Newsline for June 26, 2020

“When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous” (Proverbs 21:15a).
 

NEWS
1) Young adult webinar is dedicated to uncovering the complexity of racism
2) EYN officials dedicate church for IDP camp funded in the name of a ‘spirited sister’
3) Digital hymn sing keeps West Green Tree singing all week long

UPCOMING EVENTS
4) Webinar series will focus on ‘Lessons from the Latinx Church’

RESOURCES
5) Brethren Press digital curriculum for the Fall offers Christian formation options during pandemic

6) Brethren bits: Denominational staff to continue to work from home through August, Brethren Press offers new face masks, personnel and job openings, a “loaves and fishes” story from Venezuela, need for prayer for Nigeria, and more


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A note to readers: The “NOAC News” crew has put together a “No AC News” video promo for the Church of the Brethren denominational online worship services on the evening of July 1 and online concert on the evening of July 2. Find the video at https://youtu.be/76u1WX_pg7M .

Go to www.brethren.org/ac/virtual for more information about the live-streamed worship services and concert, download a worship bulletin, and get the links to participate at www.brethren.org/ac/virtual .

The worship services will be live-streamed in both English and Spanish. Links to participate in the children’s worship on July 1 at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern time) are at www.brethren.org/ac/virtual/childrens-worship.html . Links for the denominational worship service on July 1 at 8 p.m. (Eastern time) are at www.brethren.org/ac/virtual/online-worship.html . The link for the Church of the Brethren online concert on July 2 at 8 p.m. (Eastern time) is at www.brethren.org/ac/virtual/concert.html .

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Find our landing page of Church of the Brethren COVID-19 related resources and information at www.brethren.org/covid19 .

Find Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship at www.brethren.org/news/2020/church-of-the-brethren-congregations-worship-online.html .

A listing to recognize Brethren who are active in health care is at www.brethren.org/news/2020/brethren-active-in-health-care.html . To add a person to this listing, send an email with first name, county, and state to cobnews@brethren.org .

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1) Young adult webinar is dedicated to uncovering the complexity of racism

By Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred

Two days before George Floyd’s murder, National Young Adult Conference (NYAC) participants gathered to watch Drew Hart present on the systemic racism that was about to once again become front-page news. But for far too many of us in the church, particularly those of us who are white, it is all too easy to ignore when it doesn’t dominate the headlines.

Hart is a theologian and professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, and is on the leadership board at Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. He has been working for years to change the way the Christian church views racism, which was the subject of his webinar at this year’s virtual, online NYAC.

Hart began with an anecdote that describes how the white church, well-intentioned as it may be, can fail to understand or even truly see racism. He was at a restaurant with the pastor of a mostly white church, who had invited him to “dialogue across the racial divide.” At some point, the pastor placed a cup of sweet tea in the middle of the table and declared it a metaphor for the racial divide and how to overcome it. “I can’t see what is on your side of the cup,” he said, and “you can’t see what is on my side of the cup.” The only way to fix the problem, he said, was for each person to share what they saw so that each could understand the other’s point of view.

It’s a nice sentiment but a flawed, yet pervasive, way to view racism. As Hart pointed out, he already knew what was on his pastor friend’s side of the cup, the “white” side of the cup. In a culture where whiteness is dominant and treated as standard, Black people are inundated with white perspectives: they study history written by white people featuring white people, they read literature and poetry by white authors, they are governed by laws written by white politicians, they read news written by white journalists, they are taught by white teachers and professors who get their ideas from white intellectuals. And on and on. By contrast, as Hart put it, his pastor friend “could go through his entire life without needing to know Black literature, Black intellectual thought, Black wisdom, Black art and music, or Black history.”

The pastor had a “thin” understanding of racism: a horizontal divide between individuals that can be cured by sitting down and sharing stories. That can be important work, but it’s not nearly enough because it does nothing to help people understand how racism really operates systemically in our society, as a vertical hierarchy that puts whiteness on top and Blackness at the bottom.

The rest of the NYAC seminar was dedicated to learning and unpacking a “thicker” definition of racism that tells a truer story of how racism works through power and privilege, and what the church must do to be anti-racist.

