Newsline for Nov. 21, 2020

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries directs EDF grants to hurricane relief in Central America

2) Global Brethren Communion holds second meeting as virtual gathering

3) Bethany Seminary announces tuition freeze in response to student need

4) West Charleston celebrates Thanksgiving with ‘Flat Mack’

5) Brethren Volunteer Service offers a virtual orientation this Winter

6) Celebrating Thanksgiving in spite of the pandemic (and maybe a little because of it)

7) Brethren bits: Last call for Brethren Insurance Services open enrollment, BBT extends COVID-19 emergency grant program, Brethren Disaster Ministries celebrates two house blessings, Brethren Historical Library and Archives plans next online tour of “1700s Publications,” prayer requests from Nigeria, and more

Quote of the week:

“Yes, I know that none of this is the same as the personal touch of a hand, seeing a smile that is now hidden by a face covering, or hugging a person who is grieving, but this does not keep us from being grateful people of God. We can be grateful for what we can do as people of God, for a relationship with God that gives us hope and strength to endure, for wisdom from God to learn and grow in our abilities and capacities to use this time for the glory of God and our neighbor’s good.”

— From “Cindy’s Insights” on Thanksgiving in the latest newsletter from Missouri and Arkansas District, written by district executive minister Cindy Sanders.

Find our landing page of Church of the Brethren COVID-19 related resources and information at

Find Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship at

A listing to recognize Brethren who are active in health care is at To add a person to this listing, send an email with first name, county, and state to

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries directs EDF grants to hurricane relief in Central America

Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed two grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to assist the hurricane relief work of partner organizations in Central America. The grants respond to needs following two hurricanes that have hit Central America this month, Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Hurricane Iota made landfall in Nicaragua on Nov. 16 as a category 4 storm and traveled through Central America for three days dumping heavy rain and causing widespread flooding and landslides, with Honduras taking the brunt of the storm. Just two weeks previously, Hurricane Eta made landfall on Nov. 3 causing extensive flooding and mudslides that damaged roads, destroyed bridges, and isolated entire regions of Central America. The people most affected by the storms were already dealing with high unemployment, food insecurity, and hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic.

PAG delivers food and other relief supplies to Hondurans whose homes were destroyed in the hurricanes that hit Central America this month. Photo copyright PAG

A grant of $25,000 has been designated to support hurricane relief programing in Honduras by Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG). This nonprofit humanitarian and development organization has connections to the Church of the Brethren and is led by church member Chet Thomas. After Hurricane Eta, PAG quickly organized a relief program providing 8,500 family food bags (for a week of provisions), used clothing, mattresses, health kits, blankets, shoes, and family hygiene kits to 50 communities before hurricane Iota struck. A Nov. 18 update from PAG reported that as staff waited for roads to open, they were putting together additional family food bags and health kits. PAG’s priorities are to provide food for those who have been displaced and lost their homes and to repair community water systems, restoring the availability of potable water. This initial grant also will support PAG’s work to develop a longer term recovery plan.

“The government estimates that half of the 9 million people in Honduras have been directly affected by these two hurricanes,” said Thomas. “Priority right now is food for those have been displaced and lost their homes. More than 600 shelters over the entire country contain tens of thousands of displaced families and all will need food and some kind of shelter in order to return to their communities. Another big priority for us is the repair of hundreds of community water systems as food and potable water are the first needs. We hope to help those farmers who lost their grain crops to replant at least an acre of corn, beans, or vegetables.”

A grant of $10,000 supports the Church World Service (CWS) response to the hurricanes in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. CWS has long-term partners in the three countries. Its response will focus on providing food and hygiene kits for families in six communities in Nicaragua, as well as recreational activities for children in shelters; supporting families and individuals in Honduras with food kits, hygiene kits, and psychosocial support; and providing aid to at-risk families in Guatemala who have an incarcerated parent(s) and supporting penitentiary guards who lost their homes in the storm. Additional grants are anticipated to support the long-term recovery programs to be developed by CWS in coming months.

Give to the Emergency Disaster Fund to support Brethren Disaster Ministries and the work of disaster relief in Central America and elsewhere. Go to

2) Global Brethren Communion holds second meeting as virtual gathering

By Norm and Carol Spicher Waggy

In December 2019, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) hosted a gathering of representatives from seven global Church of the Brethren denominations. A second gathering in person was not possible this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the first virtual Global Church of the Brethren Communion meeting was held on Nov. 10.

