— Remembrance: John Thomas Sr. (90), a former member of the Church of the Brethren denominational staff, died Feb. 1 at Western Missouri Medical Center. An ordained minister, he served on the funding team of the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren, retiring at the end of 2011 after working for nine years as a special gift counselor and deferred gift counselor covering the Plains states. He began work for the denomination in December 1998 as a financial resource counselor. In previous work for the church, he pastored a number of congregations and was district executive minister for Southern Plains District 1981-87, later serving a term as interim district executive in the late 1990s. He also was a regional director for the CROP program of Church World Service for 15 years, during which time he traveled to India, Africa, and Asia. His volunteer leadership in the church included service as a trustee for McPherson (Kan.) College, a member of the Standing Committee and Nominating Committee of Annual Conference, and moderator of Missouri and Arkansas District. He held degrees from McPherson (Kan.) College, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the University of Central Oklahoma. His career in teaching included being a school teacher in Cabool, Mo., and Guthrie, Okla., a school administrator at Guthrie Public Schools, and a substitute teacher in Leeton, Mo., where he also was a council member for the town. He was born July 25, 1930, in Leeton, Mo., to Ora Basil and Laura Mae (Mohler) Thomas. He is survived by his wife, Katy; his children Ann (Jim) Bucci of Ortanna, Pa., Debra (Mike Hughbanks) Thomas of Omaha, Neb., John (Barbara Simpson) Thomas of St. Joseph, Mich., Nathan (Maura Mcnally) Thomas of Dowingtown, Pa., and Carolyn (Robert) Hall of Guthrie, Okla.; step children, grandchildren, step grandchildren, great grandchildren, and step great grandchildren. Funeral services were held on Feb. 4 at Sweeney-Phillips and Holdren Funeral Home. Interment followed in Mineral Creek Cemetery. Memorial gifts are received to Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of Brethren, where he was a member. An obituary is at www.sweeneyphillipsholdren.com/obituary/john-thomas-sr.
— The Global Mission office requests prayer for Haiti. Writes the Global Mission office: “There are demonstrations in the street and lockdowns in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Continue to pray for Haiti Medical Project workers as travel is impacted and for the whole Eglise des Freres (Church of the Brethren in Haiti).” A Miami Herald article from late January gives information about the epidemic of kidnappings in the country: www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article248748825.html.
— A report from Rwanda has been shared by the Global Mission office. Etienne Nsanzimana, a leader in Rwanda Church of the Brethren, reports that the fledgling denomination has four congregations at Gasiza, Mudende, Humure, and Gisenyi, which serves as the head office. “In Rwanda COVID is still affecting so many,” he wrote. “Currently we are under partial lockdown, people are only allowed to circulate within their own districts. Safety measures are still observed to make sure COVID-19 is not spread. Currently all the churches are not allowed to meet due to COVID-19. Out of the town of Gisenyi, which is on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been much affected economically due to cross-the-border businesses that have been stopped, making it hard for a common person including many of our church members. On a normal time over 60,000 people would cross the border on a daily basis doing business.” He shared the following prayer requests: for a pastors’ retreat and their wives, the preschool at the Gisenyi Church, and the Gisenyi church building.
— On Earth Peace is engaging youth by offering up to $500 in grant funding towards youth-initiated projects for peace and justice. The first three grants have been awarded to the Borderless Relations Committee of Findlay, Ohio; the Agape-Satyagraha Graduate Project, Harrisburg, Pa.; and Lauren Anderson of Glade Valley (Md.) Church of the Brethren. The full announcement can be found at www.onearthpeace.org/first_community_engagement_grants_for_youth.
— In more from On Earth Peace, the Read Aloud Program has a new webpage featuring videos, worksheets, and blog posts. The read-aloud videos are separated into seven categories: Kingian Nonviolence and peace skills; gender and identity; “Own Voices”; immigration, migration, and refugees; anti‐racism and social justice; holidays; and environment and earth advocacy. Summaries and reflective questions are provided for each book. The webpage will be updated weekly to reflect the program’s most recent video and blog uploads. Go to www.onearthpeace.org/read_aloud_program.
— The Illinois and Wisconsin District Potluck this year will be held virtually, hosted by Neighborhood Church of the Brethren. The event includes the following workshops:
Tues., March 16, 7:30 p.m. (Central time): Bible study on the District Potluck theme “Extend Charity to Others: Matthew 25:40” led by Christina Singh.
Wed., March 17, 6:30 p.m. (Central): “Racism” led by Jacki Hartley, exploring the questions “How did we get here? And how do we, as individuals and as a body of believers, move beyond good intentions to do the work of racial justice?” following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the Jan. 6 attack on Congress.
Wed., March 17, 7:30 p.m. (Central): “Indian Spices and Easy Recipes” led by Purvi Satvedi.
Thurs., March 18, 6:30 p.m. (Central): “IT and the Church” led by Enten Eller, exploring the theological and technological potholes and potentials of online worship.
Thurs., March 18, 7:30 p.m. (Central): “Leader Limits: Helping Your Pastor Thrive” led by Jonathan Shively.
Fri., March 19, 6:30 p.m. (Central): “Sex Trafficking” led by Vivek Solansky, who has researched the rapid growth of the business of human trafficking.
Fri., March 19, 7:30 p.m. (Central): “Train to Age” led by Joni Grant, a retired IT executive who started a second career as a personal trainer when she turned 62. She will explore how to work for a future that sees you fit and active into your 80s and 90s.
Sat., March 20, 10 a.m. (Central): “Worship as Art: How Community Energizes Practice” led by Jonathan Shively.
More details will be made available at www.iwdcob.org.