We didn’t realize while watching the webinar that just a few days later the United States would be plunged into a nationwide conversation about racism that has sparked powerful demonstrations demanding fundamental changes to policing and our criminal legal system. But those of us lucky enough to hear Hart speak were equipped to watch more deeply, and to witness and call for an end to the racial hierarchy of white supremacy that is now on stark display. We have a responsibility to use what we know and to name what we see. During this time that our country is looking so directly at its own racism, we have to make sure the church, too, refuses to look away.

The same anecdote that Hart used to begin his webinar serves as a grounding illustration in his prophetic book, “Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism,” which is available through Brethren Press. I invite you to read his book and open yourself up to be challenged and equipped to see racism more fully, so we can follow Jesus more faithfully.

— Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred is a member of the Young Adult Steering Committee for the Church of the Brethren and is a law student at Yale Law School. This summer he has been a Supreme Court coverage intern at National Public Radio (NPR).

2) EYN officials dedicate church for IDP camp funded in the name of a ‘spirited sister’

By Zakariya Musa
 
Officials of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have dedicated a 500-person capacity church auditorium for more than 300 worshipers at an IDP (internally displaced person) camp in Wuro Jabbe, Yola South Local Area, Adamawa State.

The project, which cost about 4 million Naira, was sponsored in the name of the late Chrissy Kulp, granddaughter of Stover Kulp–one of the founders of the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria in the 1920s. She enjoyed traveling and had recently re-visited her childhood home in Nigeria.

The IDP camp itself was built with grants from the Nigeria Crisis Fund of the Church of the Brethren, and from Mission 21. The funds for the new church building were donated through a memorial for Chrissy Kulp ($10,000) and the Nigeria church rebuilding fund of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service ($4,000).

The dedication service on Sunday, June 7, was officiated by District Church Council (DCC) secretary Smith Usman who, along with DCC chair Noah Wasini and Yuguda Z. Mdurvwa of the EYN disaster ministry, cut the ribbon. The dedication service was graced by people from within Yola and the Disaster Relief Ministry Team from the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi.

Wasini, on behalf of the DCC, thanked the donor, calling on all churches to imitate hands he said “come from the love of Christ, encouraging the congregation to keep this kind of love.”

The pastor of the IDP camp, Yakubu Ijasini, in his address said, “What we never thought of has happened. God has made a way where there seems to be no way.” The worship center the camp had was destroyed by wind on April 27, 2017, and the camp continued worshiping under an uncompleted shelter for some time. They made an effort to have shade, and were disturbed many times during Sunday services by rainfall. “Sometimes we were moved to pray against rainy days, because sometimes it came at a time of preaching,” the pastor said. “Sometimes we could not hold church service for the rains.”

The camp is one of those in which many EYN members are dispersed in various communities within and outside Nigeria, having fled the Boko Haram violence. Even as some return to their communities, many are attending strange church denominations depending on the places where they find refuge, and many worship under temporary shelters and bear weather difficulties.

The camp of over 400 people with 59 households is managed by EYN. The director of Disaster Relief Ministry, Yuguda Mdurvwa, led the team of three personnel who attended, and informed the gathering about where the funds came from for the new church building and the supporting funds from EYN leadership.
 
During the service, different church groups presented songs. Donations were made in support, that could enable the worshipers to have more seats.

— Zakariya Musa is communications staff for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

3) Digital hymn sing keeps West Green Tree singing all week long

Image courtesy of West Green Tree Church of the Brethren

By Ryan Arndt

In the midst of the uncertain times due to the coronavirus, West Green Tree Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, Pa., has formed several midweek ministries to help the congregation stay connected. In addition to Sunday morning worship services, a Bible study on Tuesday evenings, a Children’s Worship and Youth Group were added on Wednesday afternoon and evening. Eventually, another live-streamed ministry would be added to the lineup: the Digital Hymn Sing.

It all started when a Facebook friend wrote and asked if I would consider posting videos on Facebook of myself playing the piano. A few other friends commented and suggested something similar. I began to think about getting the viewers involved and interacting so that instead of just listening, they would be participating. I realized a hymn sing was a great way to do that. The congregation could send in their requests ahead of time, I could practice them and upload the lyrics so that the words would appear on the screen, and we could sing the hymns together while apart.

