Newsline for Oct. 3, 2020

Photo: Unsplash/Jason Mowry

“Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

1) Pastors receive letter of support from Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries directs grants to storm and hurricane relief in US, COVID-19 surge in Spain, port explosion in Beirut

3) Children’s Disaster Services exceeds goal for donations of Individual Kits of Comfort

4) Global Food Initiative aids Brethren groups in DRC and Burundi among grant recipients

5) Nettle Creek Church of the Brethren celebrates 200 years of a unique history

6) The next Moderator’s Town Hall is on ‘Leading in a Time of Crisis’

7) Brethren bits: Personnel, prayers for the Spanish Brethren, Brethren archives virtual tour, invitation to Oakton Partners in Learning, Lancaster’s “Giveaway Garden” video, N. Plains District executive signs “Racism in Iowa: A Faith Leader Statement,” Atlantic Northeast offers “Moving Forward with Video Streaming” roundtable, and more

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) Pastors receive letter of support from Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee

Working through the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry, the denomination’s Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee has sent a letter of encouragement by email to the pastors and credentialed ministers across the denomination. Citing Isaiah 40:28-31, the letter listed many of the reasons for pastors and ministers to grow weary or discouraged during the pandemic and during a time of conflict in the denomination but praised God for each ministering person, raised prayer for them, and included information for those facing serious financial hardships.

The complete text of the letter follows:

Encouragement from the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As we enter into the eighth month of impact from the coronavirus pandemic, there are certainly many reasons that we grow weary. Many of us have been struggling with adjusting the way that we do ministry, learning new technologies, and trying new approaches. Some of us have been struggling with increased congregational anxiety and conflict, as we discern together how to faithfully serve Jesus in light of this new reality. Some of us have been struggling with personal and congregational financial hardships. These are just some of the challenges that our present circumstances have brought about, in addition to the burdens that those who minister already bear.

We, the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, acknowledge these additional challenges and burdens borne by our ministers during this pandemic. We praise God for the love and care that each ministering person has brought to her or his calling in these past few months.

We raise our prayers for you, trusting that God will strengthen you when you feel powerless, sustain you when you are overwhelmed, and lead you as you shepherd God’s people.

In addition to our prayers and encouragement, we know that some of our ministering brothers and sisters are experiencing tremendous financial challenges at the present time. There are two funds available to Church of the Brethren ministers that may offer financial support. The Church Workers Assistance Fund through Brethren Benefit Trust, and the Ministry Assistance Fund through the Office of Ministry may provide assistance to ministers and their families in financial hardship. If you believe you have need of financial assistance, please contact your District Executive Minister who can assist you in applying for a grant. Here is a link to the information on the COVID webpage: .

With great gratitude for the faithful service that our ministers have offered, we lift our thanks to God for the work of each and every one of you. We pray that the love, the sustaining grace, and the abundant peace of our Lord Jesus Christ will be with you in the coming months.

In Christian love,
Beth Cage, Ray Flagg, Daniel Rudy, Deb Oskin, Terry Grove and Nancy Heishman

Find the letter posted online at .

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries directs grants to storm and hurricane relief in US, COVID-19 surge in Spain, port explosion in Beirut

Following an EDF grant for COVID-19 relief efforts earlier this year, Iglesia Cristiana Viviendo en Amor y Fe (VAF) shared photos from a food distribution to vulnerable families in the Flor del Campo area of Tegucigalpa.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to finance a new rebuilding project in North Carolina following Hurricane Florence, efforts by Peak Creek Church of the Brethren to aid families affected by an earthquake in North Carolina, and Northern Plains District clean-up after the “derecho” storms and powerful straight-line winds that caused major destruction in Iowa.

In international grants, a partner organization in Lebanon has received funds to aid people in Beirut in the wake of a port explosion, and funds have been given to the COVID-19 response of Iglesia de los Hermanos “Una Luz En Las Naciones” (the Church of the Brethren in Spain, “A Light to the Nations”).

North Carolina

A grant of $32,500 finances a new rebuilding project of Brethren Disaster Ministries following Hurricane Florence. The hurricane made landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14, 2018. The rebuilding site is in Pamlico County where a disaster relief coalition reports that more than 200 families have not yet completely recovered.

The Pamlico County Disaster Relief Coalition is the primary partner organization for Brethren Disaster Ministries, supported early in its development by the Disaster Recovery Support Initiative (DRSI) partner project of the Church of the Brethren and two other denominations.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has been monitoring guidance from health authorities to determine the safety of volunteers and necessary COVID-19 protocols to put in place. If there should be cancellations due to COVID-19, grant funds will not be spent in their entirety.

