Brethren bits for July 16, 2021

— Remembrance: R. Kermon Thomasson, 85, a former editor of the Church of the Brethren’s Messenger magazine and a former Nigeria mission worker, died on July 12 at his home in Martinsville, Va., as a result of a major stroke. Born Feb. 6, 1936, he was the son of the late Posie and Ruth (Draper) Thomasson, raised in Henry County, Va. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Bridgewater (Va.) College in 1958. Following graduation, he taught two years of high school in Manassas, Va., then entered Brethren Volunteer Service and was assigned to teach in Waka, Nigeria, beginning in 1960. He worked with the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria for a total of 13 years. At Waka Teacher’s College he served as a teacher and vice principal 1963-1971. In 1971-1973 he was based in Garkida as a stewardship educator. Returning to the United States, in 1974 he started work as managing editor of Messenger. He became acting editor in 1977, and in 1979 was named editor. His 20-year tenure as editor ended in 1997. During his time on the denominational staff, he was involved in ecumenical publishing organizations including the Associated Church Press, where he served as treasurer. He received commendations from Inter-Church Features and many awards from the Religious Public Relations Council for his editorials and feature stories in Messenger. He authored a short paperback titled The Old, Old Story…Anew: The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria as the product of a sabbatical he spent in Nigeria in 1983. In addition to being a teacher and writer, Thomasson was an artist and cartoonist, and on occasion his cartoons and line drawings appeared on the pages of Messenger and other Brethren publications. Most recently, he illustrated a book of stories by Frank Ramirez, published by Brethren Press, called Brethren Brush with Greatness. He was passionate about genealogy, had an interest in history and the writings of Mark Twain, and an extensive book collection. He wrote historical vignettes for a regular series of articles in the Martinsville Bulletin. He is survived by his wife, Margaret (Wampler) Thomasson, son Galen and wife Holly (Williams) Thomasson, and grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for Monday, July 19, at 11 a.m. at Collins-McKee-Stone Funeral Home in Martinsville. The family will receive guests at 10 a.m. and at the conclusion of the service. Memorial gifts are received to Brethren Volunteer Service, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. Messages of remembrance and condolence can be posted at www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/martinsville-va/robert-thomasson-10266406.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is seeking a long-term disaster project leader to serve on a volunteer basis, working at various domestic disaster recovery projects. This person will become part of the recovering community by helping to foster good relationships with short-term disaster response volunteers and the disaster survivors. The volunteer will work with other disaster project leaders as part of a leadership team. The office manager disaster project leader is responsible for supporting the volunteer housing site and office management. This includes working in Microsoft Office and Google Workspace, and being a primary source of project communications by phone, in person, and via email. Responsibilities also include tracking and reporting of finances and paperwork for volunteers and clients as well as completing other project responsibilities as needed, building relationships with local partners, coordinating scheduling, and supporting incoming volunteer groups and leaders. Must be at least 21 years old, willing to move around the country depending on assignment, and willing to represent the Church of the Brethren and to be a Christian witness. The length of service will be discussed but at least seven months is preferred. Other requirements include good interpersonal, communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills; flexibility; and a valid driver’s license. Housing, meals, and transportation are provided. A stipend is available, as needed. A detailed position description is available. Contact Brethren Disaster Ministries director Jenn Dorsch-Messler for more information or questions at jdorsch-messler@brethren.org or 410-635-8737. A detailed position description is available.

— Remembrance: Esther Fern Rupel, 97, leading authority on the history of Brethren dress and clothing, died June 28 at Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind. She was born March 31, 1924, one of five daughters, to A. Byron and E. Edith (Rohrer) Rupel on the family farm near Walkerton, Ind. She graduated from Manchester College (now Manchester University) in 1947, majoring in home economics and minoring in art and education. She received vocational home economics certification from Ball State Teacher’s College. In 1957, she received a master’s degree from Purdue University and joined the faculty of its College of Health and Human Sciences. She retired from Purdue after 31 years of teaching historical and cultural aspects of clothing and textiles. In 1971 she received a doctorate from the University of Minnesota, with a dissertation titled “The Origin, Significance, and Demise of the Prescribed Dress Worn by Members of the Church of the Brethren.” Rupel contributed entries to the Brethren Encyclopedia and enjoyed giving presentations on the subject of Brethren dress. Her contributions to the Church of the Brethren were numerous, on the local, district, and denominational levels, including among others 13 years on the Manchester College Board of Trustees; service on the district board and as district moderator; chairing the committee that planted Christ Our Shepherd Church of the Brethren in Greenwood, Ind.; service on the building committee for Manchester Church of the Brethren with recognition for a major role in the design of the church kitchen; service on the Standing Committee of district delegates to Annual Conference and chairing the nominating committee; designing and creating church banners sold at Annual Conference to support the “Art for Hunger” cause. She is survived by her identical twin sister, Alice LaVern Rohrer, and numerous nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephews. A memorial service was held July 10 at Manchester Church of the Brethren. Memorial gifts are received to the Esther Rupel and Annabel Rupel Endowed Scholarship at Manchester University and to Heifer International. Find a full obituary at www.mckeemortuary.com/obituary/Esther-Rupel.

