Newsline for March 20,2020

Ruch Matos and Santos Terrero, leaders in the Church of the Brethren in Spain–where the country has imposed a lockdown because of the coronavirus COVID-19, shared these pictures with Global Food Initiative director Jeff Boshart. Girls in their household made a sign to express their faith and encouragement to neighbors. The sign says in Spanish, and translated into English: Dios tiene el control #No Temas Cristo te ama Yo me quedo en casa God is in control #DoNotFear Jesus loves you I am staying home

“May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).


1) Denominational facilities are closed to visitors, most staff to work from home
2) New and Renew conference is canceled for 2020, postponed until 2021
3) Plans continue for Annual Conference

4) Plans continue for 2020 workcamps
5) BVS continuing to support volunteers through COVID-19 crisis
6) BBT makes provisions to ensure business continuity during crisis
7) Bethany Seminary to hold classes online


8) Webinar on Holy Week worship planning is offered by the Office of Ministry
9) Brethren Press makes free, downloadable resources available
10) Children’s Disaster Services shares Covid-19 resources for children


11) Lockdown already ended for church workers in China
12) From PAG: The coronavirus in Honduras


13) So you’re suddenly working from home
14) Brethren and the influenza of 1918

Quote of the week:

“Now, more than ever, Paul’s admonition to ‘shine like stars’ in the world, ‘holding fast to the word of life’ (Philippians 2:15 16) calls us to faithful living in the midst of a pandemic…. I add my prayers to yours for the congregations and ministers striving to discern what it means to be the church in these days, offering spiritual and physical care for members and the community, for health care workers and other caregivers tending the sick, for the students and teachers trying to maintain educational integrity as schools are closed, for those persons who are losing income and trying to support their families, for those with the means to be generous to share liberally for the common good, and for government officials at all levels as they serve the needs of their communities.”

— Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry, in a message to district leaders across the denomination.

Coronavirus resources: Church of the Brethren staff are providing two webpages with coronavirus resources:

— Ministry resources related to the pandemic at www.brethren.org/discipleshipmin/resources.html

— Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services guidance for emergency planning by churches and measures for prevention and mitigation of the spread of the virus at www.brethren.org/bdm/covid-19.html

Each of these pages is being updated regularly. New on the latter page are resources for talking with children about the situation and to maintain mental and emotional health during this emergency, among others.

1) Denominational facilities are closed to visitors, most staff to work from home

The Church of the Brethren denominational staff are minimizing the number of personnel present at both the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., in light of health authorities’ advice to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

At this time, both sites are closed to visitors and vendors.

The Illinois Governor has issued an order requiring residents to “stay at home” (shelter in place) until April 7. With that order the General Offices will be closed until April 7 to non-essential personnel. Most staff based at the General Offices will work remotely from home.

At the Brethren Service Center warehouse a policy has been put in place to receive disaster relief donations for the Material Resources program. The warehouse building will be locked, with signs posted for donors/visitors to call contact numbers if there are any questions. Signs are posted with instructions for leaving donations at the door or in the White Box Truck. Volunteer groups have been cancelled for a month.

2) New and Renew conference is canceled for 2020, postponed until 2021

By Stan Dueck

After prayerful discernment over the ongoing health concerns and the safety of people due to the coronavirus, the New Church Advisory Committee and Discipleship Ministries of the Church of the Brethren are canceling the New and Renew Conference scheduled for May 13-15, 2020. The event was to be held at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

If you registered for the event, expect an email with the details about the conference fee refund, hotel information, and more. If you have additional questions, email randi.rowan@brethren.org .

We plan to host the New and Renew Conference on May 12-14, 2021. Our conference speakers, Christiana Rice and José Humphreys, have graciously agreed to be available at that time.

We are considering how to deliver the transformative content in the presentations and workshops in other forms and venues in the weeks and months ahead. So stay tuned!

In this challenging time, the church has an opportunity to be present and manifest the vitality of the gospel in the way we take the church Jesus loves closer to the people Jesus loves.

We are praying for your health and wellbeing.

— Stan Dueck is co-coordinator of Discipleship Ministries for the Church of the Brethren.

3) Plans continue for Annual Conference

From Chris Douglas, Conference Director

It is still our hope and plan to gather as the 234th Annual Conference on July 1-5, 2020. You are encouraged to register and plan to be with us! 

We are very aware of the COVID-19 challenge and its rapidly changing character. We are carefully monitoring guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as authorities in the state of Michigan. The health and safety of attendees, volunteers, and partners is our first priority.

Be assured also there is a generous refund/cancellation policy for Annual Conference, should it be necessary. Details can be found at www.brethren.org/ac/cancellation-refund-policy.html .