Also in North Carolina, a grant of $5,000 has gone to Peak Creek Church of the Brethren for earthquake response. A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck near Sparta, N.C., on Aug. 9. Peak Creek Church in nearby Laurel Springs has been supporting church members and those immediately connected with the church, and will use the grant to expand that support to families with the most needs in the wider community.


A grant of $1,350 helps fund Northern Plains District’s response to the Aug. 10 derecho that blew across several states in the Midwest causing widespread damage. The storm traveled 770 miles, from South Dakota and Nebraska to Ohio, in 14 hours, crossing Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana as it went.

Members of the district began helping with clean-up just days after the event, with a larger effort organized by district disaster coordinator Matt Kuecker over Labor Day weekend. During a five-day period, volunteers worked more than 500 hours primarily in Union, Iowa, removing trees and debris for two families unable to do it on their own, and doing clean-up at the Union community cemetery and on the grounds of Iowa River Church of the Brethren. The grant helps pay for volunteer meals and rental of equipment to remove fallen trees and unsafe limbs.


A grant of $10,000 has been given to the COVID-19 response of the Church of the Brethren in Spain, where the nation is experiencing a fall surge of new cases. Church leaders have reported that it is heavily affecting the seven churches, with one congregation having had to close after a COVID-19 outbreak.

In the church in the city of Gijón, as of Sept. 25, 33 members had tested positive and another 12 had symptoms out of a membership of about 70 people. This week Wednesday, the Spanish Brethren shared prayer for the death of prominent member Doña Hilaria Carrasco Peréz, mother of pastor Fausto Carrasco and Santos Terrero and a beloved matriarch of the church. She died on Sept. 30 after being hospitalized with COVID-19.

The grant will provide financial aid to church members who are in quarantine and unable to work. Many are recent immigrants to Spain or temporary workers, and some are not eligible for unemployment or any other COVID-19 relief funding. Expenses include food, medicine, hygiene supplies, hospital transportation, emergency rent support, and utility bills. A grant of $14,000 was made for this same purpose in late April, when Spain previously experienced a surge in cases and many church members were out of work.


A grant of $25,000 supports the work of the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development (LSESD) following the massive port explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4. Following the explosion it quickly developed a nearly $3 million community response and recovery program, implemented by its community development and relief arm, MERATH, to assist survivors, working with churches and other ministries.

Grant funds will support housing and medical care for about 40 families whose homes were destroyed, many of whom sustained serious injuries; food vouchers for about 1,000 households; non-food items such as blankets, mattresses, and heating stoves to about 1,250 households; emergency hygiene kits for about 1,000 households affected by the blast and 4,000 households at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and psychosocial support for traumatized children.

To support this work of Brethren Disaster Ministries and its partners, give to the Emergency Disaster Fund at .

3) Children’s Disaster Services exceeds goal for donations of Individual Kits of Comfort

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has exceeded its goal of 2,500 Individual Kits of Comfort to provide to children affected by disasters this year. CDS has developed the Individual Kit of Comfort as an alternative for in-person care to children affected by disasters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Individual Kit of Comfort was created to promote a sense of normalcy and an opportunity for the healing power of play.

After putting out an appeal for donations of 2,500 kits by the end of September, CDS associate director Lisa Crouch has announced that donors exceeded that goal by several hundred kits. Now, CDS is tasked with deploying out the remaining kits to children where the needs are greatest.

To date, CDS has deployed the kits through their partnership with the Red Cross. Recipients have included children and families affected by storms in the Gulf, flooding in Missouri, and multiple wildfires in northern California.

The Red Cross also connected CDS with a new organization for distribution, PWNA. Partnership with Native Americans is receiving 1,000 of the kits this week. This new emphasis for the project is to support children living on Native American reservations in the western United States, which have been badly affected by COVID-19. Crouch reported that getting the kits into the hands of children in need was always the goal and CDS recognized this is where the need is greatest in this moment.

While the initial appeal has been fulfilled, CDS continues to evaluate the needs of children and will be looking for other ways to support disasters.

For more about the ministry go to . To give to the Individual Kits of Comfort project visit .