Despite some technical difficulties with Internet connections and time zone confusions, 15 brothers and sisters representing 5 of the 11 international Church of the Brethren denominations met together by Zoom conference call. No business was conducted. Instead, this was a time for trying out the Zoom/Internet connection, addressing time zone and translation issues, sharing joys and concerns, and expressing prayers and support for each other. The world COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all groups and continues to be a prayer concern.

Another Zoom meeting is scheduled for Dec. 15. We hope to be able to arrange for representatives from all 11 Church of the Brethren denominations around the world to meet together for sharing, support, and to begin addressing organizational matters.

— Norm and Carol Spicher Waggy are interim directors of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren.

3) Bethany Seminary announces tuition freeze in response to student need

A Bethany Seminary release

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, Bethany Theological Seminary has chosen to freeze its tuition rate for the 2021-22 academic year. Bethany tuition is an exceptional value at $500 per credit hour or a base rate of $1,100 per semester for students who qualify for scholarships and other financial aid.

“We are absolutely committed to making an extraordinary biblical and theological education affordable and accessible to all our students,” says president Jeff Carter. “Those who are answering a call to ministry and service and are prepared to meet the challenges of an excellent seminary education should not be impeded by financial concerns. This tuition freeze is a direct response to the pandemic, but it is part of Bethany’s larger effort to help students earn their degree without taking on additional student or consumer debt.”

Bethany offers the Master of Divinity, the Master of Arts, the Master of Arts in Theopoetics and Writing, and six graduate certificate programs. The seminary offers both residential and distance learning options, including a robust investment in technology that has allowed classes to continue through the pandemic without interruption. Graduates answer the call to such careers as pastoral ministry, chaplaincy, non-profit leadership, writing, and teaching.

Bethany is responding to changes in American higher education and the church by taking measures to increase scholarships, housing assistance, and work opportunities for residential students, and by offering coursework related to personal finance. As result of these efforts, in the last five years, 70 percent of Bethany students graduated with no additional student debt.

According to Lori Current, executive director for Admissions and Student Services, the pandemic is placing additional financial pressures on many prospective students. “We understand that this is a particularly challenging time for everyone. We hear from many individuals who are considering seminary that they are particularly concerned about the cost of attendance and uncertainty about future employment,” says Current. “This tuition freeze is one way that we can bolster current and future students. Anyone who is wondering if this a good time to enter seminary should know that Bethany is prepared to offer qualified students the educational, spiritual, and financial support they need to answer their call.”

Learn more about Bethany by joining admissions counselor Gaby Chacón on Zoom on Monday, Dec. 7, 7-8 p.m. (Eastern time). Attendees should RSVP at Those who attend will receive an extension until Dec. 15 on the application deadline for the spring semester and they can apply for only $25–a 50 percent discount on the application fee. For more information, email

4) West Charleston celebrates Thanksgiving with ‘Flat Mack’

By Irvin Heishman

Unable to have our traditional indoor Thanksgiving worship service and carry-in meal, the church leadership team at West Charleston Church of the Brethren in Tipp City, Ohio, engaged in a session of creative thinking in which “Flat Mack” was born.

At left: Flat Mack at West Charleston Church of the Brethren. At right: the Strayers grandchildren enjoy online schooling with Flat Mack.

It’s a spin on the children’s book series by Jeff Brown about the adventures of Flat Stanley. Julia Lutz used modge podge to mount photos of Alexander Mack onto foam board, creating “Flat Mack.” A kick off for Flat Mack’s congregational visits, focused on illustrating what members are thankful to God for, was planned for Nov. 1. A “grab and go” meal of turkey bratwurst and fixings was prepared and served to members who came to the drive through at the front doors of the church. There they were able to meet Flat Mack for the first time.