The Annual Conference Officers, Conference Office, and Program and Arrangements Committee join with others around the globe in praying for those who are ill with COVID-19 and for those in the health care field who are daily working to help and to heal. May we all be sustained by God’s grace in these days of uncertainty.

Find out more about Annual Conference at www.brethren.org/ac .

Calling orchestra musicians 

Annual Conference on July 1-5, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Mich., plans to have an orchestra! Below is a link to a survey for interested musicians to fill out to indicate their interest and skill level. For questions, contact orchestra coordinator Nonie Detrick at VBD50@comcast.net . To fill out the survey go to www.brethren.org/orchestrasurvey .

4) Plans continue for 2020 workcamps

From the Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry team

The workcamp team is continuing to plan workcamps as scheduled and it is our hope that we will be able to gather in service and fellowship this summer! As we get closer to the start of workcamps, we will be assessing recommendations from the CDC and following federal and state guidelines for small and large events.

If we need to cancel any workcamps, we will do so on a month-to-month basis. This means that a decision about the Rwanda workcamp will be made on May 1; a decision about June workcamps will be made on May 8; and a decision about July workcamps will be made on June 5.

Please continue to register, fill out your workcamp forms, and pay your remaining balance. Be assured that there is a new refund/cancellation policy should it be necessary. We understand that some individuals may not feel comfortable going on a workcamp even if we decide the workcamp will run. Therefore, we will give full refunds (including the deposit) to any participant who notifies us of their cancellation two weeks before the start of the workcamp. Should we decide to cancel workcamps, we will give churches and individuals the option to donate all or some of their registration fee to the Workcamp Ministry.

We pray for those who are ill with COVID-19, for their families, and for health-care workers around the globe who are working hard to provide cures and healing. May we continue to find hope and light and be assured of God’s presence in the midst of all things.

For more information about the Workcamp Ministry go to www.brethren.org/workcamps .

5) BVS continuing to support volunteers through COVID-19 crisis

By Emily Tyler

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) has been working with its project partners and volunteers around the world to encourage caution and safety during this COVID-19 crisis. Its mid-year retreat for domestic volunteers that was scheduled for March 23-27 has been cancelled and, instead, volunteers will gather virtually for a day of retreat activities and reflecting.

Earlier this week, the German government requested that EIRENE, a partner organization of BVS for more than 40 years, pull all of their volunteers back to Germany. EIRENE sends about 10 volunteers to the US per year through BVS.

BVS continues to be in close communication with its volunteers who are serving domestically and internationally, some of whom are choosing to return home.

— Emily Tyler is director of Brethren Volunteer Service. Find out more about BVS at www.brethren.org/bvs .

6) BBT makes provisions to ensure business continuity during crisis

By Nevin Dulabaum

With the ever changing and intensifying aspect of the coronavirus pandemic, I want you to know that the safety and wellbeing of our members and clients as well as our Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) team is foremost on my mind. An important aspect of BBT’s risk management plan includes provisions to ensure business continuity in the event of significant disruptions.

Our team of experienced professionals are prepared to continue their service to you and your organization even as they prepare to work away from our Elgin office. Indeed, at least through March 27 and perhaps beyond, staff have been given the option to work from home, and many are using that opportunity to participate in social distancing, a key to helping curb the coronavirus.

Through April 1, I have suspended all BBT corporate travel. This travel ban may also be extended as appropriate. I am confident that our technology and communication processes will continue to allow BBT to serve you with minimum, if any, interruption. Our team will offer audio and video conferencing in place of face-to-face meetings to stay connected with you….

Church Workers’ Assistance Plan

If you are an employee of a Church of the Brethren congregation, district, or church camp and are being adversely impacted financially by the coronavirus, we may be able to help. Call us at 847-622-3391.

Market volatility

In times of significant market volatility, it is tempting to withdraw your funds or change your investment allocations to “safer” choices, which means you might lock in or realize the losses that currently just show up on paper. BBT’s Chief Financial Officer, John McGough, CIMA®, offers market insight and encouragement for how investors should approach today’s investment environment.

Market turbulence continues as a result of investor uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, as well as the recent oil price dispute between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The Federal Reserve Bank has unleashed extraordinary measures in an effort to stabilize the markets and support the U.S. economy, dropping the Federal Funds Rate by 1.5 percent down to zero over the past two weeks.  BBT is in constant communication with its investment managers and consultant, who are monitoring the markets. A consistent theme emanating from their messaging is that no one knows with any real certainty how much, or for how long, the coronavirus will impact the U.S. economy. But it will have an impact. We ask that you remain disciplined to your long-term investment goals, in terms of your investment objectives, risk tolerances, time horizon, and liquidity needs.

