneteenth; and more.

— The Lombard (Ill.) Mennonite Peace Center is offering upcoming events to do skills training for church leaders. “Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders” on Aug. 3-7 will be an intensive 5-day event to help clergy and other church leaders deal more effectively with interpersonal, congregational, and other forms of group conflict. “Conflict Transformation Skills for Churches” on July 18 will include sessions on “Finding Renewal in Conflict” and “How to Be Effective when People Are Angry,” among others. “Healthy Congregations” on July 21 will teach participants how to keep anxiety within their congregations from becoming infectious, put limits on invasive behavior, manage reactivity, focus on strengths, and more. “Breaking Free: Finding Resilience in an Era of Collective Trauma” on July 16 and July 30″ is frounded in Family Systems Theory and offered in the context of COVID-19 and the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, to help participants identify the impact of trauma on themselves and others, discuss strategies to break free from trauma, and find resilience. Go to , call 630-627-0507, or email .
— Erik Rebain is writing a biography of Nathan Leopold and seeks contact with Church of the Brethren members who knew or worked with Leopold when he was a Brethren service worker. “If anyone has information on Leopold they would like to share, from his time working in Castañer, P.R., his appearances at Annual Conferences, or any other memories you may have, that would be greatly appreciated,” Rebain wrote to Newsline. Contact Erik Rebain, 3032 N Clybourn Ave., Apt. 2, Chicago, IL 60618; 734-502-2334 for both texts and phone calls; .


Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Ryan Arndt, Josh Brockway, Shamek Cardona, Stan Dueck, Pamela B. Eiten, Fabiola Fernandez, Kendra Flory, Sharon Billings Franzén, Nancy Miner, Jonathan Graham, LaDonna Nkosi, Hannah Shultz, Emily Tyler, Roy Winter, Loretta Wolf, 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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