Newsline for March 13, 2020

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“My prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me…with your faithful help” (Psalm 69:13).


1) Brethren Disaster Ministries offers resources and recommendations on COVID-19
2) Brethren Disaster Ministries suspends volunteer travel to rebuilding sites, Children’s Disaster Services postpones spring trainings
3) Virus forces changes or cancellations of events at all levels of the denomination
4) Some Church of the Brethren congregations are offering live-streamed worship


5) Brethren Academy hires coordinator for Spanish-language programs
6) Joelle Hathaway to join Bethany Seminary faculty

7) Brethren bits: National Youth Sunday theme and resources, pastors are invited to apply to participate in the Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program, the humanitarian effects of US sanctions on Iran, and more

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries offers resources and recommendations on COVID-19

A webpage of resources and recommendations on coronavirus COVID-19 has been posted by Brethren Disaster Ministries. The webpage includes sections of guidance for families and individuals, guidance for church leaders and congregations–including emergency planning, and a warning about coronavirus scams. Go to

The webpage helps answers commonly asked questions such as what are the symptoms of COVID-19, who is at higher risk, what to do if you are at higher risk, what to do if someone you care for is sick, and what practices can help avoid contracting the disease such as social distancing and hand-washing.

Guidance for church leaders and congregations includes resources for creating an emergency plan for your congregation, what questions need to be answered or dealt with by a congregation during a health emergency, determining ways to support those who may become ill, determining ways to support overburdened church leaders, providing the congregation with information, helpful ways to modify worship practices, and more.

Find the webpage at .

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries suspends volunteer travel to rebuilding sites, Children’s Disaster Services postpones spring trainings

Brethren Disaster Ministries has been closely monitoring the rapidly changing information about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the illness that it causes. “We have been tracking where the virus has been reported with an eye toward making decisions regarding our rebuilding project sites and out of concern for our volunteers, leaders, host communities, and the clients in whose homes we work,” said an announcement today. “After considerable discussion and prayer, BDM has made the decision to temporarily suspend all volunteer travel to rebuilding sites.”

Two upcoming Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) trainings are being postponed and rescheduled to minimize non-essential travel for trainers and participants. Trainings scheduled for Lombard, Ill., and for Tulsa, Okla., this spring are rescheduled for this fall. Registered participants also may transfer to trainings scheduled for other locations this summer, or request a refund. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” said the CDS staff. “We feel the safety of participants and trainers is our priority at this time. We will continue to monitor and assess the emerging situation in the US with careful consideration for future events.”

Brethren Disaster Ministries announcement

— Travel to the rebuilding project site in the Carolinas is suspended until April 18.

— Travel to Puerto Rico is suspended until April 11.

— Travel to Project 2 in Tampa, Fla., is suspended completely as that site was already scheduled to close on April 4. Brethren Disaster Ministries is working with its partners in Tampa to make sure that the work will be completed.

— A new “Project 2″ site was scheduled to open April 19 in a new location, but likely will be delayed. Brethren Disaster Ministries staff are in conversation with local partners to determine when an opening may be possible in Dayton, Ohio, to support tornado recovery.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and will make decisions regarding volunteer travel to project sites as these dates get closer,” said the announcement. “Volunteers who are scheduled to serve after mid-April will be contacted as soon as possible if the suspension is extended or an opening to Project 2 is determined.

“The difficult decision to suspend volunteer travel was made using guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local and state government authorities. We have also been in conversation with the partners with whom we work at our sites and who host our volunteers, as well as our VOAD partners, many of whom have also begun to limit or suspend volunteer activities.

“We understand that this will be a disappointment to those volunteers who were scheduled to work during this time. Please know that we share this disappointment in not being able to serve those whose homes desperately need repair as well as not being present among those vulnerable communities who are even more in need of the reassurance of God’s love at this time.

“However, it is out of concern for that very community and for our volunteers and leaders, that we have made this decision to reduce the chance of unwittingly spreading the coronavirus at the project sites or when volunteers return home to their families and communities. We also recognize that many of our clients, as well as many of our volunteers, are in 60-plus age range, which puts them at a higher risk of both contracting the virus and of becoming seriously ill if they do get it.”