As each new day brings additional safety precautions and restrictions and perhaps prompts questions about the financial markets and what that means for our future, we are here to serve your financial well-being. Thank you for your continued trust in BBT. It is our privilege to partner with you–working through these present challenging times together. Please know that you are in our prayers.

— Nevin Dulabaum is president of Brethren Benefit Trust. This is an abridged version of his letter, which also included messages to specific members and clients including Brethren Medical Plan members, Brethren Pension Plan members, Asset Management and Deferred Gifts clients. For the full text of the letter and BBT contact information go to www.cobbt.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/President%20message%202020_0.pdf .

7) Bethany Seminary to hold classes online

Online announcements from Bethany Theological Seminary respond to the coronavirus concerns. Following are portions of the seminary’s announced plans. Find the full text of recent announcements at https://bethanyseminary.edu/about/bethany-seminary-responds-to-coronavirus-concerns .

Beginning Tuesday, March 24, the Bethany Center in Richmond, Ind., will be closed to the public while accessible to employees. Employees have the option to work from home, in consultation with their supervisor. Students continue to have access to the Gathering Area and Study Room. No guests or family, to include children, are allowed in the Bethany Center.

The seminary will offer all courses via Zoom or online for the remainder of the semester. All students who would have attended classes in person will join remotely using Zoom synchronous technology. Faculty will be able to teach via Zoom from the classroom, their offices, or their homes. Online courses will proceed as scheduled.

For questions regarding Bethany Seminary course and activity scheduling contact the Dean’s Office at deansoffice@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1815. For questions regarding Brethren Academy courses contact Janet Ober Lambert at oberja@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1820.


8) Webinar on Holy Week worship planning is offered by the Office of Ministry

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Nancy Sollenberger Heishman

The Office of Ministry of the Church of the Brethren will host a Zoom webinar conversation on March 26 focused on Holy Week worship planning. Many congregations have suspended in-person worship during the COVID-19 crisis yet are seeking to find ways to stay deeply connected to one another and their communities.

In just three weeks, Holy Week will be celebrated in our congregations. This webinar will give ministers and worship planners an opportunity to share ideas and resources with one another for planning for Holy Week in adaptive and innovative ways.

Use the link below to register and receive the meeting link.

When: Thursday, March 26, 12 noon (Eastern time)
Topic: “Holy Week Worship Planning: A Conversation” sponsored by the Office of Ministry

Register in advance at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8IQT6gJ7RimgzhU8lk-A1A .

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

— Nancy Sollenberger Heishman is director of ministry for the Church of the Brethren.

9) Brethren Press makes free, downloadable resources available

By Jeff Lennard

We know that many congregations are cancelling services as the COVID-19 virus spreads. Brethren Press wants to make it as easy as possible for your congregation to study and worship together–even from afar. Therefore, each week during this outbreak, Brethrenpress.com will be updated with free resources to help people in your church stay connected.

We have begun by making the pdf and epub versions of our Lenten devotional, “Holy Manna” by Paula Bowser, available for download. In addition, we will be adding pdf files for the weekly lessons of our “Shine” multi-age curriculum and “A Guide for Biblical Studies” adult curriculum. The weekly worship resource from the back of our bulletin series will also be made available.

These downloadable resources can be found at www.brethrenpress.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=245 and at www.brethren.org/bp .

You may continue to order from Brethren Press. At this point, we are still able to ship without delay.

If you have any questions, our customer service team is available at 800-441-3712 or brethrenpress@brethren.org .

— Jeff Lennard is director of marketing and sales for Brethren Press.

10) Children’s Disaster Services shares Covid-19 resources for children

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) associate director Lisa Crouch has shared Covid-19 resources for children. These include online resources from trusted sources for talking with children about the virus, a comic for exploring the situation, downloadable resources for working through emotions and helping children cope, among others:

“Talking with Kids” from PBS

“Just for Kids: A Comic Exploring the Coronavirus” from NPR

“#COVIBOOK: Supporting and Reassuring Children Around the World” by Manuela Molina, from Mindheart
Work through emotions with interactive resources for younger ages. Downloadable in multiple languages.

“Helping Children Cope with Stress During the 2019-nCoV Outbreak” from the World Health Organization (WHO)
Printable information sheet.

“Tips for Parents on Media Coverage” courtesy of CLDR and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network

List of education companies offering free subscriptions
Websites offering free educational activities.
https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/135609/list-of-education-companies-offering-free-subscriptions .