4) Global Food Initiative aids Brethren groups in DRC and Burundi among grant recipients

THARS Farming God’s Way Festival. Photo courtesy of David Niyonzima

The Church of the Brethren Global Food Initiative (GFI) has aided Brethren groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, a humanitarian organization linked to the former Brethren mission in Ecuador, and a gardening project in New Orleans, in grants made since mid-year.

Democratic Republic of Congo

A grant of $7,500 has been given to support the Seed Projects of Eglise des Freres du Congo (the Church of the Brethren in the Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC). The projects are the result of a series of Transformation Tree trainings provided to the deacons of the church in 2019 by staff from World Relief. The trainings, sponsored by the GFI, have challenged participants to return to their local congregations and start small outreach projects to serve the needs of the most vulnerable in their communities. Specific projects include cultivating vegetables or sweet potatoes; distribution of basic household items (sugar, salt, soap, and masks) for families in need, school children, and through prison and hospital visits; and assisting widows. A previous grant of $3,320 was given to this project in Sept. 2019.


A grant of $7,500 has been given for farmer training in Burundi, to be carried out by THARS, a Church of the Brethren-related organization. This was intended to be a 5-year project but with positive results has been extended into a sixth year. The expectation is that the training activities will be extended to two new communities. As of Aug. 2020, THARS reported that 552 farmers with an average of 7 people in each household, representing at least 3,864 people, are benefitting from the project. Families are able to not only meet their own food needs but to sell extra food to help with other expenses. Reports show that farmers’ yields have improved dramatically using techniques learned from THARS agronomists–up to 10 times the yields resulting from traditional methods. Previous grants to this project, starting in April 2015, have totaled $53,375.


A grant of $11,000 supports the agricultural work of La Fundación Brethren y Unida (FBU–the United and Brethren Foundation). The grant will help purchase two heifers in order to increase milk production in the small dairy herd on the farm, and will support work with community groups to form a micro-company oriented to production of organic fruits and vegetables. FBU is providing the tools and training for the micro-company and is directing marketing efforts in major urban centers. The FBU has roots in the former Church of the Brethren mission in Ecuador. Much of FBU’s income had been generated by school and university groups who take short courses at the FBU center, but during the pandemic the FBU board has looked for other ways to seek financial stability without sacrificing the mission of service to the community.

New Orleans

A grant of $3,000 has gone to the Casual Labor Fund of Capstone 118 in New Orleans, La. Capstone is an outreach project of the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Plains District, which is providing matching funds. In 2018, Capstone changed its strategy from trying to find one part-time employee to using the “Casual Labor Fund” idea put in place by other community gardens. The change was necessary due in part to the high rate of part-time employee turn-over. Previous allocations for Capstone’s Casual Labor Fund have totaled $3,000, given in 2019.

For more information about the GFI and to give to this work, go to .

5) Nettle Creek Church of the Brethren celebrates 200 years of a unique history

By Brian Mackie

Nettle Creek Church of the Brethren in Hagerstown, Ind., will be celebrating 200 years on Sunday, Oct. 11. The congregation was begun in 1820 and has a unique history, including hosting the 1864 Annual Meeting (now called the Annual Conference) of the Brethren–the last where Civil War martyr John Kline served as moderator.

[The 1864 annual meeting was held shortly before Elder Kline was ambushed, shot, and killed on June 15, 1864, as he traveled home to Virginia on horseback. It is thought that he was assassinated by southern sympathizers because of his outspoken stances against the war and against slavery.]

Decades later, Nettle Creek elder L.W. Teeter (1885-1923) served the denomination in many roles including moderator of the Annual Meeting of 1897 held in Frederick, Md. He also served in several district roles including moderator and clerk, and was on the Manchester College Board of Trustees. Teeter wrote a New Testament Commentary and contributed to the Brethren Bicentennial Addresses in 1908.

The congregation’s history dates to just four years after Indiana attained statehood, when early German Baptist Brethren settled in the Nettle Creek area in 1820. Some preachers from the Four Mile congregation south of Richmond, Ind., near Boston, Ind., came to help begin the church. The early Nettle Creek Brethren met in for worship in homes during their first 25 years. In 1845, they built their first brick church building. Due to structural problems, the first building had to be replaced by a second brick building in 1875, built nearby on the same property, where it now stands. It was referred to as the “Brick Meetinghouse” or the “Brick Church,” located on the road that now bears its name, “Brick Church Road.”

In the 1850s, Nettle Creek started the White Branch and Locust Grove churches, which officially separated in 1955, each adding paid, professional ministers, pulpits, stained glass, new or remodeled sanctuaries with baptistries, and parsonages for the pastors and their families to live.