Brethren Disaster Ministries requested prayer for the individuals and communities affected by the coronavirus, for those who are sick and their caregivers, and for those in faith-based, healthcare, private, and governmental organizations who are working on the front lines to respond to the coronavirus.

The announcement called on Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers to be aware of those within their own churches and communities who may need comfort or practical or spiritual assistance.

“It is our hope that, as leaders in your district, you will be in touch with organizers in your community and with state and local VOADs (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) to learn about ways that volunteers can serve locally to help those affected.”

For more about Brethren Disaster Ministries go to .

3) Virus forces changes and/or cancellations of events at all levels of the denomination

Events at all levels of the Church of the Brethren denomination have been changed, canceled, and/or postponed because of the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, from the Mission and Ministry Board to Bethany Seminary and the Brethren Academy to districts, congregations, and other groups.

Here are some of those announcements:

— The Mission and Ministry Board meeting location was moved from the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, to Oakland Church of the Brethren, hosted by Southern Ohio and Kentucky District. The denominational board began meeting this morning and planned to continue through Monday morning. Board chair Patrick Starkey noted the “rapidly changing protocols for nursing homes” in his announcement of the change of venue.

— Bethany Seminary and the Brethren Academy are moving remaining spring 2020 class sessions to Zoom or online formats beginning March 16 until at least April 6. “All students who would have attended classes in person will join remotely using Zoom synchronous technology,” said an announcement today. “Faculty will be able to teach via Zoom from the classroom, their offices, or their homes. Online courses will proceed as scheduled. In addition, all on-campus activities and gatherings will be suspended for the same period. After this period, President Jeff Carter and Dean Steve Schweitzer will evaluate on a weekly basis whether classes and activities should resume.”
     The announcement include information that employees will continue to work on campus and, at this time, the board of trustees meeting will go forward on campus as scheduled. Commencement also will be held as expected. “Any decisions to further restrict campus activity or to resume regularly scheduled classes and activities will be communicated immediately and widely,” the announcement said.
     The Brethren Academy directed independent study units scheduled in conjunction with the Church Planting Conference in May and the Minister’s Association Pre-Annual Conference Event will be held contingent upon whether those events proceed as planned.
     For questions regarding Bethany Seminary course and activity scheduling contact the dean’s office at or 765-983-1815. For questions regarding Brethren Academy courses contact Janet Ober Lambert at or 765-983-1820.

— A performance by Ken Medema and Ted Swartz has been canceled by South Central Indiana District. The event was scheduled for this Saturday, March 14, at Manchester Church of the Brethren. “We hope to reschedule it for later this year,” said the announcement.

— The District Women’s Retreat in Middle Pennsylvania District has been canceled. The retreat was to be led by Sarah Steele on the topic, “Psssstttt…. Are You Listening?” and was scheduled for April 3-4.

— A “Seeking First the Kingdom” training event led by Ronald Sider and Shane Claiborne has been canceled by Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. The event was scheduled for March 21-22. “Efforts will be made to reschedule the event for March 2021,” said an announcement. “While we do not want to panic,” said lead pastor Misty Wintsch, “we do want to be prudent.” She and pastor Don Fitzkee will preach for the March 22 services instead of Shane Claiborne.

— A Ted Swartz and Ken Medema production of “Can We Talk? Conversations for Change” has been canceled in Southern Ohio and Kentucky District. The event had been scheduled for March 15 at Northmont High School Auditorium. The district also has canceled the Camping and Retreat Ministries Simple Living Weekend that was scheduled for March 27-28.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College is among the colleges and universities that have made the decision to cancel all classes and school-sponsored events and travel. Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., is among those that have extended spring breaks and made decisions to move classes online, while caring for students who may still need on-campus housing.

4) Some Church of the Brethren congregations are offering live-streamed worship

A number of Church of the Brethren congregations already offer live streaming of worship services. Now those congregations are in a position to be able to offer worship and fellowship online in the event in-person worship services are canceled because of the coronavirus.