Our first Digital Hymn Sing went live on April 20 and had an estimated 200-plus participants. Each Monday night since, we have been consistent at about 200 live viewers, with hundreds of additional views after the video posts to YouTube, where people can view it days or weeks later.

Requests of all sorts have come in. The most popular hymns are old favorites like “How Great Thou Art,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” and “In the Garden.” However, many less traditional hymns have rounded out the lineup. Gospel songs like “Mansion Over the Hilltop” and “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” also have found their way into the hymn sing. Some people send in a suggestion every week and others send one every couple of weeks. In a typical hour-long hymn sing, we get through about 24 hymns with some brief narration in between.

As the words are displayed on the screen, meaningful backgrounds are incorporated. For instance, when singing the song, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” a background showed birds in a tree. Mick Allen, senior pastor of West Green Tree, serves as the operator of the camera and lyrics for the hymn sing.

What started as a way to encourage our congregants has grown into a tremendous outreach. I began to hear that people were participating in Florida, Michigan, and Arizona, in addition to Pennsylvania. From there, the list began to expand and now includes, to the best of my knowledge, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama, California, Washington, Iowa, and even Canada. After each hymn sing is recorded and saved on YouTube, at least one local retirement community has been airing it weekly on their closed-circuit television for the residents.

It is our hope that every person who joins the hymn sings and all of our live-streamed services will be refreshed and inspired by God’s word and will feel his love. It is fitting to end this story with the words of a hymn: “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Because he lives, all fear is gone. Because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because he lives.”

— Ryan Arndt is organist and choir director at West Green Tree Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, Pa.

UPCOMING EVENTS

4) Webinar series will focus on ‘Lessons from the Latinx Church’

By Joshua Brockway

In a browning society and decolonizing world, what can we learn from brown leaders and brown churches in this new epoch of being the church in liminal spaces of tension? How does ministry shift during times of racial divisions, trauma, and the unknown? And how can the intersection of Latinx identity and ecclesiology inform the larger church entering this new season of ministry and formation?

“Lessons from the Latinx Church” is a webinar series provided by the Freedom Road Institute for Leadership and Justice to help church leaders and pastors learn and live into the new possibilities for ministry. A free introductory session is taking place on June 30 at 12 noon (Eastern time). Sessions will continue at 12 noon (Eastern time) every Tuesday through July 28.

The Church of the Brethren Discipleship Ministries is co-sponsoring this webinar series with Freedom Road. The first session is a free introduction with Lisa Sharon Harper, Liz Ríos, and José Humphreys, and will be streamed through Facebook Live. Guest leaders in the series include Robert Chao Romero, author of the book “Brown Church: Five Centuries of Latina/o Social Justice, Theology, and Identity”; and Orlando Crespo, author of “Being Latino in Christ: Finding Wholeness in Your Ethnic Identity” and plenary speaker at the Church of the Brethren New and Renew Conference in 2018.

Session outline

Session 1: Introductory Session, with an overview of the series and an interview with Lisa Sharon Harper

Session 2: Lessons from the Brown Church on Justice: Developing a Language for Justicia, with special guest Robert Chao Romero, author of “Brown Church”

Session 3: Lessons from the Brown Church on Us: Understanding How We Roll and Why That Matters, with special guest Orlando Crespo, author of “Being Latino in Christ”

Session 4: Lessons from the Brown Church on Honoring: Mentored from the Margins, with a special emphasis on “Seeing Jesus in East Harlem” by José Humphreys

Session 5:  Lessons from the Brown Church on Sanidad: Toward a Path of Healing Justice

Register at https://bit.ly/InfoForLessonsFromLatinxChurch . Participants will receive links to sign up for the remaining sessions. Registration scholarships are available through Discipleship Ministries by contacting Randi Rowan at rrowan@brethren.org .

RESOURCES

5) Brethren Press digital curriculum for the Fall offers Christian formation options during pandemic

A release from Brethren Press

The Shine curriculum from Brethren Press is helping congregations provide Christian formation while maintaining social distancing. With the Sunday school landscape changing, most churches will either rely on parents to teach their own children or have teachers host online classes. These new downloadable options from Shine work in conjunction with the fall curriculum and will assist leaders by supplying useful resources to accommodate multiple formats and class settings.

“It may be some time before we know what worship and faith formation will look like in the future,” said Joan Daggett, Shine project director. “We have curriculum pieces that are well suited for such a time as this. What we have to do is show churches how to use them.” 