The 1950s and 1960s were a time of change, growth, and expansion for the Nettle Creek Church, which dedicated its new sanctuary in 1968. The active membership of the Nettle Creek, Locust Grove, and White Branch churches peaked in the 1970s and 1980s as many area families were involved in these three churches.

By the end of the 1990s, all three churches had begun to decline numerically, but these past 20 years also have seen renewed efforts to serve the community and continue in vibrant worship, including the use of technology. From 2014-2019, Nettle Creek and White Branch combined efforts to produce the “Good News Radio Program,” featuring the messages from the two churches. Currently, both churches are now streaming worship on Facebook Live.

The anniversary celebration will begin at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern time) with a historical presentation, followed by a worship service at 10:30 a.m. featuring Bethany Theological Seminary president Jeff Carter as preacher. The day will conclude with a pitch-in meal. People are invited to attend in person or virtually via a Facebook event at .

Brian Mackie is pastor of Nettle Creek Church of the Brethren.


6) The next Moderator’s Town Hall is on ‘Leading in a Time of Crisis’

Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey has announced the next Moderator’s Town Hall as a virtual, online event Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. (Eastern time) on the topic “Leading in a Time of Crisis” with Phillip C. Stone, president emeritus of Bridgewater (Va.) College.

Whether pastor, lay leader, Sunday School teacher, or parent, we all are called to give guidance during challenging times, especially during a season of polarization and pandemic. To that end, leadership principles will be shared that are applicable to clergy and laity alike.

A native of Virginia and a Bridgewater graduate, Stone attended the University of Chicago Graduate School of Economics and received a law degree from the University of Virginia. After 24 years in private law practice in Virginia, he became president of Bridgewater College in 1994. He retired from that position on June 30, 2010.

In 2015, he was asked to save Sweet Briar College, whose permanent closing was in progress. He served as Sweet Briar president until 2017. The effort was successful, and the college is still operating. His mantra, “the impossible is just another problem to be solved,” became a rallying cry.

Stone’s service to the Church of the Brethren has included terms as moderator of Annual Conference and as chair of the former General Board, along with many other positions.

During his law practice, he was president of several bar groups and in 1997 was president of the Virginia Bar Association. Upon his retirement from Bridgewater College, the General Assembly of Virginia passed resolutions honoring him for his lifelong contributions to education and the community. Another resolution was passed by the General Assembly when he retired from Sweet Briar College.

To register for the town hall go to . Questions can be emailed to .

7) Brethren bits

Naomi Yilma has begun as an associate in the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., working through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). This role was previously held by Susu Lassa, who just finished her year with BVS. Yilma is a recent graduate of Manchester (Ind.) University where she studied economics and management. She is originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Over the year, she will be working with various ecumenical and interfaith advocacy coalitions to bring issues of concern for the Church of the Brethren to government officials and related organizations.

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich has been appointed as program director for Camp Pine Lake in Northern Plains District. She had been interim program director during 2020 and spearheaded the planning and holding of a virtual camp, according to the district newsletter. She is a lifelong member and ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. She has had experience of various Church of the Brethren camps as a camper, counselor, and volunteer staff, and for the past 10 years has been dean of Middler Camp at Camp Pine Lake. On the denominational level, she has become well known as a leader in the work of formulating a compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and attends Open Circle of the Brethren.

Ron Wedel has been named Church Services Agent for the Mutual Aid Agency (MAA), a Church of the Brethren-related insurance agency. He will work with the agency’s commercial church-related accounts by providing quotes, assisting with questions and claims, and generally serving clients when the need arises. Before joining MAA, he worked as an insurance agency owner and insurance educator, accumulating over 20 years of experience in the business. He has spent the last year working alongside MAA, making the move to full-time team member an easy transition, said an announcement.

Global Mission staff request prayer for a leading family among the Brethren in Spain. Iglesia de los Hermanos “Una Luz en las Naciones” (the Church of the Brethren in Spain, “A Light to the Nations”) reported the death of Doña Hilaria Carrasco Peréz, mother of pastor Fausto Carrasco and Santos Terrero and a beloved matriarch of the church. She died on Sept. 30 after being hospitalized with COVID-19. The congregation in Gijon has been hit by an outbreak of the disease affecting many of the church members. In their remembrance for her, the Spanish Brethren shared Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives has announced a virtual tour of its collection on Nov. 10 from 10 to 11 a.m. (central time) via Facebook Live. “We miss being able to give these tours in person, but this presents a unique opportunity and enables us to share the archives with so many people,” said an announcement. Archive director Bill Kostlevy will direct the virtual tour and answer questions during this Facebook Live event. The tour will include unique items you might be surprised to see, and lots of Brethren history. Questions about the archives may be submitted during the tour in the discussion section of the event or by Facebook Messenger to the BHLA Facebook page at .

Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., has issued an invitation to join in the ministry of Oakton Partners in Learning. “You may have seen the Oakton Partners in Learning (OPIL) tutoring program, hosted by the Oakton Church of the Brethren, was featured in this summer’s virtual Annual Conference worship,” said the invitation. “OPIL continues to meet important needs for students and families during these difficult times. OPIL currently tutors students online through one-on-one and group tutoring. Have you wondered if a similar program would be possible in your congregation? Or are you interested in giving of your time and gifts in a significant way? Well, you’re invited to join the OPIL team! While we remain virtual, anyone from anywhere can become a tutor or learn more about what OPIL is doing.” To learn more about OPIL and/or become a tutor, contact pastor Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey at .

Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren’s director of youth ministries, Linda Dows-Byers, has put together a video about the church’s “Giveaway Garden.” The video is recommended by Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global Food Initiative (GFI), which has given grants to support many church-related community gardens. Dows-Byers also serves on the GFI review panel. She and her husband, David, previously were Global Mission workers with the Bahamas Methodist Habitat. Find the video at .

Northern Plains District executive Tim Button-Harrison has signed “Racism in Iowa: A Faith Leader Statement” that was put together by the Iowa Interfaith Alliance. The alliance “has been hosting a large group of faith leaders meeting by Zoom each Wednesday morning for several weeks to work on how Iowa’s faith community can work together to address racism in Iowa through teaching and learning, but also using our voices and taking action,” wrote Button-Harrison in the district newsletter this week. Alliance executive director Connie Ryan wrote: “You may know of the murder of Michael Williams in Grinnell and the horrific burning of his body. There have been several other less severe but still violent actions this summer against our black neighbors and family in Iowa. This must stop. And, the faith community has a particular platform that must be used to address the racism, bias, and prejudice tying the violence together.” A smaller portion of that Wednesday faith leader group worked together to write the statement about racism, bias, and prejudice in Iowa. Find it at .

Atlantic Northeast District is offering a monthly roundtable for those planning and implementing the technical aspects of an online worship service. “Moving Forward with Video Streaming” will be held by Zoom every second Thursday of the month, with the next meeting on Oct. 8. A basic session will begin at 7 p.m. (Eastern time) and an advanced session will start at 8 p.m. Many churches “are experiencing challenges in finding the right equipment and techniques to create a meaningful and effective worship experience online,” said an announcement. The basic session will serve “those who are hoping to learn more about where to start, and the basic equipment and techniques needed to stream worship services online.” The advanced session will “move beyond the basics for a more detailed discussion for those who may have more experience in video streaming and have specific technical questions.” The roundtables will be led by Doug Hallman, lead tech at Lampeter Church of the Brethren who works as a video systems designer and integrator for different touring productions, and Enten Eller, who pastors Ambler Church of the Brethren and is on the pastoral team at Living Stream Church of the Brethren–the denomination’s only fully online congregation. The district requests RSVPs that include church name, tech goals, and any specific questions, go to . Eller provided this link for the roundtable: .

Missouri and Arkansas District has announced outcomes of its virtual district conference including election of new leadership. Gary Gahm has begun as district moderator, with Lisa Irle as moderator-elect. Others elected to hold office include Nancy Davis as clerk, Jason Frazer and Gabe Garrison named to the district leadership team, Judy Frederick named to the district Program and Arrangements Committee, Evelyn Brown named to the Gifts Discernment Committee, and Myron Jackson as Standing Committee delegate. “Paul Landes, of the Messiah Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, ended his year as district moderator on Saturday, September 12, by handing the gavel virtually to Gary Gahm, also of the Messiah Church,” said the district newsletter. “Eight district churches were represented by 19 delegates. Business items included two amendments to the district constitution and bylaws; the recognition of three closed congregations–Plattsburg, Shelby County, and Broadwater; the adoption of a 2021 District budget; and the election.” The virtual conference was “attended” by 35 devices, “which included more than 1 person on many devices and groups at Cabool and Warrensburg for an estimated attendance of over 70. The service was also broadcast on the Cabool community radio station and posted on the Cabool Church of the Brethren Facebook page, which had over 35 views. So, it is estimated that over 100 people heard and/or viewed this service!”