The denomination’s one fully online congregation is the Living Stream church. The pastoral team of the congregation has offered strategies for other churches to continue in fellowship while quarantined or isolated. One way is to find another Church of the Brethren with which to worship over the Internet. Another option is to set up a way that your congregation can still share services over the Internet directly with your own members.

“The most significant advantage to this option is that your local faith community would still be able to be in touch with each other,” said the Living Stream pastoral team. “Options could include Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or–perhaps best of all for smaller congregations–a Zoom video conference meeting. Some of these options might take a little time to set up (for instance, a YouTube Live channel must first pass a verification process), so preparing a contingency plan ahead of time is recommended.”

The Living Stream pastoral team and “tech deacons” are offering to help other congregations that may have questions or need assistance to put their own online worship in place. Contact . The Living Stream church worships online at 5 p.m. (Pacific time) every Sunday evening; go to .

Other congregations that offer online worship experiences include, among others, Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Elizabethtown is extending an invitation for other congregations to join them in worship at 10:30 a.m. [Eastern time] on Sunday mornings, go to and click the yellow Live Stream button to watch.

The Church of the Brethren communications staff are collecting a list of congregations offering online worship experiences for posting on the denominational website. Please send your congregation name, city, state, and the link for online worship to . A list of online worship opportunities will be added to “Find a Church” at .

5) Brethren Academy hires coordinator for Spanish-language programs

by Jenny Williams
The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership announces that Aida Sánchez has been named the new coordinator for Spanish-language ministry training programs. Sánchez began her duties March 9 and will work from her home in Florida.

As a 2019 graduate of Seminario Biblico Anabautista Hispano de la Iglesia de Los Hermanos, the academy’s ministry training program for Spanish speakers, Sánchez has first-hand experience in the programs she will be working with. Sánchez also attended the Interamerican University of Aguadilla in Puerto Rico, where she majored in education with an emphasis in English as a Second Language.

Recently ordained in the Church of the Brethren, Sánchez is a church planter with Nuevo Comienzo Church of the Brethren in Kissimmee, Fla. From 2009 to 2016, she co-pastored Nuevo Amanecer Church of the Brethren in Bethlehem, Pa. She also serves as a “circuit rider” for the new Part-Time Pastor/Full-Time Church program of the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry and was recently appointed as the director of district programs for Atlantic Southeast District.

— Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Theological Seminary.

6) Joelle Hathaway to join Bethany Seminary faculty

by Jenny Williams

Joelle Hathaway has been named assistant professor of theological studies at Bethany Theological Seminary, beginning July 1. Hathaway is currently an instructor at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., where she earned both her master’s and doctoral degrees.

Hathaway received a doctor of theology degree in 2018 with a focus on theology and the arts and with emphases in eco-theology and liturgical studies. Her dissertation was entitled “Offering a Sacrifice of Praise: Human Vocation, Culture-Making, and Cultivating a Sabbath Imagination.” In 2009 she received a master of theological studies with a thesis entitled “Architectural Visions of Hope: Coventry Cathedral and Ground Zero.” Her undergraduate degree is from Seattle Pacific University. She is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Hathaway’s professional work reflects her varied interests, including the arts, theology of place, iconology, and the history of worship. Since 2013 she has taught courses annually at Duke as an instructor and has presented papers at meetings of the American Academy of Religion and regional associations of religious studies. Over the past 10 years, she has held leadership roles for multiple events through Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts. Hathaway has had several book reviews published and is awaiting publication of an article in the “Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception” and two essays for online symposia.

— Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Theological Seminary.

7) Brethren bits

— This year’s National Youth Sunday theme is “Through My Fear I Trust in God” based on Psalm 56:1-4. Resources are available at .