Since then, Flat Mack has been making his way among the members of the congregation. Photos of his visits and all the things members are thankful for are being posted on the church’s Facebook page, one each day. In our Zoom worship, Sonia Ewald introduced children to the story of Alexander Mack during the children’s story time, sharing from the book Alexander Mack: A Man who Rippled the Waters by Myrna Grove. During a recent Zoom service, Don Buccholtz shared about what he learned from his visit to Germantown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, the first Brethren congregation in the Americas, and Wissahickon Creek, site of the first Brethren baptisms in the Americas. On Nov. 22, Alexander Mack himself in the person of A. Mack (aka Larry Glick) may make a surprise visit to the Zoom service.

Flat Mack has turned out to be a fun and playful alternative to the Thanksgiving traditions that have to be set aside this year for reasons of safety.

— Irvin Heishman is one of the pastors of West Charleston Church of the Brethren in Tipp City, Ohio. Find the church’s Facebook page and more about Flat Mack at


5) Brethren Volunteer Service offers a virtual orientation this Winter

By Pauline Liu

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) will be holding a virtual Winter Orientation for Unit 328. Due to the number of interested applicants and the continued health concerns over the pandemic, BVS has made the decision to offer a virtual orientation for new volunteers from Jan. 31-Feb. 12, 2021.

Following the same format as the summer and fall units, the winter orientation will be two weeks long and will be done while volunteers are already at their project sites. This builds in a two-week quarantine time so that volunteers are ready to begin serving as soon as orientation is completed.

The BVS staff is working hard to include as many aspects of the traditional orientation as possible. The volunteers will gather virtually to grow in faith; learn about Brethren history, service, and social justice issues; build community; work together to accomplish common tasks; and have fun. Because of this new format, staff will be working with volunteers to discern their project placements ahead of the orientation, a process that typically is done during the traditional three-week orientation.

The application deadline for the Winter Orientation and Unit 328 is Monday, Dec. 14. The application form is online at To express interest in joining this unit and to request more information please reach out to the BVS staff at

Upcoming orientation units

Winter 2021, Unit 328: Jan. 31-Feb. 12, 2021 (virtual). Applications are due Dec. 14.

Summer 2021, Unit 329: July 18-Aug. 6, 2021 (in-person at Camp Harmony in Hooversville, Pa.). Applications are due June 4, 2021.

Fall 2021, Unit 330: Sept. 19-Oct. 8, 2021 (in-person at Camp Brethren Heights in Rodney, Mich.). Applications are due July 2, 2021.

Find out more about Brethren Volunteer Service at

– Pauline Liu is Brethren Volunteer Service interim Volunteer and Orientation coordinator.


6) Celebrating Thanksgiving in spite of the pandemic (and maybe a little because of it)

From the Well Now! newsletter published by Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT)

Here are some things for you to think about–things you might do to celebrate Thanksgiving during the pandemic.

Enjoy a virtual dinner: Set up a virtual Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. Bring everyone into a Zoom meeting where you all can see one another on screen around the Thanksgiving table. Maybe you can coordinate so you are carving the turkey and eating at the same time.

Cook or bake together online: Arrange for as many family members or friends as you want to include to join a Zoom session. Position your camera so it shows your workspace and have the others do likewise. Then cook or bake the same thing following a recipe you have e-mailed earlier.

Collect recipes: Plan ahead to exchange recipes and create a small Thanksgiving Recipe Book.

Games! After dinner you can play one of many online games. (Google “online family games” for ideas.)

Watch an inter-faith service: See if you can find a community Thanksgiving service that was produced to be seen online and watch together virtually.

Watch a favorite movie: There are so many Christmas movies, but did you know there are Thanksgiving movies? Many of them are delightful, and watching them together as a family is another activity to enjoy from the safety of home. (Google “best Thanksgiving movies” for ideas.)

Take a walk: Gather everyone in your household, go outside, and take a walk together. It will be easy to stay socially distanced. You can take your smartphone and even include family and friends from afar through Facetime or something similar.

Go for a ride: You can take a drive through picturesque local neighborhoods or drive out into the countryside. If your household group is large, use several vehicles and make a caravan, making sure everyone is wearing a mask. You can even invite friends with whom you cannot gather. They can stay in their separate cars and you can communicate through Bluetooth or using your smartphones on speaker.

Think about what matters: Take some time with people in your household or people online to think together and talk about what you all are thankful for. You might ask a question like: If your house burned and you could save one thing, what would it be and why? Think of an item you own that brings you joy, and share the story of why you find joy in it.

