Newsline for March 28, 2020

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).


1) Church World Service closes kit depots, affects Material Resources ministry

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries extends suspension of its rebuilding sites

3) EDF grants respond to COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo

4) EDF grant continues Nigeria Crisis Response funding

5) Moderator’s Forum is postponed to Fall 2020

6) Ecumenical organizations across the world stand together to protect life


7) Church of the Brethren congregations offer online worship services

8) Ministry Office collects resources for love feast and Easter virtual worship services

9) Ecumenical Stewardship Center offers helpful guide to implement online giving

10) Online book discussion is offered by Intercultural Ministries

11) Brethren bits

Quote of the week:

“I, too, wish I knew where to go to find safety. Every cough and sneeze, every tickling at the back of my throat, every ache and pain, makes me wonder if the virus has afflicted me. What will become of me, of my family, of those I love? Although Jeremiah repeatedly warns Israel that hard times are ahead, so too does the prophet proclaim God’s promise: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built’ (Jeremiah 31:3-4 excerpts, NRSV). This is the promise to which I cling.”

— Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, in this week’s email newsletter from the NCC.

1) Church World Service closes kit depots, affects Material Resources ministry

A decision by the Church World Service (CWS) leadership team to close all of the kit depots in local congregations through May 31 will affect the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources ministry based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The Material Resources warehouse facility receives, processes, and distributes CWS disaster relief kits.

Said the announcement from Matthew Stevens, director of congregational giving for CWS: “Given the heartbreaking realities of COVID-19 and in accordance with CDC guidelines, we are postponing all kit collections and depot activity through May 31st. We’ve been getting daily requests for hygiene kits for vulnerable groups. But without collections in the near future, we’re running out of supplies…. On May 11th, we’ll reach out to you again to share what we know and hear your thoughts about how we can continue this ministry in 2020…. I’ll be praying for you and your community in the days ahead. Let’s be in touch in both spirit and word.”

CWS kit depots received an email with this announcement on March 24, with the encouragement that churches not host kit assemblies during this time period. A follow-up email will be sent in May with any updates.

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries extends suspension of its rebuilding sites

Brethren Disaster Ministries has announced an extended suspension of its rebuilding sites. This will temporarily move the reopening date of the Carolinas site to May 3 and the Puerto Rico site to April 25, extending the current suspension for two additional weeks.

As was previously planned, the Tampa, Fla., site has closed and the location of Project 2 is scheduled to move to Dayton, Ohio, for tornado recovery as soon as possible. However, the date of the new project opening will not happen until after May 2 or later due to all of the factors that are involved in the move from Florida to Ohio and setting up volunteer housing.

All dates are subject to change depending on CDC guidance, restrictions from local officials in the project site areas and other states, and local partners being willing to accept volunteers. Brethren Disaster Ministries continues to be in close contact with local partners while monitoring when it will be acceptable to send volunteers without imposing any health concerns for volunteers, host community, and homeowners.

3) EDF grants respond to COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo

The staff at Brethren Disaster Ministries have directed grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in two countries in central Africa: Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In response to the pandemic, governments all over the world are closing borders, restricting travel, and ordering families to stay at home. In less developed countries like the DRC, South Sudan, and Rwanda there are no support systems or aid programs outside of families helping each other, and the most vulnerable people like the Batwa in Rwanda and the Twa in the DRC live day-to-day.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has created a COVID-19 grant proposal form and plans to help address the food crisis and humanitarian crisis created by the pandemic.

An allocation of $20,000 will provide:

— $8,000 to the Rwanda Church of the Brethren to provide emergency food to 225 at-risk families selected from the four Church of the Brethren congregations and the community around them. Each family will receive rice, beans, cornmeal, and soap.

— $12,000 to the Church of the Brethren in the DRC to provide emergency food to 550 households from five Church of the Brethren congregations and the communities around them. Each family will receive beans, cornmeal, vegetable oil, and soap.

Grant funds will be used to provide emergency food to the most vulnerable families and households in the communities around the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwandan Church of the Brethren congregations. Response partners will also receive translated flyers about the pandemic and will be encouraged to hand them out with the food.

4) EDF grant continues Nigeria Crisis Response funding

One of the wells built by EYN Disaster Ministry and the Nigeria Crisis Response

The staff at Brethren Disaster Ministries have requested an additional allocation of $300,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to cover remaining program expenses for the Nigeria Crisis Response program for 2020 and to carry the response through March 2021. 