— The Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry invites pastors to apply to participate in its Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program. Open to any Church of the Brethren pastor serving in a congregational role that is less than full-time, the program offers support, resources, and companionship for the 77 percent of the denomination’s clergy who serve as multivocational pastors. Pastors who join the program will receive one-one-one encouragement and consultation with a regionally based “circuit rider” who will schedule an in-person visit to encourage and help identify specific challenges and places where some extra support could be helpful. The circuit rider will work to connect pastors with colleagues, educational resources, and experts who can offer guidance, companionship, and encouragement. This grant-funded program is free of charge to Church of the Brethren multivocational pastors. Find more information and the online application form at . Contact Dana Cassell, program manager, with questions at .

— The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is informing church members of the humanitarian effects of US sanctions on Iran, causing food insecurity. In a blogpost dated March 12, the office’s food insecurity intern Priscilla Weddle reviewed the effects on food insecurity and hunger in Iran from sanctions re-imposed in 2018 covering shipping, finance, and energy, aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear capabilities. “These sanctions have had a devastating impact on the country’s economy and its citizens,” she wrote. “Iran’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted an estimated 4.8% in 2018 and was forecast to shrink another 9.5% in 2019 (International Monetary Fund, 2019). Living costs have also risen as a result of inflation. Inflation is estimated to reach 38% with rates being especially high for food items; for example, the cost of meat has gone up 116 percent (World Bank, 2019). The rising food prices and unemployment rate has resulted in many families being unable to purchase basic items…. The Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy has strong concerns about the welfare of the Iranian people because of the ways in which economic sanctions are correlated with insecurity and deprivation.” Find the full blogpost at .

— Northern Indiana District has announced a change of leadership for its district conference this year. “The District Board would like to share that there has been a change in leadership for the 2020 District Conference,” said an announcement sent to Newsline. “On February 10th, Brother Craig Alan Myers submitted his resignation as Moderator for the district. After prayer, discussion, and consultation with Moderator-Elect, Sister Kara Morris; the District Board has moved to appoint Brother Evan Garber to fill the position pending final approval at conference. Brother Garber has been the pastor at Bremen since 2013 and has served on District Board for six years. Please be in prayer for the district and our new leadership leading up to District Conference.”

— The Pinecrest community in Mount Morris, Ill., one of the Church of the Brethren-related retirement facilities, is on the list for Sterling Federal Bank’s Third Annual Employee Charity Challenge. “Sterling Federal Bank is excited to give back to the organizations who give so much to our communities!” said an invitation. “Please vote for your favorite charity and continue voting throughout March!” The webpage for the event offers a selection of charities to vote for, including Pinecrest. The organization with the most votes will receive $20,000, with the second place charity receiving $10,000 and the third place receiving $5,000. Go to .

— Congregations wanting to plan Earth Sunday celebrations may consider using the 2020 theme materials for this year from Creation Justice Ministry. This year’s theme is “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” taken from a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” To connect with others who are planning Earth Sunday activities, join the Earth Day Sunday 2020 Facebook event at where congregations may share what they are doing and interact. Earth Sunday resources from Creation Justice Ministry are at .

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is currently accepting applications for membership in its Peacemaker Corps. CPT got its start as an initiative of the historic peace churches including the Church of the Brethren. “Join us in building partnerships to transform violence and oppression!” said the invitation. The next Peacemaker Corps training will be held Nov. 12-Dec. 11, 2020, in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan. Application deadline is July 15. Direct questions and send completed applications by email to . Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and have completed a short-term CPT delegation or internship by Aug. 17 to be eligible. Qualified candidates may be invited to participate in the training, which culminates in mutual discernment with CPT staff regarding membership in the Peacemaker Corps. Trained Peacemaker Corps members are eligible to apply for open positions on CPT teams.

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including canceling or postponing certain meetings, limiting travels, closing the Visitors Program through April, and offering online communication in lieu of person-to-person gatherings. In a letter to staff, WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit commended their important work, commitment, and competence. “We also do the work with some risks,” he wrote. “Now we are in a situation where we together have to handle the risk related to COVID-19.” The WCC will do what is relevant and necessary to avoid spreading the virus to others who can become seriously ill, Tveit stated. “We have to do it to protect those in our constituency who live in contexts with health systems that would struggle to handle such an outbreak,” he said. “We also have to avoid that our work is blocked by absences and quarantine measures, here or elsewhere.”

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]