A note from the Annual Conference office this week, for those who registered to attend the full 2021 Conference: “We just found out the AC Online site will be available through the END OF SEPTEMBER!!! Don’t forget that you can go back to the AC Online site to watch any Business Session, recorded Insight Sessions or Networking Groups, Children’s Corner videos or concerts. Use the Access to Annual Conference email that you received as a registered Delegate or Non-Delegate to go back to the site! Enjoy!”

Bethany Theological Seminary president Jeff Carter represented the Church of the Brethren at the World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting in June. He was one of 124 central committee members and presidents from around the world present in this first online meeting of the committee, said a WCC release. “The WCC central committee convened to advance preparations for the 11th WCC Assembly, taking place in 2022 in Karlsruhe, Germany, under the theme ‘Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity,’” said the release. “The central committee also addressed membership matters and strengthened the WCC fellowship through prayer and sharing. The agenda included the presentation of the assembly program for approval. The central committee received member church delegations to the assembly, nominated additional delegates and reviewed its report to the assembly…. The central committee received the application for membership of two churches and approved addendums extending the WCC strategic plan and financial strategy to include 2022.” Find the full overview of the WCC Central Committee meeting at www.oikoumene.org/news/wcc-shares-overview-of-june-central-committee-meeting-2021.

— Clergywoman are invited to the virtual version of the traditional in-person Clergywomen’s Annual Conference event in the form of a July 22 online “brunch” featuring Joelle Hathaway of the faculty at Bethany Theological Seminary speaking on the theme “Poetry and the Spiritual Imagination.” Hathaway is assistant professor of theological studies at Bethany. The event will take place at 12 noon (Eastern time). Credentialled ministers may earn 0.1 continuing education credit. Register in advance at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMtc–orzwsHtV5Dupz5XKLTGdaFKt43ZmI.

— Brethren Press has been posting on YouTube a series of “trailers” or short promotional videos for books and curriculum it publishes. The most recent trailers are for the Shine curriculum and for We Bear It in Tears: Stories from Nigeria. Previous trailers were posted for 25 Days to Jesus, Speak Peace, and The Seagoing Cowboy. All of the trailers may be viewed at www.youtube.com/channel/UCLJWLcbB-P32Uj2aPecu6jw.

— Atlantic Northeast District has announced that its district conference this fall will be a hybrid event, both in-person and online. The theme is “Be Renewed in Christ” (Colossians 3). The dates are Oct. 1-2 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. “Each attendee can choose to either participate online or physically join us in Elizabethtown for the worship service and business session,” said the announcement. Registration is required.

— Brethren Voices is featuring a close-up look at Humpback Whales, touring with the Ultimate Whale Watch from Lahaina Harbor, Maui, “to get a close-up look of these peaceful giants,” said an announcement of the latest episode in this Brethren television series produced by Ed Groff and Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren. “The very first Brethren Voices program in 2005 included a story of the Native Gwich’in of Arctic Village, Alaska, and the spiritual connection they have with the Porcupine Caribou herd,” explained Groff. “The caribou migrate 1,700 miles past the homes of the Native Gwich’in, to the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The caribou have something in common with the Humpback whales. They both make long journeys and for the Humpbacks, it’s a migration of 6,000 miles…. For the Humpbacks, the shallow waters within the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai provide a safe place for the newborn calves, while consuming about 100 pounds of their mother’s milk, daily.” Hannah Pittore shares information about the Humpbacks and their 6,000-mile journey. “For the Humpbacks it is a comeback from a history of near extinction,” Groff added. “We are at a point where we need to give the Creation all the help it needs to prevent our own extinction.” Find this and other episodes of Brethren Voices at www.YouTube.com/Brethrenvoices.