— At least two Church of the Brethren congregations are participating in the Souper Bowl this weekend, an opportunity to raise money for hunger relief. The youth at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren made the local news for their Souper Bowl effort. Ridge Church of the Brethren in Shippensburg, Pa., was featured in the Shippensburg News-Chronicle for being one of six local congregations competing to bring in the most food donations this year. The churches are collecting non-perishable food items for King’s Kettle Food Pantry and also for the Hound Packs Program of Shippensburg school district that provides free meals to families. Find the article at www.shipnc.com/free_announcements/article_8ab18f72-5b74-11eb-958c-2b14095bc186.html.
— McPherson (Kan.) College is reporting a high rate of success for its 2020 graduating class. “Since commencement in May, 95 percent of the class has secured employment or further education,” said a release. “Additionally, of those graduates with jobs or graduate school placements, 82 percent had at least one internship while at McPherson College.” The release noted that this success was achieved during a pandemic year. President Michael Schneider said in the release, “We can account for nearly every graduate when we track our outcomes. Most colleges can account for only 10 to 20 percent of any graduating class. When we report 95 percent of a class has secured employment or further education, we are talking about the entire class not just a portion of the class. When you add our strong placement rate to our efforts at reducing student debt through The Student Debt Project, McPherson College graduates are getting a head start at a successful future.” The Student Debt Project combines financial literacy, mentorship, and matching funds to show students how they can reduce their college debt before graduation.
— The Global Women’s Project has welcomed Karlene Tyler to its steering committee. Tyler resides in McPherson, Kan., where she retired after a 42-year tenure at McPherson College. “Having held 16 diff¬erent titles throughout her career at McPherson, Karlene brings a plethora of skills and talents to GWP,” said the announcement. She also is active at McPherson Church of the Brethren. Her international experience has included travel to 33 countries, and she hopes to visit each continent in her lifetime.
— Creation Justice Ministries is hiring for the Faithful Climate Action Fellowship. Creation Justice Ministries is an environmental ministry connected with the National Council of Churches (NCC). “Are you a young Christian concerned about the climate crisis?” said the announcement. “Do you know a young adult who would be a good fit? Join us in exploring how our faith traditions can support and guide our climate activism.” Young Black, Indigenous, and people of color (age 18-26) in the Midwest and Southeast are invited to apply. Fellows will engage in nine months of joint study, leadership training, and action. Monthly interactive webinars will provide a chance to meet young faith and climate leaders in the fellow’s region, and both peer leaders and professional mentors will guide in developing a voice as a faith and climate activist. The time commitment of only two to three hours per month is designed to fit with fulltime employment or school work. Fellows will receive a $500 stipend. Application deadline is Feb. 15. Go to www.faithfulclimateaction.org/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=498d887c-8bae-47b9-a3a0-11e4e4272cde.
— Also from Creation Justice Ministries is an online workshop titled “ResiLENT Worship: Preaching Our Way to Climate Resilience,” on Feb. 18 at 6-7 p.m. (Eastern time). “This Lent, let us discover together how the church might become a hub of resilience in the midst of the spiritual and physical storms of the climate crisis,” said the announcement. “The work of climate resilience in the church starts with the center of Christian life: worship. The structure of our communal life lies in the heart of Christian worship. The ways we structure our worship life resonates beyond the walls of the sanctuary. Incorporating elements of climate education and worship of God through Creation can develop norms that support God’s people and Creation in the midst of the climate crisis.” The event is free and will include three mini-sermons on climate resilience, worship music for the era of climate change, and tools for incorporating climate-resilient worship in your community. Speakers include Leah Schade, assistant professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary; Melanie Mullen, director of Reconciliation, Justice, and Creation Care for the Episcopal Church; Ched Myers, ecumenical activist, theologian, popular educator, writer, teacher, and organizer; Christian McIvor, minister of Worship, Music, and the Arts at Greystone Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. Register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtdOqorjgoHNc2Y2iBJilark_QJT9KUpeF?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=31f0a4e3-b96b-4f8e-8775-bef0d07495d0.
The group’s March 25 virtual workshop at 6 p.m. (Eastern time) is on the topic “Climate Justice on Sacred Ground: The Role of Church Lands in Resilience and Adaptation.” Find out more at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAkde6upjgtHtTKVJoAfZ1j0-vz1YbozLr4?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=31f0a4e3-b96b-4f8e-8775-bef0d07495d0.
— Fully autonomous weapons is the subject of a joint statement of the World Council of Churches, the International Day of Human Fraternity, Pax Christi Northern California, and Soka Gakkai International. “A Plea for Preserving Our Shared Humanity” expresses concern over the insidious development of weapons systems that lack meaningful human control. “Our shared belief in the inalienable dignity of the human person and the inestimable worth of human life demands our vigilance toward new forms of military technology that mediate the use of lethal force, especially in armed conflict and policing,” reads the statement. “An urgent and firm rejection of the development of fully autonomous weapons is essential to preserving our shared humanity.” The statement urges that the human person must never be reduced to a set of numbers. “Machine learning that processes vast amounts of digital information tends to replicate existing biases, causing a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations,” reads the statement. “Fully autonomous weapons would lower the threshold for international armed conflict, and they could also be used for domestic terrorism, insurrection, policing and border-control.” The statement calls on all UN member states and all people of goodwill to commit to preserving meaningful human control over the use of force. “As our technological evolution outpaces our ethical evolution, we must place firm limits on emerging technologies that undermine the ties that bind us as members of a single human family,” the statement concludes. Find the WCC release about the statement at www.oikoumene.org/news/wcc-releases-joint-statement-rejecting-fully-autonomous-weapons.
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