Since 2014, the Nigeria Crisis Response has provided more than $5 million in ministry resources to five response partners, has helped stabilize Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and provided extensive humanitarian aid and recovery for some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

The response was begun after Boko Haram insurgent violence and lack of security heavily affected EYN and Nigerian Brethren in northeast Nigeria. The violence continues to affect EYN and recent attacks have come within 50 miles of the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi. The killing of a district secretary of EYN in January and a devastating attack on the town of Garkida, where EYN began, highlight how vulnerable the EYN members and churches continue to be.

The 2020 response plans, developed in coordination with EYN and partner organization Mission 21, continue key ministries at a reduced level of funding, due to a planned scaling down of the program and reduced donations. Primary focus areas include home repair, peace building and trauma recovery, agriculture, livelihood support, education, food, medical and home supplies, EYN security along with recovery and capacity building, support for US volunteers and staff, and emergency relief.

Prior EDF grants for the Nigeria Crisis Response total $5,100,000.

Find out more about the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of EYN and the Church of the Brethren, at .

5) Moderator’s Forum is postponed to Fall 2020

Church of the Brethren Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey has announced that the Moderator’s Forum scheduled for April 18 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College will be postponed until the fall of 2020.

A revised date will be announced in the weeks ahead. 

The decision was made after prayerful discernment, taking into account the evolving nature of the COVID-19 reality, the State of Pennsylvania’s current stay-at-home policy, and the closure of the Elizabethtown College campus for the remainder of the spring semester. 

Commenting on the forum’s postponement, Mundey noted: “This was a difficult decision, but the evolving COVID-19 reality creates a vulnerability for both our planning and participants. Be assured, we are committed to holding the forum. We are still eager to provide much-needed wisdom from history for issues in today’s church.” 

As previously announced, the Moderator’s Forum’s focus is “Historical Themes Impacting Today’s Church.” It will feature leading Brethren historians who will address a variety of historical themes impacting present-day congregations, districts, and national structures. Particular attention will be given to Brethren history and themes relevant to the current reality of Brethren communions, with special emphasis on the Church of the Brethren.

Updates related to the forum will be posted at

6) Ecumenical organizations across the world stand together to protect life

A release from the World Council of Churches

In a historic joint pastoral statement released on March 26, the World Council of Churches and regional ecumenical organizations affirmed the urgency of standing together to protect life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. [The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA is one of the regional ecumenical organizations joining in this statement.]

For the first time ever, all regions in the ecumenical movement around the world are standing together with a common message that urges both prayers and action for one world to protect life.

“We urge people everywhere to give highest priority to addressing this situation and assisting in whatever ways we can in our collective efforts to protect life,” the statement reads.

For the sake of God’s love, “it is important and urgent that we adapt our modes of worship and fellowship to the needs of this time of pandemic infection, in order to avoid the risk of becoming sources of viral transmission rather than means of grace,” stated the global ecumenical leaders.

The ecumenical leaders recalled, “Our faith in the God of life compels us to protect life” and continued, “Let us manifest God’s unconditional love in safe, practical ways that protect life, alleviate suffering, and ensure that churches and public services do not become hubs of transmission of the virus.”

The leaders of the global and regional ecumenical organizations affirmed that physical distancing does not mean spiritual isolation, and they urged churches all over the world to review their role in society by safely ministering to, providing for, and caring for the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and the aged–especially all those who are most at risk due to COVID-19.

The general secretaries further stated, “People in many parts of the world have become homebound these days. Being homebound does not mean that we cannot experience a deep spiritual solidarity with each other, by virtue of our baptism into the one body of Christ.”

The statement suggests praying at home, giving thanks to God for strength, healing, and courage. “We can show our love for God and our neighbor by not gathering in person for public worship,” reads the text. “Many congregations can share their worship gatherings online or digitally. Members and pastors can also stay in touch with each other and provide pastoral care by telephone.”

The novel coronavirus pandemic has reached all the regions of our planet, the text continues. “There are fear and panic, pain and suffering, doubt and misinformation, about both the virus and our response as Christians,” the text reads. “Amid stories of suffering and tragedy, there are also stories of simple kindness and extravagant love, of solidarity and the sharing of hope and peace in innovative and surprising ways.”

The general secretaries also urged all to consider the needs of the most vulnerable people in the world. “In the midst of this grave crisis, we lift up prayers for those providing leadership and for governments around the world, urging them to give priority concern to those who live in poverty as well as to the marginalized and refugees living in our midst,” the statement concludes.

Read the full statement at . .