Think about who matters: Ask the question: who is the person or persons you cannot do without?

Enjoy songs and music: Here is a link to some songs that loosely qualify as Thanksgiving songs. If you’re a musical family, you can sing songs in your household, or enjoy listening to some together through Zoom.

Reminisce about way back when: Ask the oldest people online or in person what Thanksgiving was like when they were kids.

Ponder: Take a few moments of your own private time to remember why you are thankful and what you are thankful for.

Write thank you notes: Think of someone you are thankful for or have wonderful memories of, and write a thank you note or letter to them.

7) Brethren bits

“Time is running out!” said an announcement from Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). “Open enrollment for Brethren Insurance Services ends Nov. 30, so now is the time to sign up for new insurance products, add coverage for products you already use, increase limits, and make other changes. And you can do all this without medical underwriting.” Go to to see the array of insurance products available to people who are employed by the many different organizations of the church.

In more news from BBT, the agency has extended its COVID-19 emergency grant program. In response to the coronavirus pandemic last spring, BBT created a streamlined COVID-19 emergency grant program. The initial program ran through July, but due to continuing need, a second block of grant money was made available through November. Now, as the pandemic continues to cause financial hardship, a third block of COVID-19 grant money is available for applications received between Dec. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. Inquiries should be directed to Debbie Butcher at 847-622-3391 or Find an application form on the BBT website at

Brethren Disaster Ministries posted about two house blessings on Facebook this week, for homes that have been repaired or rebuilt following disasters. “We are grateful and thankful for our partner agencies, Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders and Pamlico County Disaster Recovery Coalition, and the many volunteers who contributed to our ability to have these two house blessings,” said the post. “We were all truly blessed in serving you Darvella, as well as Roosevelt and Inez. Welcome Home! We pray that you are blessed with many more years in your homes!”

— Prayer is requested by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) for the death of seven people in an auto accident on their way back to Maiduguri from the International Christian Centre, Uhogua, Benin, Edo State. Officials at the Christian Association of Nigeria Centre in Maiduguri said the group included three pregnant mothers who had left the camp to bring back their children who were schooling in Benin, where about 4,000 displaced children are hosted. The accident took place near the city of Jos. Camp officials provided the list of the deceased: Andrawus Ayuba, Rose John, Ladi Philimon, Lydia Andrawus, Baby Rose John, Hanatu Philimon, and Zarah Ali. The EYN Disaster Relief Ministry team was on its way to Maiduguri for regular response activities in the IDP camps and hoped to meet the families of the deceased.

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives is planning a series of Facebook Live Events or other online events following its great success with a live online tour of the archives located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The next online presentation is titled “1700s Publications” and scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. (Central time) at

– McPherson (Kan.) College is among the 51 inaugural member institutions of the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance recently announced by the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center. “The USC Race and Equity Center works with professionals in educational institutions and corporations to strategically develop and achieve equity goals, better understand and correct climate problems, avoid and recover from racial crises, and cultivate sustainable cultures of inclusion and respect,” said a release. McPherson has participated in the USC Race and Equity Center’s Campus Climate Survey since 2019. As a member of the new alliance, the college can participate in 12 eConvenings, professional development sessions that focus on particular aspects of racial equity, conducted by nationally respected leaders in race relations, and will have access to an online repository of resources and tools that include equity-related rubrics, readings, case studies, videos, and other resources. Every employee across all levels at each of the alliance institutions will have full access to the virtual resource portal, the release said. Additionally, alliance members will participate in two new workplace climate surveys in addition to a student survey. Presidents of each member college will meet quarterly to share strategies, seek advice, and identify ways to leverage the alliance for collective impact on racial equity in higher education.

