Newsline for May 1, 2020

“So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (Galatians 6:10).


1) Church of the Brethren distributes $500,000 to Brethren retirement communities
2) Many complex new challenges face our senior living communities 
3) Children’s Disaster Services to provide individual Kit of Comfort
4) EDF grants support international COVID-19 responses and flooding response in the DRC
5) NCC governing board shares ecumenical statement envisioning a just future


6) Church of the Brethren’s summer workcamps are canceled

7) Brethren bits: Recognitions for the high school and college/university classes of 2020, naming Brethren serving in health care, special Mother’s Day package offers from Brethren Press (order now to get delivery by May 10!), and much more

Quote of the week:

“When this COVID-19 crisis begins to calm down, let’s not go back to ‘business as usual’–we are better than that. Let us continue to value relationships, be patient, and share love and kindness. Let us be more like Christ!”

— Illinois and Wisconsin District moderator Rick Koch, pastor of Milledgeville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, in the most recent issue of the district newsletter. 

Find a landing page for the Church of the Brethren’s COVID-19 related resources at .

From our Office of Mission Advancement: We invite you to join in a global day of giving and unity! This Tuesday, May 5, has been designated as #GivingTuesdayNow. To support the efforts of the Church of the Brethren during this time of pandemic, go to the Pandemic Response page and select GIVE to choose the project you would like to support. We greatly appreciate your partnership!

1) Church of the Brethren distributes $500,000 to Brethren retirement communities

By Joshua Brockway

The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren has approved a proposal to distribute $500,000 from the Health Education and Research Fund to church-related retirement communities. The proposal was presented by the Discipleship Ministries staff, who have worked with executive leadership of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes to discern the scope of need among the retirement communities and to design the best distribution of the funds.

The Fellowship of Brethren Homes is a collaborative network of retirement and assisted living communities that have roots in and connections to the Church of the Brethren. The fellowship allows for professional support among the administrative and chaplaincy staff to address key challenges of older adult care. The fellowship includes 21 retirement communities across the United States.

In the midst of the pandemic, retirement communities have been especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Leadership in the Fellowship of Brethren Homes reported that the costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff have risen significantly, in some cases upwards of 1,000 percent. The need to quarantine community members who have been infected also has required additional nursing staff and a rise in wages.

The Church of the Brethren has managed the Health Education and Research Fund since 2009. Total fund value as of the beginning of April 2020 was $2.3 million. The money given to the Fellowship of Brethren Homes will be disbursed to the 21 member retirement communities in amounts relative to the dues that they contribute to the fellowship.

Church of the Brethren management of the fund began when the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC), which had been stewarding the fund, merged with the former General Board of the denomination. Bethany Hospital in Chicago, Ill., created the fund in the late 1950s in order to raise money to re-open its school of nursing. In 1959, the hospital received approval from Annual Conference to allocate the interest of the fund to nursing scholarships. The fund has supported Church of the Brethren nursing students since its inception, and also has provided grants to Fellowship of Brethren Homes member communities to help with continuing education opportunities for staff.

— Joshua Brockway is co-coordinator of Discipleship Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, and is the denominational staff member who relates to the Fellowship of Brethren Homes.

2) Many complex new challenges face our senior living communities

By David Lawrenz

Operating a senior living community is challenging under normal circumstances. Staffing, regulations, reimbursement, uncompensated care, occupancy, public relations, natural calamities, and more offer an unlimited source of challenges and threats on a regular basis. Now, one can only try to imagine the challenges in this unprecedented time–the constant, ever-changing, seemingly insurmountable challenges involved with battling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While I hunker down and stay in the safety of my home I empathetically think of the extra, unexpected, and complex set of problems and concerns facing our Church of the Brethren-affiliated senior living communities. Such as…

Keeping key frontline staff safe, healthy, and committed to their daily care routines in spite of the demands of, and risks to, their own families.

Training staff on critical new infection control procedures.

Filling vacant positions as symptomatic staff are self-quarantined for days and weeks.

Adequately rewarding staff for their tireless and dedicated service.

Constantly seeking to acquire sufficient quantities of extremely expensive and scarce personal protective equipment.

Establishing and enforcing new and uncharacteristically strict policies in order to limit resident exposure to family, friends, delivery persons, contractors, suppliers, therapists, doctors, clergy, and others.