On June 19, Shine announced two of the new digital resources: “Shine at Home” and “Shine Connect.”

“Shine at Home” is a new, simple option for families to do at home if congregations are not resuming regular Sunday school this fall. “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 four activities that help children and families explore the Bible story. Use with Shine’s storytelling, music, and student resources for a fun learning experience. “Shine at Home” is now 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 new free resource for those faith formation 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 will become available when the fall curriculum ships on July 1.

“Shine staff continue to monitor the needs of churches and welcome feedback and suggestions as we move forward,” Daggett says. “Our goal is to help churches keep connections strong with their children, youth, and families during these challenging times.”

All Shine printed curriculum and digital resources can be found at www.shinecurriculum.com or www.brethrenpress.com .

6) Brethren bits

New resources from Brethren Press include face masks in three patterns–a unique Church of the Brethren witness. The face masks suitable for wearing during the pandemic as a protection from the virus for self and others, 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 from Brethren Press at www.brethrenpress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=FACEMASK .

— Church of the Brethren denominational staff will continue to work from home at least through the end of August, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and the office building at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., remain closed to visitors. A few staff are working in the office buildings, only if their responsibilities require it. The Materials Resources staff and Brethren Press order fulfillment staff are working in their respective warehouses.

— Zoe Vorndran ends her 2019-2020 internship with the Brethren Historical Library and Archives today, June 26, but will continue to work with archivist Bill Kostlevy on a digital scanning project through the summer. This fall she will be attending Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to pursue a master of arts in public history.

— Church World Service (CWS) seeks an executive assistant who will provide executive-level support to the senior vice president, senior director for Resource Generation, and director for Policy and Advocacy, as well as the resettlement and integration team. The position manages expenses, answers routine correspondence, and assembles and manages highly confidential and sensitive information including legal documents and attorney-client privileged materials. The position also deals with a diverse group of important external callers and visitors as well as internal contacts at all levels of the organization. Independent judgment is required to plan, prioritize, and organize a diversified workload, and exercise independent thinking and decision making. The ideal candidate will have several years of experience in handling a wide range of key administrative, research, and executive support-related tasks, and be exceedingly well organized, flexible, and scrupulous with time management. Must be able to function effectively, and within a timely manner, in a dynamic, fast-paced environment under minimal supervision. Find a link to the full position description at https://cws-careers.vibehcm.com/portal.jsp .

— A “loaves and fishes” story was a highlight of this week’s email from the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service. Reports from Venezuela have expressed joy about how people have been touched by their food outreach funded by a COVID-19 grant from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). “One story shared was about purchasing the food supplies,” said the email. “The owner of the warehouse or commercial center where they made their purchase asked what they were going to do with the items. When the pastor explained the plan for distribution, the owner was moved to not only match but triple the amount they could have. In other words, what was enough for one month in the EDF plan, has turned into three months’ worth of support for families in need. Praise God for the multiplication of his resources. Pray also that church attendance and momentum will not be reduced once churches are meeting again.”

— Global Mission and Brethren Disaster Ministries staff also are sharing a need for prayer for Nigeria, where violence continues with attacks by Boko Haram on communities in the northeast of the country. Nigerian Brethren have been among those affected in recent violence. Yuguda Mdurvwa, director of the Disaster Relief Ministry of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), has reported a rise of violence, a COVID-19 surge, hunger, and continued Boko Haram threats. “Numerous small villages in Chibok, Mussa, Lassa, and Rumirgo areas have been attacked,” said a prayer request from Global Mission. “Houses have been burnt, people killed, food and cows stolen, while the government pays no attention. People are afraid to sleep in their homes and farmers are leery of traveling to the countryside to plant their crops. Pray for the staff of the Disaster Relief Ministry as they continue to assist others despite the security threats. Pray for the EYN leaders and pastors as they minister and provide leadership.”

— Concord (N.C.) Living Faith Church of the Brethren has received $3,000 to purchase food for distribution from the Cabarrus COVID-19 Response Fund. The fund has distributed $100,000 to 11 local agencies and organizations in its fourth wave of grantgiving. Grant awards were determined by a Response Fund Committee, made up of the Cabarrus County Community Foundation’s board of advisors and representatives from United Way of Central Carolinas. Read the full article in the “Independent Tribune” at https://independenttribune.com/news/cabarrus-covid-19-response-fund-awards-100-000-to-local-charities/article_2ff0e296-b637-11ea-b058-a3d6f235f0ca.html .