Southern Ohio and Kentucky District disaster volunteers on Sept. 24 “completed our second emergency cleanup bucket assembly in 2020,” the district newsletter said. “We have now filled 1,000 much-needed buckets for Church World Service (CWS).”

Also among prayer concerns shared by Southern Ohio and Kentucky District is prayer for the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, where COVID-19 testing “continues among residents and staff. Procedures are being conducted to keep our residents and staff safe.”

Camp Bethel located near Fincastle, Va., has announced an advocacy effort for overnight summer camps in Virginia. “Overnight Summer Camp was the only industry not allowed to operate during any of Virginia’s reopening phases. Camp Bethel has joined a coalition of Virginia Overnight Summer Camps urging state representatives to provide financial support for our industry, so that we may continue to serve children and families across the Commonwealth in 2021 and beyond,” said an email from the camp. To learn more about “Save Next Summer” see .

Brethren Voices has release its October episode. This video show is suitable for use on community access television, sponsored by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren with Ed Groff as producer. “In 2008, the Church of the Brethren recommitted to educating ourselves and others about the many forms of modern-day slavery, supporting anti-slavery action at home and abroad,” said the announcement. “Ten years later the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference was held in Cincinnati and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which lies on the banks of the Ohio River, provided an opportunity for Brethren to educate ourselves on slavery and its modern-day forms.” The focus on the evils of slavery is paired with another Annual Conference-related event, the annual quilt auction. The program includes an interview with Tara Bidwell Hornbacker, who has been working for more than 30 years with the quilt auction sponsor, the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren. Find this episode and many more on the Brethren Voices YouTube channel at or go directly to .

The last session of a Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders for this year, offered by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center, will be held Nov. 16-20. The five-day event is intended to help participants deal more effectively with interpersonal, congregational, and other forms of group conflict. Tentative dates for next year are March 1-5, May 3-7, June 21-25, Aug. 2-6, Oct. 4-8, and Nov. 15-19, 2021. Participants for this online training event require access to a device with both a camera and a microphone. For questions contact or 630-627-0507. To receive a $200 tuition discount for the November 2020 session, register no later than Oct. 16. Register at .

Faith-based groups involved in service to refugees are expressing outrage over an announcement from the US administration that again severely limits the maximum number of refugees to be admitted into the country in the coming year. “Once again, it is a historic low: 15,000,” reported Religion News Service (RNS). “This year’s proposed refugee ceiling is a drop from 18,000 in the fiscal year that just ended in September. The US actually resettled 11,814 refugees in that time, according to LIRS, and AP reported refugee resettlement was halted in March amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump had set that number at 45,000 in his first year in office, then 30,000 and 18,000–each a historic low in the US refugee resettlement program, which has been around since the 1980s.” Several faith-based groups had asked the administration to raise the resettlement number to its past average of 95,000, RNS said. “Those groups expressed outrage Thursday (Oct. 1) over a number that came nowhere close.” The release quoted Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: “At a time of unprecedented global need, today’s decision to further cut the refugee admissions ceiling is a complete abdication of our humanitarian and moral duty.” John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service–an ecumenical partner organization of the Church of the Brethren–called the administration’s cuts and delays to the refugee resettlement program “moral failures and a disgrace to the American legacy of welcome…. I urge all Americans to insist that Congress hold the White House accountable to operating the refugee program as required by US law.” Other organizations making statements opposing the decision include World Relief, an evangelical Christian group, and HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the US (NCC) are calling for prayer for the violent conflict in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region “following an attack by Azerbaijan’s military forces–which has already resulted in dozens of casualties including civilians, and which risks provoking a wider armed conflict,” said the WCC in its release. The NCC is calling for an immediate end to the fighting in solidarity with the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. “We deplore the use of military force by Azerbaijan and the Syrian rebel fighters that are funded and sent by Turkey to assist their assault on the Armenian community,” said the NCC release, which urged Turkey to end its involvement and expressed compassion for the fighters from Syria who “have been displaced from their homes and are desperate to feed their families, which may have caused them to be recruited into this destructive conflict.” Find the WCC release at . Find the NCC release at .

Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jeff Boshart, Lisa Crouch, Jenn Dorsch-Messler, Pamela B. Eiten, Ed Groff, Roxane Hill, Rachel Kelley, Brian Mackie, Nancy Miner, 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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