Springfield (Ill.) Church of the Brethren is hosting an Illinois and Wisconsin District “Service of Lamenting Racial Injustice” as an online event on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m. (Central time). Go to

— “When did you first know you were a leader in the church?” asks the announcement for the latest Dunker Punks Podcast. “Being a part of a denomination that focuses on the life of the community has given many of us the opportunity to lead in some capacity but has also limited the opportunities of others who have a desire to lead. Anna Lisa Gross invited a number of folks from within the church to tell us of their experiences, hardships, and successes with becoming involved in church leadership in this first episode of her interviews from the Womaen’s Caucus.” Listen at or subscribe to the Dunker Punks Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

— The Lombard Mennonite Peace Center asks, “Does your congregation experience conflict? Does it harm your Christian fellowship and distract from your church’s mission? Learn to transform conflict from a negative force into an opportunity for reconciliation and growth.” The center is offering six sessions of its Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders in 2021: March 1-5, May 3-7, June 21-25, Aug. 2-6, Oct. 11-15, or Nov. 15-19. The “early bird” registration rate is $695. Currently plans are to conduct the events online via Zoom. To register or to learn more, contact 630-627-0507 or

The Global Women’s Project is sharing its second annual Advent “Color By Numbers” Calendar. “We’ve created a new calendar for this year, with artwork by Debbie Noffsinger,” said an announcement. “Each day offers a different reflection prompt and sections of the artwork to color in. December can be full of messages to consume more, be more, but in this season we invite you into the slow practice of coloring and reflecting.” The calendar can be downloaded from the project’s website at

— Last Wednesday, the National Council of Churches (NCC) started a series of online events titled “Faith and Fire Conversations” on the topic “Chaos or Community: Courageous Conversations During Chaos.” The events are being provided free of charge in order “to have contextual and spiritual/theological conversations among prominent clergy, academics, and activists/organizers relevant to the ‘twin pandemics’ of racism and COVID-19, and our country’s tumultuous political landscape,” said an announcement. The conversation topics for the series have been derived from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” book chapters. The first panel took place this past Wednesday on the topic “Where Are We? Spiritually Diagnosing America’s Illnesses” and included panelists E. Michelle Ledder, director of Equity and Anti-Racism for the General Commission on Religion and Race of the United Methodist Church; Angela Ravin-Anderson, Social Justice Ministry co-lead of Wheeler Ave. Baptist Church in Houston, Texas; Reuben Eckels, interfaith advocacy minister for Immigrants and Refugees, Church World Service; Leslie Copeland Tune, NCC chief operating officer; and Christian S. Watkins, NCC Justice Advocacy and Outreach manager. Find a recording of this past Wednesday’s conversation at Register for next Wednesday’s conversation on Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. (Eastern time) on the topic “Racism and the White Backlash: Role of the Church Against White Supremacy” at

— In more news from the NCC, the council is partnering with the United Church of Christ to offer online faith-based organizing training to the wider church and beyond. “During this Advent season of viral pandemics, racial injustice, economic uncertainty, physical isolation, and socio-political strife, how does one prepare for what is to come? Advent is the season Christians are called to prepare for the coming of Jesus in the world and, with Jesus, the in-breaking of justice,” said an announcement. The trainings are built on a foundation of Christian discipleship and will explore questions such as “What will the world look like when justice comes?” and “How do we prepare for its arrival?” Four organizers and trainers will each be paired with a theological reflector to lead four sessions to gain tools for basic organizing and embodiment; direct action and risk assessment; communication and accompaniment; trauma care and healing space. Each session will include time for interaction, questions, and downloadable resources. Registration cost is $25 per person or $90 for all four sessions. Find out more at

Celebrating International Children’s Day, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has released a research paper on “Cooler Earth-Higher Benefits: Actions by Those Who Care about Children, Climate, and Finance.” According to a release, the publication gives suggestions of how churches and other organizations around the world can respond to the climate emergency through investment decisions that are crucial to protect children from global warming. “God protects, loves, and cares for the most vulnerable among God’s creatures,” said WCC deputy general secretary Isabel Apawo Phiri in the release. “Examples presented in this research show how churches and other organizations can provide concrete answers to the challenges of the climate crisis, that directly impacts the lives of children and youth.” The research paper was developed as a result of the Churches’ Commitments to Children initiative winning the Keeling Curve Prize in 2019. The WCC’s Child Rights program commissioned the work in response to requests by children and youth urging adults to find solutions in response to the climate crisis. Download the publication at

Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jean Bednar, Jacob Crouse, Pamela B. Eiten, Tina Goodwin, Jonathan Graham, Irvin Heishman, Pauline Liu, Nancy Miner, Sarah Neher, Allison Snyder, Norm and Carol Spicher Waggy, Roy Winter, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to Find the Newsline archive at Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters or make subscription changes at All submissions are subject to editing. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren.

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