11) Lockdown already ended for church workers in China

Brethren service worker Ruoxia Li and colleague Cuizhen Guo receive 128,000 medical gloves donated by charity organization Anhui Ren’ai. Photo by Eric Miller

Eric Miller reports that the lockdown at his home in Pingding, China, has ended. Miller and his wife, Ruoxia Li, have returned to work in the offices of their local partner, You’ai Hospital. They spent about a month at home with only two trips to the grocery store for supplies.

Li and Miller recently signed a service agreement with the Church of the Brethren regarding their continuing work in China. They have been serving in Pingding since August 2012. Li has established a hospice program at You’ai Hospital. Miller has focused on improving management and developing international partnerships for the hospital.

No news cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Shanxi Province for the last 18 days, Miller reported on March 18. There is a great deal of activity in the area now, although schools remain closed and temperature checks and masks are still in place in some areas.

“We know we went through what America is going through over a month ago, so we have some idea what it is like,” Miller said in an email report. “Here in Shanxi we appear to be coming out on the other side, and America will too.”

Miller reported that they are able to be able to resume visits with hospice patients, a particularly vulnerable group during this time.

12) From PAG: The coronavirus in Honduras

By Chet Thomas

News around the world highlights the spread of the coronavirus–from Asia to Europe and now to the Americas. This virus was confirmed in Honduras on March 11. As of today, March 18, the Honduran government has confirmed 9 cases (6 in Tegucigalpa, 1 in La Ceiba, 1 in Choluteca, and 1 in San Pedro Sula) for which the government has implemented an absolute curfew in the above-mentioned cities.

I wish that the news could be more positive and encouraging, but it is not. Honduras is on a complete shutdown. Everything is closed (schools, shopping centers, super markets, gas stations, pharmacies, churches, restaurants, etc.) All borders (land, sea, and air) have been closed to prevent people from coming in and going out of the country. Only health institutions and essential government agencies (national police and military police are providing order and security) are functioning. The entire country is shut down to help keep individuals in their houses and stop the spread of the virus.

The national police and military police are being employed in the streets to enforce the new regulations. The length of quarantine and curfew is still unknown.

PAG in Honduras has been obligated to stop all program acitivities and comply with the government orders. All our offices are closed for now. Almost 100 percent of our staff is in their homes and some are still needed to provide protection and security to our offices and park centers. This situation developed so quickly that we only had a short period of time to send medicine shipments to restock PAG’s community-owned pharmacies with medicines which provide health services to over 2,000 communities. Our 1,200 community health volunteers are only attending emergency cases….

In regards to PAG’s agricultural program, farm producers will lose the crops they have harvested for commercialization since San Pedro Sula is the major marketing center and the police have closed its borders as well. As a result, farm producers will have no income from sales during the quarantine/curfew time.

For Honduras, this coronavirus is a major part of other additional problems, such as access to food supplies and water (especially in Tegucigalpa, where water is being distributed to urban areas of the city once every 15 days due to the severe drought). This is a special burden for the very poor in areas of the city like Flor del Campo where unemployment rate is high and resources are very limited. Honduras needs massive prayers as our brothers and sisters struggle to fight this unseen enemy in very difficult circumstances.

As the body of Christ, let’s continue to support and encourage one another with the precious promises from God: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

— Chet Thomas is a member of Maple Springs Church of the Brethren in Western Pennsylvania and director of Project Global Village/Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG) in Honduras. This report has been excerpted from a web post by PAG, find the full text at https://preview.mailerlite.com/z0n9i9/1379980258878428725/r5r0 .


13) So you’re suddenly working from home

By Jan Fischer Bachman

Telecommuting does not mean simply moving the things you do at the office to a different location. Here are some tips for a smooth transition.

Read more at www.brethren.org/messenger/articles/2020/working-from-home.html

14) Brethren and the influenza of 1918

By Frank Ramirez, excerpted from the “Messenger” of May 2008

As World War I wound to a bloody close, the Pandemic of 1918-1919, known in that era as the Spanish Influenza, killed up to 675,000 in the United States and up to 100 million people worldwide, far more than the conflict that preceded it…. Churches were closed for weeks or even months. Love feasts were cancelled. Colleges were shut down….

Read more at www.brethren.org/messenger/articles/2020/brethren-and-1918-influenza.html

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jan Fischer Bachman, Lisa Crouch, Chris Douglas, Stan Dueck, Nevin Dulabaum, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Jeff Lennard, Eric Miller, Becky Ullom Naugle, Frank Ramirez, Hannah Shultz, David Steele, Chet Thomas, Emily Tyler, Roy Winter, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is the email news service of 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 . All submissions are subject to editing. Find the Newsline archive at www.brethren.org/news . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren emails, or make changes to your subscription, at www.brethren.org/intouch .

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