7) Church of the Brethren congregations offer online worship services

Many Church of the Brethren congregations are offering online worship services to welcome guests and visitors virtually to join in worship with them while COVID-19 is preventing in-person gatherings. This list is alphabetical by church name. If your church is offering online worship that is open to the public, and is not yet listed here, please send the following information to : church name, city, state, day and time of service, and link to connect.

Find the listing in alphabetical order at
Find a map at the bottom of the page at .

8) Ministry Office collects resources for love feast and Easter virtual worship services

The table is set for love feast. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Following two webinars with Church of the Brethren pastors this week, the staff of the Ministry Office are collecting worship resources for use in virtual love feast and Easter services.

The COVID-19 emergency means that congregations are faced with the question of whether to hold love feast virtually or instead to postpone it until a later time, given recommended restrictions on in-person gatherings. The traditional Church of the Brethren service is held the Thursday before Easter, usually in the evening, as a time for congregations to gather together around tables to worship, wash feet, and share a meal together. Similarly, pastors are planning now for the prospect of not being able to celebrate Easter together.

The Ministry Office is inviting pastors and other congregational leaders to share creative online worship service resources that could be used by others across the denomination during this unusual season in the church’s life.

Worship resources may be submitted at .

The submitted resources and ideas will be reviewed by staff of the Ministry Office and posted to download from .

For questions contact Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Ministry Office, at .

9) Ecumenical Stewardship Center offers helpful guide to implement online giving

By Joshua Brockway

Congregational leaders often do not think of funding needs in the first quarter of the year. The budget preparations feel like they just finished, and we already did the annual giving appeal. Every congregational treasurer will remind us, however, that the expenses don’t stop after the budget is passed, and neither can the income. 
Some congregations have asked about the process and tools for online giving in a age of credit card swipes and scheduled giving. Though the time of receiving offerings is more than a donation with a click, it is important to acknowledge our economic practices are shifting away from cash and checks. Conversations about digital giving and bank transfers has probably come up in our congregations, but the details and questions to consider may easily overwhelm us and we may table the decision to the next meeting. Unfortunately, the fast-moving nature of the current crisis means that many of the ideas and needs that have been pushed down the agenda are coming up quickly.
Marcia Shetler, executive director of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, has prepared a helpful guide to implement online giving and a quick list of possible tools. The Church of the Brethren has long partnered with the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and has shared their resources regularly.
As you and your congregational leadership try to find ways for members to continue supporting important ministries, you are invited to use this guide posted online at .

— Josh Brockway is co-coordinator of the Church of the Brethren’s Discipleship Ministries.

10) Online book discussion is offered by Intercultural Ministries

“Take a break. Connect in. Join us for a book read and discussion together,” said an invitation from Intercultural Ministries director LaDonna Nkosi to a new online book discussion. The event invites people to read the book “Everyday Ubuntu” by Mungi Ngomane and join in a discussion to take place online.

This is a follow-up to the recent Coffee Talk Discussions. The book contains short chapters with life lessons that provide inspiration and insight for these days. The first session will begin discussing the Introduction and Chapter 1 on March 31 at 12:30 p.m. (Eastern time).

Sign up to join the online discussion event at . For more information or for help with setting up a Zoom connection contact 800-323-8039 ext. 387 or . For more information about Intercultural Ministries go to .

11) Brethren bits

Brethren Benefit Trust through the Church Workers Assistance Fund has created a COVID-19 Emergency Grant Program. The program has a streamlined application process to provide financial support to church workers (pastors, office staff, etc.) whose financial situation is adversely affected because of COVID-19 related issues. This would include help for bi-vocational pastors whose non-church work is eliminated or reduced. Inquiries should be directed to Debbie Butcher at 847-622-3391 or

— Remembrance: Doris Walbridge, 91, passed away on Saturday, March 7, at Pinecrest Manor in Mt. Morris, Ill. A long-time employee of Brethren Press, serving from April 1956 until her retirement in September 1991, she was the administrative assistant in the Publishing House at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and served as director of Marketing and as staff for Brethren Press marketing. During her tenure, she managed bookstores at 36 Annual Conferences. Prior to her employment she served a year and a half in Kassel, Germany, through Brethren Volunteer Service. A memorial service will be held at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., at a later date. The full obituary is available at .

— The director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Church of the Brethren, Becky Ullom Naugle, has sent a letter to youth leaders across the denomination. Find it at . “As you imagine how to connect with and support your youth in a constantly changing environment, remember that our most important call as ministering people is to take care of people in the name and spirit of Jesus,” she writes in part. “Right now, we can’t do ministry in the ways we’ve become accustomed to, but we can (and must) do it! I will try to provide you with resource ideas and a place to connect with others who are doing the same work.” For now, the place to connect is the Youth Advisors of the Church of the Brethren group on Facebook at .