— Church World Service (CWS) has issued an action alert calling on supporters to contact their congressional representatives on an urgent matter related to immigration. The alert highlights an anti-asylum policy known as Title 42, “a provision of the US health code that the government has misused to block asylum since March 2020,” said the alert. “The Biden administration has continued to rely on this policy which forcibly expels asylum-seekers from the southern border, returning them to danger, and has contributed to the separation of families and blocked people’s legal, human, and moral right to seek asylum. Right now is a critical time to demand the Administration end Title 42 expulsions which violate international human rights and US law. CWS has joined people of faith, public health experts, and advocates to strongly demand a categorical end to Title 42 expulsions as a critical step in restoring access to asylum. Every person seeking protection in the US should have a fair opportunity to pursue a life free from harm and oppression.” The effort includes CWS, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, and the Welcome With Dignity campaign. Ways to take action include contacting members of Congress; joining in or planning a prayer vigil during the #Faith4Asylum Days of Action on July 17-31 (a toolkit is at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yuXsE3mBf-9VTISDw6FGjrPg8VmcdtyRcT5jO57sFq0/edit); and signing the Welcome With Dignity Pledge at https://actionnetwork.org/forms/pledge-to-welcomewithdignity.

— The theme for next year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2022 has been announced by the World Council of Churches (WCC). The theme, “We saw the star in the East…” (Matthew 2:2) and related worship resources have been created by the Middle East Council of Churches based in Beirut, Lebanon, which is the convener for 2022. The annual event is co-sponsored by the WCC and the Vatican, and is observed around the time of Pentecost in the Southern Hemisphere and between Jan. 18-25 in the Northern Hemisphere. Reflections on the theme “explore how Christians are called to be a sign to the world of God bringing about unity,” said an announcement. “Drawn from different cultures, races, and languages, Christians share in a common search for Christ and a common desire to worship him.” Christians from different churches in Lebanon and neighboring countries worked together to prepare the resources despite persistent political and economic crises in the Middle East, and the August 2020 explosion in Beirut that caused hundreds of deaths and left hundreds of thousands injured or homeless, said Odair Pedroso Mateus, acting deputy general secretary of the WCC and director of its Faith and Order Commission. “They invite us to turn to the star in the East and worship together the Son of God incarnate,” said Mateus. “For this precious spiritual gift, we are thankful to God and to them.” The resources include an ecumenical opening prayer service, biblical reflections and prayers for eight days, and other elements of worship. They are available in English, French, German, and Spanish, with a Portuguese translation coming soon. Go to www.oikoumene.org/week-of-prayer.

— #Youthtakeover has been announced for Ecumenical International Youth Day on Aug. 12. The World Council of Churches (WCC) is asking young people from member churches and ecumenical partners to send in their ideas for “youth takeovers” of the WCC’s social media to showcase the intersectionality of the theme for the day on climate change. Guiding questions include “What is our role as Christians in protecting the environment?” The WCC is envisioning the day as a space for young people to discuss climate change. A toolkit will be launched and shared as a starting point for member churches and ecumenical partners to explore the theme. Send ideas, video greetings, photos, songs, and dances, by email to youth@wcc-coe.org on or before July 31.

— Michelle Blough of Goshen City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren is one of the final contestants for the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Senior Queen. The pageant celebrates those who have “reached the age of elegance,” open to women who are at least 60 years of age by the opening day of the fair. The contestants will compete at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20, at Sauder Hall on the Goshen College Campus, according to a report in the Goshen News. Blough has been named Ms. Elkhart County Farm Bureau, Inc. She serves on the Farm Bureau Board and volunteers at Farm Bureau events, is a member and secretary for Four Seasons Extension Homemakers Club, recently concluded her term as district secretary-treasurer for the Michigan City District of the Indiana Extension Homemakers Association, and serves on the board and is the recording secretary of Ryan’s Place, a center for grieving children, teens, and families based in Goshen. Find the full article at www.goshennews.com/news/local_news/senior-queen-to-be-chosen-july-20/article_3d6d3df2-d909-11eb-91ea-1bc1f7854198.html.

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