— In an update on US deportations to Haiti, Haiti Advocacy on May 6 wrote that “today’s flight is the 33rd since Feb. 1, expelling over 1,700-2,000 Haitians, mainly families with children, even though ‘USCIS believes that Haitians returned to Haiti may face harm upon return to Haiti.’” The email noted that the current US administration has, in the first four-plus months of 2021, already returned more Haitians than were deported in all of the federal government’s fiscal year 2020. The organization is advocating for an extension or re-designation of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for undocumented Haitians living in the US.
— At Greensburg Church of the Brethren, “Connor Watson and Aaron DeMayo have been working on turning a pile of cardboard boxes into a mini golf course,” according to Trib Total Media of Tarentum, Pa. The project was started in February when the two “decided to create an activity for people who have been cooped up because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are members of Above the Challenge, a North Huntingdon-based organization that works with individuals in the special needs community…. All proceeds will benefit the Greensburg Church of the Brethren, which is used by Above the Challenge for events when the weather does not permit outdoor activities.” Find the full article at https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/above-the-challenge-members-building-cardboard-mini-golf-course.
— Shenandoah District is holding an in-person Disaster Auction on May 21-22. “The annual disaster ministries auctions and sales began in 1993 on the same dates as this year’s event, May 21-22. Since the 2020 auction was canceled, this year will be the 28th year,” said an announcement. “Through it all, the cumulative total of funds raised for disaster ministries since 1993 is $4,951,951.42. With a successful auction and sale in May, it is possible the total funds raised will top $5 million this year.” Items to be auctioned are being featured on the district’s website and on the auction’s Facebook page.
Pray for India
“Pray for India this Saturday,” said an invitation from the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. On Saturday, May 8, at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern time), a prayer event for India is being held, sponsored by the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America and the New York State Council of Churches along with other Indian Christian organizations. India is being ravaged by COVID-19 cases and an overwhelming number of deaths from the virus. Prayers will be offered by Christian leaders from across the ecumenical spectrum. For more information go to www.fiacona.org.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia have issued a pastoral letter expressing concern, grief, and prayerful solidarity with the churches in India as COVID-19 surges in South Asian countries. “We stand with you in solidarity and prayer in the midst of the suffering and loss of thousands of lives in India,” read the letter. “We grieve with you before God, for the loss of so many family members, friends, pastors, teachers and healthcare workers who have been taken by this pandemic.” The letter also expresses grief for the pain of those who are sick and suffering. “It is our hope and prayer that during this period of crisis, God Almighty will continue to accompany you, as you uphold each other in the struggle for healing and recovery. We particularly lift up and pray for the healthcare personnel, hospitals, clinics and community health initiatives of the churches which are being overwhelmed and stretched to their limits, serving and caring for the flood of sick and suffering people.”
— The governing board of the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) has welcomed two new members: Michael Benner (at-large member) and Brandy Liepelt (Atlantic Northeast District). The board also recognized members completing service: Miller Davis (completing two terms of service as Bethany Theological Seminary trustee), Angela Finet (relocating from Mid-Atlantic District to Atlantic Northeast District), and Bill Wenger (resigned as Western Pennsylvania District executive). “We are grateful for the gifts and skill each of these departing board members brought to our ministry,” said the announcement. The SVMC is a Church of the Brethren ministry education partner with Bethany Theological Seminary, the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, and the districts of Atlantic Northeast, Mid- Atlantic, Middle Pennsylvania, Southern Pennsylvania, and Western Pennsylvania.
— Bridgewater (Va.) College has celebrated the Classes of 2021 and 2020 during a series of in-person commencement ceremonies May 1-2 on the campus mall. Approximately 321 undergraduate and 32 graduate students from the Class of 2021 received degrees at the ceremonies, conferred by Bridgewater president David W. Bushman, reported a release. For the first time, Bridgewater graduated students from four different master’s programs: three students graduated with a master of science in psychology-mental health professions; five graduated with a master of arts in digital media strategy; 13 graduated with a master of science in athletic training; and 11 graduated with a master of science in human resource management. The commencement speaker was Stephen L. Longenecker, Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of History at the college. A professor of religious history, Longenecker is retiring from Bridgewater at the end of the 2020-21 academic year after 32 years as a professor in the Department of History and Political Science. In accordance with Virginia’s COVID-19 guidelines, the college held six commencement ceremonies over the two days. Everyone on campus was required to wear a face mask and to adhere to 10 feet of social distancing. Each student received just three tickets for guests to attend their commencement ceremony. Every ceremony was live-streamed so that additional family members and friends could watch virtually.
— “Meet Eric Miller and Ruoxia Li, co-executive directors Church of the Brethren Global Mission,” said an announcement of the May episodes of Brethren Voices, a community television program of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, produced by Ed Groff. “In 1911, Brethren founded a hospital: Yangquan You’ai Hospital in Pinding, Shanxi Province, China. Many years later, and prior to her connections with the Church of the Brethren, one of our special guests walked by this hospital, each morning, on the way to her elementary school…. The life journeys of Ruoxia Li and Eric Miller take many twists and turns, which led them to meeting in Beijing, China, and life together in the United States and China.” This program originally began from an interview of nearly 90 minutes. This series of two Brethren Voices programs may be viewed at www.youtube.com/brethrenvoices.
— Creation Justice Ministries is welcoming the “30×30 Report” from the Biden administration. Said the ministry’s board president Rebecca Barnes in a press statement on the importance of 30 by 30: “We are facing a climate crisis that requires swift action. Supporting the conservation of 30 percent of land and waters by 2030 is one such bold action. We understand the need to care for not only God’s creation and creatures on land, but God’s creatures in the ocean. By creating a plan for protection of our ocean space, we are caring for this majestic, sacred land that God has entrusted with us.” The ministry listed several principles to focus on in order to achieve the goal, including continuing “to look at care for our fellow humans, conserving space away from human development, preserving God’s creatures, and learning from Indigenous communities on how we can maintain better practices of sustainability…. Without a rounded, holistic approach to preservation, we will not have fulfilled our call.” Find out more at www.creationjustice.org/blog/biden-administration-releases-30-by-30-report.
— Church World Service (CWS) “commends President Biden for fulfilling pledge to increase refugee admissions goal to 62,500 in FY 2021,” in a statement released May 3. “Setting the stage to set an admissions goal of 125,000 next year, CWS urges the administration to immediately rebuild the resettlement program to resettle as many refugees as possible this year,” the statement continued, in part. Increasing the 2021 refugee admissions goal to 62,500 “will allow thousands of screened refugees to finally be resettled in the United States to join family members, escape peril, and build new lives in safety. This follows a months-long delay in finalizing an increased admissions goal, which jeopardized the safety of many and had caused irreparable damage to thousands of refugees who were already approved for resettlement. Said Meredith Owen, CWS director of Policy and Advocacy, “Today’s decision sends a clear message that the United States views the resettlement program as an embodiment of our values of compassion and welcome…. Communities across the country can now return to the proud work of welcoming new neighbors and reuniting families.” Since 1946, CWS has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty. Find the full statement at https://cwsglobal.org/uncategorized/cws-commends-president-biden-for-fulfilling-pledge-to-increase-refugee-admissions-goal-to-62500-in-fy-2021
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