— The Church of the Brethren’s “Messenger” magazine has won three awards at the Associated Church Press (ACP) Best of the Church Press Awards this year. The event was held as an online meeting after the once-a-decade Religion Communicators Congress planned for Washington, D.C., area in mid-March was canceled. “Messenger” won three honorable mentions in the following categories: convention coverage of the 2019 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference written by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, Frances Townsend, and Tyler Roebuck; humor piece “Will It Blend?” by Wendy McFadden and Walt Wiltschek; and theological reflection “Creation and the Cross” by Wendy McFadden.

— Spring Creek Church of the Brethren in Derry Township, Pa., is temporarily hosting Cocoa Packs, a program started by Christine Drexler to aid children in need at the Derry Township School District. The organization helps children with physical and emotional wellbeing from offering food, clothing, and personal care items to toys during the holidays. During normal times, they also host educational programs. The program had to seek a new location when its permanent location at Derry Township Middle School had to close with all of the other schools in the state. The school is providing the breakfasts and lunch they normally serve, and Cocoa Packs is handing those out, along with the additional food they would normally provide. Read the full story at .

— Pastor Craig Howard of Brake Church of the Brethren in Petersburg, W.Va., was featured in a story by the “Washington Post” for his leadership role in helping the churches of the community begin to take measures to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. “For those of you saying, ‘we’re trusting God,’ I understand that sentiment,” Howard said in a key radio address to the local community. “But part of God providing for us and taking care of us is giving us information and giving our officials information to guard against making decisions that could have a negative impact.” Find the story at .

— Woodbury (Pa.) Church of the Brethren was featured in a story in the “Bedford Gazette” for beginning new ways of holding funerals during the coronavirus crisis. “During the past week, as the national threat of the coronavirus spread rapidly, the traditional visitations and large funerals came to a halt,” the news report said. “Restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in one location imposed by the government mean in most cases only immediate family can come to pay final farewell to loved ones.” Woodbury pastor David Ulm told the paper that although it is difficult for the families, “Unfortunately this is how we have to handle the situation for now for the good of the entire country.” Read the article at .

— The joint Meat Canning Project of Mid-Atlantic and Southern Pennsylvania Districts of the Church of the Brethren has been cancelled for 2020 and postponed to 2021. “The canning committee will focus on planning for the project when it resumes in 2021,” said an announcement. “Donations for canning and volunteer meals received for this year’s canning will be put towards next year’s project. Please keep this project, the volunteers, the organizations that distribute the chicken and all those who depend on those organizations in your prayers. Also, please continue to support next year’s project. With additional funds for 2021, more chicken can be purchased and more canning days planned.”

— Brethren Woods, a Church of the Brethren camp in Virginia, has figured out a creative and safe way to continue with its Spring Workday today, March 28. According to the camp director Doug Phillips, in an announcement for the Shenandoah District newsletter: “The large Spring Workday is going to happen, but it will be over the course of many days…. We are modifying our plans for work days in order to comply with current COVID-19 orders…. We are grateful for all of the support of our friends in the Shenandoah District. All of us are in uncharted territory in many ways, but we know that God will bring beauty ‘Out of the Ashes.’” The newsletter listed the best practices they will employ: Volunteers will be working outside on the Ash tree projects – cutting, chipping, clearing, and stacking wood. Participants are asked to bring their own packed lunch and drinks. The camp will not be serving lunch, and volunteers will be eating outside and in separate areas, away from other persons in order to allow for social distancing. Hand washing facilities and cleaning supplies to disinfect bathrooms will be available and used regularly. There can only be 10 or fewer volunteers on the Brethren Woods property at one time. Anyone who wants to volunteer must call Phillips to schedule in advance and indicate the number of participants.

— The Spring Volunteer Workday at Camp Bethel in Virlina District has been rescheduled for May 2, according to the district newsletter. It begins with a free “to-go” breakfast provided from 7:30-8:15 a.m. No groups, but individual workers are welcome. Workday projects are available rain or shine; indoor and outdoor for all skill levels and all ages. Please reserve breakfast before April 25 by telephone to 540-992-2940 or . The Summer Camp Open House scheduled for March 28 has been postponed until May 23. Please refer to for more information.