— An article “All About York Center Co-op” has been published by the Lombard (Ill.) Historical Society. The co-op was begun by a Church of the Brethren member and over the course of its existence from 1947 to 2010 included, among others, members of York Center Church of the Brethren and people related to Bethany Theological Seminary–which formerly was located in Oak Brook, Ill. “In 1947, an idea for establishing a cooperative community was conceived by a man named Louis Shirky, a member of the Church of the Brethren,” the article begins. “He learned that a DuPage county dairy farm, owned by the Goltermann family, was for sale, just to the south of the town of Lombard in an unincorporated area of the county known as York Center. Fourteen families raised $30,000 to purchase the property and began the work of creating their own neighborhood…. The bylaws were written by a Black attorney, Theodore ‘Ted’ Robinson, who lived in Chicago with his wife, Leya, a Jewish social worker, and their two daughters.” The history goes to tell of the co-op’s struggle to become and maintain an inter-racial and multicultural community, including a lawsuit that went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. Find the article at www.lombardhistory.org/blog/2020/6/16/all-about-york-center-co-op?fbclid=IwAR3JJPPzY7liY4fqeYj4mUiHkXNbjUjTonaMVsQ64_akQ9G8e2WW-Tqdt_I .

— Churches throughout the world are calling for a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War that started 70 years ago yesterday, June 25, according to a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC). The effort also calls for normalization of relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States, in the quest for a peaceful future for the Korean peninsula. “Seventy years ago, today, the war began in northeast Asia and left the Korean Peninsula devastated,” said the release. “Fighting was suspended by a ceasefire–the Armistice Agreement of 1953–but the war has never been formally declared over or a peace treaty concluded. Special prayers and efforts are needed for a shared peaceful future on the Korean Peninsula future on this anniversary occasion, say the churches. A renewed escalation of tensions in the region has recently put the world on edge again.” A “Joint Ecumenical Peace Message” for the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War was publicly delivered on June 22 during a live-streamed event that acknowledged these tensions and urged new initiatives for peace. Co-sponsored by churches and councils of churches around the world, especially from countries that participated in the Korean War, the message describes the war as an “appallingly destructive conflict” and called for the healing of wounds in order for a shared future for the long-divided Korean people. The “Joint Ecumenical Peace Message” on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War is at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/other-ecumenical-bodies/joint-ecumenical-peace-message-on-the-occasion-of-the-70th-anniversary-of-the-start-of-the-korean-war . Find out more about the global prayer campaign for peace on the Korean peninsula at www.oikoumene.org/en/get-involved/light-of-peace .

 In more news from the World Council of Churches, the WCC assembly planned for Sept. 2021 in Germany has been postponed to 2022 “in order to be more inclusive of the wider fellowship amid COVID-19,” said a release. The decision was made by the WCC executive committee, on behalf of the central committee, and in close consultation with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and other host churches and local partners. This will be the 11th assembly of the worldwide ecumenical Christian organization, of which the Church of the Brethren is a founding member. The decision was made “because of the gravity and uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is hoped that an assembly in 2022 will provide a better opportunity to secure the full participation of the ecumenical fellowship. The location in Karlsruhe [Germany] will remain the same.” The theme will be “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary of the WCC, said in the release, “So much creative thought and hard work have already gone into preparations for our next assembly. I am grateful to all who have contributed thus far; and I am confident that, with our continued collaboration, the support of the churches, and God’s continued blessings, our 11th Assembly will even more deeply contribute to the life, witness, and spirituality of Christians everywhere.”


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Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Ryan Arndt, Joshua Brockway, Shamek Cardona, Chris Douglas, Marianne Ejdersten, Roxane Hill, Jeff Lennard, Wendy McFadden, Zakariya Musa, Becky Ullom Naugle, David Sollenberger, Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to cobnews@brethren.org . Find the Newsline archive at www.brethren.org/news . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters or make subscription changes at www.brethren.org/intouch . All submissions are subject to editing. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren.

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