Creating special areas and procedures for the protective isolation of infected residents.

Acquiring telemedicine capabilities.

Developing new programs to replace group dining and activities.

Engaging isolated residents to help them contend with loneliness and boredom.

Connecting residents with families electronically.

Attempting to affect social distancing and masking needs among a group of cognitively-impaired, wandering-prone residents.

Transparently sharing essential information without creating undue alarm.

Responding to daily regulatory guidance from local, state, and federal authorities.

Terrified with every overheard cough. Anxious about the health of each and every person of the community–residents and staff. Apprehensive about what problem the next day will bring. Burdened by thoughts about what’s to come, the new reality, and how the life of the community will change.

I’m confident this is just a hint of the number and complexity of new challenges facing our senior living communities. 

Pre-retirement I served for several years as executive administrator of Timbercrest, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in North Manchester, Ind. From experience, I know the typical stresses and strains involved in operating a senior living community, but I never experienced any challenge with the magnitude of COVID-19. In my current role as executive director of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes (FBH) I am removed from the life-altering problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. So I support from a distance. I pray for our FBH communities as a group and individually. I pray for their strength, persistence, and determination. Amidst my prayers I find comfort in knowing the good people involved with these communities, good people up and down the organization. All are committed to their mission and ministry. All are intent on doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. All genuinely care for the people they serve. 

The Church of the Brethren has a long and respected tradition of providing exceptional care and services to older adults. That tradition and the values upon which it was founded are serving our communities well. This means you, I, and the residents and families served by our retirement communities can rest assured that all challenges, normal and extraordinary, are being met with competence and compassion. May God bless them all! 

— David Lawrenz is executive director of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes.

3) Children’s Disaster Services to provide individual Kit of Comfort

The new individual Kit of Comfort to be used by Children’s Disaster Services in the 2020 disaster season. Photo courtesy of CDS

The staff of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) have been working on a shift to new ways of serving children who are affected by disasters this year. The pandemic is affecting how volunteer organizations respond to disasters as they operate with caution and adapt to restrictions on face-to-face contact. During a time when CDS volunteers may not be able to work at disaster sites, CDS will be providing an individual Kit of Comfort for children.

An initial grant of $10,000 has been given from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund for materials to pack a first round of 575 individual kits to hand out to children after a disaster, along with parental resources.
“The upcoming 2020 disaster season, generally marked with hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and wildfires, will still be a reality for many areas of the country, regardless of COVID-19 being present,” said the grant request. “CDS recognizes the challenges disasters bring, and with additional restrictions in place to combat the spread of the virus, is prepared to respond in new ways to help children after a disaster with a creative and innovative approach.”
CDS staff have been in discussion with the Red Cross about how to provide activities and resources to children affected by disasters, when no communal play spaces are allowed and families are housed in hotel rooms not shelters. In response to this shift from hands-on to distant support, CDS has developed an individual Kit of Comfort as a mini-version of its traditional kit that teams of volunteers take to disaster sites for open-ended, creative play options in a communal play space.

The new individual Kit of Comfort will be distributed to children who have been displaced by a disaster. It will contain multiple activities for children to use within their new environments to encourage creative play and help begin their healing process. The individual Kit of Comfort will be assembled in both English and Spanish versions and will include resources for parents. The packs are small enough to be easy to ship and store, while still providing a variety of fun and a sense of normalcy to a child when they need it most. Some key features of the individual kit are toy cars, art supplies, finger puppets, a jump rope, and activity idea sheets.

For more about Children’s Disaster Services go to . To donate financially to this effort, give online to the Emergency Disaster Fund at .

4) EDF grants support international COVID-19 responses and flooding response in the DRC

Flooding in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries have directed several grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to COVID-19 responses by sister churches and groups in Haiti, Spain, and Ecuador, as well as to response to flooding in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


A grant of $35,000 supports Eglise des Freres d’ Haiti (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) in its response to COVID-19. Although as of April 23 the Johns Hopkins Dashboard shows only 62 confirmed cases and 4 deaths in Haiti, the virus is just starting to spread in the country. The government officially shut down businesses, gatherings, and travel on March 19, but is not enforcing closures in all areas. Many Haitians continue to sell goods on streets or to work to support their families. In urban areas Haitians live in cramped conditions with large extended families, adding to fears of rapid spreading of COVID-19. Eglise des Freres reports the government stay-at-home order affects most Haitians who work daily to feed their families, stating simply, “More people are starving with the coming of COVID-19 in the country.” Church leadership has developed a proposal to provide 800 of the most vulnerable families in their congregations and surrounding communities with three months of food distributions, supplemented by face masks, soap, and other cleaning supplies.


A grant of $14,000 has been given for COVID-19 response by Iglesia de los Hermanos–Una Luz En Las Naciones (the Church of the Brethren in Spain). Spain has been one of the countries most affected by the pandemic, with more than 230,000 confirmed cases and nearly 24,000 deaths as of the time of the grant request. The country has been in a state of emergency since March 15, raising unemployment numbers to 3.5 million workers or 14.4 percent of eligible workers. Leaders of the seven congregations of the Church of the Brethren in Spain report that many of their members are single parents or single-income homes, unable to work because of the shutdown. The most vulnerable are working as maids, part-time municipal building cleaners, nannies, or providing childcare. Being recent immigrants or temporary workers, some church members are not eligible for unemployment or any other COVID-19 relief funding to help with their bills or purchasing food.


An allocation of $6,000 supports a program of Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU) to address food needs in Ecuador, where the pandemic and government mitigation measures are creating hardships for many and limiting access to food for those most at risk. Prior to this crisis, Ecuador’s unemployment was nearly 40 percent of working-age people and nearly that many are living on less than $5 a day. FBU is one of the remaining institutions from Church of the Brethren mission work in past decades. It is a non-governmental organization focused on environmental education for youth. The Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative manager Jeff Boshart serves on the FBU board of directors and FBU has received several GFI grants over the past three years. FBU has proposed three primary goals for a program responding to the pandemic: increased production of organic fruits, vegetables, and grains to address food needs in their region; providing emergency food assistance for four months to 40 families (160 people) living in extreme poverty; providing a training program of proper cleaning and disinfection of foods for other food producers.

Democratic Republic of Congo

An allocation of $20,000 supports the Church of the Brethren-related Shalom Ministries in its flood relief efforts. Heavy rainfall in the east provinces of the DRC on April 16-17 caused significant flooding, with the heaviest rain in South Kivu. The flooding left at least 36 dead, displaced more than 80,000 people, and damaged or destroyed 15,000 homes plus businesses, medical clinics, and seven bridges. Many more families lost all their stored food, household supplies, clothing, and bedding. Continuing rain has made relief efforts difficult and has closed roads. In the town of Uvira, the Mulongwe River flooded, causing the greatest damage in the region and affecting many Church of the Brethren members. The home of the local Church of the Brethren pastor, Ron Lubungo, was among those flooded. The grant will help Shalom Ministries provide household supplies to 500 households or about 4,000 people. Each family will receive a mattress, cooking pot, plates, cups, and silverware, combined with a tarp provided by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

For more information and to contribute financially to the ministry of the Emergency Disaster Fund go to .

5) NCC governing board shares ecumenical statement envisioning a just future

Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, has represented the Church of the Brethren at a meeting of the governing board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC). The April 28 meeting was the first held by the NCC since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first time the group has met by video-conference, said an NCC release. Participants discussed critical issues facing the nation and world, with matters surrounding the global pandemic dominating the agenda.

Hosler shared the following with Newsline:

Now Is a Time to Imagine a Bold New Future
A statement by the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches

“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
–Psalm 46:10-11

The Governing Board of the National Council of Churches, meeting during the Easter season 2020, sends greetings to all with the eternal message, “Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!” 

These joyful words are a balm, especially, during these difficult days when the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping over the country, and indeed the entire world, causing illness, death, and the disruption of lives and livelihoods.  At the time of our meeting, April 28, 3,090,844 people worldwide have tested positive for the virus, and 213,273 have died. 

In the United States alone, there are 1,003,844 cases, and 57,962 deaths have been reported.  Fortunately, some areas in the country and around the world are experiencing a decrease in the daily numbers of confirmed, new cases of infection. It remains uncertain whether these positive trends will continue or if a new wave of the virus will emerge. Thus we acknowledge that uncertainty and fear remain. In the midst of such tribulation, we claim that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NRSV). 

This pandemic shines a light on our ability as a nation and as a people to rally together in a time of crisis. We rejoice and express thanks for all those who are providing aid and comfort to the ill and suffering. This includes first responders, medical personnel, chaplains, and others providing humanitarian assistance. Our prayers are with the scientists and researchers and other experts who are working on improved testing, new vaccines, and guidelines that will enable a return to normal life.

We are grateful to the countless individuals who have come to the aid of their neighbors out of moral conviction, religious faith, or love.  We also give thanks for educators, civic officials, and religious leaders, who are learning new, creative ways to teach, lead, and minister to their communities.

This pandemic also shines a light on the hierarchy of human life as we live it. Many essential workers considered essential are treated as expendable. Grocery clerks, orderlies, custodians, restaurant workers, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and countless others — are at the bottom of the economic ladder.  They are required to show up at work and maintain the comfort of others without having necessary resources to protect themselves or their families. We support measures to safeguard their well-being and elevate their economic and social status.

We urge everyone to continue to adapt to those guidelines which will limit the spread of the virus. Now is not the time to ignore measures intended to limit illness and loss of life.   

As we are mindful of all the good happening around us, we must also name the injustices and challenges that we confront.  This crisis reveals dangerous biases.  In particular, we condemn the hate-speech and hate-crimes directed against the Asian-American community, as well as attacks on our siblings of other ethnic and religious backgrounds who are experiencing hatred and xenophobia during this time.

The pandemic has uncovered the systemic racism and classism that is intrinsically part of our national DNA and has shined a light on the vast disparities in our healthcare system. Large cities are reporting over 70% of reported deaths are of African Americans.

A grossly disproportionate number of persons of color are suffering and dying from COVID-19 because of the systemic poverty and racism that plagues our society. We reiterate our determination as a Council to work to end racism.

Further, the economic collapse that is underway shines a light on the weakness of our social safety net, including economic and healthcare inequities, and the tenuous nature of our purported prosperity now that tens of millions have quickly been thrown out of work. As some corporate interests rightly seek government funding to support their workers, others inappropriately seek vast sums from our government to enrich themselves; meanwhile, those of more humble means have received inadequate assistance. We pledge to continue to advocate for our nation’s resources to be utilized to help the most vulnerable among us, including immigrants and refugees.

Finally, this is a time of grief and sadness for millions of people. The loss of life and the numbers who are suffering is staggering. The anguish is compounded by our inability to be near our loved ones as they pass away and to gather in community to celebrate their lives and participate in rites of committal. Although many have died alone, they are not expendable and their loss to us is irreplaceable. We pray that their memory be eternal, and that their loved ones be comforted.

As people and communities of faith, we know that God is with us, and that we are all in this beautiful creation together.  A central message of the ecumenical movement has been the resolve to stay together despite our differences. When we do so as a society, we are able to coordinate and extend our response to the pandemic and, in seeking to remedy the weaknesses and faults in our society that this pandemic has exposed, insist that those who are suffering be placed at the center of our concern.

Now is a time to imagine a bold new future, and a way forward that considers the best interests of all of God’s people. The pandemic is a crisis and all crises provide opportunities for change and renewal. People seek and need connection with one another and they desire to collaborate to build a new future that integrates justice and peace with health and well-being. We celebrate that and we are committed to participating as full partners in working for the beloved community.

Find the statement online at .


6) Church of the Brethren’s summer workcamps are canceled

From the Workcamp Ministry

It is with a heavy heart that we are writing to announce the decision to cancel all workcamps this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In cancelling workcamps, we are choosing to prioritize health and safety and protect workcamp participants, local communities, and service site partners from unnecessary risk. Please know that this was not an easy decision to make and that we will greatly miss serving alongside the workcamp participants this year.

Although we cannot gather in person, we are excited to announce that we have a new plan to stay connected with those who registered for workcamps. We will be offering weekly times of connection, reflection, and fellowship from the end of June to the beginning of August. We will invite participants to join us via Zoom each week to hear a reflection on the workcamp curriculum from a workcamp director, engage in a discussion, and play some fun virtual games! For those who can’t join us live, we’ll post a video of the reflection to watch later.

Additionally, we will be sending all registered participants a digital copy of our 2020 participant devotional book to follow along with this year’s curriculum, “Voices for Peace.” Advisors may receive a digital copy of the leadership book in addition to the participant book.

What about money? Registrants have been invited to let us know which of the following three options they choose: to donate any portion of what they have already paid as a gift to support Church of the Brethren ministries, and get a refund of anything beyond what they would like to donate; to make a donation of $75 or more and receive a 2020 workcamp t-shirt as a “thank you” for supporting the workcamp ministry, as well as a printed version of the participant devotional book; or to receive a full refund.

We continue to pray for all of you, for those who are ill with COVID-19, for their families, and for the front-line workers who are responding to this crisis. May we find healing in each other, peace in God’s everlasting presence, and hope in the ways that God continues to move in and through all of us.

— Hannah Shultz, coordinator of Short-term Service, and Kara Miller and Liana Smith, assistant workcamp coordinators and volunteer recruiters serving through Brethren Volunteer Service. For questions or concerns contact or 847-429-4337. Find out more about the Workcamp Ministry at .

7) Brethren bits

— “We want to recognize your seniors! Tell us who they are and send a picture!” said an invitation from “Messenger” magazine and the Youth and Young Adult Ministry. This is an effort to give special recognition to the high school and college/university classes of 2020, who because of the pandemic are missing out on many beloved, land-mark events like high school proms and in-person graduation ceremonies. “Messenger” plans to publish a spread of names and photos. Submit information and photos at .

— Newsline would like to collect and publish a list of Brethren active in health care across the denomination in order to help us recognize, thank, and pray for Church of the Brethren members who are caring for people’s health right now. Newsline readers are invited to submit the first name, home county, and state of Brethren active in health care–from nurses and doctors, to pharmacists and aides, to chaplains and EMTs, to hospital volunteers and staff of clinics and retirement communities, to dentists and physical therapists, and other roles in direct health care. In order to maintain confidentiality the listing will feature only first names and location by state and county, so as not to fully identify anyone online. Submit by email to .

The Brethren Press Poetry Collection gift package for Mother’s Day 2020

 “Brethren Press is an excellent source for Mother’s Day gifts,” said an announcement of a Brethren Press special offer of gift packages for Mother’s Day. “Whether you are looking to remember Mom with a good book, awesome apparel, or a unique gift package, Brethren Press has you covered. Orders received by May 5 will be shipped out in time for Mother’s Day delivery, so don’t delay.” Visit to find out more about the special offers that include significant discounts on some of the publishing house’s best sellers such as the Inglenook Cookbook series and recent volumes of poetry. To order, go to .

— Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has added a number of new resources for children and families to its COVID-19 resources page. Go to .

 The Death Row Support Project, a Church of the Brethren-related project, is publicizing an essay written by Joel Freedman about corresponding with a death row inmate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find it at .

— Tim Button-Harrison, district executive minister for the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Plains District, was among denominational leaders in Iowa who released a joint statement of concern about the state governor’s declaration allowing a resumption of in-person religious gatherings. “As denominational leaders in the Christian tradition, we are united in our concern regarding Governor Kim Reynolds’ declaration to allow spiritual and religious gatherings in Iowa,” the joint statement said, in part. “It was with surprise we learned of the Governor’s proclamation and, as such, we feel compelled to provide clarity and guidance of what it means for congregations to be faithful and safe during these extraordinary times. In the spirit of ecumenism, we join together in asking congregations and members across the state to take faithful action by refraining from in-person religious gatherings, including worship. We encourage and hope that congregations will worship and gather in community from afar continuing the use of technology and other means. Decisions to return to in-person gatherings in our congregations should be based on science, the best practices recommended by public health officials, and in consultation with the leaders of our faith communities.” The statement continued: “It is by our faith that we are compelled to love our neighbor. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, that love comes to expression by remaining physically apart. Loving our neighbor, and thereby the whole community, includes putting public health and the well being of others ahead of the natural desire to be physically present together in community and in worship.” Find the full statement a list of the church leaders who signed it at .

A creative handwashing station in Elgin, Ill. Photo courtesy of Highland Ave. Church of the Brethren

— Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., has been instrumental in advocating for a handwashing station for residents who don’t have shelter in downtown Elgin. Cheryl Gray, a church volunteer who leads the congregation’s Community Engagement Team and ongoing Soup Kettle ministry, helped advocate with city leaders to provide restroom and hygiene facilities for the homeless population. Reported Gray in the church newsletter: “As businesses and other facilities shuttered mid-March at the urging of our Governor, Elgin residents who lived unsheltered in downtown Elgin found themselves without any restroom facilities. Even the lobby of the Elgin Police Department was deemed off-limits due to COVID-19. The City placed two port-o-lets in Carleton Rogers Park but were reluctant to provide more facilities for handwashing because of potential vandalism or other misuse.” After some weeks of communications with city officials, a creative handwashing station was built by the city’s Public Works Department. The newsletter described the handwashing station as having three spigots and a drinking fountain that use a fire hydrant as a water source. The church is providing bars of soap that hang by the water spigots in nylon stockings–“a Brethren-like move,” the newsletter commented. Signs posted at the site indicate that users can get individual bars of soap at the Soup Kettle.

— West Green Tree Church of the Brethren is planning an online “Worship Hymn Sing Along” via its YouTube channel. “Enjoy your favorite hymns as we praise and adore our mighty God,” said an invitation. Participants are invited to sing along during the live-streamed event on Monday, May 4, at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). Go to .

— Illinois and Wisconsin District disaster response coordinator Loren Habegger has shared an urgent message from the state’s VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters) on the need to support food banks and pantries. “The food bank /pantries are facing imminent substantial shortages from an increased demand in part related to families with bread winners being unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the email. “Food banks are seeing 70 percent more people seeking assistance with 40 percent of people first-time users.” The email went on to list the eight regional food banks that are coordinated by Feeding Illinois, for the purpose of sending donations. Each state will have its own list of regional food banks in need of donations and volunteer support at this time. “Alternatively, donations can be made directly to various local food pantries in your area that coordinate with the regional banks. Donation of ‘shelf-stable’ items to local pantries is also encouraged,” said the email. “Thank you for considering your participation in addressing this urgent need.” Find a national listing of food banks at .

— Northern Ohio District youth coordinator Esther Harsh has announced a “Training on Suicide and Adolescents” as a virtual online event on Tuesday, May 12, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Eastern time). “This training is designed for youth leaders, pastors, parents, and those working with youth,” said the announcement. “We will be learning from Arin Wade, Suicide Prevention Specialist from the Center for Suicide Prevention Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Some of the topics being discussed are risk factors and warning signs of teen/adolscent depression and suicide, what to do if suspected, the importance of adults empowering youth, and emotional wellness.” The training will be presented online via Zoom. Registration is required, go to .

— In a camp update from Northern Plains District, Matt and Betsy Kuecker have been hired as directors of Camp Pine Lake. “Matt has served as the property manager for more than 10 years, and he and Betsy worked as camp managers from 2009-2013. The whole Kuecker family is excited to serve the camp community,” said the district newsletter announcement. “Rhonda Pittman Gingrich will be the 2020 program director. The camp board and staff have not made a final call on the 2020 camp season. Expect communication regarding summer camp dates in mid-May.”

Camp Brethren Woods director Doug Phillips offers to undergo a large-size Dunk the Dunkard Bucket Challenge. Photo courtesy of Shenandoah District

— Camp Brethren Woods has published an update in the Shenandoah District newsletter, written by camp director Doug Phillips. The piece announced that the camp’s annual Spring Festival is happening in a new and different way this year. “Friends of the Camp are all doing their part to make the Spring Festival a success with 5K walks and runs, a half marathon, and funds donated,” Phillips wrote. “At the moment, about 15 pastors are lined up for the Dunk the Dunkard Bucket Challenge, or to contribute in some way. Here’s a serious bucket challenge: If 20 pastors agree to do something for the Spring Festival and friends of the camp raise $1,000, Doug will be tractor-bucket poured. You can send a check to the camp at 4896 Armentrout Path, Keezletown, VA 22832, or go online to donate. Doug needs to get wet, and he also needs a haircut!” Also still in the works is an auction, one of the most popular events at the Spring Festival, this year being held via Facebook. Find out more at . 

— Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., has been sharing “Camp Bethel…At Home,” a series of fun videos posted on its website. Camp staff and volunteers are participating by posting videos of themselves offering typical camp activities as they stay “safe at home,” for example video clips titled “Wesley Cooks Indoor S’Mores” and “Jenny and Spencer Sing ‘Hey Burrito.’” Find these video clips and more information from the camp at .

— Camp Mardela has postponed the camp auction that had been scheduled for May 9 in Denton, Md. This annual fundraiser for the camp is rescheduled to Saturday, Oct. 3, at the camp pavilion. More details will follow in the months ahead as they become available. “As always, we are grateful for the support of the camp and its ministries, especially during this challenging time,” said Camp Mardela board chair Walt Wiltschek, in an announcement of the decision.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has announced more awards being given to students this year in honor of retired faculty.
     Three seniors–Lane S. Salisbury of Frederick, Md., Autumn F. Shifflett of McGaheysville, Va., and Sarah K. Wampler of Nokesville, Va.–received the Donald R. Witters Psychology Awards. The psychology awards are named in honor of Donald R. Witters, who retired at the end of the 2005-2006 academic year as professor of psychology, emeritus. He joined the Bridgewater faculty in 1968 as a professor of psychology and served as chair of the department from 1990 to 1996.
     Sydney D.  Cook of Gloucester, Va., and Virginia P. Nordeng of Broadway, Va., were presented Raymond N. Andes Awards for Spanish. The awards honor the late Dr. Andes, a 1940 graduate who was a former chair of the world languages and cultures department and taught French from 1946 until he retired in 1983.

— The Global Women’s Project has announced its annual Mother’s Day Gratitude Project. “Rather than buying more material gifts for your loved one, express your gratitude with a gift that helps other women around the world. Your donation allows us to fund projects focused on women’s health, education, and employment. In return, your chosen recipient(s) will receive a lovely, hand-written card indicating that a gift has been made in her honor, with a brief description of GWP. Contact Global Women’s Project via its website at .

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is holding an online event on May 7 at 12 noon (Central time) to hear from teams in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, and the Turtle Island Solidarity Network. “Representatives from each team will be providing updates about our partners, what’s happening on the ground, and how we are continuing our work during these uncertain times,” said an announcement from the organization that had its start as an initiative of the three historic peace churches including the Church of the Brethren. “There will also be a space for the teams to answer any questions you might have. We hope to see you there! Go to .

— An economy of life in a time of COVID-19 was the topic of a series of two e-conferences on April 17 and 24. The events co-sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation, World Communion of Reformed Churches, and Council for World Mission brought together some 25 participants to reflect on the socio-economic-ecological impact of the COVID-19 crisis and how it offers the world an opportunity to rethink and reshape financial and economic systems to prioritize ensuring and investing in the health and well-being of communities and the planet. “In the harsh light of COVID-19, we see more clearly the great inequality of income and wealth. We see the massive gender inequities and generational disparities of our economies,” said Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary, in a release. “Our responses to the pandemic could very well rewrite the world for the better, and fundamentally transform the way we live, what we eat and buy, what we produce, how we distribute goods and where we invest.” The e-conference sessions were part of an initiative of the four organizations called “New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA),” which seeks to promote an alternative financial system that should emerge from the imagination of the margins, from those who have been left out of social-economic and political decision-making. The two sessions led to the development of a common message from the convening organizations as the basis of advocacy with key financial and economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, G20, and United Nations. Read the release at .

— A total of 50.8 million people around the world were recorded as internally displaced last year, forced from their homes by conflict and disaster, according to a new report published in “The Guardian” newspaper out of the UK. “This is the highest number ever, and 10 million more than in 2018,” the article said. Find the report at .

— “China Christian Daily” has republished online an article first published by the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine in 1989. The piece by Dorotha Winger Fry, titled “The Saga of China’s Pastor Yin,” tells the story of Yin Ji Zeng, son of Yin Han Zhang who was the first Chinese elder in the Church of the Brethren. Yin Ji Zeng was born October 31,1910, in Shandong Province, but his family moved to Shanxi Province when he was 18 months old and it was there that he grew up in the Church of the Brethren. Read the full article as republished by “China Christian Daily” at .

Face masks sewn by Rhonda Bingman of the Church of the Brethren congregation in Ankeny, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Northern Plains District

— Rhonda Bingman’s home-sewn masks were featured in a collection of pictures from around Northern Plains District. Bingman is a member of the Church of the Brethren congregation in Ankeny, Iowa. “She has been sewing masks for friends, family, and the community,” said the district newsletter.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Joshua Brockway, Jan Fischer Bachman, Cheryl Gray, Nathan Hosler, David Lawrenz, Jeff Lennard, Steven D. Martin, Nancy Miner, Hannah Shultz, Walt Wiltschek, 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 .

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