— Also from Camp Bethel, an announcement that the Sounds of the Mountains annual story-telling festival is now an “at home” festival offering five one-hour online “shows” available beginning April 4 to watch anytime at . “We can’t gather, but we can laugh and sing!” said an announcement. “It’s all to raise funds to help Camp Bethel weather significant losses due to COVID-19 cancellations.” Support the camp and the festival at .

— An Elizabethtown (Pa.) College student has tested positive for the coronavirus COVID-19, according to an announcement from the college and an article posted by LancasterOnline. College president Cecilia McCormick said the student traveled overseas during spring break and has been in quarantine since March 12. “Elizabethtown and other local colleges and universities are completing the spring semester remotely as the virus continues to spread,” the article reported. McCormick said the college immediately started contacting individuals who may have had contact with the student. Read the full article at .

— “Coronavirus worries got you down? Social distancing making you feel, well…distant? We’ve just started a brand new season of the Dunker Punks Podcast!” said an invitation to listen to Brethren from across the country talk about life and the struggles of a modern-day Anabaptist. In Episode 94, titled “Will You Let Me Be Your Servant?” the podcast features a conversation about Brethren Volunteer Service from the McBride triplets who are all currently in BVS. The most recent episode delves into “The Making of a Dunker Punk” as Ben Bear talks to Donna Parcell about her life as a counter-cultural Brethren and her joys and struggles with raising another Dunker Punk. Listen to these episodes and the podcast’s extensive archive of almost 100 episodes at or on iTunes at . Participate in the continuing conversations on social media by searching @dunkerpunkspod.

— The National Council of Churches, of which the Church of the Brethren is a member denomination, is offering daily scriptures, prayers, and meditations by Christian leaders from a wide variety of church traditions. Yesterday’s meditation, for example, was written by Timothy Tee Boddie, a minister at the Alfred Street Baptist Church and immediate past general secretary and chief administrative officer of the Progressive National Baptist Convention in Washington, D.C. Find this daily devotional resource at .

— A joint statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in USA (NCC) and the Council of Churches of Cuba is calling for new measures to lessen the suffering due to inequalities between the two countries. Citing Revelation 22:2, and the close working relationship that the two have been working to build in recent years, the joint statement calls for the US government to immediately lift the economic, financial, and commercial blockade imposed on Cuba for over 60 years; calls for the cessation of “all manipulation and use of political and economic interests in the face of the current global health crisis, worsened and visualized by the COVID-19 pandemic”; requests the global community “to come together in a global effort to petition for the immediate lifting of the blockade and the cessation of all sanctions on any country or region”; and salutes ecumenical organizations including the World Council of Churches, the ACT Alliance, Religions for Peace, and Church World Service for making statements calling for an end to the blockade and sanctions. “We are grateful for the thousands of Cuban doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals who are selflessly providing lifesaving assistance throughout the world,” the joint statement added. “We know that goodwill between Cubans and Americans will help the entire world in this moment.”

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has condemned recent violence in Kabul, Afghanistan, in which a gunman claiming to represent the “Islamic State” attacked a Sikh temple complex. WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit condemned the attack and offered condolences to those who have lost loved ones. The gunman stormed a temple used by Sikh and Hindu minorities in Kabul on March 25, killing 25 worshipers during an hours-long battle with Afghan security forces, the WCC release said. Security forces rescued 80 others from the site. “People who are gathered to worship should not suffer from senseless acts of hate,” said Tveit. “Particularly during a time when the world is drawing together as one human family, this attack stands out as an offense against God and humankind.”

— Grace Ziegler of Myerstown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has received the Service to Mankind Award from the Lebanon Valley Sertoma Club. Her service experiences have included 25 years as a volunteer at the Lebanon Rescue Mission;  serving as a deaconess and Sunday School teacher and helping out as a kitchen worker at the Myerstown Church; time spent as a teacher’s aide for special needs children in the ELCO School District;  mission trips to Honduras, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Mexico; 16 years with the Church of the Brethren Disaster Relief Sale; with her late husband Victor, using their home as a private nursing home for senior citizens in the 1960s;  and together sponsoring international refugee families, foreign visitors, recently released prisoners, and families displaced by fire and other disasters. At the celebration, Representative Frank Ryan said, “Sometimes with all the strife in the world it’s easy to forget that God does place people like Grace Ziegler in our lives to make us better. Grace is truly a gift from God.” Read the full article at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Josh Brockway, Jacob Crouse, Jenn Dorsch-Messler, Jan Fischer Bachman, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Nancy Miner, LaDonna Nkosi, Marcia Shetler, 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 . All submissions are subject to editing. Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren emails, or make changes